Monday, September 30, 2013

Window to my soul

When the pigeons outside my window settle in, I cannot tolerate their cooing. I use my umbrella to move them along...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Tea cup confessions

I usually only wash my cup at work when I'm switching from tea to coffee...

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Said my friend: "I refuse to eat anything on a stick" - words to live by

I last went to the Royal Easter Show in 1997; the final year that it was held at Moore Park. I don't remember much about it except some disparaging remarks made about Pluto Pups by my mother, and my father's dark warning to choose our showbags well because there would be only one each. My brother's contained a comically large inflatable hammer, and maybe also a horned Viking helmet, and then proceeded to bash the shit out of me whenever he got a chance over the next three days, until the novelty, and the glue holding the hammer together, wore off.

My showbag was full of sickly sweet lollies, with sticky neon colours that stain your fingers and mouth and are found nowhere in nature. I'm quite sure that I ate 90% of the bag's contents that night and spent the next 24 hours in a state akin to a diabetic coma. Some things never change...

For me, there are only a handful of must-see things at the Show. These include, but are not limited to, agility dogs, diving pigs, racing pigs, sheep dogs, sheep, goats, baby goats, pigs, ducklings, chicklets, cows, horses with big feet, people riding horses, obedience dogs, baby pigs, exotic chickens, exotic ducks, giant pumpkins, depictions of country Australia made entirely from vegetable products, wood chopping, cake decorating, lace work, knitting, and decorative art made from curled up pieces of paper. Not necessarily in that order.

I don't care about the fruit and vege as much as the categories: "Excellence in class 611 - three tomatoes with stalks." Also also, that pumpkin is 618 kg!!

The knitting, especially the open lacy patterns, reminded me of my Aunty Madge. She used to knit me cardigans and other lovely things.  It's a lost art in our family now, and that makes me sad.

And scones with jam and cream, too.

In two weeks, more than 30,000 scones are made fresh by the CWA ladies, and devoured. They are light and fluffy, and sort of amazing.

I'm not going to lie to you: I had to go back a second time because I couldn't fit everything in on the first day I went. That was partly to do with it being 34 degrees in the shade, and all my most desired things, like dogs running through tunnels against the clock and pigs jumping into swimming pools, were in full sun (at one point I thought I might pass out, but the Show is also full of lovely people in uniforms, so...). It was mostly because I needed to see more baby animals.

And I definitely wanted more dog loving.

So sleeeeepy. AND... That poodle... It's owner!
I have seen the what's involved in making a sheepdog that fluffy... those dogs have more product in their coats than a skank on a Friday night. I actually saw whitening creme being applied to one husky, then they brushed some kind of volumising powder into his tail to make it nice and bushy.
 It's hard work being a show dog: the indignity of a blow dry, followed by getting your bits squeezed by the judge...

Apparently, going to the Show when you have children is actually an exquisite form torture rather than anything vaguely resembling pleasure; at least three harbingers of doom told me so. I can understand, on a philosophical level, how that could be the case. The crowds, the potential for a screaming tantrum, the food on sticks. But I just don't see how anyone could fail to have a good time with all those farm animals and dogs and people wearing RM Williams!

All of these things are made from sugar paste! Can you believe those flowers!!? I also have to declare my undying love for the category, "Miniature cake - novelty themed"
Those two bulls, Gladiator (L) and Goliath (R), collectively weigh 2 metric tonnes. That is a lot of steak.

I guess I have a couple of options for the future: either don't have children, or don't take them with me to the Show. Decisions...decisions.....

Sunday, March 17, 2013

High school is when other people make you hate yourself

It starts when you are eight or nine years old, and one of the boys standing behind you at morning assembly leans forward and whispers into your ear, "thunder thighs". You start to look in the mirror and you realise that you aren't pretty like your thinner, happier, more popular friends, and then a new girl starts at school and those friends don't really want to talk to you anymore. It's made worse by hitting puberty early and being too smart.

People will notice that the teachers like you, and the librarian doesn't yell at you, and you will start to become a target for teasing, and nasty comments from girls your own age who are starting to realise just how powerfully cruel they can be to other people.

When you get to high school, especially one that is much larger than the primary school that you came from, there will be even more of those awful girls, and, identifying kindred spirits in each other, they will form their own little wasp's nest and begin to elevate nastiness to an art form.  

One day, the people who were tolerating you as a part of their group will decide that they have tired of you. Suddenly, where there was once relative safety during break times, they will turn on you and start being mean, just for the fun of it. You will have food thrown at you more than once. But as a joke... you know.. and if you can't take it it's because you take everything too seriously.

You will start to do extracurricular activities because they give you something to do at lunchtime, other than sit alone and wish you were elsewhere. Spending time in the library is also good, but ultimately futile as it only adds fuel to the fire.

On days when you have sport lessons, you will pray to some unkind god for sickness. If not to avoid being forced to run, red-faced and out of breath with the taste of blood in your mouth, up and down a football oval, then to avoid those awful moments in the changing rooms where you try to hide from everyone else, but are unable.

You will probably wish you were dead, or at least seriously injured, on numerous occasions.

Somehow, I got lucky, and I found myself with a group of people who were actually genuinely nice, and without realising it, protected me.

When I finished high school I moved away, got two degrees and a life, lived in Europe, started dating a pilot, bought some rabbits, met people who were interesting and amazing and basically realised that I am better than those miserable fucking bitches who made my life hell.

Even so, I have no desire to see, or be around those girls ever again. Not because I want to avoid them or because I am still worried about the power that they once held over me but because I would most likely bitch-slap them or spit in their faces.

And I am better than that.

I also probably have a much better wardrobe than those pathetic pieces of shit, but that is a story for another day entirely.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Conversations with the weekend doctor

At first I was confused, because she was wearing tracksuit pants, and I didn't think medical doctors did that. Doctors of science, yes, but they're a different breed entirely. I thought that maybe she was the weekend receptionist, ushering me into the room where the doctor would be, but when we got into the room it was devoid of anyone more distinguished looking.

Without making eye contact, she motioned toward a chair and asked in a too-soft voice, "What can I do for you today?" In reply, I rasped, "I think I have laryngitis, and I'm supposed to be going to work tomorrow and I think I will need a medical certificate." And also, though I didn't feel it necessary to add in, I have a 5000 word assignment due tomorrow that I have not yet started because yesterday and the day before I wondered if perhaps I might be dying.

She began to fiddle with a mobile phone that was strung on a lanyard around her neck and said nothing.

"My neck hurts, and my joints ache. I have a cough, yesterday it was productive, today it is dry, and my throat is so sore it hurts to cough." Still she said nothing.

She continued to fiddle, wordless, until she managed to switch on a light on the end of the phone. "Let's have a look."

I opened my mouth and from a distance, she peered at my throat. "It's red, but it's probably just a virus."

I nodded in agreement.

"I'll give you some antibiotics."

I said nothing, biting back my urge to ask her if she would listen to my chest to ensure no sign of bronchitis, or to feel my neck and confirm that the extreme pain on one side was due to my enlarged lymph nodes. I bit back the urge to ask her to you know... something.

She wrote a medical certificate, wrongly identifying me as 'Mr' and spelling my 5-letter surname incorrectly.

"I've been taking ibuprofen for the pain.... is that going to help... or is there something else I can do?"

She replied, "The antibiotics will probably make you feel better."

She pushed the Medicare chit towards me, and I signed. Clutching my medical certificate, I left, still wondering if perhaps it was all a big mistake and I was going to see the real doctor soon.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

They made me point at a tower.

I think it started before I left Sweden; two of my good friends left, and then a whole heap of new people arrived, and my natural tendency to introversion took hold once more. It wasn't that pronounced, but I can feel that's when it really set in. In summer that year, in Oslo, I stopped leaving the house by myself because I was gripped by a dread that if I ventured out, I would get lost and be unable to ask for directions and then it would be obvious that I didn't belong there. Even though everyone in Scandinavia speaks English.

That summer, anxiety that I had previously only felt fleetingly- that I would stand out as an outsider because I couldn't pronounce the vowels, and I couldn't pick up on the subtle signals that tell you what to do, and how to walk, and who to make eye contact with- began to pervade my psyche. Basically, I began to lose my shit.

Upon coming back to Australia, any friends I had in Sydney had moved on but stayed still at the same time, and they weren't interested in hearing how my outlook had changed. I'm sad when I think about those friends now. I never made close friends at uni, and I suspect that my constant refusals to come to out for drinks or hang out on the weekend came across as standoffish, when in fact, I was sitting at home in my room with nothing to do except be angry at myself for being paralysed by anxiety.  One only has to decline a couple of times before those friends drift away and the invites stop coming.

I have lots of photos from 2008.
Most of them are taken out of this window..
Or taken of things just inside the window...
I stopped going to the grocery store. It was too scary. I stopped catching the bus. I was too worried that the other people at the bus stop would think I was strange, or I would press the button at the wrong time, or I would miss my stop. I stopped leaving my house on the weekend because I was living above a cafe in a very fashionable beach strip, and the people in the cafe were too fabulous. Too judgmental.

I went to my classes, and I bought coffee from one place only, and I went to work...which was in the same place as my classes and involved changing the bedding of about 150 mice and sterilising their water. Mice are not great conversationalists.

I moved in a small triangle, and I got sadder and more anxious. As I got more anxious, it got more difficult to do anything outside my triangle of class, work and home. I began to see a counsellor again, but it wasn't helping. So I got sent to an anxiety clinic, and specifically, got told that I was experiencing social phobia.

Do you know what they do to people who have social anxiety?

Group. Therapy.

For socially anxious people. Twelve whole weeks.

Social phobia group therapy takes the form of cognitive behavioural therapy, and you get told the following things:
  • It is all in your head
  • It's not as bad as you think
  • Thinking those thoughts is bad, and if you can't fix it, you aren't trying hard enough
  • Every one gets anxious, therefore, it's all in your head and it's not as bad as you think
This form of CBT is focused on "evidence gathering," the idea of which is to force you to challenge the beliefs about the world and yourself which form the root of the anxiety. For example, neurotic perfectionists who terrified of doing a task poorly and are unable to accept that they're not hopeless idiots are supposed to look for evidence that the work they do is recognised as being good by others, and therefore accept, on a rational level, that it's not all as bad as it seems.

CBT works by showing you that the way you're thinking is irrational, and attempts to force you to think rationally and make everything better. Which is fine if you're unaware that your behaviour is irrational. What was always so distressing for me was that, on a logical level, I knew that my behaviour and some of the thought patterns associated driving it, was irrational in the extreme, and yet I couldn't make it switch it off.

All of this is to say that I think CBT is a crock, and I am still incredibly annoyed with myself that when the clinic did my final follow-up call, I gave them misleadingly good data because I had come into a natural upswing that was unrelated to my 12 weeks of crazy class. Depressive episodes come in swings and roundabouts, and I have learned now that I was on my way back up after a prolonged period at the bottom. The CBT people I encountered were also relatively anti-medication, which is disappointing because it took me a long time to overcome the feeling that needing to take medication was a failure or the easy way out.

One of my homework tasks at the crazy clinic was a "behavioural experiment" designed to show that it wasn't all as bad as I thought. I was paired up with one of the others in my group, a socially anxious journalist. We met up in the city and first completed a variety of smaller tasks, like ordering a coffee in an alien Starbucks, and asking a question in the pharmacy, before attacking the mammoth.

For five minutes, we stood in Pitt Street Mall and pointed at Centrepoint Tower. Both of us. The idea was that one of us was to monitor the behaviour of passers-by so that we could compare our expectations with the reactions we actually got.

We looked like crazy fucking nut jobs, and passers-by lived up to expectation.

Oh, and I take lots of medication now. Best. Fucking. Decision.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Miscellaneous cats of Japan

Osaka Castle Cat is hunting fish and grasshoppers, and with your very presence, you are probably ruining everything.
Koya-san Burmese Cat just wants to be left alone. Can a cat spend some private time in a damn alley way these days?!

Hiroshima Peace Park Cat will burn your soul out with his eyes. Burn it.

Although, if that is tuna on your onigiri then he may be amenable to some kind of truce.
Hiroshima Tram Stop Cats have some really important grooming and shit to get down to in these bushes.

And you are interrupting.

Lake Ashi Cat is not even remotely interested in whatever you have to offer. Is that a noodle. Really?

Lake Ashi Cat is far too good to eat some shitty soba off the ground.

Nikko Window Cat just wants to go back to sleep.

It's enough putting up with those two bitches over in the corner all day without some idiot interrupting nap time with a fucking camera. They call it a CAT NAP for a reason.

Nikko Window Cat aside, how do the Japanese stray cats remain so glossy and plump??