Sunday, 31 July 2011

Sunday, Sunday

Ah, Sunday.

It took me a while to have the full, lovely understanding of Sunday.  As a child Sundays often involved getting dressed up and going somewhere I didn't want to go, to see people I didn't want to see.  It also took a long time to get there in the car.  They did end with "Disneyland" on TV before bed, or when I was a little older, "The 6 Million Dollar Man".  He was bionic and my brother had the Steve Austin action figure.  It was a doll really.

Sundays meant sport on television: in the summer the endless hours of slow moving cricket; in winter the thuggery of men covered in mud playing rugby league or rugby union. Worse still were the days of motor racing or the days when the cricket was on the radio. At 6pm the battle over whether the television would stay on the ABC for "Countdown" or be switched for the first serving of news on channel 9.  It was a battle that couldn't be won, but every Sunday I fought with enthusiasm and optimism as though my life would end if I didn't see "Countdown".

At boarding school, Sundays were either filled with the excitement of an outing for the day (after church), or a long, blank day.

The whole boarding house went to the 8am Anglican church service in town, wearing our white church dresses and panama hats in summer and our blazers and navy blue serge tunics with a white shirt and tie, a beret on our heads.  No breakfast before church, instead we would swoop on trays of white bread and strawberry jam and stuff our faces - and sometimes pockets - to sustain us on the walk to church, the boredom of the service and the walk back to school.  We walked two abreast, there and back.

The driveway would fill with cars and girls going out for the day, while the rest of us went to the dining room for a quieter breakfast than usual.  After lunch, the boarding houses were locked and we were required to go outside.  The school had lovely grounds and in summer we'd take a blanket and school books and a battery powered radio/cassette player out and lie in the sun snoozing and reading and writing letters either to a boy at Grammar or our parents.  Often I would spend these hours in one of the piano practise rooms so small and cold it resembled a cell.

There was something uncomfortable about being locked out of your home for 3 hours while jealously awaiting the return of the girls who had been out for the day.

At university, Sunday meant study or work at the part time job to supplement Austudy.  It was like any other day of the week, nothing special about Sunday at all.

And then there was my first weekend after I entered the "proper" workforce.  After working Monday to Friday, Saturday was spent doing household chores and grocery shopping and getting ready to go out.  And then it was Sunday.  Nothing to do except whatever I wanted.  The luxury of reading in bed, late breakfasts or long lunches with friends.  A scraped together supper and the Sunday night movie on television.

That's the kind of Sunday I had today in the unexpected winter sun.  Good friends and lots of laughter.  For hours.

Ah, Sunday.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

The Glee of Singing

Last night I sang my first concert gig with the choir I joined last year.  As long as I've had independent thought I have been a member of a choir and I can't imagine life without the weekly joy of coming together with others to sing.

While there is much pleasure to be had - it's known that singing creates an endorphine rush - choirs can be very strange beasts, especially when it comes to wardrobe. Simple instructions will become rapidly distorted as the desire to advertise one's individuality becomes overwhelming.  My theory is that because singing in a choir is the ultimate team sport requiring people to blend together, suppression of star quality is only possible up to a point.  Therefore evidence of rebellion becomes apparent at the last possible moment.

From time to time I have been required to wear some incredible things for various performances, but I figure that's the job and it's not about me anyway.  I've even worn yellow.  And I don't wear yellow.  I don't own any yellow clothes.  There is nothing yellow in my house, except some post it notes and a lemon.

At one stage I sang in a large classical choir while I was in Brisbane.  Our costume was essentially a big white nightie with a  reversible satin triangle that went over the head and added a splash of green or blue depending on what colour had been chosen for the particular concert.  We were supposed to look like angels. This was an adult choir. The nighties were hideous, but very comfortable to wear and they were unflattering on everyone regardless of size or shape. No one complained about that.  The argument was always about whether this concert should be blue or green.  As though it made a difference to how we sounded.  I swear I heard the thesis put that Mozart's Requiem just felt more green than blue.

White shoes were required.  White shoes.  The only white shoes I owned were my Dunlop Volleys.  Truthfully they were probably more of a dull grey after some wear so decided that my flesh coloured character shoes would be the better option.  I stood in the second back row in a choir of 150 people. No one  would notice what I had on my feet.  I was caught by the Wardrobe Inspectorate* as I was about to walk on stage.

"Where are your shoes?" she hissed.

"On my feet," I replied, looking down to check.

"Those aren't white.  Take them OFF."


"No 'buts', they're not white.  Take them off.  We wear white shoes in this choir."

So I took them off and walked on stage in stockinged feet.  Flesh coloured shoes/flesh coloured feet - what's the difference?  Mozart's not going to notice.

Then I moved to Melbourne.  The essential difference between Melbourne and Brisbane is that the choirs in Melbourne all wear black.  Now you'd think this would be foolproof method of suppressing the mavericks.  Woe betide the Wardrobe Inspectorate who doesn't think to specify what kind of black.  It could be velvet, sparkly, shaggy, sheer, patterned.  Or more usually, covered in dandruff.  Instructions must head off any ability for anyone to express anything other than a love and loyalty to their choir.

That's why I was relieved to discover that the wardrobe for my current group is "black with red".   We were also given permission to "bling it up".  What looked red on me at home in my mirror suddenly looked like a crimson pink when standing next to someone else wearing a tomato red dress.  But no one cared!  It was such bliss because everyone was there for the joy of singing together.  And I had the added comfort of knowing that I wouldn't have an allergic reaction to my costume half way through the show!

The relaxed approach meant that wardrobe dilemmas were of a different flavour.

One of the altos packed the two right shoes from different pairs.  She avoided having to go on in black socks by being the same size as another woman who had a spare.  A fellow soprano confided that she had put on a "foundation garment" which she was finding quite uncomfortable.  Other details she provided was that it went around her middle, but the problem was the fat wasn't being "sucked in" it was being redistributed: some of it was now moving up and spilling over the top of the garment, while the rest was changing the shape of her legs.  I urged her to take it off.   I was concerned I would see her spleen pop out her ear or her feet would burst out of her shoes during the romantic ballad and we'd all end up covered in something.   Now THAT's a wardrobe malfunction.  Eat your heart out Janet Jackson.

My rule now is that if anyone mentions bringing scarves in as the feature piece of the wardrobe, I resign.  Immediately.

*Choirs are breeding grounds for people looking to add meaning to their lives through the exercise of petty power.  My father's term for them is "nametag carriers". The Librarian and Treasurer are those to be most feared as this is where there is much power to be exercised.

Friday, 29 July 2011

The Loud Talker

Melbourne's trains are the perfect gallery for indulging in one of my favourite things: observing people.

The other day I arrived at Southern Cross station during the evening peak.  From the top of the escalator to platform 14 I could see the platform was packed with people.  They were standing in rows, all facing the same way.  In the setting of the soaring roof of the station they looked like the congregation in a cathedral; MX newspaper replaced their hymnals and prayer books.   At this time of the afternoon they were washed in the pale light of the winter sun as it set.  They are united in a common objective: to have the train run on time; yet separated by the specifics of their prayers:  to get a seat on an overcrowded train; not to forget to pick up milk; not to get caught without a ticket by a ticket inspector; to find a way out of the job they hate; to find the strength to walk in the front door, wondering whether the argument is over; to not have a loud talker in their carriage.

I found a seat that day and pulled out my book ("Bossypants" by Tina Fey).  I read the same sentence ten times before I gave up, knowing I had no hope of progressing during this journey, for I had a loud, over-sharer in my carriage.  Her monotonous declarations were further magnified by the otherwise generally silent demeanour of her fellow passengers.

"No," she had told her boss that day.  She didn't want the pay rise, thanks very much, because it would mean she would have to give up her Health Care Card and lose her concession status.  The bonus is okay though, because it doesn't put her over the threshold, but no, she's not interested in a pay rise.

I felt like I was part of a tabloid current affairs television show, aimed at finding welfare disincentives set up by a socialist Government.  I was amazed at how many times it was necessary for her to repeat this information to her conversation partner.  I also learnt how she felt about the requirement to keep the Government informed about her circumstances.  What an impost!  "You'd think they'd know that I'd tell them if my situation changed!" she declared.

She was talking so loudly she may as well have been on her mobile phone.  The lecture lulled.  Commuters sought refuge in empathetic eye contact with each other.  Breaths were held...

"I can't believe the seat reservation policies of airlines.  Fancy having to pay to select a particular seat.  It's  a rip off.  That's what it is."  Perhaps the pay rise would have helped her pay for this, I thought.

Teeth were gritted.  Body language shifted.  Wasn't she listening?  Couldn't she feel the wave of hostility pulsating towards her?  No. She couldn't.  This woman was sitting behind me and I just had to get a look at her.  There was no way to do it subtly, so I just turned around and looked.  I'm sure I had the same face I use when there's someone talking in the movies.  She drew breath momentarily.  We made eye contact.

She was an ordinary person, apparently talking to the woman sitting opposite her.  I'm not sure what the purpose of this other woman was.  She couldn't be heard. Would she have taken the pay rise? There was no space for her to contribute.

I also learnt that she's staying at the Ramada Inn while she's in LA.  She's nervous about driving on the other side of the road.  She's done some preliminary research into what to see while in Hollywood.  She has very strong views about all aspects of airlines and aviation in general.  She's really angry about her boss threatening her status as a welfare beneficiary.

She ran out of steam. Just as I arrived at my stop.  Naturally.

Thursday, 28 July 2011


Imagine what it feels like when you've come up with the "perfect" name for your blog, only to discover that someone else is using that name for their blog.  Okay, so that's annoying.  But then, you go and look at the blog that has "your" name and discover that it's an ultra right wing, conservative blog written by someone who appears to be a religious zealot.  That's disturbing.  It made me question my very values.  I spent hours in conversation with myself: "But what does it mean that I came up with the perfect name and someone with values so far from mine thought the same thing?"  You get the drift.

I let it go.  Madness may lie that way.

And here I am, posting for the first time on my new blog that is self-titled.  Nothing wrong with that.  Rock stars do it all the time.  If you consider naming something after your Twitter name counts as "self-titled".  Hmmm.  Looks like I've got something to discuss with myself tomorrow.

What's it about?  I am a compulsive observer of life.  I'm one of those people who doesn't listen to an iPod on public transport.  And I catch public transport everywhere.  The reason is that I love to eavesdrop on conversations and discover that most of us seem to speak rubbish a lot of the time.  Especially on public transport. Loudly.  (Note to self - must write about this.)  I have some time on my hands and am hungering to establish the habit of regular writing.  (I used to have penpals - remember them? - must write about this.)

So "divacultura", the blog, written by divacultura the Twitter girl, will roam widely and wildly on whatever takes my fancy.  I can promise that it will be spelt correctly and apostrophes will be accurately placed.  These things matter to me.  Additionally my aim is to entertain and provoke my audience daily.

I'd love you to join me.