venerdì, novembre 04, 2011

Sweeping cultural generalizations: Australian/French Canadian edition

I'm doing better here. This past week has been the first time I've been able to emotionally realize that we're doing pretty well here; I'd been realizing it financially and whatnot before but this week is the first time I felt a little bit of contentment. Uncoincidentally, it was the week the F-word got a real job.

Still had an episode in the supermarket on Thursday, though, where tears actually came to my eyes. The other night I'd been chatting with some people about the relative merits of English supermarkets (they are public school types, orgasming over how lovely Waitrose is), and I realized at this point I'd be fucking excited to go to a Tesco. Not just in terms of the prices, but in terms of stuff that wasn't crap. Still, I'm getting better at using the farmers and their markets here, partly thanks to the F-word putting in his time at the falafel stall at all of them, and I would say we are eating really good food again now.

And we've got people here, ones who I actually like and like spending time with. Some of them are malcontents like us, most of them have children. It's actually good they have children because there'a a lot of adult talk I just can't tune into, so then I can start drawing or something with the kids. I'm enjoying it while I can. I'm told by all and sundry that when I have my own children, I won't give a fuck about anyone else's anymore.

One of the people we have here is Squidsy, whose wife did the runner with their boy. I feel for him, though not as much as I feel for the kid. And don't wholly not understand the wife, either. I see the impossibility of their situation and it's going to the courts, where it belongs when people can't communicate anymore when they need to.

But I do feel as though they had a massive hurdle to overcome on their way to communcation that tripped them up utterly. Australians are the most Anglo of Anglophones, at least that I've met so far, and that means settling annoyances or disturbances in the continuum with, at worst, passive aggression blossoming into violence or something close to it once a threshold's been crossed. In terms of settling differences through communication that's really not how the French do it - not any of them from anywhere I've met them.  At worst, it's a lot more nasty and high volume right away - skipping the passive aggression and jumping straight into the violent language (or flat-out violence sometimes; France at least has a pretty high rate of wife-clobbering); just usually not the same degree of violence as an Anglo who's really let things fester.

To Anglos the dynamic makes Francophones look like unstable bitches, and to Francophones I think the dynamic makes us look like we're utterly and provokingly emotionally uninvolved, right up until some seemingly arbitrary point, and sometimes the ensuing, unexpected explosion is frightening.

I've been thinking of Bluebird a lot in relation to this, mostly in terms of how relieved he seemed to get when I went ballistic on him, maybe five or six times over the course of our 3.5 year relationship. No matter what sort of fucking Nazi rally bloodboiling rage he was in, once he pushed me over the edge where I couldn't ignore his shit anymore - once I started stamping and yelling and and cursing and storming out the door - suddenly everything was sunshine again, and usually stayed that way for weeks or even months, and when Bluebird was sunshine he was lovely. I remember one of the reasons I decided to leave him was because of that, actually. I just didn't want to be with a man who was training me to be angry. Angry's fine; it's just not the sort of shit I want in my head every day, at least not against the person I'm fucking. Diff'rent strokes.

martedì, novembre 01, 2011

Real jobs and real chocolate milk

Two things. First, the F-word got a real job, which is awesome. He'd been making ends meet and pulling his weight financially in the household, but had had to, you know, hustle a bit. Not like rentboy hustle, like bustle-hustle. A few days here, a few hours there, a few days of hoop-jumping to get government money; that sort of thing. All quite precarious, stressful, and boring. Some of it was very lucrative, like the supply teaching, which is almost 3 Cs a day here, but that was the most stressful of all, since it was generally with country teenagers.

The least lucrative and the least stressful was working at a falafel stand at a series of local markets, of which there are a plethora in the neighboring towns. He quite enjoyed that, but the guy who runs the stall is the one whose Canadian wife left him with their son for Canada, hence he's shattered, and she'd been the one mostly running the stall, hence it's not really running like a well-oiled machine . . . hence the F-word was making minimum wage (which, admittedly, is really high in Australia; around $15, and that's on par with the US and Canadian dollar at the mo).

Considering our taste for holidays, expensive cheeses, and paying off our mortgage super fast so we can move back to Europe in style, his unpredictable schedual and lack of extra money has been frustrating for both of us. I guess there was also a lurking fear of me suddenly losing my job, too, and what we'd manage to pull out of our asses then. It's not a very realistic fear unless I go mental at the next conference I attend and start writing poetry on the walls with my own poo. But what if I really want to and feel I simply can't? No, I refuse to feel so stifled.

So that's all great, but what's even better is that it's a real job, by which I mean a good one - adult education, socially useful, with a non-profit instead of one of the cunt cowboy schools he and I have both had more than enough of, non-ridiculous commute AND, best of all, only two days a week, which means he has his mental space for art without having to waste his time hustling for short jobs, and for afternoon sex. He was getting to the point of wanting a job so bad I think he would have accepted one that wasn't real, in the sense of good. So I'm relieved. It is fucking difficult to live with artists when they're not artisting.

Also while in past conversations he's been fond of the idea of being a house-husband, when the possibility arose before him he couldn't do it. I understand. I couldn't be a housewife either. Not because of not feeling it'd be unfulfilling or whatever, but I just couldn't emotionally accept going down to only one income for two people in such a precarious world, which is his feeling, more or less. Maybe we'd feel differently about it if we both couldn't get real, in the sense of good, jobs, and our situations were either nothing or 50 hour weeks (I've done the 50 hour weeks; I'd rather do nothing). And maybe we'll feel differently when there are kids in the picture. Maybe we'll both want to stay home then even if we were still only working 16-20 hour weeks. Hard to say.

Anyways, the second thing. I've figured out the not-at-all-rocket-science of homemade chocolate milk. It's just like an iced latte; you mix together some sugar and cocoa in a few drops of hot water and then put in cold milk and ice. I can't believe I've been such a fucking shithead as to buy pre-packaged chocolate milk at the store like a fucking doofus for 32 years. Well, let's say 28 years, since 4 is the first time I remember agitating to be bought chocolate milk. That's 28 years of being a total shithead. Okay, let's say 24, because maybe my parents wouldn't have let me boil water unattended until I was 8 or something. 24 years of being a total shithead. Sometimes I fucking blush for myself. In the last year alone I must have blew about $100 from not having figured that shit out. And it's so much better, especially using that sort of cocoa with the superfine chili powder, so that it's a spicy chocolate milk. Try buying that shit in the store. You can't.

lunedì, ottobre 31, 2011

Parasites and prawns

So. Two things. First, I saw my accountant yesterday and discovered I'd saved more than four times as much as I needed to for my income taxes this year. That was mostly down to my paranoia and I had been pretty sure I was oversaving, but it was still good news. Thrilling news, in fact. But later, something was added to the thrill, as it dawned on me that the figure was really far too low. I ran a quick simulation to see what I'd have to pay if I was an employee instead of a contractor, and realized I would have had to pay twice as much - easily.

And that set me off, of course. I'd had an abstract understanding for some time that tax systems in the Anglo countries serve to wed the interests of the extremely rich to the - what would you call it? Entrepreneurial class?  Sounds too flattering . . . small business class? I'm not sure. I'm sure there's a real word for it somewhere.

In Australia I think it has the effect of sort of uniting the interests of everybody who owns a shop or service with cunts who are really, really rich - fixing things up so we pay very little tax. Which means we - the self-employed, the really really rich - are effectively being subsidized by proportionately higher taxes being paid by poor people and by employees. (Less so by poor people now because the tax-free threshold has just been tripled, this year, to north of $18,000, which is enough to live on, if not live on well in the cities - but of course raising that limit also benefits people making a lot more than $18,000).

I can see the arguments for it in terms of job creation but I think many small businesspeople are like me, with no or else very casual employees, and I can see an argument for it - a very theoretical one - in the breaks being offered for the self-employed to encourage them to get into something a little bit risky. But the thing is, in an Australian context being self-employed isn't really riskier than being an employee. This isn't Europe. Severance pay is poor, notice periods are short, and there's a perfectly adequate public healthcare system - from what I can figure out, all private coverage buys you in Australia is cups of tea when you're in hospital, where you'll still get taken care of by a public-system doctor if there's an emergency. The new mat leave scheme isn't something employers pay into, it's a government handout, and it's as available to the self-employed as it is to employees. Unless you as an individual or you as represented by a union (and unions catch MASSIVE fucking flack in the media here) can negotiate a really great contract with your employer (as does still happen, actually, since there's a labour shortage in so many fields in Australia), there's really no substantial benefit to being an employee.

There is one, actually, again in theory. Superannuation payments. Employers are required to contribute, I think, a figure representing 10% of their employee's base salary into a sort of retirement investment account - the sort of thing that's done in the US and Canada too, a replacement for a decent pension, and the reason why normal people's lives have got completely fucked up by financial markets over the last three years, and the reason why so many things suddenly seem "too big to fail" - if they do, an army of broke, angry pensioners will start voting Commie, or something. And of course nobody pays the self-employed superannuation benefits.

But the thing is, if I was an employee, there's no way by base pay would be this high. When I negotiated my contract, I asked for more money to make up for no super. And when jobs are advertised in my field and pay is mentioned, the super contributions are always part of the ad - you're expected to think of your pay as a combination of the two.

So. In conclusion. I've left the middle classes and joined the parasite classes. And I don't feel bad about it. Well, I do, but not bad enough to not keep the money.

Second thing. To celebrate me joining the parasite classes, we went for a run on the beach in Lennox Head last night, and then out for dinner to the Lennox Thai Garden. And shockingly, it was MARVELLOUS. I whine alot about the poor quality of rural Australian food, but there are three restaurants in L--- that are quite decent - I mustn't knock it too much. But this was the first time that we'd been outside of the big cities here that I'd had a meal where I actually felt that it was proportionately good to how fucking expensive it was. I had this sort of coconut soup and some king prawns in tamarind sauce, and everything was actually fresh - especially the king prawns - they were enormous and delicious. Good lord. I was really shocked. The idea of value for money when it comes to food is really something I didn't think I'd ever experience again in this fucking countryside. Top notch!

domenica, ottobre 30, 2011

Being bled

So I don't have many running mishaps anymore, in the sense that my body's got used to it to the degree of no longer being flatulent outside packed churches, and no more chafing. Yesterday, however, a funny thing happened. As I was running or before I set out - I'm not sure which - I scratched my back. Just a wee scratch, nothing serious. But I suppose because I was running and my blood was up, and because it was a hot day so I was sweating like a racehorse with rabies, it bled rather more than it should, and the blood spread rather more dramatically than it should. And I was wearing a white shirt, too. When I got home and took a gander at it, it was AWFUL. It looked - I don't know what it looked like. It looked like I'd been hurt, though. It looked like a television stabbing.

The funny thing was I hadn't been running somewhere secluded. I'd been running in a park that was crowded with dog walkers and other runners, or at least crowded by L--- standards. And out of the two dozen or so people I was, you know, within seven metres of as I ran, there was one - ONE - who pointed out that I was bleeding. Right at the end of my run. That doesn't seem normal too me.

The other funny thing, BTW, is that when he said that, not knowing, indeed, that I was bleeding, I immediately craned my neck to try to look at my ass in case it was the Red Dragon coming early, making him cry "No no no! Your back!" Sorry for the graphic reminder of menses, concerned man on the sidewalk.