Sunday, January 31, 2010

Friends, Romans, Countrymen

Usually I’m very chatty and keen to get a laugh or at least a smile out of people but at the moment I’m quiet and not able to fill in the silent gaps.

Listening used to be very hard for me. It was difficult to wait politely for the other person to finish so that my frantic efforts at being witty, entertaining or merely fascinating could continue. Yes, there's a pretty easy psychological study right there: the need for acceptance, to be liked, to be considered a success at something no matter how minor ('Oh, she's good at making small talk at barbecues.')

Writing is normally easy, too. It may not be literature or win me any awards, but sitting at the keyboard tapping away was less strenuous than playing the clown at parties and a hell of a lot more helpful. At the moment though, the words aren’t there.

Sapphire's only ten-and-a-half years old but immediately sensed that things weren't right and out of respect for her intelligence and perception LC and I felt that she deserved to be told. Not all the nitty gritties of the past but why I haven't been smiling as much lately and don't always feel like leaving the house. Why a sensible diet, running, working and applying some cognitive psychological techniques don't seem to be solving things right now. Why I'm struggling to understand that it's not anyone's fault - especially hers - that I feel this way.

She nods and likens my need to see a specialist to her recent blood test for whooping cough. "You can't fix everything on your own, Mum." She's grown tall enough this past year for her arms to almost encircle me; white musk, clean hair and the vitality of youth and trust filling the air. I nuzzle her cheek, still dazzled by the softness and her innocent unawareness of her own beauty.

She pats my hand. “I can’t imagine how hard it is Mum and I can already see, even now when you’re not feeling so good, how hard you try and it’s still nice to be with you.”

I cried in front of her then, and we hugged even tighter. We then spent the next half an hour lying on her bed, me listening to her talking about her plans for the school year and for renovating her room. The funny anecdotes she shared about last year’s classmates that made me laugh so hard a fart popped out which started her giggling in response. She’s brilliant company.

LC says that he loves me and doesn't want to contemplate a life without me. He's warm, strong and kind and urges me to talk. I respond by saying, "No, I want to hear you for a change." He spends time with Sapphire playing tennis, visiting the Queen Vic markets, cooking. He makes me coffees in the morning as a subtle way of helping me put my feet on the floor and get out of bed. He reaches for my hand and gives me impromptu hugs all the time.

I hear him.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Inexplicably useful tool

The Australian Open is on and I sometimes watch it. I'll admit to being slightly partial to the class that is Roger Federer but normally I can sit and watch whoever's playing, with an eye to my knitting, patting Milly or skimming through a novel.

Andy Roddick, however, is a tool and commanded my entire attention.

After thinking hard and deciding to be honest about the return of my black dog I walked away from the computer and sat on the sofa next to Love Chunks, still in tears. He automatically put his arm around me and I leaned into him which I'm beginning to see is a good thing and nothing to waste time worrying about whether it's deserved or not.

As we chatted and waited for the start of the Andy Roddick and Marin Cilic match, channel seven showed us a few 'highlights', cleverly hidden under Optus' 'sounds of the open' badge.

Roddick-the-rectum was having a whinge to the chair umpire about someone in the crowd making a noise that distracted him. The umpire explained that apart from reminding the crowd to be quiet between points and whilst the players were serving, they were limited in what they could do if security were not able to pinpoint the actual person being a nuisance.
"There's not much else we can do," he said, to a curled-lip Rectum.

Roddick went on to complain a bit more and as LC and I sat there and wondered at the nastiness behind the complaint and the utter disdain he was showing towards the umpire, I realised that my black dog had obviously ducked out for a doo-doo for a moment, giving me a bit of time to breathe without the extra weight.

Roid-slick was showing me that a cosseted lifestyle in which you can fling towels at ball kids, curse an umpire, ask for somebody to rub your shoulder-woulder when you're losey-wosing and maybe twitter a vague apology later ("I wasn't 100 percent right") is wrong.

Of course we all know it's wrong, but I realised that a tool like Candy-Andy lives a life where his only concern is how well he hits a fuzzy bouncing ball and how much money he receives whilst doing it.

He doesn't need to behave like a decent person or worry about how his actions affect the feelings or self esteem of others. He's not measured for his morals or fairness and isn't expected to discuss anything beyond his sponsor and ranking. He is not required to do his share of household chores, cook a meal, be a genuine member of a local community or think of solutions that might help others around him.

What a sad, stupid git.

Perhaps it is a negative way for me to grasp at straws but as factors such as age, stronger players and injuries take their toll and his ranking decreases, my ranking can only go up.

And that's a good thing.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Damn dog.

The black dog has returned.

With it returns the bleakness pushing me towards the numb blankness and the despair.

And let's not ever forget the guilt. Corrosive, debilitating and hurtful; constantly present.

I'm home with my husband whom I love wholeheartedly, openly and genuinely and my ten year old daughter; the sunshine and energy in my life.

And yet the skin on my face is dry and thin and feels like it will split when it is forced to stretch and produce a smile.

My reflection in the bathroom mirror, the rearvision in the car, the camera's view-finder and the dirty shop window shows my mouth sagging downwards, my eyes dead.

Smile. Smile Again.

Answer when spoken to. Reply with a question; let them know you're interested. Point out something so that they keep talking and you can try again to smile. Breathe.

Ugly. Old. Pointless. Tired. So tired. Don't want to try any more.

We walk through a national park with the cool air giving us goosebumps as the sun distantly glints through the top of the tree canopy. I want to find a warm, dark spot and lie down. To be silent; to hide.

But I can't. I won't.

I can get through this. I have before and I will again.

For some reason, even as I feel myself sliding down, down into my solitary hole of shame and despair and guilt, I can still hear my husband and child and the concern in their voices. And I'm listening: I do understand. They love me: it doesn't matter why or whether it's deserved, they just do.

And that's a good thing.

I will get through this.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Tasmania likes to promote itself as 'The Holiday Isle' which in all fairness does sound a great deal better than 'The Roadkill State' but it's a bit sad that the creature emerging from behind the rainforest fronds depicted on their licence plates is the extinct Tassie tiger.

Ironically, the certainly-true 'Holiday Isle' moniker is probably the main contributing factor to the amount of roadkill as the highways and gravel tracks are clogged with hire car Nissan Tiidas and Hyundai Getzs filled with Andrews and Claras who are earning decent money and are so over the one-star backpacker experience and rapidly push their 1.4 litre engines to overtake those still trying to live on $14 a day whilst driving hand-painted combi vans that are lucky to push eighty but accommodate eighteen.....

.......Not to mention the caravans and camper trailers proudly driven by superannuated Trevor and Marges with spare wheel covers proclaiming 'Adventure before Dementia' in jokey lettering and their side mirrors extended so far I could almost unwind my window and give the right-hand one a smack as we overtake them.

As for the wildlife we saw that was alive and not like Mr Penguin pictured above or the unfortunate Big Tasmanian devil made out of fibreglass at Mole Creek with his back legs buried in the dirt and a huge gaping hole in his lower back, I present:

Pretty Percy, at Cataract Gorge, Launceston. He strutted around for photos until the clusters of people at the nearby tables indicated that it was lunchtime. His lunchtime. A few athletic-but-ineffectually flappy jumps and several empty snaps of his beak later, he retreated back to the rotunda, defeated by the hard clear glass of the display cabinet. It's hard to stalk off with dignity when white-headed retirees eating devonshire teas are laughing at you.

Ed here was snuffling for insects at Lake St Clair and couldn't have given a fat rats' clacker about me and an excitable German guy squatting in front of him for a few photos.

These baby sea-horses were amongst the hundreds of thousands hatched in tanks at Beauty Point. Some were destined for hobbyists' fishtanks around the world but a more careful read of the display panels after the unaudible tour (a pounding orchestra of pool filters drowning out the guide's whispered commentary) revealed that most of them were going on a long trip to China to be powdered up for benefit of 'Men with Love Lasting Problems.'

Bumble bees (can you see it?) are so large and fluffy they're like cute mini stuffed toys instead of the determinedly savage little stingers they really are. These have been found in Tassie since 1992 and are now everywhere - except in the ubiquitous gift shops but give them time: they'll someday be sold as dangly earrings when an enterprising local craftswoman learns how to remove the sting without half a furry black arse connected to it). Trouble is, these pests look a fair bit cuter than the Cane Toad and no-one's yet reported on being bored enough to try licking their backs for a natural high. Unless - hey - that's why Pooh Bear was always so dumb?

"C'mon give us yer sandwich! Look into my beady, piercing yellow eyes and tell me that you - yes you, you're carrying a few kilos you don't need, aren't you? - can't find it in your overfed, pampered, spoilt little fat heart to GIVE ME YOUR SANDWICH! "

A bed-and-breakfast is always complete when it has the lovely flower garden and a cat. Yes, a cat; even though I'm a drooling, obsessional mushbucket for doggies. Puss Puss here apparently adopted her owners three years ago and now never ventures beyond their 4 acre border. She has full run of the 1860 house including the two BnB sections and gladly welcomes anyone who arrives. She sat next to Love Chunks and I as we were having a glass of wine by the peach trees and then followed Sapphire into the living room to watch a movie. Despite this show of interest, she hated being touched. Purring only eventuated when I was close enough to hear her but not close enough to touch, which made me wonder what kind of life she had three years earlier.

Cackles here was in rather good spirits considering we found him in The Worst. Wildlife. Park. Ever at the unfortunately-named Mole Creek (yes, home of the holey devil). There was no signage or maps and the paths were neglected and overgrown grassy invitations to the local snake population to come in and terrorise the tourists and the poorly-penned animals. The one (real) Tassie devil we saw was despondently hiding in a log with his 'viewing window' consisting of a dirty pane of cracked plastic sheeting that looked as though it had been inserted by a drunk man with a packet of blue tak and a crow bar. A wedge-tailed eagle was half-heartedly gnawing at a still-furry wallaby leg and wasn't interested at all in the fact that the roof of his cage (more like a thrown-together cubby house) had caved in. Outside by the smashed windows of the 'Staff Only' hut, two baby wombats were housed in a wooden playpen with a blanket slung over the top as protection from the sun.

We did see around 15 dolphins having a play alongside our boat near Bruny Island. It was here that I realised that being the designated Photographer on behalf of the Locketts meant that whilst Love Chunks and Sapphire were freely Oooh-ing and Aaaah-ing at the beauty before them I was wrestling with a telefoto lens that was so effective that anytime anybody said, "Oh look!" I'd swivel it around and be half a kilometre off course. Most of my photos featured the bubbles of dolphins the moment after they'd gracefully lept up into the air and dived back into the water.

Seals were sunning themselves nearby and boy, did they stink! Think of morning breath combined with dog-immediately-after-eating-a-dead-pigeon-in-the-park and cross it with Wheelie Bin Prawn Heads a week after Christmas during a heatwave and sweaty toe-jam in surf sandals and you'd just about have it. If increased in magnitude by ten times. Gotta love the one on the left sleeping upside down; it reminded me so much of Milly.

Lastly we saw Sapphirius Tweenius Moodius Lavendulas. Ten-going-straight-to-fifteen, with occasional sulks, a few 'you don't understand me at alls' and a huge dollop of self consciousness then signed off with tears, gulping sighs and beautifully tight, warm hugs.

Of all the animals I managed to photograph, she was the most difficult to capture perfectly and the one I need to coax back into trusting me. I don't envy her the uncertainty and doubt of the next few years, but I'll try my best to make sure she has some arms to fall into.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

You never listen to me!

......she screamed at him in the Thirsty Camel bottle shop adjoining the supermarket.

He stormed out, his unzipped tracksuit top so big it resembled a cobalt blue cape as the automatic doors slide open.

Yeah get fucked, fuck off, no wonder the cops always get ya, you're no good you dickhead and YOU NEVER LISTEN TO ME!

Sapphire's eyes widened in horror and her little hand snuck out to reach the one I wasn't using to put our bags and packets on the moving belt at the check out. "No Mum! Don't look over there! She'll come over and hit us!"

Not likely.

A tall version of Angry Anderson ushers her out, his task made difficult by her tiny size and furious struggles and the automatic door opening when he needs it closed, and closed when he wants to shove her through it.

Dunno why you're chucking me out when it's HIS - she throws an empty packet of fags in the direction of the door - fault! He's the one that's banned from this place, not me! Stop touching me you fucking maggot get fucked I was just minding my own business and have some shopping to do because I'm a free person. I'm FREE!

"Mum!" Sapphire tugged my arm. "Stop looking!"

I try to explain to her that we're safe, we're OK and that she won't hurt us but is hurting herself. That drug abuse, alcohol, poverty and crap nutrition and education has meant that her life now revolves around ranting in the streets, putting up with domestic violence and smoking herself into a prematurely wrinkled, stooped and stinking puddle. That it's not a life that anyone chooses for themselves and that we should be sympathetic rather than sneering and---

"Shoosh Mum, they'll hear you!"

Not likely.

Just as Angry Anderson is dusting his hands and putting the cardbard Bacardi stand back upright, her caped-crusading partner strides back in, not realising that she's only three metres away, still yelling both of you are dickheads by the ATM.

Where is she? What have youse done with her you bastards? Did you touch her? Where the fuck is she? I'll call the cops on you because you can't do what you did to us, where is she? ANSWER ME!

The entire supermarket is now transfixed; the din he's creating overpowers the beep-beep of the cash registers and the 1980s FM on the sound system. Angry Anderson points outside and he sees his partner and wheels around, still swearing - stupid fucking bastard so up yourself thinking you can treat me and my Renee like shit and being embarrassed in front of everyone stupid arsehole prick - puts his arm around her and they walk off, companionably and quietly, into the sunny car park.

Sapphire's grip relaxes and the girl at the check-out recommences her beep-beepings. "Thank god I don't live in this suburb," she says, rolling her eyes at me.

"I do," I say, "And I love it here."

"So do I," says Sapphire.

We load the car and I wheel the trolley back. Sapphire's already sitting in the front seat and I spy the now-happy couple sharing some smokes and a long-necked beer out of a paper bag on the park bench next to the trolley bay.

I leave the two dollar coin in the slot.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Locketts are NEVER late.

If someone invites us over for dinner at 7.30pm we invariably pull up in the street at 7.29. Love Chunks and I can't help it; we're extremely punctual.

Except for this time.

Three weeks with no access to a computer meant that the arrival of 2010 was only noted by me when I woke up the next day. So I've gone and stolen a meme. Yes, unheard of in the blogging world, but there you go. This one is from Terence McDanger, a wild and crazy Irish bloke who may be leaving his green land for somewhere with more people and chopsticks but less drinkable beer and ways of saying 'feck' so fetchingly. The meme covers what you were doing in 2009.

Where were you on New Years?
Lying in bed at my parents' house in South Australia with Sapphire and Milly the dog shaking with fear at my feet. Everyone else had gone to see (and hear) the fireworks on the Esplanade and I stayed home to make sure that Sapphire went to sleep and Milly didn't have a seizure due to terror.

Did you drink?
I'd like to say 'yes', but no, I didn't. My parents don't drink and even though I'm a big girl and able to live my own life, I still feel a bit uncomfortable having a glass of wine in front of them. Mum can't help but form a cat's bum of disapproval with her lips, as if she's thinking, "Oh, so you need the aid of ALCOHOL to enjoy our company, then?'

Did you kiss anyone when the ball dropped?
Sapphire's warm soft hair and Milly's velvety ears. No balls were dropping (Love Chunks is far older than that), just fireworks and the occasional backfire from the hoons doing donuts in the carpark across the reserve.

Did it snow at all during January?
Of course not. In South Oz it's dry enough to suck the moisture out of your eyeballs the second you open the flyscreen door.

Were you single on Valentines Day?
Nope. Love Chunks has been on the scene since 1993 but we don't 'do' Valentine's Day.

Were you in school?
Sapphire was, does that count?

Any new addition into your family?
A treadmill (for me), a massive barbecue (for the house), some party lights and a light-up fake aquarium (for Sapphire) and a new bike (for Love Chunks), to celebrate our move from Adelaide to Melbourne.

Did you wear green on St. Patrick's Day?
No, but I wandered down Racecourse Road and saw a few dozen drunk uni students outside the Quiet Man pub being anything but.

Did you graduate in May?
I certainly did, but the actual ceremony was in May 1989 and I had to get the day off from the ANZ Bank to attend. Mum, Dad and my grandfather were there, and we posed for many photos in front of Bonython Hall as three generations to have graduated from Adelaide Uni. It was only a month later that Dad had the courage to call me (at work, so I couldn't carry on too much) and admit that whe he got home he found out that there was no film in the camera. The moment couldn't be recreated quite so perfectly: we borrowed a friend's Science Gown (mine was Arts) and I stood in front of our house's back wall (not Bonython Hall) without Grandpa, holding not a degree (which had already been framed) but a rolled up 1987 calendar.

Summer 2009 - Who did you hang out with the most?
Sapphire. We had a three weeks to kill until she started her brand new school and she had many moments of anxiety. We'd take Milly for a walk to the school ground and roam around the empty place, familiarising ourselves. One day, the principal was there letting in some tradesmen and came over to introduce herself. Lesley then very kindly gave us an impromptu tour of the inside of the school for over an hour, which was a pretty nice way to ease Sapphire into the idea of starting there.

Where did you go?
The school, streets around Flemington, brother and sister-in-law's house in North Melbourne, tram rides into the city, lunch with Love Chunks in the Docklands, movies (all G-rated of course).

Did you meet someone new that you still talk to today?
Having moved into a new state, new city, new suburb, new home, new school and new job, the entire year pretty well involved this.

Did you still work?
Yes. Writing articles, mostly, but also blogging, chocolate reviewing, research, book reviews and interviews. The much-discussed memoir did not eventuate. Maybe this year.

Did you end any relationships?
Only by refusing to send Christmas cards any more.

Did you go swimming or tan more?
I went swimming, but always clad in board shorts and a rashie and slathered most unbecomingly in SPF45 or I'd look like a saveloy with removable skin.

Where did you spend the most time?
At the computer. Or ogling/eating/photographing/savouring/writing about chocolate. Or running. Patting Milly. Nagging Sapphire.

Did you take lots of pictures?
Yep. So many that LC and Sapphire bought me an SLR for birthday/christmas combined which means I now permanently lag behind on bush walks and strolls, striving for that perfect artsy fartsy shot involving foliage, fetching ruins, blue sky and creativity (all yet to be achieved).

What did you do for Halloween?
Stayed in watching 'Entourage' with Love Chunks as Sapphire went trick-or-treating with her buddies. She came home a few hours later laden with sugary crap in a plastic black cauldron and revealed that half of the doors they knocked at were full of drunk people who'd just returned from the spring racing carnival. "One of them was just wearing his boxers and offered to give us a slice of his pizza!"

What did you do on Christmas?
Well I didn't do anything on Christmas, I'm not that kind of a person. However we did drive ten hours to Victor Harbor in a car that - after three weeks of money, stress and the attempts of three separate mechanics - was finally rid of the contaminated petrol and was suitable to drive by lunchtime on Christmas Eve. That was cutting it way, waaay too fine for me, but we pootled along the highway like a suburban version of the Clampetts in our ageing station wagon filled with three humans, a friendly orange dog, a nibbly white rabbit, luggage and many badly-wrapped and already-starting-to-rip-thanks-to-the-cheapness-of-the-paper presents.

Did you get good presents?
Oh jeez, how do answer this one? My SLR camera was both a birthday and Christmas present from Love Chunks and Sapphire, so I wasn't expecting any other surprises. They did, however, also get me a scary-looking hardcover book on how to be a better photographer and the 'Spicks and Specks' boardgame but I'm worried that not having access to hilarious comedians and iconic musos could make it less exciting when played at our dinner table.

Did you have a good birthday this year?
Well I felt a bit 'special' because it fell on Melbourne Cup Day which is a public holiday, so I told myself that it was a day off for all in my honour.

Drink alcohol?
My eyes are rolling so far back in my head it's a wonder I can type this.

Went to a crazy party?
No. The idea of a 'crazy party' these days is to do my utmost to avoid them. Living in the inner city means that we tend to hear the end results of such parties as they wind their way past our house at 3am, hollering, vomiting and littering, back home to throw up.

Spend too much time online?
Of course. I'm a blogger.

Did you watch lots of football?
No. I went to one 'live' game and spent most of it crowd watching, eating and annoying the Essendon fans by daring to answer back their nasty jibes and thus embarrass my daughter most greatly. If it was on TV, I'd retreat to blogland in the study.

Did you learn anything new?
How interesting Flemington is; how to win a grant; what happens on the camping ground stays on the camping ground; that musk lifesavers are considered about as tasty as urinal cakes to Dutch backpackers and that Love Chunks prefers to go to sleep facing his wine collection instead of me.

What do you wish to accomplish this year?
1) Enlisting more Flemington Litter Ninjas to the cause
2) Write - and complete - and get a publisher for - my second book
3) Find radio work slightly closer to home than three time zones away
4) Finish the un-fun, uninteresting and un-useful editing and proofreading course
5) Stop nagging Sapphire and be more patient with her

Do you snore?
Like a drunken sea lion when I have a cold, according to Love Chunks.

Lover or a fighter?
Lover first, but if vitriol is hurled my way and it's unwarranted, mean or unfair, I'll fight. To the death, baby! Trouble is, it's often me who ends up suffering the most.

What's your worst fear?
Never amounting to anything, not being a good mother and running out of blog ideas. All equally scare the crap out of me.

As a kid, were you a lego builder?
Having two brothers and a suitcase full of lego, then yes, I was a builder. We'd have periodic crazes and Mum would rather generously let us take over the pool room (yes, we had a pool room but I found it more fun to make cubby houses underneath the table than actually learn how to play snooker) for a few weeks as our village grew. After we got sick of that we'd have Monopoly marathons, Meccano multi-function polises and sandpit sessions.

Were you a cute baby?
Sadly no, and Mum never sugar-coated the truth either, proclaiming that all three of her children "looked funny" and even in my toddlerhood I'm seen with bright red chubby cheeks and an annoying tendency to pout.

Do you sing in the shower?
Yep. Nothing like steam, hot jets of water and a well-lotioned body puff to get the vocal chords a-workin'

Have you ever bungee jumped?
Yes, in Normandy France, January 1992. We drank all the way there (took all night to reach it from Barnet, Herts), drank before the jump, threw up, did the jump head first (that's what cheap plonk will do for you), drank some more to celebrate, went to bed just in time to throw up in the hotel room's handbasin, got on the bus, drank some more.....zzzzzzzzzzz......... But I didn't dip my head into the water because it was the middle of winter and the river underneath the bridge was frozen over. Even in my sozzled state I could appreciate the sense of the bungy cord being shortened a smidge.

Any secret talents?
Some generous folk have said that I'm a reasonable mimic and this has passed on to Sapph who does a rather hurtful impression of my good self. I used to be reasonable painter and drawer too, but have since 'lost it'. I might also be half-decent these days at being able to walk into a party or event not knowing anyone and be able to strike up a conversation. Either that or I'm the bore that everyone twitters about afterwards...?

What's your ideal vacation spot?
It's called 'holiday' here, dearie. Somewhere all-expenses paid (by someone else, naturally), four star plus, warm, full of opportunities to relax and see the sights (again, all included). Throw in some fishing opportunities for Love Chunks and for Sapphire to invite a friend along and a heap of good books and I'm there.

Are blondes dumb?
Bottle blondes tend to be but us NATURALS (if they barely have visible eyebrows, they're naturals, folks) ooze intelligence, trustworthiness, talent, beauty and unrestrained wit and good taste.

How do you like your eggs?
Fresh but preferably without smears of chook shit and straw on the shells.

Do you cry at weddings?
I can't remember the last time I went to a wedding - in the nineties I reckon.

When was the last time you said, "i love you"
Last night. I can't go to sleep (even with Love Chunks facing the rows of booze) without saying it.
What are you allergic to?
Vacuuming, changing light bulbs, pumpkin and sweet potato, idiots.

Do you like your handwriting?
I used to, before my typing speed changed from 41 words a minute ala two index fingers to 90 using all ten. Now it's illegible and stretched out like a slinky being tied to a brick and hurled off a balcony.

What's your stand on hunting?
Eye for an eye, I say. Surely the fox deserves a turn at hunting some toffs using cavalry, a trumpet, some guns and several dozen angry beagles?

Do you give a darn about the ozone?
Yes. It's pretty sobering that the sun is brighter, harder and meaner now than when it was in my childhood and sharing a house with a meteorologist means that the data and proof is readily available.

Have you seen the movie "Donnie Darko"?
One of my utter favorites and their version of 'Mad World' always stops me in my tracks.

Have you ever hitch hiked?
Hell no. I've seen too many movies, heard too much about Ivan Milat and Belangalo State Forest to consider it: I'd rather sell my body in a bus shelter than jut my thumb out on the highway!

Are you wearing socks?
I am. It's only 20C here today which is rather cold for a summer day and I'm about to get Milly and Sapphire and go for a walk that is always better with shoes on than thongs.

Is drug free the way to be?
Umm....well......many's the time I've been insanely grateful for caffeine, codeine and effexor.

Have you ever ridden in an ambulance?
Yes. See 'effexor' to give you a hint as to why.

What are you addicted to?
Chocolate. Good coffee. Love Chunks. Sapphire. Milly. The internet. My blog list. Writing in my notebook. Reading. Back rubs. Sniffing in the petrol aroma at the bowsers each time I fill up the car.

Do you prefer baths or showers?
Showers. I've never seen the appeal of a bath. You sit in and get far too good a look at your stomach rolls and genitals as they stew in the water whilst your top half freezes. Or you slump down into the water and have your legs up the wall like a performance artist, again wondering just why sitting in your own filth is fun.

Do you like your life?
Mostly. Even when it is tough and I struggle, I can now see why it's rewarding sometimes instead of mindlessly joyful.

When's the last time you cried?
This is very embarrassing but it was at Cradle Mountain, Tasmania. The cabins we stayed in had Austar telly and a movie called 'College Road Trip' was playing starring the unsubtle and funny-as-a-strangled-kitten Martin Lawrence. I literally only caught the last ten minutes when the daughter (Rayven Simone, I think, she of the hugely generous chesticular growths?) was leaving her parents and the tears started flowing.

What color are your eyes?
Infected-phlegm green. Sometimes yellow with tiny red capillaries as additional decorations, so if you see anything like that in your hanky, go and see the doctor.

Have you read "Catcher in the Rye"?
Yes and I don't GET IT. There. I said it. I don't GET IT.

Do you play any instruments?
No, I'm the musical illiterate in this house. Love Chunks can play trumpet, guitar and piano and Sapphire can play the recorder (amazingly well, considering it's a recorder), viola and guitar.

Do you like camping?
Not really. Love Chunks does everything he can to make it as comfortable and as organised as he can for me, but the first time I lift up the lid of a long drop toilet that's been overdue a chemical de-lousing or squat to wee and some of it splatters on my ankles and the realisation dawns that it'll be another three days before a hot shower features in my timetable and I'm already sticky and stinking and just dropped my friggin' burnt toast in the ashes and had to get up to pee in the dark after wrestling out of my sleeping bag three times the night before, nearly garrotting myself on the tent ropes....

Do you snort when you laugh?
No, but a fart pops out far too often so at least my hooting shrieks hide the sounds if not the stench.

Can you do the moonwalk?
Yes, actually. I remember showing my mate Philippa how it was done during year ten biology on the forgivingly smooth linoleum. Trouble is, my kiaks kept gripping the floor so that each 'gliding, mesmerising step' was accompanied with an ear-piercing squeak. She was impressed though.

What was the last thing you ate?
Home made gnocchi in a tomato and zucchini basil sauce that Sapphire and her friend Juliet made for our lunch today. It took 45 minutes to make and eat and another 45 minutes for me to clean up afterwards *sigh*

Do you wear nailpolish?
Nah. My nails are kept short so that they don't scratch anyone I'm trying to hug and don't get gunk underneath 'em. If I ever do bother putting any polish on, it's chipped before the lid of the bottle's been screwed back on.

What's the most annoying tv commercial?
Go Harvey, Go Harvey - Go Harvey Norman, Go! Plus the hysterically shouting of the bloke who does the voiceovers for them. Oh and the current KFC ads that are played during the cricket featuring a chap who we're clearly meant to admire for his cleverness when really we think, 'What an utter creep.'

Do you like someone right now?
Yeah Love Chunks is pretty alright.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Show us yer map of Tassie

I'm baaack but still suffering a slight speech impediment due to my lips, tongue, throat and palate being continually burned, blistered and shredded into unflattering flaps of peeling skin giving the inside of my mouth a slightly moist and creepy diorama featuring stalactites of weeping flesh fringes due to the molten temperatures of the coffee served in Tasmania.

After a week with the family in South Australia, we three Locketts drove the bum-numbingly boring trip back to Melbourne ("Oh look, it's the Big Koala! And yes, it still looks like a pile of koala droppings and isn't it disturbing that the entrance to the gift shop is via its crotch?") and hopped on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry the following day, thus ensuring another bum-numbingly boring trip to another state.

In fact, despite the 'entertainment' on offer during our 'cruise', Mr Migraine decided to pay me his first visit of 2010 and because we ferry virgins didn't push pensioners down the stairs in the rush to snaggle some decent seats and were left to while away nine hours sitting beside the squeaking door that desperate smokers forgot to close; treating us to passing farts, stray fumes, lashing winds and new hairstyles. If the door did close - again to an agonisingly loud shriek - the wind continued to blast in via the gap in the window that thoughtfully included sea spray spat via the drooping pollyfilla directly into my eyes.

Add the 'Best of Stevie Wonder' being inexplicably and evilly piped through some tinny mono speakers in every part of the boat, toilet doors that would shake into the locked position due to the lurching of the seas thus fooling me into waiting and hopping fifteen minutes longer before I twigged that no-one was in there and the joys of an machine-excreted nescafe with added cardboard flavour and it was a long trip indeed.

I did, however, have the foresight the night before to predict (accurately, as it turned out) that the food available to purchase might not be particularly appealing - especially when wedged in between decades-old lavender fudge, devil tea-towels and the worst example of photoshopping I'd ever seen, featuring two headed people and animals on postcards optimistically and greedily priced at $2.50 apiece.

Love Chunks surveyed the snacks - dried fruit, meusli bars, chocolate and pretzels and then said, "I've got myself some Lucky Nuts." Bless him; he's not usually one to brag about such things but it gave us several minutes of double entendres and some sober explanations afterwards to Sapphire which at least got my mind off Mr Wonder wailing, "....and it's much toooo late to cry...." That's his opinion.

Then, after the nine hours had finally ended and we were yawning in our cars, another hour was wasted: "Would the owner of the Nissan Microbe on level 3 please come and collect their vehicle to enable the rest of the garage to leave," said the loud speaker, mercifully quelling Stevie Wonder for a wee moment.

Another four cars were called in the following hour. To this day I have no idea what would cause anyone to want to dawdle getting into their car after nine hours on a ferry....

As for our fortnight in Tasmania, I learned a few things.

Firstly, their love of quirky signs:

Secondly, that Love Chunks is irrepressibly perky on holidays and had us up at 6.30am most days in order to catch a ferry, do a river cruise, get on the road to the next location, see some animals before they became road kill and generally wanting to fully carpe his diem.

Thirdly, Tasmanians, as mentioned first up, love their coffees searingly, hellishly HOT. Love Chunks and I actually developed some empathy for the US woman who infamously sued Maccas a decade ago for being burned by their coffee. Tasmanian stuff needed to be purchased, bleary-eyed soon after LC's 6.30am start, and carefully left alone until it was ready to be drunk at morning tea time.

At Deloraine we stopped off for a wee (I estimate that fifty percent of my time is spent on holidays looking for toilets), some bakery goodies and a coffee. Sapph and I wandered off to the ablutions block which was made out of convict-hewn bricks from a demolished building, had a chat and a pleasant amble through the gardens before dawdling into the bakery. Love Chunks greeted me more effusively than normal.

Turns out he didn't have his wallet on him, so he was waiting there with two coffees, two sausage rolls (his and Sapph's) and a custard tart (mine) and chatting up Maureen behind the counter ("Hey Kath, I showed her my Lucky Nuts") until I coughed up the readies.

By this stage we knew that the coffee - already causing our palms to throb with rapidly painful heat despite the insulated cups - wasn't ready to drink and thus busied ourselves sitting outside in the sunshine eating our selected versions of naughty pastries. Dusting the crumbs off, we three headed towards our car, parked right in front of the bakery.

Poor Sapphire had a coughing fit and promptly vomited up her entire sausage roll. After checking that she was OK (she always is - she's been a 'better out than in' girl her entire life), we clambered in. My coffee sat between my legs as I plugged in my seatbelt and somehow, as I turned around to hand some water to Sapphire, it tipped........ straight into my map of Tassie.

AAAAARGH I shrieked, causing more coffee to scald that most delicate of regions as I frantically wriggled about (hindsight reveals that this merely created more coverage for burning rather than a quick escape), grabbed Sapph's water and doused myself before leaping out of the car, still screaming. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Maureen's worried face, deciding to stay inside and perhaps stick a 'back in ten minutes' sign on the locked door in case we decided to bother her again.

It hurt. No blisters thank God, but a hot throbbing that - usually welcome in that area on other more erotic and private occasions - wasn't pleasant. I wet myself with more water, unzipped my fly, took off my belt and slid my jeans down to Plumber's Crack level and said, "Keep driving, LC." He did, eventually, after his hooting, mocking laughter subsided. He, at least, got to enjoy drinking his coffee (an hour later) whilst mine had soaked into my knickers, under-butt beach towel and - most irritatingly - up my bike rack, causing the 'ol seat cheeks to have to be unsealed via steam, baby wipes and a fair bit of swearing later on.

My Fourth observation is that road kill rules. We'd barely got off the ferry before several beautiful, fluttering butterflies had smooshed themselves on our windscreen and a galah flew straight into our front grille before being flattened into a feathery pancake by the car behind us. The road itself resembled the underside of a block of almond chocolate with lumps of Tasmanian devils, pademelon wallabies, rats, blackbirds, rabbits and possums. For every animal we saw alive, there were 50 spread like pate on the bitumen.

The fifth observation was a pleasant surprise. It is South Australia's own Farmers Union Iced Coffee that rules the corner shops here, not Melbourne's mediocre Big M. It'd be easier and cheaper to ship Big M over, but Tasmanians clearly know quality (at least in flavoured milk drinks) when they see it.

Finally, it was clear that after a week inhaling every fattening, sugary, cholesterolly and bad for me food in Victor Harbor followed by a fortnight of fudge, chips-with-everything, cheap chocolate, roadhouse pasties and no running whatsoever that photos do NOT lie. Elmo, when worn by me, has a set of cheeks that only a squirrel storing nuts for the winter possesses. Back to the treadmill.

Friday, January 01, 2010


You're not jumping on the bed, are you?

"No Mum. Juliet and I are connecting our DS-lites together."

What's that whumping sound I can hear all the way up here in the lounge room?

"Probably the neighbours up the street. I think Mr Divvy Van's been naughty again, and Mrs Divvy Van is slamming his car door and swearing. And before you say it, no, it's nothing I haven't heard already at school."

You two have got ten more minutes before you need to go to the toilet, clean your teeth, get some glasses of water and turn the lights out, OK?

(long pause) OK?

(muffled) "Yeah, OK Mum."

Did you bring Skipper in from outside on the lawn?

"Aw Mum, I'm in my nightie now, can you do it?"

Yes, I can, like I do every night. And his clean hutch doesn't just happen you know or the fact that he's still around and hasn't starved to death.... That whumping sound is happening again - what are you doing?

(long pause). "Erm, nothing Mum. Just getting ready for bed."

Several days later, Sapphire asked me to download her camera for her, because the memory card was full.

Luckily for her, my laughing session was too enjoyable to turn into anything resembling a parental scolding session. Best friends at ten years old: does it get any better than that?