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A Personal Glossary of Netball

Wednesday April 19th, 2017 in Knowledge, School, Sport | No Comments »
Early game of netball with text of positions and oranges added. One player says 'If you Need!'

Early netball game

When I was in primary school I was desperate to start my netball career. I was certain that “career” was the right word as I planned to play netball for Australia and therefore become rich and famous. Behold my nesting dolls of delusion.

Joining my first team, Newstead Junior 2, was the start of a very steep netball learning curve. Unfortunately it wasn’t steep enough to lead to international netball, but I still learnt a few things, which I’d like to share.

Indoor Netball

When I was in high school I played a couple of seasons of mid-week indoor netball. This has all the same rules as outdoor netball except you’re allowed to kill people. It was an incredibly rough competition. Luckily the courts were surrounded with nets and there was no bitumen so breaking a pelvis didn’t hurt.

A team from a local low-security prison were also in the competition. One week one of their players threatened to kill Julia. This was clearly unacceptable. So at half-time our captain swapped Julia out of that position. And swapped me in. I was baffled by this decision because I tend to shit people at the best of times.

I kept my distance and the woman only threatened to punch me in the face. I didn’t play my best half of netball ever, but it wasn’t the point. I had discovered something important about myself; people didn’t always want to kill me.

The next week this lady apologised, explaining that she hadn’t been taking her medication. No worries I said. No worries at all.

As a general rule, the prison team were much less frightening than the young mums team who brought their toddlers to the game, smoked next to the court and absolutely hated our university-destined guts, to which I can only say fair enough as I imagine we were pretty annoying.

Losing

For me, netball and losing are intertwined. I have never been a member of a winning netball team. I’ve never played in a final. I probably lost 95% of all netball games I played in. The score for my first ever netball game was 17 – 1. With losing so inevitable I set other goals. I might feel like we’d had a great game because we achieved half the score of the winning team, or because we won one quarter, or because no-one wanted to kill me (see Indoor Netball).

Mixed Netball

Men playing netball may seem shocking but once you accept that not everyone will be classically trained (and you might witness such horrors as a Goal Attack taking a free pass outside the goal circle) mixed netball can be quite fun. I’ve filled in for a few mixed netball teams in Melbourne and have mainly enjoyed it without tsking.

Graph of straight line saying "What people think sucess looks like" next to a photo of a netball trophy Newstead Junior 2 Most ImprovedMost Improved

One of the proudest achievements of my life was winning the Most Improved trophy in my first netball season. I did deserve that trophy. I had started the season playing half games as a Wing Attack. I ended the year getting the occasional quarter as Centre. The lesson is, make sure you start as badly as you can to maximise apparent improvement.

Netball nicks

These are a pair of black underpants worn over your normal underpants so that no-one sees your underpants when your incredibly short skirt flies into the air. Here’s a thought – shorts.

Oranges

Orange quarters are the perfect food for half-time. All athletes like to be sticky and have bits in their teeth.

Ra Ra Ra

When I played classical netball, at the end of each game both teams were required to stand in a circle with our arms around each other and chant:

Three cheers for “Winning Team”, Ra, Ra, Ra.

Three cheers for “Losing Team”, Ra, Ra, Ra.

Three cheers for the umpires, Ra, Ra, Ra.

I presume we were made to do this to prepare us for the for the indignities of giving birth.

Socks

Socks were very controversial on the ’90s netball court. Ankle sports socks were the fashion but were banned. Everyone still wore them (except me because my mum wouldn’t let me) and usually nothing was said. The exception was on the one occasion when my C Grade team Wesley Hill unexpectedly and uniquely won a game. Our opposition team (I say that, but I mean their mums) put in an official complaint about our socks and we didn’t get the match points.

I like to hope that these dark ’90s days of socking shaming teenage girls have passed, but I thought that about Pauline Hanson.

Umpiring

I am always shocked by sports where the players criticise the umpires. This was not allowed when I played netball. I don’t know how they achieved such discipline but I think it involved making examples of people.

I only personally umpired one game of netball. I had aced the written netball umpiring test and felt quietly confident. Then I discovered that in real life it’s  all a lot more confusing than in the book. No-one actually abused me while the game was going on, but after there were a number of official complaints, including from the team who won.

 

Let it go

Tuesday April 11th, 2017 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

“He was rude to me once, and I’ve never forgotten it.” That could be be my catch phrase.

I would like to believe that I am a tolerant person who can see both sides of the coin and the apple. In some ways this is true. I am quite good at forgiving and moving on. IF there is a conciliatory conversation.

For example, someone at work once spoke testily to me. I had done the wrong thing, but there was no need for him to question whether I could read. I was furious and determined to be frosty with him forever and ever. I arrived at work the next morning to a voicemail from him apologising for being stressed and rude. I called him back immediately. ‘Say no more, think no more about it, it was really all my fault, would you like to get a coffee? Of course I’ll look after your dog for the weekend!’ I said, and I meant it.

The problem comes when there is no conciliatory gestures or acknowledgement. Then things fester. Once at work some executives were rude to me. I was trying to get the glasses cleared from the boardroom so I could catch a train to visit my dying grandmother. They thought I was intruding, and I thought I was heroically doing my job under difficult circumstances. In any case, there was no need to say ‘When Penny finally leaves the room we can continue our discussion’ in that icy manner. Even as I’m typing a blog post about letting go, I feel angry recalling that day. They addressed me in the third person! How. Dare. Anyway, they never apologised and I never forgot.

So clearly, in practise I’m a great upholder of the right to bear grudges. Over the course of the past 35 years of living I have amassed a small concert hall’s worth of people who have pissed me off. This crowd needs to move to a bigger venue to add all the people who have gained my disdain by being mean to my friends or family. I will often keep them in the freezer long after the person who was actually wronged has moved on.

This has led to a situation where I’m having trouble keeping my indexing system up-to-date. With the passing years I’m struggling to remember who I’m supposed to hate and why. I sometimes ask my friends, ‘Why don’t we like him again?’ The other day I searched through my emails because I had a vague feeling I didn’t like someone, but had no idea why. When I found the reason, it really wasn’t the outrage I’d felt it to be at the time.

On this search I also came across some bizarrely cold emails I’d written to a very close friend. At first I couldn’t work out why I’d taken that tone. Doing some more research I found the reason. I had hurt feelings. And instead of saying ‘I’ve got hurt feelings’ and telling the friend how they could help, I’d let it leak and been hurtful in return. I have completely moved on with this friend, but with other people I never do, and years after the problematic incident I retain a kernel of hurt and mistrust. Occasionally something happens and I realise I’ve been petty in focusing on the one time they were rude or thoughtless rather than the many times they were kind.

There are some grudges worth keeping, and there are some incidents that beg for poetic justice. I make no judgement about anyone else’s grudge cupboard or revenge fantasy drawer. But I do know that some of mine are silly. (Note this does not include you Executives Who Address Assistants in the Third Person).

And yeah, I know I shoulda turned the phone around.

Funniest things EVA!

Sunday April 9th, 2017 in Comedy, Reading, Television | No Comments »
Black and white photo of women laughing in a clothing factory

Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-T0425-0005 / Sindermann, Jürgen / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Last night I was horrified to read that Carly Findlay was out for a fun night and someone laughed at her face. What’s worse, this person wasn’t immediately disowned by all their friends and family.

I’ve seen funny before, and that’s not part of it. This incident made me really mad so I thought I’d reflect on some of the things that actually are funny, according to me anyway. I have a fairly dark sense of humour, which is totally consistent with not ruining anyone else’s day.

Books

The Timewasters Letters is a compilation of letters written by Robin Cooper. In the late ’90s he wrote silly letters to organisations and awaited their replies. Writing letters seems cutely obsolete now but I dip in every six months or so and laugh my head off. In my favourites, Cooper writes to a children’s publisher pitching inappropriate book ideas. He had an idea for a character Catty who suckles baddies and then burns them. I’m literally laughing while I type.

Live comedy

It’s very hard to choose what is the funniest live performance eva because I’ve seen enough to know that I’ve seen a lot of amazing. One that stands out is Monica Dullard performing in my home town of Newstead. The whole town loved her and her tales of riding her ex-postie bike from Melbourne.

Television

The animated comedy I am not an animal is about about an animal experiment that goes wrong and produces talking animals who are horrifying yuppy hipsters. There’s a lot I can relate to. Emulating the Bloomsbury set, dreaming I own an orangery, practising film criticism by paraphrasing other people’s reviews – funny because it’s true.

Podcasts

I’ve said it before, My Dad Wrote a Porno makes me snorty laugh (mixed with snobby literary guffawing). Respective vaginas.

In real life

One time when we were living in a share house my partner said “I’m going to have a shower”. I misheard this as “I’m taking the Glad-wrap to the shower” and confusion ensued. He sarcastically said, ‘I wrap myself up in plastic and splash around. One day I’m going to drown’. He was bemused by how amused I was, which is not uncommon for me. It’s not a case of ‘You had to be there’ because often, some of the people in the room are pretty unimpressed while I’m almost hysterical. I still find that incident funny. About three times a year I recall it again (often while swimming) and I have to stop and lean on a lane rope. One day I’m going to drown.

You see people, I’ve had much joy and hopefully not ruined anyone else’s night. It can be done.

Things I do that I don’t recommend

Friday March 31st, 2017 in Home, Podcasts, Politics, Television | No Comments »

Washing hanging on the line sorted by colour

I’m not here to tell anyone how to live their life. This is why. Here’s some things that I do.

In the past month I’ve been hanging out the washing by colour. It does take a little extra time but it’s totally worth it. (But don’t do this.)

I reply to every single rhetorical question on the Neighbours Twitter account. Sometimes I feel like I have nothing to say, so I come back to it later, but I never miss one. No excuses. On Wednesday I criticised their use of an apostrophe. It was a low point.

When we have too many lemons I make lemon butter. Then I put lemon butter all over the place and brag about how good it is. A couple of weeks ago I made a litre of lemon butter. We’ve eaten it all.

I haven’t quit US political podcasts since the election and I’m still regularly listening to a number of them. This is not the best use of my time. I know more about Trump’s failed changes to the Affordable Care Act than I do about the recent changes to childcare in Australia, which might actually affect me. Meanwhile, I’ve still got no idea what’s happening in Syria, but I’m pretty sure it’s not good.

And of course, I write blog posts when I could be earning actual money.

Neighbours tweet "Do you think Sonya and Mark are getting too close?" Picture of Sonya and Mark walking by the river.

Sparkling

Saturday March 11th, 2017 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

 

 

Hotel signs

(Image shows hotel room signs reading ‘Please service room thank you’ and ‘DO NOT DISTURB thank you’.)

This is a short story I wrote a long time ago about being a hotel cleaner. Never has the phrase ‘It’s always about the dishes, but it’s never about the dishes’ been more relevant.

At school I had low expectations for myself. Or at least, I would only admit to aspirations that were unquestionably achievable. I would never have guessed I could become a Hotel Cleaner. When I was accepted into Room Attendant training everything changed. I opened the letter and the words ‘Congratulations. Accepted’ floated up from the page and danced. It was a rosy, sparkling, world-as-oyster kind of day.

 

Six years later and technically, I’m living the dream.

I shove my trolley and let it go. It galumphs forward and comes to rest exactly parallel to the wall, a centimetre away from it. I grab my blue cleaning bucket and rubbish bag. My first room is Room 305, a King Deluxe. I feel good. This room will be perfect.

I knock on the door and say ‘Housekeeping.’ No sounds from inside. I say, ‘Housekeeping’ again. There is still no noise so I grab my key from my pocket and slide it in and out of the slot. I say, ‘Housekeeping’ one more time as I push the door open slowly.

I have learned to be cautious. One day I barged in on a scene. I remember the bouncing breasts, gasps, before I turned and ran back to the corridor where a dreadful sense of incompetence came over me.

From the silence and the darkness Room 305 is empty. Unless there’s a dead person. It happens all the time on the news, and we’ve been trained in what to do, but so far I’ve been lucky.

Certain that I’m not interrupting a living person I push my light card into the slot and the lamps switch on. I prop the door open with the doorstop and look around

the room. It’s messy but there’s no luggage. It’s definitely Vacant Dirty.

I picture Cameron leaning on the doorframe and saying, ‘You really brought the sparkle to this room.’

Inspired, I surge to work. I flush the toilet. I spray the sink with cleaning fluid. I pick up all the towels and pile them near the bathroom doorway. I pick up the detritus of hygiene – the used shampoos, shower cap and soap, abandoned toothbrushes – and throw them in the bathroom bin. I remove the bin liner and put it in my large rubbish bag outside the bathroom door. I spray the shower with cleaner and I tip blue liquid around the rim of the thankfully unstained toilet.

When I’m cleaning a toilet I find it hard to believe that room attending is a respected profession. Although I suppose doctors deal with bodily fluids too, and that used to be a respected profession.

I grab the mop from the linen cart outside and rinse it from the tap in the bath, squeezing out the water. The mop head is dirty and needs changing. I lean it against the wall.

I scoop up the towels from the floor and carry them into the main room and dump them on the bed.

Starting at the door I move in an anti-clockwise circle tidying around the room. I remove all non-hotel-standard materials and place hotel-standard objects in position. I turn on all the lights. I pick up pieces of rubbish.

I go to the bed. I take off the pillowcases and throw the pillows onto the armchair. I strip the doona and throw it onto the luggage rack. Pulling out its corners I use the under sheet as a sack to gather up all the linen and dirty towels. I take them outside and dump them in the bulging linen cart.

Where is the houseman? Bloody Cameron. Not so brilliant after all.

From my trolley I take a king size sheet and doona cover, and four pillowcases. Back at the bed I throw the sheet out across the bed in one movement. It unfolds midair and lands softly, flatly covering the bed. I move around it tucking in the corners, making sure the sheet stays taught and flat.

 

Cameron and I were taught how to make beds together in Room Attendant training. He was terrible at first, so slow and nobody thought he would make it. But after two months Sandy, our tutor, was calling him a genius.

Guests think Cameron’s good, but they can’t fully appreciate his work. It’s only Room Attendants who can really understand it. When you change one of his beds the corners are so tight that it’s hard to believe that anyone has slept in the bed. It amazes me.

One day Sandy sent me back to Room 411 to re-sheet the bed. I had been warned that I wasn’t tucking the top of the sheet in properly, but I kept pushing the boundaries of acceptability until I became unacceptable. I was upset about it, I confided in Cameron. He offered to help me. He came back to my house and we practised hospital corners in my room.

My housemate thought he liked me.

I explained to her that going into someone’s bedroom doesn’t mean the same thing for Room Attendants. He really had been tutoring me, it wasn’t a euphemism. But she kept asking about him, her curiosity fuelled my hope.

 

Taking the doona cover from the chair I flick it out so that it unfolds to flatness in the air. I pick the doona up off the chair. This part I am good at. People are stunned by how quickly I can put a doona cover on. It looks like one fluid motion, but it’s really one step after another ending with tying the four sets of strings at the end into bows. I pull the doona up to the top of the bed, moving around the bed to pull up both sides so that it is even. I imagine I have an audience now. They applaud.

 

Six months ago, I heard a voice as I bent over the doona cover. ‘No-one gets the bed as flat as you do.’ I jumped, surprised, and turned to the door. Cameron was leaning against the doorframe, but only his shirt touched the door, so he wouldn’t leave marks.

‘Shit! Sorry. You scared me.’ Heart beating. A good thing, but it’s more noticeable than usual.

‘Are you coming to lunch?

‘I was going to finish this room.’

‘I’m going now.’

‘Oh. I’ll come now.’

Other people, thrillingly, noticed. Cassie said, ‘You guys always have lunch together. He doesn’t talk to anyone else.’

‘Really?’

‘To be honest I assumed you were going out.’

 

But then only a couple months later Cameron was kneeling, his body tight and compact, tucking in the corners of Room 703. I’d chosen then to say everything. As he knelt and kept working he said a number of things…delightful – friends – thank-you – flattered… though more pauses than anything else. Embarrassment hits me coldly in the stomach, remembering my fruitlessly, stupidly plucked up courage.

Remembering all of this I hiss, ‘I hate myself.’. I give the doona corner a vicious and unhelpful tug adding contours and folds. I pick up the pillows and pillowcases and hurl them onto the bed. I shove the pillows into the bottom of the cases. I place them two by two at the top of the bed. I move around giving two tugs on each side, fixing my mistakes. I stand back to look.

No-one gets the bed as flat as you.

Trying not to think, I pick up a feather duster and a rag from my trolley and clean around the room in an anti-clockwise direction. I dust every surface. I note spaces where hotel-standard objects are missing. When I see a mark on the wall I use the magic eraser from my pocket to scrub at it. I flick the feather duster behind cupboards. In the mini-bar I turn labels to face the front. The Smirnoff is to the left of the Baileys. Make sure there are three (not two, not four) pieces of notepaper.

There are a thousand tiny rules to follow. Millions of unacceptable variations. To place everything within millimetres of its proper place, to remove all marks and all imperfections, to remember everything while hurtling around the room. Most people can’t do it.

I should feel happy to have reached this standard. But I want more. Cameron and I started training together but he’s the houseman now. Superstar.

 

Last week I was accepted into Room Attending College, the necessary theoretical component to becoming a professional Hotel Cleaner. I worked so hard for it, my parents are so proud. But yesterday, sitting in the lecture theatre all I could think about was the physicality of Cameron in the chair in front of me. He sat with someone else, and told a story I’d heard before about dusting air-conditioning vents. I could barely breathe.

Sandy began the lecture by saying, ‘What makes a truly great Room Attendant is attention to detail. It may seem impossible to master now but remember that great improvement is possible. Some of the best Room Attendants were incompetent as trainees. For example, Karl Studberg once failed to remove a used condom from the bedside drawer and passed the room as Vacant Inspected.’

Cameron nudged the girl next to him. She giggled.

That stupid simpering bitch!

 

I return to my trolley. I take one piece of notepaper, one robe, one can of coke, one pen, one envelope, two pairs of slippers, and place these carefully in their place. When I first started I always forgot things and wasted precious time going back to the trolley. Then I developed a system to remember. I counted how many items were needed. That way, when I collected them from the trolley I would know if I’d forgotten anything. Other people started doing it that way too, but no one called me a genius.

I go back to the bathroom. I put on my pink rubber gloves. I pour some cream cleanser onto the abrasive side of my yellow sponge and, with the hot tap running, I scrub the bath and tiles. There is a grimy ring around the bath, I doubt it was scrubbed after the last guest left. Tut tut tut. But then I think, As you’re perfect! God, I’m a bitch.

I spray the mirror with window cleaner and use a clean dry rag to wipe it down. I spray on more chemical and then use the rag to dry the bathroom sink and bench. I spray the silver taps with window cleaner, which makes them shine. I remember the first compliment I ever received from Sandy, she said, ‘You really brought the sparkle to these taps.’ For the next few hours I was awash with excruciatingly pleasant feelings.

I pick up the toilet brush, but don’t bother to scrub much as there is no need. I

I dry the shower thoroughly with my towel. Every drop of water is soaked up, starting by shining the taps, then the walls, then the bath itself. I arrange the shower curtain so that it rests inside the bath.

I return to my trolley piling up two towels, a bath mat, a hand towel, two face washers, two soaps, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, comb, shower cap, sanitary bag, and a roll of toilet paper. This is all loaded in my arms when I hear a ding from the service lift.

Resting my load against the trolley I turn.

Cameron steps out.

We nod. He says, ‘Your linen cart’s pretty full.’

‘I’m aware of that.’

‘How are your rooms today?’

‘Fine. This one’s pretty messy.’

‘Yeah, well, they stayed for nearly two weeks.’

‘Yeah, I know.’ But I hadn’t noticed, hadn’t read the information on my board. That explains the dirty bath. Cameron has remembered the occupancy of a room he’s not even cleaning.

‘Could you bring me a new mop head?’

‘Sure.’

‘Mine’s filthy.’

‘Sorry.’

‘Whatever. Just soon would be good.’

Cameron moves to the linen cart and pushes it to the lift. I stalk back into the room. My hands shake a little as I position the soaps and shampoo. I hear Cameron transferring the dirty linen from the cart into lift. Then he pushes the empty linen cart back outside the door. I expect him to come back, look around, notice that my dusting has been particularly thorough. He used to make a point of complimenting me, in a mentoring kind of way. Perhaps I’ve disappointed him, not lived up to what he thought I could be.

But fuck that! He’s only two years older than me and we started training at the same time. We’re both in training college now. Why should I be under his wing? I won’t be patronized.

I fold towels. I position the bathmat and facecloths. I shine the bathroom door handle. I’m wasting time because I’m expecting him back. Eventually, I put my head out and see an empty corridor. He must have used the stairs. A moment passes then the rage. How dare he ignore me.

I’m shaking a bit as I pick up the bucket and wet rags and take them out of the bathroom, leaving only the mop. I go and get the vacuum cleaner and drag it into the room. You are such a stupid bitch, I think as I plug it in. Why would he want to talk to me? I’m horrible to him. I’m horrible. I adore him.

I vacuum furiously jabbing the vacuum under the bed as far as it will go. There is flaky dead skin and a big toenail near the edge of the bed. I carefully move the slippers near the bed to vacuum under them. There are spots on the carpet. I fetch the carpet cleaner and spray it on. After it turns white I jerkily suck at it with the pipe attachment. I vacuum the bathroom. Slurping up hairs lying in puddles of water. I turn the vacuum off and roll the cord up.

Cameron still hasn’t come back, I use the dirty mop head to mop the bathroom floor. I hang the mop back on the cart.

I step into the room for one last inspection. Room 305 is not a masterpiece. As I look at the carpet I see a spot I missed. The slippers aren’t parallel after I moved them to vacuum. There is a streak in the corner of the bedroom mirror, a mark on one of the walls. I can’t fix it all, I’ve already spent 31 minutes on this room, three minutes over schedule. I yank out my light key, take out the doorstop and leave the room knowing that I don’t deserve applause.

Cameron is standing near my trolley with a new, too late, mop head.

‘Thanks,’ I say, trying to be friendly, feeling guilty from before.

‘No worries. It’s my job.’

He’s so casual, so successful. Every day he receives shiny baubles of praise and recognition that add to his magnificence. He wears his confidence like a halo. My chest tightens with the old feelings, but I don’t know if it’s jealousy or love.

Sorry, you’ve been making your instant coffee all wrong

Tuesday February 28th, 2017 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Instant coffee

(Image shows a jar of Nescafe, kettle and two mugs)

You might think that a hot beverage with a maximum of four ingredients (coffee, water, milk, sugar) and which only requires three implements to make (kettle, spoon, cup) would be hard to get wrong. But guess what? There are lots of ways to fail at making the perfect cup of instant coffee. Here are the common mistakes that people make, which you won’t after reading this.

Adding the hot water before the milk

For the love of God, when making a white coffee, please mix the milk and coffee together first. Dissolving the granules of coffee into the milk means they won’t feel scared when the hot water is poured from the kettle. Frightened coffee equals yucky coffee and a ruined day, so please protect your coffee’s emotional well-being with a milky blanket.

Using white sugar

Nothing says ‘I have no class’ like pure white crystals. What you want is tan-coloured lumpy raw sugar. As well as oozing sophistication, raw sugar is a healthier option because it hasn’t been cooked, which is the only thing that makes sugar bad for you.

Using the wrong mug

This is subjective. Everybody draws the line in a different place, but it’s important that you stay behind your own. For me, the green mug with pictures of candy canes and santas is a bridge too far. If candy cane santas is the only mug left in the cupboard I will give it to a visitor or wash something else for myself. I know this seems drastic but you will not be able to enjoy your delicious coffee if it is presented in the mug that makes you think ‘Not that mug. I hate that mug’.

Spooning International Roast into a Nescafe jar

You fool no-one and you will probably lose all your friends and die alone. I know people think I live in a gilded cage of privilege and to that I say squawk. But even from my diamond encrusted perch I can understand that not everyone can afford Nescafe Gold. And I believe that some people actually prefer the brands they purchase in bulk from cut price foreign supermarkets. And that is fine. As long as you are up front about it.

And put the milk in first.

Valentines Day at the Moonlight Cinemas: AKA A Mistake

Tuesday February 14th, 2017 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

I love PT

(The image shows a badly drawn love heart with ‘I heart PT’ written inside’)

I once thought that it would be Fun to see Casablanca at the Moonlight Cinemas in the Botanical Gardens on Valentines Day, with a group of couples. When I was single.

The evening was actually less fun than it sounds…

To begin with the people I’d chosen to go with were less than ideal. Firstly, there was my sister and her boyfriend Daniel. They got along very well on this occasion although she dumped him a month later because he was a massively bigoted tool. For example, while glaring pointedly at two men sitting in front of us who were holding hands, Daniel explained to me that the Roman Empire fell because of their acceptance of homosexuality. I remarked that it was more likely that one of the bats flying over the Botanical Gardens was actually batman. Daniel then went into a half hour rant about how batman could be made to be more bat-like and less like a person dressed unconvincingly as a bat.

The newest couple in the group, Robin and Miles had only been going out for a week. Their relationship was based entirely on nerves. They were incapable of having a conversation if they were touching each other. Robin could talk to you if Miles was more than two meters away. But as soon as they so much as held hands all conversation would dry up and they would simply smile and stare straight ahead. Twitching occasionally.

Then there was my friend Tanya and her boyfriend Glen who continuously humped each others legs throughout the entire evening. At leas they were able to chat to others at the same time.

Of course, I was not the only single person in the park. There were many groups of single girls. They were in high spirits at the start of the evening. Opening their picnic baskets and champagne, they had a devil-may-care attitude that screamed to the world, ‘We’re single on Valentines Day. And we’re having a great time! Pass me the Camembert!’ Half way through the film however they started to see the injustice of the film. ‘She had two men! Two!’ Faces curdled and you could see the devil-may-care attitude slip into mild depression (some people actually sobbed quietly and not at the sad bits). By the time Bogart was reminiscing about Paris I could hear dozens of singles muttering, ‘Why couldn’t we have gone to Ferris Buelers Day Off?’ and flicking Brie at anyone who looked like they might be in love.

There were many people there who looked like they might be in love. The Moonlight Cinema is a popular romantic choice for couples at any time, let alone on Valentines Day. It was a lawn covered with cuddling and I was struggling.

Generally, I like to see myself as an internally self-sufficient person. I don’t need to evaluate my happiness by externally imposed expectations and material standards. However, I must admit that I began to feel increasingly jealous of some of the people at the Gardens who were obviously in a better position than me.

Of course, I’m not talking about having a boyfriend. I’m referring to the fact that I was starving, uncomfortable, and freezing to death. I mean it sounds nice, doesn’t it? Sitting in the park on a summer evening watching films and enjoying a picnic. In reality, the ground is extremely hard when you sit on it for three hours. It was also cold. When I left the house at 7:00pm it was a balmy 25 degrees. But by the time the film started at 9pm there was an unrefreshingly cool breeze. As it began to get properly dark I started to shiver and noticed more experienced Moonlight cinema goers had brought sleeping bags, doonas and a pillow. Sure, some of the single ones still looked like they wanted die, but at least they were suicidal within a warm, cocoon. In my group, we only had one blanket, which had been claimed by Tanya and Glen. They were using it as an ineffectual veil over their dry rooting.

Even worse, everyone else in the gardens had brought better provisions than we had. Not being very organised we managed to scrape together a tub of hummus, some semi sun-dried tomatoes and a packet of Captains Table watercrackers. Between seven. Meanwhile all around people with more boy scouting ethos had brought champagne, strawberries, cheese platters, chocolate cake and so on. One lucky couple had a lobster.

After awhile I started to feel aggrieved with these people who were touting their comfort, food and boyfriends in front of me. Everyone was showing off what they’d brought with the result that almost everyone ended up wanting something on someone else’s picnic blanket. Some people were crying because they didn’t have a boyfriend. Others cracked it because the dip ran out. I couldn’t wait to go home on my own and be able to compare myself to myself and realise I pretty fabulous after all.

When the film finally ended everyone filed out of the gardens towards St Kilda Road. Tanya chose this moment to confide loudly to us all, ‘Glen and I really need to spend more time together as a couple. You know, just to be together. Just to really love each other.’

A girl walking ahead of us turned around and said loudly but calmly to Tanya, ‘Do you mind? There are single people present.’ Then she turned and strode out of the park.

Several of us could not contain our applause.

Things my maths teacher told me

Saturday February 11th, 2017 in School | No Comments »

Florence Nightingale

(The image shows a painting of Florence Nightingale holding a lamp.)

When I was in year 12 I wrote a ‘quote of the day’ in my school diary. Sometimes the quotes were from famous people like Oscar Wilde (he was terribly witty and sometimes it feels good to copy that stuff down with a pen). Sometimes the quote was something a friend had said.

The majority of my quotes of the day came from my maths teacher, Fletch.

27 January 1999: “It’s us against the rest of the state…up the front.”

On the first day of Year 12 Specialist Maths we sat at the back of the classroom (we were all maths nerds so it was our one chance). When Fletch came in he made us move to the front tables then gave us a motivational speech. He said the only way we country state school students could compete against the fancy private schools was to work together. We rolled our eyes and acted like it was stupid, but as the year went on we developed some top quality academic camaraderie, and just quietly, we did okay.

4 Febuary 1999: “We haven’t multiplied vectors yet. Shut up Rod.”

Fletch was a self-reflective teacher and kept up a running commentary on his performance as he taught. When he felt he’d made a wrong turn he told himself to shut up. Every time, I wrote it down.

10 March 1999: “I just thought I’d better tell you; I’m in Florence Nightingale mode.”

Fletch told us that when tackling a difficult maths problem you should be like Florence Nightingale holding her lantern. You can’t always see the whole path, but you can see where to take the next step. He returned to this analogy often and would sometimes mime holding a lantern while doing a difficult problem at the board.

The Florence Nightingale technique doesn’t just work for maths. I have found his advice useful in writing, life and drinking wine.

10 May 1999: “Aw bum, I mean sugar.”

Cute! He’d probably made a sign error.

16 August: “Go mg sin theta!”

Fletch told us he would shout “Go mg sin theta” as he rode his bike downhill during his school days. The best maths teachers are born, not made.

13 October 1999: “I just want to vomit. Not for you, but for the injustices of the world.”

When he said this to our class, Fletch was talking about inconsistencies in maths symbolism. No, not East Timor. Maths symbols.

I’m not sure if we appreciated Fletch enough at the time. I remember rolling my eyes at his daggy anecdotes. One time no-one in the class would examine the interesting way the light from the window was hitting the chalk on the blackboard, even when Fletch repeatedly peered at it, told us how interesting it was, and invited us to come and look. Sometimes when he asked almost rhetorically, ‘What’s the square root of 16?’ Someone would answer, ‘Four’ just to see him go apoplectic, ‘PLUS OR MINUS FOUR!’

Far and away the best maths teacher I’ve ever had.

At the end of year 12 we gave him a lantern.

Professionalism (and getting shouted at)

Saturday January 21st, 2017 in Office, The Pig, Work | No Comments »

Chimney sweep

(The image is a screen shot from Mary Poppins of Bert the chimney sweep.)

Mary Poppins said ‘In every job that must be done there is an element of fun. You find the job and SNAP! the job’s a game.’ I agree, but it can be hard to find the fun in a job that you’re really bad at.

I feel sorry for people who are bad at their jobs. Waiters who get orders wrong, accountants who can’t count, receptionists who lose bits of paper. I have totally been there.

A lot of the time, I’ve been able to tell myself that it doesn’t really matter, that it’s just a temporary, menial job and not a reflection of my true value. But in the moment, when it takes me 15 minutes to slice prosciutto in a deli, or when I give someone the wrong cat to take home at a cattery, or when I try to charge someone $17.60 for two bananas and a bread roll in a supermarket, or when I simply can’t clean hotel rooms in under 28 minutes per room, I find it hard to keep perspective. In those moments my own incompetence is demoralising and depending on the reaction of other people, hurtful. When someone rolls their eyes at me, makes a horse-snorty noise or starts tapping on a counter my embarrassment is made even worse when I know they’re right. I am bad at my job.

I was bad at being a bacon factory worker. As I’ve already discussed I found many of the factory processes incomprehensible and I was often confused about what I was supposed to be doing. This could be very frustrating for my co-workers.

An example from my diary:

Day 11: Monday 11 December

Not a good one.

Pam: “Oi! You don’t just let meat fall off the belt!”

Me: Apologise as humbly as possible and try to remember her seniority and respect her experience.

Quite hellish actually.

Not everyone at the Pig was like that. For example, Bruce used to be a beekeper until the drought of ’93 killed all his bees, and he came to work at the bacon factory. He said he didn’t mind the work, and said at least the job was stress free. I decided that Bruce was very zen (even though I wasn’t quite sure what that meant). I saw Bruce as a role model for calm acceptance of factory life.

One day I was working with Bruce and Pam on a slicer. I tried to help Pam push a trolley to the chiller. It was a disaster and she screamed at me. The next time we filled up a trolley the same thing happened. Meanwhile, Bruce’s eyes were twinkling above his beard net. I think he was mildly amused. When I returned to the slicer, in the laconic understatement of the early noughties he said, ‘Is Pam a bit angry with you?’ Later, I asked if he would swap jobs with me, so I wouldn’t have to work with Pam, and he agreed. He was a nice man.

Pam often raged at me about bacon related issues. I could not understand why she cared so much. It was only picking up bacon and putting it back down again, after all. I hated being bad at it, but I also couldn’t understand how she could care enough to scream about it.

I’m not condoning workplace bullying but I now have a different perspective on the situation. Pam worked in the bacon room year in year out. She was a good bacon factory worker, she took pride in her work. Every summer students like me came along, and for two months earned more than she did on casual rates. We were crap at the job and she had to pick up the slack. I’m sure we also acted like the work was unimportant and beneath us.

At the time, I thought Bruce was a paragon of virtue and Pam was hysterical, but now I see they had different strategies to deal with the drudgery of the work. Bruce stayed calm and meditated (for all I know he was actually planning a homicidal rampage, but I imagined he was thinking of a flowing river). Pam took pride in her work and became a bit obsessive about it.

Now that I’ve found work to do that I’m not completely terrible at, I’m a lot more like Pam than Bruce. When I returned to work after having my first child someone said to me, ‘Does your job seem a lot less important now?’ The answer was no. When I was on maternity leave I didn’t think much about the office but once I was back, I cared.

I care about the things that I spend my time on, not just the fun bits. My life is not just larks on holidays with my friends and family, or my hobbies or my writing. My life is also the Annual Report Disclosure Index, the washing, and creating a family medical appointments spreadsheet. Sometimes at work I’m given a task that at first seem unspeakably dull but once I start work on it I find I’m fascinated and develop strongly held opinions.

Of course, I try to keep a better sense of proportion than Pam did, and not to shout, but nothing I spend my time on is likely to be completely stress-free, and that’s not a bad thing. For me, the stress is the element of fun. SNAP! The job’s a game.

Next time at the Pig: Socialism and the revolution

Questions for Barbie

Friday December 2nd, 2016 in Parenting | No Comments »
SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

(Picture shows the first Barbie wearing a black and white striped swimsuit with white sunglasses on her head.)

This week a child showed me her Barbie doll. Quick as a flash I said, ‘That’s nice. What job does she do?’ Child looked confused but eventually agreed Barbie is an engineer. The child then wandered off presumably to play a game of Suspension Bridge.

I felt triumphant to have used this simple interaction as an opportunity to spread my radical feminist agenda. With that in mind I have prepared this list of questions to ask about Barbie.

So, Barbie?

What job does Barbie do?

What kind of super fund does Barbie have?

Does Barbie have any good tips on how to successfully ask for a pay rise?

What sport does Barbie play?

Which AFL team does Barbie play for?

What’s Barbie’s favourite science?

What’s Barbie’s favourite physics sub-field? (If Barbie says string theory, gently suggest there are better options, but don’t be strident about this.)

What is Barbie reading at the moment?

What book does Barbie think should win the Stella Prize this year? (If Barbie thinks there shouldn’t be women only prizes for literature, this is a good time to get strident.)

 

(This next one’s genius. Hold on to all hats.)

Have you ever met anyone who has legs as long as Barbie’s, a waist that small and boobs that go out that far? No? That’s okay Barbie. It’s good to be DIFFERENT.