Saturday, January 29, 2011

I love the smell of wheelie bins in the morning

Summer has been pretty mild in Melbourne this year. Days that would disappoint a kid are appreciated by me in my dotage – 24C to wear t-shirts and thongs but not be restricted by the heat or risk a wet back and knickers driving around in a car whose air conditioner has recently bit the dust.

This weekend is different – 35C today and 40C tomorrow and Love Chunks reckons that February might be the month of fried lawns and frazzled school children. On days like that the only acceptable thing to do for those of us without swimming pools is to stay inside with the blinds down and do nothing more energetic than twist an ice-cube tray and catch up on the unread weekend supplements.

Milly and I have been doing our walks early in the morning before the sun bursts out malevolently from behind the Mt Alexander Road mechanics' and starts burning our already-struggling grass.

At 7am, the streets are quiet save for the big-night-outers still struggling home in broken stilettos and ripped jeans or other committed power-walkers and fat fifty-something delivery drivers in white vans. There's no fresh scent of honeysuckle or ripe plums in the air. In Flemington it’s the yeasty smell of beer vomit, chicken bones and half-eaten Krazy Kebabs.

We’re used to stepping around those kinds of splats on the footpath: what assails us mostly as we walk is the malodorous stench of wheelie bins. In a tightly-packed suburb studded with blocks of flats, the hulking Brunswick green odour-emitters take up half the footpath with barely a gap in between.

These have been particularly unpleasant when summer socialising, seafood on special and lingering warm weather are combined. The offensive cocktail of week-old prawn heads, rancid ham hocks, cherry pips, sticky meat trays, use-by dips and cockroach crap seep up and out of their innocent flip top lids and seem hellishly devised to coincide with each intake of my breath.

Perhaps it is wrong to write 'us' because to Milly the pong is on a par with Chanel No. 5. In her tiny furry brain she is perhaps rueing the fact that, at 40cm high, she's physically unable to flip herself in and have a good roll around the peelings, oil drips and the unfortunate bodies of flung-out pet guinea pigs who did not cope so well with the Australia Day fireworks.

Inevitably she stops in her tracks, does a self-conscious squat that ends in three back-leg kicks at least two metres away from her ‘product’ in a half-hearted attempt to bury it. I'm prepared for this and hold my breath at the same time as swooping down with the black plastic 'doo doo' bag. Pulled inside out and tightly knotted, the nugget doesn't touch my skin but feels warm in my hand. I keep walking, looking for the next bin on the footpath.

Well coat a turd in coconut and force feed it to Andrew Bolt - what a stink! Lifting up a wheelie bin lid is like staring into the olfactory gates of hell complete with wriggling maggots on a mission. Staggering back, I bend down to ruffle Milly’s velvety orange ears. She chooses that moment to yawn and I'm again assailed by a slightly less repulsive smell: canine morning breath. How fresh meat and a bone can translate to a gaseous puff of Pal, puke and parmesan remains a mystery.

Half way through our walk, we stop to cut through Debney park oval. Milly's let off her leash and chases the seagulls gathered on the cricket pitch in her joy at being temporarily free in public. Bugger it - she backs out another nugget and the doo-doo dispenser is empty. A few fun minutes are spent finding a strip of bark big enough to scoop and carry off the evidence and hide it somewhere that feet are less likely to tread.

Whilst I'm busy living the dream of dog ownership, she has found something worth stopping for - a galah. Dead at least a fortnight, it smells like, even from my nasal perspective a hundred metres away. "No Milly - don't roll in---"

Too late. She's rubbing her backbone into those fetid feathery remains like Marilyn Monroe on a mink. "MILLY - COME HERE!" She eventually does, with a tongue-lolling, wide-faced grin of bliss. A cloud of sticky summer flies come along for the ride, mesmerised by the black streaks on her coat.

Whew. When we get home, I remove Milly's collar and fill up the watering can by the back of the water tank. The newly-nude dog immediately senses danger and scoots for cover by Love Chunks’ canoe at the side of the house.

After a weak tussle in the scorching sun she accepts defeat and allows me to wet her, shampoo all the stench away and give a thorough rinse before releasing her again. The worst damage she can do is roll on the ground and cover herself in dead grass clippings and endure my laughter as I call her a soggy lamington with a tongue.

All this effort hasn't eradicated the sweet smell of Exelpet but it's all she's got. She gives me a resentful look and settles down on her trampoline bed by the back door. She knows: tomorrow there'll be another walk and she'll find another dead bird; wheelie bins providing a hint as to the scent she’ll again anoint herself with……

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Split Second Decision

It's been an interesting week. My sister-in-law was rushed to hospital with a suspected stroke that turned out to be Bells Palsy leaving her wearing a pirate eye patch and smiling sardonically on one side regardless of how she really feels. A couple of days later my best mate Jill went for a huge stack on her bike during the Down Under event and found herself knocked unconscious only to wake up with two black eyes, stitches inside her mouth and above her eyebrow and a set of inflated lips that may make her look like Angelina Jolie but unable to eat (therefore, even more like Ms Jolie).

My own lingering tennis elbow and stubborn Achilles tendon are, in comparison, pitifully minor ailments.

And yet I could have ended up with something so painful and so humiliating that it would have made the newspapers (if only to divert attention away from the flood damage). What is even more unbelievable is that it was caused by Skipper, our 1.5 kilogram rabbit who, apart from one slightly-annoyed "Eh" when I squirted him with water when it was 43C last summer is silent and accepting.

Life for him is pretty damn comfy. In addition to his two-storey town house with in-built ramp and separate bedroom* facilities, we've also rigged up a rather roomy little grassy area for him to gad about in during the day. There's an old Balinese wrap to give him shade, a bottle of fresh water, heaps of long grass to nibble and lie on and a big box to hide in and/or chew.

Most evenings, after a feed of carrot or cucumber, he's pretty willing to have me lean over the one metre-high fence, scoop him up and put him to bed.

Some nights though, he's clearly chewed a few too many lavender leaves and likes to dash to the far corner out of my grasp.

Nyah na na nyah na!

This means that I can either open the tiny entrance gate and wedge myself through the human equivalent of a cat flap giving the neighbours next door a rather good impression of a chubby human bike-rack or athletically hoik one leg over, gingerly manoevre it so that my girlie bits aren't punctured and then kick the other one over.

It is a tricky little dance and made about ten times more difficult on the return when I've got a squirming little vermin under my left arm pit.

And so it was three nights ago. He scuttled over to the corner, I did my dance and grabbed him, catching a few bonus poos as they shot out like machine gun fire. A normal event at 9pm for me in other words.

Not this time. A bit of sealing tape had fallen off the box and when combined with the dewy grass, made me slip a little. This was not a good time when my left leg was in the process of being wildly flung over the fence. My right leg wobbled, threatening to collapse and I had a nano-second to decide: puncture my left thigh on the fence or keep moving slightly and risk...... and risk ....... slicing myself exactly in half like a busted pair of scissors in full view of the guy on the third floor balcony who was having a smoke and a chat on his mobile.

I chose the former and it h-u-r-t like the time it took over an hour to get my tattoo but compressed into half a second of thudding agony with a sledgehammer replacing the vibrating needle pricks. Thankfully Skipper was still under my armpit and not squashed into a furry scarf. The fence briefly buckled under the weight of my right leg as it missed the height several times but snapped back just in time to whip the inside of my non-injured thigh.

The next morning I had a purple Cadbury Creme egg living in my leg which was a genuine surprise because I'd assumed that my old chunky trunks had enough padding to protect me from everything ranging from a slap to a slug gun. Apparently not.

It's the largest bruise I've ever had so when Sapphire and I went to visit our sister-in-law and my brother to check how she was recovering from Bells Palsy, I just had to join in. "Look at this - I'll take off my jeans but don't worry, you won't see anything rude."

Recent weight gain has meant that my jeans were tighter than normal, so pulling them down meant that they grabbed my knickers too, leaving me bare arsed in their living room. "Omigod, I'm so sorry," I gasped, pulling them back up. Enough polite sympathy for the bruise was received for me to recover from my impromptu plumbing display. Soon after we headed home for some afternoon tea.

Fruit for me after the jeans incident and Sapphire walked in to see me laughing and taking a picture of my plate.

I swear I didn't deliberately arrange it that way.

"Only you could be entertained by a peach and a banana, Mum."
I ignored her, snapping away.
"Oh and we all saw everything, Mum. Thank god the neighbours weren't home."

* Newspaper lined poo room

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Love Chunks and Sapphire have gone camping. Because it was booked a while back when it was assumed that I'd be well into my full-time job and not have any leave, I wasn't part of the holiday package.

When I quit, I decided to remain a non-camper because the thought of spending six nights in a tent in a crowded caravan park at the height of summer and having to queue for a shower and make sure I didn't drop my knickers on a wet floor festooned with pubes and tissues wasn't going to convince me otherwise. Plus, it'd give me a few luxuriously-empty days to do a bit more work on The Novel.

And I have done some work, the emphasis on some rather than heaps. None of it is particularly literary or engrossing but the effort right now is just getting it down; sometimes an entire chapter and other times a mere idea or line destined for another section of the story entirely. I'll then sit outside with a coffee and Skipper the rabbit in my lap and wonder if it's interesting, realistic, funny, heartfelt, compelling, page-turning enough.... The trouble is I honestly haven't a clue. Like everyone else, I know a good book when I read one but am finding it impossible to distance myself from the words that are flying out of my fingertips. All previous knowledge of structure and character and plot have escaped me.

Vomit it out, get it down and only think about logging off when you're happy with the word count for the day has been the modus operandi.

But all this free time has made me a bit droopy for my two favourite humans when the computer is turned off and my mind has to focus on what to cook for dinner. No, I'm not pining for Love Chunks because of his cooking skills but am sadly aware that, on my own I degenerate straight back to the carelessly slapdash meal preparer that used to live in a one-roomed bedsit off Baker Street in London twenty years ago.

How does home made potato wedges and tomato sauce sound? Okay but a bit plain? Well I then followed it up with a 'salad' that consisted of half a cucumber and a small head of cos, both eaten separately and whole. Dessert was half a bowl of orange-flavoured jelly and a blackberry yoghurt with a use-by date of December 29th.

Dinner the previous night was a pasta disaster that consisted only of a tin of chopped tomatoes, four mushrooms, half a green capsicum and an ancient tin of mussels in barbecue sauce. It tasted as bad as it deserved to taste, the crunch of each poorly-cooked capsicum a direct contrast to the rubber of the oversized sultanas that were masquerading as seafood.

Monday was the highlight - pea and prawn risotto with a fresh salad (in a bowl and everything) with balsamic and smoked garlic salt. But that was only because my friend Amanda was over for dinner; the following morning it was back to saladas for breakfast, Cadbury creme eggs and coffee for lunch. While she was there we each had a glass of good and earthy McLaren Vale cab sav and, three nights later, the bottle beckoned to me.

Hell, I needed it to wash away all lingering tastes of the mussel mess. Tennis was boring, the computer was off and my shoulders hurt from being hunched over it for too long and 'Are you being served?' was not an option. It was time to bring Skipper in to play on the rug.

Milly licked his ears and let him sniff her in turn, an impressive display of self restraint and generosity for a dog who chases birds and cats with automatic vengeance and no willingness to be called to heel. The wine was flowing a treat and, the merrier I got, the funnier I found it.

The evening was warm and it was time to get up and refill my glass. Skipper was stretched out on the floor, his legs behind him which meant that he was feeling comfy and not worried about predators. Milly's nails clicked as she trotted into the kitchen with me. Wine, boredom and loneliness meant that it was time for a song.

Grabbing her front paws so that she'd dance with me, I began:

Her name was Milly she was a showgirl
With yellow feathers in her hair and a dress cut down to there
Milly merengues and does the cha-cha
And while she tried to be a star, Skipper always tended bar
At the Copa - Co! - Copacabana
The hottest spot north of Havana
At the Copa - Co! - Copacabana
Music and passion were always the fashion
At the Copa....they fell in lo-o-o-o-o-ve......

"Er, Barry Manilow? Um are you there, Kath?"

Oh staple my butt to an anthill and smear my cheeks with chocolate: I'd left the bloody front door wide open to allow the non-existent cool breeze to flow through the screen and Kerry from next door was on the front step having just been treated to my loud and rather enthusiastic performance. Sheepishly, I walked up the passage. "Er, hi. Yep, it's me. What can I do for you?"

A couple of minutes later I shut both doors and went into the bathroom. Spots of red wine were all over my white Che Guevara t-shirt and my teeth and gums were black from the tannins. Several fine rabbit hairs were wavering from the tip of my nose, catching the light just so.

It was the only time in my life that I hoped someone could tell that I was drunk.

Monday, January 17, 2011


"You're biased, Mum, you're always biased. I'm crap at running, it's really hard and I bet there's no-one else in my class that's doing it."

Sapphire jumped off the treadmill and stormed inside. Her words hurt. I'd heard her worries about being called fat that were unreasonable and untrue and wanted to help her get physically fit, get strong and feel positive. I'd made up playlists of songs that would inspire her and would stand beside her, swinging my arms in time with hers, aching to be able to run too.

After loudly bellowing on this blog that it is my Achilles that is the regulator of my moods and events, it twanged again for the third time. Sleeping that night was an impossibility for my leg bones felt as though they were being boiled and grated in hot water with hammering nails in the heel. Luckily the night time agonies disappear during the day and it doesn't kick up during a brisk power walk or a long and boring session on the exercise bike, so I could pedal away as Sapphire ran.

But not today.

I followed her inside. "Look love, you're doing really well. Really well. You can run further than I ever could at your age or when I went with my Dad at fourteen or even when I started all over at thirty three. But if you want to do it on your own, that's fine."

"No, I want you there."

"Great, then let's get out there and start-----"

She rolled her eyes and folded her arms. The only low point of the school holidays so far has been the ongoing theme of No Eye Rolling or Rudeness Towards Your Parents. "What are you doing that for?"

Sapphire stared fixedly into the distance, lips pursed. "Well?"

"Look, I'm trying to help you as your Mum and your friend. However I'm a person first and do not deserve to be treated badly by you." The eyes rolled again and I started to see red. "DO I?"

I could see her struggling to put into words what she barely understood herself. The annoyance, the boredom, the familiarity-breeding-contempt, the powerlessness, the unwieldy growth and the swirling of hormones and self consciousness. I knew all that but didn't have the skill or self control to stop getting at her. "WELL?"

Still no answer. Arms still stubbornly folded. I walked towards her to hug her, even though I didn't feel like it. Parenting means swallowing frustration and making the first move. She remained rigid and I snapped. "Fine. Go sit in your room and feel miserable and fat."

She ran off, crying.

I could not believe that I'd said it. Fat. To my own daughter; a kid I'd do anything for; a child whose room I wander into during the day just to see what it is she's got on display, what she's working on, what interests her. I called her fat.

Sapphire screamed. "I'M NOT FAT!" and I rushed up the passageway, agreeing, apologising, trying to explain.

"You're right, you're not, you're really not. I am so sorry, Sapph. I was angry and hurt and wanted you to realise that if you don't start doing some form of exercise you could be in danger of getting fat. And I shouldn't even have said that."

"From my own mother," she wailed.

"I know, I know. I'm so sorry." She tried to close her door, but I pushed harder and walked in, standing directly in front of her, my hands on her shoulders, forcing her to look at me. "I love you so much and want to help you. Being fit isn't just a project, it's an important part of life. You are not fat but if you're anything like your father and me, you'll need to work at it or you could be."

"Is that why Dad's out for a bike ride?"

Her tears were drying, mine were starting. "Yes love. He's found something that he likes doing but it's also so that he still has the energy he needs for you, for me, for work and for his health. Now if you want me to shut up and stop being silly while you're in the shed, I will."

A half-smile appeared. "No, I don't mind your talking."

Several hugs and tissues later we were out in the shed. Me on the bike, now dragged across the rubber matting so that it was directly next to her on the treadmill.

She ran and chatted. She sang along to some of the songs and had enough breath left to ask me what having an ultrasound on my leg felt like and when did I know that I wanted to marry her dad. She ran three kilometres in twenty minutes with ease. We hugged, both red and sweaty and proud.

"You're not biased Mum, just honest."

"And you're not fat. Just a good runner getting fit."

Yesterday I waved her and Love Chunks off as they drove to the coast for a five day camping trip, leaving me at home with the dog and the rabbit to get stuck into The Novel. Four thousand words in a day and a half so far yet the house still rings with their spirits. Milly sniffs at LC's shoes under our bed and noses around Sapphire's music stand. 'Where are they?' she asks me with her eyes. 'Where has my pack gone?'

When I went to bed last night there was a scrap of paper on my bedside table. Sapphire and I had taken Milly for a walk in the local park that morning. As we stuck our fingers in the slot to grab a doggy bag for the offerings that Milly backs out the second she's on grass that isn't her own, Sapph had made up a rather funny song about the Poo Bag Pole; catchy tune and lyrics. "A stand up comedian would kill to have that as part of their act," I giggled.

My beautiful, stubborn, moody, funny, fast-growing girl.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Edition Sixteen - Word Verification Explanations

Since coming back from holidays, I've been busy visiting my favourite blogs (you all know who you are) and jotting down some of the words that are required to be entered in order to leave a comment. Here in my own little mind are what some of them could mean in an alternate universe.

Nestswoo: sometimes spelled with an exclamation mark as in 'Nestswoo!', it describes the feeling of jubilance and freedom when moving in for the first time with your Main Squeeze. No annoying siblings, no condemning parents, no bludging flatmates and no shared fridges. All of the place is yours, not just the bedroom. Finally that poster of the tennis playing chick with no undies on can hang proudly above the couch.

Mulablun: The babble of a group of people talking in a language the onlooker can not understand. 'Sorry Reg, I can't hear you over the mulablun in this spice market and the mobile phone coverage is patchy at best. Damn shame I didn't take language lessons before heading over here for work."

Sninest: Visible demonstration of social hypocrisy by snorting at a colleague's choice of unfashionable clothing when bands such as The Jonas Brothers, Air Supply and Def Leppard are on your iPod playlist.

Licst: Foul and obscene requests hidden under flowery language. "Thou didst farteth after consuming a curried egg focaccia, did thou not?"
"Seekest you a lengthy journey and fornicate whilst there."

Croustes: Imposter foods. 'Croutons' that are just squares of cold toast; 'Garden Fresh' when it was wrapped a week ago in a hermetically-sealed plastic bag; 'Freshly ground' coffee beans that have been sitting in the storeroom for six months; and 'Lite' deliberately mis-spelled because it's still fattening for you.

Phosessa: A recent phenomenon due to the current trend to wear flowing scarves even in the summer months; this describes the injuries incurred when the scarf gets caught in the filing cabinet, yanking its owner back against the hard steel surface and to reality. Phosessa sufferers usually vow to never again wear an item of clothing that serves no purpose other than to be accidentally stapled or hole-punched during work hours.

Buntathe: The utterly hurtful realisation that your daughter's pet rabbit has more facebook friends than you do.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Tendo Calcaneus

Some people use their bank balance, number of facebook friends or even kilograms lost to measure their success. I use my achilles tendon.

Apart from a propensity to insert Milly the dog's name into popular songs and loudly sing them back to her or to count things in threes, it has been this rather small but essential muscle on the back of my lower right leg that has been the weathervane reflecting my internal life.

During the miserable five weeks working at Melbourne Uni (yes, I said it!), my Achilles had twanged itself for the second time. Two rounds of six weeks' rest from running with only the miserable 3km walk home in heavy traffic, careless right-turn drivers and off-road cyclists (how wide am I? I'm already on the far left side of the path, don't you think you can squeeze past me without trilling your stupid bell in warning?) and my mood was as injured as my leg.

A week after quitting the job and wondering just what the hell kind of conversation I was going to make with my family at Christmas time - 'Yeah, I'm a quitter; how's your career going?' 'No, I don't have any form of income at the moment; let's look at your renovation' - I realised that six weeks had passed again.

This time I was careful. A three kilometre power walk to the bluff, touching the parking sign pole as the official end of the course and running it back. Difficult but do-able with the Achilles whingeing slightly but not progressing to screaming or snapping.

A days' rest and then the walk-three, run-three trial again. Even better. I find myself participating more in dinner table conversations, more willing to make or take a joke. Hell, did Mum just spring me singing to Milly outside by the rainwater tank?

The walk-three, run-three technique is repeated another five times over the next week before battling the locust plagues and the wheezy laughter of Kerry O'Keefe during the ABC cricket broadcast as we drive the long trek back across the border to home.

Sapphire and I are eating lunch together. Her head is lowered and her eyes are brimming. After several gentle questions, the tear drops fall down her shirt and she says that someone called her fat. It doesn't matter who, it was said, so they obviously think so. Is it true?



But I too was called fat by my brothers. Fatty Arbuckle actually. In retrospect it sounded catchy and none of us knew that he was a silent film star whose career was ruined after being found guilty of raping and killing a starlet. The intention was merely to silence and hurt me and boy, did it work. I cried so many times with self pity and loathing and now when I see photographs of myself it is a normal-sized girl standing in the garden and two very skinny brothers who teased without any genuine malice.

I turn to my girl - also normal-sized - and know that just telling her that she's a great person and is fine won't work. She wants a solution, a project. "But hey, I keep reading that being fit - you know, all that cardio vascular stuff - can help with asthma and breathing and give you more energy. As you know I'm slowly getting back into my running again. Do you want to do some of that with me?"

Expecting her to quickly say 'no thanks' I was surprised when she agreed.

And so, for the past week, she's been out in the shed with me. The music is her choice - lots of Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift; the pedestal fan is directed towards her red face that doesn't yet sweat as easily as mine and I crack weak jokes about being her personal trainer, singing along in a falsetto voice to any of the songs I know and getting a rather big squeeze to the heart when I see her smile.

She ran 2.8 kilometres today. I was very proud of her and told her that she should be too."Yeah but you ran four, Mum."

"Maybe, but I've been doing it for over ten years and am a bit older and stronger than you. You're eleven and have decided to give this a red-hot go and are succeeding." It's now my eyes that are brimming.

Sapphire skips inside to tell LC who is busy making coffee and setting up my laptop in the kitchen. Yes, it's my original one, with the K, N, I, H and L keys that stick, the internet speed of a sea slug on valium and no bells or whistles. It suits me and allows me to stop hiding out in the hot study and instead sit at the table being part of the whatever LC and Sapphire are doing.

Now that they've set off to see Tron ("I'm sure it's going to be OK because Dad and I have the same taste but I don't believe that everyone's going to be wearing the same jumpsuit type of outfit in the future like every sci-fi movie seems to think"), I've showered, breakfasted and working on four chapters of the fledgling novel at once.

My Achilles is throbbing slightly but only to let me know that it's been tested.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Buttons, Beaches and Ham

I've been off-line for a fortnight which is the Hundred Year War-duration in blogging terms yet strangely enough I didn't miss it.

Sometimes my fingers absent-mindedly typed out something on Mum's Christmas tablecloth but Dad's computer - newly available in broadband - wasn't tempting me.

It must Location blended with varying amounts of Hard Work and Self-Designated Break Times that lure me back. We'd arrived home in Flemington last night and it was only after hanging out two loads of washing, doing a workout and weeding the front and back gardens that I found myself back in the study. Officially it was to find the Christmas decorations box to start de-bauble-ing the house but somehow the monitor switched itself on and I was instantly hooked.

It got me thinking, however. Not about the things that most people enjoy (such as blogging or reading blogs, or you wouldn't be here; or chocolate, sleep-ins and hugs) but things that everyone else seems to like except me.

Such as buttons. Like circus clowns and Nicolas Cage, they've always given me the creeps.

I honestly don't know why, but my earliest memories are of intensely disliking any knitted jumper (or cardigan) that featured buttons and avoiding them where possible ever since. Yes I have button jeans and shirts and jackets but they're always very discreet and never ever the feature of the garment.

This is a dislike I've kept a secret and barely acknowledged myself but it rose up again like a burp with bile in it when my mother dragged out a plastic crate full of the infernal items. She was sorting through them to sell for her local gigantic garage sale fundraiser, putting pairs, fours and sixes onto white cards as sets. A worthy intention yet I could barely make eye contact with her or finish a conversation when the card table in the good room was covered in buttons. The maddeningly torturous click-click-click of them as they touched each other meant that it was time to head out for a walk so that the sight, sound and idea of them were far away.

Even including this photograph makes me feel a bit squeamish. Buttons scream 'Cardigan' as well as 'Old Fashioned', 'Cranky Nanna', 'Nerdy' and 'U-u-u-u-u-ugly'. There's no fairness in these reactions, but they're how I do respond when buttons enter my psyche (which isn't very often).

Driving, on the other hand, is a necessary evil. Life in Flemington usually means that I can walk or tram my way to the city and back and the 'ol magna only gets a trot when it's time for the weekly grocery shop or to see friends who selfishly live outside our postcode. Then I can grit my teeth, stay extra alert and keep my hands at ten-to-two on the wheel.

Having family in South Australia means that the Big Drive occurs at Christmas and usually one other time throughout the year. 650 km of boredom, ceaseless engine noise and arse-sweating onto greasy old pie and pasty crumbs does not a relaxing day out make. Admittedly Love Chunks drives most of it only requiring me to drive the middle third when he needs a wee, a read of the paper and to fiddle about trying to find the best local ABC to hear the cricket.

As he relaxes I feel my neck and jaw tighten as I nervously flick my eyes from side to rear-vision mirrors, wondering if the tailgating Toyota Landcruiser behind me will just get it over with already and pass or if the meandering Mazda in front will eventually decide if they want to stick to 70 or 110km for the next hour.

It probably doesn't help that our car - now looking like a toothless old lady with a back hubcap missing - contains a dog, a rabbit, heaps of presents, several suitcases, three human beings and is decorated on the outside by ten thousand fluttering dead and dying locusts.

If truth be told, I'd be happy to live a well-off Manhattan lifestyle of 'Taxi....!' if money and location permitted.

Driving often involves arriving at a beachy destination. Beaches and me rarely gel unless near-drowning, blistery sunburn and a sand-filled crotch are considered positives. Swimming isn't any better: once I've waded in and got over the shock of the water hitting my girly parts first and then my boobs second I somehow scrape my pathetically-soft feet on the rocks, have sea weed wrap itself suggestively and determinedly around my waist and blink away salty tears of agony when I dip my head in and get my eyes wet. And that's all before I scream, "Something just touched my leg!" and thrash the water to white foam in my haste to get the hell out.

Sitting out is worse. Unless I bring a tent thingy, there's no shade anywhere and a rashie, wide-brimmed hat and Factor 30 merely slows the inevitable roasting of my fluorescent skin to a barely discernible sizzle. When the afternoon breeze springs up it enables the sand to coat my Anti-Cancer Council-coated extremities but not before scouring them raw. Woe betide if I forget to shake out my towel before wiping my face on it......

Here's my older brother Rob being a ham whilst carving the ham on Christmas Day. Like fully-intact prawns, boiled pumpkin and pate, I can not stand ham. Flaccid, pink, salty - not unlike myself after a 'fun' day at the beach.

Everyone else at the Christmas Day table - and for the rest of the week - goes nuts for the stuff, somehow finding room to cram it onto their plates next to Dad's weber-roasted chicken (that's worth a plate load all on its own), turkey roll, fresh prawns (de-headed and no poo pipes), gravy and vegetables. Why? Who wants a clammy slab of raw-looking jelly rubber on the nicest day of the year...? I know I know - you all do.

Staying at my parents meant that I didn't have access to the Age newspaper and couldn't fathom why the Adelaide Advertiser has to feature a colour photograph of every single reporter for every single story (here's Eliza Northington, Lifestyle Reporter. Lifestyle reporter? Do we really need to know what she looks like?) and would therefore watch the ABC news if I remembered.

It's summer time now, so politicians and spokespeople are outside more and when the great outdoors are involved, so are the blowflies. One's buzzing around the room as I tap this out and will be allowed to live in peace but if it dares lands on my face then my hands are a blurred frenzy of distracted dance moves and waving until it buggers off again.

To see someone speak to the camera with a fly crawling on their face makes me feel ever so slightly nauseus. When it is idly walking around the tear duct and then wanders, buzz buzz buzzing down towards the edge of the mouth and then up to the nostril I'm sickenly hypnotised..........

Someone told me that it is a big 'no no' to brush away a fly during an interview because it distracts the viewer from the message but I instead sit there in disgust and a tiny bit of agony thinking 'Get it off get it off get it off get it off get it off get it off get it off get it off get it off get it off get it off get it off get it off get it off----- oh thank god we're onto sport now. Wonder what the fly guy was talking about?'