Perpetual Tangent

I just know that something good is gonna happen. I don't know when, but just saying it could even make it happen.

A fresh start

So it’s been about three months since I last posted anything here. There are a variety of reasons for this, but the main one is that I’ve just been way too busy to even log on and write, let alone publish anything! So here’s a brief recap of the last three months:

  • We packed up our entire house in Canberra and after a very long day getting it all on the truck, cleaning and fitting all our remaining stuff into the car, we made our way to Melbourne to stay with some lovely friends way out on Mornington Peninsula while we hunted for a rental in the northern suburbs.
  • We got pregnant. Yep, that’s right, there’s another dude or dudette currently cooking away, due at the end of August. We’ve found our midwife at the lovely MAMA midwifery practice, and I’ve started yoga and I’m on the hunt for a good meditation/relaxation recording. It’s been a fairly easy pregnancy so far, with only one serious vomit incident resulting in paying $150 to get our car detailed. Aside from when drunk and not remembering, I’d say that’s the most I’ve ever thrown up in my life!
  • It only took a couple of weeks of driving the hour or so between our friends’ place and the area we were looking in Melbs for us to find something and we moved in early Feb. It’s only two bedrooms but fairly roomy, brand new and under 10km from the city about 15 mins walk from the tram. We like it, although yet again we’ve managed to end up with a barking dog next door. Granted, it’s not as annoying as the one in Sydney which I had fantasies about poisoning (oh god that sounds horrible doesn’t it, but seriously, this thing was a total menace! Actually the owners were the ones needing a good lesson…) but the owners don’t seem to care when it barks pointlessly, which is crap.
  • Dude is weaning. He is still having boobie but things have really shifted in that area, particularly since I told him that the milk might not be there or might change and that the new baby will have boobie and we need to ‘save’ the milk for the baby. This was my vague attempt at getting him to cut down as I’m increasingly over breastfeeding. He is three in May and although I know plenty of people who’ve fed children longer than that and I think it’s awesome to feed as long as you and the baby want, I personally am just really keen for a break. I’ve never enjoyed breastfeeding particularly, never experienced the bond or hormonal rush that other mums describe, and although I discovered a new fondness for it when Dude turned two, I still feel very touch-sensitive and would like to find other ways of comforting and relaxing him. Suffice it to say, daddy is suddenly all the rage and has to endure numerous readings of mindless, repetitive material, mainly by Dr Seuss, until Dude is satisfied and goes off to sleep.
  • Now that we’re in Melbs, we’re trying to settle, but it’s just SO hard! I’ve never felt so strange about being anywhere, and I think it’s because I planned to really settle here and it’s proving a little difficult. I don’t know if it’s Mr Chewbacca’s influence or me changing, but I’m finding it terribly hard to love my country of birth. Australia just means nothing to me culturally, and there’s so much about living in this country that has no cultural significance for me; in fact it is downright annoying! It’s early days here, and no matter what we plan to stick it out for a few years at least. I just can’t wait to find some friends and regularity here.

There’s been plenty more happening, but it’s all rather mundane and boring involving trips to Centrelink, buying clothes, looking for jobs and negotiating weird Melbourne traffic, so not really worth mentioning!

This third move in Australia is a huge achievement for us, more so for me actually, as I’ve had it in my head that Melbourne is the place for me since coming here for the first time nearly 20 years ago. It’s also a final move for us; if this doesn’t work, that’s it, we’ll be heading back over to the northern hemisphere, the UK, outer London probably. And to do that would not only cost a fair bit of money, it would need to be a really certain final move. We’d never move back here. So Melbourne, you’ve got a lot of work to do to get us really loving this country!

My life in a shed and other junk

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My favourite view of the hills around Canberra, facing south west going down the Cotter Road. Or possibly the Parkway, you can see that sharp peak from there too.

As I think I mentioned before, we’ve just sold our house in Canberra. I bought this house in 2005 and lived here just under two years before leaving in 2007 to go to the UK. I never wanted to go to the UK, but I knew it had to be done, like a right of passage. More on that another time. I went, thinking I’d have a few epiphanies, conclude that London wasn’t for me, and come home within six months. With a British passport safely tucked away (well, on its way in the mail a couple of months after I arrived as I applied for it too close to when I was due to fly out!), I knew I could stay longer if I wanted. And I did. Two years longer. I guess a year of that can be attributed to meeting Mr Chewbacca in mid 2008, but because we ended up moving to Sydney in 2010 (and I said I’d rather chop off a limb than live in Sydney, hmm), I didn’t live in my Canberra house again until July this year – almost exactly six years to the day that I left, in fact.

A whiteboard I had up on the cupboard counting down to my departure for London. It never got below four days to go, as I left Canberra four days before flying out to go to my best friend's wedding on the Central Coast before flying out of Sydney.

A whiteboard I had up on the cupboard counting down to my departure for London. It never got below four days to go, as I left Canberra four days before flying out to go to my best friend’s wedding on the Central Coast before flying out of Sydney.

In the front courtyard is a small, metal garden shed. Because I’m a hoarder (or so says Mr C), I put a whole bunch of my stuff in this shed before I left. The actual reason I did this is not just about being a hoarder; it’s more just pure laziness and lack of forethought. So because I only planned to be away six months, I didn’t worry too much about filling the shed with a dented roof that let in rain almost floor to ceiling with stuff. And because I wasn’t really organised or motivated when it came to planning my London escapade, I ended up just shoving a whole lot of stuff in the shed and padlocking the door shut and pretending it was what I wanted to do in the first place. I actually gave away a bit of stuff, random stuff, now I look back, but there is so much in there that’s just not needed and could have been better used by someone else. In fact about 90 per cent of the stuff in the shed is either useless to me or surplus to my needs. And now it’s been six years since I ventured into the shed, both of those categories apply even more so.  To give you an idea, here’s a quick overview of the contents, or at least what I can see is in there:

  • Crockery and glassware – I gave away only part of dinner sets and some mugs and kept others… why?!
  • My parents’ Edwardian sideboard with the broken door which my mum painted 1970s brown some time in the 1970s. Okay granted, there’s sentimental value, but yeah, not needed.
  • Random shoes and clothes that I’d wrapped to sell on ebay but ran out of time. Needless to say they’re not selling that well now.
  • Many plastic bags full of bits and pieces from my top bedside drawer that hadn’t been cleaned out since I acquired the drawers. Seriously, my idea of ‘packing’ was either leaving shit in the drawers and just taking them out and putting them in my car to move to a new place, or else tipping the contents of each drawer into a plastic back and then tipping the contents of said bag back into the drawer at the other end. So technically the stuff in these bags has been with me since before I moved out of home. Needless to say, chewing gum and eucalyptus lollies tend to get a bit sticky and melted after a six years in a plastic bag in an unventilated metal shed.
  • CD racks, two of them, and one of those barely distinguishable as a CD rack, even if people still used CD racks these days, which they apparently don’t.
  • Clothes that didn’t fit me in 2007 and fit me even less in 2013.
  • Shit from Aldi. For some reason anything from Aldi is like, oh wow, it’s from Aldi, it only cost [insert small amount of money here]! Yeah, but it’s shit that you’re not using, get rid of it!
  • Incomplete and only semi-educational worksheets from highschool Italian. Why did I keep these past the point of being handed them by my teacher in year 7 who used to grab you by the ear if you were a smartarse?
  • Board games. Okay, yeah, board games are cool, but these were ones I used to play when I was like seven or eight. So no longer applicable to me, and probably no longer in usable form by the time the Dude is old enough to play them. Goodbye 500 piece Cats of Lesley Ann Ivory puzzle that I probably did once when I was nine.
  • A few little nuggets combining sentimentality and usefulness. Only a few.
The shed. You can see my dad's framed 'Kings and Queens of Great Britain' poster I'd just pulled out. it's a bit puckered but still good.

The shed. You can see my dad’s framed ‘Kings and Queens of England’ poster I’d just pulled out. It’s a bit puckered but still good.

There is a lot more. There are mystery suitcases from second hand shops hiding right at the back and I have no idea what’s in them. There is stuff still under the tarp that I’m too afraid to lift away just yet. Mr C, being a nervy and obsessive Capricorn to begin with, is highly offended by the sight of the shed even with the door locked, never mind the myriad of horrors lying within. He is also scared of the spiders that are no doubt living it up in there, unless they’ve been fried over six summers of 35 degree days in a metal shed. I can say one thing for sure: there were (or might still be?) rats or mice in there. Now that worries me. So far I’ve not seen or heard any, but I’m only about a quarter of the way into sorting the stuff in there so I’ve not moved most of it. There is a bit of poo and some evidence of chewing anyway.

One of numerous dolls my mum made me growing up which I saved from the shed unharmed. Her name is Lucinda.

One of numerous dolls my mum made me growing up which I saved from the shed unharmed. Her name is Lucinda. She’s probably about 27 or 28 years old.

Star Wars Kinder Surprise toys I rescued for the Dude. I'll chuck them out when he's had a good go at them.

Star Wars Kinder Surprise toys I rescued for the Dude. I’ll chuck them out when he’s had a good go at them. As you can see, he’s already pulled apart the empire’s fighters. The Millenium Falcon is also missing.

My old crayons! I got these when I was first learning to write, probably about age seven. I know that because on the back on a piece of masking tape I've written my name and the lower case 'a's are back to front, which is something I did only when I was first learning.

My old crayons! I got these when I was first learning to write, probably about age seven. I know that because on the back on a piece of masking tape I’ve written my name and the lower case ‘a’s are back to front, which is something I did only when I was first learning.

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My uncle’s old guitar that he gave me. I had it restrung and was told that it was very cheap and would never stay in tune, which is true, but I had held onto it. That’s the Dude’s little hand having a strum using a marble for a plectrum, as you do. He loves it and has even been ‘singing’ while ‘playing’.

Things I think and/or hope are in there:

  • My mum’s blue 1980s fur coat. She bought this with her inheritance sometime in the 80s and I don’t think she ever wore it. It’s seriously the most hideous fur coat you’ve ever seen, and that’s saying something, considering how hideous fur coats can be. From memory, it has massive shoulder pads, it’s about 3/4 length, with dark blue arms and the body is striped blue, brown, cream and black fur. I think ebay may show me some love, if it’s still in mint condition. I was meant to sell it on ebay six years ago but yeah…
  • My artwork from the Canberra School of Art. I remember doing some really cool drawings and paintings that I’d like to see again. Either I’ll realise I was never that talented or I’ll finally have something to frame.
  • Old diaries. Now the chances that my diaries from the age of ten onwards are in the shed are pretty remote, as I could have sworn I put them in a small wooden chest and gave them to my mum before I went to the UK. But if they are in there, oh joy! Some more blog posts will be forthcoming then! In fact a whole series entitled something like, “The embarrassing musings of an insecure yet arrogant adolescent”…
  • Cool stuff in the old trunk my mum had before she met my dad. Now the trunk is there, I can see it, huge and green and metal with my mum’s first married name neatly written across the top in red paint. What’s in the trunk is the mystery. I’m hoping for some awesome old photos or writing, but it may just be a bunch of useless crap I wanted to put on ebay. Either way, I’ve got to move the Edwardian sideboard out and get rid of it before I can get to the trunk. Now that little baby is going on gumtree as soon as I can drag it out, brush off the spider webs and take the crappy crockery in it to the Salvos.

I don’t really know why I’m writing this post or how it could possibly be interesting to anyone but myself (maybe my mum, although I don’t think she likes my blog very much because of that post about migrants and some stuff that didn’t seem accurate. Plus she is worried about people out to ‘get’ me via the internet. Cos yeah, they don’t have anything better to do I guess). Anyway, it’s about 40 minutes until Mr C gets back from chasing the Dude around an indoor playground wanting dinner and I haven’t even started making the ‘south east asiany type thing with chicken or something’ that I promised earlier, so I’d better end here. I should have done more ‘proper’ writing but got distracted by Florence Welch’s hair and then started looking at pictures of Christina Hendricks and decided I like Florence’s hair better and will try and get that even though I haven’t got the right shape face and don’t have money for hairdressers at the moment anyway. Yeah, you can see how I get distracted from proper writing. So much for freelancing from home. Back to the drawing board. Stay tuned for an update on the shed investigation and while you’re waiting, check out this amazing performance, one of my favourites!

Money, cars, houses, decisions

Reading a blog recently detailing the life of a man who migrated to Australia with $7 in his pocket and within a few years had bought a house, car, and established a successful career, I began thinking about nature versus nurture when it comes to practicalities, choices and material successes in life. It struck me that this story illustrated perfectly why my belief that my capacity to plan and organise is entirely inherited is actually total rubbish. I realised that being successful, making sound choices and managing finances sensibly is a skill, a lifestyle choice in fact. What is interesting about this story is that this man adopted a child from a very poor orphanage in a third world country who in turn became very successful, investing in property at a young age and running a number of businesses. So many of the choices the son made were based on parental advice and parental demonstration of good planning and hard work. Many of the qualities I would consider to be inherited genetically were actually passed on by example to the adopted son.

It’s hard not to feel envious of the kind of success this family enjoys. But I know that any envy is counterproductive and a waste of time. These people do not envy. They get on with being successful. That is one of the secrets of their success, not wasting time and energy comparing themselves with those they compete with.

For most of my life, I’ve had the distinct impression that my lack of success financially and my inability to plan and organise is genetic. I think this belief was cemented by family members, with their actions and words. There was always an undertone of lack of control over circumstances, a helplessness and despair that infiltrated my life growing up. Ambition was encouraged (the sky’s the limit, you are talented and capable) but ultimately there was no demonstration or guidance around the practical realities of achieving goals. Something was disconnected along the line somewhere.

I think it must have been about 1960 when my great grandfather – my father’s father’s father – died suddenly. He was only about 60, fairly young, but not for our family. He actually had assets when he died – a bit of savings and a house. My dad was 11, the eldest of four at that stage. He related this story to me a few times but I really don’t remember all the details. Suffice it to say, the six of them – my grandparents and four kids – were driving in their very old heavy car up a steep hill. My grandparents were having an argument about the money my grandfather’s father had left him. My grandfather had it with him, a wad of cash. I dare say this probably had to do with my great grandfather keeping his money in the mattress in cash. He was apparently a communist and didn’t like banks. He’d had an experience during the first world war that instilled this believe in him.

As the argument came to a head, my grandfather got frustrated and stopped the car halfway up the hill, throwing the pile of money up into the air and turning his back on the car to stomp off up the hill on foot. My grandmother didn’t often lose an argument, even if in the wrong. Like me.

Unbeknownst to grandad, the car’s handbrake wasn’t on properly and the heavy, iron chassis began to roll backwards down the hill. My grandmother would have been terrified as she never learnt to drive and was always stopping her children from doing anything that might result in an accident. Grandad heard screams and turned to see the car rolling down the hill so he began sprinting back down after it. There was no way he could catch up. My dad, having been around cars and mechanics fairly often, knew what to do. He jumped into the driver’s seat and applied the brake. All were saved.

This is so typical of my family, at least on my dad’s side. We end up in these ridiculous situations and they’re always to do with cars and money! Everyone used to talk about how cursed we all were when it came to cars. What it illustrates to me, however, is this constant lack of control over life. The car running down the hill is symbolic of this. I used to have nightmares as a child of being in a car rolling down a hill, out of control. It wasn’t the fear of crashing that was most frightening, it was that sense of helplessness.

I once heard someone say it is all about attitude. Attitude to life, to success, to finances, to relationships, to yourself. What what is attitude, exactly? Is it a choice? Those that have a bad one would probably say it isn’t. But I believe it is. And I believe making the choice about one’s attitude is easier if you have the results of maintaining a positive, confident attitude demonstrated to you growing up. I don’t think I had this, and I think it did me much damage. But I will do all I can to choose a positive attitude for the sake of my son, to make good choices. Everyone takes risks in life, but there’s a massive difference between a risk based on carelessness and disregard and one based on respect for yourself and those around you. I’m choosing the latter.

 

Remember when you were young…

This must be the longest break from blogging I’ve had in years. I’ve been thinking about it the whole time, wishing I could just take that hour or so out and write, but it hasn’t happened. I have good reason for slacking off: we’ve renovated the whole house, painted every room bar one, most of the outside, replaced almost all the floor coverings, every door except one, and all the light fittings. I guess it probably doesn’t sound like a lot. We haven’t gutted the kitchen or anything, although we did replace the bathroom sink and both toilet cisterns. It hasn’t been a complete renovation but it surely has been a huge undertaking and the results are pretty good.  I’ll post some photos at some point.

Anyway, aside from that, which happened in the space of less than six weeks with a week in Thailand in the middle (we had it booked, we had to go!), I’ve also been working full time which has been a massive challenge. The work was relatively challenging although nothing  I couldn’t handle. It was dealing with the internal politics that took its toll. It’s the public service, typical really, but it’s been a while since I’ve worked full time and I’d forgotten just how carefully one has to play the game.

Part of a letter written in 1918 to my great great great grandmother. She seems to have been very kind to a woman whose son was killed during the war. Her own son was too. Nothing to do with this blog post, only that it captures a moment in time...

Part of a letter written in 1918 to my great great great grandmother. She seems to have been very kind to a woman whose son was killed during the war. Her own son was too. Nothing to do with this blog post, only that it captures a moment in time…

So it’s been full on, and I haven’t had a moment to even plan a blog post, let alone write one. I’ve had so many ideas jump into my head but I’ve been too busy to jot them down or draft something short to remind myself, so they’ve gone. I’d really wanted to do NaNoWriMo this year and try and beat my previous pathetic word counts or, shock horror, actually win, but no chance, just too much to do. The good news is that the renovation is done and the house is now on the market. I’ve also finished my contract at work, so in between job hunting and preparing the house for viewings, I’ve now got a bit of time to play with.

I got to thinking this week about the twists and turns life presents us with. Ever since I met Mr Chewbacca, my life has felt a little bit out of control. Not unmanageable or difficult, just a little bit beyond my grasp; kind of like chasing a horse but still holding its bridle. Life becomes complicated by relationships. But life would be nothing without them. The Dude has complicated my life immensely but I wouldn’t swap him for anything.

It’s bizarre to think about the hugely diverse situations I’ve ended up in so far in life. Once when I was 11 I stood around the back of my old primary school dressed as an Arthurian musician and kissed a boy.

When I was 18 I was fiddling with the car radio while driving after having had my license for only three months and didn’t give way at an intersection. The woman I collided with shouted at me and I cried in shock. My best friend’s mum happened to be there at that moment and took me to her place, which I was on my way to. My mum couldn’t afford to fix her 1979 Renault station wagon and we drove it around for months with the entire front panel dented in so far you could see the suspension.

When I was 21 I met a boy and had what can only be described as a religious experience, ending up randomly at his house somehow and not leaving until the early hours of the morning when I crept out past the open door of his parents’ bedroom as they slept. That relationship lasted six years.

When I was 28 I travelled through the Scottish highlands and was invited by an old man to become a weaver on the Isle of Harris. I reluctantly refused.

When I was 29 I met my mirror image, my soulmate, but I didn’t know it, and life has been surprise ever since.

When I was 32 I lay in a pool in the living room of a Vaucluse mansion and gave birth to a baby.

When I was 35 I tried to write and it just didn’t come out the way I wanted.

I am reading the autobiography of the father of an old friend at the moment. It’s not a masterpiece, just a detailed and interesting account of a varied life, a legacy of sorts, and it is quite inspiring. I find myself becoming so envious of other people’s ambition and drive to achieve. I wish I had that. It’s there but I can’t channel it outside of myself. I have my book idea, the main one, sitting right at the front of my mind, desperate to be written, and I know it is good, but it just won’t come out. Or perhaps I’m not making time for it. Yet again, my resolutions for 2014 will involve writing discipline. This time, I must succeed, as I feel I’m running out of time to write this book…

The Canberra commute

So I’ve been working again now for a could of weeks, as I mentioned, and I drove in the first couple of times but taking the car is both impractical, as Mr Chewbacca needs it, and expensive, as the Forester eats fuel like mad. I’ve been taking the bus, which isn’t too bad, although relatively restrictive and takes longer than it needs to.

Since moving back to Canberra, I’ve had the thought that a bike might be a good idea. I have wanted to get into cycling for a while now, as I think it’s a good way to get around and get fit at the same time, and it’s really common to commute to work by bike in Canberra as the bike paths are so great.  The trouble is, the last bike I rode was in London, one that Blacksnake (one of my flatmates) stole on his way back from a drunken rampage, and I actually fell off it in the middle of Richmond high street, which was extra embarrassing as I was going about two kilometres an hour at the time and was just generally not coordinated. I can’t say I’ve ever been the biggest fan of mountain bikes, and this was one, a men’s one but that experience haunts me, although generally speaking it was a fun ride as we went from Hammersmith to Richmond Park and back and it was the best hangover cure ever!

My old bike looked something like this, only pink and sparkly. The seat was white with gold sparkly piping. Gorgeous! I actually hated that it was pink, but that’s another story…

I got my first bike for my 7th birthday. It was a pink, sparkly Repco with white handlebars and 22 inch wheels. I wanted a small blue bike that was almost already too small but my parents got me this one with its adjustable handlebars and saddle. I had a very rare tantrum in the shop, crying and carrying on. The main issue with it was that I wasn’t a very confident rider and I couldn’t touch the ground with both feet at once while sittig on the saddle. I’d never fallen off a bike and I was absolutely terrified at the prospect, not just of hurting myself but of being less than perfect at riding it straight away. The story of my life, it seems…

That pink Repco was still hanging around in my mum’s shed when I was in my early 20s. I’m not sure what happened to it now, probably got donated when she moved house, but needless to say it was a good investment as it was still rideable after I finished highschool. Although I was less than enthusiastic about being seen riding it in public by then. And of course riding a bike involved exerting effort which was something I tried to avoid at all costs, particuarly once I hit puberty. I had zero motivation, zero determination and zero confidence, even though I masked all this by claiming that I ‘couldn’t be bothered’ or that I ‘had better things to do’.

Since the birth of the Dude, something has really shifted in me in relation to my capacity for motivation. I had previously overcome my negative attitude after dating a very positive, driven guy for about six years, but going through the massive physical endurance of childbirth, particularly the birth that I experienced which involved 38 hours of contractions and a baby flipping from breech to vertex during labour, really changed me for the better. I realised, as I’m sure I mentioned at some point (maybe here) that I had really only been using about 10 per cent of my physical capacity through my life to that point. I wanted to run a marathon, climb a mountain, do any kind of physical endurance type activity. I could actually do all that stuff!

Earlier this year, I had a kinesiology session with a lovely friend who has just begun running her own practice. I had no idea what it was about or how it could benefit me, and to be honest I didn’t quite buy into it, sounded a bit airy fairy hippy and not based in reality. Yes, of course, I am quite airy fairy hippy myself, but often I like to see evidence of something before I will go along with it. But my friend is awesome and lovely and intelligent, so I came to it with an open mind. It was easy to do that as I googled a bit about kinesology beforehand and was none the wiser!

At first I couldn’t really tell if anything was happening. I didn’t know what was meant to happen or how the session was meant to progress. She gently asked me questions and did muscle testing, which seemed completely bizarre at first but I read about it afterwards and got some clarity. Anyway, regardless, it worked! I couldn’t believe it. One minute I was lying there trying to think of a traumatic event that had happened when I was four, as was suggested, something to do with my mum, my family. Something that shocked me and upset me. It’s hard to remember that far back, but I tend to be quite good at it. Suddenly, as my friend continued on with the session, I got an insight and I remembered something really horrible that had happened around that age. “Wait, I know what it is,” I said. And I related the event to her. As soon as I said it, I began to feel like I was falling. I lost my tummy, just like I do when I go on a roller coaster, or even just over a steep hill in the car. I have serious vertigo to the point where I can’t really function at heights and I feel dizzy and like I’m falling. This was exactly the feeling I was getting as I lay on the massage table relating my story. In that moment, I realised the vertigo wasn’t part of me, it wasn’t permanent, even though it’s something I have struggled with virtually all my life. I suddenly realised it was directly associated with this particular frightening incident that had happened when I was four. It was such a relief! I left the session feeling lighter and when I thought about doing something involving heights, I didn’t get that same sick feeling in the pit of my stomach any more. I still felt like it would be a challenge, but something I could actually do. I was changed. I’d always just assumed being afraid of heights was genetic as my mum has a similar issue, but I realised after this session that I could let all of that go and actually enjoy things like others do. I felt sad for the five-year-old who gritted her teeth and pretended not to be afraid when being pushed on the swing. I didn’t have to be that way.

As a result of this kinesiology session, and coupled with my new found motivation for moving more, I actually felt realistic about being a fit person. As soon as we talked about moving to Canberra, the thought of getting a bike poked its head up, and I haven’t been able to shake it since. Now that we’re here, I feel like I could really do it. I really want to do it! The trouble is, the commute is not short at between 16 and 18 kilometres, and I know next to nothing about cycling and bikes. I have done a fair bit of googling and reading online and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m after a hybrid bike of medium size but other than that I have no idea. About a week ago we went to a bike shop and I actually got to try one out, a Giant Cypress, and it was freaking fantastic! I rode around slightly dodgily and the Dude, sporting a random helmet he’d picked up somewhere in the shop, ran around chasing me. I really enjoyed it, and even though it was slight over my budget at about $550, I think I can get something awesome for what I can afford. Only time will tell. Now I have to come up with a way of actually building up to being able to commute so far! Can I bring myself to use those weird bike racks on the front of buses? Will I fall off and look like a douche? Will I actually be able to stick at it long enough to enjoy it and be able to commute each way every week? I don’t know but I’m going to find out…

How the tables have turned

So things have really been up and down since settling in Canberra. The main issue we’ve been facing is that we have no income, yet we’re trying to renovate a house for sale.  We were both applying for jobs, but it was hellishly frustrating as we’re both somewhat unemployable: Mr Chewbacca as he’s not yet a citizen, and citizenship is required for a security clearance needed for the majority of government jobs, which make up most jobs in Canberra; and me, as I’ve not worked in nearly two and a half years.

I have to be honest and admit that I wasn’t applying for absolutely everything. The main reason for this was that I felt completely drained of the confidence I left the workforce with back in April 2011. Yes, I’ve done a few bits and pieces of work here and there, but none of it full time or in an office, and certainly not challenging or suitable for adding to my CV. I wondered whether I really could do what I’d done before, and my hellish experience in 2010 working for a large charity organisation and being treated like total crap and victimised all came flooding back. I didn’t want project management roles, not that that’s my forte anyway, but with the right amount of confidence and commitment I know I could get anything.

I’d been quite surprised at being offered an interview for a role about three weeks before we left Sydney, and I ended up doing the interview over the phone. I think I stuffed it up a bit, partly because phone interviews are hard, but also because I rabbited on a bit and it was obvious I was elaborating too much and talking a bit off topic. I also asked a really dumb question at the end of the interview. So no surprises that I didn’t get any further contact. So I had a tiny bit of confidence due to being offered that interview, but soon it dissipated when I applied for quite a few government jobs, working really hard on the selection criteria response, and had absolutely no requests for interview.  I also applied for quite a few roles through recruitment agents and had zero response there too. They’re looking at my CV thinking, what the hell, this woman has no recent experience!

Mr C spoke to literally every recruitment agent in Canberra and they all came back with the same thing: you pretty much need to be a citizen to get anything in Canberra. Demoralising. He was encouraging me to apply as much as possible, given he thought there was no possibility of him getting something, although we did prepare a couple of applications for jobs that came up in ACT Government, which doesn’t require citizenship. I must say I was surprised not to hear anything back, as I used to work there and I know the application process so well. Anyway.

I saw a role advertised on Seek that was with a recruitment agent I hadn’t applied to yet, so I applied. And, miraculously, the next day I got a call back from the agent wanting further information! I had a quick chat with him about my relevant experience for the role, a temporary communications job at the right level, and he said he’d put my CV forward. He didn’t even end up speaking to my referees, as he said he got a ‘good feeling’ about me. And the following day, I was invited for an interview! The organisation, a federal government statutory authority, sounded fairly boring, but the agent assured me that the role was suited to me and the people were lovely and fun and interesting. He gave me a fantastic package of information to help me prepare for the interview, which was at 9am on a Wednesday. I was nervous, but I immediately felt at ease with the people who interviewed me, and I just spoke freely about what I’d done which seemed to gel so easily with what they asked. It was entirely informal and I knew I’d done well. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but as I drove away I thought to myself, “we do really need the money, but I actually genuinely want to work in that office!”

And the following morning, I got a call from the agent. Good news! I got it! I spoke calmly to the agent, trying to take in the info he was giving me about going in on the Friday for a handover and starting on Monday, but as soon as I got off the phone I ran and jumped on Mr C, screaming!  I’ve never felt so relieved! The pay would be decent, enough to pay our mortgage and bills and finance the renovation, and the work would be varied and enjoyable. Mr C would be a stay at home dad, which would work out so well as Dude is daddy-obsessed at the moment. The only negative is that Dude would have to cope without me all day, or more importantly, without boobie all day! But strangely enough, he just coped. He got a bit upset when I had to leave on the second and third day, saying ‘mah mah mah work!’ and shaking his head, which means, ‘no, I don’t want you to go to work!’ but he soon said goodbye and was quite happy with daddy all day, just having boobie in the evening.

I’ve just completed my first week at my new job and I have to say it’s fantastic. My boss is amazing, so lovely and chilled and fun, and the people in my team are just lovely, easy going and friendly, helpful and kind, interesting and funny. It’s been tough getting up so early as I’ve been catching the bus which makes a 20 minute drive into an hour, but providing I don’t miss it, it’s quite relaxing to sit and read or whatever and listen to music. I’m considering other commuting options, other than the car, but that’s for another post.

So far, it’s great. Only one hitch: just yesterday, the end of my first week, I finished up feeling absolutely exhausted but pretty happy as I’d written my first media release and had it signed off by the Chief Executive with no changes. Mr C checked his email after Dude went to bed and found an email asking him to come for an interview for one of the ACT Gov jobs he’d applied for. it’s higher pay than mine and, looking back to see which role it was as we couldn’t remember, having submitted the application so long ago, we noticed it was one that we’d actually submitted late! We sent it through a few hours late with an apologetic note saying it was an honest timing mistake. Obviously they were cool to accept the application. So… how we’re going to tackle this, I don’t know. If he doesn’t get it, well, he doesn’t, and we continue on as we are. But if he does, which would be amazing financially and in terms of career for Mr C, it totally screws us in terms of the Dude. He has never been in care, and I don’t think I could do it to him, even now that he’s two and fairly tough and self-sufficient. I don’t think I can handle the thought of him being with strangers all day. Just this last week I’ve really not seen him that much, only an hour at best in the morning, and an hour or so at night, not including overnight of course where he’s still right next to me. We could consider the option of a nanny or perhaps family day care might suit, but yeah, I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach at the thought of leaving him. This is all probably crazy, as Mr C hasn’t even had the interview yet, but I know how impressive he is and how dodgy the ACT Gov is and I think he’ll blow their socks off.  We’ll just have to wait and see…

 

Coming full circle

It’s been over a month since we arrived in Canberra. I expected to be blogging sooner but our Internet connection got screwed up and we had to wait. So this was drafted on my phone and finished over the weeks after our Internet was connected.

The move itself was insane. An interstate move is hard enough without hiring your own truck and having few volunteers to help load and unload. We really struggled to get people to help, due in part, I think, to my inability to embrace Sydney as home and make friends. Those who ended up coming to help were amazing! We planned four hours to load, meaning we’d be in Canberra for unloading at 3pm, but it took a lot longer, over two hours longer actually, which meant the truck, with Mr Chewbacca and our good friend S in it, arrived in the dark! The house at least has good heating, and we had a few movies on a USB to plug into the tv and stare at while we wolfed down pizza and beer before passing out. Dude ended up being in bed two hours after his bedtime. It was awful having to pull the mattresses and bedding out of the truck in the dark.

Packing and unpacking boxes is a thankless task!

Packing and unpacking boxes is a thankless task!

The next day I roped a couple of people into helping with the unloading which was easily done in an hour while I fiddled about trying to locate the coffee machine and get caffeine into everyone. What an ordeal! Yes, we saved a lot of money that we really haven’t got, given we’re both unemployed, but I can guarantee I won’t be attempting that again. It was made extra hard by needing to clean the new place before we could put stuff away. We’re only now finally unpacked, with a couple of near-empty boxes still floating about.

I am so glad to be out of Sydney! Despite the fact that we still have no income and we can finally see just how great a renovation job we’ve got to face, it feels good to be here. The weather has been great, some frosts and cool, crisp days, and we’ve been doing a bit of exploring. I’ve even been going for walks around the neighbourhood, which is something I never did when I lived here before. It feels great to exercise again (more on that aspect in my next post) and I’ve realised more and more just how strangely familiar this move is for me.

When I was two going on three, the same age as Dude is now, my parents and I moved to Canberra from Sydney. My dad was to get a job in the public service. We moved in with friends who had raved about how great Canberra was for kids and had relocated there a few years previously. I have vague memories of being there in those early days, and I’m pretty sure I had my third birthday there. Our friends had two huge German shepherds that would run around and up and down the stairs that led down to the back yard, stairs that seemed to go on forever. I once slammed my ring finger in the thick, oak front door. Blood was everywhere and my finger is very different from its counterpart on the other had to this day. My mum was more upset than me, I think. Somehow she thought if I were let to run wild a bit I’d be damaged. Or something like that anyway. The other kids, three of them, with the middle boy being my age, were louder and more outgoing than me. I think back and wonder whether I’d be more outgoing now if it weren’t for being cushioned. I don’t know.

My blurry photo of the first house I ever lived in Canberra

My blurry photo of the first house I ever lived in Canberra

Earlier this week, on the first of my energetic walks, I walked to this first house I ever lived in Canberra. Coincidentally, it is only about 40 minutes walk from our current house. Typical me, I still remember the address despite not having been there in at least 25 years. I wheeled the stroller containing a sleep-fighting dude along the complex network of walking paths that extend across most Canberra suburbs, through the awesomely convenient tunnels under the main roads (they used to seem scary to me as a child; now they’re just very convenient, although I often expect them to smell like stale urine. Most don’t actually). I ended up approaching through a cul-de-sac, where some other kids our friends knew used to live. I won’t ever forget watching Dirty Dancing at that house, after being forbidden to watch it by our mums. I think I must have been about eight. The cul-de-sac leads into what used to seem like a huge park in a massive expanse of empty land. It wasn’t as big as I remember! I walked past where there had been swings once. Huge boulders that seemed even bigger when I used to climb them still lay as if scattered by some giant.

I turned right onto the street and the house was next to me. It was pretty much exactly the same, albeit smaller and a little more overgrown with trees and hedges. I wanted to stop and snap a photo but felt like whoever lived there now could see me, so I just pointed my phone in the general direction and took a picture without stopping. Hence the pointless image above.

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One of Canberra’s many footpath underpasses – Dude loves them, he shouts ‘echo!’ as we go underneath

As I walked up what used to seem like the steepest hill in the world, I thought that this move to Canberra, while great, is definitely not a permanent one. I now have a new-found love for this place and I will always love it as my home town but I think we need to do what we came here to do and move on to Melbourne where we can start fresh. In addition to my lingering need to get a feel for life in Melbourne and hopefully settle there permanently, I have this uneasy, suffocating feeling about repeating history by staying here. There are too many similarities between our move and my parents and mine over 30 years ago and while I’m eternally grateful to whatever force caused my parents to leave Sydney, many of the things that happened in Canberra to my family were not great and I don’t want any possibility of any more history repeating itself. There’s more to say, but I’ll leave it at that.

So after a brief chat with Mr C, the decision has been made to prep the house for sale and blow this Popsicle stand as soon as we can. So much more to do yet but at least we have a plan!

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One aspect of many that we need to do with at our Canberra place – the back yard. This is actually part way through the work we’ve done to date, which involved removing 40-year-old Banksia roses that were so overgrown, they were starting to collapse the fence. We’ve now planted cypress trees around the fence which will eventually grow into a high hedge.

An unexpected change in the plan

Okay, let’s face it, there wasn’t really a ‘plan’, per se, more of a general hope on my part and perhaps a bit of dread on the part of Mr Chewbacca. But we certainly didn’t expect to be moving so soon, especially interstate, and not even to Melbourne! The big move to Canberra, back to my old stomping ground, is happening in two weeks! No need to read any further, but if you want to know the story…

Let’s begin, well, somewhere logical. Things have been a bit strange for us recently. How do I explain it? I began typing out the whole story, but deleted it as I was up to 450 words and hadn’t even gotten to the actual change of plan yet. Basically, through a weird turn of events, we ended up without an income between us, buying a brand new car. We got up on a Saturday morning, early, as is inevitable with a two-year-old, and I spontaneously said, ‘let’s do a road trip to Canberra’. We wanted to give our new car a run and we hadn’t been to Canberra since before the Dude was born. So we booked a cheap hotel in the city and off we went for a night.

It was great being there again after so long, and I realised there were so many places I wanted to take my boys. It’s a great city for children, so much to do and so easy to get around (due to lack of traffic, not availability of public transport!) and we had a great time just enjoying the clean, cool air, walking under the autumn trees, playing at the park, eating pancakes. It felt comfortable. In fact we both breathed a huge sigh of relief as we drove down Northbourne Avenue into the simple, clean, empty, order of it all. Pre-child, I felt trapped and bored by it all, but it was a totally different experience as a family. Despite all the goodness, as we drove home on the Sunday afternoon, I said to Mr C that I am absolutely certain that the move to Melbourne is the way forward and although living in Canberra might be nice enough, it’s not where we need to be, and he agreed. It was so nice to have that confirmation.

Fast forward a few weeks and Mr C had come so close to getting a number of jobs but still nothing! I had begun to apply for a few jobs, but half-heartedly. Leaving the Dude would be hard and having to travel in Sydney for work even harder. God I can’t describe how much I hate Sydney! And the city is a complete toilet! I would seriously be happy never to have to see it ever again in my life. There is nothing there for me.

About two weeks ago, I got an email; the tenants who’d been living in our house in Canberra for nearly six years were moving out in a month! Within a few minutes, after completely freaking out, we realised that paying rent and the mortgage would be an impossibility, given we had no income as it was. We’d previously had an agent go through the place (it’s been rented privately this whole time, I got lucky with some lovely tenants) and he’d indicated it would need some serious smartening up before it could be rented out again. It had been renovated a bit before I bought it, but that was nearly eight years ago now. No doubt it was looking tired. We realised that renovating and paying the mortgage and our rent too was impossible and crazy. I think it was Mr C who jokingly suggested we move to Canberra and live in the place while we fix it up. I think I knew from that moment that we’d actually be doing it, but I couldn’t just say it; Mr C takes time to deal with changes like this.

After a couple of days of speaking to friends, getting some perspective, and finding ways to stop freaking out, we agreed: we’ll move to Canberra. And with that, we were excited! Of course, since then, the reality of our decision has set in. We’ll be hiring a truck and doing it ourselves – hopefully this time it won’t be covered in graffiti and six hours late (long story there) – and we have had to recruit some friends to help load and unload. In addition, we’ve discovered, as I feared, that Mr C is unlikely to get a job in Canberra because he isn’t eligible for citizenship until January. So although he’s applying, I am kind of on deck to get something. Which isn’t totally scary. I’ve applied for a few and still have more to apply for, and I actually had a phone interview, which was a surprise. I don’t think I was successful as it was two weeks ago now and I’ve not heard. But still, there is hope if I can get an interview despite not really having worked for two years.

What is totally fantastic about this move, aside from getting out of Sydney which is like a dream come true, is that the Dude will get to have a bit of time in Canberra, kid utopia and we’ll get to enjoy the second half of winter properly. No more humidity, no more mould, no more 20 degrees in the middle of winter! And despite our excitement, we are still focusing on our eventual move to Melbourne in six months. Just in time for Mr C’s 40th… I’m going to have to come up with something good to make it perfect!

The writing of a book: part 2

I don’t think there was a time in my life when I didn’t want to write a book. I vaguely remember learning to write, although it feels like I’ve always known letters and words. I remember learning to form the letters, but at some level I’ve always recognised meaning in letters and words. It’s the most innate way of communicating for me, which sounds totally bizarre, but it’s true; speaking is fun and often fluid but doesn’t feel as natural as writing for me.

I’ve had ‘the idea’ running around in my head for about five years now. It has morphed a bit, but it’s been there waiting to be written. There are some other ideas that have been hanging around for longer than this one, but I know this is ‘the one’ for the moment. I’ve known for a while.

Recently, after getting a copy of Burial Rites by Hannah Kent to review, I was reading up on Hannah and her journey to becoming a published author (and apparently securing a kick arse publishing deal!). I found a fantastic piece on the Kill Your Darlings literary journal where she talks in detail about the process, from the time she first stumbled upon the idea for the book ten years ago on an exchange program in Iceland, to the days she spent holed up in her writing room despairing at ever getting this thing done. She seems to have read the same ‘How to write a book in 30 days’ series from the Guardian that I’d been poring over for a while. Oh how inspiring to read this honest account of writing a first novel! She is clearly a very talented writer and has been working on her craft for a number of years, given the book is part of her PhD in creative writing. Her promise to herself to write 1000 words every day really struck me; while I can’t realistically do the same, I can get pretty close to it. After all, most blog posts I write (this isn’t one of them, by the way) just flood out and suddenly I look down to the discover I’ve written 800 words without even blinking. I’m not saying they’re ‘good’ words, but it proves I can churn the writing out when I knuckle down, which is essentially the way one writes a book.

So I began. I plotted a bit of an outline, although I’m not referring to this at all. It became a way of organising my thoughts, or sort of releasing some of the rubbish that was clogging up my head. And then I began writing. I did my best not to second guess myself or edit along the way and I tried not to think about how awful the writing was in some parts. As I progressed beyond a measly 2,000 words, I started to feel disillusioned. The writing was getting worse! I couldn’t even continue much beyond that, so I left it for a day. I couldn’t get the thought out of my head. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all. The only reason I didn’t give up on the spot is that I have been here before; I know my inner critic very well, and I know she likes to find ways to stop me. My high school English teacher, Mr P, used to say it was good practice to get up earlier than you normally would and write while you’re half asleep; the inner critic isn’t a morning person. Of course, I never managed this as I’m definitely not a morning person, and now I have become one through becoming a mum, I never get a chance to get up early enough to beat my son to it and have any time alone to write.

As it was whirling around in my head depressing me, I mentioned to Mr Chewbacca what had happened to my writing. We’d spent a few minutes in a coffee shop the week before having a thoroughly enjoyable and motivating conversation about my future book and how I might structure it, and although he’s not a writer, he is highly intelligent and very good at ideas and concepts. He also gives excellent feedback. This time, when I complained about stalling so early on, he hardly said anything. Just by talking about it, I realised that I needed to keep going. I realised that all the crappy writing needed to come out before I could get to the good stuff. It had to come out sometime, why not now? It’s seriously so awful. But in amongst it, there is some lovely stuff.

So I’m going to have faith that the crap will eventually be cleared out and it will make way for some goodness. I’m going to keep writing. My goal is an arbitrary 100,000 words, although I suspect, like Hannah Kent, I might just stop one day and realise that the book is finished.

I’ll be writing many more parts to this ongoing saga until the book is actually finished. Given I’m only on about 3,000 words now and most of it is utter garbage, there will be a few more posts yet…

Truth is the cornerstone of good writing

Reading an article from an Allen & Unwin newsletter I subscribe to, I came upon the title of this blog post. It struck me as particularly relevant to my writing. I struggle with the truth. Not necessarily with telling it, that’s easy; but telling it to someone, anyone, who reads my writing, that’s difficult. Actually, I’ll rephrase that: it’s frightening to think that my truth may not be that of others.

When I was in year 11, age 16 or 17, I started an English class with a new teacher. Let’s call him Mr P, for the sake of anonymity. This guy was awesome. He was the first teacher that gave me hope that my writing may be worth something, that I actually could write, that it was interesting and worth reading. It’s the most depressing thing in the world to be compelled to write but to think your writing is no good! I don’t know why, but I remember writing a short piece, I can’t even call it a story, about my grandparents and their ‘nicotine-stained hallway’. That phrase sticks out to me, as it was one that Mr P highlighted saying he thought it really worked to paint a vivid picture. To me, it was just fact: my grandparents were chain smokers their whole lives, and not only were their walls stained dirty yellow with the smoke of their constantly-fuming cigarettes, all the spines of their books, photo albums, and even pictures hanging on the wall were discoloured. I was just writing what I knew; and it was perfect.

I didn’t show that piece of writing to my grandparents. In fact, I don’t think I showed it to anyone. How would they feel about my description? And that was only the tip of the iceberg. I began to write about the time we went to the leagues club and my dad and granddad let my grandmother have too much to drink and she couldn’t stand up properly and had to be bundled into the car as she sang some old Beatles song. I was furious with her. I can’t remember what I said exactly, something about her being a disgrace (I must have been about 14 at the time) and I can remember her sitting in the back seat next to me giggling and slurring, “oh, am I drunk?”  That seems something of an amusing anecdote to an outsider, but to anyone in the family, it is fairly confronting because we know that she was an alcoholic. I probably shouldn’t even be admitting that on this blog, but oh well, she’s been dead over ten years now and I don’t have a lot to do with the members of that side of my family who’d be offended, so what the hell, right? Sorry to anyone reading this that is offended; but you know it’s the truth. And you know what an extraordinary woman she was, regardless of her emotional problems. So it’s not worth getting upset about.

Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to get at here is, when is truth okay? When is it okay to strip back the layers for the sake of expression? Is it okay to be raw when it’s cathartic? And where should one draw the line when it comes to revealing others’ painful truths? For me, admitting to my grandmother’s illness is something of a release. I feel as if I’m doing good by being honest; because she found that hard, and that’s understandable, she was ashamed. There’s something about writing about this sort of ‘real’ stuff that infuses the writing with more power. It becomes interesting somehow. Mr P noticed that, and it was he who first explained it to me. I was kind of annoyed when he first told me to write about what I know because prior to that I’d always written fantasy type stuff and that was the antithesis of what I knew. I was like, hang on, how can just writing stuff you know be the answer to writing well? How can it be that easy? I had been told by a previous English teacher that my writing was cliched and I took offence to that. But it was true. Good writing is characterised by its meaningfulness to the writer.

Recently, someone close to me read a post on this blog. She knew it existed but I’d never actually sent her a link. I was proud of the post I’d written, having had some lovely feedback from friends, and I thought she might enjoy it or at least give me some feedback in the same vein. Instead, the opposite happened. She mentioned it had some factual inaccuracies firstly, and secondly she thought I was leaving myself exposed. Apparently ‘people’ are always out to get you, and they use any means by which to bring you down. So you shouldn’t reveal too much of your ‘real’ self publicly. I felt deflated and sad. Once I’d moved past these feelings, I realised I simply didn’t agree. And that was okay.

I read a lot of amazing blogs. Soulemama, Edenland, RRSAHM, Wanderlust, Flux Capacitor, Stand and Deliver, The Girl Who, The Byron Life, The Bloggess and a wonderful one of a woman I know that I just discovered yesterday – Kirrilee Heartman. This is just a small list – there are more that I read and enjoy. And you know what they all have in common? They are about the truth! A truth. My dad never agreed with me when I used to argue that everyone has their own truth, that there aren’t many things that are equally true for all; he thought I was fence-sitting I guess. But I still believe this, and I think that’s why blogs and life writing are eternally fascinating. People are interesting. And fiction is fabulous, but someone telling the truth (even if it is ‘their’ truth, and a total lie for others) is the most inspiring thing in the world for me. Keeping it real, that’s where it’s at. So even if I piss a few people off unintentionally and what I say isn’t true for everyone, I’m going to keep on telling it like it is, right here to begin with.

 

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