Sunday, 29 March 2009

Bamoral Beach is a slice of heaven

If I had a spare $20 million I might consider putting down roots in Balmoral, the sunkissed harbourside playground of the mega-rich on Sydney's North Shore.

Geez, it's noice. Sparkling harbour views, calm European-style water (ie: flat) but with lovely Aussie sand, lots of cafes and great coffee.

Each year the locals hold the Balmoral Swim for the Children's Cancer Institute Australia. It's a one kilometre swim, which is fine by me. Most of the hardcore ocean swimmers head to the longer swim at South West Rocks on the Mid North Coast, which coincides with the Sydney event.

But not the Mighty Davo and I. We are sort of old and sort of feeble (I hurt my back last week and he broke his foot) so the shorter event was the go. Also, Balmoral is closer to home and an easy Sunday morning drive. Davo's son (my nephew), Little Prince, tagged along for the 250 metre kiddies' swim.

Suffice to say, they do things in a very civilised fashion at Balmoral. A lovely woman, a *Mosman-type, gave me my cap, number and ankle-timer thingy.

After a faulty start just after 10am, where about 30 male competitors had to be stopped and marshalled back to the beach, the swim was as smooth as a Mosman yummy mummy's botoxed forehead.

I'm thrilled to say I was with the peloton all the way! No hanging about wondering where everyone had gone - which is usually way ahead of moi.

The water was a linger-longer temperature and the swim was a comfortable length. Mighty Davo said he was kicked in the face and had to endure much macho male behaviour, but the 40-49-year-old women were all well behaved.

Apart from the usual scuffle upon entering the water, it was all rather jolly good fun!

God, on days like this I love Sydney.

*Sydney is divided into tribes and there is a definite Mosman look (Mosman is the suburb at the top of the hill, which enviously overlooks Balmoral). She was perfectly made up with the hair sprayed into place, the manicured red nails were definitely not glue-ons and she wore a silk blouse and pressed linen trousers. I didn't look at her feet, but I bet the sandals were patent leather and her toenails varnished a matching red.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Five excuses not to write the great Australian romance novel

I want to write the great Australian romance novel! I do! Seriously!

But here are five major obstacles (substitute excuses) preventing me from achieving my goal:

1. Paid work: Someone's gotta bring home the bacon and my partner isn't a judge, orthopaedic surgeon or property developer - say no more.

2. Dog: We bought Karma from the RSPCA five years ago on the proviso that the kids a. walk her at least once a day b. feed her c. wash her d. clean up after her - say no more.

3. House: I am not married to a judge, orthopaedic surgeon or property developer, therefore cannot afford a cleaner. Ditto for cooking, shopping, washing, ironing.

4. Children: The 18-year-old daughter, Petulant Princess (PP), and 12-year-old daughter, Miss Hissy, require 24/7 care. Eg: PP, who will be on her L plates until she's around 80, recently discovered the clubbing scene and pink fizzy drinks. Consequently, she requires a chauffeur to and from venues, plus regular vitamin-replacement therapy in the form of wholesome home cooking.

5. Blog: Say no more.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

How shellfish - the Buddhists stole my idea!

For years I've been carping on about a lot of things (refer to archived blog about writing aspirations over 20 year period).

One of these was a short-film concept, which I might as well share with you now because the bloody Buddhists have stolen my idea.

Some years ago I went to the cinema at Chatswood, which is/was located next to a Chinese restaurant. This restaurant had a huge fishtank in the window and it was filled, of course, with fish and other sealife including crabs and lobsters.

I was really upset by this because the creatures were removed from the tank and boiled to death. The humane way to kill crustaceans is to freeze them beforehand, which apparently puts them in a comatose state so they don't feel a thing when they're boiled.

The short film was to be about a young couple who see this tank and witness the death of a live crustacean in boiling water. They decide to set all the creatures free. So, they return to the restaurant (probably disguised as crustaceans - just added that new idea then) and hold it up. They then smash the tank (slow motion) and scoop crustaceans into boxes.

They flee in their small van, with the furious restaurant owners in hot pursuit (every film needs a car chase). After some shenanigans along the way, they make it to the coast and set the creatures free.

Short film ends. Credits roll. Not a dry eye in the house. I take home first prize at Tropfest, thanking family, friends, blog followers and crustaceans around the world.

But guess what? My concept's now on ice because of the Buddhists.

A recent story in The Daily Telegraph describes the Buddhist practice of buying back crabs from the fishmarket and taking them to a secret location (near the ocean, I guess!) to set them free. Apparently, this happens twice a year.

Well, I'm sorry Mr Dalai Lama, but this crabby story is my intellectual property! I deadset thought of it first and my intentions are more honorable than yours.

The only reason the Buddhists set the crabs free is because they reckon the creatures might be reincarnated as humans.

The morals of this story are that if you don't act on an idea, someone else will do it first and that nothing is original.

PS: I still plan to make this film before I die (I wonder if I can get the Buddhists on board), just as I plan to finish a romance novel

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

romance & swimming are oceans apart

After trying to work out how to combine the two in one blog, I have concluded that ocean swimming and romance writing don't mix.

I mean, are ocean-swimming afficionados at all interested in the internal struggles of an aspiring romance writer?

And do those followers of all things romantic give a toss about a group of nutbags offering themselves up as sharkbait to the great ocean god for a couple of months each year?

I think not.
After many sleepless nights (possibly caused by my guzzling on the cooking wine) I have decided to maintain All at sea for ocean swimming and to create another blog dedicated solely to my other passion - writing.

I'll keep you* posted.
*Who am I kidding? My good friend Ms Smug recently threw this well-intended comment my way: "I don't understand how people can get a kick out of writing something that no one else reads." I wonder if she was talking about me or those zillions of lonely souls who float about in the blogosphere in general? Anyway, if you are reading this Ms Smug you'll have to eat your words!

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

It's not fair when the winner takes all in an ocean swim

I have come to accept there are other constants in life apart from death and taxes. One of these is that I will never win a place in my age group in an ocean swim (or even get near it).

I've checked out my peers who, no doubt, will swim until they've got one foot in a watery grave.
They are naturals, born to swim, and they deserve to take away the trophy, towel or other modest age-category prize awarded them by swim organisers.

Then there is a small group of swimmers that competes in the 'elite' category for the big prizes. Some of the larger ocean swims on the Sydney circuit offer lucrative prizes to the elite place getters, such as $1000 or the cost of travel, accommodation and entry to ocean swims in Hawaii, Fiji and Vanuatu.

I don't begrudge these swimmers their just rewards. They train hard and are the best in a highly-talented field.

What riles me me is their double dipping. Several ocean swims in Sydney have recently introduced a 1km swim to augment the 2km event. The shorter swim also comes with a desirable prize pool.

The elite swimmers enter both events and, of course, win both prizes. When interviewed by organisers after the 1km swim, they say "it's a warm up" as they walk away with the jackpot.

I say it's a rip off. If the 1km swim is just a doddle for the elite swimmers to prepare for the main event, I reckon they should donate their prize to an entrant who is not registered as an elite swimmer and who is entered in the 1km swim only.

Ocean swims are touted as community events, but the elite swimmers see them as an opportunity to flout 'the winner takes all' principle (thanks ABBA).

It's not right, it's not fair and it's not the Australian way!
(Photo: Petulant Princess captured in frame at the height of her ocean swimming career in 2007 by

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Itchy all over, but it ain't sea lice

During the Sydney Harbour Ocean Swim I knew there was something upleasant going on in my togs. I could feel a bunch of critters nipping away at my flesh, caught as they were between my one-piece swimmers and my body.

After the swim I commented on this experience to Petulant Princess and we decided the best option was to strip off (behind a bush) and change into fresh clothes ASAP.

Alas, it was too late for moi. The night after the swim was fine, but by the Monday morning my torso was covered in a red rash, similar in appearance to chicken pox. The bites were raw and livid, raised and often clumped together. They were even on my back, following the shape of my cossie straps.

Fortunately, they weren't on my bottom or groin. However, my brother-in-law, Davo, wasn't so lucky. Yep, in his case they ventured into the budgie smugglers and the damage was done!

We concluded that it was sea lice. To confirm this, I did some research on the net to discover that the culprits are more likely to be jellyfish larvae.

It makes sense. Last Sunday the harbour was awash with jellies. And I spent a lot of my time swimming through groups of them.

An American website, Divers alert network, explains that the result of a jellyfish larvae assault is called 'sea bather's eruption', and it is caused by tiny laval forms which become trapped underneath bathing suits - and each larvae has stinging cells. 'Women wearing one-piece swimmers are vulnerable,' it warns.

The condition is apparently aggravated by:
* staying in swimmers after swimming
* showering in fresh water (with cossie still on, I suppose?)
* rubbing your body, still in cossie, with a towel

The bad news about sea bather's eruption is that the larvae can remain in cossies and there are reports of the condition recurring.

One week after the event I feel a lot better. The bites/stings are no longer itchy and they don't look half as nasty.

I don't know if there is any way to stop the larvae from jumping on board, though one bloke on the seabreeze blog (who wasn't sure what had bitten him) suggested dousing yourself in vinegar before heading into the water. It worked for him!

PS: Apparently, sea lice don't dig (so to speak) human flesh. They are a fish parasite and prefer to hang off salmon.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Shark-free zone

Counting - all limbs intact, 10 fingers, 10 toes and I still got me nose!

Today around 750 swimmers leapt into Sydney Harbour from the Man O' War steps at the Opera House to particpate in the eighth Sydney Harbour Swim Classic.

I was nervous as all get out, having heard the news that a 15-year-old boy was 'mauled' (one is never attacked by a shark, one is always MAULED) by a shark at Avalon beach around 6.30 this morning. This attack is one of three in the past three weeks. This number is unprecedented (I think - correct me if I'm wrong).

Despite this, the swimmers today put their faith in the organisers, who had taken extra precautions, such as adding spotters on top of the Opera House and at Pinchgut and extra support craft to make the event safe.

I'm sure they were praying that the bugger at Avalon wouldn't head south and make a sharp right-hand turn at North and South Heads.

It was a little disconcerting when, before the start of the swim, we were told that if a shark was spotted we were all to move into to the middle of the harbour where we would be picked up by a flotilla of boats. Really?

I'm sure swim organiser Adam Watson is having a celebratory drink or 10 tonight as the event was fin-free.

As usual, I swallowed half the harbour. But all that matters is I SURVIVED (so did my brother-in-law Davo and eldest child, Petulant Princess).

The water was around 20 degrees, a cruise ship was moored just behind Pinchgut, the day was sparkling and the bull sharks were no doubt cruising around underneath us thinking, "What the @#*!"

No more shark stories from now on, I promise (unless there's another 'incident', that is).

From now on it's romance all the way!