Tuesday, July 08, 2008
I really started noticing him a couple of years ago when I would pick up my son from school and go down this particular street to get home.
Almost every single time I passed this man's house he would be either asleep in his car or just sitting in it, looking out from behind the wide windscreen.
The car is in pristine condition. A Ford LTD in a glossy, metallic sage green colour. Shiny chrome bumper bars, door handles and window trim. I think it is an early 1980's model. It is always parked outside the front of his home. In fact, I cannot recall ever driving down this particular street and the car not being there. And I drive down it almost every day.
Sometimes on the weekend I drive past and he is still in the car. What is he doing sitting in the car on a Saturday afternoon?
There are times when I have seen him just sweeping the footpath in front of his house. Or just standing near his car and smoking a cigarette in the quiet and thoughtful manner that smoker's do when enjoying their habit.
I think he is in his early 70's, but that is hard to tell. Slightly built with stooped shoulders. Usually wears a short sleeved shirt in a vague beige colour and contrasting brown trousers which look around the same vintage as the car. His hair is grey and I think he must oil it and comb in back neatly. Sometimes his hair is tucked behind his ears which looks odd on a man.
I once caught a glimpse of his wife when I drove past one day. She was hovering in the entrance of the front doorway. Grey haired, quite stout and wearing an apron. In the short time I looked over at where she was I caught a little moment in time of their life. Her at the door talking to him, whilst he stood with his back to her, shoulders hunched and cigarette in his hand. The whole brief picture was one of indifference and exasperation between the two.
I may well have read it incorrectly, that small scene between them, but it reminded me of the same pose between my own parents many years ago.
I think that is why he sits in his car and watches the world go by. I am sure he bought that car new and loves it as men are inclined to love their cars. He must watch school children walking by day in and day out. Not watching in a creepy way, just watching in the way that people do when they think about their life.
His house is neat, the garden trimmed, the pavement swept. The sage green car shiny and loved.
All these little lives going on really fascinate me.
Monday, July 07, 2008
We all know that the internet can spew up some awful stuff that has no place in the mind of a child. An adult can somehow deal with it, but for a child a lot of damage is done if something seriously inappropriate.
In the old days a boy may have found a Playboy magazine and seen a naked girl or two.
Not so these days.
Anyway, S had been on my little laptop looking at You Tube and other things. After he was off I could see that he had searched for the words "sexual intercourse on You Tube". Hmmmm.
Now, there was no way I was letting this one slide. I tackled him on it.
Firstly he tried to deny that he looked it up. He then leant over toward the computer and asked me where I saw those words.
"You are a red as a tomato my boy so just 'fess up," I said to him.
"Okay, so I did. I don't know why I did, I just, well, I just did," he babbled on a bit.
I laughed a bit. Told him it was normal to be curious but it was best that he kind of held back until he was older.
"How old? Eighteen?" he asked.
"What? No, look I don't know the magic age but I do know that eleven is not okay to be looking up sexual activities between people on the internet," I explained.
"Look mum, I do know that sex is an expression of love between two people," he said and then hesitated.
"Listen, good sex, special sex is an expression of love between two people. But sex is also a basic human need and it is normal to want to have a look at things that are about sex and that has nothing to do with love. Most young boys have thoughts and feelings inside them and want to follow that feeling. But the internet is just not the place to find things out. It shows you things that are too graphic and looking for porn on the internet can become habitual and personally damaging. It can make you feel hollow. Just remember that. You will learn and discover what you need to in your own good time," I explained to him.
He was silent for a moment before nodding in agreement. I hoped that I reassured him that he was normal to want to search whilst at the same time teaching him about not always giving in to urges. We do have good software on our computers to stop most rubbish coming through, but I don't want to use that as my computer babysitter. I want my son to think carefully about what he does. I also do not ever want him to feel shame because he has natural and curious feelings about sex.
I then suggested to him that if he felt uncomfortable about speaking to me about sex he could always talk to his dad. Perhaps have a father and son chat. Up went the eyebrows and then a big eye roll.
"No way, he would just feel uncomfortable. I am fine speaking to you mum," he answered.
Later on I did laugh about one thing. That he looked up "sexual intercourse" as opposed to "fuck" or "porn" or even just "sex".
I am not sure I could have even spelt the word at his age let alone knew what it actually meant.
Yeps, here I am still typing away in cyberspace.
Not so many posts are being laid down these days. It is easy to get totally obsessed with blogging and a while ago I had to be mindful of my responsibilities and limit my blogging time.
Not so many people visit my blog these days and that is fine. People come and go. But I do enjoy knowing that there are a handful of lovely people who deign to make enough time in their days and visit my blog, post a comment and connect with me from many miles away.
I do not have as much time to visit as many blogs as I would like. It is nothing personal, just time.
Over years I have kept a journal. But an online journal is much more pleasing to work with.
I have made a note of my blog on a piece of paper for my son in case he wants to know anything about me when he gets older and I can no longer recall things in great detail.
But it is not just for him that I blog. I blog for me. I like doing it. It is a nice thing to do.
Expression in the written form is a constant pleasure for me. I have a dream that one day I will be able to sit down all day and write. But life sometimes gets in the way of doing these things and I just squeeze in what I can.
Well, five hundred is a well rounded number.
Now I shall think about post number 501.
Sunday, July 06, 2008
I have, over the years, had a deep and personal relationship with my two old pushbikes. One is a big, black 1950's Raleigh boys bike. The other is a Raleigh girls bike that my husband built for me, complete with rod brakes and painted in a cheery yellow. I love them dearly, but, I have to confess that they are just a bit impractical to ride anywhere except down to the local shops on a sunny day to pick up a bread stick and some fruit and veges. They are cruising kind of bikes.
On the few occasions that I have taken them out for a big ride I am knackered by the time I get to the end of the street. No matter how well looked after they are, no matter how lovely they look they are, essentially, old bikes. I think they weigh about 25 kgs each and when I ride up a hill it is extra hard work. Pushing my body weight along with the weight of the bike really is hard work. And I am not unfit by any means.
And they are slow to ride. This in turn makes me nervous when riding in heavy traffic. I feel that I am unable to nip in and out of the spaces that are offered up to me.
A couple of months ago I was told that I was not to do any jogging any more and to limit how much walking I do. I am nursing a chronic injury that will not be able to mend itself for a long, long time. Walking and jogging quite simply aggravate it and the suggestion was put forth to take up swimming or cycling to maintain my fitness levels. As I cannot swim (and just hate getting my head wet) I had to make the monumental decision to purchase a new and modern road bike.
So on Saturday I went on my own doing bike shopping. I have not ridden a new push bike for at least 25 years. I have been a stoic supporter of the classic English bicycle for ever and a day. In those passing 25 years I have been a bit critical of people who buy high tech bikes and then don lycra clothing and then go for long rides.
Well, here I am about to confess that I am joining the lycra brigade.
I found a bike. After making my way into a high tech bicycle shop and trying out a modern road bike I realised just how unbelievably far the humble pushbike has come. As a lighweight commuter push bike found it's way under my sceptical body I was duly impressed with technical twaddle that accompanied this bike I was about to buy.
It weighed about the same as my handbag. I felt joyful as I pushed the pedal down and the bike was thrust forward at an alarming speed.
So, Tuesday I pick it up and before I take it they will fit me to the bike and take me through how to get the best out of it.
I feel a bit disloyal to my two other bikes sitting in the garage but I know when the sunny days come out I will use them for a leisurely pedal down the street to pick up some shopping supplies.
I have lots of love to give when it comes to my bikes.
On Tuesday, to celebrate my son's eleventh birthday we went and saw the latest Indian Jones movie. It was fun, met all our expectations despite being almost identical to the previous three.
Today, S and I went to see Prince Caspian (the second movie in the Narnian Chronicles).
It is not often that I actually feel as though I have been taken to another world on the wings of a movie, but for some reason I really felt as though I was in a most dreamlike state whilst I watched the lovely richness of this movie.
I first read the entire Narnian Chronicles when I was about ten years old. They were so enjoyable and they took me to a place of beauty each time I read them. Whilst I know now the essence that was behind the books when C.S. Lewis penned them, as a child they were, quite simply, a form of absolute escapism.
The book collection was actually given to me by a friend of my mother's. They had once belonged to her sons and so she was passing them on. I read them over and over again and one day at high school I lent them to a friend who never returned them. About ten years later I was given the set as a birthday present, read them again and then passed them onto my niece when she was around ten years old. She still has that set.
I have tried over the years to get my son interested in reading the Narnia books but to no avail. He just does not find them interesting to read. They make a great movie for him to watch, but a bit boring for him to read. When he was quite young I recall lying on the bed next to him and reading The Horse And His Boy to him (book three in the set) and after a week of me reading he asked me to stop because it was so boring. Harry Potter is his thing. I wonder if his child will find Harry Potter as dull as S finds Narnia.
Oh, but the movie was a visual pleasure to me. The scenery, the dreamlike quality at which each scene moved to the next. The mythical creatures that seemed so realistic I allowed myself to believe. The film carried a level of sweet menace, offering enough excitement to ensure that the fear factor was satisfied without bringing a tear to a child's eye. The entire 155 minutes of movie felt too short and when it ended I was rather loathe to make my way out of the theatre and walk back into the belly of the shopping centre which surrounded our cocoon of surreality.
Whilst I know that there are gritty movies out there offering me a insight into other people's troubled and miserable lives, to tell you the truth, I don't need that level of education. I can get that when I turn on the news each night.
I love films where children are heroes. Where animals can talk. Where trees move without the wind to guide them. Where good versus evil and good always wins.
Now and then an escape from reality is nice thing to be part of.
Does that paragraph imply that I am unhappy with my life? It should not because I am not unhappy with my life. I think I am unhappy with myself. I realise that I am a person who is never satisfied with what I do or who I am. So perhaps unhappy is not the right phrase. At times I feel as though I just cannot “be”. Always having to find some other inner sanctum to probe, some other cave to explore within.
Anyway, this post is not really all about my inner sanctum and struggle with the concept of being a middle aged female human being, this post is about what a complete and utter ignoramus I have become.
Every Sunday night on our ABC television there is a television show called The Einstein Factor which involves three contestants up against a panel of three people answering general knowledge questions. Each contestant specialises in a particular area. It may be that one knows all about The Avenger’s or The Concorde or some other interesting but totally unrelated topic. The presenter then asks each contestant a series of difficult and usually obscure questions about the specialised topic. The one with the most points wins. It is a good show to watch because usually I know a little bit about each topic (very little indeed).
So, tonight we are watching it and K asks me watch topic I would specialise in. I had a good long think. A very long think before realising that there was, at this point in my life, only one topic I know more about than anything else and that is “The Celebrity”.
I am ashamed to admit that.
Years ago I would have known about a particular writer I was into or perhaps an artist I had taken a liking to and studied in great detail. I went through a stage of reading all I could about D.H. Lawrence and could have answered the most obscure questions about him. Then I read every one of Oscar Wilde’s written works and continued on to dig deeper into his personal life.
If you asked me now about Lawrence or Wilde I am unsure I would be able to tap into that little well of knowledge to answer anything about either of them, even their date of birth.
Somehow, along the way of contemplating my navel along with reading copious amounts of trashy mags at the supermarket, hairdressers and reading the Daily Mail website, I have absorbed the most annoying amount of superfluous twaddle about all sorts of Hollywood harlot’s that I am able to answer far too many questions about them.
I think I have allowed myself to dumb down shamefully because it is easy. Because I am lazy? Because I am time poor and don’t sit down to read and study as much? Did that tie in with becoming a mother? Is it because Who Weekly is so much more easy to absorb than Far From The Madding Crowd? Or is Paris Hilton more interesting than Catherine Barkley?
It bothers me greatly that I have allowed this to happen. Or did it happen so slowly that I only just realised what happened?
How to undo it. Hmmmm, need to study the books on my shelf again and take some down. Have to sit on the couch one Saturday afternoon and open a book and start to read and ignore the housework to be done, the ironing building up and the shower that needs a clean. Need to take the book with me and leave the house, sit in a coffee shop and reconnect with the dynamics of made up lives ensconced within the covers.
It is not enough to have knowledge if you do not continually feed it and nurture the interest.
I mean, I have always known that, but only as words that you say, not actions that you do.
Sigh.....always something new to contemplate (and not my navel).
And this is it. A teeny weeny little notebook that I use whilst having a cup of tea or when sitting and watching television.
It does have it's limitations, however it connects to the internet, has enough space on it that I can store photos. No loading a DVD on it however as it has no room for that.
It fits in my hand bag, weighs under a kilogram and I sometimes sit in a coffee shop and do some writing whilst having a coffee.
So much more useful than a new handbag.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Firstly, the truth is that I don't really mind getting older. It has it's merits. Mentally, even during my low patches, I am so much more together that I was twenty years ago. I would not actually want to be twenty five again if it meant that I had to have the same pea brain that I had then.
The physical aspect of getting older is a bit boring. You do have to be mindful of what you eat, exercise a bit more and come to terms with the "sag" factor that goes with it all. You would not care to jump from a table onto the floor without thinking carefully about what you do in case it hurt too much.
I know that I would never embrace the prospect of plastic surgery to look younger. Bit like holding back the tide with your hand. You may well have a younger looking face but what about the not so firm neck that is a contradiction to the face. I mean, nothing short of a body lift would do the job properly and then you may look weird.
Besides, you may well look twenty years younger after a face lift, but you sure as hell won't move like a person twenty years younger. That is, of course, unless you are Madonna whose lithe movements are fairly impressive for someone about to hit the big five-o. But the average person in the street is not a millionaire with a full time personal trainer, chef, yoga mentor and masseuse to get us through the day. Believe me, I reckon I would look pretty damn hot if I had all those people around to tend to me before I left the house each morning.
Over the years I have read trashy magazine upon trashy magazine and been exposed to possibly tens of thousands of advertisements going on about the virtues of using a particular moisturiser to hold back the march of time which is going to leave big fat, saggy and wrinkly footprints on my aging face as it passes by. I have always treated these advertisements with disdain and brushed over them with a cursory glance.
That is until now.
You see, a few weeks ago we decided to have a slide night at home. I love slide nights. They really are the silliest thing. Anyway, we were going through all the different eras making the usual comments when my son said "mum, why are there almost no photos of you?". I said that there were. And then K said "No, really, there are so many of your family and brother and sisters and only a handful of you. Even our overseas trips only have a small amount of you".
What could I say. They were right. I really do not have that many photos around of me. I tend to take the photos and not be in them. So to change this direction I have made a point of telling my son or husband to take a photo of me when we are out and about.
Trouble is, I hate having my photo taken and very, very rarely like the outcome. The good thing about a digital camera is that you can take loads of photos until you get exactly what you like.
So, S has the camera in hand and takes a couple of photos of me last night. Each photo he takes is accompanied by a hoot of laughter or a big frown.
Then he says things like:
"your eyes are droopy"
"you have too many wrinkles"
"lift up your head and then you can't see your double chin"
"what is that crease on your face?"
"don't smile so much, it makes you look wrinkly"
"another ugly one"
"mum, you are just getting old and that is why you look bad"
"don't worry, you look better in real life"
Now, these comments have made me rethink my choice of moisturiser in the vain hope that out there, somewhere, is truly, truly a magical pot of smooth and creamy emollient that when smeared on my saggy, wrinkly, drooping face, will transform it back to the dewy cheeked velveteen skin I had at twenty five.
I have worked out that the bigger the words in the ingredients, the more impressed and hopeful I feel about the possible outcome.
Descriptions that include words like "radiance", "microlift", "resurface" and "morpholift" suggest a metamorphosis from aging moth to youthful butterfly within a week of using it. Oh, and words like "glycolic", "ceramide", "salicylic", "alpha-hydroxy acid" and "hydroquinone" surely imply that a scientist has been working on it and everyone knows that a scientist works on a facts basis. It must be true.
Then I see the price tag that goes with the promises and decide that I am just not that unhappy with my skin. More than the price of gold per ounce surely.
I mean really, to an eleven year old boy it is to be expected that I am ancient.
And, don't give me that twaddle about wrinkles being the laugh lines of a life lived etc.
Step by step is the journey that takes you to and from it and I am always on that path.
The overseas trip was the catalyst for me. The lack of routine, being in another place, the cold weather, the different beds, lack of sleep, lack of structured exercise and then at least a week of appalling jet lag was enough to tip the little scales that send one asunder into the hole where the sides are like gravel and slip from under you as you try to regain some footing. I have slipped back into some thinking processes that are negative.
Small things indicate to me that something is not quite right. Things that perhaps you would not see as particularly major are actually signals that something is amiss within me. The worst thing for me is that I am unable to write. I have the ideas but the motivation has gone completely and this is always an indication of my being out of sorts. My anxiety levels are high and more frequent than I care for. Anxiety is a dreary state of affairs and getting to the root of it can be confronting.
Having to tackle it head on is something I have to completely immerse myself in. Fortunately I have two people I live with who know what to do when I am down for a long, long time. They watch for my moods and know not to react if I am anxious, tense or fearful. I, in turn, have learnt never to take it out on them.
It is okay and I will plod through it over the wintry months (when I seem to fall into this hole a bit deeper) and pop my head up one day and feel better.
Writing it down helps as I can take the thoughts out of my head, put them on paper and then study them as a student would when doing a project.
So, this is my project. Shore up the sides of the hole I happen to be sitting in and then climb out.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
When boys get to a certain age it is better to have a birthday party off site rather than have ten testosterone charged boys running around my house in the middle of winter (rainy and windy outside).
He chose the birthday cake which I made and decorated accordingly. It was a rich chocolate cake smothered in creamy chocolate icing, smarties and maltesers. I can assure you that it was not low fat and was very heavy.
He had his party at a place called Sidetracked which is an extremely well organised indoor go-karting venue. Everything runs like clockwork there. You are greeted at the party room which is run by young men. Each group has a party supervisor who directs all the boys where they next have to go.
The first port of call was ten minutes of go-karting. Something happens to boys when they get behind the wheel of a car, any car. It was foot down and go as fast as you can the whole time. I think a few of them thought perhaps it was Dodgem cars and did their best to run up the backside of the kart in front.
And finally a feast of party pies, sausage rolls, chips and the birthday cake.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
When I have a cold I just get on with life. When I get my period I just move on with the day accordingly (whilst everyone around me suffers my mood). When I hurt my back, I just ignore it. When I have had surgery on a Monday I have been back at work on a Wednesday. When I have food poisoning or a tummy bug, I vomit in an unassuming and silent manner. If I cut myself and bleed I am able to find a bandage and wrap it up before deciding whether or not I need stitches. I am a female and therefore stoic.
When my husband has a cold you would think it was actually the bird flu. When he hurts his back he gives an audible moan everytime he moves. When he has had a tummy bug I swear that you would think he was giving birth with the noises that come out at the same time. He cannot stomach the sight of his own blood and gets lightheaded if he sees it. He is a man therefore his pain tolerance is at a lower level.
Well, I realise that this male reaction to pain starts early. The other day S had a sore eye. It annoyed him throughout the day and when he went to bed at night he was really upset. I gave him an eyewash in case he had some dust in it. The eyewash was a mild saline solution but I thought perhaps it was caustic soda due to his intense objection to it.
Later on he went to bed in a sad state. Told me how awful his life was now that he had this sore eye and he was going to suffocate into his pillow if the pain did not stop. He could not watch his dvd whilst lying in bed because his eye hurt. I suggested that he just pop his hand over it and watch the dvd with his good eye. He insisted that tactic was not going to work and could I get some sort of bandage for him. He wanted something soft to put against the eye.
The photo below shows the best I could come up with. It worked.
His eye was perfectly normal the next day.
Monday, June 23, 2008
In summer is is beautiful. The sky is still blue in the evening, the air is warm and the grass is brown and dry with dust that rises up when you step on it. It feels good to exercise in the warm air. Kind of free as you can wear a singlet top and shorter pants and feel the lovely hot breath of the evening air on any bare skin. I have a love hate relationship with the heat when I exercise. It makes it hard to get moving, moving through that warmth but once my middle aged limbs feel limbered up it is great. The stinging sweat at the end of a session is worth it all.
But, as with everything, the seasons change and along with that change comes the chill of wintry months creeping in. Winter here in Melbourne, Australia is pretty lame compared to the other side of the world. I suppose the average winter day here is like a jolly spring day in England. But regardless of that, winter is still a lot colder than summer.
Exercise is an activity that most people really are not that keen on, and I can understand that. It has only been in the last three years that I have embraced the whole healthy and active lifestyle. Previous to that I would not be lying if I said that I paid for five twelve month memberships at different gyms and went only once or twice. In fact, I do know that one gym I did not go to once. Which is a story that I am sure is repeated everywhere.
Anyway, now it is winter and I have to readjust my mind to exercising in the dark, the grounds lit up only by a feeble spotlight. Sometimes I look out the window before I go and my heart sinks when I hear the patter of rain outside. Even worse when the rain is steady and heavy - as it was tonight. In this cold weather you have to multi layer. Long pants, two t-shirts, long sleeved top, waterproof jacket and a scarf. On a very chilly night I wear a orange and white striped beanie which has earnt me the name of Cat in The Hat. As the night progresses I remove the layers until I have only a t-shirt on. But the moment I stop moving around the layers are back on.
When the night is still and the air is cold enough to make your breath visible, it is quite beautiful to lie on the exercise mat and look at the inky black sky filled with twinkling stars as I do sit ups. Sometimes, in the adjoining oval, the local football club will be training and I half listen to their shouts of encouragement as they call out to each other. They are equipped with huge floodlights that shine long and far and give the feeling of false daylight, the shadows of the footballers are long as though it were the evening sunshine throwing the light. It is a surreal atmosphere for some reason. Every one doing their own thing yet somehow connecting with each other by just being nearby. A strange sort of companionship that society offers, sometimes by accident.
The footballers always finish their training before our little group and when they go the bright floodlights are switched off. The sudden darkness is like a loud clap in a silent room. The only light left is our own thin one that comes from the roof of the room where the sports equipment is stored when we are not there. It is slightly hazardous in the almost dark evening. We have to run across the oval as part of the programme and you have to be mindful of uneven ground, or worse than that, barker's eggs (aka dog poo). The personal trainer tells us that we use our bodies more efficiently if we have to take more care as we run, we put more thought into what we do. I suppose she has a point there.
Tonight was wet, that fine yet heavy rainfall that soaks through you. We managed to find a reasonably dry spot to do all our hard tasks. I lay on the mat doing some very painful series of movements and the rain blew in from my right side and started to soak my face. The more I tried to shift from it, the more the wet rain seemed to find me. In the end it did not matter as we all had to run out in the rain anyway which ensured a soaking mighty quickly.
Exercise is not an easy thing to embrace, but it is a worthy activity. Whether it be a bracing walk in the park or a heavy pounding on the footpath the end result is always a good feeling. Once I realised that at the actual time of exercise it is normal to feel like shit, it made it much easier to just get on with it. When I first got into exercise I remember thinking I felt awful at the actual time and always wondered when that feeling would go away. Then one day I asked the personal trainer when it would not feel crappy when I ran for 5kms or did 100 squats or 200 sit ups. She laughed and said that it always feels bad but afterwards it always feels great.
After that I that I thought "oh, okay, I get it now". Then figured that for the short time it was hard work was not very long on the scale of things.
My husband goes to the gym a couple of times in the morning. He gets up at 6.00 am and is back within the hour. On a Saturday morning he joins the lycra clad brigade and goes for a 20km bike ride. He has tried to get me to go with but that ain't ever happening. Lycra? Racing bike with the curly handles and narrow bike seat. Combine that with an early morning. No thanks,
I mean, it is one thing to discipline to go to exercise class each evening, but get out of bed before 7.30 am!
You must be kidding!
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Clean up the front part of the house completely. Go for a walk in the late afternoon on Saturday. Sunday morning pick up a chair that I bought on Ebay and then do some constructive things in my studio.
Here is how it went.
Saturday. Certainly cleaned up the front section of the house. Went through drawers and had a small throw out. In between that put on three loads of washing and sorted clean clothes to be ready for ironing. So far, so good. Made a vat of pumpkin soup. I was on a roll of productivity.
Then at around 3.00pm some friends dropped in and stayed for almost 2 hours. But that was okay as I thought that I would squeeze in a good walk before it got too dark.
Then my brother and his brood dropped in just after our friends left. They have not been around for ages and so stayed until 6.30 pm and then left for home (refusing an offer of getting some dinner). The house was incredibly silent. S came up to me and said he was hungry. Whilst he at dinner I set up the ironing board and spent the next three hours making small inroads into the huge pile of ironing. No walk.
On Sunday we all went together to pick up a great armchair I bought on Ebay. On the drive back home I decided that I would bake a cake when I got home, then whilst that was in the oven I would pop down the shop and do my week's grocery shopping. My plan was then to get dinner organised in the slow cooker, go for a walk and then spend time in the studio.
And then my plans were completely changed with a visit from a 14 year old girl who lives two doors up from us.
This young girl has a tough history. She and her brother (who is 13) live with the grandparents and have been since she was about 5 years old. Her mother is a drug addict, a prostitute and has been in and out of jail for many, many years. She is completely incapable of looking after her children and they were subsequently taken off her and given to the grandparents to raise. The father of the children has been in jail for armed robbery and other violent acts. He was released late last year and then again in jail for another stint for more armed robbery.
The daughter has some significant personal problems. She has been teased at school for being fat, she has had anger problems and has a fairly needy personality. She has a few attentions seeking traits and sometimes tells lies. Which is to be expected considering her background. For a couple of years she went to counselling which helped her and also her grandparents. She has the making of a bright and intelligent girl. May take a while to get there though.
Now she is 14 and entering those troublesome teenage years. Boys are on her mind. There is no way known she wants to speak to her grandmother. As far as this girl is concerned, her grandmother has no idea, is too old and could never understand her. Which is quite wrong as her grandparents are lovely people with great values and very understanding. The grandmother works full time as a teacher whilst the grandfather keeps the house running. So they are very normal people.
And so today she came over to me to have a talk. Not just a talk, a long talk about boys, her mother, her friends at school. She asked me questions about sex and sexuality. Asked me if I wished I had a daughter and not a son. Just talked and talked and talked.
It is hard to know exactly how far to go with other people's children when it comes to chats about anything to do with sex. But I took the stand of "my house, my rules". I am very comfortable with my values when it comes to sex. So I answered her questions. Gave her the big talk about valuing her body, the consequences of making mistakes (my sister got pregnant at 15), think very carefully before making a decision to have sex as it had to be right or it could have a long term effect on her. Made sure I informed her about sexually transmitted diseases. Spelt them out to her and the long term effects of some of them. Gave her the facts in the nicest possible way.
Three hours of teenage angst in my kitchen whilst I baked a cake.
This is not the first time she has dropped in for a chat. Last time I dropped a big, fat clanger by talking about her mother (she did ask about her) without realising that her grandparents had not actually told her much at all about the whole background. I felt bad about it for quite a long time and today realised that it was quite possible that her grandmother sent her down to me for that very reason.
At about 4.00pm I told her that I had to go food shopping and she wanted to come with. Instead, I took her home (where my son was playing with her brother). As I approached the front door her grandfather ushered me in where I then stayed for another hour and half while the grandmother spoke to me about her granddaughter. I gave her a brief rundown on what had transpired between Jesse and myself. She then said that Jesse would not speak to her about anything so she sent her to me to say hello.
"Well, that is okay for Jesse to come down and speak to me as long as you understand that I will speak to her in the only way I know how, which is to be upfront and I may make her feel a bit awkward. I won't encourage her to have a boyfriend, but I will not discourage either. Do you know what I mean?" I told them both. I wanted them to know that I will speak to their granddaughter in the same way I speak to my son. Some people may not like that.
Well, they were really happy to have her pop over now and then. Hmmmm, not sure how I feel about it happening too often, but if it helps a girl stay on track that is a good enough reason to be there for her.
So, at 5.30pm I made my way to the bright lights of the supermarket where I did my week's shopping.
No walk tonight, no studio time, not much me time. But in a way, I don't mind.
I think I did something a bit more constructive this afternoon.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
It is only hindsight that I can give an opinion as to whether or not it was bad. When you are small, it just is what life is. It may be scary, it may be sad, it may be fearful. But as there is nothing to compare it to and as it is what a child is born into, it is better than nothing at all. For children love their parents regardless of whether they are fearful of them. I think my experience of childhood made me very aware of my responsibility and obligation as a parent to my own child. There was not a snowflakes hope in hell that my son would ever feel anything but safe and loved in his own home.
There was a lot of domestic violence in our house. Physical and verbal abuse. I don't mention this to garner sympathy. I long ago put all that to rest. I only make the comment because that is just one of the things that was part of my life and therefore part of how I became who I am. But for years I felt intense resentment toward my father for being the way he was. As the years passed I realised that it was pointless. It was not as though I had anything to forgive, I just dropped it all and got on with more important things. Besides, there are people out there in the world who experienced such terrible childhoods that I feel mine is fairly run of the mill stuff.
I do know that I picked up on the personality of my father at a fairly early age. When I was six years old I took a piece of chalk and wrote in big letters "dad is spiteful". I wrote it under the kitchen window. The word spiteful was on an angle and the letter "l" was almost horizontal by the time I finished labouring over it. When my mum saw it she made me scrub it off. Not because she thought that what I did was naughty, she did not want my father to see it.
Despite all his obvious unpleasantness, my father could be so kind and understanding that you would not believe him to be the same person that would have been so angry only hours beforehand. There were many times when he gave me helpful advice on difficult personal situations.
I once asked him why he and my mother did not get on. What had she done that had filled him with such anger all the time. He said that my mother and himself were like cat and dog.
"Try to imagine that I am a dog on one side of the fence and your mother is a cat on the other side. We are happy on each side until we come to the gate and see each other. Then we fight," was his explanation. I guess that my parents era of marriage was not one of relationship building. So, he never felt the urge to change the dog and cat pattern.
My parents divorced when I was 24 years old. My father packed his things and left when my youngest sister turned 16. He felt that he had done his duty. He left my mother and sister behind.
I know there are two sides to every story in every marriage.
It is a long time ago. I am not sure what the point of this whole post is. Perhaps there is no point. I shall probably read this later on and delete it as it sounds a bit self pitying, which it is not.
Just now and then I miss him.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
I never understood parties as such. I don't mean the sort of parties where you bring a present, have some cake, play some games and take home a lolly bag. I am referring to the sort of party you bring some wine to, hang around the lounge room and kitchen or, if it is hot, hang around outside. Generally, the only reason I ever went to one is because a guy took me or my sister and her husband took me to one.
So, I would get to these parties full of semi drunk people who talked about incredibly boring things. Girls would talk about guys. Guys would talk about cars and fishing. I would stand around like a lost soul looking at magazines, books or opening cupboards to see what was inside. I never mingled. I never made a new friend. I hardly drank or, worse still, drank too much. The person I came to the party with would drift off to chat to his friends whilst I just sat around the room like a shag on a rock before making my way out to the front yard where I would sit and pat the dog or something until it was time to go home. Once I even fell asleep in a bean bag whilst some guy was talking to me.
I have not changed really, but these days I don't care about it. On the rare occasion I have gone with K to a party I have no problem taking a book from someone's bookshelf and reading it once I get bored beyond belief. It may well seem unsociable and rude but it is so much easier for me to do that than talk to a complete and utter stranger. It just isn't me and I am not going to try and change that aspect of my personality any more.
But, last night I was lying in bed thinking about some embarrassing things that have been part of my growing up years. And one of them was an afternoon barbecue party I went to with a guy. His name was Garth. He wasn't a boyfriend, he was just a friend. He liked to go out with me because we looked like brother and sister (freaky but true). He was so unbelievably vain he would constantly look at himself in the mirror at any given opportunity. Frequently he used to tell me that I could be just amazing if I did one of many things. Like, dressed differently, did my hair differently, lost more weight or was more chatty. Since I was "his sister" I used to ignore him and then go out of my way to be less girly just to annoy him.
So, we went to the bbq one sunny Sunday afternoon. I knew a couple of his friends who were quite nice and the bbq was at one of his friend's homes. They were Greek. Lots of food and wine was on hand. This was my Kate Bush combined with Cindy Lauper stage (aka the 80's) so my hair was big, my clothes were multi layered with holes in them, bruised looking eye make up - just the usual screech of the 1980's look.
There were some other girls at the party. But they were into a completely different look. Neat and tidy. Slim skirts, tops or dresses with neat shoes. Nail polish on long slim fingers. Fitted rayon shirts with cap sleeves. Not much make up, neat hair. They were good girls. Excellent marriage material. They sat on chairs in a circle and chatted to each other sipping champagne in fluted glasses. I mosied around talking to the parent's whose house it was being held at, admiring the abundant vegetable garden and the bee hives far down in the backyard.
There was great food on the outdoor table setting. Lovely platters of Greek food, both savoury and sweet. Hot Greek lamb, vine wrapped rice parcels, a variety of salads and the most beautiful array of sticky, sweet pastries. The table was groaning with the amount of food that was on it. In the centre of it all was a giant punch bowl full of freshly squeezed juices, soda water and lots of chopped up fresh fruit.
As it was quite hot and some of the food was quite salty I ended up very thirsty and kept filling my glass with the fruity punch and drinking it. After a few glasses it dawned on me that there may be something boozey in the bowl as I was quite giggly. In fact, I was a bit worse than giggly, I was a bit unsteady on my feet so I sat down on a lone chair with a glass of water to settle my head.
The guy who was holding the party came up to me to see if I was okay and offered to help me inside to sit in a cooler room where they had an air conditioner. Thinking that may be a good idea I agreed and stood up to make my way inside.
As I got up I stumbled a little and he put his hand out to steady me, we hit heads and I laughed really, really loudly. He must have seen this as one of two things. One, I was too pissed to walk or, two, I was up for a bit of fun. So he then took it upon himself to pick me up in the same fashion that a groom would carry his bride over the threshold. My protest was loud enough to ensure the entire group of people at the bbq looked in our direction. This protest was accompanied by a significant effort to get my feet back on the ground.
In those few seconds of him picking me up and me trying to get down, he lost his balance and stumbled, with me still in his arms, and fell onto the table of food which resulted in the collapse of the table along with all the food and myself and him on top of it all.
Worse than that, my final landing spot was on the greasy meat, the punchbowl smashed and my skirt upended enough to cause acute embarrassment.
The only people in the back yard laughing were us two fools (I must have been pissed). His parents helped me up from the ground and brushed my skirt down. The other girls went inside and on their way in looked at me as though I had stripped naked and danced by the light of the moon, so shocked and disgusted were the expressions on their faces.
Garth took me home and told me how disgusting my behaviour was. I had to agree because I also vomited in his car, the smell of some sort of sickly alcohol was noticeable.
He never took me out again, which was not a great loss.
Personally, I just thought the whole thing was more funny than anything else.
Some people just don't know how to have fun...
Saturday, June 14, 2008
I am making a concerted effort getting him to be more involved and also more responsible within the family unit. There is a realisation on my part that if I do not actually make a conscious effort to introduce activities into his life, my son is going to find out that he has no idea how to catch a bus or a train or make his own breakfast.
I understand that things were different when I was younger. Perhaps they were better or more simple as well. But different is a word I like to use as it has no agenda about it. A lot of the life skills I learnt were part and parcel of the day to day process of living. I walked to school from the age of six. I caught the bus to school at aged ten as my mother would not drive me. My mother would send me over to the shops to get things when I was quite young. Little incidental activities like those are ones that taught me small skills that were relevant in later years.
Just the nature of society today makes parenting a little more daunting. I cannot quite put my finger on anything in particular as to why things are not so straightforward. It is more likely a collection of reasons. I suppose as a parent you just have to work around it to get the result that feels vaguely right.
Today I gave him a small list of shopping I wanted him to pick up from around the corner. The first port of call was at the Swiss Butcher's to pick up some pariser and roast beef. I told him to remember to be polite and to engage in conversation (as the owner of the shop is quite chatty). The next place to pick up supplies was the local bakery to get some bread rolls and a treat for himself. It was not a short walk either - at least 45 minutes. He took the dog as well for company. When he came back he was pleased. He told me that the man at the butcher's gave him some free slices of pariser to eat and they had a chat whilst the meat was sliced for him.
"Did you like doing it?" I asked.
"Yeah, I felt more grown up," he answered which was nice for me to hear.
It was not anything huge that he did today, but it was a good thing. I know that perhaps a family with a lot of children and relatives may well never have to worry about whether or not their children are learning boring old life skills. But in a single child family there often has to be a more structured element to introducing little milestones into that child's life. Whether I like it or not, there is a good chance that both my husband and I may do too much for our son and thus take away from him a lot of incentive to learn things on his own.
Having said all of that with great meaning and intentions, I had to do one thing for my son today and that was to clean his fusty and dusty bedroom. He would sleep in a pile of rubbish if I let him (as long as it did not smell). For the past few weeks I have stepped into his room with trepidation whilst quickly getting what I needed or, more likely, tossing some toy back onto a shelf.
So today I tackled it. It was getting me down. Untidy I can handle, dirty just freaks me out. I had to move his bed to get under and vacuum the carpet. I wiped everything down and did all those things you do to get a room clean. But the one thing I dare not tackle is the contents of his cupboards. He has toys, puzzles, paper, pencils, more toys, Lego, more paper and more of stuff that has no name. Plastic boxes full of bits and pieces of things that belong to twiddly bits in other boxes and one day they will find each other or something. I don't know.
He never plays with any of it. His friends do. The come over and snoop through his cupboards like customs beagles at an airport going through luggage. Out come tins with things in them. Boxes with Lego and stacks of trading cards. My son hangs around whilst the friend continues their journey of discovery.
He will not let me throw anything out. I respect his decision. These things belong to him and therefore I feel I have no right to remove them. I do have a right, however, to pack them down to make room for other stuff. Subsequently today I had to just shove everything in whatever space I could find in the cupboards. If you were to open any door you would be confronted with a colourful array of childhood items of amusement.
Or, more likely, a pile of crap that I spent my hard earned money on thinking my son would play with it!
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Something called a Via Raid Tool which apparently does something with partitioning the hard drive. Blah, blah, blah.
Well, the bottom line is, I stuffed my computer and now it is a case of data save.
Lots of photos were on there... Which I was meaning to get printed and had not got around to it. And I was going to back them up on my data stick. Which I didn't get around to.
Lots of business stuff on there. Which I was going to back up. And did not not around to it etc....
Surprisingly I am not as upset as I could be and that is because PMT was last week and not this week so that is okay.
My husband just said that he was thankful that he did not do it. What does he mean????
I always think good things generally come out of bad situations. And the good thing about this is that my son has had to get off the other computer every now and then to let my husband onto it. So he gets up from the computer which involves movement of various body parts. He then schleps his way into the kitchen and opens the fridge which involves more movement. Drinks out of the milk carton (behind my back - but I know anyway). Then moseys to the couch where he plonks and watches television.
Incidental exercise happening there. Not much, but enough to wake up the body slightly.
I just have to say, however, that important programmes that are on the computer should not be so easy to access to enable uninstalling to even happen! Or they should have little warnings like "only a computer geek would uninstall this programme". Then I would know not to continue any further.
Perhaps I should suggest that to that big computer corporation to reword their warnings out of consideration for like me who think they know what they are doing when they really have no clue. Does that make sense?
Oh, and I want to say to everyone out there "back up your stuff". Just in case you get the urge to play computer technician.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
I know that she used to get a lot of letters from her own mother for years on end. I also know that she hardly wrote back. She told me once that she just couldn't. Couldn't think what to write, did not think she was very clever so just never wrote much at all really. When overseas phone calls became cheaper she would call her mother rather than go to the effort of writing a letter. She has not actually changed much. My mother speaks to me via msn mostly. I may speak to her every six weeks or so on the phone. I don't know why she is like that. Maybe I should ring her more often, but sometimes I think that she likes how it is.
For years she just kept all the letters in various boxes and odd places around the house. Not in any particular order or anything. You could open a kitchen drawer and there would be one there, or perhaps a cupboard and a few would be lying around in it or a couple in her sewing basket. Just kind of spread around rather carelessly. I remember them arriving in the mail. Thin, pale blue paper with the angled navy and white stripe showing it to be airmail. My grandmother's handwriting was spidery. I could never read the letters myself as they were written in Danish and I never learnt to speak or read the native tongue of my parents.
Sometimes I would receive a birthday card from mormor. The only thing I could understand was my name. The rest was written in Danish and I would ask my mother to translate it to me, which she did so rather quickly. The translation from one language to another is not always straightforward. I still have those few birthday cards packed away somewhere.
I would occassionally open one of the letters and try to pick a couple of familiar words out and make some sense of the contents. Mum never felt inclined to tell me what was written. Just boring things was the answer I got when I asked.
Towards the yet unknown but inevitable end of my parent's marriage there was a lot of general packing of family stuff going on. Mum would fill boxes with what she called rubbish. The boxes made their way from the family home to my parent's furniture factory to be stored up high on the mezzanine floor above the office where they collected a thick layer of dust over the next couple of years. The letters were shoved into a mixture of green garbage bags and a couple of boxes, mingling with craft magazines and other bits and pieces. Forgotten about.
A couple of years after their quiet exit from home my mother had some sort of notion to rid herself of all the superfluous crap that was around her. And that included clearing out the stuff in storage on the mezzanine floor.
I sat up on the floor with her as she opened the boxes one by one. The floor was filthy with dust and there was hardly any light to see by. I had to sit in a position that allowed me to see what was in the boxes without blocking the thin sunlight that shone through the open roller door way below us. Out came magazines and letters. My mum occasionally opened the odd letter from her mother and briefly read it before throwing it away.
I asked why she did not keep them. She said they took up too much room.
"Mum, you could fit them all in a box and put them on top of your wardrobe. Once you throw them out they will be gone for good. You might want them later on to read. Or I may want them," I said to her.
But she was adamant that they were no longer part of her life and, as I could not read Danish, she said that they were no use to me. One handful by another she grabbed them and into the rubbish bag they went. Years and years of one sided correspondence being thrown away. Years of words that her mother took the time to write were tossed aside as though they had never happened. Although I was aware that something was not quite right about what she was doing, I was not mature enough to be able to process that information in my head in a rational manner. It was instinctively wrong but my mother still had enough hold over me that I would not question her decision.
I can still see her crouched in a rather uncomfortable position reading the odd letter before throwing it aside. Not one letter was important enough to her to keep. Maybe there was something cathartic about what she was doing. I have never asked her and it is unlikely I ever will. In my opinion, it is one of those actions that she may regret and I see no point in stirring up unwanted emotions just to satisfy my own curiosity.
When K and I went to Denmark in 1994 we met up with my mother's sister. She made no bones about expressing her anger at the fact my mother was very sporadic in writing letters back to mormor. What could I say. Not much really. People have reasons for what they do. My mum had a tough marriage and not an easy life here and I am sure she had bigger things to think about than writing letters. What could she say anyway? Dear mum, I married the wrong person? Perhaps she did not want to worry anyone. Sometimes there is nothing to say anyway.
I keep letters. Even small notes written to me by my brother that say things like "don't touch light switch in bathroom as it is wet and you will get electrocuted and die" are kept in a small box. A little note that my son showed his dad, a white, screwed up piece of paper that says the word "fuck" on it which he wrote in the way a six year old child would when he realises that he knows how to.
Letters are completely different to the spoken word. They evoke some sort of nostalgia that is difficult to explain. You could read a letter the first time and feel one thing and yet read it again and feel something else. It is not as easy to write to someone in anger as it is to speak the words in anger. By the time you take out the pen and paper and start writing, any anger you may feel is likely to settle as you start letting the words flow. I mean to say, writing the words "you are a shit" looks very funny on paper, whereas writing the words "I am sorry" makes so much more sense.
Whilst email is one form of writing it is not quite the same as a handwritten letter. Too quick perhaps. Too spontaneous maybe. Email is a great way to communicate but the prospect of it becoming public knowledge on a huge scale can take away the intimacy of that communication. A typed word can sometimes look a little tidy for my liking. That does not mean I don't like sending and receiving emails, it just means that I think they rate second to a hand written letter or card.
The visual beauty of handwriting on a carefully chosen piece of paper is ultimately a most pleasing thing to see.
One thing my mum does do these days is send everyone cards on their birthday or for Christmas. She makes beautiful cards with great detail and glorious colour. I see her handwriting has the same spidery style of her own mother. I keep them in places around the house much like she kept her mother's letters in various hidey holes. However, the cards I keep and they will never be thrown out.
Really, I suppose I actually do know why my mum threw out all those letters. I think they were a reminder of times in her life that were not very good. Why keep things like that when reading them would make her feel sad.
Having written this I think I may write my mum a little letter.
One that she may keep because her life is pretty peaceful now and my letter is unlikely to remind her of anything other than that I was thinking of her. Which is fine by me.