The Whole World Blind


Saturday, 27 July 2013

Yesterday on Twitter I saw an exchange between two people.  Basically, one person was a rather fearful-seeming and nasty man.  Harsh.  His comments about left-wingers were the usual fare - latte sippers, idealistic socialists, etc.  Ridiculous morons with their heads in the clouds.  The usual blanket statements.  His tweets were full of jibes against those he disagreed with.

I guess I struggle sometimes with other people's alternate views.  If the person feels threatening to me in some way, and if I am feeling insecure, it is hard to not find myself wanting to hate that person.  It's an ongoing issue that I am trying to deal with, to stay open to stuff instead of close down in hate.  This might sound wishy washy, but I don't know how else to word it that I really seriously feel like it is important to us as a group of people to try to love everybody, even if we don't like them.  An ongoing quest.

What drives me spare more than the content of other people's alternate views is their nastiness and uber-stridency in judging other people who don't see things the way they do.  My shutters come down.  Like everybody's do.  Because when you start fucking with people's boundaries, you incite their fears and insecurities, and when they start feeling like judged, well, then, fuck you, new enemy.  And here, take some of my misplaced projected anger along with it.

We are still not good at fighting fair and acceptance of difference because it makes our egos wobbly.  I am 42 and I am still learning how unaccepting I am when I feel threatened.  And I seem to feel threatened quite a bit.  I think the level of acceptance you have of other people is the level of acceptance you have towards yourself.  It's a complicated process.  I'm working on it.

The other person in the Twitter argument is a female Australian writer who I follow.  I like many of her views and would class myself, like her, as a feminist.  The argument began after this man posted a picture of an Islamic man bellowing and holding a sign that said, "Behead those who insult Islam".  I don't know where the picture was from, whether it was from the Islamic protests that occurred in Sydney last year, or what.  The man suggested that this sort of person is not welcome in this country, ever, and should be deported.  The writer responded that if the Islamic man is Australian-born, it's not something up for discussion.  That man is free to hold the views he holds.

Well, I can imagine how that sort of latte-sipping response would have inflamed this man's sense of appropriateness.  I guess in a way I can understand his viewpoint.  He is questioning at what point threatening and violent behaviour such as extreme religious fanaticism is acceptable.  The concept of deporting people aside, at what point does a people say that the effects of particular beliefs are acceptable or unacceptable?  At what point do you say, "Your love of and defence of Islam does not entitle you to threaten violence towards other people who do not share your views"?  Because how on earth is threatening those who do not love Islam as you do with violence going to achieve anything beyond making you feel better?  And if you do not wish to show that person why you love Islam so, and why it is to many and to you a religion of peace and beauty, then your short-term remedy that is more about you in the end than about your love of Islam will have exactly the opposite effect of what your heart holds about the situation.

Their comments went backwards and forwards to each other until the man came up with this response:  "Love to see them rape the shit out of you ... see what you say then."

Lovely. Classy response.  A dearth of social skills abound in our current culture, do they not?  I mean, what a stupid and nasty thing to say.  It makes me wonder about this man - such fear about being inundated by alien forces that will ruin the life he is accustomed to.  Sounds like his boundaries are as wobbly as mine.  Makes you wonder about his personal history.

But her response to my mind was over-reactionary.   Instead of using her writing ability to formulate some sort of a comeback response, hers was to try to take the punitive road instead.  'Cause that's the way we roll.  Get landed with a fuckwit on your Twitter doorstep who insults you with their sensibilities?  Try to make something bad happen to them that will hurt them, in the name of misogyny, of violence perpetrated on your gender.

That doesn't sit all right with me.

That man's response was violent response, right?  If I was her that would have felt threatening to me, especially if there had been a history of violence in my life.  Hell, even if there hadn't.  The collective history of the oppression of women has flooded down through time and courses through our veins.  Having an opening in your body that can be violated?  Living in a culture which still, despite its advances, has hidden pockets of gender-based violence?  I get it, and I applaud her for taking a stance.  I just don't like the way she is going about it.  Her response from my perspective was to read into his words what I cannot see are there.  She believed that he was saying that he would love to see her raped.  I can't see that.  I believe he was saying, "I'd love to see how you'd feel about allowing crazy Jihadists to live in our pristine country if they raped the shit out of you - as they most likely would, seeing they are crazy Jihadists with no morals whatsoever.  And then I'd like to see how your latte-sipping socialist inclusive ideologies get you, once they've done you wrong."

I may be wrong, but that's how I read it.  Sloppily written as well as being stupid. But she took the ball and ran with it, and went ahead and wrote a letter to his football club demanding that they cancel his membership for life, under the guise of violence towards women, because he had wished gang rape against her as "a corrective tool."

C'mon, really?

I'm not so sure that aiming your retribution towards something this man cares about and asking an organisation to take punitive action because of a perceived threat is really going to achieve anything, except give you retributionary pleasure.  Which is what I couldn't help tweeting in response to her.  You will be unsurprised that I got no reply.  My concern is (if she even saw it - she has lots of followers) that she would have automatically presumed that I was on his side.  Which I'm not.  I'm on hers.  I just think her ways of going about things will achieve nothing. 

I guess it depends on what level you wish your actions to work on.  If it's simply wanting to make yourself feel better after someone has spoken nasty words to you that you perceive as threatening, then punitive measures are awesome.  But trying to force someone to change their views by attempting to punish them, by banning them from something they love is ... well, it's childish and reactionary.  And it's also an issue that's got pretty much fuck all to do with whether someone should be allowed to support their football club, seeing last time I checked football club membership doesn't preclude knobs who have opposing views, or views that are unacceptable to the general consensus.

She said that as the AFL chief Andrew Demetriou has been campaigning against violence, and as the Cats stand against gender-based violence, that this is the reason why they should cancel his membership.  I think if Geelong did cancel this man's membership, I would be feeling almost as uncomfortable about that decision as I would be about that other man's tweets.  Because if you can't be a twat and hold twatty views, without other people silencing you, whether it's in the name of Islam, or in the name of keeping your country safe, or in the name of keeping your gender safe, or in the name of the AFL being seen to do something about gender-based violence, then nobody is safe.

Acceptance of differences and openness of hearts changes people, and from there a culture, faster and better than punitive measures which send unacceptable viewpoints underground, changing nothing.  I'm standing with the sisterhood and the disgusting things that women endure from people who think it's funny to hate chicks.  I don't wish for any women to be silenced, ever.  I know what that feels like.  The anger that women feel at injustice is real and to be honoured.  But the stridency that it fuels scares me just a little sometimes, that's all :( 

Your thoughts?

PS:  I'm wondering why I am taking umbrage so much at this woman's response.  Is it one more case of women turning against each other (we're good at that)?  I don't feel like I'm turning against her though.  Is it a case of being uncomfortable seeing women express their anger?  Ahh, maybe.  I have struggled for a long time with that.  Anger is the scariest of energy, and the hardest to manage.  But seeing people wielding it in ways that are not helpful scares me, even while I do it myself.

Freedom and Safety


Wednesday, 24 July 2013

I have begun a Certificate III in Home and Community Care this week.  Which is a bit scary for several reasons.  One is that health issues mean that I really don't know if I can do this or not.  But exhilaration is what comes straight in after that, if I let it, because being out on the edge of I-don't-knowness feels like freedom.  It is very liberating to acknowledge that I may well not be able to do something, and to do it anyway.

I think I'm gonna get through it, though.  Just possibly in the plan B version, the slow old lady's version of things - doing my classes first, and then doing my placement after that.  Taking the long way round.  Which makes me the perfect person to look after old people in their homes, does it not?  As long as of course I maintain attention and alterness along with the patience that comes from intimacy with the slow walk.

My first unit for the class is OH&S.  Which is about as dry as a nun's, as my auntie's ex-boyfriend would charmingly say.  That's not to say that I don't care about the safety of people -  I do.  I don't want to see anyone needlessly suffering anywhere because of carelessness on their own part or on the part of someone else.

But that doesn't means it's not as boring as batshit.

And it also doesn't mean that we don't lose a great deal in an emphasis on safety.  I went up in a hoist as part of my prac work this afternoon.  Hoists are used to lift some people from their beds into chairs, or to help lift people who have fallen.  They fit in with the no-lift policy that occurs in aged care, where machinery of this type will be used in almost all of those sorts of situations, and which means that far fewer workers are left with back issues, some debilitating.  Which is great.

But the price of the safety is a sort of alienation.  Going up in that hoist was a little unnerving.  I can't begin to imagine how it must feel for an elderly person to be strapped into something and lifted.  I didn't really feel like I was going to fall, but then I'm not frail and aged and in a place that is not my home with a bunch of people that I may know to various degrees and probably care about, but who are not my family.

There is a part of me that lives purely in the realms of freedom.  It would probably die of tuberculosis or accidentally get itself run over by a truck, but I don't care what anybody says - I think I love that part of me more than any other part.  That part of me would hate living in a nursing home, would rather die first.

Freedom reminds me of the birds I saw on the way home, driving through the completely uninspiring streets of Dandenong and Endeavour Hills with all the other unthinking slavelike plebs.  They sat right above it all, in a big flock, doing lazy figure eights.

There's probably a whole lot of reasons for why they do that (circling to land to feed maybe), but sometimes I don't want to know the reasons for things.  I wish to simply watch those things and enjoy the poetica of it, the wastefulness of life that is more beautiful in its function than the rather tedious version we have going on here.  We have a lot to learn from nature.

After all, flamingoes could have evolved to duck off behind the flamingoan shelter sheds for a quickie to continue their species.  But they don't.  They dance their mating rituals.  And I know OH&S practices are there for a reason, but I'm going to try and remember at every turn to keep in balance a watchfulness for my clients' safety on the one hand, while trying wherever possible to foster their freedom on the other.

Running with the Seagulls by Ed Shipul (CC attribution/sharealike)

Book Review - My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin


Wednesday, 10 July 2013

This year I am taking part in the Australian Women Writers Challenge, which encourages people to read (and optionally review) books written by Australian women.  The AWWC came about in response to the results of the 2011 VIDA count, which analyses gender ratios in publishing industries in the northern hemisphere.  It found that there is a glaring disparity in the ratio of women to men both reviewing books and having their books reviewed.  And so the AWWC came about as a way for more women's work to get out there.  And so here I am.

Running alongside the AWWC is the Stella Prize, a literary award begun in partial response to the VIDA count of 2010.  It is ironically named after Miles Franklin - full name Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin - whose novel My Brilliant Career was published in Australia in 1901 when she was 21 years old.  Stella provided in her will for an annual literary award recognising Australian writers, and the Miles Franklin Award is now considered to be Australia's most prestigious literary award.  The Stella Prize began, irony of ironies, in response to the bias found in Australia not only within the publishing industry but in the Miles Franklin Award itself, where in its 55-year history only 10 women have won the prize.

So I decided that I would go back to the crux of those two awesome enterprises and read My Brilliant Career itself.  All I really knew about the book was that it had been made into a film starring Judy Davis.  The irony of the title was lost on me - it was originally titled with a question mark, which the publishers removed, much to Stella's chagrin, and so for years I had this strange idea that this book was about some woman who managed to get herself an awesome job back in the times when women often didn't have one.

The history of this book reads like a bit of a dream - it was Stella's first published book, at 21, after she sent the manuscript to Henry Lawson.  The book's popularity in Australia led to her withdrawing it from circulation until after her death because of the distress she felt when people assumed certain characters in the book to be like her real-life family and friends.  A bit of an occupational hazard when so much of the story obviously is autobiographical, but very understandable for her to feel distress that those close to her, like her parents, were likened to those in her story.

If you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, you should sometimes also not judge it by its opening paragraph.  The first chapter begins with:

'Boo hoo!  Ow, ow; Oh!  Me'll die.  Book, hoo.  The pain, the pain!  Boo, hoo!'
Not the most compelling hook into the book, and surely not a very accurate depiction of a three-year old Sybylla, but it gets better.  Because while the opening paragraph doesn't do a very good job of foreshadowing its contents, the teenage narrator does a very good job at depicting herself, a character who apparently shared many autobiographical traits with her creator.  A feisty feminist, and an atheist to boot, Sybylla knows her own mind when many of those around her insist that a woman knowing her own mind is a sacreligious act.

The curse of Eve being upon my poor mother in those days, she was unable to follow her husband [into town to pick him up from the pub, where he'd been drinking his woes and the family's money away for a couple of days].  Pride forbade her appealing to her neighbours, so on me devolved the duty of tracking my father from one pub to another and bringing him home.

Had I done justice to my mother's training I would have honoured my paternal parent in spite of all this, but I am an individual ever doing things I oughtn't at the time I shouldn't.

Sybylla yearns for that which lies not only beyond the realm in which she finds herself, a penniless daughter of a squattocracy family fallen, but also beyond the realm of her society.  Though women were to achieve the vote in 1902, a year after the book was published, they were still front and square considered by society on the whole to be helpmeets for men. 

I controlled myself instantly and waited expectantly.  What would she say?  Surely not that tame old yarn anent this world being merely a place of probation, wherein we were allowed time to fit ourselves for a beautiful world to come.  That old tune may be all very well for old codgers tottering on the brink of the graves, but to young persons with youth and romance and good health surging through their veins, it is most boresome.  Would she preach that it was flying in the face of providence to moan about my appearance? it being one of the greatest blessings I had, as it would save me from countless temptations to which pretty girls are born.  That was another piece of old croaking of the Job's comforter order, of which I was sick unto death, as I am sure there is not an ugly person in the world who thinks her lack of beauty a blessing to her.  

So much of Sybylla's striving is against the restrictions of the day upon her wild soul, and her desire for romance in all its forms is hindered in the man stakes by her corresponding repulsion at the thought of being kept by a man like a cow.  Though Harold Beacham is a catch in the district, he does not ever manage to catch Sybylla.  Almost, but no cigar.

Sybylla's desires for more from life come at a time when such a desire is considered to be a striving above your station.  So much of the cultural imperative to be ever busy and productive and to know your place back then was fuelled by moral directives driven by cultural Christianity (and by necessity in Sybylla's family's case); 110 years later it's the god of economics that still drives us all like slaves to the status quo. Some things never change, they only change their outward appearance.

Sybylla escapes for a time the monotony of a subsistence life in Possum Gully cleaning the hearth and polishing the saucepans when she is farmed out to live with her aunt and grandmother for a time in the big smoke of Sydney.  It is here that she finds time and space for the things that she craves - conversation that's not about farming, music, literature.  The world of ideas and intelligence, and of beauty and romance too:
I was decked in my first evening dress, as it was a great occasion.  It was only on the rarest occasion that we donned full war-paint at Caddagat.  I think that evening dress is one of the prettiest and most idiotic customs extant.  What can be more foolish than to endanger one's health by exposing at night the chest and arms - two of the most vital spots of the body - which have been covered all day? 
There is so much that is endearing about Sybylla, and so much that still speaks to me today.  How different my life is from hers, in so many ways.  In some instances I feel more constrained than she did, which seems ridiculous upon first thought, but perhaps it's simply an effect of living under a panopticon eye in an uber-monitored world.  I don't know.

Sybylla is the ultimate duck out of water, and is good reading even now, in an era so vastly different from hers, and which has made so many gains in some ways, for those who feel themselves ducks out of water in their own times and who seek for more beauty beyond what has been ordained by the powers that be.

Oh, how I envied them their ignorant contentment!  They were as ducks on a duck-pond;  but I was as a duck forced for ever to live in a desert, ever wildly longing for water, but never reaching it outside of dreams.
Whatever systemic and social changes differ between Sybylla and me, the beauty and space and time that Sybylla yearns for in which to think, to write and to be her own person remain my own.  That fight, to claim the space that is your self, whether fuelled by internal or external forces, goes on.

Sybylla's youthful tenacity and guts was revivifying for this young crone. 

Congeniality Carriage


Monday, 8 July 2013

Blue Train by Viscious-Speed (cc attribution licence)
They say the journey is more important than the destination.  When the destination happens to be another Geelong v Hawthorn game when you're the Hawthorn supporter, let's just say that Saturday night's train trip to get there was vastly more enjoyable than the game itself where once again, for the eleventy-seventh time in a row (11th actually), Geelong somehow managed to get over the top of a quicksand-engulfed-but-late-surging Hawks to win.  Again, fuck it.  Incomprehensibly.  Not that I'm bitter about it or nothin'.

The trip required to reach aforesaid game takes me the entire length of the Belgrave line sans one, from my home stop of Belgrave to Richmond, one stop shy of Flinders Street.  Seeing I barely travel the trains anymore, it was a pleasure to contemplate a ride with the possibility of people watching and maybe being able contribute another train travel tale to this blog :)

Especially because the trip was ... well, it was all sorta friendly like.  Unlike much public train travel which, Melbourne being a Western city in the death throes of capitalism, generally means that everybody retreats into themselves, surrounded by a veil of almost detectible contempt for everybody else, because strangers in the flesh are ... well, they're too intimate, and politeness is unnecessary in these days where we don't need to talk to strangers anymore.  I wonder if we don't feel that it's invasive and boundary-invading talking to other in the flesh humans that we don't know.  We're not used to the scent.  Don't talk to me when I intend to spend all of my time travelling talking to people who aren't here (many of who I don't know either), on my smart phone device.  Which is what I was doing before I got here, and probably what I'll be doing after I leave.  You, invading me with your body and your energy and your mannerisms and postures, your smell and facial expressions, you are a little too much, and much less manageable unscreened.  I wonder if we are less able to process such things as a conversation with each other when we don't have a box around us.  I imagine many of us would be far more comfortable if, when others desire to chat, they would instead text us their comments.  Strange times.

There's a guy in a black beanie on his phone a couple of seats over when we take off in a reasonably empty carriage.  He looks to be in his late teens or early 20's, pretty nondescript really, just a young bloke.  Almost against my will I form an unflattering opinion of what he therefore must be like, as I am rapidly ageing and sometimes a little scared of stuff, and this is what older people do to younger people.  I am ashamed to admit this.  As we move along several stops, the carriage starts filling.  There's a couple a little up from me decked out in Hawthorn colours.  There's an old couple, the woman with a rather loud voice.  There's two younger women, maybe heading out for the night, one with a fine face, the kind that can carry blood red lipstick, and a decent rack, the other unfortunately plain.  I say unfortunately because women everywhere know that still, though we are all male and female judged according to how we look, women are judged more harshly.  Still.  (And that, to further murk the waters, women also judge each other more harshly than men do each other. But that's another story).  If you don't believe women are judged according to how they look, take a look at these responses to the Wimbledon win by Marion Bartoli, who had the crazy temerity to go out into the world and achieve something whilst not being ridiculously fuckworthy.

But perhaps it's just me still smarting from the comments I got from the football the other night where, sensorily overloaded and exhausted because I'd overextended my body this week and the football is ridiculously overstimulating, frustrated because my team was losing again, and sick of listening to the completely unfunny ongoing remarks behind me from a bunch of 30 year old guys drunk on snucked-in Jack Daniels, I turned in the dying minutes of the last quarter and grumpily requested that the guy behind me stop clapping his hands right behind my head.  Part of the exchange that occurred in response was from one of the other guys, who apparently was a plain-clothes member of the Hair Police and who informed me that for someone as unattractive as myself, my hair was too long .  The hair-as-sexuality maxim.  I've always wondered why so many older women cut their hair short.  Perhaps this sort of thing is why.

"That's the pot calling the kettle black, isn't it?" I said in response to him.  He was of average looks, but that's all I could come up with at the time.  His response to my comment was something like, "Huh?" because as we all know, glasses of Jack do not make for high-falutin' intellectual conversation.  And then he said, "What are you lookin' at?" to my boyfriend, who responded, "I'm not sure in laconic fashion," and who I secretly wished, in the Neanderthal part of my limbic system, to punch this guy's head in.  That shut him up, except then he proceeded to make the universal cunnilingus sign to my mother which, while funny in one way (maybe just because it wasn't me) was disgusting in another.  "Have some bloody respect," Mum snapped grandly, though giving in like me to the ridiculous pursuit of arguing with drunken young guys who not only think they know fucking everything, but are hilarious in the process.

But anyway, I have digressed far off the train trip.  And anyway, that's that's what happened at the end of the train line, and the story I'm telling is better backwards, where the more enjoyable elements of human nature were on display from within the train carriage.  And so back onto the train, Momma.

It's impossible not to hear the guy with the black beanie's mobile phone conversation because it's rather loud, as is the general tone of mobile phone conversations.  "I might be on TV soon," he's telling the person on the other end.  I don't know what he is going to be on the telly for as that bit of the conversation's lost somewhere between the rest of the carriage conversations and my ancient eardrums, but my first impressions are that he's probably going to be on The Block or something like it for his requisite shot of fame.  Fame is like nectar to 21st century inhabitants, especially if it's one-step-removed fame, like on the teev or social media, being as we are rather deprived of the nourishment and attention that would come from a society that actually properly functioned with people and sanity and soul at its centre.

"How's the new vacuum cleaner going then, mate?" he asks. This befuddles me.  Is this a guy he's talking to?  Whatever floats your boat, but I haven't heard many young guys have public phone conversations with each other about vacuum cleaners at all, not least asking after the vacuum cleaner's general health.  But then he ends the conversation with, "Okay, mate.  Love you too."

I really don't want to generalise any more than I already automatically have about this guy, but now I presume that the mate on the other end of the phone must be a girl.  Maybe a cousin or a sister or something like that.  Because I just can't envisage two guys having a convo that includes vacuum cleaners and ends with love declarations.  But then, what do I know beyond my assumptions based on nothing about a guy I've never met before?

The older couple ahead of me have begun chatting to the two young chicks heading out.  I cannot hear what they're saying, they're too far away.  But people on the train are smiling at strangers, and it's a bit strange.  Then the older couple get ready to get off.  Or at least the woman does.  "Come on," she says in raucous tones to her husband.  "Leave them girls alone.  You're a married man."  She is saying this as she walks up the carriage aisle to the door where she waits, unaccompanied.  But apparently he's not coming.

"You comin' or you stayin'?" she shouts down to her husband.  Her stop arrives, and she shrugs.  "Fine, suit yerself.  Stay here."  Her husband waits till the train stops completely before he gets up, and walks down past me to the carriage's other door.  With a smirk on his face, just to shit her.  They look like fun.

Many people don't like to draw attention to themselves out in public spaces, maybe because we are unsure about how to behave in them anymore.  And anyway, we're saving up all our attention-seeking for Facebook.  Seeing somebody pay disregard to that, and talk to strangers and be loud and noisy, gives permission for other people to talk to each other too.

The Hawthorn-bedecked couple begin chatting to some other carriage-dwellers about the fight to stop the Tecoma Macca's being built.  Just down the road from me, the actions of the local community against a proposed development that 92% of Tecoma residents oppose, and in which VCAT overturned a "no" decision handed down by the local council, are an ongoing source of pride. Seems the woman is involved somehow, and she talks about the CFMEU, whose actions have buoyed the protesters maintaining vigil at the site, by having temporarily halted site production due to protester safety issues.  Some people, including Janine Watson, have spent time sitting atop of one of the buildings slated for demolishment.  Janine celebrated her 50th birthday up there, before ending up with a broken finger in an incident of which there are several different accounts of what happened.  But it's certainly a case of the people against the system, which has garnered international attention, and whatever cries of "hippy" may come from trolls, and by jaded people who can't see the point in protesting the relentless roll of multinational progress, I am inspired by these everyday people.

The beanie-clad young guy chimes into the conversation.  "I'm a chef," he says, "and I've worked in a few different food places around Belgrave and that.  And we don't need any Macca's in Tecoma,"  We all look at each other and nod.  It feels like such a minor thing in the grand scheme of things, but it's these interactions with the wider community that quite simply make my day.  We need each other.  United we change things.  Separate, we underestimate our collective power.

An older man gets on the train and sits down next to me.

"You gonna win?"  he asks.  I nod.  "Like Gough Whitlam's Labor, it's time," I say, confident despite the fact that we've lost the previous 10 times because all bar a couple of those wins have been gettable.  And it feels different this time.  The Hawks have displayed a psychological spinal strength that departed them at times in the year before and incurred disrespect from the football community for being chokers, a problem which it could be argued cost them a grand final.  But this year they have displayed steely tenacity, and it's that which buoys my confidence.  Because at this point the game's end is all future, and I have every reason to believe that our 12-game winning streak will continue with the biggest scalp of all.  Because on this train, we are in the goodest part of the night :)

The man next to me I would guess to be in his late 60's.  He is wearing an Andy Capp cap which sorta looks stylish on him.  By the end of our conversation I will deduce him to be one of those people who carries before them an air of quiet dignity and quiet authority, a masterful combination.  We chat about the nature of the game.  He is a Melbourne supporter, going out in the chill to see a game for the pure enjoyment of it.  No, he wasn't there for their rare win last week; he'd been out with a friend for dinner.  We chat about Melbourne's recent coach sacking and he provides an eloquent response as to why he believes Mark Neeld was not up for the job and why he lost the respect of his young group.

I joke that I enjoy being in a carriage on this particular line with Geelong supporters because we have to go past Glenferrie Station (the original home of the Hawks) and then Hawthorn Station, and I will take whatever psychological advantage I can glean.  We discuss the history of AFL.  "I used to go to Glenferrie back in the days when they played football there," he says.  It was a bit before my time - the last game Hawthorn played there was in 1973, when I was two years old.  "I was there the day Peter Hudson did his knee," he says.

My favourite Peter Hudson story is an off-field one, famous in Hawthorn circles.  A local church, as is their wont, had a sign out the front of its building from whence it would put pithy sayings designed to bring the heathens to God.  On one particular day it read: "What would you do if Jesus came to Hawthorn?"  Someone underneath wrote, "Move Hudson to centre half forward."

Fair call.

We chatted about the modern professional game. "It's a different game to how it was," he said.  "There was a lot more biffo back then, but then ... in other ways too it's different.  It's so much faster now, it's hard to keep track of where the ball is."

"What do you think is the difference between now and then," I ask, "if you had to define it?" 

"I'm not sure what you'd call it," he said.

"I reckon it's lost just a little of its soul." 

"I think you might be right."

"I'll always barrack for the Hawkers whatever the AFL does, and I love the modern game, but professionalism wipes out a little bit of the heart of things," I said, and we both agreed on that one.

The soul and the heart of stuff.  I might be easily pleased but for me, the kindness of strangers chatting and being civilised on a train, though a common thing once, is harder for us to get to these days.  A lot of us are scared, because life is scary and it's not supportive.  This hermit likes and needs her solitude, a great bit chunk of it.  I don't like small talk, and if you find me at a party I'll be in the kitchen, if I'm anywhere, hanging with the Jonah Louies of the world.  But those everyday little interactions of strangers coming together all friendly like, they fuel me for days.  They're important, in some small intangible way.  They're glue for us.  They make us stronger.  Because we don't need to be kinder to strangers, but when we are maybe it means that we are coming to understand how our technology and our economics telling us we are competitors is maybe a false economy.  Seeing strangers as something more than competition makes life safer.  And better.  And from there maybe we see clearer how much change is within our power to effect.  Or at least to try.

To continue trying to oppose a McDonald's outlet that is inappropriate.

And to continue trying to break that bloody Geelong hoodoo.

Maybe next time.

Trees in the Wind

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Saturday, 6 July 2013

The tall but half-grown gum tree outside the bathroom window gives me so much pleasure. On still, clear nights it sits with the moon about it like a Charles Long art nouveau painting. Today it was tearing itself apart in the wind like a teenager with a bad conscience. Tossing, not yet fully grown, so tormented and no one able to offer consolation.

Kate Llewellyn, The Waterlily

Pic by Miheco under a cc attrib/share alike licence
I remember that teenage space.  I still go there, into the illusion of separation.  I guess health issues that test your mettle do that to you, but there is always another opportunity to learn to resist that downward tug next time.  To ride the wave rather than getting sucked into its guts.  It is a paradox that you need to embrace and accept the entirety of the wave in order to be able to ride it.  Separating out the full embrace space from the getting sucked under space is one that is a little too nuanced to learn in teenaged years, but which even late bloomers such as myself are always capable of learning. 

Lots of people would like to return to their years of teenagerhood, but not me.  The hypocrisy of adults who have forgotten what it is like to be that age, whose eyes are covered over by jealousy so that all they see is your freedom and none of your torment?  Where they hold all the cards?  No thanking ye :)

It's been rather windy here lately.  I come home from being out in other places and small tree branches and bits of cast-off bark litter the road.  I read this portion of Kate Llewellyn late yesterday in the bathroom, the cold air breathing its way in through the cracked-open window.  It had calmed down from the day before, when the wind was strong enough to whistle through the window and the gums outside became potential housebreakers.  

I saw a picture the other day of a rainbow gum.  What an amazing-looking tree.  One of only four species of eucalypts that are not native to Australia.

I hugged a tree the other night, on the way home from singing along with other crones daggy songs from the 60's and 70's at the Caravan Club.  Though I don't like a whole stack of the songs we sing, the therapy from sitting in a room with a group of people whose sole intention is to get together and sing out loud makes me feel slightly heady.  I hugged the tree to bring me down to earth.  

Trees are people too :P Or they're something, anyway.  They communicate in some fashion with each other.  I wonder if they communicate with us?  It definitely feels like it to me.  But who knows. 

And I guess if trees are sentient beings, then teenagers must be as well :)