Thursday, August 20, 2009

Woolly Mammoth

"Hi, My name is Mike Carmichael and I live in Alexandria, Indiana with my wife Glenda. I'd like to tell you about Alexandria's only ROADSIDE ATTRACTION...the Worlds Largest Ball of Paint. Imagine an ordinary baseball... Now imagine that same baseball with over 19,100 coats of paint on it. Getting the picture? Good, because that's exactly what my wife, Glenda and I have done for the past 28 1/2 years. Now that ordinary baseball that once weighed less than one pound now weighs in around 1,700 pounds!"












Hmmmm, looks more like a deformed Malteser to me, or did Mike's surgeon save the testicle he removed during the cancer scare? This patient and determined couple's story can be found on their website: http://ballofpaint.freehosting.net/ because I wish you to know that I truly did not make the story up.

To be honest, I wish I had made it all up because it is so incomprehensible that an apparently normal-looking couple were prepared to do this for nearly 30 years and that they're proud of it. It doesn't say much for the town either, if this lumpy lovesack is the town's only attraction..... To be fair though, I'm not exactly covering myself in glory because you could also quite rightly ask just what in the hell I was doing that was so important and noble that let me to this item in the first place.

I don't know what 2009 is the Official year of (Twitter? Parsnips? Ugly animals people never visit at the zoo? The Ped Egg?) - but how about we put in a bid for the Year of Useful Hobbies. Ones that have a point and can be discussed with strangers at dinner parties without receiving pitying and bored looks.

My guilt is probably as strong as the paintball people because my unofficial hobby is knitting. No, nothing fanc - all I can do is the basic loopy, crinkled stitch (the name of which escapes me) that my grandmother taught me when I was nine and even then, have only ever been able to knit rows. Scarves aplenty, but thanks to the stitches I dropped the end product was vastly tapered at one end so that it resembled a triangle that had been on the rack and then peppered with bullet holes.

These days I'm trying to put my sheltered-workshop knitting skills to some good use by knitting long scarves that have seven individually coloured segments that are 45 stitches wide and 40 rows long. Mum then gathers seven of these Tom Bakers, sews them up and gives them to the mens' homeless shelter for use in their hostels and as 'sorry, the inn is full, here's some bedding consolation prizes.

I've been bidding for and buying balls of wool on e-bay. Yeah, I know: it's hardly as scintillating as Beatles memorabilia, signed first editions of The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy or toast shaped like Elvis, but it's a way of getting cheap, cast-off yarn in dark, manly colours that hide all kinds of grass, beer, chewing gum and boot stains.

It also means that it's easy enough to do it in front of the telly and convince myself that no, just because I'm wearing elasticated tracksuit pants, ugg boots and am slouching on the lounge sucking squares of chocolate in front of 'The Big Bang Theory' I'm not a sloth; far from it. I'm knitting for charity. The sad thing is, my dinner party companion I'm regaling this to has normally sculled their third glass of sauv blanc by then and is nodding inanely, not realising that it takes me until Spring to knit enough scarves for one measly blanket.....

The shame of my remedial recreational abilities doesn't stop there. I also like to read through home design, food and womens' magazines, soaking up every glossy page and earmarking those take my fancy - recipes, home renovation ideas, decor, photos etc. Some I've used for home-made greeting cards that, quite frankly, haven't sold all that well, not even to the reception kids with snot trails leading to their lips at the school fete. It would probably make the local childcare centre really happy if I just dumped my crummy cuttings in their playroom with some curved-end scissors and pots of library paste and got the toddlers to go for it. Chances are their cards would be more successful too.....

Participators of other less-than-scintillating hobbies include my father who was an amateur beekeeper for many years. Every two months, he'd receive a copy of what might possibly be the world's least exciting magazine, The Australasian Beekeeper. "Whoo Hoo Dad, it's here, it's here!" I'd tease, waving the copy and running towards him like a lunatic. "Oh and look - it's got TWO pages of black and white photos instead of just the one!"

He proudly tells me that the highlight of his beekeeping career was having his jars of honey photographed (in black and white, naturally) for the front cover. Kate Moss hasn't achieved that.

A friend's boyfriend was into the adventures of Ivanhoe, King Arthur and related dark ages and mediaeval pursuits. There were apparently enough fellow fans of this time in history to have a Mediaeval society that met every fourth Sunday for a picnic and get-together. They'd gather to eat huge roast chickens and lamb legs (not sure who had to put them in the wheelie bin after the bones had been thrown over their shoulders), scull down mead (there's a reason we don't drink it anymore) and hold a jousting tournament. Each member was dressed as authentically as imagination and budget would allow - chain mail, coats of arms on jerkins (tops folks, tops), leggings (the blokes), ankle boots (yep, ditto), pointy hats (the gals, or add bells for some of the slightly more outgoing boys) and weaponry. The national parks and wildlife authority did not allow them to have horses at the events, and the mind boggles at what the jousting tournaments must have been like on foot.

My musical husband Love Chunks spent many years during school and in his early twenties playing the trumpet and the guitar. He proudly marched in Port Augusta's town band, played for a jazz group and tootled and strummed for many a local function. When he and I got together, both instruments had long been abandoned. No matter how many times I asked him to play something for me he refused.

The only time he got his trumpet out (ooooooherr, that sounds a bit suggestive) it terrorised the dog who shot outside and frantically started digging a tunnel to Mecca. LC has since strummed his guitar for Sapphire a few times, but clams up whenever I've inadvertently lumbered into the room. Pretty useless having two instruments you don't use, isn't it, but perhaps my mocking singing of "Kum bah yah, my lord, Kum bah yah...." isn't too encouraging. I'll make that a resolution to work on - Don't Mock; Encourage.

An old work colleague - who I detested - used to insist that we have the Christmas function at her place. This was presumably so that she could get outrageously pissed and fall off her high-heeled mules with her bed only several metres away but also so that we could see - and be dazzled - by her various collections and taste in decor. She lived in a mock-tudor Mc Mansion with a tiny garden filled with an above ground pool, two fat dogs and three shy cats. The blue plastic sides of the pool were artfully disguised with strategically placed potplants in which she'd placed some fake budgies.

Inside was the real horror - her duck collection. Pot holders, tea towels, boot scrapers, cross stitched pillow covers, paintings, coffee cups, storage tins, wooden trays and figurines. Lots of figurines, stored on flimsy lacquered telephone tables and inside twee kitchen cabinets that engulfed the house. They were made of china, clay, wood, brass, pewter and crystal with the piece-de-resistance being a stuffed one she'd found in an antiques shop. It left me with not only nausea but a secret prayer that someday that little duck army would rise up and find the collective strength to carry out her not so slight frame to the caravan park and de-tox centre where she belonged.

Love Chunks and I are also guilty of saving the back issues of Gourmet Traveller and Delicious Magazines. They hog up space in our cupboards and not once in ten years have either of us sorted through them or referred to an old recipe within them. Why do we save them? Sapphire has a collection of stones and gumnuts she'd gathered two years ago. The stupid little footy-shaped money box she stores them in gets tipped over at least once a week, spilling out the annoying little pellets. Why does she still keep them?

My mother insists on washing out every single yoghurt and margarine container and keeping them in her already over-burdened tupperware drawer so that when it is opened, they fly out like angry frisbees. Why - when will that mythical group of 79 people visit Mum and insist on taking leftovers home at the same time?

These are all unexplainable mysteries, but do point to most of us having collections and hobbies that are our own personal Submarine Screendoors in terms of usefulness in our lives. But maybe that's not such a bad thing. If no-one dies of stress or boredom then who's it going to hurt?

Maybe Sapphire, who looks to be inheriting a truckload of wool, greeting cards and margarine containers....

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think I saw you on ACA tonight (20 August)! The story about Cadbury's.

Helen said...

I used to do beadwork, keyrings weaving pictures, jewellery, that sort of thing. It was the only way I could stay awake through David Attenborough documentaries...

Now I ahve no time, no inclination and a GIANT box of little boxes of beads sitting on my windowsill!

I saw a pattern for the knitted frog, there's also a rat version. Apparently there's some ind f shrinky wool you use to get the liver to feel/look more realstic. I'd love one to show my students!

Baino said...

I can knit but just don't have the tenacity to finish anything. These days, it's the camera that takes my time. I just love photography. You must be good because they're fussy at these charities. They just rejected a perfectly good computer stand because there was a tiny strip torn off the front and won't take a perfectly good single bed because it doesn't have a mattress! Sheesh . . I'd have thought that would be better than sleeping in the Rotunda in Parramatta Park!

Kath Lockett said...

Anon - you most certainly did. At least you know that I'm not lying when I write about chocolate on this 'ere blog!

Helen, beads, ah yes, I was into them as well but mine aren't on the windowsill, they're tucked away. It was maddening trying to make necklaces that wouuld take me hours but sell for $4 at the school market.... The knitted frog made me laugh and I've even seen a knitted iPhone!

Baino I'm OK at knitting the straight stuff (at least my Mum says I am - oh god, what if she's lying to save my self esteem and really all my blankets have been used to line budgie cages....?)

franzy said...

I used to collect Mad Magazines and now I'm just waiting for the day when 150 Mads in no particular order spanning 4 decades will be worth something ... anything. So that I can ebay the lot and make room for more redbacks in the shed.

Is wrote-recalling Simpsons quotes a hobby?

Have you fallen off the wagon(wheel)?
"... slouching on the lounge sucking squares of chocolate ..."

What, in the name of god, is a "Ped Egg"?

Kath Lockett said...

Franzy I had heaps of MAD mags too and a couple of years ago at a school market stall bought a heap of relatively new ones for $2. Got them home to discover that all the old jokes, drawings and cartoons I loved had been recycled over and over and over and over.....

A Ped Egg is an awful 'as seen on TV' wonder product(i.e. = not) that sees some poor sap grating their heels and letting the dead skin scraps settle inside a plastic 'egg' for emptying later.

I've falled off the Cholesterol-Care wagon a few times, my young Franz but when I'm sensible I'm allowed to suck a few squares a couple of nights a week and I'm still munching and reviewing, so I'm sticking to reducing my intake by 80-90%, it's just that it still allows me a fairly generous amount.

Kath Lockett said...

Oops: that should be 'fallen', not 'falled' - bad grammar due to not eating any chocolate for a whole 36 hours...

Jilly said...

I have a confession - I have a pile of scrap books and magazines with hundreds of Princess Di pictures in them (I was obssessed with her when I was young) - they keep getting hidden under other things, but I can just throw them away. Also, have a good stack of Archie comics that I am not so embarrassed about displaying. xxx

River said...

I have quite a collection of folders filled with permaculture articles, pictures of kitchens, bathrooms, gardens, houses (styles and floorplans), all gathered so that the necessary information will be handy when I finally win enough money to buy land and build the house of my dreams. Unfortunately, the big win isn't happening and I've collected so many pictures I'd have a hard time deciding which I'd actually use. Now and again I go through them and chuck out what I no longer like.
I also have a pre-decimal coin collection that my mother gave to me. I once had a souvenier teaspoon collection, but couldn't find anywhere to display it properly, so it went to the local Vinnies.
Stored in my computer files I have hundreds of photos.

The Plastic Mancunian said...

G'Day Kath,

I would be proud of that painted baseball for a microsecond before I realised that I had wasted 28.5 years of my life. I would probably spend the next 28.5 years trying to get rid of the thing and coping with the shame.

As for weird hobbies - I don't really have one. BUT I do have a collection of football programmes in the loft (Mrs PM refuses to allow me to keep them anywhere else) and I am building up a collection of "Classic Rock" magazine - not out of choice but for some unknown "just in case" reason. Again Mrs PM wants to get rid of them.

Since you are into knitting, maybe you could try to knit the world's longest scarf - think what you could achieve after 28.5 years? It should fit in well over there in Oz where you have "The Big Banana" and "The Big Prawn".

I've seen "The Big Banana" and it made me feel somewhat inadequate.

:0)

Cheers

PM

Lorna Lilo said...

I have enough copies of Gourmet Traveller to build a small apartment. By Christmas I think I will have enough for a garage.

Deep Kick Girl said...

I used to collect pig related items until I got to the point where if I saw another pig ornament I would have hurt somebody. When you "collect" things it gives people a no-brainer present idea every time. "We'll just get Kathy that cute/funny/weird/plain effing ugly pig ornament because she loves pigs." Arrrrgghhhhh....

Jason's grandmother also collects margerine containers. Thank god, I say, because you just never know when there'll be a world margerine container shortage and then who is going to be laughing...

I used to stockpile cooking magazines until I got thoroughly sick of them and now I force myself to rip out the recipes I like the sound of straight away and put them in a folder. Mind you that's pretty useless too since whenever I want to cook something I just do a search on www.taste.com.au. I just love buying those glossy cooking mags, it's an addiction...

ashleigh said...

Oh gorshe. Hand-knitted sushi. Sorry, that's just tooooooooo much.

Yes, we collect crap as well. We don't just have a drawer full of Tupperware, we have a whole #$% cupboard. Every now and again when it explodes spontaneously, I go through it (while SWMBO watches in horror) and pick out all the old, broken and grotty plastic crap. And then carry it triumphantly to the recycling bin.

Don't get me started on the rest of our house. Those empty wine bottles will come in handy some day. And the cardboard box the stereo system came in 17 years ago... well you never know when that might be needed. The system might have to go for repair or something, and it is still new after all.

And books. And computer junk. And pieces of old machinery. And chairs. Aaarrrghhh, I feel a need to throw stuff out coming over me. And SWMBO is standing behind me trying to nail me feet to the floor to stop me chucking something that might be useful. One day.

Kath Lockett said...

Jilly, both collections are probably worth something? Mum still has a tea cup that commemorates Chuck-n-Di's wedding.

I collected souvenir spoons for a couple of years too, River. Soon I realised that they were more pointless than a dry sponge in the desert and donated them.

PlasManc, the Big Banana is actually rather small compared to the Big Pineapple, Cow, Bull, Shell, Bales of Wool, Rocking Horse, Lobster, Beer bottle, Koala...

Lorna, we *all* have copies of Gourmet Traveller. Lovely to read but too poncy to actually cook anything from.

DeepKickGirl - Pigs? Really? Oh well, I used to collect tiny tins for years (much longer than my silver souvenir spoon fetish) until I realised that I either needed to dust them (my biggest hate) or give them away.

Ashleigh, the tupperware must be tamed. Always.

Helen Balcony said...

Son says the wool sushi and knitted frog are awesum.

Cat J B said...

My hubby is into DnD, shhhh, don't tell as he's a little embarrassed about it. Grown men sitting round a table, with lots of dice, small figurines of dragons, elves, trolls etc, speaking in character voices when they're being the copper dragon, the mage, the thief.....