Photo of the Week 32

Photo of the Week Challenge

Happy Fathers’ Day

This is my father, Bob, with his Dad, Vernon. My dad died too young, at 51 in 1988. He had Type 1 diabetes, a dicky heart and didn’t look after himself so well, as blokes of this vintage were want to do.

I pride myself in only posting photos I have taken myself, but sometimes you have to bend the rules. I have no idea who snapped it, although on reflection it was probably Uncle Rudolph who owned the grapevines. It has always been one of my favourites in the family album.  Shot sometime around 1960 in Griffith, NSW. The original print is about 2 x 3 inches.

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Two years old!

Happy second birthday, Old Chook Enterprises!

My blog is two years old today! Well, not ‘today’ today because I wrote this in May and the second birthday happens in July but I’m publishing it on the second anniversary of my first post! Now that’s not confusing, is it?

I am celebrating because unless something tragic has happened in the last few days, I have posted consistently every week for two years. Sometimes more than one post a week but at least every week!  I am proud of myself for doing that.

In the time leading up to this post, I will have been chronicling my trip around Scotland. This particular piece I wrote in the comfort of my home on May 16th, 2019. A little “here’s one I prepared earlier” post.

I still have a way to go till I hit my goal of 1000 followers, but my “followship” (is that a word?) has been steadily increasing. Sadly extrapolating from my current growth rate, it will be about 2027 before I hit that mark. I need some exponential growth!

My most viewed post to date is No day shall erase you from the memory of time which was featured by WordPress as an Editors’ Pick. This post looked back at my visit to the 9/11 Memorial in New York and still gets a few views every week.

A few of my own favourite posts are

RAOK – (Random Acts of Kindness) about a magical few minutes on a train when everyone was kind to each other.

Pandora’s Box about the briefcase full of letters between my ex and I.

It’s not been hard work but sometimes a bit stressful when I have has no posts up my sleeve, and it’s Thursday night. Every photo and video has been my own (unless I say otherwise and it’s only a few). I have not reblogged anyone else’s work. Not once. Not ever.

My original goal for starting the blog was to find a place for a side hustle in writing and creativity. That hasn’t panned out yet. It still costs me more to run than I have made. My obvious talents (sic) are still underappreciated.

But nonetheless, I’ll keep going. I still enjoy writing. My friends IRL seem to enjoy my candid posts. This Old Chook still feels like she has things to say.


When I get home from Scotland, I will be updating my theme to give my blog a fresh new look. I hope you’ll stick around!

This reel is me over the last 10 years.

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Divorce – Ten years on.

I don’t remember what I was dreaming about, but I was in one of those stages of sleep where my mind was buzzing, and even though I was sure I was awake, in reality, I was still unconscious. One of my dream-characters reminded me that this month marked the 10th anniversary of me leaving the marital home. Me walking out and into my own little bedsit, so we could “have some space to think things through”.

I took an independent step. I was proactive.

Another dream-character piped up with the idea that it must be getting close to 10 years since I raised my voice in anger. Ten years since I have screamed with murderous rage and ill intent… At anyone.

I am not saying I haven’t been angry or upset since that time – of course, I have, but since then I have never been in a frame of mind that was so filled with venom and hate.

So much has happened in those ten years. So many good things! I still lament the 10 years I wasted before that,  in trying to stitch together something that was shredded and beyond repair. Why did we do that to ourselves? It’s not only me who wasted time. It wasn’t just me who lost good years in the technical “prime” of our lives.

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That is all inconsequential now. Now is what counts, and where my head is NOW. If you have been reading this blog, you will know I have been rejoicing in the discovery of a new found creativity that has been hidden below the surface. It took a while for it to bubble to the top and make its way through the cracks, but it’s here – NOW.

I am happier although I am still restless. Something else is out there waiting to be discovered. And before all my friends get excited, it’s not another partner!

One thing I have learned is that I don’t need to be in a partnership. I have good friends, a loving family and an intentionally busy life filled with interesting pursuits and being coupled won’t add to this.  Not NOW.

If you are in a broken relationship, it probably won’t get better. Leave! Don’t stay for the children’s sake. The kids will do better in a settled home. They don’t need to feel or hear the hate that seethes out of your skin. If there is violence, they don’t need that either.

Leave!

Don’t waste 10 years. Don’t waste five!

Take the plunge.

It might be cold when you first get in, but you’ll warm up!

 

Sing out loud!

I don’t miss much about my marriage, but the one thing I really do miss is singing! My ex was a musician. He played guitar and drums. While never achieving any fame and spending way more than he ever earned, it was a very satisfying hobby for him and by default, for me as well. Sitting around the kitchen or on the lounge after work and on weekends he would play his Maton acoustic and sing. Most times I would join in with him. I am no virtuoso, but I could hold a tune and used to really enjoy these times.

I guess if we were singing, we weren’t fighting!

 

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High School Teachers Band! (photo by David Croft)

The repertoire was fairly broad but consisted of mostly “middle of the road” rock and folk music. There was plenty of Paul Kelly, Cold Chisel, Dire Straits as well as Bob Dylan (which incidentally I didn’t join in on).

I especially enjoyed the family singalongs with his brothers and sisters. These were always happy nights that went into the wee hours.

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Once upon a time, I had the guts to get up and sing in front of people!

Since I have been on my own, my opportunity to sing ad hoc has completely vanished, and now when I try and sing along in the car or in my kitchen, my voice is weak and becomes hoarse very quickly. I begin to splutter and cough. I  guess it’s like anything, it takes practise and training.  My “singing” muscles are no longer in good condition. Sadly, I can’t remember the last time I actually sang with other people!

Singing is good for you! It’s a positive, life-affirming thing and when you’re with a group of people making music it’s so much darn fun! This article talks about the benefits of singing for your health and wellbeing   but I  don’t need any convincing!

Singing is something I will have to find a way to bring back into my life. I didn’t include it as one of my 60 for 60 items. That was an oversight and something I will need to remedy.

I am not sure I have the level of commitment needed for a choir while I am still trapped in the day job, so I’ll be on the lookout for a Grannies’ garage band! 😆

I wrote about other aspects of music in my life in a post last year. You can read it here.

Our changing view of paedophiles.

Sexy is here to stayI found this newspaper advertisement in a recipe book my mum kept full of clippings of things she wanted to cook. It’s from 1975. It caught my eye for two reasons. It shows how our attitudes have changed, and it struck me as oddly relevant to my life at the time.

While the  #MeToo movement has highlighted the need for women (in particular) to be treated with more respect and dignity, things were different in 1976.  What we would consider sexual abuse or exploitation was a “normal” part of the landscape.

 

 

When I was 15, I used to walk home from school through the local shopping centre. I could take one of two routes. Either through the arcade (quicker) or up to the end of the shopping strip (more to see). This longer walk went past a butcher’s shop. The butcher, Bill, was a man somewhere between 35 and 40. He used to park is brown Porsche Carrera out the front of his store. I would sometimes slow down to look at it. He must have noticed me, and he would wave and smile. After a few weeks, the wave and smile turned into him coming out to say a few words, and then eventually me going in to chat with him. It all started pretty innocently. Then the talk started getting a bit risque. Flirting, I thought, and I was flattered that an older man with a Porsche would pay any attention to me, a silly school girl in a short skirt. It eventually became outright sex talk, and I felt excited! He was a sophisticated guy, and I felt so grown up! I knew it was “naughty,” but that was the risky part of it, the part that made it fun.

So I kept going by and talking to him.  It’s hard to remember the time frame now, but he asked me out. I was over the moon. Can you imagine how sophisticated I felt! I didn’t tell my mother, but my best friend’s mum was in on it, and she didn’t seem to think it was inappropriate. She gave me no warnings. There was no talk of the age gap beyond “Wow…he’s an older man paying attention to you; be flattered.” Mrs. J helped me get ready in a tight black dress and lace-up boots. I looked fabulous in a 70’s kind of way!

He picked me up from their house, and off we sped in the Porche. First, to a Chinese restaurant in Beverly Hills, where Bill winked at the creepy-looking maître d’. The maître d’ ran his eyes over me in a way that stopped my breath. This was my first inkling that things were a little more sinister than my naivety had allowed. The nervous, excited butterflies in my gut began to be replaced by more anxious thoughts. I didn’t have a Plan B. Plan B’s were not a thing in 1976; I had no money. I was a long way from home.

He bought a bottle of wine and poured me a glass. The drinking age is 18. The restaurant was breaking the law. “No problem,” said Bill “the owner is my friend.” After dinner, he suggested a movie. Sounded good to me, perhaps a little tipsy.

We went to Oxford Street in Sydney. These days a hip place with lots of bars that cater mostly to the LGBTIQ crowd, back then, about the only place you could see X-rated movies in Sydney. As we walked in, he handed the guy at the door some cash, presumably, a bribe since it was a restricted premise. We sat in the dark seats, I looked around, and  I realised there were not many other women there. The “action” started on screen. I felt sick! Uncomfortable. Scared. I said I didn’t want to watch anymore and would he take me home.

He did.

I’ll give this to Bill; he never tried anything I hadn’t said yes to. He never tried to kiss or touch me. We drove home from Sydney to my place. The one hour trip took less than  30 minutes.  He drove hard and fast in that Porsche, certainly exceeding the speed limit. He didn’t speak. I could sense he was angry.

From then I always went home via the arcade. I never saw Bill again. I had emerged unscathed.

More than forty years on I reflect on this and it stands out so clearly he was a paedophile. That he had been grooming me from the beginning. Starting with slightly rude jokes and working up to porn. Thankfully, he had some principles. It could have ended very differently. I don’t recall hearing words like paedophile then. Sure, there were creepy guys you avoided, but as a 15-year-old, I didn’t feel like a target. I hadn’t heard of books like Lolita. It just wasn’t a “thing”. Not in my world anyway.

“Things” have changed. The findings of the Royal Commission into Institutionalised Child Sexual Abuse shows this behaviour was rampant and people either turned a blind eye or didn’t think it was an issue in the first place.

I don’t characterise myself as a victim. I willingly, although naively, put myself in a place I should have avoided. In retrospect, I am concerned my friend’s mother did nothing but encourage me. I am glad to think this is less likely to happen now.

(Apologies to you mum! Here’s another story you didn’t know about!)

I wrote this post in response to the trial and later sentencing of Cardinal Pell; Australia’s highest ranking priest and a man who has caused misery to many.  If this post has caused you any distress, I urge you to seek help through some of the agencies that have been set up for this express purpose. Just because it happened a long time ago, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

These services may help:

https://www.blueknot.org.au/

https://bravehearts.org.au/

 

Digging for Dinosaurs.

It’s July, in Hell Creek, Montana. The daytime temperature hovers around 45ºC (113ºF). Your lips crack, and the water you guzzle seems to evaporate before you get a chance to swallow it.

The barren landscape is speckled with low buttes, rounded striated mounds that rise abruptly from the otherwise flat landscape. Tufts of serrated grass struggle to grow in the grey popcorn-like clay that breaks easily under the pick.

Weather-beaten bone fragments are abundant under your feet and ignored by the experts. The real treasure is still underground. The dark brown, almost purple bones that have been encased for millions of years are not hard to find. Isolated fragments of skeletons are common. It’s the whole skeleton, intact and in one place – now that’s the mother lode.

To find these, the researchers concentrate on landforms they call washes. The remnants of watercourses; these are places where bones congregate in a tangle to form bone beds. Here the dead beasts became stuck and then covered in mud and silt in a Triassic flood. They have lain here undisturbed, the bones becoming fossilised as the living tissue is replaced by minerals. Hard and locked in time.

Fifteen long hours of bright sunshine makes sleep a problem. The extended twilight, a photographer’s delight. The six hours of darkness that finally comes is not enough to recover from the day’s hard labour, yet you press on. The heavy pick is replaced by a small hand pick and then a soft brush and dental pick. Your tiny little pick hits something that “tinks” when the metal hits it. You’ve found it! You’ve found the rib of a triceratops. More digging, slowly, slowly with painstaking tedium you brush away more dirt. Wait! Stop! Is that the vertebrae? YES! The joy punctures the eerie mood. You are the only human who has ever seen this bone.

No-one.

Ever.

The feeling of time stretched out behind you becomes unnerving. What catastrophic event lead to these massive creatures being nothing but a pile of bones? Will it happen again?

a women in a straw hat is kissing a dinosaur bone
Bec kisses the recovered rib bone

Dinosaur dig vacations

A dinosaur dig is not your typical vacation destination. It’s not glamorous. You actually have to do some digging!  It’s hot and dusty. Most “holiday” digs are part of research programs, and you become the cheap labour and pay for the privilege.  My dig was with a group called Paleoworld Research Foundation who operated during the summers from a ranch about 50 km out of the town of Jordan. The two women (Hannah and Jess) who ran the operation where both Masters students who were collecting specimens for their studies. We slept in an old caravan and ate simple meals with the family who owned the ranch.

A grren grassy hill in the forwground and a red hill with teh moon rising in the the left hand side.
The full moon rises over the Lervick Ranch at the end of another hard day.

I travelled to America with Bec, a friend I had met at a Science Teachers’ workshop a few years before. Our trip was 100% science-based. After the dig, we drove down through the Yellowstone National Park (geology) and onto the Grand Canyon (more geology)  and Los Vegas. From Los Vegas, we flew to Alabama to join an Educators’ Space Camp at the Huntsville Space and Rocket Center. (Maths and physics!) (Ok…. so Los Vegas wasn’t very scientific!)

Paleoworld Research Foundation are no longer operating. Some internet research shows that Judy Lervick, the ranch owner, sadly died in July 2017. There are other groups who offer a similar experience, although I cannot in any way vouch for them.

 

The other sort of mechanic

As part of my jogging route I go through a small, light industrial area to get to the beach. I walk past a brothel – relatively discrete but unmistakably a brothel. Recently, as I was out for an early morning workout, a car pulled up just as I was passing the front gate of the said brothel. I began to steadfastly study the ground, in fear of making eye contact with the customer and embarrassing us both. After all what he did at this time of the day was his business. He seemed agitated and bewildered.

“Excuse me is this Swan Street?” he said with a very heavy non-local accent.

“Yes… it’s Swan Street”  I replied quickly.

“I am looking for 108 Swan Street.”

We both turned to see the very large brass ‘108’ adorning the brothel gate.

“Well that’s it” I said pointing to the sign…. He looked very confused …

“But what is this place?”

“A brothel”  I said awkwardly.

“A brothel? What is this?” (in very broken English and with a thick accent….)

I looked to the sky for inspiration…“A sex shop.”

“A SEX shop??” A dawn of recognition came over his face.

“Yes” I said over my shoulder as I tried to walk away… He held up his phone to show me the screen

Where is mechanic

“My friend send me here – he told me it is mechanics…I come to get my car fixed”

“Well mate, you won’t be getting your car fixed here!  I think your friend might have been having a bit if a joke!”

He turned dejectedly on his heel and walked back to his car.

Was this a ruse on his part to obfuscate the fact he was just about to be seen walking into a brothel?  Or had some smart-Alec of a “friend” given him a wrong address on purpose?

Funny either way!

100

This is my 100th post. A bit of a milestone really. Thank you to those of you who have taken the time to follow my quirky journey. I hope you will continue to do so and find some value in what I share.

It got me thinking about the concept of 100. It is celebrated as a milestone in many contexts.

  • Governments celebrate what they have achieved in their first 100 days in power.
  • When you turn 100 you can apply to get a telegram from the Queen. Perhaps she should be thinking about email these days!
  • The turn of the century is a big deal and centennials for various events are marked with great care.
  • Cricketers hold the bats aloft and bask in the applause of the crowd when they score a “ton”

Australia v SriLanka 2

One hundred years ago the world was a very different place. A quick review of Wikipedia throws up a few facts

  • There was an influenza pandemic which killed millions of people worldwide and an estimated 12,000 died in Australia
  • The zipper was only two years old
  • The first Archibald Prize was awarded in Australia. (a prestigious portrait prize)
  • The Smith brothers flew from Britain to Australia and won a competition
  • Troops continued to return to their various homes from the “Great War” in Europe
  • There were cars and telephones but no TV.
  • There were no nuclear bombs but there was chemical warfare.
  • Penicillin was still 10 years away and
  • Plastic was still a novelty

Australlia v Sri Lanka 3

If I live to be 100 it will be 2061. I wonder if the earth will be burnt to a crisp? Will my coastal city of Wollongong be underwater due to rising sea levels?

In 100 days it will be Autumn in Australia.

In 100 weeks it will be December  2020.

In 100 months it will be May  2027 and hopefully I will be fit and well and retired from the day job.

100 months ago it was September 2010. I was living alone but not yet divorced.

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Will I still be writing this blog for another 100 posts? I hope so. Like many who have written stories before me, my creativity ebbs and wanes. I am conscious that this blog is lapsing into a “Dear Diary” and that is not what I intended it to be. On the other hand, I am not keen to stick to a singular theme, which is apparently one of the keys to creating a successful blog. I do want to be able to write about a range of topics which catch my fancy. I want to inspire women like myself to go out and have a go!

Be quirky. Be brave. Be free.

So for the next 100 posts I guess I’ll stick to my themes of

  • Solo travel as a older woman
  • Life as a single older woman
  • Wellbeing as a healthy older woman
  • Sharing my hometown

I hope you’ll stick around!

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Australia v Sri Lanka

Be invincible not invisible!

 

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!