Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A heavenly gift from Columbia in a brown paper bag

Too early on a Saturday morning found me hidden in my hooded jacket, lurking at the back of a dank shelter shed in Kensington Park and sneaking furtive glances at the man and two women sniggering in the opposite corner.

The swarthy man was all dressed in black and handed them both two small brown paper bags. Both women thanked him profusely and were quick to shove them away in their pockets. None of them seemed too concerned at my presence, instead choosing to huddle up together, heads almost touching. "Oh maaaan, this stuff is great..." sighed one of the women. "Yeah Rocky, it's better than even last week's effort. We've gotta get more of this from you!"

Then all three of them took some very long - and distinctly audible - sniffs.

This was too much for my nose which, for those of you readers who have seen me in person, is one that could quite easily be rented out as a warehouse. "Excuse me," I coughed nervously, "....but is everything all OK over there?"

All of them quickly swapped wary glances before giving me a good look up and down. It was easy for me to mentally acknowledge their concern: there I was, in my Saturday morning finest of dog-hair-covered trakkie daks, ratty old hoodie with tiny fabric balls all over it and still clutching an empty 'On the Run' large cappuccino cup from McDonalds.

Clearly the pity within them won over the contempt.

"Sure - why don't you join us over here? My name's Rocky, by the way," said the man in black, offering me his free hand. It was then I saw what they were sniffing in such ecstasy - the purest, blackest most delicious smelling coffee beans this side of the equator.

"Rocky brings us a cup of his latest brew every Saturday morning," Trish explained. "Today it's some kind of Columbian...um, what is it exactly?"
"Columbian Mountain Mist," he interrupted, proudly. "Grown only on the south side of the slope, tended by seventh-generation peasants and roasted only by the village virgins."

Or something like that - my eyes, nose and tastebuds were transfixed by his thermos - the largest I'd ever seen (oh, put your Benny Hill evil twin cousins away, there are no double entendres in this entry). "Let me fill that---" Rocky struggled to find a descriptor insulting enough for my junk food cup "----receptacle."

Trish and Jen studied me intently as I took the first sip. To say it was divine is like trying to describe a night with John Cusack followed by Jude Law on a bed stuffed with Lindt balls and sprinkled with fresh scented rose petals as 'OK I guess, but nothing special'...but I digress; it was bloody nice coffee and it immediately helped to clear my eyes and unfold my aged, too-early-in-the-morning-for-this-kind-of-shit face. "Oooooh yes," I moaned, lost in my own moment of bliss. "Oooh man, Sapphire can do another hour of tennis lessons today if it means having a mugful of this magnificent mixture...."

And so it came to pass that the following hour we passed notes on favourite coffees, good local cafes, the machines we owned at home (Me = Love Chunks + Gaggia + anything free trade from the Kent Town Coffee Cave) and whose turn it was to bring what next week.

An hour later, Sapphire came running over to me, "Did you see my volley Mum? Did you see it? Did you hear Michael saying that I was good at listening and trying?"

"Oh yeah yeah, you were great, yeah yeah," I muttered absently, patronising patting her on the head and hustling her away from the shelter shed. "See you next week, Rocky and you'd better bring along another one of those paper bags of yours or you'll be hearing from me."

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Shocker Cyclist

For the past few weeks, I've been riding my bike to work. Nothing remarkable in that you might think, but it's been the first time I've been on a bike since 1980.

As a kid growing up in the 1970s, owning a Malvern Star bike was the equivalent of a Game Boy, PS2, SUV and a swimming pool combined. You just weren't a kid without a bike and certainly regarded as a real weakling if you couldn't ride the damn thing without trainer wheels.

The Christmas of my seventh year on this earth was when Father Christmas bestowed a maroon-coloured Malvern Star on me.

It had it all - the sissy bar, a crocodile snout-shaped long 'hot rod' padded glittery seat and a plastic basket on the front with a purple flower affixed to it. Dad very patiently taught me how to ride it without the aid of any unnecessarily expensive and poncy trainer wheels. I remember feeling how thankful that our back yard's lawn was so forgivingly soft immediately after the numerous times I wobbled into the brush fence and fell backwards as if shot.

Anyhow, a few evenings later I had the bike-riding thing well under control. No helmets in those days; but seeing as the only car (apart from ours) that used to drive up our non-kerbed street was Dulcie Pfitzner who never changed up from second gear we were pretty safe - not to mention having the added insurance of the bright orange flag sticky-taped to the back of the sissy bar.

Notwithstanding these new developments in coolness and mobility, I couldn't have cared less about riding my bike. Yes, it got me to the park (only three streets away), around the neighbourhood (my thongs carried me along OK too) and even to the deli for a 10c handful of mixed lollies but the thrill of it all somehow passed me by. When my brothers and the neighbours' kids were out cycling down the street, I was either wedged into the dirt via my steel stilts (made by Dad), reading a book or busy setting up a cubby house from bedsheets, shoe boxes and buckets.

Therefore, when most kids moved from a Malvern Star to a 'racer' that they rode to high school, I didn't get one. It was easier for me to get a lift with Dad in his 1950's Morris Minor (one of his renovating projects that never got done) or just walk. When I met, fell for and married Love Chunks, his multi-million dollar 'Cecil Walker' bike was one of his most prized possessions (still is) and he'd taken it on a tour around Tasmania. LC must have been disappointed that his Main Squeeze for Life didn't own a bike; didn't want to own a bike and considered the mere thought of renting a bike on holiday about as enjoyable as being stabbed in the eye with a fruit knife and having a VISA-card bill attached to it.

A few months ago however, things changed. It was apparently cheaper to fill up our station wagon with Cibo's soy latte than petrol and my work was only 3km away. Plus my girth was increasing and, most importantly, Sapphire had thrown away her training wheels and was always pleading to go on a bike ride.

Fate has a way of steering you in the right direction, doesn't it? (although the frequent trips through the chocolate aisle at Coles don't count). On dealsdirect, one of my favourite bargain websites, I found him - a gleaming, sexy Italian named Masano. He was only $99 (plus $20 postage), insultingly marked down from $498. I forwarded his details on to Love Chunks who generously agreed that Masano was a bargain and definitely worth inviting in to our family.

LC lovingly unpacked the flat box and set him up for me as I blushing fumbled with the chin straps of my unbecoming bike helmet. Sapphire and I rode to our park - she with confidence and me with the calmness and grace of an epileptic on a rollercoaster ride. Somehow, I didn't fall and an involuntary "Woo Hoo!" or two even slipped out of my mouth.

The 3km trip **up the hill** to work was excruciating - I was gasping in agony before even clearing the boundary of Sapphire's school and earned many amused 'Good morning, a bit hard going, eh love?' comments from pensioners walking downhill with their poodles. On the plus side, I discovered the secret society of fellow cyclists, who all greeted me with a friendly smile and a 'G'day'.

Once at work, my hair stuck to my head in a sweat slick, my t-shirt and shorts were awash and my walk into the office could only be kindly described as cowboy-like. Things were not pretty.

It was even uglier in the ladies' loos as I attempted a bushman's bath and prayed like hell that Abdul the cleaner wasn't going to wander in with his mop. Perhaps you'll be brave and picture the scene - me in my birthday suit, splashing myself all over with handbasin water, drenching the ol 'pits in BO-repellent and cursing when I found that I didn't bring along a clean pair of knickers and had to put the sweat-saturated ones back on under my nice work trousers. For a crazy second or two I contemplated doing a handstand under the hand-dryer to improve things a little but could hear my boss approaching the door.....

Things have improved since those challenging September mornings. I now tend to only get one comment per morning, usually a bit more ribald, and likely to be from a brickie than an oldie: "Nice rack, darl." I'm still sweatier than a eccy-fuelled raver at a 3 day dance party, but I now remember my clean undies and have perfected my damp flannel-flicking techniques.

Most days, I even yell out "Woo HOOOOO!" on the way home as I careen downhill without ever needing to pedal. I feel faster than a Ferrari, more athletic than an Olympian and determinedly refuse to shatter these illusions by seeing my reflection in the Glynburn Road shop windows. Why didn't anyone ever tell me when I was seven, twelve, twenty seven or thirty seven how much free fun riding a bike would be?

Monday, October 23, 2006

The exhaustion of administration

Despite the fact that I belong squarely within the 'Administration' sphere myself, most of the administratum anuses (anii? anoose??) I have to deal with are just that - arseholes clogging up efficiencies because their fat filing fingers are up their own ........I have every confidence that you can finish off the rest of this sentiment.

Perhaps I'm lumping too many of my fellow university administrators (whom I tend to refer to as 'cardigans') in the same wastepaper basket, but - give me strength - I have yet to see any evidence to the contrary that most of them do not merely exist to ensure that I still have to wear my double-strength mouthguard at night in order to prevent cracking my crowns in teeth-clenching frustration. In fact, if I dared to refer this blog on to a certain bonehead on a neighbouring campus, she'd be likely to point out that the first sentence of this paragraph is far too long and I'd do much better to have a good read through the uni's 'Style and Formatting Guidelines for External Correspondence.'

The worst thing though, is that I have to email/nod/say "Ooh, that's helpful" really politely because without a successful liaison with these soul sucking simpletons the thing I must get done won't get done without them. As with most large government departments, companies and corporations, these little dropkicks have created many intricate levels of task requests, online job logging, permission forms, account codes, invoice duplication, help desk 'services' and perhaps most ironic of all 'customer service portals' that even a naked, chocolate-slicked and available George Clooney wouldn't be able to break through.

Any reasonable effort made to speak to a living, breathing Cardigan without formally completing the Delegations Directory is rebuffed or referred to voicemail where it lingers longer than a Christmas ham at a Jewish Vegan convention. Even when you do try your best to complete the hellish paperwork, they are always designed by Satan. Yes, Satan. On every page, in the greyed-out 'For Office Use Only' sections there are secret little compartments that spew your application back to you via internal mail (or via sea urchin, whichever is slowest), stamped in red with 'Incomplete data. Please include your unit's cost codes.'

On no account are these carcingenic Cardigans ever prepared to explain to you exactly what information you left out or what they need to be able to help you. No, that would be robbing them of their power, wouldn't it? Let's face it - if you're single, 43, living in a flat with seven cats/chins and some plastic trolls blue-tacked to your computer monitor, you're not exactly a raging success in life, are you? Therefore, what better way to boost your self esteem than to possess the only key to the stationery cupboard and take an unpublicised flex day during a 3,000 strong survey mail-out?

Furthermore, you must never, ever make the assumption that their ability to excrete all over your executive existence only falls within office administration. Sadly, these post-it ponces will always fly into an email rage if anyone dares to fling out their tub of yoghurt that was dated before the first Bush got into office, moves their indoor fern ten centimetres to make way for a filing cabinet or leaves a coffee cup ring on the boardroom table. If they don't choose to chuck a tantie in cyberspace, they'll instead spend all morning designing a badly-spelled, printed sign to stick all over the offending fridge door/dumb waiter/vacant desk; thus avoiding having to work on the pesky things like the urgent phone calls from world-renowned professors stranded by militia at the Botswana international airport or the toilet now leaking into the reception area.

Sadly, there is no solution to this determined breed of sub-human. All I do to cope is try to imagine a worse alternative. You know, something like having a puffer fish swim up my left nostril and inflate itself; bending over for a rectal examination during the Rundle Mall post-Christmas sales or being forced to have sex with Philip Ruddock. It actually does help to reduce the pain a few notches.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Would I wear this to work?

Marc Jacobs has rather kindly considered the non-human creatures we encounter in our working lives in this piece.

Many's the time I've had a drunk cockroach or mystified mouse bump up against my sensible shoes: if only I had a pair of heels with tunnels in them!

In this second piece from Mr Jacobs, we have his seven year old niece mistakenly wearing her younger brother's King Gee pull-up shorts as an off-the-shoulder jumper.

Perhaps the binding elastic cuts off the circulation from shoulder level and upwards, although what Mr Jacob's excuse is for such a poxy ensemble is I'll never know.

Korean Designer Lie Sang Bong has taken a far more tried-and-tested path of couture creation - sling out a tit for maximum impact and make the model look about as interested as Donald Trump getting a buzz cut.

Despite this popular cat walk posture, we plebs are still not getting the message that it's okay to let a mammary swing freely in the breeze. I wonder why not?

This same designer - whose surname actually says a lot about his or her source of inspiration - also feels that having two cockatoos perched on our breasts and shoulders could be the next craze sweeping the stores.

I've lost count of the sleepless nights when I've pondered my relatively modest career path and wondered if I should adopt the "Galah with boobies saggy enough to sling over your shoulders and out of harms' way" look for the office. It might raise a laugh and take their attention away from my total lack of knowledge of how to unjam the photocopier machine.

A big gold star and super-wedgie to Mr Reality, aka John-Paul Gaultier for removing his head from his arse and coming up with this practical little ensemble.

It's a real Go Anywhere piece - if you were Bai Ling or Paris, that is. Or maybe not - the vaginal area is far too covered up.

With this dress, however, he's at least trying to find a way to make use of all of those recycled foil take-away containers and give your plumbing a good dose of fresh air.

I've always wanted to make a squeaking and clinking sound when I walk, and this will be perfect for being able to subtlely sneak into over-crowded lecture theatres and seminars when I'm fifteen minutes late.

Plus, isn't it every woman's dream to own an outfit that turns her pear shape into an onion and inflates the size of her arse several times over?

Let's finish on a positive note. Here Mr G's finally made some progress with this outfit. He's at least considered that not all of us have the GDP of Tonga to spend on ridiculous labels or the (undeserved) confidence of a stoned starlet to want to wear them.

Kudos then, for this idea. Simply steal a pair of Y-fronts from your Grandpa, slip your arms through the leg holes and wear the waist band around your head as a hood. Perfect. Just right for your annual performance and salary review.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Please retire already

Can I really make a difference? That’s what I like to wonder to myself when I put on my diamond bustier and have my assistants oil my buttocks before each and every show," said Madonna recently.

Wow, her new purchase - sorry, kid - is going to have a genuinely balanced life with a down to earth mother who only has his interests and well being at heart......

I am still reeling over the travesty of 'Hung Up', released by Mads last year, utilising the catchy synth chords from Abba's 'Gimme Gimme Gimme'. A song perhaps only worthy of a pre-sixteen year old Britney Spears, it made me want to smack her head between two iron girders for daring to sing - at age 47 - "I'm hung up, I've got a crush on you."

Isn't it time to remove the leggings and leotards, let the face resume its natural posture southwards and instead spend some time at home with your two - sorry three - children? Maybe even remember what their middle names were/are?

Or, if you can't bear not being in the limelight with your triceps and weird Eva Braun hair-flick on show, at least move on with your music. No, I don't mean a sample from Meatloaf, Styx or Lubricated Goat, but a song that is more worthy of someone born in the 1950s. Hell, maybe even something totally original that might have something to say other than, "Hey Mr DJ put a record on I wanna dance with my baby...."

Get your flunky to ring Bono or Sting's flunky and arrange for the obscene monetary proceeds to be flung towards removing those lip plates from South American jungle dwellers or paying to keep that poor little toddler - and several thousand others - safely housed, loved, fed, educated and clothed in Malawi. The last thing that sad little third world sufferer needs is to be held up by his daytime nanny to see his 'Mom' via a video-linkage screen as she puts her ankles behind her ears to attract a camera close up.

The last thing this world needs is for a fifty-something Madonna to release her acid-pop-schlock version of 'Boom Boom boom let's go back to my room, where we can do it all night and you can make me feel right...' wearing nothing but a bucketful of botox and a tampon string....

Monday, October 09, 2006

Hey Mum, it's twenty two degrees today - can we go for a swim?

I finally realised that I had grown up when it dawned on me that I was no longer prepared to go swimming on a 22C spring day.

It made me feel a little bit sad, to be honest. It was the final indicator that my adult common sense and safety had finally overtaken my sense of adventure and potential. Before that, from about the ages of four to 24, if the sun was out, I was in the water, mostly underneath it.

Not that our family had a pool mind you, but we had neighbours who did. The D's were the first in our street to get one, way back in 1974, a moulded, pale blue fibreglass job that was the epitome of wealth and glamour. I taught myself to swim in there. Mum was across the street at our house, no doubt feeling a tiny bit of relief that at least one out of three of her children were not her responsibility at that moment.

Little did she know that Mrs D wasn't exactly the caring type, at least not where a 'poor Read kid from across the road' was concerned. "Oh for gods sake MillyMoo, either swim up to the deep end or get out and go home!" So I did - gasping and gurgling all the way to the scary six foot deep end of the pool, utterly determined to remain in the water. Her response to my gargantuan effort was a huffy "It's about time."

It was therefore an immense relief to me personally when the C family directly behind us got a pool two years later. I had correctly assumed that Mrs C wasn't into skinny dipping in front of me (32 years later and I am still struggling to erase the image of Mrs D dive bombing us completely starkers - Stolichnaya has a lot to answer for). Thankfully too Mrs C was certainly a much nicer and more genuine person when it came to patiently keeping an eye out for all of us. Soon the D's had their stupid little rinky dink pond to themselves - the in-kids were at the C's specially-designed, kidney-shaped slice of watery heaven with slate tiles around the edges and a hammock under the walnut tree.

The C's son Simon was a year younger than me yet was my physical equal in our primary school days. He and I played 'fish' with my older brother Rob, younger brother Dave and his sister Amanda. I lost count of the times I literally peed through my bathers at the sheer, glorious terror of Robert reaching out and catching me during the game.

Only sissies swam with additional equipment. In Murray Bridge you normally learned to swim in the town's one and only public pool and goggles or flippers were only worn by the officially blind or socially deficient.

Cooler kids swam in the river Murray itself which was a feat not for the squeamish. At it's best the river was the colour of Milo and at it's worst it had the added pong of dead carp, slurry from the local tannery and oil slicks from the tardy houseboat owners nearby. I tried my best to avoid having to put my head under the water long enough to have my eyes open - there's only so many times you need to see urine-coloured water, slimy sticks and catfish heading straight for your eye sockets.

If the drunken speed boat drivers didn't smack into you, the cut glass from the bogans' thrown beer bottles would. The jagged base of a West End neatly bit into my heel just as I was running into the foamy breakers caused by the skiiers. After Dad rescued me and wrapped up my foot, I passed the time watching my brothers in the water and counting the floating VB cans arriving at the sandy shore like grateful shipwreck survivors.

But back to the C's oasis. Clean, modern, fun, friendly and right next door. It didn't take long for Simon's and my parents to set only one rule - the forecasted temperature had to be at least 22C before we could go for a swim. The fuddy duddies apparently weren't too impressed when all five of us slipped off the cover and took the first swim of Summer '77 on the first day of spring, a balmy 16C; and promptly came down with colds, temperatures and stomach bugs due to the greenish slime on top of the water.

Such petty distractions didn't put us off swimming. We'd all meet at Pooh Corner (named after its popularity with the local dog population) after school where our two houses were connected. "The paper said it's 22 today, so last one in the pool's a rotten egg!"

Dive bombs, swan dives and back-flips were de-rigeur as pool entries, usually accompanied by a full-throttle "WOO HOO!", or "YEE HAH" for the cowboy and indian fans amongst us. Belly flops were a painful lesson that once experienced, is never forgotten. My effort was apparently rather spectacular, but it felt as though my entire torso had been split open - thank god I could sink under the water and scream and cry out in pain before I resurfaced with a brave, "So, how did my flop look, pretty good hey?"

My normal position in the pool was anywhere and everywhere, just as long as it was under the water. I tried my best to imitate the perfect rippled swimming style of the guy from the short-lived TV series 'The Man From Atlantis', or other times fancied myself a prima ballerina with my new-found graceful leaps and tippy toed moves thanks to the liquid support of H2O.

On many more occasions, however, the Benny Hill repressed deep within me would gleefully surface and it was time to suck in and spit out the water at little brother Dave, make farting noises up against the edge of the tiles or see if you could time a real fart just before smacking the water in a dive bomb - these were all very admirable and essential summer time skills for an Aussie country kid.

Holding my breath under the water, winning the hand stand competitions and instigating a full blown Speedo dacking of an unsuspecting boy bather was also part of the warm weather repertoire. Luckily for Mrs C (and her doctor husband) there were no nearby garage or house roofs to jump off into the water, so we had to content ourselves with ensuring that Nelson, the golden labrador, didn't scrape the outside layer of our flesh off when he dog-paddled nearby.

Several hours later we'd be seated around the tea table, seeing everything in a fogged-out haze as a result of the constant assault of chlorine, ravenously inhaling anything Mum put in front of us. To this day I still contend that swimming is the most hunger-inducing activity invented, and it helped that my eyes were redder than telephone cables so that the sight of fried lamb chops and three veg for the fifth time that week didn't suppress my appetite too much.

Pesky stuff like the hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica, melanomas and skin cancer were not even heard of, and most folks believed that after the first sunburn shellacking of the season, you'd be leathered and weathered enough to withstand whatever rays the sun threw down. In the 1970s, every Aussie kid had the red peeling nose, blistered shoulders and stark white butt cheeks as standard summer issue.

Mum was ahead of her time with regard to sunburn, so we were always forced to slick on the Adam Ant layer of zinc cream and some coppertone on the shoulders, and for that I'm extremely grateful. Even then, a few girls in my class would ask me why my skin was so smooth and didn't have any freckles. "Aw, 'cos Mum makes me put stupid zinc cream on and hates it if we peel off our burnt skin at the dinner table for some reason." It may be thirty years overdue, but thanks Mum: not one of my examinations has ever come back with a malignant result, and I'd be one of the very few from my generation.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Sugarless is S**t-house

I'm a chubbo desperately ashamed of the several winter 'coats' I've managed to put on this year; I'm also frustratingly sleep-deprived for various reasons and am subsequently trying to lay off the chocolate and the sugar for both of those reasons.

As such, my mood is not one of sunshine, puppy dogs and sing-songs. My eyeballs feel as though they've been dipped in honey and then rolled in coconut and I suspect the huge bags underneath are where my pesky missing finance documents are hiding. Coffee is not doing the trick. It doesn't rev me up but instead leaves me feeling as though a wino's slept in my mouth and farted there and I worry that my head will soon give up responsibility for maintaining my central nervous system and instead just mash my face into the keyboard.

And isn't it always times like these that you can a) smell the bacon'n' egg burgers, hot chips and butter chicken curries wafting upstairs from the Kaf below;
b) notice that all family-sized (or single MillyMoo-portion sized) blocks of Cadbury, Dove, Nestle, Heaven and Lindt are on special; and
c) wake up in the middle of the night with every fibre of my insomniac being screaming for "Marshmallows! Musk sticks! Toffees! A trough of chocolate topping with chunks of rocky road bobbing in it!!!"

Sadly for my work mates, this has also translated into my turning into the Odious Office Orangutan, though slightly less attractive. A single spilt grain of coffee on the counter sends me into the sulks; every single bloody little request has to be accompanied by an online and hard-copy signed form that is prompty lost or forgotten about by the departmental dipsh*t in control which I then get blamed for; and the fatuously named 'Telephone Help Desk' anonymous operator number seven earned an ear bashing for asking me to list what the faulty number was: "LOOK you mental pgymy, that's what this seventh phone call is about - will you please install and GIVE us a new phone number or is your one and only brain cell too busy sniffing the liquid paper beside you?!"

The now-frightened Campus services guy told me today that the roofers are apparently refusing to come down until I leave or stop threatening to kill them. Actually I don't think I'm out of order on this last point - there's only so many times I can hear the short one scream the lyrics to 'You're Beautiful' in a voice that Barry Gibb would envy and the dread-locked one's steel-capped efforts at riverdancing his way around has made him about as sexy as syphilis in my copy book. Not to mention that every squeal, step and drilling sound they make produces a constant shower of pollen, dust, dead leaves and that creepy grey bunny fluff that litters my desk, clogs up the keyboard and ices the phone.

Love Chunks has now returned from his fortnight stint overseas, so you'd think that I could now enjoy a good night's sleep without my buzzing body thinking "Oh no you don't - you're the only adult here, so you're on duty 24/7", but no. Sleep seems to be eluding me as cleverly as a calorie does for Kate Bosworth.

It's not his fault and part of my crankiness is that I have no-one to blame for my insomnia or for the greed that has led me to this diet: just big, old, fat, stupid me. LC is at home with Sapphire today, and rang earlier to inform me that they were going to make some scones together and did he want me to bring in a fresh batch to share at my work, complete with jam and clotted cream? It sounded just as heavenly as these donuts, but I blinked back the tears and muttered, "Errrrm no thanks, hardly anyone's around today." Meaning I'd scoff the lot and then let my inner Dietary Devil loose and decide to eat out the first four rows of the chocolate vending machine on the floor located immediately below my Australia-sized arse.

One consolation gleaned is from Love Chunks himself. His stint in Washington left him with more than a couple of rather unflattering portraits of the 'average American' he encountered whilst over there. "I couldn't believe how obese so many of them are, and the air was constantly cluttered with the sound and smell of farting...!"

Maybe that's the trick, the best way say goodbye to my Grumpy Guts stage - save my money and book a flight to America - I'll blend in perfectly over there.