Sunday, May 31, 2009

Decision Time

As someone who is always rushing into a discussion saying "life is short", "seize the day", "you can't take it with you" and so on ad nauseum, I have been strangely reluctant to follow my own advice. However after a week that began with a severe, verging on terminal,case of Monday-itis, which hadn't really improved by Friday, I have decided to do something about the ho-hum nature of my current existence. No, I'm not going to jump off a tall building or run away with a dashing stranger (I wish), I am simply going to go on an overseas trip. Not until next year, so I have about a year and a bit to save up, which for me will be the greatest challenge. However I can be fiercely self-disciplined when I want to, and heaven knows I have enough clothes, shoes, books, cosmetics, household trinkets gadgets and sundry paraphernalia to last me if I live another hundred years, so I should be able to tighten my belt quite a number of notches and not feel the strain.

Having wanted to travel to Ireland all my life to see the land of my ancestors (my great grandparents were Irish) I am booking a tour of England, Scotland and Ireland in August next year with an organisation that I am reliably informed is very good and specialises in tours for small groups of single people. And no it's not a match making agency - if it's anything like most similar ventures, it's bound to be overloaded with women in any case, but that's not the point.

In order to give myself an inspirational goal and set myself on the road to rigid frugality, I am letting myself get all excited about this now, even though it's some way off. And being the ultimate eager beaver for learning all about things I will no doubt be poring over books, photos, experiences of other travellers and whatever else I can find to make myself as well informed although hopefully not boringly so, as possible.

And the way time whizzes away these days, it won't be all that long before you can all wish me bon voyage. Only problem is it might be a bit difficult to smuggle a couple of small hairy and noisy dogs along in the suitcase!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Ecology can be a health hazard

There I was yesterday staggering to support the weight of my vibrantly hued ecologically aware cloth shopping bags filled to the brim with the fruits of the supermarket, when two things happened.

First, I remembered when long ago at the very beginning of the enviro-bag revolution, I used to scoff at the greenies who would turn up at the supermarket each week religiously spurning the plastic bags offered to them and producing from the voluminous folds of their rather "aged hippie" weekend attire, their precious green bags. For some reason, perhaps my fondness for sticking a pin in the pompous and politically correct, this species of shopper always seemed to me to be inordinately hairy as well as decidedly unattractive. But now, I thought, here am I humbled at last, albeit through the coercion of the law, laden with my own greenie bags. So I sent off a mental apology to those vanguard greenies, so unfairly maligned.

Second, I put my back out. Thanks to the improved tensile strength of the new enviro bags, the checkout attendants have it seems embarked on an experiment to see just how much they can stuff into one bag. Or perhaps they are just being thoughtful and saving their customers the expense of buying two bags when one will do. Anyway while the quantity of bags is less, the weight of them is now such that even Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime would be challenged to lift one. Of course I could tell just from grappling to get them, newly packed, into the trolley, let alone from the trolley into the boot of the car, then from the boot into the house, then up onto the kitchen counter, that they were far too heavy for me to lift. However, rather like the aforementioned Arnold, I saw this as a challenge. Having been getting into the weights at the gym with more enthusiasm than sense, I thought "how hard can it be?" I quickly found out as an ominous click presaged a spasm of pain that I know from experience will drag on for some days.

Sensibly, what I should do from now on is ask politely at the checkout for them to only fill the bags halfway. However rather like having to ask someone to give you a hand crossing the road, that risks having them think of me as weak, or getting on in years and of course that would never do. Far better to strain and heave, with dignity intact, and then spend the rest of the weekend limping around the house bent over like a crone.

Regardless though of whether common sense or ego wins out in my case, the enviro bags are a jolly good idea and I'm all for them. Especially when you realise how destructive the old plastic bags have been. Not only do they clog our drains and waterways, they are serial killers of our marine creatures. And unlike me, they don't break down.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all us mothers, grandmothers, stepmothers, mothers-in-law or whatever other title we bear that entitles us to be specially acknowledged today.

Today has evolved in an interesting way. Originally it was "Mid Lent Sunday" or "Refreshment Sunday" (because the rules for Lent were relaxed to commemorate the biblical story, the "Feeding of the Five Thousand"). Pity the poor mother that confronted that task. Another theory is that it evolved from a day about 400 years ago when people ritually visited their closest big (or "Mother") church. The big church, or cathedral was considered to be the mother of all churches in an area. Hence the term "big mother" perhaps? The congregation so gathered at the big mother were said to have gone "a mothering".

In Britain servant boys and girls were allowed only one day a year to visit their families, which was usually Mothering Sunday and were often allowed to take a cake or some other gift from the household home for their mothers. They also usually collected flowers from the fields to take home to Mum. No roadside stalls in those days.

Mother's Day was also termed "Simnel Sunday" after the cake of that name - a fruit cake decorated with marzipan. Hence Robert Herrick's poem of 1648:

"I'll to thee a Simnell bring

'Gainst thou go'st a mothering,

So that, when she blesseth thee,

Half that blessing thou'lt give to me".

Being a mother is indeed a blessing, albeit often a mixed one. Our children hold within their hands the power to bestow on us inexpressible delight, pride and joy, on the one hand and on the other unfathomable hurt, frustration and disappointment, seemingly at whim. As Anne Lamott writes in her book "Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life" in talking about her small son; one day he would look at her quite seriously, take her face in his little hands and tell her he loved her, only to become within a few hours the most unendurable little monster.

No other relationship so enslaves us from the first instant of our mutual existence until the last breath, but no other relationship holds within it the potential to teach us so much. We finally come to understand the agonies to which we subjected our own parents, we discover an amazing capacity within ourselves for self-sacrifice and selflessness and we come to appreciate the meaning of all those painful life lessons we had to learn ourselves in trying to re-interpret them for our children.

Mother's Day doesn't make it all worthwhile, because we already know it is, but it is an opportunity to recognise the role we play in each other's lives and how important we are to each other. So mothers, enjoy!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Happy birthday Nina!

My dear friend Nina turned 60 on Saturday, not that you would ever think so from looking at her! Always the soul of elegance, she looked even more gorgeous than usual! We had a wonderful celebration to mark the occasion - not just a great night out, but a great weekend as Nina's lovely daughter Melisha (in the photo below) decided her mother deserved a very special event and arranged a cruise on Sydney Harbour. A small group of close friends and family who come from all over and among whom I was lucky enough to be included, were therefore invited to get ourselves over to Sydney for the weekend where accommodation was arranged for us at a hotel right on fabulous Darling Harbour and join in what turned out to be a fantastic and memorable two days with Nina and her husband Peter (the hunky one with the beard!). The cruise was quite a night as it turned out and as the rain came down we ate, drank, talked, laughed and enjoyed each other's company like a little group of marooned sailors in a leaky boat! As well as making it a birthday which I'm sure Nina will never forget, it was a great experience for her friends and family members, many of whom had not met before in person, to finally do so and understand why they are people who are so dear to Nina. Her three children, Melisha, Aaron and Mark are all very different, but delightful and special in their own unique ways. Nina I know was very touched by all the thought, effort and generosity Melisha devoted to making her 60th such a unique and enormously enjoyable event for everyone who was there. Peter, Nina's gorgeous husband, very generously contributed also and it's clear to see from the photograph how much he enjoyed himself.

Happy birthday dear Nina and I look forward to celebrating the next special one. We both decided waiting until our 70ths for the next big one is too long, and a half decade big celebration is the way to go, so in my case there's a little less time to wait for that, but it will be definitely one to remember, like this one was for Nina!