Friday, May 29, 2009

A moment

I start my new job on Monday so this moment, sitting here with my late-afternoon vegemite toast and cup of tea, at home in the quiet on a Friday afternoon, is the last such moment I'll have for a while.

When I was a kid I used to think there was something magical about 2pm on a school day when you were home sick. You were in a place you wouldn't ordinarily be at that time. Somehow the light was different, and the neighbourhood didn't sound the same as it did on the weekends.

I've got that feeling now.

Afternoons like this have been such a pleasure over the last two months. As I've sat here fiddling around on the computer, making plans and writing up lists (such tremendously enjoyable things to do) I've been struck by the absurdity of going to work. I have, quite simply, been free. My time has been my own. It's been a shock to realise how little this is ordinarily the case.

I can but apologise for the banality of these thoughts, but as simple and dull as they are it remains that in a moment when I head off to collect the members of my family from their various places around the city the weekend will begin, then the week will begin, and Monday afternoon at home will pass without me.

So dear tea and toast and afternoon sun and random school-day adventures, thank you and see you in the next redundancy.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How I learned to stop worrying and love writers' festivals

I've just spent a long and fabulous weekend at the Sydney Writers' Festival. Sure there were hoards of those snobby rich-type people from the Eastern suburbs who only recognise books as those nice flattish statues they have on the glass-topped mahogany coffee tables in their north wing sitting rooms, but the Festival had more delights than even the high concentration of cats'-bum-faced women could diminish (apologies to cats and their arses everywhere).

So what were these festival delights? Let me share some with you.

Festival Delight Number 1
Bob Ellis was there talking about his new book And So It Went. He sat behind us at the restaurant on Saturday night. This is possibly my favourite festival photo of all time:

Festival Delight Number 2
There was a panel on erotic fan fiction. Marieke Hardy was on the panel and she read a piece on her lust for Brian, the dog from Family Guy. It ended, wink wink nudge nudge, with how she knew how to "throw a dog a bone".

One panellist read a piece on Inspector Gadget, describing, in detail, the Inspector's colouful feelings for Penny; another panellist described how Jennifer Aniston might be filling those lonely hours post-Brad by imagining what Brad does to Angelina under the table at all those gala dinners they go to. But the best piece of the night was based on the characters from Cluedo, which from the very innocent "'Lick my beard!' yelled Mustard to Green" descended into all sorts of delightful filth.

Festival Delight Number 3
My friends, undoubtedly against their better individual and collective judgements, let me do a festival quiz over dinner. Weren't they pleased with the quality of my questions:

The weather forecast for the festival was rain all weekend. Has it rained today?

The man who attempted to heckle George Friedman on Friday night was wearing what coloured scarf?

The Sydney Writers' Festival is held in which city?

Festival Delight Number 4
There was a session on the Booker Prize and the panel included a writer who had been short-listed and another who had been long-listed for the award, neither of whom had 'progressed' further in the competition. I enjoyed watching the facilitator rush headlong into a sentence that, as it started to unwind, could go nowhere but to the rather damning end of describing the two writers (of excellent, engaging novels) as 'Booker Prize losers'. It was an awkward moment. I'm pretty sure I saw one of the writers look at his/her watch.

Festival Delight Number 5
My final festival delight was the discovery of just how nimble old people are. There's no need to worry about old people getting worn out and feeble; the writers' festival has shown me that physical deterioration in your advanced years is a myth!

This weekend I saw more old ladies duck, weave, shoulder and side-step their way up queues than I could count on an abacus. One moment I was sure I was at the front of a queue then I'd blink and there would be fifteen thousand wrinkled faces with 1950s lipstick in front of me. What ho, I would think to myself, where did these fifteen thousand people come from? Then I would marvel anew at the speed with which fifteen thousand old ladies can duck, weave, shoulder and side-step, as they did within the blink of my eye (300 to 400 milliseconds), to get themselves to the front of the queue. I no longer fear getting old.

How much are tickets to the Byron Bay festival? I can't wait to see what the old hippies are up to.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Whoops! I forgot to put the safety on

I've been to the Opera House twice in the last few weeks (bringing my life's total to two visits). On both occasions the foyer was full of more bare shoulders and angular-cut skirts than my year 10 formal, but I felt perfectly at ease in my jeans (don't worry! They were my dress jeans! It's not like I went day casual).*

Anyhoo, so there was lots of quality time spent people-watching, friend catch-upping, and lining up at the bar for drinks and snack foods (like Toblerone? I'm still completely mystified why they'd sell Toblerone at the Opera House bar?), which was all lovely and fun but what I enjoyed most was the awesomely dangerous architecture.

Having grown up in a golden age of litigation, I most expect, when I head into the city on the train, say, to see at least 25 signs warning me not to cross the yellow line, not to prevent the doors from closing, not to crowd into an already crowded carriage, not to jog (or even walk quickly) down the escalator, not to wear shoes with loose shoelaces on the escalator, not to let anyone I'm travelling with who might have shoes with loose shoelaces and a penchant for jogging (or walking quickly) down escalators do so, and by crikey not to shriek and point when I see three-foot rats baring their teeth then gnawing on the rails that we're about to travel on!

So what a relief to visit the Opera House, sans safety signs, and find all sorts of delightfully dangerous architectural death-traps that are, no doubt, keeping the local council awake at night. Take, for example, this breezy external staircase that has thrown off the shackles of its railing:

Or this marvellous internal staircase litigiously connecting two thin 'platforms' on which drunk people congregate to partake further in the purchase and consumption of alcoholic beverages:

Surely leading to:

But I think the thing that made people most truly fearful was the 'click' sound my camera made when I took a photo in my toilet cubicle:

Ah, photos in toilets, now there's something to sue about.

* I haven't the faintest idea whether dress jeans actually exist, and thus clearly own none. I did indeed go day casual.