Sunday, 28 August 2011

What it feels like to lose: RIP rooster and netball grand final hopes come crashing down

Reaching for the stars but it wasn't to be
The day started on an ominous note. No rooster crow at 4am. And nothing since. I think I'm grieving over a stupid bird. And dumber still is that this morning I woke automatically at 4am. SILENCE.

Let's assume the rooster has "passed" as people like to say nowadays. I prefer the word "dead" but for some reason it's taboo. THE ROOSTER HAS DIED. HE IS AS DEAD AS A DOOR NAIL. DEAD DEAD DEAD. I feel better now. 

As for the grand final for Miss Hissy's (The Hiss) division 3 netball team, Motley Crew, versus the Rough as Guts team, the less said the better. But here I go anyway. 

The Hiss woke up feeling sick. She informed me that she'd vomited at 4am (what is it with this time of day/night?). Not once but three times. Great.

I put the spews down to pre-match nerves and told her to snap out of it. After a brief altercation, I raced up to the shops and spent a small fortune on a hand of bananas - for which I swore I'd never pay more than $5 a kilo.

She ate a banana and we headed off to the netball courts with Spanner and my parents. 

I won't go into boring detail, suffice to say it was all downhill from the second quarter. The Hiss, who was Wing Defence, staggered off the court towards the end of the first quarter when MC was still a couple of points ahead. She looked ill - pasty face and clammy skin. 

The RAG team went on to win 32-24 or something like that.

In all fairness, MC played a shambolic game and lost the plot. We seriously choked and RAG deserved to win. 
So close and yet so far away. Maybe next year. But there won't be a next year for the poor rooster... May he Rest In Peace (or pieces).

Friday, 26 August 2011

The proof is in the poultry: one last look at a dirty chook

I've used my two best jokes in the headline so this post will be brief. I thought you might like to see the doomed rooster from two doors up whose fate is sealed (probably in a tasty white wine sauce). 

If you read the previous two posts, you'll know the story so far. And there's no happy ending (not for the rooster, that is).

Today, I snuck around to our neighbours' back fence so I could gather photographic evidence of the rooster's existence. This wasn't an easy task because the fence is elevated so I had to climb onto a cement retaining wall and cling to the rickety palings to get my happy snaps. I could have hauled a leg over, and then the other, and stepped onto the neighbours' property but I would have looked a right eejit had I been caught. 

As it was, the house's back sliding doors were open. I knew Mr 'whatever I called him in the last post' (for now, I'll make do with 'Mr Murderer') was home because he was in the front yard hammering up a new fence (I must tell him the back one needs fixing too).

I wasn't sure if his wife was home so there was no way I was going to trespass. I'm a middle-aged woman for godsake. I am an eejit. 

The pics aren't too sharp because I had to zoom in, and the sun was in the way. However, these 'grainy' pics may be the last ever taken of the plucky rooster who crowed at 4am - on the dot - every day. 

We'll know by the end of the weekend if the rooster's still with us. If it's a silent Sunday at 4am we'll know he's passed over to the other side of the fence into fowl heaven, where 70 vestel virgin chicky babes await his arrival.

I hope so.  

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Hang the rooster, hang the rooster, hang the rooster: No, spare the rooster!

The mildly dramatic headline is meant to be sung to the tune of The Smiths' Panic, which has a lilting melody.

But I did want something attention-grabbing because there's a potential crisis looming. Anyone reading my blog, and there's millions of you out there, will know that a rooster has moved into our street - just two doors up. The said rooster has woken my partner Spanner and I up at 4am with its godawful crowing since its arrival on Sunday.

Today Spanner talked to the neighbour who owns said rooster and told him "the bird has to go". What Spanner meant was that the bird should be moved to a farm where it could happily impregnate chickens and live a happy long life - that might be five or six years. Maybe more.

But our neighbour Mr Callous told Spanner he would "get rid" of the bird on the weekend even though he'd planned to keep it for a month so he could "fatten it up".

I didn't know roosters could be roasted (Doh! Red Rooster). I thought fresh chicken breasts came from hens. 

I said to Spanner: What does this mean?
Spanner replied: I guess he's gonna kill it and eat it.

Earlier I'd peeked over our neighbours' fence and into their backyard where the rooster is being kept in a narrow chicken run with a cardboard box as its bed. We made eye contact. 

I said to Spanner: We can't let this happen.
Spanner replied: There's nothing we can do.

I reckon Mr Callous paid at least $14 for this beautiful looking bird. That's how much it costs to buy one at the local charcoal chook shop. Why didn't he just buy a cooked chook?  Why does he have to murder the rooster? We're in the 'burbs for heaven's sake. We shop. Not chop.

I said to Spanner: We could set him* free.
Spanner replied: A fox or cat would get him.
I said to Spanner: Do you know anyone who owns a farm? We could kidnap him and relocate him.
Spanner replied: Sure.  

I'm not sure what to do next. How does one save a rooster from the chopping block?

This whole experience has turned me off roast chicken. I wish I'd never made eye contact.   

*He is no longer an 'it'. He has become a 'somebody'.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

When the dog barks and the rooster crows it's time to take action

My friend Ms Fivestar is having a terrible time with her neighbours' barking dog. 

When the neighbours leave the house their senile pooch starts YAP-YAP-YAPPING. And it doesn't stop until they return.

Understandably, this is driving Ms Fivestar round the bend. She's exhausted. This isn't good because here is a woman naturally on edge who has now reached (how do you say it?) "tipping point".  

I dropped by her place a couple of weekends ago to find her in a murderous mood. She'd spent the afternoon gathering incriminating evidence against her canine nemesis by recording his incessent barking, which she planned to broadcast over the back fence for her neighbours' displeasure. No one messes with Ms Fivestar.

This must have gone down a treat. On Monday I received this text message: "I'll have to miss Pilates this week as I'll be in local justice mediation with neighbours re: their dog on Thursday. Can you believe it?"
I'm afraid I can, Ms Fivestar. This is the way of the world. In the old days the dog would mysteriously disappear... (sorry, getting carried away here. I love dogs!).

Coincidentally, we've had a similar unbearable-noise experience in our street. On the weekend Spanner and I were in the backyard when we first heard it.  


But a rooster's crow doesn't really sound like that, it's more like someone being throttled - over and over.

At the time, Spanner said: "That's nice. Someone's got a rooster." 

Two days later he's on the warpath, having been woken up by the cock's strangulated cries every morning before dawn.

Spanner's not the sort of bloke to cry 'fowl' (I had to include one bad pun) without good reason. He's buggered! This thing never shuts up. This arvo he went on a fact-finding mission to locate the offending creature. He arrived home victorious - it's two houses up cooped up (ha!) in a chicken run down the side driveway. 

I Googled our local council for the rules on keeping roosters and found a paragraph in a document titled Offensive Noise Management Policy. Here it is: "In particular, Council may order a person who is keeping animals or birds inappropriately to keep them in a specified manner or to cease keeping them. For example, Council may order the owner of a rooster that is causing a nuisance by crowing to cease keeping the rooster."

Don't you just love council speak. In other words, if the bloody bird is driving the neighbours nuts they can complain to the council which can order the rooster's owners to get rid of it.

"I demand that you cease keeping this rooster!"
I have a feeling the rooster two doors up might just mysteriously disappear... 

Sunday, 21 August 2011

What it feels like to be in lane 7: thrown to the lions

If you're a regular reader of this blog you'll know that a couple of posts back I set a personal swimming squad goal to move from the slow lane 8  to the faster lane 7. The really fast squad members swim in lane 6 (a no-go zone). 

To cut a short story really short, I believe I've been promoted to lane 7 well ahead of my predicted goal of July 2012. 

Why? That's the question I asked myself when my coach Mr Nice Guy told me to scoot over to lane 7 on Monday. 

I reasoned that it was a quiet morning, with some squad members not attending because they'd run in the City2Surf, Australia's major annual fun run that attracts 85,000 participants, the day before. 

I thought I could handle lane 7 in the absence of the "gun" swimmers. I coped pretty well by hanging at the back of the group which is where I belong.

On Wednesday I slinked back into lane 8 only to be told to move across to 7. It was a busier session and the guns were back. "Why are you kicking me out?" I asked Mr Nice Guy. I may as well have added: "...of my comfort zone" to the question. 

Sometimes I ask dumb questions. I already knew his answer. Lane 7 would make me fitter and, hopefully, faster.

The problem is I feel like I've been thrown to the lions. This lane 7 mob are fast, plus they cheat a bit by not always following the time repeats. I feel like I'm thrashing around just trying to keep up because they're not stopping at the wall when they're supposed to.

On Friday I tried to sneak into lane 8 again but was discovered by the Boss Man coach who only comes to the pool on Fridays to bestow his swimming wisdom upon us. I jumped into lane 7 quick smart. No one argues with the Boss Man.

So it looks like I'm in the middle group of swimmers for good if I continue to make three squad sessions a week. I'm quietly freaking out because I'm the oldest person in that lane by a good couple of years. I'm also the loudest. One thing I've noticed as I've grown older is that I don't care as much about what people think of me. I can be a right pain but who cares apart from everyone else in the lane?  Maybe I can wear/slow them down that way!

PS: If you read my last post about The Hiss and her netball team Motley Crew (MC) making it into next week's grand final, you'll know the Systemic Catholic Girls (SCG) had to fight it out with another team in a play-off this weekend. Amazingly the other team, Rough as Guts (RAG) beat SCG. This means MC plays RAG next Saturday. It's gonna be bigger than Ben Hur. More on this amazing event next week. 

Saturday, 13 August 2011

What it feels like to win

It's fair to say the sport of netball is akin to a rites of passage for hundreds of thousands of Australian girls. It's as bloody Australian as the bloody beach, the bloody barbecue and bloody rugby league (I'm writing this in bloody NSW). 

Where we live, netball is a Saturday morning ritual during winter. The local netball association is manned by volunteers who are passionate about the game. They're a bunch of officious old girls decked out in satin-shine white trackie daks with a dashing purple stripe down the outside arm and leg. They wear blindingly-white runners, carry clip boards and go to the same hairdresser. Think 1960s perms with red rinse. Think Stepford netball ladies.

But really, they're wonderful. I wish I was that passionate about anything. These women live for Saturday and with it the sight of thousands of girls in their club uniforms and the sounds of scuffing runners on 30 all-weather hard courts, the continual bleet of umpires' whistles and the cries of jubilation or despair as games are won or lost. 

My youngest daughter Miss Hissy (aka The Hiss) plays in a division 3 team in the role of either wing defence or goal defence. For those of you unfamiliar with netball there are three rules* you need to know (let's keep it simple): 1. when a player catches the ball she can only take 1.5 steps before throwing it to another player on her team 2. a player can hold on to the ball for no longer than three seconds before getting rid of it 3. no contact. 
The idea is that the team of seven gets the ball into their goal circle, where the two goal shooters (goal shooter and goal attack) attempt to shoot it through the goal-post ring.

Today The Hiss and her team Motley Crew (the MCs) played for a place in the grand final against another team angling for the same prize. Let's call the other team Systemic Catholic Girls' (SCGs) - I'm not trying to be nasty, I just can't help it.

The MCs and SCGs had played each other last week, where it all got a little bit out of hand with accusations of aggressive behaviour flying from both sides. The MCs won the game by a whisker. 

This week tension was high on court 7. The Hiss was to spend the third quarter sitting it out (there's four 15 minute quarters). But in the second quarter, when the game was tighter than Spanner's hip pocket, she choked! 

For those of you unfamiliar with the Aussie vernacular, "to choke" means to cave in under pressure. The Hiss fell over after she and her opposition player collided. It wasn't a heavy fall and she bounced back onto her feet with the team and parents calling out encouragement. But it was all too much for the Hiss who came off sobbing into my arms. 

Concerned and loving mother: What's wrong with you? 
The Hiss (imagine really hard sobbing): It's... it's... it's... the hormones.
Concerned and loving mother: Don't be ridiculous.
The Hiss: She tripped me. 
Concerned and loving mother: No she didn't. It was an accident. 
The Hiss (showing me the grazed palms of her hands): Look. 
Concerned and loving mother: They're not even bleeding. 
And so on and so forth. 
After this exchange, The Hiss managed to stop hyperventilating and went on to play the final half of the game.And we won! Not that I'm taking any credit for my tough love approach but she played like she was on fire. Must've been the hormones.

The win takes the MCs into the grand final in a fortnight, where they may end up facing the SCGs in the battle for first place in division three of the local Saturday comp**. 

Let's hope The Hiss can keep her hormones in check and avoid the choke. 

*Of course, there are other rules I haven't talked about, many of them a mystery to me.
**I'm just putting the whole thing into perspective.

The photo is of elite netball players, who play the game indoors.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

When the world is in turmoil there's only one thing to do: write a list

Sometimes it's hard to justify the existence of human kind. We're nasty buggers hell-bent on bringing the planet to its knees. 

I've been thinking long and hard (about 5 mins) about the messy state of the world and have had a breakthrough thought**. 

Here it is: if everyone learnt to swim and swam regularly the world would be a better place. Simple as...

I have contained my reasons for this in an easy-to-read list:

Compulsory swimming could potentially save the world because: 
* it tones and strengthens the muscles and doesn't involve any jarring movements.
* during laps, it's possible to meditate, think imaginative thoughts and plan the day ahead. 
* it burns off aggression and leaves the swimmer feeling calm and ready to take on the world in a nice and positive way, not in a destructive and negative way.
* it feels pretty sexy to plunge into silky water and pretend you're faster than a shark.
* it gets everyone together in the pool or at the beach. 
* it introduces people to the beauty and power of nature (when swimming in the ocean).
* it encourages people to appreciate what they've got and not what they haven't.
* it can be done by everyone from bubs to octogenarians.
* it's not about size - you don't have to be slim to swim. I get thrashed by people twice my size.
* you can swim without a limb. Seriously, some of the most accomplished ocean swimmers have a disability.


 **Definition of breakthrough thought: a fleeting moment of pure inspiration that, when reflected upon, turns out to be utterly ridiculous and implausible but still worth a mention in a blog that has 22 followers (one of them a dog).

Monday, 8 August 2011

The urge to get back to the beach as winter drags on and SAD kicks in; and beware the weever

I need to get back to the beach and into the ocean. The withdrawal symptoms are starting to kick in: restlessness, lack of concentration, a tendency to daydream (more frequently than usual), short fuse, no focus, alcohol dependency (any excuse will do) and sluggishness (no slime thank you very much).
I've convinced myself my symptoms reflect those of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

The Mayo Clinic website says less daylight in autumn and winter, genetics and age are all factors that could contribute to SAD.

You can read more about the role melatonin plays in the condition at

The Mayo Clinic's experts suggest light therapy, which is fine if you live in a country where there's hardly any daylight. But in Australia even in winter the sun shines brightly enough to have the same effect as a special light contraption, though the contraption's only advantage is it doesn't emit UV rays.

My issues are I don't live close to a beach so tend not to go unless the weather's hot and there's an organised ocean swim. Also, I don't have a wet suit and, to be honest, I don't feel like swimming for long periods in 16 degree Celsius water in winter. I can see the die-hards roll their eyes and hear them "tsk tsk".  I can't go there without a seal suit!

So that will be my next purchase when Spanner isn't looking.

And on another topic - BELIEVE IT OR NOT - England has a poisonous fish species! This summer more than 1000 holidaymakers swimming at the seaside in the UK have been spiked by the weever, the country's most venomous fish.

Lordy lord, I just Googled 'the weever' and it's a shocker. The culprit is the lesser weever (not its relative the greater weever), a sandy coloured six-inch long fish, which buries itself in the sand. Unsuspecting bathers step on it and its spiky dorsal fin becomes embedded in the flesh and releases venom. 

Andy Horton of the British Marine Life Study Society writes that the pain is "excruciating" and at its most "intense" for the first two hours. As with bluebottles, the method of treatment is to put the affected limb into really hot water. 

Apparently, weevers have always been a nuisance in summer on the south-west coast but this year they've sprung up at Hastings on the south coast and North Yorkshire. The reason? Warmer sea temperatures. 

The wimpy lesser weever won't kill you though, so Australia still retains bragging rights on its vast array of  DEADLY venomous creatures. So there Poms... take that *fish slap*.

Monday, 1 August 2011

It's a sad day when the king of lane 8 gets promoted to lane 7

As I've said in a recent post, swim squad members know their place. I'm in the slowest lane, lane 8, which I share with a group of nice people who aren't too competitive. By this, I mean they aren't like the faster swimmers in lane 7 who pull out all stops to lead the lane in their quest to move into the stellar lane 8. 

So, today it was with great sadness that I farewelled my lane buddy Mr Really Big (with apologies to Candace Bushnell but I couldn't think of anything original because it's Monday and, the thing is, Mr RB is just that. He's easily six foot and quite stocky in a nice sort of 'Mr Big' way, which I'd never reveal to Spanner ... I'm rambling, so I'd better get back to the story).

Mr RB and I had a lot of fun in lane 8. I'd swim in his bubbly wake and tap his toes just to remind him that he was always in danger of being overtaken (it nearly killed me). Then he upped his squad attendance and before I knew it his toes were a distant memory as I struggled to even see his bubbles. 

Today Mr RB's hard work finally paid off. He started the morning in lane 8 but our coach quickly moved him into lane 7.

I must admit to feeling a sense of loss. No more fun for me.

After the one-and-a-half-hour session he was buggered! Mr RB and I are the same age, so I can understand why. Lane 7 is brimming with 20-somethings who have bucket-loads of energy and all the time in the world to swim, cycle and run.

Farewell Mr RB, maybe you'll return to lane 8 one day - after suffering a minor heart attack.

PS: I bet Mr RB will try to sneak back into lane 8 at the next squad session. It's a safe haven in a world driven by blind ambition.