Tuesday, 26 June 2012

When Did Compassion Die?

Recently another boat full of asylum seekers sank near Christmas Island. http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/political-news/hopes-fade-in-search-for-asylum-boat-survivors-20120623-20uix.html

It’s a tragedy, a nasty horrible brutal tragedy and it hurts that while both sides of politics argue over the issue, people just keep drowning and parts of the Australian public seem to get nastier and more vicious.

I’ve been fretting on this since it happened and I’ve decided my blog might be a good place to discuss some of the problems this has raised for me. You see, since the boat sinking I’ve realised I know some people with really horrible attitudes. People who don’t see any problem with making public statements on their Facebook walls along the lines of “Why are we spending our money to rescue them? Doesn’t Australia have better things to spend their money on? Why don’t we just leave it up to Indonesia? It’s not our problem.”
It hurts to think that I know folks who would rather let people drown than see our country spend a cent more than they think we absolutely have to. When did compassion die? Where did we lose our heart? I’d like to think that once upon a time Australia did have a heart to lose, but I’m not so naïve I don’t realise that at least some of us have always been cruel.

The trouble is though, that once an injustice like this is seen, it can’t be unseen. All one can do is work out how to respond. A person’s facebook wall is their own, surely they can say what they please there? Should I ignore comments like that? Or do I argue against them? How do I argue against them effectively – so that rather than putting down the people making those statements, I’m planting seeds that might help change their minds?

All I really know for sure is that I don’t care how long I’ve known you, if you’re possessed of such a cruel and vicious heart then as much as I pity you,  you are no true friend of mine. You’re just someone I know.

I hope one day I can help you find your heart and change your mind.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Budgets, lottery tickets and all those other bits of paper

What is a lottery ticket?

It’s a piece of paper.

It’s an excuse to dream.

It’s a way out of that treadmill, that grind, that painful crawling step by step life where we reel from bill to bill running as fast as we can, just to keep up.

It’s a magnifying lens. The less money one has in one’s everyday life, the bigger one’s dreams are around that little piece of paper. 

It’s a chance to have a house with an inside toilet. It’s a chance to send the kids to a good school – gosh yeah, maybe even university. It’s a puppy and a kitten and chickens and a yard to put them in. It’s a car that doesn’t breakdown and a stove that can actually bake things.

At least until they draw the lottery.

Then we see that fickle piece of paper for what it truly is – that sham, that slut, that seller of impossible dreams.

Lured in by the promise of greater happiness if we just lay down our dollar, one feels cheap and tawdry, taken for a ride.

It’s a dollar that won’t be seen again in a hurry . . . . .

. . . . unless of course we were to win the next lottery.


Anyone else notice that they announced our new Federal Budget on the same day as one of the biggest lottery draws in Australian history?

I can't work out if that's ironic, amusing, kinda sad or possibly all three.

It seems very unreal sometimes. They're talking in terms I really have to concentrate to take in. All those zeroes on the ends of their big numbers just don't mean anything at all.

How much is enough and how much is too much? Both in terms of the national budget, the household budget and the lottery. 

It's hard not to be depressed at the way that most people only move when their hip pocket is affected. Got a justice issue that needs support? Forget ethics or morals, consciences or hearts, find a way it will affect people's wallets - that'll get some action taken!

There's nothing insightful here today. I'm too gobsmacked by the multitudinous zeroes to be able to think straight. It would have been even worse if we'd won . . . . 

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Even Nostalgia Ain’t What It Used To Be

There’s a nostalgia festival been held here recently. It’s held every year and is usually bunches of fun. There’s hotrods, rock and rollers, cover bands, market stalls and to top it all off – Elvis impersonators!! Last year they even had a Vegas style Chapel O’Love where couples could renew their vows, officiated by an Elvis and a Marilyn.

It’s all a bit silly and a good time. The trouble is, I find I’m getting nostalgic for things I didn’t get to experience the first time around!! It seems a bit unfair to me really and totally bass-ackwards, but there it is.

One of the big problems is the music. There’s some great music out there and quite a lot of it has a few decades on me in age. It’s hard not to listen to it then think “Wow! Imagine how cool it would have been to see them live.” Some of the bands are still kicking around, often with a little more restraint than they’d have shown fifty or sixty years previously. But as it happens, if you go to one of these gigs, they’re full of people the same age as the band saying “You've really missed out you know, they were even better back in the 60’s and the 70’s!”

You see, only young rockers actually die, usually at 27 if urban myths are to be believed. Old rockers just end up looking as though they’ve been tanned and cured and turned into leather. Keith Richards is now so pickled and preserved that he’ll never die, he’ll probably just explode from the pressure of all that music running through him.

However, I digress. The nostalgia thing. It wasn’t something I thought much about till I married Captain Barnacle. I always felt a little like I’d missed out, but hey, it was no big deal. Then I went and married a man who not only was around in those now nostalgia-ridden days, but did all the coolest stuff!!

People sometimes ask if I notice the age difference between us, and truth to tell, I don’t. It’s only a number and it doesn’t mean anything. Except of course for when he’s telling an anecdote about some great band he saw and then I get insanely jealous cos not only did I not see them, but even worse, I never had the chance to see them!

Things are as they are, I’m happy and I wouldn’t change anything. For a start, all those sci-fi stories warning about accidentally meddling with causality give me nightmares. I just can’t help wondering what it would have been like if I’d been of an age to meet him when we were both young and crazy.

Like I said, I get nostalgic for the things I didn’t actually get to be a part of the first time around.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Today I Am Rambling

Ho Loyal Minions! This is your Fearless Leader speaking!

Well, maybe not. I just got a bit excited on account of having followers for my blog and even getting a few comments.

Mind you, there’s no reason why I couldn’t be a Fearless Leader of some sort if I wanted. Everyone has to come from somewhere and people love a story about "Nameless Hick from Sticksville Makes Good".

I reckon I have genes for greatness. My ancestors were bad-ass pioneers, taming the wilderness, making homebrew, appearing in interestingly contentious legal cases and in one instance even a murder enquiry (hehe I love studying family history – it’s almost frightening some of the things I’ve found out about my antecedents). Some of those pioneers survived coming here as city-bred convicted prisoners trying to figure out what real countryside was about. They learned quickly. Well they must have, they didn’t die straight away after all.

Some of my ancestors were seriously tough and survived the white man’s invasion. My indigenous ancestors must have been tougher than the pioneers. They didn’t just survive, they thrived for tens of thousands of years and all without civilised 'essentials' like metal shovels, metal axes, guns and trousers.

When I was at school I often used to speculate on what we’d all be doing in 20 years time. Who’d be in what job, who’d be in what relationship, who’d be in what prison. Most of us are somewhere in the upper working class, lower middle class Belt of Mediocrity. None of us are out there taking over the world. And what about me? Where did I imagine I’d be?

Wherever it was, I didn’t think it’d be here. But that doesn’t make here a bad place to be.

I always wanted to be a writer. I call it my maybe-one-day dream. Meanwhile, we live in a teeny weeny cottage in the middle of a swamp. I work for a wage that’s barely worth getting out of bed for, trying hard to support my Captain and the three sprouts. He works even harder than I do keeping the household fed, washed and in one piece, and we all put real effort into being the familiest family we can. We’re happy. Not rich or career successful or anything big. But very, very happy.

Which does raise a question: Have I lowered my sights, now that I’m content to be happy? Or is it that I’ve finally realized what’s most important?

Down the main street here they have plaques all over the place naming local notables. Some of them really ARE notable too. An author, an international jetsetting executive, one bloke I’ve never really figured out what he did but have always meant to look up. It was a common joke at school that people from round here would go far – cos it was the only way to make sure you could get out of town and stay out.

I like this town. I know it’s not much and hasn’t always had a good reputation, but you see, it’s MINE. When you haven’t got much to feel proud of, you can end up feeling immensely proud of what little you have. There should be a word for that but I think we’ll have to settle for Parochial Patriotism.

However it goes, I believe it’s time to strike a blow for bourgeois mediocrity. I want a plaque in the main street too! One for Captain Barnacle and me. I think we deserve one. We’ve worked really hard and now we’re world leaders in being happy.

Besides, I know this town. It’s quite possible that if we ever have a really world-class serial killer from here, then they’ll get a little bronze plaque down the main street too. So if Bonnie and Clyde can have one, so can we.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Happy Valentine's Day to you all!

I do have a little confession to make.

Yesterday I received my first ever red rose.

And no, I’m not telling you how old I am just so that you giggle at all my roseless years. I will say I’m north of 30 and south of 40 and that will just have to do.

None of the boyfriends I’ve ever had happened to be current on a February 14 and even though I was married for 10 years, it was to a man who, right from the start, loudly expressed the view that Valentine’s Day was a commercial holiday and he didn’t want to be told what day of the year he had to tell his wife he loved her when he could that any damn day he liked. Which probably would have been fine if he had told me any damn day – but he didn’t.

So no roses, no cards, no trinkets, no chocolates – no nuthin! I was a little disappointed but didn’t think it was a big deal. Valentine’s Day is not a big thing l here in Australia.

Now I’m married to my Captain Barnacle. A man who is patient, considerate, gentle, sweet and unbelievably wickedly naughty ^.^ And yesterday he gave me my very first ever red rose. Even though we’ve been together for a little while now, yesterday was the first Valentine’s Day where we’ve actually been in the same country. Circumstances had intervened in the last two years, seeing him first in the UK and then in New Zealand for February 14.

When we exchanged posted valentine’s cards in 2010 that was actually quite important for me. I’d never received a Valentine and I’d never sent one. It was as though I was standing up in public and saying “On this day, when lovers celebrate their love, I have celebrated you and the great things we share.” I was really excited and giggly about the whole thing and I’m not sure what made me happiest – giving a card or receiving one. I think the rest of the family were starting to wonder where the straitjacket had gone!

My ex saw the whole Valentine thing as some kind of commercial brainwashing just to make people buy buy buy. Having seen some of the catalogues in the last week I can see his point there. But then, I also think that his vehement, aggressive anti-valentine attitude is just as much brainwashing. Why can’t we give love trinkets that aren’t ridiculously commercial, to celebrate the joy we find in our relationships?? It’s not that hard to find a middle ground is it?
Do I “need” a gift on Valentine’s Day? No, I don’t – not like I need survival things like air and water and food and love. I KNOW my Captain Barnacle loves me.

What I do need though is that thoughtfulness of his that he shows everyday, because that’s how he lets me know that he loves and values me. My beautiful rose epitomizes that thoughtfulness. It was an unexpected, joy-filled gift and I don’t mind admitting it brought tears to my eyes. If I never get another – if that’s the only rose I ever get in my whole life, it will be enough. It’s something I’m never going to forget and a memory I’ll always cherish.

Monday, 6 February 2012

A Lil Bit Of What Comes Natural

Earlier last week I was in conversation with Captain Barnacle (my other half) on the sex education I received at school, particularly the book “Where Did I Come From?” Poor man – he’s the wrong generation so he missed out entirely on the joy of learning about sexual mechanics and fertilisation from a cartoon containing a cuddly mum and dad couple with a romantic, rose-carrying sperm dressed in black tie and tails. However, I digress.

Our 9 year old daughter (Cookie Monster) was there as well, listening to the conversation while she did other things till suddenly her ears perked up. “Wait a minute mum - how old were you when you had to learn this at school?” 

When I tell her I was 9, she looks surprised. “But I’m already 9 and I’ve known where babies come from for ages!”

This is sort of, kinda true. Cookie Monster was 3 when her little brother Fez Boy was born. She is a very insistent, logical and sometimes frighteningly intelligent kid. No cabbage patch or stork myth was going to suit her. When Cookie Monster herself was born, her older sister Exhibit B had been quite happy to accept “Mummy Tummy = Baby – so just wait and it will come out sooner or later.” By the time Fez Boy was expected on the scene however, six and three year old big sisters were demanding some concrete answers.

“How did it get in there?” was the number one question.

I answered it very neatly with “A seed from the dad meets an egg from the mum and they join together and the baby grows.” An honest answer that doesn’t go into the kind of extra detail my kids are likely to explain loudly to shocked old lady passersby in supermarkets. We spent time growing flowers from seeds and we checked out the baby animal farm exhibit at the local agricultural show that had several incubator boxes full of hatching chicks. And that was that.

Where Did I Come From? still has an important place though – neither little miss thought to wonder just how the seed got in there in the first place. I read the book with Exhibit B when she was 9 and planned to do the same with Cookie Monster although she did ask the difficult question when she was only 8 so we read it then instead.

What interests me in all of this though is that both Exhibit B and Cookie Monster are already curious about the biggest question of all. It’s not about the mechanics of sex, the process of fertilisation, the fascinating array of diseases one can catch, or any similar medical type issue. What they've been wondering about is relationships “How would you know if you were in love with the right boy? And how can you be sure if it’s a boy you’re looking for in the first place?”

It was while I was wondering about all of this that I read this opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald. http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/why-teens-should-read-raunchy-novels-and-straightup-smut-20120131-1qr97.html

And no, before you panic, I’m not planning on letting my urchins read naughty books for a while yet (well nothing naughtier than The Day My Bum Went Psycho anyway). It’s definitely some food for thought though.

My high school sex ed teacher was hilarious - but in retrospect, also frightening. When it came to sexual politics he was as enlightened as a brick. He wouldn't even use the word "sex", instead saying "a little bit of what comes natural". I'm so glad I had parents I could talk to and didn't have to rely on anything my teacher told us. I know there were plenty of kids in my class who weren't so fortunate.

Sex education shouldn't just be about medical horror stories or social stigmas and disasters. How do we teach good decision making instead? 

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Bert Isn't With Us Anymore

Once a week I go to the nursing home and spend an hour with my Nana. I’ll probably blog a bit about it one day – it’s a very special time for me.

 Usually she’s eating her meal in the dining room and I sit with her and three of her friends before wheeling her down to her room. We have a good old natter about all sorts – as one does with grannies. These grannies are pretty no-nonsense, straightforward ladies who live with enthusiasm and have a knack for finding small joys in unexpected places. They’ve had their share of triumphs and failures and generally they aren’t backward about coming forward when it comes to sharing their opinions. I’ve found them to be a wonderful and supportive group and I love them a lot and I’m proud to be their friend.

 A couple of weeks ago however, it was more than a little bit weird. I was walking down the corridor, pushing Nana back to her room, accompanied by one of her table-mates (let’s call her Mrs D).
We went past a bed out in the corridor, the room obviously being stripped and cleaned out in preparation for a new resident.

“Yes,” said Mrs D, indicating the bed “Bert isn’t with us anymore.”

“That’s a shame,” I said, thinking Bert must have died and wondering why the home hadn’t lowered the flag to half mast like they normally do when a resident dies.

“He’s up there you know,” said Mrs D, indicating with a vague wave of her hand.

“Oh, right,” I replied, a bit lost for words because I’m starting to get really puzzled about the euphemisms – generally when they’re giving me the gossip they just said “So-and-so passed away yesterday.”

Mrs D went on “He doesn’t like it up there much, but he kept running about the carpark and the staff had to do something with him and it was the only solution.”

By this time I was starting to wonder which of us had gone insane and I was really, really hoping like mad that poor Bert wasn’t dead after all because it seems to be a very drastic way for the staff to solve his running about the carpark problem.

It turns out that Bert is now in the locked ward “up there” at the other end of the retirement home complex. It’s sad he doesn’t like it there, but thankfully he’s no longer running about the carpark at risk of being hit by a car.

It was a funny conversation and I’d totally misunderstood and we had a good old giggle about it afterwards. It did give me some food for thought.

I’ve lost a few people over the years and explaining those deaths to my kids wasn’t (still isn’t) an easy thing. I’ve tried hard to avoid the “going to sleep” phrase just in case it makes the kids terrified of bedtime. Other than that I talk about the way life has a beginning and an ending and the living is the bit in the middle. Sometimes a body is so broken or so tired it just can’t keep working anymore.

Death is a weird thing. People struggle to understand death and I suppose it’s easier to hide the subject rather than keep struggling. We avoid talking about death, we avoid thinking about death, and when death shoves itself into our faces and we can’t avoid it anymore, we use a plethora of clichés, euphemisms and hedge words in the hope that we can somehow disguise death.

Then so many of us go and watch explosive shoot-em-up movies on tv without a second thought.

In the cause (curse?) of insatiable curiosity I have decided to start a list of words and phrases that people use to avoid talking about death directly. Enquiring minds want to know. If you hear any weird ones, feel free to send them through.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Orstraya! Orstraya! Orstraya!

It’s Orstraya Day tomorrow and there’s been a bit of a fuss over the last day or so. Apparently there’s been a study done that claims that people who stick Australian flags on their cars are more likely to be racist. http://www.smh.com.au/wa-news/australia-day-car-flag-flyers-racist-20120123-1qdoi.html (Sydney Morning Herald 24/01/2012)

Of course this has led to a bundle of bogans loudly proclaiming “It’s not racist to wave a flag!” This kinda misses the whole point of the study really, but that’s your average bogan for you.

Even so, what I’m really curious about is this – where did the flagwavers come from?   It’s not so long ago that apathy was Australia’s national pastime and flagwaving was viewed as a highly suspicious activity carried out by other countries that (shock, horror) actually respected the wowsers they had in authority. Excessive patriotism was unOrstrayan and also a bit embarrassing.

Now we don’t just wave them, we decorate with flags and we dress up in flags. Hand me a flag and I’ll wave it in a moderate sort of way. Personally however, I do draw the line at putting the national escutcheon over my genitals but there must be plenty of people out there keen to do so cos lots of stores keep selling flaggy underwear.

I like being Australian. I’m proud of the good things we’ve done. I worry about the bad things we’ve done rather than just try to pretend they didn’t happen. I laugh about the silly things that happen. I appreciate the quirks that make us different from the rest of the world. I don't know how we ended up with flagwavers among us that's all.

Is it a good thing?

I just don't know - ask me again in 30 years time and we'll see.