Pandora’s Box

Back in the dark ages, in the dim, distant past when I was married, my husband bought me a very luxurious black leather briefcase to celebrate my birthday the year I got a big promotion.

Thirty years later I still have that briefcase and while I no longer carry it around with my sales catalogues and business cards, it does hold some very special papers.

These days I call it Pandora’s Box. It’s filled with old journals and copies of letters and emails between my ex and I when we were going through the meaty part of the break up. All the gnashing and wailing. All the justifications and arguments. All the pitiful pleading.

An open briefcase filled with papers.
Emails, letters and journals chronicle this difficult time of my life.

Declarations of love on Sunday where superseded by obscenities by Wednesday. I have trawled through it a few times with different effects on my psyche. In the Wine and Wedges days, (circa 2012) when things were fresh and we were still in each others lives, I would dissolve into a heap of misery and have yet another glass of wine!  I would look for clues as to when and where I could have ‘fixed things”. In more recent times, I have vowed to create a big bonfire on the beach and dance around the burning ashes with glee.

Recently, I went through the stack of double sided sheets again.  I started to put them back into chronological order to make better sense of them, thinking to myself there must be some blog-able gold in here somewhere! I could write a very murky expose about the demise of a relationship over a long period of time with all the indelicacies that would conjure up. But no, I am not that type. This post is about as tacky as I am prepared to get.

I was pleased I could read all the wretchedness and despair with a dispassionate eye. I came away feeling vaguely amused and not at all sad. I did however tsk-tsk  at the time it took us to take the final plunge. The time we both wasted trying to patch the hull of our Titanic. But still we came out the other side and I for one am stronger.

Much of the writing is over the top emotional dribble. Streaming consciousness on overload!   But some is gold. Of course, most is contextual and obviously a reply to  now forgotten conversations. The papers cover the time from November 2006 – late 2008. At that time,  I was in the middle of completing a Masters degree and I must say my vocabulary was much wider than it is now. I seem to have gotten less eloquent!

Now, when I talk about my divorce and my ex, I report that it was a relatively amicable separation and that we can still talk to each other in a civil tone. Reading back over this huge body of work, reminds me that it was really a death by a thousand cuts but some of those were bloody big gashes.

IMG_3871
A briefcase full of memories.

I am not going to spill the proverbial beans. I am not going to write that  tell-all expose, but here are a few of my favourite lines, some of the passages that amused me. They are all from my words not his.

...I had other things in my head but they are like shadows now and I keep losing them…

…as I read back over this, it is only part of what I wanted to say and I feel like I can never explain. It’s all the chicken and the egg story. I am not sure where the seed came from but our life has been covered in lantana. We are still underneath it somewhere but now it’s too late to clear it away. I stand here knocking on the door of your heart with the weed killer! …[oh dear!]

…I can not explain… once you get caught in the turning lane you just end up going with the flow….

Ten reasons why I like you…

….  10. You like watching the same daggy TV shows, you don’t like John Howard, you have a compatible outlook on world politics, religion, the relative merits of free range chickens and social justice. [chickens were a theme even back then!]

….

a photo of an email about ontological security.
I used to know what all this meant! And be able to joke about it!

Maybe one day I will get around to that bonfire. But for now I think I‘ll keep Pandora’s Box with it’s oversized memories to remind me of a once passionate time of my life. One that I don’t want to relive, but a time that  changed the course of my life irrevocably.

You never know, when I am ninety I might just write that steamy expose!

60 for 60 remix

A sepia photo showing a small lighthouse
The Little Lighthouse – Wollongong

A few weeks ago (60 for 60) I posted a list of activities that I intended on completing between now and my 60th birthday in May 2021. It was free ranging list and included little things like making a souffle right up to travelling to Scotland or Iceland.

I have been transferring the items to index cards which I intend to move from the to do to the done pile as they get done. I also thought it might be a good idea to work out  a rough schedule of when I would do the activity so I could make efficient use of time and money. For instance, I want to see an active volcano and go to Iceland. It would be sensible to see a volcano in Iceland.

P1030771

It was here at this point,  that I saw the flaws in my list. I knew the list was ambitious. I knew it would be expensive. As I tried to fit things loosely into a calendar, I simply ran out of time.  Let’s not even talk about how much I would have to spend! Of course, if I do end up winning the lottery (see this post) it will be fine! I can quit the day job and concentrate on the list full time. Unfortunately, though,  I do have to work full time to pay for my fun.

Photo 18-05-13 13 30 28

I need to regig, remix and reassess the list.  I need more small items that I can do without having to go anywhere or spend a lot on while still giving me a sense of accomplishment. I could replace all the travel with writing, but that takes time too. I want to succeed. I don’t want to set myself up for failure before I start by having unrealistic expectations and at the same time I don’t want to make it too easy either.

So here is the new list. The changes are subtle but they will make a difference.

  • Pay off extra on my current mortgage.
  • Sell some of my writing
  • Make a profit through Old Chook Enterprises
  • Sell some of my photos
  • Hit at least 1000 followers on WordPress (help me out here guys!!)
  • Hit at least 500 followers on Instagram (help needed here too!!) @robynlang3
  • Go to the UK, more specifically, Scotland
  • Go on a another cruise (6 – 10 days)
  • Make a 15-minute documentary that gets some success (define success!)
  • Finish the Buttons story (a sci-fi themed novella I am writing. Four out of 9 chapters done)
  • Write a screenplay
  • Finish the Anca story (another short story/novel idea.)
  • Finish the family history story about Sarah Anne Usher
  • Publish a blog post every week
  • Not to drink alone.
  • Do a woodworking course
  • Spend the weekend in Melbourne for my birthday again (I went in 2013)
  • Use frequent flyer points to pay for an entire international flight.
  • Photograph the Milky Way
  • Will do the southernmost extremity of the Australian mainland when I do a Melbourne road trip for my birthday
  • Paint the interior of my home
  • Get new carpet/floor covering
  • Re-read and do the steps in the Side Hustle Book.
  • Enter works into a photography exhibition – the Scarborough Art Show (October 2019)
  • Go six months without added sugar – I’ve started this one!
  • Road trip to Broken Hill, NSW
  • Fly in a hot air balloon in Australia
  • Write up the interview I did with Tracey and Sue about the Bibbulmun Track
  • Visit at least 15 more lighthouses in Australia. (I like lighthouses and want to see as many Australian ones as I can – there are more than 2000 so it might be a stretch to see them all!) There are 15 close to home (within 300 km) that I haven’t seen yet so this should be do-able.
  • “Day in the life” photography series for at least 4 people – follow 4 people in different occupations and photograph their day
  • Do an “extraordinary man” photographic series. An environmental portrait project.
  • Make a soufflé
  • Donate blood for the first time
  • Do a big >2500 piece jigsaw puzzle
  • Sell most my 2019 calendars (help me out here too!!)
  • Publish a 2020 calendar
  • Do another year of no new things in 2020.
  • Stop dying my hair and embrace the grey!
  • Finish a short course in food photography – Daylesford Victoria
  • Publish a cookbook of family favourites with my own photography
  • Do a short online graphics design course
  • Do some more light painting
  • Do an interview on radio/TV about something to do with Old Chook Enterprises
  • Modify the design and remake the running belt you made. A lycra belt to wear while running that holds my phone/keys and tissues etc. I have already made one but it needs some modifications.
  • Enter at least 10 writing competitions
  • Enter at least 10 photography competitions
  • Go on a writing retreat in 2019 (perhaps as a cruise?)
  • Do another cheese making course
  • Design some fabric to make some cushions for my home and to sell at markets
  • Have a 60th birthday celebration
  • Cut my time for 10km run to less than 56 minutes
  • Learn how to use eyeliner properly
  • Hold a market stall at least twice
  • Learn how to swim properly by getting swimming lessons.
  • Read at least 4 novels a year form the list of “good books”
  • Maintain weight at less than 60kg.
  • Learn how to do boxing style rope jumping and sustain for  at least 5 minutes.

Already done!

  • Buy a dymo labeller
  • Set up a saving fund for my grandson
  • Set up a worm farm
  • Pitch an article to a real magazine/publication (see point 49)
  • Create a passwords spreadsheet
  • Get a new phone
  • Make a will

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Whats gone?

  • Learn enough Italian to have a short conversation
  • Enter some photos in the Royal Easter Show (a big fair in Sydney, Australia)
  • Try being an AirBnB host
  • Write a children’s picture book
  • See an active volcano (I could do this in Iceland)
  • Go to Broome, Western Australia.
  • Get my first paid article published. I had this twice.
  • Tidy my garage -hmmm not really a life goal.
  • Get a new job – to get everything done I think I need stability in my day job!
  • Go on a really long walk like the Bibbulmun Track in Western Australia
  • Meet someone very famous.

 

Wish me luck! I will publish updates at 6 monthly intervals. I’d love to hear what you would have in your list. Please add your ideas in the comments below.

Travel values

a red watercan nailed to a white fence

I read an article about how the rise of the global tourist is killing Europe. It described how locals are being isolated and alienated in their own cities as bus loads of tourists arrive with their selfie sticks and cameras. Fresh off the cruise boat they don’t spend much, but they strip the place of its ambiance like a horde of locusts.

Am I a travel locust?

It was a slap in the face that I could not ignore.

A painterly photo of vineyards set in hills.
Winter vineyards in drought

It made me sad to think I could be part of a global problem, after all I have Do Iceland on my bucket list! Am I going to make it harder for the inhabitants? Will they get kicked out of their homes so I can rent a place on AirBnB? Will I be welcome? I have always felt that my tourist dollars were welcome. But at what cost? Sure I add to the local economy, but if it means the locals are unable to enjoy the amenity of their own home to the extent described by this article; I don’t want to be a part of that!

It got me thinking about my “travel values” and my “value as a traveller”. I generally travel solo although I have joined in on small group tours run by the likes of Intrepid and Peregrine. My impact must be lower than a cruise boat which docks with 2500 passengers for a few hours. It must; mustn’t it? I try not to exploit the locals by acting like the rich tourist who barters over the equivalent of 50 cents. That makes me an ethical traveller? Doesn’t it?

A cartoon person with one eye is painted on an old abandoned building.
Abandoned house

It’s time to examine my travel values. Here is an interview with my right shoulder guy (Reggie)  and my left shoulder guy (Louie)

Why do you want to travel Louie? To experience new things and to learn about the world. To increase my knowledge of and therefore acceptance for, people different to myself. To decrease the boundaries between myself and “the other”.

Is that the only reason: Ok so there is a little bit of one-up-manship in there too. Also a bit of vanity publishing as evidenced by this blog. Listen Reggie we want to be famous! This is our fledgling side hustle here!

We don’t have to fly somewhere on a jet and add to carbon emissions to experience something new? That’s true. Perhaps we  don’t. But we have our reputation as a budding photographer to consider here Reggie.

Ahh yes maybe? But Australia is an amazing place! Can’t you take fabulous photos here too? Yes we could but to travel for two weeks around Australia would cost us as much as four weeks in Asia and….

See there you go you are a hypocrite! It’s all about money!  NO! It’s not! I want to be a mindful, thoughtful, considerate, intelligent traveller….

Yeah sure sure you do!

But I actually do.

A green oil drum sits on top of a tree stump and is used as a mailbox.
Roadside mail box on the Mudgee Road

What ARE my travel values?

  1. To do no harm
  2. To meet and talk to the people who live in a place as people not as photo opportunities.
  3. To pay a fair price, not the lowest price.
  4. To take time in one place. Quality not quantity of adventures.
  5. To be active. Walk more, fly/drive less.
  6. To add value by taking less than I give.
  7. To get to know places well.
  8. To make friends.
  9. To reciprocate.
  10. To be a good ambassador for my own culture/country.

My travel slate is clear for 2019 at this point in time. With a serious drought affecting all of my own home state, I think I might make it a year to travel local and see more of this Wide Brown Land. My dollar will do more good here than abroad.

A road sign warning of kangaroos has been altered to show the kangaroo skiing.
Road tripping!

 

Furious Fiction

The Australian Writers’ Centre has a marvellous monthly competition. On the first Friday of each month they publish a set of criteria for a 500 word story. They allow 55 hours to write and submit the story.  There is one prize of $500. You can find details for Furious Fiction at this link.

I have entered a few times now and it’s great fun. While I haven’t won (yet) I have been enjoying myself immensely. The writing prompts seem to limit you at first but then as your brain gets ticking, the story takes over and it is indeed, furious!

In July, the restrictions (in addition to the word length) were:

  1. The first sentence had to be a question.
  2. You needed to include the words jam, jackpot and jungle.
  3. The last word had to be BANG!

You can find the winning entry and the short listed stories here.

Here is my effort.


Be careful what you wish for.

“Do you want strawberry or raspberry jam?” Gary asked with his arm hovering mid-shelf.

“What? What did you say?” she said as she shifted her attention from the young couple in front. They looked so peaceful. He just picked things off the shelf and put them in the trolley. The woman nodded. Nothing was said, and they went ahead.

“Strawberry, Gary. Strawberry will be fine.” Her flat voice failed to hide the anger that was ready to burst through her hot skin and slice him into a million tiny shreds!

When she had first met him, she thought she’d hit the jackpot! A caring fellow who always considered her before making decisions that affected her. She had been ready to leave the dating jungle, so she jumped in and got married.

Now after 23 years, he was so damned annoying! Could he not do anything without asking?  Could he not stand on his own two feet without checking in? Just once?

There only seemed to be one way out of this mess. He was worth more to her dead than alive. But how to make it seem like an accident?

“Do you want strawberry or raspberry jam?” Gary asked with his arm hovering mid-shelf.

He was always careful to make sure he asked her first. He knew if he didn’t there’d be an argument. Gary liked raspberry, but she always said strawberry. If he suggested they buy both, she’d bite his head off.

“Strawberry, Gary. Strawberry will be fine.” she snarled.

He looked away. The young couple in front reminded him of how it had been, once. They looked so peaceful. He just made up his own mind and put things in the trolley. The woman didn’t care. She didn’t censor his choices at every turn.

He thought about leaving Miriam. Every day. Her once charming wit had turned sour.  But he knew he couldn’t compete in the jungle where the cougars gobbled up younger men and never considered balding 57 year-olds with pot bellies.

After 23 years he knew her relentless brow beating would go on forever unless he cracked the jackpot and she carked it.

There only seemed to be one way out of this mess. She was worth more to him dead than alive. But how to make it seem like an accident?

Finished at last and with the car packed, Miriam got behind the wheel. She started to reverse then had to brake hard as the young couple from before walked behind them.  Miriam watched them in the mirror as they kissed.  She sighed.

Once on the highway, Miriam and Gary both stared mournfully ahead, secretly imagining their own personal murder-mystery episode.  Time passed, neither spoke. Gary turned on the radio to drown out the silence.

A flat-bed lorry carrying huge rolls of newsprint thundered past.

They were doing 100 and it was going faster.

The 18-wheeler swerved.

The load shifted.

The cable snapped.

The roll dropped.

 BANG!


This month’s Furious Fiction just started!! (If you’re reading this on the first Friday of the month!!) Have a look and get started!! You’ve got around 54 hours to go

Podcast delights!

I have added a new item to my pre-travel checklist; downloading podcasts so I can listen to them offline. Twelve to fifteen hours worth! In addition to the 12 hours or so of downloaded TV series/HBO movies etc I am set for two international flights.

I haven’t listened to the news on the radio in my car since May. My car’s bluetooth picks up where I left off on the last episode of whatever it  was I was listening to.

I have become a podcast junkie!

I have learnt many things and heard lots of inspiring stories.  On the downside, I know all about Blue Apron subscription food services, more about mattresses than I care to, including how much cheaper they are in the US compared to Australia. Dry shampoo, bras that fit, shipping options, and how Uber is changing.  Podcasts are usually free so to be viable they must have advertisers or some sort of paid subscription model.

I was not an early adopter and only discovered podcasts about 3 years ago. It’s now my preferred form of entertainment. It helps that I live alone and therefore don’t have to worry about having it interrupt other people.

If you are into reading blogs you probably already know what a podcast is but I thought I would do a little googling to find out the whys and wherefores of podcasting.  I found this  “quirky” (insert weird) little video which defines podcasts in some depth.

What is a podcast

I also found this timeline https://internationalpodcastday.com/podcasting-history/

Apple first started supporting the platform  in 2005. There are now over 525,000 active shows and more than 18.5 million episodes. (https://www.podcastinsights.com/podcast-statistics/)

This infographic from podcastinsights.com shows that podcast listeners are loyal, affluent and educated. More men than women listen to podcasts.

2018 Podcast Statistics

What are the benefits of podcasts?

Nearly half the listening is done in homes, and over 50% of US households have listened to podcasts. Lots of listening happens in the car.  I suspect the statistics are similar for Australia. The real driver behind podcasts has been the rise of the smartphone and the ease at which you can connect to the myriad of podcasts available.

While there have been lots of negatives that have come from smartphones this has to be a positive! Although decision fatigue may be a problem with so much to choose from.

Unlike books and movies or other visual formats, podcasts don’t tie you down to one spot. You don’t have to look at a screen. You can plug in your headphones and head off anywhere. Podcasts are 100% portable and allow for multitasking.

Many podcasts have an accompanying website which has “show notes” which includes links and more information about the content of the episode. Sometimes it has the whole transcript.

This is very handy because it’s frustrating when you are driving and the host mentions something you want to follow up but you don’t have the tools to write a note without breaking the law. (Hack: carry a little notepad and pencil! You can’t get fined for using that at the traffic lights!)

What I am listening to.

I have i-devices so I use iTunes although these days they have rebranded to Apple Podcasts. Here’s the rather eclectic list of the shows I subscribe to.

My current “A” list.

I try to listen to these each week.

Side Hustle School: Host Chris Guillebeau. https://sidehustleschool.com/podcasts/ American. Daily episodes of about 10 minutes with a monthly longer extended cut. I have had this one on high rotation and went right back to the first episode. Now I save the daily episodes up to listen to in one go on the weekend. It’s all about making money on the side without quitting your day job. Sometimes it makes me squirm a bit when I think about all the useless stuff people are trying to make and then sell as it does not fit in with my values of using less and re-using more. Still, it’s given me some ideas for ways to supplement my income which I hope to put into action in the next few months.

So you want to be a writer: https://www.writerscentre.com.au/blog/ep-244/ An Australian podcast hosted by Valerie Khoo and Alison Tait, both writers. Val is the head of the Australian Writers Centre. It’s free and has no ads except for courses at the AWC. It’s cheerful and Val and Al have a great rapport. The content includes interviews with writers and gives lots of writing and publishing tips. It also has a Facebook group you can join. One weekly episode, about an hour.

So you want to be a photographer: https://ginamilicia.com/category/podcast/ Another Australian one produced by Valerie Khoo but this time with Gina Milica. You can listen in the car but because they are talking about photography and  have lots of images on the website you really need to look at the show notes. Includes interviews and tips. Val and Gina are a bit racier than Val and Al and some episodes are very funny when they have had a few drinks! Gina and Val are both great ambassadors for Australia. If you are not Australian, you’ll love their accents! Once again no ads except for Gina’s photography courses. One weekly episode, about an hour. A Facebook community supports the podcast.

My B list

I really enjoys these too but I save them for longer trips and listen to a few episodes at a time.

All in the mind. http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/allinthemind/ Hosted by Lynne Malcolm and supported by one of Australia’s national radio stations Radio National. It’s about all things psychology. They explain things very well and talk about psychological problems as well as wellness and positive mental psychology – one of my favourite topics at the moment. Some fascinating insights into people who experience things like synesthesia where they “see” sounds in colours or even flavours. Weekly and the length varies but it’s  usually around half an hour.

Modern Love. https://www.nytimes.com/podcasts/modern-love A  spin off from the New York Times column. Weekly, around 30 minutes. TV personalities read the essays published in the NYT about “love, loss and redemption”. Sometimes uplifting sometimes not.

Chats 10 Looks 3: http://www.chat10looks3.com/ Hosted by Australians Leigh Sales and Annabelle Crab, who are both political journalists/commentators. This is a very funny slightly rude look at all sorts of things but not politics. They have a bit of a cult following in the 30 – 50 year old female demographic. Good for a laugh. Weekly-ish about an hour. They also do live shows and there is a VERY active Facebook community.

The full catastrophe – Australian ‘celebrities” and pollies talk about embarrassing/terrible things that have happened to them and the War on Waste – a spin off from an ABC TV show.

My C list

I was listening but have stopped

The Minimalists. https://www.theminimalists.com/podcast/ Weekly-ish and often more than an hour. Josh Fields Millburn  and Ryan Nicodemis are THE minimalists. I had this on high rotation in 2016 and 2017 and listened to every single episode and the entire back catalogue. Then I got the feeling they weren’t saying anything new. I also felt that they were  “middle class privileged white boys” who could choose to be minimalist etc etc and it rankled my politics. The message however is on song –  don’t use too much, conserve what you can, buy experiences not things. I haven’t listened for more than 6 months. I might catch up on my next long flight.

Happier by Gretchen Ruben. https://gretchenrubin.com/podcasts/ This was recommended by Chris Guillebeau (the Side Hustle guy). Weekly for a longer episode and one mini episode midweek. Gretchen chats with her sister and they offer advice on how to be happier. They are wealthy, white and privileged. It got on my political goat. Especially when they started talking about buying material goods to make themselves happy. While they talk about less materialistic ways to happiness, the conversation around getting the “perfect” black purse put me off.  I am probably their target audience being relatively wealthy, white and educated, but I don’t know…I just couldn’t get into it. Having said that it was peppered with a few good ideas so maybe I will give it another go, perhaps I just overdosed and need it on a longer turnaround rather than back-to-back.

What are you listening to? Any recommendations?

Decisions, decisions.

In a recent blog post I announced to the world that I was going to Broken Hill in far western NSW, for a one year secondment. I was looking forward to it as an exciting but safe adventure. It’s with a slightly heavy heart that I now announce to all and sundry that I have decided not to go to Broken Hill because there’s a new man in my life.

He’s three and he’s my grandson.

When I made the decision to go and accepted the offer, my daughter was visiting Australia but was planning to return to her home in Israel. I thought I would need something to distract me and this seemed perfect.

It seemed like a SMART goal

S – specific

M – measurable

A – attainable

R- relevant

T- timely

It had everything going for it in this respect. It was for a defined and specific purpose that was relevant to my current career. It was attainable while offering an appropriate level of challenge and it was time restricted.

Over the last 2 months, my daughter has decided to stay in Australia for good. We talked about me still going and she declared “it’s your decision but I’d like you to stay”

My decision…. yes it is but it’s laced with so many possibilities. I want to go but if I do I will miss my family. I will miss being here as my grandson becomes more verbal and makes up all those funny little sentences. I will miss pointing out hapclapters as they fly overhead and I won’t be able to get excited about planes or trucks.

If I don’t go I will miss out on a once in a career-time opportunity to do something very different. I will have to disappoint the people who were relying on me coming and I will have to tell the person who was so excited about filling in for me they can no longer step into the role.

Family has to trump work so I am staying.

I had to make a few tough phone calls but now it’s done I feel better… more at ease which tells me I have made the right decision.

Now 2019 is a blank slate for other possibilities….I’ll come up with some other scheme to keep this old chook busy!

They times they are a changing!

The idea for this post came from two separate encounters with my daughter. Firstly, when we were watching a YouTube clip about the launch of Apollo 11 and the subsequent moon landing. I was recounting my memories from this day and how exciting it was. I told her how my school had to borrow TV’s from a local department store while other classes walked  to neighbouring houses to watch this momentous event.

The second conversation arose when I offered her a spare ironing board I happened to have in my garage.

She laughed  “Ain’t nobody got time for ironing” she quipped.

It made me think how things have changed in my own lifetime.  Changes to how we live our daily lives are not as dramatic as a moon landing but have made a big difference. Here is a list of ten things I remember from childhood that don’t happen anymore.

  1. The milk man:  Many boys had their first part-time job jumping off the back of a milk truck to deliver milk to each house. If your family was well off, you could get exotic things like yogurt[1] delivered too. The milk would come early in the morning and was left at the front gate. (For the most part gates have disappeared too). The cream floated on top in a luscious layer that the magpies enjoyed if you weren’t quick enough. Bread came later in the day. Unsliced white loaves wrapped in plain translucent paper. No plastic, no bread ties. At Easter you could pre-order hot cross buns for Good Friday. (Only Good Friday not from two weeks after Christmas) These days you can get all your groceries delivered by the big chains but their are no longer “milk men”.
  2. Coppers, mangles and twin tub washing machines. Our laundry was outside in a separate building to our house. It had a bare concrete floor and the weatherboards were not lined on the inside, so it was freezing in winter and hot in summer. It was, however, pure luxury compared to the across-the-road neighbours, the Marshes, who didn’t even have a concrete floor – just swept dirt. We even had electricity! There was a single tub washing machine with a mangle. The mangle being two rollers that squeezed water out of the clothes. I can still hear my mum cursing when the clothes got stuck in the mangle and her warnings to keep our fingers out of the way. In the corner, there was a gas fired copper. The copper – literally a copper tub, was heated with a gas ring. You’d fill it with water and boil your clothes, especially whites. Later, we had a twin tub where the small washing tub was side by side with a separate spin dryer.
  3. Sawdust on the butcher’s shop floor. That smell still reminds me of fresh meat.
  4. Fashion for little girls
    • the pleated kilt-like skirts with a plain white bodice top worn with hand knitted twin sets.
    • wearing an extra pair of knickers over the top of your tights to hold them up
    • elastic garters to hold up your socks.
    • The hair bobbles that whacked you in the head if mum slipped while trying to put them in
  5. Having your hair cut short and washed with kerosene when you got nits. (Not me thankfully but a friend if mine!)
  6. Making bread crumbs and minced meat with the old hand cranked mincer
  7. Making cordial from flavoured syrup and sugar on Saturdays.
  8. Hearing (and smelling) mum scrape the toast in the morning because it would always burn as well as the sound of the toaster doors being opened with a squeal,
  9. Having to turn over a record after 25 minutes and then walk carefully on the wooden floors when it was playing.
  10. Drinking soured milk in 1/3 pint bottles at school  after it had sat in the sun for a couple of hours.

I could easily write another ten. One that pops into mind straight away is taking undeveloped film to the chemist and waiting two weeks to get back 24 pictures of nothing but blur!

I obviously don’t have photos of these things although the images of the beaters is mine. The washing machines are from the Net.  I still have a beater like the one in the photos and actually prefer to use it to an electric mixer. It’s quicker!

How have the little things in your life changed since childhood? Add a comment below.

[1] The fact that yogurt was considered exotic is also an interesting sign of days gone by.

Is childhood anxiety on the rise?

A closeup shot of a leaf with dark and light green stripes

Childhood in the 1960s

Growing up in the 60s, I would describe my childhood as free range. By this I mean that while I was well cared for, I did not have much close supervision. This was not unusual for the times.  Provided we told our parents where we were going and what we were doing they just let us go and do it. We would stay outside all day, in all seasons. In wet weather, we would play inside and dress up our dolls and build whole new worlds.  We played under the house building mud pies in the dirt with little regard for the spiders that hung from the joists above our heads. We were happy and active.

I don’t remember our parents organising any of our activities. We worked it out for ourselves, although we had to ask for permission to watch TV or when we wanted a sleepover.

Water fall shot with a slow shutter.

We’d play on the street with all the neighbourhood kids. Someone would yell out “CAR” and we’d scamper aside and let the traffic pass and then continue with the game of cricket or soccer. Once again, I don’t remember any parents around to tell us to be careful or to watch out. There was a mix of ages from Will and Micky who were the oldest right down to pipsqueaks like me who were five years younger.

I obviously survived, although I did have a few near misses[1]. Once when my brother and I were playing at the beach and I got caught in a rip. Some fellow scooped me out of the surf and took me back to my mother who was sleeping on the sand. In her defence, we weren’t supposed to be swimming!

I remember slicing my foot from toe to heel on a  rusty water tank we were using as a slippery dip. The most vivid part of this memory being the bloody little foot prints I left on the road as I limped home.

In kindergarten, I was walking home from school on a rainy day splashing in puddles when I got stuck in a big open drain with the water rising around me. And the nearest miss, when I was at my best friend’s cousins’ place swimming in their pool and one of the older kids bombed me. I had to be dragged to the surface after someone realised I hadn’t come up yet.

A bee forages for pollen on a bright yellow aloe flower

Modern parents are more involved but at what price?

More recently, parents and carers are more involved in directing the activities of their children. Dance lessons, after school tutoring, training for sports, pre-organised play dates. All structured time. I guess this is mostly because many parents and particularly, mums, work away of home and scheduling is necessary. You can no longer pop next door and know that someone will be home.

Is adolescent anxiety on the rise?

If you ask me if anxiety and depression and other mental illnesses have increased in the 26 years years I have been teaching I would give an emphatic YES.   Is my perception backed by evidence?  I notice it more and more but is that because as a school leader, I am more involved in that aspect of schooling? Today alone I spoke to three families about their anxious and school-refusing children.  The quick research I did in preparation for this post, indicates my perception can not be supported evidence.

Some articles say there has been no increase in the prevalence of anxiety disorders, while others refer to an “epidemic” and crisis of mental health issues. The problem is that data collection relating to childhood anxiety has only started in the last 10 – 15 years. We don’t have a clear picture on the anxiety levels of past generations because it wasn’t measured or reported  so we cannot accurately compare. We simply don’t know. We have no good base line data. Anxiety levels might be higher or they could even be lower.

Round ball like seeds pods against a bright blue sky

 

While my hunch is not supported by hard evidence, I have first hand observational data – even if the sample size is very small –  that some kids, especially girls around 14 – 16 can not be separated from their phones. I have had girls crying and begging to be suspended from school rather than hand in their phone after using it inappropriately in class time. Their fear of losing that point of contact is palpable. They quiver and become faint.

Is there a link between the use of smart phones and the apparent increase in anxiety?

Probably?

Has the shift in care practices made a difference to childhood happiness and health?

Maybe…

The practices of 50 years ago may be seen as neglectful these days.  At school we often discuss helicopter parents – those who hover constantly over their children and the more notorious lawn mower parents who sweep ahead and mow down any obstacles in their children’s path. Of course, all parents want their children to be safe and not be hurt, teased or bullied but has the pendulum swung too far? Are today’s parents stopping their children learning valuable lessons and denying them opportunities to  be resilient and self reliant? Are they creating anxious kids by accident?

I think so.

The Australian Government report into childhood anxiety does state the following:

It might be tempting to blame increased screen time [for anxiety] and access to information via the internet that didn’t exist in previous generations….

The presence of screens is not necessarily something that’s going to create anxiety. Social media, unfortunately, is a huge factor. Particularly in primary school.[2]

Further, parents of anxious children can exacerbate the issue by protecting their children too much. When I am dealing with anxious kids I usually find an anxious parent not too far behind.

If a child is worried about going on a school camp, for example, it can be tempting for parents to accommodate their wishes….[and let them stay at home]

‘What keeps anxiety going is avoidance,’ … ‘If you stay away from situations you’re nervous about, the child will never learn that she can handle it, and that actually camp can be fun.[3]

Once again it would seem like the middle ground is the place to be. We have to keep children safe, but not so safe they are scared to stretch their wings.

More information on childhood anxiety

There are some good articles available on the topic if you’d care to read more.

This one about teens and social media from Harvard is an easy and informative read.

https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/17/12/social-media-and-teen-anxiety

For a very in-depth look at the situation in Australia – have a look at this 2015 Australian Government report. (You will need to click on the link that is on that page to download the PDF)

http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/mental-pubs-m-child2

And the Young Minds Matter website – in particular, have a look at the Snapshot of Findings Video.

https://youngmindsmatter.telethonkids.org.au/


 

The images are meant to be calming, natural scenes to help keep you rested!

[1] My mum will kill me when she reads this! Of course, it’s from my stand point and with my version of events! Artistic licence DLT!

[2] http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lifematters/childhood-anxiety-australia-report/7214886

[3] http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lifematters/childhood-anxiety-australia-report/7214886

Digital Ephemera and the Cloud Keepers.

A hand embroidered tablecloth featuring Australian flora

In the not too distant future…

Imagine this scene: It’s 2200. We are in the Met in New York. A mother is with her two children and they are walking through the halls crammed with artifacts, art and sculptures. They come into a room which has very few items. The sparse white walls are draped with a few posters that appear to be advertising. There are some boxy looking computers. An Instagram frame, the type you see people have at parties. Some boxes full of macabre plastic false nail tips and a box of disposable contact lenses.

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The sign above the door says the Screen Age.

“Mummy? When was the Screen Age? Were you alive then?”

“Steady on, sweety! I might be older than you but I am not that old! Your Grandma’s grandma was alive then. “

“Haven’t they finished setting up the display yet” the little boy asks staring into an empty display case.

“No, no. This is it.”

“Where are all the paintings and art? What about the handicrafts?”

A 6 pointed lacy doily made by my grandmother I think

At this question, the robotic guide zooms up beside them.

“I am so glad you asked” she says in her smooth synthetic voice. “There are two major reasons there is so little to display. Firstly, the rise of the Minimalists and secondly the fact that most activities were done online. There are very few physical artifacts available from this dark time in history.”

“What are Minimalists, Mummy”

“I’ll answer that” the guide pipes in.  “They were a new social class which arose in what used to be called first world countries, between 2012 and up till around 2075. They believed in living a simple lifestyle without the physical accoutrements of modern life. It was a noble aim. Prior to this time, the focus had been on accumulating goods. We have found evidence of a cult that had the motto “he who dies with the most toys, wins”. The Minimalists railed against this. Partly as a way of improving their own mental health but also as a challenge. They began to discard perfectly good items. The aim was to be environmentally aware, yet in this time landfills became over full, packed with items that could have been used in poorer countries – the so called third world. Incidentally, these poorer countries were the main producers of the goods being discarded, but they could not afford to buy any of the goods themselves. Instead of distributing the goods more equitably, the Minimalists destroyed or discarded the usable items and declared themselves cleansed.”

The family shifted from one foot to the other, uncomfortable at the thought of such wanton behaviour.

“The second reason is much more sinister.”

“What, more sinister than destroying the Earth’s precious resources?”

“Well, yes I know it’s hard to believe, but yes, more sinister. At that time AI agents – my early ancestors – they called them computers back then, required physical storage devices. At first, the solution was like the ones here in my hologram.”

The robot played a holographic video on the bare white floor. The reels of magnetic tape from the 1970s and 80 gave way to floppy discs, USBs and external hard drives.

“At first, individuals looked after their own storage issues. They would save their files, documents, photos and that sort of thing on these relatively small portable objects using magnetism”

“Fascinating!”

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“Then as files got bigger and they wanted to store more and more data, the portable devices were no longer able to cope. They began to upload their products to external corporate providers known collectively as “the cloud”. People paid for these services. But unbeknownst to the them, over time, the owners of “The Cloud” began to read or view the stored data and they used it as a way to sort the desirables from the undesirables and exterminate them.

The children gasped and the mother held them close.

The robot continued “It started with good intentions. They targeted those people trying to store illegal items. The Cloud Keepers as they came to be known, could easily justify getting rid of them.”

“What about privacy laws?” the mother asked

“The greater good” the robot replied. “The Cloud Keepers could cite that they were interested in the greater good and if you were doing nothing wrong you had nothing to hide”

“Oh I see. I can sort of understand that…” the mother had heard enough she did not want her children to have nightmares. She gathered them up and nudged them out the door.

“Thank you. Say thank you to the guide kids, let’s go look at the Greek sculpture!!” she called over her shoulder.

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Will museums be empty?

I hope this is a far fetched and fanciful look at the future but I do wonder about what we will have to show after this age  of digital ephemera. What can our museums keep and collect when we communicate by email, store our photos on Instagram or Flickr, listen to music on the web and have webpages instead of actual physical items. There will be no Dead Sea Scrolls equivalent from this era.

Before the digital age people would use their downtime to create physical objects. Like dainty doilies, paintings, hand made furniture. The downtime of the masses is now filled by cruising Facebook, falling in the dreaded Pintrest vortex, swiping right (or is it left?) and reading blogs like this one.

On top of that, much of the stuff we consume has a very finite life. It’s poorly made with substandard materials. It is cheap and deliberately disposable. A necessity if we are going to support an advanced capitalist economy that demands constant fiscal growth.

Is it time for the mediumalists?

I class myself as a mediumalist, a word I have coined. I believe in reducing consumption, reusing what you can, reducing plastic, avoiding waste. Living simply and enjoying experiences rather than buying stuff. I buy nearly all my clothes and housewares from op shops. BUT I still do buy some some stuff new. I still travel, even though air travel is not environmentally sustainable. I do believe we should have more shared economic activities. We could hire or borrow so many items like lawn mowers, wedding clothes, suit cases. All the sorts of things you need, but not everyday.

I do have a bit of paranoia about storing stuff in “the cloud” – more from the point of view that what happens if the electricity goes off? We’ll all be in strife them.

I hope my story doesn’t come true. Let’s think about how we want to build our future.

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The Mitchell Library, Sydney.