Monday, 29 July 2013

Three Kevins and 13 reasons why a mother is always late

(This is Kevin McCallister who was left home alone because his parents were so distracted by their children that they left one of their children behind.)
I don't like being late. It makes me tense. And when I'm tense, I'm not good company.  Which is why, when people invite me and my kids over for a barbecue or a get together, I get prematurely tense about the fact that:

       a) my kids will make me late

       b) I'll turn up with my "Kevin from Parenthood" face on and

(This is Kevin Buckman's tense face)

        c) as a direct result of my having this look on my face, nobody will want to talk to me.

Before I had kids, I was quite punctual  

In fact, without the trail-of-disaster-that-is-my-children dragging behind me, I would often turn up early and have to loiter outside in the car waiting until the  numbers on the dashboard clock ticked over to a more socially acceptable arrival time.

My point is, if I am late, it follows without exception that it is my children's fault.  

It's just a cause and effect thing that can be summed up by the following mantra:

They exist therefore I am late.

(This is Kevin Descartes, who said, "I think therefore I am.")

But if you prefer more detailed explanations for tardiness, here my top 13 reasons for always being late which can all be blamed on my children.


 I'm late because ...

  1. When I stood at the door shouting, “It’s time to go!” no one listened to me.
  2. I was so busy itemising all the things that everyone else needed to remember that I forgot what I needed to remember and had to go back for my handbag.
  3. One of my kids had to go back inside to get something, whereupon he came back out and shut the door behind him, with the keys still inside the house. We then spent half an hour trying to break into our own home until we realised it's actually not that difficult, because someone had left the back door wide open.
  4. My children need to be repeatedly reminded to put shoes on and because I only reminded them four times to put shoes on, someone walked out the door without shoes on and we didn't realise it until we were halfway here and I said, "Has everyone got shoes on?"
  5. We left the front door wide open and had to go back to shut it.
  6. We thought we'd left the front door wide open and had to go back to see that we had actually, for once remembered to shut it.
  7. As we were leaving, the next door neighbour alerted us to the fact that our guinea pig was cowering beneath  their car.  We had to spend half an hour pretending that we cared, unsuccessfully trying to lure it out by alternately throwing bits of food at it and prodding it with a plastic golf club. Eventually we gave up and as far as we know, Patches is still quivering beneath the neighbour's car.
  8. Someone shut their finger in the car door and so I had to spend some time pretending that I cared about that.
  9. My son wouldn't move his foot so I shut the car door on it and then he cried and I had to spend some time pretending that I was sorry.
  10. Somebody wet their pants (not me) and so we had to find him another pair of jeans, which was when I realised that he has grown too tall for all of his long pants: hence, therefore, ergo he has come as Dr Knickerbocker.
  11. We couldn’t find (insert youngest child's name here.)  We spent 15 minutes calling out, searching every room and looking under every bed for him until we realised that he was out the front waiting patiently to be let into the car.
  12. We had to find someone’s left shoe/blankie/Lego fire engine/origami frog that someone made you as a gift/rock collection because suddenly just as we were walking out the door it was absolutely essential that we bring it.
  13. We drove off with someone's left shoe/blankie/Lego fire engine/origami frog that someone made you as a gift/rock collection/my handbag on the roof of the car and had to retrace our steps until we found it somewhere on the road between home and your place.

Friday, 26 July 2013

A gig, a lyric sheet and some sounds from the past ...

If you remember me from the '90s, come and see me at the Roxbury Hotel in Glebe on the 31st August. It's a nice comfy room for old people and I've been rehearsing with a great band for about three months (because I like to be prepared.)

Alannah Russack, from my favourite fuzz-pop band of all time, The Hummingbirds, will be doing a special guest spot.

When I was at uni, studying architecture (incongruous but true),  The Hummingbirds were local indie heroes 

I used to listen to their album, "Love Buzz," while I drafted up my (very bad) designs of public buildings with too many toilets. (My obsession with having enough toilet cubicles for every person in the Opus Musivum Town Hall is a whole other story.)

I would start in the afternoon, with my desk lamp on and as dusk fell I would end up in a pool of light, hunched over my drawing desk, with The Hummingbirds swirling around me. It was a sweet time when pop music really got inside my heart.

Something about the way Alannah weaves harmonies really hits the mark for me.  My favourite Hummingbirds song at the time, was "She Knows". The lyrics are vague and I have no idea what they're on about, but somehow the melody and the way Alannah weaves her voice around Simon's vocal,  made me feel like I wasn't alone in whatever I was feeling at the time.

Above all, The Hummingbirds made me want to write simple sweet pop songs that would dig into people's hearts

And on that note, below is a lyric sheet from about 1989, that I found in an old photo album.  It's the original working sheet for a song I wrote with my best friend and songwriting partner at the time, Julia Richardson. We were two 19 year old girls, trying to be Lennon and McCartney (just like a million other songwriters before and since.)

The song is called, "Da da da da." The number "22" in the corner of the page is, I think, the number of songs we had written, with this song being the 22nd.  We were quite determined to keep count, as you can see.

The writing in black, is Julia. The blue writing is me.  As you can also see, I was determined to stuff up her very well-crafted pop song by adding a chorus of ... "Da da da da." It was good of her to indulge my fancy.

I hadn't listened to "Da da da da" for years. Julia had a copy on CD and she uploaded it to the sound cloud. When I listened to it recently, it made me feel stupidly happy.  See if you can hear where I have tried to be Alannah to Julia's, Simon by weaving stuff in the background.


My contribution to the songwriting lexicon has improved since then 

And at the Roxbury on the 31st, I will be playing a lot of tunes from this album:

Light Sleeper

Plus my single

Lap it up ...

... which, I was surprised to realise last week, was actually no. 52 in the 1994 Triple J Hottest 100, (as opposed to no.68, which is what I have been telling people all these years; when it's relevant, not just apropo of nothing, you understand.)

I am also always surprised by the hideous makeup job and wardrobe in this video.  (Hello, Panda Eyes in your smart mannish suit ...)  But I digress.

I hope you have enjoyed my foray into multimedia posting. See you on the 31st August.

I'll be the one on stage with the guitar, hollering unashamedly about my inner-most feelings. 

Sunday, 14 July 2013

10 kids you don't want to have over for a playdate

Playdates are a double-edged sword: on the one hand, once you've organised one, you feel like Mary Poppins, on the other it means you have to put up with someone else's kid.  And other people's children are like bodily emissions: they are so much more offensive when they are not your own.

I have done my share of playdating  and I have experienced the full gamut of behaviour: from the kid who likes to shove toddlers for sport, to the child who loudly gives her uninvited judgement on my housekeeping skills (or lack thereof.)  I know my kids aren't perfect, in fact I know that one of my twins is an appalling "passive aggressive non-eater" (see number 4) when he goes to other people's houses, but in the interests of sharing impartially, here are ...

10 kids you don't want to have over on a playdate



 1. The kid who likes to dump his load outside his own council precinct

Obviously that's a metaphor. I could be plainer if you like. But suffice it to say, one of my friends has a neighbourhood kid who comes over frequently, walks in the door and goes straight to the bathroom, whereupon he dumps his load.  According to my friend, it is quite the "consignment": a real "wide berth for a good half hour" kind of situation, if you know what I mean.


2. The proactive self-inviter

I know for a fact that all my kids are guilty of this one.  Because I am so slack on playdates, they have been known to grease the wheels a little by  inviting themselves over to other people's houses.  But the trick is, they tell me they have been invited over, whereupon I approach the other mother to organise the details and before you can say, "AWKS!"  she's experienced the ultimate PINCER manoeuvre and the kids are too excited for anyone to back out.  Apologies to any parents who have been the unwitting victims of this ruse on my kids' behalf.


3. The kid who thinks an invitation from another kid is an official invitation

This is sort of subsection b) of the above and again, guilty as charged on behalf of all my kids. It is my nephew however,  who is the ultimate mastermind of this extremely cunning ruse. Being an only child, he's extremely motivated in the area of getting some playdate action. He gets on the phone, makes the call, talks to his friend, his friend relays the "invitation" to Mum as though it's an official, parent-sanctioned type of invitation and before you know it, a car has pulled up outside my brother's house, dumped a kid on the curb and roared off with a tire-squeal that says,  "See you later sucker!"


4. The passive-aggressive non-eater

"I'm hungry."
"What would you like?"
"What have you got?"
"Biscuits, fruit, sandwiches ..."
"Oh no thanks, I'm fine, I'll just have some water."


5. The pervert

Perverse behaviour is contagious and some kids bring that pervert virus straight into your home and infect even the most innocent of children.  It's only when THEY come to visit that your child develops a sudden interest in private parts, random nudeness (like, "we just thought it'd be fun to ride the trikes nude ...") and strange homoerotic tableaus on the trampoline.  My eldest son had a friend who, whenever he came over, you could guarantee that if there was a quiet moment with a door closed, they were in there comparing their tackle. EVERY TIME. Now I know it's normal for kids to explore their sexuality in all sorts of ways, I'm just saying, there was a common denominator and his name was, Quentin (not his actual name.)


6. The kid who wants to hang out in your bedroom

I don't know about you, but in my day, my parents' bedroom was generally not one of the accepted areas where you would take your friends when they came over.  But some kids just don't see that as a boundary.  They just treat your bedroom like an extension of the domain in which they are welcome.  And all day, you'll walk into your room and find they've created another excuse to be in there: playing hide and seek, checking themselves out in the full length mirror, looking for a pen, looking for the bathroom.  No boundaries.


7. The kid who thinks your pantry is his pantry

Again, in my day, you did not open up someone else's pantry and peruse the contents in a proprietary fashion.  I had one child visitor who used to go straight to the pantry, open the door and then stand there and rattle off all the things he wanted. "Can I've a Milo? Can I've some cashews? Can I've some of those small silver ball things  that you use to decorate cakes?" I was so aghast that I could only raise my hand to my throat as though clutching at my pearls Dowager Countess-style.


8. The terminator

Everything he touches, everything he looks at,  breaks. Nothing is safe. He even manages to break the dog.


9. The computer geek

This is the kid whose only idea of fun is a computer screen. He clocks it as soon as he walks in the door and then constantly badgers you about "going on the computer."  When you say no, he waits until your back is turned and before you know it he's in there, setting up his own youtube account and downloading new games and widgets (I don't know what widgets are but I found them mysteriously installed on my computer after Thomas (not his real name) came to visit.)


10. The wolf

Wolves have a method of picking the weakest animal in a herd and isolating it for attack.  Some kids have very unattractive wolf-like tendencies. If you have a small child, they will constantly lurk nearby waiting to pounce: to shove, to tease, to poke, to pinch, to snatch something. I loathe this child.  If I discover that a child is a "wolf" I cross him definitively off my playdate list.

What's your pet peeve on kids and playdates?

Friday, 12 July 2013

10 things I know now about being in a band ...

Recently somebody contacted me and said he had some live recordings of Club Hoy (a folk-pop duo/band I fronted with Julia Richardson.)  Would I like to hear them?

My first instinct was, "Good God in heaven, please destroy them immediately and let us never speak of this again."

Because here is the first thing I know to be sure:

1. Live recordings of any band are never goo

Unless you've gone in and set up for a live recording and remain acutely conscious of the fact that you are being recorded throughout the entire process, even the best live gig will not translate to audio only.  It's akin to recording yourself singing in the shower, then playing it back later MINUS  all the forgiving bouncy reverb that the shower tiles so kindly afforded you.

(See Linda McCartney's infamous "Hey Jude" backing vocal.  I'm sure it was fine in the stadium where she was being drowned out by everyone else and in her defence, sometimes it's hard to hear yourself on a big stage and above all may she rest in peace.)

The Club Hoy recording was from a gig in Perth (never our greatest crowd-pulling town) at a pub called, The Shenton Park.  And while I was not into mind-altering drugs and never have been, I do not have any memory of this gig, apart from a vaguely depressing image of a long room with dank green carpet.  The reason I could see the carpet, was probably because there were not many people the room.

The live recording with its sad smattering of (albeit enthusiastic) applause after each song, confirms this fact. 

Anyway, I downloaded the files, during which a brief snippet of one of the songs suddenly blared from my laptop without warning: a blast from the past indeed.  As predicted, the audio made me feel slightly nauseous; I think I actually broke out into a cold sweat in my haste to find the volume control on my laptop.

I completed the download then promptly forgot about it.

Then a few weeks later, the very kind man who had forwarded them on emailed me to ask if I had listened to them yet. I had to admit I had not. It seemed ungrateful and so I had another go.

To be honest, it wasn't all bad. There were moments of sonic beauty of the female harmony kind, interspersed with interminably long tracts of atonal, "back away from the microphone, foghorn lady" hideousness.

Overall, I don't think it was our finest live gigging moment.

This recording took place over 20 years ago and what I did realise was that I have learned a lot since then.

Here are the things I know now, that I didn't know then

2.  A backing vocal is a "backing" vocal 

So why am I singing my foghorn harmonies right INTO the microphone like it's the lead vocal. Somebody stop me. To be fair though, I think it is also a 'mixing' issew.

3. A song is not a running race

Vince (the drummer) and I seem to be engaged in a highly competitive race to the finish during House On Fire. I think he won.

4. "That look" she used to give me was for a reason

Regarding my "race to the finish" rhythm style: now I think I know why Julia (the other lead vocalist and guitarist) used to look across at me during some songs as if to say, "What the fuck are you doing?" At the time, I was thinking, "What's the problem? These are the right chords."  It did  not occur to me that the "problem" might be tempo-related. Note to self.

5. Girls can play lead

I know this is pretty much a given these days, but in those days, if you weren't messing around with some serious testosterone distortion, a "wah wah" pedal and making "I'm constipated" guitar faces, you weren't considered to be really playing that guitar.   As a result, I was always very self-conscious about my clean, chorus-sound, chin-out-in-concentration attempts to play any sort of lead guitar part.  But my lead guitar playing, (not withstanding the race to the finish rhythm parts) was not all bad. I played some nice little parts here and there, albeit workmanlike in their execution, but not bad. Not bad at all.  Retrospective pat on back to self.

6. Get an appropriate guitar

Don't get one that looks good. Get one that sounds right for what you are doing.  In this band, I used to play a white Kramer, simply because I once saw Neil Finn playing a black one. It sounds like crap and always did.  Julia alternately played a black and white Rickenbacker, (because we saw Susanna Hoffs playing one and it looked to die for) and a Les Paul copy inscribed with the name of the previous band who owned it: The Voodoo Prawns.   As evidenced by the name of that band, a Les Paul was probably not the optimum choice for a girly folk-pop sound.  In fact, none of these guitars, (except maybe the Rickenbacker in a jangly rhythmic way) was appropriate for the way we were playing them. Dumb girls indeed.


7. Going high and loud? Step back a bit

When one is singing a very high part, during which one must project to reach the note, take about three steps back from the microphone to give it "some air." I know that now.


8. One or two rounds of chords is enough of an "intro"

Sometimes when you start a song, it's like you're jumping rope and you missed the point of entry. So you wait a few more 'overs' then the longer you wait, the harder it is to just get in there and start jumping rope.  I seem to do that alot. There's a lot of very long intros made up of four or five rounds of the same chords before I actually start singing. I've been working on that lately.

9. If you're going to speak into the microphone say something interesting

Saying, "here's another song from the album," is not even worth saying. Just shut up and keep singing unless you're going to actually say something interesting.

10. Allow the audience to applaud you, for the love of GOD

DO: Finish the final song, let the crowd applaud you and THEN leave the stage in an orderly fashion.
DON'T: Drop your guitar AS you play the final chord, say "see ya ..."  and bolt off the stage like a squirrel scurrying for cover.

Don't believe me? Have a listen below:

And for those of you who are interested, I will be applying all of the  above at a one-off gig of my own at:

Saturday 31st August
with special guest Alannah Russack (The Hummingbirds)