The Feminist Card

“You know me… I either bring the best out of people or the worst…” A mere musing to myself. But a few weeks later, the remark returned to me. Adversely.

Not only that but he played the feminist card. On me…

This person had hurriedly and thoughtlessly implemented a change that had adversely affected many external users.

And I found out about it. Not from the hastily composed email sent to everybody else. From the blizzard of phone calls asking what did you change without telling us?

I tracked down the email. When I read its contents it made no sense at all. Perhaps it needs rewriting, I thought. I decided to find the author and ask for clarification. Luckily he had returned to his office two doors down from me. 

My questions weren’t welcomed. The person when confronted denied all adverse impact.

I thought I’ll find out for myself. I phoned one of the affected external users. I asked if they had a problem. They said yes. With their kind permission, I took a leisurely walk to their offices and found out the truth first hand.  

Despite the inconvenience, they were gracious and grateful. I listened to them and wrote down what I saw and heard. Needless to say, it was different from the email.  I tried some workarounds, unfortunately, none of which worked. My notepad now full of scribblings and hand-drawn screenshots, I trotted back to this person with my new found knowledge.

He was even less welcoming than the first time. Perhaps I’m not bringing the best out of him, I mused to myself. Unlike the recently visited and previously trained external users.

When I told him about the shortcomings and showed him my notes, he got quite aggressive and said this is the only way it could’ve been done. He refused my suggestions, didn’t acknowledge how badly it was handled and then said he was too busy anyway.

We were two men having a robust discussion. Also known as a shouting match. Except I didn’t raise my voice over him. 

He asked me to send an email detailing my issues. He said he had to go. But then he played the last card…

He said, “You’re too emotional !” I was taken aback. What a sexist and demeaning remark!

“But, but, I’m a man,” I replied. He didn’t acknowledge my wit or marvel at the quote.

“You’ve played the feminist card on me, ” I said. He ignored that and left.

How could he say such a thing to me?

Me, a poet and writer! Me, a formerly unemotional man!

I couldn’t help myself after that. I laughed my head off.

An insult that became a compliment. Perhaps I did get the best out of him after all!

A Little More Gaslight #2

“Come in.”


A swirl of a red dress. Capped off by a pair of red shoes.


The owner has her face hidden in her hair. She won’t even make eye contact. 


An ominous portent indeed.


A thud as she falls into the armchair opposite.


“I wish…” Deep breath. “I wish…to report a case of sexual harassment.”


Perhaps you could take that to the sexual harassment officer instead of me. That’s where I’d go. By name and by nature.


“By whom.” Notepad flipped open, pencil ready and raised to take down the details. Hope she doesn’t see the eraser on the other end, he thinks.


She proffers a name.


He’s a good bloke. Everyone likes him even the ladies, he thinks to himself.


“We have a clear and transparent process for dealing with sexual harassment.” 
“I know,” she almost sobs. “


She pours out the details. The pen scratches its way across one page of the notebook, then another and another.  A box of tissues is pushed across. She reluctantly grabs one.


Looks like a misunderstanding here, he thinks. And if you were wearing anything like this…


“We’ll start the process immediately. I’ve got all the details I need. We’ll be in touch. Thanks for your time.”


He stands. She isn’t going anywhere.


“You’re not going to delay this? Leak my name? Leave me on my own to defend myself? Organise a commentator-led social media pile-on? “


“We have zero tolerance of sexual harassment,” he replies. You should’ve come to us beforehand, he thinks. Instead of waiting to play the victim.


A swirl of red and she’s gone.

A Little More Gaslight #1

“Come in.”


The last one, he thinks. But at least we’re getting the numbers down. And the iron laws of arithmetic don’t apply.


A pair of red shoes enter.


The owner strides in, pulls out a leather armchair, scrapes it along the carpet. 


She sits down and crosses her legs. Without any preamble, she begins.”I’m being bullied by my colleagues.”


Another day, another whinger. But the standard spiel has worked for decades. How can it fail now?


“You know we have a zero-tolerance policy on bullying in the Liberal Party.”

“I know that. If I don’t speak out no-one will.”


At least we’re not keeping a list. That’s for the number crunchers: proud men one and all.


“You can always take action.” His voice is a comfortable purr.


“I wish to make a complaint. I have names, several actually. I’ve diarised dates and times. I even have texts. This behaviour would not be tolerated in the private sector. You’d get your arse sued.”


This isn’t the private sector. Toughen up, princess.


“I’ll take down all the details.” Comfort, consult and stay complicit.


“What happens next?” Her voice is insistent.


“We’ll let you know in due course.”


Her legs uncross, cross again and the shoe taps the desk.


“You don’t really have a complaints process do you?”


“Bullying only happens in the state branches. Once you get to the Federal level it disappears.”


“That’s how you have a zero-tolerance policy on bullying in the Liberal Party. We’re done here.”


The red shoes skip and disappear into the distance.

Budget 2018

May’s Federal Budget, the standard script.
The lock up from which no one escapes!
Winners! (Everybody rejoice).
Losers! (No one important).
Next the wide-eyed superficial analysis.
The breathless interviews with families singles, couples, pensioners, wage earners, etc fully economically briefed.
The joyously satisfied interest groups.
We always set aside the whispers and whispers of the few saddened forgotten people excluded from the calculations.
The off-script shock realisation…
Income tax cuts and corporate tax cuts require spending cuts from the people that don’t matter.

Think What I Want (The Power of Lying)

“What happened Cynthia?”

“Tommy broke the swing. He jumped up and down, round and round, up and down, round and round, till it broke.”

Mummy’s green eyes went black. She’s looking through me again.

“Cynthia, are you lying to me?”  Mummy’s voice was in my head.

Think nothing, say nothing, Mummy can’t hear me anyways. What about Tommy? I thought.

Then Tommy jumped on her. Squealing, clawing and grabbing. Mummy picked him up. See, that’s why he cries.

“Tommy does jump up and down on the swing so.” Mummy’s lips weren’t moving.

If Mummy can think at me, I can think back at her. “’Tommy broke the swing. Before.’” I thought. “Tommy broke the swing.”

“Daddy can put the seat back on. Or put the spare one on. Or it’s really broken now. Daddy will know,” Mummy spoke.

Who cares anyways about the swing anymore? Mummy can do whatever I want. Mummy and Tommy went into the house. I had the swing to myself.

That night, I was too busy beating Josie at touch the table, to remember anything. And I grabbed the tablecloth without her seeing me.

Luckily I got back to the big rug in time.

Daddy nearly fell out of his chair. All his papers fell onto the floor too! They got so wet that when Daddy picked them up, he got splashed. So funny!
Till Daddy yelled. I stopped laughing then.
Daddy ran. He tipped the chair over. The kitchen door banged. He yelled at Mummy. Then the door shut.
I can’t say what he said. It’s not allowed.

“I’ll take care of it,” he said. I didn’t hear anything after that.

Josie and I kept playing with our dolls. Daddy came out. He picked up the broken glass. He put towels down. He had one on his hand.

The kitchen door banged again. His hand really hurt. He was worried. He said something about “Tet ness.” I don’t know what that is. But it sure thought scary.

“I’ll take care of it, Carolyn,” I heard him say, “I’ll find out who did it.” I couldn’t hear anything after that. 

Then above me stood Daddy. He was so tall. Staring at me. Staring at Josie. He had the good tea towel too. Wrapped around his hand. Red, wet and dripping.

Think nothing, I thought. Daddy can’t hear me.

I kept playing with my dolls.

“Did you knock the glass off the table?”

“No Daddy. I’ve been playing with my dolls. See this is my special one. Isn’t she beautiful?” Josie held up her yukkiest doll.

“Maybe Josie is lying,” Daddy spoke in my head. I thought at him, “Josie is lying.”

“For the last time, Josie. Did you knock the glass off the table?”

I thought at Josie. “Say yes, say yes, say yes.”

“No Daddy.”

“Cynthia. Were you playing chasings, too?”

“Yes Daddy,” I said.

“Did you break the glass off the table?”

“No Daddy,” I said. Anyways, the glass broke on the floor. Not the table.

Daddy thought, “I have to get back to work.”

I can’t tell you what he thought. Too many long words.

“Before the glass fell, I heard footsteps. ” Daddy thought,. “But whose?”

I thought the sound of Josie’s footsteps at him.

“Josie! You, you, you, knocked the glass off the table, didn’t you?”

I thought even harder at Josie, “Say yes, say yes, say yes.”

“I didn’t see the glass.”

“Josie. You need to be more careful. Cynthia too. Both of you.”

Daddy shrugged. He wound the towel around his hand. He went into the lounge room. I heard the TV.

“Cynthia, you heard Daddy, no more running in the house,” Josie said. I thought at Josie, “Stop being so bossy.” Josie made a face.

Josie said, “You cheated at touch the table. You broke the glass. You lied to Daddy. I’m not playing with you. Ever.“ Her lips weren’t moving.

I looked up. I’m on the other side of the big rug. With my dolls. Away from Josie.

I got mad. I thought, I’ll think back at you. I tried so hard. I only got madder. Josie still played with her doll. That nice pretty doll.  I wasn’t mad at Josie anymore.

Mummy came out of the kitchen. She looked at me. She looked at Josie.  The TV got louder. Mummy shut the door.

I  heard them thinking about what’s on the TV. I can’t say what they saw. It’s not allowed.

“Cynthia ran past you.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Alex. You can’t keep an eye on them for even a second can you?”

“Carolyn, Josie broke the glass. She said so.”

“Cynthia broke the glass. And you know what Josie’s like, she always takes the blame.”

“Carolyn, what are you talking about? I heard Josie’s footsteps.”

“Didn’t you see Cynthia trip? She nearly fell. Till she grabbed the tablecloth!”

“Carolyn. You weren’t there. You didn’t see what happened,”

Mummy was in the kitchen. With the door shut.

“You knew.”

“Of course I knew.”

“You didn’t see what Cynthia did to Tommy on the swing, did you?” Daddy thought. I drew close to the door.

“Don’t you, don’t you start that.”

“What?”

“Change the subject on me.”

“Don’t get mad at me. I know what I saw.” Daddy was so loud.

“She said Tommy broke the swing.”

“Carolyn. Cynthia broke the swing. She twisted the seat up and down. Unhooked it. Dumped Tommy off.”  Tommy was asleep now.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” My head ached.

“Carolyn. I am telling you. Now. Here. Right Now. Okay.”

“She said Tommy broke the swing.” I ran back to the big rug.

“Cynthia said it? Or did she think it?”

“Cynthia said it. I thought she did. It shouldn’t happen until she’s much older.” Mummy thought.

Then my head went silent. I can’t think what I want anymore.

 

If her words return unbidden to me.

If her words return unbidden to me
Freely released from her hidden fear,
Perhaps my silence would call her heart near,
And so reveal our love’s infinity.

Her words now heard open my eyes to see,
For my still heart still cowers in fear,
Her love cloaked in silence draws near,
The quiet of white waves on a moonlit sea.

I resolve to tell her all: my worst mistake,
Every false word, every lost thought, 
My lips close, we know that past is nought,
Still silent her silence heals my heart break.

I breath, speak, I’m drawn near instantly,
Freed in her silent peace I say my truth perfectly.

At Life’s Door

You came back. I saw you twice now.
You went out the front door. When you came back I was there too.
You had a coffee in your hand. I smelt the cake in your bag.
You looked at me. You looked away.
You stared at my Mum. Because you saw her before. But you were making sure she was watching me.
You didn’t smile at me like the nurse before she closes her eyes too long.
You didn’t talk at me like the doctor with his voice echoing off the wall.
You didn’t tell me the food was good today like the meal lady did. Even though I’m not hungry anymore.
You didn’t look down at the floor all the time like the cleaner.
You don’t know how to look at me.
You must be new here. You don’t know what’s going on with me at all.
I’m not going anywhere. I know why you looked away. It was my bald head. It was the tube taped to my nose.
You looked when you saw it wasn’t attached to anything.
No I’m not going from the door until Mum gets me what I need. Then she’ll put me in my pram. Take me home as I’m not coming back. Like the others in my ward.
And you don’t know it at all. Not like I know. Not like Mum knows but won’t say. Not like Dad knows but can’t say. I end up nodding at him. When he tries to say and still can’t.
Not like the nurse knows. Not like the doctor knows. Not like the priest knows. The one that says that I’m at life’s door? What does that mean?
When Mum gets me what I need, I’m not coming back.

 

Bang! Crash! Wallop! The Real Game Of Cricket.

Bang! Crash! Wallop! Throbbing music and flashing lights. People stomping, clapping and shouting.

That was me last Friday night.

I wasn’t at the movies. Not at a concert. No, not even a nightclub.

I was at the cricket. The T20 womens’ cricket game between Australia and England. To decide the Ashes! Which we won.

Heat, light and smoke! And the cricket! Balls hit at speed. Stumps scattered. Wickets falling. Fours and sixes! Catches held and spilled.

For me, everything was happening too quickly. I was losing sight of the real game being played.

As marketed and frequently played, cricket, especially in the shorter formats appears to be a game of total firepower.

Bang! Crash! Wallop!

Any finesse and timing is rarely shown. Such attributes surely belong to a more sedate sport. Perhaps Olympic Curling.

Or the Australia versus England Women’s Test the previous weekend.

The wicket was a friendly featherbed. No bounce, swing or turn on show here. As a result the cricket displayed was defensive. As was the result itself. After four days play, a draw.

Bang! Fizzle?! Kapow! Pfft?!

Despite the non-spectacle, I counted myself perfectly fortunate. For I was witness to another game being played.

Yes there was physical strength and skill shown, Amanda Jade Wellington spinning the ball like a washing machine for one. Brilliant athletic fielding. Even some big hitting.

Finesse and timing too. Actually seeing real late cuts elegantly played.

The other game, one where Ellyse Perry scored 213 and never ever looked like getting out. Or the two English batters who didn’t even reach Australia’s score until late in the day.

For me that’s where the real game of cricket showed up. Bang! Crash! Wallop! Nope. No heat, light and smoke.

For this other game is the one played above the neck. The real game of cricket where resilience, determination and persistence prevail.  Continue reading