Tag Archives: literature

Belated reflection on writing

I spent the weekend doing the thing that all educators should do on a regular basis.

I became a student.

I don’t do it often enough. I don’t think teachers do it often enough. There’s a difference between sitting through some professional development session with a group of colleagues to actually putting yourself out on a limb and participating in a workshop as a student with other people (who may or may not be teachers).

What’s the difference? I’ll give you a hint. One scenario often involves a degree of cynicism and frustration at being “made” to participate in some kind of training that someone else has decided is essential for you. The other scenario means you have chosen to learn something new for your own enlightenment. So you have to leave your  ego at the door and give yourself over to the learning experience.

That means answering questions when you’re not sure if you’re right or wrong. It means trying when you think you are wrong or hopeless. It means sharing your work with the class and teachers even if you don’t want to, and your heart is pounding in your chest, your mouth is dry and you just want to hide under a conveniently located table.

I wrote more about it here:

 

How do you “cope”?

Firstly, congratulations to me for waiting 24 hours to write this post instead of ripping it yesterday when I had my Ranty McRantface happening.

Breathe.

In through the nose.

Out through the mouth.

Repeat for 24 hours.

But, I hear you ask in great wonderment, what had you so riled Wendy that you were ready to claw someone’s face off just like in the movie Face Off (note: haven’t seen Face Off so I’m not sure if that is the plot but let’s say it is for the purposes of this post)?

Excellent question lovely readers. You’re very lovely. Well done.

Let me eventually get to the point by restating to you a question that was asked of moi twice in a 72 hour period by intelligent, bright people who I really like and have lots of time for.

Q: Say Wendy, how do you cope, you know, intellectually, living in Bundaberg?

WTF. Had they turned into snobs while I wasn’t looking? Or were they really curious? Either way Houston we have a problem. Before we get down to business, I’ll just point out a couple of things.

  1. This is not the first time in my life I have been asked this question
  2. One of the questioners actually lived here for 20 years, raising a family, working, doing stuff, you know, the whole box and dice.

(Two things. I pointed out two things)

So I guess the thing about this question is it immediately implies that Bundaberg is an intellectual wasteland located in a cultural desert devoid of anyone of any smarts, interestingness, capacity to hold a conversation in words of more than one syllable, ability to form opinions about the world and our place in it and other such qualities which are clearly available only to those who are blessed and clever enough to be living in our capital cities and their immediate surrounds.

I may exaggerate here given that part of my reaction to the question was to feel tremendously insulted and patronised. As a result, in both instances, I stumbled out a response that probably appeared to apologise for my life and did nothing to further either questioner’s impression of the aforementioned intellectual wasteland that, in their minds, is regional Australia.

I tweeted out a little of my rage yesterday afternoon and as usual Twitter came back with the commonsense and support I have come to expect from my little corner of this life-saving social media platform. Thanks twitter sphere. Ace.

So in no particular order here are some of the things I shoulda/coulda responded with:

  1. I don’t understand. I’ve spent so long repressing any semblance of my intellectual capabilities and dumbing myself down so I can fit in with the locals that I don’t reflect on my life or my circle of like-minded people. I just play the pokies from 11am onwards using my Newstart allowance while I leave the kids in the car with the family pet during the long hot days of summer.
  2. Mmmm, cope intellectually you say. Well, I’ve just this minute arrived from a string quartet rehearsal where we worked on the first movement of Schubert’s String Quintet in C Major under the guidance of a retired professional musician who (among other things in a long and successful career) was a close personal friend of Sir Neville Marriner from the Academy of St Martin in the Fields. Perhaps you’ve heard of them? No? Heavens to Betsy and you call yourself chockas with culture living down there in the big city.
  3. Cope? Intellectually? Well I’ve never had to worry about those two words in the same sentence or question before. I’ve been too busy chatting with my awesome friends and family about things like music, art, education, politics, and other such topics on a daily basis. Perhaps you’ve heard of them. They’re quite popular as conversational issues.
  4. Intellectual coping skills? Oh no. I don’t have any. I just wake every morning weeping at my own idiocy for living here where it only takes 5 mins to get to the grocery shop, beach, doctors, movies, cafes. Did I mention there are no toll roads or confusing tunnels and we have real chai available? Oh we’re also able to listen to exactly the same radio programs on RN AS YOU CAN IN THE CITY and we do also have the same TV stations. Have you heard of Netflix, Stan, ITunes? NO – of well we have access to them too so we keep up pretty well.
  5. Social media? Oh, sorry, you refuse to use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Social Media platform of your choice. How do you manage to read the New York Times, The Guardian, Slate, The Atlantic, The Saturday Paper, read First Dog on the Moon cartoons, read Longreads, and the zillion other great intellectually stimulating and interesting stuff that comes into my phone everyday? What’s that? You subscribe to The Australian? In hard copy? Oh….I’m sorry. I didn’t realise.

Okay, so maybe Ranty McRantface hasn’t disappeared completely (and perhaps has been joined by Sarcastic McCynicalFace) but I’m tired of this garbage. Let me state in no uncertain terms just so we’re all clear.

There are smart and stupid people everywhere. Yes. Everywhere. Even in the city.

There are good and bad people everywhere. Yes. Everywhere. Even in the city.

There are boring people everywhere. Yes. Everywhere. Even in the city.

There are kindred spirits for each and everyone of us. Sometimes they’re in the city and sometimes they’re in the regions. Sometimes they’re online and you’ve never met them IRL. That doesn’t even matter. I “cope” by seeking them out. By stumbling across them and being delighted. I do just what you do living in the big smoke. We’re all the same.

So check your metropolitan-intellectual privilege at the door please if you’re coming to visit me. I ain’t got time for that shit.

Shout out to my tribe of kindred spirits. You’re all totes amazing.

This is the pasta you’ve been looking for*

“The supermarket shelves have been rearranged. It happened one day without warning. There is agitation and panic in the aisles, dismay in the faces of older shoppers.[…]They scrutinize the small print on packages, wary of a second level of betrayal. The men scan for stamped dates, the women for ingredients. Many have trouble making out the words. Smeared print, ghost images. In the altered shelves, the ambient roar, in the plain and heartless fact of their decline, they try to work their way through confusion. But in the end it doesn’t matter what they see or think they see. The terminals are equipped with holographic scanners, which decode the binary secret of every item, infallibly. This is the language of waves and radiation, or how the dead speak to the living. And this is where we wait together, regardless of our age, our carts stocked with brightly colored goods. A slowly moving line, satisfying, giving us time to glance at the tabloids in the racks. Everything we need that is not food or love is here in the tabloid racks. The tales of the supernatural and the extraterrestrial. The miracle vitamins, the cures for cancer, the remedies for obesity. The cults of the famous and the dead.”
― Don DeLillo, White Noise

Goodness. Unoriginal really to start a blog post with a quote. Especially one from a Don DeLillo novel. A little bit literary and hoity toity of me perhaps? Don’t worry it’s the only one I’ve ever read. American Literature 101 back the worry-free days of an undergraduate arts degree. Perhaps that will come in useful some day?

(*taps foot impatiently and waits*)

In the meantime, I’ll tell you why I suddenly thought of this final moment from White Noise.

It’s because I went to Aldi on Sunday.

I know. GROUND BREAKING.

Well it was for me. I don’t like trying new things. I’m not good at it. I’m not very adventurous. Especially if adventurous means trying out a different supermarket. Sure, I’ve tolerated the so-called “fresh food people” with their mouldy, crushed tomatoes, their limp lettuce and the cold-stored mandarins. It was easy and convenient. I knew where the tinned salmon was. I didn’t have to go searching up and down the aisles for the milk. I knew how to work the self-service checkouts and that the nice young man who works on Sunday morning would help me when the fruit went through as an error.

But Wendy! Live a little. Aldi’s just a supermarket.

I know that my friends. But here’s the point. It was one I had never been to before. Yes I know. And the more that people embraced the Aldi way, the more I became determined not to go there. Just like when everyone raved about Forrest Gump. I’ve never watched the movie and I never will because people told me it was good. Or Shane Warne. I didn’t like him when he was playing cricket and I refuse to like him now. UnAustralian. (Sometimes I would barrack for whoever is playing against Lleyton Hewitt. Just for fun). Whatever. Logic has little place here.

But Adrienne had introduced me to the fresh truffle and mushroom Aldi pasta. It was delicious and cheap. I really wanted some. I checked the map. There’s an Aldi 700m from my house. What was stopping me?

I had no map. I was lacking in the cultural capital (mildly fancy cultural studies concept alert) to understand the ways of Aldi. I talked myself into. You can do it. If the meek can inherit the earth surely you can go into a new supermarket. This was a map I was going to have make for myself. I was an explorer on a bold and exciting journey. Everything would be shelved differently. I wouldn’t recognise the brands. How would I even FIND the pasta?

I parked the car and moved towards the entrance. Not for Aldi the fancy Woolies entry where you can go in and out of the same space. NO. Once you are in you have to buy something or try to awkwardly get out through the checkout lines without anything to purchase. Embarrassing. Space management 101 perhaps?

Inside was a little bit dreary. I don’t think there was any muzak playing. I couldn’t be sure because I was one of those people anxiously scanning the aisles, reading labels and wondering if “this” was the pasta I’d been looking for.

I found it. I took two packets because it seemed silly that I would go to all that effort and then only walk out with one measly packet of pasta.

Good. I’d know where to go next time. Map drawn. Now to escape. And here’s where it became all very disconcerting. I had two packets of pasta. Everyone else was buying a week’s worth of groceries. I settled in, Woolies-style, to wait for ages in the queue, but they waved me through to the front! What madness is this? Manners, kindness, compassion for the slightly worried woman with her pasta? Could Aldi….possibly…be a more caring supermarket? Is this the supermarket I’ve been looking for.

I was no longer dismayed. I didn’t feel betrayed or that I had betrayed Woolworths. Aldi had provided with pasta and humanity in the face of confusion and discomfort. For a moment we were all one in the Aldi queue, just Sunday afternoon shoppers trying to stock up for the week. I was part of a little community. It felt good.

And so it turned it that my journey into the depths of Sugarland Aldi was not the tragedy of modern life so exquisitely described by DeLillo. It was full of hope.

(I also bought two books on special on the way out). Bargains!

*apologies to all Star Wars fans