Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Losing battle in war on waste

Had a ferret in my wardrobe for something warm. Found a big cardigan. Shades of mauve in a boucle  chunky knit; two white knitted bands around the upper arms. Thirty-two years on, it's seriously pilled and shabby. It no longer has the moral fibre to declare itself vintage. It's warm but sad, not the delicious creature I snuggled my face into in a Firenze market in late summer, 1985. Was a beautiful garment when purchased new. Now it's fit for the op shop bag. It's all a bit metaphoric.

Recently, in my endeavour to reuse/recycle, I wore an old pair of Nikes. They've aged well. They're a lovely shape made from interleaved strips of grey suede. They have a dance shoe sole with rubber tread under your heel and toes and a suede arch. When I bought them, at least ten years ago, from Rebel Sport in the Bourke Street Mall, the sales assistant read me a mandatory disclaimer.  These shoes aren't designed for sport, or words to that effect. Didn't worry me. I had no intention of exercising in them, apart from cycling.  These non-sports 'leisure' shoes must have looked good because my daughter used to borrow them. Also, they'd elicit compliments from some of my students and colleagues.and are as comfortable as your slippers.

You know why they've aged well? I've barely worn them.That dance style? Great in the studio, shit in the weather. Didn't want to spoil the suede by risking them out in the rain. Another thing, they slip off my bike pedals. Literal slippers. Not cool. I'd forgotten about that though, when I gave them another outing recently, feeling proud of my environmentally aware austerity. Remembered about the slippage as I was cycling downhill to the shops, gripping my knees to stop my feet shooting off their perches. As I walked along the street later, my feet kept skating out behind me in a flicking motion. Sensibly, I skidded to a stop then slid around the door into the sports shoe specialists.

Ah well, a new pair of running shoes is an appropriate alcohol-free reward. So I told myself as I browsed for an elusive bargain.

Having laced my right foot into a sleek new running shoe, the sales assistant picked up one of my old Nikes, examined it and pronounced it seriously old school; sounding impressed. 'Are you just going to give these to the op shop?' she asked. Was that a hint?

But old school? They're only ten. Suppose if you're under thirty that's a long time.

Meanwhile, I conceded another battle in the war on waste by buying another pair of sports shoes. For safety reasons, I wore them home. At my age you can't risk a fall on a damp footpath, sans tread on your trainers.


This is the sad thing though. I can part with neither my old cardy - back in the wardrobe - nor my 'vintage' Nikes - back on the shoe rack. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Onus on the Owner

'Argh!' How do you write a short sharp scream? (Of course there's a forum on this on Google. Makes for interesting reading if you're into that sort of thing, like yours truly, the real Judith Middlemarch, or is it Jill, wife of Trevor?) No matter, this little piece begins with a brief, loud - I was wearing headphones - cry of terror.

I stood, stock still, neither flight nor fight would work here. Instinctively, my hands shot in the air, heart banging in my chest.

Just prior I'd been on a naturally occurring chemical high. See, I'd garnered the motivation to get out of bed on a cold, albeit sunny winter's day to do my six kilometre constitutional. This is a combination of brisk walking alternating with marginally quicker jogging.To give you the picture, when Al walks with me he thinks it vaguely amusing to outpace my jogging with his leisurely stroll. I'm not winning any medals here, but if I can keep at it for another forty years I could enter the world masters and break a record like Man Kaur. Maybe not.

Anyway, nearly five k into my routine, those endorphins coursed pleasingly through my system. I'd been listening to a podcast of Joe Jackson being interviewed by Alec Baldwin. I've had a deep, abiding love for Joe Jackson since the late 1970s so my morning constitutional had thus been elevated to even greater heights of emotional healing. My local park is a lovely treed, quiet - on weekdays - ovalled space atop a hill with splendid city views. Joe's interview finished with a few bars from Breaking Us In Two. I was in heaven. Pulled out my phone to choose some music to get me through the last k. Chose Frank Sinatra's I've Got You Under My Skin with its stirring middle eight, that always evokes my dad, and continued slow jogging to half way round the oval. Next in my mix was (I've had) the time of my life. No apologies for my eclectic tastes. At that stage I was running up the incline on the other side of the oval, relishing my freedom, completely lost in my own thoughts.

That's when a slavering, snarling jowly raven black beast charged me, its teeth bared, hence my scream.

'Clara,' - I'm not kidding - her owner called lightly, scooping to pick up a ball with his little tosser on a stick. I started to walk on but Clara lunged at me again.

'Call her off!' I insisted, hands now clutched under my chin.

'She won't hurt you,' was his dismissive reply as he surveyed me like I was some mental defective in my black running gear, tweed cap pulled down over my ears and a bum bag hanging around my hips.

'That's very easy to say,' I replied, 'but I'm terrified.' And I was. My previous joy had drained out replaced by too much adrenaline and a bit of fury.

I've been menaced by dogs before. Aged about three, I remember being bitten by a bull dog. Mum was pushing me in a pram at the time. She took me into a butcher's shop and he applied a bit of butter to my bleeding knee. Don't know what happened to that ugly hound.

Jeeze, who hasn't had a bad experience with a dog? Not so long ago this rat-sized dog who lives down our street had its teeth bared, and was snapping within half a hand span of my exposed ankles. Same comment from the owner standing nearby apparently enjoying the entertainment. 'She won't hurt you.'

Got bailed up by a pit bull terrier once in our own back yard. The dog had breached the low fence. Its owner was on her side pinning sheets on her rotary hoist. 'Sally!' - such lovely names - she uselessly called for her dog, 'She won't hurt you, ' she said, continuing to adjust her sheet. I wasn't so sure, Sally, growling menacingly had me in a Mexican standoff, daring me to move. Not sure what would have happened if Maria hadn't climbed the fence and hauled Sally off by her collar.

My own experience tells me that some dogs, who may not attack those who've established dominance over them, will attack anything they perceive as weaker. My parents had a couple of Dobermann Pinschers. Soft as brushes, according to my mum. But I've seen both of them turn on our own toddlers when those kids were getting a bit annoying. My dad always sided with the dogs.

Anyway, Clara's owner really bugged me this morning. I'm sure Clara is a lovely pet. But seems to me that if Clara has any inclination to threaten a stranger, she should be on a leash.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Trevor and Jill out on the town

How was my night out? Well, it began well with a 4pm chardy. Felt like I was back in the day, preparing to party. That could be due to determinedly reprising my own now vintage clothes. Unfortunately, I don't look funky, I look like an old woman playing dress ups. Damn you, Craig Reucassel. It's his fault I'm digging through my wardrobe. His War On Waste really got to me. Thing is, I'm already frugal. and a borderline hoarder, inclined to put a new zip in an old pair of jeans if necessary.You know how hard that is. Okay, so I was saving money rather than the planet.

Sorry. What was I saying?

I wore my orange-is-the-new-black turn of the millennium top. You know the one. Bought it for some long ago school deb ball - jeeze, those kids will be in their thirties now - looked a bit blingy but passable and am pleased to say, it still fit. Sort of. Contacts in; bit of make up. Well, quite a lot. You know how it is when you get to a certain age?

Trev and I set off arm in arm down the road to catch a bus. Felt nice and crisp in the night air. Moon and stars out; breath steaming. But somehow we'd missed the 6.05, which had either dropped off the grid or gone by earlier than our arrival at the bus stop at five to six. Told you we were excited to be going out. We walked a couple of stops to pass the time and avoid hypothermia. Remembered to 'touch off' on the bus this time so we didn't get blocked at the turnstiles at Parliament station like last time we did public transport, thrilled to bits with our new Seniors' Mykis. We had to suffer a lecture on the minutiae of PTV before being released like a couple of errant school kids. Promise not to do it again. No, you have a nice day.

So did I have a good time? Well, there was the thrill of anticipation; the buzz of people in the city streets; excited families out seeing Aladdin; girls in tight skirts and six inch heels gripping the hands of their pimply boyfriends. We were eating at an up-market Chinese restaurant with a great bunch of people. Well, Trevor's friends anyway.

Hmm. Good time would be stretching it. Let's say it was interesting, but in an ironic way. Soon as we walked into the restaurant, my third eye was watching. I don't know why I have this irrepressible urge to write it all down. I've just read Atonement* too. You'd think I'd have learned something.

Ah, who cares? Here's a tip. Don't waste your breath trying to make conversation with contrary people. You know the type. They can't keep the wheels of civil human intercourse humming along. So, this is Trevor. He says, to his friend, Susan on the other side of our for table for ten, 'Jill and I saw this wonderful film last week. At the Nova. It's only seven dollars on Mondays. Great value. You know, the Nova in Carlton?'

So Susan says, 'We don't go there, do we Greg? We go to The Sun in Yarraville.' Greg nodded, staring into the middle distance.

I piped in here, oiling the wheels, I thought. 'I haven't been there but I've heard it's very good.'

'It's too hard to get parking at the Nova,' Susan was on a roll and she sounded a bit put out.

'There's an underground...' I began. I was going to tell her about the car park but she cut me off.

'I know, near Woolworths, but it's always packed. We prefer The Sun.' Did I just imagine she folded her arms at me, blocking further conversation? Whatever, I thought. But Trevor, bless, kept trying.

'A great French film,' he said. 'Things to Come.'

'Why? What was it about?' The set on her face suggested Susan thought Trevor should shove it and focus on his spring roll. But he continued, pushing his voice valiantly through the ambient sound and across the table, to Susan, with her arms crossed over her ample chest.

'Well, it's about life,' he said.'A philosophy teacher who lives in Paris is just going through life's events; the changes that happen in time. Things to come,' he said. 'The title says it all really.'

'But do you have to like Paris to enjoy it?' asked Susan, belligerently.

Trevor winced a little at the question. 'Mm, no. It's just a really good film. We really loved it.'

'Well, that might be all right for you. You go to France. But what if you'd rather go to the Dalmation Coast? Would you still like it? Would just anyone like it?' Susan's voice was rising.

I was experiencing a little tachycardia by then. 'You know what, Susan?' I was smiling so much that my face hurt. 'Don't go and see it. It's not for you. Forget Trevor even mentioned it.' Trevor put a firm hand on my knee at that stage. You know how he does? 'Jill,' he warned. Yeah, I stopped and had another swill of that Chardonnay I wasn't paying for. Hang on. I think I was paying for it in one way or another.

Susan's Greg was on my left. He's very groomed. Bristly.Trimmed to within an inch of his life. He clearly spends a lot of time contemplating his face in the mirror each morning; checking for regrowth of his sheared white hair. He's got this neat triangle of moustache, sort of sergeant major meets prison warden. Somehow we got on to the subject of aged parents, a topic close to the hearts of many of my generation. Greg's mother, well into her nineties, had died some years earlier from complications after minor surgery. Well Greg's bristly lip wobbled a bit as he berated the hospital over his mother's passing. If only she hadn't had that surgery she'd still be alive today - aged 100. Like you want to be.

'Oh well, she had a good innings,' I cliched. He didn't say anything but a couple of minutes later he left and sat at the other table. Something I'd said? Perhaps. But my punishment was waiting in the wings. Another dinner guest, the one who likes to take those group shots for posterity, slid into Greg's place and teased me by flicking through pictures on her point and shoot. Making conversation, I asked her what had her so absorbed. Well, she wasn't really. She was waiting to be asked. Thus I climbed into the centre of her web.

'These are my teenage children,' said Gilda, handing me the camera for a closer look.

'Nice kids,' I said, handing her camera back. They were all right, if a little random.

'And these are the kids in my parents' group. We all met fifteen years ago at a parents' group for new parents and we still meet monthly.' Gilda showed me several photos of several middle aged women and more photos of even more random groups of teenage kids in various locations and poses. Hovering over individual photos she provided the whole ancestry.com of the numerous members of her group: who'd married whom, who'd divorced; who'd died, when and what from in livid detail. Then she arrived at her last trip to Scandinavia where she'd visited her grandmother's house. Well, not exactly her grandmother's house. It was the house next door she was now showing me. Her grandmother's house had been turned into offices and they weren't open but no matter they got into the house next door, of which she took many photos which she described to me down to the hardwood floorboards.

'Scuse me, Gilda,' I interrupted, one hand raised signalling a passing waiter. 'Could you get me a Chardonnay?' I asked. Stat. I'd already desperately spun the Lazy Suzy vainly searching for dregs in the bottom of a bottle. Red. White. I didn't care.

I returned to Gilda. 'Sorry? Go on." Gilda is a bit stick insect-y, but with high cheekbones and this swathe of long brown hair. She sat sort of folded into herself and continued to click through her photos. And there were her school friends back in Scandinavia who'd all been together in the top English grade. Where had they been all my life? Gilda's voice was a croaky low drone. I nodded, ooh-ed and aah-ed my appreciation of particular names on the school honour boards she'd photographed. In an effort to change the tenor, I pulled my phone out of my bag and asked if she wanted to see photos of my adult kids. She gave a cursory glance at my two then invited me to look at her grandmother's garden in Scandinavia.

You know what? You can only take so much. I shouldered her out of my peripheral vision. My glass was empty.

But it was a night out. Five degrees by the time we were out on the street. And we only had a twenty minute wait underground for our City Loop train. And train travel's free on weekends for us seniors. Didn't mind walking that last kilometre back home. And despite my war on waste I'd accidentally, but happily left the heater on while we were out. Was quite cosy.


Hey, Jane. Same again next Friday night. A fiftieth this time.

*Bored, neglected self-absorbed budding writer misinterprets what she sees, sticks her nose in and ruins others' lives. Sorry, Ian McEwan. Atonement is one of the best books I've ever read. Bothers me, though, how much I identified with the priggish deluded Briony.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Lieben: German for to love

"Why would you want to learn German?" So said Mum, in a Yorkshire accent, a look of horror on her face. Given when I mentioned it, in her mind she was somewhere in the early 1940s, she thought I was betraying England. Why was I even telling her? It's something to talk about in my monologue as we shuffle around Queen's Park lake, given that mum can't carry on a regular conversation these days. 

Somehow, I've drifted back into talking about mum again. Wasn't my intention. I was thinking about my recent German classes at Melbourne's CAE.

The German people, our young Deutschlehrerin (female German teacher) told us a couple of lessons ago, would only use the expression 'I love…' in the context of an intimate relationship. Ich liebe dich - I love you - is reserved for one's partners, one's family.

 'So you mean,' said John, a student in the class - aged 80 by the way, 'they wouldn't debase the word by using it to describe lesser things?'

'Ja, genau!' she said. Yes, exactly.

So you wouldn't say you loved someone's hair or shoes. Das ist verboten. It's banned. Hurrah, I know another quirk of the German language. I won't embarrass myself by inappropriately professing my love when I'm in Germany: ich liebe das Wohnmobil  - I love this campervan.

Apart from giving my non-working life a bit of structure and perhaps staving off dementia, I decided to learn German because I've travelled there several times and intend to return. The German language was absolutely, well, foreign. We - Al and I - could be handed a German menu in a restaurant and have no idea what the hell was on offer, apart from the ubiquitous wurst, schnitzel and strudel, words that have found their way into our vernacular. We've been stumped driving off an 'Ausfahrt' (exit) on the 'Autobahn' (freeway); bemused as fellow campers have waved us off on a ride with a 'Good fart!' Suppose it could be an added bonus. But Gut Farht actually means have a good journey. As for ordering a glass of wine. In broken German I've asked for 'ein dry white'. Basically I've been requesting 'one - nearly - three, nonsense', given that in German 'w' is pronounced like our 'v' . Suppose that explains occasionally getting a glass of red and making do. Any port in a storm.

Now, German is less weird by the minute. It's easy enough to learn to speak because it's phonetic. Once you can recognise and mimic those 'guttural' sounds you're away. Suppose the grammar would be challenging if one didn't love grammar, as I do. Weird, huh.

Two hours of German class seems to pass by each week in about fifteen minutes. That's total absorption, or mindfulness or I'm having a series of cardio vascular accidents. I'll go with the former.


Given we don't mind debasing the word love in English I can say I love learning German, In German I think that's ich mag Deutsch lernen sehr gern. Course, I could be wrong.