Saturday, March 31, 2007

Meeting Deborah Kerr: Part One

In 1979, one of my favourite actresses - Deborah Kerr - arrived in my hometown of Melbourne to star in Frank Harvey's play The Day After The Fair at the Comedy Theatre. I was fifteen years old ... and it became my mission to meet her.

Based on the short story On The Western Circuit by Thomas Hardy, The Day After The Fair tells the story of Anna (Lynette Curran), a young, servant girl who meets an attractive stranger - Charles (Andrew Macfarlane), a barrister from London, at the local fair. Anna works for Edith (Deborah Kerr) - the unhappy and unfulfilled wife of the local brewery owner. When a letter arrives, to Anna from Charles, the illiterate Anna asks Edith to read it aloud to her. Edith does so, and is immediately captivated by the declarations of love and affection which have been sadly lacking in her own life. Edith, reluctantly, agrees to write a response which Anna dictates ... but as time goes on, Edith adopts the relationship as her own, but continues to sign the letters in Anna's name. Some months later, Anna reveals to Edith that she is pregnant, and the father is Charles. Believing that their unending love and devotion for each other will support them to the end of their days together and beyond, Charles proposes marriage and a wedding is arranged. The final scene of this monumental drama is the confrontation between Charles and Edith - when Edith confirms his worst nightmare: that instead of marrying this hapless, illiterate servant girl, it is in fact Edith that he is really in love with - and her with him.

I will never forget the final heart-beat of this production. Deborah Kerr, alone in the middle of a gargantuan set in a beautiful blue gown. As the love of her life strides out of the room, dragging his distraught new wife behind him, Deborah Kerr drew her hands to her face and threw her head back in utter despair. The stage, with the exception of the precise spot she was occupying, was plunged into darkness ... and Kerr's decimated Edith was alone in a blinding shaft of light from above, which - seconds later - was snapped to black.

I have never forgotten this night in the theatre. It is, I believe, one of my first truly great theatrical experiences.

It's Saturday morning and I make what will become the first of many telephone calls to the Comedy Theatre Box Office. It's the only number listed in the telephone directory. I say that I would like to meet Deborah Kerr. 'Impossible', is the response, and the call is ended. I'm fifteen years old. I don't fully comprehend impossible. I still don't. After waiting five minutes, I call the box office again. The lady on the end of the line politely explains that she is unable to grant my request, and again, the call is ended. Excuse me! I remember thinking ... getting my way with my own mother is never even this much hard work! I wait five minutes and call again. "This is the box office number darling", she tells me ... before recommending I call the Stage Door on the number she reads out to me, and ask to leave a message for someone called the Company Manager. I thank her, and we end our call.

No-one answers the Stage Door telephone. I try several times, but each and every time it rings out. I call my new friend at the Box Office again and explain that no-one is answering at the Stage Door. My friend laughs ... as I confirm that yes, I am going to call the Box Office every five minutes and repeat my request to meet Deborah Kerr. She asks me to wait a moment and, with what I imagine was her hand over the mouthpiece, talks to someone nearby. She takes her hand away from the mouthpiece and asks me if I will be happy to wait for a moment. Of course, I confirm, and I am put on hold.

I contemplate this new word 'impossible' ... and wonder how it can be applied to a young boy's request to meet one of his idols who is, after all, only an hour's drive away on Exhibition Street. We have a car ... the performance ends at some point ... and I have incredibly dutiful and obliging parents who will drive me. Where does this strange new concept of "impossible" figure in all this?

My friend comes back onto the phone. Can I be at the Stage Door after the performance this coming Friday night? Yes, I can be. Good, my friend confirms. You can meet Miss Kerr after the performance. Have I seen the play? Yes, I have ... and I prattle on about how much I loved it. My new friend interrupts me to tell me that she really has to go ... and I thank her for her time and effort. We end our call, and I race off to find the keepers of the car keys.

Friday afternoon finally arrives. I work, after school and sometimes on the weekend, at our local fruit shop and, quite possibly for the only time in my life, I have managed to save some money. My first stop is the florist. Now, you may not know this, but Deborah Kerr's favourite colour is blue ... so I march into the florist shop and ask for a bunch of blue flowers. Apparently, there are no blue flowers in stock. Here's that wretched 'impossible' again. I explain that I need blue flowers because I am going to meet Deborah Kerr tonight and her favourite colour is blue. The florist is immediately impressed, and suggests that we spray a bunch of white carnations with a can of blue dye. Perfect, I proclaim ... and five minutes later I am marching out of the shop with a bunch of, now blue, white carnations, wrapped in blue cellophane with a lovely big blue ribbon tied around them. (I'm only fifteen, after all - and as much as I am yet to fully comprehend 'impossible' ... the concept of "over-kill" is something I fear I will never understand.)

My next stop is the Milk Bar, where I buy a box of Cadbury chocolates in a purple box with a blue ribbon. Aha! A box of Cadbury chocolates in any colour other than purple really is impossible. I race home to get ready. I put on my best suit, shirt and tie ... and with my flowers and chocolates, and my The Day After The Fair theatre program and my The King and I record cover for Miss Kerr to autograph, I sit and wait until it's time for my father to drive me into the city.

With our car parked, my father walks with me to the Stage Door, which of course, is locked. Some time later, the performance ends ... and as the huge crowd disperses, I become increasingly concerned by the number of people who are gathering next to me at the Stage Door. There's at least fifteen people, and as I clutch my gifts and mementos to my chest, I am greatly concerned that I look like I may have over-prepared. Bruce Mansfield (then a very famous newsreader) is there, and it is his smile for me that instantly puts me at ease. I am dressed and ready. There's no going back.

Well, at least I didn't think there could be. Not now ... surely.

The Stage Door opens, and a man forces his way out and onto the periphery of our little group. He apologises ... but Miss Kerr will not be meeting anyone this evening. Every ounce of nervous tension and wondrous expectation escapes my body. My father, in his (on this occasion anyway) thrillingly stentorian fashion, says there must be some mistake. I burst into tears. I can't help it ... but neither, it would appear, can this harbinger of doom and disappointment. Miss Kerr is not feeling well and has requested that her wishes be respected. I now fully comprehend 'impossible'. My father continues to protest, shattered I now understand, by the sight of his proud and determined young son, dressed in a suit and tie and clutching his gifts and souvenirs to his chest, decimated by some prima donna's mild post-performance exhaustion. The man apologises again and disappears behind the closing Stage Door. The sound of the bolt is too final. Bruce Mansfield pats me on the head and tells me not to mind too much ... that there will be another opportunity.

As our vanquished little band disperses ... my father makes every effort to console me. I feel 'impossibly' sad. And foolish. Suddenly, the stage door opens and our harbinger of now utter despair and desolation, practically falls out onto the footpath. "I'm sorry, but is Geoffrey Williams here?" he calls. With reflexes polished by what could only be years of necessary adult reaction, my father turns back and confirms that indeed he is. "Miss Kerr will see you, Geoffrey", he says.

I have two very distinct memories of this moment: my father quickly ushering me back to the Stage Door ... and the look on Bruce Mansfield's face. Even fame, it would appear, still manages to make some things 'impossible'.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Review: The Nightwatchman

Reunion Dramas, and their close cousins, Memory Plays, have become trustworthy and reliable friends in the world of theatre literature. There is the parable of The Prodigal Son. There is Arthur Miller's The Price and Ernest Thompson's On Golden Pond. There is Catherine Hayes' memorably sardonic Skirmishes, which I saw at La Mama many, many moons ago. There is Brian Friels' Dancing at Lughnasa, the original Abbey Theatre production of which I was fortunate enough to see the night it opened on London's West End. And there is Daniel Keene's The Nightwatchman, commissioned by La Compagnie des Docks, Boulogne, France.

They are complex beasts, these reliable friends of ours. They are prone to sentimentality and over-embellishment. They can, in fact, occasionally be prone toward the very anithesis of reliability ... and sometimes even downright deceitfulness. They can be selfish, pre-possessing friends who are so wrapped up in the wonder of their own recollection that the fact we are bothering to engage with them at all becomes a point of conjecture ... both for them and us. And like any single memory, or catalogue of many, the extent to which another will find it compelling becomes entirely subjective. They sometimes battle to find the balance between necessary exposition and simply too much information ... not to mention the conflict between how we, as individuals, sometimes re-imagine the essential truth of an experience to suit ourselves. To remain, steadfastly within our comfort zones. To honour the truth - as we remember it ... or possibly as we prefer to remember it. My sister and I habitually disagree over details of our shared childhood ... to the point where I have been known to question whether or not we actually spent as much time together as we did experiencing the same things.

As The Nightwatchman begins, we are in the middle of a familiar ritual. A sprightly, elderly, blind patriarch, Bill, is preparing to sell the home in which he was born - a home he would later share with his (now deceased) wife and their children Helen and Michael - who have arrived to help their father prepare for the impending move away from, as far as they're concerned, all he knows and understands. But just how much does Bill really understand about the life he has lived ... and the people he has shared it with?

Listening to Daniel Keene is like watching butter slowly melt in a warm saucepan. It is hopeless to even attempt to try and resist the control he has over our shared destination. Keene is unrelenting in his determination that we shall arrive - not be left wandering and wondering ... and like all great craftsmen, Keene's is not necessarily the shortest route ... or the most scenic. But it will be the most memorable, and you will see, hear and imagine things you never knew existed. And there will be no room left in your heart for regret.

Sadly, this Griffin Theatre Company Australian premiere is rendered, almost painfully inert, humourless, impotent and fatally grounded. The experience of it becomes like watching the survivors of some hideous car accident wandering dazed and confused around what is left of their respective vehicles. It steadfastly refuses to honour the concept of pace ... that memories as contradictory, illusive, illusitory and life-changing as these rarely unfold in such a convenient manner. Memory assaults. The truth of memory - both cerebral and emotional - has the power to turn the strongest will, capable of even the greatest acts of denial, to dust. It has the power to determine the strength of our very ability to go on ... and endure.

Alice Babidge's design powerfully renders a minimalist post-apocolyptic world: the surface of the stage thick with tiny dull, dull grey pebbles ... and jet-black walls. "Once a garden" becomes the motif, but there was no evidence in the text that this garden had been decimated by a bushfire. It's the first of many significant and obtrusive elements that result in near-suffocation of the text ... most notably because the design, unlike the text, insists that the colour of blindness is black ... that simply because we can no longer see, we cannot recall a lifetime of the tones and flashes of light that inform Bill's, and our, experience of it.

It is difficult to know what to say about the actors. Alex Dimitriades (who had rehearsed the role of Michael) was indisposed, and Brett Stiller (fresh from his success in Holding The Man) was giving his third performance in the role. The lack of pace, combined with a veritable array of fussy stage business and quite simply too many unfulfilled comings and goings, constantly ambushes Camilla Ah Kin's otherwise steadfastly noble reading of Helen. Ah Kin's work, I can only imagine, would have been the most exposed to insecurity in Dimitriade's absence - given that they share not only a key relationship, but also a great deal of time together on stage. At first, I found her interpretation too calculated. Cool. Chilled. Later, her silent scream and her one genuine, heartfelt smile, immediately revealed evidence of a great performance struggling to get out. Brett Stiller was a revelation. I know a Michael. I know a Michael very, very well. He is a close friend of mine ... and he too, is a photographer who wears grey t-shirts and doesn't care too much for his hair. Stiller captures Michael's fatigue with life, his art and his character's distance from heart beautifully.

Sadly, given the complete lack of directorial purpose, it is William Zappa (Bill) whose pivotal performance becomes almost impossible to write about. There were certainly moments of the William Zappa who helped to inspire me to attend this production in the first place ... but he, too, is continuously upstaged by some of the more vapid directorial choices. As every one of Bill's senses is being tormented by an almost unearthly collision of time, place, sense and meaning - a heart-beat from the denoument - we are subjected to an embarrassingly fraudulent fall over a mis-placed chair. But nothing remains more difficult to comprehend than the 'miming of smelling the flowers' routine, up one entire side of the tiny Stables stage - only to deliver a beautiful monologue about something and someone to the jet-black back wall. There is sometimes a point in the theatre-going experience where it becomes simply impossible to forgive its flaws. And on this occasion, this was it.

Keene's text still manages to wrap its arms around you with phrases of compelling depth, beauty, clarity, playfulness and insight. It still manages to caress, stroke, massage and choke - even in spite of the treatment it receives here. And that is the mark of a truly great writer. On this point, my memory does not deceive me.

The Nightwatchman by Daniel Keene
Director Lee Lewis; Designer Alice Babidge; Lighting Designer Luiz Pampolha; Composer/Sound Designer Max Lyandvert
With Camilla Ah Kin, Alex Dimitriades & William Zappa.
A Griffin Australian Premiere.

Questionable Distraction: Part One

Scene: Night-time. Three men - let's call them Brad, Greg and Geoffrey - are perched on stools in a busy inner-city pub drinking beer. Brad and Geoffrey used to work together ... and they love to laugh and share a beer or ten - which, sadly, they do less and less these days. They haven't seen each other for a long time and are engaged in lively, nicotine-fuelled gossip. Greg (who knows Brad well but has only just met Geoffrey) is clearly enjoying their waspish repartee ... and of course Brad and Geoffrey are showing off shamelessly - like tipsy peacocks. In the midst of a veritable torrent of snide put-downs and caustic character assassinations, they pause for breath. Greg, taking the opportunity to participate, leans bravely into the conversation. "So, what do you do Geoffrey - if you don't mind me asking?"

It's an interesting question: "What do you do?" ... and one I find increasingly difficult to answer. Frankly, it's a real conversation stopper. My problem, you see, is that I don't really 'do' anything - at least not by the generally recognisable standards of polite social order and interaction. More for the sake of expediency than anything else, I told Greg* I was a "Fee Slut". I have come to really love and respect the term "Fee Slut". I first heard the term when, perhaps ironically now that I think about it, I had asked a gorgeously interesting woman I had just met at a party what she 'did'. A Fee Slut, as I expect you have already figured out, is someone who does anything for a fee. Fee Sluts are also people who can't be bothered going into what we perceive to be superfluous (not to mention difficult to summarise and justify in a minute or two) details about our lives with someone we've just met ... and are unlikely to ever see again.

One of the problems I have with the whole 'what I do defines who I am' concept, is that it can lead to somewhat premature conclusions about what we're worth ... what we offer to the world, or - at the very least - the conversation. It's as though the mundane, lung-cancer inducing thing(s) I 'do' to keep the roof over my head, the nicotine coursing through my veins and the caffeine coursing through whatever part of my anatomy caffeine courses through, somehow collectively offer a key to a greater understanding of who I am. I 'do' graphic design because my clients pay me to. I 'do' the odd little publicity or public relations gig because my clients pay me to. I write the very occasional Brand Management Discussion Paper because my clients pay me to. I typeset, I write copy, I mess around in Photoshop and Illustrator, I design display advertisements, brochures, catalogues, business cards, websites, letterheads, CD slicks and presentation folders because my clients pay me to. It reveals no more about who I really am than it does about who you really are.

Why do we do it? Why is it that with almost monotonous regularity, people - myself included - always ask this question within minutes of meeting someone ... and in just about any given circumstance? Is it that we expect the answer might put whoever it is we're asking it of in some kind of, I don't know, illuminating context? Does the answer ever really tell us more about the person than if we'd asked, say, "So, tea or coffee - what's your preference?" ... or "So, toilet paper - folder or scruncher?"

I have to be honest. Apart from the fact that I 'do' so many different things (most of which I find too common, ordinary and inane to even bother mentioning), the biggest problem I have with being asked this question is that I always imagined that by this stage of my life, people wouldn't have to ask me what I 'do' ... because they'd already know. You've just been introduced to Al Pacino at a party. What are you going to say? "Hi Al, Geoffrey. So, what do you do?" Or Steven Spielberg ... "Hi Steve. Nice suit. So Steve, what do you do?" You see my problem? I am wracked with pain, guilt, fear and regret about having failed to live up to the expectations I set for myself.

I expected to be famous.

I actually was famous once, albeit in a very suburban fashion. I used to have a career as an actor in television - until a nasty amphetamine habit rendered my eyeballs and my powers of short-term memory entirely useless for the purposes of an actor's requisite proximity to a television camera ... not to mention the messy little details associated with character development and story narrative. I was stumbling through what turned out to be an almost embarrassingly brief contract on a television show called Carson's Law. I was so drug-fucked that I once managed to get from North Dandenong (where I lived in heterosexual bliss) to Collingwood (where we were filming) in eighteen minutes. In morning peak hour.

Perhaps most problematic where my acting for television was concerned, is that I could never remember what I had just 'done'. My vainglorious association with the show came to an abrupt end when, during a scene featuring Lorraine Bailey and some poor hapless guest in the witness stand, my character had apparently 'done' something interesting by way of a reaction to what was going on. Make-up was called ... and as Ms Bailey looked on with thinly veiled impatience, a light metre was held up next to my blood-shot eyes, tape measures assured the cameraman of an appropriate distance between me and the camera, a light - about three metres from me - was inched closer, the large and heavy front panelled section of the jury box was moved out of the way, and the confidence-erradicating beast which is The Television Camera was swung in my direction and floated toward me. "Do that again", said the director. "Rehearsal! ... and, standing by ... and ... action!" "What ... exactly" I asked. "What you just did ... when you looked from Lorraine to (whoever it was in the witness stand)." I gave it a go. A crew member shifted his considerable weight from one foot to the other ... and as anyone who has ever worked as an actor for television will confirm, once you have the crew offside you can quite literally count what remains of your career options in nano-seconds. "No, no," said the director, "do the look ... ". Poor Lorraine, bless her. I still recall her wan smile of encouragement ... her vain hope that I might rise to the occasion. I gave it another go ... and the director looked at me with an expression that, today, I would recognise as a mixture of disdain, disappointment, contempt and bewilderment. Without either further adieu or the shot, he turned his back on me. The light that had been inched closer to me was moved back, the large and heavy front panelled section of the jury box was put back, and the confidence-erradicating beast which is The Television Camera was swung away from me and floated back to where the real actors were.

Some weeks later, an episode of Carson's Law I had been in was on television and the following day, I went with my Mum to Safeway to help with the grocery shopping. I wore my baseball cap and sunglasses ... masquerading as some kind of Glen Waverley-based, lame excuse for television royalty. As we stood in the check-out queue, both Mum and I started to notice that people were looking at me. A woman asked my Mum if it was in fact her son who had been on Carson's Law last night ... and Mum, who has never been more proud, nodded and smiled. As a small audience of admirers began to form around us, we gathered our groceries and left the shopping centre ... my wonderful Mum and her famous son.

Today, I feel Universally blessed to have had so many wonderful opportunities throughout my life to have had a go at 'doing' all sorts of interesting things ... but to what extent they define who we are is a subject I am really looking forward to exploring. Bear with me. This could get interesting.

So, what don't you do?

*Greg, by the way, is an Architect, Photographer and Writer.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

More Thursday laughs

My gorgeous girlfriend in the UK - Salli - is one of those people who loves to send me funny emails ... and given that I am still struggling with an especially recalcitrant blog entry, here - just out of the inbox - are some jokes which made me laugh. I hope they make you laugh too.

A woman came home, screeching her car into the driveway, and ran into the house. She slammed the door and shouted at the top of her lungs: "Honey, pack your bags. I won the lottery!"
The husband said: "Oh my God! What should I pack, beach stuff or mountain stuff?"
"Doesn't matter," said his wife, "just get out!"

A Polish immigrant went to apply for a driver's license. First, of course, he had to take an eye sight test. The optician showed him a card with the letters:
"Can you read this?" the optician asked.
"Read it?" the Polish guy replied, "I know the guy!"

Mother Superior called all the nuns together and said to them: "I must tell you all something. We have a case of gonorrhea in the convent."
"Thank God," said an elderly nun at the back. "I'm so tired of chardonnay."

A wife was making a breakfast of fried eggs for her husband. Suddenly, her husband burst into the kitchen. "Careful!" he said, "CAREFUL! Put in some more butter! Oh my GOD! You're cooking too many at once. TOO MANY! Turn them! TURN THEM NOW! We need more butter. Oh my GOD! WHERE are we going to get MORE BUTTER? They're going to STICK! Careful CAREFUL! I said be CAREFUL! You NEVER listen to me when you're cooking! Never! Turn them! Hurry up! Are you CRAZY? Have you LOST your mind? Don't forget to salt them. You know you always forget to salt them. Use the salt. USE THE SALT! THE SALT!"
His wife stared at him. " What in the world is wrong with you? You think I don't know how to fry a couple of eggs?"
The husband calmly replied, " I just wanted to show you what it feels like when I'm driving."

The last joke reminds me of a time when, while enjoying a holiday in WA's Margaret River with a very dear friend, my ... yes, self-esteem barely survived an especially memorable drive from our hotel to a local restaurant for dinner. The memories, perhaps ominously for the driver on that particular occasion, are flooding back in almost finite detail!

Brand management

One of the great joys of the email revolution is that every so often, someone (in this case, thank you JD!) will get their hands on an absolute pearler - to be pinged around the globe with breath-taking speed and efficiency. For my distraction dollar, the classic amongst these are those that belong to the 'really well-written Letter of Complaint' genre. I recall sketchy details of an absolute stunner sent to Optus (which I'd really love to get my hands on again - anyone?). So as I wrestle with an especially confronting blog entry of my own, here, for your enjoyment, is a superb example of the genre currently doing the rounds. Wendi - we salute you!

Dear Mr Thatcher,

I have been a loyal user of your Always maxi pads for over 20 years and I appreciate many of their features. Why, without the LeakGuard Core™ or Dri-Weave™ absorbency, I'd probably never go horseback riding or salsa dancing, and I'd certainly steer clear of running up and down the beach in tight, white shorts. But my favourite feature has to be your revolutionary Flexi-Wings. Kudos on being the only company smart enough to realize how crucial it is that maxi pads be aerodynamic. I can't tell you how safe and secure I feel each month knowing there's a little F-16 in my pants.

Have you ever had a menstrual period, Mr Thatcher? Ever suffered from "the curse"? I'm guessing you haven't. Well, my "time of the month" is starting right now. As I type, I can already feel hormonal forces violently surging through my body. Just a few minutes from now, my body will adjust and I'll be transformed into what my husband likes to call "an inbred hillbilly with knife skills." Isn't the human body amazing?

As Brand Manager in the Feminine-hygiene Division, you've no doubt seen quite a bit of research on what exactly happens during your customers' monthly visits from "Aunt Flo". Therefore, you must know about the bloating, puffiness, and cramping we endure, and about our intense mood swings, crying jags, and out-of-control behaviour. You surely realize it's a tough time for most women. In fact, only last week, my friend Jennifer fought the violent urge to shove her boyfriend's testicles into a George Foreman Grill just because he told her he thought Grey's Anatomy was written by drunken chimps. Crazy! The point is, sir, you of all people must realize that America is just crawling with homicidal maniacs in Capri pants ... which brings me to the reason for my letter.

Last month, while in the throes of cramping so painful I wanted to reach inside my body and yank out my uterus, I opened an Always maxi-pad, and there, printed on the adhesive backing, were these words: "Have a Happy Period."

Are you fucking kidding me? What I mean is, does any part of your tiny middle-manager brain really think happiness - actual smiling, laughing happiness - is possible during a menstrual period? Did anything mentioned above sound the least bit pleasurable? Well, did it, James? FYI, unless you're some kind of sick S&M freak girl, there will never be anything "happy" about a day in which you have to jack yourself up on Motrin and Kahlua and lock yourself in your house just so you don't march down to the local Walgreen's armed with a hunting rifle and a sketchy plan to end your life in a blaze of glory. For the love of God, pull your head out, man! If you just have to slap a moronic message on a maxi pad, wouldn't it make more sense to say something that's actually pertinent, like "Put Down the Hammer" or "Vehicular Manslaughter Is Wrong", or are you just picking on us?

Sir, please inform your Accounting Department that, effective immediately, there will be an $8 drop in monthly profits, for I have chosen to take my maxi-pad business elsewhere. And though I will certainly miss your Flex-Wings, I will not for one minute miss your brand of condescending bullshit. And that's a promise I will keep ... Always.

Wendi Aarons
Austin, TX

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Fucking distraction

Welcome to The Club, Anthony. Your membership card and complimentary set of steak knives are in the male ... ooops, mail. (That's a quaint little bit of faggy misappropriation humour for you ... just to whet your appetite for all that is to follow.) Having been a poof for longer than you have been alive, I feel perfectly justified - and more than a little compelled - to offer you a few words of wisdom about how to negotiate the grossly over-estimated Land of Gaydom.

You will frequently find yourself caught in a net with a random sample of the rest of the 'gay' flotsam and jetsam in Sydney - men with whom you will share nothing more than a common sexual preference. This usually manifests in what you will come to recognise as 'Gay Bars' and 'Sex On Premises Venues' (SOPV). Given the parlous state of the 'gay' brand in Sydney at the moment, it's impossible for me to feel even remotely comfortable using the term 'sexuality'. I recommend that you, too, avoid it all costs. Remember: 'Sexuality' is a noun, not a verb.

Your Mardi Gras Float
I went in the Mardi Gras Parade for the first time this year Anthony ... and it was, in a word, faaaabulous (see also 'Language, vocabulary and terminology'). Personally, I can see you perched next to Clover Moore (she's Sydney's Lord Mayor) in a vintage Chevrolet convertible. The best thing about going in The Parade with Clover is that, unlike the rest of us who have to be 'locked in' to the Parade marshalling area from 6pm for an 8.30pm start, you can just walk quietly, quickly and efficiently up to your car at 8.25pm - and ta-da! (in your key of course), you're on your way!

Your talent
I love your voice Anthony ... and I think you did a beautiful job of The Prayer. It was a beautifully judged rendition, and I listen to it often. I celebrate your technique. The phrasing scans perfectly - even with the little over-reaching flaws in the build which I, personally, find extremely endearing. Now, that's all well and good, but here in the Land of Gaydom, you will find that we have an entirely different interpretation of the term 'talent'. Essentially, it embraces: the size of your cock (encompassing both length and breadth), the cuteness of your arse, your cock-sucking and general cock-handling capabilities, and the tautness and trimness of your body.

Language, vocabulary and terminology
In general, Anthony, the language, vocabulary and terminology most prevalent in Gaydom is the same as that of Australia ... and I am convinced, that as someone who displays great skill in relation to the equal distribution of the weight of vowels and consonants within multiple phrases within the interpretation of songlines, you will have no difficulty mastering the rather contradictory nature of the way vowels, consonants and, generally speaking - entire words - are occasionally slaughtered by poofs in general. As referenced earlier, the word 'fabulous' is a perfect and very simple example. In Australia, people say 'fabulous', and that, almost out of necessity, is that. In Gaydom, we add a few extra 'a's - which are then collectively stretched almost beyond recognition - and thrown in between the 'f' and the 'bulous'. This also works for the word 'darling', which was once a meaningful term of affection. In the Land of Gaydom, it becomes a considerably less meaningful example of affectation, which generally speaking, is the rule of thumb right across the board. In short Anthony, mastery of Gaydom's language will come as a direct result of applying liberal, careless and reckless affectation to just about any word in the English language.

I also recommend you learn a few phrases of what we poofs instantly recognise as 'porn speak' ... and in the meantime, try not to be too alarmed if the boy from Taree you are having casual sex with suddenly says "Oh yeah, suck that cock" in a perfect (if not seemingly a little too incongruous given the circumstances) American accent. This is because most poofs have been psycho-sexually programmed from a young age by an infinite supply of porn, most of which originates in the United States of America. Other examples of 'porn speak' include: "Oh yeah, fuck that ass" and "Oh yeah, you want that cock don't you". A key to the mastery of 'porn speak' is to remember that statements you might have assumed would work more effectively as questions, do not. Take "Oh yeah, you want that cock don't you" for example. This line serves as an excellent example as to how 'porn speak' manages to somehow transcend the basic fundamentals of grammatical structure. The trick here, Anthony, is to remember that statements such as this one are actually communicated with what we call 'fore-knowledge'. Given the extent to which the suckee's cock has almost disappeared from view entirely into the sucker's mouth, it becomes obvious that he does indeed 'want that cock'. In short Anthony, there are three imperatives relating to the mastery of 'porn speak'. They are: every word spoken is delivered with an American accent; every statement is prefaced with the words "Oh" and "Yeah"; and, last but by no means least, statements that might appear to be more grammatically correct if communicated as questions are, instead, delivered as statements of fact.

I have also taken the liberty of highlighting the following terms and their meanings Anthony, just to start you on your way. As a sign of my determination that you should be protected from any potentially career-threatening cross-cultural hazards, I have also included examples of the Australian meaning.
Top Gaydom: someone who takes the active role throughout the sexual act ... the fucker as opposed to the fuckee, as it were. Australia: the highest part (as in the top of a hill), an article of clothing designed for the upper body, a toy of the spinning variety.
Bottom Gaydom: someone who takes the passive role throughout the sexual act ... the fuckee. Australia: the lowest part (as in the bottom of a hill), a polite way of referring to a part of the human body.
Aggressive bottom Gaydom: someone who takes the generally assumed to be passive role throughout the sexual act but re-interprets it as active (aggressive). This simply means that it is possible to top the top from the bottom ... and, as you gain more confidence, from every other direction on both the vertical and horizontal axes and, eventually, a combination of both. Australia: a polite way of referring to the experiences associated with certain conditions (such as gastro) affecting the normal way human beings defecate.
Versatile Gaydom: someone who, depending on the circumstances or level of desperation, is happy to take either the passive or active roles in the sexual act. This can sometimes be indicative of someone who has, in reality, mastered neither role (which may in turn lead to a somewhat lack-lustre and unfulfilling sexual exchange) or someone who is so desperate to have sex with you that they'll invert their desire to express their sexuality in order to achieve said aim. Either way, my advice to you is exercise caution at all times. Australia: capable of being used in a variety of different ways; having a range of different skills.
Pride Gaydom: the sense of elation poofs feel at being a citizen of the Land of Gaydom at the exclusion of all other personal attributes, which in most cases is simply because they have none. Pride can sometimes be expressed in ways that not only threaten their personal safety, but also in ways that a large percentage of the population find revolting; also a now bankrupt community-owned organisation established to celebrate and enhance said elation. Australia: a sense of honour and personal worth.
Cock Gaydom: slang for 'penis' - the size of which will represent the entire measure of your nett worth as a human being in Gaydom. Australia: a male bird; slang for 'penis'.

So, to wrap it up Anthony, welcome! I hope my little guide serves to enlighten you about just some of the many wonders and mysteries of our very, very little land. Good luck ... and be kind.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Loving Aida

I have decided that if ever a reason was required for opera to exist, Giuseppe Verdi's Aida is it.

My passion for Aida began when I first heard the famous triumphal march from Act 2, Scene 2 - and while carrying a green Tupperware container as my 'trophy' and with a doona wrapped around my shoulders (dragging behind me in a suitably regal, imagined-Eygptian fashion), I found myself swanning around the loungeroom for hours. I remember it vividly, still ... the realisation that grand opera can be a most divine creation - where occasion, in the truest sense, is celebrated so gloriously that it demands some form of physical engagement.

Nearly 18 years ago, I auditioned for Giuseppe Raffa's Melbourne production of Aida which was to be staged at the Carlton Football Ground. There were to be thousands of extras (including me as a Black Priest), an international cast, a huge orchestra and an even huger chorus! It was all going to be performed on a huge set - the centrepiece of which was a huge Sphinx and two huge pyramids. After all, Aida is huge!

Watching the massive production take shape around me was fantastic, and fortunately, the stage directions - masterful in their simplicity of structure and effect - were uncomplicated. And then the animals arrived, and Act 2, Scene 2 would never be the same again! Elephants, camels, tigers, lions, snakes and horses would star as Egypt flaunted the spoils of a triumph at war against the Ethiopians. Now the cynical amongst you might wonder why they nicked everything from the zoo and not the art gallery, but borrowed art is de rigeur on the opera stage these days - and nothing compares to elephants making an entrance. Besides, nothing in the program notes suggested that Ethiopia even had an art gallery ... or a zoo. I digress.

The horses, however, were another matter. After we had made our way on stage for my beloved Act 2, Scene 2, Radames (the hero) made his entrance - on horseback. Now, having grown up with horses I know that they smell fear. I also know that of the 1,499 people on stage with me that night, there were probably one or two (possibly incredibly stupid extras?) who were not apprehensive about what might happen next - which of course it did. The lead horse's nostrils started flaring. He was terrified, and started to panic - as did the other horses on stage ... and for the tiniest moment I thought we were all going to be trampled in an impossibly overdressed stampede. As troopers, we held our ground ... until the horses were almost right on top of us, at which point we started to run. Two things stopped us from disappearing entirely: the first being our fear of the eighteen foot drop from the stage to the ground below, and (a distant second) was our professionalism. Somehow, the horses were calmed down and taken offstage. And in the grandest sense of the cliché, the show went on.

My favourite recording of Aida is Herbert von Karajan's 1980 (digitally remastered in 1988 by EMI) masterstroke. Mirelli Freni (Aida), José Carreras (Radames), Agnes Baltsa (Amneris) and Piero Cappuccilli (Amonasro), the Vienna State Opera Chorus and the Vienna Philharmonic are beyond magnificent. Often criticised for the imbalance between the orchestra and the vocalists, I would posit that von Karajan probably did this one for the orchestra. And perhaps most profound, is the realisation that Aida is, in fact, far from an elephantine spectacle. Sure, it has its moments of epic drama - and each one is captured perfectly on this recording. But at its musical and spiritual heart is the story of two people who love each other so much that they would rather die together than ever be separated.

Ever loved anyone like that?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Comparative distractions

People often ask me why I left Melbourne, and my answer is "It's personal". Like all of our life-defining relationships, the one we have with where we choose to live - and in what circumstances - is personal ... sometimes very personal.

I love Melbourne. I spent many years there. I made theatre there. I 'came out' (and occasionally wanted to go back in) there. I lost my virginity there. As a schoolboy, I was felt up on the train by a much older man there. My family still live there and so do most of my dearest friends. I made and lost money there. I started smoking there. I learned to drive there and had my first (and so far only) car crash there. I returned there from three years in Europe and I have buried friends there ... and I have swam, danced and sang there. Ultimately, the largest part of the person I am today was found and formed there.

I think it is for that reason that today, I find returning to Melbourne immensely challenging. Certainly, Melbourne is home to my precious friends with whom I can share silence. We sit in cafes and breathe through the pauses in our lives without justification and we laugh ... but Melbourne is also a place where the gutters, streetscapes, routines, sounds and smells all combine to become like a song I used to like ... or a movie I've seen too many times. I know how it ends. Traffic along Punt Road still crawls along at a deadline-threatening pace - and you still only end up in Clifton Hill. Fitzroy Street still ends before it's really begun - and the promise of neurotic little Acland Street is still so palpable. Whenever I re-visit Melbourne, even in my mind, it is Acland Street I need to see first. I was bashed and robbed there, yet it's as though all the difference I was expecting Sydney to make to my life is underwritten by the ease with which I can slip back into my easy Acland Street habits.

Some years ago, I wrote an article (for a little magazine) that drew on various comparisons between Melbourne and Sydney. "Melbourne always has something up her sleeve. Sydney doesn't wear sleeves," I opined. It strikes me, now, as altogether more complex than that. I have often found myself defending Melbourne and, equally as often, defending my choice to leave ... and admittedly, it is only recently that have started going back there to spend Christmas with my family and Saturnalia with my friends. Making the effort, as it were, as opposed to slagging off about the old girl - as though, through no fault of her own, she had outlived her usefulness and purpose. Today, as I sat waiting for my Qantas 747-400 to be pushed back for the race up the runway home, I realised that the reality is quite profoundly different. There is a part of me that will always be a Melbourne boy and there is a part of me that Sydney and I must share the responsibility for. As a complete individual though, I hold the memories and experiences of who I became after two years in London ... and what Paris taught me about myself. Each of these places become geographical points of reference - time and place are only ever two certainties in the equation we live to solve: where do I belong and what do I hope to achieve there.

I understand something today that I didn't understand yesterday. Where I am going - and how I am getting there - has nothing to do with which city has the harbour and the opera house and which city has the MCG and the best shops. It has nothing to do with the comparative amounts of sunshine, humidity or rainfall. Melbourne is a part of who I am. Sydney is a part of who I am. So is everywhere I have ever been ... and everywhere I am yet to go.

I love Melbourne.

Photo: Acland Street (courtesy

Spontaneous distraction

I've always adored spontaneity - one of the great under-valued human characteristics. When I decided to exchange Melbourne for Sydney in 1999, I made the decision at 4.15pm on a Friday night and was roaring up the runway at 7.15pm that same night! This weekend, I did it in reverse and booked at 6.00pm to fly to Melbourne at 7.15pm for a weekend with two of my favourite people in the whole world: Dodie (pictured with the gorgeous Morris) and JD (who will need to send me a photo!)

I missed my blog - and offer belated apologies to those who have text-messaged and commented over the weekend. Was 'The Art of Distraction' to become yet another of Geoffrey's 'projects' vanquished to the 'it seemed like a great idea when I started it' folder? No such luck I'm afraid. There is something about how this blog serves to get me 'out of my head', which I am finding both entirely fascinating and incredibly useful.

More about Melbourne will follow ... but right now, it's back to paying for it!

Friday, March 23, 2007

A must see

I have been suffering from the advanced stages of Fear Of It Being Appallingly Bad Theatre Syndrome (FOIBABTS) for a number of years now, but there is one writer for the theatre who entices me back into the dark every time. His name is Daniel Keene - and his play "The Nightwatchman" is playing at the SBW Stables Theatre, Kings Cross until April 7.

"Bill has lived a life amongst the rambling beauty of the old family home," the Griffin Theatre Company website informs us. "Now he's gone blind, and children Helen and Michael have returned for a few days to move him to a secure apartment. On the outside Bill is stoic, resigned to his fate, but inside he silently rages against the darkness. Helen feels the weight of responsibility - for both her father and her own family. The fragility of her marriage has her longing for the untroubled days of childhood. Photographer Michael is on the verge of a quiet breakdown, having for years avoided meaningful connection with any human being. Drawn together in a garden full of echoes, the three discover tender memories of the shared past unwilling to release them ... "

One word: Go. Here's how.

"The Nightwatchman" by Daniel Keene
Director Lee Lewis; Designer Alice Babidge; Lighting Designer Luiz Pampolha; Composer/Sound Designer Max Lyandvert
With Camilla Ah Kin, Alex Dimitriades & William Zappa.
A Griffin Australian Premiere. "The Nightwatchman" was commissioned by La Compagnie des Docks, Boulogne, France.

The photograph of William Zappa is by Mark Rogers.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A weapon of mass distraction

Telstra, bless them. Most of us have a 'Telstra story" - a tale of mind-boggling, random-acts-of-terrorism-inspiring hopelessness courtesy of the wonderful people at Telstra. And in the middle of a particularly busy income-generation day yesterday, Telstra managed to throw a big bold "NOTICE OF INTENTION TO ISSUE SUMMONS" curve-ball my way which served to distract me in the way that only 'really nasty mail' can. And here for everyone's enjoyment, is the story.

March 2006. I move into a shared house and need to have a landline connected. Telstra. "Would I be interested in Bigpond ADSL broadband?" they ask. "Yes", I reply. We chat about prices, unlimited downloads (another symptom of my heinous Google addiction), email addresses and other seemingly endless points of apparent interest. Lovely. Done. "Oh, before you go," I say, "I don't open paper bills. I need my bill sent to me via my internet banking facility where I will pay it online. Will my landline and my Bigpond account be on the same bill?" "Yes they will be ... and thank you for bringing that to our attention." About a week later I received my modem and the very helpful Apple Macintosh expert on the end of the helpline had me up and running in no time. Effortless. Again, lovely. A month later, in came my Telstra bills which I dutifully paid online through my internet banking facility ... lovely. I was so thrilled with myself I paid two bills twice which resulted in Telstra owing me 37 cents for a couple of months.

January 2007. I start getting phone calls from people at a place called Creditech. Now it may not surprise you to know that Creditech is Telstra's delinqent account collection arm - which only goes to show how annoyingly unreliable Australian's must be at paying their Telstra bills. Somehow, magically, my Bigpond account had increased to $300 and something dollars and had never been paid. Over the next hour or so, as anyone who has ever had dealings with Telstra will know, I had to explain to two or three different people that it was my understanding that my Bigpond and landline service were both on the same bill. It took about an hour to ascertain that, in fact, they were not - and not only that, Telstra had happily been sending my Bigpond accounts to my email address and I had happily been deleting them, believing that they were being paid through my internet banking facility as arranged. "Can my Bigpond and landline service be on the same account?" I begged. "Yes they can," was the response, "but in the meantime you will need to pay this old account which we will then be closing."

And then the fun really started. When you pay your bills online, each of your billers has a biller number. Telstra's is whatever it is. I investigated paying this Bigpond account online, only to discover that while I was inflicted with two separate Telstra account numbers (my landline and Bigpond) there is only one Telstra biller number. I couldn't pay my separate Bigpond account online no matter how hard I tried. The result was that I had to either use my credit card (not an option) or go to the post office. I laughed and asked the girl on the other end of the phone whether she had ever seen the queue at the Randwick Post Office. I made some fatuous promise to pay it ... and promptly forgot, which is why I prefer to pay my bills online in the first place.

April 2007. Suspicious looking mail is instantly recognisable - for people like me anyway. That dread-inducing wide but not very high little window in the top left hand corner with its nasty little official looking return address ... and a larger window in the middle of the envelope, barely hiding a very official looking little bar code thing just peeking out at you. As with all such nasty looking mail, I ignored it.

Feeling bright and confident yesterday, I decided to finally confront one of my demons and open the nasty looking mail. It was good old Telstra threatening to sue me for my unpaid (but still connected) Bigpond account. I got on the phone and explained the whole sorry saga again. I was again assured that from now on, my Bigpond and landline services would appear under the one account number on the one bill which I would be able to continue to pay online. In the meantime, I had to pay the outstanding amount by cheque.

All this from the supposed leader in telecommunications and new technology in this country. Have Telstra ever managed to distract you from your day?

A sporting life

It's been a sad few days for we AFL fans with the news that one of the code's brightest stars - the West Coast Eagles' Ben Cousins - has been suspended from the club until he sorts out his "personal and private issues". In a statement issued by the West Coast Eagles, it was revealed that: "Ben has failed to fulfil his commitments as a professional member of the West Coast Eagles team to such a degree that his current situation is untenable ... It is with great sadness and regret that the club has been forced to take this action against a much-loved champion who has served this club with great distinction for more than a decade."

Speculation is rife in the Australian sports media about the exact nature of Cousins' "personal problems", with claims of "underworld" connections, "drug problems", "alcohol problems", problems coping with the end of a relationship - and the now too frequent reports of "brawls" and "arrests". Many of us remember the last time Cousins was stripped of the captaincy of the club - having fled from a booze bus in February of last year.

As "The Sydney Morning Herald" has reported: "Despite his litany of off-field troubles, Cousins remains West Coast's most-decorated player and an enormously popular figure in Perth. In addition to his [2005] Brownlow medal victory, he has won four West Coast best and fairest awards, is a six-time All-Australian and was voted the 2005 Most Valuable Player by the AFL Players Association. He captained the Eagles 104 times from 2001-05."

I am a huge fan of the AFL. I was brought up barracking for South Melbourne and was heart-broken when they left Melbourne to become the Sydney Swans. I was club-less for many years until, having lived in St Kilda for some time, it suddenly made perfectly good sense to start supporting The Saints. I would take a taxi out to Waverley Park at the weekend to watch them play (a $50 fare) and be crammed into a bus to get back to St Kilda at the end of the match. Fantastic if we had won - and pretty dour if we hadn't. And we didn't win very often.

I feel for Ben Cousins. The kind of fame, finance, favours, following, fortune and status that are afforded our AFL heroes in this era of the game is sometimes, quite obviously, clearly at odds with their maturity and coping mechanisms. AFL players, particularly well-known ones, want for nothing. They are A-list in this country - and that counts for a great deal (in more ways than one) for these young men. Some of these players are mere boys and are yet to have even moved out of home or know how to use a washing machine. Like the worst excesses of Hollywood and every other celebrity-obsessed sub-culture, they are idolised - bestowed with the magical associations of hero-worship. And in a country as profoundly bereft of heros and heroines as this one, that is a position of great power and influence.

Sadly, just as he is not the first, Ben Cousins will not be the last hero to fall. The message here must be that the clubs, who in many ways arrest the personal development of these young men when they first join their sacred ranks, must elevate the development of a troubled player's personal qualities to the same level of importance as how well they perform on match day. If Ben Cousins has been allowed to consistently get away with as much as he appears to have done off the field simply because he has been such a star performer (and an unquestionable financial drawcard) for the club, then they have betrayed him and all those like him.

While we celebrate our AFL players' athleticism, physical prowess, physiques and - let's face it - their all-purpose desirability, it is time for the AFL to insist on the return of the good old-fashioned qualities that the code appears to be increasingly incapable of maintaining: honour, pride, discipline and a sense of privilege - what it used to mean to be an AFL player. Because if they don't, things can only get a great deal worse.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Guaranteed distraction

I have been trying to add a links panel to my blog but the blogger system (bless it and its workload) is not co-operating. So here, instead, are some very interesting links to blogs and websites that are guaranteed to provide literally hours of happy distraction!

Metal Petal has been an inspiration. It's really the first time that the concept of owning a blog has entirely made sense. Petal moved 'home' to Adelaide from Sydney and it has made for very interesting reading. We also celebrated the arrival of Cicciolina and are anticipating what should be the 40th Birthday Event of 2007!

Alison Croggon's Theatre Notes is a fine example of blogging. Among other articles, Alison's review of Arthur Miller's "All My Sons" is the finest piece of criticism I have read in many, many years. Theatre Notes is also an excellent forum for discussion about theatre, writing, words and their power.

Nicholas Pickard has also inspired me to play in the blogosphere and Nicholas provides very interesting commentary about the Sydney theatre scene. I met Nicholas last year when I was the Events Manager and he was the Materials Coordinator for the 53rd Sydney Film Festival. I also saw a production he directed at the New Theatre in Newtown, which revealed lots of potential for him as a theatre director. The interesting Pickard v Brookman (Rob Brookman, General Manager of the Sydney Theatre Company) stoush probably means that Nick won't get a foot in the door down at The Wharf in the forseeable future. For the rest of us, it's an interesting exchange and one I am watching closely.

The Internet Movie Database needs no introduction, but be careful! I have been known to disappear into this database for hours! And for those of you who love to saturate yourself in reviews prior to or immediately following a viewing, then Rotten Tomatoes is impossible to beat for my distraction dollar!

And if all else fails go somewhere! Enjoy!

What are your favourite sites to spend hours happily distracted by?

And the winner is ...

... Google - by far the most constant and entertaining way I distract myself. Like my nicotine and caffeine addictions, I am beginning to wonder whether there is such a thing as a Google-addict. I think there is and I think I am one.

Many years ago I was addicted to playing the pokies. Admittedly it was symptomatic of the personal misery I was accommodating during the death-throes of a particularly heart- and soul-destroying relationship. All the same, the final straw for me came when I lost an entire week's pay in a little under two hours. It was a Friday night and I remember walking home so impossibly depressed about not having a cent to my name over the weekend. You know that kind of internal pain that actually elicits an audible response, even when there's no-one nearby to hear it? Some people punch fences, cars, their partners or complete strangers. I just remember exhaling a hideous moan of utter despair. I will never forget it.

The Gambling Helpline was very helpful ... and today I am entirely cured. Today I deal with misery in a totally different fashion ... by distracting myself online with the help of my new best friend - Google!

Just lately I have discovered (and not in any particular order): my ex-business partner is being wound-up by a printing company in Newcastle; my ex-business partner is being bankrupted in The Federal Court; one of my best girlfriends Jane is a published author with Scholastic; that one of her friends spent lots of money on his 40th birthday party; that my ex-business partner still uses all of the design work I did before we went into business together to promote her business; and people might confuse me with someone who lost his eye in a shooting accident.

Is it ironic that I may need to consult Google to search for a Google-addict helpline?

What have you learned from Google?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Favourite Boys

And perfectly timed to coincide with the launch of my blog came this photograph – courtesy of The Sydney Morning Herald – of one of my favourite boys: Craig Reucassel from ABC TV's 'The Chaser'.

Looking at cute boys with wicked senses of humour (Reucassel not Debnam) in Speedos is easily one of the most frequent ways I distract myself.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

West and Sensibilities

For the past three weeks I have been distracting myself by living a friend's life. In Mount Druitt. Shedding my inner eastern sensibilities, I headed out west (in his BMW) to look after his house while he was overseas.

Depending on traffic, Mt Druitt can be as little as 45 minutes from Sydney's inner east. If you have an e-tag (which my friend does) you can travel on the cash-booth-less M7! M5 to the M7 to the M4 ... and not a traffic light in sight. I think the trip costs about $20 in tolls all up, but the lovely thing about living someone else's life is that the credit card bills come in their name.

The art of distraction was taken to dizzying new heights under the skin of my good friend. By the end of the three weeks, I had almost ceased to exist. His routine became mine. His vast array of gadgets (including a DVD player and huge television in the bedroom) became symbols of my luxurious attainment. I weeded the garden and pruned the rose-bushes. I collected mail and had really good and very cheap takeaway Chinese food (dinner for $6!) I watched his collection of DVDs and even went to the local Westfield (pictured) and bought some of my own. I answered his phone and used his computer to surf the internet. I bathed in his spa bath and used his bath salts and bubble-bath. And his towels. I used his toothpaste, his soap, his bedding, his pillows and manchester. I drank his coffee with his milk and sugar. I looked out of his windows and answered his front door. I threw his plantation shutters open to the view of his enormous back yard every morning and smoked his cigarettes. I ate from his plates and drank from his glassware. I sat on his chairs at his dining table and walked, barefoot, on his tiles and his fancy floating floorboards. I raced to the airport in his BMW to meet him upon his return, having filled his house with flowers in his vases.

I have learned that I am a man of simple means and needs. Even at the very heights of my invisibility within his veneer, I realised that there is much for me to be pleased with and optimistic about.

I am grateful to know.

The blogging virgin

At last, a blog of my very own! I look forward to sharing my thoughts about the grand art of distraction - those little (and sometimes quite significant) things we do when we should really be doing something else.

How do you distract yourself? ... and more importantly, from what?