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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Writer's Journal: Worm Food (exercise)

(Topic suggested by Hebe)

It has a Shakespearian ring. That is what we all come to, isn't it? Did Yorick say something to that effect? I don't know if he actually used the phrase, but it’s the kind of thing he might have discoursed upon. But Hebe’s worm food is about life, not death. About growing good organic veggies, I presume, and keeping people healthy. I don’t have the energy or inclination for serious gardening. I want hardy things that take care of themselves: native plants are the go. Maybe I should try growing lilly pillies or something. They are said to be vey healthy eating, a rich source of Vitamin C.

Bush tucker, eh? But I would draw the line at goannas and things, caught and killed with my own bare hands.No thanks, can't get that far back to nature. So when the worms finally come to feed on me, they might find a toxic corpse. Will it bother them? Probably not.

When Hebe said her worms must be eating each other (because she has't got enough worm food) I thought, ‘Oh no, they are probably just dying quietly of starvation — but after all they do eat meat, flesh, so maybe....

Andrew and I did once try a compost bin but we didn’t have the hang of it. The day a rat jumped out of it was the day we gave up and got rid of the whole damn mess. Our pumpkins flourished without it. That is what I mean by hardy plants. We thought pumpkins would take over the world, even though we did little to help them thrive. In the end we got rid of them too. It was all too much to cope with.

Have I Done a Bad Thing?

(Oops! This is NOT a poem submitted to The Poets' Pantry at Poets United! I posted the wrong link; if you came from there, try the next two links.)

It felt like a necessary thing. And wasn’t at all premeditated in the first instance; it came upon me suddenly. I hung up on him.

The wonderful poet Pearl Pirie recently titled a blog post: My Give a Damn is Busted. And so it was for me. After seven years of listening to his dramas and supporting him as best I could; counselling and advising when it seemed necessary, from my much longer life experience — suddenly I ran out of steam, just like that, mid phone-call. I put down the phone instantly, spontaneously, without stopping to think: not hard, not in anger, but in the realisation that he’s locked into a pattern which is probably never going to change — certainly not in the foreseeable future — that he goes his own way whatever I say, despite professing agreement, and that I have no more energy left for this.

That of course is partly because I need all my energy these days for things going on in my own life, mainly caring for my Beloved (who is 83 and has health issues to be managed). It is as much due to realising that there was simply no point any more to this friendship. And I heard too, how cold and selfish he has become, as he justified dealing unethically with a couple of people in his life. One of them had perhaps treated him badly too; the other not, quite the reverse.

A day later he emailed: ‘I don’t know what happened; we must have been cut off.’ Which told me he did know; otherwise he’d have rung back immediately. So I explained as best I could, apologised for my rudeness, tried to point out to him his pattern, and announced my unwillingness to continue the friendship. He justified, denied, declared that he can’t change himself and that people in his life will have to take him as he is, and said he didn’t see why the friendship needed to end. He asked why I hadn’t said anything before about getting tired.

I reminded him that I had spoken many times in recent months of being tired, busy, overstretched, having low energy.... I refrained from adding that he obviously hadn’t been listening very hard, and suggested at least a long break from the friendship. And that’s where it rests. When I told my Beloved, who in the past has been fond of this lad too, expecting that he might say, ‘Hey, that’s a bit harsh’, he said, ‘YAY!!! About time!’

When I told my psychologist, who has heard much of the young man and his dramas because they so affected me emotionally, she too said, 'YAY!’ (then clapped her hand over her mouth and added with a grin, ‘I didn’t say that!’).

So why am I wondering if it’s a bad thing I’ve done? Because he is only 21, and after being an emotional and sometimes practical support since he was 14, almost in the role of a surrogate grandparent, I’ve pulled the plug very suddenly. But I remind myself that over the last year his circumstances have changed for the better, partly his own doing and partly with help from others. He has made some big mistakes along the way, but has managed to correct them after a fashion. I remind myself that he does have at least one other support person now. Also he has learned exactly where and how to obtain professional help of all kinds, if and when he thinks he needs it.

My Beloved exclaims approval for a tasty meal of curried sausages — which I made from a recipe the young man gave us. After dinner he uses his laptop — which the young man offered him free (secondhand, in good condition) though we insisted on paying it off at what we believed to be a fair price. He is not entirely cold, manipulative and draining; it wasn’t a completely one-sided friendship.

I feel as though I should have some guilt. Maybe I do, buried somewhere. I feel as though I should be experiencing twinges of reminiscent affection about the curried sausages and the laptop. Perhaps I will, later. At present I’m too darn tired. I just ran right out of puff. My Give a Damn is busted.

Writer's Journal (exercise): Pinching Other People's Things

I used to do it quite a lot when I was a kid. I wasn't allowed to read the Girls Crystal comic books that all the other girls at school used to talk about at playtime, and I felt very left out. But my parents didn't approve of ‘those rubbishy comics’; they wanted me to read good literature. (And I did, and loved it, and am forever grateful, But I wanted the rubbish too, or anyway to be part of the crowd.) Of course I wasn't allowed to take advantage of kind offers by some of the other girls to lend them to me, either. So I stole them from the corner shop. I used to hide them under my mattress and read them under the covers at night, with my Girl Guide torch.

Of course the day came when Mum turned the mattress, She waited for me to come home from school, and confronted me. Mum said, her whole life, ‘Oh, we never smacked the children.’ Selective memory? She spanked me that day with a hair brush, she was so enraged. I think it was not so much the morality of it as the ‘what would the neighbours say?’ by which she lived her life in those days.

After we’d both calmed down, she made me take the money for the one comic she had found to the shop, instructing me to apologise by saying, ‘I bought a comic and forgot to pay for it.’ What would she have said if she knew about all the others I had read and disposed of?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Pinching Other People's Things


I used to do it quite a lot when I was a kid. I wasn't allowed to read the Girls Crystal comic books that all the other girls at school used to talk about at playtime, and I felt very left out. But my parents didn't approve of ‘those rubbishy comics’; they wanted me to read good literature. (And I did, and loved it, and am forever grateful, But I wanted the rubbish too, or anyway to be part of the crowd.) Of course I wasn't allowed to take advantage of kind offers by some of the other girls to lend them to me, either. So I stole them from the corner shop. I used to hide them under my mattress and read them under the covers at night, with my Girl Guide torch.

Of course the day came when Mum turned the mattress, She waited for me to come home from school, and confronted me. Mum said, her whole life, ‘Oh, we never smacked the children.’ Selective memory? She spanked me that day with a hair brush, she was so enraged. I think it was not so much the morality of it as the ‘what would the neighbours say?’ by which she lived her life in those days.

After we’d both calmed down, she made me take the money for the one comic she had found to the shop, instructing me to apologise by saying, ‘I bought a comic and forgot to pay for it.’ What would she have said if she knew about all the others I had read and disposed of?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Writer's Journal (exercise): Out in the garden where we planted the seeds, there’ s a tree that’s as old as me

and I’m always embarrased and disappointed at what a scrawny little thing it is. Evidently my Mum and Dad didn’t know at the time that it would be so slow-growing. It should be lofty, a giant, don’t you think? I should be able to gaze up at it and say proudly, ‘This tree is as old as me, just think!’ But now, I stand beside it while they tell visitors, ‘We planted this when she was born. And I cringe. It is gnarled and twisted. It is never going to be lofty and spreading if it lives to be hundreds of years old. It’s a crab apple, a miserable thing with nasty little fruit. I hate it. ‘Why did you pick that to plant for me?’ I asked them once. ‘We thought it would be so lovely when it was in blossom.’ they said. It has seldom blossomed; when it does they are scarce. The only good thing about that is fewer of those nasty, shrivelled, dark so-called apples which no-one could ever eat.  I so hate it when they refer to me as Blossom, their pet name for me. 

When I grow up, I am going to get my own place and I am going to plant a tree in  honour of my dear parents. What will it be? What’s most poisonous? Perhaps oleander. That has wonderful blossoms, but you better not touch.  When they ask me why that tree for them, I’ll say, ‘I wanted to return the favour’.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

83rd birthday treat: 'War Horse' movie

It's an expedition these days for my darling to attempt the local cinema, because it has lots of stairs — and he has lots of arthritis in addition to lots of years. It's an old building and the new owners, a local woman and her family, have just refurbished it. There's no question of them going to the expense of a lift or escalator as well, even if the building could accommodate it, which I doubt. Most other cinemas nearby have stairs too. One which has a lift requires a long walk for Andrew, pushing his wheely walker, and then we have to ask the staff at the lolly shop to mind it for him during the film. At least the local is close to home, and was showing the film he wanted.

We got there early on purpose, found a parking space almost outside the door, and sat down on a handy bench to wait until they opened up, reading together from my Kobo. When they opened the doors, we went upstairs in our usual manner: him clinging to the rails and inching up slowly, me coming behind with a firm, supportive hand on his back.

Then we had coffee and got chatting to the young man presiding today, the new owner's son. He was just as nice as his two sisters, whom we met on our previous visit. When he learned that Andrew had been a film editor many years ago, and that moreover it was his 83rd birthday today, he said we must stay behind after the movie and go up into the projection room to see the new digital equipment, so different from the old projector — which they still had, as a piece of history.

There were more stairs up into the theatre. We sat in the second row of the dress circle rather than climb any higher. It was a good vantage point for saying hello to people we knew coming in after us. Hard to go to our local without seeing folk we know; one of the nice things about a small town.

We loved the movie despite the fact that, now that I'm an old lady, realistic battle scenes make me weep for the tragedy of it all. I was amazed to read that it was based on a children's story. Tough kids they'd have to be! And probably not very young ones. Be that as it may, the film was beautifully done, another Spielberg masterpiece. Luckily the war was not the whole point of the story. It was about love — between family members and friends, humans and animals. That's all I'll say — no spoilers.

After it was over, the young man, Dan, helped Andrew up to the projection room at the back, and I followed to look at the equipment too. I tried to appear intelligent while they discussed the finer points. Dan dashed out to do a quick clean of the theatre, then returned to set up for the next screening, just at the touch of a button these days, and helped Andrew back down. We encountered old friends coming in for the next show — kisses all round, and birthday wishes for Andrew.

In the foyer, an elegant oder woman (but nowhere near as old as us!) asked if it was we who went up to see the projectors.

'You must be the famous mother,' I said. 'We met your lovely daughters last time we were here.'

'Yes, aren't they lovely?' she said. She was indeed the new owner, and said how honoured she was that we'd come to her theatre for Andrew's 83rd. I told her that her son was lovely too and she said, 'Oh yes, Dan's gorgeous,' with a big smile over her shoulder at him.

She offered to help us down the rest of the stairs to the outside, but I blithely said we'd manage. He clung to the rails again on the way down, while I kept close behind clutching his belt and refusing other kind offers of help from people coming in.  Then I held his hand along the short passage to the front door. There were two more steps onto the street. I went ahead to help him down them, but he stood there, saying, 'I think I'm going to  have to find somewhere to sit down,' then promptly did sit down hard on the first step. It was almost a fall.

A young father, walking past with two schoolboys and a dog, was next to offer help. This time I didn't refuse. He supported Andrew in standing up again and getting to the car, fortunately only a few steps further.

When we got home, Andrew had a long rest before dinner and I contemplated the wisdom of our plans to return next Saturday to see Iron Lady. There is a magic in seeing something in the cinema; nevertheless, maybe we'll decide to watch Iron Lady on DVD in our living room!


Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Postscript to the Deception

This is an edited version of a recent comment to other online friends of Penelope (the girl we had believed dead).


What we have experienced does seem to me to match the descriptions I found of behaviour which has come to be known as Munchausen by internet. 

After much research and much thinking, I have finally come to the conclusion that the girl we interacted with was indeed the real Penelope. As the online school records show, she and the girl pictured were in the same class and involved in the same activities. They were/are quite likely friends. I expect it would have been easy enough for her to obtain those photos; she might even have taken some of them herself. I imagine the other girl was not aware of the use to which they were put.

I believe we felt affection for the real person — that the emotions, reactions, ideas, opinions, tastes and interests she exhibited to us over the years were for the most part genuine, but that certain events she recounted were either exaggerated or downright false.

It has been distressing for us all in more ways than one. 

I am not so devastated as I was when I thought she was dead; however I am sad to have lost a friend and sadder still to think that she must have some degree of mental disturbance. 

I have now said all I can or want to on the matter. I certainly wish Penelope well, albeit with a heavy heart and not a lot of hope. But, ‘while there’s life there’s hope’ and I am sure she is alive. That’s something.