Monday, November 28, 2005
This doggie laid out side her bedroom day in and day out when she was so ill..slept up against the wall and never left her side no matter what... not for a week, not for a month but for the couple of years it took for her to begin the return journey...all he asked for was her hand on his head...her approval...and her total love...
put us humans to shame.
about five years ago now...one of those days which stay in your memory and make your life warm....
Don was well...Melissa (the "blondie" was happy, Alison was well and happy...
She has suffered so much since then and is slowly regaining some level of health...but to see her here as she was before becoming ill is heartbreaking...and also to know how strong she has become because of it all is also amazing...
There are no flies on her...she is a tough little nut... but I wish she didn't have to have been so tough and suffer so much heartbreak in the interim.,
For Don to eat fish would be like eating a relative...what would that be...not incest... not cannibilism?
Those bloody Scots Australians are really a scary lot.
Sunday, November 27, 2005
I remember *Aunty Annie and *Uncle Pat’s ticking pendulum clock. It had small whirls of wood on its corners and sat on my Grandmother’s piano.
I always found the sound of that clock soothing and reassuring, like a sort of meditation. Breathe in. Hold. Breathe out. Listen. Its just the clock I hear, ticking calmly, steadily away the long summer afternoon hours in an old rundown farm house that exists because it was; because I still remember; because I still am.
When the few of us who remember it die, it will exist no longer. That clock observed the life around that piano, and then later on came into our mother’s house and observed some more.
When Aunty Annie showed me quickly how to learn chords of music saying, “Just listen and you’ll know what a chord is – it goes together.” And the simple ones I needed to use did go together. “Its easy to sound out the tunes, they go up or down.” And they did. Soon I was able to sound out simple tunes by ear, knowing instinctively from an uncluttered child’s mind and hearing clearly the harmony and tunes.
Wandering about dreaming away the afternoons as Aunty and Uncle slept after noon dinner before going back to work, I would hear the tunes in my head and dream of being able to play properly. Something I never achieved, being more of a sort of ‘Jack of all trades but master of none’. I guess I just wanted to try to learn about everything, to be able to understand everything and maybe that’s not so good in that I may have just drifted across the surfaces of things. But those summers awoke in me such a love of music, such feelings of peace, that maybe that’s what the gift or lesson was and who is to say what is more important?
I would stoke those old yellowed keys and wonder about what it was like to touch the keys my mother had as a child; that her mother had as a child and young woman; that my old Aunt had and also their mother, my great grandmother. I can recall a feeling of slipping backwards and forwards in time when I touched those keys. Sometimes it is a physical link with the past which serves as the vehicle to connect us to it. Such as a photo or music, or piano keys.
That piano with its sconces for candles and its wooden decorations on the front, was given away after Aunty died. Given to someone who helped mum when she needed it. Mum already had another piano, and Aunty’s piano was terribly out of tune and in need of a lot of work, which mum could not afford. I hope that it has been restored and is still giving someone pleasure.
But there it is really…its just an object…a thing. The clock, the piano are just objects, wistful thoughts, triggers – not important at all only remembered because of the people they recall. It’s the people who are important to me. The lives they lived. The dreams they held and yes, the music that they all loved so much.
For some reason thinking about the old clock and piano reminded me of when I used to sit in our lounge room in Aberdeen, as a small child. It was then another one of those sacred spaces. This was long before the television invaded its quiet precinct.
I haven’t seen a ray of dust motes for years, but in the corner of that room when the early morning sunlight would send a ray of light into the lounge room, you could sit near that ray and play with the dust motes. The longer you watched them the more they seemed to sparkle. You could let them all settle down and then just breathe into the ray and all the little motes would dance about…perhaps they really were faeries.
The old lounge chair looked out onto the New England Highway. It’s a busy highway in the 1950’s and 60’s as the Pacific Highway is not the preferred route to drive between Sydney and Brisbane. I was blissfully unaware of anywhere much other than where I had been, as a child. Trucks rumble by, but mostly at night. But most goods seemed to go by train in those days. At least four passenger trains a day and frequent goods trains will add to the noise as they either stop at the railway station across the highway from our place, or just toot a lot as they slow down to travel past. The goods trains were so long, then and we got so that we didn’t notice any of them much unless we were doing a family dash, kids, babies and mum for the train to go shopping in Muswellbrook.
Maybe I am standing outside the small lounge room window looking down at my small curious face looking back at me from amongst the sun’s single ray. Sometimes I can recall every detail of the room. Solid brown patterned lounge chairs. A large floor radio which stood on the floor near the door and was as tall as me when I was about five
I know or I am told because I don’t remember doing this…When I was a toddler, I am supposed to have sat on Mum and Dad’s Silver Teapot which was a wedding present, and used it for a pottie, wet in it and closed the lid, to leave an unpleasant surprise for someone later on.
I am told that but maybe I just got bad press from older sisters who can ever really know?
We sometimes played ‘Kiriki’ in that room at night, with all the lights turned out. Everyone would hide behind chairs, doors, anywhere and one person was to come out of the light and into the dark to look for them. The aim was to be able to sneak out past the person looking, before they realised, and shout ‘Kiriki’, once out in the light. It was more scary for the person looking because their eyes took time to adjust to the dark and the hiders had the element of surprise.
One night June came in armed with some sort of stick, she was so scared. She used it to poke out into the darkness and made the mistake of whacking it down on a lounge chair which held a framed picture of Uncle Alf when he was young and handsome. Mum was very upset about this, as it was a keepsake.
From this little window people’s legs go by as the street is elevated above the level of the house. On Friday nights exasperated wives will harry foolish drunken husbands home from the top hotel hoping to save just enough of the weekly pay to feed kids who will go quietly hungry otherwise. This seems to happen in other houses. No matter wha,t we always have enough to eat.
There was a fireplace in this room which backed onto the kitchen stove out in the other room. A low table, called a coffee table these days was in the middle of the room. Nobody drank coffee that we knew in those days, so it must have had a more relevant name. This table was reserved for formal visitors, nuns or priests of distant relatives. People who appeared to me to sit and perch and inspect.
The real visitors sat out in the comfort of the kitchen.
I wonder at that small face peering out at me through that window, through the haze of dust motes and street dust, “poor little bugger, so much to go through to get from there to here. So much done on impulse, so much planned which never came about. For the better to learn the lessons I suppose”. I know that many times it seemed to be just luck and nothing else which ensured her survival, and turned her this way and that, which all turned out to be all the right twists and turns anyway.
“Its okay” I would like to say to re assure her/me. “Keep smilin’ hon. Be as in their closed up faces as you need to be.” But she will do that anyway and she did and who could or would stop her fulfilling her very own destiny, a destiny which began before time and will never end.
I have to laugh inside recalling our verandah on our old home. Mum told the story of how Dad was re varnishing the well used wooden cot, yet again, for me I think and something went horribly wrong. Who knows what it was, maybe spilt the varnish, or someone touched it or something but I can easily understand his reaction having inherited his quick temper. Mum said that all of a sudden there Dad went from calmly painting the cot to an explosion of “bloodys” and “buggers”and in a pure fury, kicked the whole cot from one end of the verandah, right around to the front. The anger all spent, he sort of sagged, no doubt realising he not only had to finish painting it but also had to mend it as well.
Mum almost couldn’t talk for laughing when se told me this, so much so that I feel as if I actually saw it also, such was her description. Mum could always tell a good yarn.
That verandah was used for so much, apart from mending cots for a very fertile wife.
At one time the front verandah held a couple of comfortable cane chairs and I remember Uncle Frank, Grandfather’s brother and others sitting out there talking.
In the dreadful heat of summer the verandah protected the walls of the house a bit but also protected the inner life of the householders. The verandahs were a free fall area for us kids and we could run and jump and make noise there. We could set up games and leave them for a while and it was okay. Fast sprints around the front verandah, down the side verandah, around the back and then up through the hall were only possible till Dad filled in a part of the back verandah for a room for his mother. Veronica was to have this as her bedroom later on. This gradual filling in of the verandah space, allowed for the comfortable growth of families, and we also lost the side verandah to become June’s and my bedroom after Joan and Jackie were born.
Our verandah had louvres all round at one time. Our Christmas tree and gatherings were held on the back verandah and this small section seem to stretch to comfortable fit us all in at present opening time.
My husband once said that if I had my way I’d put a verandah around the outside toilet. Not such a bad idea Don, many are the time I got rained on whilst waiting for someone to come out of the toilet.
As I said before, objects, like pianos, clocks and houses are just that, objects. All the life and colour they contain belongs to the lives of the people who are connected to them and lives in our memories. But it is what we take away from those memories which is important, and not the objects themselves really.
Even the old white house we just moved from last year, I could not imagine going back to now, although there are some wonderful memories of some very happy times there. Yet once I sat at the table in the late light of autumn and declared to myself that I never wanted to leave it, it was all so lovely at that time.
Sometimes I feel that in a house there is a light filled time and the house rocks along with the people. There have been times in my life when I feel the house darkening in on me, and for me it seems that if it’s a constant and not just connected with the darkness of winter, or the darkness in your own heart, maybe its then time if possible to move on, or do something to bring the light back in. But knowing the difference, now that’s the trick.
There needs to be light in our houses, in our memories in the significance of objects we hold dear, and let me be able to face that little devil who was me looking out that window and face her honestly, knowing we are still one and the same, just separated by time and by lessons learnt.
And as I sit here now finishing this, a lone bird calls out as it flies over. A cold brisk and very invigorating winter wind is blowing. In my reflections I lost and found many threads of many thoughts and yet heard just one thought. Just the one thought and that is that now, all my now’s are the only time I can use to change my future and what I am now for better or worse, is the result of all my yesterdays.
If I am not happy or satisfied with who I am, I can only begin to affect changes now, but there is no harm, and it is a good thing to hold any good dream we have for ourself and consciously will it to ourselves. The pitfall in this is that for too many the dream becomes more important than their reality and they cease to work towards it, so that it always remains a dream.
So many people go through their whole lives unsatisfied, wanting, but unable to take any action even mentally, towards their own dream. Many times this state of mind is a result of deep sorrow, of illness, or of depleted spiritual, mental or physical energies. But for others the whole of life is lived in a constant state of disappointment, which drains the energies of those around them, but never ever fills up the great emptiness inside them. We’ve all had a bit of that, and I would hate to have it for very long. I’m not sure why or where it comes from, but it seems to be a melancholic part of the human condition which just sits in the wings of our life, waiting to take advantage of any gaps in our script.
Sometimes all that is needed is to turn down a different street, or say hello to a different person in a shop, and events such as this can alter the whole course of your life. Hopefully for the good, but there is always risk in being alive. But if our intention is to do good, to not knowingly hurt others, to be open and have empathy for the frailty of being human, something is unfolding for us which may not make sense to us but is a necessary part of the whole picture of all our lives.
I feel I am able finally to be able to live most of the time in the now as I did all the time as a child. I understand that it is only in the present moment where there is any surety; all else, in time - two days ago, twenty years ago or a million years ago is unaffected by anything I might do say think or feel or imagine. Understanding that allows me to drift easily into the past with nostalgia, but not to waste my time by allowing it to be too upsetting, or to long for my younger days, something that is a very real danger when we go wandering back mentally.
I don’t recall any time in my life when I wished I was older, or wished I was younger. I always appreciated having our children when I did can remember realising in my early twenties that I was where I was meant to be and that was fine enough. In between my birth and now, many wonderful funny and amazing things have happened to me. But also many very sad and tragic things have also happened, but I feel that there are more good things than bad, so I guess that’s okay. But it is the memory of the harder things which made me think when observing my child face, “Poor little bugger.” We are all poor little buggers making our way along but many of us are lucky little buggers too.
To be a child and to be perfectly happy quietly observing the sun’s rays through the dusty atmosphere and not to want or need any more than that for that bit of time, I’d say that I was and am a pretty lucky little bugger, for sure.
Therese Mackay - July 2005
Friday, November 25, 2005
but what happens is that no one ever does clean them out so all manner of noxious weeds clogs up the waterways which were once free flowing... certainly National Parks and water Management seem to conduct all their business from air conditioned offices... with little on the ground work ever been done...
and also winerys and those who entertain there are politically correct thesedays unlike the poor old "redneck farmers" (who feed us all) who kept the creeks flowing because it was good farming practice.
Do you know where the term "redneck" comes from??? In the old days anyone who worked out doors was considered poor or working class hence red neck from the sunburn and exposure to the elements.
Must have too much Orish in me, what starts out as a pretty garden picture ends up a philosophical diatribe about "life the universe and everything"...
Thursday, November 24, 2005
He got me up there...minus saddle etc. and then went leisurely inside the house to get our camera... you are looking at one scared woman...
look! her ears are back... how did I know she was not going to throw me to the ground... trample me and then run all over me... JUST FOR PLEASURE... I did not...know
this is "SHIT SCARED!"
Prickly Pears a memory from a sixties childhood or from the pictures in Sunday papers I carried home for Dad to read knowing I might get first go at the comics.
Prickly Pears, acres and acres of them. Rabbits in plague numbers. Lean hard-faced men with Celtic faces beneath brown leather tans. Blue eyes, green eyes; thin-lipped looking always grim. Whistling the sweetest tunes, in tones to move the heart and make you want to cry.
They never wore shorts. They could talk without opening their mouths
and smoke at the same time without needing their hands and roll smokes single handed and drive at the same time. Skills to be admired.
They could call their dogs with a different whistle one that snapped like a whip and would echo from mountains; they could call kids pretty quick that way too and like the dogs, the kids always came and quickly too.
So many tears for so many, as the Prickly Pears escaped from pot plants brought in to beautify and service...as with the rabbits, goats and the dingoes from Asia. No one race can claim immunity from environmental destruction, just degrees, and who really knows anyway...
The sixties was a dry time. A long drought time. Shared family bath time. Few air-conditioners then and very few fans. Wood stoves in most kitchens in the country which cooked the summer midday meals.
for some families it was a golden time...
for others it was cruel and bigoted...
for most it was a complex mix
as it is today - nothing really changes.
Cleopatra spoke in many languages and could read and write in as many. She moved in her life to the purpose to keep Egypt to the ways of Isis and to serve the principles of Maat. The first of the Ptolemies, the Greek Pharaohs of Egypt - to be fluent in Egyptian language, religion and culture. Killing her sisters who aimed to kill her - yet crying bitterly as the massive library of Alexandria was almost destroyed and the loss of most of the world’s ancient knowledge was destroyed by fools and agents provocateur of the Roman tide of stupidity and the straight blinkered track of rigidity which blinds us still...
Jesus said all that we needed to know...”as above so below” think about it “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”...think about it...which would take a lifetime or to to come anywhere near total understanding of those two simple phrases. I wonder was it him who said “don’t cast pearls before swine”...and “don’t suffer fools gladly” as a sort of balance against the natural tendency of us humans to become fanatic about jus about everything decent we have been given to help us along?
Still we are here - human, frail - thinking we know better...thinking we have grown are “evolving” whatever shit we want to believe to make us feel more and better than the white “redneck” farmers who whistled tunes from another time and land...better than Cleopatra even...how many languages can I understand? One at last count. And my spelling in even that is not the best. On ya Cleo! Whatever!
Comfortable around our dinner tables. “Yakkity yak”...postulating what should and should not be done...over designer beer or glasses of bottled wine...“not cask oh! no! how ‘working class dear”. Seldom having the guts to put our own head up above the rest. That takes courage and its easier being clever. Much easier to criticise those we think we could do better than and never do... too much part of the herd... much easier to give voice to admiration for the mavericks who spin out if the herd and do it for us, only to turn our backs on them when they are brought down screaming in the sudden realisation that there is to be no help from the vocal herd...
...no nothing has deep down changed in a hundred thousand years...why do we think it would?
...and still Asian Bell trees spread like Prickly Pears from pots still available in nurseries and there are savage giant toothy dogs roaming about city streets as status symbols for men who wear shorts and jeans with brand names; who cannot whistle sweetly, and who wouldn’t know how to roll a smoke in one hand if their life depended on it, amongst other things; despising the humble blue heeler or kelpie. Now there are dogs with true guts.
and since they infected most of the feral rabbits with Calicii Virus - and God knows how many other animals, some clever-clogs buggers found out there is a market for rabbits for fashionable in-vogue restaurants so they’re breeding rabbits to eat now...special ones which promise not to escape, and not to breed if they do.
Yes, we are so much wiser now.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
To Whom it may concern
Dear Sir or Madam,
I would like to address the issue of discrimination against disabled people and their main carer (usually a wife, husband mother etc.). This is a Human Rights Issue.
My husband (now 55) became a Quadriplegic in January 1982. I was 28 and we had two daughters then seven and four. I am now 51 years old.
In the 23 year period since his tragic accident we raised our two daughters and they are now 31 and 28 and living and working in Sydney. I will never compromise their freedom to have a life. They at least are entitled to enjoy the freedoms and rights we were unable to access. There was much they were unable to do as children due to the restrictions of disability but they grew up kind, compassionate and thoughtful people and we are very proud of them.
Out of all this mess they are like the shining lights and we are partly responsible for their being such good people.
During this twenty three year period we have run continuously a small business from home and have remained self employed. We have and are politically active and expect no one to give us anything at all. We have learned that apart from all the fluffy platitudes of the advocacy groups that the Federal and State Governments spend our tax money on, there is no help out there for us and, no one cares at all.
In the last thirteen years especially my husband’s health had worsened gradually. He is an unlucky Quadriplegic as he endures levels of pain such that he now uses increasing pain killers such as used by people with Cancer. Bones are brittle. Nerves are compressed. His bladder will be removed possibly within the year because it has shrunk as much as it can. He has had a colostomy which helps with bowel pain. But this has also become painful. (Catch 22). Movement causes pain such as driving, so I drive carefully and avoid pot holes unlike the disabled taxi drivers!. He has other pain that we cannot locate and appears to be hypersensitive to feeling. Life is becoming increasingly restricted.
I love him deeply. He is the bravest and most ethical person I know, and leaves no stone unturned to help any family members if they need help, be it financial or just to talk.
Right now we are going through a “good patch”, which means he can actually get up in the morning and use his electric wheelchair. Last year he spent six months at one time totally bedridden. For a Quadriplegic to be bedridden means total helplessness. Every drink, every mouthful of food, every bodily function has to be performed by others. You cannot read in bed because you cannot hold a book or use aids properly. Because my husband suffers daily from Autonomic Dysreflexia, I began to hang the washing on the verandah line, because it was just too dangerous to spend time out of hearing in the yard at the clothes line...until I discovered a doorbell which he could use in bed...we were unprepared...which able bodied people would not understand.
During this time apart from the ‘help’ we hired ourselves I was it. I was it 24 hours a day, seven days a week and have been it since 1982 with almost no respite except for an occasional three or four days visiting our girls in Sydney, or seeing my sisters in Queensland, when one of them had a Cancer operation. Not exactly a holiday.
This in itself is a human rights issue. But I have long realised that no one cares about the carer, certainly not our MP’s, certainly not Government organisations nor society in general. Call me ‘ol cynical’ but I think my 23 year experience qualifies me. It takes a lot less to become a priest or lawyer or mathematics professor. But I will only emerge qualified to clean toilets and sweep floors.
Okay now to the crux of all of this. My younger sister aged 41 is battling cancer. If that were me, and it could easily be and may be one day, what rights would my husband and I have? Would the Government step in and take care of my husband if I was dealing with the devastating levels of Chemo therapy my little sister is? I doubt it. Would the Government put into action some ‘plan’ which would enable my husband to maintain his autonomy in his home were I to die from my cancer ...or get hit by a car tomorrow? All this is possible...my own father died this way aged 49.
What rights...after a life time of taxpaying does my husband have? He would not survive a nursing home for the aged as he is very independent and loves his independence of mind and ideology which he is entitled to.
That is HIS human right.
I don’t have any rights really but I would like to have the right to know that if I died tomorrow, my husband’s autonomy would be protected and the Government would set into motion a series of plans which would cover him and allow him to do without me...but in his own home....even with nursing care this is far cheaper than having to put a 55 year old in a nursing home meant for 80 year old infirm. (poor buggers)
I know that our daughters would sacrifice their own lives to protect their father. But they have not had their own children yet and it would be such a disaster if this were to take all of that away from them. I doubt my husband would allow himself to live if this happened.
We don’t want much really. We just want those who are “comfortable” and think that they are in control of their lives to imagine a sunny day in January 1982. To imagine a young blonde; very handsome young man at work, in the canal estates at Port Macquarie...imagine me...his young wife, arriving home at mid day with two little girls (school holidays) after an exercise class and coffee with a long time girl friend...imagine her finding her husband’s employer there at the little old house they rented...for $15 per week!! (paradise)...and imagine what it all meant from then on.
No one of us is immune from devastating disability. Walk out onto the road...go for a swim...fall off a step ladder Whatever!
Does an accident mean we are no longer a part of the human race...have no rights...are somehow “less than...”?
What separates you and me form “them”...just luck? Just fate? Just being there...or not?
Who is it that is so sure of themselves that they think they have more right to Government and society’s assistance than those who are suffering pain and illness?
My husband loved to Surf. He had a horse called Lucky...a palomino. He was the funniest and best father our two girls could ever have and they actively know this. Our family ‘stirs’ a lot. We accept that no one actually gives a damm. We accept the cruelties we suffer...society in Australia is very cruel ...for the disabled and the people who really love them.
Human rights...we have none. The disabled have none. The primary Carer (unpaid)...wife...mother...sister...father...brother...daughter... sin...whatever! None of us have any human rights.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
This is a shot of Melissa (in her black hair phase) and Alison.. trying so hard to be touristes...
We'd just had a very lean sandwich each, with coffee/tea on the promenade...near here and were shocked at the price and the"attitude" of the waiters. (won't go into that one)
Maybe I do look like a "Bag Lady" but I try to look respectable for the girl's sake... poor buggers... maybe if I pushed them in the water they wouldn't be laughing so bloody hard.
After all I did teach them to swim... I think.
This is a shot of our daughter in 1991... the night of her Formal...she went to Vinnies (ie St Vincent De Paul's) spent about $5 and came out with this dress. Had a great time and No did not run into the owner nor get scabies from the dress...
Saved us a packet.
Great kid hey!
there may be hope for the child... she looks determined to survive...
but there have been two more Kiwi babies (ifn' you can call them that) since this photo was taken and proudly distributed.
What were they thinking of? Were they even thinking at all?
Do Kiwi's have the power of thought anyway...there are a lot of Scots over there! HM!
Purple hair and red socks too... and she was such a beauty before she went to the land of the great White Cloud... I have to wonder if the cloud...white or not has something to do with all the sheep shagging inbreedcy Kiwis are reknowned for...
Schapelle Corby is languising there for 20 years after a fit up which was proven only after she was sentenced but our Gov is so busy toadying up to the Indonesians they are letting her rot... we are scared shitless of Indonesia...147million Muslims to our 20million whatever we are.
The Bali 9 re a group of mainly teenagers who will be on death row for Heroin activities...jail for life certainly - but the firing squad...done secretly - no way. There is something wrong here...Australians have never supported death penalties since the late '60's and then there was an outcry.
The above might clarify my letter
I am sickened by the assault on Michelle Leslie. She is 24 for God’s sake. Whether she is Christian, Muslim Callithumpian or just a human being should not enter into the issue of her being treated justly.
If my daughters were trapped over there in that shit hole of a justice system I would be happy that they used whatever means possible to come home…
I wish Schapelle was home now…and how crass is it to compare the two?
Both are someone’s daughters. Just as with the Bali Nine. Why on earth it takes so long to sort out the Mr Bigs who make the whole drug trade possible is my question.
Maybe they are Muslims too. Maybe they are Christians…they are certainly no longer human beings I believe. I am sure they go to their respective churches safe in the knowledge that the corruption in Indonesia and Australia will protect them from punishment on earth.
And as for the imminent slaughter of the Australian man in Singapore that is just brutality. It is not up to us fallible human beings with our ridiculous rituals of “justice” to sort out who should be hung or not.
That our children fall into the drug culture lands on all out doorsteps. We all make it possible by ignoring and supporting those who at the top, profit from the drug trade. Punish the victim?
There will always be victims. Go seriously after those “respectable citizens” who are behind all our drug related problems? No that will never do…too many high flyers are involved and it is they who have the full protection of the law be it in Indonesia, Singapore or Australia.
Michelle I hope will give the finger up to those who question her beliefs real or not. She is home. Her release should have had nothing at all to do with whether she wore a bit of cloth round her head or donned a singlet and jeans…
How ridiculous is that???
Monday, November 21, 2005
I look at my 'child' photos and the memories come back in waves
after wave. Waves of sunshine and winter; waves of sweetness and
sorrow. Each little detail stirs a memory that stirs a flood of
other memories that I thought were gone. The large cement
rectangle, near the back door of our house in Aberdeen which used
to be the base of the back part of our house, and on which stood
the kitchen, bathroom and laundry, and which fell to white ants,
long before I was born, and before my family came to live there.
That cement still burns my feet, cold-hot. My hardened child
feet, test the level of my endurance in the high summers of my
long ago. That cement bore witness to many baptisms by hose, in
the bright heat of summer as we took our turns to have the
baptisimal rites said over us, each in turn, religiously cooled
by the experience. But to sit on the large high tank stand and
hold that hose, ah, that was the privilege.
Endless games of rounders, focused on the long gone rectangle.
The bases which were trees, still stand as witnesses that these
games of young life occurred. "Queenie, Queenie, whose got the
ball?", the childish voices of sisters, friends, sometimes
enemies and myself, chorus out in my mind. I know every beat and
note of that game. Skipping, games of 'fly' were all focused
around that patch of cement.
That mum was always somewhere inside that large old house, almost
always. So sure of this were we all the time that we never even
thought about it. Dad generally did all the outside work, when he
was home, but it often seemed to fall to mum to bury the contents
of our outside toilet, whose large pan always got close to
overflowing at Christmas times, in the intense heat of the inland
summer. As a child fascinated by the event, the maggots and the
whole event of the burying, I can remember her delicately picking
her way down the back yard, hauling this very heavy and unstable
container of her family's wastes. Pick and shovel at the ready.
Those years of boarding school could never have prepared her for
this task and yet she never seem to lose her temper, get dirty or
forget her unique dignity.
The yard we played in was large, interesting and safe.
Imagination could reign free and the back yard was many things.
Childhood days seemed eternal. I share all this with my sisters
and the bond of home and yard goes very deep. I still remember
the piles of tree nuts we would gather into tins and piles. We
would form teams and pelt these hard projectiles at one another
without thought of eye loss. Didn't I throw a tomato stake over
the old paling fence once which landed right between my sister
June's eyes. By accident of course.
I see the old tin pedal car that belonged to us all at different
times, but was originally Veronica's. Then even further back an
old tin pram, a scooter and a battered old Dinky which were both
repainted, every time they were handed down to the next child
they fitted. They were ours, in those days, only as long as we
used them, and as soon as we moved on to other things, 'ours'
would be revamped and hammered smooth by dad to be presented to
the next in line. I never recall being disappointed that these
toys were old. They always felt new, by virtue of their being
given to me, and re painted. It was a good feeling.
When I was about nine a small blow up paddle pool appeared in the
yard one Christmas.Dad covered it with a tarpaulin shade. It was
heaven just to lie in this cramped little space and pretend it
was much bigger and that you were really swimming. There is a
photo of this arrangement, and mum stands in the photo, younger
than I, arms folded and laughing cheekily out at the camera. I
see photos of the large yard, in my childhood, always mowed and
trimmed, sometimes even with flowers on the edge of the driveway,
and realise that dad did much more in the yard than my childish
We are all five of us, the children of then, adults now. Some of
us even have adult children of our own. I can still feel the
burning heat of those long summers, in our yard, I still remember
eating water-melons out in the yard, on the late summer evenings
and playing endless games of hide and seek in the dark. Through
it all, and with all that went on in the outside world, the home
and back yard was the private world of the family to be who and
what it wanted to be without interference, from outside the
Before me pages turn,
and the years unknown whirl down
the space of time.
And what is there in the crystal ball?
The crystal motes of light
around my head swirl amidst the haze
as the book’s cover slowly creaks open.
All manner of saints and sinners;
of angels and demons lie compressed
in the pages yet to be released.
The children yet to be born...are born.
The weight of love is like a gossamer shroud
binding and being bound; tighter or looser...
The Mother, still young and laughing
gets to die...and dies frail and ailing.
I go on down paths blindly turning
the corners of choice and forces outside.
Like a blind, blundering, behemoth I lurch,
lumbering towards the light.
And the Sun only dimly registers in my eyes.
And the Cat sings Kathmandu...
as I spin back down to myself at eighteen.
Making the book’s binding,
with the gloss of young love;
Sewing it with diamonds, rubies and garnets;
clothing it with cloaks of roses and blue grey dawns-
I bind the pages with young smooth white hands...
what is to be for a girl like me;
with fire in her hair; her eyes;
her smile and heart?
What forces do I call upon now
to quell the passion of the dream
and so become the server; pliant;
over-gentle; giving; giving; taken-away?
This book of mine is becoming a little too overbound
as the years progress...
it needs the faery dust of silliness,
the sparkle of nonsense
and the wondrous eyes of childhood
to lighten up its heaviness.
Sunday, November 20, 2005
From time to time, words aren’t necessary.
For months - years at times,
I soak in the emotions; the knowing; the beauties and ugliness and write no words.
But because no words are written, doesn’t negate these times -
Whether or not the truths that the living allows me to know
are recorded as words or known as truth in my soul
matters not at all -
The paper and the pen only exist because we are driven to record,
record - in physical form, all we see, do and understand.
Like I am now.
If we could read the unconscious as easily as the written word,
all this is there in the collective for us.
All my reading and all it encompasses -
a striving in me to knowledge that I know is!
(if I was patient and still enough to receive it)
One day - to share a concept - not a collection of limited words -
with all instantly, at will.
As was done many ages ago
on another loop in the spiral of time...
One day... to understand and share without losing the beauty,
within the limits of the word...
A great pleasure for me is to understand as much as I am able...
For now... reading the written words of others.
In their words is the glimmer of the light of truth they have discovered.
Leading me from one concept to an even greater one...
For my understanding has its limits and must be patient
till I have grown enough to give respect to the heritage I receive.
Therese Mackay Dec 1990
Saturday, November 19, 2005
At times when everything seems so deadly serious,
and small things grow to assume such a great importance,
and the things of this life are so solidly in your face -
you forget that there are other lives out there
than the one you are so deadly in earnest about...
When we all sit about, talking all our nothings
with such gravity -
A part of me seems to separate with a life I have no control of...
and sets up a smirky smile, a chuckle needing to be hidden,
a belly laugh trying hard not to take over . . .
My child face round and clear twinkles with devilment
seeing the ridiculuousness I am in danger of succumbing to.
“We must not laugh at funerals, Therese.
Nor at Premiers and Prime Ministers - not to their faces anyway -
We must not roll our eyes at protocol,
Nor at pretentious prattling mawkish six month ‘pastors’
who try to save us from ourselves.
It does not do to stand with hands on hips...as if about to charge
nor is it done to mimic land developers and councillors
who play the game so well.
And Therese, just because the doctor walks like he’s got
a broom lodged up his bottom,
doesn’t mean its okay to imitate him behind his back,
when you think he isn’t looking...”
At these times I am reminded of who I really am,
Accepting that the saying that “God laughs in flowers’
mightn’t always fill my garden with the prettiest of flowers...
And I much rather the rough child that runs inside me
laughing in the sunshine - digging me in the ribs
as I try to keep it straight - roaring out “HAW HAW HAW”
in great belly laughs that make your sides ache.
To only laugh when others think its funny and correct
in a world becoming too respectable, serious and full of pretension...
amongst hidden cruelties, affectation, pomposity and stuffiness,
means too bloody long between laughs for me.
To stand and feel live, seemingly solid,
on the green grass in the afternoon cool,
trailing a woven thatch of bindies
behind me in the fringed hem of my long dress -
I searched in and out looking at all the headstones.
Some old and familiar to my child games,
some new and unfamiliar;
some I see with a slight shock, mentally erasing them
from life in the town below.
Coming to rest - acknowledging my father,
my grandfathers and grandmother,
relations all over -
I was never told.
I came and dreamt up my Mother
with all her love and I feathered my insides
for my life ahead.
I smiled at her headstone
with its ‘angels and flying ‘poetry’,
and felt the love rush in - allowing
me to leave her grave on the hill
which breathes in the soft morning,
grey blues and exhales like a perfume
the rose pink;
with no tears for now,
I go and put happy music on my car cassette player
and rattled away down the road,
the circle drawn behind me.
Therese Mackay 23/11/94
Friday, November 18, 2005
"NO! You can't have a dollar to go to the shops ....if I've told you once, cripple, I have told you a thousand times they don't want the likes of you hanging around...your place is hiding in the wardrobe when visitors call...okay!"
"but I just want one dollar to go to the shops, please."
One walks with her head held high.
Her eyes on the far distance, I feel.
But a small smile on her lips
says she is aware of me,
and so she stays close to me.
All outward signs are of dignity and assurance
but that little play of lips,
and the quick looking away,
says more, more than words could ever say.
Sometimes she is all sparkle and colour and pizzazz,
then she retreats into some secret place of her own,
I try not to see nor to fuss but I do any way...
that is the nature of us...
Then she runs through the house, banging and crashing
alive and wondrous.
I hold her joy of life, her vitality in my soul always.
The other walks, her large eyes already searching,
They hold my eyes from the first.
She watches me watching her, from the first.
She watches my watching her all the while.
Sometimes she drags her feet and looks pale,
Sometimes she does a silly walk for me.
She does things totally, never a foot in each camp,
A moment earlier with her friends she had not a thought of me,
Now it is all for me ... and I’d just better be there or else!!
Out in the garden she gently pokes at life, finding out things
quietly getting it all in order,
like in a filing cabinet for some future reference.
I hold her large eyes in my soul always.
Therese Mackay 1991
I knew it was time to stop, sit and dream
out into the cloudy blue
when I carried potatoes in their pot
not to the stove,
but out to the spare bedroom
and stood still wondering why
and where had I really been when I did it.
Am I now sitting generously filling the chair,
with pen in hand,
or is my body on one of its multi tasking errands
that never end – never ever end,
till in the dark at night I am myself
for the moments before blessed sleep descends.
The glass – no – the mug of sour wine
in my left hand -
soothes the jagged edges.
The deep red luscious roses I picked
this morning; the book; the pen; the mobile -
next to me - a still life.
The Cat – Ah! The cat Archimedes,
purring on a chair near me -
full of grace and timeless peace -
my link to times past and times future.
To Mothers and for Mothers – to Isis.
Soon a bell will ring – needs must – no fault there,
and my stumpy bare feet will pad about endlessly
After cooking the potatoes.
Serving up. Washing up.
Folding, bending, turning, closing,
feeding, serving, cleaning -
should be doing all with love...
No time outside to wonder at the night sky
Tired – fit to die.
Outside my window the gentle rain falls.
Birds call and chortle.
The clouds roll away and over,
a wondrous thing to see...
All my life is there.
I have put the potatoes on the stove now
and returned to sanity.
No time to snatch for me -
Too dead tired.
A photo of a very young Don holding two cats we had then is worth a lot more than $29. He HATES cats with a passion you could not believe.
But it is the attitude of our two girls which delights me...there is Melissa - the eldest - this is the girl who when I drove her through the streets at age 13 said"I love the lights mum, I can't wait to get out there!!!" She survived and still looks to the horizon with the same expectant look...Then there is our youngest Alison...arms crossed, bottom lip out and she knows...boy does she know. She was born knowing. Poor little bugger...She has been so ill now for so long...I wish I could wave my magic wand, the one that mums are supposed to have and say "be well" ...not her fault, just bugs and chemicals...from the 20th/21st century... they are best friends... so different... and when I look at this photo, Don (husband) looks like he is one of them... we were so very young then. I remember this day so well... he was a lovely man and still is, quite crusty and pernickity like most of them, but he was lovely and still is as far as I am concerned... When we met I had just enough for one more cider ...(50cents)...and he said "What would you like to drink?"
I suggested a "Scotch and Dry" and that was it. We went home that night and moved in together 3 weeks later...who says a pick up is bad news? WOOOAHHH!
We have our moments..he is as Celtic as am I and we argue...all Celts argue ...it is our nature...but then we look at each other every so often and exchange a kiss...I would not be anywhere else ever!
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Every large family has a 'Clown' child. I was our family's. It
was my self appointed duty to perform, whenever I saw the need.
This need was never more strongly felt than when the more rigid
of our relatives visited for cups of tea. For a short time I
would tell them outrageous tall tales and outright lies. My poor
parents never knew what little gem I was going to drop which
would endanger their young respectability. Most times I didn't
either, it all just flowed.
My eyes saw all and what they didn't see they imagined. My ears
heard things that others didn't. Every event was embellished,
drawn out, and acted out for those difficult visitors. Difficult
visitors, came to tea and sat. They would be very quiet and
appeared to notice every bit of fluff, every cracked cup. They
would answer mum's attempts at conversation with only the minimum
words, and I could see that action was needed. They expected
someone to entertain them.
This was my cue.
I saw myself as relieving the situation. Nothing like a few funny stories to
break the ice. A few home secrets tossed in for good measure,
always helped. Make them laugh Therese and then you can go
outside and play with the others. Mum will be okay then. Feeling
like mum's protector I was quick to see through the thin veneer
of politeness and almost feel the tiny stabs, the cruel digs, "Oh
Margaret you're not pregnant again are you?". I did not know what
pregnant was but mum's face would look sad and other people had
no right to make mum sad. That was our job as kids!!
Mum was almost too kind and gentle for her own good. She breast
fed in the 'bottle-fed’ sixties, 'on demand'. She cuddled the
babies when they cried, wore her hair naturally, and her dresses
flowing and floral. The more vicious relatives would pick away at
her, sensing a potential victim. I didn't know the words for
these things then, but I knew what I felt.
Later she would be in the kitchen cleaning up. I always felt a
bit afraid of what I had actually said, but most often she'd be
laughing away to herself. "You really are a card," she'd say
beaming. I had my reward.
Life at home in my primary school years was most of all, safe.
School was a totally different matter. Like having a split
personality. At home we were all loved and allowed to be
ourselves. I could bring home big bags of rocks for my
collection; I could dig holes for treasure, if I was careful. I
could paint, draw and go out in the yard and sing my lungs out in
full confidence of my place in the family.
Mum often spoke about Mrs Millar, who looked after her and her
father after her mother had died when mum was nearly four. She
showed Mrs Millar's photo and spoke about her in such way that
she took on almost mythical proportions. Mum needed to know that
I understood about how she felt and what better way than a life
sized drawing of Mrs Millar, on the newly painted wall of our
bedroom. In heavy lead, shaded to perfection, grew this icon,
complete with horn rimmed glasses and striped dress. On the most
prominent wall of the bed room. Mum would be so pleased.
June, only eighteen months older, but vastly more responsible,
came in and looked at it, eyes widening. "Dad's going to kill
you!", which gave me a totally different perspective on my
actions. It was the sort of paint that the more you scrubbed it
the worse the mess became. The ghastly blob that awaited mum's
approval bore little resemblance to the much lauded Mrs Millar,
except for the glasses. A bemused look of shock from mum, and a
very quiet, " I don't know what your father will say when he gets
home... but it does look like her!" I don't remember dad's reaction.
Sometimes the fear of waiting for punishment was the worst that
happened, being out of favour was far worse than physical
punishment. The occasional slaps and even more rare hidings we
got meant that we got away with more than we were caught for.
Occasionally I'd find dad with his arms around mum's waist. She
would be giggling in a different way. Although I was pleased, I
instinctively knew to back off at these times. Mum and Dad were
obviously deeply in love and arguments were rare. The worst one I
recall was when Dad had had too much to drink one Friday evening,
and Mum got so wild she threw one of Grandfather's beautiful
ceramic egg cups at him and missed. That was the only potentially
violent incident I ever witnessed. Grandfather had recently died
and mum was more upset over the egg cup being broken, than the
cause of the argument.
The odd times when dad knew he may be in
trouble, he would arrive home with big bags of lollies, smiling
benignly. Then, rather ponderously he would divide these in order
of type so that we each got exactly the same. Like a pack of
vultures we would watch the whole process to make sure that no
one got one crumb more than the other. We were all then dad's
advocates and the situation became like a small party.
A long hall ran through the middle of our home. Its length and
placement of the doors provided an 'on- off' stage for all the
concerts the three eldest of us put on for mum and dad, who were
obliged to sit in the audience chairs in the kitchen. With a
flourish the door would be flung back violently and they'd just
better be sitting attentively waiting for the start. Timing was
important in these impromptu but well produced masterpieces.
I loved to be up before sunrise when I would be the only one
awake except for dad. These mornings were special. We would make
up the fire and make toast. Then I would follow dad around our
huge yard and talk. The yard would be misty and unusual. We would
sometimes watch the sunrise out in the front and hear the small
town wake up. Then the mystery of the yard would fade as sunlight
Many years later, my own small family drove over to visit my
mother in Scone. We stopped at a tiny pub at Moonan Flat after a
very long hot drive over the Barrington Tops. I noticed a strange
old man, with the look of death all over him, staring at me. We
started speaking and he asked me was I any relation to Fred
Spencer. I was surprised and pleased to find any one who still
remembered dad, and saw a likeness. Dad had died tthirty five years
He said to me,
"Do you remember me? I was the Sanitary man. You used to sit
out the front of your house and talk to me just about every week
when you were little." Flash! There it was. I remembered. At
about 4.30am once a week he would run down our long drive,
thump...thump... thump..., empty pan hoisted high. I'd spring out
of bed and be ready for him on his return trip with the full pan.
We talked for some time and it was always interesting. I was so
grateful for the memory, and knew that we shared something no one
else did. he was somewhat of a philosopher and spoke about things
I had never heard of, which was just about everything in those
days. Mum would have been horrified at the thought that rather
than being safely tucked up in bed I was elsewhere.
One year dad dug a long trench in the yard for a pipe. We had
awful trouble with the waste water, and he was always cleaning
the grease trap. This huge trench was yet another effort to get
the water away from the house. This trench was left open till dad
could get back to it. It became the running joke in the town how
the ill fated sanitary man running in with the empty pan, missed
it completely, only to fall into it on the return journey,
copping the contents of the full pan. For the uninitiated it was
not a pan as such, but more the size of a four gallon drum.
Whether or not it was the same sanitary man that I was friends
with I don't know, probably not as it was some few years later.
All we knew in the morning was that there were a few extra little
bits of newspaper on the grass. Unsuspecting, we of course were
the last to find out until the story had been around the town
more than once. The tale grew, went width ways, underwent
metamorphosis and became funnier with each addition. The trench
got deeper; the pan fuller; larger and more disgusting. There
were maggots; no there were swarms of blowflies (in the middle of
the night?) There was everything imaginable in that pan, and
wasn't the Sanitary man lucky to still be alive. He walked with a
limp; no he broke his leg. It took him ages to shovel it all up;
no he had to use his hands. Chinese whispers had nothing on this
story. By the time we heard it, the trench was neatly filled in
and functioning perfectly, it even had grass shoots.
The night they told dad, in the pub he was set up. Surrounded to
see his reaction, and assured that somehow all the versions were
true. Mum was very embarrassed and I can remember her saying over
"Oh! Fred!....Oh! Fred!". Poor mum who grew up with such
‘gentility’ must have wondered about these grotty, earthy, amazing
people, who shone so much light on the vagaries of human nature
for an observant small town child.