lunedì, dicembre 29, 2014

Good Lord, but how can we all avoid being Catholic when Christmas can be so purgatorial?

Oh, thank heavens that I've now wrapped up what is quite likely to be the last Christmas I'll ever spend in the fucking Antipodes. What a bunch of bullshit it is here. And no, it's not the weather. Singapore is a fucking steamroom full of heathens, and they do Christmas right there. It's just so fucking ocker-half-assed-bullshit. Every shitty little string of lights and dime-store tinsel barely decorating some fucking overpriced shop full of the world's factory seconds is like a fucking knife in the heart.

Fuck. This. Place.

Also, in-laws. The F-word has a lovely step-father who is all into Christmas and without him I'd find Christmas with the rest of the F-word's family unbearable. Of course, without him, having found the first Christmas unbearable with the rest of the F-word's family (with precisely seven exceptions) I would have started insisting we have "destination" Christmases in various interesting and exciting Asian countries, and that would have been awesome.

But then that would have precluded our second Christmas here happening, during which the F-word had a major conflagration with ten close family members that has shaped up into looking permanent. Which would have been - bad? Good? I don't know. I'm certainly not unhappy about not having to ever see those pieces of work again. No matter whether it's good or bad, though, in general in terms of our time in Australia, we've reached the limit of the benefit that the F-word can expect to reap by facing up to the ongoing problems he has always had with almost all of his family - indeed we've reached a point where he is just shaking his head over them, while I'm struggling to not physically tear physical heads from physical bodies.

(Our third Christmas was alone with a one-month-old baby up in the tropics, which was more or less as it sounds - too busy bonding, cuddling and sleeping to notice much. Our fourth was a slightly less purgatorial version of this one just past. And this one just past Christmas - well, thank heaven it was the last. The F-word is the only person in his father's family that the F-word's father still has a relationship with after many bitter fights and fallings-out. That would make it so ironic if the F-word's old lady - that is, I - would be the person who would finally snap and throttle him.)

BTW, Australia has given me asthma, which is sort of shitty, but at least it means I should be able to get my marijuana on prescription from now on. Merry Christmas to me. 

martedì, dicembre 09, 2014

giovedì, novembre 20, 2014

Moving to, moving away

Well, I won't say everything has been going absolutely seamlessly with the preparations to move to Krautland, but they have been remarkably smooth. For example, I've come across a nasty little catch-22 where full-time contractors moving there can't get public health insurance, but it's illegal to not have health insurance . . . a private insurer would probably take me, but being a child-bearing-age woman, a mother and a pinko, that option is both too expensive and too contrary to my blah-blah-blahs. But I get to override the catch-22 with that special-statute-for-journalist thing. Fancy.

Anyways, things have been moving so smoothly that to be honest I'm sort of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Job, they say, is the oldest book of the Bible, and I'd say certainly the one nearest to my heart. I'm conscious of having led so far what would be considered by billions to be a charmed life, and fuck me if that doesn't make me nervous. When you've done nothing to deserve it, when there are so many better people who don't have it, how can you not be scared of it being taken away?

Another thing, not unrelated to my ridiculous angst, is that my application for Australian citizenship is also chugging along fast. There is every chance that when I fuck off out of here, I will be doing so as an Australian . . . and I can say it's just a potentially useful piece of paper, but A) I've spent longer here now than anywhere besides Canada and B) last night I had an erotic dream about Crocodile Dundee, and he left his hat on. I'm still breastfeeding, by the way. I don't have erotic anything about anything in the normal course of things.

 At least that's what it would have sounded like if anyone in Australia could play the bass.

I do wonder what my time here has done to me, and that is a question I won't be able to answer until years after I've left, probably. I do know that I've never felt so much like a trespasser anywhere, even in countries where I didn't speak the language that well. There isn't much nice you can say about what happened to the native people in North America - probably, at best, that if a bunch of busybody immigrants on the make headed to Europe right after the plague killed most of the population, something similar would have happened, so it's nothing personal. But there's something a little spookier going on here.

Australian aboriginals have been in situ basically longer than anybody has been anywhere. 70,000 years, by some reckoning. 70,000 years ago, if you wanted a bit of rough in Europe, you could fuck a Neanderthal, and go on fucking Neanderthals for the next 40,000 years or so. 70,000 years is basically an unfathomable amount of time in human history.

And here aboriginal people have been, on what is by global standards quite the fucking dump of a continent. Always catching fire, or flooding, or sending up swarms of poisonous things, and mostly desert at the best of times. They made it work for 70,000 years in this fucking dump. That is fucking insane. If anywhere "belongs" to anybody, this place belongs to them, and when you are, like me, fundamentally a south-of-Eboli-Catholic - about three catsprings away from a straight-up voodoo animist - ignoring that belonging is fucking creepy. Sure, you can do it legally. We own a good square kilometre of the place. But spiritually? Oh dear me no. Spiritually, being here creeps me the fuck out. Crocodile Dundee I am not. Even if I've now seen his spirit dong. 

martedì, novembre 18, 2014

Happy snotday

Ugh. The boy's second birthday has come, as has colds.

Melbourne, you fuck. Under an ozone free sky and sandwiched between the desert and a deep blue sea - a deep blue sea where the next continent over is fucking Antartica - the weather is the physical manifestation of the emotional state of a 12 year old girl. It hasn't been uncommon for the mornings to start off just a few degrees north of freezing and peak around 3 pm close to 40 degrees. Nor is it uncommon for that temperature to plummet so fast when the wind stops blowing from the desert and starts blowing from the sea that your lower body is still warm from the baked asphalt and your upper body is twitching in the chilly breeze. And then on a normal windless day there's still a good 10 degree swing between sun-in and sun-out.

I actually don't mind it too much. 85% of the time, it's better in most ways than a lot of the places I've lived - I'm really having to gird myself up in weather terms for moving back to northern Europe, for example. But I do believe these big temperature swings make it easier to catch colds than it should be. And the big heat is really unbearable here. We're going to get quite a lot of it this summer, I think, what with everybody in Canada complaining about how the cold and snow is coming down on them like the wrath of God and these things usually going oppositely.

You want the wrath of God, beaverbeaters? Try weather that can't decide whether to kill you fast with fatal heatstroke and poisonous cold blooded creatures, or kill you slow with skin cancer and respiratory disorders from all the fucking air conditioning. And then cover it in flies. Fucking millions of flies. Who get caught in your toddler son's snot bubbles on his second birthday. Poor kid.

Anyways, the boy is two and the best thing ever. 

martedì, novembre 11, 2014

Throwing shit out

Things are ticking along amazingly fast towards departure. I really like this practice I've got going of only putting a few things on my to-do list - things I can reasonably accomplish within a few days - and then scratching them off. And making them bite-size. For example, "Throw Shit Out." That I can do. If I throw out one box of shit once a week between here and February, I'll hardly have to pack a bag at all.

Talking with a good accountant there has also helped. German tax law. Hah! The three words together look so funny on the page. It's like writing "God is good" or "Life is hard". Three words with whole fucking universes of meaning behind them to the degree that even saying them is at best meditative or mantric and at worst totally fucking incoherent. Anyways, he seems to be a good accountant and was able to quantify for me what I do before we leave and what I have to do right after. The Byzantine nature of German tax law looks to be working out for me at the moment too, since they have a special, obscure statute for self-employed journalists that seems to promise to make life rather easier for me.

And maybe I'm counting my chickens, but I think that this move might be a relatively easy one based on the fact that we know it's going to be fucking devastatingly hard and we started - okay, realistically, I started intensive preparations for it back in September. We've both done the trans-global moves a few times before, together or singly, and I think have both tended to leave stupid, stressful amounts of time to ourselves to get everything done. But now that we have Godzilla, we're not quite so dumb. A little better, I hope, at managing our time.

We'll see. I'm curious myself to see how much of my own hair I've pulled out by the time we leave. 

lunedì, ottobre 27, 2014


That is a POP! of relief. A POP! of all my fretting muscles suddenly relaxing, as though flooded by a wave of healing grappa.

A different forest kindergarten has said yes to Godzilla next year, starting from August, providing that we send him to their playgroup starting when we get there February, which we'd been planning on anyways. We didn't have a trial day there - the pricey neighbourhood forest kindergarten was the only one in the city proper we did a trial day in - but I did go visit it. Funnily enough, on a visit I was near to blowing off, since it was scheduled for the day after the kinder in the pricey neighbourhood built up our hopes and dreams only to dash them a week or two later. My taxi didn't show up so I was one bad decision away from just cancelling at the last minute.

I'm pretty damn pleased - the neighbourhood it's in, which is close to where we stayed on our visit, is a good one in the sense of safety, schools, parks and forests, hospitals and transport (S-bahn AND U-bahn). Better, in fact, than the pricey neighborhood, certainly in terms of public transport, which will be important to the F-word, who will be working in companies all over the region. But it's on the uncool side of the Rhine, so it's cheap enough for us to live in a pretty decent flat or house. And when your grand total (as mine) of Exciting Cultural Events for the last year has been one opera and one ballet, and you're planning a second child before very long, cool neighborhoods aren't too important.

Indeed, I rather fucking hate cool or fashionable neighborhoods. I just don't like the class of people who pay a premium to hang out with other people who pay a premium to hang out with a certain class of people, be that in the sense of gentrifying neighborhoods or just straight-out chichi neighborhoods. The pricey neighborhood with the cocktease forest kinder floods all the time, for god's sake, but is still twice the price of where we're going. I guess it's prettier, to be fair, but pretty isn't the point of Cologne. It's an ugly city. One of those Rotterdam-type places that got all knocked down and built up again more for utility than beauty. The point of Cologne is the green space and the attitude.

But mostly I'm pleased that there is one less thing to fret about, and as I've mentioned before, I was breaking all previous fretting records over this forest kinder thing. I mean, sleepless nights, the whole deal. No negative emotion has ever got in between me and my sleep before. Not heartbreak, not grief, not job stress, not school, fucking nothing. But this . . . well. POP!

lunedì, ottobre 20, 2014

I am just a humble tenant of the Kafkaesque state

Yesterday had this trifecta of good stuff - a fucking HUGE tax refund, Godzilla getting his Italian passport super-fast, and my Yankee bosses officially approving giving me a German contract - that I can't help but be pulled out of my funk to a high degree. The passport, somehow, was the most gratifying one, though also in a sense the most meaningless, since Godzilla's Italian citizenship was already processed and in any case he has the right to come to Europe, live with us there, and go to school on the basis of both my nationality and his father's. But when we finally got it, something tight and nervous in me just dissolved into ahhhhhhh.

I'm pretty intimate with what the right passports are able to do for you, and have enough South Asian and non-EU Mediterranean friends to get a broad picture of what happens with the wrong passports. But us -  we have our papers. We can fly out of Casablanca now. Didn't even need to fuck the chief of police. (Casablanca is a really fucking good movie, by the way; we watched it for the second time the other night. Just throwing that out there again. One of those underrated obscure gems.)

The other thing with the Italian passport is that all of our interactions with the consulate have been really smooth, while the other people there at the same time as us got into shouting matches and tears with the officials. Well, the applicants were shouting and in tears. The consular officials were calm to the point of zen.

During the last round of paperwork for Godzilla's passport, at the next desk over an official dealing with a furious woman who was trying to get her daughter's citizenship sorted out and came up against the brick wall of the slightly different spelling of her own first name on her and her daughter's birth certificate - she was just laying into him, insisting there had to be a form he could give her that would sort the whole thing out.

And the fury was bouncing senselessly off him, as though he was Andre the Giant getting wrassled by a kitten. At the point where he said to her soothingly (in English), "Madame, this is nothing personal between you and me. I am just a humble servant of the Italian state . . ." I strived not to make eye contact with the F-word because I knew I would break down in laughter if I did. On the tram away from there he told me the same thing.

I guess you can't help but thanking your lucky stars to the point of schadenfreude when that sort of thing happens. Not least because when I say that when our dealings with the consulate have been smooth, I don't mean well-oiled machine smooth; I mean not-making-me-cry-or-yell-at-anyone smooth.

At one point, the consulate actually stripped the F-word of his citizenship until he handed in further documentation (years ago, when we were living in Europe no less, and he needed it quite badly). Last year I got a huge freak-out from the information on the website that suggested it would have taken until Godzilla was more than three years old to process his citizenship (well after we planned to leave). The lag between when Godzilla's citizenship was certified early this year and the February 2015 appointment then made for the one-hour process of his passport being printed was also remarkable, and needed to be addressed once we picked a February departure date.

All those things were resolved quickly, though, after some personal inquiries, and I think it really helped that those inquiries were made in Italian, when most of the people the consulate deal with here are monolingual "Italian" Australians trying to do all their business in English.

There's more, though; when I think back on the comically Kafkaesque problems driving the other people at the consulate to distraction, and the resolution of our own problems, I realize that those years in Belgium really broke us into this kind of thing. All the other people there asking for things were Australian, and besides the problem of monolinguality, their brains just popped like cumin seeds in a hot pan when faced with the slow pace and seeming intractability of European bureaucracy.

But we - well, we spent years dealing with a bureacracy that makes Italy look simple. Unlike full-time Australians, who are served by a madly efficient federal government that falls all over itself with apologies at the smallest hiccup, we don't expect things to go well. We expect that every visit to a bureau is only one step in a process, that the delays and issues that crop up are down to the game and not the players, and that when a resolution to a problem comes, it will be all at once and unexpected, so anything that needs to be done by a certain time needs to be addressed well before that time draws anything like nigh. We know what we are doing when it comes to this sort of thing. We have the technology . . . and the patience.

Realizing that has made me a little more - not relaxed - but less fretful about Godzilla's school next year. We will find a solution. We are on six or seven waiting lists, and we will simply keep working to make that work and to make alternative solutions work if that one doesn't work. And anyways, because of my job, he only needs to be in care for half-days; if things are bad, only three hours at a pop. He'll be okay. We'll be okay. We'll just keep being the gentle drip of a European citizen against the limestone of European bureaucracy until our family makes its own happy little European stalagmite.

sabato, ottobre 18, 2014

My fly-y Valentine

Got myself a pretty sweet present for Valentine's Day next February - a one-way ticket outta this fucking popsicle stand, all the way to Krautville. Actually I got one for the F-word and one for Godzilla too. I used points. Happy Valentine's all around, family; your present is two days without sleep and a permanent move back to the real world.

As soon as the tickets were purchased my brain started processing the departure. Not the wealth of tasks that lie ahead - those won't be processed so much as done and it's better if I don't think beyond each week's to-do list - but the meaning of the last four years.

To dismiss Australia as a humpback's nursery is not fair (barren but safe, where the mother and calf live off her reserves and avoid predators) - that may have been mostly what it was for us, but that's still something pretty important. Immediately last night, falling asleep after I bought the tickets, I started dreaming of L____, of streets I have no desire to go back to and only will if some shit or other with our rental property there demands it, but whose beauty I did enjoy and will, I understand now that the ticket is bought, stay with me. Just like all those other places I've or we've lived have stayed with me. Paris, among other things, it ain't, but it's just as much a part of me.

We want to have another kid, and I'm ready to have another kid back in the hustle and bustle of an actual city in Europe - but I'm glad I got broken into motherhood somewhere so eventless.

Anyhoo. Got myself another sweet present yesterday too - a ticket to Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake, which started 20 years ago and I expect has come to Australia to die, so this was the last chance. A swan song. Ah ha ha. Ha ha ha. I remembered aloud the other day while the F-word, Godzilla and I were out and about that I wanted to see it to cash in on that one evening the F-word fucked off to see the latest Hobbit movie, and that I would see it if I could get a ticket under $75. Okay, I backtracked, under $100. Okay, I backtracked a third time, let's be realistic - this is Australia - under $120.

It was $119. Siiiigh. I like my artsical fartsical things. But I'm really looking forward to going back to a place where artsical fartsical things only cost about $20 a pop. I may not be as tidy as the proverbial Swabian housewife, but I'm sure my penny-pinching at least will blend right in. 

giovedì, ottobre 16, 2014

Fuck this shit.

Since getting back from Cologne, I haven't been able to move myself out of an emotional shithouse for any substantial amount of time. Even getting a little high for the first time in four. Fucking. Years. didn't give me more than a few hours, though that won't stop me trying again now that Godzilla is getting less breast-dependent.

Part of it is kindergarten fretting, though I'm slowly getting over that by deciding to control that which can be controlled, and getting used to not being able to control that which can't. Part of it is hangover from spending too much time with family. Part of it is jet lag. Part of it was not wanting to come back here from Cologne, at all. When the plane caught fire in Frankfurt, purgatorial as the whole experience was I couldn't help but wonder if I'd done it with the power of my mind. But back here we are, and we're here for a few reasons, mostly though not only the F-word's, and very valid reasons - and you know, I don't give a shit about all those valid reasons. I'm done. I'm fucking done here. My brain hasn't come back. It doesn't want to. Fuck this place.

Cologne will be fraught with problems in getting our shit set up - I understand that - I'm not wearing rose-tinted glasses about this move, even though I fell for the place like a tonne of bricks. I just want to GET SHIT DONE. Find the kid a school. Find ourselves an apartment, which we can't really do until the kid finds a school. Open some bank accounts. Buy a king-size bed. Use saunas naked. Let Godzilla's bewildering language explosion explode all over German in a way that includes something besides him yelling "Dankeshen, Bitteshen, Morgen, Tschuss!" and then laughing like a madman (even cuter than it sounds).

And Hilts is dead. He hasn't been around here in awhile, and to be honest I don't really know why he started coming around in the first place. I know why I went around his place. He just seemed so decent and so - how to say it? - unapologetically still in the grip of the honest confusion of youth. There was something really refreshing about that because I don't believe most of us ever get over that great confusion of youth so much as learn how to ignore it, either because we can't bear it or we don't have time for it. There's something a little heroic about the men, and usually they're men - women usually find more pressing things to do with their time - who don't ignore that confusion. So Hilts being gone is like a hero being gone.  

lunedì, ottobre 13, 2014


I am fretting about the boy's school next year, in a way I've seen and heard of parents doing but never imagined I would do myself. Well, here I am. Fretting. The school that loved Godzilla the other week sent us a definitive answer - which was, don't count on anything because of all the people on the waiting list before you no matter how much your kid charmed our teaching staff you fucking arriviste.

Bit of a kick in the teeth since I asked to get on their waiting list in March 2013. But this is just the sort of thing I need to be ready for, moving back to Europe - kicks in the teeth that might have something political behind them, or might have incompetence behind them, or might be from a self-inflicted failure to exactly follow the letter of the law of each administrative effort.

Still, this one is getting to me. Before this visit I hadn't even been expecting a definitive answer from anybody by the end of the visit. It never would have occurred to me to hope for one if the teachers at this one place hadn't fallen in love with Godzilla and over-committed themselves to telling us they wanted us there. But now I'm all glum and feeling helpless about it. One of those mums who is obsessing over getting her kid into the right school.

Not tiger-mummish, though. Because the thing with these schools that I want for Godzilla is that they're in the fucking forest. Outside. Children learn so much better outside, and are so much calmer, and get along with each other so much less Lord-of-the-Flysishly, however counter-intuitive that seems, when they're outside. And Godzilla has his whole life to possibly be stuck inside doing boring shit - I would like to spare him all that in kindergarten, at least. He enjoyed his trial days so much that I'm going to feel like a bad mum if he doesn't go to a forest kindergarten.

That having been said - I need to look at this again.

Any kinder he goes to will be better than here. No pedagogy, smaller classes, more teachers, more outside stuff. No book learnin' for years. And I can only do what I can do, even if it frustrates and depresses me when I suspect that there is some sort of nepotism happening at these awesome schools that I can't take advantage of as a stranger and a foreigner. Because the only places the F-word and I aren't strangers or foreigners are places we don't want Godzilla to grow up. So there. This is how it is. I have to stop being dumb about it. 

lunedì, ottobre 06, 2014

The thickets of the forest of things needing to get done

Ugh . . . my to-do list is like a fucking Hydra. Someone bring me a fucking torch and set the fucker on fire. Not helping that we got back just on Sunday night, after a trip that included our airplane catching fire in Frankfurt on Reunification Day night. The holiday meant it took hours to get us all out of the airport and to a nearby hotel. Frankly I'm impressed it happened at all, and that the hotel managed to scrape together a late-night dinner and a sufficient buffet breakfast for 300 unexpected guests. I guess we were lucky the accident happened on a holiday weekend, or there might not have been the space for us.

I'm also impressed by Thai Airways and the Frankfurt aiport for being so decent in terms of travelling with kids . . . people are usually pretty helpful when you've got a little kid - outside of Australia anyways - but they really made life easier for us. Godzilla was a pro, though. Good as gold and actually cried when it was time to get out of the last airplane. With his ease with travelling, I hope he turns out to be a diplomat or an international jewel thief.

Anyways. My point is I have this massive fucking to-do list that sprouts two or three new dos every time a do gets done, and I am trying to mentally prepare myself for the next four months being pretty much like that because that's what moving is - a to-do list that never comes to an end. And I am so fucking tired and jet-lagged. It's not a desperate situation - I've been travelling so much for the last seven years or so that jet lag doesn't totally clobber me anymore. It hadn't been a problem at all for either Godzilla or me for all the other long-hauls this trip. But going from Europe to Australia is a special kind of shitty. Don't know what it is. I've always found it harder to adjust flying east unless I cross the international date line, for some reason. Even Godzilla, who has never shown a trace of jet lag before, has been pretty squirrelly - had to let him get up at 3 this morning and run around while I ate a huge sandwich my jet-lagged tummy was insisting it was time to eat.

So I'm fucking tired, and have this fucking perpetual motion machine of a to-do list, and I'm not that happy to be back. We do have a date now though - sorta - February 10th-ish. That helps. So does coffee and foul language. 

giovedì, ottobre 02, 2014


From Padova, we came to Cologne, and we're leaving again tomorrow, heading back to the land down under, and I'm not happy to be leaving. I really like it here. Remind me I wrote that in two or three years when I'm bitching about it. I already know I'll spend a lot of time bitching about Deutsche Bahn, the streetcars, the smoking in public places and the weather. But I really, really like it here. The sun being out for the last week has helped. There aren't too many things nicer than northern Europe during sunny autumn days.

Nonetheless, there has been nothing relaxing about our time here. Mum has been helping with Godzilla, thank God, as the F-word is canvassing galleries with some success and setting up ESL contracts. Meanwhile, I've been working, doing a German intensive, and trying to get Godzilla into a Waldkindergarten, which means lots of super-early starts to get him into some forest area in different, often distant outlying parts of the city. Which was fun, actually, because Godzilla had an awesome time. He is so ready for the format - so ready for other kids. To the degree that I think our search has already been successful. There was one where he had a trial day, in a very, very nice neighbourhood, where the teachers were so charmed by him that they told us they wanted us there next year, and would be able to give us a definitive answer next week. And one of them added that they wanted us to know next week because it takes a long time to find an apartment in that neighbourhood. So that looks really good.

Godzilla is a fricking charming child at the moment, by the way. I think part of that is all the time he's been spending with different loving family lately. He just has this everyone-is-my-friend attitude at the moment that I can see melting cold Teutonic hearts every minute when we're out and about. It sure melts mine.

Anyways, the only fly in my ointment is that the Waldkindergarten that has maybe accepted us, and that I liked best of all the ones we've seen, is in a really nice neighborhood, and finding the right place to live will be tough. Oh well. We'll give ourselves lots of time to look.

Another thing which is not quite a fly in my ointment - more a shaky leg on my ointment table - is that it's only now my manager is taking up my move back to Europe in January or February with higher management. My manager is very happy with the move for reasons of his own workflow, so we'll have to see how it goes over with the higher-ups. They certainly aren't the sort of people who piss on a parade out of principle in my firm, but you just never know what plans are in place that you don't know about. Those fucking known unknowns . . . So I am a tiny bit nervous about that.

And while I'm not happy to be leaving - I've fallen head over heels for this city - there are friends I miss back in Melbourne. Loose ends my fingers are itching to tie up. One more Antipodean summer, or at least the first part of it. I'm a little sad there aren't more things that I miss, but there are enough that I know these past years in Australia have definitely not been a waste of time.

Not to mention Mum is heading back to Canada as we head back to Australialand. I think most adults have slightly fraught relationships with their parents after a few weeks together and we're no exception, but good God, is she a good person. Her age breaks my heart. The thing that makes me angriest about her is her sort of slumping into it. I need many more years with her and it drives me fucking batty when she does things that don't encourage that. 

martedì, settembre 16, 2014

Grana Padano

We're in Padova, the city I lured the F-word away from almost eight years ago with my post-thesis wiles. And coming to a better understanding of what he sacrificed to be with me. Living in Padova when he was living here was pretty much the perfect time for him to be living here and he only got ten months (four of them with blue balls). No kids, really too young to worry about the absence of social services, and this is a great city, especially for pinkos like us. This sort of intersection between what most people understand of Italy, and of Germany, and some sort of champagne socialist paradise full of bike paths, universities, music and theatre. . . and then all full of Giottos and Roman ruins and 20 minutes from Venice.

Funny . . . I have a pretty well-kept and indexed archive of all the sacrifices I've made for people, and let's be frank, particularly for the F-word. But I'm so good at tossing sacrifices people have made for me into the memory hole.  

mercoledì, settembre 10, 2014

Your slacks match your loafers

So anyways . . . this cousin of mine. The son of the woman I nearly clocked the other day because she was trying to check my attempts to let my son walk up a forest trail he really wanted to walk up. I love my cousin very, very much. He is a nice person and has a good brain. He's also been doing the same undergrad degree for the last 24 years.

We've all heard stories (haven't we?) about Italian men still living with their mammas, getting cooked for and cleaned for and otherwise taken care of well into their middle age or until their incompetencies can be handed off for a wife to enjoy. Well, this guy is the extreme end of that; he has never had a moment of anything like even the possibility of independent living. His job has been giving his mother something to do by endlessly. Fucking. Fretting. About his health, about his driving, about his clothes, about his diet, about everything, in fact, except apparently his ability to function in the world independently of his parents.

The way she has raised him, to treat every tiny contretemps like a huge and intimidating mountain that is not necessarily there to be climbed, has left him . . . not soft . . . but slack. And I write that as someone who's loosely strung herself, but I've been more or less taking care of myself for awhile now, or at least splitting burdens with the F-word, so I don't think we're talking the same category of thing.

And if I sound like I'm blaming her too much, that's not fair of me. His father helped by handing off responsibility for raising the children to their mother - let her exercise the one power Italian women of her generation got to exercise. He gets pissy his son is so slack, and has arrived at middle age still so dependent, but he never did a damn thing to prevent it.

ANYWAYS. In my head it's been a pity for awhile that my cousin is as he is. He could have been a much happier person if he had been allowed to dip his toe in the deep end once in awhile (literally - he lives next to some of the most beautiful tideless beaches in the world and was never allowed to go in the water. Can't swim). But it hadn't been a thing that riled me until my aunt tried to do it to Godzilla. And then it REALLY riled me. It still riles me . . . I'm glad we're leaving so soon because she's going to keep doing it, even if I get positively ruder. She can't help it. That should make me more compassionate, but as the F-word said the other day on a different topic, "it's only not his fault in the same way that nothing is anybody's fault."

I have a lot of fears for Godzilla's future, most of which I just sit on and don't think about, because why would you? But one of them that I've been forced to think through here this last week is a fear of him ever suffering this slackness. This helplessness . . . this inability to see anything but problems. Because un-Pollyannaish and bitchy as I am, I honestly believe most things that aren't actively nice aren't problems either - they're just a bunch of things that happen that you deal with - and real problems are few and far between. And I don't see how life would be bearable if you couldn't believe that. 

Momma Bear

Well, I knew she was in there somewhere, and I had wondered what was going to make her come out. There's a bratty three year old next door in Melbourne we spend a lot of time with who has kicked and hit Godzilla, but that didn't do it - well, not really. Godzilla didn't complain and the brat's mother took him to task, so I didn't really do anything about it but tell the F-word about the "nasty little bastard" later, which to him somehow counted as Momma Bear coming out but I thought was just me talking.

No, Momma Bear came out yesterday while we and the extended family were walking up to a Jesus statue on the tallest peak of Aspromonte. Godzilla, being awesome, was insisting on doing most of the walking himself, though the trail was terrible. He was doing an awesome job and having such a good time. And of course he kept falling. I was there and made sure the falls were never around anything pointy or eye-pokey-outy, which was hard work but worth it. Calabria isn't a kid-friendly place. There are very, very few spots Godzilla can go full throttle and run/climb/play here. And as far as I'm concerned running, climbing, and playing are absolutely fucking key to his pleasure and his brain development so both Godzilla and I had a lot of commitment to the fun he was having on this mountain path, frequent supervised tumbles included.

But we were with this aged female relative of ours, who, every time he tumbled, would yell out a "Madonna!" or a "Minaccia!" or variations thereon, and constantly order her son (of whom more later) to pick up and carry mine - of course I forbid that. It got to be too much for her on the fifth or sixth tumble, and she darted for him herself, though I was right next to him making sure about the eyes not being put out, etc. And Momma Bear came right out. Well, not right out. I felt a strong urge to clock her, or at the very least grab her by the arm and push her away, but instead I dialed it down to interposing myself between her and Godzilla, and actually yelling "lascia!" at her. Which by my standards of comportment is desperately rude. It didn't make a difference to her behaviour toward Godzilla for the rest of the outing, but she has been frostier to me ever since.

I feel badly about it. I've always considered this woman silly, but also a kind-hearted and much-loved aunt, who can't help being silly - not the way women of her generation were brought up in these fucking mountain towns. When you're not working, there's nothing to do but gossip or fret, so of course you become fucking experts at both. I feel a lot of compassion for her, because of that background and because of her age. So I feel badly. But mostly I'm still pissed off. Momma Bear is not back in the cave yet. And in one sense I'm surprised that what was basically an act and feeling of tenderness from a near relative is what made Momma Bear come out. Anybody, I think, who has spent more than five minutes in a room with Godzilla and I knows that I'm all about the cuddles, and even this woman was impressed and a little confused that the boy is still breastfed. Certainly when Godzilla cries, which at this point is probably once every three days, I'm all over him with cuddles and comforting.

In another sense, I'm not surprised at all, because for years, even before Godzilla was born but especially since Godzilla was born, I've had a massive bone to pick with this woman over what she has done to her son with her overprotectiveness, so when she extended that to my own son it filled me with fucking fury.

More later . . . bacon to bring home now. 

mercoledì, settembre 03, 2014

Rainbows and shit

In Calabria, which has been suffering from the same resource curse for the last 3,000 years, and is therefore still saturated in some sort of primordial Hellenic, Mediterranean stew from which not only my patrilineal family emerged, but from which big old swathes of European culture emerged. Being from this part of the world gives one a special perspective on our foundation "classical" culture. One of them is how boring things were most of the time, which is probably the same all over the world in cultures without uncloistered women, widespread literacy and universal horse ownership. Another is how easy it is, because of it being so boring, to initiate and maintain vendettas, from the catty to the deadly, just to fucking well give yourself something to think about.

And the third is how all those great big religions came out of here. Partly because of the boredom - not so much because religion is something to do, as because when life is crushingly fucking monotonous, already fascinating things like sickness, war, orgasms, childbirth, death and fertility must feel like the fucking Guardians of the Galaxy. It's also because of the beauty.

Example: I was having a rainy run on the Lungomare this morning, looking across the Straits of Messina at Sicily, and dapples of sun were hitting the sides of the mountains there as Mount Etna disappeared up into the storm clouds. And those sun-dappled vales were full of rainbows. It was fucking ridiculous, how beautiful it was. Now, thanks to grade-school science projects, I can give you a reasonably cogent explanation for how the sun, volcanoes, clouds, mountains and rainbows work, in technical terms. But as I was looking at this fucking retardedly beautiful sight and all those technical explanations were spilling into my consciousness, my logical mind was the part of me that was saying "Don't be stupid, Jessica, that's obviously because of fairies or some sort of God or something like that."

If I hadn't been raised in a religious environment, I would have had to make up some sort of religion right there. And probably an agonistic one, since on one side of me there was this fucking ocean-green-sloped-mountain-volcano-sun-stormcloud-buncha-rainbows extravaganza of unbelievable beauty, and on the other side of me was Reggio, the murder capital of Europe that has never really recovered from its utter devastation over a hundred fucking years ago. I've made my feelings about Reggio clear before. I've seen more dumps since then but this place is still pretty much vying for top spot on the list. Pretty much the aesthetic opposite of rainbows and sun-dapples. Especially when the weather is as shitty as it is right now.  

martedì, agosto 26, 2014

Yes, I quite liked it

I have a lot of serious things I could be blogging about right now, from literal shit that comes out of bums to existential panic and anger over realizing that if I'm lucky I'm going to have maybe 20 more visits with my parents in my life and they're not taking every step they possibly can to remain healthy for as long as possible, but instead I think I'll just write about Guardians of the Galaxy

The first time I saw Flash Gordon was about two years ago, which was down to the F-word being shocked I'd never seen it and forcing me to watch it. He's a few years older than me and had considerably less protective parents in matters PG, which means he saw it when it was first released, by which point I don't think I even knew how to drool yet. I liked it an awful lot, having a taste for bombastic, awesome stupidity (see how much I like Game of Thrones and the works of the Bronte sisters), and being thrilled to find the correct context for the music of Queen. 

(I also liked the fact that it was so easy to find photos of the male lead's schlong on the Internet. Not that it's an awesome schlong or anything, but commercialized female nudity is not going away, so the only scenario a realistic feminist can hope for is the death of modern male modesty. That's right, men. Swing that pipe for the sisterhood. Don't act like penile display wasn't the fucking norm for our species for countless millenia until you decided to hide it like a bunch of blushing little Queen Victorias and invent war and exploitative economic systems to commodify women, in a desperate bid to avoid the possibility maybe somebody someday might laugh at your wiener.)  

At the same time, I was angry watching Flash Gordon because I was already in my mid-thirties, and had seen, probably, thousands of film and television productions with more suspendy-disbelievable special effects. So I knew even as I was enjoying it that my enjoyment was but a tiny, tiny fraction of what it might have been had that movie come out when I was somewhere between six and sixteen, when instead I got - what - Labyrinth? Okay, that was pretty awesome, but not really bombastic or stupid. Princess Bride? Yeah sure . . . if they had cast Bruce Campbell instead of Cary Elwes. Oh my god. That movie would have been so fucking good if they had cast Bruce Campbell instead of Cary Elwes. Can you fucking imagine how good that move would have been with Bruce Campbell instead of Cary Elwes? I could, while I was sitting there watching Flash Gordon and getting angry over how it and anything like it had failed to come out during my most suspendy-disbelievy years, and it made me even more fucking angry because I'd had to have a Princess Bride with Cary Elwes instead of Bruce Campbell instead. Such fucking bullshit

The point of all this was that seeing Guardians of the Galaxy in 3D in a large theater was as close as I have ever come to enjoying Flash Gordon on the airy, bombastic, stupid and awesome level that I would have liked to enjoy it. But for two things: the inclusion of the Piña Colada song, which made me feel like the director just picked his soundtrack at random from an oldies station instead of choosing actually awesome songs; and not being really fucking high.

This counts as a recommendation. 

giovedì, agosto 21, 2014

When I can't say anything nice . . .

. . . I come here.

Have you ever met a total douchebag, and then for coincidental reasons become quite well-acquainted with their family, and their family is lovely so you wonder how the douchebag got to be so douche-y, but then after a couple of years I guess the family gets comfortable with you and you realize where all the douche in the bag came from?

Also, unrelated but pertaining to the same category:

Have you ever met a total douchebag who was actually the sort of really useful person whose social conscience and energy makes the world go around, but is a douchebag nonetheless - not because they give their A-game at work and not at home, but because they get pissed off when they decide their partner isn't giving their A-game at home so they're just a big old nasty hypocrite so far as the people who actually have to spent time with them are concerned?

Anyways, neither of these are really my problems, and the second one, hopefully, won't be anybody's problem soon, at least not in my family.

I'm "home", in Canada, at the mo. Godzilla is having an awesome time with cousins and uncles and grandparents and I'm having a pretty good time. Particularly with my brothers. Maybe having a child has launched me past part of the almost generational gap that had hitherto existed between us. They're a lot older than I am but that "lot" means less with every passing year. Before long we're all just going to be middle aged. Arguably we already are. I don't feel middle aged and they mostly don't look middle aged, and if we can stay off the sauce, judging by the patterns of our older generations, we're not statistically middle aged . . . but there you are. 

lunedì, agosto 04, 2014

Left behind

I guess we are doing something that I'm not sure is a good idea with Godzilla. I guess all parents, no matter how thoughtful or deliberate, do things to their kids they're not sure are good ideas.

The fact is I am taking it on faith - a rather leapy sort of faith - that raising him multilingual isn't the worst fucking idea of all time. He is speaking English and Italian now - understanding both, using words from both - and then on Saturday, he said his first German word. So here it is. Here we are. Here I am thinking about it and wondering if I'm doing the best thing or the worst thing ever for him.

On Friday we're leaving on a two month trip. First for Canada, and then Italy, where he gets to use his Italian muscles, and then Germany, where it looks as though the F-word, the boy and I are going to be visiting about a kajillion kindergartens. The books tell me it'll all be okay - that when we're going, in the midst of a language explosion that has already started, he'll be able to handle all this like it's nothing. My common sense says it'll be okay, and the three plus years that kindergarten runs in Germany is going to be a really sufficient and indeed terrific amount of time to ease him into the language thoroughly and fun-ly enough to let him excel at school, if that's what he'd like to excel at.

And I guess I hope it is. Being really good at school is one of the things that has made my own life so easy, comfortable and interesting (to myself at least). That is what I'm worried about, I guess. That having three languages doesn't just mean having three languages but having a smattering of three languages instead of being really good at one language. That's not how it works. I know that, but I don't know it, not first-hand, because the only language I'm really good at is English - to some degree or another, I suffer all the rest.

And here it is - even more profoundly than fearing I'm wronging Godzilla, and this is what I have to focus on. Here we are, at a threshold that my common sense and linguistic research tells my disbelieving brain that Godzilla is likely to waltz past without missing a step - a threshold I'll never pass. Realizing that if all this works the way it should, that before this kid of mine can reliably piss in a pot, that he is going to surpass me, just blow me away at something, and the reason I'm scared is because I can't do it for myself, I can't even imagine it for myself - but it's going to be just fine for him.

Suddenly the trepidation, the fear, the worry my near ancestors must have felt when their kids (with their strong encouragement and indeed insistence) started going to school instead of burning charcoal and being bandits is a lot easier to understand.

giovedì, luglio 17, 2014


I've been having a weird week. Sort of weird bad, I think it's safe to say. But not too personally bad - abstractly bad? Bad at arm's length?

Obviously the last entry rant was a symptom of one of those bits of badness and there has been little to do there except accept and move on. And I have. I mean - it's funny already. I thought it would take months to get funny. "Editors Note". Hah. That's . . . great. And the author in question is being incredibly grief-stricken and active about trying to resolve the situation - though to be honest that was part of what I was so pissed off about - I knew that the author was going to take a degree of emotional responsibility for the event that meant I was going to be the one ending up comforting her. And anyways, as far as I'm concerned, it really was my fault for not literally wrestling the final proof away from her and doing it myself. It's my name on it.

The bad came in three, with news that a plan for an early escape from this national penal colony is almost certainly not going to happen for us - accept, move on, decide to enjoy a little more time paying laughably low taxes - and then with some real weirdness in the family.

We only have one real weirdo in the family - and - gosh. It just blows me away when people act in such a way that is obviously not in their children's best interests, from any analysis, with any rationalization. I know we're all deeply flawed beings and as parents we make so many decisions that are so easy to second-guess, and it's so hard to know if you're doing the right thing, and so much harder again to know if anyone else is . . . but I guess I've created an introverted, closed little world for myself full of good people and I generally blunder around making the assumption that everybody is doing the best they can raising their children, and anyways maybe the decisions that look incredibly stupid to me are actually correct and I'm the incredibly stupid one for not being able to understand their context.

But once in awhile - and it's often been this particular crazed baby momma who is disgusting me now who has been the one to snap me back into a cold reality where some people are just nasty cunts, and they ultimately don't shut that off with their own kids - I have to look out of this pleasant little world I've built around myself, and it's heartbreaking. Particularly when the victim is a kid who I love.

Anyways. I'm not as upset as I could be. In this particular instance (which has to do with getting the kid in question an EU passport), I thought there was an 18-year cut off, which the baby momma was going to fuck up forever by denying consent. And there was, but the country concerned changed its laws. Like, just now, it changed its laws, and I was alerted to that the same morning that the crazy momma showed her crazy, which was terrifically serendipitous timing, and means that the kid in question can take care of this as an adult in a few months without her input, and makes me feel - I don't know - that maybe God is on this kid's side in the lifelong struggle he's going to have dealing with his momma's crazy (what a thing to think in a world where kids who are loved as much as this one, or should be, are being sold, or shot out of the sky on a Malaysia Airlines flight over Donetsk, or otherwise blown up - but there you are).

At first I was giddy with joy that the laws have been changed, and I'm still grimly pleased that this shitty dog of a woman can just be over-ridden and her contemptible little muscle-flex has ultimately done nothing except once more demonstrate her crazy. But mostly I'm caught up in thinking what's going to happen to this kid in the life-long struggle he's going to have dealing with his momma's crazy.

venerdì, luglio 11, 2014

Sometimes it's good to have an anonymous blog

AH FUCK why did I let a fucking Australian be the one to approve her own final proof???? So fucking embarrassing.

I wrote her a nice little editor's note . . . Which was titled 'editors note' in the print run. Those are literally the first two words in the first run of the first hardback book I have ever edited because she couldn't wait for me to get back from China to check the fucking proof. I never saw the chapter headings. I should have insisted. My fucking name is on it. At the bottom of the fucking 'editors note'.

Fuck fuck fuck a fucking duck.

My only consolation is that no one outside of the state is likely to see it. But it's a bit shitty to work so hard on a thing almost purely as a portfolio piece just to end up with something you don't want to keep looking at because who knows how bad it gets if those are the first two fucking words so it will go nowhere near your portfolio. FUCK.

lunedì, giugno 30, 2014

Green eating

The F-word cares more about organic food than I do because he grew up in Shepparton, a cancer/asthma hole due to the fucking disgusting farming practices there. These things tend to vary from country to country in a way that I suspect made organic produce low-ish on my personal list of knee-jerk priorities. The fact is, disgusting vermin like warm weather, Australia is a warm place, and it's fucking awash in bugs, rats and mice, and hence in pesticides. Whereas Canada, Europe, New Zealand, etc., sort things out with the help of the weather - frosts and things. As much as I enjoy insulting Australians, I daresay it's not just stupidity that makes the farmers here such avid consumers of dangerous pesticides relative to the rest of the developed world.

Also, I daresay it's not just the Australian necessity to monetarily screw your neighbour as roughly as possible that makes organic food here so fucking expensive. When a country is overrun with vermin, growing organic isn't going to be as easy as renaming yourself Harvest, having sex in a field on the solstice and hoping for the best. I understand that. But I also understand that before 2007, buying organic food here was cheaper than buying normal food in Europe, and that the exact opposite is true now.

Anyways, we're grinning and bearing it and as of a month or so getting weekly boxes of local seasonal organic produce delivered to the door. It's not too expensive, though I'm a little pissed off by how much less expensive it is in Belgium, where I got the organic deliveries to the office, and in Toronto, and in NRW (yes, I've already checked). And it saves me a buttload of time no longer spent grocery shopping, and a buttload of money as the presence of all these perishables in the fridge guilts me out of just buying pizza. And, of course, it's tastier than standard fruit and veg. Sadly, the only way to get tasty produce here - as it was in Belgium, I now recall - is buying local organic. In Belgium the reason was that so much cultivation was hothouse or transported long distances. Here I have no fucking idea what the excuse is.

Most of all, though, what I'm enjoying is the challenge. It's winter here which means winter vegetables, which I've always hated. Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, other bitter greens - have always despised them, never bought them willingly. Now we have to make friends, because I don't have the time or money to go pick out only the things I like from an organic store. I have to look up recipes, I have to think, I have to plan and strategize - ferment, blanch, saute, dice - and it's working. All of this cruciform crap is actually becoming delicious to me. I guess it was about time I grew up and ate my greens.

lunedì, giugno 23, 2014

Chinese laundry

I've been absent some little time, not least because of a trip to China, where the government doesn't let you blogspot. That's only been one week of the absence, though. It's also been end-of-quarter report season, and, hmm, what other excuses have I got? The truth is I still have a shitload of things to be doing right at this minute, this precious, nanny-bought minute, that aren't blogging, and I'm not doing them because the most urgent among them is doing my books, which fuck that.

Let me see if I can choose out a few things from the past - heavens - more than a month to go on about. Hmm. The trip to China was a good work trip and a great personal trip. Godzilla came, the F-word, who is out of holiday, didn't, and my eldest neice met us in China to take care of Godzilla while I worked. I didn't have high hopes for how well any of that was going to work out, from the long-haul flights without another adult to help corral the Megachild, to the neice - a smashing young lady but hadn't spent any time with him for about a year - taking care of the Megachild for up to 12 hours a day while I conferenced.

I was pleasantly surprised on all points, though flying Air China was penitential as usual. Godzilla handled himself as well as a 20 month old can in a plane for 12 hours (quite well, and awfully well in comparison to several other children who wept the whole way, poor things - the return to Melbourne was the second leg of a trip for a lot of people, and there were a good few dispirited parents dully staring at their violently crying progeny) and my neice handled him beautifully. We had a couple of tearful partings as I left for work in the mornings, and that was it - otherwise, not a single hiccup, not a single wrench. She has two brothers, five and twelve years younger than her, respectively - she knows what she's doing taking care of a kid like Godzilla better than I do.

It was beautiful - and not just because it was beautifully convenient for me. It was beautiful to spend so much time with my neice, from whom me being some sort of internationalist has precluded spending much time with since one of her brothers and she came to spend a couple of weeks with us at the tail end of my time in Belgium. (Does that sentence even work? I don't know. Too much German.)

And it was beautiful to see her with Godzilla and see them love each other, and form a bond independent of his bond with my brother, or her bond with me. Breeding really kicks your relationship with mortality into gear, I suppose since death ceases to be the worst thing you can imagine once you have a child. And it was beautiful for me to see the genesis of a loving relationship that, in the normal course of things, will be there for Godzilla long after I'm dead.

giovedì, maggio 15, 2014

Bucket list

Someday, years from now, when I can take the time for myself . . . when the kid(s) is (are) safely in university or somewhere else on his (their) own devices, and the F-word is off somewhere or other without me - who are we kidding 'somewhere or other', obviously it'll be when he's making a visit to Australia that I don't come along on because as if I'll be doing anything but the bare minimum of visits here in the future, it's fucking far - and all my friends are busy, I'm going to rent myself an apartment in some awesome, stupid city like Lisbon or Bordeaux or Dubrovnik, get high as fuck for a week, and read Ivanhoe and watch Game of Thrones. Maybe a few weeks, if Game of Thrones has lots of seasons.

There's never been anything on television as awesome and stupid as Game of Thrones, just like there's never been a book as awesome and stupid as Ivanhoe. I mean, seriously, that last episode was so awesome and stupid, right from the dragon setting all those dwarf goats on fire to the guy at the end throwing his plea deal in favour of trial by combat, that I feel like I got awesomer and stupider just watching it. There has never been anything this stupid and awesome, ever, that gives me those awesome, stupid chills like this, besides Ivanhoe.

I became a mother, a professional and financially solvent-ish all at the right time to not have a very regretful or wistful bucket-listy sort of outlook on life, at least for the moment. But I am really looking forward to that awesome, stupid week or two someday.

lunedì, maggio 12, 2014

There is this one thing about - well, I would say US culture, but out of respect to Bartlam I'll admit I have basically zero firsthand knowledge of US culture outside of California or the northeast - that is just so fucking, fucking annoying. I'm choosing to blame it on widespread addiction to antidepressants spacing everybody out rather than to any intrinsically fuckwitted thing about the culture, but I've noticed those people can be so fucking cavalier about other people's money. As though absolutely no care needs to be taken during any financial transaction because obviously the person who is receiving the money is going to be measuring the incoming dollars and cents so carefully that if there is a problem they can be the ones to deal with it.

Given the errors always seem to favour the money-payers, I suspect I'm being overly charitable ascribing this to antidepressant spaceout; indeed it's rather more likely everybody's hoping the recipients are having an antidepressant spaceout and just won't notice forever. Fuckers.

I've seen this shit time and again in corporate situations, time and fucking again, in ongoing relationships where you'd think you wouldn't want to fuck around with goodwill no less, and that was one of the reasons I was upset that during the reshuffle of my company the HR managing my pay packet got shuffled off from the absolute martinet whiz HR genius in Europe to the Chowder City (that's the point of Boston, right?) office. It's been going about as well as I expected it to. Their latest trick, besides taking a really long time to pay me, is constantly forgetting that they're supposed to pay the international transfer fees. Good one.

At least I know it's not personal . . . they're doing it to everybody in foreign offices. Anyways. It's annoying me more than it should. I've been having energy issues lately. Probably because Godzilla is nursing a little more erratically and my body isn't quite sure what to do about this whole ovulating thing. Life is rather lovely at the moment but all the same it occurs to me with monotonous regularity how nice a 20 minute nap would be. This chills me out so well it's almost as good, and I can do it while I work, which is handy:  

giovedì, maggio 01, 2014


I just got a minor happiness-boner booking train tickets for our trip to Germany in September. Not out of simple anticipation of a lovely holiday, but with the understanding that holy fuck, we're moving back to a country with working trains - can fly into Frankfurt and take a high speed train directly from the airport to where we'll be staying. How fucking awesome is that? But that was my life after I left Canada and before I moved here - a fucking workable country.

Thailand was great, by which I mean Thai people are great and we spent a lot of time watching them cuddle our son and not rip us off despite our obvious ignorance of what was going on around us and wondering why such lovely people are saddled with such a shitty, barely-functioning country, a capital city that floods, rats the size of cats roaming the streets, etc.

As we waited for our luggage back in Melbourne and I felt sulky to be back, it struck me that there are probably four ways to categorize countries - complete fucking messes where everything is difficult (I've never been to one of those; I guess it would be one of those places with a lot of unexploded land mines and malaria) - less complete messes where infrastructure is shamefully bad but human capital is cheap and readily available to the degree that if you are middle class life gets reasonably easy besides a few deal-breakingly massive headaches like incredible pollution, social unrest, and mammoth  corruption (India, Thailand, China) - places where human capital gets pricey enough for people to get really shitty attitudes when you ask for help in a shop or government office but excellent infrastructure and a high degree of political accountability makes things reasonably livable (Europe north of the olive oil/butter line, Singapore) - and then resource-rich places like Canada, Australia and New Zealand where human capital is expensive and has a shitty attitude, and most people have enough money to ignore the fact that a lot of their infrastructure is stone age and that they have to sit in their cars for a couple of hours a day just to bring home a living.

And here I am again. Working at home, thank god. The car's radiator sprung a leak while we were away and the F-word had a to miss a day of work, because if he took the trains to where he works a 20 minute car ride away (and Melbourne has the most extensive public transport system in this stupid fucking country), it would take two hours.

Sigh. The categories are blurrier than I've suggested, of course. Bangkok, for example, has a more extensive metro and L-train system than most Australian or North American cities. And China has been building like a nutcase. Europe south of the olive oil/butter line is mostly in the last category except they're not so much resource-rich as still infracture rich-ish from those brief years in the 70s when things were going well economically but it's all heading down the toilet now.

Anyways, back to my happiness boner - I know that after a few days in Germany I'll be bitching about something - my guess is bureaucratic inflexibility, incredibly high taxes, and I expect making another baby there will lead to some penitential exercises in office visits. But wow. I get to live in a city where I can shop around for prices at five or six different international airports connected to my city by high-speed train. THAT's fucking capitalism, right there. That's the sort of capitalism Mistress La Spliffe can get behind and make sweet love to.

venerdì, aprile 25, 2014

Happy Anzac Day

Further to the last post . . . what had been really getting to me is seeing Godzilla change after a week or so now in this more child-friendly sort of place . . . seeing him blossom. In Melbourne he was already shutting down with strangers a bit; really slowing down with the flirting, getting less and less reactive to the few strangers who were interested in interacting with a baby (mostly older Vietnamese women). Now he's back up to a nice social, friend-making, giggly, speed . . . just in time for us to head back to Australia on Monday and for his social programming as an atomized, faceless noise machine to be rebooted.

I have sometimes wondered aloud why Australians are as they are, and how they're so mind-bogglingly aloof in lifestyle and outlook from their nearest neighbors in their quest for a degree of isolation the dimmest armchair psychologist could see is doing them no good at all. The F-word says it's because of the same island mentality that makes the British get so bogged down in their own exceptionalism they often can't mix properly with other Europeans. That may be the cause for all I know, and I'm seeing the means in Godzilla's socialization - strangers keeping themselves estranged.

Thank god we're leaving. Even given how much happier I am in Melbourne than I was up north. I just can't manage it anymore. I have about three months of travel planned out of the next six, and then we're in the home stretch to the permanent departure in June or July next year. There's a new urgency to this, besides me desperately wanting to not be so far from family and so far from all the social and cultural reference points from the first 30 years of my life; I really can't bear for my son, who I love more than anything in the world, to have to deal with being an Australian. 

mercoledì, aprile 23, 2014

Kiddie love

Thailand isn't like anywhere I've been before, and I don't really want to leave. That's notwithstanding that Bangkok is kind of gross, environment-wise. I haven't seen this many rats, nor such big ones, since I was living in Paris, and it is simply too fucking hot - a natural 35 under a heavy blanket of humidity and car exhaust. And I can't eat as my id would bid me because of my allergies.

But everybody is being so sweet to us, I think because of Godzilla, though generally I've never been anywhere where absolutely clueless foreigners (that is, us) are treated with such kindness and forebearance. It's like Spain or something - everybody making such a fuss of babies and being so tolerant of their noise and importunities. I feel sort of bad for raising Godzilla in Australia and planning on raising him in Germany, places that I think have little surfeit love for little people. I can't imagine Germany is worse than Australia - their school system is too evidence-based and fun relative to the Australian ones, that pack them into military formation and chuck the three Rs at their head way too early in a politicized fashion, in the vengeful-on-the-young spirit of "I was miserable at school and so shall my children be, damnit."

More later. I've got a living to earn.

giovedì, aprile 17, 2014

And so the planing begins

We are off to Thailand tonight . . . all of us. I'm travelling for work again this year and taking the boy, and sometimes the man, with me as I do - very curious about how it's going to go. Godzilla was a pet flying back and forth from New Zealand and Canada last year. This year? He has Thailand, China, Canada, Italy and Germany. Getting him used to flying now is either the best or worst idea ever. I'll let you know in October. I know it's a luxury in any case. But is it one of those luxuries like cocaine, that just makes my head hurt and feels like I'm pissing money away? Time will tell.

One thing that is better about travelling now than when I was a kid myself, making my mother's life difficult every summer - e-readers. I don't generally have much use for them, but I've got the complete works of Proust in my carry-on saved on something smaller and lighter than a notepad. That's fucking awesome, especially in these days of carefully weighed luggage and carting stuff around for another human with high needs and indifferent bag-carrying skills. I wonder if the complete works of Proust even fucking exist anywhere in Australia in the original French.

Speaking of books, I'm pretty bummed about Gabriel Garcia Marquez being dead. I didn't exactly set out to, but I ended up reading so many of his books and loving them all, each a little differently. Sort of a Dickensish flavour about that; you can't help coming across and reading his books if you read books, even without seeking them out, and fuck me if they aren't all that. If I had to choose a favourite, which I can't, it might be News of a Kidnapping; he has this reputation for magic realism but that reportage was so compelling and touching.

It feels like someone I knew and respected died. One of my better university professors, maybe. It also feels like one day if I have literate grandchildren, they'll be impressed I was alive at the same time as he was. A giant of a writer about whom you can say "now he belongs to the ages" with a straight face.

giovedì, marzo 27, 2014

German homework

German classes are going well. It's really gratifying how quickly I feel like I'm picking things up, for which I should thank Chinese for being so slow and difficult to pick up. In comparison it's as though I'm studying a dialect of English, though more properly I guess English is a pidgin version of German - all the tough bits removed. Grammatically it's striking how similar German is to "poetic" English - like reading a Walter Scott novel sometimes - and between a study of German and French I feel like I'm getting a whole new understanding of English, which is fun.

More about that another time. One of our bits of homework last week was to watch Free Rainier, a bit of television-grade, good-enough left-wing feel-good fluff about sabotaging the TV ratings system in Germany, which I got a little bit of extra enjoyment out of by virtue of having worked in the television industry back in the noughties, around the time the film was released. The really significant thing about it, though, was it mentioning Fassbinder, and me recalling that I was pretty much ready to start watching Fassbinder films as the F-word had been bothering me to do for years, to see what everybody meant about how great he was and what an interesting perspective he had on women and all sorts of things.

Well, fuck.

We started with Martha, which I've since been told was probably a bit of a heavy place to start. It made me laugh out loud and want to vomit, and I'd say I don't want to see it again but the lead actress was such a comedic genius that she made it really watchable. I don't think I've ever seen such a movie before. It had the sort of heavy hand of a parable, archetypes rather than characters, and - blessings - wholly simple, if deeply disturbing dialogue that helped with language acquisition. And making me want to vomit. And laugh.

A long time ago I watched and blogged about a film called Secretary, which I liked. It was based on a short story, which I later read and didn't think much of. The author accused Secretary's makers of making a Disney version of her story. Well, no, they didn't, they made a better, more developed story about a dominant/submissive relationship and gave her money because both of them had a secretary in it. They did make a Disney version of Martha. Secretary was cute while Martha has big, damning things to say about being bourgeois and being a woman and all sorts of heavy shit while being funny.

Anyways, I couldn't stop there. While I was still processing, I decided to watch Veronica Voss. That didn't make me want to puke, and it had nice simple dialogue again, which was great for language acquisition, again. I don't have as much to say about it besides that it might have been the best film I've ever seen. Performances, cinematography, everything. It probably also made a bigger emotional impact than it might have otherwise because I saw it while reading Gabor Mate's In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, which I started to help me deal with a friend's descent into terminal alcoholism. Sometimes it gets so irresistable to dismiss somebody's behaviour - and hence them - because of their addictions, even if you reckon you're doing it "compassionately" by considering their addiction a disease instead of a wilful, stupid, stupid choice. But it's not that simple, is it?

Not that the presentation of addiction in Veronica Voss wasn't simple, which was probably down to Fassbinder being a dedicated addict himself and seeking to see himself as a victim of chemicals, rather than of anything more personal or internal. But it made you stare rather unflinchingly at addiction in a way that was more than watchable, and ultimately, even funny. Sometimes.

lunedì, marzo 17, 2014

Things that matter

Well, I'm procrastinating here. Our Italian babysitter is, strictly speaking, hours I don't need to get my job done. They sure as hell help, especially at the end of the quarter when I get busier, but they're not strictly necessary. I explain the expensive to myself by Godzilla's bilingualism, and the fact that I need a little extra time for my job just by virtue of its importance for our family; I wear the moneypants, which is fine with me, but it does mean I should probably find new and better ways of being awesome at what I do.

At the moment, though, I have another project on the boil. The intensive editing - basically, the writing - of a pop version of a friend's doctoral thesis. It's going to be quite good, although I don't know how broad its appeal will be. And much as I love my day job, and I do love it, at some point I'm probably going to get burned out over finance and industry and want to write pop versions of doctoral theses all the time.

And it will definitely eat up all the extra hours of babysitting we're getting with the Italian sitter. Once I start. Which I need to. Now. But here you are, procrastination, because this is something that matters for more than just money, so I'm apparently a little nervous, or something, and arguing with my cousin on Facebook about how Game of Thrones is no more fundamentally feminist than The Bold and the Beautiful.

Okay. Procrastination done. Here I go.

lunedì, marzo 10, 2014

Home help

We are managing parenthood, largely by hiring people to help. 14 hours a week of babysitting. It's not terrifically cheap at this point - probably a little more expensive than daycare, after subsidies, from what our neighbours tell us about the apparently really good Montessori place up the street. But I feel like Godzilla is just too young to go out of the house and go all Lord of the Flies with a bunch of other kids.

It'd be different if I worked outside of the home, I guess, but I don't. This way I can hear Godzilla, I can be there if he bumps his head or needs a nurse or cuddle, I can know he's okay all the time . . . yeah, there's a lot of "I" in those sentences. It's also for my sake that I've insisted on him getting care in our home and not in a nursery. Well, fine, officer, you caught me, I like having my own son around. I don't see any reason to put him and myself through the stress of seperation when I'm lucky enough to have a full time job I can do from home while he's having a lark in the next room with the babysitters. That will come with kindergarten, and come soon - a year in August - he can get all socialized then. And this time that I get to have this gorgeous little kid around all the time will never come back again so I'm going to enjoy it. 

And also, I like having chosen the carers, which you can't really do in an institution. The Italian lady who was doing all the hours before is only doing one day a week now, as she's working elsewhere as well. Still, hopefully its doing its job to shore up Godzilla's language - the F-word is still keeping up with the Italian too.

The other 11 hours a week we've got another terrific girl, white as potatoes but lovely, gentle and warm. Both of them are very young and quite inexperienced (and god, does the white girl remind me of myself when I was 19, with the key difference that she's actually quite beautiful, which fills me with curiosity; what would my life have been like if I was beautiful? I really have no confidence it would have been better) but that doesn't matter, because I'm around anyways, so it's not like the house is going to catch fire. So I could hire them based on the warmth of their personalities and how much fun Godzilla has with them, which is a lot. He likes spending time with them - he's thrilled when they get here and sad when they leave.

The world is full of assholes, including in Godzilla's own family, the poor mite . . . he'll get enough of them by default that I'm happy to spare him any in his infancy.

martedì, marzo 04, 2014

Starting to move again

I know there's been some pretty heavy mummy-blogging with all the potty this week so let's have an old-fashioned bitch of a travel blog sort of thing:

1. The three of us are heading to Thailand next month. Never been there before; all I've seen in Asia is lots of Shanghai and Singapore. It's not a big trip. A few days in Chiang Mai and a few days in Bangkok, with me working in Bangkok and the F-word celebrating his 40th. Man alive. His 40th. He was 24 or 25 when we met. I feel like he hasn't changed a bit, physically, and I don't think I've changed vastly either, but mentally and emotionally we might as well be different people altogether. And yet here we both are, two Ships of Theseus who passed in the night all those years ago and ended up sailing along together, the very harmony of the armada making a Godzilla erupt from the atomic seas (how many metaphors can I mix in one sentence? That many).

I'm getting excited. And I'm also glad we're heading to cities, silly as that may be given what I've heard about what a hot mess Bangkok is. I'm just not a beach person, as three years spent getting my tits bored off next to Byron Bay illustrated to me.

2. Godzilla and I are heading to Shanghai in June. Another work thing. I'm hoping to fly my niece out from Canada to help with Godzilla; failing that work will pay for a nanny. He's still nursing, and anyways I don't have the heart to go away from him for a week yet (I know, I know, I said travel blog rather than mummy blog, but mummies travel too). I'd initially asked to skip out of the Shanghai visit but I've decided I'm excited to go again. I'm very fond of Shanghai. It's so . . . I don't know . . . alive.

Godzilla is a bit of a Chinese Lady magnet and then they stick around to talk when they find out I know a few words of Mandarin, and the comment so many of them make about Melbourne and Australia is how boring it is. They're glad to be here, because it's not too polluted, because the traffic isn't too dangerous, the schools aren't too crowded, etc (all negative qualifiers, you'll note) but they're so fucking bored.

And I understand why. When I come back from German class around 9:30, 10 in the evening, it's like taking a train through the countryside - Melbourne is functionally dead by that time on a weeknight. But it's not as though you feel safe, because it's dark and because of Australia's drinking culture, which means the few cars that are about are being drag-raced by fucking rub-a-dubs and one is always looking over one's shoulder because even in heavily frequented areas women still get jumped.

In comparison, Shanghai - a city not known for its nightlife by Asian standards - is still buzzing at that time of the evening, and at least in the neighborhoods I was staying and working in, I felt absolutely and completely safe. It's just . . . I don't know. A lot less boring.

lunedì, marzo 03, 2014

Super pooper lights are going to find me

Godzilla is getting super good at pooping on the potty. This morning, when he decided to do two monster poos, was the first time he made it pretty clear that he is trying to hold it until he can get on his throne, and not just that I'm timing him getting on the throne efficiently and that the past week or so has just been some awesome fluke. So I know he's made the connection now. That's what I had been worried about, but he's getting to an age where he's smarter than I'm giving him credit for, and suprising me often in these sorts of ways. 

I'm trying not to get too excited, and trying to remember this is not going to be a linear process of him just pooping on a potty or toilet forever now, but this is pretty sweet. I've never found poopy diapers to be the hell on earth a lot of parents do, perhaps because of having a spray bidet fitted to the toilet or perhaps because the F-word is a competent co-parent so I don't have to take care of all of them. But there's no doubt life is a little easier without them, and I'm all about life being a little easier.

In retrospect I think this morning he may have been signalling a pee I missed at one stage, which would be awesome if it's true, because I haven't been doing a damn thing about the pee. I'm not even sure he has any degree of bladder control yet. And I guess I hoped that once he had fully figured out that pee comes from his willy he and his father could have a weekend of male bonding, preferably a snowy weekend, so he could learn to both control his pee and spell his name.

Man oh man . . . if I could get life so I only had to do laundry every other day instead of daily . . . nah, best not to even think of that yet.

martedì, febbraio 25, 2014

Time to start with the complexes

Godzilla hatched 15 months ago and I've reckoned we've hit the point where we should be working towards him not having to soil himself whilst sober.

I'm not too sure what I'm doing. The next generation up brags a lot about how fast my generation got out of diapers, but never seem to have a satisfactory breakdown of their training techniques. Maybe we children of the seventies are just deeply and innately continent. I certainly still get a lot of satisfaction from shitting on a surface that won't eventually need laundering.

So I'm following the one bit of advice I've ever taken from a lady magazine, read whilst waiting for someone to cut my hair: treat them like trainers treat big cats at the circus - ignore the behaviour you don't like and reward the behaviour you do like. It seems to not be unworking so far at least. Godzilla gets comfortable on his throne, hangs out for ages, and has widdled on it a few times, to great fanfare. I don't leave him on it to the point where I'd expect him to start getting tired of it and he is being very co-operative. We'll see how it goes. Basically, if he gets housetrained any time between now and when he starts kinder in a year and a half, I'll be really pleased.

The big-cats-at-the-circus advice was originally about men of course, because what else are lady's magazines about, besides eating disorders and conspicuous consumption? But I've used it in every part of my life to date that demands ongoing interpersonal relationships and I really recommend it. Not that it always works, because nothing always works. But it frees up a lot of time for more useful things when you're not getting your nuts in a knot about all the annoying shit people do that would take ages and ages to complain about effectively to them. Also I'm pretty sure people find it easier and much more pleasant to remember and act on requests than interdictions.

Are babies people though? I'm working on the assumption they are, at least when it comes to training them where to do their business. We'll see.

martedì, febbraio 18, 2014

I was what you are, you shall become what I am


Had a Memento Mori dream last night - stuck in front of one long past the point where I would have generally considered myself as having adequately remembered the Mori. Woke up feeling, well, like granny I guess.

Just now on the way to German listened to 'Like a Rainbow' and realized I want to have a daughter to the point of tears.

Started potty training Godzilla. That's probably what's bringing all this on. Why shouldn't my beautiful boy do his business wherever he likes? Alas, that's not the reality we live in.

giovedì, febbraio 06, 2014

Verdammt schreckliche Woche

Aw, fuck. A little wrinkle has appeared in our summer 2015 escape plan. Hopefully the sort of wrinkle that can be shaken out of the fabric but it's still pissing me off no end because it could have been easily avoided if the F-word had pulled his thumb out of his ass at some point since I first asked him to 14 months ago. Sometimes I don't know if I need to be more of a nag, less of a nag, or a better nag, or just do everything my fucking self, which is a dangerous possibility because then why not just go live in Rotterdam and do whatever the fuck I like, now that I can afford quality male prostitutes?

Tough words but it's been a tough week. Partly the unendingly horribly hot weather. And we spent the weekend with the F-word's family, but did it in the wrong order, with the fucking Schwiegervater last and the lovely family first, which left us with a strong dose of fucking Schwiegervater in our craws. He did a lot of annoying and awful shit but for me the prize, since at least it was funny, was chatting with him about Godzilla playing in a wading pool and him suddenly trotting out "children are so fascinated with water; no wonder so many of them drown."  

Jeebus. He spends much more time, when we visit, speculating on how Godzilla can die or hurt himself than actually playing with Godzilla. The ratio is probably 1:50. It's like Livia from the Sopranos with, admittedly, less of the malice. Schwiegervater is just Schwiegervater. He doesn't wish us ill; he just doesn't wish us, or anyone, good, ever.


The good news is that German classes started last week. The first night I went away I got seperation anxiety like crazy - being out of the house for around five hours, around Godzilla's bedtime, felt horrible. The second time I couldn't wait to get the fuck out of here and just sit on the train listening to Chet Baker and not having to deal with anything. I love the classes. The teacher could just spend them throwing textbooks at our heads and it would still feel like a vacation during weeks like these.

martedì, gennaio 21, 2014

A love that surpasses all understanding, and also schlongs

Had a lovely weekend with the branch of the F-word's family that is actually really lovely. Of course they are all about Godzilla, when we go there, and that is so gratifying. That is what he needs on this side of the world. . . family who is all about him. Especially since the rest of the F-word's family runs the gamut of useless to worse-than-useless in those terms, besides the F-word's stepfather, who I can't expect is going to be in this fucking business for the long haul. If I was him I would have been out the fucking door so fast and so long ago that it would have changed the course of history because it would have predated both steam engines and doors.

Of course this lovely branch of the F-word's otherwise Zaqqum-like family tree being all about Godzilla speaks to a lamentable lack of babies on said branch. So far, anyways. Hopefully that won't be the case for long. But one of the testaments to life being unfair is fertility problems. So many women who would be such awesome mothers compared to the lamentable ones out there, who have to struggle and struggle . . . or just can't. Just . . . can't. All this joy, all this range of emotion, this beautiful new person who isn't you but who has you in him, all this everything . . . and they just can't. Not for any reason that has anything to do with how lucky a child would be to be born to them.

Having Godzilla doesn't stop me from fearing it on my own account . . . some sort of deep-rooted fear I try not to dwell on, some sort of Niobe complex, maybe. Not just because we'd like some more spawn, except not right now, and I'm getting old. The thing is I'm so happy and I know - just as I know it's not fair that so many women struggle so hard to conceive, or just can't - that I deserve my happiness as little as they deserve their struggle. And not deserving something makes you wonder if you get to keep it. I may not have had a depressive episode in yonks and yonks, but that doesn't stop me from following the depressive tendency to a tee of a sadistic brain constantly forcing worst-case scenarios through an unwilling mind.

Anyways, the whirlwinds of emotion is so huge and so profound and so intermittently super dark and super light around this . . . all while there seems to be no fairness attached. And it does make me understand why religion, before it becomes a political tool, boils down to a sort of fertility cult. I mean, this is life . . . this is what, in many ways, it's all about, and yet it's so random. And for all the modern hand-wringing about an infertility epidemic, I don't believe for a second that it's harder for most women to conceive now than it would have been for most of human history, when women's fertility would get periodically clobbered - probably usually clobbered - by caloric restrictions (I think the average age of lady puberty has dropped something like a decade in the last century and a half alone).

This is probably a preoccupation in the female brain as fundamental and eternal as getting enough to eat and finding a mate with a really terrific schlong - probably more fundamental. Even if it isn't so constantly present in the forefront.