About janetfulton

Creativity researcher interested in journalism

Those long days of summer …

Watching Puberty Blues reminded me of a story I wrote a few years ago about my teenage years at the beach. It was published in the Newcastle Herald one summer.

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I turned fourteen in the summer of 1976: the year of the beach. My friends and I were in love with the Bay City Rollers, Sherbet and platform thongs. But most of all, we were in love with the beach.

We couldn’t wait to get to the local beach and expose our delicate, winter-white skins. This was in the Seventies, before anybody knew about the danger of the sun. We didn’t know that sun damage caused wrinkles, or uneven skin, or skin cancer.

On the beach, the surfers ruled. We loved them. They lay on the beach with their surfboards stuck in the sand until some strange internal calling would send them all into the surf. Their beach-babe girlfriends gossiped and sunbaked, squealing delightedly when their boyfriends emerged from the surf and shook their wet hair over them.

Annette was the cool beach-babe we all aspired to. All the surfers drooled over her. She developed early and filled her bikini in exactly the right way, she had sun-kissed blonde hair, and was already brown when we went to the beach on the first day of summer. How did she do this? The eternal, envious question. She has since told me that every afternoon after school, for a month before summer, she lay out in the backyard in her swimmers, her body coated in baby oil.

My best friend and I tried so hard to be beach-babes. But I was a late bloomer and shattered when one of the boys remarked that I wouldn’t need a surfboard to go surfing because I was “flat as a board”. We wore the tiniest bikinis we could find so as much of our skin as possible would be exposed to the sun and slathered ourselves with Coconut Reef Oil in the vain hope that we would go that beautiful, longed for, chocolate brown. Even now, I smell coconut oil and am transported back to those days. My girlfriend had delicate, English skin with a light smattering of freckles … until she tried to get a tan. She burnt badly, peeled for a week, and ended up with more of the hated freckles.

We would lie on the beach for up to eight hours and get so sunburnt that we could hardly wear clothes. The worst place to get sunburnt is the back of the knees; it’s almost impossible to bend your legs. And riding home on the 322 bus was hell after a day at the beach – hot vinyl seats and sunburnt legs is not a comfortable combination. But the best compliment that anyone could make was, “Gee, you’re so burnt. You’re going to be sore tomorrow.” This was always said with admiring sympathy, and we agreed with our heads held high sporting a small, self-satisfied smile.

I always had a love/hate relationship with the beach. I loved the time with my friends, and spent all of my summer holiday there, but hated the sand (irrational, I know). The sand invaded every crack and crevice. It made your Pine Lime Splice strangely crunchy. It got on your towel, in your Pluto Pup and through the Coconut Reef Oil and there is no way to describe the agony of trying to apply oil onto sunburnt skin when the bottle is full of sand. I’d go swimming and my swimmers would fill with wet sand and it’s almost impossible to get wet sand out of swimmer pants under a cold outdoor shower while trying not to flash anything.

But I loved the ocean although our local beach was well known for its shore dumps – waves that picked you up and threw you down. Chundered. You emerged from the dump choked with salt water, coughing and nearly vomiting, with your swimmers not quite where they should be. The best place to be was out the back. Once out past the shore dumps, the rhythmic swell of the waves lulled you until a freak wave formed and chundered you back to shore.

Watching everybody swim was like watching a strange, tribal ritual. The boys ran and dived under the first wave. The girls tiptoed to the edge, shrieking whenever the water touched us, slowly taking dolly steps until finally we were in deep enough for a wave to wash over us. We would go under a wave and emerge, furtively adjusting the tiny triangles of bikini so no bits were showing. The string bikini ruled (I remember a crocheted string bikini) but we always made sure the knots were tied up double top and bottom. The boys loved to tease us by suddenly pulling on the string and there is nothing more embarrassing to a teenage girl than for her swimmers to suddenly fall off in the water.

At the end of the day, we went home by bus, covered in sand, our skin tight and sore with the promise of a major sunburn. And the thought that tomorrow we would do it all again.

Are we the worst in the world? Looking at women in Cabinet in a slightly different way

I don’t like commenting on political stuff – my political affiliations are personal – but I saw this graph doing the rounds on social media the other day and feel compelled to say something.

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First of all, it’s a sad day when only one woman is considered good enough to take part in the Cabinet. Mr Abbott claims he wanted stability and that’s why he didn’t change much of his front bench … but he still changed some of his front bench so that argument is really invalid.

But, I felt slightly uneasy when acting opposition leader Chris Bowen said Afghanistan had more women in its cabinet. Politicians are very, very good at playing with numbers. Looking at the graph, Mr Bowen’s remark is certainly true, the raw numbers show that, but what about when the numbers are looked at in a slightly different way.

So, I checked the population* of the twelve countries to see how those numbers stacked up against the number of women in cabinet and those numbers tell a slightly different story.

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China, not surprisingly, comes last with one woman per almost 700 million population. However, the US is pretty awful as is Australia. And Afghanistan is still doing better than Australia with more than twice as much female representation per population. New Zealand with one woman representative per 730,000 population and Liberia with one woman per 840,000 are the best out of this group.

On saying that, it still says something about women and how women are represented AROUND THE WORLD, when so few hold positions of power.

*I used Google to get the populations and the figures mostly come from World Bank and are the 2012 figures.

An apology to my RHD tweeps

Doing a research higher degree (RHD), either a Masters or PhD, is like pregnancy and childbirth. A very long pregnancy, admittedly, but there are a lot of similarities. A while ago, Emma Jane, on The Punch, summed up those similarities really well and called a PhD “childbirth for the brain”: both are “mind-meltingly, stomach-churningly, sleep-deprivingly difficult.”

This idea was brought home strongly when I had a Twitter conversation with a couple of friends who are millimetres from the end of their RHD gestation and a non-conversation with another friend who had a beautiful little girl at the end of December.

I didn’t call my pregnant friend because I remember how torturous those phone calls were when my first baby decided to make an appearance four days after her due date.

My first baby was due on Easter Saturday and everyone went away over the Easter break so late on Easter Monday, the phone calls started from loving family and friends. I had the same conversation over and over: no, I haven’t had the baby yet … yes, I’m still here … yes, the baby’s late … Aaaaaaaagh!!!

So, I didn’t call my pregnant friend.

But, unthinkingly, at the end of a twitter conversation, I sent this out:

“BTW how’s your thesising going?”

Oh, boy.

Understandably, a few of my RHD friends jumped on that comment, calling me insensitive and thoughtless. Tongue-in-cheek of course (they know I wouldn’t deliberately provoke them), but there is an underlying truth in that accusation.

The final six months of an RHD is freaking bloody hard and there is so much pressure on you to finish from the Uni, from family and friends who don’t understand the process, but most of all from yourself, that you don’t need someone who should know better to add to the angst.

So I’m blowing kisses and sending positive thoughts and a heartfelt apology to my Twitter friends who are finding the RHD process painful.

Like my friend with her little treasure, there is a beautiful baby at the end of it and it is very worth the pain xx

I’m missing the Mummy gene

OK, before I start, here’s a disclaimer … I adore my children and they know it (I asked). And this post is a wee bit late but I’ve been a bit leery about writing it because there are such strong ideas about Mummies.

But, I’m going to take a deep breath and just say it: I’m one of those mothers who DIDN’T cry or feel like crying when my kids started school.

I read and enjoyed the posts last month on MamaMia from Kim Wilkins and Sarah Macdonald about their babies starting big school and I follow celebrity mums Jessica Rowe (@msjrowe) and Mia Freedman (@MiaFreedman) on Twitter who both cried when their eldest and youngest (respectively) started school.

But me? Nope. I mentally kicked up my heels and went home to a blissfully quiet house.

I think I’m missing the Mummy gene.

My babies are 24 and 21 and you might be thinking I don’t remember that far back (god, 20 years!) but I do because I was one of the few mothers who didn’t cry at the school gate.

I’ve raised smart, funny, responsible adults and adore spending time with them but here are a few things that support my non-mummy gene idea:

  • When my eldest was in Year 4 (aged 9), she walked herself and her 5-year-old brother to school BY HERSELF.
  • They were in bed at 7.00 most nights (and sometimes earlier if we’d had a busy day or I’d had enough).
  • Lots of times the kids had noodles or spaghetti on toast for dinner and hubby and I had a nicely cooked meal after they went to bed.
  • When they got to high school, they had to make their own breakfast and lunch.

But I must have done something right.

One day my daughter and I went to a laughter workshop and when we were all asked what laughter meant to us, our beautiful girl said the thing she most remembers and loves about our family was that we always laughed.

That’s when I cried.

Musings of a young Nan

I congratulated a work colleague the other day on his newborn and we fell into a discussion about babies. He told me his other child was two.

OK, you’re thinking, so what?

He’s 52 and this is his first family.

I’m not judging him and it’s marvellous that he’s so happy with his new family but I compared his experiences with mine. My kids are 24 and 21 and I became a Nan at 43.

A couple of days later, another colleague told me about a friend of hers who is pregnant with her first child. She’s 48.

When this child is 21, I could well be a great-grandmother … scary thought.

My family have been young breeders: Mum had me at 21, I had my daughter at 23, and she had our precious granddaughter when she was 20 so with this kind of pattern, it’s feasible that I could be a great-grandmother in my early 60s.

It’s lovely to have grandchildren at a young age. We can act silly without feeling silly; we don’t creak too badly in the knees when we get down on the floor to play; we still remember all the nursery rhymes and stories we told our own kids; and, (I’m going to whisper this) we both get a little flash of pride when people tell us we ‘look way too young to have grandchildren!’

But there’s also a slight niggle with being young grandparents. And I’ll probably be bagged for saying that.

Neither of my grandmothers worked outside the home and lovely hubby’s grandparents were retired. We both still work, and work hard. I’ve also spent the last five odd years doing a PhD at Uni. Actually, the gestation and birth of my PhD coincided with our daughter’s gestations and births.

So, we’re busy and I’m sure my daughter gets irritated with me at times because I don’t have as much time to help out as she’d like. Or as much as I’d like.

But watching these precious bundles grow and learn is awesome and cuddling them, reading to them, chatting with them and seeing their eyes light up when they see us is pretty good, too.

It’s pure love. From us and from them.