My year of lalalala bliss.


At one stage there was a plethora of blogs along the theme of my year… my year cooking with Julia Childs, my year not buying anything, my year of being Martha Stewart (obviously not the year she was in jail); my year of following Oprah’s advice. I think you get my drift.

Australia is in an election year, and the idea of doing a year without watching Australian news is becoming a very attractive idea. The tradition for Australian elections is that we all have an idea of when the latest date for the election can be, so we can expect it anytime before that date. It can even be years early if certain conditions prevail, such as when an easily persuaded, alcohol loving, needy Govenor General is involved. So, with a vague idea of when the election will be, one day we wake to the news that the Prime Minister has called on the Govenor General and the government has gone into caretaker mode. The big day is set. On average we have about 6 weeks of media saturated electioneering.

Except this year. This year our Prime Minister has already nominated the date – a Saturday in September, conveniently between a couple of different football grand finals. So instead of a few weeks of torture, this election is streching over months. Perhaps Julia Gillard saw how Obama turned the election around by having a long run at the voters and hopes it will work a miracle for her. We do like to minic the Americans after all. Hence my consideration of a year, well at least several months, without participation in the political discourse.

I have already made up my mind about which team gets my vote, not so much because I think my choice actually deserves my vote, but this time around, more that I detest the idea of a sneaky little two faced bigot being our Prime Minister. I don’t think my vote will stop that happening though, but at least I will have the right to moan about the lttle git when he is elected.

The negativity, the lying, the betrayal of social justice, on both sides is more than my delicate nature can take. Then there is the lack of critical thinking of the great unwashed, who particiapte in their own subjugation.

Not that I want to avoid world news, or what in happening in my local area. I think my choice is to sit on the couch, fingers in my ears, eye shut and lalalalalaling whenever a politician appears on the television screen. Otherwise I might just pop a pooffoo valve and that would not be very lady like for a goddess.

I just wish they would stop playing the politician and discuss the real issues. Not the issues they manipulate for their own agenda, nor the issues the media beats up to fill the 24 hour news cycle, but the issues that mean something to we, the people. Education, health, job … not politican’s expense accounts, or who has done more 3 minute sound bites for the six o’clock news over the last year. I don’t think I will miss seeing them in a variety of yellow safety jackets and hard hards, or white coats and hair nets, or sitting in mining trucks.

Whatever the outcome I know I am going to be disappointed. Long may we debate the behaviour of the politicians, but you know what, we, the people, are the ones who elect them. We send them off to be narrow minded and bipartisan on our behalf. If we enable them to behave like badly behaved children then what more can we expect?

Perhaps not watching, listening or reading about their performances won’t change history, but it will lower my blood pressure and maybe even lengthen my life span. For once ignorance may well be bliss!

disturbing act of persuasion

I am Australian and I struggle to understand why Americans feel the compulsion to hunt each other with guns.

Today I also feel the need to comment on the NRA ad that is currently airing in the USA commenting on the security arrangements for the President’s daughters.

The ad asks why the President’s daughters have armed guards in their school and other children don’t.


Does your Dad have a job that makes you a target for every crazy, or fanatic in the world?

Oh and Dear NRA, thanks for making two little girls even more of a target now. Remember how Gabby Gifford complained about the ad showing gun sights over her district and not long afterwards she was shot?

Pathetic and selfish individuals.

time waits for no one

old age 2

Australia has recently introduced plain packaging with very graphic images of the consequences of smoking in an endeavour to dissuade people from smoking. Perhaps we should introduce tours to care facilities for seniors as a deterrent in the same manner for those in the middle age category who refuse to take care of their health.

We received a call that Mum had taken another fall. It is as if her brain and feet no longer work in tandem, and even when we instruct her step by step it is a long and arduous task. I remember our Dad had the same difficulties towards the end of his life. One day he and I ended in quite a tangle when I could neither get him to sit nor stand, as he hovered between until we were rescued by nursing staff.

Nothing can stop the erosion of age, but in many ways my mother is responsible for some of what is happening to her. She was always resistant to going to the doctor for regular check-ups, was frequently difficult about, and in fact could not be trusted to take medication when she required it, and hid the true state of her physical and mental decline from the family. Before her collapse last year her doctor had asked her to return for a follow up and she did nothing about it.

She did tell one of her sisters, but swore her to secrecy  Her sisters are just as resistant to maintaining their health, but if that sister had just phoned one of us, maybe our mother would not have become so ill, collapsed, or had the heart attack that followed. The sister she told has experienced two bouts of cancer; one breast, the other bowel cancer, and so surely she knows the value of medical help. Then again, she refused follow up treatment after surgery for the bowel cancer. It is if they would rather die than trust medical treatment.

A visit to a seniors’ care facility shows not only that the old become invisible and neglected by the government they supported all their lives, but is also a sharp and painful reminder that age comes to everyone, and not always pleasantly. We can’t stop getting older, however we can do a lot about how we age. Keeping our minds occupied, our bodies moving, maintaining relationships with family, friends and the community, assessing support and medical treatment and being honest with yourself and others, in my opinion will go a long way to improving the quality of an old age.

Well may my mother have argued that it was her life and she would do as she wished, but the truth is, her life wasn’t her own. She was dependent on my sister for so many things in the last few years, and was only able to live alone in the family home because of my sister’s diligent care; her sacrifices. Yet so many times my sister’s efforts were met with anger and hurtful words.

No on has the right to expect another person to give up their lives for them. Parenthood is not a reason to expect children to exhaust themselves caring for parents who don’t play fair by doing their best to maintain their own health and independence.

Most children, especially daughters, do the caring though. Year in and year out they worry, and feel guilt because they can never do enough to hold back time. They carry the burden of walking behind and taking care of the details when plans and decisions are neglected until it becomes an emergency. They go home and weep for what has been lost, and for what is approaching.

The cycle of life goes around, but we need to take responsibility and plan to have an old age of quality and one that not only we, but our families may enjoy too. Plan for it now, no matter your age for it comes tapping on the shoulder in the blink of time.

The monk and the Flamingo Dancer

Perth Jan5 2013 101For days Daughter2 and I talked of driving out to New Norcia and touring the historical Benedictine settlement that is situated there. The thought of sighting a monk in his natural habit and habitat was exciting in a strange sort of way.

So two hours drive out of Perth, on a 40C day we started our pilgrimage. Now, I thought that the monks would be as excited that I was coming to visit them, as I was to be viewing them. It appears not. In fact it seems that of the 8 monks still in residence, 6 were away on holiday. Monks on holiday. Geeze, what happened to the old days when you forsake/forsoke?  all others and kept youself only unto the Big Whatever. Home for Christmas! Isn’t that like their busy season?

So I felt a bit jibbed to be told only 2 monks were in residence and they had the Do Not Disturb sign out.

I was so distressed that I made my first stop the New Norcia Hotel, where I partook of a glass of the monk’s finest Chardonnay, and D2 tried the Abbey’s ale. I even ordered a ploughman’s lunch to harden the resolve to face heat, dust and flies on the 90 minute tour.

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The hotel apparently was built in anticipation of Queen Isabella II of Spain coming to visit, but she was rude enough to die before she could make the journey, so the monks turned it over to visitors to use (parents visiting their children at the boarding school) and then to a hotel. I think they were under the impression that Bella would bring some of those Spanish pesetas with her, and so toiled in the heat and dust to make the bricks to make a palace fit for a Queen, and then when she was a no show, and even more so her money, promptly did nothing to maintain the place ever again.

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Leading to the ladies rest room - monk chic.

Leading to the ladies rest room – monk chic.

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Over lunch I started me repartee of monks and little boy jokes (I am a lapsed Catholic, I have every right to use sarcasm and truth against my own religion). D2 was a little worried about how Mama was going to conduct herself on the tour, but I told her as long as I didn’t have a second glass of wine I would manage to keep my mouth closed and inside words, well inside. I did reserve the right to roll my eyes/eye in disbelief though.

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The lunch view - real West Australia and did I mention 40C?

The lunch view – real West Australia and did I mention 40C?

The disbelief came pretty thick and fast, especially when we were told that they converted the Aboriginals over a cup of sweet tea.And apparently it was a mild inconvenience when the Aboriginal Post Mistress and her replacement died in a measles epidemic that killed 85 percent of the indigenous population at New Norcia.

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There was both a boarding school and “orphanage” at New Norcia. The joke is that the orphanage wasn’t filled with orphans at all,  but “indigenous children whose parents sent them for a better education”. Reading between the lines one can only read STOLEN GENERATION. 

I know those letters are really monkish for Do Not Disturb

I know those letters are really monkish for Do Not Disturb

The Monks hang out here

The Monks hang out here, this was taken through the railings of a locked gate.

The race/gender WALL

The race/gender WALL

Better still, there was this big brick wall, or walls, that separated the “European boys” from the “Aboriginal boys”. At one stage the school went co-ed with nuns running the place, so not only were the walls there to separate race but also gender.

New Norcia is known for the bread it makes, and we toured the old flour meal which was shut down due to those pesky work place health and safety laws and the fact that they didn’t have a ready supply of boys to work there instead of being in school. I think by now you all have a pretty strong grip on how I feel about the subject.

By the end of the tour, we had been through three chapels, all very beautifully crafted by the monks, but were not shown any reality. All I could think of was the utter misery that those children must have experienced there. I felt as though every brick was crying.

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Head Monk's tomb

Head Monk’s tomb

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The organ

The organ

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Confessional used by the monks to hear the children’s confessions.

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The dead centre

The dead centre

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On the lighter side, may I mention again that is was 40C and we went on a 90 minute walking tour. I had a water bottle with me, and I tried to be nice and share the dregs with D2 but in the last chapel I barely had the strength nor the will to life my camera. I was ready to cut and run when the guide announced the end of the tour. D2 and I were off like gazelles to our car and down the road to the service station where I bought a lemonade ice block, and orange drink and a bottle of water which I guzzled down while sitting in a cafe that seemed to be filled with the cast off furniture from the monk’s own dining room; except for the pew near the door, which naturally would have come from one of the three churches.

Rogues gallery of monks in the road house cafe. Monk 4th from right was "the bookbinder and the gatekeeper".  The GATEKEEPER!

Rogues gallery of monks in the road house cafe. Monk 4th from right was “the bookbinder and the gatekeeper”. The GATEKEEPER!

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So perhaps it was better that I didn’t come across one of the monk’s because it may have been more than my control could have taken. We also have to face that with only 8 in residence, well 2 and the 6 at the beach, my mere presence may have caused the end of the order, because obviously being monks they aren’t used to a women of my calibre, so by not crossing paths they get to pray another day.

On the drive back to Perth we stopped at a bakery for tea and pastry and my heart jumped for joy, as the deck ceiling sported a water spray system that misted the area every few seconds with a very fine mist that instantly evaporated but managed to cool the area a little. If anyone gets a sainthood it should be the owner of that bakery, bless them. In case you didn’t read my words – it was 40 DEGREES CELCIUS, people. DAMN HOT.

Sometimes the simple things in life are often the best - in this case ceiling water spray system

Sometimes the simple things in life are often the best – in this case ceiling water spray system

Flamingo Files marathon

Sorry for being like a bad mother and parking you in front of the YouTube screen for the past two days, but I have had  a couple of doona days (sick days) due to a rumbly in my tumbly.

Couple of news items (Australian content) that have driven me mad. One the temerity of the Australian media to think that they had the right or the expertise to question the physical appearance of Olympic swimmer Leisel Jones.  Jones has won medals at previous Olympics during a period when she has gone to a 14 year old child to a woman. So what if she doesn’t fit what we amateurs think a swimmer should look like, she has qualified and that is enough. The arm chair critics should shut up, and keep their gender bias to themselves. No wonder women have body issues when even those in peak condition at a world level are picked on!

The other issue, also related to the Olympics has been the very vocal complaints from some of our runners that they should have been given more opportunities to compete in various events. I find this very interesting from a generational point of view. With the Olympics we are seeing Baby Boomers having to deal with Generation X and Y. Boomers hold tight to loyalty, while X and Y have lived in a environment of instant gratification and been instilled with a sense of entitlement (usually by their Boomer parents!) and it is interesting to watch it play out. Sadly, it is in such a public forum, and when the sportsmen are living the dream of so many others it does seem petty and selfish to many viewing from the edges.  As equestrian rider Andrew Hoy said in a television interview that when he was not selected for the Beijing Olympics he just worked harder so that there was no way they could over look him for the next Olympics. He is riding in his seventh Olympics, so maybe the runners need to listen to his sage words.

That said, I can’t wait for the Olympics to begin, not because I am a keen follower of sport, but because I am so tired of endless hours of empty news reporting on the Olympics.

My money is on Prince Philip lighting the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony. That is why they had to cut the opening ceremonies, to accommodate the length of time it will take Phil to totter to the cauldron with his flame.

The time has come, my little friends, to talk of other things / Of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings / And why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wigs

I rediscovered one of life’s little pleasures while I was ill – sitting up in bed in the middle of the afternoon eating ice cream; just because I wanted to. Vanilla is my favourite. I like chocolate too, but vanilla ice cream is just so pure and simple; it just swirls around my mouth and down my throat. Pure bliss.

My Grandchild to Be now has arms and legs and likes to play (remember I was a child bride and like Remax, or Remix, or whatever Bella and Edward named their spawn, my children aged at an accelerated rate and then stopped ageing, I am only twenty something plus thirty something). Daughter1 had another scan this week, and they got to see My Grandchild to Be, flipping and floating and doing all the things it should be doing. D1 has had a little discomfort as her joints have softened a little too much to accommodate the pregnancy and so she has had to wear a girdle brace for the past week. Her morning sickness is peaking (week 11). I tell her things will improve…if not she will forget it all after My Grandchild arrives!

Daughter2 is not moving to England, she is off to Perth for a 12 month secondment. That is right across the country, like going from New York to Los Angeles, but at least it is the same country. I shall miss her dreadfully, as she is my movie buddy and indulges my eccentricities, most of the time, until she reaches her limits and threatens to kill me. I keep her readily supplied with crazy mother tales to entertain her friends, so no doubt she will miss me too. We shall just have to watch movies in marathons when she comes home.

MIL is 90 this year and SIL is planning celebrations. We begged her to keep it a quiet affair, but she is off on her own tangent. Memories of FIL’s 90th come flooding back though – he landed in hospital the day before and we ended up cutting the cake in the hospital. It is another 6 weeks away, a long time when someone is 90…

Do you think Romney is a stick puppet? He always appears so stilted and uncomfortable in public, I can only imagine him with a stick up his….

Three policemen came to our door and Mr FD thought ill begotten youth had finally caught up with him. Hunney the statute of limitations expired on that a long time ago (not sure if Australia has a statute of limitations. I hope not)!

In truth, someone had parked a vehicle on the spare allotment next to our house and young men were seen walking in and out of the bushland and one the neighbours had called it in to the police. We had noticed the vehicle, but as we live at the end of a cul de sac and the allotment is vacant it is not unusual to see vehicles parked there when neighbours have multiple guests. We are all taking turns creating stories to go along with the mystery. It’s a small life but someone has to live it…

a fitting punisment for Mr FD?

perhaps despair exaggerates my misery; or alas and alack, going to hell in a hand basket

I started to write a manifesto to parents informing them that their children were feral, but I thought better of it. If they don’t know their children are feral by now, they don’t want to know.

Why my attitude you ask? Well, in our lovely new library we have sectionals on wheels, wheels that can be locked. We can place these together like pieces of a pie to form seating circles, or snakes, or even the number eight. I usually walk the floor during breaks, talking with students and just keeping an eye on things, but today, my lovely aide was away ill and so I was solo and needed to be at the front desk during break. I turned to see one student lift one of the sectionals (large enough to seat three year 8 students) over his head and proceed to walk through the mass of students in the library. I ordered him to cease and desist, as well as to leave the library immediately. He blinked at me, stunned that his behaviour was not tolerated.

Earlier in the day I discovered that an infloor outlet that allows students to plug their computers in to recharge had been vandalised. Not only had the metal flip lid that sits flush with the floor been ripped off, but the cables inside had been cut, possibly with a pair of scissors. The IT guys declared it an electrical hazard. This would have taken some concerted effort and was probably executed in front of a number of other students. (We all know whom I would like to execute…)

At the beginning of the year, the students were in awe of the library and treated it with respect, but just like their attitude to other things at school, their respect is waning. Short attention spans to everything syndrome.

I gave my class a period of free reading in the library today also, and several of them acted as though I was punishing them. One or two were obviously angry that I expected them to sit quietly and read. My criteria was that they could read anything, be it fiction, nonfiction, graphic novel, picture book, magazine or newspaper, but the vast majority were affronted that I expected them to do individual silent reading. Easiest class all day, I argued. Not impressed, Miss.

So another day of having my worst fears confirmed that we are going to hell in a hand basket. I am also wondering if they are so feral and defiant at home, or do they just save it up for school? I don’t for one moment believe that this behaviour is only exhibited in the library, other teachers have confirmed my fears that it happens in the classroom, and to look at the amount of litter in the school yard, despite a rubbish bin every 5 metres, in the school yard as well.

Here we are so concerned about climate change for the sake of future generations, and the majority of them appear not to give a care! They litter, deface and destroy with monotonous regularity. They appear to appreciate nothing, not $2million dollar libraries, lap tops handed to them for a fraction of the cost of buying one, or landscaped gardens for their pleasure and relaxation.

Am I wrong? Have I missed something? Do they in fact appreciate something, anything; or have we created a generation with an outsized sense of entitlement? If so, what happens when they have to provide for themselves? What happens when they have to provide it for others, be it ageing parents or their own children? Can there be a happy ending?

the burning question is…


Freeway chatter

We are all so concerned about privacy, or the lack of it, today due to such things as Facebook and Twitter. However, just by driving behind your car in the mornings on my way to work I can learn just about everything there is to know.

The stick family stickers on the rear window of your car tells me if you are a couple, or a single Mum, and how many children you have. Also, if you have a cat, dog, fish or guinea pig. The school stickers not only tell me what schools your children attend, but naturally your socio-economic level and often your religion. The sporting club stickers are the give away on your hobbies, and quite often if you were born in Australia or New Zealand; Queensland or New South Wales according to your football team.

Your personalised number place gives me a pretty good indication on how you construct your identity. Yesterday you told me that you considered yourself “Madam Muk” in bright pink lettering. A Mum numberplate and we all know the kids had a hand in the choosing of the car and it is a long time since the party girl was seen.

Of course, if there are flower stickers or masses of small stuffed toys in the back window I know you are a single woman.

Then there are those red neck comments that are blatantly sexist, racist or down right mean. The political and protest stickers inform me as to your political persuasion and whether you are a critical thinker. The yellow window signs that declare a baby is on board, so we know a tired and distracted parent is at the wheel.

It simply amazes me how we have allowed the cult of celebrity to trickle down into our everyday life (hey, I can talk I am Flamingo Dancer, the goddess of blogging!) We want to be seen as amazing individuals, but we surround ourselves with the symbols that assign us to a tribe.

Not hieroglyphics, but it does alleviate the boredom on the drive to work each day and more fun than counting red trucks!

turning the page

My mother was a fast reader, and a slightly odd one. Ever since she was a girl, she had read the end of a book first because she couldn’t wait to learn how things turned out. I realized, when I started writing a book about our book club, that, in a way, she’d already read the end of it — when you have pancreatic cancer that’s been diagnosed after it has spread, you can be fairly certain of what fate has in store.


I have to admit that I often do the same thing myself – read the end of a book shortly after starting it (and not because I think I am about to be hit by a bus). It doesn’t ruin the reading for me at all.

In fact, if I am really absorbed in a book, it slows down my reading pace if I know the ending, and I enjoy the book far more. If I didn’t read the ending I would race through the book, maybe missing important, or enjoyable sections in my quest to “know”. There is also nothing worse, to me, than racing through a book that I really enjoy, for I am so often filled with such regret that I have finished the book that I am bereft with the loss.

Okay, I know some of you are now thinking “oh FD get a life – or another book!”, but how often have you really enjoyed a book so much that you have wanted to start reading another one exactly the same, right away? Except, it is not that easy is it? Often even the same author doesn’t satisfy that hunger. I’m not so silly now, am I?

It is like eating a three course meal just to get to dessert, when if I just ate the dessert I might skip one of the other courses and therefore save the kilojoules. Think about it. I am going to eat the dessert no matter what, but if I consume more food than I need to get to it, doesn’t it make more sense just to eat the dessert and maybe lower my meal intake? Of course the dessert would be fruit and carrot sticks on a bed of lettuce so I would be getting a fruit and veg, no high sugar intake, in say, chocolate cake. Work with me here people.

We don’t always have to do things the way they are always done, just because they are always done that way. (Still with me?) Thinking outside the square is what got us the circle. Eating dessert first may make me slimmer. Reading the end of the book before the middle helps me to appreciate the entire book and the reading process.

I rest my case.

[hello? Was that a tumbleweed blowing by? I am sure I can hear a dog barking in the distance…hello? Did you read the end of my post and go out for dessert? No one appreciates genius…]