I saw some teenagers being cruel to a woman in the street. They made horrible comments, laughed and jeered and then turned away without a second thought.
She was middle aged, wearing a gold bomber jacket and her hair was a brilliant who-gives-a-fuck orange frizz. She was shorter than my ten year olds and her hands were clenched in little angry fists. But her face betrayed a dismay and embarrassment she clearly wished she didn’t feel. I went hot with shame and anger. I glared at the teenagers. They looked right through me. Me with my regulation jeans and straight brown hair. The woman walked on, trying not to quicken her pace.
I should have told the selfish little bastards their fortune. I was not brave enough. I’m only brave in hindsight, with a keyboard and anonymity between us. Which is not brave at all.
I saw more selfish little bastards on that bullying show on the telly the other night. The one with Thorpie being sort of I don’t know, not feckless, but benign. Unsurprised.
Then I read a bit about the war-induced famines in Africa and I heard the London terror news and I wondered about everybody’s fortune and how there is unkindness all over the place and people not being brave and everyone wondering whether it’s wise to take their families overseas or on a plane or to a crowded place. So they end up staying home with their screens until self absorption and entitlement and being selfish little bastards is the new normal.
I was in London on July 7th 2005, the day of the bombings that killed 56 people. I was in Melbourne’s Bourke Street Mall exactly twenty-four hours before that maniac fuckhead drove his car through there and killed 6. Yesterday I over reacted when my daughter handed out a mild measure of unkindness to her sister. “Kindness,” I said, in a blustery voice verging on shrill, “Is the most important thing.”
Sometimes in those worked-up hours of a sleepless night, I wonder at the wisdom of bringing children into a world I can’t properly equip them for. I’m the one that feels feckless. Lord knows the world needs a bit more feck (except I just looked up ‘feck’ and it doesn’t exist as a trait; you can’t be or have any feck, you can only be feck-less, which is a bad sign). I might just make it a thing; feck as a trait, not just a Gaelic-ish expletive. Let’s be feckless no more. And let’s cheer the feck up whicle we’re at it.
So here we go, some nice things to shove in our earholes and yell la-la-la-la:
1. Those murmuration things that starlings do. How lovely they are. Quietly, simply and beautifully astonishing. They look as though they are one enormous, magnificent creature, and actually they are! (I am sparing with exclamation marks but one really belongs there). Scientists have found that when a flock of starlings turn in unison, it is a phase transition which is brainy talk meaning that each bird is connected to their neighbour by a physical awareness that has them poised to transition at a millisecond’s notice. And here’s the truly great thing about murmurations – how one bird manages a simultaneous transition with another bird waaay over on the other side of the flock, is still a mystery and could hint at unknown universal principles. Ooh I love a bit of unknown. Perhaps herein lies the key to universal kindness?
2. A malaria vaccine has been developed by some brainy people from Queensland. Scientists all over the world have been trying to do this for years. Malaria kills about 400,000 people each year, mostly in Africa, most of them children. The new vaccination is now being trialed successfully on humans and is expected to wallop that nasty mosquito-borne parasite in the nuts in the next five to ten years. Yays!
3. It’s not cool to like singer-songwriters who win those television talent shows, but this little girl is so likable and clever and spirit-lifting that you’d have to be an old grinch to not see something shiny in her. Grace Vanderwaal, she’s only 13 and she has a unique voice, a gorgeous presence and an EP called Perfectly Imperfect. Cheer for your ears.
4. Gin might be good for you! In the Middle Ages, it was used as a herbal medicine. Juniper berries has been described as a ‘superfood’ because they can apparently help fight infection and prevent heart disease, they can also keep your skin glowing, flush out your kidneys and stop your joints aching. Hmm, I’d take all this with a grain of salt. Actually fuckit, I’m running with it, and salt’s for tequila, I’ll take mine with lemon and tonic thank you. (NB I must be a responsible blogger and say drink sensibly, your skin won’t glow and your kidneys won’t be flushing anything if you overdo the Tanqueray).
5. My local agricultural show is the Bream Creek Show. Every year my local community band together and work like billy-o to make it happen, and every year I am astounded by the level of commitment and dedication everyone displays. These little country shows happen all over the place every year and despite being squeezed by the demands of risk assessments, safety regulations and insurance costs, not to mention everyone being very time poor and more interested in reality telly than fleece microns and sponge cakes, it comes together every year. And every year, I see people flocking to our town, we show them stuff, everyone has a lovely time and at the end of the day I get to watch my friends and neighbours friends dance on a cloud of solidarity and we-did-it-well-done-us. So go to a show (there is more on show than baby animals) or better still, help one happen. You might get your name called over the PA for coming second in the scarecrow comp and even if you don’t, it’ll restore your faith in community.
6. Wisteria. The blue one especially but the pink one is nice too. There’s one at my family home that’s about a century old. I planted one here yesterday. I hope it takes to the fence and grows and grows and lasts a century or more.
7. Blueberries. I’m eating them by the bucket-load before they go out of season. If I got invited to a party and had to dress up as something that makes you happy, I’d go as a blueberry.
8. Our dog. He’s the best. He can gently nibble the sock from your foot and will politely leave the room if my husband and I decide to have a little snog on the couch. He hates exercise (dog not husband). When I get his lead out he either hides around the corner of the house or lies down and pretends to be very ill. He makes me smile everyday (so does husband of course, most days).
9. When your son forgets he’s ten and skips along holding your hand. I try so hard not to make a thing of it in case he remembers and gets all cool again. Skippy hand holding days are very precious things.
10. My guitar. I’m hopeless at playing it and it probably wants to shout, For God’s sake Meg can you learn something new and leave my G-chord alone, it’s wearing out! But I love it. I can drown out all sorts of things with it. And if I don’t have the time to play it, just looking at it cheers me up. If you haven’t got an instrument, I highly recommend you get one. A flute would look lovely on the mantelpiece. Or a bugle on the wall. Bugles are best left on the wall though, unless you know your way around a bugle. “Know your way around a bugle” is not an expression I thought I’d ever use.
And there we go. Ten things to cheer us up. For feck’s sake.