Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Pool of Christmas Present

For as long as I can remember, there has been the promise that someone, somewhere in my family would have a pool by Christmas.  It was an elusive concept, a familial white whale – each festive season as we baked in the sun through another round of ham, prawns, lamb, chicken, turkey and salmon (we’re carnivores, in case that wasn’t clear) we’d whisper with hopeful, champagne-honeyed voices… “Next year”.

Sure we’d turn on the sprinkler, or go to the beach, or stand by an open freezer door in the kitchen, taking turns to bask in the miniature Winter Wonderland, but it’s not the same.

Nothing is the same as a pool.

I know what you’re thinking: “Painefull, could your problems be more First World?”  To which I respond: no, they couldn’t, I checked.  A horrible tan-line clashing with my new custom Apple watch would come close, but I don’t tan or own Apple products so… them’s the breaks.

And, because nothing is the same as a pool.  Nothing.

Decades of pool-lessness, and still we doggedly held on to hope.  With the determination of an Australian trying to understand yacht racing on Boxing Day, with the optimism of a global citizen who assumes Donald Trump is a satirical piece of performance art we don’t yet get – this is how we clung.

This year the mercurial nature of pool builders seemed destined screw us over once more – those dudes never met a deadline they didn’t wave at casually as it passed them by, hands full of half smoked cigarettes, mouths full of lame excuses.  Oldest sibling Mrs Ryan was trying her darndest, but the Family Painefull seemed doomed to gathering around an incomplete hole in the ground come December.


And then… rain on Christmas Day.  But I didn’t care, you know why?  Starts with ‘P’ and rhymes with ‘Yule’ (as in ‘Yuletide’, not as in I’ve found a new, absurdly dickish way to spell ‘you’ll’).

The rest of the day was simply a regular Painefull Christmas.

Emotions were heightened during a tense stand-off…

"You can't sit with us!"  "Why?  Because I'm the Mary, and you're the Rhoda."

We moved a piano.  Just as Jesus intended.

What's Christmas without someone taking advantage of the gathered work force?

And I received the single most useful gift of the year…

Adaptable, useful, goes with everything.

Never mind that I couldn’t move the next day after an impromptu touch football match (because I am a creaking old person) – no one was moving.

Food coma.

Painefull Out

Monday, September 28, 2015

There Was Movement At The Station... Geographical Movement

Some are creatures of the night, others are creatures from the lagoon, I am a creature of habit.  My natural habitat is a minute-perfect morning routine (including a staggered snooze button strategy), a permanent and excessive stock of tea bags, and jeans, always jeans.

I’m no longer allowed to order breakfast at my favourite café, because the slightly terrifying woman who runs it assumes it will be ‘the usual’ (and I’m too scared to argue).  A former housemate once declared himself flabbergasted when I didn’t shower, brush my teeth and dress in the usual order, throwing out the entire ecosystem of how he in turn knew to step around me.

My life of habit has also probably been assisted by staying in the same share house rental property for eight years.

Conventions are like annual plumbing-based house floods, eventually they just become compulsory.  Patterns are like neighbours whose names still escape me (unless they’re birth certificates happen to read ‘Cat Man’ and ‘Bin Lady’), they’re there whether you look for them or not.  Routines are like an oven that perpetually burns everything it touches, ultimately you just surrender and set them to music.

Eight years as a Gen Y who stayed in one address – I was either lazy, or rusted on.  Or, you know, both.

It was going to take an act of god, an interstate job, or an offer of royal engagement to pry me away… and to be honest, if a prince wasn’t willing to move into my share house, I’d have to question his commitment to the relationship.  Anyway, option B panned out before that became an issue.

I live in Melbourne now (Brunswick, The Land of Recreational Jugglers, to be exact, but I’ll get to that).

After the supreme trauma of uprooting my habit-laden existence, I thought the least I could do is offer a guide for other novice movers like me (I think there are two of you out there).  And so, without further ado, I present:

6 Painefull Steps to a Relatively, Sort of, Almost Painless Moving Experience*

1. When booking a mover, give extra points to the organisation that offers to transport your stripper pole.  That’s just thoughtful.

My air compressor AND my stripper pole?  How do they do it?

2. Invite some friends around, give them tea, and permission to throw out any items of clothes you own that they have long secretly hated.  Don’t be alarmed when you have no clothes left, though do be aware that if you give them scissors on request, they will use them.  When you find them using said scissors, take a photo, send it to your mother – at least someone in the family will derive joy from the event.

3. Get a tall friend to check the far, hidden corners of the built in wardrobe.  Don’t look too closely at what they find.

4. It’s an obvious one, but it has to be said: definitely, definitely pack your novelty top hat.  No matter what your mother says it will come in handy, I swear.  Eventually.

5. When the movers arrive several hours late, in the middle of the night, and inform you they can’t drive their truck into your street, and instruct you to hire another smaller truck, move everything yourself, then store it in an easily accessible storage facility they can pick it all up from in 3 days time… have Layla on hand.  She will scare the BEJEEZUS out of the movers, make them her Sherpa bitches, and promptly tell them to grab the bed because “We’ll just carry it all 100 metres up the hill to where you parked”.  Watch the removalist's blinking terror with satisfaction, and become deliriously pumped to an internalized soundtrack of ‘Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves’.

6. Co-opt a bearded nephew to share driving duties down to Melbourne.  The beard is useful as it will help you acclimatise to the SHEER VOLUME of beards that will surround you once you arrive in Brunswick.

It turns out this is what a bearded nephew looks like when you make him wear your novelty top hat

Painefull Out

* = Steps require ownership of scissors, a tall friend, a top hat, a Layla and a bearded nephew.

Monday, July 27, 2015

What’s In The Box?

Kid gets amazing gift for birthday.  Amazing birthday gift comes in large box.  Large box becomes sole focus of kid’s reaction.  It’s a tale as old as time (like Beauty & the Beast, but with less singing inanimate objects).

To be clear, it’s not remotely weird when the kid in question is 30.

I mean... look at it!

Nor is it weird when a 30 year old woman spends a week of her life worried that a fantastic box isn’t being used, as it should be, for a giant cubby house.

What I will concede… might tip the scales toward… concerning – when said 30 year old woman then becomes determined that the giant box finds a good home.

Now guys, I don’t want to alarm or shock you, but – plot twist – the 30 year old woman in question is me.  You didn’t see that coming, I know.  Take a moment, let it settle in.  Sit with it if you like.  If you’re sitting in a lair made of a giant box*… well, we get each other, so the rest of this will make perfect sense.

My wonderful friends gifted me with a chair, and that chair came in a ginormous box.  Not just any box – the kind of box childish dreams are made of.  The type of palace an MP would get shit for owning as an investment property.  To put it in casual terms, if Richard III had seen this box, he wouldn’t have been offering his kingdom for some random horse… because, in case I'm being unclear, he'd want the box.  Yep.  It was the Shakespearean Historical Play of boxes.  Most people don’t even realise that’s a niche of box that needs filling, but it is.

When my pals offered to discard the offending cardboard I casually told them to leave it with me, I’d take care of it.

It was a glorious thing, a mansion of packaging that could comfortably fit a lounging adult.  I looked at it and saw the inventive, wild, unrestrained dreams of my childhood.  The innocent, imaginatively formed craft my younger self had dreamed of sailing, and driving, and living in.  I confess, I tested its confines… any it was luxuriously spacious.

I don’t know why or how, but this giant box somehow came to personify the very act of aging – letting it go to waste was sacrilegious to everything the remnants of my youth still clinged to.

And yet I sensed my housemates, weren’t as impressed.  They gave it side eye, and hovered casually with pairs of scissors.

So I did the only logical thing.  I went next door and knocked on the home of a couple of the more rampant pre-teen members of the local Little Rascals Club we commonly call the Street Gang.  I was going to nobly offer the ginormous cardboard box up to them in the knowledge it would be suitably treasured.

A 12 year old girl answered.

ME: Hi, I’m from next door, are your parents home?
ME: Right.  Am I incorrect in believing that 2 little boys live in this house?
GIRL: Um, yeah, my brothers.
ME: Right, well, I have a giant box, and I wondered if they might want to play in it.
GIRL: Um… (girl looks perplexed)
ME: (frantically ‘selling’) It’s huge.  They could both fit inside my box, easily.
ME: It’s a cardboard box.  Obviously.
GIRL: Maybe?
ME: If you want to mention it to them, they’re welcome to come around to check how big it is.

They did not come around to check out my box.  I also suspect that when the girl retold the story of our exchange to her parents, those kids got a refresher on the family stranger danger policy.  Who knows, maybe Richard III got a mention somewhere in that conversation too.

With no one staking a claim on the Overlord of Boxes, it lingered on in the lounge room.  Then one night I heard a weird noise downstairs.  I crept out to investigate, searching the usual nooks and crannies with the tactical precision of a SWAT team (the kind that does its best work armed with a shaky softball bat).

I was ready to call the scene “clear!” when I clocked that fateful box.  And suddenly the fact that it could comfortably conceal an adult was much less alluring.  I heard the eulogy as I stood there: “We always knew it was her love of boxes that would do her in…” (before the opening chords of Bohemian Rhapsody rang out and my friends arose to begrudgingly perform the song required by my last will and testament).

Though the giant box turned out to be empty, that moment was the final staple in its cardboard.  It went out in the trash the next day.

Now it’s gone, it’s a little hard to know what to do with myself.  Or more importantly where to sit.  I guess I can sit in the chair that came in the box, like an old person.

Until the next box comes along.

Painefull Out

P.S.  I turned 30 this year.  That happened, but be cool about it.  I know I’m being cool (see the above for absolute evidence of that fact).

* = According to statistical evidence, 1 of the 3 people who will ever read this will be sitting in a box.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

We’ve Got No Power!*

Dinner is served.

My street is in blackout.  Well not all my street, half my street… and apparently we mark the halfway point.  We are the place where electricity ceases existing, where light is banished, where darkness reigns.  Yes, it’s basically the set of Game of Thrones here – we are North of the Wall.

As I sit by a flickering candle, I can’t help but think this is exactly how Jane Austen wrote.  Just her, a naked flame and a Toshiba laptop, pounding out Sense & Sensibility while knocking back the red wine.

As NSW was being lashed by a once in a decade (or century, or, depending on your preference for hyperbole, millennia… roll up, roll up, get your arks here ladies and gents) storm, and umbrellas everywhere meet their fateful end, I had been revelling.  I love rainy weather, I enjoy windy nights, I relish roasted chestnuts.  Two out of three ain’t bad.  But I revelled too soon, and the revel bit back.

My housemate Layla proved her value in my future zombie apocalypse fortress with her rapid, clear-headed action the minute we lost power.  Maybe she was born to function under such circumstances, or maybe she was just utterly thrilled for the chance to break out her bizarrely large supply of tea light candles.

I showed where my priorities lay by frantically declaring we could only open the fridge once for the rest of the night, and almost lighting my jacket on fire.

Determined to prove myself useful, I stormed out into the night to ‘assess’ the damage.  So stunned was I to see lights blazing two doors down, I broke my time-honoured tradition of assuming all neighbours are potential killers awaiting my Miss Marple-esque powers of deduction, and knocked.  When the well-dressed man opened his door, my olfactory senses were overwhelmed with the smell of his slow-cooked lamb stew, dressed with coriander and accompanied by a side serving of crisp potato chips, macaroni & cheese, and pumpkin soup.  I couldn’t see any of this food, but it’s what I would have eaten in that moment if I was living in the land of plenty, so I assume he was as well.

After a brief exchange about his house not losing electricity at any point, and my uncontrollable outburst of “Well at least the fancy end of the street never loses power”, we parted ways (don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I think he’s a future friend right there).

And so I sit now, by the glow of this device, and through the warmth of my second glass of red.  After a dinner of doritoes and tinned tuna, I severely regret allowing Layla to light the chocolate flavoured candle (after all the fridge will only be opened once, and I can’t waste that opening on paltry things like dinner… though I’m not entirely sure what that means I’m saving the coveted opening for).

In turn Layla probably regrets being here every time I suddenly point at the light in the lounge room and bellow with a deep voice “NOW!”  She might think it’s silly, but one of these times it’s bound to turn on, and then who’s going to look silly?

Painefull Out

* = Sung to the tune of ‘The Power!’… that song you totally know the refrain of thanks to every 90’s movie ever, but have no idea who sang it… yeah, that song…