Archive for December, 2009

On Carolling

Posted in Uncategorized on December 19, 2009 by ladyredjess

Sometimes I just have to admit that there are some things the English do better. The first Christmas I had in London, I wandered down to Trafalgar Square after work. It was dark and cold. I was homesick and miserable. But there, in the square below the steps, were a group of carollers singing so beautifully I started to cry.

Not long after, H and I stayed with friends in Dorset for Christmas. There was a little church at the back of their house, and as it started to snow (I was beside myself; snow at Christmas!) we pulled on gumboots and plugged our way through the mud to the church. Although I’m not remotely religious, the Anglican service has been drummed into me from chapel every Thursday at school, and I sometimes went with my grandparents to church on Christmas Day to make them happy, and I liked the ritual of it. So when we began to sing the carols a wave of nostalgia slammed into me: I remembered the heat, and the muted colours and dryness of the bush, and I missed my family terribly.

However, it was cosy in the small, brightly lit church. There were gravestones and snow outside. I was among a close-knit community and afterwards in the church hall we had dry mince pies and awful mulled wine, which was positively exotic. Later the next day, shivering with cold, we went in the ute to the paddocks and clipped mistletoe and red berries from the trees. It had been a warm winter, and the birds had eaten most of the berries so they were hard to find. Our friend’s father said the ground never got properly cold anymore, which seemed true: the following year I was shocked to find the trees at the Barbican blossoming pinkly in November.

This year I went along (fully of my own volition, because I like to do new things) to Brisbane’s Carols in the City with Sister et al. Sister is a bit obsessed with Christmas and carols, and had enough excitement to compensate for those who were less enthused. After finishing my Christmas shopping, I found them in the sea of humanity sitting on the dried-out lawn in the Botanical Gardens. ‘Can you stand up?’ I called her on my mobile. ‘It’s a bunfight in here.’

There was a lot of waiting. I got bored. A young lesbian couple in front of us painted each other’s toenails. The woman in front of me asked if her husband was blocking my view and winked at me. I said I was fine; there was no way I was going to get involved in marital discord.

An MC finally appeared on stage amidst purple neon lights. There were wailing songs, then a Baptist rap about Jesus. It started to rain. The children wriggled. A group of seven women dressed in wedding gowns came on and sang their bit. I was startled. Sister bemoaned the lack of carols. A group of immature boys, barely out of adolescence, took photos of the lesbians, thinking it wonderfully funny. I was unimpressed. Niece started to whinge. I remembered when Parental Unit had dragged us to a late night show at the Brisbane Expo some twenty years before. I was cold, bored and couldn’t hear the words, and I whinged too.

Finally, to avoid the crowds that would heave out, we left early. Sister said, ‘There just weren’t enough carols. Why did they have to have all those new songs?’ This, I agreed, blinking back exhaustion as we walked over the footbridge across the river, was not how it should be done.

However, in other Christmas-related activities, I attended Sister’s work Christmas party last night, held in a carpark. I drank too much champagne, resisted the urge to dance (dancing on tables was not Christmas party etiquette, F. reminded us at the start of the evening), and received a surprising award for ‘Most Supportive Other’ or, as a colleague put it, ‘Most Supportive Non-Functioning Other’ which amused Sister and I no end. Then I got fed up with trying to talk and listen to people I didn’t know well (a struggle once I’d had three glasses on champagne on an empty stomach). Heavily intoxicated, I got on my bicycle and cycled home at top speed, which was probably not a very clever thing to do, but it was exhilerating to cycle fast on a balmy night with one’s silk dress billowing behind.

This morning I woke feeling very sorry for myself, staggered about for a bit, drank two coffees, put Madge on my Ipod and sat down to clean and oil my bike, which proved most therapeutic.


On Everyday Ecology

Posted in Uncategorized on December 7, 2009 by ladyredjess

There are many reasons that I’m glad I’m home: my family (close and extended), old friends, the abundant sunshine, friendly people who make eye contact, fresh fruit, my favourite boutiques (Alannah Hill, Spencer and Rutherford, and Review), geckos clacking in the evening, open air pools in which one can swim without freezing one’s tits off, beaches with real sand and clean sea, eye candy in the form of healthy men who don’t run a mile at the sight of a capable woman, the bush, the marvellous Queensland State Library with views of the river, good coffee in non-multinational cafes, excellent cheap Asian food, my hilarious camp hairdresser in the ‘burbs, places where I can ride my bicycle safely and prettily, and of course the endless blue sky and the space.

However, after watching the Liberal party chew off its legs like a fox in a trap, I have begun to despair of Australian politics.  Although the isolation of this country is one of its appealing characteristics, it also means there is less exposure to the politics and policies of other countries.  Over the four years that I lived in England, the question of the environment and of climate change went from an issue that could be easily dismissed (there was no recycling in the residential college in which I lived for the first year, nor in the housing commission area for the second year) to something urgent and pressing.  Although England was initially fairly backward in terms of environmental policies, change and consumer awareness happened rapidly because of the proximity to Europe, where recycling and alternative energy usage were already mainstream.  There were also, of course, more people, which meant that groundswell movements could take off more quickly.

Here, by contrast, farmers in the country work the land the same way their fathers did, and their fathers before that, despite that the fact that we are running out of water and the land was never meant to be farmed with European methods, if at all.  There is a desalination plant either in place or being planned in every city.  Not only do these kill off the oceans’ ecosystems, they’re also energy-intensive, which means more carbon output, which contributes to global warming, which in turn means less water.  And a drier continent means we are more partial to bushfires.

And while Australia burns, Abbott, Minchin and Hockey fiddle their laborious tunes and play the game of My Dick is Bigger Than Yours Therefore I Should be in Power.  Who cares about our children, or our grandchildren, or even the country itself which, at the rate we’re going, won’t have enough fertile soil or water to support its population?

It’s clear that we can’t rely on politicians stumping around on bloodied legs, and that change can and must be done on an individual level, even at the risk of our efforts being cancelled out by the permits being handed to industry.  Because what we need is the shift of a national mindset, and that will happen more effectively if it’s viral rather than imposed by above.  This doesn’t mean you have to become a greasy-haired hippy (I, for one, will not give up my shoe/handbag/frock addiction), but to think sideways, and to make changes where you can: ride, walk or catch public transport instead of driving, uses buses and trains instead of planes (where possible; it’s a big country), use aluminium water bottles instead of plastic, get a worm farm if you have a garden, re-use as much as you can, pester your council member to increase recycling and make cycling easier and safer, especially for deaf cyclists who like to wear stilettos.

Counting carbon is like counting calories, but it’s far more beneficial than anorexia.  Brother-in-law scoffed at me for wanting to ride to Avid Reader to get a book for a friend rather than having them post it to the PO box, but posting would have meant creating carbon through making the packaging and driving the parcel to the post office, when on my bike it would have cost nothing.  Maybe it’s addictive personalities that take up the cause like this …

Or maybe it’s just that I love Australia, and want my children to have the quality of life that I have, and the stupidity and selfishness of the naysayers means the likelihood of this is becoming increasingly dim; obscured, no doubt, by the smoke from fires.

In which H returns to Oz (for a bit).

Posted in Uncategorized on December 4, 2009 by ladyredjess

Once again the last few weeks have been too crammed to write, what with thesis corrections to finish and H coming back from the UK for a month (and kindly bringing a bagful of my stuff home, seeing as I leave remnants wherever I stay) and a convoy of Whites to join for Cousin V’s wedding in Bundaberg.

As Cousin A had come up for the wedding and was staying a few days, we decided to make a night of it and go out on the town in Bris Vegas.  I had a lovely outfit from Review, purchased early this year but as yet unworn, and therefore needed an occasion in which to make it worn.  We glammed up and tottered (well, I did) to Cloudland, where SP joined us and then (being a Valley local), he took us to another two bars, and I, being very partial to cocktails, perused the drinks menu like a novel and licked salt and sugar off the rims of my cocktail glasses.

When under the influence of alcohol, I find it difficult to lipread, as it takes quite a lot of concentration and alcohol does tend to jeopardize one’s neural pathways.  So, being unable to converse, I have the option of sitting in a corner and rocking like a vegetable, which is a little boring, or hopping up and having a little dance.  Being a spirited girl, I invariably choose the latter, particularly as Cousin A was doing his groove thang too.  There wasn’t a dance floor as such, only a little area on the way to the loos, but we still got applause from some young ladies nearby.

Come 11pm, Sister needed to get home as she had to get the sprogs up early for school, and then we had to drive to Bundy, so she ushered us out.  I danced down the aisle between the bar and the tables and gave a random man a wink, then got caught up with the jazz music and started dancing with the band.  Sister gave me a minute’s worth, until it looked like the saxophonist and I were about to duet, and bundled me out.  I was perfectly happy, and kept on dancing on the pavement while the others found a taxi and Sister, also being under the influence of alcohol and similarly uninhibited, cast aspersions on a taxi driver in a turban which I shall not repeat here.  Suffice to say the Whites cast formality to the winds when they’ve had a few.

After that we met up with a few more members of the family – Cousin C and his wife and Parental Unit, and drove in a van to Bundy.  More of this in another blog.

After Bundy, H and I caught the overnight bus to Parental Unit’s, which was so disruptive I’ve vowed only to take it during the day in future.  It’s not that bad, as I can always pass the time by reading and I like the scenery; it just unfortunately takes 8 hours.

En route to the bus depot we got stuck in a traffic jam, and H decided we should get out of the car and run.  Niece stuck her head out the window and laughed as we trailled the car, which just at that moment freed itself from the tangle.  We caught up and got back in while the car behind hooted, and Sister thought better of sticking her finger up at the driver (as she has been known to do) in case he rammed her.

Finally we got on the bus with other sweaty passengers and H told me the bus driver said we would be watching a 3-and-a-half-hour documentary.

‘What on?’ I asked.  ‘Whale watching?’

‘It’s on the life of a Greyhound driver.’

The penny dropped.  ‘Oh,’ I said, ‘he’s joking.’

‘That he is,’ H smirked.

As we set off I asked H to call the taxi company to see if they’d still be open at 3am, which they were, and then to call mum to say she needn’t get out of bed to pick us up.

On arriving in town, H called the taxi company.  It took a while for them to answer the phone.

‘Hello,’ he said politely when a woman picked up.  ‘I’m just after a taxi.’

‘Why, has something happened?’

‘No, I was told to ring this number when we got into town to get a taxi.’

‘Well I guess I’d better come and get you then.’

It was then that H figured out he was talking to his own mother – he had dialled the previous number in his phone.  Dad subsequently arrived with the car, still wearing his flouro orange earplugs and, thank God, he had put some trousers on.

Poor Parental Unit.  It was funny, but also very wrong.

While at home, I wrote an essay for the Calibre Prize and more of my novel and swam and read and wished for a dog to talk for walks.  The sky brooded over the thought of rain and eventually decided to come up with the goods, breaking the heat with a storm.  H trundled around banging and hammering at some product he’d designed.  We had barely any fights with Parental Unit and watched some excellent DVDs – the original Stepford Wives (which was sinister), Capote (after which H told me not to write a bestseller until I was 80 otherwise I’d be crippled by fame), Bangkok Hilton (Nicole Kidman’s first film, and she was very good) and a wonderful indie flick called Eagle and Shark which was about New Zealand bogans.

And now H has gone back to gloomie olde England and I am very sad.