A Fair Day’s Pay

Vanstone Tombstone(Disclaimer: Any resemblance to any person live or dead is probably deliberate.)

Let’s face it, we moved north because, despite the excruciating lack of Culture with a capital C, it was cheaper to live in the sunshine without those crippling heating bills and astronomical inner city rents. Jim was offered a better job and the kids loved going to the beach more often than once a year when we stayed with grandma at Bondi.

Pretty soon we put a deposit on an attractive house and land package at Bribie Island and settled into coastal suburban mortaged bliss. Then one day our average aussie lifestyle lost the plot. As we careened into the unknown, we had no idea that things would get so out of hand.

I’d always been a dreamer, and my friends, who I could count on one hand, thought I was weird … she’s the odd one who reads books and mutters to herself, I heard them saying.

So I didn’t tell them about my dreams, which unlike theirs, about which they chattered drearily, weren’t about new washing machines, trendy clothes and toffee nose private schools for the kids.

When Jim brusquely informed me he would be working weekends from now on, I asked him how the hell he’d bargained away his time with the children.

‘It was go for an individual AWA or retrenchment. They didn’t so much as say it but everyone knew what they meant. If I don’t cop it sweet, I’ll lose my job for sure. But the pay is better’. He winced and glanced at me hopefully.

The company needed that production line running full tilt all weekend or its economic viability would be threatened by overseas competitors – like China, India, Taiwan, Indonesia, Korea and all the other sweatshop nations. I couldn’t understand it, those mind-bogglingly expensive TV ads the government ran for months on good old Aunty ABC said it was against the law for employers to sack their workers for objecting to AWAs so I belaboured Jim till my jaw hurt.

What the hell was he thinking? To help pay the mortgage, I worked three days a week part-time while Billy and Megan were at the local state school. So why did we want any more money? I nearly hit the roof when I worked out after tax we’d end up with only $10 more a week under the new weekend work arrangements.

And I’d be lumbered with parental duties seven days a week.

Jim wouldn’t change his mind. I reckon he’d lost that ability years ago after he was offered and accepted a supervisory role on the factory floor. Yet this was the guy who’d gone out on strike a couple of years before to protect all the shift workers’ holiday pay.

After a few months, our marriage teetered, wobbled and then fell off the brink. Jim took to going to the pub after work. Some drink to remember, some drink to obliterate.

Jim was the latter. I had to do something. I took to the internet and found other mums, wrote long nasty diatribes on blogs, newsgroups, chatrooms and guestbooks to vent my fury. The kids would come home from school and find me tapping away, tapping away. I wrote letters to the editor, the federal member, the state member, senators, the ombudsman, anyone I thought might annoy the unfeeling ghouls I felt were responsible for my family’s predicament.

One evening when he finally reeled in, Jim told me about his affair with the slim blonde in the next workshop. I remembered what my mum had said. Don’t have kids unless you can support them yourself, without a man.’ I’d made my bed and would have to lie in it, with all four tons of bullshit.

So after the kids were in bed, there I’d be, writing stories about my life, imaginary lives, escapist tales of passion and adventure, with slim brunettes, redheads AND blondes, swept off their tiny feet by handsome mysterious rich men. A chance meeting with a woman who had a publisher mate turned up trumps. When my first book was accepted, I celebrated alone. After my fifth book won a major prize, people started to take notice of me, the pissed off single suburban mum from Bribie Island.

Billy and Megan were installed in a ‘good’ private school while I revelled in sumptous book tours arranged and paid for by my publishers.

With my do-it-yourself personal success guide I hit the mother lode and was presented with a top Queensland Rotary award for my contribution to Australian small business by none other than the Prime Minister’s wife.

I’m not surprised she ignored me afterwards. In my caustic speech I thanked her little Johnny and his frantic feudalisations for my success.

As I chuckled with snide, self-congratulatory glee at my hard won awards and comforts, I felt a rough hand shake my shoulder.

Amanda‘Wake up Amanda, wake up!’

‘Jim, Jim …. I’m making enough for all of us now,’ I mumbled, then froze.

Heavens to betsy, it was Costello.

‘Get on the floor and present your speech supporting the IR bill before the Speaker notices your daydreaming! The opposition are already sniggering,’ he hissed. He looked like death warmed up after a week in a septic trench, all slime and pudge.

‘Huh …guh… ughh’, I spluttered. Cunningly I feigned correction of a few stray stiff tendrils bristling out of the steel net that was my perm, or rather, I should say, my wig. My habits of late catching up with me, I was too over-enthusiastic in my cover-up … and horrors, it fell off! Was this the real dream?

‘The members will resume their seats!’ the speaker snarled at the left bench who it now seemed, were guffawing helplessly at none other than me. This was better than Fraser dropping his dacks.

Why had things gone so wrong?

‘The Pacific solution has been an outstanding success …. ‘

‘Wrong speech, you silly fat cow’, a backbencher cackled. I girded up my considerable, intimidating loins and lambasted onwards.

‘Urr, while Labor pretends to be the party of the workers, the unemployed and the poor, it’s time for a reality check.’ Yes, that was the speech. The poor, desperate sods on the left were already settling back into their crosswords.

‘But you can look at the real things that affect real people. Can they afford their mortgage? Can their kids get a job? Now we don’t believe in sound economic management just to please some ideologies or to please academics or commentators, we believe in it because of the real difference it makes to real people.’

Laid up, with a nice surprise

Horror of horrors, the ague has struck. The mind wanders, the brow heats, the chest heaves, the throat drowns in nasty chunky phlegm and what is left of the voice curses the miserable infant nephew who transmitted his filthy lurgy. Fringe saw him touch the bloody pizza, and had no more after that, so the vile invaders must have projected surreptitiously through the air to her unsuspecting nostrils.

It’s not often Fringe is sick enough to actually take to her bed, and this is one such occasion. Husband is solicitous, makes lots of cups of lemon tea, soup, brings cough medicine, pounds one’s back and sympathises delightfully. The little toady nephew and his doting father will pay for this! The damages will increase exponentially for every extra day Fringe is laid up.

Taking to one’s bed does NOT stop clients’ phone calls or emails, which if anything increase in volume and completely unrealistic demands. It makes recovery unwanted as work will be annoying dense. Neither does one, like in a cushy paid job, receive compo or sickness benefits. Grrrrrrrr.

As some sort of mitigating compensation, Fringe has learnt that one of her stories has been published in the March 07 Skive Magazine Quarterly. More cred stashed into the literary saddle bag. In celebration, the next post will be another story from last year by Fringe, featuring the now demoted Amanda.

Pass the Bubbly, Darling!

‘Another glass of bubbly, darling?’ Of course she would. And if her prim mouth was sipping on delicious Taitinger, I might squeeze a word in edgeways.

‘I was going to tell you about the absolutely best thing that happened last year – while you were in Iran.’ My niece Emma is a foreign correspondent for one of the better daily newspapers. She peered at me over her flute and grimaced. I pushed on before she could interrupt.

‘Malcolm asked us out on his yacht. Just a day out round the harbour. John and Peter were there too of course,’ I said.

Scowling, Emma interjected, ‘I bet no one mentioned the latest wealth distribution figures’.

Emma could be a real darling, but really, when would she grow up and forget her quaint socialist ideals? We all voted left in our twenties of course, yet there’s no excuse after one is over forty and successful for not supporting those who look after us. Emma liked to retort that people vote for the tories in their elder years because of neurological degeneration caused by too many alcohol-drenched cocktail dos.

‘What’s that you say? Not the P word! My goodness, John and Peter have run a very tight ship and you should be grateful. You know, darling, the poor are looked after as we become richer! Between you and me, the poor only deserve the scraps anyway. In these days of full employment, you must admit all the evidence points to the fact that they are genetically deficient and chronically lazy. They’d never make crew on Malcolm’s lovely super-maxi’.

Emma snorted.

‘As a matter of fact, there was a young thing on Malcolm’s yacht, a relative of Peter’s, I think, her name was Beth, who was moaning about the P word. I told her over drinkies “The poor will be cared for if us capable captains of industry are rewarded with lots of incentives for our expertise – more chunky remuneration packages, lovely options and rights issues – after all, we make the important wealth for ummmmm … everybody. Trickle down economics work, you know. More for us means more for them.” She was quite taken aback I think, because she began to look at me very strangely. More foie gras for you, sweetie?’

‘No thanks’, Emma replied stiffly.

‘Don’t clench your teeth, darling, it looks so unattractive,’ I cautioned. ‘Anyway, Beth said to me “You must admit that long term unemployed people need support – think of the soaring crime rate if they have nothing.”‘

‘Pull the other one, darling, I laughed at her. You know it’s their own fault. Lazy mental deficients who should be purged before they breed more like themselves, darling. They’re not worth worrying about. I know it sounds awful, darling, but really we should chain them in the mines along with their tawdry offspring from age five as they did in the good old days! Goodness knows we need more mine workers at the moment! Forget about them and concentrate on the Sydney to Hobart and your next fabulous allotment of free entitlements, darling. We’ve worked hard for all this.’

‘Really, Emma, her face was turning a dreadful shade of puce’. I giggled. ‘Please pour some more champagne, darling, I’m so glad we managed to close out our last company when we did and can still afford the good stuff. Pity about the shareholders but they should have taken more care – caveat emptor as Daddy, and you know what a successful property developer he was, well until those ghastly green bans, used to say’.

I pursed my lips. ‘Then Beth started in on Johnny’s media laws, defending that dreadful leftie ABC that *our* taxes pay for. She had the gall to insist that Johnny’s government is the highest taxing government in Australia’s history!’

‘Well, Emma, I put her straight.’ I smiled at Emma triumphantly.

‘If you are having tax problems, dear, I said, you should find yourself a new accountant. Pay taxes … you must be joking! none of our companies have *ever* paid a cent! yet look at all the jobs we created with the help of those wonderful government subsidies – six months of them, then when they run out, fire the little dears and take on new ones with new subsidies. Full employment is good for us all!’

‘When our last company went under … poor shareholders again, but there you go … the trainees were up for replacement anyway. In our next venture though, we’re going to import foreign workers … they’re all the rage, you know, they work for peanuts and don’t complain like the ungrateful local refuse.’
Howard grants to private schools
‘Meanwhile, we don’t want all our lovely tax money spent on no-hoping, genetically modified, bone-lazy, bludging dead weights … when it *should* be spent on making life easier for those who deserve it and who have the social qualifications – us, and our gifted, rich children, like you, darling. Private education costs the earth these days, you know.’

‘”And what about education for everybody?” Beth asked me’.

‘Well, I had her there, sweetie. “I’m sure dear Johnny would provide more funding for education of those disgusting long term unemployed menaces and their fifth rate offspring if he believed they were capable and willing. But they’re not, are they. They are just trash. It’s *their* fault and like breeds like, darling. We’re not responsible for their chromosomal failures. Obviously, we need more funding for *private* schools … because it’s people like *us* who were born to succeed. We must invest our money where it will do our country the most good.”‘

‘Well, Beth began yelling at me. “I expect you think disabled people are on the take too!”‘

‘”Well, yes actually, dear,” I replied. “Let’s not forget about those gouging fakers. Their lack of conscience and the way they pool their far more than generous allowances is dooming Australian society and our way of life.”

‘”I know people who could work a computer with their left foot if they wanted and who should be working right now! there’s plenty of work if only they’d try, but they just don’t seem to want to work, do they. Let’s take away their wheelchairs and catheters and see how they like it then.”‘

‘Well, dear, at that point, Beth began to move toward me with a look of total fury And right at that moment who should walk between us but dear John and Peter. Well, she bowled into them, the clumsy wench, didn’t she’.

‘Into the drink they went, both of them. Politicians overboard! John seemed to have trouble keeping his head above water, and between you and me, I could have sworn Peter was really trying to keep him under. Of course we contained our laughter – it wouldn’t do to upset them – threw life buoys, hauled them out and everyone swore to keep it out of the papers. Beth was posted to Swaziland not long after, I believe. Later, over canapes, John promised to look into an investment subsidy for our new company venture on the q.t. too – so thoughtful of him.’

‘Hahahaha, great story’, laughed Emma. ‘Don’t suppose anyone took photos?’

‘Not quite sure, darling, but Malcolm was snapping away earlier that day. Anyway darling, you must remember, dear, to trust the super-maxi you know, where we who deserve it are assured a place on the crew. After all, *we* are the captains of industry and backbone of this country and deserve every drop of this delicious champagne! Now would you please pass that bonus rights acceptance form if you wouldn’t mind? Emma … Emma?’

Through the window I watched her stalk to her car, mobile phone in hand. Oh dear. Surely no one would possibly believe her!