Monday, 23 August 2010


What has happened to my motorcycle blog? Eek! It's been hijacked by life, school and piddling cats. There hasn't been much mention of motorcycling lately. What a travesty. Have I really done so little motorcycling of late?

The answer, sadly, is YES, dammit. I know my mood has reflected the lack of bike therapy. Talk about miserable! I've been sadder than a snake on ice; more miserable than a microbe in a glass of Dettol; and more desperately despondent than a dieter in a chocolate factory.

You know, a lot of people seem to think that it's just a throwaway line when I say that I need to ride in order to stay sane. They just don't 'get' how deadly serious I am, coz they don't 'get' motorcycling in general, and what motorcycling has meant to me in particular. It was just about the only thing that kept me from going under at a very dark time in my life, and all it takes is a few days of bikelessness to push me into a mindset where I feel out of control and downright depressed. Hopping on the bike and heading out of town to far-flung destinations is the ultimate medicine.

The lack of bike time is in fact one of the reasons I've found the adjustment to school life so difficult.

A couple of weekends ago, on a glorious Sunday, in an attempt to regain some equilibrium I chased 6 Ducatis and an R1 around the Southern Tablelands, with absolutely no hope of catching any of them. I ride like a nanna, and they rode like - well, Ducati riders... A lovely day, but I was a little (read: a LOT!) outside my comfort zone, and my day began and ended at my house. I prefer rides that take me away from home.

So anyway - last weekend I was Desperate and Determined Betty: desperate to ride, and determined to get out of town.

After doing my democratic duty, and voting in Australia's most boring election, I saddled up the Bomber and headed to Cowra with my lovely friend Mark (Mark, friend of Miffy the Geriatric Cat, remember?) He's also had a long period of enforced bikelessness, and was suffering a bit of cabin fever.

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Cowra's a nice little town. I've stayed there before, and at only about 200kms from Canberra it's an easy ride over a weekend if you have a shitload of schoolwork to do (which, of course, I did)..

Saturday was cold, grey and showery. Did I care? Not a bit - I have heated hand grips on the Bomber, and quilted winter liners inside my jacket and pants. (Heated socks would've been nice though...) The Bomber was just glad to get out of the shed and to go somewhere besides the school car-park for a change!

Since the last time I was in Cowra, the main street seems to have shrunk. There are lots of empty shops. I don't know if it's the drought or the GFC, or perhaps a sign of the general malaise that afflicts so many small towns in Australia. Are the youngsters upping and leaving, seeing no future on the land? I don't know - but it was sad to see such a lovely little town struggling.

Cowra was the setting for the 'Cowra Breakout' in WWII, when a bunch of Japanese POWs staged a mass breakout. There was a bloodbath, and now the little township of Cowra (population 9,500) is an avid supporter of world peace. It's a nice town.

After exploring a bit, it was back to the motel to mark many many essays before dinner. We had the blandest fried rice in the universe, and drank lots of wine to make up for it while we watched the election results on the telly. Sigh.

Sunday dawned chilly but golden, and with a hung parliament likely. Boo hiss. At least the weather was good, and a great relief after the iron-grey bleakness of Saturday. Rather than riding straight home, I wanted to make my annual trip to Wyangala Dam to take a photo of the water levels. To check out the water levels over the last couple of years, have a look at a previous post - Spring Riding and Bug-Splats - from September 2009.

Here's what it all looks like now, after the wet wet winter we have had:

The condition of the Frogmore Road, after that very same wet winter, was atrocious! Pot-holes galore, bits of road surface missing, shockingly bad 'patch' jobs - and after having ridden that road about a dozen times, I was really surprised to ride through a couple of inches of water on the causeways - water! Amazing! The area's been a bloody dustbowl for the last gawd-knows how many years!

Last weekend I discovered a few things, the most important of which was this:
when it comes to motorcycling, you lose skills fast if you don't ride a lot. My recent riding has overwhelmingly been nothing more than commuting. I have developed a stiffness in my shoulders, and don't look far enough ahead at the moment. Too used to looking at traffic and side-streets, and traffic coming OUT of side streets, I suppose. Grrrrr.

Must get out on the open road more! Hurry up Spring!

The final verdict? Great weekend - shit weather, nice riding, great company! Wheeeeeeeeee!

Monday, 16 August 2010

After the Panic...

Something very strange happened today.

Last week was not a good week. It was, in fact, double-plus ungood, and then some. After Tuesday's panic attack I came home and let the poison out – all the crap that I'd bottled up came pouring out in a torrent of tears. On Wednesday morning I was wearing my Scare the Children face – big puffy froggy eyes – and felt as drained as one of Dracula's favourites, so I stayed home, exhausted. Same on Thursday.

By Friday I was physically, if not mentally, in a fit state to return to school. On playground duty I tried to stay close to the walls, so no-one could come up behind me. It was shithouse. No Year 10 on the timetable for that day, though, which was a plus. And then there was the weekend.

After lunch on Saturday with some ex-teaching colleagues, affectionately termed 'the coven', I went to school today, reassured, and armed with an arsenal of strategies, 'just in case'. (Thanks, ladies – you are wonderful!) Nice Mark took me out for dinner on Saturday night, and on Sunday I declared war on Cat Piddle in my house. Quite a productive weekend, it was...

And then... I taught Year 10 this morning. Yes, I was nervous – how would they behave after last week's disaster? How would I behave? Could we face each other, or would one/some of us run screaming from the room?

This is where the weird thing happened.

It's very hard to explain – there was nothing tangible – and yet I felt somehow closer to the class. It was as if a barrier of some sort had been removed, and they were more accepting of me. All I can think is that suddenly, after I explained to them what triggers my panic attacks, they saw me as a real person rather than an authority figure? Who knows...very very weird.

Here, I think, is one of the strengths of my school – a lot of the kids are not very academic; they struggle, and many of them actively resist the academic rigours of the place. BUT – amazingly, this group seems to have recognised that particular frailty of mine and decided that it makes me more real(?) human(?) or something. In many places that would be seen as an exploitable vulnerability. These kids didn't see it that way. There seemed to be a real 'connection' in our class discussion today. I'm not saying they were perfect little angels or anything like that – I still threatened them with Fatal Beatings and they still rolled their eyes – but it was different somehow. Hard to put my finger on it, but it was totally unexpected, and a huge relief.

Maybe I will survive my return to the classroom after all.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010


So much for my triumphant return to the classroom.

I think I have made a monumental mistake, and now I am rooted, not to put too fine a point on it.

What on earth made me think I was ready for a return to teaching? Teaching is not a job for anyone with fragilities. I've always known that – but I thought, after four and a half years since the attack, that I was over my fragilities. Evidently not.

I used to be a good teacher. Now I know that I'm not the teacher I used to be. Today clinched it. Today, a few of my Year 10 boys thought it would be funny if one of them jumped out behind me, shrieking, as I made my way to class.

Yep, hilarious stuff. The consequence? A panic attack (damn, and I thought I was better). To my credit, I held it off and held it off and held it bloody off for about 15 minutes (I'm clearly getting much better at this), and then I just had to leave the classroom because my heart was pounding fit to burst, I couldn't breathe and I couldn't stop the tears from coming. I spent the rest of the day battling episodes of breathlessness and panic.

Can you imagine how embarrassing it is for a 51 year old woman to be in that situation in front of a room full of 15-16 year olds?

Even worse – NOW WHAT??? I'm supposed to go back there tomorrow and fight the good fight, and all I want to do is crawl into a hole somewhere and hide. I'm mortified and I'm so fucking miserable I could die, and I've burned my bridges. I feel as if my back's to the wall, and I really am at a complete loss – what to do next? Clearly I am not fit to be in a classroom - yet? (if ever?)