Anyway, somewhere in between my 'and then you should've done this' and 'why didn't you say x and y, rather than z', and 'for the love of monkeys and the general public's eyesight, you didn't honestly wear that heinous shirt did you', something he was saying about the dating extravaganza we were picking to pieces finally penetrated my cloud of self-congratulatory cumulo-waffle.
"Most people don't talk about how dates are progressing as a tender process, do they?" he asked.
"She said I was 'part way through the tender process' and that she was judging me on my submission. I'd like to think there was irony involved, and I think at the time I may have given an admittedly weak "haha, yesssss, quite". Looking back, I'd have to conclude, computer says no on the presence of Fabulon or other aids to achieving crisply pressed linen."
I stress, on a day all about the paterfamilias, I’m not trying to hold onto some unreal hypothetical father. A dad who didn’t exist in reality. Some kind of miracle worker who could fix Foxtel in a single bound; Saint Kennebec of the Holy Tasmanian Potato who suddenly, after death, becomes a fast-tracked candidate for canonisation, and consists of a fondly and vastly inaccurately remembered combination of Don Bradman, Glenn Miller, Douglas Bader, Terry Pratchett, Fantastic Mr Fox and the Duke of Wellington.
The amazing thing to me is not that people write, and write so beautifully. No. That is just the best of the human spirit at work. What is truly astonishing is that it's done within the limitations of our written alphabets. How extraordinary it is to be able to express so many feelings, thoughts, emotions, opinions, fears, hopes, joys, sadnesses, expectations, desires, hates - all bound by the insignificant characters we call our tools.
Now, as a matter of circumstance and space, my books are mostly contained – or is that constrained? – within the digital layers of a device. But what I find more and more, as I learn how much I don’t yet know as a writer, is how much that library of childhood lives on within my memories. It is a mental repository of what I cannot leave behind me; things I desperately hold onto, which shoot up out of the old manual card carousel when least expected, at random moments of thought and time.
I have massive overdue fines to pay on the tomes of lost loves I cannot let go of. They have backed up over the years; each with their own set of particular conditions and dates identifying them, a Dewey Decimal system of loss. E.1996.DS: Death in the Garden.
And those scratched, half-waxed wooden flaws? They retain a beauty hidden deep inside the grain, which is far more precious than any cold perfect marble, slumbering for a thousand eternities, locked in an infinite sleep of incomprehension and carelessness. Once, they lived, and understood pain, and mud, sweat, blood, tears, and noise – and they accept us, boots and all.
It’s the equivalent of grabbing a shopping cart and being let loose in a Target of the Soul while we’re emotionally starving. Aisle One: the damaging ‘friendships’ we drift out of once our usefulness to the emotional vampire has ended. Aisle Two: baaaaad dates, that we end up regaling the few non-drifty friends with, over far too many martinis on a Tuesday night. Aisle Three: non-dates, who simply don’t show up, and end up filed in one of the many cardboard boxes of cautionary tales we keep carefully hidden in our psyches, under a sticker with ‘meh’ written on it. Sadly, not returnable. Usually marked down.
I need to know some things, Satan Claws. I do not understand what Christmouse Carols are. The one first, why do you sing Christmouse songs about ladies named Carol, when you could sing about cats. The one second, you sing SCARY songs at Christmouse! Why would you go away with a stranger, when they do not even have a crib (which is very comfy) for a bed??? That is just dumb. Also. This is a tip, because I like you, and your reindears are funny – do not give away to anyone presents. NO PRESENTS TO ANYONE EXCEPT OSKIES, AND MAYBE KATO. You do not need to give kings things like gold and my purr, that is just wrong! It is not frank good sense, it is frank bad sense. They have enough stuffs.
Being human, being a member of Team Homo Sapiens; well, it’s just too much like hard work. In fact, it isn’t just like hard work – it is work. To run as primates of the family Hominidae, the aforementioned homo sapiens (although the sapiens is a misnomer, if you ask me) – is the equivalent of getting up, showering, throwing down an Egg McMuffin, and clocking into the most inane, drivel-driven workplace in the history of drivel-driven workplaces –
It’s hard to imagine being at home in 1916, one hundred years ago, waiting for news of fathers, sons, husbands, fiancés, brothers, away at ‘the War’. If I were here, where I am now, in Perth, chances are my husband would have been serving in the 25th Light Horse Regiment somewhere in Palestine or the Sinai, a proud Sandgroper representing state, country and Crown. And me – well, in theory, I would have been at home, keeping the campfires burning, writing long letters to the Front, and dreaming of the day he came home to me, safe and sound.
...admitting intellect is part and parcel of finding someone attractive seems to be akin to saying you love someone because they secretly wish Stalin or Kruschev was still running the USSR, and had Red Dawn-ed the world into submission.
If you find someone attractive for their butt or their boobs, why is it so wrong to find them attractive for their grey matter?
Perhaps you, my dear readers, simply by my saying the words 'marketing guru', are wiser than I, and would have known to run for the hills, screaming. Yes. Well. I didn't, and I suffered the consequences. Venetia suffered also, listening to the hideousness of my hysterical laughter, interspersed with "oh dear GOD" and brief spurts of dry retching.
It was a little like my first meeting with that extremely difficult gentleman of Ephesus, the ‘dark’ philosopher himself, Heraclitus. Now, short of travelling back in time to c.500BCE, this was obviously a meeting of the minds, rather than a chat over a coffee and a scone or two. (I’m fairly certain sitting down for a quick macchiato wouldn’t have been high on Heraclitus’ to-do list at any stage in the proceedings anyway, unless he was attempting to be clever or prove a point, but that’s just my opinion.)
Depression likes solitude, and peace, and quiet. This is the second reason it beckons to you, like a siren song. Because it's easy. It's so easy. All you see, hear, feel is a lack of glaring light, noise, touch; a big, blank hole, with a pouring darkness in it, sucking you in. Far less trouble than making conversation, than ensuring others are feeling okay, than going out, than cooking, than showering, than turning lights on in a room.
How many times did you say as a child "I hate you!" and feel sick to the stomach afterwards because you'd used the word 'hate'? Maybe it was just me, but I doubt it. Now think about how often you use it. "I hate that idea." "God, I hate this, it's vile." "I hate him so much, I hope he rots in hell."
I use it all the time. I use it about Donald Trump on a daily basis. And I can feel the shadow creeping in on me, because I have forgotten how wrong it is to say it, and by saying it, to put thought into practice.
In another galaxy, far, far, away, one hundred years ago, as the fourth of July weekend was getting ready to rumble in the 1916 jungle, innumerable young British soldiers, members of the Fourth Army, were preparing to immobilise for the Battle of the Somme. ‘Z Day’, as it was called, was supposed to be June 29, but due to poor weather it was postponed.
On a moonless but clear night, between 0200 and 0515, these young boys – these schoolboy warriors, these captains courageous – made their way along prepared lines to the Front, ready for Zero Hour at 0730, July 1.
By November 18, the total British Commonwealth toll of casualties and dead (or MIA) stood at 419,654 and 95,675 respectively. The Allied toll, including the French: 623,907, and 146, 431. German dead and casualty lists were equally horrific, at 465,000 and 164,055.
I watched today, along with the rest of the world, in stunned horror, as Great Britain decided – against all predicted outcomes – to pack her very dignified trunks and take herself off for an extremely long weekend at the country estate. As her shiny Rolls Royce (one must buy British), weighed down with the collective clutter of a nation state’s realisation of what they had just done, and Boris Johnson’s ego, made its way along Pall Mall in a semi-triumphal tooting of one’s own horn, the number plates seemed to flash and change in the twinkling of an eye: GREAT BREXIT 1.
As we face the journey onwards, we barely evolved creatures of flesh and bone, there are those amongst us who shine brightly with an honesty, a joy, and a brilliant quiet strength. They are our heat and our gravity; the outward and inner forces that balance our messiest messes, and handle our stupidity, our tantrums, and our tears with equilibrium and humour. They are celestial bodies in disguise. We turn to them when we are unable to navigate the darkness ourselves, and they provide the second star to the right, the straight on til morning our souls and hearts crave.
The definition of a bully is 'a person who uses strength or influence to harm or intimidate those who are weaker'. Today, you have influenced the actions of the AFL. You have used your strength to maintain a position you do not deserve. You have intimidated those of weak moral courage, and you have harmed your club, and women who play, follow, and love the game of Aussie Rules as a consequence. You have harmed young girls and boys - particularly boys - just starting in the game, who will see this kind of talk as acceptable - because if the Presidents of Collingwood and North Melbourne say these things, then it must be OK.
Usually, summer - or at the very least spring - is running my psyche. But, occasionally, perhaps a little like Persephone descending into The Underworld for her allotted time with Hades, I can't help but let winter into my thoughts, and Cerberus, in his guise as the black dog of depression, manages to slip his leash. Thankfully, I am learning to get him under control, and make my way back to sunnier climes and blue skies of a happy soul.
But some people - well, for them, winter is a way of living, rather than just days on a calendar. Cold is ingrained in their personalities; it's almost as though they don't want to step into the sunlight for fear they may be burnt by happiness. Instead, they slap on Sensory Protection Factor 30 Plus, and allow the ice to become a part of their makeup, right down to the bone.
In the Regency era, women put wax pads inside their cheeks to make their faces fashionably plump. In the Edwardian, they constrained their rib cages and spines to the point of deformity with corsets. The 20s, thin was in. The 50s? Marilyn Monroe and curves were back with a vengeance, baby.
Now? It's The Age of Kardashian, where cosmetic surgery is considered an acceptable sixteenth birthday gift. 'Happy Birthday, sweetie... you don't have enough turmoil going on with your hormones, so here's new teeth/breasts/a nose/lips/skin colour to confuse you even more about what you should look like to be a happy, whole human being'.
Both maps and hearts are not infallible. Together they are the wretched children of a million badly plotted navigational points of relationship memory, combined with our complete inability to leave that foreign country that is the past well alone.
One hundred years ago, both France and Belgium were battlefields. Names like Passchendaele, Mons, Neuve Chapelle, Armentières, Ypres, Vimy Ridge - they stopped being 'foreign', and were suddenly a part of everyday conversation.
Now - we have new names.
Baquba. Lahore. Varanasi. Baghdad. Jalalabad. Domodedovo Airport. Alexandria. Kabul. Faisalabad. Al Hillah. Zvornik. Benghazi. Maiduguri. Mogadishu. Chad. Moscow. Anbar. Diyarbakır. Jerusalem. Palestine. Al-Shabaab. Suruç. Ankara. The Sinai. Jakarta.
In what can be viewed as both a positive and a negative of the Age of White Noise, social media has given us the opportunity to invent new selves - sometimes, it seems, a hundred of them, to be used for different people, situations, even moods. It has given us the chance to smile when we are crying on the inside, if we aren't feeling very brave, or if we feel like we need to put on one of those hundred different selves. It has allowed us to share our despair, our wonderful happiness, our big thinking, and our dreams.
But what it has also done is laid us bare to criticism and a lack of care, both in our own actions and those of others. We cannot hide from hurtful situations. We cannot hide from what we say and do, and sometimes - achingly, angrily, and agonisingly - we cannot hide from what others say and do to and about us.
John Lennon was a wise man by the time he died, and he knew what was what when he said the words 'instant karma's gonna get you'. The Buddha had his own time of mortification - imagine what it would have been like if it had been fed back to him on Instagram, and Facebook, and Twitter?
Today is my 44th birthday. As stated by the woman I dearly wish I could have had the opportunity to drink under the table at the Algonquin, Ms Dorothy Parker herself:
“Time doth flit; oh shit.”
Sound a bit dismal and non-fizzy for a girl who loves shoes, champagne, rugby and books on her FORTY SECOND (remember this, people) birthday?
But it's my birthday, and I'll chastise myself if I want to.
To anyone celebrating a birthday today, or anytime soon, I have some things to say to you, imbued with my heartfelt love, appreciation, gratitude, and infinite wonder at the people who continue to love me, not least of all the Man Who Vaguely Resembles David Tennant.