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Saturday, September 7, 2019

How to be a Vegan Pariah

“Are you a vegan, Mrs Poinker?”

The question had come out of the blue in the middle of a Math lesson and now the entire class sat staring at me with disparaging faces waiting for me to answer young Buster ‘Muscles’ Calhoun’s provocative question.

Buster Calhoun’s parents own a cattle farm. I think a few other kids in my class have parents who own cattle farms. Several of the teachers I work with have beef cattle as well.

Imagine me sitting in the staff room every day fastidiously eating my can of pinto beans and chickpeas, my apple and my banana. It’s no cake walk let me tell you. There’s a low tolerance for hipster vegans in this part of the world.

“No,” I replied. “I am not a vegan, Buster,” I replied, then quickly added, “Not that there’s anything wrong with being a vegan, unless you raid farms or hold up traffic in Melbourne’s peak hour.”

“Are you a vegetarian?” Buster persisted.

“No,” I said. “I’m not a vegetarian. I’m a pescatarian.”

“I thought you were a Catholic,” Kit ‘the Predator’ Maverick blurted out.

“A pescatarian is someone who doesn’t eat red meat and eats fish instead,” I said, hoping we could get off the subject and get back to learning about the minutiae of Cartesian planes.

“Why don’t you eat red meat?” Buster asked, his little face taking on a mock bewildered expression.

I was silent for a moment while I pondered on a possible answer.

Because the thought of my teeth ripping through the flesh of a once living creature is appalling to me? 

No. I couldn’t say that because I knew they’d tell their parents and I’d get into trouble for painting despicable images in children’s minds.

These kids are tough though. They can be sentimental, but farmer’s kids are realists. They all own beloved pets but a lot of those pets are working animals. Blue Heelers and Kelpies that round up the cattle and sleep outdoors on hessian hammocks, unlike my pampered mutts who monopolise my bed each night and sit on my lap as I eat dinner with their snouts snuffling at my chin.

“My husband loves red meat,” I finally answer as if that might make me seem a tad more normal to them. “My kids all eat red meat too.”

They seemed strangely disappointed but silent at the same time and I congratulated myself on having dodged a bullet and prepared to get back to explaining the x and y axis.

Belle ‘Trigger Finger’ Ferrell put her hand up. “Do you believe in climate change, Mrs Poinker?”

Now that was another loaded question fraught with controversy.

My brain frantically tried to recall the Australian Curriculum. Were we supposed to be explicitly teaching that climate change is a factual reality? Teachers are most certainly directed to teach about sustainable practises, but I wasn’t sure about climate change.

“What I believe isn’t important,” I said. “What you should do is read all the information and make up your own mind so you can believe whatever you think is right.”

“Do you believe Maths is important?” asked Josiah ‘Shotgun’ Wiggins.

“Yes. Of course I do.”

The entire class erupted in guffaws. “You just said that what you believe isn’t important so that means Maths isn’t important.”

Suddenly, I saw what they’d done. They’d flanked me like a cattle dog does a steer or a sheep, keeping at a constant distance in a circular pattern, nipping me on the nose, and skilfully driving me into the sorting pen.

Bloody grade sixers are too smart for me.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Toast Tuesday

Like many schools, my school endeavours to teach children to be kind.

We want our students to grow up displaying empathy for others, to show compassion and to not act like they would if they were say… the sole surviving species in an apocalyptic scenario where everyone over the age of sixteen was dead and they were free to pillage the world eating each other’s brains.

Part of this education in altruistic benevolence is Toast Tuesday and Toast Thursday.

Our ‘social justice’ committee in Year Six is commissioned to purchase, prepare, cook and decorate slices of toast and vegemite twice a week to the poor, unfortunate, and starving children at our school.

May it be noted, that not a single one of our students is poor or unfortunate or starving, however, we persist in the making and doling out of toast to the hungry horde.

When I say we, I mean mostly me.

Why? I hear you ask. Why is it mostly you?

Is it because those selfish little brats on the ‘social justice’ committee can’t be bothered to turn up early in the morning to toast duty, thus leaving you all alone to shoulder the burden of asking, “Would you like toast and butter or toast and vegemite”, two hundred times, twice a week?

No, it is not.

The reason the millstone is placed around my own scrawny neck, is because I have personally carved out that millstone myself and wear it like I would a string of pearls gifted to me by my Grandmama on her deathbed.

I love handing out toast. It makes me feel… valued.

When the little preppies wobble up, their sweet faces barely showing over the counter, I get to hand over a delicious slice of golden bread dripping with Black and Gold Margarine with the salty black congealed tar that is Vegemite spread thickly over the top, and they smile at me and say, “Thank you Mrs Poinker”, and I feel as though I’m doing something great for humanity.

Unfortunately, like Gollum with his precious ring, I have become a little possessive of my career niche.

We had an important early morning meeting one Tuesday.

“I can’t come, sorry,” I said to the Principal. “I have to make toast.”

“Don’t be ridiculous," he said. "Get someone else to make it. You need to be at the meeting.”

“That's impossible,” I said. "I’m sorry but no one else knows how to do it.”

He looked at me with a quizzical glint in his eye. “No one else knows how to make toast? Don’t you just put it in a toaster?”

“No,” I said in a mysterious whisper. “There’s a lot more to it than that.”

Ten minutes later, the Deputy Principal came barging into the tuckshop, chucked me out and ordered me to go to the meeting, but I bet the toast didn’t taste anywhere near as good that day AND she left crumbs in the toaster tray.

The only problem with Toast Days is the ‘social committee’. If I didn’t have to put up with ‘helpful kids’ getting in my way as I bustle around busily, things would be perfect. 

But wouldn’t that be defeating the purpose, I hear you yelling.

No. They have their whole lives in front of them to be kind. I’m running out of time.

I try to sneak into the tuckshop and have two loaves of bread toasted and buttered before they even notice I’m there.

“Do you need us to make toast, Mrs Poinker?” they’ll ask, breezing into the tuckshop with their annoyingly bright helpful faces.

“No,” I sigh in martyrdom. “I’ve done most of it. Try again next week.”

One time, an over-enthusiastic social justice committee member had the audacity to take a piece of toast out of the toaster.

“What are you doing?” I trilled. “That’s my job! It’s far too dangerous for you to touch the toaster. Please don’t do it again. Just stick to buttering thank you.”

And I don’t like the way the kids butter or put the Vegemite on either. I have a specific method of application which can not be replicated by an amateur.

Soon, due to many reasons, I shall have to depart my dear little country school and I will be mandated to write a resume.

‘Very good at making toast’, will be heading my list of achievements.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Just How Boring Am I?

We recently ripped up the carpet in our bedroom and replaced it with a vinyl/timber hybrid that, according to the man at Harvey Norman, is fully waterproof. 

More importantly, it’s vomit, diarrhea and urine proof so now when it’s 4:00 am and gentle heaving sounds emanate from under the doona and we feel a Chihuahua scrabbling desperately up through the bedclothes to get to the bathroom, then ten seconds later, hear short exploding sounds from under the bed, we don’t have to panic quite so much.

It’s life changing really.

Also, it’s a relief to know that whatever sins the previous owner, a little old lady according to the real estate agent, exacted on the carpet… animal sacrifice, orgies involving messy liquid ejections, experiments involving the use of leaking test tubes in order to isolate the ebola virus… we no longer have to have them in the back of our mind when our delicate, pink, bare feet slide across the carpet.

Vacuuming is much easier, I found the hand cream I lost three years ago when we moved the bedside tables and we don’t have to store all our suitcases under the bed to prevent the cat from using it as a litter box forcing us to pull it out by the tail as it lies on its back playing dead anymore.

I want to hybrid the entire house including the walls and ceilings, that’s how much I like it.

There were a few moments when I wanted to take a photo and post it to Facebook and Instagram but I suddenly realised that all my friends post photos of cute babies, overseas holidays and sunsets so a picture of my hybrid floor probably wouldn’t get anyone excited.

I was also going to post a picture of some gnaw marks on a wall where Polly the sausage dog likes to chew, but I’m sure that’s not very interesting either, even though a dog slowly eating a house one wall at a time is a first for me.

I’m kind of glad Instagram has decided to hide the likes because now nobody can see how I don’t get very many because of my incredibly boring photographic choices.

Bit like this blog post really.

The truth is, since giving up the booze and embarking on a healthy diet regime, I’ve become a terribly boring person. Giving up alcohol has physically and mentally aged me.

Even though I’m now free to drive after 6:00pm because I’m not ten sheets to the wind, I absolutely refuse to leave the house after dark.

We go to matinee sessions at the movies and the last three movies we went to were Aladdin, Toy Story and The Lion King. Even then, I felt the music was a bit on the loud side.

My social life consists of a cup of tea with my eighty-year-old parents once a fortnight (if they’re free).

Last Saturday morning, Scotto and I became unreasonably excited at the extra-large sized Pink Lady apples on display at Coles.

We’ve stopped watching Sunrise in the morning because of the ads and have started watching ABC Breakfast.

I stopped wearing makeup and switched to zinc-oxide sunscreen because I’m afraid of the chemicals in normal sunscreen.

I had my hair cut into a bob with a fringe.

The optometrist told me I have the beginnings of cataracts and I keep checking in the mirror to make sure I don’t look like the guy from Kung Fu.

Only a boring teetotaller would remember either the show or that the guy from Kung Fu had cataracts. 

We watch television in bed every night and we refer to our favourite programmes as ‘our stories’.

“Let’s hop into bed and watch our stories,” I’ll say to Scotto, pulling my flannelette pyjama bottoms up to my armpits and shuffling over to the stove in slippers to heat milk for cocoa.

But the most boring metamorphism my friend is the anti-social introvert I’ve turned into.

I call into the same service station twice a week and for the first time in two years the lady at the counter struck up a long pleasant conversation with me. My over-riding thought as I drove away was that now I’d have to find a new service station to patronise.

Very bloody boring person I am now.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

My Body is a Temple

Thirteen months ago, I gave up alcohol. 

At the same time, I decided to give up drugs. 

Not hard drugs (which I’d be too chicken to ever take in case I started gnawing people’s faces off or drinking so much water my brain exploded), but any medication that might interfere with my brainwaves. 

You know, that superior intellectual brain of mine which I must protect at all costs. God forbid I should poison it with an aspirin. 

No painkillers, sleeping tablets, or even extra strong peppermints in thirteen months… nothing drug-related entered the Pink Temple.

My squeaky-clean body has adapted to this puritanical way of life with such enthusiasm that now I find myself feeling ‘drunk’ on a cup of coffee.

Scotto and I went to meet number three son for lunch recently before he took off to Europe on a Contiki trip. 

Arriving early, we decided to have a look around the shops after a quick (large and strong) coffee.

Fatal mistake. Five minutes after, my heart began to race, my eyes to twitch and I was jabbering faster than Alvin the Chipmunk. 

I felt an overpowering urge to run around with hands in the air screaming, or to chuck off my boots and slide along the tiles like Tom Cruise in Risky Business, or to pick Scotto up and carry him around on my shoulders shouting, “I’m here everybody! Come and get me!”.

I felt exuberant, euphoric.

The first thing I crashed into was one of those dodgy temporary booths selling imported items that look as if they fell off a truck on its way to the dump.

“A fairy booth!” I shrieked at Scotto. “Look Scotto! Little spotted toadstools. Little rabbits. Little chickens. Little cups and saucers. Little tables and chairs. Oh my God, Scotto! Look at the miniature rocks covered in moss! I want! I want!”

Grabbing a plastic tray, I careened around the booth sweeping miniature lampposts and trees into the tray, gushing like a nine-year-old at a unicorn themed birthday party. “I’ll have that! And that! And three of those! And, oh my God! One of those!” It’s embarrassing to look back on.

I swear the lady behind the counter thought I was as pissed as a parrot and this was her chance to make the rent money for the day. 

I couldn’t stop. If it was pink and sparkly, it was in the tray.

Afterwards, on the way home in the car, I slumped low in the seat holding my aching head wondering what I was going to do with all these child oriented little objects. 

They sat malevolently glowering at me on the kitchen counter for a few weeks, mocking me for my heady folly every time I wandered past.

“How old are you again, Pinky?” they’d taunt.

Eventually, after Scotto kept reminding me the bags were taking up valuable kitchen space, I moved them into my study.

A couple of weeks after that, Scotto set them up in little fishbowls for me. 

To what purpose I’m still trying to figure out.

Unless the Contiki trip produces a grandchild, I suppose.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Athletics Day and How Scotto Wants Me Dead.

The day began with a buoyant air of thrilling adventure.

The sky blazed like a jewel in a dazzling, azure radiance. Children spilled out across the oval squealing in gushy admiration of brand new, neon sports shoes, house themed tutus and brightly zinc-creamed noses. 

Jaunty rows of tiny flags fluttered in the cool breeze as if welcoming a ticker tape procession of heroic Greek gods.

The day ended as all the teachers knew it would; sweaty, fractious children squabbling over whose tattered, runner-up ribbons were whose, shattered teachers lurching around with rubbish bags, limply pointing at bits of lolly wrapper in the gloomy hope someone, anyone, would pick them up. Bunting, once gay and festive, now strewn across the field in torn, desolate shreds.

But at least it was Friday afternoon and we teachers knew that sport’s day was done and dusted for another year.

It was three o’clock and I was about to walk out the door, fatigued but exuberant to be leaving.

“Pinky,” intercepted our school officer, Reggie, poking her head around the corner. “There’s been an accident on the highway and the police have closed the road.”

I blanched. Sweat appeared in droplets on my upper lip. I felt the hysteria rise up my throat.

An accident meant the road could be closed for hours and hours.

And hours and hours.

And maybe even some more hours.

What the actual??? It was fucking FRIDAY!

“I suppose I can drive home via the alternate, rustic route,” I spat bitterly. “Even though it takes an extra 45 minutes and most of it is highly dangerous due to it being made of dirt.”

“You could stay and do some planning and wait for the road to open,” offered someone, trying to be helpful but being outrageously annoying instead.

Planning. As if. Lol.

So, I set out on the bloody road less travelled, comforting myself with the fact that I’d probably see a lot of interesting cows and goats and possibly a donkey and, as I like animals, that was quite a good thing. 

I could enjoy the bucolic scenery whilst listening to an extended podcast about mindfulness and I would arrive at home one hour and forty-fucking-five minutes later feeling very fucking serene.

Distracted, I failed to spot the ditch. It was carved deeply into the road and I was travelling at eighty kilometres an hour with a queue of frustrated drivers trailing behind me. 

There was no sign warning me I was about to traverse the Mariana Trench in spectacular airborne fashion with my trusty Renault. There was a sickening thud as the car landed. 

The cows paused their cud-chewing and gazed through exotic lashes at the foreign car leaping like a frog then sliding across the loose gravel. A goat screamed.

Swearing like a truckie, heart pounding with anxiety and palms sweating, I drove the rest of the way home, nervously anticipating the familiar tug on the wheel indicating a flat tyre.

“Can you check my tyres tomorrow morning?” I asked Scotto, throwing my keys on the dining room table in a vile temper. “I went over a bit of a bump on the way home.”

He forgot. I forgot as well until on Thursday morning, a sinister light began flashing on my dashboard informing me there was something seriously askew with my tyres.

In a panic, I screeched into a service station and rang Scotto. I’d parked beside the air machine and needed instructions on where to poke the thing in and what to do then.

“Don’t worry about it, Pinky,” drawled Scotto. “You have low profile tyres and you probably just knocked air out of one of them. You can drive on those sorts of tyres, flat. You’ll be fine.”

Now, I’m not sure if Scotto is trying to get me killed, or if he just couldn’t bear to go through the excruciating task of explaining to an idiot, how to pump up a tyre over the phone or if I inconveniently caught him on the toilet having a poo and he was in a fluster… but he was wrong... fatally wrong.

The tyre specialist man has since diagnosed two dangerously split sidewalls, compromised rims and the urgent need for a wheel alignment. 

Can you see that bulge waiting to explode?

The tyre man stressed that, at any time during my travels last week, I could have experienced a blowout and if it had occurred whilst travelling up or down the mountain, the car most likely would have flipped. 

According to the movies Scotto particularly likes, when a car flips over the side of a mountain there is usually fire, blood and crushed steel involved.

And you know what that means.

* Dead Pinky.

* Youngish, fancy-free widower with unimpeded access to whatever he wants to watch on Netflix and no more annoying interruptions to his morning poo.

In the meantime, I’d like to say, farewell $515. It was nice of you to visit my bank account. Hope you enjoyed your stay. Please enjoy the remainder of your travels in the tyre man’s wallet and I hope to one day meet again.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Nice Legs, Shame About the Boat Race.

Since giving up the booze, I’ve lost 10 kilograms and some people might now describe me as slim. My hair is quite long and from behind, I guess I could pass for someone much younger.

I’m not saying I’m Cher, okay, but from a bit of a distance, in a pair of jeans, I could be mistaken for a youthful female.

That might explain the guy in the supermarket.

He sauntered past me, leaning on his trolley and reaching for the grapefruit suggestively.

Sensing his presence, I swivelled around towards him and smiled pleasantly.

His lovely, expectant face plummeted from, “Well hellooooo, you young spunk rat, you” to “what the fuckity fuck in Jesus’ name is that? An incubus?” in a second flat.

Rapidly backing away, holding up two grapefruits as if they were magic shields and making the sign of the cross with them, he shuddered. He averted his eyes; his appalled eyes.

He anticipated Angelina Jolie and instead got Gollum.

Scotto was in another aisle, innocently counting the bruises on bananas during this romantic interface.

Bemused, I carried my kaleslaw over to him and threw it in the trolley with a certain panache, a modicum of swag, and a whole lot of groove.

“I just got checked out,” I announced.

It wasn’t a lie. I did get checked out. It’s not my fault my checker-outerer was slightly disappointed.

Caveat emptor.

“Did you?” Scotto pretended to be interested but was completely absorbed in his banana inspection.

“He was pretty young too,” I added. “Probs only in his late twenties. Actually, I think he was a hipster.”

“That’s nice,” Scotto mumbled. “Why do they put red stuff on the end of some types of bananas?”

“They’re organic,” I snapped. “Are you even listening to me?”

He put the bananas back on the shelf and sighed.

“Pinky, of course someone checked you out. You’re a hotty.”

I left it at that. No point in going on about it, is there?

Friday, April 12, 2019

Never Go Out at Night on the Mountain.

I visited a friend’s house on the mountain last night. I’d parked on the side of a dirt road and used the torch on my phone to tentatively pick my way down her driveway in the pitch blackness of our non-lit community.

As I started my car, a huge spider crawled lethargically up the windscreen right in front of my face. It disappeared under the sun visor.

“It was on the OUTSIDE of the windscreen,” I recited in a hysterical mantra all the way home. But I couldn’t be sure. I couldn’t be f#$king sure. Had I seen its belly or its back? All I’d noticed in my trauma was eight, long hairy legs and a fat torso with two prominent fangs sparkling in the moonlight.

If the spider decided to make a wanton cameo appearance during the drive home, I would surely drive over the edge of the mountain and hurtle down in a fiery ball of metal and gangly, arachnid legs.

“It’s only a bloody spider, Pinky,” I told myself, white knuckles gripping the steering wheel. “What’s the worst it can do? Bite me? Haha! F#$k you, Mr Spidey! ”

I felt a strange tickle on my ankle and swerved in blind panic, skidding on the gravelly verge and seeing my life flash before me.

Stomping the floor in unbridled terror, I sped up, careering around the mountain’s snaking bends, finally reaching my street.

I worried that if the spider was still lurking outside the car it might scuttle in when the door opened. Or worse, it might jump on me as I exited. Maybe it blew off in the wind? Maybe it flew off the car five kilometres ago? Maybe not...

Screeching up our driveway, I slammed on the brakes a millimetre from the garage door and hunched, shuddering, frozen to my seat, praying that Scotto would come out to greet me like he usually did.

His face at last appeared from behind the front door; the dogs spilling out after him, excited for their pre-bedtime wee.

Pressing my face against the car window, I knocked desperately on the glass to get his attention.

Scotto’s expression changed from sleepy to mildly curious.

As he approached my car in the dim light, I rapped frantically, mouthing the words ‘HELP ME… GOD! PLEASE HELP ME! BUT DON’T OPEN THE DOOR!!!! DON’T OPEN THE F#$KING DOOR!’

Before I could stop him, he yanked open the driver seat door, grinning naively.

“Get the f$#k out!” I shrieked, violently pushing him aside, leaping like a whirling dervish from the car. “Shut the f$#king door. Shut the door!”

Scotto spun around with panic in his eyes. The dogs froze, legs cocked in the air, eyeing me in alarm.

“There’s a f#$king s-s-s-spider!” I hissed, frantically thrashing my body and hair like someone on crack attempting to do the Macarena.

Scotto’s face instantly morphed into Liam Neeson.

“Go inside, Pinky,” he muttered in a rich and deep, Irish brogue and braced his shoulders with manliness.

I scarpered in the front door as he followed me towards the pantry with determination oozing from every macho pore.

“I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want,” he chanted. “But what I have are a very particular set of skills. If you leave now, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.”

He grabbed a can of Mortein Extra Strength.

I sat in bed, eyes all googly in fear and constantly checking there was no spider hiding in my hair when Scotto came in. 

He’d discovered the malignant creature, evilly burrowed inside the handle of the passenger door, safe from the wind and concealing itself until malevolent opportunity arose.

Now its remains were spread over our driveway like vegemite on toast. Itsy Bitsy spider was in itsy bitsy bits.

Some people might think we’re cruel.

After all, a spider is much smaller than we are. The spider is probably more scared of us than we are of them.

Well… I don’t think that’s true. I mean, has a spider ever told you that?


I didn’t think so.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

The Curse of Opening Night in the Theatre!

We all hovered around the backstage mirror last night. 

It was the opening night of our play. 

Stomachs churned, hearts palpitated and eyeliner pencils were brandished with such rapid dexterity, they were literally smoking.

“We must remember not to say the name of that Scottish play,” I quipped into the mirror as I squinted, attempting to pick a clump of mascara off my cheek without leaving a big, black, indelible smear.

My fellow thespians stopped abruptly, contouring brushes in hand, and stared at me.

“What are you talking about, Pinky?” asked Jess our ingenue, the youngest cast member.

“You know! The Shakespearean play! The Scottish one that starts with ‘M’. The one where you aren’t supposed to EVER say the name in a theatre.”

She stared at me as uninterested as … you know, whatever.

“Do you mean Midsummer Night’s Dream?” queried another actress who was checking her teeth for errant lipstick.

“No!” I exclaimed. “And DON’T say the name of it!”

“Much Ado About Nothing?” called out another.

“For God’s sake, no! It's not Much Ado About Nothing!” I shuddered like someone just walked over my future grave. 

“Don’t say the bloody name of the play! Do you want to be cursed? Do you want the theatre to fall to rubble around us? Do you want that dodgy, antediluvian lighting box to explode and for poor old Brian to die a horrible fiery death and have his eyeballs melt in a puddle?”

“Measure for Measure,” declared Alison. “That’s my favourite of Shakespeare’s plays!”

“How about the Merry Wives of Windsor?” added Emily. “I like that one.”

“Is the Merry Wives of Windsor a play about a Scottish king?” I asked, exasperated beyond belief.

“Oh, I know which one you mean,” Jodie declared, phoofing up her golden mane. “You mean the play with the witches and the 'Bubble bubble, toil and trouble' stuff.”

“Finally!” I sighed. “We can’t say the name of it… okay everyone??? Don’t ever say it out loud. EVER!!!”

They gazed at me with a look that said, who the bloody hell was ever going to randomly say it anyway, you idiot?

“Why can’t we say it?” Jess piped up after the silence.

“Because it’s cursed. It’s an old theatre tradition that you NEVER say the name of the play out loud. It's something to do with black magic and spells.”

“Cursed?” her eyes went like saucers. 

I love young people. I can teach them so much. 

"Now, I'm scared!" her voice quavered.

“Yes!” I said. “You should be damn well scared. In fact, I can tell you a real-life story!” I paused for dramatic effect. I love a captive audience. 

“One time, a few years ago," I began in a Vincent Price impersonation, "a struggling theatre group in North Queensland were performing the play, Macbeth, in a derelict old quarry and…”

I slapped my hand over my mouth in alarm.

The cast collectively turned their heads in horror, 
mascara wands held aloft, their faces stricken in dread. 

“Thanks a lot, Pinky!” shouted Jess, as she stomped out of the dressing room. “Now we’re all going to bloody die.”

We didn’t die though. And neither did the play. It went very well. 

But I do worry about Brian in the lighting box. It is a very old theatre.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

My Experiment with Method Acting

Backstage rehearsal

It’s less than a week until the opening night of the play I’m in.

Did I tell you I’m playing a school counsellor? I’m really getting into the role. I’ve even found myself counselling people in real life. I know I’m not officially qualified, but I’ve started to think of myself as a ‘Mother Earth’ type of counsellor; you know, wears kaftans, drinks kombucha tea and smells like lentils.

In true Stanislavski fashion, I’ve taken to dressing the part and wearing a batik headband on stage.

It’s called ‘method acting’ in case you didn’t know.

“You mean like Daniel Day Lewis?” asked Scotto after I explained to him why I was holding a serious mediation session with the cat and our new sausage dog over territorial rights involving the scratching post. 

“EXACTLY like Daniel Day Lewis!” I replied. “I won’t be eschewing a shower for the next three weeks, learning to speak Czechoslovakian or wheeling around the IGA in a wheelchair, BUT, I am going to start wearing batik headbands and telling people how to run their lives.”

The other day at school is a perfect example. 

One particular little boy, Puck, displayed a distinct lack of enthusiasm when we were trying to get the kids to form committees.

“Puck,” I called him over to my desk. “I’ve noticed you haven’t nominated yourself for a committee.”

“Yeah,” he blinked at me, his lip curled indifferently.

“Yeah, Mrs Poinker!” I corrected him brightly, smiling in my most counsellorish manner.

“Now Puck, what seems to be the problem? Why don’t you want to be in one of our lovely committees?”

Puck stared into the distance. His expression seemed to communicate a certain ennui, almost as if he wished a plague of locusts would descend on his annoying teacher devouring her down to the bones until all that was left was a pile of white powder and a wedding ring.

“But Puck, my dear boy, research shows that children who learn to work in a team grow up to be more productive adults. We want to help you on your journey of self-realisation.”
Puck's eyes rolled to the ceiling.

“Now look Puck, what about nominating for the Environment Committee. You could help save the planet! You could stop climate change in its tracks! You could be an eco-warrior!” I enthused.

“You mean, I’d get to empty the classroom bins on Thursday,” he replied glumly. “No thanks.”

“Listen, Puck,” I smiled again, “My door is open on this issue but we need to move forward together. What about the Assembly Committee then?”

“I hate all the committees,” he rocked back on his chair in revulsion. “I’m not a committee person.”

“I sense some hostility, Puck,” I said in a sweet tone. “We are workshopping this together. No one is the boss here. We are on an equal footing, you know. 

By the way, stop rocking in your chair or you’ll stay in at lunch time.”

“I don’t want to be on a committee. I think committees are dumb,” he said, resting his chair back on the carpet reluctantly. He picked up a paperclip and began shaping it into a dagger with his fingers.

“Puck, Puck, Puck,” I warbled gently. “Let’s talk about why you hate committees. Have you had a bad experience with committees before this? Let’s dialogue this, Puck. I’m here to listen. Let’s get in touch with your inner child.”

“I am a child,” Puck glared at me.

“And how’s that working for you?” I asked compassionately. 

“Listen Puck, you have to apply your oxygen mask first! You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs! There are plenty more fish in the sea! It doesn’t matter If you win or lose. It only matters that you tried!”

Puck squinted at me warily over his glasses and wriggled anxiously in his seat.

“What doesn’t kill us only makes us sad and afraid it will happen again, Puck,” I said, leaning forward and gazing at him with what I thought was an empathetic glint in my eye. 

I stayed silent because I know what a powerful counselling tool silence can be. I stared and stared and waited and waited.

Puck stood up suddenly, “Okay, okay, Mrs Poinker. Whatever you want. I’ll be in the Assembly Committee if you want. I’ll be in any committee you want!” 

He placed the pointy paperclip carefully on my desk, inching backwards and glancing behind him in search of an escape route.

“Great!” I grinned. “I knew you’d see the light.”

My first success as a counsellor.

I have this method acting nailed.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

How to Cure Empty Nest Syndrome

“So… I guess I’ll see you in 12 months,” I sniffed into my airport cappuccino, smiling courageously through a frothy moustache and fogged up glasses.

“Why do you keep saying twelve months, mother?” my only daughter replied, sipping her caramel latte and tossing her long blonde hair with nonchalance. “I plan on staying in London for at least two years.”

Oh, the cruelty that slips so easily from those twenty-two-year-old lips, I thought.

Then, suddenly, she was gone.

I gloomily watched the back of her head on the escalator descending towards the security stations and waited for her to turn back with a tear-filled face and final wave of farewell.


She was laughing and chatting… with her friend.

As we drove home from the airport, I sat in a dismal cloud of despair. It was a Sunday which made it ten times worse because let’s face it, Sunday afternoons are as depressing as dog shit anyway. Just knowing that all I have to look forward to is ironing next week's work clothes can throw me into dark paroxysms of misery even without motherhood abandonment issues thrown in as well.

“Is it too soon to call her?” I pestered Scotto.

“The plane’s probably taxiing for take-off, Pinky. Her phone will be turned off.”

I sobbed in empty-nest agony and rang my father instead.

The feelings of desolation evaporated somewhat during the week.

My friend and colleague, Catherine-Mary, also had a son who was about to fly off to South America on a non-return ticket, so we commiserated.

"At least Lulu isn’t going to live in a country with soaring crime rates, over-zealous bandits and murderous mosquitoes that carry a disease causing women to have babies with extra small heads, like your son is!" I cheerily said to Catherine-Mary in order to reassure myself.

Besides, I had a plan.

I was going to London.


I’d go in September. A mere 6 months away! I could bear to wait six months to see my daughter again, couldn’t I?

Scotto and I, headed down the mountain to the closest travel agency the following Saturday to book airline tickets. I was on a mission and NOTHING could stop me.

As we scurried into the shopping mall in search of Flight Centre, something unusual caught my eye.

It was a pet shop.

In the window of the pet shop squirmed a litter of brown, mouse-like creatures.

Oxytocin oozed through my arteries like a snake. My womb ached. I almost lactated.

I dragged Scotto through the door.

“How much are those mouse-like creatures in the window?” I officiously queried of the pet shop person.

“Are you referring to the miniature dash-hounds?” she blinked.

“No, I'm referring to the miniature DACHSHUNDS,” I corrected.

“They’re 580 million dollars,” she replied, sniffing indifferently at the rude woman.

I hesitated. “Each?” I managed to ask in a falsetto, choked up voice.

She nodded wisely (quite wisely actually for someone who works in a pet shop and still doesn’t know how to pronounce ‘dachshund’).

“Oh,” I said, swallowing a piece of my tongue which I’d bitten off in shock. “Well, we can’t afford that because we have to buy plane tickets to go to London to see my daughter. Thanks anyway. Bye.”

Even I, am not stupid enough to pay that much for a dog. 

Besides, we were going to be overseas in London for three weeks in September and I couldn’t leave a puppy that young in the kennels, could I?

After we’d walked a dozen paces, I suddenly stopped, struck with the most brilliant, dazzlingly clever idea I’ve ever had in my life.

“Scotto!” I shouted in divine enlightenment. “Why don’t we go to London in December and have a white Christmas instead of going in September? Lulu will be more settled in then. She won’t be wanting her boring old mother rocking up to London as early as September, will she? I wouldn't want to be a helicopter mother! ” 

...    ...     ...      ...      ...      ...       ....        ...      ...        ...

The plane tickets turned out to cost much more in December than September… but that’s okay. And I like freezing cold weather. It's bracing and stimulating. Good for the pores.

And of course, Polly Pocket will be 11 months old in December so she’ll be fine to go in the boarding kennels by then. 

Saturday, February 23, 2019

I'm Finally Coming Out.

After 15 years of skulking in the wings of self-imposed theatrical retirement, I am finally treading the boards again.

I spotted a play audition notice in the local mountain rag and thought… why not?

Hahahaha… why farking not…

I forgot all about the laborious learning of lines business. I pushed the fact that I work 12-hour days to the back of my mind, and I certainly forgot that I am actually quite a wooden, hack of an actress.
I manage to bluff my way through auditions by using a loftily projected, false bravado, but the directors are usually highly disappointed when it comes to the actuality of any quality acting radiating out of my wizened and googly-eyed face.

So, now I’m to be found dawdling on the theatre doorstop at rehearsal time, eyes hanging out of my head after a long day, and barely able to speak, let alone pretend to act.

I’ve told Scotto he’s not allowed to come and see it. I told my parents not to bother as well.

I’m considering buying ALL the tickets so no one can come.

I’ve had to plough down a lot of ‘road closed’ signs along my neural motorways in a desperate attempt to memorise my lines.

Nothing is sticking. 

It’s like trying to stick the script lines to my brain with a cheap and crappy fridge magnet. Every time I open the fridge door the script falls off my brain and words scatter all over the floor.

I’ve recorded myself and play it over and over in the car; forcing that nasal, whining voice into my short-term memory banks.

I walked past a mirror in the dressing room the other night and jumped in fright. A pale, crumpled witch looked back at me. I’ve been starving myself for the last 5 months in an attempt to lose my pot belly.

(This was after a slightly deflating incident when my mother told me she was worried I had a giant tumour in my stomach and asked me if I thought I should go to the doctor about it. 

I had to reassure her that you can’t grab a tumour in two hands and wobble it around and make interesting animal shapes out of it and that no, I was just fat).

Naturally, the pot belly is still there but my face is now deflated and sagging and the loose skin on my arms is so flappy, I could quite easily complete a few aerial laps of the local mango orchard and roost upside down for the night in the branches.

Luckily, there’s a line in the play where I’m having my photograph taken and I have to say, “I’d better suck in my pot belly!”

I was probably typecast purely because of my tumescent gut.

I’m afraid I’ve damaged my memory corpuscles (or whatever) by all that alcohol I drank over the last 15 years.

What happens if I NEVER learn these bloody lines?

I’ll disgrace the mountain.

I’ll have to move towns and go into witness protection.

I’m freaking out. Are there any thespians out there who can give me some tips, apart from writing my lines out on my arms? (God knows there are enough crevices and crannies in my arms to record the bloody Good News Bible but I’d never be able to find them.)

Saturday, February 16, 2019

She'll Be Apples: A School Camp Story

“I’m perfectly happy to sit here for four hours doing nothing and we'll all miss out on the fun activities we have planned, until someone owns up,” my Year Six buddy teacher, Mrs V, declared in a commanding manner to the thirty-seven students on our school camp last week.

She was an unyielding iron statue. She would take no prisoners. Even I was full of unease.

We all nervously perched on chairs on the veranda, breath held, awaiting the guilty party to stumble forth, red-faced and remorseful.

Even I felt guilty, although I knew I was innocent.

At least I think I was.

No. I was.

I was definitely innocent.

We waited a long anxious few minutes for the devilish miscreant to reveal themselves.

Guilty looks exchanged under seventy-four fluttering sets of lashes.

Mrs. V sat; immovable and unblinking.

“I can understand that whoever it was, probably thought it would be a nice treat for the wildlife,” Mrs. V persisted in feigned compassion, “but this is NOT our house and we CAN NOT leave rubbish behind.”

But even this guileful tactic failed to lure the perpetrator into a public and possibly embarrassing confession.

We sat in tense silence. Feet timidly shuffled. Crickets chirruped.

I began to wonder if Mrs. V was serious about not doing the activities because, to be frank, I wouldn’t have minded sitting on the breezy veranda for four hours instead of running around in the hot sun playing a game of ‘cat and mouse’ with a bloody parachute.

“Three honest people have already owned up,” Mrs. V persevered. “That took a lot of courage. This last person needs to prove to us that they too, possess courage and leadership qualities…”

She was very good at what she was doing I’ll give her that. Drawing out the felon with flattery and sweet talk.

No one moved a muscle.

Mrs V retained her grim demeanour and I stood beside her, my arms crossed and wearing a pained, twitchy expression which was supposed to communicate extreme disappointment but was really from indigestion after scoffing my salad.

Of course, I knew we wouldn’t really sit there for four hours but I did speculate about how on Earth she was going to back down if nobody owned up.

There were four, random apple cores wantonly tossed over the veranda rails, during lunch.

Mrs. V had vowed not to budge until the final culprit had come clean, and evidently, this was not going to happen any time before Christmas.

That’s the trouble with threats. You have to be prepared to go through with them. I was glad it was her and not me.

Finally, a little boy stood up and a collective sigh spread through the throng.

It was tiny Horatio.

Out of all the students presently ensconced on the veranda with their saucer-like eyes bulging in apprehension at Mrs. V, tiny Horatio was the last I would have suspected of such a devious crime.

“Mrs. V,” he lisped sorrowfully. “It wasn’t me, but I’d like to go downstairs and pick up the apple core and put it in the bin for you.”

I could almost see the relief flood out of Mrs. V’s body. She’d been given a get out of jail free card.

“Thank you, Horatio,” she said pointedly. “Now everyone, go to the toilet and meet up in the hall so we can start our activities...”

“We could get the apple core tested for DNA,” I suggested helpfully as the kids all rushed off in excitement in search of water bottles.

Mrs V pointed up at the security cameras and grinned broadly. 
“We could tell them we just had a call from Security saying that they have a film of four children throwing apple cores over the railings.”

“We could say the police are inspecting the footage right now,” I added gleefully.


The things you think of after the fact, eh.

Monday, January 28, 2019

When School Holidays Are Over

After a long, enjoyable break, work at school begins tomorrow and the kids will arrive en masse, the following day.

I’m sure Scotto will be relieved to see the back of me. I’ve noticed him striding around the house with an extra jaunty spring in his step. He’s smiling more broadly and it’s almost as if a huge burden of irritation has lifted from his shoulders. It could be false bravado, I suppose. Maybe he'll miss me.

I, however, will miss the freedom.

I’m distressed I will have to revert to wearing a bra every day for a start. Sigh.

All of us teachers went into school last week for an update on our First Aid training.

The ambulance guy brought in about twenty mannequins in body bags which we were required to ‘resuscitate’.

“This is as close as I’m going to get to the real thing,” quipped my mate, Mrs M., as she bent over lasciviously in order to lock lips with the overgrown Ken doll.

As a longstanding hypochondriac, I always feel a bit dizzy and squeamish when ambulance instructors start on their spiel. This gentleman mentioned that when applying cardiac massage, one should aim for the area dead centre on the chest and aligned with the nipples. 

This would pose a snag should I ever require resuscitating as, if I happen to be lying on my back, my nipples will be located somewhere under my armpits and no one will be able to find them.

He also stressed that if the patient tries to push you away when delivering mouth to mouth, you should stop at once. This makes sense to me because, clearly, if the patient is pushing you away then they are conscious and don’t need the ‘kiss of life’. The ambulance man really emphasised this point though and seemed to focus on Mrs M. when he was saying it.

Later, after we’d stacked all the body bags up in the hallway, the ambulance man made us resuscitate some ‘baby’ mannequins. As he stood, patiently explaining all about how defibrillators should NOT be used on babies OR used to charge a flat car battery, there was an almighty bang and clatter in the hallway which made us all jump out of our skins.

“That’ll be my fella getting a bit restless,” remarked Mrs M. wryly.

Every few minutes, the menacing noise in the hallway would start up again. It was creepy. At least it wasn’t the baby mannequins coming alive though. That would have been beyond terrifying. I’d much rather have a zombie male torso eating me alive than a zombie baby. Babies are frightening when they have teeth.

After we finished First Aid, we popped up to our classrooms. 

I wandered into my buddy teacher’s room and noticed, in immediate dismay; the colourful bunting, the psychedelic, inspirational posters, the freshly sewn curtains, scented candles and a general ambiance which brings to mind a room Mary Poppins might have personally decorated.

Seriously, a laminator vomited all over her room.

In comparison, my room has no bunting, there are overflowing boxes everywhere and I can’t find my rubbish bin. It also stinks because someone left a banana skin in a desk which has sat in the closed up room, baking in a Queensland heatwave.

Tomorrow is going to be a busy day but like most procrastinating fools, I work well under pressure.

I just hope I don’t work myself into a heart attack.

But if I do… remember, the nipples are under the armpits.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Keeping the Mystery Alive in a Marriage

On our way back from kayaking today, we drove past the Wallaby Retreat, situated on Bambling Road, Wonglepong. 

Is that a whimsical address or what?

Scotto was driving and we were listening to my playlist on Spotify.

One of my new year’s resolutions was to listen to more music instead of poisoning my mind with mindless podcasts about mindfulness. I've wasted two years listening to drivel.

In order to compile this playlist, I had to look up ideas on Google because I’ve forgotten about music and what my taste is.

“What music do I like?” I typed into the search engine.

It wasn’t very helpful. I knew there was one song I liked. When we were on holiday, I’d heard it blasting out of a hip café in Queenstown, overflowing with tanned, youthfully athletic people.

“Ooooh, I like this song,” I’d squealed at Scotto, swinging my pelvis around in a risqué fashion as we’d walked past the café. “I wonder what that song is?”

“It’s Justin Bieber,” Scotto sighed, grabbing me by the waist in an attempt to terminate my flashy, public swivelling before someone called the Queenstown zoo-keepers.

“How can it be Justin Bieber?” I asked incredulously. “It’s in Spanish!”

“It’s Despacito,” Scotto replied dully, his eyes frantically searching the horizon for a souvenir shop because he was on a mission to buy a cheap, waterproof jacket with ‘I’ve been to New Zealand’ on it.

I felt a thrilling sensation run across my caesarean scar when Scotto said the word, ‘despacito’. It made him sound extremely sensual. I find accents to be a bit erotic, especially Spanish.

‘Despacito’ was obviously the very first song I added to my playlist. 

But that, dear reader, was not the end of it. I got it into my head that it would be a good idea to LEARN all the words and surprise Scotto by suddenly singing the entire song in Spanish, dazzling him with my enigmatic, intangible qualities.

My daughter, Lulu, is a huge fan of Justin Bieber. She was in Japan on holidays with her boyfriend, Jock, so I Facebook messaged her.

‘Have you heard this song by the Biebster? I LOVE IT! You have to listen to it Lulu!’

She replied with a laconic, “It’s about two years old, mother.”

Anyway, I spent an entire secretive afternoon playing the song on repeat with the printed-out lyrics in front of me. As soon as I’d master one line, I’d move on to another. But by the time I’d memorised the second line, I’d forgotten the first.

Clearly, I am too old to be learning Despacito.

When it came up on the playlist in the car as we were driving along today, I did my best to sing along, just in case anything had sunk in. All I could manage was to sing out ‘CITO’ at the end of every line because every word at the end of a line does actually finish with the syllable, ‘CITO’. So that was something.

I don’t think Scotto noticed anything intangible about me though.