A Parent’s Lament

October 23, 2011

When the light mist lifted this morning in Melbourne I had already been riding for half an hour. I’d met two girlfriends and we were cycling a route that one of them had discovered through Balwyn and Lower Plenty. The morning slowly warmed up and before we knew it we were riding in perfect conditions.

We cycled for two hours. I hadn’t ridden since last Sunday’s Around the Bay in a Day. In fact I hadn’t done any exercise other than the odd walk instead of drive. Around the Bay was a 210 km ride and I’d been too tired afterwards to get straight back into running and swimming.

It felt good. There was a pinch of a hill just over the half way mark that got my heart pumping. The endorphins kicked in and I finished the ride feeling pumped.

I arrived home at 10.30am. I don’t think my daughters were even aware that I’d been out. I had a shower and was standing there naked in my bathroom when Kat called out to me,

“Muuum?”

“Yep I’m in here but don’t come in I’m naked – just hopped out of the shower.”

“Oh, okay. Have you got any money?”

I only had two fifty dollar notes. I’d taken them out yesterday doing the “cash out” option at Target, and it was nice to have some money in my purse. Her boyfriend was visiting from Brisbane and they were heading out for the day. She spent too much money for a uni student, but I’d rather her have fun than be too restricted because of cash problems. Take one of the fifties out of my purse I said to her.

Still naked in my bathroom I was cleaning my teeth when Emma barged in and quickly back tracked saying, “Arg, I wish I hadn’t seen that! MUM Close your bathroom door!”

She waited while I threw on a summer dress and some knickers.

“What did you want to talk about Emma?”

“Can you drive me down to Foodworks? I said I’d meet Shari fifteen minutes ago and I can’t ring her because my phone’s busted”.

“Okay”

“And can I have some money to buy lunch with?”

“Um, all I have is this fifty dollar note”

“Well, I have a twenty”, Emma said, “Give me the fifty and I’ll give you the twenty. If I have change from lunch I’ll give it back to you later”.

Foodworks is only a 2 minute drive. I turned around and drove back to our home in less than ten minutes. As I opened the garage I found Sally waiting for me. She gestured with her hand, a stop gesture, to indicate don’t bother driving in.

“Mum, can you drive me down to the local shops. Beck is meeting me there and I’m running late”.

“Its just straight down the hill Sally. Why don’t you scoot?”

“I’m running late. Can you just drive me?”

“Okay”. We pulled out of the driveway.

“Can I have some money to do kid things with?”

“What sort of kid things? and why do you need money to be a kid?” (Sally is twelve at the end of this week).

“I might get a soft drink or icy pole”.

“Oh okay, but I only have this twenty dollar note”.

“Well give that to me and I’ll give you fifteen dollars change”.

This morning I had one hundred dollars. I now only have fifteen. This is my lament.

I’m sitting down now, munching on fruit and nuts, drinking formosan tea and reclining in my comfy chair by the window. The house is very quiet. But Rosie is still upstairs. I haven’t seen her yet today. I’m wondering whether she might need fifteen dollars before she steps out this morning…

Ah here she is! “What are you doing today Rosie?”

“Homework, but I’m going to go for a run first. Its beautiful out there!”

I feel love and pride for all of my daughters.

And I get to keep the 15 ūüôā

Yesterday I fell off my bike.

How? The bolt holding my seat on broke in half and my butt was connected to the seat when it hit the ground.

Are you okay? I took the impact onto my hip. It hurt and I have a fist sized bruise there now. I’m noticing other bruises on my legs where the frame landed. But they’re just bruises. I’m perfectly okay really. I had ridden for two hours and had arrived at Mordialloc. It was when I was hopping back on my bike for the return trip that I fell.¬†I’d only made two or three pedals on a low gear and was going quite slow, luckily. I landed on a flat surface and not in the midst of oncoming traffic! Although a few seconds later the bus parked at the stop I was passing would have been right behind me.

How did you get home? True, you can’t ride a bike without a seat. Knicks are heavily padded but not padded enough for that! Four gentlemen came to my aid when I was lying on the ground in shock – the bus driver, and three bystanders from the cafe in the area. Once they’d collected all of the seat bits off the road they established the cause (the broken bolt) and we realised that more than an alan key was needed to solve this one. I was directed to a nearby bike shop. The bike shop was less than 50 metres from where we were. I hobbled off in the direction I was told to go, reassuring the kind people I was okay and making some sort of joke about the size of my butt (given that I’d just snapped my seat bolt in half).

In the bike shop I met Karlos. Firstly he examined the seat and responded quickly to my repeated joke to compliment my shape and say that my butt size wasn’t the cause of the broken bolt (which was sweet and entirely the right thing to say to a woman whether it were true or not). He told me it was the fourth broken seat bolt he’d had to deal with that day and showed me the marks on the seat that indicated it had been fixed too far back. This put pressure on the bolt – no wonder it snapped. Secondly, he ascertained that it was an aluminium bolt and not very strong.

While he was explaining all this to me in a gentle and caring tone, I started to feel like we all do when someone is sympathetic, a little sore and sorry for myself. I couldn’t help it, a few little tears escaped and ran down my cheeks. “What’s wrong?” he asked. “I just fell off my bike”, I replied. He gave me a hug.

I dug out a tissue and pulled myself together. (I carry a snap lock bag with cash, credit card, bandaids, a tissue, and my garage blip in it.) He was impressed with my organisation. “Where did you learn to do that?” Oh, I’ve been riding road bikes since I was 18 I told him.

He started work on my bike. “Did you feel like you were reaching too far for the handle bars?” he asked. I told him that I had. I’d only had the bike for one year. I bought a carbon fibre bike with Ultegra gears as a package from Melbourne Cycles. It was a lovely bike but I had always harboured doubts about the way they’d set it up for me because I felt as though I had to stretch. On long rides I experienced back pain as never before and I couldn’t comfortably reach the drop position (a position I’d been very comfortable in on my previous bike set up by Ivanhoe Cycles). I’d even asked my bike guy at uni to check the set up. He improved the situation but only slightly.

Karlos’ history was in bike manufacturing. He’d been head-hunted for the job at Mordialloc Bicycle Centre (where I found him) and he’d only been there a few weeks. His sport was downhill mountain bike racing. He was 35 but had the demeanour of a man much younger. He was an adrenalin junkie. Compared to the spills he’d had in his downhill career, my thud onto the bitumen was pretty lame. Apparently he is fairly famous in that circle, known as ‘the jackal’. Despite the thrill seeking, he had a wholesome philosophy about cycling and life. Maybe that’s because he was essentially a country lad.

Apparently my handlebar stem had been put on upside down. By putting it the right way up, Karlos brought my handle bars closer to my reach. Coupling this with the adjustment of the seat position, I felt as though I was on a different bike, one that had been sculpted around my body shape! I was ecstatic. But that’s not all he did.

“You do realise the seat you have on is for males, don’t you?”

“No, it was sold to me as a female seat!”

“Have a look at this. This is a female seat. It has this little gap here. Do you think that would make a difference to your comfort?”

Karlos didn’t realise that he was talking to someone who for a year had been putting up with too much pressure on a very sensitive part of her body, thinking it was just down to getting the angle right, who at the end of every ride regardless of the seat angle felt as though she’d lost a layer of skin from that area and who had gritted through 210 km in Around The Bay last year minus several layers of sensitive skin due to the unnatural pressure and deep bruising around each sit bone.

“WHAT!!!@#*!?!”, I was astonished, cross and relieved at the same time, “Do you think you could sell me a female seat right now?”

“You can have this one for 20 bucks”, he grinned. He ¬†adjusted my handlebars and put a stainless steel bolt in to hold my new seat. I told him to sell my old seat if he could (it was only a year old).

I rode the 50k home and arrived just before it started to rain with a few warning drops falling from the sky. Even though my bruises gave me a bit of pain, I was so much more comfortable on my bike. And all this just a week and two days before this years Around The Bay!

I find cycling good for my soul. I’ve recently developed the habit of shuffling the songs on my iphone as I ride to and from work. I’ve been trying to do that (ride to work) at least twice a week. I need to train.

I have the Otway Classic coming up. It’s a scenic 145km ride taking in our famous Great Ocean Road. This year will be the second year I’ve entered it. I’m feeling more bike-fit than I did last year. Hopefully, I’ll ride it more easily and faster than last year.

One thing in my favour is my new bike! It’s carbon. I bought it for a pretty good price, but I’ve been unimpressed with the after-sales service I’ve received. Instead of taking the bike in for its free first check at the place of sale, I took it in to the guy at the cycle shop at uni this week.

I’ve blogged about the guy at the uni cycle shop numerous times. I visit the shop once a year, usually before Around The Bay to have my bike serviced. He always tells me off for something and gives me a cycling tip in a sort of fatherly way. I find this amusing because we may be of similar ages. However, I always feel dutifully admonished and suitably thank him for his tips, invariably returning to my familiar ways soon after. For example, he told me one year I must begin riding without knickers under my knicks (it’s the done thing). This I tried only to find it unsuitable to my anatomy (the friction on the towelling of the knicks was excruciating after 100km! and on that occasion I had another 110 to go). Another time he told me how to wash my bike after every ride. I nodded, I promised, but I am yet to develop the habit.

This year it was the way my new bike had been set up that gave him cause to tutt tutt. They’d not put the de-railer on tightly (one turn only – about to fall off, he said), the seat was too far back and on the wrong angle, as well as that the knicks I had on weren’t padded enough for the long rides. (Tell me about it, I said, After the last ‘Around The Bay’ I ended up with two circular bruises on each sit bone that stayed visible for over three weeks!). He’s ordered me some super duper knicks from Canada! He attached a pump to the new bike, replaced the tubes in my repair kit with two fresh ones (I’d used the spare tube that day to repair a flat) and he tried to fit a second water bottle holder for me with no success. I’ll have to wait until a special order arrives next week from Queensland for that!

All-in-all, he spent quite a bit of time on my bike. I’d left it with him for the day. I came to pick it up before he’d fitted the pump. I bought a couple of coffees and we drank them while he worked. The conversation went like this:

“Don’t carry a repair kit, carry two spare tubes instead”, he said as he accessed my little below-the-seat bag especially designed for repair kit items and sundry.

“Ah, um, careful, um, there’s actually also a tampon in there… sorry, um, just so you don’t get a surprise opening that”.

“Oh don’t worry, I have three sisters”, he said as he casually took out my repair kit, tampon and sundry items and replaced the lot with two tubes. Only the tyre levers went back in.

“Have you?” I enquired politely as to his family situation, and added, “I have four daughters”. He expressed surprise and I asked him if he had children.

“Yes one daughter”, and after a pause added, “and four grandchildren!”

Since he seemed to be only around 50 (at the most) I expressed surprise. As we talked his story unfolded:

Only six months ago, he found out he had a thirty-one year-old daughter. She contacted him via facebook. At that time, his daughter had found out that the person she had thought was her mother was actually her grandmother, and the person who she thought was her sister, was her mother.

Her mother was my bike-repair-guy’s girlfriend when he was sixteen. He had no idea she had become pregnant. His efforts to contact her in the continuation of their friendship were returned by her relatives at the time with, leave her alone, you are better off without her, she’s no good, type-messages.

The daughter had always wondered why she was the only one in her family group with red hair. When her grandmother on her death-bed told her she was not her mother, she pestered her aunties until they divulged her father’s name (aka my bike-repair guy). When she searched him on facebook she firstly found his sisters’ profiles. Suddenly suspecting her genetic heritage, she emailed them enquiring if they were related to ‘his name’ and the reason for her enquiry. His sisters subsequently contacted my bike-repair guy to say, Hey, you have to check this out! In my bike-repair guy’s words, “She’s identical to my sisters at that age! And all her kids look like my sister’s kids”.

But that’s not the end of the story! As I said, he was discovered by her six months ago. Since then, he has brought her down from Queensland where she had just experienced a difficult divorce, bought her a car, a home, furnished the home and now has a lot to do with her and her children. He smiled as he said, “Yes, she completely ruined my peaceful lifestyle. I’d never intended to be a family-type-of-guy”.

He’d inherited an instant family even though he’d consciously decided not to have one.

“Well, for a non-family-type, you’ve pretty well embraced the responsibility”, I said.

“The way I see it, I had no choice”, he laughed.

“Four grandkids… wow!”¬†I contemplated his situation. I admired his response to that news of only six months ago.

We laughed.

Last night I drove down to our holiday house for the Labor Day Long Weekend. We arrived in a rain storm that was relief from the warm humidity of the preceding day. The streets around our place had been flooded slightly with the downpour although the rain had eased as we approached our seaside neighbourhood. In the headlights of the car I saw little frogs leaping in tens across the road – tiny little frogs no more than 2-3cm in length. They were recognisable as little frogs because of the way they leapt. It was too late for me to slow down. I just prayed I hadn’t run any over. ¬†I alerted Emma and Sally to the strange phenomenon. They were sitting in the car listening to music from their ipods. They pulled off their headphones and stared out of the window hoping to see what I had seen. They had missed the frog-crossing enmasse, but as we rounded another corner a solitary frog hopped into the beam of my headlights. Emma saw it and I slowed. Sally didn’t see it straight away but I slowed to stopping so we could point it out. She wanted to get out of the car for a closer look and I encouraged her to do so. She laughed as she tried to catch it and it hopped randomly to avoid her. Eventually she succeeded. She held it for a short time before releasing it to continue its journey. We spotted another solitary frog just before we crossed into our drive way. It seems that the rain had brought them all out. More frogs than I had ever seen were all out looking for a mate or a place to lay their eggs now that conditions were right. Today I drove back to where I’d seen them. I couldn’t see any signs of flattened frogs on the road and I breathed a sigh of relief.

It lives

November 29, 2009

Spring is magical time of year. Trees that have looked dead for months suddenly sprout life. Little green buds fill me with wonder. This spring in Melbourne has been our greenest for many years. Our drought has been momentarily eased by heavy rains, filling our water tanks and prompting our government to announce there won’t be a tightening of water restrictions. Along with the rain we have been excited by electrical storms. I opened our bifold doors on friday and was scared to stand too close to the opening. Counting the seconds between flashes of lightening and cracks of thunder, the closest delay was two seconds!

Last weekend our primary school twilight fair was washed out. Sally came home with a hat she’d won at one of the stalls. She really thought it was the ticket.

Yes, well… that’s what happens when you haven’t seen rain the likes of this for years. Every one gets excited and a little nutty.

Our garden, planted a year ago, is thriving. The buffalo grass is spongy and thick. Our fruit trees, although little, have had buds which are now small fruit. There are already ten little almonds snugly enfolded in fluffy green coats on the baby almond tree.

We lost our walnut tree last year when chlorinated water from the pool leaked from a faulty pipe and killed it. We planted another this winter, replacing spoilt soil before leaving a hole for the bare-rooted, tall stick it was. We have waited since the start of spring for it to come to life. It remained a lifeless stick. We gave up hope.

Then quite recently a miracle happened. Long after the other fruit trees had blossomed a little green bud appeared in one of the uppermost nodes. Our family gathered and stood silently in awe for a couple of seconds. The stick was alive! One day it will be a real walnut tree.

To women

August 1, 2009

I’ve written elsewhere that women are brilliant company but what I wanted to write about today was an overwhelming sense of women as wonderful support for each other. I feel lucky to be a woman and to therefore qualify as a recipient for this.

You know something about life when you embrace change. Change is a large part of life. Just when you think you’ve got a stage of life worked out, another stage is upon you. There’s nothing to bring this home more than being a parent. When I was a parent of babies, I looked towards them growing up as a time of reduced parental input. I’m not saying that reaching this imagined stage of reduced parental input was something I aspired to or held in trepidation, I’m just saying that it was an assumed given from the perspective of one who attended to the needs of small people.

Attending to small people was a significant adjustment to make. It was recognised as significant because support groups would spring up out of the community to help you cope. Play groups for example. (They are called play groups, but a larger function of these groups is social contact between women all making similar adjustments in their lives). There is a lot to learn as a new parent, and it helps when you don’t have to do it alone. I look back to the women I spent my play group years with an overwhelming sense of gratitude and connection.

Recently I attended a mothers day luncheon put on by my eldest daughter’s secondary school. I wasn’t intending to go. You know the feeling? Too much work on, not enough time, wouldn’t know anyone (Kat’s only been at this school a year). But as it happened, one of my colleagues (the L from this story as a matter of fact) has a daughter who has been at this school all the way through. She always attends the social functions and she convinced me to go.

The luncheon was a success. I met a few new people, but mostly L took me under her wing and ¬†sat me at her table. Most of the women sharing L’s table had one or two children older than my Kat. They had all experienced (and survived) parenting teenagers. They shared stories of their survival and I was in awe. ¬†My teenager is finding the years fraught with adjustment and difficulty. It was after sharing some of my current experiences that one of the women turned to me, placed her hand on my arm with warmth and reassurance and said, “why do we have playgroups when the children are little? Its when they are teenagers that we need the most support!”

Its true! When our children are teenagers, so much else is happening in life. Many of us have gone back to work. Our role as ‘parent’ doesn’t seem to warrant the same support. Its not an immediate topic of conversation. Yet it is a difficult parenting stage.

After the mothers day luncheon I fell bolstered and refreshed. The next social occasion is a cocktail party for the opening of the new library. This time I won’t need L to convince me to go. I’ll be there, I’ve found my new “playgroup”.

Compromise and Dignity

June 24, 2009

As you know, my sister and I are planning a ‘surprise’ party for my father to celebrate his 70th birthday. What was to be a surprise party at my place with perhaps a three-piece jazz ensemble and home made-pizza from the oven (see pics) has spiraled into something completely different. We decided to involve my father in the organisation.We needed his input concerning who to invite. Once he was involved, his ideas had to be factored into the equation. The result was like a domino effect as all concerned exhibited their predictable traits, especially when in negotiation with each other.

Jeffs Camera 22.04.09 043

Jeffs Camera 22.04.09 042

Here’s what happened:

The players are my sister, my brother, my father, my brother’s wife, my children and me.

My sister had dad around for dinner to break the silence about the party plans, save for one surprise element.

Dad rang me a week later to discuss his own plans. He had been to two other seventieth parties, one at Sky High on Mt Dandenong and the other at a suburban RSL club. He’s the sort of person, who takes a good idea on board and thinks its the only way to go. ¬†As far as he was concerned, his party would be either at Sky High or a suburban RSL.

The surprise element was my brother John and his family’s attendance at the party, down from Queensland. But my brother’s wife, Kaz, emailed me to say her folks would come up from Tassie for the party. She asked me to suggest accommodation for them. Dad often likes to put interstate visiting relatives up at his place. I gave him the option, and in doing so unavoidably “spilt the beans” .

A day or so later, my sister phoned me to tell me off. “Did you tell dad John was coming down from Queensland for the party?” was her accusation.

I explained how it came about but my sister continued her tirade. She was not happy. She did not approve of dad’s preferred venues. “I’m not going to an RSL club”, she ranted. And she did not approve of dad hijacking the organisation. “If dad wants to do that with his friends, he can. But as far as I’m concerned thats up to him. We can do a family thing separately”, she determined.

In the past I may have become cross with my sister. This time however, I explained to her that it was a special occasion for dad and that it would make him happy to have his family and friends together (perhaps for the only time), a seventieth was a special occasion and she wouldn’t have to stand around chatting to his friends because there would be enough family there for our separate table. I told her that she didn’t have to do anything. That I would work with dad to get the invitations out. I promised we wouldn’t go to an RSL, but that I’d booked Sky High for a buffet lunch on the Saturday (his actual birth date) and it would all be okay.

She calmed down. She said she wanted to go for a family drive and lunch at a winery perhaps at Kinglake to survey the township recovering from the fires and support local businesses there. I agreed this was a good idea, especially with our interstate guests staying for the weekend, and suggested we could do that as well, perhaps on the Sunday.

I spoke with dad after getting off the phone with my sister to confirm with him that a buffet lunch at Sky High was booked, and immediately my arrangements were blown ‘sky high’. He expressed his preference for their function room, which he had found out could ¬†serve finger food from two until five in the afternoon for twenty dollars a head. I expressed my preference for a sit down lunch (I was considering two things: 1. the boredom factor for my children; 2. Seventy-plus people standing around in a cocktail situation. And I sensed EPIC failure). I expressed my reservations to dad and he agreed to reconsider it.

A state of limbo lasted for about two weeks after which time I phoned dad to give him the hurry on. “Have you decided what you want to do yet? We need to get on with the invitations! Its only seven weeks away”. Dad re-expressed his preference for the 2-5 time slot, assured me his friends were all fit enough to mingle in this way. I told him to book it asap, cancel my lunchtime booking and¬†get the contact list to me so I could start phoning for people’s email addresses (dad doesn’t have a computer). Dad¬†expressed such deep gratitude that I had rung him to basically manage him into getting a move on that he almost cried. “You’re a great daughter”, he gushed.

Anyway, he sprang into action. He bounced into my place last weekend with his contact list, reporting that the Sky High was booked. He apologised that there were over double the number of people he originally thought he’d invite. He’d grouped them into categories: Bushwalking Club, Cycling Club, friends, Family and had found himself thinking of more and more people as he wrote.

The contact list was written in his familiar draughtsman-style neat and precise handwriting. I’ve been making calls to the hundred or so on the list. “Hi, I’m jenne, Bill’s daughter”. “Oh is Bill alright?”. “Yes, I’m helping him organize his seventieth birthday…” etc. My kids have reacted to my activity in various ways:

Emma, “Are you ringing Poppy’s Pals again?”. (I laughed so much that I wrote the heading on the list, “Poppy’s pals”).

Rosie, “That must be the most boring and tedious job, talking to old people all day”.

Kat, “Don’t expect us to ring all of your old friends when you are seventy, mum”.

I finished contacting every one after two days. I sent the email out last night and have seven letters to post for people not connected to ‘the net’. I’ve called for people from different aspects of dad’s past and present to make speeches on the day. ¬†My brother was the first to be nominated (by his wife), and I’m looking forward to securing other speakers as the rsvps come in.

With a sense of achievement I reflected on the process of compromise. Originally my sister and I would have taken all the organisation out of dad’s hands. What has been achieved now is a party for my father which he feels as though he has organised ¬†by himself. Its reaffirmed him as an agent in control of his own life. I’d forgotten something about him: he organises weekly cycling trips for his riding group, and leads bushwalks for his walking club. He is a very capable organiser in his own right. Usually with his daughters he steps back (and often he grumbles from the side-line). Not this time! Isn’t that great? I’ve learnt that he doesn’t need to be treated like a child. He needs some support. But he doesn’t need to be stripped of responsibility.

Parties for Old People

April 25, 2009

My father will be seventy years old this August. My sister, brother and I decided last year that we would put a surprise party on for him.

The last time we¬†organized¬†a celebration for my father was at his fiftieth. Twenty years ago in Melbourne, Thai restaurants were a new thing. A Thai restaurant in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, was particularly well known as the place to be. The name of this restaurant was¬†Patee Thai. Its probably still there. But like any good thing, there is now a chain of these ‘same name’ restaurants around Melbourne. Just quietly, like anything I used to do in the eighties, I wouldn’t go there now. Been there done that… to death. If you’ve lived through eighties fads and fashions yourself, I’m sure you would understand the sentiment…

Anyway, in the eighties in Melbourne it was all the rage at Patee Thai to book the low tables at the front of the restaurant. The novelty was to sit at these low tables on funky, triangular cushions. From memory, the way you arranged yourself on a triangular cushion was to tuck your knees under one of the triangular corners and sort of kneel resting your butt on a flat edge. 

My sister, Heather, and I booked Patee Thai for my father’s fiftieth and invited a large group of his friends. His friends were all obviously around his age and some of them¬†considerably¬†older. Of the considerably older ones, none are still with us sadly.¬†

My sister and I were in our twenties. We considered ourselves fairly funky and with-it. We knew booking a party at Patee Thai was the hip thing to do. We never discussed it in this way at the time, but booking dad and his friends into Patee Thai for a sit down meal at low tables on triangular cushions felt like¬†privileging¬†the olds with (our) funkiness. In fact we were so absorbed in the funkiness of the situation to miss the obvious point¬†that asking fiftty-plus year olds to sit-kneel at low tables for over two hours was a rather stupid thing to have done. It was a physical challenge to almost everyone there except my sister and I. ¬†Many of them found the experience ranging from unpleasant to¬†excruciating. Those who managed to sit for that long barely managed to stand after the experience. I remember Uncle Keith(rest his soul)’s large form, supported by two people either side, being hoisted back to standing. The sight reinforced just how low these low tables actually were. He was unsteady for some time either due to the stress of standing on his circulatory system or from the cramping in his legs or both.

Obviously we won’t be making that mistake again. The seventieth is going to be at my place. We’ll fire up the pizza oven and possibly hire a jazz quartet. Seating needs to be well thought out. This is a hurdle we haven’t cleared yet. It will depend upon the numbers. In recent planning discussions I¬†realized¬†neither my siblings nor myself knew how to contact dad’s friends. We’ve now put ‘surprise party’ into the too-hard basket and decided to enlist dad’s help putting the invitations together. This is in line with the KISS principal of organisation (Keep It Simple, Stupid).¬†

Dad will still get a surprise: We have decided not to tell him that my brother and his family are flying down from Queensland to attend. 

When somebody loves you

February 3, 2009

I have memories of Melbourne when it was a much smaller city than it is now. The place where I grew up, Lower Templestowe, used to be¬†refereed¬†to as “the sticks” because it was on the fringe. My family and I rarely went into the city, even though it was only a fifteen kilometre journey. The rare occasions were at Christmas time to see the Myer windows and when our father took us into his work substation in Carlton (he worked for what was called the Tramways Board back then).

There was no direct route from Lower Templestowe into the city back then. You had to drive through Kew and Richmond. Past the factories in Victoria Street Richmond the Skipping Girl Vinegar neon sign and Coppertone sign showing a dog pulling down a girls knickers were highlights of the drive. 

It was a big deal when the Eastern Freeway was built. It was massive to Melbourne standards. Four lanes each way and a good six kilometers long. I was fourteen when my friend Kaz and I decided to ride our push bikes along the freeway prior to its opening. We entered at its starting point off Bulleen Road, with no real plans about where we were heading. We took packed lunches. 

The freeway was smooth to ride on, quiet and pretty. It’s flanked by golf courses. We rode for a few kilometers before deciding to have lunch. We parked our bikes and hopped over the low¬†fence onto one of the golf courses. Not knowing anything about golf, we chose a lovely mown circular patch of grass for our picnic.¬†

Kaz’ mother had a knack with oranges. She had a tool that cut the peel around its diameter. It was then possible to peel the oranges in two half circles. It was like magic really. The skins just peeled right off and retained their shape. You could put them back together again and it looked like a whole orange. Or you could put the half-oranges inside your top and it would look like you actually had tits! I can’t remember who did it first, but I do remember rolling around on the green laughing until I cried when Kaz paraded around with one inside her bike shorts against her crotch.

Now days, the freeway extends way beyond Bulleen Road and Melbourne extends so far beyond the suburb of my childhood that it is just about metropolitan. A lot has changed. Kaz left school to become a dental nurse. She married, had two daughters and moved to the country. I stayed on at school and went through uni. 

Despite only seeing Kaz a couple of times after we both had children, she sent me a christmas card every year. My kids don’t remember Kaz. They only know her as ‘the one who sends mum a Christmas card every year even though she never sends one back’. This is no reflection on the way I felt about Kaz. I just sucked at writing cards. When my kids were younger and before I went back to work I made the effort, enlisting the kids’ help like a production line. But I haven’t written one for years. The kids have¬†wizened¬†up and they have their own to write. Sometimes I send out group emails for Christmas but I didn’t have electronic contact details for Kaz.

On Saturday morning I received a phone call from one of our mutual friends to inform me that Kaz had passed away. “What? How could this happen?” I asked, possibly naively but definitely out of shock. After I listened to a description of the diseases that ended Kaz’ life, the caller and I shared an emotional moment. “She loved you Jenne”, I was told.

The first day I found out about Kaz’ death I was in shock. I had no way to express my grief. I was agitated and confused. On the second day, I was less emotional and felt a sudden renewed awe for life. On the third day (today) I bought a beautiful bunch of twenty mixed roses from the market spontaneously. “They’ll last longer in the heat if you cut the stems every few days and put ice in the water”, the florist told me. As I arranged the flowers at home I thought of Kaz. I don’t know how to grieve but having the flowers there as a representation seemed to help a lot.

The Home Office

November 27, 2008

I’m working from home today. I recently set up my home office. Only last week the cabinetry was completed. I now have built-in filing drawers and book shelves. Its taking some time to unpack my boxes. Its an opportunity to reorganise. Occasionally I become distracted from the tidying task to re-read articles I’d forgotten about.

When we moved into our new home, many decisions were made with as little running around as possible. For example, when it came time to choose tapware etc, I went to our local plumbing supplier and chose everything within an hour. We have renovated before. I know that once these items are in the home, you do not notice them.

The light fittings were a little more tricky. Our first port of call was a solar energy company for LED downlights. These have satisfied our requirements for most of the house. For feature lights I went to an Italian glass importer. These choices I also made quickly. But in the anticipation of how they would look hanging here I experienced the heebie jeebies. Some of the fittings I chose are ‘out there’. Luckily in situ they do work well. The family love them and people continually remark upon them.¬†

Setting up my home office, I went to Coco Republic on an unplanned adventure (there was a store amongst many other furniture shops which I passed on my way somewhere else with a little time to kill). I found a glass-topped desk and a groovy swivel chair. Its a combination that looks great in the room. Being able to see through the desk means it doesn’t dominate the space. But yesterday I discovered another benefit of a see through desk:

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I can ‘talk’ to Pussykins!