Entries Tagged as 'Gertrude'

Gertrude’s Diary #150 – It’s not you, it’s me.

When we met, Joe Oppenheimer asked me “So, what’s your story?”

To which I answered, “Once upon a time there was a girl from the western suburbs of Sydney who grew through shame and grief into a self-destructive, unexamined and unhappy adulthood, but by dint of a liberal arts degree, lots of music, appreciation of the natural world, a beautiful daughter and the friendship of some truly wonderful people, was able to attain self-knowledge and happiness of an unexpected measure.”

Trite, isn’t it? If only it were that simple. As you’ll know if you’ve read a few of these entries, I walk on a knife’s edge, a beautiful but treacherous precipice that might crumble beneath me and tip me into a river of despair. Or, it might broaden out and climb into an airy plateau, whereupon I can pluck amusing thoughts and delightful distractions like wildflowers in a meadow.

Gertrude has been a great solace to me on this journey, but her weekly creation channels my thoughts along the most frivolous lines, and she isn’t really me.  Friends scoff at this, but I feel I have some case for saying so.  Yes, sometimes I have been ruthlessly honest here about the circumstances of my life, but at most other times I’ve embellished for comic effect. For instance, I’ve never woken up with my head in a cupboard.  Nor was I born in 1908, and I don’t live in a treehouse.  More importantly, the really deep rhythms of my life are not translatable here.  The point – rammed home to me by my collaboration on this script – is that stories hide the truth.  Sometimes purely fictional, and at all times just a tiny selection of the feelings and thoughts that I have deemed fit for public consumption, this little blog is written for amusement, not revelation.

I have been told by one of my more intelligent and sophisticated readers that he doesn’t read my blog “for information”, he reads it “for entertainment”.  And there’s my problem.  Because the information I have is that we have a tiny window, the next 10 years perhaps, to save the world from the perilous consequences of fossil-fuel driven greed, and entertainment just seems a little insignificant in comparison.

My truth, the one I cannot escape, is that there is a lot of work to be done, and I think we all need to do it.  Even the people reading this, who have continued to read GD over the years, and have given me the encouragement to keep writing it.  Thank you.

Please visit here for the last word on Gertrude’s Diary.

I done it for youse all.

Gertrude’s Diary #149 – Awkward and Uncomfortable

A small list of things that make me awkward and uncomfortable.

Last week I was a passenger in a taxi and English was not the first language of the driver and I told him to take the next left and when he said “Left here?” I said, “That’s right”.  Then I thought to myself, “that’s kind of confusing isn’t it, when you think about it.”  So I decided not to say it next time he asked, “Left here?” and then when he did ask again I said “That’s right”, exactly the same way.  That made me feel awkward.

When I am in the presence of musical or artistic genius (except all the musical and artistic genius who I already know and am friends with – phew! close save there), I get all tongue-tied and babble incoherently, which is awkward, uncomfortable and embarrassing for everyone involved – kind of a natural disaster of social unease.  That is what happened when I pod-casted recently; curse you Fun Machine.  You shattered my fragile facade of urbane sophistication and left behind a starry-eyed automaton whose only purpose is to spread news of your talents to the wider public.  Anonymously.

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Gertrude’s Diary #148 – Life After Blog. Does It Exist?

My last blog should have ended with the words – “I’m just stepping outside for a moment and may be some time.”   Except that rather than perishing in the frozen waste like Captain Oates,  I’ve merely lost the will to blog… well, that might be a bit melodramatic.  I still haven’t decided whether this entry is evidence that I had just temporarily misplaced my creative urge, or is in fact the last gasp of a dying muse.  Not to be melodramatic.

I have to admit that I do yell at the television a lot more when I’m not writing this thing, so perhaps I should continue for therapeutic reasons.  As previous entries will attest, I like the ephemerality of television, a pleasure that is being eroded by these new-fangled contraptions like TiVo, Iview and YouTube.  Clearly no one is going to be bothered watching Weekend Sunrise when they have a week’s worth of Neighbours to get through.  The studios know this and adjust their budgets accordingly by not having any production standards.  This can be the only explanation for the bloke whose contribution to a light-hearted discussion of one of the day’s news stories was that all the girls who won the US National Spelling Bee in the last 15 years “are still virgins.”  This feeds into the trend of audience attrition by driving them away with redundant content – if people wanted to watch that sort of stuff, they would simply Google, “boorish, Neanderthal, sexist, moron, scrotehead.”

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Gertrude’s Diary #147 – Killer

I refuse to be sucked into reading about or listening to anything that has to do with that well publicised act of agression earlier this week. In years past it was understood that brutal and senseless creatures behaved thus, but that it was not something decent, clean-living people need bother themselves with.

Sensible people do not want to see these sorts of events splashed all over the news, just to satisfy a prurient interest in how the criminal elements live.  No.  In a healthy, mature society we are content to think about matters perhaps more quotidian but less horrifying.  Acts of bravery and high achievement should be the subject of reporting, and not this sort of sensationalist trash.

Before I move on to other things, I ask that you question the effect this kind of reporting has on your psyche, and consider whether knowledge of such events contributes to the betterment of our society in general, and your own understanding of the world in particular.   I hesitate to include the following headline relating to the story in question, but I’d like you all to view it as the sad and sordid tale it really is, and not some gossipy anecdote about a glamorised thug. [Read more →]

Gertrude’s Diary #146 – Conversation

A while ago now I was given a bound set of 12 pamphlets entitled The Ethel Cotton Course In Conversation, copyright 1927. With such intriguing titles as Lesson No. 3 – Overcoming Irritation and Lesson No. 4 – Too Tired To Talk, this set is packed with useful advice and is a must if you want to speak like people in old black and white movies. Or scream with laughter.

To be honest, I was a little disappointed with Lesson No. 3. I thought it was to help me overcome my own irritation, but apparently it was to avoid irritating others. What a strange idea. The three taboos Ethel enumerates are:

1. Do not refer to divorce in mixed company if you are unfamiliar with the marital condition of every member present.
2. Do not condemn nor ridicule any occupations or professions. (there go all my jokes about lawyers)
3. Do not bring up controversial topics nor make flat, positive statements unless you are among intimate friends. (instead, bring up boring topics and make flat, negative statements, e.g. “I hate your guts Charlene”.)

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Gertrude’s Diary #145 – Meditations

As I sit here at my desk by the window, with the sky glowing an empty blue through the trees outside, I’m struck once again by the fact that I have no idea what I will write about.  Also, that it’s rather early in the morning to be awake considering that I don’t have to go to work again for 5 days. What drives me to wake with the dawn? Why does the sound of currawongs and cockatoos seem to be the only alarm clock I need? Why do I get such a thrill from seeing the moon set in a pink and purple sky, the darkness fading in the glory of day? How did I come to sound so up-myself?

Turning my gaze from the window, I cast idly around for inspiration. Perhaps it will be in the directions to a farm near Taralga, written untidily in a gold gel-pen on the notepad next to me. Is the incronguity of the golden words and their quotidian purpose a subject on which I could base my blog? I wonder. I doubt.

Frucken hell. How do people keep this crap up? I would want to chop my fingers off if I wrote like this all the time.  John and The Editor are right; I do only have one voice.  How am I ever going to break into the literary world if all I can muster is this earnest and sometimes wryly humorous style?  Maybe I shouldn’t give up blog writing after all.

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Gertrude’s Diary #144 – The Meaning of Life

I figured that in the run-down to #150 I would really pull out all stops and tackle the big one.  Do I care that philosophers, poets, and saints have failed through the ages to agree on the answer to this question?  Am I intimidated by the scores of books, both sacred and secular, that have attempted to distil an answer?  No!  I scoff at their laboured efforts, their wordy replies to this simple and timeless question.  Instead, I reckon a 450 word blog is going to sort it out.

First, let me introduce some parameters; an insight into how I arrived at my answer.  I think anyone would agree that an answer to the question of the meaning of life that cannot be condensed into a 10 second sound-bite is barely worth repeating.  Further, the correct answer would be applicable anywhere, to anyone, at anytime; it’s no good telling someone that the meaning of life is to be found in long hours of quiet meditation if they’ve got 2 jobs, 3 kids, a lazy husband and a bad back.

Also, it would have some relevance to the question of what we are going to do about THE TERRIBLE CATASTROPHES THAT AWAIT US IF WE DON’T STOP BURNING FOSSIL FUELS.  Oh, wait.  Getting too specific there.  Silly girl.  I mean, it’s not like climate change is a global issue or anything.   And it’s really not something you’d choose to talk about in polite company – imagine how uncomfortable people might get.   Why, it doesn’t bear thinking about!

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Gertrude’s Diary #143 – Ideas and Observations

This week, for your amusement, I offer you a random collection of things that all occured to me during the last week.  Enjoy.

1.  Canberra Musicians Club – of which I am a proud member – is hoping one day in the not too distant future to have its very own club house.  I would like to any members who might be reading to consider this idea, which I believe would also be a useful way to exploit the club’s secondary purpose which is,  as you all know, to drink beer.

2.  When you are riding your bike along, and you’ve just gone pretty fast up a hill, and you mouth gets a little moist with saliva, it’s not a good idea to try to say a cheery hello to passersby in case a little bubble of spit pops out.

3.  When you’re painting something, don’t use too much paint.  It dribbles.  And it’s wasteful.  (- sob -) I’m so ashamed.

4.  When you’re cleaning your house, take a bucket around with you that contains; window cleaner, diluted sugar soap in a spray bottle, furniture polish, and at least three clean cloths, one for each kind of cleaning substance, and a spare for buffing.  You may also like to strap an extendable cobweb brush to your back, so you can whip it out Ninja style when necessary.  Divide [Read more →]

Gertrude’s Diary #142 – Domestic Cleansing

Greetings ‘netlings, and apologies for neglecting you the last fortnight.  I returned from Corinbank exhausted and physically ruined and was singularly lacking in inspiration.  Also, there was a letter waiting, informing me that my house is to be inspected by the property manager who handles my lease.  Oh happy day!

That little bubble of resentment rises up whenever I’m informed that a stranger is going to come to my home and check for  dust on the skirting boards.  Perhaps I’m just strange, but I don’t really pay much attention to the skirting boards, and I’m pretty sure my friends and family don’t, either.

Wildflower certainly doesn’t care; she’d wade through half a metre of dust and detritus without batting an eyelid, if her bedroom is anything to go by.  I tackled her cave of horrors on Sunday; I started tentatively on the edges, but in the end I got a broom and just swept the tide of plastic Sino-crap into the middle of the room.   I like to do things methodically, which requires an intimate knowledge of children’s playthings.  It’s no good trying to sift through the mountain of brightly-coloured plastic unless you can tell a My Little Pony’s shoe from a Littlest Pet Shop’s hat. “No Mother, that is Polly Pocket’s wardrobe, not Brights Brightly’s water trough.”

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Gertrude’s Diary #141 – Gertrude Announces her Retirement

For most of my life I have been totally self-obsessed and I think this blog is an enabling factor in this behaviour.  It’s all me, mine, my, I.  At least I’ve tried to steer clear of ‘one’, which I just can’t manage without dissolving into a parody of someone more formal than I.  Me.  (Pretentious?  Moi?)

So I believe that I will call it a day at #150.  I just can’t keep it going anymore.  Week in.  Week out.  The same old treadmill.   The same old bullshit; my tiny, boring life dissected for every ounce of entertainment value.  I mean, it’s kind of depressing when you think about it, isn’t it?

Maybe I could sum it all up for you in one steam of consciousness.  It would go something like this:

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Gertrude’s Diary #139 – How to Behave Like My StepMother

I went to lunch on the weekend to celebrate my father’s 87th birthday.  It was the usual fun-filled family affair, and I thought regular readers might enjoy a little insight into how these events usually go, taken from the perspective of my step-mother.

1.  Should you be invited to attend a social occasion to be hosted at one of your step-children’s homes, plead illness.  If you are particularly desperate to avoid their company, you may need to resort to extreme tactics such as crashing your golf cart.   Whatever your excuse, be sure to milk it for all it’s worth.  Calling your husband frequently during the event will make sure that your absence is emphasised.  Be as pathetic as possible; pleas for instructions on how to operate the television or the microwave oven can be effective reminders of how inconvenient is your husband’s absence.

2.  Should the event be held in a restaurant, you can employ the following strategies.

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Gertrude’s Diary #138 – Tragic

Three terrible things happened last week, the details of which I will relate to you here.

Feeling my creative powers at a low-point and my motivation for self-improvement even lower, I went to the library and borrowed a couple of really trashy books. The first was Stephen King’s recent offering titled “Cell”. I was sympathetic to the premise given the fact that I lost my mobile phone 6 months ago and have enjoyed a feeling of peace and liberation ever since. So a book about a terrible disaster that befalls people who use mobile phones was appealing. Unlike other Stephen King novels – which are all of them about a writer who must battle a tide of evil to save those he loves – this was about a graphic novel artist who must battle a tide of evil to save those he loves. Completely different. I polished that off in an afternoon.

The next day I started on another really trashy novel, this one by Dan Brown. I hate that bloke. He’s so bloody mediocre, and rich, and talentless, and successful, and too bloody rich and successful. It’s true, his books have unexpected twists in them, much the same way that the large intestine has twists in it. To save you the dreariness of reading Angels and Demons I’ve summarised the plot here. [Read more →]

Gertrude’s Diary #137 – Gardening with Gertrude

In keeping with the tirelessly domestic flavour of these blogs, I thought I’d give readers an inside view of Gertrude’s garden. Come now, come, past the moon-planting guide, gather from the laundry the lady’s gardening gloves (which, incidentally, feature extended wrist cuffs in a pretty, five colour floral design printed on hard-wearing cotton – gorgeous and so practical! – the sight of which holding a shiny pair of secateurs always suggests that any moment a vicar is going to appear around a hedge and I’m going to plunge the secateurs through his oppressive, patriarchal, monotheistic heart. Not that I’d ever really do that, you understand, and I apologise to any readers who are related to a vicar killed in that manner. It’s just I’m suggestible after watching too many episodes of Miss Marple’s Murderous Midsummer Melee or whatever the fuck they call that British crap the ABC recycles year after year – oh sorry? Am I ranting again? Better get back to the gardening).

Continuing out through the back-door (which, by means of a cunning ex-government design, is actually closer to the front of the house than the front-door) we make our way past the boysenberry bush, now part of the rabbit’s run, meaning that the bush is more or less self-pruning from the bottom up to a height of about 50 cm. Similarly, the adjacent fence is well suited to the pruning efforts of possums, whose regular progress keeps the bush down to a manageable height. And to think some people call these animals pests.

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Gertrude’s Post-Christmas Message

Here is my christmas message, late but heartfelt:

Please don’t buy any more stuff:   cheap stuff, expensive stuff –  just any kind of unnecessary stuff, really. If you don’t believe me, go and look at this.  But you should probably do it on a borrowed computer.

I’ll allow that this particular impulse is related to the relentless tide of new things that washes into the house at this time of year.   I tend to give homemade gifts, so I get a lot of new mess at this time of year, too.    I’m a rather untidy cook, so when I turn out 2.5 litres of fresh fruit cordial and 50 hand-made truffles (decorated with piped white chocolate to resemble mini christmas puddings) it’s only a matter of time before small pets stick to the floor.  Last year I also tried to manufacture my own body-weight in shortbread.  After a couple of days of scorching temperatures inside and out it smelled as if I’d rinsed the kitchen in ghee. [Read more →]

Gertrude’s Diary #136 – Media Madness

Hello world. What a weird old place you are!

Reading last weekend’s paper I came across quite a long article about the rising popularity of labial surgery. All across the world, women are deciding that they need to cut off bits of themselves in order to maintain a pre-pubescent neatness in their private parts. One expert said that women are aiming to achieve a look not unlike that attained by women in sub-saharan Africa who are subject to genital mutilation. I guess everyone has to have a hobby.

Discussing this story with a colleague I was informed that a friend of her’s had the operation. Apparently it made her happy and confident. I can’t help thinking that this level of self-obsession should not be encouraged. That, unless you are planning a long and lucrative career in pornography, there is really little point in spending many thousands of dollars on surgery to a part of the body that in all likelihood will only ever be seen by a handful of people, many of whom will be health professionals who probably wouldn’t turn a hair even if you had labia the size of lounge cushions. [Read more →]