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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.

John Howard – Mastermind Champ

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

KERRY O’BRIEN: And now, John Clarke and Bryan Dawe with their own version of ‘Mastermind’.

(JOHN CLARKE AS JOHN HOWARD, BRYAN DAWE AS INTERVIEWER) INTERVIEWER: Your special subject is John Howard.

Your time starts now.

What will John Howard never bring in ever?

JOHN HOWARD: A GST.

INTERVIEWER: Correct.

When did John Howard bring in a GST?

JOHN HOWARD: 1st July, 2000.

INTERVIEWER: Correct.

What are weapons of mass destruction?

JOHN HOWARD: Hang on, is that George calling?

INTERVIEWER: Correct.

If you know people want a republic, how do you get them to vote against it?

JOHN HOWARD: You ask them to vote for a republic where they don’t get to vote for the president.

INTERVIEWER: Correct.

What is the Kyoto agreement?

JOHN HOWARD: Something to do with coal pricing.

INTERVIEWER: Correct.

What is the environment?

JOHN HOWARD: Pass.

INTERVIEWER: Correct.

What were being thrown overboard into the sea just before the last election?

JOHN HOWARD: Nothing.

INTERVIEWER: I beg your pardon, I’m sorry, I misread that question.

What did John Howard say were being thrown overboard into the sea just before the election?

JOHN HOWARD: The children of asylum seekers.

INTERVIEWER: Correct.

And what did he do to prove it?

JOHN HOWARD: Showed film of it not happening.

INTERVIEWER: Correct.

And who told him the children were being thrown into the sea?

JOHN HOWARD: The Defence Minister said he had been told that by the Navy.

INTERVIEWER: Correct.

And what did the Minister for Defence do when the Navy denied that?

JOHN HOWARD: He resigned and got a job selling defence contracts to the Australian Government.

INTERVIEWER: And was there a conflict of interest involved?

JOHN HOWARD: No, it was Peter Reith.

INTERVIEWER: Correct.

What about some of the other people in the Howard ministry when they retired?

Where have they retired to?

JOHN HOWARD: They’ve got jobs with companies dealing in the area where they used to be the minister.

INTERVIEWER: Correct.

And would this have been worked out beforehand?

JOHN HOWARD: Shut your face.

INTERVIEWER: Correct.

What does the expression ‘integrity’ mean?

JOHN HOWARD: I’m sorry, can you repeat the question?

INTERVIEWER: Correct.

If you made a promise and don’t keep it, what is it?

JOHN HOWARD: A non-core promise.

INTERVIEWER: Correct.

Who can get married in Australia?

JOHN HOWARD: Marriage is between men and women.

INTERVIEWER: What if they don’t like each other?

JOHN HOWARD: It doesn’t matter if they hate each other’s guts, as long as one of them is a man and one of them is a woman.

INTERVIEWER: Correct.

Why don’t we have to listen to senior members of the Defence community criticise the Government on defence?

JOHN HOWARD: Because they’re too old.

INTERVIEWER: Correct.

Why don’t we have to listen to ex-public servants criticising the Government’s use of research information?

JOHN HOWARD: Well, they’re the scum of the earth, aren’t they, public servants?

INTERVIEWER: Can you be more specific?

JOHN HOWARD: Get stuffed.

INTERVIEWER: Correct.

And at the end of the round, your house is worth three times what you paid for it.

JOHN HOWARD: My house is worth three times what I paid for it!

INTERVIEWER: Congratulations!

JOHN HOWARD: Thanks.

Oh, fantastic!

INTERVIEWER: Low interests rates — you’re worth a bloody fortune.

JOHN HOWARD: Jeez, he’s great, that John Howard, isn’t he?

INTERVIEWER: Correct.

KERRY O’BRIEN: ‘Mastermind’ a la John Clarke and Bryan Dawe.