Tuesday, December 23, 2008

When Xmas frames a fringe



Under the illuminated flickering lights of Big W, in a festive frenzy so buzzing with activity that even panda eyed girl has to pitch in and push a trolley around with her little princess hands, two bogans are arguing over a book. This is a serious argument, one that takes place early in the morning, as the two badly dressed bogans prey on each others emotions all on the relative merits of a James Hird book or a Wayne Bennett book. Xmas continues to spiral around these parts in a series of indecisive set toos - the bogans do not realise they are merely continuing a tradition of disintegrating universes and flawed human relationships being exposed merely through one party wanting one present and the other wanting a slightly more expensive gift. I do not intrude on their argument, it's too close to the Xmas bone for me, too much like my own Xmas of 89 when my auntie came over for dinner and sat watching TV with her back to us. It's not the place to be anyway, there's a lingering sense of desperation in the air, last minute friends stuck with Andre Rieu DVDs because no one remember to buy them a present. So there they are, trapped, at the mercy of Big Ws limited range of choices hopeful for a few seconds recognition and appreciation tomorrow when the gifts are unwrapped. The gifts don't really matter, the mutual recognition does, I thought enough of you to give you a gift. Whether you like it or not, well, what's it to you. In front of me in the queue as I buy a pile of last minute chocolates and a Tony Martin DVD, there's a woman hunched over in a blue coat, no smile, very musky smell. The girl at the checkout is in dreamy conversation with a to her eyes hunk, she's chest on to him and she's more than friendly as she scans an item and casts a Xmas spell all in the tone of her voice. We drift in their orbit, milling around like stragglers at a swingers party, and it gives the woman a chance to tell her anecdote, the one about her husband and the fluid gathering in his legs. I find this a curious feature of Tasmanian life, the willingness to blurt out the most personal details for any Bad Eggs purchasing queuer to hear - we don't do it in Scotland on pain of death - but I am a little saddened by her tone. She's telling her friend, bad perm, Andre Rieu DVDs overflowing from her arms, that her husband will be fine, but there's concern in her tone, almost panic, that even the defiance can't hide. I worry sometimes about the pace of life, particularly my life, as I rush from Xmas to Xmas, as I rush from year to year, as I stalk behind prams and old women that won't get out of my way. And then one day, it's gone, all that mobility, all that concern, or you have people worrying about you because you aren't yourself and are stuck in bed, and you never saw it coming. The woman eventually gives up on both the story and any hope of getting her affordably priced chocolate stockings scanned by flirtacious D Cup, and we shuffle into a queue where the girl behind the counter is far, far less attractive, but outstandingly efficient, and at this time of year, sometimes, beauty truly is useless...efficiency and robust manly scanning fingers, that'll do me nicely...

There's chocolates on my desk - the desk, as it were, where the wood now ingrains my soul as someone once said - from the automon, a strange human gesture that seems so out of character I assign it an ulterior motive without blinking. Still, a strawberry choc is a strawberry choc regardless of backstory. The girl at work who's brain is far sharper than her ditz crackers persona and cleavage accessory would have you believe is arguing with an old man, who's calling her stupid and a liar just as the Xmas tape plays Jingle Bells. The argument is one sided, for he doesn't know she could care less about his problems - that in her head, there is only a countdown clock and the clock is counting to the holidays and he is but a speedbump in her busy day of counting down. I miss the work Xmas breakfast, the one in which a woman plays Santa and dispenses what you can only describe as single entendres, because I don't know or like anyone I work with anymore on that we'd all hang out and have cocoa level. It's a strange irony of the workplace that they load you up with food, presents and even drink, it's the time of year when everyone is at their nicest but ultimately you can't wait to get away from it all and just fall on the floor asleep at home miles away from everyone. At Banjos, they give me a hedgehog slice wrapped in a Xmassy wrapped setting, and talk to me about their day, their dreams, their plans, two counter staff, all eyes, as 2Pac would say, on me. It seems a strange conversation to strike once it goes beyond hows your day been, and an affordable franchised bakery doesn't seem like the place to strike it anyway, but strike it they do like a big kettle drum, and soon a full three minutes have passed with a full holiday and future plans update. Tomorrow, at Xmas lunch, it will be like this all day - hows work, hows school, hows that bloke we don't mention who dumped you. Small human conversations without meaning, little polite bits of chatter from people much nicer than I am. I'd be lying if I said this pleasant badinage isn't without it's merits, at it's not a Yahoo chat room, but I find it difficult and sometimes I feel like I should have accomplished something meritorious through the year that I could bring up. At least this year, as both with Banjos staff and today, I have fall back plans during lulls in the conversation - I went to Scotland and I've got two days off in January. I leave Banjos just as a girl with beautiful lush hair and a skirt three sizes too big for her takes a swig from her water bottle three seconds after her final word has tumbled indifferently onto the pavement. Her boyfriend and his slogan riddled green T-shirt have long ago tuned out, and there they sit, either in comfortable silence or uncomfortable conversational drought, or like every single relationship I've been in, platonic or partnery, a bit of both with neither quite knowing which percentage is which...

Work ends with a Xmas whimper, the exchange of pleasantries being efficient and prompt and a pile of Xmas food thrown, nay, hurled back into the fridge in a desperate stampede for the door. I walk idly to the bottle shop, a less than glamorous destination. I'm struck by a massive pang of deja vu whenever I go into this bottle shop, because it's where I got my alcohol before my ill fated less than impressive friendship voyage to Eggs and Bacon Bay, where I was such a valuable and wonderful friend I just wanted to sit on a beach and read my book. As I walk idly past, I look into a dimly lit alcove and blue eye shadow girl is there, on her own, smoking. She looks wounded to be honest, stressed, arms folded, eyes distant and focused. Her Xmas doesn't seem to be going well, although this may just be persona. There's always that moment with someone on a pedestal when you get a glimpse of reality - but she is worrying me, she doesn't look happy at the moment. I walk on as she disappears from view, fringe in it's usual immaculate face framing beauty, and in the car park across from me is the grumpy man from the book shop, with his wife. The man who sits all day at his desk with his neatly trimmed beard and his Mozart playing IPOD, until someone has the temerity to flick through a book without buying at, at which point he has to set down his IPOD and make a point of letting you know that he knows that you know it's not a library. His wife is wearing a black and yellow tracksuit that makes her look like an oversized bee, but the buzz they get from each other is very real as the walk hand in hand through the treacherous will they won't they stop for the pedestrian crossing car park. I think, maybe too much, about when people at work go home at night. My Mum says I go out to work a man and come home a boy, as as soon as I'm home I've got a football shirt on and am usually in my hammock drinking a lime spider listening to Catatonia on the IPOD. And yes, the change in season affects me without reason. With each sunrise we begin anew our little daily personas, but at night there's another one waiting to be unwrapped. Survival is the key during the work day, at least for me. My phone buzzes with a text message, from a friend I don't talk to nearly enough - he's good, which is good news, although he over uses smiley faces. I look back over my shoulder and blue eye shadow girl has returned, to throw her cigarette on the ground, take a deep pained breath, and walk back to work. I know how she feels. Substitute cigarettes for a copy of the Herald Sun and an immaculate fringe for a messy shaved head, if you must, but the personas, well, it's twin like...

The bottle shop, incidentally, is the final port of my Xmas - we go for lunch with a family that in that Tasmanian family way aren't your real family but you call them uncle and auntie anyway and I barely consider Xmas. Not, of course, but it's anything but pleasant fare, but it's got a grinding feel to it, a hard work feel to it in which the conversations are foreign and rehearsed. I can't explain it, there's nothing wrong with where we go, but it's a little bit three act performance piece. I'm in another queue by the time I coherently gather this incoherence into something tangible, and a woman reverses blindly into me and tuts loudly that I have the temerity to be standing minding my own business. Three in front, a gregarious old man with a shiny bald head is making gregarious conversation about the nature of his purchase, with full and frank disclosure of just how much alcohol he is going to drink. Reversing woman is now at the back of the queue complaining, and there's an argument breaking out between the staff, the fetch and carry junior boy Jeremy (so his badge says) arguing about what he's been sent to fetch and carry. Jeremy spoke in the bottle shop today, and the word was unpleasant. As we switch our gaze away, a woman in a tight mini skirt picks her undies out from inward of herself, so that's a distraction. Conversationally, the boss, who's sent him to fetch the items he disputes, tries to lighten the mood with a joke, which awkwardly he repeats a second time with a smiling hopeful face, but Jeremy ignores him and the bosses round happy Mr Bounce face falls and he returns to his serving. It's the same scene I saw at the computer games store where the head nerd tried to placate his staff with a joke and they dungeoned his dragon, so it throws me a bit. Seniority, it can be lonely. Two Xmasses ago, I should have told people when I was senior rather than playing with Senior Bagpuss (my toy cat, don't ask) I was struggling, but I didn't. That said, I am resillient. I don't worry about work the minute I'm in the car. The automon does, the bottle shop owner clearly does as when I look over my shoulder with Mum and Dads "swallae" he's still crestfallen, but I don't, ditz crackers doesn't and obviously Barry Bookshop doesn't, and I suspect Jeremy will be taking ice within minutes of going home. I hope blue eye shadow girl, once she gets in her car at night is OK and remembers not to worry. Tonight, I speed down the road to Mum and Dads, the people who really matter to me, and a million stresses melt away, and not just because I'm liquored up within seconds, and my Mum doesn't skimp on the quality of the kebabs...

Whatever the worries of the day, they are there for me, and that, truly, is Xmas to me...so keep on talking...

Merry Xmas

4 comments:

Baino said...

Gah! Hate being the first. If you don't crack onto that Blue Eye Shadow Girl, I'm coming to Big W asking every staff member if they know a Scottish Violet Crumble (Crunchies are better) addict and bloody introduce you to each other myself. I am known for my 'wingman' abilities!

Have a lovely Christmas, I know it's not your fave but I love it warts and all. . .pig out, get pissed, and I'm sure we'll see the upshot on the blog. Seriously Miley or whatever your name is . .relax . .enjoy . .Happy Christmas! (judging from the noise next door you could do worse than get Rock Band and ask a few friends around!) Erm, where's my iPod?

Mad Cat Lady said...

lol - merry christmas dude - I've just been putting scrunchie like red velvet christmas collars with bells on my sisters cats - laugh! - they don't like them very much - mwah hahahahahahahaha - all the nieces and nephew are gathered around laughing at them now - poor kitties :D

Jannie said...

"Stragglers at a swingers party." quintessential Miles!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!
Jannie xo

Miles McClagan said...

I love Violet Crumbles...so crumbly...I hope you found your IPOD, I couldn't live without mine...like Youtube, I often wonder who people got on without it...I'm sure people in 1910s thought the same about Penicillin

Cats with Christmas collars huh? I must suggest that next year, they would be surprised by me suggesting summat festive...

Merry Xmas to you, you have inspired me to want to be shrunk to 2" now...