Includes book reviews and bits from writer's journal. For the professional stuff, see website link below left.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sunday Letters — Market Edition (May 2015)

Dear Readers of This Blog:

Yes, I have missed two Sundays. Clean forgot. I suspect no-one noticed, as it's a new practice anyway. But I don't know that. 

I only know for sure who reads these posts if you leave a comment. But I'm not saying you're obliged. 

I know that anonymous readers also exist, because you show up in my stats. I even know where you come from (the more of you there are in any country, the darker green it displays). USA mostly, and quite a lot also from Russia and Germany, ahead of Australia. I have no idea why, unless for the simple reason that those countries have more bloggers than most, who are out and about all over the web.

Dear Readers, I am glad these posts do get looked at, and are not just self-indulgent wanks going into a void! 

It immediately occurs to me that they could be that and still get looked at, briefly and/or contemptuously — but I'll assume the best, because that makes me feel good. And because I think it is better to have some readers than none, and you are entitled to your own opinions. 

I am glad no-one hates my words so much as to leave nasty messages!

Thank you all.


Dear Murwillumbah Showgrounds Market —


I've been coming here nigh on 20 years, on and off. Lately I've missed a couple: once due to a wake for a dead friend, once because I had the flu. And before that you were washed out twice in a row from heavy rains, and before THAT you didn't happen near Xmas; you never do. So it has been five months since I was here last.

You are cold and gloomy, here in the large Pavilion. It is up to us stall-holders to make you warm and bright. Today there are so few of us in here, we don't have much chance to draw anyone in. It's a quiet market anyway, today. However, you have brought me the two customers I need in order to go, however slightly, into profit. 

I asked for a sign today, as to whether I should continue or finally stop coming. You're the only market I still do. I rely on you to augment my Age Pension, which is a frugal living, harder and harder to manage on. But I think it is not good to rely on these earnings; I need to find a more predictable income supplement. 

And this morning it was cold; hard for me to get out of bed early enough, not being a natural morning person anyway.

And now the Goddess Circle meetings have been changed, to coincide with my market day — for quite unconnected reasons, but it means I can't go to Circle any more.

So, yes, it seemed time to ask for a sign.

I got here and the back door I usually bring my stuff through was closed. I saw there was space down the side, and was able to park right by the side door, which is even more convenient for me.

Someone had been incorrectly allocated my stall space — but I got the one next to it, even closer to the main door which the customers come through. I heard that the woman who had this space isn't going to be coming any more; presumably I could have it. (I used to; but one day the overhead light wasn't working and this space is too dark without it, so I switched. I could switch back and bring my LED lamp just in case.)

Well, Market, the signs were ambiguous. 

I did my usual quick reconnoitre to see who else was here, doing the rounds of the stalls outside. My dear friend Heather and I had a hug and a yarn. I saw on her counter a small crystal ball of pale green new jade on a stand; she sold it to me at mates' rates. I'd been wanting one that colour, and I'd been wanting some new jade. Bingo, two in one!

I like to buy something from another stall-holder before I start. It's a little superstition I have. I like to believe this gets the money energy flowing. 

On the way back to my stall, I said hello to another stall-holder who's kind of a pal, we've known each other so long in various contexts. I got a cheery wave and yell in return.

Then my regular first customer, Patsy, turned up. She long ago graduated to friend. She always gets here very early and comes for a reading. I like to think she brings me luck. I had thought she wouldn't be here this time, as she has a house full of guests; but her son-in-law, she told me, got them all up to come to visit you, Market.

Later

Market, you have been quiet today; it's now noon. But I have now had three customers, which, though not as many as usual, leaves me sufficiently better off. And two strangers took my card with a view to consulting me privately. And five friends stopped by for a quick catch-up (everyone knows they can usually find me here). One of the friends came especially to bring me a book she'd finished and thought I'd like. (One of those op shop books you buy cheap, read and pass on.)

Well, Market, are we done for today? I have enjoyed being here in your embrace again, after all. I am resolving to come back. Besides Patsy I had two customers who were dealing with major issues, and they said I helped them. 

And finally, this delightful, articulate 10-year-old just rocked up and took one each of all my give-away leaflets: how to manage anger, a love meditation, a way to calm stress, and so on. 'Run them past your parents,' I said, after ascertaining that she's a good reader (top of her class, as I always was). She assured me her parents were happy for her to get any free stuff. Not quite what I meant, but OK. 

And finally another stranger arrives and promises, as she takes my card, that she'll give me a buzz (just doesn't have time for a reading now). We chat briefly and warm to each other. She has my name, but she's known as Rosie. And she is right, we have run out of time; time to pack up now and go.

Thank you, Market, for another lovely morning. I realise I have enjoyed myself — and didn't even find time for a second cup of coffee. 

See you next time! *Smile.*

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Why I Have Long Held Him In Contempt

It was decades ago. And it was nothing to do with paedophilia. The Catholic Church was holding an enquiry into a social matter of a different kind, in which the Church had some involvement and was in a position to help improve the lot of many people. 

Submissions were called for, both written and in person. As a representative of another organisation with a close interest in this matter, and having some personal experience of it albeit second-hand, I chose to do both. 

I made a long and detailed written submission and also attended a meeting along with a number of other interested parties. (I might add that, because of previous work I had been engaged in, I knew how to write proper, professional submissions.)

I remember clearly to this day the air of deep concern with which the young priest listened to what everyone at that meeting had to say, and his comforting words to those who had suffered. I remember his assurances that our submissions would be treated very seriously.

Months later he brought out his report. The organisation I represented received a copy. I remember very clearly, too, my disillusionment and disgust on reading that document. It was a whitewash job on the Church, and absolutely stonewalled any of the reforms we had begged for, and for which we had presented cogent cases backed up with personal evidence.

I have loathed and distrusted this man ever since, watching his rise to great eminence in his Church, and seeing him become ever smarmier and more obviously hypocritical along the way. But he was always like that at heart. To my perception, he has always been a career priest looking for his own advancement, rather than a true follower of the teachings of Jesus.

It is not surprising to me that he is now accused of other whitewashes, other stonewalling of opportunities for reform — namely, covering up specific cases of priestly paedophilia. It is no surprise that he stands revealed as a person greatly lacking in compassion. 

As I make no claim to be Christian myself, I have no problem taking pleasure in the fact that this man looks to be finally exposed for what he really is. If there is justice, he will be removed from any position of authority where he can continue to foster and protect evil. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

My Mother and Me

A friend on facebook posted, on Mother's Day, the truth about her relationship with a difficult, fault-finding mother. A little different from the eulogies most people were posting! In response, I found myself airing the truth about my relationship with my mother:

My mother didn't like hugs with me when I was a child, because it might mess up her hair and outfit. I don't remember that we ever hugged as long as she lived. A cool kiss on the cheek was about it.

She was phobic, and passed several of the phobias on to me. I have managed over the years to reduce them to mild rather than completely crippling. I was also very conscious of not passing them on to my own children, and it appears I succeeded in that.

She tried very hard to teach me that appearances matter, and to run my life on what other people (the most conservative and conformist ones) might think of me.

She failed in that. I was born non-conformist!

She was basically selfish, though she was so timid and fluffy that few people outside the family realised that. She was petite and pretty, and she had 'helpless little woman' down to a fine art. 

As I grew older, there were many ways in which I was more the parent and she the child, even when I was just a schoolgirl. My Dad’s refrain, in any time of difficulty, was, ‘Don’t upset your mother.’ It was understood that she must be treated delicately, and protected from life.

She succeeded in teaching me that the way I look is far from beautiful, which is a serious fault, and that being myself is not good enough — attitudes I have had to fight within myself all my life.

She may well be the reason I cannot tolerate any association with the kind of people for whom everything you do is wrong. I mean that, if I’m around them in any big way, I become a nervous wreck and have to get them out of my life.

She was very controlling, and continually invaded my privacy — and other people’s — right up into my adulthood: reading personal letters and diaries, for instance; and eavesdropping blatantly.

As a consequence, I was very protective of my own children’s privacy. Once, when I asked my Firstborn why he never showed me any of his essays, which were getting good marks at school, he said, ‘Oh, I thought you’d just find them in my schoolbag.’ It had never occurred to him that I wouldn’t look in his schoolbag and read his work. It had never occurred to me to do so, nor that other mothers did so as a matter of course.

On the other hand, my Mum was very big on not spilling family secrets. We must not ‘air our dirty linen in public’. This meant always presenting a facade of happy families no matter what was really the case. (Rows over money; Dad drinking too much and having serial infidelities; my brother wetting the bed for years; Mum frequently taking to her bed for days while dosing herself with Relaxa Tabs…)

I remember childhood dreams, experienced as sinister nightmares, in which things were literally being swept under the carpet.

I survived by stubbornly sticking to my own opinions inwardly, even while having to outwardly pay lip-service to her ideas — and by having nothing to do with her for a period of ten years after I had children of my own.

That was partly because I didn't want them influenced by her in the ways that I had been; but mainly because I couldn’t tell which of my thoughts were really mine and which were her voice in my head. I believed the only way I could find out for sure was to completely separate myself from her. It took a long time, but it worked.

Six years of psychotherapy — for several reasons — also helped.

And I learnt to count my blessings, even if blessings of omission. Some children are physically abused. Some are burnt with cigarettes, raped, their bones broken. They may be starved and their health neglected. Some are killed by their own parents. None of that happened to me; nothing even remotely like it.

A death in the family saw her reach out, and we reconciled. She had aged and softened; so had I. I finally realised that she actually did love me, underneath all that, and was the victim of her own upbringing too. 

I also realised that I actually did love her underneath all that.

My little boys, meeting her when they were past infancy, loved her and she them. By then she wouldn't have dared try and interfere in their upbringing. They couldn't understand why I had cut her out of my life and theirs for so long.

My eldest opined that her second marriage, to my dear stepfather, must have made her so happy that that was why she was nicer than the woman I'd experienced. He may well have been right.

Our values remained very different for the most part, but late in her life she expressed respect for the fact that neither my brother nor I was materialistic.

She became more honest in old age. We were finally able to have some good conversations, and to enjoy each other’s company in some ways, even find moments of true rapport.

I remained defensive with her, however, and — I now think — unnecessarily disagreeable at times. (Even though I also did things like taking care of her in my home when she was ill.)

I was still afraid to let her ideas too far into my head; still afraid that she could take me over if I didn’t adopt a policy of ‘the best defence is aggression’. But we didn't have many disagreements. I had the power now. She had been intimidated by my ten years of silence and was afraid to offend me.

She couldn't understand, either, why I had cut her off. She kept looking for some particular incident in which she must have been to blame. I finally explained about needing to become my own woman; I don't think she grasped it. 

I was with her when she died. (Of old age, in a nursing home.) It was the most confronting moment of my life. The mother-child relationship, even one so fraught as ours, is basic. 

Even in our worst difficulties, even during our estrangement, I always knew deep down that if ever I was in desperate straits with nowhere else to go, I could knock on her door and be at home. I never had to put it to the test, but to this day I retain the unshakable conviction.

For me her death was huge.

It’s only in hindsight that I wish I had understood better how afraid she usually felt, and how much that influenced her behaviour. But I was a child. And later I was an adult trying to overcome my upbringing and find my way to my real self.

Now I look back and recall how artistically talented she was — at piano, embroidery, copper work; even, when she tried her hand at it late in life, poetry. I'm glad I inherited some of that. (Unfortunately not the music.)

I thank her and my Dad for being totally aligned in valuing reading and education, and encouraging me in both. I thank them for being proud of my precocious gifts for English Expression, particularly in writing, and even more particularly in poetry, and for encouraging that. I thank her for knowing that librarianship would be the perfect career for me, and steering me towards it when I was uncertain of my direction.

I talk to her in my head occasionally, in a friendly way. I can do that, now that I am clear which thoughts are my own.

She’s been dead eighteen years. I get along with her a lot better now.


Monday, May 04, 2015

Sunday letters, Samhain Edition

Dear Samhain

You are my favourite Sabbat. You are deep and mysterious, and you take place at night. The veil thins and we welcome our ancestors and other dead. My most powerful times, as Priestess and psychic medium, have happened during Samhain rituals. I even like you better than Beltane. I personify you as a dark beauty.


Dear Neighbour over the fence

I like that you are another night owl. I like to hear you moving about late, as I do. It feels friendly and companionable, almost. We are not unfriendly: you're a polite, good-hearted lad; but we'd never really make companions. But the companionship of moving around our own homes independently of each other on the late nights, that's reassuring. 

Luckily for me, when I go to bed I take my hearing aids out. When you can't sleep and turn on your heavy metal music at 3am, it doesn't wake me. (It woke my son and his partner when they were here.) When you do it at midnight, when I'm still awake, it sounds like muffled thumping; it doesn't disturb me. I enjoy the thought that you are enjoying it. 

(If you play it in the daytime, when I am out in my back yard, I'm pleased. I like heavy metal too.)