Monthly Archives: February 2008

Dodging the molecules …

            That which is lost will invariably be found – and not always by the one who lost it. A case in point – fat.

            People lose fat every day. They literally work their butts off doing it. They do not consider for one cotton-pickin’ minute where it goes when they lose it. They have absolutely no consideration whatsoever for those of us upon whom it falls.

            Somewhere out there, intangible in the atmosphere, are fat globules on the move. Transparent, invisible and downright deadly. They’ve been banished from the tummies and buttocks of those who pound the pavements and shun Sara Lee, and are, even as we speak, winging their way sanctimoniously toward those of us lying back on our banana lounges with our contented, dimpled thighs supporting trays of Chicken Delight and Whitman’s boxes with only the hard centres left.

            How does the fat know where to attach for maximum effect? Simple. It doesn’t pick a moving target. This is why people exercise – not because they’re burning up calories, but because they’re dodging fat molecules. Always remember – fat molecules don’t land on the person jogging past Krispy Kreme – they land on the person staring wistfully in the window deciding whether they could put away half a dozen glazed before lunch.

            Non-smokers get riled all the time about passive smoking. They don’t like it when a passerby blows smoke in their faces or fills a public place with noxious fumes. It’s probably never occurred to them the amount of fat they accumulate when a thin person trots by. Smokers with diseases sue tobacco companies after they’ve made themselves ill. Fat people should be able to sue Cadbury’s or the smug, stick-insect woman next door in the size 8 hotpants.

            Because fat is such a problem to so many of us, scientists are kept frantically busy working on ways to create fatless fats. The day will come when fat is no longer fat and we can all be thin. Hooray! Human nature being what it is, when thin is easily attainable and everyone has it, it will probably no longer be desirable. In the meantime, society delights in giving us handy hints and guidelines on how to cope if we happen to be one of those upon whom other people’s unwanted fat molecules descend.

            . Don’t wear wide horizontal stripes. You will look like the grand staircase at Tara. People will walk up the front of you and down the other side.

            . Don’t hang around with thin people. It will make you look worse. It will also put you in a prime position for inadvertent fat-catching. Make sure all your friends are equal-to or greater-than.

            . Don’t EVER be sucked into trying things on in changing rooms. They do something with the mirrors. When you walk in, you actually feel quite attractive, albeit in a fat sort of way. By the time you walk out you’ll be wondering why you bothered heaving your sorry carcass out of bed that morning and taking a breath. (Why do they do this? If mirrors were flattering, it stands to reason they’d sell more stuff.)

            . Don’t ever let anyone see you eating anything. They’ll immediately assume you got that way through greed. We all know this is not a fact.

These smug, condescending points are supposed to make us feel we are lesser  human beings – just because we are more. And something else which has recently come to my notice is the way certain little words have become attached to labels on clothing. Words such as PLUS, EXTRA and ALL WOMAN. Terrific. This is so larger people can have choices like ordinary people. Why don’t they just come right out and put HUGE-UM, BOOMBAH and BARGEARSE?

            And it’s our own fault. For acting like we’re ashamed of ourselves instead of embracing our wobbly bits and showing them off to all and sundry at every opportunity. I have every intention of going out and buying the biggest, brightest tent I can lay my hands on – with stripes wider than zebra crossings in colours never intended to appear together in the same spectrum.

            But I probably won’t. I’m too scared of having footprints going up the front and down the back …




The importance of being beige …

            There I was, standing in the middle of the supermarket, gazing despairingly into oblivion. They didn’t have the right sort of toilet tissue. Being a creature of habit, unable to concentrate on everything I need to think about AND the shopping, I usually just reach for ‘the one I always have’. But it wasn’t there. The time a shopping trip takes can escalate dramatically if you are caught with the miserable predicament of having to pause to make an impromptu choice.

            ‘Just get a politically correct, unbleached, ergonomically satisfying, recycled job,’ I told the child in question, who was required to reach up and grab it. There were howls of protest.

            ‘We CAN’T use that … it’s been used before!’

            ‘Not as toilet roll,’ I told them firmly. There was further angst and distress later that night when we unwrapped the offending product. It was beige. There is something about beige – it doesn’t translate to toilet paper. It might be a perfectly acceptable shade if you can’t make up your mind whether to paint your walls puce or chartreuse. It’s a nice, safe option for knickers if you have fat thighs and a doctor’s appointment which necessitates the removal of clothing. But hanging there on that little wooden roller … well, wrong on just so many levels.

            I reminded the complainers caustically their great-great-ancestors probably cut up bits of newspaper and stuck them on a rusty nail on the outhouse wall. Uncomplainingly, too. That the aforementioned ancestors, having suffered through the London Blitz and Great Quandialla Locust Plague respectively, would have been eternally grateful for beige.

            ‘We’d rather have newspaper, thanks,’ sniffed the Rt Honourables.

            ‘Fill yer boots,’ I told them wearily.

            There’s the same problem with lunchwrap – beige is persona non grata. Or non gratin, if you’re not having cheese with that. There’s a definite stigma attached to having the wrong greaseproof. It has to be designer label, with a surf brand printed on it.

            For the duration of the next fortnight, while we are in purgatory with embarrassing toilet tissue, nobody will bring their friends around. It’s too shameful, like having a corpse sitting up at the kitchen table singing, ‘Nobody Likes a Bogan’ – which we sometimes do, when I forget myself.

            Admittedly, I have my own quirky little prejudices. Like orange. I won’t buy products with orange wrappers, or books with orange covers. I’d never consider orange clothes or furnishings, either. Being a child of the 60s and 70s, I lived through that when it was smokin’. Nubbly orange wool armchairs with just a hint of chocolate running through the weave. And yes, there’s more – pouffes to match!

            Interestingly, we had rainbow lunchwrap in those days – and you were allowed to openly purchase soft pink toilet tissue without being banged over the noggin with a placard because you’d killed a forest. There were brown paper bags to carry groceries home in. Bread came in waxed paper, not plastic. Food even tasted something like food and hadn’t been cryonically preserved and banged up in a freezer container for 20 years.

            The thing I miss is how sneakers only came in white canvas. Your standard Dunlop Volley. It saved an awful lot of time deciding whether to buy the ones with lumps, bumps, transparent soles or hologram laces. Or whether you wanted them for tennis, running, cross training, aerobics or merely for sitting nonchalantly around in the mall with a plate of cinnamon doughnuts and a cappuccino.

            Then, just when you thought it was safe to go buy a t-shirt again, horrible acid colours made a comeback. It almost made you crave beige and nubbly orange wool.

            Alarmingly, the most hideous thing of all can never be killed off. Like cockroaches after a holocaust, that most disgusting of biscuits, the Iced VoVo, is still with us – revoltingly pink and coconutted, with that awful little slab of stale pastry stuck on the bottom. I asked around to find out who actually ate them. Men do, that’s who. The tough ones, with sweaty armpits and tungsten-carbide tools in leather pouches slung around their hips – the same ones who proudly proclaim they don’t eat quiche. Go figure.

            They probably use pink toilet tissue, too.




Old Harry steps lightly on the stairway to heaven …

            There was this story on a current affairs program a while ago. It was supposed to be a nice, feelgood kind of piece, to make us feel all warm and fuzzy in the pits of our stomachs. It was about an ordinary street somewhere in the city – and Old Harry, the Neighbour from Heaven.

            Cue the violins please, maestro.

            Old Harry was in his 80s but was busy dedicating the rest of his years to the residents of his street. His uncomplaining wife cheerfully told the TV presenter – ‘I hardly ever see ‘im. He’s always off doin’ somethin’!’

            As indeed he was. It had probably started quite innocently, with Old Harry emptying the odd mailbox when someone went on holiday. And feeding the dog and budgie. Maybe a bit of weeding when No.4 wasn’t very well. But after a few years of these kindnesses, you can just imagine the little lightbulbs starting to flash over people’s heads. They started to recognise a good thing when they saw it. They bought their new lawnmowers with Harry in mind. They didn’t bother replacing their worn out gardening gloves though – Harry has his own, and a nice sharp pair of secateurs and a whipper snipper. They were, however, considerate enough to ask whether he preferred using a paintbrush or roller before their trips to Bunnings.

            They were, they explained happily to the pert girl from the TV station, ‘Making poor old Harry feel wanted. He just loves doing things for people.’

            A particularly gruesome piece of work, in floral tent and thongs with a mouthful of chocolate biscuit, said Harry had even painted her entire house. ‘It took ‘im a few months, but,’ she said grudgingly. ‘Still, ‘e got it done eventually.’

            There was more. It appeared Harry had a special pegboard on the wall of his garage, to accommodate copies of his neighbours’ house keys. That way, he could let himself in to water their indoor plants. And vacuum under their beds. And turn their ovens on so the chicken casserole would be ready and waiting when they got home from their jobs, where they undoubtedly earned good money for doing whatever they did. (Enough to employ housekeepers, even.)

            Well. Words just failed me. There was an insane urge to rip the arms off the obese harpy with the TimTams and punch out each of the smug bastards who shamelessly used someone and then sat back complacently and said, ‘It makes poor old Harry feel wanted.’

            How very magnanimous of them. Giving an old bloke a reason to live. Without them, Harry would undoubtedly have asked to be terminated years ago. After all, what else is left to a life if you can’t be an unpaid slave for a street full of disgusting, shameless users? That we should all be so lucky, to find such a street in our twilight years!

            I was furious at Harry, too, for not kicking them up their respective arses. He should have packed his wife into a Winnebago, flung his house keys at TimTam Ma’am and taken off around Australia.

            And were we treated to the spectacle of people knocking themselves out to do things for Old Harry? In your dreams. They were safely in front of their tellies, eating meals Harry had heated for them, enjoying the freshly painted walls and vases of cut flowers from Harry’s bountiful rose bushes. Writing lists of little jobs for Harry so he’d feel the rest of his week was worthwhile and could hold off taking that fatal dose of Ratsak for another few days.

            At the end of the story, Old Harry was sitting at his front gate in a fold-up chair, enjoying a cup of tea provided, no doubt, by the producers of the current affairs program. Another old bloke stood by and played the fiddle. It was his reward to Old Harry, for being such a wonderful neighbour.

            Call me cynical, but there was the unmistakable stench of ‘happy ending’.

            There’ll be a place in heaven for Old Harry, though. Hopefully with a banana lounge, enough good literature to keep him happy until the cows arrive – and a very stiff drink. When his ghastly neighbours turn up at the other place, Old Nick will hand them oven gloves and secateurs – and directions on how to prune Harry’s hedges into Eternity …



Please throw your garbage on the floor, Mrs Worthington …

           The whole world seems to have become incredibly rude. There is a lack of manners, a lack of consideration for others and a distinct lack of social skills.

            Freshly minted for the new millennium, there are two glistening new versions of the humble shop assistant. The Grunting Charmer and the Interested Interactive.

The Grunter doesn’t even look you in the eye. Your purchases are flung haphazardly into the plastic bag so dishwashing liquid oozes out and stains the front of your Chow Down magazine, and your change is hurled across the counter. Most of it goes on the floor. Do not expect words of more than one syllable, and be prepared to wait for a price check on the Extra Stiff Multi-Recycled Toilet Tissue. It’s a given. The Grunter is also clueless in the smiles department.

            The Interested Interactive is merely an upmarket version of the old tried and tested ‘Have a Nice Day’ model – it’s only recently been launched on the market, and goes something like this:

            SHE: Well, have you had a lovely weekend?

            YOU: Fine, thanks. (Friendly but alert and slightly alarmed – having expected transaction to have reached its logical conclusion.)

            SHE: Did you do anything exciting, then? (As if you’re going to divulge what Harrison Ford said to you in the privacy of your own mind … NOT.)

            YOU: Er … not particularly. (Even given your distinct lack of cooperation, the Interested Interactive simply can’t let it go at that. There is yet more of the script to deliver.

            SHE: Do you have anything nice planned for THIS weekend? (Excuse me? Like, whose business is this, anyway?)

            Are you expected to actually stand there and document your week for a total stranger, while shoppers behind you wait impatiently to purchase half a dozen bread rolls and a jumbo pack of incontinence pads? Are they desperate to get in there and extol the wonders of their own week? Does this inquisition come in the training manual? Do I get fries with that? Who gives a hoot what I did last week – even I don’t care, and I was the one who did it! The asylum should be called immediately.

            Ruder still are people on masse. The Warrior Queen and I went to a show at the Sydney Entertainment Centre once. Even more spellbinding than the entertainment was the behaviour of the audience. Whoever did the choreography for that one should get an award – the St Vitus Award for Perpetual Motion.

            Firstly there were the latecomers, straggling in at any damn time they pleased. Tripping over people’s feet, blocking the view, apologising loudly as their feet became tangled in your handbag straps and your Maltesers bounced merrily between here and Central Station. What happened to punctuality? It punctuated, that’s what. It’s obviously now merely a suggestion.

            As the evening continued, you could have been forgiven for thinking there were intervals on the quarter hour – people wandered in and out like Farmer Brown’s sheep – for snacks, toilet breaks, navel scratching sessions in the foyer – it was fascinating altogether. They couldn’t bring themselves to sit still for even a couple of hours. It’s the Commercial Break Syndrome. Because they’re used to being able to roam around at will every few minutes in their own homes, viewers are programmed for it. New age bladders have evolved, with the capacity to hold only 15 minutes’ worth of beer and fizzy drink, and stomachs capable of containing half a dozen cheezels before evacuation calls. Then it’s time for the theatrical equivalent of ‘fridge and dunny trip’. You could pick the ABC viewers, though – steadfastly glued to their chairs with handbags full of polite sherbert lemons clutched to their laps. There for the duration – David Attenborough trained.

            Even if you could forgive the fidgety-britches’ behaviour and high pitched screaming during poignant moments, the aftermath resembled a post-holocaustal garbage tip. Aisles were strewn abundantly with drink cups, greasy wrappers and spilled food – a disgusting display of human detritus which made you wonder what the living rooms of Australia must look like, given nobody seemed to have grasped the concept of carrying anything to a bin. The cleaning bill will add to the price of tickets for next time.

            What’s wrong with us? Don’t we respect people, property or the planet anymore? At the end of the day, there’s probably a lot to be said for David Attenborough.

            Some people ought to try watching the ABC …






Press firmly on the dotted line to annihilate this product …

            Packaging is an anomaly sent to try the most patient and coordinated among us.

            Not only is there too much of it, but most of it doesn’t work in the manner in which it promises. You need a Product-Opening Conversion Table and an 11-year-old lad.

            ‘Tear along the dotted line’ can be translated to mean ‘Cover your feet liberally with birdseed,’ ‘Open this end’ means ‘The other end’s even crappier,’ ‘Cut here’ means ‘Perforations are too expensive’.

            What was wrong with tootling along to the grocer’s and asking for half a pound of whatever and having it weighed out into a brown paper bag? Sod all, Your Honour. It was simply a matter of taking it home and transferring it into the ol’ bakelite canister – where you were pretty sure you’d find it again on opening the lid unless Uncle Albert found it first and had his wooden teeth installed.

            As with everything simple, the smartarses had to get involved. Biscuits have to firstly go into a plastic tray, which is sealed into a cellophane thing and then put in a box. Go figure. Each of these receptacles then has to be squashed into your kitchen bin, on top of the other 300 discarded wrappers you’ve had to wrangle with since breakfast. Too bad if you’ve got PMT and are known for suffering from chronic domestic discoordination.

            But the natural enemy of any modern-day packaging is the 11-year-old lad. If you have one, don’t let it anywhere near a tissue box. There’s this little perforated oval on top of the common or garden tissue box, which you are invited to press out. Then there’s a bit of plastic with a slit in it, through which the first tissue can presumably be pulled if you have an hour to spare and are adept with surgical forceps.

            If you are an 11-year-old lad, however, you attach one end of the tissue box to the tailpipe of the family car, the other end to the rotor blades of a malfunctioning lawnmower and offer the resultant mess to a passing dog. Oh, that’s not what he did? Could have fooled me.

            ‘I was just trying to help,’ he told me with a desecrated offering held out in front of him. It was several minutes before I could even work out what it had been.

            It’s much the same protocol with cereal boxes. An 11-year-old lad will find it necessary to completely mutilate the exterior box in order to find the plastic bag. If the outside of the box indicates the addition of a plastic caveman – or even a dumb card with parrots on it – be prepared to sweep the entire contents of the box straight into your wheelie bin. You might as well do this anyway, because when he attempts to open the plastic bag it will just rip straight down the side from top to bottom. He’ll say ‘whoops’, which won’t be any consolation. Then he’ll say, ‘Who cares – it was only a dumb card with a parrot on it.’

            There should be a warning on the top of the box like those TV censorship symbols. Tissue boxes should be rated R – nobody under 18 should be permitted to attempt opening them. This is because you buy them for the aesthetic appeal and there isn’t any of that left after it’s been savaged by your 11-year-old lad. Cereal boxes should be PG – not to be opened without a parent supervising. The only containers for which it would be necessary to apply a G rating would be those childproof pill bottles – because once you’ve turned 18 you haven’t a hope in hell of opening one. You need to call in an 11-year-old lad. It’s a well known fact all grandparents have to ask their grandchildren for help. Nicely. Pretending they’ve mislaid their spectacles.

            Package-opening accidents can be avoided if you shop when your children are at school. This way, you can open everything yourself, before they get home.

            It’s the only way you’ll ever get an entire set of parrot cards all to yourself.




Sorry, but madness doesn’t need an apology …

            There are two things which make a difference – the weather and age.

            How you feel depends very much on what’s going down with the seasons and the magnetic pull of the whatnot. Ask anyone. Every teacher knows kids go berserk if it’s windy. Policemen are aware they’re going to have their work cut out for them on the night of a full moon. The crazies will be out there howling, the cells will be full and, dammit, there won’t be any Iced Vovos left in the station biscuit tin.

            But take a look at age. As the years roll by, you can almost feel your attitude changing. You can hear it clicking over like a tachometer every time you draw breath. I’m reasonably sure I didn’t purposely ram people in the back of the knees with supermarket trolleys 20 years ago, just because they were thick enough to try it on with 11 items in the 8-items-or-less queue. I didn’t swear at hoons in cars who got away from the lights faster than I. Nor did I ever, ever have the bravado to take faulty goods back to the shop. Whatever was going down inside, from outward appearance hardly anybody could tell.

            But the older you get, the less you need care what people think. That goes for appearance as well as attitude in general. The time comes when you have every right to look as crazy as a madwoman’s breakfast.

            When you’re a teenager, everything matters. You’d never leave the house without checking to make sure you were cool. Nor would you be seen dead in a public place with your mother, who has a perm, a twinset and Bonds Cottontails. It’s absolutely vital you’re part of some kind of tribe.

            By the time 40-and-more rolls around, there’s no tribe which will accept you as a member. This is a very liberating thing indeed. It’s therefore possible to fulfill a hankering for wandering blissfully through Food-o-rama in your smelly sheepskin slippers. Without a bra. If anyone looks sideways, you can say, ‘Sod YOU.’ It’s very satisfying altogether. You are now free to be an individual and can choose your own style without having to bow to any convention whatsoever.

            Furthermore, you can tell your kids you wouldn’t be seen dead with them. You can say you’re embarrassed about their purple hair, metallic appendages and the fact their bodies have more illustration than the Readers’ Digest World Atlas (Millennium Edition).

            You no longer have to live in a ‘family estate’ in a three bedroom brick veneer, drop the kiddies to school in a 4X4 which wouldn’t recognise the bush if you stuck a photograph of Kakadu on the pristine windscreen, or light up the barbeque every Sunday afternoon and invite the crappy neighbours around with their disgusting organic potato salad.

            You are now free to be naff as hell. You can let the garden go to pot (literally) and drive around in a weird old car they don’t make parts for anymore. You can stay in the same underwear for months. When kids start throwing rocks on your roof and insinuating you’re batty, you can peer out of the window and say, ‘Sod YOU.’

            You will find for the first time in your life you are honestly and truly happy. Your sink is full of dirty dishes, you’ve read War and Peace cover to cover and people are staying away from you in droves. Your humpy is full of cats and cockroaches, your unmade bed is full of library books and half-chewed Sara Lee danishes in foil pie pans and you’re feeling extremely frivolous indeed. What the hell – treat yourself to a couple of ferrets!

            Age means never having to say you’re one of the crowd again. Never having to keep up with the Jones’s, or the Smiths, or even Kerry Packer. You can choose your friends because you genuinely like them – not because they belong to the right network.

            Feel free to get out there in the darkness on the next full moon with the rest of the crazies, doin’ what feels right! Whoooaaaa!

            I’ll be out there in my smelly sheepskin slippers with my ferrets running up and down around my vile undergarments. And count on it – we’ll all be howling …



A bit of hum and rattle on the tracks …


            Something exciting for us all to look forward to is the imminent introduction of classical music to railway stations.

            This is not for the benefit of those of us who love classical music – it’s more in keeping with the ‘music soothes the savage breast’ thing. Yep – because it’s a well known fact you wouldn’t be able to muster up the enthusiasm for whanging a pensioner on the back of the head to the strains of Handel’s Water Music. You’d be more inclined to visit the restroom. The thought of acquiring a dog-eared pension card, three fluff-encrusted polo mints and the pre-decimal equivalent of $3.20 would go right out the window, wouldn’t it? It works for me, anyway. Not to mention your urban Bovver Boy, who’d presumably feel totally mellowed out and have an overwhelming urge to crochet a lime-green nylon swan for covering his granny’s spare toilet roll. As you would. Classical music would knock the edge off any intended shenanigans you might have considered perpetrating on a railway platform. Unless, of course, it was the 1812 Overture (with cannons), in which case there wouldn’t be a pensioner left standing and bugger the crochet.

            They’ve used music in supermarkets for ages – to make us buy stuff we don’t want. It’s a brilliant concept. Any marketing person worth their salt is well aware Barry Manilow reminds us of eating sweets in the back row of some fleapit back in ’74 when we had more reasonably distributed flesh and the attentions of a spotty youth in a purple jacket called Graham. That’s the youth being called Graham, not the jacket. One croon from Barry and we’re off down the confectionery aisle as if we can revisit our perfidy with a box of Jaffas and a kilo of microwave popcorn.

            While music in fast food outlets is designed to make us eat faster and get out sooner (so they get a rapid turnover and we get indigestion), the supermarket variety is the ‘linger longer’ type – so you moon around in a stupor and forget what you came in for in the first place. When you get home with the Jaffas and stuff, some smartarse will say, “Where the hell’s the milk?’ Still in the refrigerated cabinet, obviously – because you were having fun wafting around with a soundtrack, pretending you had pert breasts and buttocks which looked mighty fine in a black vinyl skirt.

            There is a marketing opportunity here. The possibilities for the development of useful soundtracks for all occasions are limited only by your imagination. Consider – music to make kids hurry up in the shower. Or better still, recordings of times tables so they’re forced to actually learn something while they’re letting your heard-earned water trickle down the drain. And Doris Day numbers which start playing when the ‘fridge door is opened so teenagers don’t stand there staring in for half an hour with their eyes glazing over, hoping something interesting might materialise. Which it won’t, seeing as I’ve eaten it.

            Then there’s that popular choice for parents to pop in teens’ Christmas stockings this year – ‘Music for Hoons to Drive To’. There’s an opening for a bit of Bach here. Almost impossible to do road rage to, and takes away your credibility during ram raids.

            Waiting on the telephone for six years to get an insurance quote could be made halfway bearable if companies had the teensiest clue what the public really wanted. It’s obvious nobody has really looked into the problem with any great intelligence. Instead of the crappy 60s Muzak, it would say; ‘Press 4 to hear a really decent sticky date pudding recipe’; or ‘Dial 8 for Harrison Ford’s extremely positive opinion of your wit and beauty’; or (for men) – ‘Helga is waiting to teach you Swedish … just press 3 after the beep’. You wouldn’t feel cranky anymore and they could add a bit extra to the insurance quote. By the time you got it, you’d be feeling no pain.

            Noise in general can make or break you. There are radio stations which make listeners want to rape and pillage. There are decibels pouring down on you from every which way – and most will not be to your liking.

            Live in hope – at least you’ll be able to rely on a bit of Beethoven on the 9.45 to Central …