Friday, 22 November 2013

Eat, Pray, Camp: an urban myth part one

Urban Camp Mum. It sounded grand, way beyond glamp-ing. Camping in a city. In a backbackers.  Downright glamp-urb-orous.

The first night was hell. Friday night just off Courtney Place, Wellington.  What would you expect? Loud music. Sirens. Corporate binge drinkers staggering from work to bar to car.

And far far below the fifth floor, occupied by our school group, partied a mélange of international travellers. Brought together by the promise of getting high on cheap booze. Beer, vodka and Jager bombs. Yours for less than a large flat white. “At Wellington’s #1 party bar!! The basement.”

I slept at first. Tired after our three hour Jet Star transit in Auckland Airport and a doughy $5.00 Dominos pizza. Munched, sitting on slabs of concrete at the arse end of Te Papa, in a stiff, straight off the harbour breeze.

But then alas I woke to the sound of awful non descript possibly never been near the very bottom of the American Top 40 music charts. Ever. It was 1am. Surely, the basement only have a license until 2am? I mean there were signs in the stairwell suggesting guests be courteous to fellow sleepers by quieting down by 9pm. Not.

I re-tweeted some blog posts to @MumsnetBloggers in the UK. They’d be up. And they were. I got a re-tweet. Not front page but even so. And sore eyes. I worried I was disturbing my roommates. My sheet tent was stuffy.

2.20am, the music droned on. As did the rowdy revellers clomping up the stone stairwell.  Our fire-stop door was on permanent OPEN. Due to the staff failing to think its fixing a first world potential ACC liability insurance coroners report type problem for 39 school children and their six adult minders. Should something inconvenient like a fire break out.

The mattress was too lumpy. I longed for a pee. But I hung on. Hacked off that my industrial strength earplugs did NOT work. Nor the pillow wrapped over my sweaty head.

Finally the music stopped and the traffic slowed. The wind whistled through the permanently open window above my bunk. I drifted off to dreamland. Until 39, 13 year olds started cheerily banging on doors at 6.

Bleary eyed, I grabbed my spong-bag and headed for the communal bathroom. The first toilet was decorated with what could have been muddy footprints on the white plastic seat but was more likely partially digested Yager bombs.

I dabbed my Bobbi Brown under eye -brightener over the cushions that had formed beneath my eyes. The brightener was too bright, Bobbi, it made me look like a clown. With crag. Cripes I’d frighten the children. I slapped more on.

Next thing, this Rubenesque red head walked in wrapped in a bed sheet, clutching a water bottle. She tossed her bed hair mane and entered the (clean) cubicle and took a slash. Sighing theatrically. Next, she grappled with her bottle, eventually ripped the top off then struggled to refill it in the small hairy basin.

I watched her out of the corner of my brightened eye. Did she cop off with one of those exotic dark haired men. The ones who’d offered to share the tiny lift with the other camp mum and I the day before? Or was it just a night out with the girls? Whatever it was, I imagined she was heading back to her bunkette to rest that weary auburn head.

I snuck over the road to Deluxe for caffeine. Two large trim flat whites to go for teach and I. My tidy group of 12 crowded around a small breakfast table. I sculled my coffee. The only immediate affect was that I didn’t feel like breakfast.  Good value I suppose. It cost $5.00.

I cleaned my teeth. Tied my laces and packed my 6 inch veg subway. Keen for a walk down Courtney Place onto Lambton Quay to catch the cable car up to the Planetarium. The school had booked a talk. I like stars.

Meanwhile, a girl in my group was stuck down with a migraine. I was to be dorm-side for the day. This was not pretend. The girl looked sick as a dog. She wept in pain.

I discussed when I should call the ambulance with one of the teachers. Seeing stars stage, or wait till she faints?

They gave me her medical sheet and said; do what you’d do for your own child.

My patient was stoic. Charming. Sweet. She knew the drill. She said crying helped to bring on the vomit, which brought on the sleep. The calm.

I asked her if she wanted to ring her mum. No point she said.  It happened like clock work. After the first vom, she told me how she’d ended up in hospital last year with a huge needle in the crook of her arm. She wasn’t allowed to leave until the drip bag was empty. She’d fainted that time. And vomited endlessly.

I crossed my fingers behind my back.

I was released at 2pm. I bolted to the bus stop and waited for number 23. 39 happy teenagers crowded the aisles. Ahh.

This may be my last school camp. You might find me wrapped in a bed sheet, a dishevilled siren in a backpackers in Greece. Kidding. I’m not looking for anymore eat pray love camp adventures. I’ll be at home.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Christchurch Revisited: A Photo Essay

spring time mirrored in Hagley park: rhododendron reflection
there's still heaps of free housing in the CBD
and every building's a canvas
just art every way you look at it
with cultural fundraising
faces on walls
new natives and the love of men

even grass envy
and a happy grass duck.
you can fork out 75 bucks for a red zone tour
or relax on a red chair
before the aliens enter through a cloud portal to this
new world
or sea birds mess about in a slumped pavement bath.

get them here.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Weird Jobs I’ve done For Money, While Training To Be a Writer, & Odd People That Happened.

Babysitting: I’d drive myself to my regulars (where my sister infamously fried the cat’s steak forsaking fillet), put the kids to bed and wait it out way past the Goodnight Kiwi was tucked up in his satellite dish. One evening, the adults were chatting over pre-outing gins and stuffed olives. I got to see first-hand a larger than life penthouse poster girl, soon to become tablemats under the skilful hand of the resident-porno-artiste. 

My parents collected a strange array of well-crafted gifts over the years. The penis door knocker, which required human skin to finish, was the only one I didn’t try and see.

Lamb Docking: The not lovely job of clipping ears, rubber ringing testes and chopping tails. Off. On our farm we used a machine that looked like a mini spade with an axe blade on the end. It was smokin hot to cauterize flesh and bone as it bit through with a whine and a pop. I held those upended woolly bleaters as they wriggled, hoping it was true sheep were dumb and didn’t feel a thing.

Plucker of Dead Sheep: I kid you not, wool plucked off bloated green grey sheep went to market. What it was used for, I’m not sure? Norsewear socks perhaps? Skin would come off with the wool if the sheep were too rotten.  Turning over to pluck the other side wasn’t advised for those ones. A lovely straight haired lady called, Poodle, lived down the road. She devised the – scooped out orange tied over the nose - the perfect plucking pomade.  

Rousabout in a Shearing Gang:  Apparently I worked for the biggest dope grower in Central Hawkes Bay. I wouldn’t have known. He shouted us Tui tall necks in the Wanstead pub after work. And after big jobs ended had parties in his lounge; shearers and rousies stood around a studded brown vinyl bar, while his daughters cooked feeds in the first ever microwave in the district. A leg of mutton, grey and steaming after only 30 minutes. 

Freezing Worker:  ‘Do you realize your hair is longer on one side than the other,’ a fellow white suit and gumbooted worker pointed out on my first day. ‘It’s supposed to be like that,’ I replied. It was 1982. I worked in the boning room. Carcasses butchered on one side and frozen shoulders, legs etc shrink wrapped on the other. The air was chill but you could still smell flesh. I made boxes and stencilled the run-codes. ‘My hands are freezing.’ 

‘Well you haven’t got much meat on them have ya,’ scowled a woman who looked like she was overdue for her 30 years’ service award. Our supervisor sometimes yelled out, ‘come on you lazy sluts’…. I could write a lot about my three months of meat. 

Pumpkin Polisher: The pumpkin farmer was a cheery chap and so were his Butternuts. Crates and crates of them. I rubbed my oily cloth over those dark green squash until they shone. Destined to be chopped and fried and put in Japenese lunchboxes. Womens only, the men didn’t touch them.

Inside Jobs:

Temporary Secretary:  After 6 months at Queens Secretarial College, London I had a typing speed of 35 Word per Minute (basic rate to get a job is 55 wpm) not sure how I bluffed my way in…

Temp On Assignment…

Rolls Royce Dealership, Kensington: Dear Mega Rich Prince of Saudi Arabia, would you care to pause and ponder the pleasure available to you by upgrading your current Roller to the extra swanky cream leather upholstered latest model Silver Bird Saloon II we have glistening in our showroom window…

BBC Bengali Section: I proudly walked into the majestic BBC building and soon found myself in a dusty ramshackle corner deciphering addresses, written in scrawly pencil on turmeric flavoured newsprint.

The Barbican: I worked in the booking section with a middleaged alcoholic. She tried to hide her secret with lashings of Cinnebar. The combination of peach, cloves, BRANDY and bergamot notes was a heady perfume. On her bad days, she would get me to 'lead her' on to the long wooden escalator at nearby, St Pauls tube station. ‘Once I’m on I’m fine,’ she’d say. Her right forearm wrapped around mine shaking like a castanet mid song. No clues for what she did of an evening. Poor lady.

I could go on. Jobs, I've had a few. However in the interest of keeping posts to a manageable 800-900 word read. I won’t. 

Yet all of the above and the rest, have added nicely to the bountiful resource residing in the memory of this middle aged woman. Writer. 

I started thinking about jobs this week, because if I’d won the Sunday Star Times nonfiction award I was planning on changing my title. If strangers asked me what I did, I was going to say, ‘I’m a writer.’

 A couple of days after I found out I came 3rd, I was asked. I hesitated for just a moment, then I replied, ‘I grow flowers.’

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