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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Salvage or Selvage?

Ahoy, lofty, alighted and abridged sailors, be sure to stow away and sail away, for if we run or stand agrounded we'll be nothing but salvage for pirates, sharks or the king's garbage men. Thar'll be nothing left. Just scrunched up, ruined stuff flotsaming free upon the sea. Sadly true, pirates are not an olden day myth. Impoverished African nations are increasingly relying on stolen fortunes and the ruination of the lives of 'developed world' seafarers. A new breed of murderers and thieves steal a foothold on the bottom rung of the economic evolutionary ladder. Out of control anachronistic anarchists? When someone behaves like a Robin Hood character, can the line between social justice action and self-combusted soul destruction actually be held?  

Jello Biafra provides worthy commentary about America's economic crisis; saying that it has nothing to do with the country losing its financial assets, it's entirely about the same people who have always had wealth, stealing even more of it from the poor. After bringing the behemoth to its knees, the 'have alls' don't look like giving anything back. Not a new story. The rich get richer and the poor get the picture, said some rock and roll muso, come politician who reckons he didn't inhale the meaning of his own words.

And so the salvage of humanity's material worth washes up on the same peoples' shore, in a different century.   

More important is the edge that social fabric relies upon: the selvage that that holds and takes care of the common weave, the democratic equality principle. But we also know that the thin facia that guards us from the abyss is frail and fraying. Society's handmaidens and seamstresses are working hard to patch it up and hold it together, but vast chunks have worn, torn and fallen away. Yesterday Rob and I happened upon the Occupy Melbourne protest, as we were going to a 'date day' lunch. Young and bemused police officers on horses and others carrying riot shields swept through and pushed the everyday citizens out of public space. I briefly spoke to an Occupy Melbourne organiser who was disgusted. He told me that, during the week of occupancy, any protester who uttered fighting words was evicted. On the sidelines a few scouting types handed out cornchips and fruit pieces to onlookers while the chanting gained strength - 'this is what democracy looks like', and 'we're here to keep the peace'.

I also chatted with the fruit-stall man, who asked, 'what's it worth - we believe in democracy and a fair society, but nothing ever changes. What difference does a protest make?' 
I think every action makes a difference. Occupy Melbourne is a small and passing moment in time, where a curious motley mix chose to be selvage, and held a line. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Noighty Noight

I've had a chest lurgy for 3 weeks and needed to scarper off from work early today. Which means I have more time to make up tomorrow. So, it's well and truly beddy time. But before I go, here's a wee bedtime story......
Once upon a time, my sister Claire and I shared bedroom for 17 years, until she left home. Being of a large tribe, every night of those years, we were shooed off to bed at 'ridiculous o'clock', which, for farmers was 'perfect sense o'clock'. During daylight savings, Claire and I wiled away at least a couple of hours before we needed to sleep. There were games with sheets and pillows. There were charades and finger puppets. And there were listening, guessing games as the cicadas chirped and birds got tired of keeping us awake. Finally, we had a ritualistic sleep blessing that we bestowed on each other. Two tiny prattling girly voices said something like this, almost in unison.
"Good night sweet dreams god bless don't let the bedbugs bite hope you wake up fit and well in the morning don't forget to say your prayers be good tomorrow sweet dreams". And of course before we went to sleep, I piped up every ten seconds or so, just to annoy my big sister.
Sweet dreams dear loves. xxxxx

Monday, October 17, 2011

Emulating the Village People

The Village People were a great advertisement for choosing a career to love. We know these days that we'll probably embark on six or seven various vocations throughout our working lives. Well, the Village People, as old-school 1970s mentors, were doing it all; wearing dress ups to work, being proud Naval officers, and getting everyday satisfaction from volunteering with the YMCA. A diverse representation of all walks of life, they spoke to the common man, and didn't mind going the extra yards to pump iron (probably at the YMCA) to keep themselves nice. I was one of those kids strutting my stuff in front of the black and white tv, in my halter-neck top and frayed jeans shorts, vying for position alongside my six siblings. I worked those moves, I knew those lyrics. I wanted so much to be an indian and a construction worker that I forgot I wasn't a man.

I've had quite a few careers, straying off well-worn paths to taste other fruity callings, searching for the Edenic work place, only to find myself brooding in the Garden of Gethsemane. But I believe I've been redeemed by virtue of hard-earned wisdom, and only today stumbled upon confirmation of this by wise words spoken, or course, by a man who is recently deceased. 

Steve Jobs said about work: The only way to do great work is to love what you do...Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle.

Ahhhh, at last I can tell my parents I'm okay!!! Because Steve Jobs said so. He also said something about work being like a valued relationship. I've heard too many musician blokes saying that a band is like a marriage. I guess in some ways, a preferred work environment will, like a good friendship, have its misadventures; will rely on a degree of faith, fortitude and the willingness to negotiate for the bigger picture love-fest. 

If you're familiar with the rumpus vagaries of narrative writing, you will have figured out that, yes, I'm about to talk about myself, as a happy worker.

A few months ago I went back (again) to work for an organisation that has for the last 6 years been the work affair of my life. We've had a few separations over the years, and through those I've wisened up. 

Though its the best, sometimes it's a grind. Being in my forties, there's an arthritic twinge or two, a few workplace injuries (repetitively strained brain cells) the occasional need for a mid-afternoon nod off, etc... But on the whole I LOVE IT. Consider the metaphor of a lover bringing flowers. It's very rare, especially when its a long haul gig. Today I had a 'bunch of flowers' moment. My colleague Julie brought in a bunch of hats. 

For the last few days, I've been excited about hats. Rob, my partner, asked me this morning before I left for work: 'what's with your stupid hat obsession?' And I said, it's not so much about the hats.

Last week I invited my team mates to join me on Melbourne Cup day at the Lomond Hotel in East Brunswick. Its a hokey neighbourhood pub, famed for folk and Irish music. For the last few years I've bowled up sometimes on my own, wearing a self-made ridiculous thing on my head. It's a tradition I've established for myself. The Lomond hosts a chicken, sausages and salad brunch, some old-timey musicians play some tunes, and the tensions rise prior to the race being run, the pub presents awards for hats, frocks etc. Now, its only fair that I boast and say that for the last three years running I have won the best hat award! 

So my work colleagues will be joining me at the Lomond! I've got a vision for the Australian Cork Hat restyled as an Australian Horse Hat, and there will be Fascinators that Exasperate! This morning I awoke early, again, with ideas for a cornucopia of foolish headwear.  

I wonder if the fiddle player knows any Village People tunes. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

What does it take?

Cooking dinner and listening to new music on Melbourne's rrr radio station, I thought about Miss Georgia Lucy. Not long ago, Ruby and I had a 'single mum and daughter bunk in' existence in a 1980s two bedroom unit, in Brunswick; errr, with a dog, a cat and a rabbit. It was cosy and close. We were lucky to live next door to Georgia and an innumerable, relentless roll of free-ranging artomusicocraftiovibeo folks - of the younger human demographic. They lived next door in a run-down squat style house attached to an old garage. It was marked for demolition so it didn't matter how they inhabited the space. There they established 'Medium', as an artist space and gallery, a veritable playground for frolicsome spirits.

Living in close quarters in Brunswick, outdoors became a necessary lure, inviting simple urban adventures. Sometimes Ruby would strap Marvin K Mooney into his tiny harness and with Motu the dog we endeavoured to train a rabbit how to walk around the block. We mostly resorted to giving Marvie a piggy back ride on Motu (who was old and decrepit and didn't seem to mind). On other occasions we strapped ourselves up with wheels and roller-skated, around the vast concrete factory 'rinks'. And I frightened pedestrians by falling over a lot. But I digress. It was a challenging time; post family breakdown, etc..... and we 'made our own fun'. But in retrospect, there was more to it.

The weekend after the hippies moved in, they held a 'garage sale', and sold, well, basically stuff that nobody would want. Feeling a neighbourly sense of responsibility, we lobbed up in our Saturday morning tracky-dacks, introduced ourselves and donated some fairly decent stuff that we thought people might buy.

Georgia was around 19 or 20, and had moved to Melbourne from Newcastle. By typical coincidence, Ruby had only the year before, attended Year 7 at Newcastle High School, with Georgia's brother. This young woman like to paint and draw and sing out of tune with her husky voice late at night. She soon began to wear some of the old scraps of opshop clothes that I'd donated. And she became very fond of Motu. During a nasty hail storm Motu disappeared. After several distressing laps around the neighbourhood we eventually found him, well ensconced next door, sitting on a pile of cushions and beanbags, while Georgia painted his portrait: a veritable botticelli mutt.
Georgia gave us the painting. We love it, especially because Motu passed away last year.

But I digress.

So here I was, cooking and thinking about Georgia and her artistic clan, listening to the radio and relishing every song it waved at me. Then I heard about a stage play that I would LOVE to see. Barry Dickens; journalist, critic, playwright, has at last launched a play he wrote many years ago, about Brett Whiteley's life. Brett Whiteley. The exemplary eccentric, drug addled genius. The story of his life is intense and intriguing. Hmmm, would it be too clever, too avant-garde for a garden variety thesbi-cretin such as me?

I was thinking about talent, and the diversity of forms it takes. To me, creativity is an essential part of life, but so hard to incorporate when one lives with a work-focussed mind-bent. I mean; to create, survive adversity, truly love people, and celebrate living a meaningful life, while living in the moment. Is this asking too much, biting off more than can be swallowed by the average soul?

I personally struggle to do this. I have spent most of my life trying to run ahead of a dog snapping at my heels. You know, the black dog. Actually that metaphor doesn't work for me: its more like a deep dark well. I'm the sort of person who gives myself a harder time than anyone else can. I expect a lot from life: I require it of myself, and if I fail at this ambition then I find it hard to forgive myself.

I work with people who live their lives managing serious mental illness. I do this because nobody could inspire me more. Over the years I've worked on the development of a 'Recovery' program, initially researching and writing it, and these days I'm in the field facilitating the program with groups, and supporting people who have a mental illness to run groups themselves. This seedling of a program is changing people's lives. It's giving them a lease on life, but not like a pharmaceutical or a yoga program. It simply reminds them of their potential, and supports them to re-imagine themselves, gives them hope that despite the blows of social judgement, misfortune, homelessness, joblessness and ill-health, they innately have a 'take' on life. And everyday relearned achievements give them a powerful sense of accomplishment. This too is living life creatively. Making something out of very very little.

Cooking, listening to music and thinking about my exposure to wonderful people. This cheers me up; I almost feel like I've painted something.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

If a journal is penned in the forest?

Before Facebook, smart phone games, instant messaging and the infinite lure of YouTube and Wikipedia, I was an occasional journal writer. I used my own hand to scrawl upon the page words, idioms and symbols that I alone gleaned meaning from. Back in those olden days second party recipients weren't necessary for the exercise to hold value. And I wasn't the only one! Chronicled self reflection was a fairly common enterprise, in many a quiet, darkened bedroom. Some preferred to doodle and scribble in the early morning, others at dusk and mostly in silence. Now it seems strange to recall that there was no need for newly downloaded music to assist the ruminative process. To journal was to conjure an inner world that happily sat at odds with the outer world, and moreover, stared down the barrel at busy opinionated content laden interference.
Is journalling a lost art? Is it now only possible to write for a perceived, even if not real, reader?
Once upon a time, many many moons ago, people privately took pen to paper, but alas nobody wrote about this phenomena and nobody took photos.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fire up the Belly Pot

I've tentatively tip toe launched this blog as a portico to my amusings, a lense to my worldview as I toddle through life. I'm a poet, author, mother who is inspired by those who confront adversity and challenge everyday assumptions. I believe in the constant process of 'becoming', and for me to do this I crave the poles of dissonance and essence. Give me cause to reflect and fire up my belly and pause for peaceful being and observance. Oh, did I mention humour? Give it to me in multiple ententres.