Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Zoom into Zumba

Bored of thinking of creative ways of describing myself that avoid the dreaded words ‘couch potato’, I have joined the local gym though I haven’t yet invested in the obligatory lycra, preferring to garb myself in billowing garments that retain an element of mystery with regard to my exact dimensions. Ever a sucker for novelty I decided I should give the Zumba class a go. For those of you who spent part of your youth in the character building world of Brownies and Guides, Zumba is probably ringing bells of campfire songs – I am sure there was a Zumba in the one that went “Hold him down you Zulu warriors” - anyway I digress, this Zumba refers to the latest exercise craze, billed as getting fit to hypnotic Latin rhythms.

I should have taken the hint when I enquired of Drama Queen No. 1 whether a rumba into Zumba was going to be a suitable form of exercise for me and she remarked in what could only be regarded as a meaningful way, that it was fine if you could actually dance. I have in fact discovered that there is nothing that embarrasses the Drama Queens (and indeed most teenagers) more than their parents taking to the floor with dance routines last seen when Travolta was wearing white suits. In fact I think I may have hit upon a sure fire way to break up a teenage party – join in, with enthusiastic waves and eye contact, and I suspect every teen in the house will melt into the night – and your daughters will never speak to you again.

It has been obvious from my earliest years that I was never going to join the ranks of ballerinas. Pink tutus may offer endless opportunities for glitter and fairy tale moments but are absolutely hopeless at converting square children into ethereal prima ballerinas.

Things didn’t improve much during my teens, though being a Scot did help in the sense that whilst it is obviously a benefit if you have some sense of rhythm in the melee that passes as Scottish Country Dancing, I am living proof that the ability to whoop loudly and bounce around with enthusiasm is an equally important attribute. Likewise I am very fond of the Rocky Horror Music Show Timewarp anthem, with its very clear instructions regarding ‘hands on the hips, step to the left and jump to the right,’ all moves well within my teenage capabilities.

Salsa is a word that I associate with chips and dip likewise, shimmy, slither, and slide are foreign concepts as became painfully apparent as the Zumba class progressed. It’s no coincidence that so many of these words begin with ‘S’ for that indeed was the seductive shape that the majority of my class mates slid into led by the snake hipped male instructor.

In one swift uncoordinated move to the right, whilst the Zumba line up was lithely swaying left, I was transported back to the late eighties when I worked for a Japanese bank in Tokyo. At eleven o’clock every day we would stop for the compulsory regimented callisthenics session, when all the employees would stand behind their desks and jump and stretch in response to loudspeaker instructions. Speaking a limited amount of Japanese which certainly didn’t include the words for “Touch your toes” or “Star Jump” I always just carried out the previous day’s routine which led to some interesting mid air collisions with my fellow workers and my bottom poking in the air whilst everyone else was twirling their hands.

The upside of Zumba was I skipped out of the class, with a post exercise glow, (polite way for saying covered in sweat) and fired up by those exotic rhythms was ready for the first Latin romance of the day, the downside was that the class was probably conclusive proof that far from being a salsa seductress on the dance floor I am more a bagpipes kind of dancing queen.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Shock News - it does get cold in Sydney

Nights have been on the chilly side in Sydney recently and I had a memory of seeing a recent headline along the lines of “Coldest May night in Sydney for ……” so I immediately googled it only to find out it had been the coldest May night for four years which I have to say is a ‘so what’ period of time. Am now feeling cheated that it wasn’t the coldest night for 100 years which would have had the cold chill satisfaction of making statistical history rather than being a mere blip.

We are fortunate that we do have a form of heating – health warning to anyone contemplating a move to Sydney, heating doesn’t come as standard and though 5 oC (41 oF) is the coldest it has got since we’ve been here – when it’s 5 oC inside your unheated house you start doing mad and environmentally unfriendly things like turning on the oven or in the case of some desperate friends in a similarly heat deprived situation in Hong Kong, bringing your barbeque inside for a spot of family heat therapy and a possible dose of Carbon Monoxide poisoning.

The upside to the cold mornings is that Sydney has had the most fabulous week of glorious sunny weather during the day. Hard to do justice to the splendour of a Sydney Autumn day but it is sufficient to put everyone in a good mood and to pack the outside tables of all our local cafes with people basking in the sunshine under a vibrant blue sky.

One of the things that made me sad when we left America for Sydney was the fact that I had so gloried in the American Fall and the amazing colours as the trees turned. I would find myself coming to a halt as I drove through our local town as I came across sweeps of trees turning red and gold. You can imagine how popular this halt and leaf peek manoeuvre was with the drivers behind whose faces turned an interestingly appropriate Fall Crimson. The Australian native gums don’t change colour and in fact lose their leaves all year round. They do however do an interesting bit of bark shedding where at certain times of the year they discard their old, tired looking, brown, shaggy bark and emerge sylph like with smoothly grey and elegant trunks – can’t tell you how I long to work similar miracles with my skin. However the imported trees in our road have been doing a fabulous job on the autumnal colour front so I thought I post a couple of photos – note the tangle of wires that acts as a possum highway.

Along with not bothering to have heating inside their houses you can also tell a true Sydneysider, particularly the male variety, by the fact that they wear shorts all year round, regardless of external temperature. My father spent his school days in regulation shorts which represents slightly more of a hardship considering he was at a Scottish boarding school where 5oC was presumably ranked a balmy day. My mother always claims that this permanent early exposure to the elements was reason that he has such very fine legs in a kilt – however I have no such ambitions so will be swaddling myself up as the temperatures drop.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Hurry Home Husband

Husband is due home first thing tomorrow from almost two weeks overseas, whilst I am absolutely thrilled at the prospect of his return I am feeling somewhat nervous at his reaction when he walks into the house of chaos at what will helpfully be an unearthly hour in the morning when the Drama Queens and I are guaranteed not to be at our best.

There is no doubt in his absence, standards have slipped somewhat on the basic tidiness front and the overall look of the house is now inclining towards a shared student house, shabby chic style of decoration.

However I would like to point out in the last two weeks whilst he has been travelling the world, the household has achieved a number of significant milestones.

1. Drama Queen No.1 ‘s Year 11 Formal Dress has been bought. The formals are the equivalent of the American Proms and generate a Royal Wedding type frenzy amongst attendees with regard to possible dresses – fortunately hats would be regarded as eccentric in the extreme rather than compulsory for this event so we were spared the satellite dish versus feathers debate.
2. Drama Queen No. 3 and six of her classmates have managed to write and film “Cleopatra’s story” an epic with Ben Hur scale ambitions performed within the confines of our house. The dog has a starring role as a Royal Leopard, a part that he performs with great aplomb as it involves him lounging masterfully on the forbidden territory of my bed.
3. Drama Queen No.2 has managed to survive a visit to the dentist and was able to communicate through the use of vigorous hand signals that, no she would not like two loose teeth just tweeked out – past experience having taught her that hesitation on this type of issue results in plier type instruments being thrust into her mouth.
4. I have proved that despite good intentions, left to my own devices I am completely incapable of going to bed at a sensible time and can be found most solitary evenings pottering round the house past midnight like an aging Bridget Jones, clasping book and tub of ice cream.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Triple breasted, Royal Reptile shacks up with a load of leeches

Like many bloggers I suffer from an overwhelming curiosity about who on earth could possibly be reading my blog once I’ve discounted friends, family and mad stalkers. I use a programme called Web-Stat that gives me some basic information on people tapping into the blog. Just so none of you panic on the privacy issues at this point, apart from your bank details, it just gives me a rough geographic location, and sometimes, but not infallibly whether you have visited the site before and the path you took to get there which is called the referrer e.g. did you come through Google or through the site of one of my blogger friends.

The bit I find most interesting is that if people have entered the site through a search engine such as Google, Web-Stat tracks what key words they entered in the search engine box. At times I can spot a distinct pattern to these key words, for example if Sydney is having one of its prolonged wet periods where you start calculating size of back garden and potential proportions of Ark like structures, I tend to get a lot of hits using the key words “leeches in Sydney”, thus conjuring up the image of hordes of desperate Sydneysiders, tapping away at the computer, with bloodsucking leeches hanging off their every word, as it were.

My last post was entitled “Royal Wedding Reptile”, which was partly a reference to the scaly rash gradually transforming me into someone who was guaranteed some kind of starring role as an extra in ‘Night of the Iguana’. Rash is fortunately now receding, thank you for asking, and I no longer fear the call from Gucci, asking if I am available for a measuring session to work out how many belts and handbags they could craft from what I am sure they would deem a fair sized hide. The bizarre thing, rash aside, is that the blog has been blown out of the water by hits from people hunting for the key words “Royal wedding reptile”, “Kate Middleton reptilian” etc. At first I thought had there been some kind of serpent or lizard incident that I had missed at the wedding, and then as I started to do some key word searches myself I realised there is a theory – held by a number of people – a quite substantial number all over the world, based on the highly scientific study I’ve conducted of my hits, who believe there is a strong possibility that Kate Middleton and the Royal Family are cunningly disguised reptiles or more correctly reptilian humanoids!!!!!!!!!My mother has always said that peppering one’s writing with exclamation marks is unnecessary – but I have to say in some cases words fail me, and only the written equivalent of the wide-open mouth meets the case!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I could ask you to guess what the other most frequently used key words are – but I think we could be in for a long night as it is yet another bizarre manifestation of the “None as queer as folk” motif – and in this case in a wild surmise I would perhaps be adding “as menfolk”. I wrote a piece about guests who stayed longer than three nights, and called it “Three breasts and guests” – take a guess which particular bit of that title people Google??

That vain, publicity seeking side of me (the half reptile bit obviously) is very tempted to title all my posts in order to ensure maximum hits, I’m thinking along the lines of ‘Triple breasted, Royal Reptile shacks up with a load of leeches’ – and apologies to all of you who clicked in breathless anticipation upon that very title and discovered you had been suckered into suburban domestic territory.