Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Fuckwit

Let me preface this weeks fuckwitterage by saying that Returned Servicemen's Clubs (RSL) and many other sporting or association clubs in Australia are generally more than just pubs. They have restaurants, gyms, swimming pools (where children can take lessons), creches and sporting fields. Some even have hotels . . water parks and more. Many have auditoriums for concerts, cabarets and schools events. Even if you live beyond the black stump, pubs and RSLs are the hub of the community and most pubs, thanks to the lovely weather have outside rooms or beer gardens where children are welcome. Gaming rooms are always separate to the main areas and children under 18 years of age are not permitted in or near public bars, only in the beer garden (until 7pm) or family friendly restaurants associated with said pub or club. All encourage families, particularly in their restaurants and beer gardens which are valuable sources of extra revenue.

Now I'm not sure about the US, but Britain and Australia have a childhood institution . . . a TV show named Playschool that's been viewing as long as television's been alive. All our kids have grown up with Jemima and Big Ted, the theme song "There's a Bear in There . ." and "I think today, we'll look through the square window! " one of three (triangle, square and round).
I remember taking my kids to live Playschool concerts when the Wiggles were still wetting their pants. They were marvellous. The yummy mummies sat in the background and nattered about the pros and cons of breastfeeding and whether Dr Spock may have had a point or whether Dr Chris Green had it right with Toddler Taming. The kids formed an undersized mosh pit and huddled around the stage to enjoy their favourite TV personalities, puppets, stories and crafts absolutely OBLIVIOUS to everything else around them. Most concerts are held in community theatres or centres but sometimes . . these are simply not available . . Now here's where the total fuckwittery comes in:

The ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission) our national broadcaster, has staged Play School concerts in pubs and clubs for eight years, but now there is a rising voice of criticism that the public broadcaster is endorsing gambling and drinking. Damn those bananas in pyjamas if they hadn't chased teddy bears down the stairs in a drunken stupor and caused an OH&S nightmare, everything would have been just fine!

The ABC has released a statement saying if the Corporation did not book such venues, children in some areas would simply miss out. And it says the performances, featuring characters like Little Ted and Jemima, in pubs and clubs are held away from the gambling areas. The issue of pokie machines and drinking in the same venues as Play School concerts came up in Senate Estimates this week. The Greens have asked for more information about the ABC's association with Kids Promotion (well they always do because procrastination is their motto).

Play School presenters and characters feature in the live interactive 40-minute shows performed for young children.

Glenys Stradijot (Taa-daaaaaa! -I think it even rhymes with 'idiot', yep, she's the FUCKWIT!) from the lobby group Friends of the ABC, says holding Play School in venues such as pubs is exposing children to gambling and alcohol. "We think it is entirely inappropriate for the public broadcaster to be enticing people into businesses of any kind, let alone gambling and establishments that are selling alcohol," she said. "What this is doing is introducing children to the environment of gambling and alcohol establishments at an age before they are too young to determine themselves whether or not that is an appropriate place for them to be." - Gee, she's pretty cool at syntax and sentence structure as well!

For fuck's sakes Glenys, they're too young to stick a pea up their nose - well maybe not - but they're certainly too young to know what a pub or club or pokie or drunk is . . .ever seen a two year old on a sugar rush? They make drunks and crack addicts look laid back!

The ABC made a statement saying if it did not book pubs and clubs in some suburbs and towns in New South Wales, children in those areas would miss out. The broadcaster says the entertainment venue is clearly separated from the gaming activities of the clubs. The ABC also says it has not received a complaint about the suitability of these places in the eight years of touring its shows.

So stick that in your politically correct and killjoy pipe and smoke it Ms Glenys - you're officially a Friday Fuckwit . . .

Little bit of personal triv . . the Playschool CD was the first I ever bought in anticipation of the birth of my first baby! Sad, I know.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

High Tea and High Jinks

So, more travels with your Aunt. We booked two nights at The Windsor Hotel, beautiful Victorian old girl in her original garb but impeccably maintained.

We were reminded of the Shining and Redrum and it did have that mahogany spookiness to it but it was gorgeous, the staff lovely and didn't give a shit that we were dressed in jeans and T shirts within its five star walls.

Clare was a little disappointed on first viewing because I think she prefers the more modern dark brown and cream minimalist look that's so prevalent in hotels these days but it was just as I'd remembered when I stayed there 17 years ago before seeing Phantom of the Opera - right down to the Footman at the door who obligingly looked after our now cumbersome wheelie bags.

We had booked in for High Tea . A quaint English tradition that's enjoying a huge resurgence here in both tea shops and hotels. Clare kindly redeemed her Christmas gift voucher and paid for the event. We were escorted into the Ballroom nonetheless and genteelly sat at a table for two ("Tea for two and two for tea . . cha, cha, cha . .") poured a glass of sparkling rose and it was explained to us just how things worked. First a tier of scones with the thickest of King Island Triple Cream and jam, then a tier of savoury pastries and muffins, finger sandwiches and pastries then our pick of the dessert smorgasbord. All accompanied of course . .with tea!

We could have done with a crowd frankly because we were pogged after 20 minutes and simply couldn't even do the chocolate fountain justice!

We checked into our tiny but beautifully Victorian room . . .

(hey it was cheap).

We managed to sneak in a quick look around Crown Casino and coffee with the Benchwarmer who was also visiting Melbourne before sprucing up to meet my niece for dinner at Madam Brussels where she's the Event Manager . . .I've never seen anything like this. Hidden in a dingy off-road hallway in Bourke Street, and three floors up, it's a wrought iron furnished, floral decorated bar with a brick pathway and astro-turf indoors, where the waiters look like 1920's tennis players or boat punters! Very cute, very small and unless you're in the know would have no idea it was there.

This is common in Melbourne. You find the good spots by word of mouth - keeps the tourists out! A after an Espresso Vodka Cocktail . .yum for those who don't like their cocktails too sweet, we moved on to a restaurant called Panama Dining Room. This was our first introduction to Melbourne's love of shabby chic and industrial architecture. Even the entry door was actually a fire escape door graffiti'd with the restaurant name. Inside a huge warehouse space transitioned from left to right with no dividers from bar and pool tables to lounges to restaurant.

The menu was fantalicious except for the introduction of rabbit which I just can't grasp as gourmet food, largely because they are so destructive in my garden. But we selected a rare Wagyu steak with something potatoey and some sort of jus and almondine broccoli and charred pumpkin. Gorgeous . . all blended with a delightful local chardonnay at a mere $45 per bottle and a couple of freebies on the house because my niece knew the proprietor. Pogged and happy after a night of conversation and giggles, we left Bec to party hard . . these 'hospitality' types keep late hours!

On Monday, we had arranged to shop . . Melbourne is renown for it but shopping is higgeldy piggeldy. There are the same chain stores that we have in Sydney then alleyways of designer shops, recycled clothing shops and rather exclusive boutiques and of course cafes.

We ran into the Benchwarmer again in this alley and after a coffee we said our goodbye's and Clare and I hit the stores. Our purchases were few and far between. Clare bought a nice knitted dress, I settled for a more sedate business shirt.

We'd arranged to meet some friends with whom she'd travelled in South America and a fellow blogger so settled happily at the Transport Bar in Federation square since it was central, close to Flinders Street Station and the tram stops and began imbibing yet again.

It was wonderful for Clare to catch up with her 'wharfie' friend met during South American travels and another girl for whom she's designing a website then as dark fell, Kath from Blurb from the Burbs rang to ask where we were, as she was free for a couple of hours and would make her way over.

Now if you haven't checked out her blog, please have a look. I rarely promote other's blogs because it's a matter of taste but hers is well worth a look. She is a published author - Work Life Balance for Dummies - a mother, a wife, a freelance writer and gets paid to eat and photograph chocolate for a living and it doesn't get better than that! Where do these women get jobs like this! English Mum also gets paid to test recipes and review children's DVD's . . .anyway, I digress . . .she appeared as a little vision in dark blue jeans and salmon pink denim jacket with a neat black shoulder bag with it's thin strap swagged across her chest, arms outstretched and a smile as big as the outback. We liked each other instantly. She's exactly as I imagined only more petite so don't believe her when she goes on about her big bum! And she said I looked younger and slimmer than in my photos, so there! ('Tis true I take an awful photo). We sipped and chatted, discussed who we'd met from the blogosphere, talked about life, family, dogs, blogging and new opportunities and in all too short a time, she had to return to entertain family who were visiting from South Australia to celebrate her daughter's birthday but not before issueing us a generous dinner invitation next time we're in Melbourne, one we'll certainly accept. A sweet, natural, chatty Aussie blogger and I really enjoyed our time together.

Now this my friends, is what it's all about for me. It was wonderful to meet her and although I knew what she looked like, I now can hear her voice when (pretty Aussie at that). I know how she sounds when she laughs and the expressions on her face. It was indeed a 'moment' and I'm so grateful that she took the time out to meet us. Thanks Kath, you're a champ.

So, after all this chatting and hugging and catching up - Kath moved on and we ordered dinner from the bar - very excellent pub grub and yes, I know you shouldn't post a double superlative. No sooner had we finished (four young things 24-29 and me well over the hill) were approached by a couple of sleeze bags and despite our attempts to ignore their advances and claims of closing "a trillion dollar deal . . " yeah right! Had to rely on the bouncers to release us from their vice like attention. They were locals apparently and well-known to the establishment. Although I have to say, I did enjoy a little guilty pleasure in being chatted up by someone 15 years my junior!

Another night's sleep in the spooky hotel before our last day. I was determined to order Eggs Benedict or Eggs Florentine for breakfast and we enjoyed one of each immensely before boarding the South Brunswick Tram for some 'alternative' shopping.

Trams are interesting. From what I gather, it all goes on an honesty system, you buy a ticket from a machine, validate it once on the tram then use the tram for the nominated time . . .but nobody checks . .we could have caught it for free . . next time . . nah . .I couldn't do it. Too honest and it was only six bucks then we realised that we were travelling a distance of about 1km and could have easily walked!

Fitzroy is definitely that. A few factory outlets, many very expensive boutiques and heaps of 'Vintage Clothing' outlets. Street side cafes and restaurants and one called Little Creatures which was basically a huge space and bar that resembled a soup kitchen where we just had coffee but had we wanted to, we could have borrowed a bike, eaten from enamel bowls and/or plates and tasted over 150 beers.Borrowed pic but the cheeky smile on the right served us the best coffee in the street!

Frankly after trudging up and down Brunswick Street, we were beginning to feel footsore and weary so headed back to the hotel for final checkout and to retrieve our wheelies. But not before discovering the beautiful Victorian Exhibition Centre and another pretty park.

Walked the full length of Bourke street during peak hour to meet the airport shuttle (I was being tough but it was killing me). Then into the airport for arguably the worst cheese and ham toasted sandwich on the planet before boarding a nice big 767 for home. What is it about airports? I mean Macdonalds is the only decent food there and I use that term loosely!

So, aren't you glad we didn't do a world trip! This is the next best thing to the "Hey, come over to our place and take a look at the slides of our holiday . . ." Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz! Sleep tight, make sure the bed bugs don't bite!

Too short but too much fun! And I'm sure we only scratched the surface. Look out Melbourne because I have a feeling that's not going to be the end of the Bainbridge onslaught.

Normal and less introspective service will resume tomorrow . . so many fuckwits, which one will make it this Friday? Who knows?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wheelie Girls and Beer Bum Chicken

Actually I wasn't going to do this as a Theme Thursday post but since it features a couple of suitcases, it sort of works. If you want something more specifically suitcase related, here's an oldie but a goodie if you're a new commenter this year.

We're now back from Melbourne. Five days of sightseeing, hilarity, incredible imbibing, industrially decorated restaurants and boys wearing 1930's tennis gear in little wine bars that you wouldn't know existed from the street. Beautiful autumnal parks and trams that go 'ding' in the night and one of the spookiest hotels on the planet. Not to mention, meeting up with travel companions, nieces, old friends and new . . we had a wonderful time and frankly, I'm really quite sad to be back in Sydney watching the rain pour and rehearsing for tomorrow's 'interview' with two HR gurus who I hope, will find me employment by next week.

We packed a lot into our five days so I'm going to break it into bits over the coming week or so.

The flight was fine and my travelling companion's forearm spared the anticipated squeeze bruise. I even settled for coffee seeing as it was only 11am and forwent the G & T's.

On our descent into Victoria, we flew over the bushfire devastated Healsville area and were stunned by the size of the fires that had left thousands of acres scorched brown, leaves still on the trees. This one obviously taken through the plane window so a little hazy.

We descended through a pall of haze which they called fog, I called pollution. Although after two days it dissipated so maybe they were right after all . . .We arrived about lunchtime in Melbourne and wondered conspicuously about town with our wheely cases. We also appeared to be the only people in the city wearing 'colour'. Clare in her bright green surf hoodie and me in my new red trenchcoat. The city is populated by people in black suits and layers of grey albeit very funky layers. It seems Melbournians are much better at putting together a slightly offbeat fashion statement than their rather pretentious and boring, suited Sydney cousins.

We wondered from Spencer Street Station to Flinders Street, clunkety clacking all the way down Bourke street, being intercepted by homeless people wanting a dollar - probably looking absolutely like tourists and aided in no small way to a Canadian luggage tag on Clare's suitcase.

. . We stopped for lunch at Federation square. This controversial square is a 'gathering' place with a few exhibition and public spaces, bars, a couple of restaurants and is incredibly touristy. Spot the Aussie was a good past time during our very trendy but tiny portioned lunch.

We then headed down Flinders Street with our wheelies in tow and had a browse around the beautiful Fitzroy Gardens.

Plane tree leaves floated gently down as we wended our way through to Captain Cook's cottage, faithfully reproduced stone by stone and through manicured gardens and ponds.

I was to meet up with David McMahon of Authorblog but when he called we were deep in the bowels of the park and he was way up the other end of town so we agreed we'd try to catch up on Monday when we could arrange a more central rendezvous. Sadly it didn't happen so next time Dave.

As five approached, we headed back towards the city to meet up with Kahlerisms and Brethred. She joined us outside a city wine bar for a few drinky poos before Kahlerisms picked us up and drove us to their home about an hour from the CBD. While Brethred took off to buy fish 'n chips for tea we were given the grand tour of their new house including the old e-Type in the Garage, the mess of cables in what is referred to as 'his' computer room and shown where we'd park our bums for two nights and of course where to powder our noses.

I love Chris/Kahlerisms/Crispy because he's casual. He and Brethred are not the sort of peoplewhere you have to put on pretense and within minutes, we're all sitting in the living room, glasses full, wearing our scruffies and settling in for a night of it. We did well. Since neither were sure what we drank, they bought out a substantial part of Dan Murphy's and provided a wide variety of champagnes, white wines, beers etc. just for good measure.

And yes, we all sat, giggled, drank, checked out his odd collections of 'stuff' from silver matchboxes to KISS dolls and Star Wars soft toys. We spoke about obsessions such as the search for the best single malt whiskey and cameras and computers . . .in fact the night went really quickly before we tried to watch a late night movie and invariably crashed before the end! Man that guy has an amazing TV!

Brethred had arranged a day out on Saturday and Chris broke out his fabulous old Mercedes and chauffered us down to the Mornington Peninsula and Portsea for lunch at the pub.

I can recommend the seafood tagliatelle it was unbelievably delicious if not a bit sploshy and Clare managed to wear crab on her sunglasses for a good hour before it was pointed out. A beautiful part of the world where we walked along the cliff walk for some token fresh air before driving back down to Sorrento and having the world's best vanilla slice and tea . .yes it is the world's best Vanilla slice and one of the prettiest little villages to browse through.

We took the scenic route back to theirs taking time to admire the increasingly expensive seaside houses and the almost as expensive little beach huts which seem to be a peculiarity of the Port Phillip bay beaches. Colourful and cute, they house beach gear and kayaks, wet suites . . whatever you need without having to lug it from home to the seaside.

Dinner this evening was a little more exotic or erotic depending on how you look at it. Beer Bum Chicken . . .two cans of beer with garlic and rosemary inserted into the amber fluid before they themselves are inserted into two rather embarrassed No.12 Chooks and cooked slowly on the barbie. The end result, moist, beer and garlic infused chicken with a crispy salt and pepper crust. Fantastic.

Exhausted by a day of being chauffeured around in a luxury car, drinking, eating and taking in the views we proceeded to take in some DVD's and drink more Fleur De Lys Champagne than Seppelt have managed to produce in the last five years . . .one movie best left to the imagination was a slash horror called "Teeth". Not for the feinthearted when you find out where the teeth actually are!

Thank you my darlings for your exceptional hospitality you were the best hosts and we had a fantastic time. You were naughty to pay for everything but we loved being with you again and really hope to see you much sooner than in the next 12 months.

We bad them farewell about lunchtime after being graciously delivered to the city on Sunday, before heading off to our Stephen Kingish hotel for another cultural phenomenon that's taking hold here . . High Tea . . but that's for another day.

Redrum anyone?

You can click on the pics to enlarge them if you have time.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Vacation or How I Deal with My Fear of Flying

Theme Thursday yet again and this time it has come a week to soon for us - "Vacation" as we're just about to embark on one!

Well I haven't had one for a while -Vacation folks - keep your minds out of the gutter!

In fact, the last proper vacation was probably a week up the north coast with Thommo and the Merry Widow in the Summer of 2007 but even that was more like a long weekend. The biggest was in 1995 when Clare and I did Disneyland via, England, Jersey, France, Switzerland, Austria, Germany . . . I know, we went the long way round.

But this weekend, Clare and I are heading of to . . wait for it . . .don't get too excited . . . hold your breath . . . . MELBOURNE!

Yay, we've purchased our el cheapo tickets and are spending a couple of grand of the redundancy cash and a shit load of Frequent Flyer points to go to Melbourne. Australia's second capital, bastion of finance, the place where Batman doesn't wear a cape, sanctuary for the shopaholic and the city of trams.

Actually, it's not the city that attracts although it's a pretty amazing one, but my beautifully uncommunicative friend Kahlerisms and his much more communicative girlfriend Brethred as well as my Niece who manages a funky little bar down there called Madam Brussels and TheTeacher who now lives there and hopefully a quick meet up with a couple of bloggers (not dobbing until it happens but I'll be blogging if it does).

My only problem . . I am terrified of flying. Well 'terrified' is probably a little too strong a word but I'm very uncomfortable flying. I know it's a means to an end and as an avid and fond traveller, in a country this size, it's the only way to cover long distances. Oddly on long hauls, the more I fly, the less I become afraid but short hauls (Melbourne is only an hour and a bit), you never get quite high enough to escape the weather. It's one of those flights where they often stop serving coffee or drinks due to turbulence and I remain steadfastly battoned into my seat and white knuckled whilst grasping the edge of the seat. If you're unfortunate enough to be sitting next to me, I may grab your forearm and squeeze so tight that your fingers go blue.

I'm the last on and the first off. I have at least three Gin and Tonics (and I never usually drink spirits) before I embark no matter what the time. The last time I went to Melbourne, I happily drank champagne and sat at the wrong departure lounge until I was 'called' and had to run about 15 gates to reach the flight . .

Once on board, I twiddle knobs like a child with a Fisher Price play centre. I check the life jacket under the seat. I never read the safety instructions but I always get a seat close to the doors. I fiddle with the free brochures and magazine in the pouch on the seat in front. Make sure all the recliner buttons work and annoy those sitting behind me.

When it's time to take off, I say a prayer, which is very peculiar because I don't believe in God but whoever's helping to get that damn thing off the ground before it sploshes unceremoniously into Botany Bay had better do it quick.

Once up, I'm fine. It's like relinquishing all control because I know I have none. Then as my ears pop for the descent, I regain my ghostly palour and don't breathe out until the skid at the end and the slow crawl into the airport.

Fortunately, even though Melbourne is not far away, it's a commute for many business people so the planes that fly there are a reasonable size. Anything smaller than an Airbus and I really get the heeby jeebies.

Despite the fear, I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to this little vacation . . .so if you see two lost Sydneysiders (you'll know us because we're the only people wearing 'colour' on a business day) with wheely cases looking a little lost around Spencer Street Station, say G'day and point us towards the shops!

Right, there's only one way to get there and that is UP!

Back next week. Have a fantabulous weekend everyone!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wombats Are Perfectly Normal

It's Wednesday, therefore it is Madhouse time . . this week "Normal". I wanted to do something quintessentially Australian when I actually found a piece written by an Englishman on what we consider 'normal' in Australia which foreigners might find rather confusing. Makes sense to me . . enjoy!

Douglas Adams' View of Australia

Australia is a very confusing place, taking up a large amount of the Bottom half of the planet. It is recognisable from orbit because of many unusual features, including what at first looks like an enormous bite taken out of its southern edge; a wall of sheer cliffs which plunge deep into the girting sea. Geologists assure us that this is simply an accident of geomorphology and plate tectonics, but they still call it the "Great Australian Bight" proving that not only are they covering up a more frightening theory, but they can't spell either.

The first of the confusing things about Australia is the status of the place. Where other land masses and sovereign lands are classified as either continent, island, or country, Australia is considered all three. Typically, it is unique in this.

The second confusing thing about Australia are the animals. They can be divided into three categories: Poisonous, Odd, and Sheep. It is true that of the 10 most poisonous arachnids on the planet, Australia has 9 of them. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that of the 9 most poisonous arachnids, Australia has all of them. However, there are curiously few snakes, possibly because the spiders have killed them all. But even the spiders won't go near the sea.
Any visitors should be careful to check inside boots (before putting them on), under toilet seats (before sitting down) and generally everywhere else. A stick is very useful for this task.

Strangely, it tends to be the second class of animals (the Odd) that are more dangerous. The creature that kills the most people each year is the common Wombat. It is nearly as ridiculous as its name, and spends its life digging holes in the ground, in which it hides. During the night it comes out to eat worms and grubs. The wombat kills people in two ways: First, the animal is indestructible. Digging holes in the hard Australian clay builds muscles that outclass Olympic weight lifters. At night, they often wander the roads. Semi-trailers (Road Trains) have hit them at high speed, with all 9 wheels on one side, and this merely makes them very annoyed. They express this by snorting, glaring, and walking away. Alas, to smaller cars, the wombat becomes a symmetrical launching pad, with results that can be imagined, but not adequately described.

The second way the wombat kills people relates to its burrowing behaviour. If a person happens to put their hand down a Wombat hole, the Wombat will feel the disturbance and think "Ho! My hole is collapsing!" at which it will brace its muscled legs and push up against the roof of its burrow with incredible force, to prevent its collapse. Any unfortunate hand will be crushed, and attempts to withdraw will cause the Wombat to simply bear down harder. The unfortunate will then bleed to death through their crushed hand as the wombat prevents him from seeking assistance. This is considered the third most embarrassing known way to die, and Australians don't talk about it much.

At this point, we would like to mention the Platypus, estranged relative of the mammal, which has a duck-bill, otter's tail, webbed feet, lays eggs, detects its aquatic prey in the same way as the electric eel, and has venomous barbs attached to its hind legs, thus combining all 'typical' Australian attributes into a single improbable creature.

The last confusing thing about Australia is the inhabitants. First, a short history: Some time around 40,000 years ago, some people arrived in boats from the north. They ate all the available food, and lot of them died. The ones that survived learned respect for the balance of nature, man's proper place in the scheme of things, and spiders. They settled in, and spent a lot of the intervening time making up strange stories. Then, around 200 years ago, Europeans arrived in boats from the north. More accurately, European convicts were sent, with a few deranged and stupid people in charge. They tried to plant their crops in Autumn (failing to take account of the reversal of the seasons when moving from the top half of the planet to the bottom), ate all their food, and a lot of them died.

About then the sheep arrived, and have been treasured ever since. It is interesting to note here that the Europeans always consider themselves vastly superior to any other race they encounter, since they can lie, cheat, steal, and litigate (marks of a civilised culture they say) - whereas all the Aboriginals can do is happily survive being left in the middle of a vast red-hot desert, equipped with a stick. Eventually, the new lot of people stopped being Europeans on Extended Holiday and became Australians.

The changes are subtle, but deep, caused by the mind-stretching expanses of nothingness and eerie quiet, where a person can sit perfectly still and look deep inside themselves to the core of their essence, their reasons for being, and the necessity of checking inside your boots every morning for fatal surprises. They also picked up the most finely tuned sense of irony in the world, and the Aboriginal gift for making up stories.

Be warned. There is also the matter of the beaches. Australian beaches are simply the nicest and best in the entire world. Although anyone actually venturing into the sea will have to contend with sharks, stinging jellyfish, stonefish (a fish which sits on the bottom of the sea, pretends to be a rock, and has venomous barbs sticking out of its back that will kill just from the pain) and surfboarders. However, watching a beach sunset is worth the risk.

As a result of all this hardship, dirt, thirst, and wombats, you would expect Australians to be a dour lot. Instead, they are genial, jolly, cheerful, and always willing to share a kind word with a stranger, unless they are an American.

Faced with insurmountable odds and impossible problems, they smile disarmingly and look for a stick. Major engineering feats have been performed with sheets of corrugated iron, string, and mud.

Alone of all the races on earth, they seem to be free from the 'Grass is Greener on the other side of the fence' syndrome, and roundly proclaim that Australia is, in fact, the other side of that fence. They call the land "Oz", "Godzone" (a verbal contraction of "God's Own Country") and "Best bloody place on earth, bar none, strewth." The irritating thing about this is they may be right.

There are some traps for the unsuspecting traveller, though. Do not under any circumstances suggest that the beer is imperfect, unless you are comparing it to another kind of Australian beer. Do not wear a Hawaiian shirt. Religion and Politics are safe topics of conversation (Australians don't care too much about either) but Sport is a minefield. The only correct answer to "So, howdya' like our country, eh?" is "Best {insert your own regional swear word here} country in the world!".

It is very likely that, on arriving, some cheerful Australians will 'adopt' you on your first night, and take you to a pub where Australian Beer is served. Despite the obvious danger, do not refuse. It is a form of initiation rite. You will wake up late the next day with an astonishing hangover, a foul-taste in your mouth, and wearing strange clothes. Your hosts will usually make sure you get home, and waive off any legal difficulties with "It's his first time in Australia, so we took him to the pub.", to which the policeman will sagely nod and close his notebook.

Be sure to tell the story of these events to every other Australian you encounter, adding new embellishments at every stage, and noting how strong the beer was. Thus you will be accepted into this unique culture.

Most Australians are now urban dwellers, having discovered the primary use of electricity, which is air-conditioning and refrigerators.
Ettamogah Pub and yes . . we have one just down the road . . . see . . . we're perfectly normal!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Glass Hammers and Chocolate Teapots or How I became as Useful as a Screen Door on a Submarine . . .

Some of you have asked 'How was your last day at work . .? ' and to those who emailed good wishes and kind thoughts, thank you for asking, I really appreciate it. Lovely to know that others are thinking about me when I feel a little isolated. It's been quite a learning curve as those I least expected have offered support and kindness and some I have known for years have said absolutely nothing. They're as useless as an ashtray on a motorbike!

I was retrenched formally on the 15th April although my best friend had alerted me to the fact that it might be on the cards for some time. Hopeful that the business would pick up through the March quarter, I worked my bum off, made suggestions for revenue-raising, website improvement, lead generation and client contact and was met largely with blank stares and a feeling of fete accompli . . my position was to go and that was that. My boss was being very curt with me at the time and I didn't know why but he was struggling with how to tell me after doing battle in my corner for weeks so I appreciate that. One of the other partners totally ignored me and I didn't know why. I was sworn to secrecy and kept schtum about the whole prospect. I felt a useless as a string condom.

Anyway, I'm a professional and love the people I work with, especially the three Executive Assistants in the "Quad" as we affectionately call it. So named because four workstations make a square with each of us positioned in each corner and a wide open space in the middle. We laughed, we chatted at that tiresome 3:30pm. We shared our thoughts, discussed our families, solved each other's problems and asked each other what was on the menu for dinner. Because I liked them, and one was away on holiday when the news hit, I decided to stay on until 15 May to hand over and make sure life was made a little easier for those taking on extra responsibilities.

I didn't work every day. If I had interviews, I'd take a day off. If I needed new glasses, I'd take a day off. I went in late, I finished early. Frankly, once the announcement was made it was embarrassing going into work knowing that you had no value or real reason to be there. The Quad girls are eminently capable, Marketing went straight to the licensee who wasted no time producing materials to a lower standard and a higher cost but . . .they produced them. IT was handled by a very competent outsourcer and troubleshooting passed over to an equally competent Jaime and once Laura returned from her leave, she took the mantle of EA on admirably. I realised once and for all, my position really was 'redundant'. I had become as useless as a chocolate teapot . . .

So, final Friday . . wondered in late, . .took down the wonder wall of all my blogpals which was very hard, I'd grown used to your smiling faces and sweet words and symbols that greeted me every morning and will now have to 'erect' something at home to keep my spirits up. Told my funnies people to send their hilarity to my personal email. Took a few lovely calls from a couple of clients and suppliers who were sad to see me go. I had one email from a partner who was unable to attend due to his daughter's impending wedding. and despite the fact he doesn't like my 'team building' style and I think he's a frosty old sod, he acknowledged that I'd done a good job over the years and he was grateful. A nice gesture I guess. So, little left to do but tidy the desk, clear the cache and head for lunch.

The problem with these 'departure' lunches is, you can't be 'exclusive' about who you invite and can be even less exclusive by refusing to attend so there were a couple of people who attended that I really didn't want to be there. They were seated as far away from me as possible so they didn't bother me. Seriously? They were just there for the free lunch and a chance to escape work for a couple of hours, neither bad me farewell in the end. Both as useless as tits on a bull!

I received beautiful flowers and chocolate, $500 worth of vouchers for the local shopping centre. Well needed as I'm desperate for more 'corporate' clothing and new shoes. The Quad girls had previously framed a photo of the four of us and duly signed it. I love it the most.

gave a heartfelt speech and I declined to reply other than a quick 'Thank you . . ." for fear of incriminating myself had I taken up the gauntlet and said more.

Actually, it was very nice. I sat with Thommo and Char, Jaime and Laura. We laughed I drank (a lot). I conducted myself with grace and good humour. Wondered back into the office, gathered my remaining belongings, put on my red 'power' trench coat and bid fast farewells and left feeling as useless as a snooze button on a smoke alarm.

As I walked through the underground carpark, I had this rather foreboding feeling that an era had ended, two friendships had changed, others had cemented. TheBoss met me with a bottle of Moet in his hand and a silent apology all over his face. We exchanged a quick peck and that was it. Nine years of familiarity and I was tossed back onto the pile. I wasn't emotional, I wasn't upset . . just numb and feeling about as useless as a glass hammer.So, arrived home about 4 ish . . .opened a bottle, shared a couple of glasses with Clare who's going through her own dramas and then headed out at 9:30 to Gold Class Cinema to watch Angels and Demons. Damn that recliner! I was so warm and fuzzy after a plate of spring rolls and two more glasses of champagne that I slept through most of it, woken only by a couple of prods from Clare because I was snoring and in time for that silliest of moments when the priest flies a helicopter containing anti-matter and parachutes into the Vatican fountain. . .really wish they'd cut that scene! Ah well, the thought was there and apparently the film was OK but none of the magic of the Da Vinci Code (stop groaning! I liked it!).

Thanks possums for your kind thoughts and emails and for your messages of support. I know that at least three of my commenters are or soon will be out of work. As a single, it's a daunting prospect. As a couple, it's tolerable. Good luck to you all as we embark on new things hopefully!

One door closes and another one opens . . soon . . . any moment now . . .really . . c'mon . . when you're ready . . .either that or find me a rich man with a heart condition! But for now, I'm about as useful as a screen door on a submarine.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

One Million Paws

Today we took part in a RSPCA Fundraiser, the One Million Paws Walk where over 40 cities in Australia encouraged their dog lovers to bring the pooches for a pootle. Our event was at Homebush Bay Olympic Site so we packed the pampered menial in the back of the car and off we went. The weather was a glorious cool and fabulously sunny 22 . . .Actually, we were so impressed with the walks around the site. We rarely go there unless there's a concert or the Easter Show or a sporting event we want to see but there's so much more. This once toxic waste site and munitions dump is now filled with Bell Frog ponds and brick pit lakes and bridlepaths and walks . .but today, it was all about the dogs . . .Moon, you'd have been in seventh heaven!

First meet up with friends for a walk in the park

Lily is clearly keen but I'm dragging the chain by taking photos as we arrive.

All the fun of the fair . . .but not a cupie doll in sight

Marshalling around before we head off

Quick adjustment for the well-dressed dog about town . .

This Malamut confused underground lighting for an ice hole!
"Penguins, I smell Penguins!"

Making sure the poo bag is the right way round. The way these two pulled, he could have done the whole shindig on a skate board

No bushwalking, no dogs? WTF? An ominous sign perhaps?

Thommo far left with German Shepard Toby, Poider with another Toby the Border Collie and Carly with Benji the half Golden Retriever, half Labrador with wobbly legs . . .the dog, not Carls.

Through the overflow and everyone's off

A bit of a bottleneck in the bush but nobody minded

Some tired early in the peace and required a lift

A little pick me up for the humans at the half way mark. Really not necessary it was only 3kms

A little refreshment for the canines . . .(I thought they carried brandy?)

Others just pootled along and enjoyed the smells

Back after the walk and there were snacks to be had . . but no Fairy Floss

Shampoos and blow waves for the meticulous mutts

Boutiques for the boofuls

Some looked like their dogs

Some danced with their dogs

Some dressed like their dogs (Jack Sparrow Jack Russell for Jay)

Others just came commando . . see the hat?

There were free vet checks (cute vet)

Those who caught the camera's eye . . this half Mastiff half Rhodesian Ridge Back was in front of us for the whole walk, leaving sploshes of salivery foam every 100metres. He did however catch the newspaper journo's eye and gave the cameraman the wink and a bit of slobber for good measure. Must watch the news tonight because he was truly a star.

Little lad with a 'normous Newfoundland.

MarkyBoy with dopey Toby . . that Dog would never have made a police dog.

Poider gets a big 'Thank You' kiss from the only dog in the world who doesn't
appreciate having his bottom sniffed!

Well I'll be buggered, so that's what they did with the Olympic cauldron!

Clearly everyone was satisfied with a good day out for a good cause!