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I'm practising on the piano and there's this 'thunk' sound. I think I've hit something. I lift up the lid and look in.

It's so dark. Like when you go out of a dark room into sunlight--only the reverse. A dazzling dark.

For a moment I think I see something. A quivering movement. It's a mouse, I think.

I know it's not a mouse but my brain tells me it must be. Because what it really looks like is a tiny girl--probably a bit bigger than a mouse--staring up at me with round eyes.

Like a baby rabbit come out of a burrow to look at the world for the first time.

Then I think, Stupid! You're imagining things. And I lower the lid of the piano and start to play again.

Ddldlump, dlump...

Then I jump when a voice from behind me says, 'Haven't you practised enough today?'

Like, it's not my slave-driver-mother on the intercom, it's someone who has entered what should be my private sanctuary without my permission!

I turn round and for a moment I think, Who the hell is this person? Like, there's a tallish girl there dressed in a bright blue tracksuit, bare-footed, drying her hair with one of my towels.

Then I shake my head and calm down because it's only Alice who I forgot has come to our place for a swim. That's the trouble when I start playing the piano I lose track of time. Even if I've invited a friend over I tend to forget them. Which is antisocial, I know, but it's the price tall people have to pay if they want to be friends with me and play in my mansion.

I shouldn't say tall people like that. I mean, everyone's tall compared with me. Except for Nick van T. who is considerably younger. Well, three years younger.

I'm a runt. A shrimp really. I'm as light as a feather. When I first went to school they couldn't find a uniform to fit me so I was allowed to wear the tincey track suit that Boomy (my nanna, Mum's mum) had made me a year before.

I mean, I wasn't even growing much, year by year.

Until I was 7.

Then I grew fast. I ate a lot of WeetBix that year. Sometimes I had a whole bowlful for breakfast. And two slices of toast.

Don (my dad) said he'd never seen anything like it. I was growing as fast as Robert Wadlow.

I grew so fast that eventually I reached 75% normal weight for my age.

Then I slowed down so now I'm not minute--just an ordinary shrimp.

You can see our house is slightly overshadowed by the mountain.

Did you know that in the Sixties there was a famous British model called Jean Shrimpton? I suppose she's still around. Anyway, I like her name. Maybe when I grow up I'll change my name to Shrimpton. Danielle Shrimpton. Sounds all right.

I love home videos. I've got videos of when I was a baby, before I was a baby, after I was a baby. And the star is always...me! Me in the baby bath. Me in the tap dancing competition. Me in the swim suit. Me pushing birthday cake all over my face. Me falling out of a tree. Me sharing an icecream with Bruno and Keefer (my dogs). Me coming second last in the school cross country race. Me playing the piano. Me playing at my first concert. Me playing at my last concert. Me getting a bravery medal from the Prime Minister. Me opening my fan mail.

Well, you can guess how sick I get of all this me, me, me stuff that my mother thrusts on me. So in my own descriptive video you'll see the other side of what my life is like. But don't worry. It's not as boring as it sounds--not like Alice's swimming training video, for instance. (This is when she's swimming at the Clarence Pool, not my pool...)

--black line on bottom of swimming pool
--turn
--more black line
--turn
--another black line
--turn
--a bit more black line
--turn
--some more black line
--turn
--yes, black line again
--turn
--more black line
--turn
--it's the same black line
--turn
--still the same
--turn
--no change
--turn
--more black line
--turn
--definitely looks the same
--turn
--a long, boring line
--turn
--more black line
--turn--more black line
--turn
--still more black line
--turn
--more black line
--turn
--black line
--turn
--baa baa black line
--turn
--have you any black line
--turn
--black line
--turn
--black line
--turn
--a swimming pool full
--turn
--one for the master
--turn
--and one for the dame
--turn
--and one for little Axel
--turn
--who lives down the lane
--turn
--more black line
--turn
--more black line
--turn
--Axel, Axel, Ra, Ra, Ra
--turn
--more black line
--turn
--more black line
--turn
--more black line
--turn
--yep, another black line
--turn
--more black line
--turn
--it won't be long now
--turn
--more black line
--turn
--only two more laps after this
--turn
--one more black line
--turn
--the last black line
--get out and have a hot shower [boys can't watch this bit!]
--home for breakfast

Do you know why I'm different from every one else in my class? Well, it's not just because I'm brilliant, or rich or something dumb like that (tho' all of that's true, I suppose) but because I am the only person in my class whose family name starts with a vowel.

The other reason that I'm different is that I'm lousy at maths. I can't even remember my tables. Whereas practically every one else is really (I mean, ***really***) smart at maths--compared with me, anyway.

Which is unusual, says Ms Rubenach, because often people who are gifted with music are also good at mathematics.

Tho' Ms Ruby should know that you can inherit stuff from your parents. And my dad is good at music and my mum is dumb at maths.

That makes sense, doesn't it?

Although I am thankful to my mother for many things. Especially the fact that, tho' we have lots and lots of money we have never had a nanny. I would have hated that. I love my mum and the time I have spent with her over my life I will always treasure.

Even tho' we often argue and fight about trivial things. That's just the contest we must go through. We both know we don't really mean it. Even when she forces me to practise the piano and keeps an eye on me with a video camera, I know that it is for my own good. Even when she ***insists*** I go to bed before ten o'clock I know that it is for my own good. Even when we argue about the state of my room (I need 400 soft toys spread everywhere to make me feel safe at night) I know that it is for my own good that she makes me tidy up once a month.

Mum even accepts that I like (***love***, really) rats and mice. Rodents. I know that deep down Mum feels anxious with anything that is unclean (not that rats or mice are unclean--it depends on the company they keep) but she can't get over the feeling that somehow they must be unclean because of the way she was brought up.

I know that my rodeo rats are cleaner than me. And I shower and shampoo at least once a day and I have never in my whole life worn the same clothes two days running except when on camp or bushwalking.

At my last birthday party I arranged with Max to let one of his rats loose. It was his famous Rattus V who ***excels*** at mazeblazing.

Unfortunately he was lost forever.

When Mum found out about this she totally freaked. 'I mean,' she said, 'where is it? It can't be outside the house,' [because of our house is totally vermin-proof so rodents can't enter OR escape from our house] 'so it must be IN the house!,' she screamed...and quivered like the pathetic jelly she is when it comes to rodents.

After a few months she calmed down.

'But Dannie,' she would say, 'I can't ***smell*** a dead rat so it must be **alive** so it must be ***somewhere***!!!'

'Never fear, Mama,' I would reply every time, 'Max's was no ordinary rat. No Rattus Commonus as Daddy Don would say. He could have smuggled himself out in a lunchbox or briefcase or computer carrier bag or he could have swum through the pool's purification system or slithered up a vacuum cleaning vent and been carried to the tip by Charles-the-butler. He's almost certainly not still hiding in the house.'

'He could be anywhere in that pigsty in your bedroom,' Mum would say.

But eventually she calmed down and Mum seemed to forget about Rattus V.

Which was just as well, because Max wasn't allowed back into the house for ages. It really put a damper on things--as my gramps would say.

 

 


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