Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Eight Freaking Months!

Our Prime Minister, Jooooliyaar, announced an election today.

The date - 14 September. Yom Kippur (or as I call it, Yum, Kippers)

Eight months away.

We have eight, long, freaking months of electioneering. Eight, long, boring, excruciating months with Tony Freaking Abbott on our screens.

What are my choices? Don't watch the news? Don't read the paper? Wish we had a CIA to take the git out? Wish some nasty accident on him?

The answer is no to all of these - although there is a part of me that wishes we had a crack arm of the CIA, a la Grosse Point Blanke to take care of the situation.

You never know, we might get an effective secret service by then.... eight freaking months is a very long time.

Really, I don't wish Tony Abbott dead - just not leading our opposition. Narrow-minded, bigotted misogynist that he is - I DO NOT WANT THAT MAN LEADING OUR COUNTRY.

The only other person I've ever held such dislike for was John Howard - who had many of Abbott's traits, namely views that are stuck back in 1950's White Australia, wowserish society.

If I hear the phrase, "Stop the Boats" again I will scream.

(Lisa Wilkinson put him in his place a few weeks ago... and I urge people to watch this. She tore him up - and good on her. This is one HUGE reason as to why I dislike this man so much.)

I'm going to go to bed now to read my book and not think about what the next eight freaking months will bring - I just want to see the country run effectively - and how can this be done if we have eight freaking months of a campaign of morons.

Oh, just for the record - I'm not anti-Liberal Party. I just cannot stand their leader. I don't know if I would mind so much Malcolm Turnbull was running for the leadership of the country - he's a bit more moderate.

For those out of Australia, think of this as an Obama / Romney sort of race. I'm not saying Jooooliyaar is an Obama - but I see her as the lesser of two evils.

I think I might just have to look for work in New Zealand.

But as it has been pointed out to me - maybe its time the intelligent people stayed here and didn't look for asylum outside of what could be a great country.

Maybe its time to start asking the hard questions on how we're going to fix the schools and the hospitals and the roads and the climate and the welfare state and get REAL answers as to what is to be done.

And maybe, just maybe, we could change our electoral policies so that compulsory voting is taken off the table so that those who don't give a toss don't turn up. (And yes, I do know that it is compulsory to turn up to a polling booth, not to actually cast a ballot - still, if the nuffers didn't have to turn up, then they wouldn't vote... and I think this would be fairer as those who want to have a say have a say - rather than give every Tom, Dick and Bogan a reason to mess things up).

This has really made my freaking day.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Before the Storm

Bench&Co Cafe+Bar on Urbanspoon

The world appears in technicolour - somewhat brighter, sharper, as I trudge my way around an unknown suburb in search of sustenance. My overnight bag is snug against my back, handbag, consciously under my arm like a coddled child nestled against an over-protective mother.

I amble down unknown laneways in search of unknown manna.

The drizzle fogs my glasses and I can feel my hair frizzing with the damp. I didn't bother to straighten it this morning. Too damp. The rain started in the night, but it's not a hard rain - more the gentle tinkle that you know will become unrelenting in time. This is the time before the storm.

I feel alive. More alive than I've felt in ages. I've not felt rain on my face for months and I'm not fussed as the warm water gently massages my face. I'm more aware of my footfalls than normal, wearing rubber thongs my feet are prone to slipping on the wet cobbles. I feel long limbed and agile, dressed in trousers and a sleeveless, flimsy, silk top that encourages a Bohemian feel. A not-so-young Bright Young Thing, picking a nimble Charleston among the uneven flooring, hoping to stay upright before the waves of change start to crash.

I can't work out where to place my head. Do I look down and watch my feet aquaplane along the street stones, keeping the mist from my glasses, or do I look ahead, unphased by the weather?

The crowds of the day before have dispersed, the suburb now has a seaside-in-winter feel, party because of the rain, partly because the party is over. The festivities of the day before passed, only the acrid whiff of spent fireworks and stale beer remain in pockets not taken over by the rain.

The cafe is nothing out of the ordinary, cafe umbrellas in a courtyard shelter school desk tables and stools. Standard fare for a Sunday morning. The staff, well muscled men of undefined European extraction - all surfer tans and lazy smiles, sapphire-stained blue eyes under clottled, black lashes, with the look that they've only just wiped the sleep and sex from their eyes just before facing you.

"Ciao. Pour una?"
"Si, gracia."

I come from Melbourne. You learn to answer wait staff in Italian. And Spanish. And Vietnamese. And Greek. A polyglot's trait. Order coffee and beer in fifteen languages. A table for one is standard. An index finger is raised by the wait staff. You nod. They know. Happens around the world.

I take a seat. My standard morning coffee is ordered as I peruse the breakfast menu. A mug of skinny cappucino is promptly ordered. I'm not expecting much - I just need caffeine to wash away the last remnants of Bombay Sapphire from my cells. I don't have a hangover, but I can feel the languishing of juniper mist about me. I don't find that gin brings on depression - more a sedate mellowness that brings on thought. There is something reflective about the pale blue bottle. "You are a woman of quality," the bottle beams back at you as you dunk a lime in the glass with the gin. "I will not let you down." is it's last statement as you recap the bottle. "You are in safe hands," it tells you as you take a seat on the balcony and take up at the end of your last chapter. Bombay Sapphire doesn't have the rough-readiness of Bourbon or the mean-spirited angst of vodka - you're looking for mellow. Bombay Sapphire oozes mellow - and mellow is what you found the night before, as you smile at the memory of the rain and the book, and the balmy night, and the comfy chair on the balcony at the bed and breakfast. The space you were making the most of after dinner with friends and the quietness that encapsulated you the evening before.

A perfect solitude.

But I digress.

The coffee. You're not home. It's a bonus if the milk is steamed to an acceptable temperature and the beans aren't burned you tell yourself. I'm not in Melbourne any more - good coffee is not a given. I know it does exist outside of Melbourne, but I'm not expecting greatness. Acceptable will do. The caffeine hit is a few hours overdue.

Breakfast is ordered as my coffee arrives - my holiday weekend standby of Eggs Atlantic - poached eggs with smoked salmon and hollanaise. I like my holiday stand-bys. Eggs Atlantic is not something I have often. Eggs Atlantic is something I don't make at home. At home it's poached eggs and grainy bread and smoked salmon doused in tomato sauce. I know - plebian. Absolute philistine. Eggs, salmon and tomato sauce. I say you don't know until you try it. My breakfasting mates in Melbourne forgive this bogan trait.

There is nothing common about a good Eggs Atlantic, however.

I perch my book on the table. My companion for the day, a novel of two sides and two stories that is taking every twist and turn with the intensity of a Spanish Inquisitor. The writing is making me laugh and gasp out loud in turn. I like it when books do this for me. It's rarely that I'm left speechless, but this book - a 450 pager is three quarters done and I'm wondering where the rollercoaster will take me next. Even better - I like neither of the main characters - can't stand them. Wouldn't piss in a cup for them if they were thirsty. People bent on self-destruction. I can't relate to them - but I am in awe of the writer's talent.

Note to self - WRITE! Or at least try and write more than what you write at work.

A bedraggled man sits at the table net to me, all scraggy hair and shabby chic of the careless moneyed. In tow, an aging Labrador, which at his bidding, lies in growing puddle. I say that the dog is welcome to come under the umbrella and sit in the dry, but the man waves me off, saying the dog is fine. I feel a bit sorry for the dog. He and the dog leave after a quick espresso and talk about the surf with one of the waiters.

To my surprise, the coffee arrives and it is spectacular. Smooth, hot, scented and it slips down with glee. Some of the best I've had outside of Melbourne and Italy. An aromatic, double shot of espresso, hot milk and dash of dark chocolate on top. Bliss.

Is there anything better than enjoying a book over a cup of coffee on a damp morning? Especially a near perfect skinny cappucino?

Breakfast arrives and I'm taken aback a second time. Amazing Sonoma seeded rye bread, fresh eggs, hand cured salmon and a thick, gooey hollandaise. Bliss, especially with the bread which yielded soy and pumpkin seeds with every bite. With the book going into its crescendo, a second coffee was ordered.

Replete, I left the half full cafe just before midday, still reeling from the quality of the food and coffee. After paying the bill, I picked my way carefully to a waiting ferry to skate me back home.

My only regret was not having somebody to share this meal with - a book is adequate company when the food is ordinary. This was a meal that required the sharing of tastes, the dunking of a crust into the egg or a wandering finger making the most of the last of the cappucino's chocolate dusted top.

This morning's meal was not what I was expecting.

But these were the hours before the storm, the hours of normality before the wall of water hit. A time of relative calm before people would start to hide away, waiting for the water to pass.

A time for blessings to be counted.

The cafe:  Bench, Manly

The bread:

The coffee:

The book:  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn  (

Friday, January 25, 2013

In my next life...

I've decided that I want to be Nigella Lawson.

There's lots of reasons why. She was on the arm of Geoffrey Robertson QC for a long time (another one of my celebrity crushes) She went to Oxford - not that I would ever be smart enough to get into Oxford - but again, its a long held fantasy of mine. Also, if I look that good in my early fifties, I will be very, very pleased - okay, she has the money behind her to put some significant dosh into dermatology, but still, she's not doing badly at all.

And Nigella and I also have very similar views on cooking - the easier and more fun the better.

I've not been a Nigella fan at all up until now. Other than Masterchef, which I watch religiously, I'd only periodically drop in on a cooking show. A bit of Heston Blumenthal here, a bit of Luke Nguyen there, I'd have a chuckle with the Two Fat Ladies - but really, cooking shows, although fun, and interesting, don't have the draw on my time.

However, a couple of weeks ago, one show that I don't like missing, the BBC's superlative production of "The Hour" came back to our screens. I love this show. The BBC at its best.

On before it - Nigellisima - Nigella's take on Italian food.

And she made this no churn coffee ice cream which looked easy and heavenly. Four ingredients. Made in minutes. Ice cream. My type of cooking! Ice cream. My special food group.

As with most things ice cream, this has been stuck in my mind for a while. It kept popping up at inopportune times.No ice cream maker needed. Quick ice cream. Wow.

This could be very dangerous.

Oh bugger, I'm behaving myself with food at the moment too.

It's a pain, stuck in my head is four ingredient ice cream along with sourcing decent accommodation in Bali for the last week I'm there, a couple of songs from The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Thankfully it's been "The Sword of Damocles" and not some of the raunchier tunes) and working out how I'm going to work out six times a week until April and get my running back.

After a long week at work, little sleep after a hot night and a dreadfully mis-timed leg wax - I succumbed. (Note: Never get your legs waxed when you're really tired - it really, really hurts rather than just being an annoying pain).

The four incredients:

Sweetened Condensed Milk
Coffee Liquor
Espresso Powder

(For the original recipe and instructions, see here

I don't have a proper kitchen aid mixer - just hand held beaters.

Needless to say - the recipe works a treat. Okay, I swapped the coffee liquor she uses for Tia Maria - the expensive espresso powder for instant coffee powder.

It's magic. This stuff is absolute ambrosia!

I'd also forgotten the pure joy of licking out the tin of sweetened condensed milk. Is there a finer ingredient on the planet? It's a taste from my childhood - Mum used to make mayonnaise out of it, combining it with eggs, vinegar, a bit of mustard powder and salt and pepper. I used to like out the tin then, being careful not to cut my tongue on the lid where the can opener left sharp edges (the cans come with ring pulls now).

So this no-churn ice cream is in my freezer. A teaspoonful a day I can have. A little bit of ice cream every day - like a teaspoon of it - will not do any harm. Call it the responsible management of my sweet tooth. Better than downing a tub of the stuff. Besides, I have a two piece bathing suit to don in three months. This fact should keep me on track.

And in the mean time I can imagine what I could do with other ingredients - amaretto and roasted almond toffee instead of coffee...  passionfruit pulp with midori.... limoncello with lemon curd mixed though....

Right, I must stop fantasising.

And if I can't be Nigella Lawson in my next life, I would like to be a well loved cat. Like Maow Maow - but without the allergies.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


This morning's run along the Yarra with Desi was telling.

A glorious morning for a gentle five kilometres on the Yarra, cool, sunny with a a few cotton wool clouds about the place - a gentle breeze to take the edge off the sun and the recent humidity thankfully absent. This is the sort of summer running I like to do - only ever trumped by any sort of winter running or taking a jog though the rain on a warm summer's morning.

I like running with Desi - the conversation is great. In the two years that I've known her she's come along in leaps and bounds, losing heaps of weight, running in her first 10 km event and generally embracing a healthy lifestyle. And from when we started, she's learned my trick of running and talking. Okay allegedly I can talk underwater with a mouthful of marbles, but I find it amazing that people can't talk and run at the same time. I can sing "The Sound of Music" and run - but maybe that's my cardio vascular fitness showing through. Anyway, Desi says that I have a lot to do with her reaching her goals. I'm just very proud of how far my friend has come.

Now it's her turn to give me a bit of help.

I need more running buddies!

See, I've let my running slide a bit. Okay, be honest, I've let my running slide a lot. Some of this is because of the back injury I obtained trying to place one of Blarney's twins in his cot at the end of November last year - that had to heal before I did any impact work and it's taken a while. It's only just got back to normal.

Talking with my massage therapist on the weekend, she finally cleared me to get back into doing more impact work and back to normal running.

"You really needed that time out. You've done what had to be done - if you were running regularly you'd have done yourself more injury. Think of resolving injuries like penance. If you don't give them the respect they require things are going to come up and bite you on the bum big time - and you don't want that."

So instead of doing ten "Hail, Marys" and a round of the rosary, my exercise penance has had me doing a lot of lighter weighted Pump, some spin and lots of walking so that I don't jar my back.

My massage therapist is a very wise woman.

So the last real run, the last longer run that I did was the 10 km at the Melbourne marathon in October - some three months ago. Since then, I've been going out with Desi and doing the odd, slow 5 km, as well as the odd half and hour hear and there at the gym. I've still been exercising four or five times a week - just not running - and my body really notices the difference.

My body likes to run - it doesn't have to be a fast run, but it likes it. Especially after combat class where after 45 minutes of punching and kicking, the feeling of freedom I feel when Miguel says, "Go on, run around the room!" is just magic. (I can do that - you're only running for a few minutes in this case)

And now is the time to get back into it. It's time to start doing this rather strange and enigmatic activity that puts me in the weirdo subset of "Runner".

I'm also at a point where I need to set some goals around running - and with everything working okay once more (and the dead foot from the trapped nerve in my back now gone) it really is time to set myself up a regular running routine.

So today, on arriving in the office, I put myself in for the 15 km Run for the Kids - a bit of a Melbourne institution when it comes to runs in Melbourne.

The Run for the Kids is really just a reason for mass civil disobedience. Taking you through the Domain Tunnel, down the Westgate Freeway, over the Bolte Bridge, through the Docklands and back along the river to the Botanical Gardens, the first ten kilometres of the run are on public roads that nobody can ever walk on - and it's great. Also, unlike the Melbourne Marathon events where people are out for good times and personal bests, there is more of a social feel to this event. I remember a chain-smoking, heavy drinking colleague participating one year even though their exercise consisted of walking from the car park to the office - okay, they couldn't walk for three days after, but they said they enjoyed every step if the day.

So I have something to train for. An even to get my cardio back where it was - and my weight back in check - another element in my life that I've been struggling with.

The other reason that I need to get running again - I've made an impulse purchase. A stupid, stupid impulse purchase, but something that will keep me on the straight an narrow all the same.

For the first time in my life I bought a pair of two piece swimmers to wear in Bali.

In my defence, these swimmers are not your Brazilian dental floss and postage stamp ensemble. They're a proper boned up bra and decent coverage bottoms. See.

Yes, I'm 44-years-old - I should know better, but for the first time in my life, I have the confidence to get out there by a pool and wear something that resembles a bikini. Up until now, I've always had rather patrician swimmers with racer backs and full coverage. Okay, I'm not going in for the burkini a la Nigella, but rather, I've had bathers that let me swim laps and cause no offence or give reason for an onlooker to call Greenpeace and have me thrown back in the ocean.

I'm also pretty good with sunscreen and don't spend ages in the sun. But it would be nice to wear something other than my boring, offical, "I'm-a-serious-lap-swimmer-get-out-my-way-or go-back-to-the-slow-lane" looking racer-back one piece as seen in Richmond Swimming Pool.

Anyway, I received these swimmers in the post yesterday and I tried them on last night.

They fit, but they will look far better if my podgy stomach reduces. And to reduce the podgy tummy, I have a lot of work to do. LOTS of work - but it's not an unattainable goal.

I've made the commitment to me that I'm going to look as good as I can in my new swimmers in April.

I'm not off to Bali for ten weeks - and I know I can do a lot in ten weeks. I have a 15 kilometre run to prepare for - which although it sounds a lot, having done as much running as I've done over the last few years, my body gets the hang of this really quickly and I'll be back in check in a few weeks.

I've also got the diet in check. 1200-1400 clean calories a day, minimal sugar, salt and alcohol.Yes, there will be ups and downs. There's a degustation dinner next week to attend, the odd party here, the odd dinner there. But if I can keep 19 out of 21 of my meals a week in check, I should get near my goal.

All of this should get me to where I want to be - without feeling deprived.

And I promise not to post a photo of myself in said swimmers fearing a charge from the Japanese Whaling Fleet.

As I said earlier, it's a bold move. But it's one I'm hoping to enjoy.

Anybody out there want to come running before work or on weekends with me?


Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Bali Body

I've booked myself a holiday. Finally.

It took a leap of faith and some stern talking to myself to do this, but last week I finally went and bought myself a flight to Denpasar for a two week jaunt on the Indonesian island of Bali in April.

Oh, and my passport form, complete with appropriate photographs is in with the Passport Office. I should have a passport by the end of next week.

If I didn't book the holiday now, I 'd end up going nowhere. My contract at Sparks and Ladders ends at Easter with no chance of extension, so it's time to take a proper break. The last real holiday I had was in October 2010, when I took five weeks off and took in seven countries. This holiday was going to be nothing like that.

As for work, I can start getting my CV in March, getting my name out there, finish up where I am, drive home to Adelaide for Easter, come back and head off to Bali and start looking for work in earnest when get back.

Why Bali?

Why not Bali?

This was a a bit of a spur of the moment decision. I want to take a holiday, I didn't want to spend too much money and I don't want to do anything too convoluted. As much as I'd love to go back to Spain and walk the Camino de Compostella di Santiago or go and learn tango in Buenos Aires (okay, not really cos I don't dance, but I'd love to go to South America and see Macchu Picchu) or take off for a week in Japan looking at countercultures. There are so many places I want to go. There is so much of the world I want to see - but I also need a place where I can mung out, sit by a pool, do not very little and have a breakfast beer at 10.30 am.

Bali fits the bill.

The other thing about me on holiday is that in going alone, I like to know that people are around the place. You always meet people on holiday when you travel alone. Placing yourself in a spot where you are likely to meet some similarly-minded people is always a good thing.

So, the first six days of this break will be spent in a guest house in Ubud where I will go and nurture my inner hippy. The place is next to a yoga school and I can get $20 massages and there are monkeys about the place and there is a swimming pool. I don't need much more than that for the first part of the trip.

The second part of the break will be spend at a place near the beach. The only requirement is that the establishment isn't in Kuta. I'm looking at places in Seminyak, maybe Legian, maybe Jinbaran Bay. There are a few requirements - a mandatory swimming pool, air conditioning in the room, a telly and access to a good masseuse. As long as I'm not in Kuta surrounded by bogans, I'll be happy.

It feels strange to take a holiday where I'm not running around the place, skipping from one country to another, visiting one sacred site then another, checking out museums and art galleries.

This holiday will be about relaxing, and chilling, and reading books, and generally having the holiday that I never seem to get.

Now the hard stuff. If I'm taking a holiday where I'm going to be sitting by a pool, I have to get myself pool ready.

I have ten weeks to see if I can whip this body into something that wont be too dreadful in a pair of bathers. It gives me a project. See if I can tone up and lose weight sufficiently to maybe even find a pair of two piece swimmers.

As incentive, I've just purchased a red bikini off eBay. It gives me ten weeks to tone up my middle bit and see if I can present myself by a pool where nobody will gop and call Greenpeace and have me taken back to the sea.

Gives me something to work towards anyway.

It's one of my goals - it's been one of my goals for a very long time. To look good in a two piece swim suit. Not some string thing, but a two piece bathing suit. I've always had patrician one piece practical bathers. I want to be able to flaunt myself in something different.

To be honest, I can't wait.

Better get working.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Social Media Responsibilities

I'm on a bit of a social media rant at the moment so please excuse me.

I love social media. I have done for a while. Although I don't Twitter, nor do I get Twitter and I don't feel the need to get Twitter, my Facebook status is updated regularly. I like to see what people are up to. I like the little uplifting sentiments and funnies that are posted there, especially as I rarely get humorous emails any more.

Social media, in particular Facebook, is a great way things to get organised. Rather than sending umpteen emails and texts, book group gets organised, trips up the 1000 Steps and other various get togethers are co-ordinated with ease. I love social media's ability to do this and I think it's great.

However, there are a few things that I really don't like about social media.

My oldest niece, Elle, has just turned 13 and has got her own facebook page.

The first thing I see on her profile is her full birthday.

She receives a quick message for her adoring aunty.

"Hi Lovely,

Welcome to Facebook. Just a quick note to say that you really should take off your full date of birth from public view - it's not something people need to know. Can you do this? If you want to keep the day and month up, fine, but not the year. It's good practice.

Also remember, when you're posting things on Facebook - if it's something you wouldn't want your mother or Nanny to see, don't put it up there - ever.

Another thing, only make friends with people on Facebook who you know - in person. I hope your Mum has talked to you about this. Just hoping to keep you safe.

Lots of love,

Aunty Pand"

My niece is a good kid. She's a young thirteen, but quite sensible for her age and generally not into any mischief. I feel like a bit of a killjoy telling her this now, but Facebook is the place where if you post a photo of yourself throwing up (or worse) it can come back to bite you on the bum for decades to come. Future employers may be able to access these pages. Even more creepy - you don't who is out there. As somebody in my forties, I try and be savvy. Thirteen-year-olds aren't generally known for their common sense. All I can do is make suggestions to keep her digitally safe.

Don't shove stuff up online if you don't want or need people to know is the first tenet of social media. Your full date of birth is one of those things. Your year of birth when you are thirteen-year-old is definitely one of them. Who knows what people are seeing this information?

After numerous chats with a friend who's a security expert I've come to the conclusion that less is very much more when it comes to social media.

If you want to keep having a social media presence, you have to be extremely savvy - which most of us aren't. I like his bent on this. There are some companies that need your private information - banks, utility companies, the government. If you're borrowing money from them or they are providing you an essential service, okay they need things like your full date of birth and your full address for identification  - and I'm okay with this.

If they're not providing these sorts of essential, legally binding services, what do they need this information for?

He says for non-essential services, create an alias - complete with different date of birth and email. This account use for all of your Scoopons and group buying stuff and newsletters and online competitions. Have an alternate email account, date of birth and the like to help provide a modicum of privacy. Where possible, use payment portals like PayPal to keep your bank accounts and credit card numbers secure.

He's got so much more pertinent information about online security, but these are easy gems to get the safety process started.

People don't think about how easily a computer can get hacked and there goes all of your information. Identity theft is becoming more and more prevalent - what will it be like when my 13-year-old niece turns 20?

The other big beef I have at the moment is around posting what is frankly disturbing content - often for what is seen as the common good.

Last night, after a wonderful book group I came home and as is the normal practice, logged on. I did some chores, tapped out a few emails and had a quick look on Facebook to see what's going on.

To my surprise, a friend had posted something with a title of "Get these scum off the streets".

The picture was of a group of ecstatic looking youth.

I thought no more of it, scrolled down, then scrolled up again and had a better look at the photo.

I wish I hadn't.

I don't want to see photos of decapitated cats being paraded by such monsters. I especially don't want to see such stuff just as I am about to go to bed.

For pity's sake, I don't even watch Police Procecurals in the evening - I don't think its good for the psyche.

Some of the rubbish people post on their pages - cancer ridden babies, aborted foetuses, assault victims... animal mutilations like the ones shown here - seriously. THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU'RE POSTING AND WHO MIGHT SEE IT! If it's going to upset somebody, don't pass it on.

(I think if this rule as the new version of "If you don't have nothing nice to say about somebody, keep your mouth shut)

It took me a long time to settle last night. I shoved on Pride and Prejudice - about the softest and fluffiest program I could think to watch to take my mind off things. Such horrific acts of animal cruelty really upset me, and as much as I'd love to take a baseball bat to these feral blokes, Facebook is not the place to have such sadistic images.

What I find even more perplexing is that Facebook will allow such images - yet take off images of women breast feeding their children.

The world's gone mad.

Rant over.

Monday, January 14, 2013


Movies and television are one of my major passions forming many of my visual memories so this weekend's clean out and sorting turned out to be a trip into the past.

I've been meaning to do this for ages. There has been an ever growing pile of DVDs sitting next to the television that have become increasingly hard to find anything easily as well as keep the pile clean and tidy. So last week, I found a case that would hold my DVDs - a very large case it was, with pockets for nearly 600 DVDs or CDs. I also purchased a DYMO label maker. If I'm going to do a craft job, I may as well enjoy it - and I've always wanted a DYMO Label Maker since I was a kid.

This weekend's job - put all my DVDs in the new case and dispose of the old DVD cases.

It's never made any sense to me why CDs are sold in these compact cases and DVDs come in these awkward boxes. A waste of plastic and space if you ask me. So much so that by the end of the weekend I'd nearly filled a wheelie bin with them. That is the extent of my film library.

The first job off the list - dismantle the Buffy Shrine.

Away from all of the other DVDs is what Glen Waverley refers to as "The Shrine". In a small television cabinet covered with candles that never get lit and old lava lamp that takes about two hours to start acting like lava was every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as well as a few other items.

What you don't realise when you have things tucked away is what you have hiding among the dust bunnies is how things date.

The first conundrum. In the seven seasons of Buffy, seasons one, two, four and five are in DVD mode. Seasons Three, six and seven were on a video cassette format.

I threw out my video recorder last year.

Then you realise how much money you've forked out for stuff that eventually ends up in the bin. The three seasons of Buffy in the unfriendly format went into the wheelie bin. EBay was scanned and DVD replacements were found for the offending tapes for a fraction of what I paid for the original tapes.

Also in the Buffy shrine, home recorded videos of The Young Ones, home recorded videos of other shows from back in the early nineties. This, like the Buffy tapes found their way into the wheelie bin.
The tape of my father's funeral. That sat on the couch for a bit longer. I wasn't at my father's funeral. When he died, now fifteen years ago, I was in England with no way to come back for it. I remember being sent the tape - something that happens a lot in Australia - people can't make the event due to the tyranny of distance, so a recording is made of the ceremony for posterity that can be sent to friends and family around the globe. I remember receiving this a month or so after the event. It took me a few weeks to summon up the courage to watch in. Friends offered to come and watch it with me - I thanked them for the offer, said I'd call if I needed them and watched it on my own. I only ever watched it once.

I don't think I'll ever want to watch that again.

 After a bit more consideration, that too made it down to the wheelie bins.

The other gem in Buffy shrine was a video copy of BBC's Pride and Prejudice. The version that sent Colin Firth into stardom. This too found its way into the wheelie bin, but not after remembering what this series did for me. In a very deep and dark time, Lizzie Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy helped keep me sane. Around the time my father died I fell into a deep, dark depression after a life changing event. Pride and Prejudice with its crinolines and dances and intrigues and quiet manners helped to keep my head just far enough about the water that I could function. I'd get home from work and put it on the telly. It helped to pacify and ground me. Oh, and having Mr Darcy emerge from his duck pond dripping wet helped too. Pride and Prejudice is the perfect rainy day recording. A DVD version was sourced from eBay, but I said a huge thank you to these two tapes as they too made their way downstairs for disposal.

While doing this sorting, Buffy - Season One graced the television. The great thing about Buffy (in this incarnation, chubby Buffy) although the clothing and the effects date - the scripts don't. Buffy rules.

 The next job was to start on the television series collection.

Cataloguing and checking over 500 DVDs is a bit of a chore. Seven series of The West Wing, three of Mad Men, some obscure British series (The sublime series set in a Obstetrics Ward, Bodies, and the rather surreal, The Green Wing) Downton Abbey. Season Five of Weeds - I'd like to know who has the other four of them (I think I know, just need to chase them up - only been two years)

This took the better part of the day.

Sunday had me working on the movies - still a big stack to get through.

The covers were sorted into lose piles by category. Comedy, Drama, Animated, Foreign, Classics. What do you do with something like The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Classic or comedy?)
My taste comes across as considered, but mainstream. Movies like Igby Goes Down are sitting in there with some more mainsteam offerings like Bridesmaids. My slim selection of Pixar movies are near the wonderful recent Peter Pan (I do believe in fairies, I do!) and the most wonderful The Princess Bride.
I've kept the films that I watch regularly together so that they can be easily found. Gosford Park, V for Vendetta, Secretary, Donnie Darko, Sideways.... my go to films.
I'm also proud of the fact that for all of the recorded material I have about the place, there was only one disc missing - and I'd love to know where my copy of The Incredibles has gone - probably the same place my copy of The Book Thief has gone.
Late on Sunday afternoon the last trip to the wheelie bins downstairs was made. It wasn't as scary or difficult as I thought it was going to be - and I like the clutter free look of the television stand.
Now to consider doing the same thing with the CDs that are in the spare room - but I have a feeling that that is going to be a far more fraught affair - who knows what gems are sitting in the spare room?
(And yes, one day I will transfer the DVDs onto some sort of hard drive - I just need somebody to teach me how to do that.)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Naked Men Irish Dancing and Other Nufties

Thursday night is giggle night.

And Friday, I've been going into work feeling right a duffer as I've been still chuckling away.Why? I'm still giggling from the night before.

You see, Thursday night, late in the evening, ABC2 has been replaying The Young Ones. The cult show that came out in my teenage years that my parents banned me from watching.

And I still know every episode, pretty much by heart.

What has been most surprising is that there are people out there who have no idea about The Young Ones. They don't know what happens when you ask, "Have we got a video?", or you meet somebody called Neil. (Neil, Neil, orange peel. When will I see you again?) They don't know what it's like to want to have Motorhead playing in your lounge room.

They are blissfully ignorant.

I introduced a workmate to the joys of The Young Ones today after she said she had no idea what I was talking about.

"Where were you in 1984?" I asked her.
"I wasn't born."


Needless to say, workmate is now aware of the joys of Jerzy Bolowski and the pride of Scumbag College.

After seeing the episode "Cash" I've been singing along with Alexei Sayle all day.

And moaning along with Neil. Boom Shankar.

Talking of Boom Shankar, which is Sanskrit for "May the seed of your loins be fruitful in the belly of your woman." this provides a good segue into the other funny occurrence of the last 24 hours.

I have some wonderful friends. I really do. Sometimes I question their judgement a little, but they are great.

The text came through early this morning as I was about to alight the tram.

I have a friend with whom I converse with by text on our daily commutes to the city. Purely a friendly chat, nothing sleazy or out of the ordinary. We talk about all sorts of things. The fact I haven't seen him in person for donkey's ages is besides the point. I know what he's up to for work, if his car is in for a service, the weather, what he thinks about the cricket and the football. He'll ask me about what I did at the gym the night before or what movie I saw on the weekend.

That sort of stuff. We meet for a drink about once a year, but we do seem to enjoy our commuter texting. We've been having SMS chats in the morning for a very long time and I don't think much of if I hear from him or not. Just a friendly hello on a fairly regular basis.

Today, I checked my phone and received a text that read:

"Morning. I had a dream about you last night. It was a hot day. I walked into your flat, took all my clothes off and stood in your kitchen and asked to make a cup of tea, standing there looking stupid as I was naked. I was very comfortable doing this."


Okay, the dream grouper in me looks at this and I see somebody who's stripping off layers of themselves. How my friend perceives elements of my personality in himself I do no know  (nurturing carer? Fun loving free spirit? Insightful friend? I don't know what his psyche was thinking..). I don't take offence at being in somebody's dreams. I was a bit surprised about being told about this one however.

Regardless, how do you respond to such a text.

Like this.

"Oh, okay. Thank you for that. I'm giggling. Just don't start Irish Dancing."

He flicked back a response.

"We were only talking in my dream."

I was still giggling. A few minutes later another text came through.

"Oh. Yeah. Irish Dancing. That would make my bits fly around all over the place. Good one. You handled that well. I thought about not telling you about the dream."

I take no offence - but I am going to have a small laugh at his expense. Deflection complete.

Can you imagine a naked man doing this?

Been smirking about this all day too.

What I didn't tell him is somewhere back in my deep, dark history I have an ex who used to naked Irish Dance for me when I was feeling a bit glum to get me to cheer up. I can't think about him without picturing him prancing about in his grim bedsit, tackle flying everywhere and not start to laugh.

It's keeping my brain in buoyant mode. Along with the recently booked trip to Bali.

But that is another blog for another time.


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Passport Photo Blues

Vanity, thy name is Pandora.

I've been putting off renewing my passport for a year now. Part of the reason I've done nothing about this is that I've had nowhere to go.

The other more pertinent reason for not getting this menial task done is the chore of getting my passport photo taken.

To say that I hate having this done is an understatement. Given the choice of root canal surgery without anaesthetic or having my passport taken I'd have to think pretty hard about it.

Photos for government documents is not something I do well. Added to this, the fact that I'm not particularly photogenic. For the most part, I don't like having my photo taken, and I prefer if I have some editorial say in things. The only exception to this, I'm quite happy to have my photo taken when I'm working out or with friends working out. For some reason I'm quite comfortable with this - probably because I'm happy when I'm exercising.

There are a couple of other reasons why I don't like having my photo taken. There was a really unpleasant incident at work in London many years ago where my work photo was attached to some pornographic material and distributed around the company. It wasn't a good time, it went up though H.R. and I've been very reticent to let people have my image without my express permission ever since - and you have no idea what the government will do with your image once they have it.

Another, small, nonsensical reason why I hate having my photo taken is that like the aboriginals, I do believe that a bit of your soul is taken when your image is snapped. Think about, there are only so many pixels in the world. We must be getting close to the critical mass with pixels. Once the pixel critical mass is reached, then people will start to disappear. I don't want to disappear just yet.

Anyway, it's time to bite the bullet. Time to get the photos done.

A couple of weeks ago I gave it a go. It was lunch time. I'd just bought my new favourite red lipstick. Being near Christmas time, the post office was busy. I brushed my hair and applied some lipstick and waited my turn in line. When I finally made it to the counter, I was ready to go back the the office. The pictures were taken, shoved in an evelope and paid for.

A lot was made of the passport office requirements.

I've had run ins with them in the past. My first adult passport there was a signature missing off the back of one of my shots - it held up everything for a few weeks.

They also have very definite demands namely:

  • 35-40mm wide and 45-50mm high
  • good quality colour on high quality paper, with no ink or marks on the image
  • plain, light-coloured background (e.g. cream, pale blue or white)
  • appropriate brightness and contrast and show your skin tones naturally
  • uniform lighting (no shadows across or behind the face), sharp focus and clear

  • They also ask of the person having the photo taken:

  • show head and top of shoulders close up, so that the face measures between 32mm and 36mm from the bottom of the chin to the crown (ie top of head without hair)
  • show your shoulders square on (not looking over shoulder)
  • show your face square on (edges of face visible)
  • show you looking straight at the camera (not tilted head)
  • be taken with a neutral expression and your mouth closed (not laughing or frowning
  • show your eyes open and clearly visible, (no hair in eyes)
  • The photograph must show you without any hat or other head covering including sunglasses. However, if you wear a head covering for religious reasons they will accept a photograph of you wearing it, but your facial features from bottom of chin to top of forehead and both edges of your face must be clearly shown.

  • I'm thankful that I'm not Swedish. The make you sit on the side and have your left ear showing.

    The photo cannot be too light, too dark, have any shadows crossing your face, be out of balance, have you smiling, your mouth open, you can be too close or too far away, have you with red eyes or flash marks on the skin washing you out.... the list goes on an on.

    I got back to the office and had a look. What ever they did made me look like an Oompa Loompa with a baboon's bum for a mouth and fifteen chins. My skin was an awful orange colour. Dire. These shots were lost in some paperwork that went into the shredder.

    Another thing about passport photos - they are going to define you for ten years. Unless you lose, misplace or burn your passport, that is what you are stuck with for ten years.

    So I bit the bullet today. I was off to see the hairdresser for my three monthly colour and cut. My eyebrows had been tamed on Thursday night - another thing that needed to be done. Left unchecked I'd be sporting brows that would belong on the lovechild of John Howard and Frida Kahlo.

    Surely this might help things out. Go in feeling pretty, surely that would help take a better picture, surely.

    The only flaw in this plan was that it was the hottest day in two years yesterday. It was still 35 degrees at midnight last night. I went to bed around midnight, woke at 2 pm - finally got back to sleep at 5 am and slept through til mid-morning, when I woke feeling lethargic and grumpy.

    The haircut went well. Lee did her normal great job with the cut and colour. Saying that I was going to get my passport shots done, Rachael the make-up artist grabbed me and fixed my face up.

    I'm not one for wearing a lot of make up and the thought of letting a make up artist near me sends shudders down my spine. I've recollections of walking out of department stores looking like baby prostitute or a drag queen after having my make up done. Rachael - who lives a goth lifestyle does amazing things - and she listens - and I left the salon feeling and looking lovely - and not feeling as if I wasn't wearing any make up at all. I've had Rachael fix my face on a number of occasions. Despite the fact that she is never seen without huge amounts of make up on herself, she tidied everything up well. In two minutes she'd evened out my skin tone, hid the spot on my chin, tidied my eyebrows and neatened my eyeliner.

    She also suggested that when the shot was being taken to press my tongue to the roof of my mouth. Gives the face a better shape. A great model's trick.

    The next stop, before heading off for a manicure and pedicure in a nearby suburb was to a camera shop to have the photos taken.

    The lady was rather short with me. A couple of shots were taken. I said that I was looking for a shot that softened my features. She said she couldn't photoshop the image which I said I realised. I just wasn't after a dreadful photo, no bug eyes, multiple chins and strange skin tones. She guffawed and said that all passport shots were supposed to be awful.

    I was shown the "best" one, said okay. I was in a rush. Come back in an hour to pick them up.

    When I did I was horrified. Stunned mullet look, eyes bulging, hair looked like I had some sort of strange mullet (The woman made me tuck my hair back behind my ears, the fact that if kept falling forward had something to do with this)

    This couldn't represent me for the next ten years.

    On leaving the shop, the photos were ripped up and ditched as soon as I walked out the door.

    The number of people who've said that passport photos are meant to be shocking doesn't surprise me. I've seen enough dreadful passport shots over the hears. Still, Doesn't mean that I have to be one of those people.

    I've also recollections of an old colleague of Middle Eastern extraction who said that he always went to a professional photographer to get his passport photos done. Normal shots done at the post office always made him look like a mugger. The photographer seemed to capture his softer side  - and it stopped him getting flagged at customs and immigration.

    Anyway, I'm a Leo. I've vain.
    I'm a Leo. My ego is everything.

    And basically I don't need my still fragile-at -times self-esteem knocked around by a really ugly passport shot that I have to weild around until I'm 54 (or until I put said passport through the wash like I did with another one many years ago)

    After a much needed feed and a coffee I made one more attempt at this passport photo lark. I tried a local chemist.

    The girl behind the counter was friendly and helpful. She let me brush my hair and touch up my make up - and generally treated me like a human being. Actually it was some of the best customer service I'd received in years. She relaxed me with her manner, didn't rush me and let me somehow got my face to relax.

    Third time lucky, though it's no oil painting, I've got a passport shot I can live with.


    Now I just have to get myself to a post office to lodge the form, pay the money and hope that my shot comes up to scratch.

    Pand xx

    Thursday, January 3, 2013

    Plans and Dreams

    It's a new year and everything allegedly feels fresh and new. In some ways it does. As January first passes each year we come with a new sense of hope and enthusiasm about life in general - well some of us do.

    2012 was a hard year for many people. I feel very lucky that for the most part, 2012 was a good year, a really good year. So here's hoping that I can make this year a great one.

    So, what am I looking to do this year. Call this my resolution post. Just what does Pandora T Behr want to get done in 2013?

    Well here we go.

    1) To remain very fit, strong and healthy

    Rather than put a figure on losing weight, which I want (and need) to do, I'm making a commitment to my body to keep it at its peak fitness. Hopefully this will mean that I lose some weight in the process and I will take steps to get this back on track (like I'm back with the start calendar and writing down everything I eat as a start) It came to the conclusion late last year that I love being fit. I love that I can walk up five or six flights of stairs and not be puffing after a minute after stopping the climb. I love that I can do a 25 kg squat track in pump. I love that all this exercise give me energy and keeps me in a happy place (Far fewer depression cycles have been had since I've taken on this exercise lark) Exercise, both the more gentle walks to work and strolls around the place, and the "Hardcore Harriet" spin classes, boxing sessions and personal training rounds both have their places. I'm so grateful exercise is a part of my life. Long may it continue.

    2) Where is Lady Lunchalot?

    Eating lunch at her desk.

    A big resolution this year is around saving money. I'm terrible for coming in and buying my lunch which tends to get expensive, even when I have nobody to meet for lunch. So I'm resolving on the days that I don't have a lunch date, I'm bringing my lunch in from home. Good for watching the calories, good for the wallet. I also want to try and keep my coffee purchases down to no more than two a week. There is a perfectly adequate coffee machine in most work places - where I am now there is - at my next job, if there isn't, I can bring in one of the many plungers I have lolling around in the kitchen with some ground coffee. Cost effective and I don't have to drink

    3) Sweet Poison be gone

    My sweet tooth is fairly legendary. It something I have to work at.

    In the diet and exercise area I want to look at eradicating as much sugar from my diet as well as keeping salt to a minimum. Sugar really is dreadful stuff. I've managed to get most of it out of my tea and coffee (throwing in a stevia tablet every now and then when I need one) But there is so much sugar in everything. And this is not counting the sugar in my ice cream addiction. So along with the bringing my lunches in, the slow, deliberate reduction of sugar from my life is on the cards. For anybody looking as to why I want to do this, read 'Sweet Poison' by David Gillespie. I want to give this a go. After a week of clean eating after Christmas I know how much better I'm feeling. This is not to say that there won't be slips - but like eradicating as much salt as possible for my blood pressure, I think sugar is the next thing to go.

    4) Twenty things away a day

    I have Jonella to thank for this one. I'm undeniably untidy, and I don't like it. I have been untidy all of my life. But I am clean. Floors are hoovered once or twice a week, the bathroom and toilet are cleaned weekly, my dishes are done daily, and my bed linen is not about to march away of its own accord. But I do have a lot of crap lying about the place.

    So in a vain effort to get on top of this I'm going to try to put twenty things away a day. I've done this for the first three days of the year and the place is already looking a little better. Along with this I have a heap of stuff to throw out, shred, put on ebay, donate to charity - you name it, I want to make some space and order in my life.

    5) Read more books

    I didn't do enough reading last year - reading the book group books and that was about it. Though the book group reading list is excellent this year, there is so much more to be read. Most of it is sitting in my book shelves.

    6) A proper holiday

    I need a holiday - a proper holiday. Bali and / or Thailand are on the cards for April. Maybe somewhere later in the year. We will see. This is all banking on me renewing my passport, which has to be done in the next week or so. Once I have the passport then I can start looking for the deal that will see me as a lady of leisure for a few weeks. (Other suggestions as to locations are welcome, but at the moment I'm focussing on a place with a pool where I can have a breakfast beer at 10 am.)  

      7) Wear Sunscreen  

     A few years ago my new year's resolution was to apply hand cream daily. I've kept this one up.   Now it's time to get serious about sunscreen on my face, hands and other places - 30+, broad spectrum. I'm not saying that I'm bad at sunscreen - I know that if I'm going out in the sun, it will go on no questions asked.  I've barely been sunburned in the last ten years, just a one memorable badly burnt bum when I was in Greece in 2003 was the last sun lashing received. Believe me, sunburned bums are no fun at all.

    I mean it's time to get really serious about putting on sunscreen on overcast days and when I'm walking into work, summer and winter. Making this all the more hard are the following facts. 1) My skin is sensitive - sunscreen often causes flare ups and irritations. There's only a few I can use.  2) I like being a little tanned - and I get a lick of sun and I go brown - doesn't mean I should be doing it. 3) I'm allergic to fake tan. Makes my skin break out in welts - it's horrible. Besides I'd look like an overgrown Oompa-Loompa in fake tan. There is nothing sexy about being orange.  

      8) Find a Partner

     I heard a very interesting quote on the Downton Abbey Christmas Special.  "Love and horse riding are similar. If you don't learn about them young they're frightfully difficult to master when you're older."

    It hit a few raw nerves.  

    Needless to say, I've a hell of a lot happier since I've shifted focus from what I don't have to what I do have. Which is a lot. A   Just saying, it would be lovely to have somebody around the place to share things with, do things with and to take turns in making a cup of tea in the morning. Just putting it out there. It's just a pity there isn't a shop where you can pick up a decent bloke. Unfortunately, the only decent forty something men tend to be taken. The rest aren't worth thinking about.

    I think that will do for the moment. I better find a few more things to put away.