Sunday, December 30, 2007

Love Letter

Following on from the previous post, here is the story that did make it into the pages of Quadrant. Found it after all. Found all sorts of other forgotten stories too. Some are okay... others are not so okay.



LOVE LETTER


“Jesus. It’s big. What is it?”
“Open it,” Jim replies with an almost graceful jerk of the head. “Go on, love, unwrap it.” He is pleased with her curiosity. Usually she is right on to him. Not this time. The corners of his mouth crease with satisfaction.
Brenda removes the cigarette from her lips, straightening her arm and lowering it to her side in a slow, easy sweep. She juts her jaw and blows smoke into the air. She squints at the gift almost with suspicion. She uses the cigarette hand to fix a strand of lank hair behind her ear.
Jim scratches the back of his hand with the bristles on his chin as he watches her. He thinks again about beauty. He knows Brenda is not beautiful in the accepted sense, and yet he sees something beautiful in her. Something... different, on the inside, some small... thing... she’s strong on the outside, more or less functional, built for a purpose, or many purposes, but on the inside he knows she’s... oh, not weak, but sort of... er... fragile? No, not fragile. Vulnerable? Maybe. Bugger words, Jim thinks, frowning now. Then he thinks: it’s like the way you might call a bloody great cliff face beautiful when you see it in the right light. He smiles to himself. That’s it. That’s it, more or less, exactly.
“Well I’m buggered if I know what it is,” Brenda says at last. She kneels down in front of the object, which is leaning against the wall. She thinks it must be a painting or something, perhaps he got one of my paintings framed. She taps it with a knuckle. Nup, hard like glass. A big mirror? But what did he get me a bloody big mirror for?
Brenda starts to peel the bright paper away. She pauses as she gets her first glimpse of the thing. She looks over her shoulder for a moment then continues tearing the paper away. When the gift is completely unwrapped, the curled scraps of paper scattered about like fallen leaves, she gets to her feet and steps back. They both stare in silence.
“Well Bren?” Jim says when he can’t stand her silence any longer. “What do you think?”
Brenda turns and looks at him with an expression he has never seen before.
“A headstone?” she says. “You got me a headstone?”
“Yeah. Beauty isn’t it.”
Brenda turns back to the headstone. She runs a hand through her hair. “An actual headstone with our names on it and everything.”
“You never would have guessed, would you?”
“No, Jimbo, never would have guessed. Not something a girl ever expects her bloke to... and look, everything’s there. Our birth dates, our full names, and... the date of death. You’ve thought of everything, haven’t you.”
Jim is aware that he is smiling like a fool, but he just can’t stop. Brenda is always complaining that no one is original anymore, but he is pretty sure she thinks this is original.
“Do you like it, love?”
She nods slowly. “Yeah,” she says vaguely. “It’s...”
She stops looking at the headstone, but she doesn’t look at Jim. She looks around the room. She bends and pats the newspapers on the coffee table, checks her pockets, finds her cigarette lighter on the television. She stubs her lit cigarette in a full ashtray, then walks across to Jim. She kisses him on the cheek, gently touching the other cheek with her fingertips.
“Got to go,” she tells him as she turns away, tucking the cigarette pack and lighter into her shirt pocket. “Got to finish that picture.”
“Righto,” Jim replies, frowning again because he’s not sure how Brenda is feeling. “I’ll start making us some tea then.”
Jim walks across to the screen door it pulls it shut. He has to lift it to shut it properly because he still hasn’t fixed the hinge. He watches Brenda through the dusty screen as she walks down the yard to the shed. He watches really hard, but he’s damned if he can tell what she is thinking.

They eat lamb shank stew and drink a bottle of red. The wine is a big shiraz – a wine with balls, as Brenda would say. If she was saying anything. They eat in silence, which is not entirely unusual because Brenda often goes quiet when she is working on a picture. Like quiet music, there’s just the gentle slurp of broth, the gurgle of pouring wine, the small sighs of satisfaction. Brenda ignores the headstone. Once Jim thinks she’s about to look at it, but she catches herself and looks away. By now he’s beginning to suspect that she doesn’t even know what it really is.

They take their clothes off, switch off the light and climb into bed. They lie beside each other in silence, blinking into the dark. Jim decides that because she seems to be in a funny mood he’d better say goodnight and tell her that he loves her. He rolls onto his side, reaches across to her, and suddenly they are hugging.
“I’m sorry,” Jim tells Brenda because he knows that at this particular moment his sudden and unexpected erection is inappropriate. “I just meant to say goodnight. That’s all. I didn’t mean to...”
“Funny way of saying good night.”
They move together and lose themselves in writhing sex. They finish with lingering caresses and exhausted breath, rolling back to opposite sides of the bed. Brenda finds a T-shirt at the foot of the bed which she stuffs between her legs. Jim wipes some sweat from one eye.
“That was good,” Jim says eventually.
“Good? I thought the top of my head was going to come off. Whatever else,” Brenda goes on as she swings her legs out of bed, “you’re no dud root.”
Jim smiles at this as Brenda waddles from the room with the shirt clamped between her thighs. Then, listening to the trickle echoing in the bathroom, he starts to frown. Whatever else? What does that mean?

The following day Jim accepts that Brenda doesn’t think much of the headstone. ‘Whatever else’ means that he’s got lousy taste in gifts, that he hasn’t got a bloody clue. When he was only trying to be original. When he was only trying to tell her how much – just how much – he loves her. There are the words, there is the message written in stone. Still.
“Bloody words,” Jim mutters as he lifts the granite panel. “Only ever get a bloke into trouble.”

Brenda pauses as the screen door closes behind her. She looks at the top of the door.
“You fixed the hinge,” she says.
“Thought it was about time.”
Brenda nods. “What’ve you done to the dishwasher? Thought you were going to get the dishwasher bloke in.”
“Bugger the dishwasher bloke. Been telling you it’s just the pump. Had some shit caught in it, that’s all. Just about finished.”
Brenda lights up. She looks around the tidied room, her gaze lingering on the space the headstone had been occupying.
“Kids still coming over tonight?” she asks.
“Yep. Thought we’d crank up the barbie. Good night for it.”
“But isn’t it – “
“Fixed it.”
“And the gas bottle – “
“Filled it.”
“Hm. Did you get some steak?”
“Fillet.”
Brenda laughs at this. Jim smirks, but doesn’t let himself go. On his knees, he puts his head back behind the dismantled dishwasher. Brenda looks at his denim-clad bum. She thinks about slapping it. She decides not to, she’ll have a shower instead and save bum-slapping for when he’s in a better mood.

They lie in the warm darkness and listen to the Irish couple next door in the throes of another beer-fuelled argument. There is always noise coming from their home, either drunken fights or wild laughter. They don’t know easy silence, only celebration or conflict.
“You still awake?” Brenda asks in a lazy murmur.
“Yep. Still awake.”
“What are you thinking about?”
“I don’t know. People. What make them stay together.”
“Them next door?”
“Them. James and Karen.”
“You don’t think the kids will last?”
“Who knows. They might. They’ve lasted this long. I just don’t understand the ... what the thing is that keeps them together.”
“The thing?”
“Yeah. The kind of ... the mechanism that drives the relationship.”
“You silly old bugger. It’s not a mechanism, it’s love.”
“You thinks so? You think those two next door love each other? You really think James loves Karen? Because I think that most people these days don’t know what love is. They’ve forgotten all about love. They haven’t got time for love. How do you think James shows his love for Karen? That ring doesn’t mean anything. Not really. It’s just a purchased object.”
“Mm. What kind of a gift is a diamond ring?”
Jim doesn’t have anything to say to this. In any case, he thinks, it’s – what – rhetorical? Yeah, rhetorical. He remains silent and hopes that Brenda will either change the subject or fall asleep.
“If it isn’t love,” Brenda says, “then what is it?”
Less rhetorical, Jim thinks. “That’s what I was wondering.”
Maybe now she’ll fall asleep. The silence grows. Even the Irish couple is silent. Jim feels his eye lids close over.
“Jim?”
“Mm?”
“I just don’t understand why, of all things, you gave me a headstone. I mean, I know what you mean about diamonds, but a headstone?”
“It seemed like a good idea at the time. I’m sorry. I’ll get rid of it.” Jim wonders why she doesn’t see it for what it is. When did she stop understanding him?
“You don’t have to get rid of it. It’s, you know, quite nice, for what it is. But you have to admit it’s a bit unusual. Don’t you think?”
“I suppose. I just thought... when I was getting the vase fixed on Mum and Dad’s grave I saw all the headstones in the stonemason’s yard and I couldn’t believe how many there were. New ones, old ones waiting to have names added to the spaces and, well, one thing lead to another. I just thought it would be nice to see what it was going to look like. I mean, we’re going to be down there for a long time. I wasn’t keen on the heading – they all say ‘in loving memory of’ – so I got the bloke to shorten it.”
“In Love.”
“Brenda and Jim.”
“And the date of death? Why that date?”
“I liked the way the bloke did threes and fives. He does good threes and fives. And his sevens are pretty good too.” She’s close, Jim thinks; the date of death is the whole point. She has to get it.
“Jesus you’re a funny one Jim,” Brenda slurs, almost asleep. “I do like it. I wonder...”
“What?”
“Wonder what it would look like on a grave. Wonder what it’ll look like.”
Soon they are snoring softly.

The cemetery is vast and still, small hills and shallow valleys, gentle undulations of death. They stand side by side, silent in the heat, and gaze around at the crosses and angels and obelisks broken in half for the young lives cut short. Scattered throughout these thousands of monuments are members of the living, remembering the dead. Just a short distance along this row there is an old lady down on her knees. She looks up and nods solemnly at Brenda and Jim, then continues to trim weeds and fuss with flowers, muttering a quiet monologue to the lost husband, mother or child.
“You expect it to be sad,” Brenda says quietly. “But it’s not. It’s peaceful.”
Jim nods in agreement. He can’t imagine a more peaceful place. He breathes in and notes the faint odour of a distant bush fire, a smell he enjoys and which always takes him back to when he was a boy.
“Do you still want to do it?” Jim asks.
“Yeah,” Brenda replies slowly, thinking. “Yeah, I do. So long as we don’t get caught.”
“Should be all right, if I hurry.”
The stonemason came across as a bit of a sorry bastard, dead keen for a chat. One of those tradesmen who likes to show you how easily they can do their job, at the same time letting you know that it’s not as easy as it looks. He talked and talked and showed Jim how to remove a granite panel from the concrete headstone and how to put it back on. Jim is relieved to find that it is in fact almost as easy as it had looked. He lays his parents’ headstone on the grass behind the grave. With Brenda nervously keeping watch, Jim is soon using the wooden handle of his mallet to gently tap their headstone into place. He hides the tools behind the grave and flicks the few chips of concrete away. He moves back to look at his handiwork. Standing beside Brenda, he nods to himself. Yes, he nods, there it is. There we are.
Time passes. They stand and stare, side by side. They think about themselves, about each other. They think about their life together, how even through the hard times, those rough patches, they somehow knew they would stay together. Even in the mundane times when life doesn’t seem to amount to much, love is still there and you realize this at unexpected moments, watching the other one reading the morning paper or hanging out the washing or trying to get the lid off a jar. They think about how truly lonely life would be without the other to share things with.
Jim thinks he hears something. He turns his head a few degrees. “Bren? You all right?”
“Yeah. Why?”
“I... thought you sniffed.”
“Why would I sniff? It’s not like it’s a real headstone. Not a headstone at all, is it?”
Jim smiles to himself. “No he says. “No it’s not.”
Jim decides they’d better put the real headstone back on before they get into trouble. Just as he starts to bend, Brenda grips his forearm.
Jim straightens. “What’s wrong?”
Brenda nods her head sideways. Jim turns and sees the mourner from down the row making her way towards them. She has finished her duties for the day.
“You want to wait until she’s gone?” Jim asks.
“We’d better, just in case.”
“But she won’t even know what we’re doing,” Jim says, wondering why their voices have dropped to urgent whispers.
“It just feels wrong. Just... just act natural.”
Jim snorts at this. “But it’s us. We can’t – “
“Sh. Just until she’s gone.”
They stand and read the inscription again as the old woman makes her way along the row of graves. She shuffles along at a painfully slow pace. Jim breathes deeply, the char-tainted air whistling through his nose hairs. He folds his arms and raises one hand to his lips. He pinches his lips, presses them hard together because suddenly he feels like he’s going to piss himself laughing. He feels his eyes start to water.
Brenda sniffs. Jim turns his head a few degrees. “Bren? He says, his voice shaking a little. “You okay?”
Brenda shakes her head slowly. She is biting her bottom lip. Her eyes are full.
“Shit,” Jim whispers because he knows that Brenda is about to piss herself too. We can’t do this, he thinks, we can’t laugh, not here, not now.
One makes a sound which starts the other off. They try to conceal their faces. Brenda makes a quiet, high-pitched warble. Jim is breathless and silent with the hardest laugh he’s had in his life. He makes a rasping draw back, and Brenda repeats her high pitched song. Jim pulls a hanky out of his pocket and hands it to Brenda. She covers her face. The old woman is upon them now. Jim’s face is twisted and he looks at the woman through glistening eyes. She looks at the headstone, then back at Jim and Brenda. She cocks her head to one side and offers an expression of pure and heartfelt sympathy. Jim finds himself nodding back at her. In an inspired bit of improvisation he even indicates to the headstone with a kind of shrug that conveys the message that the loss is just too great to bear. This is too much for Brenda who doubles over, howling. The woman continues to shuffle along, that expression lingering because she knows, she knows. She leaves them to deal with their sorrow alone.
And Jim and Brenda hold each other as their voices swirl around the crosses and angels, their laughter dancing and dancing.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Middens Of The Mind

A couple of years ago I sent a story to Quadrant magazine. The literary editor, Les Murray, probably Australia's most famous poet, kindly sent a hand-written letter back to me explaining why he was not accepting the story even though he quite liked it. Just wasn't quite there. Me being me, I wrote back to him and I explained why I thought he was wrong and that now that I had enlightened him, perhaps he would like to take another look at the story. He wrote back and I could sense him chuckling as he said no, really, but thank you for checking - but I am happy to take a look at another submission.

So I sent another story to him about a guy who gives his wife a headstone with their dates of death inscribed on it, which he did accept and it was published in Quadrant. It's called The Love Letter, and I quite like it because it's off-kilter, a bit funny and a bit sad, and ultimately quite all right.

And I wanted to share it with you but I can't find it. I've rummaged like you rummage for lost keys but it's just not there. I've misplaced an entire love story about a headstone, which is not something I do very often.

Anyway, while rummaging I found this story, which is a bit like finding that old pen you'd been wondering about which is kind of nice, but it's not going to open the garage door, is it. It's not either of the stories in the above anti-introduction, but it does contain the word midden, which is a funny word. Don't you think midden is a funny word?

Runner

The runner likes this part where the road dips down and sweeps around the bend. He likes how it seems to push him forward here, his stride stretching out and his pace quickening. That feeling kicks in as his feet pound faster, that white hot exhilaration you just can’t buy. The harbour lies just below with its legions of idle yachts. He thinks about the money and the property and the plans and the money. No money can buy this, no drug can match it. The money and the plans and the drugs give them what they think they need, but this... this is the stuff. He pours it on. He’s at full throttle now like a champion, and this is real. There’s a rhythm here, a beat, a flow of energy coursing through the system. He’s a machine, a liquid machine and he’s hit top speed and can’t slow down.

The road winds to the right and the city comes into view, a dazzling heap, a bristling pile of glitter and glass flashing through the trees. It’s an engine, consuming and creating and breathing and humming and destroying and growing. Christ it’s a piece of work, he thinks, flawless and unstoppable, perfect like cancer. He’s heading uphill now but he hasn’t dropped a beat. He is aware of his thighs, feels his chest, his lungs, the swing of his arms and he feels all of it working together. It’s the movement, the fluidity, the harmony of it all they don’t understand. How long have you been running? Why do you run? Why do you do it?

He thinks of the middens here. He always thinks of the middens, last calcium trace of an ancient people long gone.

The runner veers to the left, off the road and onto the dirt track. His pace slows now, speed giving way to precision. He is quietly impressed with his own reflexes as he ducks and twists and turns, branches whipping and and stinging his skin. He knows this track by heart, has run it a thousand times. Feet pounding the dirt now, he relaxes into a familiar beat. His lungs fill, he drinks it in and smells the air, the moss and lichen and the dying leaves.

The ground is hard again, flat top of a sandstone cliff. The runner stops and he feels the rush of heat. He breathes hard and winces at the searing pain, hands on knees, doubled over, the end of the race. Breath grows shallow, heart slows, skin glistens. He stands upright now. He looks at the undulating water so far below. He looks at the city and the great grey arch clinging to both edges of the harbour. He gazes at the city one last time, such beauty for a thing to have grown unplanned.

And again, he thinks, what good are plans?

The runner turns to the west and squints into the setting sun. He’s considered it countless times but knew he’d do it today. There was so much noise he thought his head would split, the banter and banality, the importance attached to unimportant things.

His final plan. He’s measured and paced and worked it out. If he is good – very good - he might just make the water. But he doesn’t think he’s that good. One hundred metre dash along the edge, then nothing. Nothing but ancient, unforgiving rock. He thinks of his wife, he remembers her pain. Soon, he thinks, soon.

Head down. He crouches. Exhales. Tightens. Uncoils. He runs then, faster than he has ever run in his life. God that feeling, so perfect and pure and real.

For a few slow seconds the runner soars, and is free at last.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Confession Time

One of the mags I write for (ooh I like saying that) has asked for a kind of year's round up of the year in arts and theatre. It's meant to be fun and as the last editor put it, "a bit self-indulgent." So when asked to give my performance highlight of the year, I offered what follows, with the new editor's response following...



LAURIE ANDERSON’S HOMELAND

My favourite performance of the year was Laurie Anderson’s Homeland. I wrote a review which appeared in these pages, but I did not read the review when it came out and I only have a vague recollection of what I wrote because on that wonderful Sunday night in October I did something I have never done before and will never do again. Somehow between seeing the gig, meeting Laurie and getting home to belt out the review (due first thing in the morning), I got drunk before writing the review. Not a bit tiddly or cutely sloshed but falling over drunk. In fact the only thing preventing me falling over all the way from the Opera House to Surry Hills was the fact that I was sitting in a cab. This is the kind of drunk that only your nearest and dearest should see, and then only rarely.

Maybe it was the relief of finally getting what was to me a pretty important interview, maybe it was searing beauty of the performance itself or the unexpected bonus of meeting the star after the show – an artist whose work I have admired for a lifetime, but whatever the reason by the time I arrived home I was ripped, and I didn’t feel cool like Hunter S. Thompson.

I’d been suspicious about my level of intoxication during the cab ride, but it wasn’t until I sat down at the computer that it dawned on me just how scootered I was. The keyboard couldn’t focus itself and the letters were moving about like some funny bastard was shuffling the letters in a Scrabble set. I pouted and was not happy with the situation; I had to write a review of an amazing concert with a deadline of now! and I was utterly, atrociously, comically fucked.

Still, I set to work because at the end of the day I give what I have promised to give. It took centuries and a lot of squinting, wobbling and poking, but I eventually wrote my review of my performance highlight of the year. I hope it made a bit of sense. I recall it as being quite... erm... enthusiastic.

But with good reason.

Lee Bemrose


And the editor's response? "I like it but can you please make it a bit less about yourself and more about the performance?"

Quite frankly, I was gobsmacked.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Stories

My previous post made me think of this post. I'm a sucker for this kind of story. And this kind of story, part one and part two. Both these stories should knock your socks off because they are both brilliant stories by excellent writers.

And it's pathetic but that's all I have to offer you after this long week of awfulness in which a part of me is dying. My wonderful little clothing shop will be closing its doors in about two weeks. Such a magical little place in which I've met so many wonderful people and made some cool friends... it's going to be gone and I'm a bit not-very-happy about it, to say the least. The Dreaded One is sad too.

But fuck it. There's always newness and new beginnings and re-invention. You just have to find your new happy thing.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Loop

A boy sits in a park away from the other children who are playing a game with a ball. He watches blankly as they run madly about, laughing at their own antics. A man walks by, not old, but old in the eyes of the boy. He stops and also watches the game for a few moments before turning his attention to the boy.

“What’s the matter, boy? Why don’t you play with the other children?”

Boy shrugs.

“You look sad. You’re too young to be sad.”

Boy shrugs again. “I am sad.”

Man sits down next to the boy and together they look on at the children and the ball and the rules they all must follow.

“Why sad? Open up. Find the words. Tell me about your sadness.”

Boy thinks for a long time while the old man waits patiently.

“It’s not sad, really, it’s just not happy. Not right? Something feels not right.”

“You don’t fit in? You’re not like the others.”

“That’s it. And I want to be like the others. I like the way they are. I like how they laugh and how they know things and how they are so good at... um... they’re all so different. It’s like someone told them who to be, and so they know. I think I wasn’t listening when they told me who to be.”

“You daydream.”

“Yes.” Boy squirms a little.

“To escape.”

“I don’t know. It just happens. I get into trouble for it. I get into trouble for a lot of things.”

“I see. What do you daydream about?”

“Don’t know. Different things. Happy things. Sad things. Collecting words that feel the same. I don’t know.”

Old man smiles at this. “You’ve started, you just don’t know it yet.”

Boy looks at the man. “Started what”

“Your journey.”

Boy shakes his head a little. “But I’m stuck here in this place. Trapped in this house I don’t like with a family that just isn’t right. I’m not going anywhere. At least not to anywhere you’d bother going to.”

“Don’t be so glum. You have a happy heart, you just don’t know it yet.”

“How do you know that?”

“I know things.”

“What things do you know?”

“Oh... I know the kind of things that make a young boy sad. I know about his daydreams and his longing. I know that lost feeling and that sense of not belonging.”

Boy is staring at the man now, seeing things in his eyes. “You look sad, old man, but happy at the same time. How can you be sad and happy at the same time?”

“They go hand in hand. Can’t have one without the other. Let me tell you something, since you weren’t listening when they told you who to be. Are you listening?”

Boy nods.

“You will feel this way for a very long time. You will be confused and quite alone. Your quiet nature will be misinterpreted in a number of ways. Your journey will take you to unexpected places and you will feel at times that if it doesn’t get any better there is simply no point. But at those times you must remember to keep going. Keep going even though you cannot see the resting place you are looking for. Understand?”

“But why? Why keep going if there’s no happiness.”

“Because things will change. Things will happen one by one. Good things. Good people. Love and laughter and music... these three things will come to define you. Not at once, but slowly, slowly. You will collect words that will make people laugh and make them cry. You will drink in the music and be awed by it. You will meet famous musicians and others not so famous who will become friends. You will do things you can’t imagine right now, things that, as an old man, will cause you to smile a sad smile as you look back and see how it all turned out after all.”

Boy thinks about this. His hands are under his thighs and his legs kick back and forth.

“Will there be a person for me. You know...”

Old man tips his head back briefly. “Ah yes. You are blessed that way. You will have love from a truly lovely being. But don’t ever take her for granted. You will take her for granted but try not to. And friends. You will have golden friends.

“Okay. That is a thing to look forward to.”

“Indeed. Indeed it is a thing to look forward to. And don’t hurt her. You will hurt her, but try not to hurt her.”

Boy is silent. He can’t imagine this. He can’t imagine anything so good as his own special person. Someone he loves. Someone who loves him.

A long silence as though nothing more needs to be said. Boy frowns. Old man stands and adjusts his collar. Time to go.

“Old man?”

“Yes, boy?”

“How do you know these things?

Old man turns and winks and climbs onto his zebra. He turns and dips his hat and chuckles to himself as he trots off into the sunset.

"Yeehaw!"

Crack of whip.

*

A man walks through a park. He sees a group of children playing soccer. He smiles and recalls a memory. He sees a boy sitting alone and recognises something about him.

“What’s the matter, boy? Why don’t you play with the other children?”

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Political Grumpy

My latest Grumpy column as it appears in the current issue of Tsunami mag.

For overseas readers, the ear wax thing is in reference to the background footage of our newly-elected Prime Minister savouring the taste of the contents of his ear during Parliament Question Time. Even as a 50 year-old he looks like a primary school boy and acts like one too.


Grumpy
Lee Bemrose

I got car-jacked on Saturday November 26 2007. Never happened to me before. I’m driving home from work at around midnight and it seems all the loonies are out. Piss-heads everywhere, spilling out of pubs and staggering about in the streets. One such piss-head steps in front of the car and begs me to stop. She doesn’t appear to be Paris Hilton so I hit the brake instead of the accelerator. She opens the back door and waves to her friends.

“Not a taxi,” I tell her.

“I know,” she replies as she gets in. “But can you please give me and my friends a ride? Thank you.”

Her friends clamber into the back seat and it quickly becomes obvious that I am now sharing my car with The Three Drunkest Women There Ever Were. And happy? Fuck me they were happy.

“We’re rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeally happeeeee,” they tell me through the mayhem of balloons and streamers and six-packs of cheap fizzy drink that is now the back of my car. “Thangyoo fer giving uz a lift. Thang yooo. Wooooo!”

There’s traffic behind me by now, honking at me, so I move on, telling my passengers in a tone that will not be argued with that I’m taking them as far as the next major intersection and no further.

“That’s cool. That’s sweet. THANG YOO! It’s Kevin ’07. Wooo!”

And it dawns on me that that’s what this is all about. The ear wax gobbler is now our Prime Minister and people are celebrating this? That 50 year old choir boy has ousted George Bush’s girlfriend as PM and people think this is wooo-worthy?

“Here. Have a lollie,” one of the pissed sisters tells me as she gives me a lollie. “Everyone gedz a lollie. It came from John Howard’s head. It wuz a pinyada. Smacked the crap out of it and there were lollies inside which we didn’t realise there were until we realised…”

“Yeah, we juz wanted to smack hizheadub with tha stig... fugger’s gone now... wooo!”

But he hasn’t gone. Kevin “Me Too” Rudd will be on the phone every day of his Prime Ministership asking his idol, “John – if you were still PM, how would you handle the situation? Because that’s what I will do too.”

As for wasting perfectly good booze celebrating anything political, it’s just un-Australian. I just don’t know what’s gotten into you lot.

Have a happy festive season please. See you in Kevin “My Ear Wax I Ate” ’08.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Too Late

You write stuff about people you don't know and will never meet. You read about their lives and you think of Really Interesting questions to ask them. You speak to them. You phone them in Zurich or Amsterdam or New Orleans.

But then a friend is online and you're too busy to chat because you're doing all these interesting things, with all these interesting strangers.

The saddest kind of funny, because too soon it all ends.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Bee: A Seven Minute Review


As it appears in The Drum.

THE BEE

My new favourite thing to do on a Sunday afternoon is to wander solo through the streets of Kings Cross to Darlinghurst Theatre. I like the mottled afternoon light on the leafy trees and the motley collection of humanity now chilled after a frenzied Saturday night’s debauchery. It puts me in a chilled state of mind.

And chilled I was as I took my seat last Sunday to see The Bee (and not just because that air-conditioning is always too cold). Lights went down and suddenly I was being startled and astonished and pretty amused by what was taking place on stage. After the normality of the world outside, The Bee plugs you back in and zaps you with a few thousand volts of Weird. And it’s good shit, man.

Based on a Japanese story by Yasutaka Tsutsui and written by Hidek Noda and Colin Teevan, The Bee follows the plight of a businessman who returns home to find his family held hostage by an escaped murderer. It seems one of the writers holds the media while the other puts the boot in, and this bit of satire is deliciously absurd and pretty spot-on.

I won’t spoil it for you other than to say the story turns unexpectedly until the whole things is a darkly amusing parable about brinkmanship and what a bunch of total numb-nuts you humans really are. The premise is amusing and ultimately so simple that it has to be kept short to avoid repetition – and the point it is making is undeniably true.

The performances are stylised to perfection and with subtle changes in sound and lighting you are occasionally dropped into real life anime. Very clever and a lot of fun.

At Darlinghurst Theatre, Potts Point until 15 December.

LEE BEMROSE

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Meow Meow Pt 981

I was supposed to interview Meow Meow a couple of days ago. I stuffed up and couldn't make the call. Asked to re-schedule but didn't think it would happen. I asked for Saturday because between then and now I was looking down the barrel of 10 to 15 hour days all with midnight finishes. Surprisingly the publicist said Meow Meow was cool with that provided it was in the afternoon and asked me to pick a time. I said 2pm because it meant only taking on hour off work. I just called and she said she had it in her (ravishing) mind that it was meant to be at 3pm and could I please call her back then.

If you know Meow Meow you will suspect, as I do, that she was simply having her way because I am Mere Male and she is Meow Meow.

I am sitting on my hands right now waiting to call her back at 3pm. I have no idea what to expect.

Actually, I think I have some idea.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

"You're so bumbling you should have been British."


A friend who knows me quite well said the bumbling line in a lovely and too rare phone conversation. Real voice action... phwoar.

I think she came to that conclusion as I was telling her about the meeting with the editor of the Big Magazine (shut it Bird - I know you came to that conclusion a long time ago).

Anyway, I told her about the train stations and how I sat on the train being astonished by all the extra train stations I had forgotten about. This is all the more bumbling because it is my old train line. The trip took twice as long as I'd allowed for. Then getting lost... a whole suburb in the suburbs I thought I knew so well.

Anyway, as I said in the previous post the meeting went smoothly right until the end when it just went a bit squirmy. We stood up to leave, shook hands, thanked each other for our time. Then in a blatant attempt to show off my sweeping broad knowledge of everything I looked at the huge painting on the wall of the meeting room and said, "Ooh - is that a Miro?"

"No," the editor replied, looking suddenly like the whole smooth thing had gone out the window and now she thought I was a bit odd. "No it's not."

I spent a day in the Miro museum in Barcelona, so I know a fucking Miro when I see one.

"What?" I asked, looking down at the signature in a way that was meant to indicate that I had recognised its Miro-ness from the brush strokes themselves and not the signature. "You sure?"

"No. It's a painting."

"Yeah but... what?"

"A painting." Like she was speaking to a special person.

"Yes. Painted by Miro, I'm quite sure."

"Oh sorry - I thought you were asking if it was a mirror."

I think the lesson to be learned here is if the meeting goes well, let it rest at that and don't aim for one final, ornamental flourish.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Leftfield

Ages ago, maybe a year, I picked an agent at random to see if they would be interested in syndicating a story overseas. Someone from the agency liked the story and was onto it. Then she went quiet and after a few months I added her to the list of promising things that would not eventuate, which have pretty well defined my 2007.

Couple of months ago I was wondering what had happened to this agent when I received an email from her telling me that she was no longer with the agency but that she was now the editor of a Big Magazine and she wanted me to contribute. She asked me in for a chat. I was really late for the meeting because I forgot about some of the train stations on the way and it took longer than I remembered. Also, once off the train I got a bit lost and wandered into the next suburb. This is typical of me.

Anyway, meeting went well even if I did keep wondering if this was all real. Maybe she had the wrong freelance writer and would soon realise this.

She said she was changing the tone of the mag and she wanted me to pitch ideas. She wanted serious stuff from me but I was interested in humour and suggested a story that was pretty leftfield. She liked the idea and said to give it a bash. I did the piece and sent it in, then did what I do so well. I worried and assumed it wouldn't be good enough and thought this was going to be another promising thing that falls through.

But after a tense day's wait I got an email saying all good. My leftfield comedy bit will take up two pages in the February issue of a high profile national glossy magazine. Happy? Hell yeah.

I think what I love most about this is the complete coincidence of choosing the agency at random and the person who happened to reply to me turning out to be the future editor of a Big Magazine. What are the chances? Sometimes all you can do is shake your head and say what the hell is going on here? I love it. Fucking love it.

Morbid

Never post when drunk. That is the thing. That's why I just deleted the most important and poignant blog post that has ever been posted in the history of important and poignant blog posts.

I nailed it on love and friendship and the fleetingness of life and the lessons to be learned from death. Seriously, people would be leaving comments like good post dude - you clearly understand shit.

So when I sober up I'll tell you what this post is all about... provided I've left some indication somewhere that will enlighten me about what the hell I am talking about.

So there.

At least I wasn't rude to moths and didn't swear too much.

Happy motherfuckers?

PS: A nice thing happened to me today. A good and nice thing. Will tell you about it later.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Moth... er F*cker

Sorry about the previous post. I'm putting together a piece about various comedians and some of those comedians just happened to swear a lot. But just because that filthy minded Lenny Bruce c*cks*cker was a dirty mother*f*cking pottymouth doesn't mean I have to be one.

And just because Bill Hicks screamed... Totally f*cking screamed at a heckler because she was a drunk c*nt, it doesn't mean I have to sink to his depths.

So I'm sorry about that.

And. So. Tonight. I'm all gentle and stuff and I'm saying goodnight to my Anngel and apologising because I was in a hyper mood because of all of the laughter yesterday and I'm telling her I love my friends and I love her too and reading about all these funny guys who died young, I tell her that I kind of like that I didn't die on August 9th five or so years ago, because fucking hell there are new people and the quality old people and the laughs... and it's really a sweet second chance. I nearly died. I didn't die. I thank the universe for that almost every day.

Then at this tender moment this offspring of nature makes its way into the room. It's a moth. This powdery moth with its wings and its eyebrow feeler things and its sweet determination to do... what exactly?

And I don't know how it happens but suddenly I'm standing on the bed and I'm clenched fists and sinewy necks... sinewy neck and I'm enraged and I'm fucking totally screaming at this fucking moth right into its sensitive little moth ears, "CAAAAAAARNT! YOU MOTHERFUCKING CAAAAARNNT! DID I FUCKING INVITE YOU INTO MY HOME? NO I FUCKING DID NOT SO WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING HERE YOU FUCKING CUNT OF A FUCKING MOTH?! HUH? WHAT IS YOUR FUCKING PROBLEM YOU FUCKED UP FUCKING FAAAAARCK!"

I have to start reading some Enid Blyton.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Why I Think Bill Hicks Is A Cunt

That's right - not past tense, present. Is. He is a cunt. He made a mark and it's still here, so present tense it is. Bill Hicks is a cunt.

Some of the things he said were so utterly funny. I've been drinking up all this information about a few comedians and it wasn't until I started reading some of his material that I started laughing out loud. If you know me you'll know I don't laugh out loud much, but there I was alone in front of my computer screen falling about in my chair because this guy was fucking brilliant.

And dark. Man he could savage people. People in the audience who came to see him... he could turn on them and verbally fuck them over. It could be brutal. Same with idiots and wankers. He despised them and showed no mercy and sometimes it wasn't all that funny, yet strangely funny.

But that's not why I think Bill Hicks is a cunt. Wankers are despicable and idiots can be difficult to tolerate. Worse kind of person in the world is a malicious idiot who thinks highly of themselves. So I kind of enjoy watching Bill Hicks put the boot into marketing people, trailer trash and Billy Ray Cyrus. Especially marketing people.

Bill Hicks is a cunt because he bailed on us way to early. Dead at 33. It's like he knew it was going to happen. Got cracking on the comedy thing and was doing stand-up at the age of 14. Less than two decades later it would be all over.

Bill Hicks is a cunt because for all his dark humour and all his hilarious savaging of people, reading about his death moved me to tears. Fucker had a good heart. (Just had a shithouse pancreas). Superstar funnyman gets sick and what does he do? He moves back home with his mom and dad and he plays music on his guitar for them. And tired of the world and the way it was taking him away far too early, and not being a Christian with a glowing afterlife to look forward to, he opened Tolkein's Lord Of The Rings and re-read it. And for some reason that small and gentle act of escaping to that fantasy world really moved me.

I don't like it when people fuck with my emotions. And that's why you're a cunt, Bill Hicks. A funny, funny, magnificent cunt.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Good Question

I think this is what every interviewer secretly hopes for when interviewing someone they admire and respect. C'mon... you know it's true.

Interviewer: Many people have cited your influences as such-and-such and so-and-so. Personally I've always detected the influence of whatshisname - albeit it with a post modern twist. Am I way off target there?

Interviewee: Not at all. No, quite the opposite. Remarkably, you're the first person to have ever noticed. Good call. Well spotted. In fact whathisname blah blah blah etc etc.

Wer: Do you think if whatshisname were alive today he'd hear those same influences, given that blah blah blah?

Wee: Good question. I've always thought that rah rah rah rah etc.

Wer: Whatshisname never achieved commercial success in spite of his critical acclaim. Do you think art and commercial success bleh bleh bleh bleh?

Wee: Right, that's a bloody excellent question. Too good for this time of the morning, hehe. Umm... blimey - I think you've stumped me with that one. Can I have a bit of a think about it and get back to you?

Wer: Sure. Sure, no problem. Erm... technology has been the backbone of much of your work. Do you ever wonder if rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb?

Wee: (After long moments of phone silence). Um... Jesus, man. That one's a cracker of a question. I thought the others were good questions but that one is totally fucking awesome. Where are you getting this stuff from? What are you - some kind of genius? I think you must be some kind of genius to be coming up with all these gobsmackingly amazing questions. You're good, man. I don't think anyone in the media has ever understood my work quite the way you do. You take the understanding of my work to whole new levels. I'm going give your number to all my famous friends and tell them that if they want a good story written by someone who asks killer questions, you the man.

Wer: (Blushing and twirling a curl of hair around a finger). Really? You really think I'm asking good questions?

Wee: The best. Killer questions one after the other. If I'd known you were this good I would have been shitting myself with the anticipation of this call. Glad I didn't know how good your questions were going to be. Good questions, good questions.

Wer: Oh. Cool. Ok, moving right along... hang on - did you actually answer the last question?

Wee: Couldn't mate. Over the head stuff. Do me a favour and lower the bar a little would you? Hehe.

Wer: OK, I'll try my best. Ummm... blah-di-blah-di blah blah blah? Yada yada etc?

Wee: Oh fuck me - now that question is so utterly devastatingly good I have to slaughter a goat. Aaarrrgggh...

Wer: And finally - what can you tell us about the new directions this album is taking -

Wee: (Sobbing) Oh stop it. Stop it man. These questions - they're just too good. You're too good. I'm not worthy. I should be asking you the questions... only there's no way in hell they'd be a patch on your questions... which are really good questions, by the way. Man, I am sooo dedicating the next album to you. I'm going to dedicate my life to you. I'm going to name the next world tour after you. I'm going to re-name my first child after you...

Wer: Um... but your son is 27 years old.

Wee: Don't care. He'll get used to it or he's no son of mine. I'm already writing him out of my will. When I go, man, it's all yours. You are dead-set totally The Man.

Wer: OK. All right. I think we might leave it there. Thanks for your time -

Wee: Wow, man - genius and humble too. Humankind has a lot to learn from you, dude. I should be thanking you for your time. In fact I do thank you. From the bottom of my... my shallow and worthless heart. You have rocked my world and changed the course of my work and my life and destiny itself and -

Click.

King Tide Review In Drum

KING TIDE

Griffin Theatre’s world premiere of Katherine Thomson’s King Tide is quality, home-grown drama exploring what motivates us and what defines us. It’s a play about division and acceptance and honesty. It’s both straightforward and complex and it pulls off an admirable blend of personal drama and social observation.

Sal used to be a hard-hitting political journalist, however two years after the drowning death of her son she is withdrawn and still in mourning at her beach-side holiday home. Daughter Beck takes in a mysterious Japanese boarder while hatching a plan to change the direction of her future. Although she excels at marine biology, she has decided that idealism is not the way of her future and that saving the world can wait until after she has made her first million. Enter Sal’s brother Jack (a Wheat Board guy) and his new hard-as-glass, grab-it-while-you-can girlfriend to pave the golden path to Beck’s future, and suddenly Sal is not just mourning the loss of her son but also time not spent with her daughter, as well as the loss of idealism and passion in younger generations and society generally.

Hmm. It all sounds a bit earnest, doesn’t it? Well it kind of is, in a good way, but it’s also - at just the right moments - really quite funny, the humour deftly breaking what might otherwise run the risk of being a bit of a diatribe. None of the characters are what they first seem – except for Jack’s bauble girlfriend who so accurately represents the increasing superficiality of modern life... the kind of woman who probably thinks the real estate section of The Herald is erotic literature. Each of the characters reveals more of their true nature as the play unfolds, ensuring a speedy momentum in this seemingly slow-moving story.

I really enjoyed the larger story of King Tide as well as admiring the writing itself, with some of the dialogue sounding like the narrative from your favourite novel. There’s some exquisitely drawn imagery here, and some deft handling of all aspects of a production that stays with you like good theatre should.

At SBW Stables Theatre until 24 November.

LEE BEMROSE

Friday, November 02, 2007

Boing.

I think dying must be like sitting in an aircraft ejection seat. Been a great flight, lots of turbulence, nice things to eat (nuts are nice). You've seen pretty things, met interesting people, wondered why there are children when cats are so much more convenient, you've marveled at the surreality of it all.

And all too quickly it's time to go. Because it's all going down waaay too quickly, and there's no pulling out.

You hit that button.

And the last sound you will ever hear is...

Boing.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Bird In A Tree.

It's stupid how busy we allow ourselves to be. None of the real stuff gets done. Keeping in touch with people.

I padded into the study the other morning before work, screwing my knuckles into my eyes. Checked email. There was a message from someone asking if I was still alive. I wrote back saying yeah, still alive, just busy, we're all so fucking busy.

Sun was just coming up. Clear day, the scent of spring flower in the air. There was this bird in the tree just outside the window, its crystal chime pinginging sweetly into this new day. Like it was singing out to me, "There are good things for you today Grumpy... or Quick... or Lee or whatever your name is. Small and wonderful, good things. Shiny things of goodness. Trust me on this. I'm a bird in a tree, and I know such things."

And words formed patterns in my head as a poem of epic proportions took shape, and I added a PS to my email to the friend who had asked if I was dead:

I wish I was as happy
As a bird in a tree.
I'd poo on all the busy people
And fluff my feathers with glee.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Me And Laurie Anderson.

How do you make a great show better? The star lets you hang out with them for a while after the show. This is one very happy me with one very gorgeous human being.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Laurie Anderson Interview With Drum


HOMELANDERSON

NEW YORK PERFORMANCE ARTIST LAURIE ANDERSON IS ABOUT TO HIT SYDNEY WITH HER LATEST PROJECT HOMELAND. WHILE SHE WAS IN MEXICO, LEE BEMROSE MANAGED TO CHAT WITH HER ABOUT ALMOST EVERYTHING BUT THE VERY THING HE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE TALKING TO HER ABOUT.

Mention the name Laurie Anderson and you almost always get one of two reactions. People either think she is an awesome artist and love everything she has done, or they ask, “Laurie who?” Those familiar with her work generally find it hard to believe the latter types exist, but astonishingly, there are quite a few of them. This says a lot about the nature of the artist’s work: she’s a truly unique artist who has achieved world-wide critical and commercial success whilst maintaining an artistic integrity that ensures she will remain outside the vision of those focused solely on mainstream pop culture.

A New York-based performance artist, Laurie Anderson’s career took off in the early ‘80s with the success of the unlikely hit O Superman (“Oh that Laurie Anderson,” the Laurie Who’s will be saying right about now). A strange, hypnotic and ominous anthem of anti-Americana, it reached a huge audience thanks largely to the support of Brit DJ John Peel. A genuinely original and quite brave track, O Superman was the launch of a remarkable career that shows no signs of slowing down, nor does it show any signs of artistic fatigue.

Currently touring her latest project Homeland, I was lucky enough to catch up with the artist over the phone during her stopover in Mexico where she is taking part in the Monterrey Forum, a three-month long meeting and discussion of worldwide cultural and artistic diversity. It seems perfectly fitting that this observer of both the wonder and tragedy of humanity should be taking part in such an event, and she sounds excited to be there – albeit it her measured and quietly intelligent way.

“The context is quite interesting. It’s a big forum about culture and technology and politics, and so for three months all these people come to Monterrey to talk about all this kind of stuff. It’s great because we don’t have anything like this in The States... where everyone kind of drops things and says, ‘well you know, where are we going here?’ We have a lot of those high tech events where we’re supposed to be talking about things like that, but people just talk about the new iPod.”

It’s a modest conversation opener but from what I can gather, it’s pure Laurie Anderson. She’s a political artist with a human heart and the cold eye of the observer. She loves New York but doesn’t think twice about telling things as they are, so if something is done better outside America, that’s just the way it is. No blind patriotism here, it would seem. Quite the opposite.

While much of the former NASA Writer In Residence’s work is filled with off-kilter whimsy and even occasional heartache, it is also laced with scathing irony and hard-hitting political and social commentary. She is quite appalled with America’s obsession with money and laments where the hunger for the dollar is taking society.

“The amount of privatisation and the role of corporations has really changed everything in the sense that the war in Iraq is being run by companies who have zero interest in stopping it. I think the best example of how corporations have changed things is prisons. 10 years ago there were something like 350,000 people in prison. Then they were privatised and now there’s 3 million people in prison.” Point being – it’s in a private prison’s interest for laws to be as absurdly tight as possible.

These criticisms of American politics and economics flow as freely in conversation as they do lyrically in music. Check out the film clip of Only An Expert – dark, almost savage humour swirls with lacerating commentary on the discussion of climate change and the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It pours scorn on the cult of The Expert, as well as our willingness or even eagerness to always seek out the opinion of an expert when maybe – just maybe – we don’t really need an expert’s version of what’s going on. We’re not that stupid... are we?

Laurie Anderson is a political artist and a social commentator, no question. But she is also a pure artist in that she understands that joy and tenderness and anger and sadness and tragedy and harmony and discordance are all part of the human experience.

It’s such a fleeting conversation in which we touch on such topics as the nature of story telling; optimism versus pessimism; the inevitable fall of empires; NASA stories; the repugnance of the recent APEC meeting; the garden of Eden; the human tenderness that emerged from 911; the current court battle over who owns the moon...

“Okay... they are coming to pick me up,” I’m told as reception starts to waver and fade. “I’m going to take my cell phone with me and hope I don’t lose you in the elevator. Is there a final question you’d like to finish with?”

Erm... there are thousands.

“Um – Homeland,” I say, wondering why I left it so late. “What’s it going to be like? What are we in for?”

“Well... it’s... show... ut... and kind of... on... and... you know?”

I want to shout into the phone, “Laurie you’re breaking up - please get back out of the elevator before it’s too late...”

But with that she is gone. The line is quiet. But I think I know. Her shows – her projects – are always dazzling multi-media affairs incorporating the electric hum of technology with the warmth of human story-telling; the punch of politics with sensual musical delight; gentle anger with wry humour.

And unlike her angels being blown backwards into the future, she doesn’t look back at her past work very much. We probably won’t see Homeland in Sydney again.

WHO: Laurie Anderson.
WHEN & WHERE: Sydney Opera House 21 & 22 October.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

An interview, Of Sorts, With Meret.


DRY & SWIRLY

Meret may not be a household name here, but in Germany and wider Europe she is showbiz royalty. As she brings her latest collaborative act to Australia, LEE BEMROSE didn’t quite manage to catch up with her for Drum Media.

A few interesting facts about Meret Becker: She is a very successful singer and actress. The 39 year old’s acting career started with a feature film at the age of 17 and there’s been no turning back. She has a string of features under her belt including Spielberg’s 2005 release Munich. She’s worked with a wide variety of artists and directors including Wim Wenders, U2 and industrial noise makers Einsturzende Neubaten – this last showing that the German band generally known for sounding as musical as a box of hammers being slowly tipped onto a tin roof does have a sensitive side.

But what to expect of her latest collaboration with musical trio Ars Vitalis? The show is called Harmonie Desastres and features a trio of musicians who have been described as musical clowns. One is a drummer, another a guitarist and the third plays the clarinet. They play their own compositions, they play covers, they apparently play found objects if the opportunity arises. Chaotic and surreal are two adjectives you will almost certainly stumble upon in any write up of their performances.

So. Kooky cabaret from Berlin, a multi-talented uber-babe fronting a trio of absurdist musos... who wouldn’t want to know more? I phoned Meret’s Berlin number at the agreed time... and phoned and kept on phoning. An hour and a half later more calls were made involving publicists and agents and it transpired the international telephone network had not gone into meltdown as suspected, but Meret had simply switched off her phone because she needed to sleep in. As you do.

Still, who could bear a grudge? Perhaps that’s exactly the way all us mere mortals would act if we were so breath-takingly gorgeous and head-bendingly talented.

Plan B was launched, fingers were crossed that the artist could stay awake for long enough to answer some questions by email at her convenience (provided it was immediately because deadline was already fading deep into last week).

Answers finally arrived. Yes they are short. Yes they get to the point. Yes they carry a few factual misconceptions that are actually quite charming and possibly intentionally flaky. Certainly they are funny and do reveal a very Meret way of seeing the world. Much debate still rages about the existence or not of a German sense of humour. Read on and I think you will believe...

Have you been working this weekend or relaxing?
"Sleeping, all day, now I need to relax."

What do you do to relax when you are not working? What ís your favourite thing to do with your time?
"Sleeping, all day. Sleeping, all day."


I’m having to email these questions to you because it seems you switched your phone off to sleep in. Did you have a big one last night?
"Yes I had a big one. A big sleep. I like to sleep. All night, all day, sleeping sleeping."

You’ve had a successful career that combines several areas of creativity, especially singing and acting. Which of the two do you enjoy the most and why?
"I do not enjoy. It's hard work."

When did you start working with the trio Ars Vitalis and how did that collaboration come about?
"We started 15 years ago in a cabaret in Berlin. It was love at first sight."

Why do you like working with this particular group?
"They understand me and there’s not many of them."

Isn’t three a crowd?
"What? No. A crowd is a crowd. Three is a trio. You are a bit silly, but I like you."

Cabaret seems to be have been taking an increasing turn towards anarchy and humour in recent years. Does humour play a big part in Harmonie Desastres?
"Yes, but WE are playing the bigger part!"

What does the title mean?
"In French "harmonie des astres" means the sound of the atmosphere, the stars. If you take the sound of those words, it includes the words "harmony" and "disaster". We think it describes our sound very well."

Can you tell us a little about the show itself? The kinds of things to expect to see and hear? What styles of music will we hear?
"It's a violent mixture, without any concept, except that we and the audience should enjoy. We are doing cover versions and our own music, and we are coming from very different backgrounds, such as free jazz, cabaret, theatre, circus... whatsoever, and this you can hear through the music."

You’ve been touring the show for a year or so now, is that correct?
How much does it develop and change, if at all, with time?
"We toured it for one year. Now we are playing it in stages and developing it. Especially for the different countries."

Rightly or wrongly, Germans have a reputation for having a strange sense of humour. Some would say no sense of humour. What are your thoughts on this?
"It's dry, it swirls."

Do you know much about the Australian sense of humour?
"You eat crocodiles."

In which parts of the world have you been getting the best audience reactions?
"Tokyo, Paris, Barcelona, Kongsberg, Berlin, Budapest, Wädenswill... look out, it's a high competition!"

Is this your first visit to Australia? What are your expectations of the Australian people?
"Yes, first time. They are wearing hats and throwing didjeridoos, no?"

And what about the country itself? I read somewhere that you are pretty scared of all of our dangerous animals and insects. Is that still the case?
"Yes... huge rats hopping around..."

What would you say to Australian fans of cabaret to encourage them to come along to your Harmonie Desastres?
"What good is sitting alone in your room, come hear the music play, life is a cabaret..."

WHAT: Harmonie Desastres.
WHEN & WHERE: Sydney Opera House 11 & 12 October.

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Bit Of Whimsy

Two Shadows

Lee Bemrose

Eliot had been alone for so much of his life that he’d all but forgotten there could be an alternative. He was a drifter, and that was that. People tried, occasionally, to befriend him, but it always became apparent that he was not interested in their friendship. He was alone, and content enough to be so.

It hadn’t always been that way. There had been the almost bright years of tentative hope, the times when he dreamed of it being another way. The cosmos had always whispered a promise that there was another for everyone. Eliot saw it in nature, in the most unlikely couplings, and it created an ache inside. He searched their eyes, offered them his reluctant smile, but he could not find his promised other. In time he accepted that the cosmic whisper was a lie. For some, Eliot knew, there was simply solitude.

Eliot sometimes thought that if had been a different type of person, a more robust character, he might have handled his secret differently, and that could have made the world of difference. Instead of hiding it like a thing of shame, another person might have held it up with pride. They might even have had the temerity to present it to a disbelieving (and dare he think it – awestruck?) world as a gift from God. Why not? Some are adulated for their talent, but what was talent but an oddity fate had bestowed upon them? Searing beauty, a heavenly voice, insatiable curiosity or skill with a ball, these were nothing more than chance results of genetic fate, and yet those blessed with such oddities conquered the world.

But there would be no world-conquering for Eliot. When his peculiarity had first been noticed by someone outside the family, his father had taught him the tricks of concealment, and thus ushered in the shame. If only during those sensitive years when he saw kingdoms in the clouds and marveled at the mystery of a creature as alien as a lizard cocking it’s head to look a boy in the eye, when he was a soft and unshaped thing, if only his father had treated it all with less reverence Eliot might have conquered the world. Or at least been a part of it.

But he had been told by his father that it was a thing to be concealed, so Eliot concealed. He learned the tricks, learned how to appear normal, he learned to deceive. When that period of his time had passed when he hoped there might be the luxury of another, he wandered.

And eventually he wondered: If I can’t be me, why am I here?

Eliot decided that there must be another place for him. No place on this Earth, but some other place. He eventually decided it was time to leave.

On a clear, still night exposed to the white glare of a full moon, Eliot climbed the disused bridge. He climbed the rusted iron with the same stoicism he’d performed all his tasks through all his life. Each task was simply something that must be done.

Eliot was not expecting to see someone else on the bridge. He had intended to end his life the way he had lived it, but here was this other peering out into the void, and Eliot could sense somehow that she too had had enough of life in this world. And where Eliot had considered his own solitary departure the most natural thing, he felt a shock of unbearable sadness that another could feel the same.

She saw him in the moonlight, just as she was about to leap, and it was just as though Eliot had caught her, caught her in his arms, caught her just in time.

The full moon stared blankly down at them, and when Eliot had somehow convinced her that there was more left to be done, she noticed Eliot’s secret, and she was puzzled.

“You have two shadows,” she told him. “How is that so?”

And Eliot, gazing down, smiled with a joy he’d never felt in his entire life.

“You have no shadow,” Eliot replied. “How is that so?”

They moved closer together and looked down at their two shadows, and saw a new beginning.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

O Thor

I chatted with Laurie Anderson. Holy fuck that is funny. Me. I did. I have a tape with me and Laurie Anderson talking to each other. I wish I was cooler and was not impressed with this, but I am not cool and I am impressed and just in love with the fact that it happened.

She is a lovely person. Christ - so thoughtful and considerate and a total brain and I think I only asked one really stupid question.

Anyway, I'm a bit impressed that it happened at all especially given the lack of sleep... I can't even remember what sequence things happened in today. I know I got home from work around 11pm, stayed up reading and checking my questions until about 3am, then realised that I needed a phone number to call at the arranged time of 8.30am. There were some emails flying around the planet. Mix ups with telephone prefixes. My brain dreamed me awake at 6am with some silliness about talking to Laurie's agent. There was an email from him saying try this number and it's now going to be 9.30 instead of 8.30 and I went back to couch clutching my phone only for The Dreaded One to wake me up because it was 8am and didn't I need to make the call in half an hour and fuck it was hard not to be cranky.

In the end, I talked to Laurie Anderson while she was in Monterey, Mexico. For me, she is up there with David Bowie and Tom Waits and others I can't think of right now because I am way tired.

Just finished story and sent it off. I think it works. I think it's okay. I hope it's okay. I think it's okay. Will post it here when it comes out in the mag.

Got to try to sleep. Nighty night.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Live From The Mental Asylum Of Love.

Because some of you asked, here are the rest of the lyrics of my love song to Meow Meow.

Comatose With Desire

By Lee Bemrose,

For Meow Meow.


I would walk the desert sands for you,
Move mountains and part seas for you,
I would hold my breath and turn blue for you,
You make me comatose with desire.

Comatose with desire,
Comatose with desire,
You make me
Comatose with desire.

Your presence penetrates me,
It envelopes and smothers me,
You choke the very life out of me,
And make me comatose with desire.

Comatose with desire,
Comatose with desire,
You make me
Comatose with desire.

Your beauty intoxicates,
It makes my pupils dilate,
And my heart fibrillate,
I’m so comatose with desire.

Comatose with desire,
Comatose with desire,
You make me
Comatose with desire.

To know you is to know humility,
You degrade and humiliate me,
And leave me snivelly and whimpery,
And comatose with desire.

Comatose with desire,
Comatose with desire,
You make me
Comatose with desire.

My unrequited lust for you,
Has crushed my heart, it’s true,
And another vital organ or two,
And left me comatose with desire.

Comatose with desire,
Comatose with desire,
You make me
Comatose with desire.

I am a peaceful village,
That you rape and pillage,
My heart buuuurns for yoooo... because you set it on fire,
I am comatose with desire.

Comatose with desire,
Comatose with desire,
You make me
Comatose with desire.

Your indifference to me
Has made me quite loony,
I am drugged...
And bound...
And dribbling...
In the... mental... asylum... of love...

Comatose with desire,
Comatose with desire,
You make me
Comatose with desire.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Long Arms Of Time

Once upon a long time ago, I heard the song O Superman. Must have been in the same year it came out. I bought the vinyl single. I shared it with friends, some of whom laughed. I understood their initial amusement, but what I didn't get was why they didn't get why this was such a great piece of music. I was quietly amazed. Young guy from the shitty suburbs hearing this amazing music... just amazed. Spent many nights alone in my dingy one roomer falling asleep to Big Science. Awake and dreaming of the possibilities of imagination.

If I went back in time from now and told me that one day, long time from now, things will be different and you will be speaking to the creator of all this gorgeous and sad musical storytelling that you love so much, I would have said get the fuck out of my dingy one roomer you deluded fuckwit.

Funny how things can change.

Hayfever Man signing out.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

How Many Germans Does It Take To Be Funny?

Had to do an emailer with German cabaret performer Meret because she switched off her phone at the arranged time because she wanted to sleep in. Wasted an hour an a half of my time while I kept trying to call, but at least she got to sleep in.

Thing is, I totally don't mind. She seems cool and she might even be funny - in spite of the German thing. You know, German version of the light bulb joke is "How many electricians does it take to change a light bulb? One." It's actually funny.

I asked her about the German sense of humour:

Rightly or wrongly, Germans have a reputation for having a strange sense of humour. Some would say no sense of humour. What are your thoughts on this?
It's dry, it swirls.

Next question was :

Do you know much about the Australian sense of humour?
You eat crocodiles.

I dunno, but I think that is pretty funny.

Hoping the story goes to print as is because I had a bit of fun with it too. Here's a bit of the intro:

DRY & SWIRLY

Meret may not be a household name here, but in Germany and wider Europe she is showbiz royalty. As she brings her latest collaborative act to Australia, Lee Bemrose didn’t quite manage to catch up with her.

A few interesting facts about Meret Becker: She is a very successful singer and actress. The 39 year old’s acting career started with a feature film at the age of 17 and there’s been no turning back. She has a string of features under her belt including Spielberg’s 2005 release Munich. She’s worked with a wide variety of artists and directors including Wim Wenders, U2 and industrial noise makers Einsturzende Neubaten – this last showing that the German band generally known for sounding as musical as a box of hammers being slowly tipped onto a tin roof does have a sensitive side.

Will post the rest when the story comes out next week.

2007 is my year of Promising Stuff That Didn't Come Through, so I'm not telling you about what else is happening at da mo. But stuff is happening. Good writing stuff. Will let you know when the time is right. Tired of getting excited and then disappointed.

Also, Laurie Anderson is coming to Sydney. October 21 & 22. I crapped my pants with happiness when I got my tickets.

Friday, September 28, 2007

My Burning Heart

Just heard a song on the radio where the guy was going on about how much his heart was burning for someone. I was sure I heard in the chorus the words:

My heart burns for you,
Can't get no insurance for my heart.

Upon listening closely I found I'd misheard. Pity.

It reminded me that I never did get around to posting the lyrics of my song for Meow Meow. In the song... it's all a bit twisted up really because although the song would be sung by the performer, it's sung from the point of view of her besotted admirer who is articulating the indifference or even contempt the singer feels for the admirer. (I think there's a bit of sado masochism going on in there somewhere).

So. The lyrics themselves are pretty Goddamned silly, and the entire concept and structure just doesn't make any sense, so my way of making more sense of it was to have Meow Meow herself sing the song while looking into a mirror... because to fully make sense the song would have to be sung by someone other than the singer herself. That she is singing a love song to herself is perfectly in keeping with her character, as anyone who has had the pleasure of seeing her perform will appreciate. But that it is a crooning song of loathing... no sense at all.

The imagined "no insurance for my heart line" reminded me of these couple of verses from Comatose With Desire...

My unrequited lust for you,
Has crushed my heart, it’s true,
And another vital organ or two,
And left me comatose with desire.

Comatose with desire,
Comatose with desire,
You make me
Comatose with desire.

I am a peaceful village,
That you rape and pillage,
My heart buuuuurns for you... because you set it on fire,
I am comatose with desire.

If enough of you tell me you think these are some of the most retarded song lyrics you've read and that you want more, I might consider finally posting the whole silly thing. Sending money will help the cause.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Mighty Thor Fucks Up A Bit. In The Post Office. Innit.


The queue in the post office reaches from the counter back to the entry door, then veers sharply to the left and back down until it almost reaches the counter again. Some days it goes to the right. It has a mind of its own.

I join the end of the queue and spend a thousand years waiting and shuffling forward. It is not the most fun I've ever had.

As I get to the bendy bit and turn back towards the counter just in time to celebrate my 76th birthday, a lady who is actually about 76 casually merges. She just kind of appears and then is part of the queue. We are standing side by side, but I am not in the mood for letting little old ladies push in front of me, no matter how crinkly the corners of their eyes are or how kindly they appear. I step forward and make it clear that in such situations, I am the entirely wrong man to meddle with. Quite simply, you do not want to fuck me around. Bitch.

For a while I am content with the situation because I have not lost my place in the queue and if anyone further back in the line feels an injustice has been done, it is up to them to sort things out. It's a dog eat dog world. Every man for himself. There ain't no Superman or Batman or Thor or Wonderwoman. Just the way it is.

But then I do what I should almost never do - I think to myself, "What would Thor do if he were standing in a post office queue and an old lady cut in and queue jumped?"

He would stand up for the little people, is the answer. So.

I turn on this old woman with her endearingly crinkly eyes and her powdery scent as she acts so innocent and grandmotherly and I say to her, "You do realise you've just cut in on all these other people, don't you."

"Pardon?"

"The queue," I tell her. "It goes all the way over there and turns and goes all the way down there. You've cut in front of all those people."

"No I didn't. I wouldn't do that."

Right now I am pretty sure Thor would be donging this selfish old bitch over the head with his hammer, but I am a more reasonable superhero than that - even if my intolerance of injustice dwarfs that of all superheroes combined. I glance down the line and see that the entire queue's population is watching my defense against this heinous wrong-doing.

"I just saw you push in - "

Hell Granny says nothing because a chorus of others leap to her defense and tell me, "No, she didn't push in. She's fine. She was standing there all along. You just didn't see her. You were a million miles away off in your own little world like you always are, Lee."

The entire fucking queue is nodding its support.

I'm not sure what Thor would do in such a situation, but I apologise profusely and pout and go a bit red in the face and shuffle a lot and wish I was The Invisible Man instead of Thor who is, apparently, a bit of a twat.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Arsedance At Earthdance 2007

I am at a doof. It is a sunny morning. The hill is crowded, but pleasantly so. There are smiles and there is exuberant stomping as the speaker stacks charge the air with thumping, pulsing, squelchy psytrance goodness. The strongest chemical I have had is coffee, so I close my eyes, burrow in and try to find that place in the music... ah yes, there it is, and I am dancing.

Something intrudes on my newly-found hit of daytime bliss. Something soft and round.
I open my eyes and the intrusion is a pair of reasonably yummy buttocks. A girl is moving her arse against me in a very obvious way. She turns to face me, clearly wondering what I thought about that hot piece of action. I look at the girl and smile, my smile clearly saying, “Look, thank you. It’s really very flattering and it’s really a very nice bottom and everything, and on another day or under other more intoxicated circumstances I might do something like, you know, gently take you by the hips and rub up against your sensational arse with my totally awesome pants bulge. But right at this particular point in time I really just want to lose myself in this music.”

No sooner am I back in the music than Arse Girl is at it again. She is lap dancing me in a way that will not be ignored. I open my eyes just as she runs both hands through her hair and does a smoldering hair flick, her sultry over-the-shoulder smirk clearly saying, “Good, huh? Want some? Yeah... you want it.”

This time my smile takes a sterner approach: “Look here. Um – yes, very good. Possibly the best arse grinding action I’ve experienced in half my life. But right now at this point in time all I really really really want to do is dance by myself to this music. Please?”

Her smoldering smile changes. “You prick. What are we all doing here if it’s not to get horny on the dancefloor? What are you – some kind of deviant?”

My smile twitches and says. “Look I just –“

“Fuck you,” her smile tells me. “You selfish prick.”

And she is gone.

I close my eyes and try to block out the memory of her her wiggly bum. I try to find my place inside the music but it just doesn’t work. Because try as I might, I really just don’t get why so many of you women have to think with your vaginas.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Time Out

I've lost all my links because the template went weird on me and the whole thing is giving me the shits. I'll dick about with it at some stage I guess and try to find the blogs I was reading each day, but for now I think it's a sign to take a break. Statcounter flat-lined it for me too. Oh yeah, it's a sign.

Take care. Back later.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

C-90 Review

Gotta go hit the dancefloor at Earthdance while the sun is shining, but first here is a review of a comedy performance I saw last night. Might add more later, but this is the 350ish words the mag allows me. He tours, so keep an eye out for him. Lovely and funny stuff.



C-90

Daniel Kitson’s C-90 is an unusual blend of story-telling and stand-up comedy. It’s exactly the kind unexpected performance you expect to see at The Playhouse’s Adventures season. It’s eccentric, it’s off-kilter, it’s funny, warm and snurgy. (Someone had to invent a word to replace quirky, so there you have it).

The Yorkshire comedian takes to the stage and launches immediately into the story of Henry who works in the dusty anachronism of a lost mixtape archive. He is fascinated with the idea of mixtapes, the love and care that has gone into them, the fact that someone has invested so much time and thought creating this unique musical gift for another individual human being. He’s categorised and archived thousands of these lost gems without ever having listened to a single one of them, because he doesn’t care much for music. He receives the first mixtape that has ever been personally addressed to him and a Pandora’s box opens; a strange little place filled with misfit characters unfurls before our ears.

Isolate some sections and you’d swear you were listening to pure stand up comedy with the gags hitting the comic sweet spot with precision timing. Isolate yet others and you were being fed the thoughts and ideas of an old time story teller. Through it all you get the impression that Daniel Kitson spends a lot of time looking around at the peripheral people who populate our world. For example the other main character is the lollipop lady at a school kids’ crossing who left university to become a lollipop lady because she sees it as a good and noble job despite what others think. Like Henry, she is a gorgeous creation, her character a slow moving kaleidoscope of endearing foibles.

In a jagged and cynical world the laughs that performers like Daniel Kitson give to us are to be treasured.

At The Playhouse, Sydney Opera House until 30 September.

LEE BEMROSE

What The Fuck Happened To My Blog?

This faggy new look probably shits you almost as much as it does me. What can I say. My old template was taken away for whatever reason and I grabbed this one in haste because I'm buggered if I can be bothered spending any more time tweaking shit than I have to.

Had some funny stuff to share but spent the time instead trying to figure out what happened to the look of this blog.

Earthdance soon. Freedom. Not work. Psytrance. Smiles on a grassy dancefloor. Stompiness.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Earthdance 2007

Here is a short feature about Earthdance as it appears in the current issue of Drum (minus the weird edits someone at the magazine made). The party happens this coming Sunday, simultaneously all over the world. It's a great event that welcomes everyone. It could have been a very straight story, but I chose to have a bit of fun with it.



WORLD PARTY

Live bands, dance music, market stalls and open arms; this is Earthdance 2007. LEE BEMROSE interrupted festival organisor RAF GIMELSTEIN’s breakfast to find out what makes this year’s party different to previous years.



THINK GLOBAL

I could start this story like everyone else and talk about how much Earthdance has grown each year, how it was started by Australian Chris Dekker, mention the number and diversity of countries it takes place etc etc, but I’m not going to.

I might mention all that stuff later, but right now what concerns me most is that Earthdance 2007 could well freak out the whales. And we have to ask ourselves: do we really want to deal with the repercussions of a world population of totally freaked out whales? Stay with me here...

At 10am local time on Sunday September 16 The Earthdance Prayer For Peace will take place. At the exact same moment at about 350 locations in more than 50 countries around the world, the same thing will be happening. The simultaneous global Prayer For Peace is at the heart of Earthdance and has been since its inception 10 years ago. However this year there will also be a global Om taking place above the surface of the waters as well as below the waters. The importance water plays in life on Earth is being celebrated with underwater speakers being placed beneath the surface of selected major waterways such as The Ganges, the Nile and the Mississippi and belting out a simultaneous “Ommmmmm...”

Whale 1: “What the hell was that?”
Whale 2: “No idea, but it was freaky. I am so outta here.”

Then again maybe the conversation will go like this:
Whale 1: “What the hell was that?”
Whale 2: “It’s the humans. Global Om. A good thing. Chill, dude, you’re so uptight.”

Depending on how you view things you might think the global Om is kooky or cool. This devout not-morning person attended last year’s prayer for peace and I happen to think it’s pretty cool.

DANCE LOCAL

What is also pretty cool is that Earthdance – taking place in Sydney Park in Petersham for the fourth year – is probably the best multi-stage dance party Sydney will see. Last year it pulled an estimated crowd of more than 20,000 punters from all walks of life, and with seven stages featuring live acts and DJs from all genres, Earthdance 2007 is set to be even bigger. And there’s no cover charge. That’s right – it’s free.

However, Festival director Rafael Gimelstein says that we should expect something a little different this year.

“This year we’re really re-designing the whole festival site. This year when you come into the festival you don’t walk into a dance party, you walk into a community festival. There’s live music, a kid’s area... I think this year you’ll see a big change in terms of getting the message out there. This year we’re really working on inviting families... there’s no glass and you can bring your dogs and run barefoot, there are eco-living workshops. We’re really not promoting the festival at all to the dance crowds because they are already aware of the festival. This year it’s about delivering the message to the community. It’s not a dance party as such, it’s a well-behaved community for everyone.”

If you’ve been in the past and danced your nuts off, don’t be put off by the open arms Earthdance is extending to the wider community; there will be lots of dance music, both live and of the DJ kind. The lineup includes Infusion, Rastawookie, Groovelands, Stick Figures, Deepchild, Ken Cloud & Simon Caldwell, Potbelleez, Basskleph and a whole lot more. Genres include rock, electro, reggae, house, techno, drum & bass and – the one that started it all - psytrance.

Earthdance is a charity event, this year raising money for Oasis Youth Support Network. It’s also a great opportunity to get the warm and fuzzies about humanity. Although numbers are down in Sydney during the prayer itself due to the relatively early time of day (elsewhere throughout the world, parties are brought to a stop for the global link up, thus ensuring maximum impact), there will be a reproduction of the link up on big screens at the close of the festival.

Whether or not the global link up during the prayer for peace or the global Om actually achieve anything, it is heartening to pause and realise that all around the world so many human beings are uniting to celebrate the good that we are capable of through music and dance.

Even if it is at the risk of scaring the crap out of the whales.

WHAT: Earthdance Global Dance for Peace.
WHEN & WHERE: Sydney Park, Petersham Sunday 16 September. Also in Perth and Melbourne.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Wird

I have a friend I don't see anymore, may never see again. Life just picks you up and carries you along at a terrifying speed. You go to a few dark and strange places and you realise that anything, quite literally, can happen. You assume the lover you see in the morning will come home again at night. You assume there will always be time to say sorry you had that fight. You assume there will always be another dance, another drink, more laughs to be had. But these assumptions have the substance of clouds. Foolish, foolish assumptions.

So anyway, I have this friend I don't see anymore, may never see again. She's a memory. She's a world away. She's the memory of laughter. She's words on a screen. She's a duck nailed to wooden spoons. She's a penguin. She's a bruise on my arm. She's laughter like a song. She's silly. She's smart. She's got this thing she does with words. When her fingers are lemony, I get things in my eyes.

Do you ever get that? When you read something and it just devastates you with its perfection? A collection of words we all have access to, but this someone has arranged them in such a way that there is a beat, and there is beauty and they've somehow made this perfect wordthing.

This memorybeing does this. She does it so well. And yet she frets about not being a good writer.

Which makes me laugh.

She is my favourite writer.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Oysters Are No Aphrodisiac

Recently while faux chefing at The Big Pointy Building, a very important function was taking place. There was a lull in service while speeches took place. Chefs and kitchen hands milled about restlessly. Head service peole joined us. Hushed chatter, a few stifled laughs.

Guy in a tux walks through our makeshift kitchen area with a glass of wine, obviously on his way outside for a cigarette or something. I recognise him as the frontman of a pretty well-known Australian band. He spots a platter of leftover oysters sitting on a table I am standing next to.

"Do you mind if I have an oyster?" he asks. "I'm one of the guests."

"Sure," I reply. "Help yourself."

This is the entirely wrong thing to say because the head chef has a rock solid policy of no one eating in the kitchen area, aside from chefs who must try the food from time to time. Wait staff - forget it. Guests? Fuck off back to the guests' area to eat. I'm just a little more casual about it all, which is wrong. I always shrug and figure it's food that's going to waste anyway, someone wants an oyster they can have an oyster. But this is wrong because I am only a faux chef, not a real chef and certainly not the Head Chef.

I turn around to ask Famous Singer if he is performing tonight and see that he has settled his glass on the table and is hunched over the oyster platter eating a lot more than an oyster.

Not good.

I then glance over just as the head chef looks up from the food he is putting the finishing touches on and sees Famous Singer eating the oysters - only he doesn't see a famous guy, he just sees some wanker in a suit making a pig of himself and I realise that a total innocent is about to suffer the consequences of my slackness.

"OI!" Head Chef snarls as he crosses the room. He's a pretty big guy. Forceful presence that can ooze menace. "The fuck do you think you're doing? I don't like you coming into my area and eating my food. Fuck off somewhere else to eat food!"

Famous Singer looks like Withnail in that pub scene when the red-neck local is threatening him and 'I' ("I have a heart condition. If you hit me it's murder...").

"I did ask," Famous Singer simpers and the glowering head chef, "but yes of course I'm so sorry."

Later, there is another lull in proceedings, this time for a musical interlude. It's an all too familiar whining voice with piano accompaniment. We're all a bit stir crazy by this time because we just want to get on with the function and get out of there. We're talking in hushed tones again. At one point there is talk of the singer and Head Chef asks who it is.

"That," replies one of the service people in his very dry Scottish accent, "is the man you were so rude to earlier."

Head Chef is amused. He denies that he was rude, says he just didn't want him to eat in this area and invited him to go elsewhere. There is much stifled sniggering because everyone saw exactly what happened and it was pretty damned funny.

"Even funnier," I say, deciding to fess up, "is that he did actually ask. I said yes and five seconds later you're ripping the poor bastard's head off."

From out in the function area Famous Singer gets a round of applause and starts on another song, much to our dismay.

"Fuck me," Head Chef says. "Where's that platter of oysters? Might take it out there now and say 'here, want an oyster now? Lee says you can have one."

It can be such a stressful job, but it does have it's nice little moments too.