Friday, September 30, 2011


The power went off at ten to ten the other night. Nothing too strange about that. When your city is plagued with occasional thunderstorms, this is a normal occurence. That we had the wettest September day in nearly a hundred years the other day, well, you half expect the power will go out for a short while. Which it did. When there are big thunderstorms in Melbourne, blackouts are pretty inevitable.

I find that the power always goes off when there is something you really have to do, or, there is something that you want to watch on the telly, which you will then miss, or your recording device won't function and you're left a little disappointed. The other night was no different. I was looking forward to my nerdy geneology show. I wanted to do the ironing. I was all amped up to do some editing.

Then "bang".
Everything goes black.
Everything goes silent.

I have the dim glare of my laptop staring back at me - the only light in the room.

Thankfully, I'm the sort who has a lot of candles around the place, not that I use them much. Using the light from my iPhone screen (fantastic proxy torch), I made my way to the kitchen and retrieved some matches from the third drawer down - where all useful crap is kept. Back in the lounge room I lit a couple of tea lights.

I've forgotten how lovely candlelight can be. I couldn't tell you the last time I lit the candles, sat down and relaxed. I know that most of the candles that sit on my bookshelf have a story to them. The one in the tin that came with the 12wbt goody bag. There are two painted ceramic tealight holders, the pretty ones that Max passed on to me last time I was round at her place - she said she was out of her hippy phase now. The plethora of interesting candle holders that Sam has given me over the years, the beeswax candles Popeye gave me for my birthday the other year... there's a bit of a theme here.

Why do these people give me candles? Don't they think I have enough light in my life?

Going into the bedroom, I take the lit beeswax candle with me and light the large white candle that sits next to my bed in a large glass holder. I've had this for years. An old work mate gave me the candle holder many years ago. From memory, the last time I remember lighting this candle was when my last boyfriend was about - some four years ago - the night Kevin Rudd took office. (I really have to do something about that situation). It can't be that long ago...

The great thing about candles, it doesn't take much for them to work. Unlike torches, they don't need batteries.

All you need is a match and you have light.

The power remained off for over an hour. Strangely, it appears it was only affecting our street as the neighbouring block had light.

I put myself into bed and read by the light of three candles. After about half an hour, I took a couple of candles to the bathroom and had a shower - this was rather nice. I used to love having a bath by candlelight, but as I've only got a shower where I live at the moment, I have to make do. Bathing by candle light brought back memories of a holiday in Bali, where the bathroom, clean, but rustic had really low light. There was something sensual about the whole experience - that along with drinking a cold beer for breakfast on my balcony and living by a swimming pool for a week.

Ablutions finished, teeth cleaned I made my way to bed, the candles flickering as I listened to my iPod and waited. And waited.

Memories of other moments lit by candles came back to me. One of the mason's rituals, done exclusively by candlelight - can't say any more than that - other that it was an amazing experience. Time with one particular friend, whisky in one hand, legs brushing each others occasionally. He was the one who would light the candles. Nothing ever happened. Tease.

Then there are the times I've used candles for ritual work. Candle dowsing. Looking for answers in the light... another subject for another blog. It's too near the witching hour to be witchy.

The power came back on eventually. The candles were exinguished. This must be done - its responsible. It's the rules.
It was just strange to think that a simple black out could bring up so much.

Monday, September 26, 2011


Viv asked a relevent questions of me at Dream Group on Wednesday.

Do I ever sit still?

The answer to that is sort of. Okay, no. I don't sit still very often. I normally have about five things on the go. I get up in the morning and it's normally full steam ahead until I got to bed 18 hours later. I like to try and be active, walking to work when I can, running, getting out and about.

So, at the moment, I'm cooking, writing, editing, painting my toenails, watching a DVD... at the same time. That's normal.

But sitting still. Nah, I can't even watch television without either knitting or sitting on the computer.

Yeah, I'm one of those people. If I was born twenty years later I'd probably be on Ritalin.

One of the girls in Dream Group piped up that my Mars is in Leo - they don't tend to sit still ever. Maybe there is something in this. Something about always wanting the best and persuing it, the fiery energy of Mars being extenuated by the showiness of Leo. I don't know - I'm only an amateur astrologer. Besides - I have a moon in Cancer. Any fire is washed out by the sookiness of this combination.

Thinking about it, as a child, the thing I remember being told by my mother most was 'Sit still and stop fidgetting."

Okay. I don't sit still very often.

So it goes to pass that in not sitting still, I'm not home much. And this week, I've found myself in some funny places.

Let's start with last Thursday. Normal enough day - especially after the day before where I was considering feigning a migraine or slitting my wrists to get out of work. Thursday was a better day. Thursday I knew that I had to be out of the office for 5 pm so that I could give Em a hand.

Em's my Melbourne kid sister. We know each other from the gym and as she lives nearby, she's a regular movie mate, Pump class companion/adversary (let's see who can pump the heavier weights), confidante and drinking buddy. I feed her cat when she's away. She drops by with milk when I'm sick.

Em got her car licence about six months ago and decided to buy a car. After a trip to Car City a few weeks ago, I left her to it. A week ago she said she'd bought a twenty year old 3 Series Beamer - and she asked could I come with her to pick it up after work? Of course I could. Early night, gets me out of the office - no worries. I asked where she bought the car from.

Somewhere in West Footscray. From a dealer in West Footscray. Make that a car dealer in West Footscray. One has to discern these things.

I wanted to ask two things. Why would you buy a used car from a car dealer in West Footscray (or Footers-cray as it is known to locals)? Secondly. Why would you buy a used BMW from anybody that side of the Westgate.

I should not cast stones. Mea Culpa - I'm a suburb snob.

"You take me to the best places, Em." I said as we alighted the train to a suburb south of purgatory.
"I know. I have another favour to ask."
"Fire away."
"Can you please drive it home for me. I'm a bit scared."

I had no issue with this as all. Em's lack of confidence was fair enough. Going over the Westgate in peak hour can be a little scary at the best of times. She's been driving for six months. Me, I've had a full licence for over twenty five years.

"We're going over there. " She pointed out a car lot, complete with banners and flags across a very busy road about fifteen minutes later as we got off the train.
"Oh. You take me to the bestest places."
"I know," she smiled."Wait til you meet Dim."

Dim, the car salesman, was obviously a Dimitri. Coming from that area, one summises that he's of Greek origin, spends too much time in the gym and probably still lives at home with his mother. I was certainly right on the first to pieces of information. The tattoos snaking up his arm were interesting. Works of art tattoos rather than prison tatts.

Em showed me her car. A bottle green, old-shaped beamer. In reasonable knick, spotless interior. Looked okay from the outside. Would I buy it - no - but then again I have a ten year, clean, protected rating one insurance history and a two year old Mazda two named Neville. Besides, the beamer is a bit big for me, but it's what she wanted.

After a quick look about, Em and Dim finalised the paperwork and we were on our way home. Over the Westgate, I asked her a few questions.
"So, what's the car's name?" I always ask this.
"Justin Beamer."
"Cool. So what does it cost for a woman in her late twenties on her P-Plates to insure a twenty year old car with 200,000 kilometres on the clock."

She told me. Third party, fire and theft was about the same as what I pay for my comprehensive insurance on Neville.

"So, I'm covered to drive Justin?"
"I'm not sure. I'll sort that out when I get home."
"I'm driving an uninsured car? Across the Westgate!"
"Yep. I'll fix all that tonight."



Paid extra special attention to what I was doing. We got back to Richmond half an hour later in one piece. I left Em trying to work out how to lock all of the doors at once. I had to get going. Pinochet had a whipping for me.

Friday night - another completely different scenario, was called back to the Freemasons Hospital to visit a friend who'd just had a baby. I know Max from a job a few years ago - and as she lives around the corner and the hospital is on the way home, popping in was a must.

First stop on the way was Beer Club at Tin Can, String and Whistle for some liquid fortification.

As the ex-president of the Beer Club I have loose visiting rights. I like popping in ever few weeks. It's where I get to hang out with Glen Waverley, Merijn and a few others I've known for years - a simple, social beer before trotting off home. It's also nice dropping by as I appear to get a months quota of blokey bear hugs from old friends.

This evening, I found Wozza, Ding Dong and another old friend sitting about, beers in hand. There were also a couple of others I'd not met. An intense Belgian, a happy Pole and a rather dishy Pom.

I miss Tin Can, String and Whistle. I miss communing with engineers. I miss the utter rubbish they talk. And I really miss the gentle cameraderie of the joint - especially that which is found Beer Club - a gathering spot for every race, creed colour and engineer around. And non-engineers as well.

Besides, I needed a bit of Dutch courage before going to see that baby.

I delayed leaving as long as possible. Finally, I kissed the old friend on the head and watched his ears go pink. This is a natural engineer response. Besides, he deserved it. He looked at me funny when I walked in - in a good way, that look somewhere between pride and attraction that this friend gives me when I walk in the room, but still... one must not think about things like that. Getting out the door, I walked to the Freemasons Hospital.

Ten minutes later, Max's two-day-old daughter was asleep in my arms. Max was sitting on the bed looking rather tired but happy. It appears having a newborn is much preferable to being 42 weeks pregnant. The not so little two-day old (nine pounds) is the spitting image of her three-year-old brother.

"Hello darling (she's yet to be named), this is what beer breath smells like."
"She'll get used to it." said Max.

I love holding babies, especially the really new ones. You never get to hold such potential at any other time. They're so pure and uncorrupted. It's rather unfortunate I'll probably never get the chance to hold one of my own - but like cats, kids are nice to borrow. And you can give them back when the start screaming, puking or get smelly when they're not yours.

Had a lovely chat to Max. I think she's looking forward to being able to have a wine again. We chatted until some more visitors turned up, then I made my way home.

The next juxtapostion was Saturday night. After a day of girlie admin, meditation, a much needed massage, I met Blarney for a film at Crown Casino. Not my choice of cinemas, but convenient for the both of us. Gold Class to see "The Help". Great film, great company. Shitty location.

After the film, we went for a glass of bubbles to discuss life, the film and everything - but we were distracted.

I almost never go to Crown Casino. I can't stand the place. I gamble - I buy a lottery ticket most weeks. I don't mind the odd hand of social poker. But I HATE the casino. Trash, scum and bogans at their worst. However, the people watching is astounding. The sights are incredible. Never, in my life, have I seen so many crimes against fashion in one place. Why is it that women of all ages go out, skirts up around their fannies, cellutite on show, strutting around on too high heels which make them look like trannies in training? It's amazing! Seriously, more orange peel and cottage cheese on display than in a supermarket! Don't these people have friends to tell them where they're going wrong? Oh, hang on - the friends are just as badly dressed as the fashion victims. Lots of Oompa Loompa tans too... The crimes against fashion just went on and on.

So along with the obvious security with the ear pieces and the scowls, the men on bucks nights who really don't give a toss, the hard core gamblers who slink into the casino with the furtive looks of those who are hooked, and the hens nights, and the children - like who the hell brings a child to the casino?

It was all a bit too much.

After half an hour of not knowing whether to shake our heads or laugh,  Blarney and I caught respective cabs home.

Sunday fared better. After pump class and a coffee with Jay, I raced home, changed out of my hobbit shoes (Vibram Five Fingers) for a pair of old ASICS and made my way out to the Dandenongs to meet the girls.

Kez and I decided to walk up the Lyrebird Track rather than take the stairs. Caught up with all of her news on the way up between gasps for air, then chatted with Trin on the way down, then had yet another coffee and drove home.

And then the most surprising juxtaposition of all. After I don't kow how many weeks, I had the afternoon at home to myself.

I've worked out it's been over three months since I've had an afternoon off. No visiting Blarney, no heading somewhere for a run, no meeting friends for a film, no being interstate, no helping people with things.

I had the afternoon all to myself.

Okay, it's a bit obvious. I'm not home much. I keep really busy. I spent the time dusting, writing, cooking, catching up on Big Love and Being Human. I cooked myself a really nice dinner. I finally watched Million Dollar Baby (superb film). I went to bed early.

And strangely, I didn't feel like I've often felt having such a day. I didn't feel lonely.

I'll admit it. I don't always like coming home to an empty flat. But sometimes, having the space is wonderful.

After a few days filled with so many varied experiences, knowing I have a messy flat to return for a bit of solitude is a lovely thing.

I just hope it wont be another three months until I get the chance to do this again.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Of Angels and Apathy

God bless Mack and his esoteric leanings.

Sometimes, when the world all feels a bit heavy, Mack will me a lead to let my brain start to soar in the right direction once again, even if it stops me from doing what I'm supposed to doing.

Today was what I refer to as a 'meh' day. Went into work early to go for a run, but there was something in me saying don't do it. I spent 45 minutes in the gym instead. Burned 300 calories doing a gentle cardio routine, which did feel good, but it would have felt better if I was schlepping around the Tan, wind in my ponytail, pink geek t-shirt flapping in the breeze.

As the project I'm on is ramping down and it looks like there's about a month of work left here, the atmosphere is pretty dire. Making it somewhat worse, I'm not sure what I will be doing for work after mid-October. The rest of my team have moved on - Jonella went on Friday back to the bench at the consultancy, May Chang is now upstairs on another project and Hot Scouser has moved on to new projects in other companies. This leaves me with the Project Manager, who's busy on other things and interactions with another manager, who has a bit of a "nails-on-the-blackboard" effect on me.

As I said. It's a "meh" day, so much so that there was some consideration to feign a migraine. However, the documentation is not going to go away. The manager with the voice like a broken beer bottle isn't going away either. And I need to get on with the next round of work so I might get moved on.

Added to this, I'm using every fibre of my being not to go to the honesty box and buy a packet of licquorice bullets and inhale them. So far, I've resisted and had one manky biscuit from the bikkie tin instead. Why do workplaces always supply milk arrowroot biscuits? They taste like cardboard.

Thing is, yesterday was marvellous. Had a great lunch with Alice, got my major document in for review, had fun on a training course at the consultancy. The icing on the cake was a text from another old university friend asking if I was free for coffee in the afternoon. Pip is an absolute marvel. It was a lovely afternoon and popped across the road for a chat for half an hour. Pip's done amazingly well for himself through hard work and a keen brain. Best of all, rather like me, Pip's dropped a staggering amount of weight and looks the best he's looked in his life. It was lovely to be greeted with a peck on the check and a mutual comment of "Where the hell is the rest of you?" Meeting up with him really made my day.

Today, on the other hand, really is one of those days.

So I'm left taking myself off to my happy places in between editing sections of these stupid documents.

Anything to make life a little more tolerable today.

A friend emailed me to tell me how he went surfing before work. The waves were dreadful but he reckons spending ten minutes a stones throw from a large pod of dolphins was pretty cool. That sounds pretty amazing to me. That was a nice place to go, sitting out in the ocean, cavorting with a heap of sea mammals. Rather like dolphins, not that I've ever been that close to one. The nearest I reckon I've been to a dolphin was when we went on the beer club fishing trip. There was one that kept hanging around the boat like a labrador at the dinner table.

I have my old and friendly ohrwurm to keep me company too. The "ohrwurm" or ear worm is the German term for the song that gets stuck in your head and drives you insane. Thankfully my ear worm isn't making me go batty - it's keeping me from going mad in the near silence of the office.

Today's song is an old favorite of mine that happily keeps me company. Deborah Conway's "Alive and Brilliant". Deborah Conway is, in my lowly opinion, one of the best female recording artists to come out of Australia. Completely underated. She's also responsible for one of the best taglines out of a song - another "ohrwurm". The lyrics to Man Overboard are known by most forty something Australians. "Your pubic hair upon my pillow" is the line - don't ask us what follows, other than the chorus of "What am I expected to do? Shout man overboard!" Nobody knows the rest of the lyrics. Nobody cares, really.

My tagline for today comes from her song, Alive and Brilliant. The lyrics are as follows.

One step forward
Two steps backward
I won't wrestle, you won't talk back
Three deeps breaths,
I'm still alive and brilliant

It's helping to keep me sane. It's that or shove the Arctic Monkeys on the iPod and crank up, "Mardy Bum". (Cos I'm....argumentative... and I've got the face on....)

There is the old favorite happy place to go to. This involves imagining a large bath tub, Clive Owen and a jar of nutella. I'd insert any other hot thirty/forty something, but Clive Owen is my faithful standby. He looks so filthy, throwing him in the bath is the only option. :oP

I also have to remind myself that too much nutella gives me migraines to not let myself go too far into the happy place.

But Mack came up with a cracker today which has kept me rather content.

Yesterday he had a picture of a hart (white deer)on his facebook page. We got talking about this. He said that this picture reminded him of times gone by - other other lives and other times. With Mack, you don't quite know if this means last year or five centuries ago - but this is a quandry for Mack to tell you about.

For me, this picture brought something up for me to ponder.

The Wilton Diptych.

Possibly my favorite painting on the planet.

Eh? You ask.

Imagine this. A cold winter's day in London in the early nineties. A girl in black opaque stockings, large black jumper, short skirt, Doc Martens and a scowl enters the Salisbury wing of the National Gallery. Her long, dark, wavy hair is a little damp from getting caught in a rainshower without an umbrella. She never carries an umbrella. Her glasses are foggy.

On embarking on the long staircase to the second floor, she has no idea what she will find. She just knows that she has a bit of a hankering for pre-1500's religious art work and the Sainsbury's Wing of the National Gallery has this in buckets.

Yes, this girl is a nerd.

Turning left, in a glass case in the middle of the first room on the left there is a small exhibit. A diptych. Or a two panelled painting with a hinge keeping both panels together. This one was allegedly a travelling altar piece. Both panels are about seventy centimetres high by forty centimetres wide.

And it is the most beautiful thing the girl has ever seen.

You've worked out I'm that girl. And I still never carry an umbrella. I get caught in the rain all the time. Love it.

Whenever I'm in London, I make sure I go and visit 'The Girlies'. When I was there in November last year, I dragged Lachlan, half-cut on too much beer, to go see them - then he dragged me to the other end of the gallery to look at a couple of Turners. Which were nice, but they don't really float my boat.

I could stare at the Wilton Diptych for days on end. In particular the eleven angels that surround the Virgin Mary. Knowing that this painting is made of a wooden board, the paints are pigments ground into egg yolk, the fact that the artist has been forgotten, the gilt work is incredible - the whole thing, in it's entirety, takes my breath away.

But on the back of the Diptych is the picture of a White Hart - a large deer, with it's neck in a crown, tethered to nothing by a thick gold chain.

My quandry to think about as I'm avoiding these Training Needs Analysis documents - why is there a crown around the neck of the White Hart? How did it get on there? And why is it tethered not nothing - the chain runs free.

Amazing how something so throw away can keep you entertained for hours.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Adelaide Mark II

This weekend's trip to Adelaide was far less fraught than the last time. I was there two weeks ago and the aftermath took me a couple of days to process. This time, I've come away unscathed - something that doesn't normally happen when on my return from my old home town.

Too much crap from many years ago tends to get dredged up.

Discussing this with  Jonella at lunch today, I worked out that I left Adelaide twenty years ago almost to the week. October 1991 I departed. I left a rather shitty life - family troubles, non-existent career, no self-esteem, totally miserable. Twenty years later I could say that not much has changed - but it has. I'm happier. I'm employable. I'm solvent. And most importantly, I've got a very good idea about who I am.

The main reason for this visit was to run the Adelaide City to Bay Fun Run. It's a twelve kilometre hike from the centre of the city to Glenelg beach. When I was home in May, I challenged my sister to participating in the event, walking the distance. I'd run it, of course. She was up to the challenge, hoping the scant training on which she was going to embark was going to help her gain a bit of fitness. A four or five times a week, she and the dog would set out for an hour for a walk around the hilly Adelaide Southern suburbs. I'm really proud of her for sticking at the training and coming with me. Okay, I did shove in a sweetener - I paid for her entry  and found her a new pair of trainers (we measured her up at a local footwear store and then found them on ebay at half price - I'm not that generous).

Arriving in Adelaide around lunchtime on the Saturday, Affectionately known as Manhands collected me at the airport with a cold. She didn't look too bad, but she was suffering a little. All that was planned for the Saturday was a nice relax and maybe wash the dog and that be all.

This sounded pretty good to me.

Washing the dog, a large, very affectionate Golden Retriever named Bozley, is one of my favorite things to do. Brings out the child in me. Changing into a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and we got to work on the beast out on the back lawn. Boz tolerates being washed just for the rub down with a towel at the end. Then it was my job to brush him out over the rest of the day. By the time I'd finished there was half a yellow dog in a plastic supermarket bag. And I smelled like a clean, wet Golden Retriever. Attractive.

The rest of the afternoon was spent with Big Niece and Little Niece watching Pixar films. Monsters, Inc never loses it's appeal. Boo!

Sunday morning, Affectionately known as Manhands and I rose around 5.30 am, showered, changed and made our way down to Glenelg to park the car in  a side street and make our way into town on the free tram.

Being her first "fun run" I showed her the ropes. The City to Bay run has been run for 39 years. It's the biggest fun run in Australia, per capita, as the guy on the microphone kept touting. 35000 people lined up near the Festival Theatre on King William Street. I think half of those people were in the loo queue - well it felt like it. Adelaide hasn't quite got the hang of mass public events it seems.

After twenty minutes of waiting, I was off on my run. Manhands would start about ten minutes later and walk the distance with a friend.

Somewhere just before Grote Street a tall, lumbering guy in a flourescent green t-shirt caught my eye. I passed on a bit of encouragement, as you do. Running is about generousity of spirit, so you pass on a bit of encouragement.

I'd arranged to meet up with Kip, and old university friend after the race. Well, here he was, jogging along for the charity, Canteen. We ran together for a kilometre or so, then he needed to slow down and I speeded up. Said I'm meet up with him later. It was cool to meet up with somebody you haven't seen in twenty years.

And hour and seventeen minutes later I passed through the blow up arch. I would have been happy with an hour and twenty, but the Running Gods were on my side. Thrilled with my time.

It was mayhem at the end of the run, so I went to find a bit of civilisation a few streets away, where some other friends had congregated for breakfast. It was great to catch up with them while I waited for Affectionately known as Manhands to walk the distance (and she did well, came in in under two hours, with a cold - very proud of her)

Later, Kip and I met for coffee. We arranged to meet on the proviso that he drop me at the airport, saving my brother-in-law the trip.

It's strange. Kip and I knew each other at college. We were in the same year. He was always a nice guy - a bit nerdy, but nice. Like me, he wasn't part of the cool brigade, but he wasn't unpopular either.

How to you  wrap twenty years of your life up into a neat little package? How do you compartmentalise twenty years? It was lovely to see the Kip was in a great space. Career changes, marriage, kids, travel. He's married to his girlfriend from college days. He seems really happy. It's wonderful to see.

For me, it's just nice to know that I no longer feel inadequate being 43, umarried and childless - and I don't feel like I have to justify any of my decisions. I finally feel like I'm achieving something, even if I do have to go find a new job in a few weeks.

Besides- I'd just run my fastest 10 kilometres (63 minutes) and a great run. To add to the equation, I'd beaten Kip in by ten minutes... but that isn't fair - I'm trained up - we wasn't - I run regularly - he doesn't. But still ...

Meeting up was Kip was great on many other levels - and I truly hope it's not another twenty years before we catch up again. It would be great to see his wife, Katie, as well.

For me, I just remember how inadequate I felt through university. How unworthy, ugly, fat and stupid I thought I was. After having it drummed into me that I was fat and ugly and stupid for so many years, yesterday was a bit of a revelation. All that stuff has gone. It was lovely to be able to sit down, some twenty years later, with somebody who knew me back then and just be myself.  To just be, and to acknowledge that things are alright.

My life certainly not the same as everybody else's path - but that is okay too.

It's just the way it is.

And it provides a little bit of courage for another reunion I have in a few weeks time. But that is another story for another day.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Simple Joys

Making my coffee this morning, looking out the kitchen window. It's 6.05 a.m. A full moon is about to set over the top end of the city. The breaking dawn is peaceful, crowned by the majesty of the moon. The only apparent sounds are birdsong and the intermittent hum of the Krups machine dribbling out a triple ristretto.

In half an hour I will be sitting on a half-empty tram reading my wonderful book about running. ("Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall - excellent book about a tribe of ultra-distance running Mexican tribesman)

In an hour's time I'll be hoofing my way along the Yarra and around the Botanical Gardens on my consititutional 7.5 km pre-work run. Today I'm on my own. I'm interested to see what I can do without the posse. Going for 55 minutes. We will see.

Perfect start to the day, really.

(Apologies for being a morning person too)


Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Eleven Question Mini Meme

To break the monotony and bribe myself into doing some more editing (and not fall victim to watching "The Notebook" on telly for the seventeenth time) I robbed this meme from a friend of the Plastic Mancunian. The deal is, a page of editing, do a question.

This should also break up some of the heavy stuff that's been going on of late. It's a short one too. That's a positive when it comes to memes.

1. If you could live in any other time period, which would you pick?

As much as I love the perceived freedoms and choices we have in these times I reckon living in the sixties could be pretty cool - just for the music, the cars, the clothes and changes that were going on at the time. And Don Draper.

2. What is your favorite topic to write on your blog other than a meme?

I write about all sorts of things. Life, music, friends, food. But most of the time I write about running. If you're not into running, them I'm sorry. I just think that running is a metaphor for life.

3. What are some traits that you admire in a lover?

Oh, I don't know. It's been so long since I've had one. If I dig into the memories and use a bit of imagination, the list has a few things on it. Other than the obligatory sense of humour and adventure? And a good kisser. (underated talent that one) I'm into soft, inquisitve hands, furry chests, soft, great skin, the desire to take things nice and slowly (well, at first anyway) and an affectionate nature - no cuddles, no nooky. Them's the rules.

I also admire anybody who sees through my initial skittishness and lets me come out of my shell. That's an uncommon trait.

That will do for a start.

Pity it's a moot point at the moment. Must try and do something about that.

4. Could you adjust to life in another country?

Definitely. I've moved countries on  few occasions now. I moved to England in 1991 - which was like returning to my true home in many ways. It was like living in an older, more cultured, accepting country. I loved my time in England. I also moved to Greece in 2003 for a few months, living on Mykonos for a few months - which I absolutely loved. I seem to be able to get on in most places after a time. I'm lucky - I pick up bits of languages pretty easily and can get on with most people given the chance.

5. If you could study anything, what would it be?

Ah, I've been thinking about this of late. Part of me wishes that I went back to school, got better grades and applied for Medicine twenty years ago - there is something in me that may have made a good doctor - but I've never had the confidence to pull that off - and subsequently that would have been a bad move.

I'm toying with going back to university part time at the moment - Law, Creative Writing and Journalism are on the short list. I feel like a change in career is in the wind.

6. What is your favorite possession that cost less than $15?

There are a few things I possess that fall into this category. My Kmart skinny jeans that make my bum look great ($10), my white sandshoes (also Kmart, $6) are really comfy amd great for messing around in. My red comb that I've had for over twenty years - cheap but it untangles my hair with ease. My collection of thongs (jandles, flip flops, shower shoes - depending on where you come from) all cost less than $15 - in a multitude of colours, I love them - and live in them over summer. Sorry I can't put it down to one thing.

7. Which colour do you wear most often?

I live in black. It's a Melbourne thing.

8. What has been your “theme song”, or favorite song this year?

As my musical knowledge stops at around 1995, finding a this year's song is hard. My theme song is normally either The Rolling Stone's "Sympathy for the Devil" or The Pixie's "Where is my Mind?".

However, I love, adore, Josh Pike's Lighthouse Song. Though technically, I think it's from last year. Never mind.

9. What's the most romantic thing that's ever been said to you?

Gawd! In lieu of the fact that I've had next to no romance in my life, that's a hard one. Comments like "You have stupendous tits!" aren't romantic at all, though once I would have seen it as such (not any more). Working with engineers, you get the odd - "Gee, you're really great. I have no idea how you get the beer in on time." would once be classed as a romantic comment.

After a long hard think, the most romantic thing ever said to me was many years ago. It took my breath away at the time. We were talking about an imminent trip up to Puffing Billy, a steam train in the Dandenongs (which is very cool and great fun)

He said, "You are just like a steam train. You're mesmerising and fascinating, rare and elusive. You have the strange ability to drive men nuts, but in a good way."

That made me cry. I thought he was going to say that I was huge, only capable of going in one direction, full of hot air and on rails.

10. What would be your dream birthday cake?

Do I have to choose one? David Jones does this really wonderful flourless lemon cake with lemon cream cheese icing -  an old favorite. However, we had this vanilla creation from Brunettis for Gloria's birthday this year which was amazing! I just like cake... and ice cream. Hmmm, maybe an ice cream cake.

This is not a topic to be thinking about as I'm about to embark on the 12wbt as of Monday...

11. What is the coolest thing you’ve ever done?

Despite having next to no street cred, I've done some pretty cool things. I lived in England illegally for six years - not sure it that's cool or stupid. Living on Mykonos hostessing at a notorious gay bar - that was cool. The balloon ride the boys gave me for my fortieth - excellent. The seven country trip around the world last year - really cool.

Still doesn't compare to running a full half marathon last year. That was the most fullfilling and complete moment of my life. Smiled for weeks after that. A really, really cool acheivement - even if it is just daggy old running a  really long distance.

There. Eleven pages of editing done. And something shallow to blight the blog.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Brick Bats and Battle Scars

Somewhere in the mess that is "he-says-she-says" is the underlying truth that neither party likes the other. They have never liked each other. They never will like each other.

And, of course, in such a situation involving family, you're going to take sides and somehow attempt to mop up the damage.

The horrors of Monday have passed now. I'm back on solid ground, back where I need to be with my energy levels and emotions. I have to thank Brother Jim for giving me a quick healing at my Mason's rehearsal last night. He managed to pop the cork on the pressure cooker by bestowing me with a bit of reiki and a cuddle. Amazing how powerful these things can be.

"You look like you could murder." he told me.
"Should be thankful you only have the goat lead."
"Yep. Cos if I was holding that spear you have in your hand, they'd be rushing you down the Epworth."
"Oh. Wassup?"
"Family shit."
"And you're owning this?"
"Nope. Pure energetic transferance. Not mine. I've done a cleansing - got rid of any extras. Doesn't mean I'm not feeling everybody else's stuff. Still processing the hurt."

I think I managed to witness every possible emotion on Monday. From despair to contempt to love, honour, anger and betrayal. Some of these emotions appear to have been taken on board.

I watched with immense pride as my step-sister farewelled her mother with joy and love. Her eulogy was touching, sweet and funny. Her first line. "Well, this is shit." Very JD. Her ex-partner, Liz, was at her back, hand gently at the small of her back, supporting her.

Twenty minutes before, Liz was in my arms, sobbing. She and JD had just done the final viewing. Liz was distraught. "She doesn't even look like her!"

Of course she wasn't going to look like her - Trista wasn't there any more. She passed away last Sunday morning. She's no longer suffering. All I could do was stand there and hold Liz as she worked through some of the shock.

"Who's with JD."
"Which one?" Garry is the name of my step-dad. Trista also married another Garry some sixteen years ago. It's a bit confusing.
"Her father."

JD and Trista's second husband have never really got on. Over the last few months we've been hearing about the litany of crap to which Gaz Mark II has been subjecting JD. Stupid, pointless, mean things such as emailing her to tell her that her mother is in hospital - when he knew that she only checks her email once a week if lucky - besides, stuff like that demands a phone call - a text at the very least. Once Trista had passed, he was adamant that she have nothing to do with the funeral arrangements and demanded that she come and collect her mother's effects before he "shoved the on a bonfire". Of the post-mortem shenanigans, Liz stepped up to the plate telling the idiot, "She may have been your wife for sixteen years, but she's been her mother for forty. Blood trumps marriage. Now back the fuck off."

Liz is a great person to have about it a crisis. She works in child protection - she's trained to deal with idiots like this, unfortunate as it may be, Gaz Mark II is a mild case.

And JD got her say and her way. She was responsible for the wonderful presentation of photos of Trista, showing her growing up, through her days until the end. Every smiling, ever dancing - a light spirit in a heavy world. The horror of the fact that she died too soon in many ways was apparent.

Cancer is a complete and utter bastard. It's cruel, unrelenting and sadistic.

I was sitting back in the pews with Jude, one of Trista's best friends. Stoic and quiet, Jude stared into the middle distance. "You'll look after me, wont you, Pandy."
"Of course."
I have no idea what it's like to lose a friend you've had for forty years.

Behind me, my Uncle John stood. He farewelled his wife a couple of months ago. I watched as he steadied himself.

The thing that was impressed upon me the most was how loved Trista was. She said in the week before her death that she thought only twenty or thirty people would turn up for her funeral.

The chapel, with seating for two hundred and fifty, was full.

My sister, affectionately known as Manhands, told me that this is where Dad's funeral was held. "You weren't here for that." she reminded me. She also reminded me that I wasn't there for her wedding. Or for the birth of her first child. I had to correct her on that last one. I was about - interstate, but I was there two days later to meet my new niece.

I should have thanked her for the guilt trip. Just what was needed. I let it go. No need to take that crap on There was enough happening around the place.

Others spoke. Trista's brother. A long-standing friend from Myponga with whom she's gone on bicycling holidays and finally, one of her line-dancing friends, sans pink t-shirt. Each speaker was shocked and relieved in turn

Trista loved to dance. It's the one thing I remember about her most fondly. She was funny. She had strange and varied interests which she threw herself into - line dancing included (I think like dancing is the new form of tap-dancing when it comes to social ridicule - but made her happy and that is all that matters).

After the service, after we had all shuffled past her white, flower-strewn coffin, we had the obligatory cup of tea. Managed to catch up with half of the town, most of whom I hadn't seen in many years. Still called "Pandy" by the Myponga throng. I can't win.

JD was surrounded by a group of her school friends - friends who have been by her side for over thirty years. There were times when one of us had to hold her back, the desire to thump the crap out of Gaz Mark II was evident.

Both were grieving. Though firmly in JD's camp, my thoughts went out to Gaz. A broken man. From all accounts he's been broken for a long time. Never could see what Trista saw in him. Not many people could. Still, he's the grieving widow - you have to give him a little benefit of the doubt.

The wake over, our side of the family went down the pub. As you do. Off to a very civilised beer garden in a genteel suburb - all sandstone, creepers and fountains. Lunch was purchased. Of course, I was berated for stealing chips.
"Don't knick JD's chips - she's just lost her mother." berated my sister.
"I know. I don't discriminate. I knick everybody's chips." and made seagull noises, diving in for another.
"But it's a wake!"
"Life goes on. Deal with it."

Memories were shared. Tears were replaced with a few laughs and some steely resolve. My sister remembered the onion and cheese bread Trista used to make (She was an excellent cook). For me, my most lasting memory of Trista was when I was thirteen-years-old. A school friend of mine had passed away. I remember Trista comforting me. Somehow, she took away some of the pain.

Finally, the group dispersed. One telling comment from one of JD's friends, "Well, at least you don't have much more to do with that arsehole. It's the last time he gets to try and grope my breasts."

Lovely man is Gaz Mark II.

We have to be sympathetic. He's just lost his wife.

I find it amazing that when somebody dies, things go into this strange vacuum space. It's like everything is wrapped in cotton wool. You start to feel things that you haven't felt before - or haven't felt in ages. Things come to the fore. Behaviours - well, some behaviours are forgiven.

But this is when the battle scars really come out. Death is just a reminder of what we are. Human. Mortal. Alive. Interlinked.

And for as much as we will miss the person gone, we also realise that they have marked us in some way. Like a scar. There, out in the open to be seen by all. A constant reminder of the battles, the reunions and the lives we've faced together.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Fragility, thy Name is Family

Too whacked out to write.

A day with my family in Adelaide for a funeral has wrung me out completely. Being the rock of the family, listening, nodding, lending a shoulder, providing a tissue, taking on other people's grief has left me in a near catatonic state for most of the day.

I'm exhausted.

Also spent the last twenty-four hours wondering how my sister, affectionately known as Manhands, and I come from the same gene pool.


I will write about what happened yesterday after some processing time. After I get out the urge to seriously scream at my sister, affectionately known as Manhands, for being ... oh, I don't know - for just being her. It's hard to look at - well it's hard for me to look at anyway.

Thankfully, I'm back in Melbourne, back in civilisation, back where I know I'm not berated for drinking percolated coffee (sister only has instant), not wanting to eat over processed food or for speaking my mind or not agreeing with Tony Abbott.

My sister thinks Andrew Bolt has a point.


And even better. I'm going back in a fortnight.... to stay with my sister, affectionately known as Manhands. We're running the City to Bay run - well - I'm running. She's walking, because she's "not a psycho like me."


I can't express myself at the moment. I'll give it another stab tomorrow night after I've had a bit of sleep and I've shaken the anger and hurt that I picked up on at the funeral. And dealt with a bit of my own stuff which has come from a day watching a very lovely lady get put to rest. I do have to say that her pink bedecked line dancing club made my day, not because they did anything, but because they are a line dancing club from Aldinga...

Adding insult to injury, I spend a day being called Pandy. I HATE BEING CALLED PANDY! How many times do I have to tell my family this!

Oh, another point - next time round in this thing called life, I'm not, repeat, NOT, coming back as an empathetic healer. No way. It sends you loopy. Especially when you come face to face with this crap. Barrages of grief and raw emotion are like a handful of barbiturates to me.

It will work out with some sleep and water.

It's just there is nobody there to pick up my pieces... which makes all this just a little harder.

I think Jewel says it best. I wasn't going to put songs to my blogs from now on, but this one says it all.

Got that, family!

Please be careful with me. I'm sensitive and I'd like to stay that way.

Bath. Teeth. Bed. An episode of vampire porn with lots of semi-naked Eric Northman.

Normal reception should be resumed tomorrow.

Pand (Just call me Pand, or Pandora - but NEVER Pandy)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

I run, therefore I am

Yes, I know I'm misquoting Descartes, but there is something very intrinsic about my identity, my psyche, my being and the fact that I am a runner.

Running is very zen.
Running is completely and totaly about headspace once you have the mechanics sorted out.
Running demands a generosity of spirit.
Running can make you feel better than the bestest poo and the bestest orgasm rolled into one (there is nothing as underated as a good poo), especially after you stop.
Running is fairly uncomplicated, yet strangely harrowing - a divine paradox.

Most of all, running provides part of my identity - but only a small part of it - and it hinges on many other bits of me.

And days like today make me love running even more.

(Okay, non-runners, roll your eyes now - I know, another diatribe about running. Joy, joy, happy, joy.)

Two years ago, almost to the day, Reindert and I set off on the five kilometre Grape Run, up in the Yarra Valley - a lovely short jog though the grape vines. Another colleague, Dan, was also with us. It was Dan's first timed run - my fourth. Reindert, a veteran of too many marathons, split his time between us, making sure we were doing okay. Dan finished a minute or so in front of me. Reindert, on that day, ran his slowest ever five kilometres ( or 4.2 kms by both his and Dan's Garmins)

Today, I set off alone on the 13.5 kilometre version of the event. I've become used to running as part of a posse. I normally run with Trin, who, though her natural pace is a little slower than mine, lets me run and enjoy the event rather than getting all super-competetive with myself. Kez was supposed to do the event, but she's done her knee. Another of the group, Leah, was also supposed to join me, but she's also been banned from running for medical reasons. So today, I was on my lonesome.

So, I rose early, dressed, cleaned my teeth, got in Neville, drove to Healesville, where I parked Neville and alighted a bus for Yarra Glen with a few hundred other nutters.

First job, set my Facebook Status.

Pandora Behr. 9.30 a.m. "Reminder to self. I is da running fairy. I piss off everybody when I run cos I smile and sing and run. I is a gazelle, albeit a lumpy one. It's only 13.5 kilometers. JFDI. Moosh moosh, Pand. ( guess who's had her first gel...)"

At Yarra Glen, I found my tummy number (573), attached my timing tag to my shoe, joined the loo queue for ten minutes, did some mild stretching and waited for the starting gun with the rest of the rabble - from the looks of the crowd at the country oval, around five hundred of us. Slightly worrying is the ache in my right temple. A headache. Just what I need!

One bad thing about running events - portaloos. Fine before the events. Shocking after. Portaloos are never pretty, but they're an unfortunate necessity. The appear to be a bit better if only females use them - something about the knowledge that things need to be left how you found them, but we won't go into that here.

At ten a.m., the starters gun goes bang and we're off. Running down a long country road to the next town some thirteen kilometres away.

The first rule in my head kicks in - don't start off too quick. I'm dreadful at this, but I'm slowly learning to pace myself. I set myself near the back of the pack - it's where I run. I've also got to somehow try and forget the headache that's beating away. Rather than dwell, we do. Just get on with it. Moosh moosh, Pand.

I'm not a fast runner by any stretch, but I am consistent. Being alone, I get to look about, relax and just get on with it. Tits out, shoulders back - do it early and it stops the hunchies mid-race - learned this one over time too.

There's nobody else to worry about but me. Nobody to coach through hills and breathing stress and the stitch. Just me, and the road, and about five hundred other barking mad sods.

Just after the first kilometre I meet another running wombat (wombats - "chunky" runners - more muscle than bone - don't look like they should run but they have the stamina of a Himalayan Sherpa) Garry had  bikie beard, tattoos, obligatory Ramones t-shirt, an incisor missiing and a skull encrusted bandana on his probably bald head.  He appeared to be struggling a little.

"Your first run?" I asked.
"Yep. Furthest I've run is 8 kms. My first big run."
"Cool. Why are you running?" I like to ask this - you get some great responses.
"Gave up smoking 18 months ago (mandatory high five), and my kids, eight and five, are on the cross country team. I want to keep up with them."
"Cool. Now what's your strategy? How are you going to get through this?"
"Buggered if I know - just keep running."

Hmm. That will see him in an ambulance.

"Can I make a suggestion. Try this. Make sure you drink at every water station - it's warmer than you think. Slow down going up the hills - and a word of warning - between kilometre nine and ten is a great-big-fuck-off-hill. Don't let it beat you. Walk it if you have to."
"I wish I met you at the start of the race."
"You did. You're running faster than me, run on  - I'll see you around kilometre eight."

I ran on in the shadow of Garry. Gorgeous day, sunshiney and breezy, surround by gentle hills and farm animals. The Yarra Valley reminds me of where I grew up. It's just a joy to run in the countryside. Blissful. Around two or three degrees warmer than  like to run in - but the gentle head wind made things bearable. I just pushed on. When then uphills got a bit much, I walked, and ran the downhills and flats. I drank at the water stations. It was all in the plan. Nobody to beat. Nobody to coach. Nobody waiting for me at the end of the race. This was for me.

My game plan - have a gel at the 8 km mark and try and finish in around an hour and forty. After the City to Surf I thought this realistic. The 14 kilometre City to Surf was the worst race I've ever run, even though I ended up enjoying it. I came in in an hour and fifty minutes. Not a great time, but under the circumstances, fine.

My run and occasionally walk a bit routine put me on pace with a woman of about my age running in a CanToo shirt. I'd walk, she'd pass me. I'd run and pass her again. This kept happening. We'd acknowledge each other as we passed.

I took my gel at the eight kilometre mark with a cup of water. Ping. It's the return of the running fairy!

At the nine kilometre mark the great-big-fuck-off-hill started. Two years ago this was nearly my undoing. I remember I wanted to cry. Today's strategy - scout run it. Run twenty steps, walk twenty steps. Attack it that way. It's just a bloody hill as I'm fond of telling anybody who complains about them. Hills happen. Hills are good for you. Hill training is the best way to improve your running. Wish I'd listened to Reindert years ago. I regularly do hills now as a part of my training.

My philosophy about running up hills. One foot in front of the other. Don't let them freak you out. It's just a bloody hill. Just like life. It's just there to be overcome. Don't be frightened. Take it in your own time.

My friend in the CanToo t-shirt caught up with me.
"You're a freaking inspiration." I told her.
"So are you. You keep walking and then you pass me again."
"Yeah - sorry about that. Hi, I'm Pandora."
"Hi, I'm Brigid."

Brigid, it turns out, is also training for the Melbourne Half Marathon. At 50, she was also fairly new to running. We chatted. Took our mind off things. We do similar things in corporate land. Brigid's husband set up CanToo. She was telling me about what is referred to as the "Mid Life Marathon". I can sort of see where she's coming from. I'm hoping to do my mid-life marathon next year in New York.

Once the big-fuck-off-hill was finished, there was only three kilometres left. My watch was saying we'd been at it for an hour and ten. What! I'd clocked the nine kilometre mark at an hour and one minute. Okay - calm Pandora.

Today wasn't supposed to be about time. Today was a race to enjoy, look at the pretty grapevines and check out the odd male rear end. That is all.

I was running free. Running at my true pace. The pride swelled. This is what it's about. Doing your best. Getting on top of things. Getting out there and showing yourself what you can do. How often do you get that?

Coming into Healesville around the twelve kilometre mark, we catch up with Garry - plodding along, but still going.
"You said you'd see me around kilometre eight."
"Well, I'm seeing you now. How are you travelling, Garry?"
"I've run all the way. Some walkers passed me going up that great-big-fuck-off-hill, but I still ran it."
"Thanks for the advice."
"My pleasure. Now I'm going to do a very unladylike thing and sprint to the finish. See you in a minute or so."

And I took off. There was enough in the tank.

13.5 kilometres. An hour and thirty two minutes and a handful of seconds. Over undulating hills (with one big-fuck-off-hill at the nine kilometre mark.)


Okay, I'm training properly. I'm not injured. I didn't have my step-sister doing her best angle grinder impression in the next bed during the night. I was well rested and ready to go, but still. Doing a pace of around 6.30 minutes a kilometre, over hills, over distance - I could not be prouder of myself.

Brigid and Garry arrived a minute or so later. Obligatory high fives. It's great to have somebody waiting at the end for you.

Timing tag retreived, showbag found, water imbibed, long stretches - I was feeling fantastic. My legs had no pain. The headache had gone.

After a quick stop at the chemist for some ibuprufen (take two after a long race and it help keep muscle pain at bay - great tip, Kez) I climbed into Neville and made my way home.

A few hours on, I'm still on a high.

The only very minor downside to this run. My bra rubbed to the point of bleeding once again. I'm not as lucky as men, who just have to stick bandaids over their nipples and they're fine. My poor girlie fun bags are now covered in bandaids and will be for a week or so, such was the chafing. The offending brassiere in now in the bin, a new one ordered off ebay already.

I've beaten myself. I've faced a few fears. I've shown me, and the world, what it is I can do, on my own, with nobody around to push me too far and fast or slow me down. It's shown my determination, courage and strength.

If running isn't the perfect metaphor for life, I don't know what is.

Pand xxx (AKA The Running Fairy)