Tuesday, December 29, 2009
"Tell me again why we have so many presents left over?" said Santa, head throbbing.
"A lot of people changed their naughty or nice option at the last minute," replied Rudolph, rubbing ointment on his hooves.
And that's why they call it 'the blues'.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Bah Humbug! It's that time of year again, when businesses make excuses for 2 months instead of 2 days because they're gearing up or slowing down because of Xmas. When up and down the streets can be heard—I don’t want to, but I must!! I hate travelling/hot dinner/the in-laws/the outlaws/the presents—but I must!
So I'm having a Bah Humbug (aka 'suit yourself') Xmas. Telling people in the street has had the unexpected result of many total strangers wanting to come to my place. Bah Humbug indeed!! I shall contact Santa and say that many of us want the Bah Humbug option.
The house was silent and no one stirred
Everyone was in bed, yes, even every bird.
The tree’s packed away, wrapped in last year’s rug
Because this year, Xmas is going to be Bah Humbug!
Monday, December 7, 2009
Asleep together again;
They who hardly spent
a single night apart.
Fears, sorrows, joys;
Side by side
Their last thoughts
of each other—
Battles laid aside,
whether lost or won—
of little importance now.
life’s trophies jettisoned.
Side by side;
Their last thoughts
of each other—
Through misty mornings
to extravagant sunsets.
For re union?
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
The Great Australian Shed
Along the journey of my unconventional childhood, I was introduced to ‘the great Australian shed’. As Australians, we are excessively fond of our sheds. My theory regarding this lies in our convict heritage. After all, we arrived in this harsh land, with nothing but the chains on our feet. The ships that brought us here carried more guns and soldiers than tools. Ingenuity was mandatory. If the aristocracy had arrived without the convict element they would soon have died; manual labour was of more value in this new land than following correct morning-tea rituals.
Of course, it’s only a theory.
At first, when very young, I thought the shed was where Dad hid from Mum. Later on, I discovered that although there may have been some truth to this assumption, there was so much more to Dad’s shed. It was chock full of useful tools that Dad used to make marvellous things. I was constantly fascinated and often joined him there, and the fact that this was a place of gentle harmony added to the appeal.
Mum would get up a full head of steam to tackle the housework, taking on the mantle of martyred slavery. Mops, buckets and vacuum cleaners would appear. Dad would stand near the back door and clear his throat.
“I’m just ducking out to the shed, Else,” he’d say.
I would stand next to him.
“I’m duckin’ too,” I would add, holding my breath and crossing my fingers. Escape was so near but so far. Because we were both deemed hopeless at assisting Mum in the housework that began at dawn and ended at midnight, she’d let us go with a weary sigh.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
The nursing care plan classified him as ‘resisitive’. Behind closed doors they referred to him as that ‘belligerent old bastard’. As the registered nurse who was often on his ward I thought of him as intelligent and misunderstood, but at least still having ‘fire in the belly’ for life.
He wouldn’t eat with the others in the dining room. He said that the ‘custard dribblers’ made him ill. He said that if he “had any desire to see someone’s half digested food he would look in the garbage not at some other old codgers tonsils”. When the nurses said his comment was rude I asked them why they didn’t eat with the patients. They were silent.
He was given the ‘appropriate’ medical treatment for ‘belligerence’, which sadly to say, was to be given more of what annoyed him. He was put in a room with a dementia patient. He had served his country in the war, loved no one but himself and just wanted to be alone. Good, bad or indifferent—I understood. He was intelligent and articulate, independent and proud.
One weekend when one of the patients departed in the usual manner of those leaving nursing homes, I decided to act. Being the RN on his ward when the administration was away gave me a little leeway that I was determined to use. I rearranged the patients so that two dementia patients shared a room and Mr Belligerent was put in a room of his own. With a mixture of waffle, medical terminology and old fashioned bravado I managed to give him the privacy and dignity that he craved. What had been done, couldn’t be undone after the weekend when the administration arrived back to work. I was quite aware of the disdain that was directed my way for my championing of the ‘belligerent old bastard’. I didn’t care.
He smoked. Although I had never put a cigarette in my mouth I was prepared to lay down my life for his right to smoke. Even the sisters who smoked doled out his cigarettes with meticulous tyranny. Cigarettes that he paid for, I might add. Two at lunchtime and two at teatime. When I was on duty I would give him several whenever he asked for them (and perhaps a few when he didn’t). He didn’t have any significant diseases related to cigarette smoking and one of the women who was not classified as ‘belligerent’ was allowed as many cigarettes as she liked even though she had advanced emphysema and went outside with an oxygen tank.
I used to sit outside with him while he smoked when I wanted to see how he was doing. He tried to take great care that no smoke came my way and I would laugh when the wind changed and he swore as smoke swirled around me.
“That bit won’t hurt me,” I said chuckling.
One day while we were catching up he look me straight in the eye.
“How did an angel like you get to be in a place like this?” he said firmly.
I shrugged. He required no answer.
I was deeply touched. Having a religious background I had often wondered about angels and how one came to ‘get one’s wings’. Right then I decided that I had been gifted wings. Who was I to question the universe if they had come from a bad man, with a bad attitude and bad habits?
I had been given my wings. I was an angel.
“I’m going to learn to sew,” said mum. It was a quiet winter evening. Three astonished faces turned toward her, dad’s, my brother’s and mine. This was worrying. Mum and machinery did not mix. A genius at Maths and fast as lightning on a typewriter, mum was hopeless with all things electric or mechanical. We would have been less surprised if she had said she wanted to be an astronaut.
She had a Singer treadle sewing machine and often hemmed and mended our clothes. She had done beautiful hand embroidery when a young woman, but we were sceptical about the addition of electricity to the equation. She often complained that the toaster didn’t work because she hadn’t plugged it in. But she was determined and bought a Singer electric sewing machine from her hard earned money from working at the grocery store.
Mum never lacked enthusiasm and grit and she signed up for an evening TAFE course. She would take her sewing skills to a new level, she would do more than hemming and mending seams.
In typical style she opted for the toughest assignment. She would make an evening garment. I was already fascinated by sewing myself and had sat on her knee on the treadle machine thrilled with sewing simple seams as her strong hands guided me. I focused intensely on straight lines as well as maintaining the even rhythm of the treadle foot. I was excited by her new venture.
I was seven and looked at the new paper patterns with awe. This was a new world. The ability to make your own clothes, exactly the way you chose! Wearing something that no one else would have, wow! And it was going to happen right before my eyes.
Mum sat me down and told me how she was learning to draft her own patterns. She showed me the heavy cardboard templates that were used.
“They’re a bit small mum,” I said. “How will you fit into that? Do you have to make it bigger for your homework?”
“I’m making a dress for you,” she said, her eyes filling with pride. “The most beautiful dress in the world and you will choose exactly what you want.”
We sat and drew pictures. I wanted a lace front in white, a scooped skirt over a lace underskirt with a bow at the front. I wanted tiny puffed sleeves. And for the dream to really come to life I wanted shiny cobalt blue. I felt like Cinderella. Watching every step of was both agony and ecstasy. I bit my finger nails to the quick. Mum struggled with each new stage and stayed up late pinning and tacking, measuring and stitching. Mum said there was a fashion show at the end and I would model the dress on the catwalk. My life took on a dreamlike quality.
Finally the dress was finished. It was perfection. The night of the show came and my face glowed every inch down the catwalk. There had been a last minute hitch when it was determined that I needed gloves and had none so had to wear a pair of mums. I didn’t care. Nothing could spoil that moment.
I had practised walking and watching the row of lights. My face outshone them all. Not just because for the first time in my life I felt like a princess but because my mum had worked so hard to make me the best dress I’d ever seen. I was so proud of her.
Everyone assumed that with such outstanding success mum had found a new passion.
“What will you make next mum?” I asked. “Will you make yourself something nice?” I wanted her to have a reward for all her hard work.
“Good grief no!” she exclaimed. “I’m never doing that again—its a mug’s game.”
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Once in every lifetime we should all see life through the eyes of a five year old girl, hear her voice and sense the world through the unique vulnerability of childhood.
Tracie hides under the bracken fern. Her mother hits her to make her good. The nice man down the road gives her lollies that make her sleepy. Sometimes, her brother Jackson hides her in the bottom of his wardrobe. Her best friend is Mittens the cat who listens to all her childish secrets.
On her first day at school someone steals her special pencil set. She will be in very big trouble and she is afraid. She runs away to the bracken fern that grows tall by the whispering creek where the bower bird struts with his prize of blue buttons and the magpie feeds her screeching baby. It's her safe place.
She is too young to know that there are other safe places and that what is happening to her is wrong. When her teacher finds her there she is more afraid, until she learns that it is okay to tell. She discovers that there are other safe places and people who will protect her.
Things can get better.