personal political

Location: Sydney, Australia

I have now moved this blog to Typepad: the new address is

Monday, May 31, 2004

My Restuarant Rules

We watched My Restaurant Rules from beginning to end, mainly because my co-parent has worked in cafes and restaurants for most of her working life. It was the first reality TV series I've paid any attention to since the first series of Australian Big Brother.
What really got on my nerves, especially in the final episode, is how only the man in each couple ever made speeches. The man was assumed to be the leader and true boss in each restaurant, with the woman there to support him, especially at the moments when he was driven to tears. This was especially so with Peter from Melbourne, who seemed very much an empty vessel to me. The best scene in the whole series was when Kate from The Panel and her friends announced they were leaving as soon as Peter came to 'discuss' the fact that she was discreetly breastfeeding her baby in the restaurant. What a twerp.

Are modern young women really like this, standing by and admiring their man? It seems like a new gloss on the tired old story. Will all these girls get to 40 and realise they were duped, just like the 1950s generation of married women? For their sakes I hope not.


They are planning to reintroduce the draft in the USA.
I've known about this for months, since someone I know there sent me a protest email about it.
I was a child and early teenager during the Vietnam War draft. So was my brother. I remember my mother saying that if the war was still going on when my brother reached draft age, she would join SOS - Save our Sons. As she had no political involvement at all, her statement struck me very forcefully. I was about 12 at the time.
Years later I fleetingly met Michael Matteson, the most famous Sydney draft dodger. His partner - wife? - was a friend of a friend, so really I met her. But I was too young at the time of his resistance to fully appreciate the forces at play and what it must have meant for him to dodge the draft.
Surely Howard won't follow the USA with this policy too? I hope I never have to join SOS, but I will in an instant if they ever reintroduce the draft here.

odds and evens

This morning while eating breakfast (I was ironing), Oli counted aloud in odd numbers to 11. Out of the blue, all by himself. I then showed him how to count in even numbers to 10. First I used my fingers, then I showed him how you could whisper every other number to yourself as you were counting, so that only the even, or odd, numbers were said out loud. He was easily able to count up to 15 in odd numbers, but he had difficulty counting in evens. He said so himself - "I can do the odd but I'm not good at the evens". I find that intriguing. Is it because with odd numbers you start with 1, just like in normal counting? Maybe that sets him off on the right foot. Or maybe it's something completely different. I recently read somewhere (I think it was in one of those 'help your child to suceed at maths' books that I scanned in a bookshop) that the key to maths is the ability to think abstractly. So the ability to do maths is linked to the ability to read, take in stories and think imaginatively, all of which also require abstract thought. I know that Oli has excellent verbal skills and I'm very proud of how much he loves books and stories and poetry ... if I've done nothing else as a mother, I've instilled that love, that ability in him.
I was very good at maths as a child, which is somewhat unusual in girls. Not that I thought it was unusual when I was a girl, but I've since met adult women who have a complete phobia about numbers and counting - including my co-parent and my best friend (that's two different women, by the way). Both of them are highly literate, in fact one is a writer by trade. So verbal skills did not translate into mathematical skills in their cases. Confidence, lack of, seems to have something to do with it.
Whenever I do a little 'lesson' with Oli, like this morning, I feel as if I'm walking a very fine line between encouraging him and swamping him. I sometimes see a look of doubt on his face, like I'm muddying the waters of his sheer joy in discovering something for himself, when I come in with all my own knowledge and methods. Like maybe I am suggesting that counting by odd numbers to 11 is not good enough, that there has to be more, and in fact I will show him the more that he doesn't yet know.
So after I had explained about odds and evens, he became a bit hesitant and almost got lost in his counting, whereas his first runs were quick and flawless and seemed not to rely on any method or understanding but just to happen. But he did recover and I finished the ironing and started making his school lunch and so left him alone with his own thoughts and numbers.

fit to be a parent

I woke up early on Saturday morning and lay in bed composing angry letters-to-the-editor/speeches about the proposed ban on gay marriage and foreign adoption by the Howard government. Not long ago, reading about the kerfuffle about gay weddings in the USA, I actually wrote in an email to some US connections that I was very glad I didn't live there (for many reasons), as I'm no fan of marriage per se and would not appreciate being forced into the political bind of having to defend gay marriage against the right wing. But that's what it's now come to in Australia too, as Howard takes a leaf out of his best buddy Bush's book.
The foreign adoption issue makes me even more furious than the marriage one - because it is a ban on something which will have a positively-negative impact on some people's lives. I mean, couples can live together without marriage, so the absence of marriage is just symbolic, but for some people, if you can't adopt, then you can't become a parent. The absence of children is real. I have been infertile (and still see myself that way), but managed to squeak into motherhood via reproductive technology. But there was a time in which I was refused access to that technology because I was a lesbian. I was incredibly lucky that the rules changed, in my state, while I was still - only just- young enough to get pregnant.
Of course only a tiny number of people will be affected if such a ban comes into effect, but the symbolic meaning is very powerful. I feel directly tainted - I am being publicly told I am not fit to be a parent. I almost choke from the fury and fear that makes me feel.
I wrote to a number of friends about what we could do to protest to the Labor Party, who seem to be willing to go along with this ban. I suggested we turn up outside Mark Latham's house and read bedtime stories to our children via a loudhailer, to demonstrate to him what good parents we are. A straight friend of mine who has two children from IVF wrote back and suggested we also drape ourselves in the Australian flag, a la Peter Costello's recent Budget suggestion that procreating is a nationalistic thing to do. (Has the political discourse in this country really come to this?)
I would like to do that. Meanwhile, I'll be emailing the two Labor protagonists, below. I also intend to ask the principal of my son's public school if I can put something about this into the weekly newsletter.

Mr Mark Latham MP
Fax: (02) 6277 8495

Ms Nicola Roxon MP
Fax: (02) 6277 8405


I'm trying to find my 'voice' for this blog. I've read a lot of blogs in the past few years. I've been a journalist and writer in my time and once wrote a regular newspaper column, for about three years. (As I get older my memory for my own life history gets vaguer.) I really enjoyed writing a column and would love to do it again some day. I suppose it is all about the imagined audience. I don't yet have an audience for this blog, I haven't told anyone about it, not because it is going to be a private-diary type of blog but because I want to get the hang of it first before I broadcast its existence.

Saturday, May 29, 2004


I get a weekly email newsletter from my state MP, Clover Moore. Clover is a great MP and now she is Mayor of Sydney. We sometimes meet her walking her two staffies in Centennial Park. I know you can't judge a person by the pets they keep, but from the first time I saw a photo of Clover in the local newspaper with one of her dogs, I liked her. She is patron of the NSW Staffordshire Bull Terrier Society and a campaigner against the sale of dogs in pet shops.
This week in her email she welcomes a new organisation called Voiceless, "which will work to promote respect and compassion for animals, increase awareness of the conditions in which they live and take action to protect animals from suffering".
I had a look at the website and was impressed and intrigued by the calibre of the people who've founded this organisation - this isn't your bleeding heart cat ladies or obsessive vegans (not to demean those two types of people, but you know what I mean). In fact it is Brian Sherman and his daughter Ondine (the third Ondine I've heard of or met in recent years), J Coetzee and Hugo Weaving.
I've always had an ambivalent relationship to animal rights activism. I've been a vegetarian for over 20 years now, though I did begin eating fish again in 1988. Just recently I've been contemplating stopping eating fish again - well, I will certainly no longer eat swordfish or tuna, the fish higher up in the ocean food chain, as ocean fishing is having a devastating impact on those fish, which has a knock-on effect all down the chain.
I've always felt uncomfortable with the sorts of animal rights politics which seeks to put animals on a par with humans, or even on a higher level, at times. Yet obviously the ways in which animals are treated indicates something about the way human society is organised; if we're prepared to see them treated badly, we're prepared to see humans treated that way too.

Friday, May 28, 2004


Oli's first words this morning were "I'm the first awake". He wasn't, but I let him believe he was. At five and a half, he is still oblivious to most things that go on outside the circle of his immediate thoughts and actions, so he hadn't noticed that the co-parent had already gone out to walk the dogs (ie she had been awake first.) I've read that wanting to be first is a feature of this age group, though as usual, Oli doesn't enact this with anything like the intensity of some other children.

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