The Mother is Online


does this mean that IÂ’ll soon be trafficking in circus performers as well?

Ok, so I know I should be working. I kind of am.

Well, not really. And I know no one was fooled by that. Not even me.

This year The Mother discovered the internet. It started mostly at Christmas, when she and dad came up to stay with us for a few days (which was, incidentally, the nicest Christmas IÂ’ve had since IÂ’ve been a grownup. Yes. ItÂ’s true). SheÂ’s madkeen on romance novels – pink books to those of us In The Trade. She owns millions and millions. She knows all about them. Really. She does. This is a long term interest. Not something sheÂ’s rushed into in the last month or so. She really owns millions of them. And she has a network of book shop owners (mostly middle-aged women. Not that that should surprise you – middle-aged women are of course The Powers That Be. They know everything. Really) across the country keeping An Eye Out for her. With me here in Melbourne and my bro up in Brisvegas and her own city of Hobart to cover, sheÂ’s pretty much got the east coast under control. Sydney? Pft. She did that in 1999/2000 when dad was working in Wollongong. SheÂ’s SO over Sydney.

The most recent (and most disturbing) of her contacts are the ladies in the rendezvous bookshop here in Melbourne. That is pink shop mecca – itÂ’s hardcore shit. They sell nothing but pink books. Their customers (or should that be clientele?) are all middle-aged women. Their décor is heavy on the Romantic, the Victorian. The be-tasselled. They have a lot of time to talk in there – when The Mother goes in (with me trailing reluctantly, and somewhat petulantly, behind her), they greet her by name, proclaiming their Joy at her Return. As well they should – this woman spends more than a little there each month.

In fact, The Mother is such a valued customer/client that they have her credit card details on record in there. When IÂ’m about to come down to Tas for a visit, IÂ’m sent in to pick up ‘someÂ’ books. Yeah, right. I rush in, the ladies recognise me, pass me a stack of books (having been pre-warned that my arrival is imminent by The Mother), and I rush out. ThereÂ’s no chitchat – theyÂ’re good at dealing with uncomfortable family members (only my gender grants me some degree of comfort in this decidedly matriarchal space). No cash changes hands. TheyÂ’re all paid for by The MotherÂ’s credit card. I am also allowed to request ordered-in copies of real books (SF, crime, etc). I am not unaware of the nature of these gifts. I know when I am being Paid Off.

And then I carry this half-tonne weight of quality reading material over the Bass Straight. I take a large suitcase with me every time. I know I can rely on The Mother to get me through the baggage weigh-in without fines or charges for overweight bags. She is Queen, no, empress of sly. After all, who would suspect a comfortable middle-aged ex-pat Brit who talks a whole damn lot of nefarious dealings?

So yeah, sheÂ’s down with the whole romance novel bookshop thing. She is unrivalled in her knowledge, her contacts, her cross-border commutes.

And now she has the internet.
The woman canÂ’t type, has learned-helplessness and the guilt trip honed to a fine edge and doesnÂ’t have online access at home. This is the woman who worked for the dept of health for years and years and years and never learnt to answer or send her own email. She never typed a thing for anyone, ever. Even after she was moved up from the lower ranks of social work to the upper echelons of management. If she was a man, it wouldÂ’ve been exploitation. But she was a middle-aged woman. And it just Was.
So now sheÂ’s getting jiggy with the internet. That Christmas with us she discovered that windows is actually reasonably accessible (point and click, the back button, one-fingered typing), and that ADSL is very kind to newbs. No time pressures. She can spend as long as she likes on the computer. Christmas day, weÂ’re finishing lunch. Dad and I are abandoned at the table while she dictates her online demands to The Squeeze, whose spineless – or self-preservatory – approach to dealing with matriarchs was finely tuned by growing up in a household with only a sister and mother.

And what exactly is she doing? WhatÂ’s she looking at? Online second hand bookshops. ABEBooks to be precise. Now she can search through millions of bookshops from her own (or my own) home. But sheÂ’s not particularly happy with mediated communication. So she rings them. Interstate, international. SheÂ’s on first name bases with the proprietors of millions of second hand bookshops all over the world.

Yesterday she sent me an email that, somewhat stream-of-consciously stated –

“i only get in to see my emails at the weekend dad gets a little niggled at other times and he hasn’t got the laptop organised yet, i don’t think he is too keen on me being on the internet too much.”

Which followed the line
“i have found the cirque and have joined their club”

And while I like the thought of my mother joining the circus (or circus club), I know she means that sheÂ’s joined a mailing list. Now sheÂ’s adding Canadian circus performers to her List. Does this mean that IÂ’ll soon be trafficking in circus performers as well?