Thursday, April 25, 2019

Featuring formaldehyde, flowers, fifty, feminine curvitude, festivities and ...

Twas the day after birthdays
And all through the house
Is the creak of old bones and ...

Hello there.  I said to V that I should go and write and he said go ahead, eat chocolate, drink that drink you bought - you know, formaldehyde.

I looked at him quizzically, mentioned the return of the diet and what the heck was he talking about.

You know, he said, the fancy bottle you bought yourself.

Ah yes.  Spurred on by the information that both the bottle-oh in the shopping centre and the one near the pub would be closing and there would be no local bottle-oh in Paradise for over a week - and the double whammy of that information coming with MAJOR DISCOUNTS attached, and even though this girl NEVER goes above a $12 bottle of wine when making her bi-monthly purchase, persuaded her that she could pre-emptively celebrate her upcoming milestone with a bottle of that stuff in the unusual bottle that Queen Jeanie Next Door found in the back of HER cupboard a year or so ago and we had shared at the end of many a shared meal over the last few years - and maybe she might even get a glass or two with Queen Jeanie Next Door - so yes, I dropped above my monthly alcohol budget for an unusual bottle of - well, not formaldehyde but instead Frangelico.

But I am not imbibing tonight - as my valiant and very virtuous last few months of regulation of food has managed to achieve 33% of my required weight loss (I am currently in the category of "you are a bad parent because you are unfit and unhealthy and setting a bad example" and am hoping to achieve that tiny point of balance of "good enough" (before I topple over into the "you are bad mother because you are showing self-body hate and setting a bad example")) well and truly went to pot when I had a "what the heck, its Easter and then my birthday" hiatus - and took less than 5 days to put 20% of that loss back on in the shape of Ferrero Rochers, cinnamon scrolls, hot cross buns, hot curries, hunting eggs and Frangelico.

In fact, I was going to not indulge at all today, but as I had not been at work on my actual birthday yesterday, today was the one day of the week that I would be working at my Monday-Wednesday job this week - and as a work colleague has his birthday tomorrow, and so he and another brought in home-cooked delights to share in a morning tea with me.  And therefore impossible to say no to, because COME ON - caramel slice?  The most divine butter cookies with perfectly roasted almonds ornamenting their perfect centres?

Oh but I was so stoic....

I plugged into my phone app my intake and it advised that the homemade caramel slice (we are talking award quality) would be 200 of my allowance.  And the butter cookie would set me back 165.  Shhhh - I didn't mention the roasted almond.

However, I am the sort of admin officer who can overlook the roasted almond and wear the non-conformance.

I have to.  There are some levels of bureaucracy that boggle the mind.

So yes, yesterday I turned 50.  I noticed the distinct lack of chimes in local cathedrals at the moment of the passing of my 40s.

When I turned 21, I returned to work from my first ever holiday from my first ever full-time job, I went back ON MY BIRTHDAY - it was a Monday, so my flatmate took me out to a little place near the Cross called  Evies (I think?) that specialised in something or other - veal or schnitzel or - something flat and meaty anyway.  It was special.  Despite how wonderful that was, I vowed that this would not happen ever again.

It seemed that I always had a holiday on my birthday.  When I was very young, it was because the local show was always on the weekend near my birthday.  My world celebrated (other stuff, but still) my birthday.

Because of the proximity of my birthday to a fixed Public Holiday, I could often swing a very long weekend with a judicious taking of leave when I grew up a little.

Thursday 23 April 1992 was such a day.  I took advantage of this by dressing in an outfit of my choosing (my beloved grandma OUTDID herself that birthday with a knitted jumper with bobbles decorating the embroidered scene of OH MY GODFATHER WHAT SELF-RESPECTING YOUNG ADULT WOULD DELIBERATELY CHOOSE TO WEAR (perhaps one with great taste and a very heightened sense of self-confidence) and a flared, tiered skirt of chocolate brown with blue and yellow primitive painted daisies) and cleaned the Koi pond, this being of two-fold benefit - being able to honestly answer my darling grandmother's query of the timing of the first wearing of the birthday outfit AND to ensure that the world's most OVERBEARING landlady didn't have anything to complain about in regards to the special Koi clause in our lease.

But I got over that, in time.  The need to have any sort of money coming in when you are a casual worker (and the majority of my 30 odd years of being in paid employment have been as a casual) and there is a public holiday or two lurking kyboshed the whole "never happen again" vow.

I was umming and ahhing over whether to take the day off (it being the first day that my child went BACK to school for the new term, and LOGICALLY I would be closer to the good mother needle of perfection were I to take a day off in the ACTUAL holidays) when I got the goodish mother chance card - Paris was STUDENT OF THE WEEK to be presented ON MY BIRTHDAY.

 Hooray - just what a girl wants for her birthday - JUSTIFICATION!!!

Because I am a fair-skinned girl who grew up in Central Queensland, one of the facts of life to face is that you need to have constant skin checks - because all of those "burned to peeling" moments in your childhood (despite your mother telling you OVER AND OVER again to put on the Factor 15+) may lead to those BCC (or SCC - still don't know the difference) discovery moments - and I got one of them last week (when I was still in my 40s)...

And so, when I made the appointment for them to "deal with the margin" they offered me the option of 11:15 on my birthday...

Ah well, I had the double down on the JUSTIFICATION but it somehow didn't taste so sweet - almost as virtuous though.

So my day looked fairly laid back - try to be a decent mother, chill, get a bit hacked out of me, chill, watch my child get her Student of the Week award, go to her piano lesson and go out to dinner with Queen Jeanie, and her Princess and the Princess's consort.


But birthdays are never just like that, are they?

There was the lead up to the event, with full knowledge that on the morning of my birthday I would receive a Hawkins - as well as full knowledge that the secret daughter and daddy business behind closed doors the night before (and absolving them of washing up duties) involved the Hawkins being disguised (my every year joke is that I am giving a pony or a record player - Paris amused me by declaring that it was a Castle).

There were the phone calls from blood relatives - apparently there are families in the world where telephone calls before mid-morning are frowned upon, I come from one where 7 is polite - and had the full bingo card of immediate family members before 8.

There was the gentle unwrapping of the Hawkins - I am from Camp Try-To-Save-The-Beautiful-Paper-by-Peeling-Sticky-Tape (my husband is from the What-The-Heck-Are-You-Doing-Woman mob) and the obligatory recipe book "with International Recipes".

The main reason for the Hawkins is I LOVE took cook curry - and there are just some recipes that I know would benefit from following the way the locals do it, and as the Hawkins is (apparently) the BEST (or maybe MOST SOLD) in INDIA that would be the way.

The International Recipe cookbook does have a Curry section, but you can tell that it is a half-hearted attempt to appease their booming audience of the 1960s - expats and aspirants.  Complete with appealing 1960s food photography, where it is slightly dark, moist and unadorned with herbs.

We contemplated whether it would be worth trying to make a Canary Pudding just to see what the heck it really is, and are easily amused by the concept of Puree du Barry.  (Although I am prepared to lie and say I am vegan should I ever be called upon to put braised sheeps tongue into the Hawkins)

All too soon it was time to cajole Paris into going to school - first day of school is never as bad, surprisingly (well, except for the first ever first day) but there can be some quicksand on the road to leaving the house.

When I got home, I got inspired - I have to go through my very, very, very full folder of recipes and cull.  I do like a project on my special day.  I started to go through them.

Next thing, there was a knock at the door - and a very large bunch of sunflowers walked through the door.

My sister and my nephew had got up at crack-of-dawn-O'Clock to drive over to surprise me for my birthday - and been very, very sneaky about it, apparently!

We ate beautiful mushrooms and drank coffee by the ocean and talked and laughed - it was wonderful.  A two-hour holiday.

All too soon, I had an appointment to keep and they have an auto-shop or two to visit (nephew is newly licensed).

The doctor is your young hip type.  The type that wear body hugging clothes and aftershave and elastisides boots (and never twig that their - face it - middle-aged frumpy patient is JUDGING HIM on his not polishing them).  The type that is so NICE but NEVER QUITE GET your sense of humour.  The type that is about old enough to be your child and you are unsure if they speak the same generational language.  Do doctors have to study social history?  Does he even KNOW who Johnny Diesel was?

He has a young hip nurse, too - one that I joke with about my phone dinging a few messages before I have a chance to mute it and that doesn't even notice when I am asked to repeat my birth date (because if there is a moment you would choose to send a fraud in would be when you are to have a malignant spot on your arm cut out - and the surest way of finding you would would be the KNOWN FACT that frauds who are likely to lose body bits in the exchange OFTEN can't MEMORISE one SIMPLE DATE...).

So 25 minutes after the doors open moment, in walks Dr Cool.  He is so cool, he is left-handed as he draws a little target for himself on my arm...

He has placed is phone on a shelf, and it is playing quite possibly the worst soft-rock modern music that I have ever heard.  It isn't quite street and it isn't very country, its got a wishywashy beat and lyrics that sort of don't scan and don't have meaning but seem to almost mean something so you are sucked into trying to work out what-the-actual - that you don't really notice that he has now put dart-lines around his target.

When I made a few dressmaking quips (yes, they do exist, and I expect people to get them when I utter them) and he gave me that sort of pitying-half-smile that I have inside my own mind at his scuffed RMs.

He then put in lots and lots of local anesthetic - or so it seemed - and the "do you feel this" accompanying every jab could have doubled for the sounds coming out of the device.

Unfortunately I did not outdo V in his arm scar length, with only 8 stitches to pull me back together.

It seemed only minutes from getting home from that before I had to turn around to watch Paris get her award (well, there was a whole rest of the primary school parade built around it, of course, but that was the main reason) and go into town to celebrate and have piano lessons, try to catch up with said sister and nephew, go to the Club with QJ et al...

It was quite restful going back to work, really.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

I missed February - did you?

I just deleted a whole post of woe is me and just want to say so long, sucker.  You shan't be missed.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Its a brand new year - or a twisted tale of ringing it in, bringing it on - and o-rings...

Welcome to 2019.  I have plans for 2019.

Well, the short-term plans are for the first week of 2019 - sort of an extension of the plans I had for the last week of 2018 with added urgency because I go back to work on the 7th.

To misquote The Princess Bride (because who doesn't), I have got my 50th to plan, my house to re-arrange, my life to renovate, and Guilder to frame for it. I’m swamped!

Life, however, has a way of inserting itself into great plans, doesn't it?

The front room looks reasonable - a few large bags of op shop donations and far clearer than it has been for years - well, except for the large family heirloom sideboard that needs to find another family member to look after it.

Paris' room looks emptier - it had an enforced clean-out a few weeks ago due to misalignment of priorities and a standoff over a 10 minute clean.

We shan't look into most of the other rooms just yet - still on the list.

But the big ticket item for today - the living room - looks amazing - all walls are now primed and ready for some colour.

That was where we had aimed to be today, but as I said, life and insertion...

You see, we have amazing water pressure in our kitchen.  We have already replaced all washers at least 3 times in recent memory, and the hardware has been replaced also.

One of our long-term plans is to move the kitchen into the living room area so that it is more open plan and the room it is in can become a sitting room come office space - so the whole "we have to overhaul the plumbing" courtesy of the blessing of high water pressure has been one of those jobs that are in the "can we please put it off until the planets align" basket.

Unfortunately, it seems Aquarius was rising and had a hangover today, because the current fix for the  musical "ping ping ping" of dripping taps (holding your mouth right, turning the right tap off hard while adjusting the left tap and giving the spout a bit of a tweak) decided it was no longer going to work at lunchtime.

Lunchtime, when we were about to celebrate a morning well spent with paintbrush and roller, lunchtime, when we had an afternoon of bathing in the ocean and resting on our laurels to contemplate - lunch time, when all hell broke loose.

It is possible I exaggerate when I say "all hell" - although V can colour the air with epistles when dealing with plumbing issues that do touch upon such themes.

One minute, he was rinsing the brush for storage overnight and the next, opera to the tune of gushing water was ringing forth.

It is New Year's Day - I only have two children to ransom, and neither would possibly raise me enough for an emergency plumber on a public holiday.

V is handy enough to try things once, so the water was turned off and 3/4 of the fixtures removed from the existing kitchen wall to determine the depth of the damage.

V is smart enough (ish) to know that when you try to remove the last fixture and all of the tubing behind moves with it, it is possibly best to stop and just swear at it a bit more.

We are blessed - it is Summer, we have an ocean and sea-side showering facilities.  We are also blessed with neighbours and friends whom we can cadge showers and laundry options from when we get to that point.

But we did have to suffer this evening with doing a camping wash up in a pan, and Paris learned how to brush her teeth with a cup of water as her rinsing and spitting option.

And we now have to look down the barrel of getting a plumber at a reasonable rate asap.

2019 - you have been an adventure so far.

So - Happy New Year!!  How has the New Year been treating you?

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Did you Dux? Or, the Tale of the Red Chair...

Based on my own personal anecdata, (early 80s Year 7) Dux was definitely based on teacher preference.

I went to a TINY school that received most teachers based on demerit .

On the rare occasion that we lured a good one, they were looking for us, and we them.  When you live in a small community, the worth of a good schoolteacher is valued.

However, we had form.  Apparently the town was mentioned in State Parliament in the 1950s for the local walkout by families in reaction to such indifferent teachers.

Thommo came to the school when I was in Year 6.  In my year, there were 5 students.  There was (using our Charlie's Angels names) Sabrina, Kelly, Bosley, Kris and Jill .  In the year above us, there was one girl, in the year below, one girl.  There were 20 students in the whole school - counting the pre-schooler.
The first year Thommo was there (and every year prior to that for at least 30 years) there was no dux.

The second year - mine and Thommo's final year - Thommo decided he would create a Dux award.

Now, all 5 of us had been together for 7 years of schooling.  We KNEW our order of academic progress -  Sabrina, Kelly, Bosley, Kris and Jill - every single time. 

Thommo had brought with him from the city a few quaint beliefs.

An abhorrence of Queensland, the bush and its people - which did make things a tad uncomfortable.

A desire to teach such savages Australian Rules Football (or aerial ping-pong as we locally referred to it) - he was deep in Polocrosse, Campdrafting and Rugby League territory.

Motorcycling for fun.  Yeah.  In a community that valued topsoil because where it wasn't that, it was granite and angular, and by the way it HURT a lot if your horse dropped you - but at least that bugger would walk home.  You had to PUSH a motorcycle.

And Thommo held a rigid belief in intellectual superiority of males.  How ridiculous!!!  We all knew THAT was BS.  We had all grown up with our mothers being the brains and our fathers being the instruments of each farming enterprise.  Some of our fathers didn't even know how to talk to kids, let alone crack a book or think about numbers.  That was what mothers were great at.  That and organising stuff.  Thommo didn't think so.

So Thommo's parting shot to a community that had not been warm to his presence for that and so many more transgressions was the installation of the Dux award.  I think perhaps to cement his posterity in the region.

Thommo awarded the Dux to Bosley.

We all cheered for Bosley, of course - he was a good bloke and we had all grown up together.

But we were (in order) Sabrina, Kelly, Bosley, Kris and Jill.

The eyeroll of parents and students alike caused seismic sensation at the school.

Our parting shot to Thommo was a gift-wrapped Red Chair.

The Red Chair had been the Little Room's birthday chair prior to Thommo's arrival.  On the day when you got to celebrate YOUR day, you got to be a special person for the day in The Red Chair.  You got to choose activities, Mrs Hockey baked you a cake and let you help wash up.  It was pretty special.

Thommo made it a pretty special chair too.  Thommo installed this chair on the upstairs verandah outside of his office.

"The Red Chair"

Anyone who was the first to rise Thommo's ire on any morning (and every morning) would get detention upon The Red Chair.

I must admit, whether consciously or subconsciously, it seems that I volunteered myself most days for this pleasure.

I did not take Thommo's views silently, not with a mother like mine.

So  our parting shot to Thommo was a gift-wrapped Red Chair.  We solemnly presented his special piece of furniture for him to take to the next poor school he had been demoted to.

We figured the kids of Coen may need it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Boiled Lollies

Firstly, a trigger warning.  I know that just because I did not have a horrible experience does not in any way lesson the reality and impact that this could have.

When I was young, one of the best things in the world to do was to go for a drive with Dad.  Generally he would take one or two of us at least when he went to check the waters and turn on a motor and do those little weekend jobs that could take you to many wonderful places and do many wonderful things.

Fish dead parrots out of tanks at the middle yards.

Pull up a wire or two across a creek crossing.

Try and get a bull back through to his paddock on foot - or drafted by land rover.

And sometimes (if we were lucky) go over to the neighbours.

We had a few neighbours, but the best fun of all was when we would go to Oakey, and see Keiran and Lilian - and Wayne and Judy and Jeni and Willem and Fammo and the many and varied nefarious animals and people that lived there from time to time - they had a caravan and a relatively fluid work-force.  Looking back, they seemed to be a half-way house for all sorts of interesting background stories - and knowing more of their stories the older I get (or guess at), this is possibly true.

Anyway, one of the characters was Tom, an old (probably in hindsight around my age now) bachelor who was uncomfortable with polite society - but loved to see kids smile.

He had a way of making kids smile - he had this big bag of tropical fruit lollies that had the picture of the fruit on - in garish colours against the wrapper's waxen white - that were magical.  They were hard and sickly sweet but after you sucked on them long enough, sharp cracks in the shell would appear and an explosion of chemical flavour purported to be reflective of the fruit depicted. 

He would whisper you to one side of the gathering and say what a beautiful smile you had and he would give you a handful of these sweets and enjoy that moment.

And that was it.

He was not the only purveyor of sweets - old Mrs Higgins gave apron warmed minties, the Murrays always came through with super-sweet home-made cordial - given our only chocolate and sugar consumption came in the form of Christmas and Easter, these all featured on the highlights reel.

I remember feeling uncomfortable when the "men offering children boiled sweets" became public knowledge when I was a bit older - and I was saddened that forevermore, that experience would be tarnished by the fact that, in other people's worlds, that wasn't it.