Some random thoughts on George Michael

Wham!’s Make It Big was the first album I was properly obsessed with, from the minute I purchased it in my local Kmart (price: $11.84). I knew every word, every note, every beat, every song writing credit, every nuance. I timed exactly how long each song ran and designed an insert to go inside the tape cover.


I’m obsessed enough that not only do I own every Wham! album and every George Michael album on CD (and I wrote an extremely detailed guide to which Wham! tracks hadn’t yet made it to CD, I even have Andrew Ridgeley’s solo album on CD, and all the accompanying singles.

George’s career had so many stages: boyband pop prodigy, brooding solo star, fighting with his record company, unexpectedly outed, latter-day poster child for pop stardom on your own terms. You know what’s sad about that? You so rarely got the impression he was happy. Ever-introspective, every interview seemed to show him regretting what had happened previously. He bought so much pleasure to others, I hope he found some peace for himself.

Here’s a trailer for the high school cannibal bushranger video I was in

In 1986, history class 9H1 at Armidale High School had to make a video with a bushranger theme, so we chose Alexander Pearce, the Tasmanian cannibal. But why focus on cannibals when you can also stage a Dynasty-style fight between two whores called Linda Lovelips and Camel Tits? For the first time in 30 years, here’s the trailer for this epic video project, which we gave the ludicrous title of The Hunger Of The Desperate and graced with some terrible acting, editing and special effects. I might put the full version up at some stage . . .

What happened to my 2016 NaNoWriMo novel?

Anyone observing my Twitter feed recently will have noticed that I haven’t tweeted about the NaNoWriMo challenge, where you try and write an entire novel of 50,000 words or more, since the middle of the month, when I hit the halfway mark. So what’s happened?
The short version: I’m no longer trying to finish writing the novel this month, but unlike some of my previous abandoned attempts, I do intend to finish the novel.
The longer version: by the time I reached the halfway mark, it had became evident that there were two factors that meant that this wasn’t necessarily going to work as a #NaNoWriMo novel.
(1) I’m really happy with the voice and tone I’ve developed for the narrator, but it’s slow work to write. Reaching the 1700 words I need each day and maintaining that tone has been a challenge. Even though this year I knew most of my plot in advance, any advantage from that has been more than offset by the speed with which I can actually write it. It’s not a matter of writer’s block; it just takes much longer than my usual writing speed.
(2) It has become evident from what I’ve written that this is not a story that’s going to be contained within 50,000 words. Based on where it’s at right now, I suspect it will need to be 80,000 words at least. That’s actually a more typical length for a novel, but there’s no way I would be able to hit that target in November, especially at the speed I’ve actually been writing.
I’m a purist: I don’t think you’ve done NaNoWriMo properly unless you actually complete the whole draft. In my mind, you can’t just have 50,000 words of an incomplete work and say you’ve finished the challenge. So it simply doesn’t make sense for me to treat this book as a NaNoWriMo project. It’s now just a project I’m continuing to work on.
When I’ve succeeded at NaNoWriMo, I’ve usually posted the first chapter or the blurb online (see my efforts from 2015, 2011 and 2010). I can’t do that here now, but I will when, eventually, I finish it. Not going to set myself a deadline for that just yet.

What’s the maximum score you can get in Yahtzee?

In the real world, any score above 300 is a good result in Yahtzee. But what’s the absolute maximum you can score? By my calculation, it’s 1,575.

Here’s the sequence of gameplay that generates that score. Remember that you score an additional 100 points for every Yahtzee (five numbers the same), and you can use that Yahtzee as a wild card for any other category (including ones where a Yahtzee wouldn’t technically be a result that fits, such as a straight).

Round Throw Score as Score Notes
1 5 x 6 Yahtzee 50 Any Yahtzee would do
2 5 x 1 1 105 100 bonus points for each additional Yahtzee
3 5 x 2 2 110
4 5 x 3 3 115
5 5 x 4 4 120
6 5 x 5 5 160 Includes 35 bonus points for >63 at top
7 5 x 6 6 130
8 5 x 6 3 of a kind 130 Maximum points with all sixes
9 5 x 6 4 of a kind 130 Maximum points with all sixes
10 5 x 6 Full house 125 Any Yahtzee would do
11 5 x 6 Small straight 130 Any Yahtzee would do
12 5 x 6 Large straight 140 Any Yahtzee would do
13 5 x 6 Chance 130 Maximum points with all sixes
Total 1,575
Average/round 121.2

What’s the probability of this happening? The chance of getting any one specific result in Yahtzee on a single throw is 1 in 7776. The chance of that happening 13 times in a row is 1 in 3.80042E+50, as Excel would put it. In other words, don’t hang round waiting.

The IKEA design that includes a nose ring

No, I’m not making that up. On Monday (5 September), the new IKEA SVÄRTAN range goes on sale in Australian stores. It’s a “limited edition” (an odd concept for IKEA, I know), produced as a collaboration between designer Martin Bergström and students from India’s National Institute of Fashion and Technology. While many Indian-themed collections focus on bright patterns and colours, this one has a darker and more windswept feel. Not necessarily going to match with all my more traditional IKEA stuff (I’m all about black, white and red in big blocks), but it looks quite impressive.


Anyway, many of the metal bowl-shaped items have a hole in them, because (per the press kit) in traditional Indian production methods, that hole would be used so the bowl could hang up to dry after painting. And so (also per the press kit) “Martin decided to put a replica of his nose ring into the hole and made it part of the design itself”. I can’t decide whether this is a genuine selling point or not.

These are the few words I said at my grandfather Fin’s funeral today

Truthfully, it’s hard to come up with something sensible to say about Fin. The first reason is that he was a man of few words. It seems wrong to offer hundreds of words in tribute to someone who thought just a few dozen words were more than enough for the remarkable occasion of his 100th birthday.

The second reason relates to that. Fin lived for over 100 years. He had a perspective that none of us are ever likely to match. How on earth are you supposed to sum up all that living, all that change, all those things that happened? It seems hard enough to live through it, let all alone try to capture it.

But somewhere in there is the clue. Fin made a success of his life because he always knew exactly who he was. In ten decades of living, he never let what other people thought get in the way of what he knew was the right thing to do at that moment. He had a certainty about his life that I can only envy.

And his life threw up a lot of challenges. Fin wasn’t even three months old when his father, George Kidman, passed away. George never saw his son; he was on the road for a droving job in Queensland when Fin was born in 1915.

I often think about that. However tough we might find Fin’s passing, we all had a good chunk of 100 years of him. He never even had 100 seconds with his own father.

Yet he had a loving family, always. From his mother, Isabella; to his aunts Kate and Sheila, absolute rocks of his young life; to his wives, his children, his grandchildren, his great-grandchildren, his in-laws, everyone along every branch. And he inspired that same devotion in others.

We knew he was there, always, in this house in Darlington, watering his garden, a man of routine. What had to be done was done.

Fin embraced certainty. He was always certain himself. And sometimes certainty meant doing things that other people might judge too difficult, too uncertain.

He was the first member of his family to go to university, but also the first to decide that wasn’t the right path for him. He married and had a child, but when that marriage faltered, he didn’t let 1950s morality trap him.

Nor did he let that stop him expanding his family when he married again. When new branches were added, he accepted that, accepted them, and kept going. There was no question, he was certain: that was the right thing to do.

So what’s the right thing to do today? To acknowledge a man who has been a huge part of all our lives; to celebrate all that he brought to us; and to recognise that even if he is no longer with us, his memories will live on with us forever. Of that much, even I am absolutely certain.

Rik Mayall: Mayhem and missed opportunities

So if it was a Thursday night in the early 1980s, I know what I was doing. I was huddled with the family around the TV screen, waiting for the next episode of The Young Ones to come on the ABC around 9pm.

We eventually taped all the episodes and watched them incessantly — and I do mean incessantly. When I was 14, I suspect I could have recited all 12 of them, word-perfect. And now Rik Mayall is dead, at 56, far too young.

Twice in the last decade, I tried to see Mayall on stage — once in Bromley in the stage version of The New Statesman, once in Cambridge for a production of Michel Frayn’s Balmoral. On both occasions, his understudy had to step in. It just wasn’t to be.

Mayall crammed a lot into his career, but three in particular matter to me. Two will be on a lot of lists being made by stunned Mayall fans today: The Young Ones (natch) and Flashheart in Blackadder. The third is his role as Richie Rich in Filthy Rich & Catflap, generally considered a “flop” but one of my favourite TV sitcoms. Time to dig out the (unedited) DVDs.

And then one particularly sensitive and articulate teenager will say, “Other kids, do you understand nothing? How can Rik be dead when we still have his poems?”

The Internet proves my grandfather was a hoon

I love random Google searches sometimes. I did a search on Malcolm Esau (my grandfather, second husband of my paternal grandmother if you want to be pedantic) and found this extract from the Advertiser of Tuesday October 22 1940:

Frankly, this comes as no surprise. My grandfather Malcolm often boasted about how he learned to drive (on a farm property) before the age of ten, and later in life he joyously embraced an alleged South Australian loophole which said that laws regarding compulsory seat belts did not apply to those over seventy.

It’s impossible to escape the conclusion that he was shocked/digusted by my own inability to drive. In 1987, he attempted to teach me to manipulate a car, and the result was appalling to everyone involved. He was a charter example of the kind of person for whom driving is entirely instinctual and who as a result cannot pass that knowledge on to anyone else. But despite that and his in-no-way-latent racism, I always enjoyed his company.

Random searching also reveals that Malcolm was the best man at a wedding in September 1941. There are a stack of related social and birth notices I need to dig into properly.

Pedant note: I’m not obsessive about blood; people in my family are family. As far as I’m concerned, I had five grandfathers (Fin, Bill, Malcolm, Jack and Eric) and four grandmothers (Bobby, Elvira, Freddie, Joyce), and I’m very grateful for all of them. Since the post is about him, here’s a picture of Malcolm in December 1986:

Gough Road: My 2011 #NaNoWriMo novel is done!

For the second year running, I’ve taken part in and finished the NaNoWriMo challenge — writing a completed novel of at least 50,000 words between November 1 and November 30. I didn’t finish quite as early this year and I wrote a little bit less, but I’m really pleased with the result. For those of you who are curious, here’s the blurb:

Gough Road
Lonely people live between 40 and 44 Gough Road. At 40a Ricki Smith is a nymphomaniac with an unpleasant mother. Simon and Stephanie Benning compulsively renovate 40b while dreaming of a life outside London. Mike Gage in 44a is an Australian bank executive obsessed with a railway line that was never built. Karim Napur watches immigrant workers come and go from the crowded flat at 44b, while Sandra Bellfall’s house at 42 is getting emptier all the time. But which of them will be the first to die?

And yes, I’m still exploring options for what to do with last year’s novel. I re-read it recently and enjoyed it, which is good. Now I should let other people do that.