Category Archives: rubbish

Loneliness of the long distance shed man …

Look in a man’s shed and his whole life flashes before you. His triumphs, his experimentation and his spectacular failures. From the wheels off his first trike to the latest high-tech gizmo for blowing leaves off the driveway – it’s all there. And every little nut and bolt tells a story.

Why do men keep jam jars full of rusted nails and screws? They’re never going to use them. When they start a new project they rub their hands together with glee and head straight down to Bunnings to proudly acquire a box of shiny new ones. This is part of the fun of home-handymanism. They wouldn’t dream of using some old 1940s nails on their new matching-shelf-and-whatnot-extender. Or on anything else, for that matter.

Every now and then, when there’s nothing to watch on the telly and everyone’s on his back, a dedicated Shed Man will give his things a ‘clear out’.  This means the little jars of nails and screws get shuffled around on the shelf. It’s Shed Man’s version of getting it sorted. Sometimes the jars get new sticky labels which say ‘nails’ and ‘screws’. But they never get thrown out. A real legitimate Shed Man will have at least 100 little jars. These used to hold the baby food consumed by his first child. That child now has children of his own.

There will also be tins of paint. None of these are any good because they dried up in 1963. There is half an inch of rubberised gloop in the bottom of each. Full of rust specks. You also have to bear in mind the sad truth nobody will ever want to paint anything Psycho Orange again – even though Shed Man  is just waiting for the day.

Sometimes, there are car parts. They will never see the inside of another car – unless it’s on their way to the tip, which it won’t be. Shed Man keeps them in case he bumps into someone at Bunnings one day who just happens to be looking for a crankshaft for a 1934 Crapmobile. Then he’ll be able to say he has one.

There are jars of things which even Shed Man himself won’t be able to identify. He won’t be able to tell you where he got them, but you can guess. They have been passed down through his own family – from Neanderthal Shed Man to Pre-War Shed Man. In turn, he’ll pass them to your son. Or your daughter’s hapless husband. This is why you never find jars of strange objects if you go scavenging at the tip.

The remains of every toaster you’ve ever blown up will be somewhere in that shed. Remember how he took it out there that morning when the raisin bread caused it to fizz and spark and ignite the Psycho Orange curtains? Sadly, it never came back. That incident, unhappily for Shed Man, culminated in a trip to Kmart instead. Ditto the dilemma with the electric jug, hair dryer and a range of battery operated kids’ toys which you’ll find in the Too Hard Basket under the rear workbench.

Be honest, though – you didn’t want all that stuff back, did you? They had little labels glued on them which said ‘Must only be opened by a qualified repairman.’ It’s the sign of a dedicated Shed Man that he thinks he is one.

Gone are the good old days when he could pop down to NostalgiaWorld and buy a new element for that jug. He could proudly screw it in and bear it back, triumphant, to the kitchen for the little woman to sigh over. His family relied on him to be Mr Fixit.

The disposable age has seen the demise of the effective Shed Man. Appliances have a life span of a couple of years before it’s time for that trip to Kmart again. On any given Saturday morning, the aisles are bursting with despondent Shed Men, replacing toasters, jugs and clock radios and shuffling along behind their womenfolk bearing a sense of personal failure.

Which is a right shame. Your lovely Shed Man has enough stuff at home in that shed to build a 1934 Crapmobile from scratch. And quite possibly just enough paint to finish it off with two coats of rust-flecked Psycho Orange …




Sleepless incognito …

            Well, I can just lie here all night with my eyes closed or I can check out the ceiling and note that the crack which looked like a teensy little dinosaur last week now looks like the Gates of Mordor and is probably going to open up and swallow me whole. Note also that the dinky little spiderwebs which were softly fluttering in the breeze this morning have now taken on a more menacing appearance altogether and might just fall on my face and suffocate me. I can check out the night sky for the millionth thrilling time. Full moon, no moon, Swiss cheese, green cheese … la de da de dum.

            Wriggle the toes, the knees, the elbows. Think about maybe one day cooking something from scratch. Or climbing Everest and bungeeing off it. In the nude. Because let’s face it – some nights are just plain boring.

            I never had insomnia when I used to read in bed. What is it about men that they can’t stand one weeny little bedside lamp with a five watt bulb? People have been reading in bed for centuries and no-one ever died. Not that the HG ever actually SAYS anything. He just shifts position and grunts a lot. Every time he grunts there’s a little aura of ‘quelle inconvenient’ wafting around the room. Sometimes it’s ignorable. Sometimes I just turn the light off and hope he has nightmares of being squashed under a falling library.

            One night, salvation came – with the extraordinary discovery there’s a whole world out there in the airwaves. While you are sleeping, life is going on. And going off. There are thousands of other insomniacs out there; calling chat shows, quiz shows, talk shows  – and they’re all barking mad!

            Yessiree folks – plug in those earphones and mentally head for the hills! With all the other nightcritters whose husbands and wives get pissed off about a little old lamp glowing on the outsides of their closed eyelids while they’re trying to snore.  Because that’s the great thing – the other nightcritters are mostly certified nutters – and the later the hour, the stranger they get. They hang around on the other end of a phone line for hours and hours, just to tell a perfectly strange radio jock stuff you wouldn’t tell your gynaecologist if he was blind, deaf and you were in a darkened confessional box. They say bizarre things in a conspirational voice like; ‘I’m in the NUDE, you know …’ As if we all care. Most of us are probably in the nude – given we’re in bed.

            Being a genuinely interested person (a sticky beak) – I find all this totally fascinating. With a really small radio, two AAA batteries will last you at least a fortnight. Going all night. This is good value, considering all the stuff you are soaking up whilst you’re out of it. Yep – it’s the subliminal learning thing. Remember those tapes which promised you’d wake up being able to speak fluent Yiddish if you listened to them during your sleep? It’s quite amazing. I was astounded at myself when I found I could do that!

            ‘What does she want?’ asked one of the Right Hons at the breakfast table, puzzled at the rubbish spouting forth. ‘Kosher cornflakes, I think,’ I told them proudly. ‘In a bagel.’

            Because the scary thing is, the brain is taking in all this crap whilst you’re asleep. You don’t even know that you know what you know. You hear yourself butting into people’s conversations with snippets of useless trivia, and you think , ‘Woo – how ‘bout that? How very good am I?’ Some mornings after a night absorbing medical advice, I’m convinced I could pick up a scalpel and have a go at Uncle Mort’s gall bladder. And maybe it’s not beyond the realms of possibility I might be able to actually boil an egg one day!

            It’s like having a Pandora’s box in your head, full of stuff you don’t know is there. If you could run a printout, you’d be absolutely stunned to find you could speak five languages, understand quantum physics and know exactly what to do with that random collection of 70s Tupperware which is breeding in the back of the kitchen cupboards. (Or maybe that last part’s a little fanciful.)

            There is, as ever, a downside. As you doze in and out of consciousness, you catch discombobulated bits of conversations which have no meaning. And the beginning of book readings and bits of terrific poetry you’d love to know the author of – except you snoozed off in the middle of the third verse. And one night, I woke to hear the shock jock say in a trembling voice, ‘… and THAT’S the most frightening thing I’ve ever heard in my life …’ WHAT WAS? Can you run that by us again, dammit?! It’s a bit disconcerting to realise there’s something really horrible inside my head. Something scary and awful festering away in there, just waiting for an opportunity to go BOO.

            It got quite bad the other morning, and I actually woke in a state of total panic and thought I had died. Well, there’s nothing quite like getting your earphones tangled around your neck …


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.




Our operators are standing by to take your call …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Some things are best left to their own devices …

           We spend our whole lives accumulating stuff. It gathers in corners, under beds, on the tops of wardrobes. We don’t know where it comes from, and haven’t the faintest idea what to do with it. We just can’t let it go.

            Parents start buying stuff for their babies before they’re born. That little white teddy propped in the cot, and the red plastic rattle on the change table – we make sure our offspring arrive in the world with possessions, even if we don’t have the remotest idea of their taste in plush animals. Does it shape their attitude from the beginning? Was it suppressed anger on seeing that pristine white teddy which caused Rocco’s crib-rage? If he’d been given the spiky black gorilla his heart craved, it is entirely possible he would have been a different type of animal altogether.

            There are businesses these days called Clutterbusters, the staff of which will come to your home and throw out the stuff you can’t bear to get rid of. They are brutal and unsentimental, and able to stuff 40 years’ worth of Aunty Valmai’s birthday greetings into the incinerator without batting an eyelid. It is best you go out for the day whilst they are doing their thing, so you’re not tempted to trot all your crap back inside again the minute their backs are turned.

            At our place, we need Pantrybusters. There are items in the back of that cupboard which haven’t been manufactured for the past 20 years, or even been seen by human eyes. There are noises coming out of there which food isn’t supposed to make. Sometimes you might catch random glimpses of strange feathers and mysterious bits of fur. There is a whole other world behind those defunct cereal boxes – only the bravest housewives would go there.

            In the same vein, there is a definite role for Schoolbagbusters. Most mothers are too frightened to put their hand in to retrieve this week’s school bulletin. They will never know they were supposed to send in a lamb costume for the play on Friday. They will never know their presence was requested for canteen duty. They are only aware of the truth – there are undocumented things which can happen to you if you come into contact with uneaten devon and banana sandwiches. The effect is amplified if the sandwiches have been in existence for more than several months. There is no antidote for Jurassic Lunch Attack – the only prevention is not going there in the first place. Similarly, there are horrible things under beds. Some of them are on missing person lists. Sticking your vacuum cleaner underneath is an act of faith, bearing in mind there is always the possibility it will not come out again.

            Regarding the common and garden shed, there is not much point in the first place. Sending Clutterbusters into your man’s garage is not worth the phone call. Torch it instead. There is nothing in there you could possibly want, unless you are a man yourself.

            The trouble with having all this stuff is the way it ties you down. You can’t move house because you can’t be bothered sorting out the junk. You’re too frightened to die because you don’t know what your living relatives might find. Besides, it’s your history. Without it, you might never have existed in the first place. Life is a long journey during which you gather moss. Throwing it away would be like ripping pages out of your life story before you’d got to the ending.

            I once read about a man who didn’t have any family of his own. He went to junk shops and garage sales, and bought photographs of people he thought looked interesting. A mother, a father – brothers and sisters. A ready made family. If you don’t have your own junk, someone else’s will do. Even bag ladies have shopping trolleys full of discarded polystyrene coffee cups and left-footed sandals.

            Streamline your life today – clean out your handbag! I’ve been having a good fumble around inside mine, and darned if there aren’t handfuls of strange feathers and peculiar bits of fur. Plus something threatening and clammy which is stuck between my fingers and doesn’t seem to want to come off …

And nobody hears me when I scream.