Saturday, December 4, 2010

Not funny

Our Christmas party at the local was looming and instead of karaoke they were having open mike. I longed to be a stand up comedienne. The problem was that I just wasn’t funny. There was something about living in Speckled Trickle that knocked the funny bones right out of your body. Maybe it was the expanse of square grey houses, with black roofs that had replaced the drought worn paddocks that stretched out of sight and beyond, until they turned the beige of the newer estates, a shade that blended into the hills.

I was a dreamer who couldn’t give up but I was stuck. I didn’t dare tell my husband. He thought I had tickets on myself as it was and I was completely useless around the house. Dennis cooked and cleaned with ferocity as I practiced my flute and secretly learned jokes off by heart. We weren’t a good fit.

I knew 84 jokes which had been collected them from all over the place. Some were saved from Christmas crackers, 23 were from a joke book I’d borrowed from the library and I’d gleaned the others from conversations or from videos. The jokes I liked best were the ones like this. My grandfather died peacefully in his sleep unlike the busload of tourists he was driving along the Great Ocean Road. I think it was the shock value I liked most. But I was too shy to say any of them out loud.

It was harder for them to break into the circuit than  it was for men the women said. Maybe that was just to put off newcomers. Some women are hoardy like that. The comediennes had to be hard and twice as quick as the men to even get noticed. Perhaps that’s why some of them spoke so loudly about menstruation.

I had to find another way of being funny, something that was all me. Once before I married Dennis I dated a clerk called James. His apartment was decorated with black and white posters of Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy and the Marx Brothers. I didn’t like the posters then as they were lifeless and dwarfed the flat. But later on when I experienced some of their work I saw that comedy could be a very physical thing.

I decided to start with physical comedy and to work my way up to stand up. On the day of the party I was ready and I  pulled out the red and white checked table cloth hidden in my bags. The stage was small and welcoming. I held up a small whiteboard that said in red, ‘The four stages of dating’ and then I started. First I huddled on all fours and made myself square the table cloth over me. I was recreating a dinner table on a first date so I had to be very still. People waited, someone snickered. For the second stage I stood tall, shoulders back, the cloth over me like a ghost. I was a cinema screen. A hand came out and balanced on an invisible arm rest. The other hand came out and sat next to it. It made tentative moves to touch and to stroke and by the end of the segment the two hands were clasped. At this point people were talking very loudly. For the third stage I crawled under the table cloth and moved up and down. Everything went quiet. When I peeked out at the end of the session all eyes in the pub were upon me. I stuffed the table cloth up my jumper and bent my back. Everyone could understand that part and for the first time I heard laughter. I pulled the cloth out and bowed. This was my moment. I felt very tall.

Years later when I think back to that moment  I realize how kind and nurturing my friends and family  were that night and how intolerant I was of them and their choices. They gave me the gift of encouragement which I’ll always treasure and pass it on to others who need it, just as they did for me.

Friday, July 2, 2010


The tiredness is cumulative. The week has been one of constant effort, filling in for the boss, friends for dinner, Meg’s netball and the theatre. At last the weekend is here. My chance to lie in and to sleep undisturbed by the alarm clock. Ah heaven. Just a few more precious moments with my head pressed into my pillow floating on my waterbed and then I will wake up.

When I open my eyes it feels like I have been asleep for a long time. I look around and find that I am in a different place. The tiredness has not gone away. It presses over me like a fog. I am in a room. It’s like a lounge room but there are more sofas. Glenn is talking to me imploring, Meg has tear glazed eyes. The tiredness is too heavy and I can’t talk back. They will have to wait. They need to realize that I’m fine. I’ll get better soon.

Today they are visiting again. It is one of many of their visits stored in my memory. I have been here for a while now. They never seem to make any headway. I feel sorry for them. Today seems different as they seem to be making a decision. Meg looks at me and looks at Glenn and shakes her head. I see in Glenn’s eyes an acceptance, no an endorsement of her defeat. I am wounded by their failure. After a time, I don’t know how long, they stop coming. At least I think they stop coming. Either that or I stop noticing them.

Ida takes me under her wing. This is my life now. She understands me even though I don’t talk. The weight of my exhaustion doesn’t faze her. When she talks she doesn’t need a reply. She takes me away from that place, moves me to her home. She is my life as I am hers. She is poor but “not to worry” she says. “We can decorate this place with toys.” By toys she means second hand items from opportunity shops and flea markets. She decorates her small room with cups and saucers, broken children’s toys, single slippers, ancient pot lids. She fans these objects out from the fire place. The walls of the room and the bay window frames are white.

After a time Ida is not there any more. I have no memory of what happened to her or where she went. It is just me in the room with her things and my thoughts. I am content here. Just give me five more minutes.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Mortgage Stress

After George leaves for work I reach up to the medicine cupboard and feel around for the familiar box containing my contraceptive pills. I lift it down. Empty. There must be a repeat script left up there somewhere. I feel along the back wall and find nothing. I get a chair from the kitchen table, stand on it and lift every thing down, one by one. I look at the oven clock. It’s 5:00pm on a Saturday. There is no chance of getting a doctor’s appointment until Monday. However on Monday there is a team planning day and it would look rude not to be there.

I wander past the note in the hall, on my way to the study that reminds me that Mama-Grey our cat is due for her flu shot, fortunately just the far side of next pay day. While the computer is warming up I realize that the washing machine has stopped. I walk to the bathroom and press the button with its electronic beeps to set the rinse cycle. The computer it is still ‘thinking’. I look at the pile of ironing which has been accumulating since Monday, sigh and walk to the hall cupboard and take out the ironing board. While I’m setting it up the password screen comes up so the ironing is abandoned momentarily. My e-mail advises me that Jacqui Tang has sent me a message. I log into my social networking site and discover an invitation to a party. I’m excited until I realize that it’s a sexy lingerie party and guests will be expected to buy some. I wander into my bedroom, almost tripping over George’s runners on the way and sort ruefully through the worn contents of my top drawer. It’s a party I can’t afford this week so it’s easier not to reply.

The balance of my main bank account is worse than expected. It contains twenty one dollars and thirty cents. That’s enough to cover my script if I can survive until Thursday on what is in my purse and my other bank account which has about $100 in it, hopefully. My mobile phone beeps twice. There is a text from George.

Not on new roster. Last shift tonight. Going for drinks after work.

Luckily that’s only one of George’s three jobs. At least now we’ll have alternate Saturday nights together.

I’m intent on having a quiet weekend. Staying in and saving money is my new motto. There won’t be any more café brunches with eggs and coffee. Home-made is best. I pull the vacuum cleaner out of the cupboard and push it around making no impact on the lumps of dirt, fluff and cat hair on the floor. The head must be stuck again. I sit in the hallway and attack the mass of dust and hair that is clogged up inside. It finally has a clear airway. I turn it on, nothing. I flick the switch off and on. Nothing. This time it is broken for good. Retrieving the carpet sweeper is a definite possibility.

On Sunday morning George is very excited about my plans to stay in. He has one thing on his mind as he brings me coffee and croissants in bed. I don’t have the heart to tell him about the script. He is feeling miserable about losing his job at the café, and needs cheering up.

It’s a busy week. Deadlines are looming and my calendar is full. I don’t get to the doctor until Wednesday night after work. I sit patiently as dozens of people troop in get their flu injections and leave. After forty minutes my doctor has not made an appearance. I ask at the desk.

“She’s just with a patient. You’re next.’” The receptionist says kindly.

It doesn’t hurt to ask. The nurse calls another family. An hour and a blood pressure test later I’m out. Script in hand at last I race into the chemist.

“The system’s down” the assistant tells me when I offer my card. “You will have to get cash.”

My pills are sitting in a little basket just out of my reach. I cross the road and go to the automated teller machine and attempt a withdrawal. The machine tells me that it is not currently dispensing $20 notes and asks me to please request another amount. There is only $20 in the account. I walk down the street, see a bottle shop and go in knowing that in addition to the $20 there is enough left in the other account to buy a clean skin bottle of red wine and some organic orange, dark chocolate. I buy them both and asked for twenty dollars cash out as well. Cash in hand I head back to the chemist and complete my purchase.

At home George and I celebrate having more time together by drinking all the wine and eating the chocolate. We have a great night. At lunch time on Thursday when my head has cleared I realize that my packet of pills is sitting still wrapped in paper on the kitchen bench. It wouldn’t be so bad if I hadn’t agreed to go with Ruth to her poetry reading on the other side of town after work. Later at home the kitchen light bulb has blown, and George agrees to get new light bulbs in the morning. Mama-Grey wakes me at 5:00am. In the dark we forgot to feed her. Turning to cut her packet of food open on the bench I see the taped, white package. By then it’s too late. I don’t know it yet but I’m already eating for three.

Monday, April 12, 2010

from blog post to hard copy

Generally I'm a quiet writer. This blog was set up to share my writing with others, to learn about how it is received and to consider ways of developing it  further. Sometimes blog comments can be too nice but at other times they are uncompromisingly honest. It can be a risk to put your work out there. The worst times are when you've written something from the heart but no-one reads your post. But then you realize it doesn't mean that it's bad. It's just the ebb and flow of social media.

There are all types of blogs and all types of bloggers. Social media sites have great potential for writers and it's a really exciting time to be writing as your words can at times have fairly immediate reach and influence, and its so much easier to connect with others who have similar interests.

This Wednesday evening will be a very special evening, the launch of Miscellaneous Voices: Australian Blog Writing #1. I'll be attending and reading my Now poem along with seven other contributors. That will be my first public reading. Meeting Karen Andrews and the other writers will be a highlight. I read Miscellaneous Voices on the tram, on the train and at my dining room table. The challenge won't be to put the name to the face but to put the post to the face. I'll also be thinking about those other contributors like my friend Lorraine who won't be able to make it but whose writing has touched me.