Awful Swotters unite!!

Someone fetch me a soap box… I have something I wish to say.

Folk of the Faraway Tree

Growing up I had more than a little dissatisfaction with the world around me. I prefered the company of characters in books to that of my siblings and to this day if I had to choose between saving a tree or a box of musty paperbacks, I hope the tree enjoys being match sticks. I’m just saying.

 
One of my earliest memories as a child was snooping through my local library’s kids section, pulling out all these Enid Blyton books and flicking through them before I could even read. Taking as many books as my junior library card would let me, and secreting myself away in a closet to dream about what stories could be waiting in between those plastic, taped up covers, just waiting for me to learn enough of the alphabet to discover.
 
Years went on, as I grew I learnt to tie my shoe laces, braid my hair and write out my 2 to 12 times tables in under 2 minutes, but much more importantly, I learnt to read, and my favorite stories by a long way were those by Enid Blyton. Books like The Naughtiest Girl in School, Mr Meddle’s Muddles, The Wishing Chair, and Folks of the Faraway Tree raised me even more so than my parents. While Mumsy and Dad taught me not to talk with my mouth full, Blyton stories taught me how to imagine, pretend and have adventures.
 
So you can all imagine my supreme annoyance when I discovered that publishers were looking at ‘modernising’ these sacred tomes and making them more accessable to the next generation of bookworms. It would seem that children today (yes I just said that… deal with it) are unable to understand terms like ‘school tunic’, ‘awful swotter’ and ‘mercy me’. Apparently parents will have problems trying to teach their children that names like Dick and Fanny were quite common during the time when the book was written and in the years before iPods, laser tag and publishers on high horses, this style of writing was the norm.
 
It’s not like I am an 80-year-old biddy who is unwilling to acknowledge that the world is moving forward. I embrace new technologies and new ideas, but I also remember and appreciate old ones. What is next? Are we going to paraphrase history and only show our children bloody pasts through censored, rose-coloured glasses? If that is the case we’d better do something about all the nudity in Renaissance art, heaven forbid our bubble wrapped offspring are exposed to that. Lets black out the fact that Australia was kickstarted by convicts and prostitutes, after all we wouldn’t want to raise that sort of conversation with little Johnny at the dinner table now would we. Can we even use the term ‘Little Johnny’ seeming as it appears in thesaurus’ as a slang term for Penis?
 
At what point are we going to stop trying to re-write our past to make it acceptable in our future? Are we teaching our children that we don’t overcome language barriers but bypass them with clever editing? I loved reading my way through my childhood and desire a future when I can read to my children at night without being labelled a bad parent for saying a ‘naughty word’. Are we forsaking culture for political correctness. Mercy me!!
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Earth to Ickle…

Step mothers and step sisters somehow often seem to land the role of the antagonist in a young girl’s life. For whatever reason the Brother’s Grimm had an issue with these women who came into people’s lives by marrying their fathers, because they are so often painted as the wicked whatever’s who’s sole purposes are to inflict pain and conflict into the lives of protagonists everywhere.

One thing I would have liked to ask the men who made these iconic stereotypes, is where all the step brothers went? When my Dad announced that he was getting re-married, the first thing that sprung into my 12 year old mind was a pair of Cinderella-esk step sisters and a step mother with a magical mirror and a chip on her shoulder. What I never expected was a step brother who would leave every fairytale hero in the dust and throw all my preconceived ideas to the wind.

Dressing up and galavanting around the suburb at night

On the 30th of May 2003, with my little brother in tow, I began my life with my Dad, step Mum (Mum) and her two children. After coming from a family like mine and being the second youngest in a brood of five, this change needless to say was not always smooth sailing. My new mother and I butted heads on more than a few occasions, my new little sister Lana had a habit of finding new ways of making off with my possessions, and John, this afro headed step brother who lived across the landing was something totally outside of my limited life experience. In those first few months I would never have dreamt in my wildest dreams that this boy who now laid claim to my Dad would become not only my brother, but my best friend.

Time has an unhappy way of changing and moving, one morning you wake up and don’t recognise the people around you. Seven years and many life experiences later, both of my families are scattered all over the East side of the country; a distance that I welcome in most cases. My Dad and his wife are so far north and I haven’t spoken to him in over a year. Ruined relationships with my brothers and sisters make any family events tense at best and nieces and nephews I’ve never met run around blissfully unaware that I exist.

Classic Clarey and Ickle pose

All of this fades though in comparison to one person whose absence I feel more keenly than any of the others. A few years ago John moved down south to a little town tucked away in NSW. The plan was he’d stay there for a while and then come back. But when boy meets girl, falls in love and plans to get married, lots of things change, such as the timeframe of people staying in tucked away places.

After more than a year of missing birthdays, Christmas and gatherings of the SwFA(more on that later), I realise more and more how much I miss having a person to sit with in the middle of the night and talk about what we dream life will be like in 10 years time. As I venture into the wide world of adulthood I wish more than anything I had my bumbling brother on hand to run to when the absurdities of life all become too much. So that he can remind me that it’s the little things in life that make everything worth while.

If you don’t know John it is impossible for you to understand why he is the way he is or why so many people think so highly of him. How do you explain a person who sprays himself in the face with an aerosol can just because he was trying to make me laugh? What words would you use to describe a man who would ride a girl’s bike clear across town just because it was the only way to get to a person who was hurting and needed someone to cry with? What colours would you use to paint a picture of a person whose twisted outlook on life helped others to see the bright side of a dark, fallen world? I miss him more than words can say and I cherish every phone call and every letter and cling to memories that I have of him before things changed. One thing he said to me that I will never forget was in reply to my complaints that life seemed to be getting too much and I needed a clear picture of where life was taking me. He looked at me and said, “If things in life are passing you by, find out where they are going and catch the next train.”

There is so much more to say but I have to go. I’ve got a train to catch.

Last time I saw him back in June 2009

Office OCD moments

Don’t steal our pens. We mean it

As an Office Administrator I spend a large part of every day sitting at my desk. I also have a few other people who frequent my desk on a daily basis. My desk is the one stop shop for everyone's stationery needs, despite the fact that the stationery cupboard is on the way to my desk and they pass it en-route.

Which brings me to my pet peeve. I hate when people use my stationery incorrectly. For example: my glue-stick. I almost beat a colleague over the head last week when I handed over my glue stick and he proceeded to wind it up and 'scribble' glue around the page with the edge instead of nice neat strokes with the flat top bit.

I am fully aware that someone will read this and send me a number of a great shrink who deals with OCD, but I just don't like people using my glue in the wrong way. It messes up the whole glue stick and then you get little sticky globs that hang out the side and stick to paper clips in my top drawer.

In response to this travesty, I have revoked all glue-stick privileges until they can prove that they are capable of using the stick in the way that it was designed to be used.

Second on the stationery agenda: pens. I go through pens like most normal people go through underwear. Why? Because under a misapprehension that the pen in question will be returned to me I offer it to one particular woman I work with to sign something to write down a phone number and then when she turns to go back to her desk, she takes my pen with her. So, once a week I trek into the far reached of her desk and pilfer back the 25 pens that she had absconded with during the week.

It would seem that people I work with either think stealing someone else's pen is okay or they have a multiple personality disorder who's has a pen fetish.

Lastly on the stationery peeve list are envelopes. Said co-worker who has annoying habit of stealing pens also has an inability to fold letters so that the address shows neatly in the window of the envelope. Sometimes I look at her mail at the end of the day and could swear that she has just scrunched up the letter and pushed it into the envelope. I have lost count of the number of hours that I have had to secret myself away in the back room with the empty water cooler bottles and last years tinsel to re-fold and envelope all of her letters.

I love my job

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Wonderland?

 I could feel it burning a hole in my mind. Every time I closed my eyes I could feel it pulsing inside my head. Like a metronome ticking over and over, taunting me with a message that try as I may I cannot comprehend. I rolled over to stare at the ceiling, trying for the millionth time to clear my thoughts and slip unnoticed into sleep. But just as I would get to the edge of the world of dreams, that one thought would creep in and knock me back into reality and darkness.

Frustrated I slipped out of bed and grabbing a shawl I softly made my way out the door and into the night. The moon had already made her way through the heavens and was now gently nestled in between two hills. The stars who share her domain all trying to be brighter than the next so that they too can earn their places in our hearts. With a sigh I leant my head back against the rough bark, wrapping my shawl tightly across my chest so that I could feel the rhythmic beating of my heart against my arms. It was one thing that I could be sure of on this night when everything else churned around me in a whirlwind of uncertainty.

Questions without answers and answers with no questions. All these thoughts, both sought and unbidden all crowd inside my already befuddled mind, all pushing to be noticed among the others. Like a teacher in a class full of over-eager children I brushed my hand across my eyes, trying without success to make sense of the chaos that I find myself confronted with. If it wasn’t for the sake of my fraying nerves I would welcome this gaggle of thoughts because it was keeping at bay the one thought that was the cause of this midnight ordeal.

As I looked up into the satin sheet of darkness scattered with burning diamonds, a shooting star streaked across the sky, and with it that one thought came, racing through my mind. Closing doors on all the other questions and answers and unsolved mysteries that had been jostling until a moment ago for my attention. Now alone and with nothing to vie for my notice it stood, defiant, waiting for me to acknowledge it, and face the new problem that it represented. However hopeless I waited like a petulant child, hoping that if I ignored it, it would go away. That somehow it would sense that I was unwilling or unable to give it justice and it would go to wherever unwanted thought went when their hosts were done with them.

It was not to be so. Like a beacon it shone in my minds eye, demanding that I give it my full attention, and unwillingly I open myself to this thought that has left me no choice but to explore it. Like a prisoner about to face a firing squad, I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and let myself go.

Like Alice down a rabbit hole I fell, passing bits and pieces of my broken dreams and discarded childhood fancies as they hung in the in-between worlds of my imaginings. Like broken toys and outgrown story books left for whatever end, these memories served like a thorn in my heart. I was filled with an urgency to find out what was at the root of this thought that was causing me go back through all of this that I had thought to be left behind for good. Back when I decided that I was going to take up permanent residency in the reality that I was constantly told was where I belonged. Before I grew up. And there it was. Hidden behind my childhood dreams was my answer and the realisation of what I had been looking for came like morning over the horizon.

I opened my eyes. I didn’t remember when I fell asleep but I could feel the dew beneath me as I sat propped up against the tree. I looked up and saw the sun bravely shining through a soft layer of cloud. I put my hand above my eyes and looked out as far as I could. A smile lights up my face as I see the world spread out around me coming awake, lifting heads to greet the arrival of a new day. I get to my feet and bend down to pick up my shawl from where it lay. I wrap it around my neck, leaving it trailing down my back and run. It streams out behind me in the wind that I make with my passing and laughter bubbles out of my throat as I fly down the hill. Free.

Land of Make Believe

“Everybody has a secret world inside of them. All of the people of the world, I mean everybody. No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside them they’ve all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands maybe.” ~Neil Gaiman~

 I love this. As soon as I read it I started remembering. All of the times when I was a kid running around my yard pretending that I was in my own little world. Crawling into my cupboard and closing the doors pretending that I was a princess locked away in a tower. Sitting at my desk in school staring out the window laughing on the inside at scenes that only I could see. And sitting on the computer at work thinking about characters and plot lines that have become as real to me as the person in the desk behind the partition.

See, the first time I saw this I went back to the days of make-believe; when my brothers and sisters were rival nations in our own back yard battles. When the river at the bottom of my best friends property was the ocean, and things that the world thought impossible happened every day in our minds. But the more I thought about it, even though we act on our make believes less as we grow older and more privy to reality, we never stop having them. I might not run around wielding a stick believing that I’m riding a white stallion and about to challenge my younger brother in a jousting tournament, but I still sit at my desk and dream.

Many people think that the time for imaginary friends and knights in shining armour ends when your old enough to know better, but when I’m on the train looking at the man sitting at the other end of the carriage, I wonder where his mind is wandering. The girl sitting across from me looking wistfully out the window with a smile playing around the corner of her lips could be reliving any moment of happiness spent with someone she loves, but then again, she could be a dreamer just like me.

Imagine what kind of world we would be living in if more people stopped ignoring their imagination and trying to stuff it into a box with the rest of the childhood fancies that were discarded with their coming of age. Let yourself for just a moment go back to the days when fairies danced in your garden and cowboys and indians were your alter ego instead of a theme in a dress up party. People a little more rational than me will scoff at me and my dreaming, but I will just smile to myself and wonder where their mind is going to escape to when they least expect it.

Second star to the right and straight on 'till morning ~Peter Pan~

And then it hit me…

I’ve seen this done on a few other blogs lately and thought I’d give it a burl

 I’ve come to realise that my job… could always be worse.

I’ve come to realise that when I’m driving… things go by a lot faster.

I’ve come to realise that I need… to appreciate the people in my life more. They won’t be here forever.

I’ve come to realise that I have lost… contact with some of the most beautiful people.

I’ve come to realise that I hate… people thinking I should be different.

I’ve come to realise that if I’m drunk… I am going to do something I’m going to regret in the morning.

I’ve come to realise that money… isn’t everything and the best things in life really are free.

I’ve come to realise that certain people… will always rub you up the wrong way and there is nothing I can do about it.

 I’ve come to realise that I’ll always… be a little bit sad, but that’s ok because sad is happy for deep people.

I’ve come to realise that my sibling(s)… will always be part of my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’ve come to realise that my mom… did the best she could, and she’s hurting more than she lets on.

I’ve come to realise that my cell phone… will always run out of battery at the worst possible moment.

I’ve come to realise that when I woke up this morning… it was still dark.

I’ve come to realise that my first love is… still out there somewhere.

I’ve come to realise that right now I am thinking about… the bigger picture.

I’ve come to realise that my dad… made a lot of mistakes but is trying every day to make up for what he did, and despite what everyone thinks, he loves us.

I’ve come to realise that when I get on Facebook… I hope someone has left a comment or a message for me. 

I’ve come to realise that today… I should have worn lower heels.

I’ve come to realise that my best friend(s)… will tell it to me straight especially when I don’t want to hear it, and I’m glad they do. 

I’ve come to realise that I really want to… do something significant.

I’ve come to realise that life… is short, so I need to make the most of every single moment.

I’ve come to realise that this weekend… didn’t last as long as I needed it to.

I’ve come to realise that next weekend… won’t either.

I’ve come to realise that when life gives you lemons…. make grape juice… no-one will see it coming 🙂

Dark and Twisty Staircase of Death

I have been bumming at my older sister’s house on and off for the past 3 years. My room and bathroom are downstairs next to the office (which is never used) and the rest of the house (kitchen, dining, living and all the other bedrooms and main bathroom) is upstairs so really I am the only one who travels to the lower half of our house.

Any who, so for the past 3 years, after we finish diner and watching our stories, all the lights go off and I have to make the perilous journey down the stairs in the dark untill I can open the office door and the standby light on the office pc can light the way through my bathroom and into my room so I can turn on my bedside lamp. I dread this. It’s not that I am scared of the dark or of falling or anything else in particular. But mainly that I’ll bang the cast iron gate at the top of the stairs into the cast iron railing and then tumble head over heels all the way down the stairs before crashing into the double doors.

While this would all be rather painful and I may end up a mangled ruin on the foyer tiles, my main concern here is that in my bumbling ruckus down the stairs I would wake up my nephews who are infamous for being light sleepers. Bedlam would follow. Rhyno (2 and a half)would yell for Mummy, Chubbling(9 months) would start screaming and flailing about in his sleeping, space suit.My poor sister would be awake for the rest of the night shuttling babies back and forth between their cots and her and her husband’s bed and would be grumpy all the next day from lack of sleep.

As I went to begin the hazardous journey last night after our daily dose of Masterchef, i made a comment to Mary about my predicament fishing for sympathy and understanding. Instead of this I got

“Clare didn’t you know that the light for the staircase has a switch at the top and bottom of the stairs?”

NOT HAPPY JAN! I’ve been going through this night after night since goodness knows when and no-body thought to tell me that there was a light switch at the bottom of the stairs?? Seriously?!

I Imagine Heaven will be kind of like Mack Campbell’s Bookstore

I love a bookstore maybe a little more than the next guy but there is something special about a second-hand bookstore that makes me feel like I’m sharing something with someone as opposed to making a discovery on my own.

It feels like the books and not the people are running the store. You’d need more than an afternoon to appreciate even one shelf of what the store is. It feels like all the books have their own individual personality and you’re surrounded by actual stories instead of just books.

You walk through the entry and there are tables upon tables stacked 10 or 15 high with books from every genre by every author imaginable all living together in this shared space. I love reading for the adventure, but this store makes looking for the adventure an adventure in itself. As you’re searching through piles, you’re continually coming across little gems that have been out of print for 50 years and look about to turn to dust and you wonder how long has it’s been hiding in this warren of tales, waiting for someone to find it.

Through a courtyard, beyond a door and another labyrinth of books unfolds. This room seemingly hidden away from the world has no rhyme or reason to the way the books are ordered. Whole series are spread around the room making looking for the sequel more like a treasure hunt instead of the next logical step in a story. Feist is next to Austen which is hidden behind King which is stacked precariously on top of Mitchell.

When I get to heaven I am going to ask God to make me a room and fill it with books so that I can spend eternity looking for treasures the way I would spend an afternoon in Mack Campbell’s bookstore.

The Victorious Return

So yesterday Marley and I trekked down to Jimboomba for Alex’s belated birthday celebrations and a good time was had by all. Mostly. There was about 15 minutes of feelings of impending doom on the way there mostly attributed to fear of Alex’s grandmother seeming as we were arriving 2 hours late.

Doom Doom Doom Doom Doom

 

It turned out our fear were largely over exaggerated and no-one was eaten, sacrificed or fed to his rabid dog.

We did however compete in a rather varied assortment of party games, of which me and Homie seemed to be the only real contenders. I won the lolly snake stretching competition by at least an inch. I then won the getting-penne-pasta-onto-spagetti-using-only-your-mouth game, Homie won the run-across-the-lawn-while-keeping-your-feet-on-a-piece-of-paper. I maintain that I should have won the draw-a-picture-on-top-of-your-head-game even though I cheated at the end. And the girls finished the day by smashing it out of the ball park by beating both the boys and the younger models in an epic battle of train-game.

All in all, it was a rather enjoyable afternoon, Alex, Fozz and Homie went on an exploratory mission to get chinese and Josh, Marley and I watched INVADER ZIM.

Also we have formed The Fellowship of the Pen but more on that later.

Milk Run

So as Office Administrator/Receptionist/Holder of the key to the Petty Cash box, it is my duty to make sure that we are stocked with all tea/coffee-making paraphernalia. To everyone’s supreme annoyance this morning we had no milk. So to my petty cash box I go to get out $2.10 for a 2L bottle of milk.

Usually when I go for milk I take $2.20 just in case milk goes up 5c or 10c  without warning. In the 7 months that I’ve been working here this has never happened but I’m one to plan ahead.

Any who, so this morning for the first time I think to myself, Clare, the milk is always $2.10, why take $2.20 when you know it will be $2.10 and you’re left standing in the self-service aisle with 10 cents and a bottle of milk being judged by people who know how to count out the correct change.

So I cave in and take the $2.10 and hyperventilate all the way across the parking lot going through all these scenarios which end in my being humiliated and left 5c short for a bottle of milk.

Turns out I was right and the milk was $2.10 like it should and I felt very superior when I was able to feed in the correct change into the little machine and go about my business, but I came to the realisation that I may have OCD.

Something to think about