Monthly Archives: April 2008

Days of milk and chemical enhancement …

            The Warrior Queen has been a bit peeved. She wants to know why you can’t get real food anymore. There were so many different types of milk on offer down at Food-o-rama, she didn’t feel qualified to make an intelligent decision.

            Manufacturers obviously wouldn’t know a cow from their elbow. It was either skim, trim, lite, brite, lo-fat, no-fat, soy, protein enriched, thigh-enhancing or joggers’ delite. What are you supposed to do? All you want is a drop of white stuff in your coffee –  is it too much to ask? Well, yes, actually. It either comes with everything taken out of it, or a whole lot of other stuff put in. You can’t just get it the way God intended, because that would look as if nobody had bothered. No matter how much trouble the poor old cow went to, trying to ensure a fresh, nutritious product – the human being has to get right in there, stuffing about with it.

            It doesn’t stop with milk, either. There’s the bread enigma. Not content with it being merely white or brown, you can now get it with hidden grains. Secretive ones, even. Grains you have when you don’t want anyone to know you’re having grains. Grains your kids can’t see, so they think they’re having bread that’s bad for them when you’re really fooling them into having something nutritious. Like grains. That’ll be 50c extra for the hidden goodness, please – and sucked in because you can’t prove whether you’re paying for anything extra at all!

            The WQ wants to trot down to the shop with her pail and have it filled straight from the udder. She wants to take her burlap bag and have them weigh out a pound of faggots and a few grams of broken biscuits. She wants to go home with a lump of cheese wrapped in muslin and stuck solidly under her armpit. Such were the halcyon days!

            It’s all becoming too complicated by far when you need a chemistry degree to go to Food-o-rama to choose ingredients for a simple family meal. What’s worse, most of the stuff we’re getting these days tastes like crap. That’s because chemicals taste like crap – and they’re supposed to – they’re medicine. Chemicals were not supposed to taste like roast beef. When you pump cows full of them, roast beef doesn’t taste like roast beef. But it’s supposedly immortal. You can keep it in your refrigerator forever. An eight-year-old cheeseburger found recently under the seat of a car still looked edible. Bully for it.

            Not satisfied with having destroyed the very essence of milk, bread and meat, there are people – thin people – employed to create smug little labels to stick on everything. If you check out the labels you can see exactly how many calories you’re going to pack on if you eat the whole box – which, let’s face it – was the general idea. Sometimes the amount of calories is thousands. The front of the pack says ‘Baked not Fried – 97% Fat Free’. It’s still thousands. This is something I really need to know.

            There is absolutely no enjoyment in a Mars Bar if you are forced to read first how it has 100% fat, 10 million calories and the potential to render you incapable of fitting into a bus seat unless the one beside you is unoccupied.

            There is no fun in having to read a list of numerals which indicate whether or not your children will trash the house and try to kill each other if they eat the product. Why not skip the additives in the first place? Who cares if the stuff won’t last until the middle of next year? Who wants to stare at a packet of bacon in the fridge for longer than a few weeks anyway?

            Nobody used to die from eating fresh food. They didn’t crawl the walls either. They didn’t need to fill themselves with prescription chemicals to override the effects of food additives. We were perfectly happy with a bit of botulism every now and then, and the odd attack of dysentery. Chickens were free to lay their eggs wherever they damn well pleased, in the sunshine, under trees, in the privacy of their own yard – and you didn’t have to pay extra for them having the pleasure.

            Eliza … where the devil is my burlap bag?

.oOo.

 

Why Enid Blyton wouldn’t recognise children anymore …

            What are we doing to the minds of our young ones? Consider for a moment the toys available in our advanced and intelligent world – educational, realistic – giving valuable life skills which will carry our sons and daughters through their days armed with an ability to cope with just about anything. Believe it!

            And how better to introduce them to the obnoxious and disgusting habits of the human race than to supply them with the latest advertised craze – a miniature lavatory which emits noises of flatulence when the lid is opened and the contents (which appear to consist of oozing blobs of brown slime) are pressed. Charming. Sure, farty jokes have always been a hoot for the under 10 brigade – remember the good ol’ whoopee cushion? We’re all well aware flatulence is a fact of life and screamingly funny. Nevertheless, it’s only screamingly funny when it happens to someone else. You don’t let one rip in front of Aunty Fanny, and you do your darndest to keep it out of the office. It boggles the mind why you’d  want to encourage your son (who probably has enough foul habits already without making much effort), to spend his valuable time making totally inappropriate noises with a device costing considerably more than the original wind-breaking equipment he was endowed with at birth – his own highly effective backside.

            Far more disturbing is another recent innovation, no doubt formulated to encourage early animal cruelty and set the kiddies on the road to being able to annihilate REAL creatures – that cute-as-darn plaything imaginatively named the Squirt Bug. This fun-for-all-ages toy consists of a rubber cockroach/beetley thingie – whichever is the critter de jour on which to vent your spleen – which can be filled with either a blood solution or a neat little concoction of slime’n’guts. Having diligently stuffed your preferred bug with the chosen intestinal cocktail, you then proceed to stomp on it. Delightful and educational, both. Don’t do this inside, kiddies – or you’ll stain momma’s carpet. Do it on the driveway so we can hose it down afterwards and pretend we were only pretending … and when you’ve run out of slime’n’guts, feel free to pull some cicadas apart or lob a few snails at the Rolladoor. Who was the perverted moron who came up with this little gem – and furthermore, what type of parent buys it? What happened to teaching kids to love all God’s creatures, great and small?

            It bodes ill for the future, while we wait with bated breath for the release of the exploding battery operated koala (with napalm), the microwaveable plush aardvark (see it splatter as you nuke!) – not to mention Baby Dope Fiend, which lies there on the floor and does sod-all after you’ve inserted the authentic-looking hypodermic needle into its realistic-feeling vein – though there’s more, kiddies! Yessiree Bob, it comes with its very own dole application form and full set of housebreaking implements!

            All very lovely and sure to put the kiddies on the path to a fulfilling life in the new millennium, where it’s dog eat dog (and the neighbour’s dog, too!)

            The good old Meccano set doesn’t seem to have much credence anymore. Why spend time creating something when you can sit mindlessly in front of American sitcoms in which smartarse kids show appalling disrespect for their elders and the elders guffaw indulgently at how cute they are?  Why curl up in front of the fire with Famous Five Go To Camp when you can download enough information from the internet to blow half of Year 5 to bits with a length of hosepipe and a frozen orange? Nah – Enid Blyton’s old hat. These days, the Famous Five wouldn’t get a look in – even if the paedophiles hadn’t got to them first. The most popular computer games are those in which the death toll far exceeds the IQ of the person playing them, and you couldn’t interest your kid in making fairy bread if Tinkerbell herself sat up and begged.

            Kids are encouraged to live in the fast lane, grow up too quickly, dress beyond their age, annihilate Squirt Bugs on the driveway and understand things they have no damn business knowing.

            Then we have the audacity to wonder why …

.oOo.

A little bit of froth and optimism …

            The difference between optimism and pessimism is merely the way you look at things. Whether you see the glass as half empty or half full. Naturally, my glass  is always half empty and there seems to be a desperate struggle going on most days to top it up a bit.

            There is, however, an area of one’s life which brings such inexplicable optimism you feel it simply oozing out of your pores. That magical and hope-inspiring moment in which you buy a new shampoo. Those few moments when you actually feel … ethereal.

            There is a horrible truth which we highly intelligent and educated women just can’t seem to get a grip of. A gruesome but nevertheless honest fact – hair is dead. It’s clinically dead the moment it emerges from your scalp. Fact number two – you can’t DO anything with dead. Except for washing the grease out. Why then, do we imagine a shampoo we have taken out a mortgage to afford, will make it thicker, bouncier, healthier, whatever? It’s because, where matters of vanity are concerned, we are terminally stupid. Because we think, in our addled little brains and if we don’t look in mirrors too often, we too can resemble the woman on the telly with the thick, bouncing, healthy, whatever. Rubbish. She has a wind machine and a wig. She has a soundtrack. She also has a team of people who have just spent 12 hours under hot lights doing the impossible with dead. She’s filmed in slow motion. I don’t need to be filmed in slow motion – it’s my natural state. While I’m doing it however, my hair is just hanging there. What it is NOT doing, is gently caressing the tips of tree branches as I go wafting through Central Park in a kaftan. You do not get waft out of a bottle. Just soap.

            Sure, hair feels better when it’s clean. That goes without saying. It’s just debatable whether $1 or $20 will do a better embalming job. Whether it will make you feel, psychologically, as if you waft and don’t have cellulite anymore.

            Then there are the products endorsed by superstars. If a 200kg truckie uses it, he’ll step out of his rig looking like Elle MacPherson. I’d like to endorse one called ‘Bushpig’ which makes you look and feel like a middle-aged woman with a serious chocolate addiction, whose bum is too close to the ground.

            Personally, I just buy the stuff for the packaging. I really like those ones where the shampoo is transparent and there are those little botanical plants and things printed on the inside of the bottle. It’s extremely aesthetically pleasing – while it’s in the bottle. It’s the closes thing to sucking me in enough to feel remotely as if I might waft. And as I’ve mentioned before, I won’t buy anything packaged in orange.

            There isn’t much hype around men’s shampoo. They don’t have KRudd coming on telly to entice men into washing their hair with something that will make them feel jumped up and important and capable of running the country. He doesn’t need to – men feel like that anyway. They have enough confidence to just reach for whatever the little woman has put on the bathroom shelf – and it’s a sad fact of life they generally come out looking full of bounce and waft anyway, without even caring. Their mates don’t ask them what product they use, or titter behind their backs about their roots showing through. For men, hair is effortless. As is should be, bearing in mind it’s dead.

            The rest of us ought to wake up to ourselves. The only soundtrack real life has is the sound of advertisements nagging at you. The only wind machine you’re likely to come into contact with is probably your husband. And let’s face it, you’re never going to waft again.

            Just keep hanging’ in there for next week’s telly commercial when that brand new product will promise you’ll look like you’ve been filmed through a soft focus lens.

            It won’t happen overnight. Nah, face it – it just won’t happen.

.oOo.

How to bore people to death and not influence anybody …

There are people out there who can’t stand their own company. As the saying goes, they’re usually right. So what do they do with their spare time? Wreck yours. Phoning, visiting or hanging around malls waiting to head you off at the pass when you’re on your way to the car with a bag of fresh cream doughnuts and the latest copy of Chow Down (Bumper Holiday Edition). For some reason, they think they’re doing you a favour by inflicting themselves upon you without notice – and it’s just not fair.

            You can pick out The Prey in the crowded streets. People with haunted expressions and dust balls clinging to their hair. They sometimes wear dark glasses and towelling hats, and resemble people in a witness protection program. This is because they’ve spent the morning under the bed, hiding from someone jolly in a floral tent who kept punching the doorbell and calling ‘YOOHOO!’

            On the other hand, The Predators have little beady eyes, darting everywhere in order to spy a victim. They also have Tupperware catalogues, lamington drive order forms and photo albums full of crap you wouldn’t want to know about. They never phone first to give you time to make up an excuse. When you don’t answer the door, they tramp round the house trying all the locks and windows. While you’re lying under the bed trying not to breathe, you wonder what in hell you’re supposed to do if Maisie Fansbarns comes hurtling through your bedroom window. Do you come out from under the bed and pretend you were dusting, or let her go through the personal papers on your dresser? It’s a tangled web you have woven, and it probably serves you right.

            The Warrior Queen, who desires solitude and the company of other animals above all things, was once caught out badly by Mrs Fogsbottom, a ghastly neighbour who turned up each morning at 9am as soon as we kids were off to school. She’d be in situ still when we returned home. The WQ was quietly going batshit. She had never hurt anyone’s feelings before in her life, but found herself in the position of inventing dialogue/scenarios in her sleep with which to defray the dreaded Fogsbottom in a permanent and resolute fashion.

            She decided to say she wouldn’t be available for morning coffee for a couple of weeks because she was going to springclean. The idea was to break Mrs F’s habit so she’d move on to greener pastures. ‘Good idea!’ Mrs F agreed. ‘I might do the same!’ The next morning the WQ awoke with hope and optimism. She thought she might curl up with a book and do sod-all. She packed the school lunches, shoved us out of the door – and there, like a battleship in full sail, was Mrs F-Bottom sashaying across the street with a duster in one hand and a container of Vim in the other.

            The WQ went feral. There is no other way to describe it. From the top of our steps she screamed across the road – ‘Go AWAY! I can’t TAKE IT ANYMORE! Don’t you DARE come any further!’ The whole thing was accompanied by some rather menacing pointing gestures and much stamping of feet. Mrs F-Bot was rooted to the spot. There was no way to disband gracefully and return to barracks with her dignity intact. None of us can quite remember what happened next, but nobody in that neighbourhood ever spoke to the WQ again. Which was a very happy ending altogether, because that’s just the way she likes it.

            If you happen to be a Predator, spare a thought for those who love their own company and delight in talking to themselves and not sharing their cream doughnuts. Go to the library and choose the first book – something by Aarronson about Aardvarks – and start reading. Do not phone anyone or visit a neighbour until you have worked your way through to Zxybrand and read every single word of his million-page trilogy on life in a 16th century throttlers’ camp.

            By the time you’ve done this, you’ll be so wise and well informed, people might actually be interested in what you have to say.

.oOo.

 

The holiday’s not over ‘til the fat lady sinks …

            Because he’s that kind of guy, the Hunter Gatherer once gave me three nights in Cairns for my birthday. After the initial excitement had  worn off, it occurred to me I had less than a week to drop 20 kilos – and other than amputating my legs with a buzzsaw there really wasn’t much I could do about it.

            Location is part of the problem here. For three nights in Alaska I could wrap myself in walrus blubber, put on a furry suit and drop little gems like; ‘Hard to imagine I’m wearing size 8 knickers under this lot, eh?’ Or with three nights at Uluru there’d at least be something bigger than me.

            But no – I get three nights in the fun and sun capital, where one day’s perfect, the next is obese. Have no fear, I thought. There’s big, colourful tent thingies to wear. And besides, I don’t need to go in the water if I don’t want to.

            ‘We can go snorkelling!’ said the HG gleefully. I should have punched him out. So there we were, in the fun and sun capital, fronting up to the booking office to go out to the reef. By helicopter.

            ‘What worries me,’ I said to the man behind the counter, ever mindful of personal safety and remembering recent events, ‘is being left behind out there.’ He sized me up. I had a feeling he was trying not to laugh.

‘I don’t think that’s likely, Madam.’ I should have punched HIM out. If I’d known what was coming next, I would have. ‘It’s a requirement,’ he continued, ‘that you provide your weight. For the helicopter pilot.’

            Slight problem looms on the horizon. Found the bathroom scales drowned in the bath one morning many years prior, and hadn’t been able to weigh myself since. Actually, I liked the scales that way. They were so rusted up they never managed to creak past 40 kilos. But I digress.

            I pulled my stomach and cheeks in while the nice man made a few brave guesses. It would have been less embarrassing to give birth with the Iranian Army watching.

            Anyway, we front up the next morning at the helipad. The nice pilot gets out, opens up the back and starts removing ballast. More stomach-and-cheek sucking-in, to no avail. There’s nowhere to suck it into.

            We managed to get out there without the nice pilot’s helicopter plunging into the briny because I’d had a happy winter in the company of potato crisps and Whitman’s soft centres – and we had a happy afternoon feasting on seafood and other stuff before HG brings up the snorkelling again.

            Well, I had to admit the water looked pretty good. Warm, blue and inviting. Couldn’t find any walrus blubber to pack under the lifejacket – but no matter. Borrowed a pair of HG’s board shorts to pull over the worst bits, and in I went.

            The water was packed with neat little Japanese people gliding gracefully around. And me. Not gliding – floundering. I don’t know how anyone breathes through those pathetic little tubes. It was beyond me. In my mind’s eye I could see my lungs, thrusting in vain against the fat as I tried to draw breath.

            Once home, there were three options.

1.      Diet. (And make my life a bloody misery – not likely!)

2.      Amputate my legs with a buzzsaw.

3.      Book the next holiday – to Alaska.

Yeah … bring on the walrus blubber and the furry snowsuit. And the size 8 knickers to wear underneath …

 

.oOo.

On the road with the tourists from hell …

A while ago I took one of the girls to Sydney and we ended up at Darling Harbour, ducking a frenzy of Japanese tourists taking photographs. It immediately struck me how seriously they took their tourism. Constipated little family groups were arranged with origami-like precision. If they were enjoying themselves, it was a secret.

            There’s nothing remotely secret about Aussies on holiday. Thirty-odd years ago, being far too gutless and unmotivated to do the solo backpacking thang, I booked myself on a coach trip around Europe. It was basically me, and a couple of dozen retired couples in either beige safari suits or lavender twinsets with matching hair, who allegedly drove BMWs and had put their children through private schools. It begged the question – what were they doing on an economy tour with moi, and why was their behaviour akin to that of petty criminals on day release from a minimum security detention facility? For these people were absolutely without shame.

            Throughout Europe, lavish smorgasbord breakfasts were part of the deal. We’d come down each morning to a vast array of food which boggled the senses. More varieties of bread, fruit and cold cuts than you could imagine in your wildest breakfast porn fantasies – and gollygosh – invited to partake of all we could eat!

            But evidently, that wasn’t enough. The Rampaging Wrinklies stuffed bread rolls furtively up sleeves and trouserlegs, poked individual jam portions into every available orifice with gay abandon and, still dissatisfied with their booty, lined their socks and pantyhose with slices of cold meat. Terrified they might die of starvation during the afternoon, they lurched from the dining room with handfuls of baked beans and melon slices, having stripped the table back to a barren white cloth and a few odd empty plates. ‘It’ll save us having to buy lunch tomorrow,’ they assured eachother, nodding sagely. ‘Everything’s so DEAR.’

            Nor did they have the decency to be embarrassed. It was a matter of pride to compare notes in the bus – and not just regarding food. Each morning, they regaled eachother with rollicking tales of pilfered pillowcases and Gideon’s Bibles – their suitcases would have chimed with a symphony of looted ashtrays had they not been well padded by contraband towels. As we drove off I would keep a nervous eye out behind for signs of gendarme, polizzi, The Bill – or whoever the local constabulary might happen to be.

            Nor were the Criminal Crumblies ever on time for departure. Many a morning the rest of us waited on the bus while the driver went to bang on the door of Ronnie and Doris, slumbering blissfully under the sordid weight of yesterday’s illicit croissants.

            Having remained aghast and honest under duress, what happened to me at the cheese factory wasn’t fair. The man assured us his gouda was export quality, perfectly legal to take back into Australia. We believed him, and bought up big. Not half an hour from the factory, the Greedmongering Geriatrics decided they’d consume theirs on the bus. Huge wheels of cheese were dragged out from under the seats and the back rows (where the naughtiest oldies sat) became a veritable munchfest. Dentures were cemented together and constipation became the buzzword of the day. I looked on in scorn. Until Customs.

            Once there, the Pillaging Pensioners finally came into their own. They stood around smugly, their own gouda safely lodged halfway down their alimentary canals as my cheese was confiscated. Oh, quelle fromage!

            ‘Serves her right,’ they were probably thinking. ‘Self righteous, cheese-saving cow.’ And off they went with their ashtrays and towels, home in their BMWs to wash the smell of salami from the sullied gussets of their Bonds Cottontails …

.oOo.

 

Searching for inspiration and the meaning of life …

 

I’m sitting here and the screen is just so totally blank. Well, it’s not now, is it, because I’ve just typed this. Every time I type something it looks a bit less blank. Which is rather good, as it happens. I’ll just keep typing stuff until I’ve done enough. And then I won’t have to think about not being able to think of anything to write about.

                Because you have those days, don’t you? Days when you get out of bed totally without inspiration. Days you can’t be bothered putting your feet on the floor just so you can indulge in mind-bending and world-shattering activities such as eating a bit of burnt toast, hanging some washing with tissue fluff all over it or engaging in yet another thrilling attempt to run the gauntlet of Food-o-rama without being tempted by an individual mudcake with chocolate cream filling. Yep, there are days when it all seems a bit futile. And if it’s like that for housewives and unemployment benefit recipients – what’s it like for cabbages and kings?

                Does KRudd, for instance, get out of bed some mornings and think, ‘Sod this for a lark – I don’t feel like running the country today. I might just get my hottie bottle and the latest Stephen King and pop back under the doona.’ Does the Pope think, ‘I can hardly be arsed lifting my hands to cross myself. What’s on telly?’ And does there come a day Bill Gates can’t be bothered opening his wallet to have a look and decides to just shuffle off down to Centrelink instead? Probably. They just don’t tell us about it. They are aware the show must go on.

                You must, therefore, force yourself to look upon each new day as a journey in which you venture out with your thermos full, your pockets sagging with the weight of Hobbit Bread and chocolate buttons, valiantly endeavouring to see it through until the end. Along the way, there will inevitably be obstacles and hurdles. Be man enough to soldier on. Nobody else will notice, but it’s imperative you don’t fail yourself.

                Be assured, bad things will happen. This is a given. Worst case scenario – running out to the mailbox in your nightie to whip out the Kmart catalogue and inadvertently bumping into a couple of Mormons on the way back. Best case scenario – you catch a glimpse of them out of the window first and have time to crawl under the bed. In other words, there are things which can be headed off at the pass – it is not always necessary to plunge headlong into a volcano in order to reach your destination. Take the phone off the hook, lock all the doors and don’t let Mr Boogedy find you.

                And just because you don’t happen to be KRudd or Mr Gates, it doesn’t mean your journey is any less important. Not by any means. Be cheered by this knowledge – without people like you, Ruddy and Billy would not have a reason for existing. There’d be nobody to tax, nobody to impress. Without any fanfare, you serve your purpose well.

                On those uninspired days it is easy to feel life has passed you by. Be of great cheer – it most assuredly hasn’t. There are envelopes out there with your name showing importantly through the little clear windows. There are biscuit companies relying on your patronage. There are authors dying for you to read them and actors waiting for you to watch. Without you, the whole damn place would come to a grinding halt. This is the number one important fact you must grasp. Even on a bad hair day, it could be worse – it could be a bald day. And on a bald day – if you have a head, it’s a bonus. Gratitude is the key.

                In the meantime, I’ve got all these words, but not necessarily in the right order. They just won’t string themselves together. It’s never been more difficult to make something out of nothing. It’s never been more obvious that’s what I’m doing.

                There. I’ve just done a wordcount. There are 726 of them, which should keep my editor very happy.

                Ho hum …

                Ed note: You’re fired.

.oOo.