‘Risky’ is one of those words that lends itself to deep philosophical rumination. You know the sort of thing: nothing ventured, nothing gained said in a million different ways by a million different people, in relation to everything from love, money and climbing mountains to eating peanuts (which is risky for a whole lot more people than it used to be, probably because their immune systems are chewing their own ankles out of sheer boredom, all those nice tasty bugs in household grime having been whisked from under their noses by antibacterial sprays).
But I’m not in the mood for deep and meaningful today. Or most other days, if I’m honest. Deep and meaningful is the province of the young, and I am not young. I no longer get a buzz from agonising over the meaning of life, having decided a long time ago that – assuming there is one – it won’t be revealed until The Last Day, rather like exam questions on the day of the exams when you discover you should have been studying ham radio instead of Hamlet.
Meanwhile there are whales cavorting out in the bay, stopping off for a play with their calves on their way south for the summer. Not much risk in that, you might have thought. But one of the locals just happened to be passing in his boat yesterday when two humpback whales and a calf flashed past, pursued by a pod of orcas. (Video on you tube, if you want it.)
See? Not even whales are safe, these days, and all because… I don’t know, but I’m sure I’ll think of something. Daylight saving? Putin? The moon in the twenty-third house?
The day after I posted this, my eldest daughter turned up at my door with this from her garden.
She is the baby for whom my husband brought me gardenias.
Meanwhile, today is my eldest grandson’s 18th birthday.
This is big deal in Australia – it means he’s now officially an adult, can vote etc. I rang my second daughter (his mother, single mother of 3) to mark the occasion and congratulate her on the wonderful job she has done: he is caring, responsible, articulate – and a lot of fun.
She thanked me, and said ‘But it takes a village to raise a child, the family has been his village and I’m incredibly grateful to you all.’
These are the things for which I give thanks every day.
Not too much ascending going on at the moment, far as I can see. Except for those ascending their high horses to give the rest of us the what-for. Which doesn’t always turn out too well if Next Door’s high horse is equally lofty and their what-for is the opposite of yours. Quite likely to get messy, then, with us poor sods stuck on lowly hobby horses watching tomorrow’s pastures green churned up by high-horsey feet.
My hobby horse is called Toc – short for ‘Think occasionally’. I’m a big fan of thinking, particularly if you do it before you run off at the mouth. It can set up a useful internal dialogue.
Me: Next Door is stupid.
Voice of Reason: Why?
M: He disagrees with me.
VoR: He has reasons he thinks are valid
M: They can’t be
M: Because he disagrees with me
VoR: Now that is circular thinking, which automatically invalidates it
M: Yeah but…
VoR: So why don’t you ask what his reasons are? You might learn something.
M: Yeah well I s’pose…
But that assumes the Riders of High Horses are rational – a big assumption for which I have, as yet no supporting evidence. So maybe the inner dialogue goes like this.
RoHH: Next Door is stupid
RoHH: He disagrees with me
VoR: He has reasons he thinks are valid
ToHH: They can’t be
RoHH: Because I am always right, so shut up and go away.
VoR: Oh. OK.
Ah well. Maybe I’m just too old to get the subtle nuances.
There are many, many things I don’t understand in this life, but the one I find most puzzling at the moment is why some people feel the need to amass more money than they could possibly need or spend in several lifetimes – even to the extent of ruining other people’s lives in order to stuff those extra dollars into their own already-bulging coffers.
Is it that they have somehow come to believe they’re immortal? That they will never be called upon to succumb to age and death like the rest of us? That they must therefore squirrel away those extra nuts to cover several centuries of retirement? (and probably an eternity of plastic surgery.)
Or maybe they think they can take it with them, in spirit if not in folding cash. Maybe they think financial superiority on earth will somehow ensure a more comfortable hereafter, irrespective of the fact that they have trodden on faces to get it.
And meanwhile, they seem to find it imperative to live in those gilded mansions that always strike me as being so hideously inhospitable. And no, it isn’t sour grapes. Why on earth would I want to rattle around in more rooms than I could possibly use, with a state-of-the-art kitchen that I would certainly never need, and probably marble floors that would click and rattle with every step, and no doubt echo with the emptiness of it all.
I do know the answer, of course. It’s image (which would also preclude me from going barefoot on those marble floors, which is the only way I could cope with them.) I’ve racked my brains to find if I ever did care about image, and the answer is, ‘not that I can remember’. And perhaps that’s why I don’t understand the whole money thing.
I’d certainly enjoy having enough to set my kids up in comfort, of course. But would that be good for them? Guess I’ll never know.
Anyone who’s read this blog over the years will know that I regard my Alma Mater with deep and abiding hostility, and while I don’t hold it responsible for the screw-up I became (we are all ultimately responsible for ourselves) it certainly added its tuppence worth to a mess that took years of sorting.
But very few things are all bad. Having bible quotes at your mental fingertips is more useful than you might imagine, and I’ve yet to attend a funeral where I didn’t know the hymns. But perhaps best of all, we had gabardine cloaks instead of raincoats. They weren’t very efficient at keeping out the rain, but they were perfect as security blankets. They provided an unassailable excuse for hugging yourself (to keep the front edges closed), and once you put the hood up, you were – quite literally – cloaked in anonymity.
But the smell of wet gabardine can still catapult me into instant misery, as can the smell of cold damp dust – breakfast in the school dining room on a rainy day.
But there are good memories in smells as well, from other times and other places. Like this one.
I’ve never gone much on flowers –
the picked ones, I mean –
although I never said.
they sit there for a while smelling sweet
and then they die.
Birth and death, apologies and hospitals –
it’s all the same to them,
as if we need to know that everything is transitory:
joy, and hope, and even grief
fade like yesterday’s bouquet
til all that’s left is dry, sour-smelling stalk.
gardenias bloom, and you are there in my mind’s eye
shy with pride, the blossoms spilling from your hands
to wrap our child in the fragrance of future memory.
Human nature being what it is, it seems fair to assume that fraud has been alive and well and living among us since we first crawled out of the primordial slime.
And back in the days when times were hard enough for me to have the odd flash of understanding for those who robbed banks, I might even have come up with a flicker of sympathy for those perpetrating fraud to keep a roof over their children’s heads. (Perhaps it’s built into the national DNA from the first European settlers, sent here for stealing loaves of bread, shooting the Earl’s grouse etc.)
But times have changed and so has fraud. With all our cunning technological advances and the whizz-bang speed of modern communications, fraud has become the sport of financial kings whose children already have several roofs over their golden heads and enough food on their tables, metaphorically speaking, the feed the starving masses.
Yes, I know ‘petty’ fraud still flourishes as well, and I’m sure corporate fraud has been around for more years than anyone cares to acknowledge, but these days, it’s more likely to produce an eye-roll than a shriek of outrage, so commonplace has it become.
I find this infinitely sad: a rejection of ethics by those who have every reason to know better and no motivation except greed: those to whom much has been given, and who, so the bible tells us, should therefore realise that much is expected of them in return.
But then the bible was written before the days of offshore accounts.
The rough end of the pineapple
Is never fun. But hey,
These days you would litigate
To make it go away.