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Cutting my grass

I like my lawn neat.

I like to do the edges and I don’t mind doing the verge. In the country everyone mows their own verge because the Council will never do it. In the city no one does their verge, because if they did the Council would never do it.

My father likes his grass tidy, as do my brothers. Hours are spent in our yards. We try to resist the urge to cut the lawn short. Too short and it gets burned, bald and brown. This urge has to be balanced with the displeasure of cutting the grass and not having it look mown. We can’t give our lawns a trim, we have to cut.

I learned how to clean a spark plug from my brother. I learned how to clean out the fuel pipe from another brother. I learned from my father how to angle a whipper snipper just right to get the edges. When I bought my own house my grass just had to be cut, no matter the heat. Lawn-mowing sweat is like no other. You become covered in dust and grass that sticks to you tight, it gets in everywhere. I used to like to walk inside and see my face filthy in the mirror. I had done a good job. If I was looking like this the lawn would be looking smart.

Our family drive to keep our lawns short is tempered by our difficult relationship with the tools. Mowers never start. Whipper snippers are no better. I’ve worn blisters on my hands wrenching starter cords over and over. It’s as if there is something in our chemistry that snuffs out spark plugs. We swap and change our mowers, passing around the ones that work, cursing the ones that won’t. We walk them through the streets of our small town like prams. My father holds the record: he walked two mowers from my house to his with a whipper snipper balanced across both.

When I had to leave my little house with the big lawn and move back to the city I was imprisoned in a house with no yard. A small courtyard was all I had, two metres by three metres and covered in stones. I was hemmed in.

I went into denial. I didn’t miss losing my weekends to a recalcitrant mower and a haughty whipper snipper. Not at all. I almost forgot about them. Yards and lawns and gardens didn’t exist anymore, not in my world.

Until we moved house. A big three bedroom Federation with a front and back yard. Grass. Long and looking for attention. We were here two weeks and I went and bought myself a mower. I dug out my boots and my yard hat and put on some old shorts. The mower started first go. I had to resist flicking the blades down to the lowest level. After all this time I knew I had to take it easy, not rush in. The lawn was long, it wouldn’t take to being shorn low. I had to be patient.

I did the back, I did the front. I stopped the mower and stood there with my hands on my hips. The verge was looking untidy. Surely just this once won’t hurt. The Council won’t notice.

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HE’S a fan

Sticker on car at Toormina

Sticker on car at Toormina

I’ve been tooling about, trying to write something about football and my (perhaps very misguided) decision to get myself fit so I can get back on the field next season. As part of this I’ve been thinking about why I like football, and sport in general, so much and why not many people I know can understand this. Of course, there are men I know who totally get football and they fully understand why I like it, even while questioning, I suspect, whether a woman can really get football. There are a whole lot of others though who are openly confused and slightly put out by my obsession and I am continually feeling apologetic for allowing something as barbaric as sport play a large part of my life. The message is: in the scheme of things sport should be allowed to provide only a small amount of meaning to one’s life. It is merely a set of games intended to amuse.

I feel apologetic about my sport but at the same time I feel inferior in my obsession, when compared to men. I feel I need to make up for being a woman by taking it very seriously. I need to be sure of my facts and always admit when wrong. I never try to make out I know more than I do because I suspect I will always be found out. (However, I am not afraid of telling a bloke he doesn’t know what he is talking about and once got into a mild argument with a man at the Spanish Club in Sydney over how much Chelsea paid for Chris Sutton when he moved from Blackburn. It was 10 million, I was right).

The other day I read a review of two books about football fans and noticed this:

“For me, the study of diehard fans is essentially about men. I don’t mean that women’s stories are uninteresting, or that their fandom is any less valid…But there is a way that men support their clubs that speaks more powerfully to their behaviour in other spheres.”

At first I thought, what tosh, women can be just as loony as men! Of course they can be serious fans. Of course their fandom speaks volumes about the rest of their lives!  A MAN has written the review hasn’t he? I started thinking about it and thought perhaps there was a bit of truth in that. I love football, I love my various teams, from the local club to the overseas club I follow  but if they lose, my life will not be ruined. I do not fall into a deep depression. I get annoyed, yes, but I am usually distracted by other things closer to home soon enough. Like the dishes. Or ironing the school shirts. I was mightily pissed off when we lost the Ashes and I could appreciate the ‘cultural’ significance of it and enjoyed the tactical discussion of each Test but I was not about to allow some gloating Poms to ruin my day. (And besides, the Australian cricket team is in a ‘rebuilding’ phase, just like our rugby team, so these losses are feeding future triumphs). I enjoyed watching the Ashes while it was on but when it was finished I didn’t mourn the loss or the end of the series.

I don’t know whether I allow myself to be distracted because it provides a defense against sport-induced depression or because I know it just DOESN’T REALLY MATTER. Anecdotal evidence gathered through discussion with a very small amount of women points to a prevailing opinion that sport can be interesting and that it plays an important if somewhat over-emphasised role in society but that, as a football manager might say, at the end of the day, there are much larger things in life. (I could compare its role and importance to art or literature here but I am not going to do that right at this point in time because I will be here for a long time and I want to post this today). Women are fans, they enjoy football and can be fanatical but is there something in them that doesn’t allow them to get to the same point as men, simply by virtue of them being women or because sport doesn’t act as an extension of their role in society or how they see themselves?

I can’t really provide any answers to that right now but I can try to put my finger on how I like to see my obsession with football: as a semi-intellectual engagement with a seemingly meaningless but major part of our culture. Football, (and sport), is kind of like this:

“Football is the love of form. A spectacle that scarcely leaves a trace in the memory and does not enrich or impoverish knowledge. This is its appeal : it is exciting and empty.”
Mario Vargas Llosa

Maybe I like it precisely because it DOESN’T mean anything.

Classic websites: Homage to the BOM

This is the 100th year of the Bureau of Meteorology.  I thought I should take the opportunity to pay tribute to the BOM – for a website that intrigues, comforts and forewarns. It has become as familiar as Mike Bailey. (And is far more intelligent than Tim Bailey).

Bom website

It has a simple, no-frills interface that belies a top 40 website that is seen on work desktops everywhere (god help the sys admin who tries to place it behind Web Marshal). And all it does it tell us about the weather, information we can get anywhere. For some reason though Australians can’t get enough of the BOM.

We have a fascination with the weather, with predicting it and talking about it after it has happened. That’s pretty obvious. We talk about lazy winds that go through us not around, we talk about scorchers that turn the state into a tinderbox, rain pissing down, hail as big as golfballs, the fact that it’s blowing a gale and that green clouds mean hail so you better get your car into the nearest shopping centre carpark quick smart. We sweat our dates off in 100 per cent humidity and freeze our tits off because some of us refuse to believe that it gets cold in Australia. For some people the weather is a conversation starter. Sometimes I think Australians see it as THE conversation. Even more than that, it’s a topic for serious study.

BOM Radar

So with our penchant for chatting, nay, obessing about it we obviously want to be as informed as possible and where better to go than the BOM itself. Some are obsessed by the mesmerising four frame radar loop and then there are the warnings that elicit a ripple of excitement around offices everywhere. Storms! Winds! Pack away the plastic garden furniture! Move away from windows and turn off your telly! Perhaps office workers need to get a life but when an announcement goes out over the loud-speaker or an all-users email is sent out about the weather I know that almost every person in the building will be typing be-oh-em-dot-gee-oh-vee-dot-ay-you into their standard operating system browser.

Some of us are observers, watching every movement in temperature or drop of rain in detail. I’m definitely an observer. I recently found myself emailing someone to tell them we had had 12mm in 26 minutes. (Ahem). Some are forecasters. Some can’t get dressed, let alone leave home, without knowing in detail what the BOM has in store for the day. Packing for trips away is governed by the oracle of the BOM. They never really remember if the BOM was wrong, but they keep looking at the site. It gives them a sense of control over their life and confidence in their choice of outfit. There’s nothing worse than being surprised and finding that you are wearing too many or too few clothes.

BOM observations

Observer or forecaster, we all read the same bible. bom.gov.au – thank you and keep up the good work. Oh yeah, and never change, we like you just the way you are: no-frills.

Bliss

Still coming down from the high of the weekend and enjoying watching the ever-growing collection of photos on Flickr in the Federal Election 07 pool.

Markus Zusak at Inside a dog

Lili has kindly let Stack know that Inside a dog, the website dedicated to youth literature, is turning 1. As well as competitions and other good things to celebrate, Markus Zusak will be the writer in residence for April.

The Solid Mandala

A plug for the new Patrick White Readers Group book: The Solid Mandala. Read it now.

Not resolutions

Well, now all that Christmas business has died down and my parent’s house is now empty but for the four of us who have been here for the last couple of months, I can think about writing something for my blogs again.

Yesterday was the first day when I felt like the season was winding down. Or maybe that was just the last Test finishing. Whatever. It’s a little quieter now, we’re not hosting dinners for 16 every second night and the tourists around town are not as thick on the ground. This year I smugly counted myself as a local even though that assumption was not completely true. Very annoyed when I had to wait for a park at the beach. Life has obviously been hard.

I hate new year’s resolutions but I came across Conversational Reading’s reading resolutions and thought it might be a nice exercise to go through: make a list of stuff I would like to get through this year. No doubt I will look back on this post in December and wonder what planet I was on but here goes:

More Australian stuff
During my trip away from Sydney I have been trying to read more Australia lit and I have been reasonably successful in this. I want to start with White’s The Solid Mandala, if that is what the PWRG is indeed reading. I also have David Malouf‘s latest sitting here waiting to be read. Aside from those two I have no real plans. I thought I would fly by the seat of my pants after visiting the Sars underrated writers’ project for suggestions…

What I got for Christmas
I’m halfway through Shirin Ebadi’s Iran Awakening so I should have that kocked off soon enough. Mum gave me the Nobel Lectures from the Lit laureates so I imagine I will be dipping in and out of that one. I will also look forward every month to The Monthly tunring up in the mailbox courtesy of my sister’s gift of a subscription.

Been meaning to read for ages
Since reading Jonathan Franzen’s How to be alone a couple of years ago I have been trying to get my hands on a copy of Paula Fox’s Desperate Characters with no luck. I read Borrowed Finery last year.

I have been lusting over the Lee Miller biog by Carolyn Burke and dammit, this year I will have it.

Also, two I want to read more of: Gunter Grass and Philip Roth. Don’t ask me why because I don’t know.

And that other thing
There’s also the small matter of an unfinished Masters

Happy reading to all.