Monday, 25 February 2013

My errrr .... Best Friend

My partner, Keith, and I had an argument the other night. He’s determined to try to rebuild our kitchen. Err … I don’t think so, sonny!!!

It’s always been a big disappointment to him that, although, anatomically, he’s clearly a man – or a female Hungarian weight lifter - he’s never been particularly good at being a bloke. In his adult life, he’s never built anything, never chopped wood, never owned an apron with boobs on it – you know all the stuff they do in beer ads.

As he says, he’s a man, not a bloke. Real blokes know about cars and he knows nothing about them apart from how to drive one and how to turn on the radio. What happens under the bonnet is a mystery to him. He assumes there’s an engine down there but, for all he knows, his car could be powered by monkeys on bikes. He doesn’t even know how to refill the water for the windscreen wipers so he usually drives to an intersection where there’s a backpacker with a squeegee. To him, a fanbelt is what a fan uses to stop his or her pants from falling down, a carby is what you get when you cross your car with a Furby; and he wouldn’t be able to identify the ‘diff’ if it had ‘This is the diff’ written on it.

To make matters worse, he was a vegetarian – that’s not blokey at all. Real blokes have a beer and a pie at the footy, and it just doesn’t sound right when males say, "Let’s grab a beer and a salad." That phase has gone, thank heavens.

But the main reason we know he’s not a real bloke is that real blokes can fix stuff. Sure, they probably broke it in the first place – possibly (no – probably) while drunk – but when they sober up the next day, they fix it. For him, when it comes to DIY, the ‘Y’ stands for "Y bother when you can call the professionals".

Real blokes have tools. Hey, he might recognize the odd tool – and he’s been called one a few times – but he doesn’t own any. The only screwdriver he knows his way around costs about $8.00 at the local cocktail bar; the only hammer he’s familiar with wears gold pants, and while he’s seen all the Saw movies, we’ve finally convinced him that’s not how they train the staff at the local hardware store.

Some of our bloke friends have so many tools; they need an entire box to put them in. Some even need a shed. He has a lot of Simpson toys, but I think if he gave them their own shed, we’ll start removing sharp objects from within his reach.

I remember taking Keith to my grandfather’s place once. Gramps had a tool shed. Then again he was a proper bloke. He built his own house in the mountains. That fact still amazes Keith.

I remember being in gramps’ shed and Keith was looking at the walls where gramps had painted outlines to show where all the tools belonged. Keith said that it looked as if a tool serial killer had been on the rampage and the team from CSI had come in and put chalk outlines around the tool bodies.

He said that he would love to have outlines of tools on our walls, but if he painted the things he used regularly at home, there’d only be outlines of various remote controls and a bottle opener.

So, he was saying that thinking about it, he doesn’t need tools to be more blokey. He just needs some paint and stencils, and then he could fool people into thinking that he has tools and that they are all out on loan. Perhaps he could even buy himself a Swiss Army knife. Those babies have about 100 tools on them, although the paint outline would be tricky.

My point in all of this is, of all the blokey things that blokey blokes do, from tinkering with carbies to burping the entire AC/DC collection, the only thing I’ve always really wished he could do is build or fix stuff. On the positive side, I guess, his inability to do so has meant that over the years, he’s created a lot of employment for real blokes.

Sorry Keith. x

Plane Talk

Before I begin pissing off parents, I want to point out that I like kids. I used to be one myself. I’m a proud aunt and maybe one day I might even be a mum. But I have to admit, there’s one place where the sight of a child fills me with outright fear – on a plane.

Now before the angry, crayon-smudged letters start to flood in, I’m not saying people should have to make a choice – breed or travel – but I think it’s a proposal worthy of consideration.

I don’t blame parents, I just don’t think kids and confined spaces are a good mix. So when I very recently found myself looking after an ‘unaccompanied minor’ (a six year old boy) on a flight to London, my heart sank.

(Look, I’m not saying six-year-old boys don’t have their place but, to me, that place is entertaining me as part of the cast of Billy Elliot, or working in a sweatshop using their nimble fingers.)

Oh well, I thought, I’ll just keep on the move and he won’t bother me. However, just as I was trying to pretend I was sleeping, he stuck out his tiny hand and said "Hi, my name is Josh. What’s yours?"

I looked around quickly.

Just as well I’m not a male because sadly, in our society, if you’re a 30 something man engaged in conversation with a six year old boy, you start to panic someone is going to report you to the authorities (or, at the very least, Jimmy Saville would have asked you to join his Facebook page).

But I’m a female and I mumbled my name and hoped that would put an end to it. But Josh wasn’t easily dissuaded.

"Don’t you hate travelling economy?" he asked. "I like business class – you get extra leg room."

I feel the need to reiterate that Josh was six. Not six-feet-tall. Six years old. His feet barely reached the floor in economy; they wouldn’t have reached the end of the seat in business-class. Here was a kid who could have laid down comfortably in the overhead compartment for a snooze, and he was bitching about the leg room in economy. I liked his style.

"Hey, Kate, do you want to know a fact?" he asked. And to my surprise, I did. I sat up.

Josh looked at me seriously and began. "Fact: Smoking can kill you, but so can rugby."

I thought about this for a while and then nodded. You couldn’t argue with that.

I was hooked. "Do you know any other facts?" I asked.

"Yes," he replied. "Fact:" (He actually said "fact" at the start of each sentence.) "It’d be really cool if you had a tunnel in your house that could take you anywhere you wanted to go in the entire world."

I pondered this for a moment and realized I couldn’t fault his logic. (Although, I did think there’d still be a way for you to lose your luggage.) But I didn’t have much time to formulate any other thoughts before Josh hit me with another one.

"Fact: You can get cancer from smoking, even if you eat vegetables."

I nodded and replied, "And even if you eat your veggies, you can still get hurt playing rugby." He didn’t get it, so I quickly moved on.

"Do you have any more facts you can tell me?" I asked.

"Do I?" he exclaimed, clearly warming to the subject. "Heaps. Fact: A kid in my class once filled his mouth with water and then spat it on his pants and told everyone he had done wee. It was so funny."

I laughed. And Josh laughed, too, until he made a little snort with his nose.

"Fact:" Josh continued, still giggling, "Bats weigh a kilo – except for Batman, who weighs more than that."

Yes, I mused, but you’d hardly know it, that black outfit is very slimming.

"Fact:" said my new friend, "Sprite and Lemonade are the same thing, they just have different names."

By now, the plane that seemed to have taken off only a couple of minutes ago had begun its descent, but I was caught up in the momentum, so I turned to the six-year-old beside me and asked if he knew any more facts.

He said, "Nah, that’s it."

It didn’t matter, because I had learnt that, sometimes, being with a kid on a plane can be pretty bloody cool, if you just give them a chance.

And that’s a fact.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The Letter

Hello and welcome to my little corner of the big, bad world wide web.

In these pages, I'm probably going to bore ypu with my ramblings, or I'll take you with me on my travels.

Let's get started ....

I was sitting in a coffee shop the other day and was just about to put pen to paper, when the pimply teenage waiter arrived at my table and asked the question. Not the question I was expecting, mind you. I was expecting something along the lines of "Can I get you a coffee?"

But instead, he asked "What are you writing?"

It really was quite a simple question and confident I knew the answer without thinking music or phoning a friend, I responded simply – "A letter."

He stared at me blankly. Clearly I hadn’t provided all the necessary information.

"You know. A letter! Words on paper. When I was a kid, this is how we used to communicate." OH. MY. GOD. Did I just use the expression "When I was a kid"? What next? Was I going to start banging on about how things were better in my day, and then complain about this noise they call music? "Sorry, mate, you know letters, right? Envelopes? Stamps? Any of this ringing a bell?"

"Oh yeah," he replied. "I know stamps. Look at all the ones I got at the club last night, the DJ was awesome!"

"You might call that music," I said, trying desperately to catch the inevitable words before they tumbled out of my mouth, "I call it noise."


"But I don’t mean those stamps," I said, moving on before I started suggesting all the world’s problems could be solved by a good dose of national service. "I mean the ones with the Queen’s picture on them, and you lick her back!"

"Why would you want to lick her back?" He asked.

"Do you know, it’s a little-known fact," I said warming to the topic, "that every time you lick the back of a stamp with the Queen’s picture on it, the real Queen feels it."

He paused for a moment as if actually considering it, and then said "Nah … don’t be stupid. And anyway, I know what a letter is. I just wanted to know why you were writing one."

Why? The thought had never occurred to me. He seemed to sense I needed mor information and continued – "I mean, why would you write a letter when you could just send an email?"

"Well you can’t avoid paying your bills by telling someone the cheque is in the email, can you?" I joked.

He didn’t laugh and the thought suddenly struck me, why was I writing a letter? I mean, no one writes letters any more. Even the kid we sponsor in some hick country has an email address and a Facebook page. What was so special about a letter?

"Why?" I said half wondering what the next thing to come out of mouth would be, "let me count the reasons why. For starters, a love email will never be as romantic as a love letter, will it?"

He thought about this for a moment, nodded and said "What if you put some emoticons at the end? A smiley face or I could show you how to do a love heart with an arrow and a 3."

I felt like I was losing him.

"Well what about this then – if you get stuck on a desert island, it’s going to be hard to stick an email in a bottle."

"Unless you’re on Fiji" he countered "I went there with the boys at Christmas and they had a business centre with a printer and everything."

"OK then" I thought desperately, hoping I had another point, "what about spam? I have so many offers in my email for cheap Viagra, I could get the Tower of Pisa to stand up straight."

"There’s a tower somewhere made out of pizza?" he asked with amazement, and then just as suddenly seemed to pull himself back together. "Ok, I get why it’s better than email, but why then don’t you just use your phone?"

"OK mate" I said "letters are so much better than a phone. A letter won’t wake you up on a Sunday morning when you have a hangover, a letter won’t disturb you by going off in a movie, you can still understand a letter if you read it in bright sunlight, and it’s really hard to send a drunken smart arse letter to your mates in the middle of the night.

He laughed and I knew I had him I just knew we had found the same wavelength finally, so I motioned him closer and said "Do you want to know the real reason I am writing a letter?"

He nodded.

"The truth is I’m writing it to keep a tradition alive. You see, my most prized possession in the world is a letter written to me by my mum just before she died."

"Wow" he said "do you still have it?"

Of course and I read it often.

"Cool story, love," he said. "I’ll let you get back to it, but before I do, can I ask you something?"

"Sure" I said, suddenly sentimental.

"Can I get you a coffee?"