Today I took the train into town to meetup with my Dad and SWWNBB. Before I saw them I swapped trains at South Yarra and went to Prahran. Epic NOSTALGIA BLITZ!! The first time I got off at Prahran Station by myself was when I was fourteen – at those times you did two weeks out in the ‘real world’ working with, or alongside someone in an industry that you had an interest in. No school – you went to work every day. It was called ‘work experience’. Back then I was all about film and theatre – so I sat in on the editing process of a movie: ‘A Difficult Woman’ starring Judy Davis. This was courtesy of my mother pulling a few strings with her screenwriter cousin.
This is back in ancient times. They were using FILM STOCK and editing was a manual process involving razorblades. I sat in a darkened room with two men, Bob Weis and Ben Lewin, neither of whom would have any memory of me. I was very shy. Although I did tell one of them that if they stopped smoking they would save over $1000 a year, something I should have probably kept to myself. I didn’t learn a whole lot about film editing – but I did wander the streets of Prahran reeking gently of cigar smoke.
Since digging back into the past for this post I have discovered that the film was actually called ‘Georgia‘ and my mother’s cousin was one of the screenwriters on it. So THAT’S how it all came together. Who knew?! I was kind of sad that I didn’t get to experience the other more exiting bits of film-making, but anyway…
Back then the Table Top Biscuit Factory was operating and I would get off the train from Sandringham in the morning into the scented swirls of baking biscuits. My lunchbreaks were an hour – giving me enough time to meander through the delights of Greville Street – back then a mecca of secondhand awesomeness, vegetarian cafes and alterno-fashion. I would go and get a tuna, tomato and cheese pie at Williamson’s Bakery on Chapel Street, and inhale it while wandering through the Greville Street Bazaar (later the Chapel Street Bazaar). I hung in Greville Records and there was an awesome shop that sold cheap sample clothes. The windows of the vegetarian Feedwell Cafe were often misty with steam and savoury smells.
One lunchtime, near the end of my working fortnight, I paid $25 for a Gladstone bag that I’d coveted for days. Which worked out well, as I was gifted $50 by my ‘employers’ who were probably just thrilled to get rid of me – a tall gangly shy thing that barely spoke. That bag went to many gigs with me and is currently falling apart, cobweb covered and full of ageing guitar pedals. I won’t be getting rid of that during my Minimising April.
What those two weeks did for me, besides providing confirmation that I did not want to be a film editor, was equip me with the confidence to explore unknown places – to seek out the cool record shops and find where the good pies were at. I am still not good at sashaying into fashionable boutiques, but that tends to suit my budget.
There are no secondhand shops there anymore, but a few fixtures remain – 26 year later. Greville Records is still rocking on and Palm Beads remains. Quite a few shopfronts were vacant. I miss the old hairdressing salon that had half a vintage car coming out of its feature wall.
As I walked further down my brain reached into its archives and found the word ‘library’. And there was the library. And the council offices with the nice toilets I used to use. And another memory surfaced of myself, clad in my 1990 alterno-garb with a semi-shaved head, jingling my way down Greville Street with a freshly pierced nose. I remember my dad looking to the heavens and shaking his head when I got home, and my mother saying, “I wonder what you’ll think of that in 20 years?”
I wandered along the section of Chapel St in between Greville and Commercial Road – it’s always been pretty skanky – and that hasn’t changed. I am deeply uninterested in buying new clothes, but a recycled fashion Red Cross Shop shone to me like a beacon on Commercial Road and I spent a happy 20 minutes in there looking for treasure. Score! One linen dress – destined for next summer. I saw things that I thought I had forgotten – a big gothic building that looms over Chapel Street and the Braille Lending Library.
My dad shouted us some sustenance at the cafe in the Gallery where the water window continues to delight me. Activities for the school holidays were on and there were many kids around and about. I missed the Smalls, but it was pleasant to walk at my own pace and follow my own whims – having no one burrowing under the changing room door when I tried on the Dress was a bonus that I did not let go unacknowledged.
I’m continuing with the purging, but have not moved any more computers along…. That will happen later in the week. Small DB was delightful and picked out several dinosaurs that were to journey to the op-shop. That was one bag.
Two more bags of toys that they don’t use and haven’t missed. I have stuck them in the boot of the car in order to bestow them on some out-of-the-way op shop where they won’t be rediscovered.
Goodbye clock that I bought eleven years ago – we haven’t used you for two years because you have no numbers, making it difficult for Small people to learn to tell the time. I’m sure someone else will love your brushed metal and subtle ticking…
Dear Small Brother,
It has been some time since I last blogged a letter to you. As I write I am conscious that you are smoothing on your anti-aging cream in preparation for the coming weekend when you return anew to Coachella. As you won’t Skype me back with confirmation I must assume that you’ll be gazing down upon the dirty masses from a well-appointed
hotel suite sublet timeshare abode while financially challenged twenty year olds pitch their tents and pray for clear skies.
As long as you dress casual and don’t open your mouth to mispronounce anything I’m sure you’ll blend right in. I haven’t checked the line-up as it would just be depressing for me and annoying for you when I started begging you via text to visit far away side-stages to watch burnt out megastars from the 1990s try to remember their chords and pretend that the last 20 years haven’t happened. (And excepting people like Portishead, the Chemical Brothers, New Order and Air – they WILL all be guitar bands.)
I am looking forward to your arrival next Wednesday – I think the rain will have stopped by then. You are, of course, welcome to stay in the caravan – which will be a slight step down from your
hotel suite California condo, but not greatly different from your apartment except that it doesn’t have a television or look out on to New York City. If required I can sticky tape up a streetscape from Sesame Street or Google Earth to make you feel at home.
Meanwhile, party as hard as you dare, you’ll have all the way from LAX to Melbourne to recover/watch a bazillion films/ponder your youth/wish for wifi.
See you soon. Hurry up.
April has begun with a change of mind where kindergarten and Small DB are concerned. They have kind of parted ways. There was an incident where her friend at kindergarten got very upset and her mother was called to take her home. Her teacher reported that after it happened Small DB was sad and quiet. The following Friday she refused to go. I asked her why she no longer liked kindergarten.
“I miss you and you’re not there. I wanted you!”
“If you ever want to come home from kinder you can always ask your teachers to call me. Did you tell them you wanted me?”
“No.” A pause. “I was too shy.”
Unlike I was with Small Z (who I coerced and manipulated into going along when she really didn’t want to) I am not going to make Small DB go. She is very social already without three hours a week of kindergarten. And it is also expensive as it is non-compulsory. I will offer to go with her and stay for as long as she needs me to – but if she really doesn’t want to do it, I won’t pursue it. There is a full month away now because of school holidays, so maybe a break is all she needs – we shall see.
In the meantime she was very happy to go on a kindergarten excursion to a local farm with me, Small Z and The Nana on Friday. Last time she was there a sheep said BAA!!! very loudly and she climbed me like a startled monkey and stayed in my arms for most of the time. The word she used was ‘worried’.
This time she refused to leave without a pony ride – a radical change… Small Z had a ball (as the lone 6yo homeschooled freak she was a giraffe among four year olds and I had to ask her a few times to not answer every question asked by our farm-tourguide and to let others have a go).
Don’t you love her little horseriding face?! It’s very pleased…but secretly so.
Let’s see if I can do it. I want to get rid of SOMETHING – ANYTHING – every day in April. It can be big, it can be small, but it has to be something. It is now April 4th (I am not sure how that happened) and here are THREE bags (there is a very small one in the middle) that have gone to the op-shop…
Goodbye, first computer of many. I’m sure no one will buy you for $25 on eBay but you can’t say I didn’t try…
Last month ended with M’s birthday – it was on Saturday 29th of March. Oh my gosh it was a beautiful weekend! The weather was perfect Autumn – warm and still days with slightly chilly mornings. M was given coffee…much coffee…and wine…much wine. The Smalls gifted him ‘Long Way Round’ by John & Jack Faine, a travel mug (so he stops using mine) and from all of us was a fancy new drill – the receipt to which I stapled carefully to the warranty and promptly forgot where I put it. Small DB drew him some wrapping paper…
We took him for a second breakfast and he was presented with a stack of complimentary blueberry pancakes at our favourite cafe from lovely Dave. My phone was, for some reason, all blurry…
We rode our bikes – and being at the Birthday Whims of M we stopped at a chandlery – the Smalls and I waited for him while he enquired about something or rather. There were several funny faces…
Mr, Mrs and Master H attended for a long lunch – I had cooked my second roast beef ever and it was good. Well, it was eaten, so it can’t have been too bad. Champagne, sparklers, brownies, tea…more friends for more champagne…and then suddenly they all decamped and we were in a quiet, cleanish house with leftover food and lots of wine. It was good.
Last night the Smalls and I camped at Point Leo – we dropped M off at home on the way through. We have a meetup with the WildThings (our nature-walkers) here this morning and, as the caravan was all set up, I thought we wouldn’t return home just yet.
Aside from one all-screaming all-dancing tantrum (what is wrong with me, as a parent, that I shout things like: “If you put on a jumper, you can have a strawberry…” and as the screaming and refusals escalate, “You can have FOUR STRAWBERRIES – just PUT A GODDAMN JUMPER ON.”?
Because we would all be having a reasonable time if Small DB was warm and comfortable, but as she chooses to remain chilly, she whimpers and whinges. Because, we would all be having a reasonable time if I wasn’t a menstruating psychopath with control issues. Again and again and again I write this crap up in an effort to hammer home to myself that clashing with her achieves nothing.
Having arrived at 6.30pm there was little time for long walks or the beach because dinner needed inventing and then the bed needed to be made up. I had had dreams of sitting up amidst two sweetly slumbering Smalls as I tapped away on my iPad…but they didn’t conk out until 9.30pm and by then I was shattered. An early night – though I did begin reading The Art of Fielding, a write up of which I read a while ago in Vanity Fair and it made an impression on me.
The night was filled with the drone and divebombs of a million fucking mosquitos. Maybe there is blood close to the skin near ones ears? Maybe it is because the head is sticking out of the blankets and is the obvious target? I couldn’t figure out if there was one maddeningly overactive one or squadrons. I lay perfectly still as it buzzed around my ear and then landed on my eyebrow/cheek/chin/forehead and then thwacked myself in the face with manic vigor in the darkness in the hope that I’d killed it. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. It. Would. Not. Die.
Whacking oneself in the face doesn’t lend itself to peaceful slumber and I read between 4am and 5.30am – we all awoke just before 8am to the sound of rain on the roof. I couldn’t help myself. I did not cuddle my girls or snuggle, I got up like a ninja and stalked every last one of the TWELVE motherfucking mosquitos that were staked out inside the caravan. And squashed them ALL.
Both Smalls have little red bites on their faces. I haven’t bothered to check mine. I can’t comprehend how I ever thought we could live in this caravan for a few months… really? I suppose if we were in someone’s backyard it would be easier, but caravans – three people – rainy weather? I think not. That said, we have had some serenity this morning – some reading, drawing, tea, flocks of ducks waddling by – and the sun (both realistically and metaphorically) is starting to show it’s face. The Smalls have decamped to the playground up on the hill – an option that the couple camping a bit further down with three small children won’t have for a few years yet.
It is time to splash my face, put away the crud, get dressed and start anew.
This weekend away has been planned for a few months. Cash is tight, so I worked two eleven hour days this week to pad out our caravanning budget. The day before we left I checked my bank account to see whether my pay had come through. I did not see the amount I was expecting. I saw MORE!!
As anyone who has received unexpected funds knows, the joy is quickly tempered by WTF!? And “how will I pay this back if it’s all just an accident?” The money was from Centrelink (for non-Australian readers, that is the kind of welfare arm of the government that pays income support to families with low incomes, single parent families, etc). We get a family support payment fortnightly, without which we would s-t-r-u-g-g-l-e. This was not our normal payment.
The temptation to spend it was big, but the fear of not being able to pay it back was bigger, so I sat on ‘hold’ for half an hour (their call centres are notoriously understaffed because they’re probably shuffling employees around to assist in climate change denial strategies and trashing the Great Barrier Reef). When I finally spoke to someone, I asked them in seventeen different ways, were the ABSOLUTELY SURE that I could spend that money? Why was that money there? Were they ABSOLUTELY SURE I could use it? Really? Could you check again…in triplicate?
I was reassured that something at their end had been reconciled since I had recently notified them that M would not be submitting a tax return for the previous financial year. I gently suggested that if I’d known there was some money dangling in the ether, I would have let them know a lot bloody sooner… Anyway – a windfall! Not a huge amount of money, but enough to buy supplies for the weekend without angsting about it. And I used the majority of it to placate the credit card.
What I noticed was the sudden ease I felt while doing the grocery shopping. And when I went to put diesel in the car, I didn’t put in $40 and hope it would see us to Inverloch and back, I filled the tank – $75 – and felt no pain. I wonder about how much unconscious tension we carry around in relation to things like money or lack or time. It wasn’t until I was lazily filling the car that I gave myself a mental shake and realised I suddenly felt a whole lot lighter. Sometimes a change is as good as a holiday, but sometimes BOTH is BETTER!
Realising how much easier just a bit more money makes things tempts me to try and exist on less and squirrel away more for such things as a weekend away. Although, without serious frugality measures, that just won’t happen. We don’t eat takeaway dinners when we can’t be bothered cooking, we don’t go to the cinema or the theatre or the Comedy Festival, and we don’t go out for dinner. Our money goes, for the most part, on necessities, without much left over.
I’m always interested in what other people spend on their weekly shop. For the four of us, I spend $200 – which seems like a LOT of money for one week?! I am hoping to use the windfall money to fund a bit of bulk-buying via food co-ops – and then put aside the money I’ve saved on the weekly food shop to fund another bulk buy in a month or two… Listen to me getting all dreamy-eyed with economic possibilities…