Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Why I didn't Shoot the Deputy

Dear Deputy Principal,

Thankyou for the letter home to all parents, encouraging them to volunteer their time at our primary school for activities such as library, computers or home reading.
I have many happy memories of being the regular 'home reading mum' at your school. We walked to school every morning with dogs, prams and bicycles, and spent at least an hour after that helping the year ones and twos read.
In 2006, the Howard government brought in 'Welfare to Work' and for myself and many other parents, the whole scenario changed forever.

Unless we work full time when our children turned seven, or we are married to someone earning enough money to give CentreLink the flick, we are now obliged to sign a contract stating that we will work a minimum of fifteen hours a week at or above the minimum wage of $14.23 an hour. If we earn less than the minimum wage, we are obliged to work more hours to make up that difference. If we do not qualify for either of these mandates, we are obliged to do 100 hours of Job Search training and be corralled into Intensive Assistance. The job search agencies whom we are unwittingly signed up to, garner a certain amount of federal funding per person that they have to 'process', and therefore they see each individual as a 'funding unit'.
If we do not comply with any of these options, we are considered breachers and bludgers who do not participate within our community in a productive manner.

However, we can do fifteen hours of volunteer work per week to make up for this personal shortfall.
Volunteer work includes most forms of government-sponsored altruism. Unfortunately, according to CentreLink and PVS Workfind, the definition of volunteer work does not include the following things:
* Looking after a friend who has cancer, including driving them to and from appointments, gardening, cleaning or shopping for them.
* Helping your elderly neighbour when they have to leave for six weeks to deal with funerals or births in another state.
* Painting your mate's house.
* Canteen Duty in primary schools.
* Home reading in primary schools.
* Helping kids in the library or the computer room in primary schools.

I don't know a parent who wasn't running around like a blue-arsed fly, before the Welfare to Work regime came in. I suggest that if you want parents to help our kids out in the lunch hour, in the canteen, in the library, in the computer room, then you approach the doctor's/lawyer's/miner's spouse who can afford not to work or queue in government orifices. The other option is a little more socially progressive. Approach PVS WorkFind and CentreLink. Impress on them the need to change their policy of devaluing the work of volunteers within the schools and the community.

I am terribly sorry that I can no longer spare an hour a week to help out with the kids at our school. These days I can barely make the Assembly.
I notice as well, that you are asking for more diverse services from parents, as your own resources are being squeezed. It was with a great sadness I read this letter from you today and realised how all of our resources and time are becoming collectively contracted into non-productive slots that no longer allow us the moments of unadulterated day dreaming and fun and unthinking philanthropy.

Yours sincerely, Sarah Toa

(Cartoon by The Boiling Point, )


Monday, February 23, 2009

Cross Discipline Juice

Back at uni this week, after eighteen months' work experience in the real world. (Read lawnmower, garden centre attendant, courier and deckhand). But this time it's not Uni 101. It's real juicy.
My thesis: to research the origins and history of a little girl who was dropped off the edge of her world and arrived on our own Eclipse Island here in 1831 with a boatload of sealers from all corners of the globe; to write something beautiful about her story, fictionalise it, find a 'voice', a narrator capable of spinning such a ripping yarn, and at the end of the year, present it to the history/literature buffs at Murdoch.
A good excuse to hang out on and island and write, methinks.
Now, if I could just rustle up a spare couple of hours in the week, this would be quite achievable. Something's gotta give ... All the same - I'm so excited about this project and it's potential.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Totally Self Indulgent (Sigh)

The washing line has blown down again and the wet hem of my nice new dress is gently sifting through black dust. I sit. Waiting for something to happen to me. I need red wine and Edith Piaf to become decently maudlin. And there's the rub, cos that combo would cheer me up and then I'd have nothing to feel maudlin about. Except... it's my creeping sense that dressing up and donning rollerskates just ain't gonna cut it anymore. (Sigh)

First Kiss

We met under the Yakamia bridge and shared a kiss that lasted three minutes and forty two seconds, twenty seconds longer (it felt like hours) than the two other sweaty thirteen year olds. A week later he 'dumped' me and I cried obligingly and a gaggle of girlfriends, breathless with the drama, told me he'd been paid to go out with me. I spent weeks wondering about the mysterious benefactor and much longer to forgive the boy, who quickly moved on to more exquisite company.

Funny, because once I did forgive him, we became firm friends. I've always been a better friend than lover and this was no exception. He was the original Paul Hogan sort, a larrikin without the plastic surgery. He had the soulful, laughing brown eyes of his father.
He was prematurely halted on a Harley ten days ago, by a tree.

I wondered at the Coffin Cheaters yesterday, standing dark and staunch near the back of the huge crowd of hardened party animals, every single individual tenderised by the collective sledgehammer of unexpected grief. I wondered if they saw the irony of their moniker at the graveside.

The pall bearers wore West Coast Eagles jumpers or shearer's singlets with the Phantom emblazoned on their back. It's been a while since I've seen a lot of these folk. Some hadn't changed in a decade and others wore their footy jumpers stretched tight over a new bulge of self-indulgence. Beautiful girls, bare foot with flowing dresses and heavy, silken hair, tattoos burning in February sun. Balloons. His Mum.

We set the balloons free to the strains of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, cheering, whistling and clapping and watched them soar higher and higher, kept company by a lone guardian pelican, until they became like grains of dust and then disappeared.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Blake's Take On It All

I love this poem and first encountered it when studying Yeats at Otago Uni. It's not by Yeats though, William Blake was the scribe. My lecturer, a tweedy man who concealed his whip-cracking sadism behind a gentle, learned Englishman's demeanor, described it as "a curious little poem". I have no idea if he actually knew what it was all about - sex, death and eternal cycles of life, I suppose.
Anyway, it's a tripper and it's great! Enjoy.

The Mental Traveller by William Blake

I traveld thro' a Land of Men

A Land of Men & Women too

And heard & saw such dreadful things

As cold Earth wanderers never knew

For there the Babe is born in joy

That was begotten in dire woe

Just as we Reap in joy the fruit

Which we in bitter tears did sow

And if the Babe is born a Boy

He's given to a Woman Old

Who nails him down upon a rock

Catches his Shrieks in Cups of gold

She binds iron thorns around his head

She pierces both his hands & feet

She cuts his heart out at his side

To make it feel both cold & heat

Her fingers number every Nerve

Just as a Miser counts his gold

She lives upon his shrieks & cries

And She grows young as he grows old

Till he becomes a bleeding youth

And she becomes a Virgin bright

Then he rends up his Manacles

And binds her down for his delight

He plants himself in all her Nerves

Just as a Husbandman his mould

And She becomes his dwelling place

And Garden fruitful Seventy fold

An aged Shadow soon he fades

Wandring round an Earthly Cot

Full filled all with gems & gold

Which he by industry had got

And these are the gems of the Human Soul

The rubies & pearls of a lovesick eye

The countless gold of the akeing heart

The martyrs groan & the lovers sigh

They are his meat they are his drink

He feeds the Beggar & the Poor

And the way faring Traveller

For ever open is his door

His grief is their eternal joy

They make the roofs & walls to ring

Till from the fire on the hearth

A little Female Babe does spring

And she is all of solid fire

And gems & gold that none his hand

Dares stretch to touch her Baby form

Or wrap her in his swaddling-band

But She comes to the Man she loves

If young or old or rich or poor

They soon drive out the aged Host

A Begger at anothers door

He wanders weeping far away

Untill some other take him in

Oft blind & age-bent sore distrest

Untill he can a Maiden win

And to Allay his freezing Age

The Poor Man takes her in his arms

The Cottage fades before his Sight

The Garden & its lovely Charms

The Guests are scatterd thro' the land

For the Eye altering alters all

The Senses roll themselves in fear

And the flat Earth becomes a Ball

The Stars Sun Moon all shrink away

A desart vast without a bound

And nothing left to eat or drink

And a dark desart all around

The honey of her Infant lips

The bread & wine of her sweet smile

The wild game of her roving Eye

Does him to Infancy beguile

For as he eats & drinks he grows

Younger & younger every day

And on the desart wild they both

Wander in terror & dismay

Like the wild Stag she flees away

Her fear plants many a thicket wild

While he pursues her night & day

By various arts of Love beguild

By various arts of Love & Hate

Till the wide desart planted oer

With Labyrinths of wayward Love

Where roams the Lion Wolf & Boar

Till he becomes a wayward Babe

And she a weeping Woman Old

Then many a Lover wanders here

The Sun & Stars are nearer rolld

The trees bring forth sweet Extacy

To all who in the desart roam

Till many a City there is Built

And many a pleasant Shepherds home

But when they find the frowning Babe

Terror strikes thro the region wide

They cry the Babe the Babe is Born

And flee away on Every side

For who dare touch the frowning form

His arm is witherd to its root

Lions Boars Wolves all howling flee

And every Tree does shed its fruit

And none can touch that frowning form

Except it be a Woman Old

She nails him down upon the Rock

And all is done as I have told

Sunday, February 8, 2009

It's Been A Week

I'm having problems finding anything anything intelligent or newsworthy to write and this time, I'm not stooping to lichen. This wordless catatonia is due to a rolling set of events that I claim are completely unconnected and most definitely part of Captain Chaos' evil plan.
Those who know me well, understand from experience that Captain Chaos is probably busy drinking and getting maudlin in a Glaswegian bar somewhere and has never even heard of me but he's a great scapegoat. Let's tar and feather the bastard anyway.
I got sucker punched. I'm puppy-sitting.

You could comment. "Ohhh, he's sooo cute!"
I'll remember that, when I need to palm him off.
He is a disaster area. He's here for a month. He's dug up the rotten fish fertiliser, rolled in it and spread it all over my doorstep. He's bent starpickets in endearing, wriggling moments of absolute joy. He's utterly terrorised the chickens, the cat, the bandicoots and the black skink (the original specialist in terrorism and guerrilla kibble-hijacking) has left home in a huff.

I've had a week of
*people rear ending me at roundabouts,
*people yelling at me because I'm unloading tables too slowly at the markets and they would like to park their fucking Merc just past my banged up old Rodeo.
*trying to quell catfights at the local petrol station. (Man, those policemen can scratch!)

I decided today, that I needed to wash these things off me. You know, just clean the week away and emerge from my dirty little encounter with the Captain, if not virginal, then at least partially intact.

Washing after feeling so dirtied is real nice - when you have gas.
Then the kettle exploded.
Our Sunshine arrived from Melbourne with a shell-shocked Chihuahua and set up a tent in the backyard. This morning she set about the makings of a fire and cooked me breakfast.
So with lashings of fried mushrooms and eggs, ("Isn't there something special about food cooked unevenly on a barbie?" she asked me and I have to agree. It's the crispy egg white thing with gooey yolks on toast, cremated on one side and lightly browned the other. Yes.) and the most awesome ginger coffee I've ever tasted, my depleted internal para-copers are regrouping.

I still need a wash. The combination of deckhand and no running hot water is just wrong. But things are looking up. I photocopied dozens of this image, stolen from a mate's blog and have decided they are now my official business card.
"A problem? Sorry to hear that. Here's my card."