Sunday, November 24, 2013

I Dream of Gina

Bloody dream group.

You think it would be easy after all this time in the group. You have a dream, You give a dream and then you have a week to go through the consequences. For those who've seen me through the process, you know that there is a bit of a process in working through a dream. Normally, I'm cactus the day after, processing what ever has gone one, then things get better. It is a confronting, thought provoking, at times angering, at times calming. You never know what is going to go on until you get there. You never know how it's going to effect you.

So last Wednesday I ended up giving my dream. One that I'd had in the morning and one that left me rather perplexed. It's a bit of shit of a dream, when you think about it. Worse than the Tony Abbott one from a few months ago. Worse than being on a fishing boat in the middle of a swirling sea with the hold full of dead, frozen men wearing the dress of Communist China. Worse than being an invisible person at the funeral of a friend.

The dream, I was with two friends in the Gina Rinehart's apartment at night stealing some of her dinner service - three side plates that were stainless steel, very ornate plates that were in the pattern of the Sun God figure from the Roman Baths at Bath. The three of us left but we were intercepted by the police. We told the police that were going to give the plates back.

Strange dream. That I was dreaming of Gina Rinehart scares me somewhat. The stainless steel (though they were very dull for stainless steel) plates got to me as they were in the pattern of a a Roman Sun God that I know from a wall in the Roman Baths in bath. That they were stainless steel and not sterling silver seemed a bit strange. Stainless steel is clinical, it's used in surgery, it takes out the smell of garlic from your hands.

Then there was the talk of the dream. Discussions about me stealing a bit of power, not feeling worthy of being powerful, not having any permanence, my absolute fear of commitment. Lots of stuff came up  - and all of it has been resonating, chewing over and keeping me awake at night for a bit. Not that Gina Rinehart was in the dream - but it was her place and I was stealing her things. And then there is Bath, and the Sun God, that I remember sitting in front of for a long time the last time I was there.

When we look at dreams we look at the people in them. Like Gina Rinehart. I try not to think about her an how she's raping the countryside and gathering wealth at the rate of knots. I find her a rather sad character, one that warrants some pity. A daughter of a wealthy man, forever proving herself as the son he didn't have (yes, I know that's ringing a few bells). A woman who's alienated most of her family. A woman who's not overly feminine. A woman who appears to not fit in completely in any world she inhabits, even though she's a paragon of the corporate world. Other words that got bandied around were evil, screwed up, lonely, sociopathic... some of these words I can apply to myself - some I can't. It's a bit hard admitting that there's a lonely sociopath inside you. I'll admit to this one. Family trait.

As for Bath, why would that come up? I love Bath - the city in the South of England. I've been there three times. Studied it at University. It has healing waters. It's a beautiful city.

It's also about the only place I've been on holiday with a boyfriend. I've been there twice with a boyfriend in tow - different boyfriends, different years. Still, it took me a while to work that out. The last time I was there in 2010, a friend was talking about coming with me, but that didn't happen. Bath is a city of promises, some broken, and memories, mostly good. That was another thing that came up in the group - my almost pathological fear of commitment in all forms. I won't even commit to getting a cat - though in my defence, I travel a lot and I don't think it would be fair in the creature.

This dream group can be very befuddling. 

I've been keeping an eye on myself over the week and discovered a few things:

I comfort eat after I've been around hospitals - even visiting them. 
Exercise is a drug - and a good one at that. 
I prefer it when my flat is semi-clean.
The thought of seeing a financial adviser later in the week is about as palatable as having two-yearly pap smear with a cold speculum.
I have no concept of what it is to be in a long term relationship - not ever being in one I just don't have a clue.
Friday night movies are the best way to chill out after a hard week.
Sleep fixes almost everything.

Unless you have Gina Rinehart in your dreams.

I'm interested in seeing where this takes me.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

In the beginning...

Being a writer is a tainted business.

There are things that they don't tell you about when you embark on this journey - such as striving for perfection will never get you anywhere other than frustrated, upset and hardhearted. Or that writer's block is the most soul destroying thing on the planet. Or that there are days when you really, really, really don't want to write, even when you have either a section of a manual (or in my current state, polish an application letter an a CV that needs to be done by the end of the night) to get in my a certain time. Then there are times when you are writing, but you're not writing what you want to be writing. And then, when you're writing what you want to write, you're not happy with it....

Being a writer sucks big time, sometimes.

Then  I remember.

"In the beginning was the word. And the word was God (or which ever deity you desire) and the word was with God (or you self-appointed deity)"

These are the first words of the bible, if you want to go with the King James version, that is. Other groups will be aware of these words. They've been around for a while.

It was a word, the word that started everything. One little word.

Okay, not everybody believes in God or has this view. As an agnostic, I'm fine with this one. Not that the world had to start anywhere, but why shouldn't it start with a word? Words are some of the most powerful things in the world.

Think about it. Words are one thing in the world that you can never, ever take back.

Pretty powerful stuff. Intense, potent stuff really.

What would have happened if Martin Luther King had never talked about having a dream? Or Kevin Rudd had not said "Sorry"? Winston Churchill declaring war on Germany? (That speech may not have happened, he had a heart attack in the days before and must have been feeling like crap when he said them)  So many things have been said over the years, decades, millenniums - and no word, once said, can ever be taken back.

Actually, Winston Churchill said some great things. I like this one in particular - very relevant for Australia today.

All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.

Then thinks of the things you've said over the years - the "I love you"s said and unsaid, the yes's and not no's and I don't think so's... The single words that lift a person to a position of greatness or crush them like a bug under a shoe. So much gets said - or unsaid.

It's big stuff when you get your brain around it. Your words have the power to change things.

But the thing is, as a writer, you don't see this often.  You certainly don't think about it. You don't get the feeling that your words can change things. Writing is what you do. It's just writing. Some of us write for a living, others for fun. It's just what you do.

Speaking to a friend who's also a writer, they were saying of my current job, that I could know how powerful my writing could be. Okay, I'm currently writing management training materials for a national supermarket chain - but it's true - maybe something that I'm penning will be the lines that help somebody reach the next step on the ladder. What I'm writing could be helping to make the future CEO of a national business.

I never thought of what I do like that. If you ask me, I just write training material. Simple as that.

I never think of the impact of what words can do. Or the impact of my words.

It's nice to think that something that you have said, or something that you have written may have positively impacted on somebody - just as it's mortifying to know that you've hurt or offended somebody by your words.

Words have the power.

Okay, this isn't new stuff at all, far from it. Philosophers have been writing about this stuff for centuries.

It's just that in this time of objectionable rhetoric, bullying and divisiveness, what power could the right words have to swing some sense into the nation?

For in the beginning was the word.

What an honour and a privilege it is to be a writer.

Now to find the right words.

(I've always loved this song - fit for purpose it goes with the moment)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Things We Don't Get Told

Maybe it's the reading material or what I've been watching on television lately. Maybe it's a visit to an unexpected museum or two. It's put me in a reflective frame of mind.

The three catalysts. JK Rowling's "The Casual Vacancy". The movie, "The Help" and an exhibition that I saw in Wellington about survivors of the Holocaust.

It got me thinking about what we are told and what we are not told.

I'll start with the Holocaust exhibition - a photographic and musical exhibit documenting survivors stories. Stories that spoke of hope, despair, courage and fortune. They talked of having their humanity stripped away, being treated like numbers, cattle - being treated as if they were nothing. Moving, powerful stuff.

"What passing bells for these that die as cattle?"

I spent an hour watching each of the stories presented on screen. Men and women in their seventies, eighties and nineties, telling of the horrors to which they and their families had been subjected.

All you can do is bear witness and hope you can do everything in your power to stop this happening ever again.

You wonder how people deny there ever was a holocaust. It was the second time I've felt complete shame in 24 hours. The first time happened a few hours before in the other museum in Wellington - they had an exhibition about asylum seekers in New Zealand. Stories of hope and compassion.

There are Holocaust deniers out there. Despite the deaths of six million people, people still are saying this didn't happen. How? In the face of all the evidence, there are people who are adamant that this didn't happen. Or don't with to have the facts discussed or published.

"Only the monstrous anger of the guns. 
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle 
Can patter out their hasty orisons."

It's like they believe if you say nothing, it never happened.


Next, the book, "A Casual Vacancy" which I've been trying to read for a few months now - I'd get so far and have to put it down. I finally finished it. Great book. A book about small town life, bureaucracy and perceptions. A great read, probably made better by starting over and reading it properly.

A book about cause and effect, about actions and consequence. A book that takes in all manner of society, from the upper educated echelon to the gutter dwellers. Really well done in many ways.

I then turn to my facebook page and see a friend angry about the new government repealing the school kids bonus - money that most parents in low to middle income families use to pay for uniforms, books and everything else that kids need for modern schooling.

"No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells; 
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, –
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells; 
And bugles calling for them from sad shires."

One of the central characters in the book, the daughter of a drug-addled mother, who barely attends the privileged school her location allows her has none of the trappings of most of the other kids in the book - parents who have the income to send them to private schools, the music lessons, the school trips - even the clean uniforms. Another character provided some hope in this girl. He included her, helped her on her way, saw the benefit of spending time and money on this person who would otherwise get lost.

As a childless middle-income earner surely I probably should be angry about the amount spent on education. However - I'm not. Publicly educated, I went through university when it was free. The kids of today should have the same access to the education I had - including the music lessons, art classes, libraries and the like.

Unless you are privileged, it appears these classes and choices, like learning languages or an instrument aren't not an option, unless you pay extra. These classes - the lessons that teach you about humanity and beauty,or similarities and differences - they aren't there for everybody any more.

What candles may be held to speed them all? 
Not in the hands of boys but in their eyes 
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes. 
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;

I so want to live in a smart country - a country that nurtures excellence and thought and innovation for everybody, not just the privileged, the moneyed and the fortunate.

And then I hear about the repealing of the school kids bonus, the stripping of the scientists from the CSIRO, the dismissing of the Climate Change Commission (as well as the Aging Population Commission and a few other "left wing" councils") and the lack of a science minister in our government and I feel very ashamed and disheartened.

But if you don't tell people about it, don't publish it, don't put it up for comment, who's going to complain or know about it?


Then comes to movie. "The Help". Based in Mississippi in the early 1960's, a movie based on the coloured "help" who raised the children of the privileged white folk. It's a wonderful film.

At one point, I found myself tearing up as Abiline, the maid, comforted her small charge who had been admonished unfairly by her mother.

Looking her straight in the eye, she tells the child, "You is kind. You is smart. You is important."

Being a person who's had major struggles with self-esteem, of course I'm going to get all snuffly. You tell a child something often enough they start to believe you.

Until a few years ago, my mantra was "You are fat, you are ugly and you are stupid."

Think about it. If every child was brought up to believe that they are kind and smart. I'd like to add in a few more adjectives with which to tell everybody from a young age. Things like "You are responsible for every aspect of your life. You are responsible for leaving the planet better than how you found it. You are compassionate. You are forward thinking. You are selfless.

What sort of world would live in if everybody was brought up to think these things?

What sort of country would we live in if our government thought like this?

The line of thought continued into this morning when I went for my monthly massage. The conversation while my calves were being pummeled turned to politics. This often happens during massages. Elke and I talk about all sorts of things. It started with the rescinding of the school kids bonus and went from there. Elke and her partner have a school-aged child.

"I hate how this new government wants to keep everybody ignorant and punish the poor."
"You and me both."

Elke, a long term permanent resident is looking into becoming a citizen. She's had the issue forced.

"I can't stand by and let this happen. Why isn't this country screaming at the hypocrisy and injustice? I don't know why people aren't screaming about all of these awful changes. Why aren't there demonstrations on a daily basis? "
"Neither can I."
"You know that this is how Hitler started. Keep them misinformed. Keep them ignorant. Make them angry. Create a class war."

Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds, 
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

It's being able to gain access the things that we don't get told - feeling all of the options and knowing the truth.

Such a big call.

So for the moment, I will keep reminding myself, out loud, hoping that others hear and do the same.

I am kind.
I am smart.
I am important.
I am responsible for my words and actions.
I am compassionate.
I am responsible for leaving the world in a better state than how I found it.

Looking at these statements, it doesn't appear to be that hard.

Even if at present the people of this country are treated like mushrooms, kept in the dark and fed on excrement, we can be the best kind of fungi we can be.With a bit of nurturing, we can be magnificent.

(The poem, Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen seemed apt. The youth of a hundred years ago had something to fight for, an were proud to stand and be counted. Can the same be said of us today?)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Things I Found in Wellington

Taking advantage of the unofficial four day weekend that the Melbourne Cup offers you, I've found myself in Wellington, New Zealand for the last few days.

My old friend Martijn is stationed here at the moment for work, so I half took up the offer to come over, half invited myself to come for a few days. And why not? A good tax return, decent ticket prices, haven't been to the city in over 25 years, it gave me a chance to have a look around and see what the place was like - despite it's reputation for being cold, wet, windy and prone to earthquakes, I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.

What did I find?

1) Wellington is a really cool place. Arty, sporty, seafaring, good coffee, great food, brilliant sea food, friendly and everything is in walking distance. Brilliant. I've walked miles over the last few days.

2) Wellington keeps you fit. The hills are brutal. Built on a whopping great fault line, the hills get larger and smaller depending on the earthquakes - houses cling to the sides of the hills like a sooky child. You're called lazy or a tourist if you take the cable car up to the university on the very top of the hill, but the cable car is great fun.

3) There is a sense of humour around here in regards to the rivalry between our two nations. When coming through customs, I was asked "Anything to declare?".
My answer was, "Other than I didn't vote for Tony Abbott and a tin of mints, no, nothing."
"For the first point, you are very welcome here. No problems about the mints." Said the lady, nodding knowingly.
They take a lot of  interest in what goes on in Australia over here.

4) The Museums (Musea?) are great. The National Museum - Te Papa Tongarewa is superb. One of the better museums I've been to. Felt incredibly ashamed to be Australian at one point when they showed had a room devoted to the welcoming of Asylum Seekers. They've also integrated the Maori culture well - most will admit to it to it not being perfect, but it seems to an outsider, to be really inclusive, sensitive and just fine. Te Papa also houses the skeleton of Phar Lap. Poor horsey, his skin is in Melbourne and his heart in Canberra. Do you think they might be able to do the same thing to Russell Crowe one day?

There is also a smaller museum, The Museum of the City and the Sea - which is fantastic and can't recommend enough. Rated in the top 50 Museums in the work, only takes an hour to go through, but it's fascinating.

5) The average down town Wellingtonian is very friendly. Everybody is really friendly, even to bolshie Aussies like me. Everybody smiles and talks to you - which suits me fine as I smile and talk to most people too. Had lots of lovely off the cuff chats to all sorts of people. It makes it a nice place to visit, especially when you roam the streets by yourself during the day.

6) Saying that, the do talk a bit funny over here.

Case in point, we were out to dinner last night at a little Italian place. Martijn was listening to the waitress explain the specials to the next table.
"Nipples?" he smirked.
"What are you wittering about? Leave the poor buxom woman alone." I retorted.
"But she said that nipples were on the specials." He continued to smirk and witter.
Okay, you have to give him. Nipples are funny things to have on a menu.
Took him five minutes to work out that she'd said that "meatballs" were on the specials.

I've also worked out that you sleep in a "bid", fit a "spear" to your car when you get a flat, and that it doesn't get cold but "Chilly" - just as they don't have eskies but chilly bins, and thongs are not footwear but they wear jandals (short for Japanese Sandals) instead. The accent is great. They laugh at the way we Aussies say 'six', which is how Kiwi's procreate...

7) I've worked out that I'm not used to having people around. Nor is Martijn - but we managed very well. Both of us have lived alone for a long time, and that's okay. Three days was a good amount of time to visit. Martijn had a sailing lesson on the Sunday and was at work yesterday. I'm a self-sufficient traveller and try hard to be a good house guest. So spending the days roaming about and evenings with Martijn worked well. It was great to spend a bit of time with him.

8) Never leave home without the arnica. I've got some minor strains in my calf muscles from all the hills. Arnica appears to be making them feel a bit better.

 9)  A holiday is not a holiday without a swim. This morning I took myself down to the Freyburg Pool, right on the harbour for a half hour of laps. Just wonderful. Sea water and a lane to myself. Very happy.

10) I'd really like to spend a bit more time in this quaint, quirky, cool, friendly, welcoming, interesting place.

Right, I'd better go get on my plane back home. Back to work tomorrow.

Thanks for having me, Wellington (and Martijn - your spare room was brilliant, thanks again)

Photos to follow.