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Saturday, December 27, 2014


 Part II of Price Check, two more instalments to go.

The radiant heat from the traffic and the concrete throbs with intensity. It’s 10am and  already 30 degrees +.

If she closes her eyes slightly, she pretends that the roaring noise is the ocean, not the traffic. The Northern suburbs of Melbourne are heavy and tired from the incessant heat.

It took her till now, till she had the baby, to understand the seasons and to understand how the sun travelled across the sky in Australia.

Arriving from the UK 10 years before, understanding those things hadn’t mattered, that was a time in her life when she hardly understood herself, never mind her surroundings.

When she was pregnant though, someone had said Oh how lovely you are having a spring baby. It clicked then that spring was late in the year, that the heat came at Christmas time, that an English summer was an Australian winter. She had not understood it till she had birthed, nor had she ever looked or cared about the direction the sun travelled during the day. 

The position of the pram could be changed to suit the direction of the sun. The sun rose in the east, traveled over the North and set in the West. The pram faced west as she walked down to the supermarket, the hot sun was behind her. It mattered somehow that she knew this, that she knew where the sun would be, so that she could change the direction that the pram was facing, as she walked around the streets.

Milk, nappies, coffee, something for dinner, the list was created to put purpose into her day. A trip to the supermarket felt like an achievement, it was something started and completed in one day. Unlike the rest of it: the blur of feeding, the saté poohy nappies, the thin streams of vomit always across her back, the all pervading smell of wipes and milk and the long, slow stretch of the days.

She knew no one in the suburb where she lived. Most days she spoke only to the check out chicks at the supermarket. Often she would stare at passers by, wishing that they would be her friends.

She passes the post boxes, walks the long road to the supermarket, trying to find beauty as she goes: a flower, a tree in bloom, a cat sitting in a window, a gum tree. Nothing assailed her quite like the silvery green of a gum tree, the endless varieties, the red explosion of colour on some of them, their gracefulness, their starkness, it always makes her stop and reminds her,  I am here now, I am in Australia and I am completely alone.
Excuse me there are gums in my comedy.

The baby slept through the walk down to the supermarket. She usually had an hour or so before her breasts sprung a leak, before she had to un harness her self, find somewhere to sit and feed the infant. Releasing the engorged heaviness into the infants wide hungry mouth.

There was always the large black and brown Alsatian dog, barking at number 365, a renovation that seemed to be taking for ever at 451, a strange garden made up of a manicured lawn and topiaried bushes clipped into the shape of strange animals. The tree animals had plastic black and white stuck on eyes, the kind you would usually find on a hand made teddy bear. It would have taken hours to keep the strange beasts in shape, but she had never seen anyone tend the garden, she imagined that they did the topiary work under the cover of darkness, a torch guiding the hedge trimmer, the light strange and the shadows short and thew teddy bear stuck on eyes never moving staring blankly out to passer byes. Number 598 was a dilapidated run down house, with a letter box stuffed with unopened mail and yellowing newspapers. 

She crosses the road to the supermarket at 624, a smart brick house with white blinds and a concrete driveway.As she reaches the supermarket carpark, the heat seems to intensify around all of the parked cars.

The cool air is a blast across her face and body as she enters the supermarket.

Saturday, December 6, 2014


When my kids were infants, I took the word baby, off the baby on board sticker and I replaced it with the word Phenurgan.

Hoping that someone just might get a little drowsy.

Phenurgan on Board

Thursday, December 4, 2014


Funny Bits was filmed November 2014
Monogamy is a little bit of it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Glass Ceiling

I work in the not for profit sector - where there is no glass ceiling.

Instead we have a biscuit coated roof.

As a result the floors and carpets of not for profit organisations are often covered in crumbs.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Heart Tick Approved

Mummy why do the family on the back of the box of cheerios look so happy?

Jess asked one morning, as the sun rose slowly in the east, casting a glimmering glow all over  Middle Prestonia.

Well Jess, I said, as I gleefully wiped the breakfast crumbs off the kitchen bench. 

The family on the back of the cheerio box are happy now, because there is 90% more fibre in cheerios than there used to be.

The family are happy, because they aren't marginalised in the slightest. They are so Caucasian.

There they are, dressed in their freshly pressed white linen clothes, running along the coastline, just up from their negatively geared beach property - and their bowels are cleansed.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Lost Children

It was lost on my children Ruby and Jessica when I said to them:
Mummy is going to the Aldi supermarket to do a whole weeks shopping.

They didn’t say: 
But mummy, mummy, what if you bring home a wet suit, a cordless drill and extendable garden sheers,
instead of apples, oranges and bananas?

A funny thing happened on the way
to the Aldi supermarket in Preston.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

She looked at me.

We were at the dinner table the other night and James was doing that thing he always does: putting an enormous amount of food onto his fork.
He then put the enormous fork full of food into his mouth and he began to chew, bovine like.
Ruby looked at me, then looked at him, then looked back at me and asked:
"Is it doing it for you mum?"

Ruby is 16.
I have been married for 24 years.
No crumbs were harmed during the making of this joke.
Drawing a line in the crumbs

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Funny Bits

No time to blog, just putting together the script for the Funny Bits show at Howler Bar in Brunswick. Wednesday 5 November 8pm buy a ticket here $20/15 (+BF) or at the door.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Price Check

With gritty eyes and a lugubrious expression, she pulls on her jeans, three red leather bangles and a shirt that can be unbuttoned modestly. 
There’s a slightly sour smell in the air. The washing spills out of the laundry basket. She pulls back the covers on the bed, noticing the fluff gathering in the corners of the room like tumbleweed in an old Western movie. As she draws back the blind, dust motes rise like ghosts in the strong morning light. 
Three-and-a-half hours, at least. She knows she shouldn’t count, but adding up the hours that she has slept helps her feel like she has some control over the night that has just passed. 
From the other end of the house the spoon is reaching its crescendo as he stirs his coffee. Her jaw aches slightly from her clenched teeth.She gathers the plastic bag, full of wipes, poo-ey nappies and an empty tin of ointment, from the change table. Glancing into the mirror on her way out, she sees her hair in fuzzy disarray. She damps it down with her free hand.
“See you later – have a good one.”
A last slurp of coffee, a crunch of toast, a trail of crumbs on the bench, one perfunctory kiss, then he is gone.
She watches his broad back recede down the quiet street, the sun just climbing. Her engorged breasts begin to leak through her shirt as she stands in the front yard. The garden has the classic renters look about it: slightly desolate, in need of a mow, and all the charm of a cup of tea gone cold.
Back inside, she positions the cushions, brings the infant to her, her right hand supporting its head, the left cradling its body. She feels slightly fuzzy ,light headed and relieved as the milk drains out of her. The baby belches, leaving a thin stream of soured milk on her sleeve.
Stay calm and relax.
Some people say chocolate is not food, it’s just chocolate.
No husband has ever been shot while doing the dishes.

She arranges the fridge magnets one more time. It seems like she is always there in the house, just being there, being there with the baby. The occasional trip out, so she can be around other people,it fills the time.
To be continued..
Excuse me
 there are some crumbs in my short story.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Seven Wonders of Preston

I was driving up Gower St the other day. I alternate between Gower and Murray, just to vary the trip to Jess’s school and back. 
At a red light, in a car facing ours, I see a mum with her three girls. I know her but I can never remember her name, or the names of her daughters. The girls all go to high school now. There are P plates on the car window. The eldest daughter is learning to drive. My kids have known these girls since primary school. They have run in sports carnivals together, laughed together, been in the same class, and perhaps even swapped a lunch box fruit strap for a packet of chips at some point in time.*
This family, like many others that we know, are in the traffic-filled grid system of the lives that we live. Because we live in Preston, which is essentially a hole surrounded by traffic and filled with good people, traffic is our constant companion.
We inhabit the north side of Bell St. Bell St is a huge busy road. If you close your eyes, you can almost make believe that the traffic noise is the roar of the ocean. The smell of petrol fumes spoils the illusion though.
The Blue Illusion on Bell

Bell St is also the place where you see people standing and sniffing the air: It’s coming, they say as they sniff. Yep it’s definitely coming.
Many Prestonians agree that any day soon, the whiff of soy chai lattes will cross the Bell St divide and descend on our neighbourhood, our property prices will rise and Preston will have finally joined hipstergeddon.

Suburbs are often defined by a symbol, a flag or a logo which is indicative of the kind of the suburb that you are in. Hobson’s bay has a yacht, Brighton (though I have not seen it) probably has a silhouette of an ash blonde lady with slightly pursed lips.

The symbol of Northcote – two suburbs south of us – has its suburban symbol on a flag and it is circles drawn again and again, almost child like. Clearly, a group of local government workers got together and, after much consideration, drew a series of circles, as if to say: We are all in this together, we are all in this together. Given the ratio of not-for-profit workers and lesbians in Northcote, a concentric circle is indeed a fitting symbol. It’s all very right on there with its plethora of vegie patches, backyard chooks and hand crafted clothes peg holders –  all defining that Northcotians are in all in it together.

The next suburb up is Thornbury. Thornbury has a flag emblazoned with pink candy stripes, like you find on the canopy of a big tent. They gave the good people of Thornbury this symbol for their suburb, as they probably all want to run away to join the circus, because they don’t live in Northcote.

Next up is Preston. Ah Preston, you sassy suburb you. The symbol for Preston is not one, not two, but three shopping trolleys. Why three? Because the good people of Preston are essentially greedy bastards. And why wouldn’t we be? We have ‘the Land’ – a temple of consumerism. We flock there, and genuflect when Myers has a sale. There’s also the Preston Market. I was at market just the other day. At the butcher, there was an A3 laminated photograph of a baby, and underneath it the words ‘It’s a boy’. Though it did look tender, I still didn’t like to ask how much it cost per kilo. And we have Aldi, of course. We go in there for apples, dishwashing liquid and tomatoes and we come out with extendable garden shears, ski poles and a collapsible garden shed.

Me, the kids and two of our neighbours kids, have over the years created a tourist guide to Preston. It is the contemporary version of the Seven Wonders of the World. Obviously Aldi, the Preston market and ‘the Land’ are high on the Wonder list. Also on the list, is the intersection of St Georges and Murray Rds, fondly known as the Bermuda Triangle. Though there have never been any fatalities there, people have been known to go missing whilst waiting for the lights to turn green. 

The swing at the Park on Wood St is also included in the Seven Wonders. We call the swing at the park The Face Swing, because it has a face on it. We know it was put there by council for the families that can not afford to go to Luna Park in St Kilda. Fun? I’ve seen kids come off that swing cross- eyed.

Hot Bargains, close to the corner of Murray and High, nestled between the Ugg boot shop and Noodle Kingdom is number six on the Seven Wonders list. This shop should have a registry for every occasion: weddings, christenings, batmizfas. Everything I tell you, everything, can be bought there. 
When your child says: ‘Mum I need a costume by tomorrow morning and I have to go dressed as a Zimbabwe native dancer with Rastafarian tendencies’ There is no need for angst. No need to pull out the under utilised sewing machine, or scream banshee like, cursing public education and all the demands that it puts onto families. No, no, need at all. A visit to Hot Bargains, which is walking distance and on the main bus and train transport routes, and opens seven days a week – will without doubt stock ta dazzling aray of Zimbabwean Native Dancer crossed with Rastafarian tendencies costumes, and as the kindly Hot Bargains lady places it into a the plastic bag she will of course ask: would you like an inflatable pink elephant with that? Hot Bargains allows the proud people of Preston to feel truly blessed.

Number 7 on the roll call is our home renovation. We watched, eyes agog as the builder put the architecturally designed drawings into place. Gee, we all said, it’s all a bit posh for Murray Rd, isn’t it? Obviously doing the renovation was a good idea, not least because it gave James and me something to talk about, but also it meant that we could now say yes we have a deck, please come over for a BBQ on the deck.

James and I would ring each other up at work during the day. Just to confer on how the build was progressing: 

With so many lights, including a floodlight on the deck area, do you think maybe it will cause a power drain in West Preston? 
The windows are going in later this afternoon. Apparently they make a swoosh noise when you open them.
The carpenter who is doing the cupboards agrees with me on the importance of a neutral colour palette in the laundry so, yes,  we are going with marsupial grey. 

Towards the end of the build I glanced out of a the widow, whilst wiping down my new enormous bench and I saw sparks flying. I rushed out. What is that? Did we really agree to that? What exactly does it do? The builder, a lovely guy called Adam, smiled sweetly at my wide-eyed wonder. 

Justine he said, that is a steel reveal. It doesn’t do anything. It just sits around the edge of the window and over time it will rust.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was completely incomprehensible, and yet I had signed off enthusiastically on every suggestion that the architect had made. A steel reveal? Sounded awesome, but in reality  it was a complete waste of time, money and sparkly-Flashdance-soldering-iron energy.

However, the steel reveal did earn us a place as one of the Seven Wonders of Preston. Friends came over for BBQ's, scratched their heads and, like us, had no idea what it was for. 
Over the years I had wandered through the suburbs of Darebin,wondered through Northcote, Preston and beyond, and had become a 40+ year old Radio National–quoting, red lipstick–wearing community worker, building capacity along the way and telling jokes at any number of not for profit AGMs.
Post steel reveal though, I no longer lay awake at night wondering about the plight of refugees, or the homeless. I now lay awake at night wondering if the steel can reveal more than a reveal can steal.
Spotted gum deck and steal reveal
A bit posh for Murray Road

Just for the variety I did a crazy thing yesterday, I took a detour down Beauchamp Street. I discovered that it’s a really quick way to get to Woolworths. There’s a new sushi bar open at Preston Woolworth's, it's a bit pricey and clearly the Peoples Republic of Preston weren’t ready for something as exclusive as a sushi bar in their supermarket, because the sushi fridge at 4:27pm was still very full of a variety of exotic looking sushi items.

As I placed my shopping on the conveyor belt, Carol the quite smiley check out chick seemed dubious about the new sushi venture and commented that the people who ran the sushi bar were taking Woolworth’s longstanding staff members’ car parking spots in the morning.

A bit harsh really, I thought because Carol and her friend June, who unlike Carol is grumpy to the point of being obnoxious, have been checkout chicks at the Preston Woolworths for a very long time and despite the grumpiness have probably earned their parking privileges. 

So there we were, me and Carol discussing the arrival of the new sushi bar, when the mum who’s name I can’t remember begins to unload her shopping onto the conveyor belt next to my shopping.
Me and the mum smile to each other and comment on how we always see each other there. Then I glance down. It’s probably really not ok to do that, peer downwards at someone’s shopping, but I did. And when I glanced down, I noticed that the mum who’s name I can never remember had bought some of the sushi. 
I smiled at her but was at the same time thinking of the parking plight of poor Carol and June and countless other longstanding  checkout chicks and I said:
Your daughter will need that sushi now she’s learning to drive.

As I headed out to the car park, contemplating whether to go up Murray or Beauchamp I thought to myself: Seven Wonders are just not enough to justify the wonder that is Preston.

*Chips and fruit straps are only occasionally placed in my children's lunch boxes.

Friday, August 29, 2014


The hit you get in the beginning gives you this high. It’s the kind of high where you can smell the flowers without having to put them under your nostrils, a fluid in-touch-with-yourself floaty high, cooler than a cucumber and smarter than a smartie (but only the orange ones).

The thing is once you’ve tasted it, you want it again and again. But when you get the taste again , it never quite seems the same. It’s cool, but not quite as cool as the first time. So you take a risk, you say something off-script, you riff with an idea that’s not in the plot line. 

It’s the mixture of words, knowing the order that they should go in, of holding yourself in a particular way, of knowing which inflection to use, of pausing, of waiting, and then waiting just a little bit more, then the delivery – the beautiful delivery – of a beautiful punch line. You come out the other end and wonder, can you do it all again? Can you take yourself somewhere else again, just by making people laugh?  

After a while you realise that it’s actually not just the hit that you want, it’s an understanding too, an understanding of why one word, rather than another word works, of why a pause is often better than a word, of how allowing the audience fill in the gap is sometimes better than saying the whole joke out loud:

She arrived with two lemons in her suitcase.

It’s true, it happened. The details though, the back story, doesn’t matter. The image of someone arriving with only two lemons in her suitcase shimmers with opportunity. Do I tell the whole story, or just say the line knowingly, letting the audience fill in the gaps? It always depends on what the material surrounding the line is. Sometimes the whole story needs to be told, other times the sentence is suspended, held there as an offering of what might have been, before and afterwards as a consequence of arriving with two lemons in her suitcase.

I’m five shows in. Themes appear again and again: the not for profit sector, local, state and federal government funding, the kitchen bench, motherhood, marriage.

I work and rework the material to make it fresh, funnier than the last time. I spin it drier than the last time, weeding out more and more words, making each one count. Sometimes it’s really hard to get to the delivery end of the joke, the set up seems to take an age. I want to give the audience permission to laugh, but they have to wait, they have to be given the warp and the weft of each word, they have to wait for me to build the picture, to set the scene. I tantalize them with these words:

I remember this day, because this was the day I sneezed a piece of carrot out of my nose.

Pause. A very long pause.

I was working in a fruit and vegetable shop at the time. I looked at her, the woman I sneezed the carrot onto and she looked at me and I said:
We’ll not charge you for that piece of carrot.

Other lines open up saying one thing:

 I got on a plane once –starving.

Finishing with something unexpected:

Because I had an eating disorder.

Comedy has to take you somewhere you don’t expect to go. The more I write, the further away from the starting point I want to go: 
for the hit, for the funny, for the pleasure of finding the word that is seemingly unrelated to another and bringing it right back around again and linking it, to create the alchemy that is creating a great joke.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

In summing up

In my 30's I really wanted babies.
In my 40's I was desperate for a renovation.
Now I want only to be on TV - to validate my own existence. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Coming Out

Despite the husband, the two kids, the three chickens, two fish, a dog and the cat who we all call the tabby shite, I have decided to come out of the closet.
I have been in the closet for over 40 years, shrugging mainly.

Coming out of the closet has meant though, that I have had to start schlepping everywhere; to the supermarket, to the library, to the south side. Who can get matzo on the north side?

And kvetching? Don’t get me started. Kvetching about the weather. Kvetching about the price of fish. Kvetching about the possums in the roof.
Sadie tells me Justine, no need to kvetch, just get the rabbi over. Last time they had possums in the roof at his house, he gave them all a batmizvah and they never came back.

Kvetching here, kvetching there. The other day I go to Glicks bakery café with my friends. They know me here, I say, sit, sit.
We order, we eat. The waiter comes over and asks Today Mrs. Sless, is anything alright?

Justine my friends and family say, you’ve got chutzpah doing comedy.
Chutzpah? I say Chutzpah?
And I tell them,I saw this little old lady on the tram to St Kilda the other day. She was clutching her chest and said to the young girl seated in front of her, If you knew what I have, you would give me your seat.

The girl got up and gave up her seat. Then the young girl takes her magazine and starts fanning herself.

The little old lady says to the young girl, "If you knew what I have, you would give me that  newspaper so I could cool off."

The girl gives her the magazine.

A bit of time goes by, then the old lady gets up and says to the tram driver, I want to get off right here.

The tram driver says she will have to wait until he gets to the next stop.

The old lady clutches her chest again and tells him, If you knew what I have, you'd let me off right now.
The tram driver stops suddenly and everyone on the tram lurches forward. The tram driver tells the little old lady that she can get off the tram right away.
As the little old lady steps off the tram, the tram driver asks her, Ma'am, I hope you don't mind my asking, but what is it you have?

The little old lady replies: Chutzpah!

Excuse me there are challah crumbs in my comedy

But why now? my friends ask, why are coming out of the closet now?

Closet shcmoset, I say.
Because now, I am tired of remaining silent. After all these years. People are always looking at me, all of them asking, are you Greek? Are you Italian? 
It’s time to put things straight.
Now after all this time I look at them and I ask them: This nose? This hair? This humour?Am I Greek? Am I Italian? Are you kidding me?

I’m Jewish already.