Saturday, September 24, 2011

Droptober - Dare to Drop and Go

Droptober 2011 is a concept that is currently being publicised in Sydney, The idea is that participants sign up to loose 2Kg in October and to simultaneously raise money for a children’s charity. The initiative is following along in the well known footsteps of Dry July or Movember where participants give up alcohol or grow a moustache for a month – neither of which appeal to me, the latter for the obvious reason that like most women I spend time trying to discourage facial hair growth rather than grooming it into Poirot type handlebars.

The thought behind Droptober is that 2kg is an achievable goal for most people and it often represents the kind of cushion round the middle, cuddly creep that ambushes our figures on an annual basis. Australia is apparently at the top end of the obesity per capita scale – which surprises me as it’s not an obvious issue in the suburb we live in which actually seems to be populated by keep fit racing snakes based on the amount of gym gear and kayaks strapped to the top of cars that you see around. Obesity wasn’t a predominant theme in the American suburb we lived in either – but that is actually probably more related to the fact that obesity has strong links to income levels rather than an accurate assessment of either country’s weight problems.

Monash University in Melbourne put out some facts and figures about Australian obesity in July that point out, amongst other chilling statistics that should have us all tightening our belts, that if we go on as we are, by 2020 80% of all Australian adults and a third of children will be overweight or obese, and that obesity has overtaken smoking in being the leading cause of premature death and illness.

I really like the 2kg idea – as it mimics how you gain weight – no one ever wakes up 10 kg heavier than the day before – or at least the day I do, you’ll hear the screams on a global level. It’s the daily creep that gets you and that I ignore as beneath my notice and so having a month where I say to myself, ‘Okay let’s loose that accumulated creep for the year’, strikes me as a good idea. However I should paint an accurate picture here, such is my twisted psyche that I am immediately thinking to myself, well I might as well devour that chocolate now as it’s still September and then it will be easy to loose it in October, so am not completely convinced it’s going to lead to a whole new healthy way of life.

The other key caveat is that there’s no way I am going public with starting and finishing weight – and I’m not starting some ‘Think of a number’ -(and then double it) competition either - but I will give Droptober a very good go and see if I can do my bit towards maintaining a healthy weight and lowering the national average kilo count.

Friday, September 23, 2011

School's out in Sydney

Hurrah, today’s the end of the third term of the Australian school year, and there’s nothing like the joy of chucking winter uniforms into a large heap. In a slightly bizarre twist to schooling that I am still struggling to get my head round, students in their last year of school in Australia actually leave school at this point. Unlike the UK or US system, all the graduation ceremonies, prizegivings and dinners happen before they sit their exams and they then wander back into school in a strange state of limbo to sit their final exams in about a month’s time. As a consequence of this system, Drama Queen No. 1 will go back to school in a couple of weeks as part of the new top year of school and will start her last year of study which based on parental rumour is going to be a testing year for one and all and I am anticipating that even the dog will be on tranquillisers by the time she picks up her pen in her first exam in 2012.

Drama Queen No.3 is in her last year of the fabulous state primary school that all the Drama Queens attended since the day we marched them more or less straight off the plane from America and into the school gates, with only a quick pause for a detour to the school uniform shop. Anyone who has had to kit out three children in complete school uniform without benefit of sibling hand me downs will sympathise with the sudden choking fit that overcame me when the lady in the shop gaily added up the numbers and handed me the bill. All thoughts of ensuring they fitted in at their new school went out of my head as I handed back bits of kit that in the face of the enormous total I now deemed as completely surplus to requirements - I mean how many sports shirts could 3 girls of wildly different sizes need anyway? 6 years later I look at the uniform rail in the laundry – (am I contender for the Martha Stewart award for neatness or what?) and the answer is that I could now stock the uniform shop almost single handed such is the kit and clobber we’ve collected over time.

As part of the finale of this term, the primary school puts on a school show. The word Show doesn’t seem to quite cover it; Extravaganza would be a better description with every one of the 510 children in the school, from Kindy to Year 6 performing, in full costume. Each of the 21 classes has an individually choreographed dance that they perform with aplomb. I can’t begin to get my head round how you even start with a project of this size – and I’m sure even Cameron Mackintosh would be calling for a stiff gin and tonic if handed the task, but somehow the staff pull it off every year. From a parental perspective I love the fact that every child, from small to tall, tousle headed to impeccably groomed, has a part and is in effect a star. Based on the children’s expressions and the parental bodies in the audience that almost visibly swell with pride, the show is something that really provides that magical word of enrichment that is bandied around in educational circles, to every single child in the school. There is also the additional benefit that the videos that are produced every year are an invaluable source of entertainment and I can already see are going to have a major role in any 21st or wedding celebration – after all Drama Queen No 3 started her career as a dancing banana in Kindergarten and finished year 6 this week as a performing Penguin and how many people can boast that kind of track record?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Drivers and vanity plates

Someone recently told me there are four main motivators for what drives people – Power, Money, Fame and Recognition and most people fit neatly into a single category with regard to their main driver. Having paused a moment to consider what drives me – obviously not power or money as I have taken up teaching, but I’ve come to the slightly embarrassing conclusion that I probably fit in the Fame category or perhaps more accurately the Aspiring to Fame group. Such is my natural drive for self publicity aka showing off, it’s just as well I’m not a Celebrity as I suspect I’d be calling “I’m a Celebrity – Get me out of here” to see if they had any unexpected vacancies.

On the self-publicity front I was amused by a Sydney Morning Herald piece last week on personalised number plates. Apparently the Victorian police are auctioning off a number of vanity plates that have come into their hands through fair means or foul – though in reality we’re probably talking foul here. HITM4N (HITMAN) and D3AL3R (DEALER) and SO RICH were ones that caught my eye – it did make me wonder about the mentality of those who want to drive around either advertising their dodgy profession, surely bizarre if it happens to be illegal, or giving them the benefit of the doubt, revealing their aspirations (also dodgy).

In one of those no sooner do you read something, then you see it moments later coincidences, during the morning rush hour, which I have to point out is a laughable concept compared to rush hour London, I was behind a convertible mini with BIIMBO on its plates – admittedly I’d be done on the trade descriptions front in terms of past sell by date if I attempted to drive round labelling myself like this, but even if I was in a blonde, buxom, prime of life, bikini wearing moment, I think despite my innate Fame driver, I’d hesitate a bit – so perhaps I should reclassify myself as Fame, with timid edges. I use the timid edges phrase in tribute to a university friend who had two strictly segregated parties, one for her ‘square friends’ and one for her ‘trendy’ friends, no prizes for guessing which category I fitted into, but my closest friend was the only person to defy categorization and was invited to both as she was judged “a square with trendy edges”. If I’m honest it’s the state I’ve aspired to ever since – but I don’t think it would fit on a number plate.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ring, Ring, Rugby World Cup calling

My cup floweth over – the Rugby World Cup that it is. In common with most of the male population of Australia, all normal male activity in the Ling household has been suspended in favour of option A) Husband watching games from the comfort of the sofa, remote clutched firmly in one hand for fear of the Drama Queens switching the action to Australia’s Top Model and option B) Husband watching live games down at a bar with a wide screen TV and a collection of motley mates. I am anticipating Sydney becoming very quiet over the next month or so as almost all of the resident Kiwi population and a fair proportion of Aussie males head over to New Zealand as the action becomes more intense. Husband has so far nobly resisted the temptation to jump on the what could be termed a scrum wagon on this one, though I did hear him enquiring of one of my Auckland based friends about the availability of beds in her house in the event of England requiring his support – at least I hope that’s why he was so interested in her bedding arrangements.

Although unlike Husband I draw the line at sleeping with the tournament guide and timetable next to my bedside table, I have to admit a vested interest in the whole thing in that I come from parents who refuse to go on holiday in February as it interferes with the Scottish Rugby team’s fixtures. Being of a partisan nature I am very interested in how Scotland goes, particularly as they are in Group B along with England whose shirt Husband wears (in his dreams). The inaugural match between Scotland and Romania definitely took a few years off my life as I peered through my fingers in horrified amazement as the scoreboard flickered in Romania’s favour. In fact such was the state of trauma induced by the whole thing I managed to loose one of the diamonds from my engagement ring, presumably during a hand wringing episode – perhaps when Romania triumphed to the extent that the senior Romanian coach planted an ecstatic kiss upon the head of his coaching partner, something that as the New Zealand commentator remarked, we really need to see more of in this competition. Fortunately I realised the diamond was missing quite quickly and was able to force a troupe of small girls off Skype and onto ‘Hunt the Diamond’. Much though I hate to admit it, the missing gem is less of a Koh-I-Noor and more of a speck, so I didn’t have high hopes but one of the little darlings proved that girls are indeed a diamond’s best friend and rushed towards me bearing it in triumph.

My next challenge is to try and remember where I stuffed the zip lock bag holding loose diamond and ring in the brief pause between intensive viewing – if I don’t find it, I may be forced despite my natural allegiance to get down on my knees and pray for an English victory, as I am pretty sure the euphoria of that moment will offer the perfect opportunity to break the news of missing jewellery to Husband without risking potential recrimination.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Father's Day - wherever you may be

There are many advantages to living in Australia, including to name but a few, the weather, water temperature (and if like me you were brought up on bracing dips in Loch Lomond and off the beach at St Andrews you’ll know what I’m talking about here), fabulous food and wine, great open spaces just begging to be explored, multicultural and vibrant cities and a sports mad population. I could go on for pages here but assuming you’re not a spotter for the Australian Tourism Board you’d probably rather I stopped – and if you are a spotter in search of purple prose extolling the virtues of the Great Southern Land, well I’m your woman.

However one of the disadvantages for a transplanted Scot living in the Land Down Under is that there is no correlation between either Mother’s or Father’s Day in the UK and Australia. This year Father’s Day in the UK was mid June whereas the Australians have just raised a paternal glass, likewise Mother’s Day was celebrated early April in the UK and mid May in Australia. As a result my poor parents miss out big time in that I never realise, and/or get my act together in time for the UK jollifications and it then seems ridiculous to send a card at what would appear to be a totally random time of the year.

Our builder is still out of action, having fallen down his own stairs and fractured his skull badly. Husband who is a man of action and rash enthusiasm has become bored with staring at building site of back garden and decided to take matters into his own hands. As a result Father’s Day dawned in our household with frantic texts to various friends in the hope that they might number a wheelbarrow amongst their goods and chattels – bad news on that front, based on the scientific texting survey conducted, our friends fall into the Margo and Jerry end of the Good Life gene pool so far as gardening equipment goes – you can tell here I’m trying to manoeuvre myself into a position where I can bracket my name with Felicity Kendall, the earthy heroine of that particular series, now where did I put those dungarees? Despite its location on our very upmarket high street, the local hardware shop came up trumps and I wheeled the newly purchased wheelbarrow past the coffee shops of Mosman with the pride of a woman about to indulge in some forced labour in the garden. Husband had already dug trenches and buried drains and formed Drama Queen No. 3 into his own particular earth moving squad, Drama Queens 1 and 2 had sensibly found pressing engagements after the initial family bonding experience of moving the enormous steel beam deemed to be in the way of the garden project, an exercise that nearly resulted in a mass family booking at the chiropractor.

The back garden is certainly looking tidier, and the turf laying exercise that went on has definitely transformed it. However the female majority of the household has expressed disquiet that the turf laid completely fails to match the existing grass but Husband has assured the Doubting Thomasinas that within weeks it will have all merged and they won’t be able to tell the difference – I’m actually running a private book on that one if anyone would like to join me in a small Father's Day bet.