My view

People are interesting, that’s a fact. No two people in the world are exactly alike, not even identical twins. We all have our different maps of the world and our different ways of looking at things, and we all adapt to our lives and our circumstances in different ways. I don’t know why we think we should all be able to get along – with the range of backgrounds we come from and the different belief systems that are ingrained in us, it’s a wonder any of us get along at all.

Then again, I don’t think it is just a question of trying to get along with others and fitting in. I think it’s more about accepting the differences we have and being more tolerant and patient with each other. Not that I am an expert, or one to preach tolerance and patience. I leave that to the preachers. But I believe they’re onto something. The world is bursting at the seams with humanity, in all it’s diversity. It’s a pretty crowded place, and it’s growing by the minute. We need to be able to get along to some degree, so that we may live together regardless of our backgrounds or skin colour. Wars are constantly fought because of differences. I’ve never heard of two parties agreeing with each other and then going off to fight about the same thing.

Maybe I’m being too simplistic – war and hatred in society are caused by a number of things, I’m sure. But simplifying things would bring about the realisation of the futility of it all. The world as it is will not last forever, and we as a ‘civilisation’ will almost certainly fail, as others have before us. Our relationship with our environment is torrid, and as we develop new technology and gadgetry, we step away from our natural world, at times forgetting where we come from.

From where we have come is what we shall return to. We can’t take it with us – but we can make our lives richer and more rewarding by contributing to our personal growth and those of others, here and now. Loving ourselves more is a step towards loving others, and maybe even loving the world that we live in, instead of taking it all for granted.

Men in my life

Men. Some I can figure out, some I can’t. I generally refer to the main men in my life for the opportunity to learn something new. Believe me, there’s enough variety here to keep me going for the rest of my life.

I’m convinced my father has Adult Attention Deficit Disorder. He drives my mother up the wall. He can’t stay still, he flits from one subject to another and has the attention span of a mud skipper. I’m not saying that my father is a stupid person, but for those more grounded people around him, mainly my mother, he poses quite a challenge to the equilibrium, every single day. My father likes to keep busy, doing what – I don’t know, but every time I ring him, he’s too busy to elaborate on it. When he is standing in one spot, he is still moving from one foot to another. When he is sitting in a chair, he is re-arranging the ornaments on the coffee table.

My brother is a completely different animal. He is reclusive, eccentric and has an agenda. Conversations usually revolve around him and his life, his latest muse, and how much he hates the world economy. He wont ring anybody as it costs money, but if you ring him, he will hang on the phone for hours regailing you with his views on everything from the loser at the local pub, to the transnationals taking over the world. My brother is quite brilliant, with a photographic memory and an IQ off the chart, but a brain broken by drug experimentation and a dusting of paranoia make him unpredictable and intolerant of human foibles.

My son is quite charming, but reserved and shy. An intelligent boy, but lacking in confidence. He is kind to animals and children and is not above mucking in and doing bit of housework every now and again. He teeters between states of confusion and bolts of inspirational direction. Life tends to be a steep learning curve for him most of the time, as he grasps the concepts that only age and experience can bring.

And my husband, who can be the most unpredictable beast of all. He is a cross between a sensitive new age guy and the man’s man. He can cook as well as any chef when he’s in the mood, but is just at home with a variety of power tools. He is as dedicated to spending time in the hardware store as he is to buying the ingredients for his latest culinary creation. He survives in the hard-edge world of oil rigs and shipping, but enjoys a good massage and rose petal bath soak. He can cry into a beer, and be unflinching in an argument of opinion.

Men. Just when I think I have them figured out, the above participants change the goalposts. The only thing I have really figured out is that men are different, strange and unpredictable, but lovable,  and no two are alike. They all have their differences, which may or may not be based on genetics. They are in a constant state of flux. I can pigeonhole as much as I like, but I bet I will never be able to fit a square peg into a round hole.

My Diary

I live on an island. Some people look at me as though I’m mad when I tell them this. They are usually city dwellers or people that can’t equate suburbia with island dwelling. My island, is in fact, less than a mile off the mainland of Brisbane, a popular Australian city. It’s still considered a part of the city infrastructure, which basically means we get taxed as much as the next person for a strip of land surrounded by water and sand.

Sand is the drawcard here. Brisbane was built along a river, so there’s no beautiful harbour like Sydney or nice beaches to go to within a fifty mile radius, unless you want to go to the Gold Coast or the Sunshine Coast. Sand is like gold in Brisbane and waterviews are priceless.

I like my patch. I get to relax and watch the amazing abundance of birdlife from my front veranda. An islander may rattle past occasionally, and weekend holiday makers may cause a three car traffic jam every now and again, but that’s about it.

I’m in danger of becoming a recluse, I’ve been told. This is an odd thing to say to somebody who in a past life preferred the companionship of others rather than the self imposed solitude of recent months. Perhaps I was in need of a change.

 It’s all about choices, I think. I chose to escape for a little while to recoup, rebuild, and hopefully reinvent. I’m currently on a mission of self-discovery, which of course is an old cliche, but true nonetheless.

I plan to take some time off from the mundane 9 to 5, to write and to start my portraiture up again. The writing I hope to be good at, the portraiture I’m think I’m half decent. I’m also going back to study something completely different. I will continue to motor on, as I have always done, but I feel the need to stop and sniff the roses along the sidetracks, and take in the view every now and again.

Does the island have its drawbacks? Sure, for the cosmopolitan creature that resides in me, it’s hell. It’s more difficult to have a social agenda when you are limited by ferry timetables and legwork from one car to the other. I’ve become the world’s biggest advocate for internet data download, and I would be lost without my online support system of friends and mentors. I’ve even thought about naming one of my dogs ‘Friday’, but I think that would be too extreme – and probably confusing for my dog. The island has around 800 permanent residents, most of whom are easy to get along with, but like any small community network, you can’t sneeze on south side without somebody finding out about it on the north side the next day, so I try not to sneeze too often. Makes good sense not to spread germs around anyway.

I hope to create a record of the next few months here in my diary entries, and look back and evaluate my progress. I should have done this years ago, it would have made interesting reading in part, perhaps not for all, but for some who can relate.

Neighbours

‘Did you hear the latest?’

Alice looked up from her weeding to see Harry’s face grinning at her from over the back fence. She felt a surge of irritation. No, she hadn’t heard the latest, and she didn’t want to. She wanted to get her weeding done, in peace and quiet. She put her head down and pulled at the weeds again, hoping he’d go away.

He coughed and she turned to glare at him from underneath her straw hat. He was getting closer, and his grin was widening. He had something to say and he was going to say it, regardless of her indifference.

‘Harry, I can’t chat. As you can see, I have things to do.’

Harry frowned as he ran his eyes over the weeds and the moss covered pavers. ‘Don’t know why you don’t get a gardener in.’ He chuckled as he looked her up and down. ‘You’re no spring chicken you know.’

And neither are you Harry Tate. Alice bit back the retort and yanked at a large weed. She wouldn’t need any help if Harry didn’t appear like magic at the back fence every time she picked up a shovel. She always ended up going back into the house, and got nothing done.

The weed came away and ricocheted. She watched with horror as her garden gnome fell onto her terracotta pot and smashed into a thousand pieces.

‘You won’t find another gnome like that one, you know.’ Harry leaned a little further over the fence to inspect the damage. ‘Don’t make gnomes like they used to.’

Alice pulled her hat further over her face.

‘Jim bought you that years ago.’ He chuckled. ‘He reckoned it was the ugliest thing he’d ever seen in his life. Nearly took it back and got a frog.’

Alice pushed her hat back up and glared at him. ‘And now it’s ruined, Harry Tate!’ She stood up and reached for the garden broom, resisting the urge to poke him back over the fence with it.

‘I’ve got plenty Alice.’ Harry winked down at her, ‘You can have one of mine.’

Alice sighed. It was pointless being mad at him. Forty years of leaning over the back fence had desensitised him to the cold shoulder. After he’d burned her back fence down and destroyed her mango tree fifteen years ago, she thought she’d seen the last of him until he managed to almost power saw his finger off one Sunday afternoon, and she’d rushed him up to the local hospital. After that, as far as Harry was concerned, they were backfence buddies once again.

‘Shirley and Bob are splitting up.’ Harry’s voice became louder as he followed her along the fence, his face red from the exertion. ‘No one saw that coming.’ He shouted at Alice’s back, as she kneeled further into the corner. ‘Except me of course.’ Harry slapped the back fence triumphantly, laughing even louder.

Startled, Alice fell forward, landing face first into the large pile of compost she had been building up against the back fence. ‘Harry!’ she spat rotting leaves and dirt as she picked herself up.

Harry laughed so hard he could barely breathe. ‘Jeez Alice, skirt up, head down. What a sight!’

She cringed, pulling her skirt down with one hand and brushing her face with the other. That’ll be all over town by tomorrow. The colour of her knickers discussed over the morning paper at the newsagents.

‘I’m going inside Harry.’

Harry’s chuckling followed her to the back door and along the hallway to the bathroom. ‘So you don’t want one of my garden gnomes, eh?’

Alice turned on the tap and shut the window. A gardener might not be such a bad idea after all.

Two hours later, there was a knock at the door. Alice could make out Harry’s large frame through the stained glass, and she shrank back into the corner of the loungechair. Maybe he would think she was asleep. It wouldn’t be the first time. He hovered for a while, and bent down to put something by the door. Alice strained to see what it was, but she didn’t relax as she heard his whistling getting further away. What on earth had the silly old coot left on her doorstep this time? Last month it had been a couple of bottles from his home brew collection, which had subsequently exploded in her kitchen cupboard and taken hours to clean up.

She felt guilty as she eyed the garden gnome sitting on her welcome mat. It was an exact likeness of the smashed one. The one that Jim had given her. Alice tried to smile. Too bad Harry wasn’t like Jim, she might get along with him a little better. Harry and Jim had been as different as chalk and cheese, but they had been great mates. She suspected that Harry missed old Jim just as much as she did. She clicked her tongue. She was getting soft. There was no comparison. Harry was loud and brash. Jim had been quiet and conservative. Harry was adventurous and often clumsy. Jim had been careful, but sure of himself. Alice had lived a calm, quiet and unassuming lifestyle, and was quite used to it. Unless Harry upset her applecart, of course, as he often did.

A few days later Alice was out in the back yard again. She eyed the fence every now and again for Harry’s familiar face, but nothing interrupted her digging all afternoon. She felt quite satisfied as she stood back to inspect her handywork, and she nodded her head and smiled to herself. It was amazing what one could accomplish when there was no interference. It was almost a surreal moment as Alice placed Harry’s gnome in the same position as its predessesor. She looked back up at the fence again. It was unusual for Harry not to appear at least once. Perhaps he had gone out for the day. Alice shook her head at the idea, it was more unusual for Harry not to tell her where he was going and why.

Alice was still thinking about Harry as she sipped her evening cup of tea. She peered out the kitchen window into Harry’s loungeroom. His house was in darkness. It was only 6.30pm, and he was usually settling down to his current affair program, with all the lights ablaze from one end of the house to the other. Alice clicked her tongue, she was not a stickybeak, but where Harry Tate was concerned, anything was possible. She thought about the time she had rushed him to the local hospital when he had nearly power sawed his finger off in an attempt at some do-it-yourself cabinet making in his back shed. And the time he had tried to wash his roof off wearing a pair of rubber thongs. He had slipped and landed head first into his orange tree, and had hung upside down with a broken arm for hours before she had found him. She felt a sick feeling rising in her stomach. She could wait no longer, Harry could be in trouble.

‘Harry!’ Alice pushed in past the front door, grateful she had insisted on a spare key for his front door after the last mishap. She turned the lights on and looked in the front rooms, methodically going through the whole house calling his name. There was no sign of him. ‘Harry!’ A strange feeling was twisting in Alice’s chest. True, she was genuinely concerned for Harry’s welfare, but the fear of not seeing him again was paramount, like losing a loved one or a friend. Her stomach knotted as she heard a soft groaning from the back door.

‘Alice,’ Harry was lying half down the back steps surrounded by a colourful display of wilted flowers and garden gnomes. ‘Jeez, am I glad to see you.’ His leg was twisted in an odd direction and he clutched at his chest. ‘Alice love, I’m sorry, I don’t want to put you out, but I think I need to go to the hospital.’

Tears were running down Alice’s cheeks as she patted his hand. God knows what he’d been trying to do this time, but he must have been here for a while. His morning cup of tea still sat on the top step. ‘Stay still Harry, I’ll call the ambulance.’

Harry greeted the hospital staff like they were old friends. In a way they were. He’d been here often enough.

‘Back again Harry.’ An emergency room doctor smiled at him. ‘You’re lucky you have Alice to look after you.’ They knew her too, merely by association. She hadn’t had a sick day in her life.

‘Yeh,’ Harry smiled up at Alice and patted her hand. She blushed and pulled her hand away.

‘Let’s get you off to x-ray and see how bad it is.’ The ward nurse whisked him down the hallway. She turned towards Alice before she disappeared around the corner. ‘Will you be waiting for Mr Tate when he returns?’

Alice sighed as she sat down in the chair. ‘I guess so, he has nobody else.’

For the next two hours Alice sat and tried to read the magazines that dotted the tables in the waiting room. She couldn’t concentrate on the outdated information anymore than she could stop thinking about Harry and his mishaps. She had been a regular here when Jim became ill, and had continued the tradition with Harry. The hospital staff probably thought they had a thing for each other. She blushed again. She supposed poor Harry’s heart was in the right place, but he had two left feet and an itchy trigger finger. His good ideas and intentions were not always a product of good research and experience. Throwing caution to the wind was ok when you were young but it had it’s drawbacks when you were past tree climbing. Alice glanced up the hospital hallway. Harry wasn’t getting any younger. She would have to set him straight.

Two weeks later and Harry was home again, leg in plaster and home assistance three or four days a week. Alice had become his designated minder when no one else was available. So much for setting him straight, she was practically living with him. Her whole life had been turned upside down by a grinning old coot in a wheelchair. It had been a long time since she’d had to take care of anybody else, and she blushed every time she thought about helping Harry dress himself when he couldn’t manage, which was most of the time.  He seemed to enjoy the shananigans, and made a big thing out of it. Alice was sure it would all become good gossip as soon as Harry could get down to the local newsagents again. It didn’t really matter, people were beginning to talk anyway.

‘How’s Harry?’ was the usual start to conversation these days. People just assumed that what they thought was obvious. Alice put down her cup of tea and sighed. There was nothing obvious about Harry Tate except his penchant for natural disaster. Her mouth curled into a slight smile. He was beginning to grow on her.

‘What are you grinning about?’ It was Harry, wrapped up in a dressing gown, with tea and biscuits. He was hobbling about now, and in an out of his wheelchair at regular intervals. It wouldn’t be long before Alice could spend more time in her own kitchen and her own garden. She was surprised that she didn’t feel as elated about this as she would have liked.

‘Nothing Harry.’ she wanted to change the subject. ‘I was just thinking about dinner.’

‘Don’t you worry about dinner tonight, you’ve done enough for me.’ Harry grabbed another crutch and swung into the kitchen. ‘I’m cooking my famous spagghetti bolognase.’ He swayed on his crutches as he reached for the frypan, and Alice jumped up from her chair.

‘Stay right there Alice. I’m fine. I’m not an invalid you know. Even though you think I’m useless.’ There was sadness in his voice as he shook his head. ‘I’m alright at some things, you know.’

Alice felt her face burning. ‘Harry, I have never said that you were useless. I just get annoyed with you at times, that’s all.’ she felt guilt rising in waves. There were plenty of times when she thought Harry was irritating, loud, silly and over-exuberant, but not useless. At least not in so many words, anyway. She looked away.

‘There, you see. You do think I’m useless.’ Harry did his best to puff out his chest and stand up straight. ‘I promised Jim I would look after you when he was gone.’ He looked her in the eye. ‘But I’m not Jim, Alice.’

As they looked at each other across the room, Alice felt a warmth in her chest that she hadn’t felt for a long time. She held out her arms and embraced the startled Harry and his crutches. ‘Oh Harry. It’s ok. You are fine how you are. I don’t mind at all.’ Alice was crying. It was true. She didn’t really mind. Harry was annoying, yes – but he kept her on her toes. Which is probably what she had needed all these years. She felt a great weight lift from her shoulders.

Harry hugged her back. ‘So you think we can be friends?’

Alice smiled. ‘Harry, we were always friends. It just took me a while to realise it.’

The Long Road

Sam shivered, staring into the gloom as she closed the office door, and she cursed her dodgy old car. There was no public transport at night, and the local taxi driver was off with the flu. She pulled her handbag over her shoulder and stuffed her freezing hands into her pockets in resignation. She would have to walk more than two miles in the Winter chill.

Her pace quickened as she reached the crest of the hill and her breathing evened out. A flickering streetlight cast an eerie dance of shadows beneath her feet as she passed beneath it. She walked faster, glancing around her as she walked through the deserted town centre. The only sounds she could hear were the wind and her footsteps echoing into the darkness.

She neared the corner and paused where the path had disappeared into the bullgrass. The concrete had crumbled and it shifted beneath her feet as she tried to step around the sodden mess. The sludge seeped into her new shoes as they slipped further into the mud. As she tried to balance herself, a piece of concrete gave way, and she felt herself falling sideways. Pain shot through her ankle as she landed in a spattered heap on the side of the road. 

She groaned as she pulled herself up. She was soaked from the waist down from the frigid pool of water. She shivered as she pulled her coat around her and picked up her bag. Her ankle throbbed as she took a step forward and and tears welled in her eyes. She hobbled to the other side of the path and looked around her. Half a dozen lights in the distance were the only sign of life. There were a few houses out this way, but it could hardly be called suburbia. Why had she ever come here? The peace and quiet was proving to be bad for her health.

Her family had told her she was mad, that it was too soon to make any rash decisions after Jeff’s accident. She was beginning to think they were right as she looked down the long dark road towards her old farm house.

The last streetlight was lost in the mist, and the path gave way to potholes and loose gravel. Her ankle throbbed and she cursed with every step. A bat flew out of the trees above her and circled for a moment. It swooped, clawed at her hair and flapped into her face. She screamed, staggered backwards and waved her handbag around her in panic. The bat flew off and shrieked into the night air, as she landed on her backside in a tangle of twigs and leaves. She sat there for a moment and rubbed her ankle. Her night wasn’t going well at all. 

 She saw the headlights, and her spirits lifted. She might be able to wrangle a lift from one of the old farmers on their way home. As it moved towards her, the engine purred softly, and her enthusiasm evaporated. It wasn’t one of the old clunkers from around here, that was for sure.  She tensed as the headlights flashed and she was caught like a rabbit in their rays. The car slowed to a crawl, but passed her without stopping. She stood up and moved back into the bushes as the brake lights glowed.

She waited for a moment. Maybe they were lost. She waited for the window to wind down and a friendly voice to cut into the rhythmic purring of the sleek machine just metres away from her. Nothing happened. Her imagination started to twitch. Maybe it was time to leave. She picked up her handbag and hobbled up the rise.

She heard the car moving away and the crunching of gravel as it slowed again and turned around. It was coming back. She watched it as it slid by her and braked ahead. She moved further up the path away from the road. This didn’t feel right. Her stomach twisted into knots.

The headlights burned into her back and the engine revved as she moved past it up the rise. The path was moving away from the road and there was a ditch in between her and the car. She sighed. It was probably just some nut out to get his jollies before dinner time. She would be home soon in a hot bath. She relaxed. She could make out her front porch light as she squinted through the trees. She reached inside her handbag for her keys. They were gone.

Diary entry

Here I am again. I’m trying to think of something witty to say, but a headcold and the subsequent mental fog is wreaking havoc with any sharp wit or intellect that may have been present on occasion when I have tapped away previously. So I will poke fun at myself for a while and see how I go.

I’ve noticed that when I’m feeling miserable and unwell, I’m also feeling sorry for myself. I guess that goes with the territory of ‘what you are on the inside will affect the outside… blah, blah.’ Sorry, but tissues and chicken soup are being served up for my misery guts at present, and I’m wallowing in it.  Having said that, division one in the national lottery could go a long way in improving my mental disposition, regardless of my physical state. So there you have it. I could probably improve my mood merely by the power of thought folks, but today I choose not to. I will work on it tomorrow, or the next day, when the mists part, and my appetite for food and the ironic return.

Late nighter

I’m up late again. Funny the things that can keep you awake. My mind tends to go over the days events at times, replaying and revamping for the better case scenario, and wandering into stuff that hasn’t even happened yet. My do-it-yourself psychology book tells me that I’m focusing on the past and negative emotions, which, by practicing cognitive behaviourial therapy, I can change my thought processes around, and therefore feel better about myself. My book also tells me that stress can occur when I focus on future events that haven’t occured, and for the most part, generally don’t occur anyway. Reframing the way you think, they say, is the answer to retraining your brain.

I agree, for the most part, that the above is true. I can see the logic of it there in front of me. Trouble is, I’m not good at sticking to the plan, although I am getting better at it. I am a natural worrier of sorts, if you can call it that, and I can stress out with the best of them. I think small doses can be ok and a learning experience, but trying to undo years and years of conditioning when you have a family full of eccentrics, neurotics and closet nuts, can be a hard call.

I think some of my family’s eccentricities have defined me. I have never really played by the rules, and can appreciate irony, particularly when it is weird, funny and not directed at me. I usually have a thing or two to say, some researched and verifiable, some not – an opinion in my family was important, whether it be objective, subjective, or just plain ludicrous. My penchant for motorbikes comes from my father, a slicked back, greased up highwayman of the fifties. Not so eccentric you say, but tell that to my conservative neighbours when they see a nearing middle-aged five foot nothing woman fire up her beast and ride into the sunset.

I don’t drink and I don’t smoke, but I don’t need it. My mind is out there enough without being helped along by a dose of funny stuff that can make you see things crawling down the walls. I can get that on digesics. I’m allergic to them. My husband tells me that it must be a real blast to have allergies to things – because you never know where your next ‘fix’ is going to come from. At least he’s an optimist.

Optimism is a funny thing. You either have it or you don’t. My family’s eccentricities were not akin to optimimism, although not irrational, and to an outsider completely normal. Having said that, after years of mature observation and study of society at large, I would say that I was one of the lucky ones. I guess you could call that optimism, couldn’t you?