Friday, July 30, 2010

The Dalai Lama thinks that I can just drop everything every time he decides to call....

......He's annoying like that and it can play absolute havoc with my work day.

My freelance writing gigs - the ones that are paid - are gradually changing into pieces that feature real people and I'm slowly discovering that interviews are a hell of a lot more interesting and rewarding than, say, deciding on my own topic and researching it under my own steam.

Take this week, for instance. On my list of people to nab included a Funeral Director, a Police Sergeant and a Home Economics teacher. A fairly unique trio you'd fairly assume and no, not to be included in the same article.

And yet, getting hold of them all require pretty similar approaches:

1. Find their relevant department or association

2. Phone and ask to speak to their Media Person/Unit/Communications Officer/Publications Director

3. Listen to Fogey FM as the receptionist puts me on hold

4. Chat to Media Person/Unit/Communications Officer/Publications Director and introduce myself. Explain who I am, where I'm from and what I'm looking for. Reassure them that they'll have the opportunity to read through and suggest amendments so that their organisation - and the individuals concerned - will be represented appropriately.

5. Await their phone call back.

6. When speaking to them again, repress a very tiny sigh at their predictability and agree to email them with the previous conversations details in writing. And the questions I want to ask. And my credentials, editor's contact details and copies of previously published articles.

7. Sit again by the phone and email for them to contact me with a suggested victim to interview.

During this waiting time, I'll hang out a load of washing, do a few tasting and photo sessions for GoneChocco, put Skipper into his playpen on the lawn, pat Milly, peruse i-Tunes, unpack the dishwasher, sort out the recycling, prepare a pot of soup to slowly bubble-n-boil and download chocolate photos in Picasa.

8. Receive a call back, with the name, email and mobile of a person who's willing to talk to me.

9 and 10. Same for the other two. Perfect! It's lunchtime and I've got all three lined up.

11 - 13. Leave messages at three offices, on three mobiles and write three emails.

14. Have a brief chat with Mel the Home Economics teacher during her lesson break and schedule a time for the interview after dinner that evening. She sounds nice and is reassured that I'm not doing a scorching expose on the evils of teens in the kitchen but a feature on why more of 'em need to learn how to cook something other than two minute noodles and eat foods that contain at least one acceptable nutrient.

15. Funeral Director Julie rings my mobile which is thankfully on my desk and not out in the glovebox of the car or behind the laundry hamper. As such, I answer it and we agree that she'll call me back at 1pm for a chat.

16. Desk phone rings and Mick the Sergeant checks out the cut of my jib, decides I'm acceptable and says he'll call me at 2pm after he's had time to finish the paperwork on the morning's drug bust and has a bit more of a think about the questions I've emailed.

It's now midday and I'm feeling satisfied. I stroll out to the kitchen to fire up Mrs Krups for the second coffee of the day. Idly glancing out to the garden I notice that Skipper's not in his playpen. Frack!

Turns out that when I dragged the pen to a newer, fresher section of grass, the back door had loosened and the little bugger decided to nudge it open and frolic under the section of our house on stumps - ie the study; perhaps only a foot under my desk.

Lying on the wet cement by the wheelie bins is my best vantage point. I see his white body in the dim distance, busily digging. At the shake of his pellet container he freezes for a moment before continuing. I fancy that if he was able to give me a cheeky grin and the finger, he would have.

An hour later and he's dashed out to snatch a pellet from the tupperware bowl and avoid my ineffectual grabs three times. My knees are aching from kneeling on the cement, my arse is up in the air like an inflatable bike rack and my neck is cricked from peering under the house, ostrich-like, pretending to still be unconcerned and happy as I coo, "Skipper.... Skipper sweetie.... Mummy has pellets....," in a musical voice when all I really want to do is scream at him Jimmy Barnes-style, hoik him out via a shepherd's crook and fashion a furry white collar for my polar fleece jacket.

17. About three metres away - and two feet higher up, I hear my mobile ring. Dammit, that'd be Julie. She's had the okay from her company to talk to me...... I try shaking the pellets again, but Skipper shoots out from under the house on the other side far out of my reach and is now beside the garden shed behind the water tank. I briefly debate leaving him there to get back to Julie and decide against it: too many gaps in the fence and the roar of the traffic a street away is too risky.

We spend another hour playing a slimy-shuffle dance and my rage and frustration now is so great that whilst he's still hearing my "Skipper Sweetie" tone, I'm sweating at the sheer effort of emotional repression and the physical challenge of having my face wedged up against a wet wooden fence and the drips from the tank plopping onto my left shoulder. I've learned the hard way that wedging myself behind the tank means that he only runs around the other side back underneath the study for another digging session. If he was capable, he'd be making the 'bthbble bthbble bthbble' tongue-insult that the road runner does.

18. In the distance, behind the glass doors and inside a warm house, I hear the landline ring. That'd be Mick, the detective. My shoulders slump, which isn't a good thing because the freezing tank water now trickles down my back. I bow my head and tiredly grip the pellets, utterly defeated by a one-and-a-half-kilogram mini lop.

I must have dozed off at some stage because I blink and look down and there's Skipper sitting at my knees, peacefully. Now 'over it', he doesn't run as I scoop him up and actually scrabbles to rearrange himself so that his face nuzzles at my neck his paws rest on my collarbone.

Damn little beastie: I kiss him several times and all my anger and tiredness disappears as I say, "You're a naughty little fella" over and over before placing him gently into his straw and newspapers.

19. I go to the toilet, remove the cobwebs that hang from my hoop earrings and return two calls. To both of them, the same line is used. "Look, I want to say that it was because the Dalai Lama called but really it was because I was outside in the cold waiting for a damn rabbit...."

20. Both laugh at my honesty and do the interview then and there. I finish the second call in time to find Milly's lead and go and pick up Sapphire from school. "Have you been gardening today, Mum? You're FILTHY."

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wednesday Word Verification Week Seven

I have my favourite blogs that I visit and try to comment. I know that some people only comment when they're stirred or amused or moved enough by the entry, but I happen to love reading comments and therefore think that adding my own 'out there' might make that particular blogger feel as though they've made an impact somewhere too.

As is my recent wont, I've also been collecting the word verifications and these are the latest that require definition.

Cotylin - the inexplicable need of designers and cheap copy artists to mimic the wrinkled linen 'look' in trousers. "I've got my Cotylin skirt on, so will need to lean up against the wall for the rest of the party so that my thighs don't resemble a beige accordian."

Sodwarti -frequently found at work lunches and celebrations with a shared bill. The Sodwarti puts in just enough money to cover their entree and first drink and then departs early, leaving the rest of the party an hour or two later to cover their unpaid-for lobster main course, seven large-sized screwdrivers and herbed garlic bread.

Conit - the first headlice to make the dangerous and athletic leap from one child's head to another. The Conit is usually an impregnated female with the uncanny ability to fire out eggs like gunshot the second her six legs brush up against a hair shaft.

Oxcre - Elderly dog turds that have been fully dried out by the sun, thus rendering them white, chalky and relatively safe for pedestrians. "Oh calm down Chanelle, it's only an Oxcre you've stepped on and isn't going to do anything to your fancy shoes other than leave some powder underneath."

Densings - Groups of like-minded (the term is used loosely in this case) people (again, used very loosely) who share the same interests in such mentally-microscopic things that most intelligent species have long rejected as inane, immoral or ugly. See the Liberal Party, Dancing with the Stars, Mick Molloy, meusli bars as health foods and the program director for 'Adults Only 20-1.'

Hangl - the black, gritty slime that lives under the rim of the toilet bowl that no amount of lazy splurting-and-leaving with Toilet Duck gel will ever remove. Hangl can only be eliminated with the thorough application of a scrubbing brush, the user required to kneel down to keep the bowl at eye level to check their success. Hangl scrubbers then often forget to stand up when they flush away the detritus and have been known to get a speck of Hangl in their eyes. Also used as an insult: "Could Sam Newman be more of a Hangl?"

Monday, July 26, 2010

Job searching for violence, poisons and Julia Gillard

Actually, none of the above is true, but seeing as I write for the Careers section of a pretty decent and respected newspaper, sometimes when I'm sipping that second coffee on a Saturday morning and hoping today might finally be the day when Love Chunks sneaks an admiring glance at me, nods approvingly and says, "You know Kath, you rock that creased pillow face and brown dressing gown look perfectly. I insist you stay in that all day," I idly scan through the job ads.

Four leapt out at me as having titles that would make for some pretty fearful business cards and intriguing chats at conferences and coffee breaks. Yes, they are all real advertisements:

Oh hi, Terry, nice to meet you. Your presentation was very thorough, very thought-provoking. Here, take my card.
What's that?
Yes, it does takes a bit of thinking, this role. After all, we've got to go beyond the usual aggro and develop strategies that veer way, way outside the box. Like THIS!
No, don't back away, Terry, it was just a quick demo and you've got another eye! I was hoping to interest your unit in participating in our latest experiment: surely you've got a couple of cardigans you can do without, who live more for flex days than project work?
TERRY? Come back? Don't you want to see our solar-powered catapult? We won a local grant for it!
.......Stupid jerk is too up himself to handle other people's success....

Sarah! How ARE you? It's been too long, hasn't it? How's Rory going?
Ah well, he always had a bit of a wandering eye didn't he?
Oh. No, I didn't hear about the funeral, I'm so sorry....sure, I've got a tissue here somewhere. Sorry, it's got an old butter menthol stuck to it....
Anyhow, onto other things - did you hear about my new job?
Yeah, it's with Julia. That Julia. Our Julia - Girrrrrl Power!
It's part-time until the end of July and then ramps up to full time then on.
I'm not sure actually. I probably have to put my hand in the small of her back so she doesn't have to stand still and discuss any policy issues. Or go power-walking with her in the mornings around Altona. That reminds me, I better go and see if I've still got my 'Moscow 1980' tracksuit and hope that her hairspray and my striding thighs don't cause it to ignite......

I'm loving this job Alex, L-O-V-I-N-G it man!
Who knew, after being expelled from Pharmacy school, Chem-mart warehouse and the Hells' Angels compound that I'd land on my feet like this?
Sure, the last guy died but that's all part of the risk, right?
The weather has been amazing since I started here - double rainbows everyday and my lab assistant is a unicorn! He tried to shag me once, but I fended him off with a chocolate canoe and a sitar. Elvis crapped himself laughing.
That reminds me - I need to discuss with my manager the possibility of ordering a crate of Snakes Alive, BBQ Shapes and Tim Tams for afternoon tea every day because I've been working up one heck of an appetite.
Are you sure you're OK because you have breasts where your eyes should be and I swear I just saw a red monkey jump into your briefcase and the floor is suddenly rising up to meet me....

Miiiiiiiike, baby! How did you pull up after Friday night?
Me either - that Krazy Kebab van won't be inviting me back any time soon, heh heh. Nor will Delilah, come to that... Anyhow, did you see the vacancy?
No no no, it's not like at all - no, we're for the Aboriginal people. Giving them extra jobs and training and all that. Involving the kids as well.... That's an interesting question, Mike, and to be frank I have noticed that they prefer to test their theories out on me rather than their own families but the salary and the perks are worth it. Yep, my own office, Exec Assistant and car.

Of course I'll have to wait until the cast is off before I'm able to drive it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wednesday Word Verification Week Six

Yep, it's that time of the week again: to put some much-needed definitions to the verification codes that pop up every time we want to add a comment. Here are six of the latest I've had to key into cyberspace.

Spettee - the lounge a sick family member spends the day on when not at school or work. This piece of furniture is usually adorned with a scattering of soggy tissues, toast crumbs, sticky flat lemonade, a ratty blanket and an even rattier teddy bear. Carers should ensure that they are seated far enough away from the spettee to avoid being hit by a snalg, or the uncovered result of a sneeze.

Benaba - a fruit, only referred by a sufferer of a sinus infection. Lying on the spettee, the sufferer requests what is in reality a 'banana' but with only the ability to breathe through the mouth it sounds like 'benaba'. It is advised not to give the sufferer a 'benaba' because it only leads to them complaining that they've just traded one mouthful of snot for a chunkier, fruitier version. Another classic phrase often said by 'benaba' eaters is "I hab a bab colb."

Voingly - The unintended result of an insult that has been mispronounced, leading to mirth instead of hurt. "At least I'm sexy enough to work as a prerogative dancer unlike you - it's a doggy dog world, you know and I'm more impudent!"

Letork - Fake French; considered to be in more popular usage in Australia than the real French language. For online examples see Flight of the Concords' song 'Foux da fa fa', Joey on Friends and Steve Martin as Inspector Poirot trying to learn how to order a hamburger. For a predictable real life example, just take a French friend along to a dinner party and wait until around three bottles of red later when someone tries to speak to them like Pepe LePeuw.

Rentiou - A handwritten note left by the least desirable flatmate when the house owner or coordinator of the bills is at uni or work. On the day that rent is due, the LD flatmate drinks the last of your milk, leaves that one square of toilet paper that has two stripes of glue sticking it to the cardboard roll and eats your last three Tim Tams before taping a Rentious on the fridge door, saying that they're leaving to go on holiday to Cuba for six weeks and won't be in phone or email contact range and can't pay the rent this week.

Prodens - Trophy rooms found in the mansions or penthouses of retired sports stars. Whilst they are always refered to by their owners as 'studies', no intellectual activity such as reading, writing or non-porn-related computer work is ever done. Prodens are in actual fact storage rooms for hideously ugly trophies, limited-edition Channel Nine-flogged autographed memorabilia and framed guernseys.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

From Love Chunks to Tough Punk

My husband, always fondly referred to as Love Chunks, is a decent, kind and intelligent man.

He's not vain or selfish and any violence he may have inside him is saved for yelling at the umpires during Crows matches or when setting up flatpack furniture with bent allen keys.

His hair is what we've both referred to as 'low maintenance' and has been pretty well like that since he and I got together. Therefore, he does his own cutting with a set of electric clippers and they've served him well in the past.

On Clipper Day (as it shall henceforth be known), he sets up in the bathroom, standing there clad only in his jocks and gets to work, little pieces of dark hair all over the floor. Several minutes later, I usually get called in to neaten up things around the back of his head and sweep the fluff off the floor as he steps into the shower.

Saturday was Clipper Day and I popped into the bathroom expecting to do my usual task and see my normal beloved, safe-and-nice-looking, neatly-clipped husband in front of me.

Not this day.

According to him, my expression looked a lot like this:

....because Love Chunks had given himself a Number One all over and now looked like this:

After snorting and chuckling so hard the clipped hairs flew all about the room, he said, "Well this is my new look now Kath, so you better get used to it - after all, it's this or total baldness."

I was still too shocked to steady my hands enough to clean up the back of his ---- shocking haircut. "But you look like Russell Crowe in Romper Stomper," I spluttered.

Amidst the echoing amplificiation of my abnormally high-pitched comments, Sapphire ran in. "What's wrong---- DAD! You look so mean!"

"I've got so little hair left, Sapph," he said, "And nobody wants to see anyone pretending to have hair they don't do they?"

Shaken, she nodded silently and backed out of the room, closing the door very gently behind her.
"Er, LC, you've got that really long hair that's growing on the top of your ear. At least pluck that out."

He did. "Funny how the hair on my head seems to have moved into my eyebrows, nose, ears, back and bum, isn't it?"

I thought for a moment, looking at my personal suburban Skinhead standing in front of me; his eyes twinkling in cheeky glee, clearly revelling in the fact that he'd genuinely surprised me.

"Well all I can say is that you'd better be careful in yoga class or the prickles on your head might accidentally velcroe themselves to your fuzzy arse."

My offended march out of the room was lost amongst his hooting laugh.

And no, dear readers, I didn't take a photo.

I can't. I won't.

My beloved SLR should be used for beautiful things, noble things, worthy things. Things like Sapphire and holidays and Milly and nature and chocolate.

And butterflies.

Pretty, pretty butterflies....

Friday, July 16, 2010

Farts and Familiarity

It would be safe to say that, for most successful relationships, 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 is able to figure out that the average length of a stars' marriage is miniscule compared to most in the real world. My own relationship is going on for nearly eighteen years now. 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 these days? 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."

I can't even tell you then that I jump into the shower and spruce myself up in order to take the tram into the city for work at the office. Nope - no blow-dried hair, subtle mascara, snappy suit and the latest boots for me, unless ugg boots are still considered trendy in some parts. It's still shower time, but the professional business wear is traded in for jeans, t-shirt and an old polar fleece jacket with Milly's hairs stubbornly clinging to it.

After work - which, as a work-from-homer is when LC has served up dinner - it gets even worse. My serious writing 'uniform' is thrown aside and replaced with tracksuit pants and a shapeless windcheater that's able to hide the just-whipped-off bralessness. This 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, competing to win the 'who is most tired' competition 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 - honestly, truly - not intentionally so. After cleaning and flossing the choppers, 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 uniforms in napisan will do that to you) whilst my wheat bag is being nuked in the microwave. This hot corduroy snake now smells like a horse trough and is draped around my neck which seems to be permanently cricked.

I then give my snozz one last full-throttled HONK into a tissue and spray two squirts of Rhinocort up each nostril before popping a valerian tablet to help me sleep and slipping on my triple reinforced anti-grind 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.

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. LC manages to get 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 this was a movie, we'd wake up, 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. Unfortunately, reality is much harsher - there are bursting bladders and breath that smells like a camel crawled in our mouths and died there; not to mention the cornflakey boogers that have formed around our puffy eyes with a couple of dried white drool marks on the chin to complete the 'Sexy Sunrise' look.

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 arse and yanks open the curtain: "Hey Mum, remember you said I could use your fancy camera today!" Er yes, I just hope it's not right now and that I'm not the subject but shampoo's in my ears and I can't see if you've got the camera in your hands or not and you've just dashed out again, hooting.....

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 on the so-called dowdy panties that Rob held up: "I should be so lucky."

At Chateau Lockett, on Fat Days or Full-Laundry Basket Days the 'ol 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 helpful to me too, at times when I've been less than my best. "Pssst - you've got one of those dangly boogers 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."

Never let it be said that I don't 'help' him as well. Many's the time I've politely pointed out that his nose hairs were long enough to hang beads on; have plucked out some scary 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 and there's one single hair growing on the edge of his ear that I could just reach over and *pluck*........

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wednesday Word Verification Edition Five

Yes readers, I let the side down last week with a persnickety, lingering migraine and Chief School Holiday Entertainment Organiser duties, but we're back on track this week. Here's a few word verifications that have been collected during recent blog comments:

Extomon - a Jamaican pest controller

Fogenta - polenta (cornmeal, Italian-style) that has been neglected by the chef and not stirred, resulting in a mess so impenetrably thick that the saucepan must be disposed of. No amount of hard scrubbing or chemical solvents has yet been developed that is able to remove burnt polenta. (See also 'Weetbix' for another alternative to mortar used by bricklayers).

Materot - the act of spring-cleaning one's personal address book. Most commonly occurring at Christmas time, the address book owner is faced with the dreaded ordeal of writing greeting cards and annual letters to friends and family they've neglected for the rest of the year. They ask themselves the hard question: "If I was in their town/city/suburb/hemisphere, would I bother popping in to visit?" If the answer is 'no', then the person under question is subject to 'Materot' - address book removal.

Skesses - articles of clothing that look much more ethereal and attractive when hand-drawn by the designer than they do on actual runway models or, in fact, real life people. See anything done by Karl Lagerfeld, Christian LaCroix, Butterick sewing pattions or fashion houses that only make clothes up to size 10.

Mifil - Superannuated MILFs who are yet to realise that they are no longer a) able to wear mini skirts, spaghetti strap tank tops or long bottle blonde hair; b) shriek too loudly when a glass of chardonnay is in their french-manicured, square-fingernailed, gnarly old hands; and c) whom nobody wants to dirty dance with at work parties any more.

Canabib - A piece of material (usually terry-towelling or cloth) worn by an unusually-organised pot-smoker suffering 'the munchies' in order to prevent melted Tim Tam chocolate, cheezel dust and crushed butter menthols from sticking to their clothes.

Gludelar - the act of pretending to be prudish when in fact you're secretly turned on by the overtly sexual nature of advertising in front of you. See the current Brut 33, Palmolive Naturals and new Scissor Sisters album commercials. Not forgetting the Mr Perfect Cheese bloke.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sour puss

Sapphire and I had the best fortnight ever.

Ever. As she kissed me on the cheek and left for school this morning, I thought I'd cry. No, not the usual tears of joy a parent has when school holiday ends, but in sadness. She's my best friend and I miss her already.

Her leaving for her 'real world' was the final pip squirted from the lemon of self-indulgent pity and doubt: a state that's been building up, sleepless night after sleepless night, for the past few weeks.

Firstly, Bulldog. My evil, egotistical and hypocritical ex-boss. Yeah the one whose actions drove me to spend several days in a psychiatric ward at the end of 2008 and caused my usually-unflappable union rep to shake her head in bewilderment and say, "For someone who publicly supports the rights of others she's just a bitch, Kath, that's all." ....... won an OAM in the recent Queen's Birthday honours.

Some of my friends didn't want to tell me because Bulldog's prize didn't interest the media outside of Adelaide, but some did tell me. The former group didn't want to see me spiral down a useless path of anger and powerlessness again; and the latter all tended to add a comment like, 'They must be scraping the bottom of the barrel, eh? Who'll be next - Ivan Milat?' to show that they were still thinking of me and hadn't forgotten her.

I shrugged my shoulders and scoffed. Publicly. See, I'd moved on, I was bigger than her, more mature and she no longer had the power to--

In private, I stewed.

It felt like every single frigging week after the news, Bulldog was quoted in at least one newspaper article a week on her chosen topic of influence. I'd be reading some Sunday morning article and her name would be there and my stomach would instantly start churning and I'd shut my eyes for a moment and think of the lost salary of the past two-and-a-half years, the lost super contributions, the anguish and stress I'd caused LC, my child and my parents; the mental and physical symptoms and the long leash of the Black Dog that still finds its way back into my hands.... Where were her just desserts, the karma that I'd hoped for? Instead of a Come-Uppance the woman was earning huge money, reaping rewards, gaining publicity and was clearly on the journo's Go To Hot List of experts!

Never mind, I've got my heal----- Bugger. My right elbow has been killing me. Now even lifting a one kilogram packet of carrots from a bag to the crisper has me involuntary squeaking in pain and being dry needled by the physio is no longer a funny anecdote when I'm lying in bed at 2am holding an arm with a steady, unrelenting heartbeat of throbbing pain.

This meant that my nervous nail picking increased. It's always been a particularly bad habit of mine to constantly trim the loose cuticle skin around each nail with my teeth before wondering just why I've ended up with messy bleeding instead. Knitting is often used to keep my hands busy but the elbow pain has meant that it is not an option right now so last week I tore off the entire cuticle on my left thumb and noted, a few days later, that like my right elbow, it too was keeping me awake with a heartbeat of its own.

Squeezing the pus out of it has helped, and after my tears have cleared, I've been washing it clean and bandaging it up again. But the slightest knock or even the mere act of unbuttoning my jeans can be agony. Self inflicted, stupid agony.

Perhaps, therefore this hasn't been the best time to wean myself off the sleeping medication I've been using post-Bulldog. Hindsight's a bittersweet thing, isn't it; kind of like insisting on a diet coke to go with the supersized, lard-arsed lunch special deepfried batter burgo and chips combo. Thus, my occasional visit to the nocturnal nightmare of insomnia has become a permanent transfer. No amount of meditation, relaxation, getting up, reading, stretching, thinking happy thoughts or staying up until Danoz Direct comes on has helped.

I'll keep plugging away though, because surely just sheer exhaustion will cause my red-speckled green eyes to finally close - and stay closed - for longer than two hours at a time one day?

Finally, money. Stupid, necessary, crappy, important, horrible, essential, evil, mesmerising, inescapably envious money. We three spent the weekend with our two friends at their beach house on Philip Island. We adore them dearly and know that they've worked hard to find such a beautiful place and greatly treasure it. I don't begrudge them their little slice of paradise and loved being their guest for three days.

On Saturday night, however, we five had another thirteen people over for dinner. ALL of them owned beach houses on the island. All of them drove cars no older than three and those I saw in the drive included a BMW, Audi, Peugot, Mercedes and VW. All of them had spent time holidaying in Europe, New York, Asia or the snow and were planning on doing it again before Christmas this year.

We'd 'spent a weekend in the snow' this year too - albeit in our camping parkas and shoes as rubberneckers, leaving only when Sapphire's jeans got too wet and we'd had enough rides on our $20 'non-skier' lift passes to make it worthwhile.

It was easier to avoid joining in the conversation and instead take away the empty plates and scrape the leftovers into the kitchen bin feeling more than a tad jealous and more than barely inadequate in my K-mart clothes, 2 bedroom house and 14 year old car. "You're doing a marvellous job there," a guest said, wandering over. I smiled, she introduced herself and we started talking as she loaded the dishwasher.

"You must get your future in order and not leave it until my poor friend Jan who turned sixty last week and has only just bought her first investment property," she said over the noisy chatter. "We've got seven now - have you and LC checked out the house for sale in Ventnor?"

Yes we had, actually, in a casual drive-by coming back from the Cowes supermarket with olives, fish and bread marked down as 'Quick Sale - half price' in black texta. $400,000 seems to buy no more than a box of decaying planks sitting uncertainly atop four rusted poles with a sliver of distant sea views until four blocks in front are sold. I didn't tell her any of this, but just said, "Oh yes, we have."

I also didn't tell her that we didn't have four thousand to spend, let alone four hundred thousand; that my 'job' earned me roughly one-tenth of what I earned when working for Bulldog and the car - stained seats, floating dog hairs and permanent bird turd imprints - would be driven until it gasped its last.

Still, there was a tattslotto ticket in my purse.

As usual, the slip of paper from the newsagent came back with 'Not A Winner' on it, but I'm not so sure.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Meandering Meme

Mr Migraine is back and I just didn't have the capacity to define any word verifications today. Will you forgive me for dragging out a draft instead?

It's been a while since I've stolen anything other than a sly fart under the covers, so I've snagged a meme from the Plastic Mancunian.

Do you get regular massages?
No but I'm often found kinda sorta 'leaning' up against Love Chunks in the faint hope he'll extend his arm and ruffle my hair, neck, back or shoulders. Any kind of touchy feely stuff is gold to me and should the long arm of the lotto winner ever reach to shake my own hand, I'd have a professional arrive at my front door every morning - and evening, just before bedtime - to give me a right royal muscle pummel.

Do you have an answering machine?
Yes. And yes, it's Sapphire who has recorded the message. Having a child's voice on it seems to deter telemarketers so mostly we just get 'beep beep beep' whenever the message light is on.

What cuss word do you use the most?
I had to wander into the kitchen to ask Love Chunks the answer to this one. He thought for a bit (as much as you can over sizzling garlic and onions on a dark and cold Monday night) and said, "You love using the word 'ponce' to cover everything from stuff you adore to someone who is a snob and then you pretty well ignore every other curse word until you get to the big F." So there you go - one extreme to the other.

Are you underweight or overweight?
My doctor reckons I'm just right, but considering that I can grab my stomach and sort of fold it in on itself when I'm lying on my back at night I wonder just what 'normal range' actually means.....

Can you see your veins?
What the....? In my hands and feet, yes. A couple winding up my arms (thanks to regular running), occasionally. Thousands of tiny red ones on my eyeballs - every damn morning.

Favorite… Soap?
The last time I watched a soap was to mock the marriage of Scott and Charlene on Neighbours in 1986 (drunkenly fuelled by Blackberry Nip at $3.99 a bottle), and when I was in a share house in 1988 we used to laugh at the wobbling sets of 'Days of Our Lives' and note that the same potted fern seemed to make it into every scene, regardless of whether it was 'Shenanigans Bar' or Marlena's apartment.
Shower wise? Whatever's on special at Woolies and doesn't smell too girlie (so Love Chunks can use it too)

Oranges. Slice one into six segments; shove each ungraciously into the gob, eat and slurp and whammo: instant Vitamin C.

Kind of red meat?
Bacon. A rare but most enjoyable pleasure. I could quite happily be vegetarian but for this most salty and tempting of meats.

Fish? Smoked salmon.

Candy bar?
By that you mean CHOCOLATE bar, you original US-question writer? Impossible to choose, but if we're talking everyday varieties I've often reached for a Crunchie, KitKat (esp the chunky varieties), Snickers, Twix, Aero, Chokito, Cherry Ripe, Newman's Ginger, Nestle Crunch....and they're just the bars; don't get me started on handmade chocolates, blocks or boxes.

Have You Ever…

Eaten a whole bag of potato chips?
Oh please. Challenge me at least - who hasn't? When pregnant I used to inhale bags of salt-n-vinegar chips (despite not liking them in my non-up-the-duff state) and cheese twisties. My finger tips were permanently salty and orange-coloured.

Eaten lobster?
'Yes – and it is overrated. I don’t see the appeal at all, particularly given its price.' - This is Plastic Mancunian's original answer and I agree entirely.

Climbed a mountain?
A few. Nothing noteworthy though and it's highly unlikely that this situation will change because I don't enjoy climbing. I can walk or run for ages, but to struggle up a hillside, on usually slippery mud or scrambly gravel to eventually reach the top and have some perky little ponce say, "Oh the view makes it all worth it" just makes me want to scream, "NO IT DOESN'T! Where's the friggin' chairlift and the icecream shop?"

Been skydiving?
Yep. On my own too - in the days when it was allowed for your first few tries. The scariest moment wasn't letting go - it was actually climbing out of the open door of the tiny aeroplane, putting one foot on a landing wheel and reaching out to grab hold of a wing strut.

Been water skiing?
Growing up in Murray Bridge - on Australia's largest river system to non-Aussie readers - meant that the Milo-brown waters of my hometown were constantly rippling with the wake of speed boats and show-offs on skis. Mostly it was the 'richies' from Adelaide who drove down on weekends to ski, but very occasionally I got to have a go. It was fun, but not pretty and mostly resulted in breathing in several gallons of muddy brown water that reeked of carp crap and diesel, ingested mostly via my protesting nasal cavities after a face plant at high speed.

Do You…
Wish you could change something about your life?
Ohferchrissakes - I reckon for every single individual crisp in every single whole bag I've ever eaten (see the earlier, silly question) I have naturally wished to change something about my life, multiplied by one thousand.

Like your nose?
No. It's huge which might be distinguished on a man, but on a woman it often makes me feel if I lean too far forward I'm going to topple over. Having a ping pong ball on the end and a big bump in the middle is just the cream cheese icing on the 'But She's Got a Great Personality' cake.

Like salt and vinegar chips?
Only when making a small human being. Red Rock Deli's Lime and Black Pepper are pretty nice but these days I choose to avoid them and have my entire fat intake via chocolate.

Eat salsa?
Not really. To me it just seems like a jar of stone cold chopped tomatoes and veges, pretending to be an exciting 'dip' when really it should be heated up and poured over pasta.

Own a boat?
Nope but it's Love Chunks' dream...... I'm not a boating person. We had a sail boat growing up and I was useless at it and even got seasick on it once. Every time we've had a ride on a boat I end up getting windswept, cold and sunburnt and wonder just what the point of it is and when and the actual fun is going to happen.

What Is…
A small thing that people let slide but that actually has dire consequences?

Drinking too much. Lying. Smoking. Taking the credit for someone else's work. Being racist and ignorant. Not exercising. Not servicing their car. Being late in paying their credit card bills. Avoiding fresh vegetables. Forgetting to share or offer to help.

Your most macho trait?
The muscle-flexing I love to do in front of the bathroom mirror plus my ability to tell off teenagers and get away with it.

The longest relationship you’ve ever had?
My current relationship with Love Chunks - long and strong since 1993.

Your most embarrassing thoughts?
That I love watching Masterchef despite the overt product placements, the inane repeating of the last minute of the show after the ad break has finished and the ridiculously butter-laden and over-worked meals I'd never cook myself. On the six nights it's on I'm to be found eagerly sitting in front of the telly - knitting in my lap - ready to go as soon as I hear 'You're hot and you're cold, You're yes and you're no, You're in and you're out....'

Your most shameful moment?
There are so many but the one that springs to mind whilst sitting here typing this was when a savage and sudden gust of wind blew my longish peasant skirt up over my face and head when walking with a bag of oranges in one hand and my work briefcase in the order in London at the precise moment a double-decker tourist bus drove by. I could hear video cameras whirring and hoots of laughter before ducking into the roughest betting parlour to escape their amusement.

Shower every time. Unless you have a five foot deep bath with water that stays hot and is filled right up to my chin, I hate sitting with just my arse and legs in the water and my boobs and belly rolls getting cold. The alternative is no better - lying in the water with my legs propped up against the shower taps like a self-conscious and soggy letter 'L'. No thanks!

My greatest weakness is…
Chocolate. Love Chunks. Sapphire. Kissing Milly and Skipper (dog and rabbit). Singing to myself when I'm home alone. Showing off at dinner parties. Talking to strangers. Buying a box of cous-cous every single time I'm at the shops and then having to suffer the pomposity of Love Chunks when he pulls out not one, not two, not three but seven boxes of the stuff as he's sorting out the pantry.

I wish I was…

....Staring at the winning lotto numbers with the ticket in my hand and not waking up with a migraine for the third fucking day in a row.

Three things I wouldn’t do for a million dollars are…
Eat my own poo; kill anybody; shag Tony Abbott.

The oddest thing I’ve ever put in my mouth is…
My triple-strength, tutonium-plated, grinding-and-clenching-and-crown-saving mouthguard, every night which makes me resemble a lisping Hannibal Lecter. Oh you mean food? The first ever unsupervised meal cooked by one of my housemates in 1988 - blackened lamb chops with added (and grilled) bean sprouts and sultanas sprinkled on the top; washed down with a hot mug of Irish Coffee and - I think - apricot marsala. Considering that my 'specialty' at the time was cheese and baked bean toasties, I didn't think it fair to complain and just kept asking for more of her magic coffee.....

Credit card you had?
ANZ Visa, limit $1500, three months after starting there as a Graduate Trainee in 1989. Free money! At least, that's what it felt like until the bill for $1800 arrived followed by a stern lecture from the Branch Manager.

Loan you got was for?
Car - Suzuki Vitara 1992 model costing $20,000, purchased with Love Chunks in 1995. We had $10K and needed the other half and both of us were thrilled to own a car that belonged to the actual decade we were living in at that time. Before that, he owned a 1974 Ford and I had a burnt orange 1971 Volvo.....

Paycheck was for how much?
$750 in the summer of 1984 for cutting tray after tray of apricots for Thompson's fruit orchard in Mypolonga.

Time you had stitches?
Only once, after the birth of Sapphire. 'From the nave to the chaps' (thanks Shakespeare) pretty well covers it, as does the visiting nurse's gasp of horror when, three days after arriving home, she popped in to check on us - and my stitches. Apparently, lowering my saggy, empty body into a salt bath every evening wasn't doing the trick and they were infected. Happy days indeed.

Time you went to the hospital for something?
Adenoids as a six year old, tumour stuff as a twenty something; giving birth to Sapphire in 1999, nasal cavity surgery in 2003 and, unfortunately, two other visits that were necessary to convince me to stop, seek psychiatric help and remember that life is worth it after all.

List everything you ate in the last 24 hours?
Coffee, BBQ chicken and salad wrap (lunch at Melbourne Central), orange, take-away Indian food (dinner), chocolate (naturally), some kind of 'healthy' (therefore horrible) cereal for breakfast, several Panadeine capsules and another coffee.
Last thing you used a credit card for?
Cinema tickets - Toy Story 3, yesterday. Funny, lovely, cute, detailed brilliant little film.

What was your job previous to the one you have now?
Bulldog's punching bag at the University of South Australia.

Last thing you celebrated?
Sapphire's 11th birthday.

Last time you were at a sports bar?
I can't even remember the decade I was in one - maybe the early nineties?

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Tea, Tram rides and Tenderness

The first week of school holidays has ended and it’s truly been one of the best weeks of my life.

Since moving to Melbourne, at least half of Sapphire’s school holidays have (mostly) been left to me to organise. Love Chunks gets only four weeks leave a year, Sapph gets around thirteen and and as the home-based/self-employed/flexible-hours/freelancin’ fool, I’m the Director of Entertainment, Enlightenment, Eating and Enthusiasm.

There's always an element of dread in taking on such a role and other holidays have gone 50-50 in terms of success rates, meaning that Sapphire has often sighed and said, “Are you still on the computer?” or I’ve looked at the now worn-white numbers on my credit card and thought, “How come even a trip to the supermarket for fresh bread seems to cost a movie, several jackets, another DS game and some Diva earrings?” Even Milly tends to look at me reproachfully, her limpid eyes imploring, “How come we’re not walking to school and why do I have to wait longer to be let outside for a whizz in the mornings?”

This holiday, however, has been sensational. Not perfect - because life’s not like that and it would be dull – but fun. For both of us. At Eleven-Going-On-Forty-Two Sapphire is the perfect companion for me: Nearly-Forty-Two-But-Frequently-Morphing-Back-to-Eleven.

We’ve seen (and been utterly fascinated by) the Tim Burton exhibition, staying for three hours to peer at each of his sketches and drawings, noting to each other how much his style evolved as he grew up. We've had conversations over tepid bowls of 'daily special' soup in Elizabeth Street, allowing the drunk at the table next to us to join in Sapphire's observations about the bad acting on 'Days of Ours Lives' blaring from the cafe television.

We've cuddled on the train station platform in the cold breeze, not caring if the cool dudes behind us or the druggies to the right think we're weird for jogging on the spot, singing a song to ourselves and laughing as we wait.

We've walked through 'our' patch of the city, picking up rubbish and seeing Milly joyfully scamper through the grass, rubbing her back on some discarded Red Rooster sauce packets before returning to a half-hearted scolding.

We've popped into an Open Inspection for a cottage around the corner, enjoying the opportunity to peek into a house we've walked past and admired so many times. "The decor needs updating and I'm not sure that the outside area works without a verandah," she notes, correctly, before the estate agent hustles us out.

Sapphire's written letters to family and friends and we've held hands as we walk to the post office to send them off. She's cooked Anzac biscuits, noodles, apple crumble and chocolate cake on her own and all of them have been delicious. We've lounged on her bed, drinking cups of herbal tea, talking about everything from the benefits of being cremated to whether it's possible to have sex during menstruation. We've eaten our breakfast in front of old Frasier episodes, laughing at Niles' pomposity and the decadently witty dialogue.

She stifles a laugh when I cry out, "Shit! Oh shit yes, that does hurt," to the physio as she dry needles the sinews around my elbow bone and rolls her eyes during the GP appointment when Dr M (not Doctor Checks this time) reads out my blood test results. All are excellent except for the 'bad' cholesterol level of 7.4. "Well I'm not surprised, Mum," she says, peering over her Nintendo screen like an irritated librarian; albeit one with a grin on her face.

We visit AbbaWorld in Federation Square - at Sapphire's insistence - and sing, pose, laugh and chat to strangers. At the 'Sing and be videoed doing so with hologram Abba', I baulk. "Oh no way," I whisper to Sapph, "I'd be far too embarrassed to do that in front of all these people."

It is then that I hear my own words - said many times this year - repeated back to me. "Mum, it'll be fun. We'll have fun. We may never come here again and life is for living, isn't it?"

She grabs my hand and we wait in the back wings of the stage for our turn. Dancing Queen; my least favourite Abba song. We do the moves, we lean into the microphone and we dance, smiling at each other. Mercifully it's only a thirty second slot and we depart to the cheers (of relief?) and applause of onlookers. Sapphire's face is glowing. "We did it, Mum!"

Two days later, both of our faces are glowing. Sapphire wants to get into running but not on the treadmill. It is mercilessly incessant, unnatural and scary. I suggest a turn around our local oval and she agrees. One lap - done at her pace, which isn't as slow as she thinks - turns into three, without stopping once. We smile at kids playing soccer as we shuffle past and I tell her how I used to do this with my own father when I was fourteen.

We even jog back home and high-five each other at the gate. "Sapphire, when I got back into running at 33, I started with three laps of the oval. You've just done that as well and you're only eleven. Well done!"

She grabbed me for a hug and said, "I love you Mum. You're my best friend you know."
"And you're mine, my love."

A short while later as she's in the shower, I absent-mindedly ruffle Milly's ears as I leaf through the Sunday paper, reading alongside Love Chunks at the kitchen table. I know that she's not going to consider me her friend forever, but even if it's just for this week, it's been such a privilege.