The Pits (part 1)

Perhaps Im being deliberately obtuse, or maybe the Universe is miming it’s fatalistic messages, but whatever’s happening, I’m just not getting it.

I was more or less used to the dark pit of self pity I’d find myself in every few months. This pattern has been part of my life for more years than I can recall. After the latest milestone birthday however, my time in the dark pits was becoming as frequent as a Durham coal miner.

Just happy the canary is still alive

Just happy the canary is still alive

Taking myself off to the GP for some lady bit maintenance, I extended the appointment time to discuss my current funk. The doctor asked a few rudimentary questions and I answered in the bullet point manner one can recount a frequently told story. Nevertheless, her initially dismissive “yes, we can all talk about how ghastly our mother’s were” attitude was quickly replaced with, “how do you feel about seeing a psychiatrist?”

Since my thirties, each decade has seen its quota of counselling. There have been psychologists from various schools of psycho-analysis, Reiki Masters, meditation classes, psychics and network chiropractors.

Most of them provided mental health Paracetomol; that is to say, there was some temporary relief and vague optimism. I’d abandon counsellors when I realised I was rolling my eyes and mentally urging them to get to the point. My inner dialogue was a smart arse teenager.

I left the GP with the promise of a referral to “someone appropriate’” and went on my not so merry way. A couple of weeks later came confirmation of a robust cervix but no referral. Apparently the search for ‘“someone appropriate” was proving to be quite the conundrum.

Another month passed and I called the surgery again.

“Oh hi, we were just talking about you!”

Really? [I thought] Run out of copies of New Weekly, have we?

“Just this morning the doctor was telling us that she thought she’d found the right person for you.”

Again. Really? Um, why exactly is the doctor workshopping this with the reception staff?

“But it turns out they weren’t appropriate.”

WTF?! I’m sorry, but once more, REALLY?! You mean to tell me that there is NO ONE ‘appropriate’ in this entire city of 4.4 million people? 

“We’ll let you know when she’s found someone. Have great day!”

FUCK YOU THANK YOU.

Things took a turn for the weird when my Aunt Gerry, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer the previous year, went from apparent remission to deaths door. It was all shockingly accelerated .

There she was, one Saturday beating my highly competitive Biomum at scrabble, downloading useful iPhone apps, and drinking white wine with old mates, to being carted off to Cabrini Hospital. Despite the blinding headache she managed a limp royal wave from the back of the ambulance.

Biomum showed me the palliative care facility brochure with all the upbeat manner of someone looking into a Broadbeach time share. Faced with losing her sister and best friend, she was walking denial.

“They say that fifty percent of patients all end up back at home again.”

No, they really don’t. 

The next day she called me to say that my Aunt would not last the weekend. I drove to the hospital with a ball of anxiety lodged in my chest.

All those years ago when biomum had bolted there were a number of familial casualties – my aunt among them. For three years before he remarried, my dad would grudgingly make the annual pilgrimage to Northwest Victoria for my brother and I to see her. Gerry was fabulous – funny, loud, energetic and attractive; leaving her a week later was always a wrench. Three years later all contact was cut off with no explanation.

An imaginary fug of malady clung to the elevator interior as I made my way to the fourth floor oncology ward. I recited the room number in my head as I read the lintels above each doorway. Her son sat by the window, her daughter spoke quietly with a nurse and my mother wrung her hands in the doorway. Gerry’s features were bloated, her dental plate removed to reveal gaps in her slack mouth, her hair had begun to grow back and was plastered to her head in sweaty whorls; the bright scarves and turbans abandoned. I’d never seen her without make-up before.

I took her hand and announced myself. Her eyes, milky blue and filmed, fluttered open and remained so as I spoke. My mind was a maelstrom of fear and regret. I opened my mouth and out it all tumbled; incoherent, rambling, stream of consciousness – part plaintive confession, part goodbye. All the while my aunt levelled her unseeing gaze at me, straining with the effort to focus.

That night I went to bed and read, but the words blurred before my sand blasted eyeballs. I hit the pillow at midnight, convinced I’d sleep from sheer emotional exhaustion.

And then weird shit happened.

My body felt electric. There was a buzzing sensation coursing through me and my heart began to race. I’d had palpitations before, stress induced and haphazard, but this was different. I dismissed the thought I was having a heart attack and resisted the urge to wake spouse. With my inner monologue dialled up to hyper chat I ran through the possibilities:

  • Is it possible Gerry is experiencing this right now too?
  • I’m panicking, but I have nothing to really panic about.
  • No, I’m not panicking, I’m kind of terrified.
  • My eyes are closed, but there is light in my head.
  • When I open my eyes, it’s dark.
  • Is this what a break down feels like?
  • My heart is galloping.

While I was thinking all this, I was palpating my carotid artery which was pounding like a drum. it seemed to last an eternity. I gave myself up to whatever was happening and then just as suddenly as it began, it ceased and I immediately slept – a dreamless, heavy sleep.

I woke, it was my birthday. Sitting up in bed surrounded by gift wrapping and cards I answered my phone.

birthday cat

“Hello darling happy birthday Gerry died *beat * that’s right darling, she died on your birthday. The nurse says it happened at 12.30am, she was alone.”

So that was odd.

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The Pits (Part 2)

The following weekend I was powering around Albert park lake with my BFF recounting this odd and unprecedented occurrence. Further to the spiritual energy exchange  was the realisation that I was just treading water in my own life. I had no direction and no obvious purpose. This was an incredibly deep conversation for 8am on a Saturday before coffee.

My BFF took it in her constitutional stride and suggested that I take this up with her tarot reader.

The tarot reader, it emerged, was not actually my friends personal Astrologer, but rather a wee little business under a staircase at the South Melbourne market. I reluctantly decided to combine the necessary purchase of cheese with a reading.

Behind the curtained doorway there were no pentacles or amulets.  Our Tarot reader looked for all the world like an accountant from H&R Block with her blonde bob and charcoal jacket. She was fiddling with an iPhone rather than hunched over a crystal ball.

I see a great financial future in your cards

I see a great financial future in your cards

We exchanged the usual introductory pleasantries and she explained the nature of tarot. She was merely a vehicle to interpret the information provided by my spirit guide, who was sitting in the empty chair between us. I nodded to him/her and resisted the urge to shake an invisible hand.

The cards shuffled, cut and laid out, I watched her pondering the psychic picture before her. She nodded and murmured away quietly to herself, ‘Mmm, that’s good. Yes, that’s all fine. Good,’ until she reached the last card.

All the while I was looking about the tiny space trying to avoid eye contact with my spirit guide and wondering what sort of cheese I would buy.

Sweet dreams are made of cheese

Sweet dreams are made of cheese

After a prolonged spate of head shaking, she asked me a series of rapid fire and disparate questions.

“So, are you looking for another job at the moment?”

I’m always on the look out for another job, but no, not specifically now”

“Are you happy in your relationship?”

Extremely”

“Children all good? No issues?”

Nope. Not that I’m aware of”

She was becoming increasingly flustered with my answers and finally exclaimed,

“Look, I can’t read this! Everything is fine. All your cards are great. Your life looks fine”

And this is bad because…?”

“It’s this last card. It doesn’t make sense given your other cards.”

“You’re probably going to have to give me more information

“It’s the end. You can’t go further. There is nothing beyond this.”

Right then I was thinking my spirit guide was a bit of a dick and I was terminal. I was also far less interested in what cheese I should purchase.

Despite my immediate preoccupation with choosing suitable funeral music and recruiting someone to deliver a cracker eulogy, I obliged the frazzled tarot reader by re-shuffling in a bid to explain the fatalistic card.

“Do you have any unresolved childhood trauma?”

Yep.”

“Have you spoken to any counsellors or are you looking to do so?”

I’m looking for someone appropriate”

She wrote down the number of a ‘brilliant man”, a jungian therapist that had changed her life. Dr Barnaby Buttface* had, through the power of dream analysis, shown her that despite ten years as a clinical psychologist, her true career goal lay in the occult. She’d never been happier.

A week later I was parked out the front of a Soviet looking block of flats in Armadale ready to discuss a bunch of dreams. Dr Buttface buzzed me inside the grotty dark lobby which looked more dealing than healing.

I followed the good doctor’s Kill Bill whistling to the third floor where he stood waiting for me in an open doorway. His office was a pre-perestroika flat with a dead bolt on the inside. I sat on an unsprung black vinyl club chair facing Dr Buttface, who in the unflatteringly light of an exposed electric light bulb, looked about 89 years old.

In a raspy smokers voice, he asked all the usual questions and I wondered if my initial response to him – i.e he’s a serial killer – may have been prematurely censorious.

We eventually got onto discussing my offspring, D1 and D2. Touching on D1’s predilection for boys of exotically mixed parentage, he began offering up Jungian reasons for women being attracted to people outside their race, citing the White Masai story from the early 2000’s. I told him that the only concern I had for her would be that whomever she ended up with, be they black, brown, white or green, share her personal values. I added that I would be very happy to have a beautiful coffee coloured grandchild, to which he replied that it depended just how strong the coffee was.

I wondered if I’d heard correctly.

We then got onto D2 and her current transatlantic relationship with a woman. Buttface once again offered up a Jungian explanation for her sexuality and began attributing ‘blame’ and possible ‘cures’. Waiving aside my protests that the child did not require curing, he sagely intoned that had I come to him with a strep throat, he would prescribe the appropriate antibiotic. He was actually aligning my gay daughter with an infection and accusing me of being unnecessarily PC by arguing with him.

Unsurprisingly, I felt zero compunction to continue with Dr Buttface, although I was a little disappointed not to rehash my dreams.

I was feeling psychiatrically rejected. The GP was incapable of matching my particular brand of nuts with an appropriate therapist and, it turned out, tarot readers don’t make reliable referees.

I was less depressed than annoyed.

Fortunately a combination of friends, wine, dog memes and a week in Fiji with spouse has for now, if not exactly assuaged this latest round, certainly diverted it.

And there’s always a story.

*********

*not his real name, but close and accurate.

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Excel-ing

I am a Goldfish.

Sorry? have we met?

Sorry? have we met?

Vampire sentences vanish in the grey of dawn’s light. All my Man Booker prize worthy sentences that manifest  in the shower wash away with paraben free soap bubbles. I transcribe witty exchanges of dialogue onto business cards with a staccato pen. Hours later the words are illegible, nonsensical.

I roll phrases around my tongue like tic tacs, repeating them aloud over and over. Their worth is certain. But these ghostlike sentences are vaporous. They vanish into thin air leaving a frustrated aftertaste.

So that’s annoying, right?

Meanwhile it’s time for the annual directive from above. No, not God, she’s less communicative, head office. This lengthy emailed missive begins with an upbeat summary of the previous year. Double digit growth, a broadening independent base, solid gains and solid platforms.

I’m feeling anything but solid.

Budgets have been set and potential business identified on the world’s most complicated Excel spreadsheet. It’s the kind of spreadsheet that makes the synapses between my remaining brain cells implode. It cannot be printed out in a coherent form. There are so many headings, rows, columns and tabs that by the time I’m at the bottom, I’ve completely forgotten why I was there at all.

The National Sales Manager is mad for a spreadsheet. He is an Excel savant. As others turn to sudoku and cryptic crosswords, so he indulges in the mystical magic of numeric data forecasting and analysis.

This particular document does, however, appear to have been cobbled together from the Dead Sea Scrolls of previous contact lists. It’s possible some of them may still be in business. Wizened, wise and nostalgic for the days of the self winding Rolex Tudor Oyster.

rolex

I have been charged with reporting back on store level intelligence. A series of probing questions about our brands aimed at the managers.

I’ve been doing this a while now; levelling the odd casual question regarding display placement or best selling products to retail staff who, I can tell you, are only thinking about their next coffee break.

Cannot hear you over the screaming in my head. COFFEEEEEEE!

Cannot hear you over the screaming in my head. COFFEEEEEEE!

The new year manifesto includes a tacit suggestion that my failure to decimate and deliver this crucial information will result in the company’s ultimate downfall.

But no pressure.

So I’ve been on SEEK.com, you know, just checking things out and, I’m realising, once again, that my ad hoc approach to a career trajectory seems to be hampering the filtering system. I don’t fit into any boxes.

Where’s the category for experienced at life, able to spot a wanker at ten paces, appears smarter than actually is, able to string a reasonably coherent sentence together, loather of jargon, empathetic, can(not) leap tall buildings with a single bound?

Instead we have the sort of advertisements that read as follows:

Young start up seeks in-house writer to join the team. You are a radical, modern thinker with a wicked and off-beat sense of humour. You’ll thrive in our funky space with floor to floor slides and on-site gym. Utilise your exemplary Japanese language skills as you chat to our resident sushi chef. Create a bespoke office pod with our in house interior designer and master feng shui practioner. Join our Bollywood flash mob on the second friday of the month and then lounge at the kombucha bar for group chanting.

My first thought?  OH&S. Slide.

Requisite qualities for every position is dynamism, passion, sense of fun and energy. So. Much. Energy.

I need a lie down.

I'm out.

I’m out.

I will also defer to Urban dictionary to help pimp my vocabulary for the one to two minute video bio I’ll need to load onto YouTube or Vimeo. Something casual recorded in a graffiti covered CBD lane way. I’ll be drinking a teeny cup of Kenyan Wamuguma and wearing a vintage cardigan. With some judicious filtering, I can pull this off.

I can!

It’s time to recruit a Millennial mentor. Someone to point out that pen and paper, much like the abacus, has been well and truly replaced. Some digitally savvy Gen Y prepared to talk me through my fear of Siri so I can finally dictate my belletristic prose.

Other people's children

Other people’s children

My children just roll their eyes, so it will need to be someone else’s child.

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When the chips are down

Most days around this neighbourhood I am faced with the reality of my white middle class privilege. A nearby homeless shelter and our proximity to the city centre, means many of life’s less fortunate gather in the local shopping strip.

Being one of those disorganised daily food shoppers, I’ve worn a path from my front door to the supermarket meat fridge; with a regular bottle shop detour. On one of these recent hunt and gather expeditions, I passed a group of homeless men sitting on a bench outside  the local TAB. They were passing a drink can between them and soaking up the last amber rays of a mild January day.

They all looked up as I approached and one of them greeted me, “Gidday luv, how’r ya goin’?”

“I’m good thanks!” I replied, a little louder and cheerier than was strictly necessary.

A second one echoed with, “Hi luv, ya good?”

“Yep, I’m great thanks. How are you?”

I congratulated myself for participating in this civilised exchange.

Wasn’t that nice? Pleasantries with poor people? I feel so good about myself now.

As I crossed the road it occured to me that I needed to buy something for these friendly but disadvantaged gentlemen.

I needed to buy them potato chips.

Radiating bonhomie I swanned into the small supermarket and perused the snack food aisle. How happy these poor men will be when I bequeath my salty offerings.

...juste un soupçon de sel...

…juste un soupçon de sel…

I was less certain about these charity hor d’oeuvres when I found myself standing around the corner from the hapless homeless.

What on earth was I thinking? Chips? Even if they were ridiculously flavoured gourmet jobs, they were chips for god’s sake!

I sprinted back up the street clutching two shopping bags and silently cursing my idiocy. Half way up I stopped again and continued the inner monologue.

Ok, so perhaps chips are not an adequate demonstration of my empathy. Oh God, they are going to be so offended! I’m such a patronising person! I’ll just take them home. I’ll just walk in the other direction and go home with them. Done. Good. But hang on, everyone likes chips. Surely chips won’t offend? Who in the history of the world has taken offence to a chip? No one, that’s who. Right then, I’ll just take these bad boys back to them and hand them over. What’s the worst that could happen? 

Striving for insouciance, I headed back around the corner and approached my own personal charity case.

Hang on, one of them could stab me…Oh come on, will you shut up! Look at them, just four blokes sharing a tinny and chewing the fat.

Shoving a bag towards the friendliest looking of  them, and in the loud unrecognisable voice I reserve for all awkward situations, I boomed, “I thought you might like some CHIPS.”

So nice with a cheeky merlot and some brie...

So nice with a cheeky merlot and some brie…

After a stunned silence he took the bag and thanked me, “That’s real nice of ya, luv. Happy new year!”

He shook my hand and nodded encouragingly to his mates.

I took out a second bag and thrust it towards the man beside him. My arm remained raised in an uncomfortable salute, the chip bag dangling, as he stared at me.

With a bilious smile, I pivoted around, my arm outstretched, and piffed the pack into the  next guy’s lap.

“I thought you chaps might enjoy some chips out here in the sun…with your drinks…and stuff…”

Like they’re enjoying the sunset on a beach in SeminyakSUCH AN IDIOT!

There was some stilted banter about one of them coming home with me which I countered with my wish to empty out the nest. Then an exchange about the age of my resident daughter and a quip that she was way too young for them, resulted in some rib digging hilarity.

“You heard her mate, she’s too young for ya!”

“Nah, mate, I didn’t mean that. I was just innerested, that’s all.”

I beetled off leaving him calling up the street after me , “Just joking luv! No offense, ok?”

When I got to the traffic light, they all chorused , “Thanks luv!”

I remembered D2 and her work with a youth mission when she was at school. Volunteers would man a coffee van for the homeless outside Flinders Street Station. My daughter realised though, that the greater contribution was conversation. These men and women could have gone for several days without speaking to a soul. Isolated in a crowd and often desperate for human interaction, the greatest gift was as prosaic as smalltalk.

I felt terrible. I had fixated on delivering junk food in the least offensive manner and became paralysed by my own discomfort.

There is an organisation one of my friends and her partner volunteer with that rescues unwanted food and prepares it into healthy, nutritious meals for the homeless. A small but tangibly useful effort that I suspect is appreciated slightly more than potato chips.

I think it may be the right time to commit to something greater than buying The Big Issue.

fareshare

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Bringin’ on my Bogan

I’m not really a massive fan of the fancy dress party and would normally go out of my way to avoid attending one. But recently we attended a Bogan Bingo fundraising evening that requested we all dress to theme.

It was a great cause so why the f*ck not?!

Spouse had nothing that could be remotely described as ‘bogan’ lurking shamefully at the back of his wardrobe. No Heavy Metal tour tee-shirts, no V8 Supercar garb, no acid wash, and not a skerrick of flannelette.

hmmm

hmmm

We hit the Victoria Market on a Saturday morning. The place was teeming with people sporting just the sort of look we were after. Flicking through a circular rack of $10 teeshirts, we were joined by the gold standard of bogan males. He wore black and white track pants, an ACDC teeshirt and the ubiquitous unbuttoned flanney. There was a moment of uncertain tussling over a Harley Davidson tee before ACDC man surveyed spouse’s Colorado fleecy, judged him in greater fashion need and grudgingly deferred to him.

It was patterned leggings all the way for the ladies, with planets and constellations or skeleton designs reigning supreme. Short black hoodies and ugg boots completed the ensemble.

For the love of lycra, someone needs to print a teeshirt with LEGGINGS ARE NOT PANTS in large letters...but it would probably end up being worn  with leggings, right?

For the love of lycra, someone needs to print a teeshirt with LEGGINGS ARE NOT PANTS in large letters. It would probably just end up being worn with leggings though, right?

We sourced a brand new flannelette shirt to go over the tee shirt and while I assured my beloved that colour coordination was not key here, size did indeed matter. None of your fitted hipster business here, the flanney is necessarily voluminous for the purposes of outerwear or as a handy overnight blanket in the back of the ute.

or as a handy belt

or as a belt

D1 had a veritable treasure trove of suitably ‘skanky’ pieces she could furnish me with, something tight, potentially skin barring and camel toe producing was assured. She also agreed to do my make up and although we didn’t have time for the total tandoori tan, she did go a little nuts with the bronzing powder. Observing the more is more mantra, my makeup was straight out of Geordie Shore.

Why-Aye!!

Why-Aye!!

It’s fair to say that none of us really stood out from the locals as we spilled out of the taxi at Coburg Town hall. Joining a line of fellow ferals clutching bags of chips and pizza boxes we made our way inside. I’d gone all Spring carnival with my catering, opting for thai chicken sandwiches and expensive cheeses over the Coles deli tray.

She’s bloody up herself. Pass the cabana.

The beautiful art deco room was fairly heaving with mullets. There were more wigs than a 17th Century English court. Farnsy, Barnsy, Brian Mannix, Craig McLachlan, Jason Donovan…all the truly great Australian 80’s mullets were represented. A number of the women had donned aggressively spiky versions in improbable colours and were primed for a quick demonstration of the sharpie dance if called upon.

The actual bingo was hosted by an hilarious couple who accompanied the manic number calling with musical riffs from the 80’s and 90’s. They interspersed the game with an air guitar competition and the Biggest Bogan award. This brought out the competitive nature in one or ten people who, truth be told, had gone to absolutely no effort with costume having left the house in basically what they wore every day. Imagine their delight at being celebrated this way?

We all stood as a series of bogan sorting questions were fired at us.

Have you ever owned a flanney?

Most people  had.

No? Then sit the f*ck down!

One of my dearest friends, a woman of inestimable elegance and refinement, who had been utterly transformed as a hybrid of Sybill Fawlty and Kath Day-Knight, immediately sat down. Out in the first round! Oh, the shame.

Did you buy your flanney today?

A few shamefaced folk.

Yes? Then sit the f*ck down!

And on it progressed. I was eliminated at the have you ever worn your moccies or uggs out of the house? round.

It eventually came down to three women hauled on stage to battle it out for the ultimate accolade.

None of the three had managed to have children to different father’s, so they needed to dig deeper.

First born’s name?

Harry.

Not a bogan name by any stretch.

Occupation?

Part time bookkeeper.

Disqualified immediately.

First born’s name?

Emily.

Nope. (Unless it’s spelt Emahleeh)

Occupation?

Nurse.

Please leave the stage.

First born’s name?

Harley.

Go on, second born?

Jai.

And the clincher, occupation?

Out of work actress.

YES! We have a winner!!!!!

The Bogan Queen left the stage triumphantly, her muscle bound boyfriend looking on with pride.

Caught up as I was singing along to an 80’s power ballad, I failed to notice my spouse   successfully bidding on an decidedly un-bogan Smeg washing machine during the live auction.

What a grouse bloke you’ve got there, bet he’ll score a root tonight?

Or he’ll just appreciate his whiter than white, whites.

We packed up the rindy bits of leftover double brie and crumbly clods of cheddar to be polished off with a decent shiraz the next day sans hoop earrings and double denim. I experienced no newfound affection  for the fancy dress gig (or in this case, not so fancy dress) but was very happy to have done our bit for a deserving cause.

Shit yeah!

 

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Spring into real estate

A perfect spring day. Sun shines, sky’s blue, birds are singing. Let’s sell a property.

Spouse had been happily ensconced in his stylish and expansive bachelor pad for several years before I came along and threw a massive couples spanner in the works. The light filled one bedroom apartment had perfectly accommodated him and his debonair man about town lifestyle.

I have beer and pizza, what more could I possibly want?

I have beer and pizza, what more could I possibly want?

Fast forward to the point where my undeniable charms have won the day and cohabitation is inevitable. The executive style contemporary apartment was just not big enough for the both of us…

or my shoes, books, the contents of my pantry … or either of my offspring.

We found a townhouse in the same area and the apartment was rented out.

Three years later and my beloved makes some cash dependent decisions and his place is on the market. Despite protestations to the contrary, I’d wondered whether he’d secretly fantasised about a bolt hole to escape to if things between us had gone seriously tits up. I’ll never know.

He approached one of the bigger real estate agencies in the area and sat down to discuss the game plan. Dates were locked in, photographers were booked and nervous energy prevailed.

Arrangements had been made with the tenant to vacate for several hours while we descended on the place for some forensic cleaning and minor repairs. This proved impossible. The impressive 1 bedroom apartment looked like a crack house.

A grubby mattress surrounded by dirty plates and glasses dominated the lounge area and the kitchen counter was covered in food scraps and containers. A cast iron pot on the stove top was half filled with a rancid fat covered liquid. The chocolate ceramic tiles on the bathroom floor were dusted with talcum powder and the vanity looked like a Chemist Warehouse.

We took photos and left.

Campaign dates were re-assessed when it was established that the tenant might not entirely grasp the concept of tidying up. After some protracted exchanges between spouse, Trevor, the super sales manager, and the rental property manager, things were back on track.

I wasn’t feeling favourably disposed toward the chap renting my husband’s abode at this point but a surreptitious glance at some carelessly piled paperwork, some photos and various medications changed my mind.

A divorce, cross country relocation and cancer diagnosis were just the start.

A picture emerged of a highly intelligent man. Half a dozen UN security council lanyards with his name and job title swung on a hook by the back door. A collection of anthropological books, biographies on seminal 20th century figures and Swedish crime novels filled the space where a microwave should have been. His fridge was at room temperature and full of UHT tetra packs.

Walk a mile and all that, now I just wanted to make things better for the guy. Spouse offered him a month’s free rent in deference to the inconvenience of open inspections. It was something, I guess.

A few weeks later I witnessed Trevor in full flight as he auctioned the townhouse across the road from us. Sitting cross legged on the floor of our bedroom, the full length window afforded a magnificent view of proceedings. There was a sizeable crowd and several toey looking contenders.

It was like the best reality television with Trev creating tension and excitement. I could clearly see the two main bidders as things cranked up and began irrationally barracking for one of them.

He may have been attractive.

A third bidder arrived out of the ether at the eleventh hour and positioned himself under the awning directly below me. Leaning my forehead against the glass, I valiantly strove to identify this maverick.

A couple of bystanders looked up and spotted me alternatively pressing my nose against the window and pacing the length of it.

Howdy neighbours!  ned flanders

It sold for an astonishing amount of money and ’10% for every 10k over a mill. Trevor’ was looking fairly chuffed.

Spouse was feeling well and truly validated after I regaled him with a blow by blow account of his agents redoubtable auctioneering prowess.

So, back to the delightful early spring day. Briefed earlier that the judicious placement of faux potential bidders helped add to the drama, we had done a quick ring around and assembled a small group.

I popped down before the final pre-auction inspection to make sure everything was schmick and met Trevor’s side-kick, Lucas.

Robin to Trevor’s Batman, Lucas stood not much taller than Trevor’s shoulder and was the prefect wingman, spotting bids at 50 paces.

"Look Batman, a new bidder!" "Precisely boy wonder, precisely".

“Look Batman, a new bidder!”
“Precisely boy wonder, precisely”.

We did a quick check of the rooms, turned off the heat and opened the back door. Some quick incidental chat and then Lucas followed me outside – locking the apartment keys and his car keys inside as the security door slammed shut.

“Ooh, that’s never happened to me before. Has your husband got a spare set?”

No.

A small crowd was gathering now and Lucas’ calm reassurances that this was a minor hiccough was belied by the sheen of sweat breaking out across his forehead.

Neither Batman nor spouse had arrived and we had fifteen minutes to figure something out. Remembering that the complex backed onto a dodgy motel and that we had opened the back sliding door, I sprinted around the block with Lucas in hot pursuit.

Fortunately the low lying back wall of the motel was a metre or so away from the unit’s courtyard  and Lucas was able to hack through a creeper and scale the aluminium fence with relative ease.

Holy Agility, Robin!

My harried love loped towards me, worry lines etched across his dear face.

By the time we made it back around Lucas was smoothly handing out brochures at the door with nary a hair out place.

At 11.58am the Peugeot-mobile had pulled up out the front and Trevor emerged fresh from an 11am real estate killing.

The man was seriously good.

A quick briefing and we were ushered down to the secure car park where we were to wait, out of sight like Anne in the attic, for the all clear.

Two serious bidders got the ball rolling and quickly reached the ball park. The property was passed in just below the reserve, but with some psychological tap dancing from Trevor, the last bidders bumped up their offer and spouse happily sold.

Job done.

To the bat cave!

bat symbol

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BFF

A dear friend tells me how she counsels her daughters on the approach toward those first high voltage years of peer interaction. It’s simple stuff.

Do your friends make you feel happy and positive?

Do you come away from being with them feeling great about yourself?

If the answer is no you might want to rethink your friendships. I am impressed with her early interventionism and wish I’d adopted the same approach back when D1 and 2 were small.

Instead, we now have regular discussions about the need to divest oneself of toxic friendships; vestigial hangovers from the fringes of middle school. Those ghastly years bobbing about from clique to clique trying to find your place.

mean girl

Let’s be honest, the transition from school friend to adult dynamic can prove problematic.

D1 has been on the fringe of a small group since high school and the power balance has remained the same. She is realising that really effective friendships involve work on both sides and as she is the only one doing the chasing, it might be time to cull.

D2 found that a few kids from her school days may not have been quite as accepting of her adult lifestyle decisions as true friendship would dictate. It’s probably time for her to move on from them too. Recognising the use by date can be tricky, but ultimately everyone’s better off.

So many of us continue to invest in relationships predicated on some type of balance sheet. A series of emotional debits and credits that require a degree in advanced accounting to negotiate.

...then there was that time I loaned you that dress, and the night you got really drunk...and don't forget how I dropped everything for you...

…then there was that time I loaned you that dress, and the night you got really drunk…and don’t forget how I dropped everything for you…

And look, maths was never my strong point.

At a certain juncture we learn the value of a solid friendship. That isn’t to say that these are always going to be for life, and that’s ok. Sometimes we just need someone to get us through the next chapter.

Today my coterie of true friends is small. A mere handful of people who make me smile long after I’ve left them; who bolster my self worth and value my opinion.

I count myself incredibly *fortunate.

This social litmus test applies equally to all relationships. D1 had recently broken up with her boyfriend of six years, the emotional fallout resonating throughout the house.

i don't need a guy. I just need chocolate, lots of chocolate

i don’t need a guy. I just need chocolate, lots of chocolate

While it was obvious to all and sundry that this pairing was unsuitable, D1 had valiantly battled on, certain in her ability to make it work. While it’s true he was arrogant, unfaithful and had values diametrically opposed to her own, actively applying the question does he make you feel good about yourself? would have obviated a great deal of unnecessary angst.

Instead of unalloyed sympathy and understanding, however, I railed at her for being so short sighted. I did this in the full knowledge that I had spent an entire three years blinded by misplaced passion. I’d been at the mercy of a man who had liberated me from the slow death of an unfulfilled marriage and existed solely on lust and adrenaline. Nothing mattered beyond making sure he stayed with me. Every time he walked out another fragment of self esteem was chipped away.

Eventually the madness of obsession was replaced with a bruising realisation that I had ignored all the warning signs. When the pit of your stomach is constantly roiling with fear and nausea and all previous joys are replaced by anxiety, you’re no longer there for the right reasons. The highs can never counter the lows.

I don’t recognise the person I became back then and after I apologise to D1 for my weary anger, I tell her that she too will be at this point much sooner than she realises.

She is planning a long term stint in the UK. There is an element of escape involved in this mooted relocation, but she’s not alone there. Isolating yourself from all the emotional triggers and creating some space between the person you are and the person you want to be can require distance – geographic or otherwise.

It took some running away to America for D2 to recognise her own inherent value. She had left oblivious to how wonderful she was and returned with blistering confidence and self belief.

Dispensing my middle aged wisdom (Learning The Hard Way) I say to both girls, we’re not here for ever, so let’s pepper our lives with heart warming and life affirming connections and politely decline the rest.

happy friends

*As opposed to #blessed# Exactly when did we all become so relentlessly consecrated? Perhaps #blessed could be reserved for selfies with the Pope? pope selfie

#thesaurus#synonyms#vocabulary

Posted in Family, Not so funny | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

LOL or not

Is it just me or has the emoticon monstered out of control? Don’t get me wrong, I use them – for who wants a heartfelt birthday text message without a balloon, party hat, beribboned gift box and cake emoji?

 

what need have I for mere words?

what need have I for mere words?

 

I’m just noticing a rise in opinion text messages, Facebook conversations and emails that seem to followed by a passive aggressive addendum  winking emojo

 

It’s the old “Ok, don’t take offence but…” which signals that despite the preface, I should very much take offence to what you are saying, for if it was not intended to offend, I wouldn’t require the preparation.

 

Similarly the use of LOL appears to have taken a dark turn. Once upon a time, when we’d established it no longer meant ‘lots of love’  and had finally managed to stop our aged relatives using it to sign off sad missives about dead pets, we were blithely peppering our text messages and emails with this declaration of mirth. LOL on every second line just indicated we found everyone funny. Seriously, raucously funny. So damn funny, we were LAUGHING OUT LOUD.

laughing man

STOP IT You’re killing me!

How we got anything done amongst this cacophony of endlessly professed laughter is truly astonishing and is probably part of some observant Alien’s Phd as we speak.

I didn’t LOL. I might have made that ‘Huh’ noise and I know I’ve snorted…do other people snort out loud?

*SnOL.

Yes, I like it. Although I’m concerned the accompanying SnOL emoji may just look like someone with hay fever and no hanky.

And then when we imagined it couldn’t get any funnier, it did, because suddenly people were ROFL. These folk are to be admired; it is extremely difficult to text and roll at the same time (unless you’re Pat Mullins* [vale] In which case you’re also dealing with gum nuts up your nose).

I have wondered if LOL might just have been a way to cover up an inadequate response ; as in,

You say it best, when you say nothing at all. LOL :-)

You say it best, when you say nothing at all. LOL ?

 

But now I realise it’s also the thing you hastily type to cover the fact you may have been just the weeniest bit offensive.

I am totes laughing out loud, we’re good right?

I am guilty, in the last week or so of employing the IMHO acronym. I will confess that my use of this is completely disingenuous , for my opinion is rarely humble. ‘In my humble opinion’ just sounds like some throwback to a Regency era novel, where a lady’s ‘opinion’ was, unless she was commenting on petit point or bonnet trimming, that of her husband or father.

Now I’m just a mouthy feminist banging on about all manner of darkly subversive subjects just to shit the patriarchy. Hell in a bloody hand basket.

Mouthy AND grumpy because, once again, FACEBOOK.

A gremlin on FB keeps asking me if I want to download STICKERS with which to further annoy people on messenger. These are seriously weird. Big ass faces with expressions that do not correspond to any emotion I, or anyone I know, have ever experienced. There’s also Pusheen, the obese cat and Bun, the…what the hell is Bun? And cacti. Lots of cacti imbued with human qualities.

It’s like falling down some hallucinogenic Hello Kitty rabbit hole. This, in turn, gives me flashbacks to the time when I was dealing with the porny anime comic books my friend, Charles, would thoughtfully send over from Japan. My then six and nine year old’s couldn’t work out why they weren’t allowed to read them.

so much fantasy wrongness for western delight you love

so much fantasy wrongness for western delight you love

Oh well, watchagonnado…YOLO, emirate?

  • *Obvs from Chris Lilley’s “We Can Be Heroes” – still IMHO, his best work to date.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A group therapy

I felt like a bit of a fraud walking into the dedicated dance wear store. The staff were all willowy girls in wrap tops who glided about the shop with that dancers out turned duck walk.

 

A twelve year old was being fitted for some ballet pointe’s as I hovered about the display wall of dance shoes. It’s possible that a less than graceful gait betrayed my novice status as the assistant pointedly suggested I might save some money by going next door to their clearance outlet.

 

Weaving my way through racks of half price dance pants and leotards I was quizzed by a sales assistant as to the particular dance genre I was involved with. She was roughly my age and had that old school calisthenics vibe about her; the mahogany leg tan having been replaced with bronzing mousse.

 

a natural and entertaining tan

a natural and entertaining tan

Calisthenics was the poor man’s ballet of my childhood. All the serious little girl dancers attended a fairly hard core ballet school run at the old C of E church by an impressively strict Russian ballet teacher who, with the haunted countenance of a past in espionage , was probably ex-KGB.

Sharon Valynski, hef been here all life...born Box Hill...

Sharon Valynski, hef been here all life…born Box Hill…

 

My best friend had been attending since infancy and I would hang about the back of the class with all the bored looking mother’s watching her lining up at the barre. I desperately coveted the bun and beribboned slippers.  In a bid to fit in with all the dance-y girls practicing their arabesques and plies on the asphalt at recess, I begged my dad to let me enrol too.

ballet barre little girls

The fees, according to my father, were prohibitively high but I suspect his refusal to enrol me had more to do with his newly minted status as a reluctant single dad and an accompanying unwillingness to engage with a gaggle of voyeuristically sympathetic Stepford mums.

 

Eventually a neighbour convinced him to let me accompany her daughter to the more economically viable Calisthenics.

 

The local tennis club hall was transformed each Saturday into a mini eisteddfod as hordes of girls and their vicarious mother’s swarmed about brandishing calico bags bulging with odd props. As an impoverished motherless newbie, I was the recipient of some pre-loved  clubs, a rod and an oversized pull on Terylene skirt, the purposes of which remain, even today, a complete mystery. Failing to master the simplest of figure marches and purposely clubbing Andrea Van der Camp, ensured I was not a welcome addition to the under 8’s .

 

Do not be fooled by the smile, she is a lethal weapon with anger issues

Do not be fooled by the smile, she is a lethal weapon with anger issues

Saturday mornings rapidly descended into sanctioned torture sessions as my dad refused to let me quit until the end of term. I gave back the Terylene skirt and rod but the clubs were ‘lost’, consigned to my arsenal of childhood weaponry in the event Andrea didn’t pull her head in.

 

Brownies were a big deal at about this time too. I loved the cute little dun coloured uniforms and yearned to be part of all those secret group activities at the local scout hall. I also wanted badges. Badly.

 

ok, brown is not everyone's colour...but all that sitting in a circle looked marvellous fun

ok, brown is not everyone’s colour…but all that sitting in a circle looked marvellous fun

I’m unsure as to the reasoning behind my not being allowed to be a Brownie, but once again, I was permitted to join the infinitely lamer Girls Friendly Society or German Fried Sausages as it was  hilariously dubbed.

 

The GFS was a local version of a UK based Anglican organisation. It was formed in the mid 1870’s to steer potentially wayward servant girls towards a path of righteousness as dictated by a bunch of sanctimonious upper crust twats ; kind of  Downtown Abbey meets the Girl Guides.

 

Actual research

Actual research

In a perennial bid to keep me on the outer, the navy and white GFS uniform was deemed an unnecessary expense. The first official group activity was to St Paul’s cathedral and involved dozens of GFS chapters from all over the state coming together for whatever the GFS equivalent of a jamboree might have been. I could not have been sadder, amongst a sea of navy berets and club ties, wearing the only dress that still fitted me post the maternal disappearing trick.

 

A less personally invested viewpoint might suggest that it was the prudent parent who refused to fork out for unnecessary expenses given my track record for bailing. Of course, a modern parental approach might appreciate that joining something on a conditional basis and denying the tools necessary for me to fit in, was probably not going to help with commitment.

 

An entire childhood and adolescence of enforced isolation means that even today, I struggle with being part of a group and I’m definitely not a team player. In mid life I find myself part of a choir. There are days when I am overwhelmed with the need to flee it too.  I think it might be easier to create my own outsider persona than have it discovered by somebody else.

 

I bought the character shoes, declaring to the inquisitive sales lady, that they were for some fairly hard core choreographed shuffling as part of my choir’s most recent public performance. The show was, it is universally agreed, a polished and entertaining affair and I got a massive thrill out of  being part of something so good.

 

Being part of a tribe is important and pretending it’s not leads to a life time of personal uncertainty and doubt. It’s possible this group is my tribe and I can finally expunge all the old hurts –

–  in harmony.

cabaret

cabaret

Posted in Not so funny | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Next!!

Lit from within – isn’t that a lovely way to describe someone? I thought so. I pondered on all those shiny people out there who act as beacons for we lesser mortals, navigating us through our murkier times, and then realised that the light from within me should probably come with a disclaimer  reading:  May spontaneously combust without warning. My light is, in all likelihood, the  glowing embers of latent rage and not a beatific beam of joy.

 

Sad but true.

 

I’d like to explain away my blogging absence, once again mourned by the Andorrans and my many readers in Tuvalu, by sharing the details of an epic publishing deal and my preliminary talks with the Weinstein’s, but the truth is infinitely prosaic.

Weinsteins

It began with Tia, a tiny profane woman of inestimable energy and resilience. A friend had suggested I talk with her about some alternative career opportunities, because nothing screams mid-life crisis more than the What in gods name am I DOING  refrain. Tia did not sugar coat anything.

 

What have you done so far? 

 

Sales, marketing, sales, sales, a bit of selling, some sales…

 

You’re not a salesperson. Look at you, you can’t sell for fuck!

 

She was emphatic and 100% correct. I cannot sell for fuck.

 

You need to speak to Greg, he’s done wonders for me and my daughter. He helped me sort all my shit out with my mother and, look, you just have to fucking speak to him yourself and sort out your own shit, ok? Come back and see me when you know what you want.

 

I left clutching Greg’s details and feeling like i’d been belted around the head with a foam baton for several hours.

 

Greg ran a remote practice from his bunker on the coast of New South Wales. Other than a few tearful drunken phone calls with friends over the years I’d never actually experienced phone counselling before, so this was set to be a challenge.

 

His voice was youthful and reassuring and I spent some considerable amount of time during our initial conversation composing a mental picture of him and his office. He was, I imagined, tall, tanned and toothy and almost certainly bald; there was a great deal of rattan furniture and the walls were hung with inspirational quotes – I’d lay money on a glass dolphin too.

 

The dolphin - firm but flexible

The dolphin – firm but flexible

There was the inevitable historical dissection and recognition of trauma before an exercise in directed visualisation. It hinged on recalling myself as a child, going to my safe place, swathing myself in several cloaks and reassuring my child-self that everything was kosher. My mind lacks a certain discipline as anyone who has attempted a guided meditation with me will attest. This was a doomed exercise from the start.

Greg in the meantime had suggested I complement his therapy with some form of bodywork such as Pilates or network chiropractic.

 

Enkindle Wellness is just around the corner. It was high time I set fire to something so Network Chiropractic it was.

 

Having only ever experienced the bone crunching techniques of your regular chiro, I was unprepared for the light touch of Dr Ken, a wildly empathetic and heavily bearded man obsessed with humanities multitude of layers. I lay facedown for an hour while Ken scooted around me in his stockinged feet pausing to press a finger for a nano second on some contact point or other and then stepping back to observe the reaction. It felt silly but I had to confess to a certain lightness when he was done.

 

I continue to attend regular sessions and while I have absolutely no idea what Ken is doing , I cannot deny the earnestness with which he does it. The good Doctor remains extremely pleased with my resurgent female energy as he ploughs on plumbing my emotional depths…or something like that.

 

Greg, however, was abandoned after three sessions. There was a School of the Air vibe about it all and Greg’s perfectly pleasant but nevertheless disembodied male authorial voice unsettled me.

My notes from our talks ended up under the bed beside the Gratitude Journal that ended on day eight , five days worth of incoherent The Creative Way rambling penned upon wakening and six unread copies of The Big Issue.

 

Pattern?

 

An opportunity to contribute to a fledging idea for a television series as part of a bigger online network came and went; the project having morphed from humorously educative to a recruitment campaign for swingers.

 

Don’t ask.

 

Two golden job opportunities presented themselves next. The first one was in writing travel brochures for a large Australian touring company. I retrieved my resume did a spot of creative panel beating and submitted it with full confidence that having excelled in this field some moons ago, I would at least score an interview. Adding to my certainty was a Travel agent friend’s personal recommendation to management on my behalf. She was one of the country’s top sellers of this company’s product and had some clout. We thought.

 

Several desultory emails passed back and forth between me and Aaron, the touring company’s HR manager, which, beyond  ascertaining that I was actually interested in the position I’d applied for, served to glaringly illustrate how much Aaron needed a thesaurus.

 

A long month passed before the conversation ended. It’s entirely possible that as the airline I’d previously worked for with such historical dedication and skill had been defunct for several decades, that barely literate Aaron had made some rudimentary calculations.

She’s too damn old.

 

 

The second exciting employment prospect presented itself via a dear friend and a conference chance meeting.  In the course of conversing with the co-director of a well known direct selling lingerie company, she had waxed lyrical about not only my sales ability with them  but the monthly newsletters I would send out to my customer base. Funny as fuck.

 

As it happens there was an in-house communications position up for grabs. How fortuitous that I had an up to date curriculum vitae, specifically tailored for a potential writing gig, to whiz off immediately. I could stop shaking my clenched fists at the Universe, clearly it had happy plans for me after all.

 

I was interviewed on an overcast Thursday morning. Signing in, vetted by security (lest I prove to be a Victoria’s Secret undercover operative) I headed upstairs to a large hot pink open plan office. It was oestrogen central.

 

Eventually I was met by the marketing manager, Amy, a delightful twelve year old UK expat in loose cotton pants and sparkly sandals. We were joined by her assistant, Han, who had evidently embraced the memo about Nightclub Thursday and was suitably garbed in a sequinned micro mini and tank top. I sat across from them, uncomfortable in my subversive navy jacket and pants ensemble.

 

The interview lasted an hour and involved lots of promising asides between the girls. Apparently they had never had anyone apply to work in  marketing who had also worked as a sales consultant with the company. Fast forward to What kind of money are you looking for?

 

I begged off answering this question when they avoided giving me a ball park figure and said I’d get back with a salary range in the next few days.

 

My response, based on consultation with several HR industry professionals, was duly forwarded.

 

Four days later saw Amy and Han accompanying a group of mega earners on a sales rewards trip to London via Dubai. I received an impassioned  rejection email as they flew out of Sydney.

 

Despite my love of the brand, the product and the people and the enlightened thoughts they felt honoured to hear, they were unable to offer me the role but wished me the very best of luck finding something that I could live and breathe and that would fulfil my beautiful passion of life…

 

Beautiful passion, my arse!

 

My request for information on any impediment to employing me was met with a passive aggressive missive about my inner joy, which suggested that

 

  1. Amy doesn’t understand the word ‘impediment” or
  2. Han didn’t have the heart to suggest pleather leggings,a mullet top and House of Harlow accessories.

 

For the record, I was now feeling rejected, old and a bit of a failure…oh, and none of my jeans fit.

 

Spouse agreed to join me in a month long nutritional detox as recommended by Dr Ken, who, whilst stripping away my various emotional layers, was busy stripping away his own subcutaneous fat.

 

The President’s Pak (sic) arrived chock full of supplements, powders and bars, a blender and a host of literature featuring smiley Platinum Circle baby boomers wearing jeans and funky shirts with contrast cuffs.

 

We were ready to get our healthy on.

 

I kept a diary. This was abandoned on day sixteen when I was still feeling like wholesale crap. Spouse on the other hand enjoyed consistent blood sugar levels and a major upsurge in energy. He developed the focus of a Tibetan buddhist monk and, after losing 8kg in three weeks, the arse of Gandhi.

 

During this detox period I come across a tweet from Catherine Deveny advertising her upcoming Gunnas Writing Masterclass and, faint from hunger and/or caffeine withdrawal, I booked myself in.

 

The day dawned unpromisingly grey and I set off confident in nothing more than my inherent mediocrity. Fifteen of us filed upstairs to be greeted by Dev (actually, I haven’t been invited to use the hypocoristic, but she probably wouldn’t mind) a vibrant woman fairly crackling with unbridled enthusiasm.

 

Dev’s patter was fast and furious. We began by finding out about the person beside us and then took turns introducing them to the group. I chatted with young Maddy, a policy writer with the department of justice, whose mother had booked her in to the class. The effects of my first coffee in the biblical time span of 40 days, ensured that concentration during this information gathering exercise was compromised by palpitations. I thought I was having a heart attack.

 

I wrote as prompted and listened to the stories of creative insecurity swirling about me. Everyone felt some degree of fraudulence along the way and we all just had to get on with it. Ms Deveny’s no nonsense approach understood the self pity but didn’t for a moment buy into it.

 

An hour a day, four days a week for four weeks.

 

Just

Do

It.

 

So I am.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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