mummy drinks

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

You knew where you were with Mary Whitehouse

A week or so ago the ABC screened a Sunday night program about the morals campaigner Mary Whitehouse. There were wonderful images of Mary sitting in a darkened room in front of her television with a notebook, making extensive lists of everything she considered to be offensive so that she could write to the BBC to complain in detail.

How far we have come! Thanks to the web, you don't even need to watch a program to be offended by it. Think of how much Mary would have gained from having access to Youtube,or, in the last week or so, the website of any news service in Australia. A program you've chosen never to watch, that you are not slightly interested in, perhaps even on a channel that you never turn to can be helpfully distilled into a single 3 minute segment and then broadcast at you from every media source( including talkback radio) over and over again all day, for a week ! Thanks to the web, more people can now be offended by a program than have ever actually viewed it.

Perhaps Mary was a little like a reality TV star in her day, famous in her attempts to control the media, but to her credit she stood behind every word she said, and she wrote a letter and went to the expense of a stamp. It's likely she even rode her bicycle to the letterbox and sent it. Now disgust is immediate, unfiltered, barely even moderated in some cases, and crucially, anonymous. And then it gets really weird- anonymous people whose circumstances are unverified are then quoted by journalists as examples of what people are saying and what circumstances they are in, and at the end of these articles are requests for comments, and hundreds and hundreds more anonymous comments referring either to the program they didn't watch or the unverified comments of other anonymous posters are added to the original article. The media consumes itself and although this is nothing new, the RATE at which it consumes itself and the ferocity with which it talks about itself is certainly unmatched.

All the things I know about Susan Boyle and I don't think the program she was in was even televised here ! I've never watched a show with Gordon Ramsay in it and yet I woke up this morning hating him. I can't wait until the week after next when we've all forgotten about the Chk Chk Boom Girl, who also gave an unverified account of something that she hadn't witnessed which I didn't know had happened until I found a message board discussing whether or not she was a racist, linked to an article in an online paper which in turn offered a link to footage of the interveiw. There are over 500 comments on the Chaser debacle on the ABC message boards and more than one person has written (anonymously) "I never watch the ABC and this is why". Is the organisation responsible to people who have no interest whatsoever in it? Is it actually a win for the ABC, who prides itself as a multiplatform content provider, that people never who turn on ABC television or radio are at least engaging with its online presence and making comments, albeit about something they saw editorialised on a commercial network that was reproducing ABC content, presumably using the fair dealing exceptions from the copyright act to transmit copyright material without permission ? In fact, it was probably used under "reporting of news". And how is a comedy show 'news', anyway ? When a segment of it is widely reproduced by the news media, and round we go again.

I always knew Mary Whitehouse was bad news, the two Ronnies and the Goodies told me. But at least she watched the programs she wanted taken off the air. At least she was what she said she was. She wasn’t phoning in anonymous death threats to television comedians and she wasn’t arguing about standards and decency in the most violent and obscene terms she could think of. That would be hypocritical, and cowardly. And that really would be disgusting.


My mother is a practical woman, and not one for philosophising on the nature of relationships. I suspect to her generation, and to her 56 year married self ,they just are. We’ve never had a mother daughter talk where she tells me about love or marriage or any of those sorts of things, but even so, she has somehow communicated to me that true love is expressed when two people strip a vomit covered bed and howling, vomit covered child in the middle of the night. So I suppose this post is a love story.
In the last 3 weeks, my partner has removed a the rotting corpse of a large rat from the roof cavity, changed a washer in the hot tap of the bath surrounded by weeping, nude children who had just been herded into the bathroom and then shouted at not to get in the bath under any circumstances (proving the perverse theory that they only want to do what you don’t want them too, as usually they cry about not wanting to get into the bath) and run an electric eel through the drains. Perhaps you are stupid, and don’t know what an electric eel is or what it does, like me last Wednesday, or actually , like me, now. I do know it’s a thing that you run through your drains, and that filthy things come out of the drains, and my job is stay inside the house, watching the news. If you need more detail than that, ask Logan.
I also for some reason can’t set a mousetrap, or manage a mouse corpse the next day. ( I know a rodent related theme is emerging. I know I should be pretending we don’t live amongst an infestation. But in things related to Love, one tells the truth.) I can’t feel automatically on getting into the car that the tyre pressure is wrong in the back left, nor do I entirely know what to do with this information. I know nothing about gyprock, I have never even turned on the lawn trimmer, I have never been up on our roof. These are the fertile soils in which love grows, in which it blooms.
Last week the kids had recurring ,vomiting gastro. I did 24 loads of washing in 4 days. They threw up in every room of the house. They vomited in their own beds, and in ours. One night as we trudged up and down the hallway with buckets and mops and clean towels ( no sheets left, obviously) I thought of my mother and the story she used to tell me, a tone of great warmth and affection in her voice, of how my brother once woke up and vomited everywhere in the middle of the night and how she and Dad had order returned and him back to sleep in a clean bed in under 15 minutes. Logan and I have been together for nearly nine years now, and although we never did get around to getting married, I feel our vows were renewed that night. It was a beautiful thing. Apart from the litres and litres of vomit.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Things I Hate about the Theatre

Just to demonstrate it isn’t all prams and nappies. I often while away the evenings thinking of things to hate, and I must say, theatre has been a terrific friend to me in that pursuit. I once went to a lot of theatre, but now I don’t go out as often, and I have to pay for my own tickets, so I prefer to actually enjoy myself. Other people I know go to the theatre, and then they tell me about it, and I get really angry. Sometimes, just being sent a list of theatrical productions no-one is even asking me to attend can set me off.

Anyway, for some considerable time now I have been devising a list of things I hate about the theatre and I’ve decided that it is by now almost thorough enough to publish. Doubtless, I’ll need to add to it. Perhaps the next time someone says “I hear they’re making that into a musical” or “there was this hilarious bit where they came down into the audience”…

Anyway, so far, here is the list:

1. Actors, and their big loud actorly voices, and their serious, I-am-listening-to-you-look-at–my-serious-listening-face faces.

2. When a play starts with someone walking energetically to the front of the stage, then gesticulating, then exclaiming something.

3. When a play starts with the whole cast scampering joyfully/wandering as if childishly enchanted around the stage.

4. Any play featuring a set made up of lounge room furniture.

5. Any play where the actors don’t move.

6. Any play where the set is made up of a single object that is moved around from scene to scene to represent different things.

7. Climbing apparatus which the actors keep hanging off or moving across while speaking.

8. ANY PLAY OR PERFORMANCE WHERE A CAST MEMBER SPEAKS TO, TOUCHES OR INTERACTS WITH ANY MEMBER OF THE AUDIENCE. This is in capital letters because I firmly believe all right thinking people agree with me and this practice should actually be made illegal except in cases of dire emergency.

9. Random nudity.

10. Any play where a female character pours water from one vessel to another for an extended length of time.

11. Costumes made from garbage bags.

12. Any play more than 100 years old where the cast ride around on motorbikes and are dressed in costumes that allude to “West Side Story”.

13. Shakespeare, where the genders are re-aligned, the language or costumes are modernized, the implied sex is made explicit or a minor character is suddenly given all the lines.

14. Any set of any play which is largely yellow, orange or metallic.

15. Any play about the working class/Western suburbs, written, performed, directed and attended by people from the Eastern and Northern Suburbs.

16. Any play more than 2 hours or less than 35 minutes in length.

Sugar and Spice

I’ve never been particularly good at shopping for my own clothes. I’ve managed to package up the whole experience in such a complex and exhausting way and apply so many random and often conflicting rules – about the environment, about the economy, about gender politics- that I’m usually just frozen by indecision, or in a thoughtless, bingey frenzy.

When it comes to my daughter’s clothes, though, I am supposed to be the authority figure and all of the rules I would apply to my own clothes are magnified and she has her own opinion based on not being able to read or understand irony. So it is both more and less complex.

We are not fussy and we happily accept hand-me-downs, some of them with pink glittery ponies on them. I do not particularly like pink glittery ponies, my daughter adores pink glittery ponies, why argue about something as unimportant as pink glittery ponies? The only clothing I do not allow is slutty adult clothing for little girls and a weird violent army clothes for little boys. We also once refused to accept an infant romper with "I'm bringing sexy back" written on it on the grounds that it was disgusting.

So there is the pink thing. The pink with pink and pink shoes thing. I can live with the pink thing, 90% of all the clothes we are given are pink. There is the simple fact that your children give pleasure to other people, and Aunty likes the dress with pink flowers, and a friend loved choosing the other dress with pink flowers, and Granny bought her a lovely dress with pink flowers, and everyone likes seeing their dress on the child they bought it for. So there is always going to be a lot of pink. And there are the toy catalogues, and the pages of pink plastic and toy irons and whorey looking dolls, and whatever the horse thing means and God knows what else to negotiate on her behalf, all the while apparently pretending that feminism is over and the job has been done.

For all the pink, and all the baby dolly cuddly stuff and the behaviour that could be said to be verging on, lets put it out there, simpering, one thing I've always been relaxed about is my daughters’ physical bravery, her desire to run and jump and fall over and get up again in pursuit of her older brother. Her insistence on climbing right back on the slide she has just fallen off again, stopping only briefly to deliver an angry kick to the ladder she is about to climb. In my view, her confidence and determination bode well.

Of course, all this has come at a price. She has copped her share of minor physical injury. There has been blood spilled. As a result, when she went off to daycare on photo day, she had a fairly large fresh scab on her face, between her eyebrows. Not something you could cover up. A record, perhaps of some of her earliest, most admirable qualities, just in the perfect position to giver her a mono-brow and make her look a bit cross.

I picked up the pictures, having been through a completely unfamiliar 3 week process of having to wait to see what they looked like. They have my kids in them, so I was always going to love them. The group photo is a triumph of grim determination over physical impossibility. I showed Bloke and asked “How do they keep them all sitting there” and he said “Nails”. The scab, however, while evident in the group photo, was completely erased from the individual portrait. It has been photo shopped out. I can only assume, on closer examination of this picture, that those are the natural highlights in her hair. That my boy’s changeable eyes were that particular shade of green on that day. That his hand is actually resting on her arm. I presume changing those things would be more difficult than leaving them alone.

However, I'm aware that I'm becoming more and more incompetent as the pace of technological change increases. I fancy I’m clever and technological because I can tell this picture has been altered. I have no idea how easy it will be to do these things in five years time. Will we be driving hovercars soon? Will there be gap toothed school photos in the future? Uneven fringes cut by well meaning parents? A record of being a tough little kid in a glittery pony T-shirt? What will become of the two year old girls, raised on a steady diet of princesses, perfection, Paris Hilton and tiny replicas of domestic appliances? The battle lines are drawn, but I don’t know where. Has fight started, or did I capitulate the moment I consented to the High Five hat?

Cops and Criminals

Last week as I dragged my stroller up the 30 odd stairs at Sydenham station with a four year old hanging on to my elbow, I had that feeling you get when there is someone directly behind you and you are getting in their way. I take my kids on peak hour public transport a few times a week so it is not a feeling I am unfamiliar with, but I had hung back and waited for the stairs to clear so I was a touch irritated. I’d basically made certain whoever it was could get around me if they had to so either they weren’t paying any attention or I was dealing with that particular pain in the arse that has to let you know how much harder you make their life by existing in a public space with children. Some people have a thing with wanting everyone else on public transport to be invisible, so they can make the journey too and from work without actually being aware of it. The sound of a child’s voice saying absolutely anything under those circumstances seems to be regarded as a trespass. Anyway, without even having started, I digress.

I got to the top of the stairs and turned around to make an apology that only I knew was deeply sarcastic and discovered two young fit police officers climbing the stairs behind me. Apparently it had not occurred to either one of them to offer to help.

Allow me to air some of my many prejudices on this subject.

I am constantly amazed by the number of people who have leapt up to help me get on and off trains and railway stations and buses and ferries over the past 4 years, while I have gone through the various shape shifting that goes with pregnancy/toddlers/babies/children. Teenage boys! People who looked, seriously, like they were about to mug you! Gangs! Actual gangs, with patches on. Mad people on the train who everyone cringes away from will suddenly hop off and take the front of your pram as you get off, and then have one of those completely normal 30 second conversations with you of the how-old-oh-sweet-all-different-once-they-start-crawling! variety, and then hop back on and go back to ranting about fucking fuckers being fucking everywhere.

Let’s just say it. Criminals. Criminals help you. Cops don’t. God KNOWS I would never generalize. And I’m desperate to try and teach my children that the police force, or whatever we are calling it now, is a helpful service, there to assist the community. Once, several years ago, a handsome young policeman chased my sons escaping helium balloon onto Oxford St and saved the day, much to the delight of everyone present. I am not sure how much longer I can go on making reference to this single incident when I explain the role of the thin blue line to my kids, especially as a row of police officers stand at the station on a weekly basis, watching the sniffer dogs at work, observing me with benign indifference as I hold the station gate open with one foot while I push a kid and then a pram through it.

I’m not that into the whole real world as it really is theory of child raising. I’ve had to explain a few things to my kids that don’t make a lot of sense to anyone and I try, when doing so, to emphasis the goodness of the world and the responsibility of the strong to help the weak. So when we walk past the beggars in Broadway tunnel with signs written on bits of cardboard and my son asks about them, I say something a teeny bit sickening, like “The man needs some help, so he has written a sign that explains what he needs help with so that the people who can help him know what he needs”. I nauseate myself, but I am trying to answer questions like “Where are the mans shoes? Why does he have blood all over his face? Why is the lady crying?“ in a way that doesn’t give anyone sleepless nights and still means I get to work on time. It means I have presented to my children a picture of the world where people advertise their helplessness only in order to get help, which I tend to refer to as being on the way, if out of sight. I shamelessly emphasise the positive. Hence they think that the man with the prosthetic leg is actually part robot (admittedly, he came up with that one, not me, and it is a very impressive black and silver prosthetic) and that the woman who is three foot tall is also magic. Why talk about accidents and illness and misfortune when instead you can concentrate on how incredibly clever a guide dog can be? They live in the world, the misery will come. I’m just holding it back as long as I can. With help of the general public, or at least the dodgy ones, who aren’t afraid to help.

Old Post

From 2008

A parenting victory this week! I’ve finally found the secret cache of mascara the 3 year has in his room. Now he’ll stop emerging from his ‘naps’ looking like a silent movie star. He stills comes out smelling stongly of vicks vapo rub but it is quite a nice smell, and of course it has long been my policy that if I let him do it he’ll figure out why he shouldn’t do it all by himself.

Bloke was in charge on Friday while I went to sitting down work. He managed to leave the pram in the car park when he took the children to the shops. It was still there on Saturday morning when we finally noticed it was missing and went back to look for it, and that made everyone feel all warm inside. Which was terrific, because later that day I accidentally threw the unseatbelted 3 year old out of it on to a pedestrian crossing. Note I said ‘pedestrian crossing’. It isn’t like I don’t care about my children’s safety. Anyway we were all hot and bothered and some of us were covered in tears and snot because of accidentally letting go of a helium balloon we’d been given at the beach and so we were pretty much headed for some sort of accident. It helps us figure out when to go home.

That wasn’t even my low point of the week. We went to a birthday party on Sunday morning and I rushed into the lolly shower once the piƱata broke as the three year seemed unsure of what to do. I picked up a lollypop and a little packet of smarties to give him and another child tried to take the lollypop away and my hand involuntarily tightened on it. Of course, it was the birthday boy and he burst into tears. It’s hard to describe what sort of behaviour I thought I was modeling and it has been the last thing I think of before I go to bed at night for a few days now. Let me just explain. I needed to GIVE THE CHILD THE LOLLYPOP AND PICK UP ANOTHER ONE. It’s all so clear now, why, why couldn’t I think of it at the time? And who saw me, down on the ground, wrestling with the weeping birthday boy? I didn’t look up and it is distinctly possible all the other parents were watching me. The child’s mother is a good friend of mine but every time I speak to her for the next few months I’ll be listening closely for a tone. I’ll be wondering if her anecdotes have a hidden, pointed meaning. I’ll be strangely hyper-nice to her poor child, probably at my own child’s expense (Sweetie, you’ve had breakfast, give him your sandwich. And your drink. That’s alright darling, he just wants to wear your shoes for a little bit, sit down and Mummy will help you take them off) as if further weirdness is what the situation calls for.

My mother gave the baby a frosty fruit ice block on the weekend. If she were my first child I would have flung myself bodily between her and the ice block screaming “noooooo suuuugaaaar” but she is not my first child so I contented myself with looking up and down the beach to make sure no-one else was watching, because I am ever vigilant. She didn’t even like it that much, but watching a baby screw up its little face in disgust is a scream so we kept on offering it to her. She is eight months and I thought it was time she had a go in the ocean. After all, we all love the ocean. Her brother used to crawl directly into the sea and keep going until we grabbed him. Even now we have to start tearing off his clothes as soon as he hits the sand so he doesn’t just run in fully dressed. And her middle name means “ocean”, so it seemed like an important thing to do. I put her little toes in and she tried to physically retract her legs back into her body. I tried again. She tried again. Every time her toes made contact with the water her knees went up to her ears. I tried shouting ‘weee’ and swinging her so her toes skimmed the surface. She cried. She has a lot of time to learn to love the ocean but this doesn’t strike me as the start we were looking for. I suppose it is fair to say to I’m a little worried as I’m never sure about people who don’t like sand or spicy food and what if she is one ? I can’t even offer her spicy food for years, and maybe she’ll get used to the water but what if it is a sign ?