Friday, 10 March 2017

Post No.5

I've been 'gunna' write a post for over a week now. 
Sorta tried. Sorta didn't. 
Despite having a shiny new laptop.
Despite being in a whole new world.
Despite wasting so many empty hours that Level 100 of both Bubble Witch and Panda Pop are both well within sight.
And when I look at my 'reasons', I find myself not just back on The Rock but right back in my youth. Back in my insecurities, back in my need to please, stuck in the back of my own mind. 
Having people read my posts brings me happiness. It keeps me connected, reminds me of what I value and, I guess, helps me feel I have worth. Or perhaps worth is not quite the right word. Maybe a more accurate way to express this is to say that having people read what I write helps me to feel that I have a point. That there is some sort of point to me
To my being. 
To my being at all.
Domed roof of the ancient cold store at Kew Gardens
Before we left The Rock, I was full of ideas about what might inspire my blog posts: objects in museums;  shows, exhibitions and plays; restaurants, cafes and shops; architecture, gardens and people-watching.  I even thought I might call the whole blog Wendy OFF the Rock while I am here on the other side of the globe.
But then I got stuck. 
After a mere four posts from London, I became bogged.
And what was the mind-cement?

'Are you going to write a funny one again this week?  They're the best.''I especially enjoyed your post about the lights... it made me laugh.''I always read right to the end of the humorous ones.'

I got stuck in my need to please.
I paralysed myself with the desire for approval.
Nothing funny about that.
So here for your enjoyment...
or not...
are some of the things I haven't written about:
The walk home from Marks & Sparks food hall
Celadon bowls that survived a shipwreck in the year 1100
Inside the Apollo Theatre
Bulgogi tacos at Jin Juu
I think I'm unstuck now. 

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

I wasn't expecting that...

Last year I told you how I'd started a gratitude jar
I also confessed to being rubbish at following or creating daily routines. 
The plan idea vain hope was that this positive activity of routinely recording something for which I was thankful, or perhaps, more likely, the nightly moment of guilt at not yet having completed the task, would turn things around. My gratitude jar would inspire a new positive habit.

Not even close.

By May, it was accumulating little more than dust. 
Round-about July, I tipped out the bits of paper and filled the vase with flowers: the instant gratification of the flowers preferable to the long-term benefits of repetition.

I suck at routine. I suck even harder at change.

But I knew when my life was relocated to the other side of the planet, I was going to have to embrace change. In lots of ways. And in lots of things.
And in me. 
So I decided it would be wise to start with a small change in my behaviour. 
Well, to be honest, it's not that small. Not for me.
But it's not huge...

Anyway, size isn't the issue here. What I decided was that I would make a conscious and quite deliberate effort to make more eye-contact with people. Anyone. 
And I pledged to myself that I would smile more, even when on a crowded London street, or in a train lined with phone-focussed commuters.

The consequences have, so far, been both gratifying and perplexing in equal measure. 

Certainly, it requires some thoughtful lip and cheek muscle action on my part to generate a perfectly casual, genuine-looking lips-together smile and avoid looking loopy... or creepy. I don't think I've actually frightened anyone. So far.
However, I have found that the smile-to-smile-response ratio doesn't seem to be consistent. Whilst there is, undeniably, a higher rate of return from women, a great many still insist on pretending I am invisible. And on some days, so many people barrel straight into me, or shove in front of me, or remain propped rock-like in my path that I begin to believe I am invisible. 

But that's not what I wasn't expecting. What has really taken me by surprise is how often, now, with my routinely eye-level gaze, I catch sight of someone amidst the hoi-polloi who looks familiar, a face that matches another, a sparkling champagne bead image that pirouettes to the surface of my memory. 

Now, I understand about doppelgängers. Apparently, the chance of having a living one is 1:135. More if you add animals to the mix. No, that's not what I have found befuddling.

The thing I wasn't expecting is that nine times out of ten, after the image has registered and I've done the mental double-take, after I've marvelled at the glistening pearl of memory bobbing at the very top of my mind... it pops in my face.

The bubble bursts as I realise that I have just matched that random-whoever-on-the-street with a specific-someone from my experience... just exactly the way they used to look. Decades ago. When we were at school, or uni or in a hot smoky pub dancing to a live band. In the '80s.
Long ago and far away.

What do you think? Is this a cause for concern...this seeing people as they were? Is it an inevitable product of aging, or a trait uniquely and weirdly my own?
And should I persist with my puckery old-lady lips-together smile and continue trying not to look loopy...or creepy? 
Or would I be better off just working on that invisibility thing?

Friday, 10 February 2017


'I would luv to see a video of you at yoga and zumba, now that would be a giggle sis.'

Perhaps I’m being my characteristically oversensitive self, but I confess to being a tad affronted by this decidedly unflattering and considerably less than supportive response to my revelation that after a rather overly lengthy period of relative inertia, I have commenced a rigorous fitness regime of Zumba on Tuesday mornings, and yoga on Thursday evenings. 

(Can you tell I’m reading George Eliot again at the moment? Check out the word count on that sentence. I could've gone for a PB if I’d chucked in a semi-colon.)

But back to the topic at hand. 

Never in my 58 years have I attempted either Zumba or yoga. 
I was rubbish at aerobics back in the day. And I have given a couple of those women-only 45-minute circuit gyms a bit of a thrashing at various times over the years but, generally, the thought of exercising in front of anyone other than the dog terrifies me. 
I hyperventilate at the mere prospect of being in near-proximity to spandex, lycra, short shorts, and racer-backed sports tops. And a wall of mirrors will see me slink as far to the back of the room as possible.
That's not 100 per cent accurate.
I plant myself in the far corner of the back wall of any exercise class, even if there isn’t so much as a square-millimetre of reflective surface in the near vicinity.

So, no schmancy high-class gyms for me. I’m taking both classes at the local community centre… in the same room that hosts the Chinese playgroup, the ukulele ensemble and the LGBT Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Secretly, I’m hoping that one glorious day a monumental scheduling error will result in all of us being in there together.

Lindale, the Zumba instructor, is a ridiculously cheerful once-professional dancer who frequently entreats us to 'open the chest' and  optimistically implores the use of 'beautiful arms'. The hour-long class features pretty much the same routines each week, and after 4 weeks, I’m actually starting to anticipate what comes next, because Lindale isn’t one for counting beats or shouting out instructions about what to do next. He’s having too much fun merengue-ing with his invisible partner, shimmying his maracas, and voguing wherever the opportunity arises.

Staying in step is particularly tricky during the ‘rest’ songs. 
Especially the saucy jazz classic Fever. 
While I favour Peggy Lee’s moves:  

Lindale seems to be channeling Madge:

Or maybe Madge's backing dancer... 

What’s that I hear you say?
Fever doesn’t have a salsa-inspired Zumba beat.Well, I did say it was a rest song.




The truth is it’s a Zumba Gold class. 

Yes… OK… I admit it... It’s only Zumba for geriatrics. But it can be tricky. Really it can. Not as tricky as yoga (and no, it's not yoga for the over 50) but it's still tricky. 

And I still think my brother is mean.

He should read more George Eliot.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Making light of it all...

Short days and dull skies. Lack of light. 
I feared that central London life would cloud my spirit in damp grey, begrime my thoughts, stir the black dog into mindless circling in the fog. 
I thought I’d ache for golden sun. 

I needn’t have. Our little attic cave has none of that.

What it DOES have, is so many goddamned  sources of artificial light that I swear the lux levels are leaking through my eyelids and infiltrating my dreams. 

The smoke detectors have blinking green lights.

The security panel has a glowing red light.

And in what can only be considered every disco-divas dream, the stair lights change colours. I shit you not.

I boogie my flat arse up and down to those babies most every night and I'm here to tell you they don't stop till I've had enough.

Magic motion-activated LED strips illuminate the wardrobe as the doors open. Ever so convenient and niftily, they also turn themselves off after a wee-while if the dressee has neglected to close said wardrobe.

Slight hiccup with that the other night though. 
I don't know about you, but I favour the internal thermostat control method employed by 99.9% of menopausal women at night and stick one foot out from beneath the covers whenever I  need to cool down.

Yep. The bedroom, which, I might add, has four downlights and two wall-sconces all operated by two-way switches both at the doorway and beside the bed... not MY side of the bed mind you...HIS side of the bed... but anyway, the bedroom is so small that my preferred method of heat-relief caused a spontaneous party in the wardrobe. 
HE was not amused.
But to be fair, I think it was probably my giggling that pissed him off.  

The bathroom mirror boasts a touch-operated wrinkle-enhancing frame, able to be switched from startling white-light apparently designed to reveal every sun-spot and enlarged pore, to a gentle soft glow, just low enough to fool a 58-year-old woman into thinking she's done a pretty good job of concealing every sun-spot and enlarged pore with her deftly applied tinted moisturiser.

Possibly because the it's both windowless and about the same size as the wardrobe, the bathroom also has a motion-activated light. Meaning, of course, that if one needs to have anything more than a quick whizz, one will soon find oneself pants-down in the dark, at which point it becomes necessary to flail one's arms about in a most unlady-like manner to remedy the situation.

Lack of light is most certainly not a problem up here in the attic cave.
Up here, where The Bee Gees live on.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Wendy OFF The Rock

 'What do you think you're going to miss about Australia?'

We were enjoying our usual early morning dog walk when my neighbour nonchalantly asked this huge question.
This immense, vast, frightening question.

The first thing to break through the universe of silence and seas of tears that surrounded it was, 'Well, aside from some people I love very much... and my dog... the space. I think I'm going to find it difficult to adjust to not having vast open areas of sky and sea outside my window. And to living in a small flat...'

Of course the answer to such a monstrous large question is impossible to predict before the event.

We've only been living in this small London flat for a month, so my life still has a surreal not-quite-right holiday feeling. I haven't yet had time to feel the ache of distance because I've been occupied with busy stuff. Daily trivia: what to cook for dinner, where to buy a decent pan so I can cook whatever I'm going to cook for dinner, how to carry home and then lug up five flights of rickety stairs said pan and ingredients to cook said dinner... 

Now, however, that daily trivia is punctuated by moments of sheer amazement and wonder — a puddle turned to ice, a big red bus navigating our little street, a plaque quietly declaring that someone who changed the world once lived on that spot, a glimpse of a Victorian sitting-room through a Harley Street window snapshot moments I remind myself never to take for granted.

Here is no domed welkin; instead, stone spires, brick dwellings and glass towers highlight and reflect all the sun sends their way. Or doesn't send. Or can't send through the fog or the rain or the drooping clouds.

Here is no rhythmic rumble of the sea, no rolling water rebounding off rocky ledges and shell-strewn sand. But sometimes, unexpectedly, the cry of a gull reaches through the city's chatter, beckoning me to turn my head. Reminding me to look up and beyond.

Over the next few years, while we're living here in London, the answer to my friend's colossal question will no doubt become more clear. 
No doubt I'll write about it some more, and I hope you'll be with me to help make sense of it all... or non-sense of it all... 
of my new life as Wendy OFF The Rock.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Broken bickies

It’s a universally accepted fact that should circumstance necessitate a hasty and preferably unseen raid on the biscuit barrel, you should always pick the broken one … or ones… 
Calorie leakage.
That’s a thing, right?
Like the way the debris at the bottom of a bag of chips doesn’t count as food. And the obvious truism that any of the edible matter you absentmindedly pop into your mouth while making school lunches or preparing dinner, or indeed, when preparing any sort of foodstuff to be consumed by anyone other than yourself, doesn’t count as something worthy of recording in a daily food diary. 
Of course not.
Surely even those food-tasters for Hitler and the ones allegedly employed by various alleged American presidents still ate proper meals. Gosh darn it, as far as I’m concerned, nobody deserves better quality poison-free meals than MY family and friends.
Anyway, over the years I’ve garnered a few other interesting diet-related verities:
  • if it’s green, it counts as vegetable
  • if it’s a vegetable it doesn’t count as carb
  • if it’s liquid and doesn’t contain Coke or milk, it counts as water.

And just this past weekend, my significant other introduced me to another such food fact. 
He was, as he so frequently does, consuming his brunch – which in this case was a hearty chunk of sourdough toast lavishly heaped with avocado, tomato and fresh basil – while standing looking out the kitchen window.

I have always, foolishly I now discover, assumed that the motivation for this manner of eating was his deep-seated desire to conserve energy. Eliminate the need to fetch and then wash a plate by allowing the crumbs and debris to fall directly into the sink.
But no.
Apparently, the calories go right down the sink with the fall-out.
Who knew?

Oh, plus apparently if you don’t put salt on the tomato, it increases the nutritional value.

So help me out.
What amazing diet-related facts have you discovered?

Thursday, 5 May 2016

My son has left home...

Nobody prepared me for this. How could they? So much about being a mother is impossible to understand until it happens.

There’s a pulsating hole in my being that keeps morphing into tears. 

There’s no right way to do it: mothering. 
Despite all the books and discussions and studies and predecessors and worry, we all just make it up as we go along. 
I know that. 
But I still wasn’t prepared for this.

My manchild, the beautiful creature whose existence became connected with mine eighteen years ago and changed everything forever, has left home to go to university. His room is empty. And a previously unknown kind of heartache occupies my soul. It’s unfamiliar and frightening, because it’s so vast. It feels interminable.

My son is a man in the world and I am an absent part of his history. His story. I’m an absence that stretches to the end of his life. 
And mine.

But somehow, alongside this absence dwells a new joy.   
A fresh delight washes through me each time I hear his voice. A never-before-experienced contentment settles into that throbbing emptiness when we are together and I can feel how happy he is in his freedom and independence.

It’s not pride.

It’s not relief.

It’s just warmth. 

A whole new kind of mother love.

My son is a man in the world and I am forever present in his history. His story. My mothering is a presence that stretches to the end of my life.
And his.  

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Could you please not...

I recently discovered that I am not the only woman in the universe who has had an argument inside her head with Uppity Cricket, Jiminy Cricket’s annoying older sister.
More than once.
A lot more than once.

Me: Seriously Dude, I’m gonna bust. I gotta say something…
Uppity: No. It’s OK. Let it go.
Me: But this is, like, the fifty-squillionth time.
Uppity: All the more reason to let it go. You don’t want to sound like a nag.
Me: No. You’re right. I DON’T. But I’m about to…

What follows is an oft-repeated not-altogether-totally-unreasonable request like:
Please don’t wipe your hands on the couch.
Would you mind not leaving your surfboard in the hallway?
Could you please refrain from sitting on your sister’s head?

A few times a week, my neighbour and I walk our dogs the five-kilometre roundtrip to the main road.  Naturally, we chat.
Yes, I fully understand that unless we’re walking fast enough for our conversations to be little more than random grunts and huffing noises we’re not doing our hearts any good.

Or losing any of the weight you both piss and moan about.
Put a cork in it, Uppity.

Anyway, as I was saying before I so rudely interrupted myself, we were enjoying one of our walking/chatting/therapy sessions when my neighbour purged herself of some teen-induced incredulity by sharing with me her most recent ‘ Could you please not…’ conversation.

‘I couldn’t believe I had to say it,’ she bemoaned as her little fluffy-slipper dog daintily munched on a lump of wallaby poo. ‘ I hate being the policewoman. And I just knew I was going to get the eye-rolling response. But honestly… Where’s the common sense? I shouldn’t even have to mention it …Would you please not use the white silk cushion as the stable-table for your bowl of tomato soup? is a sentence that should never have to be uttered.’

I think she felt better just for having put it on external speaker to a sympathetic listener. 

I think my mentioning that I’d had to utter Would you mind not picking your nose and wiping the boogers on the dashboard of my car?  and Could you please not cut your toenails in the kitchen?  in the not-so-distant past helped pick up her mood a little too.

Screw you Uppity Cricket.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Word Wankery

Miss 15 informed me that her Humanities teacher had set the creation of an AVD for homework this week.
A what?
Audio…Visual… something?
Alternative Virtual Doodad?
Altered Voice Description?
You know what it was she had to create? On paper—paper that was stipulated must be larger than A3 size. 
Yep… you’ve guessed it.
A poster.
A common All-classroom Very-old-fashioned Device for presenting information, now apparently referred to by the pretentious acronym AVD : Annotated Visual Display.
Call it whatever highfaluting truth-obscuring name you like, it’s still a damn poster.

I hate word wankery.

Dr Dad, the international roaming guru of Accounting Standards also known to immediate family members as Lawnmower Man, has recently participated in a workplace pilot programme for ‘ the Agile Workspace’. No kidding. That’s what they call it.
WTF is an ‘agile workspace’?  I hear you oh-so-sensibly ask.

Well, basically, it’s a super-expensive funkily-decorated open-plan office where nobody has a walled off area to call home, and, on a daily basis, only the exceptionally fleet-of-foot and sharp-of-elbows get to have a desk.
Sorry. That’s wrong.
Not a desk.
A workstation within the workspace.

In the name of increased efficiency and reduced rent, every morning the members of his team have to set up their computers, connect up their phones and portable headsets, put all their other stuff in a locker — not a designated locker of course, just whichever locker real estate is currently available — and settle down to begin the day in the focus zone of the agile workspace.

Unless, of course, they need to indulge in some idea collaboration. Then they have to ensure that they have pre-booked a collaboration zone.
This photograph is real.
Or perhaps they might discuss the latest troublesome audit over a game of ping-pong. Or better yet, in the environs perfectly suited to creative problem solving: the LEGO corner.
I shit you not. 

And if they have an extremely sensitive phone conversation to have with a top-secret client …well…  perhaps they could pop into the sleep pod? It may be a just a little like Max Smart’s Cone of Silence, but at least they can be sure nobody else will be using it. Who’s going to let anyone know they sleep on the job?

in recognition of the latest universal understanding that sitting down causes cancer, the agile workspace is, of course, equipped with both standing workstations and treadmill workstations, which, of course, are a very popular choice with women in heels and men in ties. (Margin note: me trying to  type and treadmill would be akin to me simultaneously patting my head and rubbing my tummy.)

Professionals comfortably collaborating in agile workspace (Photo:Sydney Morning Herald)
The firm has gone beyond mere wankery with words in creating the agile workspace. It's taken highfaluting truth-obscuring to a whole new level and crossed over into WTFsville.

Why does a spade have to be an individual void manipulating device?

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

The gratitude vase

Instead of making a new year’s resolution, I started a gratitude jar. Well, it’s more like a bowl than a jar. Actually, to be utterly accurate, it’s a vase — a gratitude vase. I knew there was no point in promising to give up vino, or cut down on food, or step-up in the exercise stakes… all of which would have been wise choices, but I know me. All of those things were also predetermined not to succeed. Willpower is not my middle name. So, in a moment of foolhardy enthusiasm, I opted to celebrate 2016 with a gratitude jar.

You know how they work. Every day I note down something for which I’m thankful or that makes me smile. I put the date on it and then drop the little coloured billet-doux to life in the vase with its predecessors. I know gratitude jars have been around for centuries. They’re no doubt generally regarded as utterly twee, possibly even totally passé by now. But I’m a slow learner. It takes me a while to catch on to things. Especially if they are new habits.

And that’s where I seem to be falling down. It’s not noticing the good stuff. That’s the easy bit. It’s the regular, do-it-every-day, make-it-a-new-part-of-the-routine bit that’s doing me in.  

You know how when you take antibiotics, the doctor and the chemist and the person at the cash register and your mother and your bestie and your neighbour’s second-cousin all remind you that you have to take every single one of the 10 or 12 or 14 or however many are in the prescription or they won’t work? Well, I never do. I never manage to take every single tablet and the last few rattle around somewhere unnoticed until their use-by date is a distant memory.

Other things I regularly fail to make a part of my daily schedule include:
  •  30 minutes of exercise
  • making the bed
  • sweeping the floors
  • meditation
  • being nice to my husband.

The great and ubiquitous ‘they all’ tell me that just doing something every day for thirty days ensures that it becomes as natural as cleaning your teeth.  To be honest, I don’t know if this theory holds true. I never make it to thirty days.

What’s happening with my gratitude vase is that I seem to be stockpiling my expressions of approbation into clumps of half-baked thanks instead of neatly sautéing one each day. 

I’m a little worried that my gratitude vase is judging me.

I have a list of dates and reminder words scribbled on a tatty envelope next to the bed. There’s another one on my phone. And I’m wondering whether a pen and paper in the drawer in the upstairs loo mightn’t be a good idea too. 

The comments all make it into the vase eventually. 
Every day is acknowledged. 
It’s just that I tend to complete and deposit several days’ worth of notes at a time… a week's worth even… 
I guess, on the upside, I should be glad that I haven’t given up on my gratitude vase.
I’m not a total fail at gratefulness yet.

My gratitude vase in its natural habitat