Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Goals and resolutions for 2010

I dunno about goals and resolutions. Eg: will not say the 'F' word, will not drink alcohol, will not eat butter and cream, will not be mean to 'L' platers, will not get pool rage at swimmers who should be in the SLOW lane - mostly men - but choose the MEDIUM lane, etc...

But here goes:

My combined GOALS and RESOLUTIONS FOR 2010 (glad to be into double digits, so much more comfy, and doesn't 'noughties' suck? Who made that up?)

1. To still be on the planet and fully (or full) compos mentis in 2011

2. To be nicer (to some people). Definition of nicer: smile and wave politely when a Beemer driver ignores your indicator and doesn't let you change lanes

3. To be civil to my mother-in-law and forgive her her evil mother-in-law ways

4. To write a f%#@**$* book that I think is half OK (*still working on New Year's resolution #1)

5. To write a book the planet loves

6. To be nicer to Spanner... maybe not that much nicer

7. To swim lots

8. To relax - breathe in, breathe out, now do it again slowly

9. To be kind to ants - I am the ant killer. When I knock on Heaven's door, 20 million angel ants

will protest my admission

10. To revel in the f**%$#@* amazing life I've been given

Happy NEw YeaR to EveryONE and may all your goals and resolutions be achieved.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

A Merry Christmas tree story

Last night Miss Hissy, the dog and I strolled to the local reserve and decorated a small She Oak with a bit of tinsel.

There's a stand of She Oaks on the hill near the bay. Our tree is down the bottom of the hill with a few others that have sprouted from the mature trees' seed.

We would have decorated it earlier, but the weather has been ferociously hot. Every night it's threatened to storm but then the dark menacing clouds have moved on.

I penned a poem and stuck it on the tree. Here it is:

Please respect this heartfelt plea
Don't nick the tinsel from the tree
Just watch it sparkle in the sun
Bringing joy to everyone
It's been a hard and stressful year
So, let this tree bring some good cheer
We wish you a Christmas filled with joy
Every woman, man, girl and boy
Take a moment, enjoy the glitter
Forget about Facebook, abandon Twitter
Live life to the fullest, always have a kind heart
And may 2010 bring you and yours a brand new start.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Shark alert for 2010: Australian Russell Mulcahy to direct Bait in 3D

I love a good shark movie.

And now it looks like Australia will have its very own Jaws, with Russell Mulcahy about to direct a 3D movie starring one of the planet's most feared and loathed creatures.

According to a newspaper report, the film is set on the Gold Coast, a glitzy coastal tourist strip in Queensland. But the sharks aren't nibbling people's vitals while they splash about in the Pacific Ocean.

Mulcahy has ratcheted up the scream-o-meter by complicating the premise with a crazed bandit, a natural disaster and a claustrophobic setting.

In Bait in 3D shoppers and tourists are terrorised, not only by an armed maniac, but also a posse of ravenous tiger sharks washed into an underground supermarket carpark after a tsunami.

Some of you might remember one of Mulcahy's first movies, Razorback, the story of a feral pig that (from memory - I'm too lazy to Google it) terrorises an Australian outback community. I saw it at the cinema in the '70s and had a giggle as the giant pig with the serrated back tore through the undergrowth in pursuit of its human prey.

Bait in 3D sounds far more terrifying than a li'l ol' pig with anger-management issues.

I await its release with baited breath.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Mr Teece's Twenty Two Tips for Life

Mr Teece, a teacher at Miss Hissy's school, retired this year. At the school assembly held in his hounour, he read out his recipe for a successful life.

I have taken the liberty of posting Mr Teece's Twenty Two Tips for Life. It's not Desiderata, but who needs to revisit the '70s? Not moi.

I'm sure Mr Teece wouldn't mind people hanging his words of wisdom on the back of the toilet door.

1. Get to know the real you - your strengths, your weaknesses, your values and beliefs, things you hold dear.

2. Become the most positive and enthusiastic person you know.

3. Work at something you enjoy and that's worthy of your time.

4. Be forgiving of yourself and others.

5. Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully.

6. Be generous.

7. Have a grateful heart.

8. Try to always view the glass as half full - not half empty.

9. When sorrow or misfortune strike ask yourself, "Do I want to be bitter or get better?"

10. Persistence, persistence, persistence.

11. Commit yourself to constant improvement.

12. Commit yourself to quality.

13. Happiness is not based on possessions, power or prestige but on relationships with people you love and respect.

14. Be honest.

15. Be a self starter.

16. Be decisive even it means you might sometimes be wrong.

17. Stop blaming others. Take responsibility for every area of your life.

18. Be bold and courageous. When you look back on your life, you'll regret the things you didn't do more than the ones you did.

19. Take good care of the ones you love.

20. Don't do anything that wouldn't make your mum/dad proud.

21. Treat everyone you meet the way you would like to be treated.

22. Marry the right person. This one decision will determine 90 per cent of your happiness or misery.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

The Bilgola Ocean Swim: weed, wind and wucking waves

I sit here consoling myself with comfort food - a huge slab of toast lathered with super-crunchy peanut butter.


Today my swimming mate (brother-in-law Davo) and I did the 1.5 km Bilgola swim. And I did a %#@* time (what else is new?) My excuse for today's bad result is that my goggles fogged and filled up, and I kept having to readjust them.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Sydney's northern beaches, Bilgola is one of the prettiest. In the olden days it wouldn't have been easily accessible, as it's at the base of a steep hill and is bound by Bilgola Head to the north and Newport Head to the south.

It's the first beach you come to as you begin the Serpentine drive that leads to the furthermost stretch of sand on the peninsula, Palm Beach. Bilgola Beach is small - 500 metres long - and faces south east. It's a scrumptious slice of the paradise cake.

But I digress. The swim was to start at 11am but we arrived nice and early (as old codgers do) and nabbed a princess parking spot. Latecomers were able to use the free shuttle-bus service.

The beach had a dank smell and a huge wad of seaweed was floating at the southern end at 9.30am. By the time the swim started, late at 11.15am*, the weed had drifted north, so it was slap-bang in the path of the swimmers entering the water.

The waves weren't that bad, but a breezy south easterly was blowing right onto the beach, which caused lots of chop.

Davo and I went off in the last of the four waves of swimmers (with other old codgers and really young fit kids) and battled our way through thick swatches of weed to get out past the breakers. I think that's when I gave up.

My bloody goggles kept fogging up and the chop was a bugger - it's hard to establish a rhythm when you're swimming in the wash cycle.

I was over it before the first can. I'll admit it, I'm a pool swimmer so I'm soft. Softer than melting butter. Softer than a poached egg. Softer than the gut of that bloke who ran over the finish line before me (I let you win, fat boy).

I also carry the memory of last season, where for many of the swims the waves were freakin' huge. I have made a self-diagnosis of post-traumatic stress syndrome. I'm filled with dread whenever I see a wave - even a piddly one.

But I digress. The swim was clockwise - from the beach it was basically out towards the northern headland, turn right and swim down the beach towards the southern headland, turn right and swim back into the beach.

I finished. And afterwards I began to feel better as Davo (smug bugger did a good time) explained that I am a brave and wonderful person and that not many people would do what I do. I am a goddess. A slow goddess with a wave phobia.

Whatever, it's all fun - until the next one.

*The swim ran late because of the selfish Gen Y'ers who are new to ocean swimming but have decided that it's a trendy addition to their Facebook page.

Theoretical example of a phone conversation between two Gen Y'ers:

James, 25, lives in Mosman and works in IT: 'Like, hey Cameron, there's an ocean swim at Bilgola today. I've got a massive hangover but, like, let's just do it man.'

Cameron, 24, lives in Coogee and works in advertising: 'Like, cool, man. I'll swing by your place whenever. Like, where's Bilgola?'

Photo comes from the ONLY place to go for ocean swimming news

Monday, 7 December 2009

Two ocean swims in Sydney over the weekend is an expensive hobby

Nothing in life is free and that principle can be applied to ocean swimming.

For example, over the past weekend two swims were held in Sydney - one at North Curl Curl and the other from Bondi to Bronte.

The option for people entering an ocean swim is to do the 'earlybird', where you enter and pay online or send a cheque in the mail before the event.

If you choose to enter on the day of the swim (if that option is available) the organisers tend to whack an extra $10 onto the entry fee.

One of the reasons I like to leave entering as late as possible is so I can see what the conditions are like closer to the day.
On the weekend, I was in two minds about swimming because my swimming mate, Davo, was out of town. I left it to the last minute. Will I swim or won't I?

In the end I didn't and saved $90 and two long drives and the stress of finding a parking spot ($40 for North Curly and $50 for B2B - on-the-day entry fees).

I know I missed two good swims (go to to read about them), but I don't mind.

I figure that if I do 10-12 ocean swims this season, I'll be $500+ the poorer.

There are a couple of reasons why ocean swims are getting more expensive - insurance is the big one.

But since I started swimming four years ago, and Precious Princess was doing the swims well before that, the cost has slowly but surely increased.

Still, cost obviously isn't a deterrant as more and more people are taking the plunge and happily forking out their disposable income to participate in a 2-3km swim.

I reckon the rise and rise of ocean swimming has lobbed the golden egg into many Surf Life Saving Clubs' laps.

Crikey, they must be laughing!

Friday, 4 December 2009

Randomness - and the Bloody Beetroots are bloody awful

I quit my job (finished yesterday) so now there's no excuse not to write.

Except Christmas...

And then the New Year...

And the trip to Tassie mid-January.

And so on and so forth and... why does my 18-year-old daughter like the Bloody Beetroots when they sound like fingernails being scraped down a chalkboard?

I thought I was so cool and hip until today. I like Kanye West and the Hilltop Hoods. I can listen to hip hop and appreciate the finer rhyming couplets (see my Christmas mixed dozen for Flight of the Conchords' wonderful send-up of the genre - watch it on YouTube).

But this morning I felt postively ancient. My daughter is going to see the Bloody Beetroots tonight at a club in town. As we drove to a trendy inner-Sydney cafe (my choice 'cos I'm cool) to bond over coffee and panini, she plugged in her iPod and I was subjected to the monotonous trance-dance whir of two Italian DJs who wear masks. How Eurovision is that?

Imagine being stuck in a tree with 1000 cicadas going full bore. That's what the BBs sound like. Un-bloodybeetroot-bearable. I'd rather listen to 'the best of Iron Maiden' on repeat for 24 hours than endure this eccy-induced dirge.

AAArrrgggghhHHHHH. I'm turning into my mother.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Tony Abbott poses in his budgie smugglers and it's not a pretty sight

I mean, seriously. Would you vote for this man?
Liberal Party MEMBER Tony Abbott was at Queenscliff beach on Sunday when the media approached him to reveal if he was LEFT or RIGHT.
I think it's just wrong.
At an ocean racing event, most men wear dark-coloured budgie smugglers to reveal as little defintion as possible (except for that bloke at Coogee on Sunday wearing white sluggos - not a good look mate).
Generally, it's all tres discreet. The old fellas are packed tight and outa sight.
But Mr Abbott, a conservative pollie who once considered becoming a priest and is now at the fore(skin)front of the global warming sceptics, seems happy to flaunt his gonads to all and sundry.
And if you look closely at this pic, not too close as it might cause dizziness and nausea, you may notice that Mr Abbott appears to be holding in his tummy and puffing out his chest.
Here's a dare to anyone who's game. Put in a call to Mr Abbott's electoral office tomorrow and ask for I.C. Wiener and Mike Rotch.
The moral of this story is that pollies should keep their lollies in the bag and behind the counter.
This pic is from The Australian newspaper)

Sunday, 29 November 2009

A perfect day for the Coogee Island Challenge Ocean Swim at Coogee beach

Today was a perfect day and the surf around Sydney was perfectly flat which (I have to admit) is the way I like it.

(I can hear the cat calls from the hardcore ocean swimmers who think tackling a swell the size of the killer wave in The Perfect Storm is a doddle. Tough luck boys.)

It was with a light heart that I headed down to Coogee this morning to swim in the 2.4 km Coogee Island Challenge Ocean Swim with my brother-in-law, Davo, and his son, Little Prefect, who was our mascot.

The swim was out and around Wedding Cake Island, a 150-metre long rocky outcrop off Coogee, and back to the beach.

The turn-out for the event was huge and, as the results are already up on, I can tell you that 1117 or so people completed the swim - most of them faster than me.

I enjoyed the experience, except for the buggers who swam over me, tugged at my feet and kicked me in the goggles. I've never had that happen before to such an extent in a swim, so it was a bit of a turn-off and it definitely slowed me down - I know, excuses excuses. I'm always making them.

The water was absolutely beautiful - cool, crisp and clear. Out at the island I could see the 20 metres to the bottom where leather jackets, bream, blue groper, sponges and soft and hard corals can be found. I wished I could have dived down there like a mermaid to join them.

But it's a rough and tumble world on the ocean's surface, and that's where I remained (though I'm not very bouyant).

Bloody Davo, who reads this blog occasionally in the guise of his blind dog Danny Boy, beat me again. Not that I care. See you soon Big Maaaan. Let the real challenge begin NOW!
PS Sorry about the poor quality of the pic, but my camera is lousy and I can't afford a new one as I'm spending all my money on these swims - average $30 per swim.

Friday, 27 November 2009

The B52s bomb at the Enmore Theatre as lead vocalist Kate Pierson covers for Cindy Wilson

It was going to be a big night. I was taking 13-year-old Miss Hissy to see the B52s at the Enmore, and we were excited.

For the past month, The 'best of' the B52s CD has been on high rotation in our house, with Miss Hissy dancing around the lounge room in a wild retro dervish.

By the time we got to the Enmore last night, her anticipation was at fever pitch.

The place was packed with balding 50-something men, wearing loose fitting shirts and jeans, accompanied by their worn and weathered spouses. Ageing is a bugger.

Let's face it. We were all there to capture, freeze and frame a glimpse of our youth.

The parties where Rock Lobster was played over and over and over again on the record player, the stylus skimming across the vinyl as the floorboards bounced under the weight of stomping feet.

Or singing aloud to Love Shack on the car radio on the way to the beach.

This was what we wanted. To be young again. Just for a couple of hours.

We missed the first support act, Mental as Anything, which didn't bother me. The Proclaimers were up next and delivered a solid 45-minute show, featuring all the hits (I think they only had three). These blokes are more Scottish than Scotland. Are they identical twins? The highlight was a rousing audience sing-along of 500 Miles.

The B52s rocked onto the stage at around 9.30pm. The first thing we noticed was the sound. It was friggin' loud and, to my sensitive ears, sounded like a chainsaw competing with a jackhammer.

It felt about 50 decibels louder than the Proclaimers. And the bass was almost too painful to bear. It shook up my innards like a milkshake.

Not a good start.

To make matters worse, as the second song reached its crescendo one of the two female singers, Cindy (the one with the blonde beehive), suddenly left the stage.

This threw everything into disarray, with the two remaining singers - Fred and Kate - having to improvise while they waited for Cindy's return. But she didn't come back.

So, the show went on with Kate doing a bloody sterling job, while Fred looked like he'd rather be anywhere than the Enmore.

The room warmed up when the band launched into the old favourites Roam and Planet Claire. The highlights were, of course, Love Shack and Rock Lobster.

However, our dancing was curtailed by the security people who wouldn't let us stand up in our seats (we got up and danced anyway towards the end - Miss Hissy needs to know that sometimes it's OK to challenge those arseholes who wield the 'this-is-the-rules' stick).

As the show came to an end, the guitarist Keith thanked us all and explained that Cindy was dehydrated. I think the band was just grateful there hadn't been a riot, though some disgruntled punters walked out during their performance.

I suppose the moral of this story is to not seek where you know deep down you will surely not find.

The B52s looked just as old and tired as the audience. Maybe it's time to retire to the Bahamas guys?

PS: Miss Hissy still had fun - especially after I plugged her ears with tissues and bought her a $50 T-shirt featuring a picture of a youthful B52s.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Dawny to Cockatoo Swim done and dusted

Around 100 bushfires burnt throughout NSW and the temperature soared, but for the crowd gathered at the Dawn Fraser Pool in Balmain this morning, it was all about the swim.

There was a strong turnout for what is officially acknowledged as the first Sydney ocean swim of the 2009/10 season. This has a lot to do with the growing popularity of ocean swimming. I think lots of people in mid-life crises (such as myself - in my case, the crisis is ongoing until death) are deciding a 2.3 km dip in the harbour is the way to go.

As a result, there's lots of older blokes and 'women of a certain age' taking up ocean swimming as a hobby. It beats scrapbooking.

Balmain Water Polo Club organised the gig like clockwork, with the 1.1 km swimmers heading off from the wharf outside the pool just before 9am. The 'over-56 years' boofy blokes - who look as though they drink like fish, but they also swim like fish - went off first.

I was in shortly after the old codgers.

In summary: it was fun. Visibility in the water was zilch, but I didn't even think about bull sharks as I ploughed out to the first buoy in front of Cockatoo Island.

A larger jelly blubber caromed off my goggles as I swam through hundreds of smaller single-celled creatures. I thought it would feel yucky, but in their element the jellies felt silky and soft, not slimy.

I enjoyed swimming around the island and, out of the corner of my goggles, spotted the Sydney Harbour Bridge and CentrePoint Tower in the far distance.

My dad (old codger in bottom pic), in the role of support person, estimated my time to be around 46 minutes. Fingers crossed for when the results go up next week.

The next challenge is Coogee - if the swell isn't too formidable for this chicky babe who wears the 2009 Mollymook swim as a bloody, battered badge of honour.

Friday, 20 November 2009

I didn't make the High Five but I'm up for the 2.5 around Cockatoo Island


My entry into the Romance Writers of Australia High Five contest didn't make it into the top six finalists. But I'm fine with that (sure - pour me another glass of pinot ya bastards!).

I submitted the first chapter of my ms with no expectations. Still, I was disappointed when my name wasn't on the finalists' list. The judges' feedback should be coming in soon, which makes me even more fearful. If my writing really sucks, in their opinion, I will need to re-think this ms. I might just find a drawer somewhere in all this mess, shove it away, and start something new.

Maybe I will die like Van Gogh and my work will be celebrated after I am gone. I'm joking guys! It's romance for Gawd's sake!

But wouldn't it be one of life's biggest rip-offs to have your work acknowledged posthumously? I suppose Stieg Larsson is a recent example, though he was already published and well-known in Sweden. He wasn't penniless, starving and half-crazed like poor Vincent.

Moving right along... this weekend is my first ocean swim for the 2009/10 season. I'm going into this one with a feeling of trepidation and a tummy bug that's caused me grief for the past week.

It's the Dawny swim around Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour. Dawn Fraser pool is a harbour pool in the inner-west suburb of Balmain. Because the pool has bars to stop the bull sharks from getting in (joking again), the swim starts from a jetty next to it.

There's a 1 km option - out to the first buoy and back - and the 2.5 km swim, which circumnavigates the island. I've done the shorter swim before but this is my first attempt at the longer one.

I'm praying the only thing I run into is jelly blubbers - from memory they're everywhere.

The water temp is supposed to be a pleasant 21 degrees. I hear bull sharks like it warm. And meaty.

If you don't hear from me after the swim, tell Spanner the manuscript is stuffed down the back of my undies drawer - otherwise he'll never find it.
This photo is lifted from my favourite ocean swims website in the universe as we know it

Monday, 16 November 2009

It's not easy being an involved mother

On the weekend I did the right thing and trekked to the NSW Central Coast to watch my youngest daughter, Miss Hissy, sail in the state championships.

I usually leave the sailing to Spanner. He loves it. And Miss Hissy loves Spanner and sailing. They bond over secret sailing chit-chat about jibes, tacks, runs and works. When I try to join the conversation Miss Hissy likes to remind me of my ignorance.

"Oh Mum," she says, rolling her eyes so far back in her head they almost disappear, "why don't you just let Dad explain without interrupting?"

But last weekend was BIG. If she didn't place in the top 12 finishers for Southern NSW, Miss Hissy would fail to make the team to contest the National Sabot titles in December/January.

On Saturday Miss Hissy did well in the two races. Overall, she placed 5th for Southern NSW (out of around 50 competitors).

On Sunday the weather was windy and the water choppy. I was invited to go out on a rigid inflatable - it sounds like some sort of sex aid, but it's a big jet ski/dingy - to get a birds-eye view of the racing.

The passengers sit on the soft (inflated) edges of the vessel, holding onto rope that is looped around the perimeter. The driver sits, jet-ski style, in the middle. The outboard motor gobbles up fuel like there's no tomorrow.

I thought: This will be fun. I'm doing this for Miss Hissy so she can see I'm actively interested in her sailing career. I'm an involved mother.

Along with Spanner and the driver, whose son was also racing, I climbed aboard, wearing a wind jacket for protection against the elements.

The next three hours were hell.

The driver immediately gave the inflatable full throttle and we pounded across the water, bouncing off its unforgiving surface. I flew into the air and landed with a mighty THUD (times this by 100). And every time we smacked the water, I was soaked by the equivalent of six buckets of salty water (times this by 100).

"Are you OK?" The driver shouted as I clung onto the rope for dear life, unable to see anything because my hair was stuck to my face and my sunglasses were askew and saturated.

I laughed hysterically, which he took to mean "yes".

Spanner didn't appear to be having such a hard time. He looked reasonably dry. It took a while for me to realise he had positioned himself at the back of the vessel, where there was less bounce and therefore less splash. Un-bloody-believable.

I endured the two races and Spanner's running commentary (Miss Hissy blew it big time in the final race where she went into irons - where the boat turns into the wind and the sails don't fill).

My duty done, I staggered ashore after we screamed back to the jetty. I was soaked through and had to change into Spanner's spare clothes - a T-shirt with a skull-and-crossbones print and board shorts. And because I forgot to bring a comb I spent the rest of the afternoon looking like someone's eccentric great aunt.

It wasn't until we arrived home after dark that I discovered my mascara had run down my cheeks. No one had bothered to tell me!

So ends the involved mother phase. From now on, I stay on dry land with a pair of binoculars.

PS: Fortunately, Miss Hissy made the team. There is a God.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Beautiful young girls rule the world

I was walking the dog the other day when another dog walker passed me on the way back home.

There's nothing unusual about this scenario, except she was plugged into her iPod and singing at the top of her lungs. The sound was enough to send all the neighbourhood dogs crazy. It was whiny and screechy, but she was oblivious to her lack of vocal talent.

She sashayed past me with a flick of her shiny, waist-length brown hair, dragging a small, white feather-duster dog on a diamante leash.

The walker was around 20, with legs up to her ears and wearing brief, hot-pink shorts and a skimpy top that showed a healthy amount of cleavage.

Get the picture?

I slowed down and contemplated my own dog-walking ensemble. From top to bottom it was: Gilligan hat in lime green, mauve T-shirt, a pair of tomato-sauce red terry-towelling gym pants with GT stripe on the outside legs (they're a 'size 14 girl', but my two daughters wouldn't wear them). And on the feet, a pair of red ecco sandals with velcro straps that I snapped up for $3 at the Salvo's store in Ulladulla (had to put that in - what a bargain!)

Accessories: mongrel dog, grubby lime-green leash and one bag of steaming dog poo.

As I dragged my heels (and the mutt), I wondered how it had come to this. The thing is I no longer set out to impress anyone with my appearance. That's not to say I don't care. But it is to say I don't worry. It's a middle-age thing.

As I turned the corner, the gorgeous young thing with a voice like a fishwife (thank god she wasn't perfect) walked straight ahead to the main road.

At the same time, a middle-aged bloke in a 4WD drove past and towards the main road and almost veered into a light pole. And it wasn't because he was horrified by my outfit.

In ya dreams, mate!

Monday, 9 November 2009

Al Green to tour Australia and I'm missing out

For half my life I have waited for the Reverend Al Green to tour Australia.

I love Al Green. I worship the stage upon which he walks and the pulpit from which he preaches. His music transports me to that space between heaven and earth where the seraphims hover on his soulful sounds.

But enough hero worship. Al Green is coming to Australia for the first time and I won't be here. Well, I will. But I won't be on mainland Australia. I'll be in bloody Tasmania!

Tassie seemed like an excellent idea at the time. I've never been to the Apple Isle and was looking forward to seeing some of the most spectular scenery the world has to offer.

But then Green's peeps come along and put a spanner in the works. Green is the headline artist at the launch of the Sydney Festival in the Domain on January 9. That's the day I fly down to Tassie.


Green is also doing two shows at the State Theatre, probably the best venue in Sydney to see a live act. Then he goes to Melbourne on the 14th and up to BrizVegas on the 19th. He's doing Perth too. But NOT Tassie. No one does Tassie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I arrive back home on the 17th. I am soooooooo disappointed. The planets are not aligned in my favour. The stars are out of sync. Is there a God? Green thinks so, but I reckon God has slammed the big golden door in my face. Our Father has decided I don't deserve to see Al Green.

Poor alternative: Load The message is love, Nearer my God to Thee, I can't get next to you, How can you mend a broken heart, Take me to the river and Here I am onto my iPod. And pretend I am nearer Al to thee.

Friday, 6 November 2009

The things people say when you decide to quit your job

I didn't quit my job on a whim.

Before I decided to resign, I went on and on and on about it - the long hours, working on weekends, no holiday pay, no sick leave, little support, no spare time, no me time, no kids' time (ha), no Spanner time (ha-ha), anger issues (take that you helpess ant! You call this a glass? Give me the f'in' bottle).

Result: burnt, wrung, dried and strung out. No doubt.

I had turned into a grumpy old bitch a couple of years ahead of schedule.

To shut me up, friends and family either a) supported my decision with encouraging words - you're better than this... where one door closes, another opens... they've exploited you for too long...

b) warned me to be careful of what I was giving up. $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.

When I told one I didn't have enough time to breathe, let alone write, and that I was juggling at least four tasks at once, he said, 'Remember the old saying, if you want the job done give it to a busy person.'

When I considered these two opposite reactions, it became clear that those who support the resignation have long-term secure jobs and earn good money.

The doomsayers are those whose career paths have tended to be less secure.

But it is done.

Surprisingly, my mum, who is the head cheerleader for shock-jock Alan Jones, is on my team.

She said, 'You're not happy. Take a break.'

I hope she lends me her David Jones card.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

What on earth have I done? I quit my job in the middle of the GFC

This is the story so far.

I recently handed in my resignation. In the middle of a global recession I decided that, after nine years in a demanding job, I'd had enough. I was bloody buggered, burnt out and bitter.

I have a cartoon on my fridge by the author and illustrator Tohby Riddle. There are four frames. In the first is a drawing of a joyful young boy, arms flung wide, who says: 'When I grow up I'm going to be an artist!'

In the second frame is the boy grown up in a suit. Still smiling, he says: 'When I get some spare time I'm going to be an artist!'

Are you starting to get the picture?

Frame 3 is a semi-balding grey-haired man: 'When I retire I'm going to be an artist,' he says.

In the final frame is a wrinkled old man lying in a bed, above him a thought bubble: 'When I get off this life support system I'm going to be an artist.'

This is one of the reasons I quit my job.
When I mailed off my resignation to head office I felt a great weight lift from my shoulders, but now I'm sort of like freaking like right out like!

To be continued - after I have a big glass of chilled white wine, which I won't be able to afford this time next year!
Above is one of Tohby's beautiful illustrations of a clever fox, which might be me one year from now. I reckon Riddle surpasses Leunig as an illustrator. And his magical fantastical stories are whimsical, humorous and scattered with marvellous aphorisms - my BIG WORD OF THE DAY.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Anyway, why add an 's'? The English language continues its downward spiral

I wonder if the women in Jane Austen's day fretted over issues such as the use of lazy English? Possibly, for what else is there to do after you've played the pianoforte a bit, sewed a bit, read a bit, eyed off a handsome rich man and taken a turn about the room a bit?

In 2009/10, there would be much to discuss. Over the past year, I've noticed more ridiculous additions to, omissions from and mispronunciations of the language - and it's driving me to drink (at least, that's my excuse).

The latest annoyance is the use of the word 'anyways'. Since when did 'anyway' inherit an 's'? With the addition of one useless letter, the Canadians and Americans (for they are the culprits) have screwed up a perfectly good word. And now bloody dumb Aussies are doing it too.

Another addition is 'off of'. What is this abomination? Why do you need to add an 'of' when you're telling someone to get 'off' something?

Here's another one that will drive me to despair up until New Year's Day. "Over New Year's I'm going to get off my face." It's not the 'off my face' that offends, but the 'New Year's'.

Strictly speaking, it should be referred to as 'the New Year' or 'New Year's Day'. But laziness means the 'Day' is lost.

And here's the most annoying trend of all.

When referring to big numbers and years, there used to be an 'and' to separate the thousands and hundreds from those numbers in the tens.

For example, next year is 2010, which used to be "two thousand and ten". But the 'and' is slowly disappearing. So now many radio and TV commentators refer to it as "two thousand ten".

What happened to the AND?

I know, I know, I should get a life and just write about vomiting adolescents and man-eating sharks.

Don't get me started on the pronunciation of 'route' and 'Uranus'!
PS: You do the maths!

Sunday, 25 October 2009

What is it about vomit? A smell that lingers

Dearest friends,

Though I wish my life was idyllic and that I could lose myself in 'Austenisms' and live a 21st century version of the 'Austen life', I'm afraid the real world has intervened in an untimely and most abhorrent fashion.

It was 12.30am on Saturday and Spanner and I were sound asleep upstairs, as were Miss Hissy and the loyal hound downstairs.

My dreams of Mr Darcy and something erotic to do with water (possibly triggered by the infamous lake scene in the BBC series of Pride and Prejudice) were interrupted by the phone ringing.

I staggered downstairs (Spanner pretended to be asleep) and took the call from the father of one of my eldest daughter's friends, who was driving his daughter and my daughter PP (variously stands for Petulant, Precious or Precocious Princess) home from a BIG night out.

So BIG in fact, that I needed to be at the ready to help carry her from the car when he arrived.

After 10 anxious minutes his car pulled up, with PP slouched in the back seat.

I don't know if you've ever held up a drunk person before, but it's really hard. PP is tall anyway and she was wearing boots, so she towered over us. I felt like I was an animal handler at the zoo trying to help a newborn baby giraffe that was struggling to stand. PP was all slithery arms and legs. She stood, then slumped, tried to stand again and failed again.


When she saw me, some sort of vague recognition dawned and she muttered: "You're kidding?"

The father and his daughter, who looked rather shamefaced (or was she just trying really hard to appear sober?), drove off, leaving me to get the flailing PP into the house.

As we reached the front verandah, she paused and, as if it was all planned, with great dignity vomited onto my one and only daphne plant (do you know how hard it is to grow one of these?). The vomit came out in an explosive gush and splattered her boots, but miraculously missed everything and everyone else, including Spanner, who by then was in a support role.

Inside, after the incriminating evidence was hosed off the front step, I managed to get PP into bed, still wearing her party clothes. On both sides of her mouth were a series of black lines. She looked a mess.

"WHAT ARE THE MARKS ON YOUR FACE?" I asked, observing my dishevelled princess with a little more empathy than on her arrival - I was grateful she hadn't vomited in the car or the house.

"MARKS? WHA...?" She could barely talk and the words were slurred.



Then she winked conspiratorially at me and tapped the side of her nose. It was pathetic and, I hate to admit, rather comical. I know, I know, it's not a laughing matter.

I got a bucket and several towels and placed them beside the bed, while she continued to mumble, "you're kidding".

The rest of my night was restless and I came into her room several times to check she was still alive - thoughts of Bon Scott and Jimi Hendrix' sad and lonely deaths preventing a peaceful sleep.

Of course, yesterday PP was mortified. I didn't say too much. I didn't need to. I'll ask about the cats' whiskers some other time.

Yesterday morning I hosed the front step again as the smell hadn't quite disappeared - and I didn't fancy the dog licking up any tasty leftovers!

The two morals of this story are - don't have kids and don't plant a daphne next to the front verandah step.

PS: This drawing is of Jane Austen, shortly after hearing my version of the events. Although she expressed some sympathy for PP, Miss Austen still wrote PP into the role of the silliest of the Bennet daughters, Lydia.

Friday, 23 October 2009

What is it about Pride and Prejudice?

In the school holidays most normal kids hang out at the mall, play Guitar Hero or World of Warcraft, binge drink (joking!) or go to the cinema with their friends.

But not 13-year-old Miss Hissy. In our house the recent two-week break evolved into 'the Jane Austen festival'.

Miss Hissy started reading Pride and Prejudice in the first week and I noticed a change in her speech patterns, pronunciation and enunciation.

"Mum, I am displeased that we are having to make our way to the supermarket when I would prefer to spend my leisure time engaged in other more fruitful endeavours."

"Why, dear mother, is it that my eldest sister is such a dimwit?"

"Let us take a turn about the room."

We watched Sense and Sensibility, starring Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Kate Winslett and Hugh Grant. This was followed by Pride and Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen (this was a weekly hire, so we got value for money by watching it three times).

Miss Hissy then brought home the BBC series of Pride and Prejudice, starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, from her grandparents'. She watched it twice - the first time she sat through the whole six hours in one viewing!

Is there something wrong with my little poppet, who sometimes feels she doesn't belong in the world? I think not, dear friends.

For Jane Austen's stories touch a universal nerve. Just generally (and because I have to get out of this blog and go for a swim before lunch) they are about strong women who eventually, after many twists and turns, get their man. and he's a generous, good looking, wealthy bloke to boot.
Dear little Miss Hissy. I hope she eventually gets an 'Austen' man!

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

A blue shark in Sydney Harbour at Rushcutters Bay and another in Glebe

A blue shark. Sounds romantic or possibly sad and lonely, does it not?

But this is a shark species, and one of these creatures was spotted recently at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia marina (in about one metre of water) at Rushcutters Bay.

Fishing expert David Lockwood says the 2-metre long shark was off course and is usually oceanic.

In the boatie magazine Afloat, Lockwood writes: 'As this species isn't averse to eating whatever crosses its path, inluding many sailors from navy battles, I'd keep your dogs away from the shoreline for a while at least.'

Comforting words as the ocean-swimming season swings into action!

This follows on from a report in The Sydney Morning Herald on September 17, where a shark was spotted swimming along the Glebe foreshore in the direction of Anzac Bridge (bottom pic). Witnesses say it could possibly be a bull shark. However, in the story a witness described its colour as a 'beautiful blue'.

Could be old Bluey's just out for a turn around the harbour.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Women cry much more than men because we care more

Men cry SIX times a year and more commonly at weddings, funerals and over the death of a pet.

The Daily Telegraph in Sydney didn't give the origin of these research results, but goes onto say that in comparison to men, women cry between 30 and 64 times a year.

The figures reflect my own experience.

I've lived with Spanner for 15 years and NOT ONCE have I seen that man shed a tear. However, in that time we've only been to a couple of weddings, no funerals and, luckily, the dog is still alive.

So, I asked Spanner about this - if, in fact, he has ever cried. He dug around in his memory (big effort) and revealed that 'yes', it happened once. And it was when his dog Fluff died in his arms.

I fit the female average of around 30 (64 times is 'spilt-milk' crying).

I cry out of frustration - because I live with a man like Spanner. And often I despair at the state of the world and the general human condition. Occasionally, I indulge in a little self-reflection, which can move me to tears at my own inadequacies.

I cry when I worry about my daughters' and stepson's futures or at the thought of my elderly parents ever dying.

Then there's the other general stuff. Music and film and the warm glow of connecting with a baby or small child who returns your smile, no matter what.

Only yesterday, I cried in the cinema when Miss Hissy and I saw Julie & Julia. Firstly, I literally cried tears of laughter (in the onion scene) and then at the end I cried because the film was such a joyful experience.

I guess it all adds up. My guess is women are wired to care more.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

The ocean swimming season for 2009 and 2010 is about to start

Some mad ocean swimmers never stop. They plan their lives around swims and travel the globe in pursuit of the perfect open-water experience.

Not moi. I am content to have a winter sojourn in the desert, away from the beach and thoughts of having to battle it out in the surf with hundreds of buoyant ageing blokes with a Johnny Weissmuller complex. And then there's the women competitors, many of whom look like they were born with friggin' fins and gills.

Don't get me wrong. I love ocean swims and this season is going to be BIG, I'm sure. But I'm not the fastest fish in the school, so the swims are sometimes a challenge.

This season I hope to do some PBs, but I don't plan to swim in a five-metre swell in a furious electric storm as I did at Mollymook on the NSW south coast in April. That swim has haunted me all winter. I still don't know how I managed to do it. I know why I did it - bloody competitive nature - my brother-in-law did it so I did too.

This season my major goal is to finish the Whale to Palmy beach swim in a decent time (not limp home in the final 50). Other minor goals are to have more fun and stay on course during a swim.

The season kicks off this weekend with a swim at Forrester's Beach up the NSW coast, and I'm sure all the diehards will be there.

In the meantime, I'll stay in the pool and let the big boys overtake me.

Monday, 12 October 2009

The legend of Benno, the world's best tour guide who showed us his Red Centre!

Without an exceptional tour guide, the organised holiday is bascially stuffed.

So, on our guided 4WD tour of the Red Centre we were blessed when Benno announced himself to us in a pre-dawn Alice Springs, outside our hotel.

"G'day, I'm Benno," he said and shook both PP's and my hands with a firm grip.

PP smiled at me - prior to meeting Benno she had predicted that his name would be something like Stevo, Davo, Scotty, Nicko or Jono. Take your pick. Benno was the icing on the cake.

The man is platinum.

Originally from Brisbane, QLD, Benno landed in the NT just three months ago after becoming disillusioned with his mundane 9-to-5 public service existence.

I think a lot of people like Benno end up in the Red Centre. The east coast is too crowded for these bold individuals.

Benno is true-blue, an Ocker with his heart in the right place. He is passionate about The Rock and loudly defends the right of the Aboriginal people to object to it being climbed. He has a wide knowledge of local history, culture and environment. He is in awe of the landscape and enthralled by the stories of the Dreamtime (though he says the Aborigines don't like to call it Dreamtime because that lacks substance. It's the Creation time - I think).

Benno cooks spag bog, SNITTIES (schnitzels with piles of grated cheddar cheese on top) and lots of meat. He serves up 'roo steaks and camel sausages (I ate camel the day after riding one), beef burgers and lumps of steak. It's a meat lovers orgy in Benno Land.

Benno plays Jon Bon Jovi (too much for mine) and he also plays the guitar and sings original songs (that sound just like Jon Bon Jovi) by the campfire. He sleeps in a swag and wears a bushie's hat. HE'S A BLOKE.

He drives the 4WD like a maniac and drinks XXXX like a fish - but only after hours.


If you ever go to THE ROCK, ask for Benno.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

It can get cold in the Central Australian desert, so pack some warm clothes just in case

It can get cold in the desert in October. Especially when you're sleeping in a swag around an extinguished campfire.

A swag is sort of a cross between a sleeping bag and a tent. In the famous Australian poem/bush ballad Waltzing Matilda the main character is a jolly swagman, an itinerant chap who carries his bed rolled up on his back.

After sleeping in a swag I can't understand how he could be so bloody 'jolly'. But I don't suppose it would work if the poem went: 'Once a grumpy, sleep-deprived swagman, with a bad back and frostbitten toes, camped by a billabong...'

The modern swag has a foam underlay and you can slip a sleeping bag inside it. At 1am on the first night of the tour at a permanant campsite at Yulara campground, not far from Uluru, I awoke in the feotal position. I had somehow burrowed into the middle of the swag, but this didn't stop the cold night air from creeping into my lair.

It was freezing. I'd estimate it was around 4 degrees Celsius. Geez, I felt my age as I staggered off to the bathroom several hours later. By day 4, I didn't bother looking in the mirror!

But my point is I hadn't packed enough warm clothes and nor had Precious Princess, who threw in skimpy Pammy Anderson shorts and light cotton sleeveless tops. Brrr...

The weather during the day varied from cold with a strong wind-chill factor (at Uluru for the sunrise and sunset viewings) to hot (walking through the Valley of the Palms on the last day of the tour).

It even rained on the first day, not a lot, but enough to cause puddles at the roadhouse where we stopped for morning tea. Rain in a place that averages an annual 230 millimetres and has fewer than 40 days of rain per year.

Back on the road in the warmth of the 4WD...

After seeing Uluru, I thought that nothing could top it. But over the next few days we visited the spectacular Kata Tjuta (formerly known as the Olgas), Kings Canyon, Ormiston Gorge and the Valley of the Palms.

Coming up in the next blog... beer and camel sausages with our legend tour guide BENNO. Could life get any better than this? Mmm... maybe in Byron! (pics of a cloudy Uluru and PP in skimpy gear collecting firewood for campfire)