Monday, December 31, 2012

Goodbye 2012

This is the third year I've done this meme on New Years Eve. Strange to think that I've been blogging that long. But thank you to Kath at Blurb From the Burbs, The Plastic Mancunian and JK for keeping me on track with this.

So here we go. 2012 in a nutshell.

1.What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?

Learned to be a lot kinder to myself. Thoroughly enjoyed Christmas. I've learned to love my body for what it is, warts and all.

These three things are huge.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

 I've just looked at what I said last year for this.

The marathon remains elusive. That is still on my resolutions list.

I'm getting better with sunscreen. I still have this one on the list - and I include the back of my hands as a place to put sunscreen - it's a must.

A holiday is on the cards, but I am still to get the passport renewed, though I've got the photos done for it. I reckon April is when I will shoot myself off to somewhere with beer and a pool where all I have to do is read a book.

Weight lost - I've shoved another five kilos on - but I am still very strong and very fit.

Rather than resolve to get skinny, I am making the resolution to remain strong, very fit and very healthy. If this means losing some weight in the meantime, so be it. I may be obese, but I'm the fittest, strongest obese person that I know.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Not this year.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Thankfully, no.

5. What countries did you visit?

Remained in Australia - this needs to be sorted and sorted soon.

6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?

The bum glue needed to write that novel. A partner. International travel. A tidy flat.

7. What dates from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

January 20 - Gloria's 60th birthday party. I've not witnessed such love in a very long time.

April 3 - Watching the Manly Ferry skating into Circular Quay from the Shangri-La hotel in Sydney

May 20 - Running along a 23 kilometre section of the Great Ocean Road with Gaynor.

October 14 - The Melbourne Marathon 10 km run with Bobbie - showed me the joy of unexpected friendships.

December 25 - Christmas was just lovely this year.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Finding a job I loved in the second half of the year - knowing that I'd bitten off a lot, I appear to have thrived in my current job. Keeping my headspace in a calm and positive place for the most part of the year. Nearly paying off my car - should be off the books by the end of January.

9. What was your biggest failure?

I could have saved more money. I could have kept my sweet tooth under control better. I don't see these as failure - more being human.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Thankfully nothing too serious - a really bad cold that had me floored for a week in July and I strained my back putting one of Blarney's boys in his cot in December. Other than a few other minor muscle strains - all good.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

My iPad. Love it. Use it more than I ever thought I would.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

I've been incredibly proud of a number of friends overcoming some really major hurdles in life. Not mine to share, but their integrity and bravery have left me speechless.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

Anything that comes out of Tony Abbott's mouth fits this bill. Horrible man.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Rent, car payments, my lifestyle (running, gym, eating out)

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Dinner at Libertine earlier in the year. Strangely, I got rather excited about Christmas. And seeing my friend Geetangeli in Sydney in May - hadn't seen her or or husband in four years.

16. What song will always remind you of 2012?

Instead of that awful Taylor Swift song or Gangnam Style ditty, I'm going to have to say that an acoustic version of Reckless will always remind me of this year. The song has always been a favourite, but it came full circle this year.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: (a) happier or sadder? (b) thinner or fatter? (c) richer or poorer?

(a) Happier
(b) Fatter
(c) Better off in many, many ways

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Spent time with friends. Ran. Travelled. Kept my flat tidy. Read books.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Fretted over work. Spent money on useless crap.

20. How will you spend New Year's Eve?

I'm catching an early movie with a friend from the gym then going on to continue my Mad Men Fest with a gin and tonic or two.

21. Did you fall in love in 2012?

No. Maow Maow is still the love of my life. Next.

22. What was your favourite TV program?

Who Do You Think You Are?, The Hour, Masterchef (though the lustre is fading)

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

No. Who hates? I still really, really, really dislike Tony Abbott - and the American Rifle Association are up there too - non-sensical twats.

24. What was the best book you read?

Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast" - and I'm reading, and loving Hermann Koch's, "The Dinner". Did not do enough reading this year.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Yann Tiersen and Philip Glass. I work with them in my ears regularly.

26. What did you want and get?

An iPad and a new computer. I also found a substitute to my favourite lipstick, the colour was discontinued and tried as I might, could not found it (Nars Fire Down Below is doing nicely as a substitute for MAC X-treme)

27. What did you want and not get?

A rich husband who is loving, affectionate, incredibly good in bed who bought me two story town house in Richmond. A cat or two of my own to live in the house with us. A flat stomach - but I take responsibility for that one)

28. What was your favourite film of this year?

I have to mention a couple.

The Intouchables was spectacular.
The Sessions touched me unlike any other film in a long time.
Hugo was absolutely phenomenal - and should have got the Oscar in my humble opinion.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

On my actual birthday a couple of friends took me to Cafe Vue at the Heide. It was lovely. I turned 44. That was the only unpleasant thing about the day.

30. What one thing made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Having the money to do what I want, when I wanted to.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?

Flowing. Comfortable. I tried to get away from black - and failed.

32. What kept you sane?

Regular weekends away
Good food

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Clive Owen is still my celebrity boyfriend but Tom Hardy found a place in my "phwoar files". Still wondering how and when Damian Lewis and Rhys Ifans got so hot. Strange that.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

Gay marriage. Just get on with it.
I wish our politicians would stop slating each other and get on with effectively running the country.

35. Who did you miss?

I still miss Reindert, but we talk regularly. There are times I've missed my aunt who passed away last year - particularly around Christmas. After meeting up with Kath Lockett for breakfast a few weeks ago, I realise that I miss having her about Melbourne. It was lovely rekindling that friendship.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

I met Larry and Magdalena at my second stint at Bastard Bank earlier this year. They both mentored me and their support and friendship on a professional level has been priceless.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012.

Persistence, enthusiasm and optimism can get you just about anywhere.

And in the words of Tom Cruise in 'Risky Business', "Sometimes you just have to say what the f*ck."

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

From Josh Pyke's "The Lighthouse"

So we are moving to a lighthouse, you and I
While seas drown sailors, we'll be locked up safe and dry
And though our doors may knock and rattle in the wind
I'll just hold you tight and we'll not let those fuckers in

From Ben Lee's "Ripe"

"For once in our lives, we saw what we wanted and took a bite.
We picked the fruit from the tree and it was ripe."

2012 was a good year. Here's to an even better 2013.

Happy new year.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Courtesy Titles

There is one thing that will get me madder than anything - madder than people being rude to waiters. More irate than when folks leave an empty window seat on a crowded tram. Filthier than when you're left hanging for water at a restaurant after asking for it three times. More upset than when the hard drive fails to record the last five minutes of your favourite television show.

It's the misuse of courtesy titles.

I think courtesy titles are one of the most pointless things on the planet and want to bring out a law to abolish the useless wastes of ink / toner cartridge / laser cuts.

I mean manners and politeness have gone out the window, right... like people don't thank you for Christmas presents much and if people try and push past you they don't say 'excuse me' as much as they used to. People push into queues and make fusses over the stupidest of things. Rudeness is all over the place.

Therefore I think, in this world of declining manners, that we should abolish courtesy titles. Full stop. In an ever less polite world, why do we need something as archaic as this in Modern English Usage?

See, here is where I stand.

I am a Ms. If you have to use a courtesy title at all.

I am of the female persuasion. If that matters anyway. It doesn't and it shouldn't.

My marital status is neither here nor there either. It matters less than the fact that I am a woman. I suppose it's a useful thing to know for say the doctor calling me for my bi-annual pap smear or advertising companies wanting to do some market testing around tampons. Okay, and I will grant you that if in the same family the mother's name is Mary and the daughter's name is say Monica, it can help to differentiate between mother and daughter - but that is about it.

A F for Female box on any form would be enough to show I've got XX chromasomes.

When call centres phone the house at dinner time asking for Mrs Behr I politely tell them, "She was my grandmother and she's dead." This is just before they call abruptly comes to an end.

I've told most of my friends that I prefer, if they feel the need to use a courtesy title, to be called Ms.

Firstly, as a security matter, I'm not comfortable with the great unwashed knowing my marital status. Single often means alone. Not something you want actively advertised when you live alone. I have a post office box for mail to help with security and privacy - I feel that a Ms courtesy titles gives nothing more away than the fact that I'm a woman. There might be a bloke around. There might not be. No need to question. Nobody's business anyway.

I've ragged out and threatened to cease trading with companies that call me Mrs or Miss. Seriously. It offends me that firstly, I've told them that my preference of courtesy title and that it is bad customer management to fuck up this preference. Secondly, it shows a lack of care and consideration and why would I want to deal with a company like that? Why isn't Ms the default courtesy title for women. If you want to me a Mrs or a Miss then you can say? Men ar Mr from the day they are born.

You can't cancel friends like you change electricity companies.

You can't change your mother either. I can't stop her from calling me Pandy. For nearly thirty years I've asked her to not use a courtesy title - or use Ms. I've also asked a number of friends to refer to me as Ms if addressing mail to me.

Doesn't seem to matter to them. But if offends me greatly when I get mail addressed to Miss P. Beer. I feel like sending it back with a big stamp saying "Not Known At This Address". There is a Ms P.Behr here. Not a Miss P.Behr.

I also have a conscientious objection to being called Miss. I'm in my forties. I know I'm unmarried. I don't need to be told of this fact.

My third point about courtesy titles, especially for women, I find that the use of anything other than Ms is descriminatory. There are assumptions around Mrs and Miss - Ms just means you're female. End of the story. Mrs implies that there is somebody else out there making the decisions. Miss implies that you do not have control of your own life.

So Ms P Behr I am.

Maybe I should go out and study medicine or get a PhD so that I can then shove a Dr in front of my name and put an end to all of this.

But seriously, I've asked nicely for nearly thirty years to be addressed as Ms if you have the overwhelming desire to use this archaic form of addressing post.

Please have the decency to respect my preferences.

(That feels better)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Nigella Unleashed

Readers of this blog will know that Christmas and I don't normally get on that well. For decades, I've associated Christmas with loneliness, angst, disappointment, aggro and all other not particularly nice emotions that I could do without.

Then, a few years ago, I made a departure from going back to Adelaide for the season. Instead, I took myself off to Thailand and found myself riding elephants on Christmas Day. That was pretty good.

Since then, I've only been back to Adelaide for Christmas once. My immediate family aren't big Christmas people, and there is far less stress if I go over just after the season, or sometime in early the new year. It takes the pressure off for all concerned - most of all me. Best of all, I don't get the perceived "Oh, poor Pandy, maiden aunt" treatment which, looking back, was the thing I hated most about spending Christmas with my sister's in-laws. Nice people, but they belong to my sister - not me. I don't feel the need to be around them.

Much more pleasant to spend Christmas with people you want to spent Christmas with - friends.

I was over at Blarney's last night starting to help with the preparations. Washing glasses, sweeping floors, making sure the cat was placated. The last job was a bit hard. It appears the lad's allergies are back and he's been scratching himself until he bleeds. To counteract this, they put a jumper on him.

A pink, poodle's jumper.

Oh, the inhumanity.

Not a happy boy. He stayed on my lap for a few hours, decidedly not talking to Blarney or Barney. Poor lamb.

So the weekend has been spent cooking.

The cassata was finished.

From the last blog, you would have seen be start the cassata.

This turned out to be a most enjoyable experience to make. Auntie Gaye would be rubbing her hands with glee.

After the brandied fruit was frozen, it was time to get out the big guns.

The chocolate is melted down and mixed with half of the ice cream like so.

This mix is then placed on top of the brandied cherries and cream and frozen.

There is also another important step at this point.

It is impossible to make cassata without licking out a bowl or two.

Once the next layer is set, there are a few things to do.

Toast up what feels like a squillion almonds. These need to have their skins removed, halved, toasted in the oven and sorted into two piles - pretty and ugly.

The pretty almonds (These are the nicely shaped ones) will go on top.

The ugly ones will be combined with a hard crack toffee. This is easy to make - just boil up some sugar and a little water and test until you get the mix to snap when dropped into ice water (and when it goes a golden brown.) The toffee is poured over the ugly almonds and left to cool.

Once cool, the toffee is broken, placed in a plastic bag and then beaten like a red headed stepchild until it's pulverised nicely. I like using a hammer to do this. A rolling pin works just as well.

The crushed up toffee is then combined with the rest of the ice cream and placed on top of the chocolate layer, allowed to set, then decorated with the pretty almonds.

We have had many a family fight over the cassata - having tiffs over who has the last bit. Mind you, I soup up the original recipe that was in the Australian Woman's Weekly Dinner Party Cook Book some thirty years ago. There is nothing about almond toffee in the top layer - nor is there a need to use 70% proof chocolate in the second layer - or using the good ice cream, rather than the generic supermarket brand stuff. I was tempted to use this wonderful salted caramel infused vanilla ice cream that you can find at the moment in the top layer.

But that would be just decadent.... we can't have that -can we?

(For the original recipe go here - the souping up part - the almond toffee, the not so cheap chocolate and top end ice cream - that is up to you.)

I've also made some  Pandora-ised bread and butter pudding.

Blarney send out a list of things needed for our multi-cultural Christmas and nobody came back wanting to do a hot dessert. So thinking outside of the box, and not willing to do a fill Christmas pudding, this was the compromise.

Using a cardiac ward full of cream and eggs, fruit loaf rather than bread, some of my home made plum jam instead of marmalade and soaking the sultanas in brandy, it sort of tastes a bit like a lighter, creamier version of Christmas pudding.

The test one I made in a ramekin tasted bloody marvellous.

Out of the egg whites left over from the pudding's custard, I've also made a batch of meringues. They're cooling in the over at the moment.

Thinking about it, I think I'm enjoying this Christmas because I'm allowed to cook. I don't get to cook when I go back to Adelaide. My mum and sister don't like me in their kitchens preferring to do it all themselves.

I like it when I get to unleash my inner Nigella.

They don't know what they're missing back in Adelaide.

Now to wrap the last of the presents, pack my bag for tomorrow night because I'm staying out at Blarney and Barney's for the night so I can help put up the trampoline (if they finally found one that fits in the back yard), help with the turkey (of they've sourced another one that will fit in the oven) and watch the boys open their presents in the morning.

Just have to put a few hours in at work tomorrow and we're done with work for the year.

So with that. And to all a good night.

Pand xx

Friday, December 21, 2012

Making Cassata - Part One

I'm on dessert duty this Christmas.

Rather than schlepping back to Adelaide I, where I have to endure the ignominy of my maiden aunt status and generally not do very much at my mother's place for a day or so, I get to have a less stressed Christmas here in Melbourne.

The decision not to go back to Adelaide was made as soon as I found out my sister was moving house on the 21st of December. Moving house is stressful. I love my sister but I would rather not be around her when she moves house. I'd rather not be around most people when they move house.

Besides, I'm working on Christmas Eve. Makes getting back to Adelaide hard.

No, this year I'm staying in Melbourne and having a lovely Christmas with Barney, Blarney, Chance, Lance, the Maow Maow. Glen Waverley, Merijn, seven other Christmas orphans from various parts of the globe will be there for lunch and a handful of Samoans are coming over for seconds lunch mid-afternoon.

Blarney is worried that there will be enought food. Is there ever enough food when you have Samoans in the equation?

And in all of the Christmas planning, I've got dessert duties. I also have vegetable peeling duties, help Barney put up the trampoline duties, placate the Maow Maow duties, bath the boys, read them a story about trains and put them to bed duties too. I'll probably stay at Blarney's overnight so that I can get up and watch the boys open their presents - which is what Christmas is about. Christmas is a bit more palatable when there are young children around. Oh, and I might have to help slaughter a cow to feed the Samoans, but that is under discussion.
I'll have to wait for my present to come when Glen Waverley and Merijn turn up late morning - I purchased a new laptop a few weeks ago, gift wrapped it and gave it to Glen Waverley for the occasion. It's nice knowing that I have a present to unwrap on Christmas Day. Makes a change from the card and book vouchers that I normally receive from my Mum and sister (not that I'm being ungrateful, I just like receiving presents that you unwrap - because I'm a big kid)

Anyway, staying here and being on it means over the next few days I have desserts to make.

Which means a hot dessert and a cold dessert.

Unwilling to make a full on Christmas Pudding I'm going another route.

Firstly a spiced bread and butter pudding - made from fruit bread, brandy soaked raisins and infused custard. That sounds sort of Christmassy. Which I know that Glen Waverley likes my bread and butter pudding. He's asked me to make it.

The second dessert I'm doing is a bit of a Behr family tradition.

My favourite aunt passed away last year. She wasn't my real aunt but my mother's best friend and we were close. A lovely lady, she had a birthday on Christmas Day. This meant getting her two presents to give to her on the day. One was always to be a Christmas present, the other, wrapped appropriately, was a birthday present.

Also, for her birthday, Mum always made her a cassata. Being a summer baby, an ice cream cake was the perfect birthday cake. This is a recipe that hails from the Woman's Weekly Dinner Party Cook Book from the late seventies.

Cassata has over the years has been the source of many family arguments - mainly over who gets the last slice and which bugger ate more of it for a midnight snack.

I made this a couple of years ago for Christmas, taking it around to Blarney's for the family do and another for dessert for our evening meal at another orphan's Christmas do I had that evening. There were fights over the cassata then too.

So what is this mythical cassata.

I think half the mystique about it is the fact that it takes DAYS to make. Well, there is a bit of extended prep around the whole thing.

Last night I spent an hour peeling and halving almonds - about a cup and a half of the buggers. They will be toasted tonight - the good looking ones reserved for the top, the not so perfect ones will be made into almond toffee.

The glace cherries and sultanas were covered in brandy and soaked overnight.

This morning I whipped up a coronary's worth of cream until it was lightly aerated. Please note the hand beater. This used to belong to my grandmother. I inherited some of her kitchen utensils and it's always a joy to use them. I don't cook for people enough - its something I love doing. It's been my job to whip the cream at family events since I was about six-years-old.

The cherry, sultana, brandy and cream mix is the placed in a lined spring-form pan and put in the freezer.

There are two more layers to the cassata. That will be blogged over the coming days.

It's quite fun to do my best Nigella Lawson imitation. Then again, I have the rack and the off-colour sense of humour to do a decent Nigella impression.

Regardless, by some miracle, I'm finding myself in something that looks like the Christmas spirit.

Now all we have to do is survive today's Zombie Apocalypse resulting from the end of the Mayan Calendar and life will be perfect.

Happy Litha. (Summer Solstice)


Tuesday, December 18, 2012


I love my friends.

I love my friends even more when we can come to some mutually beneficial arrangement on some matters.

This weekend saw me purchasing a new laptop. My current one is what is colloquially known as 'on the way out' or on a bad day, 'munted'. Attach the iPad or other implement to it and there is only a 50% chance of it doing what it is told. It also sounds as if it's about to take off for a lunar mission after running for an hour. I've got some great use out of it over the last three and a half years, but it's days are numbered.

So the old, pretty Hewlett-Packard machine is being replaced with a sleek, white Toshiba. I also had the RAM souped up, bought some software and a terabite of external hard drive. And I congratulated myself on the $800 I saved on the whole package.  And baulked at the knowledge that I bought my first laptop some thirteen years ago at the price of $3000.... and shuddered.

On arriving home after making this purchase, I was wondering what to do. If I got the new laptop set up and working I'd be spending the weekend playing with the bloody thing. It's wonderful to buy a new laptop - but the time it takes to move stuff over, set things up, change account settings and the rest of it - it's all very time consuming. I have a week off after Christmas to do all this.

But how to stop myself from firing the machine up?


Step one. Gift wrap the machine.

Step two. Have a friend look after it until Christmas.

Step two proved easier than I thought it would be. Glen Waverley was due around early Sunday morning to collect my car.

See, Glen Waverley and Merijn have two cars. Pride of place is a 1972 yellow Porsche 911. Its got a left-hand drive, it's noisy, it's smelly but Glen Waverley loves it more than his mother and his cat combined. Ask him if he would rather amputate his penis or lose his car, he's have to think long and hard about it.

Their other car is a slightly more useful car - an MX-5.

Thing is, if they have to move anything larger than a shoe box, they're screwed.

Which is where I come in.

I have a slightly more practical car - a Mazda 2. Which can move a lot of stuff about as the back seats fold down and it has a hatch rather than a boot the size of a matchbox.

So, every so often, Glen Waverley trades down and borrows my rather practical Neville.

And I get this:

 Excuse the gym gear. I get the sexy car for the day.

Which is rather cool.

So after the gym I had a few errands to run.

I went and saw Jenny and her baby.

Then I went around to see Blarney, Barney, the boys and the Maow Maow - they live about 10 kilometres away from me near Williamstown. It's a twenty minute drive over the Westgate on an average run.

Blarney and I organised Christmas. I'm on dessert. Blogs to follow on the cassata making process.

Then I drove home.

Via Geelong.

You gotta do what you gotta do.

The next time I get to loan Glen Waverley's car, I'm going to make sure he teaches me how to put the roof down.

And there will be a next time.

One of the great things about having a practical car. And friends who need to move things every now and then.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I Don't Like It (or Room 101 Pandora-Style)

In George Orwell's "1984" people were tortured by being put in a room with their worst fear or phobia. In more recent times, Room 101 has been a mythical place where things you dislike intensely are placed. There was a wonderful BBC Series when I was living in London that had celebrities banishing items to the room. Paul Merton used to host it.

Anyway, as it's my spring cleaning day, it's time to banish a few things to this room - gone to no longer blight my existence for the rest of eternity. Time to get these objects of loathing, despise and nightmares no longer blighting my psyche.

1)  Tony Abbott

(The blurb on this photo reads: A little known fact about Tony Abbott is that due to the lack of any kind of human heart, he must be kept on a respirator at all times. This also maintains a steady balance of bullshit and concentrated evil flowing through his veins.)

I don't hate anybody. But I do intensely dislike our Leader of the Opposition. His views are odious. More than odious. They're enough to make me want to go after the dickhead with a cricket bat. Wouldn't piss on him if he was on fire.

Narrow-minded, unsympathetic, repetetive and completely backwards, how this tit ever got to lead the opposition is beyond me - he only got in with one vote anyway - so most of the party don't like him. Anti anything that the Catholic Church doesn't see as right (gay marriage, women out in the workforce, migrants....) his views are stuck back in the 1950's,  back with his predecessor, John Howard's haircut and track suit. Odious, odious man.

Even one of his daughters in an interview described him as a "Lame, gay, churchy loser." Personally I think that is very disrespectful to gays.

Shooo, be gone.

Though without him, who would I yell at on the telly on breakfast television? (Oh, that's why we have Karl Stefanovic).

The other shame - that is DAMNED fine chest hair. Damn fine chest air. It's chest hair that doesn't belong on an idiot like him.

Such a pity that chest rug is attached to such and horrible, horrible man.

2) Pug Dogs

I've been known to say, "I'd love to kick a chiahuahua. Not out of malice - I'd just like to see how far it goes." I don't have anything agaist chiahuahuas. I would never, ever hurt an animal.The one chiahuahua I know is quite lovely in her own, slightly smelly way.

Pug Dogs, like Chiahuahuas and Pomeranians, fall into my pointless category of dogs. Utterly pointless. What do they do, other than chomp at your ankles and shed hair?

Pug Dogs have the added bonus of not being overly pretty. Actually, I think they're butt ugly. For heaven's sake, they look like they've been chasing parked cars.

Seriously, no malice, but I wouldn't miss them if they were gone.

Though this turned up on my facebook page the other day. Mildly amusing.

3) People who take the aisle seat on trams/trains/buses

I thankfully don't spend that much time on public transport, walking to and from work when I can. A big reason why I walk, apart from the benefits of the exercise, is that people one the tram can be particularly rude. I still rue the day I may have to drive to work - can't think of anything worse - just I as my socialist views are very pro-public transport.

Still, a pet hate of mine is people who sit in the aisle seat and will not let others pass, particularly when the tram/train/bus is busy. There should be no reason why you have to say "Excuse me," or "Can you please move your bag. Has it swiped its Myki? Does it have a Myki?" in a loud voice to take a seat by the window on a tram.

Let people through for pity's sake. Grrrr. It's called public transport for a reason.

I feel similar about people who don't make the effort to clear the aisles or talk loudly for extended periods of time on their mobile phones on public transport as well.

And don't get me started about school kids who won't stand up for at the least pregnant women and the elderly. Even I give up my seat for them.

Of course, there are people you don't want to sit next to.

4) Women who wear leggings as trousers

Leggings are not trousers. Leggings are leggings. They go under things. If you are not wearing a top that goes down to at least your thighs, don't wear them out of the house. You can wear what you like around the house, just don't wear leggings as trousers in public. Ever.

The only exception to this rule is if you are wearing running gear and you are either going to, coming from or doing exercise (and have a pair of runners on with a water bottle in tow). You can just get away with leggings in public then. As long as they are sporting leggings, not the ones that should be worn under stuff. Like these leggings in the picture below.

There should be a law against it.

5) Delta Goodrem

Unlike Tony Abbott, I don't loathe Delta Goodrem.

She's probably a very nice person.

It's unfortunate that she had cancer a few years back. It's good that she's in remission. She doesn't seem to have much luck with the blokes. That McFadden fellow appears to be a complete wanker. Like chiahuahuas, I bear her no malice.

Still - she's getting relegated to Room 101 because I find her completely and utterly insipid. I'm sure her middle name is Mediocre. I have no idea why she gets so much press. Like the Kardashians, I have no idea what she does or why she does it and I don't care. She pretends to 'entertain' people but I don't think she sings that well at all. If I hear 'Born to Try' ever again it will be too soon.

She's in the room because she's boring.

6) Essendon Football Club

Most people in Melbourne barrack for their team and whoever is playing Collingwood.

I barrack for the Adelaide Crows and whoever is playing Essendon.

Arrogant tossers with the worst supporters in the AFL, nothing will get up my nose quicker than an Essendon supporter or mention of how allegedly great this daft team is. So they won a few games in the early naughties

I have a number of friends who barrack for this excuse for a football club. I have been nearly pitched out of a party for vocally supporting Collingwood when they were playing Essendon - but I can't keep quiet. I really dislike Essendon and I will yell it from the rooftops. Even when they are playing Collingwood.

The only time I will keep schtum is when they are playing Port Adelaide - it's like I'm a Liverpool fan trying to work out who to support in a game where Everton and Manchester United are playing.

Daft thing is, I'm not a football junkie.

But I still hate Essendon.

7) The English Version of "The Office"

Many of my friends love the British version of "The Office".

I don't.

It's too close to the bone. I've worked with most of these people. I want to do serious damage to Ricky Gervais when he's in character as David Brent - otherwise I think he's a very funny man. I've seen the staplers in jelly. I've seen the office relationships. I've been there. Don't need to see it in all its glory on the telly.

I can watch the American version of the show no worries. I don't get so annoyed with that version of the show.

But there is something about the English version of the show that makes me switch off after two minutes. It's too uncomfortable. Far too close to the bone to be funny.

8) Huntsman Spiders

This is an actual phobia of mine.

I would put a picture of these dreadful things on the page, but looking at pictures of them make me feel uncomfortable.

For those not in Australia, they can grown to the size of a bread and butter plate in leg span. They aren't poisonous but can give you a nasty nip.

And I still need a bit strong bloke to come and kill them for me - though most of the blokes I know are a bit scared of them too. Thankfully I've not had many in this flat. And I have bug spray around the place to kill them. Yes, I know I should take them outside - but I can't stand them. They make me cry. Hairy and ugly, they have traumatised me since childhood where they were around all the time.

Horrid, horrid things.

9) Pie Face

There is enough fat, sugar and carbohydrate laden food around the city without having the addition of Pie Face thrown into the mix.

Overpriced, aged, fat-laden tasteless excuse for food, this is everything bad about franchised food outlets. They've sprung up around the city like a bad case of herpes.

Unfortunately, its often  the only place open late at night other than the Seven-Eleven that can provide sustenance. Unfortunately the calories contained in most of their offerings could sustain a small third world company for a week.

It doesn't help that I don't eat meat pies. Never had one, don't intend to start.

It would nice to see them stock a line item that wasn't brown in colour.

Pie Face is the pinnacle of everything bad in fast food.
10) Burpees

Whoever invented these was a complete sadist.

It's not that I can't do burpees. I won't do burpees. After about three of them I get giddy and have to have a rest. I'll squat, plank, lunge, cable, sit up, run, ride, swim, throw around a medicine ball... you name it. But I won't do burpees.

11) Fake Fingernails

Okay, I'm lucky. I've been blessed with nice fingernails. They're strong, nicely shaped and don't look bad long or short. I've never bitten them. I like my hands.

I hate the look of fake nails - those thick acryllic gel nails.

How unhygienic must they be? Then you go stick a picture on them.

Sorry, not for me. I know the nail industry is keeping a lot of young women employed in some pretty dire conditions.

Sorry. If you don't have good nails, keep them short and clean.

Anything looks better than those thick, dirty looking monstrosities that adorn so many women's hands.

I just don't get it.

Ah. That feels better. Spleen vented.

Time for bed.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Lolly Vote

This week has been a funny one. It's a modified Hell Week. Lady Elks. Book Group. Dream Group. Pinochet... However as things are ramping down at work, it's not been too bad at all.

Elks was really lovely. There were more members there than normal. It was lovely to see one of my favourite members. Veronica is in her ninetieth year. She's a cracker - lovely, lovely lady who's just returned after having her hip replaced. She's a joy to have around.

Book Group entailed having our annual book choosing session at an Italian Restaurant in on the river in the CBD. This is always a fun event.

I've talked about our book group before - a melee of women with reasonably strong personalities and opinions. To select the eleven books we will be reading for the the year everybody brings in two books which they consider fit for purpose. These books should be:

1) Of literature or very good popular fiction quality
2) No more than 500 pages long
3) Definitely not memoir, autobiography, biography or non-fiction
4) Readily available in bookshops, online or for kindle

There are a few other niggly rules that get the conversation going. Russian Literature gets my nose crinkling. The mention of Ian McEwan gets Alice ranting. Salman Rushdie makes some groan (though I LOVE Salman Rushdie). Merijn doesn't like Booker Winners, but doesn't mind the runners up. Then we get things like the mention of That Cat Book, which still fires me up under the right circumstances.

The book choices are handed over to me in the days before the meeting for a final vetting - more to make sure that the memoir and autobiography requirements are met.

My primary choices this year were Jennifer Egan's "A Visit From the Goon Squad" and Ernest Hemingway's "A Movable Feast", until another member pipped me to the post with the former and Alice pointed out to me that the Hemingway was a memoir. (Bugger, bugger, bugger, bugger - at 128 pages it was sure to get in!)

I settled on Jeffrey Eugenides, "The Marriage Plot" and Craig Silvey's "Jasper Jones". The former was penned by one of my favourite authors and the latter has been sitting on my book shelf for a while. I thought I had no chance getting these books selected. I'm normally dissed for being too high brow for the group.

At the meeting everybody will champion their books, telling why they think the books will be a good choice. I'm still wondering how the hell that cat book got in that year. Then again, we're often surprised when a book doesn't get in for the year. Last year I selected Ian McEwan's "Atonement". Missed by that much though everybody said that they voted for it.

My other role in this meeting is providing the lollies for the voting. Everybody is required to vote using the lollies supplied. Everybody is provided with 25 lollies (Sweeties if you are English, candies if you are American) with which to select your books which ever way you wish (Except you can't vote for your own books). You can vote over a selection, or stack the votes for a book.

Somebody needs to bag up these sweets.

This is my job.

Four years ago I used Skittles (Chewy, fruity drops). These were good, but they got sticky as the vessels in which they are placed were damp. The second year I used Jaffas (chocolate orange balls) but they left orange marks on our hands. Last year I found some sweets at the local Asian grocery store. They were wrapped, so the lollies remained unspoiled as did our hands, but I was told under no circumstances should I use these again - EVER. They weren't the best - bitter and sour for the most part. Ended up taking the bulk of them into work where there were hoovered up by the masses at the Bastard Bank Data Centre.

I put up something on my Facebook page asking for suggestions. Other than a resounding "No Asian Sweets", I suggested to get Clinkers, Lemon Sherberts, Skittles and fake teeth. Hmm. A friend in Adelaide suggested FruChocs.

FrucChocs! Oh how I miss FruChocs. I left Adelaide 22 years ago, only returning for a few days at a time once or twice a year.

FruChocs are an iconic South Australian chocolate. You can't get them out of Adelaide. Every time I go back I make sure a couple of packets make it into my luggage.

The rest of the world don't know what they're missing out on.

The other things I miss about Adelaide are all food related. Other than FruChocs, a decent Vili's pasty (pronounced P-ahhh-sty, not pasty - just as it's Pahsta, not pasta - Long 'a' not short) Woodroofe's Lemonade (Fixes stomach aches in a jiffy - a dry lemonade not too sweet at all), Farmers Union Iced Coffee (which you can get Nationwide now - Australia has seen the light) and candied spuds, which I haven't seen over here either. I'm from a funny little place with wonderfully parochial foodstuffs.

But I digress.

Jonella made mention that the lollies had to be wrapped so that they could be eaten later. But really, did they?

In the end, after a visit to the supermarket, I left with a packet each of Sour Skittles, Jelly Beans, Fruit Drops, chocolate covered Turkish Delight and Lemon Sherberts. I also went to the cleaning aisle and bought some food preparation gloves. When I bagged up the lollies I placed a rubber glove in the bag too. This way the unwrapped lollies would not be tainted. Well it made sense to me.

If you want to get the attention in a fairly full restaurant, announce "Ladies, don your rubber gloves!" in a loud voice. The looks we received as we snapped on our gloves was priceless!

The votes were taken and tallied - by some miracle, both of my books passed muster. So did a Salman Rushdie (albeit one of his kid's books)

A little bit of jostling in which months to read each book was had. Georgie is pregnant so we were to do hers first before bubs arrives. I'm looking to be away most of April so that was a no go for me. Somebody else had plans for September. All sorted in five minutes. Our year of reading looks like this:

January:       The Dinner by  Herman Koch
February:    Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
March:        Tigers in Red Weather Liza Klaussmann
April:           The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
May:            Sarah Thornhill by Kate Grenville
June:            Dead Europe by Christos Tsiolkas
July:             The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
August:        What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day by Pearl Cleage
September:  A Visit From the Goon Squad by  Jennifer Egan
October:      Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey
November:  Luka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie

The best thing about this year's books is that the Rushdie got press ganged through by the lit heads. It's a great reading list and I'm looking forward to some great discussions over the year.

Last night was our last functioning dream group for the year. A breath of relief can be sighed. As much as I get out of dream group, it's nice to have a break for a few weeks.

Tonight it's off to see Pinochet. Now that the temperature has dropped fifteen degrees in the last hour (it was 35 before lunch, it's now down to a pleasant 21 it might be alright, though it's bound to be really muggy at the gym.

Get the Christmas presents wrapped tonight to send off to Adelaide tomorrow and I can have a lovely, quiet weekend.

Well, that's the plan.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Big and the Tall of It

This weekend was spent up in Sydney where I took myself off to the Francis Bacon retrospective at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Being in Australia, I miss the variety of art that's available in European cities. This is not to say that we don't have great art for the viewing over here, it's just the variety is nowhere near as good as it in in Europe. I try and get to the major exhibitions about the place and Francis Bacon is a favourite of mine from long back. I reckon I'll take myself up to Canberra to see the Toulouse Lautrec early next year too.

The Bacon exhibition, a view of the artist's work over five decades, was thoughtfully curated and wonderfully confronting. Bacon is an artist who has no boundaries when it comes to physical and emotional violence. I remember the press in London when he died 20 years ago which piqued my interest back then. I've liked his work ever since.

The exhibition was a fascinating display - some images were disturbing, others tender, others you just have to wonder about. It was a great way to spend a morning before coming back to Melbourne - and it helped the dim the wine and cheese hangover that was throbbing away after spending  a very pleasant Saturday with some friends in a bistro by the harbour.

Grabbing my overnight bag from the coat room, I made my way to the airport for the flight back. Being a bit early, I found myself an uninspiring lunch and waited for the flight. We boarded on time, no probs at all.

It turned out to be one of the more uncomfortable flights I've had in a while.

I took my window seat over the wing. No problems. Being a 2-3-2 configuration, there was only one person next to me. I regularly fly and regularly take this seat for a reason. With only one person next to me it's about as comfortable as you can get on a plane - and I like my space.

On this flight the person next to me was morbidly obese.

Space was an issue.

It's one of those sensitive topics that noboby wants to handle. It's a subject that really nobody can provide a right or wrong answer to. What happens to people when they are too large to fit into a standard economy airline seat?

The cynic in my is screaming that nobody over six foot tall can be comfortable in a standard economy airline seat, having taken numerous flights with gangly male friends in this category and watching them have to concertina their limbs into the small space - on short flights it's not too bad - but what must it be like on long haul flights?

I'm also going to come at this with a view from the other side. In the past I was large enough to have the tray table knock against my stomach when it was down. Thankfully the seatbelt has always done up. I'm now of a size that the tray table and seatbelt are of no issue and I've always managed to not take up any more than my own allocated space - but I was gettting there for a while. Thankfully this isn't the case for me now, but I do understand the feeling of humiliation I felt as I comprehended that if I kept on the track I was on I'd be too large to fly unless prized into the seat with a shoe horn. It was one of the drivers to get me losing weight.

This gentleman on yesterday's flight was very large. At under six foot and the bulk of two standard rugby players, he looked apprehensive as he took his seat beside me. He required an extension seatbelt and he could not put his tray table down. Jammed into the seat his body encroached over my side of the arm rest. It was a full flight. There was no moving about and  I pressed myself up against the window to avoid touching him. It's not that I have anything against this person - I just don't want to be wedged up against him for the the hour flight back to Melbourne. I like my personal space.

Nor did I make mention of this to the cabin crew. It was a full flight. I made no effort to ask to be moved, nor did the guy next to me. There was no point.

Here is the difficulty. When is somebody too large to fly? Or more to the point, what is the point where a person - or the airline makes arrangements for the space for a large person to be able to have a seat that does compromise their own or other people's comfort?

I have a friend who's six foot seven. Over the last twenty years he's taken numerous flights. He actively avoids some airlines, accrues frequent flyer points on other so that he can fly business class or premium economy at a reduced rate or tries to arrange an exit row seat beforehand so that he, and the people next to him, can have a modicum of comfort during the flight. My friend actively tries to work with the airlines to ensure that he, and everybody around him are as comfortable as possible.

I've heard many really tall people taking measure such at these. They have bodies out of the projections of the aircraft designers. The thing is, aircraft designers haven't taken the fact that people are becoming wider into consideration either. It's all about how many people you can fit onto a plane. He told me that most people of his height will try and make these provisions. It better for everybody.

There are, of course, the anti-descrimination aspects of being extremely large and travelling on airlines. How does an airline define when somebody is too large to fly? I'm technically obese, but I have more than enough room in an economy seat. Calculating this on BMI is certainly not the way to go - most travelling rugby teams would be screaming blue murder if this was the case anyway.

Looking around the web, it appears that most airlines have a policy that if a person requires an seatbelt extension and cannot fit into their seat with the arm rests down that they will be moved to a place where there is a free seat next to them if available. Some airlines in the US and Europe insist that if you need an extension belt and can't fit into the seat with the airm rests down that you are to purchase two seats or upgrade to Business class. End of story - no questions asked.

It's the elephant in the room (pardon the pun). Airlines are continually charging more for baggage services. Go a kilo or more over your baggage allowance and you are royally stung. Will there come a time that if you are over a certain weight or size you will be charged as well?

This is the third flight I've had where the person next to me has been of a size and girth where they have encroached on my general comfort. It's not great, sure, but I'm too polite to say anything or asked to be moved. The people next to me didn't say anything to the cabin crew either (Although on all three occasions the flights have been full to the brim - you're not going to get moved regardless of asking). The most I got out of one passenger next to me was, "I'm big, sorry I take up so much room." The others have said nothing. Why should anybody have to apologise for their size? Then again, why should I be uncomfortable because the person next to me is spilling into my seating area.

Something is going to have to give at some stage. Or maybe, like my very tall friend in the States, people will have to start taking active responsibility and start working with the airlines to gain a level of comfort for themselves and those around them.

Possibly airlines could make a couple of seats available with extra width in economy - although most would call this business class and be done with it.

Who is to take responsibility for the comfort of all? Is it a personal charge or one for the airlines to maintain?

It's a hard one.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

It Makes You Wonder Why

After I saw the film, "The Sessions" on Saturday and I challenged myself to look at why I was so moved by this film, just as I was intensely moved by films such as "The King's Speech" and "The Intouchables". This wasn't going to be an easy thing to look at, as these films, in theiw own way, moved me to my core.
"The Sessions" left me a sobbing mess through the credits - though not through sadness.

It was more a recognition.

In watching these films I've identified a part of my old self - a part of me that was there for a number of decades. Thankfully, a part of me that isn't really there any more.

To start this story, I have to take you back to Adelaide in the early seventies. It's one of my first clear memories.

I am standing with my mother, holding her hand. We are outside the Adelaide Children's Hospital waiting for the traffic lights to change and let us across O'Connell Street. The morning has been spent being tidied and scrubbed and I'm in my better clothes. My hair is neat - a fringed bowl cut that most children had at the time. My pleated skirt and jumper are a bit warm for the day.

This place is familiar to me. I was born in the hospital across the road. I've been told this numerous times. My mother did her nursing training in the same hospital. Se was born there too, some thirty-two years ago, my pretty, slim, mother - a little older than a lot of the other mothers around the then outer suburb of Seaview Downs, but she was my mother nonetheless.

I walk slowly. It's all I can do. My feet are encased in brown leather boots. Attached to these are metal rods which are bandaged onto my legs. There is a morning ritual. I wake up. I'm taken out of my night nappy, I'm dressed and then my legs are bandaged into the calipers and boots. There is a daily fight about these. It appears I've won the battle over wearing them at night, but I have to wear them during the day. I wear these hideous brown monstrosities from the age of three to the age of four. The bandages are scratchy and the boots are tight at times.

My mother and I are off to see Miss Creswell in the Physiotherapy section. She's a formidable woman - looking back, she was probably only in her late thirties or early forties. A crisply ironed uniform and her hair tied back in a severe ponytail. The area smells like disinfectant and dust. The walls are painted grey, although they've tried to brighten up the area with a few cartoon pictures scattered around the walls.

Miss Creswell always refers to my mother as "Mummy", which I think is strange as that's what I call my mother.

The appointment is never for long. Check my legs in the calipers. Check my legs out of the calipers. Come back in three months.

This time, from memory, was going to be a regular appointment. Although, being an Adelaide summer day, I was well into my treatment. At least they could do something for knock knees and tippy toes. The hospital had lots of children who were very poorly. I wasn't sick. I just had crooked legs.

While waiting at these traffic lights, people went around their business. Gough Whitlam was Prime Minister. My dad didn't like this. A war in this place called Vietnam was ending. There were hippies - my folks weren't hippies. My parents like music from people like Bing Crosby and Dean Martin. The street was dappled in the shadows of the leaves of the ash trees that line Kermode Street where we had parked.

I hear behind me the shrill voice of a woman, talking to her child.

"Look at that little crippled girl over there."

I looked around to see the child. I couldn't find her.

It took a moment for me to twig that she was referring to me.

What was callous, throwaway comment by some passerby in the street defined me for thirty years.


Not that I was. Okay, I was limited by my body for a lot of primary school, in and out of hospital, in and out of plaster boots, not good at sports, nor encouraged to be active as I was in possession of weak ankles - or so I was told.

The fact that I was 'crippled' defined me for so long. It never occured to me that I could be good at exercise. Other than going for a walk, something I was good at, exercise was horrible. As much as I hated physical education all through school, I was given marks for at least giving things a go.

More insidious, apart from being denied a love of exercise, is the mental effects of being labelled somebody who wasn't quite right was telling. Not worthy, broken. Who would love a cripple? Why would anybody want to touch me? Why would anybody want to be with somebody who wasn't quite right. People could see it in the street. My family let me know that I couldn't be a part of things because I wasn't quite right.

Who would want to be friends with a cripple?

I was just wrong.

Thankfully, a lot of careful, considered, love filled therapy has helped to get the self-esteem issues caused by all this in check. I'm grateful for a fairly keen mind and an overactive imagination for letting me get somewhere in the world, even when I was keeping myself back as a self-perceived second-class citizen.

I'm not this person any more.

Crap - when I'm trained up I can run a 21 kilometre half marathon - and walk to the course, walk home from the course and not be hobbled the next day.

I'm not disabled in any way, shape or form.

It was all in my mind.

However, when I watch films about people with some form of physical impairment, like 'The Sessions', with Mark and his iron lung, never figuring that he could ever have a relationship, never even thinking that he could have somebody want to be with him, touch him, love him... I get the film at a primal level. It touches me. On screen, extrapolated and morphed, is who I was.

I'm thankful that my experiences have given me this insight.

I'm also so very thankful that I'm not limited by such thoughts any more.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Three Days, Three Films

Melbourne has had some pretty hot weather of late - though a day of 39 degrees in the shade doesn't compare to the horror of the three or four days it takes for the flat to cool down.

Because my flat is a bit like a tinderbox at the moment, I've taken myself off to the  movies for the last couple of nights. May as well use somebody else's air conditioning and get entertained at the same time.

Have to say, I've been utterly blessed and awe struck by my choice in films - and I've managed to avoid the last of the Twilight films - Breaking Wind II - A Wet End to date.

Thursday night, with the temperature still up in the realms of stupid at 9 pm, I took myself off to see "The Perks of Being a Wallflower". The only other things on at the local cinema was Breaking Wind II and the new Bond film, which I'm seeing with Sam on Monday.

I didn't know much about the film on going in, other than the trailers looked good.

Utterly and pleasantly surprised by this film. The only thing that I can criticise about it was Emma Watson's wavering American accent.

The film caught perfectly what it was like to be an adolescent / young adult in the late eighties and early nineties.

Oh hang on, second small criticism - how can you not know who David Bowie is if you were a teenager of the nineties. EVERYBODY knows the song "Heroes".

Those two small criticisms aside, I was drawn into the three main characters immediately. I think I identified with the misfit in all three of them - not popular, not able to do anything about it, learning to find themselves, struggling with growing up. "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" is also one of the best scripted films I've seen in ages. Wonderfully done, subtle, caring and honest. It helps that the fellow who wriote the book also did the screenplay and directed the film - and I think this has kept his vision pure.

The guy who plays the step-brother is going to be up for great things.

"We are infinite!" Their battle cry.

Yep, they have the era, the angst, the dreadful way we treated out friends, the dreadful ways our friends treated up - the mixed up stuff we thought - and the wonderful mix tapes. I'd forgotton about the mix tapes. I suppose it's mix CDs now. But oh, I'd forgotten what it was like to make a mix tape, complete with the double tape player if you were lucky. And how you treasured your mix tapes. How good was it to get a mix tape. Ah, I'm getting all soppy now. Mix tapes remind me of my old pen friend.

Nostalgic quality, wonderfully and subtly done. Quite a surprise. I wasn't expecting anything as deep as this.

Four choc tops out of five.

Friday night is my traditional movie night - I often take myself off to the films to chill out after a tough week - light, fun films are the go. Last night's choice was "Pitch Perfect".

Very enjoyable, light, but great fun. It was a lot better than I thought it was going to be. It also re-introduced me to "The Breakfast Club" which I downloaded and watched immediately on getting home. The music was cool, and okay, the film isn't going to win any Oscars, but the storyline was strong enough the carry the film along and the music was great. I found myself tapping along to the choirs.

"The Breakfast Club" references were great too. As was Rebel Wilson, who was allowed to keep her Australian accent and just have a ball among all the skinny girls. Taking it's queue from "The Breakfast Club", it did have a bit of a message in that no matter how out of place you may feel, you can get on. (I can't be the only one who had "The Breakfast Club" as their favourite film for years - great, great film)

Perfect Friday Night fodder than you don't have to leave your brain at home - okay, you don't have to think, but it was great fun - which was what was needed.

Three and a half choc tops out of five.

Today, after going to meditation, finding my way for a slow 5 kms at the gym, joining an old friend at the Art Gallery for a coffee and getting a bit more Christmas shopping out of the way, I went to the cinema again. It was in my diary. Getting to a session of "The Sessions" has been out of my grasp for a few weeks, so I made a point of going and seeing it tonight. It was in my diary - I had to go.

First up, the subject seemed a bit daunting. A man in an iron lung wants to lose his virginity. A rabid Catholic, he seeks the guidance of his local priest.

It either sounds like a bad porn film or a sappy tragedy.

It's neither - it's up there with the best films I've seen this year - and along with "The Intouchables". Its unflinching look at disability, pity and hope is miraculous.

The performances by John Hawkes, who spends all of his time either in an iron lung or strapped to a hospital gurney, is incredible - expressing with his face and voice, if he doesn't get nominated for an Oscar, there is something very wrong with the system.

Helen Hunt as the sex surrogate was also excellent, and brave, spending most of her time on screen buck naked. William H Macy as the priest is marvellous too - but when isn't William H Macy not good? He's a favourite of mine.

Sensitive, sweet, strong, the fims not only looks at sexuality and disability, but it blurs boundaries looking at the essence of love. It alos made me think how lucky we are to be born in a time where there is a vaccine for polio.

A moving and terribly honest film. Brutally honest. Funny honest. You don't get that every day.

As the final scenes rolled, sat there sobbing - the last moments before the film ended were some of the most poignant I've seen - like finishing a great book, you just want it to go on.

It's been a few hours since I got home, but I'm still pondering this remarkable film. If you get a chance, see it. Okay, it might not be everybody's cup of tea, but it is truly remarkable.

And I have to go and do some work on myself as to why I've been so affected by this film. Another story for another blog I think.

Five choc tops out of five.

Right, I best be off - things to do, things to think about.

And best of all, I'm trying to do run or walk at least five kilometres a day for the month of December.
I'll be needing my rest.


December 5 kms a day Challenge (1/31)

Thursday, November 29, 2012


It's 39 degrees outside at the moment. That's Celsius, not Fahrenheit.

You could fry eggs on the footpath.

I've been in blissfully cool air conditioning for most of the day, only having a break when I pooped out to have lunch with a friend.

Tonight I plan to hole myself up in the local cinema to escape the heat and use somebody else's air conditioning.

But I have a problem.

I have an ear worm I'd like to get rid of before I go to the cinema.

It's strange.

We have a transport system here which is elitist and ineffective.
We have a public transport ticketing system which makes travelling if you're a visitor dreadfully hard - not the mention that the ineffective ticketing system that cost a billion dollars to make - and it still doesn't work that well. A billion dollars - like what!

The public transport company - which is privatised, spent a small amount of money on an advertising campaign to try and make people take a bit more care around railway platforms and level crossings - when it comes to advertising dollars, small bikkies.

This is the song that I have stuck in my head.

" Dumb Ways to Die" is the song in my head.

I feel embarrassed that I'm singing a song produced by Metro Trains.

But when I first saw this yesterday it had me tittering for an hour.

Off to the gym...

"... Use your private parts as pirhana baite..."

p.s. I love the corn in the bit about the unrefrigerated pie... this is gold stuff.
p.p.s  Just a pity they can't be as successful making the trains run on time or developing our woeful public transport systems in many suburbs.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The A-Z of Travel

This post comes to you via the wit and wisdom of the Plastic Mancunian, fellow blogger and traveller.

Travelling is one of my favourite things to do. I'm at my happiest when I'm on some mode of transport going to some destination, whether that be on a boat in Port Phillip Bay fishing for snapper or on some grand journey across Europe.

Here is my list.

A: Age you made your first international trip

My first international trip was when I was seventeen. My family went to New Zealand for a holiday – my grandmother left us some money when she died, so we took a coach tour around both islands in the summer before I started university. I’m not sure if that is an international trip, as New Zealand and Australia are very similar.

B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where

I’m very partial to Bintang. Being reticent to drink the water in Bali, a lot of Bintang got  imbibed when I was on holiday in Bali. Bogan, yes, but it’s not bad beer. Rather partial to Leffe as well, last imbibed at a pub in Covent Garden. Three pints and I had to be poured into a cab home.

C: Cuisine (Favourite)

I could say far too many to mention, but I’m very, very fold of Spanish food. Love tapas. Love cured meats. Bliss is patatas bravas, Jambon Serrano and these lovely cheeses. Joy.

Malaysian food comes a close second. Satays and Beef Rendang make life worth living.

D: Destinations. Favourite. Least Favourite. Why?

Favourite destination to date has to be Spain. I love travelling, but Spain blew me away when I visited two years ago.
The place I’ve dislike the most since travelling would have to be the city of Naples. Stepped off the train and felt I was on the set of some gangster movie. I don’t scare easily, but there was an air in Naples that made me want to get on the first train out of there. I lasted a day – and went to Capri which was much more civilised.

E: Event you experienced that made you say, ‘Wow'

Many years ago, just as I was about to leave London, I made my way to Westminster Abbey for a final look around. It’s a special place for me on a personal level. I met somebody very special there for the first time being one of those memories that I treasure.

Anyway, back in the day, you could get up to the Tomb of Edward the Confessor – one of the most sacred sites in Britain, but in recent times, they had closed it off as all of the foot traffic was damaging he monument. I was a little disappointed, at this and started talking to one of the vergers.
After a few minutes he told me to come with him.

He granted me access to the tomb, the Stone of Scone and the Coronation Chair, all by myself, for as long as I wanted to stay.

That was one of my ‘WOW’ moments.

F: Favourite mode of transportation

I love being on boats. Whether it be on a ferry in Sydney Harbour or a ferry around the Greek Island or on a punt on the River Cam in Cambridge, I love being on water and in boats, big or small. I find them very relaxing – and to date I’ve not got sea sick.

G: Greatest feeling while travelling

The freedom of being somewhere different. And not knowing where you are. It’s all one big adventure.

H: Hottest place I’ve travelled to

I live in Australia – the South Australian outback is up there. Rome and Athens in August were pretty unbearable too – the former made worse as I had a raging case of Bronchitis.

Bali gets a nod for the raging humidity. Yuk. Give me a Bintang, NOW!

I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where

Nothing beats good American service, though I did have to take issue with the Holiday Inn in Downtown New York.

I arrived after 24 hour flight on which I was recovering from food poisoning.
All I wanted to do was shower and sleep.
I got to my room, there was a knock at the door.
Did I need anything?
No. Thank you.
Ten minutes later, I was sitting on the loo.
Another knock at the door.
I didn’t answer and somebody tried to come in – I yelled at them to get the hell out.
Delivering a blanket.
Thank you, but I would be fine.
I was about to step into the shower when another knock on the door came.
They were politely told to go the hell away and I called down to reception to have a do not disturb for at least ten hours placed on my room.
I’m not the nicest person with jetlag and receding food poisoning.

Great service, but overkill.

J: Journey that took you the longest

That 24 hours from Singapore to New York via Europe felt like it went on forever. I’ve done a couple of 30 hour stints from Europe to Australia and back, but that one was not nice at all.

K: Keepsake from your travels

I have got quite a few over the years. A green resin Buddha from Thailand and an iron Sarasvati from Bali sit on my bookshelf – but I have a large panda bear that I found when I was on holiday in York that is wearing a scarf that somebody gave me when I was living in Mykonos. There are all sorts of small treasures I’ve got about the place.

L: Let down sight. Why and where?

Singapore. It’s not so much a sight as a place. It’s too clean, too orderly – the leaves wouldn’t fall from the trees unless there was a government degree. Sterile and lacking soul – let me go across the bridge to Jahor Bahru, Malaysia any day.

M: Moment where you fell in love with travel

Sitting in a wet market in Malacca, Malaysia with my university friend, Pauline, eating chilli infused noodles among the skinny cats and the strange smells. It was the first time I equated travel with life.

N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in

This is a toss up between the Shangri-La and the Westin in Sydney. Both are five-star hotels. The Shangri-La gets points for upgrading me to a harbour view room. The Westin wins hands down for the bathroom and the bath, which is absolutely magnificent.

O: Obsession. What are you obsessed with taking pictures of while travelling?

I’m a keen but not that accomplished photographer – but I love taking photo of what is in doorways and under arches. I make a point of it. Buildings and scenery come a close second.

P: Passport stamps. How many and from where?

My passport expired in January so I need a new one, but this last one has stamps from the following countries (not so much visa as I’ve never had to apply for one)

The UK
The United States
The Netherlands
New Zealand.

Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where.

My aunt and uncle took me to Intercourse and Blue Balls, Pennsylvania – both Amish towns. I was tittering about that for a week.

Quirkiest attraction – I can name a few. The Southend-on-Sea foreshore playing mini-golf, The Big Koala, Dadswell Bridge, The Grampians, Victoria, Salem, Massachusetts is a very, very strange place.

Oh, now I remember. The Mutter Museum, Philadelphia. A must go if your favourite programme on television is “Embarrasing Bodies” – like me.

R: Recommended sight, event, or experience

Here are a few that have left me speechless in a good way.

Toledo Cathedral, Toledo, Spain
The Alhambra, Grenada, Spain – one of the most beautiful places in the world
The Alcazar, Seville, Spain
Riding elephants in Thailand, Lampang Elephant sanctuary (even better as I did this on Christmas Day)
The woods just outside of Boston in Autumn. Stunning.
Westminster Abbey, London – just to see who is buried there
Elia Beach, Mykonos – for the joy of seeing naked men frolic like lambs
The Pantheon, Rome – actually, anywhere in Rome – Rome is great.
Utrecht, The Netherlands – great place, a smaller, friendlier, gorgeous city that I loved more than Amsterdam 
Puffing Billy, the Dandenongs, Melbourne
Port Arthur, Tasmania

S: Splurge. Something you have no problem forking over for while travelling.

In no order:

Information books on great buildings - more often than not, cathedrals
Tea towels for mum
A decent hotel for the first night I’m in a new city on my own

T: Touristy thing you’ve done

Salem, Massachusetts – the witchy thing was most uncomfortable for me
Taken a ride on Popeye on the Torrens ‘River’ in Adelaide
Eaten a cheese steak on the prodding of my 13-year-old cousin in Philadelphia
Universal Studios, Los Angeles
Had a Turkish bath in a Hamman in Granada
Puffing Billy in the Dandenongs is the best
The Guinness and Jamesons’ factories in Ireland
Kissed the Blarney Stone just outside of Cork
Been for an elephant ride in Thailand

And of course – I’ve been to Bali.

U: Unforgettable travel memory

I have so many of them. I’m lucky and most of them revolve around dinner and a bottle of wine with friends.

If I was to give you one memory, one of my absolute favourites was travelling to the Gold Coast with my friends Alice and Dougal to see the Pixies play at the V-Festival. That was special.

V: Visas. How many of them and for where.

I’ve got most of mine when I rocked up at the airport. I have a nice printed one in my old passport from Indonesia – that is the most official one I have in there.

W: Wine, best glass while travelling and where.

Ah, this was an Australian bottle, a Nicholson River Chardonnay, imbibed with friends in a 400-year-old cottage, on the banks of the River Wye, in front of the open just outside of Woking, Surrey.

RIP, Dickie.
X: eXcellent view and from where

As much as I don’t really like the place, the view of the caldera in Santorini is magnificent.

Y: Years spent travelling

Well, I’m 44 now so that makes it - argh! 25 years! And here’s to at least 25 more.

Z: Zealous sports fans and where

Sitting with my Aunt in Philadelphia watching her watch baseball is a pretty cool thing. I have no idea what she was talking about. I was only allowed to talk in the advertisements. It’s a nonsensical game, but my aunt, a mild-mannered, devoutly Christian, salt of the earth type of woman turns into a bit of a banshee when the Phillies play.

At least I think it was the Phillies… and I think we were watching baseball…

And finally …

Travelling may be the reason I don't have a house with a small mortgage, but I would not exchange my memories or experiences for anything. Travel is one of the most enriching, powerful and life-affirming things you can do for yourself. It's an education and an experience all rolled into one.  Long may I be able to continue to go to new and unfamiliar places.