A Rant, A Snivel, A Cough And A Jolly Near Thing

1. The subject of Saturday’s life drawing class was facial expression – how to render joy, fear, surprise, anger, worry etc by study of the various facial muscles responsible for forming the expressions we associate with those emotions.

The model for the afternoon was a very pretty girl who had modelled the week previously during my holiday at the school. I would show you a drawing of her, but I don’t have any that are fit to be seen because, and let’s not beat about the bush here, she was RUBBISH.

There is a great deal more to life modelling than a) being pretty and b) being happy to take your clothes off in a room full of strangers who will stare fixedly at bits of you and mutter over how tricky your hands and feet are.

One also needs to be able to HOLD REASONABLY STILL, damn it. Twitching and fidgeting constantly is aggravating beyond belief, because every little movement changes what we see of the relationships between all the parts of the whole. If you are basing the size of the upper leg on the proportions of the lower arm and hand resting across it, and then the muppet model moves said hand and arm, your careful drawing is screwed.

Similarly, the shape of a person’s eye is completely altered if they were looking sideways and are now looking down, no, wait, now they’re looking up, no, hang on, they’ve closed their eyes… you get the picture. Even if we didn’t.

Furthermore, as you can no doubt imagine, when you are trying to draw a facial expression, the model also needs to be able to ACT. They need to simulate an expression of fear, or surprise, or joy, or sadness.

This girl could simulate two expressions:

i. grimace

ii. gormless

Neither of which were worth committing to paper.

2. When you come to Australia, well-meaning people warn you about the venomous spiders, aggressive snakes, enormous crocs and lethal sharks. But what they should warn you about is the wretched bloody pollen.

I have never suffered from hayfever – in fact, I used to count my blessings every Spring back in the UK while everyone else was seemingly rendered blind and miserable by it.

The pollen of this unique island continent is made of sterner stuff, however, and can fell a whinging pom at 100 paces. I’ve been feeling lethargic and stuffy-headed for nearly three weeks – I can’t believe it took me that long to figure out what was causing it and get myself drugged up.

3. This morning I awoke to this:


Oh, alright, not quite that, I confess Godzilla is photoshopped in, but the skies genuinely were that orangey-red. A massive storm blew dust in from Australia’s ‘Red Centre’; every surface is now coasted in red desert dust. Its almost biblical.

Here’s the view from my balcony and kitchen window at 6am:



3. One of the pregnant women in our office starting bleeding yesterday afternoon. Not good. She’s 28 weeks. We dropped everything and jumped in a cab to the nearest hospital, keeping calm and positive, and were treated very promptly, kindly and efficiently by the staff of the Royal North Shore Hospital (I mention it because it normally gets a bad press) where the fetal monitor quickly found a nice strong, regular baby heartbeat (thankfully) and a scan and blood tests revealed that everything was okay for the moment.

However, they’ll be keeping her in for observation for a couple of days at the very least and she’ll certainly need to have a caesarian delivery when the time comes, due to the position of the placenta. Here’s hoping that the baby can stay inside a while longer, every day more will help his chances.

I am extremely thankful that I become more calm in a crisis, rather than freaking out. It was pretty scary, though.

And you can imagine how, in an office full of women, there was a fair amount of anxious drama to play down this morning. However, it was all well-meaning and I can confidently assert that every single person in the building would go out of their way to provide whatever practical assistance our Mums-to-be might need. I’m very lucky to work in such a supportive environment.

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15 Responses to A Rant, A Snivel, A Cough And A Jolly Near Thing

  1. sledpress says:

    It’s amazing what a blast of tree sperm can do to a great big human being. I live in Washington DC, where we specialize in demolishing the mucous membranes of any and all comers. If you can get your hands on cetirizine (Zyrtec in the States, Reactine in Canada) it seems to be the best bang for the buck, assuming that isn’t what you’re already using.

    Be assured that at least one of your readers feels your pain. In my case, my eyes burn out of my head and the inflammation disseminates to all my muscles. Ow.

  2. woo says:

    Thanks for the tip sledpress, I shall hunt down Zyrtec – I’ve seen the ads for it over here, so it must be available. ‘Course, today’s dust storm isn’t helping…!

  3. doctordi says:

    Your life drawing model sounds like an annoying twit, although she did raise a chuckle – even if she can’t act the part of having one herself…!

    How amazing was that morning? No wonder your sinuses are stuffed – I think we’ll all be blowing dust for days.

  4. Give me back my dust, you, you, you dust thief, you!!

    (Love Godzilla)

  5. modestypress says:

    Perhaps Picasso’s art work can be explained by having a twitchy model?

    Perhaps Picasso’s notorious sexual voraciousness can be explained by the same thing?

    Nah. #2 is explained mainly by his being male.

  6. woo says:

    doctordi – yes, my friend Japes and I were rolling our eyes at the model’s inability to act. It was like being naughty schoolgirls again, poking fun at the teacher’s pet… 😉 And I agree, it was amazing yesterday morning: the more so since I’ve just been working on a book about storms which contains a spread on dust storms. Serendipity.

    archie – I’m surprised you have any dust left at all out there, most of it seems to be in my kitchen!

    Mr Random – if Picasso’s models were twitchy, then his genius must have been even greater than we suspected to produce anything at all other than a towering rage, frankly.

  7. woo says:

    And as for his sexual voraciousness, I have never understood that: the man looked like a Brueghel peasant.

  8. doctordi says:

    I just found myself walking to the ferry wondering how your pregnant colleague was doing… I hope all is well. That must have been very frightening for her, she must feel so vulnerable, but what they can do these days is absolutely amazing. A friend of mine has had three premature babies – the first at 32 weeks – and they’re all beautiful. Hoping all will be well.

  9. azahar says:

    Last year there was a summer dust storm here – actually sand blowing over from the Sahara – and it was amazing. The whole sky turned brown and within minutes my entire apartment was covered in a not-so-thin layer of dust. It took forever to clean it up.

    Turned out I was allergic to Bristol. When I lived there my sinuses went mental and my nose turned all raw and nasty inside. Went to many doctors, underwent many treatments … and in the end the only thing that cured me was moving to Spain.

    I reckon the people in charge of the art school should have known the gormless model was no good. Blame them.

  10. piereth says:

    God, that dust is apocalyptic. Terrifying. Glad I wasn’t there, I’d have had the screaming meemees!

  11. I was wondering if you were going to mention the dust storm. It was so big and pronounced it made it onto the Earth Observatory’s Image of the Day: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=40274 Apocalyptic seems about right.

    Hope you get over your hay fever. I can just imagine how your twitchy model must have annoyed you. I’m afraid I would suck at being a model because I have a very hard time sitting still. I’d like to think if I was doing as a job I’d be able to accomplish that difficult task, however.

  12. I’m disappointed that Godzilla wasn’t really there.

  13. woo says:

    doctordi – thank you for asking about my pregnant friend, she’s fine for now, but it turns out she has placenta previa so she is being kept in hospital on enforced bed rest from now on until… well, as long as they can keep the baby in there, basically. She’ll have to have a caesarian birth and the baby is likely to be premature, the only question now is ‘how premature?’. So, we took her a load of books, dvds etc on Friday and I’m in touch every day, but she’s bored out of her mind, as you can imagine. Really glad to hear that your friend’s babies are all fine – 34 weeks is what the doctors are aiming for in this case, so we all have our fingers crossed.

    azahar – allergic to Bristol? LOL. A very dear friend of mine lives there, so we can henceforth blame any ailments he has on that! 🙂

    piereth – the weirdest part was waking up alone in my flat, with the eerie orange light behind the curtains… and then having to wait til I got to work to confirm with others that I hadn’t been dreaming it!

    healingmagichands – what a great shot, thanks! I love the nasa wesbites, we use quite a lot of their imagery in our books and some of it is just stunning. As for the model, yes, I’d like to think that I’d force myself to sit still if I was being paid to do so, or at least be conscious enough of the importance of maintaining a pose to be able to return to it accurately after moving. *sigh*

    David – I knew you would be.

  14. OmbudsBen says:

    First, let me thank you for the nudge to look up “gormless.” (It sounds like a Tolkien word having to do with large gross worms to me.) It’s one of those words I see but am too lazy to look up, or forget between times seeing it and looking it up, as months and years go by. So thanks, until the year 2012.

    Sorry to hear of your errant model–what a twit. Or maybe she thought remaining still would taker the sport out of it?

  15. doctordi says:

    I’m so glad to hear all’s well for now, Woo, and I know they’ll be doing everything they can for her at the hospital, they’re pretty amazing with this sort of stuff. Lots of resources focused on the little one. I don’t know if that’s what my friend had, the placenta thing, but certainly she was in hospital in an enforced bed-rest state for I think two weeks before the first one just got too impatient and demanded in no uncertain terms that she be allowed out. My friend likewise developed pretty chronic cabin fever, but it sounds like you’re stocking up your friend with all the right stuff. A few weeks in bed reading? Honestly, but for the anxiety she must be feeling, that sounds like bliss! Fingers crossed.

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