Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Rita the non-ETA Eater

Brought to you once again by the collection of magazines hidden in my study

In 1976, nothing said creativity and sophistication like a Sunbeam electric frypan. Mum used ours to, well, fry everything she could lay her hands on which was lamb chops about 80% of the time. Even the Sunday roast lamb was done in it with the lid on and the potatoes and onions swimming around the outside in a pool of hot fat, their bottoms getting stuck to the element for me to pick off and eat hours later.

Here though we have a Masterfoods Three Bean Mix Egg Combo which is eerily ahead of its time in that it is designed as a huge cross, indicating "NO! Just don't try this at home if you wish your corduroy slacks to stay in one piece and your net curtains to remain white. NO!"

Clearly too, such an artistic design is meant not just for the kitchen bench but to be brought directly to the table so that all eaters could see just what a treat - visual and oral - they were in for that night.

Later that same year, Streets icecream brought out the Toffee, er, Log. This brown barrell featuring swirls of cream and light brown pretty well echoed the decor of a million kitchens around the country and if served in burnt orange melamine bowls (as ours were) the look was complete.

The taste, on the other hand, was significant only in that it was insignificant. Still, it did help get the Stainless Steel Sunbeam Three Bean Egg Mix combo to slide down.

In keeping with the fashions of the time, you could also opt for Brown done three ways with a pot of pus - sorry, sauce - to dip your meats into. Mmmm hmmm who needs any other colours when you can do like you did in kindergarten art class and mix them all together and arrive at wonderful, delicious and complete brown.

In 1977, Coles had created a New World. No, not one involving the eradication of deadly diseases or the end to all war and conflicts, but the introduction of Farmland Meat. 'Farmland' presumably meant a factory location where animals were dragged in and killed, cut up and placed on styrofoam trays covered in gladwrap rather than a sunny shop filled with rolling paddocks, gently lowing cattle and milking sheds.

And look at how excited Trevor-the-neckless is to be featured in this advertisement. It was either this or be handpicked for the Yorkshire Ripper police line up and at least here he was able to wield a knife without being violently thrown to the floor and read his rights.

Thankfully there were other options to beans, Brown and Trevor's rather slapdash and very fat-laced meat trays - Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Colonel Sanders was still alive at the time and stuff such as raging obesity, sky-high cholesterol and heart disease were still faint enough to be ignored, as was trying to hide 'Fried' in an acronym. What could out-do beans for sophistication and refinement than a grease-spattered cardboard box of unrecognisable chicken pieces? Yep, that's "real goodness" for you!

We had to settle for that until 1982 brought about a revolution. No, not just the official end of Adam and the Ants as a viable form of music but - steady yourselves - the introduction of sliced cheese.

When Mum bought these - Dad would turn his nose up and announce they tasted like flat soap - we kids would hoover them up like after dinner mints (same shape). The old one kilo block of Coon was left languishing, getting blue spotted and sweaty in its plastic coat as we pushed it to the back of the fridge and instead ate slice after slice of Kraft. I can't remember adding bread or anything else to it too often but yes, this changed the way we ate, thought, sang, worshipped, loved, grew, progressed ..... Heady times.

A year later when wearing plastic maps of Australia for earrings was considered de-rigeur, McDonald's decided to tell us that meat potatoes and bread were healthy, especially when reconfigured as a Big Mac. "Have some wholesome McDonald's meals and you're well on your way to a balanced diet." Yeah, in HELL. Even reading this tripe the first time around as a fourteen-and-a-half year old in my mother's Womens' Weekly I knew that I'd rather eat another frypans' worth of three bean egg mix.

All was calm by 1988 when the humble Jatz Cracker was the Easy Entertainer.

I've studied the photo for a while now and can't for the life of me work out what's on those easy entertainers - turkey kidneys? Cat tumours? Tree fungi? Hippo snot? In our day it was French Onion dip or some good old Kraft cheese cunningly ripped into four with a thin slice of gherkin on the top, ready for a raging night of Porky's II on beta video or some games of Pong on the black and white TV in the pool room.....

Rita here perhaps sums up the effects that such foods had on the bowels of those who willingly ate it.

The poor love was out of routine. It was either her diet or her busy busy life. It sure as hell couldn't have been those 23 cheese slices and Kentucky Fried bucket, could it? Or three wholesome Big Macs and a bowl of three been mix?

Ford Pills would set her straight; help her back out a toffee log of her own one of these days. Then she'll be able to do a semi plie without frightening her students or shattering the mirrors.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Welcome home

After five weeks of realising that the job was a slippery slope to doom and coming home to cry about it, it was our dog, Milly, who missed out the most.

She'd be the one waiting at the door, tail wagging madly as I'd stagger past, straight into LC's arms to wail. I'd then dust myself off, wipe my face and seek out Sapphire - out with the rabbit or in her room reading - to find out the latest in her bullying saga.

Then I'd cry again; worrying and fretting for my daughter instead of myself.

Milly would hover next to my legs uncertainly, tail still wagging but slower this time; nose nudging me every now and then to reassure me of her presence. "Yes Milly, I'll feed you," I'd sigh tiredly.

That was unfair because food has always been secondary to attention, affection and love. Milly had never been a chore to me and it was wrong of me to treat her that way.

The week before the job started, Sapphire drew this cartoon of Milly which I had framed, planning to take it in to put on my desk.

I never felt comfortable enough to do that, so now it's at home by the front door for every visitor to see.

The real dog is at my feet, eyes glistening and smiling in that unique way that only she has. She's back where she belongs. As am I.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Upping Stumps

I quit my job after only five weeks and realise that the past five years haven't been exactly stellar regarding the formal work front.

Five years ago I worked myself into a nervous breakdown;
Three years ago my boss pushed me out;
Last week I resigned.

A breakdown after five years; a firing after two years and a giving-up after five weeks.

What's the next one going to be - going postal after ten minutes?

I don't think so.

After a weekend of crying, I'm trying hard not to see it as a failure but as something I tried that wasn't the right fit; wondering why just getting basic and necessary tasks done needed to be so difficult; why people were tardy, grumpy, hidden from view. Skewing things out of proportion and making me feel miserable, useless and trapped.

Except I wasn't. Trapped, that is.

We all have to suffer rudeness and dishonesty and disinterest at times but I grew tired of hearing, "Yeah they've had a bad year, so aren't likely to be helpful" as something I had to accept. Hearing, "You don't belong to our unit, go somewhere else" when they were the sole owners of the information/room/activity/knowledge and therefore had the power.

So I decided not to put up with it.

Money will be tight - freelancing work starts with 'free' for a reason a lot of the time but I've learned something. I am still employable. I just don't need to say 'yes' to the first thing that's offered, especially when most of the requirements I was looking for in a job weren't there. I can be fussy even if it means that our financial situation will need a much more careful eye.

I need to value the work that I do with and for my family as much as they do and stop worrying about what other people think. I need to get off my arse - or firmly back on it, seeing as it's mostly computer based - and start writing the damn novel that's been percolating, bubbling, brewing in my brain all year.

2011 - Year of change; year of being brave.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

"Whaddaya want me to do, lady?"

After five weeks, I'd finally lost it. Walking across Flemington Road in peak hour traffic means that the lights force me to stop smack-bang in the middle of one of the busiest thoroughfares in Melbourne, standing uncertainly on the tram tracks and hoping that the light pole might offer some protection from the cars roaring past turning right.

Every day at least five cars run the now-red right turn light, making my heart pound faster as I realise just how easy it would be to stay in the mindless walk-home groove and step out automatically at the pip-pip-pipping sound of the green man.

Today, I'd had enough. Today, the last culprit - and surely the one most conscious of breaking the law - had pulled up for petrol at the station on the other side of the road. His wife had gone in to pay and I knocked - yes knocked - on his window.

"Do you realise that you nearly killed me back there, when you ran that red light?"

"Sorry lady. There was a car behind me and nowhere to go."

"No there wasn't. You were NOT across the intersection but had decided to just barrel on ahead and did not see that people were crossing."

"Whadday want me to do, lady? I said I was sorry."

It was then that I saw the three kids sitting in the back seat which made me turn on my heel and walk off. "Yeah, fuck off," he spat and I briefly entertained visions of walking right back and using my umbrella to smash that big fat face of his until he begged for mercy.....

But of course I didn't. I had an in-house computer finance course to get to. Stuffy computer room with ten desks and two petite instructors, both nervous and speaking way too fast. One chair was empty.

Ten minutes into the course Mrs Busy Boobs Clacky Beads arrived, huffing and puffing and late, telling the rest of us how busy she was, how she'd have to have her mobile phone on all the time because her staff needed her and no, being from a remote location meant that she hadn't done the online prerequisite course.

Just my luck that Busy Boobs plonked herself in the seat opposite me. She answered several calls as the instructor was teaching, leaving in a huff when the assistant trainer asked her to take the calls outside. At morning tea, hoping to get her to climb off her high horse, one of them broke the silence by asking her where she was from: Shepparton campus perhaps? "No, Lincoln Square. It took me ten minutes to walk here."

Ah. We all busied ourselves checking our own mobile phones, willing the time away until the lesson resumed. The miserable packet of Arnotts Milk coffee biscuits were untouched.

Back in class, as I was struggling to understand how thirty four steps would produce an invoice and raised my hand to ask the teacher a question Busy Boobs sighed. Loudly. Her betty-rubble beads clacked on the desk as she tapped her pen irritably against them.

Busy Boobs sighed again when the instructor answered another classmate's question. She then muttered, 'oh please no' when the teacher said, "Shall I go through that step again?" as the rest of us nodded. I'd seen this sort of passive-aggressive crap before - mutter it loud enough for me to hear, but not the teacher. Shades of Sapphire's recent experiences at school filled me with red. I snapped. "Will you please be quiet. I need to know this for my job. You are being very rude."

She shut up immediately but I derived little comfort from a classmate saying 'I wanted to give you a high five' as we escaped the room two hours later.

12:30. The course officially ended at 1:00pm, so I decided to eat my lunch in the park opposite my work building.

This was a nice opportunity to soak in the sunshine and breathe in the air for my room inside has no windows or even a view towards outside. It is dark and strobe-lit and I can feel my body wilting without a glimpse of outside or natural light.

Up at the very top of the building a pigeon tried vainly to smash its way inside. Again and again it tried, convinced that the glass reflection of a blue sky and clouds was the real thing. The cries and the smacking sound was painfully audible from where I sat on some cement steps under a tree, slowly chewing my bread roll.

12:59. I bunched my gladwrap into a tight little ball in my hand and slowly walked inside the building. Unlike the pigeon, I'm allowed - required - to go inside.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Sixty (written by a six year old presumably)

Yep, this one's from Plastic Mancunian again. It's hard not to read these, get involved and interested in the person writing them and then want to have a crack (at the questions, not the person) yourself.

1. Are you happier now than you were five months ago?
No but each day I walk home and tell myself that I've contributed to the family and have a man, a girl and a dog who always (and inexplicably, some days) are happy to see me.

2. Have you ever slept in the same bed with anyone that you shouldn't have?

3. Can you sleep in total darkness?
Of course. I'd prefer it, if possible.

4. Your phone is ringing. It’s the person you fell hardest for, the one who got away, what do you say?

5. What do you think about the weather this summer?
Very Darwin-like - steamy, sultry, humid. I'll put up with it if it helps fill the reservoirs and keep beautiful old trees and parklands alive and means that I don't have to carry buckets of shower water out to the lawn.

6. How many people do you trust with everything?

7. What was the last thing you drank?
Coffee. Mrs Krups is back from the hospital and working like a charm!

8. Is there anyone you want to come see you?
Hmm, how about someone with a ten million dollar cheque made out to me? One that isn't from Nigeria or the European lottery commission based in the Netherlands and won't bounce? Failing that, a house cleaner, masseuse and gardener; all with OCD tendencies relating to their particular job choice and a willingness to help.

9. Name one thing you love about winter?
Covering up. No need to suck in the stomach rolls when they're hidden under several layers. Wearing ugg boots at home. The forgiving, warm nature of polar fleece. Spicy foods, chocolate, home made soup. Oversized bowls of spag bol.

10. Have you ever dated a Goth?
No. Being with someone ever paler than I am would have meant that they'd be technically dead and I also wouldn't fancy fighting with him for the eyeliner.

11. What are you looking forward to tomorrow?
Waking up feeling refreshed and hopeful after a really solid nights' sleep.

12. Name something you dislike about the day you’re having?
Slightly grumpy due to lack of sleep and steeling myself for battling the bureaucracy whilst keeping my determination and friendly smile intact; genuine or not.

13. What's the longest that you have committed to one person and one person only?
Love Chunks - seventeen and a half years. A combination of whizzing by in a blur and not being able to remember what was life was like before him.

14. What’s the first thing you did when you opened your eyes today?
Grabbed my watch to turn the alarm off and immediately swung my feet out of the bed and onto the floor. You can't sigh or procrastinate for a second but need to get up and out before your brain registers how tired and unwilling it still is.

15. Has anyone ever told you they never want to ever lose you?
Yes. In various situations, most of which I'm not proud of and realise that I've been a huge drain on patience, tolerance, emotion and kindness.

16. Is there anybody that you wish you could fix your relationship with?
Several. There are broken, bitter friendships and misunderstandings that hurt me at the time, but would probably benefit from a 'Here's what I did then, here's what I've learned now' conversation. I've even managed to have a couple of those on Facebook and luckily they were kind enough to friend me back. One particular person I'll never ever forgive. Ever.

17. Could you go out in public, looking like you do now?
Yep. A dag but proudly conscious of it. It's about comfort, blending in and finding other things to stress about (of which there are plenty); not the style of my shoes or cut of my shirt.

18. Do you think things will change in the next 3 months? How?
For the better. I'll get into the groove of working full time, we'll all understand what our home 'jobs' are and do them as a habit instead of a favour to each other, I'll be laughing more and be slimmer after my achilles has righted itself and I can run again.

19. Do you believe that you never know what you got until you lose it?
Not always. I'm a big reminiscer but even I understand that rose-coloured glasses have a huge impact. Sometimes losing something (or someone) may be painful at the time but works out for the best in the end. Unless it's a favourite pair of sunglasses that you've had for years and misplaced.....

20. Do you have a friend of the opposite sex you can talk to?
Yes, several I think. I don't think I've ever been a girls-only girl.

21. If you were to live your life without your best friend, what would change?
LC - don't even want to sit here imagining it.
Jill (known her since she was two days old) - sadder, colder, un-funner.

22. Tell us about a era of your life that you really miss.
My two years in the United Kingdom were pretty amazing. With rose-coloured spectacles firmly on it was because of the total lack of responsiblities I had - crappy bedsit was fun because it wasn't forever; crappy job was fun because the people were fantastic (same age, same social life, same senses of humour); the travel; the eternally-fascinating city of London....
Specs off - lonely at times; very expensive; homesick; very bad food; no Love Chunks.

23. Have you ever been betrayed by someone that came as a complete surprise? Without revealing the person, if yes, tell us about it.
YES. I've touched on it before, but you can reacquaint yourself here.

24. Do you ever think that is a good idea to hide your feelings?
Oooh yeah. It is not always the best timing to have a rant and I've learned the hard way too that 'honesty' isn't always what the other person wanted no matter how often they say that it is. Nobody likes to be pulled up on bad behaviour or misconception or shoddy work and no matter how well it's stated, it comes back to bite you somehow. Subtlety is always best but take copies and notes to cover your own arse. Always.

25. Tell us about your favorite year when you were a student.
I hated university and did my best to remain completely inconspicuous amongst the smarter, cooler, more confident crowds swirling around me. Having a lovely boyfriend and some good mates really helped though and we had a lot of laughs together making coffees in our rooms at college.

25. When was the last time you were in a very good mood? What caused it?
Last night. Love Chunks and I had a chuckle at Milly and Skipper's Christmas Wish Lists as written down by Sapphire on her bedroom door. She has depicted the dog as a lovable graffiti artist and the rabbit as a strict atheist. Then back to the living room to watch Season 3 of 'The Office' (US version) and realise that it was wrong of me to write it off when it first came out. It is brilliantly funny and cheers me up no end.

26. Have you ever had a romantic relationship with a sibling of a good friend?
Never. Love Chunks can't say that though!

27. Tell us about the last thing that you did that you truly regret.
Telling my daughter to 'just ignore her' for months on end, realising that it should have been reported instantly. Sapphire's spirit suffered at the constant drip-drip-drip of nasty whispered remarks, rumour spreading and exclusion. From this week on, she knows that her teacher and principal believe her, so 'loud and proud dobbing' is her modus operandi until the end of the year.
These two sentences are now in her arsenal:
1) "Can you say that a bit louder, J, so that the teacher can hear?:
2) "No, you're not going to get away with saying that to me. Miss N, J just said...."

28. When did you laugh today?
Haven't yet. Only had one coffee so far.

29. Do you trust easily?
Yes, dammit. I try to see the best in people. Maybe that's why I get genuinely shocked at stuff like bullying, litter and snobbery.

30. What do you care about that you wish more people would?
Litter, bullying and snobbery.

31. Is it easier for you to go without food or go without sleep?
Sleep. Many times my old body has shown that it can do a fortnight on less than two hours sleep a night before all systems crash. Food - I can miss one meal before things get shaky - mentally and physically so before the end of Day One on Survivor I'd be the weirdo sobbing under the coconut tree eating my own shoe....

32. What non-alcohol beverage do you enjoy drinking the most?
Water. Room temperate. Try to suck down 2 litres a day and mostly succeed.

33. When you walk into a room full of strangers, generally how is your confidence?
Fairly high these days. I finally understand that we're all as nervous, confident, funny, serious, committed, flighty and ridiculous as each other and no-one wants me to fail or to fail themselves.

34. Does talking about sex with anyone but your lover make you uncomfortable?
Nah. It's the world's hilarious topic.

35. Do you tend to believe members of the opposite sex mostly behave the same way?
What? No! That's like saying that everyone in my particular school year - Monkeys - are the same, or that I'm like one twelfth of the population - Scorpios. Hell, I'm not even like my own family!

36. Did you drink any alcohol this week? If yes, what?
Nothing yet. I tend to have a glass of wine with dinner about twice a week or a glass of baileys on ice late night if there's good telly happening.

37. Would you ever consider being a vegetarian?
Yep. I often order the vege option when I go out because I'm not a rare meat girl and am not into the Masterchef pork belly/pink quail/raw red lamb phenomenon.

39. Do you believe in the concept of soul mates?
Sort of. However there isn't just One for each of us. Think back to the people you went out with before you met your forever person. All of them had things about them that you liked/loved/were attracted to and factors such as maturity, life stages etc influenced a whole heap of factors. The better question to ask is, "How do you keep your soul mate?"

41. What are your plans for this weekend?
A couple of end-of-year thingies, a ferocious lot of housework and then a day of fun with LC and Sapphire that doesn't involve shopping for presents, chores, sunburn or mosquito bites.

42. Do you think someone might be thinking poorly about you? Why might that be?
Hmmm. My first reaction was to say, "I'm sure there is. If I have people I don't particularly like or admire, then surely some of them feel the same way about me," but then I thought, how UP MYSELF am I to assume that I've entered the psyche of any of those people? After all, aren't most problems due to the fact that the other person didn't think about you at all?

42. What features don't you have that you would like on your cell?
None. I use it to make and answer calls. Yes, I'll occasionally text if I'm on the tram and very very rarely take a photo but I don't want to be someone who has a permanently-cricked neck due to staring at the black shiny thing in their palm all day.

43. How many people can comfortably sleep in your bed?
It's a queen, so two adults (allowing for tossing and turning and splaying of limbs) and possibly a small (and very still, so therefore it doesn't exist) child.

44. What are you hoping happens by the end of 2010?
That I feel settled into the groove of work and have made some inroads into understanding and obtaining help from the bureaucracy. That I learn to chill a bit more about chores and housework and obligations and that Sapphire fully regains her spirit, having been freed from the bully and knowing that she won't be in her class next year.

45. What was the last video you watched on YouTube?
A best-of clip from Radgery's facebook page that featuring all the YouTube classics (Charlie bit my finger, chipmunk's weird look, piano cat, heaps of classic stacks etc).

46. Would you ever agree to an open relationship with someone?
No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no NO. My heart would dry up, split into sharp shards, pierce all of my other vital organs and die. Brutally and painfully.

47. Is there something that you could never give up?
Food and water for a start. Trying to be friendly. Having a laugh. Love Chunks and Sapphire. Good coffee. Kissing the dog.

48. Would you, (or did you) prefer a small, intimate wedding reception, or a big-scale, over-the-top reception?
Very small, held in my parents' back garden. Dress cost $12 for the material and the honeymoon (or 'holiday' as we liked to call it) cost way more than the $1000 for nibbles and drinks at the 'reception'. No official cake, no speeches.

49. What’s bothering you right now?
My inability to shake minor annoyances off quickly. How I wish I was like Milly the dog who with a good flap of her ears manages to dislodge every loose hair from her coat, have a stretch and immediately forgets whatever it was that irritated her in the first place.

50. Do you hate anyone?
Sadly yes. You'd think, after slightly more than three years that I'd have moved on, but no. I still hate her.

51. What were you doing at 12 am last night?
Lying in bed, listening to the fan whirring overheard, Love Chunks snoozing on my right and the 'ker-LUNK' of the bathroom door after Sapphire shut it. Need to have a word to her about keeping things a bit quieter during the midnight wee trips.....

52. Is the last person you kissed before your current situation mad at you?
I don't think so; I can't even remember who it was..... Oh, wait. Yeah, he might have been mad at me at the time, but he would have forgotten by now, surely? It was EIGHTEEN YEARS ago!

53. Can a man and woman be friends without having feelings for each other?
Of course. I assume that 'feelings of friendship' is still acceptable?

54. Do you think long distance relationships work? If you’ve had one, tell us about it.
Never had one. Not sure how they could work if that person isn't 'there' for you more often than not and who wants to sleep alone if they're supposedly 'with' someone?

55. Do you know why it’s called “Random Boredom“?
Clearly I am way too old for this questionnaire.

56. Do you think that it’s always the man’s responsibility to initiate sex?
What? How OLD is the person who wrote these, nine? Of course not! (my answer to the original question, not the person who wrote the question)

57. Have you ever made love while you were in the same room with another couple?
NO. At least I sure as hell hope not and hope that there's not some grainy footage out there anywhere..... ~shudder~

58. Tell us the best thing about your current or most recent S/O.
Significant Other? His kindness. And patience. And humour. Let's also bung in intelligence, perception, cooking skills, fathering skills and his smell when I hold him tight.....

59. Tell us the worst thing about your current or most recent S/O.
Gets tetchy when he's hungry or tired or both. Snores very loudly on occasion. Enjoys a lot of televised sport. Kind of nice to see that these answers aren't exactly deal breakers.

60. If you could write a novel, what would it be about?
Ooh it's brewing baby, it's brewing!