Tuesday, September 19, 2017

September 19. Day 262. Sorry seems to be the hardest word

Sorry scrolls

Director and co-creative Dan Evans
A few years back someone very close to me wanted to have "a talk". It was obvious it was about something serious. She came to say she was sorry. She was at Step 8 of the 12-Step Program "Make a list of all persons we had harmed, and become willing to make amends to them all". She said her piece. I looked blank. The fact is, I had no memory of the incident. This was not emotional baggage I'd been carrying around for decades. This was not even emotional baggage in the overhead locker, securely tucked away for the moment but always able to be pulled down. This was lost luggage. And the weird thing is I could list many, many other things that had happened between us I still hold in my carry-on emotional baggage. The whole business of forgiving, of saying sorry, of seeking forgiveness, of making amends is a complex and emotionally charged space. This was the subject of an extraordinary piece of theatre I witnessed as part of The Brisbane Festival tonight.  The Brisbane-based production company The Good Room took to the world wide web to ask people to submit something they would like forgiveness for or something where an apology or attempts to make amends might help them forgive. They wove the responses into a piece of verbatim physical theatre held together with the story of Vitaly Kaloyev and his battle to forgive the unforgivable. Kaloyev's family was killed when an air traffic controller's mistake led to the death of his family. Using dance, perhaps the longest choreographed theatrical fight ever, smoke, 70,000 pearls and bags and bags of emotional garbage, the audience was taken on an emotional journey into what it is to forgive and to be forgiven. It gave no answers but raised a lot of questions. It shook me from start to finish. Now I just want an apology from the makers of the piece for seriously disturbing me.
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Monday, September 18, 2017

September 18. Day 261. Strung up

We hear a lot about wildlife being injured by eating things or being tangled in things left behind by careless or uncaring humans. Indeed, one of the strong arguments for the banning of plastic bags in supermarkets from next year involved just that. I've seen the pictures. I think we all have. But I've never actually seen it first hand until today. I was taking a stroll through South Bank after my ABC slot.  The beach was pretty crowded given it's day one of the school holidays and it was picture perfect weather. I strolled to the water's edge vaguely considering putting my toe in to test the water but my eyes and my camera were drawn to the seagulls flapping about. I rather like photos of seagulls splashing about in the shallows. I've taken hundreds in my time often from almost exactly where I was standing. But today one was splashing and flapping more than the others. So that's the one I took most photos of. It was really bright so I
couldn't review the pics while I was on the beach. It was only later that I really understood what was going on. There was something, possibly an elastic band, around its beak. Perhaps it was from a sushi pack. Perhaps it was something else all together. And my response was to take photos. Well done me (not). The photos on my camera suggest it freed itself, although it may be I started focusing on another bird. At the risk of sounding like a bigot, all seagulls look kind of the same. But I feel bad, probably not as bad as the seagull.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

September 16. Day 259. The knives are out

While I might occasionally, sometimes, frequently whinge about my job, I don't really hate it. Education isn't actually about the 3Rs at all. It's the 3Ms I hate (marking, meetings and moderation). In all honesty, I know there are far worse things I could do. I don't build roads, I don't have to stand on my feet all day asking people how their day has been and I don't have to throw fire or knives at myself (even if it feels like it sometimes). Also, I get paid every fortnight without having to beg for it. In short I don't envy James Martin AKA Stuntman Jim. James was busking at South Bank when the dogs and I arrived late this afternoon. All the street performers I have seen at South Bank say pretty much the same thing at the end of their act. This is their job, they don't get paid for being there, they live on what audiences give them, please don't walk away. At least come and say thanks. And then the show finishes and most people run off without making eye contact. I went up and had a chat- and gave him the entire contents of my wallet which was $5 in gold coins. And then it occurred to me. There are lots of things that get harder in a largely cashless society and street performing has to be one of them. I don't carry cash. Swiping or tapping is my thing. As soon as my bank gets on board it will be my phone and that's it (until a chip is inserted in my arm). I'm not sure what the digital equivalent of passing the hat around is. Right now it seems like it's refusing to make eye contact and running away as soon as the show ends. This is a shame. The world would be a much duller place without the likes of Stuntman Jim.

Friday, September 15, 2017

September 15. Day 258. Home not so sweet, home

Margaret was discharged from hospital today. Again. She was so excited, happily telling everyone how much she was looking forward to sleeping in her own bed. I wish I could share her excitement. At least when she was in hospital she was unlikely to fall and end up in hospital. And as day turned to night my concern grew. I kept thinking I could hear her calling. Every car that came down the street I thought was an ambulance. Honestly, she is an accident waiting to happen. I'd take bets on how many days it will be before she is back in hospital if it wasn't so politically incorrect to do so. But sometimes you have to laugh or you'll cry. Today is one of those times.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

September 14. Day 257. Hands on

Talking with your hands is a thing. To be truthful it is often a thing that people see as a bit of a joke. As a hand talker I don't find that very funny. But here's the joke on the jokers. Hand talkers are charismatic and passionate leaders. As one study says "Hand gestures are really a powerful aspect of communication, from both the speaker's and the listener's end," Well isn't that a bit of good luck. I saw quite a bit in the name of hands-on communication today. Kate Jones, a former QUT Journalism student and now a Minister in the Palaszczuk government, was a special guest in an investigative journalism lecture this morning. She was good with her hands. Later there was a Fame concert. After 15 years of sitting in the audience of Fame concerts, I am very familiar with more than a few of Fame's signature hand moves. Message received loud and clear.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

September 13. Day 256. Cruel to be kind

Whenever medical staff enter my neighbour Margaret's hospital room, I always get up to leave. She always says "you can stay" in a way that is clearly more instruction than invitation. So today I witnessed the wound being dressed again. There was a lot of scrubbing going on. The wound care nurse explained that healing was improved if blood supply could be increased to the site. You have to be cruel to be kind, he said. Okay then. Like everyone else entering Margaret's room at the moment he was wearing a mask, gloves and disposable gown. Margaret's room-mate until yesterday has been diagnosed with the flu and moved into a private room. Until the swabs taken on Margaret are returned, she is also treated as an infection risk. The last thing a hospital needs is more flu patients. The last thing an 89-year-old woman being treated for a leg wound needs is a dose of the flu to go with it. Hospitals really are the simultaneously the best and worst place to be when you are sick. I'm told the wound is healing nicely. I guess not weeping is an improvement. Managing not to weep while watching all this is also a big tick or Susan. Let's just hope it works

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

September 12. Day 255. Light and shade

 Apparently umbrellas are not like Coke cans and designed for one use only. In my hands, no matter how beautiful or expensive the umbrella is, I can lose it on the first outing. Perhaps this is why I find the growing trend of carrying around an  umbrella to keep the sun rather than rain off weird. It could also be that while an umbrella to shade yourself from the hot Aussie sun is sensible, I still equate the parasol with a quaint relic of days gone by. However, given the decided lack of wet stuff from the sky over recent months perhaps it makes sense for those who manage not to lose their umbrellas to find another use for them. Failing that you could turn them into giant lamp shades. That's what was happening today in the Theatre Republic precinct which is being erected between my office and the nearest coffee shop. My guess that this is an artistic statement and has nothing to do with providing actual protection from any element. But there may be lessons I can learn, such as securing your umbrella to the roof is one sure way not to lose it. This may not be the most practical of solutions but it is attractive and as with the parasol that matters a lot.

Monday, September 11, 2017

September 11. Day 254. Republican movement

There's a theatre republic being erected right in front of my office building. In terms of a republic, one devoted to theatre suits me down to the ground. But in the bigger picture, the republic I really want is an Australian republic. I find it absolutely insane that a big grown up country such as ours has a foreigner as its head of state. I have nothing against The Queen, but she's not our Queen. It becomes even more insane when you consider all of the hoo hah in recent weeks about federal politicians being ineligible to be in the parliament because of tenuous dual citizenship links. So our parliamentarians fall foul of Section 44 of the Constitution that prevents anyone who is "a subject or citizen or entitled to the rights of privileges of a foreign power" to stand for parliament. But we can have as our constitutional head a foreign citizen. Come on Australia, let's get real about this. I don't buy the "if it's not broke don't fix it argument". My ceiling fan may not be broken but does that mean it's wrong to want air conditioning? No. I just want a better way of cooling myself just like I want an Australian as my head of government. Time to grow up people.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

September 10. Day 253. Winkle. Winkle little star

Oh Winkle, you are my little star. 
You are such a little bundle of crazy. It is said by many people, myself included, that I am a Crazy Dog Lady. Guilty as charged. I am crazy about my canines but at the same time they help keep me sane. The love and devotion dogs have for their humans is something special. Dogs are people, I often say. Actually that's not really fair to dogs. Still even I am not crazy enough to think Winkle knows it's her second birthday. Indeed Winkle would not know what a birthday is. She would not understand why she was dressed in a party frock. She would not understand why she was dressed at all. Truthfully, few people understand that, my human family included. But Winkle does know when she is the centre of attention. Winkle does know that pup cakes with peanut paste icing are not every day. Of course a birthday party for a dog is crazy but spoiling the ones you love, you can't argue with that.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

September 9. Day 252. Honour

 If all is fair in love and war, what about the casualties?  Is following your heart the same as following other organs and does it matter how many other hearts you break along the way?These are surprisingly difficult questions to which there are no clear answers.Tricky business, relationships. Like so many things in life, the interest is in the questions themselves not so much in the answers. Joanna Murray-Smith, a woman, I consider to be one of Australia's best contemporary playwrights is an expert at shining a light on modern ethical conundrums.  She may not always produce jolly works but they are beautifully written, real and powerful. Today I saw her play Honour for the first time. Now I know why it shone on Broadway and in London's West End. The Yeronga State High School Hall and the Villanova Players might be a world away from The Royal National Theatre but a good story is a good story. Unfortunately this is its closing weekend. There are far, far worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Hear more about the show in our podcast

Friday, September 8, 2017

September 8. Day 251. Festivals and festering

Debra Jobson (foreground) and Ella Rubeli before the panel session began

It would be fair to say today didn't go to plan. In my mind, it was going like this. 1) Sleep in. 2) Spend the morning reading over material and prepping for a Brisbane Writers Festival panel I'd agreed to moderate after lunch 3) Moderate panel in a stylish and clearly well planned fashion. The day actually went like this. Woken at 7am by a phone call from my neighbour Margaret saying she was being released from hospital at 10am and asking could I pick her up. Fruitless conversations with hospital expressing concern about the readiness for this. Collecting the things needed for her discharge and return home. Present at hospital at the appointed time. Wait. Wait. Wait. Try to do panel prep on the phone. Wait. The discharge papers were printed. All that was needed was the change the dressing and we would be on our way. The old dressing was removed. The doctor, the nurse and I looked in horror. I'm not trained but that did not look good. At all. There was a lot of action, swabs and antibiotic drips and more wound care. I brought the bags I had taken to the car back into the room, unpacked everything and headed off to the festival. Journalists Debra Jobson and Ella Rubeli were such interesting women with such great insights into the changing face of journalism the discussion went smoothly despite how very un-smooth I felt. Finally my plan for the day got back on track. Home for an afternoon nap with the dogs. The best made plans of mice and men (or more accurately Margaret and me).

Thursday, September 7, 2017

September 7, Day 250. The real road to happiness is in here

The creative team (from left) Tim Sharp and Dead Puppet Society's David Morton and Nicholas Paine.

Research this week is music to the ears to everyone who is closely associated with a person on the autism spectrum. Almost one third of people with autism have special talents of savant abilities. This is three times as many as previously thought. And better still, while popular perceptions thinks these people are probably computer geeks, the special talents are, pun intended, across the spectrum. The report found that early identification and fostering the abilities is key to long term success. If anyone is a poster boy for these findings it would be Tim Sharp. Tim is the creator of the cartoon super hero Laser Beak Man. His artwork is highly sort after and Laser Beak Man has been turned into a ABC TV animated series. And next week Laser Beak Man the visual theatre production will have its world premiere at La Boite Theatre as part of the Brisbane Festival. Tim has worked with Dead Puppet Society's David Morton and Nicholas Paine to bring Laser Beak Man to like on stage. At a La Boite Chatterbox event tonight Tim, David and Nicholas excitedly talked about the work. Tim talked about how his favourite puppet was Laser Beak Man's arch nemesis Peter Bartman and how he loved the music by Sam Cromack of Ball Park Music. He sang a couple of verses from The Real Road to Happiness is in Here. This shows just how far down the road Tim and his mum Judy have come. Judy has been quoted as saying that when Tim was diagnosed at age three the doctor told her "that the best thing to do was put him away and forget about him" .  Judy did what researchers are advising. She fostered his ability to draw as a way to communicate. Now look where that road has taken them. The sneak peek behind the scenes makes me so excited to see how this collaboration will come together.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

September 6. Day 249. People in glass houses

People in glass houses - spend a lot of time and money on window cleaning. We have a lot of glass around our house. Glass fence palings, glass pool surrounds, glass down the stairs and on the balcony. Glass, glass, glass is a pain in the arse. It looks great when it's clean which is almost never. Even if I had endless time and energy access is a real problem. What I need is a team of glass cleaning abseilers. Honestly, one abseiling glass cleaner might be sufficient but I looked with a great deal of envy at the clean team on a glass building being erected across the road from the Mater Hospital. It's never going to happen but it doesn't hurt to look does it? Does it?

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

September 5. Day 248. Rusted on

Dear Queen Elizabeth,
You seem to have neglected to send me my 100th birthday telegram (do they still have them?)
Your not very loyal subject
If you are only as old as you feel, I should have received my card from the Queen today. I'm tired. Really, really tired which makes me feel really, really old and really, really cranky.
It's that Week 7 of semester kind of feeling.
With the "stuff" that's been going on with Margaret in the past few weeks, I've heard her say to a number of people a number of times "Don't get old". Of course, the alternative isn't very attractive. In truth you can be "young" into your 90s or old in your 50s, like me today. These pelicans, an artwork called Biomechancial Pelicans by Christopher Trotter were only installed in 1995 but like me they look rusted on. They, of course, were designed to look old and will just improve with age. Me, on the other hand. ....

Monday, September 4, 2017

September 4. Day 247. Dog person

Every time my dogs jump all over me and lick me or jump all over each other for their regular wrestling sessions, I now mock cry "watch out, those vicious dogs have form. They hospitalise people." After the "incident" with my neighbour Margaret last Friday I feel I have to laugh or I will cry. Although she is fond of telling the nurses just whose dogs "caused" her to be hospitalised, at least now she's saying it was an accident. The fact that this wasn't a new injury but an old festering wound the dogs knocked is conveniently forgotten. The conversation I had yesterday when I outlined my concerns about her declining mobility also seems to have been conveniently forgotten. Do not think for a second this is because she is losing it. She forgets only those things that she chooses to. Let's face it, she's not the only person to have ever employed the selective memory or selective deafness technique. It's just right now a bit of honesty is called for. But fear not, I'm not letting go. I'm like a dog with a bone, a very vicious dog of the type likely to lick you to death.

September 3. Day 246. Happy Father's Day

There's one thing I consider my "wifely" duty to perform on special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries and fathers' day. Of course I mean cooking smelly fish. If you were thinking something else, shame on you. It's either kippers or sardines, disgusting things both of them. Today for Father's Day it would have been sardines - note to self. It's about time Drama Teen took over. Charles is, after all, not my father. But the sardines went missing, not even deliberately. So I resorted to the egg poached in the heart-shaped cookie cutter. It later turned out that Charles had put the tin of sardines in the fridge. I didn't even consider looking there. Who puts un-opened tinned food in the fridge? So that was breakfast. At dinner Drama Teen stepped up to the plate and booked a table at an Italian restaurant in Milton. A fine choice it was too. Far too many calories were consumed but all in a good cause.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

September 2. Day 245. "Reality" TV

Here something that will shock you to the core: reality TV is not real. I know, right? There is some construction, some manipulation in the reality. Who would have thought apart from everyone. Today we went to inspect a home that had been given the Charlie and Shaynna for Selling Houses Australia. We'd seen the house pre make over but were busy on the official reveal weekend. The formula is people saying really mean things about the house. Make over. People saying really nice things about the house. Auction. Huge profits. But the house sold before auction. So what do you do? Act like it never happened and get more nice comments to fill the void. Let me say the make over was impressive. It was classic Charlie and Shaynna. That bit is real. But I laughed when they peeled the sold sticker off the board off the front of the house to get footage of us arriving to inspect. For a time it was on the side of our car until Drama Teen returned it to its rightful home before we left. We walked up the steps multiple times to get different angles. We entered rooms repeatedly. We said the same things over and over so they had a choice of how to use it. It's what we all know happens but it's fascinating seeing it in action just the same. But there is one thing that upsets me greatly. Host Andrew Winter has left just before we arrived. Nooooo. The reality is I'm a bit of a fan girl - of reality TV, of Selling House Australia, of Andrew Winter. If it means repeatedly walking up the front path constructed by Charlie I'll do it. I really, really will.