A Reflection on the Relentlessness of Time.

I have been contemplating Shakespeare’s 65th sonnet this weekend:

Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,
But sad mortality o’ersways their power,
How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
Whose action is no stronger than a flower?
O how shall summer’s honey breath hold out
Against the wrackful siege of batt’ring days,
When rocks impregnable are not so stout,
Nor gates of steel so strong, but Time decays?
O fearful meditation! Where, alack,
Shall Time’s best jewel from Time’s chest lie hid?
Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back?
Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid?
	O none, unless this miracle have might,
	That in black ink my love may still shine bright.

                                           William Shakespeare, Sonnet 65
		 

A year ago today, I was sitting beside my father in the last days of his life. Three days later, it was my beloved cousin and friend Helen whose hand I was holding as she, too, fell prey to time and mortality.

Saying my final farewells to them both in the space of five days was certainly a “wrackful siege of batt’ring days”. I wrote poetry and reflections to both express and process my thoughts and feelings. I wanted people to know how I felt. I wanted people to understand who both these jewels were and why they would always matter, despite their having been being reclaimed from  this life.

I learned more about grief, and I learned more about letting go. I had no choice, because there is no human hand or will strong enough to hold back the relentless march of time and mortality.

This sonnet expresses a reality of life: nothing can withstand the relentless power of time.  Erosion, degradation, and decay overwhelm not only the frail, but also the mighty. True, rocks and brass may outlast flowers and flesh, but they too will yield eventually.

It is a poem of contemplation and resignation, but also one of defiance: time may be relentless, and there may be no way to “hold his swift foot back”, but one who is immortalised or memorialised in ink lives on, albeit in a different way. We can continue to remember and honour them, and to express our love for them.  Our memories and mementos remain long after those who have fallen prey to time and mortality.

In Shakespeare’s time, they had fewer options for immortalising those who passed away than we do. They had eulogies and poetry – the black ink  in which “my love may still shine bright”. They could create drawings and paintings. Now, in addition to those, we have photographs, video, and voice recordings.

Poetry and eulogies still touch our souls just as powerfully, though— whether written in the 21st century or the 16th, our written tributes and reflections endure and move us still.

Some of my own black ink, in which my love shines bright:
Old Man written for my father
Farewell, My Friend written for Helen

Hibernation.

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Now really is the winter of my discontent.

I know I’m misquoting – in Richard III’s famous soliloquy, Richard continues the line to say that the winter of the Plantagenets’ discontent is made glorious by the success of the Yorks in succeeding to the English throne and achieving prosperity for England. The civil conflicts experienced in the Wars of the Roses are over, and the turmoil of decades of striving for supremacy has subsided into feasting and celebration. Richard amd his family are in a pretty good place.

I, on the other hand, am not. I’m exhausted, I’m not sleeping, my pain levels are skyrocketing… and the hits just keep coming.

Many of the pressures and expectations are beyond my control, and because it doesn’t look as though things are going to back off anytime soon, I find myself having to give up something I love doing.

Consequently, I’ve made a really hard but necessary decision: I’ve decided to put my Book Squirrel in his nest and let him hibernate for a while. I will put off making a permanent decision about the until the end of the year, when I hope to be able to get some rest and some perspective.

I have spent five and a half years building up that particular blog, dedicated to Indie books and Indie authors, and working hard to develop a following. Now, it has all just stopped.
It hurts. It feels unfair.
Even so, giving the squirrel a rest is my own choice.

I am discontented, without a doubt.

Contrary to apparent popular perceptions, I can’t actually do everything, and I don’t have unlimited time or energy. Something has to give or else I’m going to break, and although it makes me incredibly sad, right now it’s one less thing for me to think about and feel guilty about neglecting.

I am calling it a hibernation for Book Squirrel.

Interestingly, the word hibernation comes from the Latin word hibernationem, which referred to the Roman army’s practice of passing the winter in a specific location or quarters. Interestingly, it was a military word long before it became a zoological one.

It was not until the 1660s that various plants and insects’ different ways of slowing down or suspension of growth during the winter months was called hibernation. Think of a naked deciduous tree, having cast off its leaves in autumn, or a bulb waiting underground for spring, when it would burst forth in furious growth and then bloom to show that winter had come to an end. It was later still— in the 1780s— that the term was used to refer to the way some animals go dormant or sleep through winter, which is the sense in which we most frequently use the word now.

It seems fitting, then, to respond to a winter of discontent with a squirrel’s hibernation.

I do plan to keep blogging here and on Shakespeare Nerd, so those of you who never followed Book Squirrel’s blog dedicated to Indie books and Indie authors will probably not perceive much difference.

To those of you who have come to love the Squirrel and his bookish enthusiasm: I’m sorry. I tried.

To my beloved Book Squirrel: I really am sorry. I’ll miss you. Bye for now.

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Sources:

Etymonline
Macquarie Dictionary

Anti.

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Yesterday I read a book that featured some excellent characters and a most intriguing plot. One of the reasons the story worked so well was because, in a wicked twist revealed toward the end of the book, one of those characters who had appeared throughout the story as an heroic figure turned out to be both an antihero and an antagonist, albeit unwillingly.  

An antihero is a character who appears to be a champion of the cause but lacks the usual heroic qualities one might expect, such as bravery or honesty. An antagonist works against the hero or protagonist and their efforts to resolve the conflicts and complications of the plot. 

Interestingly, antihero and antagonist both have roots in the same word element: anti

To be anti-something is to oppose it in belief, thought and/or action. 

The prefix anti- is very old, dating back to Ancient Greek and, even before that, Sanskrit and Proto-Indo-European. It means against, opposed to, or opposite of. It can also mean in front of or before.

From the Greek, it made its way into Latin, and thence into Italian, Spanish, English and French. That makes it a prefix that is very widely understood around the world, and one that is attached to many, many words to add a sense of opposition or contrast. 

Thus, although anti-masker is a quite recent term and antichrist is a designation as old as the Gospel itself, we understand both equally well because of the simple clarity and strength of the anti-  prefix. 

Sources: 
Etymonline
Macquarie Dictionary

Hurly-Burly

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This morning I made a to-do list in addition to the one I live by from day to day. The intent of this list is inherent in its title: When the Hurly-Burly’s Done

That is a quote from the opening scene of Macbeth, where the Wyrd Sisters chant in the midst of thunder and lightning:

1st WITCH.

When shall we three meet again?

In thunder, lightning, or in rain?

2nd WITCH.

When the hurly-burly’s done,

When the battle’s lost and won.

3rd WITCH.

That will be ere the set of sun.

In the context of war, treachery, the death of a king and the consequent struggles of a nation, it means they will get together again when the mayhem is over. Given their manipulation of Macbeth himself, it’s mayhem they are actively involved and interested in.

While I am not in any way playing with anyone’s life or ambitions, nor the future of the country, there is plenty of hurly-burly in my life at this point in time .

Hurly-burly or hurlyburly is a word from the early 1500s which means commotion or tumult, which grew out of the  phrase hurling and burling which was used as early as the 1300s. Hurling time was the name applied by chroniclers of the time to the period of tumult and commotion around the Peasants’ Revolt against the young Richard II, led by Wat Tyler in 1381.

It is a wonderfully expressive word that is quite evocative of  the chaos and tumult of its meaning, particularly when delivered with a Scottish accent as it might well be spoken in Macbeth.

Juggling a show, a job, a couple of blogs and a personal life takes some coordination and requires self-care as well as caring for the needs of those around me. It’s busy and demanding, and it definitely feels like hurly-burly to me. Consequently, there are some things that will simply have to wait until after the hurly-burly’s done. The new list should help me ensure they aren’t forgotten.

Sources:

Etymonline.

Middle English Compendium

William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Applause.

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The weekend just gone was super busy but highly rewarding: Camperdown Theatre Company returned to the stage after the enforced shut downs and restrictions of Covid, and launched its 2021 season of Mystery At Shady Acres. It’s a fun whodunnit show with plenty of audience interaction as guests try to solve the mystery presented in the first act.

It was wonderful to be back in the theatre with an audience, and to see the hard work of the past few months come to fruition. Even better was the enthusiasm of the audience: tickets sold out early, people arrived with excitement on their faces, and there was a buzz of anticipation in the theatre as the time drew near for the show to start.

The audiences on both Friday and Saturday nights were very responsive and enthusiastic in their applause. Many made very positive comments after the show, and the actors and directors finished the night feeling very positive and enormously encouraged as a result.

Applause is a noun that came into English in the early 1400s from the Latin word applausus, which means commendation or praise.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, English folk used the word  applausible to refer to anything worthy of praise or applause. That word fell out of favour, though, and now we might use the term praiseworthy or commendable instead.

Within a century of applause entering the English language, applaud appeared as its verb form, meaning to express approval or to praise. This came from the Latin verb applaudere, meaning to clap the hands inaffirmation or agreement, to approve by clapping hands. This word was a combination of ad (to) and plaudere  (to clap). 

The use of applaud to mean clap one’s hands dates back to the 1590s; which shows that they were using the word to refer to giving praise or commendations in general well before they were using it so literally.

This also gave English speakers the word plaudit, which can mean a round of applause, but it can also mean any other expression of approval or praise, whether clapping one’s hands is involved or not. they were using the word before that to refer to giving praise or commendations in general before that.

The power of applause should not be underestimated: nothing stimulates a performer more directly than acknowledgement and praise of their work.

As we head into another busy week and another weekend of performances, I plan to encourage the cast and crew with the positive comments made by members of last week’s audiences.

When each show is done, we will continue to be thankful as  the audiences clap  their hands and praise us however they will. We at CTC will welcome their applause and their plaudits for as long as they will give continue to applaud. 

The Insidious Return of Impostor Syndrome

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Over the past couple of weeks, I have been an unwilling host to an enormous case of impostor syndrome.

This post  is not a plea for reassurance or confidence.
Nor is it an accusation against anyone else.

Rather, it is an honest, soul-wrenching confession of someone who doesn’t want to be a fake, but at times desperately fears she might be.

I may well be a poet and author, but I haven’t managed to write much at all in the past few months. I have a collection of poems edited and ready for publication, and I can’t quite seem to manage that next step. Part of that is being extraordinarily busy — the other part is fear that it won’t be welcomed or appreciated by readers.

The play I have been co-directing for Camperdown Theatre Company has been in full swing of rehearsals, set design and construction, venue preparation and various other elements of production and promotion.
My co-director is sensational, and the cast, crew and set are all excellent. My doubts keep telling me that they would all have done just as fine a job without me.

I have a three-quarters-written blog post that I have been working on for a couple of weeks now I know what I want to say, I just haven’t had time to write it. This has been a source of both frustration and disappointment, particularly given that it involves two of my favourite things: words and Shakespeare!

A good proportion of the demands on my time over recent weeks has come from a considerable increase in my teaching load, which arose without warning and with some urgency: unexpected events meant that the school needed people to step up, so I did. That my boss asked me to do it demonstrated  confidence in my ability and professionalism. I know I am a good teacher, but I’m not feeling that way at the moment. I have been so stressed and stupidly exhausted lately that I feel like I am continually not quite keeping up.

All of this combines to play on my insecurities and doubts about myself.

Last week I hit a real low— I knew it was happening, I could recognise it for what it was and analyse it as it was happening, but I could neither stop it nor escape it. And the barbs came thick and fast:

You’re a fake.

Give up now – nobody will even notice. Your poetry sucks anyway. Nobody would miss you if you didn’t show up. As if anyone actually wants to be with you.

You’re a terrible friend.
All you do is hurt people.

You’re so selfish – thinking about your own feelings instead of what others need.

You’re useless.Do you even know what you’re doing?

Maybe that student is right: you’re a terrible teacher and a horrible person.

Pathetic, feeling sorry for yourself like this. Who do you think you’re kidding?

A day as lousy as this is exactly what you you had coming.

It has been quite awful. The emotions that rage within me at these times are raw and powerful, but they are also subtle and stealthy in the ways that they lurk in the dark corners, preying subtly on every raw nerve ending and every perceived failure. The tears have often been close to the surface, and have been quickly blinked back each time they threaten to overflow. The sense of powerlessness has been overwhelming.

On one level, I know those accusations are not true but, at the same time, it honestly feels as though they are. The more my brain says those things, the more believable they become.

I also know from previous experience that it won’t last. It may come and go, but it’s not permanent.

That doesn’t make getting through it any easier, though.
Because … what if it *is* true?

That’s the fear that keeps me from confessing how I feel until afterwards. Even if I told someone, any reassurance they gave me would be met with the doubt that they might just be saying it for my benefit. I would continue to doubt the legitimacy of any encouragement they might give me. So, I just hold on and wait for it to pass. So how do I weather this kind of storm?

I have got through it with the support and encouragement of a few key people who remind me that I am valued, loved and wanted.
They have helped me in small ways to do what I needed to do, often without realising they were doing that. None of them knew the truth of how I have been feeling.

Support from a colleague helped me walk into the next classroom.

A message from a family member asking hopefully if I was leaving work and coming home soon reassured me that  I was missed, and would be welcomed when I got there.

A little kiss on my forehead and ‘I love you’ from my niece reminded me that I didn’t have to prove anything to her.

The sensitive empathy of my dog demonstrated, like she has done so many other times,  that love is sometimes as unconditional as it should be.

A kind word of appreciation from a couple of different cast members made me feel valued, despite my doubts.

Once again, all those things demonstrated that I don’t need to be able to control the storm. I just need to be able to know where I can find shelter.

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Author’s Note: the fact that I have posted this means that I have started to come out the other side of this negativity. I’m okay.

The Man With A Walking Stick

It’s funny how one minute you can be having quite a good day, and then something happens that makes you stop and realise how much you really miss someone. 

This afternoon I was parked by the river, having some downtime before my theatre company rehearsals tonight, and enjoying the filtered sunlight through the trees and the breeze blowing off the river. 

Image by icsilviu from Pixabay

An older gentlemen with a cane walked past me. He was tall but a bit bent over, quite well dressed but too thin for his trousers, and he walked along the path almost shuffling gait of someone who is no longer quite confident about where to put his feet. Lots of things about that remind me of my father; what moved me most, though, was the way he swung his cane as he walked: just like Dad used to, not so much relying on the cane like he was supposed to, but rather using it as a fashion accessory. 

It was just a little thing, but I couldn’t hold back the tears. I suddenly wanted more than anything else to be able to hug my dad and tell him I love him. In that turn of a moment, the sense of loss was so profound, and the tears are still flowing as I type.

My head tells me I am being silly, but my heart is telling me that it hasn’t healed yet. 

In a few minutes it will be time to dry my tears and head off down the highway. I’ll be fine by the time I am there, but I won’t forget the man with the cane. I don’t know who he is, but I hope he is as loved cherished, and well-cared-for as my dad was. 

Duplicity: The Many Unattractive Faces of Scott Morrison

A person who shows different sides of their personality to different people or in different situations is commonly called two-faced
Another word for this is duplicity

duplicitous person varies the way they act and speak in various situations in order to conceal the truth and try to make themselves look good, to save face, or to increase their popularity. 

The problem with that kind of behaviour is that nobody likes being lied to and, sooner or later, the truth will expose the lies. 

It must be enormously difficult for any person to maintain the deceit, and exponentially difficult for someone in a position of power or celebrity. 

Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister of Australia, is also our Prime Example of Duplicity. Like most politicians, he has made an art of duplicity for years, but it seems that now the carefully constructed facades are crumbling. 

After two months full of allegations of heinous behaviour by members of parliament and other employees of the government, one after another after another, closely followed by revelations of concealment and obfuscation by others in positions of power and responsibility, Morrison’s default ‘Thumbs Up’ and ‘Daggy Dad’ personas are insufficient for dealing with the fallout of the current scandals, both in Parliament and in the media. 

He says one thing to reporters he feels are antagonistic, another to reporters he thinks are his allies, and something else in Parliament. You can bet he says something different again behind closed doors when talking with his colleagues, and something else entirely when talking with those who have been accused of a range of very nasty behaviours or of sweeping the offences under a very large piece of Parliament House carpet.

What we are seeing now is an astounding array of very unattractive faces of Scott Morrison:
Overconfident Morrison is glib and supercilious. 
Angry Morrison is vindictive and thoughtless. 
Mansplaining Morrison is condescending and dismissive. 
Misogynistic Morrison assumes the men are telling the truth and the women are always lying— and this is, perhaps, the most telling of all his faces. 

The man who declares that an alleged rapist and another man accused of saying horrible things about his victim are both innocent, without listening to or looking at a scrap of evidence and without any official investigation into either allegation, is disregarding the law  and demonstrating complete and utter disregard for the experiences of every woman who has ever been harassed, abused, assaulted, raped, or gaslighted. He is bringing the government, the political party, and the law of the land into disrepute. 

While Morrison proclaims that his wife and daughters are the centre of his world, his actions communicate something different to Australian women: he and his own power are in fact his first priority. He speaks warmly about the women in his family when he doesn’t want to appear entirely heartless, but his emotions are never for the victims of the plethora of offences against women committed by the other privileged and powerful blokes he knows. 

If he ever stopped for three minutes, like his wife Jen suggested,  to think about any of the women who have been raped, assaulted, publicly denounced as liars, and vehemently slut-shamed over recent weeks as if they were his daughters, it doesn’t appear to have had any effect on his determination to protect the perpetrators in Parliament House. It hasn’t stopped him trying to deflect attention with corny staged photo opportunities and questionable claims about how well Australia’s Covid-19 vaccination program is going. It hasn’t stopped him attempting to explain it all away as storytelling and hysteria, or tut-tutting about the complainants’ mental health. 

Like many Australian women, I am angry at the continued failure of our nation’s leader to make a meaningful stand on the current scandals rocking the nation. I am furious that the accounts of victims are dismissed, and that there is no responsibility taken at any level for the absence of belief and the lack of justice experienced by victims. I am disgusted that the women themselves are blamed for what has happened to them. I am sickened by the fact that this goes all the way to the highest levels of the Australian government: Members of Parliament and SenatorsCabinet ministers, senators, the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister have both had their integrity besmirched in different ways. 

These issues aren’t going away anytime soon. The credibility of the Prime Minister and his government are damaged, probably beyond  any hope of repair, and many Australians— mostly, but not all, women— are insistently demanding justice for the victims and genuine cultural change. Scott Morrison has a choice: he can lead it, or he can be left behind by it. The longer he leaves it, though, the latter is the far more likely option.

Duplicity: The Many Unattractive Faces of #ScottMorrison

Consent: A Message For The Australian Government

Many men understand and handle the concept of consent perfectly well. Many men are respectful, decent human beings. 
Others? Not so much.

There has been a lot of talk recently in Australian politics and the media about consent. It seems that some blokes out there just don’t understand the concept. 

Honestly, it is not that difficult. 

An image of two hands holding a sign that says “no means no”.

If you’re interested in someone and they say no, that’s the end of it.

Even if you are not particularly interested in someone but you just want to have sex with them, and they say no, that’s the end of that, too.

Even if you’re in a relationship and you want sex and the other person says no, that’s that. 

If someone is drunk or otherwise under the influence, unconscious or otherwise unable to formulate a clear decision about whether or not they want sex, the assumed answer should be no. 

Even if people are already in the middle of having sex, should one partner say they want to stop, that means consent is withdrawn and the other partner should actually stop. 
Awkward? Maybe. 
But that is not the point. 

The entire point is that sex should not happen unless both parties are willing. That’s what consensual means: the people involved are equally willing and in agreement.

Anything else is assault. 
Anything else is rape. 

Any person forcing themselves on another for sex is a rapist. 
Any person assuming consent by someone unable to give it is a rapist.  

It doesn’t matter whether they are strangers, friends, in a relationship or married. It doesn’t make any difference if one is a sex worker, or an employee, or happens to be lying naked in a field of wildflowers. 

Even the dullest-minded man understands consent perfectly well when they are approached by someone they are not interested in or attracted to. When they say no, that’s that. 

Clearly then, is not that they just don’t get it: the fact is that they refuse to get it. Somehow, they think the rules that apply to everyone else don’t apply to them.

So here’s a message from Australian women to the boys’ club in Parliament House: 


‘No’ actually does still mean ‘no’. It always has. 

We don’t need a stupid phone app to register consent.

We just need everyone to understand privilege and power do not magically make “no” mean “yes”. 

We need the people running the country to be truthful and respectful about the wicked deeds of other men— and some women— about things that have been done, and covered up, and excused by those who should be the first to uphold and apply the laws of the land.

It doesn’t matter who it is or what public position they hold:  no rapist deserves leniency, no rapist deserves pity, and no rapist should have anyone explaining things away, covering up the truth or making excuses for them. 
And anyone who does anything to protect a rapist deserves nothing but contempt. 

Faking It.

Image by Joanne Van Leerdam.

Today I feel completely hungover. 

I haven’t had any alcohol at all in weeks.
I didn’t eat the bread or the fries that came with last night’s burger. 
I’m hydrated. 

This is just my fibromyalgia being a complete jerk. 

By the time I get to work, I will have drawn on every acting skill I have— and that’s quite a few— to present as ‘normal’. 
I will do my job with absolute professionalism: my students will never know how dreadful My body feels. 

After work, I will complete the errands on my to-do list. Those things don’t go away because I feel rotten. 

Only when I come home again can I give in to the pain, the sluggishness, and the desire to just go to bed and moan a bit. 

But they’re right. 
I don’t “look sick”.
That’s because I am 100% accomplished at making it look like I’m not.

Faking It.
#fibromyalgia #FibromyaliaAwareness