Saturday, September 30, 2023

Sunday Stealing: The Last...

Even though I'm on holiday, the Sunday Questions need to be done. I'll try and incorporate some holiday stuff in the questions - how about that? I am a little jetlagged - also waiting for my friend to front up, and Britain has been scuppered by rail strikes. I can get this out of the way. 

Questions, as always, come from Bev at Sunday Stealing

1. The last song you heard

In researching my song of the day, I re-discovered Jerry Rafferty's Baker Street. I'll be passing by there today as I go out to my friends' place near St Albans. I used to take the Jubilee Line daily - today, we're hopping on the service to get to Stanmore as British Rail is being held hostage to disgruntled workers. I have fond memories of Baker Street. See the song at the end of the blog. 

2. The last food you ate

I had the oat cookies found in the hotel tea and coffee box for breakfast. They were good. Like digestives, another thing the Brits do well. 

3. The last drink you had. 

There is a coffee, courtesy of the nespresso machine in the hotel room in front of me. It's not bad at all. 

4. The last line in a book/newspaper or magazine you read. 

I've just started Ian McEwan's The Comfort of Strangers. The last line reads, "He set down his briefcase, adjusted his starched white short cuffs, and courteously, with the faintest of bows, offered to walk her back the hotel. "

5. The last movie you saw. 

The last film I watched on the plane yesterday was Polite Society. Love that film. The last film I saw at the cinema was A Haunting in Venice. 

6. The last tv-show you watched

I have the BBC World news on in the background. 

7. The last news you read about your hometown.

Being on the other side of the world, little news filters through about Melbourne, but I did see that Collingwood won the grand final in some rather dodgy circumstances. Goes with the fact that the Crows should have been in the finals, but thanks to bad umpiring decisions they were now. So, Melbourne will be at the mercy of the rabid Pies supporters for the next month. Glad I'm in London. 

8. The last photo you took with your phone, with a little explanation.

It's morning. I've been for a walk. I'm at the Tower of London and I'm getting major big deja vu vibes. I've been here before, somewhere in time, and not in a good way. 

9. The last video you watched on youtube.

See the song of the day. I vetted the clip. 

10. The last thing you brought in the supermarket.

A ChapStick and some mochi on Thursday night. I love mochi. Good for when you want an ice cream hit, but not too much of it.

11. The last time you were on an airplane.

Yesterday. I spent 23 hours travelling from Melbourne, through Dubai, to London. Oh, what fun. (Not).

12. The last long drive in a car.

The Uber ride to Melbourne Airport on early Friday morning took 45 minutes. Does this count? I drove to my hairdresser the week before. That was an hour one way, 30 minutes back. It's been a while since I've been on a road trip. Reindert and I will be doing on in about a fortnight around Normandy. 

13. The last telephone conversation you had.

According to my phone log, I spoke to my Mum on Thursday night. She was wishing me well for the trip. 

14. The last letter you wrote.

I cannot remember the last time I wrote a letter that wasn't an email. 

15. The last concert you attended.

The last gig I attended was in Darwin, when we went to see the East Arrendte Band. The last concert I saw was in December last year when I went to see the Pixies. One at the Sydney Opera House forecourt. The other time was at The Forum in Melbourne. They were tighter than a goldfish's bum. 

Today's song: 

Holiday Blog Day One: Purgatory is the Long Haul Flight - and I'm Home

I've been decidedly underwhelmed by Emirates Airlines.

I can hear gasps of, "What do you mean?", but as somebody who flies regularly, Emirates have not really cut the mustard. Sure, I felt every safe, which is a good thing, but the rest of the 23-hour flight was just meh. This is not because I'm overly tired, nor were there any problems. The whole thing was just fine. Not quite what I was expecting. 

Emirates seems to have put a lot into their business and first-class offerings, leaving us in cattle class to make do. I've travelled internationally on Qantas, Jetstar, Singapore and Cathay over the last few years and have had better experiences. Also, there was no marked change in service between the long Melbourne to Dubai leg on an Airbus A380 and the last leg to Stanstead on a Boeing 777-300 - although the 15-hour long flight was made more comfortable by the fact it wasn't a full flight.  

On the good side of things, especially on the long flight, the inflight entertainment was good - and vast. I finally got to see all of In Bruges. They had a captive audience (and I was in the right frame of mind - great film). 

Also, the food was fine. Tasty, but still plane food. 

The things that left me struggling a bit - the cabin crew were efficient, but not particularly friendly. And sure, you have 300 people to look after, but they could make it look like it wasn't such a chore. 

Also, the seats, particularly on the long flight, were rock hard. I was lucky to move to another row to get a free seat next to me, but it was still hard to get comfortable. 15 hours on your arse is a bit of a stretch. Thankfully, there was a lot of leg room, which made up for a bit. 

My biggest gripe with this airline is their hydration policy. Yes, I'm used to our much-maligned Qantas whose cabin crew regularly walk down the aisle offering water - these guys, nothing. You practically had to beg for water. They've been marked down severely for this. The drinks were miniscule as well - My dry ginger ale came in a 200 ml, rather than the standard 300 ml serving. Yes, I'm being petty, but I was parched by the end of it all. My seat mate from the second flight to Stanstead (who is a colleague of a friend - go figure, another story for another time) said exactly the same thing. She had a water bottle with her, but could not find potable water in the Dubai terminal. She was as thirsty as me. 

The second flight, from Dubai to Stanstead was a full, complete with a lot of British holidaymakers. Oh, what fun. We saw a woman do a complete Karen. Interesting. Between my seat mate, we had a fellow who had no English. No drama there - he just smiled and nodded occasionally. 

The seats on the second plane were much more snug. An older plane, the seat back entertainment had the same content, but was half the size. My screen was hanging by a thread, but still operational. 

Emirates could do nothing about the screaming child in front of me, but my heavy-duty earplugs helped. 

Talking to my seat buddy after the flight, I asked her what she felt about our trip. Decidedly underwhelmed was her response. 

Emirates might be fantastic for business and first-class travel, but I won't be rushing back to them for long haul cattle class again. 


But I am home now. I write about this fairly regularly, but on this inside, I am British. I have always felt like this. I'm a Pom on the inside. So, every time I step foot on British soil, it's like I've arrived to a big comforting hug.

I made the choice to come into Stanstead airport over Heathrow as the immigration queues have always been more manageable for non-EU people. Armed with responses - you know - "I'm here for five days. Visiting friends. Going to France on the 4th, here's my Eurostar ticket..." that sort of stuff - I shouldn't have worried. Didn't have to speak to anybody. At all. Like going to New Zealand, all I had to do was put my passport in the machine, look dopey for the camera and they let me through. No questions, no nothing. 

So now I'm here. 

My first thing. Buy some much needed water. The Marks and Spencer concession also had their famous prawn sandwiches. 

I've been dreaming about prawn sandwiches for ages. It's something the British do well. I wouldn't buy one from a service station, but the refrigerated ones you get at Boots or M&S are the absolute bomb. So, I was happy. After finally locating the train station, I hopped on the Liverpool Street Express. Again, a comfortable ride, but I could do nothing about the aged gentleman behind me yelling rapid fire Italian into his phone. Ah well, get out the earplugs again. 

And then I was here. At Liverpool Street Station. Home to many late night staggerings to the tube, my old office at Lehman Brothers and a dogdy pub, which if I wasn't dragging around my suitcase, Bertha, I might have gone a half pint of whatever bitter was on tap. Also 48 hours without any significant sleep meant getting to the hotel a vital thing. 

The transition to the tube was better than expected. You can just tap your phone and they let you on the platform. The Circle Line train arrived in a minute (not the normal five-minute wait - I lucked out there). The lift got me up to street level and once out of the station I was confronted with the wall leading to the Tower of London. 

Yeah. I'm home. It's a strange feeling being internally settled. Strangely, the first thing I did on waking was check the footy scores. To my horror, the game had just started. I'd managed eight hours sleep. 

Choosing to stay at a boring, but known hotel (The Novatel, Tower Hill) was a good move. They upgraded my room, complete with coffee machine, very comfy bed, great shower and as much filtered water as I wanted from a tap in the corridor, there to help cut down single use plastics. 

Today's activities include:

  • Meeting up with an old friend - no idea what we will do, but we're catching up. 
  • Making my way out on the Jubilee Line to Stanmore, where one of my mates will collect me. 
  • Get to know their dogs.
  • And probably crash early thanks to having so little sleep over the last 48 hours. 
Regardless, I am home.

Friday, September 29, 2023

Time Zone Hell

 Current situation. Sitting in one of the cafes at the airport, a bottle of water in front of me, dodgy wifi off my phone with no desire anything. The music is dodgy. There is nowhere to sleep

It's 2.30 in the morning. 

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Packing - Part Two

OCD has it's advantages. 

Okay, I don't have full-on OCD, but my mild sort is useful when it comes to packing for big trips.  Everything is tried, tested and 

The invention of packing cubes has been a blessing. A cube for dresses. A cube for trousers. A cube for tops. A cube for undies. A cube for socks. A cube for pyjamas and my obligatory active wear. Jumpers go on top. 

I also have the following things in my big bag. 

  • Half a kilogram of vegemite
  • Spare glasses and sunglasses
  • Three weeks of oestrogen patches, blood pressure pills and supplements (plus a few days of the meds in my day pack just in case. 
  • A variety of summer and autumn clothes. 
  • Long boots, short boots, runners and Birkenstocks - and that's it for shoes.
  • My mason's apron and passport. 

I wish I had the perfect capsule wardrobe, but I don't. I do, however, have a lot of mix and match items. Jeans and tops. Skirts. Comfy dresses which I love to wear. People say if you forget something you can buy things, but being plus size, that's not always the case. It's probably okay in England, in France, not so much (It's worse in Asia, where absolutely nothing fits, with the exception of fisherman's pants.)

I've just weighed the bag. Just over 20 kilograms with the vegemite. That it will be with me until the penultimate day of the trip is just how it worked out, but I know it will make an old friend very happy. I can see Reindert's eyes rolling when he sees the bag. But he's a bloke who's over to see his folks in the Netherlands and only needs to bring a day pack. 

Lucifer is now ensconced at Jay's place. He was curious, but not overly unhappy to be there. He tried to follow me out the door. He'll like it there - there are birds and bats and bugs to watch from the balcony doors. 

The next job is sort out the last of the daypack. There's the writing laptop, a small bag with all of the cables, chargers and peripherals. The dinky clear back with some liquid toiletries. A change of clothes. Just some knickers and a t-shirt dress - just in case the bag doesn't make it. 

Passport, boarding passes, train ticket from Stanstead to London. Spare credit card. A couple of N95 masks.

Oh yes, and in the bottom of the suitcase is a small keyboard. The main part of this trip is a writer's retreat - and write, particularly when I'm in Provence, is what I want to do. 

Okay, time for a nap and then a shower, before I call for an Uber to take me to the airport.... at 1 a.m... for a 5.15 am takeoff - and a 23-hour flight.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

The Last Session

 Tonight was our final session. Final, in that it's the final one for the moment. I think I'll continue to have a mental health plan going forward. It's a good thing to do. If I'm honest, I nearly cancelled tonight, not because I didn't want to see her, but I didn't feel like I needed the session. Regardless, it was good to finish this cycle of sessions. The government gives you six subsidised sessions on Medicare. There are a further four sessions available if you go back to your GP. 

Tonight was more of a check in session. I haven't seen my psychologist since before my birthday. We caught up. 

Therapy has been a good thing. My main reason for going was initially to deal with some anxiety that was affecting my life. The therapist has been good for providing tactics to help overcome this. It's been very successful. 

We talked about the difficult week I've had. And how I've risen to the challenges. 

We talked about how I'm becoming more comfortable expressing my needs. This was a biggie. Things like the noise-lowering earplugs. Knowing when to step away. Stating when things are good for me - and maintaining strict boundaries. All good stuff. 

Then the biggie. 

"So, when was the last time were you in England?" she asked. 


"And how are you feeling about returning?

"Really strange."

I explained that I was catching up with people I knew in my twenties. My friend Nathan is turning sixty next month. It's all a bit of a mind fuck. 

"But I'm only there for five days." I told her. 

"Not longer?"

"Not for this trip. I've got other things to do - the writer's retreat. Seeing Reindert. In France."

"So what does England mean to you?"

I had to have a think about this. 

"It's home. And there's some disappointment in there as well. "

"How so?"

"At a cellular level, I'm British. It feels like home every time I go there. But there's the disappointment that I never found a way to settle there. I've had to make the best of things over here."

"Would you move to Europe?" she asked. 

"In a heartbeat. But I have the cat now. And I don't know what I'm going to find over there now."

"You'll just have to find out."

"Another friend and I have started in talks about doing a cathedral tour of England, driving around for a few weeks. We'll see. There are so many places to go. "

"It must be exciting."

"I just want to get on the plane."

And we ended our session. 

I'm grateful we get support to look after our mental health in this country. It's been a journey. It will continue. 

And now to check in and pack. 

Today's song: 

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Farewell, Dan

It's strange. You go out at lunchtime, in this case, to go see your personal trainer, as it's the only time you can see him this week. You come back home, and you find out we're getting a new Premier. 

Dan resigned. Leaving Parliament immediately - well, as of tomorrow. 

Didn't see that one coming. 

Daniel Andrews is a bit of a polarising figure. You either love him or hate him. 

I've always been a Dan fan - though I will admit that he's not perfect. 

But who is? 

I reckon being a politician has to be one of the worst jobs in the world. That the general public won't let you change your mind. That every last action you make is going to be judged, whether rightly or wrongly. That you live your life in the public. That you have to go to every boring civic event.... There's a long list of what is bad about being a politician. 

I'm glad he's gone in the way that his has. Some will say that he's gutless for not standing in front the commission for the country's COVID response. Some say he's horse-traded Victoria away. Others appear to want him dead - well maybe the 100 or so people who are still protesting vaccines outside of Parliament House every Saturday (still) might fall in that camp. 

I've never had a problem with him. As a left winger, why would I? 

He appears to have had some vision. 

He was also a safe pair of hands in a crisis. In particular, how he handled the fire disaster of 2019 was exemplary. 

He's human. He's always reminded me of a dorky country cousin who became an accountant directly after school. Some of his gloss had tarnished, but he's always appeared to be to be a genuine, good person, with the public's best interests at heart. But he's definitely not perfect either. 

I think he will be missed. I mean, who are Andrew Bolt and Neil Mitchell going to bitch about now? Some are pleased to see the back of him. Although I acknowledge that it's probably a good time for him to go, I think we've a lot to thank him for too. 

Like some other great public servants, you have sometimes have to agitate to get things done. I'm thinking about how Gough Whitlam acquired Blue Poles 50 years ago. I remember my dad ranting about it being a waste of money. How wrong could he have been.  

In my reckoning, in the future, Dan will be judged kindly. That black North Face jacket might get used around the walking tracks of Mulgrave now. May he be free to get on the beers. 

Today's song:

Monday, September 25, 2023

Postcards for the Postie

I had a chat with our postie today. Nothing new there. I have a great postie, which, living inner city, is a great thing. 

After finishing hanging out the washing (one of the great things about working from home) I was about to walk upstairs when I spotted him by the gates. 

"Anything for me, Daz?"

He looked down the driveway and saw me standing there. 

"Ah, yes, Pandora, I've just rang your doorbell. You weren't in."

"Hanging out the washing, Daz."

I walked to the gates, where he handed me a parcel, something I was expecting. 

"That's very good timing," I said. 

"It is. And it makes a change from slotting this garbage in people's letterboxes." It was a flyer for the Yes campaign. I kept schtum. 

"Ah, you don't have to put one in my letterbox. I know how I'm voting. And besides, I'll be voting from the Australian Embassy in Paris, under the shade of the Eiffel Tower. "


"Really. Leave on Friday. Mind you, I doubt you'll get a democracy sausage at the Australian Embassy. Maybe they'll put on a trading table baguettes and brie."

"You jammy cow."                            

"I deserve this. Haven't had a proper holiday for a long time."

"You'll have to send yourself postcards so I can see what you're up do."

"What, saying, "To Daz the Postie, Ner ner nee ner ner, Luv, Pandora."

"Something like that."

The gauntlet has been thrown down. I know I love receiving post cards. I know how to say, "Excusez moi, ou est la bureau de poste, s'il vous plait?" (Excuse me, where is the post office, please?" and "Je veux deux timbres pour les cartes postales pour Australie." (I want two stamps for postcards for Australia). Postcards won't be an issue. 

Receiving postcards is a joy - the one person who sends me postcards every so often, Reindert, is meeting me in Paris after the retreat. I'm going to have to send a few home, even if it is to keep Daz the postie sweet. 

Today's song: 

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Packing Part One

 I've not technically started packing for this trip, but things are being dumped on my reading chair, in preparation for being packed into the big suitcase before I make my way to the airport in the wee hours on Friday morning. It's a bit hard to believe that after a year of planning, this is all coming together. 

The cat is being very sooky. He knows something is up. Mind you, I've already taken around the bulk of his stuff to Jay's place, so when it does come time to move him, it's a quick, easy transfer. 

But back to the joys of packing. 

I hate it. 

I'll overpack, but not by too much. I'm just worried about the weather. It looks like London's weather is going to be like it is here at the moment, as does Paris. But then it might cool down. 

I've also got some special things to take along including:

  • Half a kilogram of vegemite for a friend, who I'm meeting on the second to last day of the trip. 
  • My mason's regalia
  • Letters of introduction to the mason's in Paris
  • So many cords and chargers
  • Adapters
  • And clothes I don't know if I'll wear.
I wish I had the perfect capsule wardrobe. The OCD me is freaking about where I'm going to do some laundry. I NEED my clean clothes. 

Part of me wishes it was going to be cooler - at the moment Europe is throwing Melbourne in Spring weather. 

The other thing I need to pack is my itinerary. This means going to Officeworks in my lunch hour to do some printing - I don't have a working one at the moment (and who has used a printer in the last four years anyway.)

It's getting a bit exciting. 

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Movie Review: A Haunting in Venice

 Movie Number 34 of 2023

The Movie: A Haunting in Venice

The Cinema: Hoyts Victoria Gardens

Stars: 3.5

File this one under pretty to look at. 

I was after a diversion from thinking about trip planning and house cleaning and ironing and the like, and this was the only thing on at the local cinema that fit the bill. I used a voucher to purchase the ticket and went along with some reticence, as the reviews were saying that this was a much darker film coming from Kenneth Brannagh. His Murder on the Orient Express was magnificent. I really enjoyed Death on the Nile too. 

So, was this next installation of Agatha Christie based films comes from the book Halloween Party. The basis of the story  reads, "In post-World War II Venice, Poirot, now retired and living in his own exile, reluctantly attends a seance. But when one of the guests is murdered, it is up to the former detective to once again uncover the killer. "

Yep, that's about the crux of it. 

Compared to Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express, this film is a bit creepier. Set in an old orphanage, Poirrot (Kenneth Brannagh) is called upon to investigate a strange suicide by his old mate Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey - who provides a bit of light relief throughout the film). The dead girl is the daughter of a famous singer, Rowena Price (Kelly Reilly), the owner of the house on the Venice canals which was once an infamous orphanange. . A famous psychic, Mrs Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh) comes with her entourage to perform a seance on the anniversary of the girl's death, as is the doctor who cared for the girl and his son (Belfast's Jamie Dornan and Jude Hill, coming back to join Brannagh's ensemble). There are the normal twists and turns found in a whodunnit, and the movie does come to a satisfying conclusion. 

I've never been a real Agatha Christie fan, however I've always loved Kenneth Brannagh. It's am Agatha Christie movie. Venice looks amazing and Haris Zambarloukos's cinematography is wonderful. Venice is at its glorious best, made better by the inclement weather, invoking  This is a moody film and the sets and location are made even creepier by Hildur Guðnadóttir's musical score. 

Brannagh's direction is on point as ever. 

Is this a horror flick? No. It is scary in place and it is creepy as all hell, but as somebody who doesn't like overly scary films, I coped well.

This is a nice distraction. It's not as polished as Murder in the Orient Express, bit it keeps you interested for the film's hour and forty five minutes run. 

It's probably more for the Agatha Christie aficionados, however I have no qualms about recommending this, as it is very pretty to look at. 

Today's song: 


Friday, September 22, 2023

Sunday Stealing: SwapBot Questions

I have a blog post to make up. 

After taking the red eye home on Friday morning, arriving back in Melbourne  at 5.30 am, Friday was a bit of a write-off. So I published a blank post and went to bed. So this is my make up post, 

Now is the time to write something a bit more substantial.

The questions have come from Bev at Sunday Stealing, as usual. 

 1. What you did you do today?

Today, being Saturday, I had a big sleep in to get rid of the sleep deficit caused by taking the red eye home and being up all day. I also saw a movie, which will be reviewed after finishing this blog post. I've also got a heap or ironing and writing to do. 

 2.  What are the must-sees in your area?

Melbourne is a great place. It's all about coffee and food and being cool.  Here are my top ten places you should go to while here. 

  1. The National Gallery of Victoria is excellent, and free. Even if you go in and look at the stained-glass ceiling in the great hall.
  2. Pellegrini's Coffee Shop for a coffee on Bourke Street. It's legendary. 
  3. Go the top of the Eureka Tower for the view. 
  4. I love Melbourne Zoo - particularly the seal house. 
  5. Melbourne streets are great to wander. The street art down the laneways is fantastic. 
  6. Go to the Melbourne Library and wonder at the domed ceiling. 
  7. Queue up for a croissant at Lume Bakery. 
  8. If you're in the city between  April and August, go see an Australian Rules football game. 
  9. Ride the trams in the city. They're free. 
  10. And go to the Melbourne Markets, get some wonderful food including the iconic hot jam donuts. 

 3. What is your favourite quote?

"If it be now, 'tis not to come. If it be not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come – the readiness is all."  Hamlet.

 4. What was the last thing you cooked or ate? 

I had sushi and some mochi for dinner. 

 5. What is something you learned from your grandparents?

My maternal grandmother taught me how to knit and crochet. My maternal grandfather taught me how to hit a nail with a hammer. 

 6. What makes you happy?

Lots of things. Friends. Film. Animals. Books. Writing. Ice cream. Sleep. The list continues. 

 7. What is your best travel memory?

I have many great travel memories. Going on a road trip with Reindert. Going to the Taj Majal. Living on Mykonos for a few weeks. Visiting castles in Scotland and cathedrals in England. I still think being able to commune with the tomb of Edward the Confessor in Westminster Abbey was one of the best things ever. 

 8. What’s the weather like today?

Today was the perfect Spring day. About 20 degrees, a slight breeze and around 20 degrees centigrade. Love days like this. 

 9. Share an interesting fact that you’ve learned

In French, ChatGPT (which sounds like "Chat, j'ai pete.") translates to 'Cat, I farted."

 10. What is your favourite book, movie or band!

My favourite band is The Pixies. 

My favourite book is Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres. 

I don't have a favourite ever film, but I saw Kenneth Branagh's Henry V at the cinema eight times. I do love that film. 

 11.  Write your favorite poem or haiku?

My favourite poem is The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot. Like his The Wasteland, it is timeless. 

 12. What is a local festival or tradition from your area?

Adelaide has festivals coming out of its ears, as does Melbourne. One strange tradition we have here in Melbourne are the Myer Christmas windows. Each year, they dress them up, have automatons and provide a story. Every year, people queue to see these windows. Every year I find these windows incredibly creepy. Every... damned ... year they give me the creeps.

 13. What was the best thing you learned in school?

French. I loved French at school. I've always kept it up. And now I'm going back to France after 20 years (I've visited twice before, but the last time was in 2001). I've been doing daily French lessons with Duolingo. We'll see how I go. 

Thursday, September 21, 2023

It's time to go home

 I've regressed to my country girl state, so it's time to go home. Driving out of the car park at the depot this afternoon, I found myself raising a couple of fingers off the steering wheel, acknowledging the driver in front of me, as you do in the country. 

"Been here long enough," I told my colleague who was sitting next to me. 


"Time to go home. I'm giving the car salute. Only do that in the country."


My colleague is a townie. I'm not sure she gets the importance of raising a finger to a driver coming in the opposite direction. Families have fallen out over not raising a finger off the steering wheel for decades. It's just what you do.

We left the depot at 3.30 pm. We had to get petrol. Again, out of courtesy, and mostly because we're not arseholes. The car had a 20 kilometre range left in the tank. There was a fuel card in the car, so it didn't cost me a cent. Getting back onto the Stuart Highway took a few minutes. 

"We've hit peak hour. Bummer."


Peak hour in Darwin means there's two cars in front of you at the lights and it takes a few minutes to cross the road. It gets annoying. Then you remember that it sometimes takes three cycles of the lights to turn into Burnley Street. 

It's time to go home.

My flight is at quarter to one. I'll get back to Melbourne at 5.30. The drive home will hit peak Melbourne traffic. Joy. 

My bags are packed. 

I took a walk at dusk to watch the sunset over Darwin Bay. It never fails to disappoint. 

I found some takeaway for dinner. 

I'm hoping to get some sleep on the plane. 

I'll order an Uber and check out soon. 

And this time next week, I'll be doing exactly the same thing - packing bags, doing final sweeps and heading to the airport. Although next week, I'll be off to London...

Today's song:

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

The Territory Walk

 I'm sure there is a Territory walk. Everybody does it, and it's a noticeable thing that may also be found in Far North Queensland and Western Australia - but it is a thing, and after a while, you can't help but take it on yourself. 

It's all in your gait. And your footwear. And what you do with your arms. 

First of all, the NT walk is slow. Nobody walks fast up here. One foot in front of the other, back slightly hunched, as if you're trying to protect your head from the sun. If you're not wearing sunglasses, one forearm will be held over your forehead to keep the sun out of your eyes. 

Your arms are going to hang down, the motion of your steps letting them sway by themselves. As you're going to be wearing either flat shoes, tradie boots or thongs, there's no tippy-toeing around the place. There's no mincing or preening. There's no power walking, unless it's around the bay at dawn or dusk for exercise. (Two of my colleagues left early today to go for a run. I had to do a sneezer and call them weirdoes from behind my hand - it's too hot to run out there)

There's a bit of a scuff to your step too. I remember as a child being told not to drag my feet. It seems people are happy to do this on occasions too. 

What's most concerning, as a Southerner, how quickly you adopt this way of walking. 

I found myself walking between office buildings this afternoon, my backpack on my back, arms swinging on their own, moving slowing as the humidity built around me. I also stopped in at a shop to look at bathers, seeing I left mine in Melbourne. Lovely selection of bathers, but I'm not paying $150 for a pair. 

"You look a bit hot," the proprietor told me. 

"I am." Minister for the Bleeding Obvious, that one.

"But you walk like a local."

"I'm learning. It's not Melbourne. Nothing's in a rush here."

"You got it."

I must be looking like a local. I keep getting asked for directions. Even worse, I know where most things in the city can be found now. 

Today's song:

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Just another Tuesday night in Darwin

It's another Tuesday Night in Darwin. 

I'm in a club/bar arrangement listening to live music, the Eastern Arrernte Band from just out of Alice Springs. Their music a mix of reggae and dance. 

An old workmate got us the tickets. They're into live music, and after the ravages of COVID, it's just good to be in the presence of a real drum kit, keyboards, electric guitars and bass with a couple of singers making their presence felt. There's something comforting about Dennis, sitting behind the soundboard, sucking on a vape, trying to get the levels right. Dennis got told to do his job a couple of times.

I'm one of the few non-indigenous faces in the crowd, one of mixed ages - a mainly indigenous crowd. Little kids with their huge smiles tug at mothers, and grandmother's shirts. Other people hang out the back, rocking babies in strollers. People are dancing, having fun. It's a club. It's fun, safe, orderly, although the bouncers had to keep asking people not to dance on the stage. 

It's an interesting feeling being in the minority. Not one I am used to, but it's not a bad feeling. Being at events like this reminds you that people are people. Music unites. Dancing is good for you. 

The second pear cider ensured I could get a few dance moves on without self-consciousness. My special earplugs helped keep me calm. Dialing down the music 20 decibels stops me from freaking from the noise.

And it was all over by 9.30 p.m. We walked back to the hotel down the street, buzzing from the experience. 

It's just another Tuesday night in Darwin, and I'm very aware of the privilege it is to be able to attend such an event. 

Today's song: 

Monday, September 18, 2023

Things Forgotten

Try as I might, packing for these trips is an art form which I'm still to completely master.

Into the bag goes four outfits for work. Underwear for five days. shortie pyjamas for padding around the hotel room. Some There's gym gear, knowing I'll want to go for a walk at some stage. The work sandals are at the bottom of the bag, although I'll probably stick to my Birkenstocks as it's Darwin and they don't cause my foot to hurt more. A pair of trainers. The toiletries kit, which has been specially packed with all sorts of things. A resistance band for stretching and exercising. My tarot cards have come along for the ride, on request by a couple of the team here in Darwin. A standard bag pack. I've done it enough times now.

It was a busy weekend. There were houseguests and a mason's convention and a cat to take to his Aunt's (and he's happy, he's eating and drinking and using his litter box and not destroying things - he's even stuck his head out and said hello to his 'Aunt' - all of which are good things.)

After getting back from dropping the cat off, I thought I threw the last few things in the case. I remember packing my make up. Not that I wear much. I remember putting the eyebrow pencil in the little bag. 

I went to the airport, after popping in at Blarney and Barney's place to check on their cats. 

The plane was on time. There was an empty middle seat between me and the guy on the aisle. We exchanged pleasantries before sticking our heads in our own devices. I think I slept for two hours on the way up. 

In Darwin, the plane was shot down. Well, that's what the landing felt like. 

I arrived in Darwin at 11.30 p.m.

I arrived at the hotel at 12.30 p.m.

After doing a quick unpack, I rinsed myself off in the shower, popped a Stilnox and slept until 7.30. 

This morning, after a quick breakfast, which I had also packed in the suitcase, along with the decaffeinated coffee bags, almonds, miso soup packets and muesli bars. I showered and dressed. 

But the makeup bag, which I packed back in Melbourne, appears to be still sitting on top of my washing machine. 


I don't wear much makeup, but I do feel naked without a little bit of eyeliner and mascara. There are also five or six lipsticks floating around my backpack. 

But that's not eyeliner and mascara (and some tinted moisturiser). 

I slunk next door to work, feeling a bit grim without the war paint. 

Needless to say, when we went out to get a coffee a bit later, I paid a visit to Chemist Warehouse, where I bought said eyeliner, mascara, tinted moisturiser with SPF 50 in the mix. 

And all was well with the world. 

Until I went to go for a swim tonight to find that I also forgot to pack my bathers. I've got the sarong. But no bathers. 

So much for going for a swim this trip. Looks like I'll be rolling around on the carpet stretching with the resistance band this trip. 


Sunday, September 17, 2023

The hard bit

 There is one thing that I don't particularly like about being a freemason. That's seeing those who are coming to their end. End of life that is. 

The average age of the members of our lodge is somewhere around 75. Let me thing, I know of an 89 and 87-year-old - they're sisters. One's 84. Another in her late seventies. Another who's pushing 80 and one who's in her early seventies with energy to burn. Most have all of their wits about them. But many are becoming increasingly frail. 

We had a mason's convention this weekend where masons from all over the country came and congregated at our temple. It was a good. I made a hell of a lot of tea. We had a ceremony, which was nice. Having more than ten people in the temple was a great thing. 

For me, one of the young ones, who makes a lot of tea, without grumbling, because this is what you do, the really hard thing is seeing people who you have previously known as fit, lively and vivacious heading into their decline. 

One of my favourite interstate masons was there. I'll call her Beryl - which she would hate me for, but for the purposes of the blog, this is what I'll call her. 

Beryl is 94.

Beryl has lived an incredible life.

Beryl has a companion, Joan (also not her real name). They come as a double act. Joan's ten years younger - a very sprightly 84.

I've known these women for over ten years now. They come from Queensland. When I first met them they used to come to Melbourne driving a big fuck-off Valiant wagon towing a caravan. In their seventies and eighties now.

These are amazing women. Courageous. Fun. Intelligent. Vibrant. Beryl told me of how her grandkids call her "Fun Grandma". She's the 70-year-old who joins her grandkids ON the slides at the water park. The one who goes on bush walks. The one who's manning the barbeques at the scout's sausage sizzles at Bunnings. The one who goes to the odd march for social justice issues. 

You want to have women like this in your life. 

Well, Beryl and Joan were at the event yesterday. 

Beryl, at 94, is looking very frail. 

She still has a blaze of purple in the front of her white hair - you can find her in a crowd. There still the cheeky smile behind her cataract-ridden eyes. She's got her wheelie walker nearby. Joan is faithfully at her side. 

Mason's ceremonies like Catholic Mass, has a bit of standing and sitting. I watched as Joan and another helped Beryl to her feet. After a couple of ups and downs, the look of exasperation when we were called to our feet was telling. She wanted this to be easy. It wasn't. To not stand would be admitting defeat. We had a final call to move to the centre of the temple. 

"You can sit this one out, mate," Joan said to Beryl. 

Beryl remained seating as the rest of us joined hands in a circle in front of the altar. 

On returning to my place, I walked over to Beryl, took her hands and gave the papery thing hands a gentle squeeze, followed by a soft kiss on her forehead. My very small way of including her in something I know would have been killing her not to be a part of. 

We said goodbye later in the evening. She said she hoped to see me next time. 

I'm not sure there will be a next time. 

All I know, and this is something that masons drives home more than anything else, is that aging is very cruel and death robs you of some bloody marvelous people. 

Today's song:

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Sunday Stealing: The Pinterest Questions

 I've been hanging out with freemasons all day and I'm just a bit tired. It's amazing how septuagenarians and octogenarians take it out of you... So I might be a little brief on the questions tonight. 

Questions, as always, come from Bev at Sunday Stealing

1. What is your favorite book?

Oh, that, as always, goes to Louis de Bernieres' Captain Corelli's Mandolin. What a book. I love Louis de Bernieres works. His latest trilogy is magnificent too. 

2. Are you afraid of the dark?

Not really. I'm pretty good for the most part, but I don't like it when things go bump in the night. 

3. Are you mean?

I try to be kind and compassionate, but, like everybody, I do have my moments. 

4. Is cheating ever OK?

That is a loaded question. I think people will find ways to justify their cheating. It's a hard one. Humans are humans. 

5. Can you keep white shoes white?

Of course, no - no matter how hard you try they will turn up grey in the end. 

6. Are you currently bored?

No - I'm currently tired and I've had a bit too much to eat. Bloody freemasons. 

7. Would you change your name?

I've thought about it on occasion, but I don't have a firm idea about what I would change it to.

8. Do you like the subway?

Melbourne only has a limited underground presence known as the loop. Strangely, I'm looking forward to using the underground in Paris and London - as long as it isn't peak hour. 

9. Who’s the last person you had a deep conversation with?

I have a friend sleeping on my couch at the moment. She goes back to Adelaide tomorrow. We've had some big deep and meaningfuls over the last day and a half. 

10. Dumbest lie you’ve ever told?

I told the group here that elephants paint their toenails red so that they can hide in strawberry patches. That's a lie. 

11. Do you sleep with your door open or closed?

The door to my bedroom is always open unless I'm in a hotel room. 

12. Favorite month?

August - it's winter and I have a birthday that month. 

13. Dark, milk, or white chocolate?

I'm one of those outliers that love white chocolate. Don't kill me. Somebody has to. 

14. Tea or coffee?

I like both, but I do love my coffee. 

15. Night or day?

Again, I like both. I love dawn and dusk most of all. But I'm more a daytime person. 

Today's song:

Friday, September 15, 2023

Voting in Paris

Most elections, I tend to vote early. Get it out of the way. Get to the early voting booths as soon as I can so I can switch off from all of the poisonous rhetoric which appears whenever we have an election or referendum. The papers go bonkers. Every right-wing nut job, every left-wing loose cannon, Pauline Hanson, Barnaby Joyce and Bob Katter are wheeled out as talking heads. (Okay this time it appears to be Jacinta Price and Lydia Thorpe who are flying the No side's vitriol).

What gets me is that as a country, referendums should be there to improve the nation. 

But I digress. When it comes to voting, I normally know where my vote is going months out, why delay it. 

I also don't like voting on the day - I don't like the manhandling, the crowds, the stroppy kids, the queuing, the arguments I get in with some of the volunteers... it's not worth it. 

And this year, for this referendum, I will be overseas. 

Which means I have to put in for a postal vote.

Being abroad on polling day is actually a legitimate reason for not voting. If you're overseas, you won't get fined. 

However, if you've ever lived in a country where you can't have a say in the way the country is run, you will know how disempowering it is. As for those who live here in Australia and choose to put in a donkey vote, I say you automatically lose the right to complain about things. 

But I digress again. 

I put in my postal vote application today. I found out you can collect your pack from the local embassy if you wish.

So, I'm collecting my postal vote from 4 rue Jean Rey, 75015, Paris, France. The Australian Embassy. In the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. Quite close to the Bir Hakeim metro station in Line Number 6 towards Charles de Gaulle Etoile. It should be there from 3 October. I arrive in Paris late on the 4th. 

Yes, I'm looking up metro stations in preparation. OCD has its uses. 

I'm just a bit excited to vote in a place where there won't be a sausage sizzle or and angry right winger, or whining children, or a queue at a non-descript school hall.

I'm not using the "I'm overseas so I don't have to vote" card. I feel too strongly about this issue. (YES).

I know it's a bit silly, but I'm rather looking forward to putting my mark on the ballot paper this time. It's all about the location.

Today's song:

Thursday, September 14, 2023

The Demise of the Birkenstocks

 I've got a relationship with a podiatrist. 

Looking at this sentence, I automatically feel old, but where else are you supposed to go when you have some lingering foot pain? Besides, having a relationship with a podiatrist before you turn seventy is never a bad thing. She was the one, when I was having some foot pain a few years ago, to get me away from wearing thongs and wearing the bloody Birkenstocks. I am a Jesus sandal convert,. I don't care that they are very unsexy. They are comfortable. 

So, I turned up to the podiatrist today, the second appointment in two weeks. She said last time if the foot pain wasn't going away to come back. 

I was wearing my old Birks. The ones that I keep for roaming down to the mailbox, or running down to the coffee shop, or taking out the rubbish. 

They're comfortable. 

My podiatrist is very down to earth. When you deal with people's feet, it's a bit of a necessity. She'd messaged me when before I came in, asking me to bring some shoes I'd be taking with me on holiday. I complied. 

Walking into her office, she looked down at my feet. 

"Those things are dead," she stated. 

"They're nearly dead. I'm breaking in another pair."

"Sorry, they have to go. They are awful."

"But they are comfortable."

"And they are causing some of your foot pain..."

So, after a bit more of a conversation, mainly about how I was walking, and how this was putting pressure on my third and fourth metatarsal, and with a small lift in my heel to balance the load and a referral for a scan, I seemed to be walking a lot better, free from foot pain. 

"And what are you going to do with those Birkenstocks?" she asked. 

"Umm, keep them for walking to the letterbox?"


"Ritual burning? Sacrificial dumping in a rubbish bin? Bury them in the compost heap? Leave them on the roof for the vultures to pick at as the Zoroastrians like to do?"

"Atta girl! And when you get back from Europe, come back and we can talk about getting you some orthotics."

"Hmph. "

So, it is with a heavy heart that I've deposited my very dead black Birkenstocks in the bin. They can't be recycled. Unfortunately, they have to go to Birkenstock heaven - also known as landfill.

I will miss them. Sniff. 

And may the replacement silver pair I have in my Darwin back be broken in very soon. 

Today's song: 

Wednesday, September 13, 2023


I'm currently listening to Anna Funder's Wifedom, and I am in awe. I don't think I've ever read a better, exquisitely researched, stunningly written book in my life. 

Okay, maybe that's taking it a bit far, but I've been blown away by this book, which looks at the life of Eileen O'Shaughnessy Blair - George Orwell's wife. 

George Orwell had a wife? Yes. Not that his former biographers gave her much credence. She was in the background. She was a cog in his wheel. She was there, but not important. 

Funder, a journalist and writer by trade, having written one of my favourite books, All That I Am, uses her incredible powers of research to look into Eileen's amazing, incredible, and in ways tragic life. Using a lot of secondary resources, including letters from friends, interviews given about the couple after their deaths, Funder pieces together an alternative narrative to this incredible woman who, thanks to male biographers, has nearly been whitewashed out of history. 

It's incredible. 

As I'm reaching the end of the Second World War, I know the end is nigh. Both Eileen and Orwell were dead before the end of 1950 - no surprises here, it's a matter of public record. But I'll see this one out, and be sad when it's over. I've not read anything so meticulously researched in a very long time. 

It will be missed when I'm finished - the sign of a very good book. 

Today's song: 

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

What I learned at the pub quiz

Tonight was pub quiz night. The team went down the Sherlock Holmes, had some beers and set up a team.

We were the Nerd Herd. Three Gen-Xers, a Gen Y and a Millennial. How badly could we go?

We were asked: True or False. The words, "Play it again, Sam" have never been uttered on film. 

The Millennial wrote down true. The Gen-Xers told them to hold their horses. Those words were not said in Casablanca. Doesn't mean they weren't said elsewhere. We changed the answer to False. 

We were asked how for long in distance and time the Wright Brothers first flight take place. The engineer among us started jotting things down on a serviette. 10 seconds, 120 meters was the answer he came up with. 

Where is Ella Hooper's hometown?

What was the name of Mary Woolstonecraft's father?

A trick Bruno Mars song title - see song of the day. 

Which living creature has the biggest brain compared with it's body?

In all, a pretty easy quiz for some, not of others. 

Needless to say, our team won. $50 worth of beer. 

We have to do it again. I'm just wondering how long it's going to take before I get thrown out of this trivia night. 

Monday, September 11, 2023

My Year of French Lessons

 Yesterday, my near obsessive relationship with Duolingo turned one. 

Or more to the point, it was a year ago that I committed to go on this Writer's Retreat in Paris and I made the decision to learn French again. I say learn again, as I learned French at school and did it until first year university, where I just failed the subject, mostly because did next to no work, and partly because I hated my tutor at the time. 

However, I've always kept a bit of the language around me. I love French movies. I've had French flatmates and friends over the years. Remnants of the language have never left me, and I'm quite proud to be able to read, write and speak a little of the language. Then again, I'm a polyglot and I pick up languages like most other people get head colds. 

In my year of re-learning French I've somehow remembered about MR VAN DER STAMP - that handy mnemonic we used to remember the coming and going verbs that use etre rather than avoir for the past tense. 

Monter, Retourner, Venir, Aller, Naitre, Descender, Entrer, Revenir, Sortir, Tomber, Ascender, Mourir, Partir...

You also have to use etre with the past participle when you've got a reflexive verb e.g. se lever...

I've found myself singing the verb ending for the past imperfect to the tune of the Mickey Mouse Club song (-ais, -ais, -ait,-ions, -iez, -aient...)

(Stupidly, I also remember the first twenty elements of the Periodic Table thanks to Mr Mundy, Chemistry teacher, complete with beige sports jacket. Talking to Barney tonight, he had some crazy mnemonic 

I've remembered stupid things like an abeille is a bee and a mouchoir is a tissue. A poubelle is a waste paper basket and a lavabo is a sink. I still struggle with the masculine/feminine thing. It's what sounds right for some of it, others is more rote learning. Pizza is feminine. The vagina is masculine. Go figure. 

I can swear in French, thanks to this pocket rocket Parisienne at Laneway Learnings

And I'm contemplating going to a mason's meeting while I'm in Paris, which might be interesting. Other than most Parisiens will say, "But I speak English..." I'm interested in seeing the ritual in French. It's an experience. At least some things don't change - i.e. the handshakes, passwords etc. We will see what happens there. 

While in France, I'll be fine. After the retreat I'm meeting up with Reindert and we're driving around Brittany and Normandy for a few days. Reindert speaks no French (he's fluent in Dutch and Spanish). I don't know how to drive on the wrong side of the road. I'll do the translating. He can do the driving. 

My other question is once I get back from France, do I keep up with the language classes. I have to say that I've really enjoyed them. I love languages. But is there a point? Something to think about later. 

For the moment, I'll keep up with my daily use of this app. It's rather fun. 

Today's song:

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Far too much to do.

 So here's the rub. I'm leaving for Europe in nineteen day's time and my poor old ADHD addled/ Leo/Virgoan brain is going into overdrive. Yes, Virgos love a good list.. And before you tell me to calm the hell down, this is just me in planning mode, knowing that if I get all of this done, things will go well. 

Anyway, here's what's on for the next few weeks. 


  • Do some more cleaning -in particular, the floors. 
  • Go out to Blarney and Barney's and pick up Lucifer's spare scratching post.
  • Do a few more French lessons so I can stay in the Obsidian League (If you're on Duolingo, you'll understand. 
  • Try and get the last 5000 steps in for the day, thus finishing the Steps challenge at work.
Tomorrow (September 11):
  • Go to work (at home)
  • Do my food shopping at lunchtime. 
  • Train a new team member. (Joy)
  • In the evening, meet up with Jonella and her Mum for dinner. Jonella's Mum is over from Johannesburg. I'm not sure I'll see her again. 
Tuesday (September 12): 
  • Go to work (possibly in the office)
  • I believe we have a quiz night after work. I like quiz nights. Don't have the details, but I'm the ring in, allegedly. 
Wednesday (September 13):
  • Go to work (Possibly in the office)
  • Session with Cleo online after work. 
Thursday (September 14): 
  • Go to work (At home)
  • Get the legs waxed at lunchtime.
  • Session with Twelve in the evening. 
  • Lots of cleaning and tidying for impeding house guest. 
Friday (September 15):
  • Go to work (At home)
  • Call my favourite tradie to see about when he wants to come in and paint the inside of the windows (and architraves) while I'm away. 
  • Leave work a little early to drive down to Cheltenham to get my hair cut and coloured. 
  • Get home and greet Kaz, who is coming over from Adelaide for the Masons' convention - she's getting the last plane from Adelaide so this works with the hairdresser.
Saturday (September 16 - Rosh Hoshana)
  • Remember not to go to meditation in Caulfield because it is Rosh Hashana.
  • Go see the Podiatrist about the foot again at 8.30. 
  • Instead go to the temple and be the meet and greet person for the Convention. 
  • Get Kaz to her Masons's meeting at the temple at 10 a.m.
  • Participate in the Grand Occasional event at the Temple in the afternoon.
  • Go out to dinner with the masons in the evening.
Sunday (September 17)
  • See Kaz off to the airport. 
  • Pack, tidy, sort the car out with cat accouterments etc
  • Take Lucifer around to Aunty Ora's place in Elwood. 
  • Come home, finish packing. 
  • Late afternoon, go to the airport and go to Darwin. 
  • In Darwin, unpack, unwind, take a sleeping pill and bomb myself out for the night with a Stilnox. 
Monday - Wednesday (September 18-20)
  • Work out of Darwin.
  • Dinner with colleagues one of those nights.
  • Hoping to see another old friend another night.
  • Get exercise in when I can. 
Thursday (21 September)
  • Work out of Darwin.
  • Pack.
  • Relax in the evening. 
  • Go to the airport late and catch the 1 a.m. Red Eye back from Darwin (Thanks, Qantas)
Friday (22 September)
  • Arrive back in Melbourne around 5.30 a.m. (Joy)
  • Struggle with the Melbourne early morning tradie traffic - although this time I don't have to pick up the cat. 
  • Freshen up.
  • Go to work.
  • Pretend to work for most of the day. 
  • In the evening, go collect Lucifer from Aunty's place.
  • Buy Aunty Ora fish and chips as a thank you for looking after the lad. 
  • Come home and crash.
Saturday (23 September)
  • Practice Packing. Start moving items into the spare room. 
  • Go to Bunnings and buy Lucifer a spider plant
  • Purchase cat accouterments for while I'm away. 
  • Spend time with the cat - mind you, he loves me and he's always happy when he's home. 
Sunday (24 September)
  • Go to the gym in the morning.
  • Masons in the afternoon. 
  • More surreptitious organising for holiday. 
Monday (25 September)
  • Wish my mother a happy birthday.
  • Work from home. 
  • Possibly see one trainer or the other in the evening. 
  • Get the packing organised.
Tuesday (26 September)
  • Work from home. 
  • Pick up last bits and pieces for the trip.
  • Maybe go to the gym that evening. 
Wednesday (27 September)
  • Work from the office.
  • Have eyebrows waxed at lunchtime. 
  • See the shrink after work. 
  • Take Lucifer around to Aunty Jay's place, where he will reside for the next three weeks. 
  • Get packed. 
  • Feel bad about leaving the cat with Aunty Jay. 
Thursday (28 September)
  • Work from home. 
  • Do my timesheet before I leave work so I get paid for that week. 
  • Finish packing. 
  • Rest up. 
  • Do a final wash and tidy. 
Friday (29 September)
  • Get an Uber at stupid 'o'clock to the airport. 
  • 5.15 a.m. Fly to London. 
  • Start holiday properly.

And I look at this list and now know why I'm feeling a little overwhelmed...

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Sunday Stealing - Magical

It's another Saturday night. I've had a nice quiet day - which means I've done a bit of running around, donated a pint of blood and I'm catching up on the new season of Virgin River. Next week is bonkers, the week after I'm up in Darwin

1. What’s the best beach or lake day you can remember?

I used to love going to the beach, where you can drive down on the sand - and then between dips in tghe sea, we'd play beach cricket. The joys of being a kid in the Australian summer. 

2. Describe your ideal picnic lunch.

A good picnic needs seating and a table. Not fond of eating on the ground. Good food makes a good picnic too. 

3. What flowers are in your bouquet?

Roses. Lots of roses. I love roses. 

4. Silly ways to pass the time during a snowstorm

As an Australian, with the exception of the Alps, or small patches of Tasmania, the former being where rich people go to holiday, Australia doesn't get snow, therefore I have no idea how to ride out a snow storm. As a kid, we used to make blanket forts when it was raining too much. 

5. The most beautiful house you’ve ever visited?

Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, England was pretty astounding. They filmed parts of the Harry Potter movies there. The inside is even more astounding than the outside, even better, it's a working family home. 

6. Best place you ever dined?

Oh, I'm giving this to Vue de Monde in Melbourne. It's on the top floor of the Rialto Building (which is strangely, where my current office resides, but 50 of floors down). It's exquisite. For the money we paid, it was worth every cent. The view of Melbourne is out of this world. 

7. How many layers to your ice cream sandwich?

Just the one, but can you make sure it's one of Pat and Stick Vanilla Lace ones - they are amazing. the Biscuit bit is made like a brandy snap. I love them. 

8. Pretty things which are faux patent leather

I'd love a pair of vegan patent leather Doc Marten Mary Janes. Think of these with a Doc Marten soul. 

9. What is the best way to eat chocolate.

Molten, and off a spoon. Is there any bad way to eat chocolate? 

10. Describe your unicorn’s special magic.

Huh? I have no idea. Maybe their farts have healing properties. I'm not sure I believe in unicorns. 

11. All the fruits in your fruit salad.

I make a really good fruit salad with cranberries, mango, passionfruit. lychees and grapes - all fresh fruit. Please note, there is no banana in my fruit salad. I don't like bananas. 

12. Describe the soil, grass, trees, flowers and rocks in your magical forest.

Again, another hypothetical thing I can't explain. Maybe think about the Forest of Dean in England. That's a pretty magical place. 

13. The lyrics which move you the most are:

The lyrics to I was only 19 by Redgum. That song brings me to tears. Nobody outside of Australia knows it. It's a song about the Vietnam War. 

My Funny Valentine also makes me sob far too often. 

14. What are the best sauces in the world?

Can anything beat Australian barbeque sauce, the one in the red bottle with the yellow lid. It's basic but wonderful. 

15. Write a haiku about nature

The environment
Here today, gone whenever
Who cares if it goes?

Today's song:

Friday, September 8, 2023

Movie Review: My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3

 Movie Number 33 of 2023

The Movie: My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3

The Cinema: Hoyts Victoria Gardens

Stars: 3.5

File this one under "Better than I thought it would be." It's still not a great movie, but it has its moments and a larger emotional punch than a movie of this calibre should have. I went along to this with a packet of cinnamon donut twisties (who knew?) and very low expectations - and came out the better for it. And yes, it's a silly film, and yes, it trades on a lot of stereotypes, but it is mildly entertaining and good Friday night fodder. Even better if you had anything to do with Greek families. 

So, what's it about? The Portokalos family are back, as you would predict. Toula (Nia Vardarlos) is finally going to Greece, having never been there. Her father Gus has passed away and her mother's health is failing. Michael Constantine, who played Gus, died in 2021, so there is some palpable sadness about this. Toula and her husband Ian (John Corbett) have been tasked to find Gus's old friends from his childhood in Greece and bring them his journal. 

Of course, the family come along with them, and the cast of characters including Andrea Martin's Aunt Voula come along for the ride. And yes, there is a wedding. 

My biggest issues with this film is the overacting and reliance on labouring jokes, which, like in the other films, are in abundance. What I wasn't expecting was the emotional kick this film has, as it looks at the themes of aging parents, the sacrifices they made and how families, with all their foibles, can get along. 

Greece looks as amazing as it always has. The village, which was filmed in the hills of Crete, is gorgeous. Having lived in Greece for a few months, they have the vibe just right here - and it had me hankering for their tomatoes, which are sweeter than apples, even if they are ugly. Some things didn't ring true - like when they were driving out of Athens Airport and through the city. Heaven knows how they cleared all the traffic for that. 

On the good side of things, this is much better than its predecessor, My Big Fat Greek Wedding II.

As something light and fluffy to see on a Friday night, this was a good choice. Seeing it was like attending a family reunion with your annoying relatives, but with better food. If you've got links to Greece or have Greek family, you'll get it even more. 

This is for the fans of the other two movies. And if you do go, be prepared to have it tug on your heartstrings. For those of us with aging parents and interesting family dynamics, you'll get it and be thankful for it. 

Today's song:

Thursday, September 7, 2023

I want to have a bath

I want to have a bath. Not a shower. A bath. A proper bath. In a big claw footed bath, with lots of radox and hot water. A bath in which I could read a book and have a gin and tonic and top up the hot water as needed. A big bath in which I could lie down and wash my hair, enjoying the feeling of it floating around my shoulders. 

But I only have a shower at home. It gets used twice a day. But I want a bath. 

My leg muscles need a soak. I reckon it's my leg muscles which are making my foot hurt (referred pain - what a joy). 

In times of old I could have gone to the Melbourne City Baths and taken a bath there. They have all of these big bathtubs in the building in their own cubicles, where people could go and have their weekly or special occasion bath - this was back in the times before most homes had bathrooms. The City Baths also has a working Mikvah, a ritual Jewish bath. As the current synagogue doesn't have a mikvah, here is where the women come to do their bathing rituals.

When I was going up to Sydney regularly, I'd often get a room with a bath. The Jameson Amora, The Fullarton (which used to be the Westin) and the Radisson Blu all have great bathtubs in their rooms. I used to make the most of them while I was up there - but that's not happening anymore. 

But they are closed to the public now. Many years ago I had the pleasure of having a bath there. I wish somebody would open these up again. 

Oh, this feeling too will pass. 

I'm just honoring the fact that I want to have a nice, long, relaxing bath in a great big tub. It's one of life's simplest pleasures. 

Today's song: 

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Do You Read?

 I found myself asking a variation of this question twice in the first two days.

The first time was at lunch yesterday, down the pub with my old boss. It was not so much a "Do you read?" question, but a comment on what he was reading at the time. Markus Zuzak's The Book Thief was sitting on the table. 

"What do you mean you haven't read The Book Thief?" I asked with a great deal of incredulity. Knowing that my old boss loves books about the World Wars, and he is a big reader, I was a little shocked that he's not read this seminal work. Okay, I've read it four times over and begrudgingly, watched the film, which for an adaptation, is rather good. 

"I'm loving this book. It's been sitting the pile for years."

"Well, I'm glad you've got onto it. You've missed out until now."

"I can see that."

I like knowing if people are readers. Reading anything is a start, but if you like the books I like to read, there is half a chance we'll get on. 

We talked of other booky things. I talked of my upcoming trip. He shook my hand when I told him I was going to make a stopover at Villers Bretonneux while I was in France. My old boss is high up in the Army Reserves. I just want to pay my respects and remember my uncle, who got the second bar on his Military Medal at this battleground. My uncle came back to Australia unharmed. I still want to stop in. 

I also told him about the days after this pilgrimage. Bayeux, to visit another battle ground, a nip in to see the Bayeux Tapestry and then on to St Malo, where I am very excited to be going. 

I showed him the B&B Reindert and I have booked out for the two nights we're there. I've wanted to go to St Malo since I read Anthony Doerr's All The Light We Cannot See

I texted him the name of this book. If he likes The Book Thief, odds on he's going to like that too. 

(All The Light We Cannot See has been made into a miniseries and comes onto Netflix in November.)

This morning, once again talking about my upcoming holiday with another bloke at work, St Malo came up in the conversation. Strangely, his mother was on a plane heading over there, her group's final destination: St Malo. 

My next question to my colleague. "Do you read?"


"Awesome.  Have you read The Book Thief?"

"Yes." Even better. 

"Well, if you liked The Book Thief, you'll probably like All The Light We Cannot See

"Thanks for the recommendation."

I'm always heartened when I learn that people are readers. I know not everybody reads books, but it is wonderful when you find out that somebody reads - and you have something else to talk about. 

It's even nicer when somebody asks you, "And what are you reading?"

My current answer. I've just finished A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens on audiobook. I've only just got around to reading it. (I've read David Copperfield, Little Dorrit and Bleak House - I'm doing okay with Dickens.) I'm now listening to Anna Funder's superlative book about George Orwell's wife, Wifedom. It is stunning. 

On paper, I'm about halfway through my friend Kristine Kennedy's book, The Riot in a Woman. I'm really enjoying it, and I can hear her voice in every page. I'm about to start Bodies of Light by Jennifer Down as that is this month's book group book. I've read it before, but I need to refresh myself on it. 

And I'm wondering what will go on the kindle to take away with me overseas in a few weeks. \

Did I mention that I'm heading over to Europe soon?

Today's song:

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

The Dead Bird Problem

The other week, inside the front gate, lay a dead spotted dove. As local bird life goes, these things are pretty and innocuous. It has been introduced to Australia, but unlike it's noisy and annoying friend, the noisy minor, the spotted dove keeps a pretty low profile. 

This one, however, was dead. This dove was no more! He had ceased to be! It had expired and gone to meet its maker! it was a stiff! Bereft of life, it rests in peace! If it wasn't lying on the ground, it would be pushing up the daisies! Its metabolic processes were history! It had kicked the bucket, shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleeding choir invisible! It was an ex-dove.

And it was lying just inside the side gate of the property. 

So here is the situation. 

I live in a block of 24 apartments. 

I live alone. 

The caretakers come to the property allegedly one a week on a Monday - this was Wednesday. The caretakers appear to have gone on strike - and the body corporate sent an electrician to replace a lightbulb a few weeks ago (when the caretakers should have been doing their bloody jobs).

In the past, I've given the job of dealing with occasional dead things to my downstairs neighbour, Skot, who, being a bloke from the country, has no issue with dealing with dead things. (Except for the one time when his cat dissected a rat and left it in the hallway while they were away. I got a new dustpan out of that one. Eww)

The bird sat there for a number of days. 

So, here is my question. Who's job is it to remove the bird and put it somewhere where it won't get stepped on, or just rot. Would it be better to place it out on the nature strip and let the council deal with it? (I've rung the council on occasion to remove dead possums from the footpath.)

Why do I feel guilty about not dealing with the bird? Would putting it in a plastic bag and throwing it in the bin be okay?

And why won't somebody else deal with the dead bird. If Skot was here, I'm sure he'd deal with it. Why won't some other big tough bloke move the dead bird. 

What are our responsibilities to this bird? What are the responsibilities to our neighbours? And why won't somebody else have the nerve to move the dead bird. 

In the end, after a couple of days, the bird's carcass had been moved. Who did it? I don't know. Not me. 

And lastly, why are we so squeamish about dealing with dead things? It's a part of life.

Today's song: 

Monday, September 4, 2023

Stream of Consciousness

 I have no idea what to write tonight - no cohesive plans for a blog post, so I'm going to write for ten minutes complete stream of consciousness. 

It's probably going to be a bit scary, but I have no option. 

It's 10.32 pm. I'm wearing pyjamas and my hair needs brushing. 

Hit it

10.33 pm.

Seinfeld is on the telly. I've taken to watching Seinfeld and Frasier late at night because it's innocuous.And I never got into Seinfield in the 90s. Frasier, on the other hand, I've always loved.  10 Peach is a great channel. 

I wonder what the people will think of my viewing pleasures. Yes, I now have Neilsen boxes attached to both my tellies. Not sure why I did that. 

I'm not being vocal about the referendum, not because I don't believe in what is going on. I'm firmly in the Yes camp, but more, I know I'll be very disappointed by some of my friends. Most people I know will be voting Yes. With the No camp, I'm keeping my head low. I'm often seen as the lippy one when it comes to politics. I just don't have the fight in me for this. The way I see it, it's a complete no brainer. And as with the same sex marriage debate, we've had five years of same sex marriage - the sky is yet to fall in. If I'm going to judge people for being superficial and scared bigots, I'll do it in my head. I also have to work out whether I put in a postal vote or show up at Australia House in London (or the Australian Embassy in Paris) and vote there. Postal vote is probably the way to go. 

I like the Yes campaign advertisement. They did that well. 

I went to the podiatrist today. I love my podiatrist. I only see her once a year and I wanted her to check out some foot pain I've been having for ten days or so. She's banned me from running the sled and doing lunges. I think I love here even more now. (She also cut my toenails and cleaned up the dead skin on my feet - bless her). 

I want to write a blogpost about the dead bird that was in our common area outside for a few days, but I'm not feeling it. There is a blog post in this about the responsibilities of being a good citizen. 

I could write about the Japanese foot pads I'm about to put on my feet before bed. 

The cat is asleep on his mat on the lounge. 

I'm pondering what I'm going to wear on the plane over to England in a few weeks' time. 

I'm not sure whether I should get in contact with an old workmate - we were talking about meeting up tomorrow, but I'm not interviewing at lunchtime (I'm on the panel, not being interviewed). 

I now need to find a song of the day. 

It's now 10.43. 

I've met the brief. 

Today's song: 

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Movie Review: Ego: The Michael Gudinski Story

 Movie Number 32 of 2023

The Movie: Ego: The Michael Gudinski Story

The Cinema: Village Cinemas, the Rivoli, Camberwell. 

Stars: 5

If you love Australian Music as much as I do, this documentary is an absolute must see. 

Michael Gudinski - the man, the legend, who died suddenly in 2021. This film is a tribute, a love song to this enigmatic bloke from Caulfield, Melbourne, who nearly single-handedly took Australian music to the world. 

As somebody who cut her teeth on Australian music from a young age, watching Countdown religiously, being a Skyhooks groupie as a young child, this film encapsulated my childhood and beyond. Skyhooks was one of Gudinski's first finds. 

Through a series of interviews with Australian music royalty - artists including Kylie Minogue, Ed Sheeran, Jimmy Barnes, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Taylor Swift... the list goes on and on, you get to see what went on behind the enigma, from his early days as a music promoter to him creating Mushroom records, to the making of the Frontier touring company, you get a view of who Michael Gudinski actually was in life. A Jewish boy from Caulfield, the son of Lithuanian refugees. A ratbag music promoter in the sixties and seventies. A man with an incredible energy and an amazing feel for what will make a hit, even if he did turn down Men at Work in the eighties. 

Michael Gudinski was universally loved and respected throughout the industry and this film is a testament to the feelings most had for this amazing man. 

Behind the scenes, Gudinski was a loving husband and father, and you get to see what the man was like off duty.

It was wonderful to see the clips of many Australian musicians when they were starting out. What Gudinski achieved in his 67 years was nothing short of amazing. 

I loved every minute of this 110-minute runtime. I laughed. I cried. And I remembered just how lucky we are to have had a man like Michael Gudinski championing our musicians and helping them gain a global presence. 

For those who love Australian music, search this one out - sit back, and reminisce over some wonderful musical memories. 

Today's song: