Sunday, 14 June 2009

Warm Cosy


I sit here, musing on a weekend that's come and gone as fast as the possibility of an All Blacks victory, half-buried by newspapers, nursing a headache and a sore back and wondering if I will ever see the sun again.

The RSI in my mousing wrist has made a reappearance, and I really need to sleep.

I have a belly full of Budget Brand chicken & corn flavour instant noodles, and I have run out of chocolate.

It is hailing outside.

But even so, I am content.

I have spent most of the weekend forcing myself to work on one of the nastier assignments due in next Friday - an analysis of every story in the Southland Times over the course of a week even slightly related to government or economy.

The Southland Times isn't a bastion of of political writing but after two solid days' slog I'm still only on Wednesday and my eyes are starting to bleed.

I'm also having the terrors about work experience. I haven't told you about that yet.

The tutors told us all ages ago that we should have a little think about where we would like to go for work experience. I had a little think and decided I would like to go to some rural backwater that produces a weekly community paper comprised of 90% adverts, one page of readers' letters and two stories about sheep.

I told the tutors this.

"Ha ha ha," they said, "We're sending you to the Otago Daily Times."

The Otago Daily Times is not only a Proper Newspaper, it is the Proper Newspaper where Tutor Smartypants used to work; he is their golden boy and they have never taken work experience students from my school before.

So no pressure then.

My Fortnight of Terror begins on 22 June.

I will be hopelessly out of my depth, I know it.

But in spite of all this, my room is warm and my belly is full and Flatmate sent me a string of filthy texts this afternoon and I've done enough work for now so I am happy.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Maître D'on't

just like our house

I have not been murdered by Weird Guy!

Every day, a new blessing.

Last week, I accidentally found myself watching television in the lounge with him.

There was one of those inane-yet-irresistible American reality apprentice survivor chef top model shows on.

We watched in silence as near-hysterical wannabe cooks attempted to turn out poncey meals for poncey customers in a poncey restaurant under the watchful glare of sixteen TV cameras and a furious man who kept shouting at them. (It might have been Gordon Ramsey, but who knows; I am the cat who walks by itself and all reality TV show chefs are alike to me).

The supplicants brought forth food for The Diners on those great big white plates which would make a turd look appetising if it was drizzled with a sweet cherry jus with a crumbling of blue cheese and a wild rocket sorbet. The Diners sniffed at their meals and prodded them and nibbled on them with the expressions of people who were being forced to eat lightly sautéed turd with a sweet cherry jus dusted with a crumbling of blue cheese and a wild rocket sorbet.

"It's cold," the boldest of them said, wrinkling his manicured nose. "It's cold and it's not cooked properly. That really is unacceptable."

"At least you got some fucking food mate!" Weird Guy suddenly bellowed at the telly. "You should try not having any fucking food like those fucking pricks in Africa you fucking fuck."

I nodded, surprised by this commendable observation.

"Look, this meat is totally raw," said the American, grimacing at the camera.

"You're lucky to have some fucking meat you fucking prick," Weird Guy shouted, warming to his theme. "You should try not having any fucking meat and see how you fucking like it."

I laughed, delighted.

"Fucking cunts, ay," he said to me.

"Yeah," I said.

"They should think themselves lucky they got any fucking food at all. They should try going hungry, see what it fucking feels like."

"Too right," I said.

"Sending their food back," he snorted. "I'd fucking tell them to shove it up their fucking arses."

We watched to the end of the programme, Weird Guy muttering obscenities under his breath. Then Weird Guy asked me how my course was going.

"Ok," I said, "It's hard work though - really intense."

"Fucking worth it though ay," he said. "At least you'll fucking be able to get a real job at the end of it."

"Well, I hope so," I said.

"I'm thinking of doing a course," Weird Guy said. "I'm sick of fucking around. I fucking wasted my life so far. Fucking should sort myself out."

"What do you want to do?" I said.

"I wanna have my own business. Then all those fuckers would just leave me alone. I wanna have my own place and do what I fucking wanted. I'm fucking sick of it, ay. Fucking fuckers."

"I know what you mean," I said, and I did. "What course are you interested in?"

"Bachelor of Therapeutic Massage*," he said.

"Mate," I said, "You should open a restaurant."

My daring was worth it. He smiles at me now.

* I was mildly surprised by this

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Vengeance Fail

the dog ate my spellchecker

Discovered today on a Friends Reunited-type website on a school's noticeboard page:

to the teachers

YOU were all wong when you said I would not amoount to anything. well guese what I"m now a Early Childhood Teacher with a Deploma,

Helen Young 28/03/2008

That'll learn 'em.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009


sink... or swim?

"Weasel, come in here a minute."

The tutor with the great trousers beckoned me into his office.

"Your story - the one about your film guy and the film festival - "

I grimaced. I knew what was coming.

It had taken me weeks - weeks! - to cobble together that story. It was one we'd had to do as part of our assessment, on top of our general stories. We are "meant" to be able to produce two or three stories a day: I'm still struggling to do one a week. That story had rendered me incapable of doing anything for a fortnight.

Gathering information to write a news story is for me about as easy and painless as breech-birthing giant hedgehog superbabies while receiving unanaesthetised root canal treatment while delivering a lecture on quantum physics on a unicycle. In Malayam. This story in particular was proving even more troublesome for no apparent reason I could see. It was just a nameless horror; an impossible hurdle. I ceased functioning. My inner procrastinator went into overdrive. Worry about the looming deadline consumed my life.

I'd chatted to a guy ages ago (My Favourite Palindrome's flatmate, as it happened) who'd told me he wanted to make a movie of his life, which gave me an idea for this story but it wasn't really newsworthy. While an inspiring chap, he was still only a Bachelor of Digital Media student doing what Bachelor of Digital Media students do, and nothing had actually happened yet - but it was the only thing I could come up with that fitted the requirements of the assessment (the story had to be about something/someone Maori). So I interviewed him and it all went swimmingly and I told Tutor Smartypants of my plan to write about this guy and to find out what help is available for budding film makers but Tutor Smartypants said no it needed more what does it represent? so I tried to get hold of all these governmental and filmy types in Wellington and Auckland to beef the story up a bit but they were all buggers to get hold of and I was tearing my hair out because there were these other people I really should have talked to but they were just a bit too scary to approach, then by some small miracle the computers at school broke on Friday afternoon three hours before the deadline so Herr Tutor said ok 3pm Monday instead, and then there was a Maori film festival in Invercargill on the Saturday night which kind of linked in to my story so I went and managed to grab a quote off the festival organiser afterwards and then someone at the NZ Film Commission finally got back to me at 3.30 on Monday afternoon so while I'd managed to patch something together to submit and it was only a little bit late I hadn't actually done what Herr Tutor suggested at all so all in all (breathe now Weasel), it was a pretty lame effort.

But at least it was something.

Yeah. Something containing three random and unconnected bits of not-very-newsworthy information.

Something quite clearly cobbled together in deadline-induced desperation.

Something guaranteeing a FAIL.

As I braced myself for a bollocking I admitted it: I was struggling here. The whole process of news gathering was proving to be totally beyond me. This term had been a nightmare. I hadn't been able to get into it at all. I had the multi-tasking skills of an amoeba - why was I even on this course? I'd never be able to do this. I should just go back to temping.

Tutor Smartypants fished my story from a pile of paperwork.

"I have to say, if your intro had been a bit stronger, and if you'd have got it in on time, you would've got 100% for this. Awesome work. Well done."


"But it was all over the place! It wasn't newsworthy! It was terrible!"

Tutor Smartypants shook his head and smiled kindly, for he is kind to idiots like me.

"It's beautifully written," he said. "Like I said, the only thing was your intro was weak - it needed a summary of everything you've talked about in the story, to draw it all together, not a sentence saying 'there was a film festival at the weekend'. That's all that was wrong with it. This is quality writing. Look at the marks I've given you. Will you please get it into your head - you are going to be a very good journalist."

Tutor Smartypants is not only a highly-esteemed ex-chief reporter at a Proper Newspaper but has also been one of the Qantas Media Awards judges for the last two years (a fact I discovered accidentally while doing 'research' the other day) and as such if he says nice things about my writing then what choice do I have but to worship the ground he walks on for saying nice things about my writing?

As I walked back to my desk I read what he'd written on the bottom of my story.

It was another 'Wow'.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

My aforementioned 'research' also turned up this photo which may or may not include both of my obscenely lovely and wonderful tutors.

Bless 'em.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Death By Toast

please can i go home now?

The communal area of the house has been taken over by Weird Guy.

Every time I walk through the front door, every time I go from my room to the kitchen, he is there, in the lounge, being strange.

Usually he is sitting, picking at his guitar and staring at the telly.

Sometimes he is standing; motionless in the middle of the room, gazing into space.

After last week's flurry of communication our conversations have now reverted to me saying hello as I enter the room and him either ignoring me completely or staring blankly.

Just like the good old days.

This weekend I see he has found a new toy.

It is a pole, a stick, a weapon of sorts: from the floor it reaches to his chest, and he is very tall. It looks to be made of plastic, like a broom handle, but it isn’t a broom handle. It is lumpier than that, and red.

He stands in the middle of the lounge brandishing it. Practising moves. Like a martial artist. Like an intimidating person with too much testosterone. Like a total psychopathic freak.

“That looks cool,” I say, attempting to acknowledge the elephant (with the eyes of a serial killer) in the room while I stand in the kitchen area waiting desperately for the microwave to ding. “Do you know all the moves and stuff?”

“Do you know the moves?” he replies.

“No,” I say. I don’t even know what it is he’s supposed to be doing; I only know it’s not something with which one reassures one's new housemates that you are not wildly unhinged and dangerous.

“I can’t explain it if you don’t know what it’s about.”

“Is it Maori?” I ask (Weird Guy is Maori, and what he is doing with his stick looks like this).

“Nah, fuck that shit.”


I am deeply uncomfortable spending time in the kitchen area with Weird Guy out there and so have taken to sneaking out of my room for lightning raids on the fridge for edibles that don’t need much, if any, cooking.

My diet of late has been toast, crisps, avocadoes, crackers, cheese, crisps, olives, bananas, biscuits, chocolate, crisps.

Death by malnutrition is preferable.