Monday 21 April 2014

Thanks (I guess)

Martina said the best thing ever about "labelling" people.
Have you ever been the recipient of a left-handed compliment?
I've had a couple recently, and they invariably leave you in a slightly confused state of mind.
So to pick up the story, let's go back in time a bit.
When I was a boy growing up in Bathurst in the seventies, ethnic dining was still quite limited in largely white Australia.
Bathurst had, as I recall, a Greek restaurant, The Acropole, and a Chinese restaurant in Keppel street, the name of which escapes me from this remove.
But that was it.
The Stagecoach was also extant, and I think it may have been Italian, but I can't be sure.
Anyway, Thai, Vietnamese, Ehtiopian, none of those more exotic fooderies existed in all of Australia, let alone parochial stuck-in-the-fifties Bathurst.
We didn't even have an Indian till the Ben Ravi opened in the eighties.
Anyway we, my family and I, would attend the Chinese restaurant mentioned above once a week, usually Friday night.
Like most Australians, used to meat and two veg with tea so strong you could stand a spoon up in it, our choices were almost set in stone.
We rarely tried anything different.
My brother and I would have Boneless Lemon Chicken, with as few vegetables as possible, like most children.
My father would have Chop Suey, and my mother invariably stuck with Chicken Chow Mein.
Four pots of rice would make up the order.
I loved going there.
The food was good, certainly tastier than the usual pig slop splattered onto my plate most nights.
With the additional bonus of not having to wash up, a task delegated to my brother and I.
After the meal my brother and I with lugubrious hearts would drag into the kitchen to begin cleaning after my mother's cooking, while my parents would sit and watch TV and drink scotch.
So getting takeout at the Chinese was for me a real highlight.
Anyway, some time after our standard order was chiselled into the wall of the Chinese restaurant, my mother was given doctor's advice that she had to lose weight.
So she started going to Slimliners.
Slimliners was a knockoff of Weightwatchers.
It was typical of my tight-fisted mother that she couldn't even buy a name brand when it came to losing weight.
[I might add, I got a little of my own back on my loathed mother by referring to this organisation as Fatliners, to my glee and her chagrin.]
Also one another slight digression: One of the things Slimliners advised its adherents to do was, if you had been invited to a dinner party, to ring up the hostess and find out what she was serving that night.
Then if the foodstuffs didn't match your diet, ask if you could bring your own salad, or main meal, or whatever you needed when you showed up.
My mother's acerbic friend, Mary Scandol, when she heard this, said to my mother, "Well if someone rang me and said that, I would reply, 'well why don't I stop cooking and we'll come around to your house for dinner'".
Which I thought very apposite.
Further digression: Mary Scandol was the first adult I ever heard use the word 'fuck' as a conversational tool.
Her discourse was healthily leavened with 'fuck this', and 'fuck that', 'he's a fucken tool', and so on.
As child and adolescent, I loved her for it.
My mother, always with her sense of proprietary uttermost, tried to get her not to swear, she suggested to Mary Scandol that she said, "Stone the crows."
To which Mary S replied, "No, I'm not saying that, for one thing, I quite like crows."
And damn right too.
I like crows as well, and I loved hearing Mary Scandol talk.
Sorry, further, further, digression.
Mary Scandol sadly passed away of lung cancer in the early eighties.
In her will she left her house to the women's movement in the area, and they were able to open the first Women's Refuge on the central tablelands.
In a stroke doing more for the battered women of the area (and there were a lot), than all the governments of the previous fifty years.
OK, enough digression, back to the restaurant.
With my mother now attending Slimliners she decided to change her order at the restaurant.
We went in on Friday as usual, and Mrs Sang went to fill in her order book, when my mother intervened.
"Excuse me, Mrs Sang", she said, "Do you have  vegetarian dish?"
Mrs Sang looked up in mild surprise and said, "Oh, you no like Chow Mein anymore?"
My mother replied, "Oh no, it's not that, but I'm on a diet."
Mrs Sang then said, "Oh, you only just started?"
Oh dear.
Once outside and in the car my father said, "Well that was a left-handed compliment if ever I heard one."
But I don't think it was.
Mrs Sang was the height of politeness, and I think it was more the change in order that threw her.
We had been ordering the same four dishes with rice for years, and the change prompted the remark, not any perceived criticism of my mother's weight.
So what is a left-handed compliment?
Well, it was most accurately portrayed by Kathy Lette, most famous as the writer of Puberty Blues.
In one of her books a group of girls are sitting around figuring out what to wear for a night out.
One, a Greek-Australian woman named Anastasoula, (Soula), says to another, "You're lucky Marnie, you've got such small tits you can fit into any top".
Kathy goes on, "Soula was the Navratilova of the back-handed compliment."
So a left-handed, or backhanded compliment is one that sounds superficially good, but when you think about it, is really not.
And so it was that I went back to play soccer on Thursday night with the Spanish boys.
These guys really know how soccer should be played.
I am one of the oldest players, and keeping up with these skillful greyhounds as they skim about the field is not easy.
Please note. this is an old photo from years ago, that's why I'm drinking a beer.
I am going to try to get some video footage of me chasing these guys, as it must be hilarious.
A gazelle being chased by a hippopotamus about sums it up.
Anyway, I have not been going for a while for various reasons, but as I am playing again in the league for Byron Bay, I wanted to get some extra training, and there is none better than this.
So I went and enjoyed myself immensely.
I haven't had a cigarette for three years, and now haven't had a drink for 15 months, so my fitness was the best it's been for most of my life.
Obviously it showed, because after the game Xavier (Pronounced Harv-ee-ay) came up and said, "Hey Lock, it's good to see you again man. You play well, I was surprised!"
Thanks Xavi. (I guess)
However, I genuinely took this as a compliment, as doing anything well against these guys is real hard.
Download here!
So then we come to plugging my book, which I think I haven't been overly doing, so forgive me if I do a bit now, but it's relevant to the story, I can assure you of that.
One hundred and fifty six people have downloaded my book, which I am very gratified by.
Thank you all.
I have had no one say they didn't like it and many have been very complimentary.
However, most who have been complimentary have been rather left-handed about it.
Scott and Ivan are two that I can think of, who said this: "Hey Lock, I finally got a chance to read some of your book, it's really good, I was surprised!"
Left Handed compliment.
Anyway, thank you all for reading, and a bit less of the "I was surprised" bit if you don't mind.

Martina on Labelling

Next, I brought in the picture of Martinaup above to highlight the comment by Soula in Kathy Lette's book.
But since I have got her here, I would like to pay tribute to her for highlighting a problem that we humans still have: labelling.
I am often labelled an alcoholic, or these days a recovering alcoholic.
I'm not sure how I feel about it still.
On the one hand it is important to label yourself this way, because by not doing it, you go down the path of denial, "I'm not an alco, Johnny drinks far more than me", is a common get out.
However, there is no denying that it still diminishes the person in the eyes of many.
"Hmmm, I'm not sure if I can trust him, he used to be an alco", is the prevailing sentiment.
However, worse than that, is the label "mentally ill".
I was just this morning hearing on the radio that suicide is still a real problem for Australia's youth, amongst the highest in the world.
And one of the issues is that many are not willing to admit they are mentally ill due to the stigma.
It seems that killing yourself is a more respectable option for many, which is a very sad indictment on our society.
Also, an advocate for returned veterans was making the point on the same radio show that in the armed forces if you admit you are mentally ill, your career is over, the higher ups will never trust you to go into armed combat again.
All of which comes under the heading of negative labelling.
So what did Martina say?
During a speech to a lesbian alliance in the states (Martina is gay), she said, "The press always refer to me as Martina Navratilova the lesbian tennis player. They never say 'Joe Namath the heterosexual football player'".
She went on, "So this is labelling, and I don't like it, it's very unfair."
Damn right Martina.


Next, in a closer shave with the Easter story than I would have liked, I had a Near Death Experience (NDE) on Easter Saturday.
I pulse of big swell came through from the tail end of the cyclone.
I joined the throngs at the Pass and surfed for an hour or so.
Then, fed to the back teeth by the crowd, I paddled home on the sweep current.
I had got down to the middle of Main Beach, to a spot known accurately and ominously as the Crash Zone.
I went to paddle through a wave, pushing the lip it's called, when I realized I wasn't going to make it.
So I abandoned ship and dove sideways through the face of the wave.
As the wave passed through like an angry bull elephant I felt rather than heard a clipping sort of noise.
When I came up again, I realized my leg rope had broken and now my board was heading at speed to shore.
I was now in real danger, 100 metres offshore, with no floatation device.
Then I had no breath.
I said to myself, "why are you out of breath?, you haven't done anything much".
It was panic.
That's how quick it can get you.
Even I, experienced surfer, and vastly experienced in the Bay, had started to panic within seconds.
So (and this is gospel true), I then had to say to myself, 'Lachlan, if you calm this panic, you may die, if you don't calm this panic, you will definitely die'.
So a hundred metres offshore I indulged in a sort of waterborne yoga deep breathing to calm myself down.
It did work, and soon I could breath again.
Now I faced getting home.
First, I had to cross the powerful sweep current.
You can get a feel for what I was up against from the picture.
The current sweeps around the lighthouse headland, then powers its way north along the beach front all the way to Tweed Heads.
So I dog paddled across the sweep, but every cm closer to the beach I got, I went ten metres toward Tweed Heads.
However, I got across and then faced my next challenge: the crash zone itself.
I couldn't avoid it, I had to body surf one of these death-bringers.
I didn't look back, I knew if you saw what was coming, you would never go.
So I took a deep breath, was lifted like a leaf, then pile-driven onto the sand bar.
Not the most relaxing way to travel, but it got me twenty five metres closer to the beach.
Then, I was hoping that I could get my feet on the ground on the sand bar, but it was high tide, and so I had to keep treading water.
I was so thankful for my giving up smoking I can tell you.
But I was still nearly out of breath through adrenalin and exhaustion.
But thankfully my ordeal was coming to a close.
I paddled across the sand bar, jumped off the edge, and rode the white wash home to the beach.
I collected my board from a small group that had gathered around it, said "thanks" and headed home.
No shipwrecked survivor of a pirate brig on the Spanish main has ever touched the ground as thankfully as I did.
I examined the board, normally when this happens, the knot has given way, but my carefully tied knot had held, the power of the wave had simply snapped the leg rope like a piece of dried spaghetti.


No Spare!! FUCK!

Finally,and I know this is a long post, but then I didn't ask for today, I can assure you, back on dry land things were conspiring against me.
Easter her in Byron means the Blues and roots festival.
Traffic is locked up solid for four days.
I didn't go out in my car once.
But this morning (Tuesday) I went back to work.
So I loaded my car and headed to mow some lawns.
Got to the top of the ramp out of the garage and realized I had a flat tyre.
I pulled over and got out the spare.
I found the jack, but not the tyre iron.
I tossed the car over, but there wasn't one to be found.
This is a new car by the way, so this was my first flat in the beast.
So I ran back to work and Scott asked all the staff if someone had a tyre iron.
Meggsy did and brought it out to me.
Wrong size.
Scott calls again.
Another tyre iron is found, it's brought out, I get the wheel off.
Spare on.
It's the wrong size, doesn't fit.
"Fucking bollocks", I said.
So once again I had to control my mind.
Then I remembered that Scott's mother's car was a Subaru like mine.
I raced back and got her spare out.
"Fucking bollocks", I repeated.
You can see it there in the picture.
It looked like a motor cycle tyre.
Would this do?
It bloody had to, the alternative was an expensive tow.
I raced back to the car.
Put it on, tightened the nuts, then in another reflection of the religious overtone of Easter, I drove round to Singh's tyres with the hazard lights blinking and praying all the way.
I got there.
The guy came out to look.
"Sorry mate", he said, "You need two new tyres."
Both front tyres were worn.
So I said "put 'em on".
Then I asked if I could get a spare as well, he said, "Sorry Mate, you need to go to the wreckers for that".
So with newly shod front end, I drove back to the office called the wreckers, told them my requirements, and am now waiting for them to call me back if they can find a tyre for me.
Of course with my anxiety issues I can't go anywhere in the car till he does, as I find it too stressful to drive without a spare.
So when people say to me now "how was your Easter?", I reply, "Well I nearly died and my car is falling apart underneath me, but apart from that, not bad."
Jesus only got crucified, in the real world we've got real problems.

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