Monday, October 31, 2005


Richard included a line from my blog of last week(, "you have the smug joy of knowing that you are in a position to spend more money on clothes than you would have dreamed of in your teenage years yet choose to spend it on your child and home," and then pointed out that: 'My grandmother had that smug joy until her husband left her for someone who 'looked after herself'. Go on. Tell me I'm wrong...'

Oh dear, he's given me a wee challenge to respond to, yet I'm sad reading about what happened to his Grandma and angry that his Grandpa (who, for the sake of brevity, will now represent all despicable men) left her for 'someone who looked after herself'.

I'm going to be wild and crazy and assume that this woman may also have been a year or two younger than Grandma? As we all know, whenever an ageing male celebrity (or 'local identity' here in the Australian womens' magazines) 'Finds love again,' it invariably seems to be with a blonde and bronzed Trixie Buttypuff who is exactly twenty years his junior. Of course when the age difference is raised by the gushing reporter, it's always blown off with "It's never been an issue with us...we felt like soulmates from the first time we met....he's young at heart....she's mature and easy to talk to...." I can not even think of one forty or fifty-something Aussie male who has found love the second time around with a woman even ten years younger, let alone his actual age.

Aussie blokes that immediately spring to mind include serial chick-rooter Gary Sweet (his last one was a 21 year old barmaid); Michael "How's the serenity" Caton (he's in his fifties, she her lateish thirties); Adelaide 36ers coach Phil Smyth (47) with a blonde bimbo (27), John Jarrat (fifties) and new wife in her thirties. Even I remember when Mike Gibson used to have a column in my Mum's Womens' Weekly magazine in the 1980s, chattering on about his 'child bride' and his kids. Several years later, he ditched his then fortyish 'child bride' for a newer, actual child bride in her early twenties. Not surprisingly, his column was no longer needed by the magazine.

Which leads me on to another wild assumption - that Grandpa was slightly over-endowed in the wallet department. No? So you're saying that he moved on to a newer, more improved woman on the sheer force of his personality and looks alone? Yeah right, and the younger woman would have fallen in love with Gramps even if he was just the local garbo, wouldn't she......

As for the smug knowledge of having a larger income in your thirties to spend on clothes yet electing to spend it on your children and your home, it remains true for most of us. Even though I am fairly resigned to (not proud) of my dagginess, I am also grateful that my husband, Love Chunks, isn't overly concerned with fashion or makeup. The few times I do put make up on he remarks that I look like a baby (many thanks to my parents for giving me a face that resembles a scone with two sultanas pushed into it for eyes). That's not to say that I don't look after myself physically - running, swimming, keeping clean, haircuts etc, but I no longer see the need to spend $450 on a work jacket when it could go towards an outdoor setting we'll have for years and use every day.

My last assumption is that the woman who 'looked after herself' was quite possibly childless, and therefore unencumbered with such time-consuming responsibilities such as 5am wake up calls, dashes to daycare at 7am, sponging snot and weetbix off one's shoulders before a meeting, late night housework, shopping, school run, playgroup, babysitting another toddler, school pick up, after-school activities (swimming, ballet, gym), dinner and then cleaning up all the mess after the kids have gone to bed...??

If I'm correct, it may also mean that this now-infamous woman who 'looked after herself' may then have had ample time to apply her lotions, potions and make up, do her hair, go to the gym after work, take a relaxing soak in the bath with a moisturising face mask on, paint her nails, apply some fake tan and eat a home-delivered 'Lite'n'easy meal for dinner. Maybe too she was able to stay awake beyond 9:30pm too, not only to sexually service Grandpa but also to listen with interest to his conversation.

Of course, all of these assumptions may be wildly wrong, but the law of averages suggests not. If a fifty-something like Billy Joel, a then-fifty-something like Michael Douglas and a forty-something like Nicolas Cage end up marrying women in their twenties, what on earth sort of adult conversation do they end up having apart from "Oh god, oh yeah, oh god, oh yeah baby." ??

I hope Grandma found someone fabulous and worthy of her Richard, I really do.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

I found my thrills......

....on discovering fat-free blueberry muffins (with moisture and taste) at my local supermarket!

Sad, isn't it, what I've become in my lateish thirties? To get so excited at discovering that an overgrown cup cake called a 'muffin' is fat-free, when really I should be leaving it for childrens' birthday parties and eating porridge for breakfast like a grownup.

It gets worse. Today I weeded our entire front garden and actually enjoyed doing it. The little orange dog was sniffing around me as I softly sung under my breath and surveyed my handiwork. Unlike the Annette Bening character in 'American Beauty', I was not colour-coordinated (in fact I was downright filthy) but I didn't care. My floppy sun hat would not have featured in any fashion magazine but that didn't matter - I was protected from sun burn and was sensibly dressed. Eeeek - what would my former 18 year old self have thought if she'd known that, at nearly 37, I'd be a) gardening; b) in unfashionably daggy clothing; and c) enjoying myself?

A quick survey of some of the other mums at school pick up today was comforting in the fact that I was not the only one to find pleasure from inexplicably dull things. Tori told me her husband took advantage of the rain on Sunday to stay indoors and clean the bathroom. Really clean it - he removed the showerhead and scraped out the gunk, got rid of two years' of ceiling mould, stripped the screen back to clear glass and scrubbed every single tile and strip of grouting. It took him the entire day, but it was worth it, Vicki thought, because the bathroom was gleaming. "He was stuffed afterwards but I shagged him senseless that night anyway," she laughed.

Joanne had recently held a wine night with 'no bloody kids' written on the invitation. As a mother of three, she'd long given up the idea of either staying up late or risk having a hangover. Because, as we all know, kids have inbuilt sonars and somehow choose to wake up at the inhumane time of 5am like overly-caffeinated oompah loompahs, screaming "Mum you promised me you'd set up the marble run today - let's do it NOW!"

Their wine night went smoothly and quite late so when Joanne got up the next morning she was not looking forward to cleaning up the mess. She discovered however, that there was no mess to clean up. "Ah yes, you're party guests are all parents now, so we all know what it's like," I commented. "Absolutely," she replied, "The dishwasher was stacked with glasses, the leftover food put in the bin and the bottles were already out with the recycling. It made me smile for the entire day." If it had been an eighteenth birthday party, she would have woken up at 3pm to find cigarettes butted out on the carpet, guacamole on the walls, smashed bottles in the garden, a blinking hazard light in the lounge room and a passed out stranger in the carport.

Mary, on the other hand, got her jollies from the installation of her new sink and plug. She and Anthony had been living in the house during a major renovation and for the past few months had been using their old sink with a bucket underneath. "I can't describe how happy we were to empty the bucket for the last time and to see a gleaming silver sink actually connected to the plumbing. Wait, there was more. "We're getting the smeg oven in today, so I'm hoping to slide in a pizza to give it a test run - maybe even bake a cake on the weekend - Woo hoo!"

Speaking of food, Sandy commented that we're now at the age where we no longer giggle and talk about sex but instead do it about food. Constantly. As three of us sat on the benches watching our six year olds in their after-school swimming lesson, we realised she was right. Every single time we'd been there we'd each asked each other what we were cooking for dinner that night!

Love Chunks and I saw Kent's new leaf-blower and were very impressed. "Hmm, it would sure be easier than having to sweep up the back pavers all the time, wouldn't it?" said a very interested Love Chunks, who then spent his birthday money on a similar model. So this is the age we're at, when:
  • leaf blowers impress us more than i-pods (who's got the time to download and burn and label all those songs);
  • having a drawer full of clean, line-dried underwear is more thrilling than seeing the boy next door in his underwear;
  • sleeping in beyond 6am is a luxury worth having rather than arriving home from a night out at 6am;
  • we look at a luxurious bed and don't think "Where's a naked Mel Gibson when I need one' but instead think "Oooh, to have some sleeeeep" and
  • you have the smug the joy of knowing that you are in a position to spend more money on clothes than you would have dreamed of in your teenage years yet choose to spend it on your child and home.
The final one that all women lust after, crave for and discuss endlessly is - being acknowledged for the housework they do. No husband or child looks at their jocks in the drawer and says "Oh wow, that's fantastic", but everyone will notice when hubby's mowed the lawn or clipped the trees. No-one says "A vacuumed floor - brilliant!", or "Isn't it fantastic how you've restocked the pantry like that!" No-one says "Thanks for taking me to school, swimming and tennis classes Mum", yet you see a Dad to take their kid along to a birthday party and everyone coos, "Oh isn't it great that he's such a hands-on parent."

Small thrills yet important ones. Seeing a drawing of me by Sapphire is thanks enough, for, in her eyes, I'm tall, slim, glamorous, trendy and beautiful. Let's make the most of this stage before she becomes ashamed to be seen with me.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Things to learn from the Zoo

Last week, Sapphire, Uncle Robbie and I visited the Melbourne Zoo. After getting over the entrance prices and the costs of sandwiches and icecreams, I then eased into enjoying the stroll around on a warm sunny day and seeing each and every animal on display. It made me realise that despite the ever-present pong of poo in the air these creatures have a great deal to teach us.

For instance, the white-cheeked gibbons. (By 'cheeked' they mean the face, not the butt). Mr Gibbon was hanging from the topmost branch by one arm which, extended, was twice as long as his body. He languidly hung in front of us - by just two fingers - for the entire time we stood in front him and appeared to be as interested in staring at us as we were in staring at him. I'm not promoting the idea that we adult humans should try hanging from a tree branch by just one arm (if you've ever tried to have a go at the monkey bars at your child's school, you'll appreciate that every single muscle down the side of your body will immediately snap like the elastic around Kirstie Alley's fat pants); but that we should at least take some time out to relax. Enjoy the scenery. Take an interest.

The elephants reminded me of dairy cows. The male and female both waited patiently at the entrance of their huge 'run', near their warehouse-sized evening shelter. Would they be changing the gates across the pathway so that the elephants could walk to their swimming pool? Would the keepers be transferring them to their walkway so that they could do a lap of the replica Indonesian village? Nah. Instead, they were each handed a small, leafy branch which they both happily took away with them to chew with obvious enjoyment. Right: it can be the very simple things that can make you happy.

Over at a considerably more odorous enclosure the pgymy hippopotamus was basking in the sun, yet also partially submerged in her pond. The water was dark green, cloudy and very smelly as they apparently do 'everything' in it. Yet she looked the picture of contentment and completely oblivious to the chattering school kids studying her through the glass. It looked like a squalid swamp to me, but she was obviously enjoying being home.

Two seals, on the other hand, were far more active, swimming graceful laps of their pool. Upside down. At the end of their individual laps, they'd float peacefully up to the surface before frolicking together. Then they'd climb on to the bank and sun themselves. You'd have to be very hard-hearted not to admire their beautiful large eyes, sleek fur and cat-like whiskers. Two seconds later, they'd slip into the water and go through the entire process again. They were loving just being themselves.

My favourite animals have always been the meerkats, and we spent at least half an hour observing their entertaining activities. One was on sentry duty and the others were continuously digging to find the hard-boiled eggs hidden in the sand by the keepers. Even when a meerkat had found an egg, he'd put it aside and keep on digging or scamper off and find a new spot to dig in. As our visit with them approached thirty minutes, a second meerkat stood on its hind legs in the sentry position. The original sentry immediately noticed this, and dropped down into digging mode. I'll make no apologies for making these little creatures far wiser than they really are by applying a couple of observations to them:
1) Keep an eye out for your family; 2)Take turns to help out; and 3) Eat to live, don't live to eat

No friends of meerkats, the tiger was at first very difficult to spot in her jungle-like enclosure. Then we saw her at the back, impatiently pacing back and forth along the farthest fence behind the bamboo. My first reaction was to feel sorry for a wild animal that was bored and frustrated until I read the sign that told us she was 'pacing with excitement because she is aware that the new male from xxx zoo had arrived in the neighbouring enclosure.' Aww, bless her young heart: Keep the thrill of romance alive (in any way you can).

It was time to have an icecream and get out of the sun, so the nocturnal/amphibian exhibits seemed like a good idea. The green tree frogs were still, quiet and cool. Pretty well what we should all try to be really.

Over at the 'Rice Paddy Field' exhibit, we saw two birds called stilts. They stood together side-by-side and both were standing on one leg. Just before we all started to wonder if they'd both been victims of a marauding rice paddy pirahna, one lowered it's second leg. Then the other bird did. Two seconds later however, they were both standing on one leg again. Was it a competition to see who could stand on one leg the longest? Whatever the reason, it's always good to have a spare. (A spare anything).

On our way out, we spied the Nepalese red panda. A rather gorgeous creature that looked like an adorable combination of a fox, teddy bear and a cat, it gave a huge wide yawn and did two huge 'salute to the sun' and 'downward facing dog' stretches to ease itself awake. It's 'morning ritual' was most luxurious and entertaining to watch and reminded me that most of us do not take the time to enjoy your sleep and also to take your time in waking up properly.

What visit to the zoo would be complete without the babboons? Whether us parents like it or not, every child is going to have a good old giggle at their bright pink butts, and our visit was no exception. Once the cackling school kids on excursion had moved on, we three stood behind the glass for a closer look. Most of them were bright pink, but the dominant male's was a kaleidoscope of pinks, purples and blues. He was clearly an old pro at this zoo caper because, like the gibbon, he sat there and stared straight back at us. His final gesture was a classic - he turned around to give us a beautiful view of his butt and then pressed it up against the glass before walking off in a rather surprisingly dignified manner. Uncle Robbie thought that the only lesson we could possibly learn here was: You may think you call the shots, but you can kiss my arse.

I then told him off for swearing in front of Sapphire.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Once, twice, three times a Weirdo

One of my family's jokes is centred on my younger brother, nicknamed Thumb, who used to have to tap all of the knobs on the drawers in our bathroom several times before he went to bed. In 1982 we all considered this a hilarious activity that was ripe for ribbing but these days he'd be sent to therapy to cure him of his obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Our six year old daughter, Sapphire, has chosen the most classic of OCDs - skipping over the cracks in pavers, footpaths and even the painted lines on basketball courts. This doesn't alarm me. Yet. Instead, I try to consider her odd little skips as a unique form of exercise and pray that it doesn't continue into her teens.

Love Chunks, on the other hand, displays no signs of OCD but instead has developed an overly strong attachment for his...... saucepans. Yes, you read that right - saucepans. Before he and I were invented as a couple, he spent a fair old chunk of one of his first graduate-trainee pay cheques on the best saucepan set he could find. They were several years old by the time we moved in together and I was sat down and instructed very clearly that I was not to use metal implements with them ("I'd prefer wood, or plastic if you must") and under no circumstances were they to be cleaned with scourers or brillo pads. This zealous care has continued over the years and the saucepans, it must be said, are still gleaming and in great working order. Whilst this is a good thing, I am under no doubt whatsoever that his 'Beloveds' as I jokingly call them, would be the first thing he'd rescue (after Sapphire, of course) in the case of a fire.

My weird habits, unfortunately, are too numerous to mention in their entirety here, but make my family's seem like a tiny eye tic. The most longstanding one is my obsession with threes. My birthday is the 3rd of November, and for all of my active memory I have counted out threes like the demented girlfriend of RainMan. For instance, I'm disappointed that the ceiling tiles in my dentist's surgery are divided into 29 squares across and down - no divisions of three, and it perhaps goes some way to explaining the pain, discomfort and embarassment I've endured there on far too many occasions.

My daughter's name is a division of three, as is the dog's. Love Chunks' and my names, separately, are not, but together, they are. I've been obsessed (or was it bored?) enough to mentally count the CDs on the rack and the books on the shelf to see if they fit the numerical formula. The diamond patterns on our living room rug do not. You'd think I'd only need to count them once to work that out, but it's something that I find myself doing every single day I sit down and clap eyes on the damn pattern. This same obsession goes for the number of floorboards in the dining room; the number of knobs on all cupboards, drawers and doors in our bedroom; the shower curtain rings in the bathroom; bottles of wine in the racks; undies on the clothesline and petunias flowering in their pots..... I'm a lunatic!

There is also my 'Seige Mentality' when it comes to grocery shopping. I can't stand using up the last tin of tomatoes in the pantry - there should always be another tin waiting to take its place. This sentiment is hardly weird, but I tend to buy three cans of tomatoes in case we have two or more meals during the week that require them. If the list says one tin of pineapple, I'll get two, or maybe three. Crumpets - three packs, because two of them can go in the freezer. Toothpaste is another. Even though I take a list, I seem to always buy a tube of toothpaste (whatever's on special that particular week) because I honestly forget if we're low or don't have enough. We had seven tubes at last count - by an amused but slightly exasperated Love Chunks. Family-sized blocks of chocolate also fall into this category, but it's debatable as to whether it's genuinely a 'seige mentality' action in buying six blocks at a time, or sheer greed.

Lastly - that is, if you're still reading this and not deleting this blog altogether in your shock, horror and dismay - I tend to talk out loud to my dog. For most of the day. Even though she's a good companion, really cute and likes to follow me around, I'm sure that she doesn't need me saying "Hello there furry face," every time our eyes meet, or "Come here for a cuddle, Spunky Buns" a dozen times a day, or a running commentary on what I'm doing: "Oooh you're a cutie. Mummy's just thawing out some chicken. Nooo, not for you, for us, for tea tonight." If she's really unlucky, she'll even get a song or two. My musical abilities and imagination are limited to merely slotting in her name to a known song "Her name was Milly, she was a show dog, she had blue ribbons in her hair and a dress cut down to there...." What she thinks of my canine version of 'Copacobana' perhaps is best left unknown.

It's unlikely that these three major habits are going to go away and may in fact get worse. Still there are worse things to do, aren't there? I haven't shagged the local football team or gambled away our life savings or done a Kate Moss up my nose, but if you're ever out of toothpaste or tinned tomatoes or fancy a canine conversation, you'll know who to call. Just make sure your name and/or telephone number is a division of three..........

Monday, October 24, 2005

Really Sick Child

As some of you may know from a previous article I wrote on having a 'sick' child at home all day - - normally they're all annoyingly chirpy and jumping on the lounge suite by 10:30am thus making it a very, very l-o-n-g day ahead for the parent.

I mention this fact so that my own cruel behaviour towards my six year old daughter Sapphire this morning will be forgiven, or at the very least, understood. Not only had we just had two weeks of idyllic school holidays (for her) but we'd also taken the first week off term four to go to Melbourne with Love Chunks. Therefore, when Sapphire threw up her minutes-old milo cereal all over the kitchen floor, I was annoyed rather than concerned for her welfare. Granted she did look pale, but hey, we're both blondes: we should look pale. Also in true Sapphire style, she immediately displayed her 'Better Out Than In' post-vomit persona and immediately started chattering away about what she'd like this week's 'Show and Tell' topic to be about. My annoyance then changed to relief: she's OK enough to go to school.

Don't get me wrong; she's a lovely child and every day I am still dazzled at my first sight of her, but after being her most constant companion/chef/taxi/diary planner/disciplinarian/groomer/housekeeper for the past three weeks I needed a break. We meandered slowly along the three blocks to her school, we kissed each other goodbye and I ambled back home via the letter box.

The sun was trying to make its presence felt amongst the rain clouds and I was about to get into my gear to take Milly and myself for a run (no, really) when the school rang, asking me to collect Sapphire from the sick bay. "Oh gosh darnit, and to think that I was about to go for a 6km run in the drizzle." Other silly thoughts flew out of my head when I clapped eyes on her - tiny, grey-faced and miserable; her large blue eyes staring forlornly at me. She then said those horrible words that no mother wants to hear, let alone in front of Jane from the front office: "I told you I was too sick to go to school Mum." Bam! that one got me right in the heart and I could also feel daggers in my back because Jane was standing directly behind me and looking rather fierce.

Minutes later, we were home with Sapphire on the lounge watching Harry Potter 2 on DVD. This wasn't so bad after all. She was happily in Hogwarts-land; I was catching up on sorting through a weeks' mail and Milly was curled up in her beanbag. All quite nice really----- BLEUGH!

Oh dear. It was then I realised that Sapphire's ability to projectile vomit as a small baby had suddenly rediscovered itself.

"Um, OK, um, what should we do first - I know - step out of your clothes - no, don't worry about the mess on the floor, just step the other way. I'll get you some clean pyjamas to put on and I'll throw a blanket over the other lounge for you to lie on while I get some water and disinfectant to clean all this up. NO MILLY - go away! Don't eat Sapphire's sick!"

The room now reeking of pine-o-cleen and damp sponge and the washing machine grinding away in the laundry, Sapphire told me that she was hungry. Fair enough, I thought. She's a 'Better Out Than In' girl, so it's no wonder she's peckish with a now-empty stomach. "Would you like to eat the recess I packed in your lunchbox?" She nodded, knowing full well it was three gourmet chocolate chip cookies. The rosy flush was back in her cheeks and she started to wander around the room playing with her toys.

As I was loading the clean clothes, blankets and towel into the dryer, I heard those other words that Mums of the world dread: "M-u-m I'm going to be sick again!" Too late. My mad rush into the living room saw me doing a wild split on the floor as I slid in Sapphire's sick.

"Mummy I'm so sorry," she croaked, looking worse than ever.
"Oh that's OK love," I replied, "At least it's only on the floorboards and, well, my feet." More paper towels were used to collect up the chunkier bits before the disinfectant and water came out and my shoes were plonked in a bucket of napisan.

"Would you like me to put some music on? No? Would you like to watch another movie? No? Well I'm sorry, but there's absolutely NO WAY I'm going to let you surf the Barbie website on my laptop...... I know you'll try and get your sick into the bucket this time, but it hasn't been successful as yet, so there'll be no touching anything technical today. OK?" Sapphire nodded sadly and sank down on the lounge, no energy left to argue as she normally would.
"I'll just sit here Mum. I don't want any noise like music or TV." Now there was something that a Mum doesn't hear from her child every day.

An hour later she was asking for lunch. It seemed like a safe enough bet seeing as she hadn't thrown up for an hour and said she was starving. "How about some rice crackers?" She nibbled at them enthusiastically and was just about to reach for her glass of water when - BLEUGH! - Bugger it. All over the other lounge. Well, the two blankets, sheets and pillows. And her pyjamas. "Oh love, I'm so sorry you're sick; you don't have to cry about the mess. You'll get it in the bucket the next time you try. Not that I want you to be sick a next time, but you know what I mean...... yes, we'll just peel off your clothes and I'll bundle them in with the blankets and stuff and put them in the washing machine." Geez, I didn't have any more blankets to protect the lounges with, so I hoped that Milly wouldn't mind me using her bath towels as protection.

As Sapphire dozed, I quickly ate my reheated leftovers for lunch in the dining room, hoping that the smell wouldn't wake her or cause her to vomit. The room now smelled of pine, damp sponge, wet dog and, unfortunately, vomit. I thought I'd cleaned it all up, but obviously there was a rogue patch I couldn't see but could certainly smell.

We read stories in the afternoon, mostly involving princesses, at her request. We patted the dog, watched ABC kids and called her best friend when she'd got home after school. Three hours had passed, the longest gaps between pukes. The water she drank stayed down and again she told me that she was hungry. Vegemite on toast was prepared, which she ate with obvious enjoyment. Love Chunks phoned from Melbourne, to say a general g'day and to see how we were. "I'm feeling much better now Daddy and------" she threw the phone to me and - BLEUGH! - had a lovely projectile puke over the second lounge's third lot of protective blankets.

For the first time that day, some tears started to flow. She was obviously feeling completely wretched, yet had spent the day in good spirits without even a hint of a whinge. "Ah don't worry about the lounge, I can clean it all up later. I'd rather be hugging you right now." And I said what we all say - and feel - when our children are sick: "If I had the power to take this away from you and have it myself, I would." Do you know what she said back? She said, "No Mum, you get sick too many times with your migraines. I don't mind being sick today instead of you." Bam! - again, a shot straight through the heart. How many adults would have enough wit and empathy to say something that nice in such a situation?

It didn't end there. She gratefully sank into bed (yes, her mattress and pillow had been covered in her old cot blankets) at 7:30pm, leaving me to do the dishes and finish up the laundry. I hoped that she would get a full nights' sleep. Alas, this hasn't been the case so far. She woke up in a sweat, crying from a nightmare she'd had at 9pm. I risked giving her some Panadol, and wet a flannel and dabbed it on her face to cool her down. "Thanks for caring about me Mum", she whispered. Bam! Who knew it would be so bittersweet?

Sunday, October 23, 2005

With the very best of intentions……

…..Sapphire and I decided to tag along with Love Chunks as he headed to Melbourne to fill in the warm spot left in the reclining chair by the grand poobah’s butt cheeks. For three weeks. The school holidays had slid by with him mostly being overseas in Chile wearing a striped poncho, playing his wooden panpipes and pausing occasionally to nibble at his BBQed guinea pig as his tiny donkey took him slowly up the Andes… Well, that’s what I imagined him doing anyhow; not the boring AM-DAR weather data collection talks that he reckons they held for days on end.

Nonetheless it felt as though we hadn’t seen him for about a month, so on the spur of the moment we decided to join him for his first week in Melbourne. Ah, no matter that it was the first week of term four – surely a week off reception wasn’t going to harm our young cherub’s chances of university entry. Love Chunks then got all pompous and forthrightly informed the grand poobah that he was bringing his family over to stay at my brother and sister-in-law’s place and, as such, would not need any travel allowance. I know he did the right thing but jeez, all that money….!

Big Brother Robbie and his wife the gorgeous Dr Boon were fine hosts and it was great to see them for the first time since Easter. Their new townhouse in North Melbourne was twice as large as their Abbotsford Street alcove and we were made very welcome. Already things were looking good – a cheap internet fare for the two of us gals and free accommodation. We’d just potter about the city during the day together and then meet up with Robbie, Dr B and Love Chunks in the evenings – a pleasant, stress-free and cheap week away. What a naïve and hopeful fool I was…..

Writing all of this a week later I can still hear my wallet squealing slightly as it slowly cools down from overuse. High prices you’d expect in touristy Queensland, London, mainland Europe, but the Melbourne zoo? I’m almost too afraid to write down what I flung out during the week, but I’ll grit my teeth and be as honest as I can:

Monday – Melbourne Zoo. I proudly presented my Adelaide Zoo pass and released my rarely-seen skinflinty Scottish lass, dancing a jig with glee at gettin’ in fae free. A rather chill wind blew up me tartan when I was informed that Robbie would be $21, and Sapphire $14. It was a warm day so it was impossible to resist buying a Heaven for $3.50 apiece and our lunch was three despicably-cooked flabby fried rice in cigarette packet-sized boxes for $8. I cursed my weak body for requiring a drink - $3.50 for a small bottle – it made the elephants’ swimming enclosure look daring but tempting.

A tiny consolation was that we were invited out to a BBQ dinner at the Grand poobah’s house that night, so dinner was free. The two bottles of wine we bought along to share were $30.

Tuesday – Botanic Gardens. Free, mercifully, but those botanical bastards were just waiting amongst the camellias to fleece us instead via the café located near the duck pond. An innocuous looking establishment, but to see a $9 price tag alongside a child’s sandwich – horrifying! Six bucks for a bowl of chips – damn these mortal appetites! My diet coke was treble the milk-bar price, so I tried to pretend that it was the winner of a competition containing the elixir of youth, mensa-like intelligence and the ability to throw like a boy.

Dinner at home with the family and just what we all needed – spaghetti Bolognese and ice-cream. Fantastic. Still my most favourite meal to have at home ever.

Wednesday – Lunch, shopping and the Lion King Musical. Lunch totaled $40 for a 6 year old and a 36 year old to sit in an indoor café off Collins Street (away from the nutters and drunks and associated awkward questions and comments from the six year old) with a drink each and various toasted croissants and sandwiches. We then wandered into a bookshop where I spent $79 on assorted books and diaries to stow away in my gift cupboard and an additional $9.95 on a plush little Gromit for my little grommet. During the Lion King, said grommet was mostly holding up her toy during the $180 event, making me wonder if the $9.95 toy was more appreciated than the $90 ticket….. $3 on an ice-cream for my blondie from the quirky little corner shop (hairdressing, woolen beanies, chips, sex toys and ice blocks in a room the size of a broom cupboard) around the corner from Robbie and Dr B’s place.

We went out to Murrumbeena to catch up for dinner with some friends who ended up ordering in some Indian food for the evening. Great company, great wine, great food. Yes of course we brought along the wine and paid our share of the takeaway - $30.

Thursday – Melbourne Aquarium – bloody hell, $39 for two of us to get in! Then add on another $18 for a very ordinary café lunch of sandwiches and drinks; $21 for the glass-bottomed boat shark tour; $6 shoved in the slot for the photo-booth ‘Make your own postcard’ picture that Sapphire begged for and another $10 for a ‘shark teeth’ photo sprung on us after we left the ride. “Hell, they must have shut up shop after you guys left,” said my brother Robbie, shaking his head. Sapphire didn’t mind; she was still busy slurping her $2 ice block from the weirdo shop around the corner.

Dinner for us was at Love Chunks’ old boss’s place, way out in Vermont. Robbie lent us his car, so we filled it with $30 worth of petrol; Geoff and Rosemary were not wine buffs so we spent $20 on choccies instead.

Friday – IMAX, museum, morning tea, Queen Victoria Markets. We were running late for the movie session and no tram lines were close, so I phoned a taxi company to take us there. Abdul did just that, for $13. The movie cost me $19 and Sapphire $13 (why only $6 less than an adult – what’s the reasoning behind this?). It went for just forty five minutes, so we had only just finished consuming our $15 worth of over-priced movie munchies. Afterwards, I numbly followed my little one around the Children’s Museum before insisting that we walk – not call another taxi – to Victoria Market. Two kilometres into the journey and Sapphire naturally went into whine mode. She was appeased when given the opportunity to choose what she’d like for her lunch in the food hall. Surrounded by the best produce in the state, she went for a Big M strawberry milk and a cup of chips. I wasn’t any better – a Big M iced coffee (an insult to Farmers Union Feel Good) and some baklava; which still stung me for fifteen smackers.

We ambled around the markets - $13 for Sapphire’s fringe to be cut (and just the fringe); $5 for a golden cat with a waving arm to give us good luck and good fortune; another fiver for a chunk of glass with a horse lasered in it (both Sapphire’s holiday souvenir choices); $6 butterscotch for our fine hosts and another fiver on fruit. A final $5 on ice blocks for my blondie and me from the quirky little corner shop – hell, we are on holiday after all.

Dinner was at home – pan fried salmon and squid, with salad and a sticky choc-mint mud cake to follow.

Yes, I gained two kilograms. And lost hundreds.

Saturday, October 22, 2005


Hi all, this is just a quick and lazy one to let youse all know that I'm back in Blogland after having 6 year old Sapphire all to myself over the school holidays (Love Chunks was in Chile); a week with Love Chunks back in Adelaide before he then headed off to Melbourne; where we two gals have just returned after spending the first of his two weeks with him.....Stay tuned for more specific blogs about our experiences (and my irrelevent thoughts) soon.

Meanwhile, this quick style of writing has been borrowed from Daffy's blog at: - well worth a look, if only to put you off the idea of building a house from scratch....

What I was doing this time 10 years ago: October 1995 - I had been married to Love Chunks for eight months and we were living in a weather bureau house in Darwin. When not at work or lying under the air conditioner, we were in our pool, looking at the distant lightning hundreds of kilometres away, swatting mossies and listening to the romantic sounds of the frogs calling to each other in the garden. Love Chunks reckoned the frogs were croaking out "Bonk Bonk Bonk", which was rather appropriate really.

5 years ago: October 2000 After five years of living in Melbourne, our house was up for auction and we were about to drive back to Adelaide on the Saturday and start our two new jobs on the Monday. Moving vans were transporting our stuff to storage; and we had the 1.5 year old Sapphire, dog and various suitcases crammed into our car as we headed to my parents' place 80km out of Adelaide. The exhaustion, nervousness and exhilaration is coming straight back as I type this.

1 year ago: October 22 2004 Living in Adelaide, paying off a mortgage on a house I love, easing Sapphire into her first term of 'reception' at school and working my entire being into a state of burned out, sleepless, migraine-ready, irritable bowel, teeth grinding, stomach clenching state of STRESS that I thought I was doing really well in ignoring........

Yesterday: Watching 'Walking on the Moon' in 3D at Melbourne's IMAX theatre with Sapphire, taking her the Children's section of the Melbourne musuem, shopping at the Queen Victoria market (a Chinese good luck cat with the waving paw and a lasered horse in a chunk of glass for Sapphire); having salmon and squid cooked by my brother for our dinner; scoffing down chocolate and mint mud cake to celebrate said brother's end of plumbing apprenticeship, watching Survivor and crashing out in their guestroom.

5 snacks I enjoy: Chocolate in every single conceivable permutation, Farmers Union Feel Good Iced Coffee, moist muffins (not those big dry ones that have made muffins about as fashionable as 1995 nowadays), chocolate chip biscuits and (in my reluctant acknowledgement of savoury tastes) - salted roast cashews.

5 songs I know all the words to: ABBA - everything they ever recorded; The Saw Doctors - pretty well everything from 1991 to 2000; Hoodoo Gurus (everything up to 1991); Midnight Oil (1982 to 1993) and V Spy V Spy (1985 to 1990).

5 things I would do with a million dollars: Same as Daffy - Pay off the house, Invest some for Sapphire's education, Buy a cool car, Go on a holiday, Give some to charity and friends

5 things I would never wear: Stilettos (I like being able to actually walk), bikini, mini skirts(not any more, not with legs so veined they look as though I've got tartan tights on), short shorts (see previous comment) and low-cut jeans (my stomach needs to be reined in, not set free)

5 bad habits: Picking at the skin around my fingers until they bleed, worrying about 'what I'm going to be when I grow up', lacking self confidence, going overboard with things until the point of exhaustion and being impatient with Sapphire

5 favorite toys: The DVD player (with surround sound), our laptop wireless computer (a joy to write, think and work on), Sapphire, Milly the dog and whatever good book or magazine I happen to be reading at the time.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Wrinkly Rules

This week Adelaide has been hosting the Masters Games and as such, has rolled out the red carpet (and the radox) for the country, local and interstate over 35 wrinklies wanting to participate.

My Dad cruised into town fully-trained, kitted up and ready for playing in the Masters’ over 60s basketball competition. He’d placed an ad in the paper, asking if there were ‘any blokes over 60 wanting to play basketball and have fun.’ Somehow a rather motley crew of hopefuls answered his call, and they’d communicated via phone calls and emails right up until their very first game.

Sapphire and I went along to cheer Grandpa/Dad on and his entire team called the ‘Southerners’. His team mates shook hands, introduced each other, threw the ball around a few times and then prepared to play the ‘Myths and Legends’ team.

The Southerners consisted of:

  • My Dad – John – a 64 year old retired teacher with slightly more belly lapping over the top of his shorts than in his hey day, and who had decided to tuck in his singlet into the waistband, giving him an pensioner Rain Man look;
  • Little John – a 64 year old electrician who had also entered in the kayaking competition. He could rather optimistically be described as being five feet tall, and his silver hair gave him the appearance of a determinedly active little garden gnome;
  • Glenn – a retired teacher who last played competitively eight years ago;
  • Brian – owner of the team’s largest stomach, who still worked as an accountant and would rush to the games in between his work appointments. After ten matches over a week, he was yet to be sighted cracking a smile;
  • Lyn – a country doctor who was carrying an old Achilles injury and brought along his oxygen kit in case he or any of his teammates needed it during the half time break; and
  • Ted who had already pulled a calf muscle in the long jump competition a day earlier. It had twanged off several metres before he even made the board, so the poor chap didn’t even have the jump measured.

Having only six players was a concern for Dad, and the Myths and Legends club (who fielded several teams from over 50s and beyond), generously loaned him a couple of fellas to join the ‘Southerners’. They were:

  • Peter 1 – a Cliff Young look-alike who wore his shorts inside out so the ‘care instruction’ tag was right over his butt hole and the size tag dangled out of his waist. He was apparently 65 but looked more like 85 – especially when he took his teeth out before the game; and
  • Peter 2 who looked like a Sure Slim version of Elvis Presley. He was not injured either before the competition or after it; but apparently the rest of the team hoped that his mouth would somehow stop working. He liked to share the wisdom of his playing experiences with the team and tell them how to play yet was blissfully unaware of the eye rolling that occurred amongst them. That's right, 60-something men can be bitchy too.

Sadly for the Southerners, they were beaten 40 to 20 by the Myths and Legends team who were, on average, a foot taller than each of Dad's players. After the game the team weren’t so worried about their loss as they were about their health – Dad had pulled both calf muscles in the first five minutes of the game; Little John had twanged his groin and a hammy was playing up; Glenn’s Achilles decided to fully give up the ghost; Brian’s hamstring baulked at the challenge of hoisting his not inconsiderable girth around the court; Ted had his long jump Achilles in a pressure bandage from his ankle to his knee; and Lyn also limped off with a pulled calf muscle.

The organisers of the Masters Games were clever enough to anticipate that their participating wrinklies are going to be much more likely to injure or strain themselves than younger, fitter and more regular players. To me it seemed that just the ‘Southerners’ on their own ran the canteen dry of ice for the Sports Medicos ice packs and many rolls of tape were used to tighten up muscles that were misbehaving themselves.

Dad was sent off during one match under the blood rule, but got off a lot more lightly that a bloke on other side. Firstly he was sent off with a nose bleed until he returned back on court a few minutes later with his nose stuffed full of tissues. Then the poor old bastard got a full whack in the goolies, sending him to the floor in the classic foetal position of agony. He grunted to his mate, “Hell that just about drove me testicles up into my abdomen”, only to have his team mate shoot back with, “Well at least one’s hanging out your nostril.”

In their final match for the games, the Southerners were playing for the bronze medal or fourth position. They didn’t made a particularly intimidating impression as they hobbled onto the court – everyone except Big Mouth Peter and Cliff Young in his back-to-front shorts was limping, bruised, taped or strapped and it was obvious that the effort involved in bending down to retrieve a drink bottle out of a sports bag was a challenge indeed.

Their opposition were tall and a lot were wearing glasses. One fella had a huge white pair on which reminded me of the guy who sang ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’; or maybe he was off to see ‘Shark Boy and Lava Girl’ in 3D after the game. Their number 23 shuffled along like a two year old with a full nappy; and another player reminded me of the Ooompah Looompah from ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’. I also noted that singlets on over 60s aren’t too flattering when there was such an array of fuzzy, hairy shoulders on display.

Despite these weird characters, they won the game. Even so, the ‘Southerners’ defended well, shot their fair share of points and made their opposition work pretty hard for their victory. The final score – 35 – 49 showed how far they’d come in just five days. On Monday they were meeting each other for the first time and having their scores tripled; and on Friday they were clearly playing together as a team and were much more competitive. They knew each others’ strengths and where they’d be found on court, but, on the negative side, they also had a hell of a lot more strapping, deep heat, ice packs, limping and grimacing to contend with.

Later when Dad and I were walking (or hobbling, in his case, with one of his lower legs twice as large as the other due to inflammation) to the car park, he said to me, “I just hope that I at least looked as though I used to know how to play basketball, and not embarrassingly clueless.”
“You didn’t, Dad. You couldn’t jump; your left leg was noticeably larger than your right one even out on court; you missed a few points because you had a 7 foot giant leaning over you, but yes, we could all see that you knew what you were doing.”

More importantly, he was out there – how many 64 year olds can say that they spent a week playing basketball?

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Partying with the Petanqueans

After nine very long days of being cared for by her ‘single mother’ whilst Love Chunks is chilling in Chile, young Sapphire went to her best friend Holly’s place for a sleepover last night.

I’m not sure who was the most excited – Sapphire, who’d been counting down the days; or me, who’d also been looking forward to waking up on at least one morning at a time later than 6am and without having some little frog fingers tapping me on the forehead, asking “Mum is it time to get up yet? Can we make some more ballerinas out of potatoes?”

Normally when Sapphire sees Holly she rushes over to lift her off the ground in a bear hug and together they then head off into Holly’s bedroom, all a-chatter and ready to get down to the serious and time-consuming activity of playing. It’s rare for me to get a farewell much more sentimental than a half-muffled, half-yelled, “Oh yeah, seeya Mum,” as I leave a few minutes later.

Yesterday afternoon, however, Sapphire ‘Cracked the Sads’ as my older brother Rob likes to put it. Why, I don’t know: surely she would have been sick of being with me for nine days straight? Been sick of being told irritably every morning: “What numbers are there on your clock radio?”
(After skipping back from her room): “A six, then two dots, then a zero and a three.”
(Me, sighing with sleep deprivation): “Well, I want you go back to bed and stay there until your clock starts with a SEVEN. When it does, you can get up and put ABC kids on, OK?”
“But Mum, you said we were going to go to Norwood to get me a basketball and then see ‘Wallace and Gromit’ and------
(Me, now wide awake and very terse): “Yes, I KNOW. But that’s about FIVE HOURS from now. GO TO BED before you make me REALLY ANGRY!”

These early morning conversations briefly flitted across my exhausted brain as Sapphire burst into tears and hung on to my leg as though it was the floating noodle she used to rely on in her first swimming class. In a way it was extremely touching and flattering but in a much larger way it was alarming if it was going to impact on my planned night out on my own. There was no way this sobbing child was going to force me to cancel my plans and take her back home with me, heartbreak or not. Bec, Holly’s goddess-like mother, came up trumps when she whispered to Sapphire: “We’re making pizza for dinner tonight; we’ve got ice-cream and chocolates for dessert and Holly’s got Robots on DVD….”

She rebounded off my leg as though I’d been a vinyl car seat in a heat wave and rushed to join Holly inside. “Thanks Bec”, I croaked.
“Geez, love are you sure you’re up for a night out – you’ve got blinkin’ bags under your eyes big enough to stow luggage in….”
“I know, I know, but I need adult conversation and I’ve already bought the tickets and Kate’s picking me up, so I don’t want to let the team down.”
“Okaaay then, have fun.”

I planned to. Friday night – husbandless, childless, a ride to and from the venue, a licensed bar with cheap drinks and a sleep-in the following morning – a parent’s idea of heaven.

Kate and her husband, Neil, were on the same wavelength. We three had been the organisers of our school’s Quiz Night fundraiser a few weeks ago, and thought it would be fun to go out to Kate’s Auntie’s show as passive participants who only had to contribute some answers, eat the nibbles provided to share and not worry about the lighting, prizes, time, bar staff or whether we had enough gold coins to give out as change.

Accordingly, they too had dropped their children off for sleepovers and were up for a night out. Time was of the essence though – it was a 7pm start on a Friday night, so we decided that three overloaded, dripping yiros’ oozing gobs of garlic sauce would be a convenient dinner. A few minutes later, we pulled up into the car park of the Prospect Petanque Club, nervously chomping on gum in order to make our breath socially acceptable. The Petanque club looked deserted: had we come to the right place? “Well, how many other Prospect Petanque Clubs are there in Adelaide?” questioned Neil, our resident bright spark.

We were in luck, or so we thought, when a female version of Hagrid butted out her fag and approached us “Thank Christ someone’s turned up. Come in,” she welcomed, in a voice only achieved through chain smoking since the 1960s or gargling gravel. “Lord help us, we’ve found Donatella Versace’s Aussie half-sister”, I muttered as we surveyed the room. Neil decided that she was some form of ‘Man Beast’ after he’d suffered through a conversation that involved her leaning suggestively over him to display her wizened cleavage to it’s full effect. He was most disappointed to discover that his garlic breath had no discernibly negative affect on her attentions.

The club was so poorly set up for the quiz night it was immediately comical. Nine white plastic outdoor tables and chairs in a room comparable in size to my own living room, and a hand-written scrap of paper with an arrow pointing to the ‘prizes’ arrayed on a card table. Whilst a grey army Petanque Club is unlikely to get the volume of prizes donated by local businesses as a school, it was quite obvious that the Petanqueans had either ventured to Cheap as Chips with an $8 budget or looked in their own linen cupboards for any unopened wedding gifts. The set of six ceramic egg cups was the only prize that caught my eye, so I decided then and there that staying sober for the evening wasn’t going to affect my chances at winning – or missing out – on any quality prizes..

The club’s bar was wedged into one corner, with the 100 year old barmaid ready to take orders. We three were keen to oblige and found that either Eunice was being uncommonly generous, or had decided to charge prices that would have been cheap in the 1970’s. Beer $1.50, wine a $1 per glass, vodka cruisers $2. Our table comprised of school principals, office administrators, retired teachers-now full time Petanque players and we three parents. We seven were the Livewire table and, as the night progressed and each round of questions was asked by Bob, who had about as much personality as a bathroom tile, Grandma Moses at the Bar was repeatedly put to work by us in our quest for a cheap and lubricated night out.

As such, we were regularly shooshed by The Serious Table number three who were intent on winning those damned egg cups, antimacassars and unidentified beauty products. Most of Table Number One - Twilight Years were old gals in wheelchairs with crocheted knee rugs who were asleep before the final round, their chin whiskers gently rustling as they snored. Table four were the enemy – those Broadview Petanqueans – but smart. Table Two were The Clueless, confusing the Wizard of Oz quote “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore” to the Lone Ranger’s sidekick, Tonto.

All our answers were casually flung down in between mouthfuls of dip, cheese, M&Ms, Tim Tams and crackers. Somehow we came third. Out of a total of five tables. To add further insult, I was groped by a drunken Jabba the Hutt on Table Four as I inadvertently got my leg caught up in his chair on my way back from the loos (which, incidentally, were larger than the club’s function room). “Ooooh errr, it’s my lucky night”, he drooled, looking around for someone to catch his eye and marvel at his quick wit. Wow, that just completed my evening – being stuck in some 1970s time warp and then being ogled by a man pushing seventy. A drunk man pushing seventy. Time for home, bed and a sleep in!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Elmo's big E

Six year old Sapphire fell in love with Elmo when she was a mere three months old, sitting in her rocker and gurgling gleefully at the red fuzzy muppet with ping pong balls for eyes who sang and danced on the television in front of her (whilst her Mum was having a much-needed shower, you understand). At six months, she'd clap her hands excitedly and rock up and down; and by seven months she just about stood up and ran a circle in her glee when I bought a large Elmo home for her.

It was a match made for life it seemed. At night we'd have to pry her fingers from his furry body so that she'd stop sweating from the warmth of his fur only to find that he'd inveigled his way back into her arms by morning. He was wheeled around the house, clattering on the wooden floorboards in a toy pram; often adorned with scarves, beads and beanies and sometimes helped her 'eat' whatever foods she disliked - usually the stickier ones.

He rarely left her side when she was at home and she tended to show her deep affection for the red monster by swinging his body along the side of her cot so that his sturdy plastic eyes went rat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat along the wooden bars - not unlike a prisoner clanging his enamel cup to get the sherriff's attention (or to avoid a rape scene, but that's another blog entirely).

Every few months, poor Elmo's fur condition got bad enough that a bath was needed. These were very emotional times for our young Sapphire, who was assured during every step of the washing way that he was going to live; he was enjoying it and he simply loved hanging out on the clothesline to dry by his long arms. Admittedly, it was rather unsettling to see a red furry creature out on the line in an imitation of Christ's crucifixion......

By eleven months, she was sitting on my lap as I leafed through a 'Who' magazine, and spotted a photograph of some African elephants standing next to some villagers who had some bongo drums. The drums had white skins with black centres and Sapphire cooed: "Look - Elmo eyes!" Fair enough too.

When our blue eyed girl was three, she had a cold that just didn't seem to ever want to leave - her cough persisted and eventually was diagnosed as asthma. On our doctor's advice, we got rid of her feather quilt and bought some polar-fleece blankets that were regularly washed in hot water. "And does she sleep with any toys?" Yes, her beloved buddy Elmo. "Is he furry?"
Yes, of course he is - don't you watch 'Elmo's World' you culturally ignorant plebeian? "In that case, she should no longer continue sleeping with it. His fur will be breathed in by her - with all of the associated dust mites - and will make her condition worse."

We dreaded having to tell our daughter that Elmo was still welcome in her home but just not in her bed. Would there be tears, tantrums or rebellion? Love Chunks and I sat with her on the sofa, sandwiched between us. "Look Sapphire, the doctor says that you are, um, allergic to Elmo. What that means is that his fur makes your breathing bad and you aren't allowed to have him in your bed with you anymore." We both looked at her intently for any sign of an outburst. "Sweetie, do you understand what Daddy's telling you? That you can't sleep with Elmo in your bed at night any more?"
She nodded at me, impatient to climb down and attack her playdough. "So how do you feel about it?"
"OK, Mummy." What a relief - maybe she'd outgrown him anyway and would-----
"Mummy when will you buy me a new Elmo to sleep with then?"
Oh dear, it all went through to the keeper. "No love we can't, he's too furry for you. But we do have---" I whipped a toy from behind my back "---- a Jessie the cow girl doll for you!"
No response and no reaching for it either. I felt desperate. "She doesn't have fur, she's on that Toy Story 2 movie that you like and she wants you to be her owner."
Sapphire looked doubtful, but took Jessie from me reluctantly, and shoved her under her pillow.
That was over three years ago. Jessie is now completely flat, almost uniformly grey in colour and the leather on her boots has worn off. She is soaked in napisan and hung out to dry in the crucifixion pose twice a year without any dramas. She is cuddled directly under Sapphire's arms every night and is always there in the mornings; and still has her entire wardrobe, hat and plaits intact. She is not played with or acknowledged by our little girl outside of bedtime hours but is a night time essential for her.

Whilst feeling grateful that Jessie was easily replace Elmo after he was given the Big Elbow, it is rather touching to note that it is still Elmo that Carly plays with in her room. As I finish typing this, he's right now in the toy high chair, wearing a strand of pearls with an angel's halo on his furry red head.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Lose a digit, save a dollar

A couple of weeks ago in Sydney, a man lost his thumb after trying to flee from transit officers who were chasing him for fare evasion. He jumped on to the train tracks but lost his right thumb when the train pulled away from the station.

Would you be prepared to lose a digit just to save a few bucks on a train ticket? Quite a sacrifice for approximately $5 for an all-day zone one ticket, isn’t it? Of course, when I first read that news item, my immediate response was, “Oh, I’d never do a thing like that; I despise tight arses.” A few moments later found me musing over some of the money-saving things I had done in the past…..

A thousand years ago whilst working in London, it was a rude shock to discover that we got paid monthly instead of fortnightly. How was a 23 year old Aussie girl – over there for the main purposes of fun, frivolity and travel – supposed to make her money last for 31 days? By the middle of week three, I was relieved to have paid my rent but was normally down to about ten pounds for essentials such as cider, socialising and food. In that order of preference.

Week four found me resorting to all kinds of pathetic measures to save a penny and yet maintain a frenetic social life. The bank I worked at provided a generously subsidized 50p hot lunch. It wasn’t particularly good, but it was only 50p – that was the most important thing. The menu had the usual healthy pommy fare such as macaroni cheese and chips, spaghetti and chips, pork sausages and chips and onion bhajis and chips. Fattening but filling and it meant that a tin of baked beans – sold over there in six packs – would do me just nicely for dinner, after I’d got home from work/the pub/the wine bar/movies/friends place/nightclub. If there was some bread left in my bar-fridge freezer, I’d place a slice on top of my bar heater to toast it just firm enough to slide under the beans. This was a rather delicate operation and more than once my smoke-alarm-free room was shrouded in a burnt toast fog that had me leaning out of my bedroom window, coughing. As a two-year-visa holder, I wasn’t about to waste my hard-earned money on a mere toaster or for having to pay rent to live in anything larger than one room for that matter.

My bed-sit was known as the dog box, for many reasons – me, the smell and its size. If I was of a mind, I come home, open the door and immediately fall like a starfish directly on to my bed and have the convenience of being able to access all of my room’s facilities from where I lay. From there, I could reach over to the right and switch on the kettle, find some tea and milk and flick on the black and white TV I'd found in the mini-skip a few months earlier. With my left hand I could take off my bank shoes and put them on the ledge to de-pong and fill up my hand basin with enough water to soak a weeks’ worth of undies in.

Apart from the bed, the only furniture in the room was a wardrobe crammed to the gills, a cupboard that held my paltry pantry provisions and a bar fridge that had a kettle and one hot plate on the top. My chests of drawers were plastic shopping bags under the bed – one for socks, one for underwear, a couple for t-shirts…..

There were four dog boxes on my floor and we shared the one bathroom. At least, I think we did – I never heard or saw anyone else near the place and it certainly made the old cliché “I felt drier than a pommy’s bath towel” seem quite appropriate. The bath was a massive claw-footed monster that I could fill up to the brim with unlimited hot water (available to us all as a rent inclusion). It was the best part of living in that place and was deep enough for me to do a somersault in. Yes, you read it right and yes, I actually tried and successfully did do one. Thank all that's good in this world that I didn’t get stuck half way through and have to call out for help with my naked bum sticking up in the air….

In addition to the luxurious bathing opportunities, it was also my laundry. I’d fill up the tub, chuck in all my clothes, swish them around for a bit, go and watch ‘Eastenders’ and come back to drain, refill, rinse and drain again. Then there was the arduous process of wringing out each item which I then hung on spindly old metal dry cleaning coat hangers all around my room. Socks were draped over my bed-head, shirts hung on hangers over the door hooks and wardrobe doors, skirts and jeans hung from any nail that I could find on the wall; the window catch or the ridge of the mirror above the sink. Underwear hung under the sink’s S-bend. Every fortnight though, I unwillingly took my sheets, towels etc to the Laundromat and parted with a couple of pounds to get them all clean and dried.

On the way back, I’d lug my Santa sack of washing around the corner past the nearest McDonald’s. It’s hard to believe I used to do this, but I’d swagger in there, walk up to the counter, grab a huge handful of paper serviettes and leave – my reasoning at the time was that I’d spent enough money in there over the years so the least they could do was shout me enough paper towels to save me buying a bog roll in the last week before payday.

The worst thing about my dog box (you mean the above wasn’t bad enough?) was that it had a coin-operated electric meter. The previous tenant was a failed actor who decided to chuck it all in and head back up north to Scunthorpe. In his poverty-stricken state, he had been desperate enough to pry open the meter with a crow bar and then use the same one pound coin, over and over when the meter ran out. When the real estate lady was showing me this room, she mentioned that she’d get the in-house maintenance man to get it fixed as soon as possible – probably the next time he cleaned the bathroom. The so-called ‘maintenance man’ was 80 if he was a day; lived three floors up and reeked of gin every time I saw him. He showed about as much inclination to fix my meter as he did to clean the bathroom, so I enjoyed nearly a year of being able to recycle my own one pound coin during that time. It seemed a very small price to pay for a bathroom that I had to clean myself…..

Here’s the worst one though – fare evasion. Whilst I was never unfortunate enough to be caught by transit police or escape and get my thumb run over by a train, I did my darnedest to avoid paying for a monthly zone four fare. Instead, I’d buy the zone one card (at a quarter of the price) and feign total ignorance if my ticket was checked. Using the broadest ‘strine, I’d reply: “Oh crikey, doesn’t this ticket go out to Barnet? Strewth, this is what the guy in Moorgate sold me when I arrived here to start work last week, mate…..”

One day though, I could see the same inspector walking along the corridor of the carriage before mine, and knew that he’d not tolerate my ‘just off the plane’ routine four days later. At the next stop, I leapt out of the doors the moment they opened and then ducked low under the windows, half-walking half-crawling along the platform two carriages down where I knew he’d already checked. At the time it felt exhilarating and economically essential but now it just seems tight arsed and not something I want to tell my six year old Sapphire about.

And yet……those two years of being responsible for no-one but my own cider-soaked, friend-filled, much-traveled self were indeed wonderful. For every money-grubbing, grotty and pathetic incident there were alternatively great adventures, friendships, sights and experiences. And yes, the fare-dodging helped make those two years the fantastic times that they were: it was worth it, after all.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Bobby Jon..... Oooooh Bobby Jon.......

Last night I had a naughty dream. I'm sure it's to do with the fact that Love Chunks is currently out of the country at an international weather nerd get-together talk-fest in Chile, but also because Bobby Jon from the current series of 'Survivor' is a rather guilty pleasure.

He's about as intelligent as using scissors to cook spaghetti yet is admired by most for having the utmost determination to try as hard as he can in every single physical challenge. As Dianne Weist's ageing actress character in 'Bullets over Broadway' says to her younger lover, "Don't speak,' this should also be the case with Bobby Jon.

But back to last night during my REM when Bobby Jon emerged from my rather unsubtle unconscious into my dream state. He was dressed like he is here above, so, I was --- um-----I was (phew) ------ errr-------a bit distracted initially as to where we were.

However I still seemed to have some of my conscious, awake-thoughts buzzing through my brain. Have you ever had a dream where, even though you're in it and enjoying yourself; you're also a spectator, thinking "Oh wow, this is going to be a great one!" ??? Or is it just me - I hope to god it's not or this entire blog will just cause you to pray harder for my mother ship to return and take me back to planet Zorkwad.

So there we were, BJ and I - him with his soulful, twinkling brown eyes ready for some naughty night action and me standing next to him ready to comply; yet also thinking as the spectator: "BRILLIANT! I can't believe my exhausted, middle-aged brain is serving up this particular treat to me tonight!"

It was then, alas, that my subconscious reminded me that, even though the guest star was one I liked, the storyline was to be all of it's own directing. Bobby Jon and I were talking with Jeff Probst, the hard-hearted host of the Survivor shows, and he handed us the keys to our own four door ute. He invited us to help ourselves to whatever supplies we wanted, which of course we did - water, food, blankets, tents, a full esky, drinks, firewood, deckchairs - everything but room service, it seemed.

We drove off to a rather romantic, steamy forest and set up a rather comfortable looking camp. To my unbelieving yet grateful eyes, Bobby Jon purposefully advanced toward me, all muscles, sweat and goofy hunkiness, swept me up into his arms and was about to take me back inside the -------- HEY! What are those people doing robbing our campsite? BJ dropped me like a bag of tent pegs and went sprinting out after them. "Come out here and help me!" he hollered.

After what seemed like hours of fighting off hordes of fit, strong and arrogant yanks, we were left with our ute, an esky (that I sat on, hence it was too difficult for anyone to move) and the deckchairs that BJ was swinging around like tennis racquets. 'Man oh man! This was supposed to be a fullblown BJ bonkfest fantasy, not Lord of the Flies', my conscious self bemoaned. If this was a movie, I could leave or demand a refund, but tonight I had to sit it out.

Things suddently got better and back on to the fantasy and fun track. "Aw, never mind about it," Bobby Jon said, gesturing to me, "We've still got all the time in the world to------"

'What now?' Jeff Probst had entered our tent, unzipped the door and was telling us something about doing a mandatory challenge involving jumping from our ute to another ute as they were driving down a road. 'Is a dream night of passion with Bobby Jon worth all of this crap?' I thought to myself.

Clearly, my dreamlike self thought so, as I found myself surfing on the back tray of our ute, with BJ driving with his head out of the window, yelling out to me to "Jump on over, there's a girl - we gotta win this one." I took a deep breath and leaped as far as I could out of the ute. There was no way I was going to make it, I was going to die......

"Aaaarguh!" I screamed in terror and found myself awake in the dark, in my Love Chunks-less bed - something just stuck it's tongue in my ear!! I scrambled out of bed quicker than a teenage boy being sprung by her parents. It was Milly the dog, who had worked out during the night that I was on my own, and her beloved Alpha Male, Love Chunks was not on the scene. It seemed as though she decided to give her bean bag the flick, trot up the hall to my room, jump up on the bed, wriggle underneath the quilt and lie close enough to me to give me a lick if she chose to. She knew she was not meant to, and gave me her best soggy eye look, with her tail thumping softly against the blankets in hope.

"Oh, all right, you can stay there, but only on top of the bed and down at my feet with no more licking, understand?" She gave me a lick on the hand to indicate that she understood. Sort of.

So, whilst lucky Danni is the one currently sleeping next to BJ on the show, I'll get to spend the next week with this creature:

Still, at least I'll be able to say to her, "Don't speak."

Monday, October 03, 2005

Middle Aged Modesty

I was at the North Adelaide Aquatic Centre the other day and was dreading that moment when, after putting my sports bag down on a chair, unpeeling my leggings and t-shirt it was time to subtlely flick out the lycra that had slid up my butt crack and somehow nonchalantly walk that 10m or so to the edge of the pool before I could fling myself in and hide my burning face and blubbery body under the sparkling blue water.

Pathetic, isn't it? As if the entire population in the centre at that time has the interest to stop their laps, swivel around to stare at me and my wobbly old body as it entered the pool. I know that I don't do it to anybody else (I'm too busy in my own sweaty, gasping personal agony as I plough ever so slowly up and back in the water), so why do I think that I'm so fascinating that they would want to see what this 37 year old is about to do - gosh, in her bathers, at, gasp, the pool? Whilst the tiny dot that is my intelligent mind understands this, I still feel very self conscious about it and my attempt at a confident walk dissolves into a fair imitation of Mr Bean's nervous little flappy-armed run.

After my swim however, things are different. I've done sixty laps without stopping - that's one and a half kilometres! I have the body of a Grecian goddess combined with the strength of a ruling Lioness and the hopeless halibuts around me must be gazing at me with awe as I emerge, dripping and golden, from the water. Nah. Not one pair of adoring goggles is directed anywhere near me but are instead splashing about in their own lane and their own physical agonies. This rebuttal is also reflected in the glass screen which reminds me that only I know of my aquatic achievements and my body is still the same as it ever was - chunky, white, decorated in spider veins and the sort that looks a thousand percent better with clothes on, especially winter clothes.

When I was pregnant with my six year old daughter who I will from here-on-in refer to as Sapphire, there was no room for modesty. No sooner had I whizzed on a plastic stick and seen two pink lines than it felt as though every second week I was up on a bed, hands under my butt cheeks and my knees touching the far sides of the gurney with everything on show. Being a minor medical mystery, several students were invited to a) see me, b) have a look 'up' me, and c) very occasionally have a feel up me as well.

"Ah get over it, you prude," my mates would say. "Wait until the actual childbirth; you won't care what you show or to who just as long as you can squirt that baby out with the least possible pain." Alas, none of the above was true. Sapphire took a good long twenty nine hours to emerge and Love Chunks and I thus went through three shifts of midwives, obstetricians and interested students. Throughout it all, I still wore a long t-shirt with a sheet covering my knees so from my vantage point I could at least feel as though everything was covered even though my birth canal was directly in line with the hospital room door which was also located at the end of a very long corridor. What a charming view that must have been for other nervous fathers or lost catering staff wanting to find the geriatric wing instead.

When we returned home, exhausted, triumphant and then terrified at the thought of just how we were going to look after a tiny baby, the local nurse popped in to have a look at my stitches. I blushed redder than the blood that was still oozing out of me every time I moved. I lay on the bed and struggled into my frog leg mode. It didn't help things when she blurted out "Jesus!" at the sight. "What? WHAT??" Love Chunks and I said in unison.
"Oh, um..." she struggled to retain her composure. "Oh, it's er n-n-nothing, it's just that you've got a fair old cut down there and it's, um, well, let's just say it's great that you're home and ----" She turned away and took a deep breath before continuing with, "---Oh stuff it. I've never seen a bigger cut than that one - you're lucky they didn't slice you an extra butt crack!"

Charming stuff for a shy, nervous new mother to hear, don't you agree, when what I desperately wanted - no, needed - was a cursory glance, an affirmative, "Yes, it all looks good," and to be fully clothed again within a sixty second timeframe.

My most recent pap smear was a real barrel of laughs as well. My usual female doctor was selfishly away sick, so would I mind if Dr Fred W did it? What was I meant to say, right there in a crowded waiting room - NO WAY? And why should I refuse - is he, a doctor for over twenty years - going to be so carried away with desire during the scraping that I'd be in moral danger? Or, worse - would he laugh? "Oh no, that's fine", I said weakly, "After all, I've had a baby, so there's nothing to be modest about any more," wishing like hell I actually believed it.

Dr W merely gave me a cursory "Good morning" before getting right down to work. It was patently obvious that pap smears for him were about as appealing as they were to me. Five minutes into it, my cheeky side emerged through the embarassment: "Hi there Doctor W. My name's Milly Moo by the way, not that you'll recognise my face next time you see me, heh heh." He grunted, and I blindly went on. "So, Doctor, what's the thing you hate doing to patients the most in your job?"

He paused to think and looked me in the eye instead of the birth canal. "Anal exams without a doubt. All men hate them and I hate doing them - especially at the end of a day when they're - shall we say - a bit ripe."
My modesty issues evaporated for a moment. "Fair enough, but what about well, this?" I replied, gesturing at me, him, his gloves and that scary metal salad tong springy thing.
"Nah, this is OK. Women tend to be more relaxed and, to be honest...." he stopped.
"Yeah, to be honest....?"
"Well - and please don't take this the wrong way - but, up on the table here, you're all just slabs of meat that we have to do things with, that's all."
"Oh, right." That sounded rather deflating - a slab of meat. Yet, it might be a good way to view things so that I could finally rid myself of this ridiculous girly modesty...

Later, in the changing room after swimming I tried to remind myself that I was merely a slab of meat and should therefore have the psychological werewithal to have a shower and wander proudly out in the nuddy and get changed in the main area. Sadly, I couldn't do it. Despite pap smears and babies, I was still not prepared to stand there in my birthday suit in front of a dozen strangers and instead I dressed in the confines of the wet-floored shower before emerging like a self-conscious thirteen year old in her first bra.

Unfortunately this shy behaviour got me more stares from the change room chicks than if I'd just been relaxed enough to get changed in front of everyone else. One old gal with boobs swinging freely around her waist muttered to her buddy, "Now there goes a strange one....."
Perhaps she's right. Next time I'll get out of the pool, wrap my towel around me and jump straight into my car, wetting the seat. Or I could see if they make those Thorpedo black jumpsuits in my size - I'm certain to remain inconspicuous then....!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Low Rise demise, but High Rise horror?

This is a short one today, because we're in the thick of term three school holidays. Even though it's only Sunday, the six year old and I have:
  • Farewelled Love Chunks as he left for a week in Chile to meet up with his international weather bureau meteorologist equivalents to discuss, well, weather I guess;
  • Had Holly join us for a playdate that involved three-and-a-half hours of swimming at the North Adelaide Pool, dinner at the Golden Arches (the best method yet of bribing them to behave); a bath together afterwards for the purposes of de-chlorination and an intense viewing - and later discussion - of all the incidents shown on 'Australia's Funniest Home Videos';
  • Been woken up at 6:30am this morning with a gentle tap on my forehead, hearing her state: "Mum, I've run out of sticky tape, and I must have some to finish making this dragon out of paper cups and your satay sticks...."; and
  • Spending a lovely sunny day in Victor Harbor with my folks, daughter and dog Milly and managing to stagger along Franklin Parade for a 6km run before driving home at 8pm and putting six year old to bed...

...and that's just the last two days. This week there's a picnic at the Kensington Adventure playground; a playdate and lunch at the zoo; meeting a friend at the airport from Darwin who's in town for the Masters' Games; a group playdate at Kate's house for the kids and us Mums to discuss term four fundraising ideas and a Friday picnic in Koster Park. And somehow I promised the wee one that we'd also go and see 'Wallace and Gromit', make bowls out of salt dough and paint them; enter a few competitions; take Mills for several walks and learn how to play basketball. It's exhausting just typing this schedule out, let alone contemplating how we're actually going to be doing it all.

However, I've digressed so far away from my original subject that I've found myself driving up the freeway to Tailem Bend when all I reall intended to do was pop around to the BP in the next block for a litre of milk. Without further ado, I attach a recent photograph of current young movie star, Scarlett Johanssen.

There are three things that bother me about this get up. Firstly, the dark red lipstick on a pale, pasty face. I've always detested the look - if we could rewind a hundred and fifty years or so she'd resemble a Bronte heroine who'd taken to her bed with a mystery illness for the past year or so. In 2005, it just makes her look as though she's a valium-ed up housewife from the 1950s. Yeeeugh.

Secondly, all girls in this world who have mothers with brains would have been told that you should never wear a white bra under a black tank top, and vice versa. Those globes of hers look as though they're about to burst through the flimsy fabric of her tank top. (Speaking of which, my mother also advised me that women over thirty and over size 14 should never wear sleeveless tops and raise their arms above their waists - no-one wants their arms to still be jiggling ten minutes after they've waved goodbye....)

Thirdly - and this pains me the most, seeing as I'm extremely anti-hipster and low rise jeans and am grateful to see that fashionistas are now gushing about their demise - the jeans. They've risen beyond her bellybutton to the arm-pit region, producing a look not unlike Rain Man's younger sister. In addition the loose fabric in the map-of-Tassie region is a bit puckery and producing the dreaded 'denim willy' that most of us would rather do without. Luckily for her, she's slim enough to not have the dreaded 'volksie bonnet'. To those not in the know, it's a podgy tummy that is stuffed into high waisted jeans, recreating a rather frightening physical bulging 'V' representation of a beetle's bonnet.

If I was a movie reviewer, the outfit would be rated using stars from one to five. However, I'm a South Australian gal who loves her Farmers Union Feel Good Iced Coffee in the 600ml size. She gets a 50ml rating for at least trying (rather too stridently) to move away from jeans low enough to make lifting your arms a risky prospect unless you're Paris Hilton or a porn star. Oh wait, that's the same thing..........