Some small and slightly irritating things that have been zinging around in my brain for a while that I just felt like organising and putting to bed. A lot like my children actually.
1) The Country Wave
This is what people do in the country when they drive past you, and they are powerful little gestures. Twice a week I walk 7 km around my district and I see an average of 10 versions of the country wave each time. They vary from a barely tangible index finger lift to an overzealous hand flap to an uber cool peace sign. Then there’s the well meaning but slightly creepy dude who stops EVERY time and says, “You exercising or you need a lift love?”. Seriously, I’ve been ‘walking the block’ for 10 years now and it’s not like I’m uncomfortably clipping up the hill in heels. Anyway, the wave…there’s the woman who waves in a kind of dismissive, pissed off way that made me sweat over whether I’d done something to offend her until she told me she can’t see very well and never knows she’s waving at. Now when she drives past I have the urge to moon her, just because I can. There’s the perky ‘beep-beep’ wave, which is the one embellished with a bit of car horn tapping – designed to add cheeriness but which invariably scares the crap out of me so that I shoot the cheery person an involuntary WTF face which makes me look not nice.
And there’s the wave from the teenager who drives like a maniac and once ran into your letterbox but never owned up. That’s an, “I know you know but I’m pretending not to give a shit” wave. I don’t wave back to him. Dickhead. Then there’s the father-in-law wave, the one where you’re thinking, “if you stop and chat you’ll ask me how much rain we’ve had and I’ll compliment you on your tomatoes and snigger inappropriately and you’ll think I’m a weird addition to the family”, and there’s a faltery wavey moment that most often ends in him driving on.
Sometimes there’s a wave that just makes you feel good about living in a place where everyone knows everyone, like someone you don’t know really well but you think you will and she’ll probably be a great friend one day. Those waves warm my heart.
And there’s the spousal wave, which is when my husband drives past me. This is potentially the most awkward of all, made easier if there’s some practical bit of information to pass on like, “are you going to the post office today?” or, “the dog shat in the laundry”. But if he just drives past, am I supposed to blow a kiss, give him a cutsie toodle-do wave? Or do I act all nonchalant and just nod? Once I gave him the bird, meaning to be funny but then felt bad for the rest of the way. Another time, early on in the piece, he didn’t wave at all. I spent the next few hours thinking he didn’t like me anymore and there’s probably a divorce on the cards. Then there are the blushy, we had great sex last night and I haven’t seen you since waves. Those ones make me feel like a silly teenager and they are by far the best. Especially if the lead up to said wave is drawn out by the fact that he is driving the tractor with the feed mixer on the back and takes long enough to pass to make actual butterflies happen in my stomach.
Oh the joys of the country.
I really love the idea of ghosts. I think people not quite getting to the other side for mysterious reasons that could involve revenge or unrequited love or that someone won’t let them go is just beautiful. I want an encounter so badly but I’ve never had one and am told (by a ghost tour guide at Port Arthur) that they won’t appear to you if you try too hard. So please share your ghost stories with me because on account of being a supernatural try hard I can’t have one of my own. I won’t think you’re weird. Well I might a little bit, but I so want to be convinced. I think I’d like to be a ghost when I’m gone just for the romance of it. And so I can haunt the guy who smashed our letterbox. But you never hear of ghosts being ghosts because they want to be, do you? I think I’ll be The Woman in Blue, because it’s my favourite colour.
4) Fire and War
On reflection, almost 6 months post bushfires that devastated bits of my community, I think I have had a very small taste of what it would be like to be at war.
On the 3rd of January this year, my children and I were evacuated by boat to escape the wrath of an approaching enemy. My husband kissed us goodbye and went back to fight. For a while we watched helplessly as much of our district succumbed to the enemy’s enormous fire power. We saw things explode and houses burn. Intermittent radio contact told us that people were fleeing for their lives. No one knew for sure where anyone was, everyone was forced to adapt to new situations – limited food, shared shelter, constant threat of violent flare ups. For two days my sister in law and I had no contact from our husbands and while we knew they’d be on the front line, we didn’t know if they were safe. When they did show up, blackened, battle weary and ravenous, there was a renewed sense of how nice it is to have them around.
Everyone fell pretty naturally into gender roles. Those women with small children dutifully got out of the firing line, washed clothes in limited water, and bodies in salt, made meals from whatever there was at hand and protected the children from worry or trauma or negative thoughts. Meantime, the blokes geared up their hydo weaponry and went on patrol. They strategised, risked themselves for the sake of defence and if they needed to, fought the enemy with bear hands. Some surrendered within moments of certain injury. One man, cut off from his family and told he couldn’t return, walked for two days, swam across a river and fought for other people’s property as he went. They weren’t thrill seeking, they weren’t trying to be heroes, they were fulfilling the basic instinct to serve and protect. My sixteen year old nephew, strong and fit and on the cusp of manhood, was like a caged beast in our beach shack. All he wanted was to be fighting beside his dad but was told he needed to stay and help us get out if the enemy came from behind. I know how frustrated he was because I felt a semblance of it too. It’s a necessary, helpless thing being the women and children.
I’m not trying to over-dramatise the situation, but the wartime mobilisation of courage, adaptation and the sense of duty really do kick in when things reach a state of emergency. And it highlights the strength of people during extended periods of war. We saw no loss of life, there was no blame, no human fury behind the violence and we knew it would end. It was a five day war, not five years.
In the aftermath, when our firey enemy was finally quelled and banished by changed weather, there was the recovery effort. People everywhere abandoned daily lives to help. Children, usually structured into holiday routines, had to help too, or amuse themselves. Now, 6 months down the track, while new houses begin to appear, our community is still being monitored and advised on emotional recovery and our spare time still taken up by recovery in some form. Still for many, this kind of media coverage is still to hard to bear.
It’s no wonder returned servicemen have struggles, no wonder the post war years were for many a period of not knowing quite how to feel. We should be making a song and dance on ANZAC and Remembrance days, not to glorify war but to herald the unique human spirit – so enduring and strong but on the other hand so very fragile.
On a lighter note, I recently began a weekly zumba class. For those who don’t know, Zumba is a high energy exercise class disguised as dancing. Or if you’re like me, it’s exercise disguised as dancing disguised as a series of faltering movements involving lifting, shaking and shimmying various body parts. My first class was a whole lot of sweaty confusion and mortification. I only attended a second time because I hate letting something beat me and this time I found I could keep up for at least some of it. By the fourth class I was feeling the love baby and I’d bought myself a stretchified gym singlet that, when coupled with some salsa hip action and a bit of boob wobbling had me feeling like some kind of sex goddess. I took an admiring glance down at my own buffed, lythe, dancing-with-the-stars-style body and realised I was more like a stick insect attempting a vibraty love dance that sees the stick insect fella retreat into his leaf cave. My dreams of becoming a super confident, sing into the mouthpiece in between yeeha’s zumba instructor were dashed. And now we have a new instructor with a whole new repertoire and I’m back at the back of the class in my holey t-shirt.
Thinking of signing up for the boxing class instead. I reckon there’s a featherweight inside me just dying to be unleashed.
6) Modern Architecture
Since the completion of the new Menzies Research Institute in Hobart, I have felt a bit bee-in-bonnety every time I drive into town. Entry to the city from the Eastern Shore means that you are obliged to (most often) stop at a red light and gaze upon this imposing new structure. And is it just me or are our developers and red tape cutters Very Hard of Seeing? I must first say that the work of the Menzies Research Institute is an incredible and important asset to our state. What can be more important than medical research? So with that said, I can move on to getting all, What the fuck? Those buildings could well be behind the need for more research into cures for eye soreage because holy hell they make me squint. Yes I know they are modern and cutting edge (in fact one of them looks like you’d cut yourself on it if you were to lean on its walls), but they are also FUGLY and, with the hideous purple robot that is Fountainside Hotel nearby, are just a big expensive nose piercing on the face of historic, genteel old Hobart. Has anyone noticed that one prominent feature looks like a great big de-hissed wound. Or is that deliberate? If so, that’s even worse.
And before anyone goes down the, “Architecture must reflect its era,” well what’s wrong with revisiting some old classics? Fashion does
it all the time with fabulous results. Vintage is all the rage. No one looks at the Hobart Grand Chancellor building now and says, “What a fabulous reflection of 80’s tastes, right here on our beautiful waterfront”. I ball up Menzies, Federation square style architectural showoffy-ness and counter “architectural triumph” with “abomination”.
I read some poetry the other day. I didn’t wander off into the meadows in a long dress and hat like the lady in the flake ad (who remembers her – “no other chocolate looks like flake looks…”) with my weighty tome of Shelley et al and recite verse to the air. No I consulted an old poetry book because I was stuck in a metre rut and needed to find some new word rhythms, and ended up reading it for ages. It is a sad fact that most people don’t have time for poetry anymore, but it can be a truly wonderful escape, as good as trash fiction. Some is far too cryptic and weirdy for my brain, but much of it is beautiful, poignant and very very clever. Have another look – I’ll bet there are many who haven’t read poetry since school days, and very few who paid attention even then.
Here are two poems I recommend as a starting point:
- Sarah Day (who happens to live up the road from me) has written this lovely one amongst many: Hen’s.
- Simon Armitage’s You’re Beutiful
And here’s one by me:
I wish I were a poet,
I think they’re very nice.
I don’t think they’d get shouty
Or mood swingy or kill mice.
If I were a poet
They’d be music in the whines
I’d be in the moment
And I could think of better rhymes.
If I were a poet
There’d be beauty in the mess.
I’d want to play with play dough
And learn to want much less.
If I were a poet
I’d be such a patient soul
A sanctuary for children
Not a haggard, grumpy mole.
I wish I were a poet,
They see so wonderfully:
The spirit in the naughty,
The perfume in the wee.
But I am not a poet
And I have things to do.
The washing’s in the basket
And the baby’s done a poo.