Thursday, October 21, 2010

By 1978 the phrase was in use in print...



It's Show Day today in Hobart. I don't like the Hobart Show, it lacks the muddy omnipresence of the Burnie show in the local community, but I enjoy the day off. It means I've avoided a day in traffic and not had to solve the problems of my ex ironic girlfriend and her will I won't I stand off with life. I'm being harsh - the traffic isn't that bad. It means that essentially I can do what I want, although this has generally meant sleeping a lot, eating cereal from a bowl and talking to my Dad on the phone. Since I don't have to worry about emotional dramas, my mind has become a lot clearer. I sat on my front deck today almost like an old man on the porch, sans banjo and moonshine, but swinging back and forth on my hammock nonetheless in simplistic stillness. My Dad is alone in his house at the moment because Mum is in Melbourne. He's pottering around the house cursing the AUSTAR people for not putting on more worthwhile than old episodes of Open All Hours. Since my football team won the Premiership and My Dads teams have all been, to use an un erudite word, shite, he's been claiming the most minor of victories in things like fantasy sports or betting competitions and bringing round certificates to show he's beating me. He's currently down at the shops - I bet he's got on his blue tracksuit trousers, wondering why our local supermarket makes you take a number to buy a salmon cutlet when there's no 1ne else in the line. I know it makes him mad. Being devoid of emotional responsibility, I'm able to slip into the most comfortable of sleeps. My hammock is 1ne of my prized possessions in life - a personal reward to myself. In true single man style, I can spread out and enjoy myself on days like this - when Mum is in Melbourne, Dad is able to do the same, sit up with his pint of Guinness yelling at various A League soccer players for being horrendously rubbish and not have to switch off 1/2lf way through to watch something on the Crime Investigation channel. Even though we are in different homes, we are both contented today. No work, no traffic, no problems...although Dad craves physical space though, I crave emotional space, and in a very true sense our wishes today are being utterly fulfilled...

Although my Mum and Dad and I have an exceptionally close relationship, it hasn't always been easy. My Dad is quite an idiosyncratic individual. To make a point he will go to extraordinary lengths. For instance, during a large part of my teenage years he thought I was appallingly lazy. He was right of course - the fact I couldn't even rouse enough anger to argue the point probably proved him right. To prove this point, he would wake exceptionally early in the morning - sometimes around 7even in the morning - to get up and mow the lawn. When we lived in 1ne particular house in Burnie, mowing the lawn was like hiking casually around the North Face of the Eiger. Throw in that our lawn mower was essentially a petrol powered Fisher Price prototype, just a modification away from blowing bubbles instead of cutting any grass, and it was no easy task. It would have relatively easy even in our perpetually arguing are you sure you don't have any homework fraught relationship to assign me, as a pent up but home bound teenager, to get me to mow the lawn. However, to prove his point, he would get out and mow the lawn out of nothing but sheer old man spite. He would push his pasty white creaky Scottish old man body around the cliff faces and avoid the feral neighbourhood dogs and children who would terrorise him with barks and spittle flecked abuse. Having cut the grass to within an inch of its life - my Dads scorched earth approach to lawn mowing left it as barren and bereft as a marine drafted in for a 1/2lf cut - he would be close to exhaustion. Weeds would be piled into the corner like the end of Platoon. All that was left was barren desert and, since we were Scottish, absolutely no beauty was acceptable. At which point he would emerge into the kitchen and revive himself with self satisfaction and orange juice. I would then have the temerity to wake at, say, 8ight O'clock, and he would say this proved I was lazy since he had spent an entire morning pushing the Fisher Price lawnmower even without the aid of Sherpa’s or an oxygen mask. Had I been a sleepwalker I dare say he would have been out there at 3hree in the morning. He did whatever it took to win my Dad...

The most infuriating thing about my parents growing up was their approach to arguing. My Dad would often simply stop an argument to declare "he had won" and would argue illogical conversational avenues simply to get to victory. My Mum came from a family of 13teen, so she had to be sharp. Her tack would be to remember ideological points from an argument 5ive months previously and re-hash them like a skilled debater. She was 1nce told by 1ne of my aunties that 30ty was, like, ancient, and so, like, she waited a whopping 14teen years to send that aunty a card that was covered from brim to rim in the word ancient in a variety of fonts. Arguing with them on a unified front was an impossible task. Especially with my non confrontational teenage rebellion of not telling them anything that was going on in my life. They found me a frustrating curiosity - almost like a scruffy flatmate or lodger - at times rather than a son. I know that 1nce we had a huge argument about maths homework which threatened to become a UFC style knockout battle, simply because I wouldn't explain my marks to them. I can still see my Dads angry face as he put my copy of Sensible Soccer in another room where I couldn't get it. We got through it though - just. There was a clear and unambiguous apathy to me in my teenage years that they couldn't penetrate. I would collect TAZOs endlessly to a full set but not sit down and study for an exam. I can't even explain some things myself to be honest. Compared to the rest of Dads family, we've been perfectly normal, but there's a factual distance in my family. There are still so many things they don't know about me. I just never found talking to them easy - if it was about sport or music, easy. I'm just reticent to talk to them about anything important, perhaps lest I lose an argument or hear something I don't want to. They say they just want me to be happy - that's all they've ever said. Be happy. Today, I am happy though. I can at least trust my parents to be there - they've never, oh I don't know, pulled a gun on me - and I think that's as good as can be expected. Dads on the phone from the supermarket. He doesn't know where the pasta aisle is. Weird thing with my parents - terrible at directions, wonderful at remembering slights...my Dad still hasn't got over the electronic soccer debacle of 91...

Dad leaves the phone call midway salmon cutlet purchase. He hates the girl behind the counter at Woolworths - he thinks she's a snob. He might write a letter to management. He wrote a letter 1nce to a Scottish soccer journalist and got in return a 5ive page hand written reply. He thought it was patronising. I leave him to get home for an episode of Ironside. Would a normal son say Dad I've got this girl at work and...maybe, but it's too late, we're not a revelatory family. He goes home to make sausages bang on time and then have his customary nap. I haven't moved beyond the hammock all day except to read a book about how faux over optimistic attitudes have destroyed a generation of Americans. The kids next door are arguing about something. I think they were trying to see if a bike could do a stunt and jump over a glued together pile of fruit boxes or something. The ginger kid with the scrunchy face is the optimist who thinks he can turn into Kingston’s equivalent of Evil Knievel while his friend, a little ratfink kid with a little ratfink tail coming out of his head seems entirely to consist of a 1ne word vocab - that 1ne word being dunno. Every time the ginger kid tries to coax some sort of enthusiasm for their stunt based project - projecting future dreams of YouTube glory or, I don't know, a lolly snake from Mum - the ratfink kid simply says dunno. Eventually the ginger kid storms inside, turns on a retro Air Jordan sneaker and says to the ratfink kid you don't believe in anything, why don't you try harder - it's an insult that is lost on the ratfink kid who simply shrugs, lost for words. I guess sometimes it's easier to be the sceptic than the fighter. The ratfink kid picks up his bag and walks over the pool, looking at his own reflection in the mirror with a confused look on his little ratfink face. With an empathic loudness I never associate with him he says a different word to dunno. Dickhead. He just says it out loud, the object of the word unclear - his former friend, himself? Sometimes it's impossible to tell who you should really berate. Too young for emotional complexities he then cannonballs into the pool and proceeds to beat himself over the head with a pool noodle. Too old for emotional complexities, I let my mobile phone ring off the hook, as I fall deeply into blissful public holiday afternoon slumber...

I wake up craving a salmon cutlet of course, but the hassle to get 1ne, frankly, is far too difficult...

4 comments:

G said...

I don't think that I've ever reached that point with my parents.

I do know my mother did from time to time when I was younger, pull a major tantrum in order to get me to do something her way, but overall, things were relatively sane while growing up.

Unlike now.

Miles McClagan said...

Well it was just the way it was, typical teenage stuff I guess. Compared to being chased with a gun I got off lightly!

They are VERY competitive my parents, which never helps!

Megan said...

It took me a long time to figure out that the reason my father taught us to play games was so he would always have someone around to beat.

Other than that he was pretty all right though. At least he was to me. I can't speak for the other 3 of course.

Miles McClagan said...

As an only child, I was the only 1ne around for him to beat...

It explains why he taught me chess now I think about...