Fabulous Friday

With the beginning of this financial year (July 2014) I have dropped back from five to four days in my paid job.  Friday was my day of choice to spend at home, but if there is something crucial that comes up at work, I have indicated that I am prepared to vary the day off.

My colleagues have assumed that this is the first step towards retirement as I am the oldest by far in my section and indeed one of the oldest women in the company.  Work it seems is the domain of the 40-year old.  They are right in that I am desperate to ‘retire’ from this soulless and patronising environment.  I hadn’t appreciated when I was 35-40 that this was as good as it got.  At that age I was at my peak as far as workplace relevance goes and since then the opportunities that have been open to me have decreased, with the general assumption that a younger person will be sharper, more edgy, more hungry, and more deserving.  I suspect it is a little different for men of a similar age – they have a longer use-by date but even they report after a while that they start to be sidelined as well.

This is in fact the first step towards the rest of my life, which is going to be more satisfying, more challenging and more rewarding.  I am working towards self-employment and so am doing some study, am honing my writing skills and repertoire, am using the time for lots of research and am planning future travels.  The diminished income is a bit of a fright but I have done my sums and I know that I can manage.  It also makes the week much more tolerable as well and by Thursday I am positively delighted, knowing that the next day will be all mine.

Today -yay it’s Friday – is part work and part pleasure.  To start with I am setting up a separate blog for my author identity.  I have recently published a novel under the pseudonym of Emily Hussey (more of that in another post) and have been most remiss in not establishing the relevant blog.  Looking around my office, there is a bit of filing and sorting that needs to be done as well.

Then will come the haircut in a new salon that I am trialling and late afternoon I will join a group of friends for afternoon tea that will incorporate champers and chocolate and a discussion on my novel.  This will be at the home of a 95 year old who is a wonderful woman.  She has such a questing mind and is so supportive or my writing and all endeavours really.  If you can get her talking about her life, she has had some fascinating experiences as well, and looking at the paintings and items around her home gives some indication of the journey that she has travelled.  We all appreciate the pleasures of these rare afternoons, very conscious that with Lorna’s age and declining health, there will not be so many of them.

Afternoon tea - plus a few strawberries and chocolate

Afternoon tea – plus a few strawberries and chocolate

When I think of my day, why would I be doing anything else?  What do you do with your Fridays?

Walking with my shoes, talking with my heart

It really is time for a parting or the ways.  There is little sole left between us anymore, but I still hold on to the memories.  We are moulded together, you and I and have that comfortable relationship that doesn’t evolve over night.

It is approaching ten years since my mother died.  Breast Cancer.  We knew it was aggressive; we knew what the outcome would be but there was still the shocked disbelief when it happened so quickly.  I found myself wandering around wearing the purple floppy hat that she used to wear while hanging out the washing in the summer sun, clinging to that vestige of contact with her.  I even used to ring her mobile to listen to her stating her name, clearly and precisely.  I was never sure whether to talk to her during those calls or not.  Would she get my message?  I was desperate for those connections not to disappear.

The clean-up of clothes and possessions was one of those tasks to be endured.  Lots of stuff went to the local charity shop, and other bits and pieces were claimed by family members.  Other things, we simply didn’t know what to do with – too good to throw away but perhaps too old, too out of style or just simply not needed.  A conundrum that is no doubt being addressed by so many right at this moment.

It was during one of these sessions that I encountered you.  You were not really my type, with me favouring options that were more open and less restrained, but probably still seeking that connection with mother I gave you a try.  Oh how comfortable.  To my surprise, the fit was good.  I rocked backwards and forwards, testing the cushioning and support  and after a few tentative steps, we walked out together.  It was the beginning of a dependent relationship and I soon fell in love with a pair of black Rockport walking shoes.

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Mother had done the hard work for me, with her feet moulding the soft leather and creating a comfortable cocoon across the toes.  The back was softened too, so that it embraced and shielded rather than abraded my heel.  I was so delighted that I even wrote a poem entitled ‘Walking in my mother’s shoes’.  I liked the support that they gave me and the ability to walk and walk and walk. I guess that is why they were called walkers. 

I wore them to work and on field trips – even times when I should have been wearing a steel-capped variety.  Regular polishing maintained the soft leather and I took pride in their gleaming presentation.  I am not sure how long mother wore those shoes, but as the years of my custodianship passed, the soles took a battering and in time began to separate from the uppers.  I flopped and flapped around for a while, walking with a strange strut because of it but finally presented them for inspection at the shoe repair booth.  There was a lot of umming and ahhing, but eventually I was told that they could be re-soled.

This involved slicing off the old sole and gluing a replacement in place.  It worked – for a while and then either left or right would become loose again and I would carefully reglue.  The gaps between gluing became shorter and shorter resulting in more flipping and flapping.  In the end I had to accept that the re-soling had not been a success.  They were retired to the shoe rack in my cupboard.  I was not ready to let them go, even if they were not wearable any more.

It has got me thinking about shoes and the connotations that we bestow upon them.  I have tarty shoes and practical shoes; dancing shoes and running shoes; working shoes and playing shoes.  Each pair creates a mood and ambiance with which I have a co-dependant relationship.  I both create it and assume it on wearing the shoes.  They don’t quite have a life of their own like the red shoes of Hans Christian Anderson but they each have a personality none-the-less.

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A couple of weeks ago, I had a bit of a clean-out.  It is part of the de-clutter program that I wrote about here.  You smiled at me gummily from the rack, with your soles clearly separating around the toes.  I knew that I had to act quickly before you talked me out of my resolve.  I felt such a traitor and kept my eyes averted from your lolling tongue.  I hope you understand but it was time.  I had to do it.   The lid slapped down with finality, not just on you but yet another link with my mother.

In Praise of Dumplings

Prawn dumplings have always been a favourite at Yum Cha but there are a variety of these tasty little morsels on offer – some steamed and some fried.  Avoiding fried food as much as possible, I tend to select the steamed variety.

I was delighted when I first found that Asian grocery stores were stocking a variety of dumplings and dim sum and would often take some home to drop into a soup.  On occasion I steamed them but the soup option was the easiest.  In the soup I might combine them with some cuttlefish balls or perhaps beef balls and maybe some tofu puffs.

There are now local restaurants that specialise in dumpling cuisine, and they are currently my favourite ’go-to’ for a cheap meal or perhaps when I want some comfort food.  Dumplings and chicken soup hit that spot for me.  Dumpling King on Grote Street in the China Town precinct is probably the best.  There are the usual options – in soups either with noodles or without noodles, steamed, fried and then with various stir-fried noodle dishes.  The fillings include pork, chicken, beef,  prawn and combinations of those, along with spring onions and other vegetables. 

I love the soups – delicate chicken broth with spring onions, bok choy, and then the wontons or dumplings, depending on choice.  The pastry surrounding the stuffing becomes absolutely silky in the hot liquid and delivers a contrast to the tasty filling.

Just as welcome is the price.  You can get a meal from $8.80 upwards, which is quite economical.  I know that frozen dumplings at home are probably not in the same class as those freshly made and cooked in the restaurant, but I might just have to cook myself some this evening.

dumpling

This link provides a run down on the various types of dumplings that are available.

Disclaimer:  not my photo (photographer unknown) but I will provide one of my own shortly.

In Search of the Fountain Pen

Those who saw my previous post will have read of my lament about the disappearance of hand-written letters and my intention to resurrect a fountain pen with which to better write such epistles.

I found my beautiful gold pen, which was a prize for Letter of the Month in a magazine ( a lovely surprise at the time).  I bought a bottle of ink, no longer having one in the house or if I do, not being sure where to find it.  There was much deliberation over the colour – black, royal blue or blue-black being the only choices.  In the past I used a brown; pages in my journal from a couple of decades ago are written in this colour.  The black was too sombre and somehow the royal blue not serious enough and so I settled on the blue-black.

It was with anticipation that I unscrewed the cap and carefully rinsed the nib, drawing up some water into the reservoir and squirting through again to clean the works and clear out any dried ink that might impede the flow.  Happy with this process, and having carefully dried the nib, I inserted the pen into the ink this time and squeezed the springy metal surrounding the rubber reservoir in order to draw up a supply of ink.  Of course I got ink all over my fingers – I don’t think that I ever used a fountain pen without doing this.  I screwed the barrel back into place and was ready to go – or at least to write.

It was then I remembered one of the reasons why I had not previously persisted in using this pen.  The nib design does not allow for any variation in your stroke – no fine upward sweep followed by the downward pressure forming the stronger part of the letter.  It is writing with character.  This pen however delivered a uniform flow of ink, whether on the upward or downward stroke.

That’s OK – I can live with that.  My memory might be playing tricks on my anyway as perhaps it was only with the pen that we dipped in the inkwell when learning to write  at school that such graduations were possible.  (Although ballpoint pens became available while I was in Primary School, we were not allowed to use them and they encouraged poor handwriting.)  What I also discovered though is that the ink does not flow consistently to the nib and I remember this happening before.  It soon dries up – mid-sentence and then you have to unscrew the barrel and give the reservoir a gentle squeeze to force ink through again.  Inevitably, this results in ink blots and as yet I have not invested in a blotter. (Note to self.)

I persisted for a little while and gave up in frustration.  Today, I went to one of those stationery super stores, looking for another fountain pen but they only had a small very slim disposable specimen.  It comes pre-loaded with ink and as soon as the ink runs out, you throw the pen away.  That won’t do.  I don’t want a disposable pen that ends up in landfill.

I rummaged around in an old drawer after that and found a calligraphy pen, but unfortunately without any ink so I can’t even use that.  I just went on line and Googled Fountain Pens in my city (Adelaide) and turned up the only specialist pen shop in town.  Reviewing their website, I could see that they stocked fountain pens up to $5000 in value.  Holey Moley!  I don’t think that I will write enough for that.

There were others at the other end of the scale though and I think that one of those will be for me.  It will have to wait until I can get into the shop though as I don’t think that ordering on-line is the way to go.  You need to hold your pen and test the weight and the grip before deciding to buy.  I saw a similar pen to mine, also a Parker Pen so perhaps I might take mine into the shop as well to see if they have any suggestions for making it work satisfactorily.

With my on-line search, I also found a Fountain Pen Network, for people who sell or use fountain pens, with on-line classifieds as well – just for pens.  Fascinating.  The search continues.

Barcelona and the Art of Blogging

What do you know about Barcelona?  If you are anything like me, not much more than where it is on the map.  In that case, you might like to see what Cutesuite has written about Barcelona in this blog. http://cutesuite.wordpress.com/.  Interesting art work, but I love street art anyway, and am always on the lookout for new examples.

Scrolling the blogs around me or that have similar tags, I have come across a host of fascinating information.  There are lots of cooking sites and obviously food, preparing it, photographing it, discussing it and presumably eating it are consuming passions for many.  I was surprised (naively so) at the amount of porn out there as well.  I get a lot of spam comments (all deleted) that presumably are porn Trojans.  I am so sorry for the people whose blogs are hijacked in this way.  Then there are the political blogs or those that document travels, with heaps of photographs.

Social commentary blogs can be very clever, with scintillating repartee and biting wit – often at the expense of themselves or their nearest and dearest.  The Bloggess is one who springs to mind, and she is great to read when looking for diversions whilst at work. Looking at her links, she connects to lot of like-minded blogs as well.  This is a world with networks within networks, with overlapping links that can take you both to sites full of verbal diarrhea and others with tantalising titbits.

Reading other blogs (looking for some connection really) makes me feel very unfocused in that I am not trying to be witty and I don’t have a specific theme to what I write about.  I’m more into day-to-day stuff and what is happening in the world around me, how that affects me and as a consequence how I might connect to others.  Blogging is a contradiction – a solitary exercise using social media.  You put your observations out there and perhaps you get some comments and interaction, and perhaps your words are whisper quiet, observed as the reader pauses for a while and silently moves on.

Take what you will from the words on these pages – it matters not really whether you comment or not.  If you have paused long enough to read, then that is fine.

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Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great ones make you feel that you too, can become great.”  Mark Twain.