Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Hazelblackberry: I'm (Bridget) Jonesin'

Dear Nick

When do the next year's diaries come out? Here it is September 2004 and I'm just ITCHING to get my 2005 diary. I'm sure they come out around now. I'm SURE. I don't know if I can hang out until October. I have such a pathetic reliance on my diary. The rot set in during high school when it was compulsory to use our homework diaries. As you may be able to tell from the name, they were primarily for recording our homework in - what it was and when it was due etc etc. Ours even had the school crest on them. (Everything was tastefully embossed with the school crest of course.) With us girls it wasn't long before the diaries were decorated with stickers and full of messages and recording the dates of all our best girly friends' birthdays and parties and sleep overs and which night you couldn't miss Family Ties because that's when Michael J Fox and Courtney Cox/Tracey Pollan would KISS.

[Mind you, my attendance at aforementioned sleep overs was severely restricted by Don Mary. Despite many tearful pleadings on the phone to Bloody Ern to PLEASE MAKE HER LET ME GO, Don Mary held firm. No granddaughter of hers was heading down the slippery slope to slutdom via supposedly innocent games of spin-the-bottle, let me tell you. And I suppose she was right. I can, most emphatically, claim that I am not a slut. I may be a raging prude, but by golly I'm no SLUT. Not that there was any danger of that. When all your friends are decorating their homework diaries with pictures of Simon Le Bon and Kurt from Tears for Fears and all the band members from Kids in the Kitchen and you choose pictures of Warren Zevon and Roger Taylor from Queen, probably your chances of growing into a slut are pretty slim. And when I look around at my friends, first-rate sluts one-and-all, I feel a little tingle of pride. I don't see any of THEM developing insane crushes on Jim Carver in The Bill. I'm talking about Jim Carver in the days before he had the tragic weight gain and drinking problem. You see, I'm fickle.]'s my point: it was in the 1980s that I decided to surrender my faculties for remembering dates and addresses unassisted and developed an addiction to diaries. Now I can't live without them! I love the smell and feel of a brand new diary; blank pages filled with promise: next year I will remember everyone's birthdays on time; next year all my work will be done a in a careful, measured manner and not in a last minute freaking-out rush. Look, I am even writing in each pay day and planning out my expenses and a savings plan. I may even keep some kind of system to make sure I email/phone people at appropriate intervals, not once every so often with, "So sorry I haven't written in aaaages. WILL write soon - PROMISE. Must dash - byeeee xxxxx." How perfect next year will be. So perfect that I cannot wait for it to arrive. It's only September and already this year is stale and old. I'm weary of it. Clearly it's been a complete failure. I want to leave it behind and concentrate on what's in front of me. Get a brand new start.

And it's around this time of year I start obsessively stalking various stationery stores waiting for their new diary stock to appear on the shelves. But patience, my pretty. Do not rush headlong into danger. A diary is a major purchase and I have a few requirements like nice creamy-coloured pages, one-day-to-a-page with a monthly summary, tabs for each month and the like. But here are two CRUCIAL deal-breaking criteria: the diary must be able to fit into my handbag (to give myself the impression that like Dominick Dunne writing for Vanity Fair I can just whip this little baby out and take notes of the fascinating conversations going on around me) and MUST BE SPIRAL BOUND.

Last year I got desperate to feed the monkey and, with no other options around, I bought a stitch-bound diary. A major mistake. It has no give, it doesn't work with me. I resent having to entrust to its keeping the minutiae of my life. But it was there when I was in a fix, and now I hate it for being so readily available. So easy to procure. So willing to make everything right. This year I'm staying strong and biding my time for the good gear.

I just hope it's out there somewhere, and soon.

Until next time, Nick.


Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Two tales of stoopid, one of smart (Part 1)

I’d known for several days that the petrol tank was getting pretty close to empty so I made up my mind to shoot in before my volleyball game and fill up the tank. I dropped off some videos and ducked into BP quickly. (This is the part of the story equivalent to ‘insert flap A into slot B’. Tedious but you have to do it if you want the toy monkey.)

By way of background: I’ve often found that the nozzle tends to shut off prematurely and I have to force it to keep, er, petrolling until the tank is full.

So this particular time, the nozzle shuts off immediately. Try again. Click. Again. Click. Again. Click. (In case you’re wondering, this is one of the tales of stoopid). The petrol I was trying to put into the tank was more or less running out of the tank and down the side of the car.

I went inside and asked Grumpy Cashier (no relation to Hazelblackberry’s Grumpy who is rather nice for all his perceived Grumpiness) if there was a problem with the pump. He said try another pump.

I did. Click. Again. Click. Again. Click. More petrol made its bid for freedom.

Went back inside. Look, I think something is wrong with my fuel tank. We’ll just leave it there. I used about $2.60 worth of petrol (now decorating your forecourt).

Strangely, he charged me $3.85, something I’ll never understand as long as I live.

I went back to my car, contemplating a trip to the mechanic to fix my, er, faulty fuel tank. Bad fuel tank! Must relearn thirst!

Put the key in the ignition. Noticed the fuel gauge was full.

I went back into the service station and got into line. At that point, I was thinking that the pump must have filled up my tank without registering it. I was going to ask if somehow the pump might have delivered petrol unbeknownst even to itself. A kind of sleep-pumping pump.

When a sudden thought hit me.

Maybe Wifey filley tankey already!

I did the old ‘pretend you’ve forgotten something’ routine. Quizzical looks. Tapping of pockets. And drove out of there, quickly but with dignity as my befuelled engine thrummed: idiot idiot idiot idiot idiot

Yes, I told you it was a take of stoopid. One more to follow, later, along with a tale of smart(ness).

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Boys don't cry (until they grow-up)

Ah, what a week it’s been! I won’t go into all the gory public service details but on Friday after lunch I was handed my second great professional set-back for the year. (See here for my earlier personal and professional betryal).

The short story is that my career is stalled and that promotion is even further off than it appeared to be before last week. I was kinda upset and hoping that no one would come to ask me about what happened because, well, I’m a sensitive young lad.

It had also been a difficult week because the Dude had been down for 5 days with some charming form of gastro: the sluices were open at both ends (a joke I first heard delivered by Monty Python in a skit about Australian wines, written 30 years ago. Let’s see the pommy bastards joke about Australian wine now! (Even if they are mostly drinking Jacob’s Creek.))

That particular Friday I was coming down the Dude’s illness. I spent Friday night shivering under a pile of blankets. So physically I wasn’t in a great state (he said by way of justification for the horror to come…)

So sure enough at about 4:30, Very Senior Guy came to my office to ask how I am. (VSG was not personally involved in this week’s kick in the teeth but was very much involved in the run-up to said blow).

‘Oh, not good.’ I said, and the water works followed. That’s right, sports fans, I blubbed. He got up and shut the door and we talked about ‘my situation’. He was very nice about it without actually really being able to help me one iota.

I apologised for crying but what could I do? As I said, I’m er, sensitive. He claimed to be a big sook himself. Who knows?

I wonder if the world has moved far and fast enough to allow men to cry in from of their bosses at work? Maybe, as long as you don’t see it every week. (This is the first time I swear!) I expect to see a cover of Maxim magazine advertising an article: ‘Blubbing before the Boss: New way to get ahead or career suicide?’

At the end of our little talk, he approached me with one hand outstretched. I wasn’t sure if he wanted to hug me or shake my hand. Being an anglo-saxon, I went for the handshake option, as unlikely as it seemed. He shook my hand and went for the hug as well. I felt kinda uncomfortable (VSG is also gay – I offer apropos of almost nothing, just to muddy the workplace waters further).

This episode got me thinking about two things:

(1) How young I still feel. Even at the grand old age of 33, I still often feel like a child in some ways. I suspect that genuine adulthood will only strike me when I’m bouncing my first grandchild.

(2) How irritated I am at my continual inner-conflict about career progress. Here I am crying at being passed over (in essence) for a promotion I’m really not sure I want. In fact, having acted in the higher position before, I’m don’t really enjoy it.

I don’t really need the money (though everyone can always use more money) and God knows I don’t want the responsibility. So why do I give myself such a hard time about this?

I continually feel that career progress is something I should want. Even if I don’t.

Reflecting on it a lot, I boiled it down to this: Even though I’m dubious about the merit of the race I’m running, this is the race I’m running and I should try to win (or at least be in the front of the pack of) any race I’m in.

This is the attitude that I’m slowly coming to grips with. If you don’t care about the race you’re running then, Dude, don’t run it.

Sure, it sounds simple…

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Hazelblackberry: Husker du?

Dear Nick

A little while ago I had my Own Personal Big Chill Moment. I was at a funeral and caught up with old school friends I haven't seen in years. Sure enough, the conversation soon turned to all these other people we used to go to high school with (apparently we did, I couldn't remember any of them) and what they were up to now. My participation in this lively exchange was limited due to my shocking memory.

Someone or other: "Remember X?"
Me: "No."
Someone else: "No, surely you must."
Me: "No."
Yet another: "No, really, remember him? Tall, skinny, dark hair, pale skin."
Me: "Oh wait. Okay, was he the guy that one time I got partnered with in dancing and yeah he was really skinny because dancing with him it was like holding onto a dried up leaf. There was nothing to him! Would that be the guy?"
Everyone else: Uneasy silence.

And so the long afternoon wore on. You know, it WAS interesting to hear all about the lives of people you can't remember, because you're sure they're all decent people and so it's nice to know they're doing well. They must be decent people. Because you don't remember them. Because the people you remember, the ones SEARED on to your brain, are the ones you couldn't stand. It seemed a little wrong at the funeral of such a lovely and loving girl, but I think we all enjoyed indulging ourselves in a few spiteful stories too. Like the story of Goldilocks being confronted by one of our more, er, dramatic teachers, Ganja Trip. Ganja Trip had caught Goldilocks doing something and demanded to know what was going on. Goldilocks merely smiled sweetly and said that nothing was going on. Then Ganja Trip let her have it. "I see you Goldilocks," she said, "I see you out in the playground. Oh you're a pretty girl, aren't you, Goldilocks? You're like a young, fresh apple - all sweet and rosy on the outside." - up to this point her voice had been calm and menacing, but as she finished she got quite hysterical - "But like that deceptive apple, on the inside YOU ARE ROTTEN TO THE CORE!!!"

Goldilocks blanched. It was quite a sight.

And it shows how times have changed. We all thought this was a hoot. I remember one lad looking at Ganja Trip in frank admiration and there was a sense that the class was on the edge of applause. Nowadays the poor woman would probably be arrested and we'd all be put through intensive trauma counselling until we broke down and admitted how horrifying the whole episode had been.

One incident put the accuracy of all this reminiscing into perspective. At one point at the funeral I was bailed up by The Gatekeeper, an old acquaintance who seems to remember anyone he ever came into contact with ever, plus their grandmothers' birthdays, who wanted to confirm some facts and figures about my life.

"So, hb," asked The Gatekeeper, "How old are your kids?"
"Er, they're pretty young, Gatekeeper."
"Really, how young?"
"So young as to be virtually non-existent."

Blank look.

"Gatekeeper, I don't have any children."

Long pause.

"Really? Are you sure? Because I heard you had a couple."

As you can imagine, this revelation caused Grumpy and I to turn the house upside down that night in search of forgotten - and no doubt by now feral - infants who might be well and truly ready for a feed and possibly a nappy change.

But here's the amazing thing, Nick. I couldn't remember dozens of these names being flung around - and I even went home and dug out my old school mags and browsed through the photos, trying to prompt my memory and still I stayed mostly blank. But then a couple of days ago I was walking into my local Supa Valu (which I always think should be written SUUUPA! Valu) and as I walked in noticed a chap at one of the counters and thought to myself, "Well, goodness me, there's Maxi Priest."

Then I stopped dead. I haven't seen Maxi Priest since 1985 (I rang The Antiquer to confirm this) and most certainly wouldn't even have thought of him since then either. Then I walk into my corner store, see him and his name comes bubbling up, just like that. By the time I'd turned around he'd gone. I'm not sure I would have said anything to him anyway (once home, however, I did look him up in the phone book, in my usual creepy stalker-ish way, to see how far away from me he lived and to figure out if I might be bumping into him again, so I could say hello and inquire as to his interest in engaging in a red-hot affair followed by me keeping a silent vigil outside his front door night after night for oh, say, five years?). In high school, he seemed a decent guy but somehow aloof. He left to finish school at a fancy-pants establishment and at the time I heard he was taking up A Vocation in the Church. Clearly this didn't pan out, if it was even remotely true in the first place, as The Antiquer tells me he saw him on Rotto a couple of years later behaving in a manner unbecoming of a man of the cloth.

Though what that means these days...your guess is as good as mine.

Until next time, Nick.


Monday, September 20, 2004

Young people don't know they're born

I defy you to look at this blog and tell me that young people aren't an alien race (a puppy-eating insectoid race that communicates in farts and clicks).

OK, I'm being unfair. English is possibly not the author's first language. But even so...

It's dorca's something, alright.

The catchphrase says it all: 'twinkle, twinkle, who's it shining?'

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Hazelblackberry: The Aeroguard. Don't forget it.

Dear Nick,

Forgive me, I was talking about weekends and I was sidetracked.

(Allow me to sidetrack for a moment more: I trust your conjunctivitis has cleared up. This reminds me of a mildly amusing story (well, I found it funny) told to me by an acquaintance of mine who you may also know - The Stool Pigeon. The Stool Pigeon is always immaculately groomed and well-presented to society at large. Mostly he's well-behaved too. What I'm saying is, it matters to him how he comes across. Anyway, a few years ago he had a few days off work with conjunctivitis. When he came back to the office one of his co-workers asked him if he'd been sick. He said yes. Co-worker asked him what was wrong. Stool Pigeon told him he'd been off for three days with cunnilingus.)

Anyway, the weekend is coming up and I believe the last thing I told you was that Grumpy is no doubt planning a channel-surfing feast for himself, which, I reiterate, I have no real objections to. As long as the TV goes on sometime after 11am. I loathe early morning TV. Though only on the weekends. Nothing gets me ready for a day at work better than tuning into the latest madcap antics of Mel & Kochie. And that Grant Denyer! I laugh at the pathetic attempts of Steve & Tracey to shed their stiff, bureaucratic ways and just go with the flow like they do over on Channel 7.

But on the weekends it's a different story. I can find myself in a white hot rage when I hear Grumpy stagger into the lounge room at 7 o'clock and put the television on. I lie in bed indulging in murderous fantasies that bring about a collision between his soft, unsuspecting back and a freshly turned, glittering pig-stabber striking down again and again. I don't know why I hate it; I just do. Oh no, hang on, here's the reason why: because it's as though, having only just rolled out of bed, you've already given up on the day before even putting your nose out the door. The sun is shining, waves are gently breaking on the beach, magpies are swooping and you think that the world has nothing better to offer than the blasted TV.

What's that you're watching? Oooh, the Golden League. Okay, I'll sit down, but only until the end of this race....We should get some breakfast soon......Well, it's a bit late now. Just watch this and then we'll get lunch organised...........You know, we really should eat dinner.

However, this weekend, Nick, I am feeling magnanimous. Grumpy can watch all the TV he wants because I want to be left in peace to organise the shed. Our lovely little shack is, unfortunately, woefully low on storage space. We needed shelves at the back of the shed where Stuff could be stored. In stepped the Little Red Rooster. Little Red Rooster is a rare beast amongst our friends and acquaintances: that is, he's A Real Man. He makes stuff that people find useful, and he's been a farmer and played footy for years and drinks lots of beer. He's also got a Bravery Medal. And get this: he plays netball. So, you know, just be aware of who you're messing with here.

He is married to my dear friend, The Patented Burp, and they have two boys. Which is just as well. You wouldn't want to go sissifying a bloke like that with GIRLS. Though imagine the dirty tricks he could teach them for those roughhouse netball games.

So Little Red Rooster came over a couple of weeks ago and in two short days the back wall of our shed was covered in layer upon layer of useful shelves, waiting to absorb all our junk. When he'd finished, he even took a few old paint cans and bottles of linseed oil and put them up on one of the shelves - it was like a serving suggestion. We were enchanted. (Not that Grumpy would ever admit in the presence of A Real Man to being enchanted by something.) It's so nice knowing just one Real Man - apart from Bloody Ern of course, who is so much man he had to get lupus to reduce the manly quotient a little so other males would not spontaneously combust with awe and shame in his presence. When you've got a friend who is A Man, you can bask a little in the reflected glory. Like his handiness and practicality could just rub off on you any minute now and you could leap about fixing this and building that, covering yourself in glory.

And probably also a great deal of spakfilla.

Until next time, Nick. Avagooweegend.


Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Australian hostages in Iraq: an anti-Tampa for the election?

The still unconfirmed possibility that Australians may be being held as hostages is all over the news and Australian blogdom (john Q, tim D, tim B)

Prior to this, there has been occaisional speculation that there might be an ‘October surprise’ (and it’s still only September!) that would benefit the cause of the Government’s relection a la the MV Tampa at the last election. It’s always assumed that any significant national security happening benefits an incumbent Government (especially a Conservative one) because people don’t want to change horses in the middle of the lava stream.

But a hostage situation in Iraq is one of the few such situations which might harm the Government (putting aside for one moment the ick factor of discussing the electoral effect of hostages while actual hostages are still out there with actual guns held to their actual foreheads by actual scumbags).

The Government has made it clear that it will not negotiate with terrorists (and it certainly painted itself into a corner on this by criticising the Filipinos and the Spanish for ‘cutting (a deal) and running’ – although I agree with the Australian perspective myself. However satisfying it might be to secure the release of hostages at any cost, it only means other such groups will immediately be casting about for potential victims and you can kiss goodbye to having a foreign policy of your own).

Latham has backed the Government on this, which is sensible, but this won’t necessarily take all the sting out of it. It’s perfectly possible for the Opposition to say ‘we also don’t negotiate with terrorists but we sincerely regret that Australia is in this position today….’

If Australia heads into the final days of the election with two of our countrymen pleading for their lives in Iraq… If the Government stands firm: ‘we’re doing all we can to help but we can’t agree to their demands…’ If the hostages are murdered as their families beg unsuccesfully for a deal with the terrorists, an absolute no-win situation for any Government if ever there was one, it may cost Howard the election.

But we can only hope it never comes to that and the hostages, if there really are any, are released… (obligatory final line to try to reduce my personal discomfort level for engaging in such ugly speculation when lives are at stake).

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Hazelblackberry: we are still good friends

Dear Nick

Today is Wednesday, and that can only mean one thing. No, wait; actually it means two things. Right. So the first thing is: it now becomes freakish and weird to wander into someone's office and, for want of other conversation, to ask them what they did on their weekend. Conversely, and this is the second thing, it is now okay to start contemplating, and conversing about, what the coming weekend might hold for you.

Colleague enters your office. Yawn, stretch arms, "Weekend's just around the corner." "Yeah, thank God. What are you up to?" (Such are the exciting tête-à-têtes that take place round here.)

Mind you, I generally start planning my weekend first thing Monday morning. Those intervening five days are to be got through as expeditiously as possible. ("Don't wish your life away!" I can hear Don Mary screaming. I guess she knew that of which she spoke. Many was the family drama in our home - you know, weevils in the flour; that sort of thing - concluded with the mighty screech of Don Mary: "I wish I was DEAD! I wish you were ALL dead!" as she flounced off to sulk in bed for three days before re-emerging, feathers smoothed and turning to us, still standing with our jaws hanging open, to ask, "Well, what's got into you lot?")

I know what Grumpy probably has in mind for the weekend. Lots of televisual activities. Let me clarify: I am not opposed to the television. Indeed, I think what a miracle device it was in the last years of The Fuehrer's life when he no longer had the energy, concentration or patience to read or do crosswords, or even engage in prolonged conversation. Television was his entertainment, sometimes his lifeline, I think. One time Grumpy and I were visiting while The Fuehrer was having one of his stays in hospital. He was in a pretty cranky mood during this particular stint. He'd kicked a nurse - no harm done; it was with his gammy leg - who hadn't been able to interpret the complex lacing arrangements that The Fuehrer and Don Mary employed on his Florsheims. As she'd skedaddled from the room (I think the hurry was to avoid bursting out laughing in his presence) he turned to us and muttered, "Dull girl." This was the depths of damnation from The Fuehrer. His was a more moderate personality than Don Mary's.

So we'd come to visit one day and a particularly black cloud did shadow my grandfather's countenance. He denied that anything was wrong but answered questions and participated in the conversation with a heavy, sorrowful air. I looked at Grumpy. Grumpy looked mystified. He shrugged. What with The Fuehrer's lack of conversational sparkle, the chit chat was starting to dwindle a bit, when I suddenly realised something WAS amiss. How could I have not noticed it before?? The television was off! Whenever The Fuehrer was forced to endure the indignity of round-the-clock medical care he would soothe himself with a corresponding 24-hour television subscription. But his friend and companion was silent now. I finally managed to wrangle from him the truth: that he was in a snit because his TV access had run out. I couldn't believe that Don Mary or my aunt, Raggedy Ann, hadn't paid for a few more days when they'd come in. And then I found out that we'd been his only visitors that day. I did feel sorry for the poor old geezer. He would have felt abandoned and desolate, and on top of that the mind-curdling boredom - and a whole night of it in front of him. The Fuehrer was always the stoic, uncomplaining type, but he'd reached the end of his tether here. I believe his bottom lip may even have trembled momentarily.

I was leaning on the bed, feeling rather miserable myself, determined to keep him company for as long as possible but also wondering what on earth we could talk about and dreading having to leave him in his lonely, silent room. I was fiddling around with the remote control when I twirled a switch and suddenly, the TV sprang - sprang! - into life. It was like the circus had come to town and a marching band had entered the room. There was light, there was music, there was the Nescafe ad where that woman went to that valley and fell in love with that man. It may have just been the cathode rays, but The Fuehrer's face was bathed in a serene, heavenly glow. Turns out he'd accidentally turned the damn thing off without realising. Grumpy, being an in-law, suppressed his mirth but I was the old boy's flesh and blood so I got to grip the bed sheets while the tears of laughter ran down my face and The Fuehrer looked a combination of grateful and embarrassed.

We left him in much better spirits, absorbed in the plot line of some crappy show, the night looking not quite so wide and empty as it had a little while ago.

People like to put the television down, but it can work miracles in the smallest of ways.

Until next time, Nick.


Monday, September 06, 2004

"...these go to 11" (reflecting on Beslan)

Nigel Tufnell: You see, most blokes will be playing at 10. You're on 10, all the way up, all the way up...Where can you go from there? Nowhere. What we do, is if we need that extra push over the cliff...Eleven. One louder.
Marti DiBergi: Why don't you just make 10 louder and make 10 be the top number, and make that a little louder?
Nigel (after taking a moment to let this sink in): These go to 11.
The bloody end to the siege in Beslan, Russia, leaves any decent person reeling in horror. The effect on parents is even worse. Normally, the news scrolls by without affecting me but watching this story unfold left me feeling profoundly depressed.

I've been interested in the reaction to this terrible crime. Many people are agreed: that these terrorist (and all terrorists) must be made to suffer; and that any discussion of dreaded 'root causes' makes you a Chamberlain-like apologist of the worst kind. Any consideration of what drove the terrorists to commit this act is to allow them a 'victory'.

Certainly, its true that any thing done in support of the terrorists' cause jn response to this will incentivize future terrorism.

So where does that leave us? What can we do?

The answer is: hit the terrorists harder, more often, more viciously, in more places and in more ways. Turn it up to 11.

But what happens if you're already at 11? Where do you find that 'extra push over the cliff'?

There is something satisfying on a deep level about talking tough to terrorists such as these. And such language is politically necessary for politicians such as Putin. But what does it actually achieve?

Putin came to office in 1999 promising to turn it up to 11 in Chechnya. Since then the Russians have been fighting a truly nasty, dirty war in Chechnya that has led to thousands upon thousands of civilian deaths. The war there smashed Chechnya into a failed state run by warlords. What more can be done to that place that hasn't already been done? And still Chechnyan terrorists produced this shocking crime.

Never-the-less, the talking heads are pressuring Putin to turn it up to 12. This might satisfy the dictates of machismo but its not going to solve the problem of Chechnya.

Conservatives will tell you that 'negotiating with terrorists never works. The only language these people understand is force.' But is this really true?

Take Northern Ireland. The British under Thatcher tried ever more draconian tactics to stop the IRA. And it didn't work.

The only thing which has brought a period of calm to Northern Ireland is a peace agreement which addressed 'root causes'.

No one feels like addressing Chechnyan root causes right now (and understandably so) but in the a year or two, this has to be done quietly and bravely, without ceasing the fight to bring these perpetrators to justice.

Because the fight against terrorists is not about making right-wing pundits feel good about their manhood. It's about saving lives.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Crystal blue Italian time-vortex of never-ending misery

I was riding home on the bus the other day, listening to the bus driver’s radio when Manic Monday by the Bangles came on. I hadn’t heard this song for many years but I was immediately reminded of something about the song that bothers me.

To refresh your memory, here’s a summary of the song’s core business: It’s another manic Monday (which the narrator doesn’t like). She wishes it was Sunday (because that’s her fun day, her ‘I don’t have to run’ day). But alas it is indeed another manic Monday.

To sum up: Monday, boo hiss. Sunday, yay! But what always bothered me is that Sunday is, as you probably learnt at University, the day immediately before Monday. The narrator’s point of miserable reflection is 6 AM Monday morning. It is her wish to be returned to the previous day but, as sure as shit follows chocolate, no sooner will she have got into the swing of her fun day when she will be catapulted into another manic Monday.

Yes, yes, I know, ‘Monday’ doesn’t rhyme with ‘Friday happy hour’…

But there is something very uncomfortable and sisyphean about wishing to be returned to a happier time, a time immediately before your current period of misery.

The song should be something like:

It’s just another manic Monday.
I wish it was Sunday.
It’s just another manic Monday.
I’m gonna shoot the whole day down.

Speaking of Sundays and Mondays… does/did anyone else experience the Sunday 2pm blues (felt as a kind of sudden gut churn)? You’re well and truly into your ‘I don’t have to run’ day when you suddenly realise that you have to go to work tomorrow. Lurch.

Why can’t we all go and live in the trees like pixies, eating fruit and swapping tree-climbing anecdotes? Then every Monday could be a fun day, just like Sunday. Paradise for all time (until you get eaten by Morlocks).

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Beatrix Potter: Stalinist?

My son, the Dude (aged 2) has taken to cute, British, self-involved, talking animals in a big way. He is going through a bit of a Beatrix Potter phase. But it’s only when you’ve seen a Beatrix Potter cartoon (yes, I know Potter also comes in the alternative interactive BOOK format but DVDs buy temporary quiet) for the 88th time that you really begun to notice how weird Potter’s creations are.

The Dude has been switched on of late by the most prominent porcine character in Potter’s stable, the interestingly named Pigling Bland. (PB’s brother, a fun-loving but irresponsible scally-wag, is simply called Alexander. Talk about one child being favoured over the other.)

Anway, young Master Bland and Alexander set off for market, some miles away on their first trip out off the farm, in order to purchase some groceries (to be honest, I’m always a bit hazy on the complete narrative progression of these stories because I dip in and out so often). I did wonder whether old Mrs Pig was not in fact sending her sons off to be slaughtered. Because they certainly didn’t make the grade as shoppers…

Anyway, Mrs Pig (not sure if that’s her real name) tells them to make sure they do their job properly because she’s gone to a lot of trouble to get their ‘licences’. To cut a really quite brief story even shorter, the brothers are stopped by a police officer while walking to the market. He asks to see their licences; Pigling Bland has his but Alexander lost his by being an irresponsible scally-wag. Seeing as Alexander is licenceless, the police officer escorts Alexander back to the farm leaving Master Bland to face his beige destiny alone.

So it’s come to this, has it? Pigs need a licence from their local police station to travel 5 miles to the nearest market town. Never mind Orwell’s Animal Farm (where the pigs did quite nicely, thank you very much), I’m beginning to suspect that Mrs Potter may have orginated the internal passport systems used to great repressive effect in apartheid-era South Africa and the Soviet Union. As well as creating some lovable characters, did she also design the blue-print for a massive apparatus of state oppression?

Wow, did the English invent everything?

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