The fine art of receiving

Birthdays, Mother’s Day, Christmas, Valentine’s Day… A lot of emphasis is placed on the joy of giving. It’s not surprising, really – there’s almost nothing as heartwarming and love-affirming as giving someone you care about something you know will make them happy.

Birthdays in my family are a big deal. I’ve been known to start squirreling away little bits and pieces months in advance, from trinkets I find at the op shop, to things I’ve made, to small pieces of kitsch crap (‘booby prizes’ to keep it interesting!), to little treasures I discover in odd shops along the way .

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I made this hat out of fabric scraps and cushion stuffing, for my sister, for her 30th birthday.

I get a certain childish joy from pretending I’ve only bought the recipient an economy packet of tissues (beautifully wrapped, of course) then revealing that ACTUALLY I have ONE more thing, which upon being opened turns out to be ALL of the things I’ve collected, all individually wrapped, which spill across the lap of the give-ee who squeals with delight and faux-surprise.

BUT, knowing how to receive is every bit as important – sometimes more so – as giving. Receiving a present is the perfect opportunity for you as the give-ee to make the giver feel good about themselves for taking the time and effort to buy you something – no matter how you actually feel about whatever it is you’ve just unwrapped.

EXHIBIT A: Receiving a puppy.
Now this one is easy. You don’t even need instructions. Who WOULDN’T wail and weep with happiness after opening a box, to discover a warm, fluffy, waggy, licky, fuzzy ball of love inside?

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EXHIBIT B: Receiving a pair of socks.

Now, people like me love a nice pair of socks. Sometimes, the right pair of socks can make an outfit. Other people would rather die (yes, DIE) of boredom than even look at a pair of socks. Those people might unwrap a pair of socks and react like this:

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But what they should do, is react like this:

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EXHIBIT C: Receiving the ugliest, itchiest, most heinous woolly jumper your poor, bleeding eyes have ever been assaulted by.

You may react like this:

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But what you should do, is this:

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So you see, it’s simple. Making people feel good about themselves for giving you a gift is as easy.

All you have to do is pretend you’re unwrapping a puppy, every single time.

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An electric eel called Tutti

I always have fun going out with Tutti. Besides the fact that she’s extremely entertaining to be around, I find it so fascinating watching people watching her: a 65 year old whirlwind of colours and raucous laughs and huge headscarves surrounded by a whispering, nudging, staring sea of beige. And while her eccentricity is an innate quality (like her warmth, optimistic outlook and natural instinct to be kind and helpful to everyone and anyone) she brings to mind this quote – one of my favourites by English poet Edith Sitwell:

“I am not eccentric. It’s just that I am more alive than most people. I am an unpopular electric eel set in a pond of catfish.”

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Absolutely Fabulous!

Last year, Tutti (and Tiggy) appeared in a story I wrote for Prevention magazine, for which I interviewed four fabulous, fascinating, incredibly stylish women who shared their outlooks on life and fashion inspiration. (You can see the original story HERE).

I thought I’d brighten up your Monday by sharing a few of the outtakes from the shoot (all photography by the talented Nick Scott)

Those wonderful pants Tutti’s wearing were made by my sister, Fluffy. I think you’ll agree Tutti shone like an absolute star in front of the camera. Tiggy, on the other hand, was fairly nonplussed by the whole affair. Until the liver treats made an appearance.Prevention_20140917_SHOT02-2 Prevention_20140917_SHOT02-3 Prevention_20140917_SHOT02-4 Prevention_20140917_SHOT02-34 Prevention_20140917_SHOT02-40

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This is what 65 (and 30) looks like

It’s Tutti’s 65th birthday today but in my opinion she’s ageless. Here she is with my little sister Fluffy when we were in Marrickville yesterday. A bright pop of colour to liven up this grey and drizzly Wednesday.

Happy birthday to the most stunning, funny, outrageous, creative, intelligent woman in my world. Love you Mummy! xx

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For my sister on her birthday

When I was four years old, a funny little baby came to live with us. My parents said I could name her whatever I wanted, and because I desperately wanted a dog, I named her Fluffy. Her birth certificate says ‘Sonia’, but we all still call her Fluffy, even at 30.

2015/02/img_5644.jpgFluffy was a screecher. It’s a wonder Tutti didn’t chuck her out a window. She screamed like a banshee morning, noon and night. I can still remember sitting on the green, foam, modular lounge, wrestling with baby fluffy as she pterodactyl-shrieked like a maniac, arching her back as if possessed. Even then, I loved my little sister. ‘There, there, Fluffy,” I soothed as I peered into her pink, furious face. “There, there.”

2015/02/img_5643.jpgFluffy has always been quite uncoordinated. She was never going to excel at any sport that required the catching of a ball (though come to think of it, neither was I). But she has been blessed with the most astounding creative spirit. I think the word for it is accomplished. She can sew like a master. She makes incredible clothes and hats and beautiful children’s toys; she is a brilliant and quirky illustrator and a wonderful writer to boot. If you have never seen the impressive body of work that is her Nun and Crocodile blog, then you ought to. Now. Run, don’t walk!

2015/02/img_5645.jpgWhen Fluffy could first talk, she called me Little Mummy, and I always took great pride in my role as older sister, to look after her, and out for her and give her advice and a bit of tough love. Sometimes you need someone to tell you to shut up. I am very good at that. And I credit myself with gifting Fluffy with her very own spirit animal. The Honey Badger. Honey badgers are fierce. They are the most fearless creatures in the world. They are crazy. They do not give a shit.

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 1.08.42 pmI have always thought Fluffy was better looking than me. She is definitely more photogenic and has an enviably thin waist. I’m not even sure I have a waist.  But I have never, ever been jealous. I am quite proud of that fact.

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Here is Fluffy, today, on her birthday, wearing a necklace I made for her.

Anyway, all that’s left to say is Happy Birthday little Fluffy. I have no doubt this next decade is going to be spectacular. Being in your 30s is the BEST. Until you turn 40. I hear 50’s good. Sixty’s the new 40 apparently. According to some of the ladies over at Advanced Style, being 80 is AMAZING!

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Love,

Ceci xx

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Sisters, reunited

A couple of days ago, my dear sister Fluffy arrived from London (where she lives) to celebrate her impending 30th birthday in Sydney.

2015/02/img_5485-0.jpg We’ve always been really good friends, but when I was 10 I clearly begrudged her for having the cute-factor that got her out of trouble at every turn. A point I made quite clear in this letter I penned to Tutti.

2015/02/img_54831.jpgDear Mummy, I’m very sorry although it was not all my fault. You have to understand that whenever you shout at Sonia or me, you always use my name or stare at me during a lecture so I feel blamed for everything. I feel parents should treat old & young kids the same. To try and make you forgive me I have tidied my room and used my best writing paper in this letter. I also hope that sometimes you won’t fall for her (Sonia) cute act as I know that in being 6 years she is cuter than me anyway. Sorry about the writing. Love, your misbehaved daughter Cecily Anna B.
P.S. I think the threats you give sometimes are mean.

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Oh DEAR!

Yesterday, I had one of those days. As Marnie was crying on my shoulder (and I was crying on hers) I took a picture of myself.  I’ve always thought it’s important to remember the less-good times so that the truly good times are dazzling by comparison. There’s no denying positivity is my default setting, but no matter who you are, there’s no escaping those days when it feels like life has bitten you on the arse. Life has really sharp teeth, in case you were wondering.

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Sad face.

Tutti bought me a scratch card the other day, so I dug it out, found a 10c coin and prepared to turn my fortunes around. “Hello, $100,000.” I said to the scratchie (but not out loud, because that would be weird). “How nice to meet you. Please get ready to make yourself right at home in my bank account. It’s pretty sparse at the moment, and could do with significant renovating, but I have a feeling you’ll love it there.”

I like scratching the $5 crossword scratchie, but it always goes the same way. The same fleeting blink of hopeful anticipation; the knowing prediction of the outcome.

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Damn you, Crossword. Damn you to hell.

I scratch a star. Then another. I reveal a Q, V, Y and other useless letters bringing me no closer to scratch card success. But all I need is an O, E and R and I’ll be $100,000 richer! I cross my fingers. I pray a bit. I scratch the next star.

It’s a fucking X.

An X! And of COURSE there’s no xylophone, xylotomy or xerox on my stupid scratchie. (There’s always a silver lining though, as there is in everything. In this instance, it’s that I learnt a new word. Propound. It means to put forward (an idea or theory) for consideration by others. I will probably never use it in a sentence.

Anyway. It’s silly that taking a 10c coin and scratching away at a piece of card that is probably never going to win me anything more than the amount of a coffee gives me enjoyment. And sillier still, is that whenever I occasionally buy one, I never fail to have this paragraph from George Orwell’s 1984 lingering uneasily in the shadows of my memory.

“The Lottery, with its weekly pay-out of enormous prizes, was the one public event to which the proles paid serious attention. It was probable that there were some millions of proles for whom the Lottery was the principal if not the only reason for remaining alive. It was their delight, their folly, their anodyne, their intellectual stimulant. Where the Lottery was concerned, even people who could barely read and write seemed capable of intricate calculations and staggering feats of memory. There was a whole tribe of men who made their living simply by selling systems, forecasts, and lucky amulets. Winston had nothing to do with the Lottery, which was managed by the Ministry of Plenty, but he was aware (indeed everyone in the party was aware) that the prizes were largely imaginary. Only small sums were actually paid out, the winners of the big prizes being nonexistent persons.”

 

 

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