Saturday, May 22, 2010

Five Day Grind

Recent blogging buddy* Elisabeth commented - kindly I hope - that this blog makes the mundane sound interesting. I then read Radge's blog about taking the week off and finding himself not kicking up his still-young-and-single-and-carefree heels up in his local Irish pub but idly browsing kitchenware shops, feeling utterly unstressed and strangely content, and thought, 'Yep, I'm going to steal that idea and write about my own mundane week.'

Firstly, my diary. It's an RSPCA charity one, tiny in size to carry in a bag and covered in almost illegible kilometrico blue pen scrawls. This means that whenever something is changed, or cancelled or rescheduled, I have to get the liquid paper out and remove the original entry. 'No biggie', you're probably thinking, (along with 'mundane'? How about eye-droopingly snooze inducing?) but amendments inevitably happen more than once and the diary starts to resemble Queen Elizabeth the First's face after 50 years of rule, perhaps a bath a year and a daily application of lead-based foundantion.

Like George Costanza's wallet, I can barely shut the bloody thing without re-straining my neck and causing flecks of displaced paint to fly out the sides. So, let's start with Monday, shall we?

After going for my 8 km run, seeing Sapphire off to school and packing the dishwasher I meet up with Ros to accompany her on the final part of Flemington not yet scoped for our council-funded Heritage walk. We're both a bit cautious with each other as I'm desperate to seek forgiveness for my stupid remark several meetings ago which basically disparaged her part of our lovely suburb when I was unable to find anything of interest that would persuade a person of sound mind and body to venture along the traffic-choked Racecourse Road, past Centrelink and the graffitied shopfronts just to stare at a stable.

She quite rightly took offence and told me - rather politely, admittedly - that I was ignorant, insulting and decidedly lacking in the special brain fluid stuff that connects the synapses. Straight after the meeting, I rushed over to apologise profusely and we made a date to go for a walk around her neck of the woods together.

And I'm so glad we did so. We saw this fig tree, growing on the stone front of the three cottages named after Melbourne Cup winners and marvelled at its tenacity:

I met her lovely husband, her talented architecture-student daughter and their two adopted Jack Russell terriers. The final two were the hardest to win over and followed behind me suspiciously as their Alpha Female chose to be with me, the weird stranger, in an area that was normally theirs to sniff and examine. Eventually they decided that my company was no longer repellent and rewarded me with no barking, happily wagging tails and a tentative lick on the hand.

Four hours later I limped home with nearly 200 photos, hopefully a new friend and a big smile on my fat face.

Tuesday found me chatting with a businesswoman in another part of the country, laughing as we realised how much we had in common and wondering just how we could work together without ever meeting. Time will tell, but my fingers are crossed.

This is also the day I finish a profile article on a Drama and English teacher for The Age and congratulate myself on squeezing a high-achieving and busy life story into 730 words;

Nervously submit an invoice to a largish chocolate company, hoping they don't scoff at my hourly rate and wishing that, at 41-and-a-half and three years into freelance writing, I'd stop feeling like a prostitute;

Edit ten out of the eighteen young writers' stories that they are now emailing me during the week as time runs out and their novels are in progress. I read about death, snakes, medieval weaponry, aliens, dancing, bullies, tigers, ticking clocks, loneliness and blue blobs;

Arrange, photograph and sample three different blocks of Swiss chocolate that, quite frankly, is so delicious I struggle to write about it in any knowledgeable or informative way; and

...write my
blog about Tim Roth, our new tree, telling lies and procrastinating.

morning commences with what sounds like Darth Vader's breathing apparatus being amplified throughout the neighbourhood until Sapphire runs outside and notices two hot air balloons floating nearby, blowing gas.

Half an hour later, I end up impersonating that sound as I puff, wheeze - and occasionally clamber off to cough up a phlegm oyster into a tissue - my way on the treadmill. The cold/lurgy/chest infestation thingie that Sapphire brought home from school has all three Locketts honking, sneezing, hacking and ahem-ing like a band of heavy smoking percussionists.

My medley is clearly so distressing that our neighbour, Stuart, calls out over the fence when I lean up against the shed door, sweating and exhausted, grateful to be finished. "Are you OK over there, Kath? I don't start work until lunch time if you need help." He's an emergency doctor, so I take this as my cue to gasp out that I'm fine but will take it easy for the rest of the day.

Therefore, I spend the rest of day before school pick-up editing the 200 heritage walk photos, writing up some previous chocolate reviews, phoning a friend in Adelaide before she had to hastily hang up and wipe the Deep Heat creme her three year old had found and smeared on his eyebrows, email in an
ASRC article, hang up a few loads of washing and do the fortnight's ironing.

Amy comes over for a cup of tea in the afternoon and reminds me again that some of us work-from-home folk can still look utterly gorgeous whilst doing so. She's a really genuine, intelligent and kind person, yet I feel like Quasimodo alongside her.

is power walking morning. Milly hates this because it means that I'm out in the shed
for much longer on the stupid, noisy, nose-dragging contraption and not inside in the warmth, which is where she'd like to be. Every few minutes she'll wander in, give me a look of boredom and disappointment (yes, dogs can conjure up that in a glance), sit down for a few seconds and then wander out, hoping to find some stray bunny butt beans near Skipper's hutch.

Later I do the weekly shop, get Love Chunks' watch fixed, bank Sapphire's pocket money (ie when her money box is full) and slightly impress the teller by handing it over properly bagged and counted, fill up the car with petrol at the place that gave us contaminated stuff at Christmas time and hope that everything's all fine now because I just can't be shagged finding a spot anywhere else and post some letters.

Lunch is a rushed plate of saladas and an apple because the
Writing Workshop kids want to come in an hour earlier - ie during their lunch time - to start their writing. I arrive, expecting maybe only a couple to remember, but a dozen are waiting at the door. It's the serious end of term now, and I know all their names, the exact spots they're at in their stories and how far I can push the 'tell me MORE about how you killed him' encouragements.

They, in turn, are even referring to me as their 'editor' and love the lolly snakes and fantales I bring in to keep their energy levels and enthusiasm up for such a long session. I win even more respect by being able to answer every single 'Who am I?' question they read off their fantale wrappers because they're too young yet to realise that a brain filled with pop culture has less space for more useful information. Two hours later, Sapphire and I walk home and she chatters away enthusiastically about her planned plot twists. I realise, as I listen, that I'm starting to enjoy this workshop and, hey, even be looking forward to it.

Finally, Friday. My third running session is still peppered with enough coughs and snorts to prevent Milly from bothering to visit me, but I'm glad I did. I'm sad enough to write in my diary - and highlight in fluoro orange pen - what runs and walks I do for the week and if there's five entered, life is grand. Plus, this run occurs at 6.30 and not 8.30 am because I'm being interviewed then for a magazine.

It's not the most prestigious magazine in history but it ain't Zoo weekly either. The journo chats to me about the Flemington Litter Ninja project and says that her publication is going to buy one of the photos taken by my local paper but would I be so kind as to email her another, say, one of me actually picking up some rubbish? Oh and she'll send me a contract that I'll need to sign, stipulating that I will not sell my story to any of their competitor magazines. Whew, the things you need to go through for three hundred dollars.....

Change the sheets on the bed, scrub out the shower (whilst in it and hope that there's never a day when the local perve decides to put a hidden camera in the house), clean the toilet, hang out some washing and sort out the wheelie bins.

Spend the afternoon deciding whether to submit the rough-as-guts first two chapters of anti-Angela's Ashes (ie happy) memoir, current working title, 'Stink Pot,' to a publisher holding a mentoring competition. Get lost in sorting out old-but-relevant blog posts, hand-written notes, family photos and verbal embroidery (ie writing more) and forget to do so.

My watch has an alarm that pings at 3:18pm. Milly leaps out of her beanbag (not a bad effort for a dog who was in deep REM sleep only a second ago and negotiating a moveable soft bed with two arthritic back legs), nudges my chair and readies herself for a walk. I smile and log off. This is the highlight of both of our days - seeing Sapphire at the school gate.

* if you comment, you're a blog buddy in my view.
** yes, Love Chunks made the expected jokes about the balloons being a hell of a lot quieter than anything I'm capable of doing under the doona.


Baino said...

Not mundane at all but I wouldn't snort at $300 for a mazagine interview! Sheesh, that's big bickies where I come from! I'm a bit tired now after reading about all that running . .need a little lie down and a Bex.

Benjamin Solah said...

I really like hearing about the writing workshop. It does sound like a lot of fun.

River said...

Whew! I'm exhausted just reading about your week. Especially the runs. I couldn't run to save my life. A four step jog to catch the green walk signal has me puffing and hoping I haven't thrown my back out. Walking, well strolling really, is much more my speed.
It sounds like the writing workshop has really taken off, perhaps it could become a semi permanent thing for you and the kids. With a different set of kids every year.
I love how Milly has Sapphire all tied up in that photo. The fig tree clinging to that building is amazing. Like those olive trees and pines that grow off the sides of cliffs somewhere that I can't remember.

Pandora Behr said...

Seems you and have very similar yet very different diaries Kath. But when do you sit down and do nothing? This is the question I am forever asking myself. Great entry, as always.

Radge said...

You've beaten me at own my game. My own blog was based around two hours of activity in a mess of inertia, I need to know where you get your energy? Great stuff.

Kath Lockett said...

Thanks Baino - I wasn't snorting either. The contract states that I can't sell my story (or photos) to any other publication a week before, during or after the magazine's publishing date. Fine by me!

Thanks Benjamin. The kids are getting into it now and as I now know all their names, writing styles and the humour they respond to, I'm enjoying it. A lot - and I never thought I'd end up saying that.

River, I reckon if there's a next time I'll be asking (politely, because I still hate submitting invoices) for some kind of payment because the emails and out-of-session editing of their work is easily two days' work a week. Unpaid. I'm finding that Work From Home can often mean - Do Heaps Of Extra Work For Free.

Pandora, I sit down and do nothing straight after the dishwasher is loaded, the benches are wiped down and the glass of wine is in my hand. I was too embarrassed to write that four out of five of those nights were spent in front of the telly, glued to Masterchef, Big Bang Theory, Spicks and Specks and some old Frasier episodes.

Radge, you're bloody kind. To read 'great stuff' from you has me grinning like a loon.

Elisabeth said...

I once wrote a piece which I called A day in the life of...

It was fun to write. My kids were littler then, around Sappho's age, and I had a sense afterwards that I had after all achieved a great deal in that one day, but yours here is a week's worth and it sounds anything but ordinary.

I'm with Baino in the exhaustion - all that running. I'm always in a hurry but I rarely run, certainly not for exercise. I hate exercise.

I am amazed at how you pack so much into your life and still have time for long conversations.

I don't seem to converse much anymore, except on line like this.

Blogging is a trap, but you make it seem effortless and on top of that you write all this other stuff as well. I salute you, Kath.

Thanks for the mention, too. I gather it's part of blog etiquette to acknowledge these things.

And as for your ability to make the ordinary interesting, I think it lies in the quality of your writing.

You are a masterful writer, as if I need to tell you. I find reading your writing is like one of those wonderful whirlwind tours that you travel on and simply don't want to stop.

Thanks, Kath.

Nuttynoton said...

AS usual you seem to make the mundane seem interesting, I often think after my 11 hour days away from home, then help with tea homework etc. How it would be relaxing to just do what you want and amble around but life is not like that and I would not want it to be it would be boring. As many retired people tell me how they managed to fit in work before they retired they never know. Keep up the entertainment!

GS said...

I felt exhausted just reading this. You are a chocolate powered wonder woman :)