Thursday, April 28, 2011

Kevins, Daves and the odd Hot Scouser

Oh, I'm back in an office. I'm back in an office which is predominantly staffed by men. Staffed by men who appear to hit all the stereotypes from every other office I appear to have worked in.

In some ways, it's comforting. I know the lay of the land. I know how to get about. My Project Manager asked me how I got some documents off this particularly difficult analyst and all I could say was, "Easy, Carey Fairy, talk to him like a five-year-old and he'll play nice. Promise him bread pudding and milo and he'll update your PMP." She smiled. I know she was making a mental note of that one.

Surely men are a bit more complex than these characters. I mean, the engineers at Tin Can, String and Whistle were easy to get around. Bake them a batch of biscuits and tell them "Oh, you're so clever." I got shelves fixed. blinds put up, the oil changed in my car. Amazing what a batch of yoyos and a bit of fake flattery will get you.

IT nerds in banks are a bit more difficult to quantify - but here you go.

This is what I'm working with at the moment. All names have been changed - of course. I've only been at Bastard Bank three weeks...

The Upper Class Twerp

Although Australia is perceived to be a classless society, we do have our social norms. Upper Class Twerp looks like he should be on the trading floor of Coutts and Co in London. Shove a bowler hat on his head and you could see him at Royal Ascot, hobnobbing with the landed gentry. Little Peregrine, Tarquin or Rupert is at the bank as a favour to Daddy. He's been through Trinity, Carey or Wesley (and how fetching he looked in purple) He speaks well. Don't try and read his documents - he can't write to save his life. At thirty, he still has shares in the mob who make Clearasil.


I'm sitting next to Ah-sole at the moment - even though we're hotdesking in our office, I always end up next to Ah-sole. I sorta have to have Ah-sole around me - but after three weeks, it seems Ah-sole knows nothing about the project and is grilling me - the word nerd - about what is going on and what he should be doing.

Arsehole - read the sodding documents yourself like everybody else!

Ah-sole, also known as Thommo, Robbo or Dwayne, has that not quite fresh look about him. His polyester shirt is never pressed, mind you, the girth of his stomach irons out a lot of the wrinkles. He makes bad jokes, He talks to his mates all day. He takes two hour lunches when you're on a tight deadline. Ah-sole talks when you're trying to concentrate an shuts up when you need something off him. Every office has one. Ah-sole should really be in the Public Service, but they probably kicked him out a few years ago.

The Hot Scouser

Why, oh why, oh why, does every office I work in have a Hot Scouser (bloke from Liverpool, U.K.)

I've always been a Scouse magnet (somebody who befriends people from Liverpool, U.K.) but in the last two offices we've had Scousers who are rather dishy. This office has a really dishy Scouser. Ah well, gives me something to daydream about as I populate my spreadsheet and think about hitting Ah-sole as he talks at ninety decibels to his wife.

Hot Scouser is invariably married, as only a married Scouser has most of the chinks ironed out - and Scousers are known to have many failings  - and his Missus probably insists he bathes daily - which is a good thing. Still, Hot Scouser is friendly, erudite, funny, unabashedly modest and a great drinking mate.

Very pleased to find we have this stereotype in the office. I think we'll be frieds.

Danger Dood

Every office has at least one Extreme Sports nut. In my last role, it was Reindert, who's running a 50 mile race over some strange mountain range on the weekend. This office we have a Canadian Import named Stu. Father of three, funny, a great laugh and normally has one limb injured on some way. Stu's training for an IronMan Triathalon. 4 kilometre swim, 180 kilometre bike ride and a full marathon in a day.

I have somebody who understands!

Eurotrash Intellectual

Our Danish import is going back to Denmark in a few weeks - which is a pity. Fred's a great bloke. Very, very, very smart. Too well dressed for his own good. Could easily be confused for a twelve year old if it wasn't for the wedding ring and his penchant for drinking Danger Dood under the table. Takes a bit to get to know and will condescend until he works out you have  either a brain or a sense of humour. The impats at Tin Can, String and Whistle were just the same.

The Subcontinental Mafia

If there is a testing crew on a project, odds on, at least half of the team will be from India.

The Subcontinental Mafia have many traits that you learn to love. They never appear in the office until ten a.m. They eat together. They talk to relatives in hushed Hindi tones that can be heard all over the office at all times of the day. They won't look you in the eye until you engage them in a real conversation - and bring up someting like "Ma'im nahim janthi " or "Tell me about your family." It works. You get your Test Plans on time. Sometimes you get past the quiet exterior and meet some lovely people.

The Asprirational Southern European

Also known as the Educated 2nd Generation Australian

Often Greek or Italian, Marco, Yanni or Miroslav have that cut of suit that screams Hong Kong. These guys are friendly, earnest, good at their work and you know that at the end of the day, they go home to Mum. They've been around the world. They've seen and done everything. They're smart and funny. And they still call Footscray and Carlton home. They bring in great treats after religious holidays.


Every office also needs a Trevor. Trevor can also be known as Kevin, Andrew, Donald or Alan (though Alan's always make the tea) Invariably older, often bald, normally with a bit of a pot belly, a cardigan hanging on the coat hook and a wife named Janet, Trevor knows everybody, knows where to source everything , knows how to find people and nobody knows exactly what he does. Another nice fellow, though a little on the dull side, staying around Trevor for too long will mean looking at photos of his last foray into the realms of his local Liberal Party luncheon or his kid's netball carnival.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Windowsill Bay

I cannot remember the last time I went away for a long weekend. Actually, other than going back to Adelaide to visit family, which doesn't count, I really cannot think of a time, ever, where I have gone somewhere when we have a three or four day break. I did go to Newcastle three years ago for the Queen's Birthday long weekend, but driving 1200 kilometres to see a friend in hospital, dropping in on Flora and my aging Aunt in Canberra on the way,  does not count as going away either.

That's a bit of a crap fact. Mind you, we never went away for long weekends when I was a kid. Mum was a nurse and was often working - and there was no money to go away.

This five day long weekend I'm spending at Windowsill Bay - or home as I like to call it. Nothing interesting at all - story of my life.

This all self-pity came out last night as I lay in bed trying to get back to sleep.

After a night at the Comedy Festival last night, breaking ranks on the 12wbt for a night, the toxins from the pear cider I'd drank kicked in around 4 am, I was lying in bed, pondering, wide awake and feeling a little strange - as you do.

I wont bore you with the navel gazing details of my insomniac mind - some of the stuff I was thinking about was making me a little morose. Nobody to go away with. A long weekend on my own. Boring, boring, really very boring. Pandora, you really are a really sad individual. Only thing you're good for is minding people's cats.

I'm aware that some of this is the toxins from the pear cider talking. Cider and I have a very tenuous relationship. I love the stuff, but the after effects are EVIL. Two pints of scrumpy used to have me on my back with my legs in the air singing, "Toucha, toucha, toucha, touch me, I wanna feel dirty...." I only had one bottle of this pear cider a few friends have been raving about. Lovely stuff, but after four months of literally no alcohol, I felt like a cess pit two hours before dawn. This eating clean regime has taken it's toll. Not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing.

Public holidays are a double edged sword for me. Though I'm relishing the time off work, I would love, just for once, to go somewhere and do something (with somebody, preferably of the male, cuddly kind).

Okay, this Easter I've had stuff on, mainly centred around exercise. I've boxed, pumped, walked, had coffee, seen a show at the Comedy Festival and drank pear cider. I'm visiting friends, doing the 1000 Steps and finishing some admin stuff the for the consultancy tomorrow and Tuesday.  I don't have the funds to go away at the moment. Besides, I have two day trips to Sydney in the next three weeks - I can't complain about not seeing the inside of an airport for an age.

But for once, just once, I would like to have a long weekend where I go somewhere and do something different. Something nice. Something special. Something that has great memories attached - not wheeling your mate around a Novocastrian Hospital in a wheelchair or talking to a friend's cat (Did that today. While Glen Waverley and Merijn are away, I'm feeding their cat and making use of their wonderful bath tub - the cat likes the company, I like the use of a tub - and splashing the cat is fun).

Well the next long weekend is six weeks away - the Queen's Birthday weekend.

It's still strange - the British do not get a day off for the Queen's Birthday. We Australians, who have the Queen on our coinage and that is about the extent of her role in our daily life - we get a public holiday for her birthday in June (even though her birthday is in April - go figure)

Maybe that's something to plan and get sorted. Maybe a spa trip to Daylesford. A wine tasting trip up to Rutherglen. Take the car across to Tassie where Barney's Dad can teach me to sail....

There's lots of things that could be done. It just needs to be organised.

Just wish the cuddly male could be organised as well.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Pandora the Pugilist

In my drive to do new things this year, I did another one today. Boxing class.

This Easter all I have officially planned is meeting my friend Felicity (or Flick as I call her) and her kids at a playground tomorrow for a go on the seesaw and a coffee as well as going round to Blarney and Barney's on Monday - that's all that's planned anyway.

Today, however, I got to do something new. Something that I used to love but haven't had an inroad to for a while. Something guaranteed to put a smile of my face. Something I know that I haven't done for years but used to love.


The girls on the 12WBT programme had been telling me about this boxing place for weeks. "Ah, you'll love Tommy!", "It's just up your alley, Pand, get in there." Those sorts of comments. However, normally being held on a Saturday morning, often when I have meditation - and out near the 1000 Steps in Ferntree Gully - there was little chance of me going.

However, today, being Good Friday, and not being religious, I thought a charity boxing event would be a good thing to do. Thankfully, this boxing place was having a 90 minute boxing circuit for charity session. $10 all of which was going to the Good Friday Appeal for the Royal Children's Hospital. Can't say no to that!

Earlier in the week, I mentioned this to Flick. A mother of two, she gets little time to herself - but I asked her if she'd like to come along. She agreed, saying she'd always wanted to try boxing and her husband would be home to look after the kids. Okay, I said, pick her up from her place at nine, be there for 9.30. All good.

I didn't tell Flick that after doing my first boxing class some 15 years ago, I was sore for three days and slept close on eleven hours after that class. It was my biggest fitness wake up call ever.

The not so stupid thing was that that class spurned me on to go boxing three times a week, get my fitness on track and start taking things further. I love boxing. It's fast, its furious, it's fun - and it gets you fitter quicker than almost any other exercise. In London, after three years of it, I was training with one of Lennox Lewis's old trainers in Camden. It was the fittest I've ever been (though I'm getting close to that now)

We rocked up with about 200 others for this charity bash. The boxing studio, not much more than a tin shed that smelled of linament, sweat and aging leather was reminiscent of the old "blood on the mat, blokes only" boxing gym I trained at in London. They all smell the same - they all look the same. It's wonderful! Once ushered into the shed, we got straight into it - after signing a disclaimer and gloving up.

It was utterly brilliant! 90 minutes of constant pounding. Jabs, crosses, hooks, uppercuts - push ups, sit ups, squats. SO COOL!

Working with Flick, who's never boxed in her life, was actually a good thing. It kept me from going completely feral. I had to pull my punches a little. I also got to help her by giving her some tips on technique and calm a few of the instructors moves for her (i.e. squats instead of burpees - I don't do burpees - why should she?)

Flick love it - I loved it. What a stunning morning! After saying goodbye to the 12wbt crew and having a decent stretch back at the car, we went home - pretty tired, a little sore and feeling very good about ourselves.

I have a photo of myself and Nicole from the 12wbt from today. This is the after shot - and I reckon we look FANTASTIC! (Thanks for the photo, Nicole - your son is a great photographer.)
Check out the focus pads! (those things on the end of my hands)

Oh, I have a thing when boxing - I have to wear my most confronting t-shirts. This one is a gym favourite. It reads "The beatings will continue until morale improves." I'm also aware that I'm wearing a knee brace, strapping around my left calf (small strain, nearly resolved) and my rings are placed in my bra where they can't get caught in gloves. The joys of fitness.

I so hope to do this again - and soon!

Getting home, I turned around, went over to Glen Waverley and Merijn's to feed their cat and have a long, hot, lectric soda bath. Lectric soda bath? Poor man's radox. Go to the laundry aisle of the supermarket, it's about two dollars a bag. Half a cup of it mixed with a few drops of lavender oil and sprinkle into a hot bath to get rid of all your aches and pains. It really works.

I'm sitting here now feeling great. I'm sure my lats and arms are going to sting tomorrow. It's a great feeling.

I just wander if Flick will still be talking to me tomorrow. If my first response to boxing is anything to go by.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Just Chubby

Project Pandora Report Day 63

Current weight - 84.2 kgs Weight lost on the 12wbt - 8 kgs in nine weeks.

A milestone was reached yesterday. BMI 29.

I am no longer listed as the medically obese.

You probably don't get what this means to me. I've been overweight all my life - obese for most of it. Life became a numbers game many years ago.

Being honest - it's horrible. It's the elephant in the room. But being fat really sucks.

To get a bit of perspective on this, being overweight is one of the most exclusionary states of being. Some of this is down to your own attitude. Some of it is society's perceptions.

Most people who've been overweight can relate to some of the following scenarios.

You get told to lose weight by all and sundry - doctors, friends, family - it's out there. I've spent time with doctors telling me to get tested for Cushings Syndrome, thyroid. etc. It's humiliating.

Then there's the non-medical stuff - which is harder to cope with. There are comments about your size in the street - on the tram - being confused for being pregnant and people offering you a seat (that's happened on a number of occasions). You don't want to get on planes for the knowledge that your stomach won't fit in front of the tray table. You pant as you go up stairs. There are only a small number of shops in which you can buy clothes. You don't feel comfortable in your own skin. Intimacy doesn't come easily. Why would you want anybody to touch you if you don't like your own body? Nothing fits right. You keep a wardrobe of varying sizes - as you grow out of things, you need more clothes (and vice versa).

I'm being blunt  - but being overweight really sucks badly.

But now, the doctors, the friends, the family have less to moan about. Hell, I have less to complain about. I have a BMI of 29. I'm no longer obese.

There are some who've said to me "But you're not that big. You're muscly. It's okay, that's just you." Thing it's the thing I've hated about myself for most of my life. It's only in the last two years I've started to like my body. Running has helped bring on a sense of acheivement and pride in my fitness. Working with Pinochet and the girls at the gym has brought on a sense of real physical strength.

The 12wbt girls remind me daily that I'm not alone in this battle, which is part of the reason why this has been such a different, enriching and rewarding journey. I've made some great mate on this ride.

I like to think of my current state as chubby. Chubby with chook legs as my dear friends
have pointed out.

It's also been put to me that I probably should go and get a DEXA scan - and see what my body is comprised of - as it probably will be more muscle than fat. But I know where the fat is. Me and my remedial masseur are the only people who see me naked. Pinochet has a poke about my limbs and torso every so often as well - but that's just to correct what ever I'm doing wrong with the barbell or whatever else he has me hoiking over my head.

The fat is really going. Even I can see it now. And it is WONDERFUL!

My back and stomach are flatter. My blood pressure is down to normal. I have more energy. Clothes fit. I need to buy new underwear as it's falling off. My trenchcoat, which I once couldn't do up - is massive. I can buy clothes off the rack.

I think this is a far better state to be in.

I appear to be fitting in far more easily now. I'm more confident in my appearance. I feel attractive (though I'm still waging a pitch with my stomach.) I don't feel big any more.

No more panting up stairs (unless taken in groups of ten flights at a run). No more tiredness.

For the first time in years, I'm feeling incredibly proud of myself.

And I'm making the vow here - to never, ever, let my weight get back into that obese zone again. I know how easy it is.

But now I have the tools, support and knowledge to to keep things in check.

I'm going to be in the "just chubby" state for a while. To get down the a BMI of 25 or less is 15 kilograms away. I want to do it - but I have no time table. It will happen. I have half marathons to run, friendships to foster, new clothes to buy...

At the moment I'm thrilled that I've got through this milestone.

However, as I was telling a dear friend tonight - ever onward.

For my getting under 80 kilograms reward I want to go up to Sydney and climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I hope some friends will come with me. I know that Amy, from the inspirational "Aim to Change" will be with me. We've got a pact - I get under 80 by August, she loses her 100 kilograms - up the bridge we go.

These things have to be celebrated.


Monday, April 18, 2011

The Borrowed MeMe (with short answers)

I've stolen this off the Plastic Mancunian. Memes are good when your brain is fried but you know you want to write.

1. Tell us who the last person was that you showered with.
Do I have to?  Mind you, I should be pleased I was showering with him - at least I knew he was clean then. He liked the water about ten degrees cooler than I did - wuss.

2. Tell us about your favorite tee-shirt. Extra points if you show a pic. (We know. What can you do with freakin' extra points?)

I have a pink t-shirt with the word "GEEK" emblazoned across the front in big letters. I wear it on fun runs. I wear it a lot - it always gets comments.

Photo attached - apologies for the maniacal smile - was taken afer my first fun run - I was pretty happy. Where are my extra points?

3. Has anyone ever hit on you even though they knew you were taken?
Never been taken, but have been hit on occasionally.

4.  Do you plan what to wear the next day?
During the week when I have to go to work, yes. Stops me having to think in the morning. Can climb into the clothes after the shower in the morming. Easy.

5. How are you feeling RIGHT now? Why?
A bit tired and a bit sore. Two hours in a darkened, airless room talking about computer processes will do the tired to you. Sore from yesteday's 14 kilometre run - but it's not bad sore. More a "I know I've done some work and I'll be fine after a walk and a stretch" sore.

6. What's the closest thing to you that's black?
My bra. It's next to my skin.

7. Tell me about an interesting dream you remember having.
I was dreaming about American power outlets in a grey metal the other day. I'm in Kabbalistic dream group - I remember lots of funny dreams.

8. Did you or might you meet anybody new today?
Other than the odd random shop person, no, no meaningful new people were met. Yesterday was far better for meeting people.

9. If you could be doing anything right now (or perhaps after you finish this ridiculous meme)what would it be?
I would do Clive Owen. That's easy.

However, I will probably make some eggplant (aubergine) parmigiana and then go to bed.

10. Do you floss?
Yes, but I should do it more

11. What comes to mind when I say China?
Big wall that can be seen from space. Dumplings. Mao suits. Dead men stacked three on three in a boat on a stormy sea (dream reference - it's never left me).

12. Are you overly emotional?
I am emotional. I can be overly emotional, but I'm able to keep things in check for the most part.

13.If you could listen to just one rock album (CD, vinyl or mp3) which one would you pick ?
I think I'd like to revisit "Tommy". It's been over a decade.

14. Do you bite into your ice cream or just lick it?
A bit of both.

15. Do you like your car?
Yes, but Andrew is hopefully going to be replaced in the next few months. He's getting a bit long in the tooth.

16. Do you like yourself?
Yes. It's only taken me 40 years to be able to say that sincerely.

17. Would you go out to eat with Charlie Sheen?
Eat, yes. Drink, no. I'm not a bad drinker - but he takes the biscuit - and hell knows where the tequila shooters would lead to....

18. What was the last song that you listened to?
"Ghosts" by Laura Marling

19. Are (or were) your parents strict?
In some respects yes, overly so. In other ways, no.

20. Have you ever wondered what attending a wild orgy (if only to watch or...) would be like?
For five minutes every few years. Doesn't really float my boat. Unless Clive Owen was there.

21. I say cottage cheese. You say:
Ewwwwww. Gross. Get me a bucket please, I'm going to be sick. Hate the stuff.

22. Have I ever met a celebrity?I stole a cigarette of Jeremy Clarkson in a restaurant many years ago in London - back when I smoked and lived in London.

23. What was the last movie that you watched at home?
"City Island", with Andy Garcia and Juliana Marguiles. Wonderful film - very underated.

24. Is there anything sparkly in the room you're in?
The covers of my Artemis Fowl books. They're all sparkly - and a great read!

25. What countries have you visited?
England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, New Zealand, France, Spain, The Netherlands, Greece, Italy, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Germany (though only passed through on a train), USA. Not sure if Tasmania counts - it's a law unto itself.

26. Have you ever made a phone call while you were drunk that you've regretted? If yes, do tell.
Yes, but I don't remember. It only came up in my call log the next day. I was told that I was piss funny and rather pointed amd insistant in my requests.

27. Where were you going the last time that you were on a train?
I was going to the Run for the Kids on Sunday. Amazingly, it was the first time in six years of living in this flat that I had got on the train at my local station. I normally take the tram.

28. Bacon or sausage?

29. How long have you had a cell-phone?
I think I bought my first mobile phone sometime in the mid 1990’s while I was in London. It was the size of a standard house brick.

30. What other memes do you do regularly?
Only the ones I steal of the Plastic Mancunian and Kath from "Blurb from the Burbs".

31. Who is the craziest meme host?
I dunno - I love what the Plastic Mancunian has to say about things in his memes.

32. Who invented chop sticks?
Where has that google "I'm feeling lucky" button gone when you need it? Somebody Chinese I suppose!

33. Who are you going to be with tonight?
Just me. And Clive Owen - in my dreams.

34. Are you too forgiving?
Probably. Though I'm hardening up in my old age and I take far less crap from people now.

35. When was the last time that you were in love?
About three years ago. Would rather not think about that.

36. Tell us about your best friend.
Blarney is Irish, with blue eyes, dark curly hair, a fantastic, practial black and white to my big shade of grey. Mother of twins, forever upbeat - and she lends me her second prize possession - her cat, Maow Maow. The best of friends lend you their cats.

37. What was the stupidest thing you learned in high school?
The first person subjunctive case of the verb etre in French is "fus" - like who uses the subjunctive in conversational French? The rules of tennis and how to make a roux come close behind.

38. What was the last thing that you cried about?
Friday night I had a panic attack. It lasted a few minutes, but I cried then. And the last five minutes of the film "Barney's Version". Saw it a fortnight ago. Bawled myself stupid - wonderful film - Paul Giamatti is a genius.

39. What was the last question you asked?
"What's wrong with being a Crows supporter?"

40. Favorite thing to do this time of the year?
Kick piles of leaves. Cuddle up under the duvet. Run in the drizzle. Wear a coat. Watch the ANZAC Day parade (this year I want to go to dawn service, not just watch it on telly.)

41. If you had to get a (or another) tattoo, what would it be?
I've been threatening to get the World Wildlife Panda tattooed on my bum next to the very small Chinese symbol for love which is already there. It's been threatened for years. I won't do it. But I think about it.

42. How would your best friend describe you?
Kind, nuts, smart, loyal, affectionate (I mind her kids and cat a bit - smother them with cuddles and kisses - that's why I say the last one)

43. Have you ever seen all three Twilight films?
Yes. The first and third were okay - just okay. The second one needs to get drowned with that cat book we read for book group this month.

I'm not looking forward to the fourth film - possibly the worst book I've read in the last ten years - second only to that cat book. Renesmee - like sheesh - get me a sledgehammer so I can destroy the mormon's word processor.

44. Ever walked into a glass door?
No, but I've laughed as my dear old blind dog did every so often.

45. Favorite color on that person that you are attracted to?
Scarlet. Blue comes a close second.

46. Have you ever slapped someone?
Yes. But I was twelve at the time.

47. What hair style (for you) would you like to see return?
The Farrah Fawcett flick. I have boofy eighties hair - it works well for me.

48. What was the last CD you bought?
Ben Lee's "Awake is the New Sleep."

49. Do looks matter to you?
To a point. They're nothing without intelligence, a sense of humour and personality.

50. Could you ever forgive a liar?
Depends on how big the lie is. White lies fine - anything bigger - probably no.

51. What's the hardest bill to pay every month?
Effing Telstra. Same service - just keeps on going up and up and up. Telcos suck - no matter who they are.

52. Do you like your life right now?
It's not too bad at the moment. Going through a heap of changes - which is good. Gotta love change.

53. Do you sleep with the TV on?
I will fall asleep with the telly on, but I tend to wake and turn it off after half an hour of sleeping. I never wake to find it on anyway.

However, when overseas, I tend to keep the telly on low at night when staying in hotels. It helps me  retain language (and makes me feel not so alone).

54. Can you handle the truth?
Most of the time.

55. Do you have good vision?
It's getting better. I'm slightly short-sighted but it's correcting with age.

56. Do you hate or dislike more than 3 people?
I don't hate people. There are more than three people I wouldn't piss on if they were on fire, but it doesn't mean I hate them - I just don't care for them at all. They don't number that many. Tony Abbott and John Howard front the list.

57. How often do you talk on the phone?
Two or three times a day on average.

58. What celeb would you like to come home to?
Clive Owen

59. What are you wearing?
Black t-shirt, leggings, bra and undies - standard after work wear.

60. What is your favorite wild animal?
Rather fond of tigers and pandas and lions. I'd love to have a lion! Meerkats are fun to watch at the zoo too.

61. Where was your facebook picture taken?
Where I'm sitting at the moment. On my iPhone in front of my book cases. It's my avatar for this blog too.

62. Can you waltz?
No. I have a fear of dancing which is almost as strong as my fear of falling and my fear of intimacy.

63. Do you have a job?
Yes. By day I'm a  consulting technical writer at Bastard Bank. Out of hours I'm a holistic healer, tarot reader, writer, reiki healer and reflexologist. Love having a portfolio career.

64. What was the most recent thing you stole?
Stationery from Tin Can, String and Whistle. It's not really stealing - I grew very attached to that stapler over the three years I was there. We have a bond.

65. Have you ever crawled through a window?
As I child I remember doing that. But I can pick locks now so I don't need to.

Right, to make eggplant parmigiana and go to bed now.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

The New Religion

I gave back my Christian ticket many, many years ago. I have nothing against Christians - or any organised religion for that matter. I have many Christian beliefs (other than the central tenet that Jesus Christ is my personal saviour), I believe in God or something higher out there, but I can't do the Jesus thing - it's never really sat well with me. I don't insist people believe what I believe - how boring would that be.

Today, I pledge allegiance to a new religion. A way of life that appears to make me happy, controlled, content, driven, striving always to be better. A religion that gives back just as much as you put it - if not more. A religion that will not fail you. It will test you, batter you, make you want to give up on it just as much as it will nuture you, strenghten you and make you feel whole.

My new religion is running.

Most of you know that I'm a novice runner. I truly am a novice. I started running at the age of 40. Slowly and surely, I built my running up. I started on the couch potato to 5 kilometre plan, then went from there - albeit very slowly.

Stupidly, bouyed along by my dear friend Reindert, I participated in the Adelaide Half Marathon in August 2009, run/ walking the 21.1 kilometers in two hours and forty minutes. I say stupidly as it was only in the May 2009 that I ran my first four kilometre run  - the Mother's Day Classic, which I trained up for with Emm from the gym.

Last year, I did the Run for the Kids in March - a hot day, I'd taken a break from training - 14.38 kilometres in an hour and 53 minutes. I ran the eight kilometre Mother's Day Classic last year with Kitt - dragging her round the Tan track in a few seconds over an hour. The Williamstown Half Marathon was the pinnacle of my current running career - 21.1 kilometres in just over 2.5 hours. I was absolutely stoked at the acheivement.

Then I got sick - and injured, needed surgery - and running had to take a back seat until earlier this year.

Well, today, it was Run for the Kids day once again. Kitt and I entered early, both of us intending to train. I did - Kitt's circumstances changed and she didn't. I was also aware of a nagging knee injury - it's not been totally right since I went trail running with Reindert in October. New shoes, lots of weights and being very kind to it has strengthened the leg, but it's still problematic. I was limping on the treadmill on Tuesday night. Walking is fine. I've been keeping it strapped at work, doing lots of stretches - it's still not quite right, but it's  calming down.

So this morning, at 7.30, Trin, my new running partner, friend and all around good chick, as well as two others, Kel and Peta, from the 12wbt posse left from my place for the race. All of us were doing the 14.38 kilometre course. Kell is training to be a personal trainer - and she's known as "the Whippet". Peta's not far behind her. Trin and I know we run about the same pace, but with my knee, and Trin having a bout of food poisoning earlier in the week, we had a plan - no time constraints (though under two hours would be good), and run the first five kilometres, after which, run three minutes, walk two for the rest of the course.

We lined up with the other 33,000 people doing the run - the gun goes off, the timer gets set on the heart rate monitor as I cross the blue mats of the start line - and there we go.

I know of no other activity that makes me so happy. I love timed street runs - when else to you get to run on the road and not get into trouble? I love the camaraderie of big races. I love the giveaways you get at the end. I love that really, though you may be surrounded by many, you're on your own. It's just you and the road.

Trin and I sort of deserted the plan. We ran the first six kilometres, then averaged a run five, walk two intervals until the end. Trin is a superlative running companion. She has doof doof music in her earphones and keeps shuffling away. Me - I don't do things in my ears, so I just go wandering off with the fairies, looking at the scenery, avoid the stupid walkers and strollers who get in the way, occasionally throwing Trin an encouraging word or two - she really is incredible. I loved knowing she was nearby, but felt no need to talk to her all the way.

The first amazing thing for me - I can run and talk very easily. I don't even get that breathless. I know I'm breathing a bit heavier, but I'm not out of breath. That is sooooooooo cool. Secondly. I had to concentrate on my foot strike to ensure my knee held up. Heel, toe, heel, toe, keep your foot even. It appeared to work. A very cool mantra.

Today's route took us through the Domain Tunnel, down the Westgate Freeway, over the Bolte Bridge, through the Docklands and back through the streets to the Botanical Gardens.

Trin and I stopped at the top of the Bolte to take a photo or two.

Please note the soppy smile on my face. I'm have to admit to being truly, incomprehensively happy. (I'm also checking out my deltoid definition...)

I also realise that if we didn't stop to take these, our time would be about two minutes faster...

Coming through the Docklands I was pulling up well - Trin was starting to flag. There was a rousing three hundred meters where they were pumping out "Eye of the Tiger" on permanent replay - which stirred me on.
After what is known as "The Last Bastard Hill" just at the top of Bourke Street, it was all down hill. Trin was struggling, but I kept her in my sight - we'd done this together - we'd finish it together.

This is part of the runner's code. If you desert your partner, make sure you have it known you may do it. If not, don't let your partner down.

Then there is nothing better than the last few hundred meters. The 14 kilometre sign was just outside the art gallery. 400 metres to go. Trin was a bit behind me, but not that far. I upped the pace a little. There was still a bit in the tank.

An hour and 46 minutes later - I pass the finish line. A clear seven minutes faster than last year - my knee still carrying me, and really, not breathless - breathing hard and steady, but no breathless.

Nothing in my life gives me more joy, more pride, more self-esteem than running. I know Trin and I ran at around a pace of 7.20 per kilometre - it's fine. I'm not a fast runner. I'm slowly getting faster, but I am not fast. I never will be. But I'm consistent. And strong. And determined. And able. Words I'd never use to describe myself until I found running.

However, I am a runner. Long may I remain one. The road is my church. My shoes and heart rate monitor my bible. The others who run with me, in front of me, behind me and most importantly next to me, a part of my brethren. How cool is that!

I am one of those mad people who pounds the pavements, gets sweaty, trundles along looking concerned and joyous all at once.

I am at my very happiest when I'm running.

What more can you ask for from a religion?


(p.s. The Catholic patron saint of running is Saint Sebastian - a pretty youth, shot full of arrow, looking skyward thinking, "What the hell am I doing?")

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Surprising Side to Weight Loss

Tonight's session with Pinochet was one of those pivotal ones you don't see coming.

Firstly, the thought of pumping weights after a day of work - nah. It wasn't on. To race home, bolt some food, change and get to the gym. Nup. Not interested. And to share the session with somebody. Nup, don't want to. Stick out the bottom lip and stamp the feet. Thats about all I was up for.

Somehow, I did all of this, getting myself to the gym, noticing that my blue training top is getting baggier. Hmm.

It's been hard sticking to the program for the last ten days. Being sick made exercise impossible. Starting work meant getting my head around the new schedule, something I'm still trying to do. And I'd forgot how tiring this work stuff can be. I know it will get easier when I've got my head back in the game- but still, I turned up and begged him to let me see him Saturday instead. I was told it wasn't an option - now was it.

Bah - I wanted to go home and curl up in front of Heston Blumenthal.

An hour later, I came out feeling great, well trained, well massaged and feeling so much better.

Surprising factoid number one: I'm now a person who needs exercise. It's more than something I do when I feel like it - I feel better when I get at least four reasonably intense workouts in a week. Who'd a thunk it?!

In the past two days, the most exercise I'd had was a walk to the post office box - about a kilometre round trip. A little mortifying for somebody who's being doing 1-2 hours a day for the last three months. I was feeling flat.

Pinochet saw it differently. He said to JFDI (our current 12wbt motto) and I'd perk up.  He can't get over the changes in my body. He worked me firmly, but gently - and after the hour 400 calories were chalked up on my heart rate monitor. He had me doing all of these strange isometric exercises. Isolating deep tissue muscles. Squatting down to inches from the floor (body weight squats). About ten minutes in I kicked my shoes off. Don't ask me to stand on one foot in runners. It made all the difference. I was humming along wonderfully.

Now we're concentrating on deep fitness and deep toning. My heart can pump at 150 beats a minute and I don't get breathless. We do short, sharp ballistic interval stuff and deep muscle toning. It's a bit of a revelation.

And to make matters more fun - I needed to get new training shoes.

You can't do the exercises we do in runners. Runners are for running. They're padded and control rolling and just don't give you floor stability.

So on ebay tonight I sourced a pair of Vibrams:
What you cry! They're ugly!

Actually, they're sensible - they let me go "barefoot" at the gym. Allegedly, they're good for running in to. And I have fetching red and black ones - not the ugly commando style ones...

Still a result. Pinochet was going on about how he's on to getting my posture better, working the deep muscles under my lats and getting things to move better. It's quite cool.

Surprising revelation number two. Finally, I'm really liking my body. It's still a work in progress, but its really getting there. The back fat is going. The stomach is receding. I have a jawline! And collarbones.

I let myself get photographed. I look at myself in the mirror now.

For somebody who's avoided both of these activities over the last forty years, it's pretty amazing. And surprising.

I'm loving this part of the journey.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Similar Shit, Different Acronyms

Well, I survived my first day at Bastard Bank. I survived and I've come away from the day knowing that I should be alright there for the next three months. The natives appear friendly, by the end of the day I had a laptop, I've read half a forest of documents with another one waiting for me to read in the morning. The woman I'm working closely with appears to be lovely - no psycho bells are going off, and my direct manager appears human. Can't ask for more than that. Even better, both the BA and the PM explain the acronyms. It's not quite as bad as Tin Can, String and Whistle was, but it's up there. I work in IT - you have to learn to deal with acronyms.

Like Tin Can, String and Whistle, I have two sets of timesheets to fill in. However this time there is one for the consultancy and one for Bastard Bank.

I don't have a desk. I'm on a hot desking floor. I have a locker key and been told to be in for 8.30 secure a possie with the team. At the end of the day, my laptop, the forest of documents, my water bottle, stationery and anything else I possess gets tucked into my locker for the night.

My building pass will be collected tomorrow morning.

I also have an email account. I thought it funny that they didn't check for my middle initial before setting me up. I love receiving my new company email addresses. I'm . Thing is, my middle name starts with a T. (T is for the...) I reckon they've given middle initial of A, because A is for Awesome...

It's only day one, but I'm pleased to be there. I left at the end of the day feeling a little more confident. Though I always swore I'd never go back to a bank, particulary Bastard Bank. But I'm not pushing payments, I'm not looking after options traders, the work isn't going to be mind numbing - I'm there in a completely different capacity. I'm once again the token word nerd - but a well paid word nerd with expertise in all sorts of other things. I'm still a bit in shock of the fact that I understand what the project wants to do. Seems the banking stuff is more ingrained than I thought.

Well off to bed now - the major challenge for me now is to get the exercise in. Today was a fail - Got out too late and it was tipping down - barely made it home to scoff some baked beans before dream group.

From now on, early starts, walk in, leave earlier.

It's going to be okay.

Now let's hope there are no more dreams of powerpoints...

Monday, April 11, 2011

Goodbye, Freedom

Tomorrow is my last day of "unemployment" for a while.

And I'm already mourning the loss of my perceived freedom - like I know after tomorrow,I'm going to have to get up at a certain time, exercise at certain times, be under flourescent lights all day, sitting on my bum writing all day, putting up with egos over every shape and size.

I am relishing the fact that money will be coming back into the account as well. I like that I might get to replace my car in the next few months and get a few more assets to my name. It will be great to meet some new people, it will be great to be in a routine.

Just before lunch I'll go in to the new office, pick up my new work laptop, fill in some forms and get to learn about the time sheeting systems (joy). We'll go to the gym before this, meet somebody for lunch after, maybe got to pump in the evening, and that will be it. No more sleeping late (not that I've really done this) 15 kilometre walks on Mondays, endless coffees or hanging out at the career consultants.

Replacing my loose schedule will be strict time tables, meetings and pondering how I'm going to get my legs waxed and see Blarney and the Maow Maow on the same day.

Ah, it will do me good.

I never made it to the Immigration Museum, Heide, the Galleries and various other places. The interior doors in my flat never got painted.

But I'm 13 kilograms lighter and a lot fitter than I was at the start of the year. This is what I'm concentrating on.

These three months have been a revelation in that way. Though there is part of me that think this time has been wasted, it's really been the time of my life.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

In Bed with Donald Draper

My little present to myself for getting a job was the fourth series of Mad Men. A favorite television show of mine that is just a bit too cool for its own good. The classic styling, the outdated modes of life, the excess, indulgences and sheer arrogance, effrontery and bloody mindedness of the characters - it's absolutely brilliant.

The main character, Don Draper, is an enigma. Classic tall dark and handsome looks, a brain, a heart which is shown occasionally - absent father, unfaithful husband, army deserter, he's a finely groomed, well manicured, straight man to John Slattery's Roger Stirling, January Jones as his ice queen ex-wifre and his ever faithful lapdog Peggy, played by Elisabeth Moss (one episode that concentrated on Don and Peggy reduced me to tears - superlative episode)

The goings-on at the Madison Avenue ad agency in the sixties are enough to make you laugh and cringe in equal measure. The sexist nature of the men, the way women are perceived, how everybody smoked and drank - ALL THE FREAKING TIME, how children are raised, the outdated notions - it's just all spot on - and amazingly well done. And some of it reminds me of elements of my childhood.

The costumes, props, scenery, scripts - all excellent.

So this morning, feeling rather pale from an evening of excess, I spent the morning watching a few episodes, mourning the fact that Maow Maow has been returned to Blarney and Barney and bemoaning the harsh treatment Pinochet had done on my shoulders.

Watching Don Draper, played to perfection by Jon Hamm, so many questions come to the fore. Such a complex characters. The pathos with which he is written is amazing. The subtle differences between his attitudes and those of the other men in the advertising agency are exquisitely produced.

I'm enjoying this series of Mad Men more than the others. For one, Don has taken up swimming. That's added to the enjoyment factor.

Yet the questions that come to mind are strange whilst watching this show.

For one, would Don Draper smell like my Dad used to, with the brilliantine in his hair and his starched collars?

Surely people had a clue about children playing in dry cleaning bags and picking up their rubbish after a picnic.

And of course, how is it these men get away with the sex lives that they have. How don't they all have a decent dose of the clap?

Which brings me back to my biggest question about Don Draper. Surely a man who drinks and smokes that much, in his late thirties, with his stress levels - surely he can't swim laps like he does? That has to be a stunt double. Also, and more perplexing and important, for a man who is never without a 16 mg tar encrusted fag in his mouth and a full glass of Canadian Club in his hand, there is no whay, ever that he could maintain an erection to carry on with women in such a way? Anybody who smoked and drank that much would surely be a dud. Besides, whisky and fag breath - eeewwwww.

This is the biggest improbability to what is otherwise a brilliantly executed show.

I've been having some fun thoughts.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

How to Get into Trouble

Okay, you ask me to make a birthday cake for a dinner party - of course I'm going to do it - I love baking.

So, after a week of indecision, I get a recipe from a book - no one cup wonders for this cake (I make a very good chocolate cake with a cup of this and that).

The cake gets made from scratch - filled with real chocolate and walnuts and Drambuie soaked sultanas and the like - it's a lovely gourmet chocolate cake - recipe thanks to Gabriel Gate. Going by what I tasted from licking the bowl and beaters yesterday, it's going to be great!

Then I come home from meditation and ice it. Made the icing from scratch - the icing recipe I've been using since I started making chocolate cakes when I was ten-years-old.

So, I've made the birthday cake. It's for Pete's forty somethingth birthday. All I know is that Pete - an ex-workmate, is somewhere a few years older than me. And of course, it's not a birthday cake without smarties on it. One of the rules of birthday cakes is that they are decorated with smarties.

Therefore I think this is apt.

What's the bet I get into trouble?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Instinct vs Reason

By rights, you turn up to an interview in business casual, hair doing it's best impersonation of an eighties hard rock band bassist, no make up, arriving fifteen late - you're not going to get a job. Not in corporate Australia.

Then you give the guy interviewing you your best agency schpeil - not the soft spoken, "I'm  a hard core, ambitious professional with balls of steel" line. No, you talk beer, bribery, the fact that the difference between banking and telecommunications is that the former has more wankers in suits and that you want to be the next JK Rowling is in your five year plan. And you use those words.

Nah, you're not going to be employed by this company. Reason tells you that you've blown your chances.

Stupid thing, I walked out of that interview with a fire in my gut. Just a little match flame - but so be it. The instinct had kicked in. I liked these people. After umpteen interviews, rarely do you meet people you think you can work with. This company appeared to have this edge. The people I've spoken too don't appear to be to overly up themselves. Actaully, they appear quite normal, well adjusted, fun and sane - then again, this is coming from me - tarot reading, weirdo chick.

The story with the company doesn't end with this first interview.

I sat the company's Business Analyst test a few days later - and passed. Amazing what boning up on use cases can do.

I met with another person at the company a few weeks later. She tells me I'm too expensive, but you get on well. Nice lady. Sensible shoes. We'd get on.

Then I hear nothing from them. And I think "Of course I'll hear nothing from them - they think I'm a nutcase with Michael Bolton's former hair".

Well, as of Wednesday I'm employed as a contractor by this company. They're shoving me into one of the Big Four Banks as a word nerd for the next three months.

For those outstide Australia, four banking institutions have a monopoly on the finances of Australia. Arsehole Bank, Bastard Bank, Cactus Bank and Dipshit Bank as they will be known in this blog from now on. To be honest, they're all much of a muchness. They're banks. The "w" is silent.

For me the words bank and work have been mutually exclusive for five years. I swore I'd never go back to a bank back office - EVER. However, I'm going to Bastard Bank in a completely different capacity. I'm going in as a consultant word nerd.

Word nerd? Documentation and Technical writing specialist. I prefer word nerd or geek liaison.

Yes, that is what I do. I translate geek into business - and at other times, business into geek. Working on a large technical project, the initial three months could span into the new year and beyond if they like me - but for the moment, it's a well paid, three month contract, where I can get my bum in the door, do some good stuff, get some docs written and see where it goes from there.

In the IT space I'm a bit of a rarity. My Mum still says that I do something with computers - but really, I write for a living. I write boring technical and corporate documents, but I do write for a living.

Something that not many of the class of 2002 Diploma of Professional Writers and Editors can say.

So there, my instincts were right. In this three months process of looking for a job, this was the company my gut said would be the one. It's well cool.

So, in the next four days I have some stuff to do.

On the list there are the following:

Find a new super fund
Return the cat
Ice Pete's birthday cake and resist the urge to spell out "Old Git" in smarties on the top.
Go to the gym a lot
See Pinochet
Go to meditation
See a tarot client
Maybe find something that fits to wear to work
Go for lunch with Glen Waverley
See Jaspal and Popeye for coffee
Scope out the Pandora Beads for my bracelet (the reward for the star calender challenge) that I'll be able to afford soon which I've put off buying
Arrange a service for the car

And if I find a spare hour or two, maybe make that promised trip to the Immigration Museum, Rippon Lea and Heide - three places I promised myself I would go on this time off.

I'm a bit concerned that my 12wbt commitment will slip from Friday - but I have a feeling the posse will keep me in line. I have to keep this up - it's going too well.

And my head has started to spin with possibilities. Replacing the car. Getting the house deposit sorted. Changing the wardrobe. The New York (or MDI marathon) over in America next October/November.

What else do I want? What are my new goals?

Other than wanting to one day eat at The Fat Duck in Bray, United Kingdom, I don't know (Heston Blumenthal is a recent discovery - like WOW) I don't really have any dreams.

Time to start looking at that I reckon. I like dreaming big.

Tonight I celebrated with a choc top at the movies. Went and saw "Never Let Me Go". Finally a movie that doesn't butcher the book. I got my hit of England too.

In all, I'm going to bed happy.

The cat's swinging from my dressing gown. Time to go.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Does my bum look big in this?

Project Pandora Update - Day 44

Current Weight - 85.3 kgs

A couple of people in my support network have brought this up recently. Friends and family have come out and said that they look too thin / a bit sick / they're going overboard.

One of the joyous paradoxes of losing weight is that for all the internal struggles, the public meltdowns, the trials, the sweat, the screaming at your PT that you're not doing effing burpees, the having to say "no" to things you really want to say yes too (ICE CREAM...), the self-sabotage - this is one of the most public private journeys you will ever embark upon.

Sometimes, having your transformation out there will be a great thing. Other times it sucks worse than your grandfather's grungy undies hanging on your very public clothesline for the whole world to see and comment upon. Depending how you are feeling, the direction of the wind, the aspect of Venus and what the NASDAQ is doing, you'll never know how you're going to react to this public outpouring of comments and criticism at any given time.

Thankfully, in my case and for the girls I'm doing this 12wbt thing with, it's been a really positive thing for the most part. We can all see the changes - and it's wonderful.

Other times, things get a big freaky when either you know you might feel like your sabbotaging yourself, or you know you can't stick to the plan.

For me, case in point, I'm going out to dinner on Saturday with some friends. Alice will bring a starter, Pete and Gioia will provide mains and I'll bring dessert. Thing is, controlling the calories for this meal will be next to impossible. Pete's a great cook but is heavy handed on the butter, cream and cheese. Alice is not as bad, but she makes yummy stuff too which I would normally have to say no to.

I think this will be a case of ask for smaller portions and suck it up - it's just one night. I'm making a cake - Pete's birthday cake - for pudding. It's a full fat, chocolate, cream and walnut filled, butter encrusted Gabriel Gate classic. I'm sitting here scowling. It just needs to be done. As it's a birthday cake it will have smarties on top because birthday cakes need smarties. That's the rules.

I'll have a sliver - with some vanilla ice cream thrown in for good measure. And plan a few extra exercise sessions around this indulgent evening.

Then you get the comments that throw you for six and you think "What the hell?"

Case in point. After dream group I stayed to have a quick chat to Viv. We got talking. I need to preface this with the fact that these comments were made with love and admiration and absolutely no offence was taken. If only all comments could come with these emotions attached.

Viv paid me a lovely compliment - I was looking lovely. Thinking, I'm just in jeans and a t-shirt - I'm happy and comfortable. I said thank you.

She then asked me not to lose any more weight off my legs and bum. Nope, that was not on.

Hmm. How am I supposed to make that happen?

I'm sitting here in size 16 jeans - which are comfortable, not too snug and with no apparent camel toe (or moose claw as some know it). My t-shirt - also a size 16 is baggy and I've made a mental note that this one is a good ebay proposition. I'm holding off buying clothes until I have secured a job and maybe lost one or two more kilos - so that snug size 14s can be shrunk into - makes sense to me.

"Pandora, you have no hips or bum, and your legs are too skinny." I had to smile.

"Sorry Viv, can't do much about it. I'm a clone of my mother, who at seventy, still has the second best set of pins I've ever seen. The first best set goes to my eighty-two year old aunt - my Mum's sister. It's genetic."

The women of my family are chook-legged, arseless, hipless wonders (with bellies and big tits). There is absolutely nothing I can do about it. (I'm also thankful I missed out on the tree trunk legs of my father's side)

"How much further do you want to go?" She asked.
"About 15-20 kilos."
"Won't that be too much?"
"I'm still technically classed as medically obese. I know that it's not the be all and end all, but I'd like to have a flat tummy. I won't know until I lose it where how far actually is." was my response.
"Oh - but if you go that far, you won't have a bum to speak of!"

How do you win? Should I be celebrating because I don't have a bum? Or should I be berating myself for not having one.

I shouldn't moan - at least I don't have to ask if my arse looks like the back of a barn. So I don't have any "junk in the trunk" - so be it. Can't do anything about body shape.

I'm also very thankful for the love and support of my friends - I'm just highlighting the irony. Others in my support group have not been so lucky. The taunts have been thoughtless and cruel.

Exercise wise, I'm getting back into walking. The bronchitis knocked me around once again, but rather than go back too soon, an hour of gentle walking today and yesterday have taken away some of the collywobbles. I'll go to Pump at lunchtime tomorrow and be back into it on Saturday with Pinochet. Missing the hard core exercise is one thing I can't be hard on myself for. I've been sick. I haven't been able to breathe properly. Getting better has been my priority. Thankfully, this is something I have full and clear perspective on.

Looking at all of this, I'm realising that there's been a hell of a lot more gained than just dropping a few kilos.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Under the Milky Way

Simple pleasure - looking up at a starry sky.

Tonight, after dream group, I looked up. The last of the crescent moon had gone down hours before and above, in the clear Melbourne sky, in a suburb where the street lights hadn't been calibrated to the end of daylight savings.

Old friends soon appeared. Orion, with Betelgeuse at his head (or Beetlejuice if you are of my advanced years - just don't say his name three times or there will be trouble). There were other old friends to find. The saucepan, the emu - ah, there it is - the Southern Cross - have to find the Southern Cross when you look up - it's always there, you just have to find it. Ah, there it was, right above me. It was strange living in the Northern Hemisphere for so long - the stars were strange - not that you saw them that often - not with the light leakage, smog and grey weather.

Tonight was so dark, I even got a glimpse of the Milky Way. You never see that in the city. I don't remember watching out for it since I was living on Mykonos. Living in the middle of the island the lights were minimal - and being in the middle of the Aegean, there was less ambient light to worry about.

I used to gaze at the stars all the time as a child. I remember telling my year 11 career counsellor that if I couldn't be a French teacher or a doctor I'd love to be an astronaut. I've gone from being an astronomy nerd to an astrology nerd. Speaking to another astronomy nerd recent, he said he always wanted to know how we astrologers saw things. Strangely, how the stars and planets and comets go round is just the same. It's just a difference in the interpretation.

And then the song came. Sang it all the way home.

I prefer the acoustic version - The Church's "Under the Milky Way".

Who says Australians don't write fantastic songs.

And it sure beats the honky tonk version of Cold Chisel's "Khe Sahn" I heard played on an off-key pianola down Bourke Street Mall today.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Balmy Daze

Setting yourself the task of blogging every day is a bit silly. You would think finding something to write about would be easy - but it isn't. Especially when you've been stuck at home coughing up a lung and the highlight of your day was a gentle walk down to Aldi half a kilometre away.

Pudding Cat has been keeping me company - I've changed his name to Pudding for he is a little on the tubby side and he loves showing off his belly. He's going home on the weekend. Blarney's confirmed that they'll be back sometime Friday and I'll return him the following day.

So today - on the agenda was an interview - that was postponed until tomorrow or Thursday. I'm thankful for this as I'm still coughing a bit - though I do feel quite well in myself. Fingers crossed for this one - that is all I will say.

Other things on the agenda. Put some stuff on ebay, fill in a few more applications, make some phone calls, cook lunch for the next two days (a very yummy roast vegetable and chick pea salad) and spend some time reading. All got done.

Then, when speaking to Kath from "Blurb from the Burbs" she made the suggestion of writing on the subject of a photograph. What a good idea.

After photographing my items for sale - some books, the odd CD and some trousers that are way too big now, I stumbled across this on the SD Card.

I remember this day. The shot was taken in Granada on a day not unlike the weather here in Melbourne today. The weather was balmy for mid-Autumn, with a hint of chill coming off the Sierra Nevada mountains. Being early November, the shadows seemed to get long early and stay that way for an eternity.

The lane way, like all the streets in Granada, are cobbled and narrow. Eliot put it well - "streets that follow like a tedious argument of insidious intent." These streets, in grid formation, were easy to get lost in - and to lose yourself in. The lefthand wall is part of the Granada Cathedral - a particularly underwhelming building, slapped in the middle of the town to show Christian might in a place that had been dominated by the Moors for centuries. In the shadow of the Alhambra, these streets existed in relative mediocrity.

Granada is also a university town. A place filled with students, unkept buildings, flyers for bands pasted to ancient walls, over flowing bins and young people, lethargic in the day, energetic at night. Like most Spanish cities, the place becomes alive around 9 pm. It feels safe, though where I was staying  I felt a small element of malice - I don't know why - nothing happened to me there.

Looking back at the photo, I see the busker slumped against the cathedral wall. the booted woman making her way home, the long shadows, the expectation of the evening.

I love this shot.

Then I remember how much I love travelling, how I have no idea when I will be travelling again and how I wish I could find somebody to pay me to be a travel writer. It's my one dream job.

Mind you, I'm pretty good at manifesting things like travel and I have to remind myself of this.

Dreaming big can be a great thing.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Did I just have that Conversation?

I never thought I would say this, but I rather envy Generation Why. Despite their zero attention span, the belief that the world owes them everything and their ability to program in C++ from kindergarten, I found tonight that I wished I could be one of them.

(Reading this back, it might be the antibiotics talking here...)

This morning I trudged off to the doctor. Their surgery is located on a hill I normally run up without blinking. Hmmm. Got to the door without much breath left and I scowled at Penny the receptionist when she told me to go upstairs. I had the normal conversation with the doctor. Yes, I have a minor bout of bronchitis. Yes, my temperature is up a little. No, my glands and ears are fine. She congratulated me on the weight loss and fitness and getting the blood pressure down naturally. As expected I was told to go home, go to bed, drink your fluids and take the pills.

And orders have been followed to the letter.

So, after a day of job hunting from bed, making the odd call, watching half a season of Grey's Anatomy and cuddling the cat (the perfect sick day really) one of my training buddies called to say she was popping around. Could she bring anything? Of course, I told her. Bring ice cream. Just one. I'm ill. I'm breaking ranks for a day - though nothing too badly. One ice cream won't hurt. I've stayed in the parameters of clean and healthy food today - just had a little more than  normal. I'm ill - it's allowed.

So just after seven, around she comes. Maxibon in her hand (can't say thank you enough for this - perfect). She pops herself down on the couch, shoves the cat's blanket over her lap and grabs Maow. And we have a chat.

There's lots going on in her life. We talked about that. There's quite a bit going on in mine. We talked about that too. She had a cuddle of the Maow Maow. To be expected.

We then got into a discussion about the best place to buy vibrators and the ethics of Brazillian waxing.

I'm not a prude. Far from it. But my Gen X sensibilities normally restrict me from discussing the virtues of snatch waxing. And as for vibrators. Normally, I'd be looking at the ceiling, whistling, trying to disappear.

What freedoms to Gen Why-ers have? Why don't we, a decade older, and possibly two wiser, have the perceived leisure to talk about this stuff? Or maybe it's just my polite group of friends.

Okay, sorry, Brazillian waxes I just don't get. Why would an adult woman want to look twelve down there? Take most of it off - sure, but leave a bit to prove you're a real woman and so your bits don't get cold.

As for the vibrator discussion - um - like why would anybody actually want to go to a megastore called Sexyland? I had to challenge this. I thought everybody in the district knew that the best erotica shop in Richmond is Passionfruit in Bridge Road (followed by Bliss on Lonsdale Street - if it's still there). Female friendly shops, no blackened windows or men in raincoats about - just open, tasteful, friendly and fun.


I didn't mention to her that there was always mail order. Down Under Toys do mail order and they're all made of surgical silicone and have detatchable battery packs, so you can boil them up after use. And the only reason I know this is because I interviewed the owner a few years ago for a course I was doing. Seriously.

On her way out, she said she might have to go have a look at these shops. And why not? She's Gen Why. Gen X-ers would never admit to this sort of stuff.

And I only know about this stuff because I'm the "Suppository of All Knowledge" as an old workmate used to call me. Better than wikipedia, I am, he reckoned.

Just as I know where you can find smudge sticks, obstetricians, Jedi Priests, men who balance oil rigs and the odd proctologist - doesn't mean I know everything.

Looking back, did I really have this conversation tonight?

Or is the tetracycline the doctor is feeding me just an Illuminati plot to put holes in my brain.

Best get to bed to sleep all this off - have yet another interview tomorrow - don't want to cough all over the person grilling me.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Zen and the Art of Cat Emotion Maintenance

Being a healer by vocation, I'm used to being on the receiving end of some very different theories and discussions - things that at times I wish I wasn't. Other times, I will take on the thought and incorporate the thoughts into my beliefs and workings. Like faith, religion and political theory, I take on the best fit, dismiss what I don't like and to hell with what anybody thinks. This goes to show with the fact that as a staunch Labor/Greens voter, a couple of my best friends are card carrying John Howard lovers.

So the when the email about the Illuminati causing the Japanese earthquake and tsunami came, it got binned pretty quick - along with all the schmaltzy angel crap my sister sends me.

However, the email a friend sent about how to ward off illness struck me as worthy of a second read. The email stated ways of keeping well included the following:

  • One needs discipline to calm the mind and control, or your darkness comes out and pulls in the ghouls.
  • Keep your life ordered and Zen-like in its cleanliness. This is a form for protection.
  •  Stay away from anything degrading, violent films or degrading images and news on TV.
  •  Stay away from poisonous and dangerous places.
  •  Stay calm, no fear no anger.
  • Drink chamomile even if you don't like it drink lots of it.
  •  Do the forgiveness prayer where you go on your knees and beg forgiveness for your transgressions in the past.
  •  Try to be a vegetarian, if not already one. It helps greatly with your perception as you become more alkaline.
Some of these I agree with. I've been merely skimming the news of late - too much bad news there. I've been trying to stay calm. I walk as much as I can and don't go to dangerous places if I can help it, I go vegetarian a few days a week, though I'm an omnivore - I like being an omnivore. As long as my meat is killed humanely and ethically and the whole beast is used, I'don't have too many qualms - and I dislike waste. Then again, drinking chamomile tea is akin to drinking dishwater, so I might give that a miss.

I'm fully aware that colds are the product of repressed anger and emotional turmoil as much as they are by the virus that causes them. Colds are a product of fairly minor quibbles for the most part. I try to protect myself from these slings and arrows, and I normally succeed. But after a month of being pissed off about the work stiuation and having some large emotional burdens dumped on me I'm not surprised I'm hacking up green crap and spending today in bed.

Mostly I put the cold down to the change in weather, spending a half hour next to half a tram full of people with pneumonia on the tram - and Maow Maow.

Maow Maow? Yes, I'm blaming Maow Maow for this cold.

How can you be Zen like in your cleanliness when you have a cat?  How can you stay calm all the time when you have a cat? How can you keep things in order when you have a cat?

For the last month, I have been responsible for the wellbeing of another, physically and emotionally - and it's all becoming a bit of a strain. And I know he's a cat - but I still feel very responsible for him.

The cat and I tick along brilliantly, for the most part. He's reasonably polite, quiet, not overly noisy and he can be very sweet.

Yet, there are times, many times, when I feel like I'm being held to ransom by a teenage boy.

Here is where the Zen cleanliness thing kicks in. I'm sure teenage boys might have a bit more concern when it comes to eating habits - this one eats all over the place - his place mat on the floor is littered with old food that needs cleaning up after every meal. He also has a fine habit of kicking his litter all over the flat. Because I had to change his litter to the deodorised crystal stuff (as the garbage Barney brought over stank after a day's use) he appears to like to kick it out of his litter tray and toy with it round the place. Walking bare foot around the kitchen is no longer possible as it feels like you're treading on gravel.

Then there's the guilt thing. The manipulative little shit has the guilt thing down pat. As soon as you step into the shower in the morning you get the,"Where the hell do you think you're going?" look. He follows you around, climbs your stockings, atttaches himself that dangles from your person (dressing gown cords are a favorite) and as you clean your teeth, he just sits at your feet with a pathetic look on his face - that "I know where you're going, and its not around here, is it? You're leaving me, aren't you, bitch."

I'm being fed a guilt trip by a cat!

Of course, when you get home, there is the "moody dance" and I call it. The rubbing of the legs, the purring, then when you do go to pick him up, he scurries away with a disdainful look.

And just like a teenage boy, when you need him for something, he's nowhere to be seen - or off in a sulk. Today, feeling like hell, all I wanted was a cuddle. Would he sit on the end of my bed - no way. It wasn't until I changed my bedding did he come round. What is it with clean sheets and cats?

The Maow Maow is now sitting in the middle of a mohair blanket in the middle of my couch. This is "his" spot. He used to sleep on his bed that Blarney and Barney brought over - now he likes his mohair blanket. Take it away and he gets grumpy.

Oh, and when clients come around - when you need him to behave - he bites the feet of tarot clients and comes and snuggles up on the laps of those having their feet done. Contrary little monster.

People ask me why I don't have a cat. Well other than my lease stipulates no pets, I'm not sure I could take the guilt trips, the mess, the mood swings, the on -again/off-again affection, the game playing on a full time basis.

Maybe this is why I don't have a boyfriend either...

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Snot and the City

I hab a code id da doze.

Or more to the point, I have a cold in the nose - and a sore throat - and really I don't feel that bad, even though I'm emitting snot at a rate of knots and this is not pleasant for anybody, me included.

Waking on this rather dreary Saturday to the early alarm, I knew I should be getting my sorry bum out of bed to go meet Trin to do two laps of the Tan - but I can't force myself  to run when I'm teeming snot. I have a cold. The rules state that I don't run when I get a cold as it only makes things worse and I'll have bronchitis in a matter of days. However the rules say nothing about walking if I feel like it. Or doing easy exercise for the day.

Trin had been warned the night before that I was having an early night and that there was a good probability that I wouldn't go for the run - but I'd be there at the 1000 Steps later in the day.

In between the missing run and the steps, I had to make a trip into the city. I was to meet up with somebody I went to primary school with. The joys of facebook reconnected us a year or so ago, now it was time to meet face to face for a coffee - see where we were at some twenty five years on.

The thought of this meeting has been scaring the sweet bejeezus out of me for a week.

I walked into the city with some trepidation. Thinking I was taking my time over the four kilometres I made very good time. Bummer. Taking my time I relished the stroll down Flinders Lane, marvelling at the Adelphi roof pool, checking out the menu at Ezard, looking in the trendy shop windows, watching the coffee set drinking their teas. And there she was. On time. Kylie McDonald. She hadn't changed at all.

The last time I saw Kylie McDonald was probably the last day of high school. I remember a few things about Kylie. She was one of the popular kids at primary school - I wasn't. She made a crack when I had to go to school in a wheelchair that they should kick me out and race around the playground in grade six. It never happened. Thankfully I only had to go to school in a wheelchair for a few days - then it was a couple of weeks on crutches. It's funny, but I do remember that - and I don't remember that much at all from primary school - I recall next to nothing if I'm truthful.

You have to remember that I went to a primary school where there were only a hundred kids - composite classes. In my grade seven year there were twelve of us. I've obliterated these years from my mind - I know I was miserable.

From what I recall, Kylie was smart, like me. Kylie played netball. I didn't. Kylie's Mum worked at the school. Kylie had two pretty older sisters. Kylie was Myponga establishment. I wasn't - moving to the town when I was in grade three. When I was at primary school I thought she had a pretty great life. I rather envied Kylie Martin.

Through high school, things were a little better. Thankfully neither of us were bullied. I was strange enough to be left alone, Kylie was close enough to the popular kids to be unnoticed. I always admired her ability to make friends - something I never mastered until university.

Kylie and I shared many classes. Both of us were in the academic strand  - we suffered a Yeti for a physics teacher in year eleven - the only two girls in the class. We were both good at Maths and Chemistry, and generally we ticked along okay. She was always far more popular than me, friends with the Willunga Kids - something I never was - I was a weirdo at school and had a few misfit friends to hang around with. Things got easier by the final years. I was smart, I would be okay. Kylie was smart and fairly popular so she was in the same boat.

A thoroughly lovely time was had today. The thing that struck me was we've had parallel lives in many ways. Both of us worked our way up the chain the hard way - now we're both professionals in our respective fields. Both of us have travelled the world, been about the place. Only recently, she moved in with her partner, later in life than most of our school friends who were married with kids in their twenties. Both of us have had the indignity of having relatives ask "So when are you getting married?". Both of us know the half pride, half shame of walking into the store at Myponga and greeting Mary-Frances Scarpantonio - a year above us at school, married to a local guy, mother of six, grandmother of one, and telling her of our latest overseas jaunt. She tells us about how her brood are getting on. I had to remind Kylie that Mary-Frances has sisters in London and Rome working professional jobs. She made her choices. And how do I know this? My parents live next to Mary-Frances' parents. At Myponga. Kylie's parents are still in the district too.

It's funny what you remember and what you don't. It's even stranger how you get remembered. Kylie said I should try to come to the high school reunion they had last year. I flatly refused. Why would I want to see people who never really liked me from twenty years ago? She then told me of how, when they were organising the event, one of the popular kids - one of my main academic rivals - Robert Rose -was asked to get the word out. His response to this was "Where the hell is Pandora Behr when you need her?" I never thought I would get a second thought from the Willunga kids. Ever.

She also mentioned how she and I were pulled out of class in year seven and asked if we wanted to sit a test for a scholarship to a prestigious Adelaide girls school. How different could life be if we had taken that opportunity? At the time, she didn't want to. I wasn't allowed to sit the test. As I said, strange what you remember.

Will I see Kylie again. I hope so. She comes to Melbourne occasionally for the football - I might join them - save me the indignity of watching the Crows lose to St Kilda with Alice and Dougall.

Walking home the long way, I collected some magic, green, horse pills from the naturopath - the ones that kill colds quicker than any other medicine the doctor gives you, came home, changed and waited for Gloria and Gaynor to collect me for the walk up the steps.

There is something to say for losing weight and getting fit. Even with a head cold, I made it up those sodding stairs without stopping, without actually stressing that much at all - though much slower than I would normally do - in just over thirty minutes. Tracey and Sienna both finished today too - which was excellent.

And now, I'm home, about to go to bed, taking the cat with me to keep watch.

A good day was had.

Despite all the snot.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Acccountability April

My main goal from my time off over the last three months, other than losing weight, has been to write.

However, other than blogging and filling in job applications, seriously, I haven't been writing. I haven't been creatively writing at all. The most creative thing I've written since January is my CV.

So I'm naming April the month of taking responsibility for my creativity and I will attempt to not only blog every day, but write something of use, of substance and of value over the next month. Oh, and it will be fiction - whether it be continuing on with Rainbow Robertson or getting a literary short story penned and polished - we have a goal. Write, Pandora, write!

This is my committment to you. You may or may not see the fiction. Sorry, you'll just have to put up with the blog in the meantime.

So, it's April. Other than being a fair bit slimmer things are chugging along, but that is about it.

A few things have happened that are a bit bittersweet and a bit fun.

First up, I have the Maow Maow for another week.

The Maow Maow you ask? Maow Maow is Barney and Blarney's cat. I reckon he was my soul mate in another life. We've always been the best of friends. Maow Maow was supposed to be going home this weekend. Got a text from Blarney, they're staying in Ireland for another week. (Friends of Blarney reading this, give me a call and I will explain) As much as I love the Maow Maow, I'm a little over having my feet being chewed at 5 am, his occasionally feral moods where he does his best Tasmanian Devil impersonation, his dreadful table manners, the way he kicks his litter all over the kitchen, him shedding everywhere, his need to accompany me to the toilet and the fact that he demands breakfast anywhere between 5.30 and 7 in the morning.

Making up for this tenfold is the fact he's brilliant company, extremely cuddly, keeps my legs warm at night and is very clean. I can't fault him as a house guest really. Though when it comes to seeing tarot and reflex clients... Tarot clients get their feet bitten and if I'm massaging he wants to join in. The other night while doing somebody's glutes he's sitting there in pounce mode - like joy - just what you need, a cat clawing your arse when you're expecting an elbow to be shoved in it.

Thankfully, Maow Maow appears to be happy at my place.

Job wise it's been six company interviews in ten days, with a few agency runs in the mean time. Of the interviews all have gone okay - I seem to be getting pipped at the post by people with more experience, though I've had a number of comments about the fact I could do the job. This is to be expected as I'm trying to transition from one area of IT to another. I've also seen a temp agency and will probably see another one or two. It's time to start getting some real money in, make sure the rent is paid - even if there isn't much else left over - just to stop the drain on the bank account. Also, it will help with my sanity going to work every day for a change - I don't care if I'm filing or answering phones - it's honest work, it's not to taxing and it could lead to other things. The job - a real job, isn't too far away.

My other small project is also going well. Finding Melbourne's best macaron.

Macaron - yep, macaron. Not Macaroon - those jam and coconut creations your grandmother used to feed you bought at the lawn bowls trading table. No, macarons are divine. And in the scheme of things, not too calorific. And unfortunately a little expensive, which makes them the perfect treat for the lifestyle changing Pandora. Can only afford one or two every few days.

Macarons are a mix of almond meal, icing sugar and egg white - sort of like a mini pavlova with almond. This mixture can be flavoured with just about anything. Around Melbourne, they have macaron competitions - most exotic flavours, best texture. The perfect macaron has a slightly crunchy exterior, a perfectly fluffy interior and some yummy stuff sticking them together.

The worst macarons I've uncovered are at Kafe Krifi at Victoria Gardens - dreadful, too big, badly flavoured and as chewy as a hockey puck.

The best - well that is a toss up. The Salty Caramel macarons at Cacao in the GPO Building are nothing short of heavenly and are a brilliant standby. The green tea and black sesame ones at the Little Cupcake Shoppe in the QV centre are pretty special too.

However, this morning on my walk back to the "office" I discovered this little macaron shop down Hardware Lane. They had some really interesting flavours - ginger and macadamia, rose, flower essence and these really interesting ones in a fetching shade of duck egg blue. The consistancy of the two I tried was flawless, the flavours powerful, yet delicate at the same time - highly recommend the place, but get there early - they sell out by lunchtime.

Small things please small minds.

Right, better get going - off to meet Glen Waverley for lunch then coffee with another friend before going home to face the furry house demon and his wrath. I never knew going out to work could be so traumatic for a cat!