Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Conversation Continues

I am flying to NZ to see my friend who is turning 40. This year marks the beginning of the 40th birthday parties.  As I am boarding the flight I hear a conversation between an elderly woman and the overly chipper male flight attendant.  The lady in question is quite bent over and slow moving. 

Chipper: Are you ok?
Elderly: Oh yes, it’s osteoporosis, nothing to be done.  

Chipper makes a sympathetic noise like “ohhh, ummm” *sigh* - sad face.

Elderly: It’s fine, I get around. It can just make life a bit more difficult.
Chipper: I can see that. 

I should pause here and say that we were stuck for quite a while standing and waiting as someone in Business class was flossing their teeth in the aisle or something.

Chipper: Moving now.
Elderly: Yes, thank-you.
Chipper: Take care and have fun!

This is the reason I related this little conversation for you. Chipper’s chosen sign off to a woman in her 70’s who has just told him about her affliction with osteoporosis. “Have fun”. How much fun is she going to have trapped in a tiny airline seat with a back problem? What this conversation really highlighted to me is the way that we conduct small talk, how much we listen and genuinely apply thought to our reply.

I dislike small talk intensely; I think that it is one of the reasons that I don’t really like parties. I don’t like getting to know people by asking about the minutiae of their lives. Equally I don’t like it if they reveal, in the first 10 minutes of knowing them, that they have been seeing a therapist for depression because of issues with their parents. What I want is some sort of interesting, yet well balanced conversation which does not make me uncomfortable with over-intimacy or want to kill myself with its banality. 

Airplanes are the worst for small talk. THE WORST.  You are trapped next to someone and they might want to talk to you, for the duration of the flight. The best people to sit next to are elderly men, the worst are, conversely, elderly women. Elderly men usually fall asleep the minute you take off, or they read, or they work. What they don’t do, is talk to you. Elderly women... sigh.... they talk. I was once sitting next to a woman who told me about her bowel resection from Christchurch to Melbourne. That’s 3 hours of side splitting narrative about bowels. When I finally thought that she was done and I had made all the signs that she was to leave me alone now, she said “And then my son got bowel cancer...” *quiet sobbing*. 

The above makes me sound like a curmudgeon, I guess that I am. What I actually like is to have a brief establishing conversation to ascertain if we have anything in common and then I like to politely withdraw if it’s not going well. 

The other thing about an airplane is that you might be sitting next to that person for 14 to 18 hours, depending on where you are going. So sometimes there is the opportunity to genuinely makes friends with someone. I know someone who met her current boyfriend on the plane. 

I travelled to America a few years ago and I met a woman standing in the aisle, who told me she was travelling to the funeral of her granddaughter.  She had died at only 2 days old. The woman had dropped everything to be with her son and his wife. She was tired, sad and resolute. I knew that she would take charge when she got there and that they would be happy to see her. The story took about 30 minutes, she needed to tell someone - I could see that. It spilled out of her as if she couldn't believe that it was happening to her family. She had jumped on a plane, pleaded with airlines to get her there. She has a terrible itinerary, it was going to take her 40 hours to get to Canada. I hope I helped by listening.

Melbourne airport has become a dizzying duty free extravaganza now. You squeeze out of customs, the line for which was so unimaginably long, my brain shut down upon seeing it. After emerging from the most cursory check of your passport you are delivered into a wonderland of consumer excitement. It is very hard not to buy something. I did. There is an excellent lolly shop in there with the lollies in test tubes and beakers. I immediately loved it and wanted everything in there. I settled for some jelly beans in the test tubes. 

The Aviation Authority has a sign on the back of the toilet door in the waiting lounge that indicates “Some things are not meant to travel”. They have chosen a shark as the semiotic reference point for this. A shark. Well, yes, best not to take sharks on board – they are very bitey and big and probably after a while, fishy smelling. You’d think someone would notice that. 

Staff member: Sir, is that a shark?
Shark Guy: No.
Staff member: I think it is, it’s very large and has fins and lots of teeth. I’m pretty sure it’s a shark.
Shark Guy: Of course it isn’t! I’ve seen the signs in the toilets. No sharks! Why would I do that?
Staff member: Oh yes, good point! Well, if you’re sure that it’s not a shark..
Shark Guy: Nope.
Staff member: Ok.
Shark Guy: Do you have a large tank of seawater here? 

So, no sharks. Take it as read.  

I landed safely.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Justification for my existence

Those moments are few and far between - refer blog title.

Most of the time I can't justify it at all, but occasionally something or someone comes along and validates me in a way that means I can comfortably reassert my self esteem, hold my head medium high and look life squarely in the eye (as long as it it is 167cm's tall).

Firstly let me say that Gabriel gives me a pretty good argument for my own existence, if only because I made him (inside my body, that's right, I made a whole human!) and he's pretty cute. By having him I fulfilled my biological imperative and made my life more meaningful *wipes away tear*. But I'm not talking about that. I am talking about having someone BELIEVE in you. In the shit that you do. And someone does.

Dear friends, I know that you believe in me, that's great, I really appreciate it, however the kind of belief I am discussing here is backed up with cold hard cash. The Malcolm Robertson Foundation have invested in me so that I can write another play. In fact they are helping me to write Fury with their lovely lucre. Also Mary Lou Jelbart at Forty Five Downstairs is also...

...wait a minute, someone is cooking bacon! Where is it.. sniff sniff. Mmmmm bacon. Hang on, I have to wait till that smell goes away and I can concentrate again.

Back again. Phew that was close. Bacon. Mary Lou at 45 is an advocate for my work and a production of Rhonda is in Therapy will go on at 45 in September this year. It's very exciting and is literally the culmination of four years work.

So, money, justification, writing.. where was I? Ah yes, I am going to write Fury. I was very excited to have the money! Yay! And then frightened, sad, hopeful, worried, tired and cautiously optimistic - one after the other. Now I am wildly enthusiastic! Another stage.

I will be developing/writing the work in and around June this year with the help of the lovely and lovely, pragmatic and talented Alice Bishop. She's cool. So, so cool. Anyway. And the following actors: Christina Costigan (brilliant actress and friend), Tiffany Davis (another wonderful actress and delightful friend), Sarah Ogden (overflowing with the talent of her generation), Daniela Farinacci (has totally won awards for film and TV and EVERYTHING and is neato old friend), Ngaire Dawn Fair (The NEXT big thing) and Ben Grant (such a heartbreakingly lovely actor that he is always top of my list). And me. And Alice. It's exciting. So, So, So Exciting. 

I am also going to start working with Julian Meyrick on Rhonda ahead of the production this year. We are meeting this month and then we'll see what happens. That's also exciting - nerve wracking and JUSTIFYING.

Every step that I take forward as a writer means that I feel more legitimised and more worried. But what else do you do? Just keep stepping I guess. I've always got Gabe... 

In news just to hand we have Skywalker staying with us, he is a tiny bird with am enormous TWEET that he blasts off all morning. He's a friendly little chap though and fluffs his feather adorably.

...and Gabe loves him.