Monday, 1 June 2009

Crying over spilt milk

It is fortunate, I suppose, when a change in plans for your day is evident first thing in the morning rather than later on. This morning's evidence was leaking steadily over the breakfast table in a ever-widening pool from the milk bottle the Resident Fan Boy had set in the centre in readiness for our bowls of cereal. He was gathering his things to leave for work, and I was about to toss younger daughter's lunch together for her school pack sack, when I suddenly noticed the puddling crisis and shrieked, "What on earth is going on?" The Resident Fan Boy panicked and snatched up the bottle, leaving the jagged bottom lying in a cascade of white. The bottle had been full, of course. We set about rescuing the clutter that always accumulates next to the place mats, then sopping up what we could with paper towels, before coating the table top with wood cleaner, and mopping up the floor. Later, as I transferred dripping towels and place mats to the laundry basket by the washer, I heard a steady plop...plop...plop... There was a drip falling steadily onto one of the cardboard boxes piled in the centre of the basement. Oh gawd, I thought, frantically scanning the pipes that criss-cross the ceiling, before realizing the drips were -- white. Some of milk had dripped through the floor boards. It was, as I said, a full bottle.

So, I had been planning to go downtown this morning, but have elected to stay home and sort through the rescued piles and launder stuff.

I think two posts for a month is a new low for me. It's not that I haven't had anything to write about, far from it, but I've been confronted with a series of hurdles, and somehow settling myself to compose a post seemed daunting beyond words.

Maybe I can catch up a little bit. Last week was the time allotted for the EQAO exams. Now here I will have to struggle not to be sidetracked into a lengthy rant because EQAO stands for "Educational Quality Assurance Office". I don't know about you, but that phrase makes me want to gag and reach for the throat of whatever suit came up with this efficient and expensive way to terrorize students and teachers alike. In Ontario, EQAO means three days of exams, given to Grade Threes and Grade Sixes. Marks from these exams don't count toward grades, and teachers are told not to "teach to the test", but the results are published in the papers and the schools ranked. Somehow, schools in neighbourhoods with university-educated parents do much better on these particular kinds of tests than schools in neighbourhoods with higher populations of immigrants. In the meantime, budgets for the arts and for special education are being slashed. Must...stop...myself...

After eight years hanging around the elementary school, I've noticed that teachers don't have time to supervise any students not taking the exams. Five years ago, I was working in the library when one of elder daughter's classmates wandered aimlessly through. "Where are you supposed to be, luv?" "I don't know..." So, I figured that while younger daughter's classmates engaged in this useless exercise of proving their institution is mostly full of privileged, university-bound kids, I'd simply pull her from school and take her to the Ottawa Children's Festival. In our nine years here, we've never been. It's either been at an awkward time, an awkward location, or both.

On Wednesday, I took her to Oz, an English translation of a French production by the small francophone Ottawa company Vox Théâtre, based on the original Frank L. Baum story, not the movie. And it was charming, very folksy and very Québecois. This You-Tube video of the French production will give you a pretty good idea of the flavour: It's just two middle-aged actors, one playing Dorothy, the other everyone else. They had questions afterward from kids in school groups mostly and one bright spark asked the male actor if he had worn a mask when he played the witch. I think the actor was amused...

The next day, we attended Run Chicken Run by Gruppe 38. This was like Beckett for families. Yes, I mean Samuel Beckett, as in Waiting for Godot and Endgame. Throughout the play, a man inside a sort of bank of hatches lives out a series of fantasies: feeding various farm animals, baking bread, driving a race car, searching for his fishing line under the ocean. The oddest one has to be when he is confronted by several mice who have set up a rave in one of his hatches. We never see the mice, of course, we only hear pulsing techno-dance music and see multicoloured lights reflected in the astonished face of our hero as he pleads with the mice to tone it down. Finally, he gives up, closes the hatch, and turns on the blender... He sticks a finger gingerly into the hatch and it comes up smeared in red which he thoughtfully sucks. There was an age limitation for this production, obviously. Six for accompanied children and eight for school groups. There didn't seem to be any school groups at our show, just what I presumed to be home-schoolers (they kept piping up with questions and comments to their parents throughout the show), and some men from an adult group home who made the most extraordinary noises. Fortunately, since the story (such as it was) was set in a barnyard, the sounds actually fit right in.

Run Chicken Run is based on "a well-known children's song book". It was never explained well-known to whom, presumably to Danish children and their parents. Younger daughter had a marvelous time and later reported to her teacher that this was her favourite of the two plays. For my part, I was seated on an excruciatingly uncomfortable bench which made me feel that my back was bending the wrong way, and yet I was totally engaged in the performance. Surreality evidently suits us.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some more milk dribbles to wipe up and sodden towels to launder.


Jane Henry said...

Oh look it's the crocs from Marie's blog (-: Oh I love the look of that, totally dappy. Oz as Guitar. Genius.

Glad you could take your daughter out for the day and do something sensible. Have had my 11 yr old doing equally useless SATs just before half term. Complete and utter waste of time. And now they're done there'll be no teaching till they start secondary school in Sept.

With you all the way sister!
Hope things better soonxx

JoeinVegas said...

It's nice that you go to live performances like that -