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Catch Up On: WORLD NEWS – Part 2: The Islamic State

Here’s me with day 2 of Head out of Sand. I’m very tempted to pop it back in with this lot I tell you…

THE ISLAMIC STATE GETS HIGH, MIGHTY AND VERY BLOODY SCARY

This is the stuff of my nightmares – religion of the the extreme and brain washy kind leading people to think atrocities are warranted and that it’s them against the world. I don’t understand religion. I respect the beliefs of others, but for me it’s up there with ghosties and goblins and mind reading and Father Christmas. So to feel the need to kill people over it seems like madness on madness.

But what’s especially scary about this is that these people aren’t actually mad, their beliefs are as much a part of them as their arms and legs, and to them just as real. You can’t medicate evil that is rooted in belief, unless it’s with very strong sedatives. Anyway, facts…

What is The Islamic State/ISIS/QISIS or whatever the hell those fuckwits call themselves?

They are a jihadist (which roughly translates to being evil and scary in the name of Allah) who have assumed the status of a ‘caliphate‘. This is an Islamic State lead by a supreme religious and political leader known as a caliph (a successor to Muhammad). They were previously known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and are now (for the moment at least) simply IS.

When did IS form?

In April 2013 by a group of extreme Islamic terrorists, some of whom were leaders squashed during the war in Iraq, so well connected and with piles of left over weapons. IS has been described by some as Al Quaeda rebranded. They have since grown to become one of the most powerful jihadist groups fighting the Governments of Iraq and Syria. There are thought to have recruited thousands of people – many of them foreign.

Who is their leader? 

They are apparently lead by the creepily mysterious Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who wears a mask even when addressing his own

This is supposedly Abu Bakr al -Baghdadi.

This is supposedly Abu Bakr al -Baghdadi.

army. There are a myriad of theories about him – some say he is dead, others say he is the creation of some CIA conspiracy Under him, the organisation has recruited thousands from all over the world and formed one of the most cohesive and well organised militias in the Middle East.

What are their goals?

To create a single politically and religiously united Islamic empire and to erradicate any non Arab, non Sunni-Muslim ethnic minorities. This ethnic cleansing is the same goal as other Islamic Terrorist groups, but IS displays frighteningly astute strategic planning, organisation and direction.

In early 2013 they took control of the Syrian capital of Raqqa. In January this year they seized the Iraqi city of Fallujah near Baghdad and in June they took Mosul. It is in Mosul where, buffeted by civilians, the IS leadership is based. They are reportedly running religious schools, bakeries and power plants, as well as continuing their overseas outreach operations and fighting their opponents on various fronts.

iraq map

 

They apparently rule their occupied territories with extreme brutality and train their recruits with terrifying efficiency. And just to add to the general violence, other rebel Jihadist groups are getting pissed off by them and rebel in-fighting has resulted in thousands of deaths.

What happened with the Yazidis?

One of the more recent (and ongoing) IS horrors was the targeted attacks on the Yazidis. They are a secretive Kurdish ethno-religious community based in Northern Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Their religion is ancient and a birthright (meaning you can’t convert to it), It involves the worship of a “Peacock Angel” who is capable of both right and wrong and has been likened to Satan by Islamic communities. This perceived Satan worship has lead to centuries of Yazidi persecution.

Displaced Yazidis. Look at that poor family. My kids grizzle if they don't get a snack on a ten minute car trip.

Displaced Yazidis.

In August this year, IS took it upon themselves – as part of their ‘purification’ regime – to invade the regions occupied by Yazidis and threaten them with execution if they refused to convert. Around 200,000 Iraqis – including 40,000 to 50,000 Yazidis – fled into the mountains, bound for Iraqi Kurdistan. On Mt Sinjar, they were surrounded by IS forces and faced dehydration if they stayed, execution if they left.

Many Yazidis escaped with assistance from US air strikes and Kurdish fighters, but hundreds – perhaps thousands of Yazidis are believed to have been killed, many more – up to 5,000 not strong enough to escape – are evidently still on the mountain.

How is IS funded?

During their rampages, IS have taken control of oil fields and have robbed banks and as a result have an alleged stock pile of $2 billion. Fark, those cockheads could get seriously nuclear with that kind of dough.

What is being done?

When the Yazidi plight hit the public conscience, Barrack Obama ordered targeted air strikes designed – so he said – to protect US forces as they brought in humanitarian aid (food and water) to those poor people under siege. These air strikes, along with help on the ground from Iraqi and Syrian Kurds – allowed the majority of refugees to escape. On the 14th of August, Obama declared the siege broken, but many were not saved.

Meanwhile, IS took a blatant swing at the US by releasing a video of American journalist James Foley being beheaded by an IS terrorist with an English accent. More recently they have released pictures of what they claim to be the execution of 200 or so Syrian soldiers following the capture of a key military air base.

The UN is making calls of war crimes (no kidding) and every western country is on high alert for IS recruits coming and going. Reports say there are up to 60 Australians identified as fighting for IS in Iraq and Syria. Anti-terrorist enforcement will increase, particularly in our airports.

The US has commenced air strikes on IS fighters near the Shiite town of Amerli where the besieged population is mostly minority ethnic Turkmen. Obama has authorised further, broader strikes while France, Britain and Australia have sent in planes delivering aid to civilians and weapons to Kurdish fighters.

At this stage, Tony Abbott says we will not be sending ground troops but there is the possibility we will send some elite SAS (Special Air Service) forces, as well as further humanitarian aid.

My thoughts

It’s the overseas recruitment factor that makes this whole bloody mess extra unsettling. And the religious schools run by IS – they are educating people with their same horrible beliefs and methodologies. We should be running schools too – for young Muslims who might otherwise be on the path of extremism, jihadism or terrorism.

We can blow the bejesus out of these dickheads and involve the whole world in war (and I sort of think we should give this a red hot crack too) but ultimately it will not stop them. They will only stop when the brainwashing stops. For as long as these jihadists believe that Jihad is something and virgins are awaiting them if they kill people and wipe out other religions, their evil will not be stopped. Jihad and evil-extreme Islamic beliefs need to be rendered uncool to young Muslims – we HAVE to get in early and teach teach teach, preferably using teachers who are normal, nice, peace loving Muslims who understand and love Allah without feeling the need to kill for him.

In the meantime, where’s James Bond when you need him? This shadowy Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi fella has $10 million on his head. Imagine what you could do with $10 million? Ready set go.

NB (whatever that stands for): Here’s some stuff about Islam (in case you need to brush up) and some more stuff about Civil Liberty.

Catch Up On: THE WORLD NEWS – Part 1: Ukraine

In the last few months the news has got so nasty and my sensitivities so raw that just a glance at the news headlines made my eyes smart. I’ve had to switch to waterproof mascara and in lieu of the foetal position take time out in book shops, which sends me briefly to other nicer worlds. I bought two really good escapy books* and read them instead of the newspapers. Newspapers just had me feeling all cold war-ish like it was 1985.

But then there was the impossible to ignore news that Robin Williams chose to opt out. This just added confusion to the mess because he was always a reliable ray of light. “If he can’t laugh anymore, what hope is there for the rest of us?” thought I, as my waterproof mascara ran.

Anyway, I can’t live in nowhere-land forever, and figuring that there’s nothing like a smack of harsh reality to up the gratitude and stop the inner whinge, I thought I should ditch the blinkers. So I have set about to finally catch up on the news (some of it now olds) and share my findings with you in case you are equally emotionally bewildered.

I got so behind that I’ve had to break it up into installments so that I’m not posting one enormous slug of bad news all at once and lose you at hello. So I will bring you four world news installments this week, which I’m afraid makes it a bit of a bad news week. BUT, at the end, in a very special fifth installment I will bring you some GOOD NEWS. Yipee.

So here we go, emerging from the emotional bewilderness with Part One…

CRIMEA GETS MANHANDLED BY RUSSIA AND PUTIN IS A COCKHEAD

 

ukraine

Quick background

Ukraine was part of Russia until 1991, when it gained independence and became a (corruption riddled) democracy with a crappy economy, with a population divided between those who believed Ukraine to be part of Europe and those who believed it is a part of Russia.

Please note: we no longer refer to it as The Ukraine, just Ukraine, as ‘The’ tends to indicate a region as opposed to a country, just to be clear.

The Current Crisis

I briefly outlined this at the beginning of this year but let me repeat myself in case you were among the almost 7 billion people who missed that particular post and need to start from the beginning of the chaos:

(In late 2013) Ukraine was on the verge of signing a trade and political agreement with the European Union, a move that would seem to make good economic sense. But increasing pressure from the Kremlin in Moscow (Ukraine’s former ruling centre) in the form of trade sanctions and other political moves caused the Ukraine government (lead by President Viktor Yanukovych) to turn their back on the EU agreement. Instead it was announced that Ukraine would engage in new partnerships with a competing trade bloc of former Soviet states.

European leaders got suitably crapped off and several hundred protesters gathered in Independence Square in Kiev. Carrying European flags, they chanted, “Ukraine is Europe!”. (This was the first of the “Euromaidan protests”). She was on.

Kiev (wonder if there are any chickens in there). (Photo taken without permission from AlJazeera)

Kiev (wonder if there are any chickens in there). Photo taken without permission from AlJazeera.

Just after I wrote this post, Yanukovych was run out of the country by pro-West protesters and Vladimir Putin (the peculiarly pointy, paranoid and pervy president of Russia) reacted by invading and taking over the Ukrainian region of Crimea, a peninsula in the Black Sea that has long been fought over for its strategic importance.

As Putin reportedly sees it, Crimea is rightfully and historically part of Russia and has been liberated from Ukraine. He evidently feels threatened by the ‘westification’ (my word, not his) of Russia and longs for the old days when Russia was grand and golden. At least, that’s the ideology that seems to be working for him and he’s evidently going to run with it.

Meanwhile in Eastern Ukraine, pro-Russian separatists grew increasingly narky with the Ukraine Government and Ukraine’s divide grew deeper still. Crimean people – in a distinctly fishy smelling pressure cooker election controlled by Russian forces – voted overwhelmingly for their region to become part of Russia. Putin got what he wanted – a strategically important piece of land and the deluded satisfaction that he has saved a bit of his country from the “Evil West”.

Given that he has fabricated and propagated the message that the West is a looming threat to Russia, Putin’s takeover of Crimea met with delight among the Russian people and increased his popularity. It probably isn’t too hard to win over the Russian public either given their general state of dissatisfaction as well as becoming leader on the heels of that embarrassing alcoholic Boris Yeltsin. Putin has discovered that his bad tempered, bully style leadership translates into protectiveness in the minds of the Russians and has hence been lauded and encouraged. This may explain those seemingly out-of-nowhere public warnings he has sent toward the west about the strength of his nuclear power (the stuff that sends me into nuclear winter nightmares).

The west responded to the Crimean take over by slapping some trade sanctions on Russia. Tensions between the west and Russia hit a serious low, exacerbated by the shooting down of Malaysian Flight MH17 over Ukraine in July, killing all 298 people on board. Russian-backed separatists initially claimed responsibility and then retracted it. Evidence points directly at them, yet Putin is pointing the finger at the Ukrainian Gvernment. The crash site is still under investigation and the bodies still being retrieved and identified.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Government ignored the Pro-Russian rebel’s calls for a ceasefire and pummeled the bejesus out of them. Russia sent a convoy of trucks on an aid mission into the Crimea, which reportedly ended up being a fake gesture of Putin goodwill for the sake of the west – the trucks were empty. Last week,  Putin and the current Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko shook hands and said they were beginning talks. Ah the old talks eh? Another ruse by Vlad Putin to make the UN believe he is making an effort it seems, because this week, it’s looking more and more like full scale war between Ukraine and Russia. The UN has imposed a few more sanctions on Russia but they haven’t seemed to have any effect on The Poot. He’s just enjoying having his ego inflated every time he says something threatening. This is what makes him so dangerous.  Eeeek, let’s hope it keeps inflating until he self destructs.

Conclusion: This piece of writing is clearly biased and suspicious but frankly there’s kind of no other tone I can use. I have long held the belief that Putin is an evil sonofabitch  more than capable of pushing the red button and blowing stuff up on a large scale. He will go down in history as one of the great villains and could easily be the source of my cold war. Creepy, egotistical little man with Surely Small Doodle.

Pervy Putin with one of his stock "I love myself" expressions. He has a few.

Pervy Putin with one of his stock “I love myself” expressions. He has a few.

Rest in Peace MH17 passengers and may their families carry on in peace.

* “Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend” by Matthew Dicks and “Longbourn” by Jo Baker. Loved both.

I DON’T KNOW

There is so much bad news. I’ve not commented on much of it because frankly I’ve been suffering from a case of can’t-stomach-it-head-in-sandness. I’ve been feeling a bit over-sensitive lately, I’m not totally sure why – overtired? Hormonal? Seasonally Affected (bloody Tassie winters)? Bad news burnout? All of the above?

I know – poor me, call the waaaambulance. First world problems.

I decided, when I teared up while watching The Bachelor last week, that it was time to pop my head out of the sand, smack it around a bit and start paying attention. I was hopeful it might snap me out of my precious phase via a great wallop of appreciation and gratitude for what I have (and the nasties I haven’t).

It has, it’s made me hug my children more, be in my moments and feel thankful. But my heart is still heavy and I feel that sort of grateful-lucky-guilt. By some random lottery I am here beside my warm fire with a cup of milo while others are scared or cold or lost of sick or wounded or hungry or dead. Or worse, full of hatred.

I will report my findings to you in the next few days but in the midst of it I felt compelled to write a melancholy little poem. Sorry to spread my mood, I am immersed in ebola and war and rioting. Tomorrow the sun will be shining and I will do something more useful about it all – in some ocean droppish way. But for now, I am compelled to write this:

I know where the socks go -

They’re in the fitted sheets.

I know where all the good men are –

They’re out checking the sheep.

I know how to hide veggies in the bolognaise

I know how to cut ribbon so it will never fray.

~

I know how it feels to wish

For something you can’t have,

A perfect nose, a Porsche, a first

Class seat, a Prada bag.

I know the pain of traffic jams when you are really late.

Or when you have a pimple, a cracked heel, an awkward date.

~

I know how it feels when your

Kids won’t eat their greens

Or when you shrink your cardie,

Dent cars or split your jeans.

I know how it is to hate your hair or bang your head,

And the total utter horror of a spider in your bed.

~

But I don’t know, I don’t know

What to do for you

I don’t know how to make you safe

And I cannot undo

The pain, the loss, the hatred,

Or how to stop the wars,

I only know these little things

That are no use at all.

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.

 

 

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