Thursday, September 28, 2006

Low blood sugar + blogging = a random collection of petty complaints

Every occupation has its physical hazards. I’m convinced that if I die in the course of a workday, it’ll be in a taxi. I just got back to the office from a six-block ride in which we got honked at twice, narrowly avoided being side-swiped by an articulated bus and at least three illegal manoeuvres were performed (the best of which was an illegal u-turn in front of a moving tram). Jesus.

In other news, this diet that I swore I wouldn’t talk about? It’s pissing me off. I’m eating two relatively healthy meals a day, few-to-no snacks and the occasional fruit salad, and I’ve lost – stop the presses – a pound. Something tells me I’m not getting a book deal any time soon over this particular strategy.

Someone did try and convince me that wine contains calories, but I’m dismissing that as medical quackery. There must be another reason I’m not losing weight.

And my tax return still hasn’t come through, meaning I still don’t have a laptop. If I don’t have one by the beginning of November I don’t see how I can possibly attempt Nanowrimo, which would be disappointing.

So, to sum up: I spend my days riding around in taxis, I drink too much wine to be catwalk-thin, and I don’t have a laptop. Cry me a river, huh?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

My subconscious is taunting me

So this morning, in the wee hours, I was visited with a rather delicious dream of an adult nature. And then, just as it was getting to the really good bit, my husband rolled over in his sleep, threw an arm over me, and woke me up. Such are the disadvantages of being a light sleeper.

So I lay there for a minute, grumbling to myself about the loss of my dream, because isn’t it always the way? And then I thought, hey, who needs dreams when there’s a husband right here? So I made moves of an amorous nature towards him, waking him up, and he seemed receptive to said moves, and things were just getting to the really good bit…

And then my alarm went off, jolting me out of sleep, and I had to get up or risk being late for work.

I mean, goddamn.

Monday, September 25, 2006

I predict my male readers will only get two sentences through this one

So, now that I have a shiny new job to go to, I have to turn my attention to various boring adult things. Like the fact that I only own two suits, one of which isn’t so much a ‘suit’ as ‘a jacket and a skirt made of vaguely the same fabric, the former of which has a ripped lining’. This, I suspect, will not cut it. So, woe is me, I have to go shopping.

Since I haven’t had leave since before the invention of the iPod, I have decided that said shopping should take place in a city other than this one. A nice little yuppie holiday to go along with my nice little yuppie job.

(Oh, my poor mother. She spent our childhood pioneering Community Farms, and protesting at Greenham, and force-feeding us macrobiotic lentils. I bet she never intended us to turn out like this. Actually, that’s not true. I think it was all a cunning plan on her behalf. Step One, indoctrinate children in Alternative Hippy Lifestyle Choices. Step Two, ensure that AHLCs in question are just uncomfortable enough* to send them screaming over to the Dark Side of Comfort and Affluence. Step Three, be taken care of in own morally superior old age. Well played, mother; well played indeed.)

Indulgent as such a holiday sounds, it’s something of a challenge for me. I’m not good at spending money on myself, and I resent the cost of good clothes. What tends to happen, therefore, is that I get caught between the beautiful but expensive option and the ill-fitting but (to me) reasonably priced option, sulk about how much of a chore this whole shopping thing is, get annoyed with myself for wasting so much time and end up buying something which is halfway between the two options. I then wear it twice, realise it’s completely unsuitable for its original purpose and start again. I’m not even going to tell you how many black skirts I own, all bought in a quest for a straight, classy skirt that finishes an inch or two above the knee, and all of which are either calf-length, too short, too large across the waist and/or too small across the hips, or, in one particular stroke of genius, not actually black but a sort of dark browney-purple that goes with absolutely nothing else in my wardrobe.

Eight skirts, since you’re so persistent. And I still don’t own one that fits the original bill.

I need a new strategy. I thought perhaps I should try going shopping whilst intoxicated, but that might just mean that I think I look foxy in everything, rather than alleviating concern about price tags. The same problem applies to shopping in a self-imposed panic; any strategy that stops me worrying about cost will also stop me being able to exercise judgment.

So I’ve come up with a plan. The only times in my life I have been able to shop with an eagle eye for a flattering cut and not be bothered about cost have been when I’m dressing for a crush. A devastating pair of jeans? Wicked little heels? And Crush will be seeing me in these clothes, you say? Hell yeah, here’s the credit card, pretty me up.

Now all I have to do is develop a crush on someone, preferably someone whom I see regularly and who has a predeliction for business suits. How hard could that be?

*I’m sure it’s possible to grow up on brown rice, lentils and pulses, and be comfortable. When your only parent works long hours and loathes cooking, however, it’s rather the opposite. When I was ten I was forced to develop a mysterious and non-specific food allergy until she buckled and reverted to Birds’ Eye fish fingers and baked beans, otherwise I would have starved to death.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

To be fair, you wouldn't have known the last one either

Three discoveries I have made in the past three days:

1. Just because someone is friendly doesn’t mean that they share your sense of humour. This is especially true if they work in a service industry and being friendly is part of their job. Just to pluck a random hypothetical example out of the air, going into the pet shop and asking for six goldfish “because the cats looked hungry this morning” is generally not a good idea.

2. Drinking an extremely nice bottle of red wine, the sort one puts away for celebrations, and following that up with some dessert wine and chocolate, and then in a combination of guilt and over-excitability deciding to go to the gym the next morning and beat your personal best running record…well, it doesn’t end comfortably, that’s all. Unless you are much fitter than I am.

3. Morris Dancing, whilst universally mocked as a hobby, can be an excellent career move. This works best if one of your fellow Morris Dancers moves to the biggest law firm in the country and is tasked with finding a bright young graduate to fill an upcoming position.

In breaking news: life fucking rocks.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

You could hide under the bed, but the monsters might get you

Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond was critically injured on Wednesday after crashing in a jet-powered car while filming for the program, the BBC announced…Top Gear…were filming him trying to break the British land speed record.

Now look. Consider this a public service announcement.

If you have a job which involves doing risky and possibly fatal things: just stay home for a while, okay? Work in nuclear fission? Call in sick. Run a skydiving business? Take a sabbatical. If you’re an academic, stay out of the stacks, and writers should be on the look out for poison pen letters. In fact, unless your job is to sit around in a sealed house and talk endless drivel about yourself, a holiday would probably be in order.

Although actually, if Abu Bakar Bashir is right, even the Big Brother participants aren’t safe. So I guess there’s an upside to everything.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Warning: this post contains sexual references, adult themes and 5th century Christian doctrine.

My head seems to be full of random thoughts recently, which I want to blog about but which don’t quite develop into whole stories.

Such as; why did Christians promote the missionary position for sex? What did they have to gain? I understand that organised religions of various types have vested interests in prescribing religious edicts that banned contraception (more believers), paying tithes (more money) or whatever, but what interest did they have in dictating a sexual position?

And obviously, the answer is because they wanted to channel sexual energy into religious fervor. If you go back to the teachings of Augustine and his peers* they loathed and detested the idea of sex. It was alright – grudgingly – for men to enjoy it, since you rather need male orgasm in order to make little Christians, but women? If you’ll pardon the pun, God forbid they took pleasure in the act.

Basically Augustine talks about the danger of concupiscence; lustful and forbidden thoughts. If men and women lose themselves in carnal pleasures of the carnal, their minds are on their pleasure, the union of their flesh, and not on God. So sex shouldn’t be enjoyed, for to do so is to temporarily forsake God.

Okay.So that leads me to another question. Does that mean that the missionary position was prescribed, in preference to anything else, because it was the least pleasurable position?

I’ll let you ponder that for a second. And when you’re done:

Whether they were right or wrong…how did they decide on that? Did they take a poll? Compare notes about their own experiences? Run controlled experiments?

The more I think about this, the stranger it gets. And then I realise I’m thinking about ancient Christians thinking about sex. Do these sorts of things happen to anyone else?

*What? I happened to have a book lying around**.
**I'll work on embedded hyperlinks in my own sweet time, thank you

Missing in action

I haven't died. I'm just busy. I have a few things brewing right now, some of which I'm hoping will lend themselves to bloggy goodness.

Until then, do feel free to keep yourselves amused in any way you see fit. I'd recommend the links to the right, but far be it from me to prescribe your pleasures. Later, guys.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

I might die alone, but I'll die happy

I was standing in line in the video* store today and this guy, who was…what the hell is the correct term these days? Cognitively challenged? Anyway, I don’t think it was Downs’ Syndrome or autism, and that’s the limit of my diagnostic skills, so let’s just go with ‘challenged’. Anyway, he came up to me and said What Are The DVDs That You Are Borrowing? I showed him, and he said Oh, and then he asked the woman standing behind me What Are The DVDs That You Are Borrowing? And she showed him, and he said to her Are You Going To Watch Those DVDs With Her? pointing at me, and she said No, and he came back to me and said That Lady Won’t Watch DVDs With You You Will Have To Watch DVDs Alone.

Which obviously injected some cheer into my day.

Strangers informing me of my social pariah status aside, I’m having a wonderful weekend. Friday night I had a stressful afternoon, of the type that leads to brooding and second-guessing, so I employed the completely healthy and not at all substance-abusing method of arriving home, putting on West Wing and pouring myself a large glass of wine.

Since I’m dieting** at the moment, and therefore hadn’t eaten much, this meant that by the time the husband came home two hours later I was into the third glass and extremely tipsy. I babbled at him for an hour, dozed off on his shoulder and then put myself to bed by 9.30pm. I’m totally rock-n-roll, me.

Saturday we were coming home from grocery shopping and decided to stop in at a local winery to see if they were selling unlabelled cases. They were, but they were also selling cheese platters***, and we hadn’t had lunch, and one thing led to another and we found ourselves eating camembert and sliced pink lady apples whilst gazing over rolling hills planted with sauvignon and pinot gris. Sometimes I really loathe my life, I mean, I don’t know how I carry on.

And then today I dropped the husband off at a fun run, drove down to the finish line and watched people run past whilst drinking coffee and reading my novel. It was just like exercising, only without the sweat and sunburn. Well, and the cardiovascular benefits, but let’s not split hairs.

It’s been a good weekend.

*Why are they still called video stores? Mine doesn’t even carry videos any more. It scoffs at such outdated technology. And yet it is a video store. It passeth understanding.
**Sort of. And don’t worry, I won’t get all boring with the diet thing. Why would you care about my physical self? I’m just words on a screen, here.
***Yeah, see, I’m already regretting mentioning the diet. I’m not good at self-deprivation, what can I tell you?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

To move or not to move

The husband* was a little depressed last night, so I took him out for a beer. It quickly became obvious that my normal technique of regaling him with hilarious stories from the front (“so she’s spent twelve years teaching this guy to read and write, helping him through a heroin addiction, looking after the kids and working to pay off his debts, they split up with no money and she goes on a single parent pension, then he wins $5 million on OzLotto and I’m not kidding, the first thing he does is arranges his affairs so that he doesn’t have to pay child support. I mean, jesus, right?”**) wasn’t going to distract him, so I pulled out the big guns.

Thai food, a bottle of wine, and everyone’s favourite Topic of Marital Contention: moving interstate. Nothing like a heated debate to take one’s mind off things.

I want to move to Melbourne or Sydney, you see. He doesn’t. I’ll lay out the arguments briefly for you, and I think you’ll agree that I’m clearly in the right here.

Both cities are much more expensive than here. We could only enjoy the same standard of living if we took on a much bigger debt burden, and that makes us both unhappy.
And actually, I’m not at all sure we could enjoy the same standard of living anyway, because where else can we live twenty minutes from the CBD and be surrounded by wineries and orchards?
Not to mention, we’ve finally started to get the garden looking nice, and we’ve barely finished repainting the house, and starting again would be a major hassle.
Given the debt burden thing, we’d both need to work fulltime for years and years, and where does that leave the plan to have children?
Also, we’d be moving away from your family, to whom you are very close and who would miss us dreadfully.
Plus, don’t you realise that if we moved to Melbourne we’d be living in the same city as my family, and we’d get hassled to go to family dinners every week and to attend every single family event forever or be made to feel like horrible children? Church may be involved. Don’t underestimate the power of grandmotherly guilt.
We have lots of friends here, and it’s a better city for someone in my profession generally, and there’s going to be huge amounts of money flowing into this state over the next few years, and it’s an exciting time to be living here.

But I’m bored and restless and I want to move.

Honestly, I don’t know why he’s even contesting this one.

Anyway, near the end of the conversation we revisited an old theory of mine, that in an era of cheap air fares, one can live and work in a cheaper state, and use the saved money to visit more expensive states often enough that one gets the benefit of both. It only works if you argue that the higher wages in bigger cities don’t balance out with the higher cost of living.

I don’t have time to do the research right now. But I’m sure I’m right that if you take the difference in mortgage payments between, say, a two bedroom house in a leafy Adelaide suburb and the equivalent in Melbourne, and then look at the difference in salary for a professional five years out of university (since I think salary differences in various cities start to kick in a few years out), you are probably better off living in Adelaide and flying into Melbourne or Sydney or wherever every second weekend. That way you can maintain close friendships in both/all of those places, since how often do you see your friends anyway, as well as getting the benefits of the shopping and art and concerts and things.

It's a plan with no drawbacks (now that the cheap airlines allocate seating and the airport's been redone). So why does no-one do this? Am I missing something?
*I’m getting uncomfortable with this appellation. It’s too close to the nails-on-blackboard “hubby” construction so beloved by women’s magazines. Note to self: find better nickname.

**True story, on the public record, not one of our clients. I’m in the clear.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

On links, limps and life in general

Guys, I don’t ask much of you. An occasional cursory click through the site to see if I’ve updated (which I almost always have, because despite having a stressful job and a home to run I make the effort to come up with new material every day, no, no, that’s okay, I do it for the love, not the recognition), maybe even a grudging smile or nod once in a while, that sort of thing. I don’t expect plaudits.

But would it have killed one of you to tell me that I’ve had a broken link up there for the past three months?

I mean, alright, I possibly should have checked it myself. And yes, possibly the fact that I constantly berate you all for not loving me enough isn’t in fact working in my favour here. But still. How embarrassing.

Also, one of my links seems to have disappeared altogether, which I find terribly mysterious. I’m at work, so I can’t fix either problem until I get home, and I really shouldn't have mentioned it because none of you would have noticed anyway. But it’s preying on my mind somewhat and I'm in a stream-of-consciousness sort of mood.

The job’s still fascinating, for the record. I’ve been horribly uncreative since beginning it, though; not because I’m tired or overworked but because the stuff I encounter every day is so damn interesting, and often (unintentionally) hilarious that it eclipses anything I could possibly relate.

So what can I tell you about? The fact that I arrange my morning commute so that I walk half a mile to and from the office, and that most of the time this is a really nice little moment of my day, walking briskly along in the fresh air, feeling professional in my neat little suit, heels clicking on the pavement, but that yesterday I stepped out of the office and one of my shoe straps immediately broke, giving me no option but to limp another next seven blocks to the bus stop? The pitying looks of commuters as they passed me, dragging one foot behind myself like I had a congenital defect? The bus ride itself, where no sooner had I settled down with my book and my Diet Coke then the guy three seats behind me sprayed deodorant around his seat, creating a fug that crept through the bus and gave me a headache? The guy immediately behind me, who contributed to said headache by whistling loudly along to his Ipod? My gratitude when I got home and my husband, who’s on leave this week, made me a Cosmo? My frustration when, a few sips later, I knocked the almost-full cocktail over and onto a pile of study material?

None of that conveys how much I like my life at the moment. It doesn’t make for high comedy, I know, but I feel like I’m bubbling over with it, so I have to say it. The weather is nice, work is interesting, my friends are extraordinary and I live with the greatest man in the universe.

And I’d say that even if he hadn’t made me a replacement Cosmopolitan.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

I'm Getting Old; or, Weekend Recap

When I was eleven or twelve I was sent to the supermarket for a few groceries, including dishwashing detergent. It’s stayed in my memory because I came back with a mint-scented detergent, which I thought was both novel and sounded refreshing. My mother disagreed with my choice at some length, but we didn’t have the money to buy any more, so we were stuck with it. It was certainly novel, but I quickly discovered that mint isn’t a scent one wants clinging to one’s crockery.

I’ve held to that belief, but I’m discovering that I may be behind the times.

Remember when surface spray came in two varieties; hospital and hospital-with-lemon? Yeah, me too. And yet this weekend, in my small provincial city, I find myself choosing between green apple and pink grapefruit. And the detergents. Cinnamon! Mandarin! Spearmint! And my personal favourite, ladies and gentleman: Tropical Splice. That’s mango and pineapple, if it wasn’t immediately clear. This is something you use to clean your dishes. As if Crème caramel Kit-Kats weren’t ridiculous enough.

I must be getting old.

Friday night I helped celebrate a close friend’s liberation from a stultifying job, with the help of white wine and dolmades. Saturday the husband and I decided to throw an extremely elite cocktail party comprising us. He mixed Cosmopolitans, I made guacamole and we shared the olives. It was great: I got to choose the music, I wasn’t at risk of getting stuck in a conversation with anyone dull and the house wasn’t trashed in the morning. My idea of a good party.

Shit, I really am getting old.

And today was beautiful. Sunny and crisply cool, and all mine. I spent the morning planting broccoli and irises, went to the library at lunchtime and frittered away half of the afternoon napping in a patch of warmth on the old sofa upstairs.

You know, I thought I was kidding about getting old.

I’ve got to go find a rave to attend. Are recreational drugs still called recreational drugs?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A Post About Nothing - No, Really

I did nothing at all in my last job.

I realise people say that, but I mean it literally; I’d get in at 8.30am, and all day I’d email friends, browse the internet, blog and occasionally try and write something more substantial (but still strictly personal).

I’d leave at 5.30pm or so, go home, complete a few basic domestic chores and then drape myself over a sofa for the evening and read a book. I always felt exhausted.

And now I have a job (temporarily, at least) which is fun and demanding. It keeps me thinking for nine hours a day, and I’m always ‘on’. I think maybe it’s what I needed.

This morning I managed to unload the dishwasher, make plunger coffee, iron shirt, sew hem of trouser leg back up, edit and post to blog and walk out the door made-up (seriously, guys, don’t tell me how much ties suck, try having to smear paint all over your face every morning) and be-suited all within 45 minutes. As in, by 6.50am.

This afternoon was about the same. And then at 9.30pm I thought, I’ve been pretty efficient today, what have I forgotten?

The answer is: to think of something to blog about. I no longer have time to read the papers and garner inspiration (although I did hear some guy died…I don’t know, he had something to do with lizards or something? Anyway, I hear people are sad. I’m sorry for your loss, all you sad people)

So I’m afraid this is it. No substantive post Friday. Wasn't really worth even clicking through, really, was it? Blame work.= >Blame the government. But don’t blame me.

The Start of Something Beautiful

Dear Diary,

You'll never guess! I think I'm in love!!!!

I know I said that before, but that was just a stupid crush. This is the real thing, Diary!

His name is Coffee, and he is just soooo gorgeous. He's strong, and mellow, and, like, totally hot. And oh my God he smells soo good. I just want to inhale him or something. This must be what Ms Jacobs meant in Biology class about pheromones!

He's so much nicer than that stupid Tea I was dating. God he was such a pain, I mean, totally. I thought he was alright at first, you know, kind of sweet and a bit sophisticated, but man was I wrong. The relationship went, like, completely stale. I don't want a guy who's too weak, you know what I mean? And he got so fussy, with all those stupid accessories of his. It just got to be too much of a strain.

I told him I didn't want to go out any more. He went this totally ugly shade of grey - ugh. I wanted to put it off, but I knew if I left it too long the whole thing would just get too bitter. Really he should be grateful that I was honest with him - some of the girls in my school are like really fake and saccharine, so he should find me refreshing. I said that, but he just got steamed.

Anyway, I know I shouldn't plunge into anything with Coffee just yet, cause, like, the magazines say you should be single for a while before the next relationship. But oh my God, Diary, I am like sooo gone on him. I couldn't even sleep last night thinking about him, that's how much I like him, and this morning even, Mum was like slow down, why are you talking so fast, you're not normally this full of beans at this time of the day, and I was like Mum, you so wouldn't understand, and she just looked at me but I had to go and walk to school because the bus takes too long.

That's how I know this is Love, Diary. I've never felt this way before. It's like the whole world is brighter, and I have so much more energy and stuff.

I just know this is going to be the start of something beautiful.

I love Coffee!!!!!!!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

To anyone who wonders why I'm never online any more

This is how my evening is going so far:
8.30pm: dial up. Open messenger client to see if friends are there. Get no response. Open web browser. Computer freezes.
8.40pm: Repeat
8.50pm: Repeat. Instead of rebooting computer, decide to see how long it takes to unfreeze. Go take shower. Come back just as computer unfreezing. Try to switch windows. Computer freezes. Consider throwing computer out of window.
9.15pm: Dialup.Do not open messenger. Open browser. Browse for three minutes. Open messenger. Computer freezes. Consider throwing self out of window.
9.35pm: Dial up. Feel thankful for free local call arrangement. Grind teeth. Vow not to open browser. Vow that if don’t manage to post soon, shall give up and go to bed. Realise have nothing to post about. Resort to posting book reviews.

I am so sick of this I can’t even be funny. Nothing I’ve tried has solved the fact that this relatively new computer doesn’t let me do anything useful. And now there’s a chance my laptop fund will be swallowed up by something that isn’t a laptop, so it’s not going to change any time soon. I realise this is a quintessential First World problem, and all, but still.

At least I have a good party to go to tomorrow night. With any luck something hilarious will happen to me.

Wednesday Book Review: Bumper Edition

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Jonathan Safran Froer

>I'm tempted to werite "fucking brilliant" and leave it at that for this one. It is, in fact, fucking brilliant.

Oskar is a precocious, charming nine year old who lost his much-loved Dad in the 9/11 attacks in New York. A year later, still grieving heavily, Oskar finds a key tucked away in a vase in his father's closet, and decides to discover what it opens. He begins a year-long expedition which takes him all over the city, making friends with a diverse group of strangers as he goes.

Oskar is one of the most charming characters I've met in a long time. Safran Froer's portrayal is sheer genius. I really did laugh, and cry, and ignore the world around me while I finished it. I can't recommend this highly enough.

Josie and Jack - Kelly Braffet

Very polished for a debut novel, and without any of the gimmicks that sell first books. Josie and Jack are sister and brother, living in a ramshackle house with an abusive father and left to their own devices most of the time. They drink and get stoned and pursue their twisted interpersonal power games, and it's mesmerising to watch. From the blurb, I was expecting more melodrama than I got, and I appreciated the balance the author struck. Not bad at all.

State of the Union - Douglas Kennedy

I'm a big fan of Douglas Kennedy and have been ever since The Big Picture. This is his latest, a book about a woman who makes one huge mistake in a careful and well-behaved life back in the sixties, a mistake which isn't discovered until George W Bush's second term. I use that timeline because Kennedy uses the reaction of the public to the revelation to vent his anger at the sanctimonious, hypocritical Christianity that currently permeates American media. Kennedy wrote a very powerful book a few years back called The Pursuit of Happiness, which is set in the era of McCarthyism, and the parallels are clear without Kennedy spelling them out.

State of the Union just isn't as good as that one, sadly, but it's not a bad read if you want to feel some righteous anger at the world we find ourselves in.

The Photograph – Penelope Lively

Sometimes I find that my reading follows a theme over a week without it meaning to. I read this just after the above, and they’re both about old secrets – specifically, old infidelities – coming to light. The widowed husband of a sparkling young woman discovers a photograph ten years after her death that suggests he didn’t know her at all. Through his search, and through the eyes of the others who were close to her, we get a portrait of the woman herself.

I’m always admiring of people who can create a protagonist who isn’t actually present in the book. Lively is a skilful writer; the sort of whom one says “she commands her craft”. It didn’t rip me raw, but it was a good day when I read it.

Reunion - Alan Lightman

A small elegant book filled with small elegant prose. A story of a middle-aged man looking back on his college-aged self with some pathos and a lot of joy. I can’t get too enthusiastic about it, but I can’t fault it stylistically.

Stop Me if You've Heard This One (II): Holidaying with the In-laws

So, there we all are, crammed into a modest unit over a sweltering Christmas, and I experience what has to be the most awkward morning of my life.

You're going to need some background. Let's see.

For a start, you have to understand that the husband and I usually spend Christmas with my family, so this trip was a rarity.

My family consists of myself, my younger brother and my mother, and even before we emigrated to Australia Christmas tended to be a sedate sort of affair. We open our presents in considerate order, play board games throughout the afternoon and chat; turning the television on is considered the height of rudeness. All terribly English, really, albeit without the Queen's Speech.

By contrast, the husband's family is large, chaotic, warm, friendly and sprawling. They comprise a gorgeously illogical mix of cultures and nationalities, which makes for a hilarious array of 'traditional' Christmas dishes. It's survival of the loudest around their celebratory tables, and the women tend to win.

We've therefore worked on the principle that his family probably won't miss us, whereas if we didn't spend Christmas with my side it would be a drab sort of affair. The other reason is simpler; we live near my family, and his is scattered throughout every state but ours.

However, my sister in law (let's call her Christiana, because it amuses me) scheduled her wedding for 30 December, and so a mass family gathering was called. We drove over to spend a week there.

With me so far?

All of this serves as background to explain why we found ourselves sharing a unit with four other adults. It having been so long since we visited, none of our usual methods of staying with friends or in a hotel were going to work this time; what's considered a polite distance in my family is often interpreted as aloofness in his*.

So there we all are, crammed into a modest unit over a sweltering Christmas. By "we" I mean myself and the husband (who have the guest bedroom), his parents (who have the main bedroom), his youngest sister, who is fourteen and shy, who is ensconced on a camper bed in the sewing room, and his maternal grandmother, who is in her late seventies and frail, on the foldout sofa bed in the lounge room. It's her unit, but she's chosen that bed so that she can get up early without disturbing anyone else.

Two relevant plot points:
1) My husband's parents are still happily married, but because of work commitments his father currently lives overseas and only manages to get a couple of weeks leave per year. Previous to Christmas, he hasn't seen any of his family since July.
2) The guest bedroom and main bedroom share a wall. This is a modestly sized unit that was never designed to host this many people.

Okay, I'm sorry this is taking me so long, but hopefully you now have the set-up. Let's cut to 28 December. We've been there a few days. There's a heatwave. It's crowded.

And at 6.30am or so I wake up. It's early, and so it takes me a moment to work out what's woken me. And then I realise I'm hearing noises.

Sort of…rhythmic…whimpering noises.


They're not loud, just these regular little whimpers; 'ah…ah…oh…'. As if that's not bad enough, every now and then they speed up a little, and I can almost hear a suggestion of 'oh…ohhh…ow…' in amongst the 'ah…ah…' which is a little more information than I needed, but I'm trying very very hard not to think about the details so I decide I'm imagining it.

The first thing I think is, I hope the husband's not awake. It's bad enough that I'm listening to this, but these are his parents. And man, the noises are just not stopping.

Of course then he does wake up, and I launch into a stream of morning prattle in an attempt to mask the disturbing sounds leaking under our door (and you don't know how much I wish I hadn't just typed the word "leaking" in this context). I put up a good effort, if I do say so myself, but there's only so long even I can talk for, and eventually there's a pause in the conversation.

"What's that noise?" he asks.
"Well. Ummm…"

The thing is that it's still early, and if his gran is still in bed then the entire living area is in use, and there's no way we can get up without intruding on her sleep, and there's no room to sit and have a coffee anyway. So we stay in our room. And try not to listen. For approximately seventeen years.

It seems to me that the whimpers are getting louder, and the little soft cries that sound almost like pain are closer together, and through the swirling horror that I am even thinking about this I am holding onto the hope that maybe soon they'll stop and we can escape…

And then the door to the main bedroom opens and his father walks out.

And the noises don't stop.

It wasn't his parents at all, and it certainly wasn't sexual. The noises I'd been listening to for the past forty minutes were in fact whimpers of pain.

Some time early that morning, around two or three am, his gran had got up to visit the bathroom, tripped over a trailing blanket, landed and fractured the tip of her shoulder joint so that she couldn't move that arm. And not wanting to disturb anyone, she'd manoeuvred herself into an armchair and sat there all night, waiting for someone to get up. As it had got later, she'd allowed herself to make slightly louder noises, which is of course what I was hearing.

She was in a soft sling for the next month, but she was essentially fine. What I keep thinking, though, is this:

Did his parents assume they were hearing us, just as we assumed we were hearing them? Did they stay in their room in mortification just as we felt trapped in ours, and the poor gran sat in her cold armchair wondering why we were all sleeping in?

I don't know.

But I do know that next time we're staying in a hotel.

*In case I sound critical, I should say that this need to demonstrate warmth is extremely good for me, since I tend to withdraw otherwise. I never really learned 'family' and the welcome it implies, and I love his to bits.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Let the timestamp serve as my excuse

So, I was mowing the…


Hey, look, I told you last week I might not manage to blog every day. What do you want from me? I have a real job now.

So, I was mow…

Well, yeah, I do. And he does, normally, although I should point out here that even asking that question makes me wonder about your gender politics. But yes, yes, normally it’s his job, you’re right. But he hurt his back last week, so I volunteered, because I’m nice like that.

Happy now? I can continue? Good. So, I was mowing…

You know, I can't be bothered finishing that; it just wasn’t ever going to be an interesting anecdote. I mowed the lawn today, it was a pain in the ass, I should never have suggested buying a house on a steep hill. The End.

My mother rang me last night, using Skype. She’s never used it before, and she was extremely excited about the whole thing. Apparently she’d rung two people in Spain already the same evening. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t know anyone who lives in Spain, which concerns me a little.

It (Skype) didn’t improve the quality of the connection, either, which would be far more useful from my perspective. The phone line to my house is so bad that despite the fact that it’s a large house, there’s no way of having a private voice conversation because one has to shout to be heard. I also can’t get broadband, for the same reason, but don’t get me started on the inadequate lip service paid to areas which are relatively affluent and not particularly far from the CBD and therefore don’t qualify for regional assistance nor constitute part of the standard metropolitan area and therefore seem to exist, or not, as a sort of shadow on the radar screen of the major service providers.

Now, see, what did I say about getting me started? Hmmm?

Anyway, I’ve given a lot of thought to all of the input and comments received on the subject of laptops. Luckily there were none, because you lot are either apathetic in general or don’t care about me, so that wasn’t an onerous task. The original plan was to get one so that I could obtain a wireless connection. Turns out that even a wireless connection, in this area, would be both expensive and slow. I still want a laptop, though, so in the absence of knowing anything technical at all, my plan is to wait for my tax return to come in and then go and spend as much of it as possible on one. Does that sound like a good idea?

Nope, still not interesting. Okay.

Triple chocolate Mars Bars. Now, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. I’m more likely to gorge on grilled haloumi than Rocky Road, and yes, I’m also a total food snob, but that’s not the point. The point is that I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but when I’m hormonal and craving chocolate, it’s the Mars Bar that wins out every time. And you know what? Not once, ever, and this includes the years of my youth when my desire for chocolate may have been influenced by rather less than entirely legal drugs, have I thought you know, this Mars Bar, it’s pretty good, but what it needs is more chocolate.


I think we all know I’ve got nothing, here. I’m feeling the after-effects of standard Sunday night insomnia, I have an ulcer inside my bottom lip and there are two cats downstairs wanting to know why I’m blogging* instead of feeding them.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you guys the story of my Christmas with the in-laws. Right now I’ve got to start mainlining caffeine.

*Well, obviously they’re not asking why blogging, specifically. They’re more enquiring about why I’m Not Feeding them rather than Feeding them, that being the dualism that interests them.