Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Omitted yesterdays

Just for the record, while I am hanging around enjoying the cool weather, and watching all the people walk past to find their fireworks-watching space, I thought I might as well describe my Christmas.

Last Sunday I drove to Canberra to look after my daughter's children, so that on Monday she could go on a full day's work trip interstate. This was between all her Christmas preparations and packing as much as possible for her move. She never stops. There is so much to be done.

The house was full of boxes, both empty and full.

My grandson gave me a big fright, as in the morning his sugars were exceedingly high. They stayed high all day. Fortunately my daughter keeps her ear and eye on her telephone, so she was able to advise on insulin dosages throughout the day. She and my son suspected he had been raiding sweet things. He said not, but  I think he yielded to temptation.

It had been a very hot night, and so I went out and bought cotton sheets for the children, to replace the very hot flannelette sheets on the beds. I also did vast amounts of washing. The washing machine is a front loader, and each load took forever. In between all the washing I did some weeding, pruned the roses and raked up lots of garden rubbish. Rose pruning is not one of my skills, but these plants did need a bit of a hack.

My daughter arrived back late that evening, and next day we did lots of sorting, packing, putting odd socks together (how do so many socks come to be lost? I even found one of my own purple socks at the bottom of the washing pile), more washing, and made a few inroads into sorting and selecting toys, etc. My son and daughter, all the children and I went out and did lots of food shopping, and then ventured into the perils of Christmas shopping for the children. And I bought some new sheets for my daughter. I found another cheap book, on the young Henry VIII. (I have just finished reading it. He was not a nice man.) Suitably laden, and having chosen some wine, we all went to his house, and ate there.

Father Christmas did come during the night, and left lots of nice things for the children. Mostly complicated things like Lego, electronic devices, and mechanical things. (A lot of technological ability has evolved in the last century, in my children's generation, but it totally skipped me. It does mean your children can explain devices to you, more or less patiently and kindly.) We all returned to my son's place, and had a long Christmas lunch. Turkey, ham, baked vegetables, wine and cream sauce, the lot. But no pudding. We are not pudding people. And this year I did not make a Christmas cake. Nobody eats it except me. The children all enjoyed their new things. I am delighted with the Wollemi pine which my daughter gave me, at my request, and with the fetching purple kitchen aids from my son.

After Christmas, I kept on washing, and caught up with it all. I cleaned the kitchen and the bathroom,  and helped fill boxes.  We discussed getting new beds for the children, and after I had returned home my daughter went out and bought them. The awful old ones will go to the tip, with lots of other furniture company. We got through a lot, and there remains much more to be done. I hope that once the move is over, and they have settled in, they can relax a bit before school starts. And I might be able to go and see them all in their new home. I offered to go back, and do some more, but she thinks she can manage.  So I will stay put.

New Year Resolutions coming up: raise own spirits. Think beautiful thoughts, and so on and so forth. Read more books, listen to more music. Work through the large number of CDs sitting there begging to be played. Crochet new cot blanket for nephew and wife, who expect a baby in a few months. Already there are trial squares laid out on the carpet.

I went up to the corner and watched the 9 pm fireworks. It is going to be a long night. People are still streaming past in large numbers, and they are already extremely noisy. Lots of swearing, and a young man urinated in the gutter across the road. Nice.

Happy New Year, to all, even to the noisy revellers. May they not get totally smashed. And may I get some sleep.

What the Morrow brings

The End of the Year is upon us. Tonight there will be many fireworks to welcome the New Year.  From the roundabout on the main street there is a view of the Harbour Bridge, and so at 9 pm I will wander up there - two minutes away - and watch, along with the young people at the local pub and lots of families, who will carry their children on the shoulders, all the better to see the fireworks from. Cameras will be flashing, competing with the fireworks. I have tried in previous years to take photos, on the special setting, but they are never any good. Except to look at occasionally and contemplate past New Years. I may wander down to a local viewing spot to see the fireworks at midnight. No point staying home and trying to sleep. So many people walk past after midnight that sleep is not possible. Cars. other than those of residents, are not permitted entry to this peninsula, and there are barriers set up to block entry, and lots of officials to check permits. Shanks pony and buses rule.  It takes quite a long time for all the people to walk past, so it will be well into the early hours before they are all on their way home.

Newspapers and numerous pundits ponderously pontificate on the future and the past. And I suppose we all review what we have done, what was not done, and what might happen next. I do a lot of this sort of musing, not that it leads, as yet, to any conclusions, resolutions or decisions. Just a lot of pondering. Where will I be, what will I do, and how might the future work out? None of us knows for sure.

My middle child, my second daughter, and her children are moving. For them it is a good move, the right thing, better for her and the children: better to remove from the difficult situation and a bad relationship, better for her work.  She, and they, will do well, and I applaud her fortitude, her ability
 to make such decisions and to set about making a better life for herself, her career, and for her children.

Yet I feel bereft. I will see much less of them and they are the ones I have been closest to. Much thought will be needed about my own future.  I have felt very alone - indeed, I am alone - isolated and irrelevant to much of the family, and cheerfulness and fortitude evade me.  It is all a struggle. I hope I can come to a more resolute, cheerful and optimistic frame of mind.

In the meantime and for the future, I wish all and sundry, those near and far, those of you I know only through the ether, a happy New Year, and may you all feel the sunlight on your back.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Perpetuating stereotypes

Those who brainwashed me as a child did a pretty good job of it. Brainwashers were legion. Parents, grandparents, extended family, older sister, teachers, the nuns and the Church. All were very good at inculcating a strong sense of right and wrong., sin and evil, overall morality, and overpowering sense of guilt, shame and blame. It lingers to this day, and I feel overwhelmed and isolated in the modern world.

But I can disapprove with the best of them. The treatment of women, in particular,  and the sexualisation of little girls.

There was an article in the paper last weekend a bout a woman who makes and sells tutus for little girls. she explained it all by saying that her four year old daughter  (her FOUR YEAR OLD!!) refused to wear ordinary clothes, let alone shorts or jeans. So her mother, instead of not putting up with this nonsense, and applying common sense, not to mention parental authority, let the child wear tutus, and, what's more, she started designing and manufacturing a range of tutus (probably all pink, because , as everyone knows, little females who don't wear pink will not mature and become real women).
What sort of mother gives in to this sort of spoilt and tantrummy preschool behaviour? she must have rocks in her head, or maybe fairy floss.

I do remember my little girls at some stage carrying on a bit, saying girls did not  wear pants. I pointed out that I was a girl, and that I wore pants, and somehow they grew to accept that wearing or not wearing pants need not be an issue, and the world did not come to an end because of it, and indeed they grew up to be strong, able and sensible women.

But when you venture into clothing shops, you find all these tizzy, frilly, frothy, beribboned and lurid pink clothes for little girls. Talk about being typecast, and dragooned into a mindless kind of 'femininity'.

It makes me sad, and also angry and outraged. How to combat this sort of thing, and to bring up our daughters and sons as independent and strong people, and to be able to resist this sort of brainwashing?

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Stamps, cards, teeth and confessions

I have been doing Christmas cards. It is quite hard work. What I do now is write a letter, rather than just send a card. I like to get such letters from friends, as it keeps me in touch with those of whom I see very little, and with whom I want to keep in contact.

It took ages to get the letter done. Little changes here and there, and then some radical re-arrangement, were made. There were times when I drifted away from the computer , to let my mind float free and sort things out. Naturally the printer ran out of ink. It always does.

Anyway, it is all done. All have been posted, unless there are some people omitted through insufficient vigilance.

Dr P had a lot of old stamps, and envelopes, which I inherited. The envelopes have lost their stickiness, and so have the stamps. They are old, the stamps - 27, 30, 33 cent stamps. A lot of glue sticking was needed. Some addresses needed to be double checked. The stamps are in sheets and had to be carefully separated. Two stamps per card were needed. It takes some time to re-glue stamps and envelopes.

Christmas cards tend to have a kind of serenditipity to them. As I ticked off the names of old friends, and then collected the day's postal deliveries, some arrived in time for me to acknowledge them. I have spent two days doing the cards. Now I feel very virtuous, not to mention efficient.

In between all this I had a dental appointment. I was lucky, the tooth was fixable and it did not hurt. But it cost a lot. It must be very satisfying to be able to do such precision work as dentistry.

In the olden days, when I was a little girl, we were naughty and ate too many sweets. Sugar is extremely addictive. My parents did not send us to the dentist frequently enough to prevent all the decay that so much consumption was causing. The teeth in my family were not good. Dentistry was relatively primitive, and teeth tended to be extracted rather than repaired. My remaining teeth are in a very parlous condition. I hope I took better care of my children's teeth. I did my best. I hope it was good enough. I am very embarrassed about my teeth and how it came about that they were so bad. It is easier to pretend that such things did not happen.

Dentistry has made great advances since I was young. Thank goodness.

To add to my disgrace, when I went to the library yesterday to borrow a couple of books, I was barred. I had failed to return a book. It got stuck in my shelves with lots of other second hand books. I had changed my email in the meantime, and so the overdue notice did not reach me. I had to pay a $10 fine today, but I have been restored to grace.

I only went to the library yesterday, which is not my local one, because I was meeting a dear blogging friend for lunch. She has finished her PhD since we last met. I do so admire her and her achievements, and take great pleasure in her company. We had a very good time together.

And I have been watching the cricket. And Australia won. I don't watch a lot of sport, not having had control of the airwaves for most of the time. I don't understand the finer points of the game, let alone the less fine aspects. But this week I had a good time watching, as I crocheted away, or addressed cards. and we won. The Ashes are ours again. Yay!

In between all this excitement, I have enjoying a frenzy of Margaret Drabble books.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

When the passengers cheer the pilot...

Here I am, back home after four days away, seeing family, and attending the pre-Christmas family gathering. This time we did not have a group photograph taken. Instead each family elder and their descendants had separate group photographs taken. I am told there will be a composite photograph created. Not good enough, in my view.

It was good to see them all, and to talk to as many of them as can be fitted into three hours or so. I stayed a night with my daughter and family, which was lovely. My grandsons are growing up, and are fine boys. It is a happy and harmonious home. My daughter has her end of year concerts next weekend, so was and is very busy getting it all organised, and the the performances polished. I managed to see an old friend and colleague. The weather was pleasantly cool. My sisters and I saw a film together. And I found a bargain book on the architecture of Venice. The time just flashed past.

It is lovely to see them all, but I do not really feel a part of it all.  Which all makes me ponder my future.
They all seem to think they know better than I do how I should live my life and what decisions I should make. But they don't know me as well as I do.

This morning my sister took me to the station, and I caught the train to the city, and then took the bus to the airport. As I checked in, a seat on an earlier flight was offered, and so I chose to change the booking.  Good, I thought, less hanging around waiting, and I will get home earlier.

I had heard the weather forecast for Sydney - hot with strong winds.

I was in a middle seat, with men on either side of me. Naturally they spilled over into my space, so there I sat, reading, as their arms invaded my space. It is a bit irritating. I bet they would have been cross if my arms had spilled over into their space.The man on the window seat was enthusiastically taking photos, whenever there was land unobscured by clouds.

As the plane descended, the wind became very strong and gusty, and we were bucketed about quite a lot. Then, as we came in towards the runway, from the sea, the plane rocked and lurched even more. We seemed very close to the water - indeed, we were very close, and for a moment it was scary. We had almost landed and then the plane lifted. Obviously it was not safe to land. The pilot explained that there were very strong southerly winds, and thus we were just going to fly around for a while until the winds eased. So we made a leisurely flight all around Sydney and finally came in to land from the general direction past my house. If I had had the window seat I would have been able to spot my house.

The man in the window seat was most excited.  He turned out to be a German tourist, and he took heaps of photos of everything we flew over - the sea, the harbour, the Bridge, the Anzac Bridge. He must have thought it was his lucky day.

When we landed safely, the passengers broke into loud applause. This took me a little by surprise, as after all I did expect the pilot to land us safely. But it was all rather exciting!

Catching the train and bus back home seemed rather an anti-climax, but all the same I am glad to be home. Even if there is no food in the house, and the weather is uncomfortably hot.

I am keeping calm and carrying on.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Ave atque vale

Nelson Mandela.

This morning I awoke to the news of his death, and I have spent some hours watching and listening to accounts of his life. One can only marvel at the strength and fortitude of a man who survived and overcame harassment, and 27 years cruel and severe imprisonment, who was finally released and who became President of South Africa, and who was largely responsible for the overthrow of the inhumane and savagely unjust system of apartheid. It is incredible and marvellous that a person can overcome injustices, imprisonment and persecution, and the attendant deprivations of family life and freedom, and retain such nobility and generosity of spirit.

Hail and farewell, indeed.

South Africa has always been of interest to me, because my father was born there, and lived there until his family returned in 1924, when he was when he was 13 years old. He wrote some memoirs fairly late in his life, and recently I  have been re-reading them. He wrote that at that time Apartheid had not taken the rigid form it later assumed, although there were separate train carriages for whites and blacks, and blacks were required to carry passes signed by their employers. all this was evidently taken for granted. Whites were superior, blacks inferior. There were many more blacks than whites, and therefore it was essential to deny them a political voice, and the ordinary, taken for granted, civil rights.

When I returned to work after my first two children were born, the head of the section was a South African woman, who talked at length about Apartheid. She and her husband were relatively liberal. But I found her accounts of the system chilling and incredibly unjust. On small example sticks in my mind. Her husband came to Australia before his wife and children, and shortly after he arrived he became ill and was diagnosed as having tuberculosis.  He was in a sanitorium for months.

I was amazed. How did he get TB? I asked. Was he not vaccinated? It seems he, and most whites were not vaccinated. Perhaps their servants were. But her husband was around the port area for a short time before his ship sailed for Australia, and he must have been in contact with black, and unvaccinated Africans. This was at a time when vaccination against TB was administered to everyone in Australia. South Africa has no such programmes. How did it come about that in such a rich country there were no mass vaccination programmes? Not to mention education and the vote.

In those years the apartheid and sport issue was very prominent, and we all debated the matter extensively. It was in the aftermath of the fight for civil rights for blacks in the USA, and it seemed incredible that segregation and denial of civil and political rights were so entrenched in South Africa.It is probably too early to say whether South Africa can be transformed to democratic and economic ideals: injustice and discrimination frequently endure indefinitely.

But we have been witnesses, albeit distantly, to the life and achievement of a truly remarkable man, who achieved in his lifetime, after years of struggle, imprisonment and suffering (which would have destroyed and embittered most of us) political success and transformation of a country, and who was able to take the long view, to forgive, and not to seek revenge. For him, his life and his achievements, we should all of us, surely, give thanks.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Sorting Hat needed, not to mention reincarnation

Restoring order from chaos must be daunting and unpleasant, unless there are people you can get to help you. This is seldom the case. The time has come to get my tax done, and therefore I have had to sort out lots of paperwork. Alas, age does not mean you get better at this sort of task. Piles of documents abound, multiply, and then mysteriously vanish. Precious time is consumed sorting out the chaos.

Thus has been my day. It would be wonderful to be a perfectly organised person, knowing exactly where you put what, and never having to sort through miscellaneous piles of this and that. I tend to be quite good at creating miscellaneous piles, but sooner, rather that later, they catch up with me, and demand that lots of time be spent of sorting and reorganising. And I can always think of something else to do which is much more fun and infinitely less frustrating.

I got into bad habits when I was young and newly married. My first husband was no better at this sort of thing than I was. ( I wonder what he is like now?) And there was no family training in being organised. Whatever happened in my parents home never became shared knowledge. My father had to pay provisional tax, so it was a very different system. And he had a clerk. And my mother, with husband and seven children, did not do any paid work. So doing one's tax return came as a rude shock to me, but then it was considered the man's responsibility - eventually.

Years passed, and it got done, but it is never something to be enjoyed, nor did it give any sense of accomplishment. Eventually I resorted to my brother in law, which took a lot of the pain out of the process. But of course I have to keep track of all the documentation, get it all sorted out, and send it all off,  get it done and then try to do better next year, and make fervent intentions to be better organised in future.

The system of having various piles around the house is my usual modus operandi. Eventually these have to be sorted and organised. Today was the day. The knitting group is coming here for lunch on Friday, and I need clear benches, and a tidy house. So having sorted and reorganised, and being on a rather lethargic sort of roll, with, alas, nothing better to do (except crochet intermittently) I thought, Well I must get organised with the tax. My tax agent sent me a reminder email, and as I will be in Melbourne for a few days, it behoves me to get it all organised and to take it all down with me.

The pharmacist has promised to give me a printout of deductible expenses. Except he has only recently taken over the business and is still grappling with the computer system. Tomorrow, he promises.

I think it will all be sufficiently organised to get it done while I am in Melbourne. It does seem that I am on some sort of a roll, as, inspired by the book and CD fair at my local Town Hall, I am going through the books as well. Having  made several visits to the sale, and having come away with even more books, I have been going through the books on the shelves with something approaching decision and resolution, and have succeeded in weeding quite a few from the shelves. Quite a few were Dr P's books, but more are mine. I decided I will never have the fortitude to read any Patrick White, or various other authors such as Bernard Shaw and HG Wells, so some of those are on their way to better homes.

Weeding books is not a rapid process. One must dip into them, taste, browse, and ponder. Then one must balance the recent purchases (mostly second-hand, I add defensively) with the old. Then the contents of the shelves must be moved around and reorganised. It all takes time.

I am reading much more, and much more quickly than I used to. There are few interruptions. I am having a very good time, getting at least partly along the way of reading the many many books  keep picking up at the markets. My appetite exceeds my capacity and available time, and I keep thinking that I must get more of these books read before I cark it.

Similarly with the CD collection. So much to do, so little time.

I do have about five smallish boxes of books to be given to better homes. Thus the world turns.