Saturday, 29 November 2014

The truth about cutting my grass

The grass needs mowing again. We’ve had a week of alternating rain and sun—perfect for growing grass. You’ll notice I didn’t say ‘lawn’. It took me ages to stop referring to the sort-of-green stuff that we have here as lawn. Lawn goes hand-in-hand with lush and manageable. Lawn is a neatly edged pocket-handkerchief of something verdant. Our home is a 4-acre block covered with grass-like vegetation that is substantially more weedy and bice than lawn.
Random pic of how the dogs feel about the grass.
There’s something so civilized and polite about a tidy lawn. A neatly clipped lawn with a pin-line edge shouts, “The people who live here are proud and responsible citizens.” Either that or it mutters something about OCD and anal-retentives. And the raucous Sunday sound of a lawn mower is practically a suburban anthem. Which is probably why it drives me nuts that Dr Dad is so obsessed with keeping our grass cut. At this time of the year, no day is safe from the cowboy accountant on his trusty ride-on steed. He’ll straddle that roaring beast as the sun sets on even the most perfect of days.
On evenings when we should be wallowing in the soul-bolstering calm that surrounds us — the white noise of surf punctuated by the calling birds, nightfall stretching across the horizon, both kids locked away in the bedrooms plugged into their earpods pretending to do homework — Lawnmower Man goes into overdrive. It’s almost annoying enough to put me off my pinot grigio. Almost. 
Lawnmower Man in action.
 Actually that’s another thing about cut lawn. Some people go into raptures about the luxuriant aroma of freshly cut grass. For them, it evokes childhood, or summertime or holiday memories. Not for me. It reminds me of sauvignon banc. I’m not a fan of sauvignon banc.
I don’t think dogs are enraptured by the smell of freshly mown lawn either, because every dog we’ve ever had… hang it, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say… every dog in the history of the universe, finds the smell of cut grass to have a laxative effect. Am I right? The damn dog can’t wait to lay a barker’s egg right there in the middle of the newly neatened plot. Every time. But I digress. 
Lawnmower Man’s excuse for his obsession with keeping the grass down is that he spends so much time cooped up in the windowless over-air-conditioned environment of the workplace that he just loves to get out there in the fresh air and do something constructive. Yeah, right. I know better. I know that’s only the Y-chromosome-bearing reason. There are two, interconnected real reasons. The first has to do with the fact that, as you can see from the photos, we have a large dam.

 Lawnmower Man has a pathological fear of snakes, and the local copperheads (which only rank seventh, by the way, in the top ten of Australia’s most dangerous snakes) like to live around water. I can confirm this because just last week one took up residence beside the drainage pipe at our letterbox. And even though these reptiles are described as shy and slow to strike, Lawnmower Man is not willing to take any chances. Especially since that day one of the dogs brought us a live hissing plaything, right up to the back door.
So don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining that he wants to keep the property snake free…well, not snake free exactly, that’s impossible, just with grass short enough that we can actually see a snake if it’s sunning itself or making its way somewhere for a drink. I’m just having a whinge about his timing. His timing and the noise.

 I’m so used to sitting here at my computer veritably bathed in the sound of nothing man-made, except the occasional crunching on the unmade road of a carload of sight-seers who’ve lost their way down our dead-end street, that the damn lawnmower chopping it all to hell makes me want to throw myself off the nearest cliff.  

So that’s truth number one about what why Lawnmower Man’s obsession gets up my nose. Call by tomorrow for truth number two.

Same blog time. Same blog channel. 


Friday, 28 November 2014

Liebster: Spreading the love to newbie bloggers

 As this is only my 34th post ever, newbie bloggers don't come much greener than me. I am still stumbling around somewhere in the wonderland of words and images down the rabbit-hole that is the blogosphere, still very much the teeny-tiny Alice hoping one day to reach my full potential.

It's utterly amazing to have found some wonderful kinfolk already. One of whom, the lovely and extremely talented Mary-Anne — writer, thinker, wool wizard — over at Breathing Life  has awarded me a Leibster here. Drop in and I can promise she'll make you welcome. Thank you in bucketfuls, Mary-Anne.  And if I was clever enough to create a new logo in your honour, I'd do it. But I'm not. (So I have another idea.)

Naturally, I did a bit of research and background reading, and it seems this truly lovely blogging tradition of offering support to newcomers has been going on for years. There's more about it here by Lupey Loops, who nominated Mary-Anne. 

The 'rules' vary, so I'm going to use the ones Mary-Anne listed PLUS, in her honour, I'm going to reinstate what appears to be an old tradition of adding a list of 11 random facts about me. 
So the rules I'm handing on are:
1: Acknowledge and accept the Liebster Award by leaving a comment on the blog where you were nominated.

2:  Copy and paste a Liebster logo onto your own blog.
3: Link back to the blogger who awarded you.
4: Answer the 11 questions put to you by the person who nominated you.

5: List 11 random facts about yourself.
6: Nominate and link to 3—11 other blogs you enjoy that have a small readership (say less than 200...ish)
7: List 11 questions for your Liebster Award nominees on your blog.
8: Inform your nominees by leaving a comment on their blog.

Again, thank you, Mary-Anne, for including me in the fun.
Here are my Liebster offerings..

1. Who is the audience you write for on your blog?
I write to engage my brain, and so I I'd say my audience is anyone who 'gets' me. 
2. How did you decide upon your blog name?
That actually took quite a while. It was my ready-made excuse for not starting a blog for ages. The tiny island where I live is known to locals as The Rock. I am a music tragic, obsessively into rock. Got my first record player  when I was eight and have never looked back. Anyway, I was going to call it  Views from the Rock but decided to woman-up and use my name, own what I'm putting out here.
3. What are your hobbies and/or creative pursuits?
Apart from writing, I knit blankets — not amazing tricky patterns though. And I love to do crafty stuff... a bit of sewing, a bit of card-making — just stuff. I also take photographs.
4. How has technology affected your creative pursuit(s) and hobbies?
Oh that's easy... Pinterest makes me feel less and less adequate by the day.
5. What is your current job (or what are you retired from)?
In my first working life I was a secondary school teacher of English Language and Literature, then I became an Education Publisher for Oxford University Press Australia. Since then I have filled my days with freelance writing and editing, part-time teaching of Professional Writing and Editing at tertiary (college) level, providing training in corporate communication... and being an unpaid houseslave.
6. Where is somewhere new that you would like to travel?
My BFF and I crossed East Africa off our bucket lists a short while ago. We're now planning an Antarctic Cruise for our 60th birthdays.
7. Would you describe yourself as an introvert or an extrovert?
I'm an introvert who works hard at kidding herself and fooling others.
8. What movie(s) have you watched over and over again?
I'm huge fan of movies, so too many to list them all. But some absolute faves are: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Princess Bride, An Affair to Remember, Bladerunner, School of Rock ... and anything with either Hepburn.
9. What book(s) have you read more than once?
Again, too many to list. Bigtime faves: Wuthering Heights (or anything Brontë sisters really), Cloudstreet by Tim Winton, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler.
10. What would you tell your ten-year-old self?
I'd like to say something cool like, 'Stay gold, Ponygirl' but that would just be inappropriate. I'd probably tell her to cut herself more slack over the coming years.
11. What would you like to learn to do in the future? 
I volunteer at a military museum, and have just started learning to be a curator.

11 random facts about me:
  1. I have never read a Dan Brown novel.
  2. My elbows are kind of wonky double-jointed.
  3. I loathe massages.
  4. My brother once tied me to a tree then went inside for lunch and told Mum he had no idea where I was.
  5. I wish I could tie scarves the nonchalantly stylish way women in Paris and Milan do.
  6. Given the choice of pearls or gemstones, it's pearls all the way.
  7. I wear a mouthguard to bed because I grind my teeth with gusto.
  8. I don't like the taste of fishy fish.
  9. If I could rebuild my body, the only piece I'd keep to recycle would be my hands.
  10. I prefer savoury to sweet.
  11. My favourite word is meninabobokan — it's Indonesian for to rock the baby.

And here's where it gets a bit tricky, because as yet I don't follow many other blogs. Some I do love to read have large followings and others have probably already been nominated for the Liebster... a couple of times... so I'm going to jump right in there and nominate:
The Vinyl Edition  
Leila's Mixtape
Jahn 1: Mainly fair with occasional rain
Edwina's Episodes 
Life in Training

Your 11 questions are:
  1. Why did you start to blog?
  2. How did you decide upon your blog's name?
  3. What other talent/s do you have apart from  blogging?
  4. Which three words best describe you?
  5. Where is your happy place?
  6. What movies have you watched over and over?
  7. Who is your favourite fictional character? Why?
  8. What would you tell your 10-year-old self?
  9. If you could meet anyone, dead or alive, who would you choose? Why?
  10.  What is your most cherished possession?
  11. Who inspires you?
I'm really happy to be part of spreading the Liebster love. Thanks again, Mary-Anne.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

The fifth dimension — sleeplessness

When I can’t get back to sleep, I run through the alphabet with names: Abraham, Bruce, Callan... Alice, Bethany, Carmen. Or fruit and vegetables: dragonfruit, endive, fennel. Or flowers: gladioli, hyacinth, iris…  which of course then confuses me, because so many flower names can also be girls’ names. So I sidetrack myself for a bit and then circle right back around to letter-A for another attempt. I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever made it all the way through to Z. I’m so good at leading myself astray that I keep having to go back to the beginning and start afresh because I’ve forgotten what I was up to.
I know the most common trick to induce sleep is to count backwards from a very large number. Every time someone has legally knocked me unconscious, and believe me there have been many times (I tortured myself with IVF for ten years – yep, I’m living proof that it’s possible to be intelligent and completely stupid at the same time – but more of that some other day) every time I’ve been knocked out by an anaesthetist, she has told me to count backwards from ten. Yes, I realise that ten is not a very large number, but I’m trying to make a point here.  The usual way to bore someone to sleep seems to be with numbers. But numbers just don’t do it for me. They don’t relax me. We don’t have a very close relationship, numbers and I.  
Sometimes I try to hypnotise the parts of my body back to sleep. You know, “My feet are feeling heavy and sleepy… my knees are turning to lead… my thighs are the weight of rock… But then I just start to think about how my heels are like cheese graters, I need to wax my legs, my varicose veins are getting uglier by the day, and how the fact that estrogen creates fat but testosterone breaks it down is just more proof that God is male. Sleepy thoughts? Not quite. Besides, the hypnotise-body-parts technique is almost always hampered by the thermostat controlling foot I have sticking out the side of the bed from under the covers.
I’ve tried deep breathing. Slow breathing. Focused breathing. Abdominal breathing.  But they all seem to lead to NO breathing. I get so tied up with counting and holding and counting again that I end up dizzy and gasping. It's those bloody numbers that do it.
So how about you? What’s your technique for going back to sleep? I’m open to suggestions.
Except if you’re going to suggest that I give up alcohol, especially 2-3 hours before bedtime. Not gonna happen. No way.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

...the pedant, the precise and the specific

My interest was aroused when the radio announcer said that after the news, he was going to give away tickets to tonight's public lecture by the fascinating and erudite Simon Winchester. Great. I might just try my luck at that. Nothing better than a freebie. 

And then he said the title of the event:The Pedant, The Precise and the Specific. I stopped. Stunned. Stunned and a little confused. I mean, seriously, who would waste a perfectly good night that could be spent Dancing with the Stars or playing a Game of Thrones to attend an evening's entertainment called The Pedant, The Precise and the Specific. Who would choose to be locked in a room full of nitpickers? 

Horrifying images began to besiege me of long rows of Oxford Dictionary clutching self-proclaimed language purists who bore the barcodes off every single supermarket worker who is unlucky enough to be spending a shift on the Express Checkout under the sign that reads: 10 Items or Less
'Of course it should be fewer you know,' they carp through their smug priggish smiles as they hitch up their smarty-britches.'Fewer NOT less." 
Every. Stinking. Time. 
While the checkout operator responds with:

I shuddered at blood-chilling glimpses of a mass of dogmatists in brown cardigans and baggy-arsed tartan slacks who long for this to be true:

I shook away glimpses into a whole room of fully-grown people who would NEVER have seen this.

And the spectre of a lecture theatre crammed full of fastidious fusspots who most certainly fold rather than scrunch was enough to make me hyperventilate. 
Nope, forget those free tickets. Clever and all as Simon Winchester is, that public lecture was not for me. I decided to save my 30cents.

And if you've made it this far, you deserve this:

Oh...PS. I misheard the title of the lecture, it was The Pedant, The Precise and the PACIFIC... Shoot me now.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Bad Mothering 101

Situation normal. Within about ten minutes of their return from school today, both my kids had cracked the shits with me. One had stormed off muttering. The other was sitting at the dining table staring out the window munching on seventeen slices of sourdough toast and a jug of chicken soup. 

Crime Number One.
Miss 14 has applied for a middle-school leadership role. This is very big deal. Trust me. You have no idea quite how BIG.  The pressure’s not coming from me. Yes, I want her to have all the opportunities for growth that come with assuming responsibility. Yes, if she deserves it, and works for it, then I want her to have it. Of course I do. I want her to be all that she can be.

But I really honestly and truly do not give fat rat’s rear-end about what Bitchy-Miss-X or Loud-Missy-Y or even the Amazing-Zedster might have to say about who should get what. And although it’s clear that the sky WILL fall if Prissy-Britches is declared House Captain, and the earth WILL stop turning if Teachers-Pet-Lad is made Middle-school Captain, there’s buggar-all I can do about it. But of course that's not the point. Not the point at all.

And I was listening. I swear I was. I even thought I was making a sympathetic of-course-I’m-listening kind of a face. But obviously I wasn't. Very obviously I wasn't. Because it seems that I "oh dear"ed when I should have  "gee wow"ed. At which point she paused for just long enough to give me the exact look she would wear if she stood in dog poo.
So I smiled to try to placate her.
And before you could say “One Direction suck bad" she was stomping towards the stairs trailing a muffled ‘Oh just don't even worry about it then' like wet toilet paper from the bottom of her shoe.
Note to self: Next time just nod. Say nothing; do nothing else. Remember Rule 652 in The Handbook for Parenting Girls: when confronted by a disgruntled teen-princess, do not speak unless there is a pause of at least 5.6 seconds duration in her oration.

And above all, never... never... forget Rule 651: No uninvited smiling. Ever. It does not placate. It provokes. Uninvited smiling creates the impression that you do not believe there is
any genuine cause for upset and said smile will therefore be construed as a barbed and vicious criticism of the distressed speaker.
Never smile at a teen-princess who has lost her gruntle. You WILL be punished.

Crime Number Two
Mr 16 likes to disconnect himself from all other living things by means of ear-buds whenever possible. This minimises the likelihood of being drawn into another meaningless discussion about the need for study or any further annoying reference to the smell of fermenting socks coming from his darkened room.

He also likes to lounge about watching ESPN (simultaneously playing a game on his phone and social networking on his computer…or vice versa) while enjoying his after-school ‘snack’.

Today, I asked him not to take his food with him as he headed for the sanctity of the television. And I gave him two reasons for my request. Firstly, his father, having just returned from an extended business trip to the other side of the planet, was sitting at the kitchen counter and would love to have a chat with him.
Response to reason number one: ‘Hmph’.

Secondly, as my 657 million requests to use a coaster/placemat whenever he put a glass/mug/cup/bowl/plate on the hand-carved wooden chest my now-deceased dad gave me for my 21st birthday had been ignored, and said hand-carved wooden chest now has an irreparable stain bleached into it, I was hereby banning his taking of food into the immediate proximity of the aforementioned chest.
Response to reason number two: ‘Hmph’.

And then he filled his ears with buds and headed off to the dining room. Not the kitchen counter. The dining room. This was clearly designed to piss me off. I was meant to follow and complain that he knew it was inappropriate to have his after-school snack alone in the dining room when he could have been sitting chatting with his father in the kitchen so that he could pretend he couldn’t hear me because he was listening to music.  But I did none of that, because I remembered Rule 427 from The Great Big Book of Raising Boys: Never come between a hungry adolescent male and his after-school snack.  Never. Not ever.

So, there it was, situation normal. Grumpy kids scattered to various parts of the house and me, star pupil of Bad Mothering 101 the criminal responsible.

I was left with only one possible course of action.
I poured myself a chilled pinot grigio.

Monday, 24 November 2014

...haiku sunset

At daylight’s border

glory bleeds eternally

cool respite follows.

I've never written a haiku before. First attempt. Second draft. I used to write poetry. Not sure why I stopped. Maybe I thought I shouldn't take myself too seriously. Maybe it was because I could never hope to match some of the many poems that have kept me company over the years. Anyway, the sunset last night seemed as good a reason as any for me to start again.

Sunday, 23 November 2014 anxiety and the literary mind

I’m blinking too much. My breathing is shallow. This is ridiculous. Why am I so scared? I can deliver lectures, I can give advice, offer ideas, lead discussions…perform on a stage… but right now I’m scared. So scared that I can hear my own pulse. So scared that I can’t feel my fingertips. So scared that I feel myself falling. Just keep paddling... Just keep paddling… duck on the pond… Calm on the surface…paddle-paddling beneath… Remember to breathe…

 Where do I begin? How do I start? Engage. Connect. Just keep paddling… Just keep paddling… Do I need a format ?…a theme? … a  structure? …Remember to breathe.  Not everything needs a plan… or a direction… no need to be exact… or even crafted… no denouement… Just keep paddling… Just keep paddling… Duck on the pond, moving with grace, paddle-paddling below…

 A simple greeting… a smile… remember to breathe… Not metaphysics or mimesis. Merely persona and point of view.  Just keep paddling… just keep paddling… Step forward… Take a breath… just keep paddling … duck on a  pond… not a silence: a caesura… remember to breathe…

 “ Hi. I’m Wendy.”