Haz bean

August 16, 2017 at 11:32 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments
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My counsellor wants to demonstrate what we’re doing.

She fetches a cup, a plate, and a jar of coffee beans.

‘Smell these! Wonderful, isn’t it?’

It is.

She puts the plate on a low table.

And the cup on the plate.

‘This is the child’s mind.’

She pours beans into the cup.

‘When trauma occurs, the young mind can’t take it all in.’

Beans spill onto the plate.

‘When the brain is full, additional information is forced to go elsewhere.’

Beans skitter across the table.

Bounce onto the floor.

‘Each of these beans is a part of the child’s mind. Split off, but containing valuable information. Our task is to bring these back to the main brain.’

I get it.

I go home.

My wife asks how I went.

I want to show her.

We have no coffee beans, so I cast around for a substitute.

Corks.

I need a bigger cup and a bigger plate.

I’m faintly surprised I have more than enough corks with which to demonstrate.

I pour them and tell the tale.

They’re a lot bouncier than beans.

One launches off the kitchen bench.

It’s immediately snatched by our Jack Russell terrier, who capers off with it down the hall.

My wife gets the idea.

Next time, I tell the counsellor what happened.

She tries to stifle her laughter.

I assure her it’s OK.

All my medicos laugh.

When she regains her composure, she says that a dog running off with a cork is actually an excellent metaphor for a dissociated part.

I say I’m glad,

and that I greatly look forward to getting all my bits back.

We return to our work.

 

Pic by Roger Karlsson.


To keep me in coffee, you may wish to

Whatever the sum, I’ll toast your health.


Steele-eyed span

June 24, 2017 at 10:04 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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In Year 5 or 6, there occurred one of the most corrosive incidents of my life.

I was in an experimental ‘open area’ – far removed from standard school rooms.

Several classes occupied a common ‘free-range’ space and we were given phenomenal liberty to learn as we pleased.

One day, a group of teaching students came to marvel at our set-up.

They wandered among knots of kids who were very much doing their own thing.

My thing at the time was cubits: small plastic cubes that connected in a kind of low-tech fischertecknic/LEGO way.

I could play with them alone for hours – and even took them home.

Yet I didn’t realise their educative value.

An earnest student teacher quizzed me about my model making, then offered to show me how the cubes could be used to grasp mathematics.

I wasn’t keen, but onlookers had gathered, so the student teacher went ahead.

He explained that 1 cube could be joined to 9 others to make a line of 10. He then joined 10 lines of 10 to make a plane of 100. For 3 x bonus points, he then showed how 10 planes could be assembled to make a cube of 1000.

Unfortunately, he had lost me at 5.

It wasn’t his fault. Looking back, I certainly wouldn’t have tried to engage a twitchy loner with autism.

After considerable effort, his enthusiasm finally waned as he realised I just wasn’t going to get it.

By this time, I was completely overstimulated by the exercise and freaked out by the observers.

I stumbled away muttering, ‘One times ten times ten times one times ten times … etc.’

That could have been the end of it, but Mrs Steele stepped in.

Having watched the botched interaction, she was livid I’d disrespected our guest.

She pursued me, span me round, knelt down and hissed at my face:

‘Paul Hassing:- You. Are. Miserable!!!’

I looked at her cold eyes, iron hair and lined (now frighteningly compressed) lips.

Her words shot straight into my heart.

Where they remain to this day.

When her fingers finally unclenched from my arm, I tottered off in a different direction, this time muttering, ‘I. Am. Miserable. I. Am. Miserable. I. Am. Miserable.’

And, after several 100 repetitions,

I believed it.

At my session last week, a new counsellor suggested a link between this experience and my childhood sexual abuse.

No-one has posited this before, but the years roughly match.

The counsellor said abused children often act up in class, drawing teacher ire.

And while I don’t think I was misbehaving per se, I feel her theory could have

merit.

It’ll be fascinating to see if EMDR therapy can finally draw this sword from my soul.

Thank you for reading.

Here is some suitably sad music to play us out.


To keep this tale fresh and strong, you may wish to

Whatever the sum, I’ll be filled with thanks.


 

 

 

 

 

Battle stars

June 15, 2017 at 8:46 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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If I seem a tad maudlin, it’s because I’m recording unpleasant vignettes with a view to putting them in their place via EMDR treatment, which starts next week.

The ultimate object of this game is to ‘normalise’ childhood sexual abuse memories. But let’s start with something a little lighter …

I was so taken with Pat Benatar’s Love is a Battlefield that I bought the 12-inch single.

On hearing me play it in the lounge room, dad informed me that:

  1. Love was not a battlefield (indeed, far from it).
  2. The lyrics were therefore stupid.
  3. The song thus had no merit.

I was disappointed at this assessment.

I had enthusiastically embraced his music collection.

From Bach, Oompah and Zorba to Nina Mouskouri, the Red Army Choir and Scottish Pipes, I thought I might have been a colleague. But I was merely an acolyte.

On reflection, dad’s perspective made sense.

When mum’s first husband died, dad rescued her (and her two boys) from a 1960s social and fiscal scrapheap.

She was thus forever in his debt.

He used to boast that, despite their long marriage, they’d never had an argument.

This was also likely true, as Mum never dared to say boo to him.

It took her ten years of faint, nuanced suggestion to replace our frayed carpet.

And almost as long to add a humble Vergola to our crumbling terrace.

Not really battlefield stuff.

In contrast, Mum said she quite liked Love Action by The Human League.

This was handy, as I played it until the groove nearly went through to the other side.

After her death, dad announced that he’d, ‘Loved mum but never been in love with her’.

I excused myself to punch out one of the five slatted window panes which, for almost half a century, had sat high in our toilet wall.

It was difficult to eat after that.

 

Clever man

June 14, 2017 at 7:11 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

I apologise for the tone of this post. The topic has been bugging me for decades.  Particularly in recent months. Especially at 4 am this fortnight.

When I was too young to fathom sarcasm, I wondered if there were a better way to open a plastic bottle of Farmland thickened cream.

Instead of lifting the lid, I squeezed the bottle with the intention of popping it.

This worked, but half the contents shot into the air and landed on me, the laminated kitchen table and the linoleum floor.

‘Isn’t it clever!’ said my dad.

His tone was odd; it wasn’t a question. Nor was it quite a statement. I looked at him for clues.

His glasses glinted. ‘Isn’t it clever!’

His pronunciation was also strange. The letters seemed to slither through his fixed smile with inexplicable venom.

Was I in trouble? Mum was already fetching a Chux wipe.

Was I really clever for trying something new?

Had I blown the scant family budget with my wastage?

I didn’t know.

And I didn’t like how it felt.

As childhood progressed, I committed many more errors.

And I learnt that ‘clever’ was not a word of encouragement in my father’s argot.

The use of ‘it’ was particularly disconcerting.

The next time I heard it was many years later – in Silence of the Lambs.

‘It rubs the lotion on its skin.

‘It does this whenever it’s told.

‘Otherwise it gets the hose.’

I found it so disturbing …

And though I got it,

I still don’t get it.

 

 

 

How to snap without snapping

January 31, 2017 at 11:14 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments
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You have successfully lodged a complaint with the Telecommunications
Industry Ombudsman (TIO).

Service provider iPrimus
Service type Internet
Service ID NNNNNNNNN
Amount in dispute $7.22
Complaint date January  2017
Last contacted provider Less than three weeks ago
Complaint description My total bill for January is $79.17. This includes three fees totalling $7.22, which represents 9.1% of the bill. The fees are: BPay Processing Fee, Non Direct Debit Fee and Statement Fee. I feel these fees are unwarranted and unethical and that iPrimus are trying to charge me more money simply for paying them money.
Your service provider’s response The first person said these fees were reasonable and part of the terms and conditions and that she could not help me. She later called back, saying she would put me through to a manager. The manager said I could avoid fees by setting up direct debit and email bills and would I like to do so? I said no. The manager then offered me a $32 credit on my next bill, but stated that the fees would remain. I accepted her offer as recompense for the time I’d invested, but I remain unhappy with the whole concept of these spurious fees.
Your preferred outcome I’d like all three fees to be removed from all future bills. If this isn’t possible, I’d still like to know what the Ombudsman thinks of these fees. In short: 1. Is this the way of the world today? 2. Am I flogging a dead horse? 3. Should I put a sock in it? Whatever happens, I don’t want to lose that $32 credit. It may be the only good thing I ever get out of iPrimus. With kind regards and many thanks for your time, Paul.

Opposites attract

January 29, 2017 at 11:11 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Secure MRI for TATs*.

Paradoxically, the veiled concerns about electrical cords and plastic bags have me scouring my room for potential anchor points.

I imagine this is like feeling you’ve a bomb strapped on (even though you don’t) when airport guards approach.

In my study of the shower, I note that the newish curtain rail seems attached to the walls and ceiling by strong (but not too strong) rare earth [?] magnets.

The desire to test this theory is countered only by my fear that the rail may also be alarmed.

About 15 cm above the rail are plugged, serried holes that clearly bespeak a forebear.

Was this a renovation, or were even grimmer forces at work?

The shower head is cylindrical, but so angled and embedded that only a slim, slippery crescent protrudes.

Around it, eight tiles that don’t quite match the rest.

The taps look like recessed Alessi juicers, flushed with shiny steel.

I’m impressed that, while these taps couldn’t hold a loop of dental floss, they’re still easy to turn.

The lounge curtain rail, too, is fixed by magnets. I’m almost certain of it now.

This astonishing attention to detail makes my contrary mind determined to find a flaw.

A cheerless game of There’s Wally.

Eventually, I discern three ways to end myself should the occasion require.

Happily, it doesn’t.

I quietly alert staff to my discoveries,

lest they gain

currency.

* Twitchy Arty Types.

Pic by K. Kendall


To keep this content fresh and strong, you may wish to

Whatever the amount, I’ll be very grateful indeed.


Moreish

January 28, 2017 at 11:50 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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cook-and-more

Swipe right?

One of my least satisfying copywriting clients was my father.

He craved female beauty, company and utility.

Especially after my mother’s death.

In his mid-70s, he asked me to write a personal ad for the local rag.

I wasn’t keen, as I knew that the brief, product, market and customer would be difficult – if not impossible.

Then again, as he’d refused to read any of my fiction, I was curious to see what it would look like.

He wanted a woman who was much slimmer, younger, better dressed and more attractive than he.

She had to be sufficiently educated to appreciate and applaud (but neither exceed nor challenge) his gargantuan knowledge and wit.

She also needed a specific sense of humour.

His.

To convey this mandatory criterion, he insisted the ad include the line:

‘Must love Cook and Moore.’

By this he meant the comedy duo of which he was a fan.

I tried to explain that such a rigorous standard could severely curtail replies, but he was adamant.

And so the ad ran.

On my next visit, I asked how he’d fared.

He said that only one female – ‘of limited intellect and heavy Eastern European extraction’ – had phoned with a riposte:

‘I am cook.

What is “more”?’


This blog runs on (instant) coffee.

Any sum appertaining thereto would be much appreciated and long recalled.


The great teaspoon mystery

January 25, 2017 at 10:49 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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spoons-2

What’s your take?

I’m interested in tea, teaspoons and tea rooms.

So it’s with fascination that I survey the Psyche Ward’s cutlery arrangements.

All utensils are metal … except the teaspoons.

These are plastic.

And, like the medication thimbles, they swarm into non-recycling bins.

In addition to regaining mental and physical stability, I resolve to use my time in here to fathom this culinary anomaly.

After two nights, I feel up to making efforts to converse.

At least I have an icebreaker.

I approach my neighbouring patient, detail the teaspoon situation and ask what he thinks.

He believes metal teaspoons would swiftly be stolen and secreted in bedrooms.

‘OK’, I say. ‘But why?’

‘So everyone’s got their own spoon.’

While I immediately grasp this theory’s comforts, a logistical flaw troubles me.

‘So, once everyone’s got their own spoon, the ward wouldn’t need any more.’

The man looks at me, then the wall, then the hall.

‘I dunno … maybe people take ’em …  when they leave.’

I feel this is a good start.

I next ask the Mindfulness Coach why she thinks only the teaspoons are disposable.

Her firm view is that if they were metal, they’d ‘go missing’.

Given the facility’s strong security focus, I find this hard to swallow.

But she’s keen to start her session, so I take her point as a second useful datum.

Time passes at unusual speeds.

It’s 6:10 on the morning of my security scare.

I’m in dire need of two coffee and four sugar sachets.

Not tea.

I go barefoot, so I don’t wake anyone.

Padding the dim, humming passages is one of the most surreal experiences of my life.

I feel like I’m on the Nostromo, but with carpet.

Piercing the darkness are distant islands of light: the nurse stations.

I pass many rooms.

Most doors are shut.

Some cracked ajar.

A few wide open.

Black holes.

In each I imagine a fresh tragedy: awake, fretting; asleep, nightmaring.

At length, I reach the common dining room – which I expect to be empty and unlit save for the predawn.

Only the latter is true.

Sitting at her customary table is a young woman who has been nothing but friendly and helpful since I was admitted.

Before her, a set of bright acrylic paints.

To her right, a stack of white pages printed with winged unicorns.

She is so intent on colouring these that she barely looks up.

She’s been in here for two years.

So I feel both comfortable and confident about relating my quest.

Her brush pauses mid-stroke and she intones while I make my coffee.

‘You know how when you’ve put everything in the cup and you give it a stir.’

‘Yeah.’

‘Well, see how that plastic spoon keeps spinning, even after you let it go?’

‘I do!’

‘Well, that looks really pretty. Metal teaspoons don’t do that; they’re too heavy. So that’s why they only give us plastic ones.’

I thank her warmly and tell her that’s the best theory I’ve heard so far.

And that when I get out of here, I’ll convey her wisdom to the world.

She seems pleased with this, wishes me well and returns to her work.

Shortly before my discharge, I ask the Head Nurse what she reckons.

She doesn’t have a ‘theory’ about the teaspoons.

She knows.

But what she says next is so prosaic

it’d totally wreck this tale.

And so,

the mystery

lives on …


Got a tip?

🙂


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Brown widow

January 20, 2017 at 9:12 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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743px-agapanthus_praecox_mhnt-bot-2009-7-4

What we do in life …

It is dusk.

I chat on the warm footpath with the widow next door.

She don spik Englis so good.

I no spik Greek at all.

So she’s ahead on points.

We usually get there in the end.

She ask how am I.

I say I’m OK, but dizzy (gestures) from the hospital pills.

She ask why I am in the hospital.

I pause, realising this topic will be even tougher than our council’s three-bin waste cycle.

I point to my head and say it is sick.

I point to the church hall down our street.

I talk about a man who did bad things to me (and lots of other kids) a long time ago.

I glance at her face, to see if my words are small enough.

Unexpectedly, we lock eyes.

Through these wet, brown, Mediterranean portals, I see.

Her grief, her loneliness, her inability to keep up with everything.

And her children’s thirst to flog her home of 40 years.

I wait for her reply.

She nods slowly,

turns,

points to a riot of Agapanthus and says,

‘I think this is too much for the bin.

I don kno if the man – he will take.’

For some seconds, I plan an entirely different response.

Then, I assure her all will be well.

And that if the man – he no take,

I will call the council.

Personally.

Epilogue

He take.

Pic by Roger Culos.


If you found this interesting or entertaining you may like to:

Even a buck or three will keep me in the hunt. With many thanks, Paul.


Kebub

January 15, 2017 at 7:28 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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This is my first memory (so far) so feel free to skip it.

I’m lying on my back in a small bedroom in suburban Melbourne.

Beneath me the white, relatively rough toweling of a many-times-washed nappy.

Not one of today’s supermarket disposables.

An old, analogue version.

The type that began square and was somehow folded to approximate an infant’s pelvis.

With wrapping done, there remained the task of fastening.

For this there were enormous (to me) ‘safety’ pins – likely made in England.

Long, strong and sharp: to penetrate the many folds.

The ‘safety’ bit was a (baby blue) metal cap that slid over the workings once each pin was in place.

I don’t recall this device malfunctioning, but I feared it doing so.

I do recall strong fingers simultaneously holding a stacked fabric corner and striving to penetrate all layers without ‘overshooting’.

I remember worrying that it may be tricky to arrest a pin’s progress into my flesh should it pass through warp and weft with unexpected alacrity or ease.

I also recall two types of strong fingers wielding these fasteners.

This may be a manufactured memory.

Nor, of course, did I possess any descriptors.

The first type of strength was my mother’s.

Skilled. Determined. Busy. Efficient.

The second type was my father’s.

Coarse. Hurried. Annoyed. Not to be bested.

I feared both kinds of force – lest I be pinned to the bed.

But the first kind, less so.

I was thus much relieved when the ultimate pin withdrew,

freeing me for new

(though not always exciting)

experiences.

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