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A devil of a holiday – part one

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged (I’ve made up for it with an extra long post). There are a few reasons for this. The main one being we took a family holiday. It was billed as an exciting adventure – at least in my mind. Packing up the small car and heading to sunny northern climes for times of relaxing fun. Ironic really given the weather we had experienced in Sydney this summer.

We set off with the minimal amount a family of four could carry, plus a stroller and spare nappies – obvious optional extras. Our plan was to arrive in the ‘home of country music in Australia’ still fresh, as it’s such a short distance from Sydney. And we were, only we couldn’t have our booked motel room because the one next door had flooded and they were going to run noisy fans all night to dry it out. So we were upgraded to a super bonus two bedroom room at no extra charge! Awesome (unless you count the flooding which was not so good for the motel proprietor). To top off our first night we found a pizza maker (I hesitate to ever put the words ‘pizza’ and ‘restaurant’ together, unless in Italy) who put together a pretty special dish we all called dinner! What a good start to our trip.

The next day was sunny and bright as we headed up the mountains to visit friends who live in ‘the most cosmopolitan city in NSW outside of Sydney’. It is beautiful – a city that celebrates its past with stunning architecture and glorious gardens. Our stay with old friends was relaxing in the way only old friends can make you feel. Our children enjoyed one another’s company, the food was wonderful, the conversation comforting and the beds warm and welcoming. Another brilliant day.

Waving goodbye to Armidale the next morning was a little sad but with more adventures yet to be had, our spirits were high. We passed through the land of the ‘beardies’; a place that made me want to sing about Rio de Janeiro; a town with an original apple store; and then a town which shares it’s name with one in the centre of England, although I suspect they look very different. We crossed a border with careless abandon (as you can do when it’s all part of the same country [remember the days when you really did need a passport to travel in Europe]).

Then we headed east, to the land of ‘beautiful one day, perfect the …’ – you get the picture.

Except it was a false, dare I say, empty, promise as is often the case when you spend time in the south-eastern corner of Queensland.

While all seemed calm on our gentle arrival, we were really met by the Devil who was out for a good time (please don’t infer any real religious meaning here, I am merely using for dramatic effect).

“I am sorry sir, but there will be no access to the swimming pool during the day,” the hostess of the five-star resort told the Cliche as we ‘checked in’.

“You are joking?” laughed the Cliche. Having read on a very reputable travel site they had done this before we had sent an email with our booking to confirm there was no scheduled pool maintenance. We were told there was none. After all it was February – still summer in the southern hemisphere. We were vacationing only a few weeks after school holidays  had finished and this, if you missed it earlier, was a five-star (one assumes, professional) resort.

“We have young children!” As if it’s a given that having children meant the pool must be open.

“Sorry sir. You can swim after five every afternoon.” Obviously this hostess had no exposure to the routines of young children.

“Get me another suite in your other building, where I assume the pool is open,” demanded the Cliche. He had done his homework and knew how to get around the system (perhaps he had a silver cross in his pocket?). After a few long minutes this devil’s slave found us a new apartment in the ‘other’ building, where the pool was open, most times of the day.

Interestingly enough the apartment was on the thirteenth floor.

The accommodation was sleek, all freestanding sinks and walk-in robes. The views were magnificent. Rolling waves, sand, parklands, the working pool below us. All was calm. ‘This is all fine’, we reassured each other as a pleasant evening with some family members, noodles and Downton Abbey followed. Holidays are great.

The Devil was far from done with us. We awoke to an overcast but fine and humid morning. There was a zephyr stirring. Having been on the road a few days meant the inevitable pile of unwashed clothes was also stirring in the suitcase. Not a problem really as we had a washing machine and dryer, and a drying rack thrown in for good measure. Except in modern apartment buildings often filled with non-owner dwellers (like us) a safety mechanism was built into the laundry ‘cupboard’ door meaning it must stay open to provide power to the washing machine and dryer and so nobody closes it and burns the building down while the two are in operation mode. A great safety mechanism. If they work! Not in apartment 1302.

“No problem,” says the devil’s cohort when I call. “We’ll have someone to look at it asap”.

“It’s okay. We’ll go swimming and it’ll be working when we get back,” we assured ourselves.

The water was cool and the breeze had picked up a little. M1 and M2 swam and turned blue, warming themselves by jumping in the spa occasionally.

We returned to our room. There was a message. “The door needs to be looked at by an electrician. He can come this afternoon. I can’t tell you an exact time.”

Panic struck us. Were we to wait like you have to when tradies visit your home? Were we bound to be there? What were we going to do about afternoon sleeps – the most precious thing in the world?

“We’ll work around that,” we were reassured. “Not a problem. The electrician can come in later.”

Damned shame the housekeeping staff couldn’t.

“We have children in bed. Can you come back after 3.30pm?” we asked the housekeeper/satanic elf.

“Our shift is over by then.”

“Okay well can you just refill our necessities and don’t worry about the room today. Can you put us down for an early clean up tomorrow because we have an afternoon sleep everyday?”

Not a chance.

Every day we were interrupted just a few moments before we were heading off for afternoon sleep by the Devil’s call, knock, knock knock…‘housekeeping’. At one point an elf … er, I mean housekeeper… walked into the room where the girls were sleeping even though we had said not to.

One day, after venturing out, we came ‘home’ to find someone had left us a message. Simple instructions to review said message, pick up the phone and dial ‘star star’. “That is not an appropriate instruction,” said the pleasant voice on the end of the phone. We tried again and again and again. In the meantime we had an incessant beeping on the two internal phones. Then we called Satan’s lover downstairs. “All you have to do is press ‘star star’,” she told us. We told her!

“I’ll get maintenance up to have a look at it.” And they did. The solution – to disconnect the two phones from their sockets and rest them on the floor for the duration of our stay. There was someone who knew how to fix it but nobody knew how to contact him. Any time we did need to call reception (and you would be surprised to read there were a few) we plugged one back into wall, the beeping sound ever returning immediately. We never did find out who left the message.

But the Devil played his best card all week. Better than the power points that didn’t work, the mould in the bathroom that grew daily and the dishwasher that never quite washed everything. He sent us rain and wind. Rainwater tanks of rain and lashings of wind. We didn’t really need the pool, least not the outdoor one, and the indoor one had to be accessed from outdoors… The beaches were closed on our second day. They had to be. The sandy shores became cliff faces where the mountainous waves have carved them away. It was wet and windy. The streets became filled with decaying umbrellas, left abandoned for their purpose was pointless.

As we drove out on our final Queensland coastal day, there appeared in the sky an old and familiar friend. “We know you’ve sold out to Beelzebub,” we shouted with raised fists. “You bastard sun”.

End of part one.

Caoutchouc

Bless you!

Okay so it isn’t really a sneeze. It’s a genuine word with origins from the late 18th century. What it is is a noun meaning unvulcanised natural rubber (according the dictionary on my Apple Mac).

But it got me thinking about words and phrases we hear and to which I am confused as to their meaning.

Literally

This is a word you hear all the time as part of the modern Australian vernacular. But what does it really mean? From what I understand, it means to translate something literally, but without realising it we often use it in an almost slang-like manner.

“Thom Yorke was literally three feet from me at the concert.”

We use it as an intensifier, to make a sentence more important. I liken it to Popeye and spinach – only necessary for bragging rights. Couldn’t we simply say, “I was a metre from Thom Yorke at the Radiohead concert”? Seems equally impressive?

Master chef or MasterChef

They may sound the same, however, one is a leader with culinary skills and the other is the winner of a twelve week (or so) television game show – a person who believes their days of cooking for their family and friends provides the same qualification as those with years of formal culinary training.

The distinction lies in your interest in a particular form of popular culture. However, this can also be confusing as often the two tend to be mixed up by the very people who should know better.

Winehouse

No longer a place where one stops to enjoy a sip of chardonnay after a long day in the office, Winehouse now refers to a tragic alcoholic and drug addict who died alone at the age of 27 even after having fame and glory thrust upon her.  The irony isn’t really lost on anyone is it?

In terms of

This is a weird one. If you are using it to describe exact amounts of something then please go ahead – “I measure the success of my blog in terms of weekly hits”. Why do people feel they need to use this expression in everyday language?

“I have to decide our dinner plans in terms of your birthday.”
“In terms of blog posts, this one is the most interesting.”

I often think people use ‘in terms of’ when they are trying to make their time on centre stage last longer, to give themselves more thinking time or to make themselves seem more important. It’s superfluous (a bit like me saying it’s superfluous really).

Youse

What’s concerning here is ‘youse’ gets a listing on Wiktionary. From my research there is a push for greater acceptance of the word youse given it is used in spoken language around the English-speaking world.

I recall a conversation with a beautiful young lady who often used the term ‘youse’ when referring to a group of us. When it was explained she should simply say ‘you’, she responded by saying, “But I was saying goodbye to all of youse. It doesn’t seem right not to include youse all.”

Not a bad argument really. We all want to be included.

The country town – a shopper’s paradise

I love country town shopping – not as much as I love chocolate, or internet shopping. My fondness for the familiar knock on the door, or ring on the cowbells as the case is, when the postman turns up with an e package or similar, cannot be understated. However there is something magical about country shopping. Maybe because it comes from an historical time – before the internet – well at least for those of us who come from a certain generation. I haven’t ever analysed the appeal however maybe this is the time to do so having recently spent time ‘in the country’ doing some shopping.

Things fit in the country

Even if it’s just sheets for the bed, I can get the preferred colour, fabric and thread count I want, shopping in the country.

But the true irony is nothing about me would ever be called ‘country’ and yet I still seem to be able to find the clothes to suit my semi inner city lifestyle. Maybe this is because I don’t really care whether my wardrobe matches current fashion trends. Once, in the mid 80s, I bought this pair of pink and black striped satin, three quarter pants in Shepparton, Victoria and wore them to death – figuratively. They were awesome.

In Bendigo, I once bought the most amazing pair of black patent leather, pointed toed ankle boots. My biggest surprise was they were even available, sitting larger than life on the shelf. They were so cool – very Robert Smith.

The coolest pair of jeans I have ever owned come from the country. Not your traditional blue denim, these babies are black and white striped with a slightly flared leg. What more could a girl want, except maybe the same in a red and white stripe?

You get service in the country

I have an aversion to trying clothes on. I would be completely happy to have a personal shopper, someone the same size as me who would be happy to try things on and stock my wardrobe. I often try things on in the middle of the shop over other clothes, much to the disdain of other shoppers. Even if I do venture into the change rooms my preference is to keep my clothes on and try whatever over the top (this presents a bit of a problem in winter). Of course I make exceptions when buying lingerie. Nobody wants a boob muffin top or breasts flying all akimbo if you need to run for the train, caused from an ill fitting Hestia.

I hate it when you only pick up one size of the item you are trying, get to the change room, take off all your layers, try on the potential purchase, only to find you have a size too small or too big. Then you have to great dressed and repeat the whole process. Not in the country (or at least in the store I recently shopped in in the country, so I might be exaggerating). In the store I went into, after trying on every item, I had the adorable shop assistant there to offer her opinion or ask if I required another size. What was more impressive is this occurred on New Year’s Eve. Plus we shared stories on her family, my family and a whole range of other things, relevant to the country town.

Parking’s a breeze in the country

Driving around in Sydney shopping centre car parks can be hazardous your health. Sometimes you need a whole lot of patience and a packed lunch. Parking rage can be the norm on some shopping days. In the desperate bid to bag a bargain at Bing Lee or a massive mark down at Myer, shoppers will resort to whatever is necessary to get a park. And then, when you do snag a spot you have to walk for (or four) kilometres to get into the shopping centre.

Not in the country. On busy, post-Christmas sale days, you may have to park at the back of the car park, out in the sun. Generally however, you can find a shady tree or a council erected piece of shade cloth and you’re set for the twenty metre walk into the shop of your choosing. And pay for parking? Never in the country. Well rarely. Sometimes in the main street you may see a one hour parking sign but shopping is so easy in the country, who needs more than one hour?

You get different stores in the country

Or maybe they simply feel different. It seems there is always something different to look at (I’ve already mentioned those wonderful pink pants). Nothing pleases me more than when someone asks me where I bought something and I can say ‘I got it in the country’¹, knowing full well they are not going to be able to get one.

 

Yes country shopping is like a pleasant skip through the Garden of Eden while eating licorice bullets and sipping chocolate milk then not spilling any on yourself. It’s bliss. Imagine how even more euphoric it would be if internet shopping could be combined with the country town experience while eating chocolate … now there’s my idea of Heaven.

 

1 This is not strictly true. There are lots of things which please me more, such as the Sydney Swans winning a football match, my children when they are ‘being good’, and chocolate, to name a few.

Trains of truth

Last week I had my third experience with the ‘marshals sans pointy badges’ guarding the train doors at Town Hall station in the morning rush times (see my post Just a spoonful of governance for my take on this, and for some damned interesting reading). On the first occasion, I stood in the wrong place on the platform and just as the nanny…oops I mean marshal went to tell me off, the train car emptied and I was onboard before any words came out of her mouth. The other days have been event free. The truth is I am actually traveling at the beginning of the peak hour rush on the one day a week I go into work so I am yet to see any real marshal action.

Railcorp have announced some success with their ‘dwell management’ program (what a cool name), as they call it, in a media release on their website. There have been ‘daily improvements in the time trains stand at the platform’  and they want to thank customers for our ‘cooperation, patience and participation’. So it’s all good really.

Funnily enough though, I did wonder as I was searching for information about the marshals on their site, if I had stumbled onto a fake landing page, set up by a person with a Railcorp fetish. The photo adorning the left hand corner of the page showed some bright, smiling people traveling on what appears to be a well-lit, clean train. It was all horribly wrong and frankly a little reminiscent of The Stepford Wives.

Where are the flickering lights, the soot stained windows, the vinyl seats covered in who knows what? Where are the grumpy, bullied people tightly squashed into each other to form one jelly-like mass? Where are the people who don’t make any eye contact and therefore don’t feel the need to stand for pregnant women and the elderly? Where are the sweat stained creatures who lean their armpits into your face as they hold on for dear life? Where is the graffiti, the lack of air-conditioning, the vomit stains, the discarded newspapers, the ‘Police – do not cross’ tape?

You get the picture – or in truth, you don’t.

Life on Cityrail/Railcorp’s trains is rarely a pretty one. It tends to be more a grass roots experiential ride. I remember once catching a train, nabbing a clean seat – it was my lucky day – and overhearing a telephone conversation from the person sitting next to me who was carrying their goods and chattels in a plastic bag. It went something like this¹:

“Hi, is that Marie?”

Pause.

“Hi Marie. My name is Rhonda. Yeah hi. Look I’m calling youse because I just spent the night in the lock up in the city with your daughter Tracy. She arksed me to call youse because she needs some things.”

Pause for a few seconds.

“Yeah right. Look to tell you the truth I think youse need to get down there and see her, or get someone to see her because I don’t reckon she’ll last the night.”

Pause.

“Yeah well I’m just calling it the way I see it and how I’ve seen it before. She’s not coping too well and I just don’t reckon she’ll make it.”

Pause.

“Alright. Yeah… she wasn’t that great when I left. She’s in the lock up in the city but they’re gunna move her today.”

Pause.

“Yeah, I think youse should. Okay … yeah… bye.”

How on earth you capture this image for a picture on the website is beyond me. However, I would love to see Railcorp try. This would give a real snapshot of life on the train.

Experiencing this element of existence, this shift in comfort levels, this inspiration for writing is why I can’t wait to see you tomorrow marshals.

1 Names have been changed

Nude, paying off a fraud

I am a fraud.

Last week I sat among the faithful at one of Radiohead’s Sydney concerts. Truth is, me, a devoted Whitlams fan, figuratively stole a place from a true believer and pretended I belonged.

I couldn’t sing along. I didn’t know the words. I didn’t know the names of the members of the band. The only time I have listened to Radiohead play in the past was, a) frantically in a few days leading up to the concert, and b) when the Cliche has played me a song which resonates with him (okay so this means I’ve heard quite a few). I didn’t get the attraction.

Before the Cliche and I started going out the only Radiohead song I knew was ‘Creep’. Interestingly, I have found this to be quite a common phenomenon among non fans. On one of our first dates, the Cliche played me ‘Fake plastic trees’ so I ‘kind of’ know the words now because of my respect for him, and well it is a cool song.

So as I sat among a crowd whose devotion meant they belonged, I felt like an impersonator, an impostor, a mimic and a poseur all at once – exhausting, as I was also trying to look very cool and hip. I was acutely aware of the uncomfortable seat, my body seizing from sitting too long in the one position and the annoying bloke in front of me who kept getting up and making everyone else in his row move to let him out and back in again (I apologise if he had pressing bathroom issues). In the middle of all the noise and throbbing music I was stifling yawns.

And then Radiohead played a song called ‘Nude’ (I didn’t know it was called ‘Nude’, I had to ask the Cliche) and everything changed. The tenth song in and suddenly I got it. Unexpectedly this song which seems to suggest you shouldn’t get too confident because you’re not going anywhere, gave me a glimpse of understanding as to why people gravitate to this collective of individuals making music.

From this point on, the performance seemed to pass way too quickly. I became fascinated by all things Jonny Greenwood (again I had to ask the Cliche who he was), who seemed so busy making music he forgot to look at his audience. I clapped and cheered and even stood as I was treated to three encores of more songs I didn’t know.

Now a week later, I still don’t know many Radiohead songs. However, over the past week it’s been very cool to drop a ‘when I was at the Radiohead concert…’ into casual conversation. I have listened to ‘Nude’ a few times and even added it to my favourite playlist on my smart phone, but that’s about it.

I am still a fraud. However now I am glad for it. Unlike the group of men who sat behind me at the concert, loudly bemoaning the failure of Radiohead to perform particular songs, my expectations were low from the beginning. And even more unlike them, as a fraud, I got to reach a whole unexpected crescendo.

Nightmare on university street

My worst nightmare is the one where I find myself in the last few weeks, days or hours before a final university assessment or exam is due and I have barely opened a book or have forgotten I was even enrolled in the course.

As a high achiever at university, this dreamscape leaves me exhausted and horrified.

Only a few nights ago I dreamed I was two hours from handing in a 15,000 word honours  thesis and hadn’t yet put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard as is more likely to provide the right result). These two hours ticked past phenomenally slowly it seemed, as I ran crazily around the campus trying to find help, a solution, or at the very least, some sympathy.

Once the two hours had past, the university became a solemn dark place (probably because all the smart students had handed in their work and pi**ed off) with black glass windows and 70s brickwork. The one person who I had found (a woman with a Jaclyn Smith style hairdo, hello Charlie’s Angels – it really was a nightmare) simply said, “Too bad, there’s nothing you can do now.”

The sense of relief I experienced upon waking was almost palpable. I felt exhausted (well it was 2.40am so I guess that’s normal). However, it made me wonder why it’s this dream and not others which affects me for so long afterwards.

[Just as an aside, one day I got out of bed and opened my curtain to find an evil Humphrey B. Bear, armed with a large kitchen knife coming up my driveway to get me. When I really woke up a few minutes later I couldn’t bring myself to open the curtain. This dream I now look back at with some humour. I’ve never had it again.]

I decided to consult the font of wisdom, the World Wide Web, to find out what this dream of failure means and why it recurs to haunt me.

According to Dream Bible (www.dreambible.com) to dream about studying symbolises things are worrying me or are important to me. To dream about not being ready for an exam “reflect[s]…lacking of preparation” or not listening to a warning (interesting, if I didn’t listen to a warning how did I know I had been warned?). Dreaming of a university could be a signal I am “emotionally swamped had have little time to enjoy myself(sic)”. I may also have a ‘crisis’ or ‘health problems’.

According to dream moods (www.dreammoods.com), dreaming about tests means I am not ready for a big challenge or it’s a sign I’m being judged. “These dreams serve as a signal…to examine an aspect of [my]self that [I] may have been neglecting”. Importantly dream moods suggest this dream comes from my fear and anxiety of not meeting others standards and a fear of letting others down.

According to Dream Dictionary (www.dreamdictionary.org) ‘test dreams’ are very common and are a reflection of a “… lack of confidence and ability to advance to the next stage of life”. These dreams will occur when I am stressed and are caused by procrastination, fear of advancement and being left behind, feeling stupid or experiencing self-esteem issues, to name a few.

Perhaps the most interesting perspective is from a neurologist on the website Psychology Today (you can find the link here) who, having described my dream almost as I dreamed it, suggests these dreams have no scientifically researched ‘cause, effect or validated explanation’ (always important one might think). However, (interestingly enough given the last sentence) they may be caused by amongst other things, forgetting or worrying about forgetting to do something important, or it “may reflect a sense of responsibility … where the dreamer (i.e. me) … is hesitant … to … act” (this sentence looks a bit hesitant to act too!).

So now I am more concerned than ever about what this nightmare means. Am I really so mixed up and low in confidence? According to this research there are so many issues I need to sort out to avoid having this terrible dream again. Perhaps I should do nothing (given the lack of scientific evidence). The sense of relief I get when I wake up from the dream may simply have to be as good as it gets, and sounds a whole lot easier.

Or maybe I should go back to university.

Just a spoonful of governance

Recently the New South Wales Government announced it was going to trial ‘marshals’ to guard the early morning train doors at platform three of Town Hall Station in Sydney. You can see the Sydney Morning Herald’s coverage of the story here.

Unfortunately this is one of the platforms I use as I head to work on those rare mornings I do. As someone who would never run to jump on a train just as its dodgy doors are about to close (why bother, there’s always another train), I feel quite offended that a ‘sheriff’, sans cool star-shaped badge, will now be watching over me and 50,000 of my closest commuters.

Interestingly, these marshals will be ‘trained’.

What does this mean? How many months of training will they have? Will they be trained to form a human barrier to stop you getting on the train too close to departure time? Will they have one of those poles with a wire lasso on the end to catch those errant people who try to board as the train is attempting to move away? Will they be able to tackle you, preferably between the shoulders and knee, if you attempt to board a train? Will they have a taser to stop you from over-stepping the mark (if this is the case then I want them to have years or decades of training)?

Are these further steps in building a nanny state? Maybe it’s what we need. The Government could just give us all nannies to help live better. Imagine a Mary Poppins like helper there for you all the time, reminding you to do things nicely and correctly.

There are people who travel along my street, particularly at three in the morning, who  could do with a person sitting by their side, fully seat belted of course, suggesting they could drive a little, or even a fair bit, slower. And they could remind them they should get someone to take a look at the exhaust pipe.

Maybe all dog owners could have a nanny with them when they take their pooch for a walk. The nanny could carry the little plastic bags needed when ‘Rover’ stops to do his business.

Wouldn’t it be great to have nannies holding fans for us or providing individual oxygen tents as we make our way from the arrivals hall to the taxi rank at the airport. Or better still we could have nannies for each of the smokers who stand by the door desperate for the post-plane puff. However, these nannies would need to be supplied with respirators or other breathing apparatus so the secondary smoking wouldn’t be an occupational hazard.

We could have nannies with us when we use public toilets to make sure we keep the seat clean, use the right amount of toilet paper (how this is judged I have no idea), flush properly (the full-half flush conundrum would be solved), make sure we don’t put inappropriate things into the bowl and put paper towels in the rubbish bins. We could even have nannies there to make sure we wash our hands. Ideally they would also open the bathroom door for us so we don’t risk cross contamination from someone whose nanny fell asleep and wasn’t reminded to wash their hands (it’s bound to happen, these nannies are going to be busy people).

For me though, the perfect nanny would be the one who reminds you people on platform four at Town Hall station at around 5.30pm on a weekday afternoon who stand at the yellow line even though your train is third in line to arrive, to step back. You see, for us others who actually want to board the next train, you’re in our way. And at the moment there isn’t a nanny to bore a path for me through your masses. Thus I am forced, sans nanny, to walk the fine edge of the platform and hope to make it inside the train before the dodgy doors close on me.

Maybe we need these marshals after all. I wonder if Mary Poppins is free to lead the training?

Perfect days

The anticipation

Two weeks ago I was preparing for what could potentially be one of the most exciting days of my life.

I am reminded of a song by Bryan Adams where he recalls heady times bashing around in, one presumes, his garage with some mates making music and how those days were the ‘best’. Obviously he led a pretty unfulfilled life from the time of those bashing days up until the point of the release of the song. Could he see in to the future? Surely some great event may still fall his way? Could it not be providing songs for the soundtrack of Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood would give him some good days? This guy has sung with Sting and Rod Stewart so unquestionably they were fabulous days, weren’t they?

It’s often a surprise to others when I say that one of the best days of my life was in September 2005, the day I was at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) to see the Sydney Swans win the Grand Final in the Australian Football League.

It’s something the Cliche and I have given each other permission to say. Yes, it was even better than our wedding day. For so many reasons. That isn’t to suggest our wedding day wasn’t fabulous. It certainly was. But we have the rest of our lives together and as the Cliche rightly points out, who wants to think it’s all downhill from there. We’ve had some extraordinary (by that I mean best) days since then, or early mornings in particular as M1 and then M2 arrived to brighten our lives. And the Cliche has been to two successful Grand Finals since then and I know how much they mean to him.

So was the 2012 Sydney Swans Grand Final winning day one of the best of my life?

Absolutely. It is a truly rare occasion where one gets to see their football team take the ultimate prize in the competition. You fight to get a ticket to the game. The cost of said ticket is high. You have to find a way of getting to the ground (distance from Sydney to Melbourne = 877.9 kilometres) coupled with the cost of getting to the ground. And then getting home again (in the same day).

It’s worth it when you’ve given up your Sunday afternoons of winter sunshine to sit in front of the television to watch every match. It’s all worth it when the siren sounds and you can finally breathe properly. It’s worth it when you can hug the complete stranger sitting next to you at the MCG because they know some of those emotions you’ve been going through.  It’s worth it when those 22 players and their coach are standing on the stage, holding the cup aloft while a snowstorm of red and white mini streamers burst forth.

I know the Sydney Swans players don’t know me like I know them. I call them by their first names, like we’re mates. And we are. Because one of the great things mates do for you (just ask Bryan) is give you the best days of your life. But unlike Bryan, I expect there are a whole lot more to come.

Go Swannies. See you in 2013.

1 We support different teams.
2 Thanks Google Maps.

Marcuse and the Sydney Swans

We are a football family. Our football of choice is Australian Rules, which makes our sacred turf the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), our referees umpires and our ball an ellipsoid.

I know M1 and M2 should be free to choose if they are interested in football but at this point in their lives we’re not giving them any liberty. The clichettes have been members of the Sydney Swans since they were born. Actually M1 was a member before she was born – she was listed as ‘Baby’ Golland and she was a boy.

This isn’t to say footy is everything. However, from March to September each year, the Cliche and I do plan our outings around when our teams are playing¹ (mostly). In 2005 and 2006, before we met, I was so committed to the cause I would turn down social invitations which clashed with any Sydney Swans matches. I was either at the game, at a pub with a game playing on the big screen or at home in front of the television watching the game. Fortunately my friends understood (well at least to my face they said they did) this passion. A few who didn’t wondered why it couldn’t just be on in the background while we dined! I was so committed I even wore the same outfit to every match. They payoff was that one day in September. Since then, there have been travels, weddings, babies and still there is footy.

This commitment, love, passion, obsession – whatever you wish to call it – is a bizarre thing for me. A real juxtaposition. In 2001 I wrote a post graduate thesis based on Herbert Marcuse’s notion of ‘One-Dimensional Man’. As part of my ‘seminal work’ I considered that ‘societies generate artificial needs, giving the working class a false consciousness in which the pursuit of consumer goods distracts from the realisation [sic] of class interests’².

Marcuse was also concerned with people seeing themselves in the things they commodify. However, as he states, … ‘Geist and knowledge are no telling arguments against satisfaction of needs’³.

Hence, I understand my need for football is a distraction from needless wars fought in poppy-ridden countries – wars, personed by my working class colleagues. I understand football teams are sponsored by banking institutions which may not be looking after the best interests of my working class comrades, but rather the interests of those who can afford to sit in a corporate box.

I understand how three hours of footy watching could better be spent questioning government need to cut spending on community housing, education and the public sector generally, especially as a taxpayer who believes in these things. All these hours could be spent investigating the business practices of corporations where I spend my spare dollars, to ensure I am supporting those with good ethics.

Marcuse is right! No matter how much ‘Geist’ I put into it I am fully immersed in my commodification.

Maybe now is the time for change. Maybe I can start to work on greater realisation of class interests. But it has to wait until after this weekend. For this weekend, I will be devoting my time to the mighty Sydney Swans on Grand Final day. As I sit in my seat, high in the bleachers at the MCG, with my red and white layers and my words of wisdom for those dressed in green (or whatever ridiculous colour they put the umpires in this year) I will take comfort in the knowledge those with similar class interests sitting with me are also distracted.

And together, we can scream for our team over the heads of those in the corporate boxes.

 

¹ For the record, the Cliche and I support different teams.

² The Penguin Dictionary of Sociology, 2000 p.211, Penguin Books.

³ Marcuse, H. One-Dimensional Man, Chapter 2, Boston: Beacon, 1964.

Pretty dumb things

I’ve said some pretty dumb things over the years. Sometimes I have spoken before thinking about what I was going to say, and who I was saying it to – truth be told this happens all the time. Sometimes I have said the wrong thing and occasionally I’ve said the right thing, just at the wrong time.

I am sorry.

My first apology is for the earliest dumb thing I ever remember saying. It’s to the woman whose leg I grabbed at the same time as a preschool class mate (he grabbed her other leg).
‘Go away,’ I cried in despair. ‘This is my mum.’
‘No It isn’t. It’s my mum,’ he replied.
I looked up and he was right. It was his mum. Unfortunately she just happened to be wearing a similar pair of black polyester pull-on pants (it was the 70s) to those my mum had slipped on in the morning.

I would like to apologise to my Grade Four teacher whose glasses went flying as I hit her in the face in my haste to be the first to answer a general knowledge question. I was sitting on the floor in front of her and she asked, “Who is the current Prime Minister?”
‘Gough Whitlam,’ I shouted as my hand shot into the air, so proud and then ‘WHACK’.
‘NO!’ she screamed, in pain?
She was right, it wasn’t. Unfortunately I didn’t really understand ‘the Dismissal’. I still don’t.

I would like to apologise to my first boyfriend, at the ripe old age of fourteen, for telling everyone he was the worst kisser ever, when in fact I’d had no other kisses to compare it to and, in retrospect, it was a very good kiss. No wonder he only went with me for two weeks.

I would like to apologise to all those children whose mouth I anesthetised while practicing (not practising) dentistry. Yes, I did say I was ‘just going to put some sleepy juice next to your tooth’. To this day though, I think this sounds better than ‘I am just going to jab about two centimetres of sharp metal in your tiny mouth in the hope of getting somewhere near your trigeminal nerve and hopefully get you numb enough to drill all the decay out of your teeth without exposing a nerve. And stop eating rubbish.’ What I am apologising for here is potentially leading you to believe, as an adult, you can get a tooth restoration with some magical potion. It doesn’t exist. I just used a whole lot of topical anesthetic before putting the needle in very slowly (a service you can ask your dentist for as an adult. Just remember though, time is money).

You would think I would have learned a thing or two, but no, I still say dumb things. Just the other day I was recounting the story of the cliche and I sitting in a cocktail lounge watching a couple on their first or second date. The nervousness, the startled looks, the first touches all happening in a wonderful bubble.
‘I am so glad I am over all that,’ I said to end my story. However, who was I recounting the story to? A beautiful, young, single woman who is probably very much looking for this situation to pop up. I am sorry and I hope it pops up soon.

A few weeks ago I think I said the dumbest thing ever. I told a woman her son looked like his aunt. Not bad … except the child can’t look like his aunt because it’s an aunt by marriage. Dumb as! [What’s really crazy here was I really meant the child had the bubbly personality of his aunt but now I just look like I am making an excuse for saying a dumb thing].

For all the other dumb things I’ve ever said, I offer an unreserved apology.

Maybe identifying all of this makes me quite the hypocrite, particularly if you’ve read my blog on those dumb things people have said to me about long-term breastfeeding.

People do say dumb things. Maybe it’s built into our being so we can make other people feel superior to our naivety (or stupidity). It could be one of those natural response mechanisms … a way of submitting.

Maybe I shouldn’t be apologising. Perhaps I should expect ‘thanks’ for making others feel better about themselves (‘I would never say anything as dumb as that,’ I can hear them thinking).

And for those of you who thought ‘sleepy juice’ was real, ignore what I said earlier … it is.