Saturday, December 24, 2005

No Pudding Zone

It's currently 23C here in Adelaide which is a pleasant change after the 38C (100F) heat of yesterday. 38C+ days make the simple act of walking out to the letterbox impossible without having all the moisture sucked out from your eyes and your arms instantly sunburnt.

Yet, after 200+ plus years of colonising Australia, we still insist on eating seasonally inappropriate hot, stodgy food in order to cling on to some crap Christmas food traditions started by the Poms. Roast turkey, oily bread stuffing, greasy roast vegetables and gluey gravy. Glazed ham, hot pudding, custard..... why does it always remind of me Bob Cratchett, Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim?

As a kid, my auntie would give me a turkey wing or a leg, saying, "Oh, I know you kids love eating chicken legs, so you'll love this!" Good Manners Or Death was the only acceptable behaviour available to me thanks to my parents, so I'd take the leg and try my damnedest to gnaw through what I thought was a dark brown piece of mallee wood. On those rare occasions when I got some of the breast meat it was as dry as a front doormat. Turkey is a crap meat to eat for Christmas or any time - they're ugly and awkward in life with those unfortunate loose red dangly bits and in death they're not worth a cracker either.

Things did not improve. The rather scary-looking turkey carcase would be carted away and we'd then be presented with a huge leg of honeyed ham. Having just torturously chewed enough of the mallee root to not seem rude, the arrival of the ham did not help things. I don't like ham. Never have, never will; too salty, slimy and, well piggy for me. All of the other kids would be jumping up and down saying, "Oooh yes please Uncle Brian, two pieces for me please," and I'd be pulling my paper crown over my eyes in the vain hope he'd forget about me.

Sure there was lollies and nuts on the table, but in the 1970s, my nanna liked to buy the 2kg bags of 'Christmas Treat Mix' lollies that were about as nice to eat as her own denture cream. I can still recall their bright wrappers and shudder at their amphetamine laboratory taste. The coloured popcorn was another shocker. To an excited six year old it looked beautiful and therefore delicious, until I actually ate some. Chemically sprayed styrofoam would have tasted better, yet it's still available in shops today. Perhaps you can now see why I rarely bothered to eat any nuts due to being disappointed too many times already.

Notwithstanding these culinary cruelties, the course I dreaded most was the hot Christmas pudding. Think about it - how many people under the age of 18 like fruit cake? Well how many do you think are going to like eating Christmas bloody pudding? It was served with someone's idea of brandy custard - the devil's own version of Clag glue. It smelled like burned milk and reminded me of the smell inside our car after one of us kids had thrown up in it on the windy old way to Adelaide. We had another choice though - icecream. No, not icecream, 'ice confection' in a 4 litre carton. Ice confection should be declared illegal.

So should fruit salad from a tin. Again, in the 1970s/early 1980s, this was considered acceptable to serve up to guests as dessert. The slimy little squares of peach, apricot and pear would slide down my throat painfully slowly as I prayed fervently they wouldn't rise back up again any time soon. There was always one fake pink 'cherry' in the tin - who the hell did Ardmona think they were fooling. Just Thumb, my younger brother, who always clamoured for it.

The only saving grace from Christmas meals of that era was that Mum and Dad suspended their anti-fizzy drink rules. Normally we would have been lucky to have been permitted three glasses a year of the sticky stuff, but at Christmas it was all there waiting for us - Fruita, Coke (no diet stuff heard of then), Hall's Raspberry and lime and Woodies' lemonade. It was all very much appreciated by me because it helped me wash my mouth out.

Thankfully those food fiascos are just a dim memory thanks to time, food fashions, divorces, marriages and children. We're hosting Christmas lunch tomorrow for Love Chunk's family. As the master cook with a clue, he is handling the serious stuff - two corn-fed free-range chickens roasted in the weber, rosemary potatoes and every kind of vege you can poke a stick at. That's more than enough hot food for a forecasted 28C day. Dessert - which is my area - will be frozen white chocolate icecream pudding with a bowlful of fresh raspberries mooshed in. If anyone's still calling out for more they'll be given some fresh cherries dipped in dark chocolate. I'm salivating like Pavlov's dog just writing about it.

On Boxing Day we're going to pretend that it's Christmas day all over again when my family come over. Again, Love Chunks will be handling the mains - char-grilled boneless greek lamb, yoghurt and mint sauce, oven-roasted potato wedges and salads. Me - chocolate cheesecake and fresh, chocolate-less cherries.

Throw in a few bowls of salted cashews, red and green M&Ms, grapes, chips and icy cold champagne, riesling and coopers ales, and life will be rather nice. Here's hoping that Sapphire and her cousins find enough food that's nice for them to eat. If not I'll open that old tin of fruit salad that's rusting away at the back of the pantry cupboard......

Friday, December 23, 2005

Hate after Eight

My longtime buddy Jill has three kids aged from 4 to 9. As a stay-at-home Mum she considers that she's on duty as soon as any of them wake up (from 6am onwards) and can only clock off when the last one's comfortably in bed and not planning to go anywhere.

Ideally, this clocking off time for parenting is around 8pm. With three kids however, it is more likely that 8pm is a rough guideline and that 10pm is the reality. Poor Jill faces a nightly game of Russian roulette in that at least one of her children will pop out of bed again with one of the following excuses:
  • Mum I'm just going to the toilet
  • Can I have a drink of water please?
  • I'm still hungry
  • I can't find my _________(favourite soft toy here)
  • Mum, _____'s (insert name of sibling here) annoying me
  • There's a mossie in my bedroom and it's bitten me ten times.

Over her cup of coffee yesterday, she told me, "After eight o'clock, I hate them." I didn't feel shock or concern over that statement, just understanding. I know that by 8pm Jill has already worked a 14 hour day that - especially in the school holidays - has involved her feeding, dressing/grooming, transporting, educating, entertaining, disciplining and reading to her kids. In addition she's had three 'helpers' crowd her at the kitchen bench whilst she's mixing up the mince pies and shortbread stars that she'll be giving out as gifts; she's cajoled them into eating the healthy lunch she's made; filled up the wading pool so they can cool down and set out the paints, brushes, papers and smocks for them to create a few masterpieces.

During all of this she has also found the time and energy to hang out four loads of washing, stack the dishwasher, wrap up the shortbreads and mince pies in decorative cellophane, make the pudding for Christmas day, pick up Coco's dog turds, sweep the floor, pack up any stray toys and organise the rubbish bins for recycling. "I live for eight o'clock, I pray for eight o'clock. Eight o'clock is my time, mine." Who can blame her?

"By that magic time of 8pm, I realise that I haven't even had time to sit down." When she does get to sit down, it's with a glass of wine and a magazine and the TV off. No noise, no demands, no squabbles to split up. Her husband is likely to be in their room, studying for his masters and she hopes that the kids are in their rooms too, for the entire night. "If I see one of their faces peer around the hallway door, I feel such hatred for the little s***s that I have to go outside to calm down."

The funny thing is, our kids don't even know how tired and annoyed we are, do they? I've been home with Sapphire for just one week of the holidays so far and nearly wrung her neck when she started whining, "But M-u-u-u-u-m, I want you to make stuff out of the salt dough with me." Bugger it, I'd waded through the kiddie craft books with her, found the recipe, made the stupid salt dough and now wanted to sit down and have a few minutes' break from the happy - but incessant - chatter.

"Oh fer gods' sake, I'll make ONE but one only, understand?" and I ungraciously galumphed back into the kitchen with a deliberately put-out look on my face. Who was the six year old now?

Ten minutes later, she announced that she was bored with the salt dough and wanted to do something else. "Well, before that, how about you help me to clean up this me--" but she was off outside and up bouncing on the trampoline before my request had been completed. After I wiped down the counter, floor, cupboard doors and washed up the mixing bowls, spatulas, play dough equipment and grease proof paper she tugged at the bag of my leg.

"Mum, what are we going to do now?"

"WE? Well I have just finished cleaning up without YOU helping me. I am now going to iron three weeks worth of ironing. What are YOU going to do?" Sulk, it looked like. At least she tried to - Sapphire can only sulk for about twenty seconds before her brain thinks of better things to do. "I know - I'll practise my dancing to Kylie Minogue", as she sped off to her bedroom.

I felt churlish and already kinda missed her chit chat whilst the stereo went 'thud thud' in her room. "Hey, why don't you bring it out here and put it on the big stereo?" No answer. I knew that she'd heard me, but it was clear that I was still a mean old mother.

The rest of the day was spent saying "No" to pretty much every single one of her suggestions.

"Can I invite X, Y and Z over today?"

"No because X is in Queensland, Y is at her father's place and Z, um, well Z is (someone I totally loathe) busy. Really busy."

"Can I blow bubbles inside the house?" "No."

"Is it alright if I put some glitter glue on the dog's head to make her look nice for Christmas?"

"Mum can you get out your face paints so that I can practice on you?"

The poor little kid. Somehow she managed to make through the only day in the entire school holidays not devoted to parties, silly season festivities, play dates, birthdays or VacSwim without any observable psychological trauma. Bless her, she soldiered on with just her trampoline, dog, dolls' house, CD collection, DVD movies, art supplies and Christmas decorations until Love Chunks was home from work. "Hi there Sapphire," he said, hugging her. "How was your day?" "Oh, it was OK," she replied, in that I've-got-such-a-hard-life-kind-of-voice. "But Mum wouldn't let me paint our front fence red and green for Christmas."

That night as I was reaching for my nightie under my pillow, I found a little note. Sapphire had drawn a big red love heart with the words, "I like you being my Mummy." Bless her. And she's never popped out of bed to give us grief after eight once. Ok, maybe just the once a few months ago to let us know that she's thrown up......

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Presents for your Parents

Are there any people more difficult to buy for than your parents? Go along with me here and disregard your loved one just for the sake of this article because you can usually get something for them, even if it's something they bought themselves already.

Parents, on the other hand, don't live with you, get their own fuddy-duddy frock wear, usually have no mortgages or debts and aren’t in need of anything to help with home renovations. Well, we might think they need some help regarding their d├ęcor, but they don’t. Whatever the differences in style and taste, it’s still hard to work out just what they might like or need.

In our paper the other day it was reported that foot spas, ice shavers and grills were among the least popular Christmas gifts and it caused me to blush a little. I had been seriously thinking about getting a foot spa for Mum, thinking that she might appreciate a bubbly soak after a long day on her feet in the Lifeline shop or out in the garden. Plus I'd bought them (as a joint present - *wince*) a health grill many years ago. It seems as though appliances of any sort are not what people want for Christmas.

As a 37 year old, any obvious shockers for gifts would of course be less forgivable than for a nine year old. Way back in 1977, my younger brother Thumb and I thought it would be a great idea to combine our pocket money and give Mum a flip-top rubbish bin as a Christmas present. To say that her response was a shade less than enthusiastic was somewhat exaggerating things a bit.

In 1978, I thought I had easily made up for that childish faux pas by taking an ancient bicycle out of the Mackenzie’s back shed and painting it with pink undercoat found in the Dutton's old garage. Mum didn’t have a bike and I figured that she’d no doubt love to ride along with us three kids in her free time. Hell, who wouldn't?

After I was made to return the bike and apologise to a puzzled Mr Mackenzie (who didn't even know that his dead father's rusty 1930s bone shaker had gone) I awaited the dreaded punishment that night. This usually entailed Dad having to come in just before us three kids hopped into the bath (either in turn or together, depending on age, size, mood and toilet needs). He'd give us a swift, sharp smack on the leg which was designed to sting and show up on the skin as a red reminder. It never really hurt that much, but when combined with his deliberately angry face each one of us would end up in the tepid brown Murray river bath water hiccupping and sobbing in sorrow.

This time, the dreaded visit from Dad never came. Looking back now I can understand that they knew that my intentions were good: it was just the execution of it that was bad. The following day I rode my own bike (a maroon Malvern star with sissy bar, fluoro-orange flag and a plastic basket on the front) to Tom's the Cheaper Grocer for a more practical gift. Jeepers Creepers but it pretty well blew my entire budget of $4 - a green and white set of plastic salt and pepper shakers and a mini rubbish bin (old ideas hung on hard) filled with Pez pellets. Mum’s reaction to has been wiped from the memory banks, but I don’t ever recall seeing the shakers on our dining table.

Twenty seven years later brings us to the present day, trudging dispiritedly around Tea Tree Plaza, tired, in need of a Farmers Union Feel Good Iced Coffee and a personal shopper. My budget may be slightly larger than 1978’s four dollars in twenty cent pieces but my brain is just as clueless.

Our dog chewed the legs off a rather cute wooden chicken that Mum had sitting on the edge of her plant stand – what if we found something similar to replace it with? Nothing we saw was as whimsical or cute, just ugly and tacky. I decided to go with my instincts and avoid getting her the Sozzled Supine Santa Statue who grunted out: "Roll me over darling, and I'll show you yer Christmas present."

She is allergic to perfumes, soaps and bath oils, has more jewellery than Zamels and would rather chew her own leg off than have someone else select any clothes for her to wear. Any books I’ve given her in the past have not been enjoyed and seeing as Catherine Cookson’s been dead for about a decade I do not want to buy one of her ‘latest’ books, written earlier this year. Maybe a set of three clay ducks instead.

Dad, Dad, Dad. Tools - the man already has three back sheds full of the stuff. Books - he's a member of a book club and has read everything before our local Angus and Robertson's put it on the shelves. Chocolates - he'd love them, but Mum would be likely to snatch them away and say "No, your father doesn't need those. Not the way he's looking at the moment." (She means well, but it's no surprise that he doesn't appreciate her intervention). The CSIRO diet? Oh yeah, really nice, really tactful way to embrace the spirit of Christmas.

Clothes? Naah, we always give him clothes. He may need a couple more XL Penguin shirts, but what sort of thrilling gift is that? DVDs? We gave him and Mum a DVD player last year (with some movies they like) and last week or so Mum inadvertently blurted out, “Oh, we haven’t used that DVD player since you showed us how to put on ‘The Wizard of Oz’ for Sapphire on Boxing Day last year.” Bugger. How wildly thoughtful and creative – a Mitre 10 gift voucher for Dad it is then.

When we got home, grumpy and tired, the clay ducks and voucher were left in the spare room. It was then that the horrible thought hit me: my gift shopping is NOT over. What on earth do I get Love Chunks for Christmas? Are there any people more difficult to buy for than your partner……

Monday, December 19, 2005

Childish Sniggers

A couple of days ago I read on several US blogs focussed on politics that some well-known television commentator said, "They can go ahead and bomb the Coit building for all I care."

The Coit building? For most Australians, a 'coit' is your chocolate starfish, your pencil sharpener, your arse hole. If you've had a spot of bad luck or are in the wrong place at the wrong time, you will find that you've 'been kicked right up the coit.' Alternatively, if you're on a pub crawl and the beer has made your companions brave - if not amorous - someone will inevitably call out to an innocent - but attractive - passerby: "Show us your COIT!" Note that I didn't say we were too bright about which part of the anatomy we wanted to see.

In addition, despite our lovely country's rather world famous reputation for lacking culture, even we wouldn't deign to call a car - let alone a building - such a name. Could you imagine if there was a car - "The Chrysler Coit - take a seat (arr arr) and experience true driving pleasure. Powered by methane and animal waste by-products, it's a smooth - if somewhat smelly - ride. Catch a Coit today!" Let's not even start thinking of what colours the car would come in or how it would have to be cleaned.....

Don't worry, even a suburban slob like me knows that it would have been named after someone. Here in South Oz, it would be named after an historical figure who, for example, helped circumnavigate the waterways or planned the city. In the US, on the other hand, sky scrapers and such tend to be named in honour of the builder or businessman; Trump Tower and everything else being a glaring example. But who was or is, Mr Coit? What was he famous for - colonoscopies? Toilet paper? Bidets? Be honest, does anyone actually use a bidet? Were his school mates cruel to him, nicknaming him Uppya, Innya or Showusyer?

Who works in this infamous yet real Coit building? Tax collectors? Lawyers? Telecall operators or haute couture clothing designers? A questionable talent ageny who represents (Australians first) - Idol has-beens, nudie-rudies from Big Brother, David Koch, Ray Martin and Kate Fisher? What about Mick Jagger, Nicolas Cage, Jennifer Lopez and Sharon Stone? All of these staff would give anyone a good enough reason for letting it be bombed.

I'll let the Benny Hill lurking within me out for one second to end this short article. What if there's a companion building or avenue like Snatch Central or Map of Tassie Mall? It's OK, I'll go wash my hands and rinse out my mouth with soap now, and make amends by volunteering my somewhat worthless services to the disadvantaged. Those poor little coits.....

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Crazy Crown Crackin' Capers

Some of you may know that I had six crowns inserted into my mouth earlier this year ( with more than a few dramas.

Six months later, I thought my gob and everything in it had all settled down peacefully until one recent morning I noticed that two of them at the bottom of my mouth felt very rough. I slowly opened up in front of the mirror which revealed that the white covering had cracked off both teeth. Oh dear, this didn't seem like it was supposed to happen; not when my dentist, Dr T, told me that the crowns' coating was stronger than enamel and should last longer than I would.

A week later I was back in the dentist's chair, looking up the rather too familiar sight of Dr T's nose as he shook his head and tsked-tsked me.
"Have you been wearing your mouthguard?"
"Yes, every night like you told me. Although I have to endure the smirk of Love Chunks each time - it's a sure sign to him that he's not about to strike it lucky in the romance department."
Dr T chuckled, "Yes well, that's what my wife says too-----*ahem* but let's get back to you. Are you sure you've worn it every single night?"
"Yes of course - I've got six crowns, constantly aching teeth and annoyingly regular migraines and I'm rather determined not to get any more."

He flicked off the chair light, took off his serious welding-like glasses and rolled his chair next to me.
"Well, MillyMoo, in twenty three years of dentistry you're only my second patient to have cracked a crown. The first guy had only managed to do it as being a rather mooshed-up part of a car accident when I had to check through dental records."
"Oh," I mumbled, feeling rather like a child being caught wiping a boogie under the desk. "What am I doing wrong then?"
"Clenching. You are clenching your teeth together so hard that it's cracking them. It has also made your top jaw bone very pronounced near the joint and the rest of your teeth loose in their sockets."
"Oh. But I haven't got any fillings, have I?" I said with a weak laugh. In the reflection of his reading glasses, my face looked like a worried potato as I reclined in the chair.
Dr T didn't smile. "This is serious - unless you like the idea of having root canal work done on all of your teeth?"
"But look," I protested, "I'm asleep when this clenching occurs, for goodness sake. How the hell can I control what I do when I'm unconscious?"

He dropped his school teacher-like demeanour at that and thought for a moment.
"Well, I'm going to have to make your mouthguard a lot thicker."
"Oh OK, here it is. I brought it in like you asked me." It looked like a fossilised gob of phlegm in the plastic coin bag it was wrapped in, and he took it with about as much enthusiasm. Peering into the bag with dismay, he nodded, "Yep, I'll just run upstairs and have a chat with Bill our technician about the relevant thickness. Oh and I'll get him to make up a soft mouthguard for your bottom teeth as a kind of buffer. You stay there, I'll be back in a minute."

Marvellous. Two mouthguards. Love Chunks will be wiping the tears of mockery away every night. My bedtime routine was already romance-sapping enough - a huge elephant honk in a tissue before squirting up two shots of Rhinocort spray up each nostril; swallowing some sleeping medication (which is supposed to relax my muscles and prevent any clenching or teeth grinding) and now the 'click clack' insertion of two mouthguards. Oooh yeah, Humina humina humina - keep those babies on you wild child! This was not what we saw in the pre-consummation scenes of any big budget movie and I sure as hell didn't remember seeing anyone such as Angelina Jolie or Julia Roberts waking up with two mouthguards on attempting to make a conversation about having "Sshome eggsh for breakfassht pleasshe."

Before I could wallow in it any further, Dr T stuck his not inconsiderably big grey head around the door: "You know it could be worse. I've got one gentleman patient whose mouthguard is so wide he has to sleep with his mouth permanently open."

Lordy! How many bugs and spiders would that poor guy have eaten in his lifetime? What sort of dog's bottom morning breath would he - and his wife, more importantly - wake up to every day? And how painfully sore would his throat be? Surely you'd rather wear falsies and pop them in a glass beside your bed than end up as a stormwater drain in your own bed.....

An hour later, I was on the bus, tootling back home along North Terrace. I could still feel some tiny bits of the rubbery gel the assistant used to take a mold of my lower and upper sets of teeth. They'd be ready for collection the following week. Oh well, I consoled myself, at least I'll be able to *close my mouth*. In fact Love Chunks would probably like to see that in writing.

We've all had these sent to us from time to time, but I admit to having no idea what a 'meme' is that's referred to by other very popular bloggers. Despite my cyber-dagginess, feel free to use this for your own purposes and let me know if you found out anything interesting.

Star sign and what you think it means about you:
Scorpio but I don't believe I fit the profile - I'm not ruthless, oversexed or dressed like a femme fatale!

When was the best time of your life?
UK in 1991-92 for the sheer irresponsibility of travel, taking on lowly jobs not related to a real career, pommy pubs and cider, mates, road testing different boys - all of whom only saw me as who I was right then and there and NOT what I was like growing up in my home town, or at Uni, or in Adelaide.
AND 1993, when I met my husband.

Best physical feature:
My skin - biggest organ of the body and happily deals with soap, water and whatever the cheapest moisturiser is that month at Coles

5 foods that you'd take with you on a desert island:
Hmmm, I'm assuming that there'd be tropical fruit, coconuts and seafood there, so I'll go for Cheese, Farmers Union Feel Good Iced Coffee, CHOCOLATE, bacon and rice

5 albums you'd listen to on the desert island:
Oingo Boingo's 'Best of'; Divine Madness, Stone Age Romeos - Hoodoo Gurus; If this is rock'n'roll I want my old job back - The Saw Doctors and Bruce Springsteen's greatest hits

Don't forget the five books you're allowed to stow away:
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee, Cold Mountain - Charles Frazier, Exodus - Leon Uris (the only book that's ever made me cry); Catch 22 - Joseph Heller and Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Luckily, there's a DVD player hidden under a coconut tree. What five would you bring? Gladiator, Dead Poets' Society, The Sure Thing, Donnie Darko, American Beauty. Next week my top five will change, as is my wont.

Imagine, too, that you're allowed 'conjugal visits' from five famous people during your stay on the island. Who would you choose and why?
1) John Cusack - because I've been in love with his quirkiness since 1985;
2) Jude Law because he's stunning to look at;
3) Russell Crowe (but only in his Gladiator role, not his bonehead real life punchin' self);
4) Daniel Day Lewis (but only in his 'Last of the Mohicans' look, not his big-bearded weirdo arty farty self);
5) Hmmm, struggling to choose between Hugh Grant (I know I know but he's nice to look at), Viggo Mortensen, Keanu Reeves, Haydn Christensen - all very nice visual stimuli.

Do you have a tattoo? If yes, what and where? Yes. Between my hip bone and my, ahem 'map of tassie' - A blue rose because my daughter's name is Rose and she and Love Chunks have beautiful blue eyes. It reminds me of what's most important in my life because I was in danger of losing it all earlier in the year.

What three things really annoy you?
1) Cheap locally made advertisements with Santa hats on products not exactly on top of everyone's wish list - ie Repco Auto Parts, Cartridge World and the Shaver Shop.
2) Fat fashion victims - we may still be recovering from too many years of the muffin top but a wide peasant belt does NOT hide one's bouncing gut either gals
3) The Bali Nine - stupidity knows no bounds and I wish the media would stop wasting column inches on them

What are your three worst habits?
1) Not being able to resist looking into my tissue after I've blown into it (There! I admitted it!)
2) Eating far too much chocolate
3) Kissing the dog (on the head, not the lips! Besides, do dogs actually have any lips??)

What three things would you buy if you won $100,000?
1) A new car - a VW passat in silver
2) A renovated bathroom - so we can finally be rid of the 1980s pink and brass nightmare we currently live with
3) A few weeks holiday with hubby and daughter in Europe and not on the cheap

What would you do if you won a million dollars?
Pay off the house, put some aside for our daughter's secondary and university schooling, a new car, some renovations and maybe even go back to uni to study without worrying about an ongoing HECS debt.

How much money would you have to be paid to eat a dog poo?

How much would you have to be paid to get your gear off for a magazine?
Ten Million - and it'd be for a comedy magazine, not a porno one

Have you ever been on TV? When, what and why?
1988 - Wheel of Fortune. Hair teased up big enough to rival Dolly Parton and enough makeup to frighten off a drag queen. No, there's no surviving video of it. Won the episode with some 'gifts' including a spa bath, mag wheels, make up, books, cast-iron cook ware and the camera. Only the cast iron stew pot remains.
1997 - Sale of the Century. Too slow for the buzzer most of the show and looked like a deer caught in the headlights. They had to stop filming when a gal tripped over on the carpet and I cacked myself laughing. All I won where those 'Who am I?' questions and got some shocker prizes.

Have you ever won a competition?
Sadly no, but it's not for lack of trying. I've won 'consolation' prizes of a Cadbury watch (I wanted the $150K); a napkin holder - (yet I ungratefully wanted the first class round-the-world trip), and a $1000 shopping voucher but that was for my friend!

What three 'stars' do you think DON'T deserve their fame?
1) Adam Sandler. I just do not umderstand what it is that people want to see his movies - he's about as witty as a fart in a funeral home.
2) Anyone from any series of Big Brother. They're the sort of attention seeking show offs I'd cross the street to avoid, so I sure as hell don't want to watch them having a shower.
3) Mariah Carey - those endless three-octave warbles, choosing terrible songs to showcase her talent and always dressing three sizes too small. I wish to god she'd put her boobs in hiding for once.

Which three people should be famous but aren't?
1) Whoever causes John Howard to lose the next election.
2) The inventor of a delicious, fat-free chocolate that increases intelligence and includes fibre, iron and vitamins
3) That poor eastern European athlete who smashed his face into the pommel horse during the 1980s - his humiliation gets shown on 'funny video' shows in perpetuity

Which three people (living) would you invite over for dinner?
1) John Cusack - but mostly for what I'd do to him after dinner;
2) Clive James - for humour and writing advice; and
3) Jeff Probst - for Survivor stories

What magazines do you subscribe to or buy?
Delicious - Simple, honest, foodie porn. I like to look, but my husband actually cooks.
Marieclaire - I'm not yet old enough for the Aussie Womens Weekly

InStyle - Because I'm not.

What was the last movie you saw at the cinema?
'In her Shoes' with my mate Jill. We went because there was nothing else on at the time and date that we were free to go and see a movie, and our expectations were 'Miss Congeniality' low - hence we were pleasantly surprised.

What do you want for Christmas -
1) Under $20: Any good book in paperback or Lindt chocolates
2) Under $100: A pair of jeans that don't make my stomach resemble a volksie bonnet at the front or reveal any arse crack at the back
3) Pricetag not a worry: The VW passat mentioned earlier would be good enough, thanks.

Who - in your real life - do you admire and why?
My husband - for sticking with me; for his patience, kindness, humour, insight and friendship
My parents - for giving me a childhood filled with love, fun and encouragement
My friends - because they all have qualities that I envy and I'm grateful that they like me
My Grandpa - he may be frail at 92 and now in an aged care facility, but he's more alert, intelligent and open-minded than most people a quarter of his age

What do you admire about yourself?
I'm a work still in progress and have a fair way to go, but my skin isn't too bad.

What about YOU?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Doggie Doggie Doggie - Oi Oi Oi!**

(With apologies to Gareth from the UK series 'The Office' and to all Australian male cricket fans in general).

I read in the paper today that in Ireland a dog, imaginatively named Doggie, had originally become infamous for somehow surviving a ride mashed like roadkill on the front of a car that had hit him. He travelled more than 100km before the driver (or anyone else on the road) noticed and sought some veterinary treatment for the black and white mongrel.

Unfortunately Doggie's lucky star finally went 'poof' and went out. He got too close to a delivery truck that was carrying in groceries for his owner and was subsequently run down in his own backyard. Poor little mangled mutt - sometimes it just doesn't pay to be a boy who insists on cocking his leg and having a wizz on every car tyre in range.

Despite his sad demise, it is to be hoped that his owner(s) do something to commemorate his remarkable survival of the earlier run-over. Could they create a dog-shaped bull bar or sew up a wheelcover made from his black and white coat? After all, Doggie won't be needing it in whatever spiritual plane he's now on.

Which leads me - rather clumsily - on to another topic regarding the use of dead animal skins for other purposes. Here in South Oz, the cats on Kangaroo Island have mostly turned feral and prefer to catch, tease and eat native species of birds and mammals rather than introduced pesky species like the rabbit or fox. The council has therefore embarked on a culling program to rid the island of the feral felines and also urge the owners of domestic cats to keep them inside as much as possible.

Both strategies seem fair, but the local media here has filled the obligatory 'Non Christmas Outrage Story' requirement by reporting that the skins of the dead cats have been used to make hats and stubby holders. This has produced a truckload of letters to the Editor from angry cat lovers who claim that it is cruel.

Surely any accusations of cruelty can only apply to a living creature and not when it is dead. Otherwise most of us could be accused of promoting cruelty just by wearing shoes. Be honest - unless you've got on hemp rope espadrilles or those stupid looking plastic sneakers adored by fashion tragics, what are your shoes made of - leather. Most likely kangaroo leather. Yes, Skippy. Roo shoes are all over the world because currently it is the most commonly-used leather. I don't have a problem with wearing roo on my feet or having sheep wool lining my ugg boots in winter either.

I think a cat hat would be rather cosy during winter, especially if each pelt still had the tail attached to it. It couldn't look any dumber than those fox fur-lined hats with the flaps over the ears. The stubby holder leaves me rather puzzled though - is it using the leather of the cat or the fur; and if it is the fur, does it go on the outside or the inside (thus getting damp) in order to cool down the beer?

Why stop at those two items - why not make belts out of their tails: they'd feel nice. Or how about tempting the gullible with some fur bikinis ala Rachel Welch in 10,000 BC? Perhaps they could be worn by gals who hate getting wet. There's always the classic tacky approach of handy coin purses from the non-neutered males' um, thingies.

Rather than being cruel, such use should instead be considered environmentally friendly. If an animal was hunted down by our stone-age, dark-age and mediaevel forbears, then the entire animal was used, not just the juicy cutlets growing around its arse. The intestines, organs, head, skin and fur were all either eaten or treated so that they fed and clothed the members of the tribe/family/feudal serfs and had plenty left over for winter.

If we pause to remember young Doggie mentioned much earlier above, he was a much loved pet presumably now being mourned by his family, but whether he was buried in the back yard under the fig tree or now sits in a china urn on their mantel piece, he's wasted. Not as in 'wasted away', but as in 'not being used to his full extent.' If we can have cat beer coolers and roo shoes, then maybe we should think about having dog doonas and poochie pillow cases to save burial space and vets' cremation costs and end up with Fido providing much longer service without the inconvenience of the nasal nukeing Fido farts at TV time.

After all, dogs aren't exactly known for their work ethic are they? With the exception of sheep dogs, the typical family pet dog sleeps for at least 16 hours per day. The other eight hours sees him eating, crapping, lapping up his water, joyously going for jogs/walks with you, licking himself, barking at the postie, digging aimlessly and chewing your old sherrin. No jobs completed there, unless you count the three he did near the doormat. What has Rover achieved in his eight hours of idleness?

Many's the time I've looked at our dog as she's lazed on the jogger tramp sunning herself, watching me slave away and said, "You know, if some breeder could come up with a dog who weeds the garden, it'd change suburban life as we know it." The fact that this remark is met with a happy-yet-vacant stare doesn't stop me from hoping. If we aim a little lower, it would still be absolutely marvellous if there was a dog who could take out the wheelie bins each week: that would surely be worth the cost of Chum, Schmackos and the old handful of cheezels.

In the meantime we should take heart from Doggie and pray that some huge global company like Chrylser/Holden have taken note of his dimensions to help them designing impact-reducing bull bars and doggie reverse mirrors for their future models.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Quick - Count heads!

Yesterday Sapphire's class - and the other two reception/year 1 classes - went to the zoo for their end-of-school-year excursion. All day. The teachers put out a plea for helper parents to accompany them, so I put my name down on the list, feeling as though I should put in an effort to be a helpful 'presence' during Sapphire's early school years.

At the morning drop off time it was already evident just how excited the 75 little five and six year olds were. They all were wearing their broad-brimmed sun hats inside the classroom and proudly shouldering their mini backpacks holding their drinks and lunch.
"Sapphire's Mum..!" (as I am mostly known at the school) ".......are you coming with us today?"
"Yes, I sure am," I said, beaming at the child's smiling face. "I don't know yet who'll I'll be looking after. Your teacher will tell me."
"Ooooh pick me! Pick me! I wanna be in your group!"

I felt absurdly flattered. Kids always like to hover around teachers and parents and sort of idolise them for brief periods and they were also doing the same to Jay and Sarina's mothers, but it made me feel secretly special anyway. Admittedly having four of them fight to hold my one free hand wasn't looking like it was going to end happily until three of them decided that grabbing the loose toggle straps on my backpack would suffice. Great for them, but rather annoying for me - I was afraid I'd be yanked to the ground like a marooned beetle.
"The bus is here - line up in a neat row until I tell you to get on," yelled out Ms B, their teacher. My ears were already ringing and it had just turned 9am - how on earth was I going to last an entire day?

Surprisingly the bus ride was a smooth one as they were all too keen to look out of the window and be the first ones to spot the first signs of the zoo rather than wrestle or work up a nice whine. Sarina's mother, Nancy and I decided to buddy up, figuring that nine kids between the two of us might not be so intimidating.
"Let's go see the chickens - Hey LOOK everybody, I've caught one!"
"Omigod - Oh dear, umm that's very clever of you, Matthew, but I think you'd better put it down in case it gets scared --- whoah Dannielle - you're not supposed to climb the fence into the goat enclosure! I know - let's go and see the gorillas." The reclusive primates were behind glass thank goodness; but only interested the children for about one minute, unfortunately.

"How about the sealions?" asked Nancy, her eyes darting about in a constant count of blue-hatted heads. That idea was a winner as they all eagerly raced up to the top of the viewing ramp. I couldn't believe that kids still said this: Last one there's a rotten egg, but they do.
At the top, the sight of a mother swimming with her calf wasn't quite so compelling.
"Phewww, they STINK!" said Alex, dramatically holding his nose.
"Who fart--- sorry, who popped off?" said Isobel.
"No-one did - it's the sealions' fish they left behind, silly," said my Sapphire in a rather Hermoine Grangerish know-it-all voice.
"You don't need to say 'silly' - that's why we're at the zoo - to learn things," I said determined to be cheerful and sneaking a look at my watch. 9:45am.
"Wanna know what I've learned already?" asked Matthew, tugging at my backpack.
"What, mate?"
"I've learned....." (he took a deep breath and waited until he got the entire of everyone in our group), "....that you have to LIKE the smell of poo if you want to work here." All nine giggled in appreciation.
"That's nice. One-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight-nine, good. How about we go through the Asian rainforest walk?"
"Yeeeeeaaaaahhhhhh!" Any suggestion was a valid one it seemed, just as long as we kept walking, didn't linger for longer than a minute and they were given ample time to sample the water from every fountain we came across.

After seeing the enclosed bird exhibits, baby penguins, meerkats, giraffe and kangaroos lunchtime eventually rolled around. Frankly it was impossible to say who was more hungry, hot and exhausted - us mums or the kids. "Sapphire's Mum, Sarina's Mum - the grass is too wet to sit on!"
"No it isn't. And if it is, you'll dry out." I wasn't going to move anywhere for at least the next half an hour, whingeing or no whingeing, and Nancy was shattered enough to risk whipping out her packet of cigarettes for a calming lungful.

The metamorphosis of a flat inflatable mattress to one that is fully puffed up with air is not unlike the transformation of children after they've eaten their lunch. The zoo's rotunda area hosted at least seven different junior primary schools and all of them seemed to be running around in a deranged form of chasey. Through all of this chatter, chaos, movement and noise, the nearby pelicans slept soundly, waking only to peck at an itchy spot in their feathers which was most admirable and made me feel pretty bloody envious at such a skill. My forehead was pounding, and sharing sympathetic looks with Nancy and other crumpled parents wasn't making the day move along any faster.

All too soon, it was time to refill water bottles, find Maria and Danielle, put the rubbish in the bin and hold a group vote on what to see next - the lions or the zebras? "LIONS." Of course, except that I explained to the now rather reluctant 4-feet-nothing walkers that it was on the other side of the zoo. "Let's go then - Quick!" said Alex, always 50 metres ahead of us.
"Are we there yet?" "Are we there yet?" was a whining refrain that was asked by each child in turn at least twice every minute; almost as if they'd planned how they could pepper Nancy and I with a Wall-Of-Whine which rendered us incapable of answering one kid's question before it was asked again.

Shit - the bloody lions weren't there - friggin' Adelaide zoo had packed them all off to Monarto for a rest. The written sign was read out to the children and Olivia's eyes filled with tears of disappointment. The time - 1:30pm. Another one and a half hours to go.
"I tell you what, Olivia - would you like to go and see the nocturnal house?"
"Wha- what is it," she sniffed.
"It's where the lizards, frogs and snakes live. Behind glass, so you'll be very safe."
This suggestion dried her tears, re-energised the others and it was just next door.

"HELP! Where are you!" Olivia screamed. It was pitch black in there and in my haste to stop her crying I'd forgotten that she was as blind as a bat herself, which wasn't going to help her see the bats on display in such a dimly lit enclosure.
"Hang on to my hand and we'll find the others," I said, doing my best to sound in control as I used my right hand to frenziedly feel around in the dark for any other heads.
"Nancy, I'll go to the exit and get the kids to meet me there, alright? SAPPHIRE, ALEX, MARIA, MATTHEW, DANIELLA, ISOBEL, JENNIFER and SARINA! Meet us at the exit! Yes yes you too Olivia, but I've got your hand so I didn't need to call out your name."

It was a relief to find that they were all impressed with the zebras, especially the baby one who had brown stripes intead of black ones. The pygmy hippopotamus was also a source of interest, mostly due to their wondering why he poops in his own water when it stinks so much; and the cavys from South America were subjected to much debate as to whether they were wallabies, guinea pigs or rats. To me they looked like genetically-modified rabbits trying to get used to walking around on meerkat legs.

The otters' pond was where we lingered the longest as the kids (and, let's face it, me too) were fascinated with their adept swimming and high-pitched barks. When I suggested that one of them looked like Alex and then named the rest of the otters with the kids' names, I kicked myself for not thinking of it earlier. This basic appeal to their egos meant that they loved it and all watched with increased fascination as their aquatic counterparts frolicked, groomed and barked. Their entire enclosure was pungent with old fish and pond slime, but not one child commented on it.

On our way out we had enough time for a quick pat of the reindeer in the petting zoo, with Matthew insisting that he saw Rudolph run off into the 'Zoo Personnel Only' area to hide. Counting heads for one last time, we clambered on to the bus, Nancy and I exchanging exhausted 'Thank god it's over' glances.
"So kids, what were your favourite parts about the zoo," I asked them as the bus chugged up Magill Road.
- "When you shared your chips with me."
- "When Nancy picked me up and carried me in the nocturnal house."
- "When the monkey did a wee right in front of us."
- "Catching Matthew when we played chasey after lunch."

Oh well.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Silly Signs

I was riding home on the bus today, mouth still aching from the shuddering agony of an air and water 'clean' the dentist gave the DENTINE of my cracked tooth - sorry, that's another story - and I noticed that some wit had rubbed out a few letters from a sign that's very common on Adelaide buses: Wheelchair brakes should be applied whilst bus is in motion.

Theh sticker now read: EEL HAIR RAKES SHOULD B APPLE WHIIST PUS IN MOTI. Not all that clever and rather peurile, but at least it wasn't obscene and, for all I knew, it might have meant something profound in latin. Whatever the case, it gave me a small chuckle and set my minute mind to remembering other silly signs I'd seen in the past.

In 1985 (which I've covered in: I went to Ayers Rock for a camping holiday with my parents and my 15 year old brother who had broken his collarbone, leaving me to help Dad erect our complex, double-internal-chambered, 8-man tent every night. Thankfully I had my very groovy Sony walkman to blot out the uncoolness of travelling with my family and could instead immerse myself in the sounds of Wang Chung, Dream Academy and Animotion. The drive up there was dusty, hot and incredibly boring; however at one stage we saw a rusted sign, literally in the middle of nowhere. It wasn't attached to an old house, or petrol station or fence, but read: LESBIANS ARE EVERYWHERE. For some reason I was quite happy to pose next to it for the photo, but still fervently hoped that it wouldn't be seen by any of my school mates.

The most common silly sign was found at Adelaide University in the toilets. In the eighties they were using separate sheets of thin, cheap loo paper that you grabbed from the letter box slot at the bottom of the white metal box. Under every single dispenser in the butt-ugly-but-big Napier building would invariably be seen the words: ARTS DEGREES. PLEASE TAKE ONE. Ha ha bloody har - it's a bona fide skill to have a working knowledge of ancient Roman art and archaeology and don't get me started on the relevance of the pre-scientific world view.... There was a tiny bit of consolation in the fact that at the SA Institute of Technology (SAIT as it was then known) on the corner, their loo dispensers had: SOCIAL WORKER DEGREES. PLEASE TAKE ONE instead.

Unley Road has for years had the standard road sign 'Form One Lane' spraypainted with two fuzzy purple letters to 'Form One Planet.' I know that this was also a Rockmelons album and so has probably been done to death, but I've never seen it anywhere in my neck of the woods. Growing up in Murray Bridge meant that the only silly signs I ever saw were someone's initials shot into the metal with a slug gun.

The location of the racist graffiti escapes me, but at one stage it hatefully stated: ASIANS OUT. Very soon after, some clever-clogs had added three extra words which served to totally remove the hatred of the phrase: TAKE ASIANS OUT TO LUNCH. Now that kind of cleverness is something to admire and enjoy.

We've all seen 'Please wash me' on particularly dusty cars, but my Uncle, who then lived in the rural town of KiKi (don't pretend you haven't heard of it, it's on the big long road to Melbourne), found one on the back of his grotty old station wagon that made him laugh: Don't wash me - PLANT something!

Lastly, there are sometimes some pearls to be found at the back of toilet doors. Aside from 'Michelle is a f***ing mole and we're going to kick her head in, 'For a good time call -----' and the ubiquitous 'Kazza for Dazza 4 Eva 2 getha'. The only one of these pearlers I can remember was scrawled at the bottom of the door (note to self for future blog topic - why don't toilet doors ever reach the bottom? Is it for ventilation? Is wood that expensive?) 'Beware of perverted limbo dancers.' I laughed so hard that the old lady next to me in the Wyatt Street carpark hastily got out and left without washing her hands. At least I hope that's why she did.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Three Crushing Kilograms

I've gained three kilograms over the past month or so as I discovered to my horror yesterday when I stepped confidently on the scales, fully expecting to see the red needle jerk up to the usual acceptable number. It went three clicks further around the dial.

I jumped off the scale as though it was a square of molten lava. How could this be? I tried again. Still the same horrible number. I then moved the scales to another part of the room: a desperate ploy to see if the gentle wobble in our 85-year old floorboards had somehow encouraged the needle to go further than it should have. This may have worked in MillyMoo Land, but no such luck in the real world.

Shocked, horrified, ill and embarrassed didn't even begin to cover just how I felt. I asked again: How could this be? I run six kilometres four times a week for godssake and I do a 1.5km swim at least once a week. How much more exercise was I supposed to do to keep my weight down to a less-than-lardarse level?

Note that my concerns yesterday (and today, if I'm to be honest) revolved around increasing exercise and did not yet entertain the novel idea of reducing what I eat. I love to eat and am happy to exercise reasonably hard in order to ensure that I can continue to freely and lustily inhale all sorts of chocolately, cakey, sticky, salty and oily foods without morphing into the Michelin Man. After all, if there's a new brand, flavour or variety of chocolate out on the market, it is my responsibility to try it out.... in the interests of furthering our advances in all types of research for the overall benefit of society you understand.

I don't think I'm the only one who shares this silly psychosocio-physical view of oneself; namely that it's worth the lack of sleep, agony, sweat and boredom of exercise to be able to scoff down a family block of caramello in front of 'Survivor' than to sleep in, go to the gym half as often and not have any caramello. (At least, this is how it has to be unless the ancient Roman Vomitarium makes a return to private residences and public eating spots).

There is evidence everywhere in every street from 6am to 9am every day. Now that it is December, it is interesting to note the sharp increase in the numbers of people staggering around the neighbourhoods jogging, power walking, cycling or (hah!) driving to the gym for their circuit classes. Yes, the earlier daylight in the mornings could be a factor in this increase, but mostly it is because they too want to look svelte-enough to shovel in whatever they feel like over the silly season. They will keep up their relatively new exercise plan until, oh, about late January when most of the holiday hoeing has finished and they can convince themselves that their baggy cargo shorts/peasant caftans have shrunk in the wash.

Despite this smug assertion, I still woke up this morning feeling rather depressed about those miserable three kilos. Before stepping on the scale again (just to make sure), I fulfilled every old cliched chestnut of the desperate dieter - dropped a couple of John Howards off at the pool, had a shower, cut my nails, cleaned out my ears, shaved my legs - and then stepped on. Aaarrgh - the needle still kept jerking its way to three numbers too high and we haven't even had Christmas, Boxing Day or New Years' Eve food fests yet.

Love Chunks was just about to get the newspaper which, as usual, was wedged underneath a rose bush, dripping with rain. "Hey MillyMoo - just stand there in the bathroom door so that I can check out if you can see in our house from the outside." Explanation needed here: we had just got a new wrought iron screen door put on the front and weren't sure how much could be seen from the outside. In addition, our only bathroom was in direct line with the front door. For the past five years I had dreaded the scenario of bending over to pick up the soap just as Dean was letting in a tradesman; or doing a quick streak to the bedroom just as 88 year old Jack from next door was asking us to empty his letter box whilst he went to Edithburgh on a fishing trip.

These scenarios were far from my immediate thoughts however as I stood uncertainly in the passage, feeling rather chunky in my bathroom and not strong enough for a funny 'fat comment' from Love Chunks at 7am in the morning.
"Er, what can you see?"
"Oh EVERYTHING," he said dramatically. Oh dear sweet Love Chunks, please don't say anything about my pot-belly or chunky thighs or ham hock arms or----
"I can see every single wrinkle on your face."

Great. I hope you say it just a bit louder so that all of the neighbours can hear.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

It's time to stand up and say NO!

That's right, it's time. For far too many years we've been forced by huge corporations, our own comsumerist society and the invisible strength of peer pressure to do it. It's expensive, boring and annoyingly time consuming. It contributes absolutely nothing of worth to the world or our lives as we know them and is worthless in a very short time.

This activity does not feed us, pleasure us or entertain us; nor does it bring families together, further our knowledge or encourage us to be better human beings.

Perhaps most annoyingly, it is something that women invariably end up doing without any interest or offers of help by our men. Most of us wonder, at some stages of our long term relationships just what our fellas did about it before they met us because they sure as hell haven't bothered to do anything about it since then. And I'm not talking about the ironing, prompt nose hair trimming or the provision of 5-star quality rumpy-pumpy.

We must also start to think seriously about the result of what this pointless activity is doing to our environment. Generating additional waste year after year for landfill or silly recycling ideas (such as creating new versions from old or those stupid round home-delivery pizza cartons that never close properly and have about as much insulation as a piece of netting).

Have you guessed what I'm standing up for yet? CHRISTMAS CARDS. Those pesky little folded squares of cardboard that have been filling up letterboxes since mid-November.

Most of them come from the cheap 30-packs for $4.99, so your bookshelf or mantelpiece is festooned with 1960s photos of baubles, or worse still, those god-awful paintings of christmas trees in the snow or the three wise men. As for the message inside, if it just has "To Love Chunks, Milly Moo and Carly" and only their names inside, I don't know whether to be relieved or offended. Relieved that it doesn't contain those horrible photocopied chain letters of "What the Side Bottom-Johanssens did this year" because nothing says 'I personally care about you' more than a mass printout, does it? Or should I be offended because we weren't even worth the fifteen seconds required to scrawl out an additional hand-written sentence along the lines of "Must catch up soon - have a great 2006!".

No matter where you display the damn things, they always end up on the floor when someone opens the door. If they're slung over a ribbon across the window the force of gravity eventually lures them to the lowest point so that it looks like you've only got one friend who sent you a card because all the others are hiding underneath. And there's the real truth: we only bother to buy, write and post Christmas cards because we want some back. We yearn for these tacky little rectangles so that we can reassure ourselves that we are indeed popular, that everyone loves us and we're running out of space to display these symbols of respect and admiration.

That's the real truth and I know it because that's why I've been doing it. Up until now. If we're all honest with ourselves, most of our closest mates are either living in the same town or have email, so the traditional Christmas card is obsolete. It has instead been replaced by emailed jokes or those 'Please DO NOT DELETE - eight-year old limbless Tristian from Idaho will die from cancer without having met his jailed father if you do not pass this on within twenty four hours.' By sending these without any other text of your own, it's cyber shorthand for 'Hey, you're still my friend but I'm too busy/can't be shagged to write to you right now, but enjoy the joke.'

That's the real truth too, isn't it? Perhaps I should make a stand on two issues - a) no sending Christmas cards and b) no sending on silly jokes unless I genuinely have a laugh when I first read it. Who wants to join me on this political stance?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Young love, awwwww.......

For all the Aussies out there reading this blog, you will know that Adelaide has been home to one of Saddam Hussein's bodyguards in some kind of 'oversight' by the Dept of Immigration.

It would be an entirely different blog than this little one that would trouble itself to point out all of the other 'oversights' by this department - that poor wheelchair woman sent back to the Philippines; placing pregnant women and children behind bars; leaving some poor soul on his own at Easter Island for a seven year long incarceration - so I'm only going to focus on our young friend Mr Oday Adnan Al Tekriti, or Oday for short.

Oday babes is 37 years old and married one of our ex-Liberal MPs, Dr Bernice Pfitzner, in 2003. All fine and dandy. Dr B first met Oday at the Woomera Detention Centre in 2000 when he was three days into a hunger strike and she was one of the treating doctors. A noble profession and very decent of her to work under such trying conditions. On her very first day of work she managed to convince him to give up the hunger strike - what a goddess - and continued to see him every couple of days until he was released on a bridging visa in 2002.

She 'sponsored' him (is that what they call shagging these days) and organised some accommodation for him in Adelaide. How very generous of her. Over the next few months, they rang each other often, culminating in marriage in 2003. Still with me? Good. All of the above information is valid, but it was the second sentence on the front page that made me cough out my meusli: "Dr Pftizner, 67, said the 30-year age difference was not important. Their friendship grew into understanding then love." Of course it did.

It left a rather unsavoury taste in my mouth and that wasn't the yoghurt. Thirty years difference? A sixty seven year old ex-MP and medical doctor (ker-ching!!) married to a 37 year old man who could only stay in this country with a permanent visa?

Who is using whom? Is Oday prostituting himself for freedom (and hoping she'll either cark it soon or he'll divorce her) and is she loving the fact that she's landed herself a young buck to (deep breath) 'service' her every physical need? Perhaps if they're both aware of the arrangement and can stomach it, it can be seen as a good working partnership. However I bet most of us merely see a deluded old bag who is vain enough to believe that a man young enough to be her son would be interested in her. Would she dare even think of whether he'd still be interested in her if he wasn't in detention or on a temporary visa? Their marriage would have about as much chance of lasting as Britney's post-baby singing career or a packet of Haigh's chocolate frogs within my hand's reach. Besides, he's now in 'hiding' somewhere and not even living with her - I bet he's relieved about that 'setback'.

You may think I'm being very hard and scornful but I've certainly criticised enough rich old men taking on new wives half their age and I believe that the reversal is just as sickening.
Seventy-something Joan Collins married a bloke 35 years younger than her. He's called the rather unfortunate name of Percy and looks about as manly as the bloke from 'Are you being served'. About forty years ago (before her husband was even born) she inspired the infamous joke: "What does Joan Collins put behind her ears to attract men?" Answer - her ankles. These days old Joanie's a rare visitor to the photo pages of gossip magazines but when she does make it in, it's normally to poke fun at her pancaked transvestite make-up and overly-corseted dress that's attempting to reverse gravity. From what I remember reading about them in Women's Weekly a few years ago, young Percy's a struggling playwright and she's struggling with ageing and reality, so maybe they do have a partnership in heaven. She funds his plays and he turns out the lights at night when she beckons.

There is also the equally sad and pathetic phenomenon of fifty-something British divorcees holidaying in poor African coastal countries, on the look out for young, studly Masai-tribe guys to take home as the ultimate souvenir. For so many of them, it's been very easy to be chatted up by a local stud-muffin and to fly them back to Scunthorpe or wherever to a quick marriage to cement their love. They'll tell you that age does not make a difference if you're young at heart -yet the reporter following their sagas tracks them down a few months later to discover the old slappers' husbands have shot through, having gained the coveted visa. How desperate would you have to be to honestly believe that a 19 year old African boy was going to live with you, a 58 year old fish wife?

Back to young Oday and Dr/Mrs Bernice. She's from Singapore and resides in Australia and he's from Iraq and worked very closely with Saddam. What on earth do they find to talk about? The Singaporean death penalty? The planned assassinations in Baghdad? Whether Kate should have won Australian Idol or how many children they planned to have together?

I'll bet half my arse that if any one of those May-December / Young Stud-Old Bag relationships stands the test of time, it will only have been because she died.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Silent Night Holy Night

'Silent night, holy night, all is calm....' Yeah right. Tell that to a nurse on night shift. When my six year old daughter Sapphire spent three days in hospital recently, she was in a ward that accommodated three other children. At night, the population of the ward doubled as four concerned parents nervously unfolded flip-out single beds from the sofas beside their child's bed.

We two were in the corner nearest to the entry doors and the nurses' station. Each night the lights were turned off at 8:30pm sharp, so after cuddling Sapphire until she fell asleep I'd surreptitiously fish out my novel and squint in the twilight trying to read. By 10:30 it was time to give up and allow my hot, overworked eyeballs a chance to recover. Each bed had the mandatory white curtain pulled around it for some semblance of privacy. They reminded me of the curtains of changing rooms in jeans shops that don't quite meet at either end so that you're still flashing your bras and poking out your bum and wobbly bits to any other person walking past your cubicle. The white curtains finished one metre off the ground, so that whilst the sleeping children did not have shafts of light piercing their eyes because their beds were high up, us parents did. We could practically sleep underneath our kids' beds so it felt like we may as well have been in the hall under the fluoro tubes for all the 'protection' the curtains gave us.

At 2 hours past midnight I could feel my already-sore eyes start to throb as though they'd been rolled in gravel and kicked about like soccer balls. Why did the nurses need Stalag 17 fluoro lighting in the middle of the night? Why can't the hospital have curtains that go down to the floor and, most importantly, why do the night shift nurses think these &^%$ing thin strips of cotton are magically soundproof?

Yes, yes I know it's their workplace and I soon discovered that they tended to do a late-then-early which would have skewed their concept of time for normal people and they don't get paid enough for what they do and of course my respect and admiration for their skill and stamina knows no bounds. Yeah yeah, Nurses are the Lifeblood of hospitals, blah, blah, blah.

But how come these same people can be magnificently considerate human beings when they quietly, deftly and efficiently administer the hourly Ventolin to each asthma-suffering child in the room and then believe that they had the right to cough, bellow and cackle like a herd of hyenas only 2 metres away?

These wicked witches would congregate around the main desk for a cuppa and a chat for what seemed like an hour every half an hour (and I'm not exaggerating). Sapphire's and my luck in being two metres away enabled me to hear, in loud and lingering detail, about Kate's February trip to the UK; how absolutely hung over Meg was feeling and just why Sherie thought that her student nurse was such crap. When someone made the coffees there would then be a long, torturous process of jangling teaspoons in ceramic mugs that put images of Quasimodo head butting the bells of Notre Dame in their created-noise-to-quietness-of-surroundings scenario.

Naturally this midnight morning tea break would be peppered with guttural bursts of laughter that would shake me awake every four minutes or so. They might as well have taken turns to stand at the end of my rickety little foldaway bed and clang two bedpans together whilst simultaneously blowing an umpire's whistle. It was then that my image of these virtuous night-time nurse life-savers took a savage beating. No ventolin was going to save it - they were selfish, loud, evil, repulsive hags who gained perverse pleasure in ensuring that worried parents were denied their need for uninterrupted, restful sleep. Indeed I became convinced that at least a semester of their nursing degrees was entitled "If you have to work late, then make others stay up late too."

Did I dare get up and ask politely ask them to be quiet? Give them twenty bucks each to have their tea break at the other end of the floor where those pesky cancer kids were sleeping? Or crash-tackle the chubby one to the ground and whilst pounding the back of her head against the lino, snarl, "Just GO to the bloody UK now, you fat fool and STOP TALKING ABOUT IT!"

None of the above scenarios were acted upon but they made me smile for a moment or two. However my bed didn't help improve matters any. We've all spent a horrible night on a mate's sofa bed and found ourselves rolling in the middle, haven't we? This is quite OK if you're on your own, but not if you're sharing - after all, who wants to be face-to-face with someone else's dragon breath all night and then have no way of getting any arm or leg space unless you hang on like grim death to the side of the bed? I faced a slightly different complaint. My little sofa bed was saggy in the middle (as per the contractual requirements for all sofa beds), but it was raised at the head end (fine, I could handle that), but also at the feet end. After about ten minutes I realised that it was impossible to sleep on my side or I'd risk some chiropractic problems that they like to photograph and publish in their medical journals. This left sleeping on my back, a position I've never really liked due to having a sway back and a big arse that's almost like a shelf for short people. Add the complexities of a raised top and bottom and I resembled a rather grumpy letter V. Lying on my stomach would only have been possible if I'd stuck at those yoga classes for a year or two more.

Despite my discomforts and niggles, Sapphire slept. The other kids slept. All night through. Not one of them even woke up when the nurses came to give them ten puffs of Ventolin every hour. How on earth do they do it? At what stage in our lives do we run out of that mysterious quality or skill that kids have; that amazing ability to sleep through an earthquake?

I’ve seen babies fast asleep at outdoor concerts that have left me with a brewing migraine and every bass-thump reverberating in my chest. Toddlers at the Wiggles concerts, screaming out every lyric as they struggled to be heard over the amplified music. My own child, sleeping through the enormous clap of thunder that shook Love Chunks and I out of bed at 5am and was all over the news the following day.

Does this special gift disappear when you become a parent? Love Chunks only has to scratch his leg in bed and I jolt upright, crazily yelling, “Where’s the fire? Where’s Sapphire? What’s wrong?” The dog sleeps at the other end of the house yet I can hear when she yawns and dash out, asking, "Do you need to go outside? Do you? Huh? Don't you remember how cross Daddy was when he found your nuggets in the dining room?"

Maybe that's what we have wine for.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Health Lessons

My six year old daughter has spent the past three days and two nights in the Womens and Childrens hospital due to suffering a severe asthma attack.

What looked like being a cold suddenly turned into a case of asthma serious enough for the GP to send us off to the emergency department. Several hours later, the doctor there told us that Sapphire would have to spend the night. "I'll stay with her," I immediately responded.
"No, how can you?" said LC in concern. "What if you get a migraine, or....?"
"I won't, I just won't. I have to be there for her."
He persisted, this time with the doctor: "Why does she need to stay overnight? I have asthma too, so I'll know what to look for and how to give her ventolin."
The doctor looked as though he'd seen similar scenarios before between a child's parents, and kept his face remarkably expressionless as he said, "She needs puffs in shorter intervals than three hours, so it is recommended that------"
"I'm going home now to pick up some things for Sapphire", I said, rushing out the door and effectively not leaving Love Chunks with a choice.

Somehow the car found its way home so that I could roust my brain together enough to get Sapphire's pyjamas, toothbrush and colouring-in books and a change of clothes for me. Half an hour later I was back with a green enviro shopping bag crammed haphazardly with Jessie the Cowgirl poking out of the top with a deranged smile on her face. LC greeted me with a hug and whispered, "You were right. She does need to stay and I know why you need to be with her. I'm sorry."

At bedtime (8:30pm, thanks to the nurses who turned out all of the lights), LC went home and I sat up in the dark on the rickety fold-out bed beside Sapphire's. She's always being called a tall girl for six years old, but in that bed, labouring to breathe, she looked as tiny as the baby in the crib we'd seen in the emergency waiting room. At the same time I was mesmerised by her beauty. Every single golden hair on her head, her long lashes, beauty spots, soft lips and graceful profile I gazed at, admired, loved and adored. It was hard for me to imagine that there would ever be a stage in a parent's life when you would no longer be dazzled by the natural beauty of seeing them sleeping peacefully.

Every hour when the nurse yanked back the curtain to give Sapphire ten puffs of Ventolin, I sat upright to check on what they were doing, if Sapphire was OK and if there was anything I could do to help. Naturally I'd then stroke her hair and kiss her soft cheeks after the process was completed. Luckily Sapphire mostly slept through it all, but my arm was awkwardly crooked to the right because she'd fallen asleep clutching my hand and I didn't want to disturb her.

As discussed in my previous post (, the March 2005 episode in my life was remarkably fresh in my mind all throughout Sapphire's three day hospital stay. The ache of my arm was good: it was strong physical proof that my daughter wanted me, needed me. How on earth did I get to the stage of thinking that she and LC would be better off without me? How could I not have realised the damage that could have been done if I'd been 'successful' and Sapphire would not have had the strength of my hand to hold? And why does it take a six year old whose influences are Harry Potter, Wallace & Gromit and Mulan, to show me this?

The ache of my arm showed me that I truly did have something to give and made feel so priveleged to have been the lucky one to be laying down beside her, holding her little hand, hearing her breathe.

Despite leaping out of bed every hour in my worried Mum mode, I must have fallen asleep just before her 6am puff was due. There was a gentle tapping on my head and I stirred to see, through eyes that felt as though they'd been rolled in gravel, Sapphire. She smiled, saying, "Mum you look funny when you sleep."
"Oh, do I? And I suppose you think that you look gorgeous when you've got your mouth open, snoring like a walrus?"
She giggled, which then turned into a wheezing cough. "Oh M-u-m," she coughed, still laughing, "Don't make me laugh. I'm glad you're here, but you're not supposed to make me sick."
I supposed not. I quickly gave her a hug, so that she wouldn't see the tears in my eyes and ask me any embarrassing questions.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The allure of Love Chunks

Love Chunks (LC), despite the silly moniker I’ve dumped on him in blogsville is my husband, lover and utterly, totally my most bestest friend.

For those who know only part of my story, you may have already worked out that I’ve had a pretty bad year this year. Work was most likely the major cause because it skewed my emphasis on what was important in life. It affected my performance and self esteem and left me feeling as though I could no longer cope. Conversely, it could also be fairly argued that a great deal of it was caused by my own self perceptions and my reactions to things, but regardless of the reasons it left me vulnerable, exhausted and damaged.

LC found me on the floor after work, sobbing and having done something incredibly stupid in order to try to escape the world of failure and despair I believed myself to be in. I don’t remember too much about the next few vitally important steps, but I do remember that he was by my side in the ambulance, at my bedside in the emergency department and in the hospital room. At 1:00am I was finally aware enough to answer his questions and for him to feel confident enough to dash home for a quick nap and a shower.

When he returned to my bedside at 6am and I saw his tired, worried face, my wailing was so loud it caused the nurses to rush in, not knowing that LC had returned already. His top rapidly became soaked with my tears as I cried out all of my pain and shame. Over the next eight weeks he arranged to take time off work, dealt with phone calls, visits and queries from family and friends, made sure that he was home with me and just took care of things. He walked Sapphire to school and picked her up when I felt too overwhelmed and embarrassed to be seen by anyone. He cooked, cleaned, ran errands and often simply sat with me, holding my hand. He made me laugh many times and the encircling of his strong arms reminded me of what was important and worth hanging around for. There’s no nicer warmth and smell in my world than a deep hug from my lovely LC.

This was the same man who, six years earlier, sat slumped in exhaustion with his face pressed against the drawers next to my bed during the 29 hours it took for Sapphire to enter the world. The man who, for countless occasions, has patiently stroked my forehead and emptied sick buckets during migraine attacks; and who has willingly taken Sapphire out to the park or zoo for the afternoon to give me time to recuperate afterwards. Not once have I ever heard him utter the phrase: "You owe me."

On cold nights when I’d be hopping back to bed on the floorboards after a middle-of-the-night loo stop he’d roll over to let me hog the warmth from his body until I was taken care of. Then I’d gently push him back when I was comfortable again. Love Chunks is also the kind of bloke who is not bothered in the slightest about buying tampons from the supermarket or letting our daughter Sapphire paint his face like a lion during a Crows’ game on television.

He has read the first four Harry Potter books in their entirety to Sapphire over the course of the year; both of their heads close together in concentration as he reads out loud clearly and patiently answers all of Sapphire’s questions. He’ll gently scold me for kissing the dog on the head, when later he’s found outside with her little furry body cradled in his arms.

When he returned from his brief and busy overseas trip he made sure that he bought Sapphire a gold necklace and me some gold and lapis-lazuli earrings. He phoned us whenever he could and sent emails every day. I counted down the hours until he came home yet was proud of his achievements and the opportunities he’d been given. LC’s never been one to boast about himself, so I – with the best of intentions – try to do it on his behalf.

How on earth do I repay such a person? What should I buy him for Christmas – a couple of books and DVDs seems insulting for all that he’s done for me. If Lotto does the right thing by us, he'd ideally like a fishing boat, trailer and new car, but I’m wondering whether a weekend away with lots of wine and good food might do the trick.

I’m just hoping that he’ll want to take me with him.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Deck the halls with boughs of folly, fa la la la la.....

With a six year old girl in the house, it's impossible to delay putting up the Christmas tree and any other decorations that take her fancy.

The Adelaide Pageant is to blame for us being pestered incessantly about christmas decorations, presents, cards, food and santa since the first week of November. The first week of November is far too early to be thinking about Christmas even though Coles had shortbreads, themed chocolates and tinsel in their stores from October. However, when the Norwood pageant was on the 26th of November, I knew that there was no way that our little Sapphire could possibly wait those extra few days until the 1st of December.

Therefore on Sunday I suggested, "How about we put up the Christmas tree?" and was nearly suffocated by her hugs of delight and had a toe squashed during her enthusiastic jumps of joy. She kept tapping my lower back as my bum stuck out unbecomingly in the air whilst ferreting around under the spare bed for the Christmas tree box. There was another surprise for her: I had bought her a Christmas tree of her own that she'd be able to decorate her way and have in her room.

All of a sudden the interest in decorating the family's tree evaporated like Gary Glitter returning home to the UK for Christmas. "Hey, come on, you've been asking me to set this up with you for ages. Where are you going?" To be fair, Sapphire wasn't looking at her own tree, but had found the little Santa hat we'd bought for Milly the dog last year. It was a credit to Milly that she didn't bite anyone who a) forced her to wear it, or b) laughed at her. The matching bib, on the other hand, she immediately and rather savagely tore off, and who could blame her?

She was rather interested in the decorations on the tree, however. Each of the blue and gold 'disco ball' decorations got a delicate lick or three and the tinsel was snuffled up several times. Love Chunks and I crossed our fingers that the tree would remain undamaged overnight seeing as Milly's beanbag was right next to it.

"Yes Carly, now it's time to do your tree. Why don't you go and undo the packets of decorations that go with it?" The accompanying instructions - from a tree purchased on special at Target - made me sit down on the bed feeling over-awed before we'd even started. There were dozens of branches scattered all over the mat, each with specific colours and letters on them to indicate where they were to be inserted on the six foot high tree. That's right, I didn't even realise that the tree was going to be this big. We wheeled out the dolls' house into the spare room in order to make space for this gargantuan fake pine.

An hour later, all branches were inserted in pretty much the right spots. My headache was in full swing but Sapphire had loved every second of it. As I sank back on her purple bed to rub my forehead, she happily got to work decorating the tree. At least, up to the five foot mark. Milly trotted in, decided she'd investigated all this stuff before in the lounge, and trotted back out again. Sapphire's tree was a vision in purple. Not everyone's taste admittedly, but a vision of beauty to a six year old girl. She grabbed her textas and set to work drawing a picture of it.

It led me to think (yes, it does happen sometimes) about what it was like for my mother and I at Christmas time. Did I drive her nuts asking "When.....when.....when.....?"

One thing I do remember when I was eight was that I accidentally smashed a shiny red bauble when we were taking down the tree. Mum had temporarily left the room, so only my smaller brother, Thumb, witnessed the destruction. "Don't tell Mum," I hissed menacingly, until I saw the smile of triumph on his too-smug-to-be-six-years-old face. "Look, PLEASE don't tell Mum!" I begged instead. I then ran outside and buried the shards near the nectarine tree.

That night I could barely sleep for guilt. It was I who had broken the bauble; it was beautiful and no doubt very precious and what if Mum noticed that there was one missing when we put up the tree next year?

My hell did not end with insomnia, unfortunately. Thumb saw his opportunity to blackmail me and was going to ride it like Paris Hilton thumbing through her little black book.
"Milly Moo, get me a glass of orange cordial will you?"
"Get it yourself, pipsqueak," was my automatic response until he wagged his finger in my face, saying "I'll tell Mum about you know what....."
Off I scooted into the kitchen, also grabbing a couple of scotch finger biscuits to butter the little bugger up.

This went on for over a week. "Let's ride over to the adventure playground," he'd ask.
"Nah, I want to stay here and finish the mud pies," I responded, eyes back to the brown gloop in the sandpit in front of me. "I think the cat's been in here so I've got to make sure there's no poos in any of 'em."
"I'll tell Mum about you know what....."
"Oh, OK," I sighed, wiping my muddy hands down the side of my shorts when what I really wanted to do was rub his face into the cat poo.

"Come outside Milly Moo. We need you to be wicket keeper."
No way. Why is it that sisters always have to be wicket keeper? "Get lost, I'm reading."
"I'll tell Mum about you know what....."

That was IT, I couldn't stand it anymore. I rushed into the kitchen, flung myself at Mum's feet and bawled, "Mum, it was ME. I broke one of your red Christmas tree baubles and didn't tell you. I buried it under the nectarine tree so that you wouldn't notice and so that I wouldn't get into trouble....I could save my 20c a week pocket money to buy you another one."

Mum was busy making her famous 'nipple cakes' (little cakes with white icing and red raspberry lollies stuck in the middle) and was distracted by the hum of the sunbeam mixmaster.
"Oh that's OK Milly Moo, they're only cheapies. I manage to crack at least a couple every year." She finished scraping down the side of the mixing bowl to see me still standing there, smiling. "Oh and I reckon it's your turn to lick the bowl today, too."

I can still remember how relieved and free I felt. I would also like to say that I was mature about taking revenge, but I was eight. As per an eight year old under blackmail for a week, I did the usual - gave Thumb a chinese burn, two dead legs and shoved him into the geraniums. I slept like a log that night.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Tired, tired, tired

I'm 37, keep myself pretty fit with running and swimming, have only the one wonderful child and a great husband, yet I feel so damn TIRED today. After I found myself about to walk into the kitchen this morning without any pants on, it was pretty clear that today was going to be a Tired Day.

Have you ever had a Tired Day? I'm not talking about episodes of genuine tiredness which have real causes like a baby's four-hourly feeds, a sick child or a hoon doing burn-outs on the corner of your street at 2am, but one in which you're exhausted just from, well, breathing. Where even your arms ache when you have to lift a toothbrush and your eyelids are threatening to flop down over your eyes like a shop awning. Where choosing what cereal to eat for breakfast seems like an insurmountable decision and trying to wear clothing that's colour-coordinated whilst in a dimly lit room just isn't going to happen.

Yes, this is you too? Then read on. No? Then still read on to get a feel for what us Tired Day sufferers go through in silence, and then donate generously to our cause. Coffee beans, massage vouchers, top-shelf chocolates and cash would be the preferred donations, thanks, to help ease our unrecognised affliction.

Have any of these following 'tired signs' ever applied to you? You know you're tired when:

  • You look in the mirror before stepping into the shower and notice that your face still has the creases from the pillow on it;
  • After your shower, your face still hasn't uncreased itself;
  • You put your undies on inside out and when you notice it later on, you don't change them back because you don't care;
  • You leave your wake-up cup of coffee in the laundry, the newspaper in the loungeroom and your car keys in the spareroom yet you don't recall being in any of those rooms so far;
  • Your daughter is given a punnet of onion sprouts to take to her class' fruit-sharing recess instead of the strawberries that you bought yesterday;
  • At the supermarket, you find yourself struggling to open the side of the plastic bags used for fruit and veges, and not the top or bottom;
  • At the checkout, you discover, after at least ten minutes, that you're standing in one that has the 'closed - please use other checkout' sign on the conveyor belt;
  • After a bit of fiddling and swearing under your breath, you realise that it's not your car that you're attempting to unlock;
  • The trolley bloke notices this and decides that you're 'the one' he should engage in a lengthy conversation about what sort of foods Obi-Wan and Anakin Skywalker would have eaten on the planet Naboo;
  • You find yourself driving 40km/h in a 60km zone and stop to give way to cars on the side streets;
  • At home the loo freshener has ended up in the fridge next to the new Christmas tree decorations and deodorant. You quickly rush to the laundry to retrieve the chicken from the cleaning cupboard;
  • The landline phone rings and you try to answer it by picking up your mobile;
  • Your mobile rings and switches to the answering service before you realise it's yours. (Even though you are now at home. Alone, with the only mobile in the house;
  • You forget that your Dad is coming to stay for the weekend until he walks through the front door (thank god you've put your pants on by this stage);
  • A box of Lindt balls looks like a legitimate choice for morning tea; and
  • The challenge of sorting through four bags of toys for 'lucky dip' parcels is too mentally taxing.

And all this before lunch.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Swimming Around

In the slightly modified words of Kylie Minogue: 'I'm swimming around, move out of my way....can you feel it ‘cos I like it like this, I'm breaking it down...' Perhaps it's easiest just to end it there because I don't really know what the hell she's singing about in that song past those few words.

Summer is approaching and the weather in Adelaide is now mostly at a balmy 25C most days, so my mate Jill and I have decided to go swimming together once a week. After we've dropped off our respective kids at school and kindergarten, I collect Milly the dog and my swimming bag and we head over to Jill’s place. Milly is joyfully reunited with her furry friend Coco the brown-and-black Labrador and is last seen as a little orange streak of light as they immediately start a game of canine chasey around the trampoline and lemon tree.

Feeling pleased that our pets will be getting a workout whilst we swim, we two humans drive over to the Burnside pool. It's nearly 9:30am and the breeze is still pretty cool. We self-consciously strip down to our racing bathers by the edge of the pool - which 'medium' lane to use today? The fast lane is way out of our league - full of impressively swift athletes who'd be likely to yank your ankle and pull you down to the bottom if you messed up their rhythm or times. They all seem to be ex-Olympians who’ve had babies or young physio students who take their fitness very seriously.

The adjoining medium lane is actually two - 'the double doofus' lane as we refer to it. This is the lane that contains all those slow time-wasters that us regular freestylers hate. These include any annoying breastrokers, backstrokers, kick boarders, water walkers and the sad folk who are still trying to master their flippers, nose pegs and/or hand paddles. These dwellers in the double doofus lane are more my physical type – would like to be fit; are trying to be fit yet are still addicted to chocolate, DVD-watching and have accepted that elasticated tracksuit pants are permissable as suitable clothing.

The second medium lane is just for freestyler swimmers and it is in here that we take the plunge. Oooherrr, no matter how many times I've done it, when that cool water hits the boobs and the goolies, it still makes me squeal. Jill's off like a shot, ploughing relentlessly through the water like a strong and graceful automaton. I thrash along behind her with my goggles already half-full of water and a long wobbly line of phlegm swinging from my nose. Luckily for me, we’re the only inhabitants of this lane, so I’m glad to be behind Jill and not treat her to the sight of my sloshing goggles, snotty face and gasping, fish-like mouth.

Unfortunately for me, there is no 'slow' lane for freestylers in this pool unless I want to sink to the depths (pun intended) of the 'Aqua play' lane. This seems to be the watery real estate owned by the seventy-somethings for whom any sort of movement in the water is akin to a hard workout. The gentlemen wear every bit of aqua gear available to them and end up resembling multi-coloured condoms and the ladies try their best to keep their heads out of the water altogether in order to preserve their perms. They seem to occasionally permit younger people in their domain, but these folk are usually obese and can get by through flotation skills alone, not unlike that of a snickers bar being plopped into the water.

All of the above random musings run through my mind as I determinedly thrash on. Lap four, four, four - heaven help me if I touch the blessed end of the pool and I can't remember what lap number I was on! Forty is the goal and the first ten are the hardest. It is in these first few laps that my brain wins the battle against my extremely reluctant brawn: 'Oh it's soooo cold in here today', 'I feel so tired. How am I going to make it?', ‘I can hardly breathe because that old guy in the doofus double lane splashed a wave into my mouth.’ ‘Goddamn these bloody &^%$ing bathers, I hate getting a wedgie when I'm only 3m into a 50 metre lap - what if I end up with some bizarre kind of butt crack rash?'

On lap 11, my protesting old body gets used to the physical struggle (and maybe the wedgie) and the surroundings don't seem to matter as much. At least, not the ones on top of the pool. Those underneath the water are still cause for concern. Orphaned bandaids, gum leaves, sticks...... Yuck - a long black hair has wrapped itself across my goggles.

Lap 20….don’t forget it's 20, remember you're on lap 20. Halfway there, it's all downhill from now on. My brain goes a tad crazy: downhill swimming - now there's an event I'd like to see at the Melbourne Commonwealth games next year! Now you're on lap 30, that's right: 30, nearly finished lap 30…… by this stage the doofuses have gone and their lanes have been taken over by primary school kids. It’s so lovely to discover that one kid is staring as me underwater with his face mask as I heave myself along. Did he notice the wedgie? He must have done because now seven of the school’s year 4 boys are surveying me underwater. Lap 33, yes 33, almost to the end of lap 33, now 34……

Finally it’s lap 40 and I touch the end dramatically as though I’ve won a gold medal. Now for the worst bit – heaving myself out of the pool without using the steps because I don’t want the primary school perves to get another look as I tread water straight past them. My arms are shaking as I take three attempts to lift myself out of the water. The fourth attempt does the trick, but my right thigh is grazed on the tiles which also increases the magnitude of my wedgie to almost obscene proportions. Judging by the sniggers of the kids a walrus could have done a more elegant job.

Ah, never mind - there's a Farmers Union Feel Good iced coffee with my name on it at the canteen after I've showered and changed.