Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hot pants or climate controlled, Sir?

I have just walked back into the house as dusk fell and was greeted by a chorus of frogs, croaking invisibly from within the ferns by the front door and now as I sit at the computer I am being divebombed by ‘Christmas Beetles’ which surprise, surprise appear at this time of year and are attracted by the light. In the early morning as I drive off to the early morning masochistic slot of boot camp I pass a group of sulphur crested cockatoos swinging from the phone lines and preening their immaculately white and yellow plumage. All these things, frogs, insects and birds are now in many ways background to my life here rather than the initial out of the ordinary experience, but I still notice them everyday with pleasure. Another joy of Australia at the moment is the mangoes that have just come into season. Our local greengrocer sells them by the crate and somehow the word ‘gorge’ seems particularly appropriate when faced with a fresh mango for breakfast.

I think the excitement must have gone to my head. I completely failed to mention in my last blog the Scots triumph over the Australian Wallabies Rugby Team. As the daughter of a fiercely loyal Scotland supporter I always approach Scotland’s games in a spirit of cautious optimism and am accustomed to mentally trudging home thinking “never mind there is always a next time”. So not only is it very gratifying to win a match but also particularly satisfying to have beaten Australia, land of the sports mad, (for the first time since 1982). The weather is sadly far too hot for me to appear in public in my Scotland rugby shirt, although I did think of stuffing the long suffering dog into it on Sunday morning for a triumphant outing.

My father has just sent me a couple of articles from the UK press claiming that most men’s pants are bought by wives and mothers. I have to raise my hand and plead guilty – normally I let Simon sort out his underwear himself but on my recent quick trip to the UK I caved and said I would try and get him some new pants. In order to forestall the inevitable marital about ‘these aren’t the right ones,” I took the precaution of stuffing a pair of his pants in my handbag, causing some mirth during the security search at Singapore. I was completely flummoxed though when I got to the till at M&S (sorry, yes we fit another sad statistic, those not even living in the country who STILL buy their underwear from M&S) and the lady declared that the pack of men’s undies I was clutching was not identical to the ones from the handbag. Apparently they were “COOL and FRESH” as opposed to the original “CLIMATE CONTROL”. Excuse my ignorance, or should that be cynicism but cool and fresh and climate control are words that I would apply to lettuce not to underwear. I have never in my life bought a pair of pants for climate control reasons – I also fail to see the difference between the two – surely the only type of climate one was trying to create around one’s nether regions would be cool and fresh – can’t see hot and sticky is going to work as an alternative.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sydney's hot,hot, hot

I don’t have a personal acquaintance with the place (as yet) but Hot as Hades is the phrase that comes to mind sitting in our kitchen this afternoon in temperatures of 40 oC/104oF. Every window and door is wide open with the ceiling fans whirring round but to no avail, all I am achieving is the movement of tepid air from one overheated spot to another. So I’m now moving onto Plan B, which is to close up the house, lower blinds etc. which my country friend tells me is the surefire way to survive. Today is what I term a ‘hairdryer’ day, with a dullish sky, overcast with the white tinge of heat and a wind that just blasts hot air through the house. However whilst I moan on about the heat, I should bear in mind I live on the coast where there is always some kind of breeze and it is normally at least a couple of degrees cooler than the western suburbs let alone the inland plains. In fact it has been so hot, dry and windy in inland districts that they have delayed the start of the harvest, as there is too much risk of a spark setting off a giant and unstoppable conflagration.

Apart from being unbearably hot, Sydney is a sea of purple at the moment. The harbour side suburbs are crowded with majestic jacaranda trees with flowers that almost vibrate with their purpleness. I don’t know about you but I’ve never thought of purple as a particularly natural colour for trees – reds, greens and oranges all get ticks as does white and pink blossom but purple just doesn’t figure on my UK top ten trees colour chart. However I am now completely converted to the concept and I can envisage myself in years to come grandly gesturing to walls and saying “Yes, I think we’ll paint that jacaranda purple.

In summer, and indeed most of the year we sleep with our windows open – or rather the adult members of the family do. As a result of an unfortunate encounter between Drama Queen No. 3 and a possum that had popped into her room for a spot of nocturnal gymnastics, the Drama Queens tend to keep their windows tight shut regardless of temperatures that would cook a Christmas turkey. Apart from the possibility of waking with furry feet tap-dancing round the room, the downside of being a fresh air fiend is the large Alsatian that lives next door. Her chosen nighttime spot is beneath our window and she lies there, chewing with gusto on what must be the largest bone in history with accompanying grunts and snorts of enjoyment. Forget New Moon and teenage vampires, my dreams are currently filled with visions of being eaten by wild pigs or wolves dripping salvia as they contemplate where to start.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Where's home for you?

Having had two weeks absence from blog I find it quite hard to pick up again; in the sense do I backtrack and discuss party, skate over a quick trip back to UK or do I just start back on daily life and ignore the two-week hiatus?

As blog is essentially a quite indulgent on line diary for myself I think I am going to fill in the blanks. Party was great fun for Simon and me, guests sparkled, drink flowed, and we had more than enough food – in fact I am planning another party just to get rid of the Coronation Chicken convention now being held in my freezer. The Drama Queens and their friends scooted round moonlighting as waitresses in between Halloween forays. It was a beautiful evening which was just as well as it meant we could push people out into the garden rather than reenacting the Black Hole of Calcutta inside. I always feel quite flat after my own parties – I think partly because it is such hard work in the run up and then it goes so quickly – but fortunately I didn’t have too much time to brood on various mysteries such as a) where have all our knives gone to, b) how come I hadn’t worked out that two separate sets of friends were actually related and c) who brought the bottle of wine with a label proclaiming the celebration of Jenny and Paul’s wedding.

I shot back to the UK last week for a quick trip, primarily to check in with my family. I managed 4 nights in England before boarding a plane back to Australia and any ambition to be a Qantas hostess has now vanished in the misty, bad tempered haze of jetlag made worse by the inevitable cold caught either from one of my brothers or on the plane.

Adrenaline kept me going in the UK although I was slightly alarmed to wake up at 12.30am in hotel in Yorkshire, standing in hotel corridor – fortunately I had gone to bed in my pyjamas, admittedly leopardskin but definitely decorous, as I then had to pad my way down to reception and explain that I was locked out of my room. I’ve never slept walked in my life before but given I come from a family of nocturnal wanderers who seem to have passed their genes on to DQ no. 3 who has a tendency to end up in wardrobes in strange houses, I am not too surprised.

I am not sure whether to be pleased or cross with the fact that the household ran so smoothly in my absence. Husband is now looking smug and announcing he has devised new systems (read new improved systems here) for dealing with laundry/shopping/packed lunches. However in a boost to my morale the Drama Queens have all individually slithered round me like Siamese cats, imploring me to take back control of Packed Lunch Central as apparently they don’t share their father’s passion for organic and wholesome.

The dog was sent to kennels for the week as husband declared that three children plus dog was beyond him. Didn’t like to say it’s frequently beyond me too.

As I flew into London I was thinking about what a strange concept home is. I’ve always thought of the UK as home but I realized having not having lived there for almost eight years there are lots of bits of it that are unfamiliar. I was perturbed to find I couldn’t automatically think what tube lines I would need to take to get to Charing Cross from Heathrow and was completely flummoxed by the concept of an Oyster Card. Though I know that within a week I would have slotted back into UK life it did just feel disconcertingly foreign. In contrast as I flew back into Sydney on a glorious morning, harbour and ocean spread out beneath the plane I felt my heart lift. Perhaps that is the definition of home – where there is an involuntary lift of the heart on arrival. However it should be noted at the time I was awash with patriotic Australian sentiment, filled with visions of fabulous outback scenery and rugged rural life having watched the Baz Luhrman/Nicole Kidman/Hugh Jackman film ‘Australia’, not once but twice, on the flight back (NB 22 hours gives a lot of time for repeated viewings of even the longest films). Before I sound too high minded about the glories of the Northern Territory scenery and Gone with the Herd type romance of this Australian Epic set on a cattle station, I should mention the highlight of a half naked Hugh Jackman tipping water over himself – quite nice to have a female equivalent of the normal girls in wet t shirts moment in a film.

Next drama on the horizon is the car seems to have developed an ant problem. My driving is becoming even more erratic as I flick and squash a seemingly unstoppable tide. This doesn’t come as a great surprise as the car is a traveling health hazard but I think it is time for reform – after all if we have ants how long before we discover we’ve got a mobile rodent problem?