This weekend J's baby sister came to visit. She's 16 and lives about an hour out of Melbourne, so we got the spare room (aka the laundry room) ready and settled down to do things teenage style. And Geek style, but that's not such a change from our usual style.
On Saturday we baked brownies and made popcorn and settled in for a Sherlock marathon. The Benedict Cumberbatch version, which we girls both love for two reasons, and we were happy to introduce J to them. They're kinda sharp and pasty coloured, situated below two colour changing eyes, and very close to a thin lipped mouth that spits out dialogue so fast and fancy...sigh! J had plenty of fun mocking our squeeing and gasping. Ended up being a late but happy night.
Sunday morning we headed out to watch our first Quidditch games, at Fawkner Park in South Yarra. The Australian Quidditch Association has brought the game to Australia and there are six teams now playing in Victoria. Some Victorians even got to travel to London to play demo games at the Olympics in 2012.
Just like in Harry Potter, each team is made up of Chasers, Beaters, a Keeper and a Seeker, designated by their headbands. The Chasers throw a Quaffle around and try to score points through the hoops at each end. The Beaters throw Bludgers around (in the Harry Potter world, these balls are hit by bats, but for safety, the bats are not used in Muggle Quidditch) attempting to distract and de-broom the Chasers. The Keepers are meant to defend their goal hoops, but the Keepers we saw were easily lured away from their hoops. All players are required to keep their broom between their legs at all times.
It's a fast moving and physical game, which includes tackling, but only when the two opponents are facing each other. The broom sticks add an unexpectedly difficult factor to the game. It's a big challenge to sprint up and down the pitch, especially while holding the broom stick. Most players subbed on and off regularly, breathing heavily. There's also the safety factor. Hence the tackling rule. And the mouth guards. The broom sticks are made of bamboo, and shatter easily, without creating splinters. We still saw several players winded and I could see how adding a wooden stick to the collisions between sprinting players could be really dangerous.
To conclude the game, the Seekers have to catch the Golden Snitch, who is not a ball, but a person, wearing yellow shorts with a tail attached. Just like some forms of touch rugby, the aim is pull the tail off the Snitch. Unlike in Harry Potter, the Snitch is worth 30 points. The game starts with all players kneeling in front of their goals, heads down, brooms down and eyes closed. The Snitch runs away and hides. The Seekers stand by, watching and then head off to find the Snitch, who may have jumped on public transport, hidden in a lecture theatre, changed clothes...
We watched two games and then little sis got to play in a Come and Try match. No tackling in a Come and Try, and no Seekers or Snitch, either. Little sis got to play as a Beater, and enjoyed it immensely, although i think she'd prefer to play as a Seeker. It definitely requires lots of skill, handling the ball one handed and running with a broom. We were all really impressed at the proper equipment, uniforms and team work. Not to mention the fast moving and sometimes chaotic game!
Sunday afternoon we got to introduce the young 'un to one of our favourite forms of Geekery, Firefly. Yes, we both grew up with learning about strong female characters and twisty plot lines from Joss Whedon and Firefly is undoubtedly his best work. (Yes, I said it!) Cowboys and space ships, Preachers and Companions, brilliant dialogue, great scenery, what's not to love. Look what happens when a network gives a creative genius free reign (before second guessing that freedom and cancelling the show before the end of the first season).
Of course, having a house guest with four dogs in the house is always a challenge. We learnt a couple of lessons this weekend. Introducing dogs to new folks, understanding a person's comfort zone, and encouraging good manners in the dogs while food is around.
Firstly, we assumed that little sis would be very comfortable with dogs because she has three dogs at home. However, she felt that our huskies were a vast deal bigger and more intimidating than her labs and whippet. Stupid of us to assume and not ask. The huskies were excited, little sis was getting stressed out and this was hyping the dogs up more. Here's my tip for this sort of situation: sit at the dining room table. For most people, its the jumping, with its attendant face licking, scratching and invasion of personal space, that they dislike about meeting dogs. Sitting at the dining room table protects the face and front of the body. The dogs can still sniff the feet and legs, and the sides, but can't get anywhere else. The dogs quickly calmed down, sniffed their fill of little sis's legs and didn't jump on her for the rest of her stay. She got to meet them without more than two being able to approach at a time, which greatly helped.
Secondly, because we've spent a fair bit of time on the couch, we've had to reinforce the dogs' manners. Huskies and their stubbornness. Usually if we are eating, the huskies are crated or outside, but if not, we can guarantee that they'll always come looking to see if there's any for them. Even though they NEVER get fed from our plates, they ALWAYS come looking for some. Ishka in particular is very prone to leaning on people, slowly increasing the pressure. So, we've spent a lot of time this weekend saying Leave! And having to follow it up!
Maybe one day we will have huskies with great manners... But I think we need a few more house guests to keep practicing some of these skills!