Tribute

26 02 2016

It’s late here, and I have rested and got up to eat when I probably should have fallen asleep for the night.

A thought has been popping up now and then, and I had considered writing about it, but had just been letting it go, as late as it is, I think I should type it out.

When David Bowie died, quite a few people rushed to pay tribute, most notably Nile Rodgers and Lady Gaga at the recent Grammy’s and Lorde with Bowie’s Band at The Brit Awards.

Some heaped scorn on one, and praised the other.

I have a story.

My Sister, Janice (No, it’s not pronounced like that), Was, unlike Me, The traditional sort.

I love my Sister, never “loved”, She’s not with us now, She died of ovarian cancer in 2010.

But she was so traditional, and patriotic, She was a bit like Margaret Hoolihan from M*A*S*H, Say the wrong thing and there’d be a scream, and on another level she was Mrs Bucket (Boo-kay) from Keeping up appearances.

She loved bagpipe music, and she kept her house spotless… totally spotless, and her eyes would travel around the house here, looking at the great piles of dust or dishes or what have you.

Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t totally hopeless, we laughed a lot and in many ways she was a lovely person, she just had her… things.

When she died, I was sitting behind her Grand Daughter at Jan’s funeral

 

 

who had asked to play a song for her, and when I heard it, I was a bit miffed. it was some teen pop idol from the noughties.

And while it wasn’t bad, it was totally unsuitable for my Sister, Speaking more about my Grand Niece.

It seemed like she hadn’t put much thought into it, but then she was only a kid, there was that.

But recently I wondered if they had listened to the song together. My Mother and I had listened to Pop music that I had bought into the home, she liked some of it, she loved a bit of it too.

The day before Mum died, she thanked me for bringing music into the home, and now I try to keep the music going, even if I don’t really feel like it, it helps me too.

Funerals are awkward things, we attend them with the best of intentions, but emotions rise from nowhere, and sometime cause regret.

There are the slips, the faux-pas, the feet sliding into mouths while some would like to slide theirs up the backsides of others.

It’s a delicate balancing act where everyone tells their side of the story, and it doesn’t always sit right with some.

I have come to a realisation which is to allow things to be at those moments, to be less critical, and to be patient with ourselves if our feelings lead us astray.

Everyone’s a critic when we hear music, watch a movie or read a book… and you might be silently critical of what you’re reading now, which is fine.

When a musician dies, other musicians will pay tribute by playing music, playing music is what musicians generally do best.

They know and understand that they are merely the imitator, and fervently wish they were in the audience watching the original artist or performing along side them.

They’re doing their best, and should they not live up to the standards of the original artist, we should not punish them for it.

Wolfie Rankin





Dates

11 02 2014

Perhaps this is a stereotypical viewpoint, but it is not a boys are better than girls thing either.

The idea that Women remember dates, and us blokes forget, true or false?

If true, then it has its uses, someone has to record things for others… Births, Weddings, Deaths.

What I find though, is that knowledge of the worst dates, especially by female friends, is not always for the best.

A happy day can be spoilt by simply looking at a calendar, and being reminded of heartbreak.

I have had quite enough death in my own family, and would rather not be reminded of it, I remember enough as it is and that hurts enough.

I remember Birthdays, but I don’t remember deaths,

I know My Dad languished in hospital, with cancer, and I know it was around ANZAC day, because I had shot video of planes going overhead, and of our Dog, Benny, and Mum making soup. Things from home which I thought might make him feel a little better, he died a few days later.

I recently lost Katie, who was my better half, who thought that she was my mate, and who is to argue with a girl, perhaps she was? It tore my heart out, we were always together, and now I was on my own, completely.

I remember that it was in September last year, but I have forbidden myself to remember the day, but I have papers to remind me, the same with Dad.

With Mum it was different, She died right on Halloween, an event she hated, as it wasn’t Australian.

So when Halloween rolls around, it’s in my face, and I really would prefer it wasn’t, it only serves to remind me of losing Mum, and that’s all it will ever do.

I’m just trying to avoid things that bring me down.

My heart is broken into pieces, what good will knowing the date someone died be to anyone?

I don’t need reminding, I remember my family well enough as it is.





The Irrits

13 02 2013

The other day Carol Duncan played a song which I had never heard before, It was “State of the art” by Gotye”.

And the song is about one of those Hammond organs which they tended to flog a lot on television in the 70s and 80s.

The video, on the other hand, is a weird sci-fi cartoon where this computerised instrument takes over the family and turns them into robots.

Ever since I heard the song, it has become an earworm which won’t go away, I think because it touched a nerve.

You see, in the 70s and 80s, I knew this family, I’ll call them the Irrits, because that’s what they gave me, sorry, but I couldn’t stand them, and because one of them may Google themselves one day I’ll change their first names too.

And this is why, firstly I had nothing in common with them, The Irrits had four kids who I mostly found annoying.

I liked my own company, but suddenly, and often over Christmas holidays in the Aussie Summer, they would arrive at our holiday house and park their caravan down the back, I’m not really sure how a family of five fitted into a caravan, but they managed it.

They had all the luxuries at home though, they had a great car, and a house, which only got larger as they moved onwards and upwards, with a pool and a spa… and the six car garage… but then they did run a taxi service, so that’s fair.

They had the biggest black and white TV that anyone could afford, and a superb quadraphonic Hi-Fi system.

The lead Woman of this Family, Let’s call her Shazza, liked to boast that when she bought the Hi-Fi, that the Man in the shop said “You must really love your music” to which she replied “Oh yes, We love Country and Western” and the poor Man was nearly sick, “You mean you’re going to play Country and Western… on THIS!?”

Are you beginning to see some faults? bare with me.

Oh, there was that organ too, the amazing organ which could make all these incredible sounds, but of course the lead Man, let’s call him Bazza, Couldn’t play a thing.

The house, as fancy as it was, was crammed with the worst kitch at the time, a clock which looks like a cat whose eyeballs and tail would move, little animal figurines, string pictures on the walls, paintings of sunsets.

My Dad couldn’t see the forest for the trees, Dad loved Bazza, thought he was the dogs bollocks, But Mum saw right through the lot, and so did I.

You know how they got all that money?

They barely ate, that’s right, the three teenage boys were thin as a rake, and when they visited us, Mum would put on a banquet, food was loaded onto the table and it would all be sucked up as if by a hoover minutes later.

I remember once when I was a little kid, they looked through every drawer in my bedroom to find money, I was naive then, I thought they were looking for toys or something to play with, but I don’t blame them, I suppose if I was that hungry, I may have taken a risk myself.

We visited them once, and I was offered a drink of cordial, Shazza had diluted it so much that it may as well have been tap water, in fact I said it out loud “This cordial takes like water” well did I get scolded for that, By Mum… it was something she raised a lot when she was angry with me over the years… but eventually I said “Mum, it was the truth wasn’t it?” and she never picked at me over it again.

Once when They visited us, Their daughter, the youngest, really needed a drink, Shazza told me that if I give her a drink of cordial, not to make it too strong, did I listen? pigs to that, it was probably the best drink of cordial the poor girl had ever had.

Another time when we were sitting in their kitchen, their daughter very gingerly asked Her Mum if she could have some BBQ Shapes, a snack biscuit which is popular here in Australia, and often a kid would just take the whole box and eat them all in front of the TV, I know I did.

Shazza took a babies plastic bowl, opened the box, took THREE out and put them in the bowl, and sent the poor kid away with that. My jaw almost hit the floor.

Their clothes were all moth eaten, their shoes were from the local tip or the op shop.

Mum witnessed Shazza washing the dishes once, barely a dribble of Embassy detergent in luke warm water.

When we went on holidays to Queensland (From Melbourne) Mum would pack a hamper full of sandwiches and there’d be a thermos of hot water for tea, coffee or cup-a-soup, there was always an assortment of cool drinks and chips and lollies. we would stop around six in the evening at a reasonably priced motel, to bed down.

When they went, they took no food, despite having five people in the car, they would exist on a few cans of coke and I remember Shazza saying that they pulled over to where a bloke was selling fruit, they bought an entire box of passionfruit  and ate those, nothing else for the whole journey… and they never stopped, a full 24hr drive, non-stop.

I don’t know how they existed like that, I know we didn’t have that much, although we had the extra house… We ate well and our clothing was always good… though I use that word lightly after a review of some of the photos from back then.

How do you step from the front door of a huge home wearing the thinnest, oldest and cheapest clothing?

I’m pleased to say that the rest of my family were lovely and I often enjoyed being with them, but the best thing about the Irrits was when they went home.

Wolfie!





Uncle Ern

11 09 2012

Sometimes when I write a blog post, I wonder if I’ve written the same story before, perhaps I have, but perhaps it’s also a kind of therapy, and I might get to say something I haven’t said before, so I’ll let it be.

This is about my Aunty Marion and her Husband, My Uncle Ern.

When I was a boy, Mum and Dad would drive out to Dandenong to visit My Aunt and Uncle now and then, it was a fair drive from Yarraville, so I didn’t get to see them all that often.

My Aunt was into everything, if there was a church do, or a social function, she was involved. There was often a photo of her in the paper of her doing something like that.

And My Aunt, as Mum used to say, “had been immunised with a gramophone needle” because she could rabbit on forever and nobody could get a word in, she would also go off on tangents and never arrive at the end of the story… a phone call from her would often last over two hours, but then Mum was at least partly to blame, they both got on really well.

My Uncle though, as I saw him at the time, was a grey old man who fumbled and mumbled and frequently spilt his tea on the table.

Uncle Ern had Parkinsons, and was very shaky.

He had once been in the Australian Army, and had been a Japanese prisoner of war, at Changi.

My Uncle was loved by my Aunt, My Mother (Sister to Ern) and My Sister, Jan.

But to be honest, He sort of worried me, I didn’t know how to deal with him, all he was, to me, was Uncle Ern, The Man who shook a lot… and I could never understand anything he said either.

Once I saw him weeping at the table as my Aunt told a long winded story, and then saw Mum and my Aunt fuss over him because he had “the tears again”.

Many years later, and I was almost grown up, and My Uncle had passed on.

A day came when we had visitors, it was My Uncles Son, Who is a Headmaster at a very nice Australian school, We had a chat out in the garden, just about random things.

He looked just like my Uncle, in every detail, but the shaking.

And you know what, He was brilliant, I really liked him… He was smart, jovial, quietly spoken… and it wasn’t until later that I realised that was probably who My Uncle was before he had Parkinsons.

This awful disease had robbed me of someone wonderful.

Please don’t get the impression that I was so callous as to not see the person, yes, I saw a person… but I never saw My Uncle, The disease had hidden him well away from me.

I’m unable to describe the feeling I’m left with, Bitterness? Perhaps.

I remember his tears, those weren’t just tears, they were the anxiety he felt when he spoke, but his mouth wouldn’t move right, so people just pretended to hear and would nod or smile, he couldn’t interact with the rest of us, I don’t think I could have coped with it… did he?

I’m sure I’ve told this story before, but it worries me deeply.
it’s not always in my mind, but now and then I get a reminder, and I think about it all over again.

There are others going through this, and I’d like you to consider the person underneath the shakes, you can’t always see them, but they’re there.

I am deeply bothered by people who willingly hold back stem cell treatments, by the nutters who raise a hand and say “Gods Law clearly says” oh for gods sake, fuck off, you people have no idea.

Let the doctors do their work, please.

Wolfie!





Life without kids.

13 08 2012

I just saw a tweet which said “Can you be happy without kids”.
It’s so strange, even now, when people are beginning to loosen up a bit about “lifestyle choices” that there is still a streak of conservatism where anyone who doesn’t bond with someone by the time they’re twenty five, and reproduce, is a loser.

Well I don’t fit that mould, and I know plenty of others don’t either.

Having kids is easy, mostly, but then supporting them for the next twenty or thirty years, is not.

I for one, never saw myself as being “a good husband” as I love my freedom far too much.

I don’t like babies, I don’t like anything to do with babies… unless they’re a baby animal, of the type which isn’t human.

Being a night person, I didn’t want to wake up at the crack of dawn to get the kids off to school each day, and I didn’t want to pour money into looking after them… school books, bedding, lighting, a computer, food, water… endless resources which I’d rather spend on myself and my dog and cat.

Nor did I want to worry about where they were at nights when they came into their teens.

This is my life, and it’s not perfect, but it’s ok, Having kids would not make it better, nor would having a partner make it better either.

There are lots of people out there who have decided not to have kids, in favour of living out their lives.

Yes there have been a few times when I’ve thought about it, but I’m a practical person, and when I think of all the costs, the blood, sweat and tears, which I’d need to pump into it, well no.

When I walk out of the supermarket after being exposed to screaming kids, I’m thankful they’re not mine.

Wolfie!





Under the bonnet

1 05 2012

Lately life has been very slow for me.

I’ve been on my own, except for Katie and Vicky of course, since Mum died in 2006, and although I never saw much of my Sister, I suppose things got a bit worse since she died in 2010.

In some ways things appear to have stopped, I spend a lot of my time home, and online. It’s true that I am a home body and enjoy my quiet time, and had it not been for the internet then I would have found something else to do on my own.

A strange thought occurred to me, I feel as though I have pulled the car off the side of the road and have decided to open the bonnet and see what makes things, in my life, tick.

And I’ve met a wonderful collection of people who were somehow always there, but just sort of unreachable.

They made things work in my life, they powered it in all sorts of ways.

I feel somewhat annoyed that it took this long to find them, but of course the ability wasn’t there.

Wolfie!





Time for soup.

29 04 2012

It’s getting colder in Melbourne as winter draws closer, and the tummy of the average domesticated Werewolf begins to crave his Mothers soup, which is a standard in our family.

It’s a cheap and filling meal and wonderful for anyone who may be on a tight budget.

The other great thing is that everything you add to it, is to taste, that is, you can add or leave out whatever you like and the recipe shouldn’t go wrong… although I have a story about that.

Firstly, find the largest pot you have, I have a pressure cooker pot… the ring broke on the lid so I can’t pressure cook it (it takes a lot less time if you can) but I can simmer it just the same.

Add a combination of water and stock, probably less stock than water, and some salt… no more than a flat teaspoon. (If you don’t have stock then you can just use water, it’s all we used for years and the soup was fine… the reason I use stock is that I tend to leave an ingredient out)

(about 4 litres of liquid)

And you’ll need soup mix, this is a basic requirement for this soup, you must have this, You use about half a pack (a pack which fits nicely in two hands)

Please don’t panic about me not mentioning how much *exactly* should be used, as none of that matters, you will get used to how much you need and vary the ingredients yourself.

Put the heat on and simmer it, when it’s bubbling it should be a lazy sort of bubbling, not too fast! just barely bubbling, ok?

Now choose about three of the following, at least, or the lot… play with it, experiment, you can’t really go wrong… kind of… 😉 about a cup of each should do.

Potato, Carrot, Parsnip, Onion, Peas, Green Beans, Corn, Celery, Parsley, Leek, Bok Choy…

Pasta is ok too.

Now Mum always used a lamb shank, and what we always did was ate the soup, and the family dog would get the shank (Although Dad often had his eyes on it), But I tend to feel that sometimes a shank has hardly any taste, and it adds fat too the soup, so why bother adding it?  Therefore I have taken to using stock, which I buy in a packet from the supermarket… I also don’t like Onion much, and find that there’s enough flavour in the stock to skip the onion too.

I have taken to using broccolini too, which is something Mum never used (she hated corn too) but be careful when using broccoli from the garden, all I wish to say is inspect it, carefully… and wash it like mad.

Put a lid on (make sure the pot cannot be grabbed by a toddler) and let it bubble for two hours or so, at least until the soup mix is tender.

If it’s going well then the soup should develop a thickened look to the liquid.

On a cold night it’s fine to keep the soup on the stove overnight, and re-heat the next day for lunch or tea… You may find that it has turned to jelly overnight, it might spook some of you soup virgins, but all that it means is that everything has gone perfectly right… when you heat it, it will turn back into liquid.

If you still have some soup left, you can put it in the fridge, but don’t keep it much more than two days. or you could decide to freeze it, and microwave portions of it over the next week or so.

Or you may find that you eat it all in two nights, a family of three can do that fairly easily.

Now I did say that you can’t ruin the soup, However here’s My Sisters unfortunate story.

My Sister, Janice (Jan-eece), Could never make the soup taste like Mums, and she never understood why. While hers was perfectly edible, it always had a strange taste which was ok, but wasn’t “right”.

One day, many years ago, (70’s/80’s) She stood next to Mum and made the soup and it still turned out wrong.

Now the sad part.

I was talking to Jan on the phone one day, she had cancer, this was just a few years ago, and she didn’t have long to live.

And we were discussing Mums soup.

“I do everything Mum does and I still can’t get it right” She said (I’d heard this many times over the years) and then I mentioned that I make the soup. “I bet you can’t make it like Mum does” She said… “I do, it’s exactly like Mums”.

“It can’t be” She replied

“Well it is” I said.

“Well what do you add?…. Peas?” “Yes”

“Carrots” “Yes”

and the list went on, “Salt and Pepper?”…. “Salt” I said.

“Mum always used salt and pepper” She said.

“No Jan, Mum only ever used salt, and so do I”

It had become apparent what had happened, Jan had thought that salt and pepper simply went together and Mum hadn’t observed the error, or thought that a bit of pepper couldn’t hurt.

We were both stumped, after all those years we had found the tiny error which caused such a huge difference in flavour.

So remember… no pepper, unless of course you find that you like the flavour.

And one final thing, when you serve the soup, shake a little worcestershire sauce into it, it just adds a bit of kick.

Wolfie.

Note:

* Give the dog a bowl of (cooled) soup, it will feed them too.

* If you use a shank, remove it *before* allowing the soup to cool, and wrap it up and put it into the fridge or give it to the dog, don’t allow the soup to cool with the shank in it.

* If you’ve used a shank, fat will form on the top as the soup goes cold, and you can easily lift this off, which I would advise.

A warming winter soup.