Monday, 20 May 2013


Is it just me, or did the person who came up with the name 'banker' get the first letter wrong?

Before I am beaten to death with "next teller please" Signs I should point out I am not talking about the humble bank staff here.

I realise that working in a bank must be like being a bouncer at a strip-club, you get to stare at the good stuff all day but never take any of it home. (At least when you work at a fancy restaurant you sometimes get a doggy-bag.) No, I'm talking about the big boys who make massive profits at our expense and never seem to pass any of it back to the consumers. In fact, while services decrease, costs rise. Most banks now have less branches than a Tasmanian family tree, and yet the list of fees on the end of my monthly statement reads longer than JK Rawling's latest book.

My last update from the bank had so many different charges at the bottom, I thought I had accidentally got Jimmy Barnes' mini-bar bill. Sometimes the charges are so ridiculous I'm tempted to go into the bank with a balaclava and get the tellers to wear it, just so I get the full experience of being robbed.

The truth is the banks are making huge profits, and if you had invested in bank shares ten years ago you would have made much more money by now than you could in any of their accounts.

Sadly most people are scared that if they complain about the fees then at the end of next month when their statement arrives it will include a "complaining about the fees fee".

And what is the deal with bank opening hours? While every other business in society are working towards being open seven days a week, 24 hours a day, the banks still seem to be open between 11 and 11.15, every second Tuesday and only if you bring a boiled egg and say the code-word "jam trousers."

Every time I go into my local bank there are bigger lines than on the glass-top coffee table at Robert-Downey Jnr's house. In fact only once in my life have I gone into a bank and there was no-one else there - in the shock I nearly dropped the shot-gun and bit through the stocking on my head.

And I'm even less impressed by some of these new banks where you just come in and take a number. I'm sorry, I didn't realise I was at a deli. Can I have some cash out please, and a stick of cabanossi?

But you would forgive all this if it actually made it easier to get your money, but it doesn't. For example, most cheques still take more time to clear than Mamdouh Habib's passport.

Why is it when I pay a cheque to someone else that money is taken out of my account immediately, but when someone pays me a cheque I have to wait five days for it to clear? What happens to that money in the meantime? I think there is a little room out the back of the bank, and on their break all the staff just get nude and roll around in our cash.

Okay, with personal cheques they do need some time to make sure you have the money, but why do bank cheques take three days to clear? (And while we are asking, how long does it take for those giant novelty cheques they give to winners at the golf and tennis to clear?)

I understand why they don't trust me - but do they really need three days to check if the Commonwealth Bank of Australia has $1000?

The truth is they don't want us in the banks. They want us to use ATMs and phone banking.

I have no problem with ATMs myself, but there have been complaints from older bank users who say they don't understand the new technology - although, to be honest, if you have ever seen an oldie down at the pokies they seem to understand the new technology pretty well then.

Maybe that's what the banks should do, they should just combine the two. In the future after you have put in your PIN and amount of cash, a little message should flash up onscreen saying: "Go on, double or nothing."

But phone banking on the other hand really pisses me off. Just for once I would like to talk to a real person rather than a machine. If I wanted to hear someone talk to me in a computerised voice I would prank call Ozzy Osborne.

"You have been placed in a queue, please hold your call is very important to us." Yeah, right! All we are asking for is a little truth. I would actually respect the bank more if the recorded message said: "Actually we couldn't give a crap about your call. We already have your money. In fact right now we are nude out the back rolling around in your cash! Press hash to end the call or just hang up.?

Sure, I'd still feel shafted but at least I'd respect their honesty. Although I still wouldn't press hash. I mean what's the point if you are just going to hang up! And anyway, I would be scared they would charge me a "pressing hash fee".

(People, read the next entry down. It's also new. Thanks for your comments)

A Bit Of Help, Jamie, Please

I can't cook. I'm the only person I know who takes half-an-hour to make two-minute noodles and even then I still manage to burn the water.

Bugger Gordon Ramsay, my mates think I'm the real Surprise Chef, because if anything I make doesn't give them food poisoning, they're really surprised.

To me Macaroni is the dance Peter Costello did with Kerry-Anne; Polenta comes out in childbirth; Coddling is something you would do with a New Zealander after Sux; and as far as I can work out Hummous is some sort of chick-pea terrorist organization.

I'm completely culinary-challenged. To me Jasmine Rice sounds like a drag queen; Arrowroot could well be the nickname of archery groupies; Kumera is an affordable small car from Holden; and Bok Choy sounds like some obscure martial art they used in the Matrix.

You know how they say too many cooks spoil the broth? Well it only takes one me to turn a Cup-A-Soup into a Cup-A-Puke.

Put it this way, I'm so bad I once spent two years in a flat and didn't even get the gas stove connected. In the end I actually used the oven as a spare filing cabinet, and even now the only reason I use my microwave is if I want to put metal inside it and pretend I'm watching the New Years' Eve fireworks.

My idea of a balanced diet is ensuring the cupboard is always well stocked with blue, red and green Pringles and making sure I drink both local and imported wine. Quite often I only get my three serves of fruit a day if my bag of mixed lollies has bananas, raspberries and strawberries and cream.

That said, even if I wanted to cook I wouldn't know where to start. I don't even have a recipe book at home, in fact the closest I've ever come is the time I got bored and arranged all my takeaway menus into alphabetical order.

Not that I can follow recipes anyway. In fact I think I may have some sort of rare recipe-dyslexia. I can't tell a shiitake mushroom from a fuucktake mushroom, and I'd have more luck trying to translate the Dead Sea Scrolls, than Donna Hay's latest recipe for coffee scrolls.

Yep, I'm the girl who used to think the five spices in Five-Spice powder were Scary, Sporty, Posh, Ginger and Baby, so is it any wonder I also thought al dente was a character from the Sopranos and fusilli was just fustupid that hadn't been cooked properly?

You think I'm joking? I wish. I once tried to cook something with coconut milk, but gave up when I couldn't find a coconut that had nipples. I'm the babe who puts so much salt on her chips Alissa Camplin tries to ski down them. I'm the girl who cooks cheese on toast by putting the cheese on the bread and then turning the toaster on the side.

My fridge serves no purpose other than having somewhere to stick my government terrorism magnets, and it's been so long since I cleaned my non-stick frying pan when I finally did I found the brand name written on the bottom in hieroglyphics.

Unless you count heating up a few hot chicken rolls in the microwave at 7/11 for my drunk mates, I have never hosted a dinner party. In fact, it's my worst nightmare.

I went to a mate's place for dinner recently and he proudly informed me we would be having a "Gordon starter, a Jamie main, and a Nigella dessert." If my mates came to my place, the best I could offer them was a "Ronald starter, a Colonel main, and a Sara-Lee dessert."

But despite my hatred of cooking, the funny thing is I still absolutely love cooking shows. From the Naked Chef to Hell’s Kitchen I could watch cooking shows all day. But no matter how much I watch someone else cooking I still have no desire to do it myself. (Then again I also watch a lot of CSI and have never felt inspired to go out and cut up a body either.)

No, I tend to watch cooking shows in the same way as I would watch porn. Sure it looks easy and impressive up there on the screen, but if I tried it in real life I can guarantee it would be a lot messier, the souffle probably wouldn't rise, and despite sending away for the fact sheet I'd still get all the technical terms wrong.

Tahini was a finalist in Australian Idol, right?

Monday, 13 May 2013

Bits and Pieces 2

Sometimes I think that we’ve stopped evolving as a human race. If you need evidence, simply read the instructions on the back of almost anything you buy. I bought a packet of peanuts the other day, and just reading the packaging made me despair for humanity.

First, it was the big bold letters that said "Warning, may contain traces of nuts," – well duh, but it was the second line that really pushed me over the edge. It simply read, "Instructions: open packet, eat nuts." Whew, lucky they put that there!

But, I’m sure it’s not just nuts that have gone nuts. I bought a glass biscuit jar the other day that came with instructions. Take a moment to think about that. Instructions? I’m sorry, but if you need instructions to open a jar, I don’t think you can be trusted with glass. Are there really people who look at jars with lids and think "But how do I get the bickies in there? Damn, I wish this thing came with instructions."

I know, I know, I should get out more, but my friend and I went instruction hunting the other day. A few of the better ones – In the bathroom, we found a packet of sleeping pills. The packet told us "Warning. This medication may cause drowsiness." Oh, really? There is a sign on the airport bus that reads "Do not access bus through window"! Okey dokey, just who is that sign for?

I know that there are some simple people out there, but I read the other day that in the past 10 years, 31 Aussies have died while watering the Christmas tree while the lights were still plugged in. Now I don’t want to sound callous but, to me, that’s not really a tragedy – that’s natural selection.

You see, from what I can vaguely recall from science lessons at school (when we weren’t sitting up the back trying to turn various household items into bongs), there was this bloke called Charles Darwin who came up with the theory of evolution. In basic terms, it was a matter of Survival of the Fittest. In every generation, the strongest and the most intelligent would survive, they would breed together and we would evolve. Well, no more. We have stopped evolving as a human race.

Don’t believe me? We live in a time where George W Bush was the leader of the free world. This is a man Forrest Gump would have teased at school.

So why do I think that we’ve stopped evolving? Simple – all these warnings are keeping the morons alive. So I have just three words for you: Let. Them. Go.

They say that buying your own house is The Great Australian Dream – but I would guess that it’s probably not true if you are a man.

Come on, let’s be honest here. If you are a bloke, the Great Australian Dream is probably scoring 100 on debut against the Poms in the first Ashes test of a series, or playing for Manchester United and scoring a hat trick of goals in your debut against Chelsea, and then celebrating in a spa with Angelina Jolie.

For a woman – totally different!

So, I have been thinking about buying another house, and it looks like it’s going to have to be up north in Queensland. Now before I go on, I should point out that I can’t really afford another house. To be perfectly honest, I can barely afford to order the DVD box set of the TV series ‘House’ from Amazon.

But I thought I may as well scan the real estate section of the paper anyway, and after visiting a few places I’ve come to the conclusion that real estate agents are the only people that our Prime Minister could look at and say "Wow, you’re a liar!" Is it just me, or do the descriptions in the ads have absolutely no correlation at all with what the place is really like?

It’s as if the real estate agents sit around in an office all day saying: ‘This place has a leaking tap, should we fix that?’ ‘Nah, bugger it, put in the ad it has "water views".’ And certainly don’t take any notice of the number of bedrooms they list, because in the world of real estate ads any room you could possibly squeeze a bed into seems to count. ‘Ok, I guess technically this could be a bedroom, but I think the flushing toilet would wake me up, and the constant dripping of the water views is really annoying.’

Another real estate speak classic is ‘charming’. I mean, how can a house be charming? Does it always open a door for you, and present you with a martini when you walk inside?

Same goes for ‘generous living room’, which makes it sound like every time you go in there the couch will give you a back massage and the TV will have taped all your favourite shows for you.

‘Sparkling floorboards’ may sound great, but what it really means is ‘we had to rip up the carpet to get the bloodstains out after the series of murders’.

While ‘excellent views’ means if you happen to be on the roof, on a ladder, you might get a view of the water, more importantly you will get a view of the neighbour’s daughter sunbathing.

‘Close to shops’ means the bloke next door sells stolen goods out of the boot of his car.

‘Quaint’ is basically a nice way of saying ‘old and just a tad creepy’. Think the sort of house an old lady might have lived in with her fifty doilies and sixty cats.

‘Sunny’ means there’s a hole in the roof; and ‘modern’ seems to mean any place that doesn’t have cave paintings on the wall and dinosaurs in the backyard.

And then there’s ‘cosy’. Put it this way, if you thought the place we called ‘spacious’ was tiny, then you ain’t seen nothing yet! This place is so small, if you move in, the rats will have to move out because there isn’t room for both of you.

‘Well maintained’ is basically code for ‘we racked our brains, but we couldn’t think of anything else to recommend this property’. Basically it’s crap, but on the upside, it’s still maintained in its original state of crap.

‘Great neighbourhood’ means that the place you are going to buy would fall down if a wolf blew on it but all your neighbours have really excellent pads, while ‘family neighbourhood’ may sound nice but what it really means is there is lots of screaming kids and barking dogs to wake you up early on the weekend.

And don’t even get me started on ‘perfect for you’. How do they know what is perfect for me? What, does Steven Gerrard already live there?

But without a doubt, my favourite piece of real estate doublespeak is ‘renovator’s dream’. Have you ever been set up on a blind date and your friends tell you the person ‘has a wonderful personality’? Yep, basically they call it a ‘renovator’s dream’ because if they called it a ‘money pit’ a ‘relationship ender’ or a ‘place even squatters wouldn’t squat’, not a lot of people would answer the ad.

Of course, even if you do manage to negotiate your way through the ads, the hard work isn’t done. You still have to look through the contract, where they hide the really bad stuff:

‘Now before you sign, have you seen that movie ‘The Amityville Horror’? No...oh well, don’t worry then ... Oh, and did we mention a train runs through your living room every second Tuesday?’ Actually, that’s a bad example. If that happened those sneaky bastards would advertise it as being ‘close to public transport’.

Let’s just imagine that somehow you do manage to find a house that you want to buy. Big call, I know. But you’ve got to dream. I mean, maybe it really us as simple as attending a house sale and making the best offer.

The first problem is money. The song says ‘wherever I lay my hat, that’s my home’ but I’m here to tell you that won’t hold up in court. They call it ‘illegal trespass, squatting and criminal nuisance’.

Basically, I have examined my finances, i.e. gathered all the loose change I can from down the back of the sofa, but it turns out I can’t afford to buy anywhere I want to live, and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere I can afford to buy. According to my accountant, I have enough saved to possibly get a time share in a couple of cardboard boxes in New Zealand. Everyone says when it comes to real estate, buy the worst house on the best street, which is great advice, but I can only afford the worst house in an area where even the people on the worst street would drive through with their windows up.

So not only am I scanning the papers for something I can afford, but if I find something that looks promising, I don’t want anyone else to see it and get there before me. I feel like visiting all the real estate agents with some scissors and a huge jar of liquid paper.

Either that, or on open house day, just getting all your unemployed mates to stand out the front and pretend to sell people heroin to keep the price down.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Bits and Pieces

I’ve been feeling a bit tired lately and I think that I’m so unfit that I really have to do something about it. By next summer, I’m going to be so fit that I’ll be running, and winning, marathons. Well, that’s the plan anyway. At the moment, if a genie gave me one wish, it would be to look like one of those women on the cover of Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar. As I get older, it’s getting harder to get fit. When I was younger, nothing could slow me down. Now it’s so damn hard. One day I’m going to be lying on my couch eating Pringles chips and watching ‘The Biggest Loser’ and the next I’ll be getting lifted out of my house by a crane live on Jerry Springer. 

The key, of course, is exercise. Sadly, no matter how many fit people I’ve licked, I’ve never caught the exercise bug. They say the best trick is to incorporate it into your regular routine. So to test out this theory, I’ve bought one of those extra jumbo Toblerone chocolates, and have been doing a couple of arm curls each night before I have a piece. I have to admit, it seems to be working. Each night the bar gets easier to lift!!

I wish I was a gym junkie, but no matter how hard I try, I can’t get hooked. If I wanted to get my heart rate up, I’d just walk into traffic without looking both ways. And if I really wanted to sweat, I’d just fly to Bali with a ton of marijuana stuck to my body! Oh well, at least I don’t mind jogging. After all, it’s the only way I can hear heavy breathing without having to pay $4.95 per minute.

Why is it when you get a cold, it’s never just a cold. I’ve been sick for over a week now and I’m convinced that I have bird flu. It’s amazing how the common cold has the ability to turn a grown up into a complete baby. I can’t believe that in this day and age we still have no cure for the common cold. I think we have our priorities all wrong. Surely our brainy boffins should spend a little less time trying to fit a camera, MP3 player and a microwave oven into our mobile phones and a little more time into trying to cure our cold. Of course, the fact that there is no cure for the cold doesn’t stop all your friends suddenly thinking they have medical degrees. "You’ve got to eat more garlic". Oh, you bloody think so. I’ve eaten garlic tablets, garlic bread, garlic biscuits, but it hasn’t done anything to fix the cold, although I’m completely immune to vampires. And also "take some Echinacea"! What? What the hell is that? It sounds like somewhere I’d go for holidays or something Bob Geldof would name one of his kids.

To make things worse, I also have a bad back thanks to a slight accident at work.  What have I been doing to treat my buggered back? Well, as those who have experienced the joy of back pain will agree, it gets to the point where you are so desperate, you’ll try anything to get some relief. Over the past few weeks I’ve had approximately 20 different types of massage and none of them has a happy ending.

I’ve had physio, chiro, osteo, shiatsu, sports massage and even thought of accupunture. To be honest, if there had been a witch-doctor who was willing to slaughter a goat at midnight to help my pain, I probably would have signed up for that too.

Ok, changing the subject completely, it is sometimes said, and said quite insistently, that football is actually better than sex. At first glance, this seems a strange and highly debatable statement. The two activities are so utterly different. One involves sensuality, passion, emotion, commitment, selflessness, the speechless admiration of sheer heart-stopping beauty, rushes of breathtaking, ecstatic excitement, followed by shattering toe-curling, orgasmic pleasure.
The other is sex. Certain women who are not football fans – I am reliably informed that there are one or two such creatures left in the world – sometimes fail to understand the subtleties of this connection. They simply do not relate emotionally to the blissful anticipation of the game, the sacred ritual of preparation, the joyful build-up to the main event, the veritable foreplay that is the brisk booing and tribal barracking of the opposing team and it’s supporters, the plateau phase of the contest itself, as it thrusts first this way, then that, the feverish mounting excitement building up to ….. YES, HE SCORES!!

I need to get out more!

I opened up my e-mail this morning and I’m sure that e-mail is used for the dodgiest things these days. Would you believe on Christmas day, I received an e-mail inviting me to join a cult? No, I’m not talking about the Barmy Army, Tupperware or anything like that, but a genuine Doomsday, End-of-the-World, Apocalypse, Get-Your-Gear-Off, Give-Us-All-Your-Money, Oh-Shit-We’re-All-Going-To-Die cult.

Remember the good old days when most cults feared technology, and even refused to use ATMs because they believed 666was the PIN of the Devil; when ‘Apple’ was Eve’s snack in the Garden of Eden; Y2K was the latest perfume from Chanel? Anyway, after reading this bewildering e-mail, I really wasn’t inspired to sign up. First of all they didn’t mention group sex; that always seems to be a pretty good selling point, so someone slipped up there. Also as a doomsday cult, at some point they’d have to predict the end of the world, if only to justify the name. Well, they did, but I figure if you are going to predict the destruction of humanity, then at least make it a few years in the future, because if your predicted date comes and the world doesn’t end, well it’ll be pretty hard to regain your credibility. Anyway, they predict the world to end sometime this year.  Be prepared.

I’m having a really frustrating day today. No matter what I try, I just can’t turn my laptop computer on. And by this I don’t mean I’ve spent the day dressed in sexy lingerie and reading terms like "hard drive" and "ram" from the manual in a husky voice. No, I mean my computer has just stopped working completely and I don’t know why. Could it be some computer public holiday that I don’t know about? Is it the Bill Gates Birthday long weekend?

Forget "Computer Says No" – at this stage, I’d settle for my computer saying anything at all. It’s as if my laptop is finally sick of all the websites I made it look up, and has decided to give me the silent treatment. Where’s that freaking smug Microsoft paperclip now when I really need him? (I tried asking a regular paperclip for help but, for some reason, people started staring at me weirdly and removing all the sharp things from my desk.)

Anyway, not only am I an idiot, but when something does go wrong, I go to pieces. I’m always afraid I’ll press control-alt-delete and somehow erase the entire internet. OK, so what I’m trying to do is carefully push the ‘on’ button  – I hope I’m not getting too technical for you here – I hope you’re not thinking "Hey slow down there, egghead" – and then if that doesn’t work, I push the "on" button again. But wait, there’s more ... this time I push it harder – you know, in case the computer didn’t hear me properly the first time. Nah, still nothing.

I guess I’d better go find something to do.


Monday, 6 May 2013

Paul and I

I answered the door recently to find Paul, a friend from the UK (Liverpool) - "Hi Katie, saw your car and thought you might make me a coffee and a sandwhich.

In passing, I should point out that Paul is very intelligent, but being intelligent doesn't mean you're not stupid. One thing I've learnt early on is - never, never ask Paul a question - of any sort. You could go out for a full-course Chinese banquet, come back and he'd not only still be thinking about it, he wouldn't have noticed that you'd left.

He lost his home. He lost his first wife. She kept finding him though, but he kept losing her again, despite the squads of detectives and bloodhounds she employed. Finally, cunningly, she tracked him down.

In the Divorce Court she accused him of being sexually odd when he asked whether she’d mind if he thought about someone else while they were making love. Under cross-examination she said she didn’t actually mind, since at least it made a change from him thinking about himself. The judge then woke up.
Paul said that the court papers had listed her occupation as ‘housekeeper’. As he said, a startlingly accurate description as she intended keeping the house no matter what.

Anyway, he said that straight after the divorce there were a shamefully high number of squalid and meaningless encounters with women. But there were bad times too! He said that after a few months, not to mention vodkas, one supermodel looks much the same as the next. It was often a case of bed and bored.

Most romantic relationships begin with a drink, perhaps, and a nice chat about the price of eggs, followed by kissing, canoodling and heavy petting, eventually building up to frantic, uninhibited bonking in assorted gymnastic positions. His liaisons went the other way around. His idea of safe sex was getting out the next morning without leaving his phone number behind. He’s now learning to take it one lay at a time!

Ok, now the conversation we had went something like this - It all began 5 years ago, when he moved out of his marriage, out of his house and into a 'bachelor pad'. Temporarily. Or so he said.

The place was pretty run-down when he moved in, temporarily, 5 years ago. He says he's waiting for the future to clarify itself enough so that he can either fix it up or move somewhere better, or maybe, move back home with his wife which is a real laugh because she divorced him, remarried, sold the house and moved to Tasmania. There is some real lunatic optimism loose in Paul's head, because he still doesn't believe it's all over. Pity.

Anyway, this conversation took about 4 hours. He was going to go out that morning to buy 2 cans of yellow paint to do the living room. Good, that would be a start. But, see if he painted the walls, the furniture wouldn't look good in there and he'd have to buy new furniture, however if he is going to buy new furniture, he might as well move to a better place. But, the kind of place he he'd like is expensive and he'd have to sign a lease and change his phone number and his business cards would have to be re-printed, and if he's going to all that trouble, he might as well buy a house, because real estate is going up and why wait until he can't afford it -


- But buying takes so much time and he'd have to go through banks and credit checks. And what happens if he falls in love in the meantime and she doesn't like the house, or maybe she would want kids, and the house would be in a neighbourhood with bad schools which means the expense of private schools, or, who knows, his wife might realise she'd made a mistake and come back and he’d have a house she didn't want and he'd still be paying private school tuition for the other woman's kids. He'd need a therapist before long and we all know how expensive they can be.

SO, Paul figures that a couple of tins of yellow paint could cost him roughly one million dollars - and who needs that.


"Paul" says I "you should turn yourself into the Humane Society, and if no-body claims you in a couple of weeks, they'll gently put you to sleep."

Think I'll go buy this damn paint for him.