24 Jan 2010, Comments (20)


Author: Helen

First post for Cast Iron Balcony 2010, and the first since I took a break from it. I missed it.

Towards the end of last year, it was just getting a bit too hard. In some ways, CIB was becoming the victim of its success. I’d had requests for interviews from journos and invitations to post on prominent group blogs (haven’t been doing anything there, either.) Most people would be ecstatically happy, but because I’m a neurotic over-thinker, my response was to begin to obsess over the quality of every post and my lack of a PhD in every subject I blogged about. One of the group blogs I’m a part of is mainly composed of academics and other professionals, which made me think… well… What right do I really have about to write about stuff, anyway? And what right do I have to occupy a position as a “feminist blogger” in the Ozblogosphere without ever having taken a tertiary course in gender studies?

Of course, the answer to that that Miranda Devine, Catherine Deveny, Andrew Bolt, the De Britos and hundreds of other bloviators don’t have the slightest hesitation about hitting their keyboards about any topic whatsoever, and they get paid for it, too. So I should revive this blog and keep on doing what I started it for: writing about whatever’s interesting or angsting me at any given moment.

I think that as the readership of CIB increased my sense of responsibility increased to the point where every post on something I care about became a 10,000 word essay which had to be researched for three weeks before I wrote a word. I just made it into very hard work. Plenty of political blogs are an intelligent articulation of how the writer reacts to events or other writings, rather than a pseudo-academic or pseudo-journalistic exercise.

In other words, I needed to get over myself a bit.

Also, 2009 was a hell of a year. How was yours? I had one kid finishing grade six and starting high school, and another one doing VCE and wanting to start Uni straight away, no gap year. So we had the quadruple-whammy of: Grade 6 end-of-year stuff; Supporting VCE student through exams (like being the person in a little van who putters along after the endurance cyclist or long distance runner who is near the finish line) plus VCE end-of-year stuff, including a major formal Graduation party; Choosing, applying for, and doing orientation things for younger kid’s high school; Choosing, applying for, and doing Open Day things for eldest kid’s University.

As well, we had VCE Graduation night, Schoolies week (shudder), and various other bits and pieces to do with schools. Girlchild passed VCE with elan and has been accepted into Arts at Melbourne university.

Life has also changed a little since my Dad had a fall and broke his femur in September. He’s 89, so he’s doing bloody well considering, but he gave us a scare and spent time in Rehab (No, no, no!) and now has a wheelie walker and a community worker who comes to give him a shower. He still has reading, writing and cricket, but he’s lost bushwalking and overseas travel forever, I think. I’m going to check out disabled-friendly bush tracks for the cooler weather, but harder stuff will be out.

My mum, who’s 88, has had the boundaries of her life shrunk radically overnight. As she can’t leave Dad for very long, she’s had to give up a lot of her activities (Labor party membership, Quaker vigils; you can see where I get it from, can’t you?)

Then, also, we went to New Zealand for the summer holidays, so it’s only now that I’ve got the time to show my blog some love. I’ve had help from this talented web wrangler, who you might recognise.

Image notes: Last summer I posted a photo of our garden taken from the balcony, which is actually a deck and not a balcony at all. The apricot tree behind the perching dove is gone. A few days after I took the photo, there was a terrible heatwave which cooked every leaf on the tree. I waited to see whether it would regenerate after winter, but it was definitely dead; it was a sad job pruning it back, then back again, and finding only dead wood.

In case this becomes like a sad metaphor for this blog, I plan to plant a couple of trees and many, many (drought tolerant) plants this coming autumn as well as watering and nurturing the blog.

Comments (20)

  • Deborah says:

    I love the new look – very nice indeed. I’m sorry to hear about the demise of your apricot tree. My fruit trees have survived, but they aren’t bearing this year. I’ll be composting and feeding in autumn and again in spring, and hoping…

    I always feel very trepidatious about posting on one group blog I am supposed to post on, worried that I’m missing all the nuances and subtleties, and worried that I will upset people. But I’m going to have to try to get over my worries there in the next few weeks, what with elections coming up here in South Australia. I always enjoy your writing, and your insights – something about a finely honed mind turning itself to a new area, or just something about the world around itself, that gives me a little thrill of delight.

    And congratulations to your 1st year university student. I hope that the transition to university, and adulthood goes well, and that she has a wonderful year.

  • Fine says:

    Good to have you back writing Helen.

    I find the aging parental stuff very challenging in ethical terms. As our parents age and need us more how much do we owe them? I’d say a great deal.

    My parents (who are a similar age to yours) are well, but I can see how their worlds are starting to shrink. My father had to give up golf last year, which was a major love of his. And so good for him.

    But a huge positive is that they share a very large house with my eldest brother and his wife. both couples have lots of room to avoid each other. But it was specifically done to ensure my parents had carers. I tease them that their living like students in a share household, because they have to negotiate all the household tasks. I was worried at first because it meant my parents had to move from Melbourne to a large country town. But they’ve been doing it for a year and it seems like a success. They still regularly come up to Melbourne for visits and all the kids visit them.

  • Kath Lockett says:

    Welcome back mate.

    Hell, I don’t think that YOU need to worry about your blog credentials – all *I* write about is my own stupid life and, at the moment my well is bone dry. Just like our garden really.

  • Helen says:

    Thanks! I love youse all! I’m just about to drive to the country for a couple of days, and won’t be online, so to any subsequent commenters, please don’t think I’m snubbing you – I’m just not about. First-time commenters, as you probably already know, you’ll be in moderation until I come home and fish you out. After that you’re golden.

  • tigtog says:

    I’m at the stage where my sibs and I are wondering about our parents’ situation, too. They live near my brother, but he’s thinking of moving and we’re concerned about the level of maintenance their house and garden require.

    My mum wouldn’t mind selling up and moving somewhere smaller (with a new kitchen and bathroom) but my dad is deeply attached, even though he also complains about how much maintenance work needs doing. I don’t know how we progress at the moment.

  • Alison says:

    Hurrah for you and realising how much more worthwhile your thoughts are compared to Andrew Bolt. (Steaming pile of uselessness that he is.) (Surely, this was an easy conclusion for you.) MY blog is all but dormant – the best I can do is read your good words, and bluemilk, hoyden etc and hope that it all falls out my mouth with some sense.

    I can sympathise a little on your child front – as a year 6 teacher there’s buckets of extra stuff in this year, above and beyond yr5, and so distracting and important for them. And of course the anxious excitement of Yr7 on the horizon.

    And my parents are about to slip into the 80s as well. My siblings, all in their 40s, are much more at ease with the idea. I’m only 31 and finding it still surprises me when I find out about their lapses in health or mobility.

    Do keep at it – we love your work 🙂

  • Jennifer says:

    Welcome back! The site looks great. I love the photo on the masthead. Good luck with the first year of university, and the first of high school – tricky combination all at once.

  • Fine says:

    Bring back Thursday Dogblogging.

  • Tim says:

    Hooray! Good to see you back, Helen.

  • Bernice says:


    As someone pointed out to me over dinner in Carlton last year, the point of blogging and/or reading them is as much about the quality of the writing as the content. About being a writer, not an expert (real or imagined).

  • mimbles says:

    Love the new look Helen, very sleek. Good luck with the high school and uni starters, I hope 2010 is good to you all 🙂

    I dread the day my Mum can no longer bushwalk and canoe and go bike riding, it’s such a huge part of her life. Though at 64 she ought to be right for a good while yet I’d hope!

    My dad and my mother-in-law are both quite dependent on us, though it’s more emotional dependence than physical, which is pretty hard to take to be honest. I struggle with wanting to help them keep their autonomy while needing to make sure they’re safe and properly cared for.

  • Bernice says:

    Via Sydney Padua:

    how brilliant is this

  • Welcome back – we missed you 🙂

  • Zoe says:

    Looks so purdy!

    And as you’ve no doubt gathered by now, we just turn up to read quality without requiring academic gowns @etc 😉

  • Laura says:

    Welcome back. I love the new layout.

  • Helen says:

    Thank you for all those nice comments and good wishes, all of you!
    It’s back to work tomorrow.. yowza.. after 5 weeks away will I even be able to find the building?!

  • Welcome back. You were missed. And very nice new digs, too.

  • TimT says:

    Hooray! Welcome back. Look forward to more Balconying!

  • blue milk says:

    Yay and welcome back, love this blog.

  • I just noticed you back in the old spot.


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