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)

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Uluru is the true-blue red heart of Australia

Red. That is the predominant colour of Central Australia. The other is blue. The red dirt that gets in your nostrils and ears and shoes and socks is in stark contrast to the blinding blue sky.

But enough waxing lyrical. Precious Princess (PP) and I had a bloody brilliant time bonding in the desert, as you do.

We saw THE ROCK from every possible angle (except the top) and walked the 9.4 kilometres around it. Our tour guide BENNO (his name just had to end in an 'O') says there are two types of people who climb ULURU - those who are ignorant and those who are arseholes.

ULURU belongs to the Anangu people. It is their home and they discourage climbers. Many climbers reach the top and piss on it, literally. Because of this, a small shrimp-like creature that lives up there recently became extinct. Also, since people started climbing THE ROCK (not sure when - in the 1960s?) 42 have died. BENNO (what a legend) told us it took authorities four days to find the body of the last bloke who fell to his death in December 2008.

I was convinced of the sacredness of this ancient monolith when it first came into view on the first day of a four-day 4WD camping tour with eight others. I cried (pathetic). I didn't expect it be so spectacular and majestic. I suppose I've spent my life looking at the postcard, so I thought it would be a sort of dome-shaped red bit of rock. But it is a mercurial entity.

It is massive and in some places pock marked. It has ripples and ruts, dents and bluffs. There are waterholes and caves within its deepest recesses.

And it changes colour - pink, mauve, red and brown - dark and full-cream chocolate.

In the next instalment I'll write a bit more about our excellent adventure into the Red Centre with guide BENNO and the super group (two Germans, two Japanese, two Canadians and four Aussies -including PP and me).

Cheers and more beers!