Monday, July 27, 2009

Farewell to an old Tivoli dancer who hung with Squizzy Taylor’s molls…

Mavis was my great Aunt, or FABULOUS aunt as she would say.

From my earliest memories she was an old woman in my life. Old but never dull or invisible. I fondly remember times in various Stkilda flats where we’d feast on dim-sims and tim-tams, then she’d hop on the singer and make it sing as she rennovated or remade my latest opshop find or retro dress pattern.

If Mavis liked you, nothing was too much trouble and her generosity knew no bounds.
If she didn’t like you, look out! This old lady could be full of scathing wit, but she was also full of vim and vigour.

She gave me my first pair of clogs: red straps with cork heels, hand me downs that stopped fitting me at age nine.
Every time we re-met she’d laugh and measure herself against me as I shot past her diminutive self that seemed all corseted waist, voluptous breasts and dainty little feet in heels. She always set her hair, wore lipstick and beads and beautiful clothes that she often made herself.

Her many homes around StKilda were always warm and brightly feminine as no matter how basic they started out that singer-machine would soon be running up ruffles and covers in pretty pastel hues. She had a fondness for peach, pink and minty green and she knew how to make things over, but more importantly how to make things beautiful.

Aunty May loved StKilda with a passion we shared: its Russian shops, its orthodox jews in furry hats, but also the knowledge of its seemy underside intrigued her too. No matter how high the rent prices became, Stkilda was where she longed to be, and she would return there like a homing pigeon, or a magpie drawn to shiny things. I think she was proud when I began managing StKilda’s library, and we’d gossip about the more colourful local characters, often older drag queens she’d seen around for years.

At the many jazz afternoons I shared with her and my Mum Pam, Aunty Mavis would immediately befriend and soon know all the secret business of anyone in the vicinity. She was fascinated by people, and this curiosity was attractive to the people she met.
She would flirt with her eyes and her laugh, and call for requests and dance in her teensy-tiny shoes.

She taught me as a teenager not to fear being a woman over fifty, saying and showing that it allowed you to be as audacious and vivacious as you wanted, or could get away with. It’s a lesson I’ll hold dear as I two-step down the next few decades.

They say that heaven has good weather but the company’s better in hell.
Mavis, I hope that wherever you are the band is playing some hot New Orleans stomp, the crowd is going wild and the handsome man playing clarinet asks you to dance.

Cause dance you would.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Slowly, slowly, little seed.

A few years ago I read one of those books that actually revolutionized my thinking in the same way that Kate Millet’s ‘Sexual politics’ did, the same way that Anais Nin’s ‘Little Birds’ did and the same way that E.E. Cummings’ poetry did.

And it was bloody pop-philosophy!
But it engendered that moment of ‘A-ha’, of recognition of something previously felt but unarticulated. It was Carl Honore’s book ‘In praise of slow’, a (remarkably succinct given it’s title) discourse on the merits of slowing down: in our sex, our cities, our cooking, music and parenting.

The book is not brilliantly written, but-
My slow-soul, the one who sings ballads, grows herbs, cooks pot-food and likes nothing better than the vast uncharted terrain of an unplanned afternoon, responded to the slow philosophy with a sigh as grateful as if sinking into a warm bath. Finally something articulated that tremulousness that hovers at the brink when we drink in air deeply, touch the food we cook lovingly, and rediscover the deliciousness of our lovers’ back beneath our hands over an entire afternoon.

Carl Honore is also the author of “The Power of Slow: Finding Balance and Fulfilment Beyond the Cult of Speed,” and, more recently, “Under Pressure: Rescuing Our Children from the Culture of Hyper-Parenting,” which has been recently re-released.

I’ve actually not read these, but from other reading about the ‘cult of slow’ established with my husband a kind of philosophy as to how we want to parent our little seedling. And the best way I can summarize is to say we want to stretch time, every day, for as long as possible. We want time like sticky-taffy, time like pink chewing-gum, time like in the Tardis, time like it felt on the first day of summer school holidays.

This means resisting the pull of scheduled activity to instead observe then wallow in the rhythms of what the body and mind wants on that particular day.
This could be rest, but it could also be mad joyous play, music, dancing or drumming.
Slow parenting does not mean non-stop calm and quietude.

If I have plans, I feel I must stick to them so as not to let people down.
Plan-less I can observe my boy being twitchy, or dozy, or curious or bored. I can observe myself wanting to stimulate him, or just cuddle up with him. Plan-less, I am left to my own resources to satisfy this experience-insatiable little person.

It helps that my home is full of books and instruments and things growing in the yard. But the best discovery is that my mine, oops, mind is resource-rich, veined with fine fissures of gold, silver-ore and sapphire. All the accumulated wealth of years of imaginative play with my Mum as I grew up in her slow home. Wealth aplenty!

Enough to dazzle the eyes of a four-month old anyway…