PhD in Paper – downgraded

Initially the plan was to head straight to Germany where they let anyone study for free (fantastiche!), but I’m so excited about this research, I want to start yesterday!  I don’t want to wait until September. Also, after hours – days – months of searching, it seems the courses offered in Germany are rather inflexible, and nothing aligns with what I have in mind.

Frustrated, I started searching Australian unis, and was surprised to find lots of options. Also, Aussie unis start NOW, and (who knew?) research degrees are currently government funded. If I did enrol in Australia, we could travel back to Oz when we finish in China at the end of June. Ms 10 would be ecstatic to spend a month or so with family, which means I could travel to my uni, meet my supervisor and (hopefully) get some practical experience and advice in their studios.

After months of sifting the interwebs and emailing prospective supervisors, I think I have 3 possibles:

  1. University of Newcastle (NSW) – MPhil in Fine Art
    • Pros: one of their Fine Arts lecturers (a textile artist with experience working with paper) is keen, but has explained I will need a second supervisor in the social work or humanities areas. They have a paper mill on campus (!!!). Newcastle seems to have a vibrant arts/crafts scene, and it’s closest to home.
    • Cons: none, really. I guess it just doesn’t have an added bonus element like the other two locations.
  2. UTas (Tasmania) – Master of Fine Arts
    • Pros: Tassie is renowned for commercial papermills, which could form part of my research. There’s also a vibrant arts scene. And it’s the home of Creative Paper Tasmania  – making paper from sheep poo AND wombat poo.Climate is a little similar to Scotland too, so could be some tips. Plus I just love Tassie..
    • Cons: it’s a long way from Queensland, but that’s actually a plus! I think only Con is that they won’t reply to me. I’ve emailed course coordinators, research units AND individual lecturers and had no reply.
  3. CDU (Darwin) – Master by Research (Visual Arts and Crafts)
    • Pros: I came across CDU through the work of Winsome Jobling who has links to  Indigenous Australians and papermaking. This is intriguing, and could be an interesting sideline.  I have friends in Darwin from my stint as a Teacher Librarian up there, and it would be great to catch up with them.
    • Cons: perhaps not as well-recognised as the other universities. Actually, for this reason I thought CDU would be the least competitive, yet they have been the hardest nut to crack so far. I STILL haven’t got any leads on an actual lecturer.

It’s hard to draw comparisons when I haven’t had any replies from lecturers at UTas or CDU, but perhaps that is a sign in itself? It is summer in Australia, so many staff are still on holidays. Not sure whether to hold out or pursue Newcastle…except for the random location, they do have the best course offering. And after looking through the work of Brett (the  Fine Arts lecturer), he seems to be active in the arts / crafts industry. This is a little intimidating, as the art/craft element is not my strength, but at the same time he will hopefully be a lot of help!

*Update* had an email back from a 2nd supervisor at Newcastle this morning. He sounds keen, so it might be the way to go.


Wombat poo in Tasmania

So, UTas is on my list for potential Masters by Research. And there are a few uncanny little ways in which this would be a very fitting location:

  • I’ve always been drawn to Tassie. It’s cold and it’s an island – just like the parts of Scotland I love.
  • A few years ago I discovered my maternal grandmother was born in Launceston, as was my great-grandmother, Eileen Littlejohn.
  • I carried Eileen’s leather-bound KJV around Europe, destroying the cover in the process. That drew me to bookbinding, and I found a leather artist in Tasmania that was a dream life goal of mine just before I became a librarian.
  • Again, before I was a librarian – I travelled to Tasmania for a library job interview in Burnie. We stayed in a grotty old hotel, and I managed to squeeze Matilda into a lovely childcare for a day while I went off to be grilled by a panel of 4 or 5 beige-dressed, dour looking council staff, for what I think was a 12-hour-a-week library assistant role in Strahan – a sort of town from where you can quite possibly see the end of the earth.
  • While researching sheep poo paper, I came across Creative Paper Tasmania, who hit the headlines by making paper out of wombat poo. They’ve also been mentioned by famous paper artist, Helen Heibert. Turns out, when we were in Burnie for that job interview, we stumbled upon the visitor centre. The exhibition was an amazing paper display – life sized paper mâché people and all sorts. I remember it gripped my soul – I was possessed with the idea that I would get the  Strahan job, work part-time and become a paper artist, maybe even a book-binder.
  • Burnie is fascinating because hand papermaking began there as a “work for the dole” project, in part to combat the closure of commercial papermills…which links to my research!
paper burnie tas
Discover Burnie

I didn’t get the job in Strahan. Seems funny now. I wonder who did? Nobody I’ve ever met in Library land. They took months to get back to me as well – months and months to the point of ridiculousness.




The New Zealand Chapter

We have commenced our next Great Adventure, landing in Auckland on Thursday afternoon.  Happily, and strangely (for us), we actually had someone to collect us from the airport on our arrival in Strange New Land.  Ang and I were mates at college and caught up last year when we had our whirlwind tour of NZ.  Matilda calls her Angelina Ballerina and this may have affected her childish memories of Ang as she whispered to me straight away “Is that the same Angelina?” and later that night was still confused about whether we were with the right person.  The main difference being that last time Angelina had “yellow hair and a white face”.  Strange.  She still looks the same to me!

Air NZ flight this time, another exciting aspect for us as usually it’s Jetstar all the way.  After the Tasmania Bag Episode I was keen to fly with anyone else and happily Air NZ were having a 4 day special that was well cheaper than any other airline right on the dates we wanted to fly.  So, lots of ceiling height, our own tellies and free food, not to mention customer service FAR exceeding that of the budget airlines (allocating us 3 seats to ourselves, offering us extra drinks, asking if we require assistance, providing a speedy departure card so we go to the front of lines etc).  I am a big fan and interestingly a lot of people I’ve mentioned this to also admit that their best flying experiences have been with the Kiwi airline, so yay for Air NZ and I hope I haven’t jinxed myself now!

We are staying at a Bible College, believe it or not.  Ang works here and lives on campus and it turns out the guest room was available and about $40 where the cheapest hotel was around $64 (All Seasons, was Formula 1 in the CBD, where we stayed last time).  Not bad considering we are here for a few days.

Anyway: I hid my Kiwi SIM so well after the last trip I couldn’t find it so our first task was to get a new one.  Considering it only cost $NZ20 (about $AU15) it’s not a bad idea if you’re going to be in NZ for anything longer than a stopover.  I went with 2 Degrees, like last time, as it was remarkably cheap.  And once again, after surfing the net, sending a dozen texts to Australia and a few more to Ang in NZ I still had a little over $18 left.  That would’ve sucked my prepaid credit dry with miserly old Telstra.

On that note, Telstra have been total barstools regarding the modem.  2 hours on the phone being transferred around India only to be told it would cost me MORE THAN THE PRICE OF THE MODEM to have the damn thing unlocked from the Telstra network.  Apparently it decreases to $27.50 after you’ve owned the modem for 6 months (oh wow, how generous giant ripoff telco).  Point being: I already OWN the bloody thing you wankers!!  And it’s not even as though I am wanting to use it with another Aussie carrier (although I have a strong desire to do that NOW) – I want it to go overseas!!  Anyway, bought one yesterday in NZ.  Cost me $NZ99 ($AU80) and for the ironic icing on the cake: it comes already UNLOCKED.  And the reception has already proved a lot faster/more reliable than crummy Telstra.

Definitely taking this one back to Oz to use with an alternative carrier.

Top of Tassie

Car is great.  A Hyundi i30.  Actually paid for smaller car but this was all they had 🙂  Distances not as far as we’d anticipated (I say ‘we’…:) so made it to Beauty Point the first night.  Weaved our way through lots of small towns to get to Devonport on the second night.  Loved Deloraine – M made a friend in the park there.  The Grandma seemed pretty excited to come across a kid that was as noisy and precocious as their own (!)

Devonport waterfront was lovely.  Only a small place, but a BIG ferry!  Reminded me of living in Stornoway…

Banshee watching the ferry come into Devonport

Was tricky finding a place to stay in Devonport as we’d not been sure when or where we’d arrive at sleep time.  Ended up phoning all the places in the brochure we’d picked up at Bridport.  Finally got a bed at a Lodge nearby.  The couple running it were ex-airforce and school library and very friendly to Tild.  They upgraded us to the ensuite for no extra charge and the husband made an awesome breakfast in the morning – all for just over $100 for a double.  There was a strange, grumpy couple staying at the same time who were NOT interested in the initial tour that the poor owner probably had to do for OH&S, and at one point I thought the big guy was about to karate chop them and kick them out onto the street!!  M very impressed with their wee dog!

Elite travel – caravan parks!

Yikes!  Our attempt at just roaming along til we find somewhere we like and pulling in will have to come to an end.  Had booked hostel in Bridport but reached there at lunch time (nice, albeit strange, beach; great pies but not much happening) so figured we’d push on.

Just out of Launceston

As the day drew on we stopped to look up a few places on the web and found most booking up.  Finally got a cabin at a caravan park in Beauty Point but paid about 3x what we were going to pay in the hostel – $119!!!

Interesting old house in NE Tas

It was awesome to be in a cabin – with kitchen, bathroom and separate bedroom.  We could live in a cabin.

Still nothing on the job front…alternatively stressful and depressing.  Must be something to do with getting older but I am so ready to be starting to build my home.  Not ‘settling’ ie: stopping any old place, but finally getting back to Scotland, finding our place somewhere and just the simple concept of being able to purchase furniture we need without having to worry about how I’m going to sell it or ship it overseas…

Plus, M is getting older.  She will start school next year and we still haven’t lived anywhere that I can actually give her her own room…

Frustrating, but working in China has kick started the visa process and so long as I can find a job here soon we should be on our way next year.

Can’t wait!


Ended up staying the extra day in Launceston.  Can’t get the hire car until Saturday morning.  YHA booked out Friday night (why?  how?  there doesn’t seem to be anyone about???  Think it’s people coming here for work as lots of people in kitchen in the morning are in uniforms.  One girl we spoke to over dinner was staying here while she did a couple days at uni as she lives out of town). 

Moved to Batman Fawkner Inn, which I’d seen on the web prior to heading down and thought it looked pretty cool.  Unfortunately the manager didn’t respond to email until we were IN Launceston and had already checked in to YHA.  It was a little weird – front door doesn’t open from the outside so had to buzz and wait on the step.  The guy was alright but have to admit I didn’t get the most comforting vibe.  A motley collection of guests and rooms very old school motel.  It was more expensive than I’d anticipated as all the cheaper rooms were already booked (or were they…?)

We couldn’t check in til later in the day so left our luggage and went off to play.  We caught the Tiger Bus and did a loop, ending up at the Queen Victoria Museum and Gallery over the river.  It was very cool.  Had a great art gallery with some old school ‘oils on acrylic’ that M interviewed the gallery attendant at length about (who did these?  where is he now?  why is he dead?  did you take them from his house?) and some pretty impressive contemporary art by local high school students.  I was blown away by a lot of the stuff – spent a good hour going round and checking it out.  Wish I’d been that talented (OR had access to the teaching and media that these kids have been priveleged enough to enjoy), instead of having a half crazy art teacher who didn’t seem able to shake the impression she formed of you in  first term year 8, no matter what you produced later, and then got some mosquito borne fever at the beginning of senior and spent the lessons eating toast and giving us mind numbing projects like chipping away at soap stone or bending wires to make little men…

Anyway: museum next door was also excellent.  All about trains in the latter part with a kiddy section.  Good to chill out.  We like Launceston.

Back at the Batman things improved a wee bit as the kitchen was breathtaking – huge Playschool arch windows, sanded floorboards, lots of utensils, spotlessly clean and nobody around, except for a talkative woman from Hobart who depressed me somewhat by complaining about the lack of jobs in Tassie.

Here’s the museum:

and the Batman:


I don’t know why but that’s the way Tasmania sounds in my head.  So, we are here now – the butt of Oz, the underbelly of the great south land.  Actually it’s quite nice.  The weather is making me deliriously happy after the dirty, grey frozen-ness of Ningbo and the muggy fog of Queensland.  It’s perfect Autumn weather – the kind I didn’t think existed in Australia.  You know – the sun is shiny and warm without trying to burn the hairs off your skin.

We are in Launceston.  My great-aunt was born here, I think.  Her sister (my grandmother) was not so sometime around 1910 my family were here and then away.  Speaking with a random old guy in the lounge tonight who is from Melbourne but over here to go to Launceston hospital.  Perhaps that is what my great grandmother decided for the birth of my great aunt Frances?  Who knows…I’d like to find out but somehow having Matilda in tow always seems to spoil my travel daydreams.

For example: booked in to use the public library internet.  Barely 10 mins passed and only just scratching the surface of car hire companies to find the bargains when she starts shouting “Pee Pee, Pee Pee” like a demented budgie.  Hissed and glowered threateningly at her but when the screaming in my head started to make me dizzy we had to leave.

Dragged her across town to Maccas figuring free wifi with chips might work better, but she got stuck right up the top of their playground and started howling and while dozens around me were happily checking email or facebook, MY computer refused to connect.  Dejected walk home.  Stumbled across Officeworks and bought a Telstra prepaid wireless dongle thingy.  Hate to give those greedy bastards any more of my money but can’t trust the coverage of anyone else, especially when we don’t actually know where we live.  Salesman was slightly nuts – kept going on about bedsheets then started asking me where Matilda’s dad was and how soon he’d be joining us in Tas…

More about the backpackers later…