Ficklish Blog

Saturday, March 17, 2007


For my birthday, my lovely brothers presented me with tickets to a play, “Underneath the Lintel” – written by Glen Berger, directed by Maria Mileaf and starring an American actor called Richard Schiff.

American actors feature in London plays reasonably frequently, and depending on their level of notoriety their presence is trumpeted proudly in posters at tube stations and discussed reverently in the street press. This was my first experience of a show featuring someone I had heard of, and it just happened to be a member of the cast of one of my favourite shows. [‘Just happened..”, yeah, right]. I felt a bit sheepish about going to see a performance just for one actor, and so I downplayed the Richard Schiff factor when discussing the play beforehand. Then I arrived at the theatre to discover that it is, in fact, a one-man show. So much for nonchalance.

It was good! Toby Richard Schiff played a quiet, scruffy Dutch (oh yes, there was an accent) librarian who uncovers a mystery and sets about collecting clues. It was a somewhat trite in that to solve the mystery the Librarian goes on a Journey and has Important Insights about life, love, myth and an individual’s place in the world – but I liked it nonetheless. Mr Schiff’s character was endearing, funny and vulnerable, and he was so captivating throughout that I barely noticed there was no-one else on stage. I was entertained and even a wee bit moved.

As luck would have it, when we arrived at the theatre we discovered that thanks to a visiting group of drama students, a Q&A session would be held after the performance.

Now, I have mixed feelings about the Q&A. On the one hand, it’s interesting to see the real person behind the performances or meet the creator of the piece. On the other, however, people ask really freaking dumb questions and I spend most of the time writhing in agony in my seat. Still, I usually assume that it will be amusing and I’m always right.

The most hilarious Q&A I ever saw was at the Brisbane International Film Festival: a session hosted by David Stratton in which noted documentary maker Bob Connolly spoke about his (excellent) film Facing the Music. The questions were, for the most part, very good and I learned a great deal. And then there was this guy:

Very Eager Young Guy In Crowd: “Good evening, Mr Connolly. I’d like to ask you about your other new film, ‘The Bank’…” [The VEYGIC then proceeded to ask a question in several parts about that particular film.]

There was a thick silence. Mr Connolly paused, and exchanged an uncomfortable glance with Mr Stratton.

Bob Connolly: “Um, that’s an interesting question. However, I think you would be better off asking it of Robert Connolly, the feature film maker, who directed that particular film.”

Rest of Audience: HAHAHAHAHAHA.

The VEYGIC dropped dead with the embarrassment.

I was looking forward to tonight’s session, in a slightly geeky way. Too cool to admit openly that I was excited about seeing Toby in the flesh, I adopted what I hoped passed for an urbane sneer and looked forward to the stupidity to follow.

I was not disappointed on either front. Mr Schiff was reassuringly Toby-like, mumbling, chomping on a mint and fidgeting with his spectacles while looking a touch uncomfortable. He was self-effacing and charming and told some very good jokes.

But, oh, the questions. In the break, TPC and I hastily compiled a list with which to play Q&A Bingo: What made you decide to do the play? / How did you find the transition from a TV show to the stage? / How hard was it to do the accent? / How do you find London? and What’s next for you? We only got four out of five, which disappointed me as I had been looking forward to seeing TPC stand up and shout BINGO in the middle of the theatre.

There was the predictable discussion about the craft, and inhabiting the character, which the budding young actors lapped right on up. Mr Schiff was able to keep a straight face throughout, which I guess is understandable given that he does this for a living. He made some deliciously pandering comments about how English audiences just seem to get the play more than American audiences.

Most of the questions were not particularly memorable. Some of them weren’t even questions:

“If I may, I'd like to make an observation..." [jLo: Oh, please, go right ahead! I was hoping you’d tell me what you thought. It’s not like I’m here to listen to what the guy on stage has to say anyway.]

“Oh, Richard, you were just wonderful…” [Sigh. And your question is?]

“On behalf of the Americans in the audience, I’d just like to say that we most certainly DO get it… “ [We don’t care!]

Some folk were downright impolite. One girl identified herself as a journalism student [Again: we don’t care!] and asked snottily if he would please catalogue everything about that night’s performance that was different from the night before. Unsurprisingly, Mr Schiff was less than willing to comply. Then there was the girl who asked him if he believed in God and wouldn’t take a politely non-committal rebuff for an answer. She kept at him, insistently, until I was ready to go over and shout in her face. Hey, you there? IT’S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS! Grr. People are rude.

Anyway, what TPC and I were really waiting around for was to see if anyone would ask a West Wing question. I had giddy visions of a Comic Book Guy-style geek somewhere in the audience (other than myself, of course) asking something insanely specific. “In Episode 4 of Season 2, you made a reference to…”, etc. That’s what I wanted. TPC and I had thrown around a few pisstake examples for our own amusement in the break, but there was no way in hell we were going to actually ask them. We waited in gleeful anticipation, but I quietly readied myself for disappointment, assuming that it wouldn’t actually happen.

Then it did.

Moderator: “You sir, the gentleman in the third row.”

Guy In Audience: “Thank you. Richard! First of all, I’d just like to congratulate you on a wonderful performance.”

Richard Schiff: “Thank you, that’s very kind.”

GIA: “Now, my question is this: can you tell everyone the university from which President Bartlet received his Masters degree?”

RS: “…”

jLo and TPC: BWAH HAH HAHH! [They high five]. Then, quietly to themselves:

TPC: "Actually, I know that."

jLo: "Nerd." [a pause]. "Um, so do I."

TPC: "Shoot us both. Now."

Meanwhile, back on stage:

GIA: "Come on, now!"

RS: “I’m very sorry, sir, I can’t remember."

GIA: “Well! I’m happy to help out: it was the London School of Economics!" [He was very fond of exclamation marks, it seemed] "Now! You might not be aware, but it’s actually just down the road from this theatre! There’s a group of us from the university here tonight. We’d like to invite you to the campus for a tour!”

Good god. He’d obviously been preparing that little gag all night. By this stage I had slipped down off my seat with all the cringing and also the laughing. Mr Schiff chuckled politely and kindly told them they could leave a card.

The moral of the story, I guess, should be that if I’m going to bitch about how stupid the questions are I should prepare some good ones of my own. Of course, I’m always tempted. But then I remember that guy at the BIFF and keep my mouth firmly shut.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


A year ago today, I was very tired. My clothes had been drenched in Dettol, I had just purchased my first pashmina and had my first Ribena in six years. After lugging my suitcase across the world to a teeny tiny hotel room in Paddington, I spent the day wandering along Oxford Street in the wind and rain, trying to stay awake until bedtime.

Today, I woke up in my lovely warm flat, The Pickle. I had a leisurely breakfast, with coffee made just the way I like it and a very good book. I ventured out into the sunshiny afternoon and meandered down to the riverbank and across the footbridge to the Tate Modern. It was crowded and noisy, but the art was great and playing on the slides excellent fun. Tonight, I’m going to a house party and then possibly out in my neighbourhood for a lemonade or two.

I like it here.

For some reason, since I’ve been home for my whirlwind visit there have been more people than ever before asking me why I live in London. My brother says it is called the ‘Availability Heuristic’: simply put, when something’s on your mind you see it everywhere. After experiencing the warm, familiar joy of home, my decision to live almost as far away as physically possible seems hard to justify. And yet, the pull of the city remains.

When asked, I usually give a stock answer – babbling incoherently about how there’s so much going on here, and it’s such a good base for travel, blah blah. And while those are good reasons to be here, that’s not quite all of what it is for me.

My life had been characterised by movement over recent years – in each phase, I’ve been looking to the next one and working out how to get there. Here, I feel like I’ve just got started and there’s a lot left to explore. Maybe it’s a sign that I’ve found somewhere I want to stay.

Life has settled into a version of normal – I have a good flat that contains furniture I built myself. I have a great posse of excellent friends with whom I have a standing date to eat roast on Sunday evenings at a wonderful pub. I have favourite restaurants and bars and shops, galleries and markets. I had all that elsewhere too. It’s something less tangible and maybe part of the reason I know I want to be here longer is that I haven’t worked it out yet.

Days like today get me close to figuring it out – I love that gallery and the walk down past St Paul’s takes me past postcard London: beautiful old white buildings, red buses and phone boxes, black cabs and grey cobblestones. As I walked down the streets I had one of those warm, gleeful moments: I live in London! I have such affection for this place that is beyond rational expression. It feels good to be a part of it. It’s dirty, and hard to penetrate, and expensive, and old, but I feel protective when people complain about these things. I like it.

Maybe (visa-willing) in another year I’ll have used up this store of goodwill and the energy it takes to overcome the challenges. I still don’t know what I’m doing with my life, but for now getting the most out of living in this place is as much of a plan as I need.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Wedding Of The Year

(Or, It's A Long Way To Go for a Chocolate Paddle Pop).

So, you know, it’s getting really close to being a whole year since I’ve been away (and since this blog was born). Before I get to the actual official Oh My God, Has It Been A Year Already, How Can That Be Possible? anniversary post, however, I have something of a hopelessly self-indulgent preview for you.

As you know, a couple of weeks ago I visited Sydney for four days. It’s been fun to blow the minds of the poor English folk around me with casual references to having gone ‘home for the weekend’, but it’s been hard to write about the actual trip itself. It was certainly fun, and funny – and I was, as you would expect, utterly hilarious the entire time. But for some reason I can barely remember any of the good jokes and stories – as soon as I start to write about it I descend into mush. Also, corn. (Mmm, corn mush.) I do want to have a record of it here, though, so I hope you will forgive me. I’ll find the funny again as soon as possible.

And I would also like to say to those of you that I didn’t get to see on the Whirlwind Tour 2006? I’m sorry, and I miss you. The corn mush is for everybody.


They day I left London, they’d salted the footpaths in anticipation of snowfall. The wheels on my suitcase crunched against the grit as I walked to the Heathrow train.

I don’t think it’s possible to have any real conception of that kind of distance covered by that flight. You walk onto the plane and sit in one place for so many tired, cramped and cranky hours that time is no longer real. Then you walk off the plane and you’re on the other side of the world.

When I emerged the air was warm and heavy and the light had that sort of metallic-edged brightness that you only get in Oz. I was filthy and stinking and had spent the last twenty minutes fretting quietly about how I was going to explain the many (many) litres of alcohol in my suitcase (happily, no-one asked). Then there were warm smiling faces in front of me and hugs so hard it was as if we were trying to cram a year’s worth of affection into one gesture. It felt good.

I’ve never felt much of an attachment to Sydney before – but the sights and smells and street signs were so comfortably familiar on the drive into town that the grin on my face was a mile wide.

The whole weekend was a heady mix of the absolutely normal and the head-spinningly surreal. I remember chatting happily to my parents and J,The as we drove to Kate and Andy’s place and being suddenly struck dumb as we came around the headland and I caught my first glimpse of Bondi spread out below me. It’s visceral and physical, my reaction to the landscape – winding me like a punch to the chest. For a girl who is as far from the outdoor type as it is possible to be, the beauty of my home geography moves me in a way that is always unexpected.

Later, sitting on the couch at Poundster HQ, I marvelled at how ordinary it felt. It could have been last weekend that I had been there, surrounded by my people. Throughout the afternoon and evening I busily catalogued the differences to myself: a fetching new hairstyle, funky new trousers, a highly promising new boyfriend, a gorgeous little boy toddling about and charming everyone. Nothing about the way we all fit together perfectly had changed even a little bit.

Every part of the wedding weekend was most excellent fun. The barbecue on Big Day Eve at Vaucluse, overlooking the harbour filled with sailboats, was quiet and lovely and tinged with anticipation. I ate salad and drank mid-strength beer (which I had totally forgotten about, by the way. Mid-strength beer!) and chatted happily with everyone as I felt my head swim with jetlag in an not-altogether-unpleasant fashion.

The next day, we descended upon Kate in her hotel room as she was getting all brided up and were, quite simply, blown away. Our Kate is always smoking hot, and on her wedding day she was breathtaking. Everything about her was just right: the dress, the hair, the shoes, the jewellery. I’ve never seen anyone look so much the best version of themselves. She glowed.

She was uncharacteristically nervous, however – so I busted out the lame wisecracks (as is my role) and opened the bottle of Agua de Valencia that I had brought with me - a little piece of Spain to share with my girlfriends who really should have been there with me (how can I possibly have had that much fun without them?). We left her to go and have her photo taken with the soon-to-be-future Mr Poundster and the rest of us got ready – with, not to put too fine a point on it, spectacular results. As soon as I get my act into gear and put the photos up you’ll be able to see what I mean.

The wedding was magnificent. There’s no other word for it. The location was stunning, with an endless view of the ocean from the balcony of the restaurant. Everywhere I turned there was a welcome face and I buzzed around the room madly soaking up as many of everyone’s stories as I could hear.

I had been quietly confident that the Poundsters were going to give good wedding ceremony and they did not disappoint. I don’t remember specifics (except who else manages to get a pointed reference to same-sex marriage into their vows?) but for the rest of my life I will remember watching Andy’s face shine with delight as he married my good friend. I may or may not have shed a wee tear myself.

It’s always hard to pinpoint exactly what makes a wedding a success – whatever it is, though, this party had in spades. The closest I can get to a description that seems to fit is that there was a current of joy positively crackling throughout the room. Kate and Andy are well loved and it felt like everyone was so happy they were perilously close to bursting. The food was outstanding, the speeches brilliant (people were even kind enough to laugh during mine. At the jokes, not at me. I think). We drank and laughed and danced like crazy people and it was the most fun of ever.

When it ended, we unstrapped our shoes and wandered down to the beach – soothing our sore feet in the sand, letting the spray hit our faces and the surf crash all over our fancy dresses. The smell of salt and the moonlit sky was the perfect end to one of the best nights of my life.

The next day was bittersweet. An early morning swim in the ocean, a flat white (oh god, so good), a surprise birthday bagel from my favourite St Kilda bakery and then the delicious post-wedding yum cha brunch with the gleeful and still-glowing newlyweds, everyone merrily swapping stories, still high on the buzz from the night before. Throughout the morning, my stomach twisted itself steadily into a sad, quiet knot.

The leaving was hard – Part I of my weekend was over almost as soon as it began. I was angry with myself for presuming that it would be enough. What on earth had I been thinking? How could I possibly leave? It got harder and harder to hold myself together and eventually I had to bolt. I hugged everyone hard, and J,The and Mazza walked me out to the street.

I’m not proud of how I handled my departure – the panic took over and I approached hysteria in a tearful and most uncool fashion. Logically I know that if the weekend proved nothing else it’s that time and space mean nothing and my friends will always be there and it will always be that good – but in that moment I felt stricken and utterly dumbfounded that I could be so stupid as to choose to live a world away.

I love you guys.

Once J,The and Mazza made their lucky escapes from the crazy woman, scurrying gratefully back down the steps back towards brunch, I pulled myself together and headed off to hang out with my family.

One of the best things about my family is the way their presence comforts me, whatever the situation. It didn't fail this time either, and we had ourselves a time, my folks and I. My brother (the famous Captain Kloss) and his girlfriend came to Sydney too, and we wandered through the city for the rest of the day – shopping and chatting and eating and arguing about which streets were no-right-turn. Later, back at the hotel, we watched the cricket and listened to the roar of the crowd watching Glenn McGrath’s last home innings waft over from the SCG.

Captain Kloss has a favourite seafood restaurant on the wharf at Woolloomooloo, and that night we dressed up and went to have an utterly spectacular meal. We toasted each other (and the absent TPC) with cocktails, bantered with our very charming waiter and debated whether or not it was actually possible to taste the difference between rock oysters from various parts of the greater Sydney region (it is). We got drunk and talked shite and solved the problems of the world and patted ourselves very heartily on the back and it was just what being with my family is always like. I was elated all over again. Later, we adjourned to a pub in Surry Hills and watched England win the one-day trophy. My presence was (not unreasonably) blamed.

CK and Leah had to leave early the next morning, and my parents and I had a long, lovely, lazy day just hanging out. We shopped some more – you'll be pleased to know I bought what can only be described as a metric fuckload of Bonds underwear (there just isn’t anything like it anywhere else). We ate and wandered aimlessly and talked. We went for a long drive along the beaches and I soaked up the sunshine and the stunning views – storing up images of home to flick through in my mind for the rest of the London winter.

That tight painful knot in my belly emerged again and before long I was hugging my parents goodbye at the airport. They are very understanding of my wanderlust, but nothing brings me undone faster than watching my mother try to be brave. I realised that I do understand what all those miles actually feel like - it’s in those moments that the vastness of the distance is absolutely real.


Here’s what I learned: there’s a reason why one can’t do trips like that too often. It’s not the expense, or the physical impact – it’s that it is too damn good. It hurts too much to leave again.

It was nice to get home to London – I had a pang of excited affection when I saw the lights of the city, and the warm comfort of our lovely flat, The Pickle, was very welcome at the end of many hours of travel. I’ve spent the last fortnight a little bit introspective and a little bit sad, however – this jaunt has made me question why the hell I’m here, what I’m doing and why. I don’t want to move back to Australia, but the fact that the people I love are so freaking far away has never been so present in my mind.

You know what, though? It was totally worth it.

Thanks for a lovely weekend, you guys.

I’m going to write to Richard Branson this week – I have a proposition for him. I’m sure space travel is fun, but my friendly local neighbourhood billionaire entrepreneur needs to be investing resources into what we really need: a teleport. Wouldn’t that be the awesome? Anyone could pop back and forth whenever, go see their favourite band play Wembley or their newborn niece in Guatemala or go mountain-climbing or ice-skating or on a safari for the weekend. And I could have a flat white and make my friends laugh anytime I want.