Monday, March 31, 2014

The joy of getting physical

This has been the strangest year of my life so far; the saddest too. It's cognitive dissonance, living in my old family home with echoes of Mum in every room. I expect her to be there, but she's not. I talk to her anyway.

The weird thing is, I can't spend all day at a computer any more. I get twitchy. I also feel like falling asleep. I long to get up and DO something. Herbert knows there is plenty to do.

So my goal now is to do something for the house every day. It could be something small, such as tidying a cupboard. It could be washing a wall. It could be garden work. As long as it is something physical, which gets me away from the computer and the slightly depressed attitude I get when I sit at it for too long.

Most of my weekends are now largely computer-free. I catch up with Facebook but often on a mobile device rather than the computer.

Last weekend was lovely. Lots of outdoor work in the garden - poisoning morning glory (how romantic, the two of us under a camellia bush, one clipping the awful vines, one dipping them in a lethal mix of Resolva and diesel), weeding the lawn of dandelions yet again, recementing the stone coping around one garden bed, digging old and hopeless soil out of same.... Just great. I was sweating like a bastard in the early autumn sun, covered in dirt with a light coating of herbicide. Utter joy. My muscles ached pleasantly and my mind was on the vision of what this garden will look like when I've finished ripping out dead stuff, underperforming plants and a multitude of weeds.

Understandably I had trouble focussing on work today. The sun shone outside, beckoning me. We'd started the day with a brisk 30 minute walk as G was flying our for work at lunchtime so we didn't have to get up at six and get him out the door by 7.30 after a full breakfast. Nope, it was a leisurely if physical start.

I put up with work stuff until four, then headed for the garden, to finish digging out a bed we'd started on over the weekend. There was a ten year old golden diosma in there which I was heartily sick of, as it had gone scrawny and was too big for the bed, realistically. Ten minutes of tugging and carefully finding and pulling at roots saw it gone. We've had plenty of rain lately so it was a fairly easy job pulling it out. My back feels fine right now.

After digging I was able to plant out some young plants I had collected in readiness. It's so satisfying seeing a garden bed come together. I've chosen a predominantly blue and white scheme with occasional forays into red. I think too I'll have to pop a few more plants in there to bulk it up a bit - and keep the weeds out.

This is the smallest bed I'll be working on. I have grand plans for the rest of the garden area which will see me busy for months. And of course once it's all done it will need regular maintenance to keep it looking good. I'm planning a mix of ornamental and edible plants. It's funny how good a broccoli plant can look next door to something ornamental like a hydrangea.

Whatever goes in my garden will have to either be edible, look good or smell good. Or a mix of at least two out of those three! I can foresee some very physical times ahead. I think my winter workdays may be rather short as winter, with the cool days, is the best time to be outside, digging madly.

My Mum originally planted a rose garden in one bed, so one plan is to reinstate that. That's definitely a winter job, while the roses are dormant. If only I could get paid for doing the gardening, I would happily give up the day job.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Meet "Shit, the Comical Cowpat"

Many eons ago, when I was in my first job, thumping away hatefully at a typewriter, I created a little diversion for myself when I really had the shits with my job. It's a long story as to why someone who hates copy typing got a job as a typist… but I'll digress if I go there.

Anyway, my diversion was drawing and doodling. I had a cartoon racehorse I drew as a teenager, and drew a few strips of him at first. From this equine friend and his world came a new character...

Meet Shit, the Comical Cowpat.
Why a cow turd, of all things? Well, why the hell not? Nobody else was or is, as far as I know, drawing a cartoon strip with a cow turd hero. He's easy to draw, and you can come up with a million puns on the subject. Aside from which I've always had an advanced sense of toilet humour.

The original drawings of Shit were of course hand drawn, but I've amused myself recreating one on my trusty Wacom tablet as it looks neater than the original. My handwriting, at the time I drew the original strips, was quite untidy as often I had the shits with the job when I drew it - Shit for the shits - and it shows.

The Shit strip had a deliberately old-fashioned masthead, which I've kept too.

So why have I drawn a Shit strip today? Because I've got the shits with the job, of course! Too many people wanting a piece of me today. Too many emails, too many phone calls, too many call waitings while I'm already on the phone to another. It's time for Shit to make a comeback.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Dear children, you are NOT Michelangelo.

I spoke to my stepdaughter last night on the phone. She lives interstate and we occasionally have long phone calls - usually she needs someone to rant on to about something or other and often it's me or G.

My stepdaughter - I'll call her Mittens for no other reason than she likes that word - has two small children of her own. One is five and has just started school, the other is three.

They are very cute kids, and Mittens is strict on things like table manners. She's says she is pretty strict in general and doesn't cop much lip from them, except ...

She lets them draw on the walls of the living room.

I had Mittens on speakerphone last night and G and I exchanged glances when she spoke of their drawings.

"But it's okay," she said breezily. "They just use crayon or pencil. It's not like it's textas. I can wash it off. It took me a whole bottle of Orange Power last time to do one wall." Another eye roll between G and I.

"Do you ever tell them not to do it?" I asked cautiously. I have to be a bit cautious as Mittens balances being strict with being a Steiner-school, encourage creativity at all costs-type parent. She also has an absolute belief she is always right, a hangover from her teen years which aren't, after all, that far behind her. I don't want to get into an argument with her as I'm hopeless at arguments and she has a very quick mouth. I'd lose.

"Yes, but then they do it when my back is turned."

I suggested pinning big sheets of paper to the wall. She said she had tried that but the kids drew over the edges and onto the wall.

"There's a cute little bee Miss 5 has drawn above the sofa. I haven't the heart to scrub it off," she confided, almost proudly.

It's not that there is a lack of paper in their house. The kids are encouraged to paint and draw on paper. Why the hell she lets them continue to draw on the walls is beyond my comprehension. It's not encouraging creativity, it's letting them get away with something they know is wrong. They have been told not to do it again and again, and they ignore their mother and continue to draw on the walls.

If I had drawn on the wall, just once, as a small child, I would have had strips torn off me. I was told from a young age that you didn't draw on the walls, and was given plenty of paper instead. Mum was a kind but very strict parent. She didn't believe in smacking, and I was so keen to stay in her good books that a damn good shouting would have had me contrite and in tears and unlikely to do whatever-it-was ever again. (I was terrified that if I was a bad girl that Mum would run away as Dad did… nothing like an absent parent to keep you in line. Not that that was ever threatened by Mum, but who knows how the mind of a small child works except a small child?)

I confess, if Mittens' kids were my kids and I caught them drawing on the walls, they would get a bawling out they would never, ever forget. Bugger that modern school of parenting where you talk in a soft voice and tell little Jimmy or little Mary why it's wrong to draw on walls and that they aren't naughty children  (because apparently you are not supposed to tell children they are naughty anymore) but simply channelling their creative talents in the wrong direction. Nope. I'd tower over them screaming and reduce them to quivering wrecks, to get the message across that if I said No to drawing on walls, I meant No. I may even use my hand on their backsides, even though that's probably illegal by now.  I would certainly use the word naughty, probably again and again. I have seen my friends' kids grow up with modern parenting and turn into disrespectful teenagers who treat their parents with total disdain; 'whatever' is their favourite word as they ignore any household rules.

I would also lock up the crayons and other drawing materials and only dole them out when I was available to supervise how the children used them.

Which brings me to another of Mittens' problems. The kids get up early in the mornings while their exhausted parents grab another five minutes of shuteye, climb on benches and furniture, open the cupboards and help themselves. Sadly Mittens and her partner Guitarman live in rented premises and can't put locks on the cupboards. The kids go through Mittens' handbag and do fun things such as hide her house keys. The last time they did that she couldn't leave the house for three days. They mixed coffee grains with paint and painted the living room carpet one memorable early morn last year ("Oh Meester Harrrt!"); even worse they used a set of makeup artist Mittens' professional makeup brushes to do it, rendering them totally buggered.

In a way I'm sad that I only get to see Mittens and her kids once or twice a year, as when they are not drawing on the walls or getting into other mischief they've been told time and again not to do, they are lovely. Sweet and smart and funny. On the other hand, if they lived closer I would probably be a babysitter, and I don't reckon I'd cope well with those two destructive forces in my house. There's no bench they can't climb and no cupboard they can't open; anything I treasured would be broken in a day. And I'd be damned if I could stay at their house and watch their children draw on the walls.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A visit from Dad

I mentioned in my last post that I had an angel card reader come to the house recently for a morning tea reading party.

This was the second time I'd had a reading from her, and she is uncannily on the ball. 

During the reading she mentioned my Dad and asked if he had died after a long illness (he had: cancer).  She picked up a lot about my Mum, and said that Mum watches over me. I feel she does, too. I talk to Mum and ask her things - particularly if I find something in the house and don't know what it's for. The answer will pop into my head in a minute or two, and I think Mum puts it there.

But I digress… this post is about Dad.

During my reading I had three friends in the other room - V, C, and V's daughter-in-law P. P is rather psychic. As a teenager she knew when her best friend was having a sleepless night as it would wake her up. She's seen relatives by her bed at the time of their passing. 

When I came out from my reading, P said, "There was a man at the front door." I had an inkling the man wasn't real… otherwise the others would have spoken to him and asked what he wanted.

"What did he look like?" I asked. "What colour hair, how tall?"

"He had dark hair and was less than 6 foot. Medium height."

"Slim build?"


"That sounds a bit like my Dad. Hang on, I'll get a photo."  

I have a photo of Dad in his late 30s-ish in my office and I whipped it out and showed it to her. P's face contorted horribly; for a moment it seemed as if her face had turned molten. I thought she was going to faint. She looked like she'd seen a ghost, in other words, and I do believe she had. (Now I know what people look like when they say they see a ghost!)  "Oh my God," she said faintly, and then we were plying her with tea and I was apologising for giving her such a fright and thanking her for seeing my Dad. I felt so awful for giving her such a shock, and was at the same time stunned and rather elated that my father had been standing at the door.

P said Dad stood at the front door, and when I appeared with the angel card reader, he turned away, walked down the two steps and down the path out of sight. P said he wouldn't come in. 

So… I am pondering. Did he appear because there was such a strong psychic pull that day, with both P and the angel card reader in the house? Or because the angel card reader had somehow called him during my reading? And does he visit often? Does he watch, and has he watched this house since he died in 1991? He and Mum designed this place when they were still in love… 

I think Dad is one of my guardian angels, even though we weren't close. I think he's the one who looks after me when I'm flying either as a passenger or a trial flight pilot. 

Mum is another, as is my Nan.  And the card reader told me the little girl on the swing, who two reiki practitioners have both seen when they have worked on me, is my guardian angel, looking after the child inside me who so often wants to come out and play. 

So now I guess I have a few 'people' to talk to who may or may not just be hanging around, looking out for me. 

Some things don't change though - Dad would never come in the house after he left; he would leave Christmas and birthday gifts on the front step. Only once did he come in, when I was 14 and he was handing over the deeds of the house to Mum. I had to grin at the thought of him looking through the front door - and have told him since that he is welcome… inside the house.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Takeover Merchant

Last Friday I held a morning tea, and very swish it was too with gorgeous china cup trios, Mum's best silver and some delicious cakes and biscuits I'd made. I had arranged for an angel card reader to give ten of my friends a reading, and also used it as a candle sale opportunity.

All went swimmingly. Three of my guests, V, P, and C stayed for lunch, as I hadn't seen them for ages and they live across the other side of Sydney. V's son, whom I shall call Dickhead, is married to P and he dropped them off with a promise to pick them up around 3.

I have known Dickhead all his life. He was a nice enough kid as a youngster, but I suspect suffers from some kind of mental illness - almost certainly schizophrenia and a narcissistic disorder too. Not that mental illness makes him a dickhead. It's his behaviour over the years - a web of lies and big noting. OK, so that may be driven by his mental illness but the thing is, he hasn't being diagnosed by anyone nor is he on medication. I suspect if anyone suggested to him he needed to see a doctor because he appeared to have mental issues he'd half kill them. Yes, he has a violent streak. Nearly murdered his Mum once a few years back.

But I digress. As usual.

So there we were, V, P, C and me, tucking into cake and tea at three (gosh, that rhymes!). Conversation was flowing nicely, everyone got to comment and talk, and there were plenty of giggles.

Then Dickhead turned up to collect the girls. Immediately, he sat down and took over the conversation. He always does. He and P have a son 7 months old so the conversation was dominated by Dickhead talking about his son and the swimming classes they are taking him to. The child is a genius apparently, much more advanced than any other 7 month old baby on earth. P got a word in, whenever Dickhead asked her to agree or comment, but the rest of us didn't. We just ate more cake. Then Dickhead started talking about his new job, driving a miniature train. You'd think he was the MD of a global multinational the way he spoke about it; chest puffed out with self-importance. We ate more cake.

Dickhead's Mum V knows what he is like; several people including C have mentioned to her that when he enters a room he takes over.

And that was one of the reasons* Mum didn't like having him over to visit. I felt the same on Friday. I could almost feel Mum's anger bristling behind me and I was getting cross with him too. How bloody rude, not letting anyone else change the subject, but dominating the room. I don't really want him coming over any more either. In his younger days, when he was in his late teens, he came with his parents one Christmas Day and took over the conversation, telling everyone about the new job he had as a baggage handler with Virgin Blue - all the little details about behind the scenes in the terminal, about how to load baggage carts on the aircraft, anecdotes about other handlers and strange items he and they had to get on and off aircraft. It was only weeks later that we, including his parents, found out the entire job was a lie. It didn't exist. The whole conversation with its attention to detail was a sham, designed to let him take centre stage. "He's a Walter Mitty," Mum grumbled at the time, but Walter Mitty kept his fantasies to himself living his secret imaginary life, he didn't lead others on to believe it.

By three on Friday I couldn't wait for them to go. I'd loved having my girlfriends over, but was fed up with Dickhead. I felt just like Mum must have. Finally the cake was finished. There was no excuse to stay.

Dickhead called the shots and said they had to be off to pick up said genius baby son from childcare. I felt a rush of relief. It was almost as if the atmosphere in the room had turned a palpable opaque shade while he was babbling on.  I waved them off and set about the task of carefully hand washing eleven delicate bone china cups, saucers and plates.

So now I don't want the Takeover Merchant in this house again either. While the angel card reader told me that Mum wants me to make this house my own and bring my own love and possessions into it - that's another story too! - I think I'll be true to Mum's wishes re the Takeover Merchant.

Who else out there knows a Takeover Merchant? How do you cope when they take over the conversation, no matter what topic is introduced? Or when they change the conversation to only the topics they want to speak about?

* The main reason is that Dickhead had fathered a little daughter a couple of years before he got married, and wants nothing to do with her. Won't see her, pays as little child support as he can get away with. Poor kid. Mum brought up a daughter whose Dad wouldn't see her and apparently wanted no real part in her upbringing, and Mum despises that kind of behaviour. Oh, and I did mention Dickhead almost murdered his own Mum in one of his rages...

Monday, March 10, 2014

The joys of procrastination

Not for nothing have I renamed my blog But I Digress…   I am good at digressing. I am also an expert procrastinator, especially on Monday mornings.

For the last two days I have been deliberately computer-free. I've used my phone and iPad to access social media and for fun only. Using technology for good not evil, as I put it. The only bad thing about this is that it has given me a taste of freedom, the opportunity to truly switch off and forget about work for the weekend.

So how did I spent my weekend? I didn't do anything most folk would consider exciting. First thing Saturday we headed to Orange Grove Markets for some good fruit, veg and pasta (well, that's mildly exciting, I love OG Markets). I weeded dandelions from the lawn both days, taking my weeding hours in the last seven days up to six. I mowed some of the lawn - will have to pick up some chunks of umbrella tree trunk before I can do the rest. G and I poisoned the remaining umbrella tree root in a very satisfying exercise. G and I took the dog for a good brisk walk on Sunday before breakfast. I hoovered the house. I scrubbed the bathroom. I did a few loads of washing. I read a book. G and I hung and rehung some pictures. I took down the venetian blinds in the living room as the cords had broken on two of them and anyway they were cheap things from Freedom Furniture 20-something years old. I polished some furniture. We rearranged some of the bedroom furniture. We both did some ironing as it had piled up. Are you seeing a picture here? Apart from reading a book, it was a pretty physical weekend.

After weekends like this I find it hard to tie myself down to a computer on a Monday morning. So all this morning I have been procrastinating, playing for time before sitting at The Screen of Doom. G leaves for work at 7.30am. At that point I put on washing; I have some blankets to wash which I am giving away on Freecycle. I did the washing up and cleaned the kitchen benches. I hung the first load of washing out and put another blankety lot on. That's also hanging out now, together with load number three, white stuff. I mopped the kitchen, bathroom, loo and laundry. I brought the bins in. I watered the lawn where I'd put lawn seed down the week before, and the little garden near our front door.

Yes, it's sad: I far more enjoy housewifely tasks than work tasks. I would rather scrub the floors than build a website. With the changes I've had in my life over these last few months I would rather clean the toilet with my own toothbrush than build websites and put up with clients.

G has been away quite a lot in the last couple of months, so I have ironed several shirts for him. He usually irons his own shirts (quite the enlightened bloke in some ways). In our marathon ironing session yesterday he mentioned that and thanked me for it, whereby I answered it was the least I could do and anyway, that's what I do. His reply: "I didn't marry a 'wifey'." Now 'wifey' I am not and we both know it. But is there a difference between a 'wifey' and a woman who enjoys the physical side of housework and treats it as exercise? Plus, I get a lot of gratification from cleaning things and seeing the result.

I've spoken with G about my loathing of doing the work I started my company for in 2001. Now we have moved into a mortgage-free house he has told me that if I want to cut down on the stuff I hate doing, I should. He'd sooner have me happy than stressed and miserable. So I have. I'm not building any new websites. I'm telling potential clients I'm too busy, and just keeping the existing ones and their odd requests for changes and updates.

But still, I have come to dread spending my days sitting in front of the computer. I've been using computers for more than 20 years, and am finding technology increasingly frustrating. I get cross with websites which don't accept the login I set up with them. (Not, I hasten to add, the ones I build myself). It seems you need a password for absolutely everything these days and it's overwhelming. I get cross with email spam, especially when it uses my own name as the sender, so I can't put it into junk mail as I don't want to ban my own email address from my own computer. I get cross with Microsoft products, particularly Excel as it keeps crashing when you least want it to. I get cross with Google products when they change the layout and setup and you can't find what you bloody well want in terms of functionality. I just get cross.

So I procrastinate. I figure I can spend at least an hour after breakfast each day on cleaning maintenance, i.e. washing up, sweeping the kitchen, using the carpet sweeper on the rest of the house, with a major hoovering at weekends, watering the garden and lawn. I can walk to the post office and check my PO box.

And when I do get onto the computer and go through the emails and say "fuck off" to every single junk email - today I fantasised about meeting the bastard who sent me 47 emails about Louis Vuitton products using my own email address, and strangling him -, I then spend some quality time on Facebook and personal sites. Anything to put off the inevitable work stuff.

I have even stalled the workday by writing this blog post. But all good things must come to an end. The sun is shining outside and the sky a superb azure. And I'm stuck in the office, about to research some social media products for a client.

Ooh! Procrastination alert: it's almost morning tea time. I'll go and put the kettle on and that will give me the opportunity to enjoy a cup of coffee outside in the sun…