The truth is a slippery fish

Saint Patrick’s Day and my mind
goes to two things.  First the soup we will have for dinner tonight, leak and
potato with toasted bread and butter. 
It’s a tradition we built up over the years mostly because most of us in
this family enjoy the soup, one of my husband’s specialities. 
He found the recipe in one of those
newsagent’s cook books that came out years ago, one that specialises in Italian
cooking.  This Women’s Weekly cook book, or is it from New Idea, a magazine my husband likes to re-name No
 as a joke in honour of his perception of the magazine’s mindlessness?  Except for its
recipes, the Italian cook book offers simple tasty delights, including the soup, which
we eat on Saint Patrick’s day, in spite of the fact it’s called Saint Joseph’s
Day soup in Italy.
My mind then pitches back to the
Saint Patrick’s Day march of years gone by, in the days when I felt proud to
be a Catholic.  One day a year as
close to Saint Patrick’s Day as possible, we school children marched along Collins street, which
the police had cordoned off and every school sent a cohort of boys and girls
to represent them. 
We marched in order of schools,
presumably based on the age of the school.  Saint Patrick’s College, my older brothers’ school, a Jesuit
school then located in East Melbourne near the cathedral, now no more, came in
first, and my school, Vaucluse Convent, run by the Faithful Companions of Jesus, once in
Darlington Parade Richmond and also now no more, came in second. 
The school captains held the
banners high in front of every group and Archbishop Simonds, who took over from the famous Daniel Mannix, led the procession
in his black cathedral car.
It’s timely I should be writing
this now on Saint Patrick’s Day and after they have just elected another
Pope.  I no longer feel proud of
my catholic inheritance.  I disowned it long ago in a manner of speaking, not
that you can ever disown your past. 
It’s there with you forever whether you like it or not.  However, it is possible to learn from
the past and not hold yourself responsible for things that you were born into,
things not of your own making.  
least that’s how I see it now and that’s why I’m troubled by this idea I’ve
seen on Face Book and in other parts of social media that go on about
un-baptising yourself or excommunicating yourself to be freed from responsibility for the wrongdoings of certain members of the church .
I see no need, largely because I
imagine the whole thing of baptism and belief is a construction, a thing that is human made
and therefore able to be reconstructed in any way we see fit, simply through an internal decision to stay or to leave. 
Of course any belief system can be
dangerous if its endowed with supernatural powers and when the powers-that-be encourage the young, naïve and
innocent to take beliefs on board as gospel truths.  Hopefully, most of us learn to modify
our views on such dogma soon enough, 
though when I was young, very young, right up until my adolescence I took
my religion on board as the ‘truth’. 
Now I think of  the truth as a slippery fish.  You can only
grasp it momentarily before it slips off into the ocean and you have to spend
long hours fishing for another truth in the form of an equally wriggly fish that
might also slide into your hands if you’re lucky enough but again only momentarily
before it too slips back into the ocean. 
We can remember the sensation of the
truth.  We can play around with how it feels, how important it might be, and we can
modify our views; but the idea of holding firm to the truth leaves us only with
a dead lifeless fish in our hands, no longer fluid, no longer free to swim the oceans and grow stronger and bigger. 
Maybe that’s too simple a metaphor
but strangely when my husband just now went to look for the recipe for Saint
Joseph’s day soup we could not find it in the Italian cook book after all.  
My memory, my truth has failed me.  We found a version of Saint Joseph’s day soup through Google but
where I wonder is the original?  I
had hoped to photograph a bowl of soup for you and post it here so you too might enjoy the image and the tastes it evoked. 
See what happens to the truth?   It slips away in the shadows of memory.

A dangerous precedent

I cut the photograph in half to
delete the image of a man I once loved, or thought I loved all those years ago
when I was young and impressionable. But to cut out his hand, the one that flops
over the back of the chair behind the body of the young woman who once was me, would involve a total dissection of the photograph and so it rests today, torn
down the middle. 
took the photo on New Years Eve and despite the smile on my face I was
angry.  To this day I imagine I was
angry with the man whose hand hangs over the back of my chair, his nails neatly
In the photo you can just
see the dark line of his jacket and the white edge of his shirt.  There was a time when I so longed to
see this man that I could think of nothing else but the hour when we two would
be together.  Such a man as to make
my heart melt.
had met him on the ground floor of the book store when he called me over one
day and looked at me with eyes that suggested I was more to him than just
another university student working part time in the upstairs sheet music
In his eyes I was
special but it was a dangerous precedent   It gave him power after which as much as he could make
me feel special simply by acknowledging me he could also leave me deflated like
a discarded paper bag if he chose to ignore me.
The rain water pelted down from
lunchtime on and we watched from the shop windows as Elizabeth Street filled
with water.  Rubbish sped by as if
it were motorised on streams of water that poured around the drain pipes and
collected there.  With nowhere else
to go the water spilled into a river that rose to door step height, floor
height then up to the counters on the ground floor. 
o’clock and closing time saw the senior staff busy trying to mop up the excess,
once the rain had slowed and the rest of us were urged to get home as quickly
and safely as we could.  I made my
way back up the hill towards Spencer Street.  
I had determined I would not go straight home. I would go
instead to see off my beloved, the man whose presence could set my heart racing
even as I knew I did not so much matter to him as amuse him.  
He had booked a trip to Wollongong to
spend the next four days with friends.  The
Southern Aurora pulled into the station bound for Sydney.    
        ‘Come on board,’ he said to
me.  ‘We can have a drink before
the train leaves.’ 
We sat together in the long cabin decked out like a hotel
bar with drinks counter at one end and chairs clustered around a series of oval
tables on both sides for the length of the carriage. We sat closest to the door
that led to the sleeping compartments. 
Pimms and lemonade for me, beer for him.  The drink left me feeling mellow.  Undaunted by the thought that soon I would need to say
goodbye and go back to my dreary life at home in a shared house with  people I did not so much care about as
feel responsible for, my sister and her friend. 
first call came through, visitors must depart now.  The train will be leaving in ten minutes.  I stayed put even through the second
wish I could come, too’ I said.
don’t you?’
don’t have a ticket.’
matter,’ he said.  ‘I’ll hide you
in my cabin.’ 
 The inside cabin of the Southern
Aurora in this roomette designed for one was compact.  The sink folded in on itself to allow for the bunk that
folded out, the toilet seat you pulled out from another cavity.  The bed which folded out also converted
as a seat and my man and I shared this space the entire journey.  The rat-ta-tat of the train wheels over
the tracks was soothing in my sleep even as I lay squished up against the wall
of the carriage.  In the morning as
we watched through the window and saw the outskirts of Sydney come into view I
marvelled at my fortitude in being so bold as to steal onto a train un
ticketed.  Not so my
companion.  He seemed cool, as if
he had done it before and would do it all over again. 
And so it transpired that I
travelled in the Southern Aurora from Melbourne to Sydney in a first class
sleeper with the man I loved.  I
hid in the toilet when the ticket inspector knocked on the door and slipped out
the train at the end of the journey as if I were an ordinary passenger and of
no interest to anyone.
At Sydney’s central rail way
station with its vaulted ceilings and broad arches we took a train to Wollongong
where we met the friend, a man whose second name ‘Head’ matched his appearance,
all head, no brains and not much of a body, but for some reason my beloved
liked him and chose to spend time with him.  
This time I bought a ticket.