Of Moomins and Melbourne and a road trip with Little My

We were going to go and then we weren’t going to go.

And even though we knew we probably shouldn’t go, we convinced ourselves we really should.

Yes, when your 21 year old daughter asks you to go to Melbourne with her you must never say no. But we’d left our decision so late that flights were out of the question.

So we decided to do a road trip.

Little My and me.

Maddy in melbourne

Local friends offered us a room at their sister’s vast house in Melbourne which was very kind of our friends and probably very strange for their sister but nonetheless we washed up on her shore, battered and bruised from the week that was, and she took us in and made us feel part of the furniture which is the most wonderful way to feel when you’re a house guest. Thank you so much Sez x

Ultimately the trip was all Walter van Beirendonck’s fault, a fashion designer from Antwerp – gentle, generous and inspiring – who happened to be in Melbourne for an exhibition Dreaming the World Awake at RMIT.  Maddy spent last semester studying him. On Tuesday she got to meet him. On Thursday she left, excited to begin her next chapter. She didn’t get a photo with him but more of that later.

And while she was tied up with the fashionistas, I hit the wine bars doing research for a project I’m doing for a local vigneron. You may laugh.

Walter van Beirendonck


How I love thee.

If Sydney was a woman she’d be a blonde. She’d surf, she’d have long brown legs, salt watered hair and eyes that glint turquoise in the sun. She’d be open and sunny and she’d drive with the top down.

If Melbourne was a woman she’d be a brunette. You’d be a little unsure of where she might lead you and you’d feel a tiny, delicious frisson of danger when she walked past. You’d be seduced by her brown smoky eyes and that hint of an accent. And she’d smell like freshly roasted coffee. You’d follow her anywhere.

I love them both.

But I adore Melbourne.

My mum and dad were Melbournites and I took some time out to visit my mum’s last surviving sister in Melbourne. She is 92. Her hands look like Mum’s. Sometimes she makes a face like Mum. It made me feel closer to her. To both of them. And it was hard to close the door and walk away.

We went to the Monet exhibition. I’ve seen three in my life but I loved this one. There were lots of unfinished paintings. Under paintings. Sketches made with paint on raw canvas. It made me less frightened to try my hand. To draw ugly drawings as Harrie would say. What are we afraid of? Really.

Grandmother went after a pad of paper and a charcoal pencil and put them down on the step.

“Draw a picture,” she said.

“I don’t know anything to draw,” the child said.

“Draw something awful,” Grandmother said, for she was really tired now. “Draw the awfullest thing you can think of, and take as much time as you possibly can.”

I read a book.

The Summer Book.

Maddy and I share a love of Tove Jansson the famous children’s book writer from Finland who wrote the Moomin books. I’m not sure if you can come to these books as an adult. You can try. Some books weave their magic when you’re young and they wove their way into our hearts. That’s where Little My comes from. When Maddy decided to get a tiny tattoo on the inside of her ankle, she opted to get one of Little My, her family nickname. How could we be angry. What is her ankle to us anyway. I’d rather have a road trip than a tiff about a tattoo.

little my sign on maddy's bedroom door

not the tattoo

When she travelled overseas after finishing school she brought me home some Moomin treasures which only she and I really get.

the summer book and moomin products

The Summer Book.

Until last week I didn’t know that Jansson had written 10 adult books. This is regarded as the classic.

Set on a teeny tiny island in the Gulf of Finland, it is the gentle tale of a summer spent between a grandmother and her young granddaughter. Their little interactions. Secret conversations in secret caves carved out of the precious island undergrowth. An appreciation of all things natural. Of the seasons. The elements. Of the wind and the sea. Of life and everything it brings with it. It is about nothing. And everything. It was the perfect book for me to read this week.

The car died. And then it didn’t. But I had to while away a couple of hours near South Wharf on the Yarra River while they resuscitated it. It was good to have some quiet time. Near the water. Thinking about wine labels and little islands a world away.

bohemian cafe melbourne

And then it was all over and we had to the hit the road. Nine hours in a car. Little My is not good in a car for that long. We were tired and testy and then we weren’t. We hate endings. Especially holiday endings. We started to get sad and then we started to laugh about nothing and sing Rodriguez and Bowie really loud. I realised we didn’t have a photo together from our road trip. We were approaching Gundagai with its famous, touristy Dog on the Tuckerbox, the perfect place for a road trip selfy but she wouldn’t have it.

“Next time,” she said.

“When I’m dead,” I said, “you’ll wish you had that photo of you and me at the Dog on the Tuckerbox.”

“No I won’t,” said Little My. “We’ll have Bowie instead.”

Touché. I never could win an argument with you.

“Ohhh you pretty things … don’t you know you’re driving your mamas and papas insane!”

Crank it up.

Sing it loud!

Four weeks ago some lowlife stole Steve’s chainsaw and hedge trimmer from the back of his truck in our driveway. This morning Steve was chatting to some neighbours and they mentioned that another neighbour had found a hedge trimmer stuffed under her front hedge. We’ll take it as a sign that things are looking up. 🙂 If anyone happens to find the chainsaw stuffed somewhere snug please let us know. If anyone knows who flogged it in the first place feel free to shove the nearest chainsaw somewhere snug.

We are surrounded by low heavy cloud. It’s windy and the remaining leaves are out there shivering on their bare limbs as I write this, propped up with pillows in bed enjoying a hot cup of tea.

It looks like snow.

It’s been a big couple of weeks.


Photos of Walter van Beirendonck via here | here | and here.  If you’d like to see more of his work click here

Excerpt from ‘The Summer Book” by Tove Jansson. And if you want to dip in to her children’s books this is our favourite: Moominsummer Madness

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    1. Posted 20 July 2013 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

      Not surprisingly you got me with the title about Moomins and little My, I HAD to read what you have to say of my native author! 🙂 Moomins are HUGE in our family at the moment, the little one has Moomin books, cups, bed linen, cutlery… you name it! I also loved the way you described Melbourne and Sydney, now, I’m not sure which one I would like to visit…

      • Marg
        Posted 20 July 2013 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

        haha I had a feeling I might hear from you on this one. Yes she’s a long time fave in our house too Satu. Bed linen … mmmm :))) Not sure what Steve would think of being surrounded by Moomins.

        Melbourne. Sydney. They’re both amazing. Melbourne is smaller and more contained, I think that’s part of its charm. Sydney drapes itself around the beautiful Sydney Harbour and beaches, much more spread out. x

      • Marg
        Posted 20 July 2013 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

        P.S. Satu, do you know much about her adult books?

    2. Posted 20 July 2013 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

      I hate to admit that I don’t, I’ve never read any of those… I just got my new kindle so I think I need to add some Tove in there though!

      • Marg
        Posted 20 July 2013 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

        You’ll see where some of the characters and settings come from if you read The Summer Book.

    3. Posted 20 July 2013 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

      So funny. I’d just posted a post in honor of your usual post style. I mentioned you in FB tease.
      You reminded me of a book that I loved and haven’t thought of since I was little. I believe I had Finn Family Moomintroll. I’ve thought, what was that? And now it’s found! I’m glad for your time spent with your daughter. Ah to spend time in the city

      • Marg
        Posted 20 July 2013 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

        Finn Family Moomintroll. Another delight. That’s so lovely – about your post Shalagh, thanks.
        I’m glad for the time spent too. Paying for it now. I have so much work to do! eek.

    4. Maggie McLaren
      Posted 21 July 2013 at 8:31 am | Permalink

      I love your blogs even when they are not about food . Keep ’em coming. Thank you

      • Marg
        Posted 21 July 2013 at 9:05 am | Permalink

        Well thankyou Maggie McLaren! Didn’t realise you were a foodie at heart. x

        • Maggie McLaren
          Posted 23 July 2013 at 10:47 am | Permalink

          Oh YES! First and foremost, a Foodie and have worked in the UK on cooking shows with the likes of Keith Floyd Rick Stein, Antonio Carluccio …to name but a few! All the blogs I follow I come to through food. Yours I found after I saw an interesting comment you made on Mimi’s blog Manger and you have certainly held my interest, with your clever quirky writing and great photography and foooooood! I look forward to each new blog. Thank you for making the effort.

          • Marg
            Posted 23 July 2013 at 10:53 am | Permalink

            I’ll take that as a lovely compliment Maggie that it’s managed to hold your interest. Thankyou. You realise you are now in danger of becoming my new best friend – Antonio Carluccio …i LOVVE him, big cuddly bear of a man he is. So funny. So naughty with Gennaro. Did you see the earlier piece I did with Marcella Hazan last November? That was a biggie for me. I might have to shout you a coffee next time we’re in Sydney. I’d love to hear some of your stories. x

            • Maggie McLaren
              Posted 29 July 2013 at 11:11 am | Permalink

              Finally had a chance to read your story with Marcella Hazan. It was good I like your pluck, it comes through in your writing! My favourite dish of her’s is Drunken Pork Roast, I love slow cooked dishes especially when entertaining as it is all done and you can get down to the serious business of drinking no I mean entertaining without fear of not being able to get the dinner on the table! Oh dear does that make me sound like an old soak well….maybe. Coffee sounds good.
              Waiting for the next post!!!!!

            • Marg
              Posted 29 July 2013 at 11:22 am | Permalink

              You’re an entertainer after my own heart! Love one pot dishes. I’m assuming the Drunken Pork Roast is in one of Marcella’s books. I’ll go looking for it. The world needs more old soaks so relax. I’m waiting for the next post too! We’ve just got back from four days at the snow and I am facing a tidal wave of work in August because July has been such a write off. x

    5. Posted 22 July 2013 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      Wonderful – evocative – funny and so sweet. What a happy time. Love road trips. Fxx

      • Marg
        Posted 22 July 2013 at 10:20 am | Permalink

        Me too Fran. Especially when you’ve got a bit more time. I’d love to explore the Bright and Beechworth areas. And the King Valley. My sister and brother-in-law gave me some beautiful prosecco from their last trip down that way. Thanks for coming along for the ride. x

    6. Posted 24 July 2013 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      I’ve been studying Finland over the past year and came across these books but have never read them! I hope to track some down soon. SO glad you were able to road trip with your girl. 🙂

      • Marg
        Posted 28 July 2013 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

        Krista if you’re studying Finland you need to connect with Satu at todestinationunknown.com. She’s a sweetie. As I said, I don’t know if you can come to the Moomin series as an adult. I’d be interested to see what newbies have to say about that. Worth trying though. And certainly to read them to littlies and share their enjoyment. xx

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