Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Crying Game

Not an original title I know, and I didn't want to use the other chestnut, 'Boys Don't Cry', because I'd like to witter on today about how good it is that boys - of all ages - cry.

The classic example from a couple of days ago is Roger Federer, tennis ace extraordinaire. Renowned for his "cool and clinical" approach to the game, he ------- actually, scratch that last phrase. I've always hated it when lazy sports journos and commentators have described his game as 'cool and clinical' because it smacks of disrespect and doesn't give him the praise he deserves for his skills, athleticism and demeanour. Besides, it's not as though he's some unthinking robot for goodness' sake! Instead, I'll go with the Athletic, Accurate and Awesome Ace of tennis. Hell, of sport as a whole and his cuteness doesn't hurt things either.

However, like an errant yellow ball hit out of bounds on a neighbourhood court, I'm way off topic. What actually surprised any of us who watched the Australian Open final between him and Marcos Baghdatis is that Federer got rather emotional after the game, with tears flowing rather freely. Who would have thought it: that the Systematic Swiss Steamroller would start crying?

And what did we do - we loved him even more, of course! Just when the 20 year old eager upstart Marcos B threatened to win our hearts and minds completely, Federer just had to welcome the water works and we were back in Federer Fan Land once again. Bless his little cotton blend double-aerated Nike tennis socks.

The following morning saw another male crying, this time right in front of me. It was Sapphire's first day of school for the year, and her seven year old classmate Giles wasn't coping too well with the idea. He buried his face into his mother's dress, trying to hide his fear from the other kids. Not that any of them could have cared less - they were all far too busy checking out their 'new' classroom and new teacher. Giles' Dad squatted down in front of him, took his hand and said, "It's OK son. I cried when I started school too." This worked rather well, and Giles skipped off uncertainly into the classroom. "Gee that was well done," I remarked to his Dad.
"Yeah. And I still cry. I'm a high school teacher."

What other occasions have I witnessed a boy or man cry? In my presence, my older brother Rob. At eighteen, he was already living and going to university in Adelaide, and came home every now and then to have his washing done, sleep in, grunt and eat everything that lacked a pulse. At sixteen, I was enraged to discover that his nightime nibbling had included my very favourite choc chip muesli bars (yes, I was young and hadn't got out much).
"Why did you eat them all? YOU DON'T LIVE HERE ANY MORE!" I shouted at him.
His eyes filled with tears as he shoved past me. Later that day I discovered that he hated living at the residential college, felt completely out of place and loathed his uni course with a passion. How lonely and trapped he must have felt. Besides, the food they got at Lincoln out-stank that from Oliver's orphanage.

When he and I lived together for a few months in our early twenties, he cried regularly when chopping the onions for whichever horrific concoction he was serving up that night. Onion tears don't really count, but he did look pretty funny wearing his swimming goggles one night. And no, goggles don't do anything to prevent the juice from devilishly pinging your eye balls.

My little brother, Dave, cried all the damn time. Mostly because I thumped him. He would deliberately do something to annoy me so that I'd snap and give him a dead leg, or, if really pissed off, a henpeck. For some reason, he was deluded enough to think that he was finally strong enough to physically beat me, and, until the age of fourteen, was continually proved wrong. He'd run off to either Mum or Dad, his mouth shaped into an 'O' of outrage and his eyes full of tears. "Buzz off Dave," they'd say disinterestedly, before he'd even get the dobbing words out. "Whatever you got, it was very likely you deserved it."

Dad was a far more elusive character to catch crying. Rob thinks he may have seen a tear or two emerge the day that he got smacked by a cricket ball right in the box (which cracked on impact), but he's not entirely sure. He was and is, the master of cracking his bald bonce up against the roof of the car, top edge of the trailer and against anything in the wood working shed. I'd wager that a few tears of sheer impotent rage accompanied the stars of pain swimming in front of his eyes. Recently we all witnessed him crying when he had concluded the eulogy for Grandpa's funeral. His words were eloquent, heartfelt, respectful and humorous and for that, his tears were natural and fitting.

I've never made my beloved Love Chunks cry, or at least not that he's admitted to me. He is a real pushover when it comes to sad movies however. When the clown character is trying to hang himself in 'Brassed Off' he blew rather too loudly into his handkerchief; he pinched me when I smiled mockingly at him during scenes from 'I am Sam' and he still cries every time he and Sapphire watch 'ET' on DVD.

David May cried and cried in year six. I'm so sorry about that David; please accept this heartfelt apology that's only 27 years too late. Then, in 1979, David was supposedly my boyfriend. I knew this because he got Matthew Cullen to throw me a note that read: Do you love me - yes or no. I love you, but only if you tick 'yes'.

As was the norm for eleven year olds, any boyfriend/girlfriend relationships were based on violence. If you were pinched, punched, chased or had your hair pulled, the romance was on. As one of the tallest girls of my year, I towered over pretty much all of the boys and my strength was formidable thanks to having two brothers who helped my henpecking, dead-legging and chinese burning skills. David ran up to me, gave me a swift punch in the arm which was a clear courtship sign for me to chase him, catch him and give him one right back. Unfortunately I was a bit too enthusiastic in my return thump and didn't stop at just one. I left him lying on the sandy ground under the monkey bars, crying his eyes out. He didn't punch me ever again, nor did he ignore me totally, as was the other form of courtship. Lucky for David, puberty kicked in when we were at highschool and he was at least six feet tall and rather spunky when I last saw him, so hopefully he found a partner less pugilistic and more appreciative of his other charms.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Hot things not seen in the Riverland

This is my last piece on our holiday in the Riverland, cross my heart and hope to eat a big pumpkin stuffed with broad beans and spam.

As discussed in my two previous posts -
http://blurbfromtheburbs.blogspot.com/2006/01/hot-hot-hot-above-headline-pretty-much.html and http://blurbfromtheburbs.blogspot.com/2006/01/even-hotter-hotter-hottest-i-should.html - the weather ensured that we three plus dog had as little desire or energy humanly possible to see or do anything that wasn't related to swimming, drinking, resting and fanning ourselves.

Sadly there were a few things that I would have liked to have done or visited if the mercury had not risen to 44C plus on every single bloody day we were there. Banrock Station winery, for instance. Whilst yes, we had technically visited, the 'wetlands walks' were entirely out of my six year old's reach and we had to take her back to the wine tasting building to recuperate. Hence, any birdlife, animal species or fascinating wetlands were only seen via a shimmering heat haze viewed through a dusty winery window. The thought of tasting any warm red wine on a blistering day was out of the question, but I would have sold my left arse cheek for a bucket of ice. Annoyingly the lady behind the counter studiously ignored Love Chunks and myself despite our being accompanied by a heat-stressed, red-faced, weeping child who couldn't hold her own head up. A future visit might involve a hearty walk on a winter's day through the wetlands and the insertion of an empty sparkling shiraz bottle up a certain cellar door person's rectum.....

In addition, we also managed to visit the Barmera drive-in to give Sapphire the experience of seeing Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire outdoors accompanied by the non-dolby, un-surround sound of our car's tinny FM radio. I suspect however that the night was somewhat diminished by eating popcorn cooler than the canteen that made it and sharing a kitkat that oozed out of its packet directly on to the ground as soon as it was opened. The wretched blowflies hadn't retired to their maggoty beds as would be expected by 9pm, but instead buzzed around us, smug in their knowledge that our car was still too hot to sit cooped up in for three hours. Maybe one day we'll see another movie on a balmy night without insect guests and with foods at the normal temperatures.

Perhaps too, Monash Adventure Playground will revert to the life threatening and thrilling experience that I as a child knew it. On our visit it was no more exciting than a large council playground with BBQ facilities. Where was the death defying spinning/rolling funnel thingy? The clattery metal rollercoaster, the collar bone-crunching flying fox? What about those huge giraffes - one that my Dad put my Mum on and left her there stranded, laughing and rocking away for what seemed like hours - that was worth the (free) entrance fee alone! Where was the coccyx-cracking bumpy slide and those death defying swing ropes? The rust, for added drama and visual stimulation?

The signs near the wooden maze (which looked more like a collection of reject backyard fence sheets to me) told us that the welded metal creations of the 1970s were taken down in 1992 due to concerns about legal action and public liability threats. What a damn shame - our daughter will miss out on the varied and humorous opportunities to see some other kids knock their teeth out on the gigantic see saws or fall off the dizzying loops of the slippery dip.

Despite my rants, there were lots of things that we didn't even get a chance to visit, let alone criticise. I'm sure that 'Rocky's Country Music Hall of Fame' was lamenting our non-attendance. Hell, if anything's going to get me knocking on their door, then a display of concrete guitars with handprints of Aussie country music entertainers is it. Not to mention the nearby township of Cobdogla. Sounds more like a euphemism for a man's goolies, doesn't it: "Poor chap, he was hit straight in the cobdoglas." Said place is host to the sensational sounding 'Cobdogla Irrigation and Steam Museum', which apparently boasts the only working Humphrey pump in the world. Wow, let's breathe in deeply for a second to take all that in. A museum of irrigation? A Humphrey pump?? I knew that H.B. Bear had been made redundant by Channel nine, but to stoop as low as this....? It's very sad.

How is this for shocking - we couldn't find the Big Orange. That's right, the Big Orange. It was not mentioned in any of the brochures about the region from the Tourism Office and there was only one sun-scorched sign that had been bent in half. Where the hell was it? I recall last visiting it with my family in about 1979, and commented that it really should have been called 'The Big Pink' because the sun had faded the orange paint so markedly. Although perhaps with the benefit of more adult reflection now, that name may have attracted a rather different kind of tourist entirely.

And finally, the Pelican Point nudist camp on the other side of Lake Bonney was also overlooked by us. Even though it was indeed made an attractive proposition by the photo of the sixty-something owner standing starkers near the entrance sign, we gave it a miss. It was hard enough slapping on enough Factor 30+ sunscreen on our backs without having to worry about the front of our bums as well.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Even hotter, Hotter, HOTTEST !!

I should have known that it would have been tempting fate to write a blog last week about the weather because it only got worse.

We had spent a night in Adelaide in order to attend a funeral, but there was a positive side to the experience: eight full and restful hours of sleep in our own air-conditioned home. As we drove back to our 'renovated 1900s farmhouse' situated between Berri and Loxton, the happy conversations petered away.

My mind, however, was engaged in a frenzied mental moshpit: 'Another five days in the hellish heatbox - no, don't be negative, it's your holiday. Think of it as getting back to the simpler life, of mind numbing heat - no! There'll be cooling breezes and the sounds of nature - yeah, like the horse-sized wasps, eye-gouging blow flies and the crack of falling gum tree branches......' My negative side was clearly winning the argument. The only positive point I could accept was that the heat of the day would be a form of workout that would help me in my quest to lose those pesky 2005 kilograms.

Three ours later our ageing Magna station wagon puttered along the dusty drive towards the house. Despite the car immediately switching to oven mode as soon as Love Chunk took the keys out the ignition, Milly the dog still seemed to be torn between staying in the car (and hence, with some chance of going back home again) or jumping down to resume her frenzied dance amongst the ant hills. Us humans slowly unpacked the car and rustled up some hope that the inside of the house might be miraculously cooler than outside.

As the dietician would have said to Elvis, Fat Chance. Perhaps this was the time, then, to go and see the Overland Corner Hotel, home of my ancestors the Brands. We passed by the turnoff to Loch Luna and for the first time since coming back to the Riverland I felt relieved that we hadn't been able to get a booking there. A more desolate place would be hard to find; dead trees, water hiding beyond the salt flats and heat that burned out the blue of the sky. Overland Corner was also situated in this type of landscape, but it was a welcome oasis. It very much revealed its humble English origins and the owners had carefully planted and watered some lawn amongst the shade of a large gum tree.

Alas it was too damn hot to sit outside and the added bonus of having several hundred blowies that were the sort that kept going straight for your nostrils regardless of how much hand waving you did in front of your face forced us inside. The hotel's front bar was about the size of our bathroom but we eagerly ordered some drinks. The hotel-keeper, Andrew, served us. In appearance he personified the bogan South Aussie - longish goatee, shaved head and chunky tattooed body. We tried to engage him in some conversation, being only the second group of people he had there. "Hey Andrew, my great-great-great grandmother was Mrs Brand, the first lady who ran this place."
With sweat rolling down his temples, he looked about as interested as Kate Moss at a good parenting convention. "Ep," he nodded. Even the letter 'Y' on 'yep' was just too hard for him in this heat.

A moist nose touched my leg and I looked down to see a red heeler, tail wagging. "What's your dog's name, Andrew?"
"Boots." His tone didn't encourage me to ask why, but Love Chunks took another tack: "Andrew, we read that you guys serve lunch. Do you have a menu?"
"Ep. Look above youse." There, above the bar, was the menu, written in chalk. Everything fresh-fried straight from the freezer; schnitzel, nuggets, calamari rings and a fishermans' basket.
Despite our misgivings we ordered some and ventured into the dining room with our drinks. Our actions stirred Andrew a little because he said, "Bit hot down there." And so it was. There was an air conditioning vent in the ceiling but it was only there for show that day. We still ate our lunch there determinedly and Boots sat under the table, hoping for some spillage.

Well it was a nice visit and that Andrew sure was a chatterbox, but a swim was definitely needed afterwards as we unpeeled the t-shirts stuck to our backs and hoped that our backsides didn't look as though we'd pissed ourselves. "Let's go to Lake Bonney! I always loved swimming there." This was true and any kind of swimming water was going to be OK by us today.

We found a spot on the grass in some shade and reeled from the hot air. The 44C temperatures were being reflected off the lake and sucked the moisture from our mouths. We ran towards the water and flung ourselves in - it was too hot to worry about how cold the water would feel when it first touched our 'goolies'. "Geez, this is like a hot bath!" Love Chunks said. A hot muddy bath, but who cared, it was water. An hour later, I climbed out and was dry before I reached my towel, so I went back in the water again. We did this all afternoon until we had to admit that it was time to head back to the hellishly hot farmhouse.

All of us had cold showers that were as warm as the waters of Lake Bonney. Love Chunks cooked tea on the barbeque - steaks and sausages and we sweated endlessly as we ate, brushing the flies away with our non-utensil-using hands. Sapphire disappeared into the bathroom, a cheap 1970s low-ceilinged, non-insulated addition in full afternoon sun which was therefore the hottest part of the house. She emerged a few minutes later, her sweat-soaked hair slicked to her head and looking hotter than she did in the Overland Corner dining room. "Oh Mum, don't go to the toilet, it's too hot!"
.........and for the first time in my life I was glad to have constipation.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Hot Hot Hot!

The above headline pretty much gives the topic of this blog article away doesn't it. It's summer down here in South Australia and it's HOT.

We four - my adorable husband Love Chunks, six year old delight Sapphire and nearly two year old furry faced mutt Milly, have gone 'up' to the Riverland for our summer holiday. Essentially we're doing what we normally do at home, but in a renovated 1900 farmhouse close to the Murray river and other local attractions such as Loxton, Berri, Monash Playground, Lake Bonney, various wineries and foodie places.

I had such fond memories of my family's annual trip to the Lake Bonney caravan park at Barmera in the 70s and 80s when we were joined by other families that taught at the same highschool my father did. We had the best spot in the entire park: right on the edge near the shady trees, our own ablutions block and personalised lake frontage. Our days were spent eating the sticky sweet local stone fruits and then diving into the warm lake waters to wash off and cool off.

The warm lake waters should have set my mental alarm bells ringing, but I must have deliberately repressed it in my determination to not go on another seaside and blow-fly wind fest on the Yorke Pensinsula.

Instead, as we have found in our first four days so far, the weather up here is nearly ten degrees celcius hotter than in Adelaide with an entirely unfamiliar strain of fist-sized orange wasps and hordes of ants on their own pilgrimage to mecca, or failing that, my feet. Milly has found it nearly impossible to find a grassy spot to lie out on under the shade because it has already been developed to Surfers Paradise proportions by ant hills. The poor beast leaps up as though she's been electrocuted, dashes over to the pavers, rolls around frantically to get them off and snorts a few keen ones out of her nose. This is repeated by her at least another dozen times whilst we're outside eating our breakfast.

We make a concerted effort to eat our first meal of the day al fresco because it is quite honestly the only time we can bear to be out there without rivers of sweat running down the grooves of our backs, landing rather disconcertingly amongst our already-sweltering butt cheeks. As I get up from the table it feels as though I've peed my pants: this makes me yearn to have another shower despite my hair still being wet from the one I had twenty minutes earlier.

Our 'convenient riverbank frontage' is a dusty kilometre walk from the house through salt bush to arrive at the edge of the reeds. The reeds thin out enough for the swimming hole to resemble a rice paddy garnished with bark strips from the overhead gum trees. Sapphire, thankfully, is happy enough to paddle through the murk and go for a swim, which means that we must do too.
She's a city-raised child who knows nothing of slime, nibbling carp or sink holes, so either Love Chunks or myself make sure that we're between her and the deeper waters. Burnside pool in the thick of the energetically chattering VacSwim crowd never looked so good....

As we head back to our 'lovingly restored limestone farmhouse' glimpsed on the web and talked up by the Loxton tourism officer, I realise that it is really just a satanic sweatbox. The only airconditioner is in the cavernous loungeroom and would have been brand new when Neil Diamond was having a Hot August Night. The bloody contraption sounds like a middle aged man starting a porsche - lots of noise, fury and appearance but providing nothing of any value. We three humans lie prostrate on the sofas, preferring to be deafened by the air con than risk inviting in the heat that makes even lifting my head up a daunting challenge.

Sapphire is the so-called lucky one of the house - she gets to sleep with the house's only pedestal fan blowing on her. The air reminds me of our oven in fan-forced grill mode, but at least her hair is stirring and she is sleeping soundly. Kids don't ever seem to notice when it's hot, and I guess that's why I chose to return to these holiday stomping grounds of twenty years ago in the first place.

Milly the dog is exiled to a trampoline-style bed outside. Unusually she is not whining to be let in, and that is surely because she can feel the waft of stale heat billow from the kitchen door every time we go inside. She is mostly safe from the ants on her lofty 15cm bed, and has learned that chasing and snapping at the wasps will only end in a nose that either has to be licked for twelve hours straight or be permanently placed into the water dish to soak.

Love Chunks and I finish off our glasses of wine. Without saying it out loud, it is clear that we are both hoping we'll be merry and anaesthetised enough to go to bed in our room which would be a jolly useful place for a busy bakery to leaven their bread. We have an ancient ceiling fan that creaks ominously as it is turned on. I always feel afraid and hope that it will survive another night without the blades crashing down on our double ensemble. The plastic knobbly thing under the fitted sheet is the wiring case for the heated blanket and my knowledge of its existence just makes the room feel even hotter. We both writhe around seeking a cool spot to lie in, cursing the noisy fan and dreaming of our fully air conditioned house in Adelaide.

Eventually even we two old farts sleepily give in and accept a visit from the Sandman. We both sleep on our backs in a dead starfish position in the hope that we'll have maximum exposure to the air moved reluctantly by the fan. Love Chunks rolls over on to his side, facing me. "Bam!" Out shoots his left fist, straight into my face.
"Hey! Love Chunks, wake up! You just hit me!"
"Wha-what? Oh, sorry love, I'll roll over to the other side....g'night... zzzzzzz....."

Lucky sod. He's able to go back to sleep quicker than I can say "Is it too immature of me to want to go to the freezer and eat one of Sapphire's sunny boys?" I decide that it isn't and walk into the hottest - and quietest - room of the house.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Signs of the Times

At six years old, Sapphire is rather advanced in terms of being able to read, write and understand some fairly complex issues. That doesn't mean, however, that she is not six years old in her interests, emotions and intentions.

She is at the signwriting stage, firstly being content to select a pale blue piece of previously-used paper from Love Chunks' workplace to write "Wellcome to my Room. If I am not here, I am at School. If you want to be my friend, sign here..." (a pen was stuck to her door with a blob of bluetak) "...... and put your email address here__________________." I remember doing the same sort of thing, but without the email requirement of course.

This week has seen quite a collection of signs appear around our house. Stuck down using twenty pieces of sticky tape by the front door, the first one reads: "Wellcome to the L's House. Did you have a Merry Christmas and we wish you a Happy New Year," all squeezed inside a large drawing of a santa hat.

Our spare room has a lovely red sign that announces in dramatic capitals: "VISTOR ROOM. Plesea come in." Presumably not if there's already someone in there, surely? To make their stay just that little bit extra special, she's placed the 5cm high rubber figurines from 'Chicken Run' on the quilt cover. Nothing like Rocky the Rooster and Ginger the Hen to really make someone feel at home, especially if they're nestled between two neopet toys from Maccas.

As I pass down the hall and through the kitchen, the laundry door reads: "Plesea Come in. Toiletit Room." Sadly yes, our only loo is still found at the arse end of the house in the laundry. Not too classy, but until Mr Mortgage is under a bit more control, it will have to suffice.

In the laundry itself, the Porcelain Throne Room is tastefully cordoned off by a wooden plank door, reminiscent of those old long-drop dunnies found in churches and halls out in the sticks; big gap at the top, and, like a public toilet, a rather large gap at the bottom. This guarantees you absolutely no privacy if you need to have a sit/shit on your lonesome whilst someone else is loading the washing machine. It is with great relief that I can tell you that it was all the work of a previous owner. Anyhow, Sapphire has stuck the following near the handle: "Toiletit in here. If you need to."

Inside the tiniest room of the house is another two signs, both rather useful in their own ways. "Just a reminder to plesea wash your hands," and "Sorry, but if you want to go and wash your hands go to the front door and look back theres a door go in." A tad lacking in grammar, but she's right. If you pooh-pooh the idea of washing your meat hooks in our trough, you can wander back to the front hall into the bathroom, whose door is directly in line with the front door. I'm not sure what it means in Feng Shui in terms, but living in fear of bending over to pick up the soap in the shower in case Love Chunks chooses that precise moment to fling open the front door and get the newspaper is not fun. No-one needs to see a double-moon courtesy of my sudsy clumsiness and I'd prefer not to give anyone a fright or thrill during one of my more vulnerable moments.....

To move on as hastily as we can from such an awful mental picture, I'll take you out of our hellish 1980s pink and brass bathroom to our back door. Sapphire has taken it upon herself to devise three main rules for behaviour in our garden. They are:
1) "No more than two pepole on the trampaline." Fair enough, and the message is even stronger when accompanied by a rather graphic picture involving three stick figures and many broken limbs;
2) "There is abslotly NO squiting the Dog. Pepole are but only on hot days." Again, this is one that I devised a few months ago. You see (get the violins out), not only do we only have a loser loo in the laundry, but we also don't have a pool and haven't got around to getting Sapphire even a paddling pool. Instead, she and her friends have had great fun with those $1.29 plastic household squirters, taking shots at everything around except the dog and each other. Unless it's hot, and then they can squirt each other, but not the dog. Clear?
3) "And there is no opening the Gate and not Closeing it because the Dog is not trained." Enough said - we love our dog and don't want to see her squashed by passing traffic.

She is even starting to be critical of other signs she sees around in her world. "Hey Mum, are they really the good Good guys? Why?" and "Who is Harvey Norman? The woman singing always says Go Harvey Go Harvey Go Harvey Norman and we never see him on TV, do we?" And the t-shirt I wore to swimming today had 'Diets Stink' on it. "Mum why are you wearing that when you are on a diet? Shouldn't you be off your diet if you're going to wear that shirt today?" Clever little bugger.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Pee Bee Gee Bees

My six year old daughter Sapphire is a true child of the seventies and eighties despite being born in 1999 ('Tonight we're gonna party like it's 1999....').

Being the nerdy, no-music video parents that we are, Sapphire has virtually no idea of what singers or groups are in right now, what they sing, what they look like or what they sound like. The only pop music that enters her universe is via the programs on the ABC kids morning shows or via the advertisements overlapping 'Australia's Funniest Home Videos'.

If you read my blog article:
http://blurbfromtheburbs.blogspot.com/2006/01/realistic-resolutions-for-2006-like.html, you will know that whilst I may prefer eighties music, I don't actually want to listen to the same eighties songs over and over on Fuddy Duddy FM. By the same token I also don't want to keep punching the station selector buttons every time I hear some digital excrement called a 'song' or have to avoid the inanities of the DJ and the blaring, brain-celling zapping ads.

At home, if there is a) some free time and b) no dishes, washing, folding, ironing, cleaning, cooking, recycling, weeding, dog walking, plant watering, bed-making to do, I might look through our 300 or so CDs and put one on. This is when Sapphire bounds in, eagerly listening. "What's this one Mummy? I like it!" She will immediately begin boogeying around the living room as though she really is the Dancing Queen, young and sweet only seventeen. Her hunger for the music - any sort of pop music -made me feel like a neglectful parent, so I grabbed a few CDs and burned a compilation CD for her.

She has played it as often as Harris Scarfe's played their Christmas carols tape over November and December. Her bedroom door is now almost permanently closed when it always used to be open and Love Chunks and I can hear thumps and bumps from the depths of her little pale purple kingdom. I have been reluctant to fling open her door and invade her privacy, but I've taken thirty seconds to get over this and invade it anyway.

The first occasion found her dressed up in her little Singapore Airlines girl outfit, shiny purple wig and singing into her hairbrush. Can you believe it - kids still sing into their hairbrushes in front of their dressing table mirrors!
"What are you doing?"
"Nothing Mum....." she said, hiding her brush behind her back.
"Are you enjoying the CD?" I gestured towards my old ghetto blaster (there's an eighties term for you, but I don't know what the kids call them now), which was playing 'Rivers of Babylon' by Boney and his Brilliant Ms.
"Yeeeees." Still she wouldn't look at me.
"What's the matter, Sapphire?"
"Mum, I'm a bit embarrassed with you in here."
"Oh, I see. Sorry love, I'll let you get on with it then," and I backed out of her room into the hallway. Madonna's 'Vogue' was clicking into gear.

My heart gave a little squeeze - this was just the first stage of the 'Omigod Mum please go away, I don't need you here' phase that I would be on the receiving end even more in the coming years. Sapphire had never been embarrassed in front of me before, not even when I stripped off her school uniform and dressed her in her bathers whilst standing on the bleachers at the pool. Not even when she had to touch her toes after bathtime for me to apply some canesten or when she saw me dancing around our gum tree during our New Years' Eve party. She was even happy to walk with me and hold hands when I tried out my brief-and-ill-advised boho look.

Later that evening, I asked her over dinner, "So Sapphire, what songs do you like the most?"
She had a long chew of her chicken as she considered.

"Kylie Minogue. I know what she looks like because there is a poster of her at the shop next to the newsagent. That Shrek song, you know, 'Hey now, you're an allstar' and Aff-Aff umm, I don't know what it's called by, Sav, sav, something to do with gardens."
"You mean 'Affirmation' by Savage Garden?"
She nodded. "And I like that song by the Pee Bee Gee Bees that's from the red CD you gave to Dad for Christmas once. But I don't know many of the words."
The Pee Bee Gee Bees? "Oh, you mean the Bee Gees! Don't worry, Dad and I don't know what they're singing either. Before they sing 'You should be dancing' it sounds like Deedela deedela doo as far as I can work out."
"Oh, OK," she said, and went back to her meal. "Hey Mum?"
"How can we find out what they're really singing?"
"Um, I suppose we could look it up on the internet and---"
"COOL! Can we do it after tea, please, can we? Please?"

Great, just great. What marvels we find via the internet. Thank you so much Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb, for such meaningful lyrics. Lyrics that I now have to explain to my six year old daughter:
What you doin' on your back, ah?
What you doin' on your back, ah?
You should be dancin'
You should be dancin' yeah

"Hmm well," I said to Sapphire, in a deep 'My Word Is Law' voice. "I guess he's telling her to get up off the floor so that the dancers don't tread on her. She's better off up on her feet dancing with them."
"But why is she on the floor in the first place?"
"Aah, well, I reckon it's just about time for bed, Sapphire. We'll talk about it tomorrow."

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Milly and Billy

Our friends have a dog called Billy, a cute little Australian terrier with a spring in his step and a glint in those malteser-sized eyes of his.

His owners were staying at a beach house on Hindmarsh Island and they weren't allowed to bring him along. We were more than happy to have him stay as he's been a visitor here before and gets along extremely well with our Milly. At eleven years old, he is starting to slow down, and has been known to put his back out when leaping off the dizzying 30cm heights of his back step. His eyes are a little milky now too and one of his back legs is up in the injured position the majority of the time he's running like a greyhound for the tennis ball, but if you're prepared to give him a pat or throw a ball, then he'll always find the energy from somewhere within his tiny body.

Several Billy-occasions earlier, his owners told us, "Oh, we've never had him neutered because he's never once been interested in other dogs. He wouldn't know what to do even if he did get, um, his interest up." Oh, that's nice, maybe it's because he's too small to make contact with any potential partners? "Nah, he's just interested in his balls. Tennis balls, I mean."

Naturally Billy found a few of Milly's half-chewed tennis ball carcasses during his exploratory sniffing tour of the garden as we farewelled his holidaying owners.

Well well well, when the owners are away, then Billy Dog Thornton will play. So much for being a suspected eunuch; he instead rode Milly around the back lawn like a wheelbarrow. "The dirty old bugger!" Love Chunks exclaimed, with about equal measures of disgust and admiration. Our furry orange girlie may have been ten years younger and therefore have youth, strength and speed on her side but the old boy was persistent. The exercise they were getting was considerable - it was certainly better than a concrete run at a boarding kennel.

Three hours later, I returned home from taking Sapphire to her VacSwim session and Billy Bob was still at it. No visible signs of the - ahem - pink paraphernalia were ever present, but the mounting and humping actions were still being acted out in a rather determined form of sexual marathon. "Hey Dad, you should see Billy - his bottom is moving up and DOWN" Sapphire yelled. It was impossible not to visibly wince and cross my fingers under the table in the vain hope that the neighbours didn't hear and that our daughter wasn't then going ask us just why Billy found it so fascinating to develop his own version of a ride-on mower....... It also spoiled the ambience of eating lunch at our outdoor setting somewhat.

Four hours later Love Chunks gestured for me to have a look out of the laundry window. It was a rather sad but funny tableau - Milly holed up in her kennel with only her exhausted face poking out of the entrance, and Billy sitting a foot in front of her, waiting, waiting, with his stumpy triangle tail wagging at mach speed in anticipation.

Luckily for Milly, Billy was exhausted by bed time and content to flop into his basket which was touching the edge of her bean bag. As we locked up and turned off the lights, I commented to Love Chunks that I hoped he would survive the night.

He did, and ate a full bowl of weetbix and milk, something his owners said he didn't like. The huge day of physical exertion had clearly generated an appetite in an old dog that no longer wanted to eat anything for breakfast at home. Milly slurped up hers a couple of metres away, sneaking guarded looks at her shaggy little mate(r).

She was right to be on alert. No sooner had he finished his weetbix than he made his sudden moves on her. This time, Milly was prepared, having obviously given some furry thought to this overnight. All she did was sit down, and thus remove the temptation immediately. If Billy was able to have scratched his head in puzzlement he would have. Instead he trotted off to the shaded lawn under the gum tree and gave himself a rather thorough licking.

And that was the pattern for the rest of his stay:
"Have a crack at Milly - bugger it, she sat down.
Oh well, I'll have a lick of my own rude bits;
Then I'll find the tennis ball; and
Hope that someone from the cute orange dog's house throws it.
Ooooh hang on, Milly's got up again, I'll have another go.........."

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Realistic Resolutions for 2006

Like everyone else on this earth, or at least in the blogosphere, I'd dearly love to say that my three New Year's Resolutions are:

1) Be a more patient mother to my daughter Sapphire, 6

2) Be a kinder, more loving and understanding partner to Love Chunks

3) Lose weight.

Blah blah blah, wouldn't we all, yawn, snore, zzzzzz. And if you reviewed those plans by December (or even next weekend) they'd be as forsaken as a Hilton sister at a literacy test. Instead I think it's better to save myself the agony and guilt of so obviously failing and develop some alternative - and more importantly achievable - resolutions.

Number One - To squeeze the toothpaste in a proper and mature manner. Most of us (especially when we're in a hurry) just grab the tube and moosh it up in our fist, aiming for the cheap and easy squirt. This results in the top and middle becoming entirely devoid of toothpaste due to the crushed-coke-can effect. Instead, I hope to spend 2006 squeezing the tubes gently from the bottom. This will ensure that there will always be toothpaste available at the top end. No, this is not going to ensure world peace as we'd like it, but it's a rather nice start for the second-smallest room of our house.

Number Two - I will endeavour to actually program and listen to my iPod. Love Chunks, bless his sweet heart, asked me in December 2004, "Would you like an iPod for Christmas?" "Nah, not really," was my response. Despite this fairly clear indicator, he bought one for me anyway. For several days it languished in the box until LC managed to interest me enough to get it out and add on some music. Trouble is, I don't listen to music anymore. I was an eighties gal, but that doesn't mean I want to listen to eighties music for the rest of my life. Current pop songs are excrement and I have no patience trying to find a new song worth a cracker amongst the stream of advertisements and inane DJs on radio. We don't watch music videos because most of them are too suggestive for us to feel comfortable with Sapphire watching them. In addition, with our three busy lives seemingly filled with constant noise, Sapphire's DVDs, Love Chunks' televised sport, telephone calls, TV - I feel like peace and quiet, not music.

Oh dear, this is only resolution number two and I've already rebelled against it. I resolve to watch (or tape, because I'm in Pillow and Doona Land by 10pm these days) 'Rage' every couple of weeks to see if there's anything that lights my fire. Musicwise at least.

Number Three - That I restrict my pillow flipping tendencies to a mere four times per hour. Logic has told me for years that the constant flippin' search for the cooler and/or softer spot in your pillow is a fruitless one. This year I will reduce such activity and maybe keep the fan in our room all year, not just summer, ensuring cool pillows all the time.

Number Four - At thirty seven years old, it is high time for some make up. My life and clothes may be casual but the laugh lines, forehead wrinkles, crows' feet, neck rings are forcing people to mistake me for our local nutter granny who collects beer bottles to supplement her pension. Perhaps some subtle lipstick, mascara and foundation to smooth out the rough bits will change me into a healty and well-preserved woman instead of "Whoever thought that a grown woman could have a face like a blonde Sharpei."

The first steps, for me, will be to boldly venture where I have never been before - the 'beauty' counters of Myer and David Jones. Normally I put my head down and barrel my way through the perfume sprayers to the more relevant departments such as the books, DVDs and gift boxed chocolate sections. The next step will be to carefully select the educator and applicator of the make up - no-one resembling a transvestite or circus clown will be approached. They will have to actually hear my plea to 'keep things light and subtle' or risk a meltdown not seen since I was made up to look like a peacock in a wind tunnel for 'Wheel of Fortune' 1988. Third and final step - to practice applying it and actually wearing the stuff out of the house.

Number Five - Stop using fake tan lotion at home. Even if my legs are like fluoro tubes and are always the whitest at the beach/pool/party/resort/river, I will grit my teeth and try to celebrate the fact that their glow can help Love Chunks read his newspaper long after the sun has set. Besides, the so-called 'natural' tan loses some of its credibility when distinct finger marks are seen on the back of my neck, knees and armpits. A positive aspect to this resolution is that I will get some more free time - no longer will I have to stand starkers in our bathroom like a witless dill for half an hour whilst the lotion takes. Spray-on tans will also be avoided. Admittedly they do look good then and there at the beauty salon, but a bus-trip home later the underwire on my bra has rubbed a fetching white line across my rib cage and there's a lovely brown and white creek bed between my cleavage.

Number Six - Cease and Desist picking at my toes in front of the TV. It (quite fairly) repulses Love Chunks and, once started at, is almost impossible to stop. Other fiddly physical failings including picking out chunks of leftover food from my teeth and then eating it; peeling off my cuticle skins until they bleed; and blowing my nose in the shower. Actually, I think the nose one will be the hardest to quit.

Number Seven - Repress the urge to insult, tease and deride my little brother every single time I see him, email him or talk to him on the phone. I will remind myself that he is thirty five years old for gods sake: a happily married father of two boys; holding down a demanding job as a town planner in our busiest coastal location and responsible homeowner. He is no longer a turkey, a nuisance, pesty poo pants, Thumb up the Bum, Brainless little Bugger or as inconsequential as a honk into my hanky. Come to think of it, this one will be much, much harder to beat than blowing my nose in the shower.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Bitch on Wheels = Chubbo in a Corolla

When I was a p-plate driver in 1985, I had to make do with my parents' terminally uncool 1973 volvo that only had an AM radio as its main source of entertainment.

Despite this, I never once considered that it was worth adorning the car with any additional gear to give it a more groovy vibe: it was merely my single and my most valued source of transport before I went to university. After uni, I ended up with a poo brown 1971 Renault as my official first car and decided that it was already so comically ugly it was pretty. There were no bumper stickers witty enough to be worth the sixty cents it cost from a petrol station, nor did the flying turd-of-a-car need them.

Three years later, back from two years in London and reluctantly studying high school teaching, I ended up with my own volvo; a 1972 safari orange job with brown interior. It was referred to by my friends as the Jaffa, and by my then-boyfriend Love Chunks as a Sucked Crunchie (a Cadbury crunchie bar with the chocolate sucked off it). Again, no stickers, rearview dangly bits or seat covers were needed. It was butt ugly and I loved it.

Since then, Love Chunks and I moved from a Suzuki vitara (yay, a car made in the same decade we were actually living in!) to a mitsubishi station wagon, bought when I was in the first stages of labour. Both cars were left unadorned with the exception of a kitsch Winnie the Poo window shade for Sapphire when she was a baby.

Our preference for clutter-free cars appears to be a rare one, especially for any female drivers aged between 16 and 39. In the past few years it seems as though any single girl in a compact car feels compelled to slap on a sticker that describes her as a 'Bad Ass,' or proclaims that she's able to go 'From Zero to Bitch in Ten Seconds', or - my own personal favourite - confesses that 'I'm naked from the waist down.'

When you drive in the lane next to such self-publicising 'Hot Babe in a Barina' types, it invariably ends in disappointment. Said babe is usually a chubby 38 year old with three chins and the dress sense of Ma Clampett. This Barina Babe is also the type that works in the accounts section of a large government department and has several plastic trolls blue-tacked to the top of her computer monitor. In an effort to show that she's funnier than her dress sense, she normally has something like 'You Don't Have To Be Crazy To Work Here But It Helps' next the framed photo of her three cats.

It is not just the single women who like to use their vehicles to announce what they would like to be rather than what they are. Adelaide is sadly the stomping ground to a tragic number of Holden Commodores (I know, I could end it right there and it'd be tragedy enough) driven by females. I estimate that at least fifty percent of this species hail from the 'western or northern suburbs' and therefore consider having a full slab of beer in the fridge, a carton of Winfields and the same father for at least two of her five children is a huge success.

Perhaps that's being a tad harsh. Ah, who cares. Their choice of bumper stickers are not particularly subtle. One peroxided woman who was busy sucking on a smoke with her three kids in the back seat had 'Grow Your Own Dope. Plant A Man' emblazoned in shimmering silver, pretty well obscuring any view she might have had from her back window. Clearly now a bitter single mum but also on the lookout.

Another commodore gal with a wizened elbow of a face emphasised by the black kohl around her eyes, passed me the other day, with the winsome 'Who Needs Brains With Tits Like These.' I'm sure that her mother is very proud, but if the premature wrinkles on her face were anything to go by, her 'tits' could no doubt be slung over her shoulders to get them out of the way.

A chubbier version of the same woman parked next to me at Tea Tree Plaza during the pre-Christmas frenzy with 'No Fat Blokes. The Bumper Will Scrape' on the back. I'm assuming that the faded colours and curled up edges of the sticker indicate that she slapped it on her car about three stone ago.

At our school fair held in early December, I saw a family walking across the cricket oval, all matching in their Dr Dre/Eminem/Wu Tang Clan black t-shirts. Dad and Mum had the same kind of BonJovi hair circa 1986, with Dad adding a handlebar mo' for added effect. It was Mum however, who made me smile. The white lettering against the black of her t-shirt read 'Men are Idiots and I Married the King.' How could he not be offended by that, I know that Love Chunks would be. On second thoughts, maybe the man she was with wasn't her husband.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Ugly? Who says its ugly?!

I love flicking through a glossy magazine or seven, but I am sick sick SICK of those advertisements claiming to have the 'cure for unsightly cellulite'.

They invariably involve tubes of pricier-than-saffron cremes and a mutant oven mitt to 'brush your thighs with daily - it's so simple'. Of course it is. And my left arse cheek is housing the hidden city of Atlantis.

Why do we do this? Why do we, as a society, decree that cellulite is unsightly? Babies have cellulite for goodness' sake and unless bubsy is a butt-ugly inbred we don't squeeze the tops of its thighs and wrinkle our noses in horror, do we? (On second thoughts, maybe we do; especially when those limbs are so close to the nugget filled nappy).

Most women, including myself, take secret glee in buying those nasty NW and No Idea magazines with the cover story 'Celebrities with Cellulite.' Those pictures show that even human hairpins like Nicole Richie and ex-buddy Paris have cellulite somewhere on their person. Only a good studio shot and full airbrush treatment should fool us into thinking that a starlet/harlot has silky smooth thighs. And yet, despite these photos, we still look at our own cottage-cheese-wrapped-in-cling-wrap acres of flesh and fret.

Again, why? Who said that something we were born with is ugly and should be removed instantly? Why choose cellulite as the offending material? Which committee of cavemen, knights of the dark age or 1950s beatniks elected it as the body's boogeyman and why was their judgement accepted without question? Whichever bunch of clowns it was, it has led to a towering industry that promises a permanent cure but ends up with a waifer-thin wallet.

It leads me to wonder - what permanent parts of the body would I decree 'unsightly'? Hmmm, let me see...... I've never been a fan of elbow skin. As said before by Billy Connolly, it looks like the place where God placed the leftover testicle skin. It sure as hell doesn't improve with age either, but gathers in folds. What looked like cute little dimples at age five ends up resembling your great nanna's neck when you hit your thirties.
Let's petition Medicare to provide complementary elbow tucks and botox injections for any person over the age of ten.

This may be a tad blunt, but what about the arse? What's so attractive about it? Forget the function and the smell, what about its appearance - that aint a star I want to be gazing at any time soon. Think about it - we don't wear clothes that reveal it, nor do we see too many artworks with the arse as the main subject or any products named after it. There's no 'Arse scented Soap' available at Coles, nor are there arse-shaped Champagne bottles on sale.
Let's contact L'Oreal, Estee Lauder, Chanel et al to invent a creme and oven mitt to change the shape of that unfortunate poo pipe to, say, a blue love heart.

Bra fat is definitely a substance worth further investigation. Let's take it for granted that the other issues of obesity and wearing bras a size too small have been tackled without success. As such, when viewed from behind, the girthy gal has what looks like a fleshy set of brackets on each side. From the front she appears to be storing a couple of boiled eggs in her armpits and a garden hose directly under the lower elastic. Babies don't have this sort of fat. Well, they do, but at least we don't shove them into bras and make them appear like the love children of the Michelin Man.
Surely Blackmores, Nature's Gift or Fat Blaster could develop some tablets that smooth down the ripples, at a cost only twice that of the average fortnightly mortgage.

Finally, knees. Knees are ugly. If you're skinny they look painfully knobbly and if you're fat they look like tree trunks with faces carved into them. Childrens' knees look fine, but as with elbows, knees rapidly turn against you when you hit your twenties. Little chicken breast-sized pockets of fat stubbornly move into the area; or alternatively, every bit of muscle and sinew shrivels to reveal a skull-like knob of mallee root. Both effects result in a very creepy part of your body's neighbourhood. Any woman caught wearing shorts or mini skirts above the age of forty should be taken aside and lectured - nay, indoctrinated - on the evils of exposing such terror to unsuspecting members of the public.
This is endemic, especially in South Australia at the height of summer. Our local members should be petitioned to introduce a law effectively banning the exposure of knees by people over thirty. No creme, spray, pill or oven mitt will cure those shockers.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

2006 - Year of the Useful Hobby

"Hi, My name is Mike Carmichael and I live in Alexandria, Indiana with my wife Glenda. I'd like to tell you about Alexandria's only ROADSIDE ATTRACTION...the Worlds Largest Ball of Paint.
Imagine an ordinary baseball...Now imagine that same baseball with over 19,100 coats of paint on it. Getting the picture? Good, because that's exactly what my wife, Glenda and I have done for the past 28 1/2 years. Now that ordinary baseball that once weighed less than one pound now weighs in around 1,700 pounds!"

Looks more like a slightly deformed Malteser to me, or did Mike's surgeon save the testicle he removed during his cancer scare?

This patient and determined couple's story can be found on their website:
http://ballofpaint.freehosting.net/ because I wish you to know that I truly did not make the story up. To be honest, I wish I had made it all up actually, because it is so completely and utterly pathetic that an apparently normal-looking couple were prepared to do it (for over 28 years!) and that they're proud of it. In addition, the pathetic paint ball situation doesn't cover me with any glowing attributes because you could ask what the hell was I doing wasting valuable time finding this stuff in the first place.

I don't know what 2006 is the Official year of - but how about we put in a bid for the Year of Useful Hobbies. Ones that have a point, a use and can be discussed with strangers at dinner parties without receiving pitying and bored looks.

My guilt is probably as strong as the paintball people because my unofficial hobby is surfing other blogs. Not one of them has given me any practical tips for happiness, fitness, weight loss or furthering my intellectual development, but a heap of them have made me laugh 'til I snorted diet coke up my left nostril. It doesn't really make for fascinating conversation, trying to explain a blog or website that's not in front of you and "Oh, you had to be there. You've really got to see it to believe it." Yeah, that's really interesting.......

I also like to read through home design, food and womens' magazines, soaking up every glossy page, earmarking pages that take my fancy - recipes, home renovation ideas, decor, photos etc. To this date I've never used them for anything and would probably make Sapphire's old daycare centre really happy if I just dumped it in their playroom with some donated pairs of scissors and bottles of Clag glue.

Participators of other useless hobbies include my father who was an amateur beekeeper for many years. Whilst we loved the honeycomb and jars of honey he brought home, I'm sure that my Mum could have lived without the ready supply of sticky stuff. She suffers an allergy to bee stings that is so severe she goes into anaphylactic (sp?) shock within seconds and will die if not taken to hospital within thirty minutes. Of course Dad kept his hives on farmers' properties many kilometres from our house, but it didn't stop a few rogue scout bees lurking around the empty boxes at the back of the shed - right next to where Mum had her beloved garden. Every two months, he'd receive a copy of what might possibly be the world's least exciting magazine, The Australasian Beekeeper. "Whoo Hoo Dad, it's here, it's here!" I'd tease, waving the copy and running towards him like a lunatic. "Oh and look - it's got TWO pages of black and white photos instead of just the one!" He proudly tells me that the highlight of his beekeeping career was having his jars of honey photographed (in black and white, naturally) for the front cover. Even Kate Moss hasn't done that.

A work colleague's boyfriend was into Ivanhoe, King Arthur and other mediaeval pursuits. There were apparently enough fellow fans of this time in history to have a Mediaeval society that met every fourth Sunday for a picnic and get-together. They'd gather to eat huge roast chickens and lamb legs (not sure who had to put them in the wheelie bin after the bones had been thrown over their shoulders), scull down mead (there's a reason we don't drink it anymore) and hold a jousting tournament. Each member was dressed as authentically as imagination and budget would allow - chain mail, coats of arms on jerkins (tops folks, tops), leggings (the blokes), ankle boots (yep, ditto), pointy hats (the gals, or add bells for some of the slightly more outgoing boys) and weaponry. The national parks and wildlife authority did not allow them to have horses at the events, and the mind boggles at what the jousting tournaments must be like on foot.

Some of Sapphire's male contemporaries have perhaps one of the cruellest and most useless hobbies of all - collecting trading cards. Duel Masters, Yu-Gi-Oh and whatever the hell else is in vogue. These poor little six-seven-eight year olds buy 10 cents' worth of cardboard for $20 in order to find a picture that the manufacturer deliberately only prints a couple of. Then card trader stores find these 'rarities' and sell them to the poor saps for $50 a pop. There's no point telling the boys that they're worthless because they start spouting the obscure language and rules of the cards - "No but my Triple Dark Lord Dragon Fire completely overrules your Foul Blue Thunder Buns...." The sad thing is, these guys are going to be the ones who spend teenaged months playing Risk or Dungeons & Dragons instead of discovering girls and the joys of snapping a collarbone playing footy.

My beloved Love Chunks spent many years during school and in his early twenties playing the trumpet and the guitar. He proudly marched in Port Augusta's town band, played for a jazz group, tootled and strummed for many a function. When he and I got together, both instruments had been abandoned. No matter how many times I ask him to play something for me he refuses. The only time he got his trumpet out (ooooooherr, that sounds a bit suggestive) it terrorised the dog who tore outside and was rapidly digging a tunnel towards Mecca. He has strummed his guitar for Sapphire a few times, but clams up whenever I've inadvertently lumbered into the room. Pretty useless having two instruments you don't use, isn't it, but perhaps my mocking singing of "Kum bah yah, my lord, Kum bah yah...." isn't too encouraging. I'll make that a resolution to work on - Don't Mock, Encourage.

Another work colleague - who I detested - used to insist that we have the Christmas function at her place. This was presumably so that she could get outrageously pissed and fall off her high-heeled mules, but also so that we could see - and be dazzled - by her various collections and taste in decor. She lived in an AV Jennings/Mc Mansion home with a tiny garden filled with an above ground pool, 2 fat dogs and 3 shy cats. The blue plastic sides of the pool were artfully disguised with strategically placed potplants in which she'd placed some fake budgies.

Inside was the real horror - her duck collection. Pot holders, tea towels, boot scrapers, cross stitched pillow covers, paintings, coffee cups, storage tins, wooden trays and figurines. Lots of figurines, stored on those Copper Art telephone tables and inside twee kitchen cabinets that engulfed the house. The figurines were made of china, clay, wood, brass, pewter, crystal with the piece-de-resistance being a stuffed one she'd found in an antiques shop. It left me with not only nausea but a secret prayer that someday that little duck army would rise up and somehow find the collective strength to carry out her not so slight frame to the caravan park and de-tox centre where she belonged.

Love Chunks and I are also guilty of saving the back issues of Gourmet Traveller and Delicious Magazines. They hog up space in our cupboards and not once in five years have either of us sorted through them or referred to an old recipe within them. Why do we save them?

Sapphire has a collection of stones and gumnuts she'd gathered two years ago. The stupid little round money box she stores them in gets tipped over at least once a week, spilling out the annoying little pellets. Why does she still keep them?
My mother insists on washing out every single yoghurt and margarine container and keeping them in her already over-burdened tupperware drawer. Why - when will that mythical group of 79 people visit Mum and insist on taking leftovers home at the same time?

These are all unexplainable mysteries, but do point to most of us having collections and hobbies that are our own personal Chocolate Teapots in terms of usefulness in our lives. But maybe that's not such a bad thing. If no-one dies of stress or boredom then who's it going to hurt? Maybe Sapphire, who looks to be inheriting a truckload of magazines and margarine containers....