Getting ready to remember my wonderful Mum. Just don’t trust her with the seafood.

May 7, 2013

For a tiny woman, Mum sure packed a punch.

Whether you were a school administrator, a local politician or a teenage son, it was wise not to tangle with her.

She was always polite, of course. But beware the terrier, if she thought the wrong thing was being done.

Mum had our primary school hall built. She didn’t think it was acceptable that we had nowhere to hold proper assemblies, or musicals. So she set about changing things.

My mother was a tireless letter writer. She penned notes to scores of people over that bloody hall. If they didn’t respond, they’d get another.

Mum took to the airwaves. She decided talkback was a valuable tool, to push her barrow. She painted a sorry picture of our rundown school. Politicians who had been sitting on their hands, were starting to look bad.

Finally, they relented. We would get our hall. More than anything, I think, to shut Mum up. She was delighted.

When I got to high school, she decided it needed a new hall too. Seriously. The letters started again. This project proved easier. The powers-that-be didn’t have the energy to fight her.

After Dad died, we used to have terrible fights. I was heading off the rails. She was trying to be mother and father, and it wasn’t working.

I eventually moved out, at 19. I know that hurt her deeply. She didn’t say a thing. Just went about supporting me any way she could. From pots and pans to cleaning cloths. Not that any of them were used in those early years.

When we were no longer living under the same roof, the fights stopped. I finally appreciated the incredible struggle she’d had, to keep my brother and I safe and well. She finally understood the difficulties a teenager had, after losing his much-loved Dad.

When I started work, she was so incredibly proud. I was employed by the same radio station she featured on, a few years earlier. She continued to call them, whenever something took her fancy. Always with a reminder about who her son was.

I moved interstate eventually, into a different part of the media. She demanded I send home tapes of stories I’d done. I’m pretty sure they were shown at morning teas, with her friends. Poor ladies.

Mum would visit whenever she could. We were lucky enough to live in some of Queensland’s most amazing parts. She was constantly amazed at the beauty of those places.

Towards the end of her life, she struggled. Her sight was all but gone. So cruel. This woman who loved her crossword puzzles, now had to use books with only the largest print. And even then, she could barely make out details.

On one of her final visits, I took her to a seafood shop, to get lunch. I asked if she wanted prawns. Yes, she said, that would be lovely. How about those ones there in the window? They look big and juicy.

They were indeed. Sadly, she was pointing at the lobsters. We had a laugh about that. She kept her sense of humour till the end.

In her final hours in hospital, I held Mum’s tiny, frail hand. She told me that the giant Indian was calling her. I actually looked about the hospital room that night, so sure was she that the big guy was there with us. I couldn’t see him. But she could. I still picture what he must have looked like.

She gave me so many valuable lessons. Near the top of her list, was to fight for what you believe in. And that if something will make your heart happy, then it’s worth chasing. Nothing is more important.

I miss Mum every day, but especially on Mother’s Day. Give yours a hug for me on the weekend. And if you’re having seafood for lunch this Sunday, make sure you check those prawns.

Handy tips on how to get that first job. Be careful of fancy meats and stinky gumboots.

December 20, 2011

The teenager is in a pickle.

She wants money. Needs folding stuff. ‘Tis the season for shopping, after all. So much to buy, with no dosh to do it.

Even at this early stage in life, it’s clear the eldest daughter likes the finer things in life. A taste for the fancy stuff.

Like most girls her age, she has a passion for fashion. Apparently, one cannot have too many pairs of cut-off shorts and coloured singlets.

It is a constant source of frustration to her, that we rarely support these endeavours. She hears the word ‘no’, constantly. I’m thinking of having a card printed with it, just to save my voice.

At one stage, a suggestion was floated that she might like to do a more around the house, in exchange for an increase in handouts. We all had a hearty chuckle over that one.

What she wants, is a part-time job. Something easy, that pays plenty.

Forget Maccas. She has her sights set on a position in retail. The best of both her worlds. Cash, and cheap dresses.

Sadly, it won’t be happening just yet. She’s not old enough. Those pesky labour inspectors put a stop to sending kiddies her age out to the sand mines.

Things only got worse for the poor girl. Stories from the old days were about to be told. My first two jobs. Both spectacular failures.

My first foray into gainful employment was in a delicatessen. Don’s Deli. It happened to be next door to our local pub. Even then, I was drawn to such establishments.

Much of the trade came from those leaving the hotel. Blokes grabbing something for the missus on the way home. A little extra if curfew had been broken.

The owner had an impressive display of meats carefully displayed in his glass-covered cabinet. All different kinds. From across the world, apparently. This posed major problems for his new employee.

In our house, there were two types of cut meat. Devon, and ham. With a definite leaning to the devon. I hadn’t seen or tasted anything else.

It seemed to frustrate the customers, and Deli Don, when I constantly mixed up orders. Or stared blankly at Mrs Smith, when she asked for six slices of the Hungarian salami. Are you sure you wouldn’t like some of the devon instead?

I left the deli world soon after. Around the time that we found the boss was actually known as Dirty Don. And it had nothing to do with the shop’s hygiene practices. More about his interest in enticing staff members into the cold room.

Just when it looked as though I would return to poverty, a mate offered me a chance to work with him. You’ll love it, he promised. Except the smell.

My position at the seafood wholesale place involved some complex tasks. Like putting ice on the fish. Lots of ice. And putting ice on the oyster trays. Lots of ice.

I also discovered that prawns have spikes. There is a method to grab them, and avoid having your hand punctured. I am still unaware of what that method is.

This meant that I would wander around the shop floor, with blood dripping from ripped fingers. The Health Inspector would have had a field day.

It wasn’t all hard toil, however. I still found time to drop the odd prawn in the gumboots of my co-workers. They would fester for the day, leaving socks with a stench that Kenny would have been proud of.

Hosing was also an important part of the job. Nice clean concrete floors. On the odd occasion that I took charge of the nozzle, I would make sure my colleagues got a thorough soaking.

Not sure why, but I didn’t last long there either. And that was just fine. School was nearly done, and I was about to enter the world of radio, where they actually paid people to come up with such tomfoolery.

None of these tales impressed The Teenager. Although she did seem to appreciate the gumboot trick.

We’ll keep sponsoring her a little longer. At least until next year. Then she can chase that dream position.

One thing is certain. She’ll be way more comfortable that I was in those early workplace days. After all, she wouldn’t be seen dead in devon.