Friday, 20 December 2013

Five places I shouldn't have to make conversation

Recently I have been watching Sex and the City in its entirety. So far I am up to Season 2.  Don't judge me. It's non-ratings period and I've already watched all of Mad Men, most of Breaking Bad, all of Nurse Jackie and am currently waiting on season 2 of Newsroom.

There was nothing left that appealed to my current state of mind, so I went retro with it and decided to give Carrie Bradshaw a whirl: if only for SJP's big hair and her slightly horsey face which manages to be ordinary and beautiful at the same time.

But the series, apart from Carrie smoking like a bogan* throughout every episode, is still surprisingly contemporary in its themes.

Recently I watched the episode where Miranda's new boyfriend wanted her to do some dirty talking in bed.  Miranda was aghast:

"It's the one area in life where I don't have to talk or make conversation."

To this, I concur.  And I'm not so much talking about the dirty sex talk part, but just about life in general. There are certain areas in life where we should all be absolved of making conversation with people.

Here they are:

1. The supermarket checkout 

I have flagged this before in a very controversial piece entitled, "Supermarket Etiquette." In return, a few checkout operators piped up and claimed that as part of their job, they are required to make conversation with customers.

But honestly, if I get asked one more time by a 15 year old checkout operator,

"So how's your day been?"

I am going to tell them how my day has actually been in mind-numbing detail.

The other more leading question they often ask is this:

"So, what are you up to for the rest of the day?"

Umm ... let's see... how about, none of your business, Boy Who Doesn't Even Shave Yet?

Am I supposed to answer this question?  Is there a stock answer to give to this? If there is, I haven't found it yet.

If I give them a bit of "Oh this and that .." they seem offended at my lack of effort.  So sometimes I feel bad and try to go with it:  I tell them what I'm doing for the rest of the day, which is when their eyes glaze over as if to say,

 "Alright, lady, I'm not actually interested, I was just making a noise with my mouth." 

2. The hairdresser

I know other women love a bit of chit chat at the haidresser because I HEAR THEM MAGGING ON AND ON ABOUT INANE THINGS as I am cowering beneath the hum of the blowdryer hoping my hairdresser doesn't feel left out because I don't talk to her.

I have a regular hairdresser and she knows I am not big on the chit chat. So she generally doesn't talk to me beyond, "How've you been?" And "What are we doing with your hair today?" And then at the end ... "How are we blowdrying? Straight with a bit of movement?"

But recently she got a bit comatose with my haircut and started cutting my hair in her sleep. By which I mean, she didn't listen when I said, "I would like you to cut it properly this time and not leave a big Quasimodo hump of hair at the back of my head."  (Perhaps because I didn't keep her mind active with inane chit-chat). So I had to change things up and ask for someone else.

At which point the inane chit-chat started up again.

"So, you going out this weekend?" The trendy young hairdresser asked me, eagerly anticipating some fabulous response where I was going to a gallery opening or some hipster party in a silver lame dress and kitten heels.

Do I look like I'm going out this weekend? 

I'm a 43 year old woman with three kids. Women in my demographic generally don't "go out" much on the weekends. We just collapse on the couch and watch reruns of Sex and the City so we can wear comfy pants and watch other women go out every weekend trussed up in their Spanx and heels.

Even if I am going out on the weekend, it's rarely to some fabulous Carrie Bradshaw-style party. It's just to a friend's house for dinner, or out to a cheap Thai restaurant with my girlfriends.  My social life, even when it's active, is just not that interesting.

In fact it's often so disappointing as a response that it's a conversation stopper.  (As I discovered the one time I was actually going somewhere and I gave an honest answer: "Oh just out to dinner with some friends."  She virtually dropped the blowdryer on my head in her utter lack of enthusiasm for the concept of "going out for dinner with some friends.")

3. The Blow Dry Bar

Recently I have taken to getting my hair blow dried at the Blow Dry Bar. It's cheap, very quick and it means that for at least a week, I don't have to deal with the nightmare-on-my-head that is my unruly, recalcitrant hair.

It has become patently clear to me that other women only go to the Blow Dry Bar if they have a special function on.  Because every time, every time:

"Going somewhere special tonight?"

No.  I just like getting my hair blow-dried. I'm weird like that.  Again. It's a real conversation stopper that nearly results in the blowdryer being dropped on my head.

4. Clothes shops

The other place I don't think I should have to make conversation is when I am in a clothes shop.

"Got the day off today?"

No. No. I haven't. I work from home and I'm skiving off. There's a million things I SHOULD be doing but here I am floating around David Jones. Thanks for reminding me.

5. Taxis

I have an Eliza Doolittle thing for cabs. I love getting cabs. But I don't like talking to the driver, not because I don't think he's worthy of my conversation. I just don't like talking when I get in a cab: I like to zone out and stare out the window and feel happy that I've just outsourced one of the worst things about living in Sydney; driving in traffic.

I especially don't like talking if I am going to the airport, which I do a lot, not because I'm fabulous but because I am a working musician and I tour with a comedian (my sister.)  It's just part of the gig; going to the  airport, fighting with the check-in dolly about whether or not we've paid for our extra baggage, bunching up with the general pubic and getting my hairspray confiscated again, getting on a plane and going to some weird regional town with a big theatre to put on a show.

Apart from the two weeks every two years where we go to the Melbourne Comedy Festival, it's just business as usual, and there's actually not much glamorous about it.

But every time, every time.

"Where are you off to today?"

Oh some butthole town in north Queensland.

"Business or pleasure?"


This question of "business or pleasure" with regard to where I am going every second week with my guitar, is a bit like the double flush button on a toilet: suddenly I have to stop and define something I don't really want to think that much about.

If it's "business," then I've clearly lost my performer's mojo.  And if it's "pleasure" what right do I have skipping town without my kids every second weekend? Am I a bad mother, or what? 

But there is a place for inane chit chat.  

And if you do it right, it can be a very satisfying exchange with a fellow human being.  It's not  about vague questions that demand fabulous answers that I cannot give, but rather, it's about being specific.

A few weeks ago, I was in the checkout queue and was served by my favourite checkout boy.  He's clearly a friend of Dorothy (even if he doesn't know it yet) and he's a faaaabulous inane chit-chatter.

Instead of saying, "So ... how's your day been?"  and then checking out of the conversation once my mouth started moving, he cast his eye over my groceries and said:

"Oooh!  Maggie Beer ice cream. I haven't tried that flavour, is it nice?"

"It's delicious!" I replied, really warming to the idea of talking about food. "Sometimes I stand at the freezer at 3 o clock in the afternoon and just eat it straight out of the tub. It's the ultimate afternoon pick me up."

"Ooh and raspberries!" He virtually squealed with delight.  "They're expensive! You're really treating yourself today!"

And so finally,  this virginal conversational flower was "opened up" by a chatty homosexual boy.

You've gotta love The Gays.

* This observation was flagged by my friend Liz Winters; who coined the phrase, "smoking like a bogan" and should be credited here.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Tales of Christmas Day disaster that will make you feel normal

Clarke Griswold; the patron saint of Christmas disasters

I have a friend who is adopted.  At Christmas time she gets quite wistful about what the perfect family Christmas should be like.

To add to her angst about not having the ideal family Christmas, her parents are divorced and so she now has a step-family as well.

The relations within this mish-mash of people can sometimes be fractious; family dinners can often blow up into arguments and she's been known to storm out in a huff when she thinks things aren't representing her "perfect family" ideal.

In her mind, her "real family" is out there somewhere and this adopted cum step-family she has ended up with, these people who know and love her best, are not it.

But it's Christmas time in particular that brings out her inner Pollyanna about what her life would be like if she could just have a real family; a close family; a family that enjoys being together and passes the turkey round with laughter in their eyes and carols in their hearts.

I think she probably even imagines that all the "real" families are standing around a piano, arm in arm, singing Christmas carols together.

And then, one year, she tracked down her biological parents


THAT Christmas she spent with her biological father and his new partner.  Her bio-dad's new partner was an airhead of a woman given to long rants of ignorant bigotry. At one point, my friend found herself in the kitchen, hunched over the beautifully trimmed turkey she had basted to perfection for her perfect family Christmas, muttering "Shut the fuck up, you stupid cow," over and over to block out the airhead's ranting.

When she told me this later, I took her hand, looked into her eyes and said, "Congratulations, you now have a real 'family.'"

And just like that moment when Dorothy realised that there was "no place like home," she realised she had had a real family all along


Perfect family Christmases do not exist. We all imagine that everybody else's family is sitting around like the family in the Coles ad: smiling gaily and kissing each other warmly and Grandma just loves the personalised mug she's just been given with "Best Granny Ever" printed on it.

But in reality, Christmas Day is like a wedding: it's a time for families to come together and see if they can bung on a function without getting into a fight.

Rather than relay Christmas stories of family togetherness here are some choice cuts of Christmas Day disasters from my own friends and family that should make you realise that you do have the perfect family Christmas after all.

Christmas is cancelled, I'll be in my room if you need me 


About 10 years ago, I found myself muttering my own mother's most well-worn Christmas phrase: "Oh come on everybody, don't fight, it's Christmas."

What happened was this:

Our four year old woke up at the crack of dawn, went out to the Christmas tree and opened all the presents including the gifts for his baby brothers.  It was like some fiendish urge overcame him and once he started ripping that Christmas paper off things, he just couldn't stop. He came into our bedroom, with a mix of guilt and elation on his face: like Hannibal Lecter after he has just fried someone up in butter and eaten them.

What made things worse was my then-husband was so upset at his perfect ideal of gift-giving under the tree being ruined, that he locked himself in our bedroom and refused to come out.  Which was when I found myself standing on the other side of the door saying, "Oh come on, don't be like that, it's Christmas."

The four year old was in tears of guilt and regret.  Christmas morning was officially a disaster.  I think we eventually patched things up, but it was about as far from the television ad version of Christmas Day as things could get.

The Year of The Fuck Off Bush


Another Christmas my brother and my sister got into a fight about ... something.  My sister (perhaps emboldened by the champagne) decided she wasn't going to let it go this time. As Michael stormed outside to "smoke it off," my sister decided to get to the bottom of things, once and for all.

"Why do you hate us?" She called after him as he stomped away from her, patting himself down for a cigarette.

He declined to elaborate.  Instead, he slipped behind a large bush and stood there in his silent fury. At which point smoke began drifting out from behind the bush. (I think he was behind the bush because my mother was always at him about giving up smoking.)

"It was like the bush was smoking." My sister told me later.

"But why do you hate us?" She asked the smoking bush.

Which was when the smoking bush became the "Fuck off Bush." Because the bush began shouting, "Fuck off, Kate just fuck off."

Henceforth, it became known as the "Year of the Fuck Off Bush."

And again, my mother with her well-worn phrase: "Oh come on everybody, don't fight, it's Christmas."

The calamari that ruined Christmas


Another friend once had a Christmas disaster that blew up over some calamari.

"My sister was supposed to be responsible for cooking the calamari. At some point my mother over-stepped the mark in the kitchen and began to cook the calamari herself, her own way.  It became a flashpoint for how my mother "demeans" my sister and my sister ended up crying in a bedroom."

Apparently his mother was completely unrepentant about cooking the calamari her own way, because according to her, that's how it's best cooked.  The sister was eventually extracted from the bedroom, Christmas continued, but it was far from perfect.

The valium that made Christmas bearable

Yet another friend who shall remain nameless, decided one year that the only way to have a peaceful Christmas was to crush up a valium and put it in her brother's food.  This was because her brother, a combative and aggressive drunk, was notorious for starting arguments over the Christmas lunch table. As a result their Christmases often descended into unpleasant argy bargy as he arced up over something or took offence at something someone had said, or even just set off on his latest rant about life in general.

So she took matters into her own hands and 'took the edge' off his personality with some hidden valium in his potato salad.

"It was the nicest Christmas we've ever had. He was delightful company that year." She says.

The Christmas hostess with the unmostest


"One year my sister insisted on doing Christmas."  Another friend tells me. "She was absolutely insistent that she host Christmas dinner that year, she begged us to let her host.  So we went to lunch at my husband's family, didn't eat much to save ourselves for the big impressive feast my sister had promised us because nothing would offend my sister more than if we didn't eat her special feast. "

They turned up just as the hostess was popping the plastic lid off a few mixed bean salads from Woollies.

"Honestly,  you have never known disappointment at Christmas until you have arrived to the sound of plastic lids being peeled off a couple of Woollies salads." Says my friend.

Did she serve any turkey?

"Oh I think there was some cold ham."

It has become the stuff of legend. The Year Her Sister Hosted Christmas.

Uncle Trevor's major Christmas erection


It's not what you think.

My mother has three sisters and when we were kids, they would each take turns hosting Christmas lunch. One year we went to Aunt Liz. Her husband had spent the morning putting up a large marquee in the backyard, to keep the sun off the table.  As we arrived my Aunt Liz proclaimed loudly to everyone within earshot (including the neighbours.)

"Trevor has one major erection every year and this is it!" (In reference to the marquee.)

I was about 14 at the time and I thought it wickedly witty.  I did notice however that Uncle Trevor did not find it in the least bit amusing.  Later on, Aunt Liz coralled the children into the garage and schooled us all in a performance of, "Do your boobs hang low do they wobble to and fro ..." She was quite insistent that we mime the wobbling of our boobs to and fro and also that we give it petrol when we "tossed them over our shoulders" at the end.

We performed it to our bemused parents, with Aunt Liz conducting us vigorously.

I remember thinking it was funny, but something about her determination to stir things up that year made me suspect something was amiss.

Turns out, it was the last manic gasp of a marriage in trouble. About a year later, Aunt Liz and Uncle Trevor were divorced.

Christmas lunch with the family? No thanks we'll just pop in for a drink


Another friend tried to do the right thing by her in-laws one year when they were at a loose end. She graciously invited them to join her extended family for Christmas lunch.

"They made it quite clear that they would rather do anything but spend Christmas with us.  They popped in for a drink then continued on their merry way to a quiet lunch alone, at a cafe in Paddington."

So there you go ...

If you think your family Christmas is messed up, remember: the more messed up it is, the more you have the perfect family.

Enjoy your family this year, extended, adopted, step or biological. Whether it's the awkward squeak of cutlery on plates or the sound of family tensions boiling over in the heat of the Christmas moment.

Family is family and yours is perfect.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Five reasons why the film, Sliding Doors is implausible

The film Sliding Doors is a lot like the film, Love Actually:  It is an incredibly annoying film but I find myself watching it from behind a cushion every time it's on TV.

I think I watch it because of these two things:
  1. Gwyneth's short blond hair-do.
  2. The Dido song they play over the credits at the end. 
The rest of it, I loathe.

What I really should do is Google  "Gwyneth's Sliding Doors hair-do" and listen to the song on my i-pod.

But I never learn. And last Sunday, I once again sat through 90 odd minutes of Gwyneth Paltrow's 'shagging' British accent and John Hannah's distracting eyebrows.

And once again I found certain plot points completely implausible. Here they are.

5 reasons why the plot of Sliding Doors is completely implausible


1. Gwyneth Paltrow's accent

Despite her valiant  "stiff upper lift" nasal rendering of a British accent, it all falls apart when she has to deliver lines like this:  "You bastard, you bastard. You useless shagging bastard."  During these oh-so-colloquial "shagging this, shagging that"  bits I needed two cushions; one for each ear.

2. A man who slavishly repeats Monty Python catch cries, is a man to be avoided at all costs

When Gwynnie meets the talking eyebrow man (John Hannah) he tries to cheer her up by saying this: 

 "You know what the Monty Python boys always say ... Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!"

At which point, if it were a realistic script, Gwyneth would say, "I'm sorry, I just realised that I have to be over there."  And walk quickly in the opposite direction without looking back. And then the next time she sees him, (in a bar as per the film) she would dive UNDER the bar and hide from him lest he come over and tell her about the Spanish Inquisition again. (Which he does A LOT and no one ever tells him to shut up.)

It is a known fact that men who quote Monty Python are insufferable unfunny boors.  (While I don't mind the odd, "Run away! Run away!"  it's the entire tracts of obscure phrases that push the friendship.) However, in the film, this is the beginnings of Gwynnie's finding him charming and attractive.  She's quite a good actor, despite her accent woes and her face clearly says: "Hang on, this guy is quite interesting and quirky, I wonder when I will see him again."


Further to that ...

3. Acting out Monty Python sketches makes you a lady repeller, not a lady magnet

Then they go to a dinner party and John Hannah re-enacts an entire Monty Python sketch, complete with red-faced "giving it petrol funniness" and wacky "I'm a terrific John Cleese mimic"  voices.  Everybody is laughing so hard they can barely speak! They're leaning forward, clutching their stomachs with their mouths open in gasping mirth. The camera pans around the table about three times to make the point that everyone is having the TIME OF THEIR LIVES and this guy is SUCH A WAG.

Gwyneth is creasing herself and instead of getting up from the table and saying, "I'm sorry everybody I just remembered that I'd rather be at home poking forks into my eyeballs," and hot-footing it out of there, she gazes lovingly at him across the crowded table, as though this whole Monty Python re-enactments thing has only increased her ardour.  IMPLAUSIBLE!

4. A man in purple Lycra is not a hunk of rowing spunk.

Then Gwynnie goes to Eyebrow Man's rowing race. And he's wearing a purple lycra rowing skivvy with a matching team cap that makes his curly hair sit out from under it like a clown wig.  In this get-up Gwynnie finds him devilishly attractive.


 This is taken further into the IMPLAUSIBLE realm after the race,  when Eyebrow Man 'leads' the team in some very, very unfunny group chanting work (My Highland Goat -style) and Gwynneth finds it all so charming and "fun" that she loses her hands inside the sleeves of her jumper. CUTE or what?

Not only that, this seems to be the 'a-ha' moment where she falls deeply in love with him: standing in a room full of pasty Pommie rowers who are all chanting some very unfunny stuff, while trying to balance on one leg and butt their heads forward and shouting, "Heat!" 


This is, in fact the point in a dating scenario where you consider just fucking off out the back door without explaining yourself to anyone.

5.  Starting your own PR company = renting a well-lit photogenic space and painting it duck egg blue

When Gwynnie gets sick of waitressing and delivering sandwiches, Eyebrow Man suggests she Roxy Jacenko it up and start her own PR company. Cue montage of "congratulations your business loan application has been accepted" forms clutched to the breast interspersed with fun times painting the new office duck egg blue.  Then it's all done.  She just sets up her table and chair and starts taking calls. IMPLAUSIBLE ...

... because of how much fun they have painting the room.

Anybody who has ever painted a room knows it's a c#$% of a job.  Oh it's all fun and games and cute dots of paint on the nose for about 10 seconds.  Then you have to start paying attention to the cornices and you have to paint around the light switches not to mention the bit where you have to down tools and wait for each coat to dry.


They would hate each other if they tried to paint a room together. And she would really, really grow tired of his Monty Python sketches while trapped in a duck egg blue room thick with eye-watering paint fumes.

So there you have it: five reasons why the plot of  Sliding Doors is implausible ...

Oh and the thing about living two parallel lives at once ... a little bit implausible, but not as implausible as all of the above.

Next week: Duets:  5 reasons why Huey Lewis (and the News) could never be Gwyneth's father.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Adventures in pet ownership

Kids and pets are like cordial syrup and water: is it necessary to mix them? Or could you just as well have drunk the water on its own and been happy? Before you decide, consider my own personal experiences with a variety of pets. 

Part 1: is a dog really necessary? 

Once you have finally moved beyond the toddler stage, it’s almost inevitable that everyone in the family* who was not responsible for:

a) cleaning up other people’s excrement daily
b) feeding everyone else breakfast before they fed themselves

will decide that now is a good time to get a dog.

Before you acquiesce to this mob mentality, consider the fact that dogs are just like toddlers.

  • They make your house stink
  • They leave toys and bull's penises scattered all over the floor (the bull's penis is maybe just the dog)
  • They need to be taken to the park in the morning for a run around or they go nuts in the afternoon.
  • You have to feed them.
  • Thunderstorms make them go all ... Linda Blair in The Exorcist.
  • They need to be taught over and over and OVER AGAIN that pooh and wee does not belong on the living room floor.
  • They have an aversion to bathing and disappear under the bed as soon as they hear the bath running.
  • They don’t know how to use a knife and fork.
  • They like to hang around in the nude apropos of nothing.
  • They bite people.

If after all these sound arguments,  your kids are still begging you for a dog, here's how to stave of the inevitable for a while.

Part 2:  six suggestions for an interim pet you can get before you get a dog

(As based on my own experiences and the experiences of friends.)

For reference I have rated each one according to the following scientific parameters:

Care (ie: how much you will end up caring about it.)

1. Goldfish

I am an experienced owner of about 20 goldfish. Not all at the same time, it’s just that they kept dying and we had to keep replacing them.  After a while we ran out of names so we just numbered them.  Number 20 goldfish actually committed suicide.  He disappeared from the tank and then we found him months later, stuck to the back of the chest of drawers. He was well and truly petrified (so long-dead he was a scaly husk of his former self.)  The only conclusion we could draw was that he had made a Nemo-style jump for it in order to escape us.

Stink factor: low
Maintenance: low
Care factor:  low

2. Guinea pigs

Guinea pigs are a great pet for small children.  Until you hold one, cop a feel of its rodent backbone and realize that they are just rats without a tail. Plus you have to clean out a cage full of crap and wee-soaked newspaper every second day.  Peeyoo! They stink.

We solved this by “free ranging” our guinea pigs.  Which is a fancy way of saying: we put the cage out in the council clean up and let the pigs loose in the backyard. They loved it there; they fashioned a little humpy out of a dead tree, they came running over to us when we fed them and most importantly, we didn’t have to clean their stinky cage.

Then we moved house and the new backyard wasn’t so ‘guinea pig’ friendly.

Call me heartless, but I found it hard to care when there was an urgent knocking on the door one morning and the neighbours informed us that our guinea pig was cowering beneath their car.  I had to go through the motions of trying to lure the guinea pig out with a plastic golf stick. I made all sorts of ‘tch tch tch’ noises at it and tried to remember its name. Eventually we had to go to soccer. I can’t remember what happened after that, but I don’t think we ever got the guinea pig back. Which comes under exhibit A of ‘care factor.’

Stink factor: high
Maintenance: medium (unless you let them go free range)
Care factor: low

3. Cats

If you like a more independent, self-cleaning sort of pet, cats are for you.  Personally I find cats a bit scary. My sister has a particularly evil cat who lies in wait for me at the top of the stairs, plays dead on the second step when I’m coming down and tries to kill me by tripping me down the stairs and breaking my neck. Then sometimes he just stares at me.

evil sarge

I know he’s thinking about other ways he might “off” me.  My sister claims he’s not thinking anything  because he has the brain the size of a pea. But one day I came in and found him Googling, “How to cut off a human’s air supply with your paws,” on the computer.

Stink factor: medium
Maintenance: medium
Care factor: High on your side. Low on theirs.


4. Hermit crab 

I know a little boy who has a hermit crab as a “pet.” I put that in “…” because it’s really just like having a shell in an empty fish tank and pretending that there’s something in there.

Stink factor: low
Maintenance: low
Care factor: off-the-chart low (what can I say? It’s a shell in a glass box.)

 5. Frogs 

I would highly recommend a frog as a pet. But you need to be prepared to:

a) catch live cockroaches in a glass jar at dusk
b) be woken in the dead of night by a dramatic symphony of croaking from an amphibious voice box designed to carry for kilometres through the swamps.

My brother, Michael had a frog called, “Raphael.”  Michael would go out into the street at night and catch a jar full of live cockroaches for dinner (Raphael’s, not his own.)

He also kept large gobs of Blu Tack stuck to the bedhead. One day I asked him what the Blu Tack was for and it transpired that it was the fastest and most efficient way to shut that frog up in the middle of the night. He then did a demonstration of just how hard he needed to hit the tank with the gob of Blu Tack to make the croaking stop. It was pretty hard. So FYI you have to have good aim and a very good arm.

It was particularly fascinating though, to watch Raphael eat his “dinner.”  With his big sucker hands pushing a live cockroach into his mouth … it was like a live version of David Attenborough’s, Life In Cold Blood

Stink factor: medium
Maintenance: medium
Care factor: high (if only for the nightly spectacle of watching it eat live cockroaches with its sucker hands) 

6. Mice

Mice seem like a good idea. Until you start with two and suddenly two becomes  … one … hundred. Mice have a freakish ability to reproduce and they have no morals either. Don’t think that purchasing a brother and sister from the same ‘litter’ will stop them going at it night and day.

When he was a kid, my ex-husband talked his mum into purchasing two boy mice from the pet shop.  Or. So. They. Thought.  They should have twigged when the mice kept playing piggy back. Pretty soon the mice were multiplying in the cage exponentially as a rampant incest-fest took hold.

They put the mice in a box, put the box in the boot of the car and drove out to a bush clearing to offload the unwanted mice.  Along the way, they heard squeaky noises coming from the glove box.  He opened the glove box and …

... remember that old nursery rhyme: hickory dickory dock, the mouse ran up the clock?

Well, this mouse ran via the internal workings of the car from the boot to the glove box and straight up his shorts leg.

Stink factor: high
Maintenance: high (just by sheer numbers …)
Care factor: low (Unless you get a really smart, talking one in a sweater vest like Stuart Little.)

But lastly, if you're still thinking about that dog, just consider the two images below as a sort of ink blot test.



If the image on the right doesn't put you off, then you are the sort of person who loves high maintenance relationships, so knock yourself out and go get a puppy from the pound.

Enjoy. I'll be here with my pet rock and my hermit crab.

(* Usually your kids and your husband)

Sunday, 29 September 2013

10 things I don't have time for


Head massages, bra fittings, fitness consultations? You can keep your fancy made-up specialisations, just give me what I came for and let me get on with my life.

Some years ago a friend gave me a birthday gift voucher for a fancy salon/spa place.  I had a small baby and an uncooperative husband, so I had neither the time nor the opportunity for spa treatments. In lieu of using the voucher for a massage or a facial I thought I could duck in, buy some fancy expensive product they were pushing from their store front and get out.

My plan was thwarted by the salon "consultant" who simply did not trust me to choose the correct product without his "expert" help.  He insisted on "consulting" with me. He loitered with intent.

He asked impertinent questions that I could not answer adequately ("What skin type do you have? Do you use a toner?") He wanted to know the whys, where-fors and what-fors of what I was looking for. In truth, I just wanted to match the amount on the voucher to a product so my friend wouldn't be offended. I would've bought the pricing display banner on the counter if it had matched the amount on my voucher.

But I couldn't tell him that so I made up something vague about my serum needs and flyaway hair.

Every time I reached my hand out to touch something, he told me why it WOULD NOT be suitable for me.

In the meantime, my nine month old baby started making the seagull noise that he'd recently been experimenting with. 

It was a very loud and very sudden "ARRK!" noise and it had a lovely echoic resonance in the fancy pants marble-tiled salon.  He was really enjoying himself. I knew it was building to a crescendo and I just wanted to get out before he shattered the floor to ceiling glass with it (as seemed to be his intention.) But the consult guy wasn't reading the situation correctly. He simply would not let me touch the merchandise. I would reach out, he would block me or snatch the item before I could, then give me a lengthy presentation on it.

Finally, I was quicker than him and I grabbed something random and made for the sales counter. He  tried to grab it back, telling me it wasn't what I was looking for. We ended up in a sitcom-style tug of war over a jar of "Vanilla Face Whip", with him explaining curtly that it wasn't right for my skin type.

Then some pious ponce in a white cheongsam get-up came padding out in his slippers and primly asked me to "keep my child quiet" because there were people "back there" trying to relax.

OH REALLY!? Trying to relax are they? Well I'm trying to get rid of this stupid freakin' voucher someone gave me cos they mistakenly thought I had time to relax!!!

I eventually made it out alive, but in a cold sweat, minus the voucher and PLUS a bottle of something stupidly expensive called, "Cinnamon Hair Nougat."

My point is, there are some things mothers just don't have time for.  Here's the list.

1.  Fancy spa treatments as gifts. 

For all of the above reasons.

2. The head massage at the hairdressers

I know people who love this part of the hair salon experience. I do not. To me, it just prolongs the agony of having to lie with my neck jammed into the basin-crook while some 17 year old apprentice touches my head in all sorts of too-intimate ways. I also do not think it's necessary to wash and condition my hair AND rinse it off THREE TIMES! Surely once is enough. And don't bother trying to untangle those ends, I'm getting them cut orf!

3. Giving a detailed reason for why I am not buying that item I just tried on

Sure it begs the question, "What are you doing trying things on if you're so time-poor?" but sometimes there's a ten minute window between doing the grocery shopping and the school pick-up and if you play your cards right you can make good use of it trying on some stuff that you don't need.

While I am all for good service, I wish they would loiter outside when I am in the change room so that they can bring me more stuff while I've got my clothes off.  It's the sudden materialising outside the change room and asking the open-ended and leading question:  "How'd it go?" that I do not have time or adequate answers for.

Recently I encountered a particularly needy sales girl in Cue, she wasn't satisfied with, "Not quite right." And stood in my path, demanding to know, "What exactly wasn't quite right about it?" I wanted to tell her, "I'm sorry, I'm just not looking for this type of relationship right now." Because she reminded me of an ex-boyfriend who had once stalked me. 

4. A half hour consultation with a fitness expert about my fitness goals at the local gym

Just take my money, give me a swipe card or a key or whatever and let me use those fancy cardio machines. I don't have time for a 30 minute "consult" with my new "fitness director"  as part of the "new membership induction."

 I once thought it would be a good idea to have a personal trainer. Then I found myself standing in the weights room circulating a large 2 kilo disc around my head while a terse Yugoslavian girl counted off the rotations from one to 15. Then I went home and had to lie down for two hours, while this thought went round and round in my head. "I don't have time for this."

My fitness goals start and end with this: "To do up the top button on my jeans again."

5. Lengthy accommodation check-in processes

After you've spent six hours in a car with three children and a dog, you get to reception and you just want the number of the cabin, some fresh milk and the key.  But they want you to stand there while they draw on a detailed photocopied map of the caravan park with a highlighter and mark with an X all the notable facilities and their operating times. I know it's helpful in theory, but if you just give me the number of the cabin, I'm sure I can figure it all out. Also, I'm not concentrating any more and I can't figure out which way is up once I walk out of reception and try to follow the highlighter line you have just drawn on the "not to scale map with no north point" for me.

Some hotel receptionists also give a very long explanation of how the fob works for the carpark, the opening and shutting times of reception and how to make the power come on in your room.  Again, not listening.  All I'm hearing is, "blah blah blah blah fob reception elevator carpark fob blah blah blah." I suggest a printed hand out with all the required info would be a better method for weary travellers.

Also, "How's your day been?" is not a suitable question when people have just bedraggled in from a six hour cross-country road trip with three children. Answer: hellish.

6. Professional bra fittings

I know this is a thing now. But I do not have the time to have some old lady touch me up in the change room. I know my size, I just want to grab four of the same thing in white, black, beige and pink and GET OUT before one of my kids puts a size FF bra cup on his head as a joke.

7. Butcher chit-chat

Truth be told, sometimes I LOVE having a chat to the butcher about what I'm "going to make with that."  Other times, I just want to grab my kilo of sausages and make like a banana before I get arrested for leaving my kids in the car outside the shop. (For the record, my kids are all over the age of 10, but you never know when some do-gooder is going to show up and call the cops.)

My butcher doesn't seem to read my mood very well, he's curt and disinterested when I'm in the mood to give expansive marinating details then all chats and "I'll just trim this up for you," when I'm trying to dash in and out without stopping.

8. Entrees followed by mains

Can't you see I've got kids here about to knock their drinks over?  Just bring all the food at once and we'll be out of your hair in under an hour. All of it. At the same time. Including dessert.

9. Leading questions about loyalty cards, Flybuys, rewards programs and department store credit cards

NO! I don't have one. I don't want one. Just crack on with the purchase and let me get out of here! Lately I have taken to shutting down the solicitous "Do you have a Myer One card?" question with this: "Oh no, I'm not allowed to have credit cards."  It makes things so awkward that the salesgirl puts her head down and goes at double-time to get the crazy spendaholic out of the shop before I lunge across the counter and try to take a fistful of dollars out of the cash register.

10. After hours door knockers

I appreciate what you're doing (unless you are a Jehovas Witness) but I don't have time for the pre-amble. What are you offering? What do I have to do? Where do I sign? Keep things short and sweet people, there's a zoo going on inside my house and I need to stay on top of it. I don't have time for the fancy schmancy schmaltzy sales pitch about how everyone in my street has just signed up and how much savings it will net "as evidenced by this graph." Tin tacks, people, tin tacks.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

How to make near enough parenting, good enough.

If you think you've dropped the ball on motherhood, here's how to make near enough, good enough and practise the art of "motherhood triage." 


With so many balls in the air, is it any wonder women have to occasionally drop one to ensure they catch another.  Some people, (i.e. television and radio host, Amanda Keller) call this “good enough parenting.”

To illustrate her point, Amanda recently related the following example of good enough parenting to Adam Hills when she appeared on his show, Adam Hills Tonight:

"... I'd be lying on the couch and one of (my kids)... would say, "Can you peel me an orange?" and I'd say, "Oh, just have a biscuit.''"

Amanda had just cleverly “triaged” her motherhood priorities.

1. the importance of lying on the couch for another 15 minutes uninterrupted.
2. the importance of the small child having a nutritious fruit snack as opposed to a sugary biscuit.

If you are not familiar with the term “motherhood triage” here is a definition:


Moth•er•hood tri•age [noun] 1. The process  of determining the priority of mothering tasks depending on their urgency.  2. [see also] good enough parenting *

In this scientifically proven** article, I will give you 10 examples of how you can triage motherhood and make your life easier.

But let’s start with Amanda’s case study, which coincidentally is the first rule of motherhood triage.

1. A child’s right to a nutritious snack takes a back seat to Mum’s right to have a few moments of shut-eye or horizontal rest-time.


Amanda, like most exhausted mothers, ranked the nutritious snack for her child option below her need for rest.  Because sometimes it’s more “urgent” in the wider scheme of things that Mummy gets a little bit of rest; otherwise later on, when Mummy is at the end of her tether she may just do a Mummy Mouse and eat one of her own babies in a rage. Nobody wants that.

The second rule of motherhood triage applies to things left on the floor.

2.  If it is not sharp, dangerous, toxic or some form of excrement (human, canine or feline) just keep walking.


For instance: when I was pregnant with twins, I noticed a black sock on the floor in the hall.  Being an expert in motherhood triage even then, I quickly ranked the urgency in this order:

1. The importance that I keep moving towards the front door and get to where I was going.

2. The vague visual displeasure of a random black sock in the hall.

I walked past the sock.  I continued to walk past that same sock every morning, every day three times a day and every evening on my way to bed. That was 10 years ago in a rental home two suburbs away. As far as I know, the black sock is still there.

Because notwithstanding the fact that if I had bent over at that point in my pregnancy I may have “timbered” onto my head,  IF I bent over to pick up every little thing that ended up on the floor in our house, I simply would never, ever get anything else done.

Tidying a house where children are living is not only thankless, it is a slippery slope to a day spent cleaning the house properly.

Which brings me to the next rule of motherhood triage: when you get to the point where you do actually need to pick a few things up …

3.  With regard to housekeeping: a veneer of cleanliness is all that is needed.


Contrary to beliefs on housekeeping dating back to the 1950s, cleanliness is not next to godliness. Cleanliness, in relation to family homes is merely an unobtainable concept designed to make women feel inadequate.

You can give the impression of cleanliness very quickly by going around the house with an empty laundry basket and just chucking every bit of clutter and crap straight into the basket: don’t sort clean clothes from dirty ones, don’t carefully return things to their rightful place, just use your whole arm, sweep it across the dining room table and ignore your kids when they wail about the elaborate Lego City that you have just felled in one clean swoop.

Do a quick wipe of the toilet seat using a large wodge of clean toilet paper, maybe tip a gallon of bleach down there if you have time, pull the shower curtain across to hide the ring around the bathtub, tidy a few couch cushions, dump all the dishes into the sink and cover them with soapy water as though you are in the throes of performing an important soaking task.

You have now achieved a veneer of cleanliness and you are ready to receive guests.

If the mess is really bad, choose one room of the house, just bulldoze every bit of mess and clutter in there and shut the door on it. When guests come, tell them someone is sleeping in there.

Triage ranking:
1. The importance of people thinking you are clean and organised.

2. The importance of actually being clean and organised.

The next rule of motherhood triage relates to a mess made on the floor versus continuing an important conversation.

4. An unholy mess on the floor is worth two coffees and a catch-up with your friend.


For instance: one morning my best friend came over with her kids for a “playdate.”  We gave the kids a big bowl of popcorn, turned on ABC Kids and ensconced ourselves at the outside table with our coffees for a much-needed catch up and gossip.  About 10 minutes in, when my best friend was telling me a particularly juicy titbit about someone we went to school with, her eldest child came running outside with (what he considered to be) an important newsflash.

“Mum! Sam spilled the popcorn and now it’s all over the floor!”

We looked at each other. We craned our necks to look inside and assess the damage, there was indeed popcorn blanketing my living room floor. The rest of the kids remained still and silent and glued to the telly. My friend looked at me. I shrugged.

“Nyah, skate on it for all we care,” she said.

And we continued our conversation.

Triage ranking:

1. The urgency of hearing the end of the anecdote your friend is telling you.

2. The urgency of cleaning up the mess the children have just made on the floor.

(This ranking also applies to telephone conversations.)

In a similar vein is my fifth major rule of motherhood triage …

5. Children playing nicely should be left to their own devices.


Whether they are cutting each other’s hair, eating Play-Doh, painting the walls with finger paints, drawing moustaches on each other with an indelible black marker pen, soaking each other with the hose in the middle of winter,  ask yourself this question:

Are they playing nicely?

If the answer is, “yes.” Leave them to it.

Triage ranking:
1. The urgency of securing 30 minutes of peace where there’s no fighting

2. The urgency of whatever weird stuff they’re doing being stopped

And finally, here are five more quick rules of thumb you might want to consider next time you are triaging your own household:


6. Snacks before dinner are sometimes an unfortunate necessity.

7. A child dressed like a homeless person is better than being late for an appointment.

8. Screams when you are in the shower should only elicit your response if accompanied by the words “(insert name here) is bleeding.”

9. Arguments over who wants to watch what on the television and who “always has the remote control and won’t let us watch what we want to watch” are not important enough to adjudicate with conscientious parenting, lessons about cooperation and long-winded lectures about being considerate of others.

Just tell them to sort it out themselves or you’ll pull the plug out of the wall and watch them find the meaning of cooperation.

10. Dessert is a carte blanche affair as long as children help themselves.

* Source: The Edible Garbage Dictionary, 1st edition, Penny Dreadful Press, 2013
** Scientifically proven by the Edible Garbage Institute of Self-important Parenting Science

Friday, 23 August 2013

Why the weirdest gigs are always the best

I wasn't expecting much. But I definitely wasn't expecting to be greeted at the 'stage door' by a man in pink leopard print lycra, a technicolour dreamcoat and mismatching Winklepickers.  Welcome to the Django Bar, the sort of warm salon-style bar you would expect to find only in Melbourne. 

The man in the Winklepickers was Yaron, manager of Camelot Lounge and the Django Bar: an oasis of live music and retro cool in a nondescript 1970s brink bunker, right in the heart of industrial Marrickville, Sydney.

It was all very last minute and there was no publicity, no gig listing and nor did we want any. We just wanted an empty room with a P.A where we could rehearse in front of close friends and have a drink afterwards.

We walked up the stairs, through the band room, past the toilets and then the man in mismatched Winklepickers swung the final door open to reveal middle-aged inner-westie heaven:  a room decked out like a salon from the 1950s;  red velvet curtains, framed pictures on the wall, a friendly, eclectic array of big comfy couches and retro table settings to choose from plus old juke boxes that were wired up as front of house speakers all around the room.

Beautiful warm analogue surround sound; juke box style.

The lighting was soft and moody, and the collection of retro knick-knacks dotted around made it feel like someone's living room, albeit someone with good taste in retro.  A bar in the corner offered wine by the glass, toasted wraps and margaritas with real squashed lime in them.

The stage was small and we asked if we could move the 'set dressing' of an accordion, two vintage guitars and a retro side table.  Yaron, a man big on visual impact,  was reluctant to change the aesthetics of his room to make way for a drum kit (totally understandable.)  Eventually we compromised on moving the two vintage guitars, if only for their own safety.

There was no room for Glenn (backing vocalist) on the tiny stage so he perched himself to the side (see video) behind the retro piano/organ and sang from there. Yaron thought this was weird. (THIS he thinks is weird, but the pink leopard print lycra is apparently all in a day's work.) However,  Glenn and I insisted that we enjoyed the weirdness of Glenn being in my eyeline all night.

(As opposed to the only other option which was, for Glenn to lurk directly behind me like a stalker, pressed up against the red velvet curtain with the stage lamp-light coming up from under his chin; camp-fire ghost-story-style.)

We played our set; bass (Paul Driessen) and drums (Stephen Toakley) were a dream-team rhythm section.  Glenn sang at me (and mimed some Dr Teeth piano-playing) from his weird perch behind the piano and occasionally interjected like a tight-white version of Tony Okungbowa (Ellen's DJ sidekick.)

 A projector ran black and white videos of fornicating animals on the wall beside us as we played. (This, we only found out later, but not even that could spoil my night.)

My son saw me play live with a band for the first time (and he also saw some fornicating animals he wishes he hadn't seen.)

The 'crowd' consisted of three people I didn't know, (thanks for coming) a handful of friends with their tween-aged kids and the girl behind the bar who cranked out a totally awesome margarita.

It was perfect.

We are match fit and ready for the 31st of August.

Here is some documentary video evidence of all of the above (except for the fornicating animals and the man in pink leopard print lycra: you'll just have to take my word for it on both those things.)

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Mother-effing recorders and 10 other things mothers have to buy 50 times over ...

This morning, I had to buy another recorder. Despite the fact that recorders are like dust-balls in our house – they roll around under beds, they attach themselves to my feet when I least expect it, they wedge themselves in the couch cushions and sometimes I even find them in the cutlery drawer- this morning, just when it was absolutely VITAL that my son take a recorder to school (goes without saying that this was flagged at 8.51am as we were rushing out the door) no recorder could be found.

I did my requisite lecturing in the car on the way to school, along with my usual karate chopping hand motions that other motorists then mistook for road rage. I gave a very wordy and passionate presentation on “looking after your things and not waiting until we are walking out the door to flag that there is something that you desperately need for the day.” I made a very convincing argument  for the benefits of being more organised and I am almost certain it went in one ear and out the other.

I pulled up to the school gate, yanked the car door open, threw bags from boot to nature strip and marched to the office with my 10 year old hop-skipping to keep up with my angry mother-on-a-mission-nobody-say-good-morning-to-me stomp.  I fronted up to the window (whereupon the office ladies ignored me for 20 vital seconds because someone was too busy putting staples into a stapler to pay attention to the mother-in-a-bait at the window) at which point it took all my will power not to slap $10 on the counter and shout:

“I need to buy another f*%#ing recorder!”

Which got me to thinking about all the OTHER things I have to constantly buy. If I had a dollar for every time I re-bought all these things … I could add a gorgeous second bathroom to my home and put a sign on it saying, “No Boys!”

(But that’s a whole other post.)


Here is the list of things I have had to buy 50 times over:


1. Lunch boxes

Admittedly I have a Tupperware fetish so my children are very co-dependently enabling my addiction with their rampant loss of lunch boxes. I like to change it up a bit too: when I’m really fed up I punish them by going basic with it and getting a plain rectangle box with a lid.

Then if I’m in a creative mood I go all “aspirational”  and get one of those ones with the four snack compartments and a specially shaped cooler bottle.  During these purchases I have visions of myself packing the perfect nutritious lunch with raw vegetable sticks dipped into hummus and a gorgeous looking salad sandwich with mixed leaves on a byyooooshiful seeded bread.

My eldest child has finally accepted that lunchboxes are his Waterloo. He refuses to let me buy him any more and takes his lunch in a plastic shopping bag every day, gallantly accepting his penance with good grace.


2. 2B pencils

Again, as with the Tupperware, I also have a stationery fetish and there’s nothing I love more than an excuse to visit Officeworks and buy all sorts of aspirational things that will help me ‘organise’ my work life and save me oodles of time every day (coloured paper clips, post it notes shaped like houses, “fun” pins for the pin board, and novelty notebooks.) But it is a testament to my children's commitment to losing things that I am completely OVER buying packets of 2B pencils. There’s nothing fun about a six pack of stinky old 2B pencils.


3. Pencil sharpeners

I have bought all manner of pencil sharpeners: snazzy electric ones, animal-shaped versions, I even put one on a keyring, hung it on a hook and imposed the equivalent of a stationery restraining order upon it (it was not to venture more than a one metre radius from its hook.)

But when homework time comes, we inevitably spend 15 minutes hunting down a pencil (always blunt or broken) then another 15 trying to find a pencil sharpener that actually sharpens the pencil, as opposed to grinding it into a rough-hewn sawdusty nub of lead. (There is currently a warrant out on the missing keyring sharpener.)

Add to this stationery list: rulers (they are like Lake George in Canberra, they appear all at once and then just as mysteriously disappear again without a trace.)


4. Lost library books

The worst thing about lost library books is, as soon as you pay for them (as per the library policy) they appear again. Then you’re obliged to keep some stupid boring book about planes that you never wanted in the first place, because you just paid 30 bucks for it.


5. Swimming goggles

What is it with kids these days? My kids whinge and whine like a bunch of pansies if they can’t find their swimming goggles when it’s time to go swimming. And I’m not even talking about doing serious laps at the pool. I’m talking  about playing Marco Polo in the pool at home. They squeal like girls if they have to swim sans goggles and sometimes even refuse to go in without them.  If I had a dime for every pair of freaking goggles I have purchased …

In MY day goggles were like swimming caps: they were for serious squad swimmers only.  We played all manner of underwater games (including ‘guess what I’m saying underwater’) with our bare eyeballs to the chlorinated water. Sure we then spent the whole summer with bloodshot eyes and blurry vision, but toughen up princesses!


6. Socks, socks and more socks

I’ve said it before, socks are my nemesis. I cannot get on top of the sock issue. It doesn’t matter what I do. The other day my son stumbled upon a matching pair and it was like he’d seen a beautiful rainbow.   “Look! Look!” He shouted,  holding them aloft, “Here’s something you don’t see every day!”  I felt bad that something so basic was so delightful for him.


7. Butter knives and teaspoons

My kids are fond of using butter knives to give their Lego men Face-Off-style head transplants. So they go missing from my cutlery drawer, I buy a stack more then I find the old ones when I do the proper ‘Mummy clean up’ of their room. (That’s the clean up you do when you ACTUALLY clean up the room as opposed to the clean up my kids do where they shove everything, including their shoes, hot water bottles, old books and pillows into the laundry basket.)

As for the teaspoons. I just don’t know where they go or who is taking them and why. But every six months I have to buy another six pack.


8. Drink bottle lids

I have every single drink bottle I have ever bought. It’s the lids that elude me.


9. School hats and school jackets

I am nearly done with primary school and we are at the stage where we don’t even pretend to be on top of the hat thing any more. My kids just go straight to the lost property box in the morning, ‘borrow’ a hat for the day and then put it back in at the end of the day.
School jackets are just as problematic.


10. Bandaids

I know you have to eventually buy another packet of Bandaids, but I seem to buy a jumbo pack a week and I STILL cannot keep up the supply. I don’t recall using them but whenever there is an emergency of the “I’m bleeding! Somebody stem the bleeding with a Bandaid or I’ll die!” kind, I go to the bathroom cupboard and shake out an empty box.  Where do they go? Is somebody snacking on them?

Monday, 29 July 2013

Three Kevins and 13 reasons why a mother is always late

(This is Kevin McCallister who was left home alone because his parents were so distracted by their children that they left one of their children behind.)
I don't like being late. It makes me tense. And when I'm tense, I'm not good company.  Which is why, when people invite me and my kids over for a barbecue or a get together, I get prematurely tense about the fact that:

       a) my kids will make me late

       b) I'll turn up with my "Kevin from Parenthood" face on and

(This is Kevin Buckman's tense face)

        c) as a direct result of my having this look on my face, nobody will want to talk to me.

Before I had kids, I was quite punctual  

In fact, without the trail-of-disaster-that-is-my-children dragging behind me, I would often turn up early and have to loiter outside in the car waiting until the  numbers on the dashboard clock ticked over to a more socially acceptable arrival time.

My point is, if I am late, it follows without exception that it is my children's fault.  

It's just a cause and effect thing that can be summed up by the following mantra:

They exist therefore I am late.

(This is Kevin Descartes, who said, "I think therefore I am.")

But if you prefer more detailed explanations for tardiness, here my top 13 reasons for always being late which can all be blamed on my children.


 I'm late because ...

  1. When I stood at the door shouting, “It’s time to go!” no one listened to me.
  2. I was so busy itemising all the things that everyone else needed to remember that I forgot what I needed to remember and had to go back for my handbag.
  3. One of my kids had to go back inside to get something, whereupon he came back out and shut the door behind him, with the keys still inside the house. We then spent half an hour trying to break into our own home until we realised it's actually not that difficult, because someone had left the back door wide open.
  4. My children need to be repeatedly reminded to put shoes on and because I only reminded them four times to put shoes on, someone walked out the door without shoes on and we didn't realise it until we were halfway here and I said, "Has everyone got shoes on?"
  5. We left the front door wide open and had to go back to shut it.
  6. We thought we'd left the front door wide open and had to go back to see that we had actually, for once remembered to shut it.
  7. As we were leaving, the next door neighbour alerted us to the fact that our guinea pig was cowering beneath  their car.  We had to spend half an hour pretending that we cared, unsuccessfully trying to lure it out by alternately throwing bits of food at it and prodding it with a plastic golf club. Eventually we gave up and as far as we know, Patches is still quivering beneath the neighbour's car.
  8. Someone shut their finger in the car door and so I had to spend some time pretending that I cared about that.
  9. My son wouldn't move his foot so I shut the car door on it and then he cried and I had to spend some time pretending that I was sorry.
  10. Somebody wet their pants (not me) and so we had to find him another pair of jeans, which was when I realised that he has grown too tall for all of his long pants: hence, therefore, ergo he has come as Dr Knickerbocker.
  11. We couldn’t find (insert youngest child's name here.)  We spent 15 minutes calling out, searching every room and looking under every bed for him until we realised that he was out the front waiting patiently to be let into the car.
  12. We had to find someone’s left shoe/blankie/Lego fire engine/origami frog that someone made you as a gift/rock collection because suddenly just as we were walking out the door it was absolutely essential that we bring it.
  13. We drove off with someone's left shoe/blankie/Lego fire engine/origami frog that someone made you as a gift/rock collection/my handbag on the roof of the car and had to retrace our steps until we found it somewhere on the road between home and your place.

Friday, 26 July 2013

A gig, a lyric sheet and some sounds from the past ...

If you remember me from the '90s, come and see me at the Roxbury Hotel in Glebe on the 31st August. It's a nice comfy room for old people and I've been rehearsing with a great band for about three months (because I like to be prepared.)

Alannah Russack, from my favourite fuzz-pop band of all time, The Hummingbirds, will be doing a special guest spot.

When I was at uni, studying architecture (incongruous but true),  The Hummingbirds were local indie heroes 

I used to listen to their album, "Love Buzz," while I drafted up my (very bad) designs of public buildings with too many toilets. (My obsession with having enough toilet cubicles for every person in the Opus Musivum Town Hall is a whole other story.)

I would start in the afternoon, with my desk lamp on and as dusk fell I would end up in a pool of light, hunched over my drawing desk, with The Hummingbirds swirling around me. It was a sweet time when pop music really got inside my heart.

Something about the way Alannah weaves harmonies really hits the mark for me.  My favourite Hummingbirds song at the time, was "She Knows". The lyrics are vague and I have no idea what they're on about, but somehow the melody and the way Alannah weaves her voice around Simon's vocal,  made me feel like I wasn't alone in whatever I was feeling at the time.

Above all, The Hummingbirds made me want to write simple sweet pop songs that would dig into people's hearts

And on that note, below is a lyric sheet from about 1989, that I found in an old photo album.  It's the original working sheet for a song I wrote with my best friend and songwriting partner at the time, Julia Richardson. We were two 19 year old girls, trying to be Lennon and McCartney (just like a million other songwriters before and since.)

The song is called, "Da da da da." The number "22" in the corner of the page is, I think, the number of songs we had written, with this song being the 22nd.  We were quite determined to keep count, as you can see.

The writing in black, is Julia. The blue writing is me.  As you can also see, I was determined to stuff up her very well-crafted pop song by adding a chorus of ... "Da da da da." It was good of her to indulge my fancy.

I hadn't listened to "Da da da da" for years. Julia had a copy on CD and she uploaded it to the sound cloud. When I listened to it recently, it made me feel stupidly happy.  See if you can hear where I have tried to be Alannah to Julia's, Simon by weaving stuff in the background.


My contribution to the songwriting lexicon has improved since then 

And at the Roxbury on the 31st, I will be playing a lot of tunes from this album:

Light Sleeper

Plus my single

Lap it up ...

... which, I was surprised to realise last week, was actually no. 52 in the 1994 Triple J Hottest 100, (as opposed to no.68, which is what I have been telling people all these years; when it's relevant, not just apropo of nothing, you understand.)

I am also always surprised by the hideous makeup job and wardrobe in this video.  (Hello, Panda Eyes in your smart mannish suit ...)  But I digress.

I hope you have enjoyed my foray into multimedia posting. See you on the 31st August.

I'll be the one on stage with the guitar, hollering unashamedly about my inner-most feelings. 

Sunday, 14 July 2013

10 kids you don't want to have over for a playdate

Playdates are a double-edged sword: on the one hand, once you've organised one, you feel like Mary Poppins, on the other it means you have to put up with someone else's kid.  And other people's children are like bodily emissions: they are so much more offensive when they are not your own.

I have done my share of playdating  and I have experienced the full gamut of behaviour: from the kid who likes to shove toddlers for sport, to the child who loudly gives her uninvited judgement on my housekeeping skills (or lack thereof.)  I know my kids aren't perfect, in fact I know that one of my twins is an appalling "passive aggressive non-eater" (see number 4) when he goes to other people's houses, but in the interests of sharing impartially, here are ...

10 kids you don't want to have over on a playdate



 1. The kid who likes to dump his load outside his own council precinct

Obviously that's a metaphor. I could be plainer if you like. But suffice it to say, one of my friends has a neighbourhood kid who comes over frequently, walks in the door and goes straight to the bathroom, whereupon he dumps his load.  According to my friend, it is quite the "consignment": a real "wide berth for a good half hour" kind of situation, if you know what I mean.


2. The proactive self-inviter

I know for a fact that all my kids are guilty of this one.  Because I am so slack on playdates, they have been known to grease the wheels a little by  inviting themselves over to other people's houses.  But the trick is, they tell me they have been invited over, whereupon I approach the other mother to organise the details and before you can say, "AWKS!"  she's experienced the ultimate PINCER manoeuvre and the kids are too excited for anyone to back out.  Apologies to any parents who have been the unwitting victims of this ruse on my kids' behalf.


3. The kid who thinks an invitation from another kid is an official invitation

This is sort of subsection b) of the above and again, guilty as charged on behalf of all my kids. It is my nephew however,  who is the ultimate mastermind of this extremely cunning ruse. Being an only child, he's extremely motivated in the area of getting some playdate action. He gets on the phone, makes the call, talks to his friend, his friend relays the "invitation" to Mum as though it's an official, parent-sanctioned type of invitation and before you know it, a car has pulled up outside my brother's house, dumped a kid on the curb and roared off with a tire-squeal that says,  "See you later sucker!"


4. The passive-aggressive non-eater

"I'm hungry."
"What would you like?"
"What have you got?"
"Biscuits, fruit, sandwiches ..."
"Oh no thanks, I'm fine, I'll just have some water."


5. The pervert

Perverse behaviour is contagious and some kids bring that pervert virus straight into your home and infect even the most innocent of children.  It's only when THEY come to visit that your child develops a sudden interest in private parts, random nudeness (like, "we just thought it'd be fun to ride the trikes nude ...") and strange homoerotic tableaus on the trampoline.  My eldest son had a friend who, whenever he came over, you could guarantee that if there was a quiet moment with a door closed, they were in there comparing their tackle. EVERY TIME. Now I know it's normal for kids to explore their sexuality in all sorts of ways, I'm just saying, there was a common denominator and his name was, Quentin (not his actual name.)


6. The kid who wants to hang out in your bedroom

I don't know about you, but in my day, my parents' bedroom was generally not one of the accepted areas where you would take your friends when they came over.  But some kids just don't see that as a boundary.  They just treat your bedroom like an extension of the domain in which they are welcome.  And all day, you'll walk into your room and find they've created another excuse to be in there: playing hide and seek, checking themselves out in the full length mirror, looking for a pen, looking for the bathroom.  No boundaries.


7. The kid who thinks your pantry is his pantry

Again, in my day, you did not open up someone else's pantry and peruse the contents in a proprietary fashion.  I had one child visitor who used to go straight to the pantry, open the door and then stand there and rattle off all the things he wanted. "Can I've a Milo? Can I've some cashews? Can I've some of those small silver ball things  that you use to decorate cakes?" I was so aghast that I could only raise my hand to my throat as though clutching at my pearls Dowager Countess-style.


8. The terminator

Everything he touches, everything he looks at,  breaks. Nothing is safe. He even manages to break the dog.


9. The computer geek

This is the kid whose only idea of fun is a computer screen. He clocks it as soon as he walks in the door and then constantly badgers you about "going on the computer."  When you say no, he waits until your back is turned and before you know it he's in there, setting up his own youtube account and downloading new games and widgets (I don't know what widgets are but I found them mysteriously installed on my computer after Thomas (not his real name) came to visit.)


10. The wolf

Wolves have a method of picking the weakest animal in a herd and isolating it for attack.  Some kids have very unattractive wolf-like tendencies. If you have a small child, they will constantly lurk nearby waiting to pounce: to shove, to tease, to poke, to pinch, to snatch something. I loathe this child.  If I discover that a child is a "wolf" I cross him definitively off my playdate list.

What's your pet peeve on kids and playdates?