Wednesday, 23 December 2015

The Gold Plated Cat

Gary is ginger - sort of gold - which makes sense given how much he's about to cost me.

In fairness, so far he's been a cheap ride. He was gifted to us by neighbours heading OS, he's happy to eat Aldi cat food and aside from immunisations and a bit of arthritis, his medical expenses have been minimal; until now.

He was looking very ordinary after the recent heatwave. In truth, over the last few months, he's been eating like a horse but getting skinnier and skinnier. 
Geoff: Do you think the cat has cancer?
Me: Maybe. But he seems happy enough. 

His lack of health on the weekend could not be ignored. I wasn't even convinced he'd see Monday.

Anyway, I did take him to the vet who ran through the options - including euthanising him. But if it was just a thyroid problem, that could be fixed and apparently we'd get a few more years out of him. To determine that he needed to be admitted and popped on a drip and have blood and urine samples taken. How much, I asked. I'd already decided if it was hundreds, I'd say yes but if it was more, goodbye Gary. Naturally it was something like $965. Damn it!! 

The vet added if he needed to stay longer, it's $3-400 a day. $3-400??!! The most expensive hotel I can find on is only $338 a night - and that's at the fancy-pants casino - not in a very small cage at the suburban vet next to a big dog.

Sass and I visited him this morning and he has perked up considerably. She was so relieved. Here they are.

The vet rang before with news. I can't even decide if it's good or bad. I'm torn. It is his thyroid and possibly a little something else - but treatable with a tablet or two a day. Great, I said, should we pick him up? Of course it's not that simple. They need to keep him in for a few days and monitor him while they get the right level of medication - at $3-400 a day!!!! And if he has to take a tablet every day, we'll have to take him to South Australia with us - an 8 hour drive. 

Yep - the joy of Christmas.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Neat and tidy.

After two years in planning and Elle's 16th birthday party, the shed was demolished and construction of the new shed began. That was four months ago and it's still not close to being finished.

When I say 'shed', it's a sizable project with a new garage downstairs and a loft-style space with bathroom upstairs. But it'll always be known as the shed.

I can get a bit antsy when things are in disarray but they've reached monumental proportions.

Not only is the backyard a construction site, the garden has been razed to a dust bowl (or a mud bowl depending on the weather), the deck has the clothes line precariously strapped to it and the lawn mower and other essentials are stored under plastic at the back door. It's worse than camping.

What was the backyard....
Not thinking Christmas lunch will be on the deck this year!
Inside, things aren't much better. The TV, hi-fi and speakers all need attention. I'd like to get NetFlix and ditch Foxtel but the TV is only working through Foxtel. The man has finally been and we're waiting for a new amplifier, so in the meantime, everything's been left pulled out from the wall so wires can be accessed and I can grow increasingly agro.

Some parts of the house are in serious need of attention - the floors need sanding, the kitchen has seen better days and the bathroom is dire. I've had the plans drawn up so the plan is to finish the shed and then keep going to renovate the house. If I have the will.

It's all so bad that on the weekend, I decided to attend to one of the few parts of the house I could bring order to - the front garden. I chopped, I weeded, I raked and mowed - and was rewarded with a very tidy, manicured and satisfying finish. At least something was under control!

In the middle of the mowing I was interrupted by Geoff and Elle - complaining, yet again -  that the wifi was on the blink. I called Telstra who could, incredibly, diagnose moisture on the connecting wires from the call centre (amazing!). The technician rocked up today to confirm they need to run a new wire from the street to the house, which requires them digging up the front lawn!


Sunday, 29 November 2015

With friends like that....

I caught up with an old friend (in both senses of the word) for lunch a couple of weeks ago.

We worked together about 15 years ago and still share views on who and what is 'good' and 'bad' in the advertising industry. This always makes for a fun lunch as we revel in the freudenschade of the demise of those we feel deserve it and congratulate ourselves on our judgement when the 'good guys' do well.

Thank god no-one else is there to witness our appalling and blatant judgement!!

We also discuss world issues, politics and, at this particular lunch, the wisdom of investing in renewable energy. This led to the topic of nuclear fusion versus fission.

I sat there patiently while my friend started explaining the difference. Good grief!

Seriously M, I interrupted.
I know the difference. You know, the problem is, you just don't give me ENOUGH credit for being smart.

He looked at me, genuinely taken aback and perplexed and said, slowly (perhaps so he was sure I'd be clear) I don't give you ANY credit.

We're still friends. In fact, I think it's part of his charm!!

Thursday, 26 November 2015

The Races

Yes, ladies (and gents!) - we've had that time of the year again - Spring Racing Carnival.

The season of hats, frocks, champagne and shenanigans. (And occasionally a horse race.)

You can tell it's close when the fridge looks like this...

More champagne than food!

When asked what I was wearing, my business partner Mandy would jump in and say A nightie and a Michael Jackson jacket. Not inaccurate, but not exactly talking it up either.

I suffered the usual indignity of the spray tan. God that process is awful! There you are in a paper G-string and shower cap in a black booth that is sadly, so glossy you can see yourself naked from every angle. I swear those girls don't get paid enough.

As has become tradition, we hosted clients on Oaks Day in a car park On The Rails. It was warm - but the rain was torrential. Karma got Mandy for being rude about my outfit - a veritable waterfall spilled from our shelter down the back of her coiffed head and expensive dress - laugh!!! (Well, I was laughing!)

Not us - but this was the day.
Eleanor decided she'd wear my dress on Stakes Day - a couple of days after Oaks. That was all fine until she decided to post a 'Who wore it better?' on Facebook. I did not give that my okay for this!!!

Anyway, I was winning the sympathy vote (and frankly, my shoes were more flattering to the leg!) when she gazumped me with this.

Game over :(

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Sarcasm or sincerity?

So I got this note under my car windscreen.

I was leaving the office and Elle was with me. From a distance, it almost looked like a ticket. For once, it wasn't.

It was perplexing. I had parked adjacent to a narrow driveway, but snuggled forward as far as I could go. I thought I was fine. But it did seem slightly strange to thank someone on doing the right thing. Elle had her money on sarcastic. I had been aware of the tight space and tried my best. I struggled not to feel vilified. Anyway, maybe she was wrong.

At home, Geoff took Elle's side. Bugger. Maybe I was wrong?

Late last week, my business partner Mandy and I were heading back into the office after a meeting and passed the site where the note had been issued. We're usually too focused on work to chat about such trivialities, but as we were strolling past, I relayed the tale.

Oh, she said with confidence. That was sincere.
How do you know? I asked, in complete awe of her wisdom.
Because I parked there once and was hanging over a bit. Not only did I get a ticket but the guy who lives there was out the front calling the towing company. I think he has them on speed-dial.

So there you go people. There's no need to always assume the worst after all.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Myth busted!

Perhaps like you, I suspected much of my misfortune with my car was karma. When I sold my van, I gave in to the sin of vanity and bought a Porsche. There. I've said it.

In fairness, it was second hand and for the same price I could have had a brand spanking new VW Tiguan (which is pretty much the same as the Cayenne) but I work in advertising and goddamit, I'd been driving a van with sliding doors for four years - I wanted the Porsche!

Since then, as you know, I've copped more parking fines than most people would believe humanly possible. It's been rear ended and Eleanor might have mounted a curb and smacked a pole in her attempt to drive - in fact, while we were in Alaska, my car was enjoying an extended break at the panel beaters. I've replaced the windscreen and the tyres (we could have had a holiday in Bali for the same cost of the latter). The keys got locked in it in remote South Australia (that was also an expensive exercise), we had to have it towed recently after a lovely Sunday lunch in the Yarra Valley (turned out that may not have been absolutely necessary but guaranteed had we not, it would have been something major) and of course, most recently, it was towed from a clearway.

Yes, I too thought it was this car that brought be bad motoring karma and was cursed.

Until I got this in the post last week.....

Yes, that's right - I was in Sydney -  in a HIRE car. Not fancy. In fact, I can't even remember what it was - it was just the cheapest mid-size car available. And yes, that is a fine of $319!!! Outrageous. We all know Sydney's expensive - and hard to drive around - so this was just the icing on the cake. Next time I'll just hire a limo and a driver. It'll be cheaper.

So maybe it's me and not my car after all.

Anyway, no doubt you've also heard VW have had a little bit of an issue with emissions testing, fraud and what have you, plus a big class action brewing so perhaps the Cayenne wasn't the wrong choice after all.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

The Thief

A strange thing happened today.

I'd worked at home during the morning and arranged to collect my colleagues on the way to a client meeting. I parked on the main road near the office, which is lined with cafes, antique shops and fancy-pants boutiques.

I was a little early so shot them a text to say where I was - no hurry.

It was about then than I noticed a women pulling a dress off a coat hanger, calmly placing the hanger in the bin right at the front of my car and then stuffing the dress, along with some other garment, into her very large, very full, very expensive Mimco bag.

My immediate reaction was that she'd nicked the dress.

She was smartly dressed with nice clothes, groomed hair, good make up and painted nails. She was also of sub-Continental ethnicity. I chastised myself - was I being racist? Perhaps she just doesn't want her husband to know she's bought more thing... she looked like she could afford it.

I kept an eye on her as did the older gentleman, probably from the antique shop, catching some sun near the bin. She casually walked up the street and I noticed the gentleman 'subtely' taking photos of her. He'd obviously had the same thought as me.

She then strolled to the tram stop and looked up the street for a bus or tram.

It was too much for me. I jumped out of the car and looked in the bin. Yep - coat hanger with fancy brand - the kind of brand where you don't get much chance from a $1000 for a dress. I ran the few doors down to the boutique looking for a sales assistant. I found her - up the back on the phone - just as the bus was pulling up.

Excuse me... I pleaded in desperation.
Hang on darl, I'll need to call you back, she said with clear annoyance and hung up. Yes?
Did you sell that woman a dress? Otherwise she just stole it.
That got her attention.

We ran outside and the woman was in clear vision on the bus which was stopped at the red light.

Which woman? The girl asked.
That one right there in front of us, I said.
The woman started gesticulating to the effect of 'I'm coming back' - cool as a cucumber!
I think I know that woman, the girl said.
So did you sell her a dress - if not, run to the front door and stop the bus.
Panic. Silence. Nothing. Light green - bus gone.
Fuck me that girl was useless.

Meanwhile, the gentleman arrives on the scene with the coat hanger and tag in his hand and photos of the thief on his phone.

My colleagues arrive and we head off to the meeting. Nothing to see here.

I really want to ring the head office of this brand. I think I'm more appalled by the the slackness of the staff than the theft itself!! One was out the back - fair enough - but the muppet I was dealing with was at the very back of the shop on the phone and looking the wrong way!! I could have grabbed a few frocks myself had I been so inclined.

I'll think about it. But if it were my business, I think I'd hope someone would tell me.

PS My proofreader Penny is a little under the pump this week - so I've not bothered her with this. Please excuse typos!!!

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Bucket List

I had a first yesterday - a tick that box moment. But it hadn't actually been on my bucket list.

I don't think I have the words to describe the emotional sensation of a late Friday afternoon, sun shining after months of cold and a hectic week, an appointment to have drinks with my sisters-in-laws, picking up my bag and car keys, thinking about where I'd parked - and remembering it was in a space that became a clearway half an hour earlier.


I flew down the stairs, out the door and looked up the street. As expected, my car was gone.

I'd been towed.

Goddammit! I was due at drinks in 30 minutes. I didn't even know who to call.

My friend Katie popped out from the shop our office is above to give me a consoling hug.

Oh well, I said. I had been trying to work out what to do with my car tonight - should I drive to drinks? Go home and see if Geoff could drop me off? Dilemma resolved! I'd Uber.

Our gorgeous account coordinator found the number for me and I called to discover I could collect it before 9pm or today before 1pm. Too easy!

And I was less than 10 minutes late to drinks.

Less cool was the $334 I had to pay to get it out of the pound. Still, I paid $64 for less than 3 hours parking in Sydeey last Friday - so by the hour I guess it was better value than that!

Just for the record, I did ask the guy at the pound how many get towed a day. 90 on a good day, he said. (Yes, that is a hair over $30k). What's a bad day, I asked. 60. I laughed! Good and bad for who?!! And yes, the city is the main location cars are towed from followed by.... Malvern!

I am seriously thinking I should give up this car caper and just ride a bike. Although I'm pretty crap at that and scared of the traffic :(

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

The ol' backhanded compliment.

Coffee on Sunday morning with the ladies I row with and the conversation turned to the backhanded compliment.

I relayed that at my son George's funeral, we showed a video that included quite a few pictures of him as a baby and of course, I was in a lot of them - 20 years younger. Afterwards, someone (who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty) came up and said
Gee, MWW! You were actually quite attractive when you were young.

Wow. Where to start with that one, eh? Let's break that down shall we?

  • 'were' - so definitely not at all now
  • 'actually' - because it was clearly such a shock
  • 'quite' - so not really a lot, just a little bit
  • 'were young' - because now you're old
Some suggested the occasion was also a bit of a whammy - but actually, that was the one part that didn't bother me.

So, back to Sunday.

After rowing, we headed up to the Yarra Valley to meet my uncle at a winery for lunch. We also took an older friend (I can say that as she's about Mum's age). OF (older friend) is a tall, elegant woman with terrific posture, but in some fumbled attempt to pay me a compliment she said something along the lines of 'slightly overweight middle aged women attract more attention because they...... ooze femininity.' It wasn't quite that succinct and there was a lot of hesitating around the words 'slightly' and 'overweight' which actually made it worse.

Anyhoo - it's now Tuesday and that one is still smarting.

Anyone ever paid you the old backhanded complement? Or as I am now dubbing it, the full frontal insult??

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Kids in trouble.

The boarding school I went to is in trouble. Big trouble.

There were things that were going on before, during and after I was there that are heinous and now, along with many other institutions, it's all being exposed as part of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Dad asked me on the weekend if I knew any of the named staff, accused of, and in many cases charged with, paedophilia. In fact, one was my English teacher. Many others are also familiar.

I was recently recounting to some friends how when I was at school in the early 80s, serving students alcohol at a Sunday lunch or Saturday night dinner with a house or head master was just what happened. I know some of the boys were regularly offered alcohol by masters and tutors in the privacy of their study. And I distinctly recall cask wine being freely available to all who attended an evening woodwork exhibition. My, how things have changed.

Dad said there were paedophiles at his boarding school too, back in the mid 1940s, and we agreed that the exposure of events was a good thing.

There are those who hanker for a time gone by, when things were simpler and everyone was trustworthy - the police, the government, the church. But in truth, that's a fantasy. I subscribe to the idea that knowledge is power and being alert to what can happen is the better option.

The school is handling this crisis well. They probably have a good PR agency advising them on crisis management, but they're keeping up regular and frank communication, encouraging past students to speak to the Commission as well as offering free counselling.

I feel physically sick hearing of the helplessness of so many of the children, now adults, who have told their stories of being repeatedly subjected to cruel and predatory behaviour by those in authority. Not just at my school, but all of those institutions and varying government and religious persuasions  across the nation.

I was even more sickened to hear on the radio a couple of weeks ago, that there had been 46 reports of abuse of children in care in the preceding two weeks, here in Victoria. Yep, 46.

So it's not just a painful history, it's an everyday reality. To quote the Commissioner; 'There's still a lot of very sad children out there.'

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Lost and Found

Sass and I popped down to the Post Office about 9.15 yesterday morning. On the way back, we spotted a couple of small boys, about 2 and 3, on push-along toys on the other side of busy Malvern Road.

Where's their mum? Sass asked.
I'm sure they're with someone, I said.

But on a scan on the vicinity, it was clear they were not. We crossed over to investigate.

Not this kid but about this age.

Where's your Mum? I asked.
Is someone with you?
Still nothing.

It was about then I noticed they were both naked from the waist down and only had long sleeved Ts or pyjama tops on. Ah-ha! Clearly, they'd abandoned their nappies and made a run for it as no parent would take babies out in weather of about 8 degrees with no pants and no shoes. Hmmmm.

Where do you live? Do you know where you live?
The older one gave up his street name. I'd thought they must be just a few houses away but boy - they had travelled some distance!

Sass and I started herding them back in the right direction. On the way up a quieter side street, I noticed we'd attracted the attention of an older couple.
We saw those boys, they said. We didn't know where they came from. Do you know where they live?

Seriously, this is the most gob-smacking part of the story. Yes, kids escape - it happens. But if you had seen two very small boys heading towards a busy, major road with trams and trucks and cars, would it not have occurred to you to stop them?? We'd found them a block away from this point and at any time they could have decided to roll out to cross over. Unbelievable.

No, I said. But we have a street name so we'll find it.

By this stage, the older one had warmed up and we got his and his brother's names. We even got a street number a little later. I had to carry the little one as we were moving quickly and his legs were tired - not to mention his feet bare and his bottom cold.

Eventually, we go them home where their mum had apparently gone to the gym, an older brother was asleep on the couch and dad in bed. They'd not even been missed - which might have been a good thing as no doubt panic would have ensued. So all ended well, but it might not have....

Monday, 31 August 2015


I promised a post on firearms in the US in my bear post and here it is.

Again, I'd like to apologise in advance to my American friends, but peeps - we here in the land down under are just kinda freaked out by guns. 

It's not that we have no exposure. I grew up in the country and my dad had a few guns -including a semi-automatic. I even shot a tin can once or twice. But the danger of them was always instilled and when the gun amnesty was introduced in 1996, where the government actually paid cash for all and any gun handed in, even Dad parted with his small collection.

The policy was sparked by the Port Arthur massacre that occurred earlier the same year - where 35 people were killed. And how many massacres have there been since? That's right - none. So you'd have to concede, it's been one of the most effective policies the Australian Government has ever introduced.

I find it heartbreaking to hear of all the shootings in the States. So many of them seemingly caused by easy access. The two year old who pulled a gun from his mother's handbag in Walmart and shot her. The five year old boy in Kentucky who was given a gun for his birthday - and promptly shot his two year old sister dead. 

I was also really touched by the Australian baseball player, shot in the back while jogging in Oklahoma because his teen murderer 'was bored'. I felt for everyone in this case - the victim, his family and friends, the circumstances that let the 17 year old shooter to do such a terrible thing and his family. An all-round modern-day tragedy.

So weren't we surprised when we went into the general store in downtown Wragell, Alaska (pop 2,400) to see a wall of guns displayed behind the counter. The girls and I could help ourselves. We asked the middle-aged, bird of woman behind the counter some pointy questions. You just need to imagine the answers in a drawling American accent and overly girly voice, not befitting a women in her 50s.

Not the store, but very similar!

How much are they?

Oh... you know... they range. From about $280 all the way up to about $600.
(Not nearly enough for our liking!)

Do you need a licence?

Oh yeah, you do. 
(Obviously not too tricky to get one.)

What do people do with them?

They like to hunt. Bear, deer, moose, you know...lots of things.
(No, we don't actually. And no wonder we haven't seen a moose!)

Do you hunt?

She looks wistful....
I do. I like to hunt. I like to hunt elk....

You get the gist.

Back on the boat, we share this story with another couple (could be biased, he's an Australian ex-pat). His wife confesses that when their daughter is invited for play dates, she's compelled to call and ask if there are guns in the house and if so, are they locked up. Now there's a call you don't get here!

Maybe I'm just naive. Of course there are people in Australia who own guns - it's just we now assume they're criminals or law enforcers. Okay - I'm sure there are some gun owners who  belong to shooting clubs and are farmers. But our culture, on the whole, is so gun free, that even the sight of a gun is freaky. I was at Parliament House, Canberra a couple of weeks ago and we non-regulars were gawking at the security guys, 'oooh... look at the guns!' like kids seeing an exotic tiger at the zoo. Perhaps that's not a bad thing.

PS Apologies for the highlighting thing - can't get it to turn off!!!

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Dark Blue Ankle Boots

If you've spend any extended time with me this winter, you'll know I've been in pursuit of some dark blue ankle boots.

Inspired by the chick who gave the PR talk at Elle's careers night, I rushed her at the end - where did she get those boots? That was months ago and still no luck.

I only have to type 'D' into my Google search bar and 'Dark Blue Ankle Boots' pop up. I've searched the sites of brands, department stores, fashion aggregating sites (where they list items from masses of retailer sites) - everything.

The original boots (Acne) maybe weren't quite high enough for me - and also globally out of stock :(

Then I found these! A bit expensive, but on sale and gorgeous. I ordered them. I could hardly sleep! The next day I got an email saying my order had been cancelled - WTF?? I called America. They actually didn't have them in stock :(

Disheartened and desperate, I found these. Frankly, not quite expensive enough and from one of the aggregated sites for manufacturers in China. Still, I ordered them. They looked pretty good and I was out of options.

And here's what turned up! These are NOT dark blue - they're PURPLE!!

I have complained and requested I return them. 'No can do, most valued customer. These are as advertised and same as picture - dark blue.' They bloody well are not.

I did that test on Facebook to see if I can spot colour differences - you know the one -  and I got 'Eagle Eye'. So I know dark blue from purple peeps.
(And yes, those are the frickin' boots in the top left hand corner because I've looked at them so much, they're now haunting me (or re-targeting as we say in the biz) whereever I go...)

So, here we are. Almost September, weather defrosting and still no dark blue boots. Just purple :(

Sunday, 23 August 2015

On the job.

I’m sure most of us have the same problem; if your involved in a certain industry or sector, it’s hard to turn off from it – even when you’re not at work. 

My brother is a captain for an international airline and I’m sure that on every flight he takes when he’s not driving, he’s assessing how the pilot is doing. Dad was an undertaker before he retired and I’m sure he’s running a mental critique at the funerals he attends.

And I’m in advertising. An geez there are some shocking ads round.

I just got out at the airport in Canberra and saw a billboard for an airline featuring one of their esteemed pilots with the headline; “I don’t just fly planes. I fly people, and there’s a difference.” Really? What – as opposed to cargo, you need to occasionally speak to what’s behind you? Seriously, who are they talking to and what the hell are they talking about?? I’m personally hoping he does fly a plane! And what does flying people even mean??

Even worse was the in flight magazine on the way up. I had no idea such a skinny mag could contain so many appalling ads – along side the seven watch ads, nine for diamonds and pearls, half a dozen for executive courses and a smattering of prestige cars, wine and leather goods were 'gems' like these:

Hilarious really given both are for 'marketing'. I'm not sure which is worse. The first is something to do with a new venture between a private school consulting business and a 'creative' brand agency - which is lovely for them but I have no idea what's in it for their target audience. In fact, if this is an example of their creative, frankly, I'd give them a miss.

The next looks like a modern-day version of the ads for Sea Monkeys that ran in comic books when I was a kid. I suspect the results will be equally disappointing.

Coming home, I flew a different airline and got a different magazine. The articles in both aren't bad at all, but the ads are all same same but different. Blah.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

The fast line.

A couple of months ago, I ventured into Maccas to check the new CYO - Create Your Own. Burgers made to your specifications and served open in a windowed cardboard box or on a board. (Just quietly, it wasn't bad!)

You can either order at the counter or use a touch screen that then sends your order directly to the kitchen. I opted for the screen.

As I stood and waited (a bespoke burger doesn't happen instantaneously you know!), an elderly gentleman approached me. Now when I say "elderly", I mean so old bits of his face were kinda flaking off. I'd have picked him for about 90 not out. And when I say "approached", I really mean shuffled. Anyhoo....

I smiled and lent down as he spoke (I was wearing high heels and he was kind of small and hunched in a way ancient people are).
"I'm too old for a line...." he croaked.
Hmm, I thought. I wonder if he needs help ordering or with the touch screens? I smiled again, nodding.
"...but you look shuuuuurperb!" He arranged his fingers in the sign that indicated 'okay' - or as kids today use it, 'mint'. "Really," he insisted, "absolutely shurperb." There was a slight whistle on the 's' that was more like a 'sh'.

"Oh you've made my day!" I gushed, not lying. "really made my day. Thank you!"

I was so flattered.

Then I looked around and noticed the other patrons were pretty much all wearing polar fleece, track pants and trainers.

I was in my work clothes, including the orange neoprene jacket I cheerfully admit I nicked from the charity I go to on Sundays. That organisation takes donations of second hand clothes and then distributes them to the homeless, asylum seekers and other disadvantaged groups. When I say "nicked", it was with the blessing of the founder - they have far too many women's clothes and we all agreed this probably wasn't suitable for most recipients.

Anyway, I took a snap of my ego-inflated self so you could get an accurate picture. Not amazing I know, but hey, at my age I'm happy to take any compliment!! Maybe I should be hanging out at Maccas more often?

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Christ Almighty!

Living here in the land of heathens and the barely-believers, it doesn't really occur to us to moderate our language for the benefit of the truly devout.

In fact, here's the picture from the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2011 census:

I'm going out on a limb, but if people I know are any reflection, I reckon a good chunk of those Christians are just hedging.

I remember the 2001 census, when I said my religion was "Jedi". There was a viral campaign urging people to nominate Jedi to see if there were enough people to make it an official religion. I've just Googled and sadly I was one of only a mere 70,000. The government ran PR trying to dissuade the choice, but the appeal of 'May the force be with you' and being a princess was just too much for me!

New Zealand has always been ahead of us - first to give women the vote and make same sex marriage legal - and 42% of them claim to have no religion, which is pretty amazing.

I've posted about my lack of belief before.

Anyway, the point of all this is we were in the States recently and I cringe to think of how many people we offended.

Social analyst David Chalke once explained at an agency talk that America was founded by the religious extremist who were being persecuted in Europe - hence their strong culture of faith. Australia, on the other hand, was settled by thieves, larikins, drinkers and criminals - and those were just the people escorting the convicts here!

With every 'gosh' I was reminded how we all always say 'god'. No one here notices - it's just what we do.

I remember telling a six year old George to perhaps lay off yelling 'Jesus' all the time as maybe someone mightn't like it. And him then thinking Jesus was a swear word making an appearance in a school Christmas carol!

Anyway, I'd like to take this opportunity to now apologise for any and all the offence our family's language may have caused.


Thursday, 23 July 2015

There's a bear in there.

We were repeatedly remind of 'bear safety' on our recent trip to Alaska and Canada. Should you come face to face with a bear in the wild, here are the top tips:
  • Do NOT make eye contact
  • Let the bear know you're human (although exactly how you do this was never explained)
  • Do NOT run
  • Talk to the bear quietly and calmly as you back away slowly
Other bear safety includes being noisy when you hike (no trouble there with Sass not ever having had a volume button and the ability to talk under water) and stay together as a larger group so the bear thinks you're a big animal. (This sounds a bit far fetched to me - bears can't be that silly.)

We did see quite a few bears and I will regale you with a couple of tales.

Bear Spray.

Sort of like fly spray, this capsicum-like substance can be used to deter an attacking bear. The guides on our Alaskan cruise all carried bear spray when we regularly ventured off the boat and into the wilderness. They also kept it in a zip lock bag deep in their bag packs.... hmmmm.

Many guests had attempted to bring their own bear spray only to have it confiscated at airports - who'd have thought??

One guest (an Australian ex-pat) told us when he bought his, the cost of the spray was about $30, or you could get the can of spray PLUS a holster for $70. He elected to just take the spray until the cunning salesman said, 'Sir, if you were in a situation requiring you to use bear spray, how fast do you think you could get it out of your bag?' He left the shop $70 poorer.

The kids and the bear.
We took an excursion off the boat in the hope of seeing Black bears. It was early in the season so no guarantee. We arrived by boat to be escorted to the viewing platform by our guide. He clearly didn't bother too much about bear spray - he and his side kick just had big rifles slung over their shoulders. (Seriously, the casualness of people in America and firearms was shocking to us - but that deserves it's own post.)

Given the usual brief and strict instructions to stay together as a group, we hiked up to the viewing platform, all chatty and relaxed with a gun-totting guide, Denny, at the front and one at the back. Denny, told us how he and a group had recently startled a bear on the path and, following the calm talking and slow backing away procedure, he glanced behind him to discover the group had all racked off around the corner leaving him out there to face it on his ownsome! Yes, it sounds bad, but can you blame them?

Anyway, back at the viewing platform there are bears a plenty! I'd never seen salmon swimming up stream and they were equally as fascinating. We also discovered that when there's a dead fish up for grabs, those elegant, majestic and proud Bald Eagles are actually nothing more than a good-looking bunch of vultures.

It's almost time to leave when naturally, the kids want to use the loo. An outhouse arrangement with a small hole in the door where the occupant want wiggle their fingers when their done so someone from the platform can give them the all clear to come out. Denny decides he'll escort them, which was just just as well given a Black bear did stroll between we fretful parents and the posse of cowering kids, packed in tightly behind Denny and his gun. Although why that worried us I don't know, as within minutes we were all off the platform and heading back down the path. It was certainly a more anxious walk back!

Sunday, 12 July 2015


Apologies that I've been AWOL.

We're on holiday and the lead up was gruelling, trying to get work done before we left. Having almost packed and fallen into bed about 1am, the alarm went off at 3am and taxi arrived at 4.15 to take us to the airport. A mere 36 hours later, we arrived at our hotel in Juneau, Alaska.

I was convinced I'd packed well. I even checked average temperature in our post-Alaskian destinations.

So here we are, in Kamloops, Canada having arrived this afternoon on the Rocky Mountaineer train. In my bag I have a down parker, thermals, apres boots, wet weather jacket and pants, a North Face furry vest, two ploar fleeces, two jumpers, two long sleeve Ts, two short sleeve Ts, one pair of shorts, bathers, a possum fur oilskin cap, a beanie, gloves and ski mittens. And the weather? 35C.

And to think, I once had the cheek to pass out a few travel tips!!!

Monday, 22 June 2015

Christmas in July

Do you remember how exciting Christmas was when you were a kid? When a year felt like an eternity?

Sass is so looking forward to Christmas and so worried she'll forget what she wants, she's started her list (below). Let me translate...
1. Wetsuit
2. iPad
3. Matilda book
4. iPhone anything (ie 4,5,6...)
5. Clothes

Not content to leave it at that, she decided to get Elle organised as well. Eleanor dictated, Saskia wrote.

Here's her list:
1. Leonardo (Dicaprio)
2, A helicopter
3. iPhone 6
4. Clothes
4.  99.95 (VCE ARTAR score)
5. A trip to New York
6. Going skiing in Aspen
7. 1,000 finger buns

The similarities and differences between a 9 and 16 year old are kind of interesting!
Have you started your list??

Monday, 8 June 2015

I See You!!!

As you know, I can see it all from my desk at home. The people having the affair, the couple fighting.

In fact, it prompted my friend DC to shoot me these pics!

So, there I was this afternoon, tapping away at my desk when I glanced up and noticed a large black dog laying a steaming turd on our nature strip! 

I've posted about that too. 

And I am so sick of it!

I peered out and no owner was to be seen as the dog crouched and strained, strained and crouched.

But I figured it wasn't alone.

I dashed out of the house, inspected the evidence and spotted it, being muzzled by its owner outside the cafe on our corner. Well within viewing distance. She knew. By god, she knew. 

I trotted up but she had darted in to order her coffee. I wasn't perturbed.

I approached her in the line and tried to be at my most friendly:
Excuse me... I said, sweetly that your dog outside? 
Yes! She said, face lighting up with joy, pride and the clear expectation of some forthcoming compliment.
It's actually left a huge poo on the nature strip outside our house... next door.... I pointed.

Her face fell and at least she had the decency to look mildly ashamed - at being caught. She hastily rearranged her features in a quick attempt to look surprised.
Oh!! Oh... I'll come back and get it.
Thanks. I said flatly, turning on my heel and flouncing out. (BTW - you can absolutely 'flounce' when you're wearing a white feather bolero and ridiculously high over-the-knee boots - trust me!)

She did come back. I spied her through the shrubbery.....

Back to the chili flake deterrent I think.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Apple Of My Eye

It's funny, isn't it? How as parents, we believe our children are so amazing that we imbue them with all kinds of talents they don't actually have? But no - I speak not of my own children, but my father, my siblings and me.

Let me give you an example:
One of my brothers is a pilot for a Middle Eastern airline that entitles my parents to some lovely, up-the-front deals. They were due to travel on one of the first planes offering in-flight shower facilities. Here's how that conversation went:

Dad             So do you get an allocated time during the flight to have your shower?
Brother       I don't know Dad, I've never been on it.
Dad            Is there a time limit for how long you can be in there?
Brother       I don't know Dad, I've never been on it.
Dad            Do they give you shampoo and soap?
Brother      I don't know Dad, I've never been on it.

I believe it was about then that Dad did in fact believe that my brother wasn't just holding out. He actually didn't know. But it took quite a few goes before he could come to terms with the fact that there was something - and something to do with planes no less! - that his son did not know.

Similarly, whilst visiting said brother a few years back, we took a side trip with Mum and Dad to Jordan. I had arranged a guide for the duration, starting at the airport. Having collected our bags, here's how that conversation panned out:

Dad        Righto MWW! Which way do we go?
Me         I don't know Dad, I've never been here
Dad       So what does this bloke meeting us look like?
Me        I don't know Dad, I've never seen him.....

Anyway, it is very sweet that Dad believes my brothers and I are the Google of his eye.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Cool (Cold?) Cats

My friend Georgie was telling me about her cat last week. It had been hit by a car and sustained some pretty horrific injuries. Against her better judgement, she allowed the vet to talk her into treating rather than euthanising. And here she is, some weeks and more than three and half grand later, with one very sad cat. In spite of her 'investment', she's not convinced that putting the poor thing down might not still be the best option. I'm sure she'll make the right decision.

It reminded me of when our old cat Koshka expired his nine lives. He'd become so fragile and senile we'd had to contain him to the back garden as he'd twice wandered off and couldn't find his way home. On both occasions, some good Samaritans delivered him to the local vet and being micro chipped, they called for me to go and collect him. He was 17 or 18 and pretty much on his last paws.

The end was pretty painless - for us. We'd been holidaying and came home to a note on the door from a vet asking to call. To cut a long story short, our elderly neighbour had been feeding him and noticed something wasn't right so asked another neighbour to help. Having their own menagerie, they whipped Koshka up to the 24/7 vet where a seizure was diagnosed. They admitted him, made him comfortable but he died before we were back in the country. Which turned out to be kind of lucky.... the vet said as we hadn't been there to gain permission, they'd treated him as a stray and there was no charge. I did offer, but they wouldn't take it.

The vet said I could come and collect him if I wanted to bury him in the garden. I did. I took some flowers for the vet, one of the kids and Koshka's basket. The vet took the basket and brought it back, loaded with one cold dead cat, straight from the freezer in a calico bag. I wanted to offer again to pay, but at that exact moment, a small, distressed child with a parent and a cardboard box burst into the room. 'Excuse me one moment please,' said the vet. The child looked my way and in a moment of panic, I slammed the dead cat, in its basket, against my chest lest she notice. I stood there for a good ten minutes with the very cold cat sucking the warmth from my body before I had the opportunity to offer the vet money -  which was again declined.

I was fond of Koshka. He was as a loyal as a dog to me. But at the end of the day, and perhaps because I was dealing with bigger kid issues, I realised he was just the cat.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Nocturnal Comfort

I'm obsessed.

I don't know whether it's an age thing but really, it's reaching frenzy point.

Which is odd really because these days, there is a good chance I will actually have a full night sleep.

I had nearly 20 years of babies that didn't sleep, including when George and Jaz both lost their natural sleep patterns that not even hard drugs could fix. They required all sorts of attention throughout the night. At one point, it was so dire, we were given an overnight nurse twice a week just so we could recuperate enough to keep doing it.

Maybe then I was just so sleep deprived and exhausted it just didn't matter. I probably could have slept standing up. But now I have the time, energy and inclination to pursue this ridiculous obsession. Either that or it's menopause!

My nook.

Many of you will be aware of the linen store that has a Linen Lovers loyalty program - and naturally yes, I'm a member. I do buy plenty from them but it doesn't keep me loyal. If I see something that looks like it'll add to the perfect night's sleep - especially online around 11pm as I'm finishing up some work - I'm sold.

My sheet collection (white only!) includes:
  • 1000 thread-count Egyptian cotton (a bit over rated - apparently 'thread-count' and 'Egyptian' aren't fool-proof measures)
  • 'hotel quality' (these are good - heavier and a bit 'crisp' - I think I prefer crisp over soft)
  • bamboo (which are even better as they are quite heavy and I like that) 
  • and most recently, 100% pure linen
I don't think I'd slept in linen sheets since I was the hired help at Bolton Abbey in Yorkshire back in the 1980s. The housekeeper told me they were used so infrequently they were well over 100 years old. The family I worked for were peers no less, so etiquette dictated I call them Sir H and Lady H but unlike the other hired help, and being Australian, I just couldn't come at m'lord or m'lady without sounding so insincere it was insulting. They hosted their friends for hunting parties at the lodge at the Abbey and had game keepers, guns, dogs - and hired help! Seems like a dream now - but it did happen. It was their private holiday residence and after a quick Google search, I think it might now be a hotel. The one I found has 40 bedrooms - so that's probably about right!

Anyway, I don't think I noticed the linen so much then - but I've certainly noticed now - they're lovely!!!

I'm also obsessed with having the window open so I can snuggle in under the possum fur throw (from New Zealand where such products are not only acceptable, they're applauded give the damage those guys do to the native vegetation.) We also have a woollen underlay and a bamboo mattress topper that promises 'cloud-like' qualities. It's a wonder I ever leave my bed.

And unlike some people who swear that a TV in the bedroom is sacrilege, we have a TV, I often watch catch up TV on the iPad, I always have my phone by my bed for a few quick moves in Words With Friends and to check my emails before I get out of bed, and I have whatever book I'm reading as well as the next couple in the pile. It's my relaxation zone.

How's your bedroom? A haven from electronics? Does that work?

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Sharp As

One of the essential ingredients for a great Gravlax (you can find my recipe on that link) is a sharp knife.

I realised this when discussing my project with the guy at the fish shop so asked where he has his knives sharpened or if he uses a visiting service I could jump on to. He scoffed. He sharpens his own knives and said he'd be happy to do one of mine for the gravlax.

On my next visit, I took my knife of choice, wrapped in a tea towel in my hand bag. Can I tell you how weird it is to walk into a shopping centre with a large kitchen knife concealed on one's 'person'?

He was pretty underwhelmed by the quality but said he'd do his best. I knew they were crap (Geoff bought them) but good to have it confirmed. I still have my old knives from cooking school days, which are Sabatier, but they're carbon steel so worn and a pain to keep clean. I asked what he'd recommend and he said Global are great.

After doing my shopping, I popped back to collect the knife. He demonstrated its edge by shaving his arm (I wasn't sure if I was dazzled or slightly horrified) and kindly refused any payment. I held open my tea towel and he dropped it in before I tucked it back into my bag.
Don't go committing any crimes with that, he said.
I just laughed because it was so ridiculous, but still asked why.
It's got my fingerprints all over it.
Good point!

So, here we are, a few weeks later, and I'm the proud owner of new knives and goodness what a difference! Before now I may as well have been tearing up meat and vegetables with my bare hands.

Can they go in the dishwasher? Geoff asked.
I don't think we're that far along yet, quipped Elle quietly.
No! They cannot go in the dishwasher!! I yelled, as if they'd suggest the treatment for a new kitten.
Told you, said Elle quietly to Geoff.

Anyway, if you've been battling away with substandard knives, let me evangelise the joy of proper sharp knives!

Friday, 1 May 2015

Formal Business

I tell you what, these school formals are big business. Elle is currently having her hair blow waved for her Year 11 formal and it's got me thinking about what an event like this generates.

Here's my estimation per 'couple':
  • Ticket for student and date   $190
  • Frock  $130 (I've just picked an average - hopefully some are wearing something they had or borrowed, some are very expensive!!)
  • Shoes $150
  • Accessories/bag/Hollywood tape/special bra to fit dress - $80 (I'm not kidding - I'm guessing every one has had a heap of 'extras')
  • Nails  $40 (toes and fingers - again averaging shellacs, manis and pedis that could have that over $100)
  • Make up $90 (yes you get it back in product, but product you'd not otherwise have bought so that doesn't mitigate the damage)
  • Spray Tan (most girls now look like come from a different ethnicity than that to which they were born) $40
  • Hair $30
  • Transport from pres to event, from event to after party $40
  • Corsage $30
  • Button hole flower $12
  • Some extremely kind and generous parents are hosting pres and the after party - so I have no idea what that adds - let's have a stab at $60 for both (including parents at the pres) so $120
  • I'm assuming the boys had a suit and, if necessary, can wear their school shoes!
So about $952 per student, including date. What the heck - let's call it a grand! I had no allowance for eyebrow waxing or eye lash extensions or the essential hair cut and colour two weeks ago -  so I think that's not unreasonable! In fact, it's probably a tad light on.

So if there's 100 of the year level going, there's $100k!!

Not to mention the time running around and organising and appointments and emails of consent because they're all under age.....

You'd think they were getting married!

The school doesn't endorse a Year 11 formal - and I don't blame them. Again, some incredibly fabulous mothers have pulled it all together.

It's on tonight and the excitement reached frenzy point about.... let's think.... a week ago? So much so that in fact, they're all a bit over it already. Some have gone off their dresses, their shoes, their dates - the whole idea. Which might be just as well as I was worried that their expectations were such that they could only be disappointed.

Anyway, they will have fun and create some great shared memories with what will turn out to be some life-long friends - even if it does cost a small fortune.

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. ...