Thursday, April 27, 2006

Phantom Pharter

In every workplace - or so it seems to me - there is at least one person who gets their vicarious thrills by letting a few ripe clouds loose from their trouser trumpet. Or, in layman's terms, a sneakily smelly little person who likes to drop a fart, leave and let someone else suffer from the stench and get silently blamed for it.

At the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) in Melbourne, there was obviously a tribe of them because I was 'caught' many times. I mostly suspected the youngish, recent uni grads who hadn't yet integrated into the sensible slacks, grey velcro slip-ons or taken to carrying vinyl briefcases that were empty except for their newspaper and a banana. These guys were also the kind who still met up at the local grungy pub by the river for a bevvie or seven and could still physically handle staying out all night and turning up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for work the next day.

The building we were in was seven stories high and our department used nearly every floor. As a Project Officer for the largest unit, I was a regular rider in these and was often caught in the following scenario:


The green light on the wall goes 'Ping' and the doors slide open. I've got an armful of bulging manilla folders and am running several minutes late for a meeting four floors below. My mind is already focussed on my apology, what project updates I'll need to talk about and whether I've got time to SMS Love Chunks about booking the local Greek restaurant for dinner than night....

The doors close, and I realise I've got the lift all to myself and.... what the hell is that? Aww man, this stench is awful - did a horse die in here somewhere? I can't breathe...."
Ping! The lift then stops at the next floor and of course, it's our Chairman who steps in. Brian smiles at me warmly and settles in to do the usual lift-riding routine of looking straight ahead and staring at the glowing floor numbers.

My face is aflame with embarrassment and sheer mortification. What if he thinks it's me who produced this noxious odour? I can see that his normally composed face is twitching and he's now sneaking a few little glances at me, clearly wondering just what sort of creature I must be to have produced such a rectal reaction.


The above scenario happened to me on two other occasions, both with senior managers. It was awful to think that they thought that I had created - and proudly let go - of such a phenomenal fart. On the fourth event, I had to speak up. "Look Brian, I gotta say this. This --" I gestured all around me - "--was most definitely NOT of my making. It was in here before I stepped in!"
He laughed nervously, "Oh, OK then, whatever you say," and immediately pressed the button for the next floor, deciding that his original five floor journey with me was intolerable.

And to think that my employer held sole responsibility for Melbourne's air quality....!

Back to the present day and I find myself still suffering from the results - and unspoken blame for those results - produced by a university-based Phantom Pharter.

This one is female because she's limited herself (mostly) to the tiny little toilet room under the base of the stairs, the only facility in the heritage listed hellhole we work in. There are just two men in our building, and I'm 'lucky' enough to have my office right next door to their toilet, complete with rather graphic acoustics and the odd odour that accompanies their activities.

But I digress - our gassy girl is maybe a keen dhal curry eater, favours veges and is very, very regular. Yay for her, but not so for me, or indeed any of my fellow workers. Phantom Pharteress manages to drop a killer stink bomb no less than three times during the average work day. Said bomb has the staying power of a cockroach surface spray and literally contaminates the girls' room, stairwell, lobby and the photocopy room.

This time I was not going to suffer the undeserved blame at all and I spoke up right from the get-go: "Elizabeth, lovey puss, you, like me, have just walked into a wall of world-beating bum fluffs - it was here doing it's work before I came in, I'll have you know. I did NOT, I repeat NOT do it."
She paused for a moment to consider what I'd said, then smiled, and replied with, "Oh dear, I can't believe you just said that!", but then leaned in closer to me, "But I know it's not you, because it's been like this ever since I started here last year."

We then entered our respective cubicles, but kept talking over the noise of the drops and the plops. "Elizabeth?"
"Have you got any idea who it is?"
"None whatsoever. She must sneak in when the coast is clear, unleash her weapon of mass destruction and then piss off as quickly as she can."
"I guess that's fair enough. I just wish her mushroom cloud would dissipate in a few minutes and not hang around for longer than a Peter Jackson film!"
Elizabeth sighed loudly enough for me to hear. "Yeah, it never lets you escape."

The only upside is that so far Ph Ph hasn't taken to dropping them in the kitchen or office doorways as a malodorous joke. We can only hope and pray that she is one day transferred to a research unit far, far away. And preferably down wind.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Cadbury Crème Egg

Oh dear, sweet, accessible Cadbury Crème Egg. My fillings ache just by glancing over at you, glistening in your primary-coloured foil, stacked in a fetching pile near the check out.

Easter may have just ended, but you manage to linger on. Why is it that you, of all the commercial holiday refuse, remain at full price and all of the other pretenders to your throne (Red tulip, Cadburys, Heritage, even Lindt) are now thrown into a cardboard box emblazoned ‘50% Off'. They're not fit to be seen next to you. All are disfigured - crudely broken, holes picked into their sides from sticky little fingers, smashed into fragments or their boxes dented unbecomingly.

I may have spent the four days of Easter long weekend dreaming of you, but you were never made a reality. No-one gave me any of you - I would have smelt and sensed you long before you were plonked out on the kitchen table for Sunday morning anyhow. Don’t fret, little egg: I made do with many mournful mouthfuls of rabbit ears, dark squares, M&Ms and anything that my daughter Sapphire wished to share. Of course it wasn't enough: it wasn't what I really craved. That, dear Creme Egg, was you.

And so, two weeks later at the supermarket I now find my hands excitedly fumbling for my wallet; coins spinning on to the moving checkout belt. My surrender is now complete. The family groceries are paid by credit card but the pack of six Cadbury Creme Eggs are paid in cash, like a guilty secret, and shoved into my backpack before anyone else can see. Like a true addict, I fidgeted nervously and looked around for a secluded spot to eat one. Not out in the sunlight where it would be too public and possibly offensive for people to see, but in the shade, at the side of a building or beside a........ the alleyway by the cinema! My feet were yearning to run like the wind instead of badly act out the casual saunter my brain was imposing upon them. It wouldn't do to have someone else guess my purpose; I was never ever going to share.

A quick glance around revealed no other passersby, just bird crap-spattered cars, takeaway containers and cigarette butts. My shaking hands ripped off the foil as I eagerly hunched over the egg, shielding it from view. My eyes closed as my two front teeth bit hard into the thick chocolate. The egg white fondant poured out of the top and ran becomingly down the sides of my mouth, but I was already far away from my grimy spot on earth to care. Another big bite saw the fondant turn into a yolky yellow as I greedily gulped it down and chewed the chunks of chocolate at a more leisurely pace. Blood was now pumping warm in my veins and successfully insulating me from the wind and cold of the dull day. After only three precious mouthfuls, I had reached the last morsel - the bottom of the shell. No fondant, just a thick layer of Cadbury dairy milk chocolate. A cruel consolation because it left me wanting more.....

No thoughts at all for other people, my reputation or for finally making my sad little addiction general knowledge I continued in my quest for fleeting pleasure. The wrapping was ripped off in hurried, impatient movements as I crammed the top of the second egg between my teeth, not about to waste one more precious second before consummating the consumption. The foil remnants caused my fillings to buzz in dismay, but who cared - I threw the second half of the egg almost casually into my far-too-willing mouth. It was sheer heaven to lean up against the wall and chew the chocolate chunks and fondant into a dreamily delightful mouth mess....

As my eyes slowly opened, they revealed Debra, a research assistant on the floor below, shopping bags in her hands, gaping at me in disgust. "Ummf, ummf, chomp chomp, Hi there Deb," I called out, wiping the melted chocolate and fondant drool from my face with the back of my hand. Her answer was indecipherable as she spun on her heel and clip-clopped away from me as fast as her stumpy little pins could carry her.

I too made my way back to work, but with nowhere near her frenetic pace. It is disgust and not delight, that makes you do that. Instead, I was reliving my two brief-but-beautiful encounters with you, dear Cadbury Creme Egg, and feeling satiated. For now. There were still four of your comrades left, burning a hole at the bottom of my bag. My mental jury was out as to whether they'd survive the journey through the carpark, across the lawns, under the bridge and up the stairs..... Damn you, you ninety-nine cent oval object of evil !

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Is it possible to fall in love with an appliance?

(Figuratively wagging my finger at you, dear reader): No no, no, I don't mean that appliance used mostly nocturnally by the lonely and lustful - but a dishwasher!

Love Chunks and I partially renovated our kitchen earlier this year and felt that our island bench deserved a state-of-the-art dishwasher inserted in it. We were hesitant: would such a box really be capable of cleaning cutlery as well as a pair of hands in pink rubber gloves? Admittedly I was the most skeptical. In 1988 when I was single, sharing a townhouse in Hackney and still convinced that a shaggy spiral perm was the epitome of sophistication, it was also the last time I had ever used a dishwasher.

It was a lovely poo-brown monster, with bright orange knobs on it in homage to the era that fashion, common sense and interior design forgot - the late seventies. However, for us it was only a few years old and certainly seemed a much fun-ner way of getting our plates clean than one of us doing it. Besides, we were diligent university students. We were much more focussed on drinking, finding money for drinking and learning how to cook (usually in that order), and these pursuits left little energy or will for doing anything as sensible as filling the sink up with palmolive and finding the green scourer thingy.

Therefore, the brown monster's first operation for us three girls was an important one: what luxury to have a dishwasher and how remote those arguments with my brothers about whose turn it was to do the dishes seemed. Jo, as the sexy but sensible geology major, read the instructions etched on the front and Fiona, the scatter-brained but creative writer flung in some dishwashing powder. I made all three of us my Tuesday night dinner specialty - toasted tinned spaghetti sandwiches with additional slices of cheese.

Our laboured chewing of the charcoaled squares of mostly inedible filling served only as a coincidental background percussion to the sounds of fury emanating from the kitchen. The windows rattled in sympathy as the machine seemingly sprayed, shook and blasted it's way through the 'regular wash' cycle. "Jeez, I thought that they were supposed to be gentle on your dishes," I remarked, giving up on my sandwich and venturing into the kitchen for a look.

There were some foam and bubbles oozing out of the bottom but what did I know - that also happened when Mum put on a load of washing and the drain in the laundry floor vomited the froth back up. Tentatively, I placed my hands on the counter directly above the machine, noting that the volume had now moved beyond eleven. The formica felt hot, but hey, what did I know - dishes had to be cleaned in hot water didn't they?

My head was starting to throb from the noise, so I grabbed three bottles of cider and backed out of the room into our living area. No respite there, seeing as it was all open plan. "HEY JO," I mimed, "CAN YOU CHECK IT? IS IT WORKING OK?" She bravely skulled her bottle and did a rather good impression of a muscle-man swinging his arms in determination. Good old Jo would know what to do. All of a sudden, the noise stopped. "Thank Packets of Panadol for that," Fi sighed. "At least now we'll be able to put on the telly and...." WHOOSH! WHOOSH! CHUGA CHUGA CHUGA WHOOSH!

She spoke too soon. Our few seconds of peace was merely the eye of the sudsy storm. It was decided that we three needed to escape the din and instead walk around the corner to the pub for a while. Several hours later we came home, full of spirits that produced a lot of good cheer. Had the dishwasher finally finished? Was the kitchen still intact? Yes it was. Jo opened the poo brown door of the dishwasher. Sediment from the detergent was still smeared down the walls and all over the glasses giving them a somewhat festive look. The crockery on the other hand resembled a basket of shattered easter eggs that sat mournfully in a puddle under the sprayer. "Stupid bloody thing," I muttered, giving the door a kick. Ooops - this last movement caused the three vegemite jars we used as drinking glasses to topple over and crack. "Er sorry Jo, I'll get you another couple...."

........... Eighteen years later, I read the dear old Dishlex's instruction book from cover to cover. It was quite an education let me tell you. I'd never even heard of internal fresheners or rinse aids and needed to phone a friend for pasta bowl packing advice. After a busy day of eating (for the dishwasher's sake of course) our first load was ready. Love Chunks popped in the block with the 'magic ball' (it just looked like a common old jaffa to me) and I shut the door. We agreed to select the 'economy cycle' and went to bed.

The morning dawned warm, balmy and bright with hope. Dear sweet Dishlex's door was opened to reveal a gleaming top and bottom drawer full of clean, streak-free and intact dishes. Perfect plates, gorgeous glasses, nifty knives and terrific tupperware. Blinking back tears - either from emotion or from sticking my head too far inside and bashing it against the stainless steel roof - I closed the door, leaving all of the magnificent dishware inside. I quickly looked to my left to make sure that Love Chunks and Sapphire weren't about to enter the room, and I gave the Dishlex door a kiss of gratitude.

Reality then set in - I really felt like a coffee, and the dog was pestering me for her weetbix breakfast. What a bugger - I'd have to unpack the dishwasher.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Blood in the Boardroom

My boss, Dr B, a respected university professor, was hosting a roundtable discussion on an extremely important issue last week (and no, I don't mean the introduction of fat-free chocolate with added fibre and selenium). As the newbie to the centre, it was my role to ensure that it was all catered for, set up properly and that all the visiting egg-heads could insert their data sticks and direct themselves towards the baguettes and fruit on the table.

None of the above responsibilities are difficult, unless it happens to be required of me, the clumsiest and most un-smooth person in the southern hemisphere. On this particular day however, things seemed to be chugging along rather swimmingly. The caterer had arrived a half hour early to set up the coffee machine and fill the long oval table with baguettes, fruit and carrot cake and I had already made enough copies of the program and discussion papers and put them on every chair in the room.

Midday saw the data projector working nicely, the whiteboard pristine (hint to youse all: baby wipes gets rid of the old faded scrawls that the eraser can't rub away) and a beaming Dr B exhorting me to stay and join her boffin buddies for lunch. "You've done an amazing job MillyMoo. I'd like to introduce them all to you as I'm sure you'll be forging some pretty productive working relationships."

Reddening, I accepted her invitation even though I felt rather sweaty and dishevelled after wrestling in the doorway-sized rat-hole that served as the boardroom's kitchen. I needn't have worried - of course, these were academics we were dealing with here, the kind of people who dress themselves in the dark and who think the Twist is a crazy new dance that all the young kids are doing.... Academics are a unique breed who are often world authorities in their particular fields of expertise but struggle to comprehend the workings of velcro. Naturally then, the baguettes and fruit were enough to impress - most of them would have been functioning on fellowships and grants that would have made a jar of international roast a daring luxury.

It was then that Bernard's keen eyes fell upon the plate of carrot cake. "Oh wait a second," I piped. "Let me go and get our new bread knife so that I can slice up some pieces for you." Off I trotted to our little treasure trove of kitchen implements. The rancid rat hole only possessed a bolognese-splattered microwave, a paper towel dispenser and some poo brown 'cafe bar' cup holders originating from the late seventies. Hidden in the corner behind the unclaimed shelf of warped tupperware lids, was a reflex paper box, and in it were our newly-purchased-from-KMart platters, glasses, serviettes and knives. Full of pride I scuttled back to the boardroom with the new Wiltshire glinting evilly by my side.

Off went the gladwrap as my right hand prepared to sink the knife into the glisteningly moist cake. Somehow, in less time than the blink of an eye, the blade skimmed the top of the cream cheese icing and instead sliced into my left index finger. Two seconds later when the pain finally reached my nerve endings and my eyes registered the cake being redecorated in red splatters, I dropped the knife, muttering something like "BLOODY HELL!"

This naturally brought the entire roundtable discussion to a standstill. "Oh, sorry folks, it's OK, I'll just um, pop out and find some, um...." Leaving an MA18+ rated trail of bright red drops behind me, I found myself again in the rathole, frantically pulling out papertowels and wrapping them around my finger. "POO BUM BUGGER SHIT FART!" I screamed at the bar fridge, giving it a kick for extra emphasis. "Why do these things always happen to ME?"

Dr B tapped me on the shoulder. "MillyMoo are you all right? Should I take you to see a doctor --- oh dear, it's seeped through and it's running down towards your elbow!"

The blood plop plopped on the floor in a steady stream. "Oh never mind, it's a good thing I'm wearing black," I said, smiling weakly. "You go back to your egg-heads ----- sorry --- colleagues --- and I'll find myself some decent band-aids." Such hopeful, naive words were rarely spoken in the heritage listed hellhole known as our Research Institute before. There was no first aid box, no-one in their office who'd been clever enough to stuff a bandaid in their briefcase and nothing other than toilet paper that was even remotely absorbent. (Actually that's not strictly true, but I don't think that sticking my hand in the brown berber modular settee abandoned in the front hallway would have been a particularly successful look either).

After ten minutes of much cursing, fumbling and dripping later, I tried to slip back into the boardroom quietly and unnannounced. No such luck. "Give us a look at your finger MillyMoo! Has it stopped bleeding yet?" "Do you feel dizzy from the blood loss?"

"Well actually yes I do come to think of it---"

"Have you filled out the OHS 'Incident and Accident Report form'?"

"Um no, I've been a bit waylaid----"

"We've sliced the half of the cake that wasn't tainted by your blood spill. Wanna piece?"

In my haste and greed to say yes, the triple layered paper handtowel came loose and more claret splashed onto the table, my elbow and the cake. As I dashed from the room in an aura of disgust and disappointment, I hoped fervently that the baguettes and tim tams made up for the desecration of the cake.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Old Boilers' Night

My dear friend Bec is getting married to her longtime love and co-creator of her two daughters, Phil. Whilst the nuptuals will occur next month, a friend decided to organise a Hens' Night for her on Saturday night.

Bec approached the idea with a fair amount of (quite reasonable) trepidation: "Look Pam, I'm thirty six years old. I don't need to wear a veil or have any condoms pinned on to my skirt, OK?" I don't know who was more relieved when Pam quickly agreed - Bec or me. No, it was simply to be a night out with the girls - food, wine, laughter and - if more wine was consumed - dancing.

Love Chunks and Sapphire drove Bec, Deb and myself into Rundle Street and were even kind enough to slow down to a mere 25km to let us roll out onto the tarmac unscathed. It was hard not to look after them with a droopy bottom lip as I longed to be with them at home, on the sofa, in my ever-reliable grey marle trakky daks, cuddling the dog. Nevertheless it did not take long for the top floor of the LemonGrass restaurant to fill up. There was about twenty of us 'hens', all frocked up and made up, and all a-chattering, a-clucking at Samara's 7 month-old belly and a-slurping the too-easy-to-inhale sparkling burgundy. Once again, the current trend in restaurant decor (hardwood floors, chrome and glass) made conversations only audible if screamed directly into my ear or drunkenly mimed in front of me.

The night was going along marvellously - as well as a moth at a lighthouse. I got to know a few of Bec's friends that I'd heard about for years and found that we all got along like well, the moth who found the lighthouse and then caught on fire because it was too huge and too hot and set him alight..... Or something like that; the sparkling burgundy was starting to play with my ability to pronunciate. Helped me hear a lot more though, I was sure of it.

Having ordered a Thai banquet for 20 was somewhat of a logistical challenge, especially when we were now onto white wines and vodkas. King Prawns scuttled away from my tenuous grasp with the chop sticks and the hokkien noodles were more slippery than a timeshare salesman at a seaworld smorgasbord. It was delicious though and made me very grateful to have worn all black for the evening so that the pesky beef strip escapees taking the perilous Cleavage route to the freedom of Skirt Valley could not be spotted.

"Whaaa-a-aaa? Oh, we're goin.... where are we ah goin to.....?" It was hard to tell whether I asked the question or heard somebody else holler it over the packed room of diners. It was easiest to follow the leader; the very decisive, tall, elegant and glamorous Kate. The Botanic Hotel.....!? My face glowed redder than the raspberry vodka I was holding as I remembered the last times I had been at the Bot. 1986 with Sean in the underground restaurant. Uber posh meal for us two students, of prawn cocktails (yep, resting on lettuce in wide champagne saucers), rump steak (with peppercorn sauce and chips thank you very much) and a chocolate mousse - hopefully not in a hastily-rinsed out prawn cocktail glass. And then, a few years later, on a date with Ian, the hopefully gropey geology PhD dude. His ancient Mazda smelled as though a flatulent jersey cow had slept in it, and Ian wasn't much better. My mature solution to avoid the inevitable octopus-wrestling conclusion to the hellish date was to liberally flush out my system with $4 bottles of champagne and then wind up - or should I say on the floor in the special room that flushes....

Looking around the velvety, funked-up interior didn't fill me with any sense of nostalgia, nor relief about the obvious design improvements. The front bar and pool room were jam-packed with hot, sweaty, 20-year old bodies - all of whom could have been my children, I realised glumly. My long black top, pink skirt and black boots had felt rather nice as I dabbed on some lippy in front of the mirror at home, but here I felt like I was looking for my young lad Nathan who had outstayed his curfew by two hours and had told me he was at choir practice.....

Poor Samara's difficulties squeezing past people with a Snoopy-like stomach forced the Hens to try the Stag hotel. Downstairs was much like the Botanic, but less velvet and more wood; and therefore much more spillage. This was all realised by my brain after my legs suddenly slipped through the beer slop, determinedly on their way to a full split if not thankfully stopped by the sides of the beer tables either side of the doorway. Any cool credibility I had was now gone, so I meekly hobbled after the rest of the hens up the stairs.

It was rather flattering to have our hands stamped by the bouncer and see him refuse a group of young girls and a larger bunch of young blokes. Why us? Did they want to increase the average age of the upstairs punters? Was it out of pity? Nah: after half a bottle of burgundy, a glass of white and two raspberry vodkas the answer was clear - it was because we were GORGEOUS. Our husbands didn't know how LUCKY they were to have such hot, intelligent, switched-on, sophisticated.....Oooops sorry about that Pam. I'll see if I've got some safety pins in my handbag when we get upstairs - I'm sure I'll be able to re-attach the bottom of your skirt somehow... these boots are longer and pointier than I thought.....

After venturing up the bar and having only been ignored by the groovy young bartender with Dumb Hair for ten minutes, I managed to scream out my order for a drink to make Pam less aware of her clothing troubles - "A double vodka with lemon and lime PLEASE, and I'll have a raspberry VODKA with...." My twenty buck note was eyed with disdain; not a bad achievement for someone with four eyebrow piercings: "It's twenty TWO dollars love."
LOVE? How dare he assume that because of my age that I'd accept being called such a patronising....... Hey, wait on a second - TWENTY TWO DOLLARS FOR TWO DRINKS?
Maybe I should have drunk up the spilt beer on the floor by the door instead of doing the splits.

Several drinks and giggles later, the other hens pushed their way through to the dance floor; a sticky wooden square wedged directly in front of the epileptic DJ. Samara sat with her hands on her in-vitro-vestibule looking weary. "They're all dancing, which is my sign for going home," I yelled into her ear. "Wanna go and find some taxis?"
And we did. Well, after taking another quarter of an hour hugging everyone goodbye, telling Bec we loved her and squeezing our way back through the sweaty youngsters - a 7 months' pregant Mum of three and her Nana, ready to jab someone in the buttocks with her automatic brolly if they didn't move along quick and sharpish.

I had a good night, honest I did. It's interesting - not fun - to do it occasionally, because it makes me realise just how grateful I am for what I have at home, which is the best nightspot in Adelaide in my opinion. The house was dark as I dropped the keys on the floorboards, gallumped around in my boots and dropped the eye-make-up remover jar on the bathroom tiles. All around me they were sleeping - Love Chunks, Sapphire and the orange dog. How I missed them that night!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

My left ear hole

As my regulars know, I’m 37. And a half. Normally the reality of careening towards the end of my thirties like a greased up luge victim travelling faster than the speed of light really doesn’t worry me too much.

However, at my age, I thought I was long past the stage of getting pimples. I’m getting wrinkles instead: crows’ feet, laugh lines, frown furrows and even the marks made by my face scrunched up on the pillow take hours to disappear. Therefore it's extremely frustrating to wake up one morning - with a visage that will take until lunchtime to fully unfold – and see a zit on my neck; another hiding in an eyebrow and a mini-Mars gravitated on the flap of skin/cartilage by my left ear hole.

OK, so they may not be on my nose, chin or cheeks but with my fluorescent skin they stand out like angry red texta squiggles on a whiteboard. I mean come on….! It’s hard enough dealing with ageing without also having to endure the indignity of pimples as well.

Surely my posh Ella Bache ‘Purifying Emulsion for oily, sensitive skin’ (at $69 – Love Chunks will kill me) should be able to keep both wrinkles and pimples at bay? Just to be sure, I checked through the list of ingredients. In order of quantity, they are:
PEG-8 Beeswax
Octyldodecyl Myristate
Caprylic Triglyceride
Glyceryl stearate
PEG-100 stearate
Propylene Glycol
Tomato extract
Butcherbroom extract
Trisodium EDTA
FD&C Red 4
D&C Red 33
FD&C Yellow 6

(Affecting crazed, Jim Carrey-like) smile: Well isn’t that nice. Don’t they sound all-natural and enticing! No wonder my skin is confused about being either a spotty adolescent or a particularly sprightly pensioner – it’s trying to deal with tomatoes, wax and something called o-Cymen-5-ol. Have you ever heard of anything called ‘o-Cymen-5-ol’? Me either, yet I’m willingly rubbing it onto my face…..

And for future reference, the exclamation ‘Crikey!’ isn’t just the sole property of fellow Aussie Steve Irwin. Forget the potential chemical cocktails or carcinogenic concerns of the emulsion and let’s focus on the money. This stuff cost me sixty nine hard earned Aussie dollars (about $10 bucks American, or one English pound) for what - a gloop of water and beeswax? Perhaps I should just go back to the sorbolene that ‘Ned’s Crazy Bargain Store’ sells for $2 per half-litre. If it feels too sticky, I could keep my eyes open for whatever slippery unguent is cheapest at Coles.

All this was tumbling around and around in my brain as I drove into work and gleefully found the well-hidden free car-parking spot this morning. ‘Free’ means that the ‘three hour parking ONLY between 8am and 6pm’ sign has been flogged, leaving just an empty pole. There’s six of us in a row that are willing to risk it and challenge any parking tickets that have yet to materialise.

Anyhow, I was feeling OKish. Still not thrilled about the face – Wrinkles and Zits give me the Sh---- sure-fire excuse for a blog; but OK enough. Until a fierce, cruel autumnal gust of wind swept through the gum trees, across the carpark and ……….straight up my skirt.

Of course I would be wearing a floaty, three-tiered peasanty skirt today wouldn’t I. Generous volumes of material and lace edging that so very easily enabled the breeze to blow it right over my head. At least it momentarily covered my face and my look of sheer horror and humiliation. Unfortunately it didn’t muffle my ears and so I heard a huge guffaw from the fat guy delivering a tray of focaccias to the Italian restaurant behind me. A sixty-something admin lady walked past me as quickly as she could; her eyes downcast but her mouth pressed shut in a grim line – clearly trying not to piss herself at my misfortune.

Actually on further thought, there was a bright side – my wrinkles and zits were hidden.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Death or Debts?

In the Age newspaper today there was an article about inheritance. Cheerfully they're warning us that if we’re counting on landing a large inheritance to pay off the mortgage and fund the world trip then we have not bought ourselves a ticket to Reality Land.

Researchers have found that the odds of someone landing a large bequest are small, with only one in every 100 inheritances big enough to buy an average house in Sydney.
(That high? I thought only one in every 10,000 people could afford to buy a house in Sydney). The University of Canberra's National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling has found that more than half of all bequests in Australia are less than $20,000 and just 18 per cent worth more than $100,000.

Their study also found that people on higher incomes have a better chance of inheriting. "Those with the least need have the greatest chance of inheriting a significant amount," they say. Only 1.4 per cent of adults receive an inheritance in any given year. The boffins are at pains to stress that even though the average inheritance is currently $64,000, that figure is artificially inflated by a small number of very large inheritances that went to those who were already wealthy. (Typical isn’t it? Smug rich bastards just get richer when Grandma carks it, and they’ll be the ones who end up emulating Kerry Packer’s ‘achievement’ of only paying $100 per year in personal income tax and calling everyone not a billionaire a bludger....)

Sorry, off my soapbox and back to the subject at hand. With the typical inheritance beneficiary aged under 50, and the majority of bequests less than $20,000, the study concludes most inheritances will probably be consumed well before retirement. Therefore most baby boomers, Generation X-ers and Y-ers will not be able to depend on that increasingly mythical 'big inheritance' to see them into debtless retirement.
If anything, all they’ll be able to do is buy a brand new Hyundai Getz and spend a week at Surfers Paradise.

Well, well, well…. The above article would be the paper evidence to flash under your folks noses, wouldn’t it? That’s right, those selfish early baby boomers (born in the forties) who all took packages at 55 and immediately splashed out on a new 4WD and matching caravan. Open your eyes: the roads are full of them – beaming Bruces and permed Pams in their gleaming road trains: hogging the highway as they tootle leisurely along at 80km p/hour on their merry way up to Queensland to avoid the chills of a southern winter. Whilst we are roughing it in our tents at the non-powered sites, the Bruces and Pams only leave the comfort of their 5-star mobile homes to squelch across the gravel in their rockports to use the ablutions or go buy some steak for their min-webers.

Not that I blame them – my mockery is just an obvious sign of jealousy. My parents are part of this generation – the SKIPs – Spending the Kids’ Inheritance Pronto. Dad was a highschool teacher (and a market gardener in his spare time; also a cricket coach, cricket player, tennis player, golfer, marathon runner, champion basketballer and art-class devotee), who decided that thirty years of teaching sullen teenagers the mysteries of chemistry and biology was long enough. Mum was a clerical assistant (after fifteen years full time mothering of three children; also reading newspapers to the blind, helping in the school canteen, Meals on Wheels, listening to children read, being the wardrobe mistress and costume designer for the local dramatic society, playing tennis, umpiring netball) who stuck at her job until she was 63 before receiving her Seniors’ Card in the post. She was the lowest paid in her office but could run rings around her supposed superiors - they were just 20 years younger when they entered the workforce.

My parents deserve to be SKIPs and I think I can confidently say that my two brothers would heartily agree with me. They managed to raise us on one piss-poor teachers' income when we were young and we always went away somewhere every single school holidays. We had our very own cricket pitch in the back yard - complete with nets - and somehow managed to survive on the tragic Australian dollar conversion rate when Dad transferred to Aberdeen Scotland for a year. (Although I never want to see another digestive biscuit or turnip-loaded anything ever again). Later they put all three of us through university with the staggering expenses that it entailed, especially the accommodation costs for three country bumpkins experiencing pub crawls, toga parties and skullduggery for the first time. At term holidays, their street was full of gas-converted early 1970s volvos that Dad had found for us: safe and cheap.

When we were finally off their hands, they must have sighed with relief, kicked up their heels with joy and whilst rubbing their twanged back muscles then looked around their house with dismay. Picture the scene: "Oh this is juuuust Great – we’ve got a house built in the 1960s that we’ve decorated in a late 1970s style in time for the 1990s. Our volvo is approaching 30 and the toyota has a beehive flourishing amongst the rust-encrusted back fender. The caravan is a bright-orange 1976 leaky nightmare and we’ve only been overseas once: 20 years ago. We've both shopped exclusively at Target - (Mum to Dad) - and you've essentially bought the same brown shirt, jumper and trousers since 1973 and I've either sewn my own or rustled through the sales racks."

So, for the first time in their lives, they started to live, really live. You know – buy a chocolate mudcake instead of the dried-out ‘butter cake’ from Balfours. The strong green canvas ‘designer’ chairs instead of the slatted plastic shockers from K-Mart. Most surprisingly to me was that they even started to go to the cinema – virtually unheard of before. The last time my olds went to see a movie not playing on TV was when they had just paid off the house - Mrs Mableson offered to babysit us and their idea of letting their hair down was to see 'Picnic at Hanging Rock'. In 1974. I worried about what Mum would make of the language, nudity and violence that would assail her delicate sensibilities. Obviously not much because she now goes every week and has been hassling me to see ‘Miss Henderson Presents’ because it has “tasteful full-frontal male nudity…”

And yet….. there’s a part of me that thinks: Oh Bugger. Sadly for Mum, both her parents had died when she was only 38 years old – exactly my age right now. Her share of the inheritance was enough to buy a brand new toyota landcruiser, a 23 foot long caravan and various other bits and pieces. It’s difficult to stop myself mentally calculating what that would cost me now: $85K easy for the ‘cruiser and at least $50K for the ‘van. Whoah, what we could do with $135,000 right now – pay off the mortgage!

Isn’t that absolutely pathetic of me? I’m exactly like the over-anxious losers that the Uni of Canberra’s research so clearly shows are NOT going to get anything like that and shouldn’t be expecting, well, anything of note moneywise.

The nice MillyMoo beams and says: “Go for it Mum and Dad! Travel, enjoy yourselves, entertain, buy heaps of stuff – you’ve earned so you should spend it! You did it hard to raise us, so now you should be spending hard!” The evil MillyMoo curls her cruel, thin lips and snidely mutters: “Yeah great, good onyers. It’s all right for you guys to be able to buy what you liked at our age but don’t worry, we’ll get by, we’ll somehow muddle our way through…..”

I want my marvellous, kind, funny, generous and creative Mum to live to 100. I want my perceptive, intelligent, funny and broad-minded Dad to live to 99. (That’s just so he’s in rigor mortis the same time as Mum). Therefore, I’m realising, only whilst I’m sitting here typing this, that I don’t want $135,000 to come my way this year.

.......Well, I do, but it’ll have to be via a lotto win. Or a scratchie ticket. Maybe a gold nugget, mysteriously buried in our geranium patch, dug up when I do my annual (and much-resented) weeding. A $2M overdraft from penguin books, simply on the strength of my dazzling personality, intellect and typed up chook scratchings...... I think I'm worse than pathetic!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Desperately seeking Sanity

Yes dear reader, it's been a few weeks since I've become enraged enough about the clothing worn by our so-called celebrities. Here's a few that have given me cause to shake my head ruefully before cacking myself with laughter.

First cab off the rank, Yasmin LeBon, was recently voted one of the UK's style icons.

(Invested with as much weariness as possible): *Sigh*. Those stupid little capelet things are about the dumbest things worn by sartorial slaves everywhere since we convinced ourselves that ----

Yassa's blouse reminds me of what my Mum's choir group used to wear with their black skirts in the mid-seventies and her skirt was clearly swiped from the satin and candlewick bedspread at my grandma's house.

Is it just me, or are you also disturbed by the trend in recent years to wear nothing that matches whatsoever. 'BoHo' is more 'Hobo' . If I dared wear this tragi-pastel ensemble out, I'd be compared to 'Mary' the rehabilitated mental patient from the fabulously funny TV show 'Little Britain'. Chances are I'd probably then lick your face as well "Eeeh eh ehhh...."

This uncoiled strip of twine is all that remains of Anna Kournikova these days. Any chunky muscles from thwacking a fuzzy yellow ball around have completely disappeared - instead she's gone for the standard, 'Welcome-to-the-US-of-A' emaciated starving starlet look.

Dunno why she's looking so pleased with herself: perhaps she spotted Nicole Richie across the room and called her a Big Fatty Boom Bah Lard Arse. Or asked her for diet tips.

Anna, Anna, Anna - go inhale (and keep it down) a big bacon sarnie right now. Then cram in some large fries, a huge chocolate milkshake and a KitKat chunky. Maybe I'll have one on your behalf.

I have never understood the world's fascination with the Moulding Bones or in particular, their lead wrinkly, Mick Jagger. He is simply a brittle little breadstick with a set of lips that could suck the juice out of a lemon in the next suburb.

So here he is: his latest model's very own ventriloquist's dummy, who unfortunately still gets the opportunity to sing for himself. His minders have to carry around a stepladder and a support shelf for him to climb up and rest his lips on in order to kiss her occasionally.

Anything more intimate than that is an impossibility: she'd slice him with her shoulder blades and any physical friction created by Mick would start a fire.

From crap rock to crap lit: Salman Rushdie with his 6 foot wife. Another case of mid-life, mid-multi-million dollar crisis.

....and I'm sure he married her for her exacting editing skills and insight into the issues facing modern muslims today.....

He looks so damn smug - I just want her to reach down and slap him rapidly on the head like Benny Hill used to do to the short bald guy on his show.... or just slap him, full stop.

Aw, bless him - Rogerin' Rod Stewart's opted for homespun comfort wearing a Scottish dressing gown and his wife Penny has gone for a sequinned stick of liquorice.

He's actually looking pretty grim because Penny just whispered, "Now you look here you sleazy little bugger - one flirty move from you at my niece's 18th birthday tonight and I'll hang you up on the coat-rack behind you and use your willy as a shoe shiner"

But wait, Rod's always lagged behind dear old Tony Curtis, here pictured with Wife Number Seven who is about 40 years younger.

Again we have the cleavage, the one-foot height difference and a look of total self-satisfaction from both sides: "I've got me a hot young gal....." and "I can close my eyes when we shag and think of my brand new BMW..."

Tony's gone for the RainMan look with the waistband up around his armpits, cutting him in half like a human humpty dumpty. Number 7 isn't any better unless she's actually a Marilyn impersonator in drag?

And finally, I present you with a photo of Gary Glitter, recently sentenced to three years in a Vietnam prison for sexually abusing two young girls. He's done a sterling job of visually convincing us that he's pure, innocent and absolutely able to be trusted with the local girl guides' regiment.