Saturday, July 28, 2012

I wanna do bad things with you...

I nearly named this blog "Porno Weekend", but that would be wrong. Very wrong. It nearly got named "Pretty Dirty Things", but that don't cut it either.

So I came up with this title because it fits the bill. With the only think on the telly being the Olympics at the moment, I think I'll be watching a lot of Vampire porn over the next few weeks. Not that I'm against the Olympic Games, its just thatI really only like to watch the diving, gymnastics and occasionally the dressage. That's it. 

So yeah, the title comes from the fact that most of the last day has been spent considering the effect of soft core pornography on the soul of one delicate, seriously celibate Pandora. 

It all started last night as I departed from the office at 5 p.m. I'm loving my new role of instructional designer at Sparks and Ladders. I love the team - not a Gen Whine, mega ego or other type of office freak in sight. Everybody's a little nuts, but it's the nuts that I get on with. I'm back in the land that I enjoy and appreciate - back working on the periphery of engineers - this time of the brown cardigan, ex-government, infrastructure types, which are infinitely more daggy than the telecommunications engineering types.

The other thing I'm loving about the job is that a being an instructional designer - the person who designs training courses - when it's a day like yesterday. I spent the day pondering colour schemes, axis positions and click orders - which is fun and frustrating in equal measure. Sometimes I write things. The rest of the time it feels like I'm herding cats. Another story for another time, but my manager - a very patient woman, has charged me with keeping the team business analyst and the site builder in order. After eight days on the job, I'm starting to think that herding cats would be a far easier task. 

Anyway, I turned off my computer at a quarter past five, walked out of the office into a drizzly night and knowing that I had nothing other than a haircut, a session of Pump and a visit to Blarney on the cards for the weekend, I took myself off to see Magic Mike.

Yeah, Magic Mike. 

The softest of soft core voyeurism for the outer-suburban masses.

It's brilliant fun. After a heavy week at work - just what the doctor ordered. Sometimes it's a good thing to sit back with a choc top and think, "Hmm. Pretty."

Strippers seriously don't float my boat. The thought of going to a strip show - no thank you. But there is something lovely and dorkily watchable about Channing Tatum. Nobody's ever told him to put his shirt back on. Ever.

As films go, it's one of pure, brains-off escapism. It's sweet. It's fun. And it's full of semi-naked, preened, waxed, beefcakey men with sock-stuffed jock straps. After a hard week at work, there's not a better form of entertainment to be found.

There is also the slutty, filthy charm of Matthew McConaughey. Oh, he had some fun - and he took his shirt off too. He's good at that. Really good at that. 

I walked away from the film some tow hours later happy. The brain went out at the door and was put back in on the way  out. Perfect relaxation fodder.

As I said, strippers don't park my tractor at all. I've been at enough hen's parties to witness the degradation of both the stripper and his prey. Besides - willies aren't that interesting. Seen one, seen them all, only taking on mystical status when you have something going with it's owner. Strippers are more about the humiliation of the bride than for enjoyment. 

I think this is why Magic Mike was surprisingly enjoyable. There was a story - albeit lightweight. His character was rounded out. He was a good bloke (unlike his skeezy protege). There was a lot more than beefcake on stage prancing around, though give him his dues, Channing Tatum can REALLY dance.

So off I go home to bed after the film. I'm still trying to shake the last of the lingering cough from that cold and sinus infection I had a few weeks ago. With me, replacing the cat that recently went home, a copy of "Fifty Shades of Grey."

More housewife porn.

Okay, I'm reading it to see what all the fuss is about. 

Is it rubbish? Yes. Readable rubbish. The lightest of light soft core porno - sort of Mills and Boon with handcuffs and riding crops.

Is it the worst thing I've ever read? Hell, no. That honour still goes to Helen Brown's mega-woeful "Cleo - the  Cat that Healed a Family." (Still berating Blarney for that choice for book group). It's not well written at all - in the league of sexed up Twilight without the vampires. (I've heard that this all started as fan fiction gone wrong - and I can see that)

 Is it titillating? Not really.

After witnessing the better portrayed, lighter side of BDSM practices in the movie "Secretary", this has left me wanting.

Really, I can't see what the fuss is about. On the BDSM scale, it's like a two. Both parties are consenting, both have dulled, agreed limits. He doesn't get off on degrading her. There are no kids, animals, water sports, fisting, gimping or scarification on the table. What's the bother?

The thing that keeps me reading is what is not said in all the hype. It's not to see what they get up to in the bedroom. It's not about the alleged shock factor of the bondage stuff. It's not the wow factor of the over-the-top banality of the mega-rich man being attracted to the ordinary girl - though that is fun. I'm finding the flowery, cliche-driven text scoffable - just like with Twilight, although by the end of the fourth Twilight book I was ready to strangle the person who gave Stephenie Meyer a word processor.

Worryingly, or more to the point, disconcertingly, it's got me pondering that thing about the one person you meet in your life who pushes your buttons. The person who's buttons you push back. The person you ache for in the middle of the night when when you wake with a start. The one who when you smell their scent in the street, every hair on your body stands on end. The person who you're supposed to be with and you know it from the second that you meet. 

And this is where this book, all dreadful prose and "Look Mum, I can shock you!" activities has got completely under my skin.

It's left me wanting. Not wanting to be spanked or degraded or ferried around in a late spec, upmarket Audi.

This bloody book has left me pondering something I though I left behind years ago - sitting with a mess of wildly inappropriate thoughts, the desire to smoke half a pack of Embassy Reds, down a pint of bitter, go to the Walthamstow dish lickers (greyhound racing) and drink in the scent of Davidoff's Cool Water for Men.

And this may well be the power of this wretched book. On a badly-written, cliche-filled, shockingly flimsily plotted way, this bloody book has brought him back to life.

He who shall not be named or thought about. The one that got away. The one that I will always ponder on "what if" - if I let myself.

The one that knows how to push every one of my butons - who's buttons I push back in return. And we both know it.

Bloody book.

I think I'd better go have a tepid shower and stick something less arousing on the telly.

Like Red Dog. Or March of the Penguins. Or the West Wing. Or the Sound of Music.

Ho Hum.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Be Cool

I received an interesting email through my LinkedIn account yesterday. It read,"I saw you at the X food court just a while ago, but you were halfway down the street before I could say hello. I remember you fondly as one of the cool kids from Tin Can, String and Whistle."

That an email came through from this person didn't phase me - he's a nice guy I worked with for a few months a couple of years ago.

The thing that flummoxed me was that he thought of me as "one of the cool kids."

This is me you're talking about.

Me, Pandora T. Behr, who's currently sitting on the couch in a big towelling dressing gown, typing on a laptop in the late evening, blogging like a dork -  I know myself as one of the daggiest people on the planet.

I am not cool.

Cool is one of the last words I would use to describe myself. Odd. Strange. Somewhat flaky (though I nearly tore somebody's head off when he called me flaky a few months back) Reliable. Loyal Weird  - but never cool.

I'm about as cool as three-day-old road kill in the middle of the Simpson Desert.

How can anybody who irons her bedsheets be cool? (Did that earlier tonight)

Or have a love of Shakespeare, the Pixies and tomato sauce concurrently - not cool things.

Or the closest relationship she's had in the last ten years is with her best friend's cat.

I'm not cool.

Fonzie is cool. Don Draper is cool. Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction - cool.

I truly believe that I have never been, nor will I ever be cool.

From a young age I got that I wasn't meant to be one of the cool group. Something of a loner and an outcast, I had a few friends at school, but I was never part of the cool or popular crowd - far from it. University and college were the same. I had a small group of good friends, friendly to most, but not overly popular.

See, I reckon I'm about as cool as the Maow Maow in his pink jumper.

So, just what is cool?

Looking at the definition in, which gives the cool I'm talking as being "not excited; calm; composed; under control: to remain cool in the face of disaster."

Wikipedia, that suppository of all useless knowledge provides a definition as "Cool was once an attitude fostered by rebels and underdogs, such as slaves, prisoners, bikers and political dissidents, etc., for whom open rebellion invited punishment, so it hid defiance behind a wall of ironic detachment, distancing itself from the source of authority rather than directly confronting it."

Okay, I can wear some of this. I'm pretty good in a crisis and thinking on my feet. Ironic detachment I do well. Thumbing my nose at authority - yeah. But that's only a little bit of me.

It also says that cool is: " regarded as cool is an admired aesthetic of attitude, behaviour, comportment, appearance and style, influenced by and a product of the Zeitgeist.

Thing is, this being called cool really flummoxed me. It's dented the view of myself. See, here I am, looking at what's what. I'm not that interesting, as anybody who reads my blog will know. I'm a runner. I'm a nerd. I'm a loner. I will admit to being average looking and reasonably intelligent. I'm tenacious,  stubborn, occasionally  glib, sometimes a bit funny, sometimes obtuse. I dance and sing and laugh quite a bit. My memory is stupidly good.

But I'm still not cool.

I asked this question of Jonella - telling her about what went down. Her response was she though cool was somebody who was comfortable in their own skin and surroundings - and by this, I fitted the bill.

Still gobsmacked. And still not cool.

The only other time this has happened was in England a few years ago. Staying with my friend Verity for a night after a long trip away. I catch up with her whenever I got to England - she's a good and trusted friend, though I rarely see or hear from her. One of the last times I was there she bade me a compliment.
"You've changed Pand. You travel the world. you get on with things. And I you're really rather cool."
"Cool? Me? You sound surprised."
"I am," she responded.

I suppose I'm just sitting here, typing on my laptop, in my dressing gown, blogging late into the night just pondering how people see me versus how I see myself.

And I'm still not cool.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Where is Pandora?

I'm sitting her in a t-shirt that reads, "The beatings will continue until morale improves." It has a pirate skull and crossbones on it. My hair is tied up in a ponytail. The heart rate monitor sits comfortably under my bra, but the watch part is sitting on the windowsill, looking out over a lovely Melbourne Winter Day. The cat is asleep in the middle of my unmade bed. A waft of lemon grass oil is coming from the bathroom - lemon grass - a brilliant fungicide  - better than  bleach for cutting through mould - not that there is much - in the bathroom. I'm thinking about turfing everything out of my bedroom and rearranging the furniture - I do that once a year.

And I look at the do to list:
  • Get some exercise
  • Sort the Elks Property Commission books
  • Get a few more pages into "Fifty Shades of Grey" and not laugh at the appalling writing
  • Hoover
  • Go see Blarney and the boys and the Maow Maow
  • Iron
  • Get everything ready for the week
  • Think about what else can go on Ebay
Stupid thing is, I'd rather curl up in bed with the iPad and the cat and watch the last season of Mad Men again.

I am exhausted.

My last post I was telling you about the "Man Flu" as the Plastic Mancunian calls it I was suffering from last week. I asked Jonella about this - did I indeed have "Man Flu'? Her response was in the negative. I was really sick - it wasn't Man Flu. The antibiotics have now run their course, the snot is receding, but by 8.30 p.m., I'm ready for bed. And I haven't been to the gym since last Thursday - over a week ago.

My gut reaction to the new job is proving accurate. I've been there three days and I reckon I'm going to be really happy there - but this is not to say that in the last three days of work I've worked harder and smarter than I've done in the last couple of years. Hit the ground running is a bit of an understatement. Hit the ground and expect to do a sub-three-hour marathon is more like it. The work is interesting, the people are lovely but I've been given a large task to sort and deliver on in a very short time frame. I get in, turn on the computer, grab a bottle of water and sit there until lunch, plotting, scanning and generally getting on with the job at hand. A catch up with the project manager at the end of Friday had her suitably impressed. I rather surprised myself - as I was telling my Instructional Design mentor. I can't remember ever having to take the helm like this before.

Hopefully Sparks and Ladders will do me well.

Somewhat later:

I'm looking at the list above. It's 11.30 p.m. Where did the day go?

The only exercise done was walking around the shopping centre on the way to get supplies. This laziness ends tomorrow.

Blarney and the boys got a visit. Did not see the Maow Maow. Allegedly he's in hiding as Blarney is making him wear a coat due to a skin condition. The coat is allegedly pink and is supposed to be worn by toy poodles. Poor lamb must feel very emasculated.

Mother and sister have been called. A trip to Adelaide for the City to Bay has been arranged.

The ironing is done. A load of washing got done too.

The Elks books are done. I got some help. See...

The Elks books took me the better part of the evening, but they are done now. Thank goodness. Whoever thought I'd be a good treasurer was mad. Sure, I've worked in banks - but I work in IT now. This was an exercise in revisiting my past. Reminded me of my time at Merrill Lynch reconciling corporate actions.  I think I should book in a session with my counsellor to debrief - I forgot how much I hate ticking back accounts.

A few pages of the diabolical "Fifty Shades of Grey" got read late afternoon. It's like Twilight with bondage but without the vampires. This is not a good thing. There are so many writers who do decent women's erotica - Justine Esstler, Tobsha Lerner to name a few - this is just Mills and Boon with cable ties. Dear me.

I've played a few rounds of "Kill the Moose" with the cat - this involves throwing a catnip-infused Hessian mouse around the place. The cat goes after these things with the fervour of a teenager at a One Direction concert. Watched her go head first into the walls every so often. It's a joy to watch. She loves to play.

My clothes are set out for tomorrow morning, my bag packed and the alarm set for 6.15 a.m.

I'm officially back in the rat race.

Now I really have to plan the time to write.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Big Possums and Other Disasters

I wish I got normal colds. I really wish I could get the sniffles and the snuffles and soldier on like normal people.

But but no, I don't get normal sniffles and snuffles. When I get a cold, for the first few days I can dose myself up on cold and flu tablets and soldier on. Then on day three or so, I turn into a lurgy ridden, coughing, grey faced zombie. It's not pretty. Everything aches. I emit yellow crap akin to that scene in The Exorcist. 

And I don't function - at all. I can't add up, put a sentence together - nothing. It's horrible. How come I can be like normal people and put on a brave face?

Then I spend a few days in bed drugged up on paracetamol and antibiotics and things come good. I know the drill - after years of finding myself laid out like this six or seven times a year you have a ready routine. I blame a bout of glandular fever in my early twenties for the dodgy immune system, thankfully now strengthened by the naturopath, keeping these colds down to once or twice a year now, and nowhere near as bad as they were Still, when I get laid out with a cold, I know about it.

I'm also thankful that I can manage these with some grace - hiding away until I can talk without sounding like a zombie.

So I found myself at the doctor's office today explaining myself.

"Upper respiratory tract infection. Sinus involvement." I moaned at her, coughing between sentences.
"I can see that." said the doctor."Your face is distorted."
"Yep. Lots of rest, fluids, paracetamol. Avoid milk. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200."
"You've done this before."
"Yep, now can I please have a script for that lovely tetracycline you give me and a doctor's certificate for today and tomorrow."
"Of course - you sure you don't want a few more days."
"Two days will be fine - if I'm still bad Wednesday, I'll come back."

The doctor checked me out, happily complied with my wishes, said every second person she was seeing at the moment was in the same state and wished me a nice couple of days in bed.

Thing is, this time, I really didn't want to be in bed.

I wanted to be in my new office, with my new work mates, in my new job. See, today, I was supposed to be  starting my new contract, in my near made to order new job.

Needless to say, I rang my agent after seeing the doctor. I'm now starting on Wednesday - which as much as it irritates me that I'm not at work, I'm taking comfort that I'll be about to function when I get there on Wednesday.

Dream job you say. Yep - well, as near as a job made to order for me comes. Working for one of the utilities companies - Sparks and Ladders, I've been taken on as an Instructional Designer as the "creative" on the team, writing training packages for he roll out of some new technology. A six month contract, it will take me up to Christmas, with the possibility of more work in the new year.

Last week I had interviews for two very different jobs. The first for a full time permanent role at a semi-Government Telco - White Elephant Optics. The interview went very well. Walking into the company I said hello to the receptionist who I knew from Tin Can, String and Whistle.

"Hello, Daphne. Swans did good on the weekend."

I haven't seen Daphne in nearly three years. She still looks like a psychedelic Christmas elf who resided in the Gold Coast for a bit too long.  All that's missing is the Pomeranian sitting in a handbag nearby.

"Hello, love. Crows did well too."

We hadn't seen each other in a few years. There was a bit of deja vu going on.

In the lift on the way up to the interview room I said hello to nearly a dozen people. The guy interviewing me asked if I knew everybody in the company.


As I was entering the interview room where the other interviewer was sitting, I was enveloped in a bear hug and noisily kissed on both cheeks. It was Gustav, another old mate from Tin Can, String and Whistle. One of my favourite people in the planet.

I told him I was interviewing and went into the room.

"Do you always get manhandled by senior management when you come here?" asked one of the interviewers.

As I said, the interview went very well.

On the way out, I texted Glen Waverley and Wubbe to see if they wanted coffee. They are seconded to White Elephant Optics at the moment. They met me in the lobby. All very convenient.

See, for what appeared to be a good job on paper, one of the great things about working there would be knowing a lot of people. The same fact could be a liability too.

The second interview of the day was later in the afternoon. I met the manager from Sparks and Ladders in a coffee shop. We talked about writing training - about the joys of large projects and the joys of having to train across demographics. She appeared to like me. She seemed pretty hard line, but I like that in a Project Manager - know where you stand. She implied that she would like me to meet the team of Change Analysts and Tech Writers. The feedback came that she found me a breath of fresh air and delightfully left of centre.

Two days later, I met the team. They seemed like a lovely bunch and we got on well.

The following day I was offered the contract to start on Monday. Today.

Thankfully the agency and the company have been understanding. I'm now starting Wednesday - and I feel better knowing that I can go in firing on all cylinders.

So today, I've been spending a lot of time in bed, drinking my clear fluids and talking to the cat.

See, Sam's cat is still with me. Waylaid on her holidays, the cat and I tick along well and the extra two weeks she's staying are no trouble at all. We get on so well that she sleeps next to my pillow, harangues me for food and gives me nips if I don't pay her attention. Her favourite place to sit is on the laptop keyboard. I bought her a couple of catnip mice to play with, aware that she has little to do around here. I've found out she's a brilliant catch - we could easily farm her out to the Australian Cricket team. Hours of fun those catnip mice are providing.

However, as with all time off sick, there is always a drawback. When migraines come, the guy with the leave blower will undoubtedly get to work for a few hours. Or a neighbour will start demolishing a kitchen. Or there's a jack hammer outside in the street.

Today's noise was provided by six guys walking over the roof replacing the guttering. Noisy buggers with cherry pickers stomping around the place all day.

Poor cat was having coniptions.

So I've spent the day reading, watching Mad Men and trying to convince the cat that the noise from the roof was just big possums - nothing to be scared of at all.

I'm wondering if all this stomping about has relocated the real possum that lives in my roof. The cat can cope with that one. The ones with steel caps not so much. Here's hoping by the time I got back to work, the cat has acclimatised to the noise or the big possums have gone elsewhere.

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Money Order Office on Urbanspoon

I'm beginning to love the times when Millie's husband goes away for work for more than a week - because that means that it's time for posh dinner night. So far, over the last year we've gone to Jacques Reymond and Libertine to partake of their degustation menus - both experiences were wonderful, though very different. When the email came through in June that he was going to be on the road again and did we want to do another degustation dinner, I jumped at the chance. Looking at the list of places we were considering back in the bucket list days, the one that came out on top was the Money Order Office - once a fine dining restaurant, which has gone a little more casual. The other thing we liked about the M.O.O degustation menu was the price. At a reasonable $75 for eight courses, it fitted the bill perfectly.

As Jonella's Mum has come to stay, she chose to give this one a miss, and instead, Em came along to see what all the fuss was about. At the end of the meal, she said she'd love to come along next time.

I'd been to the Money Order Office, or M.O.O as it is referred in a couple of occaions. I had one birthday dinner there and I remember one rather alcohol infused night reading tarot for a rowdy hen's party. Tucked away, downstairs behind the old Post Office, it's a place many know about, but few seem to get to, though the Penny Black Bar upstairs does a roaring trade by the looks of the crowd there on a Thursday night. Talking to Wayne the maitre'd, he said that business was booming - and for good reason.

We went to our alloted booth and ordered the eight course degustation menu. Millie, who doesn't do seafood or peas was told that all would be well. Em and I were happy with what was being described to us - which is best described as a Tapas inspired degustation delight. As Millie was participating in "Dry July", she kept to water for the evening. Em and I partook of a glass or two of the house bubbles, a reasonably dry Sally's Paddock "Sasha". The wine list is extensive, but being a school night and a long drive home for Millie, we kept to the bubbles - just enough to cleanse the palate between courses.

First dish out was a Duck Rilette with Apple Chutney and Cornichons. And we were off to a good start. The  duck rilette, or as Masterchef has taught me, a quinelle of duck pate was smooth and not overly rich, off set by the pickles and the toasted bread. Lovely, subtle and some great complementary flavours.

The second course was Em and my favourite for the night - the Spanner Crab and Sweet Corn Cocktail. These layered shots of sweet corn custard, watermelon jelly, avocado and spanner crab were delicious. Millie, not being of the seafood persuasion, had these amazing looking Empanadas. They looked great too, but I still think she missed out. Our cocktails were tasty and delicate with a great mix of textures.

The great food continues with the Jamon and Manchego Croquettes with apple puree and crispy ham. Another great dish which we all enjoyed, the tart apple puree setting off the croquettes perfectly. 

Like all of the other degustation dinners we've done, the balance of all of the dishes was remarkable. The courses followed each other setting off the flavours from the last.

The next dish. grilled garfish with nut butter and caper sauce was my least favourite of the night - and not for want of any lack. The fish was cooked perfectly and lightly flavoured with a salsa - but after the more robust flavours of the rest of the dishes, this one seemed to miss out a bit. Millie received another dish which looked  preferable. This was only a matter of taste on the night.
We all enjoyed the friendly, easy service at M.O.O., Wayne, the manager stopping to chat and talk about the changes that had come on the place over the last few months since they're gone from a fine dining restaurant to a more casual format, the the emphasis on great food. He also mentioned that there was a cocktail he wanted us to try - a hot buttered rum. Seeing I was celebrating the signing of a new job contract, I put my hand up for the task - after all, I wasn't driving or working the next day. 

Whilst waiting for this cocktail, the next dish arrived - another favourite of the night. A roasted pumpkin, burnt sage, pomegranate and goat's cheese salad. Bliss on a cold night. Fresh and tart and creamy and just wonderful. I could have eaten a bucketful of this. Just wonderful.

Of the cocktail, served in a tea pot, this made my night. A blend of heated champagne, fig and apricot infused rum, spicesand butter, heated to near boiling, this was a stunning, stunning addition to the evening. I gave Millie a sniff of the teapot, and Em a sip, but I was a happy girl. The perfect winter cocktail. Once the drink had been finished, I refused to give the teapot back, regularly taking a whiff of the scent. It reminded me of good christmases and open fires and the great things about winter. The teapot was returned when we paid the bill.

Following the salad, our next course was Morcilla with an apple puree. Another very tasty addition to the degustation menu, which Wayne was surprised we didn't question. It's a spiced black pudding of sorts - well tasty. He said that that wasn't advertised that often as black pudding but the taste, blending with the Chimmi Churri sauce. As with all good degustation dinners, the heavier dishes are left until last. This black pudding was tasty, without being too heavy.  

The last of the savoury dishes came soon after, Slow Cooked Duck breast with pureed celeriac and remoulade. This was another favourite, the duck cooked perfectly matches with the piquant celeriac. The Textures were amazing. Loved this dish.

And finally, pudding. A rhubarb gratin with buttermilk sorbet. A near perfect, not too sweet dessert to end the night - the buttermilk sorbet was particularly good - and not especially sweet, which ended the meal perfectly. 

We left after a lovely talk with Wayne. Would we go back to M.O.O.? In a shot. Reasonably priced, lovely service and great atmosphere, it made for a good night. They pride themselves on good food in a great atmosphere.

They've got it.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Queen Lear, Oh, Dear

Being in this state of in-between-jobness, I've been trying to keep my costs to a minimum - but seeing preview tickets to Queen Lear at the Melbourne Theatre Company going for half the normal going rate, I was keen to snap one up - even with the funds being reigned in. Of the MTC Season, this was the play I most wanted to see.

Being the inveterate Shakespeare nerd, Lear is one of my very favourite plays. It always has been, ever since we were taught it as part of the Year 11 curriculum. A play of ageing, of foolish decisions, of jealousy, revenge, dysfunctional families and love. There is something in it for everybody.

More curious was I to see how changing Lear from a man to a woman would come about. Lear, the powerful man in his swansong, a man filled with pride and rage and dishonour, only begins to the see the world as it really is after going mad - just as Gloucester can only see how things really are after being blinded. There is the loyal Kent, the scheming Edmund, the loving Edgar, and the twisted sisters, Goneril and Regan. And of course, Lear's Fool - in many ways, the conscious of the king.

So, yeah, here I am pondering how what is a complex play about fathers and daughters would translate to a mother / daughter scenario.

Making matters a liitle more complex, a friend had gone to the performance the night before and walked out at intermission. Her words were,"Draw your own conclusions."

I'm fearless  - my curiosity suitably piqued. However, the MTC have done a couple of superlative Shakespeare's in the last few years. Ewan Leslie's Richard III was PHENOMENAL - and his Hamlet was bloody good too. So having Robyn Niven as Lear - okay, great actress. But still. how was this going down?

I'm going to preface this review by saying that this is not the worst Shakespeare I've seen. Not even close. There were some really good things about the whole performance. There were some pretty dreadful things about it too.

Of the bad - and I'll get these out of the way. In no order:
  • Why did Regan look like a cheap hooker with a pole up her arse?
  • How come Lear sounded like she was from Camberwell and Cordelia from Broadmeadows?
Okay, I've got that out.

I found that making Lear a woman incredibly thought provoking, but it messed with the dynamics of the play for a lot of it. Though sometimes worked - in particular, the early scenes where Lear goes between the daughter's places - effective. But the relationship with Cordelia, and her role was mostly taken out - made emotionally connecting to her next to impossible. That and Cordelia sounded like a bogan.

Then there's the issue of the Fool - Lear's relationship with his/her Fool is often critical to the play - this could have been handled SOOOOO much better. Didn't like that bit at all.

The staging, at times effective, at times underlit, with chains hanging from the ceiling was cool - again, more could have been done. After the joys of Richard III and Hamlet, a bit of a let down. I loved how when they put Kent in the stocks he was elevated in a cage - well effective. The set could have been used to such a great effect - it felt like they missed their chance with that.

Of the great things about the play -I did enjoy the staging, the the three tonne of chain they used hanging from the ceiling was suitably menacing.

For me, Richard Piper (Gloucester) and Rhys Muldoon (Kent) kept the whole play together. Gloucester, in particular, was wonderful. The fellow playing Edgar was also very good, and thankfully easy on the eye, especially since I spent most of the performance in a pair of cycle shorts and nothing more.

As for Lear - Robyn Niven gives it her all - and hit the mark at time, fell short in others. Am I willing to give her the benefit of the doubt - yes - some dodgy line cuts, the odd bit of strange directing - not her fault - she was making do with what she was given. The Storm Scene - wonderful. The early scenes between her and the two older daughters great. But the end left me cold.

I also found many of the scene and line cuts unfathomable - and Cordelia  - oh dear - just nowhere near the calibre of the rest of the cast - barely seen through the play and lacking some presence. The actress is a fine Australian actress and I've loved her on television and film. Here, she just annoyed me.

In all, a decent, but flawed performance - over-promising and under-delivering, but also brownie points for trying.

For me, the scene that cut me to the quick - where they plucked out Gloucester's eyes. I find this hard to watch at the best of times - made all the more poignant but the fact that an Aunt of mine last year tripped, fell on a piece of wire, lost and eye, her sight, her mind and finally her life. I sat there shaking in my chair through the whole scene.

Never before has this scene effected me in such a way.

Until now, I never thought that life and art could be in synch.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Colliding Worlds

I'm rather glad that some elements of my life rarely interact. My dream group friends don't meet my work mates. My gym buddies don't have anything to do with my old friends. My drinking buddies have nothing to do with anybody. It's just the way life is. Small groups of discrete people with whom I spend my time.

I love my friends, but for most of them, I socialise with them in their own groups. Some friends are blended into a few groups - and some friends know about the other groups and get an introduction. Others don't. So people like Blarney, Alice and Jonella I've known through work, they're also in book group and I know that I can mix them around. Others, I tend to socialise on their own. It's just easier.

So yesterday, I was a bit taken aback when worlds came bashing into each other with the force of a ten tonne truck.

Yesterday I had my tarot reader hat on. This is something that comes on every so often - even better when I'm between jobs as it helps pay for the incidentals like personal training and theatre tickets and the odd evening out. It's not steady income, but once or twice a month, I get the call from the company who hires me out, we discuss times, dates and people and bookings are made. You never know who you're going to be reading for at these events  - though you will always be given a rough count of the people you'll be reading for and the type of event you'll be at - which for me is normally hen's parties and the odd corporate do.

Throwing on my 'tarot' reader garb - a long black skirt, black, boots, a stripy jumper and understated make up, I made my way into town. They used to ask me to dress up for these events - make myself look like a fortune teller. Thing is, I read better when I'm comfortable - and dressed up like a circus freak really doesn't make me feel relaxed. Thankfully, as I've taken on the business from another set of people, I get a say in what I wear and I don't dress up now - the best I do is modified Goth. At a push - a big push, with some extra money thrown in for the humiliation.

Tramming to the city, I made it to the apartment hotel complex on time. I called the number I was given and the mother of the bride came down to collect me. On the way up to the room, I explained that I was the entertainment - think of me as the stripper. She had a chuckle at that. I told her to be very thankful that I wasn't stripping. That's not a very pretty sight at all.

It appears that hen's days are getting a lot more civilised. It depends on the bride, the maid of honour and the crowd. This crowd appeared down to earth and educated. No strippers here. Just me for the afternoon reading cards for the dozen or so guests, then out to dinner and maybe some clubbing after. The mother of the bride told me all about this - she also said that she was interested in what I did and could she have my card. (Note to self, get on Vistaprint and have some of these made up - I've been meaning to do this for ages.)

Walking in the door, I had a chat with the person who booked me - who was thrilled I had turned up on time and she led me into the living room of the rented apartment to give my schpeil - a standard few lines that I was there to give short readings, that I only told positive and happy things and that if they pulled the Death Card that they weren't going to die - they might die, but in forty or fifty years. 

From somewhere on the couch I heard a,"I know you!"

She did?

"Hey, I know you. You're psycho-cardio-chick!"

Eh. I looked at the owner of the voice. A long haired, middle aged woman was smiling at me.


"And you're psycho-weights-girl."


"Oh my goodness, I didn't recognise you out of you training gear!" we said simultaneously.

It appeared I'd ended up at a hen's party for one of the personal trainers at the city gym I go to before work a few mornings a week. Psycho-weights-girl, also known as Sharon, is one of the personal trainers. We're forever running into each other in the gym change rooms at 8.30 in the morning, in various states of dress, ablutions and breathlessness. She refers to me as psycho-cardio-chick because she can't fathom why anybody would  want to run for more than half an hour. She's known as psycho-weights-girl for similar reasons. If we run into each other at the gym, we will have a quick chat - been doing that for over a year.

A strange coincidence. 

After finishing my introductions, the readings went off without a hitch. One of the better hen's parties I've done - a lovely group of women without the normal personalities you get at hen's parties - normally being the resentful sister, the teary or jealous bridesmaid, the token gay male and of course, Nanna. These readings spoke of happiness and good changes and loving life. Such a great energy to be around. I left the job two hours later, energised, though a bit over talking.

I'm still a bit flummoxed that I ended up with a group of people who've seen me at the gym, red-faced, panting and often in various states of undress. 

Still, it just goes to show how small the world is becoming. This is the second time in a few months that I've ran into somebody I know while on a tarot job.

I just hope it doesn't happen any more frequently.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Man in My Life

I have a man in my life.

I've had a man in my life for about five years now, though he isn't a partner, or a lover or a boyfriend.

The man in my life is my personal trainer - affectionately known as Pinochet. Pinochet's real name is Juan Pedro - or Ped for short, but that's a bit hard for my Mypongan sensibilities to get around, so I call him Pinochet (behind his back, of course) - after all, he is from Chile and he is a dictator at times.

Pinochet is best described as hot in a soccer player kind of way - dark skinned, lithe, bread roll bum over lean legs - with the odd tattoo. He used to have dreadies, but now he sports a number two crew cut. As it's been pointed out to me, he's damned attractive - but where as some see his boyish enthusiasm as charming - I just see labrador puppy.

I can't remember life without Pinochet - well, I can, but I don't like to think of that life. I first took on his services in the weeks after I was dumped by my last boyfriend at the start of 2008. Stinging from the break up, and being told by this loser that I was too thin (despite my weight being up around the 110 kg mark) I enlisted at the local gym and took up the personal training offer they had going. I was assigned Pinochet. It was the start of a beautiful, occasionally expletive-ridden friendship.

After the first few sessions where I could barely move the next day, I slowly - very slowly, learned that if you're going to pay somebody to put you through abuse, the more effort you do in the week, the less it hurts after he has his way with you. With his guidance, he's helped me loose and keep off 20-30 kilos, get really fit, start running half marathons, lift solid weights and finally, after four decades of hating my body, I've finally got the strength and fitness and tone that I love and relish. It was me who did the work - but he's he been there guiding me along. He knows I won't do burpees, but will squat with 25 kilos on my back all the session if he so wishes (love squats). He gently pushes my ageing body to do more and more. He's helped instil a sense of pride in my body and in who I am.

The other great thing about him is that he trains us in pairs and groups of three. Over the years, I've made some great friends with the women I train with. He believes that in training in pairs, we give each other support as well as egg each other on. Yes, there is brinkmanship, but there's also a lot support through these women. The network is brilliant - gives you another reason to go to the gym.

See, though I pay Pinochet to put me through my paces on a weekly basis - the best incentive to get myself to the gym in between times, over the years he's become a proxy little brother.

See, like most of the women whom he trains, and with whom I train, Pinochet is the younger brother most of us never had. I'll phrase that differently. Pinochet is the enthusiastic, well-meaning, reprobate kid brother that most of us feel the need to begrudgingly take care of. 

Jay, one of the women I train with who's become a friend over the years, said the same thing.

"You know he's going on a cruise next week?" she asked as we were coming out of Pump the other day.
"Really? Heaven help the high seas. That's just asking for trouble."
"Indeed. Can you see it?"
"He's going to go overboard or come back with something nasty."

Thing is, Pinochet doesn't get into 'that' much trouble. Okay, his speeding tickets are a thing of legend and his wonderful, fun business ideas leave most of his clients (who are professional women for the most part) shaking our heads, partly in horror, partly in envy. Knowing I know where to get a bouncy castle really appeals to me for some strange reason - his latest endeavour.

The other thing that is irritating, yet endearing, is his time keeping. Having a flexible schedule, I normally see him on a Thursday night at seven 'o' clock. There are some weeks when I need to come another night. Or sometimes things get mixed up.

On any given training day, a barrage of texts will fly between us. They normally go something like this.

Pedro: See you at six
Me: Nope. You said seven.
Pedro:You can't come then?
Me: Not unless you want me in a suit and heels.
Pedro: What about Saturday?
Me: Nope. Busy
Pedro: Well, can you come at seven then...

After five years, used to this too. There are times when our sessions will be reorganised across the week until I scream "Seriously, two sessions next week - all too hard!"

I was looking forward to today's session after he reorganised it twice this week. No problems with me as I have time being in between contracts. I also went and did a five kilometre run this morning. A sense of foreboding taking me over, there was something saying that this training session might not take place.

Sure enough, I turned up at the gym at five. I was greeted at the door by Pinochet - looking sheepish.

"I've messed up. I got things mixed up," he told me.
"You don't want to train me?"
"I want to train you, just I booked in four, not three people."
"Ah, one too many."
"And you're between jobs."
"And I've been for a run this morning. No drama. You're on holidays for ten days - see you when you get back."
"Thanks for this."
"No worries."
"Oh, and Pand. Can you go get me some dinner?"

This is another thing you get if you're a long standing client who has a kid brother for a trainer.


"Okay, what do you want?"
The list and some money was handed over. I wasn't training. No skin off my nose to drop into the supermarket next door - had to go there anyway and pick up a few things. Ten minutes later I returned with a chicken breast, some ricotta, a heap of vegetables - and feeling benevolent, a nice fresh bread roll from the bakery.

Returning to the gym, the groceries were handed over.

"There you go. Dinner."
"Thank you."
"Now, go have a lovely cruise. See you in ten days. I promise to train. With this time off I'd like to shed a few kilos by the time you get back."
"Good girl."
"Oh, and bring me something back - but not crabs or herpes or the clap."
"Of course not."
"And don't do drugs."
"And don't drink too much."
"Would I do that."
"And don't carry parcels through borders for people."
"And make sure you wear a condom if you find yourself in compromising positions - and that means not putting them over your head and blowing them up through your nose breath."
"Do you think I'm twelve?" he moaned, "I'm thirty-four."

I gave him a kiss on the cheek and made my way towards the reception desk. He called after me.

"You know, Jay and Chrissy and Anna and Min and Kitt said exactly the same thing to me."

Who'd have known...

I hope he has a great time. Just heaven help the South Pacific.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The But-Kick MeMe

In my in-between contracts state, I'm finding I'm not writing enough, which is daft, as I have the time. So I'm giving myself a kick up the bum and doing a meme to start to process of writing again - and I hope to blog daily until I get my next contract - which instinct says may not be too far away. I've had a  few call backs - one role in particular looks interesting.

So here goes, the "Kick up the Bum Meme" - which I think was stolen from the legendary "Sunday Stealing", king of the useless questions.

Oh, the other thing about doing this meme - for every question I answer, a chore is done after. Means that I get some stuff done as well as writing.

1. Which TV character do you think you are most like?
Ah dear - a loaded question to start with. I have two options here - Phoebe from Friends springs to mind - I can be a bit flaky, a little on the eccentric side - and my singing is diabolical. The other person on telly that I'm told I'm like is Jo Frost, the supernanny - not that I am stern or painful or say ad nauseum, "That's un-ass-ept-able!" but I'm told I sort of look like her. That and the matronly figure and the looking over the glasses thing...

2) What time do you go to bed?
Normally around 11 pm, though now it's winter, and a cold winter at that, I find myself going to bed earlier just to keep warm. When I'm working, it tends to be a bit later to get more stuff done.

3) What was the last meal you made from scratch?
I don't cook enough - or when I do cook, I'm a bit of a one pot wonder. I do cook for myself regularly and made a pretty good Chicken Vindaloo yesterday for lunch - but I'm really struggling to think of the last time I made dinner for anybody else other than myself. I think it was back in January when I went around to Blarney and Barney's and made my patented chicken and roast pumpkin stir fry for them when they and the boys were sick.

When I do cook, I normally cook from scratch - there is really no other way.

This is something I should remedy, I love cooking, I'm not a bad cook  - but I rarely get the chance to indulge in doing anything more than a quick stir fry or steak and salad.

4) What is your favourite type of music?

Rock. I listen to most music but pure rock is up there as the favourite. The Pixies, The Violent Femmes, The Rolling Stones are all up there.

The other favourite type of music are those albums filed under "Adult Alternative" as a second choice. Josh Pyke, Ben Lee, Lisa Mitchell, Sarah Blasko... melodic, interesting lyrics, thought provoking music plays regularly as well.

5) In what position do you sleep?
Sprawled out on my stomach.

6) What is your first memory?
I have a fleeting memory of being in a carry basked in a forest listening to the radio hearing that man had landed on the moon. If this was the case I would have been eleven months old, but my parents reckon that they were out in a national park having a picnic when the news came through.

If this is a false memory then I have some fleeting memories of kindergarten, playing in the cubby house with David Butler - my first boyfriend, aged four...

7) What is your least favourite smell?

After taking public transport for many years, my least favourite smell has to be urine-soaked, vomit-pocked, aged-alcohol-scented wino. I know that homelessness is a dreadful state of affairs, but crap, some of these old boys take the smell to a new level.

8) It's your round at the pub and your friends asked you to surprise them. What drink would you buy and why?

Oh dear, too many drinks, to much to choose from.

It would depend on the friends. For the cultured ones, a bottle of Glenmorangie with a burgundy barrel finish - or maybe a bottle of Laphroaig - depending on whether they like peaty or smooth single malts.

For the beer buggers, Little Creatures pale ale. Nom nom nom.

For the wine drinkers, probably go a nice shiraz - a nice peppery shiraz like Pepper Jack or maybe a sparkling shiraz that tends to go down like raspberry cordial.

And if I'm in an evil, evil mood, then it would be pints of "wife beater" and lime (Stella Artois with a dash of lime cordial) with Baileys chasers. Would serve them right....

9) What was the last thing you read/watched that made you cry?
I remember getting a little teary while watching "Brave" the other week. But the last howl was had a few months ago when Wubbe came over to watch "Red Dog" with me. I shouldn't watch animal films - recipe for disaster. I always bawl through animal films.

10) They say that you learn something new every day. What was the last thing you have learned?
Today I learned that when you're doing something you're not supposed to be doing, you're going to get sprung. Case in point - today. I went into town to have lunch with Glen Waverley. We had a nice sandwich and a chat and I walked him back to his office. On the way back I went through Melbourne Central and took an arty shot of the Shot Tower. I then stumbled across a San Churros outlet. Getting a bit nostalgic, because Reindert and I used to go for churros every now and then, I dropped in, ordered a chilli chocolate and some churros for one - with a side of fresh strawberries to make the whole experience a bit healthier.

Sprung! Some old workmates found me contemplating this divine chocolaty mess.

Despite being sprung, they were wonderful. And churros always remind me of my time in Spain and Reindert.

That and I don't take a bad photo at times.

11) Which Literary love interests would you snog, marry and avoid?

Snog: Henry from "The Time Traveller's Wife". Far too unreliable to get attached to, but damned sexy and very enigmatic. Runner up - Severus Snape - as long as he's in the guise of Alan Rickman.

Marry: Antonio Corelli. I reckon he'd be fun - but you'd have to pin him down (Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis De Bernieres) and ask him to be sensible every now and then. This is not a man who will do the dishes regularly, but he would be loving and fun - he always makes me laugh.

Avoid: So many to choose from. All of the characters in "The Secret History", Mr Rochester from "Jane Eyre" (too uppity) Heathcliff from "Wuthering Heights" (too broody), any of the characters from "Trainspotting" (never know what you would catch.)

12) Paperback, Hardback or Kindle? Which of these is your favorite reading format and why?

I'm a paperback girl - mainly because they fit in my handbag without issue and I don't get too worked up about them if they go walkabout.

14) If you could bring back any cancelled TV series for another run what would you pick and why?

There are a couple of shows that I miss. In no particular order:

Six Feet Under - the perfection that it was is unsurpassed, but I would love more of it - even if Nate is now dead. Great, great show.

The West Wing: Only because it helped me understand American politics better than anything else.

Buffy: Because as alternative realities go, it was brilliant - that and Spike. Ah Spike - Vampire of my dreams...

Drop the Dead Donkey: An old English program that was some of the best satire I've ever witnessed. Sharp. current, topical and at times, hilarious.

15. Are you in a job that you truly enjoy?

At the moment I'be between contracts, but I generally enjoy what I do - I do like the writing aspects of the job. I don't enjoy the politics of large corporations

16. If you could do any job in the world what would it be?

Choice of two things here. Best selling novel writer or doctor. One or the other. I've always wanted to be a doctor but never got the grades to pursue it when I was younger.

17. If you could be a character in a novel who would you be?

Though my imagination wants me to say Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series, as I reckon Hogwarts would be an excellent place to go, I'm going to go with Lizzie Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. Spirited, free thinking and forward, she's a woman with spunk and a brain. I've always liked Lizzie.

18. When it comes to spending time with those you love, do you think it should be about quality or quantity?

Hands down, quality. Too much of an introvert to spend a heap of time with anybody, quality always wins with me.

19. Is there a job/career you wanted but realised you couldn’t possibly do for one reason or another?

Other than being a doctor, due to my grades at uni at the time and now the thought of being poor for another ten years while I qualify, the other job I'd love to do is to be a full time healer / massage therapist / holistic healer - but that would mean dealing with the general public - not something I like doing at all.

20. If you could live anywhere in the world or out of this world where would you live?

The romantic in me would love to live in a villa in Tuscany. The normal me would be very happy with a quaint cottage in the Cotwolds in England.

21. Where would you most like to visit and with whom?

I've always wanted to go back to Paris with a lover - always been there on my own and I don't think it's the same as being there with somebody you love.

I also really want to go to San Francisco, Hong Kong, the North of Spain, Canada... oh who am I kidding, I just love travelling - though I tend to travel alone for logistic and realistic reasons.

22. Which skill would you like to learn?

The balance and the courage to ride a motorbike would be great, but I seriously don't have either the sense of balance, or the guts to ever do that.

23. What made you laugh today?


24. What are you looking forward to tomorrow?

Other than nailing a new job (or at least the interview that will get me the new job) I'm going to be a reflexologist tomorrow, and I'm closing off my dream from last week's dream group tomorrow and I'm maybe having coffee with a friend. Lots of nice, little things to look forward to.

25. What is your sign and do you believe in horoscopes etc?

To ordinary people I'm a Leo/Virgo - born in mid to late August, I'm on the cusp - too quiet to be a real Leo, too out there to be a real Virgo.

To astrologers I'm a Leo/Virgo with a Capricorn rising, early Cancer moon and a five planet stellium in the Ninth house in Virgo - with a three planet conjunct (Jupiter / Mercury / Venus) There is no Air in my chart to speak of.

The fact that I know this sort of shows that I have some faith in horoscopes, but more as a personal development tool that a method of divination. I have some good friends who are astrologers. The insights they provide are priceless and extremely valuable .

26. If you could change one thing about your life thus far, what would it be?

There is a part of me who would love to be happily married. But this is something that may come. We will see. You never know - never too late.

27. If there was one charity you could give a huge contribution to, which charity would it be and why?

There are many charities I love and donate to, but if I was to pick one, the Medicins Sans Frontiers do amazing work - tireless, selfless, horrific work at times. Long may that continue.

28. Should smoking be legal?

I used to smoke. I don't smoke any more. If you're stupid enough to smoke, then be it on your head. Sure, let it be legal to those over 18 who are daft enough to do it as adults in their own homes - but fine the hell out of kids found smoking. It's horrible, but like alcohol, it's here to stay. Just let it remain for adults only.

29. What are your views on the smoking ban in public places?

Again, as an ex-smoker, I like that smoking is now restricted in most public places - though it is still legal on city streets when you get a whiff of ash and fumes on regular occasions,much to my chagrin. I do think that now that smoking has been outlawed in pubs life is a lot more civilised, though I was in Ireland a few weeks after the ban took place - and all I could smell in the pub was stale beer, farts and body odour. Never thought I could find a reason for smoking.

30. Why do you blog?

Easy. Frustrated writer in need of an audience, however meagre.

31. Do you have a favorite author?

I have a couple. Louis de Bernieres, Margaret Atwood, Jeffrey Eugenides, Robertson Davies and Salman Rushdie. One of them is my favourite, but I'm not sure which one.

32. Can you play any musical instruments?

I used to play the flute. I now play the flute badly. I can pick out a tune on a piano when required too - damned near perfect pitch.

33. What would your ideal car be?

Neville, my silver Mazda 2 is pretty much my dream car - though I'd kill for a Mazda MX-5. Not in the market for one, but I do like them.

34. Describe yourself in one short sentence.

Hopelessly optimistic romantic with a darker, sarcastic side who's always nice to old people and animals.

35. Worst meal you’ve had?

Normally it's one element or other that makes a meal bad, but there are two meals that stick out. One was a leaving do for a colleague - where the large team went and had Dutch food at a place called Hansie Brinker. The Dutch aren't known for their cuisine at the best of times, but this meal was diabolical. The one man and his deep fat fryer struggled to get our food - and after the meal I had to depart work early and spent the night throwing up. Truly awful.

The other meal that comes to mind was a birthday dinner I had sometime in the mid naughties. It wasn't so much the food, but the inclusion of the present of a sex toy given to me as a present by an acquaintance who wasn't that close - given as a serious gift and not a joke. After wanting the planet to swallow me up (like what am I going to do with a polyeurathane cock ring?) I departed with a bit of ill will. Needless to say, the acquaintance is no longer an acquaintance.

So there you go. And while doing this, the bed has been remade, a load of washing has been done, five job applications have been put in, I've had lunch with Glen Waverley, the cat has been brushed, the hoovering done...

A productive meme after all.