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Monday, August 29, 2016

Rainbows and Hay Fever Season

Rainbow at the end of my street!

I’m sort of superstitious but Scotto is worse.

When we met twelve years ago he started this whole thing where we have to say ‘bless you’ when one of us sneezes.

I find it very annoying. 

For a start, he always sneezes twice, never just once, always twice. So I have to sit and wait for the second sneeze because otherwise I’ll end up saying ‘bless you’ twice which is a waste of breath and really pidges me off. 

His second, follow-up sneeze can take over a minute before it develops and that minute can be a very long minute. I twiddle my thumbs, fidget and check my phone waiting for that damn second sneeze. I hate putting my life on hold like that.

The second annoying thing is that when he says, ‘bless you’ after I sneeze, I am mandated to say ‘thank you’ which is tiring in the extreme. He sits and waits for me to say thank you too, so I can’t get out of it.

I drew up the courage the other day to ask him if we could just stop with the whole ‘bless you’ thing. He scowled at me as if there was something intrinsically wrong with me, as if I’d asked him to accompany me on a naked, moonlight romp dancing around a slaughtered goat or something.

“Why? Why don’t you want to say, ‘bless you’ after I sneeze, Pinky?” he demanded. "What is wrong with you?"

I had no valid reason, sigh, so I still have to do the 'bless you' thing.

Spring and hay fever season are about to start too. 


As I’ve told you, I’m superstitious about crows. They’re harbingers of death. If I see one I immediately look away and pretend it’s not there or sometimes throw a rock at it.

Rainbows, on the other hand, are a sign of good luck. We had one that finished right at the end of our street recently. I’m still waiting for the good fortune from that sighting to befall itself upon my body and teach me proper grammar, though. I’m sure it will appear soon.

Imagine my delight when we found this shop on our trip down to Byron Bay last weekend.

I bought a rainbow umbrella and a pair of rainbow leggings, which are a thoroughly inappropriate and unseemly item of clothing for a woman of my age to be buying but I don’t care.

They sold so many different items I could have walked out of the shop dressed from head to toe in rainbow if I’d wanted.

Other things I think are signs of good luck coming my way are, seeing a shooting star, finding a coin head side up on the road, having a lady bug land on me, plus seeing rainbow lorikeets (as long as they aren’t flying into my windscreen at the time).

Things I won’t allow into my house include peacock feathers and opals.

My ex-husband wanted to give me an opal engagement ring all those 28 years ago. He had a bunch of opals his mother had bequeathed to him. Thankfully, the ugly, milky things had cracks in them and the jeweller refused to go along with my ex’s cheapskate antics.

Fancy trying to fob off your late mother’s old, tissue wrapped, cracked opals on your future bride.

That’s got to be a bloody bad omen for a marriage I reckon.

Your weirdest superstitions?

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Teachers Know Everything!

Working as a relief specialist teacher I get to teach the entire school during the week.

When I pick them up for their lessons, there’s a decided difference in the usual conversations between me and the varying age groups.

Preps: (Whilst clinging onto my thighs in a vice grip, five at a time)

We love you, Mrs Poinker. You’re the bestest most beautifullest teacher ever, Mrs Poinker!!!!

Me: I know.

Preps: YOU look like Mrs. Poinker!

Me: I know. That’s because I am Mrs Poinker.

Preps: Ooooooh!

Grade Ones: I like your earrings Mrs Poinker. I like your hair Mrs Poinker. I like your necklace Mrs Poinker. I like your red top, Mrs Poinker, it’s really nice.

Me: I know.

Grade Twos: I lost a tooth yesterday, Mrs Poinker. I have a cut on my wart, Mrs Poinker. I have a blister on my tongue, Mrs Poinker. My eyes is sore and full of pus, Mrs Poinker. I have nits, Mrs Poinker.

Me: I know.

Grade Threes: You have a yellow car, Mrs Poinker. I saw you at the shopping centre and you waved at me. Mrs Poinker. You wore that shirt last time we had you, Mrs Poinker.

Me: I know.

Grade Fours: Mercutio is walking along the garden bed, Mrs Poinker. Mercutio is not coming inside the classroom, Mrs Poinker. Mercutio is pulling faces through the window, Mrs Poinker.

Me: I know. Just ignore him.

Grade Fours: Mercutio is showing us his bottom, Mrs Poinker.

Me: I know. Just ignore him, don’t give him any attention and he’ll come inside in a moment.

Grade Fours: (Squealing very loudly) He’s really showing us his bottom Mrs Poinker.

Mrs Poinker looks towards the window and sees Mercutio spreading his cheeks in a Jackass-type, explicit manner.

Mercutio could get a job with an all-male review when he leaves school.

Mrs Poinker rings admin in a somewhat urgent mode.

Mrs Poinker on phone: Mercutio from year four is doing dreadful things. He’s out of control.

Admin: Sigh. We know.

Mercutio is rounded up with a swift reconnaissance type mission by harried, long-suffering administration officer.

Grade Fours: Mercutio always does that when we have a relief teacher, Mrs Poinker.

Me: I suspected so. I didn’t actually KNOW. But I suspected.

Grade Fives: Mrs Poinker, Garibaldi is giving you the rude finger every time you turn around.

Me: I know.

Grade Six: Mrs Poinker, do you know what a dab is?

Me: Yep.

Grade Six: Will you do one for us?

Me: No.

Grade Six: Dabs are really cool.

Me: I know.

See. Teachers really DO know everything.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Trauma Coping Strategies

I have lost two things in the last four days… eight centimetres of hair and two teeth.

The hair was an easy chop; I still have long hair and now it’s an appropriate length for a flumpety-flurve year old woman.

The teeth are a much sadder story. (They were right at the back of my mouth so nobody will notice they’re missing.)

Nobody except me that is, especially when I try to chew foodstuffs other than soup or puree.

Please don’t think I have rotten teeth. The teeth were pristine. It’s just that the bone they used to be attached to has disintegrated and according to the x-rays the teeth in question were only being held on to by the gums.

It was a very disturbing experience having two upper molars ripped from my jaw. Frankly, it felt as though my sinuses, my ear canals and part of my brain were going to be extracted through my tooth socket as well.

For teeth that were only being held in by gums they certainly put up a damn good fight.

The worst part was when the dentist began barking orders in a somewhat panicked fashion for more and more gauze and then inserting stitches whilst the nurse screamed for the receptionist to come in and help suck up all the blood.

I accidently swallowed a couple of mouthfuls of blood. FUUUUDGGGGEEE.

While the dentist was suturing the gaping, oozing wound, I swear there were four hands, six mirrors and a sucker the size of a Dyson vacuum cleaner in my mouth all at the same time. 

I kept breathing through my nose, humming the Bear Necessities of Life in my head and using a disassociation method of coping with stress by pretending I was one of the Olympians in the closing ceremony (which was on the overhead screen at the time). I zoned in on the flag bearer. I was her, not me, lying on that dentist's torture chair with the corners of my mouth splitting open and three humans inserting their fists into it.

When the witches of Macbeth finally finished with the blood and bone sacrificial ceremony, I stood on shaky legs and hobbled out to pay the receptionist the $400 plus for the pleasure of my visit.

I limped across the road to the chemist in order to obtain the mandated antibiotics with about five gauze pads clamped inside my cheek. I’m sure I looked like a zombie raised from the cemetery down the road. A lopsided chipmunk zombie.

“Mph mph mmmm maw maw,” I said to the pharmacy assistant as I handed over the script with a trembling hand and white face with a blood smeared chin.

She just smiled knowingly as if she’d seen it a hundred times before.

Scotto reckons I should have stocked up on codeine and over the counter sleeping aids because they wouldn’t have been able to ask all those annoying fudging questions pharmacy assistants always ask.

I drove home, walked straight into the bedroom and spent the rest of the day doing New Idea crosswords (which are my favourites because even stupid people can do them).

That’s my secret comfort when I’m traumatised, New Idea crosswords. The Woman’s Day ones are okay too.

There… that’s my secret. I do crosswords. It’s like meditation.

See, people think I’m a wild, mad, drinking woman but the truth is, I like me crosswords.

What’s your go-to calm down strategy?

Friday, August 19, 2016

Why Cher and Me were Separated at Birth

What I would look like in a leotard. For real.

Starting yesterday, I have three weeks work at a school I taught drama at last term, teaching…

well, you guess what I’m teaching.

Go on. Try to guess.

No. Not an exotic foreign language of which I know nothing.

No. Not homemaker cooking or sewing of which I know nothing.

No. Not advanced chemistry and physics and nuclear science of which I know nothing.

I’ll give you a hint.

It is a subject about something of which I know nothing.

… I know.

The possibilities are endless.

Dance. That’s what I’m teaching. Fudging dance.  

Pranc-i-dance- la-la-dancey-poof-bubble-dance.

When I say I know nothing about dance, I mean I know ‘next to nothing’.

I frantically scoured the internet and my pitiful collection of dance books last weekend as the impending teaching job loomed on the apocalyptic horizon.

Why and how do I get myself into these things?

A principal asks me, “How do you feel about coaching a team of highly exuberant twelve year old boys rugby league and taking them to football matches?"

“Sure!” I chirrup enthusiastically. “I LOVE a good old challenge!”

A principal asks me, “How do you feel about teaching the entire school Dance for a few weeks?”

“Absolutely!” I gush. “Dance is my goddamn middle name, sir!”

Some people never learn.

Me, I mean, not the principals.

The biggest mistake I’ve made in my planning of dance lessons so far, is selecting a Justin Bieber song as part of my play list.

Apparently all boys over six years of age (and some girls) despise Justin Bieber as much as I despise the taste of cochineal, coriander and going to the periodontist.

As soon as the Biebs comes on singing his little heart out, everyone screams in disgust, causing my deaf ear to squeak like an alien creature and my left ear to throb with the tick tock beat of "What Do You Fudging Mean?".

Boys start rolling around the floor being utter dickheads and the entire class loses it, including me.

So now the Biebs is banned from Mrs. Poinker’s ‘fantastical, whimsically ironic, dance class’.

But there are some positives about the silly challenge I’ve set myself up with.

I’m getting a bit of exercise for a change. Five classes a day means five sets of warm ups involving star jumps and other jarring actions. Before I know it I’ll be fit. I’m thinking of buying a sequined leotard, tights and a pair of ballet shoes but I suspect the kids might become frightened by the vision… especially the preps who have no knowledge of Cher or how older women can get away with fashion experimentation because of their special nuances.

I also only have each class for an hour, so if they’re extra-horribly naughty at least I know they’ll be going back to their poor teachers soon enough.

Plus, I get to listen to music all day. Albeit, it’s the same set of songs all week, five times a day, so I might get sick of them.

The Arts teacher left me a set of authentic Aboriginal clapper sticks. When the kids are particularly overcome with delightfully impish and fetchingly, mischievous fudgwittery, I can clap the sticks together to get their attention instead of bruising my hands as I clap in violent frustration.

I just have to try to remember that I can’t hit the kids over the head with the clapper sticks when they’re being fractious. It would be so easy to just accidentally dong them on the head when I catch them shouting out rude comments at the top of their voice. I’ll have to be very careful about that I suppose.

Note to self: Do not walk near naughty students when holding clapper sticks.

All in all, it hasn’t been as bad as I envisaged.

Most of the kids remember me from the drama lessons last term and think of me as a bit of a minor celebrity. They keep coming up and hugging me in the playground and saying, “You’re back, Mrs Poinker! We missed you! You're the only old lady we know with long hair!”

"K," I murmur, twisting my greying ponytail between gnarled fingers.

You know what, I reckon I should order one of those leotards.

Final note: Getting haircut tomorrow.

Friday, August 12, 2016

What to Expect as a Relief Teacher


My eyes have been opened after working as a relief teacher for the last 6 months...

These are the things I've discovered.

1. The kids will think it’s a free-for-all day. They’ll greet the relief teacher with all the exuberance of an audience at the Colosseum, cheering an impoverished, starving Christian into the arena who’s about to face an annoyed lion that’s been starved for two days. That’s the nicest the kids will be to you all day.

2. The ‘real teachers’ will always have an elaborate plan in place for the relief teacher involving a reading and spelling rotation group system that necessitates a code breaker from the CIA to decipher. This will confuse the relief teacher to the point where they will want to rip their eyes from their sockets and fall to their knees in submission.

3. There will always be parents standing at the door at the first bell when the relief teacher is struggling to mark the roll online without a code and at the same time attempting to puzzle out the rotating reading group schedule which is due to start at that precise next second.

4. The parent/parents will stare at the relief teacher as if to say, “Where did they dig her up from?” which will undermine the relief teacher’s confidence for the remainder of the day.

5. The relief teacher will then spend the rest of the day worrying that the ‘helper parents’ have reported her to administration for incompetence.

6. The real teacher will often leave a loose plan for a science or maths lesson, involving dirt/mud/water experiments that they’ve been putting off doing all term because of all the dirt/mud/water.

7. These lessons will never go well for the relief teacher as there will always be a serious accident regarding mud/water/dirt on the classroom carpet.

8. The kids will be a combination of ‘extra helpful’ assistant teacher types and utter arseholes.

9. The relief teacher will have no ability to keep naughty kids in at lunch time because they will naturally have duty when they will wander around the playground asking every adult they see, “Is this area ‘C’ or ‘A’” whilst squinting at a tea-splattered mud map and being largely ignored.

10. The relief teacher will not go into the staffroom at lunchtime because they know that nobody will want to talk to them because they are virtual strangers/pariahs and they will be afraid they might accidentally use another teacher’s cup/milk/teabag and even if they didn’t perform this faux pas they’d still have to sit at the janitor’s table because they are the untouchables.

11. The only person who is ever nice to a relief teacher is the office lady and that’s only because they hate the real teachers because they perceive that the real teachers take them for granted. (I must amend this. Most teachers are very nice but awkward introverts like Pinky always feel left out in the company of strangers.)

12. Relief teachers get called in twenty minutes before the first bell so they often arrive at school with dirty hair and crap makeup which gives them a “Caravan-Living” ambience which might be one of the reasons they are so looked down on.

13. Relief teachers get to go home when the bell rings but usually the car park doesn’t clear for forty-five minutes so they have to spend the time twiddling their thumbs and picking up tiny pieces of paper from the classroom floor so the room is spotless and the teacher might ask for them to come back again.

P.S. I have NOTHING against people who live in caravans. I think it would be a lovely lifestyle.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Making a Meal of Meal Worms.

Real Live Meal Worm

For the past week, I’ve had a few days working at a small country school. When I call the roll at the beginning of each day, I get the kids to answer by telling me something about themselves. One thing I KNOW about country kids is that they LOVE animals.

All animals.

When I ask these country kids to reply to their name with the name of one of their pets, I’ve been getting responses like, Star, Blaze, Flicka and Gypsy. I’m assuming most of these kids have ponies.

I haven’t spotted anyone riding a horse to school but it wouldn’t surprise me if I did

The first thing I do when I walk into the classroom is to outline my classroom expectations. 

With the little kids I use a clapping routine to get their attention. They have to stop what they’re doing and repeat the clapping pattern back to me. 

Of course this doesn’t work as well with older kids who just ignore the teacher and turn disdainful noses up at baby things, but the Preps to Grade Threes always respond immediately and enthusiastically, as if it's a highly exulted ritual which MUST be obeyed. 

They freeze instantly, turn to face me like robots and slap their hands together like they’re in a full on Gospel choir.

I love their dedication.

The last lesson in my littlies class today was a science oriented lesson, where the kids had to inspect a colony  (crèche… meatball… ?) of Meal Worms. They’ve been nurturing these creatures for months and had to do a write up regarding the worms’ growth and activity level. 

The only thing I know about meal worms is that you can put them in Tequila.

Let me tell you right now, from what I observed, meal worms don’t lead very exciting lives. Although they are considered to be agricultural pests so it’s strange that the presumed children of farmers are currently nurturing them in virtual nurseries at the school. What if they escaped?

I could see sinister undulating movement under the sawdust in the container and I was nervous because it was my job to extract about ten meal worms for observation from a container with a pair of tweezers.

“Don’t squeeze too hard, Mrs Poinker,” instructed one little girl. “We wouldn’t want any of them to be hurt. We love them.”

“Do they bite?” I asked in trepidation, eyeing the rising and falling of the sawdust. “Just how big are these things?”

Meal Worm Enclosure


I’d accidentally chopped one in half. I quickly buried it under a desiccated apple core before anyone saw it and started crying.

They were wiggly little buggers... with a death wish it seemed. Every time I picked one up it would struggle vehemently necessitating me to tighten my grip on the tweezers.

The kids were putting the slimy, oversized maggots on their hands and scrutinising them under magnifying glasses.

It was getting close to bell time and I need the kids' attention attention to pack up their belongings for home time.

“Clap, clap. Clap-clap-clap,” I pounded hard with my hands.

Twenty-five hands mimicked me.

I won’t say any more about the blood bath that ensued.

It wasn’t pretty.

Thankfully meal worms can miraculously regenerate their bodies after death in the same way that jellyfish can grow back from one tentacle..

That’s what I told the kids as they scraped the squished remains from their palms anyway.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

How Often Does Your Doctor Think You Have Intercourse?

Grand Dog

I went to the doctor yesterday to get a referral for the Ear, Nose and Throat specialist. There was a man in his high nineties at the counter, yelling his head off at an extraordinary volume at the receptionist when I walked in. 

He wasn’t yelling abuse; he was just deaf and couldn’t hear himself.

As he began to lurch away from the counter on his walking stick, I leaped from my seat and rounded the corner to open the heavy door for him. The hall leading to the door was quite long and I had to stand holding the door for an inordinately awkward amount of time as he shuffled towards me chuckling to himself and shouting, “Goody goody girly! Goody goody girly!”
I wasn't sure if he was making fun of me or praising me.

I was the only person in the waiting room who was capable of opening the door because everyone else there was at least a hundred and ten and on a walking frame.

It’s the mountain vibe.

I saw my life flash before me.

When I finally got in to see the very young doctor he read my report from the audiologist and said in a matter of fact tone, “Well, the hearing in your right ear is rubbish. You’ll probably need a hearing aid.”

“Oh well,” I said in an optimistic manner but feeling quite deflated. “There’re worse things that could happen.”
“Yes,” he said staring at me intently. “You could be dead.”

I had actually been thinking about loss of sight but yes, death would be worse… wtf.

Then he wrote a referral to the specialist and in the letter he described me as a fifty-five year old, high functioning female.

I adopted quite a youthful spring in my step after I read it.

I went straight home to Scotto bragging loudly that the doctor thinks I’m ‘high functioning’ and how awesome and high functioning I was.

But the more I thought about it the more I became concerned that ‘high functioning’ was ‘doctor code’ for ‘high functioning alcoholic’.

Remember how the previous doctor had noted on my records that I drink three glasses of wine a day and had given me a stern and shameful lecture?

I should have told that doctor to bloody go and bloody well high function himself.

(If you’re a doctor and you’re reading this please confirm my suspicions.)

Also in the letter, it stated at the bottom that I take an antibiotic after intercourse.
I’m not quite sure of the relevance this has to being deaf in the right ear.

Unless the intercourse actually occurs in the ear how can this information be significant?

Besides, if it’s a medication related issue, how often do they assume I take the antibiotic? 

Couldn't the doctor have written, "Only takes antibiotic when the Cowboys win the NRL fixtures? Or only when Scotto beats Pinky at The Chaser? Or only every second Sunday when Pinky wakes up in a particularly good mood and has had one of those dreams about the Bondi Vet"? 

My son Hagar, his girlfriend, Meggles and my baby granddog, Diego came and stayed with us for a few days this week. 

I was so excited on the morning they were to arrive I went and sat in the driveway with the cat, waiting for them to pull into my street. I sat on a rock beside the letterbox for hours, like a kid waiting for the ice-cream truck. The neighbour, Anne, drove past me and waved with a puzzled look on her face.

But I loved having them stay so much. I adore all of them and can’t wait until Christmas when I’ll see all of the kids again.

Grand Dog and his parents at Elephant Rock

I babysat Diego for a day.

I didn’t work this week but I don’t care because I actually hate work and who needs money anyway? (Except to buy hearing aids and pay for specialist appointments).

I’d like a job where I can sleep in and I just have to babysit Chihuahuas all day.

Grandad Scotto and Grand Dog Diego