Monthly Archives: January 2008

Our operators are standing by to take your call …

            Home shopping is the revolutionary new thing. It appears there’s not much you can’t do from the safety of your recliner rocker.

            Just this morning I could have changed my life forever. I could have removed my unwanted hair, lost my unwanted flesh – and still had time before lunch to put some decorative little triangular plastic corner shelves up all over my house to hold my knick-knacks and potted ferns. Or my personal favourite – stayed on the sofa and had a bit of a hoot.

            You can’t help laughing, really, because all this is taken so seriously. The women demonstrating the products have never had hair or flesh problems. Nor do they have homes enhanced by little triangular shelves. They have a limited script consisting of condescending dialogue such as, ‘That’s right, Bert – imagine never having to wax again!’ Bert looks thrilled as he imagines it. You can tell waxing has been causing him considerable grief and he is champing at the bit to get his hands on the product in the privacy of his dressing room.

            The Hair Removal System (a razor), promises it will remove the hair forever. In which case, what’s to stop you sending it back after one go and getting your money back? Different hairs, however, must grow instead. From different follicles. Therefore, you will need the razor for the rest of your life, so it’s just as well it has a guarantee which will see you into your grave. When you are old enough not to give a sod about hairy legs and plaited armpits, you can have a go at your newly-acquired moustache and attempt a bit of a poke at your bristly nostrils.

            The Weight Removal System is equally enthralling. By ordering a handful of pills and a revolutionary booklet, I too will look like the woman who is holding the tablets. The small print on the bottom of the screen assures me, ‘when combined with a low fat diet and plenty of exercise, you will lose weight on this program’. This is a bit of a shocker, really. Tim Tams and Big Macs, when combined with a low fat diet and plenty of exercise, will no doubt give the same result. The small print fails to mention this. Neither does it mention the side effects if you happen to eat the booklet.

            The Say-Goodbye-to-your-Empty-and-Unattractive-Corner System consists of three beige plastic triangles. When you twist something underneath, small prongs dig into your walls. It’s just what you’ve always wanted, really – small prong-holes in your corners. Because you can easily move the shelves around at will (as helpfully demonstrated by the hair-free, flab-free smiling woman), you’ll probably have more prong-holes than a sinner in Hades before you’ve given up finding a satisfactory combination and hurled the offensive plastic crap into the potting shed.

            The product which caused the most mirth, however, was the Buzz Away Your Flab System, which is a belt you can wear discreetly under your clothing. The voiceover assures you it is SO attractive you can wear it OVER your clothing if you so desire. As you would – the battery pack merely looks like designer chic. The gist of it is, if you let your tum hang out if gives you a bit of a buzz. This is a gentle reminder to pull your fat back in. If you don’t, presumably it just keeps right on buzzing. This would do me fine, thank you very much. Very relaxing altogether, and where do you put the batteries? The best part is, your colleagues have no idea you are doing it. They wonder why the building is shaking and your keyboard has vibrated its way off your desk – but apart from that, they remain relatively unperturbed. Until you pass out from lack of oxygen.

            It makes you wonder what will be on offer next, really. Not that I give a rat’s. I’m just worried my knick-knacks will keep dropping off the edges of my little plastic shelves because my Buzz Away Your Flab System is turned up to maximum capacity.

            Anyway, I can’t be arsed getting out of my chair to order anything.




Hello? I’m right here, choosing a rockmelon …

            There we all were, blissfully meandering amongst the vegetables, checking out the aubergines and pondering on the potatoes. Barry Manilow was crooning gently in the background and all was well with the world. Such were the halcyon days of fresh produce acquisition. But hark! What is this? It’s a polyphonic ring tone and some awful woman regaling us with the details of her bowel operation! Oh, gross … Wanker Alert!

            What type of news might one be awaiting whilst deciding between a cauliflower and a cabbage? If there’s a life or death situation going down, wouldn’t you stay at home? Surely, to be informed Uncle Monty has passed on during perusal of the silverbeet would be too distressing to share with a supermarket full of nosey parkers? Or not. Uncle Monty’s plummet from the perch pales into insignificance compared with being able to answer your phone in the vegetable aisle, with everyone noticing you! Wow! Is this not the ultimate in one-upmanship? ‘Fraid not, love. It’s passé. Even preschoolers now carry their own phones, in case they need to inform Mum they’ve committed an indiscretion and need spare toweling pants delivered pronto. Students regularly ignore teachers in classrooms all over the country when their Nokias chime. Bag ladies carry them so they can quickly locate other bag ladies. There was even a man on the Gold Coast last Christmas, jogging along the beach in his budgie-smugglers. Yup – the Dayglo, luminescent, underwater mobile phone was strapped ostentatiously to the back of his flabby lycra buttocks! Handy if a shark starts ripping your extremities off, eh? You can dial 000 if you still have any fingers left.

            Why are people so insecure they can’t leave the house without being instantly available? Slaves to technology, terrified something might happen while they are in transit! They even make calls while they’re driving along, not giving a hoot about the traffic – only whether the people in the next car can see them being totally cool. Don’t they realise those people aren’t impressed – they’re thinking ‘wanker’.

            All over the world, telephones are ruling lives. Meals go cold while people jump to attention. Houses burn down as housewives grab desperately for the receiver and forget the chip pan. Children run rampant and go missing in the street while their mothers lose all track of time discussing Cheryl’s hysterectomy.

            Be the boss of the phone – let it ring! You can be reasonably sure it will not be President Bush on the other end informing you he is about to press The Button. Unless you’re Mr Rudd. Even if it is, and you are, is it really worth letting your spag bol go cold or stick to the bottom of the pan? I think not. You’d be far better off having a good meal before a conversation of that ilk, anyway.

            There is a time for all things and while you’re enjoying them, phones should not be given the right to intrude. There’s a distinct probability there’s someone on the other end wanting to sell you cladding. Tell them to get cladded. Claim back your life, before it’s too late!

            If you happen to be one of those under the misguided illusion your phone is a status symbol – think again. Very carefully. There are other things you can utilise if you wish to be insanely trendy. Macaroni necklaces are good, especially coloured with bright food dye. A few rows of these slung nonchalantly around the ol’ cashmere sweater will show anyone you’re right up there. Wearing ugg boots is pretty OK – especially those really smelly old ones, resurrected from the 70s. Personalised numberplates can cut a bit of a dash, as well. Cool! Really impressive! And dead easy for witnesses to remember when you’re caught out doing that ram raid!

            It’s getting harder and harder to impress, now that everyone’s got everything. It used to be good enough to have the only telly in the street, with all the neighbours pressing their noses against your window and making excuses to borrow a cup of sugar when Weekend Magazine was on.

            Nowadays, you’ll need a satellite dish at least. And a pretty darn impressive selection of trendy shaped macaroni …




Everyone’s a pigeon underneath …

           There’s this fabulous bird called the Victoria Crested Pigeon. It doesn’t look like a pigeon at all – it looks like a showgirl. Next time you go to Taronga Park, check it out. It makes you wonder whether other birds, lesser in sequins and swansdown, look at it and weep – and stress out about their beaks being too big.

            There’s far too much effort wasted worrying about whether we scrub up okay. Too much time spent slathering ourselves with potions and lotions and sleeping with our thighs encased in Glad Wrap. If human beings didn’t have eyes, who’d give a hoot? You could be as ugly as sin and nobody would ever know. You’d have to get by on being nice and saying pleasant and interesting things in well-modulated tones.

            If the human race were struck blind tomorrow, it would serve the beautiful people right. They’d be just like the other half of the population and have to rely on their personality. Personality is something developed by the rest of us as soon as we discover at playgroup we aren’t blessed with the right amount of sequins. It manifests in different ways.

            There’s the short weedy kid in every high school classroom who becomes the Warm-Up Guy. He hasn’t any muscles for the girls to notice, so he spends his time keeping the class fired up for the teacher. He’s an avid watcher of Fast Forward and Full Frontal and can recite whole scripts of The Simpsons. He can do the elephant trick, with his pockets turned out and his fly undone. The teacher, however, doesn’t appreciate the Warm-Up Guy. The teacher calls him a smart-arse. He will probably end up becoming a politician.

            Then there’s the spotty, lumpy girl even the Warm-Up Guy wouldn’t look at twice. If she can’t be beautiful, she’s going to be cool. She gathers up the rest of the spotty, lumpy girls and they smoke behind the bike sheds with their bra straps hanging out. Their vocabularies are peppered with interesting suggestions of a base nature – this is to ensure they’re noticed. It’s sad nobody ever takes them up on the suggestions – but that’s the law of the jungle.

            Then there’s big, loudmouthed Madge, stalwart of the CWA. She has a bosom with appliquéd butterflies and the presence of a sergeant-major. Everybody always does exactly as Madge suggests. Because they’re frightened. They tell her she bakes the best scones, even if they’re crap. Though sycophantic to her face, behind her back they plot treason – but it didn’t work with Hitler, either. Even though Madge was never beautiful, she does have a husband. She found him cowering beneath a pew at a church fellowship when she was seventeen – and he’s done as he’s told ever since.

            People like this make life interesting. The CWA would never function if it were made up of two dozen Elle MacPhersons, spending their time drinking celery juice and comparing scrunchies. A classroom would be boring without a Warm-Up Guy and his obsession with flatulence – and let’s face it, if there weren’t any spotty horrors behind the bike shed, impressionable young girls wouldn’t have a benchmark for class.

            It is possible, at an early stage, to keep an eye on your offspring so you can prepare them for their destiny. If your son doesn’t have much going for him in the Harrison Ford department, cultivate his humour. There is every possibility Spike Milligan and Billy Connolly started out as ugly kids in third period maths. If your daughter’s acne problem is insurmountable and she has a penchant for hanging around behind shelter sheds with a packet of Winfield Blue, you can be sure there’s a support group somewhere. These days, there always is. Somewhere, there will be an appropriate do-gooder who can feed her with imagined ills she’d never have had the intelligence to think of herself, pat her on the back and send her out into the world full of paranoia and blame for everyone else but herself.

            And if you are one of those lucky ones to notice early on you have a bossy, opinionated little girl … make sure you teach her how to bake decent scones.





Rocco’s mother does a bad, bad thing …

            Once upon a time there was a perfectly respectable couple who wouldn’t have dreamed of doing anything illegal, offensive or immoral. But they had to spoil everything by having a child.

            From the beginning, the parents did everything by the book. Everything – from eating spinach and offal before conception to not screaming for drugs on the delivery table. The mumma struggled with the breastfeeding business because ‘it’s nature’s way and gives bubby the best start in life,’ even though nosy old cows in pink towelling tracksuits constantly approached her in the street to inform her, ‘you probably don’t have enough milk, dearie,’ just because the baby was howling his head off and hurling plush ferrets at gawking bystanders. The daddy put up with the mumma having a headache every night, not realising this state of affairs would probably continue for another 20 years, after which time she’d probably be wishing she was dead.

            Both parents diligently taught Rocco right from wrong. He was well aware he should wash his hands after visiting the bathroom and knew it wasn’t nice to drink milk straight from the carton. Mumma made sure he could say ‘aitch’ without the ‘h’ on the front. The parents thought they had all bases covered.

            Then Rocco starts school. He is now capable of choosing the people he wishes to associate with, and it’s not lovely Nigel from No.23 in the home-knitted argyle cardigan, either. Dream on. His chosen playmate is Shayne, who teaches him on the first day how to rip great chunks out of his new grey trousers by sliding across the school carpark on his knees, and how you can pierce your own eyebrow before morning recess. Rocco is a willing student. By home time he also remembers the pronunciation of the f-bomb, the p-word and a few interesting variations of the s-word, which can hitherto be used when his meal is placed in front of him and mumma has not done the right thing. After the first day he will no longer take his lunch to school in the Tupperware box with his name written on Elastoplast on the lid – and his Globite schoolbag is smashed to pieces and hurled under the house, together with the poofy legionnaire’s cap sporting the school crest.

            Long before he reaches high school, Rocco knows policemen are to be referred to as animals of the pink and grunting variety and that ‘mother’ is only half a word. The contents of the family cutlery drawer are strapped around his thigh at all times, even under his Anarchy Rules OK pyjama trousers, and daddy’s new Stihl chainsaw sometimes goes missing for weeks on end.

            More often than not, the police come to make routine enquiries on Saturday mornings. At first, it was just to check Rocco’s waste paper basket for alleged Cadbury wrappers after he’d allegedly been seen removing the said alleged chocolate bars from the alleged corner store. In later years they brought a pantechnicon with them in order to remove the alleged plasma screens from where they were allegedly stashed under tarpaulins in the back of daddy’s toolshed.

            Mumma started to think it might have been better in the long run to have turned a blind eye to Rocco drinking milk from the carton and to have allowed him to say ‘haitch’ every now and then. You do not, after all, end up in Pentridge from bad grammar alone.

            Nigel’s mother however, is very smug. She tells Rocco’s mumma that Nigel is taking an accountancy course at TAFE in his spare time and is doing really well working part time at McDonald’s. According to the manager, Nigel’s burgers always have just the right amount of ketchup and he never forgets to include the pickle. Furthermore, when he was on his way to his accordion lesson, Nigel saw Rocco piddling over the railway bridge on to the roof of the 9.45 from Central.

            Rocco’s mumma, in her sweetest and most controlled voice, calls Nigel’s mother the other half of the word of which mother is only half. She also informs her there isn’t much call for accordion players anymore and it’s a well known fact most people throw away the pickle from their Big Mac.

            Then, with a ‘proud mother’ flourish, she pulls the Stihl out of her handbag.




Midnight train to an underwear emporium …

I had this nightmare the other night, and I’ve had to make a very strong cup of coffee indeed.

            It basically boiled down to being on a crowded train (pretty ordinary at the best of times), wearing a nightie. This could have been an acceptable scenario, given today’s dress code, had the nightie been of the satin variety, or even the starched and spotless genre – but naturally it was not. It was the one I’d gone to bed in, which happened to have birdpoo on it, as well as cruddy dried blobs of Patented Babybird Handfeeding Porridge. In addition, I had no shoes, knickers, handbag – and worst of all, my hair was not brushed.

            The cruelty of nightmares is mindboggling. The only thing I did have (apart from the parrot-crap encrusted nightie which was supposed to be hidden under the privacy of my own bedsheets), was a peculiar red woolly scarf thing around my neck. I’d never seen it before in my life and hadn’t the faintest clue what it had to do with anything. I spent a few kilometres wondering whether I could fashion it into a sort of loincloth, but it seemed a bit of an exhibitionist thing to stand up and do.

            Anyway, it was the messy hair bit which was really upsetting. You don’t feel right if you’re not well groomed. With nice hair, you can sit there confidently in your nightie on any old train, even the city commuter – and snub your nose at the world, basically. People will look at you and think you have nice hair. If you haven’t, you leave yourself wide open for them to notice all the other anomalies, which in this case were legion.

            After a couple of hours sitting on the train, with various subplots (too complicated to be bothered going into) unfolding around me, I eventually realised (because in nightmares these things take a bit longer), I had better get off at the next station and attempt to return to whence I’d started – which was not going to be a doddle without money, or identification even.

            The last thing I remember was standing in front of the ticket office trying to explain I needed to go back the way I’d come. The ticket man in the nightmare was just like ticket men everywhere, which was reassuring. He stared at me blankly because he evidently had no command of English and kept saying ‘Bosnia’. At that point, I woke up.

            I’ve never been more ecstatic to be in my own bed, I can tell you. I groped around for the red woolly scarf thingie, but it hadn’t crossed the barrier between the phantom train station and the doona.

            I woke the Hunter-Gatherer. I said, ‘How could you abandon me on a train without any knickers?’ He was understandably baffled, and pretty annoyed I’d shamed the family by being seen at a railway station in the birdpoo nightie.

            The thing is, what does it all mean? There is a fair chance it indicates I was running away from something without being properly prepared. The train meant I didn’t have the ability to drive that far, and the incoherent ticket man meant it’s hard to get good help these days.

            What’s scary is, I don’t particularly want to go to sleep tonight in case there’s more to come. I keep wondering if I wear trousers and a jumper to bed, will I be better covered – and will a wallet and hairbrush tucked under the pillow make any difference? How can your subconscious betray you, when you’ve purposely decided not to be a drug addict or alcoholic so you can keep control of all your faculties? What good are your faculties anyway, when you’re not even awake enough to use them?

            Anyway, I’m going to sit up all night, fully dressed. I don’t much like the thought of Episode 2 – Barefoot Escape to Bosnia. It has the potential to be worse than Episode 1 – Knickerless in a Non-Smoking Compartment.

            If I do drop off though, this time I’m hanging on to that red scarf thing. It was cheerful and soft – and rather appealed.





Hangin’ with the paparazzi …

            Bearing in mind my memory seems to be fading – or dying completely – I’ve been wishing lately we’d taken more photographs over the past 30-odd years.

            It seems there are rather long gaps between events, if you go by the lack of action in the family album. On one page someone’s a baby – on the next they’re cutting a cake at their 21st. You’d think we’d all gone into hibernation for long periods of time in between photo opportunities. Maybe we should have, judging by the amount of stuff which obviously wasn’t worth documenting.

            Anyway, I was rather pleased with myself on recent holidays, because I actually managed to dash off a couple of quick rolls. Rather nonchalantly, I thought. There are the ones I took in the mist, the ones I took in the dark – and some mighty fine efforts which give breathtaking views of the inside of the lens cover.

            These little gems pale into insignificance when you take into account the cinematic brilliance of our first effort, when the Rt Honourables were small and we thought it might be a nice idea to record important things like birthdays, etc. We had one particular film in the camera for years. It had five birthdays, a couple of Christmases and a christening on it. There were still a couple of shots left the day we went to Luna Park. Seeing as the Rt Hons were having such a brilliant time, we decided to splurge on a new film, which meant taking the old one out and replacing it. Not the best idea we’d had that day, if you don’t count the accident with the Dagwood Dog.

            The Hunter Gatherer took the last shot, wound the little handle to rewind the film and popped open the back. Two long, thin black streamers came cascading out – ‘surprise!’ – a bit like a gothic party popper, if you really want to know.

            There went three or four years of photographic genius, bearing in mind the film was totally ripped in half – down the middle. Which would have been no mean feat had he done it on purpose.

            For a long time after that we were very disillusioned. The HG has refused to touch a camera since, so it’s been up to me. And I can’t understand why, when everything looks okay through the lens, you end up with a family of amputees and leering idiots who look like victims of cosmetic surgery malpractice cases.

            One member of the family – on the HG’s side – does even better. Her specialty is ‘spontaneous’ shots at barbeques, where the surprised participant is caught with cigarette in one hand, beer can in the other and views of half-chewed, flyblown chop bones on a dirty plate in front of them. We got into the habit of cutting the unpalatable bits off, so pages in our album have tiny little circular pieces dotted all over them, giving legitimacy to the term ‘thumbnail sketch’.

            I remember being told once to take photos with people and/or signposts in them. This is to make the pictures more interesting and gives a point of reference. This accounts for some very odd views of complete strangers standing in front of such gems as ‘Welcome to Wagga Wagga’, and ‘Danglewillee – Home of the Giant Choko’. I can’t for the life of me remember the giant choko – but it’s impossible to wipe from memory the frenzied look on that man’s face just before he dived into a clump of noxious weed at the side of the road and nearly emasculated himself on an electric fence. Which would have served him right. If he hadn’t had his raincoat open in the first place, he wouldn’t have attracted undue attention.

            There’s still half a film in my camera, and I’m looking forward to finishing it and seeing what the rest of my holiday looks like. Reminiscing is pretty good. Sometimes it can bring back those halcyon days before you ‘let yourself go’.

            Ah … last night I dreamed I went to Danglewillee again …




Putrid in prime time …

            Don’t think I watch it, because I don’t. Ever. It just happened to be right there in front of my eyes one evening because someone had walked off and left the gogglebox turned on. I couldn’t believe it anyway. Who could? The World’s Funniest Something-Or-Other. A mind-boggling sortie into the life of the common-or-garden suburban family – though in this case it happened to contain both common AND garden.

            What appeared to be going down was this: some people – who were obviously not the brightest chickens in the henhouse – had taken their video camera outside while they were having a barbeque. Just on the offchance, as you do. And they’d filmed these rooooolly exciting things like a fat kid falling through the middle of a rotting trampoline mat, the family cat igniting as it walked past the birthday cake and Uncle Dumbarse being whacked across the back of the neck by Auntie Doofus – who was on the other end of a cricket bat at the time. Hilarious? Not. The only funny thing involved (peculiar, not ha ha), was how these people had actually had the bright idea (you can hear the ‘ping’ of the little lightbulb coming on above the head), of sending this appalling crap to a TV station – which, even more amazingly, had nothing better to do than air it!

            You can imagine this family sitting around the box on the evening in question, sated with barbeque fare but tucking into beer and Cheezels anyway, laughing their wobbly bits off as they replayed their merry antics – again and again and again. Hyuk, hyuk, hyuk! Then Auntie Doofus would say (insert light bulb special effect here): ‘Hey – we oughta send it in to ‘Straylya’s Funniest Home Oxymoron … we moyt WIN!’

            And win they certainly did! They won another camcorder, which is pretty terrific, as there’s now no holding them back. They’ll be able to re-record the fat kid (which, due to its own padding, miraculously survived its death-defying plummet through the dilapidated canvas); this time hurtling from a minibike into the guinea pig hutch. They’ll record the remains of the guinea pigs. They’ll record Part 2 of the Dumbarse’n’Doofus Show. In which he kills her.

            While the show was in progress, a voice-over man gave a running commentary. Just in case the audience couldn’t get a handle on what was going down. It was both witty and enlightening: ‘… and here comes Auntie Doofus … WHACK! He’s down for the count!’ There followed much canned mirth. ‘Hyuk, hyuk, hyuk!’ The studio audience had obviously been fed a cocktail of amphetamines in red cordial in order to cope with this frivolity. They just couldn’t get enough of it. A blonde hostessy creature came on in between events and made a few witty and enlightening observations re Auntie Doofus in a voice akin to a not-very-eloquent parrot. ‘What a woman, eh? She could bat for ‘Straylya! Hyuk, hyuk!’

            Give us a break. Please. Does this rate? Do TV executives actually think it’s amusing to encourage the terminally brain-dead to set fire to their pets and hurl their obese offspring head first into garden furniture, just on the offchance they might acquire a camcorder? Or do these people really take video recorders to family barbeques? If so – why? Will anybody want to look back in 20 years at Uncle Dumbarse sucking blissfully on the fat of a greasy chop with half a dozen empty beer bottles lined up beside him and his right testicle escaping from the leghole of his vile old Stubbies? Will they look back fondly at the grubby teatowels flapping behind him on the Hills Hoist and marvel at how the bindies had really gotten a hold of the lawn that year? Memories, eh? Not to mention the chance of spin-off shows – up to date, more pertinent to the times – such as ‘Australia’s Funniest Bungled Home Invasion Attempts’,  or ‘World’s Most Side-Splittingly Hilarious Bag Snatches’, or even ‘Candid Office Dunny’, where lavatories in high rises are bugged and the whole country gets to check out your butt and see who doesn’t wash their hands afterwards.

            Isn’t it great how technology has boosted our intelligence to levels never before imagined? How it’s given us insights into life we didn’t used to have? We’ve come such a long way since Shakespeare, baby!

            If the Bard were alive today he’d probably be firing up the barbie …