Category Archives: driving

Hear Emily say …

Flygirl and Roo have just had a few days at Casa Shambolic with the desired effect. They managed to well and truly whup Rocco’s WiiFit records into oblivion, amid much hilarity and loud hallelujahs which went not very gently into that good night. Because such dedication and endurance had been selflessly exhibited, Rocco’s mother is now hesitant to tell the girls their hard-won records no longer stand – and because of the weather and being ravaged by the horrendities (which isn’t a word but certainly should be) of menopausal symptoms, she has not yet gone into bat on their behalf and wreaked appropriate vengeance. She promises she will – fear not. When she feels less likely to kill someone.

On one of the days the girls were down, Rocco’s mother decided a beach day with fish’n’chips would be a nice idea. So  Flygirl suctioned her GPS thingie onto the windscreen to give it a test run. Not that the Hunter Gatherer didn’t know where he was going – and looking back, it was probably a mistake not to factor into the device his intention to make a pitstop at Tools’R’Crap to purchase a length of PVC pipe on the way. Had he done this, the default navigator – who happened to be a rough, bogan trollop called Shazza – might not have become quite so bolshie and pissed off. Finally, with Shazza muttering a rather insolent ‘Strewth!’ as the HG gamely ignored her third instruction to take the second exit at the roundabout and proceed ever onward into epic adventure, it became obvious things were going to get a bit nasty.

The other occupants of the vehicle were a little worried Shazza might take it upon herself to exact revenge by navigating them spitefully into the river – so while the HG was making the pipe purchase, a whispered discussion was had, which resulted in Flygirl consulting the navigator option menu and finding a nice Englishwoman called Emily. It was decided Emily would be far more tolerant and maybe not as prone to hissy fits – so the tribe proceeded beachwards feeling ever so much more confident indeed – and with room for a pony.

Emily was extremely ladylike and polite. Indeed, after assisting in manoeuvring the car expertly onto the highway, she shut up completely for the next 20km. The occupants of the car sat in expectation, waiting for her to instruct them further – or even comment on the weather (pleasant), the rather ordinary condition of the roads (woeful) or her plans for a weekend with a hot Rastafarian toyboy, even. It occurred to Rocco’s mother there should be a Have-a-Chat option, whereby you could indulge in exciting and illuminating conversation with your navigator on long and boring trips where you had no passengers – or even where you did have passengers, but they were crap and boring. Rocco’s mother was fairly sure Shazza, had she still been entrusted with the directional activities, would have had plenty to say and a rather colourful way of saying it – but Emily had evidently turned away from the business at hand and was probably reaching for the cucumber sarnies and plopping another clod of clotted cream languidly on to her scones.

Half a dozen kilometres from the turnoff, Emily brushed the final scone crumbs from her lips with her white linen napkin and informed the HG he should, ‘turn LEFT at Nearly-There-Now-Blinky Road and proceed for 17km.’ There was mass excitement from the passengers and calls of, ‘Way to go!’ and ‘Good on yer, Em!’ Emily demurely ignored both the praise and hilarity, being very well bred and obviously knowing it was not done to fraternise with the driver and his tribe of yobs. She was probably wondering at that stage how many Rastafarians she’d have to sleep with in order to get a job in a nice car which did not have the detritus of other jaunts scattered in the passenger-side footwell, and which had a nicer class of passenger altogether.  

The fish’n’chips were demolished down at the water’s edge. Nobody would have dared eat them in the car – it was obvious Emily would have disapproved enormously of greasy-fingered gluttony and random squirts of lemon juice spattering the windscreen and dashboard.

Shazza, on the other hand, would have probably ordered a Chiko Roll to go with it.



In which Rocco evokes a series of unfortunate events …

Rocco sent his mumma a txt msg which said, ‘an old fart jst ran into me’.  The sending of this unfortunate missive occurred on Friday 13th, a date which his mother had (up until then) always thought was a very lucky day altogether. She had, in fact, woken that morning assuming everything was going to be very pleasant and only good things would happen.  She thought she deserved good things to happen and it was her right. Rocco managed to leech the last bit of hope out of what should have been an ordinary and uneventful day. As usual.

On phoning Rocco, who was in the carpark of Food-o-rama, his mother found it was a bit difficult to hear the entire story because the aforementioned old fart was carrying on in the background like a demented gnome filled with Hitleresque bile . The gnashing of teeth and stamping of little feet was evident even over the airwaves. Rocco’s mother could see the little black moustache in her mind’s eye, though it was very difficult to hear the wood for the trees. Rocco then told the OF to ‘please shut the f up’, which his mother thought was probably not a good idea. You do not swear at people when you are in the wrong. You do not swear at people at any time really – but when you have just backed out of a carpark into them, the f-bomb would not seem appropriate droppage.

The police would not come, because they deemed two driveable vehicles and no injuries constituted a waste of their time. They didn’t want their jam doughnuts to go stiff. Rocco was left to deal with the problem on his own, and because he had no clue as to the name of his insurance company (or even whether he had one), he was unable to furnish the OF with the details. Therefore, his mother received a phone call from the OF’s insurance company a few days later.

By this time, Rocco was away at his TAFE course for the week, and the rather spiteful insuro-bitch on the other end of the phone naturally refused to speak to his mother, because although she had endured several hours of unpleasant labour ejecting Rocco into a horrified and unprepared world in the first place, she was not entitled to know his personal business – even though she would inevitably end up dealing with the unpleasantness of the personal business and Rocco’s father would end up paying the money in question. Insuro-bitch (and Rocco’s mother could see the little black moustache in her mind’s eye) smugly informed R’s M she’d send Rocco a letter instead, which she duly did. The letter was also dipped in venom, and informed Rocco he was to pay $3,528 immediately in order to shut them up finalise the matter.

As if this incident wasn’t quite enough, Rocco also managed to incur a $200 fine for purchasing a concession train ticket in order to return home from his TAFE course. He hadn’t realised his travel card had expired, and blissfully purchased the ticket as usual – only to find the transit police were not in the least sympathetic and wanted their pound of flesh. Rocco’s hapless mother (who does not have time for a life of her own) is currently in the process of writing her second appeal letter on his behalf in an attempt to shut them up finalise the matter – which won’t work, because the first one didn’t, but will buy a bit of time.

But Rocco’s disastrous fortnight hadn’t quite offered up its finale yet.  There was more to come because naturally, although he’d been told numerous, mind-numbing times to always lock his car and never leave valuables inside it, Rocco parked his car in the driveway on Friday night with his wallet and his iPod on the front seat and expected everything to be tickety-boo in the morning. As you do, when you live in lala land where the moon’s a balloon and the flowers pick themselves. The fact Rocco’s pay was in his wallet at the time was just the icing on the cake for the thieves – they scored admirable booty from their heist and then turned to Rocco’s parents’ car for good measure. This gleaned only a couple of packets of cigarettes and a few dollars in small change – but there was the fun of hurling the contents of the glovebox all over the car and opening boxes of computer parts which were obviously not exciting enough to be bothered taking. Naturally the police wouldn’t come. They’d just purchased another dozen fresh doughnuts.

There are other things that could happen this week, and they probably will. None of them will be good, because Rocco’s stars (and those of his parents) seem to have aligned in a clashing cacophony of misadventure.  In fact, when Rocco’s mother heard the postman dropping something in the mailbox a few minutes ago, she curled herself up into a ball and hid in a corner …


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 …


Honk if you’re a proper wally …

Contrary to popular belief, road rage is not caused merely because people are psychotic. It’s because of those little stickers they put on their cars.

Ordinary people who have a life – the kind who look upon their vehicles as useful for getting to work and home again – have a dealer sticker on the back. It tells where they bought the car. If you get stuck behind them in traffic, you merely think (with a vaguely interested air about you), ‘Oh … they bought that in Danglewillee …’ And that’s about all you think. The lights change and off you go – everybody’s happy in lala land.

But there are other drivers who cause feelings of considerable angst. In these instances, it does not help one bit that my morning got off to a hideous start when my porridge exploded in the microwave. Nor does it help that the gene responsible for finding the funny side of bumper sticker humour seems to have bypassed me. Several times since I woke up.

For instance … Mum’s Taxi. Sorry? Did the brains trust who thought of this little gem really think it was funny? When you come across it (and you most certainly will), have a close look at the Mum in situ. Now do you get it? Imagine the excitement this woman felt, sticking that cute yellow diamond proudly to the back window of the Tarago? The pleasure derived in finding meaning in her meagre existence. ‘I am the driver of Mum’s Taxi! I am the proud  purveyor of Shane to his footy practice and Breeeearne to physical culture. Therefore, I am!’ After analysing this sad fact, I almost wish I knew where to buy one. Not.

Then there’s that perennial shocker – Baby on Board. Please. It makes you want to ram straight up the back of it. What else is in the car? Why doesn’t the woman also advertise she’s carrying a snot-encrusted four-year-old, an aged pensioner sucking on a Mintie and has a deceased gerbil in a shoebox in the glove compartment? Somebody once tried to explain the reason for Baby on Board. Very patiently too, because I’m obviously a few seats short of a carload and unable to grasp the logic behind the innovation. Apparently, in case of accident, the rescue lads will know to look for a baby. Hey … clever! But what if the baby was left at home that day? What if the ambos are so busy looking for a non-existent baby they fail to notice the pensioner squeezed up under the back seat, having choked to death on the Mintie? What if the sticker is 12 years out of date and the baby in question is now at high school, having a quick smoke behind the bike shed – oblivious to the fact searchers are looking for him in vain, expecting him to be wearing Huggies?

For the cool dudes in their souped up Toranas, there are stickers of a far more intellectual bent. Such as, If it’s rockin’, don’t bother knockin’. Why not? I can’t imagine anything more entertaining! It’s like an open invitation, even. Anyway, they’re kidding themselves. If it’s rockin’, it’s most likely to be because it only has three wheels and there are half a dozen likely lads mooning out of the rear passenger window. Similarly, Don’t laugh mate – your daughter’s inside. I think not. These days, your daughter is far more likely to be driving it. She probably modified it herself, has hairy armpits and spiders tattooed up her back.

But if you’re not a Dumb Mum or a Hot Young Thang, there are the environmental stickers such as Save the ozone layer, and Have mercy on the ecosystem. If you are serious, the only place these have any business being are on the back of a bicycle. Sticking them on anything with an exhaust pipe is making yourself look like a moron. An oxymoron. Driving around pumping fumes into the atmosphere ain’t saving anything, bucko. Especially not the sanity of the people behind you, who have Danglewillee Prestige Motors stuck on the back window of the family Commodore.

The sticker I really like simply says, Magic Happens. It’s a hologram, and the colours change as the sun hits it so you really feel anything’s possible and there’s something to be optimistic about after all. Everybody may well think you are a wanker, but you don’t care because you also have a penchant for purple socks and the happy feeling maybe tomorrow’s porridge is going to be perfect.

 And of course, there’s a moral to this story. You don’t let pensioners eat Minties in the back of your car …


Creative things to do with an unwanted school lunch …

            Want to read something scary? Something REALLY scary?

            Back in prehistoric times when I worried about such things and wanted to do better, I was flicking optimistically through one of those women’s magazines, trying to discover the elusive secret of how to be an ‘other mother’. The kind who spends ‘quality time’ with her kids, knits undergarments out of organic fibres which make your personal bits itch – and does dinners from scratch.

            It jumped right out at me – as these things do when you’re not feeling very confident in your role as the epitome of good motherhood – and believe me, it was scary all right. A smug little feature entitled ‘Creative things to do with a school lunch’. For someone whose most creative activity with food is to eat it, it came as a bit of a shock to see what ‘other mothers’ (the nurturing, loving, ‘from scratch’ kind), allegedly crawled willingly from their beds at 4am to fling together. 

            Nope – no sign here of the smeary vegemite jar with buttery knife stuck in it – nary a glimpse of uncreative things like last-chance speckled bananas or tryhard homemade biscuits which either come in the Break Your Jaw or Pile’o’Crumbs variety. Here before me, triumphantly glossy, was presented Nirvana for the kindergarten lunch set. Gourmet constructions burst obscenely over the edges of brightly coloured lunchboxes, complete with strategically placed red gingham napkins and minute monogrammed condiment shakers.

            The first suggestion (to ease us into it gently), was pita bread pockets filled with smoked turkey, slivers of avocado and fresh rocket – with just a dash of cranberry sauce. And if (whoops, silly me), I’d neglected to spend the night smoking the turkey and crushing cranberries with my bare (albeit detoxed) feet, the article assured me it would be quite acceptable to substitute smoked salmon with cream cheese and sundried tomatoes – (but don’t forget the lemon wedge, wrapped in foil and tucked into the side of the lunchbox).

            Excuse me? And what, pray tell, do the teachers think as they chew on day-old bread with an avant garde processed plastic cheese slice poking rakishly from between the crusts?

            Laughing in the face of danger, I flaunted convention. First Child was sent to school with cheese and vegemite. Second Child preferred lemon butter – and nobody ever died. Third Child declared only Nutella would do – no butter, and don’t cut the bread. It has to be slapped together just so. No care or responsibility taken. In fact – she’d make it herself. Just to ensure it was done properly. Fourth Child is a boy. Say no more – as long as it’s remotely edible. Queries of, ‘Did you eat your lunch?’ always brought replies of, ‘Yup’. Nobody ever thought of pumping their stomachs to verify it.

            Then one awful day which will forever remain etched in the memory, I accidentally sat on the end of Child Three’s bed – probably while I was in there asking whether she’d eaten her lunch. There was a ghastly, Stephen King-esque kind of rustling noise from beneath the doona – I knew damn well it was something I didn’t want to know about – but in best horror story tradition, was compelled to uncover. Trembling, I pulled back the sheets – and there they were. Drum roll, please, as we proudly present in a bedroom near you … The Lunches of Tragedy! Lined up neatly along the bottom of the bed were seven little square packages wrapped in greaseproof paper and encased in individual Hercules bags. Black ones, green ones, furry ones – take your pick, there was something to please everyone.

            She said, ‘Well, you shouldn’t have been spying on me!’

            I said, ‘Hadn’t it occurred to you the sheets might have needed changing before the end of the millennium?’ She glared balefully. I’m not that kind of mother.

I never again went in a child’s room after that. They’re grown up now – living away from home. Or maybe not. Maybe they’re still in those rooms, mouldering away with two decades of unwanted lunches.

            Oh – and for the person who wrote that article … what I’d like to do with your creative lunches would be very scary indeed …



Driving Ms Crazy …

            I’ve never been much good in a car.

            For a start, I was really old when I first started driving one – 22ish, which is old for beginning THAT sort of activity – and secondly, I was past the carefree sort of age where ‘it won’t happen to me’. In fact, I was exactly the age where I was convinced it WOULD happen. The minute I rolled out into the road.

            My mother-in-law told me I would have to have a licence because I was having a baby. She said I might just need to take it to a doctor or to bagpipe lessons or something one day. Furthermore, she said I’d be sorry to find myself housebound for the rest of my life. I knew she was right. She even offered to teach me – in a little country town where there were no traffic lights, no hills – in my sister-in-law’s automatic car.

            My MIL was very patient, too. Even when I backed the car into the cemetery gates, which were the only things around for several kilometres. So, after a while – or a few whiles anyway – we trotted on down to the local policeman to do the licence test. He was very nice, and his wife made scones for us afterwards.

            So there I was, presumably able to drive. Sort of. I’d strap the baby in the back of the car, having stayed awake all night worrying about actually going out of the driveway and being responsible for both the baby’s life and my own. I’d reverse up to the street and hover uncertainly over the kerb. Then I’d go back down the driveway, unstrap the baby and go inside with an enormous feeling of relief, a bag of Kettle Chips and enough chocolate to give me the stamina to plan the next attempt as if it were an assault on Osama and his lads. Which would have been easier and far less scary.

            It took a few more weeks of thrilling attempts before I was actually able to leave the premises – and several (decades, actually, if I’m being perfectly honest) years before I was able to go more than five kilometres.

            This was most upsetting for the Rt Honourables, who frequently received invitations to birthday parties at a venue which happened to be on the outskirts of town and involved running the gauntlet of a highway and an industrial area – with trucks. We had to tell little untruths – like, ‘terribly sorry, we’re not going to be feeling very well on that date’. Nobody had the nerve to admit, ‘Mum can’t drive that far.’ All the other mothers apparently drove their kids to places 20 … or even 30 kilometres away – for the sheer hell of it.

            There was a very unpleasant incident one rainy night when I absolutely HAD to get to a performance venue in an out-of-the-way location. I mapped and planned the manoeuvre, but hadn’t fitted inclement weather into the equation. It was impossible to see anything once I got on to the unfamiliar road, and I couldn’t find the turnoff. I was squinting hopelessly through the windscreen with my nose pressed to it like Quasimodo on an outing to Sydney Aquarium when I thought I saw it. So I turned right with hope and optimism. Unfortunately, the turnoff turned out to be a traffic island – and as fate would have it, there was a police car right up my jacksie. There I was, wheels stuck over the back of the little yellow strip of concrete and a car full of horrified and embarrassed progeny. The first thing the nice policeman wanted to do was make me blow into the little tube. In the circumstances, he found it extremely difficult to believe I don’t drink at all.

            ‘It was raining!’ piped up Child Four from the back of the car. I think it was his sad little face which won the policeman over. He was very nice indeed and insisted on giving us a police escort to my destination. I had a feeling he would have liked to have given me an escort home too – in the interests of protecting other road users.

            I’m still not very good. And I don’t like doing it, either. When I’m tootling along I keep smelling burning – or hearing funny noises which probably mean bits of vehicle are going to start dropping off into the road. I know there’s stuff under the bonnet which can’t be trusted. And that the nut behind the wheel is the most dangerous part of all.