Tuesday, 18 December 2007

old friends

1998, Tatyoon

1999, Station Street

2002, Amy's Place

2003 (?) Amy's Place

2005, Melbourne Airport

These photos make me happy.

old friends

1993, Library Lawn

1994, Boarding House

1995, Library Lawn

1996, Amy's House

1997, St Marks

Sunday, 16 December 2007

the kitchen

Date: Thu, 5 Oct 2000
From: Ceels
Subject: the kitchen.

Just to clear up any confusion - I was asked to work for an extra week at the kitchen and as I was contractually obliged I agreed. But as of Saturday last I am a free woman, and have spent the time to good effect, lounging round the house and soaking up the sunshine.

When I stop feeling antisocial, I’ll be in touch.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

I'm painting my nails on Sunday

Date: Fri, 29 Sep 2000
From: Ceels
Subject: I'm painting my nails on Sunday.

I can peel an orange and get the peel in one long strip. But only when I’m concentrating.

Ceels's crash course in leadership-skills:
1. Never bitch to any one 'lower' than you about anyone on their tier of the hierarchy or above.

2. Pick the rules and stick with them

3. Delegate but never make anyone else do something you are not prepared to so yourself

4. Never panic and always pretend you know what's going on.

The rest of the course I will think of later.

There is construction going on in the alley outside the kitchen and that and the recent rain is driving all the M-O-U-S-E-S (said in loud stage whisper so the punters don't hear) inside. The other night we had one in the kitchen.

I was hiding behind the oven grabbing a bite to eat and Dan said 'did you see that, did you see that? There was an m-o-u-s-e in the kitchen.' it then did a runner from the dishwasher, past me and under the grill section fridges. I had a mouthful of food and was in no position to comment.

We then fetched a broom and, being the only person in the kitchen who is not afraid of mice, I got down on my hands and knees and tried to get it out. I was just about to give up when it appeared; it took a curve around the dumb waiter, jumped Suzy’s feet and slid past Kelly under the larder benches. I leapt to my feet and screamed, Suz jumped and screamed, Kelly jumped and screamed. It was like a domino effect and we figured the punters must know what was going on.

On Tuesday we were sitting in the actual restaurant. The menu had changed and Suzy was explaining how to make everything. Two customers leapt to their feet and stood by the pass. We just smiled and waved. Mice had come out from the couches and jumped over their bags. Later I saw a woman leap up, fling a five-dollar note at a waiter and sprint out the front door.

The health department has a few issues with the proposition that what the punters don't know won't hurt them and it appears the punters agree.

Monday, 10 December 2007

new lizard shape mobile phone covers – you too can look like you’re talking to a reptile’s arse

Date: Fri, 15 Sept 2000
From: Ceels
Subject: new lizard shape mobile phone covers – you too can look like you’re talking to a reptile’s arse.

The kitchen hand at work last night said that in order to get the 'undesirable' aboriginal population out of Redfern in Sydney before the Olympics, the government (or who ever) cut the water and power to the area and sent in the police to hassle and beat up the kids. He said, also, that a large amount of heroin and the heroin trade has been pushed into the suburb. My immediate reaction was 'bullshit' but I don't know. Can anyone enlighten me as to the truth of this rumour?

On a lighter note (but more personally embarrassing) a bad thing happened at work last night. I grabbed one of the chefs in the, well, right where you shouldn't grab someone unless you know him VERY well.

You see I slipped and rather than fall down I reached out for something to hold on to. Fortunately the oven was on my other side and I got a better grip on that rather than doing any damage to, well, you know.

The oven was quite hot. But it seemed the better option to burn my hand than to land on the floor or... any way... I don't want to talk about it any more.

Friday, 30 November 2007

sunny ceels

Date: Wed, 13 Sept 2000
From: Ceels

Subject: sunny ceels.

If you work three or four shifts in a row, you don't see the sun for a couple of days. You walk with your shoulders slumped because it is too difficult or too painful to straighten them. Your feet ache from standing on concrete for eight hours and you trudge trying to work out which one hurts most. You haven't slept properly since sometime last week and it makes you feel a bit teary and life seems impossible. Then you step out of the kitchen and take a deep breath. The sun is shining even if you can't see it because the city's in the way.

What bliss to curl your legs under you on the lawn of the state library and tip your face into the sunshine. it seems worth it. Listening to the heart of Saturday night and thinking dreamy half thoughts. It’s like a peaceful night's sleep, or a full tummy, or a hug.

Of course in the city a bit of stress helps with survival. You don't want to be so relaxed that you don't notice things like the lights changing.

Especially in the middle of the road.

I have discovered the worst thing about living with your friends. You can't write emails about them because many of the people you are writing to know them too. They are both so fascinating that I want to tell you all about it. But for about half of you they are not characters in some email, they are real people.

Oh well.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Date: Tue, 12 Sept 2000
From: Ceels


Oh mi god

I am in love again. I sent an email to a boy because I liked his name and he wrote back and I have been swept off my feet into a cloud of erudite deliciousness.

I was worried for a while because I haven't fallen in love for ages. But since I quit the kitchen I have gone back to my old habit of falling in love eight or nine times a day with various fictional/ non-fictional people.

Now I just have to decide what to write back.

love you (all)


Wednesday, 28 November 2007

panic served three ways, with a warm side plate of fear and denial

Date: Tue, 12 Sept 2000
From: Ceels

Subject: panic served three ways, with a warm side plate of fear and denial.

Oh mi god,

Steven just re-did the roster for the week after next and I am not on it. In two weeks I am going to be a chick all on her own with no job and no hair.


This is a shocking tragedy. When I said I wanted to leave I didn't think it was going to be so sudden. What if I’ve changed my mind?

And here was I worrying about the washing machine (which appears to have taken up a vendetta against my favourite skirt. It keeps dumping grease on it then refusing to do the spin cycle while it is in there) I haven't finished paying off my uniform yet. What if I don't have enough money, what if I can't get it clean enough to give back?

What will I do while I don't have a job. I don't know if I know how to relax any more (any kind hearted person wanting to give massages to poor aching chefs?). I can't go yet, what will I have to complain about.

But it would be kinda nice to leave, I am pretty much over all the politics in the kitchen and getting up early in the morning after working the night before and carrying a couple of hundred kilograms of fruit and veg up and down the stairs.

The kind of stress we had the other night can't be good for you. It is giving me wrinkles. I’m tired all the time.

Maybe Sal is right and i should take a week off to look for jobs and relax.

I’ll miss everybody there.

I'll be a free woman in two weeks


love ceels

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

three Kevin Kline movies in one day (what’s a poor sailor to do?) part 2

Mel was on the pass and it was the busiest I’ve ever seen it. There was a point where we were cooking for six tables and there were six or seven dockets hanging out of the machine that we hadn't even seen yet. Sal was on the grill and she is a pro, but even she was losing her grip. Dan was on woks and by the end of the night he was chucking food at me saying, "Here, cook this. You’re responsible for it, I don't want to hear about it again."

You start to do crazy things like lean across open flame and grab a hot pan, praying that the smell of burning hair is your arms and not your eyebrows. Grab colanders of vegetables straight from the boiling water. Lob pots and buckets at the sink (don't look, just hope). Open the steamer and stick your arm in for the rice without waiting for the steam to escape. Duck under Dan as he swings a pan round. Slide across the wet floor until you manage to grab hold of something (or someone). Drop beetroot in the rice custard. Drop salmon tartare in the rice custard. Drop the rice custard. Collapse exhausted. Clean everything in sight. Drink one beer at the end of the night. Get home and fall asleep on a chair because you can't face the stairs.

I guess it is kinda fun. And the adrenalin is pretty cool. But the stress was such that I nearly vomited on the floor (I didn't because it was the middle of service and Dan might have been mad). (Besides, there wasn't time). We did a hundred and fifteen people in under two hours.

Today a funny (or not funny) thing happened. We were carrying boxes of stuff down stairs at the end of the shift and when we got the bottom Mel dropped hers. There was (was) a bottle of balsamic vinegar in there, which exploded. She cursed for a second, rang upstairs to get Abbi (kitchen hand) to come clean it up.

She went back to the box with the vinegar to grab the peppercorns. On the way knocking over a vase full of water and weeping willow. The vase disintegrated across the floor.

She reached for the peppercorns, only to discover that they too had not maintained structural integrity as they poured in all directions.

I cannot decide if this is a funny or a not funny thing.

love you all


Monday, 26 November 2007

three Kevin Kline movies in one day (what’s a poor sailor to do?)

Date: Mon, 11 Sept 2000
From: Ceels
Subject: three Kevin Kline movies in one day (what’s a poor sailor to do?).

Well, I’ve done it, I’ve quit. I was running out of things to write anyway. And I am perpetually grumpy.

And I have grated all my knuckles off, although my fingertips have healed. I wonder if my hands will ever forgive me. Besides, the kitchen was getting in the way of my plans for world domination (and s11 think all the trouble is at the casino, tee hee hee hee <>). Also, all the cute waiters have quit. I am listening to Tom Waits to improve my mood.

So does anyone know of any interesting job prospects for a chick with no hair? (I think I am going to go and make coffee for a few months, Bridget promises she will come and visit me all the time if I work in the coffee shop on Elizabeth street).

We had a service from hell on Saturday night and any uncertainty I had about resigning on Friday was wiped clean.

It started quietly, an ominous hush in the bright light of the kitchen. I was running up and down the stairs fetching last minute forgotten things. Then at about five to nine Dan (whom I am now very fond of) sent me for the chickpea ragu. I arrived back in the kitchen to find twelve oysters needed to be shucked and chaos had stepped in. (incidentally Santo Cilaro (sp?) was in one night and even if you're famous, you still have the apprentice shucking your oysters (but the head chef picks them out for you)) (I’m the fastest shucker in the kitchen ) I want to try and explain the insanity of that night, but I don't know that I’m up to it.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

early in the morning and I can’t do right

Date: Wed, 6 Sept 2000
From: Ceels
Subject: early in the morning and I can’t do right.

I have possibly done a very bad thing. Yesterday I resigned.

Steven asked me if I was sure and I had to answer truthfully that I wasn't sure and he asked me to reconsider. So I am going to think about it till the end of the week, which is only a couple of days away.

I am beset with indecision (yeah, like that's new).

I mostly want to go, but, as Steven says, you lose most new apprentices at the three to six month point. And I don't want to be just following a trend.

love you all

Saturday, 24 November 2007

what to do when someone drops a chopping board on your head

Date: Mon, 4 Sept 2000
From: Ceels
Subject: what to do when someone drops a chopping board on your head.


The fingertips of my right hand have split and it is somewhat painful to type. But I will gallantly carry on if you will excuse the typos which are bound to occur when my hands spasm in pain or the keyboard becomes slippery with my blood.

In the excellent tradition of things that you learn in the kitchen, I bring you this next list.

Things that you learn from kitchen hands: you can know an awful lot about calamari and Alsatians and still not be any good at washing dishes.
: the kitchen hand is usually the smartest person in the klitchen, getting the highest marks on the kitchen hygiene exams and going on to bigger and better things (Mikey Robbins was a kitchen hand)
: the better they are, the harder they are to keep.

Things you learn from apprentices: always look after your own. The kitchen can be a cold hard place and you gotta stick close. If you have chocolate you share it. If you have time you make the rice custards.
: if you don't know, bluff. Never plead ignorance; you'll wind up with more work. "Oh, no, there wasn't enough salmon for the capaccio plates, I had to make it all into sashimi for the function."
: never bitch to anyone outside your level of the hierarchy, never bitch about each other.

Things you learn from chefs: the more someone complains about somebody else not doing the job properly, the more likely they are stuffing it up themselves.
: even nice people can go on power trips.

Things you learn from waiters: if you are an insufferable prat, nobody likes you.
: if you bring the chefs nice coffees, the chefs make you nice food.
: if you do too many drugs you will start to look like a three-week-old cadaver.

Lack of oxygen to the brain can feel exactly like food poisoning. I thought on Saturday night I was going to die. I limped toward death, contemplating spending my last minutes in the harsh glare of a commercial kitchen as everyone around me got slammed (were very very busy with service). I knew I would never see my house again. Then one of the waiters noticed the amount of smoke coming out the pass and went and turned on the fans. Some clown had turned them off and we had no air coming in to the kitchen and no smoke going out.

I just this week discovered I was utterly in love with one of the waiters, only to discover that he is leaving on Saturday. I have finally had enough sleep so that I am awake enough to find my true love and he leaves the next Saturday. What is the world coming to I ask, scratching my head in befuddled bewilderment.

I meant to tell you all about the waiters. There is, of course, syphilis-boy. And Dean, who is an obnoxious little snob (which is mostly an act), always wears lovely smells, and is a very sweet little man (in spite of the fact he looks like Napoleon). He plans to pursue a career in marketing women's clothing.

Line is Dutch and can be a bit touchy about the amount of hours she works. If she feels like she's had a rough day then she doesn't want to know that you've had a worse one. Mel recons she looks (and moves) like one of the thunderbirds.

Sheena is friendly and laid back; she is very concerned about her appearance and has a boyfriend with blond dreadlocks.

Jeff is a nutcase and is always looking for food. He has a Calvin Klein key wallet and asks weird questions.

Sacha is good looking and has a wife and young child. He seems a bit distant and is not quite weird enough to fit in.

We have a washing machine now, which makes life incredibly much easier. Unfortunately it is possessed by an evil spirit. On the spin cycle it takes off across the floor at a lumbering waddle, making for the door and certain freedom. Only to be brought up short by one of us or the hose pipes. In retaliation it dumps grease on our clothes. We have been having firm words with it, with little to no result so further action may be required.

I hope every one is well; I am going to drag my weary broklen body home.

all my love

Friday, 23 November 2007

washing eggplant down the drain

Date: Mon, 28 Aug 2000
From: Ceels
Subject: washing eggplant down the drain.

I think I have worked out why I was so over work. I was taking it too seriously. I was thinking of it as my entire life, rather than just something I do so that I can write about it later. Of course if you are in the kitchen for fifty-six hours a week then you can sometimes confuse where the tired you ends and the exhausted you begins.

The kitchen is a bit like a hostage situation with no terrorists, you are just doing it to yourself. Or maybe it is some bizarre form of torture where you are subjected to bright lights and extreme pressure in a confined space, and you are never quite sure when, or for how long. It keeps changing, changing, changing.

Or maybe the punters are the terrorists.

Tip number 79 for punters: if you laugh like a horse, the chefs will make fun of you.

I should point out that I am still writing under extreme lack of sleep and am prone to exaggeration anyway. I am sure it is not really as bad as I am making out. I’ll work it out when I have had more sleep and get back to you.

I will think of three good things.

1. I am much stronger now than four months ago. We have a new full time kitchen hand called Marty. Bridget calls him a girly-man. He is a goth and he shaves his eyebrows and paints them back on every day and he is a very nice boy, but Bridget is right. Anyway, I used to be about as strong as he is, and now I can lift 25 kg bags with only a little bit of complaining.

Also I can get yelled at more and picked on more without getting upset. Except not on Friday when a chance remark from Steven caused me to burst into tears. Then I couldn't stop crying for the next hour and a half and it was ridiculous.

2. There are cute waiters. (But not Andrew, whom I like to refer to as syphilis boy, he is not a nice person and I loath him and I don't like to look at him. He upsets me.)

3. I am learning lots about politics. If you keep your head low and your mouth shut most of it misses you. But I am learning what it takes to make your way to the top (AND SOON I WILL TAKE OVER THE WORLD).

I saw a man today who had a really long droopy nose and it was all I could do not to grab it to see if it was real.

When prawn stock goes off it smells exactly like really rotten eggs. Only worse. And if you tip it down the sink you can stink out the whole of down stairs for about half and hour. Incidentally, apparently the kitchen’s exhaust fan outlet is right by the air-conditioning intake vent for 333 Collins street, so everyday 8000 people in suits hate us very much.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

when the calamari is pink and stinky (or what to do when the second chef has pms)

Date: Wed, 23 Aug 2000
From: Ceels
Subject: when the calamari is pink and stinky (or what to do when the second chef has pms).

At the moment I am working an extra shift at work. This is why it has been so long between letters. It no longer seems to me that I am trading work time for me time. I am trading work time for just enough time to crawl back from exhaustion into tired before I work again.

The other reason is that I love our house so much that I have trouble leaving it.

I’m over this whole chef thing. Gone is the dizzying whirlwind of new information, over is the honeymoon period and I am BORED. I am stewing away in a pan of rancid duck fat and crushed rosemary.

Confit de ceels, with a delicious side dish of quince and frustration.

Of course I am fitter than I think I’ve ever been. I crushed things in a mortar and pestle for two and a half hours today with out getting sore arms. Every night during service I leap like a gazelle no no no. Like a lioness, I bound up and down the steps fetching things people have forgotten and I don't get puffed.

I bought a shirt at the beginning of the year when I was going for job interviews with three quarter length sleeves. I wore it again the other day (because it is the end of my wash cycle – the only excuse other than a job interview for wearing a shirt that pink), and the sleeves don't do up around my arms any more.

Peter is leaving on Thursday. He is the head chef who is a bit daffy. He can be incredibly irritating but I will miss him muchly. He’s a funny bloke; he's a big Maori guy, looks like he might have been a boxer. But he reads his horoscope every day, has a beautiful sweet tenor voice, knows more about music than anyone I know and makes the lightest, most heavenly chocolate mousse imaginable. We have had our run ins. he never really worked out the best way to deal with me. He always told me to do stuff 'because he said so' rather than coaxing me, or fooling me into thinking it was my idea in the first place.

I also feel I should give Dan another go. He’s the cousin who gets drunk at Christmas and makes jokes about the fairy on the tree. The last time I was dish pig he helped me with the dishes, and he always stops to explain stuff, and even if he never remembers to put day dots on the buckets and doesn't sweep under the benches, he is not a bad guy.

Hope everyone is well in the real world

all my love

ps. I don't know if I mentioned it, but I shaved my head bald (a couple of weeks ago) and I love our house.

Don’t worry mum, it's growing back.

Hair extensions cost $950.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007


Date: Tue, 25 Jul 2000
From: Ceels
Subject: hurting.

I have just finished my eighth shift in five and a half days. It is amazing what you can do that you don't know you can do. And now my reward is that I don't have to work until Thursday at four.

On Saturday Em Jansen came into have a meal. I saw her and waved. Every time I walked past I waved at her or pulled a face and I delightedly told everyone in the kitchen that Em had come in and that was great. She gave me a funny look and I stuck my tongue out at her. When I got a chance I leaned out the pass and said 'hey, it's great to see you, what are you doing here.'

There was a pause.

She said 'Do I know you?'

And I said indignantly 'Em!'

And she raised her eyebrows and said 'no'.

Unfortunately it was just before I my break and I was so embarrassed that I ran straight out of the restaurant. I couldn't go back in to have a meal until the end of my break just in case they were still there.

So. Em Jansen has an identical twin sister from whom she was separated at birth.

love you

Tuesday, 20 November 2007


Date: Wed, 19 Jul 2000
From: Ceels


Three girls marry house in West Melbourne

Monday, 19 November 2007

Date: Tue, 18 Jul 2000
From: Ceels

Yesterday I moved into our new house. Lex is moving in today and pip gets back from Brisbane tomorrow.

No more Collingwood. No more human excrement and used syringes on the front path. No more noise from the guys next door. No more cinnamon doughnuts from the Vietnamese bakery for breakfast on my way to work. No more flirting with the guy in the Fitzroy library. No more catching a taxi if I miss the last tram home from work. No more watching lunar eclipses on the roof.

Our new house

Oh my

I feel like Anne Shirley when she found Patty's Place. This house was meant to be. It has the sweetest little staircase and an attic and a lavender bush and a chalkboard and a laundry in the kitchen and it is just the dearest little house that ever was built. We are very much in love. It has a door on the second floor, which goes nowhere. It has a balcony and pot plants (and something that ate all the leaves off my herbs last night while I was sleeping, but I will forgive it that)

Anyway everybody is invited over all the time.

It’s a grown ups house and makes me feel like a grown up, (but tomorrow I am dish pig at work, so that is probably not going to last).

We are one street over from the Queen Victoria market and that is just too too delightful for words. There is a little storage room up by the attic and I am sure there is a ghost living there (but don't tell lex, cause I told her there wasn't) and there are definitely elves in the tree outside the door that goes nowhere.

Yes it is truly a good place to live. When the sun goes down my room lights up all golden and makes me happy.

love you

Sunday, 18 November 2007

I smell like calamari (it haunts my sleep, it never goes away, I am at one with the calamari) (stinky stuff)

Date: Thu, 13 Jul 2000
From: Ceels
Subject: I smell like calamari (it haunts my sleep, it never goes away, I am at one with the calamari) (stinky stuff).

Oh mi god.

We got the house.

If only I wasn't so sleepy I could properly appreciate it.

Like going to see it. Is it bad to sign the lease before I see the house? I mean I trust lex, but Sal (at work) seems to think I am crazy. Course, she thought I was crazy already.

So, I am living in a house I haven't seen yet, but by reputation it is fabulous and not a dump. Two good things

It looks like my career as a chef might be over already. No. I am sure it is not that serious. It is just that Steven, the head chef, wants to 'have a talk to me'. I feel like I am trying really hard, but it doesn't seem to be enough and I just get told I’m crap. It would probably really upset me, but I comfort myself with the knowledge that if I get fired I can just go flip burgers at Maccas. She’ll be right.

On Wednesdays now I have a shift as kitchen hand. I don't much like washing dishes but I have decided to look on it as my substitute for going to the gym (because I went to the gym so much). Besides, while my hands are scrubbing my brain can go and do other things. I have worked out why all the kitchen hands are so thin though. You do all this physically strenuous work and by the time you get to the end of the shift, the last thing you feel like seeing ever again is food.

I have to go wash, I really do reek of calamari, the stench is making me feel light headed.

love ceels

Saturday, 17 November 2007

where ceels goes to Naracoorte and frightens the locals

Date: Mon, 10 Jul 2000
From: Ceels
Subject: where ceels goes to Naracoorte and frightens the locals.

I have to type really fast for many reasons, so if I make mistakes be patient. 1) My fingers are burning from the chilli I chopped this morning, 2) my break is nearly over and I have to go back to work, 3) I am in a place where you pay for your email.

I got down and dirty with the peroxide last week and I am now as close to white-blond as a brunette girl can get without blistering her scalp. (Don’t worry mum, it looks fine)

I went to Naracoorte this weekend for a school friend's 21st. Naracoorte is a small country town (pop 5300) in South Australia. The party itself was held at the Naracoorte caves, but after the party we went to the pub. Given that I was wearing a cocktail dress, you might expect a few stares. But I think there was something about a chick in a dress with spiky blond hair that Naracoorte wasn't ready for. Nevermind. I enjoyed the attention.

We have maybe found a house to move into, (pip, lex and I) and it sounds exciting. I haven't seen it yet, but I trust lex, who has. I don't want to say anything about it in case I jinx it. But everyone has to cross their fingers for us.

love ceels

Friday, 16 November 2007

Date: Thu, 6 Jul 2000

I meant no eating with your mouth open, don't eat with your mouth open when you are on the tram, you are welcome to eat with your mouth full, but then you are not allowed to talk. (That’s the way it works isn't it? I’m sorry mum; I know I shouldn't have to be asking).

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Date: Thu, 6 Jul 2000
From: Ceels

This morning on the tram a woman got on and complained that people were blocking the door (they were). And this man went off his wheel. 'Shut up you f**king black bitch. Go back to your own country, you fat old cow.' She said some thing to him and he said, 'Oh yeah, well you just pushed straight through a pregnant lady when you got on and you didn't even help her. Go home you f**king foreigner.'

The pregnant lady started muttering under her breath, I was standing quite close to her and tried to move away. At the next stop she burst into tears, shouted 'I’m not pregnant, I’m just fat.' and got off the tram.

Last night on the tram there was a very large woman coughing. She had her tongue poking out and was spraying the seat opposite her with spit. I think I will write an etiquette book for tram travel, starting with 'cover your mouth when you cough'. And include other things like how much noise you're allowed to make when you're eating and appropriate/inappropriate mobile phone conversations, ie. No eating with your mouth full and no phone sex.

I may have given the impression that I don't like the waiters, and this is not the case. I don't like one waiter, and all the rest are lovely lovely people and I should introduce them to you soon, (it is always nice to get to know the neighbours).

love to you

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

a disgruntled apprentice

Date: Mon, 3 Jul 2000
From: Ceels

Subject: a disgruntled apprentice.

Sometimes work feels like a second family to me. So I will introduce them to you. There is Sal, who most often works the woks, which is the section next to mine. She is the older sister who puts up with you and probably loves you in her older sister way, but you don't want to piss her off.

Mel would be our work mum; she bosses you thoroughly and makes sure you're happy.

Aunty Sara is a bit mad, organises things and takes up the secondary bossing role. She hates the waiters (you could call them long time neighbours) and says things about them to make you laugh.

Paul is the affable old uncle who is a bit absentminded but mostly well meaning.

Dan is the cousin whom no one can stand, who gets drunk at Christmas and makes inappropriate jokes about the angel and the Christmas tree.

And I guess you could call Steven the patriarchal head of the family, the authoritarian absentee father figure.

As for Bridget, Kelly and me, we would be the triplets, always giggling together and getting into loads of trouble (um, did I just manage to sound like an English girls' school novel?) //[thought bubble] but little do they know of our cunning plan to take over the kitchen. Marching to an apprentice's revenge against all the wrongs and indignities meted out to us in the course of a shift.//

love you


Tuesday, 13 November 2007

good things don't come to those who wait

Date: Fri, 30 Jun 2000
From: "Ceels"
Subject: good things don't come to those who wait.

I worked out why I was having doubts about work on Wednesday. It’s the new guy. He’s so depressing and it makes for a hell of a long shift. I went home convinced I was never going back to the kitchen again. I had to unwillingly drag myself out of bed on Thursday morning and (oh, hang on...). But I wasn't feeling cheery about the whole experience.

He is the type of guy who can make you feel worse just by walking in the room. He’s never happy about anything, he caused an enormous fight between the kitchen and front of house staff (because his latte had too much froth) and he is rude and sexist (oh yes he is), he would make St Francis of Assisi kick babies.

I have had a busy couple of days standing up for myself. Culminating into today when I gave one of the more odious waiters a dressing down. He was incredibly rude on the telephone from downstairs, to the point where I got really angry. Have you ever seen me really angry?

It doesn't happen very often. I hung up the telephone, took two deep breaths and went round the wheel.

Once I calmed down I went down stairs and said 'Jacob, do you have a minute?' I took him aside and gave him the nursery routine. (Imagine ceels, eyes wide and voice earnest) 'Now Jacob, how do you think it made ceels feel when you said those words, do you think she might have been a bit angry? Perhaps next time you might try to say helping words? And then ceels won't belt you in the head with the meat mallet.' well I didn't quite say that. But I did tell him his manner was unnecessary and perhaps if he was a bit polite he might evoke a more positive response.

We don't have enough kitchen hands at the moment (they've all bloody gone to Spain and places). So the apprentices are being kitchen hands for a while. No one told us this, or asked us. Our identical response was 'do we get paid more?'. (Edit: at the time – apprentice chef AUD$2.91/hour, dish pig ~AUD$15.00/hour)

So if anyone who knows anyone who is looking for work and would like a couple of shifts as a kitchen hand??? Or if anyone wants to be a first year apprentice? (I hear it's a great job).

Well I must be off, I need some sleep. I am working a double tomorrow (Edit: = 16 hrs) and the boys next door were talking loudly about penises until 2:30am this morning. If they’re loud tonight I will fill up their wheelie bin with Selly’s gap filler.

love you

Monday, 12 November 2007

please keep your feet off the seats (public transport is for everyone)

Date: Wed, 28 Jun 2000
From: "Ceels"
Subject: please keep your feet off the seats (public transport is for everyone).

I am starting to have doubts that I am in the right job. Ask any one, 'Should Ceels be in a job which primarily requires speed and co-ordination?'. I was dish-pig today as well as runner. No matter how fast you wash them they keep appearing. It’s worse than kids with snotty noses.

But I will hang with it for a while; the problem with having no direction is the constant vague feeling that you are not doing quite the right thing.

I think that I am going to have to get up a little earlier in the mornings so that I can have a proper breakfast. I was hopeless today, dragging my bum along the ground (figuratively). It’s just that my body refused to work. My brain kept saying 'hurry up', chef kept saying 'hurry up' and my body just said 'why?'. A handful of choc chip biscuits is not a valid breakfast option.

If anyone has any direction to offer me, it would be welcome.

At least with this job my biceps look great.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

if you drop a knife, don't try and catch it

Date: Thu, 22 Jun 2000
From: "Ceels"
Subject: if you drop a knife, don't try and catch it.

On Tuesday the dumb waiter broke. It broke the first time when Sal was bringing up two trays of basmati rice (about 6 litres) and a bucket of mixed nuts and seeds. When it hit the bottom they exploded, sending nut and rice and seed projectiles through the air, bouncing off benches and fridges and waiters.

The second time it broke was in the middle of service when we were sending food down stairs to be served. It plunged to its doom with an almighty BOOM, and we got to see what happens to a meal when you chuck it down a fifteen-foot elevator shaft.

On a more embarrassing note, I forgot to lock the door to the staff change room. It is also the staff bathroom, and when I am going in there to use it for it's amenities I remember to lock the door. The short story is that I was standing in my undies in that fluorescent light like they use in department store fitting rooms when David walked in. He is one of the executives. I am unable to look him in the eye.

I also accidentally cut one of the ties off my new knife wrap; my new knives are very sharp. I nearly accidentally cut one of my fingertips off, my knife slipped on the last bit of the onion.

love you


Saturday, 10 November 2007

a good wettex, used properly, should last about half an hour

Date: Tue, 20 Jun 2000
From: "Ceels"

Subject: a good wettex, used properly, should last about half an hour.

CC: a whole list of names and addresses

This is a special message, just for Blair, who wanted to know who else was on the mailing list, the only other news is that I have now cut my self on my other new knife, so hopefully they will leave me alone now.

love to you all


Friday, 9 November 2007

if I have ever given you a massage, now is the time to return the favour

Date: Fri, 16 Jun 2000
From: "Ceels"
Subject: if I have ever given you a massage, now is the time to return the favour.

Oh my,

Yesterday I had Suzy’s gnocchi. It is blanched then pan fried in butter. It is good and right. You crunch through the outside and then it just disappears. It was like eating crunchy clouds. I understand, I understand exactly how greatly I failed in my gnocchi-making endeavour. I understand that boarding house gnocchi is not gnocchi (I knew, but I never understood). I would like to formally apologise to our dog for trying to feed her my failed gnocchi attempt.

Fortunately she had better sense than I had gnocchi skill and didn’t eat it. I am going to learn how to make this phenomenon known as gnocchi and revel in my gnocchi ecstasy.

I cut my self on my new knife for the first time yesterday, while I was putting my other new knife away in my knife wrap (oh the indignity)


Thursday, 8 November 2007

playing dot to dot with my bruises

Date: Fri, 9 Jun 2000
From: "Ceels"
Subject: playing dot to dot with my bruises.

From time to time I realise I am not just at zukini to fill in a bit of spare time and to have something to write emails about. I sort of 'come to' in the kitchen and think 'help, I am an apprentice chef'.

So I have been making a list of why I like to go to work each day.

*I enjoy shelling prawns (it gives me a sense of achievement when I get the head off and the poo vein out in one deft movement).

*I am developing bicep definition. (and I can run up and down stairs really fast)

*I get to wear latex examination gloves (every day) NB. When you are scrubbing iron stove tops with steel wool. It is quite possible to scrub straight through the latex examination gloves and the skin on your fingers.

*I get to work with people, rather than sectioned off into my own little booth with a telephone (cf. telemarketing) and the only person I didn't like in the kitchen has just left.

*I eat good food all the time

*I am learning new things about time and space (how to fit 10 ltrs of rice into a two litre bucket and how to make fondue, shuck oysters and prep salmon condiments at the same time)

*I can dye my hair blond, and nobody minds

As I am getting better at things I get to do more. For example the fruit fondue. You have to whisk it until it forms thick ribbons. By the time I was halfway through I had sweat (sorry, perspiration) running down my spine and the backs of my legs, soaking into the top of my socks. And you don't want to know what Suzy told me to think of to improve my whisking technique.

I have also learned to de-bone the quail (it is quite fun, squidging around) and plate spaghetti (a major step forward).

And last night when I made an apple kebab risotto, it was such that the head chef told me it was the first time he hadn't hated me since I arrived.

Advice for the week: don't eat toast in bed, no matter how tired and hungry you think you are.

love to you

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

some days are better than others

Date: Tue, 30 May 2000
From: "Ceels"
Subject: some days are better than others.

I have learned many many things in the last few weeks and seem to have forgotten at least twice as much.

I have learned that seafood is treacherous and will turn on you if you lapse in vigilance. I have forgotten how to construct paragraphs; my life has been reduced to a series of lists.

I have a new list of nicknames: 'hey you', babyface, madam lash (???), celie has resurfaced and there are many other unrepeatable things.

Exciting things have been happening. I was in the paper last week and Pat (McKernan, musician at the local pub, the Dan O'Connell) recognised me. (I could die now and die a happy woman).

I met Ben Harper (oh my)

And I shaved my head.

Work has been exciting too. I have learnt how to make rice into a viable building material.

If you are washing snapper and you have too firm a grip on it, it will shoot straight out of your hands and down the bench. (fish are very aerodynamic (this desk set wants to fly))

Never touch hot toffee. Sugar boils at 160-180 degrees and adheres to your skin.

It is easy to get miso broth and lemon grass tea confused when you are in a hurry

Miso paste takes the sting out of burns. White pepper takes the sting out of cuts.

The three most valuable things in a kitchen are buckets, tea towels and fridge space.

If you are using a knife, concentrate on the knife.

Don’t yell at a chef (they'll nail your arse to the wall)

The oven is hot (the oven is hot, the oven is hot)

Organic food is full of organic grubs (and I am on the frontline between the people and the bugs).

love ceels

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

if it's on the stove, chances are it's hot

Date: Wed, 10 May 2000
From: "Ceels"
Subject: if it's on the stove, chances are it's hot.

Things that are more likely to happen when you are tired and in a hurry:
*walking out into on coming traffic
*using rabbit stock instead of white wine in the fruit fondue
*slipping over on wet tiles
*getting hit by the steamer
*hitting your head on the oven
*hitting your head on the dishwasher
*breaking a dish
*getting wasabi in your eye
- the juicer
- the bell on the fridge
- shelves
- fridge doors
- a hot pan
- a hot tray
*shooting murderous glances at a fellow chef and getting caught
*forgetting to dilute the wheat grass juice before service.
*cutting your fingers on:
- a shelf
- an oyster
- a prawn
- a fish (the sea food is deadly)
- a loaf of bread (again)
- a knife
- a metal scourer
*losing the ability to form coherent sentences about vital information which must be conveyed to other people, "the stock has boiled over", "don't tip that, there are eggs in it", "the spoon is on fire", "the hose has melted to the hot plate", "I brought the calf's liver up already", "there are no beans left in the cool room".
*tipping the entire box of 500ml lids onto a fellow chef's head (they weren't heavy, so she forgave me).
*mistaking the bucket of miso broth for the scrap bucket.
*the dumb waiter breaks (and you know who has to run up and down the stairs when the dumb waiter breaks)

Advice for the week: say sorry every time you do something, or somebody speaks to you.

Monday, 5 November 2007

give a klutz a knife

Date: Wed, 3 May 2000
From: "Ceels"
Subject: give a klutz a knife

Things I Have Learned About Being A Chef.

1. If you scrub 25 dozen oysters you will shred your hands unless you wear latex gloves

2. If you did not wear gloves, do not accidentally tip vinegar on your hands

3. If you did not wear gloves the oysters will seek their own revenge with salt water when you come to shuck them.

3a. If you do not wear an apron and forget to take a change of clothes to work, after scrubbing and shucking oysters no one will sit near you on the tram.

4. It is possible to cut your fingers on bread.

5. If you cut your fingers, do not get chilli juice on them (ever). NB. If you get chilli juice on your fingers do not rub your eyes

6. If onions make your eyes water, do not try to keep cutting while you cannot see. Chances are you will slip and cut a chunk out of your finger.

7. Do not ever say 'Yes, but' to the head chef.

7a. Do not ever say anything but 'Yes chef' to the head chef.

8. Always keep track of the rubber bands.

9. If you are asked to drain the vegetable stock, do not accidentally pour the stock down the sink.

10. If you intend to move about the kitchen, announce your presence in a loud clear voice

11. If more than one person tells you what to do, follow the advice/ instructions of the most senior.

12. Never ever cry.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Date: Tue, 18 Apr 2000
From: "Ceels"

I had my first official day at work today. It was top fun. To start off with, I had my doubts. We sat around downstairs on the concrete (the carpet goes in tomorrow, until then it's piles all round) and had a little group session on the Kitchen’s mission and goals. We each got up to say who we were and what we could contribute to the team. And the peppy little thing running the show kept going on about how we completed the wheel and how each member of the team was as equal as the next.

If I had been a cynic I might have rolled my eyes.

When I was told they were packing us into mini buses and we were going on a little bonding trip, I admit, I was frightened. They were taking us to Altona. As it turned out lunch was amazing (one of the benefits of working in a restaurant like the Kitchen) and rock climbing was not as bad as I thought. In fact I enjoyed myself immensely. In fact it rocked (hee hee).

I am covered in blisters and bruises, but every one of them was worth it. I never realised how fun climbing the walls could be. So now the real stuff begins

love you

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Date: Thu, 6 Apr 2000
From: "Ceels"

I have entered the wonderful world of being a telemarketer. You may have thought I was becoming an apprentice chef (as did I), but the restaurant in which I am being an apprentice chef is not opening 'til after Easter. So in the mean time I am a telemarketer (and oh what fun it is). I am phoning people in New Zealand to sell them a book of vouchers for free stuff. The book costs $80 and many people are abusive. They seem to think I am wasting their time.

However, I had a couple of lovely chats with people. One guy was on the dole and was thinking about getting into telemarketing, but he was worried that it would steal his soul. One guy's girl friend can't get a visa to get into New Zealand, but he hopes to see her soon.

Some one has taken all one old woman's furniture and she's not sure where it is, she thinks they might be moving her to another country.

Mostly you get answering machines (it is the middle of the day after all). I have not yet sold anything. I think it is hard to be convincing when you do not have faith in the product you are trying to sell. Or it might be because I sound dodgy. People kept asking me if I was Canadian or South African. (Is my accent that weird?).

any how,

love you lots,

Friday, 2 November 2007

Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2000
From: "Ceels"

I am just writing to do a quick update. I am living in Collingwood now until the end of semester. And, in case I haven't told you yet, my next mode of employment is at a new organic restaurant opening in the city on the 6th of April. I will be working as an apprentice chef. I am an apprentice chef (yes indeedy).

So no doubt this will lead to regular updates of my trials and tribulations (at least until I cut my fingers off)

love ceels

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Next post, the Kitchen

I have joined NaBloPoMo. Wish me luck.

And just in case you were wondering about the rest of letterland:

Annie Apple is doing acrobatics with the animals
Bouncy Ben is bouncing his big, blue ball
Clever Cat can catch creepy caterpillars
Dippy Duck is diving in the deep dark dam
Eddy Elephant eats eggs every Easter
Fireman Fred is fighting the fire with his friends
Golden Girl is giggling at Gabby's green greedy goat
Hairy Hatman has a hairy house
Impy Ink is inside the incubator
Jumping Jim is juggling jelly
Kicking King is in the kitchen with his kitten
Lucy Lamp Lady likes looking at her lighthouse
Munching Mike is munching marvellous metal mushrooms
Naughty Nick nails a notice on the nut tree
Oscar Orange is on an orange octopus
Poor Peter is paddling in the Prep's pool
Quarrelsome Queen is on the quilt with the quads
Robber Red is robbing Rudolph the Red-nose Reindeer
Sammy Snake is snoozing on the sand
Ticking Tess talks on the telephone
Uppy Umbrella is upstairs with her uncle
Vase of Violets vanished in the volcano
Wicked Water Witch walks on her windmill
Yellow Yo-Yo Man is yelling at the yellow yabbies
Zig-Zag Zebra zips across the zoo

It's not the same without the pictures.

slinking home with my tail between my legs

Date: Thu, 23 Dec 1999 17:35:01 +0000 (GMT)
From: Ceels
Subject: slinking home with my tail between my legs.

Dear every one,

Thanks for all your good wishes and support but I am coming home. I bought my plane ticket yesterday afternoon and I will arrive in Melbourne on the 28th.

love you lots


Monday, 22 October 2007

with a whimper

There then followed an intense period of angst, depression, silver service, self doubt and house hunting. Many heart torn emails were sent homeward (I still can't read them), many hours were spent in tears on the pay phone in the stairwell of the hostel.

I worried about finding a job, a place to live and other things embarrassing to mention (okay, I'll mention - I became anxiously fixated on the idea that the Y2K was going to happen and it was too far to get home to mum). On the day I bought a ticket I got employment and I was offered a room to rent, and we all know that 1999 bowed out not with a bang, but a whimper...

I am a twit.

Friday, 19 October 2007

'k' for kicking king (just because I have left school, doesn’t mean I have to stop letterland)

Date: Thu, 16 Dec 1999 11:24:25 +0000 (GMT)
From: Ceels
Subject: 'k' for kicking king (just because I have left school, doesn’t mean I have to stop letterland).

Well, I have arrived in Edinburgh. I spent a lovely couple of days in the peak district staying in the village where Charlotte Bronte stayed when she started writing Jane Eyre and where Little John is buried. And it snowed and snowed and snowed. And everything was beautiful and the people I was staying with kept feeding me and feeding me. I tried to explain to them that I had been really quite sick in the previous two weeks, but they were a bit deaf and just kept offering me food.

I have found some sort of cheapish email place, which is still pretty xpensive so I will type fast. I am staying in the High street Hostel at 8 Blackfriars Rd. I am in a room with seven other girls.

I am on the top bunk by the door and there is a narrow aisle slightly wider than the door between the two sets of bunks. There is nowhere to keep my stuff, so I am sleeping with most of it. I am warm enough; it is actually warmer in the hostel than it was in my room at school. I had a shower last night and suddenly felt shy, so I went to the shower fully dressed. I, I who have been skinny dipping at Wannon Falls, Point Lonsdale and oh, that place near Rosebud; I who have been on nudie runs through paddocks and cemeteries and football ovals was too shy to go to the showers in a towel.

I don't know what to do now as far as finding work. I don't don't don't want to waitress. I don't know whether I should go to Aberdeen. Most places here did their recruiting for Christmas last week (it figures); there is the opportunity to do more work with little kids (woo hoo); or at a new place called the Wok Bar. I don't know.

I want to find somewhere to live with a stronger Scottish accent. At the moment all the girls in my dorm are Australian. never mind. Something will work out. I will soon stop feeling paralysed with the terror of making a decision and get something sorted.

Well I have another three minutes on the internet. So I am off

I love you all very much

ceels ____________________________________________________________

Saturday, 13 October 2007

another day another nosebleed (‘j’ for jumping Jim)

Date: Mon, 29 Nov 1999 16:43:57 +0000 (GMT)
From: Ceels
Subject: another day another nosebleed (‘j’ for jumping Jim).

Once more I am knackered and once more I am sick. I was planning an early night last night. I was horrible last night and put all the girls to bed five minutes early because I was so tired. I planned to go down stairs and watch ‘Wives and Daughters’ (new costume drama from the makers of P&P) with Jenny in the B’s common room then go to bed.

At two minutes to nine, as I argued with the last of the A1s about whether it was fair that I was turning out the lights, someone started wailing. I went to investigate and found the new matron in Charlotte Rottenberg’s dorm panicking. Just as she had panicked the night before during the fire alarm. Admittedly there was blood pouring down Rotter’s face and she was in some considerable pain. The long and the short of it is that the Head of Boarding and I got to go to the Dorset county hospital in Dorchester. I sat in the back and cradled Rotter’s head in my lap and Eleanor (the head of boarding) and I kept her talking. The story is that she bent down to pick up the curtain sash and whacked her head on the sharp edge of the radiator. And there was certainly blood all over the radiator. Anyway, Rotter is now covered in stitches and is the centre of attention and I am knackered.

Yesterday there was a roller disco and I was coaxed into strapping on a pair of roller skates. Mmmmm. I didn’t fall over. I also got to watch some of the BBC Pride and Prejudice (oh Lizzie, how unfortunate we all seem to be). It would have been very relaxing and all except that the girls insisted on watching it with us. And, no matter how well intentioned they are, you just can’t make twenty pre-adolescent girls sit quietly.

Oh, and today at lunch (I know I keep going on about the stuff, but it is such a part of my life) Molly has a cold and one stage she coughed and coughed and coughed. She went bright pink and tears poured down her face. I asked her if she was okay and she said yes. A minute later she said, ‘My nose feels all a bit gluey.’ I replied ‘Oh yes, do you want to blow it?’ and she said, ‘Yes, phhhhttghhh’ and blew a bucket load of snot straight down her chin. What could I do but cry ‘Molly’ and go and get a tissue? You will be pleased to hear that Jack M ate all his shepherd’s pie.

I was in the nursery today because Yasmin is sick. The nursery is not a good place to be when you are so tired you can’t see straight. You definitely need to be on the ball if you want to stay a step ahead of these kiddies. they were all doing poos today. And telling me. They take extraordinary pride in doing poos, and what can I say to them but ‘well done’.

Jen has joined me in the computer room. Us Aussies need our email to keep us sane. We are both being terribly wicked using the internet during the day, but I think I speak for both of us when I say ‘asparagus’.

It may surprise everybody to hear that it is raining. Dull November dark and nippy, making roads and pavements slippy.

The weather has been unseasonably mild this past week, but all that has changed. Hey, the nineties are nearly over. Sorry, only just realised. With all the rant about the end of the millennium I’d forgotten that the nineties are ending too. Goodbye nineties. Most of the kids at this school were born in the nineties. Scary thought. Scary Spice, a lasting icon of the nineties. One of the girls last night started singing ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ and I threatened to send her to bed early for a week if she didn’t stop. She stopped singing, but she didn’t think I was serious.

You can turn out the younger kids lights early because they can’t tell the time. All you need in a dorm is one irritating little kid with a watch and the ability to read it. ‘But we’ve got seven minutes’. The easiest way with little kids is to not answer, if you allow yourself to be drawn into a response you’ll be there for hours. I am going to miss them. Last night Aggie was telling me how she had sneezed seven times in a row. I raised an eyebrow and said ‘Serious?’ she said ‘Yeah... isn’t it funny how you go tingly all over when you sneeze lots of times’ and people, that was nearly the end of me.

I have a nasty suspicion that I have tonsillitis.

I have a nasty suspicion that I haven’t got the job at the national theatre, but I am too tired to care.

But I am off now to do break duty.
love you lots,
ceels ____________________________________________________________

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

'i' for impy ink

Date: Sun, 28 Nov 1999 11:22:48 +0000 (GMT)
From: Ceels
Subject: 'i' for impy ink.

This is the email I meant to send last time, but the email god (in its wisdom) chose not to send it. So here goes:

Well folks. I conquered London. I stepped of the train at Waterloo with the deep conviction that London was going to conquer me. My brain was already overloaded with what I had seen from the train windows of the suburbs.

The bus I caught from Blandford to Salisbury goes to the Blandford army camp. A soldier gets on the bus at the gate and won’t let you on or off the bus unless you have the right passes. He has a gun to enforce this. And the way people lived there looked depressing as hell. London was worse. Line after line of ugly little houses. All exactly the same. All squashed in. Flat and dark and grubby.

Before I left, the Alpha girls piled me with advice about how not to get pick pocketed and who not to talk to and who to ask for directions. They are thirteen. They seem to know what they are taking about.

I had the good fortune of a lovely sunny day (no doubt thanks to Ed). Having just got over the whole big grotty London thing between Waterloo Station and the National Theatre (where I had my job interview) I went for a walk along the Thames. And was floored again by Big Ben and the whole caboodle. And by the woman sitting under the bridge with her baby, begging for money. I looked at her and she told me she was starving and I didn’t give her any money. I bought a book of Latin poems (Virgil Ovid Catullus Horace). I don’t know what my reasons were for not giving her money and I don’t know what they would have been if I had.

I went back to the theatre feeling nervous exhaustion and the desperate need for a good coffee. Instead I went and had a fifteen-minute tour of the theatre complex. Then an interview with Lisa and Tony. They said they wanted it to be a relaxed interview then grilled me for half an hour. I tottered out of the ugly grey building (it matched the rest of the grot) and gazed about dazedly, wondering what to do with my self for the two hours before my train went back to Salisbury.

I eventually found my way back to Waterloo (you would not believe how many times during the day I went up to somebody, smiled sweetly and asked in my politest voice for directions) and caught the tube to Tottenham court rd. one of the ladies in choir on Wednesday night said to go there and for lack of any idea at all (my brain had just packed it in) I went.

If I had had any sense at all I would have remembered that I have always wanted to go to Piccadilly Circus and gone there. At Waterloo I asked one of the information guides were to go to catch the tube and he pointed over my shoulder at the enormous glowing sign saying ‘UNDERGROUND’.

At this point I feel I should interrupt my narrative to thank Gubbi for teaching me not to fear escalators. (And she is right. You can’t get sucked into the bit where the escalator disappears). And also large shopping complexes. If not for you Gubbi. I would have collapsed on the spot.
I am afraid to say I got sucked straight in to a Virgin Megastore and after much deliberation bought two CDs. The only defence I have for buying the Dawson’s Creek soundtrack is that I also bought Tom Waits’ Small Change. I am listening to them as I write as the computer room is the only place I have access to a CD player.

Having made my purchase I walked straight out the door into the arms of a con artist. She made some comment like ‘You wouldn’t be from London would you?’ and I (foolish foolish naive foolish ceels) thought ‘Oh lovely, someone wants to talk to me.’

(I pause here, sigh, and shake my head).

And said ‘oh, no, actually I am from Australia’ and she said something trite. She was collecting for something that was never really made clear and had a little book with people’s first names and how much they had given. I started to back away but I was trapped by the flow of people behind me. She said, pencil poised, ‘If you’ll just tell me your name’ and I thought ‘The bollocks I will’ and said (yes I did) ‘If I give you my name, I’ll have to give you money.’ She sensed she was loosing me and attacked again. At which stage I was completely befuddled. I tried the ‘I’m on a tight budget routine’ and she countered it with something else. Finally I showed her the coin pocket in my wallet. 41p.
Now I'm still not sure if she brushed those 41p into her bag or if I tipped my hand. But I was stinking cross. It sort of spoiled my day a bit. Sort of. I was cross about it until I went to bed last night. The tube back was hell and involved more questions ‘Am I going the right way? Am I going the right way?’

When I got on the train I checked my bus timetables for Salisbury-Blandford and discovered that I would have an hour and twenty minute wait in Salisbury. I was so tired and shattered that I thought about crying. And it turned out to be fine. There was a jazz trio on one of the streets playing some truly good music, so I sat with them for a while. Then there was a Christmas parade with a brass band. Then I found a bookshop open late and browsed. I got back to school, phoned home, and collapsed into bed.

I was supposed to get a reply about the job this afternoon, but have heard nothing. So I wait. I am sure there are other things I meant to tell you about London but I can’t remember what they are. The tube really was like the tunnels they run rats through.

London was like all the buildings in Australia squashed into a really small place. I got attacks of claustrophobia walking down the streets. and it was all grubby, even in the sunshine. I think if I live there it will knock some of the corners off my innocence, if that is the right word. And I had a really nice cheese and pickle roll from ‘the upper crust’ on the way home on the train.

Tonight I felt my first stir of patriotism. We were having dinner and laughing about the confusion caused by Jenny’s and my use of the word ‘pants’. Which we understand to mean trousers and the English understand to mean ‘undies’. Then the French mistress (who is English) and the new matron (who is dumb as two short planks) started spouting off about how Australian English had been corrupted by Americanisms then started getting all up themselves (and there is no other way to put it) about how superior they were because they spoke the queen’s English. And I got so cross for so many reasons. And all the hackles of national pride I never knew I had stood on end. And I got het up and started arguing with them. Indicating that I was offended because I have been speaking English all my life and Australia has its own identity and use of language that has developed quite independently of America and England. And I how suspect my version of English is closer to the queen’s than theirs (actually I didn’t say that, but I sure as hell thought it.) then I realised my natural superiority and calmed down and tried to make a joke.

I suggested that the only reason I could never stay in England long-term was because they don’t have Tim-tams. ha ha ha. And the French mistress got all sniffy and said she was sure if she ever went to Australia she would not judge it by what products it did or did not have.

I left it at that.

love you all, it is time for bed.

ceels ____________________________________________________________

I just realised that I am running out of time to finish the alphabet. Today we have 'f' for fireman Fred, 'g' for golden girl and 'h' for hairy hat ma

Date: Sat, 27 Nov 1999 00:05:42 +0000 (GMT)
From: Ceels
Subject: I just realised that I am running out of time to finish the alphabet. Today we have 'f' for fireman Fred, 'g' for golden girl and 'h' for hairy hat man.


Monday, 8 October 2007

'e' for eddy elephant (or 18 more days to go)

Date: Mon, 22 Nov 1999 20:08:00 +0000 (GMT)
From: Ceels
Subject: 'e' for eddy elephant (or 18 more days to go).

Well, all the girls are back after exeat. I have to keep reminding myself how much I love them. they take it in turns, about three at a time, to be naughty.

Sometimes it is the same girl over and over and over, but mostly they seem to have a roster.

Today most of them have been quite vile, I have been lied to so many times that I splutter, just thinking about it. And the tantrums, let me tell you about the tantrums. I would like to make an open apology to my mum for any tantrum I have ever thrown. All of them. Even if I wasn’t over-reacting or was really really tired. I am sorry mum. I can’t remember how many there were, but one is enough. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t a liar though.

Today I have heard every thing from ‘I can’t wear that jumper it doesn’t fit me’ to ‘no I haven’t had any biscuits’. Yes folks, earth stopping stuff. But if one more little girl tells me one more bare faced lie, I’ll I’ll I’ll do nothing because really, what can I do. I can’t thump them. I can’t swear at them and I can’t really send them up to bed early for stealing biscuits. The other day one of the year six girls was doing her best to convince one of the year three girls that Gemma Wilson had just been run over by a car. The year three girl was nearly hysterical that one of her best friends had just been squashed when I walked in.

I am reasonably confident that Sarah Brady will never again try and make the little girls cry.

I have my new fleece on. I love my new fleece. I can almost imagine I am somewhere warm when I am wearing it. Of course it makes me look like an enormous fluffy blue peach. And I think the answer to the question ‘does this jumper make me look like a pogga’ is 'Yes, yes it does'.

But at least I am a warm pogga. The line between vanity and warmth was left behind long ago. This damn frostbitten country.

Oh, can I tell you. They have here mandarins, tangerines, clementines and satsumas (they all bloody look like mandarins to me) but no Timtams. I have become quite addicted to the McVities chocolate coated digestives though. Not quite the same thing but strangely appealing. But I will never like the peas. And I do not understand why they take perfectly good fresh vegetables, boil them in heavily salted water until they could be strained then drown them in oil or butter (or both). What a waste. And no bloody wonder they eat so much gravy on meat. Every thing tastes like it has been cooked too long. Savages. I just hold up my hand and say ‘vegetarian’.

That is all my exciting news folks, except that it is Saint Cecilia’s day today. Pretty exciting. Oh and I have a job interview in London on Thursday (it was going to be tomorrow, but gear happened).

I am getting out of the school for a day. I am getting out of the school for a day.

love you lots
ceels ____________________________________________________________

Friday, 5 October 2007

'd' for dippy duck

Date: Sat, 20 Nov 1999 19:02:19 +0000 (GMT)
From: Ceels
Subject: 'd' for dippy duck.

Finally. I have found the keys. Or rather, someone has put them back where they belong so I can once again steal them and sneak to the computer room when nobody is about. The school has had an inspection this past week. This is something that happens in England. I don’t think it happens in Australia. So all the teachers have been stressed out and really shitty. which of course has made our lives so much easier.

This last week has easily been the longest of my life, I have been working practically full time since Saturday last. And in the nursery this is no laughing matter. I collapsed into bed last night and slept for twelve hours straight. woke up. Then slept for another three hours.

This afternoon I went to Salisbury. Eleanor (the Maths and Latin teacher) was going with her fiancé to buy an engagement ring so Jenny and I got a ride. We went to see the Cathedral and I was suitably impressed. I got to see the Magna Carta (one of four existing copies).

We had to leave in a hurry because Jenny was meeting a friend at the bus station at eight past three. I have to admit that we went into Maccas and I had the chicken burger (and feel correspondingly shithouse now) and (the highlight of my day) I bought an enormous fleece. I am wearing it now and it just might keep me from freezing to death while I’m over here.

Did I complain about the cold earlier? Over this past week the temperature has plummeted and there is a bone biting wind. I didn’t know what I was complaining about before. I now fully understand what it is to have chapped hands and lips. And apparently it is going to get colder. I also can’t believe the dark. I see the dark at four o’clock in the afternoon, but I don’t believe it.

The weather over the last couple of days is working on convincing me not to go to Edinburgh for the winter. Ideally I’d like to go to Penzance, which is about as south as you can go. but have been advised against it because everybody leaves. Hmmmmmmmm. Salisbury is a pretty place. But it was raining and I don’t really want to go somewhere where it’s raining.... Bath has been suggested to me and Stratford on Avon and Cambridge. I don’t know. I am still too tired to make decisions like that. besides I still have twenty days (all the time in the world!).

I am all for writing down a few names, popping them in a hat and drawing one. I will wait and go to Edinburgh in March. Or maybe it would be a good thing to be able to say I’ve lived through a northern winter (assuming I lived through it). I don’t know (I wail).

I made another achievement on Friday. I took Jordan up to get his nappy changed, but Grace, one of the little pre-prep girls, vomited all over herself and up the corridor (you wouldn’t believe how much one of these little people can hold). As a result matron was a bit busy. So I gritted my teeth, and changed it myself.

Yay ceels I say.

Any way, I love you all but I have to leave before my fingers drop off with the cold.
ceels ____________________________________________________________

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

'c' for clever cat

Date: Mon, 15 Nov 1999 21:24:28 +0000 (GMT)
From: Ceels
Subject: 'c' for clever cat.

Everyone at this school is paranoid. Yes they are. And they are all determined to send me on an enormous guilt trip. They are all convinced that I am constantly trying to shirk my work. They all think I am stupid. And they all think that I behave like the children (so my voice was a bit loud and the inspectors were in the next room). The inspectors are here this week so everybody has gone panic stations and have started flinging about the buckets of stress that they have been lugging for the last two months.

They got shirty with me today. They didn't say anything directly, like 'get off the phone' but made snide comments and said things like 'What! Are you still on the same phone call?' 'I hope the school isn't paying for that call', and generally belittled me. I didn't know that I was tying up the main line and nobody else could get through. They should have more than one line any way. They could have just said 'get off the phone.' but no, they are so blinking polite they could only give me withering stares and rude comments.

I am apparently not supposed to use the computers, but I figure they can't make me feel guilty about it if they don't catch me. So I sneak down here way late at night and let my self in.

On a brighter note, there are 25 days till I leave and the new nursery teacher is one of the acest people I have met since I came to England. So the rest of my days here are going to be pleasant.

I am getting along well with the girls and I will really miss them, I have promised to come back and visit before I return to Australia. The girls whom I do toe-by-toe (literacy program) with are improving in leaps and bounds. Last night I was sitting in one of the dorms chatting to Maddy and Aggie (Madeline and Agatha) just before lights out and Maddy made the connection between Ireland being and island and being called Ireland, and the two words sounding the same. It sounds pretty boring but it was quite something to see her face. It all lit up and looked like Christmas.

I did reading with the pre-prep today and Alice finished a whole book and was very proud of her self, she got a star. I read with Hector next and the last time we read together he finished a whole book and he was determined to do it again (and some times on the weekends he finishes two whole books). He did and also received a star.

I had another nasty snot experience. I am sorry to keep going on about the stuff, but it is a major part of my life. You wouldn't believe how blasé I have become about holding the tissue for the kids to blow their noses. Any way. You would imagine that kids who sneeze would be as cute as kittens who sneeze, or puppies. On Friday we were all sitting around for story time in the nursery and Lauren went 'hhuuh, huh huh.... (and her eyes were all scrunched up and cute)...hhhuhh, choooo.' and two long opaque candles of snot went shooting out of her face and landed in two bulgy lumps on the floor. Was I disturbed? I just stood, got a tissue and picked the little boogers up.

Bravo ceels I say.

But, I gotta sneak off again,
love you all
ceels ____________________________________________________________

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

'b' for bouncing Ben

Date: Thu, 11 Nov 1999 21:03:58 +0000 (GMT)
From: Ceels
Subject: 'b' for bouncing Ben.

I really really really want to say a naughty swear word. Not for any good reason, just because I am not allowed. I am not even allowed to say 'bloody'. It was difficult at the beginning because 'bollocks' and 'bugger' were prominent parts of my general vocabulary.

And the pressure is building. I not only want to say mildly offensive words like 'shit' but I want to let fly with the occasional 'fire truck' and that word that Virge used to use all the time (she said something about reclaiming it, that sounds fair enough to me, but I don't know that it would go down so well with the head mistress) I want to say wicked bad things. I want to run up and down the corridor shouting them. I don't want to get kicked out of the school just yet.

I am making good use of expressions like 'fruit cake' and 'sugar' and 'oh gosh'. I tried to explain that it was okay to say 'bugger' now because there is this ad on the telly back home, no one was convinced. The teachers think I am crass. That might have something to do with the stories I tell at dinner. Everybody laughs, but I think they think I’m crass.

The children are behaving splendidly. I went out on the geography field trip this afternoon (mapping Durweston) and nobody got run over. I have discovered why everybody had hang ups about food. It is because the only way to make children eat the things that are good for them is to bribe them with the things that aren't. 'Kaleb, if you don't eat any more chicken then you can't have any pudding. Good boy Timmy, here have some a big helping of pudding. See Kaleb, Timmy has been a good boy and eaten all his cauliflower.'


But enough of that, it is about time I was in bed.

lots of love

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Mum's Fruitcake

Mum's Fruitcake

1. 150g butter
2. 1 1/2 cup sultanas
3. 1 1/2 cup currants
4. 1 cup brown sugar
5. 2 tsp allspice
6. 1 cup water or orange juice and brandy or pot-brewed tea

7. 1 tsp bicarb soda

8. 2 eggs
9. 2 cup self raising flour

Put ingredients 1-6 in a pot and bring to boil.
Turn off heat and add 7.
Add 8, mix.
Add 9, mix with a light hand.
Pour into 20cm cake tin.
Bake for 65 mins in a moderate oven (15 mins 180 then 160).

'a' for Annie apple

Date: Sun, 7 Nov 1999 22:39:19 +0000 (GMT)
From: Ceels
Subject: 'a' for Annie apple.

Tonight the girls celebrated bonfire night. Real bonfire night was the 5th (Friday) but it was held for the girls tonight. They started with fire works on the front lawn and then moved to the bonfire paddock for an enormous bonfire with all the old hay bales and old school furniture.

The fire works were incredible; I have never seen fire works like them. They whizzed and banged and swirled and some of them went squealing into the air and some exploded into huge flowers and then the ends exploded as well and it was all very Mary Poppins and Enid Blyton. I say yay for Guy Fawkes and the gunpowder plot. And a better use for gun power I have yet to see.

When I think of it the only other live fireworks I think I’ve seen have been at Port Fairy. But still it is pretty amazing that a school as small as this would get someone so professional to put on a show. Most of the daygirls were there as well as the boarders and most people’s parents and they stood around talking and being very British. It was quite an amazing experience and I felt as if I was being given a chance to see how somebody else’s life worked.

Today has been a full day all in all. I baby sat for the Ruddy children the last two nights so this morning I slept in till nine. Then I had a lovely time reading and lazing about. This afternoon the girls’ outing was to the cinema. As they were watching Tarzan I decided to go along too. I don’t know if it is just because it has been so long since I saw a movie or because my brains are getting soft working with all these kids, but I loved it. It was a fantastic film. I think it was largely the fact it was a cartoon and who can help but love cartoons. The girls told me off after we left for laughing too much. My enjoyment was possibly aided by the consumption of a mars bar and vast quantities of coke.

I nearly killed my first child on Thursday. I mean, I really did. I was supervising the climbing frame in nursery (not a job for the faint of heart) and Menna and Oscar were lying underneath one of the platforms. They are heavy boards and chocked on the inside to keep them from slipping. Menna and Oscar pushed it up and one of the ends slipped. I grabbed the other end saying ‘Don’t do that it’ll fall,’ and it did. It landed an inch and a half from Oscar’s sweet little head and my heart almost burst.

On the same day I made one of the pre-prep kids on my table at lunch cry. It was Jack Morant, he doesn’t like eating most things and I told him if he didn’t eat two more mouthfuls of quiche and at least one slice of carrot then he wasn’t having any pudding. As it was chocolate pudding this was a fairly major threat, his responding tactic was to have a tantrum, which I duly ignored as I served the others their pudding. He threatened to vomit and I said he would still have to eat the quiche. He said he was never coming to school again and I told him that was fine. Finally the pudding got too much for him and he worried down the required allotment of food, retching and gagging all the way.

There are a lot of Jacks here, the one I mentioned, plus Jack Langmead, Jack Smail, Jack Ruddy, Jack Jones and Jack Crisfield. In the main school there is Charlotte Rottenburg, Charlotte Gregory, Charlotte Cawthorn, Charlotte Jackman and Charlotte Hannam. They are all borders. I was very confused when I first got here. There are also lots of names like Hermione, Marina, Tatiana, Beatriz, Madeline, Agatha, Eloise, Henrietta, Harriet and the like.

Well I really must go, I am going to watch Buffy, it is on at ten past eleven but I am allowing myself a treat and staying up long past my bedtime.

love you lots
ceels ____________________________________________________________