Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Goodbye Girl (And Boy)


You may have noticed our location recently listed as "the last days of chez nous". And they have been. On Saturday, Xander and Nico are (finally) moving to Sydney.

I've only recently told people about this, and the response is often "that seems awfully quick". It isn't; I've just kept it quiet until everything was certain, as I couldn't bear the humiliation of having it fall through (especially after the Great Debacle of '05). In reality, the whole thing has been a nightmare odyssey ever since the day, nearly two months ago, when I discovered that the Xander and Nico house was due to be demolished, and before I knew it I'd agreed to move to Sydney with friends.

If I'd had any idea just how difficult it was going to be to find a house, I would never have agreed to this. You might have heard in the media about a "rental crisis" in the market these days. It's no exaggeration. Most Saturdays for the past months, I've been in Sydney, trying to navigate my way through unfamiliar suburbs whilst dashing from one open for inspection rental property to another, and returning home to fill in and send off mountains of application forms. This went on and on, becoming more desperate as homelessness looked like an increasingly likely possibility, until we finally recieved that call last week, telling us we were successful. Now I keep hearing, "You're so lucky to have found a house!" Lucky? It wasn't luck...it was an awful lot of hard work to find a place. (Which I haven't even seen yet; it was a house inspected by my flatmate-to-be whilst she was also doing the inspection-application rounds).

(And as this has been going on, I've also been attending job interviews. I thought the best course of action was to find a job first, then get the house sorted, but as the housing crisis dragged on I decided to focus my energies on that. I'm back on the interview merry-go-round now though. Another of the many comments I keep hearing lately is "You should have moved to Sydney years ago." But there was no way I was physically or emotionally able to deal with all this back then.)

Anyway, it's hardly a novel observation, but I'm being painfully reminded: moving is hell. When I first moved into my house, out of a share house, nearly seven years ago, the place looked rather empty, and I knew I needed to...fill it. Fast forward to now, and I've got seven years worth of stuff to sort through and pack. Obviously I was keen to avoid this if at all possible, but as I listened in slack-jawed horror to several quotes from removalists I realised I'd have to do it all myself, and set to work. Every spare minute at home recently (and there haven't been many) I've been cleaning out cupboards and shelves and drawers, unable to understand why my house was such a mess when I'd gotten rid of what seemed like almost everything I owned.

But when that was done, we moved on to the next, even worse stage: the actual packing. Thankfully, when the inevitable breakdown on my end came on Monday night (a brief but intense crying fit) my mother offered to step in, which she did yesterday with admirable, if slightly overzealous, efficiency (packing some things I still need for the next couple of days). Still, it's great that the end is in sight, and everything major is just about done.

So how's Xander, you ask? He's been pretty unsettled lately. For a start I haven't been home much, and he's seen all the unusual clean-out activity, and he can sense my moods, and he can just tell something is up. Like his Mum, he doesn't much care for change. I'd expected major problems last night, as the house is completely turned upside down, and there are boxes stacked where furniture used to be, but he didn't make a fuss; perhaps sensing I'm on an emotional knife-edge, he merely had a snooze in the one largely undisturbed place, the bathroom; then wandered through the house, looking around with an expression that said "What the heck happened in here?!?" And I have no answer. The big test comes on Saturday, when he leaves the only home he's ever known on his first long car journey to live with the first non-me people ever. I'm sure there will be a long, difficult period of adjustment, and possibly some tantrums. And that's just me. Goodness knows how he will react.

Surprisingly though, I am not sorry to be leaving Newcastle. I always imagined that I'd find leaving here nearly impossible, but things have changed; partly because I've been spending so much time in Sydney lately I'm starting to feel more at home when I'm there. Far more disappointingly though, there have been some awful things going on in Newcastle lately. Nothing that's affected me personally, but basically I no longer feel safe here, and it's soured me on the place, and I'm more than ready to go.

A new life awaits. And in a roundabout way, this brings me to the main point of my post; it's possible that I might not be updating here for awhile. Not because I'll be busy living the life of the inner-city single woman (not least, because although I'm discussing restaurants and clubs and galleries as things I'm looking forward to, my secret most anticipated activity is going to the airport to watch the planes take off - please don't tell anyone!) but because based on past experiences, apparently it's going to take us some time to get the internet connection running.

It's a two-hour drive from Newcastle to Sydney, but for me the journey has taken years and years. I'm nearly there now though.

Friday, March 09, 2007

In The Interest Of Public Courtesy: On The Bus


In today's busy world, there are many things we could all do to make each other's lives more pleasant. Sadly, these things are often not being done. Through her witty and informative public courtesy rules, blogger Tracey is attempting to redress this problem. There is one aspect of life where a little courtesy for one's fellow citizens goes a long way: when travelling on the bus.

  • Have your ticket and/or money ready when the bus arrives. Don't sit reading or chatting at the bus stop, then hold everyone up by fumbling through your wallet whilst buying a ticket.

  • If the bus driver waits for you because you are late, then walk or run towards the bus as fast as you can, and a "thank you" is in order when you board.

  • I can't believe I have to say this - but school children, give up your seats on the bus for adults, especially the elderly. They are paying. You are not. What do you need to sit down for anyway? You're not tired yet.

  • Unless the bus is empty or near-empty, your bag doesn't need a seat. Put it on the floor so someone can sit next to you.

  • (I'll try to be delicate here) If you are male, keep your legs as close together as possible. I'm sorry, but unless you have a severe case of the mumps, your manhood is not two feet wide, and doesn't require you to have your legs sprawled that far apart.

  • Keep it quiet. There is no need to shout when talking to someone next to you. When talking on a mobile phone, if the reception is so bad you need to shout, call the person you're speaking to back later. And the bus is not the place to try out all your ring tones.

  • The bus is also not the place to: floss your teeth; file your nails; spray yourself with hairspray and/or deodorant; or do anything, except breathing, involving the interior of your nose. (I have seen people do all these things on the bus).

  • Keep your feet on the floor, not on the seats. Someone else has to sit there, sooner or later.

  • When the bus reaches your stop, exit as quickly as possible. We all understand that more infirm passengers take a little longer to get off the bus, but holding everyone up whilst you spend several minutes saying goodbye to other passengers is making people frustrated, and late. Also, exit by the back door, so that intending passengers can board straight away without waiting for people to alight.

    By following these common-sense rules, I'm sure we can all enjoy a faster and more pleasant journey.
  • Tuesday, March 06, 2007

    Right Watch : Piers Akerman


    Most of us try to ignore what the people we can't stand are saying. Not me. I like to know what the enemy is up to. (And to be honest, if it wasn't for occasionally watching Fox News, I'd get no exercise at all). Australia doesn't have it's own Fox News...yet. But there's plenty of other right-wing sludge out there for anyone wanting to wade in it. So here's the first installment of our semi-regular Right Watch series; who are these people, what are they saying, and how the hell could anyone belive it? I'm starting at the top with my own personal nemesis, Piers Akerman.

    According to his profile on News Corp's The Daily Telegraph, Piers is "One of the nation's most respected journalists". According to this collection of criticisms, the man's past is a lot more shady than that. These days, Akerman's main source of income is his blog on The Daily Telegraph website, where he foams at the mouth with his right-wing views on a regular basis. Some highlights:

    "WHILE most Australians are enjoying the Christmas-New Year holiday and preparing for the countdown to 2007 at midnight tonight, Prime Minister John Howard isn’t easing up...Seasoned veteran that he is, Howard’s approach to politics remains extraordinarily enthusiastic - and uncompromising."

    "SUPPORTERS of self-confessed Taliban warrior David (aka Abu Muslim Australia, aka Abu Muslim Astrailii, aka Abu Muslim Philippine, aka Muhammad Dawood) Hicks are either brainwashed or brainless."

    "Alarmingly, the NSW Government has failed to take the smallest step toward preventing the spread of AIDS and syphilis, though still parading its support for the homosexual community’s annual orgy of self-celebration, the mardi gras...This at a time when a group within the homosexual community has been identified as promoting high-risk sex and actively pursuing infection or passing it on in a macabre practice known as “bug chasing”." (The step Akerman wanted the government to take? Routine neonatal cicumcision.)

    "In fact, if one looks around the world and particularly at those states which nominate themselves as Islamic, one could draw the conclusion that followers of Islam are doomed to live in Third World poverty listening to hate-filled speeches from their religious leaders fuelled by envy of the comparatively successful nation of Israel, and with sufficient time on their hands to riot over almost nothing whenever someone gets to his feet in the local mosque."

    [Commenting on a study that linked legalised abortion to reduced crime rates] "It’s a great theory and may impact on the numbers of the Left in the future"

    The really amusing stuff comes, however, when Akerman descends from on high to respond to those who comment on his blog. Unlike Rush Limbaugh and his army of "dittoheads" (or Australian right-wing radio talk show hosts, whom I'll get to in later posts) the majority of comments of Akerman's blog are negative. Akerman would probably respond that his real fans, the True Believers, are very busy and hard working people who don't have time to leave comments. Maybe so, but I think he knows he'll never be well liked, and has decided to enjoy being well hated. It is amusing to see him twist himself into circles, such as when, following a post about the damage leftist governments do to a nation's economy, an astute reader left a comment pointing out that Bill Clinton presided over the largest economic growth period in world history. Akerman's reply? "[Clinton] should get down on his knees and thank Regan for setting up the economy."

    By that token, I suppose John Howard should thank Paul Keating for setting up Australia's economic growth on his watch, by leaving Howard with a massive national debt, as Regan/Bush I did for Clinton. When I put this in a comment, it wasn't published, but others I wrote have been. Once, after a particularly virulent stream of bile directed at David Hicks, I said "[Hicks] allegedly signed up to kill for the Taliban. He has not been convicted of this. No matter how strong the evidence, it is not your place or mine to make these judgements."

    And Piers said "I would suggest you stop being patronising and take him at his words."

    Piers Akerman called me patronising. I'm sure he meant it as an insult, but frankly I took it as one of the greatest compliments I've ever been paid. And I'd like to return the favour. From now on Piers, I'm christening you Augustus Gloop, and your fevered rantings Gloopisms. You may be insulted, but I think it may be the greatest compliment you've ever been paid.