A Thank You Note or: Happy Mother’s Day

It’s raining here but not there where you are – at home. I checked. I always check. It will be sunny with an expected maximum of 25 degrees and clear blue skies. OK. I don’t know about the clear blue skies. I’m assuming that. It’s probably a fair assumption, right?

It’s raining here and it’s sunny there. The rain made me remember a day, many, many years ago. I’m not sure you remember it. I’m not sure it’s even true. But it’s a memory, a moment, that often comes to me on rainy, miserable days like today. We were in primary school, us four girls, and getting ready for it when you said, “let’s not go to school today”. Just like that. Unexpected. Unprecedented. Magical. The rain was heavy, at least in my memory, and the lights were on even though it was morning. You thought it would be a perfect day to sit in front of the heater and drink hot Milo. And so we did. On that rainy, miserable day, much like the day I’m having here, now, without you.

My memory has added a soft filter to the image of us sitting by the heater with our mugs of Milo. In my memory, we echo the illustrated cover of our battered copy of Little Women. That’s all I remember about that day. I push my memory to squeeze out a little more and all I can conjure up is that old heater. Maybe. Or maybe I am just able to remember the heater because we had it for such a long time. A dark brown, heavy thing; you had to hold down one button and click the other to get it going and it took longer and longer to start as it got older and older. Like we all do, I suppose.

I am sure there is more to that day than Milo and a heater and no school.

I can’t remember the details.

But I can remember the feeling. The feeling of possibility and safety and warmth and love. And that is worth so much. What a gift! How lucky am I, to have a mother who gave us that? And you have continued, always, to give us those gifts; possibility, safety, warmth and love.

I hope you know how much that means to me. I hope you know how much that day meant: No school, hot Milo and a heater.

Thank you, Mum.

 

Mum, Me and the very early 80s.

Mum, Me and the very early 80s.

 

Short thoughts from a messy notebook: Three

My last city, my home city, is not really much of city. A stop-over. A gateway to the rest of the world. All heat and wind and prosaic buildings spread over four blocks which someone once labelled ‘city’. Somehow the label stuck. It might have been a city. Once. A long time ago. But it has not been able to keep up with its neighbours. We get out of there as quickly as we can. Often we have no choice. It closes before the sun goes down.

Things I nearly wrote

You fail only if you stop writing.

Ray Bradbury

It’s been about 70 days since my last post.

These are things I have been writing and deleting:

1. Changing the dream.

2. Selling out: The reality of “changing the dream”.

3. Why am I here or: Casting directors who flirt with your audition partner.

4. Anxious Sunday nights.

5. Coconut flour.

6. The death penalty.

7. Andrew and Myuran.

8. Mercy.

9. Rehabilitation.

10. Is this really the world we live in?

11. Nauru.

12. Children in detention.

13. Australia needs more lectures from the UN, please.

14. Real Australians Say Welcome.

15. Is this really the world we live in? (part two)

16. 90s Hip Hop is the greatest Hip Hop.

17. Fake it till you make it.

18. Thoughts on being a 34 year old babysitter or: $20 an hour just doesn’t cut it anymore.

19. Walking home, alone.

20. Cats.

21. Itchy feet.

22. School Assemblies.

23. To the person who tried to steal our car.

24. How many cups of tea are too many cups of tea?

25. Writers Block – The Return.

26. What is the point of this blog anyway?

27. Finish something goddamn it.

28. Hit the publish button.

29. Something is better than nothing.

30. that’s what my psychologist said when I told her I was concerned about doing enough exercise in a day, you know, sometimes you just can’t fit it all in and she said, don’t be so hard on yourself, just think something is better than nothing so even if you just a walk around the block that’s great because that’s something but now I find it hard to even fit in a little something every single day and I worry because if something is better than nothing then what is nothing … nothing is … nothing is nothing and I need to worry about that … surely …

31. Nothing

32. my grandad said nothing is at the end and he seemed OK with all that until nanna died but you can’t truly change your mind when you’re an atheist unless, you know, someone from the “other side” comes over and tells you “hey, there is something” which then completely undoes all that need for faith upon which all this is (conveniently) built and you wouldn’t believe it anyway because you’re an atheist and you can’t truly change your mind on that sort of thing, can you? Besides, we have all seen City of Angels and know the awful consequences of those sort of “visits”.

32. City of Angels.

33. Where are you, Meg Ryan?

34. I’d rather be in New York.

35. I’m doing this wrong: 30 minutes and 20 drafts to create one tweet.

36. Being quiet.

37. Anxiety.

38. Nothing. Again.

39. …

Short thoughts from a messy notebook: Two

The tiny butterfly flew out of his mouth.

He thought he had something important to say. Instead he got a butterfly.

He cupped it in his hands. Its colourful wings folded upwards. It wasn’t flat and colourless like a moth. If it has been a moth that flew from his mouth he would have been worried. And disappointed. But it was a butterfly. And that was OK. Impressive almost.

The Monarch - Heard Museum Butterfly Exhibit via Axel.Foley (Flickr)

The Monarch – Heard Museum Butterfly Exhibit
via Axel.Foley (Flickr)

A boring story we have all heard before.

walking home by katy warner

A male passenger in a white van stuck his head out of the window and yelled. At me. I was walking down the street, nearly home after a long day at work when they drove by. A quiet street. My quiet street.

I couldn’t hear the words exactly but I could hear the sound. Like when someone speaks in a foreign language and even though you don’t know what they’re saying, you know what they’re saying. Know what I’m saying? Something in that tone, that leering face, jolted me. He made that certain kind of sound you will sometimes hear certain groups of certain kinds of men make at certain establishments when they have reached a certain level of a certain thing I shall call “jerk-ness”.

I stopped. I turned around, flung my arms in the air, in that Tom Hanks I’m-acting-like-I-can’t-believe-you-just-did-that fashion (which I always thought was kind of unrealistic until I found myself doing it) and watched the van continue on its way. Come back, I thought, come back and have a conversation with me. Get out of the car, look me in the eye, and repeat what you said.

He didn’t. Of course. Even though I knew they could see me, standing there all Tom-Hanks-esque and angry. No, of course they didn’t come back…

This happens from time to time. Most of the time. Because, to some men, when women walk down the street they are not people. Not fellow human beings. We are objects to be objectified. Of course. Yell, whistle, beep the horn.

It is not flattering. It is not funny. It is not harmless.

It is intimidating and pathetic. It is vile.

These are not sincere, heartfelt compliments given from one human to another. These men don’t look you in the eye. They couldn’t.

You never see these cowards again. You never know who they are.

However …

This van was marked with a company name.

I tweeted them.

They got back to me. Quickly. That sort of thing doesn’t look so great on social media.

They were sorry. They wanted more details. They would follow-up. They took this seriously.

Good, I thought.

Then –

The managing director, who was shocked and wanted to call me right away, called me right away.

She had been given a different story.

She thought I should be told the Different Story.

Here it is: A couple of young guys driving to football training with the radio up, singing loudly, having a good time. The passenger is not an employee. The driver is. And he is a great guy. Polite. Hardworking. Finishing his masters degree at a top university. From a good family. He doesn’t remember any incident … But he remembers singing, having a laugh with his friend.

The story ends.

Silence.

And I wait.

Silence.

The managing director takes my complaint seriously. She told me so. Many times. 

And because she Takes This Sort Of Thing Seriously she would have to fire him. He would have to go. Her hands were tied on this one. The company takes a strong stance on this type of thing.

Unless ….

Is there any doubt in your mind? she asked.

Doubt?

Could it have been a couple of guys singing and having harmless fun? she wanted to make sure. 

I heard no music. I heard no singing. I heard a man yell. At me. I saw his face. Hanging out the window. At me. It made me stop. It made me fling my arms in the air. It made me red, it made me shake … 

It made me change the route I walk home. 

If that is this case, she told me, then he would be fired. Will be fired. The company takes a strong stance on this type of thing. Her hands were tied on this one.

But … If there is any chance I was mistaken … well … then she wouldn’t have to fire him. He would get a warning but he wouldn’t be fired. 

I told her again – I didn’t hear what was said even though I knew what was said, you know? (I don’t think she did.) But, yes, I suppose … Doubt.

And that was that.

She thanked me for my considerate handling of the situation.

Considerate.

He would get a warning: A Serious Warning. 

He would write me an apology letter.

I got the letter. I don’t know if he got the warning. 

In the apology letter he wanted me to know he was polite and responsible and goes to a top university and comes from a good family. He wanted me to know he had learnt from the actions he said he had no recollection of.

I didn’t get to tell him I am polite and responsible and went to a top university and come from a good family.

I read his email, keep my head down and my iPod on. Loud.

And that was that.  

Except it isn’t.

It’s not.

Is it?

(PS: I have had this post written for some time but never wanted to publish it until I read Girl in the Hat’s excellent post If I Had a Dollar (Why I Am a Feminist). My story ain’t all that important. It doesn’t even matter in the scheme of things. It doesn’t even register when we consider what other women (and men) deal with on a daily basis. I have dealt with a lot worse but I know I have it a lot better than many, many women (and men) on this planet. This didn’t hurt me. This just made me think; what the hell? But I think what is interesting is my reluctance to post it … Are there any posts you have been reluctant to publish?)

 

Short thoughts from a messy notebook: One

The new girl in the office said she didn’t eat carbs.

But I saw her eating chocolate and stealing staplers. It made me wonder about her moral compass. But then, who knows which way that thing is meant to point?

When I have two choices, north or south, I always end up going the wrong way. Heading In The Wrong Direction. 

This must be south, I think, but it never is.

You’d think I’d get it by now …

Clet Abraham's  magic with the one way sign. Kreuzberg, Berlin.

Clet Abraham’s magic with the one way sign. Kreuzberg, Berlin.

That time I met Simon Armitage

Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.

Robert Frost

I needed to say something but I thought I would cry and if I cried I’d need to explain and that would be hard so I didn’t really say anything. In the end.

But I needed him to know the profound effect his ordinary poems had had on me. Like hearing someone with a similar voice say –

this is the day

this thing that you do

this language that you use

this voice that you have

it is okay

I would hear the the words and my voice and I  longed to sound different.

I wanted to show him that effect he had had, the difference he had made, with his ordinary poems on an ordinary person.

All I could manage was to ask for his signature and then wonder why I said signature not autograph and then why I bothered asking such a question at all considering there he sat and there I stood at the book signing table.

Behind him they sold his books.  Collections of his poetry. I had brought my own. Like a cheapskate at a cheap restaurant holding on to the cheap BYO wine. Free corkage. Bargain.

I felt a wave of guilt for my well loved copies. 

One I had bought on special at a closing down sale.

One was two quid at the Oxfam store in Notting Hill.

I wanted to tell him where I had stumbled on his poems. I wanted him to notice my copies stubbornly ignoring the gleaming newly designed slick covers of his back catalogue. Look at me. A true fan. With the real copies. Battered and read despite the uninspiring cover art. It’s the inside that counts. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Or price tag.

But I didn’t say that. In the end.

I just politely asked for a signature.

Polite is boring. His smile didn’t quite reach his eyes.

Before I lined up I did the obligatory browse through the obligatory pop up book store that accompanies such events. Couples in expensive coats who are meant to be seen at such events pondered which book to buy. A woman sighed wearily. Looking was difficult – she didn’t realise there were so many, didn’t know which one to buy. She could have bought them all. I could tell by her umbrella.

Into her sighs I suggested my favourite. This is my favourite, I said. Politely. Of course. She had that umbrella. 

She smiled a non-smile and flicked through my choice. Quickly. Too quickly. Then she put it back.

No, she winced, these are short stories.

No, I said, they are poems.

And I left her to figure it out.

At the book signing table I thought I should tell him that story. But I didn’t. In the end. I asked for his signature and tried to find that thing to say, to make that connection, to have that moment that would make the change –

this is the day.

Suddenly, without warning, the word Inspiration fell out of mouth. A decayed tooth sitting there on the page he was about to sign. Or autograph. Or both. I wanted to pick it up and put it back. But there it was in all its clichéd glory … Inspiration … 

I tripped over an apology but on my way he offered a landing; you write poems? he asked with his voices and his eyes. 

I try, I told him.

We’re all just apprentices, he said.

And I felt like that was okay. In the end.

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