Monday, July 6, 2015


C stayed the other night, which was great fun. She is not long back from working on a remote sheep station. I liked the fact that she loved the flat country, an old love of mine. Traditionally, those with published voices have described it as boring, whereas I find it challenging. Its enormity is confronting. Dazzling. Its lack of physical interruptions to the eye means that in some way all is reduced to you, the earth, the sky. You either "get" that, or you shrink from it.
I hate that expression "get" that. But it's useful.
One young man I once knew was on the Greyhound from Adelaide, awoke somewhere past Mildura, saw the sun rising over the Hay Plains, and grew a dimension to his soul.
The 10 hour round trip to the supermarket at Broken Hill  C described as "beautiful and terrible." One thing she wanted to do was restock their Royal Flying Doctor box: evidently it contains everything that you might require, from morphine to the morning after pill. Theirs was seriously depleted.
Evidently, with a medical issue, you phone the RFD and, using the box contents, they guide you while they are sending help if necessary.
C brought with her to my place brie, sharp cheese, olives, dip, fizzing stuff and her own home made quince paste and quince jelly. Would you like me to give her your address so that she can visit you too?

I have finished the novel that I was writing. C hasn't read it and pointed out that I had promised to send it but hadn't done so. When I suggested my low chances of publication, she tactfully suggested that I was self-deprecating: somewhat more polite than my offspring who say that I am negative or pessimistic. Realism is how I feel.

An ABC programme on telly followed up, on "Australian Story", a young woman in mid-Queensland, whose arm was torn off by a post hole digger some years ago. The helicopter sent with aid took hours to arrive. ( because of the distance).  A neighbour - neighbour meaning someone at considerable distance -, recalling the event was in tears as she told how she had to pinch the arteries closed with her fingers for these hours because the artery - arterial? - clamps were missing from the Flying Doctor box. C's RFD box was not the only one missing things. I suspect that it is quite common.
But why would you ever need arterial clamps? They could be just the shot with other problems, say with animals.  Why not use them? You'll never need something to constrict an  artery, will you? That would be an emergency, and we are young and healthy, energetic, capable and resourceful. Let's use them. We can always get more from RFD if we go through the red tape.
It seems to me that the default position for people is optimism. It is often, but not always, helpful.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Fault

In Our Stars, is a popular teenage, or Young Adut, book.
What in the hell is a young adult?
I would consider anyone under about forty years to be a young adult. I certainly don't consider those who've lived less than two decades to fit that category.
But it's a profitable selling point, suggesting that the youthful reader of YA is somehow ahead of what? Childhood? I don't get it. 
In my day, she says with a penetrating stare and righteousnous waved like a banner, once you stopped reading children's books you read adults' books. From which you might gradually absorb adult dilemnas, adult issues, ethics, morals, history, choices.... that is, grow to understand the world you were growing in to.
Not that it worked particularly well for me in the short run, as a matter of fact. In the longer run, yes.yes and yes again.
Flowers in the Attic, The Hunger Games, and such are seductive books. Ripping yarns. Easy reads. Full of the evil of olders, so seductive to teens. "The Fault in Our Stars" is more problematic, to my mind, in that one of its premises is that the protagonist, a teen with terminal cancer, says that the worst part of her prognosis is her parents'grief.
The worst part? Her parents'grief?  Who do we have here Saint....? What unnatural human doesn't cling to life, hope for life, feel that they deserve life? Claw at life? Look for blame in her family?
That seems to me so fundamentally dishonest and deceiving. .Of course a young person with cancer has been cheated, of a life and of a future.Of course they rage. Of course they feel cheated, because they have been. People decades older than this teen rail against the invader. As they should.
How distorting for young readers, to feel quite assured that anyone they know with cancer is only concerned, not with their own sadness, but with the effect on people around them. What a lie.What a huge, distorting, wicked lie. 
You can only wonder why how some writer squares their conscience , and only wonder how much cash they stored up as a consequence.

The world keeps on geting dumbed down.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Privacy? Secrecy?

She was well known of, though I would think that few if any knew her, let alone knew her well. She died in 1977, but I don't know what age she was. Old. I saw her a few times, a tiny dessicated figure tramping around in ancient, ragged clothes, the soles of her shoes flapping. Story was that she was rich: well, that kind of myth often follows that kind of person.
She lived above a small shop front that she owned, and it was the smell of her two dogs, dead from starvation after she herself had died, that attracted notice.
She had hoarded newspapers. Throwing them downstairs was the easiest way of moving them, and that's the only reason that they discovered the banknotes interleaveded through them, floating out as the papers were tossed. Over $1 million.
She'd left it to the Anglican diocese to build a hospital. They combined with the Catholic church to build an assessment/ nursing home. A rare ecumenical project.
When I heard that it was being built in the hospital grounds, I thought it a marvellous idea. Residents would be able to see visitors coming and going: doctors arriving, leaving. Parents going home with new babies. Ambulances. Life.
When I visited someone there I found that it had been carefully angled so that all these were out of sight. Through the one window, all that could be seen was a stretch of lawn. It was depressing to see 30 or so residents propped up in chairs in front of "Days of Our Lives," while in the annex a few, with presumably a bit more life than the others, quarrelled over who got the best view out the window.
Afterwards I asked Judy, the matron and old friend, why they had a large repro of "The Last Supper"at the head of the dining room. This seemed to me neither tactful nor encouraging. She laughed and said that she'd never noticed it.
The story I was told about the original she was that she was the sole child of a privileged family and that she fell out with them because of her chosen beau. As a result she suffered social exclusion, which she determinedly stuck with when said beau vanished, for whatever reason. Whether or not this is true, I have no idea. I googled her and found no results in the first four pages, except in reference to the above facility.
As she avoided people in life, I suspect that this erasure of her by a search engine might please her. But I regret it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Out of the long ago

This century has not been my century.
It began with the death of my oldest sister in 2000, from whom I had been estranged, the way that family members can be. If they are dysfunctional, I expect I should add: but what families aren't? I still miss my sister. Always will.
Her daughter was living with me at the time  because I didn't see that my issues with her mother should spread to her.  "I see her blossoming. Thank you. Thank you", my sister said. While she was dying.My connection with this niece is now one of my joys.
I look back at the rest of those years and remember the several times white ants attacked at both home and work, and how confronting, difficult and bloody expensive that was. and what a problem that is when you are trying to save every dollar you can. The issues when a valued employee attempted suicide and you have to explain that to your clients, spoiled ### that she was.. The issues when a trusted employee bought into an opposition business and spent such an amount of money on advertising that I simply gave up. Why had I lost heart by then? Another, later woman pointed her finger at me before clients and accused me of calling her a liar. And so on and so on.
The way that heavy rain came through my bedroom ceiling  a second time, after being repaired, ruining ceiling, curtains, pelmet, etc. If that was not enough, rain poured in, in deluging sheets, in a different area of the house. I used every towel, every newspaper to try to mop up this saturation. It stank: well after weeks of drying, ancient dog piss reeked through and made this virtually uninhabitable. My son rescued me.
The extraordinary rain at this time led to extraordinary growth; maintaining  the garden was suddenly well  beyond me.
You think that you have coped with some difficulty, overcome it, Yes, and then of course we got quite an extraordinary, unprecedented amount of rain which evidently lodged in the roof moss, had nowhere else to go, and my sitting room was awash , rain poured through the ceiling, down paintings, onto coffee tables, carpets -. By this time one is bowed: the fates have you in their sights. The remorseless hounds of heaven are baying after you. There is nothing you can do,
I sent generous love to my 2nd sister and her son when she excitedly emailed me about his engagement.They had  a small group of guests. I was excluded. As I had put effort into hosting her and her family for Xmas for many years, there was a regretful feel about this. Regretful? I wanted to punch her on the nose.
There was an also a similar issue about my school year's 50 year reunion., to which I was only admitted at the last moment. Because, I understand,  implied criticisms I had printed of the catholic religion,.But what questions and anguish along the way.
I had to fish Puddy's body out of the pool. Dear Puddy, our loved orange cat. I wish I had done better. I didn't. Writing those words doesn;t express the  sadness and the horror.
The white cat defies talking about, but it was far from a  happy ending.I will never find a resolution.
Lucy dog was my daughter's dog: a terrier. Not my type. Doesn't suit  me. I was, in my ignorance, used to dogs lasting about twelve years.Lucy lasted well beyond this, but not as a well functioning entity.Lucy slept  in my bedroom. She needed to go out once or twice a night. That meant that I had to wake up once or twice a night. In winter, face under zero cold, let her out, snuggle back to warmth, hear her scratchings at the door, brace oneself to hit the cold., let her in. Those years like having a baby: never a full nights sleep, For years. it also meant that I couldn't leave home: how could you hire someone prepared to do this? If you judge me an idiot, you may well be correct.It was for love: love for my daughter.  How many fools have said this?
I didn't ever expect to wake up one morning and see Lucy's neck and head at right angles to her body. Horror.  Like a Stephen King novel.What went after was worse.
 I really don't want to talk of this.Or, about quite a lot of other.
This morning an old, once  boyfriend rang,
He has intermittently been in contact since our first chaste connections as 17 yrs olds.
The encounters over the years have been  onesided, from him, many, intermittent... In the early nineties, after my husband died, I felt so plagued as he rang constantly I took to swearing at him at his relentless phonecalls, My solicitor sent messages threatening an avo. All these years later ... it feels different. "Yes, you can write to me,":  I say, which is what he asks, "I don't know that I will reply."
He's sentimental at heart, which our society doesn't allow a man to be. .
I have no interest at all in a romance or even a relationship of any kind, but a connection by mail? Possibly.  I feel quite warm towards him. At a letter's length.
But is this the a turn for the better or a continuation of the negative 2000's? Who knows? I am wary.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

What you know, or don't.

Sometime after her husband died, some started suggesting that M had bounced back too quickly. When I told Pam, she immediately said, "Of course, that is what they say. Unless she takes longer: then they will say that she is wallowing in it, she's unable to move on, she's hanging on to it."
Pam is at least 15 years younger than me, and how she knows such is a mystery to me, but of course it's true.  Perhaps it's because she grew up in small communities, where it's not only Miss Marple who observes and knows people.
For some years the neighbouring house to mine - separated by an empty block - was rented. Sheila was there for some years: An older woman, Sheila with her frizzy dyed orange perm was happy and unselfconscious in her shorts and sleeveless tops despite her withered, stringy  limbs. Cheery, smiley Shelia, head always popping up over the fence, exhuberant. Her partner - let's call him Len - was short and stout, a suitable foil.
Some time after my husband died, I started finding reasons to blame myself. E. G.: I had always served healthy food, I believed, including 3 vegetables. Suddenly I found out that this should have been five.
Guilt. Endless opportunities for guilt, self reproach. (Now, I understand, it's seven).
The next time I saw Sheila she had changed. Gone was the orange mini-afro: she was grey, fringed, bobbed. When I spoke to her she stared blankly, hostiley, accusing. She turned away. She seemed to endorse my guilt.
It was some months later that I read in the daily paper that a man had had a heart attack and died in his back yard. It was Len. I dithered, fearing Sheila's scorn, but wrote sympathetically and popped it in her letter box.
I didn't expect an answer, but there it was, from Sheila's brother, thanking me. "I don't know whether you know that Shelia (sic) had Alzimer's?" he said. "She was a lovely woman." I thought of Sheila then, staring into the mirror at this woman with an iron grey Dutch bob, wondering how her curly orange identity had been stolen by this old woman.
A disputing couple came next. They had excellent social connections, but I doubt any of those would have believed the vituperative exchanges that rang around from morning till late at night. Breathtakingly vicious. .
After them came a solo man who played music so loudly that birds fled the trees once he started. It was not possible for me to hear my television. It was an assault I assumed one had to endure. Vicky knew better. Much younger than me, she also had grown up in small communities.
"He was obviously trying to bait us," she said. He was? I didn't realise that.
Vicky went head on. Having dinner guests one evening and being drowned out by his noise, she crossed the lane to his house, complimented him on his taste in music, asked the name of the album, thanked him for the fact that she didn't have to play any music for her guests because his provided it all. She invited him over one evening to meet her her husband and family.
There was no more loud music. Ever. V peacefully solved what I saw as an unsolvable issue. Knowledge of a variety of people, such as you gain in a small community,  give insights that such as I are blind to.
The house was sold after that. For some years there was a very occasional marijuana plant in my yard, but even they have stopped.
All is peaceful ... which, in retrospect, can sound boring, can it not?  I don't mind at all. Boring gets a bad press.

Independent? Quelle surprise!

During the week I read an article by Helen Garner, recounting how tired she was of being patronised because of her white/grey hair. I knew exactly what she meant.
I think it was P.D. James who said that she was ignored at  functions until people heard her name, at which point they flocked to her.  As an older woman, the assumption from her appearance was that she was of no interest. Why is this? Do they think she will try to teach them how to crochet? Or, sew lavender bags?
Today I went to the book fair. When my collection became too heavy, I paid for it, thinking I might put it in my car and then return for more. I bought an omnibus of 5 Muriel Spark novels, "The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne", Robert Dessaix's "Night Letters", Stephen King's "Dolores Cläiborne," "For Love Alone"by Christina Stead and her biography by Hazel Rowley, (One of the finest biographies ever written about and Australian  - The Age). "Asta's Children" by Barbara Vine, Deborah Mitford's "Wait For Me,"  "Behind the Scenes at a Museum," (K.A.). and "Death in Kashmir" by M, M. Kaye. Some of these are errors: I don't need anything as sad as Judith Hearne, so I won't read it. Deborah is no writer - I read a chapter here and there, and, eg, although she speaks of the close association with JFK, her visits to the whitehouse, inauguration etc, Jackie seems absent on each of these occasions. Why is this? It's possibly the most interesting aspect of well recorded occasions. The Dessaix is not the one I thought it was, but I will still re - enjoy it.
My books cost $45.They weighed a little over 10 kilos.$4.50 a kilo! What a bargain. (irony alert).
I really was hoping to find some Barbara Pym's or Elizabeth Taylor's, neither in the library these days.  No chance.
"Would you like someone to carry them to the car?" the man asked.
"No thanks. I'm fine,"I said.
"Ah, fiercely independent," he said. Everyone else in the hall, save those in wheelchairs, were independent. Why single me out?
Fiercely. Fiercely. There's the rub.
Perhaps I should have said, "Yes," and he could have seen me as "gently dependent".  Perhaps I could play on this and ask if there is someone who might like to vacuum my house. Cook my meals. Launder my clothes. Do all the chores I have no interest in. Perhaps I could soulfully and dependently suggest that they pay my bills as well.
Until six months or so ago I posted on a partisan political blog. I gave up this addiction because I thought I was often intemperate, immoderate. By chance I clicked on it this week when some were nostalging about the past, and my name came up - (I posted under my own name). "Stalwart and courageous", said someone.  "What a dame," said someone else. "Quite a dame," was another comment. Some remembered how I had defended them. Happier appraisals than "fiercely independent."
Helen Garner recounts in her article how she accosted a badly behaved teenager who was bullying passers by, yanked her ponytail, sent her on her way. I don't have the kind of courage that would allow me to do that.
On the other hand I suspect that if I were hauled before the beak on such a charge, my grey/white hair might prove to be a totally mitigating factor.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Just another day ... and that's good enough

C. rang this afternoon, and I'm flattered that a 28 year old wants to talk to me.  She has a perfectly good mother (and father), but they have difficulties at the moment, so she could tell me of issues that she might feel might burden them at present: I am happy to be a surrogate. She is leaving her prestigeous city job and going to work near a remote country town (population: 9).
I went to the library and immediately came across 2 books that I had been going to reserve, Good fortune! After, I went to the supermarket....urgh. I'm not quite sure why I say that: the routine, perhaps? Mundane, I suppose. I find the checkout assistants to be energetic, polite, quite sweet really. Insincere? Not really. How sincere can you be to a passing stranger? I assume that they feel goodwill for that instant. What else could I ask of them?
Some assistants - (lord, I don't want to call them checkout chicks) -I have known for years. Before I went away in 2012, one, a woman in her fifties told me how she had bought a new (2nd hand) car and was planning a trip to Hawaii. When I returned, 15 months later I asked how the trip had been. "Oh, that was ages ago," she said. "Since then I've been to -(I forget where) - and Dubai. 
Everyone I know travels. "How was the trip to Turkey?" I asked June. "Wonderful,"she said. "But since then I've been to - (I forget where) - and Paris. Next week I'm meeting friends in Bali." 
Andrew and I were talking of this travel frenzy at the supermarket. Andrew is grizzled, forthright, down to earth, an independent spirit. On their retirement, he and his wife - one of the earliest women to obtain a doctorate in her field of agriculture - bought a run down farm and took to farming. He spoke with delicious irony of advertisements offering European river cruises "with your own private butler".
"Your own private butler" used to be the Goanese stewards on all P and O ships.
Some time later friends told me about their glorious time on such. Their "own private butler" enhanced it, of course. Different folk, different strokes, as they say.
Easter Island, Myanmar. El Camino Real, either on foot or on bicycle ... people have a hunger for travel/experience that I simply don't share. Don't understand.
David Lodge, who Relatively Retiring introduced me to, has some interesting insights into travel.

Leaving the supermarket I thought: "It is probably 5.10." Looked at the clock and it was 5.09. I think many can estimate time like this, without quite knowing how.
For some months I have been waking around 6.40 a.m., rather earlier than I want to. I assumed that when daylight saving ended this would turn into 7.40...however, it, whatever it is,  immediately put its clock back, and I still wake around 6.40. Evidently I have an inbuilt snooze alarm, because I find it easy to sleep after this until, say, 7.30. which is when I choose to get up. I think that we are odder than we know.
This year I have been getting occasional hand cramps, locking my fingers into mildly painful, quite unuseable shapes that make typing or handwriting impossible. I googled, and tried the first, absurd suggestion: hold a cake of soap. It worked/works. The cramp vanishes before my fingers have closed around the cake. How odd is that? 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

What in the world

Minds are mysterious entities.
When I renewed my driver's licence in 2010, its expiry date in 2015 seemed so remote that I hardly considered it. Five years was enough for it to become a part of me, like a fingerprint. Taken for granted.
So, why did I suddenly check it and see that it is going to expire in two weeks time? For 4 years and 50 weeks I hadn't thought of it at all.
Is this the mind's memory recording something important, filing it away and nudging me when it's relevant?  Or a guardian angel?  Either possibility suits me.
Having an expired licence, possibly having to be tested again. didn't suit me at all.
Would I need to get new spectacles? I went to the (old name) RTA, to check their eye test. A woman was hugely helpful: "D." I said. "B. What is it?"
The helpful woman couldn't read it either, rather to her dismay, and that's when someone said we should be standing much closer.  At the closer distance, everything was easy.
I have had, a few only, bad experiences which have opened my eyes to a reality that I was ignoring.. Made me see a guardian angel at work.
A different experience. My father, like many lovely olders, always said he wanted no celebratory presents. Of course, I persisted in trying to find something that might delight, and of course I failed.
Twenty years after he died I had a very vivid dream in which, talking to me, he said, "You never bought me chocolates." Absurd, yes, but true. He had a sweet tooth and would have loved a box of chocolates. I still feel, occasionally, piqued that I never thought of that. But that seems absolutely unrelated to either memory or angels. More so to the mysteries of the mind.