Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Letter C

It’s the end of a long week and a few of us gathered at our friend Anthony’s apartment for drinks and take-away. The following conversation then unfolded between a grant writer, a bank teller and a prep teacher.

Me: I worked on three proposals today worth about $450,000.

Sarah: I completed about 20 settlements.

Anthony: I taught the letter C.

Hahaha, we all laughed, mostly at Anthony’s expense. Clearly, Sarah and I were both busy dealing with major transactions while Anth had the delightful job of controlling little people who will accidentally glue their homework to the desk and occasionally still wet themselves.

No, thank you.

But what happens when one of us no longer does our job properly? Let’s have a think about it. If I screwed up my job, the gallery would be $450,000 short of its exhibition budget which would suck for a lot of people. If Sarah screwed up, there would probably be some rather shitty property buyers, vendors and solicitors. But if Anthony didn’t do his job properly, HE WOULD BE DENYING CHILDREN THE GIFT OF THE LETTER C. A generation of hildren ould go through life missing a vital piee of the alphabet puzzle. No pressure.

Sure, on paper many of us might strut around looking and sounding important. But I know for a fact I could not do my job without the letter C. Or any other letter for that matter.

So, can we please better support our teachers? Surround them with the best resources, invest in world-class training and pay them generously. Teachers give each of us the building blocks to become our best selves. Back our teachers because their role in the community is vital for anyone with ambitions of becoming a writer, banker or virtually any other job that exists.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A proud Melburnian’s guide to being a crappy host


Last month, a group of friends came to visit Melbourne. Three from London and one from Adelaide. We had all worked together at Prostate Cancer UK once upon a time. Surely, there are few things less daunting in life than entertaining a bunch of well-travelled, heat-fearing Brits. Adelaidians, on the other hand, I am less fearful of. My beautiful friend from Adelaide is impressed by a yarn-bombed tree and the sight of more than three cafes in a row.

I had the self-imposed challenge of devising a fun-fuelled schedule that showed off the best of Melbourne and had the perfect balance of history, culture and booze. Excel spreadsheets may have been involved.

I have always suspected that my interests in Melbourne differ from many people’s interests in life. ‘Hey, look! Evidence of Melbourne’s earliest public underground toilets. They’re in disuse now but have been heritage listed,’ I said to no one because NO ONE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WOULD BE INTERESTED IN THIS SHIT. LITERALLY. Instead, I took them to Madam Brussels, a bar named after the renowned nineteenth century brothel owner, filled them with jugs of cocktails and told them about Melbourne’s sordid history of prostitution. History AND booze. Tick and tick. Later in the week, we also visited Seamstress for cocktails and a snapshot into the early twentieth century sweatshops and migrant workers who populated the north-east corner of the city, and Croft Institute where they discovered my fetish for syringes and realised there is actually no historical reference for this creepy laboratory set-up at the end of the bin-lined alleyway.

Occasionally, Australians like to make up stories for tourists. Drop bears, anyone? I don’t do that. But I’m not above making stories more colourful (or crass) for my audience. As we drove down the Great Ocean Road, towards the Twelve Apostles, I couldn’t wait to reach Loch Ard Gorge, the real gem of the shipwreck coast. There I could tell my favourite story, of the shipwreck Loch Ard and her two sole survivors, Tom Pearce and Eva Carmichael.

The Loch Ard sailed from England in 1878. After months at sea and within just days of reaching its destination, Melbourne, the ship clipped the reef at Mutton Bird Island and went under in just minutes. Tom, the 18-year-old apprentice, was a strong swimmer and made it to safety. He later went back into the water and saved the young lady Eva. They sheltered in the cave within the Gorge, had hot steamy sex, then Tom ascended the cliffs to get help.

Did you spot the bit I added in for effect? No, I didn’t fool anyone on the day either.

The offending bug
Later that night, the five of us bunked at a motel in Port Campbell where we encountered our first giant bug in the room. I was the lucky one who spotted it and the first one on the bed screaming for dear life, leaving my already insect-mauled friend Sachin to try and catch the bastard with the motel supplied teacup. In my defence, it was a massive and very predatory looking bug. The perception that Australians live in rugged landscapes surrounded by some of the most deadly creatures in the world? Shattered in a matter of moments. I believe that’s karma for all the drop bear fibs I told over the years.


What surprised me, though, are the kinds of things that tourist agencies tell tourists, with the pure motive, I suspect, to make those of us who live here look stupid. Like when my friend Natasha asked to see the place that was inspired by one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The what? You know, she said, that huge thing that is on a hill in the park and its design was based on one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. The WHAT? We saw it on top of the Eureka Tower and it’s in the middle of the park and next to this music stage and the voiceover man said it was based on one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS?

She was referring to the Shrine of Remembrance and, apparently, its design was based on the Mausoleum at Whatshisface. Who else knew about this? I demand to know. I told Natasha that no one in Melbourne knows this fact and therefore it’s not worth knowing. If she wanted to go to the Shrine she should’ve just said so and called it the Shrine.

Yes, I’m a delightful host.

I guess I can count on no one ever visiting me again.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A recent conversation at Melbourne Airport Europcar

Europcar guy: So that blue one's yours?

Me: Yep

Europcar guy: What's your rego?

Me: It starts with Y

Europcar guy: And the make?

Me: Sorry?

Europcar guy: Toyota Camry?

Me: Umm...

Europcar guy: Yaris?

Me: Oh, yes. That one.

Europcar guy: Do you know anything about your car?

Me: His name is Andi?

Awkward silence.

My Andi, next to his best mate Clive.

Monday, March 4, 2013

When you live overseas, people expect you to shit rainbows

Seriously. If you’re 20-something with a small savings, a HECs debt that’s not about to bother you and a dozen spare couches around the world from Facebook friends whose last names you’re unlikely to remember because they’ve changed their display name to Zozo Pozo, then the world is your oyster. Whether you like seafood or not.

You’re expected to take goofy pictures holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa, do a star jump at the sun gate overlooking Machu Picchu, or be inappropriate in front of an erotic statue. You get a taste of snow in winter and complain about slipping on the black ice before posting a photo on Facebook of you and the giant snowman you built the very next day before going inside to eat lots of cheese. You casually brag that you walked past Sienna Miller on your way out of the Wolseley having high tea. You sleep at the airport and eat crackers for dinner as a ‘growing’ experience and to save money on a night’s accommodation to find you have the best night in a long time.

Yeah, ok, these were all pretty cool and definitely made it to the scrap book.

But I don’t remember putting on Facebook the week I had gastro, back pain and a migraine that lasted three days straight and there was no one to look after me or point me to the nearest GP. Or point out that you need to be registered at a GP before they can even see you. Or the time I hadn’t seen the sun for almost a month in November, at the beginning of my first harsh London winter, and I got so depressed I almost booked a flight home on the spot. Or the many times I received emails from friends who got married, separated, fell seriously ill, lost family members. Those were the hardest times where I felt most helpless and useless and distant.

And then there are the occasions where you could be standing somewhere magnificent, breathtaking, and all your instincts tell you to breathe in this moment and get lost in the euphoria. But all you can muster is a sense of underwhelm or, worse, indifference. No disrespect to Majorca. It’s not you, it’s me. When you catch yourself thinking a little too much, or just enough, why you’re even here? What’s the point of it all? What are you trying to find and can it be found inside a gelati cone?

You go to work and you leave. You battle the London Tube. You make 12 pounds an hour. Less than half of what you would back home. You decide whether to buy the cheaper milk or the cheaper cleaning detergent or the cheaper both and a bottle of Tesco wine. You sit on the couch with your housemate watching the fourth episode of Come Dine With Me in a row surrounded by filth because your other housemate is a dirty boy who leaves his shit everywhere and draws the occasional penis on things. Which is excusable because the fourth one picks his nose and leaves his nail clippings by the couch for you to discover.

Sometimes we forget to report on the ordinary. Mothers do it all the time. ‘Look! Little Timmy is watching a pigeon. Here’s an album with 60 photos and a video I uploaded to YouTube.’ And worse, we feel we can’t talk about the shit parts. Not when we’re overseas and supposedly having fun fun fun. But that just means the next person feels the added pressure of having the time of their fucking lives and any departure from that, even momentarily, is something to be ashamed of and hidden. Not true. Everyone is human and everyone’s lives are a bit messy. No matter where you are in the world, you’re allowed to – and expected to – have highs and lows and fun bits and sad bits and moments where you might question your very existence. If something really doesn’t feel right, move on, make a change. But if you’re just not in a constant state of appreciation and joy, well, take comfort in knowing that you’re probably just like everyone else who’s slept on that bunk bed before you. You’re normal.