Thursday, September 24, 2009

A seal ate my hat

Waking up on Wednesday morning was a completely surreal experience. The Red Centre had come to Sydney and the sky at dawn literally pulsated with a vibrant orange glow. It felt rather as if one had woken up on a set for ‘Life on Mars’ with clouds of red dust blotting out the sun. My early morning exercise class was abandoned owing to potential dust inhalation and I skipped off to get a coffee with that virtuous glow brought on by attempting to do exercise but being prevented by forces of nature. The downside of the dust storm is that everything inside and out is coated in a thin layer of red dirt. I hung out a white wash to dry this morning in a hurry and realised that I should have wiped down the line – being me I just carried on regardless in the hope that the red stripe down everything will disappear once dried.

Drama Queen No. 1 posed an interesting question last week, in that she wondered which option I would prefer in terms of her potential piercings, belly button or tongue. It is a bit like being asked would you like your toenails hammered off or ripped out - the answer is a resounding ‘neither’.

Why is my life always fraught with the unusual? Drama Queen No. 2 has had what she describes as an unfortunate experience with a seal. She was on an art trip to the zoo and her highly expensive, straw school hat blew off into the seal enclosure. When I phoned the zoo, the kindly man on switchboard promised to enquire after the hat’s fate but did warn me that if I hadn’t heard from him by 4pm to ‘expect the worst’. He seemed to be hinting that there would be nothing the seals would like more than a bit of roughage. I personally feel that they would have far more fun wearing it in the seal show and I await the front page coverage of a seal balancing on a beach ball whilst waggling its whiskers from underneath a fetching brim. In the meantime I am doctoring the usual ‘dog ate my homework’ letter to cover ‘seal ate my hat’ as no hat means automatic detention at school.

I have just been in the post office and am slightly downcast to see they have all the Christmas cards and Christmas wraps on display – together with Early Bird type offers. This year I am going to be a realist and admit that there is zero chance of my making the “By Sea” cut off date for cards and parcels. In one of her books Jilly Cooper said girls should never trust a man with a half eaten bar of chocolate in his car as he obviously has far too much self control, I feel much the same way about any one who manages to get their Christmas shopping wrapped up in every way by mid September – we’re probably not destined to be bosom buddies.

Whilst on the topic of bosoms, I found myself with a spare half hour in an industrial area of Sydney waiting for a mobile phone to be fixed and came across a discount underwear shop. Being in need of a few bras I popped in and had an entertaining time squeezing in and out of bras. I came out feeling that perhaps I should revert to the medieval habit of breast binding as I found the wide variety of push up and out bras in dubious colours most unflattering. Based on my reflection in the changing room mirror – and top tip to discount underwear shops here, fluorescent lights and 360 degree mirrors are not a flattering combination, I’m probably more in need of a pull in than a push out – but then again I am the woman who a lingerie saleswoman once dismissed as a strange shape!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Getting my teeth into 'Dear Fatty'

I’m in the midst of one of my ‘Hairy Maclary’ type phases at present where almost overnight I go from looking vaguely presentable to a woman impersonating an Old English Sheepdog look. The last haircut was not a stunning success as Roger my hairdresser got completely into the spirit of the 80’s event I was going to and cut my hair in an 80’s type fringe – or so he claimed. I do have memories of Duran and Duran and Princess Diana peering out from behind fringes during that era so I reluctantly conceded that a fringe might help the whole 80s look but I did add the rider that I have a bad track record with fringes having spent most of my early teens sporting a pudding bowl haircut complete with dead straight fringe, from behind which I glowered at the world.

All DQ no.2’s worst fears came true and the orthodontist declared that despite a number of baby teeth falling out over the last couple of weeks, (and being left beside the basin adding to the general attractiveness of the pit known as the family bathroom), she still needed to have 4 teeth out. DQ no.2 was not unnaturally in a complete state of hysteria about this and even I found it difficult to put a jolly spin on the whole outing to the dentist. When I went into the dentist’s room with her I was slightly stunned to see a large piece of paper headed ‘Guide to Dental Extractions’ placed next to the dreaded chair. For one horrified moment I thought perhaps our very experienced dentist had suffered a mental blank and was mugging up before starting on DQ2’s tooth removal job, though given I teach with the answer book clasped firmly under one arm at all times I am not in a position to criticise those who do go in for a quick bit of revision. It transpired of course that the paper was for me and whilst I wouldn’t have described the whole operation as fun, and DQ2 would certainly have a few pithy words to say about it, now she has taken the cotton wool out of her mouth and is able to speak again, she was very brave and it was over very quickly.

I am cursing as some child has altered the setting on my text messaging on my phone to predictive and I am of course completely unable to cope with it. I think it is an age thing but I just can’t get to grips with it and it annoys me. It’s like Twitter which I joined recently and which I just don’t get the point of. Facebook, yes, I can understand why people get hooked and I do quite like looking at friends’ photos and messages but Twitter??? What am I going to post? “Off to library to do some writing” “Back from library.” But again suspect I am showing my age here.

Fabulous weekend in Sydney weatherwise, inspired by the sunshine we spent part of Sunday hanging out of a small rowing boat, debarnacling the runaround boat we have a half share in. There is something very satisfying about chipping great wodges of marine vegetation off with a large scraper, though less amusing when the sponges spit at you and the appearance of a large crab did make me shriek. Trust this description gives you a clear idea of the desperate need for a serious antifouling job on the boat.

Have been completely gripped by Dawn French’s autobiography “Dear Fatty”. It wasn’t a book to which I would normally be attracted but I picked it up in the library and was immediately gripped. She has written it in the form of letters to the important people in her life and it is both funny and moving. She and I are roughly the same age and have a teenage daughter of the same age – apart from that there aren’t many similarities, but I found myself both laughing and wiping tears from my eyes and muttering most un –me like sentiments like “You go Girl!”

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fancy an argument do you?

The dog had a very satisfying walk this morning. We came upon a flock of cockatoos feeding serenely upon the grass and he bounded upon them like a large black furry bowling ball, cockatoos scattering with raucous shrieks before him.

There was a notice up at the school in which I teach part time advertising a ‘Best Dressed Teddy’ competition, and overcome by my competitive streak plus the fatal desire to appear a jolly, participating, human type of teacher, I grabbed the stuffed gorilla that has slept in our bed for the last 20 years, pummelled him into a christening type dress and marched into school. When I arrived at school, smile nailed on my face, I was greeted by a table manned by a variety of parents and small children who promptly tied a label around Grill and announced that I would get him back on September 17th after the school fair. I was completely horror-struck by this announcement but felt I couldn’t possibly lose face by demanding him back. He was thrust unceremoniously into a black bin bag along with other random teddies and borne off. Fortunately as a household we are not short of stuffed animals should the situation become desperate and I do realise I am being pathetic because after all I do have a husband to clutch if all else fails.

I was in the car today listening to a Monty Python sketch that I have never heard before about an Argument Clinic. In the sketch Michael Palin arrives at the argument clinic and books a one off argument rather than the full course. He initially goes into the abuse room by mistake before arriving at the argument room and bandying words with John Cleese. I feel the book an argument is an approach I could adopt quite happily at home, encouraging members of the family to sign up for a 5 minute teenage argument with pauses to allow combatants to storm out of room, or alternatively to opt for the 1 hour intermittent sibling bicker or the 10 minute full on family recrimination about use of towels and general state of rooms. In fact Simon and I are in the midst of a minor argument about dishwashing – for the technically minded I shall merely say it centres upon the use of a dishcloth versus a brush to wash dishes. The most appropriate way of describing my reaction to the veiled criticism of my household hygiene is to say I bridled and made what I considered the strong defensive point that in almost 20 years of marriage I have yet to give him salmonella. He feels that despite having escaped food poisoning in the past he would prefer not to flirt with what he obviously considers a strong possibility of imminent hospitalisation. For both of us there is a strong sense of enjoyment associated with the discussion, as bridling aside, we can both sense the possibility of dragging in references to each other’s families and multiple incidents from our shared and separate pasts – should keep us going for some months.

I took DQ no.2 and 3 bikini shopping last week and I am strongly tempted to join the line up of supermodels in launching my own swimwear line for teens. The current general swimwear look in the shops seems to be “Something I’ve just popped into on my way to the lap dancing club” leading to more heated than usual mother daughter exchanges in the changing rooms, conducted in hissed whispers.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

What would you use a road sweeper for?

It is now officially spring in Sydney and when sunny it is absolutely fabulous, with leaves and blossom coming out and early morning blasts of fragrance from jasmines and wisteria. We have a star magnolia outside our bedroom window that produces flowers of such pink tinged beauty that I find myself completely distracted midway through making the bed in the mornings – (to be fair it actually doesn’t take much to distract me from this kind of task).

There is a large London plane tree outside our front garden that at this time of year attracts groups of jewel coloured parakeets swinging crazily from its branches whilst trying to get at the new leaves, when disturbed they zip across the sky like mini fighter jets. The plane tree whilst majestic and graceful is actually a major pain as its roots are desperate to make their way inside the house. When we redid the front garden we had to relay the front steps and the verandah tiles as a tree root had shifted them up three inches. When I say the offending root was as big as one of my thighs you get an idea of the magnitude of the arboreal invader. Which brings me to good news on the thunder thighs account. I have just heard on the radio a report from a Danish study that suggests having thighs with a circumference of over 60 cm is a good thing from the long-term health point of view. I haven’t actually whipped out a tape measure but I can quite happily predict which side of the thigh tide line I am going to be.

I was in the car following a council road sweeper on the way home yesterday and noticed that it had a big ‘For Hire” sign painted on the back, together with phone number. I was absolutely riveted as I couldn’t imagine who in their right mind hires a road sweeper the size of a tanker. I came to the conclusion that if I lived in a very smart large house with an avenue, and we’re talking a Brideshead Revisited scale house here, I might want the avenue swept. Alternatively if I become house proud in the extreme I might hire the thing to sweep my little bit of street, however given both of these scenarios are up there with winning the lottery in terms of possibility I didn’t bother writing the number down.

Whilst pondering the hundred and one uses of a road sweeper I was listening to the radio and heard Dire Straits playing “Money for Nothing” and was immediately transported back to the days after my final university exams. It is amazing how evocative a piece of music can be, I can so clearly remember driving out to a pub lunch with two male friends, windows down and Dire Straits on full blast – what rebels we were. It wasn’t a particularly memorable lunch in that I wasn’t romantically involved with either of the men nor did I want to be, but for some reason the glorious feeling of freedom, end of exams, English summer has just stayed with me and the song always makes me smile.