Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hotter than a Pommy's armpit at the one-day cricket

My ex-home, the city Adelaide is struggling through several days of 45C (113F) summer heat, and we in Melbourne are dealing with a mere week of paltry 43C (109.4F) temperatures in what is currently the hottest week in over one hundred years for both Aussie states.

We're also in a seven-year long drought and are already under severe water restrictions and being urged on TV, radio and in the papers to restrict our water consumption to 135 litres per day, making it now essential to plug up the shower drain and bucket the soapy remains of human filth and shampoo fluff onto what remains of our dead gardens. Yep, life in the big city is getting rather hard and our tiny square of back yard lawn looks like straw matting and is now crunchy to walk on.

As I'm typing this, I see two stressed pigeons (yes, they do exist) drinking out of Milly the pooch's water bowl. That's a pretty brave move for creatures more used to pooping from power poles than dodging dangerous dogs. This set my heat-addled brain to thinking further along these lines whilst my FUIC coffee was chilling in the freezer and while I debated whether chocolate in this weather was worth the sticky-fingered, dropped melted dollops-on-the-crotch effort.* My thoughts veered from my own self-interested snack selections to animals and how much they really suffer in scorching temperatures. We at least, can wear less and laze about inside; they wear a fur coat that is not removable.

Pictured below is our bunny Skipper, taking it easy on our brand new red rug in the middle of winter last year. As you can see, he's rather cute, yet he severely tested the new friendship by proceeding to dig into and eat chunks out of the new rug and peed so frequently on the floorboards that they were stained white in scattered patches all over the house. And it was only when I was sorting through books to donate or keep that I noticed that he'd clearly gotten more than one thrill by scattering the tops of them with his butt-beans as well.

Skipper's salad days indoors soon ended when Love Chunks discovered that it wasn't his bronchitis preventing him from breathing or being able to speak without every second word being punctuated by trumpetingly loud sneezes, it was young Skipper.

LC was highly allergic to our adopted fluffy-puff and so he was banished to his hutch outside forever. In order to evade Sapphire's and my tearful and accusing stares, Love Chunks made a rather nifty little triangular, foldable playpen for bunnyboy to scamper about in so that he had ample opportunities for exercise, grass nibbling and stretching.

Today though finds him distressed and panting way too fast. His hutch is in the shade with a huge golfing umbrella over the top to combat the slanting afternoon rays and I venture out about once every half an hour to give him a few gentle squirts of water from the bottle in order for the evil north winds to blow through and cool him down. This does help him a bit, but it's not too gratifying to see him spy me opening the door, open his tiny little mouth in horror and scuttle into his bedroom to hide himself under the straw and newspaper. He may not have the intelligence to work out that being rudely squirted seems to result in feeling instantly cooler straight afterwards, but I still feel bad about doing it to him, and go to great lengths to explain.

"Look buddy, I know it's annoying for you, but it's helping you stay cool, trust me." God knows what our neighbours** either side of us think. "You're a spunky little fella and I'm just trying to help you stay that way, honest."

When the evening shade covers the lawn, his play triangle comes out again and the grass is sprinkled with the watering can so that he can have a little work-out in relative comfort.

As you can see, unfortunately, he doesn't quite make that connection and isn't overly impressed. Perhaps it doesn't help that Love Chunks isn't allergic to Milly the dog, whom Skipper can see lolling inside the house on her beanbag directly in front of the air-conditioner.

Should I remain being a horrible rabbit owner or sneak him inside and risk killing LC by asphyxiation?

Of course it is.

Two cottages on one side with cats that suggestively strut their stuff along the fence and annoy the poop out of our dog and a three-storey block of flats on the other that feature balconies full of heavy smokers, burnt BBQ cookery events and arguing couples.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Delamere is a darling

I've been reading Delamere's blog for a while now. Reasons for my continued readership are varied but include being impressed that she's managing to raise three kids ranging in ages from 6 to 13, has a rewarding career, a nice husband, a brilliant sense of perspective and an enviable way of looking at life and writing about things orbiting her sphere (not that she's spherical in size, of course) in a manner that is observant but not nasty. Oh and she quite likes that little known authoress Ms Jane Austen.

She found me via chocablog and we became fellow lurkers and then regular commenters. Now that we've moved to and ensconced ourselves in Melbourne, it was time to meet the lady in person. We figured that her daughter C could meet my Sapphire and discuss all matters relating to rabbit ownership, the wonders of both Abba and all Mamma Mia performers (except Pierce Brosnan) and whether the Beanie Kids craze was still relevant in the post-Hannah Montana world.

And bless Dela's (yes, I'm abbreviating even her blog name now) sweet heart; the second I opened the door she stood there offering up a fresh carton of Farmers Union Iced Coffee as a greeting. If it had been accompanied with a Lindt Ball necklace, our meeting would have been pretty well perfect.**

I must have uttered these idle thoughts out loud instead of just keeping it to myself because C shyly smiled and said, "I like chocolate too."

"Oh you do, do you?" was my response before I led her into the kitchen to show her what was in my stash for the week. "Would you like to help me taste some for my next review?"

Would she ever. Delamere then decided it was time to drop me a bombshell. She used to work for Cadbury. Yes, the Cadbury. Home of the Dairy Milk; the original (and most generously-sized) 250g family block; the excellently revamped Old Gold; the solid gold Crunchie; the evil-but-essential Creme Egg.

Plus, she used to bring her 'work' home with her. Regularly. Plentifully. Necessarily. I was so overcome by this unexpected news I slurped down my iced coffee in uncharacteristic silence, trying to digest just how she remained slim, healthy and willing to leave such a place. That is, until she explained how difficult it was to go shopping without bumping into work colleagues and having to disrespectfully shove the Lindt balls, Twix bars and non-Cadbury Schweppes-related general grocery items under the slabs of Rum-n-Raisin, Top Deck, Cottees cordials and jam jars. Yep, that's likely to force any true chocophile to start searching the Work Wanted advertisements - no-one should be made to stick to just the one brand of chocolate in this democratic, 'fair go' brown land of ours. Yes, I do note the appropriateness of living in a 'brown' land.

I was stoked that Delamere 'got' my 'WWJJD' (What Would Joan Jett Do?) t-shirt and noted that yes, she too had Edward DeBono's 'Mind Pack' still in its plastic wrapper on her bookshelf as well. In fact it will now become my 2009 resolution to open it, work through the puzzles and hopefully gain some kind of remedial entry into the until-now completely mystifying world of lateral thinking.

As for Sapphire and C, they hit it off immediately and spent the afternoon avoiding the heat through systematically going through every item located in her bedroom, engaging in copious chatter, intermittent giggles and joyously scraping their front teeth on frozen Sunny Boy Glugs.

Delamere waited for my reaction when she asked if we'd be interested in going to the Harold Holt Memorial Pool for a swim. Only Australia (or perhaps Melbourne itself?) could name a pool after the one and only Prime Minister known for going missing whilst swimming in the sea.....

Unfortunately, we have to stay near home to await news on a viola, collect some ordered school uniforms and hang around for the delivery of our new BBQ. As we're discovering, 'delivery times' are about as elastic as Pamela Anderson's g-strings and 'morning' has been known to mean any time from 7:00am to, say, 9:30pm.

Said BBQ is a stainless steel behemoth, a veritable kitchen-cabinet-on-wheels that Love Chunks assures me will be:
a) worth every penny;
b) able to be easily lifted into our back verandah by one scrawny delivery man;
c) called into action least five nights per week to cook dinner; and
d) used by him every time.

Well that's all right then.

** On second thought, seeing as it was a sweat-slicked 41C today, perhaps the Lindt ball necklace would have ended up as a oily waistcoat and not have been such an attractive prospect after all.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

I'll Kiss You in the Burbs, baby!

It's been a while since I went to StatCounter to check on the words googlers have tapped in that then led to them my little blog. Discovering that Bum Faced Nit led someone (more than once)my blog the last time took a while to recover from. Today's header is from the latest batch of search phrases - except for the 'baby!' bit; that's just my own natural brilliance at work there.

Others have recently included:

Blew my skirt up. This I can actually understand. I once wittered on about my tendency to have the wind blow up me skirt when both hands are holding heavy objects (eg bags of oranges, suitcases etc). The fullsome peasant skirt craze of 2005 meant that it tended to occur fairly frequently, and always - yes always - in a public place. Like the Magill and Portrush Road traffic lights during rush hour. And it's not flattering to see fat old blokes in white delivery vans sniggering, either.

Woman humping lawn figurine.

This is an utter mystery to me and I can't remember what blog article led them here. I've mentioned that the dog likes to rub her back on the lawn, and sure, I've lowered the tone by posting a photo of her butt nuggets lying on the grass, but never have I mentioned humping, let alone to innocent garden ornaments.

In reality it should be the woman responsible for such depraved acts that is jailed, not the victim pictured here. And the perverted googler who wished to see or read about it - what on earth made 'Woman Humping Lawn Figurine' the ideal topic to look for on a quiet Saturday night?

Map of Tassie tattoo. Oh dear. This conjures up all sorts of naughty visual images, doesn't it? 'Map-o-Tassie' has been used by me to describe a lady's fun parts down south, but the idea of choosing to have either a cartoonish drawing of female genitalia or even the much-maligned southern Australian state tattooed anywhere on one's body seems very peculiar.

What's worse - a vagina or the in-bred state that time and taste forgot? And where on the body would such a tattoo be considered a smart idea? Tatts are permanent so having such piccies on a forehead, upper arm or above the butt crack might not lend itself to a career teaching young impressionable children or ruling the legal bench.

Korea consumer protection board shopping trolley 2006. Wah hey, somebody's a wild and crazy lurker, typing up search phrases such as this one! Boy oh boy when they finally were led to the correct site, I bet it made some fascinating reading and wouldn't you like to meet up with this person for a scintillating chat afterwards?

FUIC wedding cake. Now I'm going to assume that FUIC isn't the pommy clothing brand FCUK spelt incorrectly or the other four-letter variation that most people add the word 'Off' to immediately afterwards but is instead the deservedly world famous Farmers Union Iced Coffee.

FUIC is the lifeblood of South Australia, literally pumping through the veins of proud frog-cake, Haigh's and pepper pasty munching people. It is the cold milk coffee-flavoured beverage that has made South Aussies the largest consumers of milk per head of population on the entire planet. As such, it should also ensure that osteoporosis will be virtually unheard of in the driest state in the driest continent on earth. The humble brown nectar has even made its way up to the Northern Territory, thumbing its nose at the watery exrescence known there as 'Pauls', and here in Victoria, where it laughs in the face of the gluggy goo known as 'Big M'.

So, for a happy couple, sealing and celebrating their love match in a formal setting in front of their family and friends, a FUIC wedding cake is a grand idea. Classic, understated, top quality and full of flavour.

Boob shelf. This is a phrase I coined myself and it's rather nice to see that it is taking off. Boob shelves are owned by obese women who possess mammaries so large that they're pretty well sitting horizontally on their chests. Mammaries such as these give their owners the capability to rest cups of tea on top of them and sip without the use of their hands.

These poor women often try to disguise their breasty bulk by wearing large tops that tend to drape (or droop) downwards from the boobs - thus creating a sort of fabric verandah that sticks out way beyond where their hips or thighs should be. Such a top is often inexplicably paired with patterned leggings in an effort to distract others' attentions from their boob shelves but this has rarely been known to meet with success.

Rip out Vanilla Ice's blonde dreds (sic). This sounds like good advice, if rather violent.

Value of the Sale of the Century Stickpin. Having survived being a contestant on that game show back in 1997, I was invariably given a 'Diamond-set gold Sale Of The Century stick-pin from Bruce and Walsh jewellers' as a consolation prize. The diamond was too small for my naked eye to see and the gold wore off before I left the studio. My friend Ian (who won three shows and actually elected to leave and take his big stash of prizes with him) wore his as an earring exactly once before it broke.

So its value = Zero. Contestants were also given the Sale Of The Century boardgame to take home which was a poor man's Trivial Pursuit poorly glitzed up with flimsy hand buzzers and flashing lights. It was about as much fun to play as water skiing is for a kitten. Value = Again Zero.

Last, but certainly not least, we have the oh-so-mature search phrase, Backside Butt Bottom. I guess Dubya's got more time on his hands these days or there are some earnest medical students keen to venture into the specialist areas of proctology.

To be fair, I've used all three words rather liberally in this blog and will continue doing so. And yet, there's little doubt that the typist of those three words is likely to have felt a large measure of disappointment to find that it doesn't lead to an triple-xXx-rated Beautiful Buttered Buns subscription site, but here. Hah!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Inner-city Crime

Yep, it happened. Nine days of residence and our car got broken into last night.

Well, we're assuming it was last night, because the car hasn't been used for a few days, what with the convenience of walking, trams just around the corner and the local train station and such. It was only when Love Chunks went to open the door this afternoon that he discovered that it was already unlocked.....

As my brother Rob, a long-time resident of North Melbourne advised us, "Hey, if you have to park out in the street, just assume that your car will be burgled. More than once. Quite often, in fact." We took him at his word and made sure that our car - certainly not a magnet itself for stealing being a dented, thirteen year old magna station wagon festooned with particularly determined spiderwebs outside and ancient pasty crumbs inside - had nothing of value in it.
At least, not to the thief concerned.

All he or she took was our first aid kit ("DRUGS! They wanted DRUGS!" Love Chunks calmly surmised) and LC's pocket knife ("They're MURDERERS!" I thought, but kept it to myself. After all, Sapphire was in the car). Surprisingly, they hadn't bothered to check the coin thingy by the ignition which would have yielded ten bucks in gold coins, or swiped my now rather large and colourful collection of shopping bags (numbering fifteen in seven different colours at last stocktake) or, thank-the-higher-power-I-think-exists-but-in-what-form-or-capacity-I-have-no-idea, the brand new Melways. And who'd have thought that the tape deck would still be intact, whew!

Sapphire noted our sombre expressions as we drove to Highpoint shopping centre. My opening remark, "Hey Love Chunks, your mate Greg reckons Highpoint should be re-named Knifepoint" perhaps wasn't the cleverest way to start our on-road conversation and we three sat in silence for a while.

Then Sapphire chirped: "Hey, at least they didn't take Wizzy, the guy I made out of my lolly wrapper during the drive from Adelaide." She laughed uproariously; clearly very amused at her capacity to lighten the moment which she in fact did extremely well. We can't really stop car thieves, so why worry?

It was with some degree of smugness that I noted that she'd taken my frequent lectures about us now living in an inner city suburb with haves and have-nots living closely together and anyone with a driveway is automatically classified as a millionare, to heart. Plus, seeing the Verb Cafe owner on Racecourse Road the other day having to shoo away several rather drunk bogans pestering outdoor diners for smokes while we were having lunch was a rather interesting way for Sapph to commence a Q&A session on where Broadmeadows is located and why the proprietor believes that the inebriated smokers should bloody well return there......

As for the car, it does make me wonder whether updating our matronly mitsubishi is worth it right now. Firstly, we always get a park directly in front of our house (thus removing my need to learn how to parallel park) and secondly, we only ever use her for big shopping trips or (future) weekends away. Perhaps we're better off disappointing car thieves and saving up for a decent holiday instead. Love Chunks is seriously contemplating sticking up a placard by the driver's door that says, 'If you think this car is junk, then you know that we don't have anything valuable in it either.'

Hopefully though, this Feng Shui thingy we bought at the Queen Victoria Markets does the trick for our house. The chap there told us it is for Protection and Health, and for seven dollars, I was willing to repress my doubts and give it a burl. He then gave Sapphire a tiny white cat with a tiny jingling bell inside for good luck and happiness. "Put it in your school bag and you'll be fine." He must have picked up on her uncertainty somehow and refused to let me pay for it. At the very least, he's cannily ensured himself some repeat business.

Feng shui has a much fairer chance of ensuring our immunity to thieves than Milly, the not-so-ferocious dog:

Her idea of savagery is to snap at blowflies so that she can get to Skipper the rabbit's droppings before they do. And we wouldn't have her any other way.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Culture Schmulture

The Age online reported today that a ticket vending machine at Rushall train station (Melbourne's Fitzroy north area ) was bombed at around 3:30am this morning. It was apparently detonated remotely, could be heard "up to 200 metres away" (like, wow, that's so big and like, such an inconvenient and totally dangerous time to do such a random and destructive, like, thing) and was on fire when the police arrived.

Connex rail system, in their wisdom, decided not to let any trains stop at that station, thus further enraging commuters who staggered up to work only to find no ticket machine (yay) but also no trains (boo) and only the un-fun option of a shuttle bus system (erk).

The article went on to state that "The attack is the latest in a string of problems for rail operator Connex, which has been under commuter fire for heat and maintenance-related train delays and cancellations. And there was no relief for commuters this morning, with at least eight services cancelled by 8am." I wonder how the explosion can explain the other seven cancellations?

Perhaps the bombers were feeling slightly cross after reading (I'm assuming that they can) in The Age a few days earlier where the Connex boss, British-born and educated Jim Betts, blamed the culture of Melbourne itself as the reason for its craptastic transport service.

He was quoted as saying: "A metronomic public transport system of the kind that operates in Hong Kong or Singapore — where they have a ruthless approach to the management of train stopping times at stations — that kind of culture which lends itself to great transport efficiency, is maybe not going to be appropriate in many cultures, including the Melburnian culture."

He went on to blather on about the uber-organised Swiss folk: "The people who plan public transport services in Zurich are planning in an environment where they have 500 years of democracy, where they have referenda on all key issues, and where there is a Swiss cultural setting which is about the scrupulous micromanagement of every last detail."

Aw bless his sweet little cotton socks. Isn't it nice, after being at the helm of Crap-Connex for ten years, gifted with the official task of bringing a 'ruthless efficiency' like those found in 'Hong Kong, Singapore and Zurich,' that he's concluded that it is instead the fault of the Melburnians themselves. Mighty big salary money well spent for sure, people!

So, this city's gentle meat-pie and Big-M lovin' folk are ultimately putting up with a transport system that has "fewer services (is) slow compared with private cars and ....spends far less per capita on running it. " Because their culture deserves it.

Methinks 'ol Jimbo Bettsy-boy better hope that the bombers don't find out his home address, or the licence plate of his car.......

Thursday, January 22, 2009

That Question

Today was 34C with an unpleasant north wind that angrily rattled every single door in this little house of ours, forcing us inside and out of the dust and heat.

I'd woken up with a migraine at 5am and very v-e-r-y carefully climbed out of bed at 9am, knowing - and fully appreciating - that Sapphire would already be up, have made her breakfast and be busying herself at her desk creating greeting cards, singing to the rabbit or playing her Nintendo. After more pain relievers and a strong cup of coffee, my face slowly unfolded so that I could sort of peer outside through the sliding doors without flinching at the rays of sun shining through the trees.

Today was going to be a stay-at-home day. For financial, physical and meteorological reasons.

Milly sulked in her beanbag, occasionally deigning to throw me some reproachful glances every now and then to remind me that I hadn't taken her out for a walk. I instead walked into our tiny study and sat at the desk, already starting to sweat unbecomingly from the stale heat and unenthusiastically wondered just which pile of paperwork I should work on first when Sapphire entered with tears in her eyes.

She sighed, and asked me a question she's asked me many times before. "Mum, why am I an only child?"

I went into Auto-Mother-Mode and responded with, "Because with my brain tumour you were a miracle baby that even the specialists thought would never occur and I didn't think I could have another one or be healthy enough to look after two or more children without any medical problems that ------"

She looked impatient as I prattled on. "-----and I'd always wanted a girl, so when you arrived and you were so beautiful and good and perfect, I didn't want to chance having one that I wouldn't love as much as you." None of which is a lie.

Today, the standard responses weren't working. Sapphire has two more weeks of holidays to kill with just boring old me for company. No new friends yet, because school is likely to be the supply for such creatures. "Mum, if I had a brother or a sister, I'd have something to do right now, instead of feeling so bored."

Bored. That's the word that instantly turns me into my own mother. I hate that word. Almost as much as I hate sentences that start with 'I hate'. So of course I said the classic line: "Go and FIND yourself something to do."

She was about to huff away but turned at the last second and said plaintively, "But I'm lonely, Mum."

Lonely. That's the word that really gets me. My decision to have just the one child has affected her; she'll become a socially-inept failure in her relationships; I'm a dreadfully selfish person; I'm already ruining her life; she's emotionally stunted; every other kid in her class will have dozens of siblings; she'll have to choose my nursing home on her own because no doubt all statistical actuarials will prove correct and I'll outlive Love Chunks and then she'll be solely responsible for all the funeral arrangements.... !!

Shaking off these thoughts, I did my usual trick of regaling her with tales of my brothers - one younger by two years and one older by two years. I was usually itching to get some alone time without being hassled to wicket-keep ("Come on, we'll only bowl with tennis balls if you'll play"), get whipped at Monopoly ("Don't quit yet, just mortgage everything"), farted on when sitting in the king-sized beanbag ("Yeah, come and chase me, ya weakling!") or see them inhale the entire weeks' groceries in one after-school session.
"And Sapphire don't get me started on the smell of their bedroom or the boogies Dave used to wipe on the wall...!"

She looked horrified, interested and, most importantly, relieved. I turned towards the paperwork. "Look love, it's too hot to go outside, so why don't you find something to read, or practice your guitar?

And then the other dreaded question came out; the one that even parents of more-than-one child dread hearing. "I'm bored with that. Will you play with me?"

I am so categorically crap at playing. I can make silly comments, I can dance, I can sing dumbs song with her and Milly's names in them, but I can not sit for more than two minutes and pretend I am interested in tea sets, miniature rabbits, pretend karaoke or dress ups without wanting to have my scalp removed with a blunt pair of secateurs.

However, the reminiscences about my brothers reminded me of the horror game of Monopoly. Before I could fully remember the hell of being thrashed bit by bit by Robert; throwing hotels at David and arguing until it was time to give and receive dead-legs with both of them, out came, "How about a game of Monopoly?"

And you know what? We laughed, sang, bartered, haggled, chatted and whiled away several hours very happily. Yes, I thrashed her. Hey, it's a game, with rules and ones she accepts gladly. But we did have fun together.

Then we chanced going for a walk to post a letter, get some milk, check out the 'hood and give Milly some exercise. Around the corner, the police had cordoned off the street due to powerlines being blown down in the hot and blustery conditions. "Yep, youse can go through and post your letter, it's just that the Fireys don't want cars driving on the live wires."

We discovered that the other milk bar closest to us is run by three Indian brothers who sell the 'G'day India' newspaper as their sole reading material, condensed milk as their single dairy product and don't have a scerrick of chocolate in their shop, telling me, "Oh no Mrs, we have Cadbury in India just like you Aussies."

We let Milly greet the groundsmen in the school yard as Sapphire scootered on the asphalt, chatted to an old gent at the tram stop nearby and rubbed the dust out of our eyes. The city could barely be seen in the distance due to the haze and every single wheelie bin in our street had been blown over.

We noticed, amongst the usual Phark Yoos, Darnae Luvs Donger and 'Flem Boys for Life' graffiti in our local poo alley, was this one:

Sapphire laughed and said, "It's cute. Not scary at all. A bit like you, really."

It was a good day after all.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Pie and a carton of Big M not good enough, then?

One of the best things about returning to Melbourne for my third stint* is The Age newspaper. Lots to read, think about, learn from and admire and about five hundred percent better than Adelaide's Traumatiser tabloid.

A semi-regular feature that will appear in this blog is any small(ish) article that appeals to me. No particular rhyme or reason, just whatever tickles my fancy. And no, there'll be no photographs of said fancy.

Numero Uno appeared on Saturday 17th January and 'tickled' my fancy indeed was:

Firstly, good on 'em. If criminal activity is limited to some dodgy seafood and plonk, then things aren't too bad, surely?

However, the judgmental tone of the snobby 'industry source' decreed that there was no way a normal thief would be able to shuck oysters. And why not? Don't bogan burglars possess knives or at times been given work on the docks or in processing plants? If they can crack a car's club lock, then surely a shellfish isn't going to present much of a puzzle?

Whether they be outlaw chefs or under-qualified heathens, at least the little shuckers didn't vandalise the place, steal any cash or defecate in the cool room.

* I first moved to Melbourne with Love Chunks in 1994, living in a tiny sixties', second-storey flat in Flemington and finding work at the execremental Wormald Security, often referred to by myself as 'WormWorld.' We left there a year later to head up to Darwin so that LC could flex his meteorology muscles and I could start my sensible working life as a 'graduate trainee' in government.

** We returned to Melbourne (via a week off in Bali paid via our 'remote allowance') from Darwin in 1996, buying an ex-housing commission-1950s house in Heidelberg Heights. Sapphire arrived in 1999 and the grim reality of my local Mothers' Group - where the first question asked of the nurse was 'How many beers can I drink when I'm breastfeeding' - as well as regularly Capsicum-Sprayed neighbours, the local retail strip having more drug dealers than open shops and economic inability to buy a house in a better area meant that we returned to Adelaide in 2000.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

I'm baaaaack

Well, we’re finally here. In Melbourne. Flemington, to be precise.

The journey involved a very long and boring day of driving along the highway in a battered old magna with Love Chunks, nine year old Sapphire, Milly the dog and Skipper the rabbit. Too many games of 'Who Am I?' and 'Guess the Car Model', scattered pasty and sausage roll crumbs on the seats and sly farts emitted and only discovered by other occupants several minutes later ("Geez Milly, we need to get you off tinned Pal") were only eased by loo and playground stops, petrol refills and realising that yes, the Big Koala at Dadswell's Bridge really does look like a huge pile of marsupial doo doos.

Squeezed under our feet and between the arm rests were our suitcases, beloved boxes of wine, two bamboo plants, pet paraphernalia, two laptops, assorted electronica and some tupperware containers full of slightly-perishable snacks such as cashews, Oreos, breadsticks and homemade melting moments. And blocks of Lindt, Nestle, Cadbury and Cote d'Or: essentials, you understand.

The Ibis put us up for three nights as we excitedly awaited settlement, receiving the keys from the land agent and the 'set down' of our furniture. It was in fact the smallest living occupant - Skipper - who took up residence first, being deposited in his hutch by the back door three days before we were official owners of the place.

On moving-in day we battled 39C heat, buzzing blowflies and the cheerful banter of blokes who'd endlessly ask, "So, where do you want this box?" whilst knowing that the only place for most of the stuff labelled 'Shed' was outside. Any thoughts I had of being ruthless and a devilish declutterer in Adelaide were long gone as I got even more heave-happy and hard-hearted in Victoria.

A blow up Crows doll? Out!
Five old pairs of running shoes that were designated for weeding? Flung!
Seven suitcases of which three are only ever used? To the kerb!
An icecream machine, battery-operated spice grinder, fruit-juicer and plastic BBQ crockery set for sixteen people - BE GONE.

Oh, OK, so Love Chunks brought the appliances back in, but I won the argument about 'losing' my ill-fated efforts at painting sub-realistic sealions and Aboriginal art and we're still debating whether the blue canoe will make an attractive garden feature or feature in a Trading Post 'for sale' advertisement.

With most of the main gear (ie beds, food and basic bathroom supplies) unpacked, Sapphire and I explored our surroundings whilst Love Chunks started work. We live in the triangular-shaped area of Flemington with two main roads carrying the trams, taxis and scooters and the third ending up at the oval connected to the enormous housing commission buildings that cast dark shadows over the entrance to City Link. As such, the ambient background noise is the ding-ding of public transport, the burrp-burrrp-burping zooms of motorbikes, low-flying helicopters and the smell of cigarette smoke wafting over from the flats next door. Quite a departure from the lawn-mowers, leaf-blowers and blow-in bogan hoons doing burn-outs in Trinity Gardens and only eighty-five year old neighbour Jack sneaking one solitary smoke during his morning walk around the block.

Here is our local deli, or 'shop' in the next street. It needs a paint job and inside it's about as big as our bathroom with the fridge only stocking three 600ml cartons of Big M iced coffee*, half a dozen coke zeros and some butter from the Golden era of Gough Whitlam. Still, it also sells The Age and a decent range of chocolate bars, so life could be worse.

Our local strip, Racecourse Road, is a small-but-busy hub of Vietnamese, North African, Italian, Greek, Lebanese, Japanese, Malaysian, Chinese, Irish and Aussie cuisines interspersed with the unavoidable KFC, Maccas, Subway and St Vincent dePauls. We lunched at a noodle bar and saw a chap park his black Porsche and sit at the table next to us, alongside a gaggle of African-speaking taxi drivers on their break. Afterwards, we took Milly to Debney Park where she delighted in sniffing out several dead birds, too many smashed beer bottles and take-away cartons - a pooch's paradise but one where Sapphire pursed her lips and commented on the amount of graffiti and litter. "Why do they do it, Mum?"

Why indeed.

As for Milly, she delights in any opportunities to go for a walk, but when she comes back 'home' she is puzzled beyond her usual furry-faced limits of comprehension. Her family is here, her bed is here, our belongings are here, but what is this place? What are the noises, sounds, smells, odours and sights? Should she issue a few tough "Ooofs" to let the neighbours know that there's a killer Jorgi behind the fence, or relax and sun herself on the tile-sized patch of lawn? Whatever the answer to her questions, she is always keeping a beady eye on the comings and goings of her human housemates, never daring to let one venture further than three metres out of her sight or smell.

Love Chunks has kept his swearing to a minimum as he's been figuring out how to cram in a double garage's worth of stuff into a potting shed, how to put up pictures on weatherboard-veneer walls and, most importantly, how to get the telly back on. He's put in a champion effort at lifting and shifting everything from double wardrobes, weights benches and dryers and also managed to get his beloved Gaggia coffee machine up and running on the first day.

I've learned that having a driveway or access to an old Poo Cart Lane is a sign of wealth and privilege; hunky young firemen do their fitness training at Sapphire's new school on weekends ("Hey Sweetie, shouldn't we go for a walk around your new school so that you get familiar with it?") and there's chocolate-makers and devoted cafes out here I'm only just becoming aware of. Oh, and that I feel happy and just a teensy bit excited, like, you know when it's your birthday and even though you're on the bus and no-one there would know or care about it and you haven't told anyone, you feel sort of special..... Yeah, kind of like that.

* Stay tuned for a future anti-Big M rant......

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Barmy Army

Yay, my book is now available in the UK - woo hoo!

It'd be nice if I currently possessed the mental capacity to express my delight in slightly better English but my brain is currently firing about as fast as a cockroach in cold porridge.

There's been a few too many items on my 'To Do List' (which I've enjoyed ticking off as they're completed, being the Conscious Dag that I am) such as selling the trailer, drinking excessively at farewell dinners, finding a temporary home for the dog and the rabbit, dropping off donations to a garage sale fund-raiser, keeping some other items to haggle and eventually sell to a local furniture dealer and sneaking around the neighbours' wheelie bins to slyly insert our own excessive amounts of rubbish and recycling.

Dagginess has been multiplied by one hundred as we wear undies that will be thrown into the bin rather than the laundry hamper, tracksuits barely held together with ancient elastic, stinkingly sweaty Crocs, dodgy old 1990s concert t-shirts and towels that even the dog sniffs at in interest.

I'll log on again when we arrive in dear old Melbourne. Yep, there will still be blurbing from the burbs, just a slight change in state (geographical and perhaps emotional), post code and house size. So give us a friendly wave if you see an old station wagon swimming in sausage roll crumbs and iced coffee cartons and two tired adults, a blonde-haired angelic child (who will hopefully not throw up on the back seat or splatter it towards the front console), a smiley orange dog and a nervous white rabbit.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

River Rocks

River has been a regular and most welcome blog commenter and I've had the privilege of meeting her in person a few times. She is warm, gorgeous, kind and the kind of mother and grandmother we'd all be thrilled to have in our lives.

I saw her the other morning power walking to the supermarket as I was running down Magill Road, trying to convince myself that street running - with car fumes, the occasional rude 'call out' from fat mini-van drivers and dangerously trippy tree roots - was better than my treadmill.

"RIVER! Hey, River!" We had a chat, me wiping sweat from my brow onto the bottom of my t-shirt and she asking me about how Sapphire was coping with the move. "I'd like to send her an email, just for her," she said.

And she did just that, except now I want to share it with you all. You truly rock, River!

Dear Sapphire, you're moving soon.

Moving is hard, saying goodbye to home, school, friends, more so when you've been there for so long.

You watch all your things being packed away into boxes, the furniture gets loaded into a huge truck, you wonder if you'll ever see your stuff again. You will.

You'll have tearful hugs with your friends, and promise to remember them forever. You will. Do you have photos of your friends? Have each friend write a message on the back of their picture, something that you won't read until you are in your new home.

You'll walk around inside your empty house and hear the echoing footsteps you make. Take a little time to remember the happiest moments you spent in each room. Take photos if you can, of the boxes piled up ready for the truck, of the empty rooms and how the sunlight looks different now that there is no furniture. Stand a while in your most favourite spot and say goodbye, crying a little is okay too. It's a big moment.

The new house at first will be strange, walk through the empty rooms if you can, and notice that all empty houses don't sound alike. Find out the quickest way to get to the toilet, very important.

Find your new room and stand there, just feeling it. Picture where you'd like your bed to be. Which wall will hold your favourite posters. Look out of the window and wonder if there are any kids of your age in the near neighbourhood.

The fun starts when the truck arrives, (maybe it's there before you, waiting) you watch furniture being unloaded, you spot things that are yours and know that your treasures have arrived safely. Do you rush to open the boxes? Do you wait until your bed is in place? Waiting to unpack is always hard for me, I don't know about you. (One of my daughters always wanted everything back the way it was as soon as possible. The books in the shelf and on the lefthand side of the bed. The toy box under the window so that she could sit on it to look outside on rainy days.)

At first it may be hard to decide where things will go, the room may be shaped differently, you might wander outside to think a bit, cry a bit, wish you were back home again. But the new house will soon feel like home, every time you come and go, from shopping, school, playground, it will be easier to think of this new house as home. Tables and couches will get settled into their new positions, all of your books and toys, your guitar and beanie babies will be there to welcome you home just like they always have.

Having breakfast with mum and dad will be the same, Weetbix tastes the same in Melbourne as it does in Adelaide. You're sure to find friends quickly, one of the best ways is to find the nearest McDonalds and go there for lunch in the first day or two when you are all fed up with unpacking stuff.

By the time school starts again you'll have friends who are going to the same school and who were there the year before so they can show you around. Then you'll bring friends home, bring them to your kitchen for snacks, sit on your bed and giggle about stuff that happened that day, you'll be making wonderful new memories here, and you'll realise that you're just as happy as you were here in Adelaide.

You'll smile at your mum, she'll smile back, and you'll realise that as long as you three are together any house you live in will be home. Think of the fun you'll have telling your new friends all about your old friends, think about phoning or emailing grandpa and telling him how funny skipper was hopping all over the new house, how funny Milly was trying to sniff everything at once in her excitement.

A move is not such a bad thing after all. And Melbourne is a nice place to be. I've lived there twice.

From River.

Thanks mate.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

2009 - Year of the Conscious Dag

You know, even though I tend to lean towards self-deprecation and can see the zits, wrinkles and baggage under the eyes that remind me clearly enough that I'm now stepping gingerly (and hopefully wisely) into my fifth decade, a tiny part of me still hopes that I'm not classified as 'daggy'.

By 'daggy' I mean in the unconscious sense. Unconscious dagginess can result in people in the street (or your own household) seeing you and sniggering behind their hands at your peculiar dress sense, tastes in enterainment, childish food fetishes or unfashionable footwear. The type of unaware dagginess that produces snorts of derision from folk who'd rather laugh at your innate uncoolness than tell you about it.

That said, I don't consider anyone (including myself) to be daggy if they are fully aware and proud that what they do, eat, enjoy or participate in is unmistakeably daggy but they love it anyway. Being conscious of your dagginess instead confers a small shade of 'cool' on you, because being passionate about something - no matter how fuddy duddyish it may seem - is always cool.

So, I'll be brave and admit that the things that make me a Conscious Dag include:

Chatting to strangers on public transport. Yes, I'm the weirdo that everyone hopes won't sit next to them.
Abba (got all their albums). Even the shocker solo ones by Anna and Frida.
Wearing Crocs. Yes, the bright turquoise ones. Sometimes out beyond my own house.

Still buying, eating enjoying that plastic wrapped cheese that is more plastic and preservatives than lactose and cows' milk. Especially tasty with saladas and Vegemite.
High waisted undies. Only so that my stomach doesn't roll over and give my profile an extra boob-shelf or nose.

Continuing to use handkerchiefs. Dunno why really, except that they at least prevent the 'tissue snow' debris from appearing when doing a dark load of washing. Plus I have a very loud, honking noseblow that I've inherited from my parents. Come Christmas time when we're all in the same house together we resemble a herd of lost and distressed elephants.

Eating Wagon Wheels, handfuls of marshmallows (pink ones), tinned spaghetti on toast and spoonfuls of Milo straight from the tin.

Watching Ferris Buellers Day Off, Sixteen Candles, Planes Trains and Automobiles, The Sure Thing, This is Spinal Tap and The Breakfast Club two decades later. Still wanting Jeannie's reebok ankle boots, Molly's boyfriend, every soundtrack, John Cusack and still crack up at seeing Ruprecht in 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels'.

Making lists and actually using a red pen to 'tick off' the items completed.

Adding the dog's name to any song that springs to mind and serenading her with it several times a day. Recent classics have had Milly's name inserted in Copacobana (Her name was Millsy, she was a showgirl); Mamma Mia (Milly Mooster! Here I go again, Mi-lly, how can I resist ya?); Strangers in the Night (Milly Molly Moo, Milly-mol-moo-yooo); White Wedding (Hey little Millstone what have you done?).

Eating an orange every single day for breakfast.

Sweeping every single bark chip (kicked out by busy blackbirds) back into the flowerbeds; placing the pile of magazines on the coffee table at right angles that directly relate to the orientation of the rug underneath and the lounge nearby; wiping the toothpaste spots off the mirror the same day they were made; and de-fluffing polarfleece. Hanging my washing so that the underwear is furthest away from the view of our living room and in order of family member for folding and putting away-later purposes. OCD, moi?

Ensuring that I have at least two tins of peeled tomatoes immediately in waiting behind the tin about to be used (same goes for tubes of toothpaste, iced coffee cartons, sweetcorn and bags of fresh carrots). I blame it on my ancient Scottish ancestors who were clearly seige survivors.

Laughing at poo, bum and wee jokes. Reducing intelligent dinner party conversation to poo, bum and wee jokes.

Kissing Skipper the rabbit on the lips.
Oh I could go on and on and on....and might do, at least once a month!

What are your consciously-daggy pleasures?