Sunday, April 27, 2014

Boo!

So, I have a bit of an embarrassing admission to make.

I know it’s not the norm, or cool, or mature.

I love being scared.

In fact, often, when my housemate, Bek Sibenaler  jumps out from the door she’s been hiding behind for 15 minutes and screams at me and scares that absolute shit out of me, I screech a little, but then I jump around clapping my hands and laughing like I’ve just won Tattslotto. I’ve been known to yell “YAAAY!” Who the fuck says “yay”?
It’s not just that the adrenalin is pumping and everything just got REALLY EXCITING, it’s that the surprise makes me really really happy. Sometimes when I get a little tired or bored during the day- like during assembly- I re-live the experience in my head, and find myself grinning ear to ear and making a quiet little clap. Which must look odd to the kids, I just hope the unlikely hope that the principal has said something worthy of a golf applause.

As a mature, responsible woman with years of experience and insight, I’d like to blame this weird fetish on my parents.

Firstly; The Man From The Moors.

We had a fabulous freedom growing up in a small country town. My cousins and I would walk back and forth from my nan n pop’s to home and my brother, friends and I would just roam around trying to cause havoc where none was to found. My dad had an old army coat and horrible mask that he would don if he knew there were any night wonderings, especially if my aunt was involved – he and his brothers liked nothing more than to scare her. He would jump out at us yelling and turn us all into soft piles of scrambled intestines on the ground. I loved it so much. Apparently, when asked what I wanted for my 6th birthday party, I asked for “The Man From The Moors”.  I hadn’t figured out it was dad. So there were10 or so little girls sitting around the table outside in the Autumn sun, enjoying fairybread n chocolate crackles, when out jumped The Man From The Moors. I am told that amidst the screams and upturned chairs that I remained in my seat, clapping and yelling; “He’s here!”

Growing up, my parents often had social gatherings. They involved cards and cool snacks and alcohol and music and we kids were allowed to do what ever we wanted to keep ourselves entertained. This usually involved Star Wars or scary movies- the small town of Rochester was brewing quite the bunch of little Sci Fi Goths. I managed to get through some of the scariest films of all time before I hit my teens: Amityville Horror, Exorcist, The Omen series. When the gatherings were at my grandmother’s, my cousins and I would sit up and watch all the old black and white vampire and werewolf films until we passed out, exhausted by prolonged suspense scenes.

I continued into my teen years loving scary stuff. It is the justified stereotyped condition of teenage girls to be fascinated by vampires and Lost Boys fed that nicely. Birthday parties lying around in the dark watching Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street and Texas Chainsaw Massacre fed the delight of both anticipating the worst but surviving it with a squeal or giggle. The dread of knowing what was coming but still being in the safety of your circle of friends. Maybe using the fear as an excuse to grab the arm or hand of a cute guy nearby.

I had the fabulous luck of becoming a high school teacher. It was a bit accidental but I’m very thankful for it. Kids are fucking funny. I helped design a reward points system at one school which was to reward kids for hard work and respectful behaviour. They were given fairly and consistently for the types of behaviour we wanted to encourage. Kids should only expect to get a maximum of one per class. I gave 5 to a kid who snuck into the little props room of my drama room and jumped out when I went in to get the stilts giving me one of the most fantastic frights of my life. I literally couldn't breathe for a minute. There was a moment when the poor kid though he’d given me a heart attack. Until I laughed.  A sit on the floor, tears pouring, snorting laugh.

And this year I get to teach scary stories as a genre. Oh My Goodness, I've had such joy watching my students identify and use the features of a scary scene in their work, their gradual awareness of how to create suspense, their use of camera shots and angles in making their own zombie story boards. But more than the satisfaction of the teaching and learning process is the satisfaction of witnessing their squeals and jumps and hiding behind their hands when they watch something scary. We've watched scenes from Scream and Jurassic Park and the Harry Potter spider scene and Monsters Inc. It's mostly hiding and chasing and telephones and footsteps and close ups of fear and something out at everyone- totally appropriate. And when they really get the glee burst from a particular scene, when it's made them jump and forget their fa├žades of bravado, they want to watch it again and again. And I'm in love with being a teacher. Tomorrow we watch a scene from The Grudge recommended by my assistant teacher. I could only do a worksheet about what we see and hear for half of the scene because I was too scared to watch the end. I can't wait for the kids to see it!

So here I am, sharing a house with two 24 year olds and one is an expert scarer. I also have a friend, Stacey McGyver Cooper, who does a pretty excellent job. I sometimes have to wait 2 minute before walking inside my house, or pause before heading outside my room to the bathroom. Because I never know when I'm going to be scared. To tremble and giggle and know and not know. Makes life saa much fun! 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

As Home As A Home Can Be For Me.

I went up to the shop this morning to buy vegies so soft my finger went through one of the sweet potatoes when I put it on the counter, despite it costing as much as an organic vegie grown in Gwyneth Paltrow’s garden. A kid in just a nappy, sitting on top of the check out counter screwed up her nose and said “yuk one” when it happened. There was a camp dog roaming around inside and two women yelling at each other about to box on.  Calls of “Annaleeeeeeea!” followed me. A strange kid gave me a high five. It took me an hour in the stifling heat to go 300 meters and back because of the chit chat each way.

The end of last year, when I was helping my friend clean out her wardrobe as she packed to leave the island, I came across a pair of gumboots. They weren’t hers so she figured they must have belonged to the previous inhabitant. Lucky for me, they were my size. Since living up here I have often thought about buying some but never got around to it. So later today, when the rain had kicked in and I was embarking on the long, 100 metre trek to school, I popped on my wellies and searched through my boxes of crap for my brolly and took off through the rain and puddles and mud. One of the puddles was so deep I was worried I wouldn’t make it through – it had tadpoles so big I thought at first glance they were fish. But gumboots make sloshing fun - why have I sloshed through mud puddles in sandals for 2 years?

The rain is heavy and incessant, it has been a big wet. The frogs’ croaking reverberates through the yard and into my bedroom window. We have to keep turning the music up to hear over the rain and then we yell over the top of it. I got hot and sweaty and then had a shower and then got muddy and chilled from getting stuck in the rain. My mattress smells of mold and kept waking me up when I rolled over last night. And apparently a dog spewed on it last year – “Just grass though”.. My beautiful bed cover from the hill tribes in Northern Thailand that I heaved across the country is damp and I can’t shut the louvers properly. The sheets feel like sweat. My clothes are in vacuum sealed bags under my bed because I have a wardrobe the size of a tissue box, and my towel won’t dry. The plates in the kitchen cupboard have mouse and/or gecko shit on them. My hair hasn’t been dry in 4 days, it’s so wet and humid my eyebrows have gone curly. I have 7 mozzie bites on my back (my house mate counted them). I am sharing a house again, once again a third. One of my house mates bought us all Nerf guns and I feel unnerved that a) I am playing war at my age and b) I enjoy being shot randomly – hanging out the washing, brushing my teeth, making a cup of tea.. And of course I love to shoot in a sneak attack but I get too excited to aim properly. It was so wet last night we had to move the gas BBQ inside for our Australia Day roo burgers (“It’s just not the same cooking in a frypan”..)– thank god for a long, open entrance-way with a hundred louvers that don’t shut. Worked a treat.


I have been a little worried about my return this year, a lot of my friends have left the island and I feel like I should be making moves and settling down somewhere.  I feel scared that I’ve been out of the real world too long. But as the frogs compete with the rain and the Jezables and my house mate singing I feel pretty happy to be home.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

An Aussie Holiday

I am spending my summer holidays in Australia – a whole 6 weeks or so, for the first time in over 3 years. It wasn’t by choice – I had big plans for South America or Cambodia, but friends are getting married right smack bang in the middle and the opportunity for those kinds of celebrations with friends is coming along less these days.

At first I had no idea how to spend the time – it’s so expensive in Australia, especially when you don’t have a home base but it has turned into the loveliest opportunity to catch up with friends which is the perfect holiday for me at the moment because I miss my friends and family heaps n stuff.

Bali: Luxury. 4 days of uninterrupted conversation with girls I miss constantly. Big questions about future and past. Champagne and margaritas and Nasi Goreng and walks on the beach. And shopping. Quality time a long time coming. Made me miss my life in Juc but got to holiday with the best bits of that life by a pool in the tropics. With cheap drinks.

Melbourne: The time to be a daughter which is always too much and not enough time. And the role I hate leaving the most. And be an aunt, which is never enough time. But they create the best Christmas spirit possible, especially when you get to see movies like Thor. To see Christmas lights and trees and phenomenal buskers. For Christmas, bursting to within an inch of my life, with my family. Too much spiced rum and fun times with a new friend. And to see the women who inspire me to live strong and happily and write- cannot thank you enough for that. Tequila and the constant inconstant weather. And Deb, my always rock. And crazy, sometimes violent, sometimes naked city people.

Sunshine Coast: A return to all things wonderful. Oceans without crocodiles, sunshine. Bush. A breeze that makes you want to take your clothes off. New Years with fireworks and amazing lightening storms. Drinks and sex on a deck in the warm air. New friends with the honest openness that resolves my decision to believe in people rather than a god. Climbing mountains and walking coastlines too lovely to look at. Open spaces, so much space and time. And BATS! So chaotic moving towards their streamlined merging. The most beautifully wild silhouette. A woman who will hold my hand and take me walking when life is hard and a man who devours life and inspires everyone else to. Fuck he loves life.

And then a catch up with a school mate who I haven’t seen in maybe 20 years. It was so great to catch up with him and his wife as they are such great people, but it was mostly great because they knew me before all the loss and sadness and confusion and craziness and I was still there. The girl from Rochy is still here (and I don’t just mean my obsession with a good checked shirt). Some days the weight of loss – partner and babies and dogs and home – makes it so hard to take a step, makes me breathless. Even after so many days they turned into years – I am still heavy with it. But for an hour and a half I was someone who had never gone through any of that, I was someone who had a lot of things and people in common, but none had anything to do with that baggage, instead it was the girl that sat on a wooden bench, trying to sit comfortably in a summer uniform that was too short, listening to this very funny friend’s jokes while trying not to spill beetroot from my Tuck-shop soggy salad roll.

I love travelling but sometimes the incentive is to not be surrounded by what I lost in Victoria, to have new adventures that allow me to indulge in my love of wonder as much as possible. And to move quickly enough to not have to feel the weight of the past. But this holiday has been a reconnection to someone who I forgot about a bit, to the girl and woman I was before settling down in Juc – who I forgot about in trying to deal with and move on. And in that is a relief, I forgot I had existed before and that helps me shove the weight off – even if it’s just to the side for a bit, it’s a respite.


My wonderful friend wrote a blog recently about the impact family and friends have on the person we become. She wondered how strong the elastic is that allows us to move and change and wander. Having been able to spend time with my friends and family this summer showed me it is very hard to break those ties and snapped me back into the world and people who helped form me into the quite amazing woman I am today. It has been liberating.

This is dedicated to all of my friends and family. But especially to Kate, Fev, Duey, Hocko and Mini, who have given me, me again.