Finding Damo

The story of a man, his job, two cats and the meaning of success.

Archive for the category “family”

For St Patrick’s Day

Warning: this was written in an hour as I tried to explore the concept of a leprechaun coming to Australia for my Golden Pen Writing Club. More on the club later. It’s not proof-read, and may not make sense, but again, free stream-of-consciousness writing from Damo.

Oh, and Happy St Patrick’s Day!

The Leprechaun comes to Australia

The leprechaun stared at the jetliner with a certain amount of trepidation. And then he shook his head. Where the belief goes, he had to follow. He’d watched a number of his friends take off for America decades ago, but he’d held back, unwilling to leave this deeply magical land. But more than a century later, the family that he relied on for belief was immigrating to Australia.

He had thought about staying behind, but he’d seen what had happened to those poor fools – mere will-o-wisps hovering in the nearby bogs.

No, this was the only way. He peered around the dark tarmac, saw that the way was clear and pelted towards the luggage area, leaping into the hold of the jetliner and rolling behind a large suitcase.

“You’re gettin’ too old for this my lad,” he told himself, panting slightly as he found a more permanent hiding place in an empty dog carrier. At just over four hundred years old, he was only just hitting his stride, but his magic was a little poorly, what with the Fitzpatricks up and abandoning him for another country. He settled in for a long flight and hoped that he didn’t get airsick.

On the flight he pondered the nature of belief. There was no in-flight movie and he’d forgotten to pack his Kindle, so he had nothing better to do.

As far as he could work out, the Little People had always been in Ireland. Just as there were Skin Walkers in America and Werewolves in central Europe, Ireland grew little people. But he was pretty sure they hadn’t always been magic. No, there’d been a time, millennia ago, when both races had just been people – the Little People and the Big People. But where the Big People were grumpy and warlike, the Little People were helpful and generous. And because a Bigger could always rely on the Littles – or Li-Pers – for a spare coin when he was in need, the smaller race were gradually seen as being a magical people who could conjure gold from nothing. And of course, if you could catch one, he would have to give up his gold to you.

And, not surprisingly, that was the end of the leprechaun race. But more surprising was the fact that the Biggers’ belief in the magic of the leprechaun was so strong that the tiny few that escaped the massacre found that they could indeed draw gold from the rainbow and eventually grant wishes to any Bigger that caught them. It was an evolutionary trait – a self-defense mechanism.

But as with all magic, their powers ran on belief. And as Science and reality television began to melt the Biggers’ brains, their belief in the Little Folk began to wane.

Of course, you’ll be hard pressed to try and get an Irishman to admit that he doesn’t believe in the Little Folk. It’s part of their heritage. But deep in their hearts, they preferred to believe in the rugby or Bob Geldof. And so, as people stopped believing in the Leprechaun, the leprechaun started to lose its power.

The clever ones, such as he, latched onto families with strong belief systems and strong ties to the land. The belief was minimal, but kept them going. And as the families left Ireland, the leprechaun had to make a choice: take their chances in their homeland, or follow the belief.

The leprechaun was jolted awake by the touch of the wheels on the tarmac of a new country. He peered out through the door of his dog carrier. At the moment, all he could hear was the roar of the engines, and all he could smell was jet fuel and dog shampoo, but underneath all of that was the faint hum of the magic of this new world. Muted now, through the heavy walls of the aircraft, he could still feel the raw power of a country still relatively untouched by humans.

The leprechaun stayed in the dog carrier, whining quietly so that the baggage handler would remove him from the plane. He slipped away as soon as the coast was clear and made for the nearest fence, which posed no barrier for a magical being of his standing. He wasn’t worried about losing the Fitzpatricks. He knew where they lived and he was fairly certain he could find his way around in this new land without too many problems. After all, he had connections.

Meinong the Bunyip met him at the fence and threw a giant hairy arm around him, almost squeezing the magic out of him.

“Ow! All right, yes, thanks. It is good to see you too. Let go now?”

The Bunyip let him go with a sheepish, very toothy grin.

“Hey. Nice to meet you,” the Bunyip said.

“Likewise, to be sure,” said the Leprechaun. “You’re taller than it looks in your pictures.”

The Bunyip chuckled. It was almost two metres tall, potbellied and wide-mouthed, with huge expressive eyes and shaggy orange hair over its arms, legs, head and back. Its ears hung like a spaniel’s down the side of its head. At first the leprechaun thought it was naked, but then he noticed an iPhone headphone cord trailing from one ear down to a phone attached to a belt around its waist.

“You went Apple?” he said, gesturing at the phone.

“Yeah mate. I’m on a plan.”

The two of them had met on Faes-Book years back, and when the Fitzpatricks had decided to move to Australia, the Leprechaun had hooked up with his friend to try and organise his new Australian life.

“Yer lucky, bloke. They moved out to the eastern suburbs – plenty trees, plenty open space. And cable internet.” They moved off to a ute standing by the fence. “I got you a place with some other immigrants. They all good fellas. Oh and you’ll need a Myki.”

Settling in a new land with new companions was relatively easy for the naturally gregarious Leprechaun. His share house was within walking distance of the Fitzpatricks and he quickly got to work bolstering their faith in this new country. Gold pieces left on the doorstep and fairy rings carefully arranged in the garden led to excited chatter from the family. He made sure never to let the parents see him, but the kids frequently spotted a green-clad figure peeking at them from the bottom of the garden.

Of course, there were changes as well. He soon found that in the blistering heat of Melbourne’s summer, he had to ditch the green suit in favour of a loose-fitting cotton shirt (still green) and cargo pants (also green). A smart green sunhat topped off the ensemble and he still felt true to the spirit of his costume, if not the letter. He packed the suit and shiny black leather belts and buckles away for winter.

He got along well with his housemates, although there was some initial tension between himself and the genie – another wish-granter. But a few months in, everything was peachy and the house was always either filled with the tang of curry or the rich aroma of stew. The kappa tended to eat alone, but would always be there when the drinking began.

And as the years progressed, the nature of the Fitzpatricks’ belief changes as well. The stories of the little man in the suit and buckles became stories of the cheeky blighter who rearranged the garden gnomes. The stories spread to the neighbouring children, and then to their children, along with those of the Bunyip and the genie. The Dreaming expanded to take in all of its adopted children and, with the revival of spirituality in the Australian culture, belief in magic and fairy tales was again as strong as it was in the old days.

The leprechaun met his wife down at Pugg Mahones on St Patrick’s Day and the community of Little Folk from an Irish background grew rapidly, as all good Irish families do. Now as Australian as a meat pie, the Leprechaun still flew back to the old country with his kids, but they didn’t identify with it and he found that the visits became further and further apart.

He still regaled his family with the story of hiding in a dog carrier as he stole into the country, and his family dutifully laughed at the points when they were meant to laugh. But in the end, there were so many more stories now – stories of the double rainbow of ’45 and the World Fae Recognition Act, which led to a new peace between the Littles and the Biggers – that the old stories also came out less and less.

The Leprechaun drew in a deep breath and smelled the dusty smell of hay cooking in the sun as he drove back to his house from the airport and realised that this was the smell of home.

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The Bucket

This last weekend was my first wedding anniversary. This has nothing to do with this entry. However…

We went to a French restaurant. I didn’t remember ever going to a French restaurant until my sister reminded me that in Canada my parents had to stop my brother from ordering the snails. This restaurant didn’t offer snails. It did offer steak tartare. So that was my order of choice, knowing that I wouldn’t eat it normally. And then the waiter (cool French accent tinged with Canadian) told me the specials, which included…

banquetasterixWILD BOAR!

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to dine on the same food as Asterix and Obelix, so steak tartare would have to wait for another day.

During the course of the evening I brought up the concept of a Bucket List. It seems that everyone has one. A list of things you have to do before you kick the bucket. I have previously brought up the idea of a post-bucket list – a list of things that I want to achieve after I have kicked the bucket.

But I haven’t really discussed the things that I want to achieve beforehand.

In a blog that deals (in theory) with the concept of success, this seems very remiss. And so, I present to you: THE FINDING DAMO BUCKET LIST.

Some of the things on this list are a tad outrageous. Some are completely normal and there’s no real reason why I haven’t done them yet. I want to have a number of items on the list that are achievable. Otherwise, why have a list at all?

A very funny man by the name of Michael Workman (FBTW) made the point that our lives would be a hell of a lot more fulfilling if we swapped our bucket list with our list of daily chores. And so, if we had a bit of spare time left after learning Swahili, we might manage to get some washing done.

I want to do all of the stuff on this list. If I get something done, I’ll let you know. I won’t make it the main focus of the blog. There are hundreds of Bucket List blogs out there. But I thought it was worth a once off. The list will be maintained as a separate page on Finding Damo, and I’ll update my achievements there (for the one or two people that are interested). Until then, however, a look inside the strange wants of Damo, in his search for success in all forms.

finding damo bucket list FINDING DAMO BUCKET LIST

 Fashion

  • Own a purple suit.
  • Make a penguin costume for each member of the family.
  • Make a troll costume.
  • Replace an eye with a computerised copy – an iBall, so to speak.

 Food

  • Snails
  • Witchetty Grubs

 Travel

  • Scotland
  • Ireland
  • England (the rest)
  • France (the rest)

 bucket picturesCreativity

  • Publish a comic strip.
  • Write an app.
  • Make a short film.
  • Make a feature film.
  • Have an amateur play produced (outside of school) – 1 act or full length.

 Fame

  • Get paid to act
  • Achieve, or at least be nominated for, Teacher of the Year.
  • Be an extra
  • Get a novel published (I already have short stories published – thanks to Alfie Dog)
  • Have a YouTube clip go viral
  • Have a play produced professionally

 Learning/Reading/Watching

  • Pull a car apart and put it back together.
  • Learn to play the guitar
  • Learn to play the harmonica
  • Get back up to speed on the piano
  • Read War and Peace
  • Read Gone with the Wind
  • Read Les Miserables

Family

  • Be involved in the creation of biological offspring

Obviously, I am a man of simple needs. Let me know if you can help me achieve any of the above!

Dream a Little Dream of Me. Or badgers. Or Superman.

dreams are strangeCorey Feldman had it good. His character in Dream a Little Dream ran all over his dreamscape, giving out good advice and saying “Heh” a lot. He didn’t have to worry about the streets changing from moment to moment, or giant rats staring at him until he woke up screaming.

Some people are already thinking “dammit. I blog about dreaming. I’m outa here.” And that’s fine. The blog is called Finding Damo, not “Keep everybody entertained all the time”. And one of the things that has consumed my life and fed my imagination since I was a young boy has been my dreams.

Luke, I am your father!

Luke, I am your father!

I have sleep apnoea. I can’t spell it but I have it. I’m not sure when it started, but by the time I was living in Rosebud, it was getting out of control. I was only getting one or two hours of sleep a night, as I would stop breathing when I fell deeply enough asleep which, luckily, woke me up again. It was terrible. I was always tired. I fell asleep in meetings, and when driving.

And I dreamed. A lot.

dream diary lock

If you can open it, you can read it.

Two of my favourite presents ever were given to me by girlfriends. The first was when I was in Japan. Kallie gave me a dream diary. She’d decorated  the inside front cover. The book had a lock and was just awe-inspiring. It wasn’t just a Spellbox book or anything. I’m not sure where she found it, but the book, and the lovely inscription on the inside blew me away. A couple of months later, in an argument, she ripped out the lovely front page and took the book back. Which is why I’m not dating her any more. That amongst other things. But at the time, WOW.

The second was a box to keep my (new) dream diary in. I’d replaced the original with a Spellbox dream diary. Not as impressive as the original, but still, with a nice locking mechanism and decent paper for writing. Melanie made the box for me from scratch. Varnished it, and burnt a design into the top. Now the diary had a home. It was an exceptional achievement and I still love it.

dream diary box

Long before the dream diary, I still wrote down my dreams. I had a yellow notepad that I wrote a lot of dreams into. I even wrote a program in Perl when I was working at Racing Victoria, to catalog the dreams by theme and add more in as I had them. And yes, I had them. Every night was a plethora of images, whizzing through my head. I started writing them down as my conviction that what I dreamed was coming true. So many times I would experience a conversation and say “Wow. I dreamed that!” So, to prove it to myself, I started writing them down, so that I could come back to them when I had that experience again.

I’ve never experienced a moment that I have written down in my dream diary. Bummer.

One that could come true, after my last post:

werewolf dreamBut I’m getting ahead of myself. And the rest of this post is pretty much just an explanation of the dreams I’ve had, how they fit into my life, and what meaning I feel that they had/have. So I’m serious. If you hate being told dreams by your friends, even if they have pictures attached, you probably don’t need to read any further. I’m not going to get overly philosophical. I just want some of this out of my head and out onto a blog. Call it selfish and indulgent, I can handle that. I promise I’ll be more interesting next week.

Here’s the first page (all images clickable for better views):

front page

As it says here, the greatest part of my dreamscape was a place I dubbed Alternate Kyabram. I grew up in Kyabram. I lived in Heathcote, Redesdale, even Canada during my formative years, but from 1983 until 1992 I was in Kyabram. I delivered papers, I explored the back streets with my friends. I imprinted the town onto my brain like a mental brand. And as much as I tried to get away from the place, when I slept, I was back there.

There were a few changes. And streets didn’t always go to the same places. I also dragged in my grandparents’ places from Castlemaine and Kyneton, although sometimes they were the same place. And as I spent more time in Melbourne, there were roads to the city from my little country town.

Here’s the map, and a legend:

dreamscapelegend to dreamscape

here be dinosAs my dreaming was so vivid, I did a lot of reading about it. I tried to convince myself that dreaming was something special. I dream in colour, which is supposedly a sign that you are creative. I have attempted lucid dreaming and astral projection, all after reading about them in books (with no luck, sorry to say). I’ve looked at the meanings of different symbols in dreams. For example, shops and shopping centres are supposed to be a reflection of your subconscious. Next time you dream about being in a shop, take a look at what’s on the shelves. On second thoughts, for some of us, it’s better not to look too closely.

My shop’s shelves are usually filled with books, magazines and toys. What does that say about me?

I really don’t want to go on and on about this. I just wanted to whack up a few fragments. The dreams in the diary start from 2001. There are some transcribed from long before then. The last one is in 2009. When I started using the CPAP machine, my sleep was completely dreamless. I slept solidly from the time my head hit the pillow until I was woken by the alarm clock. By the time my body started to even out and my subconscious started forcing dreams upon me again, I was out of the habit of writing them down. I dream a lot more now, and probably should write them down in the marvelous dream diary once more. But I think that phase of my life is passed now.

This is its eulogy:

click for more.

 

part onepart twopart three

random nightmare

IMG_1119

IMG_1123

It is self-indulgent. I’m not seeing anything that would be interesting to anyone else. I’m going to stop now. Dreaming is an incredible invention of the human race. The number of stories I’ve sucked out of a dream… and then thrown away because basically dreams make absolutely no sense! I have, however, had a couple of dreams that have turned into quite interesting stories. And of course, there is the old stand-by for story creation:

what if…?

And I get a goodly number of “what-if” stories out of my dreams.

Sweet dreams!

Child logic

Cute werewolf. Not scary.

Cute werewolf. Not scary.

NB: Thought I’d try drawing my own pictures instead of taking stuff from the Internet. Don’t know how long it will last, but here goes.

My 8yo step-daughter Ophelia is now completely terrified by werewolves. We were over at her friend’s place and they were watching Michael Jackson video clips (damn you Michael, stop messing with our children, even from beyond the grave). When Thriller came on, she was transfixed by Michael’s yellow eyes and ‘cat ears’. It was clear proof that werewolves existed.

That night (P is for parent. The irresponsible responses were probably me. The thoughtful ones were more likely my wife):
O: I’m not going upstairs alone. The werewolf will get me.
P: There’s no such thing. Go to bed.

(I am a caring step-parent)

O: I can’t. Walk me up.
P: No. Turn on the lights on the way up. You’ll be fine.
O: I can’t. If I reach into the room to turn on the lights, the werewolf will get me.

(Aargh)

P: Monsters are scared of you. Just yell “Shoo monsters!” as you climb the stairs. I’ll watch you.
O: Shoo monsters.
P: Louder!
O: Shoo Monsters!

If it were me, I’d be less than reassured that my mother could see me as I was devoured by monsters.

O: There’s something in the spare room.
P: Then don’t go in there.
O: Duh! I have to go past it to get to my room!

Michael's a dick.

Michael’s a dick.

Of course. With a lot of shoo monstering she was in bed. I say don’t give in to fears like this. But when we came up to tuck her in, shortly afterwards, we quizzed her on the werewolf thing.

P: You know werewolves are made up, don’t you? You’re not worried by zombies.

(By this stage, I’m feeling your judgement. Stop it)

O: Zombies are silly.

(Hooray for Plants vs Zombies)

P: And werewolves?

O: Michael Jackson had those yellow cat eyes. I hate Michael Jackson. Why would he do that?

We explained about contact lenses and makeup. We agreed that Michael Jackson was an idiot.

P: You weren’t scared by the ogres or the spiders in Harry Potter, why are they different?

(Again, stop judging)

O: They were, like, sooo not real.

Seriously? She’s 8. She really says this. No more Winx Club for her. Another point: kudos to Michael, whose 80s werewolf effect was more “real” than state-of-the-art CGI.

This conversation lasted all this week. Every now and then:
O: Are werewolves ambushers or scavengers?
P: Neither. They just run about killing people. Plus, they’re not real.

O: In stories, (clever change of tack) when do werewolves come out?
P: During the full moon. Depending on the story, usually the night before, the night of, the night after. But they’re not real.

O: Is it a full moon tonight?
P: Er, yes, but it doesn’t matter, because werewolves aren’t real.

Good parenting.

Good parenting.

O: How do you become a werewolf?
P: It depends. If you are bitten or scratched by one, you become a werewolf. Otherwise they just eat you.
O: So,  (ignoring the eating bit, thank the gods) how did the first werewolf get made?
P: A curse, usually. Someone annoyed a witch or a god.
O: Oh. Do they live in the city? Cos there’s lots of places here for them to hide.
P: Not really. They prefer forests and open spaces.
O: And they’re people, except for the full moon?
P: Yup. But they’re not real.

O: If I was a werewolf, I’d lock myself up during a full moon so I didn’t kill anyone.
P: That’s what Oz did in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (No, she hasn’t seen Buffy)

P: Ok. Seriously. They aren’t real. What evidence do you have to suggest that they are?
O: We-ell, if they were real, I suppose they’d be on the news.
P: Exactly. Have you seen them on the news?
O: No-o.
P: There you go then.

Of course, there is so much wrong with using that argument to make a point that I can’t even begin. But at this point, I’m not trying to have a discussion about belief or the reliability of the media. I just want her to sleep without all of the lights in the house on.

Werewolves don't do doors.

Werewolves don’t do doors.

O: So, werewolves won’t come into the house?
P: Nope. It’s too much of a hassle. There’s always someone wandering about in the bush or down a deserted road. By the way, could you take the dogs out into the backyard so they can go to the toilet?

My wife, working through the issue, got Ophelia to acknowledge that what she’s afraid of, with werewolves, is that she might die. So the issue is death, not a monthly curse and a diet high in raw meat. And that sounds about right for her age.

Not Me: There you do then. There are lots of other ways to die than by werewolf!

(I had to make sure I wasn’t blamed for that comment)

I’m pretty sure I was that age when I realised I might die and started freaking out at night time, much to the consternation of my parents, I would assume. I don’t remember ever abstracting my fear of death through ghosts or werewolves or anything. I went straight for the hardcore stuff. I mentioned that in an earlier blog.

No. Actually, there was an episode of Greatest American Hero. Our hero was lured into a cave or a dark room and then attacked by vampires. He wash!t invulnerable to them and the attacks in the dark freaked me out completely.

My brother-in-law, when we talked about it yesterday, suggested that “an ogre is always an ogre” but that a werewolf can be anybody. Taking that further, the werewolf has always been a metaphor for the beast in all of us. The ability (and even desire) to lash out and be destructive without being responsible for the actions. The werewolf did it, it wasn’t me.

I was going to use O as an intro to something bigger on fear in general, but this looks like a post in itself. Excellent. Fodder for the next one.

Night night. Don’t let the werewolves bite!

Imagination and the post-y generation

tripodLast night we went to see Tripod: Men of Substance. It was a vaguely depressing show, as the boys (men, now) addressed turning 40 and sixteen years of performing. Shereen thought it was hilarious. I looked at us, 16 years ago, drinking at the Prince Pat and watching Tripod doing Open Slather. Each of them had their own coloured shirts. It was fresh and funny and we’d drink too much and stagger home afterwards.

This show started at 8.45 and we were home by midnight. Sad sad sad.

I’ve always liked Tripod. They write for my generation and my type of person. There are references to Dungeons and Dragons, Star Wars and Commodore 64s. One of their songs last night was called “Waiting for the Game to Load” after putting the tape in, typing load and pressing play. Ah, the memories.

People magazine

Builders had good taste

At one stage they commented on having to go to the tip to get porn. When I was a pre-teen living in Kyabram, we used to hunt down building sites. There we would find the builders’ stash of People (tame) and Picture (less tame) magazines. I had no idea that there was anything stronger available until  high school and my introduction to working life as a paper boy. With 20 boys and 1 adult supervisor, suddenly we had illicit access to a whole new class of porn –Penthouse and Playboy at the tame end, Hustler and other plastic-baggers catering to whatever your particular fetish was at the other end.

But still, getting access to it required a bit of effort and some ingenuity. And of course, you had to outsmart your parents in the hiding. A regular rotation shift of location and the occasional emergency ditching to a friend seemed to work.

Now of course, the Internet has killed all creativity in that area. I teach a Cyber Safety unit at school. When I talk to the students about safe and unsafe uses of the Internet, I almost always have to take notes, as they list off incredibly thorough listings of sites with free access. Of course, they don’t tell me that these are porn sites. I ask them for popular web sites and they will say something like “Oh, I’m always on RedTube, sir, do you know it?” and then watch my expression closely. I have mastered the blank expression, but often I don’t need it. These students know more about free porn than I ever will (holding out wedding ring).

I got really side-tracked here from where I was going in this post. What was I going to say?

Oh yes, imagination.

Tripod’s other little gem was that boredom is the catalyst for imagination. My brother and I never got up in the morning thinking that today was the day that I would almost cut off his thumb. We would eat breakfast, sit around a bit, and then say “OK. I’m bored. What do you want to do?” And one of us would remember that there was a hatchet in the back shed, and a stack of wood that could be cut up. And of course, Justin would have to hold the wood still. And then there was the hospital trip and another experience arising out of boredom and imagination.

I’m not saying it right.

We would sit around, nothing better to do. And then Justin would point out that we could jump off the roof, onto the trampoline, and from there to the cushions and mattresses from the caravan. Mostly, he was right.

This is why I’m not in sales.

OK, last try. Dad would bring home a video camera. It was a massive thing, with a shoulder strap to hold the player, attached by a cord to the camera itself. We would spend hours creating film. We figured out how to do stop motion and would drive chairs around the backyard. We realized that if the camera was on a tripod (not a Tripod) we could do special effects, turning Elise into Dad and making people disappear. We would do David Attenborough specials through the wilderness of our backyard, and rope in our friends to create advertisements for made up soap and pet food. We let our imaginations run wild and rarely came back to earth.

bored is good

bored is good

I’m not even sure that teenagers today would get Calvin and Hobbes. “Is he playing some sort of a computer game?” “Is it something like Inception?”

Of course, there are still the precious few – those children and young adults who can live inside their minds and find the hidden worlds that exist all around the bored and the inquisitive. And imagination exhibits in other ways. The special effects that abound in today’s movies are incredible. And someone had to imagine that. Computer games are pushing the boundaries between interaction and storytelling, to great effect. Only two percent of novels are published, which means that for every novel on the bookshelves, there are … um, more (199?) that have been written, but not published, which is an amazing output of imagination. Imagination isn’t dead.

But:

Kids who spend all of their time playing Clash of Clans. Kids who don’t know the meaning of boredom due to being given iPods at the age of four. Parents who turn on the tv or the computer or the console whenever a child says “I’m bored.”

These people are giving imagination a damn good thrashing. I’m sure our creativity is diminishing as a species. And what does that mean for humanity as a whole?

It’s the dreamers, the bored and the curious who have gotten us to where we are today. If nobody is allowed to be bored, they won’t dream, they won’t have a need to ask “What will happen if I mix these two…” BOOM.

And may the gods help us then.

PS. A side not that I couldn’t fit in anywhere else: Film studios need to get past remaking films from other countries and other decades, or adapting nostalgic television into nauseating and forgettable cinema.

PPS. Today was the bored. Next week will be the dreamers. Does that mean I now have to write a curious blog post about skinning cats?

PPS. Finding Damo word count tomorrow. I’m also writing a new one-act play.

 

The Rabbit Pram

First up: the mo. http://mobro.co/damianperry

the mo

Next: Now that we own our own house, the family is keen to get a dog to go with the house. We have gnomes. Why don’t we have a dog?

And now the negotiations begin.

I want a big dog. A German Shepherd or a Kelpie, something that I can take for a walk or a jog down at the oval without having to disguise it as a Mogwai or something. I could even go a smaller dog, if it was a terrier – a Jack Russel perhaps. A cool, masculine dog. A dog with eyebrows:

fluffy mop dogShereen wants a placid dog. A mop, maybe a beanbag. Every dog she points out has shaggy hair and a hole for a broom handle… what do you mean, that’s not what the hole’s for? Dogs that wouldn’t feel stupid with a name like Fifi or Miffy.

Ophelia wants a cat. Dogs are cute, but cats are phenomenal. I agree, but Shereen’s allergies really preclude cat ownership.

So we are compromising. So far, the dog that both of us like best is a Scottish Terrier. “Och, Chum is soo chumpy, you could carrrve it!” Small for her, cool for me. We both liked the look of Beagles, but my sister and a few other people say they’re terrible dogs to train.

And then there’s the name. We were all happy with the name Moby. Ophelia came up with it. I thought it was remarkably literary of her until Shereen explained that it was the name of one of the characters in a trading card set she’s collecting at the moment.

But still, we don’t have to tell anybody that.

On the weekend, we went into the local shopping mall. The pet store in there had signs everywhere describing a new initiative they’ve taken on where they’ve partnered with an animal rescue group and sell rescue animals. It has nothing to do with the story, but there you go.

And then Shereen saw the rabbit. And fell in love. It came up to her and stared into her eyes with its big brown bunny peepers. And now she wants a rabbit instead of a dog.

“That would be a manly animal to take for a walk around the block,” I mused.

“We could get a special bunny pram, with a hutch on it. You could take it for a walk that way,” she said. Which led to a Facebook status. Which led to a few interesting misconceptions and a lot of confusion. Which led to this blog.

And now I should go and do some work.

The Three Muses

The Three Muses by ShagThere’s an artist called Shag who creates these visually brilliant works, one series based on ancient Greek mythology interacting in modern/fifties society. My favourite work of his is a triptych called The Muses. In it three muses inspire three different artists – a writer, a photographer and a musician.

My sister Elise was the first person to point out that this very aptly represented us: Elise, my brother Justin and myself. Since then, I’ve been trying to match a time frame where I have the money to buy them and the prints are available. One for me the writer, one for Justin the musician, one for Elise the photographer.

You know about me. I never shut up about me. But I think it’s well worth talking briefly about my siblings, blessed of the muses.

Justin is two years younger than me. We were extremely close as children, often decked out in the same clothing and doing everything together. I was very excited when I heard he was born: “Guess what! I have a new brother AND a new dishwasher!”

As a child he was a crazy thing. The number of times he would end up in hospital with stitches… Well, it probably wasn’t that many times, but it seemed like a LOT. And I only caused a few of them. Off the top of my head: the time I pulled him off the top bunk, and the time I stuck a dinosaur in his head. Did he get stitches when I almost chopped his thumb off with the hatchet? At least that homemade bomb didn’t work.

Justin was the one who jumped off the High diving board first, climbed the highest up every tree, discovered that you could jump off the garage roof, onto the trampoline and then somersault into a pile of cushions we dragged from the caravan.

He hated reading. He even wrote a book about it: The Bird that read too much.

the Bird who Read Too Much!

Once we were in high school, we grew apart. We argued, we fought. He was sporty, I seriously wasn’t. Apparently I ignored him and he was resentful of that. I just remember that my friends and me were extremely uncool and so had to be shunned. Both of these are probably correct.

And he was right into the piano.

Both of us had lessons. I think I started earlier, and had very traditional lessons. Justin had a teacher that taught him to listen to music, taught him chords and how to belt out a tune that just sounded cool. I pretty much gave up on the piano then.

The three of us stayed away from the others’ areas of expertise. We can all draw well, play one instrument or another and write. I’ve even taught photography. But I’d never say I was a photographer or a musician.

We started spending time together again when we found out Dad had cancer. Our first Christmas together after this involved us going to the Juice nightclub and drinking way too much. So much so that we were still drunk the next day at Christmas dinner.

By this stage, Justin was playing the guitar, the piano and the drums. He basically just picks up n instrument, fiddles with it for awhile and then has a pretty good grasp of it for the purposes of ‘jamming’. He’s the musician, and he’s damned good at it.

Strewth!Now, he’s married with two kids and is incredibly successful at what he does. He worked as a park ranger for years, and the stories that came out of that job could easily fuel their own blog. He is saving the environment in a thousand different ways without the exposure of Steve Irwin. Although he has been on TV.

Elise’s muse leads her to a deep well of photographic creativity. She has an incredible eye for what is happening around her. Her sons are going to grow up absolutely hating the lens, but Elise is making the most of their cute years.

Elise is seven years younger than me. We’ve always been close, to the point where we lived together for a time at university. She did photography at university while I was completing my teaching degree. And then she did a teaching degree, which is where she met Daniel, her husband and father to their two wonderful boys. And a fellow pop culture aficionado.

I missed most of Elise’s high-schooling. I know that she was in a TISM music video, being taught by one of the singers. I know that she drank too much coffee when she was going to school at Ringwood SC. But that might be just because I was a country boy and didn’t know what coffee was until I was at university. Even then, Double Jolt was my caffeinated beverage of choice.

At uni, she was a major band head, right into her music. Then I started to see how good at drawing she is. She has a number of guitars with sketches on them, and was a regular photographer for a number of bands. Her eye for an image is spot on.

A few major images I have of Elise:

Elise the gumnut baby1. As a cute, pig-tailed pre-schooler dressed as a gumnut, which won her… I want to say Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I don’t know why that picture and that image of Elise are linked together. It’s a weird prize, if that’s the case.

2. Lying on her back squealing with laughter after we’d held up a finger in front of her. Her face red with laughter and her eyes streaming, we could keep her going for half an hour, with mentions of E-Kidneys.

Us looking snazzy at the Grad Ball

Us looking snazzy at the Grad Ball – 2002

3. In her graduation gown, with me in mine, both entering the grown-up world (me for the second time). The food that night was horrendous.

4. Dressed in red, standing in the sweltering heat, freshly married to Daniel and directing the photography. I never saw her happier.
Elise is a published artist. Together with Daniel, she’s been published in a book called: Co.lab Words and Art. That makes all three of us published now!

I honestly feel blessed by the family I ended up with. They say you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family. Someone chose me a pretty good one.

Instant offspring

From the last blog:

The other night, I had a dream that my brother was only a child say about ten years old. He had a red parka on with the hood up and I couldnt see his face. He was autistic. He was playing in the playground and fell over. I ran over to help him up and to hug him better and he pushed me away because he didnt like being touched. It broke my heart. I woke up sobbing and it took me a good five minutes before I could wake up enough to realise it was a dream, calm down and go back to sleep. Im not sure what Shereen thought. She was very sympathetic. When we were talking about it the next morning, I said that if we found out she was pregnant any time soon Id be highly nervous following that dream.

And so the dice is thrown again, and another reality is realised in blog form. This is how the blog could have gone.

stork

I was sure that there was more to having a child than this…

I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to tell you that Finding Damo is, in part, about my finding out that I have a son. It is the first chapter of the book. The mental challenge has been: how would I react to having a son? How would he react to me being his dad? And what are you meant to do with a teenager when one is dropped on your doorstep?

The dream made me think through this in a lot more detail. How much luckier am I, who has perfectly happy son, who is a stranger to me, than the woman with the autistic child, who is an alien to her? She loves her son with all of her heart, but can’t get inside his head or in many cases understand his motivation.

But how would Damo react to the first fight? What would the major power struggles be? How has he been disciplined by his mother before Damo was on the scene?

I have to believe that being a teacher would give me a bit of an advantage over someone who has never dealt with students before. The “dealing” with teenagers is what I get paid to do. But apparently there’s more to it than that. All of a sudden you are not just responsible for his grades and schoolyard behaviour, but you have to take responsibility for his every action. Some of it I could blame on his mother – her genes and her rearing. But for the most part, all of a sudden, when a teacher complains about his behaviour in class, it’s my fault, at least in part. And I’ve felt it – even with students in my homeroom. I know what they’re made up of. They are so much better than how people see them. And I want to protect them. God knows, if that’s how I respond to students who aren’t genetically related to me, it’s going to be worse for my own son.

On the bright side, now I’d have someone to join in on the destruction of the evil forces of the Horde. Someone to train in the ways of Red Dwarf fandom. I’d have him do drills of Coupling quotes… That brings up another issue.

A student comes up to me and said “hey. I finished GTA IV last night. That last scene was an absolute killer. Blood everywhere!” And I responded: “Are you kidding me? You’re in Year 7!” I’m incredibly strict with anyone I have responsibility for. And totally lax with anybody else. My aim as a child-rearer is to create someone as self-aware and together as I am. Hey, don’t laugh. I wasn’t allowed to watch M-rated movies until I was 15 and it didn’t hurt me. I did, of course, go to my friends’ places for access to anything more adult – Predator and The Toxic Avenger come to mind, not to mention the videos I won’t mention (incredibly educational). More on this in a sec.

Sidebar for teachers: have you ever (and you know you have, don’t deny it) sat in Parent-teacher interviews and seen an attractive parent and thought “hmmm”? And then seen whose parent it is and put all those thoughts out of your mind. Luckily, I found the mother with the most gorgeous child imaginable. And not during parent/teacher interviews…

I try not to talk about my current family too much on Finding Damo. This blog is about a man that I used to be, that never was, but could have been. The person I am now shouldn’t enter into it. That’s spoilers! But in this situation, my current family is relevant.

My two stipulations for dating, two-and-a-half years ago, were:

  1. Must love cats.
  2. No children.

Now, I am married to my lovely wife, who doesn’t like cats and has a seven-year-old daughter. Which means I now have a seven-year-old step-daughter. Voila! Instant parent. And it’s all been very easy. Too easy, he says, eyeing the forest uneasily. I love my wife. I love my step-daughter. They both love me. Shereen’s favourite story is of the time Young Miss O said to her “I love you so much! I love you as much as Damian!”

O’s other major comment on me is “He’s strict. He’s teaching me manners!”

I’m really not. I’m teaching her my manners. The rules of conduct that I was raised with, and that served me well in polite society. I will admit here (and try and dissuade Shereen from reading it) that it might not be the only way of interacting with society. But it worked for me and, like a basic knowledge of Christianity (and Buddhism, and Islam, and SCIENCE!), at least knowing the rules is an invaluable part of getting on with the people she’ll be dealing with. Most of them, anyway.

How is this relevant? Young Miss O has been like research. How would I respond to this situation? Well, that was enlightening? What would she do if I did this? Oh. Well, there you go! Scribble it all down in the little note book and get back to the book.

As for the book, I’m going to start posting a word count at the start of each blog, from next blog onwards. It’s time I start progressing again and get this one finished. I have a clear understanding of everything I want to happen, I have an incredibly detailed plan. I have a multitude of interesting characters, with most of the names changed to protect the guilty, and all I have to do is get it all down on paper. So here we go.

Back from the bliss

Breakfast of champions!

Sorry about the last two weeks. I was on sabbatical. I was on my Honeymoon. I was living it up in the lap of luxury in sunny Queensland, sipping cocktails from the poolside bar and eating altogether too much each morning from the breakfast buffet. It was the most relaxed I’ve been in two years. I left my technological devices behind and that made all of the difference. Of course, that meant that I wasn’t writing blogs.

I know that the ideal way of doing this is to let my readers know that I’m going to be on holidays, but it just popped up on me without warning (you know, apart from the six weeks advance warning I had when booking it).

As per normal, I now owe you two blog posts. So this one is going to be a blatant self-promotion, owing to a number of very exciting things happening at the moment. The second will be one of my ever-exciting, interesting and amusing posts on the nature of life and the universe.

 

But first the blatant self-promotion:

Finding Damo came about as an attempt to get inside the head of my main character Damo. It was meant to be blogs from the actual character and ended up being posts from the increasingly disturbed mind of his author as his random conspiracy theory-addled brain made more and more sense to me.

But it was about making it easier to write the novel, thus getting it finished and published and me becoming the next Nick Earls.

The other thing that helps me get published is having other stories up for sale. Which is what I accomplished just before I went away. Alfie Dog publishing have just accepted a couple of my stories for publication as eBooks.

Be Practical and Ted’s Souls are two short stories that I’ve had accepted for publication in different areas, but for various reasons never saw the light of day. Finally, they are available for your reading pleasure. Apparently the highest purchase of any one story has been 17. I’m thinking my PR machine can beat that.

My stories go live on the 15th July (UK time, so maybe the 16th here in Oz). Put that date in your calendars, although be assured that I’ll be spamming the date once my stories are up and ready to go.

Go to: http://alfiedog.com/products-page/damian-perry/ on the 15th July and feel free to buy the stories at your leisure!

NAIV logoBut it’s not just my own writing that I have come to annoy you about. You know that I am a huge fan of Terry Pratchett, and am currently in the process of organising the Nullus Anxietas IV convention – the Fourth National Discworld Convention in Australia.

I’m in charge of PR – so if you haven’t heard of it by now then I’m not doing my job properly.

You can get access to all of the information on what’s coming up by following these incredibly well-written pages of information:

The Australian Discworld Convention website – currently under the control of our cousins in Adelaide.

The Nullus Anxietas IV Facebook fan page.

The Nullus Anxietas IV Google+ page.

The Nullus Anxietas IV twitter feed.

Do you get yet that the name of the convention is Nullus Anxietas?

The most exciting part of the Nullus Anxietas (IV) experience right now is our involvement in Pratchett-Palooza, being run by Dymocks. They have their own Facebook fan page, but refuse to go to Google+ so I’ve duplicated the various events through our page. You can also access the Dymocks events page.

The most important event on this calendar (quite apart from 3 for 2 Pratchett books) is the Pratchett Promenade. The culmination of a month of Pratchett fun! Involving a fashion catwalk, a talent quest, costumes and merriment. I have a special stake in this one, but you won’t find out until the night.

Finally, thank you to everyone who contributed to the Write a Book in a Day event. The boys completed two books totalling about 20,000 words in the space of a day, with illustrations. And then bound it and sent it off. We are waiting to find out whether they won any of the awards, but we raised over $500 in the attempt, which is fantastic.

And so, it is a busy time. I’m flat out. Now is the time for relaxing, but I don’t think it will happen. Sometimes I look at my life and think: I could really do with some time off.

But, nah! Holidays are exhausting!

Parenting plates.

PsSo far, I’ve written an entry for every week that I’ve been doing this blog. I may not always write every week, but I’m keeping up with the quota. I’m glad I’m not one of my students. I’d be going home with a “work not done” sticker. Which I would promptly ignore.

This is a rant. A relatively light-hearted rant, but a rant nonetheless. A goodly amount of people will completely disagree with some of what I say, and as always, I have done no actual research before writing this post, so they may well be right. But it’s what I believe. Erm, what I believe today.

I’ll start by tellling parents they need to be more involved with their kids and end up saying that you shouldn’t be allowed to have kids without a license. Stick with it, it’ll be a laugh riot!

Here goes.

Parental involvement

All the literature says that the biggest contributor to a child’s success in education is not the school they go to, or the expensive iPad they use, nor the wonderful teachers (shooting myself in the foot here) or the canteen food. Student success is directly linked to parents’ involvement in their education.

Stuff the research. I spend all day with students and could point at each student and say “he rarely sees his parents after school” or “his parents read the English novel as well so that they can talk about it.” On parent/teacher interview nights, I complain that the only parents I see are those of the kids who are doing well. But that’s an indication. If the parents cared enough about their kids to show up to parent/teacher interview nights, I might be saying better things about them.

Of course, there are always the harried parents, shuffling from teacher to teacher, knowing exactly what they’re going to hear and dreading it. They love their child, and hate hearing teachers bad-mouth them over and over. Or offering helpful, sympathetic advice. Or saying “he seems like a nice kid, BUT”. I’m not saying there aren’t exceptions. It may be that this child with caring, loving parents, will bloom after school: in their career, or as an adult. Or they might just be broken, and all of the love poured into them dribbles out through a hole in their damaged little soul.

Parents that are involved with their kids breed kids that are going to be interesting and involved adults. Not necessarily nice adults. But at least they’ll be involved in society. What’s more, nice, involved teenagers come from children who were cared for and had parental involvement from birth. Leading me to my next commandment:

Read to your kids.

This one I’ve seen from both sides of the equation – teacher and student. From when I first met Shereen, she would read to her daughter every night before bed. Picture story books, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, The Magic Faraway Tree and any number of others. We also had books on tape, that Ophelia could listen to as she was winding down in the evenings. Now she’s in Grade Two. I bought her How to Train Your Dragon for Christmas when she’d just turned six. At seven, she’s just finished Pratchett’s Bromeliad trilogy, The Amazing Maurice and is almost done with Wee Free Men. She’s read all of Roald Dahl’s books.

Esio Trot

She read Esio Trot in just over an hour. I smiled to myself and thought: “Ah yes, read.” And started to ask her questions about the plot. She could answer comprehension questions on every chapter. I was amazed.

Now I’m not saying that she is this good because Shereen read to her. I am saying that she wants to read all of these books because Shereen read to her. I am saying that reading to her gave her the curiosity and the drive to want to learn to read so that she could explore these worlds for herself.

And I see the students in my English classes. I can again tell the students who have been read to, and those that can recite whole episodes of the TV show Ben 10 but can’t tell you who Peter Pan is (“that’s a Disney movie isn’t it?”). The Three Little Pigs are slowly disappearing from our culture and Red Riding Hood has been relegated to a truly awful movie directed by the woman who destroyed the first Twilight movie. And seriously, making that book worse was an achievement!

All of my nieces and nephews have a love of the story. And they’ll all do well at school, one way or the other.

Read to your kids.

And stop feeding them garbage.

ADHD is a Myth

Man, that was a terrible sequeway. But I’m ranting. Expect shifts in topic.

I’d change the heading for this bit, but I want to be a bit controversial. Obviously, ADHD is a documented medical condition. I’m not a doctor. And as per normal, I’m not doing any hard research on this to try and disprove it.

ADHD is real. Most kids don’t have it.

Ow. Ow. Stop throwing things at me. Really. Doctors over-prescribe ADHD because parents don’t listen to the original diagnoses: your kids are eating too much rubbish. Your kids aren’t getting enough sleep. Your kids are watching too much TV and playing too many computer games and aren’t getting enough exercise.

You don’t care? OK. Here are some pills.

Food

mmm, brekky.

Diet is incredibly important to the growing child. Different foods and drinks have astounding effects on children. And probably adults as well, but we are better at masking it. I despair when I have to deal with a child who is diagnosed as ADHD and they come to school with a can of Red Bull in one hand and a donut in the other. Might this combination not have some effect on his behaviour?

No doctor should be allowed to prescribe Ritalin or any other ADHD drug before the parent can prove that they have put their child on a month-long balanced diet, free of processed foods and stimulants. Hell, make them put up with what I’ve had to: no dairy, gluten, sugar, red meat. Fresh vegetables, lots of fish, plenty of water and see me in a month. If they’re buying crap at school, don’t give them money to spend at school. Be a dictator. We’re not allowed to run the country properly, at least run the child properly. They’ll thank you for it in the long run.

Actually, no. They probably won’t thank you at all, but they’ll be healthier and lose less teeth from Ritalin poisoning.

Sleep

Teenagers need more sleep than adults do. Their bodies are war zones of hormones and emotions and even if they’re only saying “mawaiunno” to you when you ask them a question, their brains are whirring with a thousand seemingly vital problems.

If I make a random statement about Game of Thrones, which starts at 9.30 and a Year 7 pipes up with “Yeah, that bit was great! She had nice boobs, didn’t she?” then that Year 7 student is either stealing TV from the Internet or not getting enough sleep.

And they have nice taste in boobs.

However, that aside, it isn’t a bad thing to say “no computers in the bedroom”, “no TV in the bedroom” and most importantly “no phones in the bedroom”. My iPhone is almost more powerful than my computer. It is by far more useful for instant communication and retrieval of information. And it connects me to my friends and work twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

I do have my phone in my bedroom. I don’t sleep as well as I should. But when I do want to sleep, on goes Airplane mode and away goes the power of communication. There is no way that a student is going to do this. So, to be prepared for the following day (or whatever they will believe), phones are all on charge in the kitchen before bed.

And lock ‘em in. Stuff the fire safety codes.

I didn’t say those last two sentences. That would be incredibly rash.

Stimulation

She doesn’t deserve to die!

This one should be a no-brainer. Grand Theft Auto IV is rated MA15+ for people aged 15 and above. If a Year 7 student is telling me how he cut the throat of a hooker to get his cash back after the trick, someone has dropped the ball on following the ratings system.

But that’s not the point. The point is that playing computer games hyper-stimulates your brain. It tricks the body into thinking that it is participating in a fight-or-flight scenario and fills you with lots of lovely chemicals designed to help you avoid the tiger or pillage the neighbouring village.

Without the accompanying exercise – frantically climbing a tree or setting fire to a grass hut – all these chemicals do is give you a pleasant buzz and a desire to KILL SOMETHING NOW AARGH ARGH.

Television and computer games are specifically designed to provoke emotional responses. That’s what makes them popular. Letting them loose on your children without checking them out for yourself is … how much trouble do I get in for calling that irresponsible? It’s a rant, I’ll risk it.

It’s irresponsible. And then you send them to us, the teachers, and wonder why they aren’t doing any work at school, hopped up on Red Bull, jonesing on 4 hours of post-gaming sleep and spoiling for a fight.

For the most part, we love your kids. Why else would we do this job? We want to see them achieve their best and become useful, productive and interesting members of society. And for the most part, we do our best. And in most (?) cases, we succeed.

I just don’t want that success to be in spite of what the parents are doing. I would love it to be because of what the parents are doing.

And I’m probably not talking to you. The parent who is doing everything, or most things right. And I get that raising a kid is hard. As I say, I’m on both sides now. And have been before. And sometimes, no matter what you do he still goes out and sets fire to the tennis court, or smashes down a toilet door.

And I get that sometimes it’s just too hard to cut up the vegies, when Maccas is around the corner. I’ve been there too, and have the extra 20 kilos to prove it.

And really, probably, the people I want to read this don’t read. Or won’t read. Or can’t read.

Oh damn. I really nearly finished this off then. I have one more thing to say. Something Pippa and I have been advocating for years. Something most teachers would probably get on board with:

When you hit puberty, you have to give up your reproductive organs. I’m sure there’s a safe way to do it. Keep ‘em in a jar beside your bed to remind you of what you’re aiming for.

When you decide that you want to become a parent, then you undertake the parenting test. There is a theory component and a practical. It would be competency based. You prove that you are fit to usher a new life into the world and shape it into a productive member of society.

Then we give you your P plates – your Parenting license. And you can breed like rabbits and the world will be a better place.

My only sneaking suspicion is that parenting licenses might bring on the rather speedy extinction of the human race.

OK. Done. I think I managed to insult or offend almost everybody on the face of the planet. Sorry.

PS. I was looking for a P plate for the start of this post and found the following picture, which now has a completely different connotation:

Look, she has her Ps!

Look, she has her Ps!

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