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If you're an actor in a soapie, the main things for you to do are to look perfect and talk in a soft voice, even when you're angry, scared, dying, whatever.

So when you read my descriptive video you have to imagine that all the men (unless stated otherwise) are impossibly handsome and all the women are beautiful and their makeup is perfect, even if they've just escaped from a hit-and-run incident during an earthquake following a comet impact.

Oh, yes... And every one has perfect teeth which are bright white. Like mine. Though Kim and Jasmine (my parents) didn't have to pay thousands of dollars for the privilege. It's just that my mum has perfect teeth and I've inherited them.

It's probably because of my teeth that Kevin hates me. Every one else says it's because he's jealous that I'm nearly as good at maths as he is. But he's only a little bit jealous of Duk San, so why should he be jealous of me? I mean, it couldn't be because I'm a girl , could it?

Not that I was always good at maths. Neither was Duk San. That all started when the big log came to our school (before we were moved to Karnyalimenya).

I remember. Mr PB. Monday 12 July 1993. Our first day in the new school. Talk about different.

It's funny. I was so nervous in those days. I don't want to use the word 'shy' but I remember what I was like. It was only later that Mr PB taught me to change my opinion of myself.

'You can stop folding your arms across your chest all the time. It's like you need a barrier to protect yourself from other people. Well, that's not necessary here. No-one's going to hurt you.'

After a few months I started to believe him.

Not that the school was perfect. There was the usual distribution of nice people and nasty people. (Like SH, for instance). But the nasties were helped to learn that there were better ways to be.

The school had started to deal with bullies before I got there--though it wasn't till this year that we really got our act together after Daniel Portillo started complaining.

The name of our school, which is Karnyalimenya, is a Palawa word for 'conversation'. The whole thing about our school is that we don't just go along to learn all this stuff that the teachers have decided we should know but rather that we all have a conversation that ends up with us learning stuff.

Like, the teachers actually ask us what we want to do at school and what we want to know. I suppose I've got used to it, but friends of mine who go to other schools are amazed. They're usually jealous but they also say, 'What if you don't want to learn anything?' Can the teachers force you to?'

To which I reply, 'You can't force any one to learn. I mean, that would be like holding a gun at someone's head and saying, "Relax and go to sleep--or I'll shoot you."'

Not that we have any difficulty in knowing what we want to learn, except maybe Axel, some of the time. Although he has had a difficult time lately, not being able to speak after his accident and all. Though he says he is lucky to be alive so he can have revenge on his brother. Though I think he's just joking about that because he doesn't seem to me to be a very vengeful sort of person. He's just crazy and a bit moody, I suppose.

It's funny, I seem to like moody people. Like Tara and Axel. Not that they're my best friends or anything. Though Duk San is a very good friend and he gets in incredible moods. His face goes mottled and purple, his eyes squeeze into little piggy pin pricks and you can almost see a thunder cloud hanging over him.

Then he explodes.

Later, it's just like the sun came out on a calm sea. And he goes on as though nothing has happened. Which is a fault, because he could at least say sorry. But, because he's in such a good mood after his explosion, you can't feel angry at him at all. It's just like leaning against a wall in winter where the sun shines in a still corner. You're warm and out of the wind and your head is clear.

My head is usually clear. I suppose you could say I'm a clear person. I'm like deep and sterile water. Everything that happens inside me is way down at the bottom but it's easy to see.

Like, if you paddled over the surface of me and looked down into the depths you would see really easily the things that are important to me. Which are: dinosaurs, our house, my friends, gymnastics, basketball, birds, beads and horses. All these things move round in slow motion on the bottom of the sea of me.

And, of course, I read, all the time. Not just about, dinosaurs, but about everything in the universe. Though I've only become interested in fiction recently, after we moved to our new house in Whalers Circus. At first I read books about whalers and circuses (of course) and that got me on to the early history of Hobart Town and then I saw a musical about Wapping (in Hobart Town) and then I read a novel about the convicts in Van Diemens Land and then I started reading other eighteenth century novels, especially the novels of Charles Dickins, like Pickwick Papers and Our Mutual Friend . And then Ms Rubenach said why don't I read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland? Which was a coincidence because recently I have also become friends with Alice Liddell who I have known for years but have only recently noticed.

Yes, this is a really strange thing. I was looking back through my photo albums last week and noticed that Alice has been to every birthday party I've had since I was three. Even when I used to go to another school. Yet I can't actually remember her being at any of the parties. Though perhaps I have some vague memories about her being at my last party, when I turned 12. So, the other day when Alice was at my place after school, I asked her did she remember any of the parties and she um-ed and ah-ed and asked to look at the photos and then said, 'I sort of remember.'

And then she said, 'Oh, what a lovely chaise-longue.' And I said, 'Shaze what?' And she went over to the couch in the corner of our living room and sat on the edge of it with a very straight back and tossed her head as though she had long hair (which she hasn't) and said, 'This room is very like Grandmama's.'

And I gave her a weird look and her face crinkled in surprise for a moment and then she said, 'I mean, Grandma's...'

Her face looked like a movie screen for a moment, on which anything could play. And then she was just normal Alice again, in her tracksuit, her short, brown hair still damp from the pool, her varnish chipped where she chews her nails. Her brown eyes--which a moment before had seemed like they could see right through you into the nineteenth century--all normal and flat and expectant.

This is very hard to describe and it disturbed me a bit until Alice changed the subject. (In fact I forgot about this incident until a few moments ago and now I remember it like you remember a dream from two nights ago and wonder if it was something that really happened, or was it a dream, or a memory from another life?)

We started talking about the room in our new house in Whalers Circus.

It's not a new house, of course, it's actually from the nineteenth century. Like, it was built in 1844. We've only been here for a few months but one of the first things we found was a photo in a drawer which showed the family who first lived in the house standing in front of the mirror in what we call the living room. It was such a good photo that we could see everything how it used to be, exactly. And Jasmine said, 'Why don't we...' and Kim said, 'make it like it used to be?' And I said, 'Yes!' and Douggie squealed, 'Yoiks!'

We could tell where the sofa used to be because (a) there were dents in the floor where the legs of the sofa must have pressed for years, and (b) there was a smudge on the old wall paper where people used to lean their heads and, over the years, the oil from their hair had been absorbed into the wall paper and had discoloured it.

You can see that this old cottage of ours was in pretty bad condition when we bought it. 'But that's good,' said Jasmine because it hasn't been awfully restored in the seventies,' and Kim continued 'with no out-of-character extensions.'

My parents always finish each other's sentences. I can't remember if I have ever heard either of them finish their own sentence if the other one has been there. I supposed I'm used to it, but I know my friends notice it when they come to play--although they're too well-mannered to say anything. Except Duk San who once said, 'It's funny how your parents...' and I said, 'always finish one another's sentences for them.' And we laughed and laughed.

Kim and Jasmine are great parents, though. Except for one thing. They expect too much of me when it comes to Douggie. Because I love Douggie and have always gotten on well with him ever since he was born they assume that I want to spend all my time with him. I try to explain that I want my own time but they are always so busy working and earning money and renovating the cottage that somehow I can't get a word in edgeways about it.

Perhaps I should ask Dr Claire for some advice.

I mean,I need some time for myself, with my friends...and time for myself just with myself. For instance, I have my pursuits to pursue. Like, I need to read every day about dinosaurs or I feel sick. Physically sick. If I haven't learnt one new thing every day about dinosaurs then I just don't feel well. Perhaps it's an addiction. Like all those people at the casino sitting in front of those machines trying to win money. Of course, sometimes they do, which just reinforces their behaviour. Because if they continue to gamble then eventually run out. I have heard dreadful stories. Like, people who go into debt just to keep playing the pokies (as they used to be called). Poker machines.

Ms Rubenach says the problem is that people don't understand probability and the laws of chance. That, eventually, they will have a run of bad luck from which they can't recover, because they haven't got an infinite amount of money to spend. And even if they did, the machines have to be programmed to, on the average, make people lose so that the casino makes money. Which is fair enough, it's not a charitable institution, as Kim says. And it has to pay lots of taxes to the state government, Jasmine says. And Kim continues, 'Which is the trouble, because then the government is hooked, as well as...'the governed,' says Jasmine.

Kevin says people don't understand about a random walk but I reckon it's got nothing to do with understanding chance and probability or random walks or anything. I reckon that Alice is right. She says that people just have big holes in their lives and they want to fill them with something.

I can understand that.

I mean, I have a big hole the size of a dinosaur I want to keep filling with facts. In the end, I know that I won't be able to fill it. And even if I could, there would be spare facts that I could never learn that would just sit there frustrating me.

I guess I'm learning that I'm not infinite.

Not perfect.

That I will end.

Just like the dinosaurs.

Deadly, razor-sharp bananas! Did you know that the serrated teeth of T. Rex could have sliced through bone? The serrations would have been extremely good at gripping and tearing the meat. But T. Rex didn't brush their teeth (!) so fibres of meat would have stayed stuck in the serrations. And rotted. Can you imagine how bad T. Rex's breath would have been?

Halitosis from hell.

T. Rex also had a massive skull and neck which it probably used to tear its victims apart by shaking them. (I've seen a dog do that to a rat.)

I just love these gruesome facts or theories about dinosaurs. Every day I write a new fact in my Dino Diary.

And bearing in mind her poem written after a late night in which she finished reading Jurassic Park.

Oh, yeah, and here's some stuff about my famous grandma. It starts something like...

My grandmother's name is Stephanie Matthews. She is the premier of Tasmania. Normally that wouldn't be so important in my life. But right now it is.

When she was a girl she was a champion high jumper.

One day she nearly drowned.

Bla bla bla...

 


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