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Declarations of love on Sunday where superseded by obscenities by Wednesday.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.

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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

I like to have challenges and goals in my life. Not crazy big scary ones but challenges that contribute to my physical and mental wellbeing. Things like no (added) sugar for a month, no alcohol for 100 days.

Past challenges have included:

200 new experiences: In 2010, I worked out it was 200 days till my 50th birthday. I was in a bit of a slump and decided to set myself a 200-day challenge. My daily goal was to do something new every day. I wrote a (now private) blog about my progress. The “new” things didn’t need to be big and could be as simple as trying a new recipe. Regardless, some days it was still a struggle, but it took me from a low ebb to riding the crest of a happiness wave as I toured France. You can read a bit more about this challenge here.

I am standing on the top deck of the Eiffel Tower
Celebrating my 50th at the top of the Eiffel Tower

No new things: From June 2017 – July 2018 (the Australian financial year) I challenged myself to buy no new things. There were rules and provisos if essential items wore out or broke down. I wrote about that in this blog post.

Capsule Wardrobe: I am currently trying to do a version of Project 333 (you can read about Project 333 here). I put together a capsule of around 40 items to wear to work for a period of 10 weeks. I have managed better than I thought I would and to date have not worn every piece I selected. I intend to do it again for another ten weeks from October to December.

Run faster: Another current goal is to cut my time for a 10 km run to below 55 minutes. My best time so far is 57:05. I hope to fulfill that goal before then end of November.

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Ta -da 10 km in 57:05 August 2018

Not satisfied with one challenge I am toying with the idea of a 60 before 60 challenge[1]. I’ll be 60 in 2021 and that’s about 32 months away. I am working on a list of 60 things to do before I turn 60. Unfortunately,  I don’t have access to unlimited time or money, so not all the “things” can cost money or involve travel. Each “thing” cannot be an epic adventure! I did think about putting winning the lottery on the list but that’s not a SMART goal or a smart idea!

Here’s my list so far – in no particular order of priority. It’s not sequential and I don’t have to do a particular number of tasks per month. Some activities could be bundled. So for instance I have included sell some of my photos and have a photographic exhibition. This could very well happen at the same time.  I am giving myself till the end of November to tweak it. After that I will print the ideas out on nice cards and move them from a to-do pile to a done pile.

  1. Make a will
  2. Pay extra off my current mortgage
  3. Sell some of my writing
  4. Earn at least $5000 through Old Chook Enterprises
  5. Sell some of my photos
  6. Hit at least 1000 followers on WordPress (help me out here guys!!)
  7. Hit at least 500 followers on Instagram (help needed here too!!) @robynlang3
  8. At least one overseas trip (Choose from Iceland or Scotland)
  9. Go on a another cruise (6 – 10 days)
  10. Learn enough Italian to have a short conversation
  11. Make a 15-minute documentary that gets some success (define success!)
  12. Finish the Buttons story (a sci-fi themed novella I am writing 4 our of 9 chapters done)
  13. Write a screenplay
  14. Finish the Anca story (another short story/novel idea. I published chapter 1 here
  15. Finish the family history story about Sarah Anne Usher
  16. Publish a blog post every week
  17. See an active volcano (I could do this in Iceland)
  18. Go more than 6 months without alcohol
  19. Do a woodworking course
  20. Meet someone very famous.
  21. Go to Broome, Western Australia.
  22. Spend the weekend in Melbourne for my birthday again (I went in 2013)

    Photo 18-05-13 13 30 28
    Melbourne’s Skyline from Brighton.
  23. Use frequent flyer points to upgrade an entire international flight to business class.
  24. Photograph the Milky Way
  25. Buy A Dymo Labeller ( I have ALWAYS wanted one!)
  26. Visit two of the four extremities of Australia (i.e. the most northern, southern or western points of mainland Australia. I have already been to Byron Bay the most eastern point so one down one to go)
  27. Paint the interior of my home
  28. Get new carpet/floor covering
  29. Set up a saving fund for my grandson
  30. Re-read and do the steps in the Side Hustle Book.
  31. Have a photographic exhibition which people actually come to!
  32. Go six months without added sugar
  33. Tidy my garage
  34. Road trip to Broken Hill, NSW
  35. Get a new job
  36. Fly in a hot air balloon
  37. Write up the interview I did with Tracey and sue about the Bibbulmun Track
  38. Go on a really long walk like the Bibbulmun Track in Western Australia 
  39. Visit at least 15 more light houses 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!)

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    The Little Lighthouse – Wollongong
  40. Day in the life photography series for at least 4 people – follow 4 people in different occupations and photograph their day
  41. Do an extraordinary man series. An environmental portrait project.
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    I’d like to do more photography like this – environmental portraits.
  42. Make a soufflé
  43. Set up a worm farm
  44. Donate blood
  45. Do a big >2500 piece jigsaw puzzle
  46. Sell all my 2019 calendars (help me out here too!!)
  47. Publish a 2020 calendar
  48. Do another year of no new things in 2020.
  49. Stop dying my hair and embrace the grey!
  50. Get my first paid article published.
  51. Try being an AirBnB host
  52. Finish a short course in food photography
  53. Publish a cookbook of family favourites with my own photography

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    Dabbling in food photography
  54. Do a short online graphics design course
  55. Do some more light painting (October 2018)
  56. Pitch an article to a real magazine/publication (see point 49)
  57. Do an interview on radio/TV about something to do with Old Chook Enterprises
  58. Create a passwords spreadsheet
  59. Get a new phone
  60. 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.
  61. Write a children’s picture book
  62. Win a writing competition
  63. Win a photography competition
  64. Enter some photos in the Royal Easter Show (a big fair in Sydney, Australia)
  65. Go on a writing retreat.
  66. Do another cheese making course
  67. Design some fabric to make some cushions for my home
  68. Have a 60th birthday celebration

There are more than 60 I know. I’d really like a list of around 80 so I can pick and choose based on time and budgetary issues. I also need to decide if I can add and subtract things from the list. What happens if I come up with a really good idea? I think I may have to have a one in – one out rule.

You never know, perhaps I will win the lottery and then all the other bucket list travel destinations can be added for one massive around the world extravaganza!

[1] This is based on Gretchen Rubin’s 18 for 2018 idea. See Her Happiness podcast.cropped-p1430465-612.jpg

On further reflection, I  think I have  exceeded my actual disposable income by about 400% with this list, it’s good to be ambitious but….. 🙂

 

PS: I usually post on Fridays but I am experimenting with Tuesdays to see if it makes a difference to my stats.

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.

The Sad Case of the Vanished Cracker Night.

Australia is a constitutional monarchy. The Queen of Australia – Queen Elizabeth the 1st (She is Elizabeth the 2nd in the UK but only the first Elizabeth we have had) has very little sway these days in terms of our laws, the parliament and that sort of thing but we still get a public holiday to celebrate her birthday. Even though her actual birthday is in April we celebrate it on the second Monday of June. It’s a welcome holiday. By the time June has come around, winter has usually hit and the Indian summer of May has ended with a bang. It’s probably raining and it will be cold(ish) It’s a perfect weekend for inland retreats at wineries or being indoors with a book and a fire and catching up with friends.

When I was a kid, Saturday of the Queen’s Birthday weekend was Cracker Night. There would be bonfires, pretty fireworks and explosive crackers in nearly every backyard. My favourite was the Catherine Wheel which would be nailed to the fence. It would spin around as jets of coloured sparks shot out the sides. The neighbourhood would be shrouded in smoke and the poor dogs would be going crazy.

You could buy crackers at any corner store, regardless of your age. My dad used to blow up our home made letter box every year. He’d fill it with bungers and attach a long wick and then run. The wooden box would get shattered into thousands of sharp, splintery missiles and we would squeal with glee from our hiding spots.

My family must have been a bit more careful than other families. I don’t remember any one getting hurt although my hair did catch on fire once when an ember jumped out of the bonfire. Despite our own personal luck, because in retrospect, I think it was good luck rather than good management, every year you would hear of a another 10 year old boy who had blown his hand off or blinded himself or suffered some other horrific injury because they had taped a few large bungers together or had tried to build a bigger, better explosive.

It became (sensibly) more difficult to buy crackers. You had to be 18. Then it become illegal to sell them in NSW. You could still buy them in the Australian Capital Territory, so people would take the drive down there to stock up for an illicit cracker night party. The firework shops were cheek-by-jowl with the porn shops (Canberra, incidentally also being the only place you could buy X rated movies!).

Many community groups had public firework displays which varied in quality. Over the years, these have petered out too. I guess the expense got too much. Perhaps, the audience got too used to the HUGE New Year’s Eve Fireworks that light up Sydney Harbour. What community groups could afford were fizzlers in comparison.

Last Saturday night would have been cracker night but I didn’t hear one. Not a single one. It’s a shame. Another fun, old tradition that has gone by the wayside.

It made me think, what will today’s kids remember? Oh wow I sat indoors all day playing Total Domination against some random in the US? It was like… So totally awesome!!

…somehow I don’t think so. Will their memories be totally devoid of the types of rich stories that made up my childhood and adolescence?

This year, my Queen’s Birthday Weekend was filled with reminiscences of other kinds. A weekend full of “remember whens” at a 40th high school reunion. Unfortunately, it was only a small gathering. We danced to old 70s and 80s tunes. We argued who was the bigger loss to the world – Lennon or Bowie? We talked about old teachers chasing the girls who were smoking in the playground (not me!!) We talked about those who had not come to join in the party.

Only 10 of us made the journey

Those who had left before the HSC (the NSW matriculation qualification) and had gone into more manual labouring jobs complained that their bodies were beginning to give out. We all complained about our failing eyesight. We compared photos of our adult kids and for some of us, our grandkids. We settled into an easy rekindling of old friendships and lamented that so few had made the journey to Old Bar, NSW.

This one from Primary School

As we tried to put names to all the faces in the old school photos, there was one girl, at the end of a row of the 1C photo that no-one could remember. I’d hate to be that girl. Why did no one know her? We had no special story for her. That made me sad and I wondered if there were other people looking at other class photos who wondered who I was? If there were some people I had never made an impression on? In my own Robyn-centric world I find that hard to believe but I guess I was not the centre of everyone’s universe!

I don’t know if we will have 50th reunion. By then I will be 67. I hope I will continue to enjoy the same good health I have now. I hope I will tick off some more of those bucket list items. But most of all, I hope I can contribute some good memories to the students I teach.

In 2038, I hope some kid says at their reunion, “Do you remember that old chook Ms Lang? She was a bit crazy!” and smile.

Tall tales and true! (Mark and Craig both school buddies since kinder!)