Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Town Clothes

Do you remember town clothes?  

Did you have town clothes?

There will be those of you who have no idea what I am talking about.

But those that do - if you do, it means you know about house clothes.  When I was a kid, we even had yard clothes.

Recently, driving through town with my daughters and the older one snorted when apparently I made an involuntary intake of breath while driving past someone in paddock clothes in the main drag.

I can’t help it.  I grew up with it.  It is cultural.

Its not that I am what one would call at fashionable or even approaching appropriately attired at all times.  

However there are many women in my family that one has to either attempt to meet their standards or adopt a whatever attitude.  

And just because I have taken the latter approach – that doesn’t mean that the conditioning still has fair sway in my mind.

See, we were Country growing up – and that means at least a half hour in a car before you get to town – so there are logistics involved, some thought needs to go into the venture – and that includes pulling yourself together a bit.

 Not like you Town kids, who you stepped out of your front doors to civilization.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Please Shut the GATE

When I was a kid, there was a sign - white, with blue writing - metal -affixed to our back gate.

"Please Shut the GATE".

Did you have a back gate when you were a kid?

All the important people in our life came through the back gate.

It was the way to the shed and the yards, the clothesline and the car shed.

People of no importance - the postman or other grown ups - may have occasionally breached the front gate, with it crepe myrtle forest, or more often the side gate near the patio and the tv-antenna tower, but the really important people - Dad, Jock, Grandpa, Tex, Mum, us kids - all used the back gate.

The sign had thin cursive script for the first three words - "Please Shut the" and then gone wild with a block 3-D effect capitalised .

I remember sitting on the laundry roof when I was a kid - there was a really cool way that even a little unco kid like me could access the laundry roof - I was sitting up there and staring at this sign. I might have been about four or five at the time?

Anyway, I think Mum had caught me on the roof and made me get down and I spent a bit of time hanging out in front of that gate having a disagreement about the relative justice - or indeed injustice - being given in banning a child from being able to see the world from a height - and I must have used the sign to focus on as I had to listen to her go on about danger and plummets and blah blah blah blah blah...

I KNEW what the sign said, because it was one of those little things that people would read out aloud as they passed the threshold - but there was a moment in time when it suddenly became clear to me that this word - GATE - equated to the actual sounds of the word that they said.


How cool it was, I thought, that someone had worked out that certain shapes represented sounds - and I was suddenly absolutely VORACIOUS in seeking more words to masticate and savour.

Nothing was safe from me. Weet-bix packs were awesome, with information not only on the OUTSIDE of the box but on the cards too. I read ingredients on jars and every billboard between our home and my Grandma's.

That is how I read books. I can read books with plot and little padding, but I wallow in a good word-puddle.

 The sign is no longer there - that gate is no longer there, I am no longer there, the laundry roof is no longer there, Mum is no longer there - all that is there now is the bottom of the back stairs.

That - and this blog post.

Monday, April 25, 2016


Yesterday I aged officially by a year.  My year is now 47, which I figure is Prime.  So therefore, I am entering my Prime.

There isn't going to be another of those for six years, you know.

Therefore it is a special occasion. I decided that I would mark it.

Opportunity came that I would be at my old stomping ground at the moment in time that would transport be across the threshhold into 47's clutches, and so I saw it as opportunity to celebrate appropriately.

Dot point lead up:
  • Lightbulb moment when I realized V's specialist appointment in the Big Smoke was approaching;
  • Plans formulated inside my head regarding 
    • shopping opportunities (I have a girl in Year 12, there is a Formal - any mother who has been in this situation will realise the enormity of this statement), 
    • family opportunities (I have a 6 year old girl whose only access to play older sister is limited to sporadic meetings of her Sestricna - my niece via the outlaws on 'Salina's side) 
  • which I unfortunately fail to relay to V
  • V shows immense surprise when I present said plan fait accompli at dinner that evening
    • Yeah - hindsight hey?
  • Anyhow, once V got used to the idea he agreed to the basic concept and so then I upped the ante. My birthday.  Proximity to absolutely wonderful people of all eras of my life.  A half dozen selected from the possibilities.  Dinner.  At our apartment.  
    • La di.
  • Organise work, school, headspace.
  • 3am rise for 4am drive.
  • 6am stop for coffee and toilets - realise that the world is indeed a small place and Gympie McDonalds is the vortex.  
    • I swear.  
    • Go there and you WILL see someone you know.  
    • Or are related to.  
    • Every.  
    • Single.  
    • Time.
  • Five hour drive for a 90 minute wait for a ten minute consultation.  
    • V had doctoral thesists watch their magic machine while his knees were scanned for inflammation 
    • before the Knee God who resurrected V's knees a year ago triumphantly swung through the connecting doors (and yes, those trumpets that you heard  in the movie version of this was indeed the fanfare that should have accompanied him on this entrance).  
    • He took pictures of the x-rays and smiled at his work.  
    • He explained what he did, how he did it and why it was one of the most complex he had ever operated on.  
    • See you again next year.
  • A flying visit with a relative who had an unscheduled stay in hospital thus allowing our paths to cross and us to visit.
  • Grocery shopping (of course) where yet again the world proved itself to be very Jeanie-centric in its coincidental meetings.  
    • If you fail to make it to the Gympie McDonalds, Woolworths in Buranda is worth a shot at seeing someone you know.
  • The apartment - our home for the night - two bedrooms, air-conditioned, great view of the rail system and so very central.  
    • An oven that works.  
    • A gym. 
    • A pool.  
    • A balcony.  
    • Hidden hiding spots.  
    • Cool two way rooms and light controls.  
    • A fully mirrored splash-back.  
    • S. W. A. N. K. for some of the hicks amongst us.  
    • Ahem.
  • A flying visit with a (different) relative who had an (different) unscheduled stay in (different) hospital thus allowing our paths to cross and me to visit.
  • Cooked dinner for a dozen - or three?
  • Played dress up and had my half-dozen from different chapters of my life and have a lovely evening.

The day of my birthday dawned rather early.  Insommnia did a lovely number on me and there were several hours when I should have been sleeping where I whirred instead.  Whacked it on the head eventually with a hot chocolate.

Awoke to the feeling I had indeed been whacked on the head. The pillows were too hard for this princess.  
The sleep was too heavy for my wrists and hips.  
My skull was too small for some of my brain, which was pounding to be let out.

The 10am deadline loomed, and auto-pilot kicked in.  Get dressed.  Pack up.  Empty the fridge.  Stack the dishwasher.  Check all cupboards.  Stack the luggage.  Organise the day.  Pack the car.  Exit the car park.  Check out.

We had an adventure planned, the girls and I.  While V went to do his thing, we had an adventure on the cards.
We were going to catch a bus  (yay, a bus, what fun with my children - we NEVER get to ride a bus in a strange town just for FUN) to a Shopping Centre (yay, a Shopping Centre with shops that we don't have and shopping and people watching) and then walk to the outlaws for the playdate and lunch.

Only - well, yes but there was that misshapen brain and skull thing sort of muffling my world.  But the girls were excited and there was a part of me thinking that if I just put my mind to it, that aspect of my life would go away quietly and youthful exhuberance plus a twist of birthday luck would right the day.

Somewhere between the rather circuitous route of the bus up and down the twisting hills of the big smoke and the sanitised smell of enclosed public transport that thing in my brain said "well, the only way to solve this situation is to introduce a catalyst" and - well, I am thankful that the dress I chose had a pattern dark and confusing so you couldn't REALLY tell that I had added to the design and I pat myself on the back at how well I managed to confine this chemical reaction to my own person and barely any of the product landed on the bus itself.

So it is possible the high point of the birthday celebrating my entry to such a prime year was me washing myself with drinking water onto nature strip while my teenage daughter rang her aunt to collect us early - from the side of the road in unkempt condition.

So - shower, pills and sleep occupied the middle part of my birthday, while my children had unfettered delight with cousins.

I gradually emerged mid-afternoon, slightly less fuzzy and girding myself for the long drive home.  I ate dry toast and drank in being able to see my mother-outlaw and sister-outlaw and nephew and Sestricna.  Photos were taken.  The birthday was remembered and Pavlova was had.

The long drive home made longer by someone with a horse trailer having a far worse day than I.

We were blessed with being able to teach our children the important art of map-reading (and map-folding), we saw unexpected angles of geographic features generally unnoticed on the freeway but much more prominent on the secondary roads - now being noticed by nearly all of the previous occupants of the freeway - and lessons in relaxing at a leisurely pace, creating bathrooms out of bushland and finding sustenance at rest stops whose kitchens were shut.

And the BEST bit about my birthday? (Well, besides the getting home safely and knowing I have some very solid family members and friends who enrich my life)

The BEST bit about that birthday is that it has to be an AWESOME year with such a low bar to begin with.

And it will be

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Paris, bicycles, teeth, card-sharps, ponies, cutting out, Salina, somersaults, car-sickness and

grant-me-the-power-I-wish-I-could-find-a-suitable-cuss-word-for migraines.

Paris has learned that she can ride a bicycle without training wheels.   The butterfly has emerged, and she is having the occasional bumpy ride, but a bumpy ride by a confident girl who is growing hourly is a pleasure to behold...

She got to compare her bruises with one of her favourite people in the world, her cousin Violet.  Violet is training to be a trick horse-rider (or is that a horse trick-rider?).

In the middle of her first week of school holidays, she lost her second wobbly tooth.

And by lost, I mean kept firmly under her control until she could transfer it to the tooth fairy, a concept in this house she knows to be heavily reliant on the maternal influence but is willing to play along for coins of the realm. 

And by lost, I mean her sister bribed her to pull it out with some treat or other - a treat lucrative enough to warrant the resolution to overcome her natural reluctance. 

And by lost, I don't mean a sudden cessation of tooth from back of mind but the end of a month-long contemplation. 

The tooth fairy bartered her a deal of some awesome octagonal silver pieces, which as we all well know are the best coins of the collection.  A couple of fancy ones if I recall.  I know, brownie points for the tooth fairy.

There is much of what I want to say with pride about my eldest and her life and peers and the life choices she makes and how human and wonderful she is, but she is of an age now where she doesn't need her mother singing her praises when the fence over which the praise is sung is the internet - she has her own voice.

But there was some wonderful stuff involving movies and buses and sushi amongst other things.

The last few days has involved a weekend with cousins - and it was one of those school holiday weekends when the kids are all at that magical age where they can play card games together - and there were some doozy card games. 

Dash is a magician of family-wide repute, with enough basic card tricks and a way of shuffling that really impresses for an oh-my-goodness-how-on-earth-did-he-get-so-big-so-quickly 13 (14? really?) year-old. 

We discovered that Paris has the luck of association when playing one particular card game, and a game that was so entirely dependent on luck that no-one-can-get-upset-if-they-lose was learned by all.

One of the drawcards of the weekend was the opportunity for the grandchildren to ride with their grandfather on the land that he first came to when he was younger than most of them. 

While 'Salina had a very close association with him when she was younger and she learned to ride and muster with him and then with my brother-in-law. 

She has always had a strong affinity with horses (something she shares with her aunt) and good memories of working with Grandpa. 

As Paris was born in a different phase of everyone's life, she has only got to ride a few times. 

At first she was trepidatious, a fact not helped by the usual pony jokes and jocular stockyard humour.  She was determined that no, she was not actually going to ride today.  She had thought it over, done the risk assessment and was not budging on her stance.

Violet did a very good sitting trot on Buddy's back down to the bottom of the yard - that is a skill I have never mastered and I clench all core muscles as I even contemplate it in recall.

Against her better judgement, she did eventually have a short ride with 'Salina and then alone - but that was it.  She had a firm position - and that position did not involve going along with plans made by others.

We first got to watch grandpa do what he loved to do most of all even when we were children.  The first job you get when you were a kid - when we were kids - was being on the gate.

On the gate is not a fun occupation at first glance. 

Everyone is yelling at you as animals are rushing towards you and you and your horse - generally a pony of determined jaw and cast-iron guts - and you know that it will be your fault if they have to all go through to the other side and get the animals rushing towards you with a great deal of yelled - and even contradictory - instruction.  It took years of instruction to reach the next dan of cutting out.

To be able to become the star attraction, the one moving in to select a beast and gather the spotlight to your masterly blocks and turns, to confidently yell out "gate", to have gumption expect the others to be your seconds - well, that wasn't something I put my hand up for many years - I was always the one who would always be the most cautious when approaching any challenge myself.

As you know, I never quite mastered the grid - in bicycle or truck mode, apparently - and once I discovered my myopia, I had a default excuse should the requirement to be anything other than buried nose-deep in a book.

However, it has been discovered that often a handicap in one sensory field of an animal hones the skills in another - and mine, when a child and teenager was that because I couldn't see enough to differentiate stumps from cattle and anticipation from the body language of the beast - and therefore I stayed put in that gate for the majority of my childhood, but by goodness, I ensured that rarely did I get yelled at with anything by instruction - you can attain a level of zen with their contradictions and it can become background noise to the dust, the flow of the mob, the count and the final requirements - that is how my Dad operated when at his peak, just complete expectation that you could read his mind and anticipate his unvoiced requirements.

I think I hit that zen somewhere about 10. 

It was all downhill from there, of course.  I did not do adolescence (or several other phases in my life) easily, and there may have been fallout (causal or resultant) with this particual parental relationship. 

But knowing that moment existed, that somewhere in our memory banks there is a time when he could head a beast in my direction and I would instinctively know whether the call was "block up" or "right" - despite it always seeming to be a 50/50 call.

These days, I am the fat old woman who hovers around as a driver and far too unfit - and therefore I did my best softball spectator from the sidelines, giving a blow-by-blow and anticipating Grandpa's reactions to this most wonderful blessing in his life getting to work as his team - or indeed, him working for their team.  

There were bits where I saw that this was Grandpa in action and not Dad - but sometimes the Dad that I worked with when we reached Zen was at work, and he got three grandchildren and him doing it low stress and with joy.

Then my sister took Paris down with her to do some photos. 

Bush Babe has got a special relationship with both of my daughters.

I cannot explain how she can be with Paris and it is like watching a form of a magic show.  Paris is so timid, yet she will do almost anything for her aunt.

One of those things was to hop up in front of Grandpa on Jill and bring up the cattle.

There is a photo that was taken where you can see pure joy.

Not taken by me of course.

You must be new.  No, I expect both of you to use your imaginations, because I always forget to take photos.  I have a sister, a sister-in-law, and an aunt and a mother who are all very happy to snap, but myopic little me just likes to describe.

The gang took the mob back - taking the mob back is easy, especially when you are going through clear paddocks and there is good pick.  The little pony borrowed from a cousin who couldn't make it trailed after Grandpa's Jill, with a beaming Paris looking at the world and her Grandpa and her sister and cousins all doing slow-motion tricks on their horses around the mob.

Did I mention cards?  Those kids played cards.   For one of my birthdays (was it my 22nd or 23rd Anne?) I got given a Hoyles.  For those not in the know, the Hoyles is the rulebook of all card games and a few friends and I decided to choose a card game at random and learn it from scratch.  We chose Casino.  For over half of my life, I have been seeding that card game with those around me.  It is a corker, and now that I have taught my children I have ensured that it will travel down through the ages.  500 was played.  Cooncan500 required a double deck so Nana came to the rescue.  As I was about to leave, I taught them Maltese Rummy.  If you are in any way into cards, find a Maltese descendant and learn this game.  It is so wonderfully woven with the staunch Catholic ritual of that country it ought to be latticed with pastry and baked!

The pool is another feature of our visits, and just after Easter is really the last opportunity to swim before the weather gets just that bit fresh out there that dips are more screamy than fun.  Paris decided to learn how to somersault.  Under water.  And almost handstand.  She had individual swimming sessions with most of the adults available as well as a few cousin-centric splashes. 

Lets just say that, as far as school holidays goes, this one is a pearler.

On the way home, I could have sworn that it would be twenty minutes of Taylor Swift before she dropped off, but today she didn't. 

Whether it was the wrong bump at the wrong moment of the trip, but she decided she was starving (and could not be appeased with the thought of another hour before repast) or thirsty or - ah yes, that's what she was - she was sick.  And oh, how she was sick.

I was a car-sick child.  It was how we eventually discovered the above-mentioned myopia.  Apparently not being able to focus on anything outside the car has as much to do with being carsick as reading while a car is moving.  Take THAT grown ups and people who told me that if I just stopped reading in the car I would feel better!  I was TRYING to feel better by reading.  I mean, just about anything in the world is better if you can be reading a book, right?

So I really GOT that whole sudden realisation that the cause of your discomfort was not something intangible, but something real and RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW.

I also got it from the parent perspective a little bit - the need to think on your feet and find clothing, cleaning products, counselling and clarity in what could be a very messy situation - sixty-kilometres from nowhere.

But she grew a little bit in those few moments too - she didn't freak out, she just took the solutions and played in the red dust on the tailgate while I went into Uber-mother role (just had a mental image of an international non-taxi non-organisation branching out into such tasks and thought NOT ON THIS MOTHER'S WATCH). 

When the promised stop at the next town's magical merry-go-round (which I swear is the world's best kept secret and you can't even GOOGLE it) and phone call to V took place, she demanded the phone.  "Guess what Daddy," she said.  "I was REALLY car sick.  I SPEWED."  and I thought yeah, you did, that's my girl!!!

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Good Morning Insomnia

and what a wonderful example of 1:45 in the morning this is.

Isn't it such a modern, first-world luxury?  Shame, I should be REVELLING in the ability to be unable to sleep.

Some people are apparently too darned tired to have such problems.  Hmph.  That just shows how ignorant some people are on the underlying cause of insomnia.

Having too many freaking problems.

Sure, they may not be the world-leading problems that should be keeping me awake, granted.

But thinking that I have failed my child - that is one that can be both indefineable and internationally shared - is a great one to worry you into the hours of the morning.

Then I worry that I will not be up and up to par for the day's tasks ahead, and that one is great for weaving into the insomniac narrative.

I can do an awesome number on not following dreams through being too scared.  Or up myself.  Or a bit of both.  Self-flagellation works from whatever angle you try on that lovely little mess.

The sudden memory of a missed bill - or message - or phone call - or task.  Sorting out the miscommunications of the past forty years.  Peering at the next 10 - years, months, days - with trepidation because I might have missed something.

"Don't worry Worry" - were you ever told that as a child?

To my mind, Worry must be a particularly scary fairy, alternatively unkempt and over-dressed, the manifestation of all my worst fears slumbering in the dusty shed of my psyche.

I tipitoe around Worry, so scared to wake it - because this anxiety that I have bouts of - about nothing, everything and whatever in between - is pretty harsh.

Imagine if I made it worse by worrying Worry about it all?

I warm some milk.  Who decided warmed milk was meant to be a cure?  I can imagine that the author of that information must have been rich, for refrigeration options would have to be paramount in the decision to push dairy products.  And then how to warm it?

While warming milk, the cat decides that it is time to demand a bit of attention - and by attention he means food.

He fixes me with that "and don't try to fob me off with that canned crap that is leftover in the fridge" glare.  You would think that this may be a comment on the quality of food available and the class of cat we are talking, but in fact it is just this particular varmint being as indeciferably fussy as possible.  I no longer have a "go to guarantee" with him.  Some days, the cheap stuff is all he will deign to eat, but the moment you lull yourself into a false sense of security, he will decide that no, in fact he is the cat who wants only fresh.  Or high-faluting stuff.

Paris is about to stir to claim her half of our bed.  I just heard the future rustle and my insomnia suddenly is pretending to be tired.

No comment required.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

In which Jeanie entered the local council domain - and may not have emerged quite sane...

Over the last week, there has been an increase of council activity in the area.  Large pipes.  Dongas.  Trucks and cranes.  Signs.

In search of what could be the root cause of such, I used my initiative and looked at the council website.  Oh foolish, foolish me.

I like to flatter myself that I have a handle on technology.  I mean, fair enough, I do have my luddite areas - who doesn't- but the basics I think I can grasp.

However when their website, my laptop, the navigational system limitations and my impatience all combined tonight?  The axis of my world tilted - and not in a good way.

Its like the powers that be gave the industry the brief: "Test this site on a laptop and if it a frustrating enough process for people to go stark raving loony give up rather than finding anything at all worthwhile, you are shortlisted".

A tough competition, given the calibre of the resultant outcome.  This website is, no doubt, a masterpiece in its deliverance of mediocrity.

It looks good, but they have crafted a high fashion model. I mean, you hope and believe there is some flicker of intelligence available when interacted with, but the amazingly ugly "fashion" that is draped around them - or in this instance, "drop-down menued" - somehow dances the chance of grasping the grail just out of reach.

Yes, Virginia, there are no Sense of Clues. Nor any way of discovering the answer to the question posed.
Who are those council men and what are they doing across the road from our house?

Local councilor, can you please illuminate to this poor resident on what is going on that would cause so many objects de council - including blokes - to be haunting my street? 

And why is it so secretive that a search term "my street" * yields a grand total 0% success rate.

It did come to mind that I might actually be living in the current Roswell.  (Yes folks, that is how much this website affected me.  From perusing the streetscape to high fashion straight to an episode of Twilight Zone.  If only it had taken me to the answer as quickly)

Is it possible that the yellow and black diagonally striped signs are indicating landing zones, and maybe it’s not frogs I hear tunefully singing on moist evenings but intergalactic communication?

I digress - are we getting a highway, local councilor?

It would certain bring the tourists in quicker, but it may cause a headache for the boffins who have steadfastly refused to pave the edges of our road despite escalating costs in caravan-caused edge-degradation. 

They would be thrust under a sword of damocles, their potent power over the few witnessed by the many…  What price their pride - and what gain the masses?

Okay, indulge me, maybe its not such a cesspit of petty fiefdoms and political intrigues as I would imagine, this council that my street has become the puppet of. 

You, as our elected official may wield your powers with as much gravity as you wish, but can YOU navigate this website? 

I think that would take more that the power of the people, local councillor, but magic.  Real magic.

Perhaps it is whimsy that the website will not divulge the secrets. 

Perhaps it is personal. 

Perhaps the power of the internet really is in big brother’s little brother’s grasp, and some secret agent in a bunker at the local council call centre has zeroed in on our address and declared “NO.  NO, they shall NOT discover what we are doing in there neighbourhood.  Never.  Ever ever ever” screeching the last word so high that several calls are cut of as a result of the interference, and then chuckling evil little secret agent chuckles as he manoeuvres the inadequacies of the website specifically for my experience.

Or not.

 So, lets make it up.  What is going on in our street?  If they aren't going to tell us, beggar them.  They can RISE to our expectations based on rumour and gossip.

(NB - no councils were intentionally harmed in the making of this blog post.  The site, on the other hand, has its own issues to deal with.  I ain't going there no more.)

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Fiesta Fairy Floss

I watched them whisking fairy floss
       At the fiesta today.

Bulbs of lime green spun sugar
     around and around
     until gorged.

The fairy floss I remember from my childhood
     was bigger and fatter
And now I am, and all my childhood memories
     seem minimised.

A child near to me was attempting
To negotiate her knob of mollten sweetness
     Between the boundaries of
          What her mother may allow;
          What her mouth may accommodate.
     She overestimated on both counts.

And the fairy floss's lime green
     Exactly matched
The elastics in her hair.

(Written around the time of a West End Fiesta I would say - possibly 1998 or 1999?)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Dog-garn it, a post

Have you ever experienced that moment when you come to an opportunity to read – and nothing pre-cracked to continue?

I had that happen tonight – I am on a library diet at the moment (to save room for my binge-reading daughter on the cards*)…

* - not really, but as my old man used to say, “Why spoil a good story with the truth”.  And the truth is that I am too darned lazy**

** to get inside of the head of the new library designer.  Don’t get me started.  Don’t!  Don’t get me started…***

*** well, you asked for it.  Can you BELIEVE that our local library has completely gone OUT OF THEIR SENSES!!  

I can understand not wanting to alphabetise the author’s name for only TWO reasons.  

The first is in regard to the archaic patriarchal lineage that completely obscures woman’s place in the cultivation of great literature; or – there was another reason, I have forgotten it.  

Ah no, I remember – the second reason is if you have an attitude about the posterity those selfish self-serving NOVELISTS seem to think they have, considering their name to be important enough to be associated with to determine the display on the shelves of their life's work - and they need to be taken down a peg or two if they think that THEIR names will sway us in our ultimate selection.  In which case, you may just have a problem, Sonny Jim.

But NO, some clever wobbly-bottom has decided that instead of following the whole alphabet malarkey, instead they would create a maze.

Instead of hedges, using clever mythical walls – 
and instead of the Magic Faraway Tree where a different land appears at the top of the tree each chapter, 
think Ikea with starkly sketched bookshelves housing the promise of “paranormal”, avenues of “adventure”, “living”, “hogsbristle” and the occasional tendril of “romance”, “war” and “self-help”…

See, that is the real reason I don't borrow from our library any more.  I fear book rage.  And being trapped in an unexpected section.  "Gothic" would be  a bit horrible.  Or "horror".  One would want to find an exit near "horror".

Or worse yet, getting bogged in "general" - the cesspool where everything that won't fit a label is tossed.

But I digress...

I had a shiver of panic, and then the thrill of realising that the PILE OF BOOKS in the corner of the room that I had never got around to reading #

# that noise you just heard is the group of people who knew me as a teen and young woman (yes, believe me, this once was true) who could not contemplate that I would have such a pile, for everything was READ, falling off their stools.

As I said, I am on a library diet at the moment and I had a shiver of panic, and then the thrill of realising that the PILE OF BOOKS in the corner of the room that I had never got around to reading #.

Thus, I decided to pick up and bathe to the opening chapters of “Wonder Dogs” (True stories of extraordinary canines) by Ben Holt.  (other people have reviewed it here)

Well, let me just say, whatever my expectations may have been, they have been licked, pounced on, worried and tossed…

I am finding great mirth in this book for all the wrong reasons.

Don’t get me wrong, these dogs are indeed wonderful.

The journalistic style, however, is more what-the-ful? 

At times, you think that not much has gone on between the earnest “I have to write a story about how wonderful that dog is, who I didn’t actually know, when it saved the life of someone or two someones or twenty-twelve persons from something.  I must include how that person went and thanked others for the dogs actions after, and how the politician/television presenter/winner of the cup presented the dog with a medal/trophy/memorial plaque.   Because that bit is really good.”
and the
“what the hell, no need to pay for an editor.  The readers of the remainders bin are used to being entertained by schlock.” approach to hitting publish.

I have just read one about this amazing earthquake rescue dog that travels from Wales to parts of the world to search after disaster.  And don’t get me wrong, the dog is AMAZING.  Would WALK over BROKEN GLASS to rescue people in situations of imminent danger. (Charco - page 53)

But…  but what is focused on instead?

That would be the 6 month quarantine the dog had to undergo after each major international mission.  This bit was expanded on to show just how loyal and amazingly heroic this animal was and I was thinking “No".

No, that bit is just a stark view of psychology and learning ability of canines.  And perhaps we have only gone part way through Charco's education...

Charco didn’t KNOW when it was volunteered for this 007 mission that the cost would be one hundred and eighty-seven and a half days without the pack.  "That wasn’t in the contract I signed Buddy, and had I known that I might have told you to call someone else because that sort of Shiite isn’t what makes this doggie tick."  thinks Charco.

Note in the article it mentions TWO such incidents – that is because in the first, Charco didn’t know it was going to happen.

The second is because Charco had assumed that the humans trusted didn’t know either and would do their bit in the canine-human relationship and avert that ever happening again.

But the humans failed.  It HAD happened again.  Now Charco knows.  Next time won’t be so easy.

Well, unless of course, that special bone is offered.

UP FRONT my man, up front.

I am getting to enjoy such phrases as “the intruder misguidedly ignored the warning and continued to trespass” and “Meanwhile, the burglar, Shih Chinlung, a wanted man from his previous burglaries, was met with giggles by the hospital nurse when police took him there for bite treatment”.

If that doesn’t say Taiwan to you, I don’t know what does.  (for those reading along at home, Hsiao Hei on page 35)

Did you know that there was a stuffed dog on display in a museum that is over 200 years old called “Barry”?  Barry was pretty freaking awesome, not just for being a 200 year old cadaver! (Barry page 37)

Another story has the poor dog not only saving the stupid boy playing in floodwaters, but also being accused of being a stupid dog in the retelling by the boy, and the mother agreeing…  Apparently Jake (page 13) “often became confused when confronted with everyday objects”.  Now, if I were Tony, I would just shut the flying-uber-canine-kennel UP when talking about Jake, because without the dim dog, he would be fishbites.

So - what have you inadvertently read of late?

Sunday, February 07, 2016

A Yarn from 1982 - or why my mother didn't have a breakdown then, I will never know.

Do you know, children, that once upon a time, we didn’t have devices?

Not just no devices, but no computers, no mobile phones, our watches only told the time and the top-line portable entertainment unit and was about a tonne of buttons, dials and switches (you could read about the new LCD technology being used overseas).

Ahh.  Good times!

So anyway, back in such olden days - 1982 - there was this breaking-in school at a neighbour’s place.
The neighbour's place was about 20k away, or 40 if you went around the main road.
There were about 14 (about heh – exactly 14) kids aged 8 to 16, and a half-dozen or so parents.

It was hot and there was a break between the morning session and the afternoon session and the adults were all doing something to do with the heady stuff of competitive horse sport in Australia politics.
It was really hot and we had a swimming pool at home.
It was really hot and we had a swimming pool at home and I HAVE NO IDEA IN THE WORLD HOW but somehow some of the kids asked the adults if we could go down for a swim and somehow the outcome was what we believed was the adults saying “yes”.

I see a lot of parents of this era shuddering at the concept.

14 children under the age of 16 being allowed to pile into one land-rover, drive on bushie-surveyed dirt roads through cattle paddocks to a backyard swimming pool 20 km away with no adult supervision what-so-ever…
Mind you, we were 14 children who were also enrolled in a week-long breaking-in school working with unbroken horses (or ponies in my case) and riding barely-broken steeds(and in my case being bucked off repeatedly by the b-i-t-c-h) (but my pride was recovered greatly by the fact that she also threw the teacher).
So either we were super responsible, super grown up country kids;
Or our parents were eargerly thrusting us into the path of destruction and doom.

Either way, 14 of us had sprung a few hours off to cool in the pool!

Meanwhile, at the OTHER end of that road...

Let me just say that my mother is the most beautiful woman in the world.
She is kind and she is smart and tolerant and wise – and she is purr-ingly contented when she has her own space and no sudden surprises.
Of course, she set herself up when she married my father - who doesn’t actually grasp the concept of any form of inaction and who cannot see that his constant, effervescent actions are rife with surprises…
Unfortunately for her, the majority of her children have occasional tendencies to take after their father in that regard.

So anyway, Mum's gorgeous day of absolutely no other person in the world around for a whole day in the middle of nowhere
14 children under the age of 16 falling out of one land-rover - to use the pool.

So instead of the nice apple and book after lunch before tackling the tasks that it was good to have children out of her hair for across the hours of the afternoon -
She had over a dozen children in and out of her space, splashing in the pool and wrecking her serenity.

No text warning.
No Instagram of 14 children in a land-rover to alert her.
No tweet, No hashtag #breakinbreakout for her to freak out.
Mind you, luckily there was also no google-able guide that would have advised her to go off her trolley and no message-board to have warned us that this was likely or indeed possible.
There was no facebook meme regarding the hard done by status of the unwary mother and no several hundred internet randoms turning up to join us.

There was also no Higgins Storm Chasing to let us know a Super Cell was set to unleash fury.
There was no Emergency Text Service to alert us of flash-flooding.

There was also no conversation with our adults far away regarding the effect this chain of events would have on our plans.
I mean, they KNEW we wouldn’t be stupid enough to go out driving in that weather.
The same way we KNEW they would fix our horses up for us.

So again my mother’s afternoon got shifted sideways, as out of the lightning and rain squalls huddled 14 children under the age of 16.
Suddenly quite hungry - and the few treats she had baked in the morning to set us up for a week’s upcoming mustering got devoured.
Wet and unwilling to put back on the dirty yard-clothes they had worn in the morning and borrowing all of our clothes.
Her work-space was taken over by card games.
The pool table got cleared.
The pool table got cleared!  You have NO IDEA what that simple phrase actually means to the psyche of our family – which was an integral flat surface in the topography that was quite a complicated organisational system.

And then the storm was over as quickly as it began.
1982.  We still had party-line phones that required a drive-along after every storm to see where it had snagged or broken this time, so no-one could ring and advise its brevity.

Luckily it had cleared enough for the UHF radio to work, and it was relayed to us that a convoy of parents were on their way down to collect their offspring, and so 14 children under the age of 16 had the sopping sunshine in soak the delights of a rare afternoon off for country kids - in numbers they rarely dreamed of.
Feeding the horses and dogs that afternoon was a group activity, and one filled with hilarity and adventure.
Tractors were climbed.
Nearby paddocks explored – on foot, as motorbikes and quads were things other people may have had.
Eileen, Safety Dance, Antmusic, Who Can it Be Now, Jessie's Girl, Jesse and Whip It were sung out loud and with abandon.

By the time that the convoy arrived, dark was falling –a few crossing were a bit rough so they had to go the long way around and so the other parents joined and no doubt the camaraderie of the track had affected a few of the designated passengers – and my father jovially offered drinks and declared it was an excellent night for a barbeque – and why didn’t everyone join us!

So lets look again at the litany of "surprises" for my mother:
  • 14 children under the age of 16 arriving;
  • Swimsuiting somehow the hordes and surreptitiously supervising such mayhem;
  • No apple and book;
  • 28 muddy paws across her swept floors;
  • No time or space to mop as planned;
  • Her whole morning's baking for the week ahead decimated;
  • A large portion of her childrens' wardrobes being worn;
  • A large portion of her childrens' wardrobes being worn in the mud, in the sheds, with the dogs and the horses, on tractors and haystacks whilst Countdown was recited;
  • An additional dozen adults arrived, some half-cut;
  • Her husband offering hospitality; - and 
  • Her hopes of a quiet dinner of L.O.T. (leftover tea) thrown out the window.

Luckily, my mother was a very modern woman, and she had already purchased the very latest in kitchen gadgets and so the wonders of microwave technology meant she could thaw several kilograms of various barbecue-able bits from the deep freeze - in the time it took a half-dozen adults to whip up salads out of whatever vegetable matter and the leftovers could supply. (Unfortunately un-pinterested)

Luckily for my mother, she had recently upgraded to a machine that only required her to save water by switching hoses at five specific times  during the cycle (a major improvement on the twin-tub or indeed mangle that had preceded) and when it wasn't raining it was excellent drying weather.

And no doubt luckily for my mother, she had budgeted a weekly sanity phone call with her mum on Sundays, where she could be soothed by tales of the good old days where Grandpa was transferred every six months by the bank and Grandma had to pack up children, sell houses and find sub-standard accommodation in far-flung towns of Queensland during a housing shortage and thank her lucky stars that she would never be required to move from this serenity...

Thank god for the technology, hey?

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Different Kinds of Fairy Tales and Philosophy

Against all good advice – or, apparently, judgement – I have a history with – well, with texture and drama at certain points – and I won't go into that too much in depth except to say I am unable to honestly tick the box foretold in the fairy-tales, the childhood sweetheart.

I know, brazen, wanton hussy that I am, admitting that OUT LOUD, IN PUBLIC.

But to be frank, once you are past the juncture where you can feasibly attain such an object in your life, the requirement to DREAM about it as an ideal is actually futile…

In fact, to continue to search for the possibility is viewed by polite society to be downright immoral and illegal!

And yet – and yet we keep on pushing the notion, the Prince Charming to sweep you off your feet – a reality that, frankly, very few of us end up cashing our chips in on.

Not that I have anything against those of you who found contentment and delight in the first swain to have troubled your doorstep when said doorstep was still shared with your parents.

However, there are many other possible pathways to take in this silly little world we inhabit for however brief a moment in time, and to disallow other possible pathways as plausible in the dreamscape of childhood is narrow, for there is joy to be found in these other avenues also…

The moment of falling in love – deeply, irrevocably in love – with a background of other spectacular moments of falling into deep, irrevocable love in the past isn’t necessarily a lesser thing to that moment of falling in love for the very first time. 

It is a DIFFERENT thing, for sure.

But you see, one is impossible with the other - but not the other way around...

That moment of feeling your heart break in new ways over days or weeks or months of mourning for what was not possible in such a relationship.

That moment of realising that, although your heart breaks in new ways, it is healing and embracing what life has to offer.

That moment of understanding that you can be alone in this world and be okay.

That moment of realising you actually are enjoying complete self-reliance in whatever sphere of your life.

That moment of discovering answered needs for a myriad of things in life from a myriad of people in life that proves being part of a community can be buoyant and uplifting.

(Perhaps not that moment of fear of unwanted attention and ill-conceived borders, but hey, they’re not a given.)

Another – and another – and another moment of falling in love…

Although – although as a married woman now, the most staid (and indeed stayed) I have ever been in my life – there are moments in such a life where you do discover other, new moments of falling in love in such a scenario that I would never have imagined in other phases.

The “oh I never noticed” moments, the "I never noticed that" moments, the “oh that is why” moments, the “ohhhh, THAT is why” moments, the “oh? That’s why?” moments and the “I dunno why” moments.

And I would imagine in the amount of growing and changing that takes place between then and now, there would also be renewed falling in loves for such people who number the childhood sweetheart component of the audience.

You would certainly hope so, at least, because they sure as dodo eggs are a declining market - there is a pretty finite market to begin with, and an attrition rate.  Anything other would be detrimental to their whole survival – we need them around to study!!

Oh - and the fairy tale game would well and truly be up!

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Don't let the men in the white coats frighten you... a tale without pictures

Apparently, there are people in this world who naturally remember their dental routine and have a good and noble relationship with their dentists.

Then there are those in this world who express public disdain for all dental convention yet maintain a pristine dental landscape with seemingly nary a care.

And then there are people like me.

I was only thinking, tonight (while on step eleventy-hundred and five of my mainly theoretical dental movements in D major).

I do that – think while going through the motions.

It often distracts me from the task at hand, but I have found it can be quite useful.

Anyhow,  I was only thinking, tonight that while I am on occasion accused of being an over-thinker,
the majority of my over-thinking is concerned with worrying that I only think that I am over-thinking,
and the rest of humanity is having a bit of a guffaw at my expense,
and perhaps it is an extremely obvious amateur performance of life-skills that I cumbersomely wield
and the reason that they don’t appear to be thinking is that,
to them,
no thought process is actually required?

You think that you’re confused?

Anyway, one of the OTHER things I was wondering was how it was determined that it was to be thirty minutes before putting anything in your mouth after a dentist visit.

I have an enquiring mind that takes a scientific bent at times, so this immediately took me to the whole process of making that decision.

Do they heighten the rats heart rate;
give it the adrenaline rush equivalent to that of overcoming dental phobia (and the maths involved in that dosage must be boggling);
make whirring and grinding noises and perfume the air with occasional whiffs of ground enamel;
give a few shots of the good stuff through the roof of their little mouths after making their nerves jangle dangerously close to “holey frack fat cat, do we want to take this outside”
and THEN put the smells of good caffeine or sunflower seeds and illicit cornflakes around the poor little rats to entice them and document the effects at various intervals to determine the moment when it becomes safe to shove anything into your gob after torture?

I can see that there are those of you who are thinking “she’s talking about LAB rats.  We shouldn’t joke about LAB rats.  It’s NOT FUNNY.”

You may be right.

But again, I have an enquiring mind that takes a scientific bent at times, so this immediately took me to the whole process of making that decision.

I mean, how do you really know?

Have you read a report where someone has had my work read out to the poor little rats to entice them to react and documented the effects at various intervals to determine the moment when it became safe or was it indeed torture?

And then did anyone think to document whether this was worse than going to the dentist in the first place?

I have an enquiring mind.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Well will you look at that - an obligatory end of year overview, tidings and reso - reso - R - E - S - O - lutions...

2015 was a bizarre year for us.  A lot of life doesn't get blogged about because it is the minutae of getting by.  A lot of life doesn't get blogged about because it is personal.  A lot of life doesn't get blogged because it is boring...

 We started the year on the other side of the world and it was strange -

- then we came home January and it was stranger...

February we embarked upon strange new routines... (unblogged was a rather tough go-round in circles of medical hell for another)

March saw us all climb a few mountains (and probably rolled down a few slopes)...

April was another interesting month (and in unbloggable news, V got kneecapped by an expert!)

May and June will forever remain mysterious, as they were completely uninspiring.  They were there.  We got through.

July and the long run downhill at the end of the year began.  I even blogged it.



October and I got along a little better.  Of course, that is all relative...

November started to tune up the "busy" in our lives...

And December - well, it was good all told, but the fact that it was still officially in 2015 was its main drawback.

But - I just saw the fireworks for 2016 - and 2016 is going to be a better year.

None of that pithy little "I don't do resolutions" BS - its reload and get out there territory here!

To achieve this, I am definitely toning up a few things (including muscles).

Attitudes are going to change.  Life is going to be better.   Eat better, sleep better, be more conscious and less anxious.

Try not to sweat the small stuff but maybe break a sweat working on the larger me.

Value time better - and make it matter.

Value friends and family better.

Value me.

Be more present.  Step up (which is different to "volunteer for everything").

Think more.    Thank more.

How is 2016 going to be different for you?