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It was a defining moment. Searching for a pair of 3D glasses in a darkened movie theatre in a handbag which had swallowed them up. Why? Because the lining in the recently purchased ‘perfect’ handbag had torn and the offending article was nestled somewhere at the bottom of the bag along with some peppermints. Again I asked myself as  Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf discussed weighty matters on ‘The Hobbit’ , why is it SO hard to find the perfect Mulberry-Leather-Handbags-Light-Coffee-Outlethandbag?

Long have I searched. If bags were men, then I would be a loose woman having short term relationships with men who appear at first glance to have all that I need to live a perfectly balanced life. Alas, like men, I always find that the bag is not up to scratch and does not meet my modest needs.

Is it too much, I ask, to have a bag that carries everything? I have been told that I carry too much in my bag, but that is not true. I need that sunscreen (in case it is sunny). I need that mozzie spray (in case their are mozzies) I need an umbrella – you guessed it – in case it rains. Then there is the wallet, mobile phone, fan (for post menopause hot flushes) comb, makeup, pills, loyalty cards, diary, tissues, peppermints, almonds for a snack, bottle of water, cardi, sunhat, car keys, house keys and torch. And a book to read in case I have nothing to do and no-one to talk to.

Hmm, maybe that list is too long. But I NEED those things, just in case. In case of what, Karen Jones. Maybe it is time to get your priorities straight and leave some of that stuff at home. But I might NEED it my inner woman snivels. Get over it, says my tough outer woman. Hah

But, somewhere out there must be the perfect bag. Like the perfect man it complements my every style and mood. It is capacious but not bulky. It has hidden depths and accessible pockets. It is giving and comforting. It holds all of my stuff. It never buckles, rips, or snaps under pressure. It is genuine leather. It is the perfect tan colour (not brown). It goes with everything. I can find my keys in the dark and my mobile phone does not become invisible in there. It is reliable, sturdy, attractive, matches everything and is hopefully a designer label under a hundred dollars.  It must not be glitzy or too shiny. It must sit on my shoulder and should have a zip for safety, but no flap. Flaps are annoying. It must sit on my sloping shoulder without sliding off. The strap must adjust to the right length for my hand to slide in and feel my vibrating phone so I can take important calls. It must have a flat bottom so it will not fall over and spill contents when on a flat surface

Alas, in the shop I see it hanging there. Lovingly I try it on for size, search the inner depths for the perfect phone shaped pocket, the zipped compartments, the buttery leather, the lovely designer label, the exorbitant price tag – but look. It must be a blessing from heaven, it is on sale for half price. I can have it. Excitedly I take it home. Sniff the leather, admire the profile in the mirror, fill up the compartments. Why is it bulging? Is that now a pen mark on the lining? Where is my phone? Why can’t I find it? Oh No

Perhaps one day I will take my possibly unrealistic expectations in hand and design my own perfect bag. I will take the design to a leather craftsman who will make me one. Others will admire it and I will start a business designing and marketing the perfect bag.

Perfection. Bah humbug. We are imperfect mortals in a flawed universe. God alone creates perfection. An old proverb tells us that beauty is never perfect. How dull and placid would be a flawless world if it were a Mattel universe peopled with Barbie and Ken replicas. Stiff, unyielding, emotionless ciphers. Ugh.

Land the plane Karen, land the plane. The perfect handbag? It does not exist. Part of the rich experience of my life, and the continually upgrading of my patience quotient is done with the purchasing and discarding of handbags. Look in the bottom of my wardrobe. There lies a handbag graveyard littered with the discarded corpses of handbag hell. The bad buys from Ebay. The broken handles and zips. The scuffed leather. The imposters that were not leather at all.  Ah, alas

But still I am quietly optimistic. I look in shop windows, Ebay, online and op shops. I quietly covet other people’s handbags and long to discuss their handbag relationship issues with them. However, I do not want them to think that I, a  perfect stranger, have a handbag obsession. I don’t, do I?

When good cats go bad…

The victim of a heinous crime

It was the Monday night after a long weekend. I was just drifting into the kitchen to wash up when I heard an unearthly sound. It was like all of the banshees of Hades were having a conference in my back yard. I tore outside to see my poor little cat being attacked by the nasty black and white tomcat who harasses her every spring. In spite of numerous hose squirts over the past decade, this testosterone tom, this pussy pervert intent on getting his moggy rocks off, had the absolute gall to leap on my poor Grace and start hammering away. I discovered the hose was undone so did the only thing a true pussy lover can do, I ripped him off her, and he ripped into me. I screeched and let the nasty beast go, and he tore off into the dark, cattus totally interuptus. Grace staggered inside where I prepared to offer her rape counselling. Suddenly the pain set in. Blood dripped from both arms and hands, he had torn holes in my even where I had a sweatshirt on. I went into shock. My neighbour heard my cries for help and doused me in betadine. After ringing the 1800 medical help number (great invention) I was advised to get a Tetanus booster and anti biotics the next day.
Grace sat on the bed looking stressed. She has been speyed, and I think that like me, she would prefer a cuppa and a good book to the amorous attentions of an importunate male. She had no obvious wounds, just a nip out of her ear where lover boy probably considered was an erogenous zone for a cat and one which would serve as a super quick method of foreplay in the feline seduction manual of 2001, right after the chapter which discusses whether you woo her with a seafood dinner and a yowl at the moon first.
Now, all quips apart, I am known for my love of the cat. I am a total sucker. I ignore the fact that they eat birds and decimate wildlife, I know they do, I’ve occasionally walked on a dead rat on my floor, but so does the Highway Project from Coffs to Woolgoolga (not eating birds exactly, but decimating wildlife corridors)
My mother was an avid cat lover. My father hated them. He was in a house with a wife and four daughters who would offer undying love and affection for the cat while he sat in his chair waiting for his tea. He would give the poor thing a sneaky cuff or boot up the backside when he thought he wasn’t being observed. However, if God had said to love cats, then there would have been an altar for them under the Cross which hung over our fireplace. My poor old mum used to ring me in her dottage and tell me (with her false teeth out so I had to really listen hard) “My pussy has just come in and shes all wet…” she was referring of course to Violet, her ancient cat who was returning home after being out in the rain. “Pussy” probably is a word that has been changed from it’s original meaning. A result of post modernism I’d say. A bit like gay once meaning happy…
Yes, I am known for my love of cats. I have left one relationship because the offending male did not like my cat. I have had relationships which have lasted longer with cats than with some people. I know they are a aloof and imperious. They are selfish and self absorbed. Probably why I have such an affinity with them (just joking). I just love their shape, the texture of their fur, the perfect symmetry of their face and just their essential “mogginess”. I like dogs, but I love cats. Dogs bark and poo in unsuitable places. Both things annoy me. Cats at least have the dignity and grace to poo discretely, and in my neighbor’s garden, not mine…
Anyway, I am mending well, and knew that as I walked into work the day after my phone message told them “I’m not coming in because I got attacked by a cat”, would produce some riotous mirth – and I was not wrong.Lots of cat calls, meows and of course, being the calm, level headed, well balanced and good humored person that I am, I took it all in my stride. I’m not a woman to sit around feeling sorry for myself and saying “paw” me

So you thought all pitted olives were equal did you? In sublime indifference you munched into that tantalizing orb of oliveness, knowing you would not have to negotiate that tricky olive pip with your tongue, and ouch, there it is – the olive pip that got away. The nasty little blighter that lurked among the green leaves of your Greek salad, hiding smugly behind that little bit of sun dried tomato, peeking out behind that bit of feta glistening with balsamic, this nasty little blighter that has you checking your tooth to see if it is still in one piece. It is? Well done.
I was thinking, as I often do, about life and the way it works. It is no secret that I do not like nasty suprises. Chaos, noise, mess and disorganisation gives me a stomach ache. Yes, I know. Probably anal retentive amongst many other things, but at least I know it. Yes. I like to think that when something is supposed to be the way it is meant to be, then it should be that way. Ah, but alas. We all know that is not true. As witnessed with my last post on the sliding dish drainer. It now sits on the cupboard floor, still fulfilling some of it’s obligations by holding the dish mop and scourer, but not really doing the job it set out to do.
Ah, but alas dear reader. I am not perfect. I thought I might me, well almost perfect and yet several times lately I have made mistakes. I can’t believe it. I have forgotten things. My files at work were only 99% correct. The Horror, as Joseph Conrad might say in Heart of Darkness. I also forgot to do a couple of things which I said I would do. In spite of my lists, my diary, my iphone calander, I actually forgot do do some things which I had intended to do.
Stricken, self examination, mere mortal Karen. Oh no. Mea Culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa (see I do at least remember some latin)
So as I see that I am a frail human being who also makes mistakes, why can’t I be more tolerant of other human foibles. Does it really matter that my longed for skinny flat white has a less than perfect crema. Will I remember in ten years time that there is yet another small dint in my car which I did not do. Does it really matter? Is perfection attainable in this life? Must everything go my way?
Does it really matter that I can make a cup of tea while my ‘high speed broadband’ decides to flicker into life? Does it really matter that the supermarket trolley has a left wheel bias and will not focus on forward propulsion? Is there really a subversive plot in place which causes the bird which has diarrhoea to always defecate on my car on Fridays? And why is it that the sun is extra hot on Fridays so that it bakes on really hard?

I say to myself sternly. Karen your life is not so bad. You live in a funky little place, full of things you love. You have great family, great friends and a job which is fulfilling mostly. You live in a country where you can always eat and have the freedom to follow your faith openly and to share it with others.  I think sometimes we think that life is greener on the other side of the meadow. Hah, but I have met some of the people who came from that side of the meadow and they were looking at my patch of green grass with interest. Olive pits, car dints and bird poo will always be with us. As will middle aged spread and GST, but I am blessed. I can curl up on the 1000 thread count sheets which I got in Target’s last half price sale with a good book, cuppa and my cat for company. Inner peace as it grows from faith in God helps to dispel the outer discontents. I think in about 5 years time, I might be almost perfect then. Check this space for updates…

Broken promises. The dish mop drainer slides nonchalantly down the kitchen cupboard door. It mocks me meanly as it once again lands with a crash on the cupboard floor. In spite of the promise embellished on the wrapping, it does not stick. No, indeed, it sure does not. In spite of following instructions, a clean surface, holding it fast for sixty seconds, not filling it up with anything heavier than a pair of yellow rubber gloves, it still taunts me. That crash in the middle of the night when it once again obeys the pull of gravity. The muttering under my breath as I once again press the suction cups into place with a stern admonishment to “Stick you little suckers”, making sure that the red edge (Indicator that it is not sticking) is hidden. But alas, this piece of deficient technology does not reign alone as symbols of useless stuff in my little house. No indeed. There is a list.

There is a corner stainless steel shower caddy festooned with a multitude of suction caps. It’s job is no more onerous than to hold a couple of plastic bottles full of shampoo and conditioner. I never ask more of it than that. But it too grows weary. The suction cups decide not to suck any longer. And it droops dispiritedly down the bathroom tiles, usually in the middle of the night so that the resultant crash will be assured of waking me from my slumber and confront me with either the thought of an imminent apocalypse or a noisy burglar coming to nick my Timtams.

Why is it that things do not do what they are supposed to do? You buy them with the expectation that they will do what they are designed for. Stick firmly, hold things. The shampoo holder’s younger sibling is smaller, and holds only a toothbrush and toothpaste. Its job is to firmly attach itself to the shower wall and stay there also. But alas no. It too stops sucking and crashes to the floor. Ha, then there are the picture hanging howszydoozers which will not come off until you remove them. What a blatant lie. They too grow weary of being stuck on that boring wall and slide down in the middle of the night. They promise not to remove the paint, yet my walls have several nasty little blemishes where they definitely have NOT peeled away when no longer needed. They have peeled ok, but taken some wall paint as well.

This blog is a bit of a vent, but hey – this woman has been silent out here in cyber space for a few months. A retinal detachment, surgery, recovery, then a slow return to work has occupied my time. I have done a lot of deep thinking during that recovery time. I have considered my faith which has been tested, but God is unlike any of the manufacturers who sell things to make a quick buck and to rip off the gullible.

God stands by his promises. In fact he guarantees them. He cannot and does not lie. He has promised to do a genuine repair job on us. He does this skilfully, removing parts of our attitudes which need adjustment, sanding down some bumpy negatives, oiling our rusting and creaking objections and then giving us a good polish so that we will shine for him. When we are broken, he mends us with compassion and love.

Three weeks ago on Thursday I bought a kilo of plums from Coles. They were a deep purple colour and reminded me of pert bottoms as they lay in my beautiful Turkish clay fruit bowl. That was three weeks ago. I would occasionally pick one up to feel it to put in my lunchbox. But they were still hard. Give them time I thought. Last weekend I went to a wonderful women’s conference in Sydney. My moggy minder, Elaine messaged that she had eaten a plum. She even said yum. I was encouraged. Ripe plums to return to. I returned from the conference and looked at my plums as I sorted a pile of washing to go into the front loader. I turned then over one by one. Still hard. I did notice that a cockroach or a desperate mouse had taken a wee bit out of one. I tossed it away. Every day I picked up a plum to put in my lunchbox. Still hard. Hmmm. But they looked beautiful. A bit like some people I suppose. All beauty and promise but tasteless and hard inside. Not that I am a cannibal.

I have just returned from a wonderful weekend in Bellingen at the Readers and Writers Festival which had previously inspired me to write my second to last blog post. I am inspired to once again give this poor old dead blog metaphorical mouth to mouth rescusitation, and to start and maintain a disciplined writing practive to share with my friends, family and new readers (hopefully) and also an interested editor searching for new talent (double hopefully). I fed the cat on my return, check my messages, put on the kettle and looked at the plums. I felt the plums. Still hard. I am mystified. I eat a grape instead.

What does one do with three week old hard plums? Is there a life lesson to be learned here? Are they are a metaphor for my life? Will they ever soften up or will they stay hard forever, destined to be thrown out on the lawn for the pointy beaked birds to toss and roll amongst the grass blades before they blunt their beaks looking for the sweet golden flesh masked by those shining purple skins.

What is their history? were these plums gassed into a state of pre ripened dormancy? Were they ripped off the branch while still longing to cling to nurture by the mother tree? Did they mourn being warmed by the sun and drenched by the rain due to their premature harvest? Poor unready plums, forced to fill shelves so we consumers can fill our bellies.

I’ll give them another week I think, before I throw their purple loveliness out to the birds. I go away again at Easter, which is two weeks away. Maybe I should leave them there. If I do, maybe they would become raisins.

I wonder.

I have always considered myself a lover of animals. I feel qualms of conscience when I eat a lamb roast, but not because I have been directly involved in the actual deed of it’s bloody demise, but because I deliberatly dull my conscience to distance myself from the ethics of eating animals. I actually like animals. I like pigs, but I love bacon. I saw a tee shirt lately which read “I love animals, they taste great”. Now I love a chilli chickpea pattie and I don’t mind a lentil burger, but sometimes meat is just what you need. Now I will veer sideways onto dogs.

I like dogs, except for their obsession with barking coupled with the often trance like oblivian of their owners who cannot hear the deep, gutteral roar of their dog, or if the pooch is small, it’s shreiking, nerve rending crescendo of stacato barks which shiver down my spine and lodge in my brain making me feel frayed and fragile. I love it when the owners say “he doesn’t bark” even as the beast is showing me his tonsils as he belts out a jazz inspired rendition of the ‘woof woof’ song. I think they (the owners) have a self imposed convenient type of temporary deafness. I like cats because they are silent. Even as I write this on this sunny verandah, the silence is shattered by the annoying barking of the dog next door. If dogs could have their bark removed and wore nappies then perhaps they would be of some use.

I am allergic to noise. I know I am. I need to choose the noise I listen too. I don’t like imposed noise. Roaring motor bikes, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, chainsaws, screaming children and country and western music. We live in a world where noise can assault and frazzle the calmest of souls. But lets get back to the rooster. I am house sitting a small dog in Bellingen and the owner threw in a few chooks as well. I like chooks and find their clucking quite restful. However, one of the chooks looked bigger then the other, it had a bushier feather tail. He had an arrogant gleam in his beady eye. I realised it was a bloke chook, aka a rooster. I managed to lure them into their cage for the night, realising that there were six of them lunging at the food bowl. The instructions told me there were five. Never mind, must be a friend coming for a sleep over. Hope they don’t mind sharing their toothbrushes.

This morning as I lay in the land of deep slumber, catching up from a busy week and enjoying the bliss of the countryside quiet, I heard a cockadoodledoo sound outside my window. Pilllow over my head, I tried to sleep, but no, the wretch would not give up. He went on and on at intervals until I felt like a jangled wreck and wobbled out to meet the dawn.

I thought about roosters. Like some men, they have a limited use. They are needed to fertilise the eggs so small fluffy chickens can be born. But, I thought nastily, what use are they the rest of the time? Centuries ago our ancestors who rose at dawn to till the soil used them as alarm clocks. I have an alarm clock thank you very much. So, I open up the debate. Apart from one occasional use, what use is a rooster? Sure he looks really handsome with his glossy black feathers and smart red combe. He struts like a Rugby player out to ‘pull’ on a Saturday night. But dig deeper, and not much seems to happen in his small pea sized brain. But, alas it is not up to me to upset the balance of nature or to discuss the ramifications of post feminisim with a bunch of chooks, so I did the next best thing. After wandering down the street for a coffee to jolt me awake, I bought some ear plugs. Looking forward to a sleep in tomorrow. I hope.

I want to go to Writer’s Festivals ALL of the time.  I want to be that woman with glossy bobbed hair who wears expensive but comfortable clothes which display quiet elegance and expensive taste.  I want to be that woman who walks around with a pile of newly signed books under her unflabby arm. I want to join her and her other bobbed cronies as they discuss with erudite wisdom the qualities or deficiencies of the writers on offer. I want to wander the cafes of small but cultured country towns or large cultured cities listening to those who can put plot on a page and carve out characters which compel others to lie huddled under the lamp light at midnight while they squeeze in “just one more page” before they go to sleep. I want to eagerly devour the secrets of those self satisfied authors who have finally made it into the sacred realm of print on a page.  I want to read out aloud my best passages and answer with urbane but scholarly wisdom the curly questions which are thrown at me by bearded men in beige bomber jackets who fancy themselves to be academic experts.

I want to stay in quaint and well appointed B & Bs with my own bathroom and bed. I want the host’s cat to befriend me and snuggle with me on my lavender scented quilt. I want to wake up in a softly sunfiltered bedroom to poached eggs on sourdough with perfect centres which are neither hard nor runny, just perfect. I want a skinny latte with a perfect crema. I want to pack my expensive but subtley trendy leather bag with the day’s provisions of notebooks and pens for taking notes. I want to wander into tiny but exclusive boutiques between literary offerings to look at and perhaps purchase the odd bauble or two. I want to consult my mini netbook to check that my stocks and shares are performing to plan and that my real estate portfolio is doing well.

I want to sit in the front row and open my newly purchased and signed volume and sniff the clean white pages. I want to get high on the smell of the ink. I want to drink in the words of the writers themselves, and  possibly absorb their commitment to their craft through my skin. Perhaps if I  sit close enough, I will learn the art of discipline which enables them to create their offspring with such verve and panache. I want to be the one who is approached by a publisher and asked if I could perhaps allow them to read my manuscripts. I want a weekly column where I can earn a princely sum just for writing down the words with which I describe and engage with my planet and the issues of the  people on it.

I want to drive off in my BMW which has no rattles and has real leather seats and plan my next literary jaunt to the hallowed world of the writer’s festival while the GPS sorts out my route. I want to debrief  to my cat while I polish my bob and answer my correspondence (none of which will be bills) whilst sipping a good red and nibbling on goats cheese. I want to fire up my Apple Mac (not my Dell) and see the words pour out in such a way that I am hailed as  the new Kate Atkinson. But, alas…

Instead I drive home in my rattley car, make peace with the cat, do my washing and have toast and vegemite for tea. I play computer games instead of writing a scintilating short story  and watch Midsommer Murders instead of writing my own thriller. I snuggle up with a good book after putting out my clothes for work in the morning. I set the alarm for six am. They said that if you write one page a day, in a year you would have 360 pages. In other words a book. Ahh, but will it be a good one? would you all promise to buy it?

 

There is something about the lurid lighting in the change rooms of most dress shops. It makes my already pallid flesh look like uncooked tripe – complete with ripples and bumps. There I am pulling up a cossie over my knickers (hygiene you know, you never know who’s crotch has left an imprint) and then I am pulling and pushing bits of my anatomy into what was last year’s size – oops, think I need the next size up, they must be making them smaller (yeah right!! – dream on)

I’ve pulled the sucker up, tucked in my 57 year old boobs and pulled in my tum. There is nothing I can do about the bulge of thigh and bum which is escaping the leg area. More tugging, more pulling. I thought black was slimming. They lied. As for my tuck shop lady arms. I could weep. All those upright rows at the gym have made the top of them look like Madonna’s but underneath they ripple like the surf at my local beach.

Turn this way, then that. Hmmm. take off glasses, yes looks better blurred. Maybe if I tie a sarong and drop it at the water’s edge and then dash into the water without looking around. Why does my skin look so yellow? do I have jaundice, no its those dammed lights.

Ok, back view – ugh, quick back to front view. Not much better. Fake tan might help, but I always look like an escapee from a carrot farm – no matter how much pre-tan exfoliating it still settles into the craters and sticks to any dark blemish on my skin, therefore screaming to the world “She doesn’t know how to put on fake tan!!!” What a failure.

Already tired of all the requirements of being a full time beauty devotee, I have pretty much given up and minimalised the whole routine. I am not going to start getting sprayed with a fake tan hose any time soon…And OMG, what is that shadow, oops need to mow the lawn and clip the edges if you women get my meaning. Oh the bloody tyranny of womanhood. Think those Victorian women had the right idea with neck to knee cossies.

Shall I buy it? There is 30% off today, perhaps it will do. I am meeting my little sis in Sydney next week for a weeks R&R which will involve some close contact with the hotel pool and spa. Hmm, perhaps we can go in after dark.

I walk to the counter with the size 14 pair under my arm. I live near one of the most beautiful beach areas in the world. In a few weeks I won’t give a damm and will be diving into those beautiful blue waves having hopefully forgotten the trauma of swimsuit shopping in spring.

Bliss...Once apon a time a long long time ago….when I was a little girl, a scone was a little round slightly sweet morsol to be eaten with jam and cream. Sometimes you just had butter. The ultimate gastronomic limit that the scone was taken to was to possibly add sultanas or dates. They were really good, even though my poor old mum would stress because her scones were often more like rock cakes – yet, like all of her home baking, I enjoyed them.

But like so many things, scones have changed. They have taken on a daring new persona. They have morphed from simplicity into a complex amalgam of flavours. You can have Mocha mud cake scones, Passionfruit and white chocolate scones, Berry and white chocolate scones, Mocha and chocolate scones, Spinach and fetta scones and mercifully, plain and date scones. Now I don’t dislike these scones. In fact I have taste tested most of them. I enjoyed this process and the white chocolate and passionfruit one came out as a clear winner. But is it still classed as a scone? If one is literally minded, it probably is not.  Is it perhaps a tea cake? Like so many things, the scone is now up to date and keeping up with the gastronomic Joneses. With the advent of shows like ‘Masterchef’, budding foodies can waft around the supermarket with recipe cards which take their humble lamb chops, vegies and mash up to a new level. Scones have obviously followed this trend.

When did it begin? Well the scone revolution emerged when a certain Queensland politician’s wife called Flo created the pumpkin scone. Possibly the best achievement of their combined careers. Then there was the cheese scone, warm with melted cheese and butter. Yum.  Add some chives – even better. I made those for my kids in the 1990s. Great with a yummy vegetable soup.

But back to these modern creations. The melted white chocolate which has baked onto the baking tray combined with the taste and crunch of passionfruit is truly blissful. I can’t even wait till I get home and the front seat of the car is awash with crumbs. It is 1.70 well spent. I try to convince myself it is a carb and a protein unit with a bit of fat thrown in. Hopefully it can be counted as my lunch, but only one leaves me hungry for more.

Like many good things, food follows fashion. Once apon a time there was only white bread. I used to pick it up from the corner shop for mum. It came in a loaf which had two ends to it. I would split it in half and scoop out the yummy soft white centre where it had been joined. For some obscure reason we called it the ‘kiss’ and my sisters would yell to mum, “Karen’s stolen the kiss again!” Ah, memories. It is where my love of calming carbohydrates was born.  But I digress. Bread has also undergone a huge culture shift, with numerous varieties available for every occassion. And for once I celebrate this diversity of our carbohydrate culture.

What bleach means to me

The evidence is everywhere. I just need to pull out a favorite top or pair of jeans and there will be the tell tale signs. They are on bathroom curtains and towels. They may come in a variety of patterns – a spatter spray being the most common or a fine fretwork of filigree lace. I even have a really evolved pattern on the bottom of a really nice sundress. If it was a blood spray from a murder scene a forensic specialist would have a field day reading the psychology of the perpetrator’s intent. How does it happen, you might ask. Well let me explain.

Bleach, and I mean the nasty smelling chemical evil loaded with toxins including chlorine, bought to you on a supermarket shelf in a brightly coloured plastic bottle and thus readily availble to all. Bleach, yes, the bleach you swish around your loo, the one that does remove mould from your shower and yes – the one that removes stains from whites. That bleach.

Now I know, like everything we eat, breathe, put on our bodies, wear, live in and on, drive and do is toxic. I have learned this information reluctantly, and most recently while working for a Naturopath. Basically – we are riddled with toxins and they are making us ill. As well as making me ill, the knowledge of how toxic our world is also makes me feel ill. Stressed with the overwhelming evidence of how what we eat, wear, sniff etc is bad for us, I have put most of it in the too hard basket and would rather just have one pill from the doctor to fix everything that is wrong for me.

Now, instead of throwing the baby out completly with that insidious, toxic bathwater, I have tried white vinegar and baking soda to clean. And, yes it does clean. After a lot of scrubbing and leaving your bathroom tiles covered with a fine residue of white powder which makes it look like a cocaine fiend or a talculm powder afficianado has had a manic binge and left the evidence there for you to find.

So I resort to bleach. The only trouble is that I do it in a cleaning frenzy when the urge strikes. Often I am wearing my best clothes, and thinking that I am really only going to get the bleach on the shower wall. But something peculiar happens. Unseen by the naked eye, there seems to be a subversive spatter spray pattern occur. One that adheres immediately to any fabric in the vicinity. If the fabric is dark, of course the tell tale white spots will be there forever. No disguising with a colour matched texta will do the trick. Alas, I have tried and failed.

So, the shower is clean. Not a speck of mould remains. I think I have got away with it unscathed. But no, next time I am hanging my favorite blue shirt on the line – there it is. A finely etched spatter of white – right in the front where it is most visible. If I decide to wear it anyway, people look at me with sympathy in their eyes. Shes a bleach addict they think, and she doesn’t even have the brains to hide the evidence.

So what is the answer? I have found it. I strip off till I am totally naked. I remove all fabric from the bathroom, even fabric that is metres away. It is not a pretty sight. A naked rump sunny side up scrubbing away with a bucket, bottle and brush. There is a manic gleam as I breathe the toxic fumes. Die mould I spit as I scrub with all my might.

Then I bring in the hose through the window and flush it all away into the poor unsuspecting drainage system. There it floats away with all the other neighbourhood toxins to flow into the sea and damage another marine species. Then I have a shower and wash myself in more chemicals, rub on chemicals in a lotion to keep my epidermis supple and then go and have a cup of green tea. (actually coffee, which also has toxins)

Yes, I am an environmental disaster. As we all are. I would like to be a warrior for the environment, but I am just too darned tired. I do my best. If I had money, yes I would buy organic produce, buy wild salmon and drive a green car. I would buy unbleached clothes and drink water from a filtered system. I would spend hundreds a month detoxifying my system and I would wear that earnest glow which emanates from those who put the environment first. How do they do it, and where do they find the energy? Also, how do they managed to do it on a low income? I would love to know.

My love of bleach has been a late addition to my life. In 1989 when in my forties I was having a second skirmish with being a teenager (read mid life crisis) the only ‘Bleach’ I cared about was the brilliant album by Nirvana, one of the best grunge bands of that era. Alas, Kurt Cobain is dead, and by his own hand. Of course he was not obsessed with cleaning the shower. In fact, this information it totally unrelated to this blog, I just thought I would put it in anyway – to inform and entertain.

And this really truly is a photo of me 🙂

Aloe vera or bamboo madam?

I recently found myself working once again after a three month lull. I managed to score two jobs which more or less combine into one full time job. One of the more joyful offshoots of this event is that I now have a wage packet which I can live on. To celebrate I shouted myself a pile of new knickers.
Now knickers (or undies) are one of life’s necessities. I find my knicker drawer often reflects my life. If it is full of dejected, faded, sagging lycra and unravelling elastic, then you can assume I just haven’t had the dosh to splurge on nice new undies. And, as life often imitates art (or is it the other way around Oscar Wilde?) my life is often dejected, faded, sagging and unravelled in a parallel universe. In other words, my undies go out in sympathy and become a living, or perhaps a dying metaphor for my life as it is currently.
As I started my new job and one day found one bum cheek escaping the confines of the undy, I decided then and there that the time had come to splurge when the pay packet arrived. But alas, undie lovers – how do you choose what to buy. Also, what is the singular of ‘undies’? Is it undy? If not, I am now coining the word. I am a fan of the cotton bikini brief. It is a good compromise. It means I am not quite old, but I am no spring chicken either. If I get run over, they will not make headlines. Big granny knickers remind me of the terrors of approaching old age. Boy legs make me look like a sumo wrestler and the back view of me in a thong could remind the uncharitably minded of a wizened peach with string loosely dividing the orbs. Ugh. The only people who look sexy in a thong are strippers – and I think perhaps that they aren’t really sexy – just comodifying sex. Men who say women look sexy in a thong have never worn one. It is just plain uncomfortable. Some lingering comment long ago about dental floss…ugh…don’t go there.
Anyway. I am in Target amongst the rows of undy heaven. Mariah Carey is warbling over the muzak intercom. I am busy trying to tune her and the overly loud toddlers out. Then I spot them. They are no longer called plain cotton undies. They are now in ‘Aloe vera’ or ‘Bamboo’ fabric. Being the literally minded soul I am I see me wearing a knicker with green aloe vera spikes protruding from my gusset or worse – bamboo shoots like a form of awful underwear torture. Is this a new form of pain to endure in the world of underwear? Is it going to be reminiscent of being stabbed in the bosom with an underwire escapee before it jams itself into the inner workings of your washing machine? Are these organic undies going to be clammy or prickly like the nasty nylon ones? But no, the light comes on. Its the fabric – sort of organic and nice for you, so nice for your body. If you were hungry you could warm them up and serve then on a bed of soba noodles with wasabi sauce.

I am now proud to hang my undies on the line. They can line up on the outside of the line fit for public view. They no longer need to skulk away hiding in dejected little bundles behind the socks. They reside in three neat piles of skin tone, white and black – all with a matching bra. Ahh, now my life is complete. I can pass undy scrutiny along with the best.

It has been a while

My flash new tellyMarch 31 marked the first anniversay of the ‘flood event’ here in Coffs Harbour. After a year of turmoil, counselling, anxiety and fear of that particular date, I now feel that it is all finally over. However, on that day, it did rain – and it rained heavily. There were again flood warnings and I spent a day feeling anxious and jumpy. It never happened, and the next day arrived sunny and clear.
During this crazy year, I have managed to reburbish my little flat (thanks to insurance payout) and am enjoying sitting on a big comfy couch and watching my flash new telly. The new bed is fab and I like my new laptop. But I miss the photos of my childhood that are irreplacable and also sometimjes I think “Now where is my old sloppy jumper? …oh yes it died in a sea of mud” or “where is that book of poems…oh yes, it turned into a swollen, sodden pile of stuck together pages”
Yes, there have been some hard times. I had counselling to help me deal with some of the fears and anxieties that developed. The best outcome has been in my spiritual life. Tired of being overwhelmed with anxieties and fears, I started to attend church again and have found that as my relationship with God has developed, I have felt a deeper sence of peace and purpose in my life.
Also, after months of searching, I have started two new jobs – both are extreme contrasts to each other. I am a receptionist for an Alternative Health practitioner for part of the week, and am a Support worker for disabled adults from 18 years upwards. I am enjoying the challenges and meeting new people.
But, my old crazy sense of the world and my weird sense of humour will return in my next post. The kids gave me a bike for Christmas which I am still trying to ride. It has gears – and I have built up a bit of a phobia about it – but am determined to break through. Also, to regain some of my former fitness which has slipped away lately …

Does this mean I am now grown up?

It has been a long time since I wrote a post on here, so I thought I had better redress the situation. A lot has happened this year, and although some of it has been a litany of misery, there have been some bright spots.

If you can bother trawling through previous posts, you will remember that I was badly affected by the floods that ravaged parts of Northern NSW in April this year. After a sojourn at a friend’s house for five months, my cat and I returned to my little flat here in the Boambee Valley. It is nearly unreconisable from the vision of dated axminster and Fantastic furniture items that it once was. Now it is repainted, recarpeted, retiled and yes – renewed. Its had a facelift, and now it is dressed up to charm with beautiful furniture courtesy of my insurance company and the Freedom Furniture catalogue. My telly is up to date, the huge sound system I wrote about earlier is installed and occasionally I give the neighbours a blast of my ecelectic taste in music.
It was music that sparked this post.

Ten years ago I was emerging from my second skirmish with adolescence. I had returned to NZ after my marriage ended and had enjoyed a seven year stint of catching up on all of the sex, drugs and rock and roll that I had not had the chance to explore during my adolescence.  (being ‘born again’ at 18 and married at 20 put the kybosh on that). I suppose it was my mid life crisis, but I did have a lot of fun being a 43 year old teenager. One of my discoveries was music. It was not the music one would expect a the 43 year old woman to enjoy, but the beginnings of a flirtation with bands like Tool and Korn. It was also around the time of the grunge era and I fell in love with the Seattle sounds of Nirvana and Soundgarden. And I liked it loud. My neighbour in the next flat in the old converted Victorian mansion was my age. She liked Barry Manilow and Neil Sedaka.  They were singers who made me want to vomit, or at perhaps slash my wrists. She was stymied by the sight of this middle aged mutton dressed as semi spring lamb woman head banging to some amplified sounds probably more fitting to a teenage boy’s bedroom. We seldoms spoke at the comunal clothesline.

That was then, this is now. Most of my musical travesties have gone to new homes via Ebay. However, I have a lingering fondness for Radiohead, Massive Attack, Basement Jaxx and more. Add in Groove Amarda, Faithless and more. Listening to them took me back to my second teenage hood.

Then, when I hit my fifties, and back in the loving bosom of my family here in Australia I found that I was enjoying classical music more. But, I had never appreciated or understood jazz. Then I had an ephiphany. At the ripe old age of 56 I found myself listening to singer Melody Gardot. It was jazz like I had never heard it. It was a revelation. Her voice is raw yet subtle, with nuances of heart felt life experience in every note.

So. Does that mean I am grown up now? Can I say goodbye to Tool, a band I saw live 12 years ago in the Christchurch town hall?
Or, is it ok to admit that I have just broadened my taste? When I finally got the monstrous sound system wired up in my tiny pad the first CD I played was ‘Blister in the sun’ by the Violent Femmes. This was closely followed by Talking Heads ‘Burnin down the house’ (not an invitation to be taken literally as having the house ‘flooded’ was enough of a negative experience to put me off being accosted by rogue elements) I played them loud with my sub woofer ( not a dog I discovered) blaring to let the neighbours know that if they can use chainsaws at 6am, then I can add my own version of sonic hell.

Point is, I guess I have finally matured. I wear flat shoes because they are comfortable and natural fabrics because they are also comfortable. I am tired of makeup that melts in the 39 degree heat and push up overwired bras that make you feel like your mamaries are ensconced in chicken wire. I am just me. A complex middle aged woman with eclectic music tastes and a flash pad filled with mod cons and Freedom furniture in a flood prone area.

So, does this mean I am grown up now? Will I start reading the Financial Review and join the local bowls club? Will I let my hair go gray and will I start saying “now when I was young… “to any poor soul who will listen? No, I don’t think I am really quite grown up and probably never will be, thank God. I like being the quirky, complicated self absorbed person I am, so if my changing musical tastes are any indication, it just means that I am merely broadening my horizons.

And, the muscial ephiphany will NEVER include country and western music. It makes my flesh crawl with revulsion.

The Ada Dawson School of Walking

I walk fast. I always have. Even when overweight I could propel my poundage forward at amazing speed. I was often surprised that more pounds did not shake loose from my frame and lie there distraught with issues of abandonment in the gutter. Those lucky enough to walk beside me often comment about how fast I walk (between puffs and gasps and little spurts which resemble a slow jog to keep up). I learnt it all from the Ada Dawson School of Walking I tell them.

Who is this Ada Dawson, they ask? (when they have got their breath back). She was my mother I tell them. She was even in a hurry to die. I spend a lot of my middle life realising that I am very much like her. I often have to take stock and tell myself that I don’t have to speed through everything. I can relax and smell the roses. Even this morning when out for a brisk walk with a stop at a coffee shop for a skinny latte and a perusal of the morning paper, I realised that I accomplished the coffee drinking and paper reading in ten minutes flat. And then I felt like I was dawdling.

Why do I rush? And where am I rushing too? What is the hurry, and will getting there fast make any difference to my life in general? I envy those folk who can drape themselves on couches for long periods of time or doze in armchairs in the afternoon. Instead, I am racked with guilt that I am wasting time. I remember my mother when she used to rush to places. She often wore cheap plastic soled shoes which would slide out from under her and leave her sitting on her backside in the middle of the footpath. I, a surly teenager would not acknowledge her as she was just ‘so’ embarrassing. I would not help her up. My father would often tell her to slow down. But she just couldn’t. And so she didn’t.

When she grew old, she hated the enforced curtailment of her walking freedom. The Ada Dawson School of Walking left it’s indelible genetic residue in her daughters. My sister and I both walk very quickly indeed. In fact, when on a city street and within sniffing distance of a good coffee shop, we almost build up a head of steam as we forge our way forward. My father used to say that Mum was like Bodacia in her chariot. I have a mental picture of mum in a crimplene frock, white hat, handbag and shoes with metal spears emanating from her shins and the pram as she pushed her way through crowded city streets – surprised and tardy shoppers examining their bloodied legs in amazement as this paragon of pace moved at the speed of greased lightening.

I am sad now when I think of Mum. She died nearly two years ago, and yes, she was even in a hurry to die. It took too long, she thought, this lying around in a hospital bed looking at a sea of concerned faces gazing back at her. “How long is this going to take?” she would question me crossly. I would think to myself that it wasn’t quite as easy as booking a trip on a plane. It was only as she slipped into that late afternoon dusk of nearly dying that she finally relaxed. As she slowly relinquished her hold on life the strain and tension left her body. And so, the founding member of the Ada Dawson School of Walking left this world.

I remembered her this morning as I sped along the pavement in my bouncy Asics gel shoes. Her technique and her tenacious stride. The poetry of economical movement as her elbows sawed through the air. I met my daughter for a coffee (well it was for my birthday) and I realised that her stride reminded me of my mother. I smiled as I thought of mum on a cloud in heaven having done her early morning circuit. I think she would have smiled too.

Living in Limbo

Sitting here in the sun with the laptop on my knee. Life is a kind of Limbo at the moment. I have a day off work to recuperate from a cold. I think about the word ‘limbo’. It is a word I first encountered when as a little Catholic schoolgirl I would have my ears battered with a a barrage of unwanted images. Heaven, hell and limbo somewhere as a waiting room for those not quite good enough to go to heaven. Fast forward now fifty years and a retrospective view is that I spend a lot of time in limbo. Heaven is not really a chocolate icecream on a stick. No, its a place where those who have maintained an excellent spiritual status quo in spite of the visitudes of life can plan to spend eternity in the company of God. Sounds like a nice place. Angels, harps maybe and the bliss of  eternal peace. That is the part I like the sound of. Eternal peace.

I have been thinking a lot about the ephemeral nature of happiness. Peace and happiness are close friends. We cannot know happiness without knowing sadness. Life is full of contrasts. Happiness is that almost elusive event that sneaks up and takes you unawares. You cannot manufacture it, sniff it, bottle it or drink it. Sadly many have tried and failed. However, again I digress. Yes, I am living in the limbo of Peggy’s beautiful house. My friend Peggy has had me living here in her spare bedroom for weeks now until my old place is ready once again. For weeks I have enjoyed amazing meals, a hot fire and the beautiful surroundings of trees and a small stream running through it. Visits from birds and animals are a bonus of this limbo. I call it limbo because I am still living out of boxes and bags. I feel content and unsettled at the same time. Like I am on holiday but I still have to go to work. A paradox, some would say.

I have started to receive some cheques from the insurance company so have begun to choose furniture and appliances. Some would love this chance to start again. I must confess that I feel overwhelmed. It is only a small granny flat. How can I get it wrong? A cheque to spend at ‘Freedom Furniture’? What colours? What theme? my daughter suggested that this time I should go for something streamlined without so much clutter. Clutter? I thought it was a fine example of an ‘eclectic mix?’ Anyway – I have always admired Geraldine’s interior design in the ‘Vicar of Dibley’ – yet I hanker for Asian minimalist, city chic or Nantucket beach side.

How did this post go from limbo to home decor? Just an example of the complex way my mind works. But I quess i am unique. I had better rouse myself from my stupor here gazing out at autumn leaves falling into a stream and go and gaze at some catalogues.

Its kind of weird how life works sometimes. This is an example of irony. I am a woman living out of supermarket bags in my friend’s spare room while waiting to find somewhere to live. I have a contents insurance claim pending, and the first item to arrive was a Sony speaker system and amplifier which is top of the range – not the humble little five speaker and sub woofer and amplifier which met their muddy fate five weeks ago as a tide of water submerged my place.
They arrived in two boxes the size of refrigerators, and I had to slip the truck driver a borrowed twenty bucks to redeliver them from work to my sort of ‘home’. No way were these babies going to fit in the stalwart beep beep barina.
I looked on the net and they are worth over a grand. They belong in some amazing home theatre set up in a mc mansion somewhere – not in a humble little granny flat which is really a posh name for someones’ old sleepout which they want to make a few bucks on.
Anyway – Insurance companies. I made a list of the stuff I lost, and this arrived. Even my assessor was baffled as she didn’t even authorise it. So, I took that opportunity to ask her for some cash to buy a handbag, shoes and a few other essentials lost in the deluge. You don’t get cash baby, you get vouchers. Ok – lets hope the vouchers are from establishments where you would normally choose your clobber. Will have to see.

So, I recite the mantra daily ” A granny flat with a bit of style that is affordable and allows my cat” – so I guess it will come – sometime.  Meanwhile, I sort out my piles into supermarket bags. I wonder the garage and look for things like tweezers, black jumper and notes for assignments due last week.  It is a sort of limbo  I just want to flop on my own couch and watch tv. Alas. But, for your amusement, here is an image of my sound system. 🙂htddw7000

I take it all back

Just a quick update. NRMA are now paying my contents claim and so I have started the job of throwing out stuff so I can start again. I am constantly reminded of how kind some people are – even perfect strangers.
In the midst of all this drama, last week I had visual disturbances in my left eye which resulted in a quick visit to the eye specialist. My left retina was about to detach. I had the same in my right eye three years ago to the day, so that was very weird. Anyway, he lasered it all back into place, so everything is almost hunky dory. I just need to get saved stuff moved to my friend’s garage. I can’t wait for life to get back to more or less ‘normal’.

flood-picJust a short one, and probably a slap in the face after my moan about dogs, ear plugs and slow drivers. A week ago the Mid North Coast and Coffs Harbour had huge storms and subsequent floods. Many were affected, including my daughter and myself. Here I was at the gym after a morning at work, and then driving home to encounter horizontal rain and roads covered with water. The small wooden bridge near my house went under and I was cut off. My daughter was at home next door and was rescued by a fire truck as she was waist deep in water. I drove back to the childcare centre and picked up my grandson. When she was dropped off totally wet in her pyjammas (she was at computer writing an assignment) she told me my house was also under.
A kind family took us home for two days and fed, clothed and looked after us, helping us to get the clean up started.
My daughter basically lost everything. I was higher up and had a tide of mud come through due to rising water levels and poor drainage.
This is where the fun starts. My carpet and floors were deep in mud. I have lost electrical items and furniture. I rang NRMA with whom I have contents insurance. I listed my items and was given a claim number. They advised me that assessors would come and give quotes. This happened, but then NRMA advised me that they may not pay out as it is a flood, not a storm – and they do not cover floods.
I have been walking around feeling surreal. I have started a new job which requires a lot of energy and brain power. I am staying with a lovely girl friend in her warm dry house and she has even semi adopted my cat. Yesterday I rang up Dodo about the new modem I recieved the day after the storm/flood to see if I could set it up temporarily at my new temporary abode. But no, only if I pay 99.00. Has the world gone mad?
Yes it has. At the end of the call she asked me if I was satisfied with the outcome of the call. Well, go figure!

Even though this is a traumatic time and sifting through all of my totally damaged and irretrievable family photos which lie in sodden lumps on the muddy floor, I think of how kind people have been and of how we are all still alive. My daughter is walking around like a zombie as she has a small child to care for and is a full time student. She lost her text books, her computer is damaged but she is in a crucial year at Uni so she has to stay there.

Yesterday I snuggled into the neck of my little four year old grandson and thought – we have lost a lot but being alive and having our loved ones alive is the most important thing of all.

PS the picture is of the fire truck that rescued Hannah, and our home was a few  metres to the right of the picture.

Why is it?

I have not posted for a while because I am still waiting for my new modem with a newISP,  so am on dial up – but to avoid the sad RIP of a ‘dead’ blog, I thought I better get some words down.  I could write about the unsuccessful journey I have endured with Big Pond, but will save that for another time.

Anyway, I was thinking about things that happen apparently randomly, but still frequently enough for us to think that they are our own special crosses to bear. Maybe life has lessons we still need to learn, and in that case I have at least three which keep raising their ugly heads to challenge my peace of mind.

Firstly, why is it that people feel compelled to drive at least 5 or 10 kms lower than the speed limit in areas where no one can overtake them.  This happens in spite of vividly displayed speed limit signs. It happens frequently to me on a road that is 80kmph. It has only one lane. My little Barina and I get excited because we can let go and drive fast for ten minutes or so  – but alas no, in front of me there is a little put put driver who is sauntering along at snails pace for seemingly no reason at all. They are blissfully ignorant of the build up of traffic behind them. It is times like this that I wish my little car had a flame thrower installed which I could use to scorch their bumpers into some propulsion. Of course it is not the P platers or L platers – they are too busy driving heedlessly at 90kms because they think they are invincible.

And why is it, that at the dawn of time when my physiology was being designed complete  with a sharp wit and thick ankles, that I was also given a right ear hole which was created to not hold onto a yet to be invented  Ipod Suffle ear bud ? I ponder this odd fact as I pound the pre dawn pavements at 5.30 am for my morning walks. I have no hand spare, one is holding a bottle and the other a torch, so no spare limb is available to keep shoving the ear bud back into my right ear. While my left ear and the ear bud have formed a lovingly mutually symbiotic  relationship in which they cling together tightly, my rebellious right ear spurns the approach of the little circular piece of plastic and so it therefore dangles uselessly onto my shoulder. I keep stuffing it back in, but the strains of Massive Attack or Basement Jaxx which propel me forward are interupted and I long for a spare hand to shove it back in.

And finally, why is it that people buy and keep a ‘pointless dog’? A pointless dog is so called by me because it is bought on a whim, and then is relegated to a lonely and cold existence in the back yard where it barks either in a deep baritone, or sharp staccato yaps whenever I am nearby. In a world full of unwanted noise, I like to choose the noise I listen to, and yet I am surrounded by dogs whose entire motivation in life is to bark at anything and everything – not for a minute or two, but for hours. Now, I like dogs, but prefer cats as they are reasonably silent. I feel sad for dogs which are confined and understimulated. A happy pooch is part of a family and has an interactive and purposeful life. The poor old pointless dog is just a barking poo machine and I feel sorry for it. I think owners of dogs need to realise that dog ownership is a commitment, much like that of having children, and it should be taken seriously.

But enough of the moaning. These are my main bugbears at the moment. It would take a whole blog to get my next one down – but I will give you a hint. Those people with self imposed eating regimes that impact negatively on those around them…” I will have a skinny latte on soy with organic coffee half strenth with extra froth in a bone china mug with no toxic glaze kiln fired in Lithuania…”

How Kayteejay46 was born.

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On the 22nd February 2009, my world changed. You would say it was nothing huge, but for me it resulted in feeling lost – floating in a sea of information without a portal to enter. Yes, it was drastic. Fawlty Towers was without the internet. Basil (my kindly landlord) had changed internet providers to a mob in the Phillipines (or Queensland). The result was my loss of contact with the World wide web until it was up and running again.

Oh, the pain. I felt adrift on a sea of non communication. No longer could I check my e-mails, or do my banking.  I could not download my study information, nor could I ‘Stumble’ or blog. I could not write on here! I could not check what others were doing on Facebook, nor could I buy or sell on Ebay. I could not check the weather or the TV guide. I could not visit the forums I enjoy, nor comment on current topics. Alas.

My body became tense and irritable. I felt cross and was snappy with everybody. I was edgy and twitchy. Now I recognised the signs of addiction. My fix was gone. Now, before you visualise me as a geek, I do not spend all day online, you will not see me at 3am crouched over my laptop in the dark with my glasses perched on end of my nose, but I do like to have access to information at my fingertips.

I started to borrow my daughter’s computer for an illicit  10 minutes a day just to check my emails (mostly catalogues and surveys – but they are ‘my’ catalogues and surveys.) I usually have a walk in the morning, and then do some yoga. Next I have a nourishing cup of coffee and check my emails before work. I would feel balanced and informed.  But no, with no warning this routine was changed. I hate routines changing when I don’t change them.

It made me think, dear readers, how the internet has changed our lives. If any of you wonder why I call myself Kayteejay46, then I will now let you know. I was 46 (nine years ago – hard to believe when you see how youthful I look since Fatty four eyes won the fat fight). Kayteejay is an amalgam of the initials of my name. KTJ. Simple. And 46 is how old I was when I saw the flickering light. Thats it.

I embraced the internet with all my heart. Being single and at that stage in my life,  I felt meeting a man would enhance my existence.  I embarke upon the perilous journey of internet dating. Now, the lurid details of that period of time will be in another blog, but I began that day  a journey which changed my life.   Not that ‘mr right’ appeared, but quite a few ‘mr right nows’ entered my life.  I realised the power and potential of this amazing new cyber world. It was the beginning of globalisation for me. In other worlds, my compressed world decompressed and I expanded in my world view.

Ten years later, a lot has changed, I am still  single, but my reliance and attachment to the internet has changed and diversified. If for instance I want to make yogurt, then there will be a recipe online. If I want to make a booking to fly to Sydney – Webjet will show me the cheapest flight with all of the airlines available on that day. Amazing I say. When doing Uni last year, I could be present at a lecture online and talk to the lecturer. Who would have thought.

Anyway. I am back. Basil logged me in and finally ‘Gotalk’ is off and talking. Hallelujah. I feel light and euphoric. Floaty even. Now the WWW is back flowing through my veins I feel alive, in touch with the global community. I had better check to see if Kevin 07 has visited because I just did some online shopping at the Lush soap shop. Eek.
Now, as an afterthought. Can you remember life before your mobile phone, and can you remember getting your pay in a packet and visiting the bank before ATMs became an intrinsic part of society. I can. What difference a decade makes.

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I have the somewhat dubious honour of living at Fawlty Towers. Admitedly it is the Australian version, Mid North Coast Style. Basil Fawlty’s Aussie doppelganger is the owner of the property.In order to fund his dream of opening an art gallery he rents out the other dwellings on his property to unsuspecting tennants.I say unsuspecting because behind the mild mannered exterior of the place, there are many things just waiting to fall apart.
Living here is a as the Divinyls sing ” A fine line between pleasure and pain”
Let me enlighten you. Picture a beautiful old two storied house set on a large leafy block –  festooned with the odd gargoyle or two, it is a quirky and unique place.   Apart from the main house, there is a granny flat which contains one granny. (Me in fact), the ‘Pool House’ and ‘The Club House’.

The ‘Pool House’ is a remnant from a 70’s stag party porno flick set complete with a wagon wheel suspended mirror and a table with barstools set in concrete. These are great if you are a two metre human being with a bum which can suction you onto the stool. And then there is the wall of mirrors. All it needs are the handle bar moustaches and pneumatic bouncing mammaries to complete the picture. It is called the pool house because there is a pool next to it. And yes, when it is 33 degrees in the shade the inmates are grateful for the pool – when it is not a deep shade of lime green. To get into the pool itself, the childproof gate is a logistical nightmare to open. The fence has sunk, so the gate is out of alignment and persistence, dexterity and a good strong right arm is necessary to get in for a swim. On the positive side, it is a good deterrent for small children. The pool house has had a series of tenants in my time here. Many tend to have a close and meaningful relationship to the bottle,along with attendant relationships which are loudly vocal often at 2am. These issues are not apparent to the landlord until the recycling bin clinks glassily when it is wheeled out on a Tuesday.

The ‘Club house’ might have once been a garage. Set directly on a concrete slab and with fibro walls, it swelters in summer and turns its inhabitants into icicles in winter. The shower leaks, snakes and spiders crawl in the gaps under the door and cockroaches hold the walls together.There is no kitchen bench to speak of, few cupboards and a lovely sloping floor.The screen doors don’t fit or shut, so visiting wildlife is abundant.

The tenants, including my good self choose to live here because it is quiet, leafy, cheap and close to everything. The benign owner of what I call the ‘Compound’ does all the repairs himself. This would be fine if he:

1. Did them when asked
2. Did them properly

The inmates of the compound must accept that unlike a situation when a rental property is acquired through an agent, the agent sends qualified repairmen to fix the things that break.  Living at the compound is a parallel universe.The reverse is true. The owner will do all repairs himself, and he will do them when he has time. However he does not have much of that because of  time constraints such as a full time job, various medical conditions and  also a girlfriend

This green and leafy paradise is rife with complexities. Who else, when going to mow the lawn, finds three mowers – only one of which goes. And,to make this contraption work, you must spray it with WD40 and pull the cord. Hard when your arms are not long enough to do both at the same time. The lawns done, the mower does not turn off when you turn the ‘off switch’. Oh no, you must run to the shed and find a pair of pliers to pull out a wire before the beast shudders to a stop.The driveway is edged with a wall of pine trees, from which crazed black cockatoos pelt unsuspecting inmates with pine cone missiles. It looks and sounds like a war zone. There is not time here to mention the driveway hose which sprays the user with a fine mist and is not long enough to water the garden.  Nor time to discuss the physical and mental gymnastics required to manouvre your car around others to get to the road. Should I mention the home made telephone wire system which so baffled the Telstra man he needed to get counselling and retraining. Now I jest, but I am sure you get the drift…

But back to the exploding toilet cistern. I begged, nagged cajoled and reminded the landlord to fix my dripping toilet. I nagged so much it felt like I was still married. After a few weeks, he did. I always find that if I threaten to get a trades person in and take it out of the rent,then  that will galvenise him into action. Finally he visited the cathedral which is close to heart of the men of Australia. He has a close, almost spiritual  infinity with Bunnings Warehouse. I think of it as his place of worship as most weekends he brings home mysterious and bulky packages from there and  displays an air of serene contentment.

He fixed it. Ah the joy of not hearing that mind numbing drip drip drip. But alas I rejoiced too soon. Tonight the hose ripped from the wall and a fountain of water cascaded through the kitchen and bathroom. Being a resourceful woman, I turned off the tap and mopped up with towels.Sopping wet and swearing quietly I rang him on his mobile phone. Of course he is five hundred kilometres away.He humbly and apologetically listened to my tirade, promising to fix it on his return tomorrow.
I am off to bed now. All is quiet on the compound. My huge, quiet veranda is a wonderful place to sit and think. Life on a compound has many advantages. There is always someone to borrow milk from, and there is always someone to feed the cat when I am away. There is room to ride a bike, kick a ball, skateboard, grow vegies or just sit under a tree. We often all sit together and have a meal or a drink. There is usually someone around when you need someone to talk to, but you are left alone when you want solitude.I have been here a few years now, and much as I become frustrated with things not getting repaired, I love my little place and I am always happy to return here. I will just try to ignore that grinding sound from the ceiling fan and the dripping from the bathroom ceiling as the aftermath of the toilet explosion subsides into puddles on the floor.

Stumble It!

weightloss32It is 1958 on a wintry day in Christchurch New Zealand. There is a small girl standing alone on her first day at a small convent primary school. She is dressed in a brown serge uniform which accentuates her plump body. Her straight brown hair has been pruned into a bowl shape in her father’s shed the day before. Her scared face is embelished with a pair of thick, black rimmed spectacles with a Dame Edna flourish. A gang of mainly boys stand there chanting “Fatty four-eyes, fatty four-eyes.” The nearby nun seems blissfully unaware of the little girls fate.
That was me. A plain, gawky child who was on the podgy side. I toughened up a little, coerced my mother into sending me to ballet with dreams of being a sylph like swan lake ballerina. The teacher told my mother in my hearing “Its like teaching a baby elephant to dance.”
And so it went on for years. The slightly chubby girl with the slim. attractive girlfriends was always the life and soul of the party as boys saw her as that funny fat girl. The irony is, that looking back at photos, I was not really fat at all, just a bit awkward and badly dressed.
In my final year at High School, I wanted to continue University level art, but my female only convent did not have the facilities. I was sent next door to the boys only school to study this subject. The pimply, smelly boys were merciless. They smirked and tittered about my looks and body shape, and laughed about my thick lenses. I tried not wearing my glasses, but ambling into stationary objects was also not a good look. Angry inside, I won the highest award for my art work, as I silently decided I would put those horrible boys in their place.
My first wage packet went on contact lenses. And life changed.
Sensing that my life was empty, I was an easy target for recruitment into the burgeoning Jesus movement, where everybody (including Jesus himself) were more interested in your soul than in your body. I moved away from home and into a commune, where being a starving student kept the weight off -along with a diet of mung beans and lentils (ugh)
I met my husband at twenty. We married after six months as I wanted to belong somewhere, and I thought marriage would do that. How wrong I was.
Essentially a lovely man, my husband and I had two great kids, but he was often critical of my weight. Looking back, I was only about ten kilos overweight. I tried everything from forty day fasts which made me faint to liquid and biscuit diets. Always the weight went back on. Stuck at home with two tiny children, I ate out of boredom. Always a great cake maker, I replicated my mother’s talent and baked till the tins were full. Nobody ate it but me.
One day, full of self disgust and loathing, I forced myself to vomit. I felt relief at the emptiness. Little did I know that a malignant pattern would establish itself for the next ten years. I had no idea that my guilty secret was an eating disorder. I had never heard of one before. I thought I was going mad as the problem escalated.
One day I read an article describing ‘bulimea’. I realised my problem had a name. I never went to a doctor, but fought the problem day after day, until finally I seemed to be over it. But the ten kilos still remained.
For years afterwards I tried every new diet under the sun. I always lost weight, but never kept it off. Last year I started to have some health problems which worried me. I stewed about it, then seeing the success of a woman at work who had been going to Healthy Inspirations, I followed her lead.
I have to say that a sort of epiphany ocurred. A paradigm shift. I firmly believe that to win the fat fight, something has to gel inside. You need to know that this time you will do it. And so I did. It has taken five months and finally the thirteen kilos has gone.
And, wait – there’s more!!! It was actually not that hard. This time my focus was on fitness and good health forever – not just to fit in a smaller dress. Setting goals, support from the staff and commitment to regular exercise are the keys. Being accountable to a journal and to Healthy Inspiration’s staff monitoring your progress is a great help.
Yesterday my doctor gave me a clean bill of health, took me off medication and said I was perfectly fit and healthy. And I am. Today I stood on those scales, and finally the numbers I had longed for came up. So, well done me!!!!
I celebrated with a skinny latte, and realised that the fat fight has been won. I know this time that the weight will stay off because healthy eating and regular exercise are now part of my day.
So, off to buy a new bra and knickers. Yay!! goodbye granny bloomers and hello kinky knickers.

750px-australian_aboriginal_flagsvg1

I wake up on the 26th January 2016 and  remember it is Australia Day. Yesterday I spotted cars adorned with Australian flags (made in China) driving past. Australia celebrates this day to commemorate the arrival of the first fleet in 1788. Britain came to a appropriate this continent because it was the policy of the British Empire to colonise other countries to establish their Empire world wide. Also it was a handy place to get rid of some bothersome convicts. They saw it as an uninhabited place, and called it “Terra Nullius” – a place of emptiness. What they didn’t realise was that Australia was already owned by over four hundred indigenous Australian nations; all of whom had their own cultural fingerprint. Of course the owners of this great continent were not happy about giving it to these white invaders, and fought to hold on to their culture and lives. Over two hundred years on, a history of dispossession, murder, assimilation and imposed integration policies is the legacy of the first owners of this continent.

So what are we celebrating? That Britain had the technology and numbers to subjigate the Aboriginal people? Are we celebrating the introduction of toxic wildlife such as rabbits, foxes and stoats which decimate our native wildlife? Are we celebrating that one Imperialist culture had the strength to render an occupied country to less than sixty thousand descendants today?
Kevin Rudd went a long way to reconcile this once hidden history of the true invasion of Australia in his “Sorry” speech in 2008.
But that is only the beginning. While the Northern Territory Intervention can be seen as another type of Invasion, all Australians must now consider how and where they stand in their national entity. We are all imports in one way or another. We cannot take back the invasion or the resulting holocaust. But, we can redress the wrongs of the past by addressing issues of dispossession by being proactive in providing a strong and effective network of health, education and social awareness programmes which address cultural safety and acknowledge the Inidgenous Australian world view.
The problem is huge. It won’t go away soon, but it must be fixed. I see the huge disparity between whitefella and Indigenous Australian mortality as being a strong indication of the gap between white and black Australian culture. Yes, it is health and education, operated their way which will help to breach the gap.
Now, off my soapbox. Yes, I am off to a bbq, I am glad I am an imported Australian. I am thankful that I live here. We can’t change the past, but we can acknowledge it and be proactive in allowing the descendants of the original owners of Gondwanaland to establish and maintain their own unique culture and identity here in the twentyfirst century.

Serendipity and Garage sales

One Saturday morning about four years ago I was feeling rather glum. I went out rather unwillingly with my daughter to look at garage sales. Usually when I see a garage sale sign I have a perceptible quickening of my heart beat. What bargains would lie there hidden under bobbley nylon sheets, dried up agaves and matted baby cardigans? This morning however I was nonchalant and uninspired. The array looked rather dull. I picked up a rather thick paperback, and the boy who was selling it along with his Engineering Uni text books said “that is an amazing book” Taking him at his word, and because it was only one dollar, I bought it. It was called “Ghostwritten” and was the first novel of a young writer called David Mitchell. I took it home and started to read. From the first moment I was hooked. A wholeghostwritten1 new world opened up to me, and although that is an overworked cliche, I truly was hooked. The book involved half a dozen parallel journeys in time, all with a thread that finally linked the characters and events. Written in the magic realism style that I was also studying at University at that time, the book encompassed a flow of evenwindupbird1ts that although mundane and ordinary, was also interspersed with moments of magic which seemed to be utterly believable. I searched for his other books, and when I was reading a sarcastic review about his work on the internet, I was offered one opinion that his work was a pale imitation of the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami.
That is where the serendipity stepped in. One day I saw a book by Murakami for sale in a bookshop. It was also only a dollar and was called “the wind up bird chronicle” Once again I was swept into a new writing realm which was compelling and absorbing. I was so inspired that I tried to adopt the genre in some of the writing assignments I was currently involved in. I found it a genre that flowed easily and was one that I loved writing.
My love affair with the two writers continued. I managed to track all of their books through Ebay, and went from each one to the next utterly astounded at the beauty and simplicity of their writing concepts.
The online encyclopedia Wikipedia describes serendipity as “is the effect by which one accidentally discovers something fortunate, especially while looking for something else entirely.” It can be the culmination of cosmic forces that bring two people together at one time and then they fall in love. Or, it can be bumping into a long lost friend on the busy streets of Sydney when you turn an unknown corner. Life without serendipity would be sterile and uninspiring. Sometimes we have to dig deep to find the treasures. Here I am being Pollyanna again, but it is true. Finding a Collette Dinnigan gown in the op shop for three dollars when you went in to look for a book, or a stunning Modigliani print at the Tender centre when you are being dragged around there against your will.
So, the moral of this post is – always stop and have a look at garage sales – you never know what you might find and what doors that may open up for you.

It will be alright

alright“It will be alright.” How many times have we heard those words and secretly relegated the speaker into the catagory of one of the ‘Smugs’ – your inward dialogue goes something like this – “of course it is alright for you – you have a home, someone who adores you, your health, money in the bank, perfect children, investment properties, a trip to Europe planned and slim ankles” as we meekly sit there and receive their smug platitudes  across the cafe table. But will it really be alright? Who can gaurantee that? Who decides what happens to you and what pattern your life will take? Why was one child (me) conceived in a chilly New Zealand town in 1953 and another in the war torn Gaza strip in 2009? Why must some people suffer so much, and others seemingly glide through life as though coated with teflon – crap just seems to not affect them. The answer my dear readers is – I do not know why.
I have been reading a lot of Philosophy lately, as an antidote to all of the novels I read while doing my degree. And, I don’t think they really know either. Pop philosopher Alain Bouton has some quirky and unique thoughts on life, but in the end one thing is true. Good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people. Also, good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. Life just is. It happens. So, will it be alright? Is this just a mealy mouthed Pollyannaish platitude to keep the great unwashed in a state of forward momentum so they can function as cogs in the great machine of life?
I don’t really believe that anybody but God has the full answer (and yes, I do believe in God, though I don’t really understand why he allows things to happen) So – do we just exist or do we choose to live?
I spent much of my life as a very negative person (suprise suprise) I once overheard myself described as “Jones the Moans.” Hurtful as that was, I thought I was entitled to moan about life. It was pretty damm hard at times and I needed all the sympathy I could get to help me by – or so I thought.
Over the years I have gradually come to see that yes – It will be alright. Shit will happen, and it does. Also good things happen. Life just happens – that is the nature of the process. However, it is how we react that determines how we live.
I am now grateful for a body that works and is fit. I am thankful for two great kids and a wonderful grandchild who makes me smile. You know by now that a wonderful latte can make me happy. As is finding your favourite authors’ books cheap at a garage sale. My body works, I have a roof over my head, a good brain, great sense of humour, beautiful music on the stereo and a ripe mango for lunch. I have enough in my purse to pay for a coffee out. I have a great friend to share that experience with. I have enough credit on my credit card to buy the perfect dress if it is on sale. My cat is purring on the bed and I have a job to go to on Monday.

So yes, it will be alright.

In search of the perfect latte

latte-main_full1With all of the things that life chooses to throw at us, it is often important to have small treats that make us happy – if even only for a short time. Mine is the perfect latte. My perfect latte is made with low fat milk. ( I can taste the cream in the full fat variety, ugh) It is hot but not boiling. The milk has a creamy, but not frothy texture, and the creaminess remains right down to the bottom of the cup. The crema should float in a half inch slick on the top, and if performed by a master barista, will have a smart little artistic swirl. The coffee should be consumed in peace and quiet in a nice little cafe, accompanied by a good book, and a little bit of people watching. But…
Why is it that there are so many ghastly coffees around? The ones which are pale and bitter or insipid imitations of the real thing. The milk is over boiled and is frothy and thin. The coffee liquid texture is thin, bitter and meagre, and usually scalding hot (a no no for perfect coffee). There is often a huge dollop of un-needed and very 1980’s froth which floats on this vile liquid. My heart sinks. There is no crema swirl, the anticipation is sorely ruined by the first taste. Over burned, bitter, thin and disappointing – a bit like some women I know (not including myself of course) With my sunken heart I usually sit and skull (or sip if it is piping hot) this bitter brew as it has usually cost me my daily coffee allowance. I have few treats, so this little ritual of mine must be consistent. It is always with a heavy heart that I pay for this offending brew, and often I wish I had the moral strength to just say “your coffee is crap!” But I don’t – coward that I am. Unless they ask, “how was your coffee?” and then I might tell them.
Often people have places of great spiritual meaning to them –  like a place of worship or spiritual rejuvenation or contemplation.  Thus I  come to the great barista god, like a needy acolyte looking for heaven. My heaven  is always a really good cafe – usally if they are funky and the staff wear black it is a good indication that I am on the right track. Also a surriptitious  glance at the other customer’s coffees can be a good indication whether this should be a fight or flight situation. And, believe it or not, my sister is even worse. She has been known to go behind the counter and look at the machine, and if the beans are from one of the “roberts” (Harris or Timms) then her scorn is complete. She and l, like Paris Hilton know our coffee labels. On a sortay into any new city, finding a good cafe is like finding nirvana in a sea of mediocrity. This cafe will become your haven which you return to like a ship to a lighthouse for nurturing and caffeine stimulation. Life is too short for a bad coffee. With so much uncertainty in this world, $4.00 for a perfect latte is not too much to pay for temporary bliss.

Post Christmas ennui

sad-faceWell Christmas is over for another year. I have a bigger waistline, indigestion, lots of presents and a credit card bill to show for it. As the needles fall off the Christmas tree, I think of Post modernism, Post Structuralism, Post Natal Depression and Post Christmas Blues. Whats it all about Alfie? The bin is overflowing with wrapping paper, I have a fridge full of chocolate to eat through and some new and fascinating things to play with. But what does it all mean? When I was a kid more than half a century ago, we got a reburbished bike or doll from an older family member (who had grown out of it) and that was it. A couple of days ago as I saw kids virtually dissappearing under a flurry of wrapping paper busily searching for the thrill of another useless, expensive plastic must have gizmo, I wondered where the true meaning had gone. Once again I went down memory lane to remember being awake until midnight on Christmas Eve when I was bundled off to Midnight Mass. Candles burned, pine tree needles smelt glorious, a choir sang carols and a little plaster of paris baby Jesus lay in a real wooden manger.

Now I am waxing sentimental here, the past is often a country best not revisited, but those few memories always bring me back to remembering that it is baby Jesus’s birthday – so how come it is a commercil fiasco and we get all the presents? A rehetorical question I know. We spend money because consumerism is part of our social fibre, and spending money keeps our economy alive and well. Paying fifity dollars for a present on the 24th Dec has more meaning than getting it for half price in the Boxing Day sale on the 26th.  Isn’t Christmas about love and caring all year round? Why do we place so much importance on our gastric juices on this one day? Is it because the need to celebrate something that was once so holy fills a need in our lives to go a little deeper than the superficial nicities of life?

I love Christmas, and I love seeing the joy on little children’s faces when they open their presents. I love having family around and catching up with friends on holidays. I love long days at the beach or having time to read a book in my hammock. I love my daughter’s chocolate truffles and I love having time to dream, but sometimes I just think – simple is best. As we look at tired shop assistants wan faces on Christmas eve, and somebody sweating in the kitchen (not me) as they stuff a turkey, and grizzling kids hanging off overladen trollies with eye rolling  mothers, I just wonder what we have done to ourselves as a society by creating so much expectation in small children.  This year my work colleagues and I all donated a small amount to buy some livestock for a third world country. We didn’t really need another ten dollar (our limit for secret Santa) body lotion or candle. But those people really needed food in their bellies and clean water to drink.

Something to think about. Happy Boxing Day

All I want for Christmas is…..

tired-santa21I am a bit of a Scrooge when it comes to Christmas, Bah humbug and all that stuff. However, when I went to the Christmas carols the other night, the carol singing bought a few tears to the eyes as I remembered my children being tiny and opening presents under the tree…but I won’t get all sentimental on you. I work with small children, so Christmas has been a focal point for weeks. We have been deluged with glitz and baubles in the shops for months, so most of us are just a tiny bit over it, BUT, I will just have to admit that although I am a bit of cynic about Christmas, I do love presents. Which brings me to my list Santa (did you also realise that Santa is an anagram of Satan. Funny that)

MY LIST FOR SANTA

1. Enough cash to go to the dentist and have ALL of my teeth fixed: straightened, whitened and filled. Ouch.

2. A pedicure, manicure and a hot rock massage. In fact, a two day spa treatment would be divine: all cosmic music, tinkling fountains and general nurturing treatments…mmm

3. A house of my own: small, bohemian and funky with a leafy garden, or a spacious and  spartan,  apartment in the centre of a city, or a windswept cottage overlooking a deserted beach (with native bush behind) All with a good cafe nearby that does a stunning latte.

4. A trip to see Europe – Italy (particulary Venice before it sinks) Greece and France of course. As well as everywhere, and plenty of money to stay in glamorous hotels and to eat wonderful food. And to stay for ages, and not go on coaches with loud people (all couples)  wearing polyester. I want to touch the sun warmed stone which has been around for centuries and breath in history.

5.  A brand new metabolism which turns all food into energy so I can eat eggs benedict, French toast, chocolate and pastries till the cows come home, and not get fat.

6. Plastic surgery to firm my sagging jawline.

7. And, perhaps a man. One who has a nice firm body, good looking, good personality, good humoured, intelligent, no nasty baggage, rich, cultured, passionate and faithful. Now I am merging into the realm of myth and complete fantasy. No, perhaps a nice bloke who doesn’t smell bad, isn’t fixated on ball sports, can talk about books and is funny would be nice to go out to dinner with.

Ok Santa, the list is out there. Up to you now.  In all honesty, any little suprise under the synthetic Douglas fir tree will be fine. Its the thought that counts. Happy Christmas everyone.

Christmas and $29.00 microwaves

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Last week a new department store opened near us. I went early, thinking to avoid the crowds on opening day. I was confronted by a phalanx of trollied up shoppers waiting in queues that filled every aisle. Trollies were loaded with $29.00 microwaves and packages of 32 pack rolls of toilet paper (which looked suspiciously thin, although cheap) Now I am old and wise. I know that more expensive, thicker toilet paper is superior in every way, but I digress. Now is not the time for a sermon on false economy. Mariah Carey was screeching shmultzy christmas carols from every loudspeaker. The shoppers, lined in rows three or four deep stood staunchly, mute with the energy of saving a buck. Everywhere I looked, the flouroescent lights showed glazed eyes and fixed expressions. Wallets were open at the ready, credit cards polished up for an airing. Children hung sullenly from off trolleys or wailed pieously with tiredness or boredom. I tried to have a look around, truly Idid. I could not move left or right. Suddenly I recalled a crowd surge at the Big Day Out many years ago when I was middle aged try hard born again retro teenager. The feeling of being hemmed in by glassy eyed human beings intent on their own personal agendas rose up inside me. I felt a bit panicky, hell, what if I could never get out, if I was stuck in there forever hearing Mariah wail with my last dying breath. I leapt over a couple of trolleys and pushchairs. I shoved and pushed with the determination of Boadacia and her chariot and squeezed out past the traumatized looking staff who had the aura of those caught in the middle of a post apocolyptic disaster zone.

I was out. I breathed a sigh of air conditioned shopping centre air and hurried out into the steam of another sweaty and hot mid north coast morning. Everywhere I looked I saw huge mounds of toilet paper and $29.00 microwaves being loaded into the boots of cars. People looked shattered, but with that air of achievement and satisfaction which is apparent when a dollar is saved, and bums will have paper to be wiped on, even if your fingers go through it and it is very thin. Microwaves will ping, Santa will come, as will the credit card statements in January. Snow will not fall, this is Australia after all, but we all seem to cling to the hope that Christmas will re-unite families, and that we will feel full of good cheer and Christmas joy – as I will be on Christmas morning if I find a $29.00 microwave under the tree.

Overwhelming experiences in bed

bedEvery weekend for about six months I used to have an overwhelming experience in bed. Now I have got your attention, because no, It wasn’t what most overwhelming bed experiences entailed, namely sex. This was quite different. It would begin with an anxious tip toe dash to the front gate to pick up a large object rolled up in cling wrap. This large cylindrical object was then incised with various sharp objects to get it open, spread out the contents and then try to lay them flat. This required energy and strength,  because the contents had been coerced to stay in a rolled up state. Yes, it was the weekend newspaper that I am talking about.

Finally it is open on the bed. Coffee on the bedside table, glasses perched on nose and cat looking alarmed by this invasion of the ghost of many pine trees. I separate the contents. The bed is covered. I look for the bits I like to read. Cars and driving? no, the beep beep Barina will have to last till I die. Finance? hell no, don’t have any to worry about… Sport? Vomit and spew. House sales? that was a past life. Jobs? here on the mid north coast in a recession? you have to be kidding. Now what is left. The real news, the crap news, the literary and arts section, travel, the telly guide and yes, the weekend lifestyle magazine.

I pile all of the bits I don’t read into a pile. It is far bigger than the pile I do read. Then the thought strikes me like a lightening bolt. Why doesn’t the newsaper just deliver the bits that you do like to read. Think of the trees and ink saved, the lessening of transport costs. Ah, but reality sets in. It would be a logistical nightmare for an editor to provide  this service for people like me in a dreamed of utopian world.

I settle down with my coffee to catch up on the world news. The essay is great – thought provoking and well researched. Several hours later I emerged replete from savouring the written word. But hell, where has my weekend gone? Lost under a pile of newsprint broadsheet tyranny. This has to stop. Time to enter the real world.The recycling bin is choking on unwanted newsprint.

I have re-entered the real world. Saturday morning I go to the gym, then buy a sublime skinny latte at my favourite cafe and read their newspaper. I choose the bits I like, and settle down for a good read. Heaven.

Cars

dummer-06cord4Most of us need a car and some of us actually have a car. I like my car. It is the first newish one I have ever had, it is fuel efficient, easy to park, has air conditioning and a good stereo. It also goes, which is important to me, as I hate it when cars do not go. That usually means spending money, a lot of money! Cars can mean transport and freedom. To some they are a status symbol or a way of making yourself noticed. My personal choice is for smallish cars, as they are quietly efficient, getting you from a to b with less impact on the environment than large cars. I have had old bombs that have blown up, one that was stolen and set fire to, one which resembled a Mafia getaway car, one that was the size of a cornflake box, and one that had holes in the floor which revealed glimpes of the road when driving.

Hmm, large cars. Four wheel drives. Now I will have even less friends than I had before, but for the life of me, I cannot understand why one small woman with one small child must sit up high in a fiercely aggressive four wheel drive vehicle that blisters with bull bars and gadgets. She (or often he) believe they are now the boss of the highway, and impose intimidating tactics like tailgating, overtaking dangerously with a snide, sideways sneer and antagonistic, egocentric logic. Worse even than tired truck drivers with rigid timetables to keep, they seem to feel that a mantel of greatness descends on them when they take possession of the keys of their new vehicle. Never mind that the vehicle is designed for bush and mountainous terrain, and should be covered in dust while tearing across the Nullabor. No, they must impose their need to impress upon the general populace of road users as a whole. They feel the need to nudge their huge snouts out at intersections, making me almost side swipe them in the process. They hover menacingly at car parks and zoom into recently vacated spots without an ounce of regret.

So what if their fuel bill is as high as their mortgage. Its status baby, status and power. Lets go and drive along a quiet beach somewhere, where an unsuspecting beachgoer is quietly meditating as she walks along the shore. All is peace, until a roar from behind as a four wheel drive approaches and passes, and another, and another. The sand is marked with tyre tracks, and empty beer cans thrown out of the windows.

And I drive off in my little beep beep Barina. It needs petrol once a month and I can almost park with my eyes closed. Almost. Better for the environment, better for me, can still carry five at a pinch and is my home away from home. If I could find a cupholder to put my takeaway latte in, i would be in seventh heaven.

Fat fight: part two.

imagesIt has been five weeks since I joined a women’s only gym. I had always hated them before, unreasonably thinking them weak and namby pamby. The reason I joined was because I needed help to stay motivated, so here I am, in a pink, air conditioned paradise where nice ladies in pink tops encourage, weigh, prod, measure and chat to you while you do your workouts. These workouts are wonderful. They consist of a fifteen minute circuit where you exercise for sixty seconds and then go on to the next one. You do this twice and your feel great. And it only takes half an hour!

I was previously put off gyms because the last one was a warehouse with no air conditioning. You would lie on your back to do a stretch on carpet which was fragrantly imbedded with the sweat of previous Pump and Body Jam devotees. The heat was intolerable; large fans would reluctantly move the hot hair around while you drooped and sweated your way around the workout. Large, muscled men would hoist huge weights and make vile grunting sounds like semi muted orgasms. If a woman dared to hover nearby waiting for the weight machine, they would regard you with the disdain a non dog lover employs when finding a steaming dog turd on the path. This male clique had some lycra clad gym bunny acolytes who would daintily swing weights while flicking their blonde locks, hoping from a glance of approval from the hefty beefcake bruisers.

I was terrified of the shower, the fear of athletes foot and worse kept me in my rubber beach thongs and I dreaded the horrid nylon shower curtain blowing in and touching my body. Yes, I know I am neurotic. And then the music.  Through the heat waves, several wall mounted dvd players belted out Britney Spears and others of her ilk ad nauseum as we pounded on the treadmills.

The best thing about my new women’s only gym, is that I actually feel good. I am amazed. I feel less tired, more toned and I have lost quite a few kilos already. And, once a week you can book yourself into the adjacent relaxation room and recline in a big black chair which massages your body into dribbling submission. I love it. Even if it is mechanical. It will be even better when I can work out how to change the music from Frank Sinatra, whom I consider in my ancient wisdom to not be condusive to zoning out. I love it all, even when the chair tries to munch my feet. I just lift them out. Bliss. Now off for a skinny latte and rest while I polish my halo.

env-abandoned-shopping-trolleysWe all need to go there, at some time or another. Some may try to buy organically at the local farmer’s market, others may grow their own vegies, but eventualy, you need to visit a supermarket. Firstly, park in the carpark, try to avoid other cars backing into you, and try to avoid backing into others. Then choose a trolley. Best to give it a test push before you find yourself in Isle thirteen with your trolley wheels locked into a spasm of rebellious inertia. Take a list, and if you are over fifty, take your reading glasses so you can read your list and read the labels.

Most supermarkets are set out to lure you into the sort of mesmerised state where you morph into a being who is willing to part with lots of money. Carefully stacked ‘Specials” convince you that you will be saving money. The music, or muzak as it is also known, is hell bent on beating your aural receptors into submission. Shmultzy ballads or Mariah Carey screeching are favourites. You wheel your trolley from isle to isle, carefully selecting the items on your list. Of course you read labels, you need to know how much fat and how many chemicals are lurking in the brightly packaged articles on the shelf. You can generally tell the other shoppers over fifty as they hold their purchases at arm length and peer at them with great intensity.

Shoppers vary in shape, size and age. Mums with kids hanging haphazardly off trolleys laden with packaged junk foods are coerced by scheming and screaming children into filling their trollies with the tempting rubbish which is at child level. Men often look clueless, and no I am not sexist, they do. Then there are the retirees. Men who accompany their wives and straggle along behind like aging, listless dogs out for a walk. They stand in the middle of isles, blocking the access of those who are busier than they are. They loudly discuss the purchases, as if finally after years of supplying the dosh for the daily bread, they are now experts on what the daily bread will be. Then there are the workers in their synthetic shirts and pants, usually with either a panicked or a bored expression, as if they have realised that this career is just a stop gap, or worse, that there are no other options out there.

I fill my trolley, mostly healthy stuff if I am being sensible (and I am at the moment). I stonily ignore the lure of the shining cherry ripe wrappers and search for a clear checkout. As I lunge at the closest, the checkout person reminds me snarkily that it is for fifteen items or less. The others are all full. I choose what looks the shortest, and then flick through the thoughtfully provided rack of magazines to see how Jen is coping without Brad, and how Angelina’s breeding programme is going. Finally, I am through, I load the stuff onto the conveyer belt and remember I forgot the green bags again. My shopping is loaded into those filmy environmentally sound plastic bags which biodegrade before you even trundle them into your house. Now for the money. You watch in quiet panic as your total is totted up on the magic computer screen. You realise that the Smoked Salmon was wildly expensive, and as for that mango. Never mind. A woman needs to eat.

All over, wheel the trolley to the lift, up to the carpark, stash it in the boot and then park your trolley in the trolley bay. Wipe sweat from furrowed brow. Step in a discarded spill from a Wendy’s icecream, turn on the ignition, and get the hell out of there.

What can I wear?

What can I wear?.

Keeping it real

Keeping it real.