Thursday, August 30, 2007

Bloody Beanie Kids

My eight year old daughter Sapphire has been avidly collecting beanie kids which are smallish-sized stuffed bears that are growing like mushroom clumps in 'selected' newsagents and specialty toy stores everywhere.

At $9.95 per bear and each in a specific-themed costume now in their hundreds, they are an affordable bribe thanks to outworkers in China forced to fuss over tiny tu-tus, whips and spangly eyelashes.

I'm ashamed to say that, like back-fat and age spots, they're growing on me. Their little black-beaded eyes, tiny noses and cute little teddy cheeks have won me over. The Beanie bosses must be laughing in their non-leased Lamborghinis, having created a sure-fire retail winner. These designers of the Devil release and then 'retire' beanies to increase their collectability; refuse to let big chain stores sell them and have an adorable website and collector's book that lists their birthdates, interests and competitions.

It's all Sapphire's fault. She discovered that she owned a couple of BKs by accident one day - ancient birthday gifts from her daycare years: "I had no idea they were the real thing - thank God I'm now eight instead of four," she said, ruefully. She pointed them out to me whenever we were together: "Look Mum! There's Chardy the Socialite Bear, she's got the same birthday as you, and Giddyup over there has my birthday but she's retired now and is really rare.... didn't you say that Sue from the shop would save the forgotten monthly beanie kid badges for me..... oh hey, they've got the white mutation koala bears which are now retired and Celeste is still the one in the silver packets and....."

One dollar bought Sapphire the autumn/winter BK catalogue which she has read with more focus than Paris Hilton with a tube of tanning cream, and I too have been forced to flick through the slender tome with her more than once. We may be in the midst of a rather hectic home renovation right now, but I can still tell you which Beanies have featured as the monthly badge holders since 2001 compared to trying to comprehend how in the hell our new underground water tank electro-switcheroo-thingy-gadget-box works.

It's not just the bloody book that has taken up too much of my rare brain real estate. Somehow, most of Sapphire's excited chatter about themes, names, beanie birth dates, email messages from the 'Beanie Master' (more influential than Barbie for the tweenie set right now) and other collectors'-only hysteria has managed to hook on to at least half of my still-firing synapses because I am now considered rather knowledgeable on the subject. No, I'm not proud of this fact - I can quickly spot the new releases versus the retired and yet can't remember a damn thing about the Labor Party's unveiled WorkChoices rein-in.

Each time I pop into the newsagent to survey the womens' magazines and imperiously reject them (after all, marieclaire and instyle get delivered to me at home), I venture towards the home decorating ones and my eyes eventually land on the Beanie Kids boxes nearby. Unless I've lost control in the chocolate aisle (note to chocoholics: in any given week, at least one well-known brand of family-sized chocolate blocks are on sale. Hot tip: buy in bulk), there is usually at least a ten or twenty buck note lurking in my wallet; enough for one or two BKs to hide somewhere in Sapph's room for an after-school surprise.

My repressed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder emerges as my eyes automatically scan each box for new releases, checks out 'Beanie Kid of the Month' and any that have since been 'retired' and may now be worth a whopping $12 instead of $9.95. I now know everyone at the Firle Newsagent by name, and they in turn refer to me as MillyMoo, the Beanie Kid Kollector, despite me correcting them many times that I'm doing it on behalf of my daughter. They smile condescendingly and I make a mental note to bring in Sapphire one day to assure them that she's not a figment of my feverish RainMan imagination. My second mental note is to pull my pants down from under my armpits and to stop muttering 'Beanie Zara, got it; Beanie Celeste, got it; Beanie Shannon, got it; Beanie Heinrik, got it..."
whilst rocking myself back and forth over the footy card display.

I'm the worst type of parent. You know the type: being a 'good mum' by buying up big instead of wanting to listen to my child play 'Speed Bonny boat' on the recorder for the hundredth time, painfully pluck out the Simpsons' theme tune on her guitar or risk showing her how to make scones from scratch. Dammit, I've even got 'The Beanie Master' on order!

Maybe it's all to do with my childhood. I'm still saddened by the fact that the 1968-version of Pauline Hanson hiding deep within me chose a golliwog over a furry golden teddy bear when my parents presented it to me in my bassinet.

Mum and Dad tended to see my initial actions and choices as being carved in stone for the rest of my days and so no other teddy bears were ever offered to me after that. (This 'You always said you hated...' approach still continues to this day. In year three - 1976 for godssakes - my teacher wrote, 'MillyMoo can tend to get a little careless with her written work' and I *still* get told, "Remember MillyMoo, Miss Ruys told you to be more neat and accurate......" What I'd *like* to retort in return is 'Remember Dad, you spent all of the 1970s wearing brown v-necks and long socks, so you'd better stick with that look,' and 'Mum, how come we're not eating mornay out of ramekins any more?')

Am I - as I did when I bought Sapph the trampoline - guilty of buying her the toys I wanted as a child but didn't get? I don't know...... still, as soon as I can find those retro buckets of 'slime', extenda-roller-skates, a Six-Million Dollar Man thermos and hobby-tex t-shirt design kit I'll let you know.

Montages below have been set up and photograped by eight year old Sapphire. Underneath this blurb we have her Australian marsupials panorama. Please note the possum did not suffer any injuries having his tail slammed into the drawer and Priscilla the gender-challenged Frill-necked lizard is not dead, just posing.
Further below we have a rainbow theme up against the bookshelf, with all three gay rights' activists reclining in comfort on Sapph's cane chair cushion. Cherub (the red one) has fallen asleep - that's what all-night techno and eccies will do for you.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wise beyond her years

We were having dinner at My Auntie Wendy's place on Saturday night (superbly roasted beef, fresh veges from her garden, gravy, vintage red wine and home-made pavlova topped with fresh cream, kiwi-fruit and strawberries, if you want to know) and somehow the story of how my little brother Dave made a break for freedom from the Murray Bridge Town Hall was mentioned.

In the 1970s, the standard child innoculations seemed to be regularly undertaken in huge numbers in the town halls. To this day, some of my fellow Generation Xers avoid going into such places in case those fearful memories of needles, inescapable queues and no free lollipops are relived again.

For someone as pathologically afraid of spiders as I am, having an injection was never been a big deal as a child or as an adult. I was a regular 'guinea pig' at the Adelaide University School of medicine and had all sorts of injections, catheters, up nose/down stomach pipes and leads in the name of tax-free beer money and in furthering health science discoveries. By 1989, after three years of volunteering for the cause of medical history, my veins became recalcitrant. More than once I had to flex both fists, jog up and down a flight or two of stairs and have my arms slapped with hot towels before my blood was prepared to exit for a worthy cause.

In fact, since being diagnosed with a pituitary prolactinoma (a non-cancerous, pesky little brain tumour that lives behind my eyeballs at the base of my brain) in 1995, I've had more than my share of jabs. I can tell you which arm is the best to use and what vein is not worth a cracker. I can even watch as the doctor or nurse plunges the needle into my skin and be fascinated watching the glorious, black-red elixir of life reluctantly and slowly seep into the tiny test tube.

Not so for young David Andrew in 1976. One second he was entering the slightly dusty-smelling wooden auditorium with Mum and me before clapping his anxious little brown eyes on Dr Haines emerging from behind a portable divider with an empty syringe in his hand. In the next second he was up the street, running towards the Flour Mills as fast as his skinny, stick-like legs and asthmatic pair of lungs would take him. Despite his physical frailties, he was nearly half way home before he was caught, pinioned down, injected, pinioned down again, comforted, bribed with all manner of jelly beans, free medical samples and coca cola yo-yos and taken home, screaming.

All of the above led to a story by Wendy, who recalled her younger sister Jill, pointing to the Norwood Town Hall in about 1950 or so and saying, "There's the prick house." I'm pretty sure that some of the pavlova I snorted is still in my nose somewhere.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Kall the Kops! Kevin's Kracked and gone Kwazy!

Sometimes I have to re-focus my snot-green eyes and glance again at the miniscule time and date bar on my watch to check that it is still August 2007. This week it's because our aspiring national leader, Kevin Rudd, went to a strip club in New York one beer-fuelled evening ........ about four years ago.

Bless Greens leader Bob Brown's little cotton socks. He would easily win a 'quote of the week' contest if I had anything to give away instead of crinkled chocolate wrappers: "Four years ago Kevin Rudd got drunk and took himself into a strip club. Four years ago John Howard, sober, took Australia into the Iraq war. I think the electorate can judge which one did the more harm."

On Channel nine's 'Today Show', 35% of their viewers bored enough to ring in decided that they would not vote for Kev-the-Rev due to his naughty night out in NYC. Well ram my face into a combine harvester and call me Fraser Gehrig - who here hasn't gone to a nudey bar at least once in their lives? Glenn Milne, the so-called journalist who released this information, perhaps should consider installing some nuclear block-out blinds in his own glass house because the memory of his slobby, drunken lunge at the founder of the Crikey during the Walkley Awards is surely a hell of a lot more offensive than sitting down and seeing a few bouncing objects in front of you.....

If that's all our silver bodgie Prime Minister Bob Hawke got up to - a drunken night out in NYC - we'd have been surprised; disappointed even. He was the Rhodes Scholar who held the world record for sculling beer from a yard glass. That didn't stop him from being elected and re-elected, did it? Not only that, but Bob-a-job was well known for venturing a little further beyond ol Hazel's green hills towards other perhaps more well-travelled women and yet he still managed to keep 'Little Johnny Howard' (who was in fact taller than Bob) well and truly ground under his heel like a long-forgotten juicyfruit.

Like Kevin, our country's baby boomer 'Milky Bar Kid', I too went to a nudie bar. (Waving away howls of protest, shrieks of shock, tears of indignation and dismay). Yes, I voluntarily and quite soberly decided to go and see the world-famous (well, in Adelaide at least) 'Dazzling Darryl' in glorious, flesh-toned action.

It was 1988 when my 20th birthday rolled around. It was the era of spiral perms, buying canvas 'Country Road' bags instead of their over-priced clothing, Rattle'n'Hum, MTV on Channel Nine after 10:30pm and saving up for a real pair of RayBans. Judgement at that stage of my life wasn't as razor sharp as it is now - I was convinced that LA Law's Harry Hamlin was intelligent, Arnold Scharwenegger was a comedy genius in 'Twins' and Terence Trent D'Arby would have a very long and successful music career.

.....Back to the balmy evening in early November, when 'Kokomo' ruled the charts and Charlene had just left 'Neighbours'. About a dozen of my closest girl friends decided it was a good enough excuse to hit the girlie bar next to ChaChi's Mexican Cantina on Glen Osmond Road. The boobie bar ran a male revue about once a week and we all thought it was high time to support our local performing arts.

I would dearly like to say that I was too drunk to remember any of it, but it wouldn't be true. It is very hard to describe how soul-destroying it was to be served drinks by a waiter wearing only a leather cod-piece. This had a silver zip across the ~er~ 'widest bit' that he unzipped and rummaged through a tad over-enthusiastically to hand out the rather warm one and two dollar coins he used as change. It certainly didn't add to the anticipation considering he looked like an overly-detoxed Mr Bean. However it wasn't his erotica-erasing appearance that made me sober; it was the price of the friggin' drinks - about a week's rent in my case. I nursed one meagre glass of Southern Comfort and coke like it was God's own golden tears.

Then, one interminable song after the other, the 'acts' came out. Fellas, it must be said: Penises are not pretty. In fact, being forced to endure proud displays of corned beef dangled in front of our eyes every ten minutes or so took me back to my first (and only) excursion to the Murray Bridge meatworks. Sheep carcases were hung ready for gutting, and the marauding meat flutes helping me visually 'celebrate' my birthday recalled the cruelly disrespectful methods the factory workers used to rip out the poor animals' gizzards, let them tremble and reverberate in their hands for a while before flinging them on to the metwurst pile.

By the time Dazzling Darryl, had, um 'dazzled' us, my comrades' eyes were firmly on the exit sign as we frantically tried to work out a subtle escape plan - we just didn't need to see any more overly oiled inverted triangles pretend to blow into their silver cowboy guns and 'seductively' whip off their satin riding chaps, let alone be forced to cheer and whistle and give their forlorn-looking nooky fruits a standing ovation. It made me realise that the male fruit basket represented a divine accident - it was as though one of God's assistants had inadvertently dropped a scrap pile of earlobes, kidneys and elbow skin while leaning over Adam with a dustpan brushing away the excess body hair.

Escape looked very tricky. Our path to freedom was blocked by several tables of drunk (therefore richer than us, and infinitely more stupid) girls on hens' nights, accompanied by their even-drunker mothers. These tables lapped it all up as the willy wigglers danced, going as far as rushing the stage and dragging them over to their tables for a lap dance. Our table, on the other increasingly-nauseated hand, steadfastly refused to make eye contact when Lug Nuts or Dazzling or Wazza Walnut or whoever the hell was on stage was deciding which table was going to be treated to a close up view of his ~ahem~ personality. Naturally, this meant that our table was selected. Every single time.

The Mulleted MC would scream into his microphone, "Sooooo ladeez, who is celebrating something tonight?" and I would immediately and savagely hiss at my friends: "If Any Of You Dare Say It's My Birthday I Will Never Ever Speak To You Again And I If I Have To Go To The Ends Of The Earth To Make Sure I Fill Out Lifetime Subscriptions To The 'Plain Truth' To You Forever I Will Do and Don't Think I Won't Set My Phone To Ring Pizza Hut Home Delivery On The Hour Every Hour To Send Orders To Your Houses And While You Are Dealing With Boxes Of Bad Food And Angry Drivers I Will Sneak Inside And Fill Your Toothpaste Tubes With Anusol Until You Are Left Crumbled In A Sobbing Heap, Pleading With Me To Accept Your Heartfelt Apologies For The Evil Act Of Saying 'IT'S MILLYMOO'S BIRTHDAY OVER HERE', I Hope I Have Made My Feelings Clear Enough To You."

Luckily for me, I had. There were enough inebriated brides-to-be clamoring for a poke at Policeman Pete's pectorals or a sly snap of Sizzlin' Steve's sequined snake-sling to keep the fellas busy and well enough away from me. Noelene, a Kahlua-charged mother-of-the-bride had hoisted her sausage-like bulk onto the stage and was attempting to treat us to a striptease of her own devising. This was our sign to leave the bar when all eyes were unwillingly repulsed and fascinated by the events unfolding on the stage.

So as a pathetic attempt at closing this with a moral - there's a lesson here for all of us. By all means go to your nudey rudey entertainments, but don't be surprised if you discover that you'd rather have the soles of your feet stapled to the back of your head instead. Perhaps that's something Glenn Milne, parliament-sniggerer Alexander Downer and Little Johnny himself should consider.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Cringeing, Craptacular Cardigans!

A short while ago, the ever-gorgeous and insightful reader, 'River', expressed curiosity about my professed aversion to cardigans.
There are in fact, two reasons for this pathological distaste: one, the actual clothing item itself which I've always hated; and two, the types of people who have worn them throughout my employment history. I explained this a year or two ago, but for those of you who find my revulsion inexplicable, read on.......

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 brain tells me that you have the ability to complete this sentence yourself.
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 refer this blog 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' contacts and, perhaps most ironic of all, 'customer service portals' that even a naked, chocolate-slicked and willing 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 carcinogenic 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 known, long-term effective solution to rid the universe of 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 in the middle of Rundle Mall during the post-Christmas sales or being forced to have sex with Philip Ruddock. It actually does help to reduce the pain a few notches.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Learner Drivers

We are lucky enough to have a park in our street and Dogadoo and I tend to visit there for a brief walk, sniff and crap (Dogadoo, not me) before having our lunch break. When sitting on my favourite park bench in the winter sun, I've noticed how many learner drivers use either side of the park (it has two suburban streets as its western and eastern boundaries) for their lessons.

As Dogadoo busied herself chewing a champagne cork by the BBQ and my brain was whirring away on an annoying case of writer's block; along came a learner car, with the 'L' plate on top about as large as a neon BP sign. The little corolla did few skip-jump laps around the park and a bit of gear crunching. 'Fair enough,' I thought vaguely. 'You have to learn some time, and 11am in the 'burbs on a weekday is about as safe a time as any.'

Our good fortune in having a gorgeous park and playground in our street is somewhat toned down by having a McDonald's at the end of it, facing the ever-busy Magill Road. I believe we are involved in a wasted physics PhD opportunity in that it clearly takes the average drunken bogan walking home on a Friday night the exact distance from Maccas to our house before they decide they no longer feel hungry but sick. They then automatically drop their unwanted thickshake, half-eaten McCoronary burger and stomp on sachets of dipping sauce for that Pro Hart, "I woz 'ere" effect.

The reason I mention this is that, during the weekdays, Maccas is the lunchroom of choice for many tradesmen, local veterinary staff and skiving students. Several of these were ambling through the park and could be heard making fun of the learner driver.
"Omigod, check it out over there," said Miss Norwood-Morialta. "Like, that chick in the car's like soooo getting it wrong, look at her."
Mr Marryatville agreed, his Adam's apple bobbling as he ate his McCrapple pie. "She can't parallel park for nuts!"
"How embarrassing," suggested Saint Joseph. "I would like totally die with my arse in the air if I was caught doing that."

As much as I wanted to tear strips off them for being so scathing I knew it would be wasted on those who were still too young to sit their L-plate theory test. They'd just regard me as some local loony given to berating irresponsible teenagers in local parks. Sure, they'd be correct, but why waste my breath? Instead, it took me back to 1985, when I dared to thumb my nose at convention and only learn how to drive a full YEAR after bothering to get my L plates.....

My parents owned two cars at the time - a 1973 volvo like this one, and a 1979 Toyota Landcruiser that required a forklift to sit in if you were less than five foot five tall. It also had a bull-bar that Dad had welded himself and presumably installed for our protection in case any angry rhinos or razorback boars crossed our paths in the wild streets of Murray Bridge.

Seeing as my folks were proud of their white whale and regularly discussed how safe it was, it was a given that I'd be taught to drive in it. Now we all know the old jokes about Volvo drivers (my grandpa even featured in a short film about them!) but she never let us down. The engine that could be heard several kilometres away, and I suspect that Mum and Dad appreciated it's volume when they lay in bed and glanced at their clocks to see if I'd got in before my 1am curfew or not. At the time of my driving lessons however, I was only thinking of how nice it would be to sit in the front seat and not in the back - the brown hessian seat covers - and smell - of the back held far too many car sick memories to contemplate with any fondness.

Mum was the first brave soul to help me, although she did look rather nervous. After spending about 20 minutes bunny-hopping our way around the golf course, she allowed to me to drive full pelt (or 50km/hour, which felt pretty bloody fast to me) up the Brinkley Road. Her reason for this was to escape any more painful gear changes; the sniggers of locals on the putting greens and to presumably have less targets for me to run into. Brinkley Road was kind of like an over-priced foccaccia - flat, dry and featureless. Every now and then Mum would feel a surge of security overtake her common sense and urge me to look out of the window at a retarded sheep, or crumbled hayshed, which would see me veer all over the road and Mum sitting there with her eyes closed, mumbling something about "....who art in heaven...."

When the lesson ended, Mum, a strict teetotaller, would rush inside and, failing having anything like vodka available, would tear into our den, where her sewing machine lived. She'd lift the machine off from the base and dive into the four family blocks of chocolate she had stored there. When I ambled inside a few minutes later, I could hear the unmistakable crackle of paper and foil before the 'thock!' sound of several rows being snapped off for consumption.

Dad was a senior high-school teacher and was going to make certain that I had all my driving techniques covered - no freewheelin' at 50 clicks for him. He would instead insist that we drive over the actual bridge at Murray Bridge which was scary enough, as the cast iron girders each side seemed to have a magnetic effect adn I was convinced I'd smash into the side. We would then find ourselves at the bottom of Look Out Hill, a popular spot for, well, looking out over the river and town and also for snogging late at night. For Dad however, it was the perfect place to teach his daughter the complexities of hill starts using the breaks, hand-break and gears.

Never drink and parallel park...... Never parallel park.

He was merciless and made me do it over and over and over again. At one stage I got out of the car, crying in frustration and rage, saying, "I hate you and don't want to learn how to drive - you do it - I'm walking home!"

..... which I did. Mum patted me on the arm and confided, "Your Dad taught me how to drive when we were engaged." She paused for a moment before going on, "Let's just say that the marriage was called off more than once and there were many times when your very existence - and your brothers' may not have eventuated."

Still, as Dad promised, I'd thank him later for it, and so, 22 years later: Thanks, Dad. I did pass my driving test - at first try! I couldn't 'rank' if my life depended on it, but managed to pull a passable attempt at landing the volvo between two thin sticks outside of the Cameo Cinema on examination day. I've since been advised that the term 'ranking' must have been a phrase used only by Murray Bridge-eans, and 'parallel parking' is the accepted term. I'd like to be able to defend my home town's preference, but considering that they thought the dump and tannery would be ideally placed by the river and that rendering fat at the meatworks would go a treat on hot, still summer nights, maybe I won't.

Since then I've needed about five car spots in a row so that I can glide the station wagon in like a jumbo jet or else I'm forced to park in shame about three streets away from where I need to be (which is getting increasingly difficult in *&^%ing Norwood, believe me).

But on that victorious, summer night, with my plastic P stuck proudly in the back and front windows, I drove over to my boyfriend Sean's place and took him out to the drive-in. All was well (as things tend to go with two consenting teenagers at the drive-in when something as utterly con-compelling as 'Short Circuit' and 'Policy Academy II' were on) between us, until I pulled into his parents' driveway - I'd forgotten to put the lights on.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Brotherly Love
I have a lot to thank my brothers for, but would rather give them both a dead leg followed by the typewriter, a few thigh slaps and top it all off with a hen-peck. Add a couple of 'Woo Woo Woos' ala the Three Stooges and you get my drift.

Robert is two years older than me (tallest one on the left, in 1981) and David is two years younger than me (The human Bowl-Cut Boy nearer left), and, as the only girl, a lot of my non-reading and non-Abba-record-dancing time was spent participating in brotherly pursuits.

Franzy got the ball (or more specifically, marble) rolling the other day during his nostalgic piece on playing marbles at school. Rob and Dave also jumped on that particular boy bandwagon and as the sister, I sometimes participated and learned a skill or two. Whilst I was never good enough to win any decent tombolas or cats' eyes from the bros, it did surprise a few of my classmates when I could flick a few of the leaders' marbles out of the ring, scoop them up triumphantly and put them in my own, customised marble bag (a purple paisley draw-string number lovingly created by Mum). During the fanta and coca-cola yo-yo phases though, I was utter crap and could only silently admire Rob's dazzling skills at 'around the world', 'walking the dog' and 'the pendulum'.

Robert always seemed so much bigger, smarter and worldly to me: two years was a huge developmental gap in primary and early high school years and I learned very early on that starting a fight with him was guaranteed to end in tears - and a few of my precious possessions being slung into the huntsman spider-infested cubbyhouse as a triple retaliation. Plus he was the master of the cutting and witty insult and my addled younger brain could never come up with a retort wittier than, "You are!". It was easier for me to retreat to the 'good room' (ie the front living room that was never actually used, let alone lived in) with a 1940s Enid Blyton my Mum had saved from her childhood and stay out of his way.

Sadly, Dave was too young and too dumb to adopt this approach. In his spindly, skinny, sickly little seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, twenty seven, thirty five year old heart, he honestly thought that one day he'd be able to throw Rob a punch that would render him out for the count. Approximately three times a day (triple figures if it was a Saturday or Sunday), he would walk up to Rob and give him a swift kick up the arse or in the shins and stand there, in genuine open-mouthed shock when Rob's body refused to crumple to the floor.

In the manner of a saltwater crocodile lazily inhaling a mosquito, Rob would almost carelessly thump Dave in the thigh and turn back to reading the newspaper or thrashing me at Monopoly. Dave's ear-drum piercing screams would reverberate around the house as he raced off to dob the Evil Giant in to his parents for the punishment of a lifetime. The little pipsqueak would rush into the dining room, his mouth an agonised square of pain and indignation, only to have Mum speaking from her cup of weak tea or Dad not raising his eyes from the bowl of weetbix in front of him, saying in a disinterested monotone: "Buzz off David, you asked for it."

Sometimes I'd feel sorry for the little pest and promise him that I'd be his 'Slave For the Day' from then on.

The poor little sucker fell for it every time. No sooner had I brought him his summoned cup of green cordial, a slice of Balfour's swiss roll and whatever Star Wars figurine was in favour, than he'd push his luck a bit too much. "I order you to give me a piggy back ride to Tom the grocer's and spend all your pocketmoney on Wizz fizz, Fags and Hubba Bubba all for me." The phrase, 'Yeah, whatever' wasn't in vogue then, so I'd just walk outside, hop on my malvern star and head off to Jodi's house. I'd hear his high pitched accusation in the distance: "Hey MillyMoo, come back here! If you don't, you're not getting the twenty cents I promised you!"

Life for Dave wasn't all about bullying and abandonment. He was frequently very seriously ill from asthma and had to be transferred to my room when Robert's patience at the night time attacks grew thin and he'd give Dave a dead leg or two to indicate his displeasure. In my room he could continue suffering for hours because my sleep patterns were far longer and deeper than they are now. When he was feeling well, he was an ideal testing ground for Frida costumes (it was a non-negotiable choice; I was always Agnetha), dance moves, art classes and maybe - just maybe - be persuaded to share some of his hoardings.

Dave used to have more saved twenty cent pieces, airline packets of peanuts and ancient easter eggs than a 1976 Don Dunstan time capsule. Rob and I would either bank or spend our pocket money and eat whatever treats we were given long before their due date, but David kept his stored for years. Those peanuts will still be around somewhere - alongside his perfect Star Wars figurines and his 'Have a Great Day' t-shirt that he wore constantly between 1975 and oh, about 1992. On our big Queensland trip in 1979, he thought we'd reached Nirvana when he clapped eyes on the Big Banana. The only way we could persuade him to leave the place was by describing the various kiosks, gift shops and souvenirs he could look through. That night, on the tiny top bunk of our caravan, he had decided his future: "I'm going to run a kiosk that sells souvenirs that rip off the tourists." Awww, bless his little eight-year-old heart of stone.

Finally, in my early teens, I worked out a way to defeat Robert at Monopoly. By quitting. He hated me saying, "Oh, I can see you've got hotels on Mayfair and Park Lane, as well as the greens and yellows, so I'll quit now - you've won, well done." That was more painful to him than slicing his back with a cheese grater and sprinkling it with salt:
"Noooo MillyMoo, you've still got a chance, look - you've nearly got the whole set of pale blues....Hey, come back - how about I give you $500 and chuck in Fenchurch Station..... PLEASE come back!" The thrill of the drawn out thrashing was denied him as I hunted out Dave who was invariably in the 'poolroom', slumped in the brown velvet beanbag watching the exciting channel ten 'Midday Matinee' featuring Jason and his argonauts or Hercules roughly kissing what looked like a 1960s Italian porn star.

My sporting assistance wasn't quite so valuable, unfortunately. I threw like, well, a girl, could only bowl underarm and refused to play cricket unless a softer tennis ball was used (although during games of 'brandy' that same ball felt like a Mach-3 speed cannon shot to me). Being forced to be the wicket keeper or bottom-of-the-barrel bum-wallah who had to go next door when Rob hit a six and out wasn't particularly inviting, so I'd just stay over there and see what Amanda was up to instead.

It wasn't all a physical fizzle however: I could kick a footy reasonably well, but marked it as though I was catching a netball and refused to tackle. And whilst I may not have been the ultimate tennis opponent for Rob, he was a fabulous form of training for me. His utter competitiveness and willingness to risk a hernia every time he strained for the ball meant that I did the same in return and regularly thrashed my female opponents (and even a couple of teenage boys) during Saturday morning junior tennis. The only thing I chose not to borrow from his on-court prowess was his tendency to stick his tongue out when concentrating. He denies that he ever did this to this very day, but I bet his tongue's out when installing a particularly complicated piece of plumbing equipment!

Over twenty years later and those two hilarious, infuriating, annoying and odd-ball boys are my friends and pretty bloody hilarious, loving, generous and kind ones at that. I love youse, Robert and David!