Archive for November, 2010

My Sister

Posted in Family on November 14, 2010 by ladyredjess

It is always a cliché that comes to mind when I think of describing my sister: she’s larger than life, as tough as old boots and she can talk the leg off an iron pot. She is also, on occasion, as mad a cut snake. However, in the flesh, she is absolutely original.

A natural antagonist, she was unable, while I sat quietly at the verandah table doing my homework, to walk past me without hitting me, pulling my hair, or poking me. I might have retaliated once or twice, by getting up and punching her, but it never resolved anything. In later years, as I mellowed, she found herself disappointed that she couldn’t wind me up the way she used to.

As the eldest child, born three years before me, she made mistakes that I learnt from, and is possessed with an admirable practicality. She fixes everything, from replacing the putty in windows to sorting out my problems. I remember calling her in tears from a payphone one lunchtime in Wynyard when I was on a temping assignment that I didn’t think I was doing well enough. She pointed out that if the company didn’t think I could do it, they wouldn’t have employed me. This was enough to help me get back and get on with my day. When my Mac died and the Mac Doctors were rotten at fixing it, she took the computer to a man she knew in Stones Corner, at Geekworks, who had exceptional customer service and fixed the computer free of charge to make up for The Mac Doctors leaving it inoperable. And today, when I needed to go to the doctor, I found myself distraught that she wasn’t here to call on. I didn’t begrudge that, as J1 helped, and she is having a wonderful time with the dogs at the Australian National Flyball Championships.

For my sister is dog-mad. She has always had cocker spaniels, and the highlight of her week is taking them to flyball training, and catching up with other dog-mad people. She comes home with stories that make me sore with laughter.

She is a born communicator, hence her job in public relations, and often amuses me with the phrases she picks up, such as “pocket-rocket”, viz. a dog so small it can fit in a pocket, but which goes really fast. She understands people’s motivations much better than I do, and can often see the other side of a story. She is also the loudest person I know. Sometimes I say, “I can hear you, you know,” and she replies, “I always talk like this. It’s automatic, in case you’re not wearing your hearing aid.”

However, when she and the family went camping, her husband commented how loud their children were. “And what excuse will they use?” he asked. “That their aunt is deaf?”

Once, on a bus travelling from Randwick to Bondi Junction where there were some red wedding shoes I wanted her to look at, she began telling me a story at great volume. A scrawny old woman sitting behind the driver turned around and snarled, “Do you have to talk so loud that the rest of the bus can hear?”

She retaliated so fast it took me a couple of seconds to work out what was going on. “Actually, yes I do,” she replied, “my sister’s deaf.”

The woman retorted with something I didn’t hear and my sister said, “I just told you, my sister’s deaf.”

By this point I realised the bus had halted at a stop outside a petrol station, its doors open.

I’ve paid for my ticket,” said the woman, “why don’t you get off here?”

And I’ve paid for mine,” said my sister, just as fast, “so why don’t you get off?”

Realising that she was defeated, the woman turned around in a huff. The bus started up again and pulled away from the kerb.

At other times my sister’s speed with speech turns to foot-and-mouth disease. In her university job at Hungry Jacks she couldn’t get the cash register to work and swore at it in front of a customer. The customer complained and my sister was nearly sacked but, fittingly, she talked her way back into the job.

My sister is one of the toughest people I know. When her marriage began to fall apart she held onto it for grim life and made it work. She has a determination that I recognise in myself, but where I apply this to my writing, she uses it to protect her family.

Like my brother, she has a shocking memory, but this is her coping mechanism. She forgets the things that upset her, whereas I, hurt more easily, file them away and process them through writing. My brother, meanwhile, just forgets things as a matter-of-course (many are the times I have told him a joke he has heard before and, having forgotten it, he laughs in exactly the same places).

My sister began her PR career in the beauty industry, then in haircare and fashion. This provoked my obsession with these selfsame fields as, always a generous person, she kept giving me samples of Guinot and Ella Bache, and sent me to the hairdresser she represented. Now she keeps me supplied in frocks, which is heavenly, but the expensive tastes never went away and I find myself scrabbling to pay for SKII cleanser and my gay Vietnamese hairdresser in the ‘burbs on my miserly writer’s income.

When you meet my sister, it’s like being hit with a hurricane of noise, colour and laughter. Eventually she calms down and you realise there’s a sharp wit and astute brain at work amidst the chaos, and that she’s unlike any person you’ve ever met before.

Happy Birthday Bec. I wouldn’t exchange you for anyone else in the world.


On Stops and Starts

Posted in Uncategorized on November 7, 2010 by ladyredjess

Life seems to have been frustratingly disparate lately, at least for a girl who likes focus, direction and deadlines.  There have been galling stops and starts, weeks interrupted by socialising and faulty hearing aids, bicycles and laptops, and battles with endless procrastination as I push myself to write.

On the day we held the funeral service for my grandmother, I was made an offer for my second novel, Entitlement, but I was too depressed to even open a bottle of champagne to celebrate.  I’m still waiting for the contract and the go-ahead, which is painful because until then I have no direction on the novel, and not being able to work on it makes me feel a little unwell.  Unlike with A Curious Intimacy, which I was sick of by the time it even made it to the publishers, and which I had to edit in the middle of writing a PhD, I’m desperate to be in the midst of this one.  It feels like it will be a more successful work: the characters are more real, the plot is tighter and more dramatic, and it has more relevance to contemporary politics.  I am already in love with it in a way I never was with ACI, which was a largely academic, feminist exercise, although the emotional aspects of it were drawn from experience.

In the interim I’ve been working on short stories, some of which have lain in my drawers for more than a decade.  Again, because of the nature of the work, this means more stopping and starting.  The worlds I’m writing about are smaller, the action briefer, and as it’s harder to get into the swing of it, I am easily distracted.  I’ve also dug out my thesis to rewrite it for publication, as once I begin work on Entitlement again it will take over my life and I won’t be able to concentrate on anything else.  However I’m struggling with one of the links between the chapters and so I keep walking away from it.  Things just don’t seem to be resolving themselves.

After the funeral I stayed at Parental Unit’s for a week, during which time their 7 month old whippet chewed up my hearing aid.  I had stupidly left it on the couch, having taken it out because the television was so loud (Parental Unit are also going deaf) and the subtitles were on.  When I saw the little bits of hearing aid scattered at my feet, my heart fell through the floor.  I extracted a final piece of the casing from the dog’s mouth and added it to the sorry collection of wire and microchip.  It’s still too horrifying to be funny yet, as the new hearing aid cost more than two grand, a rather expensive learning curve.

Mug shot of April, destroyer of hearing aids and ducks.

Then both my computer and bicycle decided to die on me, the former needing a new hard drive which, due to a total lack of communication by the IT nerds who replaced it (never use The Mac Doctors, people), wiped out my operating system and my applications.  It takes a lot to make me cry, but when I couldn’t get my laptop to go after several trips to Annerley, I burst into tears.  Not in front of said nerds, unfortunately, which might have helped them to register their incompetence and lack of clarity.  Meanwhile my bicycle, being an English brand little known in Australia, needs a new hub, which will be expensive.  However, as with my very pretty but largely uncomfortable and unwalkable shoes, I will endure whatever pain it takes to be able to keep on using it.

Despite all these literary and technological frustrations, summer is slowly creeping into being.  I have put away my boots and taken out my stiletto sandals; the flowering jacarandas make for a gorgeous ferry ride to the uni; H is coming home for good in two months and there is beach and holiday action scheduled for January.  And this weekend, the guilt and procrastination paid off as I belted out a wonderful and peculiar short story in two days, inspired by P1 and his mention of the aquatic ape theory.  When a story comes together this quickly, you know it’s working.  If only the rest of my life could do that.