Working at being grown up

Perhaps it’s the time of year? Steeped as we are, in the sometime sobriety of FebFast, having cannonballed past the dread festive season with its Auld Lang bloody Syne’s and  associated reflection and resolution, talk turns to job satisfaction or lack thereof. A dear friend who inhabits a stressful EA role in high end recruitment, is planning her exit strategy.

My exit strategy involves a lottery win.

Then we reflected on the various parenting pep talks we’ve delivered to our respective off-spring on the subject of working lives. They involved motivational bullshit hype about being the best version of yourself and finding something you love so it won’t feel like working.

*Snort

I’m guessing every hipster who began businesses with names like ‘The Misty Catfish’  or ‘The Whistle and Sprocket” grew up listening to a similar Oprah-esque refrain. Thanks to their passion for butter churning, hemp dog coats or jewellery repurposed from old coat hangers, these crazy kids aren’t working at all.

They’re living the dream!

panda cuddler

GAH! BEST JOB EVAHHHH !!!

Back when I was a mere slip of a gel, a ‘dream job’ just meant you didn’t cry each morning at the thought of it and you weren’t plotting the demise of your boss.

 

cast-9-to-5

80’s instructional video

You got a job because your parents had decided you were big enough and ugly enough to function on your own. Your mum had gone into serious Knitwit production and was churning out straight legged pants faster than a Bangladeshi sweatshop. She and your dad were arguing over who needed your room more. His home brew kit was relegated to the shed.

All the while you scoured ‘house mates wanted’ ads pinned to the community notice boards of the local Safeway and ended up in some ramshackle Victorian with rusted lacework in Richmond. One of your house mates was a cross dresser who looked better in heels than you, one was waiting to be discovered by Hector Crawford, but got a bit of work modelling for the ‘Venture’ catalogue and the other one spent days at a time grafted onto a bean bag and attached to a bong.

Then your parents decided to leave the home-brew (bhlop blohp blohpping in a plastic rubbish bin) and the over worked overlocker, to hook the Millard pop-top to the HQ Kingswood and travel the length of this wide brown land.

Could you pop by and water the hanging pots from time to time, dear? I don’t want to lose another lobelia.

Work Life balance began when you skived off from the office and headed to the pub on a Friday afternoon. You could, emboldened by a second strong Kahlua and milk, impersonate the miserable cow in HR for the amusement of the sales team. Nothing said work/life like kvetching about co-workers with co-workers in a beer garden.

There’s so much pressure to work in a job you LOVE with co-workers who you’d like totally choose as BFF’s anyway! I have kept in contact with precisely one ex-co-worker from days of yore. We barely remember what we did there, but the memory of our mutual antipathy for a colleague, dubbed the Poison Pixie, remains indelibly etched in our memories.

“What a bitch!”

“Yeah, absolute moll.”

“She was some piece of work”

“Yeah!”

“So exactly what was it that we hated about her again?”

“Dunno. But she was a dead set cow.”

“Totally.”

Some thirty years later and the Poison Pixie often laps me on a Saturday morning as I power amble around Albert Park Lake, and I still want want to punch her in the back of the head every time she passes.

I know, really mature.

I spent much of the first quarter of last year trying to launch D1 into the stratosphere. And when I say launch, I mean boot her out into the mean streets for life as a fully functioning adult. In one head spinning week, the child had donned the cap and gown for graduation, landed an entry level marketing position and moved into a share house.

Job done. Parenting win. *dusts hands

It had, admittedly, taken much of the remainder of the year to convince her that clothes washing is possible in a machine other than mine or that food preparation can be done by herself in her own kitchen. But, you know, baby steps.

At the end of the month D2 crashes back from another snow bound stint in the Massacheusetts backwoods with her girlfriend and their rescue dog. She is girding her loins for a return to Uni.

And I’m girding my loins for a return to chaos.

I couldn’t love D2 anymore if I tried, but dear god in heaven, the child is like pig pen from Charlie Brown.

pig pen

Her bedroom resembles an archeological dig. It took me weeks to make it a habitable spare room in her absence and I’m still finding coffee cups, odd socks, lip balm and hair ties. I swear they roll out of hiding when the coast is clear.

Her tactics for delaying the onset of complete adult autonomy currently rely on the necessity to save for a semester at a Swedish university later this year. She’s going to need a whole lot of Krona’s if she’s to live on more than lingonberries. Apparently Frozen elk costs a bomb.

Divine as D2 is, and truly, she makes my heart smile, there just comes a time when adult women need to be alpha’s of their own domain. Top dogs, if you will.

IMG_1546

Top dog? Bitch, do you see this? I just went all Brutus on his arse. Well may you beware the Ides of March.  

For now, we will defer to the labrador and wait another year. It will be messy but never dull.

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All I want for Christmas is…

I had a bit of a ‘Falling Down’ moment this week. Fortunately for all concerned, our restrictive gun licensing laws prevented my fossicking around for the pink 5 Round 38 Special Smith & Wesson in my hand bag.

falling down

The weeks leading up to our annual festival of rampant consumerism had been, if I’m honest, unaccountably quiet. Despite the outer suburban fringe shopping centres, who festoon from late August as if for the final ever Christmas –

More incongruous skating penguins! Another forest of LED lit palm trees! A bigger grotto/sleigh/Jason Recliner for Santa Claus!

xmas decos

Christmas projectile vomited here

– it mostly just looked like people were kind of easing their way in a calm and orderly manner  toward the 25th of December.

Then BOOM! Suddenly everyone noticed that their Advent Calendar windows were pretty much all open and there were only four compound chocolates left to devour.

I understood the general air of panic with its frenzied snatch and grab shopping. I tolerated the body bumps and queue jumping and forgave the impatient service of retail staff who still had their own shopping to do. I even managed to smile indulgently at the lines of hysterical toddlers refusing to sit anywhere near the strange man sporting the unconvincing disguise.

santa kid with hat

I dunno what’s worse, your beard or this stupid hat

What tipped me over into William Foster territory, were the car parks. Battle grounds where the only clear winners were 4WD’s and Smartcars. Peak frustration was reached at Doncaster Shopping Hell Town. I’d managed to find the last spot within the radius of the actual suburb and was feeling pretty damn chipper about it. Having met my employment obligations, I returned, ready to benevolently bequeath my spot to the least obnoxious incoming shopper.

Yes, harried mother of three in your Suzuki Vitara, though unimpressed with your choice of vehicle, I choose you to occupy this space , for it is Christmas and I am nothing if not giving. 

Humming along to a commercial mash up of Christmas songs, I waited in a queue almost the length of the centre to get out of the car park. Twenty minutes and an avowal to avoid commercial mash ups of Christmas songs later, it was my turn at the boom gate of freedom.

The boom gate had blithely released all the BMW’s, Land Cruisers, Jeeps (suckers!) and ‘P’ Plated Suzuki Swifts ahead of me, but for reasons unknown decided that I was to remain on site a little longer.

There were no instructions on the screen beside me to suggest I owed a nominal parking charge, so I pressed the help button and waited.

I waited, along with a dozen or so cars lined up behind me. I waited as a woman in the lane beside me with a similarly recalcitrant boom gate, pressed her help button and was immediately released back into the wild.  I waited as my fellow fed-up shoppers began to honk their horns and shout things out of their windows – things that did not seem to reflect the Christian sentiment supposedly abounding at this most holy of times.

I may have invoked the lord Jesus myself as it became apparent that Oz, or whoever it was occupying the car parking control room, was ignoring me.

And this is where shit got real.

falling-down gun

Open the damn boom gate

With the help number still ringing, I ran across to the other lane and pressed that one too. I stood in the middle of the two lanes, swearing like a trooper and stamping my feet. Eventually a voice answered –

“yes? What seems to be the problem?”

Not knowing which speaker the voice was coming from, I stood facing a vehicular conga line of seriously pissed off drivers and yelled at the top of my lungs,

“THE GATE WONT OPEN!!!!!”

“What does it say on the screen?”

“IT SAYS NOTHING!”

“Are you sure?”

“WAIT, WHAT? OF COURSE I’M SURE! OPEN THE GATE OR WE ARE GOING TO HAVE A SITUATION!”

A situation. I said that. I was channeling every American TV cop I’d ever seen.

He opened the gate.

A driver in the next lane, oblivious to the drama beside her or misreading the glint of madness in my eyes, attempted to cut in front of me.

OH NO YOU DI’NT!

Again, be very glad, I was not packing heat, ‘cause she’d have gone down.

So there was that. But all things considered, it’s been a reasonably stress free lead up to the festive apocalypse. I’ve decreed that spouse and offspring should desist from buying me STUFF.

D2 did suggest posting me a homemade beanie or infinity scarf, knitted with love in the cold climes of Massachusetts, but agreed that in the height of an Australian summer, this may not be ideal. Dutiful D1 required some pointed threats about disinheritance should she succumb to the lure of a Dusk candle gift pack or Lavender hand cream, but seems to have the message now.

I have enough STUFF. Really I do, please don’t add to it.

Bio-mum will once more harness her innate ability to purchase exactly what I would never want and then fail to read the look of Really? This again?  on my face.

To date: a bottle of Britney Spears perfume, a lilliputian cheese serving set, an equally microscopic set of rice bowls, several oversized madras check tea-towells, an ovoid serving platter with a chip in it, cheese knives – I’m unsure where her obsession with cheese originates – a duo of post use-by date flavoured olive oil, chocolate covered macadamia’s and a packet of pfeffenusse cookies.

Truthfully, I preferred the good old days when she gave me nothing but the vague hope of her eventual return.

Be careful what you wish for, right?

So, to my two never dull, occasionally vexing, always loving daughters, I say this; write me a hilarious letter in a home made card. Hang out with me over a coffee or, better yet, a glass of cold climate chardonnay at our local bar. Continue to make me laugh like  a drain, entertain me like so few can and please, validate my years of shambolic parenting by not being an arsehole.

Merry Christmas! Now, I’m gonna give you to the count of 10, to get your ugly, yella, no-good keister off my property, before I pump your guts full of lead…

Home-Alone-GIFs

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Sick of Fit

Another Monday morning of rueful stomach roll contemplation. This is followed by an avowal to abstain from imbibing all forms of alcohol and a commitment to better dietary choices.

Let’s see how far into the week we get this time.

Nothing tastes as good as healthy feels, right?

Yeah, nah.

I’m currently eating a fibre snacks bar that attempts to mimic a Snickers. Given the list of ingredients, I’d wager it’s efficacy in weight management has more to do with revulsion at consuming cabbage powder, partially defatted peanut flour…which, just quietly, is the perfect personal descriptor for me – Behold! I am partially defatted – and astragalus root powder.

Yum.

For the super disciplined, all these protein shakes, supplements and cleansing powders work a treat. Truly and honestly, I shed 5-6 kilos in a joyless, interminable month. I felt AH.MAY.ZING at the end of it and enjoyed being reunited with several pairs of jeans. I have all the tools to continue this journey of wellness (say, what?), and, poised permanently as I seem to be on the cusp of menopause, it makes sense to pursue the ideal health scenario before I turn into my mother.

Unfortunately, along with excellent skin tone and a self deprecating sense of humour, I appear to have inherited both my parents deep and abiding love of the fermented grape and equally abiding antipathy to exercise.

mmmm, fruit

mmmm, fruit

Bio-mum has never exercised. Actually I lie, she had a brief stint with a seniors movement class several years ago where she managed to dislocate a hip rolling off a fit ball. So let’s throw a serious lack of coordination into the mix as well.

My father used to go on manic, but mercifully brief, fitness kicks. He’d spend an hour peddling away on a stationery bike like a lunatic, sweat pouring off him and legs so shaky afterwards that he couldn’t stand. Then he’d whip out the Bullworker and spend another forty minutes or so trying to look like Charles Atlas. Nothing says ripped quite like a torn rotator cuff.

The polar opposite of my father

The polar opposite of my father. *note the intact  musculature.

I’m insanely envious of people whose very existences are defined by their commitment to fitness and super healthy diets.

Don’t even talk to me before my 9km run and green smoothie. 

I had three quinoa and goji berry cookies, looks like I’m hitting the Bikram studio as well as Pilates today!

You know the best cure for a hangover? A boxing class!

Shut up. It’s a can of coke and a burger. Everyone knows that.

Three quarters of the way through ‘Febfast’ I managed to fall off the wagon on four separate occasions. ‘Dry July ‘was merely a passing thought and ‘Sober October’ IS JUST NOT POSSIBLE.

I seem to be surrounded by a host of friends currently in training for some gruelling long form exercise event in the name of charity. Quite aside from highlighting my sloth-like tendencies, these Facebook, email and text message implorations to support the marathon bike ride, run, walk, swim, river dance etc…are costing me a bomb.

So much fun

So much fun

All right, all right, you’re all bloody legends. Now go carb load and pipe the hell down!

Spouse regularly works fifteen hour days AND manages to hit the gym. He also regularly face plants the computer keyboard afterwards but hey, he’s got abs of steel even if he is in a coma.

Aware my sybarite attitude to life was at odds with my beloved’s spartan sensibility and, more tellingly, that the inevitability of summer clothing loomed ahead, I have reconnected with my personal trainer.

Yay for me.

Given the choice I would not be up at dawns crack, dragging lycra over atrophied calf muscles and lumpy thighs. And without the smilingly sadistic ministrations of my perpetually upbeat trainer I would not be lifting, dragging, swinging off and pummelling a range of weighty, tubular, ropey, and padded objects.

No siree Bob,  I’d be in bed researching me a range of summer kaftans.

But apparently, Hindu beliefs notwithstanding, we just get one shot at this, and even if I am reincarnated, it would inevitably be as a tortoise or a slater bug, so I may as well get my healthy on now before I need to work on my next life’s exoskeleton.

...and stretch, and flex

…and stretch, and flex

Pass the protein shake.

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Smooth criminal

To be honest, I thought I had it all going on. The top and pant combo, comfy yet funky trainers, tousled locks settling into semi-obedient waves and I was rocking a red lip. Yep, looking good, lady, looking good.

This self assessment was reinforced by the grumpiest sales person in Melbourne. Sylvia possesses all the people skills of an Australian Border Force officer. She is notorious for her efforts with people of non-English backgrounds, repeating herself at top volume to be better understood and openly rolling her eyes. Generally she looks annoyed when I pop by, grudgingly handing me a key to merchandise stock and ignoring my questions about sales performance. Today however, buoyed by the prospect of a public holiday, she was sweetness itself.

“Cute outfit,” she rasped.

Sylvia is a chain smoker with the deeply etched lip grooves and yellowed index finger of long standing habit. She sounds like Bea Arthur.

“That looks really nice. I wish we could wear something like that.”

The pale grey uniform top was, despite colour matching her complexion, a depressing choice indeed. As were the charcoal pants and black orthopaedic shoes.

Anyway, factoring in Sylvia’s many failings as a sales assistant and, her fifty shades of personal grey, today she recognised and noted aloud my sartorial efforts, which I appreciated. I will take my compliments wherever I find them, don’t you worry about that.

Though it turns out that all I had going on was a loitering with intent vibe.  The shifty look  of a light-fingered ne’er do well.  I’ll admit that the black and white horizontal striped top had a touch of your cartoon robber about it, but without the accompanying cap or a big sack with SWAG emblazoned on it, the evidence, M’lud, was tenuous.

Stylish

Stylish

Before hitting my next stop, I wandered into one of those budget women’s fashion stores forever trying to escape their daggy heritage. They have the tricky task of bridging the consumer gap between long standing customers and a younger demographic. There are older women who remain loyal to the pull on pant and handkerchief hemmed tunic top. Their go-to pieces are being slowly subsumed or replaced by off the shoulder maxi dresses and fitted denim jackets. Then there are the women who don’t want to dress for bingo, but equally, are aware that Topshop and Forever New are not chasing the peri-menopausal market.

So there I am, neatly self categorised in this latter category, perusing racks of maxi dresses and denim jackets. A cursory glance here, a brush of the fabric there, quick lap of the SALE section and I was gone. Nothing today, maybe next time.

Barrelling along to the next account I was stopped by a little blonde balkan looking woman rushing breathlessly up behind me.

“Please can I hef my pents back?” she huffed.

“Sorry? Your pants?”

I was waiting for her to add something along the lines of, I love your outfit, you look so cute – but once again she insisted I return her pants, only this time she was loudly aggressive.She pointed vaguely at the ones currently covering my lower half and then at the black bag I was carrying.

“Gif them bek. The pents. I saw you in my shop, you hef them!” her accented voice was rising sharply.

We had quite the audience at this point and my face was flaming. I shook the bag at her and hotly declared that I did not have her or anyone’s else’s pants. She refused to look in the bag and eventually, clicking in disgust at my all too apparent larceny, turned on her heel and stomped off.

I stood there staring after her angry retreating form feeling a mixture of embarrassment and outrage. Looking around to explain this clear misunderstanding, I noticed the gathering throng were avoiding eye contact and clicking their collective tongues.

After I finished my next call, the manager asked where I was off to next and, still stung with the injustice of a false accusation, I replied, “I’m off to get an apology!”

Now, despite hours of fighting words variously delivered to mirrors or imaginary crowds, I am essentially a gutless wonder who does not handle confrontation at all well, so this was challenging.

Stalking into the store the blonde  (I think I’ll go with Bulgarian) sales woman looked up at me from behind the counter and quickly looked back down again.

“Hey! Why would you accuse me of shoplifting?’

She stared back at me with a vaguely mutinous expression and remained silent; I could feel my face reddening in fury again.

“You have really upset me! I’m not a thief, I’ve never stolen anything! **Why would you consider it appropriate to accuse me of stealing from you and then refuse to look in my bag when I offered it? And what pants did I actually steal? These ones? The ones I’m wearing? Did you see me in the change room?”

On it went. I reenacted my entire store visit for her, moving about the space employing exaggerated pantomime arm gestures to the amusement of other shoppers.

“I’m sorry I was wrong,” she eventually mumbled.

“What? Hang on a minute, you’re sorry, or you’re sorry you were wrong?”

“I come bek to store and girls say it wasn’t you. You hef not taken the pents”

“So you’re sorry?”

“I em sorry…I was wrong”

This was clearly the most penitent she would be. I needed to graciously accept this quasi-apology and move on, but I really needed to know what exactly it was about me that had made her so suspicious.

“I see you in the shop. You look, you touch and then you leave, but at the door you look back at us with a shifty face.”

**This is not strictly true. I did pocket a stapler from a brief but scarring stint with a Government department. I feel bad pretty about it. 

Photo on 1-10-2015 at 3.53 pm

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Paradise Lost…again.

It’s entirely possible that I’m allergic to paradise.

Tokoriki-PoolsideMP

As anyone who has read some of my earlier blogs will attest, I have quite the track record for holiday disasters But fresh from a disconcertingly eventless mini break in Bali last year, I was feeling like the curse was broken and booked a week in Fiji for some romance time with spouse.

The prep work required in the lead up to holidaying in sunnier climes is labour intensive and frankly, absorbs nearly as many hours as the actual holiday itself.

Step one: A toned physique; the result of regular PT sessions and abstinence from sugar, alcohol and refined carbohydrates for at least three months beforehand. Mark the departure date in the diary and get moving!

Yeah, nah. Didn’t happen. As each week slipped by in a haze of sugar, alcohol and sour dough, I kept reassuring myself that a solid three week…alright, two week…ok, five day detox would do the trick.

Step two: New swimsuit to replace old faithful with the perishing leg elastic.

I’ll go out on a limb here and suggest that there is little more demoralising than the hunt for new swimwear. It is a soul destroying exercise that only the search for mythically perfect jeans can possibly rival.

I decided that one of the larger speciality warehouse places was my best option for convenience and choice, but had overlooked the special torture of MIRRORS. A veritable hall of huge fluorescent lit MIRRORS. MIRRORS configured to reflect every dimpled, pasty, goose bumped centimetre of pre-waxed exposed flesh.

Who can forget the special despair that only hoicking a $250 scrap of lycra with industrial strength tummy controlling panelling over hygiene preserving underwear (thus creating further lumpy flesh extrusions) can evoke?

Apparently me.

I struggled into nineteen different swimsuits with their swing tagged promises of flattery which were lies, damn dirty lies. Resigning myself to the fact that no matter how much control panelling was involved, I was not going to rock an Elle McPherson beach bod, I settled on a bright turquoise pair with splashes of gold – by now I was just going for distraction.

Step three: Hair in all its manifestations needed to be variously coloured, tinted, shaped and depilated. A herculean undertaking requiring many hours and many dollars.

Beyond the obvious regrowth of colour on my part-line is the necessary coverage of grey. BECAUSE NOT AGEING GRACEFULLY.  Then the eyelash and brow tint so I can emerge from the South Pacific Ocean with all the glamour of Ursula Andress In ‘Dr No’. And finally the removal of every strand of hair that has the temerity to to exist outside my stupid new swimsuit.

Step Four: The faux tan. This is very important. Especially if you have chosen to eschew step one. My skin was pale enough to be visible from the moon. I could camouflage myself on the beach like a sand crab. So, first things first, exfoliation. Employing a scrub as effective as sugar soap, I sanded away several layers of epidermis. Smooth as. Then, armed with a couple of tanning mitts, I smeared the foul smelling goop all over, missing all the bits I couldn’t reach and wondering aloud if a professional spray tan might have avoided the alopecia look?

Step five: Packing. After pushing aside the winter coats, jumpers, pants and scarves, I eventually found the frocks. Floaty lightweight summery frocks. The ones I promised myself I’d lose weight to get back into for next summer. Back to step one.

Eventually I am organised and ready to roll. Spouse has literally thrown some clothes into a bag and had a shave. I hate him.

Airport, overnight flight, coach to Denarua marina, launch to Tokoriki island, tooth achingly sweet welcome fruit punch and a traditional Fijian song about how we are all family now.

BULA!!!

Day 1:

We settled into our beachfront bure where spouse slipped into the expected coma of exhaustion and I read the resort facilities compendium from cover to cover. It was here I discovered the Island day spa had a three day unlimited treatment package. Noting the crumpled form of my loudly snoring husband, I figured this could only be a welcome addition to our holiday.

The prefect place for romance...ok, sleep

The perfect place for romance sleep

Day 2:

First day of unlimited spa treatment package. I had booked the Fijian Bobo massage for two. Generally I prefer my own room when I have a massage as spouse is legendary for his snoring and overly relaxed buttocks – which tends to kill my zen – but I had no choice here.

The Bobo is a particularly vigorous massage which employs the muscular forearms and occasionally an elbow, of your Fijian masseuse. No knot is left behind. It hurts, but in a therapeutic way.

When it was over, we were left to collect ourselves, dress and book the next session. Now, what follows is a result of my having ignored the three basic tenets of spa treatments. I know the rules. I broke the rules. I only have myself to blame.

Rule 1: Blood sugar level. I did NOT eat breakfast. My blood sugar level was LOW.

Rule 2: Post vigorous massage hydration. I did NOT drink any water before or immediately after.

Rule 3: Removing excess oil from the soles of my feet. Didn’t happen. Didn’t say anything. Paid the ultimate price.

So, there I am light headed (and not in a euphoric way), thirsty and I have greasy feet. I think we can all see where this is going. Following spouse down the rough hewn stone stairs of the tropical day spa in my Haviana’s, I have gone over on one ankle, temporarily righted myself and then gone over on the other, to tumble like an incompetent rodeo clown to the bottom. I looked up to see half a dozen wide eyed Fijian women staring at me in horror.

Spouse caught my arm and hung onto me awkwardly while I assessed the damage. It hurt so much I felt nauseated and dizzy and then I fainted. This was probably not a brilliant advertisement for the couple waiting for their turn.

Eventually I revived to the Fijian therapists fanning me frantically and clearly willing me gone. Shuffling back to our bure I was stopped by one of the many gardeners employed to de-nut the coconut palms lest an errant guest be brained.

“BULA!”

I managed a wan returning ‘bula’, and then he noticed the trail of blood I was haemorrhaging.

“Your feet! You’re bleeding! What happened?”

Spouse offered a brief explanation. The gardener, lopping  the top off  a coconut, offered me warm milk.  I drank, gagged and offered it back up.

Days three, four, five and six saw the emergence of bruising, swelling and an inability to wear any footwear other than the Haviana’s of death. I had attained celebrity status by virtue of my pratfall, stopped by every staff member on the island who wanted to hug me better.

“Who IS she? Why are they all hugging her?”

Fortunately the ability to consume my body weight in gin remained intact and we had a lovely, if largely inactive, break.

Paradise? Not quite.

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The Pits (part 1)

Perhaps Im being deliberately obtuse, or maybe the Universe is miming it’s fatalistic messages, but whatever’s happening, I’m just not getting it.

I was more or less used to the dark pit of self pity I’d find myself in every few months. This pattern has been part of my life for more years than I can recall. After the latest milestone birthday however, my time in the dark pits was becoming as frequent as a Durham coal miner.

Just happy the canary is still alive

Just happy the canary is still alive

Taking myself off to the GP for some lady bit maintenance, I extended the appointment time to discuss my current funk. The doctor asked a few rudimentary questions and I answered in the bullet point manner one can recount a frequently told story. Nevertheless, her initially dismissive “yes, we can all talk about how ghastly our mother’s were” attitude was quickly replaced with, “how do you feel about seeing a psychiatrist?”

Since my thirties, each decade has seen its quota of counselling. There have been psychologists from various schools of psycho-analysis, Reiki Masters, meditation classes, psychics and network chiropractors.

Most of them provided mental health Paracetomol; that is to say, there was some temporary relief and vague optimism. I’d abandon counsellors when I realised I was rolling my eyes and mentally urging them to get to the point. My inner dialogue was a smart arse teenager.

I left the GP with the promise of a referral to “someone appropriate’” and went on my not so merry way. A couple of weeks later came confirmation of a robust cervix but no referral. Apparently the search for ‘“someone appropriate” was proving to be quite the conundrum.

Another month passed and I called the surgery again.

“Oh hi, we were just talking about you!”

Really? [I thought] Run out of copies of New Weekly, have we?

“Just this morning the doctor was telling us that she thought she’d found the right person for you.”

Again. Really? Um, why exactly is the doctor workshopping this with the reception staff?

“But it turns out they weren’t appropriate.”

WTF?! I’m sorry, but once more, REALLY?! You mean to tell me that there is NO ONE ‘appropriate’ in this entire city of 4.4 million people? 

“We’ll let you know when she’s found someone. Have great day!”

FUCK YOU THANK YOU.

Things took a turn for the weird when my Aunt Gerry, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer the previous year, went from apparent remission to deaths door. It was all shockingly accelerated .

There she was, one Saturday beating my highly competitive Biomum at scrabble, downloading useful iPhone apps, and drinking white wine with old mates, to being carted off to Cabrini Hospital. Despite the blinding headache she managed a limp royal wave from the back of the ambulance.

Biomum showed me the palliative care facility brochure with all the upbeat manner of someone looking into a Broadbeach time share. Faced with losing her sister and best friend, she was walking denial.

“They say that fifty percent of patients all end up back at home again.”

No, they really don’t. 

The next day she called me to say that my Aunt would not last the weekend. I drove to the hospital with a ball of anxiety lodged in my chest.

All those years ago when biomum had bolted there were a number of familial casualties – my aunt among them. For three years before he remarried, my dad would grudgingly make the annual pilgrimage to Northwest Victoria for my brother and I to see her. Gerry was fabulous – funny, loud, energetic and attractive; leaving her a week later was always a wrench. Three years later all contact was cut off with no explanation.

An imaginary fug of malady clung to the elevator interior as I made my way to the fourth floor oncology ward. I recited the room number in my head as I read the lintels above each doorway. Her son sat by the window, her daughter spoke quietly with a nurse and my mother wrung her hands in the doorway. Gerry’s features were bloated, her dental plate removed to reveal gaps in her slack mouth, her hair had begun to grow back and was plastered to her head in sweaty whorls; the bright scarves and turbans abandoned. I’d never seen her without make-up before.

I took her hand and announced myself. Her eyes, milky blue and filmed, fluttered open and remained so as I spoke. My mind was a maelstrom of fear and regret. I opened my mouth and out it all tumbled; incoherent, rambling, stream of consciousness – part plaintive confession, part goodbye. All the while my aunt levelled her unseeing gaze at me, straining with the effort to focus.

That night I went to bed and read, but the words blurred before my sand blasted eyeballs. I hit the pillow at midnight, convinced I’d sleep from sheer emotional exhaustion.

And then weird shit happened.

My body felt electric. There was a buzzing sensation coursing through me and my heart began to race. I’d had palpitations before, stress induced and haphazard, but this was different. I dismissed the thought I was having a heart attack and resisted the urge to wake spouse. With my inner monologue dialled up to hyper chat I ran through the possibilities:

  • Is it possible Gerry is experiencing this right now too?
  • I’m panicking, but I have nothing to really panic about.
  • No, I’m not panicking, I’m kind of terrified.
  • My eyes are closed, but there is light in my head.
  • When I open my eyes, it’s dark.
  • Is this what a break down feels like?
  • My heart is galloping.

While I was thinking all this, I was palpating my carotid artery which was pounding like a drum. it seemed to last an eternity. I gave myself up to whatever was happening and then just as suddenly as it began, it ceased and I immediately slept – a dreamless, heavy sleep.

I woke, it was my birthday. Sitting up in bed surrounded by gift wrapping and cards I answered my phone.

birthday cat

“Hello darling happy birthday Gerry died *beat * that’s right darling, she died on your birthday. The nurse says it happened at 12.30am, she was alone.”

So that was odd.

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The Pits (Part 2)

The following weekend I was powering around Albert park lake with my BFF recounting this odd and unprecedented occurrence. Further to the spiritual energy exchange  was the realisation that I was just treading water in my own life. I had no direction and no obvious purpose. This was an incredibly deep conversation for 8am on a Saturday before coffee.

My BFF took it in her constitutional stride and suggested that I take this up with her tarot reader.

The tarot reader, it emerged, was not actually my friends personal Astrologer, but rather a wee little business under a staircase at the South Melbourne market. I reluctantly decided to combine the necessary purchase of cheese with a reading.

Behind the curtained doorway there were no pentacles or amulets.  Our Tarot reader looked for all the world like an accountant from H&R Block with her blonde bob and charcoal jacket. She was fiddling with an iPhone rather than hunched over a crystal ball.

I see a great financial future in your cards

I see a great financial future in your cards

We exchanged the usual introductory pleasantries and she explained the nature of tarot. She was merely a vehicle to interpret the information provided by my spirit guide, who was sitting in the empty chair between us. I nodded to him/her and resisted the urge to shake an invisible hand.

The cards shuffled, cut and laid out, I watched her pondering the psychic picture before her. She nodded and murmured away quietly to herself, ‘Mmm, that’s good. Yes, that’s all fine. Good,’ until she reached the last card.

All the while I was looking about the tiny space trying to avoid eye contact with my spirit guide and wondering what sort of cheese I would buy.

Sweet dreams are made of cheese

Sweet dreams are made of cheese

After a prolonged spate of head shaking, she asked me a series of rapid fire and disparate questions.

“So, are you looking for another job at the moment?”

I’m always on the look out for another job, but no, not specifically now”

“Are you happy in your relationship?”

Extremely”

“Children all good? No issues?”

Nope. Not that I’m aware of”

She was becoming increasingly flustered with my answers and finally exclaimed,

“Look, I can’t read this! Everything is fine. All your cards are great. Your life looks fine”

And this is bad because…?”

“It’s this last card. It doesn’t make sense given your other cards.”

“You’re probably going to have to give me more information

“It’s the end. You can’t go further. There is nothing beyond this.”

Right then I was thinking my spirit guide was a bit of a dick and I was terminal. I was also far less interested in what cheese I should purchase.

Despite my immediate preoccupation with choosing suitable funeral music and recruiting someone to deliver a cracker eulogy, I obliged the frazzled tarot reader by re-shuffling in a bid to explain the fatalistic card.

“Do you have any unresolved childhood trauma?”

Yep.”

“Have you spoken to any counsellors or are you looking to do so?”

I’m looking for someone appropriate”

She wrote down the number of a ‘brilliant man”, a jungian therapist that had changed her life. Dr Barnaby Buttface* had, through the power of dream analysis, shown her that despite ten years as a clinical psychologist, her true career goal lay in the occult. She’d never been happier.

A week later I was parked out the front of a Soviet looking block of flats in Armadale ready to discuss a bunch of dreams. Dr Buttface buzzed me inside the grotty dark lobby which looked more dealing than healing.

I followed the good doctor’s Kill Bill whistling to the third floor where he stood waiting for me in an open doorway. His office was a pre-perestroika flat with a dead bolt on the inside. I sat on an unsprung black vinyl club chair facing Dr Buttface, who in the unflatteringly light of an exposed electric light bulb, looked about 89 years old.

In a raspy smokers voice, he asked all the usual questions and I wondered if my initial response to him – i.e he’s a serial killer – may have been prematurely censorious.

We eventually got onto discussing my offspring, D1 and D2. Touching on D1’s predilection for boys of exotically mixed parentage, he began offering up Jungian reasons for women being attracted to people outside their race, citing the White Masai story from the early 2000’s. I told him that the only concern I had for her would be that whomever she ended up with, be they black, brown, white or green, share her personal values. I added that I would be very happy to have a beautiful coffee coloured grandchild, to which he replied that it depended just how strong the coffee was.

I wondered if I’d heard correctly.

We then got onto D2 and her current transatlantic relationship with a woman. Buttface once again offered up a Jungian explanation for her sexuality and began attributing ‘blame’ and possible ‘cures’. Waiving aside my protests that the child did not require curing, he sagely intoned that had I come to him with a strep throat, he would prescribe the appropriate antibiotic. He was actually aligning my gay daughter with an infection and accusing me of being unnecessarily PC by arguing with him.

Unsurprisingly, I felt zero compunction to continue with Dr Buttface, although I was a little disappointed not to rehash my dreams.

I was feeling psychiatrically rejected. The GP was incapable of matching my particular brand of nuts with an appropriate therapist and, it turned out, tarot readers don’t make reliable referees.

I was less depressed than annoyed.

Fortunately a combination of friends, wine, dog memes and a week in Fiji with spouse has for now, if not exactly assuaged this latest round, certainly diverted it.

And there’s always a story.

*********

*not his real name, but close and accurate.

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Excel-ing

I am a Goldfish.

Sorry? have we met?

Sorry? have we met?

Vampire sentences vanish in the grey of dawn’s light. All my Man Booker prize worthy sentences that manifest  in the shower wash away with paraben free soap bubbles. I transcribe witty exchanges of dialogue onto business cards with a staccato pen. Hours later the words are illegible, nonsensical.

I roll phrases around my tongue like tic tacs, repeating them aloud over and over. Their worth is certain. But these ghostlike sentences are vaporous. They vanish into thin air leaving a frustrated aftertaste.

So that’s annoying, right?

Meanwhile it’s time for the annual directive from above. No, not God, she’s less communicative, head office. This lengthy emailed missive begins with an upbeat summary of the previous year. Double digit growth, a broadening independent base, solid gains and solid platforms.

I’m feeling anything but solid.

Budgets have been set and potential business identified on the world’s most complicated Excel spreadsheet. It’s the kind of spreadsheet that makes the synapses between my remaining brain cells implode. It cannot be printed out in a coherent form. There are so many headings, rows, columns and tabs that by the time I’m at the bottom, I’ve completely forgotten why I was there at all.

The National Sales Manager is mad for a spreadsheet. He is an Excel savant. As others turn to sudoku and cryptic crosswords, so he indulges in the mystical magic of numeric data forecasting and analysis.

This particular document does, however, appear to have been cobbled together from the Dead Sea Scrolls of previous contact lists. It’s possible some of them may still be in business. Wizened, wise and nostalgic for the days of the self winding Rolex Tudor Oyster.

rolex

I have been charged with reporting back on store level intelligence. A series of probing questions about our brands aimed at the managers.

I’ve been doing this a while now; levelling the odd casual question regarding display placement or best selling products to retail staff who, I can tell you, are only thinking about their next coffee break.

Cannot hear you over the screaming in my head. COFFEEEEEEE!

Cannot hear you over the screaming in my head. COFFEEEEEEE!

The new year manifesto includes a tacit suggestion that my failure to decimate and deliver this crucial information will result in the company’s ultimate downfall.

But no pressure.

So I’ve been on SEEK.com, you know, just checking things out and, I’m realising, once again, that my ad hoc approach to a career trajectory seems to be hampering the filtering system. I don’t fit into any boxes.

Where’s the category for experienced at life, able to spot a wanker at ten paces, appears smarter than actually is, able to string a reasonably coherent sentence together, loather of jargon, empathetic, can(not) leap tall buildings with a single bound?

Instead we have the sort of advertisements that read as follows:

Young start up seeks in-house writer to join the team. You are a radical, modern thinker with a wicked and off-beat sense of humour. You’ll thrive in our funky space with floor to floor slides and on-site gym. Utilise your exemplary Japanese language skills as you chat to our resident sushi chef. Create a bespoke office pod with our in house interior designer and master feng shui practioner. Join our Bollywood flash mob on the second friday of the month and then lounge at the kombucha bar for group chanting.

My first thought?  OH&S. Slide.

Requisite qualities for every position is dynamism, passion, sense of fun and energy. So. Much. Energy.

I need a lie down.

I'm out.

I’m out.

I will also defer to Urban dictionary to help pimp my vocabulary for the one to two minute video bio I’ll need to load onto YouTube or Vimeo. Something casual recorded in a graffiti covered CBD lane way. I’ll be drinking a teeny cup of Kenyan Wamuguma and wearing a vintage cardigan. With some judicious filtering, I can pull this off.

I can!

It’s time to recruit a Millennial mentor. Someone to point out that pen and paper, much like the abacus, has been well and truly replaced. Some digitally savvy Gen Y prepared to talk me through my fear of Siri so I can finally dictate my belletristic prose.

Other people's children

Other people’s children

My children just roll their eyes, so it will need to be someone else’s child.

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When the chips are down

Most days around this neighbourhood I am faced with the reality of my white middle class privilege. A nearby homeless shelter and our proximity to the city centre, means many of life’s less fortunate gather in the local shopping strip.

Being one of those disorganised daily food shoppers, I’ve worn a path from my front door to the supermarket meat fridge; with a regular bottle shop detour. On one of these recent hunt and gather expeditions, I passed a group of homeless men sitting on a bench outside  the local TAB. They were passing a drink can between them and soaking up the last amber rays of a mild January day.

They all looked up as I approached and one of them greeted me, “Gidday luv, how’r ya goin’?”

“I’m good thanks!” I replied, a little louder and cheerier than was strictly necessary.

A second one echoed with, “Hi luv, ya good?”

“Yep, I’m great thanks. How are you?”

I congratulated myself for participating in this civilised exchange.

Wasn’t that nice? Pleasantries with poor people? I feel so good about myself now.

As I crossed the road it occured to me that I needed to buy something for these friendly but disadvantaged gentlemen.

I needed to buy them potato chips.

Radiating bonhomie I swanned into the small supermarket and perused the snack food aisle. How happy these poor men will be when I bequeath my salty offerings.

...juste un soupçon de sel...

…juste un soupçon de sel…

I was less certain about these charity hor d’oeuvres when I found myself standing around the corner from the hapless homeless.

What on earth was I thinking? Chips? Even if they were ridiculously flavoured gourmet jobs, they were chips for god’s sake!

I sprinted back up the street clutching two shopping bags and silently cursing my idiocy. Half way up I stopped again and continued the inner monologue.

Ok, so perhaps chips are not an adequate demonstration of my empathy. Oh God, they are going to be so offended! I’m such a patronising person! I’ll just take them home. I’ll just walk in the other direction and go home with them. Done. Good. But hang on, everyone likes chips. Surely chips won’t offend? Who in the history of the world has taken offence to a chip? No one, that’s who. Right then, I’ll just take these bad boys back to them and hand them over. What’s the worst that could happen? 

Striving for insouciance, I headed back around the corner and approached my own personal charity case.

Hang on, one of them could stab me…Oh come on, will you shut up! Look at them, just four blokes sharing a tinny and chewing the fat.

Shoving a bag towards the friendliest looking of  them, and in the loud unrecognisable voice I reserve for all awkward situations, I boomed, “I thought you might like some CHIPS.”

So nice with a cheeky merlot and some brie...

So nice with a cheeky merlot and some brie…

After a stunned silence he took the bag and thanked me, “That’s real nice of ya, luv. Happy new year!”

He shook my hand and nodded encouragingly to his mates.

I took out a second bag and thrust it towards the man beside him. My arm remained raised in an uncomfortable salute, the chip bag dangling, as he stared at me.

With a bilious smile, I pivoted around, my arm outstretched, and piffed the pack into the  next guy’s lap.

“I thought you chaps might enjoy some chips out here in the sun…with your drinks…and stuff…”

Like they’re enjoying the sunset on a beach in SeminyakSUCH AN IDIOT!

There was some stilted banter about one of them coming home with me which I countered with my wish to empty out the nest. Then an exchange about the age of my resident daughter and a quip that she was way too young for them, resulted in some rib digging hilarity.

“You heard her mate, she’s too young for ya!”

“Nah, mate, I didn’t mean that. I was just innerested, that’s all.”

I beetled off leaving him calling up the street after me , “Just joking luv! No offense, ok?”

When I got to the traffic light, they all chorused , “Thanks luv!”

I remembered D2 and her work with a youth mission when she was at school. Volunteers would man a coffee van for the homeless outside Flinders Street Station. My daughter realised though, that the greater contribution was conversation. These men and women could have gone for several days without speaking to a soul. Isolated in a crowd and often desperate for human interaction, the greatest gift was as prosaic as smalltalk.

I felt terrible. I had fixated on delivering junk food in the least offensive manner and became paralysed by my own discomfort.

There is an organisation one of my friends and her partner volunteer with that rescues unwanted food and prepares it into healthy, nutritious meals for the homeless. A small but tangibly useful effort that I suspect is appreciated slightly more than potato chips.

I think it may be the right time to commit to something greater than buying The Big Issue.

fareshare

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Bringin’ on my Bogan

I’m not really a massive fan of the fancy dress party and would normally go out of my way to avoid attending one. But recently we attended a Bogan Bingo fundraising evening that requested we all dress to theme.

It was a great cause so why the f*ck not?!

Spouse had nothing that could be remotely described as ‘bogan’ lurking shamefully at the back of his wardrobe. No Heavy Metal tour tee-shirts, no V8 Supercar garb, no acid wash, and not a skerrick of flannelette.

hmmm

hmmm

We hit the Victoria Market on a Saturday morning. The place was teeming with people sporting just the sort of look we were after. Flicking through a circular rack of $10 teeshirts, we were joined by the gold standard of bogan males. He wore black and white track pants, an ACDC teeshirt and the ubiquitous unbuttoned flanney. There was a moment of uncertain tussling over a Harley Davidson tee before ACDC man surveyed spouse’s Colorado fleecy, judged him in greater fashion need and grudgingly deferred to him.

It was patterned leggings all the way for the ladies, with planets and constellations or skeleton designs reigning supreme. Short black hoodies and ugg boots completed the ensemble.

For the love of lycra, someone needs to print a teeshirt with LEGGINGS ARE NOT PANTS in large letters...but it would probably end up being worn  with leggings, right?

For the love of lycra, someone needs to print a teeshirt with LEGGINGS ARE NOT PANTS in large letters. It would probably just end up being worn with leggings though, right?

We sourced a brand new flannelette shirt to go over the tee shirt and while I assured my beloved that colour coordination was not key here, size did indeed matter. None of your fitted hipster business here, the flanney is necessarily voluminous for the purposes of outerwear or as a handy overnight blanket in the back of the ute.

or as a handy belt

or as a belt

D1 had a veritable treasure trove of suitably ‘skanky’ pieces she could furnish me with, something tight, potentially skin barring and camel toe producing was assured. She also agreed to do my make up and although we didn’t have time for the total tandoori tan, she did go a little nuts with the bronzing powder. Observing the more is more mantra, my makeup was straight out of Geordie Shore.

Why-Aye!!

Why-Aye!!

It’s fair to say that none of us really stood out from the locals as we spilled out of the taxi at Coburg Town hall. Joining a line of fellow ferals clutching bags of chips and pizza boxes we made our way inside. I’d gone all Spring carnival with my catering, opting for thai chicken sandwiches and expensive cheeses over the Coles deli tray.

She’s bloody up herself. Pass the cabana.

The beautiful art deco room was fairly heaving with mullets. There were more wigs than a 17th Century English court. Farnsy, Barnsy, Brian Mannix, Craig McLachlan, Jason Donovan…all the truly great Australian 80’s mullets were represented. A number of the women had donned aggressively spiky versions in improbable colours and were primed for a quick demonstration of the sharpie dance if called upon.

The actual bingo was hosted by an hilarious couple who accompanied the manic number calling with musical riffs from the 80’s and 90’s. They interspersed the game with an air guitar competition and the Biggest Bogan award. This brought out the competitive nature in one or ten people who, truth be told, had gone to absolutely no effort with costume having left the house in basically what they wore every day. Imagine their delight at being celebrated this way?

We all stood as a series of bogan sorting questions were fired at us.

Have you ever owned a flanney?

Most people  had.

No? Then sit the f*ck down!

One of my dearest friends, a woman of inestimable elegance and refinement, who had been utterly transformed as a hybrid of Sybill Fawlty and Kath Day-Knight, immediately sat down. Out in the first round! Oh, the shame.

Did you buy your flanney today?

A few shamefaced folk.

Yes? Then sit the f*ck down!

And on it progressed. I was eliminated at the have you ever worn your moccies or uggs out of the house? round.

It eventually came down to three women hauled on stage to battle it out for the ultimate accolade.

None of the three had managed to have children to different father’s, so they needed to dig deeper.

First born’s name?

Harry.

Not a bogan name by any stretch.

Occupation?

Part time bookkeeper.

Disqualified immediately.

First born’s name?

Emily.

Nope. (Unless it’s spelt Emahleeh)

Occupation?

Nurse.

Please leave the stage.

First born’s name?

Harley.

Go on, second born?

Jai.

And the clincher, occupation?

Out of work actress.

YES! We have a winner!!!!!

The Bogan Queen left the stage triumphantly, her muscle bound boyfriend looking on with pride.

Caught up as I was singing along to an 80’s power ballad, I failed to notice my spouse   successfully bidding on an decidedly un-bogan Smeg washing machine during the live auction.

What a grouse bloke you’ve got there, bet he’ll score a root tonight?

Or he’ll just appreciate his whiter than white, whites.

We packed up the rindy bits of leftover double brie and crumbly clods of cheddar to be polished off with a decent shiraz the next day sans hoop earrings and double denim. I experienced no newfound affection  for the fancy dress gig (or in this case, not so fancy dress) but was very happy to have done our bit for a deserving cause.

Shit yeah!

 

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