Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 - Going out with a bang

I am considering renaming this entire blog ‘The Dental Diaries’. I can’t begin to total the hours, not to mention the money that as a family we have spent on teeth during 2010. I have now got to the point that if I were to receive a call stating that one of the Drama Queens had had an accident at school, my first reaction would be “Oh God, not her teeth.”

The latest installment in ‘Have I got Dentures for you’ is that Husband, Drama Queen No. 1 and imported brother took a Hobie Cat for a sail on Wednesday afternoon. It was a stunning sunny day with enough wind to whip up white horses on the harbour and as they screamed across expanses of water at high speed, Husband opened his mouth in a shout of general exhilaration and joy at being alive on such a glorious day and promptly spat out his false tooth. The boating participants debated on the floating characteristics of plastic teeth but decided a denture overboard drill was destined for failure. He returned to shore looking very much the pirate on the loose, and yet again we were trawling through dental acquaintances, and the yellow pages (white pages in Australia), for as with Christmas Eve we had yet again hit a time when all good dentists shut up shop. Just for future reference I would like to note that the majority of Sydney dental practitioners go on what seems to be a group holiday returning to work on 17th Jan – which is a long time if you can’t open your mouth for fear of traumatizing complete strangers – not to mention your nearest and dearest. So if you spot a group of people in white swimsuits whooping it up together somewhere sunny – you’re probably looking at a whatever the collective name is for a group of dentists, a gnashing or a filling perhaps?

The good news is that we managed to find the lone dental technician in Sydney left to hold the fort and Husband has been restored to his former glory.

Not only is today end of the year, it also heralds a major shift in parent/child relationships in our household. This morning DQ no.1 passed the theory part of the driving test with the result that she can now, aged 16, hit the road with her ‘L’s on. She now has to complete 120 hours of supervised driving in order to sit her test at 17, which I regard as a long time for your life to flash before your eyes at regular intervals. I am already aware I am completely temperamentally unsuited to supervise anyone learning to drive as I fear my natural default position is one hand clamped over eyes and the other stifling incipient screams. I had a quick glance at the instruction manual and tips for supervising drivers and was interested to note that they suggest a second mirror so you can see the presumably frothing faces and gestures from drivers behind. Second mirrors are all very well but there is no mention of what I regard as far more important, the emergency brake.

One and half million people, including us, will be standing round Sydney Harbour watching the fireworks tonight. Have a fabulous New Year and the best start to 2011 and just pray DQ no.1 is right about the ‘How hard can driving be?’ and that 2011 doesn’t start with a literal bang so far as we are concerned.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Turkey wrestling for beginners

Have to say Round 1 on the turkey wrestling competition goes to me, though it has to be admitted the remains are still sitting reproachfully in the fridge waiting for me to be inspired to turn them into turkey curry or soup. A scenario that is as likely as snow in Sydney at Christmas.

Christmas Day was the most fabulous, jewel of a Sydney summer day, inspiring morning and afternoon swims at the beach and a very relaxed day. The good news is that to date only one of my relatives has been carted off to the emergency doctor with suspected food poisoning but to my relief the doctor declared it unlikely to be my seafood buffet as too much time had elapsed between oyster quaffing and illness. We are in fact having a fairly good round of emergency practitioners as on Christmas Eve we were invited to festive drinks with great friends, and I took round some cheese together with a fig and walnut roulade that I had bought to accompany the cheese as proof of my sophistication on the cheese and biscuit front. One bite of the roulade later and our host was searching for an emergency dentist open at 6.30p.m. on Christmas Eve to tend to his broken molar.

Medical and dental procedures aside, it has been a great Christmas with family peace only broken at regular intervals by the noise of a carefully placed fart machine thoughtfully given to Drama Queen No.3 by her godfather. Operated by remote control it is a guaranteed ice breaker at any social gathering.

Starting to contemplate resolutions for 2011. Reform on domestic front may be required as a result of overhearing Drama Queen No. 1 discussing with my mother safe hiding places for presents in the Christmas run up –the bottom of the ironing basket was suggested as somewhere that was completely safe from maternal visits.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The seven omens of Christmas

I have to say the omens for Christmas in the Ling household are looking good on a number of fronts.

1. The brother snowed in at Heathrow has escaped the icy clutches of the UK just in time and will arrive in Sydney on Christmas Eve.
2. The constant rain forecast for the Sydney summer has yet to materialize which gives an extra frisson of pleasure to every sunny day.
3. The dog, overcome by having so many people constantly around the house, has been extraordinarily well behaved, apart from an interesting episode where he vomited under the table during a meal with my parents.
4. Husband has just rung to ask what shoe size I am – this is a considerable improvement on last year’s last minute panic where he wanted to know the website address for a kitchen equipment supplier and also wondered what size I would be in a full length body stocking – I had images of receiving the kind of outfit the Playmate of the month might wear to whip up a soufflĂ© – a type of bunny boiler so to speak.
5. The Economist magazine this week has banner headline, “The joy of growing old (or why life begins at 46)”, that I think I might frame and adopt for my motto for the year – feel remarkably smug at being endorsed in advance as it were by such a weighty tome.
6. I saw a sign yesterday that I feel should be a pointer to an excellent Christmas season ahead. It advertised a “Chocolate and Health CafĂ©” – obviously catering to all tastes – and perfectly fitting my own philosophy. I have tried the no chocolate route but to be honest I find a day without a Freddo, the small chocolate frog beloved by Australian children, and indeed adult expat imports, is a boring and bland day.
7. We have managed to reach family agreement on a suitable compromise for a Christmas meal in the heat incorporating both traditional turkey plus tuna tartare, oysters, prawns, roast potatoes, an avocado salad, Christmas pudding and Christmas ice cream cake. The menu is quite enough to ensure all participants end the day lying flat on their backs groaning gently. The only downside of this take a little of what you fancy approach is that Delia Smith fails to map out the whole thing which as I am the type of cook who follows the recipe with furrowed brow is obviously going to cause problems, but hey, how far wrong can you go with an avocado for heaven’s sake.

Merry Christmas – wherever you may be – and good luck with the avocados.

Friday, December 17, 2010

It's a Christmas bling thing

2010 has been the year of the dental and orthodontic procedure to the extent that I am anticipating a flood of white coat clad festive elves bearing Christmas hampers in grateful recognition of the Ling family contribution to the dental coffers.

Husband topped off the year by having the type of dental operation where they bandy around words like bone grafts, the sound of which is quite enough to make my bottom hurt. Once again this involved major doses of valium both to get him to the chair and to keep him there. Such is the power of modern dentistry, and strong drugs, that it went incredibly smoothly and I really don’t think he felt a thing.

I picked him up post procedure and was greeted by the sideways sway and enthusiastic smile reminiscent of one staggering out of the rugby club Christmas party. Holding him firmly by the hand I attempted to march him back to the car, but unfortunately he had other ideas. Impelled by goodness knows what impulse, as it is generally the type of store he has an immediate aversion to, he shot, or rather more accurately drunkenly meandered, past two security guards and into Tiffany & Co.. Once inside he circled the store, pointing out diamond baubles that caught his fancy and inquiring whether I would like one. Never have I been so torn, I could see the potential to give Lady GaGa a run for her money on the diamond bling front, but I could also see divorce beckoning when Husband woke up from his valium induced haze to discover he was $50,000 poorer – but with a very happy wife. Sadly my better nature triumphed and I managed to coax him out –and I am sure Tiffany & Co. are still pondering the security camera images of the coaxing process.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Oprah and those Sydney photo opportunities

I was all set to start with a joyous paragraph of how the forecasters had been proved wrong yet again, as despite warnings of continuous rain, it has been relatively good weather in Sydney all week. However the news has been full of flooding in inland areas – absolutely typical you don’t see a drop of rain for 10 years and then the next thing you know you are perched on your roof waiting for Noah or the rescue helicopter.

To say it is great good fortune that the forecasters got it wrong so far as Sydney is concerned over the last ten days is putting it mildly – because after all this has been Sydney’s moment to be centre of the universe; the week that Oprah put the ‘O” into Sydney Opera House. The Australian Tourism authorities must be weak with relief, no point importing a superstar if the photo opportunities are only achievable with the aid of a large umbrella. As it is she has climbed the bridge, paraded outside the Opera House, got up close and personal with numerous bits of Australian wildlife, of both the native and thespian varieties, under brilliant sunshine and dazzling blue skies.

I feel for Oprah and her issues handling the more prima donna, couch Cruiser types on her show – I’m having a few problems in that directions myself. You would think I would have more sense than to let the Christmas photo become a democratically based committee decision. Just to put things into context, to most Brits sending out a photo of your family verges on the naff, whereas it is commonplace in America to treat one’s friends to a stunning image of your offspring or indeed whole family, often in matching outfits and sometimes with whimsical Christmas touches – dog in reindeer antlers gives you an idea on the whimsy front. Having lived in America for five years, I have to say I love and treasure my photo cards and love seeing everyone’s family change and grow – (reindeer antlers excepted). Being a typical hoverer on every fence in sight, I have over the years achieved a compromise position, I don’t do a photo card but I do stick a photo into the card, and am willing to defend my position on the grounds that as a serial expat there are lots of people who I call friends who haven’t seen my children for years and when we get to that glorious party where we all catch up, I would like them to have some glimmering of what those darling little toddlers they once knew now look like.

Normally I select a number of photos that I feel show the Drama Queens and Husband in best light, combine them into photo card and Bob’s your Uncle we’re off on the Christmas card production line. Fatal error to allow teenage input this year as they either select sultry shots, claim that everyone else’s photo is better, or photoshop themselves and/or siblings out of all recognition. We are now reaching the tipping point where if decision is not made soon the Christmas cards are going to morph into Valentine’s Day offerings – in which case perhaps the sultry shots may have more value – perhaps I should just settle for a self portrait with dog, both wearing antlers obviously.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Hi, Low or Uni Brow?

To misquote and indeed twist horribly Charlotte Bronte’s immortal words, “Reader, I finished it.” To my amazement I managed to scamper over the NaNoWriMo 50,000 word mark on November 29th and have subsequently spent the last six days in a mental slump. I finished mid fight scene and so hopefully once I have recovered from the desire never to open the document again there will be incentive to continue, if only to decide which character is going to win.

One of the downsides of constantly writing was that I found I hardly read anything at all over the month. True to my basic low brow inclinations as soon as I finished I plunged myself into a Jilly Cooper which is akin to climbing into a warm bath with some chocolate and a large drink. I sometimes ponder the fact that the Drama Queen’s names are redolent of both two of the Bronte sisters, Charlotte and Emily, and also the titles of Jilly Cooper’s early novels, ‘ Emily’ and ‘Harriet’, which is possibly a reflection of my completely eclectic reading. Perhaps I could invent a new term to cover my middle of the road inclinations with the odd swerve into high and low – the uni brow?

On the high brow side of life we went to see ‘Uncle Vanya” by Chekov at the Sydney Theatre Company this week. This has been a much-trumpeted production, partly because of the presence of Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving in the cast. We had seen a really sparkling production of ‘Twelfth Night’ by Bell Shakespeare the week before to which we took the Drama Queens on the grounds that it is really liberating to realize that the Shakespeare texts that are drummed into one at school can be uproariously funny. Uncle Vanya had what might be best described as a ponderous majesty, but failed to engage me in the same way 'Twelfth Night' did. The highlight was definitely Cate Blanchett who in line with her character, glittered like a diamond, clad in the most amazing clothes. The red dress she wore in one act was quite enough to wake Husband and most of the male audience from any potential slumber.

In a glorious moment of serendipity I have come across a reference to Uncle Vanya in Jilly Cooper which merely proves the joys of being a uni brow, or perhaps that should be mono brow though that makes me sound like a teenage boy with no discernible break on the eyebrow front.

Rain, Rain and back for Rain again, is the monotonous refrain trotting round my head at the moment. Over the last week it has been announced that Sydney is in for the wettest summer this century, I am too depressed to enquire whether they mean for the 21st century in which case, worst out of ten doesn’t sound too bad or whether the forecasters mean worst in one hundred years which has a much more ‘Noah, where art you?’ type feel. Either way I can see that my leopard skin wellies are going to really come into their own and never mind the fact I’ve just had my toenails done. The other joyful pronouncement is that it is going to rain every day from now until March – and over the last week the weather certainly has kept on track for that batting average.

Talking of batting leads me into the Ashes – I thought the Sydney Daily Telegraph headline of ‘Our Pom Disposal Unit’ after the first day of the Brisbane Test was very clever but I have noted that the witty headlines seem to have dropped off as the England side have swung into ascendency.