Friday, May 27, 2011


First whole Friday off in my new part-time status saw me cycling into town, doubtless smiling beatifically again, locking up my bike in Swanston Street and unexpectedly wandering down memory lane.

Here's one of the unbidden memories.

About fifteen years ago I was assaulted while I was in town.  I'd been at my regular Friday writing group at the CAE in Degraves Street.  I don't think I can do myself justice by describing what I was wearing that day, but I think I looked good in my 'nineties' over-sized printed shirt tucked into wide long pants, cinched at the waist - hey! I had a waist! - with a wide belt. My straight brown hair was waist length and I was wearing it out.  It was probably glossy in the sunlight; attracting attention.  I offer this vague description of myself, because when I've second-guessed why this assault occurred, like many victims, I've tried to imagine it was something I did, or how I looked, that prompted it.  (I've often thought the perp could have been a former student who finally saw his opportunity.)

A friend and I were having a coffee outside a cafe.  There wasn't the parade of cafe tables lining Degraves Street that you see today; just a few tables and chairs outside the cafe that's almost on Flinders Lane.  It was a sunny, warm day.  I felt relaxed, chatting with my friend.  Loved those writing group sessions.  It was an ordinary Friday, in the days before I'd returned to full-time teaching.  Elbows on the table, holding my cup in both hands, I glanced to my right and noticed a khaki clad skin-head.  He was sauntering along the footpath.  He wore an open frock coat over a singlet and trousers tucked into boots that laced up to his knees.  He looked out of place; menacing.  I noticed all this in an instant; registered it; resumed my conversation.  Seconds later I fell forward onto the table with the force of impact.  It felt like someone carrying a loaded suitcase had turned suddenly and inadvertently slammed the case into the back of my head.  Cups rattled in their saucers as I sprawled across the table, momentarily stunned; head aching already from the blow.  Next thing, my friend's on her feet.  "You bastard!" she shouts in her cultivated Brighton tones.  She shouts it again fiercely, waving a fist.  I look up to see people gawping at me.  I turn my head to the left and see the slowly receding back of this new romantic romper stomper thug.  Evidently, he'd punched me at full force with a closed fist as he'd walked behind me.

I was quick on the mobile phone - a brick.  Called 000 and a couple of police walked up from Flinders Street, passing by the psycho who'd slugged me as they did so.  He hadn't sped up his pace.  I wondered how many other women he'd hit from behind as he strolled around the city that day.  By the time the police got to me and heard what had happened he'd disappeared.

I'm still wary when I sit down at tables in public places but I'm over the nightmares I experienced for a while.  One of the worst things about the experience was the lack of response from the people who witnessed my assault.  Suppose it's the bystander effect.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cheap thrills on Ebay

Back in the day, when I was a student teacher, I had to fill in a survey.  One of the questions was "What concerns you most at this point in time?"  Had a brief think.  World peace? Poverty? Infant mortality in third world countries?  No.  Whether to get my hair cut or not.  At the time I wrote this trite response I knew what it said about me: vacuous; self-absorbed; typical Baby Boomer.  But hang about.  My hair was seriously Brethren long and it's hard to make a decision like that. What if it looked shit short?  (It didn't, but I grew it back anyway.)

All of the above is by way of an explanation for the empty-headed musings that are to follow.  I concede that there are all sorts of serious issues worth my contemplation but I choose to dwell on domestic minutiae.  Crap really, but it passes the time.

So.  I bought a reasonably expensive washing machine a couple of years ago.  Did my research, courtesy of Choice magazine.  Won't make that mistake again.  This $1200 white monster, this 'top loader with front loader action!!' that we could barely fit  through the laundry door, entangled and twisted my washing to such a degree that it took me half an hour to unravel everything before I could hang it on the line.  To add further joy, it covered everything in chalky lint.  I swear that machine grinned at me as its digital read-out told me to balance my load or put it through its clean cycle.  Became a bit obsessed with this problematic machine.  Rang the customer help line and got advice on all sorts of tricks I could try to optimise my washing pleasure.  Nothing worked.

Given my workload had increased exponentially, decided to cut my losses and get another machine.  And thus began my Ebay fun.  It's illicitly thrilling trying to sell something one knows is a dud.  Advertised it at $500 'still under warranty', because it was.  Had lots of interest, but everyone wanted to know why I was selling it.  So I became an 'empty-nester, downsizing'.  Sounded legit and sort of was, except both kids were still living at home.  Found a buyer who was happy to collect the machine and even ranked me as 'great to do business with!'.  I'd like to think that whoever he bought the machine for found a way to minimise the just-been-through-with-a-tissue effect.  But ultimately, who cares?  Pig in a poke, but at least they got it for $700 less than I had twelve months earlier.

My second trepidatious foray into Ebay trading was to buy a packet of iPhone screen covers for the princely sum of about four dollars.  You'd think I was committing to a Winnebago given the sweat I worked up hovering over the keyboard, deciding whether to press a key.  Can't explain my irrational fear.  Suppose it could have been something to do with my own duplicitous dealing in white goods.  My little packet of six covers arrived promptly and in good order.  It's not the seller's fault that I can never get all the air-bubbles out.

My next Ebay moment came about as a result of my Cinderella syndrome.  I can't resist certain shoes.  They call to me through the window.  In the shop, they looked great on and they felt, well, tolerable.  Convinced myself I must have them and isn't that what credit's for?

So here's me, on my second wear of my 'gorgeous black leather and patent flat lace-ups; Wittner Cosmic Size 39' - still have my vague copy-writing skills - whimpering in pain as I'm cycling home from work.  The problem was the stitching line on the right shoe sat directly on a pressure point on my foot.  On my second hill the pain was so excruciating that despite the cold and risk of detritus on the footpath, I removed the offending shoe and clomped, up and down, one shoe on, one off, all the way home.

And like the washing machine before them, those shoes began to mock me for wanting so desperately to go to the ball.  Offered them gratis to several people, but no takers.  Suppose my slim footed niece, who politely declined, didn't want to look menopausal in her old aunt's shoes.  Couldn't bring myself to drop them off at Savers, given they'd cost me $130 and were barely worn.  So I tried to auction them off on Ebay.  As if.  Clearly there's a method to selling on Ebay but whatever it is, I haven't managed it yet.  Could probably do a course, or something, but I fear that would eliminate the idiotic thrill of the potential  sale.

The starting price for the shoes 'that sadly don't quite fit' was $19.99.  (Tried to elicit sympathy to lure a buyer.)   Suddenly (be still my beating heart) I had one bidder and one watcher.  I started barracking for the bidder, genuinely wanting whoever it was to get a bargain.  Felt some sort of vicarious excitement.  Don't think that's how it's supposed to work.  As it happened $19.99 was the ending price as well. The lucky winner, who'd spotted my shoes among the gazillions on offer, agreed to pay the sum, plus about five dollars postage and handling.  Unfortunately, after I'd queued for a good fifteen minutes in the post office I had to pay eight dollars.  Note to self:  weigh the shoes at the post office next time before you try to sell them.

Hope the successful bidder a. isn't a second-hand dealer; and b. hasn't got a fat right foot. .