Thursday, September 29, 2005

Partly Processed and Optimistically Organic

I’m a hypocrite in so many ways, but today I’ll just focus on the food and recycling side of things for reasons of brevity and to keep my self-worth on a relatively even keel.

I’d like to be more committed to buying, living and working towards a more chemical-free, recycled and natural style of living, I really would, but the reality of such a lifestyle occasionally reveals itself to me and I flee in terror and revulsion. There still is a place in our world for slices of cheese wrapped in plastic, over-priced Lindt balls and diet coke, I'm sure of it.

Let me share with you my life of five minutes ago. Love Chunks’ father, Rob, has lived for the past ten years in a shearing shed about 20km out of the riverside town of Morgan. His companions have mostly consisted of a flock of chickens, 70 randy goats and a grown sheep called Malcolm who thinks he is a goat. Rob doesn’t venture into Adelaide very often and when he does it tends to be when we’re all out at work, school or an outing. We’ll then return home to find several bottles of home-brewed stout on the back door mat next to a frozen goat leg wrapped in newspaper and our muddy running shoes filled up to their tongues with eggs.

Don’t get me wrong; these are all great offerings and we enjoy them with gusto. However today Rob popped in with a dozen eggs that he’d collected from his chooks just hours earlier before his 30-something Kingswood wheezed its way from Morgan to our suburb. Before he opened the lid, he said apologetically, “Now you don’t have to accept these if you don’t want to.”
“Of course we want them – we love your eggs – they’re so big; the yolks are so yellow and they’re absolutely de-----."

I was unable to complete the sentence as I clapped my horrified snot-green eyes on the eggs – all of them were besmirched in chook shit, feathers and dust.
Rob sensed my dismay. “Sweet heart all you have to do is crack ‘em real carefully so that the gunk doesn’t end up in your meal. Or,” he added hopefully, “….just make sure that you don’t eat them raw in case the poo germs win the war.”
“Oh, OK, thanks,” I said weakly.

Rob said he had a few errands to run before he was returning tonight to have an early birthday dinner with Love Chunks. Milly the dog was most disappointed at his departure – she had only just finished sniffing his boots which looked even messier than the eggs and had the added bonus of pungent goat and sheep odour affixed to them.

The eggs were plonked into a sink full of water before his car had finished pulling out of the driveway and the water immediately turned a murky khaki green colour. It was almost as if the chooks had decided to release a mighty big crap and an egg slipped out as well in a kind of karmic added bonus. Don’t worry dear reader, I will don gloves to scrub off the debris and then throw away said gloves and sponge and then disinfect the sink whilst the hopefully-clean eggs are drying on the dish rack. I now just need to gear myself up for making an egg and spinach frittata for tonight’s main course – perhaps a couple of Vodka cruisers beforehand will help. Only to participate in a social pre-dinner tipple, you understand.

Yet I buy my fruit and veges from an organic supplier, Rachelle, who is based in the Adelaide hills but delivers them to us at our children’s school. They may look a little less glamorous than those under the automatic water-spray and fluorescent lighting at Coles, but they taste great. Organic meats are also on the list but my squeamishness means that I’ll buy them only if they’re so far removed from their origins that they do end up under the fluorescent lighting of the Cole’s meat fridges; shrink wrapped and presented in pleasingly hygienic CFC-free trays.

Perhaps I can be forgiven this hypocrisy due to having to attend a primary school excursion to the Murray Bridge Meat works in 1976. For some reason, the educational powers-that-were deemed it appropriate to send the year ones, twos and threes there to see cows ‘run up a race’, get shot through the head by a bolt-gun, skinned, boned and sliced with the resultant body parts working their blood-dripping way through the factory to have pieces designated as chops, steak, roasting legs, sausages and BBQ packs. The smell of the meat was overpowering and I learned the hard way that ‘running up a race’ for a cow wasn’t going to end up with applause or a blue ribbon.

Murray Bridge at that time was also not privy to the requirements of reducing pollution. On a still summer’s evening (which was pretty often), the noxious smell of the factory rendering the left over animal fats lay over the town like a boy scout’s itchy grey blanket – so powerful you could almost taste it as you lay in bed, sleepless and agonized. Despite all this, I still eat meat!

I did try to be a vegetarian a few times, but the smells of grilled bacon or the thought of no longer having access to mince-filled spaghetti Bolognese or a good rotisserie chicken seemed too miserable to contemplate. Instead I’ve been determined to waste a microscopic amount of mental energy wondering about the original source or subsequent processes done to the product that finds itself in my supermarket trolley and in my stomach.

Apricot cutting (as discussed in my blog of: was another unfortunate opportunity to view the treatment of well, yes apricots, in a stark and brutal light. They arrived in the shed still dewy, soft and plump and left with their arses sliced in half, choked in sulphur and abandoned to bake mercilessly in the sun until they looked like miniature Donatella Versaces. And that wasn’t all – the ones that were too overripe and sloppy to cut were either scraped off the floor or slapped down onto trays and bound for some so-called health bar companies who added the orange gloop their bars and spreads. Unlike my meat experience, to this day I can’t abide eating or smelling anything that has apricot in it as an ingredient.

I’d like to say that I can assuage my guilt and hypocrisy by recycling all of our household waste, but I can’t say that. I do the tins, bottles, plastics, paper and cardboard, but honestly can’t be shagged setting up a smelly, sticky little bin for vege peelings, tea bags and fruit cores. Hence we don’t have a compost heap either. Every November I attempt to pay my penance by collecting ten boxes of soil, seeds and tubes from ‘Trees for Life’ to plant and tend the botanic babies for six months until the farmers they’re destined for come and collect them for planting.

The difficulty for me is in how to reconcile these conflicting sides of me. As William Hazlitt once said, "The only vice which cannot be forgiven is hypocrisy. The repentance of a hypocrite is itself hypocrisy." Yeah, good onyer, nice one Billy boy – especially coming from a moral figure like you who founded a church and then left your second wife for a career in journalism….!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Bumping Uglies a lovely little phrase to describe the act of sexual intercourse, isn't it? But that's not what I want to write about today, so any random surfers who got excited when the title came up in google are best advised to keep on clicking until you find what your right hand so desperately needs.

No, instead it was a real bumping of uglies - the front of my car against the back right hand side of a brand new silver BMW. It was my fault too, bugger it.

One lane on Portrush ('rush', now there's an oxymoron for you) road was closed and I decided to skip the delay and hang a right on to Magill road. The beamer was slightly over the line of the right-hand-turn lane, but I confidently swung the wheel of the Magna to the right, believing that I'd slip in as easily as Mark Latham at a Labor Party conference.

Alas, I heard an ominous scrape followed by a pop! At that stage it was debatable as to whether the pop was the black plastic on my bumper bar rearranging itself or the vein in my forehead snapping in response. I gesticulated (politely) to the beamer bloke and we pulled in to the BP car parking area to survey the damage: a 30cm scratch on his back flank consisting of a poo-like skid mark of rubber and my white car paint. "Oh I am sooo very sorry," I kept saying over and over. Neither of us bothered to check the front of my 10 year old station wagon. The six months' worth of dust cemented onto the body via scattered showers throughout the winter gave Beamer Bloke (BB) a pretty good idea as to how much I cared about the bodywork.

We traded addresses and phone numbers - he, not surprisingly hailed from the leafy and loaded suburb of Toorak Gardens and I, also not surprisingly, hailed from the mitsubishi and suzuki suburb just around the corner. We were both insured and as I went to get into my car to depart my scene of stupidity and shame, BB thanked me. Yes, thanked me. What the hell for, you ask - well, for being honest, friendly and stopping, apparently. He told me that he'd certainly had what he considered was more than his fair share of fifty-cent-coin lines scratched along his doors from jealous admirers in the past.

Driving despondently home, I of course regretted my impulse to ram the vehicle through to the right hand lane. Hell, I was heading home for lunch; hardly a life-threatening appointment that would change the course of the world as we knew it - especially if you could see my thighs..... I reluctantly phoned Love Chunks with the news. It wasn't so much the bingle that I was nervous about, but more the opportunity for him to lecture me about my attitude and such in a continuation of the argument we had this morning.

To his eternally gracious, kind and spunky-hearted credit, he did no such thing and instead commented "Ah, it's only a car. We've got insurance, he's got insurance, so you don't need to worry. If that's the worst you'll do, you're lucky." But it got me thinking about other car accidents I've been involved in....

Number One - as discussed yesterday, my regular summer holiday job was out at Mypo, apricot cutting in the summer heat in a corrugated iron shed. In my second season there, I was the proud owner of P-plates and found myself to be the only cutter that year with access to one of her parents' cars for transport. As such, I was the designated driver for several teenagers, one of whom included my younger brother David, who, at that stage, resembled Colin Carpenter but without the acne or dress sense.

I was used to getting access to our 1973 sensible volvo, but this particular morning Dad gave me the keys to his rugged and huge Toyota Landcruiser which felt to me like driving a truck - especially when I needed a leg-up to climb up into it. Little brother David and his mate Scott were singing loudly in the back and yelling out hilarious witticisms like "Show us the front of your bum" to early morning joggers and dog walkers.
"Will you two turkeys SHUT UP back there!" I screamed over my shoulder intermittently, which only served to make it seem more hilarious and necessary for them to continue.

At what was then the only set of traffic lights in Murray Bridge, I automatically turned right when the light turned green, completely forgetting to check if any cars were heading across the lights and BASH! The muesli I'd stuffed down my cakehole about ten minutes earlier found its way to the top of my throat and my hands were so immediately sweaty they slid over the steering wheel as I pulled over to the kerb in a series of crippled bunny hops - in my shock I could barely remember how to change gears. I couldn't even keep my legs still enough to get out of the car so the poor victim had to get out of his car and come over to me - how was that for insolence? "Mum and Dad are going to KILL me" churned over and over in my head like an unceasing mantra at the speed of light.

Dave and Scott sat in the back in shocked silence, both fearing to speak up in case I yanked off the sun visor and rammed it up their...... but this slightly comforting thought was interrupted by a gentle tapping on my shoulder. It was an oldish guy who introduced himself as Bruce who was on his way to the meatworks for the morning shift. He was a boner there. Even in my distress I could somehow get my cranium's synapses to function well enough to see the humour in such a job description, but a second later my eyes filled with tears - it was too much for a 17 year old to pretend to be cool about. "Hey, love, come out and check out my car."
Gulp: "Um, OK, I'm so very sorry....." My legs somehow managed to carry me the 10 metres to his vehicle.

It was a van, at least twenty years old and once painted white. It had dings, scratches, rust spots and dozens of peeling bumper stickers festooned all over it so that it resembled an obese rhinoceros with a skin condition. Bruce smiled at me. "Hell, I can't even tell which one is yours. Let's have a look at your bull bar." The bullbar did have a vague smudge of rust-spotted white across it, but Bruce wiped it off with a hanky he found in his back pocket.
"Ah, don't worry about it love. Just remember to have a quick check before you hang a right turn next time, OK?"

How lucky was that? And my fault, too! Not that I let on to Dave and Scott who were white, still and unnaturally quiet. Instead they were lectured by a now pompous seventeen year old responsible driver all the way to Mypo and back, in nit-picking detail about how their noise created such a distraction that it caused me to have an accident. For once in their hormone-driven, spotty-faced teenaged lives, they didn't answer back.

Accident Number Two was not my fault, but I still felt pretty foolish at the time. My uni buddy and flatmate Fiona and I had spent a wonderful afternoon at the beach in Semaphore. It was 1989, and despite the prevalence of Slip, Slop and Slap, we still returned with red noses slightly dusted in beach sand and shoulders that were stinging. Fi's Mum had lent us her little brown cortina whilst she worked as a nurse at a nearby old folks' home. All we had to do was to remember to pick her up from work at 9pm.

After a shocker of a bad health meal of fish, chips, choc wedges and caramel milkshakes that only the young-and-slim-but-too-young-and-dumb-to-make-the-most-of-it girls could get away with eating at the ages of 21, we glanced at my plastic swatch watch and readied ourselves to pick up Fi's Mum. The cortina was a 2-door job, so I decided to climb through the back and wedge myself up against the towels, lunch esky and several big pot plants that we'd bought for our house a few hours earlier.

As such, my position was not one that involved either sitting or being upright. In order to keep the ferns in as comfortable a position as possible and ensure that the esky didn't fling itself to through the front windscreen, I lay crouched on the miniscule back seat in the foetal position as a human buffer between the two. It was a balmy summer night, and we were both singing along to Fi's rather worn out '1983 in the Sun' compilation tape...."Just got lucky...I've been fooled by love so many times, I gave up on all its silly lies, get my feelings locked inside my heart...." when SMACK - my bum was in the air, my face pressed unbecomingly against the coleman cooler and potting mix was scattered all over me like icing sugar on an oversized dessert plate.

"What the hell just happened Fi" then changed to a more worried, "Hey, are you OK?"
She was. Some bogan in an even older Gemini had roared out of a park in front of Fi and smacked into the side of the car. He then backed up and got the hell out of there in a squeal of tires and rubber smoke. The driver's side door of Fi's Mum's car was too busted for her to get out of but she did manage to clamber out the other side. As for me, I was still trying to spit out potting mix and shake off the wet beach towels when onlookers surrounded the vehicle. Helpful inquiries such as "What sort of animal have you got there in the back", then changed to "Geez, what the hell were you doing in the back?" I was extremely grateful that it was now nearly 10 o'clock and no-one could see my red face from embarassment and sunburn. Luckily one of the people still intrigued by my backseat antics had also managed to take down the hit-and-run driver's licence plate.

Mobile phones were unheard of, so a kind onlooker drove us to a phone booth to tell Fi's Mum the news. Her sobbing could be heard as I stood outside the box, listening in unwillingly. A few minutes later and Fi butted in angrily, "Hey Mum, have you wondered whether I'm hurt, or on my way to hospital or lost a leg or OK or are you still going to keep on bawling about the death of your 'little brown baby' - which is pushing 20 years old by the way!" It was all too confusing for me - Fi and her Mum both had their points but was I starting to wonder just how some potting mix managed to wind its way down into the cleavage of my bathing suit and it was starting to itch....

Therefore, Accident Number 3 was annoying but nothing in the scheme of things. Same goes for my first two. Here's hoping that I'm lucky enough to have had my three (I'm a big believer in things happening in threes) and will never have my arse sticking up in the back seat of any car ever again - whether it be for the real meaning of 'bumping uglies' or otherwise.....

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

"She works hard for the money....."

'She works hard for the doo de dah....and you better treat her right....' sang the insightful poetess Donna Summer on my mono, upright tape player with one speaker and inbuilt radio circa 1983. As I was driving back from swimming today, I accidentally pushed the radio button to an FM-oldies station and found myself back in time, albeit on car stereo and not at home in my room pretending to read 'A Farewell to Arms' at my desk.

It was the summer of 1984 however, that I was to find myself really understanding just how prophetic those lyrics were. I had recently turned sixteen and my parents had made it abundantly clear that it was high time I found myself a job during the summer holidays. If I insisted on forsaking the clothing bargains at Eudunda Farmers' Coop store for the snobbiness of Levi cords, the stitched-version desert boots and plastic map of Australia earrings, then I'd better find the money to fund all my fashion faux pas out of my own wallet. Or something like that. Like most teenagers, I tended to sit and wait until my parents' lips stopped moving and then automatically say, "Yeah, that's a good idea, I'll certainly look into it", and go right back to day-dreaming about pashing Pony Boy from the 'Outsiders' movie.

Unfortunately, neither Pony Boy nor my parents were so accommodating. One of the many annoyances of having an older brother was that he had already made the foray into vacation work and had arranged for me to work at the same place. Goody goody gumdrops I thought sarcastically as I sent him death-rays across the table in order to choke that smug 'Nyah nyah na na naaa you have to do it tooooo' look on his face.

The following morning, we got up at 6:15am and drove at a reluctant pace to Thompson's orchard in Mypolonga, or Mypo for short. It was still frosty at that time of the morning as I stood there shyly, shivering in my t-shirt, shorts and thongs. Rob had climbed onto the back of a tractor that took all the blokes out into the orchard to pick apricots. I was relegated to the apricot cutting shed, filled with teenage girls, wise old ladies and two scrawny boys only considered strong enough to feebly carry our trays into the sulphur sheds and out into the sunshine to dry.

"You get 90c for each tray you fill with cut and stoned apricots", Dolores, a school contemporary, told me over the din of radio 5MU.
"How many can you do a day?" I asked, preparing myself for some rarely used mental arithmetic.
"Oh, about forty." Forty,wow. That's like thirty six dollars a day - a fortune, especially at the end of a week!
"Cool. Now what am I supposed to do?"

An hour later, with my back aching and my feet hurting from the total lack of support provided by rubber thongs on a cement floor, I began to wonder if the bucks were worth it. 5MU had played Billy Joel's 'Uptown Girl' on the hour every hour, and my hands were already criss-crossed with tiny cuts from the knife used to slice through each apricot. The juice from each piece of fruit - which I'd begun to regard as a little bum that deserved to be sliced right through - would run over my hands and fill each cut with a thousand agonising tiny stings.

"Trays!" Dolores and her co-horts would shout at preposterously quick intervals. The oompah loompah twins would scurry over to carry the six trays they'd cut and stacked on top of each other. The other shed hands easily cut six to my one. Lunch time was a misery. 5MU was still blaring away on the cutting shed's tinny transistor and I was glared at by Melinda when I timidly asked if it could be turned off. "What? No way! It plays all the trendiest music." I munched my stale cheese sandwich in silence, choking on the windblown sulphur fumes and finding it difficult to shake the bread crumbs from my icky fingers.

Visiting the outdoor loo was no picnic either. Dating back to the war years, the current owners had the decency to ensure that there was a bog roll instead instead of newspaper clippings in the outhouse but did nothing to deter the huntsmen spiders leering at me from their menacing crouches on the hinges of the wooden door. Any pressing hygiene requirements were dealt with via a leaky pump tap near the irrigation system.

The half hour break was over, and it was back to those apricots. What used to be my most favourite summer fruit was now a sickeningly sticky, stinky, odious substance, only grown to cause me pain, boredom, earache (thanks, 5MU) and for time - as I understood it - to stand still. Finally it was four o'clock and time to finish the last trays, clean the knives and wait for our rides back home. Red-faced with shame, I noticed the blackboard with our names and totals: Dolores - 42. Melinda - 40. Dulcie - 50. Milly Moo - 18. Eighteen? Nine hours of slavery and agony for a mere sixteen dollars and twenty cents! I was never going to return to this hell hole again!

On the ride home, I was too exhausted to think of any retorts to Rob's usual teasing. He must have sensed my disappointment because he paused long enough to say, "You'll get better at it. Just think of the money, that's what I do - it'll pay for my books, clothes and beer for uni."
"Oh no, I'm not coming back here tomorrow, no way. I'm going to find myself some more kids to babysit, that's all."

Sadly, my regulars and potentials were selfishly away, enjoying their holidays, the lucky little bastards..... Hence I was back in Mypo the next day and the day after that and the day after that and the day.... In fact, the entire apricot season which ended the last week before school started. My daily tally increased; something of which I was obscenely proud. 24, 30, 38, 41, 50, 55, 55 and my personal best of 60 (which was due to cutting the Morepark variety which are huge but nothing was going to burst my bubble). My hands were calloused yet deft and Rob and I even found the energy to head over to the high school tennis courts every evening after tea for some fairly rigorous games of tennis - there's no better training than playing against a brother one foot and two years older than you to brush up your game and it is he I have to thank for winning the Best Player/Most Games Won trophies that year.

On the last day of the season, the picking blokes and us cutting gals received our pay cheques and walked down to the river for a swim. Rob was horsing about on the old pontoon with itinerant pickers Sticks, Donger and Mud Guts and I was happy to wallow about in the muddy slime near the edge, still focused on the magical total I'd earned: 'One thousand and eleven dollars.' Oh, and my first varicose vein, thanks to standing for hours in a corrugated iron shed on a cement floor. Still, my earnings were indeed riches beyond my wildest imaginings, and I deserved every bloody cent.

In fact, I went back to Thompson's orchard for the summers of 1985, 86, 87 and 88 before starting my first real day job at the ANZ bank. Somehow they'd seen my Arts degree (majoring in English texts and Roman Art and Archaelogy) and considered that I'd have real potential as a housing loans officer. Well, an officer who also had to become a teller during the lunch hour rush. Being in a branch near Rundle Mall meant that we were regularly targeted by buskers who wanted us to count and bank the change from their guitar or didgeridoo cases or triumphant savers who'd proudly drag in their oversized Fosters beer money tins full of five cent pieces.

It always seemed to me at these times the full time tellers were out in the vault or on the phone which made it abundantly clear to me, (spoken with jealousy and contempt): a Graduate Trainee, that I was supposed to grin and bear it and serve these folk and the urine-stained winos who queued outside the branch on pension day. We didn't have a coin counter at our branch but instead had to crouch in the vault and sort it by hand. There was an unofficial plus-side to getting your hands grimy from old coins - the sucker who had to count it could also take out enough coins for a can of coke and a Mars Bar. After all, how the hell would the miserly customer know?

I stood the job for two years, during which the housing loan interest rates skyrocketed to 17.5% and I was sick and tired of being cornered by angry (and yet boring) mortgagees at parties after being naive enough to answer questions about what I did for a living.

One week after I left the bank to fly to London to become a nanny, the bank branch was robbed. Each workmate posted me the same newspaper article, and said it was the most exciting thing that had ever happened there since we'd been asked by the neighbouring OPSM shop to keep the Elton John 1970s glasses collections in our vault. Little did they know that, after closing time, we'd crack open a few cold beers and try them on. I have a great photo of my boss wearing a rhinestone encrusted US flag with his arm around me wearing a huge set of red lips. That was the most fun I'd had at a workplace since lying in the river mud dreaming of what I'd spend my apricot money on........

If dogs could vote

The best online paper in Oz, the Age, recently reported that Toby, a Jack Russell, was recently registered to vote in New Zealand’s recent election:

As I sat outside today, eating my lunch with one hand and throwing the soggy, drool-covered tennis ball over and over to Milly with the other, it got me thinking: what ideal conditions would she, a Jorgi (indeterminate mix of Jack Russell and Corgi) vote for?

Now that I’m inside and on the poota, she made her first wish very obvious: the availability of tennis balls hurled long distances by people who don’t throw like girls all the time. She’s now asleep at my feet, in her blue beanbag which is now accentuated with orange fur but is clearly dreaming of what life would be like if she got to stamp her paw on a form in a polling booth anytime soon……. What's going on in that fuzzy little brain of hers?

I would go crazy for a doggy theme park – a Doggy Doo World, if you’ll humour me. For my vote it would include:

  • Bones to find, dig for and chew – the pongier, the better;
  • Permission to freely sniff and study any poos left by other dogs in the park;
  • Cats to chase; birds to actually catch;
  • Legs to hump (maybe not for me necessarily being a neutered gal, but I’m trying to cater to all of the canine customer needs); and
  • Piles and piles of fresh, ‘blood and bone’ fertilized dirt for endless, encouraged digging.

Food issues would be of major concern for my fellow furry-faced voters, and I’m not talking about that Derryn Hinch guy here. My owner must be persuaded that Schmackos are not for occasional treats but should be lying around the house for me to avail myself of at any time. Other daily dietary requirements are bacon rinds, the left over roasting pan complete with the fatty remnants and huge gobs of gravy, thawed out scotch fillet steaks and chocolate biscuits. Oh and the opportunity to lick any toddler or small child’s face whilst they are eating an ice-cream. When living with humans, we must also be permitted to jump onto the tables to sample the meal and lick plates as well as have the freedom to sniff out any crotch under the table that appeals to our delicate noses….

We dogs are sick and tired of being relegated to a cold, leaky kennel or the inhospitality of the laundry and are going to do something about it! We demand to have the first pick of where to sleep – either at the head of the bed, under the doona, the best sofa, the top of the clean laundry pile or on the towels in the linen cupboard. It hardly needs mentioning that we must also have the best spot in front of the fire place.

Walkies, of course, should be available to us all day, every day, regardless of the weather. Owners must rug up and be prepared to take out us, their furry friends, in the rain, snow, hail, sleet, wind and heat-wave conditions. Runs would be even better – out in a field or a school oval with no reprimands to “Come back here, Scruffy!” to interrupt our much-needed workout.

My view about cars would surely be one that you humans also support. My canine buddies would like to see the virtual banning of the automobile, except in cases to drive us to theme parks, running tracks or places to buy our all-important foodstuffs (even we know that Good-Os don’t grow on trees). Not only would this greatly reduce the use of petrol, but it would also increase road safety for all. Instead, I propose to have buses on call for myself and any other dog who longs to feel the wind in their faces – surely you people can see the sheer exhilaration in our faces as our beady little eyes light up to manic-mode and our tongues hang out of our heads to the bottom of the car door – surely you wouldn’t deny us this basic canine right? Anyhow, as I was saying, these fresh-air freighters would be systematically customized to ensure that every single window can be opened up enough for each furry passenger hang out their heads and feel the joy. Human riders too, if they feel like it.

These heavenly buses will take us anywhere we wish to go, including places that are currently prohibited to us – restaurants, butchers shops, delicatessens and supermarkets. We have noses and would like to actually use them.

We may be relatively easy to please, but there are still a few things in our lives that we’d heartily like to see the end of:

  • Enforced baths. With one proviso – if it is a voluntary venture into the world of water and accidental cleanliness, then it’s OK. A swim in the sea, a splash in a creekbed or wallow in a mudhole is considered acceptable. If we do end up feeling too clean, then we are obligated to find a dead seagull to roll in before we return home, without any negative comment or banishment to the kennel by you owners.
  • Vet visits must end – particularly neutering. We dogs would most willingly be prepared set aside the huge sums of funding that you guys have used for trips to the moon and the Iraq ‘war’ to instead undertake the essential research and development into less harrowing ways of controlling our doggy population.
  • Vet visits number two – on no account is a dog, after undertaking life-saving surgery, to be sent home with a plastic funnel around their collar. Not only does it prevent the sheer relief and pleasure of scratching, but it is also extremely humiliating to bang one’s head against the door due to being considerably wider than pre-operation. It also provides the neighbour’s cat and other dogs with too easy a target to ridicule and us dogs loathe being laughed at. With yes, at: no.
  • Silly outfits. Absolutely no stupid tartan coats, twee booties or cute hats are to be forced on us, either inside the home or out in public. No reindeer antlers or santa hats for Christmas cards either........
  • No stupid names. We, Proud and Noble dogs of Earth, would eventually like to publish a list of acceptable names. ‘Pepper’, ‘Scruffy’, ‘Fluffy’ and ‘Mutley’ will not be on that list. Instead, we want real names, befitting our status in the food chain as meat eating, outdoorsy, athletic and dynamic animals. Names like Beefeater, Spike, Zeus and Warrior for the boys; and Beauty, Pamela Anderson, Paris and Nirvana for the gals.

We want to see more of:

  • Washing games. Washing put on the line to dry should be considered an approved sport for us dogs to try to tear off where and whenever we feel like. Dogs have fur and no need for clothes, so neither should humans.
  • Chewing. You name it - shoes, doormats, outdoor furniture, mulch, sunflower petals, car seat covers and the household childs’ soft toy collection – carte blanche.
  • Tummy rubs and ear scratching. To be done by our owners on at least an hourly basis.
  • Barking. All night long if we bloody well feel like it.
  • Choice. If you humans yell out ‘Fetch!’, ‘Roll Over!’, ‘Sit!’ or ‘Come Back’ we’ll do it only if we feel like it.

Milly woke up, her face still groggy but her tail wagging at me. “Was it a nice dream you had?” She cocked her head to one side, in that 'I-have-no-idea-what-you’re-saying-but-you’re-smiling-and-your-lips-are-moving-and-you-might-take-me-for-a-walk' hopeful kind of way that only dogs have.

“Wanna come with me to collect the girl from school, hey Millster? Millstone?” She was instantly up out of her bean bag and rearing to go now.
“Wanna come Milligram? Hey Millimetre?” I jingled the lead which caused her to do five frantic happy laps around the sofa.
“Whaddaya say, cute girl, huh Milly Vanilli, hey?” Her paws scrabbled at my jeans in her excitement. I ruffled her coat and tickled her tummy. "Come on then!"

So much for no silly names then, as long as a walk was on the cards.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Is Hate too strong a word?

The world - printed, physical and cyber - is already far too full of 'Top 100 things that I hate' yet it's not going to stop me from from adding a few of my own. And these are just what I can think of for today. I hate:

  • People who stick those stupid yellow diamond 'Baby on Board' signs in their car windows. Whew thanks for letting me know; I'll stop driving like a kamikaze lunatic now and forget about my intentions of ramming my car into you and creating a burning, tragic blaze that contributes to the road toll. Or maybe not, now that I'm good and furious about it.
  • David Koch from the channel seven Good Morning/Today/Sunrise/Get up you Lazy Bastard Morning Show. I want to smack that smug, self-important 'love me do' look off his face every time I see him (which is not often, thanks to my six year old's addiction to ABC kids).
  • Courtesy-challenged chimps who think that the only way you can feel important is when you're in a parking space. We, the the drivers who have circled the carpark three times with a whining child in the back trying desperately to find a park just love you. I've got my indicator on and am waiting patiently as you, Oh Great One, return to your car to load up your groceries, return the trolley and back out so that it can now be my parking space. I know that you can see me here with the motor running and the indicator on, yet you decide that the only way you can continue to yap on your mobile is to give it your total concentration and remain stock still. Then you hang up, load your groceries at a glacial pace and seem to forget how to put your seatbelt on in a time shorter than it takes for rice to cook. You know, too, that I dare not honk my horn because that will only make you move slower. May a travelling band of starving locusts settle in your groin you self-absorbed scumbag!
  • The writers of those nutritional panels on the back of evil-but-nice junk food. Be HONEST about it. If a peppermint Aero has seven fingers in it, don't put the nutritional information down equating 'one serve' as only one finger - no-one in their right mind is going to rip open that bar, eat one finger and put it down again until tomorrow, you cold-hearted label liars! And for those 'only one calorie' diet drinks in cans - may your pants be forever on fire. When I'm bothered enough to read the label, it's apparent that you've decided to assume that a 375ml can contains two servings, hence your claim of only one calorie. This may be seen as being a bit pedantic, but most normal people assume that a can of drink is one serve - for them and them only, you sneaky, diseased weasels!
  • Funky clothing stores that only stock 'large' sizes that are in reality a size 12 (about a US size 6 or 8 I think). We've been told time and time again that the average women's clothing size is 14, yet you might as well stick in a neon sign that says "No one bigger than size twelve is groovy enough to enter here." What about the poor girls who these days seem to be reaching physical maturity before their teens and are NOT obese, but have already hit their adult size? How is not being able to fit into a 'large' going to make them feel about themselves. Or 37 year olds for that matter....
  • Picking on Mark Latham's book or diaries. I haven't been able to get myself a copy yet because they're rarer than chicken lips at the moment due to the huge demand. Put it this way: if you don't like what he says, don't read it. He has a right to say whatever the hell he feels like and you have a right to choose not to read it. So there you self-righteous media morons who consider yourselves to be pure and holy and are in reality about as untainted as bilge water.
  • Those bloody poxy, useless lids on icecream containers. Presumably they're cheaper than the old lids but they prevent us from being environmentally friendly and being able to use the containers for storage. They're hard to open the first time with that stupid plastic rim that runs all the way round; they're hard to close and harder again to open the next time. This rant also extends to those lids on plastic containers of fruit that kids like in their lunches. It is guaranteed that when a child actually finds the strength and agility to peel/rip the lid open the juice splatters all down their top, hands and table. Every single time. Not convenient!
  • Newspaper 'gossip' columns that rave about the local A-list in town. Who compiles this A-list anyway, their old private school chums, aunties or bank managers? Adelaide has about as many genuine A-list members as Vladivostock. To pretend otherwise is just pathetic and sad. If you must print some gossipy articles about people at least pick someone who has done something other than turn up at the launch of a wine bar; got engaged to a brewing family member or modelled for five minutes. Please!
  • Kate Moss. Always have hated her, always will. And I've hated anyone who lauded her (questionable) 'beauty' but ignored her sulky attitude and her obvious belief that no rules governing decent behaviour - or mothering - applied to her. Now that she's in the news for drug use it was obvious to even my 65 year old Mum that she'd been on the powder for years, but had obviously (finally) annoyed someone enough within her fawning entourage that they decided to drop her in the poo. If anything, she would have shocked me more if she'd been seen actually eating something and without a fag in her hand.
  • Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, Citizen Kane and Taxi Driver. There, I admitted it. I'm sick to death of seeing their names in every Tom, Dick and Harriet's "Top Movies of all Time" list. GWTW is embarrassing; C is pure cheese and an shockingly bad script; CK is vanity and TD is shocking, unbelievable and has the most intrusive and abrasive music in it ever.

(Big breath in, big breath out). I feel better now.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Tara Reid, a shy thing indeed

Here's a wee pic of 'our' Tara Reid, busy doing some shopping recently:

I dare to say 'our' because she's a regular fixture in our local NW, Who, Womans' Day and No Idea magazines even though we haven't the faintest clue here in Oz what work she's actually done since so convincingly playing a determined virgin in 'American Pie.'

Sure, we've seen her dress slip down and reveal a rather unnatural set of fun bags and many a shot of her fallen over, drunk and panda-eyed, but the one included here of her out shopping made me laugh. It's a classic, isn't it?

The bottle blonde hair, which, to the touch would be about as silky as a bamboo blind; the very tasteful shred of denim posing as a skirt to which the word 'S E X Y' has been sewn - presumably by a retarded parkinson's sufferer. To complete the look we have her orange varnished legs with - oh joy of joys! - a fair sized acreage of cellulite on show. There is a god after all.

Maybe I will just wander over to her and slip a 20c piece down the bum slot she's exposing. After all, why bother showing off a bit of your arse crack if you don't expect something down there? Her Grandma must be so proud......

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Age of Dance Rage

According to The Age newspaper, September 22nd 2005, up to fifty people were involved in a brawl between two dance teams in Wichita that were having an informal ‘dance off.’

The article says that ‘The Dynamic Steppers were practising routines on Saturday night when members of another dance "drill" team, the White Tigers, showed up and challenged them to a "dance-off", police said. When the challengers appeared to be losing, a woman hit a 17-year-old Dynamic Steppers drummer in the face with a drumstick.

The teen, a former member of the White Tigers, punched the 28-year-old woman in the face. He then got into his car and tried to run over spectators, witnesses told police. The boy's mother, a Dynamic Steppers coach, grabbed a box cutter and sliced the other woman's arm. The wound required eight stitches. The mother was charged Monday with aggravated battery, and the son faced assault charges.’

Police said more charges are possible as it was estimated that up to fifty other people were involved in the brawl.

Think about it: fifty people involved in a brawl over dancing..!!? A mother hitting a teenager in the face with a drumstick and a boy trying to run over spectators in a car with his mother helpfully joining in by deciding to slice up another person’s arm with a box cutter? Wow, and to think that all my parents did was clap politely at my under 17’s tennis final…..

It got my mind to thinking - yes, I'm sure you could smell the rubber burning from where you sit, reading this drivel - and asking the question: would I be the kind of person to be involved in an episode of dance rage?

Firstly, I am not a good dancer, in fact 'hopeless' is putting it rather optimistically. My sense of rhythm is there, but not my sense of groovy dance moves or the ability to shake my booty in any way other than to draw gasps of laughter and disbelief from onlookers. As such, I'd like to think that my involvement in any form of dancing is likely to lead to a happier crowd atmosphere as opposed to violence. In fact my nervous "Step together left, step together right, look vacantly up at the lights and as though you're enjoying yourself" method is likely to encourage others to put down their drinks and their embarassment and join me on the dance floor, if only to look absolutely brilliant alongside me.

If encouraged, I might then do a rather crippled version of the twist or the swim, pretending all the time that it's meant to be ironic and retro when in actual fact it's the best I can do. In the eighties when aerobics ruled, I'd even throw in few grapevines and lunge sets in the hopes that it appeared as though I was setting the trend. Unfortunately today, in this world of Thai boxing and Yoga, I don't think that kicking my partner in the face or sticking my arse up in the Downward Dog position is likely to win me any admirers other than the blind drunk ones.

That is why, if there's to be any dancing to be done by me, it will be at home, blinds firmly pulled down and only with my daughter. She, at the innocent and trusting age of six, is not yet aware that my skills are firmly in the comic relief category and regards my Heel-toe-heel-toe-and-dosey-doe-your-partner as quite innovative and an appropriate match to Kylie's 'Can't get you out of my head.' Failing that, all I need to do is pick her up and spin her around - she squeals with delight and I end up falling over behind the couch. Even though I've smacked my forehead against the bookshelf, we're both happy.

My last resort is Milly the dog. She's quite partial to me lifting her on her hind legs and holding up her front paws as we totter uncertainly on the lounge room mat to anything by Green Day. At least, I think she's enjoying it; if only to be able to lick off the remnants of the custard tart pastry still smeared on my tracksuit pants.

Several years ago, when we were still in Melbourne and childless, Love Chunks joined my Dad on a camping trip in the Flinders Ranges. Tessie, our previous dog and I had the house to ourselves which meant that I could have a kitkat and a chunk of cake for tea and drag out the Abba CDs without any disparaging comments. One night, I was overtaken by a joyful mood and the dog and I danced around the living room floor - we owned it, baby - paying what I thought was a great tribute to Madonna: "Holi-daaaay....Celebr-aaaaate...." I briefly glanced up at the window to realise in my horror that I'd left the curtains open and passersby could see me, singing out loud and dancing with a blue heeler.

As I madly dashed to the window and pulled down the curtains, I could swear I heard the lady remark to her powerwalking companion: "Oh, isn't it lovely that her sheltered workshop salary allows her to live safely by herself....."

So dance rage is not likely to happen to me. If people laugh then fine, that's great. The world needs to be a more light-hearted place in these times of war, petrol prices, factory closures, African famine and the shame of not being invited to Lley Lley and Bec's wedding. In fact I feel a rockin' Flashdance solo coming on right now.....

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Movie Review – Little Fish

Damn you, Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton – I am absolutely certain that you add at least one and a half stars to any movie that is Australian and hence have, again, made me fork out $14.00 only to be frustrated, puzzled and disappointed. Again.

That’s it, I’ve had enough. It’s time to do the unthinkable amongst most Australian-based movie critics – or those who get paid for it, anyway – and be honestly critical of this movie. However let’s start with what was good about it first.

The actors. The movie is jam-packed with a truckload of talent that all of us Aussies should be proud of:

  • Cate Blanchett plays Tracey, a recovering heroin addict who is trying to set up her own business but whose dodgy past means that banks reject her loan applications;
  • Noni Hazlehurt plays her exhausted and concerned mother;
  • Hugo Weaving is Lionel, her ex-stepfather, ex-footballer and now openly gay and a drug addict;
  • Sam Neill is Lionel's former lover and drug dealer who is now seeking to remove all negatives from his life; and
  • Dustin Nguyen, who is Tracey’s ex-boyfriend Johnny, returned to the Cabramatta area of Sydney after 4 years in Canada and seeking to restart their relationship.

There is no doubt that all of the above actors play their parts brilliantly (as does the chappie in the role of Tracy’s brother who I gather was in a car accident with Johnny and nearly died, but did lose his leg and, it seems, most of his intelligence and manners). Cate personifies the thin, panda-eyed, not-daring-to-hope recovering addict in a way that is delicately painful to watch. Hugo is Lionel: a pathetic shell of a man who can no longer be anything to anyone and honestly made me forget his pointy ears in LOTR and his 'Mr Anderson' ear piece in the Matrix. Noni flung aside her ‘Better Homes and Gardens’ and cheery ‘Play School’ personas to inhabit the permanently tired, worried, bitter and concerned role of the mother feeling powerless over what decisions her children make.

All of the glowing reviews about the movie in its entirety however seem to include the words ‘gritty realism’, ‘thought provoking’ and ‘bleak’ in them. I say: that’s utter crap that poonces like to use to sound intellectual, deep and to vainly try to convince us of their ability to see the subtext. My friend Catherine the Elegant and I had a couple of classics sitting right behind us in the theatre who also wheeled out old toe-jam stinkers including ‘hard-hitting’, ‘raw and honest performances’ and – my favourite – ‘it requires the audience to work with it.’ Okey dokey, and I’d like to work my left-over choctop right up your pompous little arses…….

Why don’t we just all be honest and admit that it was a confusing story line that resulted in a lack of empathy for any of the characters, no matter how sordid their situation. In an early scene with her ex-stepfather Lionel, Cate’s character Tracey, is lying back on his sofa bed with her legs spread, laughing flirtingly at his singing antics – it looked as though she was his lecherous girlfriend, not his ex-step daughter!

The Johnny character –although interesting to look at (I’ll be keeping an eye out for you in future, Mr. Nguyen, but I hope you don’t really wear underwear like what we were ‘treated’ to in the final beach scene, let alone that world series wrestling belt tattoo on your lower back…..) was the least believable. He sells drugs, has a girlfriend addicted to drugs and crashes a car severely injuring her brother. His family (apparently) exile him to Canada where he’s been for the past four years doing what? Selling drugs? Studying economics, hunting moose - what? Oh, I see, I’m meant to be ‘working’ it all out, as is required from a truly perceptive and art-house audience member. Well, the movie just didn’t make me feel as though I wanted to work it out, other that to remark to C-the-E that these sort of gritty movies seem to feature endless lingering shots of people lighting up and smoking their ciggies.

Perhaps the most annoying thing was the scene where, at Lionel’s insistence, Tracy goes to the train station to buy him drugs. There she is tempted to find a toilet and use them herself. At least I think so – I was still trying to work that bit out. Inside some hall or other (right next to the train station famous for its drug scene) is a hall full of uniformed school kiddies, singing a rather senseless version of ‘Flame Trees’, a dud song previously hammered by Jimmy Barnes in the mid-eighties and on constant FM rotation ever since.

This moves our Cate – sorry Tracey – to tears and she trudges her way back to Lionel so that he can take the drugs. (World weary sigh): the song was utter crap back in 1985 and makes even less sense now. If you don’t believe me, I’ve attached the lyrics to it below. Personally I would have gone for Mental as Anything's 1985 hit, 'Live it up'- it has about the same level of relevance.

Sadly, 'Flame Trees' even rears its head in the final scene where we are supposed to work our brains again to decide if any of the characters are going to redeem themselves, sort out their personal messes, get a nice inheritance via Lionel or leave him on the sand covered in seaweed.

2 stars. Both for the acting.

Flame Trees - sung by Jimmy Barnes

Kids out driving Saturday afternoon pass me by

I'm just savouring familiar sights

We share some history, this town and I

And I can't stop that long forgotten feeling of her

Try to book a room to stay tonight

Number one is to find some friends to say "You're doing well

After all this time you boys look just the same"

Number two is the happy hour at one of two hotels

Settle in to play "Do you remember so and so?"

Number three is never say her name

Oh the flame trees will blind the weary driver

And there's nothing else could set fire to this town

There's no change, there's no pace

Everything within its place

Just makes it harder to believe that she won't be around

But Ah! Who needs that sentimental bullshit, anyway

Takes more than just a memory to make me cry

I'm happy just to sit here round a table with old friends

And see which one of us can tell the biggest lies

There's a girl falling in love near where the pianola stands

With her young local factory out-of-worker, holding hands

And I'm wondering if he'll go or if he'll stay

Do you remember, nothing stopped us on the field In our day

Oh the flame trees will blind the weary driver......

The first sproings of Spring

Here in sunny Adelaide (‘Adders’), it’s 26C. I have no idea what that is in Fahrenheit, let alone how to spell it, but it’s lovely, warm, glorious and gives you that little glow that tells you “Oh goody, summer is coming, summer is coming!”

The dog and I did our usual 6 kilometre, 6am run around the school oval this morning and were actually greeted by the rising sun. Six kilometres is what I do in a kind of arthritic, crab-like, shuffling way, punctuated by agonized gasps for air and despairingly pitching my hefty bulk forward like a drunk about to meet his end on a pub carpet. All this effort to complete a measly fifteen laps of 400 metres. Milly the dog, on the other hand, hoons right over to the furthest car park to look for interesting scraps in the soccer club skip; comes back to footy posts give a few magpies what-for; scoots over to the edge of the fence to bark at the frustrated dog yapping vainly at her; runs half a lap backwards to sniff the poos of her fellow furry friends and finally does part of a lap with me. Her total distance would be more in the vicinity of 15km.

In winter, we’re normally greeted with total darkness, crunchy frosts and mud that oozes from the rain-soaked grass onto Milly’s low-slung stomach and my shoes. Instead, today the sun was up before we were and this allowed Milly to actually see what sort of birds it was that she was chasing.

A shower, breakfast and school drop-off later; I was running a few errands in Norwood, enjoying that noble, ‘I’m-so-great-and-you’re-a-lazy-sack-of-liposuction-leftovers’ feeling that people who exercise first thing in the morning tend to feel. That is, until I realised that I was dressed from the springtimes of five years ago. All of the yummy mummies around me were elegant peasants and mysteriously very tanned for bodies that had yet to feel the first rays of sun on them since leaving the underground car park.

‘Crikey’, I said to Marion at the chemist as I waited for my non-peasant prescription. Yes, I really do use the word crikey. Either that, or ‘heck’, which is a permanent habit from my Methodist, non-drinking, non-cursing parents. "It must have cost her a thousand bucks to look like a gypsy with a Corfu-island tan like that," I remarked as a bohemian barrister’s wife wafted past. “Oh, I don’t know,” Marion leaned forward and confided to me, recognizing a fellow dag when she saw one. “We sell a lot of fake tan in here and have increased our sales three-fold since just last week.”

We farewelled each other and I shuffled out of the door, a little less smugly now. My target cargo ¾ pants, old white t-shirt and scruffy sneakers looked very out of place. Before visiting the butcher and Coles, I decided to wander through a few clothes shops. At least it appeared as though there are now two choices of clothing for us No-Longer-Teenagers-But-Not-Yet-Ready-For-Judells thirty-somethings. There was your usual bum-crack and hint of the map of Tassie jeans, low slung skirts for the abdominally gifted and those slutty Jessica Simpson shorts. Or the peasant wear. I tentatively tried on a crushed, three-tiered skirt, a white kaftan top and some gold toe sandals.

Oh dearie dearie me. I looked like a pink-boiled chicken breast wearing a bunch of rags, with my painfully-white feet now turning blue from the optimistic air conditioning in the shop. “How are you going in there?” asked the twelve year old, size eight, 6 foot tall genetic mutant. “Err, great thanks. Do you have these tops in a larger size? I don’t think these muslin sleeves are meant to be tight enough to make my arms look like pork sausages….?”
“I’ll go and check," she said, with about as much enthusiasm as Kim Beazley spotting Mark Latham under the mistletoe. Three seconds later she was back and with a much louder voice. “Nah, you’ve got the largest size we have, sorry.”

Since when is a ‘twelve’ called large anyway? Were any peasants a size twelve or were they all starving itinerants sized 10 or smaller? Were they all tanned, thin and windswept? It was an impossible task for me to adopt this boho-gypsy look, being a human fluoro tube with short, cobwebby blonde hair. Never mind, it was a beautiful springtime day and I thought that maybe just some belts and beads will at least look as though I was trying to blend in. Not stand out, mind you, just blend in enough so that my increasingly fashion-conscious six year old doesn’t roll her eyes at me any more than she already does.

If only I’d saved my big leather belts from the eighties; those ones we used to wear with our very long and very large chambray shirts over long skirts and navy blue flat Diana Ferrari pumps….. Nearly twenty years and childbirth, age and chocolate-addiction later I realise that I do emphatically not need a chunky plaited belt to rest under my belly folds in order to emphasise its bulk and the width of my hips. And the beads….well….. I turned around to hang my bag on the hook in the changing room and they got caught on the hinge of the door, almost garotting me in the process. Accessories aren’t the thing either then, but I still had to pay for those bloody beads because the string broke and the little pellets shot all over the floor like tictacs making a prison break.

My last attempt to avoid the scorn of my daughter was sunglasses. Surely it was possible to update my look with a snazzy pair of shades? And a bottle of fake tan in the lightest shade? Fake tan – easy, a quick visit back to Marion at the chemist, who raised an eyebrow at my capitulation. Shades – so ugly, so stupid, so tragic. I don’t want to have shades that are wider than my face (and that was just one lense)! I also don’t want glasses that, whilst they do a good job of sun protection, make me look as though my entire head is encased in black plastic and I’m waiting for my seeing eye dog to return from it’s bonio break. Sighing, I tried and bought a pair of discreet brown ones that were almost identical to the ones I wore and misplaced last summer.

Come on I inwardly admonished myself. It’s too nice a day to worry about joining the peasantry! What do you really want to do on this fine spring day? Grocery shopping: Done. Chemist: Done, twice. Go home and bath the dog: Done. Tidy up: Done. Well, at least as much as I was prepared to do anyhow. And now? A farmer’s union 'feel good' iced coffee and a banana outside under the verandah. Peasant food yes. but also very pleasant.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

But wait, there's more Brownlow boo boos

Essendon's Mark Johnson's partner, Amy Newbold, personifies her own last name. Either that rack of hers is obviously 'new' (and not as nature intended) or she's being 'bold' in stuffing it with the left-over bread rolls from the party table

Lauren, seen here with Freo's Matthew Pavlich has made very good use of double-sided tape or a good pasting of araldite. She's making doubly sure that nothing will cause an Aussie version of 'Nipplegate' - although the loose material flapping about her non-stomach might be a good spot for the Pav to rest his arm if he needs to

Hawthorn's Luke Hodge has borrowed a used car salesman's white loafers and his partner, Lauren Kirkman, has been thrifty in cleverly recycling those old shower curtains we had at our beach house

Merinda scores a point or two here also for wearing such a lovely blue and it looks as though Richmond's Matthew Richo approves too. It's just unfortunate that it's too short and makes her look too wide - doesn't Dakota Fanning need her dress back?

That's enough bitchiness from me for today. I've got to go and wash the dog, who, in the same furry orange outfit she wears day in and day out, looks more gorgeous than the whole darn lot of them!
Brownlow Boo boos Part 2 .....

Well, if you ever doubted it before, I believe that Collingwood's Brodie Holland has proved the notion that footballers' IQs are no bigger than their boot size and I am certain that the fabric of his suit used to be our caravan curtains circa 1976. Sarita Stella's dress ain't so stellar either....

Hawthorn's Trent Croad must have found Tanya Stewart on the streets of St Kilda..... what about the poor, rare pink leopard who died for this friggin' frock travesty?

His teammate, Richie Vandenberg and partner Jasmine Avitabile immediately bring the last four letters of her name to mind: BILE.
A Paris Hilton castoff that would be better off as coffin lining.

Catherine, on the groping arm of Richmond's Shane Tuck has gone for the subtle approach - get the designer to sequin in some stars when your nipples are supposed to be. Her grandma must feel so very proud....

Where did Nick DalSanta find this Melanie Smegma (or Smerden, if I'm to be accurate?) The phonebook? The wanted ads? It's a freezing night in Melbourne, but a girl gets sooooo damned hot around the belly button area...

Port Power's Kane Cornes' fiancee Lucy scores a point instead of a goal in at least trying to not look like a B-list starlet at an MTV spin-off. However raiding your nanna's ragbag for bits to add to your primary school ballet top isn't the way to go either.
Brownlow Boo boos

Ahhhh (rubbing hands together in glee) today's blurb is just too easy. For those non-Aussies (or Aussies who only like the fat-necked, butt-sniffing sport of rugby); last night was the Brownlow Medal awards for Aussie rules footy. Ben Cousins won and good on him, but far more important is what the players and their partners wore to the ceremony.

Stuff the Emmys - there'll be enough yankee sites to rank the threads of the chup-a-chups on sticks, so I'll stick to our more local fashion fools.

Now I may be an Adelaide Crows fan, but Ben Rutten's partner Emily has done a rather too convincing job of looking like our neighborhood's favourite bantam boy, Houdini. He regularly escapes the chicken coop and wanders the streets until it's time to head back home for vege scraps and seeds. He'd fall in love with this gal if he ever saw her on his travels.

Vanessa, here with Brisbane's Chris Johnson, reminds me of the pale pink venetian blinds that my nanna used to have. I wonder if her top rolls up if you yank at her belt?

His team mate, Akers, didn't let me down and neither did his wife. I think they've mistaken this event for the 'Porno Stars Sex Scene Count' instead

Bulldogs' player Daniel Cross' partner Samantha is living proof of the dangers of genetically modified foods. Innocent avocados should never be cross-pollinated with 100 watt light globes!

Marina, seen here with Essendon's Jason Johnson, appears to have had a wrestle in the local meatworks and has come off second best. Her previously fully loaded haggis was somehow slashed with a meat cleaver and is puckered up and no doubt leaking from behind....good thing that the carpet is red.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Rainbow Connection in Paradise

I'd like to consider myself as not being particulary snobby - how can I be when my favourite outfit is what I'm sitting here wearing right now - sneakers, paint-speckled trakkies and a 7 year-old windcheater? However, as my heart, mind and body hurtles at sonic speed towards the frighteningly late thirties, I am becoming aware of what I'm no longer prepared to accept as being 'good'.

Last weekend my six year old and I met up with Catherine the Elegant and her 4 yo red-head to don our free 3D specs to see 'Shark Boy and Lava Girl.' We weren't in direct centre of the cinema so some of the effects were a bit hazy, but our two kids were transfixed; their wonka bars left uneaten - in fact two hats melted onto red-head's jeans pocket afterwards - us mums were amazed at just how much melted chocolate a travel-sized baby wipe can deal with. Despite having his butt cheek scrubbed furiously in the dark, red-head and six year old girl's chup-a-chups remained affixed in their cheeks and their eyes never left the screen. For me the movie was a bit of an aural and visual challenge to sit through after suffering a migraine only eight hours earlier, but I was surprisingly starving for lunch afterwards.

My vibrating handbag alerted me that Love Chunks was on the phone and had booked us all a table at the Paradise Hotel. Located, of course, in the very confidently named suburb of Paradise. The hotel's main attraction was that it evidently had a covered outdoor playground for children. As all parents know, the celebrity chef, groovy decor or glowing review in Gourmet Traveller is no longer the reason for selecting a place to dine - it is whether it offers a playground and/or paper and crayons for our kids to use to amuse themselves. It is a sad, yet unavoidable fact that our little oompah loompahs are never prepared to tolerate the waiting involved in ala carte cuisine, even if it is just hotel food that needs to be yanked out of the freezer and flung straight into the deep fryer.

So, whilst our expectations of experiencing a culinary nirvana in 'Paradise' were miniscule, we still did expect something vaguely edible in a family-friendly environment. Maybe a hearty and well-cooked schnitzel or crunchy Caesar salad whilst sipping some ice cold chardy and looking out the window at our happy little monkeys on the plastic pipe slippery dips perhaps.

Alas, the Paradise did not live up to it's name right from the get-go. The place was a glass-walled brassy barn packed full of pensioners determinedly waddling around with volcano-sized helpings of smorgasbord salads and oily veges from the self-serve bar. The carpet was an axminster nightmare (kind of like those Australian Way jumpers that no-one buys at airports mated with cheap christmas present wrapping) that was obviously designed to mute noise, disguise any stains and to scare any over-imbibers into phoning for a taxi home. The chairs were no doubt the coolest thing for wedding receptions circa 1982 as were the plastic carnations on the table. Never mind, I reminded myself sternly. As long as they can do some decent pub grub and our monkeys get to have a play, then life will be good.

The weather let the outdoor play area down rather badly. It was one of those showery blustery days where it seemed as though the rain was being blasted horizontally - unfortunately directly into the faces of the few brave under-7s who were determined to stay outside. Our six and four year olds were not. "Where's my pasta, Dad?"
"Mum, don't they give us bread to eat before my schnitzel is cooked?"
Blushing, I managed to mumble a few excuse mes to the determined smorgasbord veterans and snaffle up some bread that was about as fresh as a stack of bathroom tiles.

The kids didn't mind though, until the band started up. Why on this earth does the Paradise need a band at lunchtime on a Sunday for gods sake? The first two instrumentals were mildly annoying but relatively easy to ignore, but when the rotund, fifty-something guitarist treated us to his version of Kermit the Frog's 'Rainbow Connection', we three adults were glancing anxiously at the saloon doors of the kitchen - where the HELL were our lunches?

"Some day you'll find it, that rainbow connection, for lovers, for dreamers and me...." Our plates were dumped on the table without knives, forks or napkins. "Um, excuse me...? Hello?" A few moments later my angry twin emerged: "Oi! We need cutlery and napkins here!" Poor little red-head's schnitzel looked about as appetizing as our back door mat, and our girl's pasta was not unlike a bowl of vomit stuck to a heap of foam chips. Two mouthfuls each and they rushed outside; more eager to play in the rainstorm than risk their health indoors any further. My fish was an insipid white blob speckled with chunks of raw garlic; Elegant was happy to just have ordered a bowl of chips and LC, like the proud father (and required eater of leftovers he is) resolutely ate all of his steak - black on the outside and oozing blood on the inside.

"Remember, your children get a free sundae with their meal," smiled a waitress (not at us, but at her boyfriend behind the bar), as she flipped some laminated cards on the table as she passed by. Oh goody, and just when the Tubby Trio on stage were about to launch into a casio keyboard solo during 'Windmills of your mind.' The kids seemed quite prepared to come back into the axminstered pensioner palace when we gestured through the window that icecream and strawberry topping was awaiting them.

"Can you hurry it up please love?" I muttered to my daughter over the Tubby Trio's 'Age of Aquarius.' Of course she couldn't; she had to stir it all into a whirlpool of icky pink porridge, didn't she, and encourage red-head to do the same. Elegant, LC and I remained stuck in our chairs baring our teeth in what we hoped passed for indulgent, parental smiles at our childrens' obvious enjoyment.

The Tubbies were finally off the stage! They too joined the smorgasbord society and sat at a sticky table next to the stage. "They should call themselves 'Will Play for Food' ", I whispered to LC. A uni student with what looked like a salt shaker for an Adam's apple cleared away our plates and glasses. "How was your meal?", he asked as per job requirements.
"You don't want to know," was my response. I realised that there was no point in making a fuss to a 19 year old guy who was just trying to pay his share of the rent and have some left over for Friday night beer money. It made my summer jobs of picking garlic, babysitting and apricot cutting seem not so terrible after all.

Survivor 11 - Puke Party-o-rama!
If you're into the reigning King of all reality shows then you're welcome to click over to my Survivor 11 Summations site to check out how the episode unfurled according to my parallel universe:

Friday, September 16, 2005

"Well ram my face into a brick wall and call me Feargal Sharkey!"

It is rather sobering to realise that it has now been twenty years since I was in school, which means I've led more life out of school than the seventeen years within it. At almost-thirty-seven years of age, I'm now one of those Middle Aged Dags I used to detest so much - in fact, I'm only five years younger than my parents were in my last year of school. Oooh, that's not a very nice feeling at all.

Maybe it's time to return back to 1985 and see what my daydreams and hopes were, and how they stack up in 2005. So you're welcome to join me on this journey: way back into the mists of time when SAFM tops and paneled jeans were all the rage, a weird new drink called 'Diet Coke' was just developed and we thought that Katrina and the Waves were going to rule the charts for many years to come......

The name Sean was doodled, mostly in love hearts, all over my diary. He had done his year twelve (matriculation') the year before; but had failed miserably due to the discovery of state rugby, beer and the regular availability of cute girls via his sister. I clapped my eyes on his rather snug little butt in his grey Levis' Californians whilst standing behind him at school assembly. When he turned around to say hello to his mate 'Sidey', the front of him looked pretty good too. All through Australian History and English, I sat behind him and enjoyed some rather adult daydreams that had very little do to with Albert Camus or Henry Lawson. He asked me to the senior ball and we were inseparable for the next couple of years.

Twenty years on and I've been with Love Chunks for a total of 13 years, 10 of them married. I may not doodle his name on any of my shopping lists or notepads, but I've yelled it out in ecstasy a few times...! He tells me that he lost his hair as soon as he met me, but I haven't noticed. It's his beautiful blue eyes, strong arms, warm body and kind face that I am much more grateful for. 1985 versus 2005? 2005 by a landslide and hopefully I'll be able to write that in 2025 and 2045 too.

Despite my Dad's disapproval, I did all of my assignments in my room with my headphones superglued to my ears. Thanks to my Nanna and Grandpa going overseas in 1984 and taking my babysitting earnings of $400 with them, I was the very proud owner of a gold Sanyo ghetto blaster with detachable speakers and double tape player. Music dominated every activity of my young life. There were more blank TDKs in my music collection than originals and taping tapes was the ultimate in sophistication and money saving. Key songs of that year for me - and be kind, they were new and exciting then and not on regular rotation by FM radio - included:

  • 'Run to You' by Bryan Adams (would I ever!)
  • 'A kind of homecoming' by U2 (Bono had the world's sexiest mullet)
  • The entire 'Red Sails in the Sunset' album by Midnight and his fabulous Oils
  • 'We Close our Eyes' by Go West (on the strength of that song, I bought the tape. Bad move)
  • 'Don't you Forget about me' by Simple Minds (loved the synth sound)
  • 'Take on Me' by Aha (great film clip)
  • 'Would I lie to you?' by the Eurythmics (great to dance to in my room when I was feeling full of energy but nowhere to go except into my geography books)
  • 'I should have known better' by Jim Diamond (ay yay yay yaii yaaaiiiii ai ai ai ai ai loooooove you.....)
  • 'Out of mind out of sight' by the Models
  • 'Live it up' by Mental as Anything (the first three times it was on video hits, at least)
  • Everything from INX's 'Listen Like Thieves'
  • 'I know him so well' by Barbara Dickson & Elaine Page (it reminded me of my three-years-dead, all time favourite band Abba and was a great yearning song to sing along to in front of the dressing table mirror when I should have been reading 'Tender is the Night')
  • Everything on the Angels' 'Five Minute Warning' and
  • 'Things can only get better' by Howard Jones.

Songs I really, really hated that year included 'Like a Virgin' (how many times was it played on tv and radio, and sung by Madonna in her Lolita-girlish voice - yeeugh); Sussudio by Phil Collins (absolute dreck); We are the World (nice cause, but utterly crap song, only enlivened by Bob Dylan's stoned car crash of a solo); and 'Shout' by Tears for Fears (I wanted that Roland guy to fall off the cliff featured in the video).

Today, I rarely turn on the radio and have absolutely no idea what's in the top 10 or top downloads or online requests whatever it's called now. The few times I do bother to turn on the radio is when I'm driving and I immediately punch the station button to select another one if any of the 1985 songs are on (they were great then, but pleeeeease, FM, move on), advertisements, or anything featuring rap, Beyonce, R&B beyond the 1970s or dance/trance/hip hop/techno crap. Therefore, the radio invariably gets flicked off in disgust before the traffic lights have changed to green.

In addition, I don't feel as though watching 'Rage' is a suitable form of visual entertainment on a Saturday morning. The semi-pornographic videos are not something I want my six year old daughter subjected to as an acceptable way for a homey to treat his woman/ho/bitch; nor do I want her to think that women must wear nothing longer than a belt or spider web and writhe suggestively around before we are willing to hear whatever the hell it is that she may be singing about - with or without being 'helped' out in her vocals through digital enhancement. 1985 versus 2005? 1985 hands down, if only for the memories each song evokes. In 2005 I'd prefer silence, because it's so rare to find it these days.

Fashion was extremely important for all of us in highschool, wasn't it? We all knew that the need to fit in and belong overrode any other anxiety or considerations during those years. End of term Casual Day became a sleepless week of worrying about whether my jeans were tight, baggy, dark, cool, loose, branded properly or paneled enough. Should I wear my latest sneakers (Nike, but only because I was also into long distance running), my desert boots (nah, because it was instant social death to wear something on casual day that you also wore to school) or denim kiaks - you remember them? Those stupid shoes made of thin foam with wisps of fabric sewn over the top that ripped within five minutes of wear? In 1985 I mostly chose my pale pink tennis shoes to kind of look cute and so they would match my skinny pink tie, worn with chambray baggy paneled jeans and a lo-o-o-o-ng light blue jumper. With my shoulder length spiral perm and dangly love heart earrings, I was happening baby!

These days, I may have more than my babysitting money to spend on clothes other than what my Mum was prepared to buy for me: "Look, I don't see why these nice target jeans aren't good enough, so I'll put in $14 for those and if you insist on having those ridiculous Corfu ones, you can find the extra $24 and as for wanting Adidas Romes instead of these perfectly fine Dunlops, well that's up to you......" Now I have about as much interest in what's in and 'out there' as our dog does in her weekly bath.

Instead the bulk of mine and Love Chunks' incomes go to the mortgage, petrol, food (we love our food and will not scrimp on anything that's below perfect), DVDs, wine (29 dozen at last count) and of course school gear, clothing, outings, toys, books and other necessities for our little girl. I can not see the point in spending $200 on a pair of jeans that leave most of my gut and arse hanging out. Nor am I prepared to wear a poncho the second time around - the photos of me with a pom-pom laden one from 1974 was bad enough, thanks very much. As for those ultra-pointy high heeled shoes, well, being a size nine would just mean that lift doors would ping shut before the rest of my body had entered. 1985 versus 2005 - Hmmm. 1985 for the interest and enjoyment, but 2005 wins out for the realisation that the length of my hair, skirt or brand of shoes just doesn't alter my life a jot.

Entertainment for a shy, bookish goody-goody like me back then (before I'd fully snared Sean) was mostly confined to videos at Jill's place (our family didn't own a VCR), or a night out at our town's only cinema. Police Academy 1 and 2 were playing at the Cameo Cinema (remember when you'd get two movies instead of just one?) and boy-oh-boy, that was some groundbreaking comedy! Real Genius (the introduction of Val Kilmer before he got nasty); The Breakfast Club (which I still like); St Elmo's Fire (hasn't dated at all well); Ladyhawke (an ethereally gorgeous Michelle Pfeiffer); Out of Africa (very boring, but made interesting by going to see it with Sean at the drive-in); Cocoon (cool) and Back to the Future (when Michael J Fox was a hot little thing and riding on his star turn as Alex P Keaton in Family Ties).

My favourite television show of the time was The Cosby Show, but even then I wondered at the sheer gaudiness and awfulness of the woolly jumpers that each character except Mrs Cosby was forced to wear. St Elsewhere - involving stories, strong characters and featured the first story about a character contracting AIDS; Cheers (still great - gotta love Cliff Claven); and Night Court (on in summertime hell, but hilariously sleazy).

Love Chunks and I bought our widescreen TV with surround sound and DVD in 2001, eagerly embracing the new technology. The reason for this is that we are parents. As such we don't ever get to see an adult movie together, so we figured that we might as well recreate the cinematic experience at home, minus the black-market snack bar prices, smelly popcorn and big genetically mutant heads in front of us. It's a thrill to see Gladiator and hear the magnificent orchestrals swirling around the room, to absorb, laugh and wince at American Beauty, This is Spinal Tap, High Fidelity, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Donnie Darkko......worth every single penny. Television hours have greatly reduced - I'd rather read a book than just sit there and watch whatever excrement is dished up. However, LC and I both love Frasier, Survivor (so? it's mighty fine viewing), The Office (Original UK version only - even when it's repeated over and over); Spicks and Specks (funniest quiz show ever); Seinfeld (each series on DVD is greatly anticipated); The Glass House (must be fantastic to be paid to take the piss out of current events) and Lost. 1985 versus 2005? Too easy - 2005 for the vast selection of old and new movies available at any time, in great sound, picture quality; and for the fact that I've not seen Steve Guttenberg on the screen since Three Men and A Baby.

Current events - like, what were they to a sixteen-going-on-seventeen girl in 1985? I watched most of Live-Aid over the entire weekend when I should have been studying up for my mid-term exams; saw my Mum's shock and disappointment at discovering that Rock Hudson was gay and had AIDS; remembered that the nasty-pasty Frenchies had bombed the Greenpeace boat 'Rainbow Warrior' in NZ and that there was some discussion in the paper about the hole in the ozone layer. To be honest though, the biggest news event of the year for me was that tickets for Midnight Oil were on sale at Memorial Drive on the night of my final exam - yee hah!

Today I've become what I used to scorn my parents for - an avid reader of the daily paper and watcher of the nightly news on ABC. In fact the computer age has made me worse than them - I read the Melbourne Age online, subscribe to several UK papers, scan the google news and even manage to sit through the 7:30 report every now and then. 1985 versus 2005? Tied, I think. 1985 for blissful ignorance and 2005 for (hopefully) some increased interest, maturity and wisdom to know what to care about.

There is no earth shattering conclusion here, but 2005 is preferred to 1985. It's a relief to discover that I no longer need to worry about what Sean thought of seeing me in my above-the-knee school tartan skirt; whether I'd ever get to understand the words of Australian Crawl songs; learn how to pash properly or be part of the cool crowd. Oh no, now it's so much simpler - coping with stress, burnout, parental worry, the environment, John Howard, immigration, petrol prices, the futility of the Iraq War, sale of Telstra, unaffordable house prices, interest rates, cholesterol, irritable bowel, gardening..........