When I first started writing, I was part of a Writers’ Group. We would get together once a month for a “meeting” hosted by members in turn. We would discuss our own projects, give some constructive criticism to each other and generally give support and encouragement.
At the end of each two-hour meeting we would have a fifteen-minute creative writing challenge based on a prompt suggested by the host. I wrote this short fictional piece in response to the prompt to write something from the point of view of a single sense. This one is based in the sense of smell. I have only done a light edit. Not bad for a fifteen-minute burst in my opinion! I might go back and have a go at the other senses as well.
The coffee welled up inside my head. Deep, rich earthy and warm. It smelt like a morning. A late morning, but a morning no less. It was time to get up. Time to start the day.
I pulled back the sheets and the raw aroma of the previous night’s sex wafted up from the linen. Sweaty, slightly fishy, not yet unpleasant. I thought about the time we had spent entwined in each other’s arms. Hesitant at first, then with reckless abandon that seemed embarrassing now in the coffee rich morning. He had smelt of rum. Rum with coke. Sweet, spicy and heady. The very thought of it made me quiver again.
The hot water took a long time to emerge from the tap. The chlorine, pungent and clean, drowned out the fresh citrusy bursts from the soap. It was like this in the winter. The chlorine did not have the energy to evaporate and clung to the water like a silver coat; lazy and slow.
I washed the sex away reluctantly. It had been a long time. A long time since I had smelt a man on me and in me. I lingered a little longer than necessary on the folds of my body and began to relive the passion.
The knock on the bathroom door snapped me back to the now.
Oh, that’s right! I wasn’t alone this morning. Not like the years of mornings that strung together in an endless stream before this morning. That’s why it smelt like coffee! There was another somebody in the house and he was making the coffee. Deep, rich and earthy.
How would it be now that the beer goggles were smashed by sobriety and the harsh winter light.
In my mind, I always saw myself as 27. That was a good year. Slim, tanned, lithe and strong. But 27 was 27 years ago. A marriage ago.
What would I say? How would I act? This was worse than the first time! At 15 I had all the confidence of a goddess who bestowed precious gifts on the lucky. Now it was I who felt lucky – that this rum-soaked man had seen me despite the invisibility cloak of menopause and maturity.
I slid the door open a crack. There he was, coffee in hand, in trousers but no shirt. He was older than I had thought. Grey speckled hair, his skin half a size too big for the muscles underneath. But he smiled and his eyes shone. He handed me the coffee. He looked awkward and shy.
“Have you finished? He asked pulling a face “I have to pee!”
That’s how it was going to be – relaxed and friendly. I remember this. It was a start. Perhaps there’d be more coffee in the mornings.
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
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!
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.
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. 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.
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.
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?
Has the shift in care practices made a difference to childhood happiness and health?
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.‘
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
The last 5 mL of rich golden liquid had been lingering in the bottom of that “parfum” bottle for a few years now. Chanel No 5, one of the last gifts the ex had given me. He had always been good with gifts. Much more thoughtful than me. I tended to buy very inappropriate ones at the last minute. His gifts were always something I had wanted. Something I had mentioned in passing and forgotten about.
I am not really a perfume sort of person so the Chanel, while lovely, and no doubt expensive, was not in the usual caliber of gifts. Probably hastily bought from the inflight duty free. Still it was a nice thought. I tried to wear it everyday to make it become part of my routine but I’d often forget. I don’t like women who leave a cloud of strong perfume behind them like a invisible marker. Of course, I don’t want to smell bad, but I don’t think I should leave a lingering cloud of esters and alcohols behind.
But here is it was, the last few squirts left. We’d been divorced close to 4 years and this wretched bottle still sat on my bathroom vanity like a beacon of the past. Why was I saving it? At first, when I was in the “we can fix this relationship stage”, I would wear it when he came around. Maybe he’d notice? Then it just stayed. I just let it sit and every time I’d use it there was a pang. A pang that got smaller and smaller and smaller. Mirroring the contents.
Somewhere along the line I bestowed magical properties on this elegant square glass bottle. It begun to represent my progress to an independent life. When the bottle was empty my life would be mine.
And it happened. Rather than using it less frequently I found I was wearing it everyday to get rid of it. I was ready. I had been ready for a while. That last squirt in December last year was a milestone even if only metaphorically.
These photos have nothing to do with Chanel. They represent part of my journey to get to here. They were taken on in Montana in 2012. Some on a tripod and some by my travelling companion Bec! (Thanks Bec)
Bah humbug! Today is Mothers’ Day in Australia. The second Sunday in May. I don’t “do” Mothers’ Day. I have told my only daughter not to worry about gifts, or breakfast in bed and all that jazz, because in my honest opinion it is just a marketing beat up. A bit like the diamond lies in this story that is doing the rounds of Facebook.
Mothers’ Day more than any other day epitomises to me the overreach of marketing and consumerism. Hang on, hang on! On second thoughts there is also Easter (buy more chocolate), Christmas (buy gifts nobody really wants or needs because they might get you something), Fathers’ Day, Halloween, Back to School, Valentine’s Day…. the list goes on.
I don’t think there is a time in the calendar when we are not bombarded with messages to BUY things for the one(s) we love. But more and more scientific and psychological research shows that STUFF is not how we get happy. We get happy by DOING things for and with people.
However, if we stop buying things our economy will come to grinding halt and we will all be in dire straits. What to do? It’s an issue I don’t know how to answer but I am trying to do my bit by not buying stuff. My year long challenge to not buy anything new comes to a close at the end of June. I have not succeeded, as I have bought some new things but for the most part I have stuck to my rules of nothing new unless it was a replacement for a broken or worn out thing and essentials.
I ‘spent’ my Mothers’ Day pottering around, not doing much. My Grandson and I inspected the beetles that live in a nearby tree. I rang my own Mother and chatted with her. I wrote a couple of future blog posts and I answered some emails all before cooking a big pot of tasty soup. All in all, a very nice day.
I am glad to say no flowers were killed in preparing this post!
PS: I certainly I don’t want to devalue the effort of others in celebrating or valuing their mothers. I think we could celebrate it without all the marketing hype and make it more genuine.
PPS (Added after publication) one of my friends told me about this article where the founder of Mothers’ Day try to stop the commercialisation pf the day. https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Family/mother-started-mothers-day/story?id=47333654
All my planning was complete, and I was stepping on the final flight from Incheon to JFK International and it came to me in a thunderbolt that I had committed to spend three weeks in New York, in the house of someone I didn’t know very well. I didn’t have a Plan B if things went sour and that was an oversight.
My intended host and I had met in a bar on a rainy afternoon in Jasper in October 2016. We spent the afternoon and evening together, drinking, eating and chatting to other hikers who were also trying to keep dry. Did I mention the drinking part? To tell you the truth, we all got smashed together and had a fabulous time. After that RJB and I stayed in touch via Facebook. We had a lot in common.
It turned out that RJB lives near Central Park on 5th Avenue and she invited me to visit. Sensibly, I said yes and then we spent a few moths planning my visit.
My sudden concern arose from a fear that in the flesh and sober we might not be so compatible. What happened if she turned out to have some strange and dark secrets? Could she be a member of a weird, radical religious cult and I was destined to become a captive?
From her Facebook posts I knew our taste in music, politics and ethics aligned well. Still I had a niggle in the back of my mind. It still might be an elaborate hoax. My worries were of course in vain. RJB was a treasure and although a self-confessed crazy cat lady, everything went well. Her husband was a lovely fellow and we got on well too.
One of the downsides of being divorced is that your old friends find it hard to take sides and you tend to lose contact. I didn’t have many friends to start off with. The friends my ex and I did have, fell by the wayside as we spiralled down into a very unhealthy vortex of introspection as our marriage collapsed around us.
Since “getting my shit together” I have made a few really good friends. These friendships have in fact be an integral part of that renewal of my life.
As an adult it’s not that easy to make new friends. We are a little pickier and harder to please. We have much higher standards than we did as children. Even though it is hard, I think we make it harder than it needs to be. I think we disguise fear as pickiness. We are just a bit scared to bare our souls.
This blog, Science of People  has some really good tips on how to make friends, but I remember reading somewhere else that how you make friends and them keep them boils down to a few basic things.
1: You meet by being in the same pace at the same time, so you are already involved in some common pursuit.
2: You spend an intensive period of time with them participating in that common activity
3: You commit to staying in touch and
4: You actually do stay in touch.
It’s not rocket science. Of course, the most important factor is you need to trust and be open.
I guess with RJB I should have just trusted my gut. If she was an axe murderer I think I would have guessed in that first meeting. Little bit crazy cat lady I can deal with! 🙂
Well the force was certainly with me on May the forth when my blog was featured as the Editor’s Pick on the Discover Page of WordPress’s own website. As a result I got 409 views on the first day and 175 likes. After four days on the “top of the pop” charts; I had 120 new people following my blog. I would really like to give my thanks to Krista and the team at WordPress for selecting my blog for special mention. I think it may have been the photo that caught their attention.
For those new followers I know not all of you will stick around, because quite frankly, not all of my posts are as good as the one that was featured. That post came after a very moving and emotionally disturbing visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York.
There are a couple of other blog posts that I am really proud of and I have put links to them here. You might like to go and have a look at them and perhaps you will agree with me that they are some of my better ones.
According to the interwebs, a successful blog has a strong theme. Well I am afraid I am going to lose out there. My blog theme is very ‘fluid’. There are some major underlying currents but it’s basically whatever catches my attention at the time. It’s a blog about travel but more about the getting there. It’s about relationships and in particular surviving divorce. It’s about well being and living simply. Sometimes, it’s just about my hometown because Wollongong, Australia is a great place to live and I’d love people to visit and see that for themselves.
I’d like to thank those people who have recently joined my blog and also those of you that have been with me from the beginning. I hope that you will stick around and follow this woman’s journey to a more meaningful life.
(That featured image in the header is the Seacliff Bridge in Wollongong – now you gotta see that!)
My ex was a musician. Not professional and certainly not full time, he was in a few pub bands doing OzRock covers. He played drums and guitar, wrote songs and we would sit around and sing. I enjoyed being the musician’s wife and lugging drums and the vicarious fame. When a little chickkybabe in the crowd once asked me if I knew the drummer’s phone number I laughed and said “Yeah sure, it’s the same as mine!”
The music was a happy place. We had a vast record/CD collection. Our house was never silent with some form of music either being played or performed.
We went to lots of concerts, Elton John (twice), Bruce Springsteen (x3), Cold Chisel (at least 3 times if not more), Steely Dan, Dire Straits (x2) Mark Knoffler, Bowie (x2). The Eagles (x2) to name a few. We went to see Bob Dylan when my daughter was just 6 weeks old. We had a few hours on a “pass out” and had to co-ordinate everything between feeds including an hour drive there and back. I slept right through it! Bliss for a new mum!
The only day I jigged school was in Year 11 when we went to Rockarena, one of the first of the all day music festivals at the Sydney Showground back in November, 1977. I still remember the sun setting as Santana played Black Magic Woman – it was magic. They, along with Japan, Kevin Borich Express, and the Little River Band were back up for headliners, Fleetwood Mac.
One of the first items we purchased for our home after we got married in 1984 was a CD player with a remote! Imagine that! It was around $900 and the most expensive thing we owned. We progressed to a surround sound Bose system with the subwoofer under the lounge and the little speakers mounted on the ceiling 25 years later.
When we split, he took the physical artefacts of the music. I had already copied what I thought I wanted to my iTunes account. I had the music, the problem was it wasn’t my music. It was his. Every time I played something it would bring back memories of him. I needed to find my own playlist. My own music that didn’t come with memories.
In the raw days of the wine and wedges phase (see my previous post) I had a list I called “single girl anthems” which consisted tunes like Sheryl Crow’s “Strong Enough”; Dixie Chicks – “Not Ready to Make Nice” and a favourite “If I could turn back time” by Cher. You know, the one where she wore the gown-less evening strap on the battleship.
I would crank it up on my little iphone dock and belt out the songs in my finest style. It was a combination of angry, strident songs of independence and weepy wailers. By the end of the 2 hours and 32 minutes (if I made it till the end) I would be either crying or punching the air depending on how it got shuffled.
But still it was mostly stuff we had had in the “ours” collection.
After giving it some thought and analyzing my favourite tunes, I came to the shocking conclusion that I liked country rock. Shocking because this was a genre essentially ignored and at times even vilified by my ex.
I borrowed CDs when I could and added Johnny Cash and downloaded the likes of Morgan Evans to the collection. OMG I even bookmarked all of Keith Urban’s anthology on Spotify. Now I sing and dance along to Kasey Chambers or Catherine Brit while I am cooking and on road trips Busby Marou and John Mayer keep me company. I have since moved on and I have expanded into other genres enjoying some new talent like Fanny Lumsden, The Audreys and Aoife O’Donovan.
Now that I am more settled and confident and “have my shit together” I have been able to return to my old favourites without the tears and regrets. The memories are still there but I have come to terms with them and they have a different edge. No longer so sharp or harsh, they are like glass that’s been washed up on the beach. The edges have been polished and worn by time and I can hold them in my hand without them hurting.