Saturday, December 15, 2012

Snapping out of it

So, maudlin me is taking a bit of a break. After all, there's only so long you can be miserable for before having to just step back, reassess, and start taking control. Also, it's hard to be unhappy when the year is winding down, Christmas is on the way, and I've got 10 days off work coming up. Huzzah!

I have decided to try and let go of the things that are out of my control. Okay, so tried deciding that several months ago, but now I'm getting a bit of outside assistance so I can actually get the tools to make it happen. I have had enough of banging my ahead against the brick wall of... well, everything really, and it's time to just let it go.

My trick to making this happen (besides my counselor) is giving myself something that I can focus on that is within my control. And to that end I have applied and been accepted into doing a PhD at ANU. Still ironing out the practicalities, but I start next year, and am aiming to get it done in 5 years. I'm excited!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

6 months

Today marks the six-month anniversary of my Dad passing out of this world. Tomorrow would have been his 62nd birthday.

I am getting drunk in his honour.

I'm really not in a good place right now (actually I feel that I really haven't been happy since I moved to WA), but I figure like anything broken, ie arm or leg, the only thing that can fix this is time.

So I wait.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


You know when you're following a blog, and then the person goes silent for a while? You kind of wonder what happened to them, and hope it was nothing bad.

Nothing BAD has happened to me, but I spend a lot of my waking life feeling hemmed in and hopeless, due largely to a job that I find incredibly frustrating. It's gotten to the stage now where I write a FB status update, and get emails from colleagues who have misrepresented my words, claiming they are potentially offensive to others.

I've come from a place where inquiry and intellectual rigour were the norm and I've come to a place where... well, if I continue that sentence I WILL be being offensive (the words 'honest' and 'offensive' are pretty much interchangeable here).

I know people over here are sick of me whingeing about WA, and wish I would just fuck off back to the Eastern States. I too am sick of whingeing about WA, and for what it's worth, I'd gladly fuck off back to the eastern states - it's just a matter of finding a job to go back to!

I love the weather, and I love being close to the beach. I love that every single plant we have put in the ground here has not only survived, but thrived. But MY GOD I cannot stand the [CENSORED], the suggestion that [CENSORED], and the [CENSORED]. See, they've got me so paranoid I'm sensoring myself now!

So if I've gone a bit quiet it's probably because I don't have much more to say at the moment.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Nearly, but not quite

So I made the team for the game against Brisbane later this month. For about 5 minutes! I was the first reserve player, a skater went out with a knee injury and I was invited to take her place on Friday; Sunday night training, boom - I get smashed in the head by a fellow player and am now out for three weeks with a 'head injury'. BUMMER!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Dry July

I'm doing Dry July this year. It's harder than I thought it would be, which surprises me. I mean, it's not like I have to hike up a mountain, or shave my head, or whaever else; I don't actively have to DO anything, all I have to do, essentially is NOT do. And who would think that NOT DOING would be harder than doing?

It's not that I'm a heavy drinker, but I am a regular drinker. Those days where you come home from work gagging for a glass of wine? I have a few of those! When I first moved to WA the glass of wine was more like half a bottle, and the 'regular' meant every day. But things have settled down now, and while I thought it would be a slight challenge to get through 31 days without booze I didn't actually think it would be too difficult. WRONG!
Dad pouring champagne at our wedding - 2009

The idea of Dry July holds a lot of significance for me this year. Having lost my Dad to cancer so recently, I wanted to do something proactive, and the idea of giving up alcohol had particular resonance. So much of my adult relationship with Dad was characterised by alcohol, from knowing he would always have a good bottle laid on when we visited, to him selecting the wine list for my wedding. Then, following his diagnosis late last year, as his cancer meds kicked in, he could no longer stomach wine. Watching him having to give up something he loved and that had given him so much pleasure for so many years was difficult. Certainly more difficult than going without a glass or two myself.

Then when he died I drank a lot. The week between his death and the funeral I opened three bottles of whisky; I didn't drink them all myself, but I did drink a lot of them.

So I really am doing this for my Dad, in honour of the fact that he himself had to give up alcohol (as well as so much else) as cancer took over his life. And the funds I'm raising are going to the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, because the John Hunter Hospital in Singleton gave Dad a terrible time, and after what he and his wife went through with them I couldn't just couldn't support raisining money for a hospital (though I know plenty of people have much more positive experiences; it just wasn't right for my fundraising efforts at this time).

It's been two weeks now, with 17 days to go (and yes I AM counting them!). If you feel inclined you can support my cause here Dry July for Col

So bottoms up, but make mine a fruit juice!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Great Southern Slam 2012

So the Australian roller derby community is pretty isolated. We don't get too many international teams coming out to play with us, forming a national team is hard given the size of our country, and online broadcasts of bouts overseas are usually on at 2am our time. But for all that the Australian roller derby community is a thriving one. In fact it was in Australia that we saw the largest roller derby event in the world back in 2010, with the first Great Southern Slam held in Adelaide. This last weekend saw the second TGSS, and it was once again the biggest such event ever held, anywhere!

Three days of non-stop derby action across 5 tracks. To quote one of my teammates, "I now know what derby heaven looks like!" I played in one of those bouts, a very close game between PRD and Gold Coast Roller Derby, where the lead changed five times throughout the game, and in the end we lost by 5 points in the last jam. That sucked, because I was one of the two blockers left on the track when we lost (two blockers and our jammer were in the bin!), and watching that jammer whizz around and around, while we tried fruitlessly to stop her, was gutwrenching.

This event was later repeated at a couple of the other bouts I saw (notably Pirate City vs Brisbane City, and Canberra vs Sydney), where the game was lost in the last jam when one team's blockers and jammer were in the bin. A little lesson for us all there I think!

Overall it was a freakin' brilliant trip. I'm so glad I had the opportunity to go along, and to play. It was touch and go there for a while, with the captain wanting to bench me due to missing too much training (coz I was with my Dad), but I made it there in the end, albeit on a reduced roster. Now that I know what playing against a team you've never played before feels like (chaos, in case you're wondering!) I feel like I'll be more and better prepared next time.

It feels like this was so much of what I have been aiming for since the beginning of the year. I'm actually a bit worried that I will crack now, without that focus. I still have a father to grieve for, after all. But hopefully the regularity of training, and our home team games to work towards, will help to keep me sane.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Family Feud

I thought watching my Dad die would be the hardest thing about this whole trip, but it turns out that it's the whole family feuding and nastiness that happens after a loved one dies that is the really shitty bit.

The day he died all the Menzies clan arrived at Dad's home, bringing our rowdy laughter, tears and noise together. It soon became apparent that Dad's wife and Dad's family have two different styles of mourning. Dad's wife preferred quiet and solitude, so rather than tiptoe around her grief we decamped to my aunt Christine's place. In classic Menzies fashion we have gathered every evening around the table with food and booze, and talked and laughed and cried together until the early hours of the morning. It's been wonderful - aside from what appears to be the degenerating relationship between us and the 'other camp'.

With shock and anger I have watched as the wishes of my Dad's daughter and sister have been disregarded and coopted. From being the only one who wanted to follow my Dad's hearse to the crematorium I was left behind, when the funeral director changed the time of departure the day before and nobody thought to tell me (we had already decamped by the time that happened). No blood relations accompanied Dad on this last journey.

There is such jealousy - probably on both sides, I'll admit that - over our relationship with him. I found out that my Dad's wife often complained about me to my family. I say, kudos to Dad for never letting on. I also feel proud that I never burdened him with similar emotions at my end. For my part I accepted her because Dad cared for her. That's what you do when someone you care about loves someone - you accept them. But from what has emerged it appears there was acrimony from her about both me and my mother. I have to say that at a time like this it's pretty hard not to just write her off as a total bitch.

But I know that Dad would be horrified at these goings on, so for his sake I'm trying to keep it together. Emotions are running high of course, which is natural at this time. But geez, I wish it didn't have to be this bloody hard. It seems like my Dad's death has been eclipsed by family politics and bullshit, and we have lost focus on what's really important, which is the love we all had for Dad.

Friday, May 25, 2012

26.11.1950 - 25.5.2012

This was Dad on Wednesday night. With his wife, her sister, his daughter, step-daughter, her four kids, and his sister and brother-in-law around him, rolling a cigarette (that Dr Pat!). Wearing one of Anne's fur coats in the 12 degree temperature, and smiling.

That is how I will remember him.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

My horoscope

This is my horoscope for the week from my favourite astrologer, Rob Breszny:

Don't pretend you can't see the darkness. 
Admit to its presence. Accept its reality. And then, dear Cancerian, walk 
nonchalantly away from it, refusing to fight it or be afraid of it. In other 
words, face up to the difficulty without becoming all tangled up in it. Gaze 
into the abyss so as to educate yourself about its nature, but don't get 
stuck there or become entranced by its supposedly hypnotic power. I 
think you'll be amazed at how much safety and security you can generate 
for yourself simply by being an objective, poised observer free of 
melodramatic reactions.
My Dad is dying. Yesterday was a good day, today not so good. He was asleep for most of it, but to escape the pain. Yesterday he was engaged and content, sitting in the sunshine with the various family who have trooped over here to share his last weeks and days. I am one of them. This time feels so fleeting and precious.  My father is at the centre of such a tight-knot group of people, and I feel priviledged to be a part of it.

A good life is important, but so is a good death.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Sunshine and lollypops

Ok, so I have realised that quite a lot of what was bringing me down in recent months was the hopeless feeling you get when you don't have the right tools to do your job properly. I have realised this since Tuesday, when I was given charge of large amounts of budgetary funding, and the go-ahead to spend it on stuff I felt was important. Wheee!

Seriously, who doesn't love spending money? Who cares if it's on stuff like dehumidifyers instead of skate wheels or cheese, it's still loads of fun! In two solid and hardworking days the Assistant Curator and I have packed up and delivered 11 artworks to the framers for conservation framing, four artworks to the conservator, with another conservator booked in for next week, ordered two dehumidifyers, and purchased a $1300 vaccuum cleaner to clean our collection starage areas without blowing dust and mould spores everywhere - huzzah!

Things are feeling a lot better right now.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A shift in direction

For all my working life I have given the best of myself to my job. At present this is causing me nothing but searing frustration, so I have decided to try something else. I'm going to try shifting that focus and energy towards roller derby instead, and see what I can achieve.

It looks like I have made the travel team for The Great Southern Slam in Adelaide in June, largely by default (not enough players opting in), but I want to be more than just a default player, I would like to be a valuable part of the team. I've got two months - let's see what happens!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Derby Love

This last week has been pretty intense. Dad came to visit for what was supposed to be 4 days but ended up being 5 due to an unexpected trip to the hospital and him being declared medically unfit to fly. Aside from that day in Fremantle Hospital, it was so great having him to stay, just hanging out and chatting.

The worst thing to see, aside from the weight loss and the obvious physical pain, are the things he's having to give up - motorbike riding looks like the next on the list. He told me that he had wanted to ride a horse again before he dies, but it looks like that will not eventuate due to a fear of fracturing his pelvis. As his bones are degrading he becomes more and more susceptible to breaks and fractures. After the hospital scare his wife has now banned him from travelling alone again, though what difference having her here on that day would have made I don't know. It really saddens me to see the things a man enjoys doing being taken from him one by one by the progress of the cancer.

Then I found out a dear friend of mine has had some terrible news about her pregnancy, which, though I know it doesn't affect me directly, breaks my heart for her. It seems a miracle that any baby is born healthy, let alone the majority of them, when there is just so much that can potentially go wrong. When it goes wrong for someone you care about it's just awful.

But this is not meant to be a sad post. We have a bout tonight - my first with the Bloody Sundaes. I was such an emotional wreck yesterday that I had a mind to call my captain and ask her to take me off the roster, especially as there's 3 girls sitting off who would happily replace me. But today I woke up and took heart from the hope that roller derby gives me. Because if I consider myself an athlete when playing derby, however amateur, then I have to suck it up and get my head into the game. And it has given me something to look forward to, something that I know will engage me and take my mind off all the full-on shit that has happened this week.

I have taken a lot of comfort from derby since moving to WA. It's great to know that no matter how shit my week has been, and how hard it sometimes is to motivate myself to go to training, it invariably is one of the highlights of the week. And whatever else is great about it, that is one of the reasons that roller derby shines in my life.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012


So, it's been a little while. Only a little one, though, not an age! Work is keeping me busy. I'm usually there for 9-10 hours a day. There's two of us doing the work that would be done by 4 or 5 separate people at the NMA. But that's not as bad as the fact that no-one I work with (with the exception of the Assistant Curator, of course) understands what dealing with heritage actually means. So I spend a lot of time simply battling for the basics. Trying to explain why fluctuations of 25% humidity in a 12-hour period are unacceptable and we should have a dehumidifyer. Why we can't use mothballs. Why we need to do Loan Agreements. The basics. And it's a real struggle, particularly when some people see the Prison as the heritage equivalent of Adventure World (if you're wondering what that is, think Australia's Wonderland, but still open to the public).

Today I left work at 6pm, which is not unusual for me, but there were a few others, usually long gone by then, still hanging around. Turns out that there was an outing to the Fremantle Street Arts Festival happening, to which everyone was invited except me, the Assistant Curator, and the two old blokes on the team. Ouch.

That kind of hurt. It takes some balls to up sticks and move away from your family and friends to a new town, as anyone who's done it would know. You have to start afresh with friendships, and it's pretty discouraging when you hit a scenario like that one. My first thought was that it was like high-school, but in actual fact that's not true, because in high school I really didn't care about my isolation. I was a misfit who was too young and cocky to give a shit, and I took pride in that. But after having known friendships and closeness with people who 'get' me for the last decade and a half, behaviour like that stings.

I was angry and upset at first, but then remembered that there are people who love me and accept me back home/s (Sydney, now also Canberra), and I am blessed to have an amazing husband sharing my day-to-day life over here, as well as a good friend from way back living here too. I need to slap myself out of my self-pity, because quite frankly I've been wallowing in it a fair bit lately!

I rememeber the first year of living in Canberra, and what a tough one that was in terms of personal development and learning. I'm hopeful that things in WA will follow the same pattern, and things will get better once I get into my second year here. Fingers crossed, anyway!

Saturday, February 04, 2012


Dad and I at my cousin's wedding, August 2011

Lately it seems I cry on more days than not. Late last year I found out my father has a terminal form of cancer. He'd been diagnosed with prostate cancer several years ago, but that seemed to have been dealt with. Unfortunately it has spread through his skeletal system, and it's now a matter of we-don't-know-how-long, but probably months that he has left to live.

I can't tell you how gutting news like this is. Is anone ever ready to lose a parent? Probably not, but it still seems that a man aged 61 is too young to die. Nevertheless, everyday life goes on, and you learn to put knowledge like this aside, somewhere that you can take it out and grieve over it in private, without interference to your work, your recreation, your relationships.

But it does leak out of you, and that's why there's more days where I cry than days when I don't. It doesn't take much to set me off. A motorcyclist on the road; an email or phone call from my dad; a photo. It's a knowledge that sits heavily inside me and permeates all my quiet moments.

There are lots of reasons to wish not to be an only child, and most of them become apparent as you reach adulthood. I've found another one - the grief of a dying parent should be shared between siblings. There is no-one to share this commonality of experience with me. I know others who have lost a parent, but in this particular circumstance I am alone. I am the only child who is losing this man as my father. And it feels awful.

Dad aged 33, the same age I am now

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Scary - me??

I got told the other night by a new acquaintance, who also works in the same industry as me over here in WA, that I was "quite scary, professionally." Really??

I know I have a strong personality, but I don't think I am scary professionally, so much as this town lacks qualified and experienced heritage professionals. I am working at a world heritage-listed site, and I am the only person on the staff who has any sort of relevant training.

Don't get me wrong - I don't believe the bit of paper is the be-all and end-all (even though I know I am eventually going to have to do a PhD if I ever want to return to the eastern states in any kind of well-paid capacity). One of the best curators I know only has an honours-level degree (though yes, she is working towards a PhD). It's more that dealing with heritage requires a certain way of thinking, which if it's not instilled into you at Uni then should be instilled into you from working in the industry. And it does seem to be somewhat lacking as a whole over here.

The main powerbrokers in the industry over here are the National Trust and the Royal Historical Society. These organisations have all been eclipsed in the eastern states as thinking about heritage becomes more progressive, and even some cutting edge government organisations have lead the way at times (I'm thinking of the Historic Houses Trust of NSW, as funded under the Carr government). There is simply nothing like that over here, and aparently the main cultural heritage management/museum studies tertairy course has just been axed, which will only compound the problem.

What is it about Western Australia that makes it so different? One thing I have noticed is that it is a wealthy state, but that wealth is in the hands of a few, and doesn't translate to well-funded arts or heritage programs at all. It's a state obsessed with the present - to think of the past (or even the future!) is anathema to the ethos of immediacy that seems to stem from the mining industry. Thus heritage is in the hands of old-fashioned organisations like the National Trust, and heritage interpretation is unable to move forward.

So getting back to being called 'scary' - my conclusion is that it's not me, WA, it's you!