Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The Frog Story

I really don’t know how to categorise my relationship with frogs.

It’s probably not anxiety producing enough to classify as a phobia. But I’d definitely classify it as an ‘extreme aversion’.

If I saw a frog in a zoo exhibit, I’d probably just look away.

In everyday circumstances, if I encountered a frog I might not scream. I would definitely cringe loudly and move very quickly away in a jogging fashion.

If a frog looked like jumping on me, well, sorry, it’s every man for himself. Get out of my way!

It’s one of the reasons I love living in Melbourne. Pretty much frog-free.

They say that many of our irrational fears are caused by traumatic childhood experiences.

One of my very earliest childhood memories involves a frog. And trauma. Both at the same time.

I was at preschool, so we are talking about the late 60s. The toilet at our preschool was an old fashioned white weatherboard outhouse, which really wasn’t so old fashioned at the time. It had plumbing, and the toilet was flushed by pulling an overhead chain.

This toilet had a resident frog. I swear he was about 3 inches in body length, and I’m not counting his slimy legs. He lived up inside the rim of the toilet bowl and although he fidgeted a bit he never moved UNLESS the toilet was flushed.

I think you probably know where I’m going with this.

There was a rule in place that we all lined up to go to the toilet, and the toilet was never flushed until we had all been to the toilet.

Oh, did I say the toilet was NEVER flushed until we had all been to the toilet?

What I meant to say, was that it was never flushed until we had all been, EXCEPT FOR THE DAY SOMEBODY FLUSHED THE TOILET WHILE I WAS SITTING ON IT!

It happened in slow motion.

She (yes, I remember exactly who it was) had been very specific in an earlier threat involving me, the toilet, and the frog.

So there I was, sitting nervously on the toilet. I had relaxed though, because I couldn’t see her in the queue of children in front of me.

I’m still not sure whether she came from the grassy knoll or the book depository but with amazing stealth she suddenly appeared and lurched for the toilet chain.

Wooooosh. That cranky old frog was liberated from his cosy home by the swirling toilet waters.

Now, you probably have a horrifying mental image of a frightened four year old girl simultaneously hoisting up her cottontails whilst fleeing the outhouse with a giant green frog clinging to her bum. While that is certainly the version I have told my children, in truth I jumped off that toilet with the speed of lightning, and left the frog to swirl around the toilet for a while before he crawled back into his hiding place.

But still. Sometimes it’s about what could have been. A question I terrified myself with every day when I returned to the scene of that crime.

Damaged goods, people. Damaged goods.

There are other frog stories to tell. But I will save those for another day.

photo credit: andydolman via photopin cc

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Parent/Guardian Signature

It frustrates me no end that in our digital age I am required to fill out a slew of paperwork, Magna Carta like in proportions, every time one of my children attends an event inside or outside the school.

I know our school is only doing what they are legally required to do, but geez, it’s already recorded on the school database. If they really need to chop down more trees every time this information is needed, why not just print it off the database to save me the trouble of looking up medical contact details and writing it out every single time. Do I really need to list (for example) the name, address and phone number of my child’s GP, unless that GP is managing an allergy plan or something?

Let me make this simple. If something happens to my child, depending on the nature of their injuries/illness, you have my express permission to choose one of the following:

  1. Put a Band-Aid on.

  1. Watch the child in Sick Bay or call me to pick them up.

  1. Call an ambulance! Fast! Don’t even think about looking for your bloody paperwork! And then do whatever you learnt in First Aid while you wait for the ambulance.
And, make no mistake, that is exactly what they do, making the paperwork pretty much redundant anyway.

Maybe it’s because my mind starts to wander when I’m filling out those tiresome forms, but every time I do it I can’t help remembering this incident from my childhood:

I was getting ready to leave for school. I must have been in Grade 1 or Grade 2. Packing my lunch and green cordial I noticed a slip of paper with familiar purple typing that had been floating around in my school case long enough to have lost its intoxicating ‘metho’ smell.

An excursion permission slip, requiring the signature of a parent, and due back that very day.

Given that both of my parents had already gone to work, leaving us in the care of our babysitter, I had a problem.

But this was a problem that would never have defeated my plucky heroes from The Famous Five or The Secret Seven, so I put my little thinking cap on and came up with the perfect solution.

From the top corner of a paperback book belonging to my father, I carefully cut out his name, and glued it on to the relevant part of the permission slip. The book was orange so I wasn’t really fooling anyone, but after all, there was nothing on the permission slip stating that the parent had to be physically present to provide the signature.

Brilliant plan!

Sadly, my plan didn’t make it all the way through the system. Somewhere along the line the whole plan was foiled by a vigilant authority figure who noticed the small rectangular piece of orange cardboard glued to my permission slip, and decided it definitely didn’t meet their requirements.

I don’t remember the final outcome, but it probably involved a smack. It was the 70s after all. 

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Instructions for New Blog Readers

OK, I’m not being patronising here. These instructions are for people who don’t usually read blogs, don’t understand why people write blogs, and don’t really know what they’re supposed to do when they visit a blog.

Let me rephrase that.This is what I would love you to do when you visit my blog. Please.

Read my posts. Read one or read more. They’re not all the same. If you are here for the first time, grab a cup of tea or a glass of wine, and read the whole lot if you want. Whatever you have the time or the inclination for. That would be lovely. You will find my previous posts in the blog archive on the right. 

Make a comment in the comments section after the post. Clearly this is not mandatory, but it would be great. Please understand that I’m not looking for score out of 10 for the calibre of my writing, so don’t run away just because you think you need to come up with an awkward platitude. I just want to know that I’ve reached someone in some way. Maybe one of my posts has triggered a memory, or you might agree or disagree with my opinion about something, or you might just have something in general to add to the conversation.

Why? Because, although it was indeed my choice to start writing this blog, writing into a vacuum is like singing/acting/telling jokes/playing an instrument to an empty auditorium.

Yes, there is a degree of personal artistic satisfaction from creating/producing something, and that is certainly an important part of the process.

But apart from the personal satisfaction gained from creating something, some of us (ie, me) love to know that we have, in some small way, touched someone, made them laugh or cry, encouraged them to think or remember, or just given them something moderately entertaining to read for a while. I find that rewarding and inspiring. And sometimes it even stops me being a boring, cranky old cow for a few minutes.

Ok now, the third part of the process, for advanced players who need a challenge, is to share. If you happen to really enjoy something I’ve written, and you think your Facebook or Twitter friends (for example) might enjoy it, head to the shaded bar underneath the post (where the comments are), and click on the appropriate button to share. Unless you are sharing to a group of axe wielding, wannabe-artiste haters, you will be doing me a huge favour, so thanks.

I think that’s it for now. Thanks for stopping by. Enjoy, and I hope to see you again very soon.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Off Duty

For the past few days I have been unwell. Decidedly unwell, peaking yesterday with 24 hours of some weird feverishness, aching, coughing, splitting headache from coughing, a bit of LBL from the coughing too if you really want the details, zero energy, and zero desire to even keep my eyes open.

After taking the kids to school I came straight home and slept for most of the day, until I had to collect them.

When we got home I made it quite clear that I was not available for my usual duties, and wished my children a pleasant and safe afternoon of excessive screen time. 

I heard crackers and hommus being prepared, and the buzz of cooperative and sympathetic children, so everything was great.

For an hour or so.

There I was, clearly incapable of contributing anything to anybody. Laid out in bed, half dozing, half groaning, when a cheery voice filled my ears:

“So … what’s for dinner tonight, mum?”

This question usually pisses me off anyway, even on a regular day, because I could announce I was serving a 10 course buffet from 50 nations of the world, and somehow there would still be someone who says “Just cook a bit of pasta for me, thanks.”

But that particular night I didn’t even have the strength to get angry. Roast chicken and bread rolls were available, and people could do whatever the hell they liked with them as long as it didn’t involve me getting out of bed or the emergency services being summoned.

Now, in theory I guess they managed to feed themselves successfully. What I didn’t realise was that any spillage, drip, etc, would be left smeared on the kitchen bench, alongside a selection of additional food that had been removed from the fridge to fester at room temperature for a while.

OK, maybe I don’t fly around in a cape all day saving the world, but surely I can doze for a few hours every three or four years without my station turning into absolute chaos.

My husband came home (just in time to witness said chaos, of course) bearing gifts for me in my state of unwellness. Not knowing what stage of convalescence I might have reached in his absence during the day, he had purchased orange juice, ice cream, canned chicken soup, and a packet of Tim Tams. I chose the orange juice, filled a glass, and went straight to bed.

Tonight I am feeling much better. Still sick, but better. So we are having a simple pasta meal.

Oh, hang on, a simple pasta meal with two f#*king different types of pasta sauce.

Of course.

The ice cream and the Tim Tams are still technically mine, right?

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Honk if You're Brave

Having recently been involved in a tense road-rage situation, I’m fairly keen not to find myself in that position again.

Driving along a busy three-lane road, a car zoomed into my lane really dangerously. He barely cleared my car as he changed lanes is what I’m saying.

So I gave him a toot. Just a tiny toot, not a big bleeping foghorn or anything. And no rude hand gestures. Just a little whispery beep.

Big mistake.

He put his brakes on and started a kind of ‘front-gating’ routine. Little bursts of speed then the brakes, taunting me. I couldn’t take my eyes off the back of his car long enough to get into another lane. I had the kids in the car too, so my biggest fear was that he would stop and get out of his car to ‘discuss’ the issue with me.

Eventually I was able to turn into a side street and lose him but I was more than a little shaken that he was prepared to punish me so harshly for that tiny reprimanding beep of the horn.

I don’t know about you but when I hear a beep I’m a bit less aggressive than that guy was. My first instinct is to check the traffic lights, or freak out thinking I might be going down a one-way street the wrong way or something. And if I catch myself inadvertently doing something wrong I give a little wave to the other driver and hope they understand that it’s a ‘sorry’ wave, not a ‘suck on that’ wave.

Things would be much easier if we had pop-up signs, instead of the ambiguous beep or wave. Then I could be super polite so I don’t incite any more road-rage incidents.

Here are a few pop-up signs I would like to use:

  1. Excuse me … I don’t think that light will get any greener than it already is, so perhaps you could head off soon. Just finish that text message first though. I can wait.
  2. Merging lanes usually means one for one, but how clever of you to roar up the outside and push in at the front. I bet nobody else thought of that. Genius.
  3. That fish-tail and smoking tyres manoeuvre certainly was impressive. I’m sure you have a large penis.
  4. No, don’t worry. I know you should have given way to me but you were obviously busy finishing off the Corn Flakes box you found your licence in.
  5. Ooops, so sorry that you nearly crashed into me when you swung so widely around the corner. Let me know you’re coming next time and I’ll park on the kerb until you’re done with my lane.

Yep. That should sort everything out in a nice, friendly way.

Can you think of any other ‘polite’ messages you would give other drivers?

Monday, 3 November 2014

Just Slow Down, OK?

Bob Dylan may have thought that the times were a-changin’ back in the Sixties, but I’m pretty sure he had no idea exactly how much a-changin’ would be taking place in his own lifetime. And the fact that I just googled his name after I typed that last sentence, just to check if he was still alive, clearly demonstrates that change.
We are not the first generations to face great changes wrought by new technology. I imagine, for example, that the invention of the wheel, or the discovery and harnessing of electricity, had quite an impact back in the day.
The difference though, is that up until the latter part of the twentieth century, most advances in technology produced massive savings in time and labour for people who worked their fingers to the bone, and genuinely improved the quality of people’s lives. Innovations in farming, transportation and industrial technology over hundreds of years had arguably much more of a positive impact on those generations than the digital technology introduced in the last decade has had on ours.

Notwithstanding significant leaps in medical technology, most of the benefits of digital technology from the past decade or so could really be seen as luxuries that we now perceive as normal, and any time or labour saving benefits (like mobile communication) have merely served to increase expectations of output and availability.

I honestly find it quite scary, but I try to remind myself that I thought it was scary when many years ago my bank told me I had to use a plastic card instead of a bank book. And I could stick that plastic card into a machine in the wall to withdraw money. Crazy stuff.
I like the fact that I can sit on my butt and pay the bills, write something that someone anywhere in the world can see within seconds, and take photographs without lugging around a heavy camera. The downside of all of that is that society expects me to have this technology at my fingertips and be able to use it efficiently.
Most of the time, I’m OK with that, but sometimes… sometimes I wish that all of the great minds and big money currently involved in producing the next big thing could just stop what they’re doing and focus on curing incurable diseases or something while I figure out how to use my iphone.

photo credit: Dave Catchpole via photopin cc
photo credit: Andrew Stawarz via photopin cc

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Halloween Down Under

I’m honestly not one to decry anything just because ‘we didn’t do that when I was a girl’. After all, that would rule out a lot of great new things. But I have to admit I struggle with Halloween in Australia.

I really can’t tell you when Australian children started celebrating Halloween, because I wasn’t paying attention at the time. Somewhere between me, as a child, knowing nothing about Halloween except what I saw on American TV shows, and me having my own children, Australia became a half–arsed Halloween celebrating nation.

Unlike many other regions of the Western world, Halloween did not come to Australia as a Celtic tradition. Its flimsy roots here are transparently founded in fairly recent corporate retail opportunism. Some people in suits sat around one day in a meeting and thought “Hey, if we fill our shops with cheap plastic Halloween crap, and tell the kids there’s candy involved, we can make a shitload of money”. Pretty much like the beer-brewing giants and hoteliers did with St Patrick’s Day around the same time.

I think that’s my problem with the whole Halloween thing. It’s not a deeply rooted tradition here, there is still a substantial amount of scepticism about it, so it’s still largely half-baked. Trick or treating (unless you live in a cosy street with friendly, Halloween-embracing neighbours) is a chore. In our neighbourhood, you could troll around wearing ridiculously over priced synthetic costumes in blistering heat for hours and only encounter a handful of houses bearing candy - and even then, you wouldn't know if it was safe to eat.

As far as other celebrations go, I’m fairly enthusiastic. I’ll stay up late master-minding an elaborate Easter egg hunt, or modelling amateurish fondant icing figurines for birthday cakes. I love Christmas crafts and baking, and I enjoy December being one long Christmas celebration.

But when it comes to Halloween, I tend to look for the easy way out. This year I took my casually dressed zombies to our local home improvement retail store for a Halloween celebration. For the cost of $4 (which was donated to charity) we spent 2 hours doing Halloween craft activities and a fantastic trick or treat treasure hunt.

The kids were happy. I was happy.

And I guess half-arsed Halloween Down Under is here to stay.

photo credit: Happy Halloween....hehehe via photopin (license)