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Switching between fast and slow – by Beth

24 Sep

When a tiny person called Leo crashed a semi-trailer (at speed) into what I will call “life before Leo”, I never could have dreamt of the repercussions. Well, I totally could, but it’s just different actually living in “life after Leo” and one of the big things is how my relationship with fast and slow has changed.

At the start, my life felt like it slowed down to some insanely slow groundhog day. Feed, change, sleep, feed, change, sleep, feed, change, sleep. And he took soooo long to go to sleep. Always has. Just close your eyes and sleep already! Having left a fast-paced, busy job a couple of months earlier, I couldn’t believe that this is what my life had become. My brain was in a fog too so I couldn’t think so fast. Baby conspiracy to force you into “slowing the hell down Career Mummy and take a chill pill”.

So, I adjusted, and leaving the house I was struck by how everyone was moving so fast, talking so fast. Do do do. Buy buy buy. TIME WARP!

After a while I got my regular brain back. Phew! But I started to (literally) smell the roses and learn to enjoy the new pace of my life.

Then, he started crawling and stuff sped up again. and walking, and it sped up again. Today, he was insisting not only that Leo was running but that mummy needed to be running too. But don’t get me wrong. It still takes us 30 minutes to walk around the block if he’s not rushed by me. Close gate. Open gate. Close gate. Open gate. Look a cat! Ooh, a berry! etc.

I’ve returned to work two days a week and it’s so amazing to have the opportunity to straddle the two time zones. It’s given me that “perspective” thing that older mothers tell you get when you have kids and you think yada,yada. But it’s true! I’m so much more adept at switching between fast and slow than I used to be. It’s very satisfying.

And now for a couple of lists, because I love a good list….

Stuff I’m faster at since having a kid: Shopping (I liken it to staging a raid, London riots-style, except that I pay for it at the end); sex (it’s only us that read this, right?); internet shopping (I sometimes terrify myself how fast I can buy multiple things on Etsy); reading crappy women’s magazines in supermarket queues.

Stuff I do slower since having a kid: Cooking (I do it faster, but it takes a lot longer. I start chopping vegies at like 9am and make it in bits and pieces throughout the day); folding laundry (or it could just be that there is so. damn. much. of. it. Blah!) Walking anywhere, or here’s a new one – walking with no particular destination in mind! Just walking where the mood takes you.


A Speedy Loss of English – by Justyna

23 Sep

Apparently, according to the stats, you lose 8 words per day if you do not regularly speak or use your primary language. English, being mine.

I have been living in Poland for nearly 6 years now. That’s almost 2190 days. And that my friends, is a whopping 17 520 English words gone. Lost. In a vacuum. Retrieved only by either coincidence or hard work (googling). There appears to be a speedy decline of my brain’s left hemisphere and a quick mud pit evolving out of my lobe’s Wernicke area (the part responsible for language comprehension). It’s a mystery to me why I am still considered an English ‘native speaker’ here, when I couldn’t for the life of me, the other day, remember the words for ‘duster’ and ‘dust pan’. Even though my mother tongue is actually Polish, my Aussie accent and an entire Australian education from primary school into university, are deemed worthy enough of granting me this ‘native’ title. Not taking this honour lightly I do my bit on a daily basis to have some English in my life. But recently I have been feeling that trawling through etsy and watching five back-to-back seasons of The Wire, are simply not enough. You fill me? Also I got a massive slap-in-the-head wake up call a few months back, when visiting Sydney. We were driving to my cousin’s wedding and Michal turned to me and said (in Polish), “you know, you’re much more confident, witty and self-assured in English”. Uh, really? Great. So why are we back in Krakow exactly? So you can have a mad, whiny, boring wife who walks around the place unsure of herself. This, as a result, has led me to fight my very own bilingual warfare. Improve my Polish even more (it’s currently pretty good, but I still do get wobbly in heated arguments. When they’re with Michal I quickly revert to English so that I can win) and simultaneously stop this speedy decline of my English capabilities. The latter is being achieved with our two-year-old, Kazek.

Kazek is being raised in an English and Polish language environment. Meaning, he’s hardly able to string words together, despite being two years old. He’s also becoming a lazy little bugger, by selecting the easier version to pronounce. E.g. ‘ball’ instead of ‘piłka’, ‘up’ instead of ‘wysoko’, ‘stół’ instead of ‘table’, ‘dać’ instead of ‘give’ and ‘poo’ instead of ‘kupa’. It’s remarkable though, how quickly he’s adapted to understanding both. Having to be consistent and never throwing in any Polish words for convenience, I have had to brush up on certain areas of the English language to assist in the healthy development of my son. Namely in the vocab area of heavy machinery, farming equipment and road construction. From excavators, to crane trucks, to harvesters, steam rollers, pile drivers and hooklift hoists, I am not only working on the 8 words per day loss, but am sounding like quite the engineer to the passer by. If they too were ‘native’ English speakers. Kazek in return shows his enthusiasm for the new words by appropriating the required sounds a particular dump truck, for example, makes.

Further to slow down my gradual English language decline, but more importantly, my ‘aussiness’, I find myself throwing in a few rippers also for the benefit of the sprog. After all, the dude needs to know where his mother is from. Hence:

Kazzah, stop chuckin’ such tanties!


Kazzah, get off the table or you’ll end up face-plantin’ all over the shop!


Oi! Get back ‘ere,

and a few other variations of the above. Maybe there’s hope for me yet.

Speed – by Karen

22 Sep

This week, in the lead-up to the first FFF reissue post, I have not been feeling very creative. I have, on the other hand, been watching a hell of a lot of Project Runway, in which people are constantly being creative. Inspired by that most transcendental of reality TV shows, I am going to attempt to apply typical Project Runway maxims to the creation of this post. First and foremost, I must “make it work”, which in the current context I will generously consider achieved if a blog post of any kind is produced. Secondly, I will “edit, edit, edit”. So this will be short. Thirdly, and most importantly, I should not, at any point, be “literal”, in my interpretation of the week’s theme.

Theme: a photo of dirty water in a gutter. This interpretation was deemed acceptably non-literal.

So as I drove home from boot camp at a gym called the SPEED Institute, in a car, going at a particular SPEED, I made sure to ignore all of these far too literal potential blog topics and encouraged my mind to wander. I did eventually get to thinking. My thoughts were about the trajectories of people’s lives, and how they impact long-term friendships. At this point I remembered my high-school physics, so I will note that what I’m really talking about here is velocity, which encompasses both speed and direction.

Before Facebook was invented, I used to wish that the people I interacted with every day were selected not by happenstance, employment or geographical location, but rather by their importance in my life and simply my love of them as people. If I could gather together my best three friends from Beecroft Primary, say, along with a lovely German girl who worked with me in a bed shop in London, plus my high school girls, favourite friends from the uni era and early jobs and so on and so on, I could make my social life more like a Best Of compilation than a random radio station. Facebook came along and did this to a small extent, limited by the fact that a surprising number of people I like simply aren’t on Facebook or never post.

I have a friend who has complained to me a number of times that she used to have a wonderful group of friends with whom she’s lost all contact, because she doesn’t like using the computer. She made it clear that she feels primarily guilty about not staying in touch, which I thought of as an odd reaction. Surely you’re harming yourself more than anyone else by opting out of your friendships?

I too don’t regularly contact some of the friends I like very much; again it’s circumstance, living far away, and other aspects of life trajectory. I am amazed at the impact having children has on your social patterns. This is very evident in just the age distribution of my friends in Singapore. Because I had children “young” (by highly skewed, middle class standards), most mothers I meet are 5 to 10 years older than me. The fact that most of my friends here are 5 to 10 years older than friends from my pre-children life demonstrates to me how many of my friendships have been formed around children. This, and the “expat experience”, is excellent in that you befriend a more diverse range of people.

I occasionally wonder whether having had children a few years earlier than most of my friends will tilt our relative trajectories, as my interest in conversations about preschools and phonics dulls at an inappropriate speed.

Recently I was visited by the lovely Tabitha and Nathan, and rather than letting them sleep or shop, I dragged them off through an obstacle course of mundane exercise routines, children’s gymnastics classes and probably grocery runs too. I wonder if this was an attempt to force them temporarily on to my trajectory, to inflict a little of the closeness that geography would steal away.

Songs in my iTunes library that have “speed” in the title – by Tabitha

21 Sep

1. Speed of Sound by Coldplay

One of the first songs I ever sang on SingStar was Speed of Sound. I remember this because it absolutely infuriated me that Richard was able to beat me, not by his singing prowess, which is obviously inferior to mine, but by working out how SingStar awards points.

He would simply hold the notes for the exact amount of time that SingStar wanted you to. It was a mathematician’s approach to singing. And if there’s one thing I dislike more than losing, it’s maths.

Coldplay also remind me of how much I hate Gwyneth Paltrow, and in particular, her recent foray into cookbooks. The only food I imagine she has any appetite for is wan-tons. Did you get that? Wan-tons.

2. Speed of Life by David Bowie

Speed of Life is the first track on Low. I just listened to it, but I don’t really know it at all, even though iTunes says it’s been played five times.

I do know Bowie’s Hunky Dory, though. This is because my older sisters played that album on every car trip we ever took in our Nissan Prairie. It was played on cassette, on repeat, from a boom box that was positioned on the middle seat between my sisters.

I heard Hunky Dory again for the first time in almost twenty years recently, and I knew every single goddamn lyric. Isn’t that amazing? Seriously, every single one.

In retrospect, it’s also amazing that both my sisters were such massive David Bowie fans. Surely one of them got dibs on him first? Maybe this is why my eldest sister painted “Put on your red shoes and dance the blues” on her bedroom wall: that pretty much seals the deal on who’s the biggest fan.

It does, however, limit the resale value of your family home.

3. Daddy’s Speeding by Suede and Speedway by Morrissey.

Both these songs are absolutely appalling. They hail from my 1990s British music fetish that stole some of the best years of my life.

I couldn’t actually listen to either of these songs all the way through, and in fact I can barely listen to anything at all from this period in my life now. Not because I listened to it so much at the time, or because it reminds me of adolescence. But because it’s so bloody awful. It really is.

My mind boggles at how I could have loved it all so much. Part of me thinks that what I really loved was British music journalism (namely Select magazine), and the music just came along with it.

This is called historical revisionism, and reminds me of a quote from Joan Didion which I read recently:

“We are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4am of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget.”

Maybe I should at least try to listen to that Morrissey track again.