Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Dog-garn it, a post

Have you ever experienced that moment when you come to an opportunity to read – and nothing pre-cracked to continue?

I had that happen tonight – I am on a library diet at the moment (to save room for my binge-reading daughter on the cards*)…

* - not really, but as my old man used to say, “Why spoil a good story with the truth”.  And the truth is that I am too darned lazy**

** to get inside of the head of the new library designer.  Don’t get me started.  Don’t!  Don’t get me started…***

*** well, you asked for it.  Can you BELIEVE that our local library has completely gone OUT OF THEIR SENSES!!  

I can understand not wanting to alphabetise the author’s name for only TWO reasons.  

The first is in regard to the archaic patriarchal lineage that completely obscures woman’s place in the cultivation of great literature; or – there was another reason, I have forgotten it.  

Ah no, I remember – the second reason is if you have an attitude about the posterity those selfish self-serving NOVELISTS seem to think they have, considering their name to be important enough to be associated with to determine the display on the shelves of their life's work - and they need to be taken down a peg or two if they think that THEIR names will sway us in our ultimate selection.  In which case, you may just have a problem, Sonny Jim.

But NO, some clever wobbly-bottom has decided that instead of following the whole alphabet malarkey, instead they would create a maze.

Instead of hedges, using clever mythical walls – 
and instead of the Magic Faraway Tree where a different land appears at the top of the tree each chapter, 
think Ikea with starkly sketched bookshelves housing the promise of “paranormal”, avenues of “adventure”, “living”, “hogsbristle” and the occasional tendril of “romance”, “war” and “self-help”…

See, that is the real reason I don't borrow from our library any more.  I fear book rage.  And being trapped in an unexpected section.  "Gothic" would be  a bit horrible.  Or "horror".  One would want to find an exit near "horror".

Or worse yet, getting bogged in "general" - the cesspool where everything that won't fit a label is tossed.

But I digress...

I had a shiver of panic, and then the thrill of realising that the PILE OF BOOKS in the corner of the room that I had never got around to reading #

# that noise you just heard is the group of people who knew me as a teen and young woman (yes, believe me, this once was true) who could not contemplate that I would have such a pile, for everything was READ, falling off their stools.

As I said, I am on a library diet at the moment and I had a shiver of panic, and then the thrill of realising that the PILE OF BOOKS in the corner of the room that I had never got around to reading #.

Thus, I decided to pick up and bathe to the opening chapters of “Wonder Dogs” (True stories of extraordinary canines) by Ben Holt.  (other people have reviewed it here)

Well, let me just say, whatever my expectations may have been, they have been licked, pounced on, worried and tossed…

I am finding great mirth in this book for all the wrong reasons.

Don’t get me wrong, these dogs are indeed wonderful.

The journalistic style, however, is more what-the-ful? 

At times, you think that not much has gone on between the earnest “I have to write a story about how wonderful that dog is, who I didn’t actually know, when it saved the life of someone or two someones or twenty-twelve persons from something.  I must include how that person went and thanked others for the dogs actions after, and how the politician/television presenter/winner of the cup presented the dog with a medal/trophy/memorial plaque.   Because that bit is really good.”
and the
“what the hell, no need to pay for an editor.  The readers of the remainders bin are used to being entertained by schlock.” approach to hitting publish.

I have just read one about this amazing earthquake rescue dog that travels from Wales to parts of the world to search after disaster.  And don’t get me wrong, the dog is AMAZING.  Would WALK over BROKEN GLASS to rescue people in situations of imminent danger. (Charco - page 53)

But…  but what is focused on instead?

That would be the 6 month quarantine the dog had to undergo after each major international mission.  This bit was expanded on to show just how loyal and amazingly heroic this animal was and I was thinking “No".

No, that bit is just a stark view of psychology and learning ability of canines.  And perhaps we have only gone part way through Charco's education...

Charco didn’t KNOW when it was volunteered for this 007 mission that the cost would be one hundred and eighty-seven and a half days without the pack.  "That wasn’t in the contract I signed Buddy, and had I known that I might have told you to call someone else because that sort of Shiite isn’t what makes this doggie tick."  thinks Charco.

Note in the article it mentions TWO such incidents – that is because in the first, Charco didn’t know it was going to happen.

The second is because Charco had assumed that the humans trusted didn’t know either and would do their bit in the canine-human relationship and avert that ever happening again.

But the humans failed.  It HAD happened again.  Now Charco knows.  Next time won’t be so easy.

Well, unless of course, that special bone is offered.

UP FRONT my man, up front.

I am getting to enjoy such phrases as “the intruder misguidedly ignored the warning and continued to trespass” and “Meanwhile, the burglar, Shih Chinlung, a wanted man from his previous burglaries, was met with giggles by the hospital nurse when police took him there for bite treatment”.

If that doesn’t say Taiwan to you, I don’t know what does.  (for those reading along at home, Hsiao Hei on page 35)

Did you know that there was a stuffed dog on display in a museum that is over 200 years old called “Barry”?  Barry was pretty freaking awesome, not just for being a 200 year old cadaver! (Barry page 37)

Another story has the poor dog not only saving the stupid boy playing in floodwaters, but also being accused of being a stupid dog in the retelling by the boy, and the mother agreeing…  Apparently Jake (page 13) “often became confused when confronted with everyday objects”.  Now, if I were Tony, I would just shut the flying-uber-canine-kennel UP when talking about Jake, because without the dim dog, he would be fishbites.

So - what have you inadvertently read of late?

Sunday, February 07, 2016

A Yarn from 1982 - or why my mother didn't have a breakdown then, I will never know.

Do you know, children, that once upon a time, we didn’t have devices?

Not just no devices, but no computers, no mobile phones, our watches only told the time and the top-line portable entertainment unit and was about a tonne of buttons, dials and switches (you could read about the new LCD technology being used overseas).

Ahh.  Good times!

So anyway, back in such olden days - 1982 - there was this breaking-in school at a neighbour’s place.
The neighbour's place was about 20k away, or 40 if you went around the main road.
There were about 14 (about heh – exactly 14) kids aged 8 to 16, and a half-dozen or so parents.

It was hot and there was a break between the morning session and the afternoon session and the adults were all doing something to do with the heady stuff of competitive horse sport in Australia politics.
It was really hot and we had a swimming pool at home.
It was really hot and we had a swimming pool at home and I HAVE NO IDEA IN THE WORLD HOW but somehow some of the kids asked the adults if we could go down for a swim and somehow the outcome was what we believed was the adults saying “yes”.

I see a lot of parents of this era shuddering at the concept.

14 children under the age of 16 being allowed to pile into one land-rover, drive on bushie-surveyed dirt roads through cattle paddocks to a backyard swimming pool 20 km away with no adult supervision what-so-ever…
Mind you, we were 14 children who were also enrolled in a week-long breaking-in school working with unbroken horses (or ponies in my case) and riding barely-broken steeds(and in my case being bucked off repeatedly by the b-i-t-c-h) (but my pride was recovered greatly by the fact that she also threw the teacher).
So either we were super responsible, super grown up country kids;
Or our parents were eargerly thrusting us into the path of destruction and doom.

Either way, 14 of us had sprung a few hours off to cool in the pool!

Meanwhile, at the OTHER end of that road...

Let me just say that my mother is the most beautiful woman in the world.
She is kind and she is smart and tolerant and wise – and she is purr-ingly contented when she has her own space and no sudden surprises.
Of course, she set herself up when she married my father - who doesn’t actually grasp the concept of any form of inaction and who cannot see that his constant, effervescent actions are rife with surprises…
Unfortunately for her, the majority of her children have occasional tendencies to take after their father in that regard.

So anyway, Mum's gorgeous day of absolutely no other person in the world around for a whole day in the middle of nowhere
14 children under the age of 16 falling out of one land-rover - to use the pool.

So instead of the nice apple and book after lunch before tackling the tasks that it was good to have children out of her hair for across the hours of the afternoon -
She had over a dozen children in and out of her space, splashing in the pool and wrecking her serenity.

No text warning.
No Instagram of 14 children in a land-rover to alert her.
No tweet, No hashtag #breakinbreakout for her to freak out.
Mind you, luckily there was also no google-able guide that would have advised her to go off her trolley and no message-board to have warned us that this was likely or indeed possible.
There was no facebook meme regarding the hard done by status of the unwary mother and no several hundred internet randoms turning up to join us.

There was also no Higgins Storm Chasing to let us know a Super Cell was set to unleash fury.
There was no Emergency Text Service to alert us of flash-flooding.

There was also no conversation with our adults far away regarding the effect this chain of events would have on our plans.
I mean, they KNEW we wouldn’t be stupid enough to go out driving in that weather.
The same way we KNEW they would fix our horses up for us.

So again my mother’s afternoon got shifted sideways, as out of the lightning and rain squalls huddled 14 children under the age of 16.
Suddenly quite hungry - and the few treats she had baked in the morning to set us up for a week’s upcoming mustering got devoured.
Wet and unwilling to put back on the dirty yard-clothes they had worn in the morning and borrowing all of our clothes.
Her work-space was taken over by card games.
The pool table got cleared.
The pool table got cleared!  You have NO IDEA what that simple phrase actually means to the psyche of our family – which was an integral flat surface in the topography that was quite a complicated organisational system.

And then the storm was over as quickly as it began.
1982.  We still had party-line phones that required a drive-along after every storm to see where it had snagged or broken this time, so no-one could ring and advise its brevity.

Luckily it had cleared enough for the UHF radio to work, and it was relayed to us that a convoy of parents were on their way down to collect their offspring, and so 14 children under the age of 16 had the sopping sunshine in soak the delights of a rare afternoon off for country kids - in numbers they rarely dreamed of.
Feeding the horses and dogs that afternoon was a group activity, and one filled with hilarity and adventure.
Tractors were climbed.
Nearby paddocks explored – on foot, as motorbikes and quads were things other people may have had.
Eileen, Safety Dance, Antmusic, Who Can it Be Now, Jessie's Girl, Jesse and Whip It were sung out loud and with abandon.

By the time that the convoy arrived, dark was falling –a few crossing were a bit rough so they had to go the long way around and so the other parents joined and no doubt the camaraderie of the track had affected a few of the designated passengers – and my father jovially offered drinks and declared it was an excellent night for a barbeque – and why didn’t everyone join us!

So lets look again at the litany of "surprises" for my mother:
  • 14 children under the age of 16 arriving;
  • Swimsuiting somehow the hordes and surreptitiously supervising such mayhem;
  • No apple and book;
  • 28 muddy paws across her swept floors;
  • No time or space to mop as planned;
  • Her whole morning's baking for the week ahead decimated;
  • A large portion of her childrens' wardrobes being worn;
  • A large portion of her childrens' wardrobes being worn in the mud, in the sheds, with the dogs and the horses, on tractors and haystacks whilst Countdown was recited;
  • An additional dozen adults arrived, some half-cut;
  • Her husband offering hospitality; - and 
  • Her hopes of a quiet dinner of L.O.T. (leftover tea) thrown out the window.

Luckily, my mother was a very modern woman, and she had already purchased the very latest in kitchen gadgets and so the wonders of microwave technology meant she could thaw several kilograms of various barbecue-able bits from the deep freeze - in the time it took a half-dozen adults to whip up salads out of whatever vegetable matter and the leftovers could supply. (Unfortunately un-pinterested)

Luckily for my mother, she had recently upgraded to a machine that only required her to save water by switching hoses at five specific times  during the cycle (a major improvement on the twin-tub or indeed mangle that had preceded) and when it wasn't raining it was excellent drying weather.

And no doubt luckily for my mother, she had budgeted a weekly sanity phone call with her mum on Sundays, where she could be soothed by tales of the good old days where Grandpa was transferred every six months by the bank and Grandma had to pack up children, sell houses and find sub-standard accommodation in far-flung towns of Queensland during a housing shortage and thank her lucky stars that she would never be required to move from this serenity...

Thank god for the technology, hey?

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Different Kinds of Fairy Tales and Philosophy

Against all good advice – or, apparently, judgement – I have a history with – well, with texture and drama at certain points – and I won't go into that too much in depth except to say I am unable to honestly tick the box foretold in the fairy-tales, the childhood sweetheart.

I know, brazen, wanton hussy that I am, admitting that OUT LOUD, IN PUBLIC.

But to be frank, once you are past the juncture where you can feasibly attain such an object in your life, the requirement to DREAM about it as an ideal is actually futile…

In fact, to continue to search for the possibility is viewed by polite society to be downright immoral and illegal!

And yet – and yet we keep on pushing the notion, the Prince Charming to sweep you off your feet – a reality that, frankly, very few of us end up cashing our chips in on.

Not that I have anything against those of you who found contentment and delight in the first swain to have troubled your doorstep when said doorstep was still shared with your parents.

However, there are many other possible pathways to take in this silly little world we inhabit for however brief a moment in time, and to disallow other possible pathways as plausible in the dreamscape of childhood is narrow, for there is joy to be found in these other avenues also…

The moment of falling in love – deeply, irrevocably in love – with a background of other spectacular moments of falling into deep, irrevocable love in the past isn’t necessarily a lesser thing to that moment of falling in love for the very first time. 

It is a DIFFERENT thing, for sure.

But you see, one is impossible with the other - but not the other way around...

That moment of feeling your heart break in new ways over days or weeks or months of mourning for what was not possible in such a relationship.

That moment of realising that, although your heart breaks in new ways, it is healing and embracing what life has to offer.

That moment of understanding that you can be alone in this world and be okay.

That moment of realising you actually are enjoying complete self-reliance in whatever sphere of your life.

That moment of discovering answered needs for a myriad of things in life from a myriad of people in life that proves being part of a community can be buoyant and uplifting.

(Perhaps not that moment of fear of unwanted attention and ill-conceived borders, but hey, they’re not a given.)

Another – and another – and another moment of falling in love…

Although – although as a married woman now, the most staid (and indeed stayed) I have ever been in my life – there are moments in such a life where you do discover other, new moments of falling in love in such a scenario that I would never have imagined in other phases.

The “oh I never noticed” moments, the "I never noticed that" moments, the “oh that is why” moments, the “ohhhh, THAT is why” moments, the “oh? That’s why?” moments and the “I dunno why” moments.

And I would imagine in the amount of growing and changing that takes place between then and now, there would also be renewed falling in loves for such people who number the childhood sweetheart component of the audience.

You would certainly hope so, at least, because they sure as dodo eggs are a declining market - there is a pretty finite market to begin with, and an attrition rate.  Anything other would be detrimental to their whole survival – we need them around to study!!

Oh - and the fairy tale game would well and truly be up!