Monthly Archives: June 2008

In the room with an elephant called Victa …

This would be funny if it wasn’t a bit of a worry.  After the fortnight we’ve had, I was hanging out for a bit of a laugh – and hilarious as it is, it probably signifies the crumbling of life as we thought we knew it.

The saga of the leaking shower troubles at Casa Shambolic is another story in itself, so we won’t go there at the moment. Suffice to say, after nearly 30 years of hit’n’miss child rearing, mild domestic biffo and general wear and tear, there are bound to be maintenance issues. But one thing we’ve always been relatively happy about amidst the general chaos, is that we have a nice garden. It’s large and shady and ferny and palmy – and has two nice water features and a birdbath as well as a pool and gazebo. What it doesn’t have at the moment is a freshly mown lawn – and it’s unlikely to have one in the near future, due to the Hunter Gatherer eclipsing me this week (hurray!) on the steady downward spiral into dementia. May well the Rt Honourables roll their eyes at me – I’m proud to say I’m verging on boringly sane this week in comparison to their father. And let’s face it, one of us has to uphold some vague threads of lucidity or the whole partnership is destined for the nuthouse faster than a clockwork turd up a drainpipe.

Last Sunday, the HG decided it was time to mow the lawn, and pulled out the trusty Victa. Unfortunately for him (and the rest of the universe), the pull cord thingie broke off on his second or third attempt. Quelle fromage and quite a few f-bombs. He informed me he had loaded the offending piece of crap into the back of the ute and would take it to the mower place during his lunch hour on Monday to be repaired and serviced. As you do.

On Tuesday, the HG came home at lunchtime and mumbled something about dropping in to the repair place to pick up the lawnwhanger  on his way back to work – at which point I suggested it might be a better idea to phone them first, bearing in mind parking problems, etc. The little light bulb pinged over the HG’s head and he dialled them up. The girlie at the other end asked him for his name and had him spell it twice. Then she told him she’d go and ask somebody whether the mower was ready or not. After a fairly long time – during which we had coffee – the very obliging girlie came back on the line and informed the HG the mower wasn’t ready – but he should phone back in a couple of days, please. Phew. Legitimate excuse to not mow lawn that afternoon – and another cup of coffee, please, this time with cheesy toast.

Well, every second Tuesday is bigshopping day, so I set out that evening to wander lonely as a cloud around Food-o-rama.  There weren’t any daffodils, sadly, but imagine my surprise on returning to the car when I lifted the tailgate to hoik the grocery bags in and came face to face with … a lawnmower. ‘Good,’ I thought. ‘The mower place must have phoned the HG during the afternoon to come get it.’

Back at home, the HG appeared like the angel he is, illuminated by the verandah light, to help me bring the shopping in. Naturally, I commented on how efficient the mower place had been after he’d phoned them at lunchtime. He looked puzzled (as well he might) – and when I opened the back of the ute, looked rather as you would if you’d seen a three-headed monkey. ‘What’s THAT doing there …?’

It turned out he’d never even dropped it off in the first place. Mind you, it took a bit of thinking about it, and retracing his steps, and wondering who he was and what he’d been put on earth for anyway.  And thinking back, I have to give points to the girlie on the phone, who didn’t just come out and admit they didn’t have our mower on their premises at all but who was obviously thinking outside the square, assumed her employer had misplaced our property and tried valiantly to buy him some time. What a woman!

Ergo, this weekend we are genuinely waiting for the lawnmower to be fixed. Alas, poor Victa. I obviously didn’t know him as well as I thought I did …

.oOo.

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Mopknocker plays to incontinent audience …

When we were kids, which was a very long time ago, my brother and I were taken to Nightcliff Drive-In on Friday nights in the back of the Holden stationwagon. The back seats were folded down and we had blankets and pillows in case we wanted to sleep – and we’d be treated, over our parents’ shoulders, to such classics as The Magnificent Seven, A Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Idiot who forgot to put the speaker back on the pole and drove off with it still attached to the car window. We would have liked horror flicks if they’d had any then – but it seemed to be either westerns or James Bond. Nevertheless, it was great fun altogether and I wish the Hunter Gatherer and I could have taken our own children to a drive-in when they were little. Unlike Dad and the Warrior Queen, we have four children, so the thrills of being hit in the back of the head by soggy chips and errant Maltesers would have been excitingly doubled.

To make up for the fact we didn’t have Freddy Krueger in those days, Dad happily obliged when we got home, staging his very own version of Creepshow for our entertainment and edification.

There were three favourites you might reasonably expect to encounter. Mopknocker, Underbed Fred, or the silent and deadly Curtain Zombie. There was no clue as to what you’d be getting, so complacency was not an option. Lying in bed minding your own business, you’d have just about forgotten there was any imminent danger. Then you’d hear it. A faint tap, tap, tap on the window and there, etched on the other side of the flyscreen, would be a gruesome and frightful visage, leering from beneath its tattered grey, crypt-cobwebbed hair.  Okay, I’m well aware mopheads can’t leer. But you would have had to have been there.

After you’d practically crapped yourself with fear and the Warrior Queen had confiscated the mop from our hilarious and evil pater and told him he was going to bed without any gruel, you could finally go to sleep in the happy knowledge the postman never knocked twice.

Naturally, we’d always be on the alert to Dad’s whereabouts when we returned home from the drive-in – but he got the better of us every time. And just as you were dozing, thinking maybe this time he’d forgotten, there’d be the hideous creak of bedsprings and you’d feel something horrible pushing the mattress up underneath you. Underbed Fred. Or the heavy curtains covering the built-in wardrobe would start to ripple and bulge. The Curtain Zombie was behind them … and ready to emerge and hurl you into the depths of the River Styx.

Years later, the Hunter Gatherer and I were visiting Dad and the WQ. The WQ and I were chatting happily in the kitchen, stuffing ourselves indiscriminately with one sort of foodstuff or another, when we suddenly became aware of faint music. Dad had a large organ (of the Wurlitzer variety), but he and the HG were safely in the living room and there was nobody else in the house but us chickens. An organ was definitely being played, so the WQ and I crept down the darkened hallway to the accompanying strains of a Bach fugue. From the organ’s lair, a pale, ghostly light leaked under the door over the hall carpet.

It was the WQ who pushed open the door. And there it was. Its grey, tattered, crypt-cobwebbed hair fell over its leering face, the arms of its putrid shroud were draped artistically on the keyboard. Undoubtedly, it was readying itself to turn its head and stultify us with its evil, shiteating grin. Mopknocker, in all his glory, was playing Bach.

The WQ says she didn’t pee herself, and I’m not admitting anything myself at this stage. The reason Dad thought it would be funny to drape the mop in his dressing gown and set the Wurlitzer to autoplay was never explained. There was actually not much chance of him giving an explanation, because some of us are still not speaking to him. But the incident has left its legacy. To this day, I can’t walk past the mop section of Food-o-rama without hearing a Bach fugue faintly in the back of my mind and overriding the Barry Manilow musak track. And we don’t have mops in our house. They were banned long ago.

Any relative of Mopknocker is not a friend of mine …

.oOo.

Let sleeping dogs have really nice sheets …

I bought some new sheets yesterday, and they are very delicious indeed. Egyptian cotton with 400 thread count in a dark coffee colour.  Lying in them, I feel like Lady Muck. The Hunter Gatherer feels like Lord Muck. This is the point at which violins should play and we should run amok – but two Mucks don’t a mickle make. Or something of that ilk. The point is, there are not many things nicer than getting into deliciously fresh sheets.

The first deliciously fresh sheets we ever owned  ($10 from Big W with a matching quilt cover and two pillowcases … bargain!) – were installed on a mattress on the floor of a little rented cottage. In those days, that was what you did. None of this credit card stuff, where you furnish your first home with all the latest crap and scorn offers of cast-off furniture from eager friends and relatives who want to offload some junk. If you were lucky enough to own more than one set of sheets, the other ones were hung in the windows while you saved up for curtains. Nobody has sheets hanging in their windows anymore because it’s trendy to be in debt to Curtains-R-Us, Tellies-R-Huge and Chairs-R-4-Sitting-On.  Where’s the fun in that?

After a few weeks of hauling ourselves from the floor in the mornings, someone offered us a bed. It was marvellously ancient and past it, and the spring base had sprung, so our trusty mattress was sucked into trenchy goodness in the middle. This was very cosy for the most part and in the depths of winter, but not so ha-ha when you happened to be pissed off with the other party. You cannot lower your guard and fall asleep because you are hanging on to the edge of the mattress like grim death in order to not roll backwards and actually bump into the offending somebody and inadvertently give the impression you are, in fact, pleased with them. In the morning, your fingers are frozen into claws and you have to explain to puzzled colleagues why you have turned up for work resembling an exhausted, and not very benevolent, bird of prey.

There followed the waterbed age of the 80s, where nobody told you it was a bad idea unless both parties had identical metabolisms. Being a cold blooded reptilian person, I’d turn my side up to Hello Sailor, while the HG preferred Mr Whippy. When I had my way, you could just about smell the barbequing flesh as we dropped into a casserolesque coma there was possibly no coming out of – and on nights when the HG triumphed, I’d wake feeling as if I’d spent a night naked on the concrete car park of Food-o-rama. Except at least they have trees and not polar bears.

Beds have come and gone through the revolving door of our boudoir since then, and dozens of sheets have ended up in the garage rag pile. We’ve gone through florals, stripes, patterned and flannelette (much hated by the HG and banned forever) – and are now in the non-frivolous and predictable Age of Plain. Hopefully there won’t be too many more beds – but if the current model should fail, there are now more choices on offer than the wonders of the breakfast menu at Mickey D’s.

Yep, they’ve thought of everything these days and you can now purchase an ensemble which should just about suit everybody. The ideal bed zippers up the middle, which means you and your partner can choose the side that suits you – hard/soft/with-or-without gangnails – and the two sides are zippered together like so – resulting in two incredibly contented people who know exactly which side their bed is buttered on. Or zippered to, as the case may be.

Clinging desperately to the side with your ageing talons is now a thing of the past. When wishing to remain incommunicado, you merely unzip the beds, haul your half to another room/house/ suburb/continent – and the other half of the equation will immediately realise there is a possibility he has done something to trouble you and he had better be very, very sorry or else. All this, without you even having to raise your voice.

Bear in mind, however, this works both ways. You might just come home one night to find he’s zippered his half to someone else’s entirely. You can only hope she has talons much, much more spiteful than yours …

.oOo.

The necessary gigabytes for a lifetime memory stick …

I can’t remember much these days. Sometimes I can’t even remember what I was thinking five minutes ago. So it would be really innovative if we could download the contents of our brains into a computer in order to rewind and replay.

It’s a constant annoyance to the Rt Hons that I (allegedly) tell them things ‘a million times’. It’s partly (I try to convince myself) because there are four of them, and I can never remember which one I told a particular story to in the first place. According to them, it’s because I’ve lost it. There is much sighing, eye rolling and gnashing of teeth. Also according to them, I don’t remember things they (also allegedly) told me five minutes ago. Sometimes I don’t remember which one of them told me something but I do remember what it was. And if it’s any consolation whatsoever to them, I do remember bringing them into the world. Most very definitely indeed and with loud hallelujahs.

The first thing I remember ever (I think) was being at Filey in England on a caravan holiday when I was about three or four. And the part I remember in particular was my Dad taking me into a milk bar and buying me a milkshake.  The milkshake was pink, and was in one of those tall, fluted glasses with a paper straw. The top was frothy, with huge bubbles. It smelt pink, and I can still smell it even now. It was lovely. I don’t remember whether my Dad had a drink, or the pattern of the formica on top of the table we were sitting at, but I remember Ketty Lester was singing Love Letters on a jukebox. You don’t hear that anymore, and I wish we did. It would be nice to do a rewind and watch it happening and see whether I’d got it right; but we can’t do that, of course, and I’m wondering whether it will ever be possible.

What gets remembered and what gets rejected? I don’t remember the furnishings of the house I was brought up in – but a few months ago while crossing the street in town I had an overpowering memory of the smell of the dinner hall at a school I went to 45 years ago. It came wafting over the road and knocked me for six. Horrible stew and spotted dick? Wherefore art thou, banana junket, in the middle of the day in an Australian country town? Which brain signals conjured it forth when I was thinking about purchasing toilet roll, posting the Telstra bill and goodness me, how could I have possibly left the house still wearing my slippers?

It probably says a lot about me that most of my memories are food related. It has, after all, always been about the food. I remember little glass bottles of orange juice arriving with the milkman before school, and having to drink it even though it was covered in frost. I remember taking Peek Freans tick tock biscuits (the square ones with nursery rhymes iced on them, not the crappy pretender ones you get today) to school and having them nicked every day by a bigger kid. I remember the smell of the cardboard cover on my primer. (No, I realise the cover of a primer isn’t food and I couldn’t have eaten it … but hasn’t sniffing a book  always been as good as jamming your nose into an open bag of Maltesers?)

 I have no idea, however, what the Hunter Gatherer wore to work this morning, or indeed, whether he wore anything at all. Seeing as I don’t remember washing or ironing it, this is a distinct possibility. If he has spent the day in blissful nakedness, I doubt he’d either roll his eyes or gnash his teeth at me, considering he was the one who came to breakfast wearing new glasses 20 years ago, gazed at his offspring who were artfully arranged around the table, saying, ‘Who are these people and where did they come from?’

I wonder whether your life really does fast-forward before your eyes as you are departing … and where do all the memories go after that? And if it’s ever possible for us to download the contents of our minds and watch them on our computer screens, I hope there’s a delete function for the strange and evil stench of every school dinner anyone’s ever had the misfortune to remember …

.oOo.

In which Rocco’s mother requests a moon maiden …

There was once a mother (and still is, actually) who, despite all odds because she isn’t one herself, managed to bring into the world three gorgeous and independent girlies. The girlies went forth with confidence and determination and did exactly what they wanted to do with their lives.

Then there was Rocco. Not that Rocco isn’t gorgeous and independent … and I dare say he feels he also has confidence and determination. He’s probably doing exactly what he wants with his life too, but it’s a bit hard to see because of the demolition site (oh sorry … that would be bedroom) in which he resides.

Rocco was a lovely little lad, and his three sisters were delighted to have him when he arrived.  There really wasn’t any sign of a vague and disorganised nature at all. His parents lived in relative bliss until Rocco started school. The first report card said, ‘Rocco has no interest in any aspect of school life whatsoever.’ That was pretty funny at the time because Rocco’s father admitted to feeling exactly the same way. And he’s a teacher.

So the years went by, and despite the aforementioned disorganised nature, Rocco was somehow able to obtain p-plates and purchase a car. It took only six weeks before his mother answered the phone one evening to be invited by Rocco to come down to the bridge please, because there’d been a bit of a problem. And the nice policeman would like to speak to her as well. The mother and father went down to the bridge, where Rocco’s car had taken out three panels of Council fencing and was perched half on the roadway and half in mid air. Rocco had owned the car for six weeks, which was a neat $1000 for each week it had been in his possession. The mother and father had another nice surprise some weeks afterwards when Council sent a bill for $800. Those fence panels certainly don’t come cheap, and it’s nice to know the authorities are on the job and want things fixed and made nice again quickly. At great expense to the management.

A few months later and probably unfortunately, Rocco was able to purchase another car. An older and cheaper version of the first. Precisely three weeks after that, on the morning of January 1, Rocco arrived home at 7am having been dropped off by friends. His mother, naturally still in her nightie and looking forward optimistically to what the new year might bring, calmly enquired as to the whereabouts of Rocco’s car. (Well, that sentence isn’t completely true, because in actual fact she screamed and pointed and stamped up and down like Rumpelstiltskin doing the shitkicker’s waltz.) Rocco explained that he’d tried to miss a kangaroo on his way home from a New Years’ Eve animal-type rage and his car was now crumpled in a ditch. The kangaroo, however, was fine – and it was pointed out the mother should probably be grateful Rocco had only suffered a mouth full of dirt and a slightly grazed knee. Happy New Year. The car had cost $3000 – so having owned it for exactly three weeks, Rocco was on a roll.

Rocco’s mother doesn’t really want to document the fate of the next car, because it’s pretty boring after the first two.  It must be said, however, that it cost Rocco $1000 and (ta-dah!) he owned it for an entire year.  That’s $19.23 per week, give or take. Which is not bad, considering.

Almost without fail, Rocco manages to have his EFTPOS card either chewed up by a machine, lost or stolen practically every week. He has the bank’s number on speed dial. When he phones to request a new card, a tired voice says, ‘Will that be your usual, sir?’ This is incredible, given that the voice belongs to a machine. Even technology is past being thwarted by Rocco. There are robots out there crying tears of sump oil. And through it all, Rocco maintains a benevolent smile and an air of calm. There is, after all, nothing to be upset about. The universe will take care of everything eventually. Like Scarlett said, ‘I’ll worry about it tomorrow.’

Rocco’s mother howls at each full moon to please send Rocco a lovely, organised girlie with a heart of gold. The moon puts its fingers in its ears and goes, ‘la la la la LA!’ Until this request is granted, Rocco sits amiably amongst the empty flavoured milk cartons, burger wrappers and strange examples of prehistoric underwear and softly strums on his guitar.

Whenever you’re ready, moon …

.oOo.

Blessed are the cheesemakers …

Once upon a time you used to be able to buy these little triangular wedges of cheese. They were wrapped in foil and arranged in a round cardboard box. I can’t remember the name of them, and I haven’t seen them for years. I don’t go near the part of the supermarket in which they might dwell if they still existed – because the very thought of them sends a chill down my spine. No doubt the Warrior Queen will be aware of their name, rank and serial number – and if she reads this, I would like her to know I do not wish to be reminded. And I think she knows why.

Somewhat hilariously, the Hunter Gatherer and I went on our honeymoon a good year after our wedding … and we took my parents. We had all decided we really fancied a houseboat holiday on the Murray River – so the four of us tootled off down to Renmark in a little old Triumph Dolomite, driving all through the night. At that time we were all smokers – so the interior of the car was a choking fug of fumes for the entire several hundred kilometres – and after a while, the WQ and I (who were in the back) mentioned we thought there was a petrolly kind of smell happening. For some reason this was uproariously funny. We all lit up again, for the forty-eleventh time, and made comments such as, ‘wouldn’t it be HILARIOUS if the whole car went BOOM …’ and just about wet our collective knickers in hysterics while considering the possibility.

On arrival in Renmark we discovered to our horror there was, in fact, substantial fuel leakage seeping into the back of the car just under where the WQ and I had been resting our arses – and the fact the car hadn’t gone BOOM was rather miraculous in the extreme. There was a bit of nervous laughter in the, ‘oh my goodness, the chips!’ vein as we unpacked our provisions and abandoned the car to the ministrations of the friendly, but rather aghast, mechanic.

It was very nice indeed on the Murray River. Beautiful weather, gorgeous birdlife, nothing to do but potter along in our own time, phone in daily for supplies and pick them up from designated numbered locked boxes at intervals along the riverbank – and eat. With eating in mind (as it’s always about the food), the WQ had packed a box of things she thought we might chow down on whilst pottering. And one of these things was the aforementioned Cheese’o’Tragedy. I can’t remember whether she actually said, ‘Have one of these,’ or whether it was I who asked. It matters not. I remember tasting it and finding it utterly repugnant. Like trying to chew the discarded remnants of a horrid old man’s rotting underpants. Or a rotting old man’s horrid underpants, even.

It should have been reasonable – nay, normal – for me to have just hoiked the offending morsel starboard. End of. But the WQ was having none of that. Oh no. She stared me down, nostrils akimbo, pointing a quivering arm. ‘You’ll jolly well FINISH IT,’ she declared. ‘You took it – you’ll eat it!’ The lads were trying desperately not to laugh, snorting into their hands with their backs turned. There were pelicans on the water, a pale blue sky which went on forever, the steady chug of the motor … and everything should have been intensely right with the world. But it occurred to me the WQ was deadly serious. Memories flooded back of a school I’d attended in England where I’d been made to remain at the table until I’d chewed and swallowed a piece of unchewable, unswallowable meat. It also occurred to me I was now a GROWN UP. A married person, even, who was old enough to vote.  It’s strange I can’t remember now whether I actually ended up eating the thing or not. I think there was much howling and gnashing of teeth before the matter was resolved.  There were seven more of those grim wedges in the little round cardboard box … their fate, also, is unknown.

A lasting legacy of the cheese experience is that to this day, when the WQ says, ‘Have one of these,’ in crypt-curdling tones, I feel a cold sweat trickle down the small of my back. The hairs on my neck prickle with horror. It might have happened 28 years ago, but like horrid old underpants, some things are destined never to die.

Blessed are the cheesemakers for they shall inherit the earth …

Not.

.oOo.