Operation Baldy!

*note, I will be cross posting this across all of my blogs.

I just made a decision this morning.  It’s a pretty big decision, I think it might be a pretty radical decision.  And I’m going to need your support, friends, fatties and other readers.

Many of you know how vocal I am about my dislike for a lot of the marketing that goes with cancer campaigns, and a lot of the silly memes that pop up on Facebook and Twitter and the like.  I find it offensive that breast cancer is objectified with all of those “Save the Ta Tas” and “Feel Your Boobies” kind of campaigns, the bucket loads of ridiculous pink schlock you can buy to supposedly raise money.  I loathe that breast cancer is glamourised over any other kind of cancer, just because it’s to do with tits, which are deemed public property by our culture.

Cancer is not sexy, ever.  Nor is it a game or a meme, or some pretty merchandise.

It’s devastating, frightening and rage inspiring.  I have lost dear friends to cancer.  I would give all the pink crap in the world back to have them here with us.  I have other friends who have battled cancer and survived.  I wish that they never had to bear the burdens that they have had to bear.

I want to do something that really does help, and the only thing I can see to do that will really make a difference is to pump as much money into cancer research as possible.  For ALL cancer types, not just the ones that are seen as glamorous and sexy.

So… I want to put my money where my  mouth is.  Only I don’t have much money.  So I’m going to put my hair where my mouth is, and ask you folk to help me with the money.

I have decided that on January 26th (Australia Day) I am going to shave my head.  I’m going to do something that really frightens me, and challenges me and I’m asking all of you, to help me reach a fund raising goal of AU$1000 for the Australian Cancer Council in doing so.  It would be great if we could raise more than a grand, but let’s start there.

I have chosen the Australian Cancer Council for two reasons.  One, they cover all forms of cancer, not just one or two.  And secondly because my home country of Australia has some of the leading cancer research in the world.  In fact, we have some of the leading medical research in the world.  The vaccine for HPV, which is what causes most cervical cancer, was developed right here in my home city of Brisbane.

When I say shave my head, I mean all the way.  No hair, bald as an egg, right down to the skin with a razor.  Surely that’s worth a thousand bucks right?

I’ll be honest, it scares the shit out of me.  I have been thinking about shaving my head as a bit of an act of defiance against the notion that my femininity is tied up in my long hair, but when I really thought about it, that wasn’t enough.  I want to do something to challenge myself into really pushing my boundaries to raise awareness and money for cancer research, because just playing some silly meme on Facebook is not enough.

For women, long hair is a symbol of femininity.  I’ve clung to that symbol because being a fat woman robs me of my femininity (add to that the fact that I also have PCOS, which also robs women of their femininity).  My hair has been long (about down to my bra-strap, give or take a couple of inches) now for about 6 or 7 years, and as many of you know, I dye it hot pink these days.  Pink is no accident – it’s another symbol of femininity .  Of course, long hair and pink are both completely arbitrary symbols of femininity, they’re no more feminine than short hair or the colour blue, but you all know how hard it is to resist cultural norms right?

Cancer robs men and women of so many things.  Their independence, their health, their social lives, their savings/income, their friendships, their enjoyment of things in life, and ultimately for some, it robs them of their lives.

The least I can do is give up my hair for awhile.

I’ve chosen Australia Day so that a) it will be a public holiday and locals can come along to a head shaving party to encourage me (*cough* push me *cough*) into following through with it.  The weather should be warm on my bare head, and it’s the beginning of my vacation, so I have time to organise an event and follow up with the fund raising afterwards.  I have already asked my friends Nadia and Kylie to be the hairdressers on the day, and I’d like to organise a picnic lunch or something for people to come along to.

But for now, I’m asking all of you to help.  Help me get to $1000, shave my head and let’s make a difference.  I’ve made a donate button and posted it below, and on the right of the page, but it’s not showing up yet. I’ll keep working on getting it visible!

I’ve set up a project account there in my name (Codename: Operation Baldy!) to stash any funds raised until the end of the project and I can donate it to the Australian Cancer Council.

Anything you can donate is welcome.  A dollar.  Five dollars.  A hundred dollars!  Anything is welcome, as it all adds up.  We have just over two months to get to this goal of $1000, and I am SURE we can do it.  Hey, you’re not even the ones losing your hair!!

Update: let’s try this link:

Donate here!

November 13, 2010. Australian Cancer Council, cancer, femininity, fundraising, Operation Baldy. 4 comments.

Big 50 Volume 9: My Current Job

I love my job.  I really do.  Sometimes little things drive me up the wall, but I wouldn’t be a human being if that didn’t happen.  But at the crux of it all, I love my job and am passionate about what I do.

I am an IT librarian.  When I tell people I’m an IT librarian, they instantly assume I work in a library, but I actually work in an office.  I do get to visit libraries though.  I work in a support team for 32 libraries (soon to be 33), one mobile library, one city archive and of course our own office.  Many people assume that librarian is a very generalised role, but not in many cases.  While most of us are good Jack/Jill-of-all-trades types, we often have very definite areas of specialisation that we are passionate about.  It never ceases to amaze me when I realise that someone is surprised that I or my librarian colleagues are very knowledgeable about things that are way outside of the librarian stereotype.

Initially I wanted to work in libraries because of my passion for reading and books.  But over the years, while those passions have never left me, my passion for libraries is about so much more.  Reading, particularly recreational reading, is still at the core of why my job is important to me, but that core has expanded to include literacy, critical thinking, access to information, education (especially life-long learning), community, social inclusion and equity.  Add that to a healthy passion for my home city, and I’m in a career I always feel like I can really get my teeth into and be challenged by.

When I first started in the job I am in now, 9 years ago, I mostly catalogued photographs of Brisbane all day.  I did have some support role in IT, but predominantly I spent my time working on digitising and cataloguing the photographic collection.  Over time my role has evolved (and I’ve been promoted within the same position) to a much more varied scope.  Nowdays my areas of specialty are library IT asset procurement and management,  AV in libraries, social media in libraries and special equipment in libraries.  So from sourcing and purchasing computers, printers, projectors, LCD/Plasma screens, audio equipment, AV system management equipment, cameras, iPads, eBook readers, game consoles, DVD players, television/Pay-TV resources, and any other doohicky or gadget that crops up as relevant/useful/required by libraries, to managing the installation of all of that, staff training for it all, and then asset management so that we know where all of that equipment is at any given time, what it’s worth, whether or not it’s working, if it needs repairs, when it’s time to replace it and what to do with it when it needs disposing of through to training staff in how to deliver all of that stuff to our customers, I’m kept pretty damn busy and challenged all of my working life.

At the moment we’re at the pointy end of building one new library (due to open in December) and relocating one rather large library to a temporary location (for 18 months or so) so that a fancy pants new version can be built for them to go to in the long term.  We don’t do projects this big very often, but when we do… boy, do they take over your life.  And now more than ever, are we, the librarians, being called on to do so much of the planning, research, project management, implementations, installations, trouble-shooting, crisis averting, shiny-making, and overall nitty-grittying of these big projects.  It’s AWESOME that we’re so much part of the creation of our own libraries, but it’s damn hard work and you have to learn so much, and think on your feet all the time.

ALL the time.  Two nights ago I woke at 3am shouting the name of the relocating library into the darkness.  That’s how much it takes over your life.

But I love it.  It means a lot to me.  It’s far more than a job.  It’s a vocation, a calling.  It matters.  And my contribution makes a difference.

November 10, 2010. Big 50, librarians, libraries, work. 6 comments.

Big 50 Volume 8: My First Job

Ok so do I talk about my first EVER job, or do I talk about the first job I had when I left school?

Let’s talk about both!

When I was 12, I got a sneaky job as a “tea and tidy” at a local hair salon.  Sneaky because even back then, employers weren’t supposed to hire anyone under 13.  But I was super keen and they liked me, plus I looked older than 12, so they let me start work a few months before my birthday.  This is me when I was just past my 12th birthday:

Photobucket

Where did those long legs go?  How did I get so brown?  My mother did Hobbytex (you can see a bit on a picture to the right of my head)  And look at that old television.  Oh God, VINYL!  And not ironic hipster retro vinyl.

A “tea and tidy” basically does that – makes tea and tidies up.  I also learnt how to mix hair colour and perming solution, and wash people’s hair.  They used to give me all the old ladies to practice hair washing on.  I quite enjoyed it and loved the bit of pocket money it gave me.  I used to spend it on records (yes, vinyl, shut up) and music magazines.  Countdown magazine was my favourite.  Shut up, I’m old ok??

I worked through most of my teens in part time jobs.  Babysitting, at a florist running deliveries all over town and doing prep work  (why did I lose the skill of tying amazing ribbon formations?), doing typing for people, cleaning, selling Avon, in a cafe, even as a telex operator in a factory office.  SHUT UP, I SAID I WAS OLD OKAY??!!

Once I left school I got a temporary role in a book bindery.  Mostly making tags, tickets and notepad kind of things for the local meat works, who were the biggest customers.  Then I went on to work in a surplus store, in the army disposal section.  I loved army disposal, I hated that fucking job.  I worked for this awful, awful woman who hated me and made me clean the whole massive store, including everyone else’s departments, while she and the other two women watched me over coffee.  I would have to run down from the back of the store whenever someone came into my section and serve them, and then run back to wherever I was cleaning.

I told her where to shove that job eventually (and she asked me if I’d recommend a younger friend who would work really hard – like hell!) and ended up as a live-in nanny for friends of mine.  Whenever they were at work/uni I cared for the two boys and was with them for quite a while.

I did some youth work for a bit, mostly with homeless kids.  It burned me out pretty quick, so I worked behind bars for a bit.  Pouring beers and mixing drinks was very relaxing after social services.  Sometimes I waited tables but I hated that.

I then went on to work for a radio station, in the advertising department, both selling advertising and writing and recording it.  It was a country music station during the peak of Billy Ray Cyrus “Achy Breaky Heart”.  Needless to say my office was the only room in the building that had the ceiling speakers disconnected.

I had a music store for a few years.  Loved being in that environment, HATED not having a life.  Small business ownership sucks.

Then back to a myriad of things from child care to working in a book store, in another music store, a bit more bar work, a bit more youth work, and then I was unemployed for a couple of years while dealing with a rather massive depressive episode.

Then one day I got work experience in a library through a compulsory Centrelink programme.  They loved me so much, they kept me for a second week.  Then the head librarian faxed head office my CV every Friday for 8 months until they finally gave me an interview for their casual pool.  I got the job, worked for 3 weeks casual, got a temporary role, then another, then another, then an early incarnation of my current role (9 years ago)… and have never looked back!

Well, so much about being about my first job… this post is about almost all of them!

What was your first job?

November 9, 2010. Big 50, work. 2 comments.

Big 50 Volume 7: School

Ahh school.  What a varied 13 years that was for me.  It was some of the best times of my youth, and also some of the worst times of my life.

I did 12 years of school in Rosewood, which is to the South West of Brisbane.  From Kindergarten through to the beginning of Year 12, I went to school with mostly the same kids.  It was only at Easter in my Senior year that my mother had the bright idea of forcing me to move to another town and therefore another school (yeah, that’s a REALLY good idea) that I went to Beaudesert High.  Not only is Beaudesert High one of the most disgusting schools about (well, it certainly was in those days), the whole town is a dump that I’d be happy to never see again.  The only thing that ties me there is my grandparents.

School was rough for me a lot of the time because of the bullying, but I loved classes and learning and had some fantastic teachers.  I would read anything that was put in front of me (I had read the entire small school library collection by Grade 3) and in primary school loved writing, art, science and social studies (mostly history and geography in those days).  My primary school was on the other side of town to where we lived, so it was a bike ride or a long walk for a kid to get to school then.  I loved that ride or walk in the winter time, but it was really tough in the stifling heat of summer.

High school was even tougher, but I also found that I was really good at some things, so I poured myself into them.  More reading, and the teacher librarian practically adopted me.  I pretty much lived in the library.  I was also really good at English and History, so I poured myself into projects from those subjects.  I was a big old nerd, and I still am.   I found more valuable friends in high school, and deepened friendships that I had in primary school, which was great.  And I discovered my geekery was very, very welcome around older boys who were also geeks.  I had so many great friends, all the fellow geeks, nerds and weirdos from grades older than me in the first half of high school.  It was never anything sexual (well, I did have a couple of boyfriends out of that pool) but simply that my weird arse self got along with geeky boys a few years older than me than anyone else.  I also seemed to be a friend magnet for every gay male in a 20km radius too.  Sadly a lot of those guys are no longer with us, having either taken their own lives as a result of bullying and shame, or their lives being taken from them by a drug addiction they used to escape the bullying and shame.

When I changed schools in Senior year, I ceased to care about studying.  I didn’t care about doing well in school and going on to university any more.  I figured if others didn’t care how their actions affected my education, then why should I care?  So I just goofed off, wagged a lot of days, and spent my time avoiding a whole new set of bullies.  I made some friends, that’s all that really got me through.  I just scraped a pass for senior.  Where back at Rosewood I was in the top 10 percent of the school.

I’ve managed to connect with the few good people I wanted to connect with from my school days, all of them from Rosewood.  It’s funny that so many of the kids that never would have spoken to me before, or even actively bullied me, now keep requesting my friendship on Facebook, and beg me to go to school reunion events.  Most of them haven’t grown at all since they left school – they just have a smaller and smaller pool of people who will tolerate their bullshit.  They don’t seem to want to move forward at all, just stay perpetually in high school mode.

A lot of people view school as this rosy time they look back on, but not me.  I believe now is the best time of my life, and it’s only getting better.

November 7, 2010. Beaudesert, Big 50, Rosewood, school. 4 comments.

Big 50 – Volume Six: Grandparents

Where to start with talking about my grandparents?  Well, I have to start with my paternal grandparents I guess.  I never really new them that well, I remember visiting with them and my Nanna lived with us for a bit, but she never really had much to do with me even while she lived with us (I was still in primary school) so I don’t really have many memories or anything to share.  Poppa died when I was very young, and Nanna not much later.  I do remember Poppa always calling me Katie for some reason, instead of Kathleen, which everyone called me until adulthood.

However my maternal grandparents have always been in my life.  We spent many weekends with them, and most school holidays.  Particularly while my parents were at work and school wasn’t there to take care of us during the day.  They’re about the only family members I still have contact with now too.

My Grandad is 83, and Grandma is 81 and they are both pretty sprightly.  They both have full lives with their own interests and hobbies, and ones that they share.

Grandma discovered in her 70’s that she loves art, and started taking art classes.  She’s a very talented painter, I have a couple of her pieces and several prints of works she’s done.  She’s also a very good photographer, but I think a lot of people try to bamboozle her with the technology and that puts her off.  At least with painting, there’s no technology – it’s about a surface and paint and her talent.  Plus she’s better than anyone she knows, though she’d dispute that.

Grandad is all about the local lawn bowls club.  He practically runs the bar up there, has done for a long time.  He was unwell last year and had to have some time off, and the folks that were letting him do all the work realised that a) he was working far harder than they had ever given him credit for and b) he’s in his bloody 80’s, he can’t maintain that pace!  I think they help him a lot more now.  He does all of that unpaid too.

I think I inherited my love of reading from Grandad.  Grandma loves to read too, but it’s Grandad that is voracious about it.  He will read ANYTHING.  When I used to still read romance novels, I would box them up and give them to Grandad when I was finished.  Well, except for the ones with really raunchy sex scenes, though he’s probably read a bunch of those anyway.  You wouldn’t believe the variety of stuff he’ll read.  But given the choice, he loves poetry, Westerns and Australian fiction.  I’ve given him a few beloved books as gifts over the years, and he’s always been happy to get books as gifts.

Grandma is an amazing cook.  She bakes really well, cakes and biscuits and slice, but it’s her regular cooking that I love.  Grandma can cook things like sausages or mince or other budget foods and turn them into something so hearty and delicious that all your troubles disappear while you’re tucking into one of her dinners.  She taught me to cook, and I have the same skill of being able to work around any problems that arise to turn anything into an edible and tasty dish.  The only time food can’t be rescued is if you burn it.  Grandma taught me that.  Recipes are only for guidelines, not to be stuck to rigidly.  She taught me to get the feel of ingredients, know their chemistry, what they do when combined, and how to change things by texture, taste or moisture.

Grandma has big, strong, gentle, warm hands.  I’ve inherited the “hot hands” that she has, though mine are smaller than hers, they’re also strong and gentle like hers.

Grandad has a stumpy thumb.  He cut it off in a circular saw down in his wood workshop.  He delights in telling small children it’s because he sucked his thumb as a kid.  He’s a total shit stirrer when he feels like it and kids always believe his stories.

My grandparents have taught me a lot about values.  They are both strong believers in respect, courtesy, fairness and justice, and believe all people are created equal.  When their peers had (and still have) racist, homophobic attitudes and beliefs, they are both accepting people.  Grandma is one of the few body positive people in my family, she has struggled with her weight her whole life too, and I get my shape from her (thanks for the big belly Grandma!)  She believes you know your own body better than anyone else and that health is individual to each and every person.  She’s very supportive of my work in fat acceptance and always encourages me.

They both have a wonderful sense of humour too.  Grandad has been known to just drop a one liner on the family that has everyone double taking as to whether or not he really said what we thought he said.  Grandad is hard of hearing so people think he isn’t listening a lot of the time, but every now and then he’ll make a comment that a) makes you realise he’s been listening all along and b) he’s just so quick witted.  Grandma however has a more bubbly, giggly sense of humour, and sees the ridiculous or silly in things all the time.  I think I’ve inherited a bit of both their style when it comes to humour.

All in all I’m pretty blessed with getting a set of grandparents who a) are still with me and b) so pretty awesome.

What about your grandparents?  Wanna tell me about them?

November 6, 2010. Big 50, family, Grandad, Grandma, grandparents. Leave a comment.

Big 50 Volume 5: Learning

I had a moment today.  I was pouring over some architectural plans for the new library we are building, trying to get information for one of my vendors, when I realised I was really enjoying reading them.  They’re so full of information, and especially now that I’ve been out to the site and got the building in my head spatially, I can really visualise what things are going to look like when they are completed.

If you had told me two years ago that I would not only be able to read architectural plans, but also would enjoy doing so, I probably would have laughed you out of the room.

In fact, I know one of my previous bosses was always frustrated that I wouldn’t try to learn new things, I was always totally sure I would fail.  He would try and try and try to get me to take on new projects and I would fight change like a lioness, because I was terrified that I’d screw it up.

But a few years ago, something changed.  I remember when it was.  It was just after I came back from the US, in January ’08.  While in the US I had fully discovered Mythbusters thanks to a good week of being sick with a terrible flu, and my friend Missy had insisted I head back to her place in Illinois and she’d taken me in, propped me up in the recliner in the living room, surrounded me with her dogs and handed me the remote to the telly while she almost waited on me hand and foot for a couple of really bad days.

When I came home, I scrounged up all of the Mythbusters DVD’s I could find, I was hooked.  We had them in the collection at work, but I also started buying them too.  One evening I was watching an episode, I remember it was the myth about firing bullets into water, and a lightbulb went on in my head.  I understood the maths and physics they were talking about.  I had always really struggled with maths, I do have visual problems with numbers, but my absolute fascination with the myth they were working on had me taking my time and focusing on what they were explaining, and I suddenly realised that I could really understand maths, for the first time in my life.  I was 35!!

From that moment, Mythbusters went from just a great show with explosions, silly inventions and breaking stuff (and a bloke I fancied – Jamie) to something that I was learning vast amounts of things from.  It was inspiring me to go and read more, find things online and indulge my natural curiosity.

I’ve always loved to research, but I had always thought that was very much limited to history, that it was the only thing I could really learn about.  Boy, how wrong was I there?

In the almost 3 years since that lightbulb moment, I’ve learnt a bajillion new things, and a lot of them have really challenged me.  I have gone from a librarian who was all about cataloguing and database work, to a librarian who now has her expertise in AV (audio visual) technology, social media, ergonomics, and IT asset management and procurement, with additional knowledge in furniture and joinery, architectural drawings, electrical,/data/AV cabling, building construction, project management, and dozens of other things I’ve had to dabble with as my job has evolved, now that I’m confident enough to have a go.

Where once I would have freaked out at the idea of learning something new for my job, now I am constantly looking for something else to get my teeth into that interests me, and my fear of failure is all but gone.  I have a healthy nervousness about getting things wrong, but no longer a crippling fear.  Change doesn’t daunt me, it energises me.  It gives me a challenge.

There is nothing I cannot learn if I want to learn.  I may never be great at it, I may never change the field, but I can learn about anything, understand it and apply it.

Do you know what?  There’s nothing YOU cannot learn if you want to learn about it.  It’s not always easy, sometimes it’s a big ole strain, but if I can do it, you can.

What is something you want to learn about/to do?  What’s holding you back?

November 3, 2010. achievements, Adam Savage, Big 50, Jamie Hyneman, learning, Mythbusters, work. 4 comments.

Big 50 – Volume 4: My Favourite Movie

Just like my favourite book, my favourite movie changed in the past few years.  Until about 4 years ago, my favourite movie was The Color Purple.  I have loved that movie for so long, cried, laughed, sung, cried some more over it for so many years it was part of who I am.  The entire cast are bloody amazing, it’s a story that touches me deeply (I have some parallels with the abuse side of the story) and Steven Spielberg creates such visually stunning films that every frame is beautiful.

But then a few years back I went to the movies with my friend Trish, and we chose to see a film simply because it had Ioan Gruffudd in it.  You know, cos he’s yummy and all.  That film was Amazing Grace.  I don’t think a film has ever moved me, or made me think as much as this one did.  It is the story of William Wilberforce, the young British politician who led the movement to abolish slavery in the British Empire.  He was a deeply spiritual Christian man who campaigned for social justice of many forms, and founded the SPCA (Society for the Provention of Cruelty to Animals).  William actually wanted to join the church, but realised he could do far more good with a position in parliament (he was good friends with William Pitt the younger, who became Prime Minister of Britain) than he could as a man of the cloth.

As well as Iaon Gruffudd, who is a wonderful actor as well as being dishy, it stars the talented and luminously beautiful Romola Garai as the woman he went on to marry, Barbara Spooner (an activist herself), Benedict Cumberbatch as William Pitt, Rufus Sewell, Youssou N’Dour, Ciaran Hinds, Michael Gambon and the magnificent Albert Finney as John Newton, who has scenes that still reduce me to tears on thinking about them.

It was this film that spurred me on to explore activism and social justice myself.  It spoke to my faith, particularly as I was feeling that it was nigh on impossible for me to be a social justice activist in the face of the assumptions of others that my Christianity was in direct conflict with social justice.  William Wilberforce was a perfect example of the fact that this is simply not true.

There is a scene where Wilberforce talks to his butler about finding his faith, and it spoke to me so deeply, because I remember finding mine and feeling exactly the same way.  Nobody had ever put into words that feeling, so it was a big moment for me to see this in the film.

Amazing Grace was released on DVD in the us on the 19th of November 2007, I remember this because I was there (in Wisconsin at the time) and I went out on that day and bought a copy.

What is your favourite movie, and why is it your favourite?

November 2, 2010. Amazing Grace, Big 50, movies, The Colour Purple. Leave a comment.

Big 50 – Volume 3: My Favourite Book

I think I will start by telling you about my second favourite book, which until a few years ago, was my favourite book.  When I was about 16, one of the books we were set for English in high school was John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids.  I remember having the most awesome teacher at the time, and he was passionate about this book.  I used to frequent a local book exchange, being a voracious reader on a very limited budget, and I found a Penguin paperback copy of the book which I think I got for about a dollar.

I fell in love with it the first time I read it.  It was originally written in 1951 and doesn’t feel dated at all.  It’s a very English book, and so many of the settings and landmarks are familiar to us through literature and pop culture, it feels incredibly realistic.  It’s such an engaging story and with just enough ominous creepiness to keep me on my toes.   The characters were ones I could connect with and were likeable.  I remember our teacher at the time wasn’t the kind of guy who would tell us what we should think about the book, but asked us to think about it critically and let us find our own opinions.  I think that’s why I loved all of the books he chose for us to read in class.

The Day of the Triffids was my favourite book for almost 20 years, and I would read it annually (still do) until I read Cloudstreet by Tim Winton.

I had read Tim Winton before and really enjoyed his writing, Dirt Music in particular was such a wonderful book.  But there is something about Cloudstreet that touched my heart and moved it to my favourite book of all time.  It is a story of luck and how people handle it, be it good or bad.

Whenever I think of Cloudstreet, I think of the two families, the Pickles and the Lambs, and I know that so long as I have them to turn to, I could never feel alone.  One thing that Winton does so well is create flawed, real characters that are unspeakably beautiful.  I fell in love with almost all of the characters, particularly Quick Lamb and Rose Pickle (the scene where they fall in love is a thing of such awkward beauty that I am moved to tears just thinking about it) right from the beginning.  The setting and scenes are so palpable as well, another of Winton’s gifts.

I believe they are making a film of Cloudstreet, and I have been very nervous about this film because it is such a beloved book I am worried they will ruin it.  I have said for many years that the role of Lester Lamb was the role that William McInnes was born to play, but it is not to be.  I have heard that Geoff Morrell has been cast in that role, and I think I’m ok with that.  Geoff is a wonderful actor and has the tall, lanky frame that playing Lester requires.  It will be really interesting to see how the movie adaptation goes.

If you haven’t read Cloudstreet or The Day of the Triffids, I urge you to do so.  They are both such wonderful books.

What is your favourite book?

November 1, 2010. Big 50, books, Cloudstreet, John Wyndham, The Day of the Triffids, Tim Winton. Leave a comment.

Big 50 No 2: Swimming

Ahh swimming.  I am a complete water baby.  Ever since I can remember I’ve been going to the local swimming pool, or the beach, or a waterhole, or creek, or something.  All my life I’ve loved swimming or playing in water.

I’m not a fast swimmer, but I’m a strong one with a high endurance.  I can plough away through water for ages, at my own steady pace, completely in the zone.

I don’t swim very often these days.  That comes from years of humiliation at the hands of bullies at public swimming pools or the beach, for daring to be a fat woman in the water.  I want to change that but my local swimming pool is very unwelcoming to anyone who just wants to have a swim.  If you’re not swimming club/squad/competitive, fuck off, is the message most people get when they attempt to go up there for a leisurely swim.  Which is pretty pathetic for a council public pool.

Oh how I love the beach, but don’t really have a way to get there myself, because I don’t drive.  I love the lull of waves, that lovely sleepy-boned feeling you get after spending some time in the surf.  I love the saltiness of my skin after swimming in the ocean.  I love the rhythm of the waves, it feels really relaxing.  I even love getting salt water in my sinuses – even though it’s uncomfortable and unpleasant at the time, it feels GREAT afterwards.  The only thing I don’t like is sand.  Blargh!

When I was a kid, we used to get sent to the local pool completely unsupervised.  I think I must have only been about 10 when we first started going to the pool on our own.  My younger brother would have been 7 or 8.  They didn’t have lifeguards then either.  We just got on our bikes, rode across town, paid our 60c and then spent the afternoon at the pool, usually being kicked out at closing time with a bad case of sunburn.

All kids learnt to swim at school right from first grade.  I can remember always loving swimming lessons, except that I couldn’t actually swim properly.  Oh I could do my own kind of style of moving through the water, getting from A to B and keeping afloat, but I couldn’t do the freestyle stroke that we were supposed to learn.  I just couldn’t get the kicking and the arm movements to happen in the right order.  When I was about 12, I was at the pool in my Grandparents town during school holidays, and I was mucking about in the water, and something just clicked, and I found myself doing freestyle.  I couldn’t believe it, it just kind of happened.  The following year the woman who ran that pool took me aside and asked me if I had considered long distance swimming, because “You have such a graceful stroke my dear.”  She told me she expected I’d swim the English Channel one day!!  Yeah right!

I also remember being sent to swim in swollen creeks when it had flooded.  Being kicked out of the house and told to go play in the dam or creek.  Of course, I doubt people would tell their kids to do that now, but we always had a great time.  Coming home coated in muck from the floodwaters and tales of damage we’d seen.

We also used to play in storm water drains when I was a kid.  I can still map out the entire storm water system of Rosewood, the town I mostly grew up in, in my head.  We used to find patches that had guppies or tadpoles, or if we were really lucky, crayfish, in them to poke about in.  We made nets out of old pantyhose and coathangers, and would take softdrink bottles we’d scrounged to carry the guppies and tadpoles in.  I seem to remember always being smelly in those days.

It’s time I did something about swimming again.  I miss it.  And I’ve now got the confidence to stand up against the haters that think fat women shouldn’t appear in public in a bathing suit.

Do you like swimming?  Are you a water baby?  How did you learn to swim?

October 30, 2010. Big 50, swimming. 13 comments.

Big 50 – Volume 1: Pets

First blog post of my Big 50 Challenge!

The subject, as you can see by the heading, is pets.  I actually don’t have any pets at this point in my life, unless I can count the dozens of geckos that live in the brickwork around my building, and the family of magpies I sneak tidbits to when they fly down from their home in the macadamia tree next door.

But I have always had pets in my life, right since I can remember.  The first I remember was an Australian Terrier named Muffin, I think my parents got him before I was born.  He had some kind of allergy and had no hair except for his head.  He was kinda funny looking but we loved him to bits.

We had a succession of budgies, in particular I remember a blue one we got when I was about 9 from a lady that worked with my Mum, and the lady told Mum that (and please excuse the terrible phrase she used) “He’s a bit spastic, he’ll die in a week.”  He lived until I was well into my 20’s, which is a lifespan almost unheard of in a budgie!  I was also given a silver one for a birthday when I was 8 that I called Chook and hand trained.  She didn’t know she was a bird and thought she was human.

We had various goldfish too, I remember having one I named Rover.  I think Muffin ate it.  He ate several of them in fact, we used to have to put covers made out of pantyhose over the tank to stop them from flipping out all the time.

When I was about 5, I hauled home a stray cat from the streets (I kind of ran wild as a kid), and demanded to keep it, so my mother had it vaccinated and spayed, only for it to die the next week!  I was so distraught apparently my Nanna gave me a little ginger kitten I insisted on naming Jenny.  She was a cranky old girl and not very fond of anyone unless there was food involved, but I loved her anyway.  She lived to a very ripe old age too, and we lost her when I was in my early 20’s.

In my mid teens, we got a little dog, supposedly a mini fox terrier, but she came out 95% chihuahua, that we named Cleo.  She was such a funny little sausage.  So much personally wrapped up in less than 2kg of dog.  She didn’t like men much, could be a cranky little bugger when she felt like it, but her warm little body and her snorgles whenever I was feeling down made up for her crankiness.  She died a few years ago now at my mother’s house, and I dream of her a lot, very vivid dreams where she comes to visit me, and I can smell her clean fur and warm body in my dreams.

My brother had a dog that lived with my mother for most of his life.  His name was Petrol, and he was a kelpie/blue heeler cross.  He was the dumbest smart-dog I ever met.  He was brilliant, could obey hand, whistle and voice commands, worked out how to undo both a chain clip AND a D-bolt to get off his chain, learned how to steal strawberries and grapes right where they were growing and a gazillion other things, but he would do the stupidest things.  Run smack into you, or into parked cars, the side of the house or any other stationary object.  He wouldn’t believe you’d thrown a ball for him, even though it could be clearly seen.  He’d cry with frustration trying to sit on your lap, which he was far, far too big for.  But he was also loving and protective, he adored kids and would cry until you let him sniff a visiting baby, and knew just the right moments to stand at our side if he didn’t trust visitors to the house.  His favourite thing in the world was to have his back scratched just above his tail with one of those plastic spaghetti scoop thingies.

As an independent adult, I’ve only had birds, I had a couple of lovebirds.  The first one was a peach face named Bob and friends thought he was going to die, so I took him to give him a happy life no matter how short it was.  He lived about 12 years.  He learnt to yell my name in my mother’s voice when I was still living with her, and I would hear this cranky “Kathleen!” come from the kitchen in the middle of the night.  After I’d had him for about a year, we found a baby blue masked lovebird hanging off his cage one morning and caught it.  He kept busting out of the cage time and time again, so I named him Harry after Harry Houdini.  He was never quite… right.  I think he might have never grown out of that baby stage.

You know the sad thing?  I don’t have digital versions of any of the photos of my pets.  I haven’t got a scanner at home any more so I can’t whip up a few to add to this post.  I will have to dig some out of the albums and scan them for another day.

I’d like to have pets again, but just now my life isn’t very suitable for them.  I’m hardly home, travel when I can and work long hours.  But when my life changes and it’s suitable to have them again, I’ll get a cat or a dog or something.

October 25, 2010. Big 50, birds, cats, dogs, pets. 1 comment.

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