Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Throw another fifty prawns (shrimp) on the barbie and bring me a ute load of chips!

The latest national health survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that we Aussies are getting fatter and drinking more alcohol.

The report reveals that over the past decade, the proportion of overweight or obese adults has jumped. Obesity has gained from 52 to 62 per cent among men and from 37 to 45 per cent in women. Perhaps this is the reason why the survey also shows that more adults are reaching for the bottle – of beer, not carrot juice.

"Many of the advances that we have made in the past 20 years seem to be slowing down and there's real concern in the rates of increasing obesity that we may actually go backwards in terms of our health status," Professor Catford, author of the report said.

The professor went on to advise that as well as getting fatter and drinking more, we have made bugger-all improvement in smoking rates, level of exercise or the proportion reporting a long-term medical condition. He reckoned that one in three adults had not exercised for recreation, sport or fitness in the two weeks before the interview. The most concerning aspect of the report was that most Australians still considered themselves to be in very good or excellent health.

"Oh yeaahhhh baby, make it four, no, FIVE potato cakes and a chico roll..... Oh baby you're hot - who knew that you could batter and deep fry a Mars bar like that!"

This report is, naturally, very worrying. The Fattest Farts on Earth contest is not one that we’re interested in winning; instead we’d rather be ranked at a level not dissimilar to the one we enjoy during the winter olympics. It is also an unpleasant shock to discover that our view of ourselves as sporty, healthy outdoorsy types is no longer accurate. What is a more appropriate picture is of a nation of fast food eaters glued to the television whilst we watch other people play sport.

But are we between an (Ayers) rock and a hard (Oodnadatta) place? The most common trend for sportspeople is to play the game/match/set/over and then drink themselves silly at the club bar afterwards. Then they're obliged to stay for a dinner of deep fried chicken schnitzel, gravy and chips in order to do their bit for the club’s fundraising efforts. Even after the weekend they’re still required to be a team player by selling their fair share of Mars/Cadbury fundraising chocolates to everyone in your office. However the player would have to be made of stone to be able to resist not eating a few of ‘em themselves – especially if their child plays too - “Heeeyyy, it’s for the kids.”

On the other hand, if you manage to successfully avoid sport altogether you will find yourself relatively friendless, rotund and in danger of growing a new layered winter coat each season. A conundrum then occurs: should you risk shame and unwanted stares by waddling into your local tennis club rooms or gym, or wait until you’ve shed at least two stone and feel good-looking enough to join them? What about sports gear – should a fattie wear the big-name brands before looking obviously fit and thin or should they opt for shapeless black and grey flannel cloaks to save pain for everyone?

What of those who have achieved acclaim and fame through their sporting prowess, only to stop playing altogether thanks to either the arrival of hard-hearted Father Time or an chronic injury? These people are possibly at the most danger of becoming fat because they are used to eating large amounts of meat and carbs to boost their energy levels.

One chubby chap that immediately springs to mind is Billy Brownless, the ex-Geelong football player. A man so obviously used to inhaling several steaks, sacks of potatoes and pats of butter; he clearly continued to engorge after retirement, not knowing that his 100,000,000 calories-per-day intake was no longer required for someone hosting a weekly ‘Spin the Wheel’ segment on the Footy Show. He now resembles a tallish Elmer Fudd, but without the wit.

Petria Thomas retired from professional swimming a year or so ago and, judging from a photo of her taken last week, has stacked on the flab. Never one to trouble the doctors at Anorexics Anonymous, she now looks as though she’d be able to bench press a farm tractor with one hand whilst pumping Maccas’ McFlurry tap dry with the other.

What point am I trying to make here? It’s hard for everyone to stay fit and trim regardless of their money (hello Oprah), fame (Marlon, we won’t forget you) or sporting prowess (Maradona, king of the stomach staple). Not only that, but it’s bloody hard when you live in South Australia. How is anyone meant to resist the chocolate-covered, peach and apricot blended Fruchoc balls? Or Haigh’s chocolate anything, Balfours’ custard tarts, frog cakes or hot pasties? What of the local delis who smother their hot chips with chicken salt, or the groovy cafes that do spectacularly delicious salt’n’pepper calamari, moussaka, wood oven pizzas, saganaki, sizzling steaks, garlic bread, singapore noodles, satays…….. No wonder people are drinking more: they're depressed about what big fat bastards they've become.

It’s not just South Australian produce that’s to blame. Cadburys, Lindt, Milka, Nestle, Dove and Red Tulip have created a situation so dire that it’s physically, emotionally and spiritually impossible to not walk down ‘Aisle 8 – confectionery’ at my local Coles supermarket. My lovely friend Ian has just gleefully emailed me to let me know that Krispy Kreme will soon open in his neighbourhood - the QV shopping and apartment complex in Melbourne. My immediate response – “Enjoy. You might as well eat them while you’re running on the treadmill at the gym next door.”

That’s what it truly boils down to for me too. The six kilometre, thrice-weekly runs make the dog happy, true; they keep my weight down to a socially-acceptable level, also true; but it’s also so that I can keep eating what I want. What’s life if you can’t eat a kitkat at the movies, especially if you’ve earned it?

Monday, February 27, 2006

Mono-synaptic, Poly-cretinous half wits

Newspapers and websites everywhere today have gleefully reported that David Beckham is totally befuddled by his six-year-old son Brooklyn's maths homework.

Beckham, 30, admitted to being baffled when Brooklyn recently asked for help with a school assignment and had to turn to his former Posh Spice wife Victoria to help out.
"Their homework is so hard these days. I sat down with Brooklyn the other day - and I was like, 'Victoria, maybe you should do the homework tonight'," Beckham told the Mail on Sunday newspaper. "I think it was maths, actually. It's done totally differently to what I was teached when I was at school, and you know, I was like, 'Oh my God, I can't do this'.

And bless him, Beckham also admitted he had no ‘lucky’ pre-match routines, with them too being tough to remember. "I find that if I follow a routine ... it gets to the stage where you are thinking, 'Right, was it the left side ... the left boot I put on first, or the right side?' "There are so many things that can go through your mind." (Yeah, like a torchbeam shone from one earhole to the other, heh heh heh).

This topic is just like grinding a caterpillar under your shoe isn’t it; just too ridiculously easy to mock. Whilst the majority of English soccer (I refuse to call it ‘football’) fans love him, most of the rest of the world love to loathe him and his wife, Anorexia Spastic Spice who seems to busy herself these days with invisible pregnancies and shopping. She was last photographed wearing leather cowboy chaps whilst lunching with Ginger Nut/Geri Belly Halliwell at London’s Ivy restaurant. As you do. I hope she didn’t leave the three boys with David on his own or she’d have to clean up four dirty nappies when the lear jet arrived home.

Laughing at their stupidity eases some of the anger and jealousy we feel towards the Beckhams. Victoria’s worth at least $60M just from being one fifth of the world’s most irritating girl groups, and David’s fortune is several hundred million dollars and counting – all for being able to kick around a leather object better than everyone else (and I’m not talking about Posh Spice here. Yet.)

Even they must realise how uneducated and clueless they are, and have no doubt employed numbers of personal assistants, media advisors and deportment coaches to see them through those really challenging days. You know, like when you actually have to climb out of your limousine to speak to Brooklyn’s school teacher and pretend you know what it is she’s wittering on about, or to hose down Posh’s confession last year that she had never read a book.

Surely Davey babes would have been prepped for a Mail on Sunday interview? “It’s done totally differently to what I was teached when I was at school….” The journalist must have dribbled with glee onto his tape recording machine. At least for a second or two before noticing that Becks had a 5 carat diamond in his ear, several thousand pounds worth of designer clothing on; a brand new Porsche waiting outside and a 25 million dollar fortress to return home to. What a shame such riches are not dangled in front of scientists trying to find a cure for cancer, aids and heart disease; or for those tireless volunteers who visit ravaged countries - not for five minute photo opportunities in shiny white shirts - but to work there.

If he then managed to stay sitting and not slap Becks a good hard one across the face, he might have had a third thought, one that even the brain-untroubled Becks would have appreciated a couple of years ago: if he can’t do a 6 year old’s homework or speak beyond a six year old’s level, how the hell would he have been able to SMS all those nudey rudey messages to that Rebecca Loo Roll floozy? Did he rent Warney for the afternoon to show him how it was done or were they all sent by sheer fluke after he accidentally sat on his motorola after footy training? There is a famous saying that if you put enough monkeys in a room with enough typewriters they will eventually end up typing Shakespeare – could David be one of those monkeys?
He very well could be.

But what of Victoria – she of the snubbed nose, disdainful expression and lips that look as though they’ve been collagened and lined with pipe cleaners? Do her skills extend to being the distinctly worst singer of the Spice Girls, growing globe-like breasts and wearing clowns’ castoffs with five figure price tags? Seems like it.

At least they can feel secure in the knowledge that there are many, many books in the Mr Men range so that all five of them will be able to find something to read before bed.

Friday, February 24, 2006

My Mum’s handbag

…….sounds like a good name for a band, doesn’t it? Almost up there with my brother’s suggestion of ‘Dogs in Cars’.

One of the biggest fashion trends seen these days is due to the endless photos of fat-lipped stick insect starlets going shopping whilst holding a 44 gallon takeaway coffee cup in one hand and a tote bag big enough to sleep in looped over their painfully thin wrists.

Apart from SUV keys, platinum credit cards and their oversized sunglasses case, these bags are most definitely not being used to hold anything like food, literature or a nice woolly jumper in case the weather turns cold later on. Be that as it may, it reminded me of my Mum’s handbag. No no no, she was never a coked-up starving skank wearing a sequined swimsuit but her handbag was a vital part of her, a piece of equipment that she never left the house without.

As a teenager, I used to love teasing her about it. “Hey Mum, the table in this café’s a bit wobbly. Do you think you can reach into your bag and find a saw to even up the legs, heh heh heh.” Clearly not appreciating my sophisticated teenage humour, she’d frown in thought and invariably answer, “Hmm, let me see….. (rummage rummage). I’ll tell you what I do have – the program from the local Music Players Society’s ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ that your father and I went to last Friday night. I’ll fold that up a few times and put it underneath – that will stop the wobbling.” And it did.

When she and Dad came over to Melbourne to visit Love Chunks and myself several years ago, I was still suffering from morning – no, make that All Day sickness. She came with me to Northland to check out a few maternity clothes and baby equipment, and all of a sudden the coffee in the food hall started to smell like bat dung and the room started spinning. “Come here and sit down,” she said kindly. “Grab hold of this and take a few deep breaths,” she continued, handing me an air sickness bag she’d pulled out from her new mock-croc hold-all.

In the late eighties, I was mortified to discover that my sloppy chopstick skills had resulted in a few bright orange chili sauce splatters down my front. How was I going to look even remotely professional at my job interview in twenty minutes’ time? It was Mum’s Handbag to the Rescue again. It miraculously conjured up a rather nice silk scarf that draped over the offending stains, hiding them completely. She also rather tactfully offered me some breath mints, “They might not have had garlic with their lunch like you have.”

Countless times my marvelous mother would be able to produce a much-needed object from the leather lifesaving device in the nick of time. Such gear included sugar cubes, scissors (not nail scissors either), serviettes, a folded waterproof poncho, coffee sachets, teabags, toothbrush and toothpaste, stingose spray, three different brands of mints, needle, thread and buttons, safety pins, SPF30+ sunblock lotion, biscuits, hand wipes, bandages, painkillers, chocolates, a hand-held paper fan and instant soup sachets. This was of course in addition to the usual things found in a handbag – make up, purse, keys, comb, monthly stuff and a pen!

This preparedness for anything – and immediate assistance for others – was achieved via a handbag that would be one quarter the size of those carried around by today’s fashion victims. Each bag she used must have been modeled on Dr Who’s time traveling tardis and therefore have been considerably larger on the inside. You would think that Mum’s magic bag would have been an inspiration to me, but it only served to intimidate – how could I, a female with the grace and physique of a warthog, ever be able to make her proud? Hence, it was just easier to not ever own a handbag. Instead, I used to prefer the Kitchen Sink Approach, and lug everything around with me in a backpack. Let’s face it; you never know when you might need your running shoes, the slim tome ‘A Suitable Boy’ by Vikram Seth or a golf umbrella.

However in early 2005 it was time to finally buy a handbag. The big black backpack looked a wee bit too bulky when worn with floaty peasant skirts to meetings. And, surprisingly, the Tardis-Effect had in fact been passed down from mother to daughter. Lo and behold – “Don’t worry about the mud on Ned’s face, Deb – I’ve got a traveler’s pack of wipes in my ……. Handbag!”
“Are you hungry, Sapphire? Well, (rummage rummage), I’ve got some musk rollers, a muesli bar and a chup-a-chup, so take your pick.”
“You poor thing. Sit down, and I’ll get you a panadol. I’ve also got some water to wash it down with and a spare pair of sunnies if the light’s too bright…..”

My tardis-toting fame has spread. Well, around the school and neighbourhood communities at least. “Go ask Aunt MillyMoo, she might have a computer screen cleaner / tube of fake tan / fruit knife / tennis ball that she can spare.”
What a relief: this chunky little nectarine didn’t fall too far from the tree after all.

My Mum's Handbag

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Bewitching Blogs

Surfing blogs is mostly an enjoyable pastime, even if it’s merely to score a few credits and traffic for your own.

What encourages me to wander off the surfing-go-round and into cyberspace on my lonesome is when a blogroll has titles that are just too intriguing not to click. Make negative assumptions about my character if you wish, but some recent favourites have included:

Discover JordanWhy? Last time I was there I was strip-searched and then stared at by every single male in the Amman airport for the next eight hours. The whole place smelled of armpits.

Something Amphibian Between the Sheets – Chronicling the blogger’s poor choice of sexual partners or admitting that poor household hygiene has resulted in a rather unique pest problem.

Poxanne – A chick with a thing for big noses; a prostitute in love with Sting or a sad case of cyber syphilis?

I Kick Ass for the Lord – Aw, bless your sweet heart. The Danes could use your skills right about now.

Everyone’s got one, so here’s mine – Hopefully this refers to a blog and not a veruca, a patch of excesma or that yucky white gunk you get on your tongue.

Envision Whirled Peas – Beautiful title, sheer poetry. Let us hope that this literary chocolate that will one day get the attention it deserves and finally scrape the talentless Bryce Courtenay and Sir Jeffrey Archer off their ill-deserved, crap-soaked perches

Insert Creative Title Here – We all know what that feels like.

The Loin King II – Bad pirated DVD English or D-grade porn: you decide.

Human Being User Manual – Wish I could remember where my copy was left, so hopefully it can be downloaded. Preferably in English, with easy-to-follow illustrations and with an unlimited warranty.

FARK – It hasn't yet been established whether this one is written by the reanimated Graham Kennedy, a flock of South Aussie magpies or an American with a sinus infection.

Granddaddy pull the curtains – Actually it was the title that intrigued me, not the idea of visiting the blog……

CrackHeadLogic – Just seeing the words 'Crackhead' and 'Logic' put together defies logic.

Mountain Biking is Fun – See previous title and then yes, maybe it is

Pocket Lint – Actually, this sounds more interesting than mountain biking…..

Gran’s on Bran – …… and so does this. However it would be preferable if there’s no photographs of the *evidence* that dear old gran, is, in fact, on bran.

Product May Include Traces of Nuts – Classic, champagne comedy unless it's written by a monkey of course.

I have not had Sex in Two Years – Most people wouldn’t be advertising that mate, and it might explain *why* you remain without any horizontal line dancin’ partners

No-one cares about your blog! – Too depressing to read

Hot Girls from Afghanistan – Oh yeah baby, all the revealing eyebrows, tear ducts and nose bridges you're lusting after

My Sea monkeys have just turned a year old – You’ll be believed only if you include photos of them in the cartoon-style of the advertisements on the back cover of my 1970s comic books

I do SO have a life! – that’s nice dear

Uplifting Daily Christian Thoughts – and to think that this was linked to Hot Girls from Afghanistan

I wish Chocolate were a Vegetable - *sigh* me too, with high levels of folate, fibre, zinc and selenium. Oh and with no fat or sugar. And subsidised by the government.

Blog Fart – not to be confused with my old site, ‘Cyber Wedgie’

Monday, February 20, 2006

Careful, you might need your arms later today

After Sapphire finished her tennis lesson on Saturday morning; we wandered over to the nearby Adventure Playground. According to my current role in life, I sat down on a nearby park bench like a sensible parent and watched as she scampered from one piece of equipment to the other before making some temporary friends to play with.

Their methods of introducing themselves always make me smile. All they want to know about each other is the name and the age. “Hi my name is Sapphire, I’m six. How old are you?” Simple and always effective, but asking the age of a potential shag at an over 35s singles night may not result in anything other than a vodka cruiser being flung in your face.

After these idle musings, an immature yearning swept over me. I used to be able to swing upside down from monkey bars, land deftly on my feet ready for a long session on the whizzy. Why don’t they make playgrounds for adults? Who says that adults can’t play on the playgrounds with their kids? Emboldened, I put down my obligatory morning carton of Farmers Union Feel Good Iced Coffee next to my handbag and ventured into the previously-forbidden zone.

“Hey Mum, what are you doing here? Do you want to push me on the whizzy tyre?”
“No thanks love. You carry on; I’m just going to have a little go on the monkey bars over here.” My big hands gripped the first rung tightly and confidently as my feet lifted from the ground. This was all very well, but how the hell did I find the strength to swing my enormous bulk over to the next bar? Somehow I did it and could feel the tendons and muscles twanging off one-by-one down the side of my body like a migrating Mexican wave. My pride made me swing to the third bar, if only to have the same painful muscle pulls occur on the other side of my body.

Perhaps it would be better to try something a bit less grueling, such as those cute little rockin’ rabbits on the coiled springs. Sapphire saw this, and clambered on the blue bunny next to mine. It was rather satisfying to note that my butt could actually fit into the seat even though my knees were splayed outwards in a peculiar frog pose. We rocked back and forth, back and forth as Sapphire sang “See saw margarine’s jaw, Ronnie will get a new blaster….” Whilst she warbled happily, my mouth was sealed shut in determination, mostly because I was afraid my brains would fall out onto the bark chips. It was a sensation very similar to an enforced bout of head-banging at a Metallica concert with the exact same result of pounding temples and swollen eyeballs. “You keep going Sapphire, I’m just going to, um, have a quiet sit on the swing over there,” I gestured vaguely towards the trees and staggered off, clutching my head.

Swings would be nice and safe surely was my hopeful thought. Well, first there was the humiliation having to wedge my arse into the seat, which felt like trying to pack a bulletproof dinghy into a Pringles packet as I struggled into a u-shaped strip of rubber that even an anorexic munchkin would consider snug. My left butt cheek now numb, I started off swinging low and slow, enjoying the sensation and waving triumphantly to my daughter on the swing ropes. “Woo Hoo! Look at me Sapphire, look at me!” She gave me a terse nod in response, and went back to her climbing.

My arms and sides ached after their monkey bar experiences, but were still doing an expert job of hanging onto the chains of the swing as I went higher and higher. “Woo Hoo Sapphire! Come and have a swing with me! I’m going sooo high!” She didn’t seem to be able to hear me; no doubt it was due to the wind generated by my altitude. These smug thoughts immediately disappeared when a sudden wave of motion sickness swept in. I skidded my heels into the ground, recognizing the very familiar carsickness feeling from childhood; sitting in the back of the Volvo on a trip to Adelaide with a filled-up ice-cream carton in my hands. The parking bay near the tollgate was always the most convenient place for my mother to stop and do her regular routine of rinsing’n’flinging out the contents. It was no surprise that the wildflowers grew so well there amongst the cracks in the bitumen…..

It was obviously time to see what Sapphire was enjoying so much about the ropes. These were bright orange and erected to resemble a huge spider’s web. She had climbed so sure-footedly to the top of the web many times – a bit like her mother at the same age really. Whoa – my already-abused arm muscles shook with uncertainty as I grabbed at the web. How were my feet going to be able to grip the very slick-looking rope? Surprisingly, they did and I found myself on the lowest row of the web and smiled at my achievement. The other kids weren’t as happy about it as my bulk had stretched the ropes to the tautness of cable, causing the cone-shaped web to rise alarmingly high on their side and touch the ground on mine. Oh, so that’s why my feet could balance on the rope – it was on the ground. Pretending to be distracted by something else in the distance, I jumped off the rope and made my exit. At least fifty percent of the kids managed to hang on as the ropes snapped back into formation, I’m sure.

The point farthest from the stupid spider web was the pipe tunnels. “Sapphire! Sapphire! Wanna come in here with me?” Never mind, she seemed to be in earnest conversation with another girl on the monkey bars. The pipe was only four feet at its tallest point, so my stroll inside was that of an osteoporosis sufferer doomed to find every coin dropped on the ground. You would think that this vantage point would be prevent me from stepping – and slipping – on the slimy, stale black mud, but it didn’t. And trust me to be wearing light fawn jeans that morning too. Maybe the kids’ll just think that the two gigantic black shiny circles on my seat were skid marks from the swing seat.

“Oh Mum, you’ve got mud all over your BOTTOM,” Sapphire whispered in 150 decibels. “It looks like you’ve pooed yourself, yuck!”
“OK ok, how about giving me a hand here by the water fountain, and I’ll see if I can wash some of it off.”
Thankfully most of it came out; even though I now did feel as though I’d truly wet my pants, squelching to the spinning teacups. “Have a try of these Mum, you’ll love them”, Sapphire urged.
Again, my wet bum wedged itself into the tulip-shaped yellow cup quite effectively. “Now Mum, I’ll give you a push and then you sort of waggle your legs around and the tea cup will spin. Ready?”
“Oh er, I’m sure not sure spi-------- Aaaaaarh!”
I’m no physicist but I’m sure that the tiny circumference of this individual whizzy would make it, um, more ‘whizzyish’ than the larger one designed for the use of many children at once. I felt like I was clinging on to the end of an over-powered bamix and was unable to focus on anything around me as it swept by in psychedelic whirls and stripes of colour. My iced coffee was threatening to return again, albeit in slightly chunkier form and with added peas and carrots. “Stop me Sapphire, PLEASE!”
She did, and I fancy there was a suctioned pop! sound as I extricated myself from the satanic spinner as quickly as I could, only to face plant myself straight into the bark chips.

Sapphire laughed, patting my wet bottom, “Oh mummy, you’re so funny.”
“That’s great,” I mumbled, still spitting chips. “Time for us to go home sweetie.”
“Awww Mum!”


“Mum? Muuuuuum, why are we just sitting here? Why aren’t you driving the car yet?”I took a big, slow gulp of air. “Er, I’m just sitting here for a bit so that I don’t, er, get sick in the car.” Another big gulp. “Why don’t you see how many cockatoos you can count sitting on the lawn over there…….”

Friday, February 17, 2006

Don’t shop, surf or stand up

In an article published in The Age a couple of days ago: http://www.theage.com.au/news/breaking/ewww-dont-touch-that-mouse/2006/02/15/1139890812017.html, a survey carried out by the Korea Consumer Protection Board has found that shopping cart handles and computer mouses used in cyber cafes are the most bacteria-infested items in a list of commonly touched objects.

Shopping cart handles are, worryingly, found to be ‘the worst of the worst.’ They apparently contain an average of 1100 colony forming units (CFU) of bacteria per 10 sq cm. That sounds like a lot, not that I know what an acceptable level is. The worst half dozen are: 1. Shopping cart handles – 1100 CFU per 10 sq cm 2. Internet café computer mouse - 690 3. Bus hand straps - 380 4. Public toilet handles and door knobs - 340 5. Lift buttons - 130 6. Train hand straps - 86 The computer mouses allegedly hosted an average of 690 CFU - more than twice the concentration found on doorknobs and handles in public toilets. I guess when our nannas told us to wait for someone else to push open the public toilet door before leaving, it was too early in the 1970s for her to have any knowledge about the impending threat of computer germs, let alone mouse grot.

The Korean study also found that while more than 77 per cent of people were aware of the importance of washing their hands, only 47.9 per cent actually bothered to wash them. Isn’t that charming? Over half of the general population (at least in Korea) clearly can’t be shagged to wash their hands before or after eating, visiting the toilets, or…..actually, it’s too scary to think about what else they might do without washing afterwards, especially considering that shopping cart handles have higher amounts of CFU than toilet doors. And to think that my local Coles makes us insert a $2 coin for the privelege of using the damn trolley!

It might be safe to assume that we’ve all got the message about washing our hands when using the toilets, particularly when using public conveniences. Perhaps even the grubby 52.1% of non hand washers might feel compelled to do it on occasion if only to avoid the disgusted looks on strangers’ faces. One of Larson’s more well-known cartoons shows a restroom in a café, above which a huge sign is flashing when a man leaves: DID NOT WASH HANDS. Wouldn’t that be good if someone gave up their intensive study on the origins of the Antedeluvian nose flute and instead developed a Unwashed Hands alarm for use in pubs, clubs, restaurants and the home. They’d be Time magazine’s person of the year and Paris Hilton would have shagged them five minutes before the nobel prize giving ceremony.

Lack of such useful inventions notwithstanding, perhaps it is more important to ask: What on earth sort of disgustingly germy activities are people doing before they head to the shops? Apart from, say, eating a leaky toasted egg sandwich, having a leak and then a sly nose pick, what other repulsive ameobic activities are occurring and why the hell don’t any of them feel bad enough to hold their mitts under a tap for a second or two?

Think about it, picture the following scenario.You’re doing your weekly Thursday grocery shop and are wheeling the trolley around the fresh fruit and veg section in a familiar daze. Your hand leaves the trolley to pick through the grapes, carrots, apples, pears, broccoli and potatoes you want before placing them in those stupid plastic bags that are impossible to open at the right end because---- oh, sorry, back to the shopping scene. Your innocent selection of produce has resulted in a seamless transference of those pesky little colony forming units of bacteria all over your food, as well as your own hands. Whilst down the tinned food aisle, you sneeze – achoo! – into your tissue. After a thorough wipe because, hey, you might as well get it all out, you shove the tissue into your pocket and keep on wheeling until you throw in a tin of baked beans and several tinned peeled tomatoes.

Several minutes later, the smell of fresh coffee beans surrounds you and you wait for the old Italian guy to finish grinding his up so that you can try the new Brazilian mocha on sale. The scoop is there, but half the beans filter through your hands as you try to fill up the grinder. Those little CFU bacterial buggers are loving it. After paying for your load, you keep hold of the trolley whilst visiting a few other shops on the way back to your car. A loaf of fresh bread, only half-wrapped in greaseproof paper, the rest of it cradled in your hands; some deli yoghurt that you couldn’t help dipping your finger into for a wee taste as you left the store and the enjoyment of the free slice of pecorino you were handed with your order of proscuitto.

But out there in public consumer land, you’ve long forgotten about this article, haven’t you? You unload your groceries, wheel your trolley back to the bay and see the local 106 bus trundle past, packed with office workers. “Poor bastards,” you think smugly to yourself, “I’m glad that’s not me, crammed into a hot bus with a load of fungal feet and sweaty armpits.” Another sneeze turns up – atchooo! – just as you’re fumbling for the keys. This time you rub three fingers under your dripping nose and wipe the moistness down your pants. Then you touch the car door handle, still thinking, “Geez, and to think of the germs on public transport, yuk! Now, I wonder if I’ve got time to visit the Cyber Café before my next meeting?”

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Things learned so far during 2006

Gum nuts wash surprisingly well when hidden in the pocket of a pair of culottes, but gum leaves are a different matter altogether

Fake tan looks fake.

Even when they’re untouched, the human ankle somehow soaks up fake tan, and remains a fluoro-orange colour for weeks and weeks.

Dogs don’t like natural yoghurt. Or baked beans. Stale bread rolls are objects to bury in a deep hole, not chew.

A pale bathroom floor attracts more pubic hair and lint than the entire household could produce if on Olympic doses of steroids (which we’re not).

Peasant skirts may cover up one’s fat white legs, but have an unfortunate tendency to blow up and over one’s head on windy days, thus revealing far uglier things than legs.

Never ever drink a Farmers Union Feel Good Iced Coffee if it’s even one second beyond the use-by date. Unless you actually prefer your teeth without enamel.

According to our six year old, blue Slush Puppies are the sixth food group.

Having lovely long nails is a let down. People complain of being scratched when you only mean to touch them and yucky gunk collects underneath them (the nails, not the scratchee).

Crockery sets are always sold in odd numbers at second-hand shops – threes, fives, sevens.

Channel Nine are a bunch of heartless stinky bottom burps for not televising the latest series of Survivor.

Dog poo out-sticks chewing gum and super glue when it comes to scraping it out from the bottom of a sneaker.

Sandpits contain invisible magnetic properties for any person under the age of seven, especially when wearing a clean school uniform or their best clothes.

No matter how they are talked up by the chef or presented, sausages for dinner are still utter crap.

Even when I’m dying to blob out on the lounge and stare at the box, so far this year I’ve scanned the TV guide and not seen one thing I’d be prepared to watch.

One white tissue, inadvertently included in a dark washing load, has the ability to spread itself to at least 30 times its original size when distributing its white waste over woolly socks, polar fleece and my nice black tops.

Dog farts don’t blast out the windows; six year old kids’ do.

Here in Oz, divorcing a celebrity not only gives you more money but also guarantees fame, a slot on ‘Dancing with the Stars’, undeserved advertising work and a magazine column. Having talent, a secure love life and intelligence does not.

Kids still love being taught how to finger knit and make Anzac biscuits.

The nicest smell is that of your own home, when you’ve just opened the door. Unless you’ve just burnt the toast or let loose a ripe gut gurgler that is.

Your six year old can beat you three times out of four playing Uno.

This same child can out-read every other child her age in school but still cries when she drops her ice block onto the ground.

Your love is strongest when the six year old is fast asleep, unmoving and completely silent.

Your love for your husband is strongest when he is holding you, massaging your migraine-racked temples and offering to empty your sick bucket.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Pink and brass - uglier than my arse

Our bathroom is an abomination. Like Dr Who's tardis, it may be small in size, but is ugly in much more humungous proportions on the inside. It is uncomfortable to use, difficult to clean and, lastly but worstly, it is in direct line with the front door.

In 1924 when our house was built, the bathroom was at the back of the house. The original kitchen must presumably have been half the size it is now and the toilet and laundry were probably tacked on to the back under the verandah.

In the late 1980s, the then-owners did a renovation of sorts. They extended the kitchen and added on a family room. The toilet was tucked into a corner of the laundry, not-so-cleverly hidden behind a wooden slatted door that a drunk or athletic adult could limbo dance under. So far, we three - Love Chunks, Sapphire and myself - have coped admirably with these design faults and are likely going to have to for much longer still. But the bathroom is another matter entirely.

My arms do not have to fully stretch out in order to touch both walls which measure only 1.5m. The length of the room is a mere 2.1m. To be fair to the previous owners, they did not have much real estate to work with when jazzing it up. Wisely perhaps, they abandoned the idea of squeezing a toilet into the space because it may not have worked all that well if the pooping person had to duck under the towel rails and shower caddy in order to get that scatological load off their mind.

That's where my goodwill towards the stupid, short-cut-loving, cheapskate owners ends. Even Blind Freddy would be able to see that the combined bath and shower should have been installed on the back wall, under the window, where the original tub was. But no, these corner cutting vandals clearly didn't want to be bothered with properly bricking up the wall to make it waterproof and remove the window. Instead, they placed the bath along the longer (2.1m remember) wall. These guys may possibly have been anorexic string beans and therefore able to enter the room without the boxy glass shower screen thumping them on the shoulder as they washed their hands in the basin.

It is also evident that they didn't mind standing on a slant whilst they showered because the showerhead is fitted right at the sloping end of the bath where presumably a bubble-loving munchkin would lean against whilst reading 'Who Weekly'. For us, unfortunately, it's bloody annoying. Love Chunks and I either end up facing the slope and leaning forward like an alpine ski jumper, or facing the other way, praying our feet don't slide out from underneath us and causeour noses to headbutt the bath taps. Most un-fun, especially when showering early in the morning before my face has fully unfolded or my brain even begun to comprehend the word 'coffee'.

Going back to Blind Freddy, maybe he was one of the homeowners because how else can you explain the pale pink colour scheme combined with beige-painted tapware and brass tap fittings? It's not a women's colour - most of my girlfriends would prefer to eat their young than select a colour that makes their room uncannily resemble a large vaginal canal. Actually, I think most of my friends would prefer to eat their young most of the time, full stop.

This pale pink extends to the painted shut window - well, it has to be, otherwise we'd be bashing the frames against the giprocked wall of the living room - and to the floor. *Sigh*, when will people choose a floor that is the same colour as the things that land on it? Stuff like pubes, eyelash hairs, dog fur, dental floss, towel lint and belly button fluff. Floorboards do a good job or pretty well any colour except pink or white for intelligence's sake. No sooner has the mop left the room than a stray piece of lint lands on it, shouting out its presence like bolognese on a clean bathrobe.

But wait, there's more, and none of it is going to make you long to be an overnight guest at our house (unless you want to have a splash in the laundry trough, but that's got its trials too as the only toilet is in the same room). The boxy glass shower screen only covers half of the bath, so we need to have a shower curtain as well. These have a tendency to get wet and immediately stick to the body which is not yet warm or wet - not a great way to wake up. They also grow mould quicker than an agar plate which looks and smells particularly fetching. Thirdly, they often refuse to stick to the edge of the glass in order to make an enclosed space so that not only do you feel a stiff breeze you could do without but the water the curtain was supposed to keep in the bath now flows out onto the dreaded pink floor. Augh!!!

Being in direct line with the front door is always going to be an issue unless the lotto ticket comes through for us and we convert it into an internal wine room. So far we've only had a few near misses in terms of the 'Oh my god I'm bending over to pick up the soap and Love Chunks has opened the front door to make a Red Cross donation!' and we can always work on ensuring that we both stop and think before flinging open the front door to search for the paper amongst the box hedges. What angers me the most is that every single visitor, door-knocker, friend and guest gets a lovely look straight into our most ugly, ill-conceived, stupid little bathroom. Hell, it's even lit up to the nines by the skylight! I always find myself apologising for it as we walk through to the living room, "Oh, don't look in there, it's our bathroom from hell. We haven't done it up yet." And hey, if they want to go to the loo and wash their hands, it's not as though the laundry trough and homemade loo in the same room is all that impressive either.....

Today I found myself at the Reece bathroom products showroom. Looking at kitchen flick-mixer taps. It was impossible to resist walking amongst the gleaming chrome and white vanities, basins, toilets, showers and baths. I was momentarily lost in a fog of fantasy and had to be asked "Can I help you?" three times by the showroom consultant before I could answer sadly and say "Yes, where are your kitchen taps?"

Whilst paying for the tap, I spied a leaflet on the counter. 'Reece Great Australian Bathroom 2006 Competition' it read. Win $12,000 cash and Reece vouchers. Whooohoo, now you're talking, I thought to myself. Well, until I read that it was for people who have already done their bathrooms. What's the point of that? They're already got a decent bathroom, it should be for someone like ourselves, living with a tiny pink box with a storage cupboard 20cm wide! Isn't that too much like letting Paris Hilton grab every designer goodie bag she can stuff in her birkin when she's already a multi millionaire? I'd bet the skinny little skank would even like our pink colour too.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

What do you call a donkey with only three legs?

A Wonkey.

Cute eh? Not bad considering it was from six year old Sapphire yesterday as we walked to school. As it was Monday it was her turn for the weekly 'Show and Tell', and our dog Milly was the exhibit again.

She's a bit of a pro at this now. Mills trotted into Ms Lee's reception class in term four of 2004 and won all of the kids over. Well, with the exception of Josh, who burst into tears and clambered up Ms Lee's back like a goanna on steroids.

Last year, Milly was half an hour late for her 'Sharing' session in Ms Bondarenko's room. Not because she slept in or had an accident but because she was mobbed outside in the quadrangle. Fans of her from last year, and kids that she'd raced against on the oval after school all crowded around her, fighting for a turn to take her for a spin on her lead. She handled the chattering, grabbing, crowding and mass patting with real aplomb, turning around only occasionally to see where I was. Sapphire was bursting with pride and I fancied that I could almost see a tail of her own wagging in happiness.

Yesterday Milly and Sapphire were prepared for it all. We arrived fifteen minutes early to deal with the fans - "Milly! Hey Milly's here! Come here Milly! Can I take her for a lap around the playground, Sapphire's Mum?" It was clear that she was enjoying having her ears fondled and her coat stroked because her banana-shaped tail wagged furiously. Her tongue took every opportunity it could to lick any part of a child within reach, which simultaneously repulsed-yet-delighted each recipient of her doggy kisses.

In the classroom, Sapphire took the lead and paraded her around the circle like a super model's lap dog at a pedigree show. Again there was one dissenter - Thomas, who hid behind the safety of his father's legs. His absence was made up for by three interested toddlers who were siblings of Sapphire's classmates. Twelve month old Elijah toddled over, only to be nearly bowled over by Milly's enthusiastic face licking. Unfortunately he wasn't too impressed by this and lurched back to his Mum, bawling.

Two year old Vince was psyched up for the whole shebang - patting, licking and, if Milly was excited enough, being jumped on. Milly had found her two year old soul mate - a child willing to let her lick every visible bit of skin and willing to let her rest her paws on his shoulders. This boisterous display spooked little Ellie a bit. Ten minutes after the 'Show and Tell', she crept up behind Milly and ever-so-gently touched her tail.

James was next for 'Sharing' and had brought in Hermoine, his pet rabbit. She sat rather snugly on his lap as he stroked her and answered his classmates' questions. Milly obediently sat next to Sapphire, looking for all the world as though she too was listening to the presentation. That is until halfway through when she lost interest and lay in the middle of the mat on her back with her legs in the air, waiting for a tummy scratch. Surprisingly it was Sapphire's teacher, Evelyn, who obliged. Milly licked her open-toed sandals in thanks when it was time to leave.

More mobbing ensued as we farewelled Sapphire and her class and made our way out of the classroom. This time it was the year five kids on their way to Phys Ed class. "Ooooh, isn't the doggie cute," the girls cooed, whilst the boys wanted her to chase them. "She's a really fast runner, isn't she? I've seen her in action on the oval."

This morning when I arrived with Sapphire at school, several parents approached me. Oh no, I thought - have their kids had allergic reactions? Or worse - are they coming to ask me to be on another fundraising committee? "Hi there. My Selene has been raving about your dog. What sort of breed is she? Where can I get one?"

Um, she's a Jorgi. Yes, a Jorgi. No, it's not a real breed, it's what we've made up for her. You know, if you can have LabraDoodles and Spanadors, why can't you have a Jorgi?

Sorry, there isn't a breeder. We got her from the dog sanctuary after her elderly owner died. The vet told us that his guess is that she's a cross between a Jack Russell and a Corgi. Maybe if you try lining up a couple of those, hope that romance happens and who knows, you too will have a Jorgi....??!

Happy 2nd Birthday Milly. Your love, spirit, friendship and running skills are invaluable, as is your willingness to let Sapphire hug you and sing you a lullaby; dress you in scarves and place plastic dolls in your beanbag.

Monday, February 13, 2006

I lack, therefore I smack

In our revered local paper, The Sunday Mail, Veronica Williams, a guest columnist, shared her views with us on smacking children.

As a mother of three, she believes that punishing children by smacking ‘.....is not only humiliating for a child (as is yelling at them or belittling them – all of which lower their self esteem) but it also shows a lack of respect for the child and a lack of imagination or effort on behalf of the caregiver.’

She then offers her ‘creative and less harmful’ method of ‘teaching children acceptable behaviour’. Can you guess what it is? Yes, I’m nodding exaggeratedly here whilst typing – it’s The Corner. She told the naughty child to face the corner and not turn around. The next step involves leaving it to the child to ‘decide when they would leave the corner but… they were only allowed to do so when they had thought about what they had done wrong.’

Isn’t that nice and mature and calm of her? If I had read her article during my carefree childless years, I would have nodded in agreement and smugly thought “Oh yes indeed, I will definitely keep my voice at a low level and always reason with my child instead of subjecting it to any evil smacking.’

Fast forward the circle of life a few years and inevitably what sounded good in the printed word is almost impossible to achieve in reality: i.e. the confines of your living room after the two year has inserted a third fish finger into the DVD loader. Consciously trying to muster up a firm-but-fair expression on my face and some clear explanations – “No sweetie, put your hammer down, there’s a good girl, otherwise it will hurt the doggie”, or “No Sapphire, we wear our socks, we don’t put them down the toilet…..” was tried out twice.

When Sapphire ignored my requests and continued to do these activities, my voice started to lose its caring and loving tone and instead become more shrill and considerably louder. “NO Sapphire! That hurts the doggie! No no no no, don’t throw the hammer into the toilet as well! IT ISN’T FUNNY, IT’S VERY NAUGHTY!” Sadly, it was very soon realised that measured explanations of the consequences of her bad behaviour was not going to work. Maybe The Corner would. “OK, that’s it. I am not happy with your behaviour. I want you to stand over in the corner for some time out to think.”

Fifteen minutes later, I found myself sweaty, disheveled and up and out of the couch more often than a Mexican wave. At two and a half, Sapphire didn’t want to stand in the corner, didn’t know how to keep still and didn’t really know why she was there in the first place. Just as I was about to give it up and just tell her that I was talking away Elmo – her utterly favourite toy – she dashed out, gave me a fair old whack across the shins with her hammer and laughed.

Before my eyes completely fogged over in bright red anger, I made the decision. Note, it was before I got too angry to think straight. I grabbed her left hand and gave it a short slap, saying “No.” Oh all right, I yelled out “NOOOOOO!” as loudly as I could and made sure that she got a eyeful of my furious face. She rubbed her hand in shock and indignation and burst into tears. Meanwhile, I counted to ten and took a couple of deep breaths, trying to harden my heart against her surprised sobs. Moments later found that she didn’t resist me when I picked her up and took her over to the couch for a cuddle.

“I know that you’re still only very young and don’t understand everything, but when Mummy – or Daddy – tell you not to do something, you must do what we say. We tell you ‘no’ sometimes so that you will grow up to be a good person and also so that you’ll be safe. Do you understand that, sweetheart?”
”Milk, mum, milk please.”
“Can you be a good girl for Mummy and do what she tells you?”
“Milk mum? Please Mum? Where Elmo?”
“Are you being a good girl now?””Please Mum, milk? Please Elmo?”
“That's good enough.”

It felt all right to me. I hadn’t lashed out due to lack of control and she didn’t appear to be humiliated, frightened of me or be sporting a severe dent in her self-esteem. The warm little head I was kissing whilst my arms encircled her belonged to a happy, active and intelligent toddler who had tested the boundaries, tried my patience and discovered that her Mummy was a human who also got cross and fed up.

I began to suspect that I might not be the only one who used "If you keep that up, I'll give you a smack" as their last resort. People never discussed it but when I raised it, most parents admitted that they did smack their children when every other avenue had been tried. It felt like being a member of a secret society – one that never held meetings or advertised its existence, but resulted in a feeling of relief and responses like, “Oh, so you’re not superhuman after all – what a relief, I thought it was just me who was being a terrible parent.”

On the other hand, I had also witnessed other parents trying the kind voice/explanations/corner routine and winced at their (mostly) dismal failures. If a child was under four, they had no idea why they were forced to stand in the corner and if they were older, they simply saw it as a joke. What was horrifyingly obvious was that, despite the soft tones, kids totally ignored their parents and kept on with the noxious activity until their parents were angry enough to a) yell very loudly; b) threaten to take something away; and, finally, c) give them a ‘Short sharp trip to botty land.’ (Thanks, BlackAdder II).

Think about your own upbringing. A smack on the butt would have been fairly commonplace for most of us, yet we’d also, in our reminiscences, realise that we deserved it. I clearly recall my mother, normally so laidback, chasing my little brother around and around the house, with a wooden spoon in her hand. The little treasure had decided to break the glass front door in with Dad’s hammer. Dad yelled at my older brother when he hit the cricket ball right through the bedroom window and there was a distinct red hand-mark on my leg at bath time one night after being caught smashing bottles in the backyard incinerator.

Did it make us three siblings hate our parents? No, of course not. They were extremely rare occasions and made us realise the seriousness of our naughtiness – none of us ever did those things again. It also made us see our parents as real people with feelings, reactions and emotions – not some automatons that could easily be ignored or disrespected.

Finally, Ms William’s closing paragraph states that ‘It’s time the generational cycle of physical punishment was replaced with a more caring and imaginative one.’ Again, this would have sounded absolutely correct in my childless days, but now it just irritates me to the point of anger. Reasonable parents who have tried several times to get their child to stop an unwanted behaviour, are, like most humans, going to become very angry and seek a measure that will shock their children into stopping that behaviour and not doing it again. Reasonable parents will give their child enough chances and verbal warnings to stop their bad behaviour before deciding to smack them on the hand or bottom. Imagination has nothing to do with it unless you want to ask them to stop it for the tenth time using new words and phrases. Standing in a corner ‘aint it unless you are happy for a tantrum and some boogers wiped on your wall.

Perhaps the endlessly repeated requests to stop said in nice voices and The Corner strategy would work if you were deaf, dumb, blind and on enough Lithium to be looking down on cloud nine. If so, you’re not fit to be a parent.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Diets Stink.

That's what it says on my t-shirt, bought from 'White Trash Palace' online a couple of months ago.

Even though I heartily agree with the statement, I'm still on a diet. Somehow, on the 1st of January, the little red needle on the bathroom scales came up with a number that was far larger than I'd been used to. I felt ill and then ashamed at the memory of everything I'd shovelled down my throat in sheer abandon since, oh, about July and reaching a peak of piggyness over the silly season break.

It was with great shame that I realised too that running six kilometres every second day did not keep the fat cells at bay. Instead, I was revelling in the moral superiority of having just gone for a run, and rewarding myself with a post-breakfast snickers/frog cake/wagon wheel/custard tart/six rows of Cadburys. After all, thirty minutes of high impact exercise would certainly burn up the leftover carrot cake I'd have with lunch, the mid-afternoon choccy chew and the after-dinner M&M munch fest wouldn't it?

In MillyMoo Land, it would be OK and also be a confirmed source of fibre, vitamin C and scientifically proven to improve my intelligence. In reality, unfortunately, it was not OK. That is, not unless I liked looking like an albino acorn and didn't mind my upper arms jiggling ten minutes after I'd waved my family goodbye.

Sucking in my stomach all day wasn't an option either, not when my daughter Sapphire remarked, "Mum, are you pregnant?" So much for thinking I'd breathed in my bellybutton up against my spine then. The final nail in this cake lover's coffin were shop windows. Have you ever had that happy feeling when you're out? You know - you feel great, you've got a nice outfit on, you think you look pretty good until...... until you happen to see your reflection in a shop window. Is that what I look like out in public? Are those thighs really mine? Any happiness you may have felt before the unwanted viewing then disappears quicker than a chocolate sludge shake in Britney Spears' hands.

What happened next was not that I joined a gym or hunted out raw vegetables and vegan meals, oh no. Instead, I'd dejectedly find the closest coffee shop and order a 'skinny' cappuccino and a custard tart, fretting about my reflection and inwardly cursing every little skinny bitch under 60 that walked by. 'Huh, she's only that size because she's so obviously a four pack a day lady,' or 'You need an arse for those jeans love', and 'Yeah right, why don't you breathe out and let your gut flop over your jeans, you fat fake.'

Despite all of this self delusion, I have been on a diet for about a month and have only broken it twice. So far. The first time was last week, when Love Chunks could see that I was feeling rather miserable, and he said, "I'm sure it won't force the needle too far on the wrong side of the scales if you have a few squares of chocolate with me in front of the movie." It was Cadbury's hazelnut, and I sucked my six squares as though I'd misplaced my dentures and didn't have the energy to get into my zimmer frame to find them. They had to last at least the length of the movie (2 hours 10 minutes) so even the damn nuts were sucked into oblivion.

The second occasion was this morning. After cashing in a $20 book voucher at Dymocks (which of course cost me another $36 because bookshops are only second to cake shops in terms of irresistability), the lure of the bakery nearby was far stronger than my willpower. "One skinny cappuccino and, ummm, a slice of that berry cheesecake over there," I pointed with my hand shaking in greedy anticipation. Ordering it felt so naughty, so wrong. 'Do not ruin it by sitting here trying to calculate how many grams of fat are in each slice', I told myself. 'This is your treat. You deserve this. Why, I don't know, but you do - you deserve this!'

A couple of hours later, my errands were done: I'd posted Sapphire's entry to the Kangaroo Club Colouring In Competition; collected the toe-nail sized clippers on order from the chemist; bought some milk and found some face cream for less than $7. It was crunch time - did I dare step on the scales for a weekly weigh-in when -
a) I'd hadn't just got out of the shower but was fully clothed;
b) it was over three hours since I'd been to the loo;
c) my legs were unshaved;
d) my nose unblown; and
e) it had been a fortnight since cutting my nails?

'Yes, it is time Blubberbuns, especially seeing as you inhaled that cheesecake so willfully this morning,' I told myself harshly. Stepping on ever-so-gently, my eyes were squeezed closed and for some inexplicable reason I was sucking my stomach in. What did the red needle say? One kilogram less than last week - yee hah! Woo hoo! Maybe I could celebrate by popping into McDonald's with Sapphire after school and having one of their mudcakes and.......

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Do they really need to get out more?

Yes, it’s time to put my ten cents’ worth in about the Danish cartoons that some Muslims are so offended about.

Fret not dear reader, I will not be boring you with the already oft-written arguments about respecting cultures or valuing free speech. Instead, the many news stories concerning this issue made me wonder: just what do these angry men actually do on days when there is nothing to be angry about?

This little question is not limited to the Muslim males who are mightily miffed right now. The issue can also apply to fellas on either side of the ages-old Israeli-Palestinian war, the scores of irritated Iraqi blokes regardless of whether they are pro or anti-Saddam; and in fact any anti-US extremists with truckloads of flags with which to test the strength of their cigarette lighters. Indeed, this list of boy bruisers is endless.

Overseas news reels used to feature mostly youths hurling the stones, brandishing placards and running from the tear gas and I used to assume that they were mostly students or unemployed. Nowadays, it appears that even their fathers and grandfathers seem to be getting in amongst it; firing shots in the air and providing reporters with great fifteen second sound grabs full of death threats and painful retribution. Another question for you here - are bullets cheap or something? They must be, for so many of them to be wasting them by shooting them up into the air, willynilly. And has there ever been a recorded case during one of these innumerable demonstrations of such a wild shot actually hitting some other poor bastard? Hell, if he wasn't annoyed beforehand, he certainly would be after that.

Let me extend my imagination even further for the sake of this article, and you too will be required to travel with me in on my mental mindscape - not unlike a magic carpet, but far more stained, made in a Taiwanese factory of polyester/nylon and with more holes than neo-goth's nostril.

Anyhow. A thirty-something chap called Abdul finds himself absolutely outraged when he hears from his buddies at the local cafe that, half a world away, a newspaper in Denmark has published some cartoons ridiculing the Muslim faith. He’s not quite sure where Denmark is, but he’s mighty pissed off about it anyway. He's not even sure he knows what a cartoon is, but it's sure to be something highly offensive to his hard won lifestyle. Who wouldn't want to live in a shoddily-constructed cement apartment block in 45C heat with no running water, dusty streets full of goat shit and have at least four teeth still left in your mouth?

He stomps home and darkly mutters to his wife, Fatima: “That’s IT. I am going to fight these infidels the only way I know how!”
She looks up from feeding their youngest of five. “And how is that, my dear?”
He stops pacing for a moment to consider his answer. “By taking the day off work, sitting on the back of Mohammed’s minivan and firing some shotgun rounds in the air, that’s how!”
“Oh,” she says tiredly. “So, do you want me to call you boss in the morning and tell him you have a toothache then?”
“YES! These infidels must pay with their miserable lives! Die Infidels, Die! Die Infidels, Die! Die Infidels….”, his voice fades as he marches down the stairwell to see if his mates in the cement cell next door were also going to chuck a sickie on behalf of Allah. Fatima permits herself a long sigh, and starts to put the children to bed, wondering if Abdul will get paid tomorrow.

Mohammed, the owner of the minivan, is secretly feeling pretty cheesed off about these ‘special days’. “Geez, it’s always ‘Hi there Mohammed, are you coming along with us Mohammed, Can we hitch a ride with you Mohammed, Is your minivan available to fight for the one true god, Mohammed?’ all the bloody time,” he moaned to his wife, Karida. “Just for once I’d like to give them all the finger, avoid the congested streets near those stupid embassies and just get through delivering my load of lamb necks to the market before the maggots are visible. It’d double my profit margin you know.”

Karida nods and indicates to her eldest daughter, Rasheeda, to join her in the kitchen. Rasheeda already knows the reason why her mother looks so worried – is her intended, 17 year old Hanif, also going to join the men? “I don’t know mother, I haven’t seen him since August because this chador blocks my view….”
“Yes yes, let’s not get into that one right now. What’s more frustrating to me is that both your father and your intended are not going to be earning any money tomorrow. Why can’t they stone a US-funded building in the evenings, after work?”
“Or the weekends,” adds Rasheeda, getting fired up as well. “Oh, and Mum – don’t forget to keep all the windows shut tomorrow and whatever you do don’t hang out the washing – the smoke from the flag-burning gets everywhere and makes the place smell worse than a camel’s crutch after a month long desert trek!”

And so on. With thousands of other little family discussions occurring at the same time, it suddenly occurred to me why there always seems to be so many men available to violently protest at a moment’s notice – they are all unemployed! Or, if they do have a job, they’ll soon be unemployed. Imagine telling your boss, Dhul Fiqar, owner of the 'Koran and Camel Coffee Emporium', that you’ve got a case of the trots*only for your image to be plastered across the TV screen in your boss's office as you’re filmed repeatedly knifing a magazine cut-out of President Bush. The likely result would be instant dismissal, unless Dhul Fiqar insists that all of his employees attend the demonstration.

My second theory is that ALL blokes of sound bodies (minds is another matter altogether) must, by law, attend the rallies. That’s right – they must always be prepared to be a little bit cross, annoyed, slightly angered or mightily, deathly furious. Perhaps such emotional reactions take their toll and the men can only summon up the energy to sip strong coffee at cafes, smoke cigarettes and hold hands. It would be frightening to think of the response if ‘Brokeback Mountain’ was instead ‘Brokeback Bedoin’, the story of two young – and passionate – camel traders, thrown together during a desert storm……

This second theory also relies on the work of the women at being housekeepers, cooks, mothers, accountants, teachers, wives, cleaners and hagglers (all from home of course) to keep such an angry male society ticking over. After all, how many women are filmed sitting idly in the town square, smoking and sipping a spiced tea? The old clichés always seem to be true: Behind a great man is an even greater Ghunwah**

* Diarrhoea, (for non-Aussies)
**Female Arabic name meaning ‘indispensable’

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Attrocious Attire

We're already into February, and my typing talons feel the need to scrape over a few choice pictures of so-called celebrities wearing clothes that were selected under chemical enhancement or via a stylist who is still miffed at not being given the dregs out of the Sundance goody bag.

For once, let's forget about Paris and what she's wearing, doing or - come on, use your imagination - thinking.Today the glare of the Attrocious Attire (AA) spotlight is on Tara Reid. Poster Girl for being Paraletically Pissed and known for her sterling acting work in which she runs the gamut of emotions from tipsy to rat-arsed. Let's start from the top and work our way down shall we? Tara's hair - sweat soaked from dancin', prancin' and drinkin' clearly shows us that her roots need doing. Surprisingly the eyeliner has stayed in place even if her actual eyes look as though they've been rolled in raspberry topping and quickly shoved back in again. Does she actually work these days? Who pays her bar bills - the Oliver Reed trust fund?

The spaghetti-like hair extensions are eclipsed only by Tara's tortured ta-tas. Poor love: perhaps her inability to focus clearly means that she always ends up buying a super-small instead of a mammary-minimising medium size. The too-tiny top makes her boozies resemble two balls of playdough unceremoniously squashed into burger buns. No wonder she's sozzled.

Miss Serena Williams! Your expert eye/hand coordination has resulted in thousands of expert smashes, lobs and volleys but when it comes to shopping.....!!! Those pants must have been painted on and it's rather awful to think that she might have forgone any underwear to fit into them (gulp).

And - oh look! It's a double full moon with a verandah for small ball boys to shelter under during rain breaks

......Not that Pamela Anderson's fun bags are any smaller than Serena's butt buns, but couldn't she at least have bought a bra in the right size to wear under her jumper?Surely she doesn't like the feeling of having one's chest sliced in half like a saveloy that split its skin after being boiled for too long? I can hear the threads of lace and spandex screaming in agony from here as they struggle to hold in a fraction of Pammy's talents.

What about those haggardly thin, old croney, witchy poo hands (shudder). Who'd want those bones scratching at you - that's if you're physically able to move beyond the Four-breasted Frontage that's previously only been popular with Freisian moo cows queueing at the shed during milking time....

Here we have Jordan, Pamela's younger, tackier British version who has also, unfortunately, given birth to two children who'll be profoundly in need of psychotherapy in future. J's the proud owner of Barbie hair that's about as natural as My Little Pony's tail, boobs you could rest a cup of tea on, a belly she feels compelled to display always and clothes so slutty it is impossible to imagine how she'd know how to spell words like 'taste', 'mystery' and 'style', let alone write a book.

I'm afraid to call the thing below her waist a 'skirt' because it's more like a belt that's been savaged by a dingo and is oh-so subtlely at its shortest right in front of her map of Tassie. Classy stuff that I'm sure makes her nanna very proud.The tan is so fake it's become a wood stain and the boots not only look like bargain basement sex shop discards but show her emaciated knees. Like Pamela, if she didn't have her huge breasts alternately fascinating and repulsing us, we might instead notice just how starved these stupid women really are.

Isn't it nice to see that even 'stars' like Gwen Stefani can economise by wearing their Grandad's old army blanket as a coat. It does look rather incongrous, however, with Gwenny gal's fully made-up face - does she ever scrape that gunk off? You know, like just pop down to the corner deli with a slap of nivea and some chapstick on? She'd better try it soon, or she'll scare the s**t out of her baby.

The handbag has no redeeming features whatsoever - it just shouts out BUTT UGLY BUTT UGLY BUTT UGLY so that we can prepare ourselves for the shoes. These were obviously made by a Scottish mental patient with a fixation for strait jackets and podiatry bills. Why am I surprised - it should be expected from someone who gave us 'Hollaback Girl' and dared to call it a 'song'........
Would you phone them if you saw them in the Yellow Pages?

As I was driving along Portrush road, the station wagon was nearly swamped by a removal truck. In the front were three blokes that looked about as responsible as the three stooges and were certainly less attractive.

'Bazza's Beaut Removals' was painted amateurishly in red down the side of the truck, presumably by a right-hander having a go at splashing it on with his left. It looked about as professional as Courtney Love's lipstick after a quiet night smoking crack. Would you ever, in your right mind, choose them to do the job? Would 'Bazza' be the bloke to box up your most beloved belongings?

Bazza - plenty to chuckle about

They appeared to be heading to a job (unless it was ten minutes past an iced coffee and finger bun time), so somebody had been gambler enough to trust them. The only reason I could think of was that Bazza had coughed up for a decent spread in the Yellow Pages, because seeing his truck cough and chunder along wasn't going to have his business linger in the memory as a positive one.

Love Chunks and I moved a few times in the nineties, firstly from Adelaide to Melbourne. We had only just moved in together, so our space in the truck was miniscule. So was the budget allocated for our move. We were told to have everything all packed and wrapped up securely because our bargain basement rate didn't stretch to boxes or blankets. This was all done in time for the 5pm collection, so, at 9pm when the truck hadn't arrived my cuticles had been picked to bloody shreds. When the bell rang, we were torn between wanting to let them know how utterly pissed off we were at their tardiness, but also grateful that they'd come at all. Besides, would an angry mover be tempted to fling in, say, an andiron or complete set of Mr Universe weights on top of our box of crockery? We both wisely kept quiet and had anxious smiles on our faces.

The load did arrive in Melbourne - a week later. We were never quite sure why it took so long, but seeing as we were staying in our friends' fully-furnished guest room, it didn't really matter. All we had to do when we unpacked into the flat we'd rented was to sandblast off the ID stickers they'd used on every single item. To this day we have a bookshelf and deckchairs with the *&^%ing stickers on - no amount of scrubbing, eucalyptus or sandblasting was getting those little suckers off.

Less than a year later we found ourselves preparing to pack up the flat and move up north to Darwin. This time, thankfully, the weather bureau was paying, so it was a huge company, five star, prompt service and drivers that didn't look as though they'd had a cone before arriving. I was at work the day they arrived, but poor old Love Chunks had to endure their comments about our belongings as they packed. "Love yer Abba records mate. What are ya, gay?" When they saw his dusty windsurfer standing up behind the kitchen door: "So, ya did a lot of windsurfing here in Flemington hey?" Perhaps next time we'll ask what the going rate is for total silence and no insulting remarks, Love Chunks commented to me later. He was still seething over the "Oh, ya got a trumpet. Give me a tin of baked beans and I'll give you a trumpet, he he...."

Rude comments aside, our furniture and car arrived earlier than we did. In the days of Ansett airlines, our belongings were waiting for us but our clothes had been sent to New Zealand. And no, $50 'to see you through' didn't cut it for three days when it was 36C and 100C humidity and I hoped that spending it all on a pair of bathers would outweigh my morning breath and embarrassment at entering a restaurant in only a thin strip of lycra.

Two years down the track (1996) found us winging our way back to Melbourne, looking forward to real seasons again. This move was our choice, so the weather bureau weren't going to put their hands in their pockets to help us get down. It was no surprise also to discover that what once barely filled the back of an ex-divvy van truck now quite comfortably took up an entire container. Sensibly, we decided to go for the mid-range - not so cheap you'd be in danger of an ulcer and not so expensive that we'd end up having to live in the packing boxes once they'd arrived.

A couple of efficient blokes packed up without a word in what seemed like a eyeblink. Everything - even the kitchen flip-top bin - and it's contents - were tootling over to some storage facility in the steaming hot sunshine. How I hoped that Love Chunks would be the lucky one to open that particular box..... And he was, bless him. It had been helpfully labelled 'kitchen' and as the chef of the two of us, he'd taken the job of setting up the kitchen just as he preferred it. He was bent double, outside in the fresh air, gasping from the odour and lacking the energy to wave the dog away from it. It made a lovely scene and I'm sure the neighbours would have been thrilled at the scent blowing in their direction.

Lastly, we got homesick for South Australia by the end of 2000 and wanted to come back home. What a relief to discover that there was actually jobs available for us. On second thoughts, it was sobering to realise that they were available because we were no longer bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young graduate trainees, but thirty-somethings with solid experience and the coolness factor of Kamahl. Oh well. Nothing went wrong - no late arrivals, no rude remarks, no permanent stickers or gift-wrapped rubbish. We drugged the dog so that she'd cope with the 9 hour drive in the car - Sapphire, who was eighteen months old at the time, was fine. Poor doggy stumbled out of the car, her eyes like little blissed-out triangles as she unsteadily stood on the back lawn. And vomited.

Five years on, it's still home and still my favourite place; but that's more to do with the beings that live in it.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Inconsequential Games, Melbourne 2006

Apparently there are only 40 sleeps to go until the commencement of the Commonwealth Games.

Are you as excited about it as I am? Really? My instinctive reaction is a very strong conviction that I would rather suck a bird turd that suffer sitting through any televised session of the piss-weak, itching-to-be-important, so-far-off-the-sports-map-it's-within-the-gravitational-pull-of-Neptune Commonwealth Games. The event has about as much attraction as a traditional Amish book and clothing emporium would to Paris Hilton.

You may think I am being rather mean, but already we have had to endure over a week of swimming trials televised live on channel nine. They always feature the tiresome old trout Laurie Lawrence shooting spit into the microphone as he overdoses on pointless local glory: "And it's gold gold GOLD for Australia!!" Despite his deranged zeal, the swimmers themselves don't seem too excited about their 'big wins' - they know what it is, a trial, not an Olympic gold medal. One doesn't normally receive accolades and prizes for what is, quite honestly, a glorified training session.

Unfortunately the stupidly blind adoration is not limited to Lawrie. Kym Dillon, Adelaide's sports reporter on channel nine is on in the background right now and has also overdosed on unnecessary niceties: "The swimming trials' Golden Girl, Leisel Jones, has...." What? Dared to eat a home brand cereal instead of Uncle Toby's golden Os? Been caught snorting cocaine? Farted audibly in the lifts?

Of course she hasn't. It would be all sickeningly positive, wouldn't it? He probably went on to gush that she's dating Jude Law/invented the cure for cancer/been invited to open the British parliament/asked by the Louvre to scratch a pair of sunnies on to the Mona Lisa. And 'Golden Girl'? It's a swimming TRIAL, you overhyped, easily-pleased, intelligence-insulting, backwater, braindead, dung-loving manure merchant!

Sorry, the vein in my temple started to throb rather alarmingly back there...... Even Grant Hackett, the muesli bar muncher and blender-spruiker who occasionally swims has decided not to participate in the games. To be fair, the main reason given is that he'll be recovering from shoulder surgery, but even he told ABC radio this morning that he had deliberately scheduled it for the period of the gag-reflex games. "It's not like it's important to anyone outside of Australia or anything. I'd rather be fit and ready for the world events next year so I can race against teams that actually have a ranking in the swimming world. Also, it's worth knocking back an Adidas endorsement to not be spat on by Laurie Lawrence just as I get out of the pool." Well, he said something along those lines anyway, minus a dash of creative embellishment.

Apparently, 71 countries belong* to the Commonwealth. The most populated countries attending are India, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Pakistan and England. Note that there is no 'United Kingdom' - they always pedantically choose to split themselves up into Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey. These divisions are not helpful because it results in reducing the competitive threat of a country already known worldwide as the 'Nation Most Likely to Break Own Toes with Shot Put' to several piddling little teams that would barely trouble the hurdling skills of the Happy Valley Over 75s Bowling club.

As for India, Bangladesh and Nigeria, goodness gracious me - what a glittering array of countries known the world over for their incredibly strong swimmers! We mere peasants are gleefully awaiting the exciting and closely fought competitions they will provide. Forty more sleeps remember....... Oh yes, there's been heaps of stirring occasions that I can recall when a proud Patel has thrashed his way to victory in the butterfly; a nubile young Nigerian stunned us all with her sensational synchronised swimming and a brave Bangladeshi had enough food in him to win the marathon and still have time for a victory lap before the second guy shuffled by.

So, while the nauseating ten days of Commonwealth Games are on, I will be studiously avoiding channel nine, the sports news sections of channels ten and seven and completely destroying the front four and back five pages of the paper. Just like I do now really.

Instead, in my house there will be aged cabernets to sip whilst watching good quality DVDs (Police Academy 20 year special edition, Better Off Dead and Death to Smoochy) and listening to music (Bang a Boomerang, Abba; Graham Parsons Project and Styx). If these don't rock my jollies then there's always dog poo pickups in the back yard, de-pilling Sapphire's polar fleece jacket and working out just what I can do with the packet of grey lentils with the expiry date of 1997. If really desperate, I might even tape Bert Newton's new TV show.

*Not 'belong' exactly. All are relics of the 'Great British Empire' from a time when wooden boats were the stealth bombers of advanced travel, Queen Victoria was considered a slender beauty and the Poms' good teeth, strong physiques and attention to personal cleanliness were universally admired. These days, the only requirement of commonwealth member nations is to attend the commonwealth games, even if their GDP is a dead prawn and a coconut.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Hung up, or Off the Hook ??

Madonna has always confused me. I've never been a devoted fan, nor have I loathed everything she stood for. Instead I've always been sort of in the middle; admiring her for lasting so long in a fickle industry and feeling uncomfortable at her reliance on sex to divert attention from her music.

However the current Madonna 2005-2006 incarnation is starting to look a little sad to me. From a musical standpoint she hit her low with 'Music' - the worst 'non song' since the 1982 original version of the Sakata rice cracker song, until the release of 'Hung Up'. The riffing from Abba's 1979 hit 'Gimme Gimme Gimme' was tragic, just tragic. Madonna came to notice in 1983; several years after the demise of Abba who were then regarded as the musical equivalent of gastro from both ends. For Madge to use them in 2006 screams of a total lack of new musical ideas and shows the meaningless of her efforts. Why does she still do it - her stuff is hardly original; more like an electronic bag of scattered rat droppings, so it can't be because she feels inspired or somehow destined to send out an important message.

Is it for the money? Surely the couple of billion she'd already have stashed away would be enough to see her through to the last forty or so years of life and give her bloke Guy enough pin money to make the occasional Razzie award contender? At forty seven, she would be only three years away from taking a voluntary redundancy package if she was here in Australia: beavering away in a cosy government bureaucracy and looking forward to buying a caravan and 4WD and tootling up the east coast.

Perhaps she loathes her own children. We can all identify with that one, but surely only for an hour or two each day. OK, so Lourdes might have scribbled on an original Cezanne, but it'll come off with a gentle wipe of the chux. Rocco might have pooped on the ancient Persian rug but a good soak in hot water and palmolive and no-one would ever know the difference. As an older child, Lourdes would no doubt be bustled off to her exclusive boarding school by a nanny, and Rocco would have his own daily companion as well, so Mad or Guy would hardly be hassled over drop-off and pick-up times or what the little tikes would like to eat for dinner. Nanny would be popping them to bed with a goodnight story whilst Mads was doing her 857th stomach crunch in preparation for her next video. She's a gal - sorry, mature woman - with her priorities right.

Maybe I've been a bit too harsh. She's held up as a feminist icon still - a woman not afraid to be sexual and proud, to speak out, to change her look and to bravely challenge the unfair ideal that only the young can be style-setters and attractive. But, and it's a rather big but - how much more of her is there left to see - internal organs? Soles of her feet? Uterine walls?

We know that she doesn't need the money; has all the help she could possibly need for her children and various homes; has a husband who loves her and a body you could crack walnuts on. What she so obviously does still need is attention. Attention not only from her original fans, but also their younger siblings or even their own children. The attention of the world, even.

God forbid she should enter her fifties as Rachel Welch did: fake funbags painfully spilling out of every frock she had on, even to visit the post office. Joan Collins; relying on wigs, corsets and industrial-strength polyfilla to convince us that she was barely forty. Or Priscilla Presley, whose mind was so poisoned by hair dye she allowed her plastic surgeon to roll back the years by inserting a coat hanger around her mouth.....

Is Madonna in love with the idea of, well, herself? This sleeve picture from her latest album doesn't exactly suggest any lack of confidence in her own appearance. Would she be comfortable with her own daughter seeing this - a series of photos that send the message that body/beauty worship is the most important thing in life.

And, dare I ask this question - is Madonna really, honestly, truly and genuinely considered to be sexy? I've always found her to be a bit dominatrix-like; successfully channelling a cold war Eastern European gymnastics teacher on the prowl for a Hungarian hammer thrower. The pointy bras, cigar smoking and all of 'Erotica' only served to cement this view. What about her today? Sexy, or botoxed and airbrushed? And at what expense - hours and hours and hours of time working out, toning up, flexing, stepping, running, dancing, stretching per day to maintain the physique. Not exactly contributing to family time or deep thinking, is it? Or perhaps that's not sexy......