Monday, May 03, 2010


My grandmother was a very proper woman.

That didn't mean she refused to get her hands dirty or came from an upper crust background; on the contrary. She grew up in the market gardens of Walkerville with two Scottish parents who were illiterate, helping them cart their vegetables into the Central Market to sell. After marrying my grandfather she helped him run their grocery store, bearing three children and nursing him through an almost-deadly bout of Scarlet Fever. Socks were darned, children's coats were made from worn-out grown ups' clothing and gardens were seriously tended to as the main source of food for the family.

She was a devoted Methodist and firmly against the drink or pretty well anyone who took one.

For me, however, all this was mostly found years later, because I was only a child when she died. Inexplicably, one word she used often, to describe time-wasting and procrastination, was 'fiddle-arseing' which, on reflection years later, sounds decidedly non-Methodist to me.

And thus, in homage to her unintentionally robust description, I find myself becoming a World Champion Fiddle Arser.

Take this morning, for instance. I had three work-related tasks on my scrawled down 'To Do' list:

1) Ring the AMA media person to speak to an emergency doctor for a careers article
2) Contact the owner of Oranges and Lemons for an article on employing asylum seekers
3) Write first draft of education article for The Age and email to interviewee for them to check that facts, tone and quotes are all OK.

Nothing hard, frightening or intimidating to do; all stuff I relish.

And yet......... What did I do?

Complete a run on the treadmill. The thrice-weekly standard, chocolate-flab-defeating 8 km.

Sit outside in the autumn sunshine cooling down. This is fair enough because you can't just rush into a hot shower with sweat dripping from your eyebrows, but I linger a little longer, stroking Milly's ears and pulling up a couple of stray weeds.

Drink some water and eat a left-over muffin, before having a shower. Not my usual four-minute special, but a long and hot one in which all parts of overgrowth are shaved. When dry, my toenail polish is removed, heels scraped and nails trimmed.

A bit of jokey muscle-flexing in front of the mirror occurs (yes fellas, women do it too although I often suck in my gut and do a 'Before' and 'After' imitation of a weight loss advertisement to mix things up a little) before noticing my evil single chin hair has arisen. Plucking, moisturising and hairstyling then occurs. More self-amusement arises when I brush my hair forward and think I look like a 41 year old Justin Beiber.

Take out the buckets of water from the bath/bottom of shower and sloosh onto the pencil pines. Accidentally trudge in some mud and bark chips which need to be cleaned up. Do this, and again try my Justin Beiber hairstyle. Yep, still utterly hilarious.

Walk into Sapphire's room to put her $5 weekly pocket money on her desk. Can't resist adding an extra dot point to her noticeboard.

Put on a load of washing and place the hose in the laundry trough. Bucket the draining load onto the Manchurian pear trees, lavender bushes and scraps of still-living lawn. Notice several fresh dog turds in the grass, which are picked up using two scented nappy bags.

Make a cup of coffee. Pack the dishwasher. Write 'dishwashing powder' on the shopping list.

Photograph two blocks of chocolate at various angles. Flash and no flash, close up and slow shutter. Overhead light and shadow. Backside and front side. Whole and broken.

Eat chocolate. Jot down some notes about it.

Hang out the washing. Pat the rabbit. Kiss the dog. Invite the dog to come and join me in the study for some work.

Drink now-tepid coffee. Download the chocolate photos. Eat the remaining chocolate. Read emails. Laugh at this YouTube video about leadership. Plug in the iPod for re-charging. Read favourite blogs.

Go to the loo and afterwards decide to empty the bathroom bin into the kitchen bin. Then notice that the kitchen bin is overflowing so badly that coffee grounds have mated with squashed orange skins and are starting to ominously fizz up through the swing flap. Take bag out to the garbage bin and sort out the recycling at the same time.

Make my bed.

Sit back at the computer. Pat Milly. Pick my nails.

Get up and eat a pear.

Sit back at my desk and notice that Milly's nose is now touching the floor. Enjoy watching her as she yelps in her sleep (chasing cats? finally catching the rat that runs along the top of the fence? grandstanding at her victory in being allowed to sleep on the leather sofa?). Take a photo.

Drag attention back to the computer screen. See a new email from an acquaintance who works as a photographer but is studying creative writing. He wants me to answer a few questions for his essay on people who work from home.

I choose this question to answer first: 'How do you ensure that you're not distracted by things around you' and start writing. Complete the question in time for lunch.


franzy said...

* Write a blog about the whole experience.

franzy said...

Actually, looking at two lists ('To Do' and 'Did'), you definitely got MORE achieved with the latter.
Speaking from a quantitative perspective, you're on top!

Kath Lockett said...

I might do Franzy, I might do.... it's just that there's the latest copy of The Big Issue to read; Sapphire and her mate Phoebe to take to tennis; a call to return to a fellow Flemingtonian about doing a west-Flemington mock heritage walk together tomorrow and a rabbit to put on the lawn for his daily play....

......if only I got PAID for that stuff!

drb said...

what was your answer to the question? actually, that will be an excellent topic for The Age Career column! So, don't tell me here. I'll wait for the paid version.

Pandora Behr said...

I'm sitting here with a 50 page document to finish by Friday - I'm fiddle arsing about too.
One of the great joys of being a writer.

How many jobs allow you to do whis for a living>

River said...

You had a 'me' day. Well done!
Do the list tomorrow, it will still be there.
I hate tepid coffee.

River said...

P.S. My mum said fiddle-arseing a lot too. she'd tell us kids to stop fiddle-arseing around and get our work done. In the half hour we spent complaining we could have finished that five minute job....

Benjamin Solah said...

Story of my life. It's amazing how many things you find need doing when you're meant to be doing something else.

If Margo wants me to clean the house, she just needs to leave me to one of those writing sessions. And presto, whole house clean and maybe a paragraph if I'm lucky.

Lorna Lilo said...

If I didn't fiddle arse around so much I'd be on my second husband by now.

Elisabeth said...

And I thought I was a procrastinator, no, a 'fiddle arser', if such an expression exists.

What a joyous post. You don't have time to write, you're too busy living.

The Plastic Mancunian said...

G'Day Kath,

So funny and defintiely tells the story of my battle with "fiddle-arsing".

And I love the Leadership video too.

Must dash - I have a blog post to write - right after doing some stuff (that doesn't really need doing).




nuttynoton said...

You know when yopu have to0 do those jobs you dont really want to you find others that can be boring but are so much more satisfying than the ones you hate as my dad would have said

Kath Lockett said...

Still fiddle-arsing today too, as it happens. Sapphire is home sick from school today, so we've trolled through a few episodes of 'Frasier' on DVD, worked on her writing workshop story together (whilst cuddling the rabbit of course), had some homemade vege soup and now I'm reading emails and she's reading in her room.

A pretty nice way to spend Tuesday actually.

JahTeh said...

This one of my life triumphs.
I can sit in the midst of household detritus and string pearls because they're pretty not like housework.

Rowe said...

Dame Edna would be proud of your granma's hairpiece, Kath. Fiddle-arseing? That is just wrong, like something you'd hear (or see) on South Park. Milly looks like she's had a nite on the tiles and Sapph said you are an awesome mum :)

Baino said...

Doesn't sound to fidle arsey to me . .sounds like a typical Saturday at mine if you add the vacuuming, cleaning the bathrooms etc. Although I've yet to put in my tax return!

Kath Lockett said...

I realised that I didn't bring to your attention that sleeping Milly still has remnants of 'Icy Pink' polish on her nails.

Er, *blushblush* that was from another procrastination session!

Nicole said...

I love that your then took the time to write it all down!