Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The demonic Doctor Checks

Walking into my local medical centre isn't a welcoming experience. Several coffee cups have been squashed on the steep front steps with their sticky contents dribbling down the grey tiles and making a nauseating soup when mixed with cigarette ash and butts. The graffiti scratched onto the glass doors doesn't enhance the atmosphere either.

Inside the over-heated waiting room, I'm given the luxury of time to observe my fellow patients and to consider just how the very worst of cheaply slapped-together 1990s architecture has stood the test of time. Answer: it doesn't. The once-white ceiling tiles are blooming with latte-brown water stains, the huge green formica reception desk is so gouged that the chipboard underneath has become a crazy-paving feature and the once-proud 'Chemist next door' enamel sign has been covered with a torn piece of paper with handwriting informing me that the 'Neerest chemist is 300m walk further up the road.'

A three year old boy and his mother sit beside me. Well, she does: he's busy doing lap after lap around the low coffee tables, saying "When can I see Dr Checks? When can I see Dr Checks?" over and over.

Dr Checks? Dr Cheques? Is his mother running some kind of blackmailing scheme...? I put my boring novel down and am rude enough to raise one eyebrow at her quizzically. To her credit, she doesn't say, "It's none of your pharkin' business," but laughs and says, "Hugo likes ---" she looks around, sees her target and points "-----that doctor over there, the one in the houndstooth jacket."

I see a stooped old man in glasses slowly shuffle behind the reception desk to reach for his next file. He most certainly would have been around to see the celebrations at end of World War One.

Hugo rushed over to tug at his mother's skirt. "See Mum, Dr Checks is here! Dr Checks! Dr Checks!"

Hugo is shushed by Mum, and I go back to my book. Both of us still have to wait our turn and she tries to ease her son into the idea that it might be Doctor Blue Shirt he sees instead of Checks. "His grandfather has the same jacket," Mum whispers to me and says brightly and in a louder voice to Hugo, "But blue is your favourite colour, isn't it sweetie?"

"Ye-e-e-e-e-sss...." Hugo's voice had now moved up an octave to a high pitched whine that was starting to rattle the windows. "But I wanna see Dr Checks!"

It was time to plough back into the dull book on my knee and let the mother of Hugo try to cajole him with a trip to the water fountain, the tatty community brochure stand, the toilets and shooshing him again when he saw the enormous nose ring in a punky-emo hybrid guy who'd just sat on the other side of him: "Why is he wearing a bangle in his nose?"
"Um, it's a nose ring, Hugo. Some people wear them as jewellery, like you sometimes like to wear my bracelets and necklaces."
Nice response, I thought, but not Hugo. "Yuk, it'll get boogies on it."
Fair point too.

Dr Checks came back out into the foyer.
"Yay!" yelled Hugo, "It's my turn, Mummy!"

Dr Checks smiled - or was he merely airing his dentures - and said, "Mrs Lockett?" I grabbed my bag and left the room to Hugo's anguished sobbing.

Three months ago, at the urging of Love Chunks, I underwent a cholesterol test.
"We'll call you if something's serious, so no news is good news," said the doctor filling up the test tube with my red stuff at the time.

No phone call was received, so I was in the clear: my cholesterol test was obviously OK and I could continue to inhale chocolate, cheese, chips, meat, pastries, pies, eggs and donuts with greedy abandon. Especially chocolate.

Today however, found me there to get my tumour checked up on - keep an eye on those pesky prolactin levels and have a wee whinge about the unwanted and increasing visits from Mr Migraine. He was becoming the medical equivalent of a stalker.

"You look very fit," Dr Checks said.
"Oh, I am", I sat up straighter, beaming with pride and huge spadeful of vanity. "I run at least three times a week, power walk twice and am a good girl and eat lots of fruit and veges and-----"
"But," Dr C looked down into the folder. "Your cholesterol level is much too high."
"Wha-a-a-a-t?" My smugness disappeared up the anus from whence it came. "But I was told by the other doctor that no news is good news!"

He affected that pose that's so infuriating because you just know you're in for a lecture and you know it's probably deserved but you just don't want to hear it: he lowered his glasses and looked down his nose at me. Pompous git - and look a him sitting there with his old man moobs sweating in crescent marks on his too tight business shirt, about to lecture me, an educated, intelligent, responsible adult about diet and exercise, the nerve..!

"Your cholesterol level is 6.5 and it should not be anything higher than 5.5. The doctor here has made a note saying, 'Discuss this with the patient when she arrives to collect her test results'."
He pushed his glasses further up the bridge of his nose to deliver the final pompous, know-it-all, you-can't-handle-the-truth barb: "That was THREE months ago. Surely you must have wondered what your results were?"

As intended, it was now my turn to play the part of the sheepish, admittedly ashamed and naughty patient and the role fitted perfectly. "Well, um, I just assumed that if it was really bad, one of you would call..."

Dr C held up a tired, I've-heard-it-all-before-young-lady hand. "You're not about to be carted into an ambulance, but you need to do something about it now. Seriously."

And the next fifteen minutes involved talk of cutting out full fat milk, cream, butter, cheese, red fatty meats, chicken skin, animal fats, coconut milk, palm oil from my diet entirely. Yep, okay, fine, nod nod nod, can do all of that. Sure, absolutely.

And no cakes, eggs, bacon, biscuits, donuts, pastries, pies, tarts or quiches. Ye-e-s, okay, it'll be a struggle but yes, my health is important.

Of course I knew what was coming next.

I knew it, he knew it and you know it, don't you?

"How much chocolate do you eat a week, Mrs Lockett?"
"Oh call me Kath, you already know so much about me, inside and out, heh heh, although I don't want to have a pap smear today. Did you know that I'm a chocolate reviewer and writer and manage to look only slightly chubby instead of Jabba the Hutt-like due to my dedication to exercise and the proper intake of vitamins and min--"

"How much chocolate do you eat a week----" he paused, to let his authority and moral detachment sink in more fully "-----Kath?"

Like a mathematically challenged eight year old, I went through an average week, listing each block, truffle and bar and counting them on my fingers. "Well, I had lunch at San Churro - so it was a meal really, not an additional snack, but then there was the two Nestle blocks which were a gift from Helen and M&Ms have released an orange flavour that is only currentlyavailable in the 200 gram bags and it's greedy I know, but it took me three blocks before the willpower to photograph it emerged in order to write the review for the daggy but delicious Cadbury Tiramisu dessert block and just this morning I finally got a hold of the new Lindt Classic flavours and...."

I just can't write the figure here. It hurts too much. Let's just say that if Dr Checks had any hair left, his eyebrows had risen high enough to have hidden amongst his fringe.

"You have to cut that by at least ninety percent or you'll be in serious trouble."

He might as well have yanked my heart out with barbed wire gloves and plonked it into a tupperware container and slung it in the staff fridge to rot amongst the ancient sweet chilli sauce sachets and yoghurt tubs.

A few minutes later, I slowly walked home. The morning sunshine was too bright and harsh, and my backpack was heavy. Love Chunks opened the door and the moment he saw my face, said, "Oh my god Kath, what's wrong, has your tumour grown back again?"
My eyes were blurred with tears. "But I love what I do...."

I hadn't dared show Dr Checks what I'd purchased from the supermarket before my appointment with him; just a few treats to see me through a week in central Australia on a 4WD camping trip that was not likely to fully cater for my specific needs:

Still, if I get to eat ten percent of it....?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sleepover at Sam’s

Samantha Phillips was my best friend all through Primary School. From the second I clapped eyes on long white hair and wowser-yowser glasses-that-magically-changed-to-sun-glasses in the heady days of ‘reception’ in 1974, I fell into deep and abiding LIKE.

As the years progressed, Sam’s glasses turned into the cooler, silver-edged ones and her sensible uniform gave way to cork-soled sandals, three-tiered skirts and oodles of crushed velvet. Needless to say, for a kid whose mother made her wear the voluntary school uniform at least 95% of the time, Samantha was also my sartorial hero.

Where we did disagree was regarding who was going to be Agnetha during our ABBA lip synch events. I was the bossier one and tended to win, but Sam had the dead straight blonde hair and would have been a more obvious choice: Oh well, in our version Frida had clearly overdone the bleach and tinted contact lenses….

My fondest memories are of the sleepovers I had at her place. Whilst my family home was a monument to all that was fashionable when my parents got married (ie 1964 complete with black vinyl and green fabric lounge, lunar module legs on everything, a crystal cabinet and florally lurid axminster carpets), Samantha’s parents were fully committed to everything that was fashionable and fun about the 1970s.

Their white, rectangular house looked unassuming from the outside, but as soon as you stepped into the cork-tiled hallway and got a glimpse of the pool room with ‘Abba in the Moog’ on the turntable and a beaten copper wall plaque, you knew you were in for a visual treat.

The kitchen was bright red and blue formica and glossy paint accessorised by a yellow semi-circle light that swung precariously over our heads as we worked the electric popcorn machine on the bench. The lounge was mostly brown, with a modular that was so soft and velvety that your butt cheeks eventually sank to the floor so that you were staring at the Rank Arena at a lower angle than even the cord bean bags alongside.

Going to the toilet there was always a bit of a drama for a shy petal like me because the loo was open and only divided by a bamboo screen that was a merely decorative nod to privacy and certainly not an effective one. With the ferns alongside it, I half expected to see Molly Meldrum in there conducting an interview with Jean Paul Young and the Countdown crew.

Samantha’s room wasn’t particularly restful; not that such an issue was important to two girls aiming to chat and giggle all night long. Plus, we could look through the window at the Murray Bridge Look Out next door and see cars pull up and young couples in there smooching. It was as entertaining and as enlightening as leafing through her mother's stash of Cleo magazines.

Sam's curtains were huge diagonal stripes of dark purple and sunburst yellow – a theme that also extended to her furniture, floor coverings and bed. My envy of the colour scheme was only eclipsed by the fact that Sam had her own record player and we played ‘Take a Chance on me’ ceaselessly.

Or at least it must have seemed so to her brother Corey, whose adjoining bedroom was done with similar furnishings but in a retina-burning tomato red and riotous tree frog green scheme. I’m sure he saw the reverse colours against the back of his eyes when he finally closed them at night.

Corey was only a year younger than Samantha and even though I loved her dearly, she wasn’t the best when it came to a good sibling scrum. In fact, she was pathetically weak. So, when I came over to stay, he pounced on me, itching for a good wrestle from a tomboyish girl who had two brothers and therefore knew how to punch, give (or receive) a dead-leg, hen-peck or a stinging flick of the earlobe.

We were pretty evenly matched, but being unofficially scheduled as Corey’s physical entertainment used to wear very thin when I had double that amount available to me in my own home and was in fact looking forward to staying in another home for the weekend that had other, less strenuous and far less violent things to offer.

Things such as hearing and being part of what her parents did for a living. My Dad was a high school teacher and Mum was doing her matriculation via night classes and home duties during the day, but Samantha’s Dad was running a Music Bus and her mother was setting up a take-away shop in the main street called ‘The Hungry Bunyip.’ It was the first establishment in our riverside town to sell cappuccinos and I’d sometimes return home on a Sunday afternoon wondering just why I felt like bouncing on the back of Dad’s trailer sending the harvested dead corn cobs he'd stacked ready to take to the dump catapulting up and into the nearby incinerator on only an hour’s sleep and a stomach full of buttered and icing-sugar encrusted popcorn….

The Music Bus was a funky idea, but perhaps not a practical one. The thought of several children undertaking music lessons on a moving bus at the same time might have been a tad cacophonic rather than euphoric. I never found out personally because that was the year I decided that learning the piano was not for me.

Back to Corey. He leapt at me from behind just as I was placing ‘Abba the Album’ reverently on Samantha’s little record player. Sam had dressed their maltese terrier, Danny, in an old black leotard so that he resembled a fluffy liquorice allsort and we were about to take some photos of him ‘dancing’ on their Polaroid.

Corey’s impact sent the needle scratching over the entire music unit, Danny was cruelly squashed under the speaker and Sam nearly dropped her Dad’s new camera. I saw red and blindly reached for whatever weapon was handy.

Unfortunately for Corey it was a stray coat hanger. I hadn’t even turned around to sight my target (Corey’s shoulder, leg or arse would have been fine), but lashed out in fury. Judging from the ‘dangle, stretch and snap’ feel of the wire in my hands, I’d obviously succeeded in snagging something fairly soft and precious residing below his belly button that saw him scream in a pitch that out-howled their 12 breeding beagles outside, and slowly back out from the room, bent double in agony. I didn't see him again for the rest of the weekend.

Whatever: Sam and I had to work out just how the dog was going to dance to a song that now never moved beyond Bjorn and Benny's background bleats of
"Take a chance, take a chance, take a ch-ch-ch-chance….”

Friday, June 26, 2009

Mystery Five is solved, now for Number Six

Those pink dots, dear reader, were sprayed only at selected houses, not every single house in my suburb.

That's because we pink dotters are special. And really, really good, because we didn't have any of these in our gardens:

The Queensland Fruit fly: about as unwanted as a Queenslander human in these parts. Presumably one of these little insects (and a few thousand eggs) decided to stow away in an illegal orange hidden in the depths of a cabin bag so that they could visit the colder place with the much better coffee, culture and Aussie Rools footy 24/7.

Apart from the rural fruit growing regions, it was our weeny suburb that also attracted a fair bit of attention from the Department of Primary Industries, who issued a media release.

Soon after we arrived and my attention was finally diverted from how to cram a households' worth of moving boxes into a fortnightly recycling bin roughly the size of *one* of the 2469 boxes I had to get rid of, I saw four utes pull up and a pack of green and silver suited DPI crew climb out, with backpacks and spray nozzles. They kind of reminded me of the Ghostbusters guys except that half of them were women and there were no special effects or dodgy synthesiser music accompanying them.

One came over to say 'G'day' and give Milly a pat. She explained that the pink dots, which had been sprayed a couple of weeks earlier, showed them which houses they didn't need to spray at because fruit fly hadn't been found there. "You'll find a tiny trap hanging in your tree though."

She was right - they came through to double check the trap which was essentially a clear plastic jar with a sticky bait in it to attract any stray fruit fly. It hadn't been disturbed, so they took it away and said, "See, that's why you've got the pink dots: we don't have to bother you again."

See, told you I was special.

I rang my 'Mystery Number Six' subject, who breathed a sigh of relief so loudly down the phone it ruffled my hair. "Well thank god for that," she said, now prepared to reveal herself as 'Mary'. "I'm seeing a few mates tonight so I'll set them all straight."
"So, Mary, your mystery has been solved. Will you meet with me to explain this sign in your window?"

There was a long pause. "Okay. But on neutral territory. You, Me and ~~there was an inaudible mutter~~ at Pepper. 10am. Don't be late."

"I won't be - I'll be the one wearing pink dots."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mysteries Five and Six

As regular blurb lurkers know, my Jorgi dog Milly and I scour our neighbourhood for things that puzzle, amuse and bemuse us. This is even more convenient if they're on the way to the post office, corner shop or school and sighted during a Flemington Association letterbox drop.

For Milly our investigative process normally means using her wet nose to sniff and hopefully work out which dog left their liquid mark on a nearby tree trunk or tyre and for me it means using my much-larger protuberance and a business card with a message scrawled across it to produce the answer to our present problem.

However, this is an unusual one, because our next chosen subject firstly wanted - no, insisted and very firmly I might add - that we solve another mystery before they would cooperate with our request to reveal their secret in full. To be fair, she sounded worried and anxious.
"Kath, before I meet with you, I need you to do something for me."

"Excluding storage of anything illicit up my colon, just name it," I replied.

"W-e-l-l, a few of us in my street are really worried because these .....

.......... have popped up everywhere."

"Ah, yes," I said, smugly. "I do know what they are for, actually. And maybe you were thinking that you were being marked for a future robbery, a future rape-n-pillage party hosted by overly-medicated fairies or ~shudder~ a televised visit from David Koch?"

"Yes, something like that," she said, voice quivering over the phone. "Can you help me?"
Maybe. If I feel like it. If you bend to my (increasingly nosey) will.

Can you, dear readers?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Nightmare on Bourke Street

It's a wintry afternoon and I'm thirsting for beer and yearning for a handful of greasy, hot dim sims.

The longing is powerful enough to send me out of the house, onto the dodgy Number 57 tram alongside a man sniffing paint from a plastic bag until I step out again into the flotsam and jetsam of Bourke Street Mall.

I don't recall seeing too many pubs around here: a few cafes that are probably licensed, but tucked away into discreet alleys and not on the mainstream shopping strip itself. As for dim sims, they'd be more than likely sitting in some bain maries in noisy food courts, skins hardening and drying the longer they're in the salmonella-graded, not-quite-hot-enough heat of a stainless steel tray atop an ancient element.

I keep walking and idly wonder if I should just buy a bottle from a wine store and roll it in my hands so that it becomes warm. Yeah, I want it to be room temperature, Old English Inn style, with the yeasty smell mingling with the post-binge vomity bile that soaks into the carpets by the pub's fireplace, forming a lasting reminder of what makes beer the unforgettable drink it truly is.

I want the dim sim to be inhospitably chewy on the outside but moist and pink on the inside, tasting uncomfortably raw with a lingering after taste of fatty pork, sweaty chicken meat and a few slivers of unidentifiable bone fragments. A flaccid little snack with dubious nutritional value and an unnaturally yellow skin. Yeah, that's what I need....

I see this Dream Boat sleeping and nudge him awake. "Hey fella," I ask, "Where can a girl like me find a good warm beer and some dodgy dimmies?"

The rude git flicks me the bird and settles back into his phlegmatic snoring, leaving me to keep searching the mall on my own. My stomach is grumbling in complaint - it needs its fix and needs
it now.

Maybe I should just get back on the Number 57 tram and ask some of the fairly malodorous occupants where they'd go to find----- wait a minute ----- what's Love Chunks doing here?

He's seated on a toilet right in the middle of the mall, situated rather precariously between the two tram tracks; trousers and jocks bunched around his ankles and flanks exposed to the elements. He doesn't see me as he's too busy grimacing and concentrating on what he's - ahem - producing and is also oblivious to the shoppers crossing the tracks around him.

Then I spot my daughter. "Sapphire! Sapphire! Sweetie, can you help me with Dad, because he's-----"

She looks up vaguely because her attention is on the banana she's avidly unpeeling and eating. Our adored dog Milly is beside her, cleaning her own teeth with colgate mild mint, her tail wagging happily. What the hell-----

It is then I sit up in bed and note the evilly acidic bile angrily flippity-flopping in my stomach. This is what warm beer and dim sims must feel like.

Groping for the side table as a lever, I slip out of bed and brokenly feel my way towards the dark bathroom, cursing as the bubble packing refuses to budge and then pops wildly, pinging all the pellets of Panadeine to the edge of the bath tub. I scrabble around the floor and eventually find a couple that, whilst covered in a bit of stray towel fluff and pubic hair, get shoved rapidly and gratefully into my dry mouth.

It all makes sense now: Mr Migraine has arrived again, and is focused on using his new hand-powered screw driver to burrow a clearway between my left eye socket and right temple.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Forty going on Four or Eighty Four?

I can drive, drink, vote, read and breed and am occasionally able to cook something using more than one pot but there are still so many more things I do that are really, really immature.

Such as:
  • Eating a banana and half a 250 gram packet of marshmallows for lunch. Starting with the whites first and leaving the pinks (my favourite) until lucky last.
  • Flexing in front of the mirror after my shower. Did you know that bikini supermodels pose like Egyptians? If you don't believe me, try shoving your shoulders forward and twisting your waist and butt around to the side. Then push out your hip bones and throw your arms back behind you like a troubled ape (or Paris Hilton) and voila, you've lost ten kilos and should be auditioning for the 'after' picture in fat busting advertisements.
  • Laughing till I cried at seeing the search phrase "Ashleigh's Peanut Butter Farts" and wondering if I should send it on to him.
  • Substituting four-syllable words to replace the 'Mu-nu-mu-nah' that Animals sings in that classically catchy Muppet song. Recent winners have included the Kath & Kim's bat-wing arm fat descriptor 'Foo-doo-bah-dahs' and pornography (but only after explaining what it meant to a horrified Sapphire), simplicity, undoubtedly, unbearable, exaggerate and, most appropriately, 'inanity'.
  • Still writing my name or 'Kath loves LC' inside a lop-sided love heart in the steam on the bathroom mirror.
  • Knowing that my chances of winning the lottery is about a billion to one, yet feeling absurdly disappointed when the slimy piece of paper is handed back with 'Not a Winner' on it. Refusing to touch that slip, saying 'Oh you can put it in the bin,' as though it'll damage my fortune in other aspects of my life.
  • Painting Milly the dog's toe nails (paw claws?) shimmery purple.
  • Popping a Lindt Ball into each cheek and letting them dissolve slowly as I read in-depth, thought-provoking articles in The Age. And doing it again for the next article. And the next insert.

And yet there are other times when I'm swear I'm looking towards eighty four instead of four. These are all true:

  • Avidly reading the freebie community newspaper from cover-to-cover and then joining the local ratepayers association. And attending the council's community consultation session. Willingly.
  • Consider googling where I can find a spiked litter pole thingy to ease the agony of continual bending over to pick up rubbish in my street, the local school, the poo lane alley adjoining the corner shop and the dodgy old flats next door.
  • Looking forward to eating soup as the weather gets colder.
  • Laughing at the re-emergence of eighties fashions being touted as 'Defying the recession with bright colours and bold optimism'.
  • Noticing that the flesh on my neck doesn't turn in time with my head, but instead wobbles and stretches like a hesitant raw pizza base.
  • Wondering why antimacassars aren't in vogue anymore.
  • Discovering that I have a permanent pink tattoeed belt around my middle - even first thing in the morning - from years of wearing high-waisted elasticated underpants and jeans.
  • Following and actively participating in discussions concerning politics. And realising that I'm actually a bit interested.
  • Acknowledging that my most frequent thought and deed is determining where and when I can sit down.
  • Doing a passable impersonation of a duck's mating call just by farting when I cough.
  • Spending a longer time on the toilet and appreciating the solitude.
  • Appreciating the fact that there's not one pair of heels in my wardrobe and 10% or less of my clothes need be be touched by an iron.

So yes, I insert the dog's name into ABBA songs and serenade her during the day ("Milly-mooster tell me what's wrong..."), have tried to photograph Skipper's tiny disapproving bunny lips from a weird angle and licked the chocolate cake mix bowl with Sapphire but have also noticed that my face has the imprint of the pillow left on it until long after lunch time and my legs are the physical representation of the blue and red streets of the Melways directory.

But most importantly I am that age - whatever mental, emotional or psychological number is assigned by the relevant experts - where coolness and a posh car don't matter. Just clean clothes and my loved ones. Oh and finding chocolate on special.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tha Goodest Spellinkt bloggee Thingo

Helen from Bonding with Lizards nominated me for an 'Awe-Summ award' and Sandi K nominated me for a Kreativ (sic) Blogger award. No hefty cash prizes or bars of gold accompanied the honours unfortunately and really it's just a sneaky way of forcing me to write a meme but it also makes me smile with pride.

Both allow me to to blow my own trumpet in that I have to mention seven things that I'm awesome at - spelling not included.

When I sit here and think about it I realise that it's much harder than I thought. Sure I'm not the biggest loser in the land, but I aint a champion either and there's loads of things that I can claim to do competently (ie fold up the washing, make sure that bottle tops don't get flung into the recyling bin and never buy milk that's less than two days away from the 'best before date') but to be awesome is another level entirely.

The Collins Concise dictionary defines awesome as 'inspiring or displaying awe.' Okaaaay, so we'll look a bit further up the column to awe: 'overwhelming wonder, respect or dread.' Hmm, let's leave the seven dread bits until the very end, shall we?
So let's get the ball rolling on this anal gazing malarkey.

1) Hedonistic Hypocrisy. Picture my morning today, dear reader. The dog and I have just spent a couple of hours roaming the neighbourhood inserting flyers into letterboxes regarding the aims and exploits of our venerable local residents association. The cold winter sun is out and we both feel energised, happy and..... I'll be honest, a bit pleased with ourselves. I see what can only be kindly described as Michelen Man's girlfriend in a pale pink velvet tracksuit shoe-horning herself into her car and think, "She should be walking like us." I then see a Medibank Private employee sucking down on a cigarette so intently her eyes bulge and think, "She should be inhaling the fresh air, like us." Annoyingly justifiable, no?

Less than half an hour later, I'm at San Churro enjoying this as my lunch:

The only savoury thing there is the salt sprinkled on top of the peanut butter truffle and yet I still managed to look disdainfully at two spotty teenagers sharing just a plate of the churros (the phallic-shaped donut sticks) and think, "Oh that's not going to help their skin," before hoeing right into this like a blind basset hound lapping up porridge.

And then, what did I do? Popped into Rebel Sport to get myself a new pair of running shoes.

The other six things I'm good - nay, awesome at are:

2) Working by myself to a deadline. Having a mere four metre commute to work from the kitchen in one direction and the bedroom in the other means that public transport or car crashes can't be blamed for delays and non-performance. Instead my only way of procrastinating actually benefits the family: the house becomes very tidy. No dog fur clinging to the felt squares under the chair legs, no toothpaste splats on the mirror and Milly's butt nuggets are (mostly) removed from anywhere that human feet are likely to tread.

.....which sort of leads me to Awesome skill number 3) Wielding a Chux Superwipe. It's become second nature to have a damp cloth within an arm's length. In fact, Sapphire's first recognisable form of imitation as a nine month old was to cling to the edge of our ancient coffee table, whip off her bib and use it to wipe over the surface. Sure, the magazines went flying and my tea got spilled but she was learning about the importance of having a surface that is less like velcro and more like a top you'd be willing to rest your elbows on.

Now I'm struggling and lucky for me, Sapphire's just walked in. So sweetie-darling-sweetie, what's your old ma awesome at?

"Look Mum I'm really busting to go to the toilet and I only came in here to ask if I could have a muesli bar because I'm absolutely starving and the sausage sizzle before the school's junior string concert tonight isn't until 5:30 and I can't wait that long, so----" She left the room, but not before calling out, "So I'll have a think while I'm on the loo, OK?"

Er, fine. Thanks.

Bless her little heart because she did bounce back several minutes later, still reeking of the loo spray that she squirts liberally around the room so that the next occupant enters a blinding lavender fog, and came up with these ones:

4) "You run really fast." I'm OK, but I'm not that good. Sure the distance isn't shabby (eight kilometres) but at five minutes each I'm not troubling any Olympian - or para-Olympian for that matter. "No but I've seen you and it looks fast and you never give up."

I've been running now for nearly nine years and hope that I can continue for many more to come. I'm proud of getting out there even when I don't feel like it, it's too cold; my shins ache; my shoes rub; my toe nails get bashed, turn black and fall off and my bra cuts into my rib cage and makes me bleed. This has happened more than once but the last time I was wearing a black one so it didn't have the same, um, 'pictorial piquancy' shall we say.

5) "You're actually quite good at singing." WHAT? NO-ONE has ever said that to me before and I sing only when I'm happy and think that I'm alone or safely out of earshot. "I hear you sometimes just singing away to yourself in the kitchen when you think I've got my earphones on or are too far away in my room and you sound quite good." She sees me puff up with pride as I begin to deeply inhale and prepare to burst into ----and says hastily, "But not all the time." Shuddering, she repeats it, "Oh no, not all the time, no." Ah.

6) "You're able to turn boring, everyday things into something I want to hear about and read about." Oh dear, but there's a fair bit in my blog that I don't want you to read or hear or know about just yet. The farting themes alone are a bit too 'out there' for you and.... "No but when you said how you ran up to the stage to get the actor to stop kissing your Mum in the play I laughed a lot. You do swear a bit though and didn't Grandpa tell you - and you tell me all the time now too - that using rude words just means you don't have any imagination to think of anything more clever to say?" Er, yes. So now I'm not sure if this quality now qualifies me as 'awesome' or just rude and lazy.

7) "You're very Motherly."
This one warranted a fair bit of further discussion, revamping and clarification about all the times I've embarassed her by talking to the high school kids on the way to her school in the morning and picking up papers on our way back home and her criticism of my sartorial selections and rushing over to pat any dog that walks within a 200 metre radius of us but this next line she said absolutely word for word: "You do all the things that good mums have to do, but you're like my best friend because you do also things that you want to do for me and we have a lot of fun."

Oh bugger it; I didn't think this Awesome shindig was supposed to leave me in tears....!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Litter Ninja

I have become something that all reasonable sane and aspiring-to-be-cool teenagers everywhere dread and despise - no, not a social studies teacher, a public litter collecter. Or is it picker-upperer? Socially-aware Scavenger? Trash Tracker?

.....Loser? Well, I prefer the term 'Litter Ninja'. Whatever the title, my mother is proud that her genes actually have started to make themselves known in my own mix of cells and synapses as she's been a regular power-walking litter-picking mini-skip at the picnic reserve near her house for many years.

Mum's habit finally awoke in me after too long trying to resolutely ignore the rubbish everywhere I went, saying 'I didn't do it, so I'm not taking care of it,' and pretending that the pathway leading into the kiddie's playground was lined with barkchips instead of cigarette butts and the twinkles in the hedges were fairy lights and not the ring-top pulls from beer cans.

Every single home we've owned - even after moving cities four different times - have always found us within walking distance of a McDonalds. Under-utilised Physics undergrads could be invited to determine the factors that influence the distance from a take-away establishment and the time taken to eat the food whilst walking drunkenly home and dumping the bag, wrappers and soft drink bucket-with-lid directly in front of our gate.

In Adelaide we only had the local Maccas to deal with but being sandwiched here in Melbourne with Red Rooster and Pizza Hut on Mt Alexander Road and Subway, KFC and the Golden Arches on Racecourse Road, our little street resembles the inner-city equivalent of a waving field of Edelweiss if cruelly replaced by half-squished sauce packets, straws and paper napkins. Throw in at least two kidnapped trolleys from Safeway, abandoned sofa cushions wet by rain and beer cans dumped by late night punters walking back to the drying out centre and you'll get some idea of the lovely urban ambience we've been enjoying in our little corner of the world.

It was high time to take a stand, be a member of my community and take some pride in my surroundings. Unlike my mother, my de-littering occurs under the cover of darkness (oh OK close to tea time because it's dark by 6pm) or on the weekends when the school yard is deserted.

Sometimes Sapphire - who at ten is beyond her teens in terms of insight but is still mostly willing to hang around with her mum - will accompany me, but usually it's just Milly the dog; in mad passionate love with anyone holding her lead and saying 'Wanna go for a walk?'

Cold Sunday afternoons/evenings just before tea sees Sapph zooming around the bitumen triangle on her scooter or trying her hardest to throw an adult-sized basketball through the adult-sized basket at our local high school. Milly gleefully trots around sniffing the bushes, finding ancient sandwiches wedged into the gaps of the plank seats or rolling in the sticky patches left from crushed Red Bull cans lingering only two metres away from empty rubbish bins.

Another father arrives with his young sons and he throws a basketball to them and involves Sapphire in their game. The 'dong-dong-dong' sound of duelling basketballs reassures me that she's happy and I can continue my embarassing quest for cleanliness.

I'm a pitiable sight - bent over like an old crone with a plastic shopping bag in one hand and an old pair of BBQ tongs in the other with my snot green eyes focussed solely on the ground, quadrangle, indigenous garden and canteen queue-space for anything like chewie wrappers, fruit boxes, clear plastic straw covers, egg sandwiches, styrofoam coffee cups, coke bottles, chip bags and meusli bars half-eaten and rejected for Mars Bars.....

....and sneakily-squashed cigarette butts, broken lighters, socks, ripped-up assignments, Chinese take-away containers, alfoil balls, clingwrap strands, shoelaces, condom wrappers* and mandarin peels.

An hour later, my work is done. During that time, a group of bored teens walk past, with one who looks like a chubby Zac Efron calling out, "Hey you missed a can over there," as the others snigger; Milly takes offence at the friendly overtures made by a Spaniel puppy ("Sorry about that, she loves people but considers her fellow species as slobbering evil incarnate"); get hit in the back of the scone by one of Sapphire's stray basketball shots and, for some reason, a bloke in a commodore yells out, "GET A JOB" as he's idling at the Mt Alexander Road traffic lights.

As I clip Milly's lead back on and signal to Sapph that it's time to leave, the father smiles and says, "It's a nice thing you're doing."

My back cracks as I stand up and accept the compliment gratefully. "Thanks. Well, it's our neighbourhood and it's going to be the high school that our kids will end up at isn't it?"

"Oh no," he shoots back instantly, pursing his lips in distaste. "No way." He turns his back towards his children and their game again, instantly dismissing me. I guess they'll have paid ground staff to do this kind of dirty work at the college he'll be sending his kids to.

* I suspect that even in these groovy times, most teens use condoms to inflate like obscene party balloons at school than the slightly-more-fun and adult purpose they were originally intended for.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Fanning the flames

It would be safe to say that for most successful relationships and marriages, your beloved partner gets to see you at your absolute worst, yet still stays around and puts up with it. Right?

Is it any wonder then that Hollywood marriages only last the standard time that intrigue and passion does - about twelve months. Is it then that these overly-cossetted celebrities realise that the daily indignities of morning breath, smelly shoes and farting is not at all acceptable within their unrealistically sanitised concept of long-lasting love?

Even a mathematical numbnut like me could figure out that the average length of a stars' marriage is miniscule compared to ours in the real world. My own relationship is going on for sixteen years, thirteen of 'em married. Whilst Love Chunks and I are proud of this achievement, we also accept that there is very little of the intrigue and romance of our first twelve months together. But would we have it any other way?

My foggy brain thinks back to my dating days: when we thought River Phoenix was a drug-free vegan, Seinfeld was new and those crazy Branch Davidians were a bit over-zealous with their pop guns. The pre-date preparation always involved a shower, cleanly shaven legs, nice perfume, a hint of make-up and a new outfit.

And today? LC leaves for work by 7am and sees me in my once-white towelling robe, ugg boots, matted hair, dragon breath and a face not yet unfolded from the shape of the pillow. He's still willing to kiss me goodbye and is even kind enough to say "See you tonight."

Alas for him, in the first fourteen years of our together, my effort was mostly shovelled into enhancing the work persona long after he had departed for work - styled hair, subtle mascara and lipstick, snappy suit and the latest boots. When I got home, that gear was immediately thrown aside and replaced with tracksuit pants, the ubiquitous ugg boots and a shapeless windcheater that was able to hide the bralessness. Now that I'm a work-from-homer who drives a desk in the spare room, this is get up is my work uniform all the time and is what the lucky LC comes home to every night.

Bedtime in the heady first days? Too x-rated, fun and exuberant to mention with no concerns for the lateness of the hour, comparing our states of exhaustion or having to keep an ear out for the baby.

Today it seems as though I'm doing everything I possibly can to appear as unattractive and as 'nocturnally unavailable' as possible, but not intentionally so. After cleaning and flossing the teeth, locking all doors and switching off the lights, I drag my now aching body into the Marital Magic room. LC's already in bed, reading. I hang up the dressing gown, kick off the uggs and slather lavender cream over my cracked hands (soaking stained school uniforms in napisan will do that to you) whilst my wheat bag is being nuked in the microwave. This hot bag now smells like an over-used horse trough and is draped around my neck which seems to be permanently cricked.

I give my snozz one last full-throttled HONK into a tissue and spray two squirts of Rhinocort up each nostril. I then pop in a valerian tablet to help me sleep and slip on my mouthguard. This infernal contraption makes me lisp, so dear old LC is treated to a slurpy "Goodnight Ssshweetie, Sssshleep well," as he turns out the light.

To be fair, there is a bit of surreptitious fumbling in the darkness: I can't find my bedsocks and it's freezing in here!

But wait - there's more. Even in our unconscious states, we 'treat' each other to aspects of our physical selves that don't exactly leave us smelling of roses. Dutch ovens, for a start. I can't help it - if that's what my digestive plumbing needs to do, then so be it.

Love Chunks gets his own back via his snoring; so sonorous our blinds rattle. Many's the time I've lain there in sheer wonder at the incredible noises his throat makes and him such a quiet person during the day....

If our marriage was a movie, we'd wake up attractively entwined in each other's arms - his manly torso on display, my chest discreetly hidden under the sheets. We'd gaze adoringly into each other's eyes, kiss passionately and get right down to business. Yeah right: how could you contemplate doing any of that before going to the toilet or rinsing out your mouth for gods' sake? What about those cornflakey boogers that have formed around your eyes? The dried white drool marks on your chin?

At least the morning shower gives me a chance to clean up, wake up and tidy up. Not that any of this is a mystery to LC. In our one-bathroom house, he's busy cleaning his teeth and scraping away his whiskers whilst I'm surreptitiously trying to blow my nose in the shower and shave my armpits.

Then our darling daughter bursts in, has a giggle at my soapy backside and pokes me with the ornamental back scrubber: "Hey Mum, remember you said I could order my lunch from the canteen today!"

In the movie High Fidelity, the Rob character (played by the gorgeous John Cusack) bemoans that his live-in girlfriend only wears sensible underwear and not the sexy, lacy stuff he'd see when they were just dating. LC laughed at that scene, commenting, "I should be so lucky." On fat days or full-laundry basket days, the old maternity knickers get dragged out - purely to flatten the tummy, mind. The dag in me likes to put on my socks before my trousers, so LC's had many conversations with me only clad in nanna pants and those knee-high tights that make the tops of my legs look like a mini mushroom cloud. Yet still he says, "See you tonight."

He's been kind and helpful to me too, at times when I've been less than my best. "Pssst - you've got one of those dangly boogies in your nose," as I gratefully fumble around for the cafe's napkin to wipe it away. Or, less quietly, in a fluorescent-lit chemist, "Hey, here's the thrush cream you want!" He's emptied my sick buckets during migraines and tactfully told me that "Um, there's a couple of friends that you haven't flushed properly."

What mystery? We have NO mystery in our marriage, and it goes both ways. I've politely pointed out that his nose hairs were long enough to hang beads on; have plucked out some scary Robert Menzies-like long eyebrow hairs (you do not want to have eyebrows that will join up with your fringe); and nearly fallen to the ground in airless agony after visiting the loo too soon after he's been. Yet I too, say, "Yes, I'll see you tonight. Have a great day at work!"

He's the first person I clap eyes on in the morning, and he's the last person I touch, kiss, talk to and see at night. I wouldn't want it any other way. Although he could lose those pongy old slippers of his......

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cake-hole Chaos

We've all had 'Dyslexia Days' where whatever we type comes out lal worgn and causes a tol of imstsakes or had embarrassing bouts of 'Erroneous Eyes' when you'll see one person but be thinking of someone else and greet them with, "Hi Tracey - sorry, I meant Neil, honestly I did, but y'see I was just talking to Tracey on the phone and ..."

......Haven't we?

But have you ever had a Mangled Mouth Day?

No? You're probably shaking your head and wondering, 'Kath's a bit odd at the best of times, but this time I have absolutely no idea what she's on about and am going straight to Cute Overload to clear my mind right now.' If so, let me tell you about my morning so far.

I think my lips have gone on strike. No, before my husband Love Chunks interjects and says, "YOU - SILENT? That'll be the day," a bit more explanation is required. By going on strike I mean my actual lips seem to have forgotten how to drink things properly.

Several times this morning whilst expecting - as per every other morning of my lengthy adult life - to absent-mindedly slurp my coffee and remain dry, the exact opposite has happened. Like a root-canal victim still under the influence of dentist chair anaesthesia, the hot brown liquid splashed all over my top like a shower head. And not just once.

Later on, I decided to treat myself to a glorious chunk of almond nougat. It goes down a treat for morning tea when my sugar levels are merely at Diabetes Level 2 Lose-a-Limb stage and not at the Optimum Working Conditions for Kath Lockett range. Chewing away happily, I sang along to the iPod - "I am Milk, I am red hot kitchen; I am cool, Cool as the deep blue ocean" until twinkle time. As I washed my hands, I did my (sadly) usually jokey muscle flex at the mirror, only to discover with horror that partially-masticated almonds and white nougar had inserted their ugly selves into every single gap in my teeth.

Oh Jeez, no wonder the parcel guy was leaning so far away from me as I signed his receipt pad and Stuart next door now thinks that not only am I a terrible singer but also enjoy rinsing my my dentures in oatmeal.

No matter, a quick do-over with the floss and I was sparkly white and socially acceptable again. Now, where was the rest of that nougat.....

Did I tell you that it was rolled in a generous sedimentary layer of Bolivian cocoa? And that when I popped out to the shop to get some milk and had what I thought was an engaging chat to Narelle I got home to discover that the dust had settled on my upper lip, making me look like an Albino Mexican bandit in dire need of electrolysis? ~*Sigh*~

Clearly it was time to stay inside and away from innocent civilians. Besides, I'd discovered an ulcer in my cheek, and whilst tapping away on the laptop I had another touchy-feely festival going on inside my head as my tongue continually flicked at and worried the ulcer. Why oh why couldn't I just leave it alone?

Actually, I did, because it was then I noticed that my tongue had one of those annoying little pimples on the end. I then wasted a fair bit more time, effort and imagination by trying to bite the little bugger off by wedging it between my top and bottom front teeth. This was not successful and just succeeded it making it swell up and hurt a bit more. Now it's impossssssible to ssssssay anything with the letter Ssssss in it without ssssssound like SSsssssir Hisssss from Robin Hood. And it hurts too.

Then the blister on the roof of my mouth started to sting and throb and reminded me of the dangers of inhaling hot coffee straight from the kettle instead of being patient and waiting for it to cool, as I neglected to do so earlier in the day. The crinkly, wet skin that remained protested painfully as my pestering pimple tongue started to explore it.

And thus, here you find me, suffering from a Mangled Mouth day. Stuff It: I'm off to create total mayhem by cleaning my teeth with ultra strong mint and then glug down a glass of unsweetened orange juice..... Living on the edge baby, the Edge!