Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Way We Were

Altho' it's so long ago, I can still recall bits of orientation week back then. The women's adviser, whom because I thought that it was about time that I did the recommended thing, I went to see.  She seemed annoyed to be disturbed and told me that my subject choices were rubbish and that I had no future other than to be a school teacher, so should only do Eng/history.
Only ever able to do bits of the right thing, I ignored her advice and did anthrop and Psychology as well as Eng:  in fact is was the former two that gave me both freedom and employment.  And I did philosophy, which she seemed to regard as as an indulgence like McDonald's Happy Meals. 
On the other hand, I didn't do my other choice, archaelogy:  and still regret and yearn for that.
I also remember some of the people I met then, in Orientation week, and I am thinking of D. She was a tallish, rangy convent school girl with short brown wavy parted brown hair.  Not particularly pretty. but when I met her there was something so personal in her meeting that I thought:  this is a very nice person. 
Perhaps I particularly remember her because she kept popping up;  before long her hair was golden, sparkling as dark subject to peroxide initially twinkles, and she and a handsome blond college boy were a dazzling couple.  Before too long after that she had left him. She had left the hearties to join the arties.
She was not one of the most beautiful women around the place.  S.U. was stacked with them:  Tania Verstak became "Miss International" or something, but she was unremarkable around a place where there were many beautiful young girls.  D was quite an attractive girl - aren't most young women? - but just that:  "quite attractive."  I don't think that anyone would have called her beautiful.  But:  she had a huge impact.  She cut a wide swathe.  I wonder, in retrospect, if any of it was due just to the fact that, when she met you, you felt as if it mattered to her.  As it had felt when I met  her.
This was an era in Syd Univ  hot with such as Clive james, Germaine Greer, Robert Hughes ...(and all the other local buzzes).
5 or so years later...her hair like straw...(she looks so used, we used to say in our bourgeois way)...D still had that appeal.
She married  "well", but in fact badly.
She was photoed inernationally. Life magazine.  Or/And Vogue International.. 
As it all fell to pieces - as of course it does if you've grown up in a backwater and you are expected to be riding high waves in a big surf it will -that marriage ended .  Just as Lawrence Olivier chose the miserable option of portraying a demeaning aspect of Vivien Leigh's last hours, so her internationally famous husband chose to record demeaning and degrading behaviours of D.
Reading it, I felt gratified that life hadn't offered me the opportunities that it offered D.
She returned to oz, lived and died, young, in the Blue Mountains outside Sydney.
I feel regret for her.
I feel regret that all her intelligence and all her knowledge, scholarship, intuitions went to nothing, evidently.

Can It Be true

that Sarah Palin said, "If we hadn't won the War of Independence, we would all be speaking English now."

I think, actually, that SP has shot her bolt, so to speak. She has inspired and then been overtaken by more ambitious, prettier, better groomed, more outrageous, younger women, now that she has demonstrated that ignorance is not a disadvantage.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Izzy, 10, tells me that her best friend has the wonderful name of Halley O'Malley.
An 8 year old boy I knew felt that he was being bullied by another boy, whose name was Shannon Sloe.  One would have thought that might have provided ammunition for some retaliation.  Having that name, of course, might make a boy bitter - being a bully could be the only option.
The death notice in the paper was for an elderly man called Jack Spade.  I can imagine a small, daring, adventurous boy called Jack Spade.  Or an elderly man who might mend your saucepans, clean the guttering and dig the vegetable patch, giving bigger yields than you had ever dreamed of.  The middle years are harder to envisage.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


is about new experiences and places.
Once we drove back from Brisbane the long way, going several hundred kilometres west before turning south.
My son - about 11? 12? - complained: "We've just  been at the beach, I don't want to look at more sand."
We drove for about 700 kilometres past the Darling Downs through scrub.  Scrub, scrub, endless scrub.  No towns, no villages, no farmhouses.  Scrub.
"What do you think of the sand?" I asked him.
"It's an optical illusion,"  he said.  "Everyone knows that the interior of Australia is a desert."
The scrub was so, so boring:  one could imagine how the poor swaggies went mad walking these unchanging miles.
We stayed the night in a motel at Cunnamulla, the 4 of us sharing a room:  double bed, two singles.
During the night, like a good parent, I moved over to allow someone  in to nestle in to me.. 
Finding myself both too hot and too squashed, I started resenting the child.  Why wasn't their own bed good enough?  Which child was it?  It's feet touched mine, it was my body length, so it had to be my son.
But my face was full of a cloud of hair, so it had to be my daughter.
Yes, a woman had come into our room and climbed in to bed with us.
Oh dear.   She was drunk or drugged and heavily asleep, and not easy for my husband to get rid of.  (And yes, I do notice that although I had let her into the bed, he had the responsibility of turfing her out.  Oh dear).
We suggested to the owner, as we left, that having the same lock on each door was perhaps not the best idea.
Fussy southerners!  He took the suggestion good humoredly, in his stride.
We didn't go that way again.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Currawongs and other things

Currawongs are quite large birds - about twice as big as magpies.  Glittering and black, they fly down to us when it gets too cold in the hills that are their homes.  There is something rakish about them: they chortle and yammer and soil clothes on the clothesline, but they have the most beautiful bell like song that rings out like a celebration as they cross the sky.
I quite like spiders - mine, anyway.  My house has daddy-long-legs: sizeable but having a fragile look, and harmless. Occasionally I sweep them down, feeling unpleasantly like the wrath of God as I wipe out their homes and larders.   I also have Bruce.
Bruce is blacker, stronger than those, with bigger, hairier legs, and looks more threatening - tho' he's not.  Over the years I've only seen one of him at a time, which is why he is named, and why I continue to see him as the same spider reincarnated, even tho' I've not only seen him dead, but on occasion have caused it....I've felt somewhat like Arthur Dent and the rabbit.
 Bruce appears unpredictably:  on one occasion he was on my leg in the shower. Flicking him off, I saw him balled into a tiny heap, saturated with hot water: well and truly past it.  Half an hour later, when I went back to the bathroom, Bruce had revived and was attempting to climb the tile step to the exit.  Repeatedly, he climbed, slid down the glossy surface, picked himself up, climbed again, slid down....Of course I put a towel down to give him a foothold.
Then a newcomer appeared outside.  He was quite fearsome looking: about 12 cm long, and with a huge abdomen.  His web went from the roof to a tree - close to 3 metres - and, unfortunately, above my route to my car.  I consoled myself, as his web and he grew, that spiders have a firm grip on things and don't fall.  Then, while I was typing away on the computer, Bruce fell onto my face, rather shaking my confidence in this.
Then the currawongs arrived, and in a wink the interloper was gone.
At my father's small funeral, 29 years ago, currawongs sang and rejoiced across the heavens, like a tribute. Both he and I couldn't have wished for better.
Kingsley, a 16 year old schoolboy, played the last post on his trumpet, arranged by the old soldiers assoc.   I really still don't know how they knew that he was a veteran. It was not something that my father cultivated or even spoke of much.  "It was a famous victory," he would quote.
K and Linda were together since way back then.  She was a 10 year old in a netball skirt when I first knew her.  They married young, and now, middle aged, live down "my" lane - a few doors from where L grew up -  had two sons, the second of whom has Down's syndrome. 
Living in a smallish town -20000 when I arrived, 60000 now - one can feel a little like a Miss Marple.  Minus the murders, of course, because there was only one of those - ok,  two - that I had any contact with, and there was no mystery about them at all.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

"Spring has sprung..." Maybe.

One of my rare but blissful luxuries once was to escape to the tropics at this time of the year.
Our home, like most others,  always had  a fire of some kind that took the worst chill off the air in one room only, even though the house was like an icebox.  Shops and cars were not heated. It was a privilege as a senior,  in my last year at school, to sleep on an open air balcony.  It was winter:  it was cold.  I huddled miserably through an endless, interminable winter.
Term 2 finished around August 20th.  What absolute delight to go somewhere hot and lush.  Two weeks later, on returning, Spring had arrived.
I haven't had the heater on here for days....(15C is quite warm enough for me, of course).
As I walked past a neglected corner of the garden, I suddenly realised that the 2 or 3 metre high pittosporum had disappeared.  Where had it gone?
Jasmine is a merry, romping little boa constrictor.  It covered the pittosporum like a dust cover. It was covered with its pretty white and cerise flower buds:  a week later and I would have been fighting the bees as well as the tendrils.
Abutilon is also a thug:  it's lanterns are blooming, so its execution has been stayed.   Ditto periwinkle, that push-me-pull-you that roots itself at both ends.  I enjoy its delightful blue blossoms for a few weeks, and spend the rest of the year pulling it out.  Thanks for the offer, Mr Monsanto, but I decline your help.
Looks like Spring.  Confession:  I still haven't raked up all the autumn leaves.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

London et al

My sympathies....

Witty, warm, clever, learned...

Facebook sometimes suggests him to me as a friend.
Why don't I link up?
Because he died earlier this year.
I wonder how many others of Facebook's millions have departed?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Giving a Damn

Louise, a kindergarten teacher, overheard 5 year old Zac telling someone to piss off. "We don't use those words at school," she reproved, quite kindly.
"Bullshit!" he replied. "Year 4 say it all the time."
For me to use these words is somewhat like my wearing a bikini. Of course people wear them,  (although I might find some decisions re this to be  flawed), and I can find it enviable.    But unseemly, unattractive and inappropriate  for me.

"Damn" is well within my repetoire, plus "bugger".  But not the above, or further up the scale.   Not because I'm prim.   Not because I'm female:  my father was in the trenches, logging camps, ships et al, and I never heard him say as much as "damn": my standards are lower than his.   A student at Manchester Grammar early in the last century, my father was fortunate enough to  be presented with  classical role models which guided his life,.  My husband may have used lurid language on his farm for all I know, but not at home.  Going to a private school, my husband was indoctrinated? with the same idealism that my father was.
"A man is someone who can control himself," says 30 year old  Fred, and one can make of that what one will.

But, probably it's because I'm older.  Perhaps, in the past, words were more of a social divider, and these were the words of the lowest classes, so one eschewed them. I see many of these words as coarse and vulgar.  They are not that way for the younger, and they can use them with quite a different spirit, and with an exhilirating outcome.
Plus,   the now quite ubiquitous  "f"was simply obscene  Irrespective of what Tsolkias said in his anger,  no one used it.  Simon  and Garfunkel's "four letters on a subway wall" portray this exactly: this occasional scrawl at a railway station was an act of sexual aggression, a virtual rape,  by an anonymous, dysfunctional and perverted thing.
 For me to say this carries no particular weight, so I am happy to say that Nora Ephron, who carries a lot more credibility, says pretty much the same thing.
I can also say that I am happy  that the power of this assault  has been dissipated by the contemporary ubiqiuty of the "f"  use.

Because, by and large, I have no issue with other people swearing...I can find it funny, tolerable, interesting or unnoticeable... and I am sometimes  quite fascinated by it.  Fascinated that "f" and "c" first came to acceptance through literature and other high places.  Fascinated about the unwritten rules:  it is acceptable to swear across or down the hierarchy , but not up:  Zac's error. 
Fascinated and frustrated that it can express such a range of emotions, or none.  Rather appalled that it is a social issue:  one can be charged and gaoled evidently, for using language that is commonplace on tv.

 I wrote a flash fiction of 300 words, moving from him initially calling her "sweetie" to referring to her as a "manipulative bitch".  It occurred to me that, in contemporary mores, he should have referred to her as  a "f"ing " "c".
Stronger?  Why are those expletives "stronger", when they are so comonplace?

"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn," said Rhett Butler. A scathing sentence.
Oh, the patronising tone of "my dear".
And;    "I don't give a..." gives all the contempt possible, irrespective of whether it was a damn or a f.
The power of words.   We seem to have given  up on that.