Saturday, 20 September 2014

...the horse named Morality

'The punters know that the horse named Morality rarely gets past the post, whereas the nag named Self-interest always runs a good race.’ 

Gough Whitlam
I’ll admit it. I’m an over-privileged brat. I grew up in a two-parent, two-kid, two-car, two-television, middle-class family. Courtesy of Gough and his bottomless chequebook, I received a top-rate government-funded education, spending five years at uni in the days when bands played at lunchtimes and the beer was free. And then I went straight into decent a job.

I’ve never had to struggle to make sense of my world, to wonder where I might sleep or fear when next I might eat.  It hasn’t all been filet mignon and chilled pinot. Of course not. Life likes to serve up a soggy tomato sandwich and tepid chianti every now and again. But on the whole, I’ve had a pretty sweet ride. By the time we moved to The Rock, I was lucky enough to be able to wind-back to a leisurely pace, only accepting enjoyable freelance jobs.

Over the years, I’ve squeezed in a great many hours of helping at school events and serving on committees where we had to sit on those miniature chairs that give you cramp or at tables that testify to the world-shatteringly perceptive statement that ‘Maths sux’. I confess that I just don’t understand mums who exempt themselves from contributing by offering the excuse that they’re too busy because they have children. No shit!? Do they think everyone else turns up at the school gate twice a day by accident? But to be honest, getting involved in kid-related politics has always made me feel that the skills I’ve developed have served more than just me. That others have gained from what Gough gave me.

So, when we moved to The Rock, I knew to expect great sunsets, bad coffee and hordes of thong-wearing tourists over summer. What I didn’t expect was to find a whole new way of applying my Gough-given talents.

I’ve started working as a volunteer at a local community institution one day a week and I’m loving it. It’s not really like work because there’s no pressure. No deadlines. No slippery poles to climb or glass ceilings to give me a headache. Penalty rates, docked wages, tax deductions —they’re all the same when you’re a volunteer worker. Twice nothing is never going to be something. And although it’s a little like helping to organise the school fête, or run the kindergarten or manage the kids club, I’m not there because I’m somebody’s mum. I’m there because I’m me. And I get to sit on a full-sized chair.

At my new non-paying place of employment, I meet like-minded locals while doing stuff that interests me. And if I don’t feel like doing that particular stuff, I can just bail and come back to it some other time.

As a massive bonus, the people there are actually grateful for what I’m doing. They treat me as an intelligent human being. I cannot begin to express what a welcome change that makes from ‘You didn’t buy any juice and my sport uniform is not clean’. It’s a win-win situation. It’s an antidote for what I call the Marvin Syndrome. Remember Marvin the Paranoid Android from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? — ‘Here I am, brain the size of the universe, and they ask me to open the door…’ Yep, I hear you, Marvin. Living with my kids can make me feel just that way.

So things are looking up in the keep-Wendy-from-going-totally-braindead department and I'm sure that Gough would be pleased to hear that ‘the horse named Morality’ is still on the track.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

... into something rich and strange

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made; 
These are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
 Sung by Ariel in The Tempest. 

Anyone who knows me well will tell you I’m a book-lover with a penchant for expensive shoes and bright nail polish. I hate camping. I’m not a strong swimmer and I get little joy from riding a bike. 
Quite frankly, I’ve never been any kind of a sportsperson. In fact, to be brutally honest, I’m not much of an outdoors anything. I burn easily, rain makes my hair go frizzy and windy weather makes me cranky. But here I am — living on The Rock by the sea, on a few acres of what just a couple of years ago was farmland. 
And when I say 'by the sea', I don't mean a sheltered bay with glowing golden sand and cooling breezes. Nope, we live atop a cliff that faces the waterway between Australia and Antarctica. We're talking winds that Francis Beaufort would have rated at ten accompanied, as he so aptly put it, by the 'tumbling of waves with heavy impact and large amounts of airborne spray to reduce visibility'.
So how did that come about? Well, my husband, Dr Dad, and I had long wondered about … talked about… argued about… the virtues of moving our younger children from the suburbs for their teen years. You see, we are what are politely known as 'older parents'. Foolishly, as one child reached secondary school, we acquired two more children. And as Number One Son became a genuine grown-up and actually left home, those younger children were approaching the rocky shores of adolescence at breakneck speed.  Crunch time. Face the perils of trying to keep up with tech-savvy brand-wearing citified teens, or opt out. Take a chance. Move to a semi-rural community with a small school where surfing is part of the curriculum and rich kids have horses.
Thus, fifteen oh-please-shoot-me-if-I-ever-suggest-building-a-new-house-again months later, we arrived at our new address — our new life on The Rock.
'Oh, you’ve made the sea-change!' people chirp. Yes, I guess we have. 
When Shakespeare created that term— sea-change — he was describing how the magical power of the ocean can transform something ordinary, the parts of a human being, into objects of beauty and wonder… 'Into something rich and strange'.   
 Sounds good to me. Do your best, Rock. Transform this cynical high-heeled city-dweller...