Sunday, September 30, 2012

My Community Weekend

A lot has been made in the Melbourne media about community and the state of the community - and it made me look at my own this weekend.

Aware that there is a whopping great full moon in Aries at the moment, turning reasonably sane people into hot heads, I was determined to keep my nose out of trouble this weekend. Thankfully, I have managed to do this fairly well.

I have my community to thank for this.

The other thing going on at the moment is my work - which is challenging and stressful. Thankfully it's not too angsty, but I am working my bum off at the moment - and I've had to look for ways to manage the stress. Rather than looking at food or alcohol for support I've turned to the gym - and I'm finding myself working out 5-6 times a week. This has a threefold effect. One - I'm feeling very virtuous. Secondly, my body is feeling good and thirdly, being on a semi-permanent endorphin rush, I'm a lot happier. The exercise is keeping me in check in so many ways.

It's also letting me keep in touch with my community. Emm, Kitt and Jay - and a few others - are there to keep me company on they way.

Saturday morning, I rocked up to the hour long spin class that I love to get to when I'm not meditating. The instructor is a smart woman who takes you through the hour class without making you feel like a failure if you can't keep up. I took a bike next to Em and started pedalling.

Having somebody there to roll your eyes with after a fifth hill transition is good. Having somebody who understands what an hour of stationary cycling in a dark room can do for you is great.

The other stand out from spin class was the music.

There is always what I call a "psycho track" which forces you to test your mettle. In this class, the mountain track - a mix of sprints and hill attacks was to a favourite song. (Okay, a Les Mills cover of a favourite song) I can't describe the feeling of being breathless, standing on a stationary bicycle trying to sing along at the same time. I'm glad the music is up loud enough so that others in the room can't hear me sing.

I'm beginning to get why I do all this gym stuff - it lets me escape. It lets me sing in public without being heard. Most of all, it just lets me challenge myself.

The song that took me to that semi-Nirvana state.

Not content with an hour of sweating it out on a bike, I then went and found Pinochet and did an hour with him  - working with Jay - another gym stalwart.

It was an interesting session. I had 650 calories on my heart rate monitor when I started pushing weights. I'm sure I wasn't smelling too good - but Jay and I took turns in mini-circuits - Pinochet upping the weights  at every chance he could. 25 kg chest presses - no worries. More lunges - kewl - bring them on. Flick the heavy ropes around... sure. Do sit ups with a 8 kg weight in one hand - okay I might moan about that one.

We got to talking about the awful news about town - the opportunistic rape and murder of a woman in Brunswick. There's been a national outpouring of grief and disbelief over this heinous crime. It's all that many have been talking about of late. Pinochet, bless him, found a way of letting us release some of the angst this case is causing many women about town. A kick pad and a few rounds of round house kicking Pinochet and the world felt a little better.

For me, I got out of the gym after two hours of solid work and I felt GREAT! Probably smelled revolting, but I felt good.

Cleaning myself up, having a shower and some lunch, I went and had my monthly massage - another community event.

I've been having a monthly massage for years. Not being in a relationship, most of the touch I have in my life comes from Blarney's cat. Massage is a good way to get positive touch into my life  - as well as sorting out the niggles and groans that exercise leaves behind.

Making my way down to the holistic practice a few hours later, it's always lovely to turn up and be welcomed. Even nicer, being grand final weekend, nobody was about - Bridge Road was quiet. My three 'o' clock appointment started with the first bounce. I left the practice an hour later, head whooshy, body floppy to the roar of the crown from some team scoring a goal at the MCG down the road.

After coffee and cake with Teddy an  hour later, I had a lovely evening at home doing the ironing. Another stress busting

Sunday morning, back at the gym for the constitutional pump class. After announcing to the pump instructor that I wanted to get my squat weight up to 30 kgs by the end of the year on Friday Morning (Stupid, stupid, stupid thing to do - it's been at 25 kgs for about six months now) I walked in with a bit of trepidation. I took my place next to Jay in the back row and got on with the class. Squat weight, 27.5 kgs - it didn't kill me. The rest of the class went without incident. I'll be back there later in the week. Jay and I went for our normal coffee after.

Once again, after doing the weekly supermarket shop, it was time to go round to Blarney's for a visit. Time to throw around a couple of two-year-olds and a cat for an hour or so. Very relaxing, even if I did end up wearing half of Chance's babychino and singing "The Wheels on the Bus" over and over to Lance (my version - not the normal one) while bouncing him around on my knee.

"The people on the bus go let me out, let me out, let me out" (Face squashed between your hands)
"The driver on the bus says "Shut up, please", "Shut up, please", "Shut up, please" (Shake your fist)
"The gears on the bus go crunch, crunch, crunch." (Make a gearstick movement)

The one minor downer of the day was nearly running over a couple of reasonably well dressed junkies in the carport as I backed in this afternoon. I politely asked them to take their needles with them as I got out of the car and went quickly into my flat (and penned a letter to the landlord for the body corporate) Okay, junkies are a not so nice part of inner-city life. You leave them alone, they leave you alone - though I'm not fond of them leaving their needles about the place.

Half an hour later, it was time to go out and get some Vietnamese take away for dinner. The junkies had moved the driveway, showing displays of public affection reserved for the half-munged out. They smiled and waved at me as I walked past and were gone when I came back ten minutes later. Thankfully, all of the windows of my car are still intact.

For as much as I moan about the isolation in my life, this weekend really has shown me just how much I rely on my immediate community - and how much I love having them about. There are some fairly gentle rhythms to the weekend.

Long may they remain.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Art, Media, Life

I've recently stumbled across the wonderful HBO series, The Newsroom.

It's only just reached the cable stations here in Australia and probably won't be on free-to-air until late next year. This is the way things happen with Australian television. They've only just cottoning on to the fact that a huge number of people are downloading episodes of new shows off the internet, rather than wait for show to come on free-to-air. It was really great to see that the new season of Grey's Anatomy will be coming to our screens a week after playing in the US - not the normal, obligatory six months.

For those who haven't seen or heard of The Newsroom, it is an Aaron Sorkin tale of an idealistic group of people who take over a cable news show and present the news - not what is perceived to be the news. Aaron Sorkin is the brains behind The West Wing - another wonderfully idealistic, moderate leftie show if ever there was one. Many people outside of the United States have the belief that Jed Bartlet was one of the recent presidents. Many people have learned much about the American political process from this show. In some ways, The West Wing is a mix of social studies, popular facts and simple story lines. 

The Newsroom has many of the Sorkin trademarks - the liberal bent, the affable characters (I can't be the only woman with a secret crush on Josh Lyman...) and the want to show big A America in a different light. I like the fact that Sorkin is openly critical of of both Left and Right - although he does have a left-wing bent, opting for sensible and sane - well I see it as sensible and sane.

I really like the fact in this show, they go out of their way to  take out the tabloid and the fanciful and rely on facts, despite pressure from their senior management. They make decisions on what to show and what not show not based on what is popular, but what is fair. They don't take a stand on the the current government, going out of their way to be unbiased.

What a lovely, ideal world they life in on The Newsroom.

Following the news over the last few days has been hard - particularly hard if you're a woman in Melbourne.

As every media outlet in Australia has reported, a woman has been apparently abducted from busy street early on Saturday morning. A media worker, expat Irish woman, apparently happily married, she was last seen walking home after leaving workmates at a bar. It was after one a.m. She had a five to ten minute walk home. She never made it. Nobody has seen or heard from her since.

That this has happened is dreadful. No qualms about that. Would I walk alone down the streets of Inner Suburban Melbourne late at night? Probably not. My rule of thumb is if it's after ten, I get a cab if I haven't driven. If it's more than a few minutes walk - I'll have somebody join me or at least ring to say I got a cab / to the car / home okay. I'm a single woman - it's a no brainer - you make sure somebody knows where you are late at night. In this woman's case, her husband was waiting for her return. She never made it home - he was out looking for her an hour later.

The fact that this poor woman has disappeared is appalling and I truly hope that she is found soon, safe and well. Unfortunately, after six days, the chances of this happening are growing slimmer.

The fact that most women in Melbourne don't really feel that safe walking the streets at night in the early hours is also bad - but it's a fact. Most will relate that as much as you'd like to feel safe walking the streets in the early hours, it can be done, and there are safeguards you take. The day - nobody bats an eyelid about personal safety apart from minding your property and walking away from "dodgy" looking types. It should be a right that you feel safe out in public. Thankfully, almost all of the time, you feel safe on the streets - I appreciate that there are plenty of places in the world where this is not the case.

What has been most surprising was something that The Newsroom brought up in an episode where the folks of Atlantic Cable News were forced to report on a story which they didn't feel news worthy - where a young, pretty mother was being tried for murder, bumping all other news from the airwaves - much of which was of global consequence.

There are some similarities in the "news porno" which was delivered in the show and this unfortunate story of abduction. The biggest question which was raised in the show that has rung bells with me was would the coverage be the same if she was somebody different? This woman appears bright, beautiful, intelligent, with friends in the media - and I begrudge her none of this.

What I question is whether the news coverage would be the same if she was of a different socio-economic or ethnic bent. You rarely hear anything about the thousands of people who go missing every year, this story is different. As dreadful as the circumstances are, would the coverage be anywhere as extensive if the person taken wasn't attractive? What if she was of a different ethnic background? What would the reporting be like if she was a prostitute or a drug addict? Would it go reported at all?

The other thing that I ponder is heaven forbid, she is not found in the next few days, what happens to the story? What will supersede this story? What else will media find to discuss?

After being at home when the Japanese Tsunami, the Brisbane floods and the odd Cyclone, I've got to witness the best and the worst of the Australian free to air media. After two days, the term flogging a dead horse comes to mind. I remember calling all of the major networks the week after September 11, pleading that they put something else on the television - the overkill was dreadful. Although this case has not reached overkill status, it has bumped some big global stories too.

I really, sincerely hope that this woman is found safe and well. I do not think the worse of her for making the decision to walk the 800 metres back to her home by herself. I wouldn't do it - many people I know wouldn't do it, but I do not think this makes what has happened her "fault". It isn't.

If anything, it highlights that people don't feel safe walking the streets at night. I wish this wasn't the case - and with all the media hype, a lot of people will be looking very differently at a short walk home.

And maybe this is something we could do without knowing.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Big 100

I see that this is blog number 100 for the year - so I did a bit of trawling and found a blog with 100 questions - so this has been knicked from some random blogger off the web in a fit. Nice short answers for the most part.
Too busy to write properly at the moment. Too much on to write properly. Though when I have a lot going on, that is when I should be writing.

Okay, so 100 Questions for the Centenary Blog for the year.
1) Are you in a relationship with somebody? 
I have plenty of friendships and acquaintances. They're relationships. But there isn't somebody with whom I'm in a long-term, committed relationship.
2) Do you hate more than 3 people? 
I don't hate people. I intensely dislike people, but hate is too strong a word. Though Tony About is getting up there. Really, really, really dislike Tony Abbott.
3) How many houses have you lived in? 
Oh hell, now you're asking. If you're going from childhood - as an approximate count back I make it around 22. I was pretty transient in my first few years in England, and since being back in Australia I'm now in my sixth abode - not that I've moved for seven years.
4) Favorite candy bar? 
It used to be the English Topic Bar, but they are hard to get hold of in Melbourne (and yes I know about Treats from Home on Collins Street) Rather fond of the new Cadbury's  Jelly Bean and Popping Candy Chocolate they have out at the moment.
5) Favourite shoes?
 I have a pair of long black boots with a small heel and buckles. Really comfortable and they make me feel sexy.
6) Have you ever tripped someone?
 Not intentionally in the last 20 years. Being on public transport on a near daily basis you trip people up by accident all the time.
7) Least favourite school subject? 
Physics. It was taught by a Yeti. Strangely I was great at maths and chemistry, but physics sucked big time.
8) Favorite pizza?
Mexican hot - with extra jalepenos and anchovies.
9) Do you own a Britney Spears CD? 
Who write these questions? Of course not. I'm not a Gen Whyer. Blah.
10) Have you ever thrown up in public? 
Yes, to my embarrassment, yes. But again, not for a very long time. One memorable time was after finishing first on the Lincoln Pub Crawl in second year - outside to Dover Castle. In front of the publican. I was at university college - though not that frequent, it did occur. I decimated a Qantas plane's toilet with a lovely case of gastro a few years ago too - that was fun. There are people out there who can fill you in on a few more times. I have no shame.
11) Name one thing that is always on your mind. 
Cuddles and Maow Maow. And Maow Maow cuddles.
12) Favorite genre of music? 
 Alternative Rock and classical.
13) What is your zodiac sign? 
 Leo/Virgo. Too quiet to be a true Leo, too ego driven to be a good Virgo. I'm a nice blend of the two.
14) What time were you born? 
 2.35 pm in the afternoon
15) Do you like beer? 
Very much so.
16) Ever made a prank phone call? 
Ummm, I think I may have done this once as a kid, but after a belting with the wooden spoon it was never done again.
17) What is the most embarrassing CD you own? 
I think if you look hard enough you can find a Phil Collins CD somewhere in the collection. My mother gave me a CD full of ancient bawdy songs penned in the 1700's for Christmas one year- it's crap. That's not good either.
18) Are you sarcastic? 
Moi! Never…. Is the Pope Catholic?
19) What are your favorite colors? 
Pillar-box red, emerald green, cobalt blue and most shades of teal.
20) How many watches do you own? 
Quite a few. Still have the silver watch I received for my 16th birthday. Two Fossil watches I found in the US last visit. A plain black swatch and my heart rate monitor, which doubles as a watch.
21) Summer or winter? 
Winter - always. I like to sleep and snuggle.
22) Autumn or Spring?
Autumn has to be my favourite season. I love kicking piles of leaves. I love the shortening evenings and I love the amazing late Indian Summer days you get occasionally.
23) Favorite color to wear? 
I wear a heap of black, but red always makes me feel good - and I'm told I look quite good in red.
24) Pepsi or Sprite? 
Sprite Zero, if I have to. Wouldn't touch Pepsi if you paid me.
25) What color is your cell phone? 
Black. With a cover that looks like a chocolate bar.
26) Where is your second home? 
 Blarney's - well I feel very much at home at Blarneys and can be found there most Sunday afternoons. For cities - Toledo, Mykonos, London and Boston all feel like home to me.
27) Have you ever slapped someone? 
Again, not for a very long time. And from memory, they deserved it. I have to say there are days where I could slap somebody easily.
28) Have you ever had an operation?
 I've had four. My arches were lowered when I was eight, my Achilles tendons elongated when I was eleven and two "down-there-girlie" procedures over time. Thankfully nothing too major.
29) How many lamps are in your bedroom? 
 Three. Two bedside lamps and a lava lamp that almost never gets used.
30) How many video games do you own? 
 I have an iPhone and an iPad. Do they count?
31) What was your first pet? 
 As a family we always had cats, but my first pet was our dog, Sheba. She was "my" dog though she belonged to the family. She was my best mate growing up.
32) Ever had braces? 
 No - do I wish I had braces - sort off. In the scheme of things, my teeth aren't too bad - they're by no means perfect, but they are passable.
33) Do looks matter? 
 Yes and no. A modicum of grooming never goes astray.
34) Do you use chap stick? 
I prefer blistex or lipstick - and I use both often.
35) Name three teachers from High School. 
We had Mrs Toon the music teacher, Mr Paynter the art teacher and Mr Flower the agricultural science teacher. Seriously.
36) What is the lastest song to get stuck in your head? 
Today's corker from the annals of bad taste is "The Purple People Eater". Heaven knows where that came from.

37) Are you too forgiving? Probably. 
I will forgive, but I don't forget. Ever.
38) How many children do you want?
I don't want children. I have a lot of them in my life, but at 44, unless Mr Wonderful and medical science come to the fore front, I don't see it happening. But you never know. I'm not discounting it either.
39) What is the most risque piece of clothing you own? 
Umm. Other than a dress that I recently bought on eBay that makes me look like trailer trash - probably the studded dog collar I have floating around in my drawer - the joys of a mis-spent yoof.
40) Favorite breakfast meal? 
I should have been a hobbit - that way I could have second breakfast. But I love going for breakfast after meditation every second Saturday and having in the joys of the food at Café D'lish. My current favourite is their baked eggs with peppers, olives and Persian feta with soldiers. They also do the best French Toast in Melbourne. Eggs Atlantic is another favourite. If I'm cooking myself, poached eggs on toast with smoked salmon normally fits the bill.
41) Do you own a gun?
Hell no, what do you take me for? An American. No guns - though I used to be a good shot many years back when I lived on a farm.
42) Ever thought you were in love? 
On numerous occasions - but I've had that disease and I'm now immune.
43) When was the last time you cried? 
Yesterday. Tears of frustration. Next.
44) What did you do three nights ago? 
On Tuesday night I went and saw a play. After work I went and found some dinner and then walked down to the Sumner Theatre and saw the MTC's production of "Top Girls". It was some of the best theatre I've seen in quite a while. Thought provoking, well played and relevant. I then walked back to the city, but as the next tram was fifteen minutes away, I cabbed home and then had a relatively early night.
45) Do you collect anything? 
 Yes. I have a great collection of tarot cards and I also collect little elephant figurines off people who go on holidays to countries that have elephants. Other than that, I tend to collect other people's pens at work. I'm good at that.
46) What is your favourite television show that is on at the moment?
I always tape the English version of "Who do you think you are?" and I rather like Embarrassing Bodies.
47) Have you ever been in a castle?
Plenty. Lived in England for many years. Castle Urquhart on Loch Ness is my favourite.
48) Nicknames?
Panda, P, Dippy Cow, La Presidenta
49) What is the most interesting name of a person you have met?
I knew a Wilson Feltus at university. 
50) Ever been to Kentucky?
No, but I have a cousin who lives in Tennessee - does that count?
51) Favorite Movie - quick - choose one?
Three Colours - Blue
52) Are you thinking about somebody right now?
Not really. Thinking of all the things I have to do before I got to bed - including feeding the neighbour's cat.
53) Favourite book?
Too many to name - but Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Middlesex and The Moor's Last Sigh are up there.
54) What is your dream job?
Travel writer or best selling literary novelist. One must dream big!
55) Do you own a diamond ring? 
 No. Never been given any jewellery like that. The best I have is three Pandora bracelets - all in silver.
56) Are you happy with your life right now?
Pretty much - I'm really pleased that I'm happy at work - which makes everything else fall into place.
57) Do you dye your hair?
Hell yeah. Thank goodness for hair dye - hides a litany of disasters.
58) Does anyone like you?
I hope my friends like me.
59) What year were you born?
60) What were you doing in May of 1994?
I was living in London. I have a feeling I'd just started working for a now defunct American investment house.
61) Do you own a Backstreet Boys CD?
Hell no
62)  What is your favourite junk food?
KFC. And anything with chips. I don't class Nando's as junk food.
63) Do you like yourself? 
Yes. It's taken a long time, but yes.
64) Are you closer to your mother or father? 
Mother. My father passed away fifteen years ago.
65) Favourite physical feature of the preferred sex? 
I love furry chests. Rather partial to soft hands and the back of a man's neck. But I adore furry chests.
66) Are you afraid of the dark?
Not really. more afraid of things that go bump in the night.
67) What is the strangest thing you've eaten?
I thought pickled herring was a bit strange when I tried it, but I love it. Partridge in Toledo was pretty cool. And some strange Malaysian snack foods.
68) Do you own a web cam?
There is one attached to my laptop and my iPad - so by default - yes.
69) Have you ever stripped?
Not in public on stage. 
70) Ever broke a bone? 
I think so. Though never proven, my left little toe got badly dinged while living in London. It still doesn't move right but I've never had it x-rayed to see if this is the case. Can't do much about broken toes anyway.
71) What can't you leave the house without?
Other than keys, phone and wallet - if I'm going anywhere further than the local shops, eyeliner and mascara.
72) Do you chat online often?
Reasonably frequently. It's great for keeping in touch with friends abroad.
73) Favourite potato chips?
Samboy salt and vinegar.
74) Have you ever broken someone’s heart?
I don't think so. Not that I'm aware of.
75) Favourite cartoon?
Really fond of anything Pixar. The Incredibles and Monsters Inc are two real favourites. And I used to like the original X-Men cartoons on Saturday morning.
76) Full House or The Brady Bunch? 
I'm a child of the seventies. Love the Brady Bunch. I am Jan Brady.
77) Favourite subject in school?
French and English. Though I used to like Maths and Chemistry as well.
78) Has anyone ever called you fat? 
Regularly and often throughout my life. Thing is, though I am technically obese, I now feel fitter, slimmer and more toned than I have in any other period of my life.
79) Do you have a birth mark? 
Yes. I have a chocolate stain on my left calf about the size of a fifty cent piece. Nothing bad at all.
80) Do you own a car? 
Yes. His name is Neville and he is a 2009, silver grey Mazda 2 with alloys and a rear spoiler.
81) Can you cook? 
Yes. I'm not a bad cook - I just don't do enough of it. I'm told that when I put my mind to it I cook really well.
82) Three things that annoy you: 
Librans. People who can't make a decision (i.e. Librans). People who sit by the aisle on public transport when there is a free seat next to the window an they either won't move to let you sit down or make a complete song and dance about the fact that you want to sit next to them (even when it is the only seat left on the tram and the bloody thing is filling up fast.)
83) Do you text message often?  
Daily. I keep in touch with half my friends this way.
84) Money or love? 
Love. Money can be made, found or stolen. Love is a far more elusive thing.
85) Do you have any scars? 
Yes. Two running up the back of my ankles from when they elongated my Achilles tendons. Some marks on my stomach where the keyhole equipment went in for the last operation. There are a heap of small scars in my scalp where I've had cysts removed but you can't see them and I have one on the back of my hand where I took a chunk out of it when I was moving house.
86) What do you want more than anything right now? 
 A cuddle.
87) Do you enjoy scary movies? 
 No. I don't mind a bit of suspense, but horror films - no thanks. The scariest film I've seen was "The Sixth Sense".
88) Relationships or one night stands?
Daft question. Relationships. And proudly, though I've never been with people for long, I've only ever had one one night stand.
89) Big Red or Juicy Fruit? 
 Big Red. The one thing that will make me remember my father quicker than anything is the smell of Juicy Fruit chewing gum.
90) Do you enjoy greasy food?
Sometimes. Sometimes there is nothing better than a big feed of chips and pizza. But that is rarely.
91) Have you seen all the Rocky movies?
I think I've seen the first one only.
92) Do you own a box of crayons?
No, but I've got some coloured pencils that I snaffled off a flight crew somewhere around the place.
94) Who was the last person that said they loved you?
I can't remember anybody telling me they loved me. Actually, I can, but we were in flagrante delicto - that doesn't count. Everybody knows that.
95) Who was the last person that made you mad?
A friend really gave me the irrits yesterday. Could have strangled them. It's okay now. Don't want to talk about it.
96) Who was the last person that made you cry?
The same person who made me mad.
97) Who was the last person that made you laugh?
Jonella made me giggle when she told me about some of her adventures riding to work.
98) Who was the last person that you fell for?
Ah, we don't talk about him here. Beautiful man. Loved somebody else. It sucked.
99) Who was the last person that instant messaged you?
A friend in England the other day.
100) Who was the last person that called you? 
Jonella. To sure up tonight's dinner plans.

Well there you go, the centenary blog out of the way. Now its time for bed.


Friday, September 14, 2012

10 Songs I Grew Up To

This blog came from Jackie K, who knicked the idea about songs we grew up with. This was taken from another blogger - but as imitation is the greatest form of flattery, I will give this a go. Here are my ten songs from my yoof that have particular memories. There are lots of songs that I remember - I've got this pesky memory for lyrics and tunes, but these songs always resonate with me, with particular memories to boot.

Mellow Yellow - Donovan
As a child, my family holidays revolved around one of two things - going on a houseboat up the Murray, or taking my grandparent's caravan somewhere. Both holidays involved sitting around doing not very much at all. Even as a pre-teen I was into music, though my parents really didn't have much clue - or so I thought. Dad with his Bing Crosby and Sinatra records were not that cool at all. Mum was even worse. Neither of my parents got into the Beatles, much to my chagrin.
Despite neither of my parents being musically inclined, the radio was always in in the car and at home. Mum, to this day, still has the radio on a really dodgy talkback station whenever I go home - and the songs that come out from her little transistor can be shockers (will see if I can find the Port People Song on YouTube).
My memories of Mellow Yellow come from a holiday when I was in my early teen years. We were on the River Murray on a houseboat where the only music available was the daggy regional station that came out of Renmark or Berri. I clearly remember this song coming on one day when I was fishing off the back of the boat with my Mum (My Mum loves fishing - something instilled in her by her father when they lived up on the river when she was a child.) A happy childhood memory. I don't have many of them.

Turning Japanese - The Vapours
Despite the abject humiliation attached to this song, I still love it. It came out in 1980 - my last year of primary school. At the age of 12, the real meaning of the song was not apparent - then again, I only found out a few years ago what "Turning Japanese" was all about. (Surely I wasn't the last person to find out that the song was about wanking)
Regardless, we had the year seven social held in the Year 6-7 classroom. Myponga Primary School had about 25 kids in the composite grade six and seven class. The social - or dance - was held one night near the end of the school year. We all got dressed up in our Myponga finest and went for an evening of dancing and overindulging in cheezel and other E-number infused confections. We had a dance off. There were three of us left on the floor dancing to this song.
Never one for dancing I proceeded to do my best whirling dervish imitation. Dancing's never been something I've been good at.
Needless to say, the only person who voted for me being the best dancer was the teacher.
Never have I forgotten this.
And it's part of the reason why I only tend to dance in public when I have a half a skin full of beer under my belt.

Howzat - Sherbert
I hear Sherbet and I think of summer as a child and this new fandangled game of limited overs cricket that came into being when I was nine-years-old. This was a bit of a theme song from these days. I hear this and I think of the coveted McDonalds posters of the Australian Cricket Team that used to adorn my bedroom walls. Yes, it is a little known fact that my nine-year-old self was a cricket tragic. I hear this song and I think of names like Dennis Lillee, Rod Marsh, Jeff Thompson, David Hookes (may he rest in peace) the Chappell Brothers - and of course Augustine Logie, Viv Richards, Imran Kahn and the rest of the crew. I still like cricket - I'll have it on in the background and I'll sit and watch the last ten overs of an inning when I can catch a game - but this 20/20 rubbish is not the same as those heady, hot summer days of the late seventies, when Darryl Braithwaite stood in his tight flares crooning on Countdown. Life was simpler then - except for when I had to explain to my mother how I broke the chandelier in the lounge room imitating a celebratory jump by Augustine Logie one day.

The Rivers of Babylon - Boney M
Boney M, and this song in particular, will forever remind me of my step-sister's mother, Trista. My family circumstances in my childhood aren't worth going into, but needless to say, we spent a lot of time up at JD's place as kids. I can't hear this song without visualising Trista dancing around the kitchen which overlooked the Myponga Reservoir. Trista always loved to dance - her line dancing troupe were there in their regalia at her funeral - but I always see her in my mind, hips kicking along to the beat of this song. Funny how one song can bring back a person so clearly.

Kate Bush - Wuthering Heights
Countdown was a staple for me on Sunday night, not that my mother agreed with me - for some reason she hated Countdown with a passion.
I used to watch Countdown religiously from the age of seven or eight to see what was new in the music scene. Unfortunately, my music tastes have not really developed since then, but I do have recollections of seeing Kate Bush in her floaty red dress roaming around in the cold, wet English hills - and I thought she was an idiot. I also remember thinking, "What the hell is this crap? Remember, this is the year that Grease came out (and I wasn't allowed to see it at the movies because my mother thought that my ten-year-old self was too young and wouldn't understand) Other songs that came out this year were more to my liking - John Paul "Squeek" Young's "Love is in the Air", The Bee Gees, Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street" - more harmonious, smooth music, none of this discordant shrieking from some ethereal harpy.
Silly thing is that as my life has progressed, as I've become more literate and my music tastes have broadened with my hips, I really like this song now. I like the James Reyne cover of it even more. (Unintelligible song made understandable by a singer who's known for not being understood.)
I still maintain that this would be great covered by a death metal band.

And compare it with the James Reyne version

Careless Whisper - George Michael
I remember George Michael before he was gay and before he was best known for frequenting public toilets at night on Hampstead Heath. I also remember when George Michael had this mute shadow called Andrew Ridgeley - wonder what happened to him…. George Michael's song came out in 1984 - and though I sort of liked it, I also derided it before being popular crap. It wasn't until I met my friend Geetangeli in university that I really got to see the efforts George Michael fans went to keep his music playing. I hear this song and I think of Geetangeli. And when we meet up every few years, I ask her if she is still listing to George Michael. 
She is.

Moscow - Ghengis Khan
With all the drama around the 1980 Moscow Olympics, the boycotting of the event, the Cold War, the Eastern block gymnasts and Nadia Comaneci receiving her perfect 10 on the beam, I remember the song that came out of the Olympics. I was in the last year of primary school. We used to get television breaks to watch some events. Back then, the Olympics seemed to be steeped in high ideals and excellence. That these people, who were amateurs would pit themselves against each other seemed like such a wonderful thing to my idealistic twelve-year-old self. Being Australian, we were thrilled to have won the handful of medals we gained. There was none of this "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi,Oi." crap and whining about getting a silver medal. These Olympics were even more wonderful because at the time, I thought my body was rubbish. Just out of plaster boots, not able to participate in sport or do anything remotely sporting, these people amazed me. They still do.
Not that this song gets played much any more, but on the odd chance you're listening to dodgy regional radio it comes out (Like Mellow Yellow and the Boney M songs) it takes me back to my final year of primary school, back when I was too young and too naïve to know about things like the Cold War and doping. At the time, the Russians were just the baddies and that was all - I could never understand it. Moscow did look like such a pretty place in the pictures.

And I've just reviewed this clip and it's given me the best giggle I've had in weeks.

Jealous Guy - Roxy Music
First kiss song.
This is up there in my top three songs ever. I know it’s a cover. I know that I should like the John Lennon version of this - but Brian Ferry whistles better.
So I hear this and I think of a lanky, geeky, spotty, greasy-haired lad who drove a yellow Datsun 180B who was in the year above me at school. Always the late bloomer, my sixteen-year-old self had been waiting for all of this stuff to start to happen. My younger sister, who is four years younger than me, was at it - why couldn't I be? Then again, my sister was the girl who was into horses as a kid who then turns her affections to boys as soon as puberty kicks in. I was always into books.
Well, it did finally happen (strangely, tomorrow is the anniversary of that fateful day - funny how things like that stick in your mind). With this song gently playing in the background.

April Sun in Cuba - Dragon
I hear this and thing of the Sellicks Beach, of driving our station wagon onto the sand, and body boarding in the gentle surf and playing beach cricket with an esky lid for the stump. I hear this and know that the windows on the car were wound down (manually) because it was as hot as Hades and the car had no air conditioning. We'd stay at the beach until the sun had disappeared. We'd have brought sandwiches and soft drink and we wouldn't share packets of twisties and cheezels, washing our hands in the surf. You would go home sunburned and tired and happy.
This song reminds me of all this. Rest in Peace, Mark Hunter
To show you where I grew up - and to show you the beach that all this played out on, see here. This movie was made in the area I come from. The car is driving along this beach.

Reckless - Australian Crawl
A few months ago I found myself at the Shangri-La Hotel in Sydney looking over the harbour, watching the Manly ferry come into the quay - and I started to cry. I had this playing on the iPod.
This has been my favourite song since it came out in 1983 when I was 15. It has always been my favourite song. It will probably always be my favourite song.
I've broken up with boys to this song, got drunk to this song, watched the sun come up on Mount Lofty to this song, made love to this song.... you name it, this song has been with me like an old favourite jumper or loyal dog. It's moody, it's pensive, it's angry, it's calming. 
What was all the more poignant about listening to this song a few months back from my perch at the Shangri La (albeit an acoustic version) is that I see now that sometimes you carry these tunes around for a reason. They bring back memories, the make you feel. They make you laugh. And they make you remember. 
I hear Reckless now and see the symmetry in my life.
And I can see how far I have come.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Golden Rule

The freeway was practically empty as Neville, my trusty Mazda 2 sat happily on the speed limit as we made out way home around midnight last night. I love the empty freeway late at night. Music blaring, window down a little, driving like this makes me happy.

My cargo had been deposited fifteen minutes beforehand.

For all the stick I give out to the Elks about my membership with them, there are times I truly see the benefit of being a member of such an organisation.

Last night was one of those nights.

It was a fairly ordinary meeting. The proceedings came and went. The only different thing of note was the inclusion of two visitors from Queensland who sat and watched over proceedings with an eagle eye. They appeared to be very nice people. Women with bright, open faces and easy smiles. Most of the Elks are like this.

After the meeting we were getting changed for supper when one of them piped up, "We have to work out how to get back to the train station. We're going out to Belgrave."

"Really? You're taking the train at this time of night?"

"Oh yes, our car is at the station." one of them said. They were starting to look at the train timetables - the next train was nearly an hour away.

It was 10.30 p.m.

I'm an advocate of public transport but there is no way on the planet you would get me on the Belgrave Line any time after nine - or most metropolitan trains. After seeing a train driver a few years ago, I've heard the horror stories that don't make the papers. There are security guards at most outer metropolitan stations after dark. Most of my friends won't travel the trains after nine at night, especially alone or without somebody at home waiting for them - too many nutters.

"Look, it's no trouble. I'll give you a lift to your car. I can't, with a clear conscience, let you travel on the trains this late at night. You're our guests. It would be my honour."

"Are you sure it's not out of your way."

"Not at all." I told them.

We settled down for a cup of tea and some curried egg sandwiches and spanikopita and malt loaf and talked about all sorts of things over supper. Elks suppers are the best - though they are dreadful if you're on any sort of diet. You forget about the joys of things like asparagus with a bit of mayonaise wrapped in crustless fresh white bread. Or home made scones. Or home made vanilla slice ("PANDORA, YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO CALL IT SNOT BLOCK!" Is the normal cry when this comes out.)

Half an hour later, my cargo and I were making our way out to Boronia, about a half hour drive on the freeway at that time of night.

Oh, did I mention that my cargo, Rosemary, 82 and Maggie, 73, drive around Australia towing a caravan. They go all over the place together. Strong, vibrant, capable, intelligent women who don't look a day over sixty. They told me about their lives, how they spend their days keeping busier than my schedule has me. They have friends and family and clubs. They go all around Australia with their activities, as well as visiting their large extended families and friend network. They do this together. Both widows, they met when Maggie nursed Rita's mother and husband in their final days and their friendship serves them both well.
These women are an absolute inspriration. I want to grow old like that. They both said that the trick to keeping young - or at least feeling young, was to keep busy and active.

We approached Belgrave. I know my way around here - it's up near the 1000 Steps.

"So, where do you live?" one of them asked.

"Truthfully - I live about a kilometre away from the lodge building in Richmond."

They looked shocked. "You've driven us all this way?"

"I couldn't have you sitting on that train at this time of night. If it wasn't me who took you back, somebody else would have. It's dangerous, although I reckon you'd both give any young hoodlum a run for his money." I told them.

Rosemary nodded in agreement.

"Nope, other than I get to take the car for a nice drive on the open road, I'm just following the Golden Rule. Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself."

"That is very kind." They appeared somewhat gobsmacked.

"It really isn't a problem. An hour of my time and a bit of petrol to make sure you get back safe makes me feel better. You've got back to your car safely - you're happy. I'm happy."

I deposited them at their car, got a hug and a kiss off them and bit them goodnight. Before I left the car park I made sure that they were buckled in and their car had started. Content in the knowledge that all was in order, I started the drive back.

It's these little things that really make life so much more enriching. Whether it's uttering a "Bless you" to the person sitting next to you on a tram who sneezes, or contacting a friend unexpectedly, passing a square of chocolate to your workmate who's just broken up with her boyfriend or acts as simple as stopping to assist somebody who's fallen in the street - it’s these little common courtesies than appear to reward all the more.

An hour of my time and a bit of petrol. The cost is minimal.

Making somebody's day. Absolutely priceless.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Elephant Hunting Part V

The hunt for the elephants continued.

The next port of call, after a ferocious week at work, was the Botanical Gardens. Yet another elephant that was trying to pose as a tiger was found. These guys were a little harder to find - placed right in the middle of the gardens - with the light fading it took a tracking app to find the suckers.

Of the other two in the Botanical Gardens, this one tried in vain to blend in with the gardens without much success. The hibiscus behind its ear sort of gave it away - like the ones with red toenails that try to hide in strawberry patches with little success.

The last one found in the gardens wanted a quick escape. Covered in flutterbies, I don't think it understood that it was a bit to heavy to fly, especially carried by flutterbies. Maybe if its ears were bigger it might have got away.

A few days later, with seven elephants to find, I managed to escape work a little early and go on a hunt in the North of the city - not somewhere that I go very often. Catching the tram outside of work, I made my way up to the Children's Hospital. I found this one looking rather happy and waterlogged, despite being in a hospital.

Walking down the road a bit, I found this clever elephant outside the Medical School at the university.

Then, wandering through the back streets of Carlton, another tiger inspired elephant (what is it with tiger stripes - are they all from Dandenong or Broadmeadows?) This one was only half a tiger, the other half was stripes. Looked a bit like a test pattern that Kath and Kim would design.

A few streets away on Lygon Street, two more of these pesky creatures were found. This one was obviously dressed by its mother so it wouldn't get lost in shopping centres.

And its mate, which stood next to it looked like it had hit the tiles the night before and as a bit defiant and green around the gills.

I reckon it had plants on it because like cats and dogs, they need to eat the stuff when they have an upset tummy.

So here I was, left with two elephants to find. I knew where they were  - but as they were stationed outside of the zoo, a place I have been twice, it would mean a special trip.

Luckily, I got an early half hour from work on Friday. My boss said something about it being a hard week for all and that buggering off would be a good thing. Which it was. After a week of fine proof editing, I needed an escape.

Regardless, I hopped on a strange tram once again, made even stranger by the chatty people I was sitting next to - a barmaid cum beauty therapist, an ex-taxi driver who smelled like he'd smoked two pack of Marlboros a day for the last twenty years. Smelly, but pleasant enough.

Half an hour later, I was deposited at the back gate of the zoo. 

There wasn't an elephant in sight.

I went up to the ticket office and knocked on the window. It was five to five. The zoo was about to close.

The attendant - a kindly faced man in in fifties appeared from behind the screen.

"Where are the lellyphunts?" I asked.
"You're too late."
"Sorry, where are the painted elephants. I have 48 elephants and I need to get the last two."
"Oh - the Malis. They're out the front gate. This is the back gate."

I pouted. It was a cold, damp evening. The zoo perimeter is about three kilometres in length. 

"If you cut through, you'll be there in a few minutes. Go that way." He pointed through the zoo grounds.

Kissing the fellow on the cheek, I skipped my way through the empty zoo. Every time I've been to Melbourne Zoo, it's been filled with people and I've been wrangling other people's toddlers (last time I was there I was with Blarney and Chance and Lance) It's quite a surreal place being the only person in the zoo, being there with nobody but the animal noises. I saw the lions out of the corner of my eye. I also resisted the temptation to go and visit the seals - I'd never tire of visiting the seals - they're great fun.

A few minutes later, I made my destination. Two minutes later, the elephants had been found. This one, covered in birds and stones, just like the ones in the wild.

Add caption

And the last one that resembled an African sunset.

Pandora Behr, elephant hunter extraordinaire had completed her mission.

So what was all this elephant hunting about? To be honest, it was just something silly to fill some time and get some fresh air after work. I can be a bit OCD when I get a bee in my bonnet. I love elephants, I just wanted to make sure I saw all of them. My workmates have been teasing me about this for the last fortnight - driving them mad with my tales of elephant hunting.

The elephants are dotted around the Melbourne CBD and Carlton until 21 September when I believe they will be taken to the zoo for a stint and then auctioned off to the highest bidder later in the year. If I had a garden I'd still love to have the one covered in rusty nuts and bolts or the Mirka Mora one or the Saggy Baggy Elephant that is in a knitted suit.

The elephant initiative has been done to celebrate Melbourne Zoo's 150th birthday. The elephant mascot is Mali, the zoo's two year old elephant calf that was born at the zoo (and is one of the star attractions)

(  or  for more information)

For those in Melbourne, or those who want to have a better look and have a smart phone, there is this great app that gives you more information about these wonderful beasties. Typing in "Mali in the City" in a browser will give you more information. Downloading the app and going hunting elephants is great fun (and to its credit, the app is really cool.

So there, the lellyphunt hunt is over.

I'm going to have to find something creative and silly to do after work now.

Ideas welcome.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Elephant Hunting Part IV

It seems that if I can't find contract work as a technical writer / instructional designer, I could always go and be an Elephant Hunter somewhere.

Continuing along the river, once we left the swimming lellyphunt, we found this one trying to be a natural Australian, covering itself in frill-necked lizards and kangaroos.

Taking the lellyphunt count to 31 - I knew that I had to finish this massive job - and soon.

So the following lunch time I went a walking around the Docklands. There had been a tip off.

"Outside the NAB, go have a look." A number of friends had said. Sure enough, there in Friday casual was another of the buggers.

Stumbling up towards the Docklands proper, we found a poor lellyphunt that had been run  over by the bike path.

A jaunt around the river near the casino found me two more of the buggers. First up, a lellyphunt posing as a Melbourne Storm player.

And of course, no parade of lellyphunts would be complete without an Elvis impersonator.

With the count at 35 lellyphunts, I had to keep going.

So I went out early from work and went hunting around the Markets - something I'm not used to doing on a bright morning before work.

The first one found was painted up like a lovely Ming vase. I love how they've worked in the lellyphunt puppy in utero in the design. (They are called lellyphant puppies, aren't they - like cats have kittens and rabbits have vermin and Essendon supporters have demon spawn for offspring)

Just around the corner was another lellyphunt covered in parrots, though you had to look hard to see that. Most people would think that the lellyphunt was wearing paisley pyjamas.

A walk down the part of the markets that I've never been before bore fruit. This wonderful lellyphunt stood in patches, waiting for the arrival of the onions.

Then, on the walk back to the office, awaiting the start of the day, we found this lellyphunt waiting for a tram in the middle of a traffic island. Silly place for a lellyphunt if you ask me.

A walk around to the Botanical Gardens also bore fruit. There waiting by a big monument to some dead king was this gem of a lellyphunt all covered in toucans and other exotic animals that wouldn't know a lellyphunt if they ran into it.

The count now is forty lellyphunts found.

Allegedly there are fifty to find in total.

Pandora Behr, Elephant Hunter extraordinaire had better get her bum into gear.

To be continued...