Tuesday, 11 September 2018

The Cocktail Party

Writing about the cocktail party we went to at Elle's college in Canberra reminded me that these days, a cocktail party rarely involves cocktails. It's usually some champagne, lovely wines, beers and sparkling water. 

Amazingly, (you'll get the irony shortly) I actually recall a real cocktail party when I was at college. How anyone thought an event offering more than a dozen different cocktails for 17 - 22 year-olds to work their way through was a good idea, is beyond me - even if it was the 1980s.

The common room was set up with different stations, each offering a different, extremely alcoholic concoction. These included but were not limited to; Grasshoppers, B-52s, Harvey Wall Bangers, Martinis, Long Island Iced Teas, Blue Lagoons, Fluffy Ducks and few with 'hilarious' names like Sex On The Beach and A Comfortable Screw.

Hydration wasn't such a big thing in the 80s. Why drink water when you could just keep drinking cocktails? Especially, if you were starting to feel a little dizzy, there was a very tasty light option - kahlua and milk. 

For most of us, we'd only indulged in these exotic mixtures on occasion and certainly not all at once. We were even issued with a check list - just to be sure we didn't miss any.

These days, a sense of responsibility usually means serving food at such events, often something like chicken sandwiches, mini burgers and other substantial finger food to slow the uptake of alcohol among an excitable crowd.  Back in the 80s, it was a couple of bowls of Burger Rings and some Twisties.

We had loads of drunken, raucous parties at college, but this would have to have been the fastest. It started at 8pm and was done and dusted by 10.30pm. There wasn't a conscious soul left as everyone had either passed out, vomited, become disorientated and lost in the gardens or successfully crawled off to bed.

Based on this, my only experience of a cocktail party with both scope and scale, perhaps it's just as well that most are beer and wine.

Monday, 10 September 2018

Quite possibly the worst event I have ever attended

I'm old and been to an awful lot of events - but this one may have taken the cake for the most ill-conceived one of all time. It'll be hard to top (or bottom?)

It was the parent event at Elle's college.

Last year, it was a black-tie dinner at a hotel. That was a perfectly fine event, but they realised there was limited opportunity to mingle and, perhaps more importantly, a black-tie event could be a bit intimidating for some parents - and fair enough.

So this year, they aimed to address those issues with a cocktail party. I paid just north of $450 for Geoff, Elle and I to attend - plus airfares and accommodation. But as the details emerged, I was increasingly apprehensive.  
It was being held on the college grounds, in a marquee. Now for those of you unfamiliar with our nation's capital, Canberra is renowned for being hot in summer and cold in winter. Here's a snapshot of what we were dealing with on the night in question - yes, outdoors in sub-10 degree conditions. What the picture fails to capture is that there was also rain.

Someone said the walls of the marquee would be insulated - and they may well have been - but as they were all drawn back, who'd know. We were also assured there would be 'loads of heaters'. There may have been more, but I only saw five small free standing ones outside the marquee - hardly adequate for a crowd of over 400.

The dress was cocktail, but I'd settled on a pant and block heeled boot, as we'd also been warned there were areas of grass. In fact, the whole thing was on bare ground save for some scattered hay from the bales that had been placed about for seating. I felt sorry for the few women who didn't get the memo and were wearing stiletto sandals.

Just prior, Elle had confirmed that dress code was more 'rustic cocktail' - what the heck does that mean??

On arrival, we located the single caravan serving drinks. Cute - but totally impractical to get drinks into the hands of hundreds of people who all arrived within 30 minutes. Having queued, we discovered the beers were not dispensed here, but from a separate station at the other end of the 'paddock'.

They ran out of sparkling wine at 8pm. Someone must have done a runner to the bottle shop because more appeared around 10pm.

We knew the catering was via food trucks and, yes, they're very 'on trend' but 3 food trucks was optimistic. Elle introduced me to one of the guys who works in the college kitchen - who, I hastily add, had nothing to do with the organisation. 
I looked at that girl standing in the pancake truck and just thought, yeah, that's not going to work, he observed. 
He was right. The hamburger truck ran out of hamburgers. The pizza people were putting whole pizzas on a table just away from their venue, which were being set upon like seagulls on dropped chips. 

I could go on - it was dark, the sound system was dreadful, I was hungry and the cold had seeped up from the ground, through my boots and I was numb from the knees down.

But, and it's a big but, on the upside, we met amazing, fabulous, interesting and diverse people; students, parents and staff. We had a great time, proving the adage that a great night really is all about the company.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

The Market

You may recall I posted recently about how easy it is to acquire, and how difficult it is to dispose of 'stuff'.

Which is why, some six weeks in advance, we booked a stall at the Camberwell Market. For those of you who aren't local, this is a Sunday morning institution of trash and treasure (although in truth, it's pretty heavy on the trash and rather light on the treasure.)

We'd been gathering and sorting for weeks, so I was a tad annoyed when mid-afternoon the day before said booking, the Captain of Logistics (Geoff) announced that it wasn't all going to fit in his truck - he needed a trailer. Can I tell you how difficult it is to secure a trailer at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon? Very.

After the Captain had been driving around aimlessly for about an hour, my irritation reached fever pitch - which means I got cross and took over - calling places to locate a trailer. I hit the jackpot at Bunnings - for a mere $40, we could have a small trailer for 24 hours. Yay.

Sass had some friends staying over to join the 'fun' of a 5am start in the middle of a Melbourne winter to flog junk, so we recruited them to pack the trailer and truck. We got it all in!

At 5am we head on over - Geoff and I in the truck with the trailer and Elle driving the kidlettes. As always, the start was a bit stressful as we tried to unload and set up among other cars and sellers, and dealers harassed us for any anything of value. I did assure them there was nothing!

Sales were brisk until sunrise, when the traders eased off and the punters arrived.

At 12.30pm, we had only half an hour of selling left and I'd be buggered if I was taking all this crap home! I made an executive decision - everything was $1 or $2 - priced to clear. I was out the front spruiking like a pro!!

Priced to clear, all items, one or two dollars!!

One woman looked at my boring white mugs.
How much are the mugs? 
A dollar each.
Her interest waned.
You know what? You can have all 7 - for $1!!

One of the kids sold a lamp for $2. I gave them a small lecture - there was a matching pair - surely that was a BOGOF as we call it in the marketing game?? (Buy One Get One Free) In fact a short time later, a passing man looked at the now single lamp with vague interest and I gave it to him.
Yes, free. Please - take it!

We sold kitchen wares, plants in pots, prints, shoes, clothes, knick knacks, stationery, books, DVDs, CDs, shoes, hats, skipping ropes, snow domes, an electric guitar - we even sold a kitchen sink!!

At 1.10pm, one of the organisers came over and told us we had to stop our frenzied 'all stock must go' sale as technically, we weren't allowed to trade after 1pm.

Here's what we had left - yep - just 3 boxes and a few other random items - all destined for the opp shop. So excited.

Let me hastily add that you don't really do this for the money. For all the work, and after expenses, we netted a couple of hundred bucks - but our stuff had all gone to happy homes and avoided the environmental disaster of becoming landfill - for the time being.

When we got home, I asked Geoff about some items that I was sure we'd put aside for the market but hadn't seen.
Oh yeah, he causally said, I found a whole pile of things that we forgot to pack. They'll have to wait for the next market.


Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Rude Awakening

It's not unusual to be woken by the garbage truck on rubbish morning. We live on a laneway shared with apartments and commercial properties including cafes, a nursery, gift and antique shops, so there's lots of bins and bottles and noise, but this week, the garbage man outdid himself.

It was 6.06am (I looked at my phone).  There was plenty of what I suspected was unnecessary revving before the truck's brakes were jammed on, and it was brutally slammed from drive to reverse, beeping beginning. It stopped, the cabin door was slammed, and then there was a lot of banging and crashing before an extended moment of eerie silence, broken by the very angry yell of the worker;

You people can GET FUCKED!!


I lay there feeling nervous and guilty.

Geoff, did you hear that? I ventured, assuming he was also awake.
I certainly did.
Did you put the bins around the right way, handles facing out from the curb?
I did.
Gee - that guy is very cross.
It'll be the commercial bins, he assured me.

Relaying the story, someone asked if I'd called the Council to complain. I most certainly had NOT. That guy has some serious anger management issues, and a telling off by his employer isn't going to help.

I just hope he's feeling better next week.

Friday, 6 July 2018

The Moroccan Bath

The girls and I have come up to Dubai for a few days to escape the Melbourne winter. It's in the 40s so we've thawed out - quickly.

The girls were having a mani-pedi yesterday and as my nails were all fine, I decided to book in for a 45-minute Moroccan Bath at the same salon. I'd had one in Jordan a few years ago and it was quite lovely.

On arrival, I was ushered into a curtained change room, handed a disposable G-string and instructed to change. 
Is there a robe? I enquired. Looking about, spotting only the berqa and bra of another client.
No. No robe.

Hugging my possessions for modesty, I was shown a locker where I was obliged to deposit the lot - including our shopping from the day at the mall. There was a small argument between the attending ladies as to whether 'madame' was allowed to use a second locker. I wasn't, so jammed everything in one with a purposeful shove.

Now exposed, I was taken from the air-conditioned comfort of the lounge and locker area into a very warm, fully tiled 'wet room', decorated like a Roman bathhouse, where other clients and therapists were splashing water about for various beautifying purposes. Fatima, the executor of my treatment, indicated that I should sit on the marble-like stool and plaited my hair, trying to make it stay up without an accessory - that wasn't working - so she gave up and sloshed water all over me. I was then soaped, rinsed and pushed into a small steam room.

Now if I thought the wet-room was hot, this was totally redefining. Visibility was about 60cm due to the dense mist. I could make out one other occupant, also resplendent in a disposable G-string, who would occasionally throw water on herself from some unseen urn. 
Is that water cold? I asked hopefully, and seriously concerned about expiring. I usually like a steam room but this was a level of heat and humidity beyond anything I'd experienced before.
No, it's all hot, she said.
It's so hot in here, I commented, trying to sound casual and not too panicky.
I think you're sitting where the steam comes out, she offered. Maybe sit over this side.

She was right. I moved and although I felt like I'd stopped cooking, it was still excruciatingly hot and claustrophobic. I asked how long we had to stay in there and she said just as long as you like.

I wasn't liking, so popped out in less than 10 minutes. Fatima wasn't impressed. She asked if I wanted to go back in for more. I declined, so we moved on to the scrub. I lay down on a plastic covered yoga mat on a bench.

I'd had to buy a mitt from the salon for the scrub. It looked innocent enough but it may as well have been a pot scrubber. Laid out like a slab of meat, I was scrubbed so hard I expected to emerge tattoo-less and two kilos lighter as the exfoliated skin formed worms and rolled off along with my excessive sweat. At times, I had to count in my head to distract myself from the searing pain. On and on it went with no spot spared, arms and legs were lifted and bent to ensure full coverage was attained. I was rolled from back to side, side to side, and side to front, skin left tingling from the relief of being left alone.

Finally, it was over.

I was asked to sit on another stool and Fatima said she'd wash my hair in a way that suggested this was a bonus. She wandered off and came back with two large, unlabelled pump packs; one resembling apricot jam, the other custard. The 'jam' lathered and smelled like cheap dish washing liquid. I was instructed to tip my head forward over the urn for the rinse. Now I've never been water boarded and I don't want to make light of that heinous practise, but as Fatima held my nose and scooped continuous bucket-loads of water that streamed over my mouth, I had a small insight into what it might be like. I tried to make a veranda over my mouth with my hand so I could get some air intake.

Time for the 'custard'. She left it in like some exotic hair treatment while she soaped me down again with a product I suspected is also used in the shopping centre toilets to wash your hands. 

Rinsed off for a final time, Fatima yanked off the paper G-string and plonked a large towel in a plastic bag and a smaller towel for my hair on the bench.

I shakily made my way back to the 'lounge' area and drank three glasses of water. Fatima soaked two cotton pads with some kind of lotion and popped them on my eyes as I leant back in the recliner, recovering from the ordeal. With eyes shut, she opened my hand and dropped something into it. I wasn't sure what it was - it felt like the cardamon seed mix you sometimes get at Indian restaurants after a meal - I wondered if I should eat whatever it was? I slipped off an eye patch and saw it was my necklace that I'd popped in a shoe for safe keeping. While my eyes had been shut, my belongings had been piled on the side table next to me. 

Rousing from my recovery and removing the cotton pads, I noticed other clients, clearly regulars, with small plastic baskets filled with luxury products they'd brought along. No jam and custard for them!

My skin felt like I'd been whipped with stinging nettles and the rash confirmed it.

Yes that shine is because it's been polished to within an inch of existence. 

Finally, I made my way, dazed, back into the room where the girls were still having their nails attended to. The laughed and said I looked like a drowned rat. I had been offered a hair dryer but I required no more heat that day. 

As soon as I could, I got back to the apartment and into the shower to condition my hair that felt and looked like raffia from the Reject Shop. The water stung - like I had sunburn - and when we went out that night, the heat from the seat in the taxi had the same effect.

So that was yesterday and today, the rash has receded and my skin does feel amazingly soft and super-smooth - but not sure I'd be rushing back.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

My life changing appliance

A stick vac.

Yep. I'm addicted.

In fact, Elle said if she was ever asked about my hobbies, vacuuming would top the list.

And Sass (not to be outdone) said if she had to nominate her parents' occupations, then Geoff is a builder, and I'm a vacuumer.

They all get very annoyed with me, but I like to have some vague feeling of order about the house and just because they're sleeping, watching TV or on the phone - I take no heed - and vacuum on!

Geoff bought it at great expense, and I must confess, to begin with, I was skeptical - now I can't leave the damned thing alone. It's just so handy!!

So, when the girls were cleaning Elle's car, and she ran over it - twice - I completely lost it at her. I'd probably have been calmer if it'd been the cat. God knows what the neighbours thought, but I dredged up my angriest of angry mother voices and let fly.

Geoff taped its poor broken head, but it does now tend to cut out fairly regularly. But like a mother with an empty pram, I keep moving it around until it eventually kicks back into gear.

Unusually, Elle had cause to use the stick vac recently, and I was speechless when she dared complain that the cutting in and out business was really annoying....

Friday, 8 June 2018


So easy to acquire - so hard to offload!

The renovation is finally underway, and the first task is to clear out the excess of 'stuff' (I'm using the term generously!) that's accumulated the last couple of decades.

It's highlighted how easy it is to buy - click a button, pop your details in and voila! Disposing? Not so simple.

I have stuff on eBay and Gumtree. I even Googled the legality of listing on both (you can). We have art and furniture and collectables and light fittings and god knows what else to get rid of. I didn't realise it was possible, but I actually maxed out with the value of what I was selling on eBay in a single month - so I started listing more crap on Geoff's account! We've become quite good at it - the app is the way to go.

Sass had a stall out the front last weekend. The mandarins and oranges from the trees in the garden, which we also had excess of, were quick to sell out. She managed to move a bit of junk, but geez, there's loads more.

Overwhelmed, I jumped online and booked a Camberwell market stall. We've culled CDs, DVDs, (do we really need any of either??), books, photo frames, video games, prints and goodness knows what else. Lucky it's a few weeks away as it'll give us time to gather even more.

Things have been priced to sell, and still, buyers want to screw you down. I listed a mahogany filing cabinet for $200 and got $160.
Do you know how much we paid for that? Geoff asks, affronted, every time I get excited that something else has sold. I tell him I don't want to know. But he often does. Oh well.

I'm even agreed to drop a chair to Werribee to a buyer this long weekend - just to get rid of it.

Everything that's staying is being stacked into the garage, and I'm sure at some stage, we'll be living in there too!

How long do you think this will take? I asked Geoff, the builder on this project.
I reckon Christmas, he replied. It didn't escape my attention that he didn't specify which one.

Where are we putting the fish tank? Geoff asked.
eBay? suggested Elle quietly - not really joking.

And here it is... on a bench in the garage.

The Cocktail Party

Writing about the cocktail party we went to at Elle's college in Canberra reminded me that these days, a cocktail party rarely involves ...