Amy Tries Again


Iron Maidenhood – or – In Which I Listen To Metal
October 21, 2011, 11:31 AM
Filed under: In Which I Try Again, Things I Do Not Like

I am fairly eclectic in my musical tastes.  I’ve always thought of metal, however, as something I would have no interest in whatsoever.  It just didn’t seem my kind of thing.

 The imagery surrounding it influenced me more than I initially realised.  I was an oddly fearful little thing as a child, and didn’t like the look of any scary grownup band tshirts with skulls and worms and monsters.  I couldn’t even cope with these things depicted cartoonishly on the covers of Goosebumps books.  I wouldn’t go near the scary movies in the video shop because I didn’t want to see their covers.  (I’ve never entirely grown out of such things.  I’ve never seen Donnie Darko because I saw a picture of the rabbit suit in it once and got spooked.)

Unicorn-free zone.

 In my mind back then, the metal genre (not that I could have named it then) was basically the horror music genre.  I doubt 10-year-old me would have embraced it if had been more unicorn focused, but I probably wouldn’t have been actively terrified of it.  The worst thing was this: on the bike track by Norman Creek, some disillusioned suburban teens (I presume) had written IRON MAIDEN in big letters by the canal.  We went on wholesome family bike rides fairly often, and the words made me think, initially, of a kindly robot princess or somesuch.  I’m not sure how I learnt that the phrase really referred to both torture device and a scary grown-up band, but once I did, I had to avert my eyes when I saw that particular bit of graffitti.  I felt tricked.  This had not been the work of robot princess afficionados at all.

I wish.

I didn’t think to question the TRUE FACT that I Did Not Like metal – and particularly Iron Maiden – for many, many years.  However, it was recently pointed out to me by several of my esteemed associates that my fondness for (amongst other genres) EPIC GUITAR might translate into tolerance – if not fondness – for that particular band.  At a certain point in the evening, I am not impartial to a bit of shouty big-hair karaoke.  Alright, I thought.  Smashing my air guitar violently against the stage, I bit the head off an air bat and hurled an air TV out of a hotel window before downloading an Iron Maiden best-of (air-legally).  Yep, I went for a compilation.  I’m hardcore.

 So what did I think?  It was, at once, just what I expected, and not what I expected at all.  The metal cliches were there, but they were less all-invasive than I’d imagined.  All the classic guitar chords and harmonies I like anyway were there, but with a rather more energetic (and, after a while, a bit samey) drumbeat, and some (slightly more hardcore) duelling fiddles.  Glam rock has flirted with metal more than I initially realised.  I’ve always had a soft spot for the occasional bit of…well, c*ck rock (HURR HURR HURR), so a lot of the music that I’ve always liked owes a lot to old-school metal, and might JUST be classified as such itself at times I SUPPOSE (Led Zep, anyone?)

To be honest, I guess I’d been thinking of metal as the really terrifying gutteral screaming stuff.  Which, I suppose, it is, sometimes – it just didn’t occur to me that that wasn’t, well – it.  Nobody shouted TOO much at me.  When they did, it was at a pleasantly self-aware, AC/DC, strutting-around-in-the-80s level, not a terrible screaming evil level.  It wasn’t scary.  It was basically the soundtrack to Jack Black movie, and fun in a guitars-on-fire-IN-HELL sort of way. I particularly liked ‘Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter’ because it was almost a parody of itself.  Did I like it ironically?  I don’t even know.

I also theorise that most Iron Maiden songs work better on the second listen. I’m basing this entirely on the fact that I listened to ‘Run To The Hills’ on Youtube before listening to the whole album.  Maybe I was just relieved, when hearing it again, at noticing a vague acquaintance amongst a group of (reaonably affable) strangers, but it seems that if you know there’s an interesting tempo change/totes fully sick guitar riff coming up, anticipating it is enjoyable.  Having it strike you out of the blue – at lease for me – is less fun.

 Overall?  It was enjoyable, if a bit of a genre novelty for me.  I’m not going to delete the album.  I think it would be good walking music, actually.  ENERGY!  SLIGHTLY ANGRY ENERGY!

 I’m yet to find something that I was actually completely right about the first time.  This is beginning to alarm me.

 Metal: successfully Tried Again. 



In Which I Eat My Hat
October 19, 2011, 10:17 AM
Filed under: In Which I Try Again

I was once a foolish individual.  I held prejudiced views.  I thought…well, this is what I thought.  For those who don’t have the energy to click on a link, here’s the condensed version: NEW ZEALAND IS BORING NO I’VE NEVER BEEN BUT WHY WOULD I EVEN WANT TO GO IT’S JUST AUSTRALIA JUNIOR ONLY BORING.

I really am very sorry.

I would like to apologise, completely and unreservedly, to the good people of New Zealand.  I was very, very wrong.  When first this blog emerged from the primordeal ooze, my vague plan was to revisit things I’d decided as a stubborn child that I Did Not Like.  I was going to Try Again – hence the name.  It’s since degenerated into COOL STUFF WHAT I DID and also RANTING IN CAPITAL LETTERS.  However, on occasion, I revisit my original mission, and absolutely everything I’ve Tried Again has been at the very least Not Horrible and at the best Absolutely Amazing And Why Was I So Wrong?

Mainly peanut butter cups. Oh, yeah.

There was a time when I thought New Zealand was a waste of time and effort.  I was prepared to allow people to continue to live there.  I wished the nation no harm.  I just didn’t see any reason why I would want to visit it when there was a vast world of excitement out there.  Of course, by the same token, I thought most places in Australia weren’t worth visiting, either.  GIVE ME EXOTICISM OR GIVE ME DEATH.  I’d realised more recently that this might just be foolish – enough, at least, to make a token resolution to visit New Zealand and have my mind changed.  Then I did nothing.

Nothing, that is, until the other day.  I got back on Sunday from a few days in Wellington for the New Zealand Improv Festival.  Yowza!  It was amazing, but impro (WHICH IS SPELT WITHOUT A V, PEOPLE) is usually pretty amazing.  I had excessive amounts of fun playing with improvisors from around New Zealand, along with a few truly spectacular fellow Australians.  It’s strangely eerie – and comforting – to meet other impro tribes.

None of this really surprised me, though.  I was, however, quite gobsmacked at just how suddenly and profoundly enamoured I was with the city of Wellington.  It is just the right size.  It is green and blue and pleasantly crisp.  There are laneways and old buildings and a big harbour.  There are fjords and good coffee and interesting places to walk.  In short – just my cup of tea.

I learnt many things in Wellington, none of them profound.  For example:

  • my Australian accent is not overt enough to stop SEVEN DIFFERENT PEOPLE asking me if I was from Christchurch.
  •  names of shops, read in one’s head with a novelty Kiwi accent, are hilarious.  The best ones were ‘Fix’ (a convenience store) and ‘Living and Giving’ (a gift shop).
  • Australian money is wrong.  I was scoffing at New Zealand’s foolish coinage (the $1 is smaller than the $2 – what foolishness!) when it was pointed out to me that $2 is, after all, a larger sum of money than $1.  MINDBLOWING.
  • speaking of Australian money, half the shops in New Zealand are exactly the same as the ones at home except 15% cheaper when you translate their prices into Australian dollars.
  • Pineapple Lumps have gelatin in them.  Happily, I didn’t realise this until after I’d eaten some.
  • Electric buses?  What?
  • WiFi can be city(centre)wide, reliable and free.  Get on it, Brisbane.
  • Aboriginal culture really isn’t integrated into mainstream Australian culture in any major way.
  • Football is following me.

The last paragraph of any post in which I’ve recently become enlightened is pretty samey.  I didn’t think I’d like it!  I DID like it!  Hooray!  I want to do it again!  I’m not going to break the mould with this post.  I was wrong about New Zealand, but now I’ve seen the light.  I also note that the budget airlines are doing $130 tickets to Christchurch.  Maybe I should check it out.  After all, I already talk like I’m from there. Bro.



I Go Swimming And Actually Write About It
April 4, 2011, 8:30 AM
Filed under: In Which I Try Again, Things I Like, Things I Like But Do Not Do

A few weeks ago now, I posted a picture of my sandy, sunburnt self grinning like a loon. I’d just been swimming at the imaginatively named Sandy Beach, after far too long avoiding the water. We’d gone to Sandy Beach to visit Ash’s lovely sister Kristy and her family, and the ocean and I could not have had a better reunion. The second I was in the sea, all my reluctance seemed utterly ridiculous. I hadn’t realised it, but I’d been talking it down to myself. Revisiting things adored in childhood feels, to me, mildly dangerous.  There’s a risk that whatever it was you once loved might now seem smaller, or gaudier, or just embarrassing. With this cheerful theory in mind, I’d been bracing myself to be entirely underwhelmed.

I’d set myself up for disappointment. This was probably why I felt absolutely elated when I realised I was wrong. It was glorious. The very first thing I noticed was that I’d forgotten all about the feeling of the sand under your feet being sucked away with a receding wave. How had that just vanished from my brain? I’d loved that.

Something like this.

I felt a bit sad and melodramatic, to be honest – I almost hoped I hadn’t hurt the ocean’s feelings too much by refusing to interact with it for so long. My sentimental musings didn’t last too long. I was far too busy splashing about and diving under waves. Sometimes the diving efforts backfired and I emerged spluttering, saltwater streaming down the back of my nose. A very slight rip pulled me gently to the right, and it felt dangerous and exciting. My fingers wrinkled. Ash looked at me, smiling.

‘What?’

‘You look so happy.’

I was. The sea was just exactly how I’d left it. All I’d had to do was get back in.

We returned home the next day. I’d meant to write about it. I’d made notes and everything. I wanted to try something else as well, though. This had gone so well, I had to get back into a proper pool.

A few days later, though, the saltwater high had worn off. The pool didn’t seem such a wonderful, non-terrifying idea anymore. I put it off. The pool would be different, I thought. There would be lots of people there. They’d all be sleek and fit and probably be in training for corporate triathlons.

Well, yesterday morning I went. I walked to the Ithaca Pool and swam laps. It was incredibly normal and incredibly strange at the same time. I’d never been to that particular local pool before, as far as I remember, but it was just as a local pool should be. The admission booth was also the kiosk, and sold goggles and lolly snakes. Oversized clocks cycled smoothly on the wall, and blue, chlorinated water twisted the shadows from the bunting strung over the pool for the benefit of those attempting backstroke. I was familiar with this world, but I was rusty.

‘Um, is it just any lane, then?’ I clutched my towel and handed over my coins.

‘Yeah.  Any lane’.

I chose lane three. For the first few laps, the whole thing felt rather laboured, like I was practising a forgotten dance routine. One, two, three, breathe, one, two, three, breathe. Then I got distracted by the patterns of light on the bottom of the pool – I’d always loved to look at them – and suddenly, I was just swimming. I thought of my Grandfather. He loved to swim. He would have been glad I was back in the pool. This made me happy.

The high-flying corporate all-rounders with an interest in competitive fitness must have been at a conference or something. A middle-aged man made his deliberate way up and down the pool, stopping after every lap to adjust his goggles. An elderly woman protected herself from the early morning light in a full lycra sunsuit. A pregnant woman sliced through the water surprisingly quickly. One woman stayed entirely in the children’s wading pool, walking back and forth through the water and stretching. Strong looking men and women pounded laps, but they weren’t scary at all.

I remembered lots of things. I switched between strokes every few laps – I even tried backstroke. (It turns out I’m still terrified that I’m about to hit my head on the wall of the pool.) I did some clumsy tumble turns, and rediscovered how much I liked doing laps with a kickboard.

Image from http://www.funswimshop.com.

I'm a speedboat! Get out of my way!

It was an excellent start to the day, and I felt positively chipper for the rest of the morning. In short: swimming is fun. The water is nice and cool, your arms get tired in a good way (I love a good arm stretch) and you get to look around underwater with goggles on.  I honestly don’t know why I thought I might not like all these things anymore.

The most positive sign? I found myself thinking that the bathing suit I’d bought a few weeks ago (carefully selected to look as flattering as possible) just wouldn’t do on a long-term basis. I’d had to adjust it a few times, and it was no good for doing tumble turns in. No, what I needed was a pair of racer-back togs cut in a sensible way without silly ruched tummy-hiding panels. Something I could move in. Something practical.

I may or may not have already picked out a new pair online and bought some eyedrops to combat chlorine. That said, I can’t say that I’ve rushed back into swimming’s damp embrace. I don’t want to make any promises I can’t keep. Swimming and I are hanging out. Taking it slow. After all, it’s been a while, and I’ve cleverly started flirting with it again only a few weeks before my local pool closes for winter. But hey: there are indoor pools. I haven’t been to one of those for quite some time, either. I’m thinking the Spring Hill Baths.

Swimming, you’re alright. This could be the (re)start of a beautiful friendship.



I Go Swimming
February 14, 2011, 8:03 AM
Filed under: In Which I Try Again

I have no idea what I was worried about.  I have some more swimming to do, this time of the pool-based variety, but for now: I went to the beach.  Picture = 1,000 words.

The deranged salty grin indicates extreme happiness.



My First Car Accident
January 23, 2011, 7:53 PM
Filed under: In Which I Try Again

This driving thing is harder than it looks.

After the floods delayed my plans to get back behind the wheel, I had another go today. It was the first time in years, and I was quite excited. My venerable sensei was my mother’s partner, Peter the Surly Dermatologist. (Remind me to tell you their unlikely old people love story sometime, it’s quite sweet.) Peter is a gruff, sarcastic old thing with a fondness for inappropriate jokes. I do a really good impersonation of him, but sadly I can’t do the voice over the internet. Also, you probably don’t know him. He’s a good egg, and what made him the ideal choice to be my teacher is the fact that he happens to drive an automatic. As my previous attempts involved manual cars, and a rather unimpressive success rate, I resigned myself to the fact that I would never be a driving purist, and embraced the easy option.

Hang on, did I say easy option? Peter drives an enormous tank of a 4WD. Just getting into the driver’s seat felt wrong. I mean, it probably would have felt wrong anyway, given that I had spent the majority of my life on the passenger side – but I was very high up indeed. The car seemed too wide. I wasn’t used to this. Lights and buttons were flashing at me. Okay. Deep breaths.

I took a quick refresher course on the important things (the brake is the big pedal!), adjusted the seat and the mirrors, and we were off. We drove around the streets of West End, near the river. This was weird. I’d never driven where people were before – any previous attempts had been in (after hours) industrial areas or similar. This was different. There were joggers, buses, bikes – I was basically inside the examples on the Queensland Transport website. I couldn’t do this. Nonsense, declared Peter. Okay then.

He’s a good teacher. It didn’t feel normal (how could it? I was driving a freaking car) but it became less and less weird very quickly. It was even a bit fun. This automatic thing was a good choice. I wasn’t busy worrying how to make the car go, so was able to actually drive it around. Peter told me a (frankly quite unsubstantiated) tale about London cabbies balancing a pint of beer on the dashboard and being able to stop suddenly without spilling a drop. I was not quite at that point, but the car wasn’t making any of the great shuddering leaps I had anticipated, so I was fairly pleased with myself.

The whole thing was quite surreal. I was in a car, going down a normal street. This had happened to me countless times before. This time, however, I was actually in charge of the very grown-up business of steering, braking and accelerating. Things were going well. I felt it was not only possible that I could learn to drive like a real adult, but actually likely. We did several laps of the same route, and my confidence grew.

Then it happened. As I drew close to a stop sign, the light turned orange.

‘I should stop, shouldn’t I?’
‘Grumph harrumph.’ (That’s Grumpy Old Man for ‘Yes Amy, I believe that would be the appropriate course of action at this time’.)

I stopped. The car behind me didn’t.

It wasn’t scary at all. There was a noise, and a solid sort of thud. The tank had taken almost no damage, but the small car behind wasn’t so lucky. The driver was fine, but one side of his bonnet was crumpled. Fuck. The small amount of cool motoring composure I’d scraped together in the previous 20 minutes fled. Peter went to talk to the man, and I burst into tears. Some joggers asked if I was okay.

The other car (‘hrumph bloody little coke can masquerading as a vehicle garrumph hrrrrr’) was still driveable. Its driver was not happy, but I was too scared to face him. Peter and the joggers argued with the man about exactly what had happened, and I took some relief in the fact that apparently I actually hadn’t done anything wrong. The other driver had been following too closely, and had been lighting a cigarette when I stopped (rather ungracefully) at the lights. It was cold comfort. The whole experience had me overwhelmed. When insurance details had been exchanged (the other driver eyeing Peter’s admittedly completely terrible SKIN-DR vanity plates with great suspicion) something was harrumphed in my direction about getting back on the horse. No. Not today.

We retired to my mother’s house, where I was fussed over and given cups of tea. My sister gave me a six-chambered Nerf suction cap gun (apparently the jar of pickles she’d given me at Christmas was just a placeholder gift), which cheered me up no end, and Peter attempted to express his sympathy by presenting me with a large bag of expired Cetaphil samples.

Armed and non-comodegenic.

I’m trying to think of the whole experience as a gritty reboot of my driving education. Part of me wants to resign myself to passengerhood and stop my efforts. Still, I suppose an accident was inevitable. It wasn’t too bad, really. Nobody was hurt, and whatever happens now, I won’t be waiting for that first prang.

Driving, you haven’t seen the last of me. Just you wait until next weekend.



In Which I Learn Long Division
January 20, 2011, 11:04 PM
Filed under: In Which I Try Again, Things I Do Not Like

It’s been a while since I actually conducted one of the experiments that I had in mind when I started this blog. With that in mind, I thought it was about damn time to Try Again – again. But what to do? Sitting at home on a Thursday night swatting mosquitos doesn’t exactly lend itself to life-changing experiences.

It was then, with a heavy heart, that I remembered one of my earliest rants on Things I Do Not Like. Maths. Specifically, long division. My heart sank further as I recalled that my beloved, when not striding around town scaring children with his powerful, powerful jaw, has been gainfully employed as a maths tutor. He owns flashcards and stuff. It was destiny.

I am not one to fight destiny. I sat down with Ash and resumed my study of mathematics for the first time since Year 10 (I discovered that you didn’t technically have to do senior maths at my school, and took full advantage). To be honest, whilst I had to sit in maths class in Year 10, I probably hadn’t paid any attention since about Year 4, which lead to the rather shameful fact that at 27 I was incapable of long division.

As you can see, though, I am VERY good at art.

We started with some of the aforementioned flashcards. These were just basic division (short division?). These were alarmingly similar to times tables, but I could do them, albeit in my own roundabout sort of way (okay, if this number is double that number, and I know that that number goes into that one this number of times, well, I think that one is about a quarter of that – is that right? Yeah, I think it’s right – well, then if I minus that from that – hang on, no, that’s not right. I think it’s this. Is it this? This is horrible. Oh! Wait! I know this one!) – you get the general idea. Suffice it to say, I was never fond of times tables either.

(At this point, I would like to pause for a moment to reflect on the wisdom of my Year 6 teacher, Mrs Yeates. Mrs Yeates had, at some point in the past, grown very frustrated that children never seemed to know one particular part of the times tables. For this reason, she would have us chant ‘six eights are forty-eight’ after she said good morning. This happened daily. She told us that we would never, never forget this, and she was right.)

As you can see, even writing about maths sends me rambling. Clearly, I will try anything to get away from it. When the proper long division started, I did exactly that. Patiently, Ash explained the mechanics. My brain refused to accept the information. It leapt sideways. It wrote off necessary steps because PAH! I ALREADY KNEW THAT! I had the distinct feeling that mathematics was making fun of me.

It all came back. I’m not referring to the ability to do basic mathematics – that I never managed to fully acquire. I’m talking about the barrier of my own creation to the part of my brain that needed to sit quietly and follow instructions. Was the whole point of this to make me feel stupid? Quick! Distract the numbers! Tell them a joke! PROVE THAT I’M ALREADY SMART! I knew that it was a process, a simple set of rules to follow, but I felt like something within me was actively rejecting the information. I was back in class, writing in my Year 2 journal for hours and hours because I didn’t want to have to do maths afterwards. I was sitting through hours of exercises at after-school maths practise. I remembered composing stilted messages to friends on upside-down calculators instead of paying attention (and thinking how cool it would be if we could send proper messages to each other on our calculators. Yeah, I invented text messaging in 1994. You’re welcome). I even flashed back to the soroban (Japanese abacus) classes that my mother enrolled me in, thinking that it might spark an interest in maths – after all, I loved learning Japanese (it didn’t work). It was all back. I felt insulted and powerless.

Happily, I am now, at least officially, a grown woman. With heroic effort, I dragged my attention back to the hated digits. I was amazed at how often I kept wandering off. Maybe the teachers had been right back then – maybe I’d just been really, really determined NOT to learn maths. Using my super adult powers of concentration, it slowly began to seep through the layers of resistance. A glimmer of light appeared.

‘Ash, this is all just reversed times tables!’
‘Yeah.’
‘Oh! Seriously, that’s it! That’s all it is!’

I still didn’t like the notion of times tables, but it did render things less mysterious. As we got to remainders and the like, I baulked again. Why did that number have to be put there? Hang on.

‘Ash, this is like when you carry a number in multiplication, isn’t it? It’s just reversed! Instead of moving it up, you move it down!’
‘Yeah.’
‘Oh!’

The idea of venturing beyond remainders into decimal places terrified me. Soon enough, though, another (very definitely non-energy efficient) lightbulb sparked.

‘Ash, the dot doesn’t really mean anything, does it? The numbers just sort of keep going forever, don’t they?’
‘Yeah.’
‘Oh! Give me another problem.’

As soon as it seemed like something I might be able to do, that was it. I was determined. It was a puzzle, a game I hadn’t played before. I was learning a new trick!

Long story short – we practised and practised. I did it. I did it several times. He even gave me problems and left me to my own device, and I am proud to say I got them right. I divided 40,1836 by 16, and, damn it, I got it right. Obviously, I am feeling very pleased with this evening’s efforts.

Long division = successfully Tried Again. I am making great strides towards basic numeracy.

At this point, I am wondering if I will ever encounter anything that is actually as bad as I thought. I suppose there’s only one way to find out.



Decluttering – or – Surprisingly Deep Thoughts
September 1, 2010, 5:25 PM
Filed under: In Which I Try Again

For the last few days, I’ve been attempting to keep my flat relatively tidy.  Naturally, this was extremely boring, so I tried to find a way to jazz things up a bit.  It is not in my nature to do something steady and sensible when I can turn it into a BIG PROJECT, so I have decided to embrace the buzzword that is decluttering.

I have been throwing things out.  I have been throwing LOTS of things out.  Here are some highlights.

1.  An assortment of unfinished craft projects.  Yes, I’m a bit of a Nanna.  I get ideas above my station when it comes to craft, and haunt sites like Craftster, ReadyMade and TShirt Surgery.  I love wacky projects, and sometimes, they even work.  Thing is, I am impatient, and a perfectionist.  If I have dropped a stitch in my knitting, if my DIY stencil has smudged slightly, if my origami paper is slightly creased – AWAY WITH IT!  Away with it, that is, into a drawer.  I couldn’t possibly dispose of these unwanted things.  Ch-ch-ch-changes!

2.  An unofficial Charles and Diana commemorative wedding vase from the op shop (I maintain that this was quite awesome, but it was broken and had been sitting in a drawer for four years in the hope of me painstakingly supergluing them back together.  Much like the relationship of Charles and Diana, it’s broken, and half the pieces are gone forever.  Not going to happen.)

3.  A plastic stencil thing to press into a slice of bread before toasting it to give the finished toast a happy smiley breakfast face.  Very practical.

4.  Microwave egg poacher/microwave rice cooker/microwave steamer thing.  These sound useful, were it not for the fact that I do not own a microwave.

5.  The cardboard boxes for just about every piece of electronic equipment I own.  Why was I keeping them, exactly?

6.  A spare phone charger…with European plugs and voltage.

7.  A stack of old scratched records I had bought because I found the covers amusing.

Okay, I kept one. I stand by my decision. I like pigs.

(Do note that anything halfway useable was given to charity instead of being tossed into the bin.  You may be able to find the toast stencil at your local Vinnies if you really try.)

I am very proud of myself because I am not that great at throwing things away.  Now, brace yourselves, because I’m going to get all heartfelt on the internet.  When I was a wee young thing, I tended to muse very deeply on things.  At about six, the concept of mortality had me FREAKED THE HELL OUT, and this sort of mutated into a fear of loss and change.  I didn’t like the idea of losing anything – my very worst nightmares were that we’d move house (we didn’t).  It was at this time that I started to feel incredibly, painfully sorry for things that were being thrown away.

Yep!  Inanimate objects.  I knew it was weird, and I was embarrassed by it.  I tried to copy the credits of favourite television shows (not an easy task in the slow and deliberate handwriting of a child in Grade 1) just in case I needed to know who had been the Director’s Assistant.  I wept over the cruel fate of the orange juice bottle, used and then coldly discarded.  I really, really didn’t want to get rid of our old green rotary dial telephone for a newer model.  Trees casting off their leaves in autumn (well, okay, winter – this was Brisbane, after all) sent me into paroxysms of guilt and sorrow.

In short, gentle reader, I was an odd child.  When my parents found me ‘rescuing’ junk from the rubbish bin in the kitchen and stashing it in the drawer of my dressing table, that was it.  I was sent to talk to a psychologist called Helen who asked me obvious questions and told me it was okay to have feelings.  It was mortifying.  I hated Helen. I knew there was something wrong with my mind, and now I felt like I was being punished for it.

Oddly enough, it was learning that I was not the first child in the world to develop an obsession that gave me the most relief.  A smarmy little precocious thing, my great delight was reading my parent’s child-rearing manuals (there were many – it was the ’80s, and I was the first-born) so that I could shout HAH! if I recognised a parenting technique they were trying to use on me.  One of them mentioned odd childhood obsessions, and I was very happy to realise that I wasn’t entirely alone in my behaviour, and I would grow out of it.

I did grown out of it – within the year – but I guess the traces have always remained.  Over the last few days I’ve felt brief echoes of that horrible attachment when trying to throw things out, so I’ve been thinking about it a lot.  That feeling of relief when I shut the lid of the garbage bin and walk back to my flat is wonderful.  It’s worth it.

That’s not all.  I’ve found some treasures that would have stayed hidden amongst the crap.  Terrible short stories written by my 16-year old self, magnets from my late Nanna’s fridge, cringeworthy pictures of the year 11 semi-formal – all things that would have remained buried otherwise.  Definitely worth it.



In Which I Reflect Upon Dr Who
August 26, 2010, 9:42 PM
Filed under: In Which I Try Again

As promised (but late, of course), I am now going to rant about Dr Who.  I have been doing a bit of what I suppose you’d call some research.  The research was, ostensibly, for The Professor, the impro parody directed by Alistair Crawford that we did last Sunday.  However, I’ve a confession to make.  After declaring my intentions, borrowing a bunch of DVDs from various enth-Who-siasts (sorry, couldn’t help it) and looking at a few Wikipedia articles, it was almost time for the show…and I hadn’t actually watched any of the DVDs.  Ooops.  Rather than conducting a last minute film festival, I thought I’d try to use the fact that my character would be new to the wacky adventures of the Doctor (sorry, the Professor) and would probably be the only one who wasn’t well versed in his world.  Yeah, I know.  Excuses, excuses.

Happily, I have the ability to improvise (who’da thunk it?), and thanks to a bit of research and the vast knowledge of the rest of the cast, I had the basics down. The show was amazing fun, and a great success. I played a character called Penny Dreadful (‘It’s a parody name, innit?’), a Cockney punk girl at Oxford on a scholarship who became the Professor’s companion. Thanks to the audience suggestions, she was very skilled at contortion, and used this to help the Professor defeat his great enemy, the Chancellor. The storyline involved menacing aliens who had landed on earth in 1603 in their larval form – commonly known on earth as raspberries – and had begun to evolve into a terrifying adulthood, terrorising the good people of Oxford. The Professor was played by Tom Dunstan, but died tragically at the end of Act 1 – only to undergo ‘regentrification’ and awake as a being who looked rather a lot like David Massingham. In the end, after defeating the Chancellor (for now, at least) and returning the aliens to their rightful homeworld, the Professor and Penny posted themselves through time for further exciting adventures, using the Royal Mail postbox that we never actually made up a TARDIS-like name for (I know that TARDIS is supposed to be in capitals now).

 

I'm up the back, totally rocking a mullet.

 

It was great, great fun. I really enjoyed being a rather family-friendly, BBC-esque punk – although I couldn’t help but exchange ‘bloody’ and ‘rotten’ for rather stronger phrases at times. (Sorry guys.  The wig made me do it).

‘Right!’ I thought to myself after the curtain had come down, ‘Done!’. Thing was…I wasn’t. The DVDs still sat idle and unwatched, but now my interest had been piqued. I was curious. I’d been told that the character of Penny Dreadful was not dissimilar to (a rather cruder version of) a real character, Ace. I wanted to see this Ace. I wanted to find out exactly why so many fellow drama nerds were so impressed by the antics of her friend, The Doctor.

With this in mind, I’ve re-started my quest. This week is now Who Week. I’ve a choice selection of DVDs that I am assured will provide me with an excellent grounding in several different Doctors. I intend to watch them chronologically, and have started with a story arc from 1979 – City of Death.

City of Death starred the 4th Doctor, Tom Baker – aka the guy you think of when you think of old Dr Who episodes. Scarf guy. You know the one. He had his scarf, and he was in Paris on holiday with his companion, Romana. At first I thought she was a badly cast schoolgirl (she was wearing a school uniform), but apparently she was from the Doctor’s planet, and did the same sort of things he did. She could build time machines andI liked that, as the first thing I ask Whovians (is that the term for them? It is now) why the Doctor is never a lady. Anyway, the school uniform was like her wacky scarf in this particular episode, apparently. She had a wonderful sunhat.

 

Lalla Ward, who played Romana, is a bit awesome. She is an author, the daughter of a Viscount and is married to Richard Dawkins.

 

Surprisingly enough, their holiday did not go according to plan. Before long, the Doctor started having some sort of small epileptic fit – at least, the colours on the screen turned negative and back in quick succession and someone shook the camera about. Apparently, this was some sort of glitch in time, and they soon discovered that it had to do with a nefarious Count conducting time experiments in his basement, aided by a researcher with the worst faux-Russian accent in the world. After a series of Parisian montages, a scuffle in the Louvre as the not-quite-as-nefarious Countess attempted to steal the Mona Lisa and the introduction of a ham-fisted detective and a henchman resembling Captain Haddock, it came to light that the Count was really a very nasty alien. He removed his face to reveal that he was actually a cyclopean shrubbery of some sort. It was laughable, but I don’t think I would have liked it at all if I’d seen it as a child.

 

Behind the shrubbery...ANOTHER SHRUBBERY!

 

Shrubbery Monster had a plan involving travelling back through time to when his spaceship had exploded, millions of years ago. The explosion had created all life on Earth and splintered Shrubbery Monster into various versions of himself throughout time. They were all trying to get human technology up and running to the point where they could go back in time and change all that…cancelling all life on Earth as a nasty side effect. The theft of the Mona Lisa was involved for purposes of funding this research, as the Renaissance version of Shrubbery Monster having gotten Da Vinci to paint a number of them back in the day so that modern Shrubbery Monster could sell them all to collectors as the real thing after lifting one from the Louvre. Yeah. It was complicated.

This has turned into a bit of a synopsis, so I’ll stop waffling on about the rather complicated plot. I must admit: I quite enjoyed it. It lagged a bit, but the wonderful dodginess of the special effects kept me amused, particularly the terrifying effects of the time ray the Shrubbery Monster was developing – it caused its victims to turn into a series of still images of themselves with increasing amounts of aged makeup and novelty beard on, culminating in the image of a skeleton, still with novelty beard. Apparently the death ray skipped cleanly over the whole decomposition bit.

I learnt many things about Paris in 1979, too. Apparently absolutely nobody spoke French (although this was compensated for rather gamely by the judicial use of an extra wearing a beret and a jaunty necktie. I half expected him to be carrying a baguette.) It was also very usual for people to be escorted at gunpoint into charming little cafes, for nobody ever batted an eyelid. Large blue police boxes from another country could be parked almost anywhere without creating suspicion. Truly, a happier time.

Just when my interest was waning, I was delighted by some SURPRISE JOHN CLEESE! as an art admirer who had mistaken the TARDIS for some sort of installation work. By that point, though, the Shrubbery Monster had revealed his true form to all and sundry (it seemed that his true voice was produced by speaking directly into a fan, but perhaps that was just an echo effect from all the shrubbery, as I couldn’t actually see his mouth) and was getting all killy. After everyone adjourned to the Earth 400,000,000 years ago for a climactic battle (I was interested to learn that our planet was made entirely out of papier mache at the dawn of time), the Doctor, Romana and their friend the detective won the day, and the story was over.

So, what did I think? Like this blog post, it was long. Used to programs wrapping themselves up neatly within the hour, I wasn’t anticipating the tale going on over four episodes, but although some parts tested my attention span, I was amused. I had expected a science fiction show to take itself a lot more seriously. This particular story was rather special, I was assured, because Douglas Adams was mostly responsible for the script. (Having envisioned a Star Wars/Trek rivalry between the Who crowd and the Hitchhiker’s crowd, I was a bit surprised by this.) Despite my limited experience with Douglas Adams could definitely see some of his touches (particularly in the detective character). The whole thing had the pleasant air of a Christmas panto. It hadn’t occurred to me that the show would be in on the joke, and I liked it a lot more for that. I never considered the possibility that aliens could be so reassuringly British.

Don’t ever tell anyone, but I don’t hate it.  I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it.  Well played, Dr Who, well played.



Amy Tries Again…Again
August 25, 2010, 1:04 PM
Filed under: In Which I Try Again | Tags: ,

So.  I kinda sorta never mentioned it again, but you know the bold plan I announced some months ago involving not living in a pigsty?  Yeah.  Didn’t quite happen.  I think I kept the flat clean for about two days.  Well, clean-ish.  I sunk back into my slothful ways fairly quickly, and kept quiet about the whole thing.  It was okay at the time, as hey – it was my washing up.  It was my dirty laundry.  They were my cockroaches.  We cool, G.

But things changed.  You see, a few months ago, I began living in sin with a certain damn fool who wouldn’t know good music if it bit him on his prominent chin.  Unfortunately, his personal style is distinctly minimalist, while mine is DON’T THROW THAT OUT I MIGHT NEED IT.  He makes beds.  He washes up.  He declutters.  While he’s doing all these important things, I tend to faff about musing on how awesome my coffee table would look if I painted it with chalkboard paint (idea shamelessly stolen from some friends’ most wonderful bathroom).  Never mind the fact that I will never actually do it.  Never mind the fact that it would be a really terrible idea for a coffee table (I do not want chalk dust in my caffeinated beverages, thank you very much).  Ash patiently hangs out the washing while I wave my hands around animatedly talking about how I should fill my Nanna’s old sideboard with thousands of tiny origami stars and attempt to make wholemeal fajitas from scratch.

I am Walter Matthau, even though I don't have a salami, a cigar, or a theory on what Freud might think about either.

It is not quite fair.

For that reason, and for all the reasons listed last time I proposed this foolish endeavour, I am going to have another crack at it.  But I’m a realist.  I am going to take things a week at a time, and report back with any earth-shattering discoveries I may make.  I predict that these blog entries will consist of ‘cleaning is boring’ typed 1000 times in a tiny, ragged font.

Will post my Dr Who roundup tonight.  In the meantime, I have some washing to hang out.



AFL Adventure – or – Amy Finally Goes To The Football
June 20, 2010, 5:41 PM
Filed under: In Which I Try Again | Tags: ,

Hell hath frozen over.  Last night, gentle reader, I went to the football.

But wait!  Before you all fall over in a collective faint, I must advise you that I didn’t actually go to the football that I said I’d be going to.  I had planned to investigate some rugby league and attend a game at Suncorp Stadium, it being my local, so to speak.  Last night found me, however, at the Gabba, watching the Brisbane Lions boldly battle the Richmond Tigers.

It wasn't actually like this.

Yo Gabba Gabba!

The reason for this change of plan?  My lovely assistant, Courtney, won tickets through her work.  It was a sign.  I had been putting this Try Again off for long enough.  It was time to get amongst it.  After a quick google to make sure we weren’t accidentally wearing the other team’s colours (black and yellow, like dear little bumblebees!), we actually went to the football.

Despite the fact that it wasn’t at ‘my’ stadium (I live quite close to Suncorp Stadium – aka the former Lang Park), the stadium still had a bit of personal significance.  You see, the Gabba was the stadium I used to live close to (I have quite a knack for living by stadiums close to the city, for some reason).  Its lights used to glare annoyingly into my bedroom window on game nights.  Neighbours would sell parking spaces in their backyards.  (Our motley sharehouse would think about such a magnificent money-making scheme, but it would have involved returning our collection of trolleys to the IGA, so we always decided against it.)  You could hear each whistle, each siren, and each team song.  Despite this, I had never been inside the stadium.  This probably explains why I was often so puzzled when hearing said team songs – France was playing?  Again?  (I have since learnt that the Lions’ club anthem is set to the tune of La Marseillaise, which explains a great deal.)

I was excited.  I was to learn exactly what had been going on at the stadium on all those evenings.  Although I’d seen the crowds heading for the game many times before, I was still surprised at how many people were there.  Unsure what gate to go to, we swam upstream against a river of people.  I clutched my handbag tightly (I am mildly paranoid about robbers).  We thought we’d finally found the right gate.  We hadn’t, but they let us in anyway.

I was a little surprised about how lax the security was.  I had expected metal detectors, sniffer dogs, random bag searches.  I won’t make any jokes about the suitability of the venue for untoward behaviour on the off-chance that dear Senator Conroy is a regular reader, but it wasn’t what I was expecting for a building full of tens of thousands of excited drunk people.

Anyway.  We pressed on, clutching our tickets for dear life as we searched for section 27.  Behind the crowd the background started repeating like a cheap cartoon – toilets, snack bar, glimpse of field, exit, repeat.  The atmosphere struck me as somewhere halfway between an airport and the Ekka.  We acquired some beer in plastic cups before realising we were in an unlicensed section and had to stand in a special designated area to consume it.  After we’d had our beer and finally found section 27, we couldn’t find our row.  It simply didn’t seem to exist.  Three different sets of creepy old men kindly volunteered seats next to their inebriated selves (we are, after all, comely lasses of virtue true).  An official-looking man told us we had to go upstairs.  The man upstairs told us we needed to go outside and re-enter through the corporate gate.  Then a loud buzzer sounded and the crowd stampeded towards exits, beer and toilets.  Was it half time already?  Could this be?  Surely it’d only being going for about half an hour?

Luckily, I had a vague recollection of there being a football show called ‘The Fifth Quarter’.  I cunningly deduced that if this hilarious impossibility was referring to the robust intellectual debate that takes place after AFL, then all hope was not lost, and we had only missed a quarter of the game wandering around.  Finally, wonderfully, we located the corporate gate, the middle tier part of section 27, and our seats.  My airport metaphor was appropriate.  We had just been bumped to business class.  Legroom!  Cupholders!  Permission to drink alcohol at our seats!

What I’d glimpsed standing in the beer zone behind the seating downstairs suddenly made a lot more sense.  With the addition of a little height, things looked more like the games I’d caught a few seconds of before changing the channel.  The stadium was vast – but not as vast as I’d thought it would be.  I was surprised at how close the players were.   I realised how thrilling it must be for supporters to see their favourite players, usually characters on tv, right there.  Football was real.  I couldn’t change the channel.

I do not feel I am qualified to comment on what happened on the field in great detail.  Some men in different colour uniforms did things with a ball.  Sometimes they kicked it into the air.  Sometimes they grabbed it out of the air and crashed on to the ground.  Sometimes they kicked it between four posts.  If they kicked it in between the outer posts, that was pretty good, but if they kicked it in between the inner posts, that was really good.  Courtney pointed out Brendan Fevola, and this pleased me because I had actually heard his name before.  We shouted ‘Fev!’ when everyone else did, although I’m not sure if he’d done a good thing or a bad thing.

I’m exaggerating, but only a little.  The scoring system puzzled me somewhat, but I did get into it and it was quite exciting when someone tried to catch a ball and just missed, or kicked the ball away from someone when you didn’t think they’d be able to.  We cheered for the wrong team on a few occasions, but it was all very jolly.  I didn’t have a team scarf or anything like that, but I felt a split-second of real solidarity when I remembered that my sports-hating father once gave me a Brisbane Lions hat as a joke when I announced my intention to bugger off to the other side of the world.  I was a merchandise owner, too!  This was MY TEAM after all!

I dug it out when I got home, and was very pleased. I wasn't pleased enough to wear it, but that's not really the point.

After a really wonderful fight between quite a few of the players, it was interval – sorry, half time.  This was all about advertising, both on the giant screens and via banners (that were trotted out during each break, even the short ones).  Small children were sent to play little miniature football games on the field.  They had the requisite too-large jerseys, gap-toothed smiles and, in some cases, pigtails (well done, sister suffragettes!).  It was very endearing, and I am going to suggest to Impromafia that during the break for our next longform show we slap our logo on some children and have them do some shortform while most of the audience goes to the bar (actually, I’m only half joking.  Maybe they could do it in the courtyard.  Hmmm…).

Awwww.

As the second half of the game began, my interest level in the actual game waned a little, but the novelty of being at a football game was quite enough to sustain me.  The whole experience was genuinely foreign to me, so it was quite fascinating.  I was amused by small things (as usual) – the four bright stadium lights gave each player four shadows, which looked a bit like they each had a small helicopter flying directly over them.  Some men in fluro shorts and shirts kept dashing out onto the field, but I don’t think they were the referees (they were in green and weren’t on the field with the players).  The mystery was partially solved when we saw a fluro man handing a note to a player.  Was he a courier?  We tried to figure out where the commentators were sitting, and decided it was probably in the large, highest-up box.  Musings of this nature occupied us for some time.

3/4 time. I only took this because I am mature and found the public deep-tissue massage rather amusing.

Eventually, it became apparent that the game was lost (not a surprise, according to this website).  Sadly, my right glove suffered a similar fate.  I didn’t really mind about either.

We escaped when there were two minutes left on the clock in order to beat the crowds.  This plan backfired somewhat when we realised that approximately half the people in the stadium had had the same idea.  Swept out on the wave of the crowd, we were a little shell-shocked.  We had been to the football.  We had cheered.  We had seen people actually wearing giant inflatable hands.  We had paid $9.50 for some chips and a bottle of water.

After getting on the wrong bus (it was at the Gabba busway on the platform that usually goes to the city.  I don’t think my presumption that it would be city-bound was entirely unrealistic, but there you are), there was little to do but contemplate the experience.

So did I enjoy myself?  Yes, very much indeed.  I’m pretty sure it was the novelty factor, though.  The actual game wasn’t the focus for me, I was too busy playing Amy Goes To A Football Match.  The atmosphere was quite fun once we were safely in our seats, but the crowds were a bit too intense before and after the game itself.

I would do it again, but not very often.  I was on safari, observing the odd behaviour of another tribe, and that was where the interest lay for me.  Still, I think I’m going to go to the rugby in order to render my experiment complete, as that’s what I originally planned.  Of course, that could open up a can of worms where I have to attend a game of every code of football possible, and I’m not sure I’m up for that.  Too many vuvezelas.

So: football (well, AFL): SUCCESSFULLY TRIED AGAIN.

Phew.