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!!!