Driving Ms Hazy

Wednesday, 27 July 2022

 I've just gotten over a bout of Covid. After two years of being careful, and being triple vaccinated, here we are. And whilst the world is suffering a dire dearth of hot takes from special snowflakes on their views of the epidemiological management, sociopolitical implications, and personal experiences of the pandemic, Covid isn't the story I'm telling today.


Instead I want to talk about what came next. On account of being in mandatory isolation after testing positive for Covid, and also being quite sick, I didn't drive my car for ten days, and when I did take it out again, rather than wisely taking the opportunity to refresh the battery with a nice long drive, I was still a bit ill and only went to the local shops. All of which brings us to yesterday. I get in my car, put the key in the ignition and click-click-click-click-ptooey. The car won't start. 


Luckily I already have reason to suspect the battery, because otherwise I would have no idea what is going on. All I can do to my car is drive it, and put fun things on the dashboard. I know three fifths of stuff all about how the car actually works. Listen, I'm not entirely a stupid woman. The reason why I rarely post in depth think pieces here is because I'm paid quite well to apply those insights in a professional context. This analysis doesn't translate to knowing how my car works, what can go wrong with it, and how to perform basic maintenance. But I don't need to. This is why I pay for roadside assistance. It was an easy task to make a call and have someone out within the hour to jump start the car for me, and I refused to feel embarrassed for that I don't even know how to put the car bonnet up. Why would I need to know that? Whatever goes on under there is none of my business. The only thing I could achieve by looking under the bonnet is to ascertain that the engine is still under there. My touching anything could only make things lots worse. It's best that I pay professionals to take care of things, and hope that they don't figure they could do my job because they've listened to Ray Hadley rant for 15 minutes about woke government departments. 


Anyway the guy who came out to start my car was efficient and friendly, if slightly deaf, and didn't even laugh at my not being able to get the bonnet open. He did however tell me that I should drive my freshly started car for 40 minutes to charge the battery. And I was like, "bitch, where?" except I didn't say that out loud, because generally middle aged male mechanics don't like being referred to as bitch, not even the slightly deaf ones. Driving for extended periods can be an exhilarating experience. Just you and the open road, going somewhere. However I live in inner Sydney and to get to that open road, you have to get out of Sydney. And there's absolutely nothing about driving out of inner Sydney that is exhilerating, or in any way less than tedious or exhausting. Generally, you have two options:


1. Use the network of tollroads recent NSW governments have built in consortium with private investment groups and with the enthusiasm of toddlers fingerpainting on the walls with the expensive jar of face cream they found while their parent turned away for a moment to answer the phone, except in this case the wall is local neighbourhoods and the jar of face cream is your money. You want to be against these roads in principle, but... I remember an occasion, coming to the end of West Connex near Haberfield, thinking "why couldn't they have extended this tunnel all the way to the city?" and the voice of my conscience replying "they're working on it...and you've been fighting against it for years". But you're won over against your better judgement by the promise of convenience, so you take the toll road, which costs a fortune and takes ages, because it's backed up anyway.


2. Use the existing network of older roads, requiring you to drive through dreary suburban shopping strip after dreary suburban shopping strip, slow down to 40km/hr for three hours a day because of school zones regardless of whether there's schoolkids around at a given time and stopping at traffic lights every 230 metres. This costs a fortune, due to all the petrol you burn through stopping and starting, and takes ages. 


One thing you notice driving in Sydney is even on lovely days - even on the first sunny, mild day after weeks of rain, and even with current petrol prices - everyone has their windows up. If petrol is so expensive, how can everyone afford to constantly run the air conditioning? Now, I'm a pretty indulgent parent. Yes, we need to prepare our children for a world that can be hard and unfair; I don't believe that needs to mean making things harder for kids than they have to be. But I'm an absolute tyrant when it comes to the air conditioning. Unless the steering wheel is too hot to hold, I don't, won't, put the air conditioning on. This leads to frequent conflicts with Mr 10, who will ask why I won't put on the car aircon.

"Because it's not 30℃", I say. "It is in the car!" he protests. "Well, it won't be soon if we drive a bit with the windows open". 


I quite like driving at night. The roads are quieter, the lack of daylight is soothing, and I quite like the noir feel of it all. The problems is, I generally don't have any place to go. I suppose I could be a getaway driver like Ryan Gosling in that movie, but it wouldn't really work. Picture me driving the crooks on their way to settle another feud:

"You see the mark, you know what to do." 

 "Right boss, clean shot, no witnesses, then throw-" 

 "WILL YOU TWO SHUT UP. I'm trying to concentrate. You're worried about missing your mark, first worry about missing our exit. There, see, we've missed it. I will turn this car around and go home. No execution style killing for anyone!" 

 "Ohhhh" "No complaining. You've got a bossy Mum for a, driver. It's the perfect cover. I can quit and a guy named Sol with a skinny moustache and one demerit point that has to last him 20 months can drive you. You want that? No."

Although the might prefer Sol. He'll let them have the aircon on. 

Forget princess. I want to be a housewife

Thursday, 7 July 2022

If you'd asked me when I was aged 20 about plans for my life, I was a little hazy (I didn't work out what I wanted to do when I grew up until I was 33). But I would have had a visceral, furious reaction at any notion that I should stay at home taking care of the kids and the housework while my husband worked. At that time, my feminism was a lot more strident than it is now. I believed women who stayed at home, taking their husbands' names and care of home and family, were letting all women down. They should be out building careers, tearing down the barricades, glass ceiling and patriarchy, as I planned to do just as soon as I figured out how. 

You have to remember this was over two decades ago, and my exposure to feminist theory largely came from what books I could obtain from the local library, and they mostly written by the second wave feminists of the 1970s: Betty Friedan, Andrea Dworkin, Germaine Greer. Going back further in time, I'd grown up being told there were things I couldn't do, and things I had to do, as a girl. And it was during the interminable government of John Howard, the Prime Minister of the silent generation values and conservative mindset, whose speeches and policies left little doubt the man believed at heart that a woman's place was in the home. Well, if that's what he was for, then I was against it. I knew my feminist place. As I saw it, this was a war of liberation, with no role for women devoted to school runs and PTA meetings. You're with us or you're against us. I had work to do.

So I thought then. I'm cured now. Two major things have changed; firstly, my views on feminism have changed a lot since then. I now see that issues such as preventing sexual and relationship violence are what matters, not whether a woman changes her name when she gets married (and whilst still in my militant years, I was working as a receptionist/office administrator. One of my duties was updating client records, and that included when women faxed us a copy of their marriage certificate wanting to change their names. I didn't like having to do it - I believed women who took their husbands' names were just perpetuating the notion that women are the property of men. But I still did it, made the changes because at the end of the day, what right do I have to tell someone else what I think their name should be? I'm telling you this to make the point that you can respect another person's name and pronouns. That's for them to decide, not you, no matter your feelings on the issue. If you can accept a woman's married name, you can respect when someone tells you their name is Riley, and not insist on continuing to call them Steve. Okay, end of digression). 

And I've come to realise that thinking one only has worth if one is in paid employment is a completely sucky and capitalist view of things.

But the biggest difference between then and now? I'm tired. I have been solely responsible for my own life, and working, for most of the last twenty years, and I'm worn out, and would like someone else to take over the income earning and paying bills and insurance so I can bake and grow a herb garden, at least for a while. 

Let me say right now I love my current job. I'm coming up to three years in the role. I work with the smartest, most amazing people, and I've learned more than I could imagine. There's always something new and different - there aren't many other jobs with duties that have included both video seminars on chemsex and watching Paw Patrol with a delightful four year old. On the good days - when you pull off a big project or host an event - I  can't imagine anything more rewarding or anything else I want to do. 

But it still involves much of the Dilbert-esque wibble inherent in most jobs these days, especially in this era of KPIs and accountability measures and having to account for every dollar of funding. There's zoom calls, business plans, 360 degree performance reviews, so called because I'm going around in circles trying to figure out what to write for my responses. And, of course, the meetings. 




When I need to go to the office, parking is a nightmare (I drive due to chronic fatigue) and I can't see a window from my desk. Ahh, my desk. For all that the work I do has improved, it's the same carpeted little half-box that has haunted me for the last two decades. 

Before I graduated from university a few years ago, most of my jobs were office based, administration and call centre, mostly, with some unfortunate forays into retail. None of it was fulfilling; I was just trying to pay the rent and hopefully, eventually, get myself together enough to find something I did want to do. In the meantime...there were redundancies, restructures, business plans, deadlines, managers, co-workers, commuting, work lunches, office Christmas parties, conferences, early starts, late finishes, lots and lots of customers, and lots and lots of meetings. All in the same carpeted box. Sometimes it was my carpeted box, and I could put up pictures and postcards, sometimes we did hot desking and I'd just get the carpeted box for the day, but either way, there was no way that carpeted box was more restrictive than being stuck at home.  

And when I'd get home from my carpeted box, it was mostly just me having to sort out things like bills and insurance with the money I got for sitting in the carpeted box. Money that quickly evaporated, being mostly the sole income earner.

No wonder I'm tired, and part of me doesn't want to do this anymore. I've been following a few cottage core and homesteading sort of accounts, and I've fallen in love with the lifestyle. So, in exchange for not having to worry about how to pay the bills or why I'm being summoned to speak with my boss's boss, I'm willing to give up control of my own money. I want to be a housewife. I want to cook from scratch using vegetables I grew myself. I want to have the energy to bother hand washing my delicates. I want to learn to reupholster furniture. I want to scent my ironing water. I want to take the iron I bougt three years ago out of the box for the first time. I want to make my home an oasis of relaxation and welcome home the person paying for it with a hot dinner. 

I've finally become someone with a fulfulling career and prospects of progression, and part of me wants to give it up. And I know staying home wouldn't be as easy as my Pinterest fantasies. But there's a neat caveat for me on the housewifely lifestyle. The hardest part of being a housewife - the care and feeding of small humans - I don't have to do. My only child is rapidly approaching adolescence (he sure eats like a teenager) and is mostly self sufficient for basic physical needs. We still have our moments, like when we arrived at the aquatic centre recently to find he had failed to pack his swimsuit after I specifically told him to do so. The good mother thing to do would have been to use the occasion as a valuable learning experience on personal responsibility, and turned around and gone home. But we'd had something of a drive to get there, and I wanted to swim too, so I wearily bought him a new suit. Moments like this aside though, my nappy changing and baby proofing and constant-need-to-pay-attention days are behind me, and a search of reliable medical websites shows my chances of getting pregnant at my age are roughly equal to the chance I'll be killed in a car accident.  
 

Because what it means is, my housewifely dreams are unimpeded by the reality of runny noses and gastro and toilet training accidents and the never ending laundry and demands on your time that come from raising small children. I'd be free to engage in personal projects, slow cooking, refinishing the side table, trying to write a novel. No messy reality to intrude on my time. 

It also means that my chances of this lifestyle coming to fruition are about the same as the odds of me being abuducted by aliens whilst dying in a car crash and pregnant. First I'd need to form a stable relationship with someone who saw me as an equal and valued partner, then persuade them they should continue to value me as an equal partner as they go to work while I faff around embroidering quilts for my cats. But I never said my dreams were realistic. Maybe I should start a new genre of fiction. Whilst teenagers fantasise about being turned into billionaire vampires, exhausted Gen Xers and Millenials can read books where the protagonist is turned into a mystical creature who is loved and adored and doesn't have to sit through annual general meetings or clean up the food a toddler has tossed on the floor (I've done both at the same stage of life at once. That was fun). I can even put some recipes and craft projects in the back of the books. I just wish I could quit my job and let someone else take over the rent while I write them.  

Fish oil, zinc and chronic fatigue

Monday, 11 April 2022

 When you have a chronic illness - especially an illness like Chronic Fatigue Sydnrome that can't be diagnosed through testing (though we're constantly hearing doctors are on the verge of a breakthrough), or treated - lay people are continually coming up with alternative remedies. Try rubbing lavender oil on your pulse points. My neighbour had this, and they started going for a walk each day at sunrise, and they felt much better. Bury the third finger of the left hand of an Amazon delivery driver under a full moon, and it will re-align your chakras for long term relief. 



I'm a member of fairly active CFS/ME online groups (well, it gives us a chance to be active). Between several thousand members, I've seen every natural remedy and cure suggested, and for pretty much every one, it's worked for some people and not for others. Yet people are often desperate to try anything, especially because the symptoms of CFS/ME are so awful - and especially for an illness so misunderstood by the medical profession. I've been referred to the main fatigue specialist at a leading Sydney teaching hospital; a quick Google search shows the guy still pushes the largely discredited exercise therapy as treatment for CFS. No thanks.  



I'm normally cynical that any particular diet, botanical supplement or essential oil will work for me. Crystals? Crystals I love! They look pretty on a shelf or desk; I have quite a collection. But I don't expect them to do anything, other than need dusting. But after a Facebook post where I had a little whinge, several people also struggled with chronic illness suggested I try zinc and fish oil. I was sceptical, but zinc and fish oil seemed like they might have some physiological effect, and what did I have to lose, maybe $30. What I had to gain was everything, since CFS was leaving me barely able to half-arse my part time job, then spend the weekend in a dizzy, nauseated fog as the house fell to bits around me. 


So I bought the stuff at the pharmacy, and added the pills to my already substantial daily tally. And you know what? I did feel much better. Much better. Not straight away, but within a few days. And by a month or so in, I was able to take Mr 10 to a water park (where we had a much, much better time than last time); help run in person events for work including setting up furniture and running around getting items forgotten; and slam out a 3000 word uni assignment 4 days early so I could take a 4 day trip to Melbourne, where although I did have some achiness, that was largely attributable to packing the wrong shoes, I still managed to average 12,000 steps a day and see pretty much everything I wanted. 


All in rapid succession, and all unthinkable a few months ago. I should have trusted the souls of the dead fish, right? But I didn't, I ran out of the stuff and forgot to replace them. Hello, my symptoms have returned. The alternating sweats and chills, nausea, dizzyness, needing to rest after a taking a shower, getting eight hours sleep and still stumbling into a three hour nap and waking to sleep paralysis. Okay, I am convinced. That's what I get for trying to live in a world without zinc. 




No more! I will be permanently stocked up from now on. 

~~~~~

In the unlikely event that you get your news from a blog that hasn't been updated for months, the Federal Election has been called for May 21. I'm not going to offer any insightful takes at this stage. Unlike, say, the exciting prospect of removing John Howard that was so joyfully fulfilled, this time I'm just numb. Not specifically because of Labor losing the unloseable election of 2019*, it's more that I'm a few years older than I was in 2007, and we've all been through some stuff, and basically my brain has trained itself to constantly expect the worst. 

But I see a lot of people on Twitter in denial. Morrison is gone, they confidently proclaim. I get the need for a happy ending after we as a nation have been through fire, pandemic, lockdowns, separation from loved ones and endless floods. But I think people need to be realistic. Hope for the best but expect the worst. If your brain is programmed to Morrison can't possibly win and then he does, the devastation will be real. Trust me, I've been there, I thought Howard couldn't possibly win in 2004 and then he did and I was in a bad mindset over it for weeks. Sure my mindset was generally bad back then, but everyone's mindset is bad now. So...brace yourself. 

I'm not saying give up. We all have a lot of work to do. If you know anyone in your life who's not determinately conservative, but wavering on who to vote for, familiarise yourself with the Morrison government's record and each of the major party's platforms, then have a chat with them about the issues. They may believe untruths they've heard in the media, and you can let them know the facts. Don't be dogmatic, just have a chat about their concerns and where parties stand on those concerns. You may win over an undecided voter. 

But, you know, hope (and work) for the best...but prepare yourself for the worst. Lord knows, Labor have stuffed it up from here before.

* I'm not a Labor supporter - I will continue to vote Greens and volunteer for them on election day if my zinc and fish oil regime holds up - but they are still generally better, though not great, on many of the issues I care about, and bonus points for not having to see Scromo's creepy, smarmy, smirking face. 

Exclusive extract from Go By Ninky Nonk: The Uncensored Oral History of In The Night Garden...

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

DHX Media


The genre-shifting children's show In The Night Garden... which originally aired on the BBC between 2007 and 2009, was a hit with toddlers and parents alike. But behind the colourful dreamworld and its cast of trippy yet delightful characters lay a much darker reality; a tale of clashing egos, forbidden attractions, heavy work schedules and even heavier partying, and a creator with an artistic vision many believed was impossible to film. We find a show threatening to fall apart behind the scenes even as, on camera, they drew together to create paradigm-shifting art that laid the groundwork for such future television as Twin Peaks: The Return and Squid Game. In this exclusive extract from the upcoming book Go By Ninky Nonk: the Uncensored Oral History of In The Night Garden... the cast and crew reflect on returning from hiatus to shoot the Second Season Premiere, "Slow Down Everybody!" 


ANDREW DAVENPORT (SERIES CREATOR): By that point in my career, my commitment to my artistic vision was absolutely uncompromising.


MAKKA PAKKA (CAST MEMBER): When we wrapped [on Season One] we all knew we'd achieved something unique, something paradigm shifting. We'd taken children's television to places it had never been before, places people never thought it could go. But we could never be sure that the Beeb [BBC] would see it Andrew's way. He always said "If we're one and done, it was worth it to share my vision of the Haahoos. Sure, a line of creepy, bouncing six by six foot balloons set to ominous music might terrify toddlers, but they need to learn that it's a terrifying world out there". Just things like that, you know? Andy is a genius. We just weren't sure if the stilted suits in executive programming would see what we saw. But you know what, kids loved the Haahoos. I don't know, I don't really get kids. Anyway, we were all thrilled to hear we were renewed. We couldn't wait to go back.


IGGLEPIGGLE (CAST MEMBER): I didn't want to go back. 


ANDREW DAVENPORT: It was great to get the go ahead for Season Two, but also daunting. As far as we'd pushed the bounds of kids' TV with Teletubbies, then redefined the genre in Season One, we knew we'd have to raise the bar even higher. 


IGGLEPIGGLE: I was in the final audition process for Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway. I was down to the last three for Hedwig. It was the role of a lifetime, and I was feeling really good about it. England's kind of a small pond for the performing arts, really, and I felt like I'd taken the theatre and TV scene there as far as I could. So I'm waiting to hear back. but we were getting to the two month point, and I had to decide if I renewed my lease in London. At this point Davenport calls and says, it's a go, Night Garden is back on. He wanted me back for the series. What do you do? It's steady work and you've gotta pay the bills. On the other hand, it was been there, done that. And of course, there was the thing with Upsy Daisy.  


UPSY DAISY (CAST MEMBER): Only Upsy Daisy is allowed to sleep in Upsy Daisy's bed. 


ANDREW DAVENPORT: Ohh...Upsy Daisy. Brilliant performer. When she's on screen, you can't look at anyone else. She wouldn't let you look at anyone else. But the incident with the sound grip, yeah. We could have done without that.


ANNE WOOD (PRODUCER): We had a bunch of beds made for Upsy Daisy. I think there were four. That way, we always had a fresh bed ready to go for filming. She doesn't like to have to wait, and time is money. But they're prop beds, you know, not really built to last, especially with a heavy production schedule like ours. Anyway, we'd retired one of the beds; the frame was creaking. It was still in prop storage, we hadn't gotten around to throwing it out yet. 


ANDREW DAVENPORT:  We were filming the scene where Igglepiggle's blanket runs around by itself. We just couldn't get the shot right. We knew we absolutely had to nail this one. It was our Gotta Light? [Twin Peaks episode]. It was the scene that would elevate Night Garden to the next level, make people take a new look at what British Television could do. It would get everyone talking, challenge the audience, asking questions no one could answer. Well, I know the answers [laughs]. So yeah, we had to get the scene right. It just wasn't quite coming together. We'd been at it all night, everyone was starting to droop and lose focus. So Dirk [Campbell, Director] called a 30 minute break at about 3 A.M., telling everyone to clear their heads and rest, ahead of the final push to film the scene. Some of the cast and crew gathered in the cafeteria, it was getting a bit rowdy. The poor grip goes looking for a quiet place to catch some Zs, and he finds Upsy Daisy's discarded bed in the prop locker.    


UPSY DAISY: Only Upsy Daisy is allowed to sleep in Upsy Daisy's bed.


ANNE WOOD: He knew the rule about Upsy Daisy's bed, of course. Everyone knew. But he figured that since this bed was just waiting until someone could throw it in the skip bin, it would be fine. 


IGGLEPIGGLE: It wasn't fine.


UPSY DAISY: Only Upsy Daisy is allowed to sleep in Upsy Daisy's bed.


ANNE WOOD: Upsy Daisy found him. She went beserk. Her dressing room was right nearby. She grabbed the bottle of bourbon she'd been drinking, and just started pounding on this poor guy around the head and chest. He kept saying he was sorry, that he thought the bed was basically garbage now, but she didn't care; it was her bed, and she just kept swinging her bottle at him. By the time IP [Igglepiggle] and Mr. Pontipine [cast member] heard the commotion and ran in to pull her off, he really wasn't talking much anymore.


IGGLEPIGGLE: God, it was horrible. I mean, it really was unimaginably awful. People came running and I yelled "Someone call 999!". This poor guy...he was only a young guy, maybe 23. I only knew him to look at, but after Upsy Daisy got at him, his own mother wouldn't have known him to look at. His face was swollen and red, turning purple. His eyes were swollen shut, there was blood pouring from his nose, cuts on his forehead. It was a terrible scene. I tried to get him to stand up, but he could barely lift his head. He was mumbling a bit so I tried to talk to him, keep him conscious. You couldn't really understand what he was saying, apart from occasionally muttering "Daisy, sorry Daisy". And Daisy was still screaming. Pontipine and Andy Davenport eventually managed to drag her away, though she was kicking and screaming the whole time. 

The ambulance finally showed up. Even the paramedics looked kinda shocked at the scene. I think Anne went with him to the hospital. After they'd left, everyone was kind of stunned. No one knew what to say. We didn't know where Upsy Daisy was, if the police were coming or what. Eventually Andy told us that we were done for the night, to go home. If an intense perfectionist like Andy Davenport wraps up early, you know shit is serious. 


ANDREW DAVENPORT: We managed to keep the whole thing quiet. Money...was exchanged. I guess I can say that now, after all these years. We knew we had to keep it quiet. We didn't have a show without Upsy Daisy. 


UPSY DAISY: Only Upsy Daisy is allowed to sleep in Upsy Daisy's bed.


ANNE WOOD: He had a fractured skull. When he came out of surgery, the doctors said it would be a waiting game to see if he'd sustained any brain damage. His family didn't want any of us in the hospital after that, but I did learn later that although he needed several months of in patient rehabilitation, he didn't have a major brain injury. We eventually came to a financial agreement with the family. I think the non disclosure agreement is still in place. Though we're disclosing it now [laughs]. You won't print this, will you?


MAKKA PAKKA: By the time we came back, I think we were all just trying to put that night behind us. 


IGGLEPIGGLE: I couldn't put it behind me. It took me a long time to get over it. I think some of the issues I had later, with the drinking, came down to what I'd seen. I didn't know how to face Upsy Daisy, it just seemed wrong, that she got no consequences. I knew if we went back for a second season, I'd have to see her, that's why she got away with it in the first place, that she was the linchpin of the show. 

And she was always hugging and kissing me. 


ANDREW DAVENPORT: Upsy Daisy was our nucleus, but when Anne and I sat down to write the second season, we couldn't just rely on what we'd done before. My aim with In The Night Garden was always to push boundaries, to flip the narrative. I wanted audiences to come away thinking "what did I just see?" and never be quite sure where we were going to take them next. 

My original vision for "Slow Down, Everybody!" was that the Ninky Nonk would take Igglepiggle and Makka Pakka to another dimension, just as a nuclear explosion destroyed the existing garden world. Igglepiggle and Makka Pakka would find themselves in an alternative reality where their friends toil in a drab, grey sweatshop producing Night Garden merchandise to the ominous beat of bongo drums, until Tombliboo Unn stands up, says directly to camera in a distorted voice "war is the tool of the capitalist death merchants", then aims a shotgun at the camera and fires, at which stage the scene would dissolve to a 16 minute, single take shot of the inside of a snow globe.


ANNE WOOD: The BBC said absolutely not. 


ANDREW DAVENPORT: But I decided we should go in another direction. It was completely my decision. I'd never let the producers at the network interfere with the creative direction of the show. They're business people. They are not artists.  I am an artist. And I just knew I had something even more daring than the characters imprisoned in a destroyed reality as a metaphor for the joyless future for our toddler audience in the dying days of capitalism on a ruined planet. And that was what I came up with next, the Tombliboos playing the bongos. So we went with it. 


TOMBLIBOO UNN (CAST MEMBER): I was thrilled when I got the script. I've been a session musician for years. I've played on just about every rock album produced in the UK in the 2000s. That's me you hear on Take Me Out and Mr. Brightside. Well, you might not hear me, but I'm there. But at the time, I was trying to get established as an independent performer. On the strength of my session work, I'd released a single, a cover of "We Can Make The World A Whole Lot Brighter", which was originally recorded by The Brady Bunch. My label dropped me. So it was frustrating during Season One, that I didn't get a chance to show what I can actually do, music wise. I'd signed on to the show with the promise that the use of our music, played on camera, would be pivotal to the show, but all we seemed to do was run around like we were off our heads on E.


ANNE WOOD: Sometimes they were off their heads on E.


TOMBLIBOO UNN: The script for "Slow Down, Everybody!" called for us to play live, so that was exciting. I just hoped the others would bring the same dedication to the music as I would.


TOMBLIBOO EEE (CAST MEMBER): I'd viewed [Tombliboo] Ooo as a flake for years. She was part of the whole Amanda de Cadenet tabloid set, then when the rest of them grew up, she started trying to be Amy Winehouse. She was like Amy with the drugs, but not the talent. She was always in the paper for the wrong reasons - the fights outside nightclubs, the arrests. I couldn't have imagined I'd end up working with her, so when we started Night Garden, and I saw she was cast in the musical group with me, my first instinct was to run. Anne and Andy told me she'd been sober for a year, that she'd changed, she was focused on the music now. Well, okay. I'll give the show my best, and I expect the same from the people I work with. 


ANNE WOOD: I believe in second chances. Look at Hahoo Four. The pressure of being hyped as the next Tom Hanks is going to get to any 20 year old, let alone one from the dysfunctional background he came from. It just got to be too much, and when you've got a young kid, too much money, no one looking out for him - well, what happened was inevitable. But the two years in San Quentin turned out to be the making of him. He got sober, got straight, got the fire back to make something of his life. We got so much flack for casting him, look how it turned out. Maybe next time he's between starring alongside Meryl Streep and picking up the Palme d'Or, he can give his old friends a call.


ANDREW DAVENPORT: We were hoping for the same from Tombliboo Ooo. That faith...was misplaced.


TOMBLIBOO EEE: I knew she was using again. They wouldn't listen to me.


ANNE WOOD: The first day back on set and we were all pumped up. Everything was ready, the sets, the cast, the crew. We'd filled Upsy Daisy's room with the ghost orchids she insisted on, and supplied Igglepiggle with the half tonne of fresh wet sod he requested for his dressing room. I don't know what he did with it, but that's what he asked for.


IGGLEPIGGLE: Before I agreed to this interview, I said I wasn't going to talk about the sod. I think...I think we're done for now. Turn the voice recorder off, man. Turn it off. [At this stageIgglepiggle stormed out of the hotel room, but after much neogtiation, agreed to continue the interview on another day]. 


MAKKA PAKKA: We shot my scenes first. They knew they could count on me; they called me a rock. But that day, I wasn't a rock, I was magic. Sir Laurence Olivier couldn't have brought the emotion to clapping and shaking his butt that I did. I thought I was a lock for best actor at the BAFTAs, but I wasn't even nominated. It's blatant anti rock dwelling puppet discrimination.


ANDREW DAVENPORT: That was all fine, but then we had to shoot the critical scene where the Tombliboos are playing the drums in their weird, mound like house. This was the pivotal scene. We had to get it right. 


IGGLEPIGGLE: We were using the Pinky Ponk in this episode. We usually used the Ninky Nonk, which is the toy train. I hated that damn train. No one knew how big it was supposed to be. In some episodes it was shown as only a couple of inches high, and other times it was several feet tall. Andrew Davenport never explained it, and that pissed me off. 


ANDREW DAVENPORT:  Boy, I hope somebody got fired for that blunder!


IGGLEPIGGLE: And he makes that stupid joke. He's the creator. It was his blunder.


ANNE WOOD: Normally Dirk would film these scenes as director solo, but because this was such a crucial moment for the show, we worked together that day. Unn was up first, she did her drumming nice and slow, like in the script. But I could tell something was...off, with all three of them. They were all jumping around, making little twittering noises, and had enormous dilated pupils. I decided to keep rolling. 


TOMBLIBOO UNN: Ooo made us each a cup of tea that morning. To be fair, she did this sometimes, usually when she wanted forgiveness for showing up for filming five hours late. We didn't know that day, that she'd put ecstasy in the tea. 


ANNE WOOD: Ooo was up next. She was supposed to drum slowly, same pace as Unn. But she just started bashing the shit out of the drums. Derek [Jacobi, narrator] was trying to reel her in, asking her to drum nice and slowly. But she was on a tear that morning. She'd pretend to listen, then speed up again. Finally we decided to move on to Eee's part, and fill in for Ooo with B roll. But Eee's fast drumming was even worse.  

Well, it was all on from then. Unn and Ooo took off, and it set the others off as well. Upsy Daisy and Igglepiggle started fast dancing. Makka Pakka began washing his rocks at high speed. Even the Hahoos started bounding around. 


ANDREW DAVENPORT: They're full of helium. They only weigh 4kg each. Somehow they still managed to cause £600,000 damage to the set. 


ANNE WOOD: We had to stop filming. It was chaos. A couple of the camera guys managed to deflate the Hahoos by puncturing them with forks from the catering van. To get Daisy to slow down, we told her the Wottingers were heading for a nap in her bed. She immediately headed off to claim her bed. 


UPSY DAISY: Only Upsy Daisy is allowed to sleep in Upsy Daisy's bed.


ANNE WOOD: Derek Jacobi was able to calm Igglepiggle down by swaddling him tightly in his red blanket and softly intoning "you're very safe now" in his ear. Well, towards the place where his ears would be if he had any. 


IGGLEPIGGLE: I got home that day to a voicemail from my agent saying I'd booked the role of Hedwig. And I was stuck in the stupid contract for the new season. It wasn't one of my best days. All I could do was pour myself three fingers of scotch. It was the start of a very dark time for me, but that's another story.


ANDREW DAVENPORT: I went down to Makka Pakka's cave and asked if he wanted to stop washing his rocks and play backgammon with me. I lost on purpose. He thinks he's a champion backgammon player but he isn't, bless him. You've got to keep the talent happy. 


MAKKA PAKKA: First the filming, then my win at backgammon. I was on fire that day.


ANNE WOOD: That part was easy. But we still had to find the Tombliboos. Eventually we found Unn and Eee sitting behind their mound house, swaying gently as they told each other how much they loved each other, and how the stripes on their costumes were the stripiest stripes in perpetuity throughout the universe. We got the medic to check them over, and were able to work out what had happened. They were very forgiving really and didn't want to press charges. 


TOMBLIBOO UNN: I wanted to press charges. Being banged up for drugging us might have been the wake up call Ooo needed. Also I was pissed off. Her irresponsible behaviour had ruined my chance of showing the British public my range as a musician - that I can drum slow as well as fast. But they offered me  £25,000 not to press charges, so I took it. After the damage this had done to my career, I knew I needed the money. 


ANNE WOOD: Most of the cast and crew went home, but we still needed to find Tombliboo Ooo. We searched for hours. It was a closed set, there were only so many places she could be. Finally, we found her under Upsy Daisy's bed, convinced she was Grand Duchess Anastasia, awakening from suspended animation to warn George R.R. Martin to finish writing Winds of Winter before Netflix can commission the final seasons of Game of Thrones. It turns out she had taken cocaine and ketamine as well as the ecstasy, and was in what I've since learned is called a K hole. 


ANDREW DAVENPORT: We knew then the problem was bigger than any of us had realised. After Ooo was released from hospital, we paid for her to stay for three months at [mental health and addiction clinic], The Priory. I haven't been in contact with her for a few years now, but I believe she's still doing well. I did read in the Times that she has been appointed as a Senior Advisor to Boris Johnson.  


ANNE WOOD: Whilst Ooo was in rehab, Judi Dench stepped into her role and did a wonderful job. In order not to confuse our toddler audience, we didn't announce the casting change in the show.


ANDREW DAVENPORT: It was an amazing time in my life. Challenging, but amazing. I'd love to have a reunion actually, find out what everyone is up to now. 


IGGLEPIGGLE: I did a stint working as a traffic cone. It was a pilot program to test using blue traffic cones instead of the international standard orange. It didn't work out, but I'm sure the people who lost their lives would be comforted to know they furthered the cause of road safety. 


TOMBLIBOO UNN: Although I'm no longer acting or playing music, I've not abandoned the creative life. I now trade in crypto and NFTs.


MAKKA PAKKA: Eventually I tired of the industry prejudice against three foot tall beige puppets that look like an old sofa chair set out in the hard rubbish collection. I've retired as an actor; I'm now a Senior Executive in Analytics at Facebook. I still keep in touch with some of the others. I even went to see Upsy Daisy at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. She plays a strolling Bellatrix in the park. It's perfect for her. No one terrifies children like Upsy Daisy.


ANDREW DAVENPORT: Daisy hasn't lost any of her fire. That's wonderful for the craft of acting, not so good for us. If she ever finds out Tombliboo Ooo was under her bed, she'll kill us all. 

How to get a free ride to the airport!

Monday, 25 October 2021


 Now that travel is opening up again, I'm sure we're all keen to escape Scott Morrison's prison island*, or at least the bit of it we've been locked down in. But as we excitedly book airfares and accomodation, we're also reminded of one of the least enjoyable parts of travel: getting to and from the airport. Driving yourself isn't an option; with the amount airports charge for daily parking, you might as well abandon your car there and buy a new one when you get back. There's the airport train or sky bus, but they're privatised services and charge a fortune; having to add $40 or more in fares for a service that doesn't even get you to your house makes those discount airfares seem decidedly less of a bargain. You could ask a friend to give you a lift, but you know they're going to wait until you're in the car then ask you to help them move, and you won't be able to say no because they're doing you a favour, and it will just become a whole thing. 


But what if I told you there was an easy, obligation free way to get a free ride to the airport? Well, it's almost easy. All you have to do is find an irate conservative on social media stating that if people don't like Australia (or whatever country you live in), they'll drive that person to the airport...and take them up on it!


If you're an Australian, you can always find these people on Facebook or News Ltd around Australia Day and ANZAC Day, although now, with Federal Minister for Education Alan Tudge declaring he won't stand for any revision in how schools teach the Revised History of Glorious White Australia, you might have some luck in the comments on those articles. Just find one of these "love it or leave it" boof heads, and let them know that you're a passionate soldier of the 5th Meme Battalion in the Culture Wars, leaving Australia forever for a land where "Baa Baa Black Sheep" has been replaced by a totalitarian regime where children have to sing all 64 Crayola shades to indicate the sheep's possible colour. Tell them you're sure they'll be glad to help rid the nation of an evil left wing sheeple snowflake Dan Stan who wants mandatory gay marriage, communism and to shut down all the churches, and let them know the date of your flight. Hey presto, free lift to the airport.


Of course, it's not a perfect plan. Chances are they'll be listening to some right wing call in radio sludge like 2GB, likely with their own running commentary about how left wing Muslim lesbians want to force Israel Folau to have an abortion. But there's always noise cancelling headphones, which you can tell them are tagging devices George Soros sends everyone on his payroll. If they ask why you're leaving the nation forever with only an overnight bag because in truth you're just going to Byron Bay for a long weekend, tell them you hate Australia so much that you're leaving everything behind, having donated all your stuff to Greta Thunberg Without Borders. 


But what about getting home from the airport when you return? Easy, the plan works in reverse. Just tell your mark that you're an Australian who's been living in the US, but you can't stand Joe Biden dismantling Trump's sterling legacy, and you wish to return to a land that knows how to play tough with illegal immigrants. This one's harder - you'll have to play the part. But consider the alternative - being obligated to help your mate Jason get a 500L fridge down from the top level of a three storey terrace house. At least after pretending that you agree that we should build a wall, somewhere, even though we have no land borders, your back won't require extensive physiotherapy. 


* Yes, this is hyperbole. 

This bird can change (or, the disclaimer).

Saturday, 22 May 2021


 

I recently watched the Lynyrd Skynyrd documentary, If I Leave Here Tomorrow, a history of the band before and after Free Bird, Sweet Home Alabama and that horrible plane crash in a Mississippi swamp. It's very moving, but I was rather taken aback by the frequent display of the Confederate flag in archival concert footage. The Confederate flag, for all those who claim it's about "States Rights", essentially represents slavery, the subjugation of one people by another. I didn't even know if I wanted to be watching this.

Partway through the film, the band members addressed the issue directly. There wasn't much awareness of Southern Rock outside of the Deep South, so being from the South became their gimmick, with the Confederate Flag a big part of the marketing, enthusiastically pushed by the record company. Drummer Artimus Pyle said "it didn't bother me, it didn't represent slavery to me, I didn't think about it that deeply at the time...but I have in the years since." Guitarist Gary Rossington said "for us it wasn't about hate, we never meant for it to hurt people...but it's not for us to say that, because for many people it does hurt, it does represent war and hate". Thet discussed how in recent years the flag has been taken up by the KKK as a symbol of racial supremacy and hatred, and they want nothing to do with it.


I was relieved. (Me! What right do I have to be relieved, sitting here in Australia; not the People of Colour in the South who have to face this every day?). I was glad they'd shown a way forward. We've all of us I'm sure at one time or another held views on subjects that maybe we hadn't fully fleshed out, didn't know the full implications of, or that were just plain wrong. That's normal. The trouble arises when, if you're presented with new information, more context, you close your ears and mind, double down and dig in, refuse to believe. "Well, I never meant any harm, so I'm just going to keep doing this thing and ignore the hurt I may cause". The surviving members of Lynyrd Skynyrd haven't done that. Even though the sight of the Confederate flag, for them, is tied to memories of an intense time in their lives, touring musicians at the top of their game and the friends with them who have been lost, they can still see the Confederate flag for what it represents now, hurt and hatred, and they reject it. 

 

I may never say this again, but we should all try to be like Lynyrd Skynyrd. 


I've been keeping this blog for over 17 years. My posting schedule has been erratic to be sure, but there are over 800 archived posts here. I've always posted on political and social issues. But in those 17 years, I've changed - I'm at least a few years older now than I was in 2004 - and my views have changed. I've educated myself, or been educated, on many issues. And when I occasionally look at old posts, I see things I posted years ago that don't align with the way I feel now; views that, if I had a chance to talk to my old self, I'd repudiate. I try to be like Lynyrd Skynyrd, for example by recognising all the ways I used to be racist (and I know I've still got work to do on that). 


But I'm not going to go through all my old posts editing views I no longer hold. For one thing, who has the time. But also, I think admitting who we used to be shows us all how people can change. So if you ever happen to be browsing old posts of mine, and come across something I wrote in 2008 that makes you say "whoa, I can't believe she would say that", chances are I wouldn't say that now. If you're not sure if I still think the same about a contentious issue as you see on an old post of mine, just ask; chances are, I don't. We should all be learninig and growing, and I do try. 


But there's one view I'm sure I won't change; that typing "Lynyrd Skynyrd" multiple times is really, really annoying. 

Xander, 2003-2021

Monday, 3 May 2021

On a cold winter's day in 2003, I looked down at the adorable face of the new kitten my best friend had bought me as a birthday present. "I just feel like his name is Xander", I said, not quite knowing where that name had come from. "Wow, I'll have him till I'm nearly forty!", although surely I would never get that old.


We both exceeded expectations. 



Today, Xander passed away peacefully at home, in my arms. Together right until the very end, as I'd always promised.




I couldn't have imagined, in 2003, the journey we'd go on together. We moved from Newcastle to Sydney to Newcastle to Sydney to the Central Coast and back to Sydney (don't ask). Xander got a Dad, then became a big brother. 


"So...we're really keeping this thing, then?"


And then, when things didn't work out, it was just the two of us, again. I would clutch him to my chest and say "at least I've still got you" as he wiggled free.


I'd forgotten what an absolute unit he was.


For almost 18 years, he was by my side. He was my companion, my shadow. I knew just how lucky I was to have him for so long, and for the past 14 months working from home, we were able to have that much more time together.


Obviously, this is a very old photo.

He saved my life.


And so, when I realised his life was getting hard for him, I knew I had to let him go.




I'll never again see his sweet face greeting me when I walk in the door, feel him snuggle next to me on the sofa or have him steal half my dinner right off of the plate. My heart is broken, but pain is the price we pay for love. I would do it all again.


The mice in Valhalla quake in fear at the approach of this mighty hunter.

Tonight, Xander dines with the heroes.




Give your pets a hug for me.

Back to Top