Thursday, April 26, 2007

bad words

My six-year-old daughter drew me aside the other day.

"Mummy, I know I shouldn't have but I taught Ben some bad words. I told Ben about the 's' word and the 'h' word."

I was perplexed. The 's' word I could figure out, although I was a little surprised to realise Laura was familiar with it (I'm no saint, but I try to curtail my swearing when my kids are around. Dammit! Bother! and Bugger! - if I'm really upset - are my catchcries these days). But what was the 'h' word? What new swear-word was this?

I asked Laura what these words were. She squirmed, she wiggled, she beseeched me, "Don't make me say them Mummy. They're bad words."

"C'mon", I coaxed. "Just whisper them in my ear then."

Laura eyed me warily for a moment. Suddenly deciding in my favour, she nodded, and leant towards me as I bent down to her pigtailed head. In a rush of warm little girl breath, she murmured damply in my ear,

"Shush up and hush up!"

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


It is ANZAC day today. Today, Australians and New Zealanders remember and honour the fallen soldiers who died at Gallipoli (in Turkey) in 1915.

Due to unfortunate military errors, the soldiers were landed on a beach faced by small cliffs. The soldiers valiantly clambered up and over these cliffs, only to be mown down by waiting Turkish soldiers. Thousands of soldiers were slaughtered in this manner.

In 1997, I visited Gallipoli - a pilgrimage made my many young Australians. I saw the inhospitable landing site. I stood in the cold dawn, thinking of all the young Australians who died at that very site, eighty-two years before me. I couldn't help but be deeply moved and eternally grateful.

Strange, though, that what brought me to tears were these words of a Turkish commander (Ataturk, 1934), written on a wall ...........

"Those heroes that shed their blood
and lost their lives....
you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country
therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
and the Mehmets where they lie side by side
here in this country of ours...
You, the mothers,
who sent their sons from far away countries
wipe away your tears;
Your sons are in our bosom
and are in peace.
After having lost their lives on this land they have
become our sons as well."

Saturday, April 21, 2007

love story

I watched Pride and Prejudice (the 2006 movie) the other night on DVD. Others have told me that the movie is far inferior to the TV series, but, having never seen the series, I can only discuss the movie. Which I loved (romantic fool that I am!).

Fatty watched with me, and in fact it was he who bought the DVD for us to watch. Fatty is a blokey bloke who loves football, doesn't listen well, and forgets his friends' birthdays. Yet he has another side to him - he enjoys a good drama, especially poignant ones. Like me, he finds human relationships interesting to observe on screen.

There we sat on our smallish couch, glued to the scenes of love torn asunder and of unrequited love. We were riveted. It was all so windswept, so passionate, so .... utterly romantic. I kept glancing across at my kind, crinkly-eyed, handsome husband and thinking how glad I am that he asked me out, that he fell in love with me, too; how happy I am that he wanted to marry me.

I like to think that most people have their own love story - even if was a love that eventually died. Even if the memories have faded, or the love has become a little stale, the embers remain. I believe that almost everyone has felt that deep and overwhelming emotion at some time in their life.

Sometimes, being married becomes a habit, becomes humdrum and routine. I forget to thank my lucky stars that not only did I meet a caring, cute and clever man - he also (woo-hoo!) thought I was not so bad either. Watching the tortured agony of thwarted love onscreen reminded me to be grateful. I hugged Fatty tight and held his hand. I remembered that our little love story began with fireworks but goes on with daily affection and constancy. I remembered that the spark is still there, and merely needs fanning from time to time.

Thank goodness for Fatty. He is my one and only.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

when a stranger calls

I swear this story is only going to fuel the myths that abound about Australia. I know my regular overseas readers are informed enough to know that kangaroos don't bounce along the inner city freeways, and that koalas don't live in trees in everyone's backyard. But any innocent blog-surfer who happened along would be at risk of believing these things. I often write about Mum's farm, which is teeming with wildlife - judging by the tales Mum is forever telling me . There was the snake above the front door. The native hopping mouse nesting in Mum's chest of drawers (complete with pink, newborn babies). A dingo attacking a defenceless calf. The frog living in Mum's bathroom. And now, a mysterious visitor at the back door......

A few nights ago, Mum was spending a quiet evening at her farm. Mum's sister, my Aunt Zany, was staying over, so the two of them were peacefully talking.

"Bang! Thump!" came a sound from the back door.

Mum and Aunt Zany exchanged mystified glances. Cautiously, they approached the door. Slowly, carefully and somewhat fearfully, Mum opened the back door and peered out. There, immediately beside the door, clinging on to the log wall of Mum's hogbacked home, was a koala.

Mum and Aunt Zany stood and spoke softly to the koala. I don't have it from the horse's mouth (sorry Mum, you are in fact the horse in this scenario), but I bet Mum was saying things like, "Hello little fella! Whatchyou doing here, hmm? Did you think this wall was a tree, hey?". The koala eyed them warily and declined to comment. Eventually, Mum and Aunt Zany went back inside, and came around from the front to the side of the house, to spy on the disorientated marsupial.

They watched as the koala slowly clambered down, and then sat lazily on Mum's back porch awhile. A few minutes later, the furry creature headed off towards Mum's nearby Jacaranda tree (see photo). Two feet up the Jacaranda tree, the koala stopped, and gazed about. Obviously having some sort of an epiphany, (doesn't FEEL like a gum tree....hmmmm....doesn't SMELL like a gum tree....errrrr.....doesn't LOOK like gum tree either. Back up, back up, I'm comin' down!) the confused critter shunted down the trunk. Mum watched as the koala trundled off into the night, finally reached a blue gum tree, and climbed up safely.

I'm not sure what was going on in the brain of this fuzzball. My friend Heather suggested the animal was inebriated (gum leaf shooters, anyone?). I'm thinking this koala was a few sandwiches short of a picnic.

I wonder what the poor little tyke must have thought of the night's events. I'm guessing the koala was traumatised by all the kerfuffle - mistaking a house for a tree, being spoken to by Scary Humans, then climbing another tree that wasn't quite right. Did it shake its grey head in shame, muttering 'How embarrassing! ' to itself? Was it shivering, quaking, and exhausted, up high in the Blue gum?

After all, how much can a koala bear?


Thursday, April 12, 2007

on being alone

Yesterday morning I went out early to buy bread. It was a perfectly ordinary morning - clear, cool and the sun just easing its pale light above the horizon. I strode along the deserted streets, and wondered why I felt so odd.

I felt light, airy, and bouncy. There was something new afoot, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. My thoughts ran free, uninterrupted. I crossed a road unimpeded. I hummed to myself, unheard by others. Suddenly it dawned on me - the reason for this queer high I was experiencing. I was alone! Not even the damn beagle was there to drag on her lead and trip me over.

I'm the first to say how grateful I am for the opportunities I have in my life. I know I am very lucky to be able to spend time at home, to work, to exercise, to see my friends and to go out with my husband every now and then. Really, I have it much better than many of the other mothers I know. And yet, how amazing it was for me to realise that I am hardly ever on my own. All my 'time away' from home and hearth involves being with other people - husband, friends, fellow karate students, gym class pals. I loved my morning walk by myself, just tripping along and admiring the dawn skies. It was heavenly. I told myself I'm going to do the 'bread run' more often!

Then all this merry morning meandering was tempered by a rather sobering thought. I remembered what my grandfather had said to me a day earlier.

Grandpa had been reminding me that I should only visit when I have the time, and that I must never feel guilty when I have to leave. He is horrified by the thought of detaining a visitor through their sense of duty; he never wants to feel like an obligation. Then he'd added quietly, "I never thought it would be like this. I thought I'd always be hale and hearty - driving, working in the yard, and making things." And although he stopped there, and didn't elaborate, I knew what he'd left unspoken. I know that Grandpa is mostly alone, and I know that he gets lonely.

I asked Grandpa how he spends his days at home, and he told me, hour by hour. One hour getting showered and dressed. Half an hour preparing and eating breakfast. An hour of radio news here. A nap for an hour there. Then he lowered his voice, looked me in the eye, and told me huskily, "From two o'clock to four o'clock in the afternoon - that's the time I struggle to fill. They're the hours that seem to drag." It was fairly unemotive statement on one level. On another level, the pathos in those words could fill a room, a house even.

As I recalled this conversation with Grandpa, I imagined myself older and spending more time on my own. I imagined my children grown and gone. I imagined the house quiet and neat. My imaginings filled me with the anticipation of freedom but also with a tinge of sadness. I began to grasp the lingering loss I will feel when I am no longer indispensible to my children; when I am free to walk alone to fetch bread every hour of every day.

In the end, I guess we make the best of whatever life brings. When our children are small - dependant and needy - we love them and care for them day in day out, savouring our rare moments of freedom and solitude. When we are older, we adjust to spending more time alone, and look forward to the company of family and friends.

I'm going to go walking at dawn every now and then. I'm also going to hug my kids and kiss their damp foreheads in gladness when I return.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

winding down

Sometimes I can shed my workday worries and leave them outside the house - discarded, paper-thin, ready to drift away with the very next zephyr. I know those worries are there. I carry on as if they're not. Next time I peer outside, there's nothing but small balls of dog hair and a few dead leaves.

Other times, I come home from work and feel uneasy. Mostly, I'm not even sure why.

Today, I wonder - is it the melancholy of seeing Polly, a sweet octogenarian, who is lonely but won't admit it, who is losing weight before my eyes, who always looks stylish, and who has a smile that is equal parts bravado and happiness?

Or am I worried about Ned, who has incurable bladder cancer, and who talks and talks and talks and talks, and who looked much older than his 70-odd years today?

I know I keep wondering about about Leah, who I referred to a specialist with a puzzling lab result that could indicate anything from cancer to Cumquat disease (you're right, I made up the cumquat disease)

Maybe it wasn't Ned, or Polly or Leah, or any one person. Maybe it is just my mind whirling, my thoughts spinning, my anxiety levels skyrocketing irrationally too high. Because in case you haven't figured it out yet - I can be a bit like that. Neurotic. Anxious. Wired too tightly.

I tried a glass of Kahlua and Frangelico and milk. (Don't try this at home folks. Alcohol should NOT be used to self-medicate...... he he) But what would cure me for certain would be a run, a gym class, even a long sweaty ride on the exercise bike. So why am I not pedalling this very minute, instead of whining to you?

I'm too lazy. It's dark, it's night-time, my kids are asleep and my husband is off sweating with his friends (playing squash, in case you were visualising some male-bonding towel-waisted sauna session). I don't want to go jump on the exercise bike and pedal like a mad thing. I'd rather just stay a non-perspiring mad thing, thanks very much.

Of course, blogging is another cure for those unsettled emotions. And I'm feeling better by the minute as I tap away here in my stunted 2-fingered fashion. (Veering off the topic for a moment - a question ...... If your doctor typed with two fingers, at a moderate speed but with a moderate error rate to boot, would you hold it against her? Or him? Or would you - she says, leading, leading, coaxing, coaxing - would you find it endearing and forgivable rather than regarding her as an inept idiot? Please reply frankly. But not too frankly. In fact, brutally honest answers will be deleted)

So where was I ? Oh yes, feeling strung-out. Except, I'm no longer feeling so strung-out. It's a miracle! I am cured!

No snarky comments about the alcohol finally kicking in, people. I only had 1 drink. I am not an alcoholic. Hi, my name's Jelly, and I am not an alcoholic.

Life can be anxiety-provoking. But I hate to waste the quiet times; the peaceful moments that could be spent reading, laughing, cuddling. Sometimes, like everyone else at one time or another, I have to shake my silly self and give myself a stern talking-to. But tonight my ill-feeling seems to have evaporated on expression. No need to chastise myself further. All I need now is a cup of hot chocolate, a piece of banana cake, and my big, fat book.

It's turning out to be a wonderful evening after all.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

candles on a cake

Today, we celebrated my grandfather's 93rd birthday.

The family assembled for lunch at a cheap restaurant, taking over several tables, all joined together to form one long table. My Grandpa sat at the head of the table, looking regal despite his stoop; handsome in his gold silky shirt and tie. He seemed proud as he gazed down the table at his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I think he smiled almost the entire time.

I sat for awhile by Grandpa's side. He may be elderly, but nothing gets past him. He asked me about work, and enquired after Laura and Ben. He told me a joke about an Scotsman and and Irishman (it was quite funny, but due to my joke-telling ineptitude, I cannot - will not - inflict this joke upon you). We spoke about this and that.

Grandpa talked about his mother, who wore her hair so long she could sit on it. Grandpa remembered when he was four, and his own fair hair fell in curls to well below his shoulders. Apparently that was the done thing in those days - to leave a boy child's hair uncut until the age of about four years, when the locks were finally cut short.

Grandpa spoke of a picture of a prince and princess that he once bought for Grandma - a picture Grandma spotted in a hotel not far from their home. I'm not sure what Grandpa and Grandma were actually doing in the hotel, since Grandma was, and Grandpa remains, a teetotaller. Grandpa explained to me that he never normally went into hotels, referring to them as 'dens of iniquity'. I wanted to smile at that, but didn't.

Grandpa lifted his arm slowly to place it around my shoulders. I cuddled up to him and counted my lucky stars to still have him in my life.

Every time Grandpa has a birthday, I wonder if he will make it to the next. I know he misses his sweetheart, my Grandma, as keenly as ever. I sometimes wonder if he longs to join her. I wonder if Grandpa stays around through sheer willpower - knowing how much we love him and want him on this earth.

My grandpa is ninety-three. I think he's the bomb.