Sunday, June 24, 2007

Life's Big Question - Uggies or Crocs?

I'm about one-third of the way through writing a book at the moment. No, not a booker prize-winning novel that will cause stampedes of the literary-minded to Dymocks, a glowing interview with Jennifer Byrne and an all-expenses-paid first class flight to Chicago to feature as Oprah's book of the month but a self-help book (more on that later, perhaps).

What it means for me, right now in practical terms, is that I'm working from home for three months and can lower my standards of dress sense and style even further than my usual, "If it's black and clean, it's fine" approach to corporate attire. Look at the picture above; this is what I'm waahing on about. Come tomorrow (Monday), I'll be showered, dressed in my most forgiving elastic-banded trakkie daks, some form of polar fleece zip top and faced with the most important decision of the day - crocs'n'socks, or bare feet and uggs?

Love Chunks loves to chortle about my hypocrisy when it comes to Crocs. For the past two summers, whenever someone aged over 10 would galumph down the street in spindly legs wearing some huge form of primary-coloured kindergarten playground equipment on their feet, my comment would be instant and predictable: "God I hate those croc shockers. They're so butt ugly and make the wearer look as though they've stepped on a melted Smurf house on their way to a sheltered workshop." Then, a few months ago, Sapphire - on the cusp of turning eight years old - started to pester me to buy her a pair. "Pl-e-a-s-e Mum, everyone in my class is wearing them...!"

She had me at 'everyone' because, since finding out that it wasn't Bali belly from Langkawi but a foetus that was causing me to lose my lunch on the train, I swore to myself the most sacred of oaths. I swore that if my child - my own flesh and blood progeny - needed a particular brand or item of clothing in order to fit in, he or she would get it. There were too many painful memories I'd never been able to repress of having jeans that were too baggy to pass muster in 1982, finally getting a pair of kiaks the second they went out of fashion or hoping my dunlop volleys would look as cool as the ubiquitous Adidas Romes. It didn't matter that Mum said volleys only cost $7 from Grandisons compared to $38 for the Romes at Sportsworld; it was like suffering a thousand tiny papercuts in my heart when I realised that I'd have to go to school looking like the love interest from 'Revenge of the Nerds'.

Back to Sapph - therefore, if 'Crocs' were in - and they most definitely were in her class - she would get a pair. LC and I have agreed that our precious one is not to set the trends for her peers, but we will certainly try to make her school life easier if she has one less thing to worry about. So there we were, in the shoe shop: Sapph in raptures at my capitulation ("I know you hate them Mum but I love them and you!") and me rolling my eyes at her obviously-successful parental crawl and the sheer retardo-factor of the shoes. A few seconds later, however, I found a pair on my feet. Ohhhh Lordy lordy me; they were like wearing the buttery chocolate insides of a lindor ball - superbly soft and as light as a feather. Needless to say, two pairs were purchased that day and I defy anyone to say, "Does she realise how dumb they look - is she planning on doing some gardening on the sea floor?" because they're bloody comfy. Nicole Richie could rent them out as a holiday house they're that soft.

No such reversal of opinions about ugg boots. Being a Murray Bridge bogan born-and-bred means that they are as familiar to me as the ceiling shag pile in a Sandman and will continue to be long after the Hollywood rehab chickies have considered them too passe to wear with their micro minis and exposed nipples. They're warm, last forever and can take me from morning to evening with confidence. Not so acceptable at work though.

How will I cope with having to select items such as black boots, flat courts, loafers and strappy sandals to shove on my feet from September? Not to mention having to repress doing long and rattling burps out loud, followed by staccato bursts of flatulence and the occasional tuneless humming of an inane commercial jingle.... it will be tragic when my working-from-home time is over, I tell you!

In the meantime, I plan on making the most of it. If someone invites me out to a restaurant that features in the gold section of the Entertainment Guide, I will seriously have to consider whether the event is worthy enough for me to have to put aside the crocs'n'uggs and tart myself up. I did it for Love Chunks last weekend at Magill Estate and unless John Cusack phones and offers me a million dollars to spend a week with him in the Bahamas inhaling bollinger and haighs choccies, he'll just have to wait until September or come over to my place and see me ala ugg. Same goes for Jude Law.

Monday, June 18, 2007

"...and don't forget to bring back the Axylotl!"
Now that's something you don't hear every day, is it?

For a suburban blurber, sometimes the 'to do' list in my tattered Far Side paper diary says a great deal about what's occupying my lindt ball-sized brain. For instance, over the weekend it contained:


  • 9:15am - Sapphire's tennis lesson. Note to self: Is it our turn to bring coffee? Second note: must stop mucking around with parents Rocky, Ali, Grant and Roberto and instead pay attention to Sapph's efforts
  • Collect Axylotl from Nature Education Centre - anytime on Sat. between 1pm and 5pm for Sapphire's school. Don't forget the frozen beef hearts!
  • Do meditation homework: 1) stand starkers in front of full-length mirror for at least five minutes. Note to self: Room temperature, Love Chunks and Sapphire-free time and self-loathing permitting; 2) Eat and drink one meal s-l-o-w-l-y and without distractions like reading the paper, talking to someone else or standing up. Note to self: will be challenging, especially if forced to eat gluten-free crackers again; and 3) Look at your physical/emotional state - are you agitated, balanced or dull? Need to ask teacher: can I be all three at once?
  • Get Sapphire ready by 5pm - for dinner at Cafe Primo, Shrek 3 and sleepover at Angus's house. Note: remind her that only one - not all fourteen - Beanie kids will fit into her Jessie from ToyStory II backpack and that if I hear about Tamagotchi version four one more time I will decapitate Mama Beanie Bear and insert it up the split in Gummi Bear's backside...
  • Feed Axylotl - sorry 'Arthur' and train Dogadoo to not growl at him and to stop licking the taped up sides of the aquarium.
  • Tart myself up - booking at Penfold's Magill Estate for LC's early 40th birthday dinner made for 7:30pm. Note: need to start psyching myself up for make-up application at midday, with first attempts commencing at 3pm


  • Set alarm for 8:00am to collect Sapphire from Angus's place. Reminder: Mum Catherine hopefully not utterly fed up with Sapphire but has to get Angus and party food ready for Norwood Bowl adventure with boys from his school;
  • Re-do Chapter Five - editor hates it, and with good reason. Note: must delicately negotiate non-family and housework time around LC (likely to be hungover) and Sapphire (likely to be grumpy).
  • Go to Coles - need potatoes, liquid paper, non-gluten rice crackers that are edible and Farmers Union Feel Good Iced Coffee. Note to self: get the Sunday Mail because we need to know what's on the telly for the week.

You'll be pleased to know that all of the above tasks were ticked off my list and Arthur the Axylotl's arrival in Sapphire's classroom this morning was treated with the greatest interest and respect by the kids. LC had to carry the aquarium in because it was too heavy for me, I had Arthur swishing around in a plastic bag inside a blue bucket with his water aerater, beef hearts and PH soluton. Sapphire had her lunch and the information pamphlet.

After filling up Arthur's tank and placing his bag in the water to acclimatise, Love Chunks and I were ready to leave. We farewelled our sweet child who barely turned around to acknowledge us. She was already lost to the environment of school mates, armpit farts and the reflected glory of having a Mexican fish with legs in her home for the weekend.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Camping About

We three have just returned from a long-weekend at the 'Gateway to the Flinders Ranges', aka Mambray Creek.

It's a Claytons* kind of camping which is designed to ease in Four-Star-Stuck-in-the-Muds like myself who can pretty well put up with all sorts of outdoorsy grot and misadventure as long as there is a hot shower, flushing toilet and warm bed at the end of it.

Well Mambray Creek offers one out of the three. Unlike last year where we stayed at the long-drop toilet site, this year we opted for the flushing toilets and showers. We should have left our soap at home because the single shower available was cold water only - not particularly attractive in zero winter temperatures that could freeze the cuddle nuts off a koala. It also meant that any issues I had about BO or personal hygiene were also willingly thrown out of the tent window as I vowed not to remove the first two layers of clothing from my body for the next four days.

So, a flushing toilet, but no (hot) showers and no soft bed or warmly-lit five star BnB accommodation either. Instead, we had our rather grand 'Taj Mahal' tent which has separate wings for Sapphire, our gear, and Love Chunks'n'me. Any thoughts of nocturnal nookies with LC had long since vanished - who'd want to get hot and sweaty with someone who hadn't washed for four days and who smelled like burned wood and wino grease?

We spent our time 'out in the wild' with three other couples and their kids. Love Chunks and I sometimes took a second out from the group to smile smugly at each other and mutter, "Oh, isn't it great that we only have one child and she's eight years old," before walking back to the central camp area and being assailed with squeals, poo-filled nappy pongs and anxious parents herding their toddlers away from the flames like osteoporosis-inflicted goal keepers.

As the oldest child, Sapphire reigned supreme. The second oldest child, cousin Matt, remained enthralled with her instructional lectures on the virtues of collecting Beanie Kids and for a kid who likes to "be a battler who kills things and wins all the time", he displayed formidable commitment to sitting around a pretend gum-leaf fire singing songs to stuffed animals.

Little brother Jack was then free to play with Hamish, who normally flocked to Matt. Hamish was most certainly NOT going to hang around a boy - no matter how much he idolised him - who held hands with his girly cousin and did the limbo with 'Beanie kid Priscilla and Princess' under his arm. Even way past his bedtime when his mother had to unzip the tent and tell him to go to sleep for the tenth time, I could still him chattering on:
"Mu-u-u-u-m Sapphire said that there's a Viking beanie kid who's really strong and a super Beanie Boy who wears a cape and.....Muuuum? Do you think the Tooth Fairy will find my tooth tonight even though I'm not at home?"

By 8:30pm every night, each child was entombed in their sleeping bags and us parents were ready to party. Or, at the very least, drag out some dark chocolate and port and risk using a few swear words in our conversations.

As for nature, she did her best. Cold nights and clear mornings with just the right sprinkling of wildlife to make it interesting but safe. A couple of emus would regularly stroll through the camp on the lookout for stray toast crusts and squashed marshmallows and would stoically endure a growing gang of excited brats following them around yelling and brandishing tree branches. A few kangaroos sproinged around in the distance and plenty of kookaburras were on hand to laugh maniacally at my unfolded, uncleansed morning face and beanie hair. By 'beanie' I do not mean the infernal toys that Sapphire loves, but the woolly hat jammed on my head. From the morning of Day two it was obviously from the hairs greasily slicked against my skull that it was mandatory to adhere to the 'beanie time, all the time' rule to avoid offending the other innocent campers around me.

Love Chunks maintained his usual high standards of culinary creations - from a gas stove and a rickety card table he produced pan-grilled scotch fillets, green chicken curry, spaghetti bolognese, home-made smoked beans, pancakes and bacon'n'eggs. Oh and not to mention mastering the cafe tierre and producing coffee so fragrant and pungent that it took the enamel of our teeth and made us more alert than a Hilton Ho in the cell block showers.

As for me and camping - we'll always be content to remain nodding acquaintances but I grudgingly did enjoy myself. So much so that I bought an ourdoor gazebo tent thingy for our camp kitchen instead of LC's rather patchy tarp and four poles effort - does that mean I might actually want to do it again, and soon?

*Claytons was an alternative to alcohol, heavily promoted by John 'Bewdy Newk' Newcombe in the 1970s. Since then, anything described as a 'Claytons' in Oz means a safer alternative. For example: Bert Newton is our Claytons Michelen Man because he's more recognised in Australia'

Monday, June 04, 2007

Irritable Bowel?
Pretty bloody FURIOUS is more like it!

One, two....three...........PUSH !!!

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is the most inappropriate label since Goebbels describe Hitler's feelings towards Jews as "a little bit negative."

After spending a couple of weeks on a self-imposed detox, I have timidly ventured into eating a bit of sugar, cake, choccie and wine again, only to have my sphincter crack a full-sized hissy fit in immediate retaliation. Instead of cleansing out my system, I think the detox has made my Furious Bloody Bowel Syndrome even more sensitive - just a mere inhalation of the hundreds and thousands covering Sapphire's birthday cake the other day was enough to have me locked in our laundry loo, shivering in misery and producing pretty well nothing. (Note to self - must must MUST get a new window - the permanently-open louvres from the 1950s letting in the stiff winter breezes are not making lingering loo moments very comfortable).

As if Love Chunks hasn't had to endure many horrible nights of Doona Dutch Ovens and having my butt blasts follow me in from the back door to the living room, he now has to come and request that I ~ ahem ~ "Fill up a friggin' bucket and flush those river pebbles down and out of my sight." Whilst I bask in the security and endurance of his love and admiration, I think that viewing my abnormal excrement is not on his list of turn-ons....

Why do we use such gentle terms to describe such arse-tearingly awful ailments?
Strep Throat sounds a tad annoying, but if you have some streptococci setting up camp in your oesophagus you're in for a world of pain that isn't visible from the outside but makes even breathing in air an awful act to contemplate.

Wisdom teeth 'removal' - ah, if it were only that simple. Getting them taken out 'in the chair' sounded so easy, so quick. Several hours later, my jumper was dripping with cold sweat, my ears were filled up with tears of terror and the dentist (or should I say student) had to yell at me to stop hyperventilating. My eyes were squeezed shut, but my water-logged ears definitely heard the assisting nurse exclaim, "Oh Nooo!"
"Don't worry about it, Nance," was the hung-over reply from the stupid student.
The drama of my 'removal in the chair' was also relayed to the next few suckers in the waiting room who witnessed me falling through the stainless steel saloon doors, drooling blood - there was no budget for cotton pads - and gurgling, "Love Chu-u-u-u-u-u-n-k-s? Take me home now!"

Minimal Tearing during childbirth - Over eight summers ago, LC and I were eagerly lapping up all of the advice provided in the pre-birthing classes. At least, until we saw the birth video and the voiceover gleefully announced, "Sandie is so lucky - she has only torn two centimetres." I wanted to suck that foetus up my fallopian tubes like iced coffee through a straw it terrified me so much. As for my own situation a few months later, let's just say that I tore from A to V and walked like an arthritic cowboy for two months afterward.

You're all just meat on a slab to me, said the doctor, as I blushingly eased myself onto the examination trolley, dreading my annual pap smear. It was OK for him - he does hundreds of them a year but for a relatively modest gal who had never even seen him before turning herself in a pornographic letter 'Y', it wasn't so common. To add more fuel to my already fire-red face, the window of the examination room directly faced out onto the Greensborough line and the blinds were open. "Er, Doctor P, would you mind closing those blinds? I don't want to give the Eltham folk a free peep show on the way home."
He rolled his eyes, leaned over to snap them shut with his left hand while still inserting some kind of enormous stapler inside me with his right.
"Oh and doctor? I'm MillyMoo, it's nice to meet you. What's your name?"

Insomnia - sounds more like an exotic holiday destination: "Dina's just choofed off to Insomnia for a fortnight of wine, men and song, the lucky duck..." Instead, it's the term used for a protracted period of sleep deprivation that is also adopted with inhumane enthusiasm by international torture experts. There's nothing lonelier than lying awake at 3.00am hearing the sound of regular breathing beside you (or outboard motor-loud snoring) knowing that you won't be heading in the same blissful direction and it sure as hell doesn't prepare you for a two hour meeting after lunch on 'strategic performance indicators' when your eyes look and feel like fractured jaffas.

It only takes a second to take it out said the medical researcher after spending close to one hour inserting a lubricated tube up my nose, down my throat and attaching the end to a scary-looking refrigerator that measured my stomach waves. And yes, she was right - it did only take a few seconds to pull out the tube faster than going about on a Sydney-to-Hobart racing skiff, but the demonic little valve on the end was sharply angled for insertion, not removal and sliced my throat and inside of my nose like a whip as it departed. Luckily for the researcher I was too busy staggering about the room in shock and agony to ram her head into the sharps bin.