How to understand this blog

Friday, September 30, 2011

this is one of my favourite things

When I was a very little girl, at some point before I can remember, I had my first boiled egg. My father would have drawn a funny face on it, like he did for all my siblings and me. If only we had a photographic record of all the faces, over the years, about to face doom through a sharp whack to the head.

I would have doused it in salt - because I'm sorry, but there is no point in eating a boiled egg without salt - and I would have eaten it with great pleasure. I love eggs, and I love boiled eggs especially. I think I particularly like that they are so personal - everyone has their own preferences when it comes to eggs. For myself, I boil an egg for five minutes precisely in quickly boiling water. Any longer, and it's too solid for me.

Anyway, I would finish the egg, already longing for more. At this point someone would have played a trick on me by turning the larger half of the egg shell over in the egg cup, to look as if it hadn't been eaten yet, and offered it to me.

Bloggers, I fell for it, even if I can't remember doing so, and from that point on, I have been constitutionally incapable of eating a boiled egg without offering SOMEONE the empty shell. I know that very rarely will anyone fall for it. I have successfully tricked someone once in my entire life, which I estimate would be a success rate of roughly 1/375. Nevertheless it is hilariously funny.

These are a few of my favourite things.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


This is going to be one of those blog posts in which I divulge things I've been trying not to think about too much. The problem is, I am rapidly becoming so bored with unemployment that I need to fill my time with things... and so it's becoming even harder to ignore this particular issue.

I've always thought 'wouldn't it be great to have more spare time so I could write more stories?' Well, now I have it.

Unfortunately, I feel like I've lost the ability to write... creatively, that is.

I have not written a single story or even the smallest piece of creative writing since I started my MA thesis two and a half years ago.

I feel stunted, like I've lost a limb, because up until that moment I have always scribbled things down. Since I was about six years old I wanted to be an author, and, even if my writing was pretty dreadful then, at least I was doing it.

What's more, I'd always been writer-minded, but not so much now. I was reading Stacy's awesome blog post on inspiration the other day and I wondered where this has gone - my constant awareness of the things around me, my intention to mine them ruthlessly for stories, scenes or characters.

I just don't know where to start now.

I can't blame this entirely on the MA, but it has been affected by my concentration on historical research and historical writing over the last few years. It's such a different way of thinking. I thought it might even help my creative writing, because planning stories has never been my strong point and it's just not possible to write a thesis without planning everything. But now I feel that I've lost the ability to just sit down and WRITE, without thinking too much.

I also feel that I listened to my supervisors too much when they couldn't understand that the pieces of writing I'd submitted to them were just drafts. My draft writing was always quite good but not very good at first draft stage, and so I think they got the idea that I'd already worked on improving it but hadn't succeeded in correcting all the mistakes, etc. They would go through and pick out every flaw, even when I asked them not to, assuring them I would deal with the phrasing later on. So I became paranoid about writing every sentence perfectly, the first time. Unfortunately this only made my prose more awkward. I look at my thesis now, and wish I had ignored almost everything they said about my writing (except for a few valid points).*

I'm hoping that in this public splurge of self-information, I will be able to prod myself into action. Admitting the problem being the first step to solving the problem, et cetera. To a large extent writing is just about sitting down and getting on with it. I get it.

* My supervisors were for the most part amazing, brilliant, helpful, insightful, kind, inspiring and understanding. I simply wish I had had a little more confidence, to know when I should have listened and when I shouldn't have.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

music I like

Just because. My current favourites.

And, along with just about everybody else:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

boys boys boys

A while ago, my flatmates and I sat down with pen and paper and hummed/hahed over a list of the attributes of the perfect man - or, more accurately, the sort of man we could see ourselves marrying. (Funnily enough, one of my flatmates got engaged the next week! This was not solely because of the list-making but we flatter ourselves it had something to do with it.)

After we'd laughed at ourselves a little, we took it quite seriously and each produced a list. I'll share mine with you now. I've actually blogged about this once before, on my old blog, but the list has changed a little (although in some ways it has stayed the same).

Each of us chose some qualities that were non-negotiable and some that were more negotiable. I suspect that some of our non-negotiables are actually less important than we think... but I will reproduce my list exactly as it was, for the sake of posterity.


(a) Christian, with a similar sense of mission, without making me feel too imperfect
As I said last time, this isn't always a black and white issue for everyone, but for me it is. I want someone who takes their faith seriously. However, I don't want to marry someone I look up to in awe of their faith in comparison to mine, as I would start feeling insecure.

(b) similar sense of humour
This is very important, I think.

(c) tallish; attraction; a sense of physical security
i.e. not too weedy

(d) someone I can respect, whose opinions I value
For a while, I could be with someone with whom I disagreed on any fundamental level or who seemed unwise. Eventually, I would inevitably end up looking down on him, and it would make for a very unhealthy relationship.

(e) someone I can trust and feel comfortable with
Fairly obvious.

(f) someone who really really likes me!
This is something that really stands out in my flatmate's relationship with her fiancé. He just adores her. It's lovely. Everyone knows they won't always FEEL "in love" with each other's most annoying qualities, etc., but you have to know that there is that foundation. At least, I do.

(g) someone with a similar sense of empathy and social integrity
I'm not saying I overflow with charitable giving as much as I should, but I would like to be in a marriage in which we could challenge each other to think outward in this way. I don't want to marry someone who always wants a bigger house and more cars. I want to be self-conscious about what we need and what we think we need.

(h) not too moody

(i) likewise, mental and emotional toughness - calm under pressure

(j) someone who listens

Qualities that are preferable, but negotiable

(k) values children and family, and is liked by my family

(l) musical or likes music
I've always fantasised about going to awesome concerts, etc., of all kinds, with The Boy.

(m) not too sporty
This may seem a little silly, but I've noticed that sporty people seem to want their girlfriends to be just like them. Not going to happen.

(n) exotic or pleasant accent
Okay, so this is more than a little silly :)

(o) someone who is a good at being handy around the house, and will deal with gross things
This has become even more important after living in an all-girl flat, feeling foolish every time our landlord has to fix something that boys would have been able to fix by themselves in three seconds.

(p) social, hospitable and outward-looking
Yes, I'm an introvert at heart, but I like being with other people. I like strong friendships and I think it's important to keep these up after getting married. I also like the idea of having a welcoming and open home.

(q) someone who can appreciate personal space
OK, so as I just said, I like being with other people. But. There is a point when I just want some alone-time. I hope that if I get married my husband can appreciate that.

What are your negotiables and non-negotiables?

Saturday, September 10, 2011


You will probably remember how much I loved this angel tombstone in a cemetery near my father's house:

And you will probably remember that I was sad to discover that she had sustained quite some damage in the Christchurch earthquakes.

Today I started browsing the Christchurch Art Gallery's online galleries, and particularly their large collection of William (Bill) A. Sutton's work, which can be found here. He was an artist from Christchurch, born 1917, died 2000, and I've always had a thing for his work.

I was SO EXCITED to find among his sketches that he too liked the angel tombstone!

Here she is. Taken from this page on the gallery website.

It's a little hard to see, so I sharpened the picture here:

I admit I do wish he had been able to do something more with the sketch, but the fact that one of my favourite artists wandered round my city too, and liked the same things I like - that's cool enough as it is.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

mastering the arts

This morning I found out that I officially have a Masters degree in Arts.

And yes - that means that from now on, it's Master Allie to you.

It was a bit of a rollercoaster of emotions.

For one thing, it was a good solid mark, so I was pleased. I will now be able to say that I have a Master of Arts with Distinction. But it was also not quite as high as I would have liked - let's face it, I'm never going to be over the moon with anything less than A+ - so I was a little teensy bit disappointed. But I went for a walk, processed everything, thought back over the last few years and came to the conclusion that:

(a) I was being a little bit silly. I've done very well!

(b) I have learned Huge Things about how to do research. Anything that was not A+ about my thesis is an opportunity to improve next time.

(c) I've made it through rather a crazy two years by the grace of God - this is like a certification of that - and for that I feel a little over-emotional and proud and grateful.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

job-hunting is so much fun

So, I think it's time for a little update on my employment prospects.

I have now been rejected for 81 jobs! Huzzah!

I think I'm doing pretty well so far at keeping my head held high amidst a constant stream of rejections... I regret to inform you ... we found other applicants matched the requirements of experience more closely than you did... et cetera, et cetera. (That's if they reply at all.)

I could become rather cynical and question how these applicants ever got experience - but I try to avoid thinking too much about it and just write Better and More Persuasive covering letters.

Fortunately, I have two part-time jobs which have covered my bills so far but I will need to find something else in the immediate future as one of them is winding down.

I've had two interviews for a "proper job" so far - I didn't get either but one of them gave me some excellent feedback, and it was good practice. I also got to the point of taking a personality test for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. After which they too rejected me. I think being rejected on the basis of your personality is slightly worse than being rejected because you "only" have a strong postgraduate degree.

Oh, isn't it all so fun?! I have had a few weeks of sheer apathy, refusing to even look at job applications, as it all seems hopeless and then I give myself a virtual slap, and start applying again. The funny thing is that when I look at some of the job descriptions, I KNOW I would be fantastic at them. The only thing I need to do is convince the employer of that.

So I beat on, boat against the current, borne ceaselessly into ... who knows where?!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

one year on

Today, it's one year on from the first major earthquake in the Canterbury region. When it happened, it's safe to say I had no idea how much things would change in Christchurch over the coming year. As you will probably be able to tell from reading my first earthquake blog post.

As I have probably said before, I'm a bit sceptical about the whole idea of officially remembering things based on an arbitrarily-selected portion of time. Also, it was really the February quake that turned things upside down.

Still, everyone else is doing it, and there's something about experiencing the sudden onset of spring at the moment that makes it easy to remember how things were a year ago.

And there's no denying that it was the September quake that made earthquakes a part of our consciousness. By the time the February quake hit, we'd been through thousands of miniature ones, almost every day. We'd seen our city closed to us, and we'd seen it reopened, and I for one had gained an entirely new perspective on the preciousness of my city. I remember sitting in the courtyard of the Dux de Lux sometime in January or early February looking out over the Gothic Revival architecture of the Arts Centre, a cold Pimms in hand, thinking how lucky I was to live in such a pleasant city and how close we'd come to losing it.

I can't remember all that much about the September earthquake, except that I was shaken awake, and it was very dark because all the streetlights went off and I thought vaguely to myself, wow, this is quite a reasonably sized earthquake. I wasn't even sure if it was worth getting up and checking on my flatmates until I heard them stumbling around in the dark. One of them was beside herself and I felt slightly frustrated with her, especially as I was still half-asleep and couldn't really grasp what was going on. One of them slept through it, which is kind of unbelievable in hindsight, but true. After checking on her, we sat around in the dark with candles on (apparently that's a big no-no) for about twenty minutes, I decided it must have been the Alpine Fault and hoped the people in the West Coast would be okay - has no idea that it was actually far closer to us. "Oh well," I said. "Let's go to bed."

The power stayed off until about 10am, and only then, when we were able to turn on the TV, did I start to realise what was going on.

Since then:
  • we take less for granted, and we plan for everything that could go wrong.
  • our social lives have become much more home-based. There are just far fewer places open.
  • "quaking" is one of the largest labels on the right sidebar of this blog.
  • we have a whole new vocabulary: "liquefaction", "munted", etc.
  • we are never at a loss for small talk or for conversation starters.
  • we have shaken our way through more than 8,000 sizeable quakes. It's a part of life now. And who knows when it will stop?
  • we have had to put up with a new mythology growing, outside Christchurch, of "resilient Cantabrians" or "tough southerners" when in fact so many people feel fragile, under siege, and would like the rest of the country to understand this.
  • having said that - I've personally learned a lot and come to understand myself a lot more.
  • we've started noticing when bad things happen abroad.
  • we've lost some people, some places and some things we can never recover.

Friday, September 2, 2011

halfway down the stairs: we all fall down

The September issue of Halfway Down the Stairs is now published! The theme is "We All Fall Down" - which, I believe, has been one of the most interesting themes for us in terms of the submissions we have received.

Of course you should devour the entire issue! ...

... but, if you only read one piece, it should be The Red Dress, by M. B. Wallace. I really loved this story. One of my all-time favourites from the 'zine. (This is speaking from the point of view of a fiction editor, of course!) Go read it now. It's short, it's beautiful.

But there is plenty more: we were also very pleased to receive submissions like Leah Browning's Punch, and Jeff Wood's Ketchup. And there is quite a small but glittering section of poetry, and one really nice nonfiction selection.

This time, my contribution was a book review of a novel by one of our previous authors.