Friday, 31 January 2014

The first "potato" we ever made

"Hey, does the number 5 in the little red bit mean it's more flammable or less flammable?", I asked.

Lor just shrugged, "I dunno, maybe get the one that says '3'?".

A lady with a pram, passing us on her way down isle 2, looked alarmed, and quickened her pace.

"Mares!" Lor said and jerked her head toward the lady.

"I so don't care", I said, but feeling a tad foolish.

We took our items to the checkout and the teenage employee watched them slowly roll down the conveyor belt, gave us a deadpan look, and started booping them through.

Foil. Aerasol deoderant. Sparklers. Matches.

He was completely onto us.

We stared back as innocently as one can look, purchasing only ingredients for a light explosive.

It was our first time making a "potato" (the code word we used in case the Government intercepted our emails with their expert word-detection spy software).

We carefully constructed the potato and stuck in a sparkler for the fuse.

We placed it gently into Lor's bag, jumped in my old car and made our way to our spot. The Warehouse.

The Warehouse was this amazing old brick factory in the 'burbs of Melbourne. It was enormous. There were multiple buildings on the huge site, as well as a massive quarry out back. It had been abandoned for years, filled with graffiti and empty bottles. There were old tracks inside for the carts of bricks to go through the factory, abandoned rusted-out cars, and huge things to climb on and explore.

We loved going there to do all sorts of stuff. Mainly hang out and satisfy our teenage curiosities. On occasion we'd bump into someone else there, but usually it was this enormous space that we could retreat to, through a space in an old fence and just be ourselves for a few hours.

It was amazing.

On this special day, we crawled through the fence and looked around until we found a good spot. A good spot for the potato.

In the groove of an old train track, we gently placed the potato with the sparkler sticking out of the top and got ready. We'd picked the spot because there was a large pile of bricks around 50 metres away that we could easily reach, if we ran to it, and jump behind.

We had no idea how this potato was gonna go down. We wanted to be safe. (If you recall from another post, I am phobic of amputation which obviously includes having ones limbs blown off.)

So we got ready, made sure the coast was clear for our mad dash, and lit the sparkler fuse.

Then we ran.

We got to the pile of bricks and jumped behind, ducking and peering over the top.

And we waited.

It seemed to take forever.

And then...simultaneous BANG-WHOOSH! Boy, the sound was incredible. It ricocheted around the walls of the old factory. Totally, epically awesome.

Lor and I grinned at each other, even though our run for the pile of bricks was a little over-cautious (we could have just taken a big step back).

Potato success.


My sister, aka little Houdini

My sister is 6 years younger than me. Growing up, we were always hanging out and getting up to mischief together.

We loved playing together but I also needed time alone (still do).

Often, she would want to hang out and I would want to sit quietly in my room and just stare out of the window or play with my Lego. This didn't work for my sister so she would invest lots of time trying to get into my room to hang out. It became a bit of a game. I'd run to my room and close the door. She'd invent all sorts of ways to get in (even once or twice, through my open window).

I don't remember how it started, but one day I got it in my head to tie her to the tree. This particular tree was our favourite. It was a large golden elm that was behind our family house. Huge. My sister and I spent many happy hours climbing that tree, and playing under it. I think one day we must have been hanging out in the tree and I had an idea to use a handy skipping rope to tie her to it, so she couldn't beat me back to my room for some quiet time.

I couldn't believe but she actually went along with it. She even held out her arms against the chosen branches while I slowly tied the knots as tightly as I could without hurting her. She just grinned her little cheeky grin the whole time. [Side note: now she tells me she knew how to get out of being tied to a tree from reading Famous Five books - she was and still is an avid reader.]

After I had tied her firmly (as I believed) in place, to the tree, I meandered inside to my bedroom and sat down. I heard her little footsteps run up to my door and her giggle as she opened it.

I couldn't believe she'd gotton out of my carefully crafted knots!

So I took her back to the tree, and tied the knots a little differently, and added a few more loops here and there.

But again, a few short minutes later, her little head appeared in my doorway.

For months after, I had to get super creative with my knot tying skills. But nomatter how I did it, nomatter how I tied those knots, she'd always somehow wiggle free (and super quickly too) and return to me for some big sister time.

Cheeky little Houdini.

This is me and my sister, trying to look angelic...(we SO weren't)

Back in the day we were total dags, but ironically this is considered the height of hipster fashion now. Ha!

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The adventures of Buzz and Woody, Part I


~ For my sister ~

"Woody! Are you alright?"

"Buzz! Buzz! ...my hand is stuck!"


"Woody! I can see that. Are you okay? Just take a deep breath and I'm just gonna see if I can find something to get you down."


[Woody sucks in some air, a tad hysterically]

"I'm breathin'!!"

[Buzz searches around frantically and returns to the fire hearth]

"Woody. Bad news. I can't find any sort of rope. No even a skipping rope. This is not a little girl's bedroom."

[Woody wails]

"Of all the bedrooms we had to find ourselves in! Why couldn't we have been in a little girls room sipping on tea right now from those cute little tea cups!"

"Woody! Take a breath!"

[Woody sucks a few more frantic breaths]

"But NOOOO instead we have to find ourselves in some sort of ritualistic fireplace scenario. Do you think she's going to sacrifice us Buzz? Like in a satanic cult?! You will melt and I will burn and MELT!!!!"

[Woody's breathing increases]

"Woody! Stop. She is not going to burn us! Look. The fireplace is all bricked up."

[Buzz points to the bricks in the fireplace]

"But Buzz, there's still room for fire."

[Woody's eyes grow wider as he assesses the area below]

"She keeps her SHOES here Woody. There's no old soot in here and there is far too much rainbow in this bedroom for her to be satanic in any sense of the concept. Trust me."

"B-but Buzz, all her shoes are black too. M-maybe the rainbow stuff is a cover."

[Buzz looks at the shoes lined up at the fireplace, and carefully examines the one tan coloured pair, then points to the tan ones]

"Nah, look, you can tell by the wear in these ones that she wears these most often, Woody. We'll be golden. I just have to figure out how to get you down before you panic."

"She hasn't worn those shoes for weeks Buzz, WEEKS."

"It's summer Woody! No one wears brogues in summer. She has good taste too those are some fine shoes."

"Buzz! Stop perving on the shoes and Get! Me! Dooown!"

"Take another breath Woody, I'll figure something out."

[Buzz looks around again, slowly this time]

"Bingo. Woody, look, shoelaces."

"Hurry Buzz my arm is starting to hurt!"

"Hold on Woody, I'll have you down in a jiffy."

[Buzz starts undoing the laces from the tan brogues]


"Hurry Buzz, I'm serious, I think my arm just ripped a little!"

"I'm going as fast as I can Woody."

[Buzz frees the shoelace and makes a lasso]

"What are you doing with that Buzz?"

"I'm going to get it around your shoe and tug you down Woody."

"B-but it's a long way down Buzz, it'll hurt landing, especially if you're tugging on my leg!"

"You're a toy Woody, you taught me that remember. A TOY."

"Okay Buzz."

[Woody squishes his eyes closed and prepares himself mentally]

[Buzz holds one end of the lasso and throws the other in Woody's direction
He misses
Repositioning himself he flings it up towards Woody's foot again and misses again
He gets it on the third go, but it lands on the yellow spur of Woody's boot]

"I'm going to have to give it a really big tug Woody!"

"JUST DOOOOO IT Buzz!"


[Buzz gives an almighty pull but the lasso slips off and Woody is still stuck]

"Buzz, what are we going to do now?!"

[Woody wails again]

"Just let me think, there's got to be something!"

[Buzz looks around again, searching for ideas]

"Woody! Try wiggling your fingers!"

"I've already tried that Buzz!"

"WIGGLE THEM."

"Okay okay I'm wiggling I'm wiggling."

[Woody wiggles his fingers and ends up just making his body thrash around a bit]


"It's not working Buzz, they're stuck right in there! Stuck!"

"Okay, okay let me think."

[Buzz thinks for a time]

"Okay Woody, I've got something! If I pile up all the shoes maybe I can get high enough to reach you."

[Woody looks dubious and then yells]

"WELL WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR BUZZ? START! PILING!"

"Okay Woody I'm on it."
[Buzz starts throwing shoes on top of other shoes and they all keep tumbling down]


"Buzz! Stop. You have to make sure there's structural integrity. Pile carefully."

[Buzz mutters under his breath something about smart arse engineers, and resumes piling, a little more carefully]

"Okay Woody, I think I have it now, almost there...almost..."

[Buzz climbs the pile of shoes that has partial structural integrity and reaches as high as he can]


[Woody in turn reaches down as far as he can]

"Almost...almost... I can't reach you Buzz!!"

[Woody wails and his body goes limp again]

"Don't give up Woody, I'm not giving up. Neither should you!"

[Woody remains quiet]

"I'll be right back Woody!"

[Woody looks over at Buzz]

"No Buzz you can't go out of the bedroom, someone might seeee you!"

"Desperate times call for desperate measures Woody, I'll be right back."

[Buzz disappears around the bedroom door and the bedroom falls silent, except for the sounds of Woody's occasional whimper]

A few minutes later Buzz returns dragging behind him a piece of furniture from outside the bedroom.

"Look what I found Woody!"


"Buzz! You did it! Did anyone see you?"

"No they were totally preoccupied, Woody, in the garden, talking women's business."

[Woody snickers]

"Those girls, honestly."

"I know Woody, I know."

[Buzz shakes his head and continues dragging the piece of furniture to the hearth]
"Is it heavy Buzz?"

"It doesn't matter Woody, it's the answer, the answer to our problems! I'm gonna get you down from there and then I'm going to get us out of here!"

"C-can we find a bedroom with a little girl who has a little tea set? I like those Buzz."

"I know Woody, I know, I'm gonna try."

[Buzz tips the piece of furniture up against the hearth and pushes it into place]

"Star command, I am approaching the escape hatch, prepare for LIFT OFF!"

"Buzz! Stop with your stupid quotes, get me dooowwwwn!"

"It wasn't me Woody, I accidentally pressed my button."

[Buzz climbs up on the piece of furniture and tugs on Woody's legs
Nothing happens
He tugs again, a little harder]

"Wiggle your fingers Woody, while I'm tugging, on the count of three, 1....2.....3!"

With an almighty pull and some quality wiggling Woody is finally free.

[Buzz calls down to Woody, who is laying sprawling on the ground]

"Are you alright, Woody?"


"I-I think so, but I just really need to pee Buzz."

"You're a TOY Woody, you don't need to pee!"

[Buzz mutters to himself something about Woody taking a knock to the head]

"Right, now Woody, what do you want to do?"

"What do you mean Buzz, you said you'd get us outa here?"

"Was just trying to keep you focussed Woody, I actually like it in here."

"Easy for you, Buzz! You haven't spent a week wedged in a fire place staring at a Giger poster. It's creepy, Buzz, really creepy!"

"I know Woody, but I can't face another Mrs Nezbit tea party! I just can't!"

[Buzz shudders]

"The things she did to me, Woody, the things she did to me."

"Shh! Buzz, I hear someone coming."

[Both toys fall to the ground as the bedroom door opens]

   ***

"Luuuuucy? What's with the chair in my room? ...Oh never mind, maybe Dave did it!"
[She laughs and exits]

[Stage fades to black]


The story of the time (I say) I was accidentally an anarchist

My friend, C, and I occasionally enjoy seeing plays, performances a bit left of field. We also enjoy attending lectures. TED.com talks are great too, if you're ever in the mood.

One night, just after when Julian Assange was arrested over the wikileaks debacle (I know it's not what he was technically arrested for but there you go, that's my view), C asked if I would like to go to a lecture in the city to find out more about what was going on in that world.

We were both interested in Julian Assange and wikileaks and we are also both curious by nature.

So along we toddled into the city. Quick bite to eat and then found the place for the lecture. In City Hall.

We couldn't see any signage out the front for the lecture so we sort of wandered around the foyer trying to guess where it might be or follow someone in. Then I spotted a handwritten note on the wall, pointed up some stairs.

We went up and followed a few extra signs to a room, with a circle of chairs.

C looked at me dubiously and said, "I don't think this is a lecture".

I shrugged, "we're here".

So in we went.

We took a seat, from the circle of seats, and waited for "it" to start.

The Chairperson of whatever-it-was was also sitting in the circle, and when enough people had arrived he began by talking about the importance of transparency, and said we would all take it in turns to introduce ourselves, and also fill out a sheet with our names and contact details.

"My name is Fred Jones and I represent Green Peace."

"My name is Sally Johnson and I represent Save the Children."

I gulped, imaging myself saying, 'My name is Mary Ryan and I work at ____.'

Lucky C went first, skipping the part where she worked and simply saying she didn't formally represent anyone. I repeated her introduction.

It took a while to go around the circle. But eventually we all had total transparency. Phew.
[*I'm making a dubious face right now]

Then the discussion about Julian started. A bit of background was given. An explanation as to his incarceration was mentioned. And then we got down to the important stuff. What we were going to do about it.

My interest had begun wavering but it started lifting at this point.

We had chosen to (turns out, foolishly) sit quite a way from the door, and because there was only a front row (circle) - getting up to leave didn't seem appropriate.

I had anticipated the lecture would go for 1 hour, 2 at the most. But there we were, after 1 and a half hours later, still discussing Item 1 on the agenda: the merits over the use of the term "free Assange" over the term "bring Assange home" for the protest motto banners. Seemed we were in for a loooong night.

Some were saying (I was one of them) that he might not necessarily want to come back to Australia. If I correctly recall, the words I used were, "have any of you actually talked to him, like, asked if he wants to come here?" No one had answered that but I got the impression it was a 'no'.

Once we had moved on from the great Free vs Bring Home debate, we discussed the other details. Where a protest might be held. Where we would walk. What we could use as props, that sort of thing.

During the course of the meeting, a number of late comers had joined in the fun. The room was starting to look quite full by now, and ideas were starting to really flow. It was actually a bit exciting, sitting with a bunch of passionate people, talking about interesting and topical issues, and all with a view to some sort of action.

I was tired, but my interest was continuing to grow.

Until shortly after one particular newcomer arrived. I remember him introducing himself as some sort of anarchist. I silently reviewed the theory of social contract in my head but gave him points for his honesty. Takes all kinds etc.

After more time had passed, the conversation was getting very passionate. The anarchist had a brilliant plan for a protest prop. We had decided we would start by meeting at X location (I can't remember where, maybe the State Library?) and walk through the city and then up to Parliament. Made sense.

"We could take an American flag and burn it on the steps of Parliament", suggested Mr Anarchy.

I looked at my friend C, "okay honey, I'm leaving, you joining me?"

She nodded and we left as inconspicuously as it we could muster (which was, completely conspicuously).

I have no real problem with self proclaimed anarchists. I firmly believe in the people's right to protest as an important element of democracy. I quite enjoy voicing my own opinion in various ways, and that includes attending protests (although admittedly I haven't attended very many). But I was definately not comfortable burning any kind of flag, nor was I convinced that it would have assisted Julian Assange during his plight.

All I knew at the time was I had to get outta there.

As we were leaving C asked me, "you gave a fake number yeh?"

"Oh! I didn't think to!" I wailed.

So for the next year or so I would get random texts inviting me to participate in all sorts of protests being held in Melbourne.

It was kind of exciting even though I didn't attend any (of those) in my capacity as a protestor. I did go along a few times to watch the fun though.

"EVERYONE DOWN TO OCCUPY MELB THE POLICE ARE ON THEIR WAY WE NEED EVERYONE WE CAN GET"

[*looks at watch and thinks to self "yeh I can make that to watch the fun before work"]

Saturday, 25 January 2014

The story of how I once tried to learn bass guitar

When my Dad was younger he was a muso. A guitarist. He was a blues guitarist, according to him, but from my perspective he rocks out to anything. He was in a band when he was younger (actually he was in a few), the most notable of which was Moby Dick, until he retired to be wed to my Mother.

I have vivid memories of him playing his guitar, most nights. He would make up songs about my sister and me. He played guitar a lot. Even today hearing people play guitar fills me with immense joy.

When I was very small he would play his guitar, standing up, in the rocker pose. He taught me how to do it too. One leg straight, the other leg away from the other, as far as you can muster, and slightly bent. Guitar low. Head movements. Lips pouted in a serious muso pout. He looked like a rock star doing it too, although I don't think I ever quite mastered it.

He also taught me loads about guitar things. I know how to tune one (manually), I know the names for each string. I can even play a few chords. The easy ones. (Ha! Bar chords are beyond me.) He taught me how to make an electric guitar squeal, and distort. He taught me about controlled feedback, and frets, pick ups, and that stick thing that you put in the bridge (the name escapes me). He taught me the difference between technical ability and something he called feel. Feel, according to my Dad, cannot be learned. It's something you can only be born with. Not all musos have feel, even some of the great ones might not, which doesn't mean they're not great - but feel is that magical thing you hear every now and again that makes you want to move and makes your heart sing. My Dad has feel. He says I have it too.

I love guitars. And to me my Dad will always be a rock star.

He encouraged me to learn to play guitar, as he did. I think he wanted someone to jam with. I know it was always a dream of his to play guitar with me and have me sing (I can sing - I've always been able to sing - though I'm not trained). We actually did perform a couple of times together when I was younger.

My young heart was set on something else though. We had my Nanas old organ at home for a while, and I loved to sit and play the keys and the peddles. Pretty soon Mum and Dad got the notion to trade it in for a piano for me, a Kawaii. It was a beautiful upright piano. Dark and mellow and a really beautiful sound. I played that thing for hours on end, sometimes driving my Mum insane because I'd play Moonlight Sonata over and over and over again.

I started learning when I was 7 (ish?) - the Suzuki method to play music, a Japanese method based on the theory that we learn to speak from hearing rather than reading. And so first you learn how to hear music and play, and later you learn to read it. I later moved to the more traditional AMEB but I've never properly learnt how to read piano music. It doesn't matter, if you play or show me a piece I can pick it up pretty quickly - and with a pencil I can sketch out sheet music quick enough to play.

I loved playing piano but I hated piano lessons. My fingering was often criticised and the position of my wrists was all wrong. If you had the Hubble telescope at your disposal at the time, you still wouldn't have been able to locate my care factor on those issues. I made the notes sing and that's all I cared about.

Later, during high school, I also picked up the Clarinet, and later again the Bass Clarinet. Those were enjoyable too - I even did a few solo performances and joined school orchestra - but I don't think I ever loved anything as much as the piano.

When I was 16, I made friends with this awesome chick, Laura, who also played guitar. We got up to all sorts of mischief, the two of us. We had all sorts of fun. We dreamt of rocking out to A Perfect Circle, and starting our own girl band. All we needed was a drummer. Hard to find female drummers. The plan was I would learn the bass and she would rock the guitar. I would do vocals.

So one day I asked my Dad how I could source me a bass guitar. He opened his filing cabinet and handed me a catalogue and pointed to a couple of bass guitars I might like, ones not too complicated to learn on. Before too long I had my own black, hot, bass guitar and AMP.

I played around on it a bit. Familiarising myself with the strings, and the techniques to make them hum. I googled bass guitar tabs and taught myself to fiddle around with it. Then Laura and I got down to it. One day, at her place, we plugged in all our gear, chucked a CD in her stereo and tried to play along. I'll never forget. It was A Perfect Circle that we started with. Our dream to be able to play it.

"Maybe we've set our expectations a bit high Lor..." I said uncertainly, not knowing where to put my fingers.

"Hmmm" she nodded, ejecting the CD.

"Okay let's try some Marilyn Manson, that's way easier" I offered.

So away we went. Marilyn Manson, is indeed, much easier to play. But I don't remember why - maybe we weren't feeling it.

We tried a few other CDs we had lying around, all of which were okay until they got to a complicated bit. Pretty soon we were just doing rock star jumps off her bed with our instruments, pretending to play and practicing the moves more than anything else. There was a lot of laughing.

After a few hours laughter turned to a hilarious teenage delirium and Laura had an idea. She put in a CD (I don't remember who it belonged to or WHY we had it in our collections [correction: it definitely belonged to me but I don't remember why I had it in my collection]).

"We'll be able to play this!" she sat down.

I sat down too.

The song started.

I laughed and almost couldn't stop. But the opening bar was fantastic. 3 notes. All of it able to be done on one string. The top string. From that day, I never really bothered with the other strings - and just stuck to that Westlife CD and the top string of my bass guitar. Rocking out to boy bands was not our idea of rock stardom, but boy was it super amounts of fun.

We always meant to learn other songs, but usually we'd end up playing what we knew. Westlife and a bit of the ol' Marilyn. And rocking out doing jumps off our beds and pulling rock star faces.

The two cheeky teenagers who wore boys clothing and liked to blow stuff up at abandoned warehouses (more on that later), rocking out to Westlife, Laura properly on her guitar, and me on the top string of my bass.


How I wish I looked playing the bass... 

Not accurate depiction of how I actually look playing the bass...

Friday, 24 January 2014

The story of the time I vomited in the 7-Eleven on Chapel Street

A few years back I was living on High Street in Prahran, quite close to the corner of Chapel Street - opposite Lucky Coq.

There is a 7-Eleven on the corner of High and Chapel Streets. The people in there were familiar with me, and they stocked Ben & Jerry's ice cream (chunky monkey is my fav). I was in there quite a bit. 'Twas my local.

On one dark and windy night my ex boyfriend was over, and I was in the process of packing to move out to a new place in Fitzroy. The tiny apartment was full of boxes, with all my things packed snugly away. I had already packed most of the bathroom gear, as moving day was approaching.

So that windy Friday night we'd made a roast for dinner. We roasted meat, potatoes, onions and garlic. Yum. Problem was, the smell of roasted garlic triggered a migrane for the poor ex and he woke me at 1am (unintentionally) writhing in agony and groaning. I'd seldom seen him in that much pain.

I frantically jumped out of bed, opening and searching through boxes. To no avail. I couldn't find his spare pain killers anywhere. His pain wasn't getting any better so I decided to dash to the 7-Eleven and buy some. Hoping dearly they had something stronger than plain old Panadol (they didn't).

It was Spring at the time, and Spring nights in Melbourne can get nippy (especially at that time of morning), so I chucked on my hoodie and some PJ bottoms and dashed out with my keys and wallet. No time for a bra.

I basically ran past all the people queuing to get into Lucky Coq, and the others stumbling along the street, and into the 7-Eleven, grabbing a packet of pain killers and waiting in line. There were 4 people in front of me.

'Hurry hurry hurry' I remember thinking.

Then I noticed something odd.

I didn't feel too great myself. Obviously in my haste I had neglected to pay attention to the fact that I was quite nauseous.

Quite nauseous indeed.

In a flash, almost too late, I dashed towards the door. I had just enough time to stash my wallet and the pain killers under my arm and attempt to cover my mouth to prevent spewing inside 7-Eleven in front of everyone. It didn't work, although my reflexes are really good, but I'd made it close enough to the door to aim high enough that most of it went outside.

I kept stumbling forwards (hurling all the while) until I found a pole to cling to while my body spasmed, sending forth everything digested in the previous 5 hours onto the Chapel Street side walk. Roasted meat is neigh pleasant to regurgitate.

My hands were covered in puke. I had bits of it stuck to my PJ bottoms.

People were walking past me, laughing, thinking I'd drunk too much.

Yeah right, in my love heart PJ bottoms and my hoodie, sans bra. What a fun night out.

There was nothing to do but try to flick chunks off my hands, walk home, retrieve my keys from my pocket with my vomit covered hands and deliver the pain killers.

I returned to my local 7-Eleven a few days later to pay for the pain killers. Feeling awkward that I'd inadvertently stolen them in my keenness not to have to reenter the store in which I vomited. I'm sure my face was beetroot red when I asked the counter dude if he was working the previous Friday night.

When he nodded I pulled a face and said, "umm so you know how a chick came in and puked everywhere". And then I pointed at myself and informed him I'd inadvertently stolen the panadol.

He laughed and laughed, and then he congratulated me.

"Wha....?"

"Oh madam you got the vomit perfectly all on the mat we have in our doorway, well done! All we did was roll up of all your vomit inside the mat and hosed it out back!" he informed me, still grinning.

I paid for the stolen panadol, and feeling strangely proud, went on my way.

The mat in the door way had indeed been cleaned, and may I note it was huge. Luckily.

I kept that 7-Eleven as my local, despite the vomit situation. Even though it was not long after I moved to Fitzroy. Each time I went in, if that same counter dude was working, he would ask me, "and how are you feeling today Ma'am?"

*laughs

New title!

I feel like it's time to mix it up a bit.

I've been writing about anxiety for some time now, but change is in the air.

I'm moving past my personal struggles, and lately I've been writing so much, so many stories.

Life is made up of stories anyhow.

And I'll share some here.

tell me a story, formerly the beauty within it 

xx Mary Ryan Brogue

Thursday, 23 January 2014

The story of the time I got my maths teacher to call me a legend

In high school my maths teachers hated my guts. Both of them. There were only 2 at our school and each year or so the teacher we had would switch. Obviously my first had worded up the other to my "antics" (clue: asking "why" is not misbehaving, it's a genuine part of learning), and so they both gave me a solid dislike for mathematics. Shame. It's actually fascinating. Later, I did physics at TAFE and loved it. 

Anyway, I digress. 

Often I would walk through the doors to my math class to hear "MAAA-RY!! Come and sit where I can see you! Alone please!", and I would begrudgingly trudge to the front row to sit, on display, right in front of her desk. I was constantly told I talked too much and asked too many questions. Later, as it turns out, I realised my preference for socialising during maths had something to do with the unanswered "whys". But at the time I just didn't understand the squiggly lines on the board. Trigawhat?

At the time it also seemed strange I was singled out. I wasn't the only cheeky/bored kid in maths, and the majority of other teachers who taught me gave the impression they liked me. Maybe I was the love or hate kid. 

Anyway it was on. Mary vs Maths Teachers (1994-1999). 

And I brung it. 

More on that soon, but for some context, when I was 15 I also had this keen interest, for reasons only a teenager can explain, to get people to call me A Legend. I had loads of time on my hands to concoct brilliant plans to inspire such a name to be bestowed on me. And I was quite creative about it. My friends would humour me (often I would also return the favour) and from time to time I would even receive a spontaneous "you legend". Sometimes people would close their eyes briefly and shake their heads at my daginess. (Clue: asking someone if you're A Legend is daggy.) But oddly, that was just as satisfying. 

Each year I would sit the math comp. In my first 2 years at high school I'd come out with distinctions (hooray for basic maths comps booyah), but by year 10 my maths was falling badly behind and the chances I'd score highly were looking slim. Still, I sat the year 10 maths comp exam anyhow. 

Towards the end of the exam session I was sitting quietly, wondering how to kill time until we were permitted to leave, when an idea crossed my mind. The exam papers were those computer feed sheets, that you use 2B pencils to shade in circles, then the paper is fed through a computer and the results tallied without anyone even needing to look at the paper. Perfect. 

I spent the rest of the exam making sure the shading in each circle was flawless. I didn't want some computer scanner failing to read my sheet properly and screwing up my plans. For this to work I was counting on a human not having to review my paper. After I filled in all the answers, I (ever so carefully) shaded the circles to spell out my first and surnames. There were enough spaces for all of those lovely little letters. 

The hardest part was the waiting. Over the next few months I tried patiently to wait for the results to be sent to our school. 

Maths comp certificates were always handed out in assembly. 

School assembly. 

You know, with the entire school present? 

The day finally arrived and we all bundled into the school hall to sleep through announcements. Only this day was different. No chance I was going to sleep through this.

It was the day the maths comp results were in. And I was about to score BIG in Mary vs Maths Teachers (1994-1999).  

"R" for "Ryan" comes late in the alphabet so I had to practice more patience while my year 10 maths teacher called each student up, one by one, and congratulated them on their achievement. 

"Betty Rogers*... a distinction, well done!"
*clapping...
"Beatrice Ruddick*...here you go"

That was my cue. I was ready. 

"Mary Ryan The Leg-e...[a pause, queue confusion]...MAAAARY". 

Okay so I didn't technically get a win. But my friends finally believed I'd the balls to put "Mary Ryan - The Legend" on my year 10 maths comp exam paper. I still have it too, sitting with my degree. 

And I still get called a dag quite a bit. I secretly love that. 

So that's the story of how I almost got my my maths teacher to call me A Legend. 

*Names have been changed. 

For the record, "Certificate of Participation" means I failed the exam. Hahaha. So worth it.


The story of how I learnt to cry

Around the tender age of 5, one day I got a balloon. It was beautiful, red and had helium inside it. Pretty special, that balloon. It had a string tied to it and I held that string tightly and watched it bob around in the wind. For little me it was amazing.

But when I got home it bounced against something and popped. 

My Mum had only been in my life for a short while then. Maybe a year. My biological Mother died when I was just a wee baby - and happily for my Dad and I, Mum came into our lives when I was 4. It was love at first sight for me. The first time I met her I asked if she was going to be my Mum and afterwards no one could persuade me not to call her that. And it wasn't like she was the first woman on the scene for Dad either (apparently I ignored the others). But luckily her and Dad were super keen on each other as well (and still are).

But I digress. 

My memory of the balloon popping day is a little sketchy, as it's an early one, but I do remember feeling an overwhelming urge to cry and trying my very best not to. Even then I thought it was silly to cry over a popped balloon. 

My Mum, sensing something was up, took me onto her knees and said quite gently, "Mary, sometimes it's okay to cry". 

I allowed myself to cry (correction, howl) then. Unreservedly. And it was a huge relief. I hadn't known it was okay to let it out. I guess I thought people didn't cry over popped balloons or other such matters. 

Mum held me in her arms while I sobbed because my red balloon had popped. And then after a time the sadness passed. 

Nowadays I make more of an effort to cry if I feel it coming. In fact my ex boyfriend will confirm that on occasion I would come home and say "I need to have a lady cry". (Code for: cry without an earth shattering epic reason.) And he was great about it as well. 

And I find most of the time it does pass. 

Until the next balloon pops, of course. Life. So many balloons. 

Anyway, that's the story of how I learnt to cry. 

Thanks Mum. xx

[Balloon Girl by Banksy, source here.]


Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Addicted to Plants vs Zombies

I'm a iPhone gamer through and through. Not adventurous, mind, I tend to stay faithful to one for months on end. Sometimes years. My all time favourites include Crystal Defenders, Tiny Tower and good ol' Plants vs Zombies. So good. 

So here it is. My current iPhone gaming obsession. 




You're welcome. 

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

I have worse stories than the ones I post

Remind me to tell you someday about the time my Dad fell off his bike and we thought he had broken his little finger but really he'd broken his little finger, a rib (which punctured his lung), his neck in two places and one of the vertebrae his back which was completely shattered and he needed a steel rod to stabalise his spine.

He's fine now. He still rides his bike and everything.

It was pretty awful at the time though.


Me and my Dad

The night I was getting ready to go to a gay bar and ended up at the Royal instead

[Note: I will preface this with a huge I-know-this-is-completely-silly-and-insignificant-and-even-hilarious-and-even-though-I-cried-at-the-time-I-did-laugh-afterwards. But sometimes the little things count too and perhaps the whole thing was blown up in my head because of something else going on in my head at the time. Perhaps. No, definately. Point is, I am overly aware this was so not a big deal.]

I quickly grabbed my finger and stared wide eyed at my friends. The music was on, to get us pumped. We were getting ready to go out. I'd had a wine. Bad time to use my pocket knife. It had gone in deep and I didn't know how deep. Wasn't ready to look. My friend C looked at me and frowned.

"I cut myself" I said, "I can't look".

"I'll look, show me", she said.

I held out my finger, still wrapped my my other hand. I flashed her for the briefest of a view and then rewrapped it tightly. Then I showed her again. I looked at my other hand. There was a pool of blood in my palm.

"How bad is it?" I asked.

"Not bad, come inside and I'll wash it."

We went in and I felt my blood drop onto the floor. In the bathroom she ran the cold water and put my hand under. I saw a flap of flesh moving under the water. It looked like I'd split the end of my finger in two. Blood was going everywhere.

"There's a flap, I'm going to go to hospital", I told C.

"It'll be okay, I'll put a bandaid on tightly".

"I want to make sure".

She looked at me dubiously.

"I love my fingers!" I said, feeling worried, "I just want to make sure it's okay".

"You'll be okay", she insisted, applying the bandaids. But I'd already made up my mind.

I walked into the emergency department at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and waited behind another patient in the administration queue. There were chairs in the waiting area, red chairs and blue chairs. The red chairs are reserved for patients allocated by triage, the signs read. The man in front of me had a huge bandage on his hand and was immediately given Panadine forte. I instantly felt under-injured and perhaps a little hysterical for coming in with a little cut on my finger. It had seemed much worse at home. I looked down at the bandaids keeping my finger together and saw the blood had seeped through and a big lump of blood was congealing at the top of my finger.

Maybe not hysterical, possibly just cautious.

The lady behind the administration desk took my details.

"What's your marital status?" she asked me.

"Single, no wait, divorced".

"And who is your best emergency contact?"

I thought a moment and realised I didn't have one. I gave my parent's details, and then lamented that I had to give my parent's details. Going to hospital blows at the best of times but having to give your parent's details for emergency contact. Wahhh. (*whispers* still glad I'm divorced though...)

I was sent to the triage desk where a man assessed my injury. He asked me to describe what happened. He took my pulse, 130. High. Maybe my initial diagnosis for hysteria wasn't far off the mark. But then again, I had cut myself and the knife had gone right into my finger, maybe by a whole centimetre! There was a flap! I'm phobic of amputation (phobic, phobic, phobic) and it was [correction: is] my favourite finger. The one I wrote with, texted with, played plants v zombies with! If I'd let it go and it got bad or fell off or something I'd be devastated. I wrote for a living for goodness sake!

My temperature was normal but blood pressure was also high. He asked me to take a seat. I didn't sit on the reserved red chairs.

After a time it started throbbing. I'd avoided crying so far, although feeling like I wanted to.

After some time passed I returned to the man in triage, "I think the bandaid might be too tight, can I remove it, do you have scissors?" I asked him. He seemed surprised I hadn't been seen and directed me to the nurse’s room. A nurse came in and asked me what I'd done. I showed her the bloody bandaided finger, and described the pocket knife incident. The nurse took my finger and gently started to remove the bandaids by peeling each layer back slowly. It hurt a lot and I was scared she might rip off the flap, instantly regretted the decision for adhesive protection.

She reassured me she'd be careful and take them off one by one, and she was, but I still cried like a baby. A big, 31 year old baby, scared of being in a hospital ER on a Saturday evening and having part of my favourite finger ripped off.

She finally got the bloodied bandaids off and took a look, "it might need a stitch, and I'll get you a Panadine forte for the pain", and left to get the blissful pain dullers. I declined the two she offered, instead taking just one.

"You'll need to wait in the waiting area for the doctor now", she said after bandaging my finger with an oversized cushiony bandage.

I tearfully returned to the waiting area. It didn't take long for the doctor to call my name. Thankfully it was a quiet night. I followed him into a curtained area and he indicated a bed for me to sit on.

"So what have we got here?" He asked me, turning to face me from his computer.

"I cut my finger with a pocket knife."

"Ouch! Ok so first let's do your medical history."

"Ok."

"Any allergies?"

"Maybe Amoxicillin...and Elastoplast adhesive."

"You on any regular medication?"

"Effexor."

"And what are you taking that for?"

"Anxiety disorder."

The doctor raised his eyebrows and looked me in the eye, "was the injury intentional?"

I shook my head, "no".

He came over to where I was sitting and took my pulse. He frowned, and pulled out his smart phone, turned on the stopwatch and took my pulse again.

"Pulse rate is rather high", he commented.

No kidding, but I kept that to myself.

He unwrapped the soft bandage and examined my finger. I winced when he touched it, my earlier determination to be brave dissolving with the pain. Thankfully I'd run out of tears.

“It looks like it’s starting to clot properly and the skin seems to be holding in place”, he informed me.

“You’re kidding?” I said, instantly feeling mortified (mortified) for driving to hospital and making such a big deal of the pitiful possibly-centimetre-deep cut.

“I can give you a stitch to make sure it doesn’t move if you like?”

“Yes, please”.

The anaesthetic hurt more than the cut. (Still, no more tears.) He swabbed the area with cotton wool and saline, rinsing the inside of the cut carefully and wiping away the fresh blood. He prepared the suture and I looked away as he inserted it into my skin. I watched while he fastened the one little knot, and thought it was appropriate I have only the one.

One little stitch all on its lonesome in the skin of my favourite finger.

“Now get outta here”, he said with a grin on his young face.

“Thanks Doc, have a good one”, I felt myself blush as I departed.

I walked back to my car, took myself home to bed, and felt the Panadine forte carry me off into a blissful exhausted slumber.

One little cry baby in her favourite place (bed, with toast and bread roll crumbs), with one little stitch in her favourite finger.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

I'm having a Walter Mitty moment...

...again.

I've been having them in pretty consistent waves (like contractions, I imagine) since seeing it Tuesday night.

Incidentally if you haven't seen it, do. It's some kind of magical wonder. And I don't want to sound like a fancy pants person who talks about camera work all the time (even though I think about camera work quite a bit) - but seriously the images in the film are incredible too.

And then there was this. A Lada. Need I say more?



“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other and to feel. That is the purpose of life.”

Monday, 6 January 2014

Moments like these

I've had a lot of time to sit and reflect recently. It's been wonderful.

I've had a few weeks off work for the Christmas break, and some time alone in a friendly house, to sit, be me, and think without speaking. I feel as though I'm processing life like a mo-fo at the moment, moving through, digesting, and expelling things I previously never thought I would have a chance to even contemplate.

Sometimes I just sit and look out my bedroom window, up at the sky. Sometimes I watch the breeze move the daisies that sit accross from my window sill. It's nice to have time to stare at nothing in particular and observe the often hilarious (sometimes not) thoughts that cross my mind.

I often have words and I have been writing a lot lately. Sometimes there are no words only feelings or images. Those are okay too and I wish I was more comfortable with drawing them.

I also wish it was warmer, hotter. I miss feeling that lazy sluggishness that only comes on hot summer days. Determined for summer yesterday I wore my little denim shorts. I was freezing by late afternoon so I added long socks and a hoodie (*shakes fist at the sun).

I know it's inevitable that I will not remain in this place of quiet contemplation. I hope to come back to it often.

Happy new year to all. So far it's been a ripper.