The Weekend Australian - Review - - Lifelines - Jane Fraser

RE­CENTLY I have been point­ing the fish fin­ger. I fi­nally crashed the fish bar­rier and can now eat fish with im­punity, which was some­thing I couldn’t do in my youth for some rea­son, which was quite a prob­lem. Those of my age were part of the preVat­i­can II Catholic Church era and we were also known as Holy Ro­mans, rock-chop­pers, tykes, micks, left-foot­ers and Cat­tlet­icks — these names pro­nounced by in­fi­dels who one day shall know His wrath with knobs on.

Fish was a com­pul­sory sub­stance and one with­out which your soul would end­lessly lan­guish. De­nied meat, you ate fish on Fri­day or else you went straight to hell.

I thought of this the other day when at a lunch for 500 or so Cat­tlet­icks. It was not fair, I mut­tered un­der my breath as the meals were handed around. We women got fish and the chau­vin­ist men ate steak. Why do they do that?

Apart from that ex­cite­ment all was dead calm, as quite a lot of us are not get­ting any younger. Some peo­ple — mainly men — had a lit­tle zizz at the ta­ble. One man at the next ta­ble fell asleep for quite some mo­ments, al­though for­tu­nately he didn’t fall on the floor.

Some time later I was sit­ting on the train on the way home, con­tem­plat­ing my navel. It wasn’t a show-offy thing and I’d stopped think­ing about fish. It was just that I had a pot of flow­ers on my lap and I was get­ting sat­u­rated. I shud­der to think what some of the other pas­sen­gers may have thought.

It wasn’t my fault I had the pot. When lunch ended I found a man wag­ging his fin­ger at me and say­ing: ‘‘ Those have to find their way to a good home!’’ He was re­fer­ring to the flo­ral cen­tre­piece on the lunch ta­ble. My eyes widened. This bloke had never seen my messy kitchen. Good home in­deed. But I was or­dered to de­part from the ho­tel with the blooms from our ta­ble, and there was no point in ar­gu­ing. These men were bosses.

I had to make a plan. First I had to get to the sta­tion with­out get­ting lost. I have pre­vi­ously told you how I have panic at­tacks when it comes to di­rec­tion and the fact I might never see home again. I used to be­have like Hansel and Gre­tel and drop crumbs on the ground; it took me years to re­alise birds would be fol­low­ing me and hav­ing a meal.

I also had to get rid of the flow­er­pot. I thought it best to place it in a non-con­spic­u­ous gut­ter, but ev­ery time I did this an urchin came run­ning af­ter me and threw it back.

I was forced to board the train with it, look­ing quite mad and mak­ing it very clear I didn’t want to start a con­ver­sa­tion with any­one. While the other pas­sen­gers had their heads turned away I skil­fully squashed the vase, which was made of wire and squishy stuff, and stared at the wob­bly flow­ers of many hues, al­though dom­i­nated by pur­ple and pink.

I got off the train with­out fur­ther in­ci­dent and headed to the cab rank for the fi­nal part of the trip home, hand­bag in one hand, bloody bad and mad blooms in the other. Three taxi driv­ers ig­nored me and drove past at a great speed. I couldn’t blame them — who would like the back seat to be a pool of wa­ter?

Of course it was at this minute my hus­band rang me on my mo­bile phone. I can never re­sist a phone call and while fer­ret­ing in my hand­bag lost my bal­ance and dripped cold wa­ter down my legs. I be­gan to give lit­tle whim­pers and told my­self to be­have nor­mally. He was phon­ing to tell me he was caught in traf­fic. ‘‘ Take your time!’’ I snapped.

I fi­nally got home af­ter a up­hill walk and threw the pa­thetic vase on the kitchen ta­ble. It skid­ded along. By this time I was sneez­ing like a horse. Flow­ers are not ex­actly my cup of tea.

Yes! That’s what was greatly needed! Strong black tea would do the trick. When I wake in the morn­ing I smell the tea be­ing made and this is the real rea­son a woman has a hus­band. Mine gets up very early in the morn­ings and I hear him clat­ter­ing the cups and saucers and crunch­ing his ce­real and toast, and it will be a mat­ter of mo­ments be­fore the mug ap­pears (not the man, the mug of tea; al­though both ap­pear at the same time).

How­ever, on this par­tic­u­lar morn­ing there was no sight of the tea. He had brought the flow­ers, ob­vi­ously think­ing they would cheer me up con­sid­er­ably. They didn’t. I dived un­der the du­vet and shrieked: ‘‘ Take the bloody flow­ers away.’’

I would have killed for a cuppa. And should have killed the man who forced those flow­ers on me.

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