Saturday, December 10, 2005

Desperately Seeking The Show

This story needed to be told, and I thought since it was a re-opening, I’d put the IPOD on and pick out a song title – and luckily, Girls Alouds “The Show” came on – so, here’s a story about The Show, bless…a good old Show, Aussie style…

Desperately Seeking The Show

Australian communities are founded on many things – disrespect of tall poppies, a basic suspicion of minority groups, a love of the local football team, and of course, the local show. The local show has caused more relationships to come to an end in the 15-18 year old age group than anything else in the world. Basically, the local show will feature farm animals, displays, games, a crappy ride that in probably being “tested” as we speak (by giving free trial turns to primary Catholic school children), and most of all, miles and miles of showbags. It’s around the showbag tent you see them, crying girls discussing their break up because their boyfriend had turned up with a sour look on his face and they had a fight and my god he said he loved me that bastard and so on. Those girls will later in life block your path to the toilet in nightclubs, crying in a similar way.

It’s a well known fact that most Australian children will instinctively flock to the local show, regardless of quality, but only up until a certain point in their life. It’s like one of the last bastions of cynicism that you have to face as a child – it’s just after you lose faith in Santa Claus – and you know you’ve hit adulthood, or at least adolescence, when the thought of wandering past grazing cows and sheep, or a clown trying to whip up interest in a badly held together balloon animal suddenly loses it’s appeal. Worse than that, is the first day you look out the window, hoping the black clouds will turn into rain so you don’t have to leave the house and traipse around the show trying to make the best of it. I still remember the exact day I had my first pangs of show loathing.

Around the time I was 14, there was a local old school Victorian show on that we had made plans to go to as a group, seemingly from January to November. It was mostly Megs Bs idea, one she sold with a great deal of enthusiasm. When I woke up on the day though, I was so flat, I could barely get out of bed. I checked out of my bedroom window to see what the weather was doing – bright, perfect sunshine when I was hoping for bucketing rain. It gnawed at me to find anything, ANYTHING, to get out of going, and I really had no idea where the feeling had come from. All that morning, I checked the TV schedule endlessly, hoping that I could find something I could legitimately claim I wanted to watch instead of going out and looking at the cattle, but alas, there was nothing – just Sevens Sizzling Summer of Golf. All day. And seemingly, not just on Channel Seven but on all the channels at once. I couldn’t even find a reason to sit in and play the Sega Mega Drive. My Mum was particularly keen for me to get out of the house in that perculiar Mum way. I really didn’t understand why Mums were always so keen to get their kids out of the house, since most of the time I would aimlessly wander around shopping malls or waste money on cassingles. Once, I walked to the next suburb and ended up sitting in a Vietnamese restaurant talking AFL to a migrant waiter for five hours, and Mum didn’t even miss me. It surely didn’t take that long to make beads did it Demi?

Claire had a faraway look in her eye for most of the car journey we made to the show in Megs Bs Mums yellow Banana box cramped Nissan. When Megs Bs Mum made a comment about her own driving ability, Claire stared out the window and muttered something about the G force rattling her fillings. It was her only comment of the entire journey. She fiddled in an edgy fashion with the car door lock. To be honest, our friendship had been stretched since she had come back anyway, since she still had her head in swinging Kilwinning. As for me, one of my quirks is that I hate riding in the back of cars, so tightly strapped in to the yellow Nissan, my arms pinned to my sides by an ancient rope seatbelt, I tried not to panic. I tried to focus on the radio but it was too soft for me to hear, and Claire was off in la la land. I tried to talk to Megs B, but she was too busy talking herself up to her Mum, and waving to boys out of the window. I was freaking out, silently, gritting my teeth and sweating, reciting Girlfriend lyrics in my head until I was eventually freed. Although I was only in the car for about 9 minutes, already the day seemed about 9 years long.

I remember what happened next really clearly. When I got out of the car, I ran, pretty oblivious to any other cars in the car park, just about getting myself clipped by a passing Van. I know it seemed ridiculous to be so panicked by a simple car ride that didn’t take that long, but I really remember feeling like I couldn’t breathe. I ran all the way to the entrance of the show, sat down with my back to the chain fence, and an Irish dancer in a pink skirt asked me if I was OK. I barely nodded in her direction, as I sucked in deep, pained breaths. Meanwhile, Claire and Megs B strolled up, oblivious, barely talking to each other, barely noticing me, as all of sudden, it started to rain, a big drop of rain falling right on my head and trickling down my eye. Claire tipped her Joe Bloggs hat, shook her head, and offered me a Push Pop. Naturally, I declined, but I was glad for the support. Megs B had already seen a boy she liked, paid her dollar, and was off on the chase, round the back of the shooting gallery.

By the time I’d got inside the gate, the rain was spitting furiously down on my face, making my sloppily applied make up run down my jumper. We walked slowly for about ten minutes until we found Megs B again. I was trying to make the best of it, and was chomping on an undercooked battered sav, when Megs B spied the helium balloon tent, next to a parade of donkeys or some fat girls who had made jewellery or something. She eagerly grabbed a helium balloon and held it up for everyone to see.

“Helium balloons,” she declared, “are fucking hilarious!”. To prove it she sucked on one, drawing deeply on it, until her voice was suitably helium affected. “See, I told you!” she squeaked, in a helium affected voice, and lauging in a helium affected voice. I had to admit, it was pretty funny, but I was splashing in a puddle of water, and shivering from the cold, and I was trying not to make eye contact with one of the fat girls, and so my laugh was tepid. Claire meanwhile, simply shook her head, wet blonde hair flaying in all directions.

“Not hilarious,” said Claire, hands on hips, eyeing off some cheap jam.

“Why did you two fucking come!” said Megs B, angrily, in a helium affected voice, her swear word in particular making her sound like Donald Duck. Claire simply shrugged, and stared again into the middle distance, as if transfixed by some distant stall of showbags. I wiped the rain from my eyes and tried to draw on all my experience as a bridge between the social classes, smiled weakly, and shrugged just as apologetically as Claire.

“We wanted to come because you did!” I said, throwing my battered sav into a muddy puddle until it made a loud splosh. “You sounded so enthusiastic!”

“I did!” said Megs B, scratching her head. “Yeah I did, because you always love going to shows! I thought I was being enthusiastic for you!”

We looked at each other, cold, miles from home, stuck in a muddy field surrounded by crap jewellery, uncooked food, meandering Irish dancers, rides that promised thrills and spills but delivered only mild whiplash, and fat blokes in AC/DC T-shirts growing out their mullets pushing past us, dropping chips on the ground. We looked at each other, like two survivors of some ghastly accident, and as Megs B looked across the field, towards where Mike Whitney was signing autographs, the look of horror on her face grew and grew, until it looked like she couldn’t go on.

At which point Claire, holding a pot of home made jam, came back, calmly re-adjusted her hat, and still staring right through us, brushed her chin against her expensive top, and said in a cold, clipped voice “Shows are fucked” before wandering off idly into the distance. We followed, trudging into the car park to sit and wait for Mrs Megs B to come back and rescue us some two hours later.

I’ve thought about this particular day a lot – it’s hard to know what I think of it, because at the time, I really thought everything was changing in my life. I thought I’d need new friends, and new interests. I really thought that as we sat silently in the car on the way home, that I’d barely see these people ever again. To be honest, nothing has ever felt more like a clear example of growing up in my life – even more than marriage and childbirth in many strange ways.

Of course, I look across the room now, at them playing Monopoly, and Claire still has that expression on her face – one of disdain that she finds herself doing something so trivial – and Megs B has the same expression on her face – one that suggests life is best lived stoically, without whinging, and everyone should just get on with it. I know that’s just how they are. I didn’t have anything to worry about – we stayed friends, we’re still kinda the same, and we’re pretty sure that we won’t grow up, not fully, for the rest of our lives.

Or maybe it was just we all realised, as a group, shows are fucked.

Alyson (who actually still loves shows)


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