Friday, August 31, 2012

Elephant Hunting Part III

Tenacity, thy name is Pandora Behr, Elephant Hunter Extraordinaire.

Look what else I found in my elephant hunting escapades.

An elephant covered in cartoon characters.

A rather fetching one done out in paisley print.

A happy, smiley lellyphunt.

Dame Edna Lellyphunt - unsure who thought of this one, but I like it - just needs a gladioli sticking out of the her trunk.

This lellyphunt obviously didn't move quick enough and got tagged.

This lellyphunt is one of my favourites. As a child my bestest ever book was a Golden Book called "The Saggy, Baggy Elephant." I reckon this is that lellyphunt.

And then in Fed Square we found another cartooned charactered lellyphunt. 

And another one hiding behind a tiger.

And this gorgeous one found at Birrarung Marr which was painted by Mirka Mora - local, lauded artist painted this one. I think she's gorgeous - an another one who can hide in strawberry patches.

Then there was this one that looks like it wants to go for a swim.

30 Lellyphunts found.

Can this intrepid Pandora Behr, Lellyphunt Hunter Extraordinaire find the last twenty that all allegedly peppered around town?

To be continued...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The New Old Regime

The alarm screeches from the bedside table. Concurrently, my iPhone plays an annoying samba rhythm from the bedside table on the other side of the bed. To shut the noise off takes quite a bit of groping about, turning on lights, movement and groaning.

It is 5.45 am.

The first instinct of the day is to shut all the noise off, get the duvet, pull it up over my head and go back to sleep for another 45 minutes.

But no. This is the start of the new old regime.

There is no time for slacking - not at this hour.

A minute later, finally erect, I stumble towards the toilet for the daily morning release. After a quick pee, I go to the the pile of clothing outside the bathroom door, pull on underpants and leggings, strap on my heart rate monitor chest strap, struggle with the industrial strength kevlar scaffolding of a sports bra that would be quite efficient as a straight jacket, pull a crop top over the said scary bra then a corporate tri-top over that. Then its on with a pair of socks and my runners. Over the top, my favorite fleecy hoody with the word,'Boston' emblazoned across the chest.

It is now 5.58.

I grab my pre-packed bag containing a small towel, a water bottle, my wallet, gym pass and house keys and leave the flat.

It's a seven minute scout run to the gym or a ten minute walk, depending on the energy levels. Today, I scout ran the 800 metre distance - walking to one stobey (power) pole, running to the next - all the way to the gym. I notice the stars in the sky, Orion clearly visible, noting that with the early setting of the moon, the stars are out in the city. It's cool - you don't see many stars in the city that often - not like out in the country where stars are abundant and beautiful and clear nights.

Scanning myself into the gym, I feel the sense of foreboding.

"You're here again?!" asks the receptionist, incredulously. I had said good night to her some ten hours earlier, sweat drenched smiling after a reasonably gruelling session with Pinochet.

"What does it look like?" I grunted. "Too bloody early."

"You'll be fine." she smiled at me.

I haul my carcass up the gym's back stairs, fill my water bottle from the tap near the door and enter the spinning room.

It is 6.10 am.

Finding an empty bike, I start to make the preparations and adjustments. Waterbottle on the accomodating handlebars. Towel next to it. Glasses off. Boston jacket in my bag. Seat goes down a bit. Handlebars up a bit.

It’s 6.12 am.

I hop in the bike and start pedalling. I'm surrounded by about 15 other lunatics.

Pedro, the morning's spin nazi comes in the room, as chirpy as a rabid minor bird, blue bike shorts accentuating his class A butt. Pedro instructs many of the classes at the gym. His nearly impenetrable Spanish accent is cute and annoying in equal measure, but on the whole, he's a good instructor. Jay and I spent a lot of time in Pump class on Sunday appreciating Pedro - or more to the point, Pedro's butt - he wiggles it around a lot - it's hard not to appreciate it… he he he.

6.14 am: the class starts in earnest.

45 minutes of hard pedalling, standing up, sitting down, racing, taking a sip of water when needed. Average heart rate 145 beats per minute. Occasionally, on the uphills (when they ask you to put the resistance on the bike and stand up and pedal) the heart rate ups to 160 beats a minute - and then I start to puff a little.

7.02 am.

Off the bike, limbs stretched out, heart rate getting back to normal. Gathering my possessions after wiping down the bike with disinfectant to remove the sweat, I make my way home, amazed that it's bright sunshine outside now.

7.05 am

Standing at the counter of Gloria Jeans ordering a skinny cappucino. I don't like buying coffee from this franchise at all - their homophobic management and their links to Hillsong Church have put me off the chain completely - but any port in a storm - I NEED COFFEE NOW! The lady behind the counter is pleasant and efficient. I wonder if she know that the management's belief system are odious. Within a minute I'm on my way.

7.08 am

Audibly swear as I pass Sanjay, my favorite barista at Jamaica Blue. I went and had a quick chat to him - I now know that I can get a coffee off of him from seven am … good to know - I won't have to feel so dirty (after buying coffee from Gloria Jeans).

7.15 am

Arrived home, stripped sweaty gym clothes into the washing machine, showered, downed a protein shake and got ready for work.

And this is the new old regime. This will be my life a couple of days a week for the next while.

Exercise classes at 6 am. Fun!

I've put myself back on the Michelle Bridges 12 week body transformation challenge, doing this in tandem with a few friends who are signed up properly. I've still got all the information from last time so rather than pay the 200 bucks for recipes I already have for the most part, I'm doing the work without having to sign up.

The programme involves taking in a 'clean' diet of 1200 calories a day and exercising six days a week. I did this plan at the start of last year and lost 10 kilograms and felt amazing. Now that I'm in a good place, now that I am back happy at work, back in a stable place and in a spot where I know where I want to be, getting back on track is what needs to be done. I've put on some of the weight I lost last year - my size 14 skinny jeans do not do up at the moment - though I'm comfortably in a size 16 - which is a comfortable place, but not my best place. My body is toned and I am fit - but I want more.

This is being done for nobody but me - the only reason there is to get on a plan like this. I want to be the best version of me possible. If this means I'm down the gym at six a.m. being told to "Moove zee tushie" in a Zaragostrian accent, then so be it. If it means forgoeing cake and alcohol and chips for twelve weeks, then so be it.

If it means that by the middle of November I'm back into my skinny jeans, a visibly flatter stomach, real muscle tone and feeling a sense of acheivement, well, even better.

I was trying to explain to a friend that this plan is all about questioning and challenging your beliefs around diet and exercise. It make you look at what you're putting in your mouth and realise that your health destiny and dreams can be in your hands. It takes you out of your exercise comfort zones and makes you strive for better. The plan strips you of your excuses and lets you realise what you're capable of.  

To some, the exercise element may seem a bit psycho - but really, is challenging your body to be everything it can be such a bad thing? An hour a day, six days a week (with one of those days being a down day - where you walk or do yoga or some other less strenuous activity) isn't that bad or hard. Okay, I tend to work myself - my body really enjoys it, I really enjoy it. From experience, the more I do, the better I feel, the better I feel, the more I want to do. And the more energy I have. And the less sleep I need. And the more concentration I can attain. And the more I get done...   There is too much good to come out of the new old regime.   Why wouldn't I want to do this?   There is more to gain than just the irritation of an early morning gym class where you're having a hard bottomed Spaniard tormenting you to "Mooove your tusshie" more.  

I say, BRING IT ON!  


Monday, August 27, 2012

Elephant Hunting Part II

These pesky lellyphunts are everywhere!

They're standing in parks!

They're forgetting to wash after going to weddings.

They're hanging around food courts.

And even worse, they're coming into town in their pyjamas acting all cold and disgraceful. I mean this one has its slippers and night hat on!

Of course, there is the posh elephant that is manning the foyer at the Intercontinental Hotel, dressed in a very fetching chatreuse.

Then, on the way home from work later in the day I stumbled on this one - possibly my favourite lellyphunt to date. Her name is rusty. She has a tap for a nose in celebration of cold and flu season.

Then, just to add insult to injury, you find a lellyphunt that appears to be inspired by the brown couch and ornage curtains your nanna had in the seventies.

These lellyphunts are all rather perplexing. Some have taste. Some do not.

Making my way out for my lunchtime constitutional walk, I stumbled across some more! It's like the place is infested with lellyphunts.

This one is punching above its weight, thinking that it is a basketball player.

Then there was this strange fantasy lellyphunt that appeared to have taken a bit too much LSD. It was standing there by the banks of the Yarra looking stoned.

And then we found this beauty nearby - painted by a lellyphunt...

Twenty lellyphunts around town. Seriously, this is Melbourne. You think that they they would put five foot fibreglass statues of possums or kangaroos around the place.

My hunt had to continue. I'd found 20 lellyphunts.

Little did I know that Pandora Behr, Lellyphunt Hunter Extraordinaire was just coming into her own.

To be continued....

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Elephant Hunting Part I

Imagine my surprise the other week. Here I was, harmlessly making my way to the Elks Lodge just before dusk, walking through the Treasury Gardens, when, to my surprise, I saw this apparition.

In the middle of the gardens stood an elephant.

Of course, it wasn't a live elephant. This one was on a concrete podium, it was about five foot high and made of fibreglass or concrete. It was also brightly painted.


I looked over the elephant, thought nothing more of it and walked on.

Then to my surprise, on walking for another few minutes, I stumbled over another elephant, again, about five foot high, on a low podium, brightly painted and standing there like it owned the Fitzroy Gardens.

What was going on?

Having to get to Elks in a hurry, I thought no more of the rogue statues sitting in the middle of the gardens. Somebody was playing funny buggers. That had to be it. Why else would there be small elephants sitting in the middle of the gardens? This is Australia. We don't have elephants. Kangaroos and koalas and vogelbekdiers (oops, platypuses), but not elephants - or lellyphunts as I call them.

Anyway, hard, tiring weeks at work have started to take their toll. I thought I was dreaming.

After a month in my new job, which I am loving, adoring the challenges, enjoying the people and thriving in the role - I've come back exhausted. I need my weekends. I need to time out and I certainly need to get away from sitting in front of a computer screen. I've gone back to walking to work as often as possible as it means I get a bit more exercise in and a clear head.

So Tuesday morning, I made my way through Fitzroy Gardens, passing across the top of the Treasury Gardens and what should I find, not even remembering the encounter from the week before.


Another sodding lellyphunt. This one appears to have been touched by King Midas. Sprayed in gold, the irony of it being sat outside the treasury buildings was not lost.

Okay, this had to be investigated.

At once, I went from Pandora Behr, sometime blogger and writer of training courses to my new persona.

Pandora  - Elephant Hunter Extraordinaire (EHE).

A few minutes down the road I ran into this.

A multicoloured lellyphunt painted up like a city scape. Strange lellyphunt! Considering this one was sitting on the corner of two of the busiest streets in the city, it appeared to be rather apt that is was in such garb.

But I still didn't have answers. Why were these lellyphunts here? What were they doing? Why were they sitting in odd places around the city? What were they in aid of?


The following morning I walked into work again, this time taking a slightly different route.

You guessed it. On reaching the city, what should I trip over?

A smurf lellyphunt in a lotus t-shirt. Looks like it's spent a bit too much time in Phuket or on an ashram in India. Hmm. This was an overcast Wednesday morning in Winter. You'd think it would at least shove on a jumper.

I continued my walk to work. I get to the Town Hall - and what should I find?

A lellyphunt covered in animals. Like geez - the poor thing must be having a bit of an identity crisis. Can't it just be a lellyphunt and be done with it?

But not only did I find this one, but next to it, the jewel in the crown.

This one is a sneaky one with it's red toenails - obviously ready to go hide in strawberry patches, the cheeky bugger.

My tenacious hunting genes had been piqued. From this time I was ready to go and hunt out all of these lellyphunts - especially if they were going to be sneaky and try and hide - those red toenails were a dead give away.

See, I've always been a fan of elephants - or lellyphunts as I call them. When friends go overseas to exotic places like India and Asia, I ask them to bring me back an elephant. I have a small collection of them sitting behind me on the bookshelf. They have to have their trunks up - that's good luck - but I really love my lellyphunts. The more the better.

Regardless, I tried to forget these , I went for my lunchtime constitutional walk, a necessity for a stressful job, the normal walk up to the Bourke Street mall. Once again, it happened. There in the middle of the mall, what should I stumble across...

A pretty, decorative lellyphunt that reminded me of a tea tray my grandmother brought back from her travels in the early seventies.


These random beasties were getting the best of me. Why were they there? What were they doing doing on the streets of Melbourne and why were they all dressed funny?

Walking home that evening - more of the buggers.

A pink one with white hand prints. I asked myself would I find a white elephant with pink hand prints on it  around the corner.

But no, a few foot away there was another lellyphunt with a few issues. On one side it was showing its spots.
On the other side it was showing it's dark side. Obviously in need of either a good therapist or some decent anti-psychotic drugs.
. This was all getting a bit too much.

I made my way back down Collins Street, popping into the Spring Street food court to find some sushi for dinner. And what did I find - yep, another one...

 Parked outside the Sofitel, it's obvious that this lellyphunt has more money than taste. It looks like Andy Warhol has puked over it.

Escaping the garish creature, I headed back to the Treasury Gardens to the place that I first found these outlandish beasts.

Sure enough, the first lellyphunt was still standing in the middle of the gardens like it owned the place.

And a very misguided beast it was too. Dressed up like Tigger, it rested in the middle of the gardens, quiet happy in its garish suiting.

Ten lellyphunts in the city of Melbourne.

This was all too much.

Pandora Behr, Elephant Hunter Extraordinaire would have to be on her guard - for who knew what the following days would bring.

To be continued.....

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Return of the Running Fairy

Meeting Kez and her partner in the hotel lobby last Sunday morning at 8.40 in the morning wasn't a struggle. After a lovely dinner the night before, a decent long bath and a really good sleep, I woke to an email stating that I'd won $1100 on lotto.

It seemed like a good omen.

"You aren't grumpy, Pand!" commented Kez, looking badly in need of a coffee, "You're always grumpy before a run." Kez knows me well. I'm normally as ratty as hell before I go running in events. Kez and Trin are used to my pre-race grumblings. They're fairly legendary. Not surprisingly, the lotto win was keeping me buoyant - well that and the cool, overcast morning.

After last year's City to Surf adventure, an event that left me tired, grumpy and chafed to the point of bleeding, a lot of me was not looking forward to the run. Also, having been ill for most of the month before - nothing too bad, but enough to stop me training, I wasn't going to kill myself to get great time. I was here to participate and try and enjoy travelling through the streets of Sydney. If that meant walking the 14 kilometres, then so be it. I had no expectations or agendas, other than to get to Bondi in one piece.

This year the weather was on my side - a  favourable overcast, mid-teens day with a breeze. I'm happy to run in light drizzle - but anything over 22 degrees in the sun and I stick to under an hour of running. Not worth the dehydration.

Commenting about the cold and the weather, we stumbled through the city streets to find Trin at her hostel and start the race.

Another good sign for the day - rather than packing 85,000 people into a few streets keeping them there like cattle for an hour or so, this year to start was in half hour waves. The crowds moved slowly and fluidly, it was far more comfortable and my agoraphobia didn't surface - last year I nearly had a panic attack waiting to start. So far I was on track for a better run.

Trin and I devised a plan to meet Kez at the finish near the Lost Children's Tent. Kez, a personal trainer, runs a lot faster than Trin and me. Not being in a rush, I was happy to stick with Trin - it's good to have somebody to chat to on the road. Trin normally runs a bit slower than I do, but I saw this as a good thing.

So we were off. The first port of call, warm up properly and make sure my heart rate didn't go much over 150 beats a minute - a comfortable running pace where I don't get too breathless but I know I'm working. The first part of the race meant warming up slowly. I hadn't run properly or regularly for six weeks, this would be critical - so the plan was run a few minutes, walk a few minutes for the first couple of kilometres. I don't normally find my true stride until the five kilometre mark.

It must be interesting to watch Trin and I run together. We have different styles and ways. Trin loves her accoutrements. She runs with an iPod, a halo headset, a bladder of water in a back pack, technical t-shirts, compression tights.... the list goes on.

Me, I'm a bit more of a natural girl. You know there's going to be water every couple of kilometres. Other than the industrial scaffolding known as my bra and the tight crop top over it, I don't have any special equipment other than a heart rate monitor, ASICS Kayanos and an old t-shirt that reads "The beatings will continue until morale improves." In my Small Personal Items belt you'll find my phone, a credit card, $50, my driver's licence and some gels. That's it. No music - I like hearing what's going on about me. No water - that is provided. No other special equipment. I've even stopped wearing my knee brace - that appears to have fixed itself now.

So we plodded on. We found the firemen where we left them last year, hoping again that there would be more along the way. The crowds were brilliant, the people along the side of the road entertaining. The glorious gay Smurfs of Rose Bay were brilliant. At one stage just before Heartbreak Hill, The Village People's "YMCA" was blaring out of some speakers. Watching thousands or runners plod along, doing the arm movements was a brilliant experience.

Heartbreak Hill was walked up. No use busting a gut when  you're still half full of snot. This was also a good move as being fully warmed up by then, the walk up was quite pleasant. But this time I was a bit ahead of Trin who I'd lost in the crowd around the four kilometre mark.

It was at the top if the hill, the half way point that things really kicked in. Looking at my watch I'd made it there in just over an hour. No problems there. But with a gel in my tummy and the breeze in my face, something kicked in. The running fairy returned. So for the last seven kilometres, I got to do what I like doing best.


Okay, I walked in patches, but it the last seven kilometres were run for the most part - and it was brilliant.

Something kicked in as I trundled my way through North Bondi. This is what I love to do. This is something I need to do. The endorphin rush is second to none. Running is not just something I enjoy. It's something I need to do. It isn't just about the competing. It's about the participating and the feeling of achievement.

I made the 14 kilometres in a surprising and very acceptable hour and 57 minutes. I was thrilled as on my reckoning I'd be coming in about 20 minutes later.

Even better - this year, very limited chafing and only a bit of soreness the following day, mainly in my shoulders and stomach.

In all, a great result.

After, the four of us made our way back to the city, I had another long, hot bath in my hotel room before making it back to the airport for a thankfully nondescript flight home.

In all, a great experience which has gone a long way to get me back into my running properly once again. Half of me is thinking that dropping down to the ten kilometre race for the Melbourne Marathon may not have been necessary, but I'm glad I have. It gives me a chance to train properly for a race and do a good job of it without injuring myself.

It's also restored a bit if faith in myself that was starting to wane.

In all, just it was the end of a softly cathartic weekend.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Lost Weekend - Part One

I have two very different blog posts to write about this last weekend.

One is about running and redemption.

One is about solitude and experience.

I had big plans for this weekend, looking forward to spending time with an old friend, sharing what Sydney had to offer. Mariah, one of my oldest friends from my university days, was going to be in town on a conference. We'd booked a double room and were both looking forward to a night at a decent restaurant and a bit of luxury. Mariah's a single mum with an autistic son. Nights away are rare for her.

Unfortunately, plans at her end went by the wayside with her respite care for her son falling through, meaning she had to go back to Brisbane early, leaving me on my own for a day.

Okay, no biggie - but the disappointment of my 'birthday weekend" not going to plan was palpable. I had a week to get used to the idea that I would be on my own for this time, but the disappointment wasn't shifting.

So Friday came - my planned last day off until the rest of the year. I got up early to get the plane, stowed the car at one of the car parking places near the airport, boarded and pretty much everything was to plan - although the plane was delayed for an hour due to some slacker not making the gate in time. We went back to the terminal from the runway and picked him up - the sheepish passenger doing the walk of shame down to the very back of the plane.

The flight was non-descript until we reached the outskirts of Sydney when the cabin crew were ordered to take their seats immediately. Okay, never a good omen.

What followed was probably the most terrifying forty-five minutes of my life.

I'm a seasoned flyer and don't have any issues on planes. On Friday, Sydney was being pummelled by 100 kilometre an hour winds. The plane was bounced all over the sky on the final approach. Nearing the airport we made our way into land, you could feel the strain on the plane. The runway in sight, the plane banked steeply to the the right and went back up into another turbulent holding pattern.

To say the last part of the flight was awful is an understatement. With passengers holding sick bags, scared, screaming kids and silence from the cockpit, we tried once again to land - thankfully this time, without error. Needless to say, I arrived in Sydney disappointed and now very shaken.

On the good side of things, Mariah and my hotel room was booked and paid for. Arriving at the Swissotel in the city centre, I was delighted to find out we'd been upgraded to the executive floors - a view of Centrepoint Tower and a bit more space. It was lovely. It went a little way into unfraying the nerves.

A medicinal brandy, a proper lunch and some fresh air and things began to feel a bit more normal. I've never felt like I was going to die on a flight before. It's the first time I've had my mortality bought into question thanks to Qantas - which lead to even deeper questions being asked later in the next 24 hours.

See, next weekend is my birthday. I'm turning 44. I keep looking at where I am in my life and thinking, 'What the hell have I done?" Then you think, "Oh, there is more than a chance that I've lived half my life - and things keep speeding up! Argh!"

Cheery thoughts, mixed in with a bit of loneliness.

Never one to wallow for long, I took myself off to the Sydney Aquarium, battling the wind and the rain to get to Darling Harbour.

Here is where the crappy flight and it's aftermath really set in. I was really looking forward to seeing the fishies, not having been to an aquarium for years. What I thought I would love turned out to be something that rattled me even more. Okay, Sydney Aquarium felt rather outdated - whether this was because a lot of it is under scaffoling in preparation for a relaunch in a few weeks, or my mood - I felt a bit freaked by the fishies looking at me - the huge crabs and manta rays floating around me - it cut me to my soul. I think the only bits I really enjoyed were the penguins, the vogelbekdier - oops, sorry, platypuses (I could watch them for years), and the tropical tanks where I spent quite a while looking for Nemo. I was through the joint in just over an hour. Enough.

Back at the hotel, a long hot bath and some thinking time. Time to work out how to lift this funk. Time to start to put some plans in place to get things moving. I may be stuck in a city that I don't particularly like without anybody to talk to, no point in wasting the time.

A quick salad dinner was ordered off of room service and an early night. My frazzled nerves couldn't have done much more.

Morning came with the resolution to have a day of sensory fun. A day to soothe and nurture. A day to murder and create - kill of the glums and create a new life.

First up - a swim. The hotel has a pool on the tenth floor. An outdoor arrangement set behind tall screens. Sydney had served up another dreadful day - cold, wet with howling winds. Before leaving my room, I ran a bath in preparation and made my way down to the spa.

The next half hour was the start of the restoration process. The pool, lightly heated, proved the a most wonderful oasis. With the air temperature around six degrees, swimming laps on this grey day felt amazing. After five minutes I'd adjusted to the water temperature and had a lovely half our swim. Even more amazing was going back to my room for a long hot bath. Serious bliss.

After dressing and a spot of shopping, I checked out of the Swissotel and made my way down to my hotel for the night in the Rocks area in readiness for a night out with Trin and Kez at a favourite restaurant. My room not being ready, the suitcase was left at the concierge and I schlepped out to entertain myself for a few hours.

Gallery-ing was on the cards. The weather still inclement, the thought of being bounced around on a ferry out to Manly didn't appeal, Zumbo cake or no. The first stop was the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia in the Rocks.

All I can say is that the place is fantastic. Though traditionally not a fan of Modern Art, this place blew me away. Spending a decent two hours with my thoughts, looking at all variety of objects really started the soul on its upward track. Pieces to ponder:

Peices to make you uncomfortable.Really uncomfortable:

(There was a room full of these types of items. Needless to say, moved on quickly from this room)

Pieces to bliss you out:

It's a place I'll be going back to. It's a wonderful space to think and contemplate and enjoy.

With half an afternoon up my sleeve I went for a walk to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, tucked away in the Botanical Gardens. More time to contemplate and enjoy.

It was here the loneliness of the weekend finally abated and the blessed solitude arrived. Finally, it twigged - how blessed is it to get some time on your own. Time to do exactly what you want, when you want. A time to enjoy the silence and the noise - to not have to communicate or meet deadlines or meet commitments. It was a time to just be. Walk in the wind. Look at pretty pictures. A time to allow myself to feel and grow.

There is something about being alone that allows for every sense to be fulfilled - a heightened, altered reality where you can see what you feel, hear what you see. Eveything is taken in, from the sounds of the wind to the vibrations of small buddha statues made out of Thai bank notes (the fact that destroying images of the Thai king is illegal made this all the more satisfying) to enjoying a walk in the park on a blustery day.

A little bit of ordinary magic.

Another hour in the state Art Gallery taking in the sights it was time to go back to my hotel, have a bath and get ready for dinner with Trin, Kez, Kez's new partner and some of Trin's friends. The location, Sake restaurant. Once again, another wonderful dinner with wonderful company. After some great food and conversation before a fairly early night in.

For the morning held the annual 14 kilometre City to Surf. Another long, hot bath and a good sleep was needed for this run that I really wasn't in the mood to do.

And that is another story for the next blog.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Expectation Realignment

It's been planned for months. City to Surf weekend. The bib came in the mail a few weeks ago. The hotel and flights are booked.

And I've had three weeks of continual colds, sinus infections and general malaise - on top of gastro a few weeks before, on top of a cold Melbourne winter on top of...

Time to adjust the expectations.

I've already moved my Melbourne Half Marathon entry down to the 10 km race. I'm not going to do much better than two hours on this City to Surf schlep - I've barely trained in weeks - but with preparation from next week I'll be grand for the Melbourne ten kilometre run. I'm good with this - I'd rather do a good job of the shorter distance than hurt myself on the longer one. Just as this weekend, I'm happy to mostly walk and jog a bit when I feel like it - I'm still coughing up junk, though I'm not sick any more. It's not work hurting myself or making myself sick again.

Things are a bit different this year. Instead of my blue race t-shirt I've shoved my favourite pirate t-shirt in the case - a black shapeless number with a skull and crossbones on it. The script reads, "The beatings will continue until morale improves."

My expectations around running have been adjusted to the realities - I'm not in top shape - its time to get training properly and make a good crack at this 10 km race in October (with a lead up to it a month before with the Adelaide City to Surf). It's a great goal to get on with - especially as I've settled into the new job and feel a bit more stable now.

The other bit of expectation realignment comes with the fact that my plans for some of this weekend have fallen through. My friend,Mariah from Brisbane was supposed to be joining me on the Friday. I haven't seen her for a few years and it's wonderful when we catch up. She's one of those old friends who fits like a favourite jumper. The conversation picks up where we left it off however long ago that may have been (I think its four years since I last saw her). Regardless, Mariah couldn't make her conference and won't be in Sydney, so I've got a day by myself in Sydney to do as I please, with a nice hotel room at my disposal and a day to do what I want before meeting some friends for dinner on the Saturday night and joining Trin for the City to Surf on Sunday Morning.

Not having Mariah join me has shaken me more than I would like. For the last few trips to Sydney I've met up with people and had some company. This time, I'm on my lonesome - and this is the fact I've had the greatest part dealing with. I'm generally great on my own. I've only ever travelled on my own - but with this, I have months to plan and adjust to my solo state. Having my plans changed at this late stage has taken some of the gloss off of the trip. I was looking forward to a wonderful meal  and a glass of wine in a nice restaurant with somebody to talk to over dinner (though this will happen on Saturday night - just not Friday) The planned shopping trips and lingering coffees won't be there.

So, for the last few days I've been thinking about what I'm going to do in Sydney by myself, with a good hotel room for two days.

It's a chance to get to the Art Gallery and the Museum of Contemporary Art and have a good wander. That's on the list.

Maybe go and see a film, like The Sapphires or finally get to see that Batman film that my mother is raving about (we do this, ring each other if we see a film we think the other will like. The last one I recommended to her was Hysteria - costume drama  about the invention of the vibrator - fantastic film).

Maybe I can go window shopping.

I've got my book for company, a space to relax, a big bath tub, bath salts, nail varinish and the like - its cool. After the heavy week I've had at work, it's a lovely pre-birthday treat. A day off. More than likely the last one I will be having until Christmas.

The other thing I've got planned tomorrow - something I've wanted to do in a while - I've bought myself a ticket to the Sydney Aquarium. I haven't been to an aquarium since I was a kid. Never been to the one in Melbourne, so I thought I'd try out the Sydney one first.

I've driven my poor team nuts singing this afternoon - I do that when I'm stressed - sing that is (though I probably drive them nuts most of the time too. The song - "I'm gonna go and see the fishies..."

Sung along to the tune the cat from Red Dwarf used. See.

I'll have a good time. I'm nearly over the disappointment of not seeing Mariah. Once I'm in my big bath reading my book with a glass of bubbles to hand, I'm sure I be right.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Let's have a little chat...

"Okay universe, come in, have a seat."

The universe stands in the doorway, looking rather distracted. It's not the way the universe normally looks - it's usual swagger and candour have gone and it's standing there, shoulders slumped, eyes not meeting my gaze, shuffling it's feet and looking a little the worse for wear. Funny how bullies look like this when they know they've been sprung. There's some remorse in the universe's demeanour - just as there's a "so-why-should-I-give-a-toss" angst about it's sloping gait. 

The universe shrugs it's shoulders, comes inside the room and takes a seat in front of me, not bothering to meet my eye. "You got a problem?" it asks.

"Yep. Why are you being such a shit at the moment?"

I'm not sure if the universe is used to be being spoken to in such a way.

"I'm allowed. That's my job. I work in mysterious ways."
"Doesn't mean that you're allowed to treat all my friends like absolute crap."
"Who says?"
"I do."

And so the stand-off begins.

Calling the universe into account for its actions of the last few days became necessary after three uncomfortable communications were received in a day. A text, a phone call and an email conversation. All three correspondences left me a little shaken, but in different ways.

I stare at the universe.

"You're being a prick, you know?" I say.
"I well I gave you a couple of nice days so you could walk to work, what more do you want?" it mumbles.
"Yeah, and you also gave me the second head cold in three weeks."
"You discovered the Neti Pot! What's your problem - you've learned something." The universe challenges me back.
"And I also wanted to go for a nice long run and go see Tessa and her baby this weekend. Neither of which I can do with a head cold."
"Oh boo hoo. Wasn't meant to be. Deal with it. You've rearranged your bedroom and got your ironing done.

The universe can be a recalcitrant turd at times. 

Indeed, I have a head cold - which under the circumstances is not the greatest of tragedies, but I am sick of the snot - it's been around for three weeks. I have indeed discovered the Neti Pot - or a funky way of flushing out your sinuses. It's not at all pretty, but it does seem to be able to get the crap out of your head. That, and a chat with the naturopath, who's got me on large doses of brown horse pills as well ask keeping Coles in business from the purchase of tissues, Ease-a-Cold and butter menthols, I'm not doing too bad really. In the scheme of things, I can't complain.

"Okay, well explain about Lachlan?"
"That's his stuff to deal with."
"And it's your stuff to deal how you deal with the situation."
"Ah. Hey, you're turning this around."
"Chats are a two way street."
"So, what have you learned from Lachlan being bedridden."
"It's not mine to care for, but to be concerned about."
"You you're not going to put yourself on the next plane to Hemel Hempstead? Go to his rescue."
"Don't be daft. I can be a friend - but I can't heal the world."

Lachlan finally called yesterday, and at a reasonable hour. He's finally having a long standing back issue dealt with, but will be in hospital for around six weeks - most of that time will be spent in traction. I knew about the back issues. How do I feel about this? Glad he told me, but that's it. My lesson in all this - it's mine to be concerned - but not to care for. I can't heal the world. He has people there for him. All I can do is be a friend.

"You're learning." Dead-panned the universe.
"And what about you? When are you going to learn to be compassionate?"
"You're confusing me with Jesus. Since when have I been a compassionate entity?"
"You know I don't believe in Jesus. I'm responsible for my own life and my own mistakes."
"You are." 
"But as a training ground for the soul, you can be a complete arsewipe sometimes."

The universe is a hard task master. This is a fact.

"Well then, what about Mick and Deb? A miscarriage! Seriously. What did they do to you?"
"You know the answer to this," it replies.
"Nothing. It's theirs to do what they have to, as horrible as it is."
"I see. And I suppose it's my role to be there for them."
"Probably." smirked the universe.

Over the years, I've seen enough friends go through the consequences of miscarriages and infertility. It is terribly, terribly sad to see people so dreadfully tormented by the actions and inactions of nature. All I could say to Mick, when he told me about what had gone down today was, "Look at the love in your life - that and the wonderful child you have together. I'm so sorry." There is no solace, yet Mick, though rocked, seems to be okay.

Me, I can't relate to this, not having children or ever really wanting children of my own, the lack of a partner taking that want away - but I've got used just being there to listen. You can't say anything useful. It's horrible.

I take the conversation to a slightly less troubling subject, not wanting to press the seemingly vengeful universe further.

"And what about the phone call at lunch time?"
The universe sniggers.
"What did that poor woman do to you?" I asked.
The universe sniggers again.
"What sort of compassionate God allows a nice person to have a heap of rotting fish to be dumped in their yard."
Once again, the universe had a chuckle, but meets my gaze.

This call came just before Mick got in contact. Kara, almost raving, distraught. She's not had a good time since she emigrated to Australia a year ago - it's been a tough run for her. The last straw happened this morning when somebody dumped a heap of rotting fish in her front yard. She has no discernible enemies. She's a quiet, law abiding citizen. What sort of sick, twisted wanker would offload a heap of rotting fish into her garden?

"Well, how do you explain this?" I challenged the universe.
"And how do you explain it?"
"I asked you first."
"Call it a challenge."
"I see. But what did Kara do you?"
"I could ask, what hasn't Kara done for herself?"
I nodded at the universe.
"And what are my two universal tenets?"
"Take responsibility and learn from the situation - whatever you throw at us."
"Somewhat better that "The Lord will provide"."
"But you do provide! You provide pain and heartache and torture and acrimony."
"And I also provide lessons. And love. And fun. And friendship. Some of these things you could take part in young lady, but you choose not to."
"Piffle. I'm forty-four in two weeks. I'm too old for some of that rubbish."
"It's never to late to partake. It's never too late to learn."

The universe stood up on this point, turned on its heel, winked at me and left the room.

It's hard watching friends go through trials and torment. The universe was right in that this world is a proving ground - a place that we learn and grow, not just through our experiences, but through the experiences of others.

I keep in mind the serenity prayer: (Insert your Deity here), grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can't, and the wisdom to know the difference.

And I leave you with the ministrations of Nick Cave. When things get tough, I often thing about this.

Taking the universe in for a chat probably wasn't the most sane of things to do, but I feel better for it.

After all, if you can't shout at the universe, or howl at the moon, or just generally ask the universal,"Why?" what are we here for?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Your Stuff. My Stuff.

I got the text in the middle of the night - nothing new about this, he always stuffs up the time zone thing. He's been stuffing up the time zone things for over a decade.

Lachlan: Going into hospital for a few days. Don't worry. I'll be fine.xx
Pandora: WTF!!!!
Lachlan: All good. I'm fine. Just a little operation.
Pandora: Eh! What's wrong? Sending healing.
Lachlan: Will explain it all when I get out of hospital in a few days.
Pandora: WTF! You're telling me this over text! From the other side of the world! Get better. Cheers.
Lachlan: Will let you know I'm okay. Will text often.
Pandora: Roight

Hospitals and I have a strange relationship. Mum was a nurse for forty years, meant that I was in and out of her work place from early childhood. Dad, not a well man, ravaged by rheumatic fever as a child, was regularly in hospital for most of my lifetime and half of his - so there was a heap of time spent visiting him throughout my early life.

Of late, I've seen a bit of hospitals, ending up in the emergency room of St Vincents twice in the last three years - that was fun (My doctor questioned me when I said I wanted to go there, "That's where the drug addicts go when they have a cold."). When Blarney was having her boys, I spent countless evenings watching telly with her on my way home from work, keeping her company while she waited for the boys' arrival in the local maternity hospital - a blessed mile down the road and on my tram route. I'm more than happy to visit friends who are stuck in a ward for what ever reason - hospitals don't generally freak me out. I'm not fond of them, but I don't have any nightmare associations with them like some others.

On the other hand, friends who are in hospital interstate and overseas brings the fear of god into me, no end. Chills me to my soul. Hate it. Sends me loopy.

I spent the day with my train of thought going everywhere. Hospitals, overseas, Lachlan, operation. What was wrong with him? Poor boy. And why was he telling me? And what wasn't he telling me.

Then I settled. And freaked out half an hour later, and settled once again.

The lucky thing about Lachlan, he has a doting girlfriend and two teenage sons to look after him when he gets back from his hospital jaunt. If he's not going to tell me what's up, then so be it. I'm not going to call all around the hospitals of Hertfordshire finding out where he is or how he is. He's not mine to fret about.

He'll be fine - although I got a text today saying he was going to be kept in a few more days due to complications, but he's mending slowly. At least he keeps me in the loop, I suppose.

Jonella and I had lunch on the day of the text interchange. She was concerned for me, wondering why I appeared to be stressed over something that I shouldn't really be overly concerned  about.

Jonella: He's got his family. Nice that he told you he's going into hospital, pity he won't tell you why.
Pandora: I know. It's just something about friends and family in hospital when they're overseas and interstate. Freaks me.
Jonella: How do you mean?
Pandora: Well, when my Mum was in hospital with pneumonia a few years back I was beside myself. Threatened to go back to Myponga to look after her - my step-dad said that he was fine to look after her.
Jonella: That's fair enough.
Pandora: Then there was what went on with Wubbe. Stuck up in Northern New South Wales for months as he recuperated from that accident. Went up there three times to see him.
Jonella: And you were a good friend to him. Too good some would say.
Pandora: Yeah.
Jonella: So why are you fretting over a long absent friend who has the audacity to tell you he's off to hospital for some bizarre complaint at four in the morning?
Pandora: I'm going to have to think about that.

So think about that I did.

It came down to working out what was other's stuff and what was my stuff. Why does all this talk of hospitals from across the seas make me feel like I'm on the verge of a nervous breakdown?

It all comes down to my stuff.

There's something in my soul which shatters at the thought of being in hospital all alone away from somebody to take care of them. It brings up all the abandonment issues I've harboured for most of my life.

Hear of a friend in hospital abroad and I resort to eight-year-old me, sitting in a hospital bed, legs encased in plaster, left to fend for myself while my parents were working. Shocked, scared, alone, I came back from that hospital trip and altered child. The experience was repeated three years later, both scarring experiences on a psychological level, even though I know that physically was the best thing to happen to me. I'd still be walking on tip toes with knock knees if I wasn't.

Then part of me turns into the backpacker, glued to an x-ray machine, the radiographer waiting patiently for me to stop coughing so they could get a chest shot - suspected pneumonia - the doctor told me to go home and have somebody look after me for a week. I had to explain to them I was travelling and I could look after myself, thank you very much. Somebody in my hostel dorm went and found me some dinner that night when i returned from the emergency room. Thankfully the sleeping tablets and antibiotics were quick to work over those few horrid days so I didn't keep the others awake. Other memories of getting myself home on the bus after small procedures, stitches aching, dressings wet with blood, the starts of shock setting in as I stumbled towards the front door.

I look after myself. There was nobody in the near vicinity to take care of me when hospital visits occurred

So when I hear of a friend in hospital who's interstate or overseas - this is where my soul goes - and I get rightly upset.

Luckily, I know I can get out of this place easily now.

I remember the last few hospital stints. Ending up in the emergency room at St Vincents  - and soon after Reindert and Jonella have come and sit with me for a while - both checking in hourly when they had to go back to work and collecting me after their work day was over. I think about how, with three days notice, a round of day surgery had friends coming around and sitting with me over the first few days of recuperation, one even sleeping in the spare room for the first night, keeping watch - even Wubbe turned up for a bit, manning the post between longer staying friends.

Even last the other week, hacking up a lung, my downstairs neighbour popped in to check on me, making sure I was okay - with other friends willing to come around if I needed anything.

But I'm used to looking after myself - there was no need to fret. I was just thankful that there was somebody there - just in case.

 I'm sure it will happen again - people I care about ending up in hospital sick or injured.

Just when it happens I have to remember that the world is a good place and there are people there - even when my psyche remembers a time when they weren't.

And try and educate Lachlan as to when is the best time to send a text from the UK to Australia... though with 13 years of trying, I can't see it happening.