Monday, November 30, 2009

The week that was #9

Okay, I’ve really lost continuity with the whole ‘week that was’ concept, but unless I can find something big to write about I’m going to stick with them. I do have a couple – the not-really-anticipated-by-very-many Arsenic & Old Lace post is one; there’s another that I’m keeping under my hat for the moment – but I don’t know when they’ll appear.

My main problem is focus. Really, if I don’t write something in pretty much one go I find it very difficult to want to bother finishing it. This, of course, is a huge problem when you consider that, like anyone else who writes, I’d like to actually get some kind of long-form work published or produced. But the only way I’m going to manage that is if I do it in one go – which is not really all that likely, considering how much I like sleep But you never know.

For now I’ve got blogging
1 to keep me entertained.

Have I mentioned I really dislike the word ‘blog’ and all its derivatives? I suspect it may have contributed to my not getting into online publishing earlier. Maybe I’ll spearhead some kind of campaign to come up with a new word.

The weird weather

We had a patch of very hot weather a week or so ago, and I can’t say I enjoyed it. One of the reasons I was happy to leave northern Queensland was to escape the heat – though it is, as anyone will tell you, a different kind of heat. And they’re right; the difference is the humidity, which there is a lot of up there and little of down here.

In terms of maxima, though, South Australia gets a lot hotter than Queensland – or, at least, the part of Queensland I’m from. Summer temperatures don’t tend to go over 35° in either Bowen or Townsville, the two places I lived when I up there. But while it’s not as hot per se, it is still warm – and it’s warmer for longer, i.e. there are more months of the year where the temperature is in the high 20s/low 30s.

Combine that with the humidity and you get a place that, although it’s less hot at its hottest, and far milder in winter, is sticky and unpleasant for a greater proportion of the year. Mathematically – for me at least – it’s better to be down here.

Though when we get eight street days of maxima above 35° – as we did in the middle of November – I start to wonder. And even that pales in comparison to the record heatwave we went through in Feb/March of 2008; that was eleven consecutive days above 38°. Of course, it isn’t really the daytime maximum that I have a problem with – it’s the overnight minimum. Generally I can sleep in my unairconditioned bedroom (with the windows open to catch the breeze – if there is one) if it gets below 25°. But on at least several occasions in both those hot spells the temperature didn’t drop that low, instead staying in the low 30s the whole night.

While I have airconditioning in my place, the unit is installed in the dining room
2 and isn’t capable of cooling the bedroom – so, if I want to make use of it on hot nights, I have to sleep in the lounge on my spare mattress. It’s better than sleeping uncooled in my proper bed, but - between being on a thin mattress on the floor, and the effects of the airconditioning (which I’m convinced isn’t good to sleep in) - I almost never get as good a night’s sleep as I’d like.

And I really, really hate not getting a good night’s sleep.

But it’s become cool again over the last week or so, and I’m a lot happier as a result. Not that I don’t expect it’s going to heat up again before too long, but the fewer days that I have to spend checking different weather websites
3 to see if the temperature is going to drop enough that it’s worth opening up the house and sleeping in my room the better.

This might be somewhat of an exaggeration; I live in a unit, not a house and by ‘dining room’ I mean a kind of combined kitchen/dining/lounge room area.
I’m contemplating buying a thermometer so I can work out if it’s cooler inside the house than outside of it.


It’s simple: I love
Glee, to the point where it’s probably my equal favourite show on television - it ties with Castle for my affections. The premise is simple: it’s a musical/comedy/drama series about a high school (the fictional William McKinley high in Lima, Ohio) glee club and their attempts to become good enough to reach the state championships.

Though it is a bit more complicated than that; pretty much everyone (teachers and students) in the show has a host of social/emotional/psychological problems which threaten the continued existence of the club, and the school’s cheerleading coach is out to destroy them.

Many of the characters are stereotypical – the standard glee club ‘losers’ (in the sense of being low on the social ladder of a high school in the US), for example, include a camp gay guy, an ambitious Jewish theatre tragic girl and an R&B-loving don’t-take-shit-from-anyone black girl. However, they do mix it up a bit by having a couple of football players and cheerleaders who defy the ‘natural order’ to be involved.

Friends of mine who don’t like the show have commented that there isn’t really anyone to like in the show, and I kind of agree – but that doesn’t seem to stop me from enjoying it. A lot of it is to do with the music, which I’m kind of surprised by because – for the most part – they sing cover versions of songs that I dislike the original of. To me the show gives them something the earlier renditions lacked - with the exception, of course, of The Thong Song
, which I realised I hated even more than I did before when the lyrics, in all their lameness and inanity, were revealed.

I think the key to my liking it is probably the humour – which is quite dark and very dry. And the writing in some of the episodes has been superb, particularly the dialogue given to the ‘evil’ cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester, who’s played by the always-brilliant Jane Lynch
4. One episode contained this voice-over:

Glee Club. Every time I try to destroy that clutch of scab-eating mouth-breathers it only comes back stronger, like some sexually ambiguous horror-movie villain. Here I am, about to turn 30, and I’ve sacrificed everything only to be shanghaied by the bi-curious machinations of a cabal of doughy, misshapen teens. Am I missing something, journal? Is it me? Of course it’s not me. It’s Will Schuester. What is it about him, journal? Is it the arrogant smirk? Is it the store-bought home perm?

I rewound and watched this bit about seven times before I stopped laughing. Scab-eating mouth-breathers? For someone like me who loves well-phrased insults, that’s absolute comedy gold. Offensive? Sure. But still gold.

Some more of Sue’s dialogue:

Let me be frank. Your husband is hiding his kielbasa in a Hickory Farms gift basket that doesn’t belong to you.’

Guidance counselor. Real floozy and a man eater. Wears creepy brooches like the kind my nana was buried in.’

I’ve always though that the desire to procreate showed deep personal weakness.’

Unless you want to lose your man to a mentally-ill ginger pygmy with eyes like a bushbaby.’

I could listen to this kind of talk all day.

Whether or not
Glee can maintain the high standard remains to be seen – it does kind of lend itself to a short lifespan, considering that the characters are high school students and will eventually graduate – but I’ll keep watching for now.

Oh, and I recently learned that Joss Whedon will be directing an episode early next year – I don’t think I could ask for a better combination.

You might know her from her work on the mockumentaries A Mighty Wind and Best in Show or her guest appearances on Two and a Half Men (as Charlie’s therapist) and Criminal Minds (as Spencer’s institutionalised mother).

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

A novel by Alan Bradley
5, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is a murder mystery set in country England in the 1950s; the twist, however, is that the sleuthing is done by ‘very-nearly-eleven-year-old’ Flavia De Luce, who is forced to investigate the murder of man whose body is found in the back garden of Buckshaw, her family home, after her father, Colonel De Luce – a reclusive philatelist and widower – confesses to the crime. Flavia – a prodigious child whose chief love is for chemistry, thanks to her discovery of her late mother's chemistry textbook and her late uncle Tarquin’s having built a fully-stocked laboratory in a wing of the house - sets about following the trail of clues, starting with the discovery of a dead snipe with a stamp impaled on its beak left on their doorstep.

In her efforts she’s forced to contend with not only the local constabulary, who are also attempting to solve the crime, but with the local townsfolk, the De Luce’s shell-shocked gardener/driver Dogger, and her two unhelpful older sisters, Daphne and Ophelia.

The book was lent to me by Miriam
6, who gotten it for her birthday this year; I was there that night and had had a glance through it – this is generally how I judge a book; I open to a random page and see what the prose style is like – and thought it looked interesting.

I was right; it was a fun read. The prose is excellent; an example:

Mrs Mullet, who was short and grey and round as a millstone and who, I’m quite sure, thought of herself as a character in a poem by A.A. Milne, was in the kitchen formulating one of her pus-like custard pies.’


It is, of course, a bit unrealistic: the ten-year-old protagonist has more esoteric chemical knowledge than the average university student and, as is often the case in child-centered fiction, the adults tend to be more than usually lacking in insight – but, when it comes down to it, it’s not a huge barrier to overcome; that’s what suspension of disbelief is for. Flavia is an excellent character, the story is well-thought-out (and impeccably researched, particularly the chemistry and the history of British stamps) and the prose is delightful.

So, if you like a good ‘ripping’ story in the English tradition then you’d probably enjoy this – it’s a bit like Harry Potter but with science rather than magic.

If you’ve already read it and liked it, some good news: there’s a sequel coming out in early 2010. As long as the author doesn’t just do a Dan Brown and copy out the same basic plot with only minor cosmetic modifications then chances are it should be good.

No, I’d never heard of him before either.
Not the one who got married, the other one.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Wedding of Miriam and Paul

Although, technically, I could have written about this last entry I didn’t; I was already a week behind and had plenty to write about as it was. So I left it for this week. Anyway, the wedding was that of my friend Miriam Lyon, to Paul vander Woude, and it took place in Renmark - a town in the country about 250km away.

Like most of my friends in Adelaide, I met Miriam doing theatre; specifically, in the Burnside Players production of Daisy Pulls It Off1 in which I was the stage manager and she was in the cast. In a way I’m actually surprised that we became friends because it was my first time as SM and I was having a few problems and not necessarily dealing with them very well; I was stressed and shitty and even more prickly than normal. Miriam’s one of the most capable people I’ve met, and I got the feeling she considered it a bit of a débâcle, and me a blundering dimwit.2.

So I was more than a little surprised when she showed up at the house party I hosted not long after Daisy finished – I hadn’t invited her (I don't tend to invite people to things if they think I'm an incompetent nitwit, even if it happens to be true - hmm, this may be why I only ever have small parties); I’m still not sure who did. But I ended up talking to her at some point (it helped that I’d had quite a lot to drink) and I was surprised to find that she didn’t have a problem with me at all. And we’ve been friends ever since. We’ve done two shows together, both Shakespeares: The Taming of the Shrew and Much Ado About Nothing – and I managed to not resent her (too much) for getting the part I wanted in the latter (Don John – the villain).

Anyway, she moved down to the Riverland to be with Paul (he’s from Barmera, another smaller town near Renmark) a while back, and it wasn’t too much of a surprise when they announced their engagement. The invitations arrived announcing the wedding would be on November 14 and be held in Renmark. At the time it seemed so far away; however, October rolled around in the blink of an eye and it was time to start thinking about things.

But I didn’t have to think about too much; one of my friends (Miriam3 who was also invited is from the area, and had charged her mother with the task of sorting the accommodation. And, since it was a trip she was used to making – and she is possessed of a car more suitable for distance than my own – we went in her car. All I had to do was be home when the time came to be collected. Oh, and to choose some cds for the journey.

Things got a little bit more interesting when, the week before the wedding, the weather in South Australia became unseasonably warm. And by warm I mean the Saturday the week before the wedding being the first of eight straight days in Adelaide with maxima above 35°C – keeping in mind that Renmark tends to be at least three or four degrees hotter than the corresponding city temperature.

The hot week scorched on and the forecast temperature for the Saturday fluctuated a few degrees either way but finally settled on 43°C. Not exactly what you want for a three hour drive followed by a ceremony in an old stone church. At least I didn’t have to wear a proper suit – or a wedding dress.

I did come very close to wearing a short-sleeved shirt to the wedding but didn’t, for two reasons: 1) I didn’t own one suitable, and when I went browsing for one decided that I didn’t like any that didn’t cost more than I wanted to spend, and 2) I can’t abide wearing a tucked-in short-sleeved shirt but, similarly, couldn’t go to a wedding4 wearing an untucked shirt. So, I went with long-sleeves; fortunately, I do own a decent enough 100% cotton shirt, so I wore that. As it was I was dressed up a lot more than many of the guests – but less so than others, and far less so than the men in the wedding party5, who had vests on.

Anyway, we left Adelaide somewhere after ten or so, and drove pretty much straight through to Renmark where we stopped to get food (and some cold & flu capsules for me; I was still sick from the week before and I needed to make sure my nose wasn’t running during the wedding) and then found the Renmark hotel where we were staying.

Since there was an hour or so before the wedding, we kicked back for a while in the air-conditioned room and had showers before heading back out into the heat and driving to the church. Despite the fact that it had (as far as I’m aware) reached the forecast 43°C, it didn’t actually feel as bad as I’d expected it too feel – though that was outside, where we had the benefit of a slight river breeze.

We forced ourselves into the church where it was – as expected – very hot and stuffy; while there were a few languid ceiling fans they served for little more than stirring the hot air above us. Somebody had, however, very sensibly filled a couple of big eskys with bottled water, which got handed out before and during the ceremony – it made a huge difference as (to my knowledge, at least) no-one actually passed out.

The ceremony was – well, ceremonial. The priest6 seemed intent on making it far more about Jesus than about the couple, which I found somewhat offensive – and just because I’m not a Christian. Really, if I’d wanted to hear about Jesus I’d have gone on a Sunday. But I wasn’t there for me; ergo, what I think isn’t all that important. So, we sang a few hymns, listened to a couple of bible readings and a some more preaching before it was over.

We lingered outside for a while before heading back to the hotel to get in a few drinks before the reception was due to start; Miriam and two other Adelaideans Bonnie & Rhodri (plus their one-and-a-bit-year-old, Callum) and I propped up the bar for a while before heading off to the venue, which was the function room of a rose garden.

After finding our tables, which were all named after famous dogs; ours was ‘Laika’, which I remembered was the dog sent into orbit as part of the Russian space program and who was immortalised on a stamp7. I suggested that, since we were a table of (mostly) theatre people, it could be that we were meant to be the space cadets – though it could have been worse; one of the other tables was ‘Goofy’.

The heat had had its effect on me; I had a headache that several rapid beers failed to diminish, so I stopped bothering – when I’m like that I just cannot get drunk and there’s really no point trying. A bit annoying, but not that much of a imposition.

So we spent the rest of the night sitting around, talking - to old friends and new people - and drinking and having a good time. Dinner – three different salads (Caesar, potato & bacon and rocket & pear) plus a mixed grill, followed by either a chocolate cupcake with mint icing or a vanilla cupcake with icing I’ve no idea the flavour of because I had the chocolate/mint and didn’t bother to ask what the alternative was. Speeches were made and cake was cut and then it was time to go. It wasn’t a particularly late night since at about 10.30 or so Miriam and I got a lift back to the hotel with Bonnie and Rhodri as they were staying there as well.

The air-conditioner chugged away all night; once I tried to go to sleep I realised exactly how loud it was – it was like having a rock tumbler or coffee bean grinder in the room. Temperature, however, was inversely proportional to volume: it was freezing. But it only had an on/off switch, not any kind of adjustable setting, so there wasn’t a lot I could do; I didn’t want to turn it off entirely because the room would then get too hot. So, despite it having been a 43°C day, I got under the medium-weight hotel blanket and went to sleep.

I was up fairly early the next morning – I consider eight o’clock a sleep in these days; a far cry from years ago where sloth was my watchword and on most days I rarely crawled out of bed before noon – and we were back on the road before too long. Very little to note about the return journey, other than an a short-lived upset stomach cured rapidly by some appropriate substances, and a rather nice blueberry pie from the famous Waikerie Bakery.

And that was that. Another wedding over with – though it’s not long until the next: Selena and Shane’s on November 28.

I don’t tend to do a lot of traveling – heck, my parents have come down twice from Queensland and seen far more of the state than I have in nigh on twelve years of living here – but it was good to be there for Miriam and Paul’s special day, and to see a few friends I hadn’t seen for a while. Not to mention a brief reminder that there are places outside the city limits8. Not places I necessarily want to stay for any length of time, mind you – but overnight isn’t too much torture, even for a stay-at-home indoors-type like myself.

1Yes, I’m aware that that’s a title dripping with the potential for a double entendre. Please don’t – for all our sakes.
2Despite that being an accurate description, she’d ever actually say that; she’s far too nice.
3Not the same one who was getting married, obviously.
4A church wedding, at least. I wore a short-sleeved shirt and shorts to my niece Jasmine’s wedding – but that was on a beach so it was okay. Hilariously (or not) that day was cold and miserable.
5The women are the bridal party – are the men the groomal party? I think that should be a word.
6I’m not sure if that’s the official appellation for the denomination, which I believe was Anglican.
7Why I know this I’m not quite sure, since I’ve never done much research on Russia, dogs, space programs or stamps.
8For those who aren’t aware, I did actually grow up in ‘the country’ – I just never felt at home there and consider myself to be truly citified in every sense of the word. I really like seeing llamas and alpacas though.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The week fortnight that was #8

Okay, so it’s been a fortnight. Not what I intended, but there are things which’ve gotten in the way1 - the heat, which seems to render the creative/industrious part of my brain completely useless – and a seemingly never-ending succession of colds, which takes what little of my brain is left after the heat has had its way and kicks that in the crotch.

But, apart from being sick, all I’ve been doing is working and seeing shows. So that’s pretty much all I’ve got to talk about.

1I dislike both ‘got’ and ‘gotten’; they sound crude and somewhat wrong to my ear. But I can’t find a reasonable alternative so I have to go with it.

Being Sick

I’m not quite sure what I’ve got – or, possibly, what I had for a couple of days, which was then followed immediately by something else which I’ve got now – but I’m getting annoyed with it, since it’s been over a week now. It’s been particularly poor timing, since it’s coincided with the obnoxious, record-breaking heatwave that South Australia’s been suffering through.

There’s really no poetry to a constantly dripping nose. I reckon I’ve gone through more tissues in the last week than I normally would in three (cold-free) months.

What’s made it slightly more complicated is that I’ve also had quite bad hayfever, and that made it a bit difficult at first to decide what was actually prompting the increased, er, flow – germs or pollen. But when I woke up last Saturday morning feeling like my head had been wrapped in damp cabbage, and my lungs replaced with soggy cotton wool, I realised it was germs.

I had to take two days off work and did pretty much bugger-all but lie around watching tv and quietly applauding the effectiveness of the air-conditioning in my unit. I’d have applauded it loudly if it worked well enough to cool my whole house; as it is it’s cooling capacity is limiting to the part of the house that contains the lounge/dining/kitchen area.

Still, that’s probably better than the reverse – I can sleep in the lounge; I couldn’t fit my tv and speakers in my bedroom. But I’ve only had to do that the once in this spell of heat, since I’ve been okay with sleeping in my bedroom with the windows open to let the (minimal) breeze in.

But I’m still at least a little sick, but I’m a bit concerned that it’s not going away on its own, and that’s unusual for me. If I’m not a lot better by the middle of the week I’m going to the doctor. A friend said he had a sinus infection that wouldn’t go away without antibiotics, and I’m starting to wonder if that’s what I’ve got as well.

We’ll see.


On Thursday night I went to see the Northern Light production of Fame. I seem to remember seeing the original film when it first came out (though, for the life of me, I can’t understand why since it doesn’t seem like something I would have been all that interested in at the time) but apart from knowing the basics – it’s about high-school kids at a school for the performing arts – I wasn’t sure what to expect. But that pretty much covers it, plotwise.

The performances – the musical numbers at least – were good; they’d cast great singers in the lead roles and great dancers in the chorus. But that wasn’t really enough for me. As much as I’m seeing a lot more musicals than I used to – as well as performing in them – I’m still more inclined towards ‘straight’ plays because of the emphasis these place on aspects like characters and narrative. Fame didn’t have enough of that for me, and what of it there was was less emphasised than I felt was necessary.

Some of that, of course, is the show itself, which isn’t really written to be a deep, compelling think-piece. Yes, it’s a musical, and people come to see song-and-dance numbers, but a musical with good acting as well is a much better show than one without. This is why I loved last year’s G&S Society Les Miserables as much as I did, and probably why – possibly even without knowing it – so many other people did too. It just makes it better.

Obviously, it may come down to practicalities. The reality is there are only a certain number of people who audition for a show, and you don’t always have the luxury of being able to choose what’s referred to in theatre as the ‘triple threat’ – sings, dances and acts2 – for each part you’ve got to fill. You have to go with the best person who auditions and, since it is a musical, singing tends to be worth more. And it’s usually easier to get a singer to act a little than to get an actor to sing a lot.

Time is also an issue. Yes, musicals tend to rehearse for about three months before opening – but, while that seems like a long time, you’ve got a heck of a lot to do: block the action, choreograph the dance numbers and learn the songs; again, these things tend to be given priority in a musical so it may not always be possible to put as much effort into acting as the director would have preferred.

So yeah, I would have liked it more if they’d focused a bit more on the acting – though that’s not to say there weren’t some who got into the character: Rachel Rai (not much of a shock there I know; it’s pretty much expected of her) and Ben Po’ona, for example. Anton Schrama was hilarous aged up and given a German accent and a walking stick; it’s a pity the character wasn’t in it more.

Oh, and I have to mention one other things – he blatant and unsubtle ‘messages’ crammed into it: drugs are bad, having dyslexia doesn’t mean you’re stupid, you shouldn’t judge people on their appearance, it’s okay to be fat, it’s tough having parents with high standards, confident people sometimes use their confidence to hide their insecurities, yada yada yada.

It’s what Americans would refer to as an ‘after-school special’, and what the folks at TV Tropes (or, I should say, ‘us folks’ at TV Tropes, ‘cause I’ve been contributing) refer to as ‘anvilicious’ – i.e. trying to get a message across but doing it such a ham-handed and obvious way that it’s like a scene from a cartoon where a character is hit in the head with an anvil.

2Hugh Jackman is a good example, as is Kristin Chenoweth.


The night after seeing Fame I went to see the Hills Musical Society’s production of Pippin up at the Stirling Theatre.

I didn’t really know much about it, but a Facebook friend who’s in it had posted some photos of the cast in costume, so at least I had an idea of what they would look like – very strangely made-up, and dressed mostly in red with some black.

So, I was a little surprised to find out it that it’s the musical story of Pippin3, the son of Charlemagne, who was Emperor of much of Europe at the end of the 8th /beginning of 9th century. Not necessarily what I would have thought was an obvious choice to base a musical on, but that’s me. Keep in mind that it was written in the 70s – and it shows4.

With that in mind there’s not a lot of point trying to describe the story, because I wouldn’t be able to do it justice. But it is a play within a play, which always makes things interesting. The main character – apart from Pippin – is simply called 'Leading Player’ and stays as that character the whole way through while all the other members of the troupe take on the roles of the different people in Pippin’s life – his father, stepmother, stepbrother and grandmother, amongst others.

It does touch on a range of themes, and that – rather than the narrative – is the focus of the production. It comes down to being about the choices you make in life, and that you should always try to remain true to yourself and not be led by what other people want you to do. Not necessarily exciting on paper, but the production itself was brilliant: fast paced, brilliantly choreographed and well sung. Costuming was superb – Leading Player had a great outfit, including leather pants5 and a fantastic long coat.

James Christopher Reed was Pippin, and was excellent – and, once again, very different from the previous role I’d seen him in; the contrast between Pippin and Sergei from Eurobeat was about as much as Sergei was from Angel in Rent. Jamie Jewell – who’s a professional (when he’s not doing amateur, I guess) – was also brilliant, and looked like a kind of fusion of Alan Cumming and Dave Gahan from Depeche Mode as Leading Player.

Great, fun show done very, very well – and I’m now contemplating the purchase of a large, plush toy duck. If that confuses you, well, you should have gone to see it...

Read the ATG review here.

3Okay, that part wasn’t much of a surprise.
4Yes, I do mean it seems like drugs were involved. Lots and lots of drugs.
5I would buy and wear leather pants if I thought I could carry it off.

Vanity Fair

Read my ATG review here if you like.

If not, I’ll go over it a bit here for you: it’s very, very good; despite it being an adaptation of a huge (somewhere between 500 and 800 pages depending on the edition) 19th century novel mostly about the complexities of social structure amongst the English nobility, it’s modern, fast-paced and laugh-out-loud funny6.

6Well, if you’re as enamoured of witty prose as I am. If not, it’s your loss.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The week that was #7

Sorry, am running a bit behind on the writing – I haven’t been busy; on the contrary, I’ve had plenty of time on my hands – because I’ve just been exhausted the whole weekend and didn’t have the requisite creative energy that I need.

But better late than never. This will be a short one, though, because I’ve mostly been thinking about Arsenic & Old Lace. But there’s so much to write about that it’s going to end up being a standalone post rather than just a segment. So there’s not all that much else to say – apart from my temporary hearing problems.

Blocked Ears

On Thursday one of my ears became blocked. If you’ve ever had this happen you’ll understand; if you haven’t it’s pretty much as it sounds – like you’ve got something stuck in your ear. It’s annoying because you a) can’t hear properly, b) have certain sounds – i.e. those picked up by the eardrum through internal vibrations through your head - amplified (shaving, for example, sounds really weird), and c) feel the pressure of it.

It was a bigger problem for me at the time because I had a show to do – though I didn’t realise it was going to cause me problems at the time. It wasn’t until I actually got on stage and started talking that I realised that it had a huge impact on my ability to monitor my voice. Some roles it wouldn’t matter as much, but for the character I was playing in this show it was a big issue – it wasn’t only the volume that was important, but the accent and the tone. Only hearing it out of one ear wasn’t enough for me to be able to confidently judge whether I was sounding like I needed to sound.

Anyway, I bought some ear drops to try and clear the blockage; it works pretty much as you’d imagine, you drip it in there and lie there on your side while it does its thing – which is, to put it mildly, a rather fascinating experience. You can literally feel it inching its way along. As I lay there I couldn’t help but think of the scene from Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan1 where that guy gets the worms put into his ear.

Creepy/interesting imagery aside, it didn’t actually work – not completely, anyway. I was still blocked, albeit slightly less so. I had to go on stage again one ear down.

Friday night after the show I gave it another try, and lay there for what was probably an hour or so, prone, as the gunk crawled around my ear canal. I then proceeded to sleep very poorly indeed, and woke up with my right ear still as blocked as it had started out the night before.

And my left ear, in what I can only assume was a gesture of solidarity, had chosen to support its partner and down tools2 - I was blocked on both sides.

Obviously, if I was going to have any chance of putting in a good performance for the final night of the show I’d have to resort to drastic measures – dragging myself off to a medical centre to have my ears syringed out. Literally, that’s what happens – doctor-type fills a huge syringe (medical instruments always look bigger when parts of them are being crammed into parts of you; I’ve never had a catheter and I’d like to keep it that way) with water and squirts it into your ear to force the wax out.

Turns out it helps a great deal to have been using wax-softening drops prior to having this done – in fact, sometimes they won’t do it straight away; instead they’ll send you off to soften them up for a few days first. Lucky me.

I didn’t have to go far; there’s a walk-in centre on The Parade, Norwood – about five minutes drive from my house. I took not just one book but two, (I was halfway through the first one) because I fully expected the centre to be overflowing with distressed parents herding their greenstick-fractured and cricket-ball-concussed children through to be patched up. Imagine my surprise to find the place empty, and to be ushered straight into the doctor’s room as soon as I’d filled out my form and signed my credit card receipt – though I have to admit the administrative process took slightly longer than usual because I had to make the receptionist repeat everything she said, and louder, so I could hear.

About ten minutes and about five litres of water later (far too cold, in my opinion; I’m sure the last time I had it done the doctor used warm, rather than straight from the cold tap) I walked out, sans about a pound or so of gross earwax – and with new and improved hearing. It’s amazing how much more you can hear after a good syringing.

Still, I don’t recommend it just for the experience. I also asked the doctor if there was any particular reason why it built up so much and he said they don’t actually know; it just builds up for some people. I did some research3 and found that – hilariously – one of the things that affects the movement of wax out of the ear is talking. Yeah, because that’s something I don’t do enough of. Good grief. I’m amazed I have any wax at all if that’s the case...

1Wrath, by the way, rhymes with ‘moth’ not ‘math’. Just so you know.
2If an ear can be said to use tools. It can here because it’s my blog; attempt it elsewhere at your own risk.
3By which I mean Wikipedia. Hey, this isn’t an assignment!