Monday, 30 November 2009

Yes Way


This is how awesome the heavens are:

My car is now legal. Viva Brian! Don't ask me what he did for his $460, as he certainly didn't fix the CV joint (Brian: "You don't mind a bit of knocking do ya?" Weasel: "No, it keeps me awake"), and paperwork is clearly not his forte (Weasel: "Do you have the inspection sheet?" Brian: "Er... um... no"), but he took it back to the original garage to get it reinspected*, and they were happy with it, and if they're happy, I'm happy.

I have also, ahem, come into some cash.

Tutor Smartypants rang me up last week.

"Are you around next Tuesday?" he said.

"Yup," I said.

"It's just that you've been invited to an awards ceremony," he said.

"Eh? Why?" I said.

"Because you've won an award," he said.

"Waaaaaaaagh! Which one?" I shrieked (calmly and dignified like).

"The one for being top student with best grades etc etc," he said.

"Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha [etc]" I said (slightly hysterical like).

"So it'd be really good if you could be there to pick it up."

"Oh yes," I said (The award is COLD HARD CASH).

"And while you're there," he said, "You could pick up the other one too."

"The other one?" I said (not at all quick on the uptake like).

"Yes, the I** G****** Award for Excellence in Journalism. You won that as well."

"I didn't."

"You did!"

"Excellence!" I spluttered, choking on the irony. There were several people in my class who are excellent reporters, far more excellent than I'll ever be even if I did it for a thousand million years, however they all flunked shorthand so didn't get their diplomas and therefore weren't eligible for any of the awards. Just me and another girl were, and the less said about that the better.

"Indeed," Tutor Smartypants said. "Well done."

The I** G****** Award for Excellence in Journalism is also cold hard cash and it is just about enough to pay for a flight home.

* I checked - I'm daft but I'm not that daft
** I have deleted the name of the awards in case google ever reveals to the awards people how I have described their hefty and impressive piece of silverware (see next post). I don't mean any offence, I just can't believe how fucking big it is.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Heaven Forbid

i thought it was you and me, little car: how could you DO this to me?

And then of course I see things like this and think I must be totally, screamingly mad to want to go back to the UK, Flatmate or no Flatmate. (I pored over those photos quite expecting to see the pair of us weaving home in the background. It did not make me proud).

But anyway.

I have a plan. Like all my plans, it relies heavily on the heavens smiling on me.

Unfortunately, the heavens must've had a lot on their plate recently. Two days after giving notice on my room, I took my car in for its WOF (warrant of fitness = MOT). The plan was for it to fail on one slightly frayed seatbelt and possibly the brakes, and for me to fix it swiftly and painlessly with the assistance of some early birthday and Christmas "presents" (ie cold hard cash) from My Lovely Sister and dad, then head north to spend the holidays in the sun, working and saving up for an airline ticket.

But then My Little Car betrayed me. Sniff! And I thought we were friends. It had conveniently forgotten to tell me about its dodgy steering rack, its suppurating CV joint, its wobbly headlight and the rust all along the firewall.

The nice man at the garage, whose name was Adrian, shook his head sorrowfully and said "About a grand to fix, mate. I don't know how to say this politely but you should maybe think about buying a new car."

I decided Adrian probably didn't know what he was talking about and took the car to a different, much seedier, garage in the wrong part of town.

"Ah yeah, no worries mate, we can patch that up for you for a couple of hundred," said a man called Brian with extraordinarily blue eyes. "I can't even see where the problem is: I expect we'll just need to wipe the oil off."

This sounded so much more affordable, yet so much more worrying, than the original prognosis.

"Um, the thing is, I have given notice on my house and so will need the car all fixed and warranted before the 5th of December because that is when I have to move out," I said. "I'm leaving Invercargill. I can't afford to buy a new car. I've only got about $500 to spare. I just need a WOF and then I'll be flogging it to some unsuspecting backpacker in a couple of months anyway."

"Yep, yep, no worries. We'll take a look. Bring it in on Monday," he said, pulling out a diary. I watched as he thumbed through blank pages until he found November.

"What time?" I asked.

"Oh, you know; any," he said. He scrawled something incomprehensible along the top of a page. "See you Monday then."

"OK, thanks," I said.

That was Thursday.

Today is Monday. Today I have been round to that garage six times so far. It has been locked up, deserted, each time. I look at the calendar and see a precious day of big strong oily men tending to my car, wasted. A small knot of fear sits in my stomach. I force myself to remember that the heavens have never let me down yet.

Brian, on the other hand, is a different matter.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Tipping Point

the only thing greater than the power of the mind is the courage of the heart, and beer

Friday, 11am. Walk to school. The sun is so hot I have to stop and take my coat off. I think I remember why this is - something called "summer".

Friday, 12pm. Attempt to use up some of the 453 print credits I have left by printing off three copies each of every story I got published this year. Afterwards, still have 351 print credits.

Friday, 1pm. Feature was marked and returned yesterday, so am just waiting for Tutor Smartypants to give back Wednesday's internet editing test and another exercise from that unit. Once this is done, my academic year is complete. Feel a bit weird about this.

Friday, 2pm. Take a big gulp, then delete everything from my school email account. Even though I have already backed up all my work to a CD and have a scrapbook full of clippings, still cannot bring myself to delete the stories from my hard drive.

Friday, 3pm. Classmates gather in the newsroom, drawn by Tutor Smartypants' offer of a few beers to celebrate the end of the year. Tutor Smartypants hands back the internet unit results. I passed. Of course I passed - I've passed everything to date, why was I so worried? Idiot girl. Big sigh of relief anyway: the uncertainty's over. Tucking the papers carefully into my backpack I feel that small, delicious, tingling sensation of my life being my own again. Get a kebab to celebrate. Then a double chocolate fudge sundae ice cream. In a waffle cone.

Friday, 4pm. Fed up of waiting for Tutor Smartypants and Tutor Mr mr, who for some inexplicable reason still appear to be working, we students (ex-students?) retire to the pub.

Friday, 5pm. Tutors are here, beer is flowing, life is good.

Friday, 6pm. Ditto. Bar tab ran out some time ago, but somehow beer is still flowing. Tutors are telling us how they reckon they've perfected their 'good cop bad cop' routine: Mr mr is The Nice One, Smartypants is Darth Maul. "If you're so evil," I say to Tutor Smartypants,"How come everyone at the ODT said 'Aw, he's lovely' when I went there for work experience?"

Friday, 7pm. Ditto. Tutors reveal they have both been following my blog throughout the year. "Oh no," I say. "Oh yes," they say. "Sorry about the trouser thing," I say.

Friday, sometime after the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth(?) pint. I hear Tutor Smartypants say to me, "You're totally mad, but you write beautifully. Beautiful writing. Just beautiful." I melt. A few pints in the pub on a Friday: $28. A year's study at the Southern Institute of Technology: $997. Hearing those words from someone I respect implicitly: priceless. I don't even mind the mad bit. As I stare drunkenly and dumbfoundedly at Tutor Smartypants across the table, something inside me shifts. The self-doubt crumbles. The moment crystallises into the reason I left Flatmate behind to come back to New Zealand. The year of hell I've endured in Invercargill has been entirely worth it.

Friday, now it's dark outside. Friends of the tutors have joined us. Why have I never noticed what a brilliant place Invercargill is before?

Friday, soon after. Someone taps me on the shoulder, a hand is proffered. "All the best," says Tutor Smartypants. And he's gone.

Some unspecified point between Friday and Saturday. Mr mr has stepped into the beer breach and pints are being magically replenished all round. I am talking to a right-handed architect called Brent, Southland Times reporter Amy, and a man from Sheffield who is awesome. Mr mr quizzes me on my relationship with Flatmate. His contention is that it makes no sense. My sole defence is "But he's lovely".

Closing time. Mr mr rounds up the willing and leads us to the piss-barn down the road for more beer and dancing. Like baby ducklings, we follow.

Saturday, 2am-ish. A live band is playing at the piss-barn. The beautiful music student is there watching. I ogle wistfully. One of my Fabulous Classmates is removed from the premises by a bouncer for falling asleep on the unkindly comfortable leather sofa.

Saturday, 3am-ish. Where is all this beer coming from? The Weasel finds her feet and takes to the dancefloor with gusto. I am immediately set upon by a young man who insists I meet his friend "David Bain". He drags me to the smoking area where "David Bain" is having a ciggie. "David Bain" is indeed a tall, weedy sort of chap with spectacles and a monstrous jumper. "David Bain" tells me he is a well-paid computer geek with no girlfriend and I should come back to his house for a party later. "David," I say, "I would but you slaughtered your family. How can I trust you?*"

Saturday, 4am. Just me, Mr mr, one solitary Fabulous Classmate, Brent the right-handed architect, "David Bain" and "David Bain"'s mate remain. We are throwing some serious shapes on the dancefloor, and creating a bit of a mardi gras atmosphere, but the bouncer kicks us out regardless. "We're closing," he explains. That is like so unfair.

Saturday, 4.10am. Brent the right-handed architect lives just across the road and wants us to come back to his flat to listen to music. Mr mr and Brent adopt a tactic of deliberately dawdling so as to lose "David Bain" and chum. I think this is a shame. It is a well-established part of my social repertoire to collect random weird people on my nights out**. At the flat, Brent plays The Pixies and Arcade Fire so loud I have to cover my ears. Mr mr, Brent and Fabulous Classmate dance drunkenly as I look on regally from a reclining armchair.

Saturday, 4.45am-ish. Fabulous Classmate has found a guitar. She insists the music is turned down so she can showpiece her guitar-playing abilities. I think how fun this would be if Flatmate were here. But he isn't. He is 11,929 miles away. Start to get gloomy.

Saturday, 5am. Stand up abruptly, put coat on, wave at Fabulous Classmate (who is still murdering the guitar), shake Brent the right-handed architect's hand. Mr mr comes over. "You're leaving?" He gathers me up in a big bear hug, kisses my forehead. "Take care, love ya," he says. This could be the beer talking. I leave. Why is there a lump in my throat?

Saturday, 5.05am. The sky is lightening in the east through a gap in the clouds. The morning chorus is deafening, a weird sci-fi soundtrack, an alien language. I shuffle homewards through my favourite park. I feel desolate. Tears are building behind my eyes like a tropical storm. Eventually, they spill. I don't stop them. I don't really know why I'm crying. I drop to the ground by the stream under a weeping willow and let it all out. Now I'm howling: tears and snot and pure, sweet pain. Articulate it, my rational brain urges. What's the problem, Weasel? You've had a great night, a great year. Why are you so sad?

"I miss you, Flatmate," I bawl to the trees and the birds and the stream. "I'm done here now. I want to come home."

*Note to Mr Bain's solicitors - This was merely light-hearted banter as David was cleared of his murder convictions at his retrial and it is wrong to suggest the verdict was flawed.
**Note to my friend Matt - remember the guy who was so drunk he'd shat himself? Awesome. I still stand by my belief that the magnificence of his shirt outweighed the smell.

Monday, 16 November 2009


coming soon

I have written my feature. It is 1545 words of chocolately goodness. In essence, it is a thinly disguised pop at the council for being a visionless bunch of twats. I like it very much. If the newspaper doesn't want it - which is significantly more than highly likely - I may even post it up here.

I spent a small part of Friday night working it. Then a small part of Saturday night. Yesterday, I treated myself to a whole evening off, and lounged around eating chocolate. This morning - the deadline is tomorrow - I thought I'd better get cracking.

So I prised myself out of bed early. I sat down at my desk. I cranked up the laptop. I spread out my notes. I flexed my delicate little Weasel paws. Then there was a knock at my door.

Somehow, and I don't know how this happened, my female housemate has got the idea that she and I are best buddies. I think it may be because I have an inexplicably high tolerance for idiots, and can nod in all the right places when they are banging on about their latest bout of meaningless, self-inflicted crises.

Today's crisis was that she still doesn't have a job. She hasn't had a job since she chucked in two perfectly good ones in Invercargill in June to move to Auckland to look for a job. When she got to Auckland she found she didn't like it there, so she came back to Invercargill three weeks later having spent all her savings. She has no money, and she does not qualify for a government benefit because she is from overseas, and there is no work, no work anywhere at all. She's already had money sent from home three times. She cannot go on like this. What is she to do!

As we were talking, her phone rang. It was the employment agency, the one she's been bombarding with phone calls and visits for weeks, pleading with them to find her work. Bombarding to the extent they had to tell her politely to quit bugging them.

We have a job for you, they said. We need people immediately, today - can you get here right now?

The agency is a ten minute walk away.

No, said my housemate, it is raining, and I cannot walk in the rain because I get a fever. Perhaps lunchtime when I can get a lift? No? Okay then. Bye.

Without missing a beat, she hung up and carried on talking about how terrible life was. For a moment I contemplated killing her and burying her in the garden, but in the end I began shuffling my notes and chewing my pencil and saying things like "Well, that's interesting, but I really do have a lot of work to do."

"Oh Weasel," she said, "Can I just quickly borrow your laptop? I know you are busy, but I will be very quick."

I handed it over in silence - silence for me is always a very big clue I am thinking "YOU MORON" - and started re-reading the tutor's 'how to write a feature' handout. After a couple of minutes, I glanced over. She was browsing through her emails. Then I heard:

"I show you a picture of my brother!" I was treated to a tour of an online family photo album. Followed by a quick tour on google maps of the place she grew up.

Eventually, I managed to wrestle her out of my room. I wrote the feature. As I was doing so, I had the realisation I really, really like writing. Then I walked into town, and went to the letting agency, and gave three weeks' notice on my tenancy.

I am outta here.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

I Shall Say Zis Only Once

diploma: u r doin it rite

This morning, at about 9.17am, and not that I was counting, I passed the second shorthand test.

The chances of me getting a diploma are suddenly looking rather good. As far as course work goes, I have one story waiting to be marked, and one review (they MADE us go and see an am-dram performance of 'Allo 'Allo for this, which I feel breaches some sort of human right). There is a 1500-word feature left to write, and an internet/editing test next Wednesday which Tutor Smartypants, in his professional capacity, described as "a piece of piss". And that is it.

Short of shitting on Tutor Smartypants' desk, or eating his baby, I am cautiously optimistic I now have no need for the image (above) I "borrowed" and carefully filed away when I saw it several months ago, ready for this time of year.


Discussing this astonishing turn of events with Tutor Smartypants this morning (and he no less astonished than I - "Just think, this time next week you will be a fully qualified journalist, and Jesus that is scary for so many reasons," I think he said) I put it to him that for me, this year had mainly been confirmation of something I already knew - that I can do what I'm told.

He looked surprised when I said that. So surprised, in fact, maybe I need to go away and reassess that opinion.

But before we start all the thinky stuff, there's that small matter of the 1500-word feature.

See you on the other side.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Here Is The News


Invercargill was rocked this morning by the news One Fine Weasel passed the first of two shorthand tests required to obtain a National Diploma in Journalism.

Ms Weasel, 42, stayed up until midnight yesterday, and got up early this morning, to put in the extra practice needed to achieve this feat.

She said she had resigned herself to failing the entire course because, despite eight months of study, she had yet to master the outline for 'little'.

"Goddamn, I blitzed that motherfucker today," a jubilant Ms Weasel told a crowd of well-wishers after the event.

"And that in spite of the fact I wasn't even wearing my lucky T-shirt. In-s-p-t. Wr-ing. L-k-i. Oh God. Gin. I need gin, give me gin," she said.

Shorthand tutor Lynn Youshouldn'tbeleavinganygapsatthisstage said Ms Weasel had performed well under pressure.

Ms Youshouldn'tbeleavinganygapsatthisstage said there had been just 1.5 errors in her transcript, and several lucky guesses.

"One [shorthand test] down, one to go," she said.

Classmate Sandra Yeahbut said Ms Weasel was overcome with emotion after the examination.

"She basically demanded a hug and then burst into tears," Ms Yeahbut said.

"After I'd wiped the snot off my shoulder we talked about stress-related illness for a bit then went and had a coffee."

The test required students to take dictation in Teeline shorthand at 80 words per minute for three minutes, then accurately transcribe their notes.

Ms Weasel has five opportunities left to pass a second test.

Monday, 2 November 2009

One Year

Us, but who's the chicken?

It has been one year, my love.

One year today since I last saw you, held you, kissed you.

One year since we huddled together on a sofa in the Buddha, smiling at the open mic offerings with our fingers entwined and you looking at me like I was the most beautiful thing in the world.

One year since we wandered in Roath Park, lovestruck, at 3am. It was drizzling. We huddled close under your umbrella, walked and talked, looked at the ducks. You stood on a tree stump and told the world you loved me. You said you knew I was the one, the one you would settle down with. Nobody, ever, would be as good as the Weasel, you said as you gathered me into the folds of your coat and held me there for a warm eternity.

"Do you remember that first time," I said, "That first time we walked in the park together and you were going off on one about Shakespeare right there by the boatsheds and I didn't know what you were talking about?"

"That was the night we played Scrabble in the Albany and that man came and looked over our shoulders and didn't believe 'hew' was a word," he said. "I seem to remember I got two seven letter words that night. Who would've thought it would end up like this? I love you Weasel," he said. "I love you."

"Even though it is impossible to beat you at Scrabble," I said, "I love you too."

A night of a thousand kisses.

Dreams whispered, intentions stated. We both had separate paths to take for a year or two, but after that...

No promises made. Promises are too easily broken. Let love go free and it comes back to you. Tie it down and it wriggles away. Place trust instead in the process, in the feeling. You and me - it felt so right.

My feelings haven't changed at all since that night, little badger, or since that terrible morning when I crept away from your house into the grey Cardiff dawn, cold and numb with shock that I was actually leaving you.

It has been one year, my love. I have missed you every single day.