Mar 22, 2015

In Which Eloise Appears on Stage with the Crème de la Crème

Today was the climax of Eloise's Ballet Awards thingy. She's been to a few rehearsals, made a few friends, learned a few dance steps, and most importantly bagged a Tutu, all in the name of a bit of a dance on a stage at an Awards ceremony at which she was not going to be awarded.

As I understand it, and I'm not sure I do, the point of it all was for the crème de la crème of Queensland Ballet talent to perform for the judges from the Royal Academy of Dance in order to compete for scholarships, presumably to attend RAD, whether that be in the Glorious Motherland or some other more local location - well, who knows.

The upshot was that we, the proud parents, and Lyra, the indifferent sister, attended the performance at a posh snazzy private school in the city to watch Eloise do her turn, hopefully a quick couple of hours, in and out, no trouble, just a glowing feeling of pride at the natural talents of our firstborn.

Apparently, in the ballet world, echelons of hopefuls must jump through whalebone hoops, dropped at the slightest infraction. No wonder they develop eating disorders. If Eloise missed or (reportedly) was late for any of her practices it would be a - no doubt polite but firm - see you later.

And - of course - we had parted with money to secure our tickets to this star-studded event (not to mention having had to fork out for the costumes and all that).

So we were not to be late!

A morning of getting ready and made up with five eyes on the clock and three eyes on the sky culminated in Eloise with a refreshingly conservative amount of Slap on, in her midnight blue leotard and tutu, prancing around with Lyra, before the heavens opened and we felt the need to high-tail it downtown under potent punctuality pressure.

A GPS disaster was narrowly averted due to the GPS map not being up-to-date enough to navigate us around the newly built Lady Cilento Children's Hospital, a subcomponent in the architectural web that contains Somerville House, the school (and not resembling a house at all) at which we were to attend.

In order to avoid the extortionate parking fees of the multi-storey I dropped everyone off outside the Performing Arts Centre where the Arts were to be Performed, and parked le voiture elsewhere in the expansive grounds before dampfooting it up, free-climbing style, to the aforementioned venue where I barely made it in time to see the back of Eloise's receding hair as she, along with her cohort of little performers, was whisked off to prepare for the concert and have photographs taken, and all that.

Hopeful that Eloise's little dance would be up first and we would be able to make our escape, we loitered around for an hour waiting to be let into the hall, a happy hour spent basically chasing Lyra around as she explored the no-doubt excellent facilities that Somerville House had to offer: the astroturfed playing field, the concreted apron, the haut-urban stairwell, the underside of the trestle table where surly and self-important dance-world ladies kept track of things and perhaps even people and attempted to sell things to people, whilst glancing askance out our little Thuggernaut as she attempted to tickle their ankles.

Eventually we were permitted to enter the Auditorium of Dancing Delight. Nicole was keen to sit at the back, probably as a damage limitation exercise. I thought that, as we had parted with money, we should get ourselves down the front, in order to stand at least a chance of recognising Number Three.

We found ourselves pretty near the front, in an otherwise sparsely occupied row of seats, and as the lights dimmed, in true larrikin Australian style, the rules were announced, which were that we would not be permitted to leave the auditorium, that we should be perfectly quiet, that we should not move around, and that we should carefully meter our appreciation for all the competitors to avoid any unwitting influence of the judges, who were sitting X-Sphincter style at a gently illuminated desk at the front, looking terribly serious.

Fine, I thought, bring on the daughter, we'll take it from there.

So first up was a performance of some sort of Jazz thing by some kids from local dance schools, a group presumably organised along the same lines as our Eloise's. Then a musical theatre group of kids from local dance schools, presumably organised along the same lines as our Eloise's.

Should be Eloise next then.

But oh, no. Now it's time for the Juniors to do their performances to compete for their awards. One at a time. Ten of them. Doing exactly the same dance. To exactly the same music. Ten of them. One after the other. No moving, remember? Thirteen claps each was what I decided to grant them.

Lyra wasn't a big fan of the rules, and who could blame her. It was like being caught in some sort of groundhog thing where you have to relive the same two-minute segment of time over and over again with just the colour of the costume changing and perhaps some subtle nuance of footwork. Before long Lyra was breaking the rule on moving around, and breaking the rule on remaining silent.

"What's that noise?" she would say. "What's that noise?" Along with various identification chores, mostly to do with costume colours.

Should be Eloise soon.

Oh no! Now it's the Intermediates. Rinse and repeat. Ten more dashing hopefuls, a different dance this time, hooray!

Should be Eloise next?

Oh no! Now it's the seniors. Still at least for this next batch of ten, there's a bit of a change: it's Contemporary Dance this time which involves throwing shapes to funky didgeridon't music and as actually quite entertaining. The first few times.

Should be Eloise now?

Oh no! It's the seniors again, this time classical ballet. Ten more.

By this time Lyra is running up and down our row and physically molesting the people sat on the row in front. I've had to chase her as she headed down the aisle for front-of-house and earned a tannoyed indirect reprimand.

We choose to move back a row, to avoid annoying our elders and betters.

And, finally, Eloise and her troupe of long-suffering companions take to the stage to perform a nice dance in which Eloise, once I manage to recognise her, appears to comport herself with grace and perfection, making no mistakes and dancing very nicely.

And then it's over! We! Leave! Relieved!

Mar 19, 2015

Toddlers Trekking Tortuously

Another mini-heatwave rolled across on Thursday and we resolved to take a trip into the mountains (or what passes for mountains hereabouts) to escape the heat and humidity with a trip to the balmy shade of the rainforest-shaded walking tracks for a dubiously conceived scrub-walk.

Coffee being the first order of the day, we headed up the winding road to Mount Nebo - Claire, Georgia, Eloise and I - to feed the birds at Mrs Miggins' Tea Shop (not its real name) while eating ice cream. As it turned out, another ill-conceived plan as it wasn't open and was being inexplicably subjected to industrial cleaning, but not to be discouraged we headed a few hundred metres up the road to another cafe whose name I have the misfortune to fail to recall, where feeding the birds was forbidden but coffee and ice creams were not only available, but after an interminable wait for service were actually consumed.

Then to the rainforest where the shortcomings of hiking with toddlers were soon to become apparent, as Lyra would not wear her shoes and both of the 'little darlings' required motivation assistance on a regular basis, by way both of exhortation and porterage.

When you're an adult, forward progress becomes an unspoken and natural priority. For a small child, these considerations are if not completely non-existent then definitely secondary to the objective of going wherever the hell you want to, leading to literally hours of watching small people climb up and down steps, work their way underneath fences to explore paths that are closed, walk in completely the wrong direction, run in completely the wrong direction, face-plant in inaccessible locations and generally fanny-fart-arse around in what was an initially endearing but progressively more annoying way, as our increasingly less patient requests for immediate return fell on increasingly taciturn ears.

I won't say that tempers frayed but "the doghouse" was mentioned and certain unmentionable expletives were uttered. There were a few toddler tantrums but also many slightly charming mini-moments as we explored the prehistoric forest, the occasional bird-song echoing through the trees, moving from shade to sunlight and back again.

G spent a lot of time being annoyed at the lack of snakes, which seemed to be her priority, and the lack of toilets. L spent a long time trying to gain altitude, generally to carrying height, and being annoyed when this was denied her.

We covered in our many hours of what should really be called wandering rather than hiking an impressive more-than-one-kilometre of very easy terrain, a less-than-two-kilometres that left me at least physically drained and mentally burnished.

But cool... ish.

Mar 15, 2015

The Day We Wandered Into a Music Video

My high hopes for an afternoon nap were dashed when Lyra, on the way back from dropping Nicole off at work, became a very obvious non-sleeper. Perhaps a blessing in disguise as non-nap-days make for easier evenings, as a rule, but after our 20km bike ride this morning I was a little jaded and for an old codger such as me a nap rarely goes unwelcomed.

All that having been said, after we got home I did lay back and take a back seat to my inner monologue for a while with my eyes closed, and then, restored to full effectiveness, I roused the girls from in front of whatever low-grade American crap they'd conjured up on the telly to go for a swim.

With only an hour left before the pool closed, it was going to be quick but the day was a warm one and cool water would be just the ticket. So off we went.

Little did we know or could we have suspected that we would be stumbling into a music video shoot, but how exciting when we were told we could be extras! Well I will answer that question disguised as an assertion with: quite.

The pool was lined with what looked remarkably like members of the public. In the middle of the pool, in a strange flower-like thing made of what were probably noodles (of the swimming variety) was a young lady whose face was inexplicably blue from the nose up, undoubtedly the star of the show. A Young Man was bellowing the instructions through something approximating to a megaphone. Or a re-purposed hearing trumpet.

The instructions were complicated and involved synchronised diving-in by the extras so I decided that perhaps Lyra was not up to this particular challenge. Eloise became quite excited; with a thumbs-up we repaired upstairs to the viewing balcony while Eloise joined the pool-side melee.

Instructions were very complicated and the set-up of the scene, which seemed to involve geriatric aerobic performers, diving in, dancing, ribbons, beach balls and god knows what else, took figuratively ages, during which Lyra was making a handful of herself, first of all demanding to wear her swimming costume and then climbing around over everything and everybody with me in hot pursuit.

When I got a chance to have another look, with setting-up still in progress, I saw that Eloise had been singled out as a ribbon-waver, standing at the back of the pool, looking pleased with herself as we exchanged a little wave.

When the 'take' (that's obviously an insider technical term) began, I was expecting us all to be rocking out to the latest in teeny-pop tunery, but instead the pool was filled with complete silence with Mr. Young Man bellowing out instructions like 'GERIATRIC AEROBICS' (actually he just said 'Aerobics') whereupon the old people in the pool started waving their hands around like airport ground-crew, along with Ms. Pop Star in her Noodle Bloom; and then 'DIVERS' was the cue for the people around the pool to jump into it in a kind of waterborne Mexican wave, then 'RIBBONS' whereupon Eloise and her co-ribboneers started waving their ribbons around, balletically.

And then, much to Lyras delight, the beach balls were thrown in and everyone in the pool started splashing around and having a really good pretend good time with really big pretend smiles - really big.

And this was repeated four or five times.

I leant over and had a look in between fighting Lyra who just wanted to go for a swim to see Eloise waving her ribbon and was slightly bemused, given everybody else in the pool seemed almost literally to be creaming themselves with manufactured delight and excitement, to see that she was waving her ribbon around in, not to put too fine a point on it, a manner so nonchalant as to be almost taking the proverbial Michael.

I went down while the Crew were performing a "Re-set" to enquire as to her non-participation, as she is, you know, interested in the world of entertainment and performance and all that, and you'd think that she would not only understand if only from observing those around her what was probably expected, but would be only too happy to grin the grin, dance the dance, wave the wave and all that.

Only, she said, she really wanted to be in the pool, because actually we came here for a swim, didn't we? And a swim is what she came for, not standing around by the pool with isolated episodes of ribbon-embroidered gesticulation.

But, I responded in my usual highly motivational way, this is a music video, and you might be on telly, and this isn't a thing that happens to people every day, and it's an opportunity to be embraced and enjoyed, right? And you, a dancer, should understand that at least a little smile and perhaps a little movement in parts of your body other than your ribbon-arms from the elbow down might be a good thing.

So I got that "Whatever" look; but on the next take I'd like to think that my waving Lyra around like a cuddly toy with the sort of inane grin that rarely graces my usually impassive features, admittedly still in the absence of any actual music, led her to at least make a bit of an effort.

After all that, she didn't get her swim. And Lyra didn't get her swim. Lyra got a sticky jelly frog for her trouble, though. Eloise got zilch.

I found out from someone that Ms. Pop Star was called Catherine McGee. Or McKee. I've Googled her.

Mar 8, 2015

Pneumatic Overdressed Playground Barbie Sunday

So today we went on a bike ride, we three, the indolent majority, while the worker drone slept off her night shift. It's good to get out of the house when Nicole is day-sleeping because you know, the piano-playing, the telly-watching, the general ruckus, the screaming; it's all a bit stressful. Heaven forbid that the violin should come out.

Today was a bit hot-and-bothersome, with a mass of hot air that's been gestating over the Australian interior bubbling over us for the past few days, but Eloise wanted to go on a bike ride so off we toddled.

I was a bit miffed that her chosen destinations were all retail-based, her choices being to go to a bike shop to get a bottle-holder or a shopping centre to get more Lego. However, she might think she's the boss-of-her but the truth hurts, doesn't it really, when you realise that you're not actually in charge; a feeling I'm sure we're all at some point along the many-fold path of coming to terms with.

We ended up at a little playground close to Brookside, a Lego emporium contained within (within Brookside the shopping centre, obviously, not the playground), where we happenstanced by an old Nursery colleague of Eloise's who she didn't remember and by whom she wasn't remembered; I recognised his Mum though I'm not sure if I ever knew her name, but we chatted for a while as Lyra busied herself on the equipment.

A gunshot cracked out on the way back near Stafford City and we ground to a rapid halt, as my back tyre under the weight of the toddler had blown out. Eloise, who had just told me of her bike-maintenance plans for the day, went off solo with my keys to clean her pride and joy; I pushed my bike back home, my shoulder grumbling all the way, with Lyra on the back embarking on her own journey to the land of nod, in the post-midday thirty-two (probably) degrees of neck-tickling heat.

Later, we woke Nicole up, and made use of the remains of the day by going down to New Farm Park for a little barbecue. Eloise's idea of appropriate dress was a little over the top; she spent quite a while on her hair, and looked ready for a walk-on role in Downton Abbey by the time she was done.

"You're a bit overdressed for the playground, aren't you luv" said I, whereupon with us all ready to go, true to form she disappeared to a slamming of the door, to reappear some moments later rather more appropriately dressed.

We ate frittatas, steaks, sausages and salads as the sun went down, scooting around, wiggling on the wiggly things (woo!), slipping and sliding. I say we...

Mar 7, 2015

Beach Party

Beach Party. Face Painting. Enough said.

Mar 3, 2015

Rock-Hopping Mini-Adventure Tuesday

With Lyra now in nursery on Tuesdays, it was my hope that I would have a protracted day to enjoy little adventures, as last year Eloise was picked up from school and taken straight to dancing.

This year's logistics have rather scotched that... although now Orchestra has started Eloise starts school at 7.45am, I can have Lyra off at Childcare by 8.00, and this gives me seven hours before I have to be back at school again, to take Her Ladyship off to jump up and down gracefully in time to music.

For a few weeks I have been meaning to get out on a Tuesday, but the weather has not been on my side, what with inconvenient ex-cyclones and all, but this week I collected my effluvia and made a break for the bush.

I should have known that taking an expensive camera would be a bad idea and was bound to lead to misfortune. But I had a backpack and resolved to keep it in there at all times, along with the nut bar and packets of crisps. I also took a juice popper, just to be conventional. I should probably have packed some water too, but my destination was a rainforest creek and I sort of figured that if I got too thirsty I could always take my chances with the cool soil-filtered rain water.

Cedar Creek used to have a very pretty little waterhole right by the car park, with a little cascade gushing into it, but the 2011 rains did for that, smashing the rocky ledge that bounded the pool and depositing gravel and sediment from upstream all over the place. The whole course of the stream was changed, becoming a wider, flatter course, strewn with dead trees and stony sediments.

I was interested to see if the recent rain would have changed it further or washed some of the detritus away, but the same landscape lay there, still beautiful in its own way but not the picturesque creek of yesteryear,

Further uphill, where the flows had been less and the flood smaller, the creek is much as ever it was. It flows down from the D'Aguilar Mountains so as you climb up it it becomes steeper and the cascades more impressive. There are swimming holes and huge boulders that the water works its way around, bordered by rainforest giving way to wet eucalypt.

The general score was then to pick my way along the banks, crossing where necessary when they became impassable, climbing over the large trunks that had become wedged between the rocks, and looking for natural stepping stones; constantly with an eye for the likely path to get up the stream before the next obstacle.

I came across a slanting rocky bank where the creek was quite wide and debated backtracking to cross the creek to walk along the ledges on the other side. It looked safe enough but a bit smooth for a few metres. I scratched my chin for a little while before deciding to risk it (biscuit) in a what-could-possibly-go-wrong kind of way.

You might be aware of that feeling when you're on a slippery slope when you shoes start to slide and you try to hold on but your hands slide so you put your body flat to get the maximum friction but your whole body slides and you look down at the water and you think some four-letter words that roughly translate to "this isn't good is it" before raising your expensive camera into the air so at least you can save that then remembering the phone in your pocket on which you're listening to whatever it was and thinking how that's not going to work really well after being submerged in water.

I'm certainly aware of that feeling.

Luckily (and I'm looking on the bright side) my relentless slide stopped with me submerged to only just above my knees, the bottom couple of inches of my debonair non-hiking shorts soaked but my pockets intact.

Chastened, I revisited my what-could-possibly-go-wrong strategy and proceeded with wildly enhanced caution. I explored another bright side, which was that only my feet were soaking wet, and as I squidged my way along, leaving damp footprints in my wake, that there appeared to be no leeches,

I picked my way uphill for a couple of hours, until I finally met an obstacle I couldn't surmount, or at least that I didn't trust myself to get down again. The creek flowed around a large rocky outcrop, the channels blocked by flotsam, and some semi-rock-climbing would have been required; it was steep! I surveyed it with my new what-could-possibly-go-wrong-probably-will attitude for a while.

Some bloody teenagers came up (not actually covered in blood) and of course the boys were showing off to the girls and so up they hopped like bloody gazelles. Bastards.

I turned around and began my careful descent, starting to notice how sore my legs were actually, and how hot it was, come to think of it, and how sweaty I had mysteriously become, and how thirsty I was. Though I wasn't yet tempted by that soil-filtered rainwater.