Saturday, February 27, 2010


Today I worked in promotions for an event.  Don’t you love how that sounds?  Like I am pivotal to the success of somebody else’s enterprise. 
In all actuality I stood around for seven whole hours in a hot pink size too big t-shirt and an equally oversized black cap.   I looked like a licorice all-sort.  
I was meant to be helping the guests use the computers to help them find their way around the show.  The problem was that the guests had either already done that on their own computers before they arrived, or they were making use of the booklet given at the entrance that had a complete list of every store and a map with which to locate them.
I was, therefore, completely redundant.  The entire day long.
And so I stood there in my mum’s uncomfortable black shoes, (since I still haven’t unpacked my own) and entertained myself by memorising the designs of the stained glass window stall to my right.
What is odd is that after this not so exhausting day I still felt the need for a nap before my evening run.  I put my head down on the kitchen table and woke up twenty minutes later with a stiff neck and a face covered in drool. 
I had my doubts about today’s run. 
Diligently I put on the gear, strapped on the iPod and set off…my toenails are hurting!  No, really they are.  They must be bruised from standing in those uncomfortable shoes all today and now the pressure running down hill means serious discomfort!
I’m a glutton for punishment as most of my course is up hill so they didn’t hurt for too long, but just to be safe, tomorrow I’m wearing my sensible shoes.  That’s what they market them as, but they’re really borderline orthopedic.
I don’t care, it’s not like anyone notices me at this job anyway.  

Friday, February 26, 2010

86% SICK

I’m tired.  I’m calling in sick.  Not 100% sick (see blog below).  Maybe 86% sick.  Which means no run.  Which means nothing to write about.  Which means I had better get my act together for tomorrow.  Thank you fine followers, that is all.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


My brother Lachlan is working in Norway at the moment, and today he told me that a guy from his work called in sick on Monday for Tuesday while he was actually working because he was put at the reception desk and it was too cold.  Then he tells me that his girlfriend’s boss called in on 100% sick leave.  100% sick leave.  Isn’t that death?
Today I have a headache, which is making it difficult to concentrate on my writing.  I could call in sick.  Can do anytime I like.  I don’t have a boss, a deadline…I actually don’t really even have a job.  So sure, I could call in on 100% sick leave too.  It’s just that it’s even harder to get published if you haven’t actually written a book. 
I have four days of early mornings coming up, so in an effort to be able to cope with said early mornings, I am going to try to get an earlier night tonight.  I feel like a kid again in the last week of the Christmas holidays and mum is trying to get us back into routine for school.  I hated that week.  The reality of a new teacher, of maybe not being in class with your friends.  It was awkward and uncomfortable and I’m glad I don’t ever have to go through it again. 
None of which has anything to do with running, the original purpose of this blog.
Today I ran up and down my parent’s steep driveway, interspersing my sprints with situps and pushups.  All of which would have been fine, if the people who bought the house next door hadn’t decided to move in at exactly the same time.  There I was chugging and lugging my arse up the hill while four generations of new neighbours interspersed rearranging the living room furniture with having a good laugh at the girl next door.  I had my iPod on, listening to the Russians, so I’m not totally certain of what they said, but I imagine I made a rather pathetic sight.  The driveway is neither very long nor particularly steep so it would be hard to justify the amount of energy I seemed to be exerting.  

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Today I ran the same route as I did on Monday but I ran it a hell of a lot faster.  I know this because on Monday I made it home as the last strains of the Muse album were fading away, whereas today I still had a couple of songs to go. 
How do you knock over five minutes off your time in one run?  I can’t have been running very fast the other day, can I?
But it’s so gratifying.  The speeds so different, it’s almost as if you’ve beaten a complete stranger.  I feel sorry for the sprinters.  For them it’s about 0.001 of a second.  That’s the move of a misplaced piece of hair, a sneeze, a badly timed blink. 
In comparison, it seems I can stop when my iPod pouch falls off, stop again when an ignorant driver heads straight through a pedestrian crossing, walk up the final flight of stairs and still shave minutes off my time.
It could also have something to do with the drastic change in weather conditions between the cool eve of tonight and the relative heat wave of the other day, but I prefer to think I’m making great strides.  Pardon the pun.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I am upside down and turned around.  Ever since I arrived back in Australia I’ve been happily up until 3 am and waking again around 8 or 9.  Living vampire hours is a byproduct of working in hospitality or theatre, but consistent time spent operating roughly three hours out of sync with the normal population starts to effect you after a while.
I get hungry at the wrong times, for example.  1am always seems like the perfect time for a bit of a snack, and if I resist, it is easy to get up at 8 after only 5 hours of sleep because I am ABSOLUTELY STARVING.  Yesterday I resorted to a weight watcher’s chocolate chip cookie.  Pathetic choice really, but don’t judge me.  It was the only thing in the cupboard.
It’s a great time to get stuff done though, which is why I do it.  I want to write, and I do, but it’s easier when no one is ringing me to ask me to come out and play.
You do, however, start to develop some serious shadowing under the eyes and tend to operate with a constant, minor headache.  Which brings me to the point of this blog…marathon training.
Yesterday I didn’t do it. 
Monday’s run in that unbroken heat sapped every ounce of reserve energy I possessed and yesterday I was as limp as a ragdoll.  I was as capable of running as I am completing my superannuation forms. 
But today people, I promise today.  It’s cooler, might even rain and I WILL be amongst it.

Monday, February 22, 2010


It is so inconvenient when life gets in the way isn’t it?  Being newly relocated and unemployed, I was thoroughly enjoying spending my time writing late into the night and running in the cool – or not so cool – of the early evening.  Now I find myself with odd jobs at odd times, auditions to prepare for, submissions to submit, and the necessities of life to attend to.  Things like grocery shopping, replacing blown up electrical equipment (see yesterday's post) and visiting my friends at the Post Office and several other favourite bureaucracy loving institutions.
Which means yesterday’s run was sandwiched between attempting to teach three year olds how to sing - though as my father-in-law pointed out, at least they’re toilet trained - and eating a magnificent seafood dinner prepared by my husband who is getting antsy now for his contract to start.  (This is the longest he’s ever gone without cooking professionally and my parents are I are reaping the rewards of his frustrations).  Tonight was grilled cuttlefish caught with his very own spear, (see picture) followed by a delicious bouillabaisse with garlic rubbed toast.  Honestly people, other than a masseur, who else but a chef would you really want to marry?
Yesterday I ran in my youngest brother’s shorts again – he is due home in a week or so, but I just don’t think I’m going to give them back.  I’m quite partial to the built-in-undies now.  It’s a lovely added bit of aeration and makes me feel a tad professional to boot.  I’m also quite sure that the more I show of my lily-white large legs, the better off we all are.  For my top I chose one with a built-in bra (similar benefits for women as the shorts are for men) but made an unfortunate discovery mid-run.  This was the top that had sat at the bottom of the dirty clothes bag in Nelson Bay last week.  By the time it finally got washed, the sweat from that week old run had well and truly made its bed amongst the fabric.  It will now, forever, release an overwhelming odour much like stagnant seawater every time I take it out for a sweat.  On the upside, it was a fast run as I was somewhat embarrassed by my stench, which forced me to sprint whenever I passed someone to avoid them catching a whiff.  Perhaps if I’m dressed in a shirt so smelly I can hardly stand myself, and promised a fabulous meal at the end of it, this marathon won’t seem so bad… 

Sunday, February 21, 2010


I have not run for two days on account of one day spent nursing Gregory (who ingested some strange water born bug resulting in the vomits) and today spent moving our stuff into our new place.
And since this blog is supposed to be about my training for a marathon, I don’t know what to write.
I could bore you with details about how I built our bookcase out of wooden wine boxes and arranged them artfully around light switches and power-points but who wants to read about that?
I could regale you with tales about my exploits with electricity and how all in one day (today) I managed to blow my parent’s air conditioner, which seems to have had some sort of negative effect on the TV, which is now claiming to have a ‘weak signal’ and refusing to show a picture, and follow all that by blowing a fuse in our new house when I plugged in an American appliance with the correct adaptor but no converter and the whole thing went up in smoke.  Literally. 
But again, who would want to read about that?
I could really get you going with talk of invoicing and how I’m finally learning to mind my own business, but I don’t even want to write about that.
And so I'll move on.
We are boldly heading towards the Puritan’s March.  Also known as the third month of the year, during which Gregory, our friend Renee (and by default I) have decided to rid our diets of their excess.  Renee is going for the Kath and Kim method of cigarettes and laxatives (which doesn’t sound too puritan to me) and Gregory is considering the recommendation of our friends to swallow a tapeworm.
“Are they cheap?” he asked.
Thirty days of sensible eating and zero tolerance for alcohol...except for events Renee already has in her calendar and occasions when Gregory feels it is necessary to drink with the boys at his new job.  You can see already that we’re going to be wildly successful in our mission.
Tomorrow’s run will be a long one in an effort to reverse my recent behaviour, and I feel like the Russians might be just the people to keep me company.

Friday, February 19, 2010


The weather isn’t so great today, so I’ve left my friends at the house doing what all Australians do on a rainy beach holiday – sitting in their PJ’s, drinking too much coffee, reading out of date trashy magazines left from the guest before and completing puzzles on the dining room table.  This was after we held the Arnotts’ biscuit naming competition, as they seemed to be featuring prominently in our holiday diet, and with two foreign husbands along for the ride, the rest of us considered it our national duty to expose them to the many and varied selections within the Arnotts’ collection.  I think we came up with at least thirty.
It also helps to have the Olympics on during a bad weather holiday. It’s great for background noise and entertainment.  I don’t know as much about the winter Olympics as I do the summer – being Australian and all, from a nation lacking any significant amount of snow - but I still managed to make some excellent analysis from my position on the couch.  It seems, for example, that participation in either the Luge or the Skeleton requires a double-barreled surname.   (Apparently Australia recruited our Skeleton athletes from an ad in the paper saying “Mad Women Required.”)  Which would be right.  You’d have to be mad to go down a tunnel at 120 kilometres an hour, headfirst, dressed in a skintight shiny lycra suit with your glittered arse on display to all and sundry. 
And not that the skeleton isn’t already dangerous enough, but our friend Jen has advanced on the sport and come up with a new one called Hellraising – similar to the skeleton but facing upwards so you can’t see anything at all.  Personally, I’m a fan of the lingo in the half pipe snowboarding.  ‘Dropping in, grabbing the tail, boning it out.’  It sounds like some sort of commentary on bestiality.
I don’t have any fancy words for my run.  Blisters maybe.  Or cardiovascular.  It was the same route I took on my rubbish run the other day, (I was determined to redeem my performance).  Along the edge of the bays and up a fairly serious hill to a view back over the bays on one side and then out to the open seas on the other.  I ran much better than the other day, stride for stride with the new Muse album keeping me in pace.  I feel validated.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


I have encountered two more issues I may have with running a marathon.
Pain or injury? 
How do you tell the difference between pain with a purpose or an actual injury? 
Today my hip-flexors were so rigid I felt like every jerky stride was controlled by a sadistic puppeteer, and my knees were tighter than an actor’s purse strings. 
Is this normal, or is this early warning signs that injury is ahead? 
Is it like when I am working on a new show and my vocal chords tire while they adjust to the new material? 
Or is it more like the damage done to my ears while listening to karaoke on a Friday night at the pub?
I don’t know, and since I’m disinclined to go to the doctor’s I suppose I’m unlikely to find out.
A problem normally associated with my husband, father and brothers, and typically solved by them liberally coating their nether regions in every household’s first-aid staple – Vaseline. 
My chafing is PG rated, don’t worry.  It is on the under side of my upper arm and the result of scraping it against the roof of the house. 
Why you might ask?  I shall tell.  Yesterday Gregory and our friend Ron decided to play Frisbee.  In the backyard.  Right by the house.  Naturally, within minutes the Frisbee had escaped their clutches and hid itself on the far edge of the roof.  And so, on account of being the most flexible, (I have at least found one occasion where musical theatre is relevant in the real world) I was nominated to slither out the small, high, second-floor bathroom window and tiptoe across the roof to capture the runaway Frisbee.  And while my vertical splits out the window weren’t too bad for an over thirty-year old, I couldn’t avoid sustaining an arm injury from the rough wall.  Ordinarily grazing my arm isn’t something I tend to get too upset about, but in this situation a scratch can really screw with your system.
It was a beautiful run along Nelson Bay.  Tranquil even…or it would have been if it weren’t for the fact that every wink from the sparkling ocean, every glance at the setting sun was ruined by my scratched arm rubbing against my tank top. 
Which just goes to show that it really is the little things that get you down.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


“What did you do this morning Monty?” I ask my friends’ two and a half year old, knowing that at nine am when we arose he’d already been up for a good three hours.
“At Grandma’s brown, pink and white cake and rode bike,” he says to me in his kids English.
The thing is, what he’s saying isn’t true.  He didn’t go to his Grandma’s and eat three cupcakes and ride his bike and I am certain of this because he is here with us - his parent’s and their friends - on holiday in Nelson Bay.  But what he has done is quite interesting.  Obviously the morning he did have wasn’t that exciting, so he has abandoned reality and remembered a better time. 
It’s not a bad philosophy to follow; if the occasion your experiencing is a little underwhelming, find a better memory and pretend you’re there instead. 
Take today’s run for example.  It was utter rubbish.  I was dizzy and sore, had a few wardrobe malfunctions (hat positioning difficulty, drawstring shorts issue and the like) and expended huge amounts of energy trying to run on the hard sand of the beach while simultaneously avoiding the chase of the tide.  Rubbish.
And so I remembered a better run, searching my brains for a victorious one…which takes me all the way back to sixteen years old at a high school cross country race.  Cross country running wasn’t very popular at my school, so the races were held at morning break time, which put me in quite a quandary because I was always hungry by then and was forced to choose between running or eating.  Perhaps that’s why I won the race, because I knew that the faster I ran the sooner I could eat.  So that’s what I thought of while I was running my rubbish run, the glory days of high school.
“Monty like brown, pink and white cake.  Monty have brown, pink and white cake,” my friends’ son says picking up the conversation.
Note the punctuation.  He is not asking for the cupcakes, he is telling us he is going to have them.  He has remembered a better time and is now projecting it onto his present.  He is Master of his own fate. 
And therefore, (as any self-help guru worth their salt will tell you) having envisaged what he wants in his present, it will become his future. 
The kid’s a genius.  He has (at thirty months of age) mastered a life skill the rest of us are still trying to grasp.
Currently he is lying on the floor scribbling on a piece of paper.  But I bet it goes much deeper than that.  I’m going to get down there with him and see what else I can learn.

Monday, February 15, 2010


The Olympics are on.  You can’t really have a whinge about sprinting up and down your parent’s driveway when you know those kids train till they vomit.  It’s worth it for the uniform though isn’t it?  The Japanese lady speed skaters have these fabulous gold glitter suits and I really think one of those could be the ticket for my marathon.  You can’t deny the marathon is a fabulous occasion for theatrics.  And I can’t deny that I’m theatrical.  Any live theatre worth its salt has excellent costumes.  I’ve been tossing up the idea of getting HART singlets with each of the four participating family members wearing a different letter.  But since it’s unlikely we’re going to finish remotely near each other, we would (in addition to having to run 42 kilometres without stopping) have to talk as well, as people continually asked us the meaning of the random letter on our shirts.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Do what you want and the money will come.”  This has been our father’s career mantra to us our entire adult lives.  He learned it from one of his fellow social work buddies, and though it seems to have worked out all right for them, I don’t think they considered the career trajectory of Phil’s only daughter.  I started off with dreams of medicine, but quickly realised I had no natural affinity for the sciences, did not in fact, enjoy stranger’s bodily fluids and really only wanted to do it because I’d gotten lost in a fantasy of my own design.  I had pictured myself charging through the bush to save a patient from a vicious tiger snakebite.  Life-saving surgery aboard the Royal Flying Doctor Service, quadruplets delivered in the back of a car in peak hour traffic.  I imagined striding across the tarmac to a chopper, the wind from the propellers blowing back my hair, my stethoscope tossed jauntily over my shoulder, as I headed deep into drought stricken Africa.  Then it occurred to me…I can do all that, and without the ten years of agonising study.  I can amputate limbs, coordinate relief teams, discover the cure for cancer, and all from the safety of the stage.
Thus began my career in musical theatre. 
I’ve always liked performing and danced at the local ballet school from an early age.  One of my greatest artistic achievements was my role as head chick in the Armidale Ballet School Premiere of The Ugly Duckling.  Left backstage to dress myself, I slipped on my ballet shoes, secured my cardboard beak and climbed into my matching yellow leotard…backwards.  Out onto stage I danced, my little hands tucked into my armpits like wings, no idea that my four-year-old nipples were proudly on display.  Things haven’t really improved much since then.  I’ve been weed on onstage by a terrified goat, forgotten by my scene partner who was playing cards in the green room, and competed for stage time with a theatre’s resident squirrel.
This is the reason people like live entertainment.  Schadenfreude.  The thrilling possibility that something will go wrong and the performers are made to look exceedingly foolish.  (People hope for it in real life too of course, hence the unstoppable machine that is reality TV). 
In actuality, me trying to get a job in theatre would provide far more schadenfreude than if I actually had one.  Most people aren’t privy to the mysteries behind getting a gig in theatre (come to think of it neither am I) so let me try to help you out. 
First you read the audition notices in the weekly trade rag.  Every Thursday there’s a new issue and it’s just like Christmas; you know what you put on your list – decent theatres, decent roles and decent pay – but you never know if Santa ignored you and gave you a lump of coal instead.  After skipping castings that say things like ‘seeking talented actress with infected toe’ you plot your day so as to hit as many auditions as possible.  Then you pack your bag.  I imagine the rate of back injuries is higher in New York than anywhere else in the world because of the number of actors trolling the streets and subways weighed down by said bag.  In it, you have several copies of your resume and headshot (it should look like you on a blind date; groomed but realistic) leotard, dance tights sans ladders, tap, jazz, ballet and theatre shoes, repertoire book (a gargantuan folder filled with musical excerpts ranging from Oklahoma to Celine Dion’s rendition of My Heart Will Go On), plenty of reading material and countless snacks to keep you going on what could easily become a ten hour day.  You arrive at the audition studios, ignore the stares of the other women each trying to ascertain if you’re a threat to their chances of employment, follow the sign to the small stuffy holding room, add your name to the list that at nine a.m. is already at two hundred and fifty-six and wedge yourself between a wall and a window that has a view of the snowy fire escape of the building next door.  Now, your location in the holding room is far more crucial than you would assume.  You can’t just plonk yourself down in the first available seat.  That would be holding room suicide.  You’ve got to treat it like the war zone it is.  Survey the land, identify the terrorists and head for neutral territory.  Beware the girl doing splits up the wall and carrying on a conversation like it’s perfectly normal.  Also avoid the girl talking extra loud about how her manager didn’t even want her to audition for this role and she’s only here because the casting director called her in.  “I was just about to take a pilates class when he called.  Lucky I’d already washed and styled my hair.  I just threw this dress on and ran down here.  It’s so handy living in midtown.”
There’s always some twit warming up at the top of her lungs, right next to the sign saying ‘no vocalising permitted’ or a girl at your elbow hogging all the mirror space so she can curl her hair because ‘that’s how the girl in the original cast had it.’
There you sit squashed in your corner, sipping on your bad NYC coffee and ignoring the girl with the manager who says loudly to no one in particular; “you know, you should never drink coffee before singing.  It dehydrates your vocal chords.”
She may be correct, but there are two very important factors involved here that she hasn’t even considered.  One – I don’t live in midtown, so I’ve been up for much longer than her just to get here in time and two – I paid ninety cents for that acrid, burnt, thicker than tar coffee and have no intention of letting it go to waste.
When your number finally comes up (number two hundred and fifty-six can take quite a while) the monitor collects your headshot and bio, marches you into the hallway and lines you up along the wall outside the audition room.  Here you will see some of the greatest theatre of all.  Someone always assumes the role of the bitch and actively tries to sabotage her competitors; “you’re not going to sing that are you?  The director is a friend of mine and I know he hates that song.”  It’s like ten pin bowling.  If you play well, you can roll a strike, unsettle all the other pins and clear the way for yourself.
Soon it’s your turn and the monitor opens the door, ushers you inside and closes it quickly before the girl behind you gets a chance to take a look.  Going through the audition room door is like going through the wardrobe to Narnia.  Everybody visits the same place, but has a totally different experience. 
“The panel is lovely.”
“The accompanist is horrible.”
“They asked me to sing four songs.”
“They were all eating hamburgers, I should have sung the McDonald’s commercial.”
You take your music to the accompanist and inform him about your songs without upsetting his delicate professional sensibilities (never, ever tap the tempo of your piece on the surface of the instrument) and head to the centre of the room, sometimes stopping on a gaffa taped X that makes you feel like you’re facing a firing squad and not a bunch of musical theatre queens.  Thirty seconds later it’s over, and you’re back on the other side of the wardrobe with no idea if they loved you or thought you should consider an alternate career in plumbing.
Dance auditions are something else entirely.  Often they’re after the singing and the room is filled with a horrid mix if diva dancers (the ones who, when their tights ladder, cut out the crotch and wear them as tops), sopranos who aren’t used to doing much else but standing on stage and singing really high, and the rest of us who fall somewhere in between.  It’s like riding a bike.  You have to share the road with wide-loads spilling out of their lanes, riders who took their training wheels off a little too early, and the occasional Cadel Evans (Lance Armstrong for the Americans) who puts the rest of us to shame.  In either activity, you still end up with a sore groin.
My friend Libby has the greatest dance audition story.  She is a fabulous actress with a dynamite voice but no ability to grasp choreographed movement whatsoever.  She absolutely cannot dance.  She tried to convince a panel of this, who nonetheless coerced her into attending the dance call later that day.  There she stood in her shorts and t-shirt, dead in the middle of the room, desperately trying to learn the combination.  Step kick step leap, arabesque lunge pirouette.  Pirouette!  Oh no, this is going to be bad.  Still, just as she saw the others do, she prepped for the turn, attempted it…and took down all six people dancing around her.  Climbing to her feet, she dusted herself off, sent a “see I told you so” to the panel, a “sorry” to her fallen comrades, gathered her bag and quickly exited the room.  I really wish I’d been there for that one.
Sometimes, despite the odds, you manage to land a gig.  I’ve been a whore, a nun, a princess, a peasant, a murderess, a cow and a dancing plate in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.  Backstage for that show was a riot.  The green room looked like a giant’s kitchen cupboard.  Four-foot forks and spoons were propped against the wall (we broke the knives in final dress and didn’t have time to fix them), the clock couldn’t get up the stairs unless he hopped and the guy playing the magic carpet wrestled with his costume like a criminal in a straight jacket.  Final dress would have been better entertainment than the show itself I reckon.  I had a collision with the teapot, a serviette broke the staircase, the beast busted a chair, the kick-line forgot the teacup and the wardrobe lost her drawers. 
It is at times like that, dressed in a gold lame headpiece with matching waistband and leotard, a huge spinning plate harnessed to my back, that I consider the career choices of my high school friends.  Accountants, teachers, scientists, town planners.  Sensible, stable, perpetually necessary professions with a base salary that keeps you above the poverty line.   Because that’s the biggest schadenfreude of it all.  Theatre – unless you’re a star on Broadway – doesn’t even pay well.  My first salary was two hundred and fifty dollars a week.  Even a tight arse like me finds it difficult to live on that. 
So I considered medicine again.  I grappled with my aversion to years of study, got out my calculator, worked out how much I’d need to live on, how much it would cost me to get the degree, and how long it would take me to pay it all back. 
In the end it just wasn’t worth it.  I decided to stick with theatre and the magic of make-believe.  At least then I could do what I want and pretend the money will come.


I’ve been running for approximately twenty-six years.  Not continually, but regularly and wherever I seem to find myself.  Along the foreshores of Sydney, on the dried crusted sands of outback Australia, through a grey, dank park south of London, along the frozen Hudson River in NY.  Wherever I’ve lived I’ve run.  It’s very cathartic for me.  Without it I’d likely be medicated for anxiety.  At the very least I’d be rather difficult to live with. It also fits my budget…it’s free.  All I do is throw on a pair of old runners, fall out the back door and go for a trot. 
That’s the easy part.  It’s getting back again that I find difficult, for I perpetuate the feminine stereotype of having utterly appalling navigational skills.  Absolutely no sense of direction and a complete inability to read maps.  It shames my brothers, but if forced to use a map, I flip it to match any turns I make and embraced that navigational masterpiece, the GPS, with more joy than I did my husband on our wedding night.  The points on a compass mean nothing to me and unless I waited until the sun set, I would never know where west is. I’m a navigational black hole.  Any relevant information enters my brain and if it comes out at all it’s warped.  Left seems right, up is down, and as for roundabouts, circling them until you’re dizzy is better than getting on a freeway you can’t escape and traveling for miles suspecting, correctly, that you’re going in the wrong direction. 
I think my father thought he could fix the problem by enrolling the four of us in an orienteering course when we were young.  We were put in pairs, given a compass and a map, and a series of targets to find somewhere in the bush.  The first team back won.  I was always put with Ian, a family friend who (if he’d been so inclined) could likely have represented Australia in the middle distance running events.  Off he would dash, disappearing amongst the gum trees and buggar following the map, my sole objective was to keep up with him and not spend the day lost in the wilderness.
New York spoiled me; its convenient grid meant that even when I was lost, I was still only one block in the wrong direction.  I’d forgotten how much that hid my disability when I was briefly back in Australia and working in Darwin, Northern Territory.  On my first night there, I stayed with my new boss and her husband and headed out for a jog.  Two and a half hours later, heels bleeding, mouth as dry as a popcorn fart, they found me pounding the pavement clear on the other side of town.
In those days I was a fashion workout puritan; old t-shirts with no labels, my midriff securely covered, shorts from my soccer days and definitely no music device. 
I’ve graduated now - audibly anyway - and strap an ipod to my arm. 
Actually the ipod was a good move – it’s harder for those I call the predator runners to strike up a conversation with you when Eye Of The Tiger is blasting your ears.  It is a device I wish I’d had as a little girl when my father would drag me from bed for an early morning run.  I’ve never wanted to disappoint Dad, so unlike my three brothers who seem to assume they can do so on a rotating basis and still stay in good favour, as the only girl I’ve always tried to make him happy.  Which meant waking up in the dark, cold morning, Jack Frost still sleeping on the front lawn, to run through the quiet streets of Armidale in the northern tablelands of NSW. 
In my entire running career I’ve never met a runner like Phil.  He doesn’t seem to find breathing a necessity.  It’s like he absorbs oxygen through the too-short-shorts-with-built-in-undies he insists on wearing despite his daughter’s embarrassed protests.  The gentle flap, flap, flap of fabric against his trunk size thighs must somehow distribute air into his lungs, allowing him to run and talk at the same time.  “So Nome,” he’ll say, half way up a hill, “what do you think is the meaning of life?”
These days I sprint along the edge of the Pacific, the Santa Monica Pier in the distance, dodging seagulls and lifeguards, the theme from Chariots of Fire running through my head.  The lifeguards here are extremely vigilant.  I’ve never seen more surf rescues than I have on Santa Monica beach.  Then again, I’ve never seen more people swimming fully clothed.  It’s difficult to swim in jeans and a sweatshirt, people, hence the unfortunate popularity of the budgie smuggler, so gleefully embraced by the Australian male and known in other nations as the banana hammock, the dick sticker, or here in the US, the common speedo.  More often than not, I am escorted on my run by a pod of playful dolphins, pace myself to the beat from the Venice drum circle and leap frog the many homeless who make the sun bleached sands their home.
Sometimes I skip the beach, bike ride to a steep set of stairs and run up and down them until my legs shake so badly I can barely ride home again.  It may seem like an odd thing to do, but I am never alone.  The stairs are always crowded with hundreds of sweating, panting, puffing Santa Monicans all working for the perfect body. 
Up and down the steps I pound, head down and eyes on the stairs, which is great for avoiding an embarrassing trip, but gives me no time to prepare for coming face to face – or face to bum as the case may be – with the person in front. 
Usually it’s a woman in Lycra pants and matching sports bra because here, a display of midriff is compulsory, regardless of its state.  The owner of said midriff may have just given birth to octuplets or placed first in a hamburger eating competition, but still their jiggling abdomens are revealed, shuddering like bacon lard with every stair they climb. 
And if it’s not the jigglers I run into, it’s the man with the weights, dressed in a black fleece tracksuit covered in a weight jacket.  The pungent odour of man-sweat trapped between metal and a synthetic fibre wafts behind him like a skunk under threat.  Though I do occasionally wonder if I’m not much better.  My typical morning involves getting dressed into the pajamas I didn’t wear to bed, (I find them restrictive for sleeping, but perfect for writing) writing for a few hours, then getting out in the sunshine for a bit of exercise.  Rationalising that there’s no point showering before a workout, or putting deodorant on either since I’ll only sweat it off so I may as well save the money, I head for the stairs as natural as nature intended.  The saying ‘ladies don’t sweat, they perspire’ does not apply to me and it has occurred to me that my natural pheromones may, in fact, be offensive to others. 
Now, while the stairs are being pounded by those with the extra pounds, they’re more likely to be lightly tapped by rawboned women, their glossy manes bouncing around their doctor-designed faces, their chopstick legs desperately balancing the weight of their surgically enhanced chests so they don’t topple backwards and land at the bottom of the stairs in a tiny bundle of plastic, collagen and spandex. 
LA is the kind of town where if you didn’t have an eating disorder when you got here, you’ll quickly acquire one.  They’re obligatory.  Like a valley accent, or air pollution, or a passive-aggressive attitude.  Here, pre-schoolers do yoga and ladies carry their complexes in their designer handbag.  I’ve only been here eight months and already I’ve developed the disturbing habit of reaching under my shirt and feeling my belly pooch every time I take a sip of tea with sugar in it or - heaven forbid - eat the bread my sandwich comes with.  Sometimes when I’m running the stairs I grab at it, as if I might be able to feel the fat dissolve with every step I climb.  Recently I overheard a woman ask her friend how she stayed so thin.  “I haven’t eaten anything that tastes good in years,” the friend replied.  What’s even scarier is that all these women look the same. If one of the west coast wildfires ever made it to LA, the town would go up in acrid flames made from only two bottled hair dyes – blonde and brunette - one shade of tanning lotion, and the city would be reduced to a pile of identical plastic noses, lips and balls of 14DD breasts.
So here we are, the fatties, the clones and me, all vying for space on the wooden stairs.  And just like I can sniff the weight man, I can also sniff the clones’ disdain when they glance at my outfit, my baseball cap hiding my unbrushed hair, the sun cream running milkily down my arms.
“What’s the time?” Clone One asks Clone Two, pointedly ignoring the watch on my wrist.  After taking her earphone out of one ear and telling the person on her blackberry to “hang on a minute,” Clone Two looks at Clone One and says; “twelve thirty.”  (No self respecting Hollywood-wannabe exercises before noon.  Probably because their waitressing shift didn’t finish until three and they also need the morning to blow dry their freshly washed hair). 
But it’s not really the time Clone One cares about.  What she’s really saying is; “how did you convince your surgeon to do your breasts so big?  I tried, but mine refused.  I knew I should have spent the extra money for the surgeon on that reality show, all my friends did and he did exactly as they asked.”
One of my greatest runs was back in New York on the night of ‘blackout 2003’ (as the commemorative t-shirts said).  At first New Yorkers panicked (it seemed a little too much like that fateful September date) but after it was ascertained – and blamed on Canada – that it was just a huge power failure, it was a very pleasant evening indeed.  Spontaneous street parties erupted, stores gave away melting ice creams and candles were shared as people gathered on the brownstone steps. 
At dusk, not a single light but the fireflies in the trees and the sun setting over the west side apartments, I strode around the Jackie Onassis Resevoir and thought of Phil. 
What was the meaning of life?  Was it this?  A mad-paced city forced to stop and smell the dog pee evaporating from its sidewalks?  To recognise that for all their differences, the inhabitants could still be united by a single blown fuse.  Or did the clones have it right?  Was the meaning of life competitive uniformity?  Should we abandon individuality and strive instead for homogenous perfection? 
I decided to ask Clone Number Two…if only I could work out which one she was.


Acting is like a virgin on prom night…you just have to put out.
You can pass your driver’s test in LA by bribing the examiner with fried chicken.
There is a porn store on the corner of 48th and 8th in NYC that gives out free coffee in the morning.
A dental tool and an American flag are all the tools you need for successful drug smuggling.
The annual plastic flamingo festival is held in Maine.
Bullets should be removed before clothes are placed in a washing machine, and clingwrap is an excellent preventer for the transmission of genital herpes.

These are just some of the invaluable pearls of wisdom I have gained after seven years in the Big Apple.
Based on my time as a theatre student in New York City and later as a performer in theatres across America, these gems belong to stories in a compilation titled The Seven Year Itch, A Travel Memoir With A Kick-Ball-Change! 
Told with a New Yorker’s candidness and an Aussie’s sense of the absurd, The Seven Year Itch is a wicked insight into the trials and tribulations of a fast-approaching-thirty-time’s-a-tickin’-dancin’-girl as she pirouettes around Maine, tip-taps through London, shuffles off to Santa Monica and lands back in Oz, exhausted, exhilarated and damn sure she’d do it all again in a New York minute.

Hear some of these tales on ABC's Radio National Life Matters Program and contact Naomi for further information.


My baby brother is currently overseas doing dangerous things in dangerous countries and it is very difficult not to miss him and worry at a level that almost completely annihilates the ability to function somewhat normally in the everyday.  And so I do the only thing I know to do.  I run.  A passion we both share, wearing his shorts and listening to his music.  And as my tears mix with my sweat I know he will be ok.  He is too loved to tolerate any other alternative.
Don’t fret, it’s not the first time I’ve cried while running.  I mentioned in Tsunami Evacuation Route that I find running cathartic, and the release can sometimes result in tears.  You can get away with crying while you run if you’re a ginga (redhead) like me.  Because it doesn’t matter if it’s 100% humidity and I’m sweating like a homo eating a hot dog, or if it’s the middle of a New York winter and I’m barely avoiding hypothermia, I will still get red in the face when I run.  And since a red face is a standard by-product of a ginga in tears (I am no Demi Moore in Ghost) I am under the illusion that the people I pass will just assume I’m really exerting myself. 
Which is good, because there may yet be tears on marathon day, as I’ve identified a few more obstacles that may stand between me and the finish line.  (These are in addition to the ones mentioned in Ye Old Hills Hoist).
1.  My knees.
They’re not the toughest things I own so I take glucosamine tablets and try to do yoga once a week to help them out.  But Haruki Murakami has me running scared – pardon the pun – as I read in his memoir “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” that with each step I take I am pounding down three times my body weight onto my poor little knees.  This does not sound very good at all.
2.  What if I make up the 1% per every 100 000 runners who actually dies while running a marathon?  The odds are in my favour I realise, but for some reason I’m giving far more credence to this subject than common sense should allow.
This is the problem with long runs.  They give you too much time to think.

Friday, February 12, 2010


There is a musical called 110 In The Shade and that must have been the temperature under a eucalypt in Sydney by 8am this morning.  It was ridiculous.  My American husband nearly gave back his visa and quit, and my marathon training effort seemed stunted before breakfast.  Under ordinary circumstances I don’t mind the heat, but there was no way I could run in it.
I sweated through the day, spending most of it in the kitchen with Gregory who was preparing a feast for my brother returning to Norway tomorrow.  I was garde manger (which is a fancy French word for salad cook) and helped assemble a fabulous array of Aussie delicacies impossible to find in that faraway land.  Things like lamb, fresh vegetables and non-government regulated alcohol.  I diced the tomatoes, picked the basil, ground the cumin seeds and right around onion chopping time, Sydney showed her style, and the heaving clouds rumbled in and doused the steaming land, giving me no alternative but to rip off my apron, get on my shoes and get out in it. 
New shoes today, (well, second hand, but still new to me).  They were mum’s castoffs, having decided the arch was too high and it upset her angle on the step machine.  (She is not a runner, but gets right into the NRG classes at her ladies only gym). 
I always run better the first time I take out a new pair of shoes.  My step is light, my pace is high, my form impressive.  At least that’s how it appears to me.  Perhaps I’m buoyed by the new rubber cushioning, or maybe by how fancy I imagine I look, but the key to marathon success could in fact be new shoes.
I ran like lightning…I felt like I ran like lightning.  But appearances count.  If I look the part maybe I can delude myself into thinking I am the part and suddenly my marathon imaginations seem just that little bit more real…

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Yesterday I took the day off.  Gregory didn’t.  He sprinted up and down my parent’s steep driveway, interspersing each one with pushups, while I sat on the deck with my computer and desperately tried to harness my blog.  (I can now change colours, add links, find friends and make comments.  These are all very big steps for me).
I had planned to run in the afternoon, but Gregory’s job interview went decidedly well so we opted to return to the restaurant for dinner and see what it was like in action.  I can’t tell you where just now, but suffice to say the location is a tourist’s wet dream. 
After another day spent wrangling my website and blog into submission, by afternoon I was more than ready to stretch my legs. 
Maybe I’ll make today my long day, I thought, sliding into my youngest brother’s running shorts.  He is away at present, and following household lore, all personal items are now in general circulation.  (I also don’t have anything else to wear given that everything we own is still in storage).  Now Rhys is a wearer of the shorts with built in undies, and while such a look on my father has scarred me since childhood, I can thoroughly appreciate the design.  But not even the titillating fluff of wind up the shorts could convince my body to run for longer than an hour.  I trudged up the final hill – a long slow and painful one – and ‘The Flight of the Bumblebee’ morphed from being encouraging to downright irritating.  Time for a glass of wine.


In June 2009 Gregory and I left Santa Monica and flew to Europe to meet up with my three brothers and our cousin for some fun lovin’ family time. I don’t mind flying. It’s like shopping – a necessary evil - the best part of both being the garish overhead fluorescents in airplane toilets and dressing room cubicles, which provide perfect lighting for blackhead squeezing. Come on now, don’t pretend you haven’t done it. It’s a fabulous by-product of an otherwise expensive and rather boring event.
Most of our two weeks were spent in magnificent Norway – land of reindeer balls, whale sushi and the highest rate of one-night stands, who’s capital has a public park filled with naked sculptures in all sorts of outrageously compromising positions. Not something you would expect from such a subdued and law abiding race. In fact, if it weren’t for their penchant for fashion and hairstyles circa Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club, it would be easy to consider them...conservative.
Since my shoulder pads and bubble skirts are firmly in the past where they belong, it was always going to be difficult to blend in, but with my eldest brother Ben along for the ride it was nigh on impossible. His sensible walking shoes, green King-Gees and clashing navy blue t-shirts screamed tourist louder than a socialist does free health care.
We camped along the Baltic sea, hiked Preikestolen to marvel at a view so vast you can’t take it all in, and raced to supermarkets to make the 6pm cut-off for purchasing alcohol. There was a team effort to collect fresh mussels from the pristine fjords whereupon Gregory cooked them over an open fire using a can of beer and some roughly chopped garlic and onions for the sauce. You don’t eat too badly when you camp with a chef. None of those burned sausages and dirt-dusted bread from where you dropped it in the soil for us. We dined on Spaghetti Bolognese, macaroni and cheese (hand mixed in a plastic shopping bag) and burritos with accompaniments balanced carefully on nearby rocks.
Back in Oslo, my younger brother Lachlan, (who lives and works there as a personal trainer) introduced us to his band of sexual refugees – thirty odd Aussie and kiwi blokes, all who’d moved there for a gorgeous blonde Norwegian, only to have them renege on the deal on the grounds that she’d prefer a native.
Youngest brother Rhys and I represented the family at Lach’s very early morning bootcamp classes. Conducted thankfully, (since Lach hasn’t bothered to learn the language on the grounds that it sounds like Jabba The Hut in Star Wars) in English.
We reached Norway via London (where pink linen seems to be an unfortunate fashion trend for men), through Denmark and its wind turbines and Holland and its tulips. We stopped off at a gorgeous old farmhouse in Germany, the hosts feeding us a delicious meal of cheeses and charcuterie presented on individual wooden boards, and proceeded to get thoroughly sozzled on a never-ending series of German toasts. Interestingly, I learned that German carpenters spend their first year traveling the nation dressed in Liederhosen and living off the generosity of fellow workmen while they work for free to gain experience. We followed our German feast with a night in Sweden where we met a Brit convinced he was a retired James Bond. All of this navigated by Suze the trusty GPS who avoided all accidents and road work, but also managed to point out every McDonalds in Scandinavia. They are bandits for the chain over there – there were more of them than there were natural blondes.
Back in sunny Santa Monica now, but not for long. We will leave la la land at the beginning of December and schlep our way across the country in time for Christmas on the east coast. Travel makes you more aware, I consider it my social responsibility…ok not really, but it is an excellent bonus garnered from an already excellent activity.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


The Russian composers are excellent company. I figure if they could write those glorious melodies in the midst of such horror and strife, I can get to the top of the hill. The finale of the 1812 overture kicked in just in time and it was a fabulous run indeed. Today was a good day in the land of Gregory and Naomi. Moving countries is not just stamps in your passport and duty-free alcohol. It’s a whole lot of uncertainty and anxiety, and however anticipated, it can still get you down. Yesterday was one of those days. Still, we put on our shoes, headed out in different directions and came back from our runs feeling all the better for it.
Today was much improved. Gregory had a great interview and lined another one up for tomorrow, and I had a couple of leads with my performing and writing. We strapped on our shoes, and where yesterday’s run bolstered our bruised and fragile egos, today our self-esteem matched us stride for stride. Running is funny like that; picks you up when you’re down and carries you higher when you’re already there. At least that’s what I does for me.
It occurs to me that there are many parallels between a performer and a chef. The hours are terrible - the pay is too (until you climb rather significantly up the ladder). The environment is intense, the employers transitory and only those with passion and strength of spirit survive. Even the way we get jobs is similar. Since both of us have ‘practical’ rather than theoretical professions, once we’ve met with the employers we then have to prove our worth. Gregory takes his knives and chef jacket and spends a night in the kitchen, and I sing, dance and act in front of a panel of strangers until – hopefully – I am the last one standing.
And that’s where running is my therapy, my anti-anxiety pill, my chamomile tea. But better than all of those, it’s free.

Monday, February 8, 2010


It’s odd I think, when you’re running along the footpath and there is a person walking towards you, and in spite of fair warning (let’s be honest, I’m not breaking any land speed records) they don’t share the way. I’m not that large, there is plenty of room for us both to pass – and I promise not to rub your arm with my sweaty one.
It’s also interesting to conduct a sociological study and assess which people acknowledge you and which ones don’t. Old ladies are a definite. They always give you an enthusiastic wave. Men are fifty-fifty - it depends who they’re with. Teenagers are almost a guaranteed no, like they’re embarrassed on your behalf, but fellow runners can boost that right up with a stride-timed nod of the head.
Gregory and I are both running these days, but I’m banned from his track. We go in different directions and at different times, meet back at the house and Gregory asks me what I thought of while I was out. Today I imagined I was an Olympic marathon runner (told you my visions are extreme) and decided what I needed was some good Russian classics to keep me company while I run. I think Mussorgsky’s Dawn on The Moscow River is the perfect starter piece. Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee will do for the sprints (which I haven’t attempted yet, but perhaps I will once I have the music) and nothing like Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture to drag my arse up the hill to the finish line. I am humming the bit where they let the fireworks off on New Year’s Eve and can’t wait to take my new playlist for a test drive tomorrow…

Sunday, February 7, 2010


This is what Haruki Murakami says in his book "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running";
“For me, running is both an exercise and a metaphor. Running day after day, piling up the races, bit by bit I raise the bar. And by clearing each level I elevate myself.” “Failure to reach that bar is not something you can easily explain away. When it comes to other people, you can always come up with a reasonable explanation, but you can’t fool yourself. In this sense, writing novels and running full marathons are very much alike.”
Of course, he is a fulltime novelist and I am a novice, but my attitude is just the same.

Friday, February 5, 2010


I think marathon running will suit me. Assuming I’ve done the appropriate training, it seems that stamina, endurance and an active imagination are the actual qualities that will carry you across the finish line. I do not mean to sound arrogant, but I am certain I posses such traits. Without them, the pursuit of a career in Musical Theatre in New York would have been nigh on impossible.
I did my long run today – 20k’s I should think – in a fairly respectable hour and twenty-five minutes (though I didn't have either a watch or a pedometer and am going purely on guess work). Knees are a tad sore and the old hip flexors are pretty tight, but other than that, I feel great. It’s cooled off since yesterday, still raining in spurts, and perfect running temperature – not too hot, not too cold with a bit of a breeze to wick the sweat away. I ran without my iPod for fear the rain would ruin it, but as always, had my imagination along for the ride. I imagined the book I want to publish, the restaurant my husband wants to open, the characteristics I wish I possessed and what I would do with them if I did, and once I’ve exhausted those topics, I take giant leaps into outer-reality and dream up scenarios for the movie of my life. Sometimes I live in a villa on a Greek Island, my husband cooks for the vacationing millionaires and I write by day and hostess at his events by night. We fly our families and friends in for visits and keep an apartment in the East Village of New York and another in the inner city of Sydney. Then there’s the orphanage in Cambodia that I volunteer at while Gregory works in a nearby Hotel that happily provides the penthouse for the duration of our stay. We make friends with the locals, put our kids in the international school (usually we have twin boys and a little girl) and I write a travel memoir on Southeast Asia. I’ve also been to Africa with International Red Cross, become a Radio Announcer for the ABC, written a musical and a play and starred in them both on Broadway.
I am a very busy little lady in my imaginings, and running is the perfect avenue to make them all come true. I have plenty of goals (some I’ve achieved, most I’m still working on) and I hope that just like running a marathon, eventually I’ll get there.
I am like the tortoise…slow and steady wins the race.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


It has got to be about 98% humidity in Sydney today. I am sweating just checking my emails. Still, I’ve decided to go for a run in the dead middle of the day. Perhaps I am motivated by my husband who – shock of all shocks – has just headed out the front door to do some drills on a nearby set of stairs. I suspect he is motivated by the list of annoying ‘we’ve just moved countries' jobs that are required of us – medicare…tax file numbers…health insurance…credit cards…drivers licences – for two kids with a limited tolerance for bureaucracy at the best of times, this is really testing our limits. I’m in the mood for a good long run, having read some serious marathon running sites last night, but imagine I might be thwarted by the two cups of coffee to one cup of water I’ve had this morning.
Still, call me strange, but sometimes there is nothing better than sweating it all out of you. Your anxieties…annoyances…grievances…the things you wish you’d said to the lady at the RTA…all can be expelled with a good sweat inducing run.
I’ll let you know how it goes…
An hour later…It was fabulous. So hot the sweat was streaming off me before I got to the bottom of the first hill, and then the rains came and mixed with my sweat to cool me off. Tomorrow I plan to run a fair bit further and am matching my coffee with bottles of water. It feels great to be back.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


My country is a beautiful one. Not that others aren’t of course, but it’s been a while since the ragged character of my homeland has settled my soul.
Today I find myself running along an isolated beach in the Booti Booti National Park. At this end, the ocean rages against the rich green shrubbery that crept down the cliff to feel the salt spray on its leaves. The water here is violent, ripping and thumping at the sand. Competing waves chase and trip over each other to get to shore first. The trees and ground cover hide you from the road, and I run the isolated beach, realising the specialness of this untouched land makes me feel more Australian than my passport.
It’s a so-so run, but that hardly seems to matter. I’m not entirely sure I’m excited about training for this marathon, but I’m thoroughly enjoying articulating how sacred running is to me.


“Have you ever seen a human hot dog?” my husband says to my mother as he stuffs himself into his wetsuit. It is day two of our beach holiday, and while I destroy my calf muscles with a series of beach sprints, Gregory and my second youngest brother scour the ocean in search of tonight’s dinner. It is very indigenous of us - men the hunters, women the gatherers. They spear the mullet and whiting, and my mother and I head to the local supermarket to gather the fixings for a salad.
No sign of Gregory beginning his training yet, and I fear my quest may be sabotaged by the very people who are members of our team. Instead of organising a fat kids run in the cool of the early evening, my eldest brother hands my husband a beer and they settle into the sand to devour a bag of salt and vinegar chips. I will give them both until six months out and then the pressure will be applied…
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