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Monthly Archives: August 2011

Unhappy Feet

I like clothes.

I don’t like fashion labels or have favourite designers. Publications such as Vogue or Cosmopolitan tend to make me roll my eyes.

I like op-shop clothes. Second-hand clothes. Bits of modern life cluttered into bargain bins, or hanging like sleeping bats on the discount racks of charity shops. Corduroy pants resurrected with wild stitching, fluffy, faux-fur jackets and vintage woolen skirts with swishy pleats. I was mega-jealous the other day when I friend from my home-town announced an op-shop find of Dalek pyjama pants. Daleks! And they even had ‘exterminate’ written on them. Wow.

Sadly, over the last few years, my fashion choices have become more limited. It’s my heart, mostly. Backing up with all of that fluid it can’t get rid of. It all ends up in my abdomen, or, on a small scale, sitting jelly-like around my ankles.

Eee-ew.

So not only has my appearance altered, but I also can’t wear anything that even marginally restricts my breathing.

So it’s goodbye corduroys and vintage-wear. Hello baggy shirts and stretchy maternity pants.

Recently, I attempted to rectify my terrible crimes against fashion. A couple of weekends ago, at the markets, I came across a kind of Sunday Miracle. A clothing stall with the following:

a) Clothes of a suitably interesting and quirky nature to enable re-entry into the grand semiotic conversation that is Fashion.

b) Several items that might even accommodate my whale-like belly.

c) A five dollar bargain bin perfect for my welfare-scum budget.

The first item I found was a large teal green sort of tunic thing with a baby-doll type cut. I actually despise this style purely for its’ name. Unfortunately, desperate times call for feminist-principle abandoning measures, and besides, it had interesting pleats around the neckline. I also dug up a long t-shirt/dress creation with grey and flourescent pink horizontal stripes of varying widths. It had ginormous sleeves, and a weird and wobbly shape which I thought might miraculously match mine somehow. Forking over my $10, I stuffed them in the top of my vegetable-laden Nanna trolley and triumphantly bore them home.

But when I tried them on in front of the mirror, the whale was still there, happily waving its’ flippers. I wailed.

The teal thing made me look like Violet Beauregarde from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory after she chews the forbidden blue-berry flavoured gum. The stripey one wasn’t so bad. If I wore another large t-shirt over the top, I only looked the tiniest bit like a giant chuppuchup.

Overall, I’d say Fashion Failure.

I’ve been hassling doctors for stronger diuretics for months now. They tell me to take an extra tablet every-so-often, and try not to mind too much about my body shape.

Mostly, I have been making a concerted effort to not to mind. I have been telling myself that mainstream body ideals are pure invention of a male-dominated media industry aiming to sell low self-esteem along with breast implants and Happy Meals. I’ve also been consoling myself with the idea that were I a celebrity, ‘Hello’ magazine would run blurry paparazzi shots accompanied by bird-brained speculation over my ‘baby bump’.

But then something else happened. One day last week, I made a horrific discovery.

All morning, I’d been thinking that my feet felt a little strange. At about midday, I decided it was time I had a shower so that I could leave the house without people commenting on my weird, sticky-up-hair. I shut the bathroom door, and took off my dressing gown. The Second-Hand Persian Cat meowed and scratched woefully from outside, as he tends to do whenever we are tragically separated by something so finite as a shut door.

I kicked off my slippers and then glanced down at my feet.

Aaaggggh!”

Instead of my lovely, narrow, beautifully arched, size five-and-a-half, feet, I had large, thick, clumsy clod-hoppers speckled with tiny blue and purple veins. And cankles. There were cankles above the scary sick lady feet.

I had puffy feet. Not happy feet. Decidedly unhappy feet.

I stood in the freezing cold bathroom, looking down at the sick lady feet. The right one was bigger than the left one. That was odd. What did that mean? Maybe it was a sign my heart failure was getting worse. Maybe next week I’d be on the transplant list. Maybe next week I’d be dead.

Then I decided not to worry anymore. I had a shower, during which my primary goal was to look down as little as possible. I got dressed and put my slippers back on, which had the wonderful effect of covering up all evidence of unhappy feet.

Out of sight, out of mind. What a relief.

Luckily, I already had a doctor’s appointment booked for the next day. There, the horrific sight of my feet even prompted a call to my specialist. And then, finally, I was given a stronger dose of diuretics. After a few days, I had happy feet again. And then, even more wonderfully, the other fluid started to vanish too.

My worries aren’t over yet, however, because fluid build-up doesn’t go away overnight. The rest of me is still a bit penguin shaped. But I’m happy to say that it’s a less obvious penguin, and one that might, some day, contemplate further fashion forays. 

Local Paper Squishes Public Transport Rights

Working commuters; I feel for you.

Really, I do. Because overcrowded buses are no fun.

I can imagine what it must be like for you. You’re already tired from a full day at the office. You want to get home to your spouse, a glass of red wine, and Masterchef. You don’t want to have to endure a thirty minute bus ride sandwiched between ten different kinds of riff-raff.

It’s okay, though. There’s no need to worry. A wonderful little Sydney local rag, The Inner West Courier, is going to fix everything.

All we have to do, according to journalist, Naeun Kim, is get rid of all those pesky dole bludging pensioners who are taking up seats belonging to hard-working, tax-paying, Ordinary Australians.

Yup. An article last week, with the headline “Fare Way To Cut Crowding”, talks up a study by Professor Corrine Mulley, that recommends reducing pensioner travel to ‘off-peak’ times to help with chronic overcrowding on Sydney Public Transport. Kim’s article doesn’t make this clear, but I assume Mulley is referring to all kinds of pensioners; disabled people and carers, the unemployed, aged pensioners and students.

Mulley, who is Chair of Public Transport at the University of Sydney, supports her argument by claiming that the United Kingdom, South Australia, and Western Australia already ‘restrict’ pensioner travel by making it free after 9:30 am. She adds that Singapore already places even harsher restrictions on pensioner travel.

I’m not sure how free public transport in the UK, SA, and WA adds up to the need for restrictions in Sydney, and Mulley’s reference to Singapore, a nation with a less than perfect human rights record, just seems wrong. Mulley makes it seem as though us dole-bludgers should feel grateful right down to the soles of cheap our K-mart shoes for being so lucky as to be allowed on buses, trains and ferries at all, let alone being let on them in busy, peak-hour times. 

Also creepy is Mulley’s smooth economic rationalism. She writes, “Society must provide accessibility to those on limited incomes, such as the elderly, but this needs to be balanced by an understanding of the costs of providing peak capacity and the impacts of crowding on public transport use.”

Translation: human rights are important, only if they don’t cost us too much.

And why does Mulley refer to us as ‘non-workers’ when ‘concession-card holders’ would do just fine? It’s almost as though she is trying to remind readers of the perception that pensioners aren’t useful contributors to Our Nation’s Great Economy.

Inner West Courier ‘journalist’, Kim, could have devoted several column inches to questioning the ideologies implicit in Mulley’s article. She could have balanced Mulley’s ideas against the need for provision of services to socially marginalised groups, and discussed the impacts such restrictions would have on pensioners. For some reason, Kim chose to devote almost the entire article to a bland, mostly positive summary of Mulley’s ideas. 

Provision of public transport is unquestionably a human rights issue. Everyone, no matter if they are working, a student, unemployed, disabled, or on an old age pension, should be able to access services and participate in society. They should be able to do this when they want to, not at the convenience of the NSW government.

I think it’s great that public transport is overcrowded. Australia is a large producer of greenhouse gases, and public transport is one way of getting excess cars off the road. We don’t need to restrict public transport use, we need to increase services.

Mulley argues that this would take too long, and cost too much. But she offers no studies into whether or not pensioner restrictions would actually help the problem of overcrowded public transport. Overcrowding is such a huge problem, says Mulley, that we have to try it anyway, just to do something.

Another pressing problem that Mulley, and the Inner West Courier might like to tackle some day, is the lack of accessibility on Sydney’s Public Transport.

Many train stations do not have lifts. For me, this means making my way slowly up several flights of stairs, often stopping to catch my breath. It means feeling self-conscious and ‘in the way’, when hurrying, able-bodied, commuters crossly push past me, puzzled because a seemingly healthy young woman has inexplicably stopped, mid-climb. 

Ascending stairs is also tiring, and it’s darn frustrating when your train is pulling into the station and you still have a whole flight to go. And there are many people in wheelchairs and mobility scooters who are even more adversely affected, being not able to access these stations at all.

Mostly, to the Kims, Inner West Couriers, and Professor Mulleys of this world, I want to say this: 

Pensioners have lives to lead. We have places to go, things to do, and people to meet. Just because we are not full-time workers does not make our need to access shops and other services, or even just to get out of the house once in a while, any less worthy.

We might not contribute as much to the economy as that of the soulless corporate lawyer squashed next to us on the city-bound train, but our lives matter just as much.