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And Here It All Began

Something has been kind of trembling within my thoughts for a few weeks now, ever since a dinner party conversation afforded me some amazing news. I’ve been so astonished I haven’t quite known what to do with it. Just speaking in these grandiose tones is probably building it up way too much for everyone, but for me it is kind of huge.

To explain why it’s so amazing to me, I have to give a bit of background (bear with me).

When I was a child I read Nan Chauncy’s “Tangara” and I have been carrying the Aboriginal reconciliation torch on my sleeve ever since.  I have read books about Aboriginal culture, done tours, listened to experts speak about the subject; I have signed petitions, joined support groups, written articles and stories and spent countless hours thinking about it. And all the while I felt that all I was doing was never enough to undo the damage that has been done to our Indigenous Australians.

My first article, written when I was 23 when the landmark WIK decision was fresh in everyone’s minds, stated that when the Aborigines occupied Australia alone, “…a hostile land flourished under a gentle, understanding touch. And in return the Aborigines were given music, art, origin, context and meaning… ” In the same article I wrote about the tragedy that unfolded in Tasmania after settlement that ended only when the Tasmanian Aborigines were effectively wiped out.

It seems conceited to quote myself, but I’m just trying to emphasize my concern with this issue and to underscore how obtuse (dumb) I must be to have missed the fact that I LIVE ON THE VERY BEACH WHERE TASMANIAN ABORIGINES HAD THEIR FIRST EVER CONTACT WITH WHITE PEOPLE. Sorry to shout, I realise that that this news probably doesn’t mean that much to anyone else, but to me it’s kind of ENORMOUS and I’m slightly bash-myself-in-the-head flabbergasted that I missed it along the way.

HANG ON THERE A MINUTE MEG – YOU’VE GOT CARRIED AWAY. IT WASN’T MARION BAY BEACH, YOU MUST HAVE JUST ASSUMED THAT BECAUSE OF IT’ S NAME AND BECAUSE IT’S WHAT YOU WANTED TO BELIEVE, BUT IN ACTUAL FACT THE FRENCHMEN LANDED ON TWO MILE BEACH, ON THE SOUTH-EASTERN SIDE OF MARION BAY, SO NOT YOUR BEACH AT ALL. DON’T YOU LOOK LIKE A WANKER. ANYWAY, ON WITH THE STORY, WIND OUT OF SAILS AND ALL….

Oh right, well they landed IN FREDERICK-HENRY BAY, JUST OVER FROM OUR BACH and first saw Aborigines there – how did I not know that either?

It wasn’t until a few weeks ago at a dinner party when Nicholas Clement’s recent book, “The Black War” was brought up (thanks Bob) and the story told to me. I rushed out and bought the book (well I didn’t rush out of the dinner party, that really would have been bonkers, and rude). Then I read the book* and sure enough, there it was.

In March 1772 (130 years after Abel Tasman had a wander about over the bay as the first known white man to reach Tasmania), Frenchman Marc-Joseph Marion DuFresne and his crew arrived in Frederick-Henry Bay and noted – as I do most days when I remember to stop and enjoy the view – what a truly beautiful place it is.

Marion Bay - who would have thought it's named after a bloke.

Marion Bay – who would have thought it’s named after a bloke.

They landed on Marion Bay Beach Two Mile Beach and came face to face with a small tribe of Tasmanian Aborigines. He was greeted in what was reported to be a friendly manner but evidently things turned nasty; the visitors suffered some injuries and at least one Aborigine was killed.

DuFresne evidently stayed in the region for six days, assessing the place for timber and fresh water before he departed unsatisfied. He sailed on to New Zealand where a few months later he was killed and eaten by Maoris. Bloody hell.

I was hungry for more information though – why did things turn sour between the two parties? What did they do here for 6 days?

The journals of DuFresne were lost, but his second in command Julian Marie Crozet also wrote about the voyage and his journal was later translated into English by Henry Ling-Roth. This translation is at my fingertips via the good people at openlibrary.org and it is fascinating.

Apart from the beauty of the place, Crozet remarked on the number of fires dotted along the bay, indicating that the land was “thickly populated”. Upon landing, he said that the Aborigines “showed themselves agreeable” and appeared to build them a fire, inviting them to light it. The Frenchmen offered gifts – mirrors, iron, meat and other things – but the offerings were rejected. Then one Aborigine offered DuFresne a “firebrand in order to light a little wood pile”. Du Fresne,“thinking that this was a ceremony intended to indicate he had come with pacific intentions, did not hesitate to light the pile. But it was immediately evident that this was all wrong and that the acceptance of the brand was an acceptance of a defiance or a declaration of war”.

As the fire was lit, the Aborigines immediately moved to a high point and threw rocks at the Frenchmen, forcing their retreat. Shots were fired as warnings as they returned to their ships. When they attempted another landing further along, they were again showered with missiles and this time the return fire was direct. An Aborigine was killed, while a DuFresne crew member took a spear to the leg. The Frenchmen chased the Aborigines into the woods and found one wounded and dying. It seems they took this man and washed him, but Crozet does not say whether he survive. I assume not.

And who knew they had spiral perms back then.

And who knew they had spiral perms back then.

They scoured the land at least “two leagues inland” (about 11 km) for fresh water and timber with no luck. Dudes are you sure your men actually searched? Lagoon Bay is right there – I have a feeling they may have hidden in the bushes, necked a bottle of claret and had a snooze. Or maybe the creek was briny then. They did find some “tiger cats” (Tassie tigers? Devils?) and ate some pelicans before upping stumps and heading off.

Details aside, it is bloody Ah.Maze.Ing to me (have I said that already, oh well I said it again) that here on my doorstep, it was first proven to the Mother Country that Van Diemen’s Land was not Terra Nullius (land belonging to no one), but well and truly inhabited.

I asked Nicholas Clements whether he thought the tribe that fled the gunfire might have reported the events to other tribes and he said it was possible. I had in my ever-dramatic head that this violent first encounter might have sparked the animosity that fueled the ultimate devastation of the Tasmanian Aborigines. That Here It All Began.

Less significantly but remarkable to me at least, this bit of history also answers what I question pretty much every time I step out into the country that is Marion Bay and Bream Creek: that there were active tribes here – living, traversing, singing the land into life. There must have been heaps of them. Crozet describes the ground (other than being light and sandy – don’t my roses know it) was covered in ash from all the fires.

I had made up stories about them, written them down and told them to my children without ever really knowing if they’d really been here. And all along there they were, not far from where my children sleep, making history.

What did those tribes-people think when they saw those boats approach. What did they think they were seeing when men, dressed in scarlet and blue, landed on their sands? What on Earth?

I’m sure I’ve sensed their presence around here – in the trees, in the calls of birds and the sound of the sea. There’s a part of me that isn’t surprised I live in such a significant place, and that they were here, all around.

It all makes me think of some Palawa Kani words that for some reason I memorised when I saw them at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery recently:  “nara makara lumi” – we will always be here.

Aborigines of Tasmania, Robert Dowling 1859

Aborigines of Tasmania, Robert Dowling 1859

 

*The Black War by Nicholas Clements, UQP – a bloody good read with an interesting point of difference in that it reports from both points of view so that you end up feeling sympathy for both sides.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Nearly Shat on Science Week

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I do on occasions strive for the cheap laughs, but I assure you, this wasn’t one of them. This post depicts true, bowel-loosening mortification.

A while ago I agreed to talk at our local primary school’s science expo, an evening put together in honour of National Science Week, in which local agriculture would be featured along with local produce whipped up and served by the school’s parents and friends.

Given that I am a school parent, as well as a friend of those putting the evening together, I felt I should step up. I knew the real farmers of the family would rather lick a cow’s butt than stand up and speak in front of an audience. So I thought, “I can talk about How Milk is Made, of course I can. Go me, good famer’s wife I am.”

I thought about how best to keep children entertained and engaged for ten minutes while talking about something potentially boring and came up with the GENIUS idea to dress up as a dairy cow and deliver the talk, in the first person, as Meggie Moo the dairy cow.

Based on that premise, I prepared a story that would deliver the essential milk making facts in an elementary fashion. I left out anything too complicated or long-winded, kept it light and simple. Heaven forbid I get too, I don’t know, sciencey. I took some photos around the farm and collected some props to illustrate bits of the talk. And, I found the perfect cow suit, complete with ears and a pink rubber udder. I even enhanced it with a felt-penned brand on the buttocks and a large button sewn into an ear for the ear tag.

I was ready and, as usual for me, looking forward to taking the stage as Meggie Moo.

The evening started well (apart from the woman who approached my dairy display to complain about our bulls bellowing). There were plenty of punters, lots of kids running about, a scrumptious dinner prepared by school mums who are exceptionally great in the kitchen. In fact, three of them are chefs. I offered to help and was given the task of cutting up butter. I did it wrong, then tried to correct it and it went all melty. I finished the job and scurried out thinking, “I’m much better off out in here talking to the crowd, yes that’s where my skills lie.”

After dinner, a call was made for the children to assemble down in the library where a movie was being put on for them if they preferred. Apparently last year the children disrupted the speakers a bit. 90% of the children (including my blessedly traitorous children) departed the room in favour of Dreamworks. That left about 100 grown ups (most of them there to learn more about local agriculture, some of them scientists already), a smattering of kids and me, with my cow suit folded up in a bag.

I started to feel cold.

When the first speaker began his power point presentation on the agronomy behind potato farming, I started to sweat. A proper, cold sweat – you know, when your eyebrows start prickling. I shuffled around with my speech notes, desperately trying to think of ways to brainy-up my talk. I ditched the name Meggie Moo along with a long practiced ‘Mooooooo’ and the idea that I might do a little bit of bovine interpretive dance. I took out a few very silly kid jokes (if I ate ‘chocolate I’m sure I would make chocolate milk’, shit like that) and with five minutes to go decided I could either just go for it or run for the hills.

I snuck into the kitchen to put on the cow suit and seek some support from the chefs. They laughed and got out their cameras.

I thought about feigning a faint (always wanted to faint) or pretending to have a panic attack (threatening anyway) but I was summonsed for stage time. It was at this point that I felt I might do a little cow pat in my knickers.

By the time I go to the microphone and projector screen (on which was a huge picture of a cow’s bottom – I thought that would be a funny start for the kids), I was shaking so much I couldn’t hold onto my notes. I had to put them on a low table from where I couldn’t see the type without bending down.

The scroll button on the computer wouldn’t work so the bottom shot was stuck on the screen until it was fixed by technical support. Awkwardly, I showed the crowd my own bottom onto which I had felt penned my brand number.

I somehow got through the rest of it. I’m not sure how much sense I made, it’s all a little blurry. I remember a few highlights:

  • when I told the audience that a baby cow is called a calf
  • when I said that I produced milk after I’d had a calf, “just like your mummies did after they had you”
  • when I asked them what sort of cow I was and a few kind souls called out “Friesian” without saying “duuuuurrrrr” like they justifiably could have
  • when I held up a set of milking cups and noted that I wouldn’t put them on my own udder because I’d only just been milked
  • when someone asked what would happen to me when I retired and I explained about the lovely grassy paddock in the sky I was looking forward to going to
  • when I was asked at what temperature pasteurization happens and told everyone it is 67 degrees instead of 72

And oh, the gorgeous woman on the right hand side a few rows back, the one with the lovely face who smiled encouragingly at me all the way through. I don’t know her at all but I wish I did so I could thank her. She got me through. I think most of the talk was delivered to her.

Afterward I jokingly told a school teacher that I was available for class room talks. He said, “Oh”.

And later I overheard my boy say to his twin sister, “I looked through the door at mum speaking. She was dressed as a cow. Then I went and played soccer.”

Thanks must go to my friends who told me later that it was ‘great’ when it wasn’t, to the kitchen girls who kept me from galloping into the night, and to the lovely organiser who knows all about Ag Science in theory and practice and insisted I enhanced the evening when really I offered nothing in the way of science, other than the science of stupid.

Apologies to those organisers and the school for not thinking the whole thing through properly; and to the other speakers who clearly knew their shit, were proper scientists and spoke passionately about important things like Peak Phosphorous, crop disease prevention and the importance of healthy soil. Sorry too, to the young scientists who spoke with such enthusiasm about their theses. One of them is researching the human brain. I ought to have asked him if anything might be done for mine.

Sorry Science, you are important and wise and thank goodness for you.

Next time I will wear jeans and help put out chairs.

IMG_5768

Thanks for the photo Eloise Emmett, chef extraordinaire and blogger at http://eloiseemmett.wordpress.com/

 

 

Take a Stance On: TONY ABBOTT’s CHARACTER (By Request) and FEMINISM and POLITICS (By Compulsion)

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Meg Bignell:

I’m re posting this piece because I feel very cross with our Prime Sinister. Too many short sighted cunding futs you silly man.

Originally posted on megoracle:

I have an automatic aversion to Tony Abbott. However I’m concerned that this is a product of successful political mud slinging spin. I would prefer to think that my opinion is immune to spin but I think that’s pretty unrealistic (actually I know it is – last week I bought wrinkle cream with Kakadu plum in it because it is a fair dinkum miracle cream never mind I have observed no change whatsoever except maybe deeper wrinkles where my annoyed expression happens). Anyway, when it comes down to brass tacks (whatever that means), I actually don’t know what to think of TA, even though the sisterhood keeps calling him an aggressive misogynist (more spin?) and hooray-ing Julia Gillard for her dressing down of him the other day.

I should know what to think though because one day everybody might stop flinging mud and start running the country a bit and…

View original 2,769 more words

Super Loon

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You know the holidays have been a bit shit when the highlight has been a trip to the dentist and by the end of week one you wish someone would send you to your room.

Actually that’s not strictly true. The dentist was a highlight only because I managed to get the whole family seen to in one go and I could tick an overdue box. We had two lots of houseguests and they were a pleasure. They were too good though, which excludes them from the highlights list. Their children were gorgeous and polite, they ate all their dinners and went to bed when told and were imaginative in their play.

When they left, my children were almost instantly fighting, asking for telly, popping out of bed and picking the salad out of their rolls. I sent them out to prove to me they could manage Proper Play on their own. They found a can of cow tail paint in the farm ute and sprayed their bikes orange. And their boots, and their hands. When I put a stop to it before the dog copped an Armani style spray tan, they ran up onto the roof and cracked a skylight in two places.

The Proper Play I was hoping for was mud pies, garden potions, bike races, wounded soldiers, picnics, beach combers smugglers… thing like that. Things that the Secret Seven or the Mitford sisters might have played. Ripping things. They have, after all, a whole farm and beach at their disposal. I felt cross and disappointed. I yelled. They screeched about it all being someone else’s fault. I yelled a bit more and considered having 4 more children to bring out the sense of adventure. Then I’d have an excuse not to give any of the little buggers attention at all.

Anyway, we tried a mini break instead. A get-away-from-it-all-appreciate-our-homestate trip to the wilds of Tasmania’s West Coast. And to celebrate the twin’s birthday. The 4 to 5 hour drive would ensure closeness and bonding, maybe even a bit of maths practice and a singalong. I was excited. I packed my wholesome enthusiasm in with the beanies and bed socks. But the 5 and a half hour drive had about 15,000 bends in it and on about bend number 478, just beside the hydro pipe at Taraleah, smallest child sicked up her breakfast orange. None of us felt like discussing the history of Hydro in Tasmania or putting our ear on the pipe to hear the water rush, as planned.

In hindsight , Taraleah is utterly intriguing. I wish we'd had thebinclination to look around. I'd like to shoot a film there.

Spot the orange. Actually, in hindsight , Taraleah is utterly intriguing. I wish we’d had the inclination to look around. I’d like to shoot a film there.

At about bend number 1000 a twin turned green, cried and said it was the worst birthday of her life, the small one whimpered that she didn’t like being “in the bushes” (wilderness)… and on went the chundering. I started to question my wisdom. In Queenstown we had a reviving run around on a gravel footy oval and a sit down on a concrete grandstand on which someone had spray painted “Cunts R Us”. I would have instagrammed it had my sense of humour not blown out the car window somewhere around Wayatinah.

On day 2 of the trip (we only went for three), smallest developed croup. She and I spent a sleepless night in and out of the bathroom for steam fixes and the next morning at the local medical centre where the man next to us in the waiting room had a heart attack.

The next day we went back home along the same bends, stopping on about every 10th to avoid the waste of more oranges. I succumbed to carsickness myself while the well children clobbered each other and squawked. Husband went rigid and unsmiling in the driver’s seat and by the time we got out of the ‘bushes’, the atmosphere in the car was so tense a massage and a valium wouldn’t have fixed it.

I’m trying to recover my enthusiasm, but to be frank, I’m struggling. It was super-wonderful to be home but my patience is stretched to it’s limits (which aren’t that extensive at the best of times) and I wonder, am I doing something wrong? None of our houseguests appear to take voice-raising measures with their lovely children. I talked to a friend today who is having a wonderfully relaxing holiday at home, glad to be spending time with her two well behaved children. In “Miffy’s 3 wishes” a book that I read to my youngest tonight, Miffy’s mother wishes that her “dear litle Miffy will always stay as sweet as she is”. I felt emotional, because I would wish that my children never stay as horrible as they’ve been and because maybe I should have called one of them Miffy.

Or maybe, thinks I – as I listen to another grizzle about boredom and wanting an i-pad – I am trying too hard. I so want imaginative children and brilliant adventure with my children with belly laughs and Brady Bunch lessons-learnt endings (an Alice would be great too), but each time I try, something goes awry – someone cheats at monopoly or breaks the ukulele strings or has lost the last few bits of the puzzle. Someone cries, someone else stomps out and I – despite my best efforts not to – end up yelling and slamming a door or two. Never mind the Angry Song, a few times these holidays I could have sung the Fucking Furious song.

Should I just make life easier for everyone, give in and let them watch the movie/play the computer game/eat the tim tams until they get sick of those and say, “Hey Mum, can we read a book/take the dog for a walk/have some carrot sticks please?” Would that ever happen? Would they still be sitting their fat tim-tam arses in front of the telly at age 18? (gosh I would have got a lot done by then).

As I reach the end of another conclusion-less post, I wonder too whether I’ll ever be able to write another informative, brain-progressive Megoracle post for your all. I mean while my children push each other onto couch corners and throw putty at one another, missiles are blowing stuff up in Israel (read this wonderful post for some thoughtful insight into that) and some fuckwit threatens to chuck out the carbon tax (or did he do that already? I wouldn’t know).

For now, because I’m overwrought and irritated and possibly a bit hormonal*. There was a supermoon this month, which is said to induce super PMS episodes, think lunatic, you will have to put up with my grumbly talk. Hey, maybe I should do an offshoot blog called Grumblemum. Actually, that supermoon thing was just a glib comment, but maybe there’s something in that; maybe it’s not them but me. Maybe I’m the horrible one.

Dude I'd be running too.

Dude I’d be running too.

Anway, if anyone else isn’t sunning it up in tropics or doesn’t have lovely children or is feeling like a superloon these school holidays, I’d like to hear from you.

*speaking of hormones, this Friday my short musical film, “Hormones The Musical” will be broadcast on ABC2 at 9:15, just before Ladyboys. So if you’re wild like me and stay in most Friday nights, please watch. Or you can catch it on i-view for a week or so afterward.

 

 

NATIVE HEN and NAVEL GAZING

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I think there’s a lot to be learned from Tasmania’s endemic chookie, the Native Hen (Tribonyx mortierii). They have increased in number around my home in the last year or so, to the point that I see them pretty much every day as they dart across the road near one of our dams.

I’ve lived around native hens all my life and I’ve never paid them much thought until one morning a few weeks ago. We were on the way to the bus stop when  one particular hen got confused and forgot to cross the road, instead running in front of my car, swerving all over the road and throwing a panicked look over its shoulder (if it had one) at regular intervals. It ran faster and faster and eventually flapped his wings desperately in an effort to speed up. And speed up it did. The speed limit on our dirt roads is 60 (I think) and I swear that determined hen was almost breaking it.

native hen

My four year old yelled, “Oh Mum, his wings won’t work!” with concern that was genuine until her brother and sister laughed hysterically and she reverted to a clown-like imitation of the hen’s flapping.

“Yes they do, look how fast he is”, I said, “He’s running but he’s flying along.” And he was. The children laughed at him anyway. He did look kind of dorky, which endeared him to me. I stopped the car so he could regain some dignity and get off the road and into recovery mode. And so we could get to the bus on time. He disappeared into the grass, we got to the bus, but I’ve thought a bit about him ever since, that dorky hen.

I have read that native hens – despite their flightless status – can reach speeds up to 50 km per hour (ok so it looked 60 on the day) using their strong but skinny (and scaly) legs. It all felt strangely familiar and heart-warming at the same time. Here’s why:

I am native Tasmanian, have lived most of my life near water and grassland and I have skinny legs that go scaly without daily QV cream application (this is not a sponsored post). And – like many other average human beings – I was born without any particular talent that would see me really fly.

I have often lamented the fact that I don’t have the ability to knock the socks off anyone with something, anything. I wasn’t born with a gift, nor the personality to stick at anything long enough to make a gift happen. I am easily bored, impatient and naturally restless. If I was poverty stricken and had to take a gift to the baby in the manger, I’d be – having given up the drum after a lesson or two – hard pressed.

(This is also not a fishing-for-compliments post, bear with me but) I am varying degrees of average – I have never amazed anyone with my looks or style but I get by; I write ok but have had far more rejection letters than acceptances and more work in drawers than in print; I like to act but have a track record of being cast as a dead person; I like to sing but my vocal range is as short as my temper, which leads me trying my best to be a good mother but often failing.

I am fit-ish and strong-ish but will never win a race. I understand a bit of Shakespeare and most of Austen but can’t get through Middlemarch. I can drive a car ok but not a tractor; swim freestyle but not butterfly, run a half marathon but never a full.  I can keep bits of houses clean but never the whole lot at one time; I can decorate a house and fill a wardrobe but something about it will always be slightly dorky.

I buy stuff from Ezibuy. Native hens, being sedentary creatures, would shop using Ezibuy. The only thing I’m not average at is cooking. I’m shit at cooking.

Do I care? Yes I do actually, I really do. Not in an agonising, debilitating, ‘I-am-nobody-why-do-I-bother’ way, just in a vague, wistful sort of way. A background lament that increases in volume in a certain breeze.

Women’s Weekly et al publish articles about women turning forty and being ‘the happiest they’ve ever been because finally they’ve learnt how to love themselves’. These are women who have kicked all sorts of wonderful goals and probably haven’t sunbaked. I sunbaked all through my teens (of course I did – I’m Tasmanian, if the sun comes out here of course I’m going to get in it, wrinkle warnings or no). And after 10 years of forward line hockey I might have hit 3 goals.

I am 40 next year (average age) and while I think I’m not a bad old stick, I don’t love myself – well not often, I do when all the washing is in, folded and put away, I love myself sick then, but most often I sort of put up with myself. I mean every day there is a new and wondrous talent being wheeled out for all to behold and revel in. And revel I do – I love to see human achievement and creative beauty and success, even if it’s tinged with green. But I’m not yet content to leave it all to them, settle in with myself, declare the current me ‘the one’ and kiss the dreams goodbye. Not without a little bit of flight.

I might not yet have invented my aircraft; and people might laugh at me or feel annoyed as I hold them up or make them feel uncomfortable. But maybe I might make people laugh. Or think. Maybe I’ll pump my skinny old legs and flap my useless wings and in the kerfuffle leave at least an impression of having a go. Maybe I’ll give other average people – the ones without youth, expertise or the gift of flight on their side – a little bit of inspiration. Maybe I won’t.

If my scaly feet never leave the ground or I never reach speeds extreme for my stature, I’ll love myself fondly, in the end, for trying.

The Native Hen

Oh look, mummy look, 

It’s a funny black chook

With little beady red eyes.

He gives us a laugh

But he makes us all gasp

‘Cos his wings never work but he flies.

~

And hark mummy, when,

You go near to this hen,

He’ll call like a see-saw to you,

No grace is he blest,

But the down on his breast

Is a beautiful shade of dark blue.

babyhen

 

 

The Business of Busyness

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I’ve been really busy lately, I’m building a house, so yep, busy. Brain progress is brilliant on door furniture (knobs), painting, cornice etc, but current events extend as far as, “Cement truck visits Bream Creek”. So Megoracle is failing in its function of late. Sorry for that. But when I’m done I’ll publish a list of tips for home builders. It’ll be a biggie.

Anyway, so in amongst the overwhelmed-ness I’ve been thinking about the business of business and how it’s evolved. I used to feel swamped by uni work and hours working as a barmaid but now I long for those days – relaxing in comparison, and heady with the arrogance of youth and all the time in the world. These days I feel rushed to cram stuff in because the middle age mark is here and the years pass by like Sir Jack Brabham (rest his soul). I shouldn’t even be sitting here writing – I should be painting. Everything’s on borrowed time. The school day is too bloody short but I need more time with my kids, bed time’s too early for all the stuff we have to do yet it can’t come soon enough. Arrrrrrgggghhhh! Overwhelmed. Due for a bit of whelmed.

I’m reading a novel* (which I have to do to put my brain to rest at night) set in poverty-stricken early 19th century Iceland. Shudder. It is based on a true story and the hardship within the pages has got me thinking (not very coherently I’m afraid, but thinking all the same).

2009-02-25-ISLENSKFJOLSKYLDA1880S

Icelandic Family, 1882.

Those Icelandic women really knew about busyness, proper busyness; they knew how to endure. We grumble about frost on the windscreen, they couldn’t set foot outside their mouldy crofts for large chunks of very long winters. I grizzle about the weeds in the garden, they harvested the hay with scythes. They likely scrubbed the stairs and beat the rugs and sewed their own clothes. I grumble if Country Road doesn’t have my size and I have to nip over to their other store.

The children in the book were expected to work; they walked miles to meet friends. Our children won’t pick up their towels and are amazed by the thought of a communal phone that is attached to the wall by a cord.

Of course, the woman of darkest Iceland didn’t have to endure school runs, clogged dishwasher filters or device-related tantrums. No one expected them to own their own home, have their careers on track, their roots done or their bikini lines sorted. So that explains their lack of complaint.

While we’re on bikini lines, here’s a thought – maybe us ‘modern women’ don’t have enough trauma in our lives, so we book a regular appointment that involves showing our nether regions to a stranger and having our pubic hair ripped out. Perhaps all those shiny pink vajayjays are our nod to the suffering of women past. Perhaps we could take the martyrdom further and make hair shirts out of our thwarted pubes.

Seriously, we’re soft aren’t we? We have it too good. Sometimes I feel panicky about the advance of technology – some of it for greater good but much of it for greater greed, laziness, anxiety, weakness and general dumbing down (I mean playing tennis with a telly screen – wtf?). Sometimes I feel as though the whole world is striving for convenience and ways to survive their busy lives. Convenience is a multi-multi-billion dollar industry. My gut tells me that this doesn’t say much for our priorities.

Other times I slip my Jamie Oliver pre-made meal into the oven (don’t get the meatball one, it’s shite), check the day’s headlines on the interwebs and thank the Lord for modern inventions (is the word modern outdated? I feel like I should be saying ‘current’ or ‘the latest’. Things move too quickly for anything to be modern).

Everything seems so complicated and rushed these days – despite automatic washing machines and microwaves and emails. Are the handy, speedy conveniences of today just making us cram more into our lives, inciting hurry? Whatever happened to wash days? Trips to the post office? “Whatever happened to that old dance we used to do?”

I feel nostalgic for drawn out tasks, family dish washing, toast on the fire, the wireless. And I wasn’t even born in wireless days. It’s all so irreversible though. Unless I turn into a hermit or an Aamish person, I just have to embrace progress. Well, give it a little hug at least. There are moments and days when switching off is good. Everything in moderation. Or until you have to check your facebook feed.

Last weekend we went wood-hooking like families might have done in Iceland in 1829 except with a chainsaw and fruit-boxes. I love a spot of wood hooking. Makes me feel self sufficient, plus there’s no phone signal and my husband is so strong and spunky when he’s felling large (dead) trees.

When we got home, on account for all the wood work and fresh air (and me needing kid free time due to newly spunky husband), I let the children watch Frozen, which is Iceland appropriate but will not help to strengthen any developing characters. It will, however, bring on more wobbly renditions of “Let It Go” (which actually I don’t mind, I sing it the wobbliest and loudest in the car, sometimes on my own). And there’s nothing like a good old family singalong.

There’s no real conclusion to this rant, it’s part of an ongoing conundrum, but in the spirit of the singalong, and the strange compulsion the ‘modern’ woman feels to get waxed when they could be ticking other less painful things off their to-do list (or indeed scything the hay) here is my version of Frozen’s Let it Go…(I didn’t mean for this post to go all singalong and below the belt but somehow, of course, it has, sorry Dad).

Youtube view.

*The book, by the way, is called, “Burial Rites” by Hannah Kent. I haven’t finished it yet but can already recommend it.

burial rites

 

 

RANDOM RHUBARB

Posted on

It’s been a long week and I’ve had two large drinks so now is probably not the time for a post. But bugger it sometimes I just need to chatter. I’m not grizzling, I’ve done enough of that via this little old bloggie portal of mine and no doubt there’ll be more grizzling to come. No this is just a little bit of random rhubarb involving things I’ve thought about this week and would like to share.

But actually I advise you to tune out now. I just helped myself to another small (ish) drink. Which reminds me, I need to have a big night soon to guarantee a good succession of alcohol free days. I’m joking. Ish. Anyway, random shares, ready set GO.

My children broke my heart this week (they will do that at times won’t they).

Firstly my little boy got punched in the nose when tussling over a ball and then hit in his little nuts in the school playground. Same day, two separate incidents, two different perpetrators. He was – apart from a nose that bled spectacularly on the day and on and off ever since – actually fine. He wasn’t afraid to go back to school or bitter toward the boys who had hit him and he didn’t make a thing of it at home. I did though. I felt sick.

Initially I was worried that perhaps he had provoked the attack (I mean let’s face it, sometimes he annoys the hell out of me) or that he was indulging in a bit of diving (simulated injury as per soccer fields – he has been known to try it on). Then, when both those concerns were disproved, I felt guilty for doubting him and then horrified that my son might be the target of bullies. I am reassured that he’s not, that both incidents were of the spur of the moment, give me the ball, kind. But I still feel horrified. I wished that I was there when it happened but actually perhaps it’s best I wasn’t. I might have set a very bad example by calling the puncher a LITTLE SHIT and dragging him by the ear to the head master. One doesn’t drag children by the ear anymore. Which may or may not be a bit of a shame.

The thing is though, I don’t want my children to face animosity and pain and violence, but odds are they will, and probably worse than a snotted nose. Perhaps a bit of early roughing up is all part of important life learning. It hurts though. Him, but mostly me.

Then my daughter was involved into a protracted investigation into the drawing of penises. To her horror she was summonsed to the head master’s office a few times over it. She has long taken pride in being a good girl, having a clean slate insofar as head master summonses go. Turns out she didn’t draw a penis, she just drew a bottom, and then threw the drawing in the bin. No crime there. But she is still smarting over the indignity of public scandal. I feel her pain acutely; she is me all over as a child so I can slip with ease into her frame of mind. At the moment it’s not so peaceful. And when she cried in my arms last night over the trauma of it all (for stronger people it would be water off a duck, for us it’s trauma), I cried too. I have a little tear now. Tomorrow, I told her, we are to have forgotten about it all. And tomorrow she is allowed to draw my bottom.

Then my four year old, when I was driving her home from swimming, announced matter of factly that she felt weird and that she thought she might die this week. WHAAAAAAAAT? I had to stop the car and check her all over for lumps or occult bleeding. She was bewildered enough by my panic to say she’d said it “accidentally”. Too late, I am superstitious and officially had the creeps. Saying she might die is bad enough, but to add, “this week” just sent me into panic. I resolved to keep her within my sights at all times. The next morning I forgot in the midst of the school chaos and popped her on the bus, then remembered half way through the morning and had to listen to a bit of Dolly Parton to stop myself barging into

Those waistlines, those layers. Sigh.

Those waistlines, those layers. Sigh.

school with a large bag of cotton wool. The week is not out yet, and today she has developed a cough. I’m still worried and will be so until Monday. On and off. There is, however, drama in her genes.

I wish we all wore clothes like the ones in “The Belle of New York”. I’d feel like dancing too.

I am superstitious though. I’m always on the look out for synchronicity and have an affiliation with Carl Jung. Today I was making a cake and there happened to be EXACTLY the right amount of butter (115g to be precise) left of the butter block and EXACTLY the right amount of brown sugar left in the jar. I mean it, barely a scrape or a grain above the weights required bycelestine the recipe. I exclaimed, “That’s so weird, isn’t that weird?” to my husband. He raised an eyebrow that said, “There’s only one weird thing in this room and it’s not ingredients”. He’s used to my synchronicity hunting. I blame The Celestine Prophecy. Who remembers that?

Does anyone else get excited when they see their birthday on the milk carton? I do, then I remember that I don’t want anymore birthdays and just feel sad that another year has gone by and go and buy myself an early birthday present in the magazine aisle.

I am overloaded with ideas at the moment. Can you tell? Have you ever felt like that? Where everything that happens in your day feels like a slippery opportunity that must be grasped or forever lost? The notebook I carry with me everywhere has in the last few days been harassed more than usual and the writing in it appears kind of desperate. Am I on the verge of an epiphany? Or just a jumbly mess on the verge of panic attack?

I’ve never had a panic attack but almost did the other day when choosing door knobs (I mean door hardware, no one says knob these days). Suddenly I felt that the whole aesthetic of my new house (being built) hangs on what door hardware I chose. The wall of knobs swayed before me and I had to call my cousin-interiors-genius to come and rescue me. She valiantly swooped in, chose the hardware I would have chosen myself had I been of sound mind, and even called them knobs like a normal person. And laughed just I I did when we’d said ‘knob’  enough for it to be funny. Knob.

Maybe it’s the house build thing that has overloaded me – I feel another scrapbook session coming on. Here’s where I call on the dear friend with the organisational skills that would impress Barack Obama’s PA. She coming to stay ASAP.

What would I do without family and friends?

At the same time as all the ideas, I’m fast feeling the slip of the years as my children grow up (and get in punch ups and draw bottoms and stuff). Sometimes I think I’ll take them out of school and immerse myself in them and their learning and make the very most of every minute. Then I have a second though that involves me in a constant state of irritation and turning into a shouty shrew-mother lamenting lost me-time. So I decide that school is the place for them.

Speaking of irritation, gosh I get a lot of chores done when I’m in a huff. 

And finally, the word nincompoop is definitely not used enough. Nor is splendid. The origin of nincompoop is unknown. Shame, I would like to meet the person who invented such a word.

Anyway that’s quite enough. Thank you for listening. What would this nincompoop do without you splendid people?

M xxx

 

 

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