Sunday, March 27, 2011
The time has come to put forth something of a cheat sheet when it comes to the Family Painefull. As you will see in future blogs we are as numerous and difficult to keep track of as our name might suggest. What follows are brief bios, in chronological order according to age, so as to better acquaint you with our brood.
Patriarch, Old Wise Man, “The Wallet”, Long-Suffering
Father Painefull has been a silver fox for as long as I can remember, and has failed to visibly age since his mid 50’s (which were a long time ago). He is a man of extreme habit (the genetic source of my own OCD tendencies) – I believe some people in the Dor, where he was born, raised and worked in the one job in his entire life, could set their watches by him. He is ridiculously smart, has a supreme knowledge of all things history, and has been known to make quips that would be funny if only someone nearby was intelligent enough to get them. He is rather skilled at falling a sleep while seated, his hair stands up when he is drunk and his signature catch phrase is “wacky doo” (“wacky doo” being a bizarre way of noting how amazing something is, without having to express genuine amazement).
Matriarch, Queen Bee, “The Politician”
Mother Painefull tends to be more popular with my friends than I am. People constantly ask me how she is, and are prone to quoting her endlessly. She has a mild addiction to retail therapy of which I am often the beneficiary, she adores artwork and has an ever-expanding collection… including a hilarious portrait of herself that I have written Mrs Ryan’s name on the back of so she may enjoy it for all eternity. She tends to be right, not instantly, perhaps not within a week, but eventually. She knows everyone – whenever I walk the streets of the Dor with her we have to take alleyways if we’re in a rush for fear she will be waylaid by some passing stranger she spoke to once at a gallery opening 5 years ago. She is a former nurse who can diagnose you on sight (and is constantly advising me to get a blood test). She is smarter than she realizes. Her signature catch phrases are “As a woman, and a mother…”, “Why wouldn’t you…” (as in “Why wouldn’t you buy a house/marry him/move to new York/put on a garage sale/dye your hair orange”) and “Half a mango” (as in “All I’ve had to eat today is half a mango”).
Eldest Sister, former Real Estate Agent, Mother of 3, Bonafide Career Woman, Celebrant for Hire
Mrs Ryan perfected child-rearing in her 20’s and has been passing down her wisdom ever since. She is stone cold mad, eternally hilarious and the Countess of Photo-Bombing. Due to the age difference between us, there was a period in which, while wandering the streets of the Western Suburbs, she would be mistaken for my mother. She is Mother Painefull’s heir apparent in all things political, and constantly keeps herself sharp by dueling with the St Matthew’s Mafia. She is married to Pookie, a fixture of my childhood who earned his place in the Family Painefull by wheeling me and my friends around in wheelbarrows at my 7th birthday party. Pookie can and will fix anything, lost part of a finger in a freak grate incident, and humours Mrs Ryan’s pet obsession (which has featured guinea pigs, birds, mice, dogs, cats, and a Shetland pony called Bob).
2nd Eldest, Teacher, Accidental Publisher, Mother of 2, Accidental Blogger
Most of what you need to know about Mrs Woog can be found in her blog. She taught me how to drink like a fish, and persists (despite all obstacles) in trying to teach me about eye make-up and accessorizing. She once convinced me that the reason I have a scar on my nose is because she hit me over the head with a cricket bat when I was a baby. There was a period of time when I thought it made perfect sense for Mrs Woog to time me while I took the washing off the line and got her a glass of iced water. I distinctly remember being babysat by a series of her boyfriends until Mr Woog entered the scene. When I visited her at university her friends there delighted in training me in the use of a politically incorrect form of speech, with which I managed to unwittingly offend people for several years afterwards. During my teens and early 20’s I spent a lot of time occupying her fold-out bed and eating all her milo. Mr Woog and I have a mutual appreciation of silence, broken largely when he needs to ask me about which movie he should watch.
Middle Child, Only Boy, Dancing Queen
One of my favourite childhood photos involves me sitting on the front of a bicycle, all pig tails and chubby cheeks, while Roo powers the 2-wheeled steed behind me. Roo spent the early days of his time at boarding school running away from it… the fact that he often used this time to visit my sisters and their friends at an all girls boarding school allows it all to make a bit more sense. While I failed to be the brother Roo might have wanted, I managed to be the tomboy he could enjoy wrestling and sitting on top of. Roo isn’t averse to boycotting the occasional family event (coining the phrase “I’m out, no interest” in regard to one particular Christmas). He is married to the sensational Snooze, and never fails to raise just how drunk I managed to be at his wedding a few years ago.
Only 10 Years Older Than Me, the Really Patient One, Mother of 2, the Lawyer
Elspeth and I used to be “the blonde ones” – this led to the Mrs Woog and Mrs Ryan locking the 2 of us in the linen cupboard in retaliation for our hair colour sometime when I was a toddler. At the time, while Elspeth might have found this discomforting, I forever remember this as a thrilling event that marked the moment of my core integration into my sibling’s lives. Elspeth is smart, pretty and prone to jogging. She is currently in the process of taking over the family business from Father Painefull, but before that she was a hot, little inner city lawyer who worked ridiculous hours and looked awesome in cute business suits. Elspeth is generally awesome. Being lawyer-ly, she loves rules. On the flip-side, champagne (which she enjoys) will send her voice up several octaves to a shrill volume. She is married to Glen the Geography teacher, who is famed for his hairy arms and enthusiastic love of sporting efforts.
Somewhere in there are some “full this”, “step that” and “half whatever”s… but it’s kind of hard to keep track of, and relatively unimportant to any of us. Of course there are numerous nephews, a niece, extended family members and former spouses that probably warrant their own notation. But we’ll get to all of that in good time.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Last week I arrived at my esteemed place of employment to find 2 of my colleagues – Fanny (her parents are from a Victoria era time warp) and LJ – staring at me intently as I sat down, and demanding a reply to their emails. I assumed this could only relate to a very serious, and urgent work matter that required immediate attention due to it’s time sensitive nature. I dropped my bag and logged in, all the while praying I had not stuffed up in such a monumental manner that it would forever tar me with the brush of incompetence.
Fanny’s email read…
Subject: What do LJ & I need to do to get a run in your blog? Saw Kiwi Snow White* was on there, and we want in!!!
To which LJ had replied all…
It would seem that no amount of salt in your tea or taping up your mouse is enough to give us a run. What can we possibly do to tip you over the edge and give us a feature?
So, slightly less vital really, though exciting evidence that I can now bump my regular readership up to 4 (Mrs Woog, Mother Painefull, Fanny and LJ).
Fanny and LJ are those most necessary of office stalwarts (in workplaces where saving lives it not a regular occurrence), the workplace pranksters. To give you an idea of what they’re capable of…
Specialty: Secretly recording embarrassing conversations
M.O: Sending office wide announcements that she has something important to show everybody at 11am
Signature Novelty Item: Jelly beans that taste like nappies and rotting fruit which she offers to all new colleagues
Specialty: Elaborate setups involving mobile phone subterfuge
M.O: Should you receive the details of a business with something pornographic in the title via text, LJ is simply casually perusing the Yellow Pages site and utilizing their free text service on your behalf
Signature Novelty Item: Sticky taping your mouse so it no longer works
I’m not saying we don’t do important things in our jobs, I’m just saying that those who step away from their desk do so at their own peril. It took mere minutes for this duo to pour 4 sachets of salt into my freshly brewed tea. The taste I liken salted tea to is blood, in case you were wondering, and it was only when Fanny and LJ followed me into the kitchen, giggling like the school girls they continue to be at heart, that I realized I had not been visited by some sort of biblical curse.
They’re like The A-Team of the procrastinating world (they’re both remarkably old after all, so they’ve had plenty of time to practice). If you have a post-it on your back, if you are asked to open a volume entitled The Book of Yonis before someone explains to you what the word ‘Yoni’ actually means, if you find a mortifying post you don’t remember entering as a status update on your Facebook account, maybe you can blame The A-Team.
* = Kiwi Snow White is my sweet natured, deeply caring Supervisor (who I often imagine singing to animated birds in her spare time) who recently made the terrifying revelation that she swerved to hit her first possum at the tender age of 16.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
My 7 year old nephew Harry and I bring out the worst in each other. We are both so naturally prone to being complete smart-arses that it’s like we view each other as the ultimate competition (I know this is a worse reflection on me, a 25 year old, than the kid who is in primary school, but somehow that doesn’t embarrass me). Without failure we seem go out of our way to stir each other up – we bicker like siblings, and a passer-by might easily assume I was simply his incredibly immature older sister.
They’d be wrong of course, we fulfill a very different, but utterly important role for each other – I am his familial nemesis, and he is mine.
Though there are occasional cease-fires (mostly when one of us isn’t in the country) they never last long. A classic example of hostilities came just this Friday when I went to pick him up from after school care for his exhausted mother Mrs Woog. I explained to the supervisor who was eyeing me with suspicion that I was Harry’s aunt. The supervisor’s suspicion could not be relieved however as he replied:
“We’ll have to see if he recognizes you, if not we’ll need to call someone.”
Who that someone was I don’t know, but as I was talking to a man who made officious and excessive use of a walkie-talkie to call for Harry to be sent to the hall I decided not to ask. Finally, after 5 minutes Harry ambled up to the two of us…
Supervisor: Harry, do you know this woman?
Harry gives me a look of evil contemplation. Finally he smirks and replies…
Now, fortunately Harry’s class clown reputation preceded him and I managed to get the Supervisor to see reason. Harry then complained about my choice of parking position, and pointed out I must be a baby for liking kid toys like the ball in the back seat of my car. I responded, falsely, by saying the ball was going to be a gift for him but as he clearly didn’t like it I would just keep it for myself. I then spent rest of the car trip taking every red light as an opportunity to pivot in my seat and belt out Roxette tunes into his face, much to his squirming dismay.
Harry, who I have previously called Barry in this blog*, is in many ways like the singer I fictitiously named him after – Barry Manilow – both addictive and irritating in equal measure. He is freakishly intelligent, has a tan I could only dream of and gets a mohawk haircut to celebrate the beginning of every school holiday. He insists on calling his pets things like XO and Fuifui Moimoi, is famed for being magnetically drawn to improbably attractive women (thus, never me) and often displays the sage wisdom of a middle-aged man trapped in a child’s body/a hilariously unfortunate ability to repeat everything he hears (he once told a Liberal MP that John Howard was a dickhead).
Just the other day when I was babysitting him and his brother Jack, I commented that there was a nice cool wind blowing through the house. He pursed his lips and nodded like a wizened Yoda before responding with a knowing look “The winds of peace”. I have absolutely no idea where he heard that one.
I once drove him out to spend the evening with Mother Painefull, and the pair of us infamously spent the hour-long trip telling each other how the monsters each of us owned would crush and eat the other. I have no idea how I got sucked into the conversation, but it occurred when he was around 4 or 5. Once again, not a great reflection on me.
Despite the fact that Harry has the uncanny ability to make me act like some threatened only child, I just can’t get enough. Even better, there’s something quietly exciting about knowing I get to see him grow up – I can guarantee that along the way he is going to be hysterically funny, never boring and more than a little bit awesome. We’ll probably still be fighting… but that’s my job. I’m his nemesis after all – every future superhero needs one.
* = Mrs Woog was mortified to think people might actually believe she had called her son ‘Barry’ and insisted I draw back the veil on my full-proof code-naming system. With that in mind, I imagined she would have a similar aversion to me re-titling her younger son Jack as ‘Mack’, so in a world first (for this blog) this is a posting which actually features some accurate names.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
I don’t feel old because my sister is 40, I feel young because I’m not. If I can approach turning that age with even half the carefree attitude and zest for life that Mrs Ryan did then I will be doing well. When it came time to celebrate my first sibling to hit a 4th decade the birthday girl wore a policewoman’s uniform. Age will not weary her, nor shall the law – Office Naughty was there to party.
Several markers will often be found at a Painefull family party:
A theme ripe for inappropriate outfits (or bizarre nonsensical adaptation)…
Thus Mrs Ryan chose to brand the event Vicars, Tarts & Mourners, host the gathering at a former church (now bar) and opted to attend dressed as a rather slutty officer of the law (Officer Naughty). That’s also why Mother Painefull looked like a gangland widow and there was a pregnant nun wandering through the general vicinity.
Compared to the cross-dressing themed Christmas we once held, it all had a certain amount of logic to it.
Someone will strip and/or perform a musical song & dance number…
This time around we got both – there was Mrs Ryan slowly removing items of clothing to the familiar strain of You Can Leave Your Hat On, and later came Mrs Woog hijacking the band to perform her very own cover of Blister In The Sun.
Speeches, speeches, speeches…
While dinner parties usually require everyone to give a speech, this one simply called upon a couple of well-honed, highly embarrassing ones. It’s how we’ve all developed such wonderfully thick skins over the years. Mrs Woog used hers to reveal that when she asked her son Barry what words he would use to describe his aunt Mrs Ryan, he replied “Old and mean”.
Father Painefull’s hair gets drunk…
Along with the rest of him. You can tell Father Painefull is about to begin speaking in random non sequiturs when his hair starts sticking up.
Mr Woog will call it a night hours earlier than anyone else…
You don’t get to be that baby-faced without some extra beauty sleep.
Someone will purge either physically or emotionally…
And so at the end of the evening back at Casa de Family Painefull, another, unnamed sister found herself vomiting into the kitchen sink while in the process of calling a cab.
To the above list I may eventually have to include The Painefull family continues their love affair with Jim. As I have mentioned before, Jim is my Fake Husband, though he may have soured things a bit on the dance floor when he dropped Mrs Woog. Jim’s personal highlight probably came when a completely random stranger on the dance floor offered to leave her husband for him.
I think having such an elderly family has its definite advantages – old people really seem to know how to party. Plus I can mock them in the smug certainty that no matter how many years I have aged, they’ve aged more.