Cookie’s Animal Guardian and My True Self

Cookie has been behaving very oddly recently. More oddly than normal, that is. Which is why it was so good to have the interventions of an Animal Guardian. I spotted the sign advertising this service immediately that we arrived at the Starlight Wellness Expo here in Bangalow over Easter. And without further ado I embarked upon a long spiel to the kind-faced lady about how Cookie didn’t seem to love me anymore, she seems to prefer HGG (who she hardly even knows), is emotionally and physically distant, and spends her whole life crouched in the back corner of the corner cupboard in the corner room of our new house.

Help was at hand. The Animal Guardian said a short prayer over a bottle of liquid crystals (three drops a day in her food) and told me to have a think about my own qualities of self-righteousness and my need for self-preservation. Ever happy to address my shortcomings, I looked directly at my naval for the next few hours and subjected HGG to a rigorous analysis of these qualities in myself.

And Lo! Behold Cookie that very night coming to sit with me, lying on my head in bed, purring like a generator into my ear, meowing in my face at 3 am. Ah, sweetheart, how I have missed you. I must follow up with the Animal Guardian about you urinating on HGG’s rug though. That so not cool.

Yes, the Starlight Wellness Expo. An interesting concoction of healers and dealers. We attended a session about ‘how to find your true self’. It was dark and funny. Not because my true self is a world-class comedian, sadly. But because our host was about as enlightened as Cookie’s favourite hiding spot.

I was sitting next to him. Before too long, he looked at me, put his hand on my leg, and said “I can see you are a very deep person, yeah?” – cue slightly-too-long moment of staring into my eyes  – “that’s why I am looking at you”. Good to know. I thought you were just being creepy.

But I am weak and a hypocrite. I smiled encouragingly at him because I wanted him to think he was doing well.  I even laughed at his jokes and nodded appropriately. HGG stared at him in utter bewilderment for an hour. He ignored her completely. Her honesty clearly causing him discomfort, it was much easier to align himself with a fraud like me.

During the session, there was some scribbling of light and shade on a bit of paper, a lot of eye contact (and that funny thing people do with two fingers pointing at their own eyes and then someone else’s eyes, yeah?) some strange discussion about Indian men having feminine bodies and Ghandi beating his wife, and love. There was a lot of talk about love. Our host had a connection with the (Indian) man sitting opposite. He stared into his eyes a lot and told him that they loved each other. The older woman beside him, unfortunately, was more complex. She had blockages, which meant she was not able to fully access him, yeah? I thought she seemed quite nice and I hoped she didn’t go home and try to do anything dangerous to unblock herself.

Apparently the session can take quite a toll emotionally and so we were advised at the end of it to drink lots of water that evening and eat healthy food. He also advised HGG and me to make love. Which I took to mean I should stare into her eyes for a long time and say “yeah” a lot. I think she enjoyed that.

Ah, it is unfair of me to mock. I know that. But I can’t help it. There is humour in it, and I am irresistibly drawn to the funny things in life. But there’s quality to it that disturbed me too. There was an edge to the man that I don’t think he was adequately in control of. Call me self-righteous, but I think he is only just approaching the fork in the road to enlightenment. There was a rampaging nature to his quest to discover the true self, which I thought had the potential to harm. The stillness and tranquillity of enlightenment is over the hills and far away.

That’s the thing up here in this new home of ours. The whole region is built on a block of black onyx*, you know. Makes it deep and mystical and magical. And already I have met so many people, like Cookie’s Animal Guardian, who embody it and extend it in so many inspirational ways. And there are others who unsettle me. But, you know, it could just be me. It is easy to criticise others whilst doing nothing yourself. But, fear not, I picked up a flyer at the coffee shop this morning about a “Becoming a Psychic” – in just four hours I will have acquired the skills to begin psychic readings immediately. Watch this space. 

 

*I only found this out the other day and haven’t checked it out. No prizes for guessing where. So don’t quote me.

 

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Netball and Gay Flooring

“Hey Byron Baby, where have you been?” Far and wide came the cry. Actually just one person asked, but you know, a little encouragement goes a long way.

It has been a long time, I know. I have been waiting until I have exciting news to share with you. And today is the day. I have Very Exciting News.  Drumroll please. I can proudly announce HGG is now officially a Byron Bay Blaze ladies netball player. This afternoon, we went to pick out her uniform. It’s kinda roller derby meets Torvill and Dean. Check it out.

HGG's new strip.

HGG’s new strip.

I can hardly wait for the big game on Saturday. I’ll be there, chopping up oranges at half time and shaking my fist menacingly at the opposition. I’ve warned HGG to wipe that vague ‘artist-looking-at-clouds’ look off her face and concentrate on the ball. Otherwise she might find her contact lens poked right out of her eye by an over-zealous Goal Attack, as happened to me when I was 13. I have never played netball, or any competitive sport since. But, I shouldn’t worry. HGG is made of sterner stuff than me.

Life is not just a game of netball over here. There have been other things happening too. Like, we bought a house in Bangalow, which got a mention in the Herald on Sunday.

Home.

Home.

If you can be bothered, it’s the final paragraph of this article. If you can’t be bothered, well basically it says what a bargain we got. And I do love a bargain, especially one with a swimming pool. But I mustn’t gloat because we do still have to pay a mortgage, which, without a job, might be a challenge. If you know of any viable work  – writing, editing, chopping oranges, ironing netball uniforms – do keep me in mind.

Over the past two weeks there has been a slow migration of our stuff from various parts of Australia – furniture from Melbourne, unspecified boxes of things from Sydney (HGG’s as yet unpacked. I think she’s not totally sure if she’s staying), and my beloved Cookie from Melbourne. I am pleased to report that Cookie is alive and well and just as grumpy as ever. Ah, bless her sweet little white paws.

In other news, I am reliably informed that sisal (you know, the floor covering) is only any good for gay people, not for families. I know this because the lady at the floor shop told me. At the time I was making enquiries as to its suitability and cost as a potential floor for our studio. I was so taken aback that I immediately pretended to be single, switching deftly from “we like sisal” to “I prefer bamboo”. If HGG had been there I would have thrice denied her. I know that’s bad, but what kind of madness is this about gay people and sisal floors. I blame gay marriage for this. In days gone by, surely she would not have even considered the “gay market”. She would just have assumed all gay people have rubber or leather floors, or no floors at all – so much easier from which to wipe away the stains of depravation.

From left to right: sisal, bamboo, a rug, that lady's foot.

From left to right: sisal, bamboo, a rug, that lady’s foot.

Ah well. We’ll decide about those floors later. Gotta go and chop some oranges.

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Butterflies and Evangelists

“So, what brings you to Guatemala?”, I return the question disinterestedly to the petite silver-haired American woman sitting next to me at Christmas dinner. “We live here”, she exclaims. We is the four of them sitting next to and alongside from HGG and me. On our other side are Francois and Cory, a French-American couple living in New York City. There are a lot of middle-aged middle-class Americans here enjoying a cheap and beautiful holiday destination not too far from home, so I was curious to hear a different story.

“So, what do you do in Guatemala?, I ask, actually interested this time. “Oh, we’re missionaries”, replies Carol. “Ah”, I reply, somewhat lost for words. What do you say to a missionary anyway – “How is God going these days, anyway? Big day for him today.” My hand is hovering over my soup spoon, when I realise that no one else has started yet. Thank you God for this realisation, as just a few seconds later Forrest asks if he can bless the meal. “Sure, sure”, we cry enthusiastically. I later discover that in Francois, Cory and me there are three lapsed Catholics-now-agnostics of French, Italian and Irish heritage. So, naturally, we feel immediately guilty and start bowing our heads and muttering “amens” into our sweetcorn soups. HGG looks on bemusedly. She is from New Zealand, after all. I don’t think they have religion there. But don’t tell Forrest or Carole or they will be over there quicker than you can say “happy clappy madcap cult”.

But these four people are decent, good and interesting people. I’m talking about the evangelists, not the inhabitants of New Zealand. And their company makes for an interesting Christmas dinner. Naturally we quiz them on their work. They travel to remote villages to help the local communities, investing money there in healthcare and education. “What do you teach?”, I ask. “Oh, we teach Bible mostly, with some health and hygiene too.” Afterwards, with our newfound Franco-American friends, we agree that it is a shame the ratio is not inverted. More health and hygiene, less Bible would undoubtedly be a great thing to teach to the inhabitants of remote Guatemalan villages. But something is better than nothing, for sure.

It’s hard to openly criticise evangelists. They are usually demonstrably doing a lot more than I am to help people in need. I don’t want to get into it, anyway. This is Christmas dinner, after all. Speaking of Christmas dinner, it’s a slightly odd affair. Seems our lovely hosts at La Casa del Mundo, have confused Christmas with Thanksgiving, so our meal consists of turkey with cranberry sauce, mashed potato and mashed sweet potato, rounded off with a big ole slice of Pumpkin Pie. Doesn’t bother me though as I am recovering from my first bout of food poisoning for the trip (am onto the second now, although my fault really… I don’t know what I thought I was doing eating Duck Proscuttio in Antigua).

HGG and me had a spiritual kind of moment on Christmas Day ourselves actually, without the help of organised religion. It wasn’t the bit where I gave her a multi-coloured Guatemalan textile shoulder bag for her present, although that did seem to make her quite happy, especially when she said “it’s not exactly what I had in mind”, or something along those lines. Anyway, no matter, she is using it all the time now. After the textile bag incident, we went swimming in the lake. And after that we went kayaking. And this is where the spiritual bit happened.

It’s hard not to feel a little bit in awe on a bright blue morning like this one, paddling in the clear flat waters of Lake Atitlan, framed by the grand peaks of three volcanoes, with little villages tumbling down the steep cliffs surrounding it. Yeah, this is a pretty good Christmas so far and not a dubious white beard in sight. Our paddles dip silently into the flat water propelling our kayaks along. I look at HGG thinking how happy and grateful (thanks God, big up) I am to be here with her now. I’m having a little moment, you know, where I can feel the grace of nature and humanity fill the air.

I look over at HGG who is fiddling with something on top of her kayak. It’s a butterfly that she’s rescued from the water, where it was quietly drowning. I paddle over to inspect. The butterfly has one drowned-looking wing, which is kind of folded over on itself. HGG tries to unfold it. The butterfly clambers gingerly around her hand, lifting up it’s little legs as if to make its bid for freedom. We try to discourage it by rational talk about the surrounding hazards and not making the same mistake twice etc, but it doesn’t listen. It launches it’s frail body into the air where it flies for about half a second before plopping straight back into the lake. HGG paddles over and picks it up again. She places it on top of the kayak to dry out in the sun, and we decide to head for land in order to put the butterfly back on terra firma. But as we make our way across the lake to shore, the butterfly makes another attempt to fly. And this time, she succeeds. We look up and watch her whirling like a demented dervish up there, trying to find her balance and her strength. And then she does it and she’s off. We follow her progress onto land and watch her take refuge in the branches of a nearby tree.

It was nice to save a butterfly’s life on Christmas Day.

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Yellow Duck Wins the Mullumbimby Cup

I had this crazy dream last night.

One minute I’m in bed and the next I’m standing in a big green oval in the country somewhere. In front of me is a crumpled old dude in a cowboy hat and he’s handing me a wad of perforated numbers. At his feet are four white ducks with bright orange feet, each with a different coloured necklace around it’s neck – Red, Blue, Pink and Yellow. They are standing in a small pen, which is constructed in a “mini golf”-style, with an array of slides and trapdoors and pools of water and fences, all made out of pieces of junk.

Ducks Wearing Necklaces

Wait! Now I’m standing in the small pen. I’ve been giving out perforated tickets to thongs of small children, sticky little hands reaching out towards me to grab their free ticket. It’s like the chocolate factory over here and I’m Willy Wonka. Now I’m putting my hand into a small green bucket which is taped to a white and green sun umbrella and I’m gleefully yelling out the numbers: “27!, 15!, 33!, 19! (it’s HGG – she’s got 19 – up she walks to take her big number, the little numbers get replaced with big numbers). And then I pick a final number, it’s 33! And the crumpled man reaches his hand into an esky and pulls out a black and white cuddly toy which he hands to the man clutching the big number 33.

Picking the Winning Numbers.

Weird eh? But it gets weirder. I’m calling out more numbers, just four this time and each winner gets a coloured silk handkerchief which matches the colour of the duck’s necklaces. Each then gets to barrack for their coloured duck. Then a big black dude with an afro starts ringing a bell with gusto, and the ducks bolt out of their cage and start racing round the track. They fall over each other, desperate to get through the first fence first. The blue one misses completely and runs around the fence. Silly blue duck! The other three jump up onto the milk-crate-come-see saw and they come tumbling down on top of each other. A little shake of the tail feather and they’re off again. The Pink one’s in front, but Red and Yellow are not far behind. The blue duck is wandering off in the opposite direction.

Silly Blue Duck

The red duck is walking up a ladder and – what nonsense is this – he’s sliding down the slide and landing beak-first in the pool of water at the bottom. Red can’t get up in time and Yellow makes his move.

Red Duck in Front

Red Duck Falls at the Final Hurdle

Yellow’s sneaked past! And then he’s off, waddling with ferocity to the finish. He’s there, he’s almost there. Green Moon has nothing on Yellow Duck. He waddles across the finish line, the bell tolls, the bearded hippy judge declares the winner and a small freckly boy called Angus jumps up and down with joy. He is given a great big cuddly white elephant.

And that was kind of the end of the dream. Well there was some other crazy stuff in there too… some kind of “mini trotter” harness races where all these little kids were sitting on chariots being pulled around the oval by an array of miniature ponies.

Mini Trotters

And then there was the novelty horse made out of cucumber and cabbage.

Novelty Vegetable Horse

And then I was kissing a coconut wearing lipstick.

Coconut Wearing Lipstick

And then I woke up. Thank God. HGG, already awake, says to me: “Hey, I hear the Mullumbimby Country Show is on today. Do you fancy going?”. “No thanks,” I reply. “I had this crazy dream that a yellow duck won the Mullumbimby Cup. I think I need coffee.”

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She’s Got the Jack

My girlfriend has many talents. She’s a ‘can do’ person. I’m a ‘can’t do’ person. Or maybe I’m a ‘can’t be arsed’ person.

Anyway, HGG can do anything she sets her mind to. Except this one time she went bungy jumping and could not quite coax her feet off the platform. She eventually had to shuffle back off the platform to make way for the next impatient backpacker with a death wish. I find this story funny because I know it must’ve been a terrible mental struggle for her, having to accept that she was giving up. She’s not the giving up type.  The mind was willing but the feet were ‘fuck that shit, we’re staying here’. If it were me, I would have given up before I started, thereby avoiding said terrible mental struggle.

I very much admire HGG’s tenacity and competitiveness. I was reminded of it the other day when we were driving down the Gold Coast Highway and HGG remarked that the car was making a “funny noise”. I hadn’t even noticed. I was too busy wondering why butterflies have got the word “butter” in their name. Apparently there was a terrible clatter, which HGG diagnosed as a flat tyre. We pulled over at the Caltex and inspected said tyre. Definitely flat.

I quickly turned my thoughts away from butterflies and starting suggesting practical things like calling the RACV, asking a nearby man to help, or having a little lie down and waiting for it to fix itself. Before I had even got to the end of these options, HGG was rummaging around in the boot, brandishing spanner and jack and oily rags. I think that ‘jacks’ are very suspicious inventions. How can a little thing like that hold up a whole car. I’m muttering about this, whilst HGG is standing on top of a thing that undoes nuts.

Undoing Nuts.

That seemed to undo the nuts. Then she is inserting the jack under the car and I am advising her to “step away, get back, it might fall on your toe”, aware with every word that I sound just like my mother, to whom every little thing is a potentially life-threatening hazard. Even a butterfly. HGG ignores me and starts vigorously rotating the rotating thing on the end of the jack. The car creaks and warbles and emits a small sigh of resignation. And then it’s up, exposing it’s naked underbelly to HGG , who wraps her arms around the wheel and yanks it off with one confident tug.

She’s Got the Jack.

By now I am starting to enjoy myself. HGG picks up the other wheel with her little finger and tosses it nonchalantly in the direction of the axle. It goes straight on, and is promptly nudged into place.  I ask HGG to stop a minute in order to take a photo of me pretending to be doing something useful.

Butterflies are so pretty and cars are so boring.

HGG asks me to do something actually useful and re-attach the hubcap, while she “checks the oil and water”. I place the hubcap gingerly across the face of the wheel and squeeze down gently until it (theoretically) clips gently into place. But it’s slightly askew. So I stand up and kick the fucking thing until it falls off and lands crumpled on the floor. “I think you might have to do that, sweetheart”, I yell up into the open bonnet. HGG walks over and calmly replaces the hub cap whilst giving me a slightly bemused smile.

I contemplate how hopeless I am. And how capable HGG is. She’d never changed a tyre before, but she just got on and did it. Admittedly I’m not much help in these situations, but at least I can make her laugh. And you can’t call the RACV for that can you.

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