30 May 2016


I like to read.

And by 'like' I mean love. Like adore. I soak up books. I use books to turn my brain off, turn my brain on. I read magazines, devour news articles, read the fine print. When I was young, I worked my way through my own books, library books and the books on my parent's bookshelves.

I have preferred genres. These change. My bookshelves appear eclectic to anyone but me but I can pull a book off the shelf and tell you how old I was, where I was living and the state of my life at the time I read it.  I don't like everything I read. There is the odd book I haven't been able to finish and having to study Tess of the D'urbervilles three times in two years means that I loathe the book and it's lead character with a passion normally reserved for the truly evil.

I read incredibly fast and even at 41 still occasionally realise I've never said a word out loud when I go to use it and realise that my mouth is not familiar with the shape and texture of the word, even though I have read it a million times.  I enjoy spending time with other prolific readers and I apply the 'page 99 rule' when overwhelmed by choice in a book store. I have literally read thousands of books.

And now that I have been a parent for almost six years I can safely say that I never want to read 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar" ever again.

Obviously, we read to our daughters. We have since they were born. They love listening to stories. They love telling them. They love re-enacting them when they play together. And this year, our eldest daughter is learning to read for herself.

And I am becoming increasingly aware how many words there are in the world to read that we never notice.  Until accompanied by somebody that has just learned how to read.

Going out in the world with somebody that has just cracked the great mystery of reading requires doubling the time it takes to go anywhere so we have time to sound out every single word we see.

Every. Single. Word.

We read the words on street signs and stickers on the backs of cars.

We stop to read graffiti.

We read shop names, clothing labels, the names of cereals in the supermarket.

We read magazine covers, no junk mail signs on letterboxes.

We read the shopping list aloud.

We read the spines of the books in the lounge room.

The covers of DVDs.

We read the brands on prams as we pass people by and every single word written on t-shirts.

We read ALL the signs on buses, trains and every single construction site around us.

We read words on envelopes, sales receipts, brochures.

We read name labels, safety instructions, the toy catalogue.

We read business cards, book marks, the words on the remote.

We read everything.

Even the stop sign. Which I obviously see without reading. But now we stop to read it. Every single time.

It turns out that there are words everywhere that I have been paying absolutely no mind to as I go about my days.

I find her enthusiasm for the joy of words incredibly endearing. I love how her face lights up when she's managed to sound out a word for herself and how indignant she was when she realised that people use the number 2 to represent the word 'to'.

"It's just WRONG Mum, why do they do it when it's WRONG?"

She's going to feel the pain of their, there, they're very young I think.

We can no longer spell words out we don't want her to understand because she just writes them down and sounds them out until she cracks it. She hears every conversation you have and asks you to write down words she has heard you say so she can see what they look like.

We are obsessed with hangman and some game she made up that involves letters and lines that she always wins because none of us understand it. But all of it is for the love of words.

She reads to me at night now. Slowly and with an amusing mix of genuine ability and a dose of chutzpah we are making our way through yet another story about two girls and a dog. There are so, so, so many stories about two girls and dogs.

So just like that - she's a reader.

She's literate.

She's cracked open the mysteries of the universe.

She's found love.

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17 May 2016

I'm a heterosexual

And I bet you don't give a rat's bottom.

But I do need to start this by stating that I am a heterosexual married white female.

Not transgender.

Not homosexual.

Not bisexual.

Not queer at all if we're referring to sexuality.

You still don't care right?

I'm one of those humans that gets all their human rights here in the land down under handed to them on a platter because I'm
  • heterosexual
  • white
both of which I have no control over.

Am I still boring you?

I have no control over the female thing either to be honest though my human rights get muddied a little there because of ingrained misogyny, centuries of patriarchal privilege and all that jazz.  But that is not important today.

Ooh. Now you're wondering why I'm not getting on my #feminist high horse?

I chose to get married and because my heterosexuality is deemed more worthy of human rights than your 'otherness' here in the land of plenty I was able to do so without any fuss or bother. Bar the bother and fuss of organising a wedding and trying to keep everybody happy. #heterosexualAustralianproblems

Ah.... here's her soapbox you're thinking?

Yep. Help me up okay!

It's the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia and the focus is on celebrating gender and sexual identity and I can't share any personal experience which would maybe get you to rethink any ingrained bigotry you have about homosexuals or transgender individuals or any of the other less mainstream sexual identities.

But I can tell you this.

I obviously grew up knowing lots of gay people. It's just that as an Australian child of the 80s at a Catholic co-ed school whose naivety was outweighed only by her gullibility, I didn't know they were gay. It wasn't something you spoke about unless you were listening to George Michael and you knew the rumours of him being gay were clearly WRONG because you'd seen his "I want your sex" video. It had a girl in it = not gay.

Clearly I was an idiot but it was 1987. I was 12 years old and felt incredibly worldly just being able to sing lyrics like "sex is natural, sex is fun, sex is best when it's one on one." (Like you'd want to do anything that embarrassing with more than one person - EVER)

By the time I realised all the gay people were gay I didn't care. That's not because of some kind of huge revelation or anything. I just don't care about your sexual orientation.

I don't mean that offensively. I just don't care.

Just like you don't care that I'm heterosexual.

I was fascinated when my friends started coming out, mainly because so much about life fell into place for me. I understood them better because they weren't having to hide something about themselves which was as natural as breathing. But you know, when you start to recognise that you actually know a lot of gay people, it just reinforces to you that you're incredibly unobservant sometimes.

The only thing that changed for me is language. Turns out like every other person, my casual use of homophobic language was awful. It didn't change overnight - it takes time to reframe your inside thinking to filter out words and phrases which are clearly not nice, not helpful and totally informed by a lifetime of unrealised thinking that homosexuality was 'different'.

It makes me sad that we are still talking about people's sexual and gender preferences.  It enrages me that we have legislation that differentiates. I become apoplectic when people talk homosexuals and transgender people being responsible for the fall of civilisation.  DO YOU READ THE NEWS PEOPLE? The apocalypse is coming and I can assure you it's entirely the doing of heterosexual madmen, bigots and haters. Calm the fuck down will you.

It pleases me that my girls are growing up not realising that there is any difference to the love between Brad and James, Mum and Dad or Tash and Dee. Nor do they give a shit because quite frankly all kissing between adults is 'icky'.

And this isn't because of anything we're doing to indoctrinate them. It's just that kids aren't arsehats to start with. They've got to learn hateful behaviour and we just don't let them hang around bigots to minimise the chance of this happening. They've met transgender men and women and never noticed. Because if you say your name is Sue, they just say "Okay, hi Sue." Because kids don't care.

I don't know if my girls are homosexual or heterosexual. Mainly because when one of them is choosing to wear underpants on her head to school, she's clearly got more important things to think about right now. And I hope that for them, identifying their sexual orientation never becomes more important than underpants on their head.

Because it shouldn't matter. It doesn't matter. #loversgonnalove

Hatred is a learned behaviour. And it always but always stems from ignorance.  We need to stop it and it's not actually that hard if we all follow the same simple rules:

1. Don't be a dick.

2. Don't teach your children to be dicks.

3. Wear underpants on your head when you go out into the world at least once before you die.

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5 May 2016

So. John.

In 1992 when I was 17 and half years old, I went with a bunch of other Scouting types (aged about 14-21) to Russia. It was a couple of short years after walls and curtains had collapsed around communist regimes and the youth in Soviet countries were starting to find their feet in the shining light of democracy (ahem).  Which was basically just chaos. You could still see the soviet imagery behind the freshly painted facades of hotels and camps, and the churches built without any kind of metal were still boarded up and pockmarked with iron nails in the forests around the Volga.

It was a crazy, idyllic and emotional few weeks. We dashed into Lake Lagoda on a 38 degree day and dashed back onto the sands where it took us about 12 hours to recover. The waters between Russia and Finland are cold even in summer. We canoed up the Volga, wandered around Red Square, examined the gold leaf papering the walls of the Kremlin, billeted with local families, delighted in the seven towers of St Basil, marvelled at the restoration of the Summer Palace, spoke terrible Russian, decided that a dead Lenin wasn't worth queuing up for, ate Macdonalds in what was the biggest Macdonalds we had ever seen, taught Russian youth Australian slang, tasted caviar, experienced our first Russian sauna, ate strawberries dipped in vodka. Friendships were made, some started dating, one guy came out. We took photos, wrote letters, send postcards, bought vodka.

Drank it all in Rome and had the photos of me sleeping in a bath surface on my 21st a few years later.

That trip was also the start of an easy friendship that lasted almost 25 years. And ended with John dying earlier this week, unexpectedly and entirely without notice, aged 45.

The big happy heart that made John such an easy friend, a loving and committed husband, an affectionate and proud dad, a brother, a son.... well that very same heart took him away.

It is entirely without irony that I say it is heartbreaking.

The same guy that introduced me to alternative Australian folk rock, that swam across the shipping lanes of the Volga without getting hit by a ship, that moshed so hard at the ANU he gave himself whiplash, whose face always smiled when he said his wife's name, who made sure everybody in the room at my 21st saw my 17 year old self asleep in the Roman bath, who chatted and cavorted at our wedding, who always greeted you as if you had merely been in the next room no matter how much time passed between visits, who delighted in his children's mischief and their achievements, that same guy is gone. Just like that.

There he is in the middle of it.
 And my husband is the one doing blue steel at the back.
If it is incomprehensible to me that this world no longer has him in it, it must be even more so for his wife, children and family. It's not the milestones I grieve on their behalf though there will be many. It's the every day moments. The skipping of his daughter on her way to school. The shrieks in the backyard when the boys can't agree. The grazed knees. The bedtime stories. The wild tales so full of bullshit. The end of day wines. The deconstruction of a dinner party on the drive home. Somebody to blame when the sunscreen isn't packed. Somebody to laugh with when the youngest child says something completely inappropriate. The quiet moments when nothing is said. The hand holding.

He wasn't perfect - not one of us is. But he was joyous and so few people have that generosity of spirit that lets people be their own selves no matter what.  I am a firm believer in remembering people in technicolour - their faults and their virtues both.  And the most annoying thing I could come up with for John is that he voted Liberal.

A lot of my friends do.  I try not to judge generally but if technicolour is required, technicolour is required right?

So. John. It was awesome. But dude, It was not long enough. Not long enough at all.

Much love. Go well. x

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