Thursday, December 6, 2012

Paranormal Possum Activity

I think I’m being haunted.  By a possum.  And it’s really pissed off.

Looks angry, doesn't he?

Let me begin by saying I am not a natural animal person.  I scored that trait from my father, who, through years of family dogs, has avoided using their names, instead titling each canine with descriptors like ‘New Dog’ and ‘Little Dog’.  Until recently it had taken an outrageously cool or unusual animal – like a cat called Mouse, a Schnauzer that urinated in everyone's bedroom but mine, or a Staffy that only ever ran away to local brothels – to garner my affection.  But lately I’ve developed what can only be described as some sort of… dog cluckiness.  It’s appalling, and it’s begun to spread out through animal genres – I found myself admiring a ferret the other day.

Despite my varying degrees of interest in animals, I’ve always been particularly careful of them on the roads.  That stems from a formative incident almost a decade old…

(Cue time warp transition, over-saturated tones, Black Eyed Peas singing ‘Where Is the Love’, and me standing in a University dorm looking exactly the same because, much to Mother Painefull’s chagrin, my wardrobe really hasn’t changed much.)*

I was but a fresh-faced youth in my first year of university, blessed with the twin inadequacies of being 17 and unlicensed.  While the first left me banned from Uni Bar, the second curse was what had me begging lifts off dorm mates when it came time to visit the Parents Painefull in The Dor.  I scored that very first lift from a fellow student, a country lass.  Now I thought this would be an easy fit – after all I went to boarding school with several such lass’s, and thus, unwillingly, speak fluent Garth Brooks.  I was not to know this one young woman happened to be Deliverance on Wheels.  Not even her reinforced, bull bar toting ute made me doubt my travelling companion.  Only when she sped up on the road 30 minutes later and collected an innocent magpie, before declaring “It’s kill, or be killed!” did I realise I may have been out of my depth.  That was the first animal road fatality I had ever witnessed.  Needless to say, I spent the next 3 years of my life valiantly avoiding this person.

(Back to present day.  Yes mum, I’m wearing the same pair of jeans.)

So the other week, on a dark, traffic-filled night, when I accidentally clipped a possum stranded in the middle of the road before leaving it to its oncoming green-light-cued fated, I was reminded I was a truly terrible person.  The dry retching I did on the side of the road 3 blocks later did nothing to assuage my guilt.

Then, over the weekend a strange sound began emanating through the street.  At first I thought it was a woman screaming (Fun Fact: It’s not), then I thought it was a bird.  Now, I realise, it’s clearly the possum… haunting me.  While I speak Garth Brooks, and some Whale, I don’t speak Possum, so I’m not entirely sure what it’s saying.  Admittedly this could be cabin fever talking, or a brain tumor, or in fact a bird, but really, isn’t a creepy, vengeance-fuelled ghost possum a much more likely answer?

Not since my duel to the death with a spider on the staircase have I been so concerned about animal retribution.  Worse still, this grudge might have gone interspecies.  The white rabbit that roams free in the yard down the street has been giving me a much more glaring, beady-eyed look of late when I stop to admire him**.

Now they're all looking at me... and they know where I live

I can only hope this is simply the beginning of some Dickens-style scenario, in which case The Ghost of Possums Past should be done soon (probably to make way for The Ghost of Unemployment Present).

Painefull Out

* = Anyone a Cold Case fan?  You’re not, are you mum.  Cold Case is a show filled with flashbacks and era bound music.  They solve cases… that have gone cold.  They have a name for those cases that are cold… but is escapes me at the moment.

** = That might also be due to another incident, in which I pulled up in my car beside said yard and screamed “The rabbit’s there” at my traveling companion, only to realise he had his passenger window down and I had essentially screamed at house itself… which happened to be open for inspection… thus I screamed at two innocent families… who stared at me while I reacted instinctively by both ducking and looking around as if seeking out the source of such strange yelling.  Both of those tactics are hard to pull off when you’re sitting in a car in the middle of a quiet street.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Reunite This!

It’s been 10 years since I last trod the hallowed halls of my high school.  A decade has passed since I last rocked a blazer that featured a visible list of my sporting achievements, attended chapel twice a week and viewed boarding school dinners as a speed-eating exercise.  In 2002 I was living in a glorified, highly supervised version of a share house (replete with a swimming pool turned stagnant pond), being reprimanded for wearing sport socks with the summer uniform or a black ribbon that was too short, and passing my spare hours by swapping VHS tapes of the latest episode of Alias and Dawson’s Creek with the neighbouring boarders.

And so, with 10 years worth of water under the bridge, tradition, nostalgia and Facebook declared it was time for us to get the 150 girl band back together (like the Spice Girls if they stayed together longer, but had less cultural impact).  Twas reunion time, bitches.

Due to some belated international backpacking (which, bizarrely, coincided with the false accusation that I tried to shoot a man… true story for another time) I had missed the 5 Year Reunion.  As a result I was rather enthused for the gathering, but making Fi and Livinia join me was akin to pulling teeth (but less financially rewarding – unlike the orthodontist who gave me straight teeth, and the Parentals Painefull empty wallets during my high school career).  By bizarre contrast, in the lead up to the event Jim was persistently asking me if there was any way he could come along.  After living with me for 3 years, tales of my high school had somehow developed a mythological status that made him eager to get a first hand glimpse of the natives I had described.  He wanted to play Painefull High School Bingo.  Given that it was an all girl school, slipping someone called Jim into the mix was going to prove a little tricky.

The solution to all this?  The 10 Year Reunion Side Party.  What is a 10YRSP you may be asking?  I’ll tell you what it is mum.  It’s the small gathering of non school friends you coordinate to stage a drinking session at a nearby watering hole, thus offering an escape route for the less than willing reunion attenders, and an improvised entry point for the vaguely curious.

Side Party of Randoms: Acquired

So how do you kick things off when you have a 10 Year Reunion and a 10YRSP?  Well clearly that requires some sort of pre-party gathering.  Because when you start with one party, why not make it three?

Third Gathering: Acquired

And what’s three parties without at least one party game?  So, in a stroke of what I assumed was genius, I came up with a contest (largely inspired by the legendary Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion).  The challenge was this:

Each contestant must come up with a lie that’s believable to someone you haven’t seen in 10 years, but utterly ridiculous to those that know you.  A point is scored every time that lie is fact checked with another contestant in the game.

Challenge: … accepted*

Naturally I instantly declared that my lie was that I had a two year old child, called Tomas, whose father is German.  It pretty much sells itself.  But in case it didn’t sell itself, when I told my current crop of classmates the plan, they suggested I would need some form of photographic evidence.  Thankfully one of those classmates happened to have his own child, relatively fresh out of the box, with him.

Photographic Evidence: Acquired

My baby is on order, he's arriving fully trained with dish washing capabilities

Amongst the other back story lies, we had one girl who was going to reveal she was recently released on parole, an ASIO officer, and a pair with suitable hair colouring that had formed their own ABBA tribute band called ABBA-Salute.

Of course, when it came to the eve of the reunion itself, not everything went precisely to plan.

The 10YRSP venue turned out to be closed.  Jim was granted his wish when, for lack of  a decent Plan B, that gathering of randoms who never went to our high school was forced to station themselves within the reunion venue.  When confronted on the rather obvious fact he never went to our all girl school, his absurd knowledge of my year finally paid off when he claimed to be the post-op version of a girl who wasn’t in attendance.

And when I finally built up the courage (and remembered) to try out my lie… I happened to test it on the girl universally acknowledged as the nicest, kindest, loveliest person in the year.  What with her being so very nice, kind and lovely, she didn’t try to debate my tale, or query the photo I showed.  All this, plus alcohol, sent me so rapidly into a spiral of guilt that I was forced to admit the deception 20 minutes later.  And as I swayed drunkenly, while she looked at me with earnest, confused, widened eyes and asked:

“Why on earth would you lie about something like that?”

Forcing me to admit that it seemed like a funny idea about a week earlier… I knew then that 10 years had evolved me into an even stranger person than I had been at high school.  If that’s possible.

After that it was just a hop, skip and a jump into belligerent, retrospectively embarrassing sweary-ness (the type that often sees me coining phrases like ‘I prefer to bump’).  And tap dancing.  It’s remarkable that the most common thing said to me by various people the next day was:

“You really did a lot of tap dancing.”

Well not that remarkable.  What was remarkable was that I didn’t find my way into a top hat in the process.

And so, that cultural tradition (tap dancing at one’s 10 year reunion after lying about one’s life achievements) and excuse for a trip down memory lane has passed.  It was technically uneventful considering the Facebook Event Page that organized it devolved into a war of words over the venue that would make the Jets and the Sharks complain that things were getting a little too camp.  What it was, was incredibly eerie to step into a room where you recognized every face from some distant, long ago time.

It’s also been an eerie experience for Mother Painefull.  Her claim to everlasting youth – a final, last-though child that went to school a decade after the rest of her children – has taken a serious hit with the revelation that I am no longer that youthful myself.

Painefull Out

P.S.  The final scene from my evening involved housemate Layla (a participant in the 10YRSP) and I demolishing a plate of dips and cheese in a heady, primal swoop, seated in the darkness of the lounge room, not making eye contact, aware even in this most primal state that what we were doing wasn’t a notable high point for either of us.

Then I watched an episode of Battlestar Galactica.  That’s right Tomas – mama parties hard.

* = I assume someone, somewhere out there appreciates a decent How I Met Your Mother reference as much as I do.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Painefull Election

Every four years an event comes around that requires preparation, commitment and steely determination.  I’m speaking of course about the Olympic Heptathlon.  But for those of us who don’t quite make that grade, who find the idea of trying to jump over something backwards hilarious, but who still truly believe that without Paine there is no Gain there’s another happening that (thank god) doesn’t require you to wear a two-piece bathing suit.

Instead, it requires you to wear this

I speak of course of that beacon of democracy commonly known as the local government election.  That one day where we tell everyone that their voice counts in their community, that what they want for their children matters and, most important of all, that there’s a sausage sizzle set up by the exit from the voting booth.

Mother Painefull has been bringing her brand of maternal wisdom to the Hawkesbury for over 20 years now as a vital and outspoken member of the local city council.  So when I say I’ve been working the poll for my mum every four years since I was in Kindergarten, you know I mean it.

No Paine, No Gain!

Mum has been shaking up the system, and terrifying the political conservatives for as long as I can remember.  Of course, if memory fails, there will always be the photographic evidence – like the image of Mother Painefull getting a mammogram on the front page of the local newspaper.  And I don’t need to struggle to recall that one, because it’s been framed and hung on a wall in the parental House of Paine.

And for as long as mum has been dolling out front room talks to the local community, I have been handing out ‘How To Vote’ leaflets on voting day.

My original election day shirt, from back when I was cute

If life’s treating you too kindly, if you seem to be getting your way a bit too much, I recommend handing out to voters.  It’s constant, unerring rejection like that that can really put your feet back on the ground.  Plus, after a while being called a ‘%#$!’ is almost soothing.

A week ago today I was doing just that.  It’s days like those you can see mum’s decision to have so many children really paying off.  It goes like this – I stand at a booth for 10 hours, Elspeth stands at a booth for 10 hours, Mrs Ryan stands at a booth for 10 hours, everyone’s spouses stand at a booth for several hours, and Mrs Woog… makes some sandwiches.  I believe Gaddafi had a similar model of burden-sharing.

In all fairness, Mrs Woog also sat in a car for 4 hours delivering those sandwiches to booth workers.  From everything I heard from the people that got them, apparently they tasted great.  I don’t begrudge Mrs Woog the workload, I simply admire her ability to outsource.

But then she’s probably jealous of us poll hander-outer-ers.  It’s a special, weird, life-affirming experience spending 10 hours side-by-side with people, many of whom have inexplicably decided to hand out for dickheads.  It says something about the battle-hardening experience that despite the fact that they can’t stand my mum, I can’t stand their facial hair, and between us all a general pall of body odour is on the rise, that somehow we end up bonding.

Except Australia First.  You don’t find yourself bonding with Australia First, not even by accident.

Perhaps what brings us all together is the sheer effort of being there.  By showing up to hand out at a local election of all things, we must all invariably acknowledge within each other a commitment to the sacred importance of being allowed to vote at all.  By being there we’re saying, above all else, that we really, really give a shit.  That people make a difference just by deciding to, that apathy, not paperwork, or parking fines, or the queue at the check-out, is the devil’s handiwork.  And if you don’t give a shit, then I forbid you from complaining.  Because you gave up the right to whinge the minute you proudly stomped passed the sweaty, sunburnt maul of people while declaring ‘I’m just here to mark my name off!’.

Of course, some people were handing out because they were promised there was going to be a party afterwards.  Or because they lived in the candidate’s womb at some point in the distant past.  These are also valid reasons.

Except for Australia First hander-outer-ers.  I still don’t know why you were there.

And so we stood, we sweated, we yelled out things like ‘Vote for an Independent Woman!’ (while, in my case, trying not to break into a Destiny’s Child song in the process), and we bonded.  And then we were tempted to kill each other, because if I heard ‘Group F, a vote for Farmers, Food for Thought!*’ one more time my head would explode.  And then we all got so delirious we bonded again.  And then a man came through and asked us whether we supported Asian slums in his backyard, and we stared at him blankly.

The Australia First people had gone by then.

Of course there were many memorable moments, many of them quotable.

Some of the highlights included:

“What are you going to do about gun laws?” – um, nothing.  This is local government.  Do you know what local government does?  Same goes for the guy who asked about cannabis legislation.

“Clearly she’s just hired some attractive girls to hand out for her.” – uttered by a fellow hander-outer-er to one of the friends I conned into helping mum out.  Some of my other friends were enthralled by pollster gossip about wife bartering.  Cause that’s how we role in western Sydney.

“You don’t know what love is.” – perhaps the most phenomenal rebuttal of the day, from one of the opposition hander-outer-ers to one of my Aunts.

“If you guys start singing again at 3am, I am going to wake you up at 6am by playing my guitar in your face.” – Elspeth’s husband to my friends.  Clearly he’s still traumatised by our home made karaoke from the Easter long weekend.

“Four more years!” – the chant when Mother Painefull romped back into council with the highest individual vote in the district.  It was all a bit like my own private West Wing.

And so another Olympian effort by Mother Painefull & Co was brought to a close.  Mum promised this would be her last time.  She promised that for the last 2 elections prior to this one, so our collective breath is not currently being held.  Still, fun was had, and there are many things worse than a Painefull Election (such as a ‘Painefull Erection’… which is what mum called the gathering when we helped her to erect a shed in the backyard).

It was an exhausting weekend but, like they** say,  No Paine, No Gain.

Painefull Out

* = This is an abridged version of the ‘Food for Thought’ spiel.  The full text will be published over 28 pages in an expanded handout.  As I have it memorised, theoretically I could write it myself.  Sadly.

* = 'They' being ‘all the kids’, ‘everyone’ and ‘those bitches handing out the pink How To Vote leaflets’

Friday, August 17, 2012

And Here’s The Fine Print…

After an exhaustive, nation-wide search hosted by an Aussie soap star and critiqued by an odd array of local B-grade celebrities and talking heads, the Cliff has a new housemate.

Our housemate selection panel - we were a lot more low key this time around

That scenario, both thrilling and unlikely in equal measure, was obviously my preferred option for filling the rent-paying-sized gap that sprang into our lives when Mick skipped town.  Sadly, twas not to be.

If the Australian Olympic campaign and Everybody Dance Now have proven anything, it’s that throwing money at something doesn’t necessarily make it work.  Neither will hype, stupid nicknames and revealing outfits.  Thus we opted for the far more cost effective, and ultimately proven method of getting in a friend of a friend. 

Marika is sweet, hard-working, and seems to take a lot of what I say completely seriously.  With that in mind, I thought it might be time to reveal some of the fine print that comes with living at the Cliff.

Here are some of the sample clauses you may not have been shown Marika…

With the latest housemate shuffle, Sam Kekovich is officially the man of the house

Sam Kekovich is our artist in residence
Yes, that is a mask of Sam’s face poking out from behind the couch.  It adds character, and potentially freaks out home invaders at first glance.  If ever there was a man to strike terror into the heart of burglars and casual guests, it is the always lurking Sam.

Get inspired
You may notice our Inspiration Board in the laundry.  You may notice we get inspired by some unusual things.  Like speed date rating cards, pap smear reminder notifications and the fact that every time I order take-out food over the phone people assume I’m a man.

Do you like penis maracas?
No?  Then don’t look in the drawer of the little side board that contains all our take-out menus.  I can’t tell you why they’re there, because I can’t quite remember.  I only know that it makes complete sense.

Tea time is all the time

In a similar vein… Poncho hour is every hour

We live on a street of perpetual construction (and Some Dude Who Treasures His Leaf Blower So Much He Uses It Daily)
That’s why we scheduled the house viewing for the builder’s traditional knock-off time (midday, the point at which all potential to sleep has definitively died).

We have a Seasonal Domestic Vuvuzela problem
Speaks for itself really.

Abandon hope all ye who dream of planting stuff there.

While I’m at it I’ll provide a glossary of terms that will be thrown about liberally at the Cliff.

Speaking Fluent Painefull

Freshie – cup of tea, it assumes you are finished with your current tea, it also assumes you are perpetually in the act of finishing a tea (common usage: “Would you like a Freshie?”)

Hand-warmer – cup of tea, seasonal greeting most strongly associated with winter in The Fridge (common usage: “Do you need a Hand-warmer?”)

Lawyer-Face – the runner up in the most recently finished edition of Masterchef.  To clarify I am notably bad at pairing names and faces, which means The Cliff has an unusual set of nicknames for anyone that graces reality television (see also: Cry-Face, Crazy Eyes & Jamie Lee Curtis) and indeed, my life

Sup Playa – a greeting, salutations

Street Gang – the title granted to the group of children who hover outside our driveway, occasionally darting into oncoming traffic

The Fridge – lounge room, seasonal, typically associated with the living area’s ability to be colder than the outdoors in winter (hence ‘Tea time is all the time’ and ‘Poncho hour is every hour’)

Shower Jumper – the brief period post shower when you become stupidly convinced that The Fridge isn’t really that cold.  It is, you’re just wearing a Shower Jumper

The Hoff – our oven, so labelled for its moody and unpredictable nature (and the distinct possibility it’s drunk)

Screaming Brothers – they live next door to us.  Enjoy

Inferno – a café that isn’t actually called ‘Inferno’, I just call it that, and I don’t know why, and I can’t remember its actual name.  We tend not to go there anymore – it’s too confusing

That’ll get the new girl started, I don’t want to overwhelm her with too much information.

Painefull Out

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Wanted: Incredibly Normal Person to Join Equally Normal People in a Household of Overwhelming Normality

The time has come, once again, to farewell a housemate.  Mick is abandoning ship.  But because Mick is entirely uncomfortable with being the centre of everyone’s attention (a fact completely at odds with his profession as a stripper), he’s doing it in such an incremental way that we won’t even have a chance to throw him a proper, dedicated farewell party.

This will mark the 3rd change of resident at The Cliff, disproving once and for all a rather specific psychic’s premonition that I would be the first to leave the household.  Instead I am set to haunt these halls forevermore, eating punnets of ice cream, tending to stray cats and working at my loom.  In this version of the future I have a loom.

Of course this raises the rather tricky issue of filling the room.  Once again I voted for a Bring It On style panel but was over-ruled.

This deeply normal group of people is not unlike those that might be found at the Cliff.  The room pretty much sells itself, right?

In fact Layla gave me a list of things I was not allowed to ask about during the housemate interviews.  They included:

“How would you respond to a home invasion?  Do you agree space colonisation is the only way the human race can avoid extinction?  And how do you feel about ponchos?”

So, as I once again come to terms with my own growing sense of abandonment, I find comfort in the fact that the Cliff is the Hotel California of the Bay (you can check out, but you never leave).  Here’s to those that think they’ve escaped…

The Sister Wife
3 years after moving out, she still remains the owner of at least 50% of the furniture here.  Purveyor of weird Kava drinking sessions, and the reason we owned a Fooseball table.  She was labelled Jim’s ‘wife’ by neighbours when we first moved in, making me (I can only assume) the live in mistress.

The Baby Fawn
Prone to interpretive dance outbursts (most famously emoting his way through a performance detailing the birth of a baby fawn… an act that has become more elaborate with each encore and may, or may not, now feature a spotlight, special dancing pants and a soundtrack of Sarah Blasko), possessor of a luxuriant red shag rug, and owner of the finest photographic collection on record of me getting kicked out of pubs.

The International Man of Mystery
So mysterious I briefly theorised he might be an ASIO agent, so secretive he kept his toothbrush hidden, so stealthy he once almost reported his car stolen after parking it so discreetly he couldn’t find it.  He may have moved, or he might just have been sent on a long term undercover assignment.  Somehow, despite this, also prone to superb fits of dance.

I now have the trying task of attempting to appear normal enough to live with for a new round of prospective housemates.  Not normal like 'boring' normal mind you, just 'normal-enough-that-it-won't-be-instantly-apparent-I'm-the-type-of-person-who-occasionally-ends-random-sentences-by-scatting' normal.  You've got to build slowly to these types of revelations.

Painefull Out

Thursday, July 26, 2012

They Shoot Ideas, Don’t They?

So, I am waist deep in the swamp commonly referred to as ‘full time education’, looking forward to the dry land of ‘a regular pay cheque’.  Can I tell you this student gig isn’t all frolicking through meadows and cuddling kittens?  No, that’s a measly 63% of my time.  Another 8% is flossing, 4% is flower arranging, 12% is sipping tea and 14% is sunbathing.

This is me flossing... I'm not a dentist, so for legal reasons I can't show you the rest of my face

Okay, you got me, I was joking about the sunbathing.  The sun and I are not on good terms.  That 14% is instead dedicated to accent comedy.  With myself .  Everything ends up sounding Indian and I have no idea why.

In all honesty, a stupid amount of time is entirely dedicated to generating ideas.  An even stupider amount of time is put into discovering that an idea is crap (common indications an idea is crap: “and it was all a dream”, “and so they all die” and “it’s a solemn ode to the desolate nature of the desert humanity has become at this juncture in our cultural development”).  Of course I’m not stumbling across the lost city of Atlantis here, I’m just head-butting the most common foe of all aspiring writers (the 2nd most common foe being ‘crippling self-doubt’, and the 6th most common foe being ‘certainty of one’s own overwhelming genius’).

None of this is of any comfort to poor housemate Layla.  As far as she’s concerned she returns home each evening from a hard day’s work to discover me sipping tea in leisure wear.

Leisure Wear in this case is specially formulated to withstand sub-zero conditions in our heater-less lounge room, commonly referred to in winter as The Fridge.  Suitable Fridge Leisure Wear involves (among other layers), double socking, ugg boots, a knitted poncho, a scarf and fingerless gloves.  All we need is a ferris wheel and I’m a carnie.

It takes quite a bit of explaining to get her around the idea that I too have been working.  I’ve been thinking.  Really hard.  To the uninitiated it might look like I’m gazing creepily across to our neighbour’s balcony, but Yelling Mum and Dour Dad don’t really get interesting until 6pm most nights.  No, instead I’ve been trying to come up with a story idea so stupefyingly clever it will single-handedly lower the price of oil (how will it do this?  I don’t know, but it seems like a decent indication of success).  No joy so far.

So what’s a girl to do when an epiphany doesn’t simply arrive on demand?  I’ve tried everything – magazines, red wine, Shakespeare plagiarism, and even briefly considered watching The Shire – all in the name of inspiration.  But Inspiration  can be a fickle douche – rarely shows up on time, and always double-booked (poor Deep Impact, you never saw Armageddon coming).  I mean if Speed 2: Cruise Control has already been made, what stories are really left to tell?

“I’ve got a brilliant idea.  It’s about a boat… that can’t slow down .

I guess I could always write a story about a struggling writer desperately trying to find his/her voice in a world of blah blah blah.  Because nothing screams thrilling quite like watching a struggling artist brood, does it?  It’s like status updates about exercise – I think everyone would be better off if you just stunned us with the final product.

Hello Square One.  I’ve missed you old friend, it’s been five whole minutes.

Painefull Out

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

How To Spontaneously Plan Your Life

I was going to call this post ‘5 Acts of Spontaneity’… and then something sad happened.  I stalled at 2.  I genuinely couldn’t think of 5 whole acts of spontaneity I have pulled off this year.  This will come as a surprise to precisely NO ONE.

Anyone who knows me will tell you ‘spontaneous’ is not a word used to describe me.  ‘OCD-driven’?  Yes.  ‘Chronically late’.  Indeed.  ‘Sarcastic’?  Until the end of time.  So you can imagine how thrilling it was for me when a doctor accused me of having a ‘spontaneous genetic mutation’. As a fastidious, habit-honed and incredibly predictable individual, I can’t help but enjoy the fact that I’m impulsive in some way… even if it’s just at the molecular level.

Apparently this is what being 'spontaneous' looks like.  Seems like a massive effort.

The thing is, even though I may seem directionless and lazy on the outside (I’m currently an unemployed student, I can’t un-ring that bell), on the inside I like to have a plan for every single possible scenario.  It just happens to be that those plans are more suited to obscure crisis management and the oncoming zombie apocalypse (but, as experience has taught me, not crime fighting) than, say, forming a career strategy.

It does mean that I’m actually a very useful person to be near under a range of specific circumstances, such as:

Zombie Apocalypse

This one’s clearly a no brainer (yep, that was a pun).  Zombies are so hot right now their real world onset has to be viewed as inevitable.  I’ve already picked out the nearby house that shall be my zombie fortress (sturdy, high walls and a narrow, bottle-neck entry up steep stairs) and am considering offers if anyone wants to join me in surviving.  BYO skill set and good looks – we will be re-building and re-populating.

Dystopian Future

When civilisation crashes (it will, with or without a zombie helping hand) I’ve already mentally mapped out a looting plan.  Mick and I have also debated the merits of what car to drive west with (fuel efficiency is a must).

Car Off A Bridge

Years ago I read, or heard, or saw (or… dreamt) something about how if you’re in a car with electric windows and you go over a bridge, you’re screwed because the electric system will fry and you won’t be able to open the doors due to the water pressure.  The answer, dear friends, is the trusty Car Hammer.  When I re-build and re-populate in the Dystopian Future, post Zombie Apocalypse, it will be illegal to sell a car without a Car Hammer.

Home Invasion

Everyone’s ready for this one.  Softball bat?  Check.  Cops on speed dial?  Check.  4 distinctly calibrated response strategies?  Um, obviously.  I’m not going to tell you about them, because you might invade my home and I want you to be both surprised and impressed by my ingenuity.   What detail will I share?  Spoiler Alert: I am prepared for the use of a monkey burglar coming through my bedroom window.

Dinner In 4 Days

Back in the day (the university day), I didn’t flinch at the notion of eating tuna mornae for a week straight.  Retrospectively 5 day old fish, cheese, milk and butter mixed together probably both harmed and helped in equal measure.  These days I’m much more astute.  The 4th Day usually features a Left Over Degustation.

I could continue this list, but I don’t want to give away the entire playbook (Dark Alleys, Climbing Trees and Bohemian Rhapsody feature prominently).  I may not have my life together, and I may not be able to pull together 5 spontaneous acts over a 12 month period, but I’ve still got quite a lot going for me.

Strangely, housemate Layla insisted I don’t use any of the above as selling points when we interviewed people to take Mick’s room.  I can’t imagine why.

Painefull Out

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The (Stage Whisperer) Voice… Part 2

Straight back into the countdown…

2. A Pox Upon NYC
I was very lucky to be taken to New York City by my parents at the tender age of 11.  I was most fortunate to join Mother and Father Painefull in staying at a rather salubrious hotel (starts with ‘Waldorf’ ends with ‘Astoria’).  I was incredibly privileged to be there over the week of New Year’s Eve.

An artist's rendering of my visit to NYC

My parents, New York City and said salubrious establishment were probably a touch less grateful for my presence.  Poor Mother Painefull spent a great deal of my childhood trying to get me Chicken Pox (like an instrument you’ll grow to hate and a doll that soils itself, it’s one of life’s go-to gifts), figuring the sooner it happened the sooner it would be over.  I was eternally being sent to visit kids who were going through it, but nary a spot appeared… until we touched down in NYC.

The first hint something was wrong came when I paid tribute to The Exorcist by projectile vomiting my way through one of those super trendy delis.  Mum did what any parent would do under the circumstances – she entered denial.  And thus I can lay claim to the Great NYC Chicken Pox Plague of 1997*.

I slept for 4 hours on a bench in the lobby of the Metropolitan Museum while my parents took in the art.  Those were the days, huh?  Leaving an unsupervised, un-labelled child to wander a foreign city alone, infecting the populace like a vastly superior version of Home Alone 2.  I can only guess at the countless school trips I contaminated in that sitting.  They don’t call me Typhoid Painefull for nothing.  In fact they don’t at all… but they should.

Even when Parentals Painefull conceded I might be a little sick (First Sign: vomiting, Second Sign: spots, Third Sign: hallucinations) that didn’t stop them.  In order to make sure I didn’t miss out on New Year’s Eve in The Large-ish Apple they covered me in a pile of jackets, scarves and hats to hide my poxy face (and my infectious nature) and took me to see A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

A funny thing happened on the way back to the hotel as well – we had to try and cross Times Square.  I tell you nothing gets cops waving you through barricades faster than pulling back a small child’s hat to reveal a face that could well be the first hint of a zombie apocalypse.

1. Total Eclipse of the Heart
This isn’t the tale about me being Sick with Love.  Sorry, I’m not that girl (on what earth has anything I’ve written in this blog implied that I’m remotely that girl?).  This is the story of how I had a hole in my heart.

I have two memories that vie for poll position as my earliest, I’ve never been entirely sure which one comes out ahead.  The first is being seated at the kitchen table along with my parents and 4 siblings.  We were all in the process of eating lamingtons (cause that’s a meal here in Australia ya know) – it was some sort of treat – and someone had just said something so funny that everyone with a vocabulary over 20 words (ie. all bar me) was paralysed in hysterical, all-consuming, body-shaking laughter.  And yet for some reason the room was almost completely silent.  Because, as I later realised, that’s how the Family Painefull truly laughs.

The other is of being on a moving hospital bed watching my mother and father, dressed in gowns and caps, recede into the distance.  It’s only in hindsight that I recognise, that would have been on the day they fixed the hole in my heart.  Thank god for old school local GP’s who notice strange noises, surgeons who know what they’re doing in what is a relatively everyday procedure now and high-necked swimsuits that hide strange scars.

Painefull Out

* = the Great NYC Chicken Pox Plague of 1997 might not actually be a thing, or it might have been a thing that no one realises was a thing.  I really hold on to the idea that I have already left my mark on the city so nice they named it twice, and thus my lack of achievement later in life is just a long-foretold bout of counter-balancing.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The (Stage Whisperer) Voice... Part 1

I’m currently a little bit sick of being sick.  It’s boring.  I’ve recently enjoyed a tour of some of this winter’s most fashionable cold and flu symptoms – from acute laryngitis to a chest infection, I may never truly know what’s hot, but I can tell you definitively I am currently not (metaphorically speaking, on the literal side my temperature is all over the map).  My body has been busying itself brewing some sort of super bug.

The only highlight so far was the brief interlude in which my voice graduated from pre-op onto something I decided sounded a little like Karise Eden singing.  When I pointed this out to my mother she looked at me blankly and replied “What’s a Karise Eden?”.  I had better luck when I rang Fi and performed a Celine Dion number.  “I think you mean Cher?”  Yes.  Cher.  I’ll take it.  All this was brought to a crushing halt when Mother Painefull demanded I stop calling people to sing to them if I wanted any chance of getting better.

So a return to the boredom, with nothing to revel in but the gobsmacking range of soups mum can cook.  Yes, I reverted to a sick 6 year old child, went home and lay really still while my long-suffering parents cared for me.

I also spent a week communicating in stage whisper.  Turns out, when you start whispering, other people feel the need to whisper back.  Which makes conversation stupid and oddly secretive.  Suddenly mundane things feel confidential, furtive, deserving of security clearance.  Maybe that’s the fever talking…

And so as I ponder phlegm and recall my taste buds with longing, I remind myself this could be worse.  It could be a Man Flu (that’s life and death I hear).  Health, like voters and the print media, is a fickle creature… and always in possession of superb timing.

Thus, without further ado, I give you my Top 3 Most Memorable Dalliances With Illness*.

3. This Is Starting To Burn
One of my various skills (joining the category that includes things like ‘Singing like Karise Celine Cher’) is the art of sunburn.  It’s my thing.  It doesn’t take more than 5 minutes on an overcast day at 4pm for me to light up like a fat man on a treadmill.  That and my aversion to stakes might be why some people suspect I’m a vampire.  They don’t, but it would also explain the hours I keep and the irrational enjoyment I get out of not catching sight of my own reflection in mirrors.

Of course this means the beach is my natural enemy.  I have to roll in sunscreen and double dip in clothing before I even step on to the sand.  But a few years ago, one fateful family Christmas holiday at Hyams Beach, I made the Rookie Error of missing a fundamental spot.  I burnt the backs of my knees so thoroughly that I was unable to walk properly for 2 weeks after.  It’s a devastating thing to arrive half an hour late to a meal when you feel the way I do about food**.

To be continued… (with an ill-timed international incident, a strong case of denial, a total eclipse of the heart and the mysteries of silent laughter).

Painefull Out

* = Let the record show, if nothing else this list reminds me I have been supremely lucky when it comes to general wellness.  Also when it comes to family holidays.  And scar tissue.  Not to mention parents.

** = Perhaps the personification of a First World Problem.  Woe is me.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Last of the Parental Holidays

Everyone loves a family holiday.  Or at least the beginning of one.  Or potentially the concept of one.  Everyone loves a holiday, and doesn’t family just spice things up a little?

The FamilyPainefull never fails to keep things interesting.

This will make more sense shortly

But within that broad church that is the gathering together of every available relation to drink, and dance, and drink, and eat, and drink, there’re some niche groupings.  There’s the Family Holiday Gathering, where no one goes anywhere exotic, they just converge on someone’s home and start indiscriminately breaking things and fighting over bedding.  There’s the Resort Family Crashing, where everyone does go somewhere exotic to work on their cancer-baiting sunburn and non-existent surfing skills, and 1 in 3 members decide what they really need is to do something stupidly drastic to their hair.  And let’s not forget the Family Road Trip – 1 hour renditions of The Song That Never Ends, a gradual tour of Australia’s ‘Big’ things and (on very special trips) a dog vomiting in the back of the car.

I don't remember road trips looking like this

After the recent return of Mother and Father Painefull from a trip to Vanuatu with two of their grandkids, I was reminded of another niche category that will always be very close to my heart – the Parental Holiday.  The Parental Holiday comes with a Used By Date, it only really occurs during the era when your age leads to discounted prices, or your poverty leads to pity invitations.  It’s just you, your parents and the deep blue sea.

With no one else to dilute the situation, all the potentially awkward encounters one could hope for are amplified.  Then squared.  Then made even more entertaining.  As with everything in life, I have a personal top 3 for the purpose of illustration:

3. Backpacking through New Zealand
It was 1997.  I was too young and mum was too mature to fully understand what backpacking really actually meant.  It meant bunk beds with strangers, people smoking pot out the back, and mum (as the only licensed person in the building, and proud driver of a rental vehicle) being begged for lifts by the kind of individuals that probably spent their spare time attending beat poetry revivals.  To be fair, it only took one hostel for mum to get the drift – we booked into B&B’s for the rest of the jaunt.

2. Lindeman Island Club Med
2003.  There was sun, surf, activities… and compulsory communal meals with everyone staying at the resort on enforced group tables.  Fortunately, as a sullen teenager who had only just tipped over the 18 mark, I wasn’t too picky with my wines.  I overcame my daily hangovers by taking up archery.  Because at Club Med holding a weapon just makes things feel better.  Sample Highlight: Instead of befriending the only other teen my age, she actually became my resort-based nemesis.  I don’t know why.

1. Croatia
In 2007 I fully appreciated just how cool my parents are.  I think you need to be old enough to see them as more than just purveyors of authority, punishment and snacks to understand that they really do know how to have fun.  When Mother and Father Painefull caught up with me during my wandering year in the northern hemisphere they were flexible, adventurous and hilarious (sometimes even on purpose).  Sample Moment: Mum spent a great deal of time discussing and negotiating over 2 glass paintings of roosters with a local man in Rovinj.  Except his English was limited and the conversation went along the lines of:

Mother Painefull: These are lovely – are paintings of roosters quite common around here?
Man: (brief quizzical look) Ah yes, the cock.  The cock is very common.
MP: There seems to be quite a range…
Man: Yes, the cock comes in many sizes and colours.  Sometimes it’s red, sometimes orange, sometimes there are 2 cocks.  The cock is very popular.
MP: I want one for me, and I wanted to get one for my daughter, perhaps a smaller one?
Man: We have many sizes.  Lots of cocks.  Here’s a nice one.  Would you like a larger one?

I don’t feel like I really have to say anything else on the subject.

Painefull Out

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Pleased To Meat You

Hi, my name’s Painefull. I’m sorry I haven’t written for a while, but you should know it’s for a very good reason. It’s because I’m a terrible person.

I appear to have skipped town for the month of April. That’s not true. Even it if was true it would be a completely ineffective excuse coming from the person that once arrived in snow-locked Germany, had her final flight cancelled, got her bag lost in the system, injured herself kicking snow, and still took the time to blog about it from the shivery confines of a friend’s charming little flat in Münster.

To re-introduce myself after over a month of radio silence, I thought I should update you on my life.

Haven't seen The Princess Bride?  Why are we friends?  Who are you??

I got older
You probably already picked that from the wrinkles in my writing. No, I didn’t dive off the deep-end into a pile of self-loathing, liver-spotted, quince paste eating devastation. I’m saving that for 30 (though I’ll probably give myself a head start and kick that shame spiral off when I clock on to 29).

I’ve never loved my birthday, and for that I find it easiest to blame Keira Knightly. I’ve also removed it from Facebook to avoid having my identity hijacked by Mossad. This year I did manage to celebrate with family, friends, and iPod-based karaoke that featured a lot of Celine Dion. And canes. And a range of WW1 and safari hats.

I discovered being a student is harder than I remembered
I got a taste of this last year, but when you ramp things up to full time student-hood and couple it with full time unemployment, you give yourself the chance to feel both stupid and poor in equal measure.

It’s also meant I’ve had the glorious opportunity of conducting business with Centrelink for the very first time. It’s a fine romance we’re having, though they’re definitely playing hard to get. It’s been 2 months, 5 extensive phone calls and 4 office based dates and I’m still not getting any. You know how it is with government agencies, they just don’t like to put out.

I continue to injure myself while dancing
It’s one part Getting Older and two parts Vigorous Conviction In My Absurd Belief I Can Dance.

I got sucked in by Delta Goodrem’s PR machine in full flight (ie. The Voice)*
If you haven’t become hypnotized by So Goodrem’s efforts to emote like her life depended on it then you haven’t lived. You can take that ruling to the bank (where they’ll undoubtedly rip you off on the interest rate front, but smile politely while they’re doing it).

I would once again like to thank the Dutch, arbiters of all things addictive in reality television (that aren’t called ‘Survivor’ or ‘Australia’s attempt at political stability’) for such a brilliant gift.

I had to try and come up with a horror movie idea
Considering I can’t stand horror movies, this is a big deal. I stayed up until 3am the night before it was due, clutching my softball bat and trying to think of something scary without scaring myself. Strangely all my ideas ended with, ‘but it was just a dream’. Then I discovered there’s some classic horror movie in which people’s dreams kill them. Then I had to try and go to sleep.

I got a new bed
This was mostly to solve my unending issues with my back. My existing bed was as old as Jesus (but there’s photographic evidence of its actual existence). It was best described by one of my housemates (Mick) as “Big enough to imply promise, but not so big as to say 'slut'”. Fair call.

I had Brazilian BBQ… and I’m still full
Steak my heart and hope to die, I don’t want to butcher this with puns (or get grilled about this later), but sometimes you do just have to ham things up. I have a bit of a beef with eating so much meat, but it was a rare occasion and it was all very well done.

If you're a vegetarian, look away now

So, now that I’ve re-introduced myself, I promise not to leave it so long between one-sided monologues. Yes mum, as the only person to have read every single post I ever put up, that promise is pretty much for your benefit (also, while I’ve got you Mother Painefull, what are we feeling for dinner on Monday night when I come visit? I think I’ll be hungry again by then).

Painefull Out

* = Delta Goodrem is Australia’s answer to the vacuum in product placement happy celebrities left by the fact that Pat Rafter is, after all, only one man. She is also a singer.