Category Archives: July 2012 Posts

The perfect night

A wet winter’s day, Albury.  The sky is dark grey and the rain’s been pounding continually for sixteen hours, but my spirits are bright.  I have the house to myself for the first time since January.  I’ve bought food to cook, have the movie “50/50” ready to watch and I’ve arranged a Skype call with a friend in LA.  It’s going to be the night of nights and I’ve been looking forward to it for weeks. The veggies are chopped and the meat’s marinating.  I turn on the TV and sit down with a large glass of red wine, ready for an episode of “Underbelly” before I start cooking dinner.  The opening music starts …  and the electricity cuts out.  

Me in the constant rain

I keep being asked for photos of me (specifically ‘full-body’ shots – weirdly). So this is one in the constant rain.

God damn it.

I’m annoyed but there’s no time for self-pity.  I have thirty minutes of daylight left before the house will be in darkness.  Launching into action, I swiftly search for where my mother would keep candles.  Five minutes later I pull out an assortment of mismatched candles, candelabras and a box of matches from a kitchen cupboard.  I suspect there’d be a torch in the garage but I’m not venturing down to that spider-infested cave if there’s an alternative.

A large plastic container of not-quite-finished candle-stubs testifies that my mother doesn’t waste anything.  Another container of birthday cake candles, party poppers and sparklers testifies that she’s as prepared for an impromptu celebration as she is for a blackout.  Or she just likes flammable things.

Long shadows fill the house, reminding me of the deadline driven by the setting sun.  I have to keep moving.  I place the candles in various holders and begin to position them around the living room when I hear a knock at the front door.  I open it and am greeted by a tall middle-aged man.  It’s been fifteen minutes since the power cut out.

Man:  G’day. I live next door and I was just wondering if your power’s out?

Me:  Yep.  It’s been out for about ten minutes.

Man:  Oh, okay.  We weren’t sure if it was just us or if it’s the whole street.

Me:  I’d say it’s everyone.  I’ve pulled out the candles in case it lasts a while.  Do you need any?

Him:  No, we’re right.  We’ve got loads.

We say goodbye though three more neighbours knock on my door in the next few minutes to have the same conversation.  The last one, Amy, also gives me limes from her tree, coriander from her herb garden and asks for a cup of self-raising flour so she can finish making her golden syrup dumplings when the power comes back on.  My night isn’t turning out as I’d hoped but it is making me smile.

And me under the lemon tree just before it pours rain ... again.

And me under the lemon tree just before it pours rain … again

I close the door to Amy and scan the living room to assess my options for the evening.  No TV, no DVD, no oven, no microwave, no kettle, no light and no phone.  And of course I’ve not charged my laptop.

Darkness descends and I light a three-pronged silver candelabra.  I have a bath and put on a thick dressing-gown and long woollen socks.  After making a sandwich, I sit in the rocking chair next to the open fire with my book.  Thunder rumbles and a vivid flash of lightning momentarily brightens the room before again leaving it to the warm glow of the fire and candlelight.  I feel overwhelmingly serene and content.  Nothing can interrupt or distract me. I’m warm, comfortable and about to be entirely absorbed by the spellbinding characters I’ve been following for over 400 pages; I cannot wait to see what happens to them.   It may not be the evening I planned, but it couldn’t be more perfect.

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Helen’s poems

Helen with statue in Rome

Helen with a statue in Rome

My return to Old Blighty is on the horizon and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone again.  One friend, who I desperately miss, has creatively expressed her feelings about my homecoming.  With her boss on annual leave she productively used those five precious days to compose poetry.  Each morning this week I’ve woken up to a lovely little ditty and, in recognition of her recognition of me, I’ve decided to post them.  So here they are ….

She

Her hair so glossy like an Afghan Hound

Her bum so peachy, so squashy and round

Her eyes they pierce you through your soul

She’s a full-grown frog, she’s no tadpole

Her laugh so sweet, like an amusing ass

Her humour so dark, so filthy, so crass

She is my Angel, my Princess Simone

When she reads this crap she’s bound to groan

Lone Wolf

The lone wolf prowls through the night

Her strength, her power, her force, her might

She captures men with her mighty chest

They can’t resist, they give it their best

But her tender heart betrays her tale

Would she like to partner with an alpha male?

Her Skilled Prowess

Helen eating cake

Helen eating cake

The panther strikes at 8pm

That’s when Step class begins for them

Her fluid moves, her skilled prowess

Is she real? They wonder, they guess

Their envy shows, they can’t hide it now

“She’s so damn good, that effing cow”

But she cares not, she’s in the zone

Those insecurities, they have flown

She’s with the music, they are at one

The rest all vanish, set with the sun

But the class must end, it goes too fast

The panther grins, she’s had a blast

Queen of Step

She loved to step

She loved its groove

She had the gift

With nothing to prove

She laughed at those with two left feet

Who tried so hard but missed the beat

Helen boarding the Orient Express to Brighton

Helen boarding the Orient Express to Brighton

She’s the Queen of Step

She wears the crown

She’s so damn good

It makes others frown

Their Shared Moon

The glow of the moon in the sky above

Draws their gaze, they think of their love

Friends apart, their bond can’t be broken

Their shared moon, their friendship token

It’s their connection when they feel low

Distance will make this friendship grow

But not long now, just a few weeks left

The English one will be no more bereft

Her Aussie friend will return to this land

And once again they’ll be a merry band

Jillian

“Hello Simone!!!  Oh so good to hear your voice!  I’m sorry I’ve never been at home to take any of your calls.  I was in Kyabram for a funeral, and then I was in Brisbane for a netball tournament; the kids I’m coaching are undefeated.  Undefeated, Simone!  It’s marvelous!  And then I had to head to Eumundi Market on the weekend to set up Heidi’s stall because she’s sprained her ankle.  I’ll tell you what – I’m looking forward to getting old so I can slow down”!

Portrait of Jillian's children in 1984

Jillian’s seven children in 1984
Back row (left to right): Erina, Madeline, Jacqui, Stephen, Belinda
Front row: Justin, Heidi

Jillian’s 75 and this is my first phone conversation with her in 27 years.  From babyhood to starting school, my mother dropped me at Jillian’s house each morning.  There I would spend each day until my father finished work.  At 4:30pm he would turn up to take me home, balancing me on the handlebars of his bike; me without a child-seat and neither of us wearing helmets (the wonderful seventies).  As I grew up I would still go to Jillian’s when I was sick.

Jillian has seven children (five girls and two boys), all older than me, who she raised on her own.  My days with her were idyllically peaceful; we went to Mass every day (yes, every day), and then I’d play on my own each afternoon, helping with chores as much as children can.  The tranquility came to an abrupt halt when school finished and her children came home.

I was an extremely shy and reserved child so at 4pm each day (which by my clock was just after Kimba the White Lion finished) I was bewildered as the house transformed into carnival of noise and activity.  It was like being pulled onto stage at a Cirque du Soleil performance and I was stunned by the show.

Erina, loud and boisterous, would pick me up and spin me around until I felt dizzy.  Madeline would stand in front of me and dance (probably unsuccessfully trying to get me to join in), and Justin would play his guitar, serenading me with “Wild Thing.  Balls were thrown, bikes were ridden, and music blared (to this day the song “Let’s hear it for the boy” reminds me of Erina; she played it non- stop when it was first released).

Me (baby) with Madeline, Heidi, Erina & Justin

Me (the baby) being held by Madeline, Heidi standing, Erina holding her hand out to me & the back of Justin’s head. It’s 1977.

Jillian now lives in the State of Queensland, far north from me, and I’m going to catch up with her next week.  Her children all live in the same city with her and I remember them fondly.

JillianRight, so when are you thinking of visiting?

Me (slightly bowled over by Jillian’s energetic address and feeling that same bewildered sensation I had as a child):  I was thinking I fly out on Thursday and depart on Sunday?

Jillian:  But Simone, by the time you arrive on Thursday and then depart on Sunday, you’ll only be here for two full days and there’s no way that’s long enough.  Everyone wants to see you.  You’ll have to arrive sooner.

Me (laughing):  Okay, I’ll come on Tuesday?

Jillian:  Yes, that’s more like it.  Oh I can’t wait! Little Simone’s coming!! (Hmm, Little Simone, isn’t quite so little anymore …)

I hang up, smiling at my unquestioned change of flight times; disobeying Jillian simply isn’t in my programming, even after decades.

Me with Madeline

Me with Madeline

So I head to Queensland, not Shy Little Simone, but Grown-up Simone.  My emotions are a mixture of nerves and excitement, but more than anything I’m eager to see her again.  And I hope she makes me some of her jelly slice – man I love her jelly slice (I make it myself about once a month).

Afterword

I’ve since been north and had a wonderful visit.  The connection with Jillian is still present and I was able to catch up with Jacqui, Justin, Maddie and Heidi.

After 27 years my relationship with Jillian has grown into a friendship between two adults, but I was reminded of our initial guardian-to-child link in an incident which delighted me.  As I descended the stairs approaching the living room I called out loudly to her.  She replied, “Now Simone, you’ve forgotten that I don’t have conversations from room-to-room.  If you want me to respond you’ll have to speak to me in the same room”.  I apologised and smiled to myself.  Being told off by Jillian was a heartwarming pleasure; I’m still her Simone and she’ll always be my Jillian.

Music and nostalgia

A bright and crisp July afternoon, Canberra.  I board a bus and as I plonk myself on a seat my iPhone accidentally comes on and blasts Daryl Braithwaite’s “One Summer”.  Not a fashionably retro song, but something intrinsically ‘dorky’.  I see a man of about forty a few rows ahead of me smile, tap his foot and mouth the words to the lyrics “… I’ll find a waaay”!  He looks back at me and grins knowingly at the shame of this song.  In the nineties my portable CD player used to unintentionally reveal my music taste and, though the technology may have changed, the results are the same – I’ve been publicly outed as musically uncool.  But I am not alone, I am never alone. 

My previous post may have suggested my music is limited to bubblegum pop or modern-country (god bless Taylor Swift).  It isn’t, but it is consistently unfashionable.  The Cure get as much airtime as Eminem, Whitesnake and the Beastie Boys; names that ensure my unpopularity and indicate nostalgia creeping into my playlists.  On Saturday I went to an Eighties Tribute concert and I’m counting the days until the movie Rock of Ages is released.  I loudly exclaim “Oh yeah! Remember this?!  I love this song!” and look around at my fellow thirty-somethings whenever one of “our songs” (hits from the eighties and nineties) is heard.  Thankfully, they’re often doing the same.

My date of birth and my country of birth are influencing my music selection.  Last week at a small pub in Lane Cove, Sydney, I was entertained by “Gav” the guitarist singing some Australian classics.  The sentimentality resulted in me dedicating an entire playlist to songs by The Screaming Jets, Boom Crash Opera, 1927, Hunters and Collectors, Hoodoo Gurus and You Am I.  I’ve even added “Bop Girl” (which has a very young Nicole Kidman in the video).

Young Talent Time” is an Australian TV programme that features performing teenagers.  One of the boys in the current series is fourteen-year-old Tyler.  He quotes Steven Tyler and Brian Johnson as being his inspiration and Axl Rose as his idol.  With sinking compassion, I realised that this poor boy doesn’t get to hear (as “new music”) the likes of Aerosmith, AC/DC or Guns N’ Roses.  If he’d been born twenty years earlier he’d be in music heaven, and have spent hours putting together perfect mixed tapes.  Instead, he must be wasting his precious youth …

Two decades of listening to extremely loud music from Bananarama to Red Hot Chili Peppers has resulted in mild early deafness.  My extortionate, but blissful, Bose headphones are glued to my head for about three hours a day.  It was a dark period when I put my Ipod through the washing machine and was briefly forced into experiencing the quiet, and frequently annoying, external world.

Nothing makes me happier than music (or a Step class), and that includes food and sex (ex-boyfriends will testify that I won’t sacrifice a Step class for hanky-panky, no sirree – there’s no competition between those two activities).  Though admittedly music has helped me meet boys which theoretically could lead to hanky-panky.

In keeping with my inherent geekiness, and like the characters from American Pie, I was an attendee on annual Band Camps. I played the saxophone and boys used to try their luck (always unsuccessfully, I’ll have it noted!) playing with me.  I did like one boy (Stephen) until he wrote me a note referring to his “pearents” …. I couldn’t bring myself to respond to a boy who thought his parents were pears.

Smell is supposed to be the strongest sensory trigger of memories, but sound must rate a close second.  Memories and emotions come flooding back from an array of songs, beats and melodies and I welcome them all.  I like to think my fellow commuter, tapping away to Daryl Braithwaite, may have felt the same.