Tag Archives: funny

Interview Fail

cassette tape recorder. Label on tape reads 'VERY IMPORTANT"

 

So I’ve been doing a bit of writing lately. Apart from my Very Own Column at Australian Catholics magazine, I’ve also started to write features, as a freelancer, for Melbourne Catholic magazine. I often get confused looks when I try to explain this to people (and I often try to explain this to people, even if we weren’t, in fact, talking about it). Melbourne Catholic is a separate magazine, despite the similar name. It comes from the Archdiocese, rather than the Jesuits.

Features writing is fun and interesting, but my great love will always be in trying to make people laugh (which is why that first paragraph is such a side-splitter).  I’m not the greatest at interviewing people (you actually have to stop and let them talk, I’m told), but I do like the feeling of having yet another Important Writing Job and more opportunities to talk loudly about expecting an email from MY EDITOR and looking around impressively whenever I’m in a crowded place.  I think the staff at Aldi are a little over it, to be honest.

So far, I’ve written a feature on crochet and another one on grief.  I’ll share them with you when they get published (the crochet feature is out, just not electronically yet).  The most recent one I’ve been writing has been about the refugees in Eltham.  It’s a topic I care about, but it’s been a real pain to write.  I’ve had to interview no fewer than eight people.  I don’t mind the talking-to-people part of interviewing; I can even do the listening-without-interrupting part if I concentrate hard enough.  It’s the finding-ten-minutes-of-peace-to-make-a-phone-call that I’ve struggled with the most.

Now there was a particular person I’d been especially keen to talk to.  Many of the other interviews had left me with important questions that this woman could answer for me.   But I’d had a bit of trouble, first with tracking her down, then with finding a time I could talk with her.   Many a time I’d put the TV on for the kids, locked myself in the bathroom with recording equipment all set up and made the all-important call, only to find that she was in a meeting or off-site.  Getting information wrong on a crochet article would be one thing.  I didn’t want to get it wrong on such an important topic.  The deadline was looming and still we hadn’t spoken.

On Mondays, the kids and I go to a homeschooling co-op, held in one of those amazing mega-churches.  It’s the best.  On this particular Monday, I was upstairs in the cafe, sitting at a table and trying to get this article written.  Christopher, Harry and Annie were in their various classes, run by the mums and dads.  Daisy and Poppy (who are now two-and-a-half-can-you-believe-it) were in a cute little play area with a pool fence around it.  I scratched my head as I looked at what I’d written so far.  If I didn’t speak to this woman, there would be a lot of holes in the article.

Then my phone rang.  It was her!  It was totally her!

I knew these weren’t ideal interview conditions.  The cafe was noisy and the twins were unpredictable.  But I also knew if I let it go to voicemail and tried to call back later, I would find she was off working hard doing her actual job and not at her desk.  This was my one window.  I answered the phone smoothly, set it to speaker and set my iPad to record.

“So tell me, what is the history of this project?”

Of course I knew the history of the project.  I’d done my homework.  But I wanted a neat little ‘expert’ quote from her to put at the start of the article.  It would frame things nicely.  Interview Lady launched into a description of the situation in Eltham, sounding a little perplexed at my apparent ignorance (she later would recommend a series of fact sheets she had written) just as Daisy started to shriek piteously.

I looked across to the play area.  Daisy stood wretchedly beside the toy oven as Poppy did a victory lap, holding several golden strands of her sister’s hair aloft as she strode along.  I bustled silently into the pen, admonished Poppy with only my eyebrows and a very pointy finger, scooped up the whimpering Daisy with the arm that wasn’t holding my phone and iPad and brought her back to the table with me.   “Mmm.” “Yes.”  “Really?”  I said calmly, taking the sugar and placing it on a different table.

Foiled in her sugar-eating attempt, Daisy picked up the pepper and began shaking it liberally onto the table.  I took it from her.  She let out an unearthly howl.  I put it back.  She continued in her redecorating.

“What would you say are the challenges facing refugees, given our current housing situation?” my voice didn’t waver.  I don’t think Interview Lady could tell I was trying to wrestle my iPad out of Daisy’s grasp.  But then that stupid free U2 song started playing at full volume.  She must have bumped something.

Daisy lay down on the ground in (thankfully) mute protest as I desperately jabbed at buttons to make Bono shut up.  “Tell me more about that,” I said (to Interview Lady, not Bono), as one of the security guards waved to get my attention.

I looked to where he was pointing.  Poppy had pushed the toy washing machine up against the side of the play pen and had used it to clamber onto the quite-high fence.  “Hi Mummy!” she cackled as I solemnly hoisted her onto my shoulder and brought her back to my table.  Interview Lady was on a roll, telling me all sorts of things without pausing for breath.  This allowed me to go into a silent panic without having to think up another question.  Daisy was gone.

“Is there anything about the Eltham project you would consider applying to future projects?” I pulled Daisy out from under the table.  She had run around the corner and was lying at the feet of some other cafe patron.  I now held a twin under each arm and was balancing my phone and iPad under – actually, I’ve no idea how I did it.  All I know is, when I put them down to try to organise myself, they ran for the stairs, shouting “SLIDE!”

I should explain.  This particular very-large-church has a tunnel slide that children can take downstairs to their well-resourced kids’ ministries because of-course-they-do.  I mean, I’ve tried suggesting to my parish that perhaps we could set up a small box of toys and a play rug for children to use after Mass when the grown ups are drinking (instant) coffee and it’s been all too hard to think about.  Noooope we wouldn’t want to encourage children to come to Mass or anything.  Heaven forbid.

What was I talking about?  Oh yes, the dratted slide.  A couple of little girls and their mums were  already having a play on this contraption.  One of the girls is a four-year-old I’m going to call Buttercup who is friends with the twins.

So Daisy makes a dash for the slide, pushes past Buttercup and dives straight down it.  “MRS KATE!  MRS KATE!  IT WASN’T HER TURN!  MRS KATE!”  I know Buttercup said this because it’s right there on the recording, drowning out whatever salient point Interview Lady was making.  I nodded expressively and sympathetically (and silently) at Buttercup and said “do go on” to Interview Lady.

“MRS KAAAAAAATE!”  Poppy was jubilantly sitting at the top of the slide.  This was her position of power.  If she sat at the top of the slide, without actually going anywhere, all the children around her would go berserk.  Poppy loved this.  Buttercup gave Poppy a shove.

“What do you see as your plans for the future?” Poppy made it halfway down the slide tunnel, stopped herself, and began climbing back up (“THAT’S NOT ALLOWED!  THAT’S NOT ALLOWED!!”).  Daisy, meanwhile, was climbing back up the stairs for another turn.  I gave the other mothers an apologetic smile.  I was that mother: nattering away on her mobile phone whilst her children cause havoc.

“Do you have any final thoughts?”

“I HAVE A STINKY NAPPY MUMMY!”  Daisy did have a stinky nappy.  A real eye waterer.  And Poppy had come out at the bottom of the slide and was not coming upstairs.  I walked down the stairs with Daisy (“NO!  NO!  SLIDE!  SLIDE!”) to fetch Poppy before she went running off down the corridor and out of sight.  The interview was wrapping up.  I thanked Interview Lady, saved the recording and emailed it to myself seven times.  Then I apologised to the other mums and trudged upstairs with the twins to clean the peppered table.

While I might have relived the trauma of the afternoon when i transcribed the interview later, it did provide me with some very useful information and quotes.  I’ve since written the article and am waiting to hear from MY EDITOR to see if she thinks its any good.  I expect to hear from MY EDITOR any minute now and am checking my phone rather agitatedly.  Of course, she’d need time to actually read it and then to formulate a response.  Plus MY EDITOR would have other articles to read as well.  I really mustn’t worry about it.  I really must stop.

At least, that’s what the assistant manager at Aldi tells me.

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Physique Fail.

Hand-drawn Cartoon: An elderly lady stands in conversation with wild-hair Kate.  The old lady is pointing at Kate's stomach.  Kate is wearing a black dress and pearls.  The old lady's speech bubble contains a picture of a baby and a question mark.  Kate's speech bubble contains a picture of McDonald's fries and a full stop.  Caption reads: "Awkward..."

I have a problem.

Everybody thinks I’m pregnant.

I have started to keep a bitter tally of the well-meaning parish ladies, hapless school dads and soon-to-be-mortified kinder mums who have leaned in conspiratorially whilst casting affectionate glances at my belly and asked when the baby was due.  That’s my lunch you’re looking at, folks.

Food babies: I can’t seem to eat a meal without entering a phantom gestational stage.  If the meal were to contain wheat or onion or – God forbid – beans, it’s enough to send me well into my second trimester.  And my weakness for liquorice jubes doesn’t help matters.

You might remember my attempts at running.  I had great hopes that my weekly lolloping through the park might eventually result in a non-pregnant physique.  Running gave me lovely, slender arms and legs, all muscular and lithe, which only helped to accentuate my completely unaffected designer bump.

So I got this DVD – Pilates for Dummies – and I think I might be too dumb for it.  This impossibly cheerful American lady in a leotard contorts herself into myriad positions whilst reminding me to “pull my navel to my spine” and “maintain the ‘C’ shape”.  By the time I’ve convinced my body to bend into a lame counterfeit of leotard lady’s, the children are all out of bed and decide it’s “jump on Mummy” time.

Then I thought about Shape Wear.  Those magic underpants and skirts and things that try to compress your stomach and all your vital organs into a shape approximating that of a photoshopped model.  Last week, I went on a special date with my husband.  It took me twenty minutes to successfully climb into my brand-new Miracle Pants and another ten to stop bits of flab from poking out in strange places.

It was as we were dropping off the children at my parents’ (all dolled up in my LBD and expensive lipstick) that I ran into the school secretary from my old primary school.

“What lovely children you have!  And are you…?” she beamed, nodding at my midriff.

I shook my head apologetically.  Her eyes filled with panic, but her smile stayed valiantly in place.

“Well, what I mean to say is, you always look so lovely…”, she finished lamely and we quickly ran away from each other.

Now I’ve decided the problem is not me, it’s OTHER PEOPLE.  Surely there should be some rule: Don’t Ask a Woman if She Is Pregnant.  Simple, straightforward, easy to follow.  If a woman approaches you with a prominent bump, panting, and says “Please call me an ambulance – my contractions are two minutes apart!”, you should blink and say “but, whatever for?”

People are stupid and they have no social skills.  This righteous anger has carried me all through the week.  Yesterday, I was chatting to one of the kinder mums about school holidays.  “Having both of them at home full-time is too much for me,” she said, “I don’t know how I’m going to cope when the next one comes”

“Oh, I didn’t realize,” I say, frowning at her stomach, “are you expecting?”

Her face fell.  “When the next school holiday comes,” she said in a small voice, “because, um, it’s longer…”

I felt horror-struck.  There was nothing I could do.  I knew from experience that any backpedalling I might attempt would only make things worse.  I could already see that she had retreated inside herself, and that her head was helpfully playing a reel of Stars Who Lost Their Baby Fat Whilst Still in the Delivery Ward and Thigh Gap and Disney Princesses Whose Waists are as Narrow as their Necks.

The pause that followed was very pregnant.  I had become my own worst nightmare.  I reached into my pocket.

“Erm … would you like a liquorice jube?”

Nativity Fail.

nativity set

Every year, just before Christmas Eve Mass, my parish puts on a little children’s nativity play.  And this year, Harry was old enough to join in.  I watched him with pride at the rehearsal as he sat on the altar steps next to his big brother, solemnly clutching his assigned wooden sheep and singing carols very dutifully.  I could already see how it was going to be.  On Christmas Eve, all the otherwise stern-faced parishioners would be nodding at each other indulgently and pointing to the altar.  There sat the quiet and obedient little three-year-old with the mop of golden hair and enormous brown eyes as he performed Away in a Manger in Australian Sign Language.  “That boy has come good,” they would mutter to each other, “he used to turn up to Mass late and without shoes on and shriek abuse at Father during the consecration, but no more!  Just look at him sitting so still!  I call that fine parenting!”.  My heart swelled.

The rehearsal was a long one.  Annie was getting tired of being strapped in her pusher.  When I unclipped her, she promptly trotted over to the altar steps and sat down amongst the other children.  It was all very cute and she looked very proud of herself.   I let her stay there for a little while, but I soon began to sense her presence was making the co-ordinator rather anxious, so I coaxed her back to my seat with toy cars and kept her there.  I could tell from the smile of approval and relief the co-ordinator sent my way that I’d done the right thing.  It’s true: I do value other people’s approval far more than I ought.  Annie, realising she’d been duped, began to howl piteously.

When the rehearsal ended, it was time to fit the children for their costumes.  Being one of the smallest, Harry was last to be fitted.  As we approached, I could hear him murmuring to himself: “but I don’t need a clothes.  I don’t want one.  I just don’t need a clothes”.  The kindly parish lady held up a small brown robe.  Harry’s eyes widened:  “No.  No.  No, I don’t need it.  No!  No!  Take it off!  Take it off!”.  I didn’t want to make a big thing of it or – for that matter – tear a hole in the lovingly handmade costume.  Harry can have a bit of a thing where clothing is involved.   In the end, we held the robe against Harry’s wriggling form to measure it.  “Never mind,” said the kindly parish lady as she pinned a label with Harry’s name on the costume’s coat hanger, “it’s been a long morning.  He’ll be fine on the night.”

Christmas Eve was a day that went by in a bit of a desperate whirl.  A couple of days earlier, my mum and I decided we would move the family Christmas to my house (Mum and Dad are getting their kitchen renovated and, whilst the builder had given them many reassurances that the kitchen would be ready by Christmas, it would seem he had not specified which Christmas).   I was feeling quietly jubilant by this prospect.  I still feel the novelty of having a home of my own and now I would have the chance to get it all dressed up for Christmas.  Surely this was some sort of housewives’ rite of passage?  My head spun with the possibilities.  What about this?

hand made ornaments

Image credit: Mollie Makes, http://www.molliemakes.com

Or this?

decorated jar

Image credit: Craft & Creativity, http://craftandcreativity.com

Or this?

little wreaths

Image credit: http://www.welke.nl

My home would be so beautiful and charming.  Everybody would exclaim over all of the sweet details and thoughtful touches.  But before I could let loose with the decorations, I needed to tidy up.  After all, an artist must always begin with a clean canvas!

By the time Christmas Eve rolled around, I had modified my expectations a little.  OK, so I probably wasn’t going to get a chance to make beautiful, bespoke decorations and create a Pinterest wonderland here on earth, but at least I could focus on making it fresh and tidy and welcoming.  So I wrote a list a mile long and got lost in a frenzy of sweeping and dusting and endless picking-up-and-putting-away (or picking-up-and-scratching-head-over-random-objects-that-seem-beyond-classification).

It soon got to the point where I realised I wasn’t going to get the house tidy in time for Christmas.  My delightful children were expertly manufacturing mess at a faster rate than I could possibly dispel it.  I decided on a new goal – I would make the kitchen functional.  My family had suffered weeks in a house without a working kitchen, it would be a relief for them to work in a shiny-clean and clutter-free space.  I might even clean the oven (hey: there’s a first time for everything!).

But as we hurtled towards the end of the day, I realised forlornly that I was not going to accomplish any of my goals and now had to focus on force-feeding dinner to my children before getting them to the church by 6:15-no-later.  I had sort of hoped to coax Mr Knightley into taking the children so that I might have some child-free time to get some stuff done and – hang on! – get dressed for church.  But, as Mr Knightley ruefully pointed out, he had been working in the garden all afternoon and was covered in dirt and grass clippings.  He would need the time to have a shower.

We were already late.  There was no time to discuss matters.  It was possible that I fumed a little as I strapped Annie into her car seat (she was looking very sweet in a bright green fairy dress Matilda had found for her) and muttered to myself about my husband’s tendency to find urgent things to do in the safety of the garden whenever I go into stressed-out-cleaning-banshee-mode, but this is not the place to document such grumblings.

As we raced towards the room with all the costumes, I took note of the pretty dresses and floaty blouses all the other mums were wearing.  The earrings and the makeup and the high-heeled shoes.  I was wearing a faded peasant top that makes me look a little pregnant and my jeans with the frayed bit at the bottom.  The co-ordinator (looking spectacular in a black lacy number with red lipstick) made an elaborate display of relief when we burst in the door (eleven minutes late) and ushered us to the dressing room where the kindly parish ladies were waiting.  I shared a brief look of solidarity with the KPLs and gamely girded my underdressed loins.  Harry had already started to shake his head.

As I cheerfully approached him with the robe all gathered up and ready to pull over his head, Harry shot one look of disgust and pure loathing at the proffered garment and bolted.  I somehow managed to rugby-tackle the miniature maelstrom as he ran laps of the room shouting “No-no-no-no-no-no!  Help!  HELP MEEE!” and began to wrestle arms and legs and heads into sleeves and neckholes and skirts.  It was just as I stopped applying the costume and picked up the tea towel headdress that Harry managed to fling the small brown cloak off in one swift movement and resumed his protest march around the room.

By now, everyone else had departed for photos-on-the-basketball-court.  So, with one arm dragging Harry and the other pushing the stroller (which contained both Annie and the wretched costume), I proceeded outside to resume negotiations.

Harry and I sat facing each other on the asphalt.  I had managed to poke Harry’s head through the costume, but that was as far as I’d got.  I gestured helplessly at the other little shepherd boys as they posed together for a photo.

“Look, Harry,”  I coaxed, “all the big boys are wearing their costumes.  Don’t you want to be like a big boy?”

Harry glared at me mutinously.  I tried again.

“Do you want to sit with me and Annie like a baby?”

“No!”

“Then you must wear your costume”

“No!”

“Then you won’t be able to be in the play”

“No!”

“Are you a big boy or a baby?”

“No!”

“Just try it”

“No!”

And he ran away.

I sat, bereft, on the bitumen.  Two of the dads were regarding me from on high (they were tall and standing up, I mean).

“Nobody would say you didn’t give it a good go.” said one consolingly.

“There’s always next year,” said the other.

I sighed and climbed to my feet.  Mr Knightley appeared by my elbow.  “There’s still time if you want to run home and get dressed up.” he said, “Go now! Hurry!”

So I raced home, pulled my favourite summer dress off the line, flung it over my head, poked my feet into some pretty sandals and raced back to the church.

I fell in the door just moments after the play had started.  As I stumbled to my seat, I took in the scene before me.  Christopher Robin and Harry sat beside each other.  And Harry was in full costume, with only one arm poking defiantly out of his neck hole.

It was a Christmas miracle.

I looked across to the angels.  There sat Matilda, a halo of silver tinsel on her dark hair, singing her eight-year-old heart out.  And there, sitting amongst the Heavenly Host all in white, was a small green fairy.  Annie shot me a warning look that said don’t ruin this for me, Mother.  Mr Knightley smiled indulgently.  The co-ordinator smiled nervously.

I flopped down into my seat.  Meh.  Three out of four ain’t bad.

Cafe Fail.

Babycino

I’ve given up coffee for Lent.  Not sure why I do this to myself, but I figure it must do me some good. I’m going to put my coffee money in the Project Compassion box and feel all virtuous and smug for forty days.  I’m three days in and already I’ve had enough.  I already wrote this post out in my everything-notebook and now in my coffee-deprived state I’ve gone and lost it and I just know it won’t come out as good this time around.

Grrr

Anyway, cast your mind back to Tuesday.  It was Shrove Tuesday and my last chance to have a coffee before Lent.  Unfortunately it was also a school half-day, so I would have all four of my darlings to share this special time with.  But I’ve got this situation to work well in the past and, by gum, I would make three-children-and-a-baby-in-a-café work this time.  Surely they owe it to me?

I went to the supermarket with them first and Harry and I played the game where Harry hands me random items which he considers essential and I systematically restore them to the shelves.  My sister called me at one point, but as the entirety of our conversation consisted of me yelling directions at my children, I told her I’d call her back at a better time.  Other than this, it all went pretty well until the last aisle, when I (rather stupidly) said aloud “and now all we need to get are the eggs!”.  Christopher Robin and Harry both exclaimed “I’ll get it!” and raced to the end of the (long) aisle.  I moved, as quickly as a person pushing a shopping-laden stroller can, through trolleys and old people, to the egg section.  There, amid a small circle of spectators, Christopher Robin and Harry were wrestling over a carton of extra-large, free-range eggs (“I’m helping Mummy!”, “No! I’M HELPING MUMMY!”)

Somehow, I managed to confiscate the eggs and administer some lame reprimands to the boys.  Miraculously, the eggs managed to escape their ordeal unscathed and so, seeing this as a good omen, I set off to our favourite child-friendly coffee haunt.

As this was to be the last coffee I was to have before Easter (or at least St Patrick’s Day), I was going to make it count, so I ordered I larger size than my usual small cappuccino and added extra fancy flavours (deluxe).  The barista chatted pleasantly to Matilda, Christopher Robin and Harry as he put together their custom-made free babycinos and my children, cheerfully and all of one accord, failed to say ‘please’ or ‘thank you’.

I sipped and savoured and spoon-fed Annie with chocolate-dusted milk foam when it occurred to me that now would be a good time to call my sister back.  It would seem I was having an abundance of stupid ideas on this day.  But I love my sister and she lives far away so we don’t get to talk as much as I would like.  I didn’t want to become the Boring Older Sister who is so wrapped up in her children that she can’t possibly take an interest in anyone else’s life.  This was ‘Jan’, by the way, not ‘Cindy’, so it’s not like I’d scored sister-points by recently making her a hat either…

Accordingly, I contrived to continue chattering merrily whilst the following occurred:

  1. My three ambulatory children promptly absconded from the table and climbed onto an evil coin-operated Spiderman helicopter at the entrance of the café
  2. The weight of shopping bags caused the stroller to overturn, taking my remaining, rather startled, child with it.
  3. Matilda managed to climb her way to the top of the evil Spiderman helicopter and perched triumphantly on the rotor blades.
  4. Annie began to howl and I remembered that she needed to be fed (plus she’d just been for a ride in an unstable stroller…)
  5. Matilda started to clamber down again as I gave her the evil eye (as evil as one can give when one’s arms are full of fallen grocery bags)
  6. Matilda got stuck halfway down and then rescued by some random man
  7. I felt everybody’s eyes on me and realized with dismay that I had become That Woman, who talks on her mobile phone whilst her children misbehave.

I had to end the conversation when

8.  I couldn’t see Harry anywhere.

But then I could (he was climbing all over the cake fridge and Christopher Robin quite happily joined him in this endeavour.)

After shouting random threats and gathering up groceries and offspring, I stalked off to the car.  Once everyone was strapped into place and I sat in the driver’s seat.  I launched into a tearful and incoherent rant about “coffee” and “your aunty” and “just for once in your life”.

Matilda piped up in a  small voice, “you can listen to what you like on the radio on the way home, Mummy, and we won’t complain at all”

“That’s COLD COMFORT!” I snapped.  But I put the radio on anyway.

I felt better by the time I got home.  At least I could get a blog post out of this experience.  And it was probably a good thing we weren’t going back to that café until after Easter.  I sent the children upstairs to clean their rooms and started unpacking the groceries.

Hmmm.

It would appear the eggs did not survive their adventure in the stroller.

 

When I told my mum this story, she suggested I find an all-natural organic substitute for coffee: “like, you know – whiskey”

So if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to have an Irish coffee without the coffee.  Because I’m being good.