But for me his work has never been about the Eldorado cabaret posters of Bruant, or the cynical twisted grin of Mlle Weber as she enters a restaurant on the arm of her sister. It has always been about his fascination with the demi-monde and his - and I mean this - respect for the girls who made their living sleeping with men for money.
The best friends are the ones who give you a hard time when you talk rubbish. Who don't roll their eyes (too badly) when the 3 a.m. text comes through saying 'I need to talk to you now'. Who catch your eye at a social gathering when things are a bit tricky biscuit and make you bite down on the inside of your lip so that you don't snort with inappropriate laughter.
They are the ones who catch you when you fall. And fall hard.
I realise this may sound too twee for words, but seriously - we get so wrapped up in whether we ourselves are happy or unhappy that at times, we tend not to celebrate our friends and families' exciting moments in a way that does them justice. I am not talking about hiring a blimp or skywriting 'CONGRATULATIONS ON TURNING 38 AND THREE QUARTERS' across Sydney, mind you - I am just saying when there's something big going down, let them know how fantastic you think it is. Take time out from your own blather and bullshit for just a moment and say 'Squee!' Or, in the immortal words of Babe the Pig, 'la, la, la!'
Those who read this blog (thank you, all three of you. You know who you are, and I love you very much) may have noticed a fall off in the number of posts recently. There's a very simple reason for this.
I have been ill. Wretchedly, horribly ill.
It's a common malaise. Many people suffer from it. It's endemic to those who profess to put words on a page for a living, it is heartbreaking in its severity and can cause symptoms as wide ranging as glugging wine straight from the bottle, headbashing on desks, throwing laptops across rooms and screaming randomly 'sod THIS for a joke!' and storming out of the room.
I refer, of course (I don't even want to say the words) -
To Writer's Block.
Sometimes the muse deserts me. Hell, she doesn't just desert, she goes on a bender in Vegas, wins big at the tables, gets comped a suite at Wynn and next thing I know she's married Prince Harry and I never see her again.
For those who write, the need to put words on a page, or a screen, or on the back of an envelope is overwhelming. They need to get out of your brain somehow before it turns into the Woolworths parking lot on Christmas Eve. But that doesn't mean they are worth sharing with the world. And for me, the last little while has been a case of frosty wind making moan in my thoughts - every topic which has sprung to mind has ended up in the mental shredder.
Until last week, when thankfully, discussions with two witty and wise friends brought the neurons back into a semblance of cerebral celebration.
The relief at feeling words starting to flow again cannot be underestimated. And this is not about thinking 'maybe someone will enjoy reading this' - because quite frankly, I don't actually write for anyone but myself, and I think the day you do start concentrating primarily on what other people think, then the words will dry up for good. Nope, it was 'man, I am really loving just getting this out of my noggin'.
And that is why this is a gratitude post.
Gratitude for two people understanding that sometimes words - they don't come easy to me, to quote an old(ish) song; and even more gratitude that with a bit of verbal Drano, the blockage was no more.
Whether others will be grateful remains to be seen, but as for me...
I'm lying here in bed this Friday morn feeling very grumbly. Not only do I have the flu (and yes it is the flu, Mum, not just a bad cold, I'm not playing Hypochondriac Heaven) - but I've just read through the magic of Facestalk that juniper berries are being threatened with some weird disease. So not only am I sick, but there exists the possibility of NO MORE GIN.
Time for a strategic retreat under the Doona of Destiny methinks. Unfortunately without a gin in hand, but eight o'clock in the morning would be pushing it.
This has not been a good week. It may be the Winter Solstice, but there will be no naked skylarking to celebrate this fact. It's too bloody cold, even in Golden Queensland. And sniffles and nude frolics don't really go together, so again doona downtime wins out.
What else can I grumble about? My hatred of telecommunications behemoths? Hmmmmm. Possibly not. That would take up more time and space than a dozen blog posts, reduce people to tears and/or yawns and make me so cross that I might get a bit vigilante-ish and end up in the news on Facestalk myself.
So maybe I will just say this.
Yesterday was a bloody awful day for a lot of people out there it seems. This week and in fact 2013 in general seem to not be on the money for many of my loved ones; and I'm buggered if I'm going to be the one saying 'turn that frown upside down' when their crises are real and significant.
For me, I know that my grumbles are (mainly) just that; grumbles. They are the product of feeling physically heinous and frustrated with said condition. This year could be dubbed 'The Year Of The Sick As A Dog' if the Chinese horoscope felt like breaking with tradition, and yes I'm fed up with it.
But I will stand tall - or lie tall, as I can't get out of bed without fainting - and be positive. Ish. When it comes down to the crunch, I am grateful for so many things. Not least of which is the fact that I have people to care for me when I am sick (grammatical pats don't really count Dread P, but I'll take what I can get) and that I have friends and loved ones to rely on when things are tough.
That's a privilege, not a right, and my gratitude for these people is very wide and deep.
So perhaps I shall stop whinging for a little while at least, and count my blessings instead. As a wise friend said just a few moments ago on the ever present Facestalk, Mother and Father to us all:
"When life hands you over-ripe bananas, make strawberry-orange-banana smoothies."
I am, I realise, more and more every day, a fortunate woman.
I am living where I wish to live.
I am, if not healthy, on the path to health.
I am able to do the work that I love.
And above all else, I am truly blessed in the amazing women that I am lucky enough to not only plot and scheme with on a professional level, but also call my friends. This has been very much brought home to me in the past few months, when times have not been so great, and the solidarity and support which they have shown me has been beyond description.
And the standout sister - for me, and I know for so many others - of these fabulous females, is having a birthday today!
Happy Birthday Janine.
When I thought about writing this post, and saying how grateful I was to JG, I thought "oh, this will be simple - I know how much she means to me, I'll just say it". But as it turns out I'm a little bit flummoxed. How do you express your gratitude to someone whom you have so much respect for without sounding cheesy? How do you say that their guidance, and enthusiasm, and simple passion for what they do manages to lift you up when things are really grim, without it being just words on a page?
I suppose I can only say what I feel, and hope Janine doesn't roll her eyes (not that she would, because she's far nicer than me), and understands the message behind the meanderings.
Janine, I don't think you understand the impact you have on so many, many people. And yes, especially women - of all walks of life. You give out absolutely everything, without expecting anything in return. I'm constantly floored by your energy and fire for making things better. It's extraordinary. You make me laugh like an absolute idiot (I'm so not going there with the stories), and you make business fun. You and your rock star hair!
I am grateful for your friendship. I am grateful for your grace. I am grateful for your strength. I am grateful you are you. You have taught me more about being a strong woman, without lecturing or bossiness, than anyone I have ever met before. The gratitude is ever present, and always will be.
If you are lucky enough to be a part of this extraordinary woman's life, don't undervalue her. And make sure you tell her how fab she is.
Because I guarantee she tells you on a regular basis.
So. I am living in Queensland, yes? Yes. And in theory, that means several things. Slower voices. Strange words like 'port' for suitcase. A sudden overwhelming urge to support the Reds in the Super 15s. Banana bending. (Just kidding, large mob of angry Queenslanders coming towards me with pitchforks). Endemic to where I am living, of course, lots and lots of fake tan, fake hair and fake boo- uh... body parts.
And I assumed, glorious, glorious warm weather. Sunshiny days. Mild evenings. A winter of blissful non-frostbitey 'ha-has' to my Southern sisters.
Yes. In theory... yes.
There is no denying that the people watching is amazing around these parts. It's a veritable smorgasbord of 'come as you are, or perhaps as you always wanted to be, but didn't have the guts to be anywhere else'. I feel bewilderingly normal, and thus stand out like a sore thumb, because I have no image. None. I need to develop one, but as everything I have seen so far involves heavy body inking, tandoori tanning, bleaching and/or inserting of silicone, it might take a while and involuntary anaesthesia before it happens.
As for the weather?
I arrived back home Sunday night from an unexpected weekend away, and it was, as our lovely pilot cheerfully informed us, eight degrees. Apparently the night before it had been four; the second coldest night in Gold Coast history.
This is not what I signed up for.
My ugg boots were supposed to stay firmly in the back of the wardrobe; I was only to pull my coat out of same wardrobe when going to more southerly climes - I actually gave away the more substantial layers of style that composed the House of Kate. Winter? Winter, to misquote A Game Of Thrones, was not coming.
Last night I actually had to put socks on. This will not do.
I would like Queensland to get its act together please, and turn on the sunlamps. OK, so I may be the palest person on the planet, and my skin tone may somewhat resemble a speckled trout's tummy, but that is beside the point; I like to feel warm whilst I am sitting in my straw hat and thirty plus. You can be sun smart and smugly happy at the same time.
You may well ask, as I have just spent the last zillion paragraphs whinging, where the gratitude is in this post.
It's quite simple really.
It may be a touch frostier than I was expecting up here in the not so sunshiney state, but when it comes down to it, I am massively lucky. Unlike a hell of a lot of Australians, I am sleeping in a lovely warm bed, and if I need to, I can grab as many extra covers as I want to put on said bed. I have, for that matter, a warm coat.
If you want to get down to brass tacks, I have socks.
Things are a bit rough for me health wise at present, and it has made me more than usually aware of a few things. Every time I think about what I don't have, I am constantly reminded of what I do have. It makes me feel humble, and grateful, and very, very thankful despite all of my groaning and moaning about feeling a slight chilliness in the air, and I know how trivial my complaints are compared to what so many people are facing on a day to day basis - simply trying to survive.
I don't wish to sound preachy, but if you are lucky enough to be a 'have' this winter, take a moment to be grateful, and think about the 'have nots' - and actively do something to help.
You may just find the sun will come out if you do.
It has been, to put it mildly, a
very trying week. I am not even going to pretend otherwise. There are
times when it is better to lay down one's arms, stop trying to rule the known world and simply admit defeat; to say to the dragon 'come out, come out wherever you are' and let it
flame you for a few moments before taking up shield and sword again.
Even princesses in shining armour need a break every so often.
I was talking last week about not sucking it up. And yet again, I may
sound as though I am having a bit of a whinge. In a way I suppose I am,
because I am talking about being in physical agony. But I am also
talking about gratitude, and how I feel about normally having it - well,
normally having it pretty damn good.
Pain. It stinks. It is not a nice place to be - at all. I don't like
visiting, and I cannot believe that I used to basically live here on a full time basis.
What I also cannot believe is how much I take for granted now in terms of how well I am generally, and how grateful I am for the progress that I have made, and continue to make, in terms of staying healthy and fighting what my body and brain would quite like me to give in to at times.
I am also grateful that I know the reasons behind my pain this week, and that I know there is a 'most of the time I am fine' end in sight. For so many people whom I know who have Parkinson's or Dystonia - or both - they are not so lucky. They hurt all the time.
All. The. Time.
Imagine being 30 years old. Or 35. Or 40. And you wake up in the middle of the night and your back is twisted, and your feet are in cramps so severe that they form circles, and your jaw is trying to make its way through your collarbone just for the hell of it. And it just won't stop. Not just for minutes, or hours; but days. Or weeks. Or months.
I have only faced days at a time.
My beautiful Rogers - and in fact so many people I know - face, and have faced, the latter.
Sometimes I underestimate her bravery because of her silly sense of humour and because she is so gorgeous that you forget about the lean-over. And she doesn't talk about the pain.
But then whenever I end up as a pretzel I remember.
And I think all over again about how amazing she is. How amazing all of the wonderful people that I know are.
And how grateful I am for their strength.
I will say this, and it is something it has taken me a long time to learn; if you are in physical pain, don't be afraid to admit it. I am not talking about sitting there and constantly griping 'I'm hurting', because believe me, people will get sick of it pretty bloody quickly. But - if you don't speak out, then nobody will understand just what is going on, and when you are irritated, or sharp, or simply aren't coping, they will be puzzled, and perhaps angry, because it will be out of the blue. If you are factual and admit to what is going on with your body, then understanding from those who care about you will be there. Not from everyone - but from those who care for and love you, yes.
I am constantly and consistently grateful for those who express empathy to and for me. Not in a 'keep me in an illness box' way, or a pitying way - but in a 'let's get you better, constructive, slay that goddamn pain dragon' way. Particularly the Dread Pirate who has been very good (in a piratey fashion naturally).
It helps me put the armour back on, however heavy it may feel, and get ready to fight the good fight again.
Last Mother's Day I wrote about my grandmother because it was very close to the date that would have been her hundredth birthday. Not out of any lack of love or respect for my Mama - quite the opposite - she would I know agree that without my Gran'ma she would (literally, ha, ha) be half the person she is.
But I definitely owe the P a post. She is going to kill me for putting this photo in, so I may as well go hell for leather and embarrass her totally.
She is my best friend. If you are a grown up (or semi grown up in my case) woman and you are able to say 'my mother is my best friend' consider yourself very, very fortunate indeed. As a teenager - forget it. You are going to scorn everything your mum says, wears and does - and then as an adult probably end up saying, wearing and doing all the same things (in my case yes, sort of and yes). You will scream 'I hate you' and then if you are smart, apologise.
But as an adult - yay. The thought of not talking to P on a daily basis is one that frightens me so badly that I stick my fingers in my ears and go 'la, la, la' until the bad men go away. She is the still, calm voice in the centre of the hurricane that constitutes my brain.
She is my inner eye.
My mother is an amazing woman.
She would be the first to scoff at this. She is incredibly unassuming
and very modest. She has no idea of the quiet impact she has on all
those she comes in contact with. Her employees, her friends, her family.
Me. Always me. Even when we have fought. If I am in a strop, I really
do try to stop and think 'how would P handle this?' - because invariably
it would be with better grace and humour than myself.
has handled blows that would fell strong men. She has watched her
children mess up time and again - and sadly had to watch one of them go
through illnesses that I know in her heart she blames herself for, despite
there being no reason for it. It's not her fault. As the one going
through said illnesses, I say this with certainty. But I hear that little
voice inside her saying 'yes it is' and as that same voice ticks inside
me I will not attempt to shut it up, but simply say this.
Mumsy, Mama, Big P.
are my sanity and my succour. You are the first person I turn to -
always - even if I am narky with you. You are the snort at the other end
of the phone when I need to let off steam. I laugh til I cry with you
about stuff which nobody in their right minds would find remotely
amusing, or understand, and that is fantastic. The fact that we have had
a running joke of one word for well on twenty years is testament to
both our combined sense of the ridiculous and what can only be called
deep, deep love.
find it hard to put into words the respect that I have for you, both as
a mother and as a woman. So let me just say I am grateful for you, I
will continue to be grateful for you, and I will try to show it every
It's ANZAC Day. To be exact, it's three in the morning, and in about an hour and a half, I am going to get up and get ready to go to the Dawn Service. So yes, I should be asleep, but for various reasons I am not, and one of those reasons makes me very happy indeed, and is also relevant to the day.
I speak quite often on my blog about the Dread Pirate, and the fact that he is off buccaneering. Those who know me, and said DP, are aware that he has not exactly been sailing the seven seas, but has in fact been in rather more of a landlocked location - but as for rip-roaring adventures - well, those I can definitely attest to (some slightly more rip-roaring than I am personally comfortable with, may I add).
It must be said, however, on this occasion, that he is more on the side of Her Majesty's forces than fighting under the auspices of the Jolly Roger.
And thankfully today - well, even pirates get to come home to their family and friends if they are fortunate - and even more fortunate for their family and friends, they get their pirate back in one piece. That is something I will be forever grateful for.
I am obviously massively proud of someone I care very much about. He has served not only with distinction and courage, but with conviction. He was true to his personal beliefs, to his mates, and to the ethos of the Australian Defence Force. To me, this sums up the ANZAC spirit, and so it is incredibly appropriate that he gets to return home on April 25.
Sometimes, a bit like other occasions, ANZAC Day seems to become more about the trappings and the ra-ra than what it truly represents. When it comes down to it, what we are talking about is remembrance. Remembrance and literally not forgetting; not forgetting not only those who have died in past and current conflicts for the rights of those who couldn't defend themselves, but not forgetting those who are out there now. Because we are still going. And sometimes, if you watch the news - particularly the commercial channels - you'd be hard-pressed to realise this. I have, over the past six months, mentioned in passing conversation to acquaintances where the Dread has been. And to my resignation - unfortunately not my astonishment - more than once they have said 'where's that?'
So today, if you are going to a service, or watching a parade on TV, or even eating ANZAC biccies, don't just think of the past - even though that is important.
The ANZAC spirit is alive and well, and out there fighting hard, and doing it bloody tough in most cases, in our amazing men and women of the Australian Army, Royal Australian Navy and Royal Australian Air Force. And doing it despite most people not thinking much of - or thinking much about - what they do.
364 days out of 365.
Lest We Forget.
And welcome home DP. With immense gratitude. And equally immense pride.
I was thinking late last night that I hadn't written a gratitude post for a while. And I have a confession to make. Whilst there have been some fairly big things that I have wanted to get off my chest in the last few posts, and which weren't suited to the attitude of gratitude - and boy, has that resulted in a few hiccups - there has been another reason for a slight reduction in the ratio of thankfulness.
I haven't actually been feeling very grateful for much at all.
I think, to put it plainly, that I have been having a violent attack of a well known disease of the twenty first century. There are a lot of sufferers out there - although sufferers is perhaps a misnomer. Malingerers is probably a better word for it.
To be blunt, I have been feeling sorry for myself. Having a fit of FirstWorldItis. Things have been going wrong. Laptops acting up. Banks stuffing me around. Telstra (shudder) messing with my ADSL. Health not - well, not crash hot, although that perhaps is a fair whinge in small doses at least. Really bad sleeps. Sebastian Vettel winning the Bahrain Grand Prix (again). And a few other things which I had best not talk about because this will simply become a diatribe rather than what it is supposed to be, which is a post about positivity rather than the reverse.
Then I woke up this morning in my comfy bed. And I looked out my window at the view of the sunrise, which I am lucky enough to do, and realised something.
I realised I am lucky enough to wake up in my comfy bed and look out my window at the view of the sunrise.
And felt like slapping myself around the head for all the negative and dark sulks that I had allowed to take over for the last little while, because so many people don't have that privilege. So many people.
This is not supposed to sound Polly-Anna-ish. I am not trying to be saintlike - goodness knows I am more on the side of the devils than the angels when it comes down to it, and realistically quite cheerfully so. They seem to have more fun without the shame attached, plus devil costumes are way sexier at Hallowe'en. But I do know this - and I am speaking for everyone I know, and for everyone who I believe reads this blog; if we, as intelligent, educated individuals, hold our gratitude inside ourselves, or indeed don't acknowledge everything that is good in our lives, and instead focus on the black and dark and dreary, then we may as well not bother going forward. Because we have so much - so very, very much - and we take it for granted 98% of the time.
Every person has crap to deal with. Often it is a case of same crap, different day.
When you woke up this morning, were you waking up in a bed? Yes. Did you get to look out at a sunrise, or at least at the sky? I'd say so. Did you have technology at your fingertips, and food to eat, and coffee to prop your brain and your eyelids open, and a shower to shock yourself into sensibility with?
Then you are on the sunny side of the street.
And the very bright side of the road.
And life in its entirety is something to be truly grateful for. No matter what. This is something I am going to endeavour to carry with me today, and tomorrow, and the day after that. Because no doubt FirstWorldItis will strike again soon, and I will need a reminder of this morning's sunrise.
I have posted before about my love of astronomy and mythology and the way the two intertwine, and since moving north it has already given me a great deal of pleasure to get my geek on with my favourite iPad app (StarWalk) and watch the stars - and the man-made bits and pieces in the heavens - in their infinite variety.
As someone who is pretty much bewildered by the whole 'what happens afterwards' question, I am, I think, particularly fascinated by the stars for a very romantic reason.
Maybe, just maybe, there is something in the tales of the gods and heroes - and we do end up looking down on our loved ones from millions of miles above as a tiny part of a cosmic creation; not with the kind of consciousness we have as humans, but perhaps in some way aware of life continuing on. This to me makes as much sense as an old man with a beard letting people through a set of pearly gates, and I quite like the idea of being part of Draco, or Andromeda - or for that matter Lux Katrina.
We have watched the stars for millennia. Men have written odes to them; charted courses by them; princes have decided the fates of nations through their cold impersonal blaze. Why do they continue to fascinate us so much? If they are just large bodies of dust and gas and rock, why do they exert such an amazing pull on our hearts and minds?
I think it's because of their mystery. They are inexplicable, and whatever mankind cannot explain is always irresistible. Much like anything we cannot have, the stars have an intangible beauty - and although at times they seem close enough to reach up and pluck out of the sky, they will always remain out of reach.
This may seem like a strange thing to be grateful for, but as I was sitting outside last night and watching a satellite hum across the sky, and doing my nerdy best to absorb as much as I could about a new (to me) constellation, I realised something.
I am very grateful that the stars retain said mystery.
Because much like the things, and people, that I love most in this world - a little mystery only adds to the desire to keep learning more about them.
And my advice? Don't necessarily look with a telescope. Because the naked eye means you look a lot deeper at those celestial trailblazers.
And at the people you care about too.
I really do wonder what the hell you are - with a great deal of gratitude in the wondering.
As most people who are close to me are aware, I am not at all religious; my 'belief' system tends to be centred around individuals and whether they are decent human beings (or not) rather than organised tenets of faith, mainly because of the acts I have seen said organisations perform in the name of their various doctrines.
So this post is mostly not about Easter or Passover in any religious sense - nor would it be likely anyway, as I am not interested in beating people around the head with my beliefs. Unlike my political views, I would rather keep them mostly to myself.
I admit though, Easter is kind of fascinating. Most probably built on the back of Eostre, although I know there are several alternative explanations, there is a burning question in there for me which nobody I have consulted has ever been able to answer. I have been asking it since the age of about six - and still no joy. Please, somebody tell me, and put me out of my misery:
How the hell does the Easter Bunny lay those really AMAZING chocolate eggs? Riddle me that, Batman!
I am not even interested in the whole rabbit (and it seems, male rabbit at that) laying any kind of eggs scenario. That doesn't concern me at all. I want the big answer: why is Easter egg chocolate so much better than normal chocolate? Why is that damn lepus able to make us want what is essentially really crappy hooves and lips, garden variety, low-cacao content chocolat which we would normally turn our noses up at? Because the moment I see an Elegant Rabbit, its ears are off and that bunny is a few smeary crumbs in its now not-so-elegant foil.
But you try to deny it. Put an Easter egg and a block of good quality chocolate in normal wrapping in front of you and see the Pavlovian response kick into action.
Yep. Good dog.
I also can't cope with the whole E Bunny plus chicken thingy. I get the whole chickens are a sign of new life, yada, yada, yada, spring has sprung business, but people: let's pick a mythical figure and stick with it. Easter Bunny or bust, I say. Rabbits are cool. Bugs Bunny proved that. If you needed any further proof, enter Ms Jessica Rabbit. As a redhead, I thoroughly approve of that cartoon creation.
You may wonder (quite reasonably) where the gratitude is in this post. I am getting there though. And it's not just about chocolate eggs - which I may or may not be currently eating at a very early hour of the morning. Dribble.
Easter Sunday is traditionally a day of hope - and for many people, new beginnings. I know that for many of my friends it is a celebration of their faith, and I am grateful that they gain joy and comfort on this day. For me - I am also filled with immense gratitude today.
I am grateful that the people I care most about and love are all safe today - and that I am able, through the power of technology, to know this for certain. I am grateful that I am lucky enough to live in a country where people can celebrate Easter, and Passover, or dance around buck naked praising Eostre if they feel like it - and not be punished for doing so.
And yes, I am grateful for that wascally wabbit and his unnatural ability to bring forth ovoid spheres of the chocolicious variety. Annoying as it may be, there are some mysteries that are best left unsolved.
Because I don't want to miss out on Easter eggs next year.
That's what happens to girls who ask too many questions...