Wednesday, 20 June 2007


Two facts: I have geckoes in my lounge room; I hate reptiles. So, the two things aren’t really compatible.
I don’t know why I hate reptiles, I just do. They are this awful skin which moves loosely over their bodies – they look as if they’re moving about inside – it’s a horrible effect. They may have brains the size of a grain of rice or a bit bigger, but they look at you – with intent. I believe they have my number.
Why the geckoes moved into my lounge room is a mystery. They never used to be there, but now they live happily behind the furniture and behind the paintings. Sometimes they poke their heads out at night, looking for insects. I’m told they are good at keeping mosquitoes at bay. I haven’t noticed any decrease in the number of mozzies, but I have noticed the increase in gecko droppings! Ugh! Such a small animal, such a large dropping!
The other day I picked up a piece of something from the lounge room floor. It looked like a bit of soft plastic wrap – I spread it out a bit, and guess what? It was the skin of a gecko, complete with little feet and toes, just like a rubber glove. There is now a sizeable dent in the ceiling where my head hit it as I screamed and flung this nasty object away from myself. Did you know geckoes shed their skins – I certainly didn’t.
The thought that they’re having this life in my lounge room, behind my furniture and behind my paintings, shedding, eating, sleeping, mating even perhaps, is the most horrible thought. Some people think they’re cute, some people like them – some people are mad!
Of course, it could be worse – it could be larger reptiles, or deadly ones. We saw a snake on a bush track recently – a shiny red bellied black. We stopped the car and looked at it through the windscreen. I insisted my husband reverse back – what if it crawled underneath the car and even up into the underbody of the car? At first I thought it was dead, then it moved its head and looked at me. Not at my husband, at me. See?
There were also carpet snakes in this area, and we saw two – I’m still considering whether I could outrun one, if the need arose. The carpet snakes reminded me of a friend who used to live in a rain forest area, and had grown up with snakes in her ceiling. Nothing to worry about, she would assure me – that is until one went to carpet snake heaven up in the roof, and decomposed with horrendous smells. Dead or alive they’re trouble!
We travelled in West Australia a little while ago, and during the trip stayed at a beautiful cabin in a beautiful caravan park on a beautiful lake. All was beautiful, until I saw a fully four foot long goanna plodding his way determinedly under our cabin. For the rest of the stay I slept with my head slightly raised from the pillow listening for any suspicious noises.
Then there was the little whip snake on the path. An interested crowd gathered – people oooh-ed and aah-ed. I ugh-ed and yuk-ed. Someone said they’re not dangerous, but this tiny fellow was most aggressive, standing on his tail – well, they’re all tail really, aren’t they – and hissing. When the park caretaker disposed of it with his shovel, the crowd all went boo. I was alone in saying hurrah! One of the women in the crowd said she’d had a snake – a large one, a venomous one – in her tent the day before, and she’d – get this! – chucked a pillow at it to shoo it out. This lady needs medical attention, right?
Then, as we were checking out, the receptionist said casually, ‘Did you see our crocodile?’ After she got me down off the counter, she said, ‘No, not here – in the lake – he comes up onto the shore every evening. He’s lovely.’ What are the chances of that - two mad ladies in the same caravan park!
At home we have blue tongue lizards – they inhabit the garden, and sometimes go into our laundry, which is on ground level, and crawl in under the beer fridge. The general scenario is that I go into the laundry, effectively standing between them and the door way, they hear me, and I hear them – little claws scrabbling on the tiles. What a sound! I’m first out, and if there’s a man around I beg and plead and cry to please take the lizard out of the laundry.
Men tend to be gruff at times like these and say helpful things like ‘it can’t hurt you’. Oh yeah, how do they know? Can you imagine a blue tongue latching onto your arm – there’s no venom so that wouldn’t kill me, but the heart attack would.
The worst reptile of all must be the Komodo Dragon – they eat people! I’ve seen it in the newspaper – Komodo Dragon Eats Person. They are the stuff of nightmares. Thank God they live on an island somewhere and not in Australia. I’ve seen one, penned up, and in its heavy footed plodding towards the wire I could tell that out of all the people looking at him, who was he looking at, and flicking his tongue at – little old me!
I can remember seeing a photograph of men – ten or twelve of them – standing ankle deep in a swamp in South America holding what looked like a tree. No, it wasn’t a tree – it was a snake. The largest snake you could ever imagine. So large that it didn’t all fit into the photograph. The men were all grinning. They had willingly – can you believe this? – waded into the swamp to find that creature. What were they thinking of!
Some people like to have their photographs taken with snakes draped around their necks. If I’m ever in the position when someone offers me a snake to drape around my neck I say as politely as I can, ‘No, not today, thank you, really’. Its quite hard to be polite while stridently screaming, and running backwards.
There was a time when I was constantly leaping out of the car to wade through the roadside grass in the Gulf country and take photos of termite mounds, amazing because they were taller than a man, and native flowers and other odds and ends– that is until I saw a very large snake emerge from said grass. All photos from then on were from the inside of the car.
I know there are no snakes in Ireland or in New Zealand, but its no good my shifting to either place, as I’m sure they have some sort of reptiles. And the Artic is out of the question, because I hate the cold too.
So, if you have a phobia, I’m the person to sympathise with you. You can be scared of anything at all – moths, feathers – and they really can’t hurt you! – and I’ll understand. I’ll just think of those little geckoes, and come out in a cold sweat, and I’ll hold your hand, and say soothingly, ‘I understand completely’.

© Nelma Ward

Thursday, 14 June 2007


What on earth are they thinking of, those women of 50-60 who want to have children? Of course its probably thwarted maternal instinct, or the realisation of an opportunity lost, or more likely just to get their photo in the paper. These women couldn’t possibly have grandchildren, or they’d know. Know better, that is!
We (and I include myself in that age bracket) are just too old for that sort of thing on a full time basis. I can say this with some authority having just baby sat my grandchildren for four days.
Now, I love my grandchildren to distraction. They are the most gorgeous, most clever grandchildren in the world. In fact when they hold a competition for ‘The Grandmother Who Loves Her Grandchildren MOST’ (entry forms available later this year), I will win it hands down (so don’t bother to even get an entry form!).
Let me wax lyrical about my grandchildren for a bit. Their tiny hands! With those teensy wincy little fingernails! Their flawless skin! Their warm bodies when they hug you! Their wet sloppy kisses! The things they say! The things they do! All grandmothers know I could go on for a page and a bit in this vein; the others of you who have dozed off can wake up again.
Its just that there is so much to do looking after little ones. At 20-30 we all can do it! We raise the kids, we work, we socialise, we write the definitive Australian novel, and have time for knitting, gardening, learning to sky dive and fingernail painting as well!
At 50-60 it’s a different matter. Oh I love doing it - babysitting. I love every minute of it, and re-live it after I’ve come home and have spent four days laying on the lounge recovering. I tell everyone stories about it – all the funny things they did, all the funny things they said – of course, by some of the reactions these may be things that you actually have to be there for, but still!
You know, if you give an adult, or even a teenager, a slice of toast and honey for breakfast, there’s every chance that they won’t say ‘This isn’t cut in the right shape’, or ‘I don’t eat the crusts, Mummy always cuts them off’, or even ‘Where are the crusts?’ Cutting crusts off is easy, putting them back on is another matter.
And they probably won’t tell you that the toast is on the wrong plate – that’s ‘the wrong colour, wrong shape, it belongs to the other child, that plate is only for spaghetti’ plate - and mostly they won’t drop the toast honey side down four times on the carpet until they reach the spot where they want to sit to eat. (Note that – not where you want them to sit to eat, but where they want to sit to eat).
I also haven’t come across an adult or a teenager who takes close on thirty minutes to eat perhaps a quarter of the lovingly prepared toast and honey. Usually you don’t have to clean a great glob of crumbs and honey out of the back of their hair either!
Grandchildren are a breed apart. How come they end up with both legs in the one pants leg? How come they put the arm in the sleeve and before you can blink, take it out again? How come they want to wear shorts and tank top when its like the Artic outside? And let me tell you, just because you’re bigger than they are, doesn’t mean you’ll win!
And, people of 50-60 years of age, should not be subjected to a child suddenly jumping off the sixth bottom step and landing inches from a dangerous object. Or taking off down the footpath towards the cross road while you are juggling pram, camera (a grandmotherly essential), drink bottle, small lunch box of sandwiches, face wipes and a handbag.
Its also a shame sometimes that little ones can’t empathise more. When a four year old suddenly says ‘Catch me’, and drops like a ton weight from a 12 foot high play platform in the park (who designs these things?!), their next comment should be ‘Oh, sorry Grandma, I didn’t realise you weren’t ready, and were already holding the aforesaid lunch box, drink bottle, handbag and camera!’
And book reading. I love reading books to my gorgeous, clever grandchildren. Nothing is nicer than to have one snuggled up on each side of you, as you start the book. The only trouble is that one wants to turn the page, and the other doesn’t. One wants to listen, the other doesn’t. If you let the one who doesn’t want to listen go, there’s absolutely no doubt in the wide world that after the book has been closed, and story read, you’ll find that one eating all the chocolate teddy bear biscuits you forgot to put away when you were interrupted.
Have I mentioned interruptions? You see, when you reach 50-60, you also have a very definite attention span. It works a little differently than the 40 second attention span of some children, but the results are about the same. If you get interrupted – say, in putting the choccy teddys up high in the cupboard where they can’t be reached, or seen – you may never remember that you were doing this ever again. Partly, I must say, because there are so many other things to do.
Shift the newspaper because Grandad will be cross if its dismantled or screwed up – oh, haven’t I mentioned Grandad before? Probably because when it comes to baby sitting little ones, apart from pulling funny faces and tickling, Grandads are absolutely no use – I repeat, not one bit of earthly use – when it comes to actually doing anything to help.
You’re in the middle of changing a nappy – you know the kind I mean – you reach for the nappies, none there, panic, you can’t let the little one go as they might fall off the change table, you can’t carry them with you while you look for a new nappy – well, you just can’t under these circumstances. So you yell, ‘Grandad, come here’. He comes, he reaches the door of the room, his nose detects what’s going on, and he reels out, gasping, never to be seen again. I told you, he might as well not be there – which is why he wasn’t mentioned before.
Then there’s bath time. Grandchildren have no regard for your expensive watch – Mummy and Daddy have sensible waterproof ones, Grandmas have pretty ones, that don’t like water. Mummys and Daddys have a inbuilt tolerance to two children screaming in a tiled bathroom (probably all those rock concerts they’ve been to). Grandmothers have sensitive ears.
Shampooing hair can be a trauma, and I don’t use the word lightly. In the end its sometimes easier to say to Mummy ‘I didn’t wash their hair – it looked pretty clean to me’. And it probably is – after all you’ve cleaned honey and crumbs, half a container or strawberry yoghurt and two handfuls of park play equipment soft fall out of it already.
And then there’s bed time. You know you shouldn’t really be looking forward to this, but dear God, if you could just sit quietly for a while and think about your aching back and contemplate your broken fingernails and the blob of permanent marker pen on your good pants, you might not feel quite so tired.
Okay. You heat the bottle, child on your hip excitedly pointing to the microwave timer as it moves at a snail’s pace. You warn everybody in the house to be quiet – well, the other child can be bribed by a Wiggles dvd, and there’s absolutely no need to warn Grandad to be quiet – he’s been comfortably asleep for the last hour and a half.
You go to the bedroom, you quietly give the little one its bottle, whilst marvelling at the velvety cheeks and the long eyelashes. You suddenly realise with a great deal of delight that those very eyelashes are closed, and you gently stand up and lift the sleeping child into bed. Well, that’s the theory – have you tried (at 50-60) to get up off a soft bed, carrying a dead weight which you must not jiggle around too much or it will wake up, and lift same dead weight up and over the cot railing, and deposit the supposedly still sleeping child onto the mattress?
After you have dropped the child from about four inches (guaranteed to wake the child up), and repeated the whole procedure with the last dregs of the bottle – this time cleverly standing up – you carefully put the little angel down, cover them lovingly, and tiptoe to the door. On reaching the door it squeaks, you hold your breath, you tiptoe out, close the door, take two steps towards that sit down and glass of wine, and who starts crying immediately? Said angel, of course.
50-60 year old’s backs tend to become very uncomfortable after hanging over the cot railing for fully thirty minutes patting a crying baby to sleep. You say helpful things like, ‘Shush, shush’, and ‘It’s alright’ (although who you’re saying that to is a moot point), and finally – finally – you can escape the bedroom.
Then you are confronted by the other child. The older child. The more responsible child, who has now taken all the toys you carefully and neatly stacked away so that Mummy and Daddy would be impressed when they come home, and spread them further and wider than they were spread before. They have also split the contents of their drink bottle over the lounge suite and their fresh clean once dry pyjamas.
You deal with all this. Everyone is in bed – except you – Grandad has been in bed for hours! – when Mummy and Daddy come home. ‘How was it?’ they ask. ‘Just wonderful’, you say, and you mean it.
Grandchildren are wonderful – they are one of the best things that will ever happen to you. You’re 50-60, you should have grandchildren and enjoy them. Then you should be allowed to go home, and nurse your aching back, and sleep for at least ten hours a day for the next four days, before answering a phone call and hearing Mummy/Daddy saying, ‘Can you baby sit?’ and answering joyfully, 'I’d love to’.
50-60 year olds who are about to join the in vitro fertilisation program – you can direct all questions to me.

© Nelma Ward

Wednesday, 13 June 2007


The domino effect, I have found, when applied to fashion can be a thing with a life of its own.

I know that all women readers will understand. Let me take you back a season or two. Season is the word we use to describe ‘winter clothes’ and ‘summer clothes’. A season or so ago I saw a fabulous pair of white pants. Beautiful cut, well made, very good material, and very expensive. Just right!

Of course, when you buy a pair of white pants you tell yourself that you have heaps of things to go with them. After all, they’re white. Almost everything goes with white. However, when I got them home I realised that they were absolutely pristine, and so unused that everything else I owned faded in comparison to them.

So I had to go out and buy something to go with them. The something was a gorgeous aqua and white striped shirt. Lovely! After a couple of days I thought that the aqua and white shirt would be an expensive purchase if only to be worn with the white pants. So I deliberately went out shopping (notice the word ‘deliberately?) and I found a pair of aqua three-quarter pants. Perfect!

After a bit I thought that the aqua pants could go with some other things, and if I bought these other things, I would actually be getting more use out of the aqua pants, and therefore making a saving. So again I went out – this time I saw a beautiful sheer aqua, mauve and cream floating top – women will know what I mean by floating – Men, well, it would take another page to tell you – just trust me. Gorgeous!

The top was great, but expensive enough to warrant something else for it to go with. That something else turned out to be a pair of cream pants. Lovely! Classical, and, .as I bought them I said to myself – so useful, and cream will go with everything.

However, on taking them home, they turned out to be a slightly different cream to anything else I owned. I decided to change direction and bought a severe coffee coloured linen shirt. Classic! I said to myself, now, a shirt that colour will go with everything. But somehow I needed something else to go with it, and I got a cream and brown pair of pants that were perfect. Stunning!

The cream and brown pants then demanded a brown suede jacket, and the suede jacket then demanded a pair of suede shoes – and on and on this merry go round I went. This goes with that, as they say! However, I must confess – and please don’t tell anyone this – that the carefully thought out colour combinations were rarely put together. The mix and match things just seemed to stay with the one partner, and never were worn with anything else.

I considered my wardrobe. Too many things. I should refine my choices. At the beginning of the next season I decided – no, promised - myself that I’d stick to one colour and have a far better range of things to wear.

Which is why when my daughter saw me, she said, ‘Why are you always wearing orange? It’s a lovely colour, no doubt, and it suits you, but for God’s sake, everything you have is orange!’

And she’s right. Just as well that wasn’t the year I attended the St Paddy’s Day celebrations! The orange jumper which I bought to go with the brown suede jacket (which you will remember went with the brown suede shoes and the cream and brown pants, if you have been paying attention), suddenly demanded an orange scarf, which then led to an orange bag, and even orange lipstick. Orange lipstick, I hear you say! Well, it was very nice orange lipstick. That colour lipstick can lead to needing other things to go with it in the make up line. Certain colours in eyeshadow, and eyeliner, and then if you get that particular eyeshadow, well you should get the blusher and then the blusher could go with….

The domino effect, you see. Brilliant!

© Nelma Ward

Wednesday, 6 June 2007


Holding the little metal thing-o, wondering what I could possibly do with it, I recalled a television program I’d seen many (yes, many!) long years ago. I always iron in front of the tv. Somehow it makes the whole process easier, although I pine for the day when some woman inventor will come up with the ironing board, a tv screen right in front and a little conveyor belt thing that takes the newly ironed things away – preferably to the room to which they belong! In public I sometimes say ‘Oh, I always iron in front of the tv’, and people look at me strangely or, as if some big secret is being revealed, say ‘Oh, so do I’. That’s all six of us in Australia who still iron straight after doing the washing. Mostly the response I get is ‘Iron? I only iron as I need things’.
The television program was one of those panel programs, where impossibly groomed women with arched fine eyebrows, and ‘high’ hair that never moved, even when they whipped their head around to confront some other panellist who had just said something cleverer than them, and pointed sharp black fingernails, pontificated on viewer’s letters. I say black fingernails, because now when I think about it, I realise that the program was in black and white and the fingernails would have been bright scarlet. I was, after all, born in the first half of last century. I don’t know how you feel when you read that sentence, but it just about makes me fall off my chair and curl up into the foetal position.
The question to this particular panellist was from a viewer who wanted to know what you could do with, what you could make with, those little plastic clip thing-o’s that hold the top of the bread packet closed. ‘What?’ the panellist exclaimed, she of the impossibly high, impossibly stiff unmoveable hair, ‘Do with them? My dear, get a life!’
And that’s what I said to myself looking at the little metal disk that comes with every, every, packet of incense cones. Now what is someone who was born in the first half of last century doing with incense cones, I hear you ask. Well, I’ve always loved incense, it was the trendy thing to burn when I was young, and not to mask any other strange odours emanating from our bedrooms as I’ve heard mothers say these day – ‘Oh, I can’t bear the smell of that’, they say when they walk into my house – my lovely jasmine or musk or sandalwood incense burning – ‘It reminds me of when Junior was at home and trying to cover up all that other stuff that was going on in his bedroom’. No, I just love it. Its Asian, its exotic, its, well, its nice.
Recently I bought several – well, many if I’m honest – boxes of incense cones. Every perfume you could imagine – rose, opium, passion potion (haven’t tried that one yet, so I can’t report on it), frankincense and on and on – and I’ve been burning them on a several times a day basis. However, each box contains its own little metal disk on which to sit the cone while it burns. I put the cones in a little bowl, being a neat and tidy person who could not bear to have ash falling on my newly dusted surfaces. Yes, I’m one of the other six people in Australia who still dust. But I digress.
I’m also a fairly frugal soul, so the one disk will do me. Why soil another one, when I have one in use already. So I’m amassing these little shiny round metal disks. And so it occurred to me – if someone has gone to the trouble to make these, carefully dimpled to hold the cone, shouldn’t there at least be some use for them? But what? And so as I was thinking ‘What can I do with this little metal thing-o?’ when I remembered the lady with the immoveable hair. ‘Get a life’, I said to myself.
When my children were small (second half of last century) we used everything that came into the house to ‘make things’. We made things out of egg cartons, milk bottle tops, cigarette packets, cellophane, lolly wrappers, toothpicks, toilet roll middles, cereal boxes, cottonwool balls, everything. Now I have a grandson of my own, and we ‘make things’ too. I save things for him – and aren’t the things I save these days just so superior to those we had last century? Why just the other day I opened a new razor (yes, for me if you must know), and found the most wonderful – and most unnecessary – hologram type curling design on the plastic sleeve that enclosed it. Why, we – said grandson and me – can do something with that I thought, we can make some cunning little thing. And so I cut it out, carefully with my husband’s beard trimming scissors and put it aside with all the other things I’ve been saving – cute little moulded pudding containers, glue with sparkles in it, and all the other things that just scream out ‘Make something with me!’
Surely these little metal thing-o’s will be useful for something. But what – not for eyes, because nowadays you can buy eyes, with moveable black centres, and in all shapes and sizes. I thought perhaps I should just keep them, put them in a sealable sandwich bag and throw them in the cutlery drawer, handy. But then I envisaged what would happen – they’d sit there, no use forthcoming, and next time I spring cleaned – and yes, I spring, summer, autumn and winter spring clean, and sometime mid-season too, just like you other six people – they’d be relegated to a box of odds and ends for ‘just in case’. Now tidy as I am I do have a box of ‘just in case’s’, however its contents are in alphabetical order – so there!Then I imagined the next spring clean where they still hadn’t been used, and that’s when the great chucking out occurs. Now, I’ve read articles that say if you don’t use something for twelve months you should dispose of it. I love it! Dispose away, I say.
Things get chucked out – of course, three days later something needs repairing, or propping up, or something, and my handyman (not my husband) says, ‘Oh, you don’t have a little piece of wire, about so thick, and about so long, do you?’ and I check to see if the rubbish has been collected this week, because that’s where that piece of so thick, so long, wire is – in the rubbish bin.
Nevertheless, I will chuck these shiny and oh so useful looking metal thing-o’s out. I’m a tidy and organised soul. And should you ask me in a day or so, ‘Do you have a little round piece of metal, about so big, and shiny?’ I’ll just probably say to you, ’I don’t keep stuff like that. Really, get a life’.
© Nelma Ward


One thing I’ve learned after being married for many decades is never to say ‘Hey, I’ve got a good idea!’ The ‘good idea’ of course could be anything from knocking a wall out for the purpose of adding a deck, a swimming pool and then landscaped gardens to rival Versailles, or merely going to the movies.
There’s an inbuilt male response to your good idea which is to say, ‘No’. Then you say, ‘Why not?’ and their next reply every time is ‘I-don-wanna’. So we have to use subterfuge. We’re good at subterfuge. Why we don’t even have to think about it – it just comes automatically. However, I’ll help you out on this one.What you need to do is to mention your good idea to them in general conversation – by general conversation, I mean of course the conversation you’re having ostensibly with yourself while they are reading the newspaper. You casually throw in the phrase - ‘visit great aunt Flossie’. Then no longer than forty seven and a half hours later (the measured time of a male’s retention) you suddenly say, oh so casually, ‘That was a great idea of yours the other day’.
Now, anything attributed to the male which sounds admiring or flattering will catch their attention straight away. Guaranteed! ‘What?’ they will say, being men of few words, as we know. ‘To visit great aunt Flossie’, you say, not looking at them. This is very important. Do not meet their eye. ‘What!’ the one word response will be. Then you can drop the admiring flattery, and look directly at them and say in a slightly peeved voice, ‘What’s wrong with you? We talked about this the other day, don’t you remember?’ (Which is true, after all!) From the faint recesses of their subconscious they will recall those words were spoken, sometime, somewhere, and you’ll see the doubt flicker over their face. Were they spoken by them? Surely not.
The rest of the argument is up to you. You can cajole, you can plead, you can use your feminine wiles, you can nag, you can shout, you can invoke the gods – whatever works best for you. Just keep reiterating the fact that these words were spoken, that there had been some sort of discussion about it, and that as usual they had their head in the paper, and weren’t listening to you – ‘You never do, do you?’ are the words you sadly speak here. Using the correct tone of voice should make them feel guilty – male guilt of course is a completely different thing, and warrants a discussion on its own. So I won’t digress at this point.
Now, we all know that the male species doesn’t listen, don’t we? There’s an easy test you can carry out to prove this. You say, ‘Hey, I’ve got a good idea. Lets watch the footy and have a couple of stubbies’ – (as if!). Automatically, without the words registering he’ll say ‘I-don-wanna’, and then the penny drops. It drops with a loud clunk. He’s about to close his now gaping mouth, to re-open it to re-phrase his answer, but you’ve already casually sauntered away, saying ‘Oh, alright then. No worries. Just an idea’.
Now, the opposite situation with good ideas always amazes me. You can guarantee you’re covered in grease and grime from cleaning the oven – they’ve been sitting there, doing what? Why reading the paper, that’s what. They’ll suddenly leap up, clean and fresh and raring to go, and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got a good idea. Lets go to the nursery for those plants you wanted’. Now, you desperately want those plants, and you want them to go along with you, to pretend to let them help you make a choice, but mostly to carry the jolly wet punnets back to the car, and dig the holes for them. Over all your protestations that you can’t go just now – why, you’re dirty, in need of a shower, your hair is a mess, and you’ve no make up on – he will drag you to the car, and off you will go to the nursery. It won’t be a successful visit, because you’ll be cowering behind him, hoping no one you know sees you, and hoping you don’t frighten the nursery person too much when they clap eyes on you. Grease and grime covered, hair all over the place, and bare face.
I want to know why the words ‘I-don-wanna’, from the female don’t reverberate with the male. He has selective deafness – well, we all knew that – but those words just don’t even register at all. Although, when you think about it, men having a good idea is just such a rarity – and generally comes from a subliminal idea you’ve, oh so casually, instilled in that male brain anyway – we should become conditioned to say immediately ‘Oh jolly good – what a good idea’. And if it wasn’t such a good idea after all, you can always twist it around to suit you. The line to use here when you add your bit – ‘and a deck, and a swimming pool and landscaped gardens’ is something like ‘But we talked about this before – don’t you remember?‘ Now, isn’t that a good idea!
© Nelma Ward


You can look back on your working days and think ‘yes, they were the BEST days!’ Or, you can be realistic and think ‘Ah – retirement – how good is this!’ I’m in the latter camp these days. Oh, I loved working. There were so many interesting things to do each day, and so many interesting people to do them with.And there are so many excuses emanating from the fact that you’re a working woman. You can say ‘I just can’t clean the bathroom this week – I just haven’t got the time, or the energy. I’m just too busy!’ You can come home from work, dramatically fling yourself onto the lounge, and say ‘I need a drink of wine – oh, I’ve had such a day’. Then ten minutes later you can have another one! No one minds – you’re a working woman.
But, being free and easy is what retirement is all about. You do actually get to do the things you never had time for before. These things take up a great deal of time. You can say ‘I just can’t clean the bathroom this week – I’ve got to get to line dancing – quilting – book group – aerobics – or whatever’. And when you come home from one of these energy depleting activities you can fling yourself down onto the lounge and cry, ‘Bring me a drink. I’m just exhausted.’See? Both are great.
What got me thinking about the good old days was the dreadful occurrence of having a broken finger nail. I was rushing to Tai Chi classes, and broke a finger nail. As you do. When I looked for a nail file in my rather small bag I couldn’t at first find one. I knew I had one somewhere. I knew if I didn’t file that broken edge it would distract me all during the class. And we can’t have that.So in the end, after delving deep – well, as deep as you can delve in a small bag – I found the wanted nail file. It was old. It was bent. It was almost worn down to the nub. However, it did the job, and Tai Chi went like a dream.
But, it did make me think. When I was working I had a LARGE bag. A very large bag. I carried that bag for years. It held my ‘work shoes’, which were high heeled. You can’t walk to work in high heels – you have to have flat shoes – so the shoes alternated places in my bag. I had a fold up umbrella – in case of rain – of course, if I were working these days I wouldn’t even have to carry such an optimistic item. I had my make up. Well, you never know when you’ll need to put on more make up. I had perfume, I had hand lotion, I had two or three lipsticks (well, you don’t know what colour you’ll need). I had lip gloss, and a spare lip gloss. God forbid you’d ever run out of lip gloss. I had a compact of powder. I had a mirror. And wearing contact lenses, I had all the extra stuff you need to carry for contact lenses emergencies. Wetting solution, cleaning solution, special tissues, a contact lens carrying case, and then extra eye make up, because when a contact lens emergency happens – as all wearers will know – somehow all the eye make up vanishes, and you have to start again. And I will not – WILL NOT – be seen without at least some mascara. Oh, and I carried two mascaras. One, the almost dried out one that I was determined to use up, and one nice moist new one – which always got used first.And a comb, and a brush. Oh, and toothpaste and a tooth brush in a cunning little container. A spare pair of panti-hose, and a packet of instant noodles for the days when there was no spare cash to buy lunch. Usually these days occurred as were as we were approaching pay day – you’re always broke a few days before pay day. Buying lunch is another perk of working – it works two ways – you don’t have to prepare anything, and then when you get home you can say ‘I just can’t cook any dinner tonight – I had such a BIG lunch’. Then there was a ‘little cardigan’ – folded up and all fluffy and horrible, after residing in the bottom of this very large bag, so it probably never would have been worn in the case of a sudden chill in the air. And an address book – a very fat address book. A notebook, to remind me to clean the bathroom or buy more wine, and for all sorts of lists.
If you want to know more about people who live their lives by lists you need to read my short story ‘Things To Do Today’, which appears in my collection ‘Essences’ – available at a reasonable price, plus postage, if you contact me at Enough of the blatant self promotion – back to the story at hand.
And I always had a copious supply of bandaids, peppermints, stamps and a teeny weeny sewing kit, which in itself is a bit of a laugh – me? Sew? Never! And of course there were sunglasses – two pairs – and cough lollies. And the current library book.And of course there was my wallet, a business card holder and lots of other stuff which you just throw into your bag as it accumulates. Not to mention the things that fall inadvertently into your bag – crumbs, ring pulls from cans and the odd moth.
Now, when I finished work and retired – retirement which could have been bought on by carrying all this weight on one shoulder for years and years! – I decided on the night of my last day at work to ‘unpack my work bag’. That sounded like a very symbolic thing to do. It meant that I was finished with corporate life. I no longer needed to be burdened by this necessities that I felt had to be taken with me everywhere. I was going to be free and easy and unencumbered.I did unpack my bag. I found things I thought had been lost for ever. Things I hadn’t seen for years.
But the most interesting and noteworthy thing that I did find were seventeen nail files! Seventeen!Which is why when the other day I couldn’t find one for some considerable time, and then found it in a lamentable condition, I did for a short while pine for the good old days. The days of being prepared for every occasion. Anyway, when I came home from Tai Chi – and threw myself exhausted onto the lounge and begged for a glass of wine ‘quickly’ – I resolved to put a few more nail files in my bag, and perhaps a few other little things too, just in case, just like the good old days. You just never know what you’ll need and when you’ll need it.
© Nelma Ward