Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas wrap

We have just returned from a fabulous Christmas break in the southern climes, where we ate and were merry many days on end. Those days having now come to an end we find ourselves at home and hungover with uncomfortably tight pants; all signs of a Christmas well spent.

Since it has been a couple of weeks since my last post I do hope you'll indulge me this little Christmas wrap.

The season started brilliantly with the discovery of some irreverent Christmas artworks a few streets away from where I live:

Such tasteful composition, don't you think?

And I'm sure da Vinci would be pleased with the subtle enhancements to his half-smiling Florenzian:

I'm not sure who was originally responsible for the waif to the bottom left of Ms Lisa but I like the cut of her tights.

At a friend's work Christmas party I met the Santa Most Likely To Die From Eyeliner Exposure, which was a particular thrill:

Finally, a match for my drawing skills: this Santa couldn't draw his way out of a dot-to-dot. Happy days!

Some things have deeply mystified me this Christmas season, like this:

What in God's name is a 'glamour camper'? And who goes 'glamour camping'? And who pays $140 so their son/daughter can play pretend 'glamour camping' (whatever the hell it is)? This is everything that's wrong with Christmas.

Equally as mystifying as the glamour camper but $140 less expensive was the sight of this car, motoring along in an adjacent lane on the way out of town:

I like to think it's a tribute to a feminist rock-climber, on the horizontal for transportation only.

Less surprising was the damp end my annual attempt at filing came to:

But the best part of my Christmas break was that everyone was too busy rolling about to stay still for photos. Blurry shots are the best, don't you think?

Monday, December 14, 2009

The gentle art of selling crap

I'm not very good at bargaining. In fact I really suck at it.

Here's me bargaining for a jacket a few years ago:

Me: "Yeah hi, how much is that jacket?"

Market Stall Shopkeep: "That one? $140."

[Me to friend: "Shit shit, that's heaps. Should I try to get him down?"]

Me to Market Stall Shopkeep: "Will you take $135?"

Market Stall Shopkeep: "Sure, ok."

[Me to friend: "Yes!"]

It's probably fair to say no government would want me working on their hostage negotiation team.

But while it's a little disappointing to realise the extent of my lack of bargaining skills, this knowledge has allowed me recently to take control of the buyer-seller relationship, to turn the tide on exchange, to grab capitalism by its hairy balls.

That's right, my new life goal is to become an eBay Super Seller. Selling, I see now, is the side you want to be on.

So I've created a naff eBay user ID, written some extra naff copy (including the lines: "With all the features a computer-desk-needer needs" and "Go on, take it home; you know you want to"), and what ho! I've made a sale. Here's how my auction went:

6d 23h 17m: $0.99 listing price, no bids

1d 10h 42m: $0.99 listing price, no bids

7 h 23m: $1.25, 1 bid

33s: $1.50, 2 bids

8s: $2.25, 3 bids

0s: $5.50, 4 bids and sold.

Extraordinary. What a ride. So minus the listing costs ($2.13) I'm $3.37 ahead AND someone is going to come and take my junk away. You couldn't pay for this kind of satisfaction.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ruddock again in 2010? Bwahaha!

From the SMH on Tuesday:

Tony Abbott has returned Kevin Andrews, Bronwyn Bishop and Philip Ruddock to the coalition frontbench, unveiling a marked shift to the right in his first shadow ministry.

The three controversial Howard government-era ministers have been given key portfolios in Mr Abbott's new-look team.

As the face of welfare for the coalition, Mr Andrews will take on families, housing and human services and Ms Bishop, who was involved in the famous kerosene baths scandal as former ageing minister, will be responsible for seniors.

I had resolved yesterday to spend the vast majority of my leisure time in 2010 reading political commentary and watching The 7:30 Report, it being an election year and all.

Then I read about Abbott's awesome new frontbench and figured my time would be better spent unpacking my hammock and throwing Cheesels at the tv instead, just for yucks.

What will you be doing now we don't need to worry about the election?

Monday, December 7, 2009

[insert test pattern]

We apologise for this break in transmission.

It has been brought to our attention that Ms Kettle's household clutter has reached dangerous levels. In order to ensure the ongoing safety and well being of her nearest and dearest she has been instructed to get rid of some of her crap, or at least put some of it away (for God's sake).

It has been reported that as little as a 10% reduction in her clutter will increase the lifespan of her fellow inhabitants by five to eight years.

Please forward any suggestions regarding the treatment of surplus books and novelty moustaches to the comments section below.

Thank you for your co-operation.

The Crap Police

PS, we understand that any instructing, implied or otherwise, mentioned in this post is entirely the product of Ms Kettle's internal Doris Day (the surly Doris). Mr Kettle and Little Kettle couldn't be reached for comment (presumed buried under magnetic travel games and spherical jigsaw puzzles).

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

This is not a review

A few years ago I wrote a review of a novel for a journal. It was one of the worst writing experiences of my life. I suck at writing reviews. My reviews have two lengths: haiku or thesis, and I can't, no matter how hard I try, write anything in between. This made the 921 words of this particular review the most agonising 921 words I've ever written.

My haiku-length reviews are borne out of a theory of mind issue I seem to have: somehow (in my mind) if I'm thinking about a book I figure everyone else is too? In which case, what is there to say? We've all read it, had the same thoughts and come up with the same conclusions (surely, eh?). All that's left to do with these reviews is list where and when I bought my copy of the book, and perhaps whether I had my umbrella with me that day or not (I most often do).

My thesis-length reviews are margin-to-margin verbiage. I don't know why the sentences go on and on like they do sometimes, but I do know that I once used the phrase 'literal and symbolic violence' which still makes me want to crawl under my kitchen bench and stay there.

All this is by way of telling you that I went to see Lone Scherfig's An Education at the movies yesterday, which I quite enjoyed but which I can't, as a dysfunctional review non-writer, tell you anything useful about.

This being the case, here's a list of some random movie related things I thought about over the course of the day:

1. The very best movies in the whole wide world are set in schools and focus on characters whose favourite subjects are English and Latin (and better yet, contain lines from ditsy, well-meaning friends like: "Forget about Latin; soon no-one will be speaking it, not even the Latins.");

2. Going to the movies in the mid afternoon messes with the whole daylight/real people alignment I have going on in my head. This makes for confusing and slightly embarrassing dinner table conversation when you blurt out to your family: "Hey guess who I saw today! Peter Sarsgaard! No wait, he was the guy in the movie. Was he? No yeah, it was him. Bum, I felt like I'd seen him at work today. How weird. Anyway, whatever, he's sort of hot. So... um... pass the salad?"

3. After going to the movies in the mid afternoon, and after the ensuing confusing and slightly embarrassing dinner table conversation when you get real life and movie land mixed up, it's good to go to the fridge and find a bottle of Little Creatures pale ale just waiting for you, all frosty and friendly.

Trust me, this ridiculous list is better than if I'd written a review. For shame.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Introductory Procrastination

Do you ever have those days when you do everything but the thing you're meant to be doing? I'm having one of those today, which is why I'm here blogging instead of, you know, doing the thing I'm meant to be doing.

It's not that I haven't given this thing a lot of thought. I have. I thought about it then started it, then thought about it some more then scrapped what I'd started, then re-started, then thought about the re-start and scrapped that too.

At one point this afternoon I had worked my procrastinatory thinking into an absurd circular argument, which didn't help with progress at all.

On the positive side, I've learnt over the years when to abandon something and go to bed. The abridged sequence is as follows:

1. Sigh regularly while sitting at the computer for several hours: type something, sigh, delete it, type something else, sigh, delete it, type something else, sigh, and et cetera.

2. Lie on the couch because you may have better luck thinking over there.

3. As soon as you realise lying on the couch makes no discernible difference to the quality of your thought (this usually takes two to three minutes), return to the computer and do something completely unrelated to the thing you're meant to be doing.

MCL, this seems like a perfect time to show you the piccy I came across in Frankie of that great cat-print suit:

I'm sure you would look totally hot in this and I vote you dedicate your next pay to the purchase of it (or else get work to pay for it; it's clearly an office essential).

4. Having done something completely unrelated to the thing you're meant to be doing, return to the thing you're meant to be doing and say out loud: "Screw this, I'm going to bed," then go to bed.

Works for me every time.

Monday, November 23, 2009

"Dear [Complete Stranger], let me tell you all about me..."

Have you ever, inexplicably and uncharacteristically, loathed someone or something? I have, right now in fact; this very minute I am loathing someone for the something that they do. This person and this thing make me so mad I want to hurl mud pies at some Coalition backbencher. No wait, that's a pretty normal day. Let me try again:

This person and this thing make me so mad I want to dash off a whimsical limerick damning her and the thing she does.

[Wow, that was completely lame but I'm really not a violent person and the thought of doing things to eyeballs (say) with sand and such kind of grosses me out, so unfortunately a limerick is as nasty as I get. This is disappointing on many, many levels.]

So what has this fiendish person done to warrant my (very gentle and quite well-meaning) wrath? Why she sends out a little email newsletter, advertising herself and CRAPPING ON.

Crapping on isn't bad in itself, it's just you can crap on about vaguely interesting things or you can crap on about totally dumb things, and she craps on about totally dumb things.

So far, through her email newsletters, I've learned what she's serving at her Christmas party, that I can follow her on Facebook (yay), and what her cat thinks about, you know, stuff.

AND she invites people to write in and answer questions etc but then never writes back. Not so much as a blank reply.

AND her silly email template only puts my surname in the greeting, so it always starts along the lines of "Hey [SMITH (say)]," which makes me feel like we're totally best friends... not.

I bet you're thinking, "Jeez, unsubscribe and get over it, you crazy nutbar," but the truth is I wouldn't fully appreciate how good some stuff is on the net if I didn't have her newsletter reminding me how totally shit it can be. So, loathsome chick with your loathsome newsletter, I salute you.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Canberry good times

I was going to start with a specific apology for leaving that annoying photo of the bubble-wrapped man-boy at the top of the page for a whole week, then I thought it's probably best if I throw in a nice general apology because this loose collection of paragraphs is almost entirely bereft of ideas and I'm sure your time could be more valuably spent (especially if you are a cardiologist, or work at Dolce and Gelato on King Street).

My small boy and I are in Canberra at the moment: finger painting (small boy), drinking too much (me), and running around the backyard (both of us). It's very hot but my parents' house is cool, and there's very little we need to do (other than finger paint, drink, and run around the backyard).

I did venture out to buy Turkish bread and hummus this afternoon and managed to discover a bookshop that made me realise how little I know about Communist revolutions, *sigh*. I joined their book club mailing list so hopefully my days of being a Communist revolution ignoramus are all but over (hold onto your seats, dinner party guests).

In other exciting news my parents have some great posters hanging on their toilet walls at the moment, most notably one of a sketch by Donald Friend (noice), and another advertising the 'Treasures of the National Library' exhibition opening at the National Lib in 2010 (which is VERY exciting). But that's not the end of the mind-blowing news: I'm happy to report I had a short nap on the couch this afternoon, after which I found some nice smelling flowers in the garden, and we finished the day with a very pleasant stir fry for dinner.

I know, the fun never stops; how glad are you that you read all the way to the end? Not very? Fair enough. But in my defence I did warn you about the complete lack of substance that was to follow; hopefully next time you'll take me seriously and watch Question Time instead.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Some inanity from the day

I meant to write something tonight about the process of reverse gentrification going on in my suburb but fell asleep on the couch at eight o'clock and have just woken up now... in time to go to bed.

In lieu of anything actually worthy of your time, please find below a photo of something we saw at the park this afternoon:

Surprisingly it's not a giant, disfigured cotton bud but some wacky man-boy wrapped in bubble wrap hanging upside down on some ropey play equipment with his two friends.

Here he is again launching himself down the hill between the slippery dips:

Why anyone would do this is a mystery to me.

On the plus side, we saw some pretty ducks:

Then we looked closer and realised they were crazy alien zombie ducks:

You'd think with all the red lines I draw on photos I'd be better at it, but no. On the other hand, I'm not sure I made the duck look all that much worse, considering his/her zombie status.

So overall and in summary (as I used to start the concluding paragraph of all my year seven essays), it was a largely mystifying day.

Share the love: what's mystified you this week?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A question regarding those writerly types

I sent an email recently to a Sydney writer's literary agent inviting both said Sydney writer and agent to my Christmas party; everyone loves fruit mince pies, a nice brewski and some Christmas cheer, right? And even if they don't, I love sending emails so my invitation was going to happen regardless of the consensus on fruit mince pies, beer and Christmas cheer.

So off my email went, and I wasn't actually expecting a reply but this has just turned up in my inbox from Mr/Ms Literary Agent:

Many thanks for the invitation. If I hadn't had to say no to so many invitations for [insert name here] I might be able to accept. Alas, it isn't possible.

In terms of logic, there's no particular reason why saying no to other invitations precludes the acceptance of mine, right? Just like if a waiter asks you if you'd like to order something from the specials menu you're not automatically barred from ordering off the full menu as well, yeah?

On the positive side, I like any email that includes the word 'alas'. It is a seriously under-used words these days; join with me to bring back 'alas'! (In fact, if you have a spare moment today I would love it if you joined me on one of my other campaigns: I am currently most concerned with disengaging 'augurs' from 'well'; do not go 'auguring well' into that good night, I say!)

But back to the email, my questions to you are:
1. Should I reply?
2. If so:
2.1. Should I reply knowingly, like I'm on top of the fact I've been bumped for no logical reason but with all the good cheer implied by 'alas'? OR
2.2. Should I respond with 'tude?


3. Should I quietly and humbly accept that I am not a unique and beautiful snowflake but in fact simply one of the Christmas-party-inviting hordes?

What say you?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Not a good couple of days

My son broke his arm early this morning.

My Grandad died a couple of days ago. The funeral is on Thursday.

With each draft this post has gotten shorter and shorter so that now there is barely anything left. I can't figure out how to put an ache into words.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Stumbling around in the sunshine

I'm a big fan of Spring.

Even though I spent rather much too long at a wine bar with Senji last night I was still able (when I was finally able) to enjoy a late morning ramble around my suburb. And look what we found! A ridiculously good-looking tree proclaiming the ridiculous goodness of spring.

Note the house on the left is two storeys. Whoa that's a big tree!

Now we're off to the beach to see what Spring is doing to Sydney's winter-pasty bodies.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Squib and Kettle's Latest (And Possibly Greatest) Business Idea

If you flip through The Financial Review of a morning no doubt you're familiar with the story of Squib's and my meteoric rise through the ranks of Australia's, nay the world's, business community.

Taking the SOHO (small office home office) scene by storm in late 2008 we've been steadily building momentum with sales across our unique product ranges, from our doomed children's books to our carnation-coloured tents.

At the cutting edge of Sciuridae HR reform, Squib is a leader in the Squirrel-crafted hair button field, and enjoys broad support from the Association of Artisan Squirrels. My recent work in the home-based/backyard holiday sector has dramatically reduced Australia's carbon footprint and, some drunken idiots suggest, has initiated the reversal of the global warming process.

After this giddy catalogue of successes, where could we possibly go from here, you may well ask?*

The answer is clear: postcards.

Recently titillated by a nice bit of leg in a 'Hat Head New South Wales' postcard we have realised the time is right for a postcard boom of mammoth proportions.

And due to the Elephantine size of our aspirations we don't want to dick around with postcards for every little town with a giant prawn or over-sized sheep. No: our great postcard innovation is to design a range of cards centred around the globe's principal oceans and smaller seas. It seems so obvious, doesn't it? That way we can kill thousands of kilometres of coastal towns with one postcard-stone, so to speak.**

Take, for example, this early Pacific Ocean prototype, suitable for sale right along the 1,338.3 km between Bega and Tweed Heads:

Apart from the obvious profit-making potential of such a versatile postcard, imagine the sense of community and connection it will spread from one end of coastal New South Wales to the other.

But the genius doesn't stop with principal oceans and smaller seas of the globe; how about postcards of water and marine animals of any kind, like this delightful example, suitable for sale anywhere there may be, or may once have been, water and/or a dolphin:

Simply take off the reference to Australia and this little puppy has global appeal, don't you think?

So when you're voting for joint Australians of the year, don't forget Squib and me: keeping Australia's economy afloat, we are.***


* Or not, if you have a lick of sense.
** Chroist sorry. I couldn't sound the mixed metaphor/crap line alarm in time.
*** It's possible Squib was harmed in the writing of this post.
**** There will be a prize if you can list all the cliches and wallyisms here. That's right: a prize!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

All Good Things

I've just returned from five days here:

That there are places like this makes me very happy; there should be more places like this. There should also be less need to exchange units of money for goods and services so there can be more time spent in places like this. I'll swap my pumpkin for your gluten-free chicken stock if it means neither of us has to go to work.

But in addition to this fine opportunity to bemoan our current economic system, my trip to Hat Head also gave me the opportunity to rub stubby-holders with some of the NSW north coast's most charming locals, a band of whom I came across fixing a fence on the street up from the caravan park.

They regaled me with tales of frisky dolphins and unsuspecting tourists, gave me the inside sticky on the best battered foodstuffs at the bowling club, and gently dispelled my expectations (high) of catching a marlin in the river.

After a short period of footpath bonding I felt comfortable showing them the postcard I had just bought at the shop up the road. Did they recognise any of the locals, I asked, featured in this 'Hat Head New South Wales Australia' postcard?Apparently not. They assured me the people pictured must have been ring-ins because no self-respecting Hat Head local would wear this to go fishing/climb the rocks/breathe:

I like to think that's a little piece of Sydney 458km from home.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Camping. We're off to do it. I've packed:

1. The Glass Canoe by David Ireland;

2. A bike with twelve-inch wheels adorned with little purple stars and the following warning: "Not for off-road or stunt use"; and

3. A pack of seven novelty moustaches.

See you back on Thursday.

Friday, October 16, 2009

How I Learnt About Internalisation and Found My Childhood Innocence in Pieces Behind the Couch

The first time I was locked in a police holding cell I was four years old. I was with my preschool class and we were getting to know the local community. Why we couldn't have just gone to the post office or the newsagent is a mystery, but there we were, behind bars at the local police station, wailing and blubbering because we were never, ever going to get out.

It's hard to be four years old and keep incarceration in perspective, but I understood the lesson: you must be good otherwise you will end up in here.

Bloody preschool teachers. As if I didn't have enough going on, what with worrying about the economics of the tooth fairy and whether we were heading into another ice age (yep, Canberra was an awesome place to grow up). So I internalised this lesson and got on with self-regulating, and have suffered ever since.

For how else can you describe a 33-year old nervously hunched over a photocopier in a university library, casting furtive glances over her shoulder, absolutely sure the Copyright Police will arrive at any moment?

It was probably ok to photocopy those first few chapters; there are certain acceptable limits for copying from published works, provided the copied material is but a small percentage of the overall work and is properly accredited. It was probably ok to copy a few bits from the middle as well, after all the beginning makes no sense without the middle.

But when I reached the end of the book I had most certainly gone too far. The copyright notice at eye level on the wall above the copier was put there just for me, I'm sure, with its menacing list of fines and imprisonments. And when the alarm sounded across the building for closing time, I was sure, for a split second, the photocopier had given me up: the counter had gone too far too fast, every sensor and camera in the library knew I had broken the law.

So congratulations, preschool teachers of Canberra, 1979. Your easy way to pass an afternoon led directly to the fettering of my previously unfettered mind and the end of my childhood whimsy (and free and easy relationship with photocopiers). I say take kids to a petting zoo and let them chase chickens instead.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

And the winner is...

I used to think literary prizes were silly, no wait, I still do, but I do like the person who just won the Booker (oh, my apologies magnanimous corporate sponsor, I mean the Man Booker prize).

Hilary Mantel just won the sash for her weighty tome Wolf Hall. I don't know Hilary Mantel from a stick of licorice, but given her prize-related soundbites I'd be honoured to shout her a beer and bowl of peanuts if she's ever in Sydney.

According to the UK's Telegraph, Mantel professed herself “heartened, delighted, encouraged, strengthened and a little bemused” to be the favourite. Yes yes heartened, yawn yawn delighted, but bemused! I do so love a bemused writer (Bob Ellis would be constantly bemused, don't you think?).

Moving on to Mantel's post-prize soundbites, she said: "I hesitated for such a long time before beginning to write this book, actually for about 20 years."

Boom tish!

And, she was good enough to provide a soundbite for the morbidly-inclined amongst us:

"If winning the Booker Prize is like being in a train crash, at this moment I am happily flying through the air."


And because my life plan is to sunbake and snort cocaine when I retire, I'm delighted to hear Mantel (who's 57) has quipped that she plans to spend her prize money on "sex, drugs and rock'n'roll".

So I'm happy to announce that the delightful Ms Mantel is my new hero (or literary prize anti-hero hero), but this doesn't mean there isn't any room in my heart for the judging, ah, intelligentsia. "Our decision," the chair of the judging panel has explained, “was based on the sheer bigness of the book, the boldness of its narrative, its scene-setting, the gleam that there is in its detail."

Yes that's right, Mantel's book won because of its 'sheer bigness'. Tell that to Coetzee.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A weekend in Canberra

I spent most of the long weekend in Canberra visiting my darling parents. Given I live in a shoe box in Sydney surrounded by many other shoe boxes I tend to spend the first twenty-four hours of any trip to my parents' house (how fabulous, an actual house) carrying on about the space. I make lame jokes about intercoms and east wings and airplane hangers, and my parents, God love them, just smile at me patiently and hand me cups of tea until it passes.

But once I've finished marvelling at the possibilities of space in Canberra I start whingeing about everything else about Canberra. And I can because I used to live there, that's why.

Only in Canberra would you find brochures like this:

And this:

Only in Canberra would you find parks with rather pretty blossom trees and absolutely no people:

Only in Canberra would you find signs that make you laff when you really, really shouldn't:

And what luck! I managed to snap Canberra's only two cars in this photo. You can see them centre right. Here they are enlarged for your viewing pleasure:

Was it a long weekend where you are? Do you see my 'Dog and Cat Laws in the ACT' and raise me a lamer brochure?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Islands in the stream

Every now and then you come across pairings that just work, like Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, Marieke Hardy and Bob Ellis, and Nick Cave and me. There's something so right about these couplings that it's hard to imagine a world without them (especially after you've worked so hard to conjure them up).

So it is with some of the Western world's greatest love stories: Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Iseult, and Queen Elizabeth and her corgis.

But if we split the pairs and consider each individual separately, what do we have? A metrosexual man-boy, a whiny tween, a lad who doesn't know when to let go, a chick whose propensity to drink leads her to all sorts of trouble, and Queen Elizabeth and her corgis (I can't make it any worse than it already is).

So considered together the partners work, but if we separate the blissful pairings it's like waking up the morning after.

But what of the stories where you fall in love with one half of the pair (say, hypothetically, the dashing, serious-browed poet-scholar Randolph Henry Ash in A.S. Byatt's Possession) yet find the large-toothed, sharp-nosed heroine (say the poetess Christabel Lamotte in the very same Possession) hard to take?

What if you think, hypothetically, that you'd be a better match for Randolph Henry Ash than Christabel Lamotte?

Is it wrong to object to a fictional pairing? Is it insensitive to prefer one spunky fictional love-nut over the other not so spunky nutter?

And logistically speaking, how would one actually intervene in a pairing between an obviously ill-suited fictional nineteenth century couple who exist in an archive romance that was published in 1990?

Important questions, I know. So tell me, which fictional character would you bump to get closer to their squeeze?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How to survive a dust storm

So there are dust storms all over NSW today, as you may have seen reported in some of Australia's finest news outlets. Because this kind of thing shits me (the melodramatic reportage, both from media outlets and the population generally) I thought I'd put together a brief 'how to' on surviving the dust storm who-ha.

1.Watch out for people who show you pictures, thus:

then say: "Seriously, it really looked like that."

They are stupid and don't understand that, provided your white balance is right and your shutter speed ok, a photograph can be a realistic representation of the external world.

The best thing to do in this situation is avoid all people holding cameras or phones with cameras or indeed any device with a screen. Just to be safe you might like to avoid all people with hands that could hold such devices or gesture to such screens, as well as those with mouths that look capable of forming the first 's' in "seriously".

2. Or, if you can't escape having images of the orange sky thrust before you, make sure you don't look at cropped images like this:

Ask to see the full image, thus:

If this is the Armageddon I want to at least have one last look at a hot guy.

3. When you hear soundbites from people across NSW using the word 'Armageddon' to describe the orange sky, throw something disrespectful at the tv or radio, like a tampon* or a used tissue.

Or, for those of a more verbal persuasion, when they say "When I looked out the window this morning, oh my! It was just like the Armageddon," you say "When I looked out the window this morning it looked like what I imagine the Armageddon to look like, because of course I haven't actually experienced any Armageddons myself."

Ach, don't listen to me. I'm just sore that I don't own a dust removal company; this could have been my lucky day.

* I've got nought against tampons per se, power to them; I just suspect it would be disrespectful to throw one at someone. Similarly lolly wrappers or cotton buds as well as shoes and boom mikes.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

From Ramones reject to t-shirt queen in 15 easy years

The first time I went to Homebake I had t-shirt issues (as you do) so a friend lent me one of hers. It was black and fitted, with a rather nice design on the front. It was for some band called the Ramones; I hadn't heard of them but my friend assured me they were quite good, as far as bands go. So on went the t-shirt and off we went to Homebake.

That I was wearing a t-shirt for a band I didn't know apparently incensed my friend's younger sister who said (quite rightly, I see in hindsight): "You can't wear that. You don't even know who they are."

To which I answered:

"Well... um... so what? Yes I can."

Not my finest moment, that. So over the many years since then I've had this thing with t-shirt authenticity. Since that moment I've wished, wished for a chance to right my karma in the t-shirt universe.

Finally, my moment arrived last week.

I was in the park with my boy. We were hanging out on the swings and beside us was a gorgeous Goth chick, dressed head to toe in black just like her gorgeous Goth baby. We got chatting, as you do in the park, about parenting and tv and what we did before our sticky, busy children arrived.

It turned out she had studied Comparative Literature and Classics at uni in South Africa so we nattered about the books we'd read and the poetry we were forcing on our poor children. We chuckled about how great but economically worthless our liberal arts educations had been.

We laughed, we sighed, we smiled at our kids.

Then it came to me, in a flash of t-shirt brilliance. I knew exactly what to say. Never before had the stars of conversation come together like this. I turned to my new Goth friend, straightened my t-shirt and said: "My worthless degree means I can wear this t-shirt and mean it."

Lame? My lordy yes, but for that moment I ruled the t-shirt universe.

So tell me, how do you get on with the T-Shirt Gods?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Democratically challenged

The votes are tied!

Danielle Steele's scholarly masterpiece, A Bon Port, and Victor Hugo's piece of fluff, Les Miserables, have matched each other aye for aye carumba throughout this exciting electoral process.

Which will be the ultimate winner? Which will claim the mandate to delight and entertain? Only you know.

One more vote, peeps, that's all we need to break this never before seen deadlocked pairing. What'll it be?

[I'm very tired and a little nuts. Can you tell?]

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Un Vote

I had lunch with a dear friend this week who, after the avocado and bean salad but before the jaffa slice, excused herself and took a call; "Ah bon jour, ma cherie!" she answered, pricking my newly Francophiled interest.

[Please note, I've left the acute accent off the first 'e' in 'cherie' for authenticity as she was speaking rather than writing and I thus couldn't see it. Also, I can't figure out how to do it in blogger.]

My friend, it turns out, speaks and reads French fluently and has taught her daughter the same during long car trips and chilly winter evenings. They now converse, entirely for fun, entirely in French. They are my newest dual heroes.

I asked my friend if there was any merit to the idea of learning French by translating a novel and she answered enthusiastically "oui oui!" (sorry, I promise that's the last bad French-word joke; it's also the end of my current French vocab). My friend said that she knew of someone who had translated all seven parts of Proust's In Search of Lost Time into English for precisely that reason.

Happily I'm nowhere near that masochistic so have shortlisted but two novels:

1. All those who vote I translate Hugo's Les Miserables, say 'aye'
2. All those who vote I translate Danielle Steele's A Bon Port, say 'aye carumba!'

So, what'll it be?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Frenchy, Frenchy, haw haw haw

I was 21 when France conducted what turned out to be its last nuclear 'test' at Moruroa in 1996, and I remember saying (with all the wisdom of a gangly-legged 21 year old): "No-one's gonna wanna learn French now," like that was the most important part of the whole ugly situation.

[When I first launched into that sentence I wrote "I was 11 when France conducted..." then I ran the numbers again and realised that I was in fact 21 at the time. I don't know what's worse: that I can't add up or that I was 21 when I made such a lame comment.]

Anyway, now that I'm older and heavily under the influence of cliches I must tell you I'm all hot and bothered (in a va-va-voom way) about France. I bought the corniest two-CD set today, Cafe De Paris: 50 Grands Succes Francais, which I think translates to If You Are Suffering From Brain Softening, Buy This Product. In my defense it only cost $10, but that aside, it's all part of a new project: I want to teach myself French.

I've always been put off learning a language because I have zero capacity for mimicry, but today (around the time I bought the CD) I thought maybe I could learn to read French and never have to utter a word. Sure it's a weird and isolating way to do it, but it might just work.

So of course I rushed home and pulled out the kids' French book my darling Mum gave me last time I had a wacky French language-related idea and came across this on page one:

This is my kind of learning! I was pretty sure I knew what "Waf! Waf!" meant, and absolutely positive I was on top of "Krwak!" having uttered it myself in similarly corn-ball situations. This language learning thing is going to be a breeze. I reckon I could skip straight to Les Miserables, provided it's illustrated.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Darwin rolls over in grave following gross trivialisation of life's work

When I was in year 10 I spent a week at the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the ANU. It was work experience, you see. I have no idea how I ended up there; I have a vague memory of not wanting to do hairdressing but I'm not sure how that made medical research the only other choice.

I suspect my week's placement may have had something to do with my childhood love of all things science and vet-related thanks to the triangle of happiness formed between Vicky from A Country Practice and Rob and Dean from The Curiosity Show but I really can't be sure and I don't want to lead any future biographers (especially of the psychoanalytic kind) astray with wild triangle-related speculations.

Whatever the origin, I'm pleased to say my early foray into science has served me well in the conundrum my wardrobe presented me with earlier today.

You see, this morning I pulled on a top I haven't worn since last year and found that the sleeves are now half-way up my forearms.

I understand, as a basic principle of biology, that carbon-based life forms experience periods of growth throughout their lives. I understand, also, that these growth spurts may be augmented by too-frequent trips to Portuguese chicken shops on Marrickville Road. But while these additions may increase my girth, are they also responsible for increasing my arm length?

The most plausible explanation I have come up with is that over winter I have experienced an accelerated, intra-seasonal evolutionary advancement. Sure it's improbable that such an advancement could occur over the course of three or four months, however it's not impossible thus I maintain that I am now a more highly evolved version of the me that I was in the late days of autumn.

You may be wondering what kind of evolutionary advantages my longer arms have delivered to me (you and Darwin alike), but clearly my new-found abilities to carry Ikea flat packs and lift suitcases atop my wardrobe make me a very desirable catch for, um, short-armed men everywhere. Go me.

What wacky scientific explanations have you been tossing around today?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Are we there yet?

I've just made a flying visit to Brisbane and couldn't be happier to be back in the smoggy environs of my beloved Sydney. While I'm sure there are many travellers who revel in the getting there bit (like those crazy brother and sister/re-united divorcees/large-breasted cheerleading best friends on The Amazing Race) I'm more of the "thank flippin' chroist we're there" persuasion; enough with the trains and timetables and hoo-flippin'-rah we got ourselves from Cooma to Budapest without a lick of English.

(Actually that's not really true, or at least it's only partially true. With sufficient time and imported beer I'll look back with fondness on my 48 hours of planes and automobiles; "what a journey," I'll say, "it's all about the getting there, isn't it?").

But at this post-immediate minute I can say with certainty that I would have had more fun listening to John Howard performing Equus (all parts) non-stop for the last 48 hours than I have had. But happily the flight home provided three delights to unfurrow my deeply furrowed brow.

Travel Delight Number 1
The woman sitting in front and to the right of me was reading a book called The Artist's Way. What caught my eye was this italicised heading: "Crazymakers are expert blamers". Perhaps they are, I don't know; who can say? But crazies reading crazy books make me smile so a big thumbs up to the lady in front and to the right.

Travel Delight Number 2
I love those maps with the little aeroplane marking your route so you always know where you are during the flight. I love that on domestic routes there's not enough distance to fit the aeroplane in between the origin and destination so at one point of my trip the tip of the plane was indicating we were in Dubbo while the tail was suggesting we were in Armidale. When we landed in Sydney the tip was in Canberra and the tail in Newcastle. Mercy!

I'm all for miniature vehicles of all descriptions marking routes on maps (after a happy childhood with such maps from the Indiana Jones franchise) but perhaps a little work needs to be done on scale.

Travel Delight Number 3
The chap two rows ahead on the left swiped his credit card and paid $4.90 to watch an entire episode of Jerry Springer. I tried desperately to read the issue of the day but the tiny screen and my myopia conspired to deny me comprehension. It could have been "Meet and Kill Truckers" or "Matt and Lynn Thingos" but neither a. made any sense or b. fitted the footage they kept showing of a rather muscular woman barging into a pole dancing joint and throwing a bottle of red liqueur at the guy behind the bar. At one point she started swinging a baseball bat but that didn't make the situation any clearer. Oh well. I love that there is someone left in the world, and on my plane no less, with absolutely nothing better in the world to do (work towards global peace, cure for cancer) than watch an entire episode of Jerry Springer.

From this handful of travel delights allow me to turn to one quick travel suggestion and one even quicker travel directive:

Travel Suggestion Number 1
I wish the plane speed was displayed in kilometres rather than miles. A speed of 507 miles per hour is, yawn, pretty unimpressive, but a speed of 815.937408 kilometres per hour - wow!

Travel Directive Number 1
No ad, displayed on the ground or at 40,000 feet, should contain the word 'chillax'. 'Chillax' is not cool; 'chillax' is lame. No more 'chillax'!

Hurrah for homecomings. Where would you rather be: home or away?

Monday, August 10, 2009

A meaty issue

There are many areas of life I know I come up a little short, like not being able to hit the sweet spot on the toaster dial, but one thing I pride myself on is not being easily surprised.

There have been plenty of times when I could have sent my eyebrows sky-ward and cried "bejesus!" but instead have chosen to simply share a few quiet moments with a bottle of beer and settle back in my hammock.

Like the time when the manager of the camping ground in Stuttgart told us to put up our tent on a cement slab and I just shrugged my shoulders and grabbed my trusty mallet. Or the time when I fished a trio of giggling two-year-olds out of the bath on the arrival of a mystery poo. Or when Big Brother hit our screens for the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh seasons.

But on the weekend I came across this little piece in the SMH's careers section that had me surprised all over the place:

In this photograph, taken on March 22, 1967, a butcher tidies a display cabinet at Super Meats, Wollongong Arcade. Retailers, processors and smallgoods manufacturers are represented by the Australian Meat Industry Council.

So far so good, we've got a date, mention of some ye olde arcade in Wollongong and something about a meaty council. All good. So we move on to:

According to joboutlook.gov.au, there are now 24,400 butchers working in Australia, earning an average weekly wage of $877.

All good here too. We've got some numbers, something about an average weekly wage which lends the whole piece a certain amount of economic gravity (or gravy, whichever you find most tasty), and one of those whacky we-are-so-like-a-government-initiative-with-personality,-man websites. Then comes the eyebrow-raiser:

A recent survey has revealed butchers are the happiest employees in the Australian workforce - and they're having the most sex. Forget counselling, the answer for frustrated couples is a certificate III in meat processing.

! and !! In five easy sentences we move from a happy happy joy joy skip down a memory lane inside an arcade in Wollongong to couples counselling through butchering, well, through butchering. And why are they the happiest? Because they get to talk about sausages all day while giggling like school kids?

Mercy. What do you think: would you enrol in a certificate of meat processing if it guaranteed more sex and/or a fulfilled and satisfying relationship or does that just sound like a meat-up to you?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

This is what happened

Last week I bought Sarah Blasko's new album, As Day Follows Night. I love it, it's given me real pleasure this week. It's like a dark forest and when I close my eyes I'm there, in the Grimm's fairytale, an imaginative world away.

I was going to write something frippy about it but the words keep evaporating. You see, my son was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder about two months ago and with this knowledge came sadness and worry, a different kind of worry than before which was just about colds and eating vegies and whether he had his hat on.

Now I worry about lots of things, but mostly whether he'll be happy in this life.

I've debated for weeks whether to write anything about it here because this blog is frippy and my son isn't. But if I don't say anything about it I don't seem to be able to say much at all.

So there it is.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Neighbourhood curios

I woke up this morning into a moment of terror, then I remembered the week was over and it was Saturday (true story, for shame). So in an attempt to put the madness of the working week behind me I decided to drag everyone out for a walk, under the guise of having an 'adventure' (my Mum used to say this as a rallying cry before we did something unpleasant like the time we had cold, coin-operated showers at that caravan park in Austria).

Unlike that Austrian winter, today it's sunny and bloody lovely outside so I wouldn't entertain any 'adventure' complaints, and didn't we have a fun outing? We found out our suburb has Australia's largest weekly bicycle auction. Who knew?

As a community we harbour escapee balloons, saving them from certain high-altitude death:

We are the victims of nutbars from Burleigh Heads (where?) posting massive signs that make no grammatical or metaphysical sense:

We are a suburb of random pot plants under random trees:

We are also the suburb with Australia's loveliest shop that sells both (and only) textiles and classic bikes. Usually my nose is pressed against the glass but I couldn't do that and hold the camera.

Could this day get any better? What did you do today?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

On the map

The unfortunately named Titwillow, of Gilbert and Sullivan fame.

Last week Bundanoon became the first town anywhere to ban bottled water. Bloody good, I say; do away with all that unconscionable landfill and pop a few bubblers into the footpath. A fine way to save the planet.

While such a ban is indeed cause for celebration, I must confess my water-related euphoria was rather quickly replaced with wistful child-based recollections of time well spent in Bundanoon. Ah, for a town of one's family-holiday experience to be so fully in the world's gaze; exciting times indeed.

My parents were keen on weekend adventures and could list, without stopping for breath, the 47 towns within two hours drive of Canberra (they were also big on all things wholemeal and carob but that's another story). So it was that we discovered Bundanoon, not two hours drive from Canberra, that proved the site of so many delightful childhood experiences.

So what did I learn during our trips to Bundanoon?

1. All about the lyric genius of Gilbert and Sullivan, whose cassette of greatest hits we liked to play on a loop. Bear with me; these eight lines are really worth the journey:*

On a tree by a river a little tom-tit
Sang "Willow, titwillow, titwillow"
And I said to him, "Dicky-bird, why do you sit
Singing "Willow, titwillow, titwillow"
"Is it weakness of intellect, birdie?" I cried
"Or a rather tough worm in your little inside"
With a shake of his poor little head, he replied
"Oh, willow, titwillow, titwillow!"


2. That small bar heaters in large old houses are almost entirely ineffectual.

3. That an eight and nine year old together can construct a fully functioning, multi-level tree-house with faux smoking chimney.

4. That sometimes parents are prepared to forego their children's company so they (the children) can make finger puppets with other children while they (the parents) must resort to quietly reading the paper and eating croissants.

5. That tennis courts planted with daffodils look flippin' awesome.

Ooh! I'm off to wipe up all this sticky sentimentality before someone trips in it.

* Not really. Don't be a chump; skip them!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hi, my name is Kettle

This picture of a woolly mammoth has nothing to do with this post. It's a fine looking woolly mammoth, though, don't you think? I did see an elephant at the zoo on the weekend, and elephants are quite similar to woolly mammoths, so there you go.

...and I have a problem (in addition to my propensity for posting entirely unrelated pictures).

I am addicted to courses.

I, for shame, am a course junkie. I feel more alive receiving an enrolment pack than I would wrestling a cow. I have spent more money on HECS and enrolment fees than I've earned in my lifetime. And, for shame, one undergraduate year I even rang the uni bookshop to find out exactly which day the shipment of handbooks for the next year's courses was due to arrive, then rushed in and bought one that very day (as if they'd sell out).

Why all this course craziness? To provide meaning and structure and stave off the herdy gerdy of modern life, of course. Oh, and to fund whole conglomerates of resource centres through donations to photocopy machines and to keep Australia Post afloat through correspondence study. Good on me.

Like a dealer with a little baggie my new job is tempting me with all sorts of courses too: compliance courses and continuous improvement courses and database systems courses, all neatly listed in my very own training plan (or Key Performance Indicator Skills Enhancement Plan).

And wouldn't you know a friend of mine owns a registered training organisation! Forget hunting down a mechanic, a lawyer and a cabinetmaker for your circle of friends; give me a registered training organisation owner any day (of course I've just enrolled in one of his most delightful courses and have spent a very pleasant week reading all about occupational health and safety, *sigh*).

I couldn't be happier in my semester-based world.

On reflection I can see the precise moment when I crossed the line, but ooh ooh look! Advanced Spreadsheeting! Where do I sign?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Why three-year-olds should concentrate on picking their noses

Arrr, 'tis a fine ship for a shanty adviser.

On Sunday I took my small boy on a child-sized odyssey. We had a great day and many things were learnt, including that if you drag a small child to a ticket window you can buy a 'family funday' ticket which gives you unlimited access to Sydney's buses, trains and ferries for a whole day for $2.50. Ker-ching (I've gotta run the numbers but I'm pretty sure I'm close to making a profit on this whole procreation thing).

So not only was I delighted to be walking around with the giant discount coupon that is my son (who also manages to get me onto planes first and into movies for half price) but he seemed to be having a ball too. He had chips and lemonade at Circular Quay, screamed "wow!" 47 times on the ferry across to Pyrmont and spent exactly six minutes running through the Darwin exhibition at the Maritime Museum; a pretty good three-year-old day.

It wasn't until we were leaving the exhibition that I thought perhaps we could have made more of the day's learning opportunities instead of pegging chips at seagulls and making foghorn noises on the ferry. A Dad and his kid (who looked three to me but could have been four to six years older) were walking in front of us back to the ferry terminal when the Dad said to the kid: "It wasn't until Darwin that scientific rationality and the concept of evolution entered the discussion of the origin of humankind," to which the child answered: "What did people believe in before evolution?" "God, son," came the answer, "divine creation".

They walked on in silence, no doubt deep in un-childlike thought.

Then the kid looked up and saw the sign on the restaurant we were passing. "Y-O-T-S," he cried, triumphant, "that's not how you spell 'yachts'!"

I looked down at my son and pulled a face. My son looked up at me and picked his nose. We said "wow!" all the way home on the ferry.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A sport for kings and kettles

Several years ago some friends of a friend of mine decided to pick a sports team to follow. The two halves of this couple had grown up in different cities so rather than having one ardent supporter and one meh-whateverer they decided the best and fairest thing would be to choose a new team to love and cherish together.

They spent considerable time figuring out the criteria for their new team, none of which I can remember other than the team had to have the potential for greatness but not actually be too great at the time of choosing (so they could enjoy its rise), and it had to be based in a town with a population over 135,000.

That's right, because they were going to move there.

These friends of a friend were looking for a little more than a team to support. They were looking for team colours that matched their skin tones, a supporters' club that knew a bbq wasn't about the sausages, and a place to bring up their kids. They were looking to fill the void of modern life.

It's possible I made fun of them at the time. It's possible I called them crazy nutbars, but now the void has come whistling around my neighbourhood so I too have decided to turn to sport for salvation. My sport of choice? Le Tour de France.

Sure I only just figured out it's started already (who knew?), and sure I know nothing about cycling, but what's not to love about a sport that uses words like 'peloton', 'rear cog cluster' and 'derailleur'?

But my desperate over-justification doesn't end there: I had a pale blue Malvern Star all through primary school, I enjoyed The Triplets of Belleville when it first screened in 2003, and I even saw what could have been Le Tour itself when I was driving around France in July 2002 (or else the French have a crazy habit of motoring through narrow streets in small towns with bikes on their roofs):

Note my nascent fandom peeking out from under the front tyre of the second bike on the yellow car.

So unlike my crazy nutbar friends of a friend I feel well qualified in my sporting choice. I'll report back on Le Tour's void-filling capabilities; what fills your void?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I object

What's a 'schlange'?

Having vented my most pressing whinges last week I thought I'd move on to my most pressing objections. Afterall, to whinge is human but to object is divine.

Indeed it is, so here I go on my path to objectionist divinity:

1. I object to bloggy friends packing up their virtual badminton nets and going home, like Squib and The Projectivist (I haven't yet given up hope, Ms P, but there was something very final about that last capitalised X). Surely starting a blog is like joining the army or having a child: you're in it for life, right?

2. I object to Herman Melville's Typee being such a boring book. What's not to love about Melville's tropical island and cannibals? Don't waste your time reading the book; I'll tell you: everything.

3. I object to silly James Fenimore Cooper calling his characters 'Chingachgook' and 'Natty Bumppo'. For chroist sake, 'Chingachgook' has been stuck in my head on a loop since 1994. It is the world's most annoying word. Ever.

4. I object to my blog template, all bally and bouncy and colourful and sweet. Blech. In addition, I object to my lack of graphic design who-dit and computer know-how which prevent me from installing a less poxy template.

Hmm, I have less objections than I thought, which is surprising and slightly disappointing.

So help me cover up my shortcomings by telling me something you object to. And Squib and Ms P: you can't object to being objected to!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

And another thing

Ooh look! Some bright and shiny things!

I've sat down several times over the last few days intent on writing a few bits and pieces about my new job but I keep getting distracted with little non-job whinges. My ramblings keep coming out like this: "Whinge. Whinge. Whinge. Whinge. Whinge. Oh yeah and I reckon my new job is going to be ay-okay."

So I've decided to embrace the whinge because clearly whinges distract me like bright shiny objects so hopefully once the whingeing is out of the way (stop saying 'whinge' in there) I will have some insightful things to say about starting a new job in a fractured economy.*

Where shall I begin? With whinge number 1:

1. It's cold in Sydney and I keep doing stupid things with powerpoints and power cords that mean I turn the heater off and the toaster on. Stupid stupid stupid.

2. I got a traffic infringement notice for turning left at a 'no left turn' sign. I think road rules can be divided into two groups: essential (stop at red lights) and suggested (no left turn). Unfortunately the constabulary at Newtown Police Station disagreed so made an example of me. I hate being made an example of because no-one learns a thing! The only person who knows I got busted for breaking a road 'suggestion' was the chap in the blue car behind me who did the same thing and got the same infringement notice. For our fines no-one is any wiser.

3. My son keeps waking up between 3.47am and 3.59am. Apparently he's not convinced the day doesn't start then. This is made doubly worse when I keep doing stupid things with powerpoints, power cords and heaters.

4. I got an email from the RTA about my toll pass with the subject heading "Easytoll Account Notification - Account Blacklisted". I'm not sure that my account balance reaching $0 makes me a person or organisation that has incurred disapproval or suspicion or should be boycotted. I would much prefer: "Minimum Account Balance Reached - When you've got a mo', pop over to our website and put some more clams in your bucket. Good on you."

5. To the person who squashed into the inch of space next to me on the train on Friday: squashing does not two foot of space make.

Ah, that's better. And my new job? I reckon it's going to be ay-okay.

* Unlikely.

Friday, May 29, 2009

A moment

I start my new job on Monday so this moment, sitting here with my late-afternoon vegemite toast and cup of tea, at home in the quiet on a Friday afternoon, is the last such moment I'll have for a while.

When I was a kid I used to think there was something magical about 2pm on a school day when you were home sick. You were in a place you wouldn't ordinarily be at that time. Somehow the light was different, and the neighbourhood didn't sound the same as it did on the weekends.

I've got that feeling now.

Afternoons like this have been such a pleasure over the last two months. As I've sat here fiddling around on the computer, making plans and writing up lists (such tremendously enjoyable things to do) I've been struck by the absurdity of going to work. I have, quite simply, been free. My time has been my own. It's been a shock to realise how little this is ordinarily the case.

I can but apologise for the banality of these thoughts, but as simple and dull as they are it remains that in a moment when I head off to collect the members of my family from their various places around the city the weekend will begin, then the week will begin, and Monday afternoon at home will pass without me.

So dear tea and toast and afternoon sun and random school-day adventures, thank you and see you in the next redundancy.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How I learned to stop worrying and love writers' festivals

I've just spent a long and fabulous weekend at the Sydney Writers' Festival. Sure there were hoards of those snobby rich-type people from the Eastern suburbs who only recognise books as those nice flattish statues they have on the glass-topped mahogany coffee tables in their north wing sitting rooms, but the Festival had more delights than even the high concentration of cats'-bum-faced women could diminish (apologies to cats and their arses everywhere).

So what were these festival delights? Let me share some with you.

Festival Delight Number 1
Bob Ellis was there talking about his new book And So It Went. He sat behind us at the restaurant on Saturday night. This is possibly my favourite festival photo of all time:

Festival Delight Number 2
There was a panel on erotic fan fiction. Marieke Hardy was on the panel and she read a piece on her lust for Brian, the dog from Family Guy. It ended, wink wink nudge nudge, with how she knew how to "throw a dog a bone".

One panellist read a piece on Inspector Gadget, describing, in detail, the Inspector's colouful feelings for Penny; another panellist described how Jennifer Aniston might be filling those lonely hours post-Brad by imagining what Brad does to Angelina under the table at all those gala dinners they go to. But the best piece of the night was based on the characters from Cluedo, which from the very innocent "'Lick my beard!' yelled Mustard to Green" descended into all sorts of delightful filth.

Festival Delight Number 3
My friends, undoubtedly against their better individual and collective judgements, let me do a festival quiz over dinner. Weren't they pleased with the quality of my questions:

The weather forecast for the festival was rain all weekend. Has it rained today?

The man who attempted to heckle George Friedman on Friday night was wearing what coloured scarf?

The Sydney Writers' Festival is held in which city?

Festival Delight Number 4
There was a session on the Booker Prize and the panel included a writer who had been short-listed and another who had been long-listed for the award, neither of whom had 'progressed' further in the competition. I enjoyed watching the facilitator rush headlong into a sentence that, as it started to unwind, could go nowhere but to the rather damning end of describing the two writers (of excellent, engaging novels) as 'Booker Prize losers'. It was an awkward moment. I'm pretty sure I saw one of the writers look at his/her watch.

Festival Delight Number 5
My final festival delight was the discovery of just how nimble old people are. There's no need to worry about old people getting worn out and feeble; the writers' festival has shown me that physical deterioration in your advanced years is a myth!

This weekend I saw more old ladies duck, weave, shoulder and side-step their way up queues than I could count on an abacus. One moment I was sure I was at the front of a queue then I'd blink and there would be fifteen thousand wrinkled faces with 1950s lipstick in front of me. What ho, I would think to myself, where did these fifteen thousand people come from? Then I would marvel anew at the speed with which fifteen thousand old ladies can duck, weave, shoulder and side-step, as they did within the blink of my eye (300 to 400 milliseconds), to get themselves to the front of the queue. I no longer fear getting old.

How much are tickets to the Byron Bay festival? I can't wait to see what the old hippies are up to.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Whoops! I forgot to put the safety on

I've been to the Opera House twice in the last few weeks (bringing my life's total to two visits). On both occasions the foyer was full of more bare shoulders and angular-cut skirts than my year 10 formal, but I felt perfectly at ease in my jeans (don't worry! They were my dress jeans! It's not like I went day casual).*

Anyhoo, so there was lots of quality time spent people-watching, friend catch-upping, and lining up at the bar for drinks and snack foods (like Toblerone? I'm still completely mystified why they'd sell Toblerone at the Opera House bar?), which was all lovely and fun but what I enjoyed most was the awesomely dangerous architecture.

Having grown up in a golden age of litigation, I most expect, when I head into the city on the train, say, to see at least 25 signs warning me not to cross the yellow line, not to prevent the doors from closing, not to crowd into an already crowded carriage, not to jog (or even walk quickly) down the escalator, not to wear shoes with loose shoelaces on the escalator, not to let anyone I'm travelling with who might have shoes with loose shoelaces and a penchant for jogging (or walking quickly) down escalators do so, and by crikey not to shriek and point when I see three-foot rats baring their teeth then gnawing on the rails that we're about to travel on!

So what a relief to visit the Opera House, sans safety signs, and find all sorts of delightfully dangerous architectural death-traps that are, no doubt, keeping the local council awake at night. Take, for example, this breezy external staircase that has thrown off the shackles of its railing:

Or this marvellous internal staircase litigiously connecting two thin 'platforms' on which drunk people congregate to partake further in the purchase and consumption of alcoholic beverages:

Surely leading to:

But I think the thing that made people most truly fearful was the 'click' sound my camera made when I took a photo in my toilet cubicle:

Ah, photos in toilets, now there's something to sue about.

* I haven't the faintest idea whether dress jeans actually exist, and thus clearly own none. I did indeed go day casual.