Rosemary Nissen-Wade: Aussie poet and teacher of metaphysics – a personal view
My bestie nicknamed me SnakyPoet on her blog, and I liked it. (It began as
'the poet of the serpentine Northern Rivers' and became more and more abbreviated.)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Footy Fever

Despite being born and bred in the home of Aussie Rules — Melbourne — my husband has never followed footy in his life.  This takes some doing, in a city where football is not only the major religion but practically compulsory! ('Football' meaning Aussie Rules, of course. They do have Rugby and Soccer; those are called Rugby and Soccer.)

I grew up in Tasmania, which, back in those days, was its second home, but I managed to escape the general fanaticism too. Then I went to Melbourne.

‘Who do you barrack for?” asked every new acquaintance. When I told them I didn’t barrack for anyone, they said, ‘Oh, you have to barrack for someone. You’ve gotta have a team.’

I was studying at the University of Melbourne, in the suburb of Carlton, and eventually lived in Carlton too. So I decided to barrack for the Carlton footy team. I learned how to say things like, ‘Carn the mighty Blues!’  with every appearance of enthusiasm, but it’s just pretend. I never went to a Carlton game and only know the name of one player, the great Alex Jesaulenko of decades past. (Everyone knew that name, even if they didn’t barrack for Carlton; just as everybody knew the names of other greats such as Ron Barrassi, Lou Richards and Norm Smith. Living in Melbourne, there were some things you couldn’t escape.) In truth, I never know how ‘my’ team is doing unless they get into a Grand Final, which I find out at the last minute, or even after the event.

For a while I joined the Anti-Football League and wore the badge. Journalist Keith Dunstan started the Anti-Football League so that people who longed for intelligent conversation that was not about football could identify each other at parties. Unfortunately, we all found ourselves talking about football more than ever, as the Aussie Rules fans would bail us up and demand to know why we were against the noble sport.

Anyway, you get the idea — my beloved and I are not keen on football, and manage to live our lives blissfully unaware of it most of the time. Grand Finals come and go and leave us unmoved.  Today, however, I had a strong urge to watch the latest Grand Final on TV, and he entered into the spirit of it too. As Carlton wasn’t playing, we decided to barrack for St Kilda. I lived Bayside for most of my time in Melbourne, which made the Saints my local team; also they have the best club song — ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’ of course, with only the slightest change of wording.

We settled down in our armchairs and had a thoroughly good time, cheering or groaning in all the right places. We got quite carried away and found ourselves yelling advice to the players. I don’t know what came over us, really. Who knew that watching footy could be such fun?

It was a very exciting game, which ended in a draw. The final point was scored just before the closing siren sounded. I wonder if we can stand to watch the replay next week?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

What is a Healthy Relationship?

Worth sharing (copied from the blog Fiona's Inspirations):

I found this very concise explanation of a healthy relationship in a booklet produced by the Tweed Shire Women’s Service. After searching the web and not finding anything so clear and succinct, I decided to reproduce it here to share with others.
A healthy relationship is identified through the presence of equality. The elements of a healthy relationship are applicable to all forms of relationships with friends, dating, partners, intimate partners, life partners, of family members.
Trust: Trust lies at the heart of the relationship and is the foundation that love and respect are built on.
Support: Support and encouragement of each other to achieve their goals and dreams, and personal growth.
Respect: Respect other people’s boundaries. Learn other people’s boundaries and do not infringe upon them.
Responsibility: A shared responsibility for maintaining the relationship. Both people in a relationship should be included in making decisions.
Communication: Communicate effectively. Effective communication involves clearly expressing your thoughts and feelings, and listening to those of others.
Boundaries: Maintain healthy boundaries. Create a safe and comfortable space to experience relationships by defining and communicating your boundaries to others.
Honesty: Be open and honest. It is important for both people in a relationship to be honest about their intentions, feelings or desires.
Accountability: Be responsible for your own actions. Talk to others to understand how your actions affect them.
There is no place in a healthy relationship for controlling, abusive and violent behaviour.

Reference: ‘What is a Healthy Relationship?’ A Woman’s Guide to Reclaiming a Healthy Relationship produced by Tweed Shire Women’s Service

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Minor Mystery

We recently started getting the Sydney Morning Herald delivered each morning. What luxury! When we were a little poorer, we used to get it only on Mondays for the excellent TV guide, and we went to the shop to buy it.

Andrew loves it: best paper he’s ever come across, he says. (I used to feel that way about the Melbourne Age, which is ‘from the same stable’.) I like it too, but most of all for the word puzzles, which I solve (or not) while watching TV in the evenings.

Then, for the last two mornings, it went missing. The first time, I didn‘t get to the newsagent to report it unil late in the afternoon. By then there were none left — not there, not anywhere in town. It was the morning after Australia found out who was going to govern in our hung Parliament; I guess everybody wanted the paper that day. The newsagent gave me a copy of The Australian instead — a paper with a very different political slant from the Herald. ‘Julia Gillard gets nod to govern’ said the SMH headline (I found out online). ‘Gillard gets a second chance,’ said The Australian.

The following day, Andrew saw the paper outside in our yard, but neither of us was dressed at that point. By the time we were, and went to retrieve it, it was gone. I phoned the newsagent, explained, and asked him to keep us another copy. Then I went door-knocking around Tulipwood Court (our little cul-de-sac). My neighbour in the other unit is away. She once told me someone collected her mail for her at such times, so I thought maybe they’d picked up the Herald too on the assumption it was hers. No-one I spoke to knew anything about it.

‘It must have been stolen,’ said one woman. ‘There’s a bit of that goes on around here.’ Another said, ‘I’m up at five every morning. I’ll pick up your paper from now on and put it up on your veranda.’ Sure enough, this morning’s paper was right there outside our front door. Bless her!

The newsagent’s father delivers the papers early. He confirmed he’d thrown it right up into our yard. ‘Could it have been a dog?’ asked the newsagent. ‘One that’s trained to fetch?Dad saw a dog rummaging around in the rubbish bins along the street.’  Hmmm, I’d heard a dog barking up and down the street in the afternoon, which was unusual, and on the way home from the newsagent I saw what looked like a stray in a nearby street to Tulipwood Court.  But if so, it must be a very selective dog. Various free newspapers get delivered too, and they have never disappeared. The Tweed Echo was still on our lawn yesterday after the Herald had gone, and the Mail the day before.

I spoke to teenage Nathan from across the road, and his little sister. They were riding their bikes around our end of the street.

‘It could have been Monty,’ they said. ‘He takes shoes sometimes.’

Monty is a big old dog from further down the street, inclined to wander vaguely in front of cars, but we all stop to let him by. Or they thought it might be Baxter. Baxter’s a big boxer who lives near Monty, and is the reason I don’t walk down that end of the street. He appears friendly, but very boisterous; I’ve been scared he’d knock me over in his exuberance.

‘Baxter’s a bad dog!’ said the little girl.

‘There have been some bites,’ said Nathan.

‘And there’s also Coco; she’s a golden labrador who lives down the hill.’

Baxter wasn’t out on the road just then, nor were the other dogs, so I braved the walk to their owners’ houses. Monty had been in his back yard for three months following a complaint to the Council, said the cheery blonde who came to that front door. At Baxter’s place, a teenage boy and girl and their Mum all answered my knock and told me Baxter is now confined by an electric fence and a special collar.

Coco’s house was over the side of the hill, down a dip. There was a little path through bushes, then a big house with a big yard. Coco, lying outside, looked up at me placidly. Not a golden labrador actually, but one of those curly-haired ones that look a bit similar: a golden retriever.

‘Come in,’ called a tall young woman busy peeling vegetables.

She said their SMH wasn’t there this morning either. We had a hunt around the garden but found nothing.

‘If she does pick ours up,’ said Coco’s owner, ‘She usually takes it to where she sits. And she doesn’t bring home other papers.’

She introduced me to gentle Coco, who stood up to greet me and enjoyed having her ears rubbed.

I must be looking my age even though I don’t think so. Coco’s lady took my arm to help me back on to the path up the hillside and asked her teenage daughter to accompany me to the top.

So I don’t know who or what has been making off with our paper, but it won’t happen again thanks to the kind five o’clock riser, and now I’ve met more of our neighbours and found them all very nice.

One door I refrained from knocking on because others said, ‘Stay away from her. She’s ... er ... strange.’ (Strange enough to steal newspapers? Perhaps I’ll never know.)

Monday, September 06, 2010

Writer's Journal (exercise): Sport / Embarrassment / Punch


I’ll give you sport, Sport! Australians care far more about footy and horse racing than they do about literature. In the old days of the Poets’ Union, we used to have fantasies about writing football poetry and finally getting attention and making our fortunes. However, football and poetry seldom mix, so we never did, not any of us as far as I know. Except Tedd Wotsisname who’d been a fampus footballer (Aussie Rules of course) before becoming a poet and actually tryig to make a living at that. He had to write prose as well, and start teaching it too, no money in poetry — as cliché, that’s too true.

Sport! Not for the likes of a little, fat, short-sighted, short-winded kid like me. It wasn’t until I was 22 that a doctor looked at my tonsils and said they must have been leaking poison into my system for years and that I’d probably been short-winded as a kid. So THAT was why I used to come chugging up the strait stone motherless last, a mile behind the other kids, whenever we had to run races.

Had to, that was it, Phys Ed teachers became my ideas of torturers. I‘m sure some of them were mean on purpose. Or maybe they thought I was being helpless and uncoordinated on purpose. 

Just like the ludicrous answers I used to get in maths ... but that’s another story.


It did me out of a wonderful memory once. How old was I? About 9, perhaps. I was wearing a nightie that had a tear in the back, and when Mum came to get me out of bed and introduce me to the party guests, I refused. I didn’t want anyone to see the hole in the back of my nightie. Mum was flushed, I recall, and exited; probably everyone was a little tipsy by then.

Mum and Dad were in the Launceston Players, an amateur theatrical company, and the party was for the local thespians and the visiting members of the Stratford on Avon company. Leo McKern is one name I recall, and oh, many others, but I forget them by now. They were world famous; I have all their autographs still. She wanted me to meet them in person. They won’t care about your nightie, she said, but I thought they would laugh at me, and so I didn’t go.

I must say, though, it hasn’t scarred me not to have met these luminaries in person. I did get to see them act; my parents took me to all the theatrical events. That was worth more to me than being paraded before them in their everyday selves.

I was very embarrassed when I saw Dame Sybil Thorndike playing Medea. She was so convincing that I couldn’t stand the horror of what she was saying, and squirmed in my seat. I was maybe 13 then. All she had was words, and her delivery, and they tore me to pieces.

She threw the first punch

It landed fair in the middle of my throat and winded me, and that was the end of that fight.

I didn’t know why we were fighting in the first place. But apparently I had mortally offended Merren, who until then had been my close friend, and she demanded restitution. Lots of the other kids were onside, and said I had to do it, for my honour. We were 16-year-olds in the second-last year of High School. It was arranged that we’d all meet after school to stage this bout, this duel, whatever it was.

There we were on the old gravel path behind the school, hidden by hedges. She and her supporters were lined up on one side, me and my pals on the other. I was glad I had a few pals; i was fairly new to this school, and indeed to this town. Someone asked offciously, in a booming voice, if I would apologise. I said I didn’t know what I was supposed to apologise for. ‘All right,’ said this adjudicator person, ‘Then you have to fight.’

We stood awkwardly, in our school uniforms, not knowing how to begin.  While I was still wondering, she stepped forward and threw the first, last and only punch.

I gasped and wept.

‘Are you satisfied?’ said the adjudicator to Merren. She declared she was, and we all broke up and straggled off to catch our buses home. We never did become friends again and I still don’t know what I did.

Writer's Journal (exercise): Revenge List: Nonexistent

I started to make a list of people I’d ‘like to pay back for perceived hurt’, as recommended by Carmel Bird in her memoir guide, Writing the Story of Your Life. I began with kids at school who were mean to me in various ways, progressed to relatives, went on to false friends and lovers, and finished with reprehensible strangers. At least, that was the plan. I didn’t get very far.

As I wrote down the names, I realised that either I had got my revenge at the time, or life had since dealt them such blows that I didn’t need to inflict extra, or in some cases neither of the above but I simply didn’t care any more. Mostly, it was the second alternative.

What it is to be 70! It is true what Mae West said (or was it Anita Loos?): ‘Time wounds all heels.’ You just have to live long enough to see it.

(To make an interesting memoir, though, I should probably tell some of those old stories.)

Friday, September 03, 2010

A Local Character

Out shopping the other day, I spotted her: one of the strange old ladies who can be seen wandering around Murwillumbah. I’m well acquainted with this particular one and don’t usually see her so externally; but catching sight of her unexpectedly like that, I realised how funny she looked. It wasn’t only the hair dyed an improbable shade, and the plethora of rings and necklaces. She was wearing a long black evening skirt topped by a casual, striped windcheater starting to fray a little at the seams. On her feet, incongruous under the skirt, were black socks and a pair of purple and white joggers.

I understood her rationalisation for this attire: all her trousers had got too tight and the skirt was the only thing she could wear comfortably just now. And she needed the nice warm top and the good, supportive shoes. Very sensible of course; just odd-looking.

Not that her friends seemed to care. I observed that those she bumped into as she did her errands didn’t appear to find her outfit remarkable, if they even noticed it at all. (Well, Mur’bah has always had a great tolerance of eccentric dress.) It was obvious that all they saw was her, the person. She was greeted with hugs and kind enquiries as to her welfare. I guess you can afford to be a little weird in the interests of comfort, in a town where people love you and see straight through to your inner being.

All the same, that sudden confrontation in a shop window was disconcerting. I think I’ll at least wear my black shoes next time!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

1000 Words A Day

Well it seemed like a good idea at the time. So I publicly committed to write 1000 words a day and immediately became paralysed.

No no, that's not really true; I'm always writing — which is why I thought it would be such a breeze. I write emails, I write verses, I write morning pages, I write notes, I write journal entries....  Alas, for the last few days, even including extraneous things like emails, I'd be lucky to write 200 words some days. You know how it is: life gets in the way.

True, some of my journal entries are longer than 1000 words, and at the time I took on this challenge I had just decided to take a break from poetry and create a journal-cum-memoir. That didn't last very long. The truth is, I like writing poems best of all, and to focus on prose very soon palls. Perhaps I should write my journal in poetry! Many years ago I showed a young man my notebook full of poems and he said, 'It's like a sort of diary in verse.' At the time I found the comment disappointing, but he was probably quite right. Perhaps I should capitalise on it.

But there's another reason why even a poem a day is not a good thing for me to commit to on a regular basis. Prose or poetry, I need to do a lot of editing and revising. The one journal entry I did complete and post here (the previous post) went through about eight drafts first and still it's nothing extraordinary. I have poems galore, but in recent years few of them have been revised. In the WordsFlow writing group, we've decided to up the ante and aim for excellence. A whole heap of adequate but mediocre pieces won't do. Excelsior!

So the 1000 Words A Day Challenge banner has come down. A useful idea, but not for me. If anyone feels it's for them, you can find the details at InkyGirl's blog.