Perchance to dream

Irony, humour or pathos? I'm leaning towards door number three
The comic is accurate. Unfortunately.

However, that isn’t really the point – I mainly wanted to post something in memory of my late mother.

But how do you condense a life down into a few words? When we remember someone – even someone close – it’s always fragments of the whole, so I guess fragments will have to do:

My mother wasn’t the easiest person to get to know. She was a bit like one of those sculptures that only make sense when you view it from the right perspective and all the components line up.

She was also incredibly stubborn. She wasn’t fond of any post-80s technology and no evidence demonstrating its usefulness and versatility could persuade her otherwise. Similarly, when it came to food, she knew what she liked and any even slightly unconventional menu items would be dismissed with, “Ugh, that doesn’t sound very nice”. Apparently my mother tasted with her ears.

She had varied interests and was curious about many things. She enjoyed talk radio, but detested many of the presenters. She would only tune in to their shows, so she could loathe them all the more. She liked telling embarrassing stories, but she never embellished on them, which made them all the more powerful and impervious to any challenge to their veracity. She loved puzzles, detective novels and bridge. She wouldn’t have been unhappy if her epitaph was a simple, “Here lies Mother Kyknoord, bridge player”.

She had a habit of adopting disease-ridden stray cats. The rest of us were constantly being pressed into service to run the wretched animals to ground and give them their medication. This is why most of my family is scarred – both physically and psychologically.

Unfortunately, every new addition to the feline cohort didn’t sit too well with the incumbents, so they did what cats do and marked their territory. Now my mother’s standards of cleanliness for the house were pretty high, so this state of affairs did not fly at all. I have this abiding memory of her stopping mid-conversation, wrinkling her nose and whispering, “do you smell that?”. Then she dropped to her hands and knees and crawled around on the floor, sniffing the furniture like a bloodhound as she tried to locate the source of the offending eau de chat.

She loved her garden, so this put her at odds with various species of vermin that also loved her garden, like snails. She didn’t advocate the use of poison, because she was concerned that it would pose a risk to the cats and local birdlife (of course, the cats posed a much more substantial risk to the local birdlife, but that’s another story), so the only truly effective way to control the snails was to collect them manually.

However, this was tedious and labour-intensive, so she concocted a cunning plan involving the acquisition of a pair of ducks that would form the core of her snail death squad. They were quite efficient at the task, but they also destroyed the grass with their corrosive droppings. As a result, the ducks were shipped off and she replaced them with guinea fowl.

Unfortunately, the guinea fowl carved a path of utter destruction through the garden with their miniature dinosaur claws, so when we eventually managed to round them up after many failed attempts (and a lot more scarring), they were replaced with bantams.

It turned out that the bantams thought they were gods or some such and wouldn’t deign to eat the snails unless they were manually collected and presented as an offering, so my mother was basically back to square one – only with a brood of work-shy bantams thrown into the bargain.

These are the things I miss the most about her.

My mother had a strong aversion to sentimentality, so the poem my sister selected for the memorial service seems apposite (If I Should Go by Joyce Grenfell):

If I should go before the rest of you
Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone
Nor when I’m gone speak in a Sunday voice
But be the usual selves that I have known
Weep if you must
Parting is hell
But life goes on
So sing as well

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SchadenFreude

Interesting. And how does that make you feel?
I used to date a psychologist. Possibly. It’s also possible that she was just hanging around with me for research purposes and I’ll end up being referred to as “Subject K” when she finally publishes her Big Book o’ Weirdos (working title).

Most people believe psychology involves sitting in a chair saying, “Tell me about your mother” and performing the occasional Jedi Mind Trick. While that viewpoint isn’t entirely wrong (because The Force does indeed give one power over weak minds), it ignores some of the more harrowing realities of the job.

A specific thing your typical shrinker of heads has to deal with is the fact that they are never off-duty. Even when they pack up for the day and go home, they still have to process all the batshit they’ve been exposed to during their sessions. To add to this, there are the frantic after-hours phone calls from clients with boundary issues (which is often a telling clue as to why they are in therapy in the first place).

One such phone call that derailed a quiet Saturday afternoon was from a panicking parent who was worried that some or other imaginary crisis might befall her hapless child. When I asked Obi-Juanita why she didn’t tell the caller that she wasn’t available after hours, she patiently explained that the shock would be too great. Or as she put it: “You can’t say that to mothers. You may as well tell them, ‘Sorry, I can’t talk right now – I’m having anal sex with a dog’“.

I’m beginning to understand why Freud needed all that cocaine.

The French fry Revolution

The revolution will not be televised. It will be Instagrammed
So the latest crop of cretins best and brightest of the new generation are protesting for free tertiary education again.

Their strategy this time: close the universities. Because that makes so much sense. It’s a bit like campaigning for orgasms by cutting off your penis. It seems that the shaggy-haired sandal squad are unable to recognise the giant metaphorical pistol they have aimed squarely at their unwashed collective foot. Then again, I’ve been informed that I’m “part of the problem” and “too old to understand”. I wasn’t aware that logic had an age limit, but there you go.

However, I actually DO understand why the instigators of this movement are so adamant about not paying fees: A scan of the jobs page of any local newspaper will swiftly reveal that there aren’t any organisations recruiting people with degrees ending in the word “studies”. Their future employment prospects almost certainly involve the phrase, “Would you like fries with that?”

The old joke about what you say to someone with a PhD in Humanities is a chilling reality in this country.

Thump thump thump

And that was AFTER filtering out all the Gurus, Ninjas and Rock Stars
One of the less palatable aspects of my job is bidding on government contracts. It would be less of trial if I thought it would be worth the effort, but it’s a complete waste of time.

Most state entities openly thumb their noses at the procurement regulations and carefully word their specifications to favour certain outcomes. The state officials have very itchy backs that require lots of scratching before you’re granted entrance to the preferred circle.

The fact that this is technically illegal is neither here nor there. The government occasionally makes a few disingenuous noises about “rooting out corruption” before election time, but the practice continues because few private firms have the stomach, stamina or stones to take the matter to court. They understand the power of the Dark Side.

Nevertheless, my boss insists that I keep hitting my head against this particular wall, because Senior Management Logic(TM) dictates that if something doesn’t work, you keep doing it until your skull pops.

Hit me baby one more time

Also, I’m more into self-flagellation.  I only relinquish the whip if I get dinner first
Several times over the past few months, my boss has instructed me to attend meetings on his behalf. One may be tempted to think that he is starting to entrust me with greater responsibility, but this conclusion would only be half right.

You see, the meetings in question have all arisen as a result of some project-related calamity and I’ve been sent as the designated company shit sponge. The thing that clued me in was the fact that I hadn’t actually worked on any of these jobs.

You know that unfortunate idiot that your typical customer service department trots out whenever an irate complainant demands to speak to the manager? Yup, that would be me.

Hand me the antiseptic, please.