Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye 2011

I did this meme at the end of last year at the urging of one of my favorite bloggers, The Plastic Mancunian - and I am doing it again - just to see how things have changed - and to see just what 2011 has brought. It's a good thing to sum up the year.

Like last year, I have things I should be doing, such as doing more editing, cleaning my flat, organising the kitchen cupboards, looking for work - but I think I'll do this instead.

It's been a funny year. It's been a hard year for many, many people - and I'm interested to see what comes up in these questions again.

1. What did you do in 2011 that you'd never done before?

There's been a few things that stand out about this year. I've never had nearly four months off work in my adult life. That was cool and scary in order. I also climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge in August, ran in the City to Surf in Sydney and the City to Bay in Adelaide - both races in which I'd never participated. I also started to wear size 14 jeans - which has been unheard of for nearly three decades. The 1000 Steps were scaled on numerous occasions - the first time in January this year.

Oh, and I have gone a full year without fast food from any of the major chains this year I'll put my hand up to the occasional visit to my local Chinese, but other than a coffee at McDonalds at Easter, I haven't had any KFC, McDonalds or Hungry Jacks this calendar year - and long may it continue. (That coffee went down as the worst I had this year as well - but any port in a storm on Good Friday when you're stuck out in the burbs.)

2. Did you keep your New Years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

This year I did quite well. I lost around 16 kilograms this year and managed to get myself very fit. Unfortunately, I've put five kilograms back on, but they will go. The fitness thing is great too. I've got running again - with great success. The promised Mazda 2 is sitting in the carport.

Okay, I didn't get two articles into newspapers and my house deposit is nowhere near where I want it to be, but I've kept  my resolutions for the most part.

And my resolutions for next year. I have a few. It was pointed out to me that you can make resolutions at any stage. But here goes:

1) To finish the job I started last year in losing weight and get fitter - I'm over half way there now. It's going to happen. The base is good.
2) To wear sunscreen any times I'm venturing out for more than 20 minutes.
3) To keep on with the savings
4) To go overseas somehwere (Bali or Thailand will be fine - just need to replace my passport first)
5) To run a full marathon
6) To participate in the following runs - injury permitting - The Great Ocean Road Half Marathon, The Puffing Billy Run, The Melbourne Run for the Kids, The Sydney City to Surf. I would love to do the New York Marathon. Again, just shoving it out there.

That will do for the moment.

3. How will you be spending New Year's Eve?

With a couple of new friends in Hawthorn. It will be a quiet night. The only similarity with last year's New Year's Eve is that Maow Maow is arround for cuddles.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Unfortunately, yes. My mother's best friend died in tragic circumstances in May. She was a huge part in my childhood and teenage years and was somebody who taught me the value of unconditional love. A complicated woman with the world on her shoulders - I know she's up there in heaven doing decoupage, drinking cappucino with a string of beads round her neck and a slash of fuschia pink lipstick adorning her mouth. She's sadly missed.

5. What countries did you visit?

Bad news on this front - I didn't leave Australia this year. Will have to fix that in 2012 as soon as my passport is renewed - it only has 30 days to run on it.

I did make two trips to Adelaide and seemingly countless trips to Sydney last year - that was the extent of my travels in 2011.

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?

Sex. Intimacy. Dinner parties. International Travel. A day job that I love. A focus on my novel that I want to write.

7. What date from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

August 13 was a near to perfect day. I spent the day in Sydney, had a wander around with some great friends, climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the went out to one of the best meals I've had in a long time at a fantastic Japanese Restaurant in the Rocks. Great day.

October 1 was pretty good too.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Looking a lot of weight and keeping the bulk of it off. Still to finish the job completely, but I'm well on the way now. I like my body. I love being very fit. I enjoy what my body can do. Never had this before.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Other than saving more money, probably taking second best in my career. Not that I have a 'proper' career - I just made a few too many compromises on the work front - and though I love the consultancy I work for, I hate being back in banking. These compromises had to be made, but it's something that needs to be fixed.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Other than the odd muscle strain, one bad cold and a small, but annoying burst cyst, it's been a good year for health. Much better than last year.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Neville, my 2009, silver grey Mazda 2. Very, very glad I bought him. The old car was going to start costing me lots of money.

12. Where did most of your money go?

Rent and car payments. No change there.

13. What song will always remind you of 2011?

Unfortunately it's LMFAO's "Sexy and I Know It". It always seems to play when I'm in the gym in the grunty boy section and it is just WRONG!

"The Show" sung by the daughter character in "Moneyball" has haunted me too.

14. What do you wish you'd done more of?

In no order:
  • Kiss
  • Exercise
  • Reading
  • Gone out with friends
  • Watched movies
  • Worked at things I loved
  • Worked on my book
  • Drunk phenomenal wine
  • Cleaned my flat
  • Saved money
15. What do you wish you'd done less of?

In no real order:
  • Worked at a job I didn't love
  • Ate ice cream
  • Rode the tram
  • Got stroppy with a certain group of people
  • Caved into necessity
16. What was your favourite TV program?

A few standouts - The Hour that recently showed on the ABC was brilliant. The Slap was very, very good too.

True Blood is my go to for a quick buzz - it's really just soft core pornography, but it's fun.

And I'm still a sucker for RPA, Embarrasing Bodies and anything on geneology and good documentaries. I'm a nerd. It's okay.

17. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

No. I don't hate people other than Tony Abbott. Wouldn't piss on him if he was on fire.

The blow up I'd had with a friend this time last year has resolved itself and we're mates again.
18. What was the best book you read?

Fiction - Emma Donaghue's "Room" - superb book.

Re-reading De Berniere's "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" reinstated my faith in humanity and reminded me why it's my favorite book.

Non-Fiction - Christopher McDougall's "Born to Run". Who'd a thunk a book about a tribe of ultramarathon running Mexicans would be so uplifting.

19. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Florence and the Machine. Angus and Julia Stone. Josh Pike. All good - and yes, I know I'm years behind in musical taste.

20. What was your favourite film of this year?

Ah, this is always hard. Of the runner's up, Moneyball, The Help, The Eye of the Storm, Midnight in Paris and Oranges and Sunshine are all up there.

The two films I'm calling out - Bridesmaids - PISS FUNNY - just my sense of humour, as base as it can be, with a touch of honesty and humility for good measure.

But my favorite film of this year would have to be Barney's Version. Just sublime. Love Paul Giamatti. Not many people saw it. A great, great, great film.

21. What did you do on your birthday?

I have birthday week rather than birthday day. So rather than go to Jacques Reymond, like I did earlier in the week, or got Yarra Valley, which I did in the days after, I went to my favorite cheap and cheerful Malaysian restaurant  with my parents. Long live Sambal Kampung. I also went to work. Fun.

22. What kept you sane?

Writing. Friends. Maow Maow. True Blood. Ice Cream.

23. Who did you miss?

Reindert. I miss having Reindert in Australia still - but I talk to him on skype regularly. I don't see Kitt as often as I used to either, and I miss her as a running buddy.

24. Who was the most interesting new person you met?

I met lots of interesting new people this year - Traralgon, Kez, Kitt, for starters.

I've formed a lovely friendship with Jonella too - and I've very glad I have a like minded soul and reflexologist in my life. Some friendships are hard. This one is easy and I love her for that.

25. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011

I learned a few things this year.

Pereseverence is everything.

And never say never, as sometimes, never, ever, ever comes back into your life and makes you look at things in a different way.

Happy new year. Here's to a great 2012.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Mad Cat Lady of Richmond

Somebody get me a wheelie shopper, a housecoat, rollers and some fluffy slippers.

Somehow, I've become the Mad Cat Lady of Richmond. Well, maybe the maybe the mad cat sitter of Richmond. For the last week I've had three charges to look after. Blarney and Barney's cat has been staying with me while they're interstate. I pop in and feed Betty, Glen Waverley and Merijn's stroppy, vocal British Shorthair - they're away until the end of the week. I'm also making sure Leon, Em's cat gets fed while she's flitting about the countryside. Oh, and I'm feeding Archie, Gloria and Gaynor's old boy in a few days time.

I'm in my element.

Being on holidays, all of this cat minding gives a bit of structure to the day. Maow Maow wakes me up around 6 am. At a more civilised time a bit later I pop over to Em's to feed Leon, then I walk round to the other bit of Richmond to see Betty and open the cat flap so she has use of the garden. At dusk, I pop back to Glen Waverley's to get her back in again, which is easier than it sounds - opening the fridge door will normally do the trick - she's in the house in seconds. Sometimes I'll run a bath while I'm there and turn the telly on to give her some company for a bit - use of the large bathtub is one of the perks of cat sitting Betty.

Maow Maow's been pretty good except for a small medical issue. When Barney dropped him off last week he mentioned that his neck had been pecked at by birds - the dopey beast not bothering to move out the way when he was getting divebombed. Over the few days of Christmas his healing wounds seemed okay, but over the weekend the sites flared and turned angry. Yesterday I found my dovet cover had spats of blood across it. I wrapped a bandana around his neck to try stop him from attacking his wounds - which he didn't object to. Yesterday I contacted Blarney, who said to take him to the vet if things were getting worse. This morning I bit the bullet. His neck was looking awful.

After getting a recommendation from a couple of friends, I made the call, described the situation, explained that I was only cat sitting but my charge was in distress.
"What's your name?" asked the vet nurse.
"Pandora Behr."
"What sort of animal are you bringing in?"
"A grey and white moggy."
"How old is he?"
"About three."
"Has he been spayed?"
It's amazing that I know all this about this cat.
"And what's his name?"
Glumph. "Umm I didn't name him."
"But what's his name?"
"Maow Maow. Maow Maow O'Leary."
The nurse sniggered. I did feel a bit stupid - who names a cat Maow Maow?
"I didn't name him."

A few hours later, Maow Maow in his carrier, we arrived at the vet. I was made to fill out a form. Giving his home address the other side of the Westage, I tried my best to answer more detailed medical questions on the cat. Was he vaccinated? I believed so. Had he been wormed? Probably. What did he eat? Too much - normally supermarket crap.

The vet was lovely. Maow Maow, give him his dues, took all of this in his stride. My mother's old cat nearly disemboweled a number of vets. Maow Maow just lay in my arms and let himself be examined.

"You brought him in just in time - these are nasty wounds." The vet clicked her tongue and made soothing noises.
"They only really flared like this in the last day or so. They weren't so angry when I got him ten days ago."
"They're horrible. I like the bandana idea. Seems to have helped a bit. He doesn't mind it?"
"Not at all - though don't tell him he's about to go on a Pride March."
I'm changing his bandana daily. He has a black and red kamikaze print on at the moment. Much better for his street cred.

The vet gave him a once over. A thermometer was shoved up his bum. He didn't flinch. The vet scrubbed his wound sites down, which he didn't like as much, but tolerated. A shot of antibiotics and steroids were taken in his stride. The vet's recommended that I take him off the supermarket muck he's currently fed and put him on pure roo meat. She reckons he might have become allergic to his food and in his delicate state, pure is best.
"Are you sure he's not your cat? He's very comfortable with you." Maow Maow had assumed his normal snuggle cuddle position on my shoulder. He's stay there for hours if I'd let him.
"Long story - he's known me since he was a kitten."
"He's not stressed at all. Cats normally don't like being moved about/"
"He's pretty laid back. And I've been having him stay over very few months, he's used to it."
"Now, I'm putting him on antibiotics  - two pills a day for ten days."
"No worries  - I can give a cat a pill. I got my "Care of Animals" badge in Ambulance Cadets. Had plenty of practice too. A friend of mine has her boys here I think. Do you know Bernie and Fat Sam?"
"Oh my goodness, you know Mary-Lou? She's my number one client. I thought Bernie would be dead by now."
"Didn't we all."

Mary-Lou has spent a king's ransom keeping her cats alive over the last year - I've been shoving pills down these cat's necks for years - I've been cat sitting them for years. I can also give animals injections - a few years of muelsing sheep in my teenage years has got rid of any squeamishness. Another friend had me cat sitting and having to give her aging little bloke an insulin shot once a day - he was referred to as "Junkie Pussy."

A few minutes later,the cat was back in his carrier - and I was half a week of rent poorer.

This is why I don't have my own cat - vet bills!

A few hours later, the cat appears to be really traumatised - not! He has bolted his roo meat a bit too quickly and he's stretched out on the couch, fast asleep. He spent part of the evening asleep in my arms.

Yeah, I know it's a bit of a sad existance, but I'm loving every minute of having him about - despite not wanting a cat of my own, I love having something around the place to talk to and cuddle. I get the "Mad Cat Lady" thing - I just don't want one of my own at the moment.

Still, it's a pity he goes home at the end of next week.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Pussy Logic

I've been spending a lot of time with my pussy over the last few days and I've come to the conclusion that the pussy knows everything and if it wasn't so small and allegedly insignificant, pussy would rule the world.

Pussy knows that demanding attention will get results in the short term, but will leave you in peace later, when you need it.

Pussy knows that the ultimate goal of demanding attention is personal satisfaction. Nothing more, nothing less.

Pussy realises that sticking your head in something where not really supposed to be is about the bestest thing in the world, after stroking and being stuffed to satisfaction.

Pussy has worked out that being stroked has more benefits for the stroker than the strokee.

Pussy knows that it's a god given right to be fed on demand - even if it never almost happens in reality.

Pussy believes that trying to be helpful is all that you need to be, even if it entails being a complete pain in the arse.

Pussy comprehends that unconditional love can be shown by being standoffish, antsy and by playing hard to get.

Pussy knows the value of a well-timed guilt trip.

Pussy has worked out that other than sleep, the best thing in the world is cuddles and being stuffed.

Pussy knows that the best way to get out excess energy is to jump around until your exhausted, and then play dead.

Pussy knows the value of a well-timed inappropriate present. The earlier, the better.

Pussy realised that putting yourself right where you're going to get stepped on will lead to unexpected joys.

Pussy knows that being annoying outweights the benefits of being silent or hidden.

Pussy knows the value of silent companionship.

See just how beautifully logical the pussy can be.

Thanks Maow Maow.

And here you were thinking I was talking about something else...

p.s. I'm under strict instructions to write about happy, outward-looking, sunshine, lollpops and daisies for a while. Does anybody know where I can get some prozac? It's against my nature.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Type A Holiday

It has been pointed out to me that I am of a Type A personality.

"I'm not a Type A!" I wailed back at Em after she suggested this.
"Yes you are."
"I'm not aggressive, highly strung, focussed.."
"How about I concede to be a Type A Minus."
"Okay, I'll give you that."

A Type A personality I may not quite be, but I'll put my hand up to being an overachiever. And I know it. And I'm working on it.

So what does an overachiever do for the holidays?

I'm off work for ten days - going back on 3 January. YIPPEE!

I left work at 3.30 p.m. yesterday - two hours too late. I popped in at the consultancy barbeque at lunchtime for a beer and sausage, skipping the team lunch with my co-workers. Given the chance to network with peers or sit talking with people I don't have that much in common with, this seemed like the better option. After going back to work, tidying up a bit of doco I left  - and I don't have to go back for ten whole days - YEEEEEHAAAAA.

Okay, so what does a Pandora Behr get up to on her ten days off?

Well, I'm not going back to Adelaide.

Christmas can be one of those awful stressy times for me - and I've discovered that staying away from my family is a good thing. I love them dearly - I just love them more when they're 500 miles away.This year, my sister has her inlaws staying for a month, so there is no room at the inn there. My parents have only just got back from interstate and they're flitting all over the place, so I decided a few months ago to spend Christmas day with local friends and family here in Melbourne. Besides, I'm going over to Adelaide for my sister's 40th in a few weeks.

Tomorrow will see me having breakfast is at Gloria and Gaynor's. Lunch will be out at a cousin's place in Ballan, about 100 kilometres out of Melbourne. My favorite cousin is over from Tasmania to see her grandson, so it will be good to spend time with them. Then it's off to Bernie and Gaz's for a bit around dinner time if they'll have me, then a friend around the corner has asked me over for drinks -which will be appreciated as she's walking distance away  - and as I'm covering about 250 kilometres in the car and will only get a glass of champagne over the day, this sounds good. The sparkling shiraz/durif is in the fridge in preparation for drinks around the corner.

For the rest of the ten days, well, there's the rub. My Virgoan list-making self has a heap of things to do.

I've set myself a 100 kilometre challenge - cover a hundred kilometres in the next ten days. To be fair, this means I get a kilometre for every ten minutes in the gym I spend - so today I've got my ten kms and more- an hour with Pinochet and a lap of the 1000 steps (burned 900 calories - well happy). No drama if I fail it, but I need to get my exercise back on track and this is a great way to do it. I've planned a 10 km run walk in the humidity on Christmas Day - seems a better option to sleeping in and talking to the cat first thing in the morning - he's going to wake me, demanding to be fed at 5.30 am anyway.

There's a deadline looming. I have to finish editing the book I've had on my plate for ages. I've only got about 30 pages of the first cut to do, then it a matter of doing a final pass to make sure all is well. Should be done by the time I go back to work. It has to be done - I'm a woman of my word.

Of course, there's the reading (currently getting through next month's book for book group - Zoe Heller's "Notes on a Scandal" - excellent yarn. I want to get through McEwan's "Atonement", Anna Funder's "All that I Am" and a couple of other books while I'm here.

I've started back on The West Wing as my viewing of choice. The West Wing? Yeah. Everything I know about American Politics I attribute to The West Wing - and the slight Josh Lyman crush doesn't help.

There is, of course, the small fact of the house guest I have staying. He's being a good lad. I've been asked by Blarney and Barney to stick him on a diet as he's looking rather portly at the moment - do date he's shed 200 grams off his 6 kg frame (far too much for a small cat). He's asleep on the bed at the moment. Fantastic company, he is.

And the rest of the time - when I'm not exercising or cursing commas or watching the glorious Josh Lyman or talking to the cat? Well then I can get planning and plotting and pondering. I wonder what the next year will bring. And maybe the odd movie.

And I must to bed now. The cat is about to starting going into feral hour, there's a thunderstorm brewing and there is a song to get out of my head.

I'm going to leave you with it - it's not a bad song like that stupid "Sexy and I know it" dross.

This song has been in my head all day - no idea why.

I've put a version up but Sarah McLachlan - not the traditional Kermit the Frog one.

The song's been an absolute favorite of mine for over thiry years. It always has made me cry and it still makes me cry. It appeals to my well hidden, never seen, inner romantic. (I have a sneaky suspicion that Kermit is a  Virgoan, INFJ too.)
And to all a good night. Keep safe. Remember that goodwill to all men should extend to distant relatives and screaming children - and it will be all over by this time tomorrow.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Dead Pool

Trawling the newspapers at lunchtime today I saw two little bits of news. Both Vaclav Havel, ex-prime minister of Czechoslovakia, and Kim Jong Il - supreme ruler of North Korea, have shaken this mortal coil. They have kicked the bucket. They are no more. They have ascended to him on high. They have fallen off the perch. They are food for worms. They are no longer breathing or doing anything else for that matter because they are now dead.

My first comment on the news of Kim Jong Il passing was that the world has just got that little more interesting. The second was who on the world stage was going to provide the Elvis impersonations.

My third thought was to wonder who might have had them on their list.

Their list? Yeah, their Dead Pool list.

I used to work for this company a few years back that ran an annual "Dead Pool".

Look, this is all a bit macabre, but to be a member of the Dead Pool what you did at the start of the year was submit a list of people you thought were going to die during a calendar year to the Dead Pool Undertaker or Mortician.

Our Dead Pool at this particular company was run by Ralph, a recalcitrant journalist come doco dude. (Is there any other sort?). It wasn't a company wide initiative - in fact entry was pretty selective - basically this guy selected all the dark-humoured, unhinged, ragtag reprobates in the company to be a member of this club - no idea why I got chosen to join...

Anyway, I ended up running the Dead Pool after he left the company.

The rules were simple. Everybody paid $20 for the privilege of being in the Dead Pool - this was placed in trust. A list was submitted to the club Mortician, who ran a spread sheet with everybody's selections on who was going to "Pass through the Curtain" in that calendar year. If a person on your list croaked, it was your prerogative to supply to the club Mortician two obituaries from national newspapers to prove the death had occurred - if you didn't do that, you weren't assured of getting your points.

You were not allowed to nominate your nana who was in the midst of end-stage emphysema - the people on your list had to be public figures - celebrities, leaders of state, films stars. People who were and are worth an obituary or write up in a national newspaper.

By placing these people on your Dead Pool list didn't mean that you wanted to see them dead - though I know that there were a few who had Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden high on their lists being so wanted at the time - and there would be no love lost if they did depart the earth.

You got a point for each person who pops their clogs in that year, You got two points if that person was under forty - which is a bit of a bummer that I didn't get my list in this year as I've had Amy Winehouse on my list for years. I think Lindsay Lohan might have to replace her now that Britney Spears has cleaned up her act a bit.

At the end of the year, the person who had collected the most points got the cash kitty.

You get the drift - you find a list of people you think have a probability of dying over the year. It's not like you wish them dead - you just think that there number might be up in the fairly near future. Normally you'd pick people who were old and infirm. As I said, you don't want them dead - it's more you think they're going to cark it over the year.

There was always some hemming and hawing when names such as Nelson Mandela made the list - then again - he's in his nineties.. but you don't want to see him dead. Rove McManus's first wife was an unfortunate inclusion on somebody's list - tragic, but not unexpected. Patrick Swayze was another who you'd never want dead - but he had pancreatic cancer for years. I remember when Steve Irwin fell on that stingray - I could hear Ralph's booming voice from the other end of the office yelling, "Crap - I wanted to put him on my list! Andybody who shoves a finger up a crocodile's arse regularly is pushing their luck!" He had a similar reaction when Kerry Packer croaked late in the year - he was top of his list for the following year.

It's just another game of chance.

So who is on my list for 2012?

Well, my ten names are as follows - with reasons:

1. Margaret Thatcher

Ex-Prime Minister of the UK. pushing 90. Had a number of strokes. She's been wobbly for a long time.

2. Nelson Mandela

Another one in his nineties who can't be too much longer for the planet - though I certainly don't want to see him gone. Living in a prison for thirty years can't help the state of your health, though it appears he has kryptonite in his veins.

3. Jim Steynes

Melbourne football legend. In his forties. Undergoes regular surgery for brain tumours. Another one I certainly don't want to see go but you have to wonder how much dicking around in ones brain one can take.

4. Kirk Douglas

A few of you might be asking, "Is he still alive?" Well he is. A testement to the restorative powers of plastic surgury and what happens when you replace your blood with formaldyahyde. I give his son a few more years, but Spartacus must be due to fall off the chariot soon.

5. Lindsay Lohan

My token under 30's name, especially now that Amy Winehouse is no longer with us. She's been a train wreck waiting to happen. I just wonder how bit the splat will be when she goes - then again, we've watch Britney Spears reform. Kate Moss's Ex Pete Doherty was another possible inclusion, but he's been keeping his name out of the press for an age now - possibly means he's cleaned up his act.

6. Dame Elisabeth Murdoch

Mother of Rupert (possibly worth inclusion just for this fact) but as a philanthropist and patron of the arts she's done wonders. She's also over a hundred. Her time can't be that extensive.

7. Zsa Zsa Gabor

Another one being help alive with a foot pump, formaldehyde and a mad husband. Probably should have gone years ago. She's not too far off a hundred - if this would to happen it might be considered a small mercy.

8. Gough Whitlam

Last time I saw him in the public arena, Gough was looking pretty frail. He's my hero - I don't want to see the old bugger go.

9. Ariel Sharon

Ex-Prime Minister of Israel - this poor guy has been on life support in a Tel Aviv hospital for a number of years. If he was my parent I think I'd have asked to let him go years ago, poor love. (My parents have left strict instructions on this thing anyway - no heroic measures if there is no quality of life to be had)

10. Nancy Reagan

She's in her 90s - can't be too long now before she stops saying 'No".

11. Keith Richards

A bit of a surprise inclusion just for good measure, but anybody who's lived that sort of life for so long - well something's going to happen sometime. Besides, the lines on his face are about to go through the back of his head - there isn't enough spakfilla around to keep them plump.

Who would be on your list?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Just Boring

Dante says that above the gates of Hell there is a sign that reads "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."

I reckon the same sign should be placed outside of the emergency ward of St Vincents hospital - where I spent yet another thrilling day in the emergency ward Friday. It's the second time in just over a year that I've ended up in the bowels of this hospital, for pretty much the same thing - suspected appendicitis.

For the second time in just over a year, I was sent home after half a day with an inconclusive result, some painkillers and instructions to take it easy and come back if things get worse. Though at least this time I've been reassured that I wont have to follow up on treatment and the pain should go away in a few days.

These hospital trips get me thinking a lot - and counting my blessings.

To catch up on things, for the last few day I've been feeling a bit ropey. I was a bit uncomfortable when I went to the opera on Tuesday, but I put that down to nearly three hours in the nosebleed section of the Arts Centre where Em and I took in a wonderful Don Giovanni. I went home with an aching head, limited energy  on Wednesday and I noticed a pain in my side a Thursday - also got told by a few people that I wasn't looking that well - I put that down to Christmas as you do. I think the pain is musclar due to the exercise I do and don't think much of it. It took a visit to Pinochet, hoiking a weights for ten minutes on Thursday night where I ended  up in a heap on the floor in tears of pain to get me to the doctor the following morning- who sent me straight to the emergency ward to be checked out for what could be appendicitis.

Somebody at breakfast after meditation yesterday put it well - St Vincents is where you see the flotsam and jestam of society. "It's where all the ferals go when they get a cold." It's also where all the severe car accidents,  the inner city drug overdoses, the broken bones, the spewing, the mewling and the puking go to seek assistance and all times of the day and night - but every emergency ward is like this no matter what country or city you're in.

When I suggested to my GP that I go to St Vinnies rather than the Freemasons or Epworth, she turned up her nose. My reasoning was twofold. I go to St Vinnies, I'm in their system already and it's a public hospital. I go to the Epworth or Freemasons - they charge me two days pay for the privilege of sitting for hours in their emergency ward. Where ever I was going to end up, I was going to have to wait anyway. The wait at the private hospitals would be an hour or two less, maybe. It was going to be purgatory - may as go with the cheaper option.

Getting home from the GP, I gathered my emergency bag, just in case. Toothbrush, knickers, t-shirt, a nightie,books, phone charger, hairbrush, spare house keys. I've ended up in foreign countries with less. If I have to stay over, I'd be set for a day or so. That's the thing about being on your own, you know what you need and where to get it quickly - the thought of friends going through my stuff finding things doesn't feel great. I ring my mum, tell her what's going on and put myself on a tram for the ten minute trip to the hospital - I figure it's quicker and easier than getting a cab. The tram drops me at the hospital door. It's after peak hour - I got a seat.

Emergency rooms are hellish in so many ways - the smells, the poople, the chairs, the lighting - all designed to keep you away and reconsider why you came in the first place. Thankfully, and  being ten on a Friday morning, it's not too bad. It's only half full, there is nobody obviously too sick or suffering or smelly in the place. Everybody seems quite polite - which was a change from the last time I was there, when security got called on the odd occassion.

After an hour, they've asked me to piddle in a cup. After two hours they've drawn some blood and fed me some minor opiates for the pain which takes the edge off my nervousness more than anything.

Jonella came and sat with me during her lunchtime, which is appreciated more than she will ever know. The only time I teared up when when she came in. Up until this time I'd managed to remain strong. A bit of support and sympathy and I crumble.

Friends were marvellous as well - texting and calling over the day to make sure I was okay. I'm so very fortunate to have them.

After four hours they'd found me a trolley in a cubicle away from the rabble of the waiting room, got me into one of those  fetching backless gowns and told me the good news - blood tests cleared me of appendicitis - the daft dangle of bowel gets to stay. Just needed an ultrasound for final clearance and to see what was going on. Another two hours of lying on my trolley doped up on Panadeine Forte, reading my book in my slinky backless cotton number, I was taken for the test.

There's something surreal about these ultrasounds. Unfortunately, I'm going to have to get used to these - there's ovarian cancer in my family - I've been told I have to get one of these anually from now on. They're not that pleasant - though they could be worse. At least they don't hurt and the technician was pretty sensitive to my privacy and dignity - every time I've had one of these, the radiographers have been excellent - gentle and sensitive. Still, it doesn't rate highly in the things I like having to go through. I think I prefer the dentist.

As crappy medical tests go, it's a matter of lying back, thinking of something pleasant and not focussing on what is going on down in your nether regions. The ceiling tiles don't inspire anything lyrical to ponder. Lying back and thinking of England isn't really appropriate - remembering cathedrals, pubs, bad food and soft- skinned, steady-handed, gently insistant Englishmen isn't really appropriate under the circumstances.

After a heap of literal poking and prodding, the technician made a few grumbles.

"You're rather boring." he said.
"Of course I'm boring. I work in IT and come from Adelaide."
"No, everything's as it should be. You're in great working order. Everything's normal. Your appendix in normal. All your bits are working. I'm not supposed to tell you anything, but there's nothing noxious here."
"Well that is something."
"Do you mind if the student has a drive of the camera?" he asked.

It's a teaching hospital - what are you supposed to say?

Five minutes later I'm back in my cubicle, wiped free from the ultrasound goop, waiting once again.

They let me go an hour later. The ache in my side is probably a small busted cyst going by the ultrasound - the pain should resolve in a few days - take it easy, no exercise until the pain goes - everything else is fine.

After a welcome cup of tea and a biscuit, I got dressed and waited for my release papers.

"How are you getting home?" the nurse asked.
"Nobody's picking you up?"
"Nobody to pick me up."
"Why don't you take a cab?"
"Because the 109 is outside the front door and it will drop me at my front door and it will be faster. Besides, there's nothing wrong with me - the doctor's just given me a letter to say so."
"Can't argue with that logic."

The day's second bout of tears came when I got home. With an ice cream in hand, I got in the door and started to cry.

Now is when I want somebody about, even if it's to make me a cup of tea and go fetch me some dinner. I can cope for a day in the Danteseque hell of St Vinnies Accident and Emergency ward, keeping my sense of pride and humour intact (though there is nothing dignified about a hospital gown - which is why I tied a sheet around me while walking to the xray department for the ultrasound. The orderly commented that I couldn't be too ill as I had the sense to do that) Get home to an empty flat after a day like this and I crumble.

I'm normally alright on my own - only when I'm poorly do things go pear-shaped. Just to have that support and comfort at home at times like this would be a blessing. Last year when this happened, Reindert made sure I got some dinner and saw me home - but he's on his way to Patagonia at the moment. It seem stupid to ask somebody to come over and give you company when there's nothing wrong with you. I'm stronger than that.

Rustling up some beans on toast, another cup of tea and another round of Panadeine Forte, I made my way to bed for a night of deep, dreamless sleep.

Two days on, I'm back to my normal self. The dull ache in my side is still there, lessened by the rest and the knowledge that it's nothing serious and I'm not going to get worse. I've had a nice quiet day yesterday - went to meditation, had breakfast and the rest of the day was spent reading, wrapping Christmas presents and watching television. I went over to Blarney's last night and sat the twins. Maow Maow gives the best healing hugs - but being a warm night, the cuddles were short lived. Never to mind, he's coming to stay for a few weeks on Tuesday.

I count myself lucky. There's nothing really wrong with me. It's a little bit of pain that will go away. I'm not dying, I don't need surgery, I don't have to be on drugs for a long time. It will resolve in time. I know how fortunate I am to be in rudely good health.

If all of this means spending a day in purgatory to find out that all will be well, then that is the price that needs to be paid. What is harder for me to face is all the other dramas that being out of sorts brings up as a consequence.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Little Bittersweet

I'm working in one of those offices at the moment - by one of those offices, I mean I'm in a place where they decorate the office at Christmas. It looks like santa has spewed tinsel from every orifice around here. There's a christmas tree next to a pillar, complete with lights blinking away. Somebody's looped some tinsel over my pod. I don't have the energy to argue. I haven't decorated the house at christmas since I left Myponga some 25 years ago.

I'm looking at one of the inmates from one of the other pods hang tinsel from paperclips suspended in the ceiling tiles - as you do. Hope he doesn't fall - I can see the OH&S lady eyeing him off.

There's also a woman doing something with something that sounds like bells.

Of my few fond Christmas memories, the sound of bells is one that always touches me - the gentle tinkling of bells, not the sod off and die cathedral bells that have the capacity to wake you from the best night sleep after the best night out to the worst hangover ever.

Nah, Christmas Bells remind me of my old dog, Sheba.

Like most children of the seventies in Australia, our family had a mixed breed mutt called Sheba. Sheba was a little kelpie/Border Collie cross. She was black with a white chest, white paws and a white. She had the look and personality of the Footrot Flats dog. Most people had a dog called Sheba  - it was the name you called your dog back then.

She was the bestest dog ever. My best mate as a kid, she slept on the end of the bed - she even had half a litter of puppies on the end of my bed before dad went and made a nest for her in the laundry.

Sheba also had a penchant for smiling at people - baring her teeth when strangers turned up - though if you looked at the other end, the tail was going faster than a helicopter blade. She was a great guard dog. To send her into a frenzy all you had to do was say "Motorbike!" and she'd go barking out the door. She loved sleeping in front of the fire, chocolate donuts and herding in the chooks at night.

And at christmas time, we had a string of bells that she used to wear around her neck. Some gentle tinkling bells on a soft cord. When the christmas tree would go up, these bells would come out and they would be placed around the dog's neck. And there the bells stayed until the christmas tree went down. You'd hear her coming  - the soft tinkling bells meant she was somewhere around the place - most likely scavenging a corner of toast crust or looking for half a bowl of milk.

Just hearing these bells makes me want to go look for the dog.

I also remember what they said in that film "It's a Wonderful Life" (still my favorite Christmas film) - when you hear the bells at christmas, an angel has just earned their wings.
She's been gone twenty years now. I still go home to my mother's place and have to stop myself calling for her.

I'll stop tearing up in a minute...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Surrealism 101

sur·re·al·ism /səˈriəˌlɪzəm/ Show Spelled[suh-ree-uh-liz-uhm]

noun ( sometimes initial capital letter )

A style of art and literature developed principally in the 20th century, stressing the subconscious or non-rational significance of imagery arrived at by automatism or the exploitation of chance effects, unexpected juxtapositions, etc. (

Life's been somewhat surreal for the last 48 hours - actually, the last week has been something of a roller coaster. I'm blaming the huge full moon in Gemini, blitzed with and eclipse. It feels like I've been in the midst of a spin cycle of a wonky washing machine. I'm sitting here now, grounded, still pondering just what has gone on in the last few days.

Edna St Vincent Millay partly sums up the last few days:

Sonnet XLIII

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,

I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

Somewhat mournful, but somewhat true. The last few days have been a blur of occurrences that have left me gasping, wondering, tearing up, contemplating, enjoying and generally going "What the Fuck! Has that just happened?"

Maybe it's the universe performing Ho'onponopono on me. Ho'onpononpono? It's a Hawaiian healing technique. By healing yourself, you heal the world. By looking at yourself, and others, you release the old pain. By saying, and meaning, the words, you begin the healing process. I love you. I'm sorry. I forgive you. Thank you. It's a simple, but incredibly effective healing tool, yet when I see it in action - or have it used on me - I'm left rather breathless. Like now.

A lot of the last year has been spent looking at myself, my relationships with others. Working on gratitude, forgiveness, apologies and love. It appears to be all coming back now.

First there was an expression of gratitude that I never saw coming. A friend said thank you for some stuff that I'd done for him. Not that I was expecting or wanting this to be said.

It meant a lot. It meant a hell of a lot to me - not that I didn't know that he was thankful, it's just not something I though I would ever hear verbalised. At the time I was doing the stuff for him, things that I thought pretty minor and things that anybody else would do for somebody in the same predicament, especially when you had feelings for the person involved. It felt good to be acknowledged. That is all.

So this started the week on a good note.

Work has got a little better. I'll be finishing up where I am at the end of January - and this is fine as long as the ear plugs keep working and my friends keep making sure I get out for lunch a few times a week - I can cope. I've forgiven myself for ending up back where I am, able to see that I'm truly no longer who I was, or where I was when I was working in these area - a huge call.

Book Group came and went. The books have been chosen for the year. A lovely meeting was held. I was a little disappointed that the books I put up didn't make the list - Ian McEwan's 'Atonement' and Anna Funder's 'All That I Am' - but the rest of the list is wonderful, so I am not complaining in the slightest.

Dream Group, as always brought up some stuff. It's good like that. Maybe not so strangely, themes of loss and atonement came up. I really have to read that book again.

Thursday, Pinochet got his birthday workout. I stupidly promised him birthday chin ups. He got twenty of the buggers. I hate chin ups (assisted of course) almost as much as I hate burpees. But I will do chin ups. I won't do burpees. He was also presented with 3x20 100kg leg presses, 3x20 40 kg dead lifts, 3x10 22 kg clean and presses and a whole heap of other heavy weight lifts. Pinochet was delighted. I was a little sore the day after.

Friday had me motoring down to the Mornington Peninsula for the consultancy's Christmas Party. As somebody who takes a minimal participation view of Christmas, I was rather looking forward to this one. The company hires out a resort for the night, we all stay the night, get fed, drink up, party on and get breakfast, on the company. It was fantastic. Sharing a suite with Jonella was great too, as being friends, there was none of the formalities you have when sharing accommodation with those you don't know that well. Wandering around in our dressing gowns, putting on make up, borrowing cosmetics and hair goop - it's was like sharing with my sister or a very old friend. Even nicer, Jonella took the fold up couch, leaving me with the bedroom for which I am grateful. (as I was hoping to leave early in the morning and Jonella was intending to have a late one, it was very much appreciated - and I'm very glad she got a good night's sleep on the fold up).

The only downer was having to drive through a major thunderstorm - the wipers going full bore and still couldn't see where I was going for about ten minutes. Never to mind, the car is clean now.
Also, being a corporate do - I decided to get the 'dead ant' out the way. Do it in the privacy of my own room rather than three sheets to the wind in the middle of the dance floor. (Note gleeful expression on face - and nice courtesy of an incredulous Jonella.)


The whole evening was sensational. The company prides itself on its people and with good reason. A lovely crowd, great food, plentiful wine. A great night was had. Got to bed about one. I registered Jonella coming in sometime later before a great night's sleep.

Coming home the next morning, I had about an hour before I was due out again. This time, a large gathering of the Elks for a special ceremonial meeting. It was something I was looking forward to and dreading in equal proportions.

Problem one. Already ratty from a night away, a day of housework and gyming would have been wonderful - but I had to turn up to this event. I had a job to do. I planned to sneak away for a nanna nap before dinner after the ceremony - didn't happen.

Problem two. It was tropically hot in Melbourne last week. 32 degrees with 90% humidity. It felt like Bangkok. Being stuck in an airless room with 70 others with only the humming of ineffective fans for relief wasn't that great- okay - uncomfortable and exhausting are better words for it. The ceremony, however, was lovely. To top it off, there was one of the members who gave a small recital on her harp.

This is where the really surreal stuff happened. She played a couple of songs, the last being the "Skye Boat Song". During the song - some of the group started humming along. It was ethereal.

I lost my body!

I'm not kidding. For a few moments, my physical self disappeared. All I was aware of was my inner self, and the music.

Losing myself to music is something I'm prone to. I can't feel my body any more. It's a rare and rather special feeling. The last time I remember feeling it was at a Jeff Beck concert. "Brush with the Blues", a favourite song of mine came on, and I was gone.


My friend who was with me at the time has always commented on how easily I lose myself to music - allowing my body to disolve - well that's what it feels like.

It left me a little shaken. It's never happened in such a public arena before. Or so completely. It took a bit to get myself back again.

I spent the rest of the afternoon staving off panic attacks by standing outside with the smokers - trying to hide my panic. Little old lady induced claustrophobia isn't fun. Eight hours after arriving, I walked the short distance home -arriving to the really surreal stuff.

A few months ago I told of how I "found" an old boyfriend on facebook. That was a bit trippy.

To have three more significant people who I've heard nothing from in years contact me in 24 hours. It's just a bit too surreal for words.
All of these men have had a lot to do with shaping my life in one way or another.

First up, after a virtual absence of a year, Lachlan sends an email. Like the proverbial bad penny, he comes back for a chat every so often. This one is under control. The heart is clear - it's just funny that he chose yesterday to get back in contact.

The second person sent my life off in completely different direction - for which I am indebted to him, even though he has to be kept at arms length and little attention given to him.

Terry got me to Greece. Terry was the one who organised for me to go work on a Greek Island for a few months. Okay, so the visa situation was stuffed up. So I dismantled my life because of this 'opportunity'  - one, which, in hindsight, was one of the formative of my life. It let me learn how to take risks. It got me out of my rut - and even though I was back in Australia in four months, it got my life moving again in a much better direction.

Terry will be kept at a distance. He can be more trouble than he's worth - but I do hope he knows that I'll always be grateful for the three months I spent in the Greek Islands in 2003.

The third person to contact me is another "Never, ever, ever going to have contact with this person again" people. Another very significant person who I pretty much never talk about, to nobody.

Of the men in my life, Lucas has a significant place. Like one other before him, he's somebody that I've occasionally thought about how things could have been if things were different. There's no point regretting what happened. There's no point even asking, "What if?" But I look back on my time with him, know he was put there for a reason and let it go.

Looking back, he's somebody I would fight for now if he was to come into my life at this stage of proceedings. I wasn't capable of fighting for myself back then. I was capable of existing and that was about it - nobody wants a serious relationship with a shell.

Lucas was around for a while, on and off. Geography wasn't  going for us - as he lived in Cardiff for most of the time I knew him - I lived in London. Me pondering being chucked out of the country at any point never helped the formation of serious relationships. Not a great base for anything.

Lucas - whip smart, an engineer, played concert violin, with a silly, geeky laugh, lank hair and a gentle nature that was hidden by walls of shyness which came across as arrogance. Appeared to fall for my gormless "Fancy a shag?" line when I came back from the pub pissed one night - first and only time a chat up line worked.

Neither of us were up for anything serious. I treated him poorly at times, but then again, he wasn't that great to me at times either. He fascinated me. Soon after things went pear-shaped, I moved back to Australia. I'm in loose contact with a good mate of his - but I've never asked about him. Water under the bridge and all that.

We've had a brief chat online. He's still in Cardiff. One of his first questions to me was 'Are you still writing?"

Thing is - I thought he'd have forgotton me. Like the other one before him, I though they'd have just moved on, met somebody, got on with their lives, married, kids and the like - and I'd be forgotton. Just one of those fleeting people you meet. In my case, I was that pernickety woman who shared a flat with a mate of his.

It's just been a strange weekend for people getting in touch. I'm not sure what the universe wants me to look at. It's all just a bit surreal. Three getting back in contact in 24 hours! I'm blaming the full moon.

This afternoon I grounded myself with a lovely, brutal Thai massage, a cup of tea with Blarney, a cuddle with Maow Maow and the throwing around of Blarney's boys - it appears I give good airplane to toddlers.

For this week - hmm - tarot client tomorrow, Opera Tuesday (Don Giovanni - yay), dream group Wednesday, Pinochet Thursday and some friends are coming round for pizza and a viewing of Donnie Darko on Friday.

Yeah, it's a bit busy. It will help stop me pondering just what the hell the universe wants from me.

I'm sorry. I forgive you. I love you. Thank you. Repeat.

Maybe it's to find Summer singing in me once again.  Unlike Millay's poem, I'm not sure that part of me is as dead as I like to think it is.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Compare and Contrast

Amazing the difference a week makes.

As does the decision that you're going to be happy. It always gets me that once you make the decision to improve things, things really start to improve.

Well, things are on the improve.

First up, work. But I have to include dream group in on this one.

See, the day before I started out on this new venture at Bastard Bank I gave my dream at dream group. A strange dream where I was running a marathon in a velodrome on the banks of the Yarra around a maze. 42 times around a maze, up and down hills against one other. I knew I could do it, but I was running against one other, and I knew I was going to lose, but hey, I knew I could do it too. I had to get ready and get supplies so I visited a supermarket which was behind where the arts centre was, but it felt like the Carrefour in Chiang Mai, a place I'd ended up on holiday with a bi-polar Belgian in tow. Then I had to get back to the velodrome/stadium and I was going to take the tube. Coming in at what felt like London Bridge Station, I hopped on the Northern Line, and the train, carriages and all spiralled upwards - and nobody thought this strange. it seems I hopped on the wrong part of the Northern Line because I ended up at Waterloo. I had to get out of the station - the only way to do this was down a double helix ladder.

A strange dream.

What was more odd, Viv, our dream group leader went away for three weeks and I was left to stew on this dream for a full four weeks. Normally you get to close off your dream after a week - which is normally enough because the effects of dream group can either be subtle, or like in his case, have the whack of a bag of sledgehammers.

The day after doing the dream was when life took a turn for the worse, the job went southerly, I ended up miserable and having to fight back. Spiraling around the double helixes of life.

Dream group tends to force me to look at stuff that I rarely look - or that my psyche wants me to look at. This time round, it appears it was begging for me to take a good look at where I've come from. In this case, the back office of merchant banks, doing boring, repetative, tedious work day in day out, with people who appear to have little ambition, feeling utterly lost, hopeless and miserable.

Closed off the dream on Wednesday - and things suddenly look a whole heap better.

First up, after a few better days in the dungeons, they've let it be known that my contract is not being renewed. So as of the end of this or next week (depending on a few things) I will be out of there. For once, I'm thrilled. I've hated so much about this last month. Though the people are nice enough, the role has been filled with all sorts of not so fun challenges I was not been expecting - 60 decibel Phil Collins and Elton John over the loudspeaker included. Little support, tedious work and most of all, a crap environment.

I'll be fine when I get out of here - I always am okay. Never have I been so happy to be moving on. The consultancy will be happy to use me in the new year - and I get a few weeks off and I can start looking for work soon

All I know is that I had to go through this last month to get to the bottom of some stuff. Stuff I wish I knew ten years ago.

I deserve to be happy.
I especially deserve to be happy at work.
I deserve to be in a good environment.
I deserve to be around good people.
I deserve to be treated with respect - and I need all of these things in a job.

After a couple of full on meetings, the weekend was well received

Spent this last weekend working on an editing job and relaxing. Sunday was particularly lovely. Was joined on my 10 km constitutional walk by a friend, which was just great. Walking is best when you get to share it with somebody.

This was followed by lunch at the Abbotsford Convent. Collected a friend and we had lunch at Lentil as Anything.

Lentil as Anything is a cafe at the convent which serves up vegetarian Indian food. Rather than having a price list, you serve yourself and pay what you like on the honesty system. It employs a lot of recent refugees and migrants, giving them a start. It's an institution that MUST stay.

It's lovely to be able to wander around this little haven in the city.

My friend was amazed at the place - I'd been raving about the convent for years, but he never believed me - I just got my normal sense of peace that I always get from the place. Ran into Georgie and Tom there too. It's a fantastic way to spend the afternoon.

After dropping my friend off, it was off to see Blarney, the boys and the Maow Maow for coffee, then on arriving home, Emm popped round for a cup of tea, bringing round some banana cake - which was exceptional.

A really good day. Made me consider just how lovely life can be - for without friends, what do we have?

Then the real bonus for today. On collecting the mail, a non-descript envelope mailed from somewhere in Carton. My new driver's licence had arrived.

For once in my life I was speechless.

Compare and contrast.

The picture on the left is the old one. 20 kilos heavier, miserable, angry. This was taken nine years ago. I've had to hide away my driver's licence an obey the road rules  - who would admit to a photo like that?

The pictire on the left is the current one. I can live with this one for the next ten years.

Okay, other than noticeably slimmer, the anger and misery has gone from my gaze. Okay maybe because I've taken to wearing liquid eyeliner and I took a bit of care to put on a bit of make up (but I'm wearing more make up in the other shot), but my eyes look bigger and clearer. You can't make out that they're pine tree green, but they look okay. You can see through the gaze and see who I am.

The biggest bonus of all - in the photo on the left, there I am with about five chins.

In the new one, I have one and a bit, obscured by the fact that they've embedded my date of birth over the photo. This is so that the blind, stupid policeman who pulls you over can read your licence.

Comments have been made that I look ten years younger in the latter. A compliment  - but even through my ultra-self-critical eyes I can see it.

I don't give myself enough credit for changing over the past few years. You don't get much better chance to compare and contrast what you were and what you're becoming.

Now the hard bit. Blitzing the passport photo....

Better get on with tidying up my CV. If you know of anybody looking for a hard working word nerd to tidy up documents, write web content and training materials or just generally organise and improve on stuff, give me a bell.

All these changes are quite exciting.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

On Holding Hands

At our Elks rehearsal the other night we were walking through the ceremony that we will be doing in ten days time.

At one part of the rehearsal, the group are called to hold hands during a bit of the ceremony. I took the hands of the people next to me. To my right, a little old lady, her paws cool, the skin dry and papery, reminiscent of my grandmother's grip. To my left, a middle-aged gentleman with a crew cut. He picked up my hand in his roughened tradie's mit, studied my hand in his and commented, "My you have small paws."

My hands aren't anything out of the ordinary, though they're a favourite part of my body. I've got long fingers, elegant, yet squared palms, well-shaped fingernails, thanks to my mother's gene pool. I keep them plied with hand cream regularly so the skin is smooth and even. I have a silver ring on the middle finger of my left hand - a leaving gift from workmates many years ago - the mother-of-pearl feature fell out years ago, but I still love the ring. On my right hand, the ring finger is adorned with a silver and garnet ring I found in Ubud, Indonesia a few years ago. As I write, massage, sew, knit, cook, crochet, you name it - my hands get a lot of use. They also raise quite a few comments about the fact that they're "pretty", "lovely" and "nice".

I also know that I missed out on the genes my sister was blessed with, thank goodness. Affectionately-known-as-Manhands is known by this moniker for a reason. Bless. Thankfully her hands have the same attributes as mine - just quite a bit bigger.

For those who've received a massage from me, people have commented that I have "hot" hands, able to produce great healing heat in seconds If you feel them after I lose contact, they're just normal temperature.

For me, holding hands is a particularly foreign feeling. I know it happens, but when it does, outside of lodge ritual work and helping friends children cross the road, I never know what to think. I always find when somebody holds my hand it's rather surprising.

Maybe it's something cellular. I remember taking my mother's hand at my grandmother's funeral. Grandma passed on at 104 years of age. She'd given Mum the runaround for nearly two decades in some ways - up until the last three years she was pretty good. Mum's hands and mine are similar, square palms, long, shapely fingers, good nails, and they're about the same size. All I can remember is Mum's hand rather limp in mine. It was one of those days. Tactile isn't a word I'd use to describe my mother.

I think back to other times my hand has been held. Undergoing minor surgery to have some cysts removed from my scalp over twenty-five years ago - the first time it happened - a nice nurse held my hand as the doctor injected the numb from under the surgical drapes. I think back and look at how I get this done now every few years when the bloody things grow back , in the doctor's surgery, chatting to my doctor about all sorts of things, no theatre lights, no drapes, no nurse. It was good to have the nurse there that first time, keeping the gremlins at bay.

Holding hands often means drinking to me. Dim memories of trawling the sex shops of Soho with Lachlan in the early hours of a winter's morning, hand-in-hand so we didn't lose each other in the crowds, plastered on lager and crisps. The last time anybody held my hand outside of lodge, a friend and I were wandering around town trying to find some dinner - far, far too much beer had been imbibed. Again, holding hands was practical - we wouldn't lose each other on the busy, warm, February night, my hand quite nicely fit in his palm.

The funny thing about holding hands is once you start, stopping is hard. If you break for any reason, you normally search each other out to join hands again. I'd forgotton about that too.

Sitting next to an ailing friend as he lay in a hosptial bed a few years ago, I held his hand - he gripped onto my for dear life. "There's warmth going up my arm." He mumbled. As he was not in a state to do anything more than lay there, I gave him a thorough hand massage. What frightened me more was as he was feeling warmth up his arm, all I was aware of was the cold despair I was feeling coming from him. I returned the following day to sit by his bedside and hold his hand once again. Though he could barely string a sentence together or know what day of the week it was, it was demanded that I massage his other one to even him up. He was quite insistant.

Of course then there are those who hold your hand because they want to be with you. Fingers laced together walking down the street. That's been years since that happened.

It's quite sad and scary, really.

I get all angsty when my mum and step-dad hold hands in public. Thinking about it, I think it might be a bit of jealousy.

It's struck me a while ago that I have very little touch in my life - monthly massages and the odd hug off friend excepted - the last time anybody kissed me - hell, four years ago now. But I can almost count the times that somebody has held my hand in my adult life.

So surprising is the act to me that it burns in my memory like a brand.