Winter worries; Grandma stuff

How gentle is the slipper-to-tail encouragement I offer Molly when she is indecisive about going outside in May.

No contact with cat flesh; just with a whisper of long black fur. By June it has become more explicit; the wind and cold are waiting to burst into my just warm enough environment. So it has become a gentle shove that she cannot misunderstand. By July the exit has become gruff, accompanied by words. The season strains my patience. I draw her attention unkindly to the tumbleweed balls of fur the wind blows about the floor. I forget to warm her milk. The pruning is done. The high hedge has been gone after like a Liberal politician cutting the public service, or the sad, few surviving amenities for the young unemployed. The hedge looks awful despite the gardener’s best efforts.   It will grow back. But I am winter irritable. I brood over struggle street homes dangerously lit with candles and heated byfires. And people who have never known hardship telling others to get a better job. Adelaide has a surprisingly sharp winter that goes on too long. My neighbours, in other seasons cheerfully spilling into the street after their trips to Bunnings and Masters at weekends, are quiet. I don’t go to my favourite coffee shop for fear I will be kissed on the cheek by someone with a virus. When you are old, infectious illnesses are a terrible waste of time. But soon, perhaps even as you read this, we will be aware that “… the Roman hyacinths are blooming in bowls and/The winter sun creeps by the snow hills; /The stubborn season has made stand.” Its last stand before summer. I don’t recite more because it goes on a bit about death winds, but these few lines of T. S. Eliot’s A Song for Simeon have been in my head since my teens. I bring them to mind to deal with everything from an aching back to sunless days. I grow hyacinths faithfully, every year. What on earth do the young have in their heads for times of discontent? Not poetry, it seems. I went to a book shop only to find they have no poetry for kids.  Short of leaving poetry books around for my grandchildren to trip over, I don’t know how to get poetry to them. They are probably at their peak period for memorising, if their ability to recite soccer statistics is an indication. They know so much – heaps more than I did at their age – but I wonder what they will drag out of their minds for consolation when life is not so rosy. Surely not “babeh, babeh, lerv me” lyrics; though rap has more to offer. Grandma stuff. Grandma worries. Winter worries. Of course nothing has made me more winter-sad than the Nobel laureate who belittled the presence of women in science labs. Women in several parts of the world turned their wit and scorn upon him and he felt obliged to do a token resignation. Not that I think for a moment he is sorry. He had something on his chest and he thought he might get it off by attempting to joke about it. Age-old misogyny tactic, Timmy. Some of the worst workplace misogyny stories I have heard came to light after this; some on my Facebook newsfeed that I sense have never been uttered before… Australian women treated so badly by men of science in laboratories that they gave up their career. Only last year the Royal Society in London urged people to help it highlight the achievements of women in science, starting with a campaign to get the women’s names and achievements included or updated in Wikipedia. That should have raised awareness, but after the laureate’s disgusting description of female scientists, the Royal Society and others must know that they need to start consciousness raising among the lab blokes – and among the laureates. A friend wondered aloud how much and how many women had contributed to the laureate’s prizewinning work. And we spoke as one the name Rosalind Franklin, the woman whose name should have been right up there when the discovery of DNA structure was being lauded, but has only latterly been properly recognised. I remember reading James Watson’s autobiographical account, The Double Helix, when it was first published in 1968. It seemed to me then that Rosalind Franklin, already dead at 37 of ovarian cancer, had likely been drastically short-changed. It wasn’t hard to imagine what problems Franklin may have had in her laboratories, as a woman being ignored, sometimes laughed at, and at least once called a fool. The only nice thing I have to say about coal is that the British Coal Utilisation Research Association gave the young crystallographer a research position when Cambridge University was letting her languish. And now those who enjoy limiting the opportunities of others, are getting stuck into the aged, belittling them, often with sour jokes on the internet. It is not to be borne. We need an equality spring to follow this winter of discontent. @mollyfisher4  

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