On my drive home from work I listened to Amanda Vanstone interview Philip Hensher, the author of the book, The Missing Link: The Lost Art of Handwriting. Hensher commented that in today’s world of text messages, tweets and emails that it could be entirely possible for someone to marry a person without ever seeing their handwriting until the moment they signed the marriage certificate.
He pondered, and this is probably more a query for the female readers but guys you can answer too, how would you feel if, having never seen your beloved sign his/her name previously, if once you were married you became aware that he signed his name with a little heart over his letter i, or finished his sentences with a smiley face?
The dilemma, if I can call it a dilemma, occupied me all the way home, and I still not sure of how I would react. Does gender equality extend to handwriting too?
One of life’s bigger questions, isn’t it?
For 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The nose knows no nos. It accepts yeses, though.
I purchased a new deodorant, but when I needed it I couldn’t find it anywhere. Eventually it was found – Mr FD had stored it with the household cleaning products.
I will give him the life saving grace of assuming his actions were a matter of mistaken identity, rather than a lesson on hygiene requirements.
My dream started with a composting toilet.
It was a large square wooden pedestal, or more accurately “thunderbox” in the Australian vernacular, but exquisitely crafter from Nordic pine. It appeared to be sited into a grassy knoll in the cubicle. (I must have been channeling the London Olympics opening ceremony with its meadows and hills). There was moss and flowering nasturtium clustered around the wooden base.
And it was in the middle of New York.
It was in a public restroom/ toilets. I waited my turn patiently, but I was a little anxious that men kept coming into the restroom, and they appeared oblivious when I pointed out the females only sign.
I soon resigned myself to their presence and took my turn in the cubicle, but it appeared that people kept popping their heads over the top and giving their opinions about everything.
I announced myself as a first time Australian in New York and walked out to use the basins. This was five stars with toothbrushes and warm towels for my use. It was then that I noticed a female attendant, and started to become anxious about how to tip her; or rather how much to tip her, and explained that I was Australian and we don’t tip. I wanted to give her five dollars, but she insisted on a dollar, and I could keep the toothbrush as I appeared to have forgotten my own. I resisted and gave her five dollars, which she ripped into pieces.
This upset me, as ripping it up meant that neither of us had the five dollars, so she picked the pieces up again and I left with the toothbrush.
When I walked outside, there was a long queue to an Indie outdoor concert where my sister was waiting. My sister was not my real sister, may I add, and I was not really me. We were both very pretty, happy twenty somethings.
By now, I felt like I was in a Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan movie; especially when I walked along the queue and was joined by a tall handsome young man and his friend, who chose to sit with my sister and I. We were soon laughing and romance was obviously in the air.
My brain was telling me that I had the plot for a romantic comedy, that I was on the road to replace the lately departed Nora Ephron, and having some fun along the way when Mr FD’s voice broke though and he started rambling on about snakes.
His dream ended my dream. I wonder what Professor Freud would make of that!
Fruit flies offer DNA clue to why women live longer
Now I know why I never became a scientist, beside the fact that I could never balance a chemical equation. Dumbo me, if I had been going to study why women live longer than men, I would have gone straight to researching the male and female human. Never would it have occurred to me study fruit flies to gain data about humans. Is my head a buzz with shame and regret!
But, there in perhaps lies the secret as to why women live longer than males… we would have more sense than to spend time researching fruit flies, when there is shopping to be done! [Spot the gender stereotypes...]
Wendy was a witch; not a great witch, or a famous witch. It would have been difficult to be either considering how many witches were named Wendy. They would have needed a system to discern first the good Wendys from the bad Wendys, as well as the mediocre Wendys , which is the group Wendy considered herself to be centred within: neither good nor bad; brilliant nor non-brilliant. She chose not to use words such as stupid or dumb, for no one was really stupid or dumb; everyone had something they could do, if only in a mediocre way, so non-brilliant was the word to use. After all Wendy was a politically correct witch, if nothing else.
It wasn’t easy to be politically correct in these modern times, with gender debates abounding. Do wizards have higher IQs then witches?, had filled most of the special supplement in the latest issue of Spellbound, the industry journal for the magical professional. Recent research had shown that once that might have been true, when witches had been kept barefoot and pregnant next to the cauldron, motherhood and domestic duties keeping them from going about in the world and pursuing academic endeavours or career paths, but now that witches had more choices in life their IQs had not only grown equal to wizards ,but in fact had surpassed them -not that Wendy hadn’t known that all along!
Just one look into any family coven and the multitasking that a witch performed in the course of her daily life showed that witches had to be superior to wizards. A wizard concentrating on a brew could be easily distracted by the sight of a scantily clad fairy in the magic mirror and the whole brew could be spoiled as he added too much of this, not enough of that. No witch would allow such a thing to happen! Great Uncle Gough had totally lost his plot one midsummer night when he was given a crystal ball that showed the entire stable of the next year’s Pinup Witches of the Month in PlayWitch and had not been able to return to his spell work until the year was up.
A rumour had circulated that the crystal ball had in fact been given to him by his wife, Great Aunt Gough, who knew not only how distracted Great Uncle Gough could be by shiny things, balls, but by any female under forty; just to give herself some peace and quiet so she could get on with completing her PhD in witchcraft, and to Wendy this proved beyond doubt that witches were indeed smarted than wizards, for a witch would never allow herself to be distracted by the mere picture of something. A witch was more realistic and concrete in her thinking. She knew how to multitask to perfection.
A witch wouldn’t just settle for looking at something, no, she would summon it up! If those Pinup witches had been wearing a pair of shoes that she liked in a bippity bippity boo, she would wave her magic
stick wand, and materialise them; then it would be back to work for that modern witch. She certainly wouldn’t spend an entire year with glazed eyes lusting after something, doing nothing else. Why Great Uncle Gough had needed special meals to be prepared just to be prompted to eat, while Great Aunt Gough ran around accomplishing so much!
In fact, Great Aunt Gough had completed her PhD with honours, stored a whole year’s supply of pickled newt, completely repainted the coven, babysat for her daughter three days a week, took care of her ageing mother who refused to leave her tree house and move into a care facility, and maintained a blog for aspiring witches and wizards, while her husband gazed at that crystal ball of Pinup Witches. Who was the smarter, ay?
Wendy blinked. Who was the smartest?
A trio of women colleagues share an office on the same floor as our library and use our kitchen facilities. They gave all the appearance of being a happy little trio, and I have certainly formed warm relationships and good opinions of all three.
Now, it seems that one is not speaking to another, and no one knows why. Nothing appears to have happened, and no one has the faintest idea what may have caused the icy affront. The strangest thing is that the woman who is harbouring the ill feeling is the last of the three that I would ever have guessed to exhibit such behaviour. I had been considering as nominating her for Australia’s Next Saint.
My thinking has always been that if one is going to have a hissy fit with someone, at least let the person know what they have done, or not done, to cause the grief. No good putting all that effort into dark looks and icy silences if no one knows why, or even if they are indeed the true target.
Mr FD, for example, is always aware when he has crossed the line of acceptable behaviour and caused my grief. To be fair, it would probably be easier for me if I just told him when he pleased me and was allowed out of his cell. It would be a rare occurrence for sure, hence the ease of effort. The point is that I am not huffing and puffing and leaving him wondering what he has done to annoy me. I just tell him (again and again and again. Lord how I tell him).
So, if you are ever in high dungeon with me, please do me the courtesy of informing me of the whys and why nots. A timeline of my decent into your bad books might also be appropriate.
Then I shall hit you with my stick.
I never said that I would appreciate your honesty, and revenge is sweet.