Thursday, January 20, 2005

Desperately Seeking Scandinavia

I could just rest on my laurels, and listen to Billie, but the lovely and wise Mr Fop (the kind man who gave us our first plug and said nice things about the Y) asked us to kindly tell a tale about was very difficult...but ya know...I'm happy to help...

Desperately Seeking Scandinavia

One of my best friends in life, the devine Tina T, actress extraordinaire, came from Denmark, and is always at me to go with her to see her family, and Legoland. Denmark of course welcomes Australians since the marriage of Princess Mary to whatever the Prince was called. It's inspiring that you can pick up a prince in a bar called the "Slipp Inn". Conversely, I have no desire to even once go to Sweden. I'm sure it's lovely and nice and the people are awesome, but I've been put off for life.

Jennifer Danielle Wiley was our school spirit girl. Every school has got one. I can remember whenever tins were needed, or a fete was to be organised, there she was, rattling the donation tin or a raffle ticket book in your face. When we went to high school, she took my place as a house captain, mostly because she bailed up the principal on orientation day with ideas as to how the Grade 6s could be more involved in school spirit. I was probably wondering why I had to walk so far to get a cupcake or something, but I was blindsided and was back to being a body on the hill. I even had to hand in the clipboard. For the next three years it seemed it wasn't possible to have an event, not even a game of "Celebrity Head" (of which more later) bar Jennifer Danielle was standing up in assembly banging on about it, and tying it into our latin school motto, whatever that was.

Our Grade 9 teacher was called Miss Lennon, and she was always trying to be super funky, even though she was the SUPER old age of 27, and we were turning 15. She clutched a copy of Charlotte's Web to her chest one day and proclaimed it would change our life. She tried to tell us one day how much she loved Nirvana (Claire visibly blanched). She one day tried to show us how she danced at nightclubs, only to spin around so fast her dress flew up (a recurring theme at our school, seeing peoples pants). And most of all, she thought she was funky because she "rejected" making people read books. We had to feel the text, and the best way to do this was through endless stand up presentations and verbal speeches. We always knew we were in trouble when Jennifer stood up to talk, her perky voice and shrill manner were designed to irritate all and sundry, and her hand gestures are embedded in my head. Worse still, she insisted on participation. Audience participation. She read off cards, but when she put them down, you knew she was working the room. Claire and I, in the back corner, always tried hard to avoid direct eye contact. It was fatal.

The one thing about Jennifer Danielle was that she went to Sweden when she 10, and LOVED it. She was going back to Stockholm University to study - well anything. "And ohmigod, you should SEE Stockholm! It's SO pretty - and did I mention how friendly the people are and how great the weather is and blah blah..." She managed to work a reference to Sweden into every single topic that was meant to be discussed, even if it was just a reference to ABBA. Claire once took a sweepstake as to how soon she could mention Sweden in a supposed debate about animal cruelty: 35 seconds, Jay Nicholls won 50 bucks after she read out research from the Swedish government. So when Miss Lennon announced one day that it was open topic day, there was no doubt we were about to be harangued beyond belief about the wonders of the land of Volvos.

Sure enough, in she came, with cue cards, and a Swedish flag. Claire headbutted the desk. Miss Lennon (who loved audience participation) was visibly beaming. The rest of us shuffled like livestock sensing danger.

"WHO...has been to SWEDEN?" she said, beaming. She visibly fixed the class with an eyes and teeth stage school smile, pausing and counting to three to carry


It was a sound no one had expected or prepared for. From the back of the room, Mark Leaman, our ertswhile school benny, had raised his hand, a first. Mark was a big man, who spoke in snorts and grunts. As far as we knew, he had never gone further than Geelong. His idea of school spirit was not kicking the footy into adjoining gardens. All we ever knew about him was he supported Hawthorn in football, since he often wore a Hawthorn beanie. This was a meeting of the minds, a collision of social levels. We sat in silence, waiting the confrontation.

Jennifer took an awkward step back. She had asked for audience participation, and now she had it. Even Claire lifted her head, caught up in the moment.

"Oh," she said, nervously standing near her flag, and blinking nervously. " did you think of it?"

"I thought it was a fucking hole," said Mark, beaming proudly. There was uproar, Jennifer Danielle stood in bewilderment, trying to think of a comeback. Miss Lennon couldn't flaunt her true colours and throw Mark out, lest her down wit da kidz persona slip, and so stood like a mute, mouth agape. Claire lead a mini ovation, and Mark basked in most memorable school moment with a proud smile, and the tiniest, most impercitable bow. Jennifer had to sit down, for nothing she could say was going to change our minds now about Sweden. She had to get back up, defeated, and symbolically unpin the flag.

And it put me off for life. Because if Jennifer Danielle loved it, and the fabulous, one-moment-in-time-triumphant, Mark Leaman didn't, it's really not the kind of place I want to go to...


Blogger Steve said...

Hello Mrs Y! I've found your solo project at last!

Perhaps you might like to ramble about ghosts in a future post? That would be cool...

9:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey there, Mrs The Y.

I think you should write about the following - bananas, pandas, a small German monkey named Horst and ZOMBIES!

In that order

yr #1 commentator.

10:12 AM  
Blogger Fop said...

Oh my god Alyson - you're being overrun with suggestions! I'm glad I got mine in before people started doing multiple requests - and I LOVE it! My favourite bits:

* a recurring theme at our school, seeing peoples pants

* "WHO...has been to SWEDEN?" she said, beaming.

* Claire headbutted the desk.

Thank you! Let me know when you run out of topic suggestions (likely not to be for several weeks, by the looks)...

10:10 PM  
Blogger sjusju said...

oh no - it is kind of like my life story ...

i got shipped off to my godmother in sweden for a term of school when my parents were divorcing when i was eleven, and when i came back, i wasn't quite the same. social democracy, scandic knitwear, and three extra vowels had entered my bloodstream, never to be purged in a lifetime.

it wasn't my fault i couldn't help banging on about it - the truth is sweden *is* much better than anywhere. why yes it can be a cold, dark "hole", but with some nice pine furniture, some snazzy ikea curtains with quasi animal-print on them and candles in the windows - it can be a lovely spot from which to enjoy the finest social welfare system in the world!

and now that yapping eleven-year old girls like Jennifer Dannielle Wiley and myself have put everyone else off, it'll just be us and the swedes to enjoy it all to ourselves.

ps one word in defence (as if that tirade above wasn't enough): SAUNAS

6:35 PM  

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