Sunday, 31 October 2010

Puncture Panic Paranoia

Darn frobishing kerning trammelling heck!*

Luxuriating the in warm weather I decided to go for a lordly stroll about my rented domain.

Clad in the finest of boxers and singlets I meandered through the flat, out onto the sheltered back balcony from where I can survey all that I don't own but could hit with spit balls from behind some handy lattice screening if the mood takes me.

I considered having a bit of a sweep, tidying up the ancient retro bar and evicting the resident spiders to make way for possible frivolities this summer.

I took a step backwards to take in the scope of said task.

I took another step backwards and felt a sharp pinch on my left heel.

I aborted the 'lower foot' process, reversed the motion and looked down.

I'd stepped on a cack-spackling rusty nail!

Some rampaging flag-noggin had - at a point in the past - decided that the best way to secure one of the floor boards was to hammer a back-up series of nails in from the crawl space below.

Having never pranced about on the back balcony shoeless before this was the first time I'd noticed the little death-march of rusty stupid nails and boy did I notice them now.

I knew I'd had a tetanus shot at some point but damned if I could remember when.

All my hazy memories of immunisations and boosters seemed to feature my school uniform which didn't bode well for currency.

So in the grip of a mild bout of panic, wondering how long it took for tetanus and lock-jaw to set in, I began staggering around the house like a pirate with a peg leg, trying to remember where I kept things like disinfectant and bandages and my clothes.

I thought about ringing my GP - I remembered it was 8pm at night.

I decided to look up tetanus online - I wished I hadn't.

I called my aunt who is a nurse - she told me I had a 72 hour window in which to get a tetanus jab and to calm down.

I looked up the address of the local hospital, made a note of their phone number and then curled up on the couch under a blanket to await my impending doom, moving my jaw every now and then to see if my body was an overachiever which was going to seize up days or weeks ahead of schedule.

I considered popping along to the hospital for an injection - I remembered it was a Thursday night and all the just-got-paid-gonna-drink-my-week's-wages brigade would be turning up in the emergency room soon. Or driving the streets under the influence.

I reconsidered.

This kind of malarky is exactly why it's a good thing I'm so easily distracted and so very lazy.

If I were a more focused person I would be a full blown hypochondriac.

At various times in my life I have been briefly convinced - until diverted by something shiny - that I had the various ailments:
  • sore wrist = early onset arthritis
  • sleep away the weekend = chronic fatigue syndrome
  • rash = meningococcal (it wasn't a rash, it was red ink from a pen)
  • blue-green marks on wrist = varicose veins (it was vertigris from the work key I had clipped to my watch)
  • forgetfulness = early onset Alzheimer's

It's counterproductive and pointless to get myself all in a tizzy over almost unfounded imaginary ailments - especially since I'm planning to die of twitchy old age atop a pile of money and be ceremonially eaten by my squadron of highly trained attack cats - but every time I fall into the same pattern of runaway speculation.

In this case what I had to fight off the knowledge of my impending grisly doom by applying a healthy dose of the original Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy radio play for long enough to get to sleep so I could make two important stops the next morning.

The hospital for a tetanus jab.

And the hardware store for a hammer.

Those nails are going down.

*Yes, yes, words made up or used out of context but you get the point.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Self-control Stockpile

I have a tonne of self-control.

Scads of it.

Mostly because I never use it.

I'm saving it up for something important.

Or at least that has been my line for the last 10 odd years.

But what began as a fun, glib throw-away answer to infuriate various relatives or nosy parkers has left me in a somewhat annoying position now.

It used to be something I said to keep myself from saying something far more biting to people who thought that because I was doing something different, I should be called on it; and because I was called on it, I should stop it.

I didn't stop.

I kept reading in trees.

Getting about in comfortable gear.

Finishing my meals at formal school functions* and enjoying good food without saying things like 'oh I shouldn't be eating this!'.

Enjoying competition for itself and winning at things I'm good at and blowing off things I'm not interested in.

And for the most part it has served me well.

Helping me take opportunities and chances that worrying about the opinions of others may have dissuaded me from taking; helping me make the most of things.

Until now.

Recently more often than not I've found myself using the same tactics, techniques and arguments in order to take the path of least resistance.

To put off effort in the short term that would pay off in the long term in order to do things that I don't particularly value.

This makes me cross.

I've never liked being told what to do so when people tried to tell me how to live/act/feel I immediately turned my back and did the opposite.

This doesn't work so well when I'm the person holding both sides of the argument.

Especially when it becomes apparent that something I used to use to assert and protect my independence and personality is now being turned against me - by myself! - to limit myself.

There's refusing to be ordered about and there's sheer bloody-minded petulance.

I'm afraid I've slipped into the second.

Time to become my own drill sergeant.

When I catch myself saying 'I'll do it later' or 'I'll just do this for a little bit...' or even 'Oh it's Monday, I have the rest of the week to do that', it'll be time to draw on my vast reserves of self-control, flick myself behind the ear and get on with what I want to do.

Because I refuse to be told what to do.

By anybody.

Especially myself.

Uppity bastard.

*Apparently NOT acceptable to other teen girls!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Assimilation Complete

I resisted I really did.

When my landlord's niece left her skitty cat and its kitten with him in March because she couldn't keep them any more I remained calm and dignified.

When they wouldn't let any other humans but me anywhere near them I was only patting them to help them get used to people so they would move into my landlord's flat out of the cold.

When I dosed them with flea gel and worming paste it was only because nobody likes having fleas or worms.

When I started applying white zinc cream to their ears and noses every morning so they wouldn't get white kitty skin cancer it was only because I had this white zinc I wasn't using.

When they started sleeping inside my flat every night since June it was only because they somehow got inside and it seemed cruel to kick them out when they were asleep on my bed.

When I finally asked my landlord if I could keep them this week it was only because I was in denial and have been pretending I haven't technically been owned by them all year.

So, yeah, now I own two cats.

And am either really good at rationalising or really bad at reality.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

European Masters Exhibition

Well, I made it!

I left it until the last week of the exhibition but I made it to the European Masters at the National Gallery of Victoria!

And it was glorious [exclamation mark]

My Dad got a little excited and hired the audio tour for us all so he, Mum and I got to toddle around in a broken out-of-sync flow with all the other audio tourists listening to William McInnes murmuring soothing things about the lives of the artists, various artistic movements and historical events.

William McInnes did a very good job and I hardly spent any of the time thinking about him with his shirt off at all.

I am one of the most annoying people to go to galleries with because I go into little staring coma-like reveries and can stay on my feet long after other people would have opted for amputation or at least sitting down but luckily the trait is inherited and my parents survived intact.

Here's a little sample of my favourites from the exhibition, though of course they don't do the real paintings any justice.

Max Beckmann - The Synagogue in Frankfurt Am Main

Johan Christian Dahl - The Eruption of Mount Vesuvius in December 1820

Alfred Sisley - Banks of the Seine in Autumn

Max Beckmann - Double Portrait

Franz Marc - Dog Lying in the Snow

Edvard Munch - In the Bar

Lovis Corinth - Walchensee in Winter

Henry Rousseau - The Avenue in the Park of Saint-Cloud

Gustave Courbet - Village Road in Winter

Edgar Degas - Orchestra Musicians

Paul Meyerheim - The Jealous Lioness

Two other paintings worth mentioning were Eugenie Bandell's beautiful 'Japanese Dolls with Apples' (I couldn't find a copy but it was a lovely thing, all vibrant but soft colours, lots of angles blended together) and Fernand Khnopff's 'The Gamekeeper' which you can see here.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Farewell, I Guess...


This was unexpected.

I've just been told that Diane - the landlady of the sharehouse I lived in during my last year at university - has died from cancer.

And I'm not sure what to feel.

When I first moved into the sharehouse Diane was living in Thailand so it was just me, another Australian girl, a Norwegian girl and a German girl living in the house studying, sharing food and generally having a good time.

I had been a little bit thrown by the 10 page double-sided list of house rules that Diane had left for all new housemates to acquaint themselves with but after having a bit of a snort - and assuming they were for people who had up until now been living in the mouth of a mine - I'd forgotten about them.

Then the university year ended, our international housemates finished their exchange years and went home for Christmas.

And Diane came home.

At first she seemed lovely.

Well-read, well-travelled, easy to talk to, with one of those slightly plummy more-English-than-English accents some Australians over 50 develop.

But gradually things started to go wrong.

If you didn't do the vacuuming at the appointed time (according to the house roster) you were 'reducing your housemates to living in squalor'.

If you left your cooking things in the sink whilst you ate your meal instead of cleaning them first you were being 'terribly inconsiderate'.

She would, with a gentle smile, say things like 'your mother never really taught you how to scrub, did she dear?'

You would slowly realise that she had this weird 'noble savage' view of the Thai people whom she claimed to love so much, whose language she was learning but whom she patronised with every word she spoke about them.

And just when you were ready to throw your hands up, pack your bags and get out of there, she'd crack open a bottle of wine and spend an entire evening talking to you about Australian troops in the Great War or her time travelling in Asia and completely discombobulate you all over again.

The most frustrating thing about her was that she was Never Wrong.

Not literally, she just would never take anyone else's arguments on board.

She wouldn't deviate from her beliefs and if you had given into the urge to start arguing with her about this, swearing or raise your voice this would have just confirmed her view that you hadn't been raised properly.

I spent the last 6 months hiding in my room, not wanting to interact with her and unwilling to bring friends home when they were left with no doubt that they were fundamentally unwelcome.

Finally, she kicked me out of the house.

A week before Christmas.

Literally seconds after I'd just read the most upsetting part of Harry Pottter And The Half-Blood Prince. Which is neither here nor there but was terrible timing as far as I was concerned.

She'd been dropping hints that I'd completely missed for weeks along the lines of 'Gosh that's a lot of groceries, will you need that much?' and 'Well, I'm feeling quite nostalgic, this is the last time you'll pay rent!'.

She had told me that the next year she wanted the house to be 'a student household again' and as I wasn't studying any more I expect this was as good a reason as any to kick me out and get in her preferred boarder - international students, preferably Asian girls who are too nervous about being in another country to speak back.

So I assumed I had until late February or early March to find a new place before the new semester started. I hadn't even started looking yet when she knocked on the door and told me that she'd need me out before Boxing Day so she could paint and redecorate.

No problem, I said numbly, that would be fine.

So I packed up all my things, bunged them into the back of my Dad's car and went home for Christmas.

I then spent all of January living in my Uncle's house - while he and my cousins were out of town - so I'd be close enough to the city for work and to look for a new place to live.

My self-esteem was in the trash.

I spent a whole month getting squiffy every night and as someone who hadn't started drinking until she was 19 and had never got drunk until she met Diane, guess who I blamed?

I moved into a new sharehouse with an easy laid back group and after about 3 months I had managed to relax properly and stopped drinking so damn much.

But I couldn't forget Diane.

It drove me crazy that she got to keep thinking about me.

Being wrong about me.

Being patronising about me.

Then years later when she'd finally drifted from my mind I found out she'd had an operation and chemotherapy but was in remission.

For a second I thought 'serve's her right' and then felt terrible.

I knew from little comments she'd let drop that she'd had a truly awful childhood and it was fairly clear even to someone as self-absorbed as I was at the time that her entire personality had been constructed as a way to distance herself from that and protect herself from the world.

I still didn't think it was fair on me or any of the other people who came into her sphere of influence.

And now I've heard again from the only housemate to stay in contact with her that Diane has died.

And that she was so estranged from her family that she left strict instructions that they weren't to be informed of her death until after her estate had been settled and her ashes scattered.

She was a very lonely but stubborn woman.

And I don't know how to feel that she doesn't get to keep thinking about me anymore.