Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mothers' Day Catalogues

I wrote this seven years ago. I'm pleased to note that as well as pink pajamas, Mothers' Day catalogues now feature pink digital cameras, Nintendo DS and pink toolkits.

Mother’s Day

I’m leafing through the latest Mother’s Day catalogues deciding which items to circle and leave lying around in strategic places should the family need a little help.
This is what I’ve discovered so far:
Four different brands of hair straightener and one curling iron
I didn’t know straight hair was so popular!
Ten pages of perfumes and beauty products
No four-year old boy (or husband for that matter) should be encouraged to buy these for you unless your tastes are very well-defined.
Fluffy slippers and pyjamas with bears
I read somewhere recently that adults with bears on their clothing is a sign of serious psychological disturbance. But I guess they’re ok on the PJs. Still, a bit mumsy. Just because you’re a mother doesn’t mean you’re condemned to a life of flannelette.
Electrical appliances
Do NOT give Mother an iron (except one of those $500 ones I saw advertised recently, and then, only if it’s accompanied by someone to actually DO the ironing.)
Would you buy your mother a bra for Mother’s Day? Should my four year old buy me one? No, no, no.
Well ok. I have no argument with this!
Exercise balls and get fit videos
You should tread very carefully here. This is a present that should not be given unless specifically requested!
And my own personal favourite:
Wind chimes that “simulate the randomness of natural wind”
Great – you can listen to irritating tinkling without the bother of actually going outside and getting your straight hair mussed up.
But of course all I really want for Mother’s Day is hugs from my special people.
Well ok, maybe hugs and chocolate.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Grumpy over grammar

Me: "A flat white coffee, please"
Coffee Person: "Any sugars with that?"
Me: "If I'd wanted sugar I would have asked for sugar (singular)."

Check out Person: "Did you want a bag?"
Me: "Well I did, but now I don't."

Serving Person: "Is that all today?"
Me: "I don't know. I may come back this afternoon."

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Red things

Every year I particularly enjoy the grape vine outside the kitchen window as it changes through the seasons. It will be spectacularly red for a short time before shedding all its leaves for winter. The vine is rumoured to be nearly as old as our house which was built in 1891. I like the way it intertwines with my tomato bush which is still covered with green tomatoes in April.

Last week my sister came back from a holiday in Japan and brought me this beautiful red lacquer tray. Will have to find something very special to put in it.

I used to have a lot of exciting shoes. People meeting me in the street often looked first at my feet. Since giving away all my high heels I've struggled to maintain my standards.
I found these this week for $45. I'd just been to visit my sister's sister-in-law who was in the neurosurgery ward after falling off her horse. Whilst there I talked to the Lord Mayor who had fallen off his motorcycle. He told me someone I'd worked with was also on the ward. In the last week she'd had surgery, lost the ability to read and been given 18 months to live. I spoke to her briefly. What do you say? She said at least it was 18 months rather than one day. A chance to do all those things you've always wanted to do, I suggested (but couldn't because you were being sensible, or waiting until it was convenient).
I'll think of her every time I wear these shoes.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Junkmail Junkie

My name is Beth and I'm a junkmail junkie. A closet catalogue collector.

Every week at least a truckload of catalogues get shoved into our letterbox. I rescue them, smooth them out, then sit down with a nice cup of coffee and enjoy leafing through.

My boys give me a really hard time because they say it's a huge waste of paper and hypocritical given my views on sustainable resources.

So I wonder, would I enjoy catalogues as much if they came by email? I already get a few that way, various things that I've subscribed to including retailers that I've handed my details over to because they shamelessly promised me discounts and frequent shopper points.

And yes, I quite like them, though I tend to read them in a hurry, while I'm sitting at the computer doing other things.

So I don't think they give me quite the same buzz as free, unsolicited catalogues in my letterbox. There's something about the unknown, and the unexpected that surpasses things you've chosen to have delivered. You never know just what might be lurking in the pile (it was a huntsman once, but even that didn't deter me).

And they're useful when there's a birthday coming up, because you can circle something and leave it lying around in the hope that someone will get the hint.

So I keep resisting the calls for a "No junk mail" sticker on the letter box, and any day now the Mothers Day catalogues will start arriving. These are not just fun to read, but make some interesting statements about society's view of mothers.

But that's for another day.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I am woman, hear me roar, if that's convenient

I'd heard a rumour that there's a generation of women out there who think that feminism is a dirty word, and that it was all very well in its time, but that time is over and done with.

I'd never met any of these women until today when I found myself involved in an online "robust discussion" after I'd expressed surprise at a young man referring to his wife as "the wifey". Wifey I find old-fashioned and irritating, but THE wifey I find dehumanising.

Apparently this expression is now viewed as "cute and ironic".
How views have changed in the space of one generation. Yes, I'm old enough to be these girls' mother, even though my sons are only 10 and 14 (I was a late starter).

I missed by just a few years being part of the generation of women working for the public service who immediately went from Permanent to Temporary when they married and then had to resign as soon as they became pregnant, but I am old enough to have experienced overt and direct discrimination.

When I first started teaching, women only had to contribute 2.5% of their salary to superannuation. For men, it was a compulsory 5%. At 21, retirement seemed a long way off, so I opted for more take-home pay.
Now, those men who started at the same time as me are planning their retirements soon with a very healthy retirement benefit. Not so the women of the same generation, particularly since they probably had broken service to produce and raise the offspring.
I started saving for retirement seriously at age 31 which means I've still got a few more years to work.

Another event happened when I was working in the UK in the late 80s. I was told I could not wear trousers to work. Didn't matter if I had to routinely crawl under desks to plug in computer outlets, Women Did Not Wear Trousers. If I hadn't been on 3 months probation at the time I wouldn't have taken that one lying down.

And there are countless other examples of much more subtle discrimination. It still goes on, and anyone who says otherwise just hasn't been around the traps long enough.
I've worked for some fabulous bosses where everyone was equal, and I've worked for one or two where this was not the case.

My sister who is a senior IT manager in a company in Sydney comments that in order to stay up to date with all the company gossip routinely exchanged between other managers, she would have to play golf or hang out at cigar bars. Very much a boys' club.

So the glass ceiling may come as a surprise to the new generation who still believe in their invincibility.
Or maybe they will just refuse to accept that such a thing is possible and thus shatter it once and for all.
If that is to happen, it will the require the new generation of men to also refuse to accept any form of discrimination.

And that includes language.

Chocolate and technology

I love my new blog image. I think I'll use it for Chocolate Before Breakfast (the novel) as well. Nothing says chocolate and technology like a milk chocolate keyboard!
But to correctly attribute its source, I found it at and it was designed by Russian Michael Sholk, who apparently lives in St Petersburg. The link to his website is broken so I'll have to do some research if I want to get his permission to use it.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Vengeful Hedgehogs and other sharp pointy things

Today I was queuing to get onto the highway and for a split second my eyes misread the bumper sticker on the ute in front as Vengeful Hedgehogs.

I don't even remember what it did say because I immediately wanted to start a rock band and call it Vengeful Hedgehogs.

But I'm too old to do that, so then I thought I'd like to write a story and call it Vengeful Hedgehogs. Couldn't quite figure out a plot line.
But then my friend Helen suggested I should write a story about a band called Vengeful Hedgehogs.
I like the sound of that.

On the subject of sharp, pointy things, today I did the usual seasonal hunt for boys' pyjamas and once again struggled to find any without skull and crossbones. Is it just me, or is this a completely inappropriate design to have on every single t-shirt, pyjama top and pair of jocks for boys aged 8-14? Out of cartoon characters and cute bears and wham! - straight into the symbol for death.

Another alternative were those featuring wrestlers. Slightly less offensive were all the AFL football colours and logos. My boys don't particularly follow AFL having an English father and a love of soccer, so that's not going to wash either.

I'm wondering too if it's a class thing. I usually buy pyjamas in the cheap stores like KMart and Big W. I wonder if I was prepared to pay more whether there would be a wider choice of design, or just a more expensive skull and crossbone?

So what sort of design would I like to see?

Actually I still like the cuddly bears but the 14-year-old won't come at that.

I know - how about something PLAIN??? I'd pay good money for decent pyjamas in a nice colour with NO stupid design on them.

How's that for a novel idea?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Chocolate before breakfast - the novel

On Sunday, 19 May 2002 at 10:46:12 PM I started writing a novel. The working title was "Chocolate Before Breakfast". Working on the advice that you write about what you know, it's about a smart-mouthed girl with red hair who eats a lot of chocolate and likes to muck around with computers. Not autobiographical at all.

Over the next three years I added bits to it, rewrote others, went to some writing courses, and if anyone asked (and even if they didn't) I'd say "Oh yes, I'm writing a book".

I still thought I was writing that book until I dug it out over Easter and discovered it was five years since I last wrote a word.

And yes, Chapter One still needs rewriting, but it's not too bad after that. Maybe there should be a "Note from Author:" on the back page saying "If you can just get through Chapter One, this book is ok". I wonder if that would help it sell.

Anyway, what I found most interesting was discovering how much of what I'd written had become outdated in the five or more years since I last dabbled.
Of course when you're writing about technology that's always going to be a problem and I'll now have to go back and replace e-mail, e-government and e-commerce with iPhones, iPods and iPads.
I also mentioned items currently in the news: priests behaving badly, asylum seekers in detention centres and the hole in the ozone layer over the South Pole.

And now, in 2010, two of those items are still very much in the news, but concern about the ozone layer has now been replaced by concern about climate change. Five years ago people were only just starting to talk about that and George Bush and Johnny Howard were telling us there wasn't a problem.

Turns out the problem was with George and Johnny.

So, on the off-chance that it's going to be at least another five years before I finish this book, I'm going to have to either be a lot less specific about any references I make, or hope that I can forecast the future.

I wonder what will be in the news in 2015?