Tuesday, June 14, 2016

would you mind coming with me, miss...

When I was young, stupid and virile - yes, girls can be virile too - my friend and I got quite drunk and went to the diviest nightclub in town at 2 am. It was called Stilettos and over the door was a neon sign that said Stilettos in the shape of a shoe (I guess that's in case you thought they meant the blade). 

Inside, they had one of those new-fangled lighted disco floors. It looked a lot like this: 


Except the people were wasted and their clothes were not nearly so nice.

My friend and I decided we didn't want to put down our beer glasses as we danced on the new-fangled floor with one arm keeping the beat above our heads.

The Stilettos bouncers decided they didn't want us to dance with one arm above our heads whilst waving a big beer glass over the new-fangled lighted disco floor with the other hand. 

We thought they were party poopers.

My friend, a very tall woman with a loud mouth when intoxicated, was vocal about the differing desires of ourselves and the owners of the new-fangled lighted  disco floor. After a verbal altercation, she was frog-marched out the front door with her arm twisted up behind her back by a large bouncer while I had no choice but to follow along meekly since I am short and no threat at all to an ex-SAS soldier.

 (well, that's what he looked like anyhow) 

My friend and I would laugh every time we thought about it for years afterward; how the hell did we manage to get ourselves thrown out of the place with the lowest behavioural standards in the entire world, a place where people go to drink and dance, and for what heinous crime were we ejected? Why, drinking and dancing, of course. 

I also got kicked out of a fitness class last year. That was pretty funny. 

Basically the instructor was fresh out of 20 years as an army Warrant Officer and he hadn't quite adjusted to the fact that we civilians were not going to hop to his every command as soon as he made it. 

Have you seen Major Payne? 

I am kind of a 'free spirit' at the best of times, but try barking in my face at 6 am when I'm wearing trackies. 

No good can ever come of it.

Check out my novel: http://www.amazon.com/The-Anzac-Girl-ebook/dp/B004VS7I8E

Friday, October 9, 2015

my worst job ever...


Image result for bootmen final dance

It was the worst and also the shortest. It was on a line at a scalloping factory. I was sixteen.

To get this fantastic position, I stood outside the scalloping factory at 6 am. The Man came around at 6:30ish for a 7 am start and pointed to about 10 of us. We all marched inside, then we were lined up along a conveyor belt and told to pick off the Bad Scallops as they went past us. I had never actually seen a scallop before, so I really wasn't sure what the difference between a Bad Scallop and a Good Scallop was and so, I asked. The Man told me to ask the woman next to me. I did. Unfortunately, the woman next to me didn't speak English. I turned to the woman on the other side of me. She didn't speak English either.

A terrible mechanical sound began suddenly, so loud you literally could not hear yourself shout. I know this to be true because later in the morning I tried it, with mixed results. A disgusting looking belt began its 10 hour long journey, round and round, carrying scallops through the production line before plopping them into cans at the end.

Did I mention that I hate seafood? Did I mention that the smell was utterly rank? There were four of us in the Picking Off The Bad Scallops section and I observed what the others were doing in order to better understand what a Bad Scallop might look like. Please, don't ask me because I don't remember - I've blotted the details out of my mind. The sound tore at my ear drums, the scallops shells cut through my rubber gloves, the smell kept my tummy in a state of constant alert, as if it were saying, 'Now? Did you want me to hurl now?' But well, I'm smart. After a short while, I figured it all out and I was picking those Bad Scallops off that belt like I was born to it.

I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned this before, but I'm a compulsive singer. I sing ALL THE TIME. I had a friend at school who used to punch me in the shoulder and say, 'Stop. Fucking. Singing!' at least once a week. So once I'd got a rhythm going and felt I could eradicate those Bad Scallops without having to think too much, what do you suppose I did? I began to sing. Really, really loud, because as I mentioned earlier, I couldn't hear myself over the machinery. I don't remember what I was singing but taking into consideration the year and the place and the shoutiness required, it was very probably KISS's I-I-I want to Rock'n'roll all night... AND PARTY EVERY DAY!

I don't know how long I did this for but I do know that everybody on that production line went off into their own little world as they attended to the scallops and their canning. I checked, you see, as I began to sing. I checked to see if anyone would see me and think poorly of me, perhaps even punch me in the shoulder like my school friend, Robyn, used to. But no, nobody cared, they were all off in whatever place it was that allowed them to endure the scallop line.

So, I really got into it. It helped a lot to be able to sing really loud knowing nobody could hear me. It made it almost bearable. Until, smoko time when all the machinery cut out with a single switch bringing sudden, utter silence.

Well, silence except for me shouting a Kiss song at the top of my lungs, of course. I don't know how many words I sang into that deafening void. It doesn't matter - one was too many. Every head in that dark grey factory swung to look at me like The Terminator hearing the name Sarah Connor. I have done some crazy things in my life and I have been looked at like I was an total nut many times. But never like this. NEVER. LIKE. THIS.

I then made a fatal mistake, but hey, I was 16 years old and as yet, had not seen Bootmen or The Full Monty, both of which clearly demonstrate what a working class person should do when caught in this kind of situation. The best course of action is to sing even louder and start leaping all over machinery whilst making jazz hands.

Alas, I froze like a sea-wombat caught in the navigation lights of a scalloping boat.

I thought I knew what humiliation tasted like. I thought being the new kid at half a dozen separate schools had shown me the sharp edge of social disapproval. That was child's play. Those scalloping women were not amused, not even slightly, by my anti-social facsimile of joy. I looked around at those bleak angry faces and was overwhelmed by a visceral experience that can best be expressed by these words: GET ME OUT OF HERE NOW OR I WILL DIE.

I made my way to the toilet and sat down on the closed lid. What was I going to do? I couldn't stay there the rest of the day. I just couldn't. I couldn't tell the boss that I couldn't stay there for the rest of the day because I was about a month out of school and I thought the rules were the same.

That is, that if I went to him and said, 'Hey, I've changed my mind about this job and I'm going home,' he would behave like a teacher and say, 'Oh, no, you're not. You will finish this day and then when it's done, you'll go to the office and write fifty times 'I must not sing on the production line'. Anyhow, my traumatically embarrassed sixteen year old brain came up with the only sensible solution - I stood on the cistern and pushed open the high toilet window.

Being young and agile, I slithered out like a snake and ran across the back yard of the factory and out the back gate. This took me into a strange, urban no-man's-land of warehouses and 6 foot wire fences. I kept running. Just like Forrest Gump. I don't know why. I guess I thought they could do something to make me go back.

Yeah. I was a weird kid. Some would say that the only thing that's changed is that if it happened today, I wouldn't have a hope of getting out that window.


Check out my novel, The Anzac Girl, on Amazon: 
The Anzac Girl

Friday, October 25, 2013

Bob Dylan and me

I spend a lot of time on my favourite website Quora. It's a question and answer site and today someone asked this question: 

What is the most memorable sound that you have heard in person? 


This is my answer:


Bob Dylan playing Like A Rolling Stone in about 2008 in Melbourne. 





Melbourne is at the other end of the country from me and I didn't have a lot of money, but when I heard he was touring - a very rare thing here in Australia - I decided I was going. I paid plane fares, a week's holiday in a St Kilda unit and about 200 bucks for a Gold Section ticket which put me about 6 rows away from the stage. 

It was a high point in my life. That may sound a bit sad, but I have loved Bob Dylan's music since I was 16. I'm a country-folk singer/songwriter myself and Dylan is my musician the way The North QLD Cowboys are my football team - only moreso. 

I found the whole experience emotionally moving. After he'd left the stage, despite the outcrying of ENCOREENCORE, the lights went down and there was worry that maybe he wouldn't be back. He's notoriously unpredictable in his stage performances.The audience had nearly given up and the cheering had begun to die away. 

But then, there was a shuffling around on the stage and the first bars of Like A Rolling Stone came out of the darkness and I got tears in my eyes. 

I remember quite distinctly thinking, 'That's Bob Dylan, right there, playing Like A Rolling Stone.' 

I dreamed about him that night. He was in the crowd with me as I walked away from the venue, walking next to me as if he were just one of the other concert goers. He said quietly, in that raspy American twang of his, 'I'm really glad you finally got to see me play.' 

I took his elbow like we were on a date and said, 'Me too.'



 

Check out my novel: The Anzac Girl

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

If a UFO offered to take you into space, would you go?

                            

I wouldn't. No. 

If I'd been abducted before I was 22 and had my first child, I would probably have shouted, 'Beam me up FASTER, Scotty.' But no, certainly not now. 


My father always told us that he would go in a heartbeat if he could, no matter what the cost and I believe him; I don't think he would balk were he put on the spot. If aliens, or some secret government program, needed an eccentric old guy who'd spent a lot of years tinkering in his garage on a perpetual motion machine and asked him along, he would be like, 'Can I just tell my wife where I'm going?'


And they would be like, 'I'm sorry, sir, but that's classified.'


And he would be like, 'No worries - she'll understand.' 


I'm pretty sure she would, too.

How about you? 


Check out my novel: The Anzac Girl

Thursday, July 18, 2013

my name is Christine and I am a footy-head...

There's something my friends should know about me: I like rugby league football. 


When I say I like rugby league, that's not entirely true. I like to watch my home team play and I like the State of Origin. The game itself is kind of weird - homo erotic but with a culture of denial regarding this that borders on the homophobic. It is filled with incredibly BUILT young men most of whom remind me of Pooh - they are bears of very little brain and long words bother them. 

The game that I now describe took place some years ago, but it has always stuck in my brain because my team, the North Queensland Cowboys had made it into the finals and I was there to witness it.

What can I say except...

COW-BOYS! COW-BOYS! COW-BOYS!

On this particular night, my three footy-head friends and I got tickets for the first semi final. It was a grudge match against the Bulldogs.

What can I say except...

BOO! BOO! BOO! THE DOGGIES.

The Doggies are the dirtiest team in the league. Everybody agrees - except Doggie fans, of course.

The Cowboys are the shining outsiders - most of the teams are based in Sydney, filled with city and suburban lads. But the Cowboys hail from the Far North of the country, where men are men and women eat their young. Several of our star players grew up on remote indigenous communities.

In particular, there are these two cousins, God love 'em - gorgeous young guys, shy of the press, but always smiling, raised together in a community called Hopevale right up on the pointy bit of Oz where few but traditionally raised Aboriginal people and Steve Irwin types venture. When they play together, they are psychic - each knows exactly what the other is going to do next and you can see that everyday of their childhood was spent running around barefoot in the backyard throwing a footy to each other.

So our trip to the footy has been arranged all week. Usually we watch it on H's big screen TV. You get a better view of the game on telly - everyone knows that. BUT you get the atmosphere when you go to the ground.

H got the tickets early in the week. Section 333, seats 1,2,3 and 4 in row X of the southern most grandstand. Hmmm... That didn't sound so good.

We rendezvous at H's place at 17:00 hours. I am dressed in a navy and white shirt with a grey windcheater.

But the Cowboy colours are navy, white grey and yellow.

I have no yellow!

Damn! I feel naked. I am a BAD Cowboy supporter. 

We jump in H's car - she is a freak, and has an actual Cowboys jersey on and carries flags and signs and bemoans the sad fact that she didn't have time to paint her face.

We drive to the shopping centre nearest the ground to stand in an orderly queue of similarly dressed people and wait to fill the buses which leave one after the other to take us to the ground.

Everyone is excited but nervous. You'd think we, ourselves, were playing. I get a little people buzz on - I'm not someone who enjoys crowds for the sake of it but a football crowd is exciting to be in. You soak it in. The old guys who played footy in their youth, the middle aged women who have lost their sense of decorum and no longer feel embarrassed to want to watch their favourite gladiators run into battle and best of all the little kids, clutching their flags and bouncing on the seats like they need to pee. Here and there, on the buses, small brave pockets of resistance fighters - lone Doggies supporters in sky blue and white, some so loyal, they have traveled across the country for one game of footy.

Once at the ground, we went forth on the long trek to find section 333, row x, seats 1,2,3 and 4. Well. We are in the very top row at the very far corner of the furthest stand. 

Surprisingly, that's okay. That means we can beat on the corrugated iron backing of the stand when we get really excited - it makes a sound like thunder. There's a giant screen to watch the close action on. When the fireworks go off, they are at eye level with us. Fantastic.

In in front of us, a row of foreign tourists sits down. I think they are a business delegation or something similar. There's a couple of Brits, an Irish guy, a Norwegian woman, an Aussie and an American.
The round, baldy, yet somehow redheaded, Irish guy spends the game very knowledgeably and seriously explaining the rules of the game to everyone else. 

Except he is wrong on almost every point he makes! It's hilarious. The others all nod politely, still basically confused about why they have to pass the ball backwards in order to move forward.

And the crowd goes wild.

Every time Big Willie Mason, the meanest player for the Doggies and the villain of the piece, touches the ball, the crowd erupts in primal booing and hissing and catcalling.

Every time little Matty Bowen, one of the cousins I told you about earlier, touches the ball, the cheers and the whistles and the stamping of the crowd vibrates in the air around us.

When Big Willie Mason puts a vicious and illegal hit on Little Matty Bowen, venomous emotions rise up and hover like a black cloud over the arena. Matty gets slowly to his feet and stretches and jogs a little in place to show us he is recovered and the noise is palpable. My friend says, "Good old Matty, all he has to do is stand up and we love him twice as much all over again!"

I used to resist this type of experience. I didn't want to be part of the hoi polloi. I didn't want to be one those stamping hordes brought up or down in mood even for a moment by the passage of an oval shaped ball propelled around a smallish oblong by teams of bears of very little brain wearing different coloured clothes.

And sometimes I still don't like it much as a characteristic of human nature in general and me in particular; that we can get so engaged in a game and yet can't work up a puff of outrage against the things in life that could really use some of our passion - hunger, injustice, inequality and so on...

But, well, you know, it's the footy.

Anyway... WE WON! With three minutes to go, Little Matty Bowen stopped a try by tackling a bloke 6 inches taller than him about six inches from the line!

COW-BOYS! COW-BOYS! COW-BOYS!

And so we progress in the finals - I can almost taste our first premiership!

5 years later...

Still waiting. 


Check out my novelThe Anzac Girl

Monday, July 15, 2013

Is that a spaceship in your backyard, or did you just have one too many rumbos?



When I was young and foolish and drank A LOT, I went out one night with my brother and, well, drank A LOT. It was around Christmas;  back then, both he and I always went home to stay with my parents for a week. 

We got separated at one of the night spots and I went off home by myself, quite a few stations past pleasantly tipsy, but pulling up short of blind, legless maggotted. 

It all seemed so uneventful as I crept up the dark front stairs (read banged back and forward from one wall to the other), tiptoed across the lounge room (damn, why is it so hard to tiptoe in wooden platform shoes?) and genteely prepared myself for a well deserved slumber (ripped off my clothes, felt around in the dark for my jarmies, whisper-shouted, 'Fuck it' when I couldn't find them and dropped onto to the bed like a bag of wet cement). 

How lucky were my long retired parents, that I was such a considerate drunk?

I fell asleep. 

And then I woke up. It was still very dark so it couldn't have been too long since I got home. I looked out the bedroom window and was amazed to see, in the field just beyond the neighbour's backyard, the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. 

No. Seriously. I'm telling you. It was fracking gorgeous; huge, round and glowing. I couldn't believe my eyes. I rose from my bed and went to the window for a better look. I sat on the window sill and looked at it, out there in the dark, its light reflected off my rapturous face. 

I decided to go out to investigate further and swivelled my legs up and over the window sill. I put one foot on the ground outside, still unable to take my eyes off that wondrous gizmo. I put my other other foot down on the ground and then... 

I began to fall. 

And then I really woke up. 


There was no goddamn ground. There was no field beyond the neighbour's yard. There was no magic glowing thingummyjig for me to go look at. My parents' house was a two story and I had been upstairs, but I was now rapidly approaching ground floor. I distinctly remember thinking as I fell, 'Oh, you stupid bitch.' 

I hit the ground in my mother's rock garden, bum first, legs tucked up as though I was bombing someone in a swimming pool and, well, of course, that was no fun. 

But how lucky am I? I wasn't broken in any drastic way that I could sense and anyhow, any physical discomfort I was feeling was soon replaced with the emotional pain of realising I couldn't get back into the house. Because of my drunken impatience, I had whisper-shouted Fuck it at my jarmies, which of course left me naked in my parents' side yard at around 2 am on Christmas Eve. 

I soon realised there was nothing for it but to run around to my parents front yard, up the front steps and pound on the front door until one of my parents answered it. I was obviously still very drunk because this was not nearly as distressing as it should have been. I actually felt pretty nonchalant about it. 

So, I did all that - but how lucky am I? When I got around the front, it was apparent my brother had come home after me and was even drunker than I, for he conveniently left the front door open. I ran inside, found my jarmies this time and fell fast asleep again. 

I woke up in the morning and the magic painkilling effects of the dark overlord, Fourex Heavy*, had worn off and well, I hurt. Everywhere. But mostly in my bum. 

I limped out to the kitchen where my mother stood at the stove, cooking breakfast, her lips pursed. I called it her cat's bum face, which wasn't very nice but she seemed to wear it every time I went out drinking. Also, instead of speaking in complete sentences, she grunted a lot. Such is the price you pay for drinking to excess under your parents' roof.

I went up and stood beside her. 'Guess what I did last night?' 

'Grunt.'

'I sleepwalked'

'Grunt.'

'Out my window.' 

'Grunt.' 

She stopped, spatula frozen in mid-scrambled-egg-stir, as what I'd said sunk in.'You what?!?'

We went to have a look out the window, silent as we stared down at the spot where Mum's beautiful flowers lay in a crushed and mangled heap, like some demented crop circle approximately the size of my bum. 

But how lucky was I? Less than a foot away from where I landed after falling out of a second story window, was a half metre tall metal stake marking off the corner of my mother's garden. 

How. Bloody. Lucky. Was. I. Shudder. 

Anyway, I tried to get by without seeing the doctor, but by late afternoon the pain in my lower back had become excruciating and I took myself off to the local hospital's emergency room. 

The doctor was a nice efficient young woman who didn't raise an eyebrow when I told her how I'd injured myself. I left out the part about seeing something beautiful that may or may not have been a flying saucer and just went with the old narcoleptic stroll out a very high window explanation. 

She had me x-rayed and sure enough I'd broken my tail-bone but there was nothing to be done for it but rest. She gave me pain-killers and saw me to the door. As I was walking out, she looked me right in the face, totally deadpan and said, 'So, what really happened?' 

It's worth noting here that I never ever slept in anything less than full dress again. 


* A potent strain of Australian bitter beer


Check out my novel: The Anzac Girl

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Do you mind if someone tells you how a movie ends?


Yes, I mind. Sometimes I mind a lot.

There are different levels of minding, but generally, unless the person asks me specifically, 'Do you want to know what happens in the end?' and I say 'Yes, tell me, please', well, yeah, I mind. 


Level 1 Minding: Movies I'm not interested in. I don't want to see the movie anyhow and the spoiler is one of those sad people who can't help but tell you the entire film, beat for beat. 


Jeez, people, I didn't want to see it up on the big screen, professionally made - I certainly don't want to listen to it told in your drunken slurring, punctuated by um, ah, you betcha and ka-BOOM!


Level 2 Minding: Movies I am interested in. This happens when I'm with a group of others who have seen the film and are so enthusiastic, they blurt out major plot points or even the ending before I can put my hands over my ears and shout, 'Lalala!' I still hate this but I consider it a crime of passion - tragic, but occasionally unavoidable given the circumstances.


Level 3 Minding: I am with someone who is a compulsive movie spoiler, who knows I want to see the film and yet can't help but tell me what happens. It makes them feel like they know something I don't. I shun these ego maniacs anytime there's a big release coming that I want to see. 


Level 4 Minding: The person who quite simply gets a sadistic kick out of telling you the ending. They also blab the football score to people who have to work during the  Big Game, before they get a chance to watch a re-run. 



There is a Spoiler's Hell awaiting these Devil Spawn. In it, they are super-glued to a cramped vinyl seat in a perpetual rerun of Battlefield Earth. There's a lady with a crying baby that has crapped its nappy on one side, a man with B.O. and halitosis on the other, someone with no teeth and a bottomless bucket of popcorn behind and a woman with a Guiness Book of Records winning bouffant in front.

Check out my novel: The Anzac Girl