Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Secret Ballot

I've just finished watching a great little show on SBS our Multi-cultural government channel about the American Dream. .It's called 'Insight' and involves a panel of disparate people who discuss social, political and community topics and air their points of view, ably chaired by host Jenny Brockie. Tonight she was in New York and among other discussions on the American Dream, she asked the small audience who were they going to vote for, or indeed whether they were going to vote. Some answered candidly, some kept their views to themselves. There were the obvious Obama supporters, the stalwart McCain crew but quite a number of non-committals and this was across a broad section of the NY community from ghetto dweller's to academics.

To me, the concept of a voluntary vote is an alien thing. Here, voting is compulsory whether for your local Council (nope I didn't vote a couple of weeks ago because I believe local councils are irrelevant and I had no idea - even after research - what each candidate stood for, so I'm waiting for my $50 fine to arrive to bolster their dubious coffers) or for State or Federal elections.

However, on a State or Federal level, I always vote. I could just turn up and have my name ticked off the list. I could even write an obscenity on the ballot papers which these days are about 5 metres wide . . but no . . I vote. I take the easy numbered 1, 2, 3 option rather than voting for each individual representative and often use the "How to Vote" card from my preferred political candidate, but I do vote. Often against the grain in my electorate which is considered Blue Ribbon Liberal.

In Australia, Liberal is slightly right of centre. Not as right as the English Conservative party or the American Republicans but right 'ish. Labour is more left, unionised and socialist but the difference between the two political parties has been muddied over the years as unions are less powerful and Australians have enjoyed a decade of affluence under John Howard's (ex Prime Monster's) leadership. Whichever way I vote, it's my decision and it is a secret. I have discussed my politics with my kids and others but never discussed for whom I voted. Adam has voted in only one State and one Federal Election. Clare in two State and one Federal Election so they are still formative in their opinions, interested but not too much but they do my opinion which I give but try not to sway their decisions either way. Let's face it, they're young, many of the policy statements have little relevance for them - but they do have to turn up and on all occasions they assure me they have made a legitimate stand.

My point . . whilst I'm not particularly shy about my politics which are poorly informed, slightly left of centre (and I've been criticised more than once for being pink, leftist or socialist when in fact I'm not that radical) my voting habits are my business and nobody else's. That's why it's a 'secret ballot'. However I do believe that 'making' people at least turn up at the polling booth and taking a ballot paper, does encourage them to vote one way or the other. I've worked on polling booths in the past and you'd be surprised at the low number of Donkey votes.

Sure, you get the odd ballot paper with a knob drawn on it or some home spun diatribe on why that particular person decided not to vote or even the odd obscenity . . but off all the ballot papers, very few . . and I mean, very few - count on two hands few . . did not vote. (For the record, I've worked in polling booths on both sides of the fence).

Voting is an obligation, an empowerment, your chance to have a say, you're only opportunity to shape the government that dictates your future for the next four years - it's a basic freedom that some think worthy of dying for! Even if you just cancel out an opposing vote, it is worth it. Women fought for it and won the right to vote in 1901, Aboriginals only gained it in 1962 and it only became compulsory for them in 1983! More so, if you don't vote, don't complain about the powers that rule you . .

I don't care too much how Americans vote in November although I do have my preferences from a foreign policy point of view - I'd like to see a move away from the Bush regime as his legacy will be only to have involved the coalition of the willing in two nasty wars, one completely illegitimate and let's face it, the man lacks eloquence and his rise to power was highly dubious, through nothing more than a high court ruling. (God, Al Gore must be so pissed off). McCain . . seems sensible/experienced, his offsider dangerous. Obama innovative but inexperienced, his offsider adds legitimacy. Either way, your President is not your ruler. It's the public service that run the country! One thing I do hope for, is that more Americans will turn out and vote - it is your right, your responsibility and something which so many oppressed nations would love to be able to do - value it - take it seriously - turn up at the polling booth so that the best man, the popular leader, the legitimately voted President really does win!

And in other news:
After the events of today, 9% drop on Wall Street, 4% in Australia and most of Europe, the failure of the bail out package to pass by the House of Reps (failed by 23 votes only) and even more surprising, the closure of the House due to a Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah - the Jewish New Year! (WTF! the world's in economic crisis and they close Government for two days - wonder if they're aware it's also Ramadan?) . . .Guess who's market was largely unaffected . . .China . .0.2% drop in the Shenzhen. Now that speaks volumes for us all.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Doggy Doo's

If you're coming to Australia . .be warned . .we have Labradors - a formidable tool in the war against every smell. Terrible fierce, schnooffy Labradors who know where you've been, what you've smoked or eaten or stepped in or rubbed against and better still what you have shafted up you're nether regions. Good dogs they are . .pretty and innocuous but oh so cunning. And all this urban nonsense about getting drug sniffing dogs hooked is rubbish, they'll do it for a play with a ball, a scratch on the tum or a liver treat. Betrayers? Absolutely . . every Ecstasy taker should have liver treats in their pocket and one of those ropey chews and learn to say "Fetch". Now anyone who knows a Labrador knows they're sniffologists. I had to restrain mine last Saturday the, smooth coated, bed lounging, indoorsy schmooch because she was about to tackle a black snake! The look on her face? "Gah! Mum, it smells funny?"

So, be careful when you enter Australia because our first line of defense is the Labrador. Do not smoke dope the day before you catch the plane. You will be detained and body searched. So if you don't want a rubber glove up yer cavity, make sure you're laundered and smell of nothing more than Omo. Do not bring in stinky dried Chinese bear gall bladders or even a fresh kiwi fruit - you will be detained and possibly body searched but only if you've stuck a rhino donger up yer bum or they can't find the culprit after a body search. Do not bring Uncle Costa's favourite Kavla or Olives - you will be detained. Don't even be tempted to bring in Aunty Mae's planting potatoes or favourite Dahlia seeds you will be detained! Make sure you have enough cash to sustain you if you're on a holiday visa - or you will be sent home. Never admit you want to work in Australia unless you have a holiday working visa you will be sent home, and most of all, learn to understand the Somali, Chinese, Indian accents because the gentle people who speak these languages will indubitably be your interrogators as you come through customs and if you're an English speaker, you won't understand a word - hot tip - ask for a translator. And certainly, do not bring small animals hidden in your trousers you will be detained, body and cavity searched and have your birdie confiscated. We have budgies, we know how you smuggle. Yeah, I've been watching Border Control again . . .so many saps, so few customs officers. Having said that . . I still haven't received my irradiated Christmas decorations from Rothenberg.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I had a lovely day today. We headed into the Entertainment Space at Fox Studios which is actually pretty seedy but I managed to make it look interesting. The markets were open for business:

But we weren't there to buy teddies or balls . . .

Or flowers

Or pretty South African enamal ware (although I did buy a salad bowl and servers)

We came for this . . . .

and some fresh honey coated macadamias

And a bucket of fairy floss . . .

But we really came to watch Cirque du Soliel's Dralion . . .

I wasn't allowed to take photos so I had to pinch these but I never, never, tire of these amazing performances. Although I could have done without the smelly man in front who needed to understand that all Australians MUST use deodorant!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

McDanger's Meme

The lovely Terence McDanger (why does the name Terrence always make me go a bit South Parky) who, when he found me declared "I like the cut of your jib!" has tagged me for a meme and it's a nice one because I can do what I do best - talk about myself! Now, because I don't give a rats ass about anonymity - lets face it I need all the friends I can get - here is a very long-winded, you probably-already-know expose of she who would like to be obeyed!

What are your nicknames?
Nell. Old derivative of the Lancashire "Ellen". My grandmother was Nell. I hated it but my father insisted on calling me 'little Nell' from being a toddler and long before the suspendered Rocky Horror Show nemesis, despite the fact that my name is HELEN (hello . .theres an "H" in there). Then in about year 10, we were spelling our names backwards in some boring class and I was Neleh Nnud, it stuck, so my school friends kept calling me Nellie. Still hated it but like the curly hair - I've given up - one cannot fight the unfightable. My younger nieces and nephews think that's my real name! GAH! And I hate getting formal invitations to say, weddings, to 'Dear Nellie'. I'm only called Helen by he who must not be revealed, those who are angry, Adam when I'm ignoring him, JD and a couple of Adam's friends. I stole Baino . .that's actually Clare's nom de plume.

What TV gameshow/reality show would you like to be on
Spicks and Specks. I'd be lousy but I'd have Miff Warhurst as the expert and a comedian on my left and I reckon I could do a pretty good drawing of a song title or ride that bloody bike with more rhythm than most.

What was the first movie you bought in VHS or DVD?
Play School . . my Nanna passed away and left us all $3,000 each, I was pregnant and we bought a TV, Stereo and CD (no DVDs in those days) so in anticipation of my new bub, I bought the Playschool CD! "There's a bear in there, and a chair as well . . open wide, come inside . . it's Playschool!" hahaha!

What is your favourite scent?
Bought? Pretty much anything Calvin Klein and Chanel No 5.
Natural? Gardenias on a summer night. I get out of my car after work and the perfume just oozes through the passageway to my front door. And the orange jasmine outside my bedroom which has no smell during the day but permeates the bedroom at night. Much as I hate the bloody bark, leaf and branch dropping bastards, Gum Trees after a summer storm, all smell eucalyptusy and lemony.

Babies . . now I don't like babies but they do smell nice providing you sniff the right bits. Puppies . . they smell better than babies, sort of buttery. Clare . . oh, my darling Clare, her room no longer smells like her so I spray it with her favourite perfume. She's in for some serious sniffery when she comes home in December. Apparently I have an accute olfactory! I can smell people when they walk in the room and know who they are . . . go ahead, try me.

If you had one million dollars to spend only on yourself, what would you spend it on?
Myself? How could I? My family? Can I cheat? Defo get rid of the kids uni loans (HECS debts). Give them a little to get started.
Go on that WORLD TRIP. I have my itinerary already. Visit bloggers (especially the new England mob) and Ces in Texas and JD in South Carolina and check out the land I inherited in Louisianna. Follow Cook's mapping of Plymouth Sound in eastern Canada and visit a real Labrador. Go to Ireland . . . not for the country but the people. My mother's bridesmaid Mae Tiernan, still lives somewhere in Clare and of course I want to sail with Steph, and cook with Grannymar and hill walk with Thrifty (or maybe babysit so that you get a chance for a nice romantic night for two), argue with Nick and Jenny, and check out the wally who tagged me for this meme! Are you really that 'fit' McDanger? Play with K8 and the kids in Wicklow and climb that stupid Sugar Loaf thing they call a mountain. . None of this kissing the Blarney Stone stuff, just visit. (And payback the Paduan of course)

Then, Prague . . always wanted to go there. I have a friend who lives there but I've lost her momentarily - her family will know how I can get in touch - then PARIS. I care not if the French are rude. I want to be thrown out of Chanel for being too fat. Eat a baguette in the Latin quarter, drink coffee from a bowl, be slapped by a Gypsy, sit on the steps at Mont Matre, visit Notre Dame, the Louvre and the Pompadou centre, see an opera at the Paris Opera house (I've never had the urge despite our fantastique Sydney Opera House) . .bury myself in the Catacombs . . it's a long time dream because once in 1995, I came so, so close but was worried about funds and didn't go . .I've regretted it ever since.

One place you've visited, can't forget and want to go back to?
Ahhh . . Vienna . . .beautiful, unpredictable, historical, artsy . . horsey . . .I loved Vienna but only spent two days there. Take a look at Maria's blog . .she gives you a cook's tour every day. Nice people, everyone speaks English, great coffee, fantastic chocolate, stunning history from the Hapsburgs to Russian occupation . . .*starts singing Ultravox song*

Do you trust easily?
Oh yeah! Sucker for punishment. Everyone is good until proven otherwise. Although I've only been disappointed a few times so I'm not about to stop now.

Do you generally think before you act, or act before you think?
Bit of both. I'm a planner and very organised but then I do silly things. Babysis buys a horse, I buy two. If Adam's subwoofer is bigger than mine, I go out and buy a bigger one. I know I can't afford it but I still get that $125 jumper. Some complete stranger emails me and I email back. Which fortunately, has worked out just fine but it could have gone pear shaped. Nope, I think the heart rules the head . .I'm very impulsive in a rather organised way.

Is there anything that has made you unhappy these days?
Personally? Sitting on an asset that I can't realise. I cannot tell you how frustrating is is to be rezoned, ready to sell and have no buyers. Once we sell, I will be free . . no more money worries but that could be 2 years away. I desperately want to get my life back and that takes $. Not buy a Ferarri and live the high life but travel, have a nice little house, give a little to charity, pay off the kid's HEC's debts and perhaps a deposit on a home of their own. To not worry about having $14 in the bank the day before payday or to have to ask the farrier to bank the cheque next week because I'm low on funds.

On a larger and more philosophical stage . .the World makes me unhappy.. I am unhappy about poverty, political shenanigins, inequality, slave labour (did you know that Ivory coast farmers kidnap kids to pick Coca beans and we buy the chocolate - these kids don't even know why they're picking the pods that make us so happy). I'm unhappy that we all think life as we know it will end if our Plasma screen is reposessed when people are being chopped up with machetes in Darfour or Zimbabwe. I get cranky at the troglodites who don't believe the globe is warming - ask a polar bear - better still ask a Russian, they have their eye on the 'soon to be visible' Terra Nullius that they can claim for oil and other natural resources. I despair at people who don't treat others with respect. I am so unhappy that Gleds can't get off the smack like millions of others. I am unhappy that my South African friend has to leave an amazing country to escape corruption, inflation, a dissolving rand and racial turmoil. I'm unhappy that we won't allow gays to marry - what's so wrong with such commitment? I'm unhappy that a woman cannot have an abortion without someone preaching pro-life and making her feel guilty for an incredibly difficult decision. I'm unhappy that disabled people dont' have the facilities to help them bloom and their carers don't have the respite they need. I'm unhappy that ecological management policies mean killing wolf pups and desexing their parents or culling kangaroos (which should be our natural food source, in favour of beef and ecologically unsustainable hoofed animals). We should be eating crocodiles, emus and kangaroos as sustainable food sources.
I'm unhappy that The Elder Statesman at work didn't even say thank you after half an hour of grovelling under his desk (at 51 and with creaky knees I might add) to install his fucking multi-function centre. Ungrateful prick. And I'm unhappy that the development up the back brought a very LARGE black snake into my back yard this afternoon! Grumpy old women? I wrote the book! There's more . .posts for another day perhaps.

Do you have a good body image?
Shit no! I hate my body. I'm built like a brick dunny. I watched Trinny and Suzannah once and they identified a whole load of body shapes then dressed the women in very embarrasing blue lycra body suits and made them stand on pedestals in some shopping mall . . the poor sap holding the, "I'm a pear", "I'm a triangle", "I'm a thunder thighs" and the "I'm a brick" sign looked exaclty like me . actually, I'm a brick, emotionally and physically it seems. Chunky and straight up and down. I hate being 51 I hate being overweight, I hate being unfirm (notice I didn't say infirm). The thing is, when I was slim, firm and fabulous, I never realised it. I gained a lot of weight before I actually even had my kids then I lost 35 kilos after having Adam, and my lovely husband didn't even notice the difference. Bless! Loved me for who I was. Needless to say, I've erm . . padded out a little since then. But apparently I give good hugs so there!

What is your favorite fruit?
Mangoes. No question. Probably the only truly seasonal fruit in Australia. They're available now but uber expensive. By end of November, they'll be $15 a tray and we'll gorge on them until New Year. Mango on its own, Mango Smoothies, Mango puree on ice cream, Mango with pork, Mango Daquiries . .this year I'm going to be brave and freeze some for the winter. Don't fall for the Fijian models, they're pungent and not as slippery. The very best? Bowen Mangoes from Queensland - juicy, sweet, they taste like nothing else so if you've never had one, I can't describe it. Nothing like the flavour of the canned jobs. One should only eat a mango in front of people you know - very well, they're messy, they're juicy, but they ARE the bizniss. Second runners of course are the other stone fruit of summer, cherries from Young, local peaches and nectarines, apricots and Glenorie strawberries. I love summer fruit.

What websites do you visit daily?
Mostly blogs because the list is getting longer and there are so many out there that are fun and human and interesting but so little time to do them justice. Of course there's the work website which I maintain, Macaquarie Bank, Spectrum Super, COIN Software and a gazillion other work related sites. Australian Tax Office, ASIC etc. On my iGoogle page there's The Onion (thanks Fenton) and The Register although I'm not a geek, I need to know what's happening. Last Minute.com which has holiday and event specials, my own bank . . and Flickr where I store my pics. Pretty dull and pedestrian really. C'mon folks I work 40 hours a week I haven't got time to trawl the web other than to visit you lot!

What have you been seriously addicted to lately?
What besides chardonnay? Skype IM and voice. Actually have been for a couple of years when a blogger, with whom I who no longer speak, to introduced me to Skype. Since . . it's opened up a whole new world of possibilities and for that I thank him. I Instant Message (IM), I talk, I use it to speak with Clare and can see her pretty face on webcam to the point of dissolving into tears. It is total fun talking to Absolute Vanilla in Sarth Efrika . . Thrifty when he's pissed (well Thrifty when he's sober either way it's cool). JD and cuz Dr Don in Sarth Carliner, Grannymar re toyboys and daughters in Belfast - lovely soon-to-be Dishy Daddy and just turned 40 Stan the Man in New Zealand, TheBenchwarmer in Castle Hill, (who by the way is no longer warming the bench and has found a babe -Oh Dame, I've still got your muffin container - come and do drinks in the garden!) and gorgeous Gaye early on Sunday morning when I know she's in her PJ's and wearing the same bedhead as me. Even Adam in the next room! Yeh, sad init but we've done that! Crispy and Brethred in Melbourne, also with webcam. And most of all, to someone who prefers to remain nameless who through Skype I have developed the most amazing and unusual friendship over the past 18 months - now I could never, never have done that without Skype. Now if I can just get Carole from Yukon Chatterbug to actually ping me, that will be a coup.

What kind of person do you think the person who tagged you is?
You know, I have absolutely no idea. I know he's happy with his body, giggles inappropriately at lap dancers, he's pale and interesting (get's sunburned easily) he is incredibly witty, urban despite a fondness for cows and should be writing travel reports for the Pilot Guides or better still appearing on the show. He's a Cavan man , not a caveman - I seem to have a strong connection with a few Cavanites - loves his Scanpan, posts infrequently but when he does, it's a joy to behold. Oh and he likes Hyman Way. (Home and Away) and he introduced me to my first Aussie Blogger Kath Lockett so for that I'm very grateful because otherwise I wouldn't have found Miley either.

What's the last song that got stuck in your head?
For some reason and I have absolutely no idea why, every morning, I wake up with "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" swimming around my head, I can't put my pop sox on without humming it. . Then if and when I chat to a certain, young-enough-to-call-it 'inappropriate' person, Marvin Gaye's "Lets' Get It On" springs to mind . . .but he'll get the humour in that!

Favourite clothing
I am a schlep, a scruff. I never wear dresses or skirts and I am a freak for thongs and sensible shoes. A pair of comfy cotton and lycra blend yoga pants, bootleg - to even out the jetty stumps and a 'rollover' waistband plus an XL David Jones T shirt, I rather like my Jacaranda blue one, it's very summery and makes me look tanned. Literally cap it off with a peak cap (the ones with the velcro at the back to keep the pony tail intact), and I'm ready for action. If I must dress up, I have a fab pair of Resort Report linen trousers that magically don't look like I slept in them all night and a beige, knitted silk three quarter sleeve sweater - very finely knitted. I feel very trendy in that getup. Must look OK too cos I've been complemented on the ensemble many times.

Do you think Rice Krispies are yummy?
No. They are ultimately boring. But, add 400grams, blended with 2 tablespoons of melted butter, two melted king sized Mars Bars mixed thoroughly, pressed into a lamington tray, topped with melted dark chocolate and chilled until firm. Then sliced into bite sized pieces. Mars Bar Slice - to die for. And out here, we call them Rice Bubbles. What self respecting man would eat a cereal called Rice Krispies.

What would you do if you saw $100 lying on the ground?
Drop something so I had a reasonable and inconspicuous way of bending down to pick it up. "Oh lookie here . .what could that be . .oops, dropped my phone . . " Then I'd use the $100 to buy a new phone plan. And 'no' all you goodie two shoes, unless it was blatently obvious who'd dropped it like the hunk of spunk in front of me at the Coles checkout, I would not give it back. They should have been more careful that's a lot of kish in my book so anyone throwing $100 bills away deserves to lose it.

Items you couldn't go without during the day?
Two cups of Irish Breakfast tea with two bags and one sugar and milk, a cup of decent coffee - white and one and four cigarettes. I know, it's a healthy brekky. A shower, my hair curling serum and a goodly amount of hair spray to stick the mess in place. Lippy and mascara . . I don't feel dressed without a little lash and gloss. My camera. I'm getting into the habit of taking it with me everywhere.

What should you be doing right now?
Applying spakfiller to the cracks before I commence painting the interior of my house. It's my give up drinking/smoking strategy but is harder than putting up the ironing board if you know what I mean!

I have to tag six others at the end. Time to pwn_teh_noobs Moon when he's finished getting hitched, Annie Ha and Megan, Miles McClagan hoot mon! The very literary and slightly cross-eyed, Christopher and fuzzy feelgood Bear Naked. Go for it peeps!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Fuckwit

I had to try hard today because I'm on cloud nine for a number of reasons. It's been a beautiful week, work has been pressured but not overwhelming, Adam's been chatty and the weather is warm and sunny, the garden is tidy and finally . . . finally . . my pool shows no evidence of shitty duckage which is a big relief! However, I did catch this one:

But I found a fuckwit - the animal activist organisation PETA:

WATERBURY, Vermont (US not Victoria) - Mooove over, Jerseys PETA wants world-famous Ben & Jerry' Homemade Ice Cream to tap nursing moms (erm 'tap' has rather a different meaning in Australia) rather than cows, for the milk used in its ice cream saying it would reduce the suffering of cows and calves and give ice cream lovers a healthier product.

The idea received a 'cool' reception on Thursday from Ben & Jerry's officials, the company's customers and even La Leche League International, the world's oldest breast-feeding support organization, which promotes the practice — for babies, anyway.

PETA wrote a letter to company founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield on Tuesday, telling them cow's milk is hazardous and that milking them is cruel.

"If Ben and Jerry's replaced the cow's milk in its ice cream with breast milk, your customers — and cows — would reap the benefits," wrote Tracy Reiman, executive vice president of the animal rights advocacy group.

Ashley Byrne, a campaign coordinator for PETA, acknowledged the implausibility of substituting breast milk for cow's milk, but said it's no stranger than humans consuming the milk of another species.

"We're aware this idea is somewhat absurd, and that putting it into practice is a stretch. At the time same, it's pretty absurd for us to be drinking the milk of cows," she said.

It takes about 12 pounds — or 1 1/2 gallons of milk — to make a gallon of ice cream. Ben & Jerry's, which gets its milk exclusively from Vermont cows, won't say how much milk it uses or how much ice cream it sells.

As a standardized product under federal regulations, ice cream must be made with milk from healthy cows. Ice cream made from goat's milk, for example, would have to be labeled as such.

Presumably, so would mother's milk ice cream.

To Ben & Jerry's, the idea is udderly ridiculous.

Gah . .and I was just about to gnash into an Equador Chocolate Magnum . .

See, I'm the spitting image of Eva Longoria -
yes I am a legend in my own lunchtime!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Teach Your Children Well

Australia is the world's largest Island, surrounded by water. We have amazing beaches, harbourside or all around the coast. Wild wonderful places where you 'swim between the flags' or at your own peril. Famous Bondi Beach being one of the most rippy beaches on the coast is a perfect example of the need to be water savvy with the highest rescue rate in Australia (largely due to tourists who cannot identify a rip or take unnecessary risks with the ocean).

Our population is concentrated around the coast. We have 47 Olympic sized swimming pools, and God knows how many public pools, backyard pools, lap pools and spa's. Anyone flying into Sydney on the usual QF2 at 7am will see a hoard of red roofs and backyard pools, their blueness dotting the landscape of even the most humble back gardens . . .they're no longer a status symbol here but a standard accessory to pretty much any home built since 1970. There are above grounds, built-ins, marble sheen, pebblecrete and plastic lined . . .swimming is part of our culture. Every town has a public pool. Every school has a swimming programme and every Australian child learns how to swim . . or do they . . .

I well remember my days as a child I learned to swim 'indoors' at Stockport and Hyde Swimming pools. Even at 9 or 10 years of age, we used to catch the bus (alone with no adult supervision) and spent Saturday mornings at Marple Baths and munch cheese and onion crisps on the top layer of a double-decker on the way home. Stinging chlorine eyes and cold wet hair but invigorated by a morning of splashing and play.

We were taught to swim at a very early age and long before emigration was on the agenda. I was never sure why, perhaps my parents thought it a distraction on cold Cheshire mornings, perhaps preparation for summer holidays on Oxwich Beach in South Wales.

When we came to Australia at 11, 9, 8 and 2 it was vital that we learned how to swim from a survival perspective and many Saturday mornings were spent at Nunnawadding Swimming Club gaining our Bronze medals and Life Saving Certificates which involved rescuing a rubber brick and a life sized dummy whilst fully clothed!

When mine could talk, literally at 3 years of age, I dragged my sorry ass out of bed at 7am to plonk them into swimming lessons at Baulkham Hills Public pool - mainly to teach the kids how to survive if they fell in, attain their 50 metre badge or just flummox around to remain buoyant. Clare objected violently due to persistent asthma attacks yet is now a beach baby who loves the surf. Adam pootled about sploshing with his head raised high out of the water and that puff puff desperate doggy paddling thing but finally reached his 50 metre certificate. Now he dangles fearlessly on a boogie board watching the dolphins beneath him when we play at Hawks Nest in the Summer.

Whilst we didn't have a pool when the kids were young, others did so teaching them how to swim is an absolutely essential skill.

Armani Dirani, a student at Cambridge Gardens Public School, drowned while on an excursion to Glenbrook Swim Centre in the Blue Mountains on December 15, 2006. She was swimming with 200 other children in the public pool. I don't remember it being reported at the time but the inquest is all over the TV news this week (it's sad how long it takes for these things to be explored and resolved).

How an 8 year old could drown in the company of friends, schoolmates, 4 lifeguards and 15 teachers in attendance seems amazing. It appears on the surface that the little girl herself may have circled the 'can swim 20 metres' portion on her permission slip and perhaps had an attack of bravery without the skill to swim in the 'big pool'. Either way, the fact that nobody noticed her flailing and drowning seems incredible. It appears that 3 of the four lifeguards who traditionally sit on high stools like those the umpires of tennis matches occupy, were overwhelmed with the demands of the tuck shop and left their posts to assist. What the 15 teachers were doing remains to be exposed. I'm saddened no actually I'm devastated, that a little girl with too much confidence tackled the 'big pool' with all these supervisors around yet paid for it with her life. Whatever the reasons, there will be blame. . . and whilst I feel deeply for her family and their terrible loss, they should have taught their kid how to swim!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Low Level Flying

It's been a day of surprises:

There was I procrastinating and checking the blogs at 7am this morning in little more than a bath towel and a birthday suit (there, you know what I'm wearing now when I comment on your blogs!) when I heard the familiar deep breathing of a hot air balloon gas flame . . . it's not unusual to see them floating high over the tree tops with early morning revellers enjoying a reasonably quiet ride punctuated with odd bursts of noisy flame, glass of champers in hand and admiring the scenery below. I often wondered why do dogs look up when they hear them yet horses just belt around like total loonies without trying to find the source of this unusual noise.

If we see them on the weekends, as we occasionally do, we race out like total idiots and wave and 'cooee' (that's what we do in Australia - "coo-eee" and if you're really clever you can do it through a gum leaf and sound like Sonny from Skippy who makes the sound of a Whip Bird).

So . . . eager for a shot and mid-blog commenting and now a little late for work . . . I nearly went base over apex getting out of the computer chair, composed myself, adjusted the towel securely *erm crossed fingers and hoped it wouldn't fall off* (fortunately it was one of my less shabby jobs) and grabbed the black beauty - but this one was on it's way DOWN, and in my back paddock. Although they too might have had a surprise at me wobbling outside half naked and wielding a big lens, looking for all the world like an Edina from AbFab looking for a fashion photo opportunity . . . .

Just missed the power lines thank goodness!

Slowly descending through the trees

Almost there (I didn't dare go to close in my state of undress
and the bindis in the lawn made it a painful exercise)


Now add that to:

  • An unscheduled lunch in the sunshine with Thommo who's swanning off to Italy and Sicely with TheBoss for a month
  • A withdrawal from the ATM made me discover that I have $402 in the bank and payday isn't until the 15th of October (ok that was a surprise I could have done without)
  • A lovely email conversation with the green Bimbimbie on the virtues of envirocycle sewage and grey water recycling systems (she's having one installed and had questions about their efficacy - I've had one for 20 years)
  • The colour printer repair man turning out to be a young, rather swarthy, well proportioned man named Fred with a winning smile and worthy of an outrageous flirt
  • Adam, hanging up his towel, actually washing up his lunch stuff before I got home, taking the bottles and bins out before cooking crispy chicken schnitzel to perfection and,
  • the piece de resistance . . . a friend who's been threatening to visit all year finally booking his flight and coolly sending an email to say he'd be here for three weeks from the 1st January . . WAHEY . .I'm so, so excited thinking of places to take him . . . however . . . . unlike the blue balloon . . I'm flying high!

*note to self, must join Skywatch Friday*

You should drop by, you might see some familiar names on the list!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tropic Thunder

I sort of wondered what on earth was going on as the 'shorts' began before the movie Tropic Thunder tonight. A commercial depicts rapper Alpa Chino promoting his two brands: the "Booty Sweat" energy drink and "Bust-A-Nut" candy bar, while performing his hit song, "I Love Tha' Pussy". The first trailer shows action star Tugg Speedman's latest film, 'Scorcher VI: Global Meltdown', and I wondered why I'd never heard of it - a film so repetitive of it's five predecessors that even the trailer narrator sounds shaky about it. Another trailer features funnyman Jeff "Fatty" Portnoy, playing the entirety of "America's favorite obese family" in the highly flatulent 'The Fatties: Fart 2'. Looking for all the world like an Eddie Murphy rip off . . The final trailer, entitled 'Satan's Alley', features Australian "five-time Oscar winner" Kirk Lazarus Jr.) and Tobey Maguire as two monks who begin an impassioned affair.

It takes three of these before old 'slow off the mark' clicks that they're all part of the bloody movie! I'm so slow to catch onto these things. Anyway, it was politically incorrect fun.
I wasn't the only one duped by the "G" rated trailers prior to the movie. At the end of it all, the 20 ish kid behind me asked his mate "Jesus, how come that was rated G" haha . .he didn't get it either so maybe I'm not that slow on the uptake!

Put Jack Black, as a fat recovering addict, Robert Downey who gets into the method by turning black, Nick Nolte as the crusty 'no handed' veteran, Ben Stiller looking suitably buffed yet totally retarded, Tom Cruise as you've never seen him before and Mathew McConaughy (uber eye candy in anyone's language) together and you've got a comedy winner . . . it's gory, silly, disrespectful, consistently politically incorrect and all you'd expect from the man who perfected blue steel. And a kick-ass sound track with some of 70's alternative hits such as The Pusher, Walking Through the Jungle and a bevvy of Vietnam War Style classics and some contemporary rap - particularly notable, Flo Rida's Low

It's not for everyone, especially if you're easily offended but I found it the perfect visual and audio diversion. Frankly I can't wait for the DVD and the blooper real!

Made all the more sweet when you're lad buys your ticket . . . and declares "I like doing something different" aka taking your old girl to the movies!

Monday, September 22, 2008

That Went Down Better than I Expected

The Groovy Grannies
I love my in-laws. I really do, they're totally nice people old Bet and Art. In his earlier days he was 'spunky' Art because he was a very attractive 50 something when I first met his son. He's still the cutest thing since sliced bread and slightly whistles through his dentures and dotes on the woman and he's a damn good cook. She was a weight challenged chatterbox, and still is - a chatter box - she goes to fitness classes these days and looks amazing for her age. I don't think in 27 years of knowing them, I've ever heard spunky Art finish an anecdote (except for the quiet hours when we sit alone and confide) She however, is lovely and doting and has the most amazing complexion for a woman her age. Apart from one early contretemps we have always got on. We have always stayed in touch and I often wonder if I'd remarried, how the new fella might have felt about the close relationship we have with the Groovy Grannies.

Anyway, each October Betty and her siblings (once 12 of them) arrange a "Family Tree Day". This entails hiring a huge shelter shed with barbecues and tables in the less than salubrious
Killeen Street, outside the Auburn Botanic Gardens and haranguing the entire family, in-laws, progeny, family friends to a self-catered day in the sun. Family members travel from Cairns and Canberra,Wagga and Brisbane - just to be there, largely I suspect out of obligation. There are a few who's company I thoroughly enjoy but even they are 'trailing off'. Clearly there are some uncles and aunties and cousins who socialise during the year and form their own little cliques. They know each other but make no effort to get to know the other family members. At last count there were around 100 of us. Directly decended from Grandpa Patrick.

There are races, water balloon fights, 'guess what's in the mystery parcel' , endless raffles with home made prizes such as hand towels with crocheted edges or that painting that Aunty June did or the Japanese Geisha that Paula made in ceramics class (yes I won that one), ice cream, crisps (we call 'em chips) and lollies which of course any kid under 10 thinks is fabulous, Santa makes an appearance in early October just to get the kidlings in the mood and generally it's a good old fashioned family kind of day. I've missed one since 1978 because my birthday fell on the same day and the kids had booked a luxury penthouse in the city . . .trade that for ice cream and a snag in a bun . . I think not baby puppy!

Many an evening we've trawled home with sickly, sticky kids with their 50 cent coins in pocket (the prize for winning your age race but everyone gets one). And just lumped them into bed in their sweaty stickiness because it was easier than waking the exhausted ankle biters up for a bath!

However, as the children have grown this event has become a chore. For me it never was until about 10 years ago. It's nice to meet up with them. They live on the central coast and whilst it's still only 2 hours away it seems like a 'weekend' trip to visit. We do . .but not often. Tell the truth the kids go up there of their own volition more than I. We meet up at Christmas with Ray's brother and his lovely wife and their two horrible 20 somethings and their very nice but slightly nerdy 15 year old. But the Family Tree? There's nothing quite like a table laid with chicken and coleslaw, Aunty Dot's 'daintys' and my 'bread rolls'. Apparently I'm not quite clever enough to bring anything more sophisticated than bread - they'd die if I turned up with carpaccio and watercress salad - so out of spite I choose gourmet breads with weird grains and deliver a package that looks good enough to lacquer and put in a country basket as decoration for the kitchen.

Aunty Vee is one who insists on kissing all the younglings whilst talking loudly and spitting water crackers all over everyone. She's worn high heels since she was 14 and her feet are so deformed she can no longer wear flats. Aunty Peggy is no more but was fun and chirpy and always got my name wrong. Uncle Vince remembers but then is easily distracted by flying things and just wonders off into a comatose rave. Uncle Brian was cool enough but his wife had the same nickname as me and felt that gave her some sort of bonding prerogative and she always invaded my personal space . . you know that metre ring of don't come any closer. Aunty Joan has an air of class about her. She's the youngest and very capable and businesslike and always remembers birthdays but she has her own immediate family to twitter over so the conversations are short. Uncle Leo has the megaphone . . enough said. Then there are a barrage of cousins who do or don't know each other and the new arrivals. There's something terrifying about an 80 year old in high heels walking around each table and bragging about a 4 day infant in her arms "Shit don't drop it" comes to mind but I stay silent.

Anyway, the point is . .I've always ASSUMED that our presence was mandatory. That they'd be shattered if we didn't go to represent! Especially as her Real Estate Agent son could rarely make it, despite having 3 months notice. His two elder fuckwit sons couldn't be bothered . . .(then again they live around the corner from their Grandparents and see them weekly). So it was up to the daughter's in law, Clare, Adam and Jack to be the family support.

I always felt that we'd be letting the Groovy Grannies down if we didn't show, but this year . . this year . .I just can't do it Captain. I've re booked the whale watch for the 19th October and tonight, after ringing the lovely Betty to wish her happy birthday - spilled the beans . . it went surprisingly well. Perhaps because the only female grandchild in the clique will be absent . (Who's the favourite then!) Why, because she'll be trolloping somewhere in Spain . . perhaps because my weird ass bread rolls are just no longer kosher and linseed gets stuck in false teeth . . perhaps because the worry that they would be disappointed is all in my head. Her parting words "Well darling, just let me if you can't change the date . . for the catering you know!"

Well that went down better than I expected!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bang Head Here

Shit! Shit! Shit! Mega poo and more shit! Totally and unadulterated shitfest! My whole deep and meaningful and carefully contrived Saturday post just got sucked into the ether. It was good too. Then I had Clare on Skype and turned into a blithering mess of teary motherhood. Hot tip, Maybelline Long Lash Mascara isn't waterproof!

More tomorrow when I have collected myself. I can't believe I wrote this entire rather brilliant post and it got pissed off into neverland. Shit!. . .I actually thought about it. Re-read it, edited it. Fuck me to Friday Way cranky . . going to hit something soft to spare my knuckles. Man! It took me ages and was deep and . .awwww fuckit! Right that's it. Off to the Bottlo to get me more chardy and shitfaced. God I hate it when that happens. I am so mad right now! I need hot chips and gravy.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday Fuckwit

Rather difficult getting in the 'mood' for a Friday Fuckwit today. I took the day off (preplanned and nothing to do with the state of the markets this week) to have lunch with some former work colleagues. Suzie who only makes sense after a couple of drinks, Vince (ex boss who's previous and current secretaries seem to think he's difficult to work with and have both gone on stress leave or secondment), Richard nerdy project manager and Alan who looks more like Richard Gere on a bad hair day every time I meet him. I like him. Handsome, funny, single . . although he has five children which is a little confronting. Even our waiter looked very much like the Brasilian manicure man only a little more butch so eye candy everywhere!

After 3 hours at lunch in Liverpool Street (Spanish Quarter) and a belly full of Sangria and seafood paella I'm pretty chill. Even the bus ride home was made tolerable by Vince being there for 3/4 of the trip. We chatted and once he left (although there's something a bit weird about kissing your ex-boss on a bus before he disembarks) I just plugged in the iPod and 'ntz'd ntz'd' all the way home to some rather fine Pnau!

So here I sit, chardy charged, full bellied and full bodied on what has been a glorious warm spring day thinking of someone or something to berate! Aww c'mon you didn't think I'd disappoint! This time I'm going for the entire Eastern Block of Europe!

It seems that the eastern block has either no internet, expensive internet, slow internet or no mobile phone coverage. A message from my intrepid traveller sent on the 16th arrived on the 17th and asked was I receiving her messages. Um nope. Only received that one asking if I'd received her messages. I replied and have messaged again but heard nothing. It's now been 12 days with nothing but that one message on the mobile. C'mon people this is the 21st century. There are only 27 Wifi locations in Slovenia. Get your internet network up and running and come out of the dark ages. Do not scorn an antipodean mother who frets when she goes more than 4 days without communication from her daughter! (Am I needy? Yeh. I've been told as much many times!)

Seriously, she's negotiated and communicated on the Gringo trail, the west and east coast of America, Montreal and Canada, London, Surrey, Amsterdam, Germany, Austria and Prague and as soon as she hits Slovenia . . . silence! Maybe there are hot men in Ljubljana. Oh wait, she could have reached Croatia,could be on a yacht, cruising the Dalmatian coast. Biatch!

. . . AND to the Australian customs officer who deemed 9 Christmas Decorations from the Rothenberg Christmas shop a quarantine risk . . . for goodness sake. I bought half a dozen little 'clove' rings festooned with ribbon in the same shop and never had a problem. I can bring in a Fijian wooden sword or kava bowl, a sampan hat from just about anywhere in Asia even a banana leaf mat from Papua but I can't bring in 9 Santas with straw beards sent from Rothenburg Germany. Don't get me wrong, I know the need for quarantine and the danger bugs, seeds etc. represent but a Christmas decoration from one of the most touristy shops in the world? Zealotry she cries! Now I have to pay $42.50 to have them Gamma Irradiated whatever that means. (probably a quick spray with Pine-0-Clean. Clare . . they'd better be damn pretty decorations!

Erm . . he won't fit on my tree! . . .

Don't leave me watching at the window now!

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Today, work was dominated by arranging a Traineeship for a staff member, woes with software, a major virus infection that threatened all our data and IT troubleshooting that left me pretty exhausted. None of these things was noticed or commented on by the principals who went about their daily business - organised their golf trips, waxed lyrical about their new sound systems and tripped across the road to work in the coffee shop. The price I pay to keep an office running seamlessly but let's face it . . it's not rocket science and it's my job to have an office that functions so that they can get on with the business at hand.

However the current banking crisis, barely spoken about until 4pm, eventually had the partners in a spin. I don't understand it much other than prolonged availability of easy credit and the mortgage crisis has led to a fall in liquidity, a number of serious, particularly US bankruptcies, which have the world in a spin and now the world's banks are in meltdown and being buoyed (not booo-eed) by enormous injections of funds ($450 billion at last count) by the major reserve banks across the globe. Punters are pulling out as share prices drop and investing in gold. It seems little has been learned from the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

But today I was angered by two of the partners who naturally, were concerned by client responses and yes, a few clients did ring in asking if they should take their money out of term deposits but there were no more than half a dozen who had contemplated popping their cash in the biscuit tin under the bed or jumping out of a multi-storey window, one of the causes of the meltdown in the first place - shareholders selling due to the fear factor. By and large, our clients were calm and their fears allayed with some informed conversations about the safety of their funds, with their Financial Adviser.

There was absolutely no need to expect one of our staff members, a young single mother, to stay late after picking up her 8 year old son from after school care to send a bulk email merge to 84 clients who could so easily have been called during the day in a pro-active manner and their media fed fears about Macquarie Bank going bust, quelled.

I did something today that I have never done in a crisis . . I bailed. I have things to do after work and having worked 9 hours straight was ready to get on with my other chores. Yes chores . .I didn't leave on time to pour a chardy and put my fucking feet up! (although that will certainly be the impression I gave). In fact as with every afternoon lately, I didn't get home until 7pm, cooked dinner, fed the dog, put out the bins yada yada . . . I feel sorry for Jaime who was left carrying the can . . . she should have just said 'no'. It was totally unfair to think that an email sent at 6pm tonight (with any luck since our outgoing spam filter was preventing half our emails from reaching their destination) would have any more or less impact than one sent at 8am tomorrow morning. Even more unfair to expect a single mother, with her child at heel to stay late, without payment of over time, to deliver the good news that Australian regulatory systems will see the investment bank remain buoyant (not booo-eee-ant). They could have seen that by watching the 7:30 report!

Normally, as Marketing guru, I would have been asked to write something and send the email. But not today so the burden fell to Jaime. She was decidedly unimpressed, actually she was palpably pissed off but didn't argue and whilst picking up her progeny I protested on her behalf to the powers that be . .they remained resolute . . the email had to be sent tonight. No 'ifs' or 'buts'. Sorry Boss but sometimes, just sometimes your empathy gland is underactive!

I dislike he way underlings are manipulated and made to feel guilty for observing their working hours and expected to be there just to serve. I can't tell you the late hours or weekends I've worked, or traipsed up to check a false burglar alarm so that there is a seamless return to work for the rest of staff, without reward or accolade (or many times without their knowledge because I don't tell them) whilst my own boss has tripped off to the chiropractor or gone to sort a domestic dispute within the tennis committee, or taken the dog to the vet. Privilege of owning the business I guess. I will be berated for sure, but not until Monday - since I'm taking tomorrow off to do lunch while I still have money in the bank!

There's been a rather unusual piece of very nicely crafted, neat, chalk graffiti appearing on the pavement around the shopping centre . . it makes me smile and simply says "Unworry". If only investors and managers had that attitude.

Adenda 9:16am Friday 19 September: Ooops, just found out that she volunteered! Foot in mouth disease strikes yet again but the email failed last night. . so it'll have to be sent this morning anyway . . .now do you believe in karma?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Lone "Blackranger"

This is my second attempt. Blogger seems determined not to have me talk about new people I meet via the ether. It's happened before . . spooky . . anyway . . . What I wanted to say is that I've come to know many of my commenters quite well. Of course some are personal friends or friends of the kids, but most of you are spread far and wide.

Many of us email each other, scope each other on Facebook, Skype each other on Skype or just have a 'feel' for each other via the comments and reciprocal blog visits. I particularly love the slice of life blogs and those where there are photos of you posted so I can imagine who I'm talking to! I want to say also to those of you who maintain contact and share a little of your lives, or send emails outside the blog, I really appreciate it.

However, yesterday, I received an email from Blackranger out of the blue. He's never commented and he doesn't blog, yet he emailed. A lurker? A stalker? A man of mystery?!
"hi saw your blog..just thought I'd show you my cremello stallion..meet WICKED ONE
Now that's gotta be the pickup line of the century! Nobody's ever 'shown me their stallion' before. However it was followed a very nice picture of a completely starkers, although well-groomed, bollocky naked, well muscled . . and very fine looking, Cremello stallion . . no not Gary . . his horse!

The Wicked One . . almost white with blue eyes

Seriously. Took me aback a bit because the post was some time ago. Now I've never been bothered by spam or shitty commenters, in fact I've only ever deleted that Jedi idiot who pops up now and then but . . interesting emailer and his white stallion . . c'mon girls . . . are we feeling a little odd about this? Adam thinks I'm crazy but curiosity got the better of me and lets face it anonymity isn't my strong point so I replied:

"Aww he's lovely. Quarter Horse? Are you American? Many people commented that cremellos looked 'spooky' but I loved my little mare, she was very sweet. All you need is a bunch of chestnut mares and you can make a fortune out of Palominos!"
For the uninitiated that's horse talk. Palominos are those lovely golden coloured horses with white manes and tails. Put a 'ginger' chestnut and a Cremello together and the odds of 'throwing ' a pally is high. I know it doesn't mean much to anyone who doesn't know the lovely beasties.

Palomino - it's a colour not a breed

He replied, yet again. Congenially and pleasantly noting that he'd 'dropped out' was living in a remote country area and loving it and breeding horses, making his own electricity and plenty of water in an otherwise drought stricken part of the state near Canberra. So what does a girl (read old boiler) do . .what does the Google Queen do to be more precise? . . Googled him and asked him questions of course . . I'm not nosey, I'm interested, there's a difference . . isn't there?

I found him on a forum and a couple of editorial comments on The Age newspaper, posting as his nom de plume. He has an interest in the 1st Australian Light Horse which was a mounted infantry division in the first world war and they took their wiry and tough Aussie Stock horses with them - the horses have now been re-Christened 'Walers' due to their origins in the early colony of NSW. Noted for their bravery, stamina and agility, in zones such as Africa and Turkey. I rode a stock horse once and it was definitely a case of sit down, shut up and hang on. She knew what she was doing even if I didn't. Old Maggie could bring a poddy calf from the rut at the side of the road back into the mob whilst I was still finding my stirrups!

The barracks are now in Parramatta, where I worked years ago and it was quite incongruous walking to the Station and smelling 'horses' amongst diesel and right next to the Commercial Hotel. We horsey types have a nose for manure and that lovely stable smell. Turns out, Gary made a doco about them.

1st Light Horse Infantry on their not so attractive Stock Horses, now dubbed 'Walers'

Back to the story . . .

So I emailed back . . he's a community TV and Radio presenter, actor, director and producer who has opted for the quiet country life. Not a weirdo, not a stalker . . just a friendly bloke who thought he'd share a picture of his prize. I was quite chuffed! . . but you knew that . . cos only decent people like this blog and you know me and I know you and we all get along just fine. So Gaz if you're connected, drop by now and then.

He also mentioned that he had directed and produced a little known indie film but I couldn't find it in the video shop . . he very kindly sent me a copy (Relax Clare . .I gave him my work address). So tonight's viewing is sorted (after Spicks and Specks and half an hour on that speed monster on the verandah!). That's it. I'll probably never hear from him again but what a nice thought! See, there are some pretty decent people out there, you're not all bag snatching stalkers and predators after all. Then I knew that already.

Thanks Blackranger, that was very sweet of you. As for the rest of you, you're all champs and some of you have become very special indeed. Just had to be said thats' all.

PS: If anyone sees my daughter somewhere on the Dalmatian Coast, please tell her to call her mother - it's been a week and a half. Oh and Quarantine pinched the straw Christmas decorations. I have to pay $50 to get them fumigated if I want them . .do I? . . . Of course I do!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Cheer up!

OK. Seriously. I rarely write posts for others - that doesn't mean I don't like your comments - but this is Baino's (my) Banter (blithery blog). However, I brought you all down so much last night - even had a record number of emails, and I don't mean to make light of what was said yesterday but a little levity might be in order. I thought about Lolcatz because I really think they're funny but the You Tube pics are really about people sticking hamburger buns on their kittens. I even thought about putting James Blunt up so that you'd have something to get really angry about and vent but worried about all those smashed computer screens. So to prevent the flood of tears and for your viewing pleasure (because I have to go and make hamburgers and start my book - book club is only 3 weeks away). I decided, don't get depressed - get even! Cheer up Ian, cheer up Kath, cheer up Gleds . . .

Monday, September 15, 2008

Read Between the Lines

‘Feinted at school today. At the front of assembly. Hardly slept last night. Survived a jog this morning with Dad, barely. I feel bad! There’s no real reason I can think of. Lack of sleep maybe. Tomorrow is school camp. What is going on with me? Felicity Peel is nice to me. So is Shayaga , Ben and everyone. Today is the first day of year 12. I haven’t finished my holiday homework and I don’t want to. Most people managed to finish all their homework. I feel like I cant do anything! But I can! I just don’t want to! I don’t want to bring down my whole school’s score! I’m not excited about sport. I’m dreading house swimming and house athletics. Is it just ‘cos I’m tired? It wouldn’t be that hard to just end everything.’

These are the last written words of a 17 year old, minutes before she took her own life. I've just watched "Australian Story" a wonderful documentary series which covers all sorts of human interest from life on the land to emigrant tales, celebrity lives and of course those who plough through many areas of physical and psychological challenge. I was actually on the computer with the story in the background and it wrenched my heart . .

There was a time in his early teens when Adam, not the best of communicators as a tween, frequently said he felt 'funny' not in a physical way but when I think back he had a lot to cope with. He went to a school where he didn't know anyone, was dealing with the onset of puberty, was overweight and self-conscious and I wonder now if perhaps he was going through some sort of depression but simply didn't know how to express it. Fortunately it was short lived and of course, he's fine now. Well-adjusted, tall, popular, muscled, handsome and in love so that episode was soon extinguished. Not so for many youngsters who know there's something wrong but are unable to express their angst in even the most loving of families.

Hannah Modrum, came from a loving, middle class family. She had great relationships with her parents and sibling and despite the difficulties of living with a deeply autistic brother they were close. So close that her mother was absolutely astonished and shattered when she read her daughter's diary after her death, it clearly conveyed feelings of sadness, tiredness, and a gentle bewilderment at why she felt the way she did. Her family were supportive, sought medical help for their tired and lacklustre teen but the awful truth was that Hannah suffered from depression and was never properly diagnosed and never shared her feelings with either schoolmates or family.

This was an intelligent, attractive, popular little girl who thought she could handle things on her own, not bother her family who had already been burdened with placing their son into care and her mother's cancer scare. She tried going it alone and put her thoughts in her diary.

I've never read my daughter's diary. I know she documents much on her travels and scribbles away in notebooks when the mood takes her. I've found little books whilst tidying her room but always resisted the temptation (respected her need to vent via the written word). I've stared longingly at the covers . .but never actually opened them. I think our relationship is open enough for her to tell me if there's a problem but now I wonder. I've always respected both my children's privacy to an extent but . . makes you wonder if sometimes you should take a non-judgemental peek, just in case.

She was the girl least likely . . and her parent's heartbreak brought me close to tears.

All I can say, is that if you know anyone who gives the slightest of clues whether you know them or not, step in, lend a hand, let them know there is help and hope, someone to talk to, a shoulder to cry on, and that it's not something to be ashamed of. I'm incredibly impressed that this family had the bravery to share their daughter's story and hope it offers courage to other parents to show some compassion and ask the gentle questions rather than reap the awful consequences. It's important to read between the lines. If you're wrong . .no harm done . .if you're right . .could safe a life! And kudos, really, to the Modra family for airing their story . .very brave and very necessary.

Salvation Army 24 hour Care Line: 1300 36 36 22
Lifeline 24 hour Counselling Service: 13 11 14
Kids Help Line: 1800 551 800
24 hour counselling service for young people aged 5 - 18
The Samaritans
Or freecall 1800 199 008
Mental Health Emergency Response Line: 1300 555 788
Western Australian Governement Department Of Health Mental Health Emergency Report Line
SANE: Mental Health Information Help Line
1800 187 263 Monday to Friday 9-5 Email: helpline@sane.org
Vision Australia Translating and Interpreting Service: 13 14 50
Rural Mental Health Network Support Line: 1800 201 123
An organisation aimed primarily at farmers in NSW.
Reach Out! is a web-based service that inspires young people to help themselves through tough times.
Suicide Call Back Service - 1300 659 467 (10am – 8:30pm)
The Suicide Call Back Service is a free nation-wide telephone support service for people at risk of suicide, their carers and those bereaved by suicide. The service is the first professional service of its kind in Australia, providing people with up to 6 telephone counselling sessions, whereby the same counsellor will call those in need at times suitable for them. The service operates seven days a week, from 10am – until 8:30pm and has already assisted over 200 of Australia’s most at risk individuals.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

You know spring has arrived in Australia when:
You just wake up one morning and all the cherry blossoms are out. I swear they talk to each other and it's a synchronised effort

You have to stop your car just about every morning to let ducklings cross the road

You spend $200 on pool chemicals and order a $628 cleaner pump because the fact that it's been broken all winter now makes it's replacement urgent!

Otley has shaken the winter blues and starts calling Adam 'honey bun' ! I'm sure it's platonic

Your washing dries within 40 minutes of being hung on the line despite your shitty spin cycle that leaves everything dripping wet

You can actually hear the awesome hum of millions of bees in the treetops

You have a small huntsman spider in your dunny and wonder whether to leave him there until he grows or dispatch him now (I left him)

The sun shines brigher through your windows despite the existance of a verandah and you can see all the dirty marks on your white kitchen cupboards

You don't need anyone to turn the lights on at 6pm in the alleyway approaching the door and don't trip over clodhoppers in the dark

The coat section in David Jones is now full of bikinis and swimwear, just when you think it might be a good time to buy a red trenchcoat on sale

Your son has a visible landscaper's tan - white bodysuit, brown face and neck, brown forearms and brown knees and calves with little white feet . .well big white feet

You start wearing your "I'm not immature you great big poopy head" T shirt and wear rubber thongs but your feet are winter tender and you get a red mark between your toes

It's 7pm and all the doors and windows are still open

Strawberries drop to two punnets for $4

Magpies bomb you when you walk up to the shed, pluvvers bomb you when you feed your horses . . .

You're dog moves from your bed to the cool of the laundry floor

You sweat walking out to the washing line

The first skink skittles across the slate floor (he's only about 10cm but by summer will be 25cm long and scare the living daylights out of me as he hides under the couch)

The birds wake you up before the alarm

All you can smell in the evening is the neighbour's star jasmine which cascades over the side fence

The weeds grow while you're watching

You check the gas bottle because BBQ weather is just about upon us

You scratch your first mosquito bite, main reason for tolerating the huntsman in the dunny

You start buying Aerogard during your monthly 'big' shop

You up your deodorant to the 24 hour sports strength stuff

You realise that now that socks are a thing of the past, it's time for a pedicure

Christmas decorations hit the shops (don't worry there'll be hot cross buns on New Year's Day!)

Your brother decides it's time for an internal spring clean and announces to all and sundry that because our dad died from the effects of bowel cancer we should all get a 'hosepipe stuck up the Gary'

Heartfelt to dear Cecily in Houston who is currently hunkered down drinking champagne, drawing, eating chocolate and watching Ike wreak havoc. Last live weather update rain and high winds, lowland flooding and only a medium chance of tornadoes . . .hang on to those red slippers Dorothy!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday Fuckwit

Well it has to be a politician this week although I use the term lightly. Our State Government has had a bit of a shakeup over the past two weeks with the State Front Bench being reassigned, a new premier installed and a few try hard pollies unceremoniously ousted . . . but the champion of the hour is the NSW police minister who was forced to quit over reports he "dirty danced" in underwear over the chest of a female colleague in a drunken late-night office party.

Matt Brown resigned just three days after being sworn in.

"I'm a human being and I made a mistake and I am going to cop the consequences," Brown told reporters. "I am not wanting to duck or weave this issue. As you can imagine this is a pretty tough day for me."

Witnesses said Brown stripped down to his underpants and danced to loud techno music on a green leather Chesterfield lounge before he "mounted the chest" of a female politician and simulated a sex act.

Brown did not deny stripping, but said he had not tried to simulate sex with his colleague. The party occurred in parliament three months before Brown was sworn in as police minister.

New State Premier Nathan Rees, sworn in with Brown after a leadership tussle only a few days ago, promised a more accountable government and said Brown had to go because he initially promised that "absolutely nothing untoward" occurred during the party. However too many reports of Browny in his chunders became too much for our new premier to ignore.

Will it ever end?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Get That Upya Terry Taliban

Today marks the anniversary of the World Trade Centre attacks. I remember seeing it on TV here at about 7am and thinking it was a hoax . . .2,974 people died in the attacks. Some I knew of because we deal with bankers and fund managers. Another 24 are missing and presumed dead. This single event rocked the world.

Seven years later the Whitehouse Website reports:
  • 50 million people have been liberated, and two totalitarian regimes have been removed;
  • The al Qaeda network has been weakened;
  • We have not experienced another attack on American soil;
  • Our military has been transformed to meet the challenges of the 21st century;
  • We have expanded our intelligence capabilities to confront today's enemy; and
  • We have created new and essential institutions needed to wage the War on Terror, including the Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Let's put it into perspective:

Casualties in Afghanistan:
Afghan troops killed: 8,587 Afghan troops seriously injured: 25,761
Afghan civilians killed: 3,485 Afghan civilians seriously injured: 6,273
U.S. troops killed: 513 U.S. troops seriously injured: 1,539
Other coalition troops killed: 433 Other coalition troops seriously injured: 1,299
Contractors killed: 75 Contractors seriously injured: 2,428
Journalists killed: 6 Journalists seriously injured: unknown
Total killed in Afghanistan: 13,099 Total injured in Afghanistan: 37,300

Casualties in Iraq:

Iraqi troops killed: 30,000 Iraqi troops seriously injured: 90,000
Iraqi civilians killed: 638,579 Iraqi civilians seriously injured: 1,149,442
U.S. troops killed: 4,154 U.S. troops seriously injured: 30,324
Other coalition troops killed: 176 Other coalition troops seriously injured: 528
Contractors killed: 917 Contractors seriously injured: 10,569
Journalists killed: 154 Journalists seriously injured: unknown
Total killed in Iraq: 673,980 Total injured in Iraq: 1,280,863

Source: http://www.unknownnews.net/casualties.html

Whilst I do not support the invasion of Iraq by the coalition of the willing, I do support the invasion of Afghanistan. Whatever, it's a done deal and there seems to be a modicum of order very slowly returning to Iraq. Today Iraqi president Talibani stated

"Now I can say all parts of Iraq liberated from terrorist control and activities. It's true that some groups remain hiding themselves from here or there, but there's no place, no inch of Iraqi land under the control of terrorist activities. There are some terrorist -- still groups working -- hiding themself, and thanks to you and sacrifice of your brave army and to Iraqi people, now we can live in peace and security."

And I think there is little doubt across the planet that the dispatching of Saddam Hussein was a good thing.

Six years after being driven out of Afghanistan, Brown Heroin is hitting the streets of Australia in cheap and epic proportions (and I suspect many other nations). Afghanistan being the source of the illicit drug. Suicide bombing, not a traditional Taliban method of causing damage, has become more frequent The increasing use of very public attacks has had a striking effect on morale far beyond the immediate victims

The Taliban are demonstrating overt resilience to the allies best attempts to drive them out of Afghanistan and have a steady stream of income from the opium trade.

Most women are still wearing the bhurka (and this word does not exist in Blogger spellcheck!)

Osama Bin Laden is no longer the enemy . . .I don't think we really know who is.

Vale to those who died in the tragedy of September 11, remember those currently who have given their lives or are still fighting, or working, in two very difficult warzones, one of which should never happened. We are a small country in terms of population and have been very fortunate in terms of casualties but we are proud of our soldiers. It's a shit job but someone has to do it. Counsel those who come home and give them a proper debriefing (unlike the sad chain of events that followed Vietnam - history is written by the victors).

War is Hell. I have nothing more to say. Except, Aussies do it with humour! Get that up ya Terry Taliban! It's a poor video but he's such an Aussie!