Attack of the hairs.

There are lots of good things about getting older/becoming more mature/ripening… For a start, you know more stuff than when you were young, you just can’t always put it into action. You care less about what other people think and more about what will cause you constipation. You have bucket-loads more memories to enjoy, when you can remember them. Sometimes those memories will pop into your head without warning and give you a delightful, or terrifying, jolt. And, people expect less of you so you can get away with more. ūüėČ However there’s also a serious downside: your body begins to rebel against you. Things sag. Your knees act up. Your teeth need attention. Arthritis moves in and settles into your nooks and crannies with reckless abandon. And then there are the nose hairs: sneaky little ratbags! For most of my life I never gave my nose hairs a second thought. They stayed up inside my nostrils doing their important nose hairy work. They minded their own business and I minded mine. Maybe that’s where the trouble starts? Maybe we should pay them some attention, show some appreciation while we and they are young? A rose or two; a thank you card…that sort of thing. Then, perhaps, they wouldn’t feel the need to commit mutiny when we’re older. One day I was blissfully unaware and the next day I saw what I thought was a spider’s legs dangling out of my left nostril. I thought the critter had crawled up there during the night, perhaps for shelter or perhaps searching for a quiet place to die. I got the tweezers and gave one of the legs a jolly hard yank and YOW…it was attached to me! I had to do some serious, painful pruning or spend the rest of my life known as ‘old lady hairy nose’. For a while that’s as far as it went: the occasional pruning of hairs that had headed down instead of up. But then, things took a more sinister turn. The darn things started growing sideways inside my nose. Then, every so often, usually when I was in a public place but occasionally when I was at home, safe from scrutiny, the hairy pests began to wave and tickle. So, you’re chatting to a good friend in a coffee shop, or talking to your doctor, or giving a speech, or singing a song and suddenly, right in the middle of what you’re doing, a rogue hair begins to tickle, scratch and annoy the heck out of you. And, what can you do? It’s not as though you can stop the conversation and say, ‘Excuse me a minute’ and then shove a couple of fingers up there to forage around for which hair has turned feral. To do it right you need tweezers, good lighting and a mirror. Oh yes, it may be just a small thing to you, especially if you have yet to reach the age of hair rebellion, but I tell you the small things can wear you down. Just think of the dripping tap. Eventually those drops of water will wear down the heaviest stone. Be thankful for the warning: be kind to your nose hairs while you still have the chance and maybe, just maybe, they won’t make your life hell when you reach the age of getting...

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The world of Facebook

While partaking of breakfast, I always do a quick (sometimes not so quick) scroll through Facebook. This morning’s contribution to my ever-expanding knowledge of life on planet Earth was the usual interesting mix. Requests for me to sign petitions¬†for the release of prisoners or refugees; education for all children; better treatment of animals; better treatment of women; better treatment of our planet; civil liberties for gays¬†and anything else that would improve our world. Spiritual things: Bible verses from Christians, anti-religion diatribes from atheists; candles, yoga and ghosts from the spiritually curious. A cute/punny/pithy something or other from one of my writer friends about books, other writers or the process of writing. Something about Monsanto, Nestle, IS or Boko Haram doing something evil and heinous. Something political: Messages from the Labor party or the Greens about the incompetency of the Liberal government. Messages from the Liberal party, (trying) to prove they’re doing a great job. (Not too many of those. I have a feeling they don’t think I’m convinced.) Something personal: what people are eating; their entertainment; their hobbies; their parties; their medical appointments; their mechanical problems; their personal achievements; birthdays and anniversaries…and, occasionally, a death. Humour: film clips, cartoons, photos of people or animals (mainly animals) doing something cute or ridiculous or slightly manic, or a dig at grammar fans like me, or a dig at people who can’t spell or get their grammar correct. The occasional music clip – mostly nostalgic because I and my Facebook friends are mostly of a certain age. Bucket-loads of photos of cats doing cute things;¬†dogs doing cute things; goats, horses and donkeys being cute, and the occasional ring in: koala, kangaroo, squirrel, dolphin, penguin etc… Breaking news stories: sometimes really important ones and sometimes about some movie star doing something we couldn’t care less about. What do I conclude from all this?¬†We humans are a weird mob. We are passionate about religion, whether we love it or loathe it. We are passionate about animals, whether we believe they should be cared for or not. We are passionate about politics, whether we think we are or not. We want girls to be treated fairly, kindly and equitably, while still being happy to exploit them sexually and patronise them politically. We want people in poor countries to have access to clean water, electricity, good sanitation, good health and decent food but, at the same time, we pour our money into the pursuit of entertainment, personal luxury and more and more stuff. I’m torn. One part of my brain tells me to stop reading Facebook and forget about all the things that give me nightmares. The other part tells me that it’s important to be aware of what is happening in the world. Putting my head in the sand won’t fix anything. Maybe signing some of those petitions won’t fix anything, either, but then…occasionally it does. I’m one small candle shining in a dark world. However, if you join your small candle with mine, eventually we could be the equivalent of a city on a hill, beaming light out into all the nooks and crannies and exposing the nasties that live there. And, there’s all those cute photos of cats, dogs etc to help lighten the mood.  ...

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Happy Valentine’s Day

So, how’s your Valentine’s Day going so far? Have you been inundated with luuurve? Flowers; perfume; chocolate; Mitre 10 gift vouchers…? Are you and your sweetheart dining out tonight? Will there be candles and whispered sweet nothings? In our nearly 42 years of romance, the Old Boy and I have never made a big deal of St Valentine’s Day. No; let me be brutally honest: The Old Boy never made a big deal of it. In the early days I would buy him a heart-shaped chocolate or something similar, and give him a card that said romantic stuff that I usually find myself gagging on if I have to say it out loud. Nothing ever came back but, being a wonderful wife, I chose not to let that bother me. As the years dragged on I eventually gave up. There seemed no point to it all. That year, he finally gave me something. TYPICAL! Of course, because I had nothing for him he decided he was right to ignore it in the first place and that was the end of that. It’s not that he’s not romantic; every decade he comes up with something that surprises me. He says it’s because it’s just another “commercialised American rubbish holiday”. (My apologies to my American readers.) And he’s right, and he’s wrong. It’s definitely become commercialised and sentimentalised but it isn’t an American invention. The commemoration of St Valentine started centuries before the USA was a twinkle in colonial Britain’s eye. St Valentine was a priest in Rome during the days of Claudius. The emperor¬†wanted to strengthen and add to the Roman empire , for which he needed soldiers for his army. His thinking was that young, unmarried men would make better oldiers because they’d be free from worrying about their families back home. (Young men have always been the preferred form of cannon fodder.) Claudius went a step further than most and proclaimed a ban on young people marrying. Valentine thought this was unjust and, therefore, performed marriages in secret, until he was finally caught, imprisoned and, of course, tortured. A couple of years later, in 270 AD or thereabouts, he was beheaded. It is part of the legend that, on his execution day, he left a note for his jailer’s daughter and signed it: from your Valentine. Almost straight after his death, Valentine was declared a saint for the way he was willing to die for his faith and principles. In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius declared February 14, St Valentine’s day. (He hoped it would replace the Lupercalia celebration, which was a very ancient version of “everyone chuck your keys in the bowl and see who you get”.)¬†Eventually Valentine became known as the patron saint of lovers and,¬†by the Middle Ages, it had really kicked into gear. Back then the done thing was to write your loved one a sonnet, or to serenade them with a¬†hey nonny no. Now we’ve progressed, in true Aussie style, to messages in the local paper: Dear Shazza, me life’s really beaut now I’ve met ya. Love ya¬†from me boots up, Bazza. I think the sentimental version of Valentine’s Day can be nice, if not taken too seriously. However, the Valentine who was prepared to die for his principles…well, that’s someone I’m happy to celebrate. I reckon whenever someone takes a stand against injustice; whenever someone is willing to stick their heads above the parapet and shout, “That’s not right!”; whenever someone chooses to do the loving thing rather than the mean thing, then Valentine, from the Great Beyond, is cheering them on. Happy Valentine’s Day, folks. I hope you have a good...

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Little House on the Prairie.

It’s Laura Ingalls Wilder’s birthday. No, she’s not still with us – died in 1957 – but, if she was still with us, she’d be 148. Happy birthday Ms Ingalls Wilder! I remember devouring her books when I was young. (She wrote the books that inspired the TV series, Little House on the Prairie.)¬†For those who haven’t read them (and why not, pray tell?!!) they are based on her childhood in an American pioneer family in the late 1800s. For me her first book, Little House in the Big Woods, was an intoxicating mix of fiction, history and adventure and the main character was a girl. Imagine my delight when I discovered it was only the first in a series of books! Oh frabjous joy! Calloo callay! She had a tough life, both as a child in the Ingalls family and later in her married life with her husband Almanzo Wilder. (Almanzo! That, surely, is a name inspired by a Victorian bodice-ripper.) They had to work really hard just to scrape a living. They faced severe snowstorms and devastating drought, while living in a poky log cabin. (Log cabins might sound romantic but the reality was a different story.) For a few years, the Ingalls family even lived in a dugout in the banks of a river. Children often didn’t survive childhood. Laura’s brother, Charles Frederick (Freddie), died when he was nine months old. Later, Laura’s second child, a son, didn’t live long enough to be named. And yet, in spite of the many hardships and sadness in her life, there is something wonderful that shines through her stories that imparts joy, love and hope. In my childhood I used to yearn to write books like my idols: Laura Ingalls Wilder, C. S. Lewis and Enid Blyton (The Secret Seven books). However, I thought my life was too ordinary to compete with Ms Wilder’s. I couldn’t imagine inventing another world so complex and believable like Mr Lewis’s. And, I’d never be able to think up such exciting adventures as Ms Blyton’s Secret Seven had. In one respect this is still true. However, now I don’t take it as a negative: “you’ll never be interesting, so don’t try”. Now, I take it as a positive: “they used what was ordinary for them and turned it into something magical.” When I was little, my family was poor, too. I, like Laura, felt I was the not so pretty member of the family. The Little House books took me out of a fibro house (walls made of flat asbestos concrete), with cheap linoleum and one small kerosene heater for warmth, and transported me to the wild forests of Wisconsin. Whenever my father took out his violin and tuned up, I’d close my eyes and pretend it was Charles Ingalls, Laura’s dad, playing his fiddle in front of the log fire, in a little cabin in the woods. So, let’s raise a toast to the wonderful Laura Ingalls Wilder: pioneer woman, hard-working farmer’s wife, literary genius....

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