Archive for November, 2011

Celebrations – love not money

November 30, 2011

In the wake of my most recent birthday I wish to ponder celebrations. Why do we do it? What is it in us that likes a party, a cake, a present? It’s probably timely to think about Christmas too. Given the feel of the times – the austerity Christmas is upon us – to consider the point of Christmas.

In my family birthdays are special. Each person gets their turn in the sunshine, their special day with most desires granted. The birthday wish-list goes onto the fridge just after as the strains of the last birthday fade away. Presents and celebration event are written up and then discussed. Just because something is on the list doesn’t mean you’ll get it, but it certainly increases your chances if it’s written down. Long ago we gave up the ESP wishes for birthdays – left everyone unhappy.

Christmas is about family. Sadly we gave God away a few years ago and no longer find a church to go and sing caroles in. The tree goes up the moment school is finished. We decorate together and share the first of the Xmas drinks and nibbles. Presents come out slowly, so the child amongst us can keep count of the mounting loot and have a good poke about.

This year we will be pared back too. Not all of us can be together and like many families we feel the Global Financial Crisis in our own ways, so the present count will be less. Which I have been aiming for over the last couple of years anyway, horrified by the amount of ‘nothing’ that we seem to give each other. Even with the best intentions.

This year it’s about the giving, about the thought. One nice present and perhaps a couple of smaller things: some chocolates, a trinket from Tescos. This year I want my family to think about giving, about being together, not about getting. I want a pretty Christmas tree but with fewer pretty boxes beneath.

I’m put in mind of the wonderful O Henry story, The Gift of the Magi, which I shared with my baby girl as we talked about birthdays and giving. In the story a young recently married but poor couple want to give something special to each other. She has beautiful long hair and he buys her tortoise shell combs. He has a beautiful gold fob watch and she buys him a gold chain for it. But he has to sell his watch to buy her combs and she has to sell her hair to buy his chain.

One of the best presents I’ve received was from my baby girl when she was about 8. She sat up all night before my birthday making me a penguin from paper, cotton wool and glue. It was magical, warmed my heart like nothing else and yes, I still have it.

How did I celebrate my birthday? We had a family bucket of KFC, some champagne and lemonade and watched Avatar together. It was companionable, cheap and made me as happy as I can be.

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Northern Morning

November 27, 2011

A poem about Darwin – enjoy

Still dark now

People waking, emerging from dreams

slip from ruffled beds, disentangle from sleeping partners.

Garbage trucks begin their guttural rumbling trek through

a snoozing suburb.

Light-creeping night-falling

sun fingering in through dawn-clouds

Streaky bacon sky.

 

Alarm clocks shrill

clock radios spring into life

walkers, runners, riders invade the streets

silently pounding, arms swinging, regular breathing

swimmers plough up and down backyard pools

The day begins.

 

Light floods

the flat blue horizon

Storm clouds roll away across the heavens

leaving the suburb coolly sighing in the moments

before the sun bursts upon them

firing up the day

firing up the week

firing up the temperature

so that by the time people step

from their morning showers

before they can even dry the water from their bodies

sweat is rolling down their skin.

 

The morning smells sweet

clear, crisp, lighter than the night

Light-blue smells

not the

velvet blue-black smells of the night.

Inhale the refreshed gardens

the flowers releasing cleansing perfumes

filling the nostrils of the waking streets.

Later, children strolling

spilling from cars

will breath in this morning air

smile and be revived for the week’s work

All – children, workers, mothers, babies, students, unemployed –

as they find their way in the world today

will be buoyed by the night storm

the fresh smells of their suburb

the bright blue of the sky

and go happily about their business today.

 

But now dreams are scattered with the early morning light

lost, taken with the dispersing clouds

only snatches left,

disturbing tendrils to bother and mystify throughout a day

busy with the needs of work, of other people.

Ah, to sleep the extra five minutes

to save the lost dream

the door to the soul, to dark wishes and desires

the book of ideas and inspirations

the path to the future             (image from Google images)

To Complain or Not – What to do when your child is suffering at school

November 20, 2011

In the best of all possible worlds parents need only be in touch with their child’s school for the good things, concerts, assemblies, reports and newsletters. But what happens when something goes wrong, when there is a problem: when do you need to complain to the school?

Children suffer at school. They are bullied, they do have useless teachers from time to time. They endure it all, in some faint belief that it will make them better people, that this is part of the covert curriculum of school – all the things you learn while pretending to learn about Shakespeare, glaciers and Pythagoras.

Distressed parents need particular handling and many schools haven’t the first clue how to deal with them.  Children don’t want their parents involved as they know the problem can’t be fixed and in fact, their life will be made worse by their parents’ interference. The bullying rarely stops and the teacher who has been complained about will likely become more unpleasant and mark the work less fairly.

The reality is that most parents will not contact the school. Why is this? It’s because the school rarely does anything to solve the problem and improve the situation. Remember Matilda – ‘I’m big, you’re small; I’m right, you’re wrong’? Schools are somewhat the same – ‘we’re the school, you’re not; we’re right, you’re not.’

Before you contact the school look at what you can do to help your child. Their fears about retribution from the bully or the teacher are real. The last thing you want to do is make their life worse. It’s your job to help your child cope with these problems – contacting the school is the final straw.

 

Bullying takes many forms, it is insidious, corrosive and the impact on your child can be far reaching. Your child will be reluctant to tell you it’s happening, for many reason, including embarrassment, guilt and fear. They can’t defend themselves and are fearful that if you get involved things will get worse. What can you do?

1. Try to get them involved in things outside school such as sports teams, clubs, music, etc so they have friends and interests other than school. This helps with their self confidence.

2. Encourage them to be in ‘safe places’ at lunchtime, eg go to the library or the computer rooms – somewhere where there are teachers and other lonely souls.

3. Ensure they are safe going to and from school (this is often a time for bullying – away from teachers and home). Either take them yourself or have them team up with others. Bullies aren’t so good with groups.

4. The classroom is trickier. Have your child speak to the teacher about where they sit. Make sure your child can sit away from the bully(ies) – near the teacher is best, either right up the front or at the back of the room with the bullies at the front.

5. Teach your child some self-defence. Send them to karate or judo classes. It will help with confidence even if they never use it.

6. If the bullying is serious and on-going you must contact the school, even if your child doesn’t want you to. Hopefully there is a sympathetic teacher – usually your child’s form teacher or the Head of Year – who can help your child. If they are an aware teacher they will already know of the problem and be taking steps to help your child.

7. If all this fails, even contacting the school fails, then you need to remove your child from the school – their safety and emotional well being must be paramount.

 

Academic progress can be a thorny issue. What happens when your child has a less than competent teacher? Sometimes it simply doesn’t matter – because of the subject, the year level, your child’s ability in that subject. But when things get serious – GCSE’s A levels, HSC – then your child must be well taught by teachers who know what they’re doingWhat can you do to help your child?

1.Ensure your child has all the right equipment – eg, textbooks, study guides (all available in high street bookshops and on-line), on-line accounts for various subjects.

2. Ensure your child does their homework when it’s set. Ensure they have a quiet dedicated place to study. Music can be fine but working with the internet on – unless its to do MyMaths or SAM Learning, research, etc – can be a major distraction

3. If you have the expertise then help your child with their study. There’s no point being an expert in an area if you can’t help your child. I’ve been correcting my children’s essays and stories for years. My husband helps them with their Maths – it’s the only way our baby girl got a B in her recent GCSE Maths unit exam. This is good love, supportive caring parenting. I even correct my daughter’s friends’ course-work!

4. Get a tutor, or enrol in Kumon classes or similar. Many students benefit from an extra couple of hours a week on top of their schooling to ensure they really understand the work. Tutoring is excellent for students struggling with a subject and with those after A* and perfect scores. It can be money very well spent. You do not need permission from the school to have your child tutored. But you must ensure that the tutor is not doing your child’s work for them – then you are cheating and not supporting your child to learn. Also ensure the tutor knows what they are doing – check their credentials carefully!

5. Visit the various exam board and subject sites on the internet, ensure you are up to speed with the various subject requirements.

6. Parent evenings are your chance to challenge the teacher, to ensure your child is being well taught and fairly assessed. If you have any unresolved issues then proceed up the chain – Head of Department, Curriculum Deputy, Principal. You do have a right to ensure your child is well taught.

 

Supporting your child at school can be challenging. It’s not so hard at primary level where there’s just the one teacher to work with but secondary can be a mine-field. Some schools are not good at dealing with assertive, knowledgeable parents. They are not used to being challenged and may revert to bullying tactics. My daughter was told by her principal that parents were not allowed to help their children! This is an Ofsted rated Outstanding school, who needless to say, did not take well to us complaining about an academic matter.

But your duty as a parent is clear, you must be supportive. Do all you can yourself before involving the school but if you have to contact the school be prepared to fight for your child, remember you are the one who loves them best.

Let me Love you – shall I count the ways… 10 types of love for modern times

November 12, 2011

Love – blessing and curse. Like so many parts of life it can be wonderful and terrible. Love is all around, as some song said, but how much love is in your life? Can you have too much love? Here are the 10 types of modern love – some we need, some we want, some we should avoid – just like some types of lovers. Plus some reading, viewing and listening suggestions for each area. Enjoy.

Romantic Love We all want it, we all believe in it, but is it possible? It certainly isn’t sustainable. But romantic novels and films want us to believe it can happen and we all need some hope to keep us going. The beauty of Romantic love is that its not about age, its about chemistry and magic. Watch (and read): Bridget Jones, Romeo and Juliet, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, An Officer and a Gentleman

True Love This is the prize, love that is real, surmounts all obstacles and lasts forever. It is rare, it is worth pursuing, but most of us will not find it. Or if we do, we’ll probably not recognise it and throw it away. Watch (and read): The Princess Bride, Wuthering Heights, The English Patient, The Notebook. Listen to: Video Games by Lana Del Ray, Unchained Melody by the Righteous Brothers, I Will Always Love You  – Whitney Houston version.

 

Sexual Love – Lust and passion, what we do best when we’re young and fit and hot, when we burn for the other and we can’t function without them. This is completely physical and a bit chemical. This is unsustainable but repeatable. If you don’t have some passion, some real heat in your life, you have missed out. But the loss of sexual passion, the death of the relationship burns too – you never forget.  Watch: Body Heat, 9 ½ weeks, Wild Orchid. Listen to: I’m on Fire, Bruce Springsteen

Unrequited Love – Infatuation by any other name. This happens all too often and not just when we are young and in love with movie stars, rock stars, teachers and the boy on the bus. This is about yearning, about suffering, about watching, looking and not touching. It’s something we must endure and hopefully at the right time we will find the other, better sorts of love. But it can bite at any age and the older you get, the more dangerous it can be – stalking…? Watch: The Great Gatsby, Fatal Attraction. Listen to: What a Fool Believes by the Doobies, Two Outta Three Ain’t Bad by Meatloaf, Damn, I Wish I was Your Lover by Sophie B Hawkings

Puppy Love – People’s love for their animals is as deeply felt, and sometime more, than for humans. Man’s best friend is his dog, after all. This is devoted love, togetherness, companionship, a quiet relationship that does you no end of good. A dog makes you exercise, keeps you moving and healthy. Pets around the house are good for children in learning how to care for another and we know of the health benefits to elderly people, especially those on their own. Unlike Bridget Jones, I’d be happy to be eaten by my German Shepherd when I’m dead. Some people’s devotion to their animal is legendary – Alexander the Great named a city for his horse Bucephalus. Where would a cowboy be without his horse? Watch: Turner and Hooch, Lassie, Flipper, Skippy, Eight Below (but not on your own, you will cry). Listen to: Love Me, Love My Dog by Lobo.

 

Mother Love – Is this the highest love? What wouldn’t a parent do for their child? It is the most powerful love of all. Without it many of us wouldn’t be the people we are. Some of the over-achievers of the planet are so because they lost their mothers too early in life and it deeply affected them. When you have your own children you appreciate your own parents so much more – dads too. Watch: Sophie’s Choice (read it first), Not Without my Daughter, Terms of Endearment, The Road, Finding Nemo, Big Fish, Star Wars

 

Tortured Love – This the big one, where the heart-ache owns the territory, where taboos lurk and death and betrayal await. Think love triangles, affairs, inappropriate partners, compounded by age, gender, religion, etc. Nothing good can come from tortured love. We all suffer for love but some suffer more than others. Literature and music are littered with tortured lovers. Read: Lolita, God of Small Things, Anthony & Cleopatra, Madame Bovary, Death in Venice and Brokeback Mountain (you must watch it too). Listen to: Angie by the Rolling Stones, The River by Bruce Springsteen, No Secrets by Carly Simon, Are You Old Enough? By Dragon, Reckless by Australian Crawl.

Platonic love – We need our friends and indeed we love them as much as anyone else in out life. They are there for us, love us no matter what, almost in spite of ourselves at times. Sibling relationships when they are working well fall here. Sometimes friendship turns into something more: true and lasting love. If you’re really lucky it works the other way too and your lover becomes your friend and then you really have it made. Friendship is often the poor cousin to true and romantic love, but it is just as important to a rich and meaningful life. Friendships can and do last your whole life. Watch: Troy (Achilles & Patroculus, Hector & Paris too), Thelma & Louise, Beaches. Listen to: Wind Beneath My Wings.

Inanimate Love – For objects including your car, your computer, your boat, etc. Sometimes it’s easier to connect to something inanimate. Is that a problem? Provided you have normal love as well, who cares? Inanimate love is about the non-living things in your life that you rely on, that you may imbue with human characteristics – also known as personification. Boats have names and many of us give our cars names too. How much time do you devote to your car or computer – is it the most important thing in your life? As with all things, it’s a fine line between okay and obsession. Watch: Knight Rider, Cars, The Love Bug, Short Circuit. Listen to: Cars, by Gary Numan, Driving in My Car by Madness.

Self Love – Is this the highest and truest form of love?? It’s not about narcissism or vanity but self respect.  You must have some regard for yourself if you are to connect to others sincerely and meaningfully. You can’t expect others to have respect for you if you don’t have any for yourself. How can someone love you if you don’t love yourself? You’ll end up despising them for loving you because you think they can only be a fool if they love you. This is about knowing yourself, your worth and your faults and accepting yourself anyway. Just as you would someone else.  Listen to: The Greatest Love of All, Whitney Houston or George Benson

Love is about obsession, passion, losing yourself in the feeling, in the intensity of the moment or the person/object. A life without love, be it tortured or unrequited, is a life not worth living. It is better to have loved, to believe in love, to aspire to love, than to live a half life ignoring or denying its existence. The world turns more on love than hate – more things happen in the name of love than in the name of war. It’s time we remembered that and became better people more concerned with love than hate or money.

10 Best Rock n Roll Women of the 70s & 80s

November 9, 2011

Women of music: a list from the time when music became central to my life. As usual a personal and eclectic list – some are incontestable, some entirely up to me. Who do remember, who would you include? (Listed alphabetically, that’s all.)

Annie Lennox – unique, amazing, spectacular – gave androgyny a whole new meaning. How could she be so feminine in such boys wear? Brilliant voice, strong and ballsy but could reduce you to tears too. The epitome of anthemic girls music.

Aretha Franklin – okay so she’s really timeless in a sense but how can any list of great women singers leave her out? Check out her duo with Annie – Sisters are doing it for Themselves and always Respect. Never mind her size, it’s the voice that matters.

 

Blondie – didn’t you want to look like her? So cool, so hip, so obviously not a blonde but with absolute blonde attitude. My uni days (and many nights) vibrated to her music. Heart of Glass, Call Me, The Tide is High, Maria and Rapture – all classics.

 

Bette Midler – The Divine Miss M. I channelled Bette through the early 80s, we were as one, shame about my voice but I did have the attitude. Remember her in The Rose, being Janis? And of course there was Beaches and Wind Beneath my Wings but her other stuff was better – Stay with Me, Do You Want to Dance and Beast of Burden. Check out her Mermaid antics on her live shows – bawdy and brilliant.

 

Carly SimonNo Secrets was the first proper record I ever had. My mum bought it as birthday present and playing it beforehand pretending Carly was Jeanette McDonald – I almost believed it! For a time there I had every single album and knew her songs off by heart. For a time there she and James Taylor were the highest earning celebrity couple in the world. You’re So Vain is simply timeless, and we all know someone who fits the song!

 

Chrissie Hynde – all attitude and hair, the shirts and the leather pants. She was like Blondie, but scary. The Pretenders were the archetypal rock n roll band – excess and death and songs to break your heart. Brass in Pocket, Talk of the Town and not so long ago the tear jerker, I’ll Stand by You. Chrissie sang from the heart, beneath that dark, mysterious fringe.

 

Grace Jones – I loved Grace. She was black silk and leather, amazing clothes and stunning performer. Remember the clip for Slave to the Rhythm? Graceful she was – sleek like a panther and as fierce. It was all about moving, her body, our bodies, a different rhythm for many of us. Black’s always been beautiful but never mores that with Grace. One of my girls was named for her.

 

Kate Bush – were you immune to Wuthering Heights? Could you believe what you saw on Countdown – the red dressed, wild haired girl prancing across the moors just like Cathy must have? But she had so many brilliant songs in her – Cloudbusting, Breathing and Babooshka. The clips were impressive too. God, such a talent!

 

Madonna – well you just can’t avoid this woman if you’re talking 70s-80s songbirds. She was the biggest eagle in the sky in the 80s and I did love Like a Virgin (the clip was stunning, well Venice & lions, how can you miss?) and Material Girl. She is the mistress of reinvention and you can’t fault her power and influence, even if she hasn’t done anything of much worth of late. I do wish she’d grown into her 50s with a bit more grace. (look at Blondie and Grace Jones in their 60s – amazing to behold)

 

Stevie Nicks – Fleetwood Mac were the band of the late 70s, so she was the singer. Can’t imagine life without Dreams, Rhiannon or Tusk (I know, instrumental). She was always the quintessential ephemeral floating fairy queen in those beautifully feminine dresses. Listen to Sara, you will cry. This was the woman who knew heart-ache and helped many of us cry our way through broken relationships.

Which women did you love? Who made an indelible mark on your life  – then and now? Music makes us who we are and these women shaped me, my taste in music and their songs marked many memorable stages of my life. I can’t hear Heart of Glass without thinking of one particular man! (images from google)

8 Moustaches for Movember

November 5, 2011

Movember is upon us and in honour of those stout hearted blokes who’ll do the right thing with their upper lips here is last year’s post on the wonder of moustaches. Ah, me I do miss the 80s when you could find many a magic tash all over the place, when they were cool and the world was young and not so dreadfully serious. Enjoy, remember, appreciate.

Facial hair has moved in and out of fashion over time. The moustache was king in the 70s and 80s. It was never cool for women and is sadly no longer cool these days. But in honour of Movember here are some of the great moustaches of our times.

Tom Selleck as Magnum – you can’t beat the ever smiling Tom – brilliant eyes and great hair – he is the king of the moustache. (And was responsible for my better half and myself hooking up all those years ago.)

Robert Reford as The Sundance Kid – same sort of combination as Selleck – eyes, hair, smile – only blond. This guy was so handsome.

Mark Spitz – the golden boy of the 1972 Olympics in Munich with his 7 gold medals. There was some talk that the drag on his moustache made him slower. Certainly the tash added to his golden aura – nice smile too.

Kevin Costner – as Wyatt Earp – as handsome with as without a moustache, not an easy feat to achieve.

Kevin Kline – spent some time with cute lip hair in many of his movies. He was a great actor – remember Sophie’s Choice, The Big Chill, A Fish Called Wanda, I Love You to Death. Kline was a huge star there for many years and usually accompanied by his moustache.

Freddie Mercury – another who could work the moustache. But was he better with long hair and clean face or with hair short and cropped with killer tash?

Merv Hughes – an outlandish Ozzie cricketer, as well known for his sporting and drinking skills as he was for his exceptional moustache.

Errol Flynn – one of the best exponents of the thin well groomed moustache. He was the original tear-away, Hollywood bad boy from little old Tasmania.

Other famous wearers – Charlie Chaplin, Lord Kitchener, Salvador Dali, Jimmy Edwards, Hulk Hogan and that nasty man from Germany.

Some personal favourites from my past – Dave McCarthy, oh joy of my university days; Terry Connors, insane NZ boss with thick black moustache; Kieran Cassidy, tall, elegant boss with glossy black moustache.

I thought men were more handsome with a moustache. It gave definition to the face and seemed to belong to men with the best smiles. They tended to be great kissers too. A soft tickling moustache was a wonderful sensation! (Images from Google images)