This blog contains swearing, sheep and the occasional swearing sheep. Also bad writing.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Wrinkled hands and a charming childhood

Haven't made these in a while.

We called them "charms" when we were kids.

We would make them under the boughs of a huge pine tree... Our not-so-secret hideaway, that tree was taller than the power pole beside it. My sister could climb to the very top, perching herself high away from childhood punishments, while my brother and I were only brave enough to climb half way up, and even then only under extreme protest.

The charms were hung throughout the tree and would chime throughout the night. We thought it was magical. The neighbours thought it was noisy. We thought they lacked imagination. They thought we were little shits.

This time their manufacture was a little different.

The hands were wrinkled. The movements more deliberate. My sister's wedding invitation sitting in the background. And of course that old pine tree, 800km away, had been chopped down years ago.

Lately I've been reading a series for the first time since early adolescence.

It's been a bizarre experience, almost travelling back in time. It's almost a pain, remembering the world we had created for ourselves, and then realising it doesn't exist anymore. But then I see new things in the books, things that can only been seen with older eyes. And I realise that the price I have paid for this greater understanding is the loss of that childhood world.

So maybe I made the charms to get back a piece of that imaginative, creative, confident place.

Can twelve year-old me talk louder and longer than thirty-something me, driving through all that cynicism? It's an interesting question. Because all that cynicism stopped me from talking in the first place, as I watched and listened instead.

I can see her though. That twelve year-old. She's the one who saves the critters, even the mice and the snails. She's the one who savours her friendships. She's the one who sucks it up and gets on with the job. She's the one who steps in to fix a problem, who helps those who need it. She's the one who writes. She's the one who reads old books and hangs charms from the middle part of the tree.

Pissing off the neighbours since the 1990s.

Monday, May 15, 2017

You wouldn't believe me #002

Interviewer: "We would like to talk to you about this morning's incident when you ignored the fox in the paddock-"
Elli: "Well you see, I've adopted a very Buddhist, zen-like pacifism, and I wish everyone could respect that."
     "Really? Since this morning when you tried to eat one of the cats?"
     "Eat is a very strong word."
     "The cats are singing, 'It's the Elli police, she's trying to eat my head-' That's not you?"
     "I wouldn't know anything about that."
     "So you don't mind uninvited critters in the paddock?"
     "All animals have rights-"
     "Even kangaroos?"
     "Yes, kangaroos. Like, the ones in the paddock right now?"
     "There are kangaroos in the paddock? Just excuse me for one minute-… GET OFF THE GRASS YOU RAT-FACED MOTHER F-"

Friday, May 12, 2017

You wouldn't believe me...

View from the kitchen window this morning...

It's all real, people! ...well, mostly.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Prompt: busy people

There's something about this screen today that's grating, frustrating, niggling at a simmering anger. It's probably too bright. Another headache starting. I ignore the dampness forming on the tips of my fingers and keep scrolling through my feed. I ignore my sister's puppy photos, Madeline's food posts – the girl needs to eat some of the food she orders, the skinny bitch- Oh god, I wish Louise would stop sharing competition posts! Like and share- Seriously Louise, a year's supply of makeup isn't going to help that adult acne. Amanda's wedding stress…
       Where is she? I keep scrolling, frowning now. Impatiently I check my notifications. Nothing from Jackie.
       I stop. A pause. I'm thinking.
       Jackie hasn't posted anything since 8pm last night.
       That's odd.
       I start to feel a little light-headed.
       I double-check her wall.
       No. Nothing since, "Putting sweet baby to bed after great night in with gorgeous family. About to start evening computer work. Ho hum, life of a working mum."
       I quickly check Instagram. She's probably posted "a school-run latte" pic…
       Twitter? God, who uses Twitter. She's probably having some quasi-political, vintage-hipster breakdown…
       I don't understand.
       I shake it off while I absently check off the notifications from the last few hours.
       Some idiot's trolling my gym pics… God, Madeline replied to my smoothie pic with one of hers. Get off my wall, bitch.
       I quickly type another status update. "The traffic this morning, amIright? #traffic #CBD #workingwoman #busy #citylife #worklife".

I share a great pic of having lunch at my desk, a group photo of a team meeting, "Way to go guys! Great meeting! #workingwoman #busy #citylife #worklife #working #squad", traffic updates, outfit choices for tonight, date updates…
       It's been all day. And still nothing.
       Her wall is blank. She hasn't responded to any my posts. Or anyone else's.
       My fingers are feeling twitchy again.
       I don't understand it.
       God, is she in hospital?
       I check her husband's page, but typically his last post with four months ago about some random joke about an orange.
       Should I text?
       God no. That would be weird.
       I type a quick status update. "Can't post pic! Scary eye-cream. Night biatches. #gettingold #workingwoman #busy #latenight #loveyous"

Okay, I don't get it.
       I feel like I'm starting to have a breathing problem. And there's a buzzing in my chest.
       It's been two days and Jackie hasn't posted anything. No family stuff, no work stuff, no housewife stuff. Not one goddamn #blessed for two whole fucking days.
       I send a text even though I know what I'll get back.
       Super busy love. Must catch up soon. Mwah.
       Of course we won't catch up. We're BFF's, but who has time to catch up? That's what our status updates are for. So we know what we're doing. Part of each other's lives. We never miss out on anything.
       Not one thing.

Fuck off Madeline! Everyone knows you're not going to eat that goddamn cupcake!
       And god, why is my sister always posting puppy pics. Like, god, get a hobby.
       I'm reporting this gym troll.
       Louise, no one cares about your new kale and cranberry diet. It will not help you.

#busy #workingwoman #workinglife #citylife #CBD #datenight #shopping #scaryeyecream #redlipstick

I phone her. But she doesn't answer.
       I'm sure she's "Too busy. Catch up soon. Hearts and kisses." but…

I don't understand.

I go over to her house.

This is like, the weirdest thing right now. I can't even.


So hey, just thought I'd drop by. God who does that.

I get a park only two doors down. It's Saturday – all the SUV's are at soccer practice or netball or- Shit, that's probably where Jackie is right now… But…

I walk up to the terrace. Knock on the door. I can hear the kids doing kid things. Running. I don't know. Noisy kid shit. And then she opens the door. And I'm like- fuck. Some shit must have happened, because she looks like crap. No makeup. Her eyes are baggy, her skin has acne, there are wrinkles! Her hair isn't blow dried. Her clothes are creased- it's not even an outfit- There isn't a filter that can fix this mess.

I wave my phone at her.
       "Haven't heard from you lately. Was wondering what's up."
       She smiled. A no-lipstick, a no-three-quarter-turn smile. It was weird.
       "Have you been sick?"
       She's still smiling.
       "No. Just needed a break."
       For fuck's sake. Of course! She's taken one of those techno-breaks. You give up technology for a week and donate money to a homeless charity or something.
       "Oh cool."
       "Why don't you come in?"
       "What about sports and music practice? Don't you have a mother's group soon?"
       Jackie shrugged. "As I said, I'm taking a break. Spending time with the kids."
       "Hashtag blessed, am I right."
       "No hashtag. Just the family. You wanna come in?"
       She's holding the door open. My finger tips are sweating again. I'm light-headed and my chest's buzzing.
       "Too busy. Catch up soon. Hugs and kisses."
       But I don't hug her. And I don't kiss her.

She messages me a week later. Asking about catching up. But I'm too busy. I post a few extra pics and status updates to prove it.

#busy #workingwoman #workinglife #citylife #CBD #traffic #pinklipstick #dating #yoga #kaleandcranberries #fitblessed

Who gives a fuck about your fucking puppies!

I temporarily block Madeline.

I report one of Louise's like and share posts.

Maybe I should take a techno-break too. Imagine my notifications.
       Where are you babe?
       We miss you gorgeous.

…No one wrote that on Jackie's wall. Which is still empty.

Status update. "Should see doctor but too busy. #busy #workingwoman #workinglife #citylife #CBD #traffic #nudelipstick #breakfast #kaleandcranberrysmoothie #toobusyforbreakast #breakfastonthego #lipstickonstraw #mwah #nudekisses #headache

Friday, April 28, 2017

Daily rant #032

"Period pain, not a female-only gig".

I saw this piece of stupidity several days ago on Twitter when it had this url:, which sadly no longer works. But I just saw it again in my bookmarks and it's pissed me off enough to share it.

Published rebuttals can be found here, the most eloquent here.

One could argue it's irritation is brought on by a level of intellectual hunger for god damn, mother loving, shove this right up your arse, I am so done with you, equal rights, but I'm sure Tom O'Connor would just argue that I'm premenstrual.

Which, for the record, I am not.

I'm just pissed off.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Prompt: trust

"Will you be there?"
       "Of course mate."
       He grinned. "Do you trust me?"

I was ten and the school was holding some bizarre festival no one really understood, except that critically all the students had to participate in a dance that made us all look like religious zealots. Our costumes were head scarfs and different coloured skirts. There was some serious gender questions raised during the thousands of weeks of practice. So truthfully, I wanted my dad there in a last ditch hope he would save me from this nutter of a school, but I also kinda hoped he didn't turn up because I didn't want him recording me, for all posterity, dancing around in circles wearing a headscarf and a skirt.

But he was there. Two rows back. With the camcorder. Such an arsehole.

"How would you know! How would you even know how to talk to girls- Please god, don't tell me you've been googling this. You'll get arrested."
       "Hey dude, I managed to get your mother to sleep with me at least once so-"
       "Sweet Jesus, I don't need to hear this!"
       "This will work. I swear."
       A very long pause was finally broken with a sigh of resignation. "There's no way."
       "Do you trust me?"

I was fifteen and her name was Kristine. And it worked. It's worked every single god damn time. My dad was the freaking original Barney Stenson.

"Well crap. That's a hard one mate."
       "I know. I feel like if I postpone uni I'll loose momentum, and that gap in my resume might be questioned- It's like my life, dad. I'm totally going to screw this up no matter what decision I make. What do I do?"
       My dad shrugged. "There won't necessarily be a gap in your resume."
       I rolled my eyes. I mean, seriously, people of dad's generation just didn't understand the workforce these days. It would have been professional suicide to put down, backpacking in Budapest for a year.
       "Close your eyes and imagine you're as old as I am-"
       "Don't wish that on me."
       "I'm really not. But just bear with me. You're forty-five-ish. You have a steady job. A partner. A mortgage. BBQ's on the weekend. What do you regret?"
       "Not backpacking in Budapest."
       "There's your answer."
       "A year travelling will help you find out who you are and what you can do. Trust me, it'll give you an edge."

And he was right. I had a great time. I had a shit time. I tested the crap out of myself and I survived. I landed a job with a boss who liked my confidence and problem-solving. After some bridging courses, I was two promotions ahead of my graduating year.

"You look like shit." And I was serious. My dad was scaring the crap out of me. He was grey. Like… grey. People shouldn't be that colour. My dad shouldn't be that colour.
       "Thanks mate."
       The bastard was even trying to smile. I wasn't fucking joking.
       "What did the doctor say?" I glanced around but none of the staff would make eye-contact with me.
       My dad shrugged. "Just your bog standard heart attack."
       "Sweet Jesus."
       "I'll be fine."
       "You'll be fine?" I was glaring at him. "You'll be fine? You've had a fucking heart attack. How the fuck will we know if you'll be fucking fine if the fucking doctors won't even fucking speak to us!"
       A very long pause was finally broken with a laugh. I moved from the foot of his bed to beside him. He looked… fuck, he looked like he had almost died. He looked exhausted, that awful grey colour, and just… drained. Except that he was smiling.
       I took out my phone, loaded my special Youtube playlist, turned the volume up, and handed the phone across.
       "Just watch it."
       My dad was giggling like an idiot when someone marched up to our bed. It had only taken ten seconds.
       "Who's screaming?"
       "Goats. How do I fix my dad?"
       The man blinked. "I don't-"
       "He's had a heart attack. How do I make sure he gets better and doesn't have another one?" I stood there like a freaking rock. A confident, don't-mess-with-me, yes-I'm-an-arsehole rock.
       "I'll get you a pamphlet."
       "A fucking pamphlet?"
       Dad giggled again.
       "You'll be fine," I muttered.
       I grinned. "Do you trust me?"

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Prompt: fountain

There were some pretty strange things about that fountain. Firstly, it was hidden. Perhaps his uncle had simply made a landscaping mistake – acquired the fountain too late or forgot about it? – but that would be very unlike his uncle. And the labyrinth of plants surrounding it seemed suspiciously deliberate to be a mere afterthought.
       Secondly, while the rest of the garden's ornaments were distinctly formal, with strong art deco lines, the fountain was whimsical. More art nouveau meets baroque meets folk art meets… let's face it, a lot of drugs.
       Thirdly, there was the whole dancing ballerina water sprite thing.
       That was probably the strangest bit.
       The suggestion could be made that Rufus had a habit of partaking in perhaps too much of the aforementioned mind-altering substances, thus causing the hallucination of a dancing ballerina water sprite, however getting in – and out – of the maze alive took practice, and he first saw the sprite when he was seven, sans drug-induced haze in case that needed clarifying.

The first time he saw the sprite he convinced himself it had been a reflection of the sun. During a storm. The dark-rolling-clouds type of storm. This moment perhaps hinting at one of Rufus' most persistent characteristics – stalwart denial, despite the level of creativity required. Rain had been hitting the water like bombs, droplets exploding from the point of impact, concentric waves battling for dominance. That beautiful noise that water makes when it splashes… somehow a high tone… somehow a deep tone… but always somehow crystal and sharp, like it might be about to shatter but it never does. A cascade of water music. And then he saw her. An arm at first, extending beyond the surface, reaching up with gently curved fingers… almost lazily. And then she rose, her toes pointed like a ballerina, before immediately diving in a graceful arc like a dolphin, a splash marking her disappearance.

Over the next ten years, Rufus dismissed subsequent sightings with equal aplomb. His hair caught in his eyes. An apple fell into the fountain. A cormorant was taking a bath. It was the absinthe.
       Meanwhile, his memory carefully rearranged a few haircuts, a few fruit trees and some wildlife. It also conveniently ignored the number of trips to an otherwise random fountain at the back of an otherwise tremendously boring garden owned by a rather austere uncle who took no trouble to hide his perpetual surprise at his nephew's insistence to visit… and then disappear into the garden… And the absinthe wasn't all that creative. While he wasn't stoned at seven, he was certainly inebriated at thirteen… The fountain wasn't really so very strange in context.

So during a gentle trip, escaping a party he had actually been invited to, Rufus finally conceded the existence of the dancing ballerina water sprite. He could no longer ignore her… especially after staring at her life-sized face for over twenty minutes.
       "Are you the reason that Greek guy stared at the water for so long?"
       The forearms of his shirt dripped as he leaned back from the fountain and readjusted the weight on his knees. He trailed a finger along what would have been her cheek, and watched the gentle waves roll over her face. She turned her head as if leaning into the caress, but then disappeared into the water again. She reappeared on the other side of the fountain, a smaller version languidly swimming backstroke. The tiny splash as droplets fell from her outstretched arms, and then again as her arms hit the surface, sounded like laughter.
       She stopped swimming and her face reformed. Full size. Staring back at him from the other side of the fountain.
       Rufus laid his head on his elbow. He knew his mind was still a little soft from the random concoctions of the last few hours, but he could see her clearly. "Have you always been here? In this fountain?"
       When she shook her head, Rufus nodded as if he understood something. He looked up at the stars and sighed.
       "Have you seen much of the world?"
       She shook her head.
       Rufus nodded again.
       He suddenly stood up. And wobbled. "How much water does a dancing ballerina water sprite require for transport?"
       Her face sunk a little until only her eyes peered up at him.
       "The whole lot? Or would a gin bottle be enough?"
       She didn't move.
       "Are we talking essence? Or the full elephant?" He gazed off for a moment. "Elephant. Trunk. A trunk would leak." He focused again. "Fishbowl?"

Thus, Rufus smuggled a somewhat wary, but eventually agreeable dancing ballerina water sprite out of his uncle's rather odd house and into a boringly sparse, modern apartment via a champagne cooler. Rufus also learned that dancing ballerina water sprites don't like the idea of ice or being put in a kettle. Unfortunately, Rufus is a terrible student and forgot the part about the kettle, which would have saved him quite a bit of drama in Italy.
       Another person may have spent hours scouring heavy, cloth-bound books in libraries with vaulted ceilings and green table lamps, researching myths, legends and hydrology. Another person may have sought religious assistance, and asked very serious, although equally absurd questions about children drowning in fountains, and drawing imaginative and equally illogical conclusions.
       Rufus, obviously, was neither of these people. He kept the dancing ballerina water sprite in a continual merry-go-round of vessels and nicknames: a kitchen sink (made them both nervous for ten long minutes), an aquarium (sans fish), various vases, a punch bowl, a kettle (which shall never be talked about in detail), and a three-litre juice bottle (apparently not rinsed); Wet Stuff, Angelina, Lemonade, Tutti-Frutti (following the juice bottle incident), and Arabella (because it felt right). He took her on a rail journey through Europe, to random art galleries, on picnics, to the aquarium (which made her dizzy), and once to a highly forgettable folk band. But mostly they stayed at home, hoping for rain, when Rufus would take her up to the roof, and she would dance and dive in the droplets.

So during a surprisingly sober moment on the rooftop, Rufus realised Arabella needed something much larger than a vase. Or a fountain.
       Chlorine or salt would hurt her.
       She needed a lake. A freshwater lake. Away from swimmers, ski jets and fishermen.
       He took her to Scotland.
       To a random property of a random friend who owned the folk band who turned out to be not so forgettable after all.

He hadn't put much thought into the vase that carried her. Perhaps it should have been ornate china, or carved crystal, or glass blown by an expensive artisan with Venetian connections. But it was something boring and nondescript. She didn't appear as he knelt on the stone beach. He didn't have any words to say, either sorrowful or inspirational. Rufus knew this was the right thing to do, so his mind was perfectly blank as he gently lowered the vase into the lake. The water swirled in and out. And nothing else happened.
       For a moment he wondered if he'd picked her up after all. But then remembered chatting to her on the train.
       She was no longer in the swirl of water near his knees. She was no longer in the empty vase. He gazed over the still surface of the lake… She was out there. Somewhere. A water mermaid. A dancing ballerina water sprite.
       He waited for her to rise out of the water with all due drama. Majestic, powerful, beautiful, bathed in sunlight, droplets shining like gemstones.
       But it didn't happen.
       And the sun was starting to lower.
       Which meant this was all pretty much over and it was time for Rufus to go home.
       He glanced down at his wet knees. And wondered briefly about tides, and moons and water mass when he finally, dreamily realised it was not a tide lapping at his knees.
       She smiled up at him. Lying on her stomach, her folded arms against his knees, she was smiling up at him. And then she reached out for him, for his hands, a touch so clear it was neither warm nor cold, neither sharp nor soft, it was the perfect balance of everything that made it the most real thing Rufus had ever felt. She held his hands as she stood up. He felt her pull him, so much stronger than any grip he had ever experienced. She would have been utterly undeniable, but he knew she would let go if he asked.
       He didn't. Obviously.
       They stood together. For the first time. Hand in hand.
       She pulled him towards the darkening water. She sinking into oblivion. And Rufus-
       "Sweet god, it's cold."
       But she moved closer to him, and the sting disappeared.
       He felt nothing but the weightlessness, the gentle caress, the strangely maternal calmness of the water.
       She stopped pulling when he could still stand on the rocks with the water lapping at his chest. She smiled brightly, let go of his hands, and pulled away quickly, diving backwards into the lake before rising up like a majestic, powerful, beautiful creature, bathed in the last light, droplets shining like gemstones. Diving and splashing and laughing and returning and wrapping him in safety, before pulling out, and then pulling him with her, and diving and splashing and laughing.

Before he realised that fatigue was starting to weigh down his limbs, she returned him to shore. She wrapped herself around him on the beach, protecting him from the cold. Legs on legs, chest on chest, her cheek on his, her arm cradling his head.
       And they slept.

The sun was high when he woke. His clothes were wet. His body was freezing. His mind clear. Not sharp or soft. Just perfectly balanced. For a moment he understood everything. His past, his present and his potential futures. It was neither tiring nor exhilarating. Just clear. He felt his age. Not old or young. Just exactly as he was.
       Another person might have panicked at such mindful awareness.
       But Rufus was not that sort of person.
       He simply smiled his lazy smile.
       Stood very slowly.
       And gazed out at the lake.

       Where a dancing ballerina water sprite languidly swam backstroke.