Sunday, October 31, 2010

White bathers

As part of my 'To Do List' before starting the full time job next week was to clear out the study.

The usual stuff - books I read once, enjoyed a lot but am unlikely to find the time to read again (after all, why re-read when there's heaps more out there to discover), old articles, ancient text books (will Love Chunks ever let go of 1985 first year uni textbook 'The Calculus with Analytic Geometry' by Leithold), ancient CD-roms, unwanted gifts and magazines.

The magazines had been collected as a memory-booster for a memoir I was planning (still planning) to write and scanning some of the pictures has been about the only thing I have been able to tick off the To Do List.

Some of them I'd like to share with you, based on themes. Today - as the heading may suggest - is for That Special Time of the Month. Don't run away yet lads - if nothing else, it'll make you realise that accidentally cracking a horn at a public swimming pool when you were fourteen is nothing on having to do with this sort of crap every 28 days.

I've posted this one before, but it bears a second look because it comes from the year I was born - 1968. Yes, a date so far in the past that when I fill in any surveys or information online and those automatic drop-down lists appear, my birth year is not visible until I scroll.... and scroll ..... and scroll ...... dammit my mind has wandered and I got to 1923 ...... and scroll.....

In 1968 the Modess Model wasn't in white bathers but a stiff, white, three-tiered dress with a tiny waist. Let's face it, this chick clearly didn't suffer pre or mid-menstrual bloating although if she did she'd have been able to funnel it down to the invisible area between her knees and thighs. Any questions you asked were just answered with her staring vaguely to her left and answering breathily, "Because." That blue shield of protection was the only answer she ever needed.

How she replaced her blue polythene for protection on three sides whilst wearing white gloves would have been a mighty challenge.

By 1976, whites and pastels had been crushed under the onslaught of unabashed 1970s colour. This room was presumably a homage to the inside of a teenage girl's uterus, despite the fact that the model playing a guitar to her stuffed toy collection was pushing thirty and had possibly shagged at least 50% of Sherbet, Skyhooks and the Little River Band.

In 1979, roller skating was all the rage. I was only eleven then and did not yet have need of Dr Whites, but would have yearned for a pair of her powder-blue skating shoes. All I had were those poxy metal base-and-wheels that screwed onto your own shoes with the plate able to be pulled out to accommodate larger shoes when the need arose.

Even so, the Dr Whites' I saw in my mothers bathroom drawer (sorry, Mum, but I loved to snoop in there and use your Nivea and a smear of ancient pot-o-gloss) would have been clearly visible had she ever had the time or inclination to go skating around and around the double basket ball courts at the Murray Bridge Showgrounds to 'My Sharona' in pale jean shorts.

Indeed, the pads then were no smaller than a single bed mattress and Skater Chick above would have had the very visible tail end of a huge rectangle imprint bulging out her arse.

Skater Chick might have been proud to tell Women's Weekly Readers all over the nation that she chose Dr Whites, but she sure as hell wasn't in need of them the day the photographer arrived.

The early eighties meant that white dresses, red rooms and roller disco were abandoned for beige Hallmark card scenes of mothers, daughters and ..... dogs. I remember this particular ad and also remember thinking, 'Why is the girl wearing ankle freezer jeans? If her Mum cares about her so much and wants to talk about sanitary products, then why hasn't she noticed that she needs to buy her teenage daughter a pair of pants that fit?"

By 1983, the white bathers had finally arrived. Yep, when you're self conscious, miserable, leaking blood yet retaining fluids, NOTHING says 'I've got my period' like a fun-filled frolic in the sea. Where are the zits on her chin? The sand gathered at the crotch of her bikini bottom? Is the strategically placed wave hiding the fact that the string has escaped and is now dangling out-and-proud along the top of her inner thigh like an albino pubic hair?

I particularly love the awkward grammar of 'Designed by a woman gynaecologist for all the tampon protection you need.' A woman gynaecologist? Shouldn't that have been female? And 'tampon protection?' Do they mean that the tampon is the item that needs to be protected at all costs and it is the swimming chick's vagina that's the only safe place to do it?

So many questions but here's one for the fellas. Did we really, truly, need to see THIS:

Friday, October 29, 2010

Not a joke, Joyce

Sapphire had caught my bug, plus had a really bad head cold, some diarrhoea, a vomiting session and merciless hay-fever thrown in. Therefore she had to spend three days at home with me.

After enjoying the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy (one DVD per day), a snooze and some reading, it was inevitable that we'd get chatting.

She told me about a girl in her class called Joyce, who'd moved over from the Philippines with her family a couple of years ago. "She speaks English pretty well now Mum, but struggles with the schoolwork so I offer to help her sometimes. She's really shy and even when I see her standing at the classroom door waiting for the bell to ring, she won't speak to me unless I talk first. I've tried really hard, Mum but I don't think she likes me."

A few minutes later after I'd given her the pep talk about how proud I am that she's being friendly and trying to include someone and that yes, she should keep doing that; Sapphire revealed that Joyce turned up last week with hearing aids. "Her Mum doesn't speak English and always looks so sad and when I asked Joyce if she'd like to come over to my house after school she said that her Mum won't let her."

We let that sink in for a while before I again said stuff like Can you imagine what it must be like to only speak English at school - a language you only learned two years ago at the age of nine - and then go home and lose a fair bit of what you learned because you then had to revert back to your mother's language? Can you also imagine how lonely and confusing it must have been - for way longer than two years - at wondering why you couldn't always catch what was being said?

Sapphire could imagine it and her eyes filled up with tears. "So what can I do, Mum? Sometimes she sees me and my friends and won't come over and just stands there, staring at the door. I don't even think she likes me."

"Love, she's so lonely inside and doesn't yet have the knowledge or skills on how to change things. She hates being shy and hates not having any confidence. Keep on talking to her, smiling to her, walking over to her. She might not respond the way you'd like her to, but believe me, a year or twenty years down the track, she'll be grateful that you bothered."

"Mum, why are you crying?"

"Because no kid stands alone by choice. Let me make you a cup of honey and lemon tea - I'll get a berry vanilla for myself - and I'll begin."

Same goes for you, dear reader. Get a drink and strap yourself in for a long read.

In South Australia, primary school goes until the end of year seven, so it is year eight that is dreaded and longed-for at the same time; the entry into high school.

My father was a high school teacher, so it held no real terrors for me - most of the secondary teachers were already long-standing family friends and I loved school. I had friends, oodles of confidence and knew I belonged. High school would just be another stepping stone for me.

Towards the end of the year, Dad was offered an Exchange Teacher place. Similar to Rotary Exchange student programs, teachers swapped jobs and homes for twelve months in order to experience life, work and travel in another country. We five Reads were going to Aberdeen, Scotland. We'd never even been on an aeroplane before!

Yes, there'd be snow there - we were leaving straight after our summery Christmas into their mid-winter. Yes we'd be living in a cottage that was over 250 years old and our rooms would be upstairs in the attic. And yes, we'd travel around the UK and Europe every single chance we got.

We had to pack up all of our personal possessions; make sure that Sox the cat would be cared for by the neighbours until the Scottish family arrived; pose for passport photos in front of a wrinkled bed-sheet that Dad had thrown over the line and cram our suitcases full of winter woolies whilst sweating in our bathers.

A week later, this confident, funny kid with sun-bleached hair and golden skin from swimming every spare moment in the neighbour's pool was stared at by her class, 8E, when she stood in front of them, being introduced by the frazzled French teacher. Her blazer was too big, skirt too long and the desert boots and white socks underneath looked ridiculous. For the first time ever, she felt out of place.

Not one of her classmates showed a flicker of interest. Already she could tell that no-one would be asking her what living in Australia was like.

Recess time saw her troop slowly out of maths class, face still blushing from having to answer "Eighty Eight" and hear them laugh and bray at her stupid accent. She followed the crowd to the cloak room and lunch hall and pretended to be waiting for the toilet to be vacant. Little did she know that this was to be her main activity during recess for the next six months.

Lunch time involved a mandatory school dinner. Holding her ticket, she'd patiently line up to be given a plate of mealies, soggy chips and wrinkled peas because it was a relief from standing alone. Everyone had to do it, but she wasn't hungry and wasn't in a rush. With a plate full of half-hearted grey slop she'd sidle up to a spare chair and mumble, 'CanISitHerePleaseThanks' and plonk down, trying to eat and hide behind her fringe.

No one ever said, "No, piss off you loser," as she sat down. She was so beneath their interest and attention that even acknowledging her with an insult or a shove would have been too much effort. The girl felt invisible. No, worse than invisible because she didn't have the freedom to come and go when she wanted, she had to stay there and be overlooked and ignored.

Other kids would finish and run out to play football, table tennis, gossip and flirt, leaving her behind. It was only after three weeks of sitting alone in the cloak room pretending to write in her English journal that the sad girl discovered the Library.

This wondrously warm, quiet and anonymous place was open all lunch time. To anybody at school. The relief was tremendous as she dawdled her way up and down every bookshelf. She loved to read and it was an escape from idle stares and being considered too worthless to befriend.

The Wombles books caught her eye. She'd always thought the TV show was cute and these'd be simple to read and easy to put back on the shelf where they'be be too uncool to be borrowed by anyone else and therefore be resumed the next lunch time.

Sapphire, I read them all at least four times each and, for the life of me, can't remember a single character or storyline and still, writing this twenty nine years later don't want to search them out on ebay and read them again for old times' sake.

The librarian knew. She'd always say 'hello' as the lonely girl wandered in, silent and pale, groping for the book still in its usual place and sitting herself down at the laminated table farthest from the entrance, shoulders hunched. The girl didn't dare get talking to the lady; she knew that she felt sorry for her, but to see or hear that pity close up would just be too much to bear and the girl knew that you must never, ever cry at high school .....

On the bus ride home, she sat by herself, supposedly entranced by the grim and grey view of the outskirts of Aberdeen, the Altens Housing Estate and Cove Bay, where she lived. Her older brother was at the back of the bus with his friends - guaranteed due to his sporting prowess. David was still at the local primary school and had more playdates to deal with than days of the week.

At her stop, she'd trail behind Robert, aware that he wasn't keen to be seen with his daggy younger sister - and who could blame him? She'd wander inside, calling out 'I'm home' to her mother in the most cheerful voice she could manage, hang up her coat and head upstairs.

On would go ABBA's Super Trouper album as she cried and cried and cried, hoping that the thud thud thud of the base would drown any sobbing out. Sometimes she'd stare out of my window to the train track winding further up north and dream that she was back home again. Her real home, in South Australia, where she had friends and certainty and comfort and not this awful, relentless feeling of shame and pain and worthlessness.....

Headaches and stomach aches started to arrive each morning, shaking her out of bed before the alarm clock did. She heard her mother worriedly whisper to her father something about 'psychosomatic' but couldn't lean farther out for a better sticky-beak because the stabbing ache in her side was too great.

The weekends were wonderful. Her family would cram into the Bedford van and explore villages, craggy castles, manor houses, old battle grounds, museums and wilderness. They'd laugh and joke around together and Sunday night saw her try too hard to keep the hilarity going, to wring a few more drops out of the weekend before school and pain and fear and doom set in again.

One day as she sat near the front seat of the bus with several spare seats around her, a beautiful young girl tapped her on the shoulder.


"Er, Hi," she replied, voice croaking.

"Are ye an Aussie, is that right?"

"Aye," I muttered, having learned months ago to tone down my accent.

"Can ye swim?"

"Aye," I replied, lifting up my head and noticing her lovely brown eyes and hair that Kate Bush would have envied.

"I'm Pamela and I'm captain of the Kincorth Swimming Club and we need some more swimmers in year 8. Do ye want tae come?"

She saved me, Sapphire.

Pamela saved me. She took the time to wander over to a lonely, broken little soul and speak to her.

Sapphire, keep doing what you're doing for Joyce. She might not be able to demonstrate yet what it means, but it does mean a great deal, more than I hope you ever have to know for yourself. It means that she's worth something to someone else.

We hugged. And cried. Sapphire got off my knee and said, "It explains something to me, Mum."


"It explains why you always try to talk to people all the time and when Dad and I say 'oh there she goes again' it's always because you're getting to know someone."

No kid stands or sits alone by choice.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Plugger by name

.......and plugger by nature.

Some of you may have got the faint impression that I fancy a bit of chocolate. You know, every now and then as a treat, like.

Some of you may have already ventured over to GoneChocco and realised, "Oh so THAT's why she's the FATTEST runner I've ever seen."

Over at GoneChocco I'm proud and amazed and humbled to note that by the end of last month the site had received 208,000 page views for it's very first year of existence.

Now don't get me started on 'hits' - oops, too late - because they're wildly inaccurate and count every single item that is downloaded such as photos, logos, banners etc, meaning that one article can be counted as 30 'hits'. If that was the case, then GoneChocco received 1.7 million 'hits'.

Anyhooo, it's been a year and the site is running on, well, enthusiasm, a weekly shop for chocolate, some samples provided by companies who can see that people are starting to read the views of a Chubby Runner and are starting -just starting - to ask if they can advertise. So far, no real bites, but the stats are growing and it'd be great if subscribers and 'likers' could grow too.

So if you're feeling kind or would like to win a t-shirt, weird chocolate-related non-edible items and of course a huge selection of chocolate, click
here. Please.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fabulous Fifteen

Deep Kick Girl has been busy celebrating Rocktober by (thankfully) not selecting the usuals found on Fogey FM but those that are quirkier and edgier and have formed the soundtrack to key points in her life.

I don't have the strength to do a daily song list right now but have grabbed a Facebook version that only takes fifteen minutes. After you read (and no doubt scoff and snort at) mine, I invite you to compile your own with a link back to this post and a comment to let me know when you've done it. After all, I'm always looking for more songs to run/walk/cycle to and have got a few goodies already from Plastic Mancunian, Princess Pandora, Franzy and the afore-mentioned DK Girl.

Rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen albums you've heard that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. When it's posted on your blog, tag fifteen other bloggers (including me).

Most of mine are from my childhood and are firmly linked to memories of family, travel, growing up and when I first realised that music could sum up a feeling, a specific occasion or a phase. Here goes, in no order of merit or chronology:

1. Abba Arrival - every song fantastic EXCEPT for the arrival instrumental crapfest at the end.

2. The River - Bruce Springsteen - Came out in 1980 but I wasn't aware of its existence until the end of 1985 and it's now linked with my first really serious relationship and a certain loss of something that makes the song 'Drive all night' still very poignant. Ahem, enough of that. The double album certainly sounds pretty dated these days but alternates between joyous and laidback and heartbreakingly sad.

As in we go from this:

'Your mamma's yappin' in the back seat
Tell her to push over and move them big feet
Every Monday morning I gotta drive her down to the unemployment agency
Well this morning I ain't fighting tell her I give up
Tell her she wins if she'll just shut up
But it's the last time that she's gonna be ridin' with me' from Sherry Darling,

to this:

'Last night I was out driving
Coming home at the end of the working day
I was riding alone through the drizzling rain
On a deserted stretch of a county two-lane
When I came upon a wreck on the highway

There was blood and glass all over
And there was nobody there but me
As the rain tumbled down hard and cold
I seen a young man lying by the side of the road
He cried Mister, won't you help me please

An ambulance finally came and took him to Riverside
I watched as they drove him away
And I thought of a girlfriend or a young wife
And a state trooper knocking in the middle of the night
To say your baby died in a wreck on the highway

Sometimes I sit up in the darkness
And I watch my baby as she sleeps
Then I climb in bed and I hold her tight
I just lay there awake in the middle of the night
Thinking 'bout the wreck on the highway....' in, quite literally, 'Wreck on the highway'.

3. Born in the USA - Brucey again - I cried when I first heard 'Downbound train' and had to explain to more than a few people that 'Born in the USA' wasn't a pro-Reagan song whatsoever; it's just that Reagan and his people were dumb enough to think that it was.

4. Dead Man's Party - Oingo Boingo - such a quirky eighties band with a highly musical side and a very, very dark side. It's no surprise that the lead singer and writer, Danny Elfmann has become huge in the film composing world and is one of Tim Burton's frequent flyers.

5. Hot August Night - Neil Diamond - the continuous soundtrack played on our brand new, start-of-the-art tape player in the car during our four month family trip to Queensland in 1979. We'd all sing along to Sweet Caroline, Porcupine Pie and Crunchy Granola Suite.

6. Children's Favourites - sung by Jon Pertwee (my second-favourite Dr Who after Tom Baker) - we three kids nearly wore the needle off the radiogram listening to 'Froggy went a-courtin', 'My Grandfathers clock', 'Three little fishes' and 'I know an old lady.'

7. Robin Hood - dialogue and songs from the 1970 Disney cartoon movie with voices by Roger Miller (Alan O'Dale the minstrel), Terry Thomas (Sir Hisssss) and Peter Ustinov (Prince John)

8. Complete Madness - a cobbled together best-of-so-far bunch of songs by Madness that was the very first cassette purchased with my own money in 1982. It was played over and over again on my mono-tape/radio device - also bought with my own hard-earned babysitting money. All the classics were there but I particularly loved 'Bed and Breakfast man', 'The Return Of The Los Palmas 7' and 'Embarassment.'

9. Bryan Adams - Reckless. Look, it was 1985. I had a spiral perm, two pairs of panelled denim jeans and a skinny pink tie. He was NEW to most of us then, not on constant Fogey-FM replay. He saw me through many nights of year twelve studying and pining for Sean H, introducer to me of the joys of Springsteen and, um, other things.

10. Bryan Adams - Cuts like a knife - 1983. Loved him even earlier than Reckless. Became sick to death of him from around 1987 though.

11. Super Trouper - ABBA, 1980. Had an utterly miserable time for the first six months in Scotland and used to come home from school and play this over and over in my attic bedroom. Mum said she'd hear the 'thump thump thump' of the base coming through the ceiling and worry herself sick about what to do with a sad twelve year old who only wanted to make a friend and didn't seem to know how to do it in a land of weird accents, punks, mods, poseurs, rockers and other sub-groups she'd never been exposed to in country town South Australia.

12. Phantasmagoria - The Damned, 1985/6. Bought the tape at the uni music shop on the strength of 'Eloise' but then discovered 'Grimly Fiendish' and that the 'ol punk band could play more chords than those on 'Smash it up' (a great song to run to) in the late 1970s

13. The dark at the end of the tunnel - Oingo Boingo, 1990. Every song was perfection and it formed my own personal soundtrack that year..... Big decisions about work, life, travel and men.

14. Stoneage Romeos - Hoodoo Gurus, 1984. Pure pop brilliance. 'My girl don't love me any more...' and, of course, 'Tojo', their catchy song about cyclone Tracy that we'd dance to when drunk a couple of years later at uni. 'Tojo never made it, Tojo never made it Darwin....'

15. Red Sails in the Sunset - Midnight Oil, 1985. My older brother got me into them and if it wasn't Bryan Adams it was this tape that gave me strength and fortitude during year twelve and let me onto to searching out older tapes of '10, 9 ....1' and 'Head Injuries' before seeing them in concert at Memorial Drive the day after my final exam was over.

Now it's over to you, blogger buddies - don't take more than fifteen minutes and don't worry about the dag factor - just share with us the ones that really stuck (and still stick) with you, even today. And link to me, will you?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Don't be selfish

So, how are you feeling now Sapphire? How about just one more Glee episode - come on, you've watched two whilst I was out on the treaddie - and then turn off the telly?

Sapphire, I know you're feeling poorly.

After all, you caught the lurgy from me, remember?

But the vomiting is a new thing - that's all you I'm afraid.

What's that? You just want me to turn off the TV and let you sleep?

But can you do one thing for me?

It'll only take a sec-----Oh shit here's the bucket Wait wait WAIT OH.....oh. Nah, it's okay. You go have a shower and I'll clean this up.

But hang on a mo - just click here - yeah that's right - because I want to blog about my ailment this morning not yours that's why.

I heard that young lady! This 'crabby old bag' as you so nicely call me has been puked on twice today and - as I'm trying to show you - became so engrossed in her 'This is piss weak compared to running, damn my poxy stuffed-up achilles' power-walking session today that she didn't even notice the friction of her thumb against her t-shirt that eventually drew blood!


Well SIT DOWN then if you feel dizzy. Here! Just take it and then you can have a shower.

And yes I'm sorry. Swearing is wrong and I'll try harder to stop doing it. We'll talk about what 'poxy' means another time; when you're feeling better, okay?

Oh sweetie, I know. How about I come in with you and just make sure that you can stand up in the shower?

No, it's true. I do mean it.

Yes, of course I say it every time you're sick and I mean it every time.

I'd give anything to be able to take your pain and illness away and have it myself, I truly honestly would. But there'd better be some bandaids left in the bathroom cupboard because my thumb really stings.....

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Heavy Balls

It's Saturday morning at the cheer-challenging time of 8.25am and Annoying Dad from the tennis team that Sapphire is playing against comes up to me for the fourth time in two minutes, asking, "Is your team all here yet? Are you ready to play?"

Instead of doing what I did the first three times, which is smile politely and say "Sorry no, we're not all here yet and no, I'm not the team captain and don't have the book and do we need to think about whether it's okay to play seeing as it's raining?"

.... I snap and hiss, "We're still five minutes early. I told you I don't have the team book and it's now sleeting down ice shards outside so surely you need to call the match off?" Chastened, he backs off and I seethe, trying not to hear the common sense in my eleven year old's advice to 'calm down and be quiet, Mum,' as she tugs at my handbag strap.

At precisely 8.30am - the official start time - we have our full team complement battling various stages of early morning-itis (and hair), staring out of the foggy windows of the warm clubhouse with very obvious expressions of dread. I decide not to re-establish my friendship with Annoying Dad and find Nervous Mum in the corner and try again. "Um, do you think it should be cancelled?"

"YE-E-E-E-E-S" say my team in an unenthusiastic but determined chorus, but she hesitates and rapidly whispers that we have to sit and wait for two hours -two hours - before anyone can officially call the morning's play 'off'. "It's not that heavy," she concludes, zipping up her Goretex Everest Puffer Jacket right up to her chin.

Sighing, I spot Denis and Alice and say, "You two - Boy Two and Girl Two - you're ON. Oh and Denis, meet Alice. Alice, this is Denis."

After several minutes of uncertain milling about, it seems that I am team coordinator today. Denis politely smiles at Alice who is playing her first ever match and then flips up his hoodie as a thin layer of protection against the downpour. Alice trudges behind him, already shivering and regretting her optimistic outfit of shortie shorts.

Nervous Mum sidles up to me again but the rustling sound of parachute material and Goretex betrays her.

I know what she's going to ask and I'm dreading it.

I've got a bloody inner ear thingy that makes it hard to hear, hard to stand up straight and quite frankly, hard to give a crazy cow's crap-splat about Saturday morning tennis 'Special Grade 2' comp.

"Do you have someone who can umpire this game?"

Poo. Love Chunks senses my distress and offers to take on the first match. There he stands, trying to keep the umbrella open, his fingers and scoresheet dry and keep an eye out for faults and outs. I couldn't love him harder than at this particular moment. Goretex rustles off to umpire the number three mixed doubles. Any negative thoughts I have about her instantly vanish as she stands there without an umbrella and thongs on her sodden bare feet.

Sure enough another match is ready to commence. Umpiring tennis games is clearly a task that for most parents (our team and the opposition) enjoy doing about as much as a home-made genital wax but we're in a grade that requires an umpire for each match. I've already explained my Labyrinthitis to nearby parents, but suddenly two have to run an errand, one claims not to fully understand the rules and there's an unseemly rush to the warmth of the clubhouse toilet block.

Poo Bum. My turn but - thank god - Love Chunks has offered me his umbrella. The temperature mottles my handles into rather lurid red and blue splotches and I drop the pen in a puddle of water. "Hey boys...." ---I gesture them over to the net--- "......How about we forget the warm up shots and get straight into it?" They're as relieved as I am.

Poo Bum Bugger. It's wrong and unfair and bad sportsmanship to wish for a quick thrashing, isn't it, but I do wish that, very much. The score sheet is now an ideal paper mache slab and the boys are bravely fighting against the elements to hit hard, try harder and get it to four-all. Each thwack of the ball produces a spray of water that, if near the south side of the net, splatters into my face and make it even harder for my frozen paws to grip the umbrella, pen and notepad. I wallow in self pity and forget what I'm supposed to be out there doing. "Sorry guys, was that a fault or in - do you want to play two again?"

Our boys lose the match 6-4. I offer my congratulations but they're both keen to buy a foul-smelling lukewarm hotdog from the club canteen and huddle in the shelter by the court.

No sooner do I write down the store in both team books than another two matches have started and Goretex is out there again on one court and asks me to do the other. Poo Bum Bugger Shit!

Love Chunks grabs the notepad before I can plead, "Please, please dear, sweet and honourable Goretex lady, let me sit down. Force someone else to do it and I'll promise to give you enough chocolate to give you a much-needed winter coat for the duration of this season." He shakes out his umbrella in preparation for the rain and my love for him beats stronger.

Somehow, the rain clears a little. It's now an acceptable drizzle and the competition is close; closest we've ever come to winning. One more set out of the final three and we'll finally know what victory tastes like. Kids from sides are now willingly running out onto the courts to hit up ready for playing. Every single one of them has played brilliantly and, to my utter amazement, actually enjoyed themselves in arctic conditions. For reasons undeserved, I feel hugely proud of them all.

It is then, with three courts free and every kid out there warming up and trying to hit the balls as hard as they can to thrash the water out of them before their final doubles matches that Annoying Dad makes his re-appearance.

"I'm officially calling this match a wash-out. It's 10.35am and it's a draw."

Poo Bum Bugger Shit Faaaaart!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Somebody's innards becoming somebody's outwards

I have one of my favourite bloggers
Radgery to thank for that wonderful title.

After losing my voice last week on the day of my job interview (Love Chunks had to ring in and ask nicely for it to be rescheduled so that my answers didn't involve embarrasing attempts at charades and hand signals) I've now got Labyrinthitis.

So, let's just stop for a second. I've been a stay-at-home, freelance writer for three years now and, just two weeks before I leave the comforts of study, dog and ugg boots for full time work outside of the house, I suddenly contract all manner of illnesses.

Firstly the cold. No voice for two days which, though painful for me, was peaceful for Sapphire and Love Chunks.

Then, hayfever which, after avoiding me for ten years now decides to pay me a rather long and powerful visit. I sneeze so often and so loudly that tissues are useless against the power of a mach-three-speed snot oyster which shoots through the flimsy material and usually splats itself noisily somewhere much less desirable such as the kitchen door, the tram stop timetable or Love Chunks. My eyes are permanently itchy and I want to be able to ram my hand up inside my throat to scratch and wipe away the torturous tickliness that makes my head feel as though there's a Van Der Graaf Generator Appreciation Society meeting occurring inside without prior approval from me, owner of said head.

Thirdly, diarrhoea that comes and goes on a whim - sort of like the 7.20am Newmarket to Flinders Street train and, finally, Labyrinthitis.

According to the confusingly named Wise Geek, Labyrinthitis is
'a relatively common condition in which the labyrinths of one or both ears become inflamed. It is most often noticed by people feeling suddenly dizzy, or nauseous. Labyrinthitis is difficult to treat, since the cause is not always obvious, and it can persist for a few weeks to few months.

Some known causes of labyrinthitis include bacterial and viral infections, seasonal allergies, decompression sickness, or foreign matter blocking the ear. When foreign matter is the cause, or even a wax plug formed by the ear, this is usually easily treated and removed. When bacterial infection is the cause, it can be treated by antibiotics.

Recent medical literature suggests that the virus group most likely to cause labyrinthitis is the Herpes group
(excuuuuuuse me?). This includes many viruses, not simply those transmitted sexually. Labyrinthitis may occur after a long respiratory infection. Disturbed balance can create in many a sense of nausea or “seasickness.” The most common medication recommended to reduce nausea is the over the counter product meclizine. This is also recommended for people who get car sick or seasick, and it does seem fairly effective. The downside of meclizine is that often makes people feel tired or sleepy, and driving or operating machinery while taking it may not be advisable.

This all makes me feel like I'm drunk (without the fun of becoming so beforehand) and therefore stagger around crashing my sides into doorframes or sit up and saying 'Whoah' like a ancient, white female Bill and Ted before groping around for something to support me.

So, picture this: every sneeze (several hundred each pharken day right now) has weakened all of my torso muscles so that they're now accompanied by a explosive fart which means my entire body is torn in twain from the expelling from both pipes. I then clutch at my head in agony, fall sideways due to dizziness and apologise (if I've the wit left to remember) to anyone who heard the fart or whom I fell on top of.

And today's the day I venture into the shopping centre to look for some clothing that might be more acceptable (yes, even at uni) than my welded-on work-from-home uniform of polarfleece, trakkie daks and ugg boots. Heaven help the sales assistants and clothing racks.....

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hubbub and Hubris

It's been an interesting year so far.

I've been called a loser and a slut when out picking up litter;
A racist in the Letters to the Editor page of the Sunday paper;
A bigot by a Facebook friend;
Quirky by a interview subject;
Kind by a stranger on a tram;
Disrespectful by a fellow local; and
Lucky by a chocolate retailer.

During that time I've picked up 14,000 pieces of rubbish that I meticulously recorded in a little notebook, spending late into Saturday night collating into data comprising the top ten most-littered items in my neighbourhood and:

Published thirty articles;
Had a beer can thrown at me by a stranger;
Yelled at - and chased - three teenage boys;
Demanded several refunds;
Done three public speaking sessions;
Survived a term-long teaching session;
Received a second cholesterol reading of 7.4; and
cried more than a few times.

Now it's time for a change. Freelance writing has been fun and amazingly fruitful but ..... increasingly fraught. Deadlines adhered to by me aren't adhered to by the publisher and payment is only when the article is published. Savings for Fairfax means no fortnightly input into the family coffers from me. Two years of writing about a field in which I published a book three years ago means that, to me the topic feels like it's been mined to the blooping hot magma underneath the crust.

I went shopping last week and decided that it wasn't worth 'dressing up' in jeans and a clean jacket, but was okay to go in man-sized tracksuit pants and matching polar fleece. Clearly it was time to remind myself that not being interested in fashion is fine but dressing like a early-onset dementia patient most certainly is not..

So I started looking at the job ads again. It had been the first time since 2006 and the memory of Bulldog at the end of 2007 had faded enough to even consider administering in academia again.

Two days ago I was offered a job. Originally advertised as three days to full time, in reality it is full time. I accepted it.

Sapphire will need to go to after-school care every weeknight and her tennis lessons will have to be held later or not at all. Milly will be walked at 6.30am as opposed to whenever we both feel like a stroll to the post office, school yard or corner shop and the housework will now bleed into the weekends.

It feels right to me. I'm not wildly excited and that's a good thing. It's taken me a mere forty two years to figure out that a big salary and fancy job title isn't worth losing my teeth, sanity and sleep for. The position is do-able, sounds challenging but not stomach-ulcer-causingly so and is only about 2km or a nice walk from my front door.

We'll be able to see our mortgage move instead of stand still and think about crazy things like, say, saving up for a car that's younger than fifteen years old or maybe even an overseas holiday (apart from NZ, our last venture overseas was to Malaysia in 1998 and that's where Sapphire was made) and just to not to have stop, suck in my breath with concern and think hard before handing over my credit card.

Now all I need to do is smile and nod, smile and nod, smile and nod like we all do until our faces ache during our first few weeks in a new job.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

They Will Come

Being a tourist in your own country can be both an enlightening and frustrating experience.

I haven't been a tourist for quite a few months now - because I don't think spending one Saturday night in Bendigo last month counts - but having pined for Sapphire when she visited her grandparents in SA; then waving Love Chunks off to Switzerland and, a day after his return, Sapphire on the school bus to Canberra for the week, I started reminiscing.....

On our first night in Tasmania earlier this year, fresh off the ferry (or as fresh as you can be sitting on a freezing boat for nine hours with pie crumbs withering in your crotch and a pen stripe across your cheek that your family couldn't be arsed telling you about) and bleary-eyed in Devonport, we were keen to eat something decent. Preferably something not made four days earlier and sealed in a plastic triangle. Thus we found ourselves at our first touristy experience, Dannenbrog.

It's a steakhouse. And yet their menu informed me that it is named after the Danish flag because 'our Mary' married 'their Frederik' and it was considered the right name for a restaurant that challenges you to eat two 800 gram steaks plus chips, veges and gravy and win a bumper sticker for your efforts. We three declined, choosing much smaller cuts of meat but we were still amazed at the number of bumper stickers emblazoned with proud meat-eaters' names in black texta that lined the caravan-panelled take away section. The place was packed with locals and visitors and it was even going well enough to feature quite regularly in the ad-breaks between WIN-TV programs.

Maybe it was these drivers who owned the beach shacks at Dootown, quite near the blowhole (a natural attraction that both Love Chunks and Sapphire suggested - rather unkindly, in my view - should be essential viewing for me). The Bruces and Moiras had got into the spirit by naming their wonky little wooden boxes. We saw Love Me Doo, Didgeri-Doo, Doo Nix, We Doo, Wanna Doo, Doo Licious Fish and Chips, Doo Come Again, Can Doo, Sheil Doo, Thisll Doo, Dr DooLittle, XanaDoo and of course, Doo Me.

At a chocolate factory on the Bass Highway, Mr and Mrs Morbidly Obese pushed their way ahead of Love Chunks and Sapphire to get at the free samples. Toothpicks were provided to take one small sample, taste it and discard it before picking up another toothpick for another different sample. Mr MO speared as many chocolate ganache truffles that he could physically squeeze onto the tiny sliver of wood so that it resembled a fat satay, slid them into his mouth and then used the same toothpick to do it all over again. And again. Then he moved onto the next little box and underwent the same process for that particular flavour.

We decided that it might be best to just take a chance on the chocolate and buy some untested. Mr and Mrs MO, on the other hand, wiped their mouths against the back of their hands and bought nothing.

As I was handing over a twenty, a tour bus pulled up and the tiny shop was packed with bodies trying to pass by each other without being accidentally shoved into the precariously stacked shelves of fudge via their camera bags. These guys had five minutes for a 'look inside' as Dennis, their driver, headed straight for the bog beside the cafe. There was no time for tasting. "I take ten of those..... those....... ten more of those..... and those...... plus those," one Japanese man said, pointing at the truffles that appealed to him. Over a hundred dollars of chocolate based purely on time restriction, not taste.

The wildlife park at unfortunately named (not just for insult reasons but also because, well, how many moles are native to this country?) Mole Creek promised oodles of Tassie devils and had the Discovery Channel and Harry's Practice logos on their entry sign. The fibreglass devil at the gate wasn't quite so welcoming as his back legs had disappeared into the dirt and a large open hole was gaping in his lower back.

The paths were overgrown, having not seen a mower in a year or two but probably quite a few happy sun-loving snakes. Signs were faded or non-existent and no information was in front of any of the dilapidated enclosures.

A wedge-tailed eagle was busy eating a wallaby leg inside a hut no bigger than a lawn mowing shed whose roof had already caved in. The 'devils' were two in number; both fast asleep inside a dark log. One part of their fence had a sheet of cracked plastic perspex sheeting as a viewing area no doubt installed by someone even less handy than I am. Two baby wombats were also sleeping in a child's playpen with an old woollen blanket slung over half of the top to protect them from the sun.

We heard several different languages being spoken around us and I ached with shame at them visiting such a forsaken place. Fifteen minutes of aimlessly wandering around in shock saw me grit my teeth, purse my already thin lips and say (quite difficult with thin, pursed lips) to Love Chunks, "This is crap. I'm asking for our money back."

Sapphire cringed and LC busied himself trying to get the sleeping adult wombat to move (was it dead?) but I stood at the front counter and dinged the 'please ring if the desk is unaccompanied bell.' I usually don't do that but clear my throat politely in hope. Not today.

"Excuse me....!"

Reluctant worker girl dusted down her jeans and popped her head in the door. "Yeah?"

"I'd like my entry fee refunded please. Here's the receipt. This place is shabby, unsafe, rundown and provides absolutely no information whatsoever."

Sighing, she walked towards me. "Got your credit card receipt?" and snatched it out of my hand before I could answer. My request clearly wasn't the first.

Back in the carpark, we decided to head towards our next overnight stop and look for an ice-cream on the way. It was highly likely that most of it would fall prey to the gravitational pull of my crotch but at least it wasn't scalding hot coffee.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Generous God-like Gorgeousness that are Guide Dogs

Sponsored by Nuffnang

You regulars (makes you sound like bran cereal, doesn’t it?) know that I love dogs in all shapes, sizes, colours, breeds, mixers and moods.

Love Chunks and Sapphire continue to sigh as I rush over to someone and ask ‘Can I please pat your beautiful doggie thanks’ before they’ve even registered that I’m kneeling before them, stroking their pet’s ears.

Right. The context is set and my own dog – the marvellous Milly – is at my feet, snoozing in her beanbag as I’m writing this, stirring only occasionally to release a yawn or tiny yelp as she finally catches the motley cat who teases her behind the fence in her dreams and I’m pretty stoked to be able to tell you about the Six Feet One Journey campaign that celebrates the Guide Dogs movement with the support of FRONTLINE PLUS®.

Brett would have to have one of the cutest job titles ever: Puppy Raising Officer! This clip shows how pups from around eight weeks old are hosted by Puppy Raisers and their families for twelve months to learn basic social skills and obedience (ah if only we could do that for litterers, bogans and Mr Divvy Van). Then, when they’re around fourteen months old, they’re assessed at the Guide Dogs Centre to see if they’re suitable for guiding work. If so, they undergo an intensive, five month training course before being matched to a potential handler.

Allan is vision impaired and pretty happy with Archie. Yes, my cynical, raisin-dry heart was won over when he said, “Archie’s my dog, my eyes, my mate.”

Most Guide Dogs work for around eight or ten years and know that when their harness is on, it’s time to focus on work with their handler. But when the harness is off, it’s time to relax (no, that doesn’t mean you can lick that) and play with the whole household – their just reward.

It might be dogs who undergo the training but there’s certainly a lot we can learn from them.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Inevitably inevitable

It had to happen.

Of course it did.

The wonder is that it hadn't occurred sooner.

So we've established that it's no surprise whatsoever and yet it's annoying.

And painful.

And inconvenient.

No sooner has Love Chunks arrived home from being overseas for work and has this week off than I get a throat infection and lose my voice.

I'm miserable and silent but he'll have a restful week of unplanned-for peace and quiet.

Seeing as my week involves several telephone interviews, two meetings, two job interviews and a sociable brunch, I'm going to get this laminated:

I've lost my voice and my throat hurts, so please accept my smiling and nodding as a fair replacement for witty and insightful conversation.

On second thought, maybe I should carry the card around with me permanently. It'd sure take the pressure off.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Wednesday Word Verification explanations Edition Number 15

The day is nearly over: Sapphire's sleeping, the kitchen is closed, the bins are out and I should be doing a paid job due by first cup of coffee in the morning but there's silly meanings to dream up: all from words I have actually typed under the comments field on other blogs this past week.

when the face of a child (usually aged four or under) suddenly appears at the bottom of a toilet door that doesn't teach the floor.
Lavbus mostly occur in places that attract harried parents and toddlers such public toilets in shopping centres, caravan parks and picnic grounds and always when your knickers are around your knees and you're honking your nose into a fistful of loopaper. There's some faint comfort in knowing that road-house, pubs and train station facilities usually attract an entirely different kind of visitor.

Blerm - A loud and fake cough, precisely timed to disguise the loud 'plop!' of a newly-birthed turd in a posh public toilet. The blerm is a technique often deployed when making a dash to the restroom in the reception area of the company who is about to interview you, at fancy wedding venues and in shared small spaces such as luxury houseboats and open air bathrooms.

Chozygo - a relatively new breed of innercity dweller who insists on buying their meats, cheeses and spices from shops mentioned only in Gourmet Traveller or Epicure and within the tightly-defined City of Melbourne post code. Chozygos insist on purchasing Spanish ham, authentic chorizo sausages, cave-fermented French cheeses and sun-dried saffron threads only to take them home to their box-sized studio flats (sorry, 'ah-parht-ments') that contain less facilities to cook in them than the average side plate.

Ingloton (three times!) - A word or phrase that means well and hopes to influence public opinion but is spelled incorrectly. Not to be confused with coffee shop owners who can't spell focaccia, cappuccino or not put an apostrophe in fish and chip's.

Gynobbi - the visual outlines revealed in scanty clothing that we wish (oh, how we wish) we couldn't see. Most recently made famous by Tony Abbott in his speedos, the gynobbi effect is also seen in sprinters (hello Matt Shirvington), Survivor contestants and well endowed women who wear white t-shirts on cold days and possess more than their fair share of bulging back fat.

Sproter - a person who insists on coming over to see you at 11pm on a weeknight because they're desperate for a kind ear and some advice to stop them from taking a particular action that they know is stupid, immature and not going to solve their problem. After several coffees, half a box of tissues, back rubs and a 2am farewell, the Sproter leaves with gratitude and platitudes about real friendship but does exactly what you advised them not to do.

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