Sausages, a man with a barrow and the Berlin Wall

The twenty-fifth anniversary of the
fall of the Berlin wall and my thoughts go back to the days when I first began to use
a computer for word-processing.
What an expression, word
processing.  No longer the business of
writing but the business of processing words, as if words were like sausages on
a conveyer belt in need of packaging. 
I can see it in my mind’s eye. 
My husband makes sausages.  He takes a lump of pork and minces it till it
turns into a lumpy pink sludge then adds herbs and spices. 
Next he forces some part of the
mixture into the top of his sausage maker, brand name DICK, and screws down the
lever that forces the mince into thin stockings of sausage casing made out of
cow gut lining. 

He squeezes a quantity of mixture
into a gigantic sausage and finally cuts it off in over size lengths that he
then sections into sausage length strips tied with a butcher’s string. 
My husband lets the sausages sit in
the fridge for a day, then Cryovacs a small quantity, usually in batches of three
or four sausages, and finally freezes them until use.  Most of the sausages he gives away to friends
and family, and some we take out and defrost for barbeques. 
My husband’s sausages taste better
than the ones we buy from the shops. We know what goes into them.
Word processing on the other hand
requires other ingredients like the mind behind the machine to turn them into
something of value.
Twenty-five years ago I looked at
computers in the same way as I had looked at cars another ten years earlier
when I was still young and believed I would never need to drive one. 
My husband would be in charge of
all things car related.  I could simply
be a passenger. 
Whether this attitude held me back
I do not know, though it took me several years in my early twenties to get my driver’s
I was phobic about driving, one of
my driving instructors told me.  He took
me out for lessons in his turquoise coloured Datsun 180y and every time I
stepped inside his car I needed to change my shoes. 
These were the days of platform
heels, shoes that gave an extra three or four inches in height. 
Those were the days when a driving instructor
put up a yellow learner’s plate on his car and he could charge a fee to help
someone like me learn to drive. 
It took me three attempts to get my
The first time I failed to stop for
a man who had walked across the driveway with a wheelbarrow. 
I can see him still this man
hunched over his red barrow intent on heaving his load from one side of the
road to the next. 
I could not bring myself to
stop.  There was too much to synchronise:
the getting out through the driveway in a non-automatic car with clutch and gears,
which I needed to coordinate in order to start and to stop. 
I had just managed to get the car out
of the parking lot but needed to stop too soon. 
I managed to slow back to first gear and hoped the man would get past
soon enough for me to go on driving but my instructor slammed on his secondary brakes
to spare us all the horror of my car running into the man with the
The examiner failed me on the spot.
The second time I went for my
licence I managed to get out of the driving zone and onto the road.  I was then able to negotiate my way through
several streets under the examiner’s instructions, but by the time it came to
parallel parking my nerves were frayed to the point I could not manage to synchronise
the required number of full turns of the wheel to get the car into place. 
Once again I failed. 
On my third attempt I managed to
drive through the streets of Oakleigh without any mishaps, but once again on
the hill that runs up to the Chadstone shopping centre after I had managed a
handbrake start and brought us back to the flat I could not negotiate my way into
a parallel park through the two marker flags the instructor had set in place. 
Too much reversing and I could not
get my mind into position, but this time the examiner took pity on me and
granted me my licence after all.
‘You’d better
practice your parking’, he said some thirty years ago.
Yet to this day I cannot parallel
park.  I can reverse into spaces from an
angle.  I can reverse out of driveways.  I can reverse into a parking space that is
parallel if there are no obstacles in front or behind, but I cannot squeeze my car
into a narrow space between two cars on the side of the road, despite my
instructor’s urge that I practise.
My husband and now my daughters
have volunteered to teach me, but something inside leaves parallel parking a gap in my
experience that I do not want to rectify. 

Another wall that has yet to fall. 

Open doors and apologies all round

My husband left the flame under the pan this morning
after he had cooked up a batch of bacon and chorizo. When I walked into the
kitchen to fetch my second cup of tea for the morning the place was grey with
smoke.  He was reading the newspaper at the kitchen table and had not
noticed until I pointed it out and then we discovered the overheating fry
Open doors and apologies all round.  The smoke
has dispersed though the smell of burned fat remains.  It could have been
worse.  It could have been kippers, another of my husband’s favourite
weekend breakfasts, and one which leaves its traces in the air long after it’s
been eaten.
I can’t get Varuna out of my mind.  The smell of
the house, musty, the green of the garden and its warmth.  It can get cold
in the Blue Mountains but I have only been there through the sultry heat of an
early summer, when the weather is unpredictable in the form of heavy storms,
early mists, higher temperatures and rising humidity.   

 Varuna, outside my window, and inside the Green Room.
‘Let my nerves be strained like wires between the city
of no and the city of yes!’  Yevtushenko.
These are the words that someone had penned onto a
scrap of paper in blue ink and pinned to the fridge in the kitchen at Varuna.
 They have stayed with me as a reminder of the tension between
writing and life.  
Yesterday my youngest daughter went for her driver’s license
and passed.  It’s the end of an era for me.  Four daughters, all of
whom can now drive a car, or at least are licensed to drive. 
To me it’s a major achievement largely because it took
me so long to get mine.  I had left home by then but even if I were still
at living at home I could no more imagine my father taking me out to practice
driving than asking him to walk me up the aisle.  Neither of which I did. 
Instead I left learning to drive until I was in my
early twenties and into my first proper job.  I paid for driving lessons
from an instructor who took me out sometimes twice weekly in his turquoise
Datson Z.  We drove through the streets of Caulfield. 
In those days I had broken up with my first long term
boyfriend and shared a flat with my youngest sister in Narong Road.  My
driving instructor may have had an islander background judging by his dark
complexion and shock of wary hair.  He was kind and competent.
‘You’re phobic about driving,’ he said to me one day
after months of seemingly getting nowhere.  I drove all right but I
panicked whenever I needed to make a major change, for instance whenever I
needed to go down the gears to slow down or to stop.
I failed my license twice as a result. The first time
I could not bring myself to stop when a man with a wheelbarrow crossed the
footpath of the exit to the driving school.  I nearly ran him over.
 The instructor stopped the test immediately.  The second time round
I failed because I completely stuffed up the parallel parking.  By rights
I should have failed a third time because I could not master parallel parking
but my final examiner took pity on me and let me through. 
I have not been able to parallel park since those days, but if there is a large enough space between cars I can now reverse
into place without too many turns of the wheel.  I’m comfortable driving
these days but I was such an anxious driver in my early years that I have
worried about passing on these anxieties to my daughters.  It seems I have
not succeeded.  They are all more confident behind the wheel than I ever was.  
I think I may be experiencing similar difficulties as
I experienced learning to drive in relation to writing my book,  not
writing it per se, but putting it together.
It is as if I have trouble getting the gears to work
in harmony in order to master my story.  You might have noticed, a
tendency to be all over the shop.  
Still, I tell myself, I will get there.  What
other writer hasn’t struggled in such an endeavour?  Besides, I learned to
drive in my twenty second year finally and I have been driving ever since, give
or take a year when I first held my license, but was too scared to use it.  Now that’s another story.