Tuesday, August 29, 2006


My son became fascinated by dinosaurs at an early age. It began one day at preschool. His teacher was reading a picture book about these large extinct animals when she noticed the wide-eyed expression upon the face of my timid son. She asked him if he was frightened by the book.

But, as she told me later, it was quite something other than fear. It was awe.

His interest came at a time when there was a lot of excellent books being published on dinosaurs. Also it was at the time when the Jurassic Park movie was first released.

From then on, our visits to the library would see us leave laden down with books about dinosaurs and, being the overzealous mother that I am, I learnt a lot about them myself.

His favourite dinosaur was the Triceratops – “tri” meaning three and “ceratops” meaning…. well, I have no idea what ceratops means.

Just joking! I do actually know what it means because I found his Triceratops book and it says that the word means “three-horned face”.

Triceratops was from the Cretaceous period which came after the Jurassic period that you all know about thanks to those movies.

Triceratops was an herbivore which doesn’t mean it only ate parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. It means that it was a plant eater and it had a sharp, toothless beak to slice through rough leaves and twigs.

I did encourage my son in pursuing his passion for dinosaurs as I believed that a dinosaur digger-upper (sorry, palaeontologist) could have been a viable career option.

I found two good reasons for condoning this career choice.

Firstly, unlike a police officer, a lion tamer or jackeroo (Australian cowboy), I felt that the palaeontologist’s job wouldn’t be very dangerous. My son would have been unlikely to get shot, bitten or, indeed, trod on by a dinosaur.

The worst case scenario may have been that he could sustain an injury by kicking his toe on a very large bone and/or he may get a dose of sunburn.

Secondly I believed that, although the university fees for the 4 to 9 years of study (depending on whether you do a Ph.D) may have been high, when he completed his degree it wouldn’t have cost me much to set him up.

All he would have needed was a little pick to dig up the bones, a little brush to get the dirt off, a good sunhat and copious amounts of sunscreen.

I felt that this was much better than setting up someone for another career, such as, a person who has just done a dentistry degree.

Now that chair alone must set you back a bit. Then there are the drills and files and that porcelain sink with the swirling water and those plastic cups and that sucky thing they put in your mouth.

And then there are the wages for that young attractive dental assistant.

Also, I believe Venetian blinds are expensive these days too.

Sorry, off the track there for a moment!

Now, as I said, I learnt quite a bit about dinosaurs during those years. I practised those hard to pronounce names. I traced pictures and drew up a large poster for his bedroom door which featured all the dinosaurs.

I learnt that very young children are quite capable of understanding the difference between the various dinosaurs and they quickly learn to pronounce their names.

Not surprising really as they pick up foreign languages so readily at that age.

Now you are wondering about my disdain for The Wiggles aren’t you?

Well, I was in the library recently and I was most disturbed by a conversation I overheard between a mother and her young son.

“Dinosaur.” He announced as he pointed to a rather good plastic facsimile of a dinosaur.

“Ah, yes.” replied mother. “Dorothy the dinosaur.”

She was referring to an inane Wiggles ditty.

Well, it was too much for me. I had to intervene.

“You don’t know your dinosaurs, do you?” I chastised her. “That is a stegosaurus. Can’t you tell by the plates on its back?”

Fortunately the mother knows me quite well and she laughed rather than punch me in the nose.

So, damn you The Wiggles.

Damn you for dumbing down, not only our little children, but their parents as well.

There is no dinosaur called Dorothy and that big green yellow-spotted puppet wearing what looks like a rose-adorned cricket hat bears no resemblance to any unearthed dinosaur.

Just how lazy are you Wiggles when it comes to inventing characters? It wouldn’t have been that hard to make it look like a real dinosaur.

And, when your write those little ditties that line your pockets, it wouldn’t be difficult to whip up a rhyme using legitimate dinosaur names. Most dinosaur names usually end with ‘osaurus’ or ‘ceratops' and other easily rhymable endings.

I repeat, how difficult could it be. Young children are quite capable of recognising even the subtle differences between the many dinosaurs and, as I said, they can pronounce their names quite fluently!

I want caretakers to stop inflicting these inane Wiggle ditties upon our children.

There is an alternative and his name is Don Spencer.

Yes, the Don Spencer who has the honour of being Russell Crowe’s father-in-law.

Don writes beautiful songs for children that are not just entertaining but they contain legitimate information about animals.

I recommend “Feathers, Fur and Fins.”

Michelle ©

Friday, August 18, 2006


I was surprised to discover that my older sister and my spouse were unaware of my brief career as a stage actor. So I have decided to write my Memoir.

It all began the day our English teacher told our Year 8 class that we were going to put on a play at the end of the year and invite the rest of the school to watch.

I suspect that our teacher’s love of Language and the Arts also meant that he harboured a desire to work in The Theatre. So he became a High School English teacher, as you do.

Perhaps I should set the scene by introducing my fellow class mates.

The Powers That Be decided to set up the Year 8 classes in groups of students with similar academic performances. Hence 8A consisted of the very smart kids who chose French as a subject. 8B, my group, was the very smart kids who chose German as a subject. 8C was the smart kids who picked French and 8D was the smart kids who picked German. 8E was the not so smart kids who picked French and it continued on, like so, down the alphabet.

I do wonder just what transpired in 8J’s classroom.

Yes, they placed my sensitive soul in a class filled with very smart, competitive, obsessive-compulsive over-achievers. These kids were actually there to learn something and they had plans to eventually go out into the world to become doctors, lawyers, corporation chiefs and other highly paid highly placed people in the community.

Now, the play in question was called “The Bushrangers’ Christmas Eve”. I suspect it was written by Kylie Tennant. There were parts for the boys as (19th Century outlaws).

And if I recall correctly, and it is all a bit hazy mind, Mrs. Chisholm (19th Century Do-Gooder) and a number of her young female protégés stumble into the bushrangers’ campsite thus allowing parts for the girls.

As our teacher announced each role, he would call for volunteers. Many arms would reach up to the Heavens accompanied by desperate mutterings of, “Pick me. Pick me.”

There was a lead role (read: he had a lot of lines to remember) which went to a tall skinny boy with the demeanour of an eighth grade Gary Cooper.

There was a small but pivotal (as we actors say) role for a timid young girl.

Hands flayed about as he announced the part.

Suddenly I heard the teacher call out MY name. I looked quickly to my right and then to my left and noted that my arms were not raised. And I knew I had not uttered the words “Pick me. Pick me.”

Yet he had the gall to foist this role upon me.

But, being a timid young girl, I didn’t have the mettle to say no.

I am sure his choice would have infuriated the other role-less girls.

“It wasn’t fair, mum. She didn’t even put her hand up.”

However, there were plenty of other positions to be filled as we needed make-up artists, hairstyle artists, costume designers, set designers, poster designers and ushers.

At one point in the play, a snake slithers towards the campfire which, thanks to the set designers, was a light bulb covered in red cellophane paper surrounded by lifelike pieces of wood.

Come to think of it, they were pieces of wood.

My character was called upon to panic and scream at the sudden arrival of the snake.

It was during rehearsals that I found out that I could actually act. I wasn’t from the John Wayne School of Acting where I would woodenly swagger through the role.

No, I was Acting. I may even have been channelling Sarah Bernhardt which was fortunate because it was a female part.

Now the reason I knew that I was a good actor was due to the fact that I had nothing in common with this wimp of a girl and I had to dig deep within me to find my Motivation for this character.

For example, I am wary of snakes but I am not terrified of them.

I recall one encounter when I was about seven. I was running through a grassy paddock in a westward direction and I saw to my right a snake scurrying in a southward direction. As we interconnected I simply leapt, gazelle like, over its shiny body and then calmly asked the girl cousin if she had seen it too.

Now, when I was called upon to scream at the arrival of the snake during the first rehearsal, I let out a rather respectable “AAHHH!”

Our teacher, wearing his director’s hat, shouted, “No, no. I want an authentic scream.”

I then let loose an ear piercing, blood curdling scream which echoed about the school campus. He approved.

Fortunately, I didn’t have a lot of lines to learn and I decided that the best way to know when it was my turn to speak was to memorise the line that immediately preceded my line.

Fast forward to the performances. Yes, there was such interest in our play from our fellow students that we had to do two matinee performances.

I was eerily calm.

We were partway through the second performance of the play when I sensed a prolonged silence and eyes fixed upon me. I am not talking about the audience here. My fellow actors and the prompt person were glaring at me in a menacing fashion.

I immediately threw an accusing glare at Gary Cooper. Sure, he had a lot of lines to learn, but why did he have to forget the crucial line that signalled to me that it was my turn to speak.

I took a superior breath and then bowed to peer pressure and the deafening silence and proceeded with my line.

It was after Gary Cooper let me down so badly that I decided not to continue with my career as a stage actor.

It seemed fairly clear to me that one needed to memorise more than that one line as a cue. And I wasn’t prepared to learn entire plays just because I could not trust my fellow actors to conduct themselves in a professional manner and to remember ALL their lines.

Perhaps I could have turned to the “cut and retake” world of film and television. But there would be no greasepaint and adrenalin rushes. No, it’s just not The Theatre, is it?

Michelle ©

Friday, August 04, 2006


(Author's note: As the title suggests, this is about the game of football in Australia. It begins with a light-hearted assessment of football and concludes with an amusing account of an inglorious moment during a Rugby Union match between Australia and New Zealand.)

I enjoy watching the sport coverage on television. There is nothing more exciting than setting yourself up in the reclining lounge chair ready for a day of sport armed with a cold beer, salty snacks and the remote control.

Regarding the beer, it is best not to start too early. If you don’t pace yourself properly you may find that you will nod off sometime during the early afternoon and snore your way through the crucial outcome of the game, match, tournament, event etc. Well, so I have been told.

I enjoy all types of sport but, in winter, it is mainly football that is on offer. We have three main codes of football in Australia – Rugby League, Rugby Union and Australian Rules football. I should also point out that both men and women play these codes but not usually against one another unfortunately.

Okay, okay. I just heard someone scream, “What about the “real football”. The World Game.”

Of course this clown is ranting on about soccer which is not important to the majority of Australians and rarely played by people over 10 years of age.

And that “World Game” thing is a scam. If a reliable study into sport was done and the research and statistics were to be deemed valid, they would find that the “World Game” title belongs to Netball. So there!

Why not use my formula? Add the number of participating countries to the number of card carrying players then multiple it by the civility of the spectators and then divide it by the number of people who give a damn. Netball wins every time!

I have a theory as to the evolution of soccer and it goes like this. One day two teams turned up to play hockey. They soon realised that they forgot the sticks and ball. One bright spark looked across the sports field and saw people playing netball. He scurried over to steal a ball and he returned with a plan.

“Okay. The aim of the game will be basically the same. We will use this big round ball instead of the little ball. We will use our feet and an occasional head instead of the stick. Oh, and no touching or tackling. But dramatic acting whilst feigning injuries will be greatly rewarded.”

Upon hearing this, one player turned to his mate and said, “I think my Mother will approve of this new sport.”

Now, back to the real football, in particular the games of rugby league and rugby union. The games where brave burly blokes run full speed towards the opposing team armed with little more than a mouthguard.

Yes, there is a lot of bruising, blood, black eyes, broken bones, colourful swearing, and the occasional fisticuffs but when it is all over there is a winning team and lots of handshakes and “Good on ya mate” exchanges.

I will admit that I am not so much a fan of the Australian Rules football. It is watch-able and I do like to see those tall athletic blokes in their tight shorts flying in the air or scampering up the back of an opposition player.

What I don’t admire is their “tackles”. They don’t smack into one another to see which one is sturdier. Or grab each other about the ankles with the intent of felling their opponent like a large tree.

No. Their “tackles” look a little too much like a cuddle to my liking.

Now the rugby union match I wish to expand upon was between Australia (Wallabies) and New Zealand (All Blacks).

Our two countries have a sibling-like relationship. We have nothing nice to say about one another, ever. But if an outsider should say anything derogatory about one of us or try to pick a fight then, like siblings, the other one will join in the fight immediately.

A warning to the rest of the world! We were willing to join forces when needed to fight in World War One and we were known as the Anzacs - Australian and New Zealand Army Corp.

Now, the match I speak of was played in June 2006 in New Zealand. I don’t think that I am giving too much away to say that we Aussies were rightfully thrashed by the better team.

The evening began with the All Blacks doing an energetic rendition of their haka. Words can not do justice to the fear and dread that this ceremonial tradition can evoke in non-New Zealanders. You have to see and hear it to get the full picture.

After the excitement of the haka, the players from both teams were milling about the field before kick-off. The television camera person was scanning the field, eager to record any meaningful activity. Suddenly he focussed upon an All Black player crouched on the field, seemingly attending to his inner thigh. An injury from the haka perhaps?

No. He was, in fact, shaking his penis after taking a quick pee on the field before play.

I turned to my spouse and asked, “Did you see what I just saw?” He confirmed that it was so.

At the very first commercial break I rushed to advise my daughter who was in her room watching a DVD.

“One of the players?” she asked.

“Yes.” I confirmed. “The one with the bleached hair.”

“On the field?”


“Eeww!” She said and then added. “He must have been feeling nervous.”

Now this event featured in my next round of emails to friends and family.

Dave emailed me back with this message:

Hi Michelle, the title of your next blog essay should be: There Is No P in Rugby. What do you think?


Michelle ©