Saturday, October 22, 2011

Things from my ‘box of pretties’.

I have in my mind a ‘box of pretties’. They are little gifts to me, and tend to be a bit like that old jewellery inherited by nanna. I know they are sometimes truly precious and at other times cheap tat. They are in my box because they are gold and pearls, emeralds and moonstone, ephemeral and true.
You could not open the box of pretties; they are intangible and only mine.
In my box
Getting the coveted yellow crayon on day three of prep. I made the sun!

Staying with Aunty Shirl and Uncle Ian and their four kids when I was five and Mum and Dad went oversees: loud meals! Children everywhere! Splooshy shared baths! Custard for dessert! Bunk beds!

A youth called Otis in my first car (yellow 1974 Volvo) stroking my thigh in 1989, parked outside the Metro on Russell Street, and groaning aloud.

My first wanted-positive pregnancy stick, in a flat in Elsternwick, three days after buying my first home with Chris: she was Violet-in-an-instant and she was GRAND!

Being on the library desk at StKilda when a very old Jewish man said quite suddenly “oh your eyes”. I felt very caught, and vulnerable, and just said ‘what?’ He kept my gaze and replied: “they are so big, and so sad”. I had just the week before miscarried my second, and I thought I had hid it so well, and his human-ness made me come undone in secret toilet-tears. But I felt such kindness.

Saying, “I’m so pleased to meet you” when the nurses laid a weird and bloody little alien across my chest almost three years ago.

A kiss under the fort in a park, a while ago now, but when I shouldn’t have. O- sweet cliché: the rain, a near stranger, some small talk, our moment: wet wool and murmurs.

An inscription in a poetry book by a man I held dear and would never touch.

Being allowed to make the Napolitana sauce for my Italian neighbours children; they turned up red-rimmed smiles to say ‘yummy’.

Holding my old cat’s paw, stroking him and telling him how loved he was as he passed on. And that same cat aged one ‘combing’ my very-long hair with those same paws while a fire crackled in the old room: OUCH!

I sat down to write with a small jewel-box in the lap of my mind. But it GROWS. Everything I write begets more treats for the box. As Dr Seuss would say in ‘Green Eggs and Ham’: “try it you’ll like it, try it you will see”

What would be in your box-of-pretties?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

so something has me talking about spooks lately

People around me who know how much I enjoy pop-science are surprised that I see ghosts. I see them routinely and without shock, and I have done since childhood. I see them with ease, sometimes as familiars, and sometimes as cheeky interlopers who just need to be reminded that they don’t (even if they did at some stage) pay the rent, mortgage or bills.

I grew up in a family where we talked easily about the ghosts, not always seriously, but aloud nonetheless. Dad thought it all mad but could scare me witless with old bush-tales of ghosts that roamed the desert around Burke where he walked and worked as a young man with his Dad.
They were joked about, occasionally complained about, often referred to, and always with a sense of tongue in cheek. Yet they prevailed in so many women-chats that they have always capered down the hallways of my childhood in a way that is as real and ‘feelable’ as the woof and weave of the beige-pile-carpet or patterned olive-green bathroom tiles.

Aunty Shirl had the ghost of ‘crazy Eileen’ show up at a jokey drunken séance she hosted. Eileen was a family member who’d died young and with Alzheimer’s. Aunty Mavis had the woman who’d gassed herself to death in the flat years before. On the night he died our Uncle Ian came to see my brother Dean, then fourteen, to tell him not to worry but to look after Dad. Dean is as pretty straight up kind of bloke but still gets shivery thinking about it.
One night when I was ten I dreamed that Nana came and tucked me in. the next morning I was having the usual cuppa in bed with Mum and she said she’d dreamed that she and Nana were sharing a Dixie cup ice-cream. The phone rang and we got the news that she’d died.
In a rental property in Vermont I lived in at five there were the doors to the lounge that opened, the gas oven that went on overnight causing panicked evacuations, the awful passing odours in the hallway and my bedroom blinds would be flung up often overnight. I saw one in a flat in Windsor at twenty, a sad woman dressed for work at the end of my bed, and recently one in my lounge; an old woman clutching a brown cardigan to her chest and looking startled by me. Interestingly neither Mum nor I have tuned in to male ones!

I do ‘see’ them, but not as fady-apparitions all see through, or as real people. I see them as I feel them as a high-speed flat image like a photo transposed over what is ‘really’ there, and I’ve just learned to assume/trust that the image I see so quickly is probably an intuitive representation, not a photo…maybe its even how they saw themselves. But the mind is a tricksy and old sea and who knows what shells it has shored up in its depths.

The other ways in which I ‘see’ them are as odours or darkness’s. Sometimes in a Spring-lit room that is positively twitching with light reflections there is simply a dark shape at the edge. Pay attention to it. At other times I reckon I’ve walked through a ghost fart, and phew are they dank and malodorous!

I used to think they were always about place, but now I wonder…my son has definitely attracted shadows, sound, lights and fizz. He’s made ‘things’ happen around the home that are new. Just new. Not scary, though sometimes in the night the expanse of black hallway from loo to bed can seem cooler than it should, my bare ankles feel strangely vulnerable and I feel the icy gaze of the other pressing the skin tighter on my shoulder blades, envious and seething as it watches me flee on warm and alive patty-feet back to the bed…

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fais do do

In the dark of a New Orleans eve folks might gather for a Fais do do. Strangely this translates as a wild party of dance, song, food and flirtation. The phrase actually comes from this gorgeous old French Lullaby that Creoles have kept alive in New Orleans. I believe it translates as 'to your dormier' (bedroom) and was sung as babes were swept off to bed. That it then became the phrase for staying up late and partying all night was reflective of an ironic or falsely authorative command- 'off to bed with you now'. it is a beautiful lullaby, of simple melody and comorting meaning:

Fais do do, Colas mon petit frere
Go to sleep, Colas, my little brother,

Fais do do, t'auras du lolo.
Go to sleep, and you'll have a treat.

Maman est en haut, Elle fait des gateaux
Mama is upstairs making cakes,

Papa est en bas, Il fait du chocolat.
Papa is downstairs making chocolate.

Fais do do, Colas mon petit frere
Go to sleep, Colas, my little brother,

Fais do do, t'auras du lolo.
Go to sleep,
and you'll have a treat.

just perfect, which is why I'm learning it.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


It's a loaded word isn’t it, something we often spend most of our youth desperately avoiding, then perhaps part of our life chasing to varying lengths and extremes of intervention.

My periods have always been wacky, very heavy, and I also in the last five years have had PMT blow out to encompass a fortnight, something pretty unfair on those around me! In the last year it seems I’ve gone peri-menopausal, and that could last ages and just means periods are very irregular. Two in a month? Sure! Then a two month wait? Sure!
So figuring that there were no ‘safe’ times I could guarantee the Captain did the noble thing and sorted out a vasectomy. Done and dusted? No way.
After three months of postoperative tests he was down to 1% ‘motile’ sperm. So we thought we’d still play a bit safely (fill in the details you’re all wize enough too) but a whole night sans Finn (who was having a blast eating ice-cream and being generally spoilt at Na and Pa’s house) combined with a blissful sleep in, coffee in bed and some amorous snuggling and well, you know what happens.
So three weeks late I last night lay awake, breasts hot and hard, just knowing that irony with a big I might be playing a big trick on us. I hopped online (as you do when insomnia and a health concern kick in to keep you awake for five hours) and Lo- entire forums devoted to the multitude of women having unplanned pregnancies after their partners had vasectomies. Turns out that ‘sperm motility reactivation’ does not seem to be the one in five thousand chance listed in the vasectomy brochure, or if so then every one is online and talking about their shocking news.
I’m a feminist, know my rights and have always been willing to avail myself of them should the need arise, but it seemed (at 4am anyway) that anything that damned determined to find is way might need to be admired, even if not welcomed.
I spent the rest of then night organising space logistics in the home, and figuring out that Finn would be out of (expensive) day care before the zygote was in it, and that I still had some long service leave to add to maternity leave, and there was someone who could walk into my job (but might have needed poisoning to exit it!). Not excited, certainly not, but pragmatic and considering, yes.
All the while my breasts ached and tingled (the biggest surest sign of early pregnancy) and I pondered why I felt disloyal to Finn in thinking that the pregnancy could continue to its conclusion, a sibling for him and the whole crazy treadmill again for us.

I took a train to Newport, where an old-fashioned strip of red-brick shops hosts a chemist. I bought my package and came home and waited for wee, which can be slow when you’re clenched all over.
I just tested negative, having kept my eyes shut and refusing to look for much longer than the required three minutes.
Despite all the ‘planning’ I went through I know the vasectomy was the right choice, for when I saw that blue stripe flying solo I whooped with relief.
one little word, so loaded. It's like the shortest story ever told really.

and about the image? well someone told me recently that blogs are personal, no matter that the audience could be known, or not, or small, or big.

Monday, July 11, 2011

long time, but can't say sorry (Sorry!)

Hello to the folks who view. As you may know I am alive! And quite well too…
The leaves on the ‘tree of blog’ were always ones to be observed and quietly admired in a cupped palm; their tan veins a little life-reckoning…

A long time without posts… Just count me as caught in winter and the deep freeze or more honestly the budding of my boy Finn. Ah Mr Finn MacCool (!) Little sun, little Bugger! I think you were born with your namesake’s narrative imprinted, or maybe all heroes are two-year-olds! Your attitude and articulation of life know no bounds. They intrigue, appeal, remind, annoy, enrage, upset and often make me secretly snigger with misplaced pride (o your rages, o your certain feet-stomping’)

I (secretly) think you are all your middle-name of Wilson, but then you go and surprise me with Sager, all musically attuned and intent last night as you built ‘robot man’ with Dad out of MegaBlocks between drumming to ABC classical.

And the way you take to Grand-Souls’ homemade books (and yes they are darn good) like you know they are uniquely read to no-other-boy-but-Finn. Solway is your paternal Granny, she who comes with flute and home-made-books and songs sung in key (unlike ME!) but also dodgy heavy bread…

One day when you can understand we will most likely tell you why “ I don’t have Brothers or Sisters”. When you came along we named you for the ‘Fair One’ and for the wonderful Finn MacCumahaill (because you have some solid Irish heritage via the Cleary’s) and our friend Ursula blessed you with (dropped cigarette) ash and song when you were six days old…

Your name means at different times ‘fair’ or ‘bright’ or ‘certitude’.
You are none and possibly all of those. You are a toddler (baby/boy) with big eyes that seek. You are pretty wonderful, you give awesome hugs, and tell pretty funny stories, and play the drums better than Mum, and swim like a Fishy In Your Bath.

I like you as much as I love you. Liking you probably takes up more of my time! For me, my sweet and yummy-tummy boy, there is Certitude. I love you. I love Chris. I love your Father and all of your Grandparents. This is the post I felt too shy to write.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

autumn morning at home with beauty

a songbird found my garden

Singing crept up and tapped me on the shoulder when I was depressed. I had post-natal anxiety, which even now just two years later is being acknowledged as a form of post-natal depression and treated similarly. The difference as I was told it at the time was that I was able to bond with my newborn, was able to get dressed and even sometimes leave the home, but that my anxiety about things that could go wrong had disabled me from being able to function normally. That means that I was awash with tears, as in all the time. That I’d cling to my husband as he left for work and cry harder. That when left alone with my newborn I could function as long as I didn’t have to leave the house or see anybody at all, including close family and friends. I'd had depression before, knew the shape of it and had done the medication route for a while with help from my GP.

I fought with my Mum. I cried. I held it together for some work-friends to visit. I cried and cried and had secret panics. Pushing the stroller I would fear that I’d get the urge to let it roll into traffic, then fearing that urge I would fear I had post-natal psychosis.

This vicious circle was worsened by not being successful at breastfeeding. That alone is loaded with womanly failure, but on a very practical level it means it’s harder to get a baby to sleep. Breast equals comfort; even adults know the pleasure of cuddling against breasts, and to not be able to offer this to my baby made getting him off to sleep all the more difficult. So he’d cry then so would I.

One day I tentatively started to sing. Feeling that the act of singing made me breathe deeply and slowly for the first time in weeks, I just kept going. When I first sang my chest hurt from breathing normally again it had been so compressed with panic. I ran out of known lullabies very fast and so fell back into singing what I had as a pre-smoking young woman: show tunes and jazz standards. I sang badly, then as my throat got used to the strange little stretches, I know I sang better. I found an ability to move into my own falsetto, and in doing so found many songs became more singable. I sang so constantly that before long I was walking the neighbourhood singing past new gardens and old people in them, past mechanics and bakers and thyme-pizza-makers. It not only got me past the worst, it made me happy, very often and very easily.

It helped fix my soul up. The next step was going to be meds, but I’m glad I didn’t have to go there. I think it was just part of the fix, combined with time, settling hormones, growing confidence, more fresh-air walks and a baby that was starting to sleep to a kind of routine. But I know that my singing and relaxing was all tied into his ability to sleep.

I don’t ‘have’ to sing as much now because I’m not constantly working to make a newborn relaxed and fearless. But I miss it and so remind myself when setting up the old sixties library I work at, to just sing. As I switch on PCs in the glowing early light, I sing folk tunes and gay tunes and swing tunes and rock. I sing jazz and when I forget the words I make up my own blue tales of women wronged and men with shine, tramps in new shoes and ladies pulling tricks for a dime.

Of all the lovely things to have come my way in the last few years this singing and the simple, forgiving pleasure I find in it has been the most singularly precious to me, the woman who came before the Mother and now sits alongside.

Friday, January 21, 2011

At forty, dancing with cats will do.

I had a hissy fit at work the other day. With some hindsight there were some decisions made I was not a Happy Jan about, but with further hindsight, (which is different) there was basically the fact that fifteen years there dealing with recurring problems had suddenly made me feel jaded, tired, and old.

I don’t often feel old. Despite always claiming I was ‘born forty’ I’ve never equated that with feeling cynical, over it, past it or anything else negative. Instead I’ve equated ‘feeling forty’ with a kind of ease-of-self and earthiness combined with a love of glamour and capricious behaviour; for me forty always seemed delicious and a little bit naughty. Sexy in fact.
So it’s with some surprise that I finally catch up to myself and hit forty come April. If given free reign and not in love with a man I would be wearing a Waratah print dress and writing a ‘love column’ for a schlock newspaper somewhere up around Hat-Head Bay.

If still just living with ‘the Captain’ we would be celebrating at Aqua e Vino with some big dollars splurged on feeding our friends cocktails from a three-hundred page drinks menu whilst a Swing Band played. As a Fair, Fat and Forty Mum I’m instead going to a gastro-pub near a beach with twenty people, passing the bub on to my parents after dinner, then having drinks and tunes in a funky little back-bar of the pub.

And hey- I’ll dance, shamelessly and drunkenly. It will be my night but I’ll try to be gracious, share my toys and say ‘please’ and ‘thank-you’. I’ll dance with my man, and some very old chums (I can say that now in truth and not offence!) and then I’ll come home silly and dance some more.

And if all the people go home too soon I’ll go out back, to the deck and garden in the home I’ve made (because I’m forty) and I’ll seductively call in Damage-Cat (because I’m wily) and dance with him amongst the spinach and hops plants.

He’s my fifth cat (because I’m forty) but he doesn’t know that. He knows the moon, the night, my perfume and what it is to be both domestic and feral.
He’ll just press his furry cheek against mine (because I’m lovely) and purr as we dance.

Thursday, January 13, 2011