I’m a writer

September 18, 2014

“Hello, I’m Petra. I’m a writer.”

This is how the writers workshop I attended a week and a half ago got started. After the usual shuffling and an introduction from the workshop leader, of course.

I couldn’t help myself and a little under my breath added “Feels a bit like AA.” Some laughter from my fellow writers seated around the table.

In my late-in-life acquired, eager-beaver-ness I had taken the seat immediately to the right of the leader. Hence, with this ’round-the-table exercise, I was in the trump seat.

“Hello, I’m Petra. I’m a writer.”

It had both a confessional and a challenging ring to it. An apology; “sorry, I’m a writer”, combined with a confrontational; “whatcha gonna do about it?”  Or that could just be my feeling.  I haven’t had a thing published, certainly not the long novel of critical acclaim I aspire to.  I feel it’s a cheat to say “I’m a writer” without being able to point to an ISBN.  It would be more accurate to say I’m an extremely lucky housewife.  I am in, I’m sure, an enviable position where I do not have to pursue paid employment.  Paul’s income, earned from very many long hours and intellectual labour, is sufficient, if we are careful, to keep our family of four well provided for.  To me fall the duties of mother and housekeeper.  I’m not sure what the duties of a wife might include.  Outside lover, companion, cheerleader, all-round debriefer and sounding board, that is.  I think it sways very much back into housekeeper territory.  So to ensure our bread-winner is clothed, cleaned, fed and rested I am housekeeper.  To walk my children to school each day, collect them again in person six or seven hours later and ferry them to various extra-curricular pursuits and personal “playdates” (never much liked that word) is a great pleasure, and consumer of time.

But for the six hours through the weekdays I am alone, let me introduce myself…

“Hi, I’m Petra. I’m a writer.”

The workshop was very useful. It was amusing to find the leader put me in mind of Guy Pearce.  Not that they may be much alike, Guy I’ve never met while the workshop ran for two hours so this can only be based on very little.  If you’re curious the workshop was run AWA (Amherst Writers and Artists) style.  You can look that up yourself.  I’ve looked online a little for writer’s groups or workshops or the like, that I could join.  While I’m free for six hours, five days a week seems nobody else is.  Evenings and weekends, when these groups make their meeting times, I am mother and housekeeper, occasionally wife.  Sunday a week and a half ago, I checked probably too many times, that I could be ‘writer’ for three hours in the afternoon.  The difficulty is it’s often not until a day or so before, will we know for sure if I must be sole parent all through the weekend, and as relatively recent arrivals in the country there are no substitutes readily available, apart from paid ones.  There’s little fat for babysitting, it must be used wisely.  So there it was; writer me at a writing workshop on a weekend.

As a beginning I was impressed. Impressed with myself too.  Yet I may keep looking for another group to burrow into.  My thinking, humour and atheist belief felt at odds with the monotheist matrons that made up the majority of the group.  The Aussie larrikin humour that I ascribe to, with an oh-so-healthy-it’s-probably-unhealthy dose of political incorrectness and down-right offensiveness overlaying it, is possibly the biggest difference between Aussies and Canucks I can point to.  It’s not that Canadians don’t have a sense of humour, I think.  It’s just they’re too polite to laugh at racial jabs, at religious piss-takes, at disparaging disability, at political or environmental nonchalance.  Whereas Australian humour takes great delight in highlighting the differences between people for laugh opportunities, which, if you don’t know, may appear very offensive, I guess Canadians don’t find differences amusing.  Trust me, there’s nothing an Aussie can do to show you affection or high regard more, than to skewer you on the things that you hold dear or define you.  But I think to point this out to a room full of Jews, in a synagogue, might have got me circumcised.  See?

“Hello, I’m Petra. I’m a writer.”

I know Jews are only into male genital mutilation, not female, still I could be ruffling a lot of feathers with my current writers group. Plus, they’ve moved the meeting to Sunday mornings when afternoons suit me better.  Dammit.

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saved by a five year old

September 13, 2014

today ought not to have happened.  ten years ago i would never have had a day like today.  there was nothing remarkable about today, until now at five post meridiem.  today my son saved my life.

ten years ago i did not have children and there was a strong doubt i ever would.  today without children would have been very different to today with children.  clearly a vacuous statement but set out in stark edges in a day when everything has been blurry and difficult and urges but no action.

i had my usual porridge for breakfast, picking out a quarter of it, and picking out the fruit from that quarter to give to talvin.  percy also had a standard breakfast.  we went to the kids karate classes.  we came home and had lunch.  i put on the movie monsters university for the kids to watch while it rained outside.  i lay on my bed, warm, comfortable and miserable.

later, tally needed a shower.  i helped him out and helped him to dry off.  i had cupped his perfect face in my hands, a white towel framing his soft, soft cheeks his damp hair darkened against his skull.  for a little while i stared at him, wondering what effort would be required to snap his neck, and what horror lay on the other side of failing to be successful in one go.

we walked together to his bedroom, i in my softest voice stating we’d better get him dressed in some warm clothes.  his mid-blue turtle neck top is the best colour for him- it makes his natural colourings; skin, eyes, hair, so shiningly beautiful.

my tears started to slide down my face as tally dressed.  i was murmuring to myself; “what is it if i’m sad?”, “what does it matter that i cannot carry on?”  tally looked into my face; i asked, to him or me i don’t think it i’m sure, “what purpose do i have?”  he too started to cry and said, emotionally and plainly: “you have to take care of us.”

his simple, perfect wisdom.

a task and a calling i am so badly suited to.  i know exactly why housewives drink themselves into oblivion, why so many end up insane.  this life i loathe that i lead.  or that leads me.  this worthless, pointless, unsatisfying day to day, filled with empty hours and dragging obligations.  so time restricted and so unstructured.

it’s a bleak day in subsumed motherhood, today.  but for today, one more day, i will not fly.  i will not fly because the simple, perfect wisdom of my son stretches beyond my tiniest parts and reminds me of the boundless love i feel for him and his sister.  i will not fly, today.

My gripe with school uniforms

September 5, 2014

In and of themselves, school uniforms don’t sway me one way or another.  There are certainly a couple of positives- no dressing decisions every morning and no variation for people to pick over in the playground.

But there is variation, and that is a big problem.  The variation is between the uniforms singled out for girl children and boy children.  And in that there is another whole concern about children that prescribe to neither strictly boy or girl sex or gender.  What pieces of the uniform does the inter-sex, or simply undecided, child wear?  I am not knowledgeable or experienced enough to comment on this conundrum.

I do feel enough qualified to comment about boy/girl school uniform differences.  My gripe is the reinforcing of sex roles and gender stereotypes that school uniforms play into.  Here it is:

Girl uniforms often include lots of white, boys generally do not.  WTF?  Who wears white when they know they are going to be playing in natural/grassed areas, with paint, textas, play-dough, clay, glue, glitter, ink, and any other manner of potentially staining materials?  This colour-coding reinforces the notion that girls and women should be careful not to get their clothes dirty.  It’s fucked.  You can’t stitch wounds on a battlefield, paint murals, change alternators, gut a fish, drive a race car, collect volcanic samples or dig for gold and keep your clothes clean.  Or, oh my, are those only male pursuits?

The insistence of white usually extends to socks.  Jesus wept!  The only professionals I can think of that routinely wear white socks are tennis players, and I bet they swear come laundry day, too.

I also can’t stand fricken’ peter pan collars.  These fuckers are impossible to iron and only reinforce the idea that girls should look “pretty”.  It’s what’s in their heads, above the collar, that counts!

If uniforms are intended to equalise children then they should be identical, regardless of who’s wearing them.  Everyone should wear skirts for sport- they allow more movement than shorts.  Everyone should be in the same colour, and it shouldn’t be white.  Everyone should have the same shirt, collar, pants, jacket, hat, socks, bag, ribbon and tie.  I’d be tempted to go so far as to say all staff should wear it too.  From Principal to janitor, can we insist for all casual volunteers?  The kids have to be there, they’re in uniform, the staff are paid to be there, they’re in uniform, volunteers neither have to be there and are not paid to be, but surely they should support the level-playing field?  If schools are about equal opportunity for learning, with no-one advantaged or disadvantaged based on clothing or worn self-expression (standard haircuts, jewellery and tattoos for all) shouldn’t every outward thing be standardised and identical?

Okay, perhaps I’m getting a little carried away.  Tho I don’t see it as that much of a stretch.  School uniforms generally peeve me because they tell little girls they are limited.  Limited in imagination, in scope, in possibility, in ability, in expectation, in dreams, in potential, in options…  and they tell little boys that it’s okay to put and expect adherence to limits, on little girls.

I don’t need to reiterate the sexism argument here.  Suffice to say, what a little child learns is very hard to shift out of their minds when they are grown.

Particular pieces of clothing have a purpose and a need; like a wielder’s mask, or a mechanic’s coveralls, a surgeon’s gloves or a builder’s hard hat.  I’m yet to be convinced of a purpose or a need for a school uniform that is categorically not uniform.