Kafkaworld's Blog

January 16, 2012

On Guilty Pleasures

Now I know what you’re all thinking.  She’s going to put up a list of beautiful gormless young men and shouldn’t she know better at her advanced age and I don’t even want to THINK about elderly women having sex and can we get back to a safe subject like literature … or cupcakes.  Well no, we can’t.  But fear not people.  The adorable Bradley James  is just there due to his role as Arthur in the most delightful television series, Merlin.  I really love this series.  I like the writing, the characters, the cast, the dragons, and of course, the magic.  I like the idealism of people who try to create a kingdom based on justice and chivalry but I also like the human failings which continually threaten to thwart these noble ideals.  And the dragons …  did I mention the dragons?

Many years ago I read “The Once and Future King’ by T.H.White which was itself based on ‘Le Morte d’Arthur’ by Sir Thomas Mallory.  Camelot has lived, aglow in my imagination, ever since.  In ‘The Once and Future King’, Arthur is depicted in boyhood being instructed by Merlin who is, somewhat confusingly, living his life backwards from old age to childhood.  Merlin magically transforms the young prince into all sorts of birds and animals to instruct him in the arts of life and kingship. I have been captivated by the Arthurian legend ever since and ‘Merlin’ happily, has not failed me.

One small quibble; there is much swashbuckling swordplay in ‘Merlin’ and it’s good to see the women, Guinevere (Gwen), Morgana and Isolde fighting right along side the boys and slaying more than their share of baddies.  But is it altogether fair that the knights are protected by heavy chain mail while the women fight in long dresses with very low cut necklines and have no armour at all?  Of course I’m aware that we are the stronger gender in many ways but I just don’t think it’s fighting fair.  Poor Isolde stood no chance although maybe she was hoping that enemy would be transfixed by the sight of her comely breasts almost falling out of her top.  Sadly, this strategy, gamely pursued to the bitter end, ultimately failed.

Anyway, give ‘Merlin’ a look if you’re not doing anything next Sunday night and get hold ‘The Once & Future King’.  This is a good read for children too.  As always, my library is open should anybody wish to venture in.

Does anybody else share Guilty Pleasure Number 2 which is the english radio comedies broadcast on Radio National at 5.30am on weekday mornings?  If so, be aware they are moving to 5am from next Monday.   They include ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’, ‘My Word’ and “the Goons’.  Great for insomniacs.

Number 3.  All that talk about poetry last week reminded me of this one, by the Irish Poet, W.B. Yeats.  It is so astonishingly beautiful, almost beyond belief.

                                                                                       He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven

                                                                                               Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,

                                                                                               Enwrought with golden and silver light,

                                                                                               The blue and the dim and the dark cloths

                                                                                               Of night and light and the half-light,

                                                                                               I would spread the cloths under your feet:

                                                                                               But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

                                                                                               I have spread my dreams under your feet;

                                                                                               Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.


January 13, 2012

On Books For Girls in the Fifties

Born in 1949, I began my voyage into the world of books, predictably enough for those days, with A. A. Milne’s books about Christopher Robin, Winnie the Pooh, Piglet and all the rest of the menagerie.  My mother, who never lacked dramatic talent in anything she did,  read the stories to us and we all sang the songs.  Despite growing up in Townsville where we had no chance of ever experiencing snow, “The more it snows tiddly pom” was a big favorite as was the poem about Christopher’s mother going down to the end of the town alone, and coming to a bad end.  Those poems and stories were whimsical, perhaps even twee by today’s gritty standards, but we laughed uproariously.  

It was after that toddler age, about 7 to 12, that suitable books became harder to find.  Queensland schools at that time published a reading book for each year.  Being a voracious reader, I would usually have finished that after the first week back at school.  Looking back on the contents of those books, I’m quite appalled.  The poetry was good old classic stuff and none the worse for that.  Everyone’s life is improved by a passing acquaintance with the Ancient Mariner, Kubla Khan, Wordsworth’s hosts of daffodils and a myriad of other treasures but it was the stories that were so bizarre.  I think they were meant to be improving but there was certainly a lot of violence and unspeakable cruelty.  Perhaps the Queensland Eduction Department was trying to frighten us into placid conformity.

Books for girls suffered from the same problem.  They all had a barely concealed agenda aimed directly at turning us all into good wives and mothers.  If you were looking for a role model for being an independent and strong minded woman, you would be unlikely to find one within their pages.  Girls would often start out  as spirited or rebellious, but this was all sorted out by the end of the book.  Katy, from Susan Coolidge’s Katy books, was intelligent, lively and ‘difficult’.  Then she fell off a swing, hurt her back, became an invalid and soon progressed to a vision of womanly saintliness.  Even the irrepressible Anne Shirley, who lived at Green Gables, eventually becomes a stereotypical wife and mother.  I was so in love with Anne and mourned her tragic transformation to Stepford Wife conformity over many years.  

The only other books I was given were animal stories.  These never ended happily either.  Black Beauty, Big Red, Lassie and various other innocent animals suffered through the most awful traumas and many of them died.  I hated those books and eventually refused to read any more of them.  Why anybody would consider giving this sadistic rubbish to children is quite beyond me.

Meanwhile, back in the world of books for girls, I observed  sadly as all my intelligent and rebellious heroines grew up to be responsible and selfless ciphers.  They rarely had sex or careers and they never became lesbians.  This was problematic for me as I used to etch the initials of the women and girls I adored into the top of my wooden school desk and by the time I was 17, my final school year, it was a very long list.  I had no interest in boys apart from their libraries, and was certainly not prepared to entertain the idea of kissing one.  My reading had let me down badly in this area.  I was unsure what a lesbian was except that it was A Very Bad Thing so I couldn’t talk to anybody about it.

The third category of literature which helped me survive adolescence was comics – I read all I could beg borrow or steal.  Boys were quite useful for Superman, Batman and all the other superheroes.  While we lived in England for a few years, I became addicted to Beano where Dennis the Menace created joyous havoc every week and the Disney comics were good for approved holiday reading.  By the time I was 14, I was best friends with one of the local newsagents who made sure I received my Beatles Monthly magazines and anything vaguely associated with ballet.  He was a great friend to me, despite receiving endless improving lectures about whether or not he should be selling porn; not that Queensland porn was up to much in those days.

By the time I became a mother,  both the variety and quality of children’s books was vastly improved.  It was enormous fun to read them Dr Seuss, Captain Pugwash and all the rest and I’m sure that girls’ books now have real girls and women in them.  Not only that but books by and about lesbians are all over the place and they don’t always have to die of some terrible disease or kill themselves.  Who would have thought that lesbians too are allowed to live happily ever after.  Three cheers for that.  One day, lesbians might even be permitted to be married – like ‘normal’ people. I can’t wait to go to the wedding!

I’d be really interested to hear about what everyone else read in their childhood.

Colonoscopy Update:  Unfortunately, I was only ableto give this DVD 2 stars (out of 5).  One star was for the absence of any sinister lumps and the other for the excellent party drugs they gave me.  But apart from that, the lighting was appalling, the direction amateurish and the main character was boring as bat shit with no attempt made at character development.  Don’t bother.

January 10, 2012

On Colonoscopies: how funny are they?

Filed under: life — kafkaworld @ 1:24 am
Tags: , ,

Aging, with its concurrent confronting health issues, continues to be a very steep learning curve for me, but one hard won truth is that you really can’t afford to take yourself, or anything to do with undignified medical procedures, too seriously.  Hence this post.

Upon being told that I am having a colonoscopy, the general response from nearest and dearest has been merry laughter and gaiety.  Time to roll out all the terribly amusing jokes about cameras up bums, orange jelly for dinner and popping in to my local beautician for an anal bleach.  Very droll.  On the other hand, it cheers everyone else up no end because they don’t have to have one … yet.  My day will come.  How I will laugh.

Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to comparing this with my other favorite procedure, mammograms.  Perhaps I will then compose a learned article for Nature –  ‘Mammogram or Colonoscopy:Which is Funnier?’Or what about ‘Is Women’s Health Funnier Than Men’s Health and Why?’.  There may yet be a book in this.

Meanwhile, today we are celebrating Has Anyone Seen My Keys Tuesday.  What fun.  In fact, I think I’ll be off to do that right now.  Anything to distract me from the enormous joke happening tomorrow!


January 4, 2012

On Inappropriate Highways

Filed under: On the Road,random paranoia,The beach — kafkaworld @ 9:22 am
Tags: , ,

There is a sign at the entrance to our local highway, making it clear that dogs and nude bathing are not allowed there.  Odd?  Perhaps I should explain that the highway in question is actually a beach.  That’s right, a beach where small children like to splash about in the shallows, build huge gothic castles and bury their Dads in the sand.  You’d like to think that they could play here safely without being run over by huge 4WDs driven by petrol heads who are physically unable to leave their cars for any reason.   Or have any taste in music.  Or turn the music down so that those of us who came to the beach to listen to seagulls and not AC/DC could have some peace.  Seriously, if you are sitting on the beach, wondering which end of Moreton Island is North, would you rather be approached by a dog or a Toyota Land Cruiser?  Although Land Cruisers don’t really approach, they just run you down, so let’s keep them on the M1 where they belong.

Today is Libertarian Apricot Freedom Day*

*This year, I have a First Dog on the Moon Calendar.  First Dog likes to celebrate esoteric days which are mostly ignored elsewhere in the media.  I will try to keep you informed in case you wish to celebrate some of these obscure occasions.


January 2, 2012

On Shattered Dreams

Filed under: domestic bliss,life — kafkaworld @ 7:14 am
Tags: , , , ,

Well not really dreams, and not really shattered.  More first world minor irritations which have assumed alarmingly disproportionate importance in my weird little world.

Last year, I read so much good advice about living a happier, better and more satisfying life, but I seemed to be so snowed under by day-to-day trivial domestic drudgery and dwindling energy that I never even began.   2011 was more of a ‘not waving but drowning’  year for me so this year, I resolved to do better.  Apparently, the trick is to work out what you are passionate about, what you enjoy doing most, and then prioritising your life so that  you do that first, then all the other crap in descending order of importance.

So, Step 1.  A To Do List, duly prioritised which I made on 31/12/11.  I love to write, so ‘blog daily’ was number 1 on the list.  You can see what happened.  It’s already the arse end of 2/1/12 and I’m only just writing my first blog for 2012.  What happened?

Well here’s the thing nobody warned me about.  My To Do List, which I expected would be completed every day, is growing exponentially, like weeds in my garden,  and I have no idea how to keep it under control.  Obviously, I can’t start Priority 1 Task on any given day unless everything from the day before has been done.  It’s day 2 of the new regime and I’m eight and a half jobs behind.  Where will it all end? I’m only blogging now because I’m so mad that my new plan is a desperate failure and I wanted to have a whinge.

So yes, I did have a small dream for 2012, and yes, it is shattered at this moment, but I’m not giving up so easily this time.  Let’s see what a tad more perseverence and a smidgen less domestic perfectionism will achieve.  Carry on and keep calm, as it says on many, many coffee mugs and teatowels.

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