Kafkaworld's Blog

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.


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November 24, 2011

On a Coldplay Moment

Filed under: family,life,love,music — kafkaworld @ 4:56 am

“Nobody said it was easy

No one ever said it would be so hard 

I’m going back to the start”

You said a mouthful there boys.  If only it was possible to go back to the start.  Those highly evolved people who say they have no regrets – do they really believe it?

I have so, so many regrets.  On a bad day they weigh me down so I’m barely able to function.  On a good day, I forget some of them for a while.

Today is a good day.

 

 

August 21, 2010

21/31

Filed under: life,love — kafkaworld @ 3:51 am
Tags: , ,

and they said it wouldn't last

Guess what we were doing exactly 38 years ago?  No, not voting – we were busy getting married.  With our collective organizational skills, I’m surprised it happened at all.  It was satisfyingly chaotic with most of the guests out of control and making unnecessary musical contributions throughout.  My dress cost $10.  I borrowed a veil.  The cake was minute and was going to be decorated with red roses until that idea was vetoed by MOB (mother of the bride). My gentleman friend rented a delightful brown suit (it was the seventies remember) and we had our first fight as man and wife when he made me put my seatbelt on and sit two feet away from him in the car going up Mt Cootha to the reception.  He was gorgeous though, no doubt about it.

So, fast forward 38 years and I discovered today that 38 is the iPhone Accessory Anniversary.  I received two of them plus a doover thingy to put my sat nav in.  It seems MGF was kidnapped and made to trudge the aisles of  Harvey Norman while I was away last weekend.  Poor thing.  But I’m sure I’ll be very excited about it all when he plugs them in and shows me what happens next.

Time to vote!!!



May 30, 2010

The Nightingale and the Rose

Filed under: life,love — kafkaworld @ 8:08 am
Tags: , , , ,

This is a story by Oscar Wilde.  I heard it on ABC Classic FM this morning, read by Stephen Fry.  It broke my heart.  If there is a sadder tale in the universe, I have yet to hear it.

It’s the story of a nightingale, who sacrifices her life so that a mooning student can give a beautiful red rose to a young woman who has promised to go with him if he is able to produce a rose for her.  The nightingale feels sorry for him and consequently dies so that a barren frostbitten rose bush is able to bloom.

This is bad enough, but worse is to come.  The student sees the perfect red rose, plucks it and takes it to the girl who rejects him again, remarking that she now has another admirer who has brought her jewels which are much more valuable than a mere rose.  Words cannot describe how much I despised her for her careless, arrogant cruelty.

This is bad enough but the real heartbreaker is yet to come.  The student, who was obviously not as besotted as we thought, wanders back to the library to become a great philosopher.  On the way, he throws the rose, that beautiful perfect rose, ruby red with the life blood of the little nightingale, out into the street where it lands in the gutter and is crushed by the wheel of a passing cart.  Surely the nightingale deserved better than that.

But after I’d finished sobbing into an old tissue I found in my pocket, I thought about the times people have given me something wonderful, which may have cost them a lot in time, money or energy.  And I’ve said “Thank you very much” without much thought.  It’s so easy to let these moments slip by.  I really need to be mindful of what is done for me, what is given to me and treasure the efforts expended on my behalf.  So I’ll start now.  Thanks Trevor, for making macaroni cheese for dinner.  It’s quite fiddly, what with the bechamel sauce, cheese grating and nutmeg grinding but what better food could there be for a cold Sunday night, sitting on the couch watching Dr Who.  And what a fabulous way to say “I love you”.

January 6, 2010

The Age of Discretion – When will I reach it?

Filed under: love — kafkaworld @ 9:53 am
Tags: , ,

An embarrassing confession; I am totally besotted with Tim Minchin, not in an evil, stalker way, but in a dvd owning, gig attending relatively harmless way.

If I was talented, like Davida Allen, I would produce as series of erotic paintings as she did about Sam Neill, and people would be astonished at my brilliance and Tim would be my muse, not my pathetic fantasy.

But the ridiculous part is, I’m 60 and my “toilet bits” (a Minchinism) don’t work.  I could write reams about that alone and methods I have tried to improve the situation.  Incidentally, why don’t we hear more about elderly women’s sexuality in the Courier Mail?  There’s endless drivel about men and how important their penises are.  Can’t see what all the fuss is about myself.  But then I suspect that my obsession with Tim has little to do with sex.

So what’s love all about anyway? ‘What’s love but a second hand emotion’?   And what does that lyric mean?  When I was young with a body capable of physical sexual responses, sex was certainly involved in my relationships but that was never all or even most of what it was about.  Only  once in my life did I ever fall in love at first sight, and that was with a woman and it ended badly.  Well, not badly really.  Once I got to know her, I discovered my body had actually made a good choice for me, just not a very practical one.  But I really had no interest in one night stands or notches on bed posts.  For me, it’s all about brain sex, a growing  fascination with somebody’s mind.  So much so, that I’m barely able to recall what my nearest and dearest were wearing last time I saw them, or what colour their hair is this week.

This is, and will continue to be a burden as I’m obviously going to be susceptible to sudden intense infatuations until the day I die.  I did hope that when my body lost interest, so would I.  I was looking forward to becoming a decorously staid old lady, no longer in danger of  falling slowly but desperately in love and consequently behaving like a moony adolescent, a source of embarrassment to my children.

Back to Tim Minchin (about time!) , who has done nothing to deserve my adoration except to be a witty wordsmith, a talented musician and heartbreakingly vulnerable.  Lest you feel this is all very unfair on my HB*, he is currently fixated on Kristen Schaal, who appears in ‘Flight of the Conchords’.  Could it be  coincidence that, for Christmas, I bought him a Tim dvd and he bought me the Conchords second season? Married people get so devious after the first 30 years!  So we’ve had a couch conference and, to avoid unseemly squabbles, we watch one episode of the Conchords followed by one Tim song and everybody’s happy.

On second thoughts, perhaps these elderly affaires de coeur aren’t so bad.  At least they keep us off the streets where we could cause real problems.

* HB=husband.  I can’t be doing with the term ‘partner’.  It sounds much too business like, and we are definitely beyond the GF/BF stage.



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