Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Encounter with a pig

 Bushwoman came out of the supermarket, carrying a beer box full of vegetables, honey and bones. She looked across the street and saw the Schoolteacher, filling the back of her car with much of the same, maybe some extra boxes of wine.

'How are you?'

'Oh, very well,' answered the Schoolteacher, ' and now I must inspect this pig.' She pointed to a car towing a trailer that housed an enormous pig.

'I think I should join you,' said the Bushwoman and and after the Schoolteacher had rested her shopping trolley safely against the back of her car, they walked arm in arm along the middle of the deserted main street, to see the pig. 

As they approached the trailered pig, the Driver tried starting the car. Arump arump arump. The man in the passenger side got out carrying a hammer. ''Ha!' said the Schoolteacher. 'You thought you'd escape us!'

'Give that starter motor a good thump,' said the Driver, and tried turning it over again. The Passenger gave up but by then the Bushwoman and the Schoolteacher were all staring at the biggest Sow they'd ever seen.

'Isn't she the biggest pig you've ever seen?' said the Schoolteacher. And indeed she was. Pink, fat, with udders that swayed. The Sow nosed at a Chinese takeaway box that the Driver slid into the cage. She sniffed at the vanilla slice and then turned back to the Bushwoman and the Schoolteacher, pressing her snout against the wire, inspecting them.

Bushwoman had seen whales do the same thing, search for an ally.

'Her name is Deloria,' said the Driver defensively, as a crowd began to gather. 

'She'd make for great chops,' said the Kid. The Bushwoman hadn't seen him for three years. The Kid was taken away from his parents and now he's returned. He's stretched a foot or two since then. He's standing there all tall, blonde and upright. He wants to be a butcher, he told the Bushwoman.

The local Yogi sat watching on the brick steps on the other side of the street, near the pharmacy, natural endorphins shaking his head. 

The Driver slid the Chinese takeaway container under the cage and ate the vanilla slice. 'She's our prize pig!' he said. 'Give that starter another thump!'

And the motor went arumph arumph. 'Okay, let's hit the road,' the driver said as the car chocked into life.

Bushwoman, Schoolteacher and The Kid waved goodbye to the pig and her chauffeurs as they ambled to the highway.


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Working for the Man

While Covid19 has given us pause to think about how we go about our lives, it’s also hammered home pre-existing vulnerabilities in our society. One of the vulnerabilities exposed is the increased casualisation of our work force over the last two decades. The recent ‘work from home’ phenomena mostly applied to white collar, full-time employees, not those in casual hospitality, agriculture and or academia. So that’s cool. But not cool for the rest of us.

I’ve worked for ten years in the academic sphere as a casual employee. Last year, I turned up to teach the day after I broke a few ribs, because I had no sick leave and could not afford to pay another tutor to take my class. Life as a highly skilled, casual academic can be, in the words of a New Holland interloper, ‘nasty, brutish and short.’

The era of the ‘precariat’, where young people are being forced into a precarious casual work force, where their hours change every week, where they are ineligible for sick pay, compassionate leave etc and are always unsure of how they will pay their rent; they are being told how lucky they are … because their workplace is um  flexible.

The recent commentary by politicians and employers (who have taken advantage of this system for years) is that Jobkeeper and Jobseeker are now stymying their efforts to reopen, and that potential staff are enjoying the dole way too much to apply for a job. 

I cannot call bullsh*t on this argument enough.

Perhaps it is time to look at how government and business alike treat their casual workforce. A small business in a small town, for example, could give one employee permanent part time status, thus giving them security and a living wage that they could depend upon. What could result is a place of dignity and respect when it comes to our relationships between boss and employee. Is this a leap to Marxist? Doubt it. It’s just doing the right thing.


Saturday, August 22, 2020

'It's the bats, man!'

 If you haven't seen this video doing the rounds, watch - it's priceless. Maybe I'm late to this but the idea of flipping upside down footage of bats (sleeping upside down) and setting it to some 1990s goth music strikes me as an act of genius.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Helping your Elders

 Mum lives in a small town near me and we both moved out to the bush from the city at around the same time. She's nearly 80 and has had pneumonia twice so when the pandemic was finally declared by the Australian government, I went into action overload.

'Just to let you know Mum,' I texted her, 'I'm happy to support you and do shopping and things for you.' Her reply was bemused. It went along the lines of 'Thanks! That's a lovely offer. I'll think about it.'

When I rang her the next day, she was still in the city, having lunch with one of her mates. I could feel my anxiety ratchet up to eleven when I rang her. 'Mum, please come home. I'll do the shopping for you.' I paused and she paused. Then I said 'Personally, I don't think it's a good time for anyone to be moving around the country right now. I think you should come home Mum.' She said, 'This has been a profound conversation, Sarah.'

Not long after that, days maybe, the state government shut the borders and most of us were prevented from entering the southern city. Whenever I went shopping with my Mum's list on my phone, I'd sanitise my hands on entry and then follow the arrows through the tiny supermarket, scrolling on my phone that I'd scrolled through previous to washing my hands. How does that work?

I'd come back to Mum's house with her box full of groceries, drop the box in her sun room and wave at my Mum standing in the kitchen. 'I'm not coming in!' I'd say. 'I've just been to the supermarket.'

She'd clean down all the packets with sanitiser and put it away into her fridge. When it became dusk, she would collect the neighbour's dog and take him for a walk, 'when there were less people on the streets.'

Recently, she told me of her loneliness during that period. How I wouldn't hug her. Of having to walk a dog after dark. Of me dropping vegetables and dried food into her sun room and waving goodbye to her through the window.

I wonder now if I'd been too hardcore towards my Mum. During that time when none of us knew anything about the virus and we were all so afraid, I totally locked Mum down. Looking back, I feel terrible that I inflicted that on her and yet at the time, I thought I was doing the right thing. Was I punishing her for being aged? How would I like to be treated, in the same circumstance?

Thoughts about this please? In the past I've gone into action when it comes to organising funerals or dealing with suicides, but I've never (as I'm sure none of you have either) had to help Elders during a pandemic. How did you go with this one?

Friday, August 14, 2020

On lost dogs

We found an old dog the other night. She got lost in the bush down the hill from my place and she cried until we found her. Selkie and I were sitting in the dark, when we first heard her cry. My dog looked at me. I put on my headlamp. It was raining. The lost dog was soaking wet when we found her.She looked at me, blinded by an LED lamp.  Old, lost and wet.

'You're okay. Stay here. We'll get you some help,' I said to her.

Quails scritching scratching through the marri litter. They scuttle for cover as shouts ring out through the forest. It sounds like people are calling for their lost dogs, no doubt on an excellent adventure and not lost at all. When I look over my journal, the last few weeks are nothing creative but quotes for nbn, phone numbers, notes from work zoom meetings, quotes for servicing the boat motor.

Red Robin burrs onto the veranda, snatches a bug and whirrs away. Honey eaters carry on in the banksias. The fishermen are motoring back from picking up their nets. None of them hit that rock to port side of the channel marker. The inlet’s charts are inside their heads.

Selkie barks as a figure steps through the scrub. A young man, eating something. Breakfast. ‘Have you seen a couple of dogs around here?’

‘No, they’ve probably gone off after a roo.’ A pair of dogs will do that. When there are more than one, they don’t need you anymore. They’ve got each other.

I can hear the fisherfolk sliding boxes of their catch on to the trays of their utes, and the crunch of a spade into ice. A motorbike down by the beach. Someone whistling.

I drive to the neighbours at the squatter's huts. It's late at night now. They are getting about with torches, looking for their dog.

'Are you looking for the old girl?' I shouted from the car window. 'I think she's at my place. She's stuck in the bush.'

In my headlights they come rushing towards me, five or six people at once.  'Have you found her?' 'Have you found her?' There are torches going in every direction and I say 'follow me'. They follow my car back to my place, track me through the bush to where the old dog has managed to stand and walk. Someone catches her in the torch light, slinking off like a ghost dog. 'There she is!'

Her owner, a man I've so often thought as loud in his masculine violence (or whatever ...) gathers the dog into his arms. I can see by the way he hugs the old dog, so wet and so cold, that he loves her dearly.  He says, 'She can go on the back of the ute. I'll sit by her. Drive, daughter.'


Thursday, July 30, 2020

On why Clive Palmer is a dickhead

So the interwebs got pretty funny this week, what with "person, woman, man, camera, TV" and then a serial litigant billionaire tries to litigate his way into our state via litigation.

While the premier has shut down the border for months, allowing us to begin behaving as normal now, Clive Palmer wants to fly over here for a meeting. The rest of us are doing zoom quite happily thank you very much. Frex, I have a meeting with a journalist in Japan on Saturday.

In taking the state guv to court, so he can have a meeting in person, Clive Palmer is taking us all to court. As a billionaire businessman he is asking, no actually demanding, that we open our state to him. West Australians are naturally pretty pissed about this. It's a test case, yes, but fuck it. Keep the coal-fuelled billionaires out and keep the borders shut. It's a no brainer.

Let's hope the state government wins this case.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

How to party?

On the weekend I drove to the southern city. It's a two hour drive and my car needs a wheel alignment.
'Go to Harv's' the local mechanic told me. He didn't want to do it himself and basically offloaded the job to someone who lived 200km from where I live and the borders were shut at the time. I was on the wrong side, so it's been several months of driving around with the wobblies.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, drove to the southern city, to attend a birthday party teeming with my oldest bestest friends in the world. Got a wheel alignment on my car. Taught the first week of semester at the university where I work.

Last semester was a bit of a washout, as everyone will know. All classes went online. I ran most of my classes via zoom from the Walpole laundromat, where I had a power point, a desk, some mobile reception and somewhere to do the washing. However, the uni has gone back to face to face teaching this semester, with a back-up online plan should shit hit the proverbial. 

I'm naturally isolated where I live. My nearest human neighbour is 25km away. So when I walked into the party in the southern city, the band was going off and it was dark but full of people shouting over the music and a fire burning in the back yard, my social anxiety kicked in immediately. An old friend spotted me standing uncertainly on the outskirts of the crowd. "Oh my god! Sarah! We were beginning to think you were a myth."

She moved towards me with her arms outstretched.

I used to love this scene. "This is our band!" I'd announce at every gig. "Everywhere we go, we get the band to come and play for us. Whoo!" And we'd be dancing and drinking ... and by the end of the night, we'd be rolling around in the dirt beside a fire. 

Nothing right now strikes me as more terrifying.

"No hugs, I'm not hugging tonight," I said to my old friend from the southern city and she kinda didn't believe me. I tried to explain that it wasn't her, it was me, and that Victoria was freaking me out. Victoria had it nailed and then they failed. For the rest of the night, I felt like I needed a sign written on my forehead - NO HUGS NO KISSES - because I had to negotiate it with every old friend I saw, and there were heaps there on Saturday night. Some took it personally, others shrugged and others looked me in the eyes across the fire, nodded and got where I was coming from.

We should never feel obligated to hug or kiss someone when we don't feel like it, but this virus is a whole new ball game. I sat with another old friend. We both had babies in the 1990s and these days she lives on a farm with her husband. When I first saw her at the party, I noticed that her body language was the same as mine. Don't hug me don't breath on me etc. I asked her about that.

"I've felt so safe on the farm," she said. "Now I'm here. It's really nice to see our crew but ..." And that's when it kicked in for me. I've been so isolated that I've felt really safe. Going into a party where everyone is shouting over the band and kissing ... it wasn't only social anxiety after a spell of being alone, it also felt existential.

I don't want to be the fun police here. As I said to the party host today, (she rang me because she saw how uncomfortable I was) this is my own personal viewpoint. I've lived in the bush on my own for a long time. It was just quite confronting to be in close quarters with a large amount of people.

How long will this whole thing last? Dunno. I feel we have to learn to live with it. People have adapted their behaviour in the past. We can too.

Update: there's a mob camping on the beach right where Selkie drowned that kangaroo, and where I dragged the carcass out and plonked it into the inlet with a brick and rope. The carcass is still a floater.  I've warned them not to go swimming there.