Monthly Archives: June 2011

The Girl Who Came Before.

The Girl Who Came Before liked to make pancakes. She was very good at them. She was excellent. She could have been a pancake chef. They were fluffier and thinner than the ones you make. She knew how to flip them so they twirled right up into the air, and landed back in the pan without getting all mussed up or doubled over or splattered on the ground. They were like the ones you get in a restaurant. They came in piles of perfect circles, with dripping maple syrup and squares of butter. They were cartoon pancakes. That’s how good they were. They were as good-looking as cartoon pancakes. They were that perfect. The Girl Who Came Before could also bake cupcakes with perfect pink icing, smooth gorgonzola sauce, chicken soup and lasagne. Cookbooks were not a foreign language to the Girl Who Came Before, and she could do things to vegetables that would make them want to be grated, chopped, and eaten.
The Girl Who Came Before had stronger arms, which pushed swings higher and gave hugs tighter, had shapelier legs, that ran faster and danced better and a nicer laugh, which was always louder and longer. The Girl Who Came Before knew all the lyrics and all the moves, she could rock a dance floor, stay up all night and shake her (perfectly shaped) booty better than Beyonce.
The Girl Who Came Before knew just what to say to diffuse a situation, she could get Tom and Jerry to see eye to eye. She made everyone feel at ease, she told you the truth, because she was as honest as the day is long, true blue, straight as an arrow, straight down the line, always said what she meant, meant what she said and you knew where you stood with the Girl Who Came Before.
But more than that, the Girl Who Came Before would fill a room, not clear it. She was the person whose messages were always answered, whose calls were always taken. The Girl Who Came Before was the girl people came to parties to meet. The one everyone hoped would be there. She made things fun, and lively and hell, lets face it, she was the party: if she wasn’t there, there was no party, there was just a bunch of people standing around awkwardly and coincidentally drinking in the same room together. She was the glue, the bond, the fairy dust, the va-va-voom and the je ne sais quoi, she was the missing piece in the puzzle of your life. She was the one with the awesomest dress, the bestest shoes, the most up-to-the-minute make-up, the cutting-edge hair, the swishiest earrings, the brightest colours. She was the one who everyone threw their arms up at and said, “Ohhhhh, I love the…. ” fill-in-the-blank, “Where did you get your….” fill-in-the-blank, “You always look so….” fill-in-the-blank. The Girl Who Came Before was a riot, she was a laugh a minute, she’d crack you up, have you rolling in the aisles, you’d lose your head, split your sides, and die laughing with the Girl Who Came Before.
The Girl Who Came Before was just the right side of rude, the side that made you giggle in surprise, but never frown or misunderstand. She made you feel you were living on the tips of your toes, twisting this way and that to catch what she might do next, to keep up with her crazy, whimsical, hair-brained schemes, but she also never, never made you fear an over balance, a twist too far, a topple and a fall, splat, flat on your face and a broken front tooth.
The Girl Who Came Before was sure of herself, she knew where she stood, she was confident in her decisions and she stuck to her guns. She knew what was best without hand-wringing or ringing up to check with her superiors, because she knew what everyone else did, which was that she didn’t HAVE superiors, not really, not even the ones that were supposed to be her superiors: she knew it and they knew it, and she only went along with it because it was polite to pretend they were her superiors, only went along with it because that’s the way the world is supposed to work, and there’d be chaos if she didn’t. She didn’t need to do a google search or check wikipedia to be sure she was right and that she knew best. And, hey, even if someone else checked it up and found the google search said she was wrong, that was cool, that was fine, she knew she’d be right another time, and hey, it was still the right decision, as far as she was concerned, let it go, let it go. But the Girl Who Came Before never had to utter those words, not once in her life did she have to console herself, or comfort herself, or talk herself back from the brink, because those words, those thoughts and feelings were infused in her limbs, they kept her shoulders unknotted and her backbone straight, and her fingers and her hands unclenched. She never had to say, ‘sorry’, because she knew there was nothing to apologise for, she never had to say, ‘It’ll be alright’, or ‘You’ll be fine,’ or give herself a pep talk. Confidence was an all-day, every-day phenomenon for the Girl Who Came Before, it was part of her body, so she didn’t even notice it, came as easily as oxygen, happened naturally and grew as fast as her hair and fingernails, so if a little bit ever got snipped off, it would soon be back again, soon be back again, longer and stronger than before.
So, no matter how hard you try or what things you do; no matter how much you smile or compliment or joke or tease; no matter the talents you possess or the skills you have learnt; you just won’t do. You have to face up to the fact that, in their eyes, you’re just ordinary.  To them, you’re just normal. You’re one more person, a mere mortal, one more non-descript face in a crowd of similar faces, that’ll be forgotten the moment that its seen. You may be many things, you may have many goals and dreams, you may even be looked on kindly by certain people, but none of this matters when you consider that you are nothing more than the Girl Who Came After the Girl Who Came Before

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Kid World

When you look after kids you end up doing things that you haven’t done for years, and you never realised you lost the ability to do. I was a pretty active kid, really, when I think about it. I didn’t like sports, but I loved climbing trees, dancing, going on hiking adventures, swinging on swings, going down slides, jumping on trampolines, doing cartwheels, doing somersaults etc. etc. etc. Also, being an actor, you spend a lot of time doing strange things, like pretending to be animals, or attempting to express nothingness through movement and all that sort of bizarre stuff. But, since I’ve been out of acting school for a while, and I’m now 27, which is ridiculously old-sounding (and must be old-being as well, because I’m not longer considered a youth by many funding bodies and programs. Pooh to you, I say), my body got creaky without me even realising.
This came to my attention today when the little one decided she wanted to somersaults. That was ok, but then she wanted me to do them too. I said I couldn’t do them. She told me (cheeky monkey) that I need to practice. As I always tell her this when she gets into a strop over the fact that she can’t do something, I decided I couldn’t get out of it now. So, I attempted to do a somersault. I was worried about my neck. I was worried about my spine. I was worried about my tailbone. The little one wouldn’t have a bar of it. ‘Practice! Practice!’ So, I ended up putting down two sofa cushions and doing somersaults on those.
It was a lot of fun once I got going. It reminded me of a yoga class I took last year, in which our teacher took us through a variety of balancing poses. She told us this was a good thing to do, because most of us (unless we are trapeze artists) always look at the world from the same perspective and along the same lines, giving us a stagnant view of things. But, through yoga and these balancing poses, we would be able to look at our world anew again. I liked that idea, and I thought it was probably an important exercise for someone who wants to be involved in the arts (it also gave me a new perspective on yoga, which I have previously found difficult to enjoy).
Anyway, the point of all this is, that looking after kids, and doing somersaults, for example, offers the same thing, this different perspective on the world. When I write it down like that it seems like a very boring and pedestrian observation. Something that I’ve spoken about many times on this blog before. I think the difference I’m trying to remark on here is that different physical perspective. I’m crawling around the ground a lot more than I have in years, I’m squeezing into tight spaces, I’m doing crazy things my body hasn’t been asked to do for many moons. Its complaining a little. Its outright refusing in some instances, but it is enjoying the change. I’ve found that if you quit worrying, and just go along with it and see what happens, generally the body will warm up to it. It might even enjoy it. It might find it a welcome change from all the boring gym work it usually gets put through.
On another side, but still related note, it does also make me wonder how much harder it would be as an ‘older’ parent. I know its something that older parents vehemently deny (that they are in any way less able or capable than their younger counterparts), and I certainly don’t want to draw huge assumptions and make sweeping statements, but I’m wrecked after 3 days with one little girl (not even both of them together), and I’m only 27. I’m not as fit and healthy as I have been, admittedly, but I’m no weakling either.
Despite my concerns that perhaps adulthood in the later 30’s, early 40’s would be, in many ways, more difficult and more exhausting, I still have no plans to have children myself any earlier than 35. My host mother told me last week she couldn’t see me without children. This does seem to be a common theme amongst most of the people who know me. Its odd that everyone else feels so certain about the fact, when I’m not convinced myself. Anyway, enough babbling. That’s my post for the day. Its not very funny or coherent, but, as I said, I’m wrecked.

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One More Day to Go

Only one more day of NYWM. Thank christ. Much as I have enjoyed it, and sometimes it has helped me to write some good posts, a lot of the time (especially recently, when I’ve been very busy), its been quite stressful. For whatever reason, maybe because I set myself a reasonably easy goal (it doesn’t require a lot of thought to do do a blog post every day, though it does take some time), I saw it through, when I’ve failed at things like Scriptfrenzy (which require a more dedicated and focused through-line on completing one script. Even though they tell us it doesn’t have to be any good, I find it difficult to keep writing a script if there are problems with the structure, characters or writing in the early parts. I do need to get over this, because it makes it very difficult to finish things and get to the second draft stage. I have a pile of scripts on my desktop in various states of unfinished-ness. I believe this is what is called ‘procrastination’) I’ve failed at. Anyway, that was a long set of brackets. Worthy of an academic article. Did you even remember what was at the beginning of the sentence by the time the brackets were closed? I didn’t. I started on the next sentence without finishing the last.
Yes, what a segue. What was I talking about? I’m wrecked. I’ve had the little one all day for the past three days because she’s finished school and its pretty exhausting. She’s come up with a neat way of getting around my excuse of ‘not being able’ to do something, which is to tell me I ‘need to practice’. She said it to me today when I couldn’t do a somersault, which is hysterical, because its what I always tell her and her sister if they throw a tantrum about not being able to do something. So, of course, I had to take my own medicine and attempt a somersault. I put down many sofa cushions before I agreed to do it though, believe you me.
Anyway, the point I was trying to make was about NYWM. I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve enjoyed posting this much, and I’m proud of how my blog looks now. I don’t know if the quality of the posts for everyone else has increased, but I’ve certainly enjoyed the month, and I like that I’ve got a very random but in someways more complete version of my experience here because of it.
I don’t know if I will keep up the daily posts into July (for one thing I’m going to be much busier with the girls and a lot more travelling, and I do have to focus on my friggin’ Melbourne Fringe and Wexford Fringe show. God, I’m having heart palpitations just thinking about it. If you want to follow the progress on that one, I’ve set up another blog – I know, I’m obsessed – which is doubling as the show website here: http://nomatterwhereyougothereyouare.blogspot.com/ ), but I hope that I can at least do some more regular posting than I had done. I do like to look at the list of blog posts for June (April looks pathetic in comparison). It gives me such a feeling of satisfaction and production.
So, thank you NYWM for a wonderful month, even if I wasn’t technically the right age to participate. 

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Rain is Fairy Tears

Today I was given some very vital information by my eldest charge. According to her, when it rains, its because God’s fairies are crying. This would help explain a great deal of my confusion over the weather and why Irish weather forecasters don’t seem to have a clue of what they are talking about. I mean, if they are attempting to predict the emotions of a bunch of highly volatile and sensitive supernatural beings, they’ve obviously got to be given leave to have a wider margin of error. The only thing I’ll say is that, clearly the fairies in Australia are a lot more fixed and predictable in their moods. Maybe the fairies in Ireland are all teenage girls with PMS or something. 

Anyway, today, the fairies were crying especially hard. My eldest girl asked me why that was the case.

I didn’t know what to answer. Should I take it as an opportunity to teach her about the evils of global warming? Poverty? Selfishness? About the fact that she shouldn’t hit her sister?

Or should I come up with something more whimsical? The fairies were crying because no-one believed in them. The fairies were crying because everyone always called them angels, and they weren’t, they were actually fairies. I was about to tell her that God was mean to the fairies, but I suspected the follow-up question/remark would be ‘What did God do?’ or ‘God is NEVER mean!’

Luckily, I hesitated so long she got bored of her initial inquiry and moved onto the next topic of conversation, which was, why did the car have to go slower as soon as we got into Bandon?

Catholicism is a lot more complicated than I at first imagined.

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Vampires

I had the most fun in the world this evening with the girls. I was pretending to be a vampire, and chased the girls around the house like this:

Except my cape had a pattern that looked like this:

Terrifying.

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Cute Things Said by the Little One Today

I could create a whole blog just with these quotes, but today had some real corkers:

* She said to me, completely unprompted, ‘You’re my best friend’. 

* Her bike has had its wheel broken for a while, and we’ve been telling her that we would ‘get the man’ to fix it, meaning the man in the bike store. This morning, when I woke up, she told me ‘Her man’ had fixed the bike.

* She informed me that her classmate, Michael, a real favourite with her, was Spiderman. And that he went ‘whoosh’ with accompanying arm movements.

* She told me to push her on the swing ‘as high as the clouds’. When I told her I wasn’t strong enough, she said ‘Try!’

* When she was pushing her bike around the house, she got tired and stopped. She sat there, looking miserable, until I asked her what was wrong. She said, ‘I need batteries, Jenny, I need batteries.’ I mimed putting batteries into her bike and she was off again. Later, when we found a plastic toy of hers that the dog had bitten the head off, she said, ‘Is broken, Jenny.’ I said, ‘Yes’. She said, ‘We need to fix it.’ I said, ‘We can’t.’ She said, ‘Batteries?’

* When we went into the supermarket, I noticed that she had a scratch down her face, and I told her the cat had scratched her. She then proceeded to tell EVERYONE in the store, down the street, in the library, that the cat had scratched her, it had really hurt, she had cried lots, the cat was very mean, and she had yelled at it and thrown it out of the house, when 15 minutes earlier she hadn’t even noticed.

* She saw it was raining. Little One: ‘Its raining, Jenny!’ Me: ‘Yes!’ Little One: ‘Why?’ Me: ‘Good question…’ 

* When we went to the woods this morning, she was so excited she did what I know as her ‘crazy laugh’. Its seemed very familiar and I think I finally figured out what it reminded me of. Its this:

Which she does, all the way into the woods, and then turns around, runs back to me, throws herself at my upper thighs, looks into my face and laughs like this again. Its hysterical.

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Wexford, Waterford and White-Water Rafting

I’ve been waiting to write this post for a while, because I wanted a particular photo, which I thought was going to make the whole thing so much more funny. However, its taken so long to get the blasted photo from the friend who took it (I still don’t have it, in fact), so I’ve decided to write the post before I forget everything and it becomes a boring post anyway.
So, last weekend (well, no, not last weekend, the weekend before), I had to drive to Wexford. Wexford is about 3 hours away from Bandon, and whilst I knew I kind of had to do it, I wasn’t relishing the idea, nor did I think it was going to be particularly exciting. So, I decided to drag along some au pair friends to entertain me on the journey and, luckily, managed to convince them that it would be fun – like a buddy road-trip movie across the USA, ‘Thelma and Louise’ except all in one-day and with more girls and less Brad Pitt, sexual harassment or horrible death at the end.
I also managed to convince them to get up really early on a Sunday morning (one of their only days off) so that we would have plenty of time. So, I drove round to various parts of Bandon that I had never been to before (all very pretty) to find the girls, as well as to a very depressing place called Crossbarry (Crossbarry has 3 empty shops, a service station, a beauty salon and a pub. But, everywhere in Ireland has a pub, so its not really that much an achievement).
It was a beautiful, sunny day in Bandon and Cork, so we were optimistic that we would have fun. Of course, this being Ireland, as soon as we thought it might be a nice day, we noticed that there were storm clouds on the horizon, and we were driving straight towards them. I can’t remember much of the first part of the trip, except that we were heading towards Waterford (this is what happens when you leave it more than a week to post) and there was much giggling. It was probably about boys. How embarrassing.
Anyway, we got to Waterford, after passing over a very cool bridge, which looked like the Madonna’s bra bridge in Sydney, except that Madonna was missing one of her bra cups.
Of course, because we got going so early, we got to Waterford at around 11am. Now, 11 am on a Sunday in Ireland, is not the most exciting times to be up, as we quickly found to our dismay. To add insult to injury, it then started to rain as we tried to wander around the town and get a feel for the place. So, we ran to the Waterford crystal place, but not wanting to pay the ridiculous price to enter the visitor centre (there is a limit to how much of our money we will willingly donate towards the ailing Irish economy, and we generally like to donate it to clothes stores, or in my case, to charity stores), we decided instead to go to the cafe (we willing give our money away in return for Irish cakes). There were so many amazing cakes to choose from, that I decided that no matter what I chose I would be disappointed that I hadn’t chosen something else, so I took the easy route and got a Diet Coke. Then, with all of Waterford currently closed or being rained on, we decided to jump back in the car and head up to Wexford.
We drove through a beautiful area called Dungarvan, which was on the water, with a hill behind it that looked like a patchwork quilt. The sun was coming out again, but the rain clouds were ever-threatening on the sky.
I had researched things to do in the Wexford and Waterford areas (Waterford crystal visitor centre: tick), and one of the things that came up was the JFK arboretum (a big park with lots of different trees), but one of the other au pairs had found out that you could actually go to his family’s old estate. This sounded pretty cool, much more interesting than different trees and we were all fans of JFK, so we headed down some tiny little back roads to find the place. It was amazingly well sign-posted (for Ireland, that is), and I didn’t get lost at all. There was even a sign telling us that the estate was 100m up the road, and the reception 200m away, which seemed over-kill, but we were grateful nonetheless.
We turned into the JFK estate to find… an empty cow shed and a tiny parking lot.
This confused us a great deal. We had told there would be an estate. We were told there would be a reception. We were expecting a little place with souvenirs (everywhere else in Ireland has one). We got… gravel. 
Now, this is where a photo would make the story so much more interesting, as there was a sign stating, ‘Welcome to the Kennedy Family Estate’ in front of the sad looking car park, making us all the more confused. We looked over fences and saw what looked liked private houses. We looked at the cattle shed, and saw no-one. We eventually decided that it must have been the ‘site’ of the old family estate, rather than the estate, and were just about to get back in the car, when we suddenly heard gun shots, seemingly very near by. We then freaked out (well, no, I freaked out), thinking we had wandered on to private property without realising it, and jumped back in the car. Starting the car, I couldn’t help wondering if it was meant to be part of the JFK experience, which was a joke in fairly poor taste, but amused me nonetheless. As we were about to drive away, I suddenly had a thought and remembered the very helpful and specific sign we had seen earlier. I decided to drive 100m further down the road, and, of course, there was the reception. It was closed. I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised, it was Ireland, though, after finding the one useful road sign in the whole of the country, anything could have been possible.
So, we headed off for Wexford. The sun came out again for us, and by the time we reached Wexford, the shops were open, and the people were out and about, giving us a much more favourable impression of the place. After a quick walk down the main pier, and a quick trial of the world’s most terrifying toilet (similar to those toilet cubicles in the Sydney CBD, where everything is mechanical, and you have to pay), which didn’t seem to lock properly (the toilet bowl didn’t have a drain, and everything in the cubicle was dripping wet. When I left the cubicle again, it became obvious why this was the case, because the ENTIRE cubicle was automatically cleaned after each use… very strange and not at all welcoming), I left the girls and went about completing the chores that I needed to do in Wexford. This meant walking around the city looking at various venues, and in particular, the Irish Agricultural Museum, set in the grounds of the Johnstown Castle, which is now the space for the Irish half of my current show.
The castle grounds were/are gorgeous, have a look:

And the space (‘The Cart Room’) is pretty cool too:

So much so, that I drove back into Wexford, grabbed the girls and forced them to go back to the castle with me. I’m glad I did, as it turned out to be one of the genuinely interesting things I managed to get them to during out whole crazy road-trip escapade, and they were very patient and upbeat with me the whole time, even though it was a less than amazing trip.
We headed back on the road after seeing the castle, and I attempted to take a scenic route home, which involved driving the girls past a half-finished and completely depressing housing estate, which will probably never be built, but will rot and deteriorate on their prime real estate for years to come; past the port where you catch the ferries to Europe; and almost having them killed by pulling out in front of a hugely irate old Irishman (possibly the owner of the incomplete, depressing housing estate, hence the irateness), who then honked his horn at me for a good hundred metres down the road (I retaliated by honking my horn back even louder and longer. Probably not the best way to diffuse the situation).
We attempted to buy Wexford strawberries on the way home from roadside stalls (things from roadside stalls always seem more authentic, don’t you think? Especially when they’re kind of rotten and have flies over them… adds to the authenticity), but after passing between 15 – 20 open stalls, we managed to stop at the final stall on our side of the road, which was also happened to be closed.
We pulled in at Dungarvan for a lovely sea-side dinner:

And then continued the drive home. By the time we got back to Bandon, it was around 9pm and I had to drop all the girls off before heading home myself. I was wrecked, and none of us were particularly talkative by the time we said good-by. Still, it was a great day, and productive from my point of view, and enjoyable (I hope) for all of us.
Oh, and, yes, the white-water rafting. Sorry, we didn’t do any of that. I put it in for alliteration purposes only. Plus, I thought more people might read it if I put it in the title. I was going to make that whole reveal much more funny, but the whole bloody post took so long to write that now I can’t be bothered. Sorry, that was really cruel. I would have gone white-water rafting if I could have. Please don’t unfriend me on Facebook because I lied to you.

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