Thursday, June 29, 2006

The bugs stop here

Do you thirty-somethings out there remember, way back in our primary school days, that if a kid got headlice (nits) then their social life was officially over?

Having NITS at my school was an absolute no-no; only the 'stinkies' of the class got it and were mercilessly teased for this misfortune. It is of course all too easy to look back at those unfair judgements on kids who had no choice about being poor/ill-treated/smelly/abused/nit-infested, but it did seem that only those kind of kids attracted the lice.

These days it's a vastly different story. Sapphire's school is constantly under seige from the little buggers (pun intended) and I've had to hose down her mortified Grandmother a few times and reassure her that the nits of the new millennium are like Paris Hilton - completely unfussy about where - and with whom - they sleep.

At least, I hope so, because my little girl was colonised by the creepies five times last year and three times this year (so far). During each outbreak the same, much-photocopied newsletter gets sent home in the childrens' schoolbags - lines so toner-smudged the hand-drawn diagram of a lice resembles an elephant, but the message is still easily read: Lice are not fussy about clean or dirty hair, nor do they differentiate between hair colours, styles, lengths, thicknesses or parental income categories.

Keeping hair up is recommended, as is spraying in mousse or hairspray as this tends to put off the beasties. (Perhaps they're repelled by their version of acid rain in the forests). All well and good, but Sapphire keeps her hair clean, puts it up into piggy tails and I regularly spray it with 'Hair Lice Prevention Serum'. Perhaps they got the labels wrong, because her little 'ol head seems to draw the nits in like stoners to Woodstock: "Heeey man, we've finally found it - the golden forest maaaan!"

It is with great sadness that I admit to being somewhat of an expert on head lice now. Manys the time Love Chunks' and my hopes have been dashed when Sapphire's unwanted head-guests reappear after being slathered in green, stinking head gunk: this stuff may get rid of the actual lice, but the eggs are welded on to those hairs. No amount of sudsy pino-clean is going to get rid of them, oh no, it's not that easy. Instead, you have to put your child's head under a lamp, and pick through their hair - quite literally - with a fine toothed comb. The eggs are about as big as an ant's arse and being coloured whitish grey they're bloody hard to find in Sapphire's golden blonde hair.

Each egg has to be individually gripped by two fingernails and meticulously dragged off the hair shaft before being flung with digust into a tissue. Try doing this fifty times (after combing out the bodies of twenty five fully hatched lice) and you'll end up with a crying child suffering from neck-ache and a parent who goes to bed with lice dancing insolently before her eyes.

Last night, Sapphire woke up moaning and scratching at midnight. "Mum! M-u-u-um, I'm itchy! I think they're back again!" Put it this way: leaning up tiredly against the bed picking through Sapph's hair at 1am before changing her sheets and pyjamas is not situated too close to 'I'd like to shag John Cusack' on my life's Wish List.

Today, as I sat here at my desk in the orrible orifice, the hair over my ears started to rustle. Then itch.... It quickly spread to the back of my neck and the top of my head and my hands were flaying about like Peter Garrett's - surely I hadn't got them as well? What was I going to do - Love Chunks was away in Melbourne for the week and I was pretty confident that my boss, Queen B, wouldn't be too keen to sift through my head with her red and blue pens.

Luckily - at least for me, not her - my buddy Jill was having her very first day at work in another research team downstairs. As I nervously opened the door to her office, I could see that she was in that First Day of Work Hell mode - perching next to the job-leaver's desk, face aching from smiling and nodding and trying to look as though she understood everything and that it was all incredibly interesting. In addition, she was taking over Debra's role, whilst Debra was on leave. Debra's idea of helpfulness was to feign a migraine, or to put up her hand and shout "That's not my job - go and see blah blah" yet she was always the first at the coffee and cake mornings gabbing on about how incredibly busy she was. As a result, she was about as popular as halitosis - the entire building couldn't wait to see the back of her.
"Um, excuse me Debra, Jill.... Could I see you, Jill outside for a minute? There's something urgent I need to discuss with you. We'll be right back, Debra."

"Help me!" I hissed between my teeth, over-smiling at a boffin passing by. "My head is itching like crazy - I think I've caught Sapphire's nits!"
Bless her sweet, kind heart, she didn't show one hint of being worried about catching them herself or passing them on to her own three children. Instead she ferried me off to the toilets and had me lean over with my hands on my knees for support. No pens even, just her hands - is that true friendship or what?
"Hmmm, let me see..... Yep, there's Mum and Dad! Well, they're now squashed, dead and in the bin..... They've been busy though, laying quite a few eggs.....," and she picked out every single one.

"Thanks Jill, I owe you one. Er, not lice, I mean, a favour." I washed my hands and noticed that she wasn't. "I think you'd better wash your---"
"Nah," she cut in. "Debra's driving me nuts - maybe I should pat her on the head in a gesture of thanks for her superb handover."

There was a tiny bit of karma for Jill unfortunately - one of her kids got worms that night - but thank god they don't have to be individually sought and picked out of their bottoms!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

My 'Orrible Orifice

I hate my office. Yes, my office, or 'orifice' as I'm starting to regard it - I hate it!

My lovely boss, Queen B, and I have to share an office that was, up until six months ago, the second floor ladies toilet within the heritage-listed building.

Here in Australia, anything that is 'heritage listed' is to be treated with reverence because, apart from some Aboriginal cave paintings that are 60,000 years old, we don't have anything older than 150 years in these parts. Hell, even my 10 year old station wagon is considered vintage. As such, the building I work in looks absolutely beautiful from the outside... but is a shocking mess on the inside - weird floor levels, poky servants' rooms, unnecessarily high ceilings, a widows' walk that's sealed up, kitchen only a doorway wide etc.

All this 19thC frippery-that-must-be-retained means that sensible things like decent office rooms, clean toilets, functioning kitchens and windows are not possible. Because our office was recently the girls 'Drops and Plops' room, the windows are five feet from the floor, thus preventing us from looking outside when we're sitting at our desks trying to remember our inter-library log ons.

Despite the lack of view, we do get regular sightings of Dean, the builder, who is regularly sanding, painting, blasting, washing or setting up scaffolding right outside Queen B's window. We get a hint that he's about to appear when we see a diet coke on the sill, followed by a fragrant puff of cigarette smoke and a burp. "Darren! Dazz, where the f**k are the rivets? No, not those you meat head, those ones, down there!" It's a darned shame he's not a looker because we are regularly treated to close-up views of his beer gut squished up against the glass when he's wrestling with the 'stupid f**ken gutters'.

The mens' toilet, however, is still on our floor and right next door. The room is tiled from floor to ceiling with only one cubicle and a wall-length metal trough/urinal. This means that it is perfectly equipped to provide the best acoustics: good enough to break through our walls and treat us to the sounds of, ahem, ablutions, grunts, farting and tuneless whistling. Just the stuff for accompanying our thorough proof-reading and editing efforts!

To make matters even more annoying, the heater conked out on Monday. This may not sound too dramatic for a climate as temperate as South Oz, but with record -1C overnight temperatures and only 10C daytime maximums, it was freezing. The entire building was out and we all spent the day walking up and down the stairs with our shoulders up around our ears, trying not to shiver uncontrollably. My hands were too numb to use the keyboard properly, so a lot of my emails that day started with: hoafduar hwoerue qoeirndx..... Probably made a bit more sense, and may explain the increase in xxx-rated spam I've been getting.

And yesterday, there was another nail in the coffin that is this 'orrible orifice' - an unidentified smell. No, it wasn't Dogadoo's now dried-up puddle from last week's visit, but it's a sort of lingering, dead-rat-under-the-stairs kind of smell that's probably been mercifully toned down a bit by the lack of heating. However, just five minutes ago I had some visitors up here, who, judging by their wrinkled noses and quizzical looks at me, could also smell it. Concern for my own reputation for acceptable hygiene overtook my professional maturity and I immediately blurted out with, "It's not me, I didn't pop off - it's starting ponging like this since yesterday - this office is haunted!" I'm not sure that they believed me, but the phrase 'orifice' is starting to become more and more appropriate.

I'd send an online request (as per their instructions) to campus maintenance to investigate the problem, but of course I can't. Why because our server is down, and the printer connections to our building have decided to take a flex day and leave for sunnier shores. Not being able to email, surf or print has unfortunately provided me with more time to fixate on the increasing odour and develop a strong urge to open Queen B's window and push Dean off the ladder.

Luckily for me (and Dean), I've just been summonsed to a morning tea - with chocolate cakes!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Clothing or Comedy?

These photos (courtesy of Melbourne's 'The Age' newspaper) were recently taken at some fashion shows in Milan. I'm departing from my normal 'Take Cheap Shots at the Famous' fashion-wearers and am instead now flinging poo-pats at the fashion designers.

Firstly, how old is this kid - ten, eleven? How is this Milly-Molly-Mandy going to convince me to buy a tacky tanktop and white overalls? What buyer is the designer aiming for - paedophile puppeteers?

Ah, I see, it's irony: instead of revealing black roots ala Pamela Anderson, let's put an obvious Pepe Le Peuw white stripe down the model's head!

The see-through, sheer t-shirt may be just (squeezing fingers) this side of acceptable in Fashion Victim Valley, but I just can't see myself strolling through university to greet a visiting professor wearing this ensemble any time soon.

Besides, if I went braless from her age (let's be generous and say she's fourteen), I'd now be able to fling 'em back over my shoulder like scarf ends.

In this photo, it is the model and not the clothes that first attract (pitying) attention. The headband is clearly too tight for her noggin, making her not only cross eyed but only serving to cruelly pull her nipples up towards her collarbones.

Weird breasts aside, this macrame over a g-string outfit is something a porn star with burst implants would wear on holiday, not a normal person who still elects to have eyes that are fully operational and is able to stare straight ahead instead of being permanently focussed brow-wards in a futile attempt to find living grey matter behind the bone......

Thank you, fashion designer, for coming up with something I'd be so proud to wear in front of my parents.

I know I blogged only a few days ago that I've taken to enjoying a session of knitting or three, but a bathing suit....?!

Bless her sweet heart though, she must have insisted on using 100% Australian wool and has therefore saved costs by using a child's pattern.

This just screams "I'm a micro-biology professor, please take me seriously" doesn't it?

Designed clearly for Bad Hair Day sufferers, the intention behind this - unfortunately titled - Pearl Face Necklace - is to draw attention away from said follicular tragedy and towards the bigger tragedy that is the victim's willingness to wear it.

The fake orange rose buds perched on top of the head also help to add that extra 'something' to its overall stupidity. Still, I could be laughing on the other side of my face (what does that mean, anyway) if all the other mums at my daughter's school are wearing this on Sports Day.

The strapless thingy is, well, marginally better than the pearls - at least Grandma's old deckchair cushions have found a new home.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Never work with a dog....

....and I'm not even considering working with children.

It has been a very quiet couple of weeks at me for me, staff-wise. Everyone's been flying away to conferences, seminars, workshops, focus groups, keynote speeches or report launches in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra and I was stuck in my horrible little office, alone.

Busy, but alone. One day I noticed an elderly lady lecturer - and possessor of the grandest office in our heritage listed building - hobble in with her dog, a fluffy white thing with only it's tongue distinguishable from its fur. "Oh yeah," Karen noted as she walked by, "Prof D brings her in all the time. The dog just sits at her feet until he gets a walk around the campus."

What a lovely idea, I thought. Whilst my boss - and fellow office-sharer, Queen B, was away, why not bring my gorgeous Dogadoo in for the day? I mean look at her - the corgi mix ensures that she's well behaved, gentle and fond of long naps in the beanbag. The jack russell side is kept for 6km runs, ridding our garden of birds and chasing any balloons that Sapphire chooses to inflate. What could go wrong - she'd love it!

I checked my diary for the following day - only two meetings, both with people I knew well and could be trusted with my little furry secret. It felt so naughty and so thrilling - a sensible 37 year old mum sneaking her pet dog into her workplace!

At 8:30am, the wee beastie and I walked across the campus. Dogadoo was most impressed with the creek running through and the smells at the base of each beautiful gum tree. She even got a few friendly pats from students as we passed. Inside, we snuck up the rickety stairs whilst I prayed that her jingling collar wouldn't arouse the suspicions of any egg-heads already inside. As I shut the door to my tiny space, I giggled like a mischievous school girl. "Alrighty then - I'll just lay your blanket on the eames chair (yes, that's right, EAMES) and you can curl up beside me, OK?"

Apparently not. Unlike home, which has been thoroughly investigated with the result of every single nook and cranny being catalogued for smell, taste, touch and sight, the office (roughly the size of a female toilet, which it was up until six months ago) desperately needed to be investigated. The two rubbish bins, pot plants, kettle, filing boxes, bookshelves and the moth-eaten rug were very carefully sniffed. "No Dogadoo, don't chew the mat - sit DOWN!" She gave her melodramatic yawn and reluctantly sat in the chair, sulking.

Not too long after, one of the boy boffins needed to use the male loos that are right next door. "OOF! OOF!" Dogadoo barked, looking pleased at her gatekeeping abililties.
"Sssssshhhhh...!!!" As if me with bugged-out eyes and a finger to my lips would make any impression on her walnut-sized brain.

Who could blame her. Queen B and I had heard every male drop and plop since we'd moved in, and considering that Dogadoo's nasal and aural talents are in the region of 20 times greater than ours, the two minute twinkle happening beyond the wall was impossible to ignore. "OOF OOF!" I braced myself for the door to be flung open with an accusatory "What the hell....?" but it never eventuated.

Dogadoo settled down, let out a fragrant fart to remind me of her presence and all was well for a few minutes. Then Nik arrived - Knock Knock!
"OOF OOF OOF!" He slid the door open in surprise and in a nano-second had his swanky black suit covered from the knees down in dog lick and orange hairs. "Oh god, I hate dogs, please Milly Moo, I just can't---" he beat a retreat down the stairs.
"Wait Nick! Sorry, just wait there! I leave her inside and we can have a chat downstairs if you like."
He nodded, looking very shocked and pale. "It's just that I didn't expect it, and I was once bitten and...."
Great. Despite this hiccup, we had our meeting and I ventured back up the stairs - Dogadoo was standing in the middle of the room with a reproachful 'Why did you lock me in' expression on her face that was only betrayed by her wildly wagging tail.
"Hey there," I crooned, "Want to go outside for a little scamper?"

We got back upstairs in time for my meeting with Jo but with no time to disguise the clearly canine footprints on the carpet. Now, I knew that Jo is a huge dog fanatic because her screen saver has over 150 photos of Cooper the Rhodesian Ridgeback. Her fiance, Gavin, features in just two of those photos, on the side. As soon as she saw Dogadoo her budget files were dropped near the chair and she was on the floor, cuddling Milly like a teddy bear: "Ooooh hello there, you are sooooo cute!"

Somehow, we got our end-of-financial-year budget queries sorted out, with Dogadoo sitting herself right in the middle of us, looking upwards and taking it in turns to lick each of us. "Oh it's been so lovely to meet you, Dogadoo," Jo purred, scratching D's ears. "Oooo I wish I could borrow you for the rest of the day." In a way she already had - her once-immaculate black cashmere jacket and matching pants were now orange with Dogadoo hairs in a rather good imitation of a human lamington. It's doubtful that Jo either noticed or cared though.

Oh dear, as Jo left I saw it - the wet patch right by Queen B's desk. "Oh Dogadoo - you went half an hour ago, why did you have to do that??"
Jo nearly fell down the stairs. "MillyMoo, I've had a lot of different meetings but this is the first one where someone has whizzed in the corner."
"Ah, if only I could say the same thing."

After cleaning it up, I decided to drive Dogadoo home at lunchtime. Hopefully it will dry out by Monday when Queen B returns and we when move to our new offices a week after that, I'll put the wastepaper basket on top of it.

Ummmmm Mum? Mum? I really need to go outside now, unless you want some brown nuggets to go with the puddle here? Mum?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Knit for brains

Have you ever sat at a kitchen table or bench and absent mindedly started typing out something invisible with your fingers? This tends to happen to me when I'm on holiday and away from the trusty laptop: my hands yearn to get at a keyboard and write.

Sadly, my digits are aching for another activity that is far less commonplace in our techno-geek world. They want to knit. All the time. Even now, as I'm typing, my two pointer fingers are still both tingling from the woolly work-out they got at lunchtime. Yet those sixty minutes of needle-clacking bliss is not enough to satisfy them.

I blame my daughter, Sapphire, for introducing me to this world of annoying addiction. Her class recently made their own sets of wooden knitting needles and the inevitable newsletter was put out to parents to donate some wool for their learning efforts. This I was happy to do - I just threw a dozen balls of brightly-coloured wool into my basket when I was last at K-Mart (buying shoes, but that's too shameful to write about right now).

A week or two later, she brought hers home to show Love Chunks and myself. It wasn't bad for a seven year old and I innocently asked: "Sapph, I remember my mum teaching me how to knit when I was ten or so, but I've completely forgotten how to now. Would you mind showing me?" What fateful words they turned out to be. I sat there, enthralled, as she showed me how to start - something I'd never learned, my mum always had to kickstart my woolly creations - and it felt like getting back on that proverbial malvern star (bike to non-Aussies).

Perhaps my nimbleness can be attributed to years of keyboarding and associated dexterity, but for some reason my hands took to knitting like starlet to a boob job. Even Love Chunks commented about it: "Quite the handy little knitter, aren't we?" as I sat next to him, needles clacking during the Crows vs St Kilda. Ignoring his sarcasm, I actually said these words in response: "It's nice to keep my hands occupied in front of the telly." What have I become, seventy five years old with an arthritic poodle and matching chin hairs?

Sadly, my actual product resembles something that a seven year old would do, no offence intended to Sapphire and her class. Like my efforts in 1978, I still tend to lose a stitch or two if not fully concentrating, so I remain in awe of all the nannas and hemp-wearing yarn-spinners out there who can knit without looking down. Consequently, my 'scarf' (for want of any other reason to make anything not requiring any purl, casting off or knowledge of patterns) mostly looks as though it's been crocheted. Perhaps it's an opportunity for to me to claim that it's a deliberate attempt to make it neo-punk-post-grunge design, but even Sapphire is looking less and less enthusiastic at the idea that the 'scarf' might be destined for her.

After our freezing camping weekend recently ( I'm even thinking about knitting squares that can be sewn together for a warm blanket. Love Chunks is likely to mutter: "Why don't you just go out and buy a blanket", but where's the fun in that, where's the wool-workin' fine-motor-finger action? Sure they might look a bit wonky and have a few holes here and there, but I'm sure we'll be pretty grateful for them on the next occasion our boogers freeze in our noses in the Flinders Ranges.

It's either that or Love Chunks will end up with a scarf that he'll be forced to wear out in public....

Monday, June 19, 2006

Ah, to be eighteen and a frozen fashion victim again

It's very entertaining working at a university campus, especially an arty-farty one that specialises in film, media, journalism and creative writing. These students tend to favour the 'I Am An Individual' approach to dressing which means that they all end up looking the same.

As a profoundly daggy thirty seven year old, I feel like the bloke who said, "I'm not" in Monty Python's Life of Brian. My mid-high waisted trousers and jeans, topped with long line jackets and t-shirts with low heeled boots mean that I stand out like a wrinkle in a magazine ad. That's right, because I'm dressed for comfort and practicality, not hippitudinosity or to attract one of the very few straight guys on campus.

It is sad to see that Ugg boots as outdoor wear are still digging their soft, spongy heels into the shag pile carpet that is student fashion. They look particularly ridiculous paired with microminis, but with the legs of skinny jeans tucked into them they even look more pathetic. Gals on student budgets tend to favour the $19.99 K-Mart ones that have about as much sole and street cred as my nanna's jiffies. Still it's good to see that they value having warm feet - even if the rest of their legs are left to shrivel in the crisp air.

The jeans continue to amaze me, as they pretty much have done so for the past decade. Why any woman would want to spend an entire winter allowing the breezes to freely blow down her arse crack is beyond me, let alone the fear-factor of revealing your map-o-Tassie if you accidentally have to throw your arms up higher than your waist. Paired with these jeans are the too-short tops that rarely venture below the navel. How practical, exposing your kidney area to the elements even if they are buffered by several rolls of stretch-marked, goose-pimpled muffin-top rolls.

These tiny, thin - and usually black and red striped - tops provide the witless wearer with about as much warmth as a wet rice noodle, yet for some reason a jumper or jacket with any hint of practicality in it is completely shunned. Instead the chicky babes artfully drape a very long and thin scarf around their necks which unfortunately reminds me of Spud the scarecrow from the creme de la creme of childrens' shows, Bob the Builder.

The leather and studded hip belts - worn with the buckle on one hip, serving to make them look twice as wide and scraping other innocent students on the legs as they pass by - look doubly stupid when worn with those skinny jeans. I feel like shouting out to them: "Look, they even look crap on Kate Moss - on you they just tell me that you bought a pair of jeans three sizes too small and couldn't pull them up farther than the first dimple on your butt cheek!" I mean jeans pockets are supposed to sit on your arse, not just above your knee for heavens' sake!

Boys don't escape my eye either. Punk has clearly made a comeback (in clothing, if not in music), yet most of these whipper snappers were born ten years after it had burned and died. They probably think The Damned are the stoner greenies who refuse to believe that the Franklin got saved.... A bit of eye liner ala Green Day is appearing too, but not noticeably amongst the hetero contingent.

And what is with those t-shirt (normally worn over the top of longer sleeved t-shirts) with designs reminiscent of bargain-basement Target in the 80s? Pathetic paint splatters, nonsensical words and overall scribble - why not just rub yourself up against a dirty brick wall? It's effective and a lot cheaper.

Perhaps I shoudn't just focus on the young and the clueless. The mature age student is also a very visible breed out here, particularly the women. They too adhere to a tried-and-true uniform that has been the characteristic of the female mature student for decades. Sensible shoes - fair enough, no-one wants to sink permanently into the grass whilst on their way to a lecture; sensible jeans - roomy not groovy; an Oxfam International shirt worn over a polo neck; greying long hair either cut boy-short or worn long iwth tortoiseshell combs; rimless glasses; and long, dangly earrings. More often with a moustache than not and often jingling with brass bangles and copper ringlets.

Very few men are found with this group and, for those that are brave enough to venture into this learned lesbian stronghold, they are the tiny, skinny, silent kind. The vegan sticks of sinew who lean towards the sun to photosynthesise on their way to philosophy tutes, who gently walk around beetles on the footpath and bring their own thermos so as to not pollute the environment with more paper cups.

Bless them all - the place is alive with them and it's a bloody great place to work.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Silly names

No, I'm not talking about Dweezil, Moon Unit, Apple, Pilot Inspektor or Moses, but the names we can choose for ourselves. I got this little game from Daffy at and thought I'd give it a try as well.

Porn Star Name - (name of first pet and the place where you were born)
Soxy Bridge
Sox the tabby and Murray Bridge.

Movie Star Name – (grandma or granddad’s first name and favourite city/country)
Wally London
Wally after my Grandpa, and the inimitable London - two exciting years spent there as an Aussie backpacker/worker/drinker/traveller/drinker/historian/socialiser/drinker

Fashion Designer Name – (favourite jewel and favourite restaurant)
Sapphire Dhaba Spice Kitchen !!!?

Doesn't have quite the same cachet as Oscar De La Renta, does it? - unless that means "Oscar can't pay his rent"...?

Socialite Name – (silliest childhood nickname and place where you first partied)
Ready LeRox
- seventeen, just started uni and went there with my boyfriend Sean and his infinitely more sophisticated 19 y.o. sister, Michelle. My flat pink diana ferrari courts worn with a matching neckerchief and with white baggy jeans actually cut the mustard. Maybe it was the spiral perm and white swatch watch that clinched it.

or was it - Ready High School Year 12 Senior Ball (to be more specific/truthful) - my kiss with Sean, the guy I'd been worshipping from afar all year during Australian History. He brought along his mum's bottle of bacardi from their drinks cabinet and my night was rockin!

Flygirl/guy Name – (first initial and first 3 letters of your last name) - K-Loc. Er, as a sheltered South Australian girl who's interest in music and culture ended when Vanilla Ice shagged Madonna, what exactly *is* a fly girl? Surely not someone with their jeans left permanently undone, or smelly enough to attract a bunch of blowies?

Detective Name – (favourite animal and name of high school) - Dog Murray. Hmm, that's not too bad. If I was a bloke that is.

Soap Opera Name – (favourite choccy and favourite comedian) - Lindt Ball Gervais. No prizes for guessing I'd be playing the long lost fat retarded half-sister who's out to wreak vengeance on her more beautiful, clever and talented sister, Linda Belle Guevara.

Opposite Sex Name – (first boy/girl friend and cell phone company) - Patrick Telstra. Golly gee whiz, it sounds as though he works for the tax office, speaks entirely in Klingon after log-off and recycles belly button lint.

Star Wars Name – (first 3 letters of last name + first 3 letters of mothers middle name together with first 3 letters of pets name and first 3 letters of town where you live) - LocFlo Milade. That's it. I'm going to change my driver's licence!

Friday, June 16, 2006

I run and I am fat

As Fifibelle ( has pointed out to us, there are a lot of runners' blogs out there. Huge chunks of diarised running schedules, times, distances, training suggestions, races to aim for. The one thing that most of these earnest blogs have in common is that they lack a sense of humour.

Agreed, running is hard. It is difficult to keep going when your legs, lungs, heart, puffing mouth and mind are all screaming at you to STOP before you've even started. It is hard to stop your brain from entertaining itself by replaying 'Pass the Dutchie on the left hand side' over and over and over for the next hour, and even harder to convince yourself that all of the effort is worth it.

However - and there is always a however - there are runners out there who are not whippet thin little munchkins who run 200km a week nor whom are training for their 17th marathon and hope to do it in less time than sitting through the Fellowship of the Ring. People like me for instance. Slightly chubby, definitely daggy but somehow dogged little beings who stick at it.

Why do I run? To combat a serious disease - fatness. You see, I love chocolate. Not just a little bit, a lot. If I could inhale it for breakfast, lunch and dinner I would. In fact I have. Throw in a few rows of Cadbury's, Nestle or Lindt for morning smoko, afternoon tea and supper and I'd be a very contented girl. Sadly, also a very fat one. The kind who would end up hitting the low point when the truss holding up my body in front of the chocolate would eventually snap under the strain and I'd feature in the news 'humour piece' after the weather when the zany reported stands outside filming the crane and hydraulic lift working overtime to get me out of my house and into a fat farm for fools..........

As such, in 2001 I made a new years resolution to start jogging. All I could manage was three laps around the school oval in a passable imitation of an arthritic crab with a socially unacceptable flatulence problem. This shame was actually enough to keep me going so that eventually I could do fifteen laps, or 6km.

A few months later I ran 12km in the City to Bay fun-run. It was then that I knew I was getting hooked because I was upset with my time and prepared to work harder to run it in under an hour next time. Which I did. The 12km runs then became part of my regular running schedule, then 15km, 17km, 20km and 22km. I managed to survive a half-marathon at a time when the stress levels at work were at an ulcerating, irritable bowel-shaking, migraine-messing high. It was then I decided to stick to the slow and steady pace of 6km runs with the dog three or four times a week.

Unbelievably, I started to look forward to falling out of bed at 6.00am and going for a run. On the days that I didn't (illness, away, lazy, whatever) I would feel sluggish, guilty and dreadful. It gave me some time on my own (unless you count an enthusiastic corgi/jack russell scooting in and around me) and valuable thinking time.

Running also means not looking very pretty. In addition to the Just-got-out-of-bed messy hair, dragon breath, eye boogers and folded-up face, there's sweat patches, red cheeks (that last for hours afterwards) and farting to deal with. Yes, farting. Try jogging your body up and down for a minute or two and you'll end up sounding like the percussionist for the Baked Beans Band. There aint nothin' you can do about either - it is just not possible to push it back up like you can do at work - I've frightened little old ladies out to pick up the paper on their front lawns, power walkers and tradesmen with my bum blasts as I've jogged by. I'm not proud of it, but I sure as hell can't help it.

The lack of prettiness also extends to the feet. Mine are size nine which is kind of largeish for a female, but hey, at least I've got good balance. Running long distances when training for the half marathon meant that my toes were banging rather too regularly against the end of my shoes. This led to two huge, blackened big toenails that eventually (and rather colourfully, I might add) fell off entirely. Not a good look these past few summers when wearing open toed sandals and slides; nor the peeling flaps of skin draping from the blisters on my heels.

This seems like a fair bit of exercise and commitment, doesn't it? Yet I am ashamed to reveal that I have gained weight. Five kilograms to be precise and they were after I'd showered, cut my toenails, cleaned out my ears, filled up several tissues and been to the toilet. Definitely not good and I suspected that Running Australia weren't likely to be chasing me to be the Beginner Runner Poster Girl any time in the future.
It's a quandary - reduce the chocolate or increase the running? Reduce the chocolate and increase the running? No chocolate and no running - I can't believe I just wrote that last one!

I'm saving up my money to buy a portable, high-powered treadmill. I'll simply hop on it as soon as I unpeel a block of chocolate, and stay on it until I've consumed every single morsel. Easy!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

No sex please, we're camping

It's been a long weekend here in South Oz, and we three decided to make it even longer by taking the Friday off as well. Officially we're given the Monday off to celebrate the queen's birthday, but seeing as she's about as relevant as Neighbours is to the Rhodes Scholarship, we're just grateful to have one last public holiday until October.

Love Chunks, bless his sweet, strong-willed little soul, had his heart fixed on camping in the Flinders Ranges. He had mentioned it to me a few times over the past couple of months, which resulted in me stammering and backing away, saying stuff like "Oh, I haven't checked my diary yet," or "I'll have to check with my boss that I can get that time off, you know what she's like..."

She's very generous, bugger it. The camping trip was on. LC made doubly and triply sure by taking Sapphire with him to his own personal mecca: Ray's Outdoors. Normally he and I have a rule about how and when we choose to splash our hard-earned cash around - ie by talking about it together first. When it comes to Ray's Outdoors, however it seems that all rules are null and void. The two of them drove home in a groaning station wagon chock-a-block full of night lights, gas cylinders, propane bottles, a two burner stove, trestle table, toasting forks and a three-roomed tent designed to house eight people.

It was all for my comfort, you see. The tent would be big enough for Sapphire to have her own play space, us to have ours, and a central bit to keep our gear dry or to sit in if the weather turned bad. And look! The stove is wind proof; the toasting forks will prevent you from scorching your mitts and the night light has a handy recharger..... His blue eyes were sparkling with joy as he showed me his purchases - how could I spoil it all and screech: YOU BOUGHT WHAT WITH OUR HOUSE RENOVATION MONEY? WHY COULDN'T WE JUST GO TO THE NOVOTEL IN QUEENSLAND?

And so we left our warm, solid, comfortable home in the wee hours of Friday morning and drove to Mambray Creek. Not the most scenic of drives: we were treated to the very worst of Adelaide's suburbs, the delights of one-hotel-hole Dublin, the roadhouses of Port Wakefield, the tyre Loch Ness Monster at Salt Lake and the Garden Gnome Museum just outside of Port Pirie (sorry Sapphire, we'll go and visit there next time). All of this served a useful purpose, because Mambray Creek is a lovely spot that is made even more gorgeous after such an eye-straining drive like that.

Love Chunks managed to set the tent up without any swear words. I was enormously proud of him because it took ages and had more bendy bits in it than Paris Hilton with her ankles behind her ears. Then the real work began:
  • Pumping up the mattresses - thankfully taken care of by a tiny yellow plastic blower thingy (from Ray's, of course) attached to the car's cigarette lighter
  • Bedding
  • Setting up the pantry (3 boxes), sink (2 buckets), kitchen (card table with 20 litre bottle of rain water and gas stove on it)
  • Getting water for the dishes and hand-washing ablutions
  • Putting up the tarp for the kitchen
  • Finding firewood and starting up the fire; and
  • Worst of all - trying out the long drop toilets.

Long drop toilets are, in theory, a wonderful idea. Huge long holes dug into the ground in order to save water, any unnecessary bush-squats or fluttering scraps of loo paper from littering the pristine camping grounds. The downside is the smell. Days, weeks, months, years of intermingled faecal matter produces a malodorous cocktail strong enough to smack you across the face as soon as you catch sight the tiny little tin shed. Lifting up the seat is another level of pain altogether. If the outpouring of grateful blowflies won't kill you, the sheer stench will.

A quick splash of freezing cold water on the hands was it for hygiene before wiping them on my already-grubby trakkie daks on the way back to camp. Love Chunks had done his utmost to counteract the required visits to the 'Palace of Pong' - he brought along wine and chocolate.

In hindsight I can see that the warmth of the fire, the pleasure of the chocolate and the bottle of red wine helped me combat the freezing cold that night. You see, my sleeping bag lied to me. It claimed that it could keep me warm in temperatures of up to -5C. Bulls**t! LC was snoring beside me, and Sapphire was murmuring in her dreams two layers of canvas away, and I was clenched in an agonised foetal position, vainly hoping that my staying motionless would somehow stop the shivering.

But again, LC was ahead of me. As I got up to do a retarded dance in the tent in order to get dressed before getting frostbite, he was making coffee. This glorious beverage was awaiting me by the fire just as Sapphire and I got back from the Palace of Pong, both white-faced and unnaturally silent.

And so it continued for the next three days - LC anticipating what potential event might cause me to whinge, and being sure to provide a panacea for it before my negativity could make itself heard. Two things though, we were in agreement about: how bloody COLD it was and how much we both longed for a hot shower.

The cold we fought by wearing all of our clothes to bed and draping our coats over our sleeping bags. I even got the rubber-lined car blanket out and placed it underneath us, trying to stop the cold ground from continually kneeing me in the kidneys (after all, I most definitely did NOT want to visit the P of P at midnight).

The shower issue was unavoidable until we returned home. Each day my hair was stickier and greasier, my eyes more filled with crackly eye-boogers and the rings around my neck were unflatteringly emphasised with dirt clumps. Sapphire looked completely unaffected - even after a long, sweaty hike - but LC and I looked like 100-year Worzel Gummidges. It also seemed that the usual dragon breath produced by most human beings first thing upon waking is exceeded by Camp Breath that lasts all day. If the P of P or unwashed BO doesn't get you, the Back-to-Nature Breath will.

Romance under canvas? You'd have to be blind, desperate and have no nose whatsoever. What charms LC did possess were hidden under stubble, three layers of clothing and a sleeping bag hood done up so tightly he looked like a matroska doll. Let's not just pick on him: I was either wearing a sky blue beanie and resembling a disgruntled potato, or let him see my hair in all it's campfire glory - sticky, wild and stringy. My nose was in constant moist drip mode and my poo-catcher grey tracksuit pants were enough to store wood in. Love may be blind, but it takes a hike on camping holidays.

Was it enjoyable? Sort of. Was it worth all of the long drive, the set up, the packing up, the driving back home, the unpacking, tidying up, washing? Dunno. Did Love Chunks and Sapphire enjoy it? Yes, they absolutely loved it. This last sentence was the most important piece of information I had to keep in mind in order to squelch any "I want a hot shower, a warm bed and a clean toilet NOW" whinges from emerging.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Pretty (silly) Pictures to kick-start my long weekend

We'll start with a (supposed) male for once. Lenny 'Not Actually From Planet Earth' Kravitz. He's about 45 years old and yet still dresses like a pantomime angel on acid. How he snares the women (Lisa Bonet, Nicole Kidman) is beyond my simple comprehension. If that on the left came sashaying up to me I'd be snorting champagne up my nose.

I pity his kids: imagine taking that along to your parent-teacher night.

Of course it's all going to blow up into his face - they'll grow up to be accountants, WMD inspectors and managers of girl bands.

Yes, this one of Mads is a few months old (at the Oscars after-party) but it gives a clear picture of a woman undergoing the same denial that Lenny K is.

Fifty is looking her squarely in the eye but she's done her best to avoid it by excessive workouts, bundles of botox, stretched lips ala the Joker and horrific 70s hair. Note to self: if you were old enough to wear your hair like that the first time, you're too old to wear it that way again. Ie -you should know better.

The ropey, sinewed arms don't really portray fitness and youth as much as age and decay - cartoon witches have been drawn with softer limbs than hers!

The face, well...... any tighter and her mouth would meet up at the back of her head. The lines may not be visible, but the face that greets us is as taut as a cheap party balloon about to explode. Step farther away....

I know that Eva Sschlong-goria is one of the execrable 'Desperate Housewives' but when does she do any work? Every time I read online, a newspaper, a magazine there she is, attending the launch of a telephone/nightclub/movie/face cream/loin cloth/opening of a pickle jar.

I wonder if she even knows where she lives anymore? And this outfit..!! Somebody forgot to shut the curtains before they left the beachhouse!

To paraphrase Edmund from Blackadder II, young Paris is likely to be buried in a "Y-shaped coffin" as a result of her, ah, 'talents', but this picture reveals that she also needs several tubes of spakfilla before she takes her hip and pelvic bones out for a premiere.

Even her orange spray-on tan looks more realistic than the grey waxen foundation she's slapped on. The blush looks as though it's been applied with the heel of her hand and anyone can grab a black felt-pen and colour around their eyes.

Raunchy little munchkin Prince was recently named PETA's 'Sexiest Male Vegetarian of the Year'.

I think the word 'sexiest' must have been applied in the loosest possible way because he's about as attractive as platter of cat turds. The puny jumpsuits, spangled cuban heels, Liberace-style adornments....eeughh. Maybe he's got a flat head so that the PETA judges can rest their beers on it.

As will Lenny K, Mariah has completely lost touch with reality.

She's not a small gal, so squeezing herself into a lemon/pear outfit takes a bit of courage, as does taking a jack russell terrier for a walk in high heels. No doubt one of her flackeys is just out of shot to take the lead and scoop up the poop. Maybe even the dog's too, if it's arse hasn't already been hermetically sealed.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

I never would have believed it....

...if it hadn't actually happened to me - that's how letters to mens' magazines start, don't they? However if that's the sort of encounter you're hoping this entry will describe you'll be most disappointed. Instead, I'm going to tackle the 666 chestnut - a set of numbers that's generated more excitement, column inches and feverish nail biting since the Y2K countdown.

Today started off like any other day. I farewelled Sapphire at school, drove to work, unlocked the office and generally got on with things. By 11am, I was feeling peckish and not prepared to wait until the more acceptable hour of midday in order to eat lunch and run a few errands.

It was then that the 666 syndrome started to kick in. Maybe it took that long because Satan adheres to Greenwich meantime, or maybe it's because he likes a decent sleep-in. Anyhow, I strolled out of the Post Office into the cold winter sunshine and straight into an Aussie CSI scene. No deaths (sorry, Satan), but the bank next door had just been robbed. I felt pretty foolish: there I was, not 10 metres away, wasting my energy on deciding whether to buy the 'Australian Wildflowers' or 'Soccer in Australia' stamp sets whilst Ned Kelly and his mate Mudguts were terrorising the State Bank staff!

Luckily, no police officer apprehended me as an accessory. As I crossed the road to the shopping centre, the TV crews had also arrived. At the chemist, the staff were looking red-faced and angry. "What's wrong, are your life savings with the State Bank of Magill?" I asked, in a pathetic attempt to cheer them up.
"No, the stupid, effing computer is down. No-one in IT is answering the phone (oooh, there's a surprise), we can't type out prescriptions or look up prices and instead we have to write everything down." She looked close to tears which made me regret my thoughtless attempt at humour even more. "Er, well, it is the sixth day of the sixth month of the sixth year, you know," I said, smiling weakly and shrugging my shoulders.
"I know that," she snapped, looking past me. "NEXT! Can I help you?"

Feeling like a chastened child, I made my way back to the university. There was a tinny, rolling sound as I was about to walk across Brougham Street. What sounded like an old-fashioned rubbish bin lid rolling around was actually a hubcap, rolling in perfect arcs right down the middle of the street. My head swivelled in every direction: was there a car smash that I hadn't heard? Some kids goofing off? Film students recording the emptiness of the suburban ideal? Nope, just me and a hubcap that continued on its merry way down the sloping street. Very weird.

My stomach was growling by this time - ah, that would be the famine part of the general 666-End-Of-The-World scenario, were my thoughts as I inhaled my smoked salmon roll. Whilst doing this at my desk, an ant ran across my keyboard space bar. Truly. This diverted my focus away from food long enough to discover that there was a bunch (crowd? herd? flock?) of ants having some sort of get-together in my finance tray. My efforts at brushing them off caused a old, long-forgotten morning cup of coffee to spill all over the desk and drip mockingly into the recycle bin.

Having the gents' loos right next door finally had a positive side: loads of water and absorbent toilet paper for cleaning up spills. I rushed in and ----"Oops! Omigod, I'm soooo sorry!" and backed out again, blushing. Who knew that fellas still used those ancient steel trough things?

It's nearing 2pm, and here I type, sitting at a sticky desk surrounding by gleefully feasting ants. I'm about to walk over to the other side of the campus to see how the builders are going on the floor we'll be moving into, sometime in Julember. If I don't trip over, have something accidentally stuck to my arse or get splattered by a bird turd, I'll be pleasantly surprised......

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Sunday strolling, Antiques and Coffee....

..are they recipes for boredom?

Well, two, five or ten years I would have thought so. The idea of spending an entire Sunday crawling along a rinky-dinky old country town High Street, popping into every single antique store just to browse would have sounded worse than forcibly shagging Keith Richards with the lights on. And yet today, that is exactly what we - my husband, Love Chunks; Sapphire, our seven year old; and my parents, Jo' and Flo' did with genuine enjoyment (not Keith; but go to Strathalbyn for the day).

It still remains a mystery to me: neither LC or I are 'into' antiquey stuff of any kind. Our house is instead full of sensible, sturdy furniture that is not likely to be eagerly sought by Sapphire as an inheritance item, nor of good enough quality to last longer than the end of her primary school years. Any sign of china cups, figurines, witty coat stands or soup tureens and my first thought is: Dust. Why on earth would you want to have a house full of useless trinkets that you than have to dust? Even worse - why would you want to buy those granny glass cabinets to display them in? Five minutes in our home and Sapphire would have accidentally tripped into it or the dog would have smeared the glass by giving it her usual exploratory lick.

Yet today, it was really interesting - nay, fascinating - to peer at butt-ugly bevilled green glass butter holders from the 1930s - my Grandma was still using the stuff when I used to holiday with her in the late 1970s. Crystal fruit bowls and ornate drinks trolleys also reminded me of her - all the milk jugs on display lacked were the crocheted covers that were customarily weighted down with tiny orange beads. For some reason the people of those times lived in fear that mozzies and blowies would dive bomb their drinks.

As with household ornaments, jewellery does not feature largely in my self-decoration. Sometimes I wish I had the natural style of my friend Bec, who has the knack of wearing really innovative pieces to school drop off/work at kindergarten/the shops and look effortlessly fabulous. Being a pale, doughy type with the face of an undercooked scone with two currants pressed in for eyes I just can't 'get away' with doing anything remotely creative in terms of jewellery. Dangly earrings on my lobes merely give people the impression of a human tambourine and potentially groovy beads or brooches look as though I've had a fun morning in the dress up box. (And make up doesn't help - even LC has commented that lipstick makes me resemble a baby who's applied it during their infant swim class).

Despite my total lack of style-charisma, I love looking at the art-deco marquasite (sp?) chokers, creamy pearls, ethnic beads and bling-style rings from long-dead fingers. Elegant rabbit fur stoles hung on old dressmaker's mannequins in front of beeswax-scented wooden wardrobes was enough for me to say..."Hey, anybody ready to join me for some lunch?"

Even my father (more at home in the wood-turning shed or the golf green) and Love Chunks (in the kitchen, a tent or the green) seemed to be just as interested in browsing. Sapphire of course fell in love with every luridly painted porcelain bird, fairy, gnome or dogs wearing kilts and smoking pipes. At $75 upwards, she mercifully didn't hassle us to buy her anything - she was content with her $1 packet of Wicked Fizz Tongue Poppin' Candies from the sweet shop.

Lunch featured the traditional Sunday strollers' fare: cappuccinos, toasted sandwiches and pasties. That's pretty much all the average, self-respecting South Australian needs for lunch really - caffeine, pastry, fat and cheese. This leaden weight was enough to allay any feelings of anxiety, horror or depression I might have felt when I discovered that not a few of the antiquities on sale were of my era. Skippy melamine cups; early 1970s Matchbox cars, rope quoits and original Coca-Cola and Fanta yo-yos. I left the record shelf alone - no doubt I've already converted most of them to CD - and now iPod - already.

Two hours later, we had 'done' the other side of the High Street and were ready for afternoon tea. Menu: cappuccinos, Farmers Union Feel Good Iced Coffee, carrot cake, scones with jam and cream, berry cheesecake. We chatted animatedly for an hour or so, until the staff packing up the cafe around us gave us the hint to leave. As we did so, it seems as though we all started to slump - this old fogey window shopping for free activity with my folks was rather tiring - it was a mighty struggle to keep my eyes open on the drive home. In fact it's 8:30pm now - might as well turn off the heater and go to bed........

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Why do they call it The Birds And The Bees?

My best buddy Jill's daughter Lana, and my daughter, Sapphire, have both recently found out about how babies are made.

They are both seven years old which is still a fairly young age in order to find out some rather confronting information. Like Lana, Sapphire had been asking more and more questions. Specific questions. Stuff like, "Yeah yeah I know that the Mum and Dad make it together but how? How does an egg from Mum and something from Dad get together and grow inside Mum's tummy?" It seemed disrespectful for us to continue to fob her off with vague comments like, "Oh, the body knows what to do," or the worst one: "It's too complicated, I'll tell you a bit more when you're older."

Instead, my beloved, brave and decent husband Love Chunks, decided to tell her. It was during the last school holidays when he had taken a week off to take care of her, and I was at work, with no leave-up-my-sleeve. LC just rang me and said, "Well, our little one knows all about sex now."
I was stunned. "She does? What did you tell her?"
"What do you mean What did you tell her - I told her the truth!"
"All of it?" Hell, it seemed like a hefty load of reality to dump her with. "So, how did she react? Was she upset? Did she understand it?" Inside, I fervently hoped that she wouldn't understand it; that LC had baffled her with a version scientific enough to sound mundane....
"Yeah, she understood it all right. She burst out laughing for about half an hour."

On further reflection, uncontrollable giggling seems like a much more innocent and nicer reaction than the one I had, many moons ago.

It was 1978, and one evening my parents took me to school for what I thought was going to be a play or a concert. It was, sort of, except that there were no children on stage or singing but a lot of frightening overheads on the wall and I got to take home a program called 'Where Did I Come From?'

At nine and half years old, the sex act was completely out of my realms of comprehension. Sure, the kissing and hugging in the nude bit (they had cartoon drawings of it...!) I could sort of understand, but why Mum would ever want Dad to put there..... It was about a month before I could look my parents directly in the eyes again, my disgust was that great. I consoled myself with the thought that at least they'd only done 'it' three times in order to have my two brothers and me.

A year later, Kurt Lawton told me at school that your parents don't just do it once for each kid, they do it heaps of times. Whenever they wanted to - which was, apparently, a lot of the time because it was good fun. My nose wrinkled in horror, but I stayed listening with mortified curiosity.
"How do you know, Kurt?" said Philippa, the bravest one of the assembled group.
"Because my brother told me, idiot, and he's twelve."
"Ooohhh," we all went, nodding wisely and accepting that as strong evidence.

Sadly for me I also had an older brother, but that's a different story. No, what was even more tragic was that I got to witness Kurt's truths for myself. It was the first and only time in my then ten-year-old life that I knocked and the entered a room without being invited in. Not that my parents noticed: the blankets mercifully hid any fleshy bits, but there was no doubt that they were enjoying some Sunday morning shenanigans....

In a rare moment of tact and maturity, I quietly shut the door and backed out all the way up the hall, through the loungeroom and into the living room. It was also the first time I had a cup of coffee - I certainly felt as though I needed one. I also thought that, somehow, Mum wouldn't care one way or the other if I had some of her un-iced cupcakes for breakfast that morning and the likelihood of us attending church that Sunday looked pretty doubtful as well.

These things always bring me back to Sapphire. What of her new knowledge of the adult world? At seven it is clear that whilst she has mentally coped with the - ahem - technicalities of sex, she has no concept of the emotion or pleasure involved. Like me, she thinks that LC and I have only done it the once - for her - and that's not an illusion I'm about to break any time soon. Ever. Now I can see why some parents put locks on their bedroom doors - not to keep unruly kids in, but to keep the kids out.