Tuesday, 11 February 2014

When I grow up I'm gonna be a cowgirl

I know it's a leopard
What did you want to be when you were an impressionable innocent young thing? A lion tamer like me? Impressionable and Wild Kingdom-lovin' young Cat decided she wanted to be nothing less than a lion tamer after going to see the Moscow Circus somewhere in central Sydney in the 70s. Why that idea flew into her head and blossomed, I'll never know. I think she watched Wild Kingdom too much, which if anyone remembers had an old dude talking about lions and so forth in Africa. Having lived on the continente for quite a few years and even having gone on a safari in Kenya where we saw nothing but Karen Blixen's house, I now realise that there was not a single African person in that television show. I don't remember park rangers. I don't remember villagers. Trips to collect water. Shanty towns. I don't remember Africa being portrayed as anything but a great big lion park, where I wanted to go to buddy up with lions.

Anybody remember Born Free? Elsa and her cubs? The Adamsons in Kenya?
Born free, as free as the wind blows
As free as the grass grows
Born free to follow your heart..
Later I learnt that both Joy and George were both murdered by locals in different circumstances and Elsa died of a tick bite(!)

Despite my love for lions I never had a cat and instead had a crazy cocker spaniel who for some reason made me want to become a vet. This desire dwindled when the hot Australian summers aggravated poor Cindy's (yes I watched the Brady Brunch) continuous ear infections, which meant endless cleaning out of poor Cindy's floppy painful ears. End of veterinary career.

And then? It becomes even more silly. After reading the entire set of Trixie Belden mysteries, over two dozen Agatha Christie books, Seven Little Australians, Charlotte's Web and various other little girl books, I decided that I, too, wanted to write. I remember I even began producing a book at twelve - it was a convict story! I think I was as interested in the drawings and cover and layout as I was in the story itself. And I do believe there was a whiff of sex suggested somewhere. The earliest blogger out there, with a twist.

Marguerite Duras, L'Amant, India Song
During university this desire really kicked in and I remember declaring that I was going to Paris to write books. I had pored over Simone de Beauvoir, Marguerite Duras, Jean-Paul Sartre, a bit of Hemingway and Henry Miller and Anais Nin, and I wasn't going to miss out. Sometimes I think of Paris not as a city but as a home. Enclosed, curtained, sheltered, intimate. The sound of rain outside the window, the spirit and the body turned towards intimacy, to friendships and loves. One more enclosed and intimate day of friendship and love, an alcove. Paris intimate like a room. Everything designed for intimacy. Five to seven was the magic hour of the lovers’ rendezvous. (Anais Nin, Diaries Vol 3, 1939-44)

I even remember my first story written in my au pair's garret, 'The Camel Hoop Earrings'. Never published. Better that way.

So lion tamer or writer? I also had a stretch of studying graphic design, languages and history, and wrote freelance newspaper articles for a Sydney newspaper, but my heart was in the novel. The short story. Katherine Mansfield. Christina Stead. Patrick White. Stendhal. Tolstoy. Turgenev... Man, the girl was thinking big.

I've stuck to my (much smaller) guns and - foolishly! - am still doing it. But I swear there are many days when I wish I would throw my writing aspirations out the window, along with the computer. And I think I should have been something more simpler, more remunerative, less soul-bashing. A dental nurse who leans over and smiles and has facial piercings and black dyed hair and lots of tattoos. A back-up singer with big frizzy hair who has all the moves and a gravelly voice. Why me? Why do I have to be a writer? How pretentious is that?

And what of you? Have you realised your childish dreams? And what about your kids? Have you had any wild ideas appear in the house? What would you say if you child wanted to be a cowgirl? An opera singer? A ski instructor? A writer???

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  1. I always wanted to write, and if I could've combined that with being an opera singer (learning to read music might've helped with that), well, so much the better. But lion tamer - Cat, you dare devil you!

    1. I've heard it said that Pavarotti didn't know how to read music - so there you have it! But how about you pop over to Verona to hear the Diva Daughter sing?

      I hope I made it clear that I didn't take the lion taming wish very far. But I did used to dream about it.

  2. Ah jeez Cat you've brought back such memories (or memories of other people's memories of me!)!
    Apparently at 8 yrs of age I announced to the solemn Sunday gathering of post-wee-free-church-of-scotland worthies that I wanted to be - oh and this is where there ought to have been a bolt from the heavens if He really did exist - a stripper-lady.
    My mother choked on her tea and huckled me out of the livingroom to give me the biggest row of my life.
    Don't ask me where I got that idea. I have not got a clue.
    And it is truly and hysterically such an unsuitable career choice for me - even when I had the body for it I had difficulty stripping for anyone with the light on!!
    Then I wanted to be a social worker. Or a teacher. (aged 10-13yrs)
    Then a musician (13-16 yrs).
    But always I was writing.
    I made little books that I'd send to my young English cousin (he still has them).
    I wrote poems and stories and fancied myself living that bohemian life of wildness.
    I went to Uni imagining a place of wisdom and learning - where pearls of knowledge would be dropped into my mouth like manna.
    English Literature and the MA (Hons) disabused me of any writing confidence I ever had.
    How on earth I ended up practicing law is beyond me...!

    1. Oh but Yvonne I'm pretty sure that inside you're a stripper/musician/writer.. the lawyer thang is just on the outside X

  3. I wanted to be a research scientist and work on the barrier reef, or anywhere near the sea. 45 years ago that simply wasn't an option for girls. It was suggested that I be a nurse, hairdresser, secretary or teacher, none of which appealed. I worked in a library until I had saved enough to travel overseas. Then I got married, had a baby, became a single mother, teachers' aide, fashion designer and various other things...and now I travel. Who knows where life will lead. My son is a winemaker who wanders around the world having a very nice time. I didn't mind what he did as long as he was happy.

    1. I bet you have some stories to tell Debra. From fashion to winemaking to travel - it's all in the genes eh? I think so many doors were closed to women in the past..

  4. You crack me up, a Lion Tamer no less, totally brilliant I know we would have been best buddies as kids. I also had a cocker spaniel (named Jamie) who was the one to listen to all my plans and upsets with my big brothers. I remember he would sit with me on the steps of our backyard and I'd sing to him. Yes I wanted to be a Vet and did my work experience at a Vets surgery which was okay until they put the dead dog in the bin....

    My friend and I knew the story of Elsa inside out and I read all the books, watched the movies and still know all the words to 'Born Free'....
    I always loved to write but my first love was art, I was always found in the art room at school and galleries whenever possible. I also studied photography, knew I would travel the world and read anything I could get my hands on. I love writing and blogging, it's a part of me now. I have your postcard on my desk and always give it a nod and a smile....one day x

    Have I realized my childish dreams...yes and no, plenty of them still to fulfill yet. Carina wants to be in fashion, photography or writing and Luca wants to be a dinosaur guy. I tell them anything is possible xx

  5. Catherine, it sounds like you have always wanted to write and just as well as you do it so well. I am still trying to work out what I want to be when I grow up. My plans have changed many times along the way as I am spontaneous especially if it is more exciting than I had planned.

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