All the Grays

via Daily Prompt: Gray

Grey. It’s a simple word, that describes the color of the sky on an overcast day.

But wait! Grey is not the WordPress Daily Prompt I’m responding to here. The prompt is Gray – a fact that is quite telling, because gray is a word which does not have meaning in the English language, outside of the United States of America. Which is where I live. Outside of the United States of America, that is – ie, in that place known as the rest of the world.

Before I go too far, let’s just double check that I’m not making things up here. Maybe there are, universally, differing opinions on whether the word is grey or gray?

According to the site grammarly.com:

By the twentieth century, “grey” had become the accepted spelling everywhere except in the United States.

Here’s what Dictionary.com says about the two spellings:

….gray is the more popular spelling in the US, while grey reigns supreme in the UK. For centuries, the one letter difference between gray and grey has left people wondering if the two have different meanings.

They don’t. It’s the same word, spelled differently. As Grammarly goes on to say:

Here’s a tip: Gray is more common in the United States, and grey is more common in the rest of the English-speaking world.

Okay then. Or maybe that should be okey, depending on where you live.

So this is an interesting prompt. Given that a one word prompt is supplied with no context, what is someone who is not from the U.S.A to make of this word? That it’s grey, spelled wrongly? What’s the best way to respond to this if it’s not actually your language?

Of course, the strange thing about my reaction to this “misspelling” is that there are lots of English words that are spelled differently between English speaking countries – usually, between the U.S. and other English-speaking countries. Take colour, for example, which is spelled color in the U.S. I accept that these are just variations of the same word. If WordPress had put color up as a prompt, it would not have occurred to me to comment on the spelling at all.

So what is it about grey v gray that got me seeing red?

I think it’s because it’s only four letters long, so the variation in the spelling seems more significant. As noted above, Dictionary.com says the one letter difference between gray and grey has left people wondering if the two have different meanings. 

I think that’s quite reasonable. After all, one letter can make a big difference: try mixing up pray and prey.

So no, grey and gray don’t have different meanings. I understand that in principle, but I’m attached to grey being the correct spelling of the colour that’s half way between black and white. I don’t like replacing it with gray, because that just feels like bad spelling. But the prompt was gray. So I will write about gray.

Here in Australia, gray can be a name, and I do know of a few Grays.

*

Gray was the name of the family Doctor I used to visit when I was sick as a child.

Imagination and memory crash together as one gets older, so I am not sure now if it’s because of his name that I picture this gentleman with a neat grey beard. Perhaps his beard was actually dark brown, or black. In any case, I’m 99% sure that he did, at least, have a beard, whereas I’m also 99% sure that he didn’t wear the black top hat that, for some reason, insists on popping itself on his head in my mental image of him. Apparently in my mental image of this doctor from my childhood, a frock-coat and a hansom cab would not be out of place. It seems that I picture Dr Gray looking as if he had stepped out of a Dickens novel.

Is this all conjured up in my faulty memory because his name was Gray? Who can say?

What I can tell you is that the doctor’s offices were in a little double-fronted Victorian cottage, and that he kept dingoes as pets. When the breeze blew the right way, we could hear them howling in the evenings. The doctor’s surgery was only a block or so from our house, which was convenient for my mother, since she couldn’t drive, and whenever one of her six children was sick, this unfortunate news would most often be uncovered around 8am when they woke up, and Dad, the only person in the family who could drive, would have left for work at 6am.

Therefore, no matter how sick we were, if we were certain that we were too sick for school, we’d have to get up and walk to the doctor’s surgery.

No wonder I never take sick days.

I can also tell you that in Dr Gray’s waiting room was the most interesting thing I’d ever seen in a house up to that point. It was a huge aquarium, at least 3 feet long and about the same in height, that hummed and bubbled, pumping air for fishes of various sizes and colours that flurried around in the water. I was too young to have any interest in the women’s magazines on offer, but my time in the waiting room was amply filled in by simply staring at the fish.

When you have a bunch of brothers, as I do, there are always other stories on the peripheries of your memory, stories you were told second or third hand, sometimes years later, tales of the things that your brothers got up to, that you never saw and so have only ever pictured in your imagination. I feel as if there is a funny story that involved my brothers and Dr. Gray’s car, or his sons, or his dingoes, or his surgery, or a combination of all the above, but I can’t recall any more than that.

*

The other Gray I know of is an Australian Artist from the post-war period, Gray Smith. The only reason I recall the existence of Gray Smith is not because of his art, however, but because he was married to Joy Hester, an Australian modernist artist who is reasonably well-known within Australia.*

In an unusual gender reversal, which probably serves as an indication of their relative status as artists, there is not even a Wikipedia page for Gray Smith, while there is a brief entry for Joy Hester.  Hester’s body of work is unusual in that she worked mostly in brush and ink on paper, a medium that was not valued as highly as oils, and may be one reason why her work was not as well known as that of some of her male contemporaries such as Albert Tucker (her previous husband).

Many of the images she depicted were of women, or were about relationships between men and women, another reason why her work could have been viewed by some, particular given the period, as merely the frivolous doodlings of a lady artist.

Joy Hester, Lovers [II] 1956

Image: National Gallery of Australia

As for Gray Smith, I can’t tell you anything more about him, except that he fathered some children with Hester. Unusually, Smith suffers the fate that so many women throughout history were subjected to – to be remembered by the history books mostly because he was married to someone more famous.

*

So that’s it I guess. All the Grays I know of.

 Gray

I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself

There are many ways to skin a cat. Well, so I hear. To be honest, I’m no expert on the subject. I’ve never tried to skin a cat. It sounds very unpleasant, and I’m not really interested in finding out more. On consultation, neither is my cat, who refused to offer any comment for this article. But that’s no problem, because I’m not planning to write about skinning cats.

What I actually intend to write about today is: the many careers I might have chosen.

I refuse to come down and answer your offensive, vulgar question.

I refuse to come down and answer your offensive, vulgar question.

The reason I thought of this topic is because applying for jobs seems to be my major hobby. I write a job application at least once a month – indeed, on my laptop are 26 job applications that I’ve written and sent off over the past 2 years and there are probably more saved on USB sticks somewhere.

I don’t hate my current jobs (I have 2 jobs), which are both in the arts and events industry. It’s just  that juggling two jobs, both requiring more hours put into them than I am paid for, is draining. And I’ve been in one of these jobs for over 5 years, so, as I’m sure is the case in any job, it’s not so much the things that go wrong but the repetitiveness of all the things that always go wrong, that become too tiresome to deal with.

If you have just started at a new job and you arrive at the office at 9am to find that your client has left you an angry voicemail message asking you to phone them because of an “incident” that happened the night before, and the office receptionist warns you to check your emails before you call the client, but you can’t check your emails because the server is down, all of this may seem like a fun challenge. The client is angry! The server is down! What a challenging opportunity to show  my boss how well I handle stressful situations! 

When you have worked somewhere for 5 years, and situations like this occur regularly, it can feel like the last straw.

So I continually keep an eye out to see what other jobs are going. My hit rate with getting interviews is not too bad, either. Of those 26 applications saved on my laptop, I was interviewed for 9. Out of those, I got one part-time job – the job I now do as a second job, one day a week. But I’m still applying, trying to find just one job that suits me better, or a more workable combination of jobs.

At least I’ve narrowed it down to the arts industry.

But it’s interesting to wonder what other paths I could have taken. When I was at school, my goal was to be a teacher. Then in Year 10, we studied Careers. I leafed through The Job Guide, a big book that listed all the careers one could do, and became interested in the idea of actually doing art for a living. I could become an illustrator, a graphic designer or a finished artist (do they even exist any more now?).

I did my year 10 work experience as a graphic designer at the local newspaper in my country town. From memory, I spent the week looking through books full of “clip art” style, copyright-free pictures, and occasionally being allowed to select one for use in an ad that would run in the paper. The glamor seemed to fade from that career idea.

In year 12 art, I happily inhaled the smell of oil paint and turps in the art room, stared at a poster of a post-apocalyptic landscape, by Australian artist Peter Booth, and fantasised about being a painter, but didn’t see how to make that happen or think it a real career option.

Painting, 1977, by Australian Artist Peter Booth.  Image from The Age: http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/11/26/1069825834630.html

Painting, 1977, by Peter Booth.
Image from The Age: http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/11/26/1069825834630.html

At the end of school I was no clearer on what I wanted to do or be, so naturally, after high school, I enrolled in an Arts degree. That didn’t enlighten me, so after a year, I deferred, and enrolled in a short course in Interior Design. Immediately it became apparent that interior design involved a lot of precision measurements, which are not my forte. (I can do maths, but I find mathematical precision tedious.) I dropped that, and sat a drawing test and interview for a course in Window Dressing, and for a Certificate in Art and Design. I got into both courses – and chose Art and Design, so I guess that set the path for the next decade or so until I decided to throw it in. I don’t regret that time – the year I studied Art and Design was probably still the most stimulating year I’ve ever had.

Since giving up on being an artist, I have at various times considered other possible career paths. Occasionally I’ve wondered if I should have studied Law. I have a strong sense of fairness – so I would enjoy offering legal assistance to people who needed help. I enjoyed debating in Year 11, where I won a debate arguing that Jack was a better leader than Ralph, in Lord of the Flies, even though I didn’t agree with the premise I was defending. So I think I could argue a strong legal case, even when I didn’t approve of my client’s actions. But on the downside, I am actually a timid public speaker, (I was very nervous at that year 11 debate!) and I just couldn’t envision signing up to 5 or 6 years of full time study.

When my daughter was a baby I got into aromatherapy as a hobby, and looked into courses to become an aromatherapist or a naturopath. I pictured working out of my own therapy clinic, perhaps sharing rooms with a counsellor and a massage therapist, and treating clients in a healing, nurturing environment. It was a nice picture, but those courses were all at private colleges and cost too much for me to seriously consider.  I thought again about teaching as a possible career option – the holidays would be handy while my daughter is at school – but I never did anything about it. The idea of trying to command the attention of a class full of kids is too terrifying!

Over the years, I’ve considered being an illustrator, graphic designer, layout artist. I’ve fantasised about working in radio, or gaining skills in youth work, disability work, or counselling (clearly I’d be a fantastic Careers Counsellor!). There are some really interesting roles I’ve identified in the arts that don’t have any clear career path. For example, there are no courses that I’m aware of, and no defined career path, to becoming a theatre producer (as opposed to director), theatrical agent, or a casting agent, all interesting jobs.

In the last few years, I’ve also fantasised about writing for a career as a salaried or freelance writer, a copywriter, an arts reviewer, or even just finding an administrative role with a larger focus on writing. After helping two different friends write their job applications and edit their CVs recently, it occurred to me that my love of writing and enjoyment of guiding people to articulate what they are trying to say, would make me a great editor. The only drawback is that I’ve never studied grammar, or Editing, probably because they sound as though they require rigorous precision! Hmmm….maybe I should rethink that.

On a final note, in case you’re wondering, there are some careers that I’ve never been deluded about being suited for. These include: nurse, doctor, zookeeper, gardener, builder, architect (way too much precision required), accountant, train driver, plumber, racing car driver, engineer, or personal trainer. 

On that note, I’m off now – got a job application to write. (Seriously.)

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