REPORT A PROBLEM
I can barely believe itís December. Itís not that the year has flown; thereís been too much going on for that, but itís certainly snuck up on me. And for all the anxiety and uncertainty both historical and ongoing itís not been a bad year by any means. Nor has it been boring. Letís not get ahead of myself though. The next few days are going to be incredibly demanding. At a time when many others at work are winding down Iím having to crank things up in order to ensure everything that needs to get done does get done.
This time next week Iíll be in a very different headspace. Teaching is a curious profession in many respects. During term we often work under manic conditions as we try to get the very best out of the students while they themselves struggle to juggle the many demands of the timetable with a plethora of extracurricular activities Ė music, gymnastics, swimming, language classes, etc Ė all of which keeps everyone on their toes. Then we have these periods of inactivity when everything stops. For many itís a time to go away on holiday. For me itís a time for self reflection and personal endeavour.
I really needed to do as little as possible today and thatís precisely what I did. Given it was such a lovely sunny day we wandered along to our favourite little lunch spot and chatted lazily to the waiter about some of the local clubs in the area. I asked him about one in particular, a club called Revolver. He said the music was good and that it attracted a mixed crowd. ďI know one guy who goes there and heís 40!Ē he said. I had to laugh. I remember when 40 seemed old. Oh to be that young again!
We took our neighbours out for brunch today, the oneís whose wardrobes were inundated by the leaky roof. It proved to be very enjoyable. Theyíre a really likeable couple and we discovered we all had a lot of things in common. To say we have been fortunate is an understatement. A more understanding and less hostile response to what was a very awkward situation would be hard to imagine, much less wish for. Given that weíre going to be neighbours for the foreseeable future it felt really good to be able to put the incident behind us and become friends.
Having dreaded failing to have all the Year 6 figurines completed in time for the Presentation Night on Thursday it now looks as though everyone will do so. Had the timetable not been demolished by a three week swimming carnival involving every girl in the school the whole process would have been a lot less stressful. Such disruptions not withstanding, the girls have risen to the challenge and with my open door policy to the art rooms before and after school and at break and lunchtimes, all are on track to have their figurines finished and ready on the night.
I have so many ideas about what to do with the curriculum next year. I rarely teach the same unit of work two years running, preferring to innovate and keep myself from getting bored. Combing through as many art sites and art teaching blogs as I do my mind is abuzz with all manner of possibilities which suggests the coming year may well be my most innovative and productive to date. Itís one of the great joys of being an art teacher. Thereís so much freedom to experiment and explore. Itís what makes it the best job in the world.
Iím within spitting distance of the finishing line but itís not over yet. Having managed to photograph, colour correct, crop and print a piece of work for each student I now have the task of ensuring all of the work completed this year is correctly bundled and ready to go home by Thursday. This sounds simple enough but given Iím talking about a couple of thousand pieces of artwork Iím going to be struggling against the clock. I realise next year I need to have the students take responsibility for this but hindsight wonít get the task done by tomorrow.
I was doing really well. Iíd managed to shuffle some 600 pieces of artwork from Prep to Year 2 into their respective folders. Iíd already filed the Year 3s, 4s and 6s. Optimistically I then imaged Iíd get the Year 5 classes to do their own in 10 minute intervals after break. Big mistake! Within minutes everything was hopeless scattered over three tables as each girl scrambled to find her work. I immediately called a halt to the proceedings, apologised profusely and promised theyíd all have it back in the New Year.
Sometimes I forget thereís only one of me.
And so, itís over. With the girls having left yesterday all that remained to do today was to attend the staff breakfast and a rather drawn out farewell assembly, tidy up my room and attend the staff lunch. Not such a bad way to spend the day.
Looking back over the school year I feel incredibly pleased with whatís been achieved. I canít recall a time when I felt happier in my job. Yes, itís demanding, both in terms of time and energy but compared to what I was doing in London, it really is a walk in the park.
Iíd hoped to be able to sleep in this morning but my body clock was having none of it. I woke up around 3am and remained awake thereafter, finally relenting at 5am when I rose quietly and went into the lounge. Surprisingly Iíve not felt tired today. Itís curious but as soon as the pressure of work is lifted I often discover I need much less sleep. Having said that, I know Iíve gotten by with very little over the last few weeks and Iíll certainly need to catch up. Still, itís not as though I wonít have the opportunity.
After a very social day yesterday in which we had relatives over from Adelaide and a family get together at a local Thai restaurant last night, today was very much about relaxing. With two of the three tenders for the house now in, one of which is certainly within reach of our budget, there was little else to do today other than relax and let next week take care of itself. I have a variety of things I want to do during the next few weeks, including writing, painting, reading, etc. Itís not just the house Iíll be focusing on.
Weíve chosen a new builder. The company is called Moobi. The name has a curiously warm and fuzzy quality to it. We still have some hard nosed negotiations to complete in order to get the price where we need it to be but itís heartening to know that everyone involved has had the same response to Braden, the guy who owns the company. From the moment we first spoke to each other over the phone my gut response was positive. So was everybody elseís it seems. Weíll be meeting tomorrow to further explore his quote and get the ball rolling.
The meeting with the architect and the builder today was productive. Weíve explained our position vis-ŗ-vis the budget and the loss of sponsorship from the television show. Braden wasnít deterred by this. We also indicated that weíre dealing exclusively with Moobi and this was certainly well received. Without wanting to second guess things I believe weíre going to emerge from this whole saga with a workable budget and a builder in whom we can place our confidence and trust. Weíve indicated weíd like to sign before Christmas. Itís a big ask but, fingers crossed, we might just pull it off.
I slept incredibly well last night and itís made a huge difference to my state of mind. Iíve also embarked on a couple of the projects I set myself to complete during these holidays, including some papier mache sculpture, transcribing Mumís oral history tapes to Word and this afternoon taking out membership at the Prahran Pool where, commencing tomorrow, I intend to swim every day. Oddly, I was a little resistant to starting today. Iím not quite sure why. A little body shy I guess. Iím not as young as I once was. Tomorrow however, Iíll be there first thing.
Iíd forgotten how totally invigorating swimming outdoors in an Olympic sized pool could be. Despite the fact I havenít swum for ages I had no trouble doing 20 laps without a break, luxuriating in the early morning sunshine and the virtually empty swimming lane. I remember embarking on a similar program before we moved to London. It was part of my Fit for 40 program as my 30s were drawing to a close. Combined with yoga, healthy eating and 200 sit-ups a day I became as fit as Iíve ever been.
Ah well, time to embark on Fit for 52.
Given that I needed to vacate the house for three hours after a pest controller sprayed throughout to rid us of an unwelcome cockroach infestation, Iíve spent the last 2Ĺ hours sitting in my favourite cafť enjoying lunch, coffee and the opportunity to gaze lazily into space while committing my thoughts to paper. A pale blue sky and a cool, gentle breeze have kept me suitably refreshed while the friendly waiter has attended to my every need. Itís one of those beautiful, sunny Melbourne days when I canít imagine being happier or more contented living anywhere else in the world.
Sometimes the best we can do is to be there for someone. Though we may wish we could relieve their burden, go back in time and change whatever it was that caused them to be in such pain, we canít. Life throws up a dazzling array of temptations and challenges, some of which are good and some of which are less so. None of us have a roadmap for life. The way is always open and the temptations and challenges before us are constant and we canít expect to make the right decision every time. Life just isnít like that.
Hey Mum, it's hard to believe it's been a year since you died. Never a day goes by without me thinking of you. No one ever loved me more, no one ever believed in me so completely and no one will ever be able to fill the empty space you left behind when you went away. The gift of love you bestowed upon me the day I took my very first breath is the gift I've carried with me ever since the day you drew your last. Death has no dominion. I will always love you . . . wherever you may be.
I really hate those left of field life experience freight trains that can send your life careering off into a nauseating freefall whereby you find yourself grappling with scenarios that scare that crap out of you and thrust you in a tumultuous emotional vortex in which everything that seemed stable and certain is suddenly thrown into question. I hate it even more when they come on the back of so much else which has served to disrupt and upset the equilibrium. Indeed, I can barely remember what equilibrium feels like!
I really donít know how much more I can handle.
As rapidly as the threat emerges, it recedes, much like a summer storm threatening to spoil a beautiful afternoon: the clouds appear ominous and dark but what appears to be an approaching deluge peters out and turns out to be little more than a passing shower. In retrospect thatís all it ever was but on the back of so much else my anxiety and fear got ahead of me. The upshot however is that while there will inevitably be some fallout from the whole situation itís nothing we canít handle and, on the upside, some important lessons have been learned.
To say that I'm enjoying the luxury of having time on my hands with no pressing commitments would be an understatement. Waking up each day and having nothing more demanding to think about than how many laps of the pool I'm going to do certainly has its merits. Having said that, I can find it challenging to let go of the voice inside my head that keeps telling me I ought to be doing something useful. It's one of the down sides of having a holiday at home rather than somewhere far removed from the familiarity of the domestic environment.
When I'm at work and I think about all the things I want to get done during the school holidays I become inspired at the prospect of being free from the responsibility of my job and I imagine all the things I'll be able to do - read for hours, paint to my heart's content, write endless of pages of whatever - but when the time finally arrives to make good on all of these daydreams I more often than not find myself frittering the time away; finding excuses to avoid doing the very things I was so looking forward to doing.
For someone who finds it easy to motivate others to draw I'm not necessarily so adept at motivating myself. Just as I manage to write 100 words a day (or a thousand, depending on how much I've been procrastinating) I've had this idea for a while now that I'd like to do a drawing a day. The problem is I don't seem to be able to make a start, despite a couple of half hearted efforts. Maybe I just need to set myself a theme for myself and then simply draw for a week in order to break the inertia.
So there I was congratulating myself for having completed 30 laps of the pool when I overheard the guy in the next lane casually tell his friend that he was going to be doing 200 laps of freestyle and 100 laps of breaststroke. That's 15 kilometres. While I felt a tad deflated, thirty laps for someone my age who's out of practise is a decent effort and it's not as though I'm competing. What it did make me appreciate however is the need to learn how to swim faster because Iíd like to do 50 laps on a regular basis.
There can be no denying the health benefits of yoga and swimming. After less than two weeks my body feels a lot more lithe and I'm losing those little aches and pains that I tend to accommodate without even thinking about it. I read an article recently about a woman in her 90s who teaches yoga to people twenty years her junior. She lives independently, tends her garden and by all accounts leads an active life. The older I get the more I appreciate how good health and physical flexibility is the key to a long life of quality living.
There's an entire ecosystem taking root in the vacant lot where our house used to be. With so much rain having fallen over the last couple of months there are weeds growing to almost triffid-like proportions, from whence a chorus of cicadas emerges each night as soon as the sunís gone down. I wish now I'd thought to sow a few sunflower seeds a few weeks back. It's amazing how so much greenery can appear from seemingly nowhere in such a short period of time. It will be interesting to see how much more grows before the foundations go in.
We went to see the Iron Lady today and while I was suitably impressed by Meryl Streepís performance I emerged feeling disappointed with the film itself. For all its promise it fell short of the mark, unable to make its mind up whether it was the story about the ravages of age and dementia, a history of late 20th century British politics, right wing propaganda or a biographical portrait. It skimmed over so much but lacked soul or any real depth. As a result, a stunning performance by Meryl Streep was seriously compromised by poor directing and a shoddy script.
I go into a zone when Iím swimming. Itís a bit like meditation. Doing laps is monotonous and in many respects quite boring so it becomes necessary to take my mind elsewhere while doing them. If I swim early in the morning I tend to go through the things I want to achieve during the day. If I swim later in the afternoon I tend to think about the physicality of what Iím doing and meditate upon the issue of health and wellbeing. And sometimes I find myself thinking about nothing in particular; just focusing on my breathing and technique.
It was a year ago today that I saw you for the last time. I remember being surprised at how peaceful you looked lying there. You almost seemed like yourself again, and it had been a long while since Iíd seen that. Since then Iíve had many conversations with you. Whether or not you hear me Iíll never know but I like to think that you do. We often talked about the day youíd no longer be on the planet. Itís not as though itís a foreign concept. And yet, now that youíre actually gone, you never seem far away.
Melbourne heat is very different to London heat. In London the whole city bakes even though the temperature isnít that high. The almost total lack of air conditioning, particularly on public transport, serves to make a warm to hot summer insufferable. Here in Melbourne we tend to get a much dryer heat and everywhere you go thereís the welcome relief of air conditioning Ė except here in our rented property. Thankfully we donít have a western wall so to date it seems to remain relatively cool and as we head towards a few days of 40 degree heat, letís hope that continues.
On the last day of the year Iím feeling knackered. Itís not that Iíve been doing anything strenuous other than an early morning swim. Perhaps itís the prospect of the year being over. Itís been a full one and the coming one promises to be just as challenging. Iím not complaining. Lifeís never dull. It occurs to me that had we stayed in London weíd be doing much the same as weíd always done there. Thatís what lifeís like when you donít initiate change. Thereís little to distinguish one year from the other. So, hereís to another year of changes!
The Tip Jar