iPhone therefore iAm?

Filofax, a long-lost friend

A plague on iPhone and its evil creators. I missed three birthdays last week and countless others over the past year. They weren’t saved into my phone calendar. And, by the time Facebook litters my inbox with coy little messages about the Friends I Have with Birthdays this Week, it’s too Facebooking-late to send them a card, seeing as half those people don’t live in the same hemisphere as me.

Actually, sometimes I wonder about that – friends being so far away… Perhaps it’s something I said. Except I’m the one who left. So it must be something they said.

The cards are the thing. Facebook is great for keeping you in touch with people who make you feel inadequate about your deadly social life and general lack of achievement, but it’s not like tearing open an envelope and giving it to the dog to chew while you get all teary over the carefully chosen, handwritten card inside.

So, I’ve been building bridges with my Filofax, which has sat for too long, silent and accusatory, at the bottom of my Mary Poppins bag (the hulking one you put your big stuff in, like too-ripe bananas, a takeaway container full of last night’s quinoa, a pair of shoes, humungous sunglasses case – why, Sunglass Shack, why?! – and five pens). My other bag is for the iPhone, mostly.

And if not in the bag, it’s shoved on the desk under a teetering pile of bills paid and pending, sundry photographs, shopping lists and unread Walkley magazines. The repository of all knowledge, tragically abandoned by its late-adopter, tech-cowed owner.

Despite the neglect, it’s a handsome beast, this Filofax, with its red faux crocodile skin – a Christmas or birthday gift from my husband a couple of years ago to replace the one he’d bought me when we first met. A little flashy for my tastes (the Filofax, not my husband, although he has his moments). I preferred the original – soft and supple from years of handling (again, I’m talking the Filofax here, not any multiplicity of husbands).

But this young interloper has heft. Boy, does it have heft – it weighs a bloody ton. And when I do actually get round to opening it, the little plastic ruler-cum-bookmark is always locked in about five weeks behind the week it should be on. I flick through pages of forgotten reminders. Six more friends to make it up to. Sigh.

I mean well. Every year, I buy a diary refill and rewrite all my significant dates – usually on the hottest day of summer, sitting inside in nought but a sarong and a pool of sweat, so most pages are puckered and dappled for the year with inky watermarks. Birthdays are emphasised with a sprightly slash of citrus highlighter; anniversaries of deaths more restrained – ‘RIP DAD, 16’.

‘Dentist, 9am’ or ‘Lochie, roots’ might get a different coloured pen, but I’m not wasting highlighter on those suckers.

After the copying is complete, the preceding year’s Week to a View insert is then placed in an envelope, which is then marked with the relevant year and added to the dozens of other similarly filled envelopes in my filing cabinet, there to never again be retrieved.

But handy just in case. Ah, what manner of postmodern poetics could I summon by dipping into that collection of everyday minutiae…

Anyhoo, the reason this leathery tome is taking up so much of my  valuable time right now (and yours, you poor, unsuspecting fools) is that I’m just two weeks away from having to hand back my work smartphone and sign up for one all of my own.

And, keeping in mind my now well-documented lack of tech-savitude, you will understand, dear blog beings, this preoccupation with matters Luddite. And why I’m feverishly copying everything that’s on my iPhone by hand into my Filofax in case I lose my entire, albeit inconsequential, life in the telephonic transition that is soon to befall me.

But all is not lost – I’ve recently discovered a light at the end of this dank tunnel – and its name is iCloud. Yay, verily, the iGods may be crazy, but at least they know how to make a silver lining.


The Christmas party: part 1

The disco shed: before

The email’s been sent. I’m officially committed to the ‘I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-Gourmet-or-MasterChef’ Christmas party. Up until this year, this salubrious event had been known as the ‘I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-Gourmet Christmas party’, due to the fact that I and some of my finest friends used to work together there during what we like to (probably mistakenly) reminisce about as a golden era in food publishing. A time, dear readers, when even our contributors – photographers, stylists, food and wine writers, recipe developers, friends and followers – were invited to our work Christmas party. Heady days, indeed.

When I tripped over and fell into Gourmet Traveller in late 1997 by way of a number of strangely un-related careers, the legendary Carolyn (Charlie) Lockhart was the editor (I always found it impossible to call her ‘Charlie’ while I was working with her; I somehow never felt quite… clean enough).

All tall, stately, quizzical elegance, Carolyn, together with her then-deputy – brilliant, funny and disarmingly frank Meg Thomasen – and fierce, fabulous food editor Kathy Snowball, had pulled the carpet out from under Lockhart’s previous charge, Vogue Entertaining + Travel, right through the 1990s.

Those Gourmet Traveller Christmas parties were held either at Charlie’s place in Woollahra or at Kathy’s in Balmain. Very grown-up houses – full of art and books and interesting kitchen equipment and expensive toiletries in the bathroom. The food team would take the day off, rack up huge bills on their food expenses budget and create epicurean extravaganzas of a magnitude and deliciousness that made grown restaurant critics weep.

I remember suckling pig sandwiches my first year. It was the first time I’d ever watched someone slice meat like they loved it. There was something about the way ‘Madame Snowball’ (as my husband used to call her) wielded that knife… Magic and faintly disturbing all at the same time.

The last Gourmet party we threw was on a rooftop in Surry Hills on a stinkingly hot December night. Publishing’s new world order soon put a stop to that sort of hedonistic nonsense – and to us, as we all fled for the hills (or Alexandria – which proved to be much the same thing). But, with a couple of lapses here and there, the tradition has been upheld, as the ranks of colleagues and ex-colleagues grow, and as magazines come and go.

Only we do it at my place.

I get the expensive toiletries in specially.

Grown-up house – maybe not quite. Instead – we have the disco shed – a usually dusty, mousey, creaky, tool-filled shambles, it’s transformed for one day a year (and for the ensuing summer holidays) into a place of wonder and light and very loud dance music (that’s dance music for old people – but not Status Quo old). At first, it was just a few drop-sheets thrown over gardening implements and hulking drop-saws. Now, it’s a hell of a lot more drop-sheets swathed, Christo-like, over walls and ceiling, plus a slap of white paint on the concrete floor, all the better to reflect the ever-spiralling pinpoints of light from the two mirror balls permanently attached to the ceiling cross-beams.

But, comrades, it would all mean nothing without the food.

Which brings me to my essential tips for throwing a great party:

Work on a food magazine.

And always say yes if your colleagues offer to bring a plate.

Unless it’s the accountant; she can bring the ice.