Avoiding the word ‘get’

‘I don’t want to be in his class,’ I said indignantly. ‘He’s too sporty, and I have asthma.’ I did have asthma but that was really just a convenient excuse. I didn’t want to be in the class run by the very tall male teacher. He looked older and meaner than the other teachers, and had a track record of doing sport, something that I hated because I wasn’t very good at any sport and I was always left with a headache after becoming too hot. My parents took me to the principal, who explained in no uncertain terms that Mr Williams, while being very passionate about sport would only host the required physical activity sessions and wouldn’t make me engage in any unnecessary sport.

I started Grade Seven like any other year, excited but nervous. This year I was particularly nervous because I didn’t have my way. I wasn’t moved to the nice lady teacher’s class down the path, I was kept with the only male Grade Seven teacher. Over the course of the year I learned that not only was the principal right, I was never expected to play sports just for the sake of it, I also had the best teacher of any Grade Seven class. Being in Mr Williams’ class was like being on the set of ‘Dead Poet’s Society.’ We didn’t stand on the desks and say ‘O Captain, My Captain,’ but we did learn some amazing lessons. I remember entering the classroom one day with 29 other children, though we thought of ourselves as sophisticated teenagers, only to find Mr Williams wasn’t there. He was always there so it felt strange sitting down to our desks without the giant of a man standing at the front of the class, socks pulled up to his knees, hair styled neatly. They usually sent a substitute teacher, but there was no one to be seen. We started chatting, then became louder. A group decided to decorate the white board with flowers and slogans. Some kids did their homework, others braided hair.

We were all shocked when Mr Williams burst through the door and boomed over us ‘Why are you making such a din?’ Most of the children who weren’t used to be yelled at scuttled back to their desks and sat, stunned, waiting for direction. One boy simply stood on the spot and said, with the appropriate amount of teenage attitude, ‘What’s a din?’. Everyone snickered. We’d all been equally confused by the word but most of us were smart enough not to ask questions when our teacher was clearly angry. Mr Williams calmed the class by stalking to the front of the room. ‘A din is a lot of noise, Michael, sit down,’ and Michael did. It wasn’t the same day we learned about the word ‘get’, but it was equally as memorable.

I sat in the back row, as a reward with my friends because we were always good students, quiet, dedicated and tried to work diligently. ‘There’s no reason to use the word ‘get’.’ Mr Williams said as he wrote it very neatly on the white board, along with all the other words similar to ‘get’ like ‘got’, ‘gotten’, and ‘getting’. I was confused. I could think of plenty great reasons to use the word ‘get’. ‘I get bored, I got too hot, I’m getting hungry, get me out of here, I hadn’t gotten a piece of cake for lunch.’

‘There are always better words to use instead of ‘get”, he said. It was one of those lessons that was not really a lesson. I mean, it wasn’t in the book that the school insisted he taught from, which is why his class resembled ‘Dead Poet’s Society’. He instilled in us much more than the curriculum demanded. He gave out jelly beans for correct spelling words and made us learn what ‘exponential’ meant when he told us we’d receive more and more jelly beans the more consistently we produced correct spelling words. As I walked back to my desk one day with over 40 jelly beans, I remember the word ‘exponential’ and thought it was quite a good one. I could even spell it! ”Get’ can be replaced by ‘received’ if you’re describing something someone gave to you. ‘Got’ can be replaced by ‘have’, for example ‘I’ve got a tummy ache’ can simply be replaced with ‘I have a tummy ache’. ‘Get and it’s friends are meaningless, useless words.’ If a certain word can be replaced by any other word we needn’t use it, ‘get’ is a prime example.

It’s been 17 years since I saw Mr Williams, but his lessons have stayed with me. He taught me the value of trying something before making a judgment, that sport (in moderation) isn’t so bad, and to avoid ‘get’ at all costs. Not a bad grade 7 experience afterall.

Picture source


Don’t walk, dance

It’s the anticipation before the class, ice skating, dancing, teaching, it doesn’t matter what. You’ve spent up to, maybe even more than an hour perfecting makeup to look presentable and hair to make sure it doesn’t impede your vision. You’ve changed into what many others would consider very uncomfortable: lined tights to ward off the cold, or just ballet pink tights, leotard, jacket. Body hugging, tight, bearing all. Your hair slicked into a tight pony tail or flattened bun. Regardless of how long it is, it mustn’t be in the way! Hair spray and pins are a dancer’s best friend.

Then the shoes. The most important part. Fur-lined boots laced to the ankle with lycra covers, plastic guards to keep the blades sharp. Soft leather slippers more comfortable than any other shoe. Hard and beautiful Pointe shoes, silky to the touch, hiding gel covered toes behind beautiful ribbons supporting the ankle. Stylish Latin or ballroom heels, creating a sleek line, matching outfits. Black, strapped taps, the most satisfying of them all, clipping and rapping away as you desire.

You may glide and spin, performing mohawks and spirals.  Practise your turn out, point hard, fourth position, prepare, rise and turn.  One, two, cha cha cha, three, four, turn.  Heel slap step heel, heel slap step heel, ripple, ripple, double toe hit stamp.  Beautiful moves that transform your body into a part of the music.  You become the crotchets, minims, the cello, piano and flute.  You flit and float from one side of the room to the other, rumba over the dance floor attached to your partner, and tango as one around the stage.  Shuffle tap step into the spotlight and chasse towards the audience.

After the show, practise, class, you take your hair down, pins in one hand, net in the other.  Jacket back on to keep you warm as you prepare to go home.  Peel your feet out of your boots, slippers, shoes or heels.  Bruised, sometimes bleeding, blisters.  But it’s all worth it, right?

Photos courtesy: GrishkosDon’t walk dance


Canberra… city of seasons

It was cold.  Freezing actually.  Regardless of the number of layers I wore the wind would still tear through me and ice my bones.  My nose would go cold and drip relentlessly.  My ears ached as my tiny hearing bones reacted to the cold.  I couldn’t feel my fingers or my toes.  As an asthmatic, I found it difficult to breathe.  The cold, dry air was so difficult to inhale it was like trying to breathe in while someone sat on my chest.  My exhalation fogged out in front of me and my dad said I was breathing ‘dragon breath’.  Even in autumn, the pipes in the school would freeze and we’d stand at the bubblers marvelling at the ice that was supposed to be water for us to drink.  I would stay with my grandmother often.  Her quaint low-set house with its soft greens and apricots.  It greeted me with the same comforting smell every time and I felt at home.  The plum tree out the back made me want to climb, despite its rough exterior and little black inhabitants.  During the day I’d call for my grandparents after climbing too high and finding myself stuck.  During the night my grandma would sneak into my room and wake me up, rug me into my dressing gown and slippers and take me out to see the families of possums living in my tree.  Their big eyes would stare, so round, in the torchlight.

In the afternoons we would take the dog for a walk and seek out a park.  The trees were bare most of the time.  Tall sticks reaching up into the grey sky on an overcast day.  On sunny days it was still cold and dry, but the sky was a beautiful blue with no clouds.  Finally we would reach the pathway adjacent to Grandma’s street.  It always had a big pile of autumn leaves.  Browns, yellows, oranges, reds.  All the colours of autumn in a pile just for me to jump in.

As I grew up, I realised that Canberra is the city of seasons.  Despite what I would call incessant cold and dry weather for most of the year, the seasons were marked by the first of the month.  In autumn, the leaves would crackle and dry on the path, perfect for painted leaf prints.  In winter, the fires would be lit and we’d wish for spring, which was full of flagrant flowers, Floriade and sunshine.  In summer, the heat was like walking into an oven that would dry the grass until it crackled underfoot.  In spite of leaving Canberra and moving up north, it will always be fondly remembered as the place I grew up.

Picture courtesy Outback Encounter

Getting started…


It’s always difficult to take the plunge, like jumping into the ice cold water that you know will be refreshing but will also take your breath away.  Ward off the palpitations and tension in the anticipation of creating and jump.  It is only recently that I have taken the plunge to actually commit not only to devoting time to creating but devoting time to doing what I really enjoy.  After years of chasing dream after dream, and usually succeeding at least partially, I’ve found solace in writing.  Reading was a vice that took me away from  my surrounds and transported me to a world of different characters, different places and new experiences far, far away from the common life.  Dull, it wasn’t, but still monotonous and lacking a personal passion.  I escaped in reading, taught to fly, like Wendy in Peter Pan, and enjoyed the time I allowed my imagination to flourish.  Even to the point where I would avoid seeing movies of the book, so it wouldn’t ruin my imagined image of who and where and how.

Time has passed and now I find myself able to put the words together in such a way that may transport others.  At first, I wrote comic pieces, laced with my wit and sarcasm that was appreciated on paper but not so much in person.  My audience enjoyed my pieces, but I grew tired and desired something more, something deeper.  Ironically, what was deeper lay only surface deep and required less effort to create than did the funny anecdotes.  I took on a new journey, found myself writing with more description, more similes, metaphors, devices of poetry and language.  My audience appreciated the change, thanked me for it and encouraged me to continue on.  Allow me to take you on a journey, allow me to teach you to fly…

Photo courtesy Communicate Better Blog