Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Desperately Seeking Lies

Lovely young Michael at this place wanted a story about Lies. I thought about it, and I suck at lying, but hey, something came to mind that I hadn't really thought about before...

Desperately Seeking Lies

Even though we'd all return the proverbial fifty dollars in the wallet, my friends and I at different levels of honesty when it comes to whether we'd tell little white lies. Jacx, my punk friend, and Tina T, my actress friend, would both find a way to soothe and cajole a situation and coat it in sugar if a harsh truth needed to be told. Me, I'm somewhere in between, where I won't blatanly lie, but I'm not adverse to the odd white lie if I think someones feelings need to be spared. Claire meanwhile is likely to be quite brutal with the truth, but is capable of little white lying to her nearest and dearest. Megs B, bless her, is totally incapable of anything but plain, brutal truth. Long before Dr Phil, she was telling it like it is, and I wouldn't have her any other way.

My cousin Lorinda briefly came to our school, when I was in Grade 10 and she was in Grade 11. Lorinda was a born extrovert, who didn't really like people that much, except for a couple of theatrical types. Even as the school bridge between the social groups, there was not much I could do to help Lorinda settle in, and she was gone within four months to become a pilot in the Air Force anyway, but I was confronted by her on a daily basis, usually to ask why I liked so and so, and so and so was a dickhead, and this person should be beaten. Oddly for my family, who I generally love, Lorinda and I have never really gotten on, ever since an incident with Barbie cards. I was so excited to discover that there were Barbie Cards for the collecting, that I raced around to Lorinda's house, only to find out that she about a billion of them, and was really smug about it. Lorinda became especially well known in our school after she hit a pole on her way to school, when she got the accelerator and the brake mixed up. Even so, after that she settled down, and stopped annoying me for a while. Life had returned to normal, until Easter time reared its ugly head.

Being a Catholic school usually meant that at some point, you had to step up to the plate, believer or not, and do something religious. Me, well, in Grade 3 I was Mary in a rendition of the Christmas story for an old folks home, and in Grade 7, I was palm holder number 3 as someone playing Jesus rode through the school on a bike dressed up like a donkey. I used both of these facts to get me out of any religious plays or re-creations after Grade 7, but Lorinda wasn't so lucky. In the same way that I was cheap manual labour once they learned I could paint, so Lorinda found herself in the thick of the action once they found out she was an award winning Rock Eistedffod (more on that later) winner. Sensing acting gold, and the chance to be pretty right on, the bods at Richmond Primary School decided Lorinda was perfectly suited to play the role of...Jesus. "Jesus? He was a bloke wasn't he! With a beard!" I said, when we met up for Cream Eggs that night. "It's interpretative", she said, as if that explained the great historical inaccuracy that was being perpitrated on us. And that was all that was said on the matter, until the big day finally arrived, and we settled in our grey, bolted down cloth chairs in the assembly hall, to watch the Easter story, as an interpretative dance number.

Needless to say, it was awful. Lorinda chose to portray Jesus not as a strong, noble man betrayed, but rather, as a slightly confused idiot boy, much the same way she had portrayed the little chicken hawk in the Grade 5 production of Foghorn Leghorn. Topping this off, Jesus was not only attacked by Romans, but smoke, lights, and a score that sounded like Phillip Glass had been asked to remix the Teen Queens. Judging from this, the Easter story wasn't so much the defining moment of Christianity, but a really bad night out at a crappy disco. I was sure at one point, Lorinda fell on her arse as well. The Romans did have togas on, but also very visible tracky daks, and the point about the devil was lost because the boy who was playing him did have a red top on, but it was a soccer top he had on back to front, so the devil had SHARP apparently on his back. Satire? You make the call. I could tell the more right on teachers were loving it, but the old school nuns, who probably wanted someone to die in order to prove an old school point, were pretty upset. The girls behind me were laughing really hard, and I was trying in my mind to think of something positive to say about it for later. For now though, I was slumped in my seat, not even able to focus on "Priest Bingo", to the point that there was a dispute over whether the priest said "lepers" or "leopards" (trust me, this was important).

We got out of the assembly hall like survivors of some horrible disaster, and huddled in the school playground, unable to speak or move. We had sat through some really bad school plays before, like the Grade 6 take on "drugs in clubs", but this was an all time low. After about an hour of just total silence, Claire nudged me in the ribs and said "Your cousins here". I stood up to see Lorinda, and looked her in the eye. Even though we were not close, she was family, and as such, I had to think of some little white lie, some way of ensuring that Lorinda would pursue her love of acting, when she was really hopeless at it. So, I out and out lied.

"That was really good!" I said, in my best benny cheerful voice. Claire, bless her, held herself back from saying anything, and the other people around me knew what I was doing, and nodded in unison. It seemed as though we had come through a crisis, when a little voice decided to disagree. Megs B sat her Big M down on the table, looked Lorinda in the eye, and said "mate, please, don't ever make me sit through a pile of shit again OK? Fuck me, it was awful."

Megs B took back her Big M, oblivious to everything else. Lorinda eyed her evenly, then broke into the biggest grin I'd ever seen.

"I like you!" she said, extending her hand to Megs B. Megs B shook it, nodded, and went back to her Big M, while all around her sat transfixed.

The thing is, some people can lie. Some people can't. Both of us, in our own way, did the right thing. We were both being ourselves. Lies can get us through the day, they can help us survive, but if we can't lie, we probably shouldn't. As long as we find it in ourselves to be comfortable with who we are, then how we choose to conduct ourselves will become second nature.

I wrote that paragraph for Megs B, just so that she reads it, taps me on the shoulder, and says "enough of the Jerry Springer bullshit Y, just wrap it up" - which she no doubt will very, very soon.

Desperately Seeking Hillbillies

I told you I was taking requests again, although this one was kinda hard - but still, our number one commenter wanted it, so here it is

Desperately Seeking Hillbillies

Back when I was little, and not quite as refined as I am now, I was often a handful for my parents. Not for any particular reason, I just had a lot of excess energy that could only be burned off by a lot of running around in circles or a lot of bouncing on a trampoline. My dad was always incredibly supportive of me though, and whatever activity I wanted to do, he was the one who found the time to take me and nurture my interest. My mum was the one who prepared my by buying the right equipment and so on, but it was Dad who took me to wherever I needed to go in Choco, our brown bomb Torana with the broken lock and two radio stations, both amazingly enough with football talk on them.

So when I decided that the time was right in my development to take up ice skating, Christmas time saw my Mum produce a pair of pristine ice skates, as endorsed by the Canadian National Hockey team. It was more than I truly deserved to be honest, and I was incredibly touched that my Mum saw fit to do such a thing. My ice skating career was not a promising one, even though I was able, if I chose to, laud it over all the kids at the Richmond Ice Rink (where Indecent Obsession once performed don't you know!) in hired blue skates. I was pretty awful at first, marching in step over the ice while cooler kids, albeit with less cool skates, glided past holding hands and doing triple lutz's. It was a lonely, cold road, and one that lead to tempers fraying, not unreasonably, with my Dad, who was giving up World Of Sport on a Sunday morning to watch his pride and joy skate laboriously around the ice for an hour. It might have been more entertaining for him had I occasionally fallen over, but I wasn't ineptly compellingly bad, nor brilliantly good, I just...marched...poor guy, the skating teachers weren't even cute enough for him to flirt with.

We reached an impasse one Sunday morning, when I was finally getting into my skating stride. It was raining, and Dad clearly didn't want to take me, but bless his heart, he did, he got out of that leather vinyl chair and drove me to the skating rink. It wasn't quite an officially religious miracle, but it was definitely close to one. My Dad didn't even adopt any kind of martyr attitude about having to do it, and I rewarded him with a fantastic display of actual proper skating. Yes, for the first time, I cast aside my normal skates of concrete, and I ice danced, I spun, I weaved, I bobbed and I zagged, and my Dad, he smiled delightedly through it all, clapping at all the right moments. It had truly been worth all the labour pains - his daughter could skate, and I was sure he was on the side of the rink, planning my glorious ascent into Winter Olympics glory.

I was absolutely buzzing with excitement as I clutched an Elle McPherson signature can of coke in my hand on the way home. My Dad and I were bonded, finally rewarded for all our respective efforts. We walked proudly from the ice rink, and were about to get into the car when I suddenly and quite proudly took the empty Elle McPherson signature can of coke, threw it high in the air, and booted it as hard as my little legs would allow. It sailed on an exceptionally graceful arc, and landed with a thud in a patch of grass, next to a bottle of ginger beer, that hopefully contained only ginger beer, and not some other fizzy liquid.

My Dad looked at me bewildered, as if a ghost had descended. He stood in total shock.

"What was THAT!?" he said, his eyes widening.

"What was what," I said, putting my skates in the back of our car.

"You bloody hillbilly! You litterbug! Gonna go and live in hillbilly country, you hick!" he said, pointing to the can. "I get up every day to do the best for you, I give up my Sundays to watch you march around the ice, and still, you are a hillbilly! You have no class! No class at all! Just throwing away your can when there's a perfectly good bin nearby!"

"I don't march around the ice! Did you not see me! I was a skating star! WERE YOU NOT EVEN WATCHING!" I said, pointing at...something...maybe the can, maybe the ground, but something, and whatever I was pointing at, it was done with anger you know.

We had clearly reached an impasse of monumental proportions, my Dad, bristling in this local football jumper, tired of this continuing Sunday debacle. Me, now satisfied I could skate, having my moment of ice magic ruined by the idle throwing away of a coke can, albeit a good and potentially collectable one, and by my Dad adopting a martyr position. We took deep, angry breaths in the cold Sunday Morning air. As we did so, a 1975 Datsun pulled into the carpark, screeching to a halt five feet from the kerb where we stood. The driver was a giant woman, the kind I'd never seen before, in massive overstretched pink leggings, and she unfurled herself from being desperately stuck in the car. She hitched up her leggings, pulled her hair from a bun, and gasped on a packet of Winfield blues she pulled from her seat. Remembering herself, she undid the back door, to let a clearly mardy little brat out of the car, in a Collingwood beanie and faded acid wash denims. He threw his skates on the ground, to the mothers obvious dis-interest.

"Don't wanna fuckin skate" said the kid, pursing his white lips in anger. Amazingly, the kid was going ice skating, but had sun block on.

"You know you need to spend time with your fucking Dad" said the mum, on her second cigarette.

"Fuck Dad!" said the kid. "Just...fucking stop whinging!" said the Mum. It was then I noticed she had roughly seven teeth, and was resting the cigarette between the gap between two of them. And before I had the chance to work out the health risks of this, she gripped the kid by the arm, bent over in her leggings, giving the world a wonderful sight to behold, and spat the cigarette on the ground, with some chewing gum coming out at the same time. My Dad was about to point out they had left the skates behind, but thought better of it. We glanced at the door to see Dad, in an AC/DC T-shirt, a giant handlebar moustache, and tied on neckerchief, begin a rant about certain ethnic minorities.

Dad I stood for a moment, transfixed, until Dad eventually said something that has resonated with me all my life.

"Y" he said, sounding like Yoda. "Y, they got like that because firstly no one told them to put their rubbish in the bin".

I ran over, I put the coke can in the bin, and we never ever spoke about ice skating again. Closure, as they say in the classics, was reached on all sides.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Desperately Seeking Connect 4

Short and sweet, and all about board games...good times!

Desperately Seeeking Connect 4

Desperately Seeking Connect 4

The last day of school is an important day in Australian school history. I don't know what it's like in other countries, but in Australia, everyone gets to wear casual clothes, bring in board games, and then you put your desk up on top of another desk with your chair on top, and then run outside to enjoy summer freedom. It was a pretty magical event that never got old, in fact, oddly enough, even as late as the last day of Grade 10, we still observed a pretty similar ritual, even with exam pressure (pressure I never had, I had my art scholarship by then, and so didn't need to do anything except drink Fruitopia and listen to Melissa CDs). Fruitopia, there's something I need to talk about one day - iced tea with fruit flavouring and hippy messages on the bottle. But, I digress. Back in Grade 3, all we had was Coke and Big Ms, and on the last day of school, all Big Ms were free, given out by the lovely folks at the canteen. All, as they say, was well.

The move from Grade 3 to Grade 4 was a big one, not least because it meant that we finally got to play Grade 4 netball. For reasons I'm not quite sure about, this always meant players from the Richmond football club (anyone who knows AFL football would know that Richmond are almost always crap, so this wasn't the treat it was meant to be) would be at your training sessions, passing on tips. Yes, it is bewildering as to why. However, that was far from the best part, Grade 4 netball meant that you actually got to play other teams from outside the Richmond region, in a proper competition. This was incredibly exciting, since Grade 3 Netball tended to just involve playing your mates. We were assured that one particular trip involved a bonfire with boys from the local soccer club, and that it was, quote, "pash central". Given the girls at their netball team were equally loose with the lips, it was no surprise that our boys were equally excited to go on the same trip for football or soccer at a later date, and we chatted about our happy dreams for the coming year.

Except for one particular kid in our class, Richard Bastick. It had been a tough year for Richard Bastick, not least being labelled "Bastick the Spastick" before he even had a chance to get a "Hi" out. Yes, we were incredibly witty in Grade 3. I really liked him though, not least for his dogged determination every time he played Connect 4. No one could stretch out a game like Richard Bastick, as he pondered things from every single angle and mathematical point of view. Then, for reasons I'm not sure about, he wasn't in our class anymore, and it was then I first heard the phrase "home school". I didn't know why anyone (and to be fair, I still don't, but don't write in) would miss out on something as ace and fun as school just to sit at home all day (not a view all my contemporaries shared mind, especially my friend Kim, who was the first person I knew to wag). Apparently the teachers and his mum had a massive argument over this, and eventually, this being 1987, the teachers won, and back came Bastick the Spastick. Fate was not finished with him however, as his lack of social skills (and not, as Claire claimed, that he killed a cat and was going to jail) meant that he had to stay back a year and repeat Grade 3. There was part of me that was quite sad I couldn't do the same, since Grade 3 was all kinds of fun, and very low pressure. However, as I saw him sitting on the floor forlornly watching us as we had a talk to our new teacher about our new year, I knew that Bastick the Spastick was going through a pretty tough time.

It got worse though: between the Grade 3 and Grade 4 class room with a giant sliding door, like a curtain you couldn't see through. It was decided that we would begin the process of moving into our newest classroom a little early, and so we took our textas and our bags into the new class room to get a feel of what a slightly different classroom with big wooden desks felt like, as opposed to a classroom with...well, big wooden tables you sat around in a group. The difference was just massive, well, it wasn't, but it did feel like a seismic shift into adulthood. And when we looked across into our old classroom, all we could see in the middle of an empty room was Richard Bastick, cross legged on the floor, playing Connect 4 by himself, and rubbing the pieces together, maybe to start a fire. It was a forlorn and pretty sad sight. Even some of our nastier, crueller kids, were left genuinely sad that poor Richard was by himself, trying to work out a winning combination of red and yellow chips on his own.

However, such sympathy didn't last long. We began having a lovely chat amongst ourselves about the excitement of the day, when suddenly, there was an insane commotion behind us. We turned around to discover that Richard had decided to start treating us to a lovely dance which involved sticking his fingers up at us. A lot. And saying "bastards". A lot. In between times, he would blow what you might call "raspberries" with his tongue, and a glint of evil lurked in his eyes. I was quite taken by this sudden display of righteous indignation that we were leaving the poor boy behind, and as he wiggled his arse in his stubby shorts, we clapped along with him. For a moment, and then, just as quickly, he was back on the floor, playing Connect 4, and talking to the chips. And just as quickly, we ignored him again, going back to talking about Netball and heading up to the country.

I've thought about that day a lot. It was so surreal, such a blinding flash of magic, that I'm not sure if it truly happened. It's occurred to me writing this, you can keep a boy back from school, you can call him a stupid nickname, you can keep him back a grade, and you can leave him alone to play Connect 4 all by himself, but you can never, ever, deny a boy the right to get even with everyone by wiggling his arse and singing a song of joy about how everyone is a "bastard".

I like to think there's something inspirational about that, deep down. Well, at least he didn't choke on a Connect 4 chip, that was something too.

Desperately Seeking Success

Well, I plan a bit of a story telling blitz in the next few days, so if you are still reading, suggest away! Please! Here's one based on the fact that we're currently enjoying Dannii Minogue Success Month!

Desperately Seeking Success

One of the great things about being a benny is the fact that you don't really have to achieve much. The highfliers at our school, particularly Science bound Fiona, were always greatly constrained by expectations, and had to sit up until 3am just to be that much better than everyone else. For people like me, any actual effort was greatly appreciated. My one gift was in bridging the social classes though, and that was where expectation grew, and I felt genuine pressure to make sure that the day to day running of out school was smooth. So it was that I came to the Grade 9 fete, and what you might call my finest hour.

Science bound Fiona was so labelled because of her obsession with getting into NASA. It was good, Megs B noted, to have goals, but not at the expense of everything else. When I think of science bound Fiona, I always think that somehow she missed out on a lot of wonderful activities that the group participated on, so that she could read books in the library at lunch time. When Amber Bennett and Jane Almond had their famous "scrag fight" over Damian Murray in Grade 10, science bound Fiona was the only person that we didn't see watching, because there was a Behind the News special on the ABC at lunch time. Interestingly, science bound Fiona would later sleep with Damian Murray on a hay bale at the Grade 12 farewell bonfire night, but that, as they say, is another story, and we presume that this one night of noisy passion didn't ultimately distract her from her dreams.

The Grade 9 fete was most notable for the amount of sulking that went on, especially from Claire, Amber Bennett, and the boy who was normally my male equivalent, Darren Richardson. For some reason, the folks in charge of our school decided to hold a series of presentations, in which each of the Grade 9s would run a stall, or a small demonstration. It wasn't much to ask, until they decided that they would pair us up alphabetically, and that's when the trouble started. Megs B ended up with Amber Bennett (a disastrous pairing), Claire ended up with Dean Davidson (an even more disastrous pairing, to the point that Claire has never sworn so much in her life), I ended up with a girl I really can't remember called Jessica Garlick (this was years before a girl of the same name would appear on UK Pop Idol of course, and there is a chance, albeit a faint one, that was her - luckily, I found out in time she was pretty churchy and took offence to any puns about her surname) and worst of all, Science bound Fiona was stuck with our school benny, Mark Leaman. It was obvious what was going to happen: Science bound Fiona would spend 18 hours preparing an elaborate scientific display, and Mark Leaman would drink the chemicals and grunt when asked questions. It was not a pleasant prospect, and one that required urgent action. Especially considering that Science bound Fiona was doing so well at the time, there was a chance she would be put straight into Grade 11 from Grade 9. Someone had to do something, and since my job was to take care of these things, there was nothing else for it, but to have a quiet word with Mr Leaman.

I should differentiate here - I am a very proud benny, but there's a difference between being a cheerful, slightly silly benny with awareness, to being the kind of benny who eats silly string on a dare or breaks their arm on a waterslide because their friends told them you really didn't need a mat. So it was with some trepidation that I confronted Mark outside of Grade 9 art (more on which shortly) and gave him a playful punch on the arm. "How ya goin tiges!" I said, cheerfully. "Pretty fucked eh" he said, returning with a typical benny comeback.

One thing about Mark Leaman was that he was fascinated by Violet Crumbles. I don't think he could ever work out quite where the taste quite came from. I know this because he once did a talk about it, which I think was about the most he ever did any work for something, apart from his Grade 6 talk about thongs. So, I went for the weakness.

"Mark," I said, for that was his name, "listen, you have to a talk with Science bound Fiona, you know that don't you?"

"Fucking mole" he said, scowling, forseeing a future where he was chained to the library working hard, instead of being outside kicking a footy. He shook all over at the very thought of this week of hell.

"Well listen, you don't have to DO anything, Fiona will do all the work for you. But I need you to promise me you won't screw it up for her, I mean, don't be mixing chemicals because you think the colours go together"

"That was just that once!"

Claire was getting angsty because she had something important to tell me and I wasn't giving her my full attention, so I had to act fast. "Listen, you behave, and I'll tell you how a Violet Crumble is made!"

He looked at me with rapt awe. His little benny eyes couldn't quite process this information. He just nodded slowly, and went into art. Fiona was left totally alone to produce her inevitable masterpiece, a flowing display of chemicals and smoke and colour, and Mark kept to himself. The big day arrived, and Science bound Fiona nodded in my direction, unable to work out what I had done to smooth this meeting of minds, but comfortable that I had done something. Meanwhile, all I had to do was work out something to tell Mark, and we were all free.

It was then it happened - Science bound Fiona forgot something, maybe misjudged a mix, and instead of chemicals and smoke, there was just a fizz, and then nothing. Everyone was amazed, Science bound Fiona had screwed up. She tried really hard to fix it, but it was just a debacle. Everyone stood in awe, while Mark Leaman stood to the side, smiling his little benny smile.

I went up to him afterwards, and was about to launch into my prepared Violet Crumble story, when he adjusted his Levis and waved me away.

"You know Y, it doesn't do my rep any good working with fucking amateurs" he said, laughing, and putting himself in his favourite chair. He unwrapped a Violet Crumble, and ate it, content in his own little piece of success.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Desperately Seeking Cats

Oh why not, another challenge!

Desperately Seeking Cats

When I was much younger than I am now, I had a cat called Cankles the Cat. I called him Cankles the Cat because my mum, in a bid to avoid telling me about the birds and the bees, had said once "you know, when I was giving birth to you, I really had bad cankles" and off she went, to make scones or something, leaving me in a strange state of fascination as to what cankles actually were, and I wanted our cat to have a name that wasn't Tiddles or Milo or whatever. We got Cankles the Cat from an animal shelter, because whenever we walked past him, he would let out a slightly demented purr, and he had white furr with splodgy grey spots, and was cute as a button. I hadn't quite embraced my inner benny yet, but in every way, Cankles was a benny cat. Other cats would hiss and purr and threaten Cankles, and Cankles would inevitably either trip and fall, or run headlong into a wall or trip over a sprinkler. The other cats would be so taken aback by this display of bennyness, that they would back off, and leave Cankles alone.

Cankles finest hour was probably the day of my 8th birthday party, when I got a trampoline and a monster bouncy ball. I was outside playing with the bouncy ball, and waiting for my assortment of relatives to turn up, when my Dad came barrelling out of the house with a worried look on his face.

"Nothings wrong" he said, before dashing off again. He was always running my Dad, I think that's where Megs B got it from that time. He was a typical Aussie Dad my dad, to the point where he was called Kev, he loved to put on a pair of blue stubby shorts, he always "got my nose" and he always tried to fix things with amusing consequences. Best of all, he always seemed to be able to get me an ice-cream, even when we were on a boat miles from a shop, and I always thought that to be quite magical, and not at all because he just was good at planning. Once, a jumping jack firework actually chased him into the garage on firework night. He thought it was hilarious, because he was an Aussie Dad, and Aussie dads don't normally worry. However, the fact that my Dad was worried, not only worried, but actually rushing around, made me worry because if my Aussie Dad Kev was worried, either I was getting a massive surprise, or something had gone wrong.

It transpired that since the morning, no one had seen Cankles the Cat. This was unusual for Cankles, who had his own routine that usually involved a quite public cat display of idiocy in the morning, just to announce he was awake, then it was food, stretch, demented burst of energy, sleep, another demented burst of energy, and finally, more food and sleep. The fact that no one has seen Cankles the Cat and his food was untouched was clearly going to impact on the birthday party, and while I've never been known for my displays of temper or sadness, it would have still have depressed me for a moment between the fairy bread and pass the parcel. So, we formed a very serious kitty search party, that got as far as the lounge room, before the novelty had wore off, and we sat down for some ice cream (you see my point about Dad now I hope).

It hadn't occured to me until I typed this that this was my first brush with mortality, and the finite nature of life. If Cankles the Cat was gone, this would be my first experience of grief, of loss - oh sure, I lost a netball once when I was 5, because Amanda Vanderminsion sucked at catching, and I had to admit that chewing my Barbie meant it had lost it's normal Barbie shape, but this was a real life organic creature, and it was out of my life. Oh, the magnitude of the situation wasn't lost on me, and it was my birthday, and I really, selfishly hoped, that the death of Cankles the Cat wasn't going to overshadow it. I mean, I had no idea of how important each death really was. What about a cat? Would that be requiring a minutes silence, and speeches, while I sat in the corner yelling "OI, I'M OVER HERE! WHERE'S MY PRESENTS!" - that darn cat indeed.

As we pondered the list of kitty consequences that may have befallen Cankles the Cat and his sense of adventure, I sat down on our very 1980s sofa (brown vinyl, yes please) and heard a very faint "purrrr". It was then that my Mum, dressed in her hooped nautically themed sweater, saw a trail of green silly string that lead directly to a newly clawed tiny hole in the back of our brown vinyl sofa, and there, legs sticking out of the tiny hole, was Cankles the Cat, stuck fast. It turns out Cankles the Cat had made a new enemy, a can of green silly string, and spent most of my birthday attacking it with all it's might. Of course, the more he jumped on the nozzle, the more silly string came out, and the more determined Cankles the Cat was to demolish his elusive foe. And somehow, for whatever reason, it seemed he had decided that this foe was far too dangerous to take on, and so had tried hiding from it, by digging and clawing a hole in the couch and cowering and hoping it would go away. When we dug the poor thing out, he was shaking, and had a face covered in silly string. I'm not one for over zealous animal rights (even though I'm vegeterian) but Cankles the Cats poor little face was a picture of absolute benny misery, and I held him out for my Dad to see, hoping he would say something to make it all better, and save the birthday. Kev looked at the cat, looked at me, and looked at the cat again.

"Hey, who wants an ice cream!" he said, proudly.

Desperately Seeking Dentists

Hooray! I'm back! I'm doing some new stories! Now everyone has given up, on this website and stopped reading! Inspired by the fact that Dr Alban is a real doctor (well a dentist!) here's a nice story about dentists! Hooray (again!).

Desperately Seeking Dentists

Claire has been my best friend since I turned around and asked for help in completing a tough level of Granny's Garden on the BBC Micro in 1987. If I had turned to my left, and asked Jennifer Danielle Wiley how to get out of my predicament, my life would have completely different, and on such odd twists and turns does life hang. I can still remember it being quite exciting the first time she stayed at my house, and we stayed up until, oh, at least 10:30, having a nice old chat about things. And one thing I've always, always known about Claire is her lifelong loathing of dentists.

I'm not sure what it's like now, but back in the 1980s, it was very important that all schools had a dental van, and regular visits from a crazy mascot who encouraged you to brush. Our school had both, and our mascot was an early incarnation of the Giddy Goanna look, who would regularly try and get us to a dance movement which ended with "BRUSH BRUSH...SMILE". Naturally, no self respecting 9 year old would be seen dead doing such a thing, so it was usually just the bennys who did it, and I betrayed my inner benny nature with a pout and a shake of the head whenever early Giddy looked in my direction. Our dental van was usually parked to the left hand side of the monkey bars, which meant it cut an imposing figure. One of the girls in our class, the lesser spotted Patricia Ellis (who we never saw, ever, due to long bouts with illness and poorness - oddly, when we did see her, it was usually just to say something quite profound, and then she'd be gone again) told us several kids went in there and came back without teeth. Naturally, we took in this piece of wisdom, and then called Patricia Ellis a massive DUHBRAIN, but Claire, she took it to heart, and spent most of her lunchtime fretting about getting a call up to the caravan of death.

The worst time to get your teeth checked was just after summer. Not only was it annoying to have to give up a potential fun activity that was normally out in the sunshine for ten minutes in the dark of the dental van, but (and certainly in my house) summer was always the time for sweets. It was always time to muck around, have a play, and then run to the shops for some sort of sugary treat. The local store seemed like Willy Wonka's at times, and it was a great shame when one day it vanished, and turned into a juice bar. Not that some nice juice isn't fun, but a generation of kids missed out on eating sweets that had sat in a glass jar for 4 years plus, and that's a great shame, as risk is always a big part of childhood.

She got the call up just before music on a Wednesday, and it meant she missed footy maths and a nap provided everything went smoothly. What happened next is a matter between Claire, Flip the Dentist, and God (and possibly the Giddy Goanna mascot). After about an hour, Claire emerged, and for whatever reason I was by the monkey bars on my own (I think because I was student of the week, and got an extra 20 minutes of lunch, (an idiotic concept since everyone else was inside, so you just loitered around the playground bored on your own).

"How did it go Claire!" I said, expecting a big, best friend kind of response.

"CRAP!" she said, since Claire doesn't swear, and that's as far as she would ever push it. I did the supportive best friend thing and pulled a spaz face, and shook my head.

"It's not THAT BAD you big goose!" I said (in spite of my sugary treat loving, my teeth and gums were perfect, so I barely missed one sum in maths), but she beckoned me closer with one finger and whispered slowly "she HATED me! She didn't give me sunglasses!"

Sunglasses were part of the fun dental experience, the reasoning being that when you were staring into the massive bright light in the roof, it would be hip and trendy if you wore a pair of giant novelty sunglasses. In Claire's version of events, the dentist had to be talked into giving her sunglasses, and would have left her there blinded but for her desperate pleas. Then, she motioned to the stamp on her hand, a cheerful turtle giving a thumbs up.

"What, you don't like turtles?" I said, bemused that anyone could hate the slowest of all species.

"She whacked my hand REALLY HARD when she put it on! I'm telling you Y, she didn't like me at ALL!"

Claire sat on the ground, her faith in the dental profession crumbling like the bark Dull Dave used to throw in the woodchipper. She looked at me slowly and said "could you ask her what I did wrong?" She then stared at my chunky bangles like she wanted to steal them and have them for herself, so I wasn't really sure just how long Claire's sense of moral outrage would last, but I accepted that as a best friend, sometimes I had to do things that I didn't really want to.

I was bemused at the idea of having to go and use my social skills to go and ask Flip the Dentist why she was so mean, but Claire was insistent, and so I knocked gently on the caravan door, and peeked my head inside. It was totally dark and foreboding, and when I think back, perhaps even smoky. Flip the dentist was at the back of the caravan, and I peered through the gloom, I couldn't help noticing she was in some kind of distress.

"Sorry," she said, turning around to notice me, "I don't think I've got any other kids booked today."

"You're right tiges, my mistake, but are you OK?" I said. Flip and I had bonded over our shared love of fancy big chunky bangles, and so I did feel some concern that she seemed so uncharacteristically unsure of herself.

"No, not really, it's always a problem when kids bite you" she said, holding up one finger that was cut and bleeding. I smiled gently and nodded, and left it at that. I knew instictively then as I now know the problems that come with getting Claire to do anything she doesn't want to, never mind putting her in a chair and checking her teeth. I knew that Claire would have wriggled, moaned and stropped her way through the entire thing, and the poor woman never would known what hit her.

"Did you tell her off?" said Claire hopefully, when I got back into class.

"Oh yeah, big time!" I said, smiling broadly.

"Good for you! I hope one day, I can have your confidence to stand up for myself" she said, nodding. And one day, she did. But that, as they say, is a story for another time.