Sunday, 29 June 2014

She's got a ticket to ride - farewell Kerry

On Friday I attended the funeral of Kerry Edsall, another woman taken too early by breast cancer. She was only 57 and leaves behind two gorgeous daughters and her husband.

I met Kerry when I was an official with the CPSU, in the early 2000's. I knew about her as the dedicated workplace delegate in the Centrelink call centre in Geelong. She quickly became a very important member of our executive and many negotiating teams. It was nice to have another woman on our side of the table.

I liked Kerry's blunt, no-nonsense and often dryly funny approach to life. I knew that I could always rely on her to tell me the truth. During negotiations we would all be away from home for days on end and she seemed to have unending stamina for socialising at the end of a hard day or putting in long hours at the end of negotiations to work out our position for the next day or find a solution to some problem.

When I called Kerry to tell her that I was moving on in 2008, she was characteristically wry: "And who said that you could do that Ms Edlington?"

The other time I found myself in trouble with Kerry was when I failed to win the million dollars on a television game show. I carried over two weeks and she told me that everyone was lined up to watch me win. I recall her saying to me, "Well that was a bit of a fizzer. I guess we're stuck with you then."

The auditorium on Friday was packed to standing room only and filled with warmth and love for a woman who gave a lot of herself to support other workers and their families. It was a fitting and proud celebration of Kerry's life. I was surprised to learn how her own family didn't really appreciate the extent of her standing within the union community. It must have been overwhelming for them.

It was bittersweet to be seeing people with whom I once worked very closely, but had not really seen in the last seven years. The human joy at continuing acquaintance and hearing about the lives of others is not suppressed even when one of your number is no longer here.

A few months ago Kerry contacted me to seek help with getting started on sock knitting. "I've been told I need to find something to do while I'm sitting on my skinny arse, so I've decided to knit socks. Where do I start?" As a devoted and prolific sock knitter myself I was able to help. I told her not to freak out when she got to the gusset and just to follow the instructions. The last time we spoke, Kerry told me she was having trouble and needed help with her gusset. I laughed. Blunt and funny until the end.

Thanks for being part of my life Kerry.

Photo: Kez .. we r enjoying many beers talking about you and looking over our shoulder waiting for you to hit us 󾌳 for talking shit

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Lighting the fuse with Keith Urban.

On Thursday night I went with a friend to see Keith Urban at Rod Laver Arena. I'd never been to one of his shows before, but had heard good things. He had played the night before - his wedding anniversary - and was off to Narrabri in north-western New South Wales as part of his Light the Fuse tour.

We'd both had a long and busy day and had to prioritise dinner over the support act, Sheppard. We waited at the tram stop for about ten minutes and then were told, once we'd boarded our tram that we weren't going anywhere because they were waiting for the police to come and remove a drunken passenger from the tram in front. As we walked to the cab rank we passed a group of four Protective Services Officers standing out the front of Flinders Street Station. They are supposed to be the transit police, but they were no help at that moment. Two other pairs of women got off the same tram and I asked if they were also going to Keith Urban. They were, so four of us shared a $10 cab ride.

Our seats were fantastic. We were right up the front and it was such a pleasure to be at a big arena show and not have to rely on the screens to see the show.
Close enough to the see the man
© 2014 divacultura
The crowd was eclectic and the lack of cowboy hats and boots reflected that we were actually at a rock concert, rather than a country one, or even country rock. That was okay with me - I like to see talented musicians play anything (except any variety of Metal, as I've discussed before).

Keith Urban
© 2014 divacultura
The music was great. The band was on fire. There were banjos and mandolins, but this was still a rock concert. Keith stopped for a chat early on and read the many signs held up by fans. He made it clear that we wouldn't be needing security tonight and gained the crowd's agreement to be well behaved. A girl holding a sign that said "Dad said he'd give me $100 if I get a selfie with you" was brought up on stage to get the photo. Keith was hilarious. The holder of another sign that read, "Kiss me. I'm getting hitched!" was also brought on stage. She was wearing her souvenir Keith Urban hoodie and was quick to answer when Keith asked who's playing at the wedding: "You are." he asked for the date and then told the band to mark the date in their diaries.

Guitar great
© 2014 divacultura

Further into the show, he walked through the crowd up to another microphone that had been set up half way up one of the wings of the arena. He played and sang from there. The crowd was going wild - except for the sour looking woman standing next to his left leg. She was so absorbed in her mobile phone and trying to work out how to take a photo - and pushing her husband out of the way - that she didn't see a thing. And her face was something to behold.  I took some photos on my iphone, but really noticed a lot of people seemed to be only watching the show through the screen they held in their hands. What's the point of that?

At the end of the song, Keith signed the guitar he was playing and handed it to a boy who was wearing a Keith Urban t-shirt. The boy looked to be about eleven years old and he was beside himself with happiness and shock. It was quite moving.

The encore showcased some of the best music of the night and the band threw picks and drum sticks to the crowd. Keith's wristbands were also flung, one landing somewhere near us. People scrambled under chairs in the dark to find it.

After all the music had been played, the band took a bow and Keith stepped forward to thank us for coming. He acknowledged that it costs a lot of money to come to shows like these and he said he knew that most people wouldn't be able to go to every show they wanted to. That meant that we'd made choices and he really appreciated us choosing to come to his show. "Thank you."

Keith Urban is an incredible guitarist, pretty good song writer, vibrant performer and it would seem, humble and real. It brings something extra to the show.

In ballad mode
© 2014 divacultura

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Epic repairs - ups, downs and some sleaze

It's been a while between posts. There's been a bit going on.

After more than a year of energetic inaction, the gods smiled, the stars aligned and I gained agreement from the Body Corporate's insurer, the building service and the real estate agent to do the repairs on my bedroom ceiling. The handy offer of a friend's home while she's overseas for a month provided a firm framework of dates with the added incentive that my accommodation during the repairs would be taken care of. Previously I had been advised that the insurer saw no reason I could not live on site during the works. The "works" involve the removal of the entire plaster ceiling in my bedroom, it's replacement and then painting of the entire room. To facilitate this, all bedroom contents would be removed off site To facilitate the removal, contents from the lounge room and the kitchen would also need to be removed.

Suddenly the offer of dates, meant the real estate agent went ahead and booked everything for this week. This week I'm working for five different clients, travelling interstate, going to a concert (Keith Urban) and many other things. It's the worst possible week for me to be out of home, but after such a long wait, I didn't feel I could ask for it to be put back, even a week.

I spent my weekend organising the full wardrobe and paperwork requirements needed for the week and planning what food to take over to my temporary home. On the return from the first trip to hang my clothes and make the bed, I discovered I had a flat tyre! A woman cyclist had been waving frantically at me at an intersection. I thought she was just being friendly so I waved back. The car felt strange and I was dismayed to discover a large bolt had pierced the tyre. I did what any well-prepared girl does in this situation and called the RACV. Two hours later, Mr Chatty Sleazy man arrived.

At first glance he seemed friendly enough. Then he complimented me on my ability to do a reverse parallel park - as he looked me up and down. I was in my worst track suit pants and my hair was a fright. I just needed to get on with things. I said nothing. As he discovered that my spare tyre was bolted into the boot he told me that "we'd have to get screwing heh heh heh". Seriously. He got on with changing the tyre and then advised me that he would be going for some "massage relief" because "that's what a man needs at the end of a long hard day". Well thanks for that. Get on with changing the tyre thanks! I was very pleased that I was in my driveway and not in some isolated spot on the highway.

It's strange sleeping in someone else's house when they're not there. It was a windy night and I don't know how the house usually sounds. I didn't sleep that well.

After work yesterday I went over to my house to see where things were up to. Front door was not locked. An open can of soft drink had been left on my piano. And nothing had been removed. Everything was stacked in the lounge room, kitchen and spare room. Jackets I had hanging behind a door were lying rumpled on the ground. The pathway to the power mains that I had left in the spare room had been strewn with randomly placed things. I imagined everything covered in plaster dust and my stress levels rose. Some other thoughtful touches were the recycling bins were placed on top of clean clothes. A rug from the floor was put on top of clean linen.

I called the removal boss and gave him the feedback. He was apologetic and said everything would be rectified. I kept my thoughts about proper supervision to myself and took photos of everything instead I emailed the building guy and asked him to ensure the plaster work did not commence until everything had been covered and sealed. I hope that has happened. I haven't been able to go and check today.

I'm feeling lucky that I have somewhere to live for a month. I'm skeptical about whether everything will be fixed by Friday night and nervous about how the hell my home will be reassembled. And with a bedroom light for the first time in over a year, I'll be able to see the mess!

It could be worse. At least I have a home and a roof over my head while I'm not able to live in my home.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Rats, destruction and the scientific wisdom of real estate agents

The recent discovery of rats taking up residence in my ceiling has been yet another journey of poor communication and discovery.

I'd heard something rattling around up there for a while, but figured that animals were bound to move in and out from time to time. As long as they weren't bothering me, why should I bother them was my approach. Then I heard something like a "pulling" sound which was coming from the exhaust fan above the stove. Visions of turning on the exhaust fan and either having blood spatter to deal with or an electrical explosion, ensued.

Neither of those things happened, but I did discover this one day when I had been away for a week.

© 2014 divacultura
All that black stuff looked like black shavings of some sort.  I had no idea what it was or what had caused it, but whatever was living in my roof was now causing me a problem. They would have to go.

Simon, the pest control guy, came, confirmed I had rats and put some baits out. He said they'd be gone pretty quickly and to call him if there was a smell. He said they would usually go away to die, but sometimes they don't make it.

That night, I could hear all kinds of different noises. As I stared up at the hole in my bedroom ceiling, and listened to the sound of falling rats, I was gripped by the future trauma I was sure to suffer when a dead rat fell through the bedroom ceiling and landed on me. Would I know? Or would I suffocate? Death by asphyxiation with the instrument of death a dead rat. Shudder. I rolled over and tried to block out the noises.

Meanwhile, the exhaust fan in the kitchen was out of bounds until it was inspected by an electrician. Finally, the electrician came on Saturday. Here's what we discovered:

© 2014 divacultura

Those rats had actually been eating away at the blades of the fan! There's a new one up there.

Meanwhile, the stove is full of plastic shavings. The elements in the stove can not be pulled out so cleaning is very difficult. To compound the problem, some of the plastic is melted from when I used the stove not knowing that it was full of plastic shavings.
In the stove dish under the element - melted plastic shavings.
© 2014 divacultura

Naturally, I don't want to use the stove while there is plastic in there. I don't want to make a bigger mess and I don't want to melt plastic while I'm cooking my food. I should just relax though because the real estate agent made this declaration in an email:

"The plastic shavings does not release poisonous chemicals, it is safe for you to use the stove."

When I asked how she knew, I received this:

"You can air the burning plastic smell by using the exhaust fan or open the window...I don't know what the plastic releases when heated but with a such small amount, it is not harmful. If you still have concern about it, please use the other 3 elements."

Seriously. I called her and asked her exactly what she was saying. During the course of the conversation she told me that the plastic would only melt a little bit and then eventually it would be gone.

There really is nothing to do when the response is so ill-informed, dismissive and impractical. I can imagine the bond discussion about how the stove was full of melted plastic and therefore I should forfeit some of my bond. In the mean time, I don't have full use of my stove. I'll add it to the list.

It looks like the hole in my ceiling will finally be repaired next week. I'm not going to believe it until it finally happens though!

Monday, 16 June 2014

Modern soliloquy - hair colour at the coffee counter.

"What would you like?" the woman at the coffee counter asked.

"Regular cafe latte, take away thanks," I replied and handed my money over.

"Love the red hair!" she exclaimed.

Before I could thank her for the compliment, she went on: "I used to have a gorgeous bright red like that. But then, you know, the maintenance got too much? It was just impossible to keep it looking good. You know? How do you find it? It was just too hard for me. And - at the time - I was going to a hairdresser way over in the eastern suburbs, so it was a long way to go as well. But that's another story. I loved it, don't get me wrong - and yours looks really good, but I just couldn't do it any longer. I felt like five minutes after I left the salon it looked excellent, but after another minute it looked all dull and faded. I'm sure you've had that problem. Although it doesn't look like you have. How do you keep yours looking so good? I got sick of trying to keep mine looking good, so, it was about a year ago now, I decided to go back to this horrible brown colour."
Rock star redder than ever!
© 2014 divacultura

If someone else hadn't arrived behind me to buy coffee, I'm pretty sure she'd still be telling me the history of her hair colour.

I was fascinated. People do this to me all the time - launch in and tell me something from their life in DETAIL. They ask questions that I know I'll never have to answer. I've also noticed that these exchanges start with a compliment being paid and quickly spiral into a complaint fuelled by jealousy or frustration of some kind. It's almost as if they're just thinking out loud.

Then I wondered, if Shakespeare was writing today would Juliet have a soliloquy about her hairdressing difficulties? Hamlet might wonder about the wisdom of expecting privacy on line ("To be on Facebook, or not be on Facebook, that is the question...") Ophelia would be blogging somewhere or on an online forum for people with a mental illness.

My lesson from today, is when I get tired of red hair, avoid the horrible brown colour as the next choice!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Sunday slide show

Now that I have a new phone, I've got space on my phone to take photos again. And I've been enjoying the new tools in Instagram. Hours of creative fun!

This photo was taken on the walkway between Melbourne Central and the new Emporium. I love the word "emporium"!

Walkway, Melbourne
© 2014 divacultura
The old Myer sign and clock are still attached to the new Emporium building. I enjoyed playing with contrast and shadows to create a silver gelatin look. I took this photo from the same walkway, looking west down Lonsdale Street.

Time passes.
© 2014 divacultura
Perfect afternoon light to take this photo of the arts centre spire. It was just after 3:30pm in Melbourne. By playing with contrast, shadows and saturation, the sky looks like a wall of water that is about to wash over the spire!

Tidal spire
© 2014 divacultura

Seconds later, a different angle and some different effects and the scene is different. I love the bright green saturation of the little patch of grass in the lower left hand corner. In the foreground is part of the scultpure by Inge King, "Forward Surge".

© 2014 divacultura
Lastly, I thought I'd show you this photo.

Eyes on the tracks
© 2014 divacultura

Here's the original shot that shows how the photo above started its life:

Self portrait
© 2014 divacultura

It was the reflection of the train tracks in my sunglasses that originally caught my attention and I decided to take a closer look. I love the finished product. I could imagine it as a movie poster, album cover or on the cover of a novel.

Without all the digital tools available today, this probably would have taken hours in a dark room. That's a satisfying process too, but much more expensive. I love just playing with various tools knowing that I can't destroy the original - it will always be there for me to play with until I reach a result that I'm happy with.

What are you photographing at the moment? Do you use Instagram?  (I'm divacultura over there too. Come and say hello!)

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Overheard and my favourite photo

Overheard on the train platform this morning was a group of teenagers in school uniform:

"They should just stop stereotyping us!"

"Yes! I know! All adults do it though."

You can't write dialogue like that.


I'm rather pleased with this photograph I took on Sunday morning at Brunetti's in Carlton. I braved the crowds to buy a cafe latte to take with me when I went to see "The Broken Circle Breakdown" at the Nova.  The film is a curiosity (it's set in Belgium and the main characters are bluegrass musicians) and I really liked it. The coffee was good too.

Brunetti's, Carlton, Sunday morning
© 2014 divacultura

It is miraculous that I could get a clear shot. The place was packed!

Monday, 9 June 2014

Considering "Utopia" and Australia's history

A friend told me that I had to watch "Utopia", John Pilger's film about black Australia. (I was about to write that it was a film about the current situation in black Australia. I feel like the current situation has existed for a while.)

While I was emotionally engaged by "Utopia", I had a niggling question throughout and that was about balance, objectivity and notions of "truth" in journalism. I'm not sure what I think about that. I am well-read on the history of Australia, black and white, and struggle to understand the intentions behind government policies, both in the past and now. I've concluded that this film is not objective and is a construction meant to tell a particular story. Is it propaganda? I don't know - probably because I sympathise with the view presented - but I think it's certainly a pretty important piece of activism.

I remember believing in the ideals of balance, objectivity and truth. There was a moment of youthful naivety when I actually thought I could achieve it. I no longer believe those things are possible. The best thing that we can do is sample widely and seek out as many viewpoints as we can.

Despite having these misgivings, "Utopia" is worth watching as part of the search for viewpoints.

Vox pop interviews on Sydney streets on Australia Day confounded me. How can any adult truly believe that Aboriginal people like to live in extreme poverty and deprivation? That actually they choose it?

CCTV footage of the mistreatment of an Aboriginal man in police custody, shows the rough handling by police dealing with a sleepy drunk man who inconveniently leaves his blood on the floor after he is thrown to the ground by police. We then see him left alone in a cell as he dies. The film reports that he had been taken into "protective" police custody and his life could have been saved. He basically died from neglect.

We then hear about the death of an Aboriginal man in the back of a jail transport in Western Australia. He died in the metal mobile cell after temperatures reached over 50 degrees Celsius. The coroner said he had basically been cooked to death. The Corrective Services Minister at the time seemed to be sorry for what had happened and that she had considered resigning. She said she hadn't resigned because she wanted to do something. She organised cultural sensitivity training.

What does cultural sensitivity training have to do with a failure to respect another human being? It seemed to me that this Aboriginal man in custody was viewed as so different from us, that he must not have been viewed as human.

Over to Rottnest Island and we discover that the resort rooms were once the cells of an Aboriginal concentration camp. The tourist leaflet about "historic" Rottnest Island does not mention the prison history, the hangings that took place and the mass grave nearby.

A man at the Australian War Memorial is asked why wars fought on foreign soils are commemorated, but the "frontier wars" where Aborigines fought to defend their homelands from colonial takeover are ignored, as if they never happened. It's a good question.

Stories of the Wave Hill strike where Aboriginal workers and their families went on strike for over 7 years in an effort to be paid and fed properly, made my own struggles for fairness as a union official seem inconsequential. Another tale of exploitation of Aboriginal workers is told about cotton chippers at Wee Waa in northern New South Wales. One of the activists talks about the planes spraying pesticides flying over and spraying while he and his fellow workers were working in the fields. Not even human, kept going through my mind as I watched.

I don't know how this happens. How can we regard other human beings as less than ourselves? How can empathy fail us so completely? And of course, I write this as a relatively privileged white woman who has access to what I need - more than  I need, actually. Is it comprehensive brainwashing? That the so-called history wars have been successful in separating white Australians from our awful history?

I spent three years of my primary schooling at Moree Public School. Moree is a town in northern New South Wales with a large Aboriginal population. I remember being terrified at the prospect of going to school with blackfellas. Fresh from Canberra Grammar, I had met one Aboriginal boy. He was the adopted son of the minister at our Anglican Church. I wonder now where he came from. Had he been stolen? Of course, pretty soon, we were all just kids together and colour didn't  matter so much in the classroom.

Corporal punishment was used liberally and certain teachers had a fearsome reputation as wielders of the cane. I was in grade 4, Miss Hoolihan was taking an art class. Eddie Pitt flicked paint at me. It was friendly play. I painted his arm. We were warned. We didn't listen. Both of us were reprimanded and told to go to see Mr O'Connor. Mr O'Connor was known to have broken several canes on the hands of badly behaved children and I was terrified. For this minor transgression, play really, we were to be caned by Mr O'Connor!

Eddie Pitt taught me something about courage as he led the way. I really didn't want to go. We arrived at Mr O'Connor's classroom to discover that he wasn't there. Eddie Pitt comforted me and said not to worry about it. He was probably used to being regularly physically punished by the ripe old age of about 8. My mother was furious and advocated strongly for me telling me that I was not to receive the cane. Ever.

Eddie Pitt's mother might have advocated strongly for him too. Or she might have wished she could, but didn't know how. Or she might have been so subjugated by the white men that she accepted that her son would be beaten regularly at school as part of all they could expect from their lives.

I know that Eddie Pitt is probably dead. Statistically, it's likely that many of my Aboriginal classmates, especially the boys, are not longer with us.

I found myself ashamed to agree with one person interviewed in the film who said he thought that foreign aid was probably required to help us all. I don't know what the answer is, but I suspect that educating all of us and facing our history is part of it.

What do you think? Have you seen the film?

I was able to watch "Utopia" on SBS on demand TV. It expires in 5 days.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Back in the olden days - when I wanted to be Tina Arena

I've started going to a new salon, closer to home, for my skin care. Yesterday I hit the jackpot when I met Amy, my new favourite therapist.

As she started to look at my skin, she commented on the fact that I have no lines. I liked her immediately and then asked her, why I would, since I'm only 20! She laughed, a little unsure, but then realised that I was joking.

I commented on the flute music that was playing and why everyone seems to think it's soothing. It doesn't soothe me. It pierces something important in my brain. She offered to change it and then we forgot. She marked on my card not to play the flute music when I'm in.

We got talking about music and she told me that her mother is quite a good singer, "not professional or anything, but she sings at family functions". 

I asked her if she's seen the TV show, "Nashville" and recommended it. She asked me if I watch "regular TV" and I said that I quite like "The Voice". We talked about the elegance of Kylie Minogue, the pure handsome masculinity of Ricky Martin and the eccentricity of I can't remember what we said about Joel.

"Did you know there's a kids' version coming out?" Amy asked me.

Of course. This got me talking about Young Talent Time and how I wanted to BE Tina Arena. 

Amy went quiet.

"I remember when Tina came on as a contestant. She was about 11 years old and was dressed like Pocahontas. She sang "Money, Money, Money" by ABBA. I thought she was fantastic. I wanted to be Tina Arena."

Any idea that I was only 20, was banished from Amy's thoughts. 

We talked some more about my skin and I said that I wish I didn't have enlarged pores on my nose. This got me thinking about a girl at school who had had the most impressive crop of blackheads on her face. 

"Did they have treatments for that back then?" Amy asked.

I burst out laughing.  "What, back in the olden days?" I asked.

She told me that she didn't mean to offend me, she was just wondering.

I told her I wasn't offended, just amused about the picture she must have of life and skin care late last century. Surely we all scrubbed ourselves with carbolic soap and used methylated spirits as a skin toner, before flaying ourselves with steel wool if the acne was particularly bad.

To help her get over her embarrassment, I asked her where her mother learned to sing. 

Amy told me her mother had been a nun from the age of 18 to 29. She was posted to Bourke in outback New South Wales as a school teacher and met Amy's father there. 

I'd love to hear the rest of the story some time. I'd like to meet Amy's mother. Her daughter is lovely.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Friday thoughts

It's a long weekend. I love the feeling of signing off for three days in a row. Apparently we're celebrating the English Queen of Australia's birthday. I don't know what that means, but I'm very happy to have an extra day where I can wake up when I'm ready, instead of when the alarm goes off - which seems to be very early these days!


Winter is setting in. It's not really cold yet, but I put some towels out on the line to dry today. They went out in the dark at 6:15 this morning. I took them off in the dark at 5:30 this evening and they weren't dry. They nearly were, but they weren't. This is my measure of the seasons.


I'm watching the television show "Nashville" at the moment. It's a soap opera set in the Nashville music scene and has everything from the country music queen whose latest album hasn't really sold, the upcoming blond starlet who needs autotune to make her sound okay, the sexy, enigmatic cowboy/lead guitarist with a dark past and the two young hot things who accidentally start songwriting together. Add to this mix some local politics and financial corruption and you've got everything. I'm loving it.

The character of Scarlett is a gorgeous blonde girl who has been writing poems, but never considered herself a songwriter. Gunnar sets one of the poems to music and they smoulder as they sing together. They get a publishing deal and she speaks about songwriting at a dinner to welcome them to the fold.

She says that she has noticed that the more specific the image, the more universal the truth. YES! What a great summary of all kinds of writing.

I'm looking back at my songs and thinking about this idea.


I'm thinking of going to the movies this weekend. On the list to see:

The Broken Circle Breakdown

Fading Gigolo

The Zero Theorem

Under the Skin

No blockbusters! What have you seen lately?

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Tears flowing over the news

I've just spent the last half an hour in tears. No, it wasn't the latest add for tissues or nappies. I was watching the hard current affairs show, 7:30 on the ABC.

Firstly, there was the story of the Sri Lankan refugee who committed suicide this week by setting himself on fire. He left his homeland at the age of six and spent years in a refugee camp in India. He was now living in Geelong on a bridging visa, but was highly anxious about the prospect of what would happen to him if he was sent back to Sri Lanka. This man was 29 years old. I feel so sad that he made it this far and then must have been so traumatised by his past that he could not cope with his anxiety. So sad.

Read more.

Then there was the story of Dennis "Ned" Kelly, a veteran of D-Day, visiting the French village who gave him safe harbour after he had to bail out of his plane. I highly recommend watching this story. Against the backdrop of Australia's hard, hard heart shown to people seeking help and safety, watching this tale of villagers risking their lives to protect the life of an Australian pilot, is extremely moving. How wonderful that he is able to visit these people now and even meet the daughter of Collette, the woman who visited him and talked to him while he was being hidden in a lock keeper's house. He said they talked for hours, even though he couldn't understand her and she couldn't understand him, they found companionship. Extraordinary.

What made you cry today?

Monday, 2 June 2014

Rehearsal is for wimps - Sunday night impro!

Last night I did dinner and a show with a friend. The dinner was delicious Asian dumplings (difficult to eat wait until they've cooled before placing them in your mouth) and the show was made up on the spot. It was Maestro, produced by Impro Melbourne.

Maestro is a gladiatorial format. Last night 10 players/actors competed for the audience approval, 9 of them working in vain to avoid elimination in the quest to be crowned the Maestro and win a very special prize.

Two directors randomly draw ping pong balls with numbers which correspond to the numbers on the netball-style bibs worn by players. Sometimes scenes just start; at other times the directors will give a very loose offer and the players take it from there. At the end of each scene the audience clapometer determines the number of points to be allocated to each person in the scene. The audience doesn't lie, but occasionally is happy to play. For example, one actor repeatedly said that he had declared his love "five" times, over "five" days. The subliminal messaging continued until eventually many in the audience awarded the full five points. I did. He deserved the points for having gall and charm simultaneously. At one point in the show, I was the ONLY person who awarded two points and it felt very lonely. I clapped twice, very softly. The power of the human need to conform got me!

Like all great shows based on improvisation, not everything works. I actually love this too. It's great when a scene really comes together and the audience feels the thrill and joy of spontaneity. But when a scene doesn't quite work we see something we don't often see these days - unpolished and raw creative work.

The audience is not immune from the creative impulse. Last night one of the directors told the two players on stage that they were on holiday in a tiny caravan. I was sitting five seats away, so she heard me when I said, "Oh god" in response to the idea of the tiny caravan. She asked me if I'd been in one and asked me to describe it. Off I went: "Everything is close together - too close together. The bed is in the kitchen, the stove is on the bed, the TV is on the stove..." I could have added that you can flush the toilet and do the dishes from the comfort of your bed too.

The scene that resulted, was silly and funny with more and more people being invited to come into the caravan (of course it was raining outside) and doing the simplest thing like getting the milk out of the fridge required the skill of a contortionist to climb under and over the other people in the caravan.

Another highlight was the discussion between the two yokels about what exactly an "air strip" is. (It's a strip of specially imported air!)

Permission to be silly and play is one of the things that drew me to improvisation years ago. I use it daily in all kinds of situations. (Last week I wrote a new song inspired by the rats I had discovered in my's all done, but it could be a country song or a shoo-wop song and I can't decide. I might keep playing and turn it into a rap!)

I was reading something today (I can't remember what) but it was a statement that spontaneity is an essential ingredient for us to perceive other people as authentic. It makes sense; if you're in a spontaneous mindset, then you're present, open, listening and ready to dive in. If you're in a spontaneous mindset, you're not worried about what anyone else is thinking of you or busily planning your next comment when you should be listening closely to someone else.

Impro Melbourne runs classes if you want to tap into your spontaneity. Or you could go along on a Sunday night and have a lot of fun for $10!

I left feeling inspired, even though it was dark at 4:30pm on the first day of winter.

Do you improvise? Have you seen Maestro? What did you think? What's your favourite impro format?