Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Carrefour, chicken breasts and cat crap

Mr Migraine is having his monthly visit but this time he hasn’t left after his bog-standard three days.

It is Day Four now and, unlike human house guests, I can’t blow my nose in the shower because the noise and reverberation – enhanced tenfold by the high ceilings and tiles stuck to the roof level – makes my brain cry, then swell and finally pump out a rhythmic heart beat of pain that sees me doubled over and able to touch my nose to the Jovial Douche label on the shower gel bottle.

Still, it’s a Wednesday and it’s been a while since I’ve tried to depict what an average day for a work-from-home freelance writer involves.

Of course, there isn’t really an ‘average’ day. Factors such as how many jobs I’ve bid for versus how many additional queries from potential clients need to be responded to compared to how many jobs I’m currently working on + scheduled Skype calls + new jobs won + repeat clients x those who email me rather than apply via the online agencies – freebies for friends divided by a truckload of procrastination.

So here goes.

6:45am - The alarm on my digital watch goes off. Peep-peep twenty times until it gives up. No snooze or repeat on this little thing. I can hear LC in the shower and Sapphire’s toilet flushing. My head hurts and I don’t move.

7:00am - Trouble is, my watch has two alarm settings, so 7am goes off also, peep-peep, twenty times. I get up, slide on the wedding ring and watch, take my Effexor and put on my Dog Clothes. At the first clink of the house keys, Milly scoots in; tail thumping against the bedside table. We take the elevator downstairs to give her ten minutes to wee, sniff, poo and scamper in the Dog Forest before a bowl of Migros-brand Matzingers and fresh water.

7:10am -  Love Chunks hands me a coffee which helps wash down two Exedrin migraine pills that a friend smuggled to me from the US. My face slowly feels as though it is starting to unfold itself.

7:40am -  We take the elevator downstairs again, but this time we’re two floors underground and walk past the eerie cement-lined bomb shelter, strangely singing overhead shower pipes and wind tunnel whistles. Milly’s ears flatten until we reach the car.

7:53am -  Arrive too early for Sapphire to walk into school and goof off. I love these seven minutes. She’ll point out kids in her class, kids in her creative writing club and teachers as they pass. If I can make her laugh just as she’s closing the door and saying goodbye, I superstitiously feel it’s an omen for a good day.

8:00am -  Find a parking spot right in front of the Japanese embassy. No doubt my ensemble of bed hair, cornflake eyes, dragon breath, ancient running t-shirt, trakkies and thongs aren’t seen too often in these parts.

8:30am -  Milly’s now securely behind the bathroom door, whining. “Misty.... Misty......Misty...... where are you sweetie?” I’m feeding a four year old rag doll cat who lives in the apartment block next to the embassy but she’s not showing her face. Her poo, on the other hand, is on proud display in the foyer, on the bottom step of the spiral staircase, in the laundry and, finally, the kitty litter tray.....

9:00am -  Back home, I bathe my arm. She managed to swipe me one after letting me think that she wanted her back stroked.  Drew blood, the little bugger.  Her farewell was a glimpse of her arse before it disappeared under the double bed.

10:00am - At Carrefour supermarket, five kilometres over the border in much cheaper France. Freshly showered, hair still wet and grasping a badly written shopping list. For some reason, the tune of the 1970s US sitcom Happy Days gets played at thirty second intervals which doesn’t help make the fading effects of the Exedrin any easier to take.

11:00am - Two trips from the car, through the two specially-locked garage entry doors, the swinging saloon-style elevator doors to finally arrive at our double locked front door – and back – with the groceries. It’s my own fault really. The Siege Mentality is strong within me – why buy two tins of tomatoes when you can grab four packs of three? Two measly bottles of diet coke when 24 cans are within easy reach or a litre of long life when eight are already plastic-wrapped with a convenient carry handle?

12:00 midday - The chicken breasts are marinating, cous cous is completed, the rice salad is cooling and the groceries are unpacked. Milly and I go down to the recycling bins across from our building – directly in front of the Qatar Embassy – and get rid of the cans, bottles and plastics from a week of 13th birthday celebrations. Back via the Dog Forest, where Milly gets to leave another large piece of herself and greet the Schindler’s Lifts blokes as they sit on the edge of the flower beds smoking.

1:00pm - Right. Today’s work. But not before I read my emails and see what some of my favourite bloggers are up to. Might as well eat lunch too. And a second coffee wouldn’t go astray.  And the dark load is ready to be hung out. Or draped, really, on the chairs in the spare room and the IKEA clothes rack by the pantry.

2:00pm -  Writing time. Honestly. I’m in the ‘final eight out of 50 applicants’ for a local copy writing job. They’ve sent me an assignment to complete by the end of the day in order to see what my brain and typing fingers can create from a make-believe micro-needling procedure that needs to be pretend-advertised. Boooooring. Somehow I find myself crouched on the floor, my eyes staring into Milly’s as I sniff her lovely soft ears and kiss the top of her head....

2:20pm -  DO IT. It’ll take TEN MINUTES and then press ‘send’ and forget about it!

3:00pm -  Okay, so it took fifty minutes and most of that was spent trying not to retch at the words selected and the sales techniques employed. Prostitution by keystroke; not helped by Mr Migraine bursting through again.

3:15pm -  Look at yesterday’s Skype interview notes with hot Melbourne chef and his new company. Realise that, at forty three years of age I should be able to understand my own handwriting and home made abbreviations by now.

3:30pm - Click the ‘x’ in the top right hand corner of Google Chrome, Explorer, Email and Spotify. Take two more Exedrin.

4:00pm -  Finish chef write up and email to him for comment.  

4:05pm - Sapphire arrives home from school.  Needs to use the computer for homework.  From the fart at my feet, Milly's ready for a walk and I'll quickly reply to some emails.  The father of the student I started tutoring yesterday is happy with his son's feedback when he got home last night.  I write back in sensible language about the teaching strategies I'll be using whilst mentally hoping that he doesn't find out that the good report is probably because I gave his son diet coke, made him laugh and said 'shit' a couple of times .....

4:30pm - "Mum pleeeeease can you get off the computer now. You've had it ALL DAY."  Yes but now the muse is kicking in - the website update for the Arizona blokes' restoration business is almost writing itself and the HR article for Canada is flowing, baby, flowing!

5:00pm - "OK Sapphire, it's all yours."  Love Chunks is bringing two work mates home for dinner and the living room is orange with Milly's dust bunnies and Sapphire's breakfast croissant crumbs.  Time for a quick vacuum, rearrangement of the wet washing and assembling of salad and more fresh raspberries to artfully scatter over the supermarket bought tart.

......11:30pm - With guests departed, table wiped down and dishwasher on, I realise that Sapphire's left the computer on. Check emails and freelance accounts one last time. Ghost writing book job is mine.  Press release position is mine.  CV editor, website copywriter, proof reader, online researcher, expat tutor and corporate report writer jobs aren't.  Probably a good thing really; where would I find the time?

Friday, May 25, 2012


.....and there's no swear words in there at all.

Gare Cornavin, central Geneva on a Thursday afternoon. Swiss Rail - or SBB CFF FFS* as the not-so-short acronym proudly painted on all the carriages - as Milly and I negotiate fast-moving crowds of people in business clothes and wheelie suitcases on shiny and slippery new tiled floors.

I don't normally take Milly with me into a ticket office, but it was a beautiful day and as I gathered my sheets of scribbled notes, handbag and sunglasses, she positioned herself by the door and gave the look.

You know the look - the please please please please please please don't leave me here I love you I'll do anything for you if you please please please please take me with you wherever you're going - look; made even more appealing with glistening bronze eyes, a slight shift of the front paws and the steady thumping of her tail.

"Oh, all right then. Just don't lick any bare legs on the tram going in, OK?"

Half an hour later, we arrived, both of us covered in loose orange dog hairs. Milly is always willing to accompany me on trips, but her first sighting of the down escalator rendered her panic stricken, claws back sliding on the floor as she tried to escape the scary mechanical snake sending people underground. After a few apologies and several "No, please, you go ahead," phrases I managed to lift her up and (mostly) subdue her until we completed the 30 metre ride.

Monsieur C---- read his name tag but he looked like a burlier version of the Dad from Malcolm in the Middle. "Can I help you," he said, guessing straight away from my out-of-style jeans and sensible shoes combo that I wasn't a local.

"Er yes please. Is this the right spot to ask for some help in planning a two week holiday in Germany for five people?"

"Yes." His face remained politely blank.

I tried again. "No, seriously, monsieur. I've never been; we've got fourteen days and here's a map----" a much-crumpled google map of the German nation scored with stars, arrows and hand written comments was taken out of the plastic sleeve and slapped onto his counter "-------and honestly, I'd really like your opinion - as a person, not a ticket seller - on where the best spots are. Is this the place or do you want me to make an appointment or see someone else, or...?"

He smiled. "Yes, my answer is still yes. I can help you."

And help me he did. I changed the dates, itinerary and route plans several times and he managed to come up with a better alternative, decent price and sight seeing suggestions every single time. Who knew that the French-Suisse Bryan Cranston would be such a gem?

All around me, the crowds came and went with clear gaps between the arrival of trains and trams. A cross-eyed Chinese man at the counter beside me was keen to visit Marseille on the weekend. Three tanned Kiwi backpackers wanted return tickets to Montreux and a tired looking African mother gasped audibly when told the price for a family of six to Paris and back. "Whaaaaa? And that's just the second class fare...?"

The flat screen was blaring running adverts for Bruce Springsteen - live in Zurich. Get your concert, train and hotel tickets here. "Yep, performing your latest album about the struggling 99% in the world's second-most expensive city seems like a good idea." Mr C was busy with my final schedule, but he had the grace to nod. 

A young lady rushed in, sobbing loudly, her face as pink as her t-shirt. Most of the ticket office stopped to stare at her, a wave of sympathy almost visible.  A couple of US interns kindly stepped aside and let her into the front of their queue.

As Mr C tapped away and I half-leaned over the counter to see what leg of the German journey he was booking for us, I suddenly found myself sliding to the left and about to hit the floor. An old man had clearly decided that the take a number and wait system wasn't for him and it was preferable to shove me aside.

Rearranging myself and holding firm in my position felt like being at the edge of a mosh pit holding the surge back as he tried to shove me again.  My sensible shoes gripped the floor: I wasn't having any of it.  He gave me a look of complete disdain and barked at Mr C.  

This is when the French 'up yours' attitude works perfectly.  Mr C took his good time before lifting his gaze away from the computer screen, indicated me, then pointed to the ticket machine and presumably suggested that the gentleman wait his turn. The old geezer turned on his heel - narrowly missing stepping on Milly's tail and pushed to starboard the young student at the next counter.

I leaned in closer to my new buddy Mr C and whispered, "Gee, he's a bit rude, isn't he?"

Glancing imperceptibly to his right and to his left, he nodded. "He is a regular. Very wealthy man. Doesn't think that he should have to wait."

"One of the one percent, eh?"

"Yes. But he wastes more time pushing in and being told by all of us---" he gestured more obviously to his fellow workmates "---- than if he took a number and sat down."  Mr C pressed 'print' and continued, "One day another old man even hit him with his walking cane."

The pink crying girl was now in those waiting chairs, still sniffling with tears streaming down her face as she tried to SMS someone on her phone. I decided to see if I could help her; offer to buy a coffee perhaps, once Mr C had sorted out my tickets.

"Sorry Madame, but the computer - yes, even here in Switzerland - has decided to, err, have a bad moment."

"No worries, I'm happy waiting," I said, leaning down to scratch Milly behind her ear and whisper a few sweet nothings. Mr C looked slightly puzzled. "Oh, I don't have a child down here, it's my-----" I bent down again and lifted my protesting beast up over the counter "------my dog."

He wasn't surprised. I don't think that there'd be much that would surprise someone who, in his direct eye line, could see one of Geneva's only two fat transvestites madly clacking along the pavement in stacked heels trying to catch the Number Ten bus. Wearing a sausage pink strapless dress.

Mr C handed me my wodge of tickets. "Here you go, madame. I am sorry again for the delay."

"Monsieur, it was less than two minutes and the help you've given me has saved me hours of trying to figure it out on the internet, so thank you very much."

Milly jumped up in relief, only to slump slightly again when she realised that our walk was only to the waiting section.

I gently tapped the pink girl on her shoulder. "Parlez vous Anglais?"
She looked me up and down and decided I was harmless. "Oh yes," she breathed in obvious relief.
"I couldn't help noticing how upset you are. Did you lose your tickets or get your wallet stolen? Can I do anything for you?"
"I missed my train."

Knowing how often and efficiently the trains run here, I waited for more information. None was forthcoming, so I pressed on. "And....?"

She gulped. "And there's not another one to Zurich for another two hours." She put her head in her hands and sobbed anew.


The crying stopped so that she could look at me with an expression of contempt. "So I have to wait HERE for two hours."

Oh. And that was despite the fact that another ticket office guy had bought her a cup of coffee, sorted out her new ticket; still in possession of her wallet and a well-stocked newsagent within walking distance. "It seems like you'll be OK," I muttered, before flicking Milly's lead and leaving.  It was the interns who let her push in ahead of them that deserved the coffee, not Pink Fit.  Ah well.

"Ark!" screamed the old lady on the tram.

"Je suis desolee," I said quickly. "I am so sorry. You're wearing a lovely skirt with pretty sandals and my dog just wanted to lick your toe. Very sorry."

* SBB = Schweizerische Bundesbahnen; CFF = Chemins de fer fédéraux suisses; FFS = Ferrovie federali svizzere

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Lucky lucky thirteen

Jackie K has recently written about how much she enjoys the innocence and enthusiasm of her twin daughters and I found myself reading through it with a mixture of amusement and sadness.

My daughter turns thirteen on Wednesday.

She no longer gets excited at being bought an ice-cream, having her face painted or seeing ‘Maisy Mouse’ on ABC kids.

Snorts of derision, eye rolls and ‘my god Mum, you have no idea’ are becoming more common than seeing her before 10am on a weekend morning, holding her shoulders back with a confident smile out in public or ears without sound buds firmly inserted in them.

Her bedroom is now her sanctuary from not just school, chores and social pressure but from me, sometimes; emerging just in time for dinner before rushing back to rejoin her friends on Skype, Minecraft or Facebook.

However, this is a recurring pattern as I too endured each day of high school, grunted 'I'm home' to my mother and gratefully entered the haven of my room. My room - only place that was mine and mine alone.  My bed, my desk, my music, my books, my posters and my day dreams.

Mum understood. If advice, consolation or company was needed, she could always be found tenderly caring for her pot plants out in the garden or creating several new costumes for the Murray Bridge Players and Singers at the sewing machine; or (mostly unwillingly) rustling up dinner in the kitchen. Looking back, she was prepared to be picked up or dropped whenever it suited me and I thank her for that. That role has now been handed down to me.

These days, snacks are ready in our funny 1970s orange kitchen and I'm waiting in the study, hunched at the computer with Milly at my feet, tail wagging a frantic hello for that longed-for moment when Sapphire gets home and sticks her head in the door.  

Some afternoons it's the grunt and a need for alone time and other days it's the breathless de-brief, a plonking down on the sofa bed next to the computer and some shared laughs.  Always punctuated with hugs.  I love those days.

Today the three of us decided to treat ourselves to Sunday lunch in the city.  It was a balmy spring day and we walked to our favourite Indian place only to discover that it had closed.  We wandered aimlessly back home via another route and I noticed that Sapphire was walking next to LC, their sides touching each other companionably. She wasn't much shorter than her father and yet I still saw a white blonde toddler tugging at the knee pockets of his cargo pants, Elmo in the other hand.

We found a pretty decent Chinese/Korean place that actually supplied chopsticks and, like Jackie, I discovered how easy it was to find five things that made her uniquely lovable.

1. Her wicked - and rather adult - sense of humour. Several times she had LC and myself roaring with laughter over lunch. "Dad, for the last time, I don't want to go bike riding with you. Why are you trying to encourage domestic violence?"

2. Her determination to better herself - she takes her school work seriously, cares about her friends, asks us loads of questions about how we grew up and what our opinions are about a range of issues and is, at the very second I'm typing this, running on the treadmill.

3. Her generous, affectionate nature. Thank goodness she is naturally a hug and kiss lover and still needs a cuddle after a bad day or I'd suffer serious withdrawals.

4. Her powers of observation. The ability to 'see' pictures in other objects, nature's patterns and weird designs in odd places makes us often view the seemingly ordinary in a very different light. This skill translates into brilliant cartoons and drawings and a taste in clothing and decor that is not, repeat NOT inherited from either of her parents.

5. Her wisdom. Being an adolescent is tough for everyone, but some of the lessons she's learned and how she can sum up why other kids behave the way they do humbles me. I was so clueless at the same age.  That doesn't mean that she's immune to peer pressure or fitting in or can react any better when it's her turn to suffer the taunts of the class boofhead but she can think it through afterwards and understand why the game is being played.  

Of course there's more, so much more.  When she throws her head back and laughs, I nearly cry. In relief that I can sometimes still amuse her; with gratitude at getting a glimpse of her growing comic timing; and the surging thrill of us connecting during the all-too-brief drive to school every morning.

Mostly though, it's in awe. Beauty just doesn't describe it, that all-encompassing dazzle; that blend of personality, soul, heart, learning, growth, love and participation. I don't think a day has passed where my heart doesn't get a punch at least once when I see her, smell her, touch her or even just walk into her room to drop a bunch of clean clothes on the bed to put away. 

Every night I kiss her forehead, feel the softness of her skin and smell the warm fragrance of her hair, smoothing the sheet over the blanket. What a privilege it's been so far: my ticket is still valid and I'll do whatever it takes to stay on this ride forever.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Lovin' the Liebster Award

I feel doubly honoured because both River of Drifting Through Life and Jackie K of Working Through it have kindly passed on the Liebster award. I want to thank them both most sincerely as I enjoy reading every word of their blogs and look forward to seeing their updates when they pop up on my dashboard reader.

What's a Leibster? Google translate informs me that 'leibster' means 'favorite' and who wouldn't get a kick out of being selected as that? The idea behind this award is to pay it forward to another five blogs who have less than 200 followers and then asking those bloggers to select five others that they feel deserve recognition.

Trouble is, I've had several rounds of visitors, a lingering bout of the flu and a few (much appreciated) freelance writing gigs to complete so I'm in danger of potentially nominating bloggers who have already received the Leibster.

River wrote: "Kath's was the first blog I ever read and she was among the first few who encouraged me to start my own blog. She's funny, she's real and is currently living in Geneva.'

Jackie K said: 'So many people read and love this blog that I am surprised it still qualifies for this award. Kath writes personal and family stuff with a difference - funny and profound, illustrated with her lovely/funny photos, her posts usually have me snorting with laughter or smiling wryly in recognition, like a crazy lady at my computer. And they always make me think."

Both of those comments made me cry today.

Perhaps I should explain. I have no doubt that receiving this lovely little acknowledgement will annoy my anonymous new 'buddy' who has recently enjoyed trolling here after taking offence at a two year old article containing my opinion that tagging public and private property was NOT art, nor was it to be celebrated.

Immaturely, I decided to play the game and defend myself. Not a clever choice perhaps, but it gave me a bit of satisfaction. Ironically, for someone so incensed by my very existence, the troll showed no signs of leaving my blog and had actually gone and read more of my articles, bless 'im. Personal and obscene insults were of course his modus operandi and most of them have been deleted (no-one needs an in-depth but ill-informed discussion about my internal plumbing) but an anonymous troll avoiding his homework and official bedtime is NOT going to change my mind.

Nor do I believe that just because a vandal is longer alive their petty, ugly and frequent acts of vandalism are now required to be automatically revered and respected. Hopefully K/Clerk/s of Flemington is also remembered for more positive action than being ubiquitous with a fat felt tip. So Clerk remains a jerk.

On to the complete opposite of Poo Faced Troll Boy - deserved Leibster blogs. In no discernible order, I nominate:

Hannah at Wayfaring Chocolate - Delightfully funny, quirky, cute, clever and a whizz with peanut butter and inventive new descriptors. Recently claimed that she'd escaped the romantic clutches of a young swain but my fingers are crossed that some intellectual, happy dancing, vegan-leaning, travel lovin' wisecracker on a humungous salary earned doing good things crosses her cocoa nib-strewn path.

Jon and Jenny at Teach or Beach - Teachers and travellers with adventures, videos and advice to share. Everything from the Killing Fields to playing with tigers. Informative and beautifully photographed.

Radge at Radgery - Irish journo whose turn of phrase is delicious and dryly delightful. Local football references or specifically-Irish references may fly over my thick head, but his self-deprecating observations have me smiling in admiration and jealousy. Talented git.

Elisabeth at Sixth in line - The queen of fictional autobiography, or self-edited memoirs, or biased reminiscences or ....... just utterly beguiling, heart rending, tear-jerking, heart poundingly raw and emotive writing. So effortlessly talented and a pleasure to read.

Diane at Adventure before Dementia - The type of grey nomad and grandma I hope to be. Full of energy, compassion and interest in everything around her. A dab hand with a camera too.

Now I have to go and let these inspirational five know that they've received some Leibster lovin'.

Before that however, a final shout out to blogs often languishing but never forgotten:

Myninjacockle of The Loaded Blog
Helen at Bonding with lizards
Marie at How I learned to stop worrying and love herring
Delamere at Listen no longer in silence
Miles McClagan at One Way Suburban Conversation
Pub Man at The Man at the Pub
.... and Franzy who writes rarely but I read every. single. word.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


As a cash-strapped lowly-paid freelancer living in the third most expensive city in the world I'm grateful for any freebie beyond muggings and the flu.

A French Vogue magazine from August (Aout) 2011 was lurking in a pile of English 'Hello' glossies given to me by Anne, a terrific Kiwi nurse living seven floors below. Both types of magazines were gratefully received but just as incomprehensibleas each other. 'Hello' features British celebrities that are unheard of beyond their post-Coronation Street stint in rehab and/or broken engagement to a soccer player and, to me, French Vogue is, well, French Vogue.

However, I did still flick through it and noted that the glossy advertisements comprised over three quarters of the pages. The remainder featured models in poses so ridiculous that I showed a few to Sapphire.

An idea was born.

Could this 43 year old farty pants replicate any of those poses in real life?

Let's try this one:

Fabric inexplicably sliced off her left shoulder but thankfully allowing her unfettered public access to her left boob.

Very practical Versace, and a pose I adopt quite often myself:

Exhibit number two sees a woman in danger of having her face eaten by a hoodie exit her huge home; hands on hips and looking determinedly to her left.

Yep, I can do this when Milly next needs to head outside for a whizzer in the Dog Forest:

This one is clearly your typical supermodel-with-a-handbag pose. Sultry, saturated and sort of slumped. 

Perfect when waiting for the bus.

Ah, Chanel. How do we love thee?

..... about as much as I love my greenie grocery bags.

I knew an ex-model in Adelaide who told me that they were always instructed to walk with their arms well behind their shoulders. "It looks good in photos but is hell on your back, which is why no-one does it in real life," she said.  A Posh Spice-alike is demonstrating it here:

And my Adelaide friend was right. It DOES look and feel mighty stupid when done by someone wearing a Target Top from 2009; Levi's purchased during a Singapore trip, Diana Ferrari factory outlet boots and Marks and Spencer sports-strength underwear.

But why is this chick so annoyed? Surely she got paid $10,000 to get out of bed?

...unlike my good self, who is nudged awake by a wet nose and dog breath (and I don't mean Love Chunks) and is surely more deserving of a sulk?

Hot model; check. Sitting on a retro American car; check.  Looking 1970s steamy; check.

"Go outside and sit on the car, Mum," said Sapphire, now rather into her role as fashion director.
"No love, I'll dent the bonnet."
"OK then, but you have to look really sexy and not smile."

THIS one takes the cake - not that she'd ever have come close to inhaling cake - for it's sheer lack of sense.  Was she shot in the stomach during an acid flashback?

We'll probably never know.  What we DO know is exactly who does love eating cake. And bacon. And cheese. And chocolate....

Inevitably, the physical, mental and emotional strain of holding up enormous 29 kilogram bodies on 6 foot-long legs gets exhausting, especially when sugar levels drop and brain cells die:

I did empathise; and was grateful that Lyndon had almost finished BBQing the steaks just out of shot.

Sensual telephone services or Bogan Vogueing - just two new career choices to ponder.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Post influenza huskiness put to profitable use

“Hello and welcome to Call 1800-UGH for your dose of sensual reality....Kath speaking.”

“Er, hi. What do you, um do?”

“I’m glad you asked, er – what’s your name....?”

(Pause). “Trevor. Yes, it’s Trevor.”

“Okay, ‘Trevor’, this is the deal. I describe to you a typical Wednesday night for long-time-married couples. No soft rock soundtrack or flattering lighting but all the squelches, stumbles and housekeeping requirements of the real thing. You are my star in this particular scenario, my darling. All you need to do is sit back and listen. Does that float your boat?”

(Quietly) “Yes.”

“I can see (taps away at the keyboard) that your credit card number has been approved, thanks for that Trevor. Shall I start?”

(Louder this time) “Yes!”

"Trevor? Are you ready for bed? Thanks for putting the bins out, love.

Why dontcha log off the computer and make yourself nice? The dishwasher’s on, Cody’s staying over at Jackson’s and Zoe is already dead-to-the-world with her Skype headphones twisted around to cover her eyes instead of her ears. It's only 9:30pm and there's nothing good on TV. (in a sing-song voice) It’s Wed-nes-daaaaaaaay.....

Oh sweet heart..... you flossed!

But could you – before you jump in – fold up your trousers and put them on the chair? Unless they’re dirty and then could you put them in the hamper? Loveypuss, I know you'd rather whip them over your head like a lasso before flinging them out into the hallway and it was hilarious and erotic the first time you did it but not now. And can you close the door - you know how curious the dog gets.

.........No, I’m not trying to spoil the moment but it is hard to feel raunchy when you’ve got to shake the dust bunnies off a heap of clothes in the morning and squeeze them into the second load.......

Let’s try again, shall we? You wait here – no, don’t start without me – while I go for a twinkle and clean my teeth....."

(clearing his throat) "What are you doing now?"

"Bear with me, Trevor dearest. I'm going through my nightly ablutions. You don't want almond meal between my two remaining teeth or have to dodge my dragon breath, do you?"

(Hurriedly) "Definitely not. Continue. Please."

"Alrighty, Trevor. Don’t you DARE turn on the reading light or I will not leave this ensuite!

There. I’m in. Oh yeah, the tap water is cold, isn’t it. Guess I should have rubbed my hands together for a minute or two before touching you.

Feel your way baby. That’s not a spare tyre, they’re speed bumps on the ride of your life.

What the....? Never mind, a bandaid just slipped off your elbow. Are we shagging or swimming, heh heh.....

Ooops, pardon me. All this thrusting ends up pushing a bit of gas out.

Sorry about my legs, too. Forgot to shave them this week, so it seems like we’ve sort of created a weird hairy Velcro effect, haven’t we....?"

"Oh Kath, you've nailed it; you really have. I'll be back again next Wednesday."

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Honk Honk

When you have house guests over to stay, unless they’re your immediate blood relatives, you do try and keep yourself nice.

For a while.

By ‘nice’ I mean no nude runs from the bathroom to the bedroom; keeping the bra on after 6pm, toe nails to remain unclipped in front of the telly and perhaps even refraining from slipping into pyjamas until it’s actually time to turn the lights off.

With our recent guest Taka, I kept myself nice because the duration of his visit was way under the Three Day Limit of the
Kath Lockett Code of Compulsory Consideration of House Guests. Two days: barely enough time to say, “If you want a cup of tea, then you know where to find everything for yourself.”

When guests stay for four days onwards, things get real. Well, sort of. Still no obvious nudity and any wanton bralessness is always carefully hidden under an oversized t-shirt and sloppy polarfleece jacket, but rules do get relaxed.

The Farj Family will attest to this. During their week-long stay – which I must stress was fun and extremely enjoyable (for me, at least) – my hostessing skills took a nose dive from Day Four.

In Australia I used to go to great lengths to hang the daggy smalls at the back of the line so that only innocuous items such as towels and sheets were visible from the dining room. Here in Geneva, conversations with all four Farj Family members were continued as I walked around the living room festooning damp underpants, bras and socks on clothes horses, door knobs and the backs of dining chairs without worrying about what aspect they were being viewed from or pausing for breath.

“So you’re now lead cornet in the town band, Frankie?”

Being ‘on’ for house guests – no matter how anticipated and beloved – can get tiring, especially if sparkling breakfast wit at 7am ends with slightly sloshed clinking of wine bottles in the recycling bins at 1am without a break. But on Day Four, it’s perfectly acceptable behaviour under the
Kath Lockett Code of Compulsory Consideration of House Guests to say, “You know guys, you go on ahead to the tulip festival without me; I’ll just have a short nap.”

The risk of missing out on potentially one of the country’s most exciting afternoons out is worth taking if it means that the household continues to experience coherent sentences, a regularly unpacked dishwasher and semi-acceptable facial features from my good self for the rest of their stay.

Boiling your own beverages, wet jocks and naps notwithstanding, the most significant sign of Free Reign post observance of the 
Kath Lockett Code of Compulsory Consideration of House Guests by far is my guiltiest daily pleasure, always avoided when non-family members are visiting.

The nose blow in the shower.

Honk honk hooooooooonk!

There’s no way to disguise the noise – it’s either that or a silent nose pick which has never been my style. Sinus-blasting sound over sneaky snot-squiggling any day.

Day Four onwards - Honk honk hooooooooonk!

The Farjs politely feigned deafness but the Gregorys did not. I’ve known Jill since I was a baby and her husband for over twenty years, so they got the Day Four Watery Schnozz Shooting match right from Day One. 

We laughed about it over breakfast but Jill was merely biding her time.

On Day Four, I was dying for a run. Would anyone mind if I just popped into my room, shut the door and went for a sesh on the treddie whilst they finished downloading holiday snaps and Love Chunks was doing the roast chook? The noise should be minimal with the door shut....

I couldn’t have cared less about the noise – privacy and avoidance of shame was always my biggest concern. The thought of being seen puffing, sweating and panting; bits-a-jiggling, bum bag around my Michelen-Man-enhanced waist, groaning out a lyric or two made me fart in automatic self preservation as I bent down to tie my shoelaces.

Still, as usual, the hallowed Zone of running was entered, and I was off. Random thoughts, songs, reminiscences, ideas..... all punctuated with drops of sweat spattering on the kick guard. Eleven years I’ve stuck at this; helps blow off the cobwebs and partially accounts for the industrial-sized loads of chocolate inhaled.

With a Playlist pounding in my ears, eyes straight ahead ostensibly staring at the wall but in actuality into my own brain, I didn’t notice the door open.



Next time she comes to stay I’ll honk in the shower on Day One. And walk out of the bathroom, starkers, before sprinking her freshly-made guest bed with my toe nail clippings and saying, ‘Get your own damn cuppa.”

She’d probably prefer it that way too. 

Visitors make me realise just how much we’ve achieved in less than a year and how beautiful this part of the world is. Love to all of you who have been brave enough to stay with us.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

You'll never guess

.....where we've been. I mean, most of you know that we've moved to Switzerland:

Last weekend, however, we decided to snatch the Friday and the Monday and take a short trip away from the land of fondue, fridge farts and furtive fireworks.

The weather is the best hint of any.

Even a proudly Swiss-engineered and manufactured umbrella was made a mockery of, the entire material cover and frame whisked out to sea faster than a tornado in a trailer park.

Cold, wet and hungry we ploughed on, ready to take Snap Two of my new tradition - Eating In Front Of Famous Monuments. The above one, aka The First, featured a prosciutto and emmental sanger in front Chateau Chillon near Montreux and the second one....

...... a Cadbury caramel Wispa bar in front of Stonehenge. Would have been a Creme Egg if I'd been able to find one.

Love Chunks, after all these years, still retains a sense of bafflement, pomposity and a dollop of shame at my antics.

Sapphire, on the other hand, just tells me to 'shoosh.'

All in all, it was a wild and wet few days that loaded us with heaps of history, a re-acquaintance with the left-hand side of the road and more than a few opportunities to chuckle at the West Country farmers' accents.  Not to mention access to local cider, chips, bacon, carrot cake and the ability to pass the time of day with shopkeepers, bus drivers and fellow tourists.

Shopping for codeine at Boots chemist, purchasing clothes without the 'you must be kidding me' automatic gasp of shock when the price tag is turned over, newspapers full of supplements and enduring a choking fit after Love Chunks made me laugh to hard over breakfast were all worth the admission ticket.  These are the experiences we up-ended our lives for.