A Loon-y journey

loonlake

E.L. DOCTOROW – Loon Lake

“You are thinking it is a dream. It is no dream. It is the account in helpless linear translation of the unending love of our simultaneous but disynchrous lives.”

There are so many things to think and talk about when discussing this book by E.L. Doctorow.

It is about obtaining love.

It is about wanting more from your life.

It is about the many forms of isolation.

It is life’s perversion at its finest worst.

And it is a random bunch of episodes, warped and brutally honest moments that are individual and yet oddly parallel to one another, leading to the same universal goal, that somehow makes it an unexpected whole, a whole that makes sense, yet still leaves you scratching your head.

Confused?

Questions abound in the reading of this novel. From the blurb, you know half of what to expect when you begin to turn the pages. Joe is on the run from authorities, and decides to follow a train’s route when he sees a flash of important people in the carriages pass him one night, including a young woman looking at her naked image in the mirror. Drawn to the obvious wealth present on the train, and hypnotised by the woman’s beauty, he follows the train to its resting point at a very wealthy man’s estate.

‘Very wealthy’ doesn’t begin to describe how wealthy this man actually is. The owner Bennett has his initials on everything, down to the cigarette boxes.

“He was very rich. He owned thirty thousand acres here and it was just one of his places. He owned the lake itself, the water in the lake, the land under the water and the fish that swam in it.”

”But not the dogs? (…)”

“Oh, no (…) Those are wild-running, those dogs.”

And here we have present a hint of humour, something also prevalent in Loon Lake. It is hard to focus on any one element in my review because they are intertwined and dancing with one another in sporadic points, but there is definitely some black humour popping up at various intervals.

With the humour often came some interesting life insight, such as this:

“I could tell that each of them felt badly used to be taking care of some tramp who had wandered onto the grounds. It was an affront to the natural order which made service to people bearable because they were higher than you, not lower.”

And this which I loved:

“And as for Mr Penfield I knew in my bones I didn’t have anything to fear from him. He had a way of canceling himself out if you let him talk long enough.”

So back to the story. What I thought would be the basis and location of the story, Bennett’s estate, ended up changing half-way through. I naively had believed this would be the scene of all the action, since that was all that was mentioned in the blurb. However, the story went further and deeper and darker than just wandering around some enormous estate, looking at lakes, and trying to catch the fancy of the prettiest girl there.

Not that those parts weren’t entertaining on their own. I guess the way the story stops and changes pace and moves in a different direction, often taking other character’s points of view, is something you would liken to real life: how sometimes we go here, we stop; we go there – but wait that didn’t work; we revisit this place, but only in our minds; and then we go back to where we started.

My first thoughts of the book were not much. There was swearing in the first page, which made me think perhaps I could do the same in my writings, however it’s something that I think is a bit borderline since my work is geared towards a young adult audience. Still, I was happy to read:

“Streetcars rang the bell on the whole fucking neighbourhood.”

This definitely was not the sole instance of swearing, and the crudeness continued not only in terms of language, but in behaviours (pissing was a recurring one), events, and really, really horrible circumstances that made you question humanity. The crudeness continued in the written word too, with Doctorow placing some really interesting ‘I’ references that jolted me out of my reader-state and ‘broke the wall,’ so to speak. Lots of jumping from one character’s point-of-view, to the narrator (author) back to the character in a matter of paragraphs. Without warning. Also the character never continuously spoke in the first person, with Doctorow often injecting a different narrative voice just to make you wonder what the hell was going on.

In one instance, the character Warren Penfield is speaking from his point-of-view, and then it changes to this:

“I acknowledge Warren’s lifelong commitment – cancel lifelong commitment – fatal attraction for any kind of communication whether from words, flags, pigeons or the touch of fingertips in hope of a common language, but we must remember how we are vulnerable to the repetition of our insights so that they tend to come to us not as confirmation of something we already know but as genuine discoveries each and every time.”

At first all of this was very jarring, but like the first time you read Shakespeare and needed to get used to the old-style language, or when you read Trainspotting and had no idea what was going on until half-way through the book when their lingo became second nature to you, so too did I eventually become very well-acquainted with his jumpy style of writing.

Aside from this jumpiness in many character point-of-views, changing from 1st to 3rd person, going back and forth in time between the two main men Joe and Warren, and a good smattering of poems, death notices (and one death notice where we are actually introduced to the character whose future death is foreshadowed before we meet him) there is the case of the run-on sentences. This is normal:

“The track went through some woods circled around a small mountain lake and then it started up a grade a long slow winding grade, I was not already in love with her but in her field of force, what I thought I felt like was some stray dog following the first human being it happened to see.”

This doesn’t show the full extent of the much-often absent comma, as the best example is at the end of the book, when Warren’s POV goes a full two pages without a single full stop. At an average of 11 words per 62 lines, that equates to approximately 682 words. That’s a lot of ideas in one sentence. Without googling, this must not be Doctorow’s first work. I’m sorry, but a first-time author would NEVER get away with that (and it kills me that so many things are out-of-bounds for us).

However, Doctorow does it all so well, and so absurdly, breaking the rules that it actually makes sense. He keeps us confused and guessing, up until a certain point before we are about to break with insanity, and then reveals the information we need so we don’t think we are going crazy with misinformation. He keeps us on our toes.

The above quote doesn’t just show how thoughts change abruptly, displaying the real nature of the human mind, but it shows a beautiful element of Joe’s character, and despite the questionable acts he has done in the past, and does continue to do, he has some tender moments. Take this:

“She was happy on the move, alert and at peace, all the inflamed spirit was lifted from her. She had various ways of arranging herself in the seat, legs tucked up or one under the other, or arms folded, head down, but in any position definitive, beautiful.”

And my favourite, this one:

“Her grey eyes shone, her mouth stretched in her tremulous overbitten smile. I danced her out of there out down the corridor doing a fast fox trot full of swirls while I hummed the tune I had heard the night I came ‘Exactly Like You,’ Libby laughing and worrying at the same time, telling me to hush, looking back over her shoulder, giggling, falling against me every other step, brushing my cheek with her lips. And the light lay like a track along the carpet and shone in golden stations of the open doors.”

The crudeness of the novel had rubbed off onto my notes as I was reading, with the following associated with the above: “This guy can fucking do beautiful poignancy!” As another nod to how his themes intertwine and repeat, there is reference here to the terms ‘track’ and ‘golden stations,’ homage to the train he followed to make it to Loon Lake.

Ahh, the elusive Loon. First mention of it comes from a poem by Warren Penfield, before we even meet Warren! This spiked my curiosity, as I didn’t know what an actual Loon was, or even if it was anything, maybe a particular name or place. It is in fact a bird that grabs fish from the lake of the esteemed estate that it’s named after it. This following poem captures the metaphor of the bird, and the story, and the dual nature of things often present in this book, perfectly:

“A doomed Indian would hear them at night in their diving

and hear their cry not as triumph or as rage

or the insane compatibility with the earth

attributed to birds of prey

but in protest against falling

of having to fall into that black water

and struggle up from it again and again

the water kissing and pawing and whispering

the most horrible promises…”

Beautiful imagery is present there. Doctorow makes stunning use of precise details, painting vivid pictures, like this:

“The chief is not cold. He sits at his desk in a short-sleeved shirt. Arms like trees. His wrist watch appears to be imbedded in the flesh. His badge, pinned to his shirt pocket, pulls the material to a point.”

And this, which tugged at my heartstrings with its sadness:

“Warren knew they were poor and lived lives the colour of sag.”

I’ve mentioned crudeness, but the other notable theme is that of poverty, something both of our protagonists share in. Going back to the beginning, we discover Joe has had a fairly pathetic upbringing, and learns to become street-smart in order to get by. He is an interesting protagonist, because he makes choices that would normally make him a very complicated bad guy, only slightly worthy of redemption, rather than the man we are rooting for. Despite the fact that he is on the run at the beginning of the novel due to theft, we come to like him because we see that he’s clever.

He tells the story of how in his early years he stole a cart full of groceries from the fat delivery boy, and instead of taking the groceries for himself, delivered them to all the intended customers, brought the trolley to the store man, and gave him all the money down to the very cent. He scored a job out of this, and it is this event that we start to see, hey, this isn’t some ratbag kid chasing short-term goals. He is in it for the long-term… until he steals the wrong person’s property that is.

He has many ‘save the cat’ moments. There is much I want to say, but I’ll refrain for spoiler’s sake. Let’s just say that he ends up at a carnival, and there are a lot of really sordid, sad scenes. One scene that comes later in the book during a kind of flashback, was really, really distressing to me. I remember finishing that section late one Sunday night and just feeling so low, so crap. Knowing that somewhere in the world, not perhaps that particular thing, but something of the sort, was happening, and had happened, and maybe even would happen again, just made me so sad. Joe is an explosive kind, and despite his own very, very dubious actions, redeems himself in key moments.

“I wanted to do to her what had been done to the Fat Lady, I wanted the force of a hundred men in unholy fellowship, I went at her like a murderous drunkard.”

The whole reason I had sought out this book in the first place is because I had heard of a quote by him that really grabbed my attention:

“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

When later that week I was in a library, I went in search of some of his name and found Loon Lake. I hadn’t really looked into much of his work, or even been recommended any particular book, but seeing the mysterious tones mentioned in the blurb it seemed within my field of interest.

Despite my initial confusion with almost ALL elements of the novel, I still revelled in it, as I like going out of my comfort zone and exploring different forms of storytelling, be it in movies, music or books.

Confusion abounded in Loon Lake: Joe and Warren’s point-of-views were eerily similar, with similar heartbreaking backgrounds, had travelled similar paths to Loon Lake, and later, were in love with the same girl. Their personalities were so different, yet their journeys so symmetrical, that until they actually met each other, I was convinced they were the same person, just bipolar. However the events leading to their meeting, the events that unfold, and the things that happen after Loon Lake are truly fascinating.

The story felt goal-less when Joe was on the run at the beginning; I realise the enticing incident was the authorities chasing him, making him move on, but there were many pages and many continuous moments of crossing land where I just thought “what is pushing the story forward? What is Joe’s motivation?” I guess this story does mimic real life, as I mentioned earlier in Joe’s jumpy thoughts, where sometimes things just move along, move along, and then BANG! you’re given a reason to run.

Just like life, this story has everything: it has the ultimate goal, searching for love, searching for the one, and searching for the life that you believe you deserve. It does this in a perverse way. It has humour. It has sadness. It has desperation, and it has manic moments. It has frightening insights of bleak honesty, so harsh and eerie that it makes you shiver. There are scary moments – scary from humans, and scary because of life. Some things feel like a dream, things go back and forth, and you question many, many voices that are presented throughout. Like the Warren quote mentioned above where Doctorow ‘breaks the wall’ and begins with “I acknowledge Warren’s lifelong commitment…” this passage is also telling in the random thoughts and flashbacks of Warren’s, including one of his repetitions which is identical to another but refers to two separate incidences. When you read it, you’ll know what I mean. But it had me flipping wildly to the start of the book, muttering “I’ve read this before!”

Still, despite the frequent bleakness, and the fact that I probably won’t read another Doctorow book until I read a few really happy novels first, I did enjoy it, and it did have enough humour and insight that I appreciated. I would read another book of his. Just after a blindingly cheesy-happy one.

The ending is not really an ending: not to me anyway. It definitely isn’t one in the Hollywood movie-ending scheme of things, if we’re talking karma and what not. You don’t have very many answers as you go along, and it kind of just ends there, just kind of like life. Some things are tied up, and sometimes, some things are not.

All in all, this novel is a f*^ked up accomplishment of sorts. It has everything, as it had me feeling, and thinking, long after I finished reading. Well done Doctorow. To make a reader feel and think so hard, is testament to your form. Also, to read a book that has so many analogous yet confusing elements in it, yet still giving enough that allows the reader to make sense of it all, is an achievement. If you only like shiny happy things, you’ll walk away screwed up. You’ve been warned.

I’ll end on this page 76 quote that interestingly foreshadows the future of the story while also painting a terrific metaphor.

“…a loon was coming in like a roller coaster. He hit the water and skidded for thirty yards, sending up a great spray, and when the water settled he was gone. I couldn’t see him, I thought the fucker had drowned. But up he popped, shaking and mauling a fat fish. And when the fish was polished off, I heard a weird maniac cry coming off the water, and echoing off the hills.”

Please let me know your thoughts on Loon Lake in the comments below, I would love to discuss with you. 🙂

Things that shit me… #17

(Is that bad, that I am up to 17?!)

Things that shit me…

Swimming parents who steal your spot in the change rooms.

Please, LET ME EXPLAIN.

And if you are this swim Mum or swim Dad, I HATE YOU. You deserve a bunch of soaking-chlorinated swimmers thrown in your face.

This happens more times than I dare to count. If I start to count, God help me.

When baby girl goes to her swimming lesson, it is at a peak after-school time.

When I take her to the change rooms straight after for a quick dry and change, it is still peak after-school time.

Do you know what happens almost all the time?

Breathe. Phew…

We walk in. Baby girl has to go to the loo, immediately.

So I put her change bag and shoes down. At a free spot. One that is a-v-a-i-l-a-b-l-e. One side of the change rooms is all benches and places to hang your towels and bags, and I pick one that doesn’t have anyone else’s stuff around it before quickly heading into the toilet with her.

I head in with her, because while in there I pull off her sticky swimmers and wrap her in a towel.

We are out in 2 minutes. Sometimes less.

And as we walk back over to the benches, I take a deep breath, knowing…

someone has taken my spot.

They are literally changing their dripping child into fresh clothes. They are practically in my spot, almost standing on baby girl’s shoes, practically nudging her change bag, and anyone else walking in would be totally forgiven in thinking that baby girl’s stuff, is theirs.

But the stealer of space is not forgiven. They have invaded my space and they and their child and stuff is all in my face! If I did go to my spot to change baby girl, we would be hugging (or I would be strangling them) THAT’S HOW CLOSE WE WOULD BE.

You haven’t heard the clincher, wait for it…

I look around, and there is available bench space around that doesn’t include my bag.

?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

LIKE WHAT THE ACTUAL F%$K????

They have room to change their child elsewhere, and these morons continually pick a spot where my stuff already is!

And you know what I do? Like today… I head over to my stuff, snatch it away and walk off… to a free spot.

FACE PALM.

I am at swimming every week having these knocked-around-like-Beyoncé moments:

The woman no matter who she is, will NEVER say anything. I should park my car so close to hers so she can’t get into her driver’s side, and just stare at her when she has to climb in through the passenger and accidentally lodges herself on the parking brake.

Not pissed much.

This riles me up soooo bad. And I know I am all glass half-full gratitude gal over here… but do not be surprised if one day you hear a news report and it goes something like…

“Chaos today on the Peninsula as a woman is pelted with swimming noodles after taking the spot of another in the change rooms… full details after the break.”

That will be me.

How I handled f%$king writing rejection and lived to tell the tale.

Step 1: Stare at the computer in horror. Do this for as long as you have to, to let it really SINK IN.

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Photo by Pim Chu on Unsplash

Step 2: Physically express yourself. Scream. Cry. YELL. Do all 3 and then some. If you are going to throw something across the room make sure you don’t have any strong attachment to the item, it is not heavy/sharp/strong, and also, you don’t care about your flooring/it is virtually unbreakable.

Step 3: Keep crying and telling yourself self-defeating words. Things like:

“I’m a failure.”

“I am shit.”

“I am a shit writer AND I’m just plain shit.”

“I can’t fucking write.”

“I got rejected for a fucking writing course…”

And so on. If you have come this far you are doing well. Your self-loathing is working brilliantly.

Step 4: Wallow in self-pity. Pick someone who has to put up with you (i.e partner, parent, sibling) and tell them how shit you are. Cry as you are doing so. Tell them all your sorrows, including that time in grade 4 when you walked into a pole at school and your canteen partner laughed their head off at you. Go on.

Step 5: More than likely you have just been yelled at and scolded by your loved one. Go off and sulk for about 37 minutes.

I’ll wait…

Step 6: Ok you’re back. Now I want you to ask yourself…

“Are you going to let this beat you?”

That just jarred you didn’t it? You expected me to tell you to go cut some onions and rub them over your eyelids after all that self-hatred and the pity party you just attended with yourself as the star D-grade celebrity.

But SmikG is getting glass half-full right now and she is gonna whoop your ass.

Sit down! You’re not going anywhere.

Step 7: Ask yourself some more questions. Things like:

“Are you going to let one individual/organisation dictate what you can do?

“Will you someone else control your belief of yourself?”

“Is this one incident going to make you stop writing? Really? This ONE thing?”

At this stage, you may want to wallow in some more self-defeating talk for a couple more moments. Go on, whimper. Sniffle. Get some Kleenex super soft tissues, from the Aloe Vera range you weak piece of shit.

Step 8: “Are you REALLY going to let this get you down?”

“You know… you’re not that shit.”

“You’re actually, not bad.”

NOW we’re talking.

Step 9: Time to recall some famous writer stories.

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J.K Rowling. An unemployed and poor single mother goes from her Harry Potter manuscript being rejected 12 times before finally getting picked up… but even so, her editor encourages her to get a teaching job as it is unlikely she will earn much from writing children’s books.

She is now worth over 1 billion dollars (read, BILLION) with her name to one of the best-selling series in the world with 450 million copies SOLD.

stephen king

Stephen King. Rejected his own story, Carrie, only to find his wife had taken it out of the garbage with the note for him to finish it. It was rejected over 30 times, but was eventually picked up and even turned into a movie.

He has over 50 novels to his name, has written hundreds of short stories, and remains one of the great fiction writers of this generation.

drseuss

Dr Seuss. He had been rejected 27 times, and was literally on his way home to burn the manuscript when he bumped into an old friend. When he spoke of his woes from “a book no one will publish” his friend (also a children’s editor… how “co in-chi-den-che” – see the Tomei-Downey Jr. movie Only You for reference!♥ ) he read it and it was published.

He went on to write over 60 children’s books and remains a classic children’s writer through the ages.

Step 10: Woah. Now we are feeling just a little bit invincible. Almost like the way we felt when we first ventured into the writing world with fear and trepidation, hovering over the keyboard as we posed those first few words.

But we need something else.

Inject some creativity in your life… in the form of, MUSIC.

My fave go-to: Something loud and pumping, ROCK is real good.

Queen, for example.

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Prince doing his Beautiful Ones where he screeches at the end is also uplifting in a very RAW way.

Or you know, on the other spectrum we can go ‘alternative/new wave rock’ and play something like INXS’ Need You Tonight… you know the story, of how Andrew Farriss famously made the taxi driver who was meant to take him to the airport, wait an hour as he wrote the riff to the song? He then passed it onto Michael, who quickly penned the words to what would become the song… incredible.

You need to surround yourself with genius. Genius thoughts. Genius inspiration. Genius creativity.

Step 11: Ok, we are HERE. Perhaps you feel so unstoppable, so charged, the muse starting to move within you, that something you scribble on toilet paper while passing a bowel movement (why do you have a pen in there?) can be considered LEGENDARY.

“What am I going to do next?”

“What course will I look at?”

“What can I learn from this?”

Start work-shopping ideas to get around your initial rejection.

Step 12: Start with this quote by Albert Einstein: “Failure is success in progress.”

NEXT, sit at your computer.

And start writing.

🙂

 

 

 

Your passion and your loved ones may not hold hands

Hey writers.

Not ‘aspiring’ writers, or ‘published’ writers, ‘wannabe’ writers or ‘successful’ writers…

Just, writers.

I have something I need to share. It’s important.

No doubt it is something we all, as ‘writers’ of the world, have had to face.

Many will be facing it right now.

And if you haven’t already, you’ll be sure to come across it in your writing life.

At some stage, you would have told some of your loved ones, be it your friends or family, that you wish to write.

You want to write. You do, write.

Even if they have already known it for most of your life, even if it is an assumed thing, writing being your background passion and all… no doubt there will have been a moment where you have said out loud “I am doing this.”

I AM GOING TO TRY MAKE A LIFE OUT OF IT.

You are nervous. You are excited. Hell, maybe even like me, you hold off telling most people out of intense fear of their reaction, and only share your personal news with a total of 10 people over a 5 year period.

And when you share that news with your nearest and dearest…

Excited in the prospect of them being sooo happy in you having discovered your life’s purpose, and have chosen to share something so intimate with them…

Relieved to have released a deep-seeded fear…

What do they do?

NOTHING. You tell them, and –

(crickets chirping).

Yup.

There is something you need to realise on this writing journey. And more widely, something everyone needs to realise as they go through life and discover what it is that drives them crazy-happy with a passionate fury.

It is a thing I myself have had to wrap my head around and come to terms with.

The people you love, may not necessarily love your hobby.

They may actually, not think very much of it.

They won’t hate it. But, it might be something of ‘meh.’

Just, MEH.

This can come across as seriously disappointing, especially for someone like me, who has held off on expressing this hobby and passion of mine, to loved and near and dear ones, for years and years and years simply out of fear.

And then, when the moment came… often I realised, it was a bigger thing for me, than it was for them.

And that is ok.

There may be a whole bevy of reasons why your loved ones and your passion aren’t immediate besties… or for that fact, EVER AFTER besties.

Your loved ones may be really busy.

Your loved ones may not know much about your passion.

Your loved ones may find it suddenly difficult to comprehend your sudden discovery at said-passion, and this in turn may highlight some difficult and unanswerable questions for them… those being, what are their passions? What are they doing in their life?

How are they turning their flame on in the routine of life?

Humans are a fascinating and extremely complex breed, and so you can be assured that all of the possible answers will not even begin to fill the paragraphs of this post.

You will notice I have not mentioned a fairly common reason for lack of excitement at the realisation of your passions… and that is jealousy. I have omitted it because real loved ones will not be jealous. They may exude mixed feelings, because of the sudden need to reflect on their own lives. But they will not be envious. They will not see red simply at your long and topsy-turvy journey to getting to your own pre-determined successful, “I’ve made it” destination.

Jealous people are shit people. They are not your loves ones. Keep them at arms length.

They can go f%*k themselves. You need a strong and supportive circle, so get rid of that crap immediately.

Safe to say, you will realise very quickly and easily, who YOUR circle is.

And as is my case, I’ve realised that my circle don’t necessarily have to start a book club for me.

And why should they? I am the only star in my life… as they are the solo star in theirs.

We all have different shit going on. We need to look humbly around us and realise that.

It’s not personal.

It’s just, LIFE.

Your loved ones and your hobby don’t need to get along. They don’t need to go on long walks together. They don’t need to watch a movie. They don’t need to see each other, scream out in delight and exclaim “it’s been so long since I saw you!” before enveloping one another in a giant hug.

As long as they nod some kind of acknowledgement to each other when they pass… that’s cool.

That’s to be accepted.

Our passion isn’t necessarily anyone else’s. And whether you have held off for 5, 10 or 20 years to tell anyone, it won’t be anymore impressive than if you decided yesterday during brekkie you wanted to be a writer after finding 7 grammatical errors in the local paper.

You need to let go of the idea that your loved ones will be as excited for you, as you are excited for you.

In many cases, this won’t be the fact.

And that’s normal.

We can still love our hobbies…. and we can still love our friends…

But we’ll just make sure we see them on alternating weekends 😉

(Note the below is idealistic, yet highly unrealistic!)

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Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash

 

 

Things that shit me… #16

Things that shit me…

People who can’t wait patiently in queue BEHIND ME.

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Photo by davide ragusa on Unsplash

Yeah, you thought I’d been gone a while with my disposition to get revved up the wall by unsuspectingly stupid people. Ohhh, don’t worry, the stupidity is still rife.

And the annoyances are still damn well irritating as hell.

Like today at the Tesselaar Tulip festival. The day was beautiful and the flowers were spectacular as I expected, but one thing that got to me today…

The people who can’t seem to wait their turn in queue.

SEVERAL TIMES I was waiting for something, making an order or waiting to pay for a drink, and then suddenly I would feel something or someone breathing down my neck.

I would turn slightly and see they were practically resting their chin on my shoulder in their extreme impatience to get served.

Like, wait your bloody turn! We are all here trying to get fed/satiated/made happy by the services, just bloody well calm the F down and step away from me!

UGH! Personal space required much? Man these people are shit!

Baby girl says the darndest things #2

She is role-playing. In particular Frozen. Specifically, she is Elsa, and Hubbie has to play the role of Hans.

Baby girl tells him that Hans has to ask Elsa to marry him (no where does this happen in the movie, but you know, imagination).

Hubbie: “Please, Queen Elsa, will you marry me?”

Baby girl: “No!”

Hubbie: “Please Elsa, but I love you.”

Baby girl: “Hans, I don’t like to marry you… You’re shit.”

Oh how I LOL’d! If everyone just spoke their minds like this, Disney movies would be fair simpler, and A LOT different…

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A Royally great time

The Royal Hotel
770 Esplanade Mornington

(Visited March ’17)

Minutes before we were due to head out of the house that Tuesday night for dinner, we looked out the window… and saw a storm about to unleash. The weather report had warned of extreme weather and rain, and the south-east was about to cop it, BAD. We stood there, already dressed, asking ourselves “Should we just stay in?” Was it worth going out when the weather was going to be so terrible – hell, even dangerous to drive in?

But then, we realised what we were saying. I mean, what, the weather was going to hold us back? Since when? No bloody way. Besides, we were locals now. We’d be in the car, driving an average of 40ks, for 5 minutes, tops.

So how lucky we were then, to arrive at The Royal Hotel and find a park right out the front. Try to get us now Rain.

Although a neighbour to Kirks and also on the Esplanade, both establishments sharing amazing bay views, the feel of the Royal Hotel is completely different. And understandably, why would they want to modernise the place when its history holds such Royal ties? Inside it is all white with seemingly freshly-painted interiors, however unlike the sweeping views from Kirks of a full-length windowed wall allowing uninterrupted views from almost wherever you sit, here at the Royal the windows were small, possibly the same as they had always been, and though from there you could also see out towards the bay, you really had to be near them to get that beautiful view.

Intricate ceiling and wall detail, arches, and pillars that separated the left side of the room from the right: both sides that appeared to have been former large living quarters, with a large bar in the centre towards the right of the room, and a staircase leading up from the centre, this hotel had been transformed with a recent facelift, but the old-style feel remained, and it oozed character. You could just see how this place had been in existence over a century ago, at a time of horse and carriage, and adding to this vibe was one more, fairly prevalent thing: the musty smell.

It actually smelt like an old hotel. But not in a rotting, outdated, unclean way. It smelt earthy, original, and very very cool.

The hotel was renamed to its current name after a visit from Queen Victoria’s second son Prince Alfred. Remaining a site of enjoyment for some of the finest members of ‘societe’ over the years, it is clear to see this reflective in the current day interior retaining old-world charm, and why it has continued to hold onto its strong and proud ties to its noble past.

The hotel shows its age with its great, expansive spaces, something I learnt soon after as I took baby girl to the bathroom… on the way there and to your left, is the open-view kitchen that allows you to look in and see the chefs at work. And in the bathroom itself, old-world grandiose continues in the little details, fixtures and fittings, with large amenities too. New hotels are not the size that these magnificent pieces of history are. You can tell this is an old, old building, in the most fabulous and appreciative of ways.

The hotel is open 365 days a year and as well as having rooms for accommodation, it also has the fine restaurant we dined at that Tuesday evening in March.

We were showed to a table that wasn’t in front of the ‘bay’ window, but we could see out through it still from our distance… instead we had a window that showed out the side towards Kirks, and it was nice to see that while we were deliciously snug, it was rainy out.

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I had called that day to see if we needed to book ahead, and I think being a non-peak season period the man suggested it was ok if we just ‘rocked up’ as I would say, or ‘arrived,’ as he probably would.

We were brought menus and ordered our drinks, but realised fairly soon after our French-looking waiter disappeared for a while, that we actually had to go up to the counter and pay and order for ourselves.

We got beer and a Kuku Pinot Noir to start

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while baby girl entertained herself with some pencils and colouring paper brought over by French-man. It was fairly quiet at this stage, so it felt super library-like, and I was super-freaking out over any outbursts baby girl would make. More on that later.

After not too long a wait (there weren’t many people there so it was to be expected) we received our meals:

Baby girl’s Crumbed chicken strips with fries & vegies

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Hubbie got the Murray Valley Port cutlet, mash potatoes, green beans, walnut & parsley salsa with red wine jus

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While I got the Malaysian chicken curry, jasmine rice & roti bread

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So I’ll start with baby girl, and her meal was fantastic. I was really pleased to see something other than the usual chicken and chips on her plate, and it was vegetables! And green ones at that! When provided with chips I know she will prevail on that, but she is a good eater and at home she eats her vegies… so when given the option, she will graze slightly, and so she did that night. She ate the chips and chicken alright, but she also had her broccoli, and that just makes any Mum happy. The food on offer was real, and didn’t look like crappy offcuts or leftovers, so that made me doubly happy.

Hubbie enjoyed his Pork cutlet, and it showed in how clean the plate was on removal… the only thing that wasn’t to taste was the red wine jus, he thought the marinade had burnt, as there was a slightly off-putting taste to it. If it weren’t for that, top marks from that fussy butcher Hubbie of mine.

And, leaving the best ‘til last… my meal was amazing. The highest honours, if only for that. The chicken was falling apart, it was succulent and soft and delicious. The jasmine rice in the banana leaf I believe, was very appealing and looked great, and then there was that roti bread. Drool. Oh man, if this is what all roti bread tastes like, I HAVE BEEN MISSING OUT. Of course the next roti bread I have elsewhere will not be up to scratch, I guarantee. But this roti bread was warm, puffed up, stretchy and soft. We all had some, I actually don’t know why I decided to share it as much as I did… maybe it was because I wanted to share my sudden intense love for roti bread… but they all concurred with me that it was definitely mmm-worthy.

I cleaned up my plate, easily.

Dinner had been yummo. I would have gladly stayed on for dessert, but for some reason baby girl just wasn’t working with us, and the other diners were now looking over… grrr argh. Great food, but snob-central. That night at least, we would have to give coffee and cake a Rain-check, so to speak.

Food: 9.5/10. Sensational. Fresh and delicious.

Coffee: N/A.

Ambience: Quiet, library-like when there are not many diners present. You can feel the character of the hotel and so silence is almost necessary to sit and soak up the chapters of history that have unfolded there.

Staff: We really only dealt with French-man, and he was fine, very concerned about doing his job properly, ‘to the book.’ But good.

People: We didn’t come across many. There was an old gentleman dining on his own who left before we did; a few couples beside the long-desired for window seats; and towards the end of our meal a rowdy American family sat near us, and this made me happy as their business and family talk almost blocked out any of the noises that baby girl was sporadically exploding with. I say almost, because she was still loud, and there was a couple, what looked like a 30-something woman with a 50-something man, who gave us ‘looks,’ staring pointedly when baby girl would yell out. Well, you all know how happy I am about ‘looks.’ I gave her a really good one as we exited the hotel, making sure she caught full well my intention… her rudeness and the library-vibe was the only thing that made the night difficult, as even though there is a kids meal section, and colouring and pencils for the kids, well unless they are in a straight-jacket, I don’t know quite how accepted they are there…

Price: $95ish for the lot. For 3 meals, and 3 drinks. The prices were slightlyon the upside, but the food was most definitely worth every delicious morsel I mean coin.

Advice: Book ahead if you want to sit by the window. Order the Malaysian chicken curry (you won’t be sorry). Maybe go at a peak time if you don’t want to deal with snot-faced moles when your child decides to you know, have a voice, and just generally be a child. F*&k me.

In a nutshell: I really loved this place, as Hubbie did too. The character and the food both won us over, but I wouldn’t hurry back (even though the Malaysian chicken is calling me), only because I am afraid of the too-quiet ambience and how that gels with a generally rambunctious and full-of-life baby girl.

I do highly recommend it to anyone else thinking of giving it a go, as I think the food and the atmosphere are something unique to be experienced. Stepping over the threshold where a royal has, is reason enough.

*UPDATE*

A year later, and back we went. And guess what? This is my new fave. The food yet again, amazing. And the alternative to possible snobby people inside?

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Sit outside. Ahhh.

The Royal Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Things that shit me… #15

Things that shit me…

People that get my coffee order wrong… and then give me ‘squinty eye.’

No, I am not an unforgiving, bitch-face, rigid, uncompromising, cold person who doesn’t realise people can get things wrong.

We are all human. I get things wrong too.

But when someone makes an error, and makes it out to be my fault… and it collides with one of my loves, coffee…

WATCH OUT.

Today I ordered at the café I always get my afternoon coffee at when I have a late shift at work. I walked in, an easy 20 minutes before starting time, happy that today, unlike other days, I wouldn’t be rushing. I was on time. I was even, if you can say, early.

I placed my usual coffee order of ‘medium cap with one’ with a newish-looking lady there, and then stood back to wait. It was 50 cents dearer today, but who knows, maybe the price had gone up in the few weeks since I had last had an afternoon shift.

The barista, who was not new, looked up at me, with some slight hesitation when she called out a coffee order only moments later.

I heard her say ‘cap,’ and ‘one sugar,’ but what was that other nonsense? I moved closer.

“Almond milk cappuccino with one sugar?”

I shook my head.

“No, I ordered a medium cap with one sugar.”

The newish woman was behind her, and hearing the exchange, made a confused, squinty, almost “okkkkaaaaayyyy nnnnoooooowwwwww!” face as the barista spilt out the whole almond milk cap, only to start again.

Almond milk cappuccino lady? I had ordered a medium cappuccino! She had mis-heard me, and as I watched, continued to keep this confused, squinty look on her face the whole time, as the barista recommenced my order.

I kept staring at her. This squinty-faced newish lady did not look at me. She didn’t call out a ‘sorry-for-the-inconvenience-of-waiting-for-another-one-in-lieu-of-my-f&%k-up’; she didn’t even smile apologetically. She just stood there in the background, watching the barista fix her mistake, without so much as an acknowledgement to me.

And when my ‘med cap with one’ was called out, I confirmed it definitely was that, before adding “I paid $5.00 for my coffee, do I need to get any money back?”

The barista nodded she would fix it up, and asked squinty-faced newish lady to go get me my 50 cents. And then walking over, she handed it to me, without so much as anything remotely offering consolation on her part. I said “thanks,” when really I wanted to thank her by removing that ill-placed confusion from her face.

She stuffed up my order, AND didn’t care to give me my money back?

I don’t expect the right royal red carpet of apologies when someone gets something wrong. I don’t expect them to mutter sorry repeatedly under their breath either. Nor do I think they should be kissing my feet and begging for my forgiveness.

All I am asking for is recognition and accountability. When someone can’t even give a small “whoops, sorry, my bad!” and a wave of their hand, and still they make me feel like it was ME…

Sorry, I’m OUT. When you get shit service like that, don’t be surprised when people walk… Looking for a new coffee place, because…

When people get my coffee wrong and aren’t even sorry for it, that really SHITS ME.

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#MeToo

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual allegations that have recently come out, a recurring thread has been popping up on social media.

#MeToo

It stands to encourage and empower women, by providing them with a voice to speak up now amidst the majority of women speaking out everywhere. This two-word hashtag is giving woman a platform to say “enough is enough.” A platform that is supposedly safe. A platform where supposedly judgment does not live.

 

I read an online comment the other day, posted by a male, who wrote that 50% of the blame lies with sexual harassment victims – basically if you dress provocatively, you need to be accountable for what will happen to you.

I cannot tell you how much I was infuriated by that bastard. He deserves all the Hate, Karma and horrible consequences of his unsightly accusations, and I hope he gets it three-fold. A woman can wear WHATEVER she chooses. She can do and go and be seen however she likes, because at the end of the day, if she says “no” to sexual advances, her opinions and choices need to be respected.

No buts. No excuses. No ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ cards.

She has red nailpolish? No means No.

She has blonde hair? No means No.

She has a tight dress? No means No.

She is flirty? No means No.

She fell asleep? No means No.

She is unconscious? No means No.

She said Yes before, but now she’s changed her mind? No means No.

Having the immature excuse of “she is teasing him in that dress,” is the most incomprehensibly weak excuse. It paints men as an immature, childish race, a race that cannot be held accountable for their actions since they apparently ‘can’t help themselves.’

(The female race has been dealt with the word ‘No’ for centuries now for not being as ‘strong’ as their male counterparts, and we’re still somehow surviving).

It paints men out to be like children. We say “they are learning” when our children draw on the walls, accidentally spill drink on the floor, and drop that ornament that has been in the family for years. They are learning, because they don’t know better. They are making accidents as they grow, and as they make their way through life. They are learning action leads to consequences, and so on.

A man forcing himself onto a woman, is not a lesson to be learnt. A man forcing himself onto a woman is NOT an accident.

NO means NO.

It is sad that despite years and years of sexual harassment, only now are women in the entertainment industry coming out and sharing their story. It is sad that there are other women in this field, saying it happens EVERYWHERE.

It is sad that women are expected to endure sexual harassment, and have to turn a blind eye, because ‘guys are just being guys.’

Like, No, these aggressors are not just ‘being guys,’ they are being DICKHEADS.

In the past week or so, as I started to see people I know posting the above hashtag on social media, some even commenting on scenarios they have been in, I started to think of myself and my life, and any incident of a sexual harassment nature that had made me upset, or scared to speak up.

I had to think for a while. Not because some incident happened years ago and it was something I had pushed to the back of my mind. No, I had to think, because I didn’t know where to start.

It’s a continual never-ending blur, the stuff we women must put up with. Incidences that occur in our day-to day-lives, the way we feel when we step out of the house alone, the thoughts that run through our minds, the scenarios of possible threatening situations, and the way we as women have been programmed to think, to be wary of all men, has now become an everyday normal thought process, something we don’t think twice about, and yet something that has merged all our unfortunate nightmares into one to make the opposite sex a feared one.

I have memories of dancing with my friends out at the nightclubs, and having guys tap you on the shoulder, push into your dancing space, or try to grab you not-so-conspicuously on the dancefloor. And when you tell them “stop” or show no interest, or turn away… they would get upset. A guy who I have never met before in my life, got upset I didn’t let him touch me, and he didn’t even know my name.

And knowing my name does not give him a reason to do it either.

Rule 1: why do you think girls go to the toilet together? Safety in numbers.

Sorry dude. Apparently me dancing with my girlfriends means I OWE YOU MY BODY.

There are the stares. The leers and the whistles. The way you walk past a group of guys, and their quiet lingering is unsettling as you pass them by. The deafening silence as they stare you down, their heads following as you disappear behind them, screams in your ears.

It is the day-to-day uncomfortableness. It is there ALL the time.

2. Don’t look a male stranger in the eye. It ‘encourages’ them. 

Do you know what I read today? An Egyptian lawyer has come out to say that women who wear ripped jeans deserve to be raped. In fact, it is a man’s cultural obligation to do so to women, because they are teaching them ‘self-respect.’

This is what is being said in this day, in this age. A man is publicly speaking and encouraging other men to do their duty and ‘take care’ of the women, who by wearing slits in their jeans as a fashion statement, are apparently not looking after themselves.

Rule 3: Do not live life freely. Do not for one second think you can live like a man and not get in trouble for it. Your sex will catch up to you.

I was followed once. I was followed after departing from a train station on a Friday night. The guy was breathing down my back, following me back to the car park until he realised Hubbie was waiting for me there – he then abruptly veered off and stood amongst some trees before back-tracking and making his way to the train station, undoubtedly to look for his next victim.

I can’t imagine what would have eventuated if I had not had someone there waiting for me. I shudder to think of all those girls who make their way home from work, from school, from being out with their friends, and DON’T have the luxury of someone waiting for them on the other side.

This makes me so sick.

There are not only 3 rules. The ongoing rules of life as a woman, are to avoid all kinds of male interaction EVER, in all of your day-to day activities, and ensure you avoid at all costs any alone time with a stranger man. With a man. Because you NEVER KNOW.

It’s the disparaging remarks in the workplace. Men can get away with making fun of the female form, vagina jokes and lesser-sex putdowns, but can you imagine if a woman poked fun at a man’s temperamental dick? At his sensitive testicles? About how at the beach, all of his manhood is on show?

Do you think us as women, would get the sack? Of course we would. And yet men are getting away with sexual discrimination of all kinds, of favouring one sex for promotions and jobs and opportunity, and let’s not forget the never-ending equal-pay dispute, the constant reminder that a woman still IS lesser than a man while at work, doing the exact same job.

It’s telling your Hubbie not to get odd-job house quotes when he is at work. It’s the unease about being in a house alone with a man you have never met before and having that nagging thought in the back of your head “what if?”

It is choosing to wear ‘safe’ clothing, because you will not be noticed.

It is bowing your head down low as you walk so as to not meet any lingering eyes.

It’s the world-wide excuse of acceptance, normalising the behaviour, and enabling it from incompetents such as the Egyptian lawyer, who added that his own daughter should be raped if she too, wore ripped jeans.

And after all of this, and so many more incidences that fail to come to mind because I have been programmed like the rest of women in society to ‘get used to it,’ I also say

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#MeToo.

Me Too. This has to stop.

 

Photo by Mihai Surdu on Unsplash

 

Things that shit me… #13

Things that shit me…

Drivers who speed up when you need to get in their lane.

I mean, I was in an area, a road I don’t use often. I had google maps to help me, but still, when I saw I was soon turning right, I didn’t also realise at that stage I could have stayed in my current lane, as 3 lanes were turning right.

I saw the little white, bullshit car speeding up, coming up fast from behind me. I know I jumped in front, but I swear it wasn’t a dangerous manoeuvre…

…The little shit box stayed close, clearly pissed that I had gotten in front of them, despite my indicator, despite their speed, and BEEPED!

I saw the driver in my rear-view mirror, motion left and right, and I was like “geez dude, you’re kidding me right?”

I put a hand up, in a motion of “sorry” and CALM THE FUCK DOWN.”

They went back to their soap box, and I sat there. Silently fuming. 

Because although I had jumped in front of them, I had felt I had no choice at the time.

And they, despite my driving manners (i.e. clear indicator), decided I shouldn’t be let in.

The mother-f%^er sped up.

I wondered:

Would that driver be the type of person to push in at the supermarket check-out in front of an elderly hobbling grandfather, or a struggling Mum with screaming kids?

Would that driver be the type of person to take the last piece of shared cake from the work communal kitchen, and then whinge that it was all gone?

Would that driver be the type of person to take their dog for a walk, and let it shit on someone else’s lawn AND NOT PICK IT UP?

Would that driver be the type of person to complain loudly of anyone making noise in a movie theatre, and yet continue to receive loud notifications and calls from their phone?

Would that driver be the type of person to complain of beetroot in their burger, even when they clearly had seen the menu description and don’t even like it in the first place?

Yep. Yep, that driver is probably ALL of those things.

Shit people.

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Photo by Kevin Lee on Unsplash