Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I wasn't born here but

Yesterday morning it was drizzling slightly, and after calling out, 'See ya later' to Love Chunks and Sapphire I heard the tell-tale thunder-rumble of the tram further up Mt Alexander Road and knew that a quick sprint would mean that I'd make it in time to climb on.

I did just that thanks to my beautiful, fully-healed, perfectly functioning Achilles and held a rather dramatic half-lunge pose to keep the doors open because out of the corner of my eye I could see a couple running - less athletically than moi, to be sure - to make the same tram.

"Thanks," they puffed in gratitude, before fumbling for their tickets.

Both were dressed like they'd just been to Woodstock - cheese cloth, ethnic scarves, copper bangles and long ratty hair. He held a small ukelele.

A few moments later the bloke seated across from me grimaced. The hippies were singing. In rush-hour. In Melbourne. On a tram crammed with expressionless commuters determinedly hiding away from any opportunity for unwanted public contact with ear buds or iphones.

Uni dude slowly peeled off his enormous Sennheiser mega muffs and raised a pierced eyebrow. I saw this as an invitation to speak.
"No, you're not wrong; it's Hey Mr Tambourine Man."

Plunka Plunka Plunka Spoong. One of the strings was clearly on the loose side.
Plunka Plunka Plunka Spoong.
"In the jingle jangle morning I'll come following you....."

Novel-reading nurse next to me joined in. "Well good on yer for letting them on," her voice laden with sarcasm but her face with a smile. Asian Student next to Sennheiser Scone snorted and made brief eye contact before returning back to his tiny black screen.

Don't cry, Kath. Not here.

A fair number of passengers got off at the Queen Victoria market. The advertisement on the shelter was promoting ANZAC day. A snippet from Fallen, by Laurence Binyon was in large, flowery letters; lines I'd read many times before:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

The tram sooned filled up again with more office workers and market shoppers with bulging jeeps and trolleys. A young guy with enormous holes in each ear and a dripping gun tattooed on his neck helped an elderly Greek lady with her cart. "Sank you," she said, patting his arm. "You kind."

Don't cry, Kath. Not here.

Little Lonsdale Street. My turn to get off and try to run across the road before the traffic changed. Also time to buy a coffee to see me through what was going to be a long day. Moving countries means a dauntingly long To Do list and
Insomnia is now the reality. Like being able to read music or dance, sleep is something that other people do; an instinct I don't seem to have and a skill I'll never possess.

"Large flat white please. Skinny, thanks mate." He nods at me. I'm familiar enough for him to recognise, but not full-time enough to be on first name terms. He returns to the hawking and spitting sounds of the shiny metal machine and I share a small table with another woman waiting for her latte.

She's reading. The Age. From Saturday so she's clearly catching up on all the weekend supplements. It's the section I write for. Sorry, wrote for. Jumpin' Jatz crackers, it's my article.

For gods' sake keep your enormously insecure ego under control and don't tell her that you wrote it.

Don't cry Kath, not here.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sights for sore eyes

So we were having breakfast at Pepper Cafe with Dan this morning, watching half the neighbourhood pass by on their way to the shops or up the steps at the train station heading into town for the Essendon and Carlton game when an Easter Bunny who was eight foot tall appeared.

"Helloooooo! I'm Jive Bunny and I'm here to thank you for shopping locally! Have an Easter Egg!"
She was clearly on stilts and had thighs that - no, not me this time, but Sapphire - said reminded her of Hannah Gadsby. In other words, they were 'womanly' and assisted in this case by a sumo-suit fan.

For some reason this caused my eyes to tear up. I realised that I knew her; knew half the people who were taking photos including the old dude with the oxygen tank on wheels and the druggie couple who said, "Any fags in that basket of yours, Easter Bunny?" and the family across the road who were doing their damnedest to stop their youngest from becoming a blonde pancake on the road in his quest to run up for his share of the chocolate spoils.

It was the second time that morning I'd cried in public. The first was during my run around Debney Oval.

The Achilles has healed up a treat and it's been wonderful to actually run alongside Sapphire this past fortnight instead of walk, but today she met her friend Tao and they strolled around chatting as Milly and I surged ahead and even lapped them a few times.

By lap eight (or 4.8km by my reckoning), I flopped on the park bench by the wheelie bins, tried to ignore the condoms and KFC wrappers nearby and waited for the girls.
An elderly Asian couple power-walked by. I said, "Good morning," like I do to anyone that I pass by on that oval (the shared camaraderie of anyone 'getting out there' and walking or jogging when they could be sleeping in is always worth a greeting in my book) and the man started singing.


"I am from Hong Kong," he yelled. "British Hong Kong. Army song, see?" He did a march on the spot to show me.

"Nice one," I said.

"My wife...." he gestured, as she'd continued on ahead, "Is my new wife. .She Chinese. Communist!"

"Ah," I replied, "But it looks like you're happy?"

"VERY! Ho is my name. Like Ho Ho Santa! My wife is beautiful and I happy!" And off he walked, still singing, to catch up with her. To her credit she neither looked surprised or embarrassed and waved cheerily to me from the shade of the plane trees.

The young couple playing a rather relaxed game of touch rugby on the grass smiled. "Interesting bloke," the girl said.

"I want whatever it is he's having," I said, clicking on Milly's lead and hoping that they wouldn't see my eyes welling.

After lunch, it was all systems go at our place. Love Chunks was No More Gapping in the bathroom, drilling in the shed and planning the meal for tonight. Sapphire was in her room, bravely going through what needed to go into the Garage Sale pile, the Keep At Grandparents pile and Suitcase Headed for Geneva pile. My job was clean Skipper's hutch, tidy up the back yard and weed the front garden.

Our fence is pretty tall and through the chinks I saw a BMW four wheel drive pull up. No-one we know has such a car. The window was down and he was speaking as loudly as my new friend Ho.

"Look, I don't want to come home right now. I've had it; this is the end for us. I'm tired, you're tired and we both need to face the facts. We're over."

I was in a bind. I desperately wanted to stand up and straighten my protesting back but didn't want him to see that I'd witnessed one of the sadder turning points of his life. I made do with an awkward squat-walk to the garbag each time I needed to throw in a handful of weeds. With an internal plumbing system currently under extreme duress every step forward was accompanied with a little 'parp' of exhaust.

After half an hour of recriminations, sighing, accusations and agreement he eventually drove away. To the pub or the divorce court I'm not sure, but I stood up gratefully, hands on my hips and stretching, head bent back looking up at the tree fern.

"I can hear your back crack from here mate," said Mr Divvy Van as he wandered past with a plastic bag of Red Rooster and a six-pack.

I cried again.
I love Flemington and as I sob over everything from a forgotten baby photograph lodged behind the printer to a pair of shoes never ever worn, I'm grateful to feel like this. So much better than 'good riddance' or 'thank god we're going.'

Oh bugger it, me eyes are at it again......

Friday, April 15, 2011

Why do I have a heartbeat in both armpits?

Because Love Chunks has won a transfer to Geneva.

Sure, the selection process took five months so I spent the best part of that realising that there were two paths ahead of us and the local high school issue for Sapphire wasn't going to go away just because Switzerland were not living up to their reputation as being expert time keepers....

But now we have one path.

And of course Geneva were cheeky enough to try it on and ask LC to turn up in four weeks' time.

NO WAY we both said; me leaning weakly on the door frame with my bowels about to throw a noxious tantrum for the seventh time that morning and he fretting about the World Meteorological Organisation bureaucracy and only having a one page emailed letter of offer and a one-liner twelve hours later to go on.

STICK TO YOUR GUNS I said, my air of authority quite literally reduced with the now-permanent fug of Lavender Loo spray clouded around my head.

I SURE AS HELL WILL he said, climbing onto his bike and pedaling off to the Docklands. Nothing says A Man With A Mission more than bike shorts, a fluoro-yellow safety vest and a helmet shaped like a melted choc drop.

So, we've negotiated for six weeks time. In the past four days, we've decided that it's a good thing that apart from my great grandmother's piano, the oldest thing we own is LC's CD collection and my photo albums. They'll hide somewhere at my folks' place in South Australia but everything else must go.

The house will be rented out, we're looking for a loving home for Skipper and Milly will be flown over by the too-cute-to-be-true 'JetPets' the second we've found our new address. Thank God that Geneva is 95% surrounded by France and doggies are a way of life. "Madame, domestic pets are tolerated by all," said the google-translated email.

School for Sapphire is likely to be an English-speaking campus that has the UN in view that specialises in expat kids who also need to learn French and have skiing as one of their official sports ....

and ....

and ....

and ....

.... my role will be to make several dozen lists, check them all thrice, go for another urgent crap and do whatever it takes to leave here in one piece and then see that the man, child and animal I love most in the world are settled, happy and ready for the adventure of a lifetime.

That's why I'm typing this still in my dressing gown, sweat stains appearing even though my hair is still wet from the shower and I'm crying with a big goofy smile on my face. Ready, Steady, Go!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Edition Eighteen - Word Verification Explanations

Trust me - these are all real words I've had to key in over the past week or so in order to comment on blogs I've visited. Their meanings are now defined for you but without pictures because Blogger is misbehaving so badly that after 21 edit attempts (three by Love Chunks) it's obvious that a cyber-spanner has been thrown into the works somewhere.

Ahem. The words, for your improved vocab, include:

Anistr - manufacturing 'Finally: a baby for Jen!' or 'Heartbreak again' headlines about a certain ex-Friends actress every time she is photographed looking pensive (usually as she's trying to remember where she parked her car)

Repie - footy food that is served lukewarm despite being in a bain-marie for three days straight. Expect to pay double the price of what your corner deli sells them for as well.

Hoosiver - The devil lurking in the vacuum cleaner that makes it impossible to suck up lint from the rug even after you've tried seven times. On the eighth attempt, the wielder of the vacuum sighs and bends down to pick up the item, only to drop it and have it cling to the surprisingly grippy wool fibres of the rug again. Hoosiver is at play.

Drapully - the gradual stretch and sag of ancient and exhausted bra straps that are still worn by someone too stubborn and miserly to buy a new pair (or too busy to do a load of washing). The effects of drapully can be felt when walking hastily along the street only to feel slightly bouncier as 'the girls' start to win the battle of the bra and jiggle more noticeably. Tightening these straps in the nearest loo only lasts until the next time you're required to walk further than a hundred metres.

Phoocans - people who never use toilet spray after their efforts; even when it's right by the flush button and the air is only semi-transparent.

Yallog - what cornflakes look like after sitting in a bowl of milk, unconsumed, for more than a minute. No longer an appetising breakfast option but a viable - and generally sturdier - alternative to cement render.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Eff Bee Eff Me

It's funny all this being 'mature' and supposedly full of more life experience and learnings stuff.

I've had friendships go sour; I've lost my temper and told some hard truths and been given some even harder ones back and realise how easy it is to say, "Don't worry about what anyone else thinks," to people when continually struggling with it myself.

Which brings me to Facebook. Unlike most popular commentators, I don't think it's the evil of our time or forcing modern society to take unwanted steps towards total isolation and alienation.

I've found people that I went to school with, always kinda-liked but didn't know that well and have been genuinely interested in seeing what they've become, what they're up to, how they think. People have found me via comments on a shared friend's update or through a work-related meeting or other means. I always feel pretty flattered to have a 'friend request' and, if I'm really honest, it's as gratifying as receiving a blog comment.

There, I said it: I love getting feedback. Want it. Dream of it. Long for it. I need feedback. Inside this largish shell of flesh and cocoa butter is a chronically insecure person who still feels like the thirteen year old whose mother persuaded her to buy rust-coloured corduroy jeans a size too large and turns up to Term Two Casual Day surrounded by stretch blue denims and confidence.

Sometimes the feedback needs to come from me -
yes, I've done enough today. Sure, you've tried hard. No doubt at all you put in a worthy effort for this job. Absolutely, they really do like you. No, you were right. And Facebook provides a bit of feedback too. Oh goody, three people 'like' my update. Awesome, there are seven comments and another friend request - my life is interesting after all - I am a worthy human being. In cyberspace at least.

It came as a bit of shock to send a friend request to a woman in Adelaide that I'd known in the four years that Sapphire and her son were at school together. We'd had coffee together, worked alongside in classroom activities, excursion and fundraisers. S was brand new to the FB scene and many of her friends were also mine. A quick bright and breezy sentence, click 'send' and my greeting was on its way.

Several weeks later, FB has decided that this woman's status updates are fine to share with me, even though she hasn't accepted my request. Like being picked last for softball or realising that no-one has a crush on you at aquatic camp, she's regularly featured as 'S is now friends with X, Y and Z' day after day after day. Sure, I may never see her again and perhaps was mostly guided by adding another number to my list, but am I really not worth the effort to her? A move of the mouse to 'accept'?

A week ago, Love Chunks said, "I don't know if you've noticed this, but we've both been defriended by GS."
Surely not, I said. She's opted out of FB before you know.
"No Kath, she's a regular commenter on her husband's page and he's still friends with me."
Ah. "Oh well, that's her loss," I said with a casualness I didn't feel.

I was sadly insecure enough to see a comment she'd made - again on a friend-in-common's post - and mouse move further on to check on her list of friends. Oh. She still had 288, but clearly two of us had to go. Why?

Who knows? It hurts. We don't have a lot in common, but we did host them for lunch when they were in Melbourne a few months ago and I've always made a point of 'liking' any updates that tickled me. Perhaps I 'liked' too much; personifying the daggy and eager-to-please friend that became an embarrassment? My own updates were about as interesting as day-old bread and taking up too much of her space? Opinions too strident or different perhaps.

Whatever the reason, it reminds me that it is my eleven year old daughter who is more self assured and evolved. Yesterday she talked of the girl who had made her life a misery last year and said, "Actually I feel sorry for her now. She's very unhappy and is so consumed with being popular and fake that she's no longer able to be her real self."

She has a lot to teach me.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Dodgy Directions

Love Chunks will be the first to tell you that a drunken earth worm on a windscreen wiper has a a greater sense of direction than me.

Our car is ancient enough that it has a tape player, no air bags to speak of and we still use The Club on the steering wheel as a laughably retro security measure.
As such, there's no Sat Nav or Tom Tom malarkey but a dog-eared copy of the Melways shoved up against the edge of the passenger seat and the divider thingy that used to hold cassettes but now stores some yellowing, dried out 'wet ones' and more take-away straws and Maccas serviettes than we should probably admit to.

So, when we're out the door at 7.45am on Saturday morning trying to find the opposition's tennis courts in a suburb we've never heard of, Love Chunks knows that he needs to work out the route in his head and maybe - just maybe - rely on me to guide us safely through the last couple of streets.

That's a big maybe because I have to hold the map in the exact direction we're going and even then can stuff up left or right turns. "Oh, sorry, it was right back there, not the left we've just taken." His initial anger and shock that was evident many years ago is now a tired resignation. He's married to a moron and has decided that it's his cross (or illegal U-turn) to bear.

Despite this affliction, I've led a reasonably productive life, mostly unassisted. In fact I possess enough perception to appreciate the supreme irony of being the person that most strangers will approach for directions.
This isn't an exaggeration.

At least three times a week I have a car pull up whilst litter ninjaing; a person tap me on the shoulder; a mouthed 'Can you help me' from the opposite tram seat or a yelled 'HEY! Is this Carlton?'
Sapphire has been with me enough times to see the living proof.

Jill in Adelaide was power walking with me when a befuddled Pom pulled up alongside me to ask, "Hey luv, where's Seaford?" He had a drunken, dishevelled young male in the passenger seat still holding a bundy can but without shoes or wallet. I was relieved that I could at least say, "Um, you're about twenty five kilometres in the wrong direction. Head down that really big hill and drive that way for about half an hour."

That's the weird thing - I can always give them the right answer.

Irish backpackers: Yeah the 57 stops off at Errol Street.

A tall, black American dude: Oh the tram you want to catch is on the other side of the road. Think 'left' here and you'll be fine.

An elderly German couple in a campervan: You've gone about three sets of traffic lights too far. Head up to that corner where the servo - sorry, petrol station is, turn around and drive back up Flemington Road.

Hot chick: No, you need to walk over to Flinders street and get the number eighty. DFO isn't on Spencer Street anymore. Good luck with your Just Jeans job interview!

Get off at my stop and I'll show you what street to walk up to get to the State Hockey Centre. No Love Chunks, I was not drooling all over that hunky Canadian guy!

I like to think that I have an air of calmness and tranquility about me; that I clearly know where I'm going and am familiar with my surroundings.

Love Chunks reckons I look daft enough to be harmless. Sapphire says, "You don't look like you'd swear at anybody or try to rob them."

They're probably both right.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

I wanna play too

River has been participating in Sunday Selections. What you're supposed to do is sift through your photos and post up ones that haven't yet been published. So if you want to play too, link back to Kim at Frogpondsrock, add a comment on her blog and join in.

It's probably the ideal thing for me right now because I'm struggling to find time and energy to write anything for 'fun' that isn't related to my paid work. Three part-time jobs is clearly adding up to a bit more than one full-time role and whilst I love all three, the desire to sit down at night in front of the computer in the study and think of something to post is becoming as hard as my desire to ....

well ......

.... eat chocolate and write about it. Or, to be more specific - carefully arrange and photograph chocolate from various angles, take note of the ingredients, website and company history, taste and make notes, download photos, write up an article and post it. It was great to get 56,000 visits last month but the hoped-for advertising revenue stream hasn't eventuated.

Yep, I said it. The GoneChocco blog is starting to feel like a chore instead of the fun it was meant to be. My thighs are starting to feel like flabby flotation devices instead of the firm flanks they were meant to be and my cholesterol level is too frightening for me to face up to Dr Checks again for a follow up test.

As I think about the life of GoneChocco post-Easter, here are some photos that I've taken this year and not used.

Mum and Dad went up to Darwin a couple of months ago to experience tropical storms, hideous humidity and generally reacquaint themselves with the literary genius that is the NT News. Mum made sure that she read her copy word-for-word every day.

Dad was at my brother Rob's house and was goofing off with his neck massage thingy. I think he looks like a cross between a sensibly-dressed ET and Wall-E.

A couple of weeks ago LC won the Individual Staff Excellence Award at the Bureau of Meteorology for his work on a project that has been adopted internationally. It was brilliant to see him being made a (deserved) fuss of, even if he hated it and got more attention from his workmates for wearing a suit and tie than for his brilliant speech. I rather enjoyed being the proud spouse.

This was taken via zoom off the Lorne Pier as we watched several massive sting rays swim underneath us. This optimistic pet owner was trying to convince his boxer to join him in the water. No amount of 'come on boy, come on' was working; not even having a tennis ball rolled about ten centimetres from his nose.

The John Wesley statue in Lonsdale Street, Melbourne CBD. Sapphire and I scurry past him every fortnight on our way back from the cruelly-early 7.45am fortnightly appointment for her allergy injection. His prematurely greying hair is mostly attributed to pigeon poop than age.

Ah Milly. Beautiful smile, but ears set to 'coming in to land' pose as she hears Sapphire singing in the background.

Seven year old A was not happy with me one day and ran off to her room in protest. I tried to push the door open to talk to her and apparently 'slamed' her leg - on purpose, it was accused. I then decided to leave her in there on her own to cool off, and the solitude clearly wasn't what she was after. A few minutes of slamming the door eventuated in the above note. Thankfully our altercation was cleared up soon afterwards.

Royal Exhibition building, yesterday. Sapphire was dying to attend the Royal Melbourne Flower and Garden show. It was her week 'off' from tennis and LC gladly stayed home as we enjoyed a few girlie hours together - mostly dodging the zimmer frames and prams.

Hand-sewn felt vegetables! "There'd be a
lot of kids that would only like vegetables in this form - inedible and stuffed," observed Sapphire.

Several pretty dazzling outdoor displays with crowds mostly around the ones featured on the 'Better Homes and Gardens' TV show the night before. "Come here love, this is the one you liked on the telly last night," said one old duck, her 40-a-day-for-forty-years voice cutting through the crowd like catapulted gravel.

'Ned' appealed to me. Maybe one day a craft project of my own..... Hopefully a great deal more successful than my attempt to make three flying fish for the back of the toilet door in paper mache.

Loads of reds and oranges and I jostled with many other eager SLR squatters to snap this one.

Same goes for the obligatory tulip shot.

Surrounded by hundreds upon hundreds of slow-moving seventy-somethings, wheelchairs and young couples with papooses, Sapphire said, "I'm guessing we won't be seeing the divvy van arrive any time soon." She makes me laugh so hard and it's such an honour when her hand reaches over for mine.