Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Land of Redundant Laws

I have a kid's book that I want to write.

Pitched at the 8-11 year old market, it's sort of a Harry Potter meets Terry Pratchett. It relates the story of Rainbow Robertson (That's Rob-ERT-son, not Rob-IN-son), a precocious eleven-year-old who is the daughter of Robbie Robertson, lead guitarist with the mega-rock band, Medulla Oblongata, and Jenni Robertson, an accountant. Rainbow is sent to her grandmother's at Hippy Corner, South Australia, when the band goes on tour. Rainbow's Grandma, Nanna Kate, is a big hippy.

One day, Rainbow is out on the swamp collecting mint for the mint sauce for the roast lamb dinner (this was one of my favorite jobs as a child - go get wild mint from the swamp) when she gets a bit adventurous and goes jumping on the loamy ground, bouncing on it like a trampoline (I used to love doing that too). As it happens, the ground gives way after a while and Rainbow falls through the swamp, but instead of drowning or suffocating, she lands on a large, soft, feather bed in a round room with eleven doors. Here the dark wizard Parenthesis and his henchmen pixies, Trochee, Spondee and Caesura take Rainbow under their wing and send her on her journey, to liberate the lands found behind these subterranean doors.

Rainbow Robertson is the quintessential hero - all scabby, knock knees, lanky pigtails and freckled nose.

Behind these doors there are eleven lands. I have some of them down - like the Land of King Bruce of the Sharpei people, where nobody's skin fits quite right. And there is the land of the Wah-Wah-Wah - where everybody speaks but nobody listens. Then there's the Land of Violet Haze, where everybody lives in their own dream - little do they know, they're all dreaming for each other.

But my favorite land that I've dreamed up to date is the Land of Redundant Rules. A land by which it is decreed that you must wear pink socks on Tuesday or be punished by exhaustive tickling by a feather duster. There are other stupid rules that need to be followed in this land - such as people on roller skates get right of way over lorries - except on the second Wednesday of each month where people on skateboards get a look in and rule the roads. There is the law that you have to give your mother a block of white chocolate for her birthday, unless she is allergic to cherries then you are to give her a sponge cake instead. These really crazy rules are something that Rainbow has to navigate, come to terms with, and lead the world in which she is in to a new way of thinking.

I think Rainbow could teach us something.

There are so many useless and overblown laws and rules about the place. For example, it's still in Queensland's constitution that all pubs must have a hitching rain outside so people can tie up their horses. These rails are now probably used for supporting drunk people as they wait for taxis - but the law stands. America is full of redundant laws. For example, in Kentucky, it is law that all citizens have a bath at least once a year - this is one of those "only in America" laws - then again, there are people who wish that biblical law was in place. Leviticus has some wonderful things to say about cursing your mother and father under pain of death and stoning witches. Deuteronomy espouses that those of other faiths be killed - now that would go down well in multi-cultural Australia? I don't think I'd make it past my eighteenth year going by some of these laws.

In Victoria, Legislation: Section 13 of the Vagrancy Act, 1958 ('Fortune Telling and Pretending to Exercise Witchcraft, etc'). "Any person who pretends or professes to tell fortunes or uses any subtle craft means or device by palmistry or otherwise to defraud or impose on any other person or pretends to exercise or use any kind of witchcraft sorcery enchantment or conjuration or pretends from his skill or knowledge in any occult or crafty science to discover where or in what manner any goods or chattels stolen or lost may be found shall be guilty of an offence." This was only repealed in 2005. Lucky for me.

There are some laws that you know to which there are a point, but then again, you can't quite see why they go so overboard. A pet peeve of mine is bike helmets. I really can see the point of them. I know that they help to save lives. I think it should be mandatory for children under the age of 18 to wear them - but once you're an adult - why not do as you please? Sodding nanny state!You go to the Netherlands, where everybody rides a bike - not a helmet in sight. Granted, they have a much better infrastructure for bikes, yet still, nine million Dutchmen can't be wrong (and mind you, if you ask them, they never will be wrong, ever) What makes the bike helmet laws a little more ridiculous is when you find out that Melbourne City Council has set up a cheap bike hire service around town - spent a couple of million on it - but nobody can use the bikes without a helmet... Wonderful for tourists and locals alike. The current fine for not wearing a bike helmet in Melbourne is around $150...

Revenue raising, or what?

To me, the rules which are often the ones that need breaking the most are the social rules and mores - the rules which we live our life by.

Little rules like no elbows on the dinner table - now is this one ever enforced any more?

What about the rule about making your bed before leaving the house? Or was this one my mother made up when I was a child? (I think the dishes had to be done too)

Of course there are rules around saying what you think - where I was brought up this was one of the worst things you could ever do. Speaking out of turn was punishable by a slap around the legs with a wooden spoon or hairbrush. Though I'm normally as tactful as a Tasmanian Devil in a crystal shop, I often feel a pit of fear when I speak my truth. I was home in Adelaide a few weeks ago and was berated for speaking out by a couple of family members. Thankfully I had the good grace to tell them exactly what I thought of that idea by telling them that I thought that sitting on my middle finger would be a great idea.

But the biggest unwritten, redundant law that I wish I never had instilled into me.

Never tell somebody that you love them first.

Don't tell them that you love them at all appears to be the rule where I come from.

I really have no idea where this one came from, but it's so deeply ingrained. Telling people you love them only drives them away - well that was the thought many years ago.

Of course, there are ways and means as to when you tell somebody that you love them. It appears it works best when you're doing the dishes, or out getting takeaway. I can't be the only one who's baulked when told of being loved for the first time whilst having sex. For some reason, it loses all meaning. (Only happened once and I wanted to climb out of bed, shove on my clothes an walk out the door)

Telling my boyfriend I had when I was seventeen that I loved him a week before he dumped me might have something to do with this belief. I think I saw in telling him that it drove him away - and I clammed up after that. (Call it Cordelia's Law, "What should Cordelia speak? Love and be silent." King Lear, Act 1 Scene 1).

Coming from a family in which there was very little affection probably didn't help either. I have no recollection of being told I was loved as a child - let alone kissed and cuddled. You didn't tell people you loved them. It was soppy and stupid to tell somebody you love them.  I remember pouring affection onto the dog - she was my best mate at the time - she didn't shy away from any affection at all.

Looking back, I can only remember saying the words only a handful of times - it was an alien concept to me up until a few years ago.

I've been reflecting on this redundant belief for a while now - fully aware of the consequences of this stupid, useless nature of it. There is no point in pondering how things could be different - the past can't be changed - though how you look it can be.

I'm lucky that I've finally learned the true stupidity of the belief , although the thought of telling somebody that I love them strikes me with fear, it doesn't stop me any more. I'm just very, very particular about when I use those words.

Still, I sort of wish I had a hero like Rainbow come and sort this out twenty years ago and put this one to right. It could have lead to a truly different world.

1 comment:

Chrissy B said...

if you really, really love someone you can always tell them. even if they do run away you will still love them.