Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sweet Relief

For the first time ever, 'sweet relief' does not relate to my daily intake - and inhalation - of chocolate.

Instead, two days before Christmas, someone made an offer for our house that we accepted with a swirling combination of relief, sadness, resentment and joy.

Bearing in mind that our previous buyers 'cooled off' on the day of LC's mother's funeral, it didn't feel as though we'd actually sold the place until the official ending of said cooling off period - midnight on Christmas Eve. I experienced the same tummy flutterings, hot-scratchy-pillow insomnia and pounding heart as I'd done earlier in the year before running a workshop. This time, however, a fair bit more was at stake - crippling interest rates, frightening levels of bridging finance and the sickening thought of having to resort to 'working' the Docklands in a strikingly less socially-acceptable manner than Love Chunks at the weather bureau.













Had the buyers ripped us off, were they laughing at us and our desperation, mocking our efforst to present our home as well as we were able?

Either genuinely or expertly, our agent eased our fears when she described the family who'd be moving in. Dad was helping his daughter and son-in-law land "the place of their dreams" and their two five-year-old boys have enrolled at Sapphire's school. The agent arrived at the father's house (only a street away from this one) with the contracts to find the entire extended family there along with strong syrupy coffee, baklava and Greek custard pastries. One lawyer son read the documents thoroughly, the other interrogated her regarding the intracies of conveyancing and settlement and the daughter asked if we'd be prepared to leave our three chickens there for them. Too right!

Interestingly, the new owners have a goat. Yes, a goat that they also want to bring over from Glynde to Trinity Gardens. Thankfully, being single, he (or she) won't be prone to acting out rather grotesque and rapid sex scenes when they're startled, but is still likely to churn through the lawn, ring-bark the fruit trees and get drunk on the wild plums. Not to mention their natural naughtiness, piercingly loud bleating and highly evolved capacity to escape and wreak havoc in the neighbourhood......

Oh well, it's no longer my problem. A day earlier, we put an advertisement in the Trading Post for our gym equipment, including my trusty treadmill. A perky young couple promptly bought the lot, resolving to each other that 2009 was to be their year of fitness and strength - especially apt considering that they were planning to hoik the treadie (which weighs roughly the equivalent of three 'Biggest Loser' contestants) up the stairs of their West Lakes townhouse.

As such, I'm back on the streets. Running, of course. Back to looking over my shoulder for passing cars, trucks hooning around corners and elderly Italian men out power walking with umbrellas as anti-mugging devices. Back to percussive farting that is embarrassingly audible to pensioners giving their lawns an early-morning spray and to tubby drivers of white delivery vans. Back to heaving up Magill Road as eager, whippet-thin cyclists rapidly churn on all the way up to Norton Summit. Back to believing I've got the form of a sprinting goddess until my lumpy physique is revealed in the reflective window of Anastasia's pink-themed beauty parlour next to Home Hardware.

Whatever: I'm still out there, still running, still keeping on, still looking forward. Happy New Year to youse all.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Now sit right back and you’ll hear a tale; a tale of a fateful trip….

My best mate Jill is a power-walker extraordinaire. Put it this way – she’s already worn out her hips and she’s only forty; lesser walkers who are only doing it to catch up on their way to a coffee shop are left floundering in her wake; no-one in living memory has been known to overtake her; and every kelpie or blue heeler she's ever owned has slept for days afterwards.

So, when she asked if I’d like to do the climb from Waterfall Gully to Mt Lofty I was honoured, somewhat nervous, ready to gracefully accept an arse-kicking and said, “Yeah, I’ll meet you at your house on Monday.”

We drove in Jill’s car to the Waterfall Gully car parking area and set off. Jill had those ski pole walking stick thingies in anticipation of the climb – and descent – ahead of us. I completed our rather dorky look by wearing a bum-bag* so that we had somewhere to put the keys and a bottle of water.

My running and power-walking on the treadmill helped me keep up and we passed many a struggling walker. We were Women On A Mission: to get to the café, enjoy the view, congratulate ourselves for possessing such strength and fitness, have a coffee and get down again. It was about five kilometres each way and equaled a solid, hour-and-a-half workout that would have our thighs and buns burning for days afterwards.

And it did……

We powered on and up, passing amateurs such as the Burnside Bendy Wendies who were all about the make up and jangling charm bracelets heavier-than-their-heads than doing any real exercise. Or the North Adelaide Nigels who were convinced they still ‘had it’ at sixty and a slow walk up a big hill wearing shorts with waistbands under their moobs plus a black Cayenne would convince the rest of us; and the Cuddly Couples who started the journey holding hands but flung them away as soon as the sweat started pouring and He realised that She lied when she wittered on about ladies only glowing when they in fact sweat like virginal ruck rovers during a SAPSASA under-seventeen footy match.

Jill sighted the white observatory first and planted her foot proudly on the benches overlooking the city of Adelaide. “Drink it in, Plugger. Soon you’ll be in---“ she could barely bring herself to say the word out loud “----Melbourne and will dreamin’ of seeing something as beautiful as this.”

I drained my much-re-filled Mt Franklin bottle** and said, “Yeah yeah, let’s get a coffee and have a wee before the downhill run, eh?”

You know when you’re served by one of those sullen-faced, will-not-smile-even-if-you-smile-at-them-first-AND-say-a-heartfelt-thank-you types who sometimes work at cafes? Well, we struck one: a clear case of the ‘My job as a barista would be sooooo much better if there weren’t any annoying customers to deal with’ young gal with a monobrow to rival a Gallagher and an expression darker than the brown shirt she was wearing to partially disguised the chocolate powder spills on her front.

“Here’s your bigo cappo Jill, no thanks to Chuckle Trousers over there,” I nodded back over my shoulder in the direction of, yes, Chuckle Trousers. We then passed a few companionable minutes talking about the worst customer service jobs we’d ever had and how we’d vow right on that very spot that we’d never, ever volunteer to man any kind of front counter, enquiry line or FAQ update ever again: “We’re forty, we’ve done that and now it’s our time to hide in an office somewhere avoiding anyone we don’t like.”

All too soon it was time to trek the five kilometres downhill. Jill’s poncy ski-pole walking sticks came in handy. As she discovered rather painfully a few walks ago, there’s nothing fun in sliding down gravel and sticks a hundred metres on your arse clad in nothing but lycra to make you realise that those plodding pensioners with poles were onto something good.

By the time we returned to the Waterfall Gully car park we were both drenched in sweat and dying for a drink. So keen were we for a drop that we actually dashed into the dreadfully decrepit public toilets, had a slurp from the taps and got ready to leave. With unconscious confidence and faith, I unzipped the top flap of my bum-bag.

No keys. I unzipped the lower segment.

No keys.

“Did I give them to you, Jill?” I asked calmly, patting myself down in the vain hope that my leggings might reveal a secret pocket containing a set of commodore keys.

“No, you pompously said, ‘Give those to me to hold, young girlie, I’ll keep them safe and you’ll have your hands free’ and then you put them in your bum-bag.”

Oh. Poo.

“Oh Poo! They must have slipped out when I got the water bottle out.”

“And where was that?”

Oh Poo Bum Bugger Shit Fart. “I errmm,” I used my sneakered toe to bashfully scuff the ground between us. “I um, saved my drink until we got to the very top.”

Jill started to laugh. “Well, let’s contact 'ol Chuckle Trousers at the café and see if she’s found the keys there.”

It took several minutes of discussions and giggling to work out how we were going to find the number of the café that we didn’t actually know the name of. It was with a great sense of relief that I realised that I’d actually remembered to bring my phone (bottom flap of bum-bag) and rang Love Chunks at work, asking him to google the café and tell me the number. “Call it out to me and I’ll write it down,” said Jill eagerly, grabbing some old cigarette butts and preparing to scrawl out some numbers in ash on the cement.

“Jill, sweetie? Love Chunks reckons he can just SMS me the number, so you can put the fag ends down.” She looked a tiny bit disappointed to me.

Chuckle Trousers soon confirmed that yes, the café had found the keys. Jill frantically tapped me on the shoulder, miming out the following: “Jill walks up here every Monday and says there are loads of regulars whom she sees who doing the same trek who also stop and have a coffee there and they all look kind, trustworthy and helpful. Could you possibly find one and give them our keys and we’ll meet them halfway up?”

Sounded like a PLAN!

“No.”

Oh. We shrugged and started the hard climb up to Mt Lofty for the second time. Two kilometres into it, we were sweating on top of our old sweat and encountered a Cuddly Couple we’d greeted coming up on our way down. They were impressed.
“Crikey, you girls are fit!” the guy said.
“Yeah, we’re gearing up for Kokoda,” Jill shot back.

Just as it appeared that he believed us, my inability to lie took over. “No, not really. I left the car keys up there and we have to go up there to get them.” Their mocking, self-righteous and - quite frankly - cruel and insensitive laughter echoed across the waterfall.

Halfway and my nose was nearly touching the dirt in my efforts to keep pushing upwards. Jill was wheezing (when she wasn’t laughing) and we stopped. “Why don’t we climb back down, hang around the car park and ask someone for a lift back to Glynburn Road, then we can walk back to Erindale, grab my car, drive up to Mt Lofty, get the car keys, drive down to the car park so that you can get your car and I’ll meet you back at your place?”

Sounded like an ever BETTER plan!

We poled it on down, and hung around. Not a friggin’ human soul within Coooee and I fancied several tumbleweeds rolled by. “Well, let’s keep walking and maybe stick our thumbs out.”
"Or our bums, if it helps."

Eight more kilometres later and no cars willing to pick up two extremely BO-ey, irrationally laughing and singing women, we staggered into Jill’s front garden. “Thank God,” she sighed, “My hips are killing me.”

“Yeah and I’ve got blisters on top of my blisters that have already filled up with blood and popped and the skin’s gone all white and wrinkled and then folded over to tear into some undamaged skin to let it sting like salt and razor blades have slashed it only to allow another new blister to appear underneath it and----“

Jill held up her hand to stop me going further. The other was reaching high up above her head to where the house key was supposed to be hidden. “You’re not going to believe this, but it’s not there. Bloody kids know they have to put the key back when they use it. That’s IT. I’m going round the back to kick the door in.”

I scurried along beside her until we passed by the open bathroom window. “Jill, stop! JILL! Your bathroom window is open, look! We’ll be able to climb inside.”

Stopped in her tracks, she was silent, but scarily determined. “Stand back Kath, this won’t be pretty.”

But strangely, it was. She’d managed to wedge her left leg over the windowsill so that it rested on top of the cistern inside, and her right leg was splayed behind her; looking for all the world like a hurdler caught in ultra-slow motion. “Shit, I can’t get my head in!”

It was my turn. This time I shoved my sweaty scone in first along with my right leg.

Sper-loonk! The lid of the cistern was disturbed, flipped sideways and my foot landed in the toilet water. I ignored the urge to go “Eww eww eww” and surveyed the scene inside. Lifting my foot out of the top of the toilet I aimed for the basin and edged forward, bringing my back leg inside. All that was left outside was my oversized arse, like a dark double moon, in navy blue lycra. “Hey,” Jill commented, “They’re Nike leggings. They’re nice. Where did you get them?”

“Um, it’s escaped me right now, mate, maybe it'll come back to me in a minute.” I had visions of smacking my face on the basin or headbutting the bathtaps. In the end it all happened rather quickly: my newly-inserted left leg slipped alarmingly quickly down the edge of the bath and my right touched the floor giving me a reverse wedgie that reminded me all too much of the rigours of childbirth. “Fark!” Then, in a more surprised tone, “Hey Jill, I’m IN!”

Once again, she almost seemed a tad disappointed. Writing with cigarette butts and kicking in doors were clearly on her ‘Must do before I die list’ and would now have to wait until later. She looked happier about things after we’d both had three heavily buttered slices of fruit toast and two cups of tea each.

My arm pits were starting to honk. “Geez Jill, I stink. And – god love you – so do YOU.” I glanced at my watch: 2pm. What was going to take us an hour-and-a-half straight after school drop off took five hours.

And it was the most fun I’d had in ages.



















*
Bum-bag
- Yeah, I know, it's not 1990 any more and Collette isn't ringing her bell these days either. But they're really handy to put your iPod, car keys, phone and water bottle in. So there.

** Every six months or so, I'll buy some bottled water. Grudgingly, and only because the one I'm currently using has become so manky that even I'm embarrassed by it. Then I'll rinse and refill the new one over and over again until it's time to replace it. So there again.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Blunk Drogging

Sapphire's at her friend's 10th birthday sleepover party and Love Chunks left a few hours ago for Melbourne leaving me as the only human being at home for the second time since Sapphire entered this world purply-blue, too exhausted to cry and with a slight red mark across her face due to the doctor's rather rough and ready use of the forceps.

It's a lovely summer night here in South Australia. Calm, quiet, warm and the ants - bless their busy little bodies - have finally stopped working and gone to bed.

I figured this out because, as the lone human in the house tonight, I sat outside on our lush green lawn* drinking our leftover Rose and trying to soak in the peaceful atmosphere despite being bitten on the earlobe by a mischievious mosquito. No ants came to attack my glass or my person which is unusual here - normally they're all over the dog's crunchies before I've finished placing her dish on the pavers.

Milly is gnawing away on a lamb bone; the one with the weird circular knob at the end which presumably means it's a thigh that fits into a hip bone. Skipper the rabbit is nibbling at the grass and occasionally standing on his back legs to dramatically sniff the air and the chooks (Hermoine, Luna and Ginny) are gleefully pecking at the fresh handfuls of grapevine leaves I've thrown into their coop.
The Rose tastes especially fruity and sweet this evening and I have another. I lie back, spilling a bit down my front but who cares I'm not out to impress anyone with my table manners, smoking hot body or witty banter this evening, and I look up at the sky. No stars out yet, just a few streaks left from some stray Qantas carriers and some tardy rosellas heading back to the hills, squawking their version of the days' events to each other.

I sit up awkwardly to keep sipping the wine. No house sale yet, just three interested buyers who are either:
a) trying to figure out if they can lose our clothesline, vege beds and chook house and put an in-ground pool in there instead;
b) still grappling with the bank to work out how they can arrange finance between themselves and their grown son who will live here; and
c) nervously awaiting a contract of offer on their own house and for the two days 'cooling off' period to have been and gone before doing anything about ours.

Did I say already how truly excellent, really excellent this stuff is to drink? No? Well it is, believe me, I'll find out the brand and maker and get back to you. Anyhow, as for the house sale, I'll believe it all when I see some names on a goodamn contract and the completion of the stupid cooling off days...... Bugger, my ear is really starting to itch and it's hard to do so with these pesky gold hoops in.

I might jusht go inshide and get another glassh of thish wonderful roshe.....

Oops, dropped the glassh. It'ss out here shomewhere...... Maybe I'll jusht go back inshide and shtart doing that inventory thingy that the removalishts want ush to do. It'sh the perfect time and I feel jusht ssssho alert and organished for shuch a reshponshible tashk......








*Calm down: it's watered by an underground dripper system via the rainwater tanks.
UPDATE - there's an upside to being old, at home alone and a ridiculously cheap drunk - the 'hangover' was over and done with way before my 10:30pm bedtime!

Friday, December 12, 2008

If you're not doing anything of value today at 2pm, South Australian time.......
















....and you're suffering from that mid-afternoon, slightly sulky, 'We didn't have a Christmas lunch to go to today' slump and are feeling like a bit of something sweet to go with your staff kitchen International roast or lipton tea, then feel free to turn on your radio or visit
5AA to hear me chat with Amanda Blair and Monique Bowley about my most favourite food group - chocolate.

Or the narrower topic Christmas chocolate, if the planned discussions go according to plan, which they almost never do.

If you're feeling even more slumpish but still possess enough energy for evil-doing,
give me a call during the show to start up a debate about the relaunched Cadbury Old Gold Range, or why in gods' name we don't get Whittaker's 62% dark with Cocoa Nibs here in Australia and surely Wagon Wheels are smaller than they used to be? And other such thought-provoking and socially-essential questions that will only make the challenges of mankind much easier and lighter.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Wordfire With Franzy And Mele Was The Greatest Night Of My Life......"

....is the title hinted at by Franzy as one I should use in today's blog article. I thought to myself, "Self, it's as good as any, so why not?"

In fact, this year has given me more than my fair share of ups and downs and I'd like to hope that next year is a tad more Even-Steven because even an overly-caffeinated crackhead with a middle ear infection can tire of an endless rollercoaster ride loosely termed as normal life, but, and yes, this sentence will end pretty soon, through this humble blog I have had the honour of meeting some truly amazing people that it is very likely I would never ever have had the good fortune to meet otherwise.

And thus, Monday night found us packing young Sapphire off to her mate Maya's for a Monday Night Sleepover. This was not difficult; in fact it was about as difficult as asking Pamela Anderson to not wear pants because a school night sleepover is waaaaay cool. Love Chunks and I then made the momentous decision to take the bus into the city so that we both could drink. I know, could us young kids be any wilder and crazier?

That's right dear reader; we were Out There in the heavingly busy Adelaide social stratosphere, on a weeknight. Together. Not at a school meeting, karate class or sitting in the park while a stranger was having a second look inside our house but going to a real social event. And that event was Franzy's Wordfire at the Crown and Sceptre.















We almost ended up at the Club X peep show for a moment there. La Trattoria has a take-away pizza and gelati shop on one side and a sit-down restaurant at the other and let's just say that the staircase in the middle leading skywards was not where the wood-fire oven was located. LC did a passable impression of being puzzled that this was not the case and seemed contented enough to move back to the left and order a marinara and cold chardonnay.

A little later, we walked through the front bar of the Crown and Sceptre, feeling a bit stalkerish, nervous and well, kinda old and daggy. What were sensible, forty-something suburbanites like us doing in a pub on a Monday night? What on earth were we doing going to a literary event when, at times, The Sunday Fail was difficult to interpret? Why had I bothered to put on mascara?

All silly worrying for naught. I recognised Franzy straight away, even though he was sporting an approximation of a beard and not wearing his yellow clogs - perhaps they weren't the most appropriate footwear when reading an excerpt from an almost-finished book and then having to step down from the podium with confidence and grace. His wife, Mele, was also recognisable from Franzy's blog about their wedding photos but looked even more beautiful. To top it all off, I saw Myninjacockle rock up - broad grin, coke in hand and clearly just as excited as we were to be out on the town long after the demise of the 4pm express bus time. We sat next to Franzy's folks (just as cool as I'd imagined) and heard their progeny and progeny-in-law read. Both were brilliant and made me realise yet again just how much talent there is 'out there' and how lucky I was to have just witnessed some of it.

All too soon the readings were over, and a nervous musical threesome called 'Blind Mary' were about to make their inaugural debut. I really should hunt them down (in a nice way) and sincerely apologise to them for chattering on throughout their rather lovely traditional Irish set - Love Chunks tells me that I earned some - wait for it - stern looks - from fans of Blind Mary sitting up the front who wanted me to either shut up or jump through the window. I chose the latter option so that we bloggers could shoot the breeze outside. Besides, the window didn't have any glass and it was relatively easy to climb through and not spill a drop of wine doing it.

Irish fiddle-de-deeing about suffering through the potato famine and a broken heart would just have to wait for another day - I was just too thrilled to meet two of my utterly favourite bloggers and discover that they are just the kind of blokes I'd want as friends in real life. Oh and the same goes for RedCap and Ashleigh too. At the insanely late hour of 10:30pm Love Chunks and I reluctantly headed for home - we had an early start in the morning - via the 106 bus.

What a bugger I'll be leaving South Oz for Phlemington next month but thank God (or the banana) for the blogosphere, email and the occasional crazy airfare sales.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Humphrey B Bear's rightful address

On Sunday Sapphire had her music teacher's student concert at a location which sounds as though it really should be the address of a non-threatening, cute (and mercifully mute) children's entertainer like Humphrey B Bear - Cudlee Creek.

This is not to be confused with another cute-sounding place located in Victoria - Dingley Village; which might in fact be better suited to providing employment and lodgings to failed reality TV show contestants or retired university administrators. However, at Cudlee Creek tavern yesterday, they were clearly happy to put up with Coopers Brewery mis-spelling their name as 'Cuddly Creek' in order to score a free blackboard.









It's the kind of pub that reminds me of the very few meals we ate out in a 'restaurant' as a family in the 1970s - maroon velvet and white lace curtains, some home-made Copper-beaten ships on the walls, plastic flower arrangements, wood panelling and ceiling beams and oval plates made for buffets and clumsy dishwashers. In my family's case, it was the Murray Bridge Golf Club when Dad scored a hole in one. "Chicken Maryland and fruit punch number FORTY TWO!" Doreen would yell across the stained axminster and pool tables towards the Countdown-style cane chairs and tables. It was where I saw my year three teacher Miss Ruys light up a cigarette, smoke it and kiss her boyfriend. Heady times indeed....

Back to Cuddlee Creek. Love Chunks and I decided to suspend our natural Spelling Police duties ala the blackboard and enjoy the concert. The first half was to commence before a buffet lunch and carvery with the second half after dessert. Poor Sapphire's nerves were frayed enough for her to reject her usually-loved fresh bread rolls, soup and salads for a few wilted peas and chopped carrots.

Her music teacher, Daniel, kicked off the concert, reminding me yet again of a wizard wearing a batik shirt instead of a rock band member and hobby farmer from the hills.

Being third-to-last on a musical programme that was featuring such performances as Hava Nagila played on keyboards by a six year old, a fetching Hungarian rhapsody on the accordian by an eleven year old, This is Teen Spirit on electric guitar by a nine year old and a thirteen year old's own composition on synthesiser immediately following his version of I yi-yi-y (Clelito Lindo), Sapphire was fidgety but quiet.

Soon enough though the buffet (featuring a limp carvery, ancient warmed-again potatoes and beetroot right out of the tin) was cleared for freshly-thawed out cheesecake and Christmas pudding and a pavlova straight outta the box slathered in cream.

Then, she was on, for her first of three items. 'Can You Feel The Love Tonight' on guitar:

















...followed by Hark the Herald Angels Sing on recorder.....
..... and what should have been 'Jingle Bells' sung by Kirsten with Sapph's backing on the recorder but ended up being just Sapph and a red-faced and silent Kirsten hiding behind the music stand instead.

All were played so beautifully that it's almost impossible to write how much it made my heart actually hurt - yes hurt or ache - with pride, love, amazement, indigestion from the dodgy lamb carvery - however you want to describe it. As Daniel said after she left the stage (actually just the stickiest patch of carpet in front of the blackboard), "Half of my students are adults, but not one of them had the guts to get up here today and perform."
And yes he was staring straight at Love Chunks, who blushed, fumbled and somehow dropped and smashed his glass of sparkling shiraz and earned a disapproving look from the waitress for damaging elderly hotel property.

To be honest, he was just trying to set the tone for the adult entertainment about to start - Daniel's rock band, The Crush. They were bloody good too - he added that extra 'oomph' on keyboards and I found myself singing along lustily, jiggling Sapphire on my knee: "Don't change a thing for me...."

However it had been a l-o-n-g while since I've been to a live gig, and certainly not at 4pm on a Sunday afternoon and not whilst drinking diet coke and cappuccino with a recorder nearby in case the melody grabbed me....

....and most certainly not with a nine year old who eventually succumbed to a post-performance stomach ache and wanted to go home, have a shower and play with her Beanie kids.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Lobbing one on Love Chunks

A day-dreaming driver, gazing into the distance beyond the green 'turn right' traffic light, was far far away from the yellow Honda Jazz that was currently housing her physical body.

"Come on, come ON lady!" Love Chunks cursed, and she eventually roused herself, turned onto Nelson Street and gave us a micro-nano-second to zoom in behind before the red light camera flashed.

"Now now dear," I said to my beloved, patting his knee patronisingly. "We're only driving to the bakery for a pasty and some iced coffee; there's no need to be so impatient." I warmed to my own theme, adding, "And let's face it: it's not like we have a beating human heart on ice here in the car with us."

"Not yet anyway," he bounced back, pinching me. Warming to his own theme, he added, "And besides, I can be mean to you today, because ---" he tapped me on the arm and smiled broadly, blue eyes twinkling cheekily -- "I got me some lovin' last night."

"Yeah well, remember when your birthday is, buddy."

"October the 2nd?"

"Yep."

"Oh. Well, I guess I'm destined to live out the married man's equivalent of foreplay."

"What's that?"

"On my knees.......begging."

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The x-rays are IN




















Love Chunks' chest is fine. No fibroids detected, just a 'thickening' due to the bronchitis he suffered from a couple of months ago and some left over scarring. This is a rather nice result to get considering that last week he was asked if he'd been working with asbestos and needed his bladder infection to clear up before the medicos could get another squizz at his two supposedly dodgy airbags.

He got the call from his doctor this morning and we stood there in our kitchen, hugging each other tightly and silently for a long time. Then Milly sauntered in; stomach and tail waggling and flexing on opposite sides to each other and she used her wet nose to nudge us both in the calf muscles, her typical, "I'll have what you're having" move. This always causes us to laugh and bend down to ruffle her ears and give her the attention she's asking for.

We then went back to the bank to sign the paperwork required for sending off a $59,000 cheque to our Flemington home-minders, an increase in our current mortgage and, most frighteningly, a 'bridging loan' that is roughly seven times what we owe right now. Our signatures looked rather wobbly and intelligible when signing our lives away for that last bit. Still, as Love Chunks said a few minutes later as we wandered up and down the greeting card aisle of the newsagent, "It's our first bit of good news in a while."

When I asked who the card was for, he waggled a Lonely Planet picture of two adult elephants standing either side of a baby elephant and said, "For your parents, actually. I want to let them know how much I appreciate how they've provided me with such great support and understanding. Not just because of my Mum's cancer battle but because, really, they are my parents too."

Later, back at home tapping away on his work laptop at the kitchen bench, he called out, "...and I really should add a comment to your blog, thanking everyone for their concern about my health, but access to your blog and other fun stuff is blocked on my work computer...." And this from the bloke who'd only said last week that I'd made him out to be a saint on this 'ere forum, when he was anything but. "Fine," I replied, "I'm more than happy to let them know that you get unreasonably stroppy when you're hungry; you burp at the dinner table in a far louder and more dramatic manner than you need to and you're overly fond of writing 'Angry from Trinity Gardens' letters to editors, local politicians and community groups. How's that for starters?"

He pretended to be mortally wounded, clutching at his (thankfully sturdy and in good nick) heart, chest and lung area.

"Hey," he called out to me from the kitchen again, disturbing my essential and riveting review I was drafting on the latest Taylor Swift CD from my 'office' in the third bedroom. "Hey, have you got any of those Lindt balls left from the 400g box you bought yesterday?"
"Er, yeah. What flavour do you want?"
"Oh any." I went out, blushing, and shyly handed him three dark blue ones.
"Is this all that's left or is this all you're prepared to give me?"
"Er, the former." My face grew redder and I tried not to meet his eye.

Somehow we found ourselves in a tight hug in the same spot in the kitchen as we had earlier, again silently celebrating what we have together. Then Milly came in, dropped a ginormous Chum fart and completely ruined the moment: "Bloody hell! go push the window up while I open the screen door at the front."

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Mindless Minutae

Lifting my gaze up and away from my own navel for a moment ("I can actually see it now - finally, the book fat has gone!"), a routine drive into the city to run a few errands always provides a few visual snapshots that can readily be transferred to words. At least I think so, anyway.

Crossing Flinders Street late this morning was a sweaty, red-faced young man who clearly looked very annoyed. I wondered why - the zebra crossing was buzzing with happy office workers holding buckets of takeaway coffee and scads of smugly organised Christmas shoppers and the sun was out, readying itself for a balmy, blue-skied 25C day. Perhaps it was the enormous caramel-coloured fur jumpsuit he was wearing and the struggles he was having with the cartoon cat's head tucked awkwardly under his arm. Either that or he was still recovering from hearing Beyonce's latest 'song' telling some fortunate bloke who escaped her clutches: "If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it..."

No matter. There were more pressing matters occupying my attention - finding a car park. I loathe paying for parking and seeing even a 15 minute spot that requires payment causes blood and fury to leak out of my eyeballs. Then I spotted it - a 10 minute loading zone, right next to the Independent Weekly office. Could I do it? Could I do what I have only managed to do once in my life, and that was back in 1985; could I *deep breaths, stay calm* squeeze the station wagon in the slot by *whew* parallel parking?

Nope. I drove on by, sweating like a pig and ended up three streets away behind a bloke in a white van who was gesturing at me to move back so that he could open up his back hatch. Or something like that; I just smiled and got the hell out of there. Still, it's a fear that's slowly growing on me - we've just bought a house in Flemington, Melbourne, for which there is no drive way or off-street parking available. Am I destined to spend my life circling around and around my home, waiting - dreaming, no yearning for a three-car slot that I just glide the magnificent magna straight into? Stay tuned for future articles on how I convince Love Chunks that a two-door Smart Car will of course fit in two adults, a nine year old, a friendly dog, some groceries and a suitcase or three.

At the office, I met Andrew, the new indaily and arts editor. Taylor Swift's debut CD? Why not; her inside cover shot makes her look like Paris Hilton but without the gonorrhea. God Stories paperback with an insight provided by a Divinyls guitarist who was visited by Michael Hutchence after his death? Hell yeah, I could do with a few incredulous scoffs. After mocking the reviewing material, we got chatting. Turns out he too was an employee at UniSA and has met and dealt with the Bulldog, even having to photograph her once. It was still too early to sink the boots in (figuratively speaking) together seeing as we were still assessing the cut of one another's jibs, so he changed the subject, "Look here, the critic said that they'd rather read this book than have sex." No, I didn't offer to review that one.

The orange E was flashing, so I pulled in for some petrol. Returning from the shop, "No thanks, I don't want to buy two tins of Eclipse mints to earn three extra FlyBuys points", I noted that there was a Porsche Cayenne parked behind my dented magna, engine running, designer-sunnied owner in a busy huff. Poor Love Chunks has heard my rants about 4WD owners too many times and has actually threatened to have the 'I have too much money' stickers printed to force me to shut up and finally put up instead.

I know it was peurile, but I took my time sauntering back - "Oh look, what does my receipt say again? Where's a bin to dispose of my paper? Hang on - what does this sign say - buy two cornettos and get the third free, hmmm, that might be worth considering...... Did I put the petrol cap back on, I'd better just check to make sure.

(Patting pockets, looking behind me, bemused expression) Is my mobile still on the counter? I'll go and see while I'm inside getting an iced coffee.

(Climbing inside the car after giving the driver a friendly wave, "Lovely day, isn't it") Someone must have rearranged the bloody rear vision mirror while I was out, and lord knows it's time to sort through which petrol discount vouchers have already expired.....Geez, this packet of Extra must have been lurking here since we bought the damn car....!

A few minutes later I was home smiling, sitting in the garden slurping a Farmers Union Feel Good Iced Coffee, watching Milly scratch her back by rolling on the lawn. The chooks were baw-baw-baaawing quietly and Skipper was laid up in the shade. Small things amuse small minds perhaps, but I'll take my amusement where I find it.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Come on then, I'm bent over and ready for whatever you want to deliver...!*


















As for the house....well, the week ended on just as crappy a note as it began. The brilliant 'buyers' didn't come back with a new contract of sale by Thursday and we asked our agent to contact them to advise that if we hadn't heard from them by 4pm on Friday, the deal was off and our home was back on the open market.

In the meantime, we focussed our attention on the bank meeting - could we please have two sets of paperwork prepared in case we do sell our house before the Melbourne settlement date or in case we don't and therefore need another, oh, the entire treasury of a tiny African nation (no, not those pesky Nigerians) to cover another house, our existing Adelaide house mortgage, real estate agent fees, Victorian stamp duty and the obligatory paper shuffling and conveyancing fees. Sure, the interest alone is more than our actual income but I did note that Flemington has numerous tram shelters that I could perhaps perform some sexual favours in - between school hours only of course......

By 4pm our meeting at the bank was over - both scenarios were approved, and we glumly headed home assuming that the bonza 'buyers' had finally cooled off and were already looking at houses in other postcodes. Love Chunks felt OK enough to get his chest x-ray done and sent to his GP and we hope that his next appointment will kick off with a more positive question than, "So have you been working with asbestos?"

At 7pm I was out in the shed pounding merry hell out of the treadmill and Love Chunks took a call from our agent. She said that the 'buyers' were prepared to offer us another contract of sale, but this time for $15,000 less than agreed previously.

To say that we were disappointed at such a low act - and for stringing us along all week - is an understatement. We felt utterly betrayed and shocked - it seemed as though delaying signing the contract of sale until Saturday morning (instead of the day we accepted it, which was Thursday), gave them the weekend and two further days to work out a scheme that effectively made our week just that little bit harder to deal with.

Not only were these bastard 'buyers' aware that LC's mother's funeral was on Tuesday - the day they formally cooled off - but they still insisted that the SA Water, Murray's Pest Control and a Building Inspector arrive that same afternoon to examine our house and provide them with three separate reports. The agent unwittingly added to strength of their scheme by informing the blatantly bad 'buyers' that we'd bought a house in Melbourne over the weekend and were a mite keen to get the contract situation sorted out quick smartish. Instead, the oh-so empathetic 'buyers' then decided to leave us dangling for another three days (now effectively extending their offer to buy, and then cool off period from the legal two to nine) and hope that by dragging things out to 7pm on Friday we'd be so desperate to sell that we'd accept a lower price.

Then, just to make us sweat even further they faxed - rather than phone and speak directly - our agent with the info that they'd give us until close of business Monday (today) to accept their offer and then had their mobile phones turned off so that she couldn't inform them that their actions were unconscionable or try to convince them to play fair. How they must have rubbed their hands in glee - not only had they screwed us out of $35,000 last week, but they were going to add another $15,000 because of a family death, dodgy delays and a cooling off period - what fun!

The agent phoned us this morning to say how mortified she was and how she'd said to them all last week, over and over again, that we were trustworthy people who loved the house and had not left anything undone or hidden that would be of concern to them - and none of the reports came back with anything negative either. We asked her to not call the blowfly 'buyers' back - we no longer want to deal with them.

In fact, LC still had the beezlebub 'buyers' email address after having to sort out their previous queries re the SA Water backflow device (they need one legally, we have TWO) and this is what he sent to them as our response:

Dear Dr _____ and Dr _______,

We received your adjusted offer. Just wanted to let you know: we won't be accepting it.

We've lived here 8 years, we know this property and we know real estate in this area. We have renovated this house extensively and have undertaken any major and minor form of repair it has needed as well as added other features that have made it into a beautiful home we're very proud of.

We know we had offered you a very good deal - better than we should have at the time.

We are honest and decent people - the type to honour a deal and a commitment. It may well be that we sell the house at a lower value than your offer, if that is what the market dictates - but it will not be to you.

LC Lockett

******

Or, in my own personal draft that was rejected:

Dear Drs __ and ____,

May every foul crap that you agonisingly squeeze out of your cracked and bleeding arseholes be born with personalities of their own that allow them to clamber out of the bowl, up your snakelike spines and attempt to strangle you with their slimy, disease-ridden, shit-stinking hands. Or wedge themselves into your left nostrils; whichever is most painful and inconvenient option.

Love, Kath Lockett
******
So it's back to open inspections, hiding the dirty dishes and de-dog-hairing the place.
*Alternative title - To Whom It May Concern - I don't want to be an adult anymore. Please return all this paperwork, cellulite and Crows Feet and give me back my Gnid Blytons, Mad Magazines and Abba records thank you. 1976 would be great, thanks.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Poo-Bum-Bugger-Shit-Fart.

Be thankful, cautious reader, because my original (and preferred title) was Fuckity Fuck Fuckity Fucking Fuckingly FUCK fuckers but I thought that it might have come across as slightly too self-pitying and maybe - just maybe - a tad aggressive.

It's been a helluva few days since my last post. Dean's mother died at 5:40am on Friday morning and he was there with her during her final hours and last breath. She was already a tiny little bag of bones when I'd visited her two days earlier and Dean noted that after death, her body was even smaller and her face almost unrecognisable when life was gone from it.

We spent most of the day with his family planning her funeral. Hugs, sniffles and awkward attempts at jokes, unhealthy snacks and dodgy instant coffee were the mainstays of the day and I tried to keep my migraine at bay by drugging up, inhaling any caffeine headed in my direction and by being unnaturally unchatty. It had the added bonus of making me seem mature, steady, a 'rock' and I foolishly offered to read the eulogy if no-one else was up to it. Dammit, no-one was.

By 8:30pm that same evening, Love Chunks and I were winging our way to Melbourne; my folks already at our place spending the weekend looking after Sapphire (or vice versa really, seeing as they didn't know which of our three remote controls switched on the tv, how much food the chooks, rabbit and dog needed or where Sapph's tennis session was) and we were reading through my patchy, hand-scrawled notes (done in the wee hours when LC was with his Mum) on properties we thought we worth seeing.

It may seem a bit cold-hearted to be heading interstate on the day of a parent's passing, but it was planned - very reluctantly - a few days earlier, thinking that it was best to go sooner rather than a later weekend when his mother would be even less well and more at risk of 'going' when LC couldn't be there. Oh. Ah well, the funeral arrangements were sorted; my parents had the extremely rare free couple of days to babysit and we'd just accepted an offer on our house with a settlement date of 12th January. It was time to look forward - finding our new home in our new city.

Saturday morning saw us huddled and shivering under a tree in order to stop the golden retriever left on the porch of the house we wanted to inspect from barking incessantly. We also didn't want the family living there to notice us as they dashed outside and into their car. The rain poured down, and a kindly lady from across the road gestured over at me: "Come inside! You'll get wet, come in!" I explained to her that we were waiting for the land agent to show us inside the house and that while LC was moving the hire car to the now-vacated spot in front of the house, we didn't want to get the neighbours off-side by annoying the dog.
"Ah yes," she nodded vigorously, a petite little Vietnamese lady with a kindly face. "He barks alla time. So you could be my neighbour, eh? That's good, that's good."
"Hmmmm" I shook my wet head, pretending to hesitate, "The bad news is that we have a dog too."
"No worries, so do I", she said.
"What sort do you have?" I asked, looking behind her for a glimpse of a small, fluffy thing, perhaps lurking behind the lacy curtains.
"A pitbull."
"Oh."

Said house was a OHS nightmare lacking at least a quarter of its weatherboards, cracks surrounding the fireplaces that conveniently provided a half decent view from the living room into the main boudoir and a bathroom's 'floor' of some wood veneer-patterned contact stuck haphazardly - bubbles and all - over the rotting floorboards and bordered with silver gaffer tape.

Defeated, we sat in the Flemington Maccas, drinking coffee and pondering the other houses on my list and those in Domain. Ascot Vale had an auction at 12:30pm and was the property above all others that appealed to us the most via the many viewings we'd had on the internet. "But that's two hours away. What about this little joint in Bignell Street? It's up for auction at 11am, but why don't we check it out?"

The Welcome To Melbourne weather continued as we ran to the car, me struggling with the $5 umbrella we'd just purchased from the handyman shop that already decided to blow itself inside out and having my mouth fill up with hailstones before I could complain about getting what I paid for.

Five minutes later, and we two Locketts felt that familiar feeling. That peculiar sense that, after only two minutes since walking through the front door, this house was soon going to be our house. And so it came to pass. Bought at auction by the Locketts. No cooling down period, no drive way or car park, but slap-bang in the middle of Phlegm(ington) with Smegma(European) appliances, a great primary school literally around the corner, a good dog walking park and a clear view of the big yellow cheesestick on City Link from our front doorstep.

My brother Rob and wife Wah Chin were taken to see it. The owners had gone out, so we snuck around the back and got them to scrunch their noses up against the glass doors and gained the comment we soooo wanted to hear from people who live in, love and know Melbourne better than we do: "This is GREAT. You've done well."

Fast forward to Monday, back in Adelaide, and Love Chunks was in fever - sweating one minute, shivering the next. Some whimpering echoed in the bathroom and a limp back to bed indicated that maybe there was also a bladder infection to add to the mix and the funeral of his mother the following day.

Tuesday morning at 10am found the three of us at Centennial Park, Sapphire and I waiting outside as LC was the one required to view the body before the service. I somehow got through reading the eulogy and found myself more emotional than I thought I would be, yet also realising that it wasn't a workshop, or a seminar or an occasion where I had to be confident or all-knowing; I was merely the voice for LC and his sibling's words.

We got home a few hours later to find Ann, our real estate agent, on our doorstep with a bunch of flowers in her hands. "I've got some bad news. Your buyers have cooled off."

Fuckity Fuck Fuckity Fucking Fuckingly FUCK fuckers! Just as Ann was explaining that the 'buyers' (the term is now used very loosely and very optimistically) hadn't managed to arrange a building inspection before the cool off date which was midnight that night. Try and picture the scene - Love Chunks, Sapphire and myself, standing anxiously in our own home, still dressed in our sombre funeral clothes as the real estate agent sat on a bar stool and a bloke arrived to tap our skirting boards, flash his torch up the hallway's man hole and check out the drip watering system.

Several minutes later and another white minivan arrived with the Murray's Pest Control chap there to check our place for termites. He'd already been to do just that for us back in July but the 'buyers' needed more assurance. Then the SA Water bloke was encouraged, rather passionately and energetically, shall we say, by an irate Love Chunks to ring Mrs 'Buyer' in Melbourne and explain in non-Anal and non-Cardigan terms just what their encumbrance was and why it was considered utterly bureaucratic and pointless by two plumbers, the entire staff at Tank World and the watering installers at Akers Lawn and why it endangered no-one living or visiting our home or using any of our water supply.

Mrs 'Buyer' managed to inform our agent that, in between the responsibility of doing several crown installations and root canal operations on her patients, she'd be able to review the reports and make a decision on whether to heat up again by putting together another contract of sale by lunch time today. Love Chunks went to the doctor and found that yes, he had a bladder infection, along with a too-fast heartbeat and some fibroids on his lungs from the bronchitis he had in September that can't be re-x-rayed until he's over his fever and infection. To be asked, "So, have you ever worked with asbestos?" by the doctor but not being able to get another photo of your lungs for a fortnight is about as much as enduring a cooling off period on a *&^&%ing housesale multiplied by oh, I don't know, sixtyeleventyseventieth.

It's now (looks at watch) 8:27pm and no contract, no assurances, no news. Poo-Bum-Bugger-Shit-Fart.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Shoosh, you'll wake up the girls!

Dean's mother is still with us.

She's on a respirator and unable to eat or drink, but can talk in a very quiet and croaky voice. This voice has been used to inform her son that she's sick of nervous relatives hovering around her hospital bed, waiting, looking and not knowing what to say. As such, she sensibly declared yesterday a 'No Visitor Day' in part-honour of having some privacy, peace and quiet and partly because she managed to survive the weekend.

Not that we knew that on Saturday night. On that day, Dean had sat with his mother, yearning to tell her all the things that he'd not been able or willing to understand about her before. Some of the traumatic events she'd suffered and struggled through and the decisions she'd made afterwards. The puzzling behaviour then that seemed to make sense now; the ache of regret and apology that grips the heart and rearranges the memories in an entirely new light when it seems like it's all too late.

Ironically, young Sapphire had her friend Sidonie over for a sleepover, yet those two excitable chatterboxes were flat out and snoring by 10:30pm when it came time to kiss and tuck them in, lock the back door and let Milly out for one last sniff and whizz before turning the lights out. Instead, it was Dean and I lying there wide awake, talking softly, tossing and turning intermittently only to sense that the other was awake and continue talking until the first rays of dawn pushed through the gaps in the blinds and the two girls woke up ready for breakfast.

We talked of so many things. The topics were wide-ranging, including our musings on the meaning of life, what constitutes living well, the senseless suffering of the terminally ill; the lingering and cruel death of my grandfather, the staggering wisdom and incandescence within our own child, random things that made us giggle too loudly ("Shoosh! The kids will wake up") and how neither of us wanted to be the one left behind in old age.

I told him that his mother was proud of him and had only really stood back because of the sheer burden she already had to deal with: she knew that her third son was going to be OK. I told him that she could see what a wonderful husband and father he was and that he'd worked hard to develop more skills and interests beyond that of a smart bloke based in the suburbs. He was kind, strong, smart, funny and genuine: any disagreements or judgments he'd made as a boy or teenager or young man would have been understood by her that day as she lay in her hospital bed listening to him soothing her by describing Sapphire's antics and interests gently stroking her hands as he did so.

What I didn't tell him was that there was no other place on this earth that I would rather have been than lying there beside him, witnessing his pain and confusion and wiping his tears whilst only being able to listen and to hold. To be able to do even just that for the man who has seen me through a brain tumour, a twenty nine hour birth, a complete physical and mental breakdown and hundreds of agonising migraines (voluntarily emptying out my sick buckets!) was a privilege. And an honour.
I love you Dean.