Monday, March 25, 2013


There has been so much happening over the the last few weeks that I cannot write about. Although I may appear to be a bit of an open book, there is quite a lot of stuff that I just won't write about, more that it is too pain for those around me and it's not mine to write about.

And this is fair. I don't want to bring some things out in the open.

These things are not mine to put out there.

But here is what I can put out there. I was talking to Teddie this afternoon about it. I like her take on it.

"Writing is like therapy for you."
"And you want to write about the hurt."
"Well write what you can - even in writing around what you were seeing and feeling, you'll get what you need out of it. Save the rest to be amalgamated into your novel at some point."

Wise words from Teddie.

So last weekend I flew up to Canberra for the Toulouse Lautrec exhibition at the National Gallery

I flew up to Canberra on the Saturday morning, came back Sunday afternoon and have a long period of catharisis ever since.

During the 30 hours I had in our country's capital, I got an insight into so elements of life, my family and myself that a 45 minute flight shouldn't give you - but it did.

Coming from the Philip Larkin school of child rearing, some of what I was witnessing was very difficult. The lines of "This be the Verse" rang out in my head.

Philip Larkin - This Be The Verse

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn

By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.

It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

This describes much of what I was seeing - and much of what I was feeling over the weekend. I'm pretty sure that Toulouse Lautrec would have felt the same, as he sat among the brothels of Montmartre, up to his eyeballs in absinthe, penning a half naked prostitute as she woke. The coastal shelf of unhappiness disguised as a bohemian life.

It always gets me that these buttoned up Englishmen can access such emotions - the Audens and Larkins and    CS Lewis's and Eliots - men of letters, dry toast and cups of tea, who write about life better than thousands before them, moving people - where do they learn this?

I can't go into details, other than I was being cut to the quick by what I was witnessing.

It's not mine to share.

However, I did get some joy out of the weekend , spending a delightful morning with my dear old aunt.

My mum's sister is 85-years-old. She's also one of my favourite people on the planet. I remember growing up often wishing that she was my mother. I think it was the kindnesses she afforded me when I was growing up. That, and I was made to feel welcome in her large family - to which I still feel today, the honorary sixth child.

My aunt has been dealing with a lot of late - chemotherapy for one, although thankfully the cancer treatment has been successful in slowing down the disease, as well as furnishing her with curly hair for the first time in her life. She was in great form. I'll admit that at her advanced age she's been ravaged by all the trappings of old age - she now walks with a stick or a walking frame. She's not a fast walker, but she is stable on her feet. Her mind, however, is all there. She's sharp - which is great to see, doing the crossword daily and reading to make sure her mind stays sharp.

We had a lovely morning together, but leaving was a little bittersweet. Getting old is horrible. Knowing that my aunt may not have all that much time left on the earth is terribly confronting. I didn't really want to say goodbye.

It's not something that I want to think about.

And now I'm back home. Three days left at my current job, three weeks of well deserved holiday and then back to the joys of hunting for work.

The last bit is rather confronting as well - more confronting that I let people think. But I will be fine.

Quoting Josephine Hart. I'll be good. Damaged people are dangerous. They know they can survive.

I just wish I didn't have to see some people so being deeply damaged over that weekend.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Hypertension Blues

Pandora, thy middle name is contrary.

I suffer from low-level hypertension - or high blood pressure. It's in my family on my father's side of things. Thankfully, it's one of the few elements of myself that I've from his side of the family. The rest if it comes from Mum's side - thank goodness. My skinny ankles, curly hair, left-handed scissor usage, broad shoulders, big boobs and snub nose.

It's something I have to live with and manage.

On the other hand, I refuse outright to take medication from the Western Medicine doctor to control it - especially after the run in I had with their pills a few years ago. One set of dope made me cough, the other made me retain water so badly that I could feel the skin on my legs expanding - it felt the Harold Holt swimming pool had taken up residency in my legs - dreadful it was.

Anyway, after swearing at my doctor when she said with could try a third type of poison, I made a deal with her - I'd go see the naturopath and try bring it down with their stuff. I'd come back if I got symptomatic again (hot flushes, palpitations, headaches, sleeplessness) but I wanted to see what the hippy doctor would do for me.

Some potions and natural pills, three weeks later I could crow to the doctor that I was back to 120/80.

And I've been managing my blood pressure like this ever since. When I feel it going up, I go back to the naturopath for more "grass juice" and I reign myself in.

So the last few weeks, in the midst of a blood pressure spike.

I know when it's more than just the normal slightly high reading I give - this was something else. Hot flashes, headaches, lack of energy. Thankfully no palpitations this time round - I hate them.

All this means is getting back to the naturopath quick smart, start eating like a hippy and modify my exercise regime to a little less of the brutal stuff and more of the lower level endurance exercise that I like just as much (but I miss running)

Oh, and the latest trick from the naturopath - fish oil. I'm taking enough of the stuff to turn me into a salmon fillet.

But it's interesting to look at why my blood pressure is going up. What causes it to spike?

Okay - I've put on a bit of weight. Yes, I have to really start looking at this and bring it down to where it was. I've enlisted for the City to Surf in August - this is my goal to get my weight and my running back on track - it's the challenge and a great goal seeing that my running has fallen by the wayside in the last few months. (Interesting - running goes out the window, blood pressure goes up.... hmmm)

Stress - well, yeah. I have four working days left at my current job - a job that I've loved over the last nine months. Now my work is done there and its time to go on holiday and look for a new job. I have a few irons in the fire and I'm having coffee with lots of people offering my services. In some ways, contracting and prostitution are similar. You sell yourself and your talents for moment, putting yourself out there to get jobs.

There's also a bit of emotion that's been floating around the place. The last time I had a spike was when my aunt passed away eighteen months ago. Things started to go awry after my aunt's daughter got married. The naturopath and I have isolated that emotion is a big part of my I get hypertension. Thankfully dream group has helped to get this under control too.

So, yeah, I'm trying to take care of myself at the moment. And it's fine. It's boring. It's tedious. I might feel like I want to be battered and deep fried - but I will prevail.

And this time in a fortnight I will be in Bali....

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


I've always felt that I've always been on the periphery of things.

A wonderful word, periphery.

Periphery n , pl -eries 1. the outermost boundary of an area 2. the outside surface of something.

It's described how I've seen myself as a part of social groups for most of my life. Skirting the outside of things, though still a part of things as well. Not all in, but not all out either.

Most of this has been self-imposed - though it's taken years to realise this. An exile of my own making, my defence mechanisms keeping me from diving into the large friendship groups that university college afforded many two decades ago. When I fled to London in 1991, I left most of these people behind. I still have good friends from college with whom I'm still in regular contact - Geetangeli, Flora, SJ, Kath..., but I was always in envy of those who were a part of the larger group - the in-crowd, the popular kids.

I had a hypnotherapist who once described me as a lone-wolf eskimo, living out on the ice flows with the penguins and polar bears, dipping into civilisation every so often for supplies and thinking that everything is all to hard, I'd go back out to the ice flows until necessity or bravery sent me back into the town again. This was something I had to work on.

Twenty-five years on from university, I've got the benefit of hindsight - and facebook (and the marvels of a great therapist), I've reconnected with a number of people from college - and I'm in fairly regular contact with some of them. I feel as if I can go back to Adelaide and not just visit my family as I have done for the last decade. I have people to go have coffee with, talk to and socialise with, making Adelaide a lot more attractive to visit. It's not that I don't love spending time with my family on the two days that I go back once or twice a year - it's just great to know that there are more people over there to go and have fun with. Fun isn't something I generally associate with Adelaide.

It's strange looking back on these friendships of old.

Case in point, Kip.

I met up with Kip a few years ago and we catch up when we're in the same city. I had a small crush on Kip back in the day when he was doing Law and I was a lowly Arts Student. Then he found his girlfriend in second year, now wife, and I remember letting the crush all go as a lost cause - but forever a nice guy. Kip now works for a Federal Law Enforcement Agency, father of two, member of the school council type.

"I always wondered where you'd got to. What became of you." he told me when we first met up a few years back.

"Funny, I didn't think anybody noticed me back then."

It was strange, after nearly twenty years, we could tell each other stuff about the other from way back when, like knowing that he grew up next to Flora's grandparents in an Coonawarra town, that my birthday was in August, his in October, and that I came from Myponga - that I used to have an old, green EJ Holden and worked at the local department store on Friday nights and weekends. Silly the things you remember like watching the sun come up on Mount Lofty after a college ball, six of us driving up in dressed in our finery, drinking flat Fanta of the bonnet of the old green Ford Fairlane.

There have been other encounters with others. Meetings where you're comfortable from the outset. There are a few standard questions on meeting. Where have you been? What happened to you for twenty years? Are you still writing? Are your folks still in Myponga?

I think I will be tagged at "That Girl from Myponga" for the rest of my life.That's me, the girl from Myponga who writes stuff. Not much has changed.

These meetings, the rekindling of old friendships has also brought a sense of inclusion - a strange sense that these people, who I haven't seen in near on two decades, are back in my life in a small way - and I do like it. People you have a chat to, who you arrange to meet when you're in town, who are now back in your life as if they never really left completely. I hope they know that there is always a spare bed if they need one. For me, it's the knowledge that I have people to have dinner and a beer with all over the world - I like that.

I found myself posting on my old back pack to one of these friends this morning. My travelling bag, it's been around the world a couple of times, a 70 litre back pack that can hold 30 kilos of luggage, or just enough for a week away, depending on how you arrange the straps. This bag has now been replaced with a wheelie suitcase. I like that it's going to live out it's life in France with Annie and her family, who now live in Brittany. Annie and I edited the college newsletter in my second year. It feels like a natural progression to send it on to her.

I've always admired Annie's confidence. We bumped into each other on Baker Street in London twenty years ago. We both remember the meeting well. Strange coincidences. Posting the bag to her parents in rural South Australia (where she will collect it later in the year when she's over), the address was the same as the one I sent her Christmas cards. Her parent's address, like so many other things, burnt in the back of my mind, along with other old, strange facts that only people who knew you in your late teens and early twenties would know. This knowledge becomes incorporated in you, like a small birthmark or scar. Never thought of until it's brought to the fore.

The last few days have been interesting to watch in a way that only a perch on the periphery can give you.

There has been a passing. A woman from the group who I remember fondly from twenty years ago, vibrant, popular, intelligent, friendly. I know she's been a close friend to many of those with whom I'm now in contact. The complete bastardry that is cancer took her.

The message was sent out yesterday. Attached to the message, names not seen or thought of in years. It's a very sad state of affairs - devastating for those who were closest to her. As one on the list said, we're united in grief and thought. I had a chat to the woman co-ordinating the messages. Was she doing okay? How were her family? Showing real concern, but not wanting to intrude either, it felt comfortable to talk to this woman I hadn't seen in twenty years, but again in contact with the magic of social networking.

From my perch on the outskirts I see a bunch of wonderful, caring, feeling people - all deeply saddened by this news.

She is one of the first to go. Unfortunately, she won't be the last.

And I feel blessed, that even in a small way, that these people are around.

And the edges that make up the periphery don't feel so big any more.

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Question of Leadership

    We are the hollow men
    We are the stuffed men
    Leaning together
    Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
    Our dried voices, when
    We whisper together
    Are quiet and meaningless
    As wind in dry grass
    Or rats' feet over broken glass
    In our dry cellar

(From The Hollow Men, by TS Eliot)

I went to dream group the other night, came out of the session and found that we in Victoria had a new state Premier.

Was I dreaming?

Being honest, I wasn't that surprised, though I thought he'd last a few more days before resigning. Things were imploding all over the place - the state is in a bit of a mess in some sectors for a while nor - our Premier, though universally known as a nice guy, wasn't handling things - and there were rumours of corruption and broken ranks within the state Liberal Party.

Will I miss Big Ted? Nup, though I bear him no ill will - unlike Tony Abbott who I wish would do a Harry Holt and disappear off a beach on one of his regular swims of Manly Beach. (Here Sharky, Sharky, Sharky...)

Could we dream away Tony Abbott at dream group?  I wish.

Just looking at politics in Australia on a state and federal level, never before have I been so underwhelmed or so frightened. Completely and utterly disheartened by the whole process in Australian politics at the moment. Nothing can be taken for granted, the factions are ruling the roosts, the right wing loonies are coming out of the woodwork and things that we have held dear are being dismantled and sold off to corporations to mismanage.

I'm just wanting a reasonable, rational, respected leader to take the range.

Where is a bloody statesman when you need one?

We haven't had a statesman leading the country for a long time. Rudd was up there, but not to the caliber of other men we've had leading the country - I look at Gough Whitlam, Malcolm Fraser, even I hate to say it, Bob Hawke. Men who commanded some sort of respect and admiration. Men who's word you trusted in representing the country.

People who commanded a modicum of respect. Even if you didn't like them that much.

For the "leaders" of today, where is this je ne sais quoi that defines a leader. Where has this gone?

Who the fuck are these hollow men and women leading the country?

Is it too much to ask that we get a leader that we vote for to stay in office - none of this factional bollox which is making the place feel like it's as stable as a jenga tower.

Is it about time that we changed our constitution to have an elected president rather than a party leader who is interchangeable depending on what party faction is in power?

Is about time that we overhaul our voting standards so that compulsory voting (or at least the compulsory requirement to turn up to a polling booth on voting day) be seen as redundant so those who don't give a shit don't have to turn up - leave voting to those who care.

Isn't it about time we start calling into question all of the band aid fixes that going on at the moment, having no concern for the future - I'm talking about the under funding and decimation of our education houses and health facilities.

For crap's sake, we're going to need tradespeople in the future - killing off TAFE is killing off trades. We're an aging population - why aren't we training more doctors and nurses, building more hospitals, rather than ramping them down.

Why aren't we, as a nation, calling these so-called representatives into account?

Maybe Aristotle was right - Aristocracy is the way to go - the rule of the few for the benefit of all.

We need health and education (and public transport, and decent environmental policies around sustainability and regeneration)

And we need to see this coming out of our governments, State and Federal. We need to see this now.

Not some media juggernaut.

   This is the way the world ends
    Not with a bang but a whimper.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Stobie Pole Appreciation Society

Sometimes my work blows me away.

Never, would I ever have thought that I would ever be doing what I have done over the last few days.

It brings pride into my South Australian bones.

Better than the Crows flattening Essendon (the big cheaters) by 100 Points. Better than the knowledge that the Australian Grand Prix was so much better when it was held in Adelaide. It's even better than knowing that I come from a place that pours Farmers Union Iced Coffee on cornflakes and treasures the knowledge that FruChocs are only found in this one corner of the world in abundance.

I have been writing about Stobie Poles.

Stobie Poles?

Yes. Stobie Poles.

South Australia is the place which invented not only the Hills Hoist and the Pie Floater, but also the humble Stobie Pole. As a state of people we are so very blessed.

See, we folk from South Australia are just as clever as the Dutch, who take pride in inventing Slavery, Apartheid and Andre Rieu (or so my Dutch friends boast).

For those who don't know, the Stobie Pole is a another South Australian eccentricity. Invented by a Mr James Cyril Stobie, this brilliant engineer from the early part of last century took a couple of railway sleepers and filled the middle with concrete in the early 1920s and hoisted the telegraph and electricity wires on them and took out a patent on them.

As South Australia is a very dry state with not that many trees which can be turned into telegraph poles, this appeared to be a really good idea. Also, as South Australia is riddled with white ants (termites) wooden poles were deemed not that practical - who needs a power pole holding up the wires when they're only going to be munched down to a toothpick in a couple of years?

The first Stobie Pole was erected on South Terrace in Adelaide in 1924.

Stobie Poles are a bit of an Adelaide icon - like the Hills Hoist and the Pie Floater and FruChocs.

They are also ugly. Practical, but not that attractive.

And here I was, fresh of the plane in England in 1991 thinking that everywhere in the world you would find a Stobie Pole. It appears that everywhere else in the world they don't have these ingenious engineering marvels. Hunks of trees hold up the electricity and phone wires - and they're called power or telegraph poles. That really put me in my place. Nobody had heard of these wonderful objects which you could lean your bike against or tie your dog up to (Stobie Poles have a number of uses, yes…)

And they are vicious too, these Stobie Poles.

A Stobie Pole is one of the few things that can stop a MAC truck dead in its tracks going at 100 kph in under a second. The MAC truck will always come off second best. They are very good at jumping out at cars late at night. The Stobie Pole is an aknowledged killer in South Australia - more hoons die at the foot of a Stobie Pole than any other object in existance.

I know that some men like to water stobie poles when they are coming home from the pub late at night - but as wonderful as they are, Stobie Poles will never grow anything - they are of course inorganic but this does not mean that they do not have a character or a soul.

Stobie Poles do nasty things to Ferraris too

Stobie Poles have some people who are sympathetic to their plight. I have a fond memory of a friend telling me how her partner always used to feel sorry for Stobie Poles because cars kept running into them.

I kid you not.

In some of the more genteel suburbs of Adelaide they have artists paint them up and plant flowers at the base of them to try and make them a little prettier. Personally, I don't think that's all that necessary.

When you come from South Australia you recognise that some things are just there and have to be loved in their entirity, warts and all.

The Stobie Pole is the red-headed stepchild of the glamour model and the shonky criminal lawyer. It can be likened to a dopey pit bull terrier - never up to much until provoked.

Personally, I think that we should embrace the practicality and charm of this South Australian native. Maybe we should get Stobie Pole Appreciation Society going….

I think I need a long weekend.