Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Why should Polanski get away with rape?

This simply beggars belief- various Eurotrash, from French politicians to privileged actors, venting outrage at the arrest of Roman Polanski for unlawful sexual intercourse.

And they barely contain the fact that it's because he's such a great artist that they believe he should be treated differently. How dare anyone arrest a director, at an artistic festival?! Merde!

His victim keeps getting wheeled out, but her understandable pleas for the case to be dropped have come from the fact that she wants to get on with her life. Not because on reflection she thinks he was a nice man being cuddly. If Polanski cared less about her getting on with life, he'd have faced the music long ago.

If you accept her story- and there seems little reason to think she's exaggerating given she wants the matter dropped- the underage sex charge he pleaded guilty to is only a third of the story. A plea agreed to in order to avoid dragging the victim back through a trial. In fact she has said he drugged her, and raped her against her will:

"I said … 'No, I don't want to do this' … So I was just scared, and after giving some resistance, I figured, well, I guess I'll get to come home after this."

Rape is what that sounds like. The rape of a 13 year old girl. And all he has to do is face the music for the far lesser offence he actually pleaded guilty to. The notion that he should be granted some sort of pardon merely because he's just too good a director to face the music, or because the French think raping a young girl is just part of being a libertine, or because, I don't know, what could possibly be going through the minds of the people affecting such absurd hysteria?

His statement that he will fight this just proves he still feels no remorse. It isn't the US Police's fault that the poor victim is seeing this splayed across the media in a protracted battle, it is Roman Polanski's.

Message to people wanting to randomly express outrage, find a real cause.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Dangling Posticiples

I just love the phrase "dangling participle", having first encountered it in a comedy skit where someone erudite and witty (Fry comes to mind though my memory's vague) used it in a pun. Intersection of grammar and sauciness needs no elaboration.

This post merely updates a few things raised earlier, I just wanted a more interesting title than 'updates' or 'stuff I talked about earlier, redux'.

We got the finance, we are mortgagors, souls and all.

My parents have confirmed they won't be coming for Chrissie. In their usual frustrating way they've also given us a sizeable cheque to 'make the house a home', a very nice thought given they aren't very well off. Lime tree, ladder, rainwater tank, lawn mower, gardening starters kit and outdoor setting are all on the possible uses list.

My 'horn envy' posted a couple of weeks back has not abated. I made a random purchase on iTunes and it turns out I picked a classic: Sonny Rollins' 'Saxophone Collossus'. Got lost in his laconic improvisations on the train this morning. Got excited when I saw the clip for a dark, Seattle number involving members of the Screaming Trees, Alice in Chains, and a random, avante-garde tenor sax player (Mad Season 'Long Gone Day'). Felt a tinge of inspiration.

Found my latte flannie. Bought it. Hint of aqua emphasises my 'soft' credentials.

Mitts has pushed forward, officially 'crawling' in a technical sense, though the technique for sustaining this more than about 4 inches is still beyond him. Still, each time he lifts his head, grunts, and plants his face into the carpet I give him a big cheer.

And of course the Saints lost, though I'm happy with their efforts. We all watched the dying minutes, even Mitts. The result didn't need explaining to Bear, given she knows their colours and at the end there were numerous shots of lads in Saints colours bawling their eyes out. Understandably.

Life goes on. This can be their year for regrouping. It will be my year of slate-clearing. The work has already begun...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Saints Go Marching In

"Who's your footy team Bearsy?"

"Saint KILL-dah!"

So it goes. Some things are guardianship decisions, life matters that parents take it upon themselves to decide until the child rebels a few years down the track. Religion, or in our case lack-thereof, is another.

I'm not huge on any of the boofballs, neither is Beloved. I sort of see them as a proxy for a rather outdated form of group combat, the ball being a mere red herring in what is clearly designed to be an emulation of apes smacking each other with branches. Accordingly I prefer to strip away the veneer and go to the martial source, fascinated by all things hand-to-hand combat from the meditative qualities of Tai Chi, Bagua or Iado to the crunching realism of Arnis or Brasilian Ju Jitsu.

Beloved isn't convinced; she recently woke on the couch to find I'd 'accidentally' allowed cage fighting to appear on TV. "Revolting" she observed rather truthfully before going straight back to sleep.

Anyway, it's Melbourne, and the process of becoming Melbournians is inextricably wrapped up in our sense of ourselves as a couple. We moved here together shortly after hooking up in London, and here we've stayed, married, had children and now bought (touch wood!) a house.

The footy has woven its way into that narrative. We've started watching it together, picked a team (see above) together, rocked down to the 'G and sat in the stalls in the rain, huddled under plastic ponchos eating Four 'n Twenty meat pies, sipping (normally untouchable) Carlton Draught, whooping and cheering...

To the point where I'm tempted to find a local team to also follow, just for that experience- cars parked around the oval, honking horns with each goal, running onto the ground with the kids to kick a ball during half time.

I used to do the lefty thing and harp on about how soccer is the world game, domination imminent, and so on. It seemed sophisticated and inclusive. Nearly 3 years in the UK made me rethink that, and besides, why not take pride in a small vestige of local culture? There should be room for both...

So here it is. We've been here almost 7 years. The team we picked, St Kilda, were underdogs back then with some promising young talent. They've grown as we have. They've let themselves down more than once. And now, the first season in which Bear can actually tell you that what's on TV is "footy" and pick the colours of her team, we are in the final.

It's a rare experience, but I'm nervous and excited. I wouldn't bank the house on a win, Geelong (our family '2nd team'- a long story in itself!) appear virtually unstoppable. But it's still good to be in the final. A strange sense of bonding with long-suffering fans across the state, the nation.

GO Saints!!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Searching for Latte Flannie

I am looking for a shirt, I'll know it when I see it.

Flannies are back in, or at least variations on checks that do look suspiciously like flannies in some guises. As much has been recognised by the fashionati.

I've fetished such since seeing a couple on the back of the singer from TV on the Radio. It takes a lot to impress me in a band these days, but TOTR impress me. It's not surprising that something he was wearing a year or so ago is now popping up everywhere.

It's of course entirely sensible that I model my sartorial style on a large black male rock star, as I am all of these things and more.

The challenge, for a dedicated inner city latte type like myself, is flannie-lite; the shamelessly pretentious goal of achieving aspects of the whole drunken mountain man look in a shirt that's also got a few effete touches, like a nice Euro fit and material that's, um, not flannie.

I'm not alone, James Matheson, that hard rocking bourbon beast, was on TV in one the other day. Beloved liked it so much she went out and bought a carbon copy for Mitt-Mitts. To wear to a wedding!

(With post topics like this, I'm surprised I haven't cracked the 1000 visits a day mark!)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Not Crawling Rolling

Just a lighter note on Mr Man's progress. He's on the cusp of crawling, trying hard, getting frustrated. "ARRRK" he'll say, "Eeiirgg"- guys, I wants to movings! What's with this floor, these toes, my bum not staying in the air long enough?

Then he'll get there anyway, with a couple of quick flips and a wriggle backwards! Using only the abilities to roll and push himself backwards, he manages to cross the floor in no time at all and is constantly being retrieved from the mess next to the toybox, or from wedging the lower two thirds of his body under the couch, or from the slightly terrifying tangle of cords and crap at the bottom of the blinds.

Still, he may only be grunting and rolling, but my boy can *smile*. Last night when I got home he beamed ear-to-ear and lurched towards me in his mummy's arms, throwing his arms around my shoulders as I grabbed him. He cackled, we yackled, I blew some farts on his cheek and his chest and he cackled some more. All was good in the world.

And when I leave each morning, after the others have said goodbye and turned back to their distractions, he's always watching, twisting his head, until the door closes...

Monday, September 14, 2009

The fabric of other possibilities

It is true that I must simply learn to accept situations and move on. Allow people such as my father to bed down in their chosen roles, as limited and disappointing as they may be. I will, I am.

The undue focus on grandparents and expectations derives I think from my concept of this as a formative period for those relationships, where certain unknowns (the relationships of each grandparent, or other close relative, with my children and with us as a parental unit) are being shaped. There is a vague analogy with that early period in the lead up to our wedding, where I was determined to do my best to iron out any bugs and get things settled well before the big date. In that case it largely worked, the entire familial constellation came on board and things went well.

Now it's on a far larger scale; we, and the various grandrellos, are building this new set of relationships that will carry forward for decades.

My mother has given my father a bit of a bucketing, but ultimately it will be up to him to decide whether he digs himself into an isolated rut. When he sookily suggested she visit us on her own for Christmas, she responded that she might not come home, a threat that, which although a concerning prospect from our end, was a very reasonable response from a woman who has put up with a hell of a lot over the years.

We will survive and move on, putting time back into those who are willing to put time into us, and in particular the kids. It's just inevitably sad if some choose to be disengaged.

On our recent visit, there was a moment when his barriers were at their lowest, when my father and Bear played on the grass, he was blowing bubbles for her to try and catch, she ran around in circles, giggling and flailing about, they did this for several minutes, she loved the game, and the attention, he clearly enjoyed it too, and it was like the curtain at the back of the stage tore and behind was another scene, the alternate possibility, a grandfather opening up and having fun again they way he once did with me.

The man who taught me to catch a fish, to climb steep cliff walls in Kakadu, to bowl a leg spinner. Letting go and allowing the simple joy of playing with his grandkids to take over.

I know I can't force that but it's just sad. A tear opened in the fabric that day, I saw another possibility, then it closed again, and now he seems determined to sew it up again for the long haul.

Friday, September 11, 2009

My dad shelves our relationship # fathers # grandparents # adoption # rejection

A few days ago we told them about the house, and I extended an invite to my parents to join us for Christmas. We've never had Christmas together as a family though my mum's dropped plenty of hints. My dad, who has never travelled down to see either grandkid, running through an endless litany of excuses from weather to health to money to just the fact that he doesn't like Melbourne, immediately started backing up and scrambling for an excuse, muttering something panicked and incomprehensible about it being "too late I mean too early, the mother's recovering and, and..."

Last night, having thought through the various excuses he's made for years, he decides on our recent argument - well to be precise the fact that Beloved and I are too precious and take his comments (you remember, that the way we feed Mitts could technically be rape, and the one about me being a QC if only I was more eloquent?) the wrong way. Apparently it's too hard for him, he feels he's stepping on a minefield, so it's easiest if he doesn't come to visit. Period.

We are still welcome to go there, and he might visit if one of his old friends who lives in Melbourne passes away... both of which demonstrate a wee inconsistency with the excuse he'd just given.

Once again, as I have so often found in the last 20 years or so, I found myself being almost apologetic, doing the pleading: "We can work through things, it's ok, why don't we just agree to note politely at the time that the comment might cause offence and then you could simply clarify or withdraw it.. etc etc".

But he chose, in the same weary "I'm just a reasonable misunderstood old man" voice, to politely push those suggestions back at me, and insist it's for the best that we minimise our contact and stick to talking on the phone. It's just easier, was the message. I don't want difficult, I can't be bothered with difficult.

Sadly, when so many grandparents will endure far greater schisms to spend time with their grandkids, his barely rated a mention.

This is going to end up an excruciatingly long post but I have to give this context. I have long worked through oddities in my relationship with my father using certain mantras to ground me. The mantras sound like this:

"It's just his way"

"Of COURSE he loves me, he's my father"

"He's very generous with money"

"He's much better than HIS dad was"

"He didn't really mean it like that, it just came out wrong"

and underpinning them all:

"He didn't have to adopt me, so he MUST love me."

You may pick up that I am not the original source of apologia in my parental household, that is my mother, from whom all of these mantras have directly or slightly-indirectly come from.

There is some truth in all of them, and I have enough evidence that at some level, he loves me and cares about what I do. But you can only use mantras for so long, at some point a long history of actions starts to accumulate. You can take it that both being adopted and having spent over 3 years working in Child Protection and Juvenile Justice I have read reams on not only fathers, but also all of the variations on classic, simple biological relationships and the particular difficulties men often (far from always, but often) have with those relationships.

I don't need to spell out how some of these things start to play from my end. In particular when so little excitement or interest has been shown in my children.

Before you write my reaction off as simple, knee-jerk, or wanting of more time, understand some more context. In relation to the grandkids as I've noted there have been an endless list of excuses for not visiting or showing much interest. But in relation to the meta-narrative of our father-son relationship, the big milestones stitch together from about the early teens, when things started to really go awry. They include:

- telling me I'd been playing up and having too much fun at boarding school, when I'd been depressed, bullied and lonely, before taking back an offer of student exchanges I'd got all excited about;

- telling me I was a loser and a failure in as many words, several times over, after I didn't do well in year 12, then pretty much turning his back on me until I'd found a backdoor into Uni;

- in the heat of one of our most vicious 'arguments', which like most were a succession of putdowns that I reacted to, he suddently said with great clarity "I like seeing you like this, I like making you get upset like this";

- the one time he got physical with me, repeatedly pushing me hard until I warned him not to try it again, because I turned the TV off and demanded he talk to me, it was me who had to breach the gap and start talking again(and move out of home);

- when I was living in the UK and hadn't seen him for over 2 years, he pretty much stated he'd never visit me and when I started planning a 2 week visit he told me it was too long and I should spend some of the time in Bali (I stayed away and went to Greece, an excellent decision), something especially hurtful given our relationship then seemed to be very good;

- he's only popped down for the wedding and for a friend's funeral, the whole time (since end of 2002) we've been living in Melbourne; etcetera, etcetera...

I could write more but I think this post will get too long, I can follow up with a separate list for anyone who's read this far, and I do want you dear reader to read it because this in its own way is a significant turning point, like saying "I do" or Beloved screaming out with excitement from the bathroom when she did the tests, and it is all I can do as a writer to set it out here and say that I am very sad, but I have done everything I can and it is time, at 37, that I started accepting that there has always been a wedge there, for my dad, and it is something I could never have changed in all the legions of times I've gone to him to make up, to work at it, to try and cling on to the very idea of a father, my father.

I told Beloved that if I ever become like that with my kids she is to blow my brains out. I meant every word.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Lost child, lost minutes

Beloved had an incident. I wanted her to write about it in her own words, a guest post, but she's not showing any enthusiasm. I will relay things as best I understand them and let her add an account if she chooses.

They went for morning tea at Beloved's place of work, an event that included one of Bear's peeps, the daughter of Beloved's workmate, who is a few months older than Bear and accordingly gets lots of Bearmiration. They played well, apparently, while the adults yarned about their corporate stuff and traded gossip.

Time to go, and the girls ran ahead together as the group walked along the hall, apparently just a couple of metres in front. Beloved rounded a corner to see that the lift door was wide open and the girls had entered it in anticipation. The doors shut at that exact moment.

The girls screamed "Mummy mummy" and the lift moved off somewhere. The mums rightly felt a bit terrified and one set off for the ground floor while the other ran floor-to-floor checking each.

Meanwhile in the basement the janitor got a surprise when the lift he'd called arrived, the doors opened, and 2 toddlers stared at him in teary disbelief!

Things were quickly rectified.

It just goes to show that every time you start taking on board the idea that you can return to even partial sanity and stop being a complete safety freak, something will happen to scare the complete and undiluted crap out of you.

I was supportive and understanding. I know any lessons there have already been learned. If lifts had an overide-open button, if they didn't shut quite so quickly, if, if... it's yet another example of how so much of the environment around us is utterly child-unfriendly, and how as a parent you have to operate on zero trust for those around to have ever taken into account the assymetric risk that is constituted by a momentarily freed child.

As for Bear, she thought it was all an adventure, especially given she was with her idolised slightly-older pal. She was more than happy to brag to me when I got home...

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Big News! Calibung Big!

We had almost given up on the house generally, after more than 3 years in the market, on and off. Certainly the idea of getting our original dream, a Californian Bungalow with feel and character that didn't need to be rebuilt from the ground up, somewhere within cooee of the patch we've come to know and love so well, seemed beyond hope.

It got the brush off first time we saw it on the web. Needs a spruce here and there, maybe a bigger garden would be nice, and anyway it'll go for too much.

Yesterday, the day before auction day, we had a rethink. Maybe it would be worth popping in, watching, seeing what happened. We slept on the thought.

This morning we woke and Beloved claimed to be feeling lucky. I remained blase but got a sudden flutter in my stomach on the drive over. This was strange; I've bid in several auctions now and was only nervous in the first one.

The house felt like a home. I felt bad for the young student types living there, they were nice, and clearly treated the big old place with respect. We confirmed with the agent that we'd seek a long settlement, past the end of their tenancy, walked through a few times, picking up a few minor foibles but liking the feel, then found a shady spot outside.

The street was fairly low on traffic, the houses either side pretty, dated but well looked after. The area, around the borders of Thornbury and West Preston, is a nice, green pocket with a small bunch of shops - organic grocer, bakery, Latin-themed cafe and wine bar - a nice little primary school, lots of young families moving in.

I was slightly excited but still had few expectations. The area took off about 2 years ago and some phenomenal prices come out of the rare sales there. There was a small crowd, but not the worst I've seen. Hope started rising, slowly, tentatively.

Bidding kicked off miles below a realistic level, and with a couple of people kicking in there, well below the obvious reserve, I held back to watch. It went up quickly in tens of thousands, fcuk TENS of THOUSANDS it's stupid money, I can't get my head around any of this really.

I came in once it slowed. Did my deliberate contrarian thing: asking Bear what she thought, stopping to eat her sultanas while everyone waited a few seconds, going up small amounts, then jumping a few, then bringing it back to increments of a grand. Up it crept. Nemesis kicked in late, he was a dark horse, looked grumpy, looked stressed. I stayed calm, poked on up towards our maximum.

5,3,1 and we were on it, sitting on the very sum we'd agreed. Although I intended to lean in to Beloved and negotiate $5k more, the sense of being on the edge of a cliff made me giddy. And. As. He. Dragged. It. Out. For. An. Interminable. Time (a nice couple behind us, clearly with us, kept saying 'do it, end it!). Things. Wavered.

*Smack* and I swooned like I'd taken an unseen uppercut on the chin. I spun around, Beloved was kneeling keeping both kids consoled, she looked at me with disbelief and I leaned in and kissed her, kissed Mitts, then picked Bear up and threw here a couple of metres into the air:

"Bear- We bought a house... at laaast!"

The clapping followed, people congratulating, hand shaking, talking, signing and it's all really just a blur now. 

We bought a house. A big old family house with a soul. It will be a home, our home. And gawd, wait until the grandparents hear about the bungalow out the back!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Pasgetti dabollognaise and other Bearsicals

Today Thomas the Tank Engine attacked my daughter. Well, to be a little more accurate, she slipped and picked up a nasty shiner (I know, no REALLY, it really was Thomas!) while playing around a big blue Thomas. I heard on the phone, I made a note for hometime. I stopped by the corner shop. The previously grumpy lady in the corner shop goes into hysterics whenever she sees Bear, she became very serious when I told her Bear had been hurt. She sold me the iced cream but I felt like she wanted to lean across and thwack me with a ruler.

Bear did look pitiful, but she flew into excited giggles when she saw the massive breach-suspension-waiver of the rules in the form of a strawberry Heaven, gave me a big hug then demanded it be torn open. The rest was soon history and a smear of chocolate on a smiling face.

"Pasgetti Dabollognaise" she informed me she had for dinner, and I kept a serious face with some effort. I just love her funny quirks at the moment, she's a funny girl, sometimes deliberately, sometimes while being deadly serious and needing to be treated the same.

Take the haircutting game: she sits me down, deliberately picking a spot on the couch I don't habitually use. I have a clear sense control is being asserted! With a dead serious expression she informs me I'm getting a haircut. Given I have as much hair on my scalp as my chin (she calls both my "Beer") this is already amusing. Come to think of it the game started after I last got shaved, she asked a number of times what had happened! Anyway, a number of Play Doh buckets are lined up, along with a plastic pair of Doh cutting scissors. She shakes the buckets at my head, informing me that 'water' of some indiscernable type is being applied. She pokes my skull with the scissors, 'Snip-snip', then often wanders off to find a flannel to dab some imagined mess on my chest or back.

She doesn't smile once during this serious, business-like operation. Inside I am in hysterics but with some effort I hold a deadpan expression. It would be unacceptable to fail this test, clearly.

She's speaking well, but there are still some fantastic improvisations:


Leeloh, Lilloh, Leeloh....

Docka docka docka....

Pasgetti Dabollognaise...

And to cap it off the other day she wrote a song. I can't even remember the topic, I think it had some made up words, some stuff about her brother, humming bits, but it was definitely improvised on the spot.

I know, I know, I'm just a dad, loving every moment...

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Starting School: the case for holding back a year

While we're on contentious issues of over-under parenting, and you dear readers are weighing in to the discussion, let me put another one to you.

Both Bear and Mitts are at the younger end of the age spectrum in which they can enter their designated years, to the point where their entry is considered optional. Presently they are on the conventional track, but we're certainly giving it some thought.

There is quite a bit of literature about suggesting there are advantages to starting school a wee bit later than the present 'standard', particularly (see for example Steve Biddulph in Raising Boys) for boys. I didn't need to read this to have my own view that it isn't great being at the younger end of the year. I was. Coupled with being a lateish developer and rather skinny anyway this left me feeling small, underdeveloped, overwhelmed, and unconfident.

The case for getting them in and through school in a hurry has never persuaded me either. But on the flipside I found school slow and intellectually boring until about year 11 (when my lack of study habits slammed up against a suddently ramped-up curriculum) and don't want to inflict even more boredom on my kids out of a desire to overcompensate for my own miseries.

As with the public school debate, this quandrary has an element of public good versus personal interest: if everyone holds their kids back, even when they are a fine age for normal school entry, then this just pushes some of the problems out a year for kids at the younger (or smaller, or less developed) end.

School planning is also listed as a reason to stick to 'the program', although given the state has planned so badly for our own kids and is only just starting to catch up on the baby boom(for example the kinder expansion now belatedly being built at a centre in Northcote) this argument doesn't persuade me.

Reflecting on what a good child care centre we have has softened some of the Kinder angst expressed in previous posts. This starting age question isn't a teeth-gnasher, it's simply a choice we are faced with and an interesting dilemma. And we simply can't tell whether such a choice might have a minor, or a profound, impact.