Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sobbing syllables. Today I was in North, desultorily eating my huevos rancheros with a hangover, and there was a small child at the next table who was swinging around in one of the Saarinen Tulip chairs while her dad sat opposite. She was making it twirl round and round like playground equipment. Which it isn't, so eventually it tipped over, taking her with it.

"Oh god, here we go!" I thought, anticipating the inevitable crying. Although sometimes the kid doesn't cry until the adult makes a fuss. Unfortunately, this kid did start crying, and I found the syllable she was using for her sobs unbelievably irritating.

"Heeeee!" she sobbed. "Heeeeeee! Heeeeee! Heeeeeee!"

This made me ponder the most annoying syllables that you can use to sob with. Last time I sobbed (yesterday), I don't think I used syllables – I just kind of gasped for breath. But you can go "Hoo hoo hoooo," "Aaah haaa haaaa," or, as memorably recounted in Sonya Hartnett's Butterfly, "Her her her."

I consulted world-champion crier, Julianne Moore, and she mainly sobs without syllables except for a truly abject "Aaaaaah" right at the end of this montage:

I still think that for sheer irritation value, this child wins.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It's because of you that we can't have nice things. A while ago we got the handyman to come around and chisel free the front bedroom windows, which had been painted shut. I have spent five miserably hot summers in this room thinking the window just didn't open, and I had been looking forward to finally getting some cool breeze.

And of course Graham has to fuck everything up.

Because I don't want to be stuck with thousands of dollars in vet fees if Graham gets into a cat fight, I don't let him outside after dark. This means that I can't keep the house open at night in summer, when the temperature drops and I desperately want to let the hot air out.

I asked the real estate agent if we could get screen doors. She said we could on the back door, but not on the front as it would "ruin the period facade". We are also about the only house in the street without bars on the windows. Instead we have flywire screens that don't fit the windows and are attached to the frame solely by a little clip on each side.

So the little bastard has spent the last few hours sitting in my bedroom window, scratching at the ill-fitting flywire and trying to burrow out underneath it while I was trying to finish off my marking. He just wouldn't leave the damn window alone, so I have had to close it just to get some motherfucking peace and quiet.

You can tell from my language that I am what my mother used to call 'overtired'.

Other nice things I can't have because of Graham:


Flowers! He burrows his head into the bouquet and knocks it over, bruising the flowers and drenching and ruining any nearby books, magazines or newspapers.

Porcelain and glass vases! Because he is always knocking the vase over and has already broken one, I had to invest in some metal vases.

Apartments! Graham needs outdoor space because sometimes he refuses to use his litter tray for mysterious reasons.

Houses on main roads! Because he is an idiot who likes to crawl under parked cars and lie in the middle of the road. This is all right in my cul-de-sac. But basically I don't trust him not to kill himself anywhere else.

Holidays! I guess I could put him in a cattery, which is basically like cat jail. But at least it's secure. Any other catsitting option leaves me sick with worry and unable to enjoy my time away.

Christmas decorations! I got my own tree for the first time last year, but basically I ended up decorating it with a selection of cat toys. Balls. Shiny things. String things. Bird things.

Every time I left the house I would come home and there would be decorations strewn across the floor.

He was onto the damn thing the second I started to put it up. Look at the little bastard. He knows he's doing something bad.

My mother says, "When he does something bad, just spray him with a spray bottle!" She says this as if I am some kind of godlike creature who can be everywhere at once, like Vishnu with a spray bottle in all four hands.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Clean nylon. Today I did some domestic labour. I changed the sheets on my bed, vacuumed the whole house (which includes the tedious task of shaking the dust from the fuckurri rug), wiped down the benches and tables, and loaded, hung out and brought in a load of washing.

Because I wanted to wash my black towel without getting black lint everywhere, I did a load of dark-coloured clothes. This included two of my slips – a black one and a dark blue one. They are the old-fashioned kind of petticoat in slippery nylon, trimmed with lace. When I wear them, I feel like Elizabeth Taylor in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.

(Obviously I do not look like Elizabeth Taylor.)

Anyway, as I was folding them to put them away again, I caught a whiff of a clean nylon smell, and more than anything else it reminded me of ballet tutus – that crisp tulle smell.

Since I am like a Proust Machine™, even the most unlikely scents can trigger long, indulgent wallows in childhood nostalgia. So of course, I started to think about my childhood ballet concerts. Certain other scents can do that – hairspray; the smell of a particular frosted pale pink lipstick that my mother would always put on me; and, of course, the smell of tutus.

I both adored and slightly dreaded ballet concerts. On one hand, I loved learning actual dances rather than just the technical steps necessary to pass each grade. I loved the pageantry of the dances, the music and costumes, being on stage and performing under hot lights, and the glamour of being in the theatre with a throng of dancers bustling in and out of costume.

I loved dress rehearsal day, sitting in the darkened theatre to watch the other classes' dances (my ballet school taught classical, jazz, folkdance, tap and 'contemporary', at junior, intermediate and senior levels). I was just as fanciful as a kid as I am now, and I wish I could explain how magical some of the music sounded when heard from backstage. There was one routine set to the Waltz from Aram Khachaturian's Masquerade, a piece of music I found absolutely thrilling.

Also, I used to collect sequins that I found backstage and in the dressing rooms. I am quite embarrassed admitting this now. I used to keep the sequins in a tiny plastic heart-shaped box I had acquired somehow, and from time to time I would spread them out on a flat surface and admire them.

The grand finale of each year's concert was always the Senior Jazz routine. The jazz dancers seemed impossibly glamorous to me in their beige fishnets, T-bar stiletto sandals and absurdly high-cut leotards. I longed to study jazz because this was the '80s – the time of Solid Gold and the Swagman restaurant's famous floor show.

I was not allowed. I'm not sure if this was a financial thing or a snobbery thing. Jazz ballet was certainly on my mother's long list of things I was not allowed to have because they were 'trashy', which also included jelly sandals, just about every zeitgeisty toy of the decade, and those pencilcases with the little windows into which you inserted letters that spelled out your name.

For me, clean nylon also smells of my mother's anxiety. Parents made all the costumes (I don't know what you did if you couldn't sew) and I would be dragged from my bed on the nights before the concert and made to stand sleepily on the kitchen table as my mother jabbed me with pins and hissed, "BE STILL!" in the kind of voice you would use on a disobedient dog.

I would also have my hair roughly brushed, pulled into a painfully tight bun that was secured with a hairnet and bobby pins, and then sprayed to within an inch of its life. When I look at photos of my ballet concerts, everyone else's bun is on the back of their head or, at most, at the back of the crown, whereas mine is always right on top of my head, like a dumpling.

My mother would also find plenty else to yell at me about – for instance, my inability to avoid blinking during an application of mascara – and we would inevitably be running late for the concert, which resulted in a tense drive to the theatre.

But of course, after the concert all the stress would have evaporated and my parents would meet me in the foyer after my performance. Dad would be jolly and buy me a Peppermint Crisp bar, and my mother, smelling of Tea Rose perfume, would say my port de bras was much better than the other students'.

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