Thursday, 25 October 2012

Sexism and misogyny

A debate is - how to describe it? - raging, spitting, frothing,  moving like the weather on a number of fronts - in our lucky country. The debate is making me hiss and spit a bit, just like a cat pushed way beyond its limits of patience and forbearance.

There has been much said and written, propounded by experts, would-be experts, victims, the morally superior, and ordinary types like me. It is called Misogyny.

Although various misogynists protest their a) innocence, b) purest of motives or c) whatever, let it be said right here and now that there is indeed a lot of misogyny about. Much of it is common garden misogyny. Look, if we did not have a female Prime Minister, there would be no problem.(!)  It would all be the best of blokes together, with the occasional woman playing a relatively important and visible part. But knowing her place, and being suitably humble about it.

Lots of people far more qualified to comment than I have put in their various viewpoints. I have just watched our Prime Minister's speech to the Parliament, fierily rebutting misogynist attacks on her by the Opposition, in particular by the Leader.  It was indeed a fine and stirring speech. It has won huge support, and many plaudits, in my view deservedly so.

Last night I went to the opera, to see Richard Strauss's opera Salome, a misogynistic piece if ever there was one. It is based on Oscar Wilde's play, and reeks of misogyny. All the characters are vile, but the women are seen as the worst. Although well staged and brilliantly sung and acted, I never want to see it again, as to my mind it perpetrates dreadful misogyny.

Years ago I read Germaine Greer's The Feminine Mystique, in which she wrote (inter alia) that women did not realise how much men hated them. It was true then, and it is true now. If one little boy wants to deliver a deadly insult to another little boy, he calls him a girl!  Says it all, really. When I see the relentless trivialisation of women and the constant brainwashing to have women see themselves in terms of their sexual attractiveness, I almost despair. This despite the immense progress I have seen in my lifetime. In some ways the brainwashing is far more extensive and overwhelming than it was in the past, and much of it is packaged in allegedly liberating terms.

Recently I had my annual check up for breast cancer. The only magazines in the waiting rooms were those which featured celebrities, make-up, plastic surgery, sexy clothing, very high heels, psychic advice and forecasts, and star signs. Plus some recipes and feel-good stories. It is so depressing, especially if young women drink up and believe all this propaganda and sexual typecasting.

Opportunities for women are so much better than when I reached adulthood. Women, once they married, could expect to lose permanency in jobs which were permanent for men and for unmarried females. Married women were ineligible to join superannuation schemes. There was no equal pay. Men tended to be promoted over women, even in occupations in which women  predominated. Gradually these injustices were corrected. But now there seems to be a blatant but insidious campaign to put women back into their proper roles as sex objects.

As I walked up to the Art Gallery today, I passed the windows of the major retailer, David Jones, which were filled with images of women (gorgeous young things) modelling swim suits. They all stood in unnatural poses, flaunting their sexual attractiveness. Unfortunately so many of us women seem to be very vulnerable in this respect. And I don't exclude myself, even though, having been married twice, divorced once and now widowed, and well past menopause, I am past all that. But I still want to look attractive.

I observe the debates raging about Islamic countries and their treatment of women - in so many cases the women are covered and veiled, and denied basic human rights. Some justify the veiling of women as being the choice of the women. I dispute this. We read reports of male mob sexual assaults being perpetrated against female journalists.

Our country is a secular democracy, and men and women have equal rights, political, social and personal. These are the standards which we absolutely must uphold and we must protect and defend those forced into subservience and double standards.

Women are more than faces, breasts, and vaginas. Just as men are more than handsome hulks, penises and testicles. We all have brains, souls, minds and characters.

We are all human beings and should act as such.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Away and back, and some mood management

Here I sit, yawning away. It is time for bed, after some dozing on the couch. Yesterday I returned from looking after grandchildren, while my daughter flew off to earn some wherewithal. I am weary, and not as young as I used to be. The driving hither and thither is quite tiring. As is the child-minding.

My hands are scratched, from playing with her most beguiling kitten. He is very sweet, and makes me think I need a kitten myself. It would be lovely to sit and stroke a purring kitten.  But first I need to investigate the near-by-ness of catteries.

In between playing with the kitten, caring for the children and feeding them, and coping with an over-sensitive smoke alarm, I pulled out lots of weeds, and pondered the waywardness of heredity. I have always loved plants, and enjoyed gardening, and growing as many species as could possibly be squeezed into the available space. Not so my children, who display a total indifference to such pursuits. How can this be? Whose genes leapfrogged over mine and knocked them off course?

More child-minding looms, and I feel tired in anticipation, and in the consequent displacement of my regular activities.

Fernando is back, for week 11. He has been painting. Perhaps age is withering me, as I feel somewhat peeved to have him plonk his paintbrushes into my kitchen sink. He has already filled my clothes baskets,  and my buckets, and used my little sharp knives for this and that, as well as my nice French tea towels to wipe paint off things. There are things that I am not good at protesting about, and these are amongst them. The inconvenience of not having a clothes basket in which to carry the washing to the clothesline is, of course, neither here nor there. I gave up, and put it all into the clothes dryer instead. My carbon footprint must be heavy right now.

Some wild and heavy rain pelted down late this afternoon and much of it came in underneath the kitchen door. It took a lot of mopping up. This happened just after I had cleaned out my sinks and scrubbed off the paint residues. I then spent some time removing books and CDs from the shelves and cleaning off the dust. Again! Then I vacuumed some of the dust from the furniture. It is an exciting life, moving book by book, CD by CD, wiping off the dust, traipsing back to the kitchen to rinse the sponge, and so on and so forth.

It must be nice to be in control of one's life. Perhaps in my next incarnation I could create a greater nuisance.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Just because

The topic of this post should be about the Prado exhibition, but let me see what comes out through the fingers. Reality has this habit of interposing itself between what was on your mind to write about and the most recent events. Avaunt, recent events.

Yes, Fernando is still working away here, in week 10. He is sanding and painting, and that means everything is yet again covered in dust, and why I try incessantly to clean it all up I do not know - it is scarcely the act of a rational human being. Tomorrow he will paint another coat, and perhaps do the outside doors and windows. I will be on the road, as I am to mind my grandchildren while their mother sets off again for the delights of photographing racehorses. What I really want to do is stay home and attend to my own pursuits, and perhaps rest a wee while, but, as we all know, the maternal instinct burns strongly within our breasts. Petrol prices have suddenly escalated hugely, doubtless due to a filthy capitalist plot, and  naturally I have to pay these prices for both trips. I might nick down to the knitting group before setting off, just to get my fix of female companionship and collective good will and endeavour.

Brisbane and the Prado. Well, we had a very good time. The Art Gallery is an attractive building and the exhibition was great. We listened to a guide, and then went hither and thither as our fancies took us, coming out for lunch, and then returning.

I visited Spain in 2010, and went to the Prado, which was a wonderful day. This visiting exhibition has a relatively small selection of its collection, and it ranged quite widely, from portraits of the royal family, to still life paintings, Goya paintings and etchings, and other artists such as Ribera and Zurbaran. There is an intensity to Spanish art which connects with my own emotions and sensibilities, and I have had a long-standing interest in Spanish history, despite not having an extensive knowledge of it. Velazquez is one of my favourite painters.

At the entrance to the exhibition there is a digital photographic montage (??) of the room in the Prado which exhibits the most famous of Velazquez's many royal portraits, culminating, at the far end ,in that most famous painting Las Meninas. As you stand and gaze towards the end of the room, you become quite dizzy, as the effect of the montage is to distort the spacial properties of the room. There is a bench upon which you can sit and have your photo taken so that it appears that you are actually in the Prado. I am not sure I approve of such ploys, but it is very effective and cleverly done, and so we each have our photos of it.

We browsed afterwards in the bookshops, but managed not to buy anything much - paying Fernando each week must have imbued me with some sense of financial prudence - but I must blushingly admit that I did pick up a couple of bargains.

After a Spanish style afternoon tea we walked across to the Contemporary Art Gallery, where we saw such artistic wonders as an immense collection of tyres roped together, which can be seen from below and above, and another masterpiece, - a collection of large rotating brushes, such as you can find in car-wash places, but three times as large. I am rather depressed to realise that the perpetrators think a) that this is art, and that b) we the taxpayers have coughed up too much money to buy it and inflict it upon lots of innocent art-loving taxpayers.

The next day we walked through the Botanic Gardens and admired all the trees, ducks, water features and greenery, and then proceeded to Parliament House House, where we were given a little personal tour by an enthusiastic and very knowledgable man who has worked there for 25 years and who was absolutely the full quid on everything to do with Queensland politics. My own background fitted in nicely with his, and so we had much to discuss. He was most impressed when I succeeded in identifying the anomaly in the 1862 stained glass window of Queen Victoria. Everything has its uses, it seems.

Then we took the Airtrain to the airport, parted company and set off on our respective return trips. we saw each other again today at our own Art Gallery, and  glowed again in our recollections.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

When not to write a new post...

New posts should not be written after a long day, late at  night, when bed is where you should be, fast asleep. However, seize the night, say I, and it has been the only opportunity for the last few days.
That's because I have been away, and not able to do a post.

My friend and I went to Brisbane to see the exhibition from the Prado. I 'let' her organise the accommodation, which was within walking distance of the station. We took the train from the airport to the city, and, I must say, it sure beats using taxis.

We flew separately. I went to the city in the morning, to the crochet clinic, as I needed to check whether my interpretation of the pattern was correct. And I was missing the fun of going there. Then I caught the train to the airport. A Chinese couple was sitting in the carriage, and I almost asked them whether they knew what they were doing, as their luggage bore the tags of an international flight, indicating arrival rather than departure, but desisted, thinking perhaps it would be impertinent to put this question. The train moved off eventually and then they asked me. They had indeed just arrived, and should have alighted. So I told them to get off at the next station and go back to the city, and have been reproaching myself ever since for not interfering.

Must repeat to self: Interference is good.

My friend and I, having arrived safely at the apartment, then faced the problem of where to eat. No one was on duty at Reception to give us advice. The apartment had a booklet of places which would bring food to us, but they cost an arm and a leg. Everything was closed and no one was about. We needed our legs, so we went out for an exploratory wander.

First we found the Anglican cathedral and went in for a look, to be greeted with glad cries by a clergyman, who told us all about it, allowed me to take photos, and invited us to stay for the evening service, so as (inter alia) to enjoy the choir's singing. So we did, for a while, before setting out once more in search of food.

We found ourselves down by the riverside where all the restaurants were hideously expensive. Eventually we decided to starve and set off back to the apartment, and then fortunately found an Asian and moderately priced cafe, and thus consumed enough to sustain us for the extensive efforts of the next day.

The next morning we went out for coffee, and discovered there was a supermarket close by. Thither we went, and bought bread rolls, and lots of salady things, so as to be able to eat in the apartment, and not experience the traumas of the previous evening.

Thus replenished and nourished, we set off for the Art Gallery, and the exhibition from the Prado.

We had the whole day to look at Great Art. I can announce quite positively and with absolute certainty that the art of the past is infinitely superior to that of the last fifty years.

But bed calls, and there is a class or several to get to tomorrow, I have been at choir tonight, and have had a busy day, with Fernando back, doing all manner of things. No, it is not finished yet...

More anon.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Oh my aching back

Age is withering me and custom spoiling my infinite variety. Oh, my aching back! Ouch! too much lifting and moving of things around. What a shame I have not lived in an era in which someone - spouse, servant, or eager helpers - sprang to my aid and did all the heavy lifting. Alas, No, there is just me.

Fernando turned up this morning, in a rather subdued form, having had a serious quarrel with his wife and he is wondering whether they should separate, but may perhaps in the meantime seek some sort of counselling. It seems to be a volatile relationship. I hope he sorts it out, as break-ups are awful and take years to recover from. I speak from experience.

However, my own concerns being uppermost in my mind, I am glad to say that the power points have been put back together, the window winders and door locks are back in place, and much to my surprise Colin also turned up, and thus most of the furniture is back in place.

There is still some painting to be done, but as it is raining, this cannot be done immediately.  And there is this and that to be done.

Mostly, it now seems, by me. I have been moving things around and putting the contents of the shelves back into position. The thing that perplexes me is where exactly were all the rugs? Have I put them back  in the right spots? I am not sure.

My back is aching like billy-oh. I should go to bed with a hot water bottle and a painkiller. Perhaps age is creeping up on me. Perhaps there is no perhaps about it. It is all very exhausting. You can see why people suddenly go into retirement villages and let others take care of practically everything. But no, not for me. Not yet. Not for ages, I say optimistically. There is far too much still to be done.

This tiredness must be partially due to the recording we have done for the past two nights. A fascinating process, with many repetitions. The Man in Charge, Tom, the one with the superlative ear, had a line which we came to recognise. Excellent, he would say. And then he would add, Ummm.... And we would all say 'Oh Oh!' Then he would say, "I think if we repeated it from Bar 101..." And we would then do it all again. And again. The composer apparently was quite enthralled by it all, and I must say it was all rather fascinating, albeit tiring. Not that I am complaining. Just observing. My voice will be amongst all those others making what we all fervently hope will be glorious singing. And I just love hitting all those high notes! Our soloist, Amelia Farrugia was wonderful.

My sisters were all good at playing the piano, whereas I was woeful. Only in recent years have I realised that some of my difficulties were due to my eyesight, as well as to an innate lack of talent. But singing is another matter. It has been something I was able to get better at doing, and I remain convinced that singing gives greater pleasure than mere playing. That's my story, anyway.

Time for bed! What will the morrow bring? Probably not Fernando, not for another few days. It surely cannot be possible for everything to be so suddenly completed. I am off to Brisbane on Sunday to see the exhibition from The Prado. Whacko the diddle-oh!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

This is Week Nine

It is a nice quiet day. Here I am back home after my visit to Melbourne, more of which anon. But where is Fernando? I prowl around my dusty home, wiping surfaces (pointlessly), and contemplate the newly painted door and window frames. Not all of them have had their locks and handles screwed back on. The pictures cannot yet be re-hung. Some of the light switches have yet be be put back. The laundry trough is full of a washing basket full of tools, too heavy for me to lift out. And the lounge is still packed with everything and the dust rises only to settle unkindly close by.

There is a new hot water service installed, and thus there is hot water. All the taps rushed and gurgled when first turned on. The new tank is shorter than the old one, but fatter, so the back door cannot open fully. Nor did it occur to me to consider getting a gas hot water service. That's the trouble with reality unexpectedly cascading all down your front, like baby burp products or or turmeric stains from an Indian curry. Reality is difficult to ignore.

Fernando is probably going to be back tomorrow. This is Week Nine. Week Ten is ominously close. At this rate I am rapidly abandoning the Mustn't Grumble attitude.

Melbourne was exceedingly cold. Despite wearing three layers, I shivered a lot. In the few days before I departed the weather here was rather hot, and I packed a sleeveless dress - which stayed in the bottom of the suitcase. Fortunately I bethought me to check the weather forecast before I left - just as well.

The christening was lovely, and we all enjoy getting together to catch up with all the nieces and nephews and their numerous progeny. I just found out that my generation's 31st grandchild is expected (all going well). And two of my generation have yet to have any grandchildren. The baby looked lovely in the family christening robe, which is by now in a rather fragile condition, and has to be put on and taken off with great care. He was a serious little bub all throughout, but all the other littlies rushed about delightedly and delightfully. I gave this baby the completed purple cot blanket.

We also called over to see the latest newborn, just a week old, who is quite beautiful and who lay there in that very intense sleep of the newborn. I gave her a present - but alas, took the wrong one along - it was for the baby boy just a couple of months older, who has arrived with the rest of his family from the UK. All has now been set to rights, fortunately.  Next time I visit I hope to see them all awake, instead of merely gazing at them sleeping.

One of my grandsons has just had his birthday, and his father's occurred during my visit, so it was all very festive. I had a lovely time with my daughter and family, and my grandsons are delightful. And I weeded their small herb patch, so as to inspire more plantings.

The choir is busy recording a new composition which we sang some months ago. It is being done two nights in a row, and is a complicated business, with lots of starts and stops and repetitions. The man handling the recording process has the most incredible musical ear. Oh, to be so gifted!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

And on and on it goes

You've all heard how people beat their heads against walls in sheer frustration and because of lack of alternatives. Alack and alas, and woe. One thing leads to another, inexorably, it seems. How does one avoid things being inexorable? Just because it is a lovely word does not mean we want to have it inflicted upon us.

Here I am, in the throes of fixing my rising damp problem, and on and on it goes. One thing leads to another. The floor is there, looking rather lovely, albeit still covered each day (despite the best efforts in wielding the broom) with fine dust, covering everything, and reducing the owner of all this dust, ie, me, to the dismals of despair, wandering around wiping away, without  prospects of achieving dustlessness.
We, that is Fernando and I, are coming to the end of the 8th week, and I would have thought the end should have been well in sight, if not receding rapidly into the past. Alas, No, one thing leads to another.

Inexorably (there is THAT word again), the ninth week approaches. I am off to Melbourne tomorrow, for a family christening and some birthdays -my grandson's, my son in law's, my son's, and there is a new great niece, who is about the 30th grandchild to be born to my numerous family. October is evidently a good month in which to give birth.

Having resigned myself to the 8th week, somehow or other I did not foresee that further disasters were about to envelop me. This morning Fernando discovered that my hot water service is leaking and thus needs replacing.  He had already pointed out that a) it was rather old, and that b) it should have been sitting on a tray. Both these defects are about to be remedied. I have to get a new hot water thingy and Fernando will install it. He can, it seems, do anything and everything. I hope he does not see me as the bottomless pit, because I am by no means such a thing.

Fernando has been painting the walls. This is an open plan house. This means there is a serious lack of doors, and that walls go right through from one room to the next. Thus, where can one stop painting? And there are windows composed of glass bricks, and the walls around these seems to be seriously defective. Alas and woe. Will it never be finished? It seems not.

My light switches are dangling from the walls, the dust abounds, remnants of paint cling to my sink, and I cannot find anything at all. For a person who seeks to reassert control over her life, to combat the ferocious blows of a malign fate (sob, sob) it is all a bit much.

This afternoon, as Fernando was on his way out, I got him to lift this piece of hard foam, originally inserted to stop Dr P from tripping when he went from the breakfast area to the toilet through the laundry (a frequent trip, given his prostate problems). Now that there is a new and lower floor, the plastic piece is too high and thus needed to be fixed in case I trip on it and fall, (more sob sob) and lie there undiscovered for months...... Having levered  it off, the tiles came up with it, and thus this too needs to be fixed. Where will it ever end?

I have been attempting to blot out harsh reality buy crocheting furiously, and have just completed a cot blanket. I hope one of the family will like it, so will take it down as an offering, but if rejected, I am sure it can find a good home and purpose somewhere around here. It is in shades of purple (surprise) and came about because years ago I had crocheted a number of squares, but not enough of them to make a whole blanket. And then, of course, it became impossible to buy more of the same wool. Waste not, want not, I said, and thus crocheted furiously around them all, and in the twinkling of an eye have completed a blanket. Now all it needs is a good home and a baby. Purple is a good unisex colour, yes?

I went shopping today for baby presents, and came away depressed at the inexorable (there is that word again) pink for girls, and cars and trucks for boys divide.  However, banish sorrow, banish care, I am looking forward to meeting these new babies, and hope to give them a few cuddles. I just love little babies.  The way they snuggle softly into your shoulders, snuffling softly. The newness of them. Their responsiveness. How human they are, right from the word Go. The way you can engage any little babe, smiling into their eyes as they lie in their prams, and how they look at you and smile right back. We are hard-wired to love babies, I fervently believe.

Is this why I keep crocheting cot blankets?

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

No one tells it all

It is taking me a while to do this post, as I keep mulling it around in my head. It springs from  In this life's post, replying to a reader's comment chiding her for her comments about missing her offspring. I take up her comment that in blogging no one tells it all. And indeed we don't. We tell a a lot, but our writings are edited, for many, many reasons.

I wanted to comment on this post but could not summon up a considered response, and therefore thought to write a post of my own.  The on-line debate continued, but Isabelle has asked for no further comments, and thus I will pursue my thoughts here. Even though they are probably not particularly original, I wanted to disentangle and explicate some of my reactions.

In blogging we tell our stories. If the unvarnished and full accounts are to be written, it would be in a diary. But warts and all in a blog? No. Thus both strengths and weaknesses are revealed in this combination of public/private discourse.

You never know who reads, or who knows about our situations. I do not talk about my children's lives, other than in the most general terms, as our lives and relationships are our own business, and I know that casual remarks can be quite wounding. So I am careful about what I write.

There are things and emotions I do not express in my blog, or which I express in a cautious or guarded fashion. I guard and edit to protect myself, but, candidly, also to not display my worst and most negative and self-pitying characteristics. Generally I want to show myself in a positive light. But I also want to complain, to moan and groan from time to time. I tell no lies: but I tell my own truth. But the whole truth, all the nitty-gritty? No, I do not.

There were many times when I was tempted to write more about Dr P and the step-family, especially in the first year after his death, during which I endured an intensely stressful and difficult legal battle. Generally I tried to write with balance, and with some degree of impartiality. And, having spent months preparing affidavits, setting out in minute and documented details all the particulars of my life, my marriage, my relationships, my family, my finances, and having had to rebut lies designed to put me in a negative light,  to criticise and denigrate my character, enough is enough. It is time for me to look to the future rather than to wallow in the past. While at times I want to hit out, to flail, to reproach, I do try not to do so. There are times when it is best for me to just shut up.

I am now trying to recover, to rebuild my life, to be able to enjoy the good things, and to overcome the bad, the deprivations and disappointments. It is not easy. Thus from time to time I express things in my blog. To do so helps me to cope and to think again, to meditate, and, I hope, to be positive rather than negative. Blogging has expanded my world,  brought me into contact with many other soul mates. We are not alone, but reach out to each other. And the world keeps turning.