Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Jack Herbert Read was born in 1913 and lived a thoroughly decent life. He died three years ago aged ninety two and it seems to me that the world still has a tiny gap in it where it was previously filled with the soul of a genuine noble man.
That man was my grandfather and he still remains a huge positive influence in my own life. If I could have possibly inherited at least 2% of his generosity, intellect and spirit I'll consider myself extremely lucky.
In the last couple of years of his life, his physical frailty far outweighed any deterioration of his mind. On occasion he would get a bit irritable which, for Jack, was akin to Pamela Anderson wearing a polo neck and sensible shoes - extremely rare indeed.
After a lifetime of growing his own vegetables and fruit and tending a beautiful garden it was a real wrench for him to give all of that up for the sake of his health when he moved into an aged care facility. However it didn't take the staff long to notice just how green his thumbs were.
On his daily walks to the post box and back (he was a big believer in regular, hand-written letters to his adult children each week) he would invariably end up pilfering a few cuttings from plants that he had admired on the way. Many of these prospered in little styrofoam cups the staff 'found' for him, filled up with dirt and put on a daggy old formica table in the retirement village's courtyard. His success rate was high and he gave the best of those to my mother to sell at her local church fund-raiser.
After a few months of this, Jack sought more. His green thumbs were still green, despite the rest of his body being far less so. A half wine barrel was found, and he patiently planted a few tomato seeds left over from one of his salad sandwich lunches. Before long it was a seedling, then a plant and then an eight foot high 'tree' that was a feature article in the local newspaper.
This tomato tree was heavily laden with the most red, juicy, flavoursome and organic tomatoes. It was admired by all residents who:
a) were still able walk to the side courtyard;
b) still possessed the mental capacity to recognise a real tomato when they saw one; and
c) whose digestive tracts remained in relatively reliable working order.
When these red beauties were perfectly ripe, Grandpa gave the kitchen staff as many of them as he could spare. They were either enjoyed immediately, without adornment like a ripe peach by staff and residents alike or made it into many of the kitchen's meals.
The legend of the tomato tree grew, and its fruits benefited everyone. Everyone, that is, except Dulcie from Room 27. Jack and Dulcie were at war, and he did not believe that she deserved any of the spoils over which he had successfully laboured. Dulcie was as deaf as a Council Complaints Service Counter Operator yet liked to watch her television and listen to 78s and 33s on her record player.
Naturally, she was not the only one in the retirement home with this disability, and all rooms were appropriately built with solid brick walls and sound-proofed doors. Despite these measures, Dulcie insisted on leaving her door open at all times and liked to immerse herself in her aural entertainments way past bedtime (ie 7pm for some folk or 11pm for my grandpa).
After a few nights of Benny Hinn's Ministries at top volume or the Ray Conniff Singers' on steady rotation, Grandpa thought it necessary to have a quiet word with the head of nursing. Could Dulcie keep her door shut so that he and the others could enjoy a peaceful night's sleep?
Dulcie did not take the intervention at all well, the nurse reported later. She had apparently rubbed her hands through her grey stubbly beard, harrumphed a bit and yelled (thinking she was actually replying in a soft voice), "But I WANT the door open - I don't want to be shut in!" When reminded by the head nurse about how her nocturnal noises were disturbing the others, she retorted, "But you can HARDLY HEAR IT," and, predictably, the suggestion of an earlier bed time went down about as well as a hedgehog through a paper straw.
A few more nights of sleepless suffering later, Grandpa tried again. "You can tell that JACK READ that I'm NOT going to shut my door or BE QUIET! He has that stupid clock that bongs like Big Ben every quarter of an hour, so why should I have to KEEP MY NOISE DOWN?"
Suitably chastened, Grandpa swaddled his clock, a wedding gift from the 1930s, in a woollen blanket to dull the chimes. It would have felt completely strange to him if he had been forced to live in the retirement home without his trusty mantel timepiece. He also decided to visit Dulcie and see if he could talk some sense and consideration into her.
Details become sketchy at this point, but I suspect that Grandpa's comment, "I'm not giving her one single crummy tomato unless I get to fling it at her," meant that she might have told him to go and find a romantic interlude at another location. Their feud notwithstanding and despite her deafness, Dulcie had already heard about Jack's famous tomatoes and seen some on proud display in many plates and fruit bowls in her friends' rooms. Her mouth was watering, and not just because she drooled intermittently when she slept. She made it known to the night nurse that she too would like a tomato or three, but Grandpa was adamant that she could "go jump in the lake."
This shocked us all; his entire family of children, grand children and great grand children. How could dear old Jack, the personification of a decent, kindly, Christian man, broad-minded to the end, be so cranky and so, well, non-Jack like? The night nurse again asked Jack for a tomato that she could pass on to Dulcie. "She knows what she has to in order to get one - just shut her door," he replied firmly. No doubt the nurse was in agreement and was not enjoying being the intermediary between two nitpicky ninety-somethings.
It all worked out well in the end. Dulcie didn't shut her door but got herself a fancy new-fangled set of TV and record player-friendly head-phones and Grandpa shared his tomatoes with her. Via the nurse, of course.
God I miss him.
This and a few other of my reminiscences are at the ABC website - Making of Modern Australia - search for 'kathlock' and vote. With kindness. Please?
Sunday, March 29, 2009
The re-telling of his tale, in my hands, was far more dramatic. “I saw Roger SPLIT HIS HEAD OPEN at lunch time today!” He was therefore my boyfriend merely my being the sole witness to his accident and yet I didn’t feel any need to inform him of that fact.
Later that same year though, I encountered a real smoothie – Brendan V. He had moved beyond blood and guts and went straight for the heart. He followed me home, asked me to be his girlfriend – I said yes – and then was shooed off by my Mum. “Go home Brendan, your Mum will be worried about you.”
“Aww, can’t he have some cordial and some Yo-yo biscuits first?”
Our fledgling romance was one of total disinterest during school hours. He’d totally ignore me and I him, but we’d occasionally walk home together unless someone saw us. “Oooh there they go – are ya gunna KISS her Brendan?”
There was no kissing – how yuck was that – but a fair bit of arm punching, kicking dirt in each other’s shoes and sharing of leftover lunch box snacks. Sadly, by term three he’d dropped me for a much younger woman – pretty little Belinda in year 2.
I eased my broken heart – or wounded pride – by reverting back to what originally attracted me to boys. I cheered on Andrew W as he energetically played on the solid iron rocker in the school yard before he overturned it, smashed his teeth in and ran off with blood spurting from his mouth.
So when Craig W sidled up to me one lunchtime, singing, "Hey good lookin', whatcha got cookin', how 'bout cookin' somethin' up with meeeeeee....." he got a swift kick in the shins for his efforts. This violent response didn’t seem to put him off and I’d get so fed up at his serenading that sometimes the poor boy would also score a nasty jab in the jatz crackers as well. He’d breathlessly stagger off, recuperate and try again the next day.
And dear old David M was a boy I really truly did like, but didn’t have the social skills to do anything to show it other than to push him off the monkey bars and make him cry. Unlike Craig, he didn’t bother returning and to this day I feel very ashamed at my harsh treatment of him and hope that he’s now a happy billionaire with a supermodel wife and lovely adorable children.
By 1979 I was eleven and boys were starting to feature as serving a purpose beyond bashing up and rollerskating became my main passion. Round and round the cement path of our house, with my transistor radio fastened to my jeans with one of Dad's old belts. Or better still, I’d be dropped off at the Murray Bridge basketball stadium with three dollars so that I could hire a pair of real roller-skates (the boots, not the-strap-your-sneakers-into kind) and wheel around the double basketball courts for an hour in an anti-clockwise direction before the bored manager would holler out, "REVERSE NOW" for the remaining hour. I'd limp home with heels covered in blisters, legs shaking in exhaustion and a huge smile on my face. If Stephen M was there, I’d be smiling even more.
It was Ian P, however, who moved me beyond violence or roller skating and into kissing. He’d already cut a swathe through most of the girls in years five and six, and one day he indicated that it was my turn. His reliable messenger, Peter, threw a scrunched-up piece of paper that bounced off the back of my head. When opened, it was obviously in Ian P’s scrawl and read, “Do you like me tick yes or no.” I ticked ‘yes’ and threw it back at Peter, so naturally by the end of recess the entire class knew that Katherine and Ian were IN LOVE.
Ian said, “Meet me at the incinerator straight after lunch,” playfully punched me in the arm and ran off to play footy with the rest of the boys.
“I know what he’s gunna do – he’s gunna KISS ya!” Philippa shouted. She'd know; she’d already been one of his conquests.
I was nervous and excited – did it have to be on the lips? Did I have to do it like Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta in ‘Grease’? Would I match up to his other girlfriends? Would any teachers walk by, see us and tell us off? Or worse still, tell our parents?
The time came and he was standing there, confidently waiting. This wasn’t a first time for him. He closed his eyes and puckered up. Clearly it was expected that I do the work by swooping and planting one on his mouth.
I did so in about a quarter of a second and before he had time to open his gorgeous brown eyes I ran out of there as fast as my legs could carry me. By the end of school the message had spread that I’d kissed Ian P at the School Incinerator.
The following day, I decided to dump him. Kissing wasn’t all it was cracked up to be in my opinion.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Do you remember how I recently went to an audition to become a contestant on a game show pilot?
Well, last week I got a call-back. They needed fifty contestants to fill up the first three rows of the studio audience, waiting to be picked out at random by the still-nameless young host. Remember, it was for a pilot episode, so the film would never make it to air, there were no real prizes to be won but we had to pretend that there was and be utterly thrilled that we'd won..... absolutely nothing.
I was emailed some instructions - Rock up at 5:30pm with hair and make up already done (which means 'do nothing' in my book), no plain white shirts or outfits with stripes or dotty things, just neat and casual please. Eat before you arrive and be prepared to stay until 10:30pm.
At the studio it was all grit and no glamour. The same daggy big shed with shabby black curtains arrangement that the auditions were held in. There were a few familiar faces -
"Hey Nudie Rudie! I thought you'd get in, good onya!"
"Kiwi flight attendant who got told off for standing on the chairs - you'll kill 'em tonight!"
"Groovy grannie, well done!"
Apart from excitedly chattering amongst ourselves - and taking several loo trips via a stressed-looking sub-sub-sub-producer who'd escort us tiredly through the props department making sure never to let go of her clipboard and ergo pen - we pretty well sat there for nearly two hours.
By this stage - 7:30pm - my stomach was grumbling. Well, more like whingeing and crying, to be more precise. Yes, I'd eaten afternoon tea at 4pm (a banana and a Farmers Union Iced Coffee), but a bottle of 'You'll Love Coles' water and a handful of Fantales provided by the program wasn't quite doing the trick. It felt like the inside of my gut was slowly being squashed and sucked down into a swirling chasm of lethal digestive juices, churning and sinking amongst the acidic ocean like an underpaid extra from The PerfectStorm. I was seriously considering sneaking out across the road to the deli to grab a sandwich and a nice hot cup of...
.....but nope, too late. The contestant-wrangler arrived with several more clipboard, head-set and bum-belt wearing black-clad guys and said it was Time. Time to turn off our phones and leave them and our bags behind before we went into the studio. Time to finish signing our lives away in which we'd promised never ever to reveal the name of the show, what games were played or who the host was. Time to reapply any lip-gloss that had worn off. Time to Put Our Crazy Games Faces On and Be Highly Energetic and Ready For Anything! ....... Lordy, what had I signed on for; I'm the girl who blushes if she has to ask what ticket to buy at the train station!
The next three hours were a bit of a blur. There were many games of musical benches being played as various black-clad clipboard-clutchers shifted us around according to sex - "Boy Girl Boy Girl", colour "We can't have two bright pinks sitting next to each other," and, sadly, age. "You need to sit here next to Todd, he's only 21." Oh.
The host was indeed rather nervous and the cameramen kept bumping into each other as the Floor Manager choreographed angles and zooms for each movement onstage. More Fantales were thrown out by the warm-up guy, an amiable chap named KB who did a sterling job of keeping 50 extraverted contestants and another 200 sugared-up audience members under control, still interested in the proceedings and willing to remain in our seats and clap as wildly as we could when told to do so by the Floor Manager. My hands ached; as did my face because the mindless grin plastered on meant that my over-stretched cheeks were starting to push up into my eyes.
Out of respect for the contract I signed, I can't reveal what I saw, but the evening did feature:
- A live goat who didn't disgrace itself or the model it was working alongside;
- An outstandingly hunky male model who got the biggest round of applause for the night (and that was just because he was wearing bathers and sitting erotically astride a jet ski);
- At least ten human beings standing around wearing head phones, eyebrow piercings (maybe it's a job requirement) and belt battery packs for every person actually doing some active work such filming, adjusting lights, operating the space-agey set doors or retouching the host's make up and hair; and
- The realisation that too many Fantales leads to a stomach ache, excessive clapping, inane screaming and utterly useless 'advice' to playing contestants about which prize, door, number or box to select.
And if the night wasn't already proving to me that - should the show be picked up and actually be filmed ready for viewing I might want to run in the opposite direction or consider applying for the Witness Protection Program - there was another announcement.
An English producer held a microphone to tell us that he was planning to use the pilot to pitch to the UK networks. With his sixty-something, acorn-shaped body, husky voice, Ronnie Barker glasses and that North England, "Oooh errr Reverend" accent that indicated a background in Brighton Beach stand-up nights, he said, "Now I need to you all to get up and BOO-GIE."
"BURN BABY BURN......" Well buckle my head to the side of an ant hill and butter my face with jam...... !!!
I was trapped, hemmed in from both sides with no escape in front or behind. Several cameras were rapidly rolling up and back along the floor and via the steps and everyone around me was doing their best Kermit Arms impressions, shaking their funky butts, whooping it up, cracking imaginary whips, rattling their racks (the women) or thrusting unashamedly (the men - except the Sale of the Century guy, who did the nervous 'step together, step back' that was usually my shy standby).
There was nothing for it, so I danced. I whooped. And clapped to the beat. I even...... you must understand how difficult it is for me to type this ...... did the John Travolta Finger Point move.
(Nods empathetically in shame and acceptance) I know. In time the horrors will fade. They just have to.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Meteorology and computer programming don't always provide a huge amount of creative freedom, so he finds it instead in cooking. Saturday and Sunday mornings are given to breakfasts that poncy inner-city cafes can only dream of and the coffees he makes from scratch seven days a week are better than anything you'd perch on a teeny tiny metal outdoor table in the freezing sunshine dressed in trendy black designer gear and pay four bucks the privilege for.
Even on a 'slack' weekend brekky day he treats Sapphire and myself to ricotta hotcakes with warm berries or a spinach and fetta tart like this one:
"Erm, about half a cup of minced stuff, I think. Heh Heh, I mistook it for tomato paste, a common mistake. Want another glass of water?"
"Um, let's just say that Mum found the band-aid she thought had slipped off when she was showering."
Sunday, March 22, 2009
So you'd like to hear about the amazing Mr P, aka Perry. Perry was my beautiful, intelligent and almost-human German Shepherd who passed away 3 years ago from cancer. His ashes are in a mahogany box sealed in plastic and buried at the base of the urn. I decided to plant a peppermint geranium above him because the smell would have driven him mad when we read for hours on the front porch together.
However, the mystery of the hulking beast growling behind the door had yet to be solved, because when I first arrived, Aleixo was home alone and Tam had taken Daria for a walk.
Daria, yes, after the TV show featuring the 'nothing can excite me' voice of Janeane Garofalo. That's a far better choice than the names that Mr Farrell has inflicted on his two poor kids - Hezron Wolfgang and Izzadore Bravo!
Daria, bless our Benevolent Sweet Lord of Lindt, is a loveable Rottweiler/German Shepherd cross that Tam adopted from the Lost Dogs home after she'd been treated abominably - and then dumped - by a previous owner. To this day she is terrified of fluttering objects such as curtains, or milk cartons and is the life and soul of Travancore 'off-lead' dog park. Tam is a dedicated fund-raiser for the Lost Dogs' Home in North Melbourne and has made up a calendar that features all of Daria's dog park mates on it, all grinning ecstatically (call the Lost Dogs home and ask for Kate in fundraising if you'd like to buy one).
Tam was at pains to point out the front door mat which so freaked me out the other day (was it a snack for the beast lurking within?) was merely old and not a chew toy for Daria.
By this stage, Daria was leaning up against me, her not-inconsiderable 41 kilogram bulk reminding me of our dog Milly's relative slightness at 13 kg. She was indeed beautiful, and trusting and friendly with a gorgeously shiny coat.
Looking around their living room with its long leather sofa, rubber toys, footies, soccer balls and tennis balls in various states of disrepair showed me who really ruled this particular roost.
Tam too noted that nearly every single framed photograph features dogs: "This is my Dad's dog just before he died, this is new one - isn't he beautiful? Here's my first German Shepherd that we got in Canberra; Mr P as a puppy, Mr P in his bandanna and sunnies; Daria on her first day with us....."
Aleixo is from Brazilian, but it was most definitely a Gallic shrug he gave. "Daria is crazy, but special and big. We love her." I was convinced of that already and I'm sure she'll have just as wonderful life with them as their beloved Mr P had.
Ooooh goody! Dexter's home - can he come over and have a roll with me on the grass?
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Today I found a seat - the only one vacant - and soon discovered why. Opposite me was an elderly woman with a beard to rival that of Colonel Sanders and a vocab that was not only filthy, but one that she wasn't keeping to herself. "Phark! Phargin Pharkers Phark!" she said, over and over, hands gripping her rainbow-coloured umbrella and tartan shopping bag.
Two old-but-fit ladies got on and took her seat. Both were sporting sensible haircuts without artificial colouring (or flavouring, presumably), dangly earrings, Berghaus backpacks, three-quarter-length canvas pants, Rockport walking shoes and the latest literary top ten sellers. Uni lecturers with a day off from the roundtable conference or lesbians on a lazy day?
"Not well, Maureen, not well. I mean I thought our daughter had more sense than to name one kid after a megalomanical mysognistic ruler and the other after a poverty-stricken third-world nation that she's never even visited."
But my rose coloured specs were smacked off when I heard it; that terribly familiar but frightening sound that has plagued me since sitting mid-year exams in a freezing classroom: Garrurgh-snort. That juicy, phlegm-laded, drawback snort beloved of teens and young men everywhere who are too nervous about their sexuality to even consider carrying a tissue.
Garrurgh-snort. How could his girlfriend stand listening to that in her ear? But no, she was wittering on about "Are you hungry, babe? Wanna grab a coffee at Gloria Jean's?"
At the corner of Flemington Road and Elizabeth street a young guy about nineteen years old got on and sat next to me, across from Phlegm Bag and Coffee Craver. He was taller than me, but soooo much thinner. I could snap him across my knees like kindling, so I wasn't exactly intimidated by the resplendently huge purple mohawk he was sporting. I had been far more frightened - at twelve years old mind you - at seeing the real Kings Road punks in London in 1981 who'd as soon as spit at you as head-butt their nannas hello.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
You something I really hate as an adult? Being told off by another adult. In front of children. In the school yard. Before I've had my first coffee for the day. Grrrrrrrrr!
But, *sigh*, I didn't. And won't. And this afternoon, I'll walk by, tugging Milly on her lead, blocking my ears to Spazzy's barking and the surrounding childrens' happy hellos. Anything to ensure that my beautiful girl gets to go for her walk, get patted by a few of Sapphire's mates and has a nice sniff of the base of every tree she sees on our way back home. She deserves that.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Sort of. So that the residents of Mr P's house could see that I did not come bearing weapons, ill will or religious reading matter, I dragged Sapphire and Milly along for pictorial and moral support. Sapphire stood at their gate rolling her eyes and trying to juggle her backpack, viola case and Milly's tautly stretched lead as I ventured up their steps with a 'here's one I've prepared earlier' friendly smile and knocked on the door.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Andy Warhol might have said that everyone gets fifteen minutes of fame, but that was back in the sixties when they thought that Nehru jackets, Guru Swamis and The Flying Nun were going to last forever.
These days, it’s fifteen seconds. In a normal situation, fifteen seconds is about what it takes to say to a stranger, “Hi, I’m---“ and they to you as you both have a quick glance at each other and decide if you’re going to enjoy having a conversation with them or not.
For an as-yet un-filmed, unknown pilot game show on Channel Nine, they advertised for people to audition as contestants. Up for any new life experiences and writing material, I sent in an email and was invited to attend a session.
It was hot, we were all sweating and whispering to each other, wondering what we’d have to do to get on. I was the oldest in my row by at least fifteen years and the only one with the hair colour god gave me.
The producer then told us that they were seeking contestants to film the pilot show. “That means you won’t be on TV and you won’t win the prizes that they talk about. You just have to pretend to win them and look excited about it.” At least fifty people then chose that moment to get up and leave and the rest of us breathed a sigh of relief that some competition had gone and thoughtfully stirred up a breeze to cool the overheated space as they departed.
Smiling knowingly at the small interruption, the producer continued to say that if the show did get picked up by the network, the contestants on the pilot would be automatically on the real tv show. Tough luck for the impatient ones who’d skedaddled. We all had clipboards with a number and our names written on in thick black texta and were given about two minutes to fill in a three page questionnaire about ourselves.
My handwriting speed is reasonably fast yet I didn’t manage to complete the form. The blonde 22 year old self-proclaimed ‘surfie chick and nudie-rudie streaker’ next to me merely added smiley faces and exclamation marks on hers, perhaps mistaking it for an SMS screen.
The producer spoke up again. "You have fifteen seconds each to say your name, show us your clipboard so that – --- she turned and said something unintelligible --- can video you. We’ll call out your name and number.”
She held out her hand in front of her, forestalling the next question. “NO. You do not come up to us at the front, you just stand up where you are sitting, use your fifteen seconds when we ask you to and then sit down.” Great. That would work wonders being in the back row of a four hundred strong crowd with black curtains surrounding us and some surly sub-sub-lower-pond-scum intern inexpertly wielding an ageing hand-held video camera….
My number? 659. Producer lady was up again. “While you’re waiting your turn, we want the rest of you to clap and cheer each other on because we’ll be assessing you as enthusiastic audience members as well.” Yeah right, and Santa’s tapping out his Naughty and Nice list right now. That said, most of us decided to play, if only to enjoy whatever nonsense several hundred other strangers were going to come out with.
"I work in Public Relations so I can talk confidently and knowledgably. Plus (she wrapped a long, lovely leg effortlessly around her neck) – I can run in pink stilettos." Nobody doubted her.
A couple stood up and proudly stated that they’d been married for four years. In the nude, as part of a radio show. Well sure, anyone can be nude on radio; matter of fact I’m wearing my birthday suit whilst typing this out!
A red-haired woman in her late forties stood up and immediately announced, “I’ve won $130,000 on 20-1 and now I want to win more.” Oh bugger off, you greedy sow. The mossies could be heard buzzing overhead as she sat down to annoyed silence.
A plump and spotty young guy two seats alongside me stood up. “I’m Derek Sacco. Yep, that’s my real surname, so my DJing stage name is DJ Sac. Yeah, as in nut sack.” Clearly that was what he considered the most important aspect of his presentation.
A mother of nine stood up and instantly got an awed round of applause. Perhaps it was her children that increased the volume of the crowd.
"Paul? Number 113?" the producer called out.
"I think he just popped out for a bit," said someone helpfully.
"Ok, we’ll try him again a bit later."
The curly-haired bloke sitting in front of me got his turn. “I work in logistics which is a fancy way of saying I’m a truckie. And yeah, I’m skinny, which makes me unusual in my line of work.”
The love child of Axl Rose and Hulk Hogan said, “I fix up fancy cars but only travel using (he reached down to pick up his skateboard) – THIS.” He wasn’t lying; I saw him happily rolling out of the studio on his board a couple of hours later.
“I rescue koalas because I’m a fireman,” a particularly tall and hunky man said. Wolf whistles from the girls drowned out the clapping.
258 stood up. "I’m bald, I’m fat, I'm forty two years old and I just got engaged on the weekend! The crowd roared their approval. "I mean look at me – I got engaged! Oh and I work for World Vision so you’ll all be sponsoring a kid before you leave tonight."
Spiral-permed Paulini-wannabe sang something. It sounded all nice and warbly in that trilly Mariah-Carey-on-helium over-singing style that Idol judges love, but no-one knew what the hell she was saying about herself.
"Paul? Number 113?"
"I think he’s in the loo," an auditioner called out.
"Ok, we’ll try him again a bit later."
At least a dozen poverty stricken uni students were there for a laugh, a dare, to be crazy, to win some HECS money, to mock each other’s taste in t-shirts. All have faded from memory except for the vague odour of weed and clearasil.
The saddest one was a plump, middle-aged lady who was clearly shaking with nerves and spoke in a monotone, “I’m a public servant but underneath it all, I’m spontaneous, really crazy and always the life of the party.” Oh sweetie…..
"Paul? Number 113?"
Friday, March 13, 2009
There've been some telling signs of late that my antics on the way to and from school are also becoming a source of embarrassment for her:
"Mu-u-u-um, stop talking so loudly to Juliet's Dad.... everyone's looking at you."
How could they be? I was calling across at the traffic lights and he was in the car on the other side of the road and needed to wind his window down. Everyone else should have been busy crossing the road before the bip-bip-bips stopped. Sure, your mate Juliet might have been slumping in shame in the back seat but I wasn't talking to her, was I?
Fine, she replied, shoulders slumped, gripping Milly's lead and looking straight ahead. Obviously my retort wasn't the "Oh darling, I'm so terribly sorry, it won't happen ever again my dear, sweet precious petal" that she wanted.
"Mu-u-u-um why don't you have a shower before you take me to school? You've still got eye boogers."
Look kid, I get up at 7am to make your lunch, feed the dog and the rabbit, unpack the dishwasher, get your breakfast, hoik the buckets of shower water from last night out on the garden, hang up a load of washing, read/sign/pay money for a bucketload of urgent school notes and hassle you to get dressed, eat your breakfast, stop playing with the dog and do some quick viola, guitar or recorder practice before we go to school. And I have to have that first cup of coffee. No negotiation there. And I ain't getting up an hour earlier at 6am to go for a run, cool down, have a shower and pretty myself up just for a five minute stroll into the school yard where you ignore me the second we walk through the gate anyway. Geddit?
She nodded, silently.
"Mu-u-u-um, why don't you have a normal job, like Phoebe or Sarah or Sian's Mums do?"
Because I don't want to. For about eighteen years I did do what they did, but eventually I started to hate it. My body started to let me down, I felt tired, resentful, angry and sad and didn't spend enough time with you or Love Chunks. I now laugh more, notice more things, sing more (whether you like it or not) and have met more interesting, genuine and kind people than ever before and I'm starting to get paid for it. And you get to invite your friends home for playdates instead of being stuck in after-school care every day and that's a good thing, isn't it?
She nodded again, slipping her hand into mine.
"Mu-u-u-um, stop kissing me, the bell's just gone."
Tough. I just have to. I must. See, if I don't kiss you or Love Chunks before we go our separate ways for the day, it just doesn't feel right. Yes, like when we all say 'cheers' and clink glasses and you've got to tap everyone's glass or the vibe doesn't work. And yes, I know you're studying Unicef and the rights of children at school right now, but as your parent, I surely have a right to kiss you. At least once in the morning and once at night. You don't seem to mind being kissed at night, do you? And if anyone here teases you, you can tell them to get stuffed. Yes, you really can. Because having someone wanting to kiss you is a really nice thing actually.
She rolled her eyes and proferred her cheek as though she was about to be brushed with a dead fish. I kissed her, angrily at first, but then the softness of her skin, the sweet smell of her hair, the warmth....
"Yeah, bye Mum." She was off before I opened my eyes. Perhaps I won't tell her that I'd just auditioned for a tacky new game show, considered getting another tattoo or was about to interview an old lady who feeds the pigeons every morning.
And at morning tea time, she still made her presence felt:
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Unlike my cheeky Irish blogger Radgery, I've yet to be Desked, but I'm hoping.
Instead of his measly one, I've submitted three. Yes, three is my lucky number and the trio of desks under inspection range from filthy and dishevelled to obsessively neat. Kind of like me in person - sweaty and reeking after a run and during the morning school drop-off to neat, clean and smelling like a rose at the after school pick-up.
Drum roll please, for Desk Number One:
This was my hive of activity at the university when I won the contract to write 'Work/Life Balance for Dummies' on behalf of the research centre. Bulldog was just starting to throw her not-inconsiderable weight and ego around, and you can see that my salvation was to be found in chocolate and iced coffee. That day there was obviously no Feel Good Farmers Union Iced Coffee to be found at the canteen on the floor below us, so I had to make do with Rush. A very distant second, but oh so much more superior than Big M which isn't even sold in South Australia.
Note also the apple sitting there on the right; presumably for at least a week. In those days (oh who I am kidding - these days as well) it was my belief - in the mythical yet yearned-for place I'll refer to as 'Kath Land,' that a piece of fruit would immediately cancel out a chocolate bar. Sadly, my thighs and arse disagreed.
Sapphire's smiling face made it into two picture frames, whereas poor Love Chunks rates a jokey pin rammed at the top of his head on the back wall. He photo-shopped his face onto a grotesquely over-roided physique and emailed it to me for a quick laugh, not knowing that I would print it, laminate it and put it on every workspace wall ever since.
I look at this photo two years later, still with a mixture of regret that my working life with Bulldog ended so badly and a big dollop of relief. Escaping her evil clutches and dictatorship was harrowing but provided me with an opportunity to be brave, take a few deep breaths, jump in and see what happens.
....which was spending most of 2008 writing from home in Adelaide, pimping myself on radio, eating chocolates, running seminars, book reviews, giving interviews and providing life to a few bloody ulcers when deciding to sell our house just as the entire globe plunged into deep financial crisis. Despite all that, we moved to a two bedroom/one study house in Melbourne so that I could squeeze in here, at Desk Number Two:
My secretary, Milly the dog, was not impressed. Whereas previously in South Australia she was able to languidly stretch out in a five-by-four metre room with just some bookshelves and a desk to interfere; here she battles for dominance with the piano, the fold-away camping trestle, a wine rack I use as a visual filing system (ie if I don't see it, I forget about it), a real filing cabinet and two bookshelves in a room that is just two metres wide and 4 metres long.
I sometimes forget she's there and get the wheels of the chair bogged in the beans when reaching for the real filing cabinet, startling her so that she jumps up and bonks her rock-hard noggin against the piano stool. She then stares up at me with her big, black-edged brown eyes in confusion, I stop what I'm doing and ruffle her ears, pat her back and kiss her a few times in sympathy, forget what I'm supposed to be doing and lie on the carpet beside her, stroking her tummy...... Oh God, is it time to pick up Sapphire from school already...? I must have dozed off for a second there.... Yuck, the drool's got carpet fluff and dog fur stuck to it.....
If the day is warmer than 25C, the sun blazes directly through the window which makes it an open invitation for Mr Migraine and his sidekick, Rumpled Foreskin to come in, open up the top of my head and set to stirring the contents with some open Swiss Army knives. Being a weatherboard addition, the study also gets very hot very quickly. Typing with sweaty hands and leaking armpits is not a recipe for creativity or productivity, nor is hanging up a tablecloth to cover the roman blind that's already there.
Instead, I give up and move to Desk Number Three:
The kitchen/dining area. The paper decorations on the window were done by Sapphire to celebrate Milly's 5th birthday recently (see the bone and the tennis ball?).
Outside is Love Chunks' Ayers Rock of a Bad Boy Barbeque Beast that almost didn't fit through our gate and the framed artwork is Sapphire, crayon and watercolour, circa 2006.
Unlike the other desks, this one is kept clean so that it's not a hassle to abandon it for dinner, spread out The Age newspaper to read at leisure, unwrap and photograph chocolate and wipe down with a chux in one expert move.
The only problem is that the wooden chairs are meanly solid and uncomfortably, uncharitably hard. So hard that after only an hour my bum is begging for mercy and I start believing that every damn nodule along my spine has a heartbeat of pulsating pain all of their own. That's when I know it's time to get up, find some chocolate (for reviewing purposes, you understand), take Milly out in the garden for a wee, see how Skipper the rabbit's getting along and put on a load of washing.
You've gotta love a work surface that disguises chocolate crumbs.