HELP THE ELF: I found part of Santa’s missing nice list!


Hi everyone! A few weeks ago I heard on the Christmas holly vine that Pete the elf had a touch too much Eggnog at a Christmas Party and as he stumbled home, he lost Santa’s NICE LIST.

The North Wind scattered the papers to all four corners of the world, and The Bookshelf Muse put out a call to help find them in order to SAVE CHRISTMAS.

Never one to baulk a challenge, I’ve been on the lookout. And then today, EUREKA!

Yes that’s right…I found part of Santa’s missing NICE LIST. Sadly the pets found it first, so when I got to it it was half torn up by my desperately bored dogs. I scolded appropriately, gathered the pieces together and shock of all shocks, found a name I recognized. Some of you will know her.

She’s a woman I met five years ago in ‘Year of the Novel’ class run by Writers’ Victoria. By coincidence it turned out we had a historical connection. Our parents families had lived in the same area of Gippsland during their childhood. They used to attend Young Farmers dances together and, as a kid, I holidayed on my Grandparents sheep farm neighbouring her family’s properties. We were almost sisters!

Without her support, great advice, good humour and wisely interjected proddings, I would not have realised my dream of becoming an author so thoroughly this year. So this is a special post dedicated to one very special lady, and I was so glad her name showed up on the missing Santa list I found covered in dog slobber.

                       

NAME: Margareta Osborn

LOCATION: Voice of the bush rural romance extraordinaire

NICE LEVEL: 98%

NAUGHTY LEVEL: 2%

OBSERVATIONS: Margareta is the heart and soul of friendship. She puts others before herself endlessly – sometimes to her detriment. She’s a great critique partner and a solid mentor. She’s one hell of a writer too.

RECOMMENDATION:     a) Coal                   b) Gift

~ ~ * ~ ~

The best bit about this discovery was, because poor Pete the Elf is dashing all over the place trying to avoid Santa’s naughty list, I decided to take care of this one myself.

Margareta, check your inbox. I feel so blessed to know you! Enjoy the gift I sent to and have a wonderful Christmas!

READERS: Is there someone special you want to acknowledge this festive season? There are plenty of free e-books, great greeting cards, all manner of little electronic goodies you can drop discreetly into the inbox of someone delightful. C’mon, don’t be shy. SPREAD THE LOVE.

Repost: Office Christmas Committee

Because it’s nearly Christmas. Because this was one of my most popular posts. Because I don’t have time to do anything new. Because, at this time of year, we all need a good laugh… 

 

It’s 2 weeks before Christmas and all across the city,

Office Christmas committee’s are getting quite shitty

Why? Come on, you KNOW why. It’s THAT time of year isn’t it? Let me share something with you – I have 3 business rules I apply to every single job I’ve had – and I NEVER break them. They are:

  1. Never make a meeting for 9am Monday morning.
  2. Never make a meeting for 4pm Friday afternoon.
  3. Never, under any circumstances, even if you’re begged, or threatened with the sack, volunteer to go on the Office Christmas Committee.

Office Christmas committees. A unique conglomerate made up of enthusiastic and hopeful volunteers who’ve only been on the floor for maybe 6 weeks. In the weeks before Christmas they gather together to come up with 2010’s Divisional/Unit/Team Christmas function. They throw around inspired ideas – Kris Kringle with the boss dressed up as Santa, rude food platters, 100 Things You Can Do With Tinsel Competition – trying to stumble upon the kind of unforgettable festive occasion their colleagues will be gossiping about well into the New Year.

‘How was that Christmas party last year?’

‘Awesome. Best I’ve ever been too.’

‘And the boss in that Santa suit…?’

‘HAW HAW HAW!’

These are the sounds of mirth Office Christmas Committee’s long to hear. They want THEIR NAMES hovering reverently on the lips of their peers – ‘true party champions – these guys could organise a party in Vic Pol’s OPC.’

YEAH, RIGHT! You and I both know (don’t we?) that what begins with hope, love and poor taste, rapidly deteriorates into bickering, disgruntlement(?) and clashes of festive philosophies?

Firstly there is the question of cost – (assuming you don’t work in a self-serving, for-profit corporate giant that buys your soul every Christmas with lobster banquets and John Farnham serenades) – the first major hurdle every Office Christmas Committee (OCC) must clear without knocking the Christmas cheer out of their colleagues. If the function is too cheap, those with more refined tastes will be dubious as to its quality – if it’s too expensive, it will isolate those on budgets or maintaining extreme social lives.

Then there is the question of what type of function: picnic in the park (‘But what if it’s too hot? What if it’s too cold? What about ants? And mosquitoes? What about hygiene, the food will go off in the sun? Can we drink? We’ll lose people!’ or ‘Great! I can nick off early.’); evening cocktails and dancing (‘I’ll have to find a baby sitter.’ ‘I can’t stay late, Tracey gets annoyed if I stay out too late.’ ‘Can we bring our partners?’ ‘Oh, God, can you believe it, why would anyone want to bring their partner to a work Christmas party?’); a long lunch at a local pub (‘BOR-ING! Why can’t we all go out and get drunk, dance like maniacs and pash each other?’ ‘That’s civilised, then I don’t have to watch X get pissed and crack on to the Managers assistant.’); in-office catering (‘That’s nice – I can get straight back to my desk afterwards.’ ‘Is it from that lovely little café down the road? Woolies? WHAT?’ ‘Jesus – don’t we even get unchained from the office at Christmas time?’).

By the time the OCC has suffered the arguments about cost and type of function they’ve then got to face the question of food – Finger food, a la carte meal, set menu, snacks, catered, bring a plate, so many options it’ll make your singing Santa spin. Spare a thought for your OCC who must cater for those who won’t eat much and don’t want to pay extra to cater for those who wish to GORGE themselves like – dogs. And these days it’s further complicated by ‘special dietary needs’. Lactose free, gluten free, meat free, crustacean free, dairy free, fat free, nut free, no preservatives or artificial colourings and definitely NO MAYONNAISE (because these days EVERYBODY hates mayonnaise – right?) By the time you’ve catered for all the ‘frees’ everyone will be eating carrot sticks and rice crackers and drinking still mineral water – truly celebratory fare.

Kris Kringle? (‘I loathe getting a stupid box of penis shaped pasta,’ or ‘Oh yeah, I’ve got these incredible raspberry flavoured edible g-string undies I want to give Madge! She’ll die!’)

Santa? (‘God, how OLD do they think we are?’ to ‘I can’t wait to see what the boss says when I sit on his knee and tell him I want a raise for Christmas – haw haw haw!’)

And let’s not even go down the track of – ‘But I don’t celebrate Christmas, I’m a practising {insert a non-Christian religion}’ or ‘I don’t celebrate Christmas because I’m an over-educated, left wing, environmental killjoy who doesn’t want to support the terrible carbon imprint and corporate commercial exploitation created by Westernised version of christmas}.

{Ooooooh. That was dangerous – wasn’t it? J}

So, this Christmas, spare some heart, spare some pity, spare some Christmas spirit for your beleaguered, battle weary, fed-up-to-the-gills-with-you-lot Office Christmas Committee. After all, they are doing their best and they are only trying to please YOU.

Paper based slut

Prepare the confessional. I have a dark secret few people know about and I’m about to declare it. It’s an obsession. I’ve kept it to myself (relatively) all my life. Occasionally I meet another being who enjoys the same passion, and when I do there’s great relief in sharing the depths of my perversity with someone who understands it.
It’s not like I’m unusual. Everyone has their little fetishes. Mine just happens to be a bit on the strange side. Are you ready?

It’s stationary.
Yep. Stationary. The stuff you buy in newsagents.

Ever since I was a little girl I have loved stationary. I loved the smell and have been known to surreptitiously sniff fresh paper and notebooks when I think no-one is watching, like a pervert sniffing ladies panties.

I used to save my pocket money for a trip to the local newsagents (in Benalla) where I would stand goggling at all those neatly arranged clips, scissors, stamps, staples and sticky tape, packaged up in cardboard and plastic, just waiting to help me make something irreplaceable and delicate for my parents to find space in the cupboard for. Now, as an adult, I gaze longingly knowing all those little bits and pieces will help me transform my life into an organised, categorised, easily accessed dream, complete with clipboards and alphabetical indexing.

My particular liking is for new pens and pencils. There’s something about the clean nibs, the sharp points, that makes taking them to an unsullied sheet of paper pure joy. And there’s another beautiful thing. Brand new notebooks. Clean, lined pages just waiting for a neat hand to record the shopping list, my top ten movies, household renovation projects, books I must read before I die. My bucket list. Never mind the disappointment of my ever messy handwriting. Just tear the filthied page out and start again, fresh as a daisy. It’s like the absolution of the confessional – I’m forever redeemed by a clean sheet of paper.

A newsagents is a hotbed of sexy innovation. Since 3M’s invention of post-it notes, a trip to a well stocked stationer holds untold futuristic pleasures. I can buy little plastic tabs in all sorts of glorious colours to stick on useless documents I’ll never read but keep until I’m 90 – and I love the way the tabs make me look intelligent. White out, while still available, has been superseded by a nifty gadget that sticks a strip of thin white tape over your mistake. Forget messy globs of thickened white paint on a tufty brush. Here you will find staple free staplers, magic invisible sticky tape, glue sticks that don’t dry out, dividers with interchangeable removable tags. It’s the ultimate manifestation of perfection and control. Or the illusion of it anyway.

No wonder I’m no fan of electronic records. Where’s the pleasure in them? You can’t smell them. You can’t appreciate their colour, their tidiness. You can’t run your appreciative fingers over the smooth cover of a new manilla folder in cyberland, can you? Nope. Only the real deal will do.

You can imagine what happens when I go to Officeworks. I think I’ve died and gone to God’s central business office in the sky. Tidy aisles brimming with my drug of choice, the smell of ink and unopened plastic, the promise of my blind hope – a life without chaos and unpredictability. Now that’s what I call HEAVEN!

Do you have a strange fetish?

My Hundred Glorious Phrases – review My Hundred Lovers

I love Susan Johnson. Sorry, I haven’t started batting for the other team. Let me qualify. I love Susan Johnson’s writing.

It took three library borrows to find the time to read this book and now that I have it’s on my list of books to own. I consumed My Hundred Lovers with a passion I usually reserve for expensive wine. Aside from the delicious poetry of her writing, Johnson had a way of delivering this story that made it read like a degustation menu. Each chapter was served like a delectable morsel with its own particular flavour within a broader and very satisfying narrative.

The premise of the story is a woman turning 50 reflecting back over her experiences of love, or what she thought was love, throughout her life. While the work is rich with eroticism, it’s no romance. This is an exploration of what it feels like when love, and it’s elusive sisters, beauty and sensuality, come to visit.

Johnson’s mastery of erotic language transforms ordinary things – grass, sunshine, a bridge – into living entities, imbuing them with a soul and memory of their own. Each chapter describes an experience of love, often erotic love, of men, women, buildings, history, family, words, bodies, cities, wine, cigarettes and her son. The story of a woman’s ordinary life unfolds in the context of extraordinary history – from the 1960’s to present day – placing her ancestral history within the bigger political and social movements of each decade.

Interwoven in the narrative a kernels of life truths that rang so true I copied many of them down:
‘I was born preferring death to surrender.’
‘…love was supposed to mean desiring the happiness of the lover as much as one desired it for oneself…let the lover be himself or herself, unopposed!’
‘Love lives in the body and when love dies the body is the first to know.’

There was more to my love of this book than just the writing. I related to the story being told through the experiences of the protagonist on a very personal level. It was one of those reading experiences littered with ‘ah-huh’ moments. I felt Johnson was able to beautifully articulate the impulsive confusion of desire that ignites most love affairs – especially the bad ones. The sense many of us get at a certain age that we a ‘destined to live out life within the poor confines of unwitting compulsions.’ And the point (which I am quickly approaching) when we realise we must live with the consequences of these compulsive decisions, the poor choices of lovers in whatever form they came, and the inevitable truth that the heat of youth is cooling in our veins.

The ending seemed particularly poignant to me. She (the protagonist) identifies that her true love has always been romantic love, and that it will ever be unrequited because it ‘naturally and properly never gave me what it promised’. Given much of the content of my own work focuses on unrequited love, this admission resonated strongly with me. Our obsession with romantic love, our unending belief in soulmates and love at first sight, renders us children in the face of real love. While we believe in such fantasies we keep ourselves forever in desire (a not unpleasant place to be for some) and never able to recognise the very ordinary nature of love when it comes our way.

My Hundred Lovers has to be my favourite book for this year. In the words of Molly Meldrum, do yourself a favour.

Adopt-a-madness

We’re going to adopt a dog. A Greyhound to be exact. I can’t tell you why. It’s not like we need another animal to look after. Bear, our Border Collie-Samoyd cross, has only been part of our family for 3 months and in that time he has re-landscaped the back yard, escaped five times, chewed up innumerable toys and destroyed our TV watching pleasure by destroying the remote.

We’ve spent hundreds of dollars dog proofing the back yard and buying dog toys we hope will distract him from our personal belongings – all to no avail. He’s so emotionally needy he can’t last five minutes without asking for a pat. He’s got so much fur he doesn’t mind one bit shedding it in a fine layer all over the floor, the furniture, us. And I won’t even get started on how pissed off the cat is with us for bringing him into her life.

So what better remedy to our canine ills than bringing another lost mouth into the household?

You’re right. We’re mad. We’ve been deliberating for a while whether a companion would solve Bear’s emotional issues, deciding over and again that two dogs would be too much work. Until Wednesday. I came home to a message from the good folk at the Greyhound Adoption Program.
‘we have a lovely 2&1/2 year old girl – great with kids and cats – for adoption. If you’re interested you can see her on the website, her name is Belle.’

Belle. If her name had been Rosie or Hercules or Bumfluff I would have deleted the message without a second thought. But Belle – the same as my recently acquired pen-name -It seemed like a sign. Not that I’m particularly superstitious, but I am a big fan of synchronicity. And this little coincidence followed a discussion on the glories of Greyhounds with a colleague the very same morning. it seemed like it was ‘meant to be’.

So here we are, 9.30am Saturday morning, hurtling to Seymour with Bear whining in the back and Miss 8 nagging ‘pleeeeeze can we get her’ – to meet Belle the greyhound – the new member of our mad family. With a little bit of luck she’ll be sane – but I doubt it.

The rush

Escalator
Escalator (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Speed. The world we live in is built on it.

It’s a fact that’s been made more obvious to me since I’ve been hobbling heavy-footed around Melbourne city streets during peak hour, a crutch in one hand and my determination not to be pushed out of the way firmly in the other.

Returning to work after 7 weeks away from the madding crowd was something of a shock. I hadn’t noticed how quickly people in our city move. 90% of the population is in a frightening hurry while the remaining 10% is getting in its way. Knee surgery has forced me from the 90% into the 10%, and I’m getting a taste of life in the slow lane.

Getting onto a peak hour escalator has become an extreme sport for me. I have to deftly calculate the exact moment I can step into the fast moving queue without causing people to back up behind me, then I need to get exactly the right foot ready at exactly the right moment to step onto the escalator without going A over T (look it up J).

Most people politely move around me. With some I can sense their frustration bearing down on my back as they come up behind me. I can also sense the flood of relief as they shuttle past into the mainstream current of pedestrians.

This is what it’s like to be old. This is what it’s like to have a body that doesn’t work at the same speed as the 90%. The world waits for no one. If you can’t keep up you’re gonna be well and truly left behind. It’s bewildering. And terrifying.

I can’t help but wonder if this frantic rush isn’t driven by our technologically-dominated lives. The rate at which we receive and consume information has increased exponentially in the past decade, and I think it’s making us all a bit manic. It’s evident in our addiction to e-devices. We can’t imagine life without God Google or time-wasting Facebook. What did we do before these things dominated our lives?

I’ll remind you. We read newspapers from cover to cover. We hand wrote letters and used the postal system. We looked forward to the supermarket and toy catalogues arriving in our letterbox. We had patience and we waited for answers that weren’t immediately available. We looked things up in libraries. We remembered things.

Managing the rate at which life happens now is a constant challenge. I can barely comprehend the deluge of unsolicited demands that land in my 3 email inboxes, my letterbox, in-tray, phone, Facebook updates, and Twitter account.  I find myself besieged by community groups to corporations, causes to politicians, beggars to bandwagons, all screaming ‘Pay attention to ME! Listen to what I have to say’.

Finding the information I actually want, rather than the information everybody else wants to give me, is like looking for a pearl in a sea of jaggedy oysters. It means I scan, take information in on an ‘inch deep, mile wide’ basis and I never really know much about anything that’s going on, while knowing a little bit about everything that’s going on (which is vastly confusing).

Having to physically slow down has made me realise that mentally I’m travelling at 200km/h – and it’s time to put on the brakes. My brain and body will be better off if I take a breath, relax and pay closer attention to the things that matter – like sending a friend a hand written card and getting on the escalator without falling over.

Gay game of hide ‘n’ seek

The Australian gay marriage debate has all but disappeared from mainstream media in the last week or so, in spite of it taking up exorbitant amounts of air time in previous months. I listened to the constant tooing and froing of the debate with increasing consternation. Living in a democratic society is a privilege too many of us take for granted. In Australia each of us are invested with the freedom to express our views and have a say in the governance of our nation. It is an honour and yet we often struggle to do this responsibly and manage to make a complete mess of very simple issues.

I cannot comprehend why we needed to waste so much time nationally arguing about something that has no impact on any of the big ticket issues affecting us all. Gay marriage does not threaten Australia’s security, or economy, or trade, or education outcomes, or health outcomes, or employment or any other relevant issue you care to name. Why are we as a nation even bothering to argue about it? It’s as silly as arguing about whether interracial marriage should be allowed, or whether older people should marry younger people. The proposition that legalising gay marriage requires broad community discussion is comprehensively ridiculous.

And yet, here we are, still without any legal recognition of the thousands of well established, long standing gay relationships in our community. It shouldn’t surprise me. It’s a national game of hide and seek with reality that has been part of our culture for a long time. In spite of evidence to the contrary we like to pretend that things we are not culturally comfortable with simply don’t exist. We go out of our way to invalidate them by dismissing them from view. Just look at our track record on Aboriginal affairs, immigration and gender equality.

I tried (really, I did) to understand the arguments the ‘against gay marriage’ lobby were putting into the public sphere, but the more I read/heard the less fundamental logic or reason I saw. What I did see was a bunch of largely heterosexual men (and some heterosexual women) asserting their personal views and sense of entitlement in telling others in the community how they should live, based on their own blatant, and usually unacknowledged, prejudice.

When the votes for the gay marriage bills were announced I was astonished. Who are these people, in our parliaments and in our community, who think they have the right to dictate, on behalf of all of us, which kind of relationships are recognised as valid and which are not? What saddened me most was that these people were in the majority. Is this the country I live in? Really?

I know how much lobbying went on prior to those parliamentary votes. The homosexual community and their many supporters worked hard to get the support of their various representatives in government. They were let down by the democratic process because the people who have the most say are not gay and cannot understand someone who is. And the saddest thing is, the rest of us were let down too. Our parliamentary process has returned us to a state of wilful blindness, where the only truly valid, culturally accepted relationship is the one that occurs between a man and a woman.

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