Archive for March, 2014

Mothers: 11 from Literature and History

March 29, 2014

It’s Mothers’ Day in the UK this weekend: time to appreciate the woman who brought you into the world, or the one who brought you up. A time to stop and think about all that love, all that unconditional love that made you who you are.

I’m going to stop there. Mothers’ Day is one of those things, a bit like Christmas Day, that looks lovely and sounds sweet and offers joyful abundance. For some. And for those for whom it is a happy day, good on you, enjoy the warmth and love of your family – either being appreciated or appreciating. Fortunately, I will be appreciated as I’ve managed to be quite a reasonable mum for the last 25+ years (I hope and I like to think!).

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But as a child it’s not the same. And I know for some of my friends out there that Sunday is not going to be a good day. Instead it will be a sharp pointy reminder of what is now gone, or what never was. Being a mother, along with generally just being a woman, has been a highly fraught role through history and literature.

So, today, instead of ranting about the rampant commercialism, that floods the high street and your local supermarket, in an attempt to avoid the hovering clouds of expectation and disappointment, let us have a little trawl through the past to see how Mothers stack up – are we more Mary or Medea??

 

Gaia – whom we better know as Mother Earth, was the first goddess of Greek mythology. She created herself out of chaos and then brought forth Uranus, the starry sky out of nothingness. No wonder we still consider Mother Earth as powerful woman.

Grendel’s Mother – the she-monster who wreaks havoc on Beowulf and his followers for killing her son. An epic bit of mother love. An epic poem too.

Lady Capulet – who wasn’t really very concerned about Juliet, just wanted her married off to Paris and threatened to disown her if Juliet went against her father. And we know how that all ended!

Mary – of course, the virgin mother, the one who gave us the Saviour. How can we get passed her for goodness and sacrifice?

Medea – who killed her children to punish Jason (of the Golden Fleece) to punish him because he had betrayed her.

Snow White and Cinderella’s step-mothers – evil, scheming, nasty old bags, doing their best to eliminate their rivals. Evil step-mothers are legion in fairy tales but we’ll content ourselves with these two.

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Borte – wife of Genghis Khan – who had four sons, and several daughters. She was chosen by the young Genghis – Temujin, supposedly because of her strong legs and flat face. She was immensely powerful and influential and helped keep the great Khan’s empire running.

Catherine De Medici – it took her ten years and she was married to someone in love with another but she become the mother of three French kings, and had a large hand in the running of France in the 16th century

Eleanor of Aquitaine – another mother of kings, and a formidable woman in her own right. She was married to Louis VII of France, and therefore Queen of France but with only bearing daughters her marriage was annulled and she went off to marry Henry II of England and had eight children, five sons, two of whom went onto be kings – Richard the Lion Heart and the more infamous John of Magna Carta ilk.

Ammu – from The God of Small Things, who loves her children more than anything, except perhaps Velutha, who she cannot love at all. Ammu runs away from a violent marriage back to a disapproving home, where her children run ‘wild’ but feel safe and strong in her love. Until she is taken from them and then they are lost too.

Sophie Sophie’s Choice has perhaps the worst experience for any mother in the world. Choose between your children. Oh, how can you choose, how can you possibly do such a thing? The fact that Sophie partly brought the hideous scene on her own shoulders does not excuse the vile callousness of the young German soldier. Choose. You cannot. No wonder she committed suicide, what else can you do as a mother after such a terrible-terrible thing?

 

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There are so many ways to be a mother, to have a mother. The truth is we are all ‘of woman born’ whether ‘untimely ripped from our mother’s womb’ or not and perhaps even if we cannot celebrate the day, we can pause and be grateful for the mother we had, because without her we wouldn’t be here, or more importantly, the people we are today. (Images from Private Collection)

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A world in two halves

March 22, 2014

Have you noticed how much of the world divides neatly in two? Consider your own life and have a look at this week’s list – a life of two paths, two parts, two ways to live your one and only life – which alternative is you? I’m sure there’s a deep personality indicator here, but my Psych degree is years out of date!

 

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Herein a list of opposites, in no particular order, of things you cannot be at the same time:

Beautiful and ugly

Rich and poor

Kind and mean

Smart and dumb (as opposed to educated and stupid, which you definitively can be!)

God-fearing and God-less

Brave and meek

Optimistic and pessimistic

Hobbit and Pirate – think about it…

Fat and thin

Happy and sad

Old and young

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Self centred and considerate

Ignorant and aware

Reader and stupid – you knew it would be here somewhere!

Poet and banker – please tell me otherwise, I’d love this to be untrue!

Superstitious and rational

Indoors and outside

Patient and intolerant

Cheerful and miserable

Cat people and dog people

Married and single

Wise and immature

Gullible and skeptical – spell orange slowly…

Captain and crew

Civilized and barabarian

Country and city – or grass and steel

Neat and messy

Builders and destroyers

Shallow and deep

Champagne and beer

Nick and Tom – this is for you, Greta Creed

Pooh and Tigger

Gandalf and Sauron

Ratty and Mole

Sherbet and Skyhooks – remember?

Lion and lamb

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So, you have two challenges:

  1. Add your own exclusive opposites to my list, which is by no means exhaustive
  2. Check off where you sit and see if tells you anything you didn’t already know about who you are and how you live your life… (Images courtesy Private Collection and Phoenix Bewsher)

Reasons to be Angry, Part…

March 15, 2014

Hum along to Ian Dury and the Blockheads Reason to be Cheerful as you peruse this weeks musings: a consideration of the many reasons we have to be angry and a but as well.

The world is not a nice place, even for the relatively affluent of the West. We struggle, we fall down, we lose, we win. And it seems to me we spend an inordinate amount of time being angry – sometimes with good reason and sometimes just because it seems the best emotional response.

So, to a list, something we haven’t had for a bit: Reasons to be Angry

Rude people – in all bits of life, for no reason whatsoever – in the supermarket, on the bus, at work, spitting their nastiness at you without justification – taking their anger out on you

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Public transport – for those who must rely on tubes, trains and busses to get around and suffer the rudeness of bus-drivers, ignorance of fellow passengers (shoving, loud music, smelly food, etc), regular delays, over-crowding, unexpected cancelations – yes, all round crappy service

People who don’t read – no not people who can’t read – but those who can and actually don’t bother. You know, those who respond to your request, your email or letter and it’s manifestly clear they haven’t understood a thing because THEY HAVENT READ IT PROPERLY AT ALL – and you know once more how stupid most of the world is.

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People who don’t try, who don’t have a go, those who give up at the first sign of a set back, who can’t cope with any sort of criticism – yes, GCSE English students and your ilk, I am thinking of YOU.

People who bully, who crap on you for no reason other than they can and it makes them feel superior, even though they are the epitome of inferior. Their power and your powerlessness is the perfect recipe for anger.

People who lie, who can’t tell the truth, who don’t care about the truth, who deliberately dissemble and undermine the truth are truly rage makers. Yes, think politicians, CEO’s – any bastard trying to cover their arse and put you off. Not to mention children who lie at the drop of a hat, even when they know that you know the truth!!

Politicians – please don’t let me even begin on Michael Gove or Tony Abbott. God save us from democratically elected politicians who have no fucking idea about anything other than their own small world yet presume to lecture us because they think their position – which they owe to (some of) us – makes them somehow intelligent, all knowing and all powerful. At least we don’t like in the Ukraine, Turkey or Syria, etc, so I guess that is some small consolation…

The treatment of women in an increasingly misogynistic, hard line religious extremist world is very good reason to be angry. For anyone who thinks the feminist fight is won you are being an idiotic ostrich, ignoring the atrocities and injustices perpetrated against ordinary women who simply want to be able to go to school, drive cars, marry at a decent age and not be the property of a man, be it their father or husband.

The power and greed of big corporations who are literally raping the planet – killing the bees, poisoning our water ways, ripping down our forests, killing our reefs, and then suing governments and not paying their fare share of taxes. Corporate greed is killing our planet.

The ever increasing divide between the rich and the poor – actually it’s a gaping unbreachable chasm these days, as exemplified by the aforementioned politicians and corporate greed. Between them ordinary hard working people have been comprehensively screwed over.

 

But, stop now. You can’t be angry all day – no it’s Saturday and the weekend and it would be a waste to lose the day, the creeping warmth, in negative emotions, in the futility of anger. This is what I want you to do instead.

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Join an organization that is trying to make a difference – WWF, Greenpeace, sign petitions, attend rallies – it is a way to channel negativity and feel you are not alone in your anger and outrage.

Do something that makes you feel good – get outside, in your garden, go for a walk, watch the rugby, have a big sleep in, read in bed all day.

Be with people you love – always the best cure – and make sure you laugh – a big babbling, effusive bubbling laugh that can’t be stopped can cure anything.

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Hug the things you love the most – you can’t be angry snuggled up to the one(s) you love.

Smell something wonderful – grass, aromatic candles, your dog – smells do lovely things to the chemicals in your brain, so go ahead and sniff

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And finally, when all else fails, eat some chocolate – of any description – especially Mars Bar Cheesecake! (Images courtesy of Private Collection)

The Rich Just Don’t Get It

March 8, 2014

I’m not rich, nor will I ever be. I’ve not been blighted by extreme poverty either. But I come from working class stock; I’ve gone without and worked for everything I have. So have most people I know. I know there are those in the world who believe they are entitled to all sorts of things – jobs, houses, healthcare, an education, fame and fortune – without working. Yes, too many kiddies of my acquaintance have that entitlement deep within them. They think that working hard, making an effort is for others; that somehow, just like on a range of pervasive and nefarious get-famous-quick shows they will float to the top without skills, talent or work.

Wise people know that won’t happen. Wise people know that most of us make our way in the world through education and work. But the messages in our world today, our western capitalist celebrity driven world, do not value hard work, or loyalty, or fair pay for a fair day’s wage. Governments may bang on about social mobility but nobody in positions of social status and power really believe in it or support it: they like and need the status quo – they want the majority of us to stay disempowered and most definitely not wealthy.

Have you noticed how the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer? Not to mention the middle being squeezed out of existence. And our economies are not buoyant robust creatures living off the back of the rich, there is no trickle down effect because the way the rich get rich is by keeping it to themselves, paying limited tax and squeezing their own workforces, and others if they can manage it.

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Several things this week have brought it home loud and clear: the rich don’t get it. They have no idea what it’s like for anyone in this world other than themselves.

1.Bankers Bonuses continue despite banks going broke being the biggest single issue to impact on the UK economy in recent years

2. The IMF effectively said the current model of capitalism is a failure.

3. Gina Rinehart, mining magnate of Oz, came out saying Australians just didn’t work hard enough, were paid too much and she thought we needed more of Margaret Thatcher’s tough, eat-em-alive and divide-the-country style leadership; that welfare was sending one of the richest countries in the world broke. Oh, yes, we all know that to be true…

Austerity doesn’t work. Squeezing the middle doesn’t work – their disposable income drops to zero as our costs spiral and our wages stall and plummet, and the high street dies and is filled with charity shops, pound shops and coffee chains. As disposable income dries up, so do jobs, companies go bust and more people lose their jobs. More people end up on unemployment benefits and cannot pay their bills and the government bill for Welfare does not shrink: despite all the government slashing and burning, it grows. But hey, the rich are okay – they’re still buying up the heart of London, living in Singapore, or overseas, not paying tax to the countries they make their money from.

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The rich are killing us. The Ukraine revolt was in part about the gaps between them and us. The palpable disgust and contempt we have for Bankers is because they’ve ripped us off and are still ripping us off. Why has my pay been frozen for years now and bankers still get their bonuses? I didn’t bankrupt the country but I’m paying for it.

The outpouring of bile from Gina Rinehart shows what a truly ugly person she is – and I am not just talking about what she looks like. This is a woman who inherited her wealth, who grew up not scraping and scrimping but in an environment of wealth and privilege. A woman who is the wealthiest person in Oz, who wants to pay her workers $2 an hour, who has not had one single philanthropic moment in her life. She lives overseas in order to minimize her tax liability yet, the government panders to her and she berates her countrymen.

gina

Western governments have repeatedly got it wrong. The boom and bust pattern endures. The current model of capitalism has failed – look at the elevation of vacuous idiots in all walks of life. The IMF spelled it out, and I say it again, austerity does not work, but governments aren’t listening and more of us will lose our way as retirement ages are increased, pensions become harder to get and young people remain under employed.

When David Cameron was elected, it was widely mooted that he and the likes of George Osborne would be good leaders as money wouldn’t corrupt them as they were already independently wealthy and therefore able to make good decisions for all of us. What was lost in this hope was the fact that they, along with the Gina Rineharts of the world, and other leaders who have been in power far too long, have no idea what it’s like for ordinary people. What it’s like not to have enough money to get you from one pay day to the next, to have your buying power eroded by greedy CEO’s constantly putting up their costs, for the excessive infrastructure costs of life. Big business and shareholders drive the world, not customers, not people.

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I know I’m naïve, I know I should know better, but what has happened to us? Why are we driven by money to the extent we are? Why must we live in an economy not a society? Why have governments – and in this I mean democratically elected governments, I’m not even going close to dictatorships – repeatedly let ordinary people down? Why are governments only governing for a few, not for the many? Why don’t they care about young people, old people, sick people, hard working people, the environment, the future?

When did it all become about the money – when did the world lurch so far off its orbit that the only thing that matters is money? Perhaps climate change is the earth’s way of getting back at us for our stupidity, for being so moronically greedy and self serving all the time… (Images from pandawhale.com-Gordon Ghecko; buzzinnet-house; abc.net-gina; commonelectionguide,blogspot-sillypeople)

The Power of Pets

March 1, 2014

When I was a little girl (no jokes about how long ago that was) all I wanted was a wombat for a pet. I’d read a book by Nan Chauncy and the girl in that had a wombat, so I became determined to have one. My dad, God love him, took me seriously, found out some information about keeping wombats – destructive tank like creatures with their impressive teeth and claws – so he build a concrete and corrugated iron house behind the washing line for my wombat, complete with window and door. I was excited and happy.

But – yes, you knew that was coming – I did not get my wombat. Further advice was taken from a zoo keeper who said it really wasn’t possible to have a wombat as a pet, despite my father’s building and my desperation, it was deemed an idea destined for disaster.

Gentle reader, I did not get over this, despite appearances to the contrary. A few years later there was a TV show in Oz called A Country Practice and on that show the doctor had a pet wombat, called Fatso. I was a very-very unhappy girl – how could this be so, when wombats were not pet material! This injustice remained all my life, so when my baby girl said she wanted a pig for a pet when we moved from Darwin to Deviot in Tasmania, well, there was no way she was being denied the way I had been.

Rosie

Rosie could easily have been a wombat. She too, was a tank of an animal with that powerful snout and aggressive trotters. She turned her pleasant undulating enclosure into dirt and mud in a matter of months. She had a concrete and corrugated iron shed, with an open door, and a view over the river.

But she was never quite the pet we imagined in our promissory conversations. She escaped regularly, only enticed back by food; she killed the odd chicken who came into her space; she frightened the life out of Zanz when he was brand new; she bellowed for food and seemed on the whole not a very happy pig. To be sure we made many errors and would do it all differently now, but, and this is the key – Pallas loved Rosie and it’s fair to say Rosie loved Pallas back. Pallas was allowed into the enclosure to change straw, rub her tummy (as was Dave) and generally be with her. Rosie knew whose pig she was. And Pallas knew her parents loved her enough to get her the pet she wanted, despite the many and varied challenges Rosie presented for all of us.

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In the early days of life with my beloved I had two cats and he had one. There were pecking order issues, but we rubbed along together. Siska, my abandoned fluffy white beauty, was not that fond of other people. But she took a shine to Dave and her affection for him, when none had been present for any previous boyfriend, was one of the main reasons I knew he was the ‘one’.

siska and dave

So, we have had a range of animals and children since we took up together all those years ago in gorgeous Gove, a place no-one whose lived there ever gets over. Our first Shepherd was a ‘give away’ on the Gove notice-board and Persia was the sweetest, gentlest thing, who coped with toddlers shouting at her and rolling over her, bashing her with their little fists. My beloved and I were heart-broken when she had to be put down. Since then we’ve had more cats, dogs, chickens, ducks, turkeys, fish and rabbits.

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There is a large body of research about the benefits of pets, for the young, for the ill and for the elderly. Pets help in the recovery from illness; they help the old and lonely feel connected and wanted; they help kids learn responsibility and sadly, about death and loss. Pets love you, no matter what. They ask for very little: food, grooming, a walk (perhaps not your tortoise or hedgehog, or fish), affection and attention – yes, they need time and the right space for their needs. A pet doesn’t shout at you, gossip about you; they forgive you and love you unconditionally. A pet does you far more good than you do it.

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Animals get to you, they get inside your lives, your hearts and minds and when things happen to them it is like something has happened to members of your family. I remember when Siska died in 1986, from kidney failure. I was alone in Darwin, on some in-service, and all I could do after I’d spoken to the vet was cry the night away. An over-reaction perhaps but she and I’d been through a lot together. She (and Bundy, her kitten) were my first pets; she’d followed me to uni a couple of times and managed to get herself lost, and then found; she came to Queenstown with me and then to the NT. She was my mate, my fluffy, huffy gorgeous girl and I cried buckets. Attila, Dave’s cat disappeared in Darwin, never to be seen again, so we were left wondering… Not nice either.

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This is the downside of pets. They die. You outlive them. Despite all your hopes of immortality for them, they expire before you do. And it’s hard. It’s horrible but it’s not enough reason not to have them.

Last week we nearly lost Zanz. Out of nowhere he seemed to age 10 years over-night, he was listless and completely devoid of energy – he was absolutely not himself. After some discussion and a terrible walk to the park he went to the vet. His spleen had ruptured and he was hours away from death.

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Happily the surgery was completely successful and after a terrible night of worry and anxiety he came home to us, big scar, shaved tummy and very quiet. But a week later, he’s on his way back to his Tigger-bounce self. He’s nearly nine, so his life is nearing it’s end (big dogs live less than little dogs) and it may be sooner rather than later. But, he’s one of us, a central member of our family, he came from Australia with us, travels to France with us, loves us to bits as we love him. When he finally goes I will cry an ocean for him and be sad for a long time. But I’ll never regret having him. He has brought nothing but joy and happiness into our lives.

Looking after another creature is good for you, it shows you care, it makes you less selfish, a better person. Stroking a pet is a soothing, calming thing, caring for a pet, no matter what sort, connects you to other living things, reminds you of your place in the wider world. Caring for pets improves/maintains your social skills; helps your mental health and, I think, increases your capacity to love and be loved.

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Pets are powerful creatures and don’t you need more power in your life? (Images courtesy Private Collection)