Monday, 29 June 2009

Oppression by any other name does not smell sweet

It is funny how often thoughts and events follow each other. All of a sudden, variations on a theme occur. I offer the following:

Over the weekend I neglected more mundane activities and read a new book by Sarah Dunant, called Sacred Hearts. I like her historical novels: she does her research, and it reads well - you want to know what happens. It is set in Ferrara, in 1570, in a convent, just at the time that the Council of Trent had passed decrees reforming the Catholic Church. Some of these decrees related to stricter discipline and far greater enclosure of convents - grills, no visitors, invisibility, etcetera. For centuries women had been forced to go into convents, as dowries were (apparently) so high there was little chance of the women being able to marry. The story is that of a young girl in love, who is put into the convent by her family against her will, and her struggles to escape. Most of the characters are sympathetically drawn, and the convent environment and internal and external pressures and politics convincing. The book, and its characters, recognise that their society is full of young women forced into convent life against their will, and that generally there is no escape.

Read the correspondence between Galileo and his illegitimate daughter in the convent. He had a long relationship with the mother, and there were three children. Both girls were sent to a convent when they were very young. Galileo - and presumably other men at universities, did not marry. Illegitimacy of daughters meant that their chances of marriage were very low. So off to the convents with them. In Venetian society the men married late, to conserve the family wealth. The surplus females - read most of them - were shunted off to convents. And there was an extensive prostitution industry. Because men have such strong 'urges'.

Often I go to an opera study group. Today our speaker discussed Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi, aka as Romeo and Juliet. This is not based on Shakespeare's version of the play, and has some significant plot differences. There is a rather nasty and violent feud between a couple of families in the city. Poor Juliet, the daughter of one of the families, i Capuleti, is being given in matrimony by her rather unpleasant father to a man not of her choosing, and is helpless to do anything about it. She loves the bloke from the enemy family, Romeo. Naturally the opera ends tragically, with the deaths of both lovers. It is a very sad and romantic story.

It seems that Opera Australia is doing a modern version of this opera. There is a recording of another performance which is set in the 20th century, with lots of men all toting guns. Notwithstanding this, they stick to the script, which has a lot of mentions of swords. (Not guns.) I was a bit perplexed about why some bright spark producer/director would want to do this opera in a modern setting, as though forcing females to marry against their will was somehow justifiable, even glamorous, despite the fact that in this day and age, our western civilisation has at last recognised the autonomy of women and given them legal rights. I asked why, and whether the production was to be set in a tribal African or conservative Islamic state. Our speaker did not know the reason - or perhaps chose not to say, merely muttering something about modern designers' wishes and ideas. I think that often such producers lack any sense of of knowledge of history. Sometimes a modern setting can work - and others simply do not. For example, Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro is based on the ancien regime's abhorrent practice of the droit de seigneur - the lord of the estate is entitled to deflower the bride of his tenants. First bite of the cherry! This does not work in a modern setting - nor should it try to do so.

Why would you do a modern version of a story in which one of the fundamental problems is lack of choice or consent of the female - where she is seen, and legally is, the property of the nearest male relative? Why would they want to pretend it was modern? Why is this ugly situation being prettied up? What is the sub-text here? Pretty damn weird, I reckon.

A letter in today's Sydney Morning Herald commenting on the Rugby League players' various sex scandals suggests that "every player should be required to wear an NRL-approved burqa-equivalent off field, and be accompanied by a female relative in public. This would protect players from predatory attacks by women and maintain the honour of the NRL and the great game of rugby league. No longer would players be the victim of sex-crazed women unable to resist the allure of uncovered meat. No more would shame be brought to the men, who we know are dedicated to the game and their families. They can walk the streets anonymously protected by women relatives, happy in the knowledge that it is for their own good and the honour of the game."

Good thinking. I'd go along with that. I have had enough of males flaunting their hairy chests and arms, not to mention their tight jeans, as they walk beside burqa clad or veiled female family members. The letter made me cheer up a bit, and laugh, but in my more sober and sometimes depressed moments I remember that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Harmony restored - for the time being

We cheered up and harmony was restored. I feel more positive, and hope it lasts. I am resolving to try harder to treat the conjugal bark as a bark and not as a bite.

I spoke too soon. Today the bed was to be delivered. When the men arrived they said they could not get the bed up the stairs past the inclinator, or stair lift. Apparently mattresses may not be bent - the manufacturing process has changed and if the mattresses are bent, they break. So all my activity was for nothing. The bed has been taken back to the warehouse, and there have been phone calls to and fro. When Dr P woke up from his morning nap and enquired about progress, I had to tell him the bad tidings. Consequently his good humour and tolerance has vanished, and yet again he is grumpy, and declares the purchase of the bed to be both stupid and unnecessary. Yet again I feel defensive and incompetent. And somewhat cross, along the lines of 'why does everything have to happen to me?' and VERY disinclined to tolerate criticism from Dr P. Why does everything have to turn into a problem?

Never say die. I telephoned the firm who installed the inclinator, explained the problem and asked what could be done. They said they would get back to me. I waited and waited, and finally rang them again, and discovered that Yes, they could. The next exciting installment is scheduled for Tuesday - another week to wait. Now the department store is talking about it costing me an extra delivery charge. Perhaps an arm or a leg? Oh yeah?

Temporary anaesthesia and amnesia might not do any harm at all. Who needs to be conscious, and to have to remember all this sort of thing? It needs to be obliterated from the memory. No wonder there was so much wishful thinking about waving magic wands. Of course, men historically have indeed have magic wands. They are called wives. So useful to have someone to blame. As well as to do all the work.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Woe and alas

I'd like to do a rant, as I am feeling very down-hearted about my life. At times it just seems too hard. Sometimes seemingly trivial disputes blow up into what feels like a major crisis which just cannot be resolved. And no matter how I strive, sometimes it seems that what stretches before me is a depressing and unsatisfying life. With little or no support.

It is bad when you start wondering who would go to your funeral, (which in my present state of mind I think should be sooner rather than later) and think that not many people would, as those who are close to me live so far away.

Living with a very old person is not easy.

Probably doing a rant would not help. Probably nothing would help. So I will desist. And try curling up with a good book and listening to some good music. Perhaps I will feel better in the morning.

Friday, 12 June 2009

The printing problems of Persiflage

Goodness gracious, life is complicated. It is simply staggering how huge chunks of time can be frittered away on purposes quite unrelated to our carefully laid plans. When it comes to computers this frittering away is done (by me) in a state of bewilderment, befuddlement and botheration. The frustrating frittering fell upon me with a thud.

What happened was a problem with the printer. As I do every day, I devoted time doing my duty towards Dr P, downloading a summary of his shocks and scares, and then I print it out for him. There it was, the summary sitting shimmering on the screen, but when I pressed Print, the printer purred and pulsated, and put forth a page - but the page showed only the template and not the text, tally or the total. Perplexed, I repeated the command, but the error persisted. Then I tried to print other Internet items, and then a document of mine. Nothing, nada, niente, nix. What a dreary dilemma.

How to proceed? Seeking succour and support, I emailed a friend, who generally can fix such things. We spent two hours on the telephone, trying tons of tricks and tips. He issued instructions which I did my best to implement, initially enthusiastically. We tried all types of things and fixes. Eventually an expectation bore fruit, and the printer brought forth a page with print upon it. But a problem persisted. We had text, but tiny, which took up only a quarter of the page. Something was rotten in the computer or printer of Persiflage.

My tired friend recommended I ring the printer help. This morning I did so, waiting wistfully while menus and options wandered across the wires. The helpful printer man suggested that the fault was not in his printer, but in my computer, and had followed on from a software update of Safari. He disclaimed responsibility, and declared that his product was perfect. Something, he said, was suspect in the operating system, and therefore I should seek the solution to the problem by resetting the printer, a task recommended to be done only as a last resort. This is the sort of solution which sends shudders up and down my spine. He sent me the internet links, and wished me the best of British. Etcetera.

Alone at my screen, in terrified trepidation, I tried to follow what the links said to do. The initial instructions failed, as my machine was slightly different, but in due course, after some stupid stuffing around, I deciphered the codes and pressed Reset. Resetting occurred. Oh rapture! Oh frabjous day, calloo, callay. Although other options then suggested themselves, I resolutely resisted tampering further, closed them all down and staggered downstairs clasping my fevered forehead.

Following all this frenzied and fevered activity, an expedition to replenish provisions, especially rice bubbles, seemed like child's play. I emailed follow up feed back to the nice printer man, which he was happy to have, and we are now best buddies. Now I am about to advise my kind friend of what transpired. Isn't it absolutely WONDERFUL to have friends and help! Stressful as it all was, if it had not been for these people I would be a blob of melted blubber on the floor. I am so grateful to them.

In other news: I ordered the bed, and my tax refund arrived. These otherwise fabulous things feel like fripperies now! There's nothing wrong with a good frippery though, is there?

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Beds, prose and cellars teeming...

Before dashing off to my computer lesson at the Apple Store today, I went to a Large Department Store to look at their beds. The time has come to replace my bed, to ensure that my back does not deteriorate further. Turning the mattress has helped, but not enough.

The sales are on, and all the beds are reduced. Now is the time to buy. I am rather nervous about this purchase, and Dr P looks rather gloomy at the very notion, although he does seem resigned to it. I offered to choose a bed for him too, but he said hastily No No, his bed was fine. I don't believe this for a minute, but far be it from me to dissuade him. Yet.

It is strange that although last year I dauntlessly and daringly spent far more than the bed is likely to cost on a  beautiful sideboard, and am absolutely happy with it, stroking it fondly every time I pass it, buying a bed seems like wild and wicked extravagance. What rubbish!

I felt a bit like Goldilocks as, encouraged by the saleswoman, I lay down on bed after bed. Perhaps Goldilocks was doing some secret research into bedding? It is amazing how embarrassed you can feel lying on a bed in broad store light. 'No, no, lie down on it!' she said. 'How does it feel?' 

It was actually difficult to tell whether I liked a firm bed or a softer one. Probably cost will be the determining factor, although whatever the price it seems that both firm and soft mattresses are available. If I have time tomorrow I might go to the Other Large Department Store and compare prices.

When we moved to this house it was a struggle to get the beds up the stairs and into position. My bedroom is on the top level, and there are now two inclinators between the ground floor and the middle level. I am beset by vivid images of men struggling up the stairs with the king size bed and its base pieces, and their dodging the inclinators. Almost I am persuaded to downsize to Queen size. But No. Let me be resolute. I don't want to waste all that bed linen.

Fortunately, for a small sum, the shop will remove the discarded bed and take it far far away.
And buying a bed will help stimulate the economy, so it is a purchase that can fill the heart with a feeling of virtue, and the cash registers will resound happily. (Can credit cards resound?)

The glossy brochures for the beds make compelling reading. The sort of prose that could provoke a high school exam essay. (Sorry, Froggie.)

Help Say Goodbye To Restless Nights.
Enhanced Technology to Provide Undisturbed Sleep.
Support You Trust, Comfort You'll Love.
The Ultimate Sleep Experience.
Ultimate stability for minimized partner disturbance. 

How can I resist?

All this stuff about sleep, called into my mind a sentence from one of Georgette Heyer's books, Faro's Daughter:

"With these gloomy words she withdrew to her own room, to spend a restless night dreaming of coachmakers' bills; green peas, rats, candle ends, and cellars teeming with bound men."

(What a superb writer Heyer was. How well she could turn a phrase, and her use of parentheses is awesome.)

Having done the bed experience, as it were, I went off for my computer lesson. I learned a little more, especially about things the computer can do which I am never remotely likely to want to practice. It was really quite liberating.