Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Girly Advice??

The other day, a female friend asked me for relationship advice.

While I was flattered, I must say I did feel like a bit of a fraud.  It’s kind of like asking Jimmy Barnes for singing lessons or getting Pauline Hanson to recommend a good Asian restaurant. (Not the best of examples, but you guys know what I mean).

You see, in my 15 years or so of dating, I think I’ve learned only one definitive thing.  Seriously. If you want to maintain an active sex life, no matter how much your boyfriend, partner, husband, begs you, DO NOT buy them a playstation.  Come to thin k of it, rather than handing out condoms, if we’re serious about preventing teen pregnancy, we should be giving kids an Xbox and a copy of Grand Theft Auto.

But anyway, a friend in need is a friend indeed, and despite being no Dr Katie, I agreed to lend an ear.
It turns out the previous weekend, my friend had met a hot guy and given him her number; it was  now 5 days later and he still hadn’t called.

Like I said, I’m no sexpert; I don’t have a BA in BABES or a PhD in Pretty Hot Dudes, but I have watched a few episodes of Sex and the City. Trust me, guys, 5 days is a bloody long time.  Bloody hell, it’s an entire test match.  Unless, of course, you switch your phone to vibrate to keep you entertained.

My general rule is that waiting for a guy to call should be like waiting for a cheque to clear.  If it hasn’t happened in three working days, then it’s probably not going to happen.

I’m a girl, so I know that girls like to sit around in the bath waiting for guys to call, but let’s get serious: If he really likes you he could be sent to jail for a crime he did not commit, and he’d use that one phone call to ring you ‘just to say “hi”.

But sadly, in my experience, if a girl likes a guy enough, she’ll make excuses for why he hasn’t called that even the Australian Government wouldn’t buy.

‘Maybe he was trying to wash his pants, so we could go out for a romantic dinner, and he accidently put his phone through the wash and lost my number.’

Uh huh

‘Or maybe he was writing me a love song on the piano, and just as he was getting to the really romantic bit, the lid crashed down on his hand and broke his dialing finger.’

Uh huh, uh huh

Or maybe, just maybe, he was picking me some fresh flowers in a field when he was abducted by aliens … who then stole his mobile because they wanted to ‘call home’

Uh huh …. Just forget it!!

I’m sorry to break it to you, ladies, but if a guy likes you enough, no amount of soggy Nokia, broken fingers or aliens will stop him from finding you.

So the question has to be asked, why would this guy not call?  Well, the first thing to consider is that unless he is a champion Aussie leg spinner, most Aussie blokes aren’t that comfortable on the phone.

Remember that 20 second time limit on lifeline calls on ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’?  Most men would be happy if that applied to all phone calls.

I couldn’t have loved my dad more, but our average phone chats consisted of this exchange. “Hi dad, it’s Katie. How are you?”  “Good thanks love, how are you?” “Good thanks dad” “Good … I’ll get your mother.’

The second, and more likely reason is that he wasn’t that interested; but when it comes to being honest with women, most men are cowards.

I’m sure he’s not proud of it, but I think there could well be a couple of girls my brother dated in high school who he’s technically still going out with because he didn’t have the guts to break up with them.  If you’re out there and reading this, girls, I’ll apologise for him, and ….. well, happy anniversary.

In fact, if you want to understand the male psyche, then you need to go no further than the classic male break-up line “It’s not you …. It’s me”.

My brother let me in on a little secret which I’ll share with you, ladies …. If a bloke drops the “not you, me” bomb, it actually means one of three things.

It is you, because you frown at him spending more time with his mates at the pub getting plastered, preferring to sit on the sofa watching chick flicks for hours on end.

It’s not you … nor him either. It’s that new office receptionist, Murial, or Candy or whoever.  The one who always wears the mini mini skirts and the long black leather boots.

Or finally, it’s not you, it’s him. In particular, his desire to get home as quickly as possible so he can finish the next level on his Playstation.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

So You Want To Be A Hostie .... How hard can it be? (Part 2)

How did it all start? you’re asking.
Mum and dad were beginning to give little hints about not financing my lifestyle forever so it was time to plan a career.
A friend had just been accepted as an international flight attendant and he urged me to try out too, telling me that it was the best job in the world.  You received all this cash to fly free around the world, stayed in the best hotels, also free. Mmmmm ….. nothing not to like about that.  It sounded like a life of fun.
In late 2001, I applied to become an international flight attendant.  The timing was awful. Really awful.  There was an oversupply of people wanting flight attendant jobs at Qantas.  Their main competitor in the domestic market, Ansett, had just collapsed and the former Ansett employees were queuing up at Qantas’s door.  (To get a rough idea how some see the ‘fun’ of being a flight attendant – recently 100,000 people applied for 4,000 jobs at Emirates).
It didn’t bother me all that much whether or not I was accepted.  Because I’d lived in London and Greece, I considered I’d already travelled extensively.  Consequently, when I was called for an interview, I was fairly relaxed, even though it turned out to be a serious business.  Qantas had a 6 tier interview process; the vetting was full on – they had to be sure that the candidates they chose would fit into ‘The Qantas Family’.
On the interview day, in the waiting area there were a lot of, obviously, ex Ansett crew – gay guys and women with their hair in buns, wearing blue suits and pearls, looking as if they’d stepped out in their Ansett uniforms.  I don’t know how many people they were interviewing, but I was surprised how quickly the numbers thinned out.  Our height was measured: height requirements 163 to 183 centimetres – are related to safety and were clearly specified on the application form.  Nevertheless lots turned up under the minimum height.  Women, in particular, thought they could sneak through it if they wore high heels; naturally, we were asked to remove our shoes before measurements.
We also had to have the correct documentation, including a Responsible Service of Alcohol Certificate and an active passport  with at least six months’ validity, which is crucial for US visas.  Incorrect height and incomplete documentation eliminated about a quarter of the applicants.
When I was told I’d made it through the first round, I counted myself lucky.  There were so many stories floating around about people who had applied time and time again and had been knocked back every time.
The next round involved group exercises.  One was a test of communication skills that was like playing charades. One person at the table of eight had to look at a picture of an object, then demonstrate to everyone else – not what the object was, but how to put together the object.  This particular exercise was all about time management and communication.  It tripped up a lot of recruits.
Another of the group exercise questions related to our decision making capability in an emergency.  We were asked to imagine a scenario where the plane was about to ditch into the sea. There were 5 passengers, but only 4 could fit on the life-raft. We had to say who we would leave behind from among a priest, a pregnant woman, a terrorist deportee, a police officer and a young child, and also give a reason.  Everyone else in my group chose either the terrorist – making a moral judgement about that person’s right to live – or the priest (the most popular choice), reasoning that the priest already had a relationship with God and would be happy to go to a better place.  I chose the police officer because I believed he would be physically fit and most likely to have had survival training and was therefore, the best equipped to stay alive until rescued.
I made it to the next round.
In the very last round, there was a tricky panel interview before three recruiters.  They tried to lull applicants into a false sense of security and then see if they could catch us out.  They would ask you about the destinations Qantas flew to and see if you knew each one’s famous landmarks.
One of the crucial questions was why you wanted to work for Qantas and what you could bring to the airline.  This was the question where many would-be flight attendants let down their guard and said that they had heard it was a really good job where you got to travel the world on the cheap and shop in great places.  Qantas didn’t care if you wanted to go to London to shop at Harrods, they just wanted to know you were going to be a responsible member of the Qantas Family.
This was followed by a one-on-one interview with the most senior member of the selection team.  By the end of the day, about 50 of us remained – the ones who got jobs, provided we passed the general health check, which included tests for drug and alcohol, bone density, sight and hearing.
The next day, I got the good news via email: “Qantas accepts you as a flight attendant. Welcome. We’ll be back to you within the next six months.”
I was in. The secret world of the flight attendant was about to be unveiled to me.
Training –
The 6 months became 8 months, then 9 months.  While I was waiting to be called, ready to go as soon as that phone rang, I started to daydream about where I’d be off to first: Paris, Rome, New York.  I used to gaze in the window of the travel agent’s looking at destinations and all the interesting things to do.  I was in and life was about to begin.  Why was it taking so long?
After the attack on the Twin Towers which happened on 11 September, not surprisingly, people all over the world were nervous about flying and consequently there was a huge downturn in demand in the international market that lasted for a couple of years.
As compensation, we as yet untrained recruits were each offered a role as a casual in the domestic division.  I took it.
The training covered service and safety.  You know the expression ‘chalk and cheese’?  Well service training and safety training were that way.  The service people were all about detail and passenger comfort and the safety department was about the emergency procedures if an accident occurred. Service people were all ‘darling this’ and ‘darling that’ and safety crew were commandos.  In one safety training module – in which a plane had supposedly propelled towards the ground and we had to evacuate survivors – there we all were with our torches out, looking under seats before joining passengers down the steep slide. We were feeling proud that a good job had been done, until a Gestapo-type training woman screamed “Fail”, which took the wind out of our sails. She had our attention.
Had we gone through all the different checklists?  Yes.
What about the second last one, checking all areas?  Yes.
‘NO!” she screamed. We had checked under the seats, but not in the lockers. What if an infant or  child had flown up during the impact and got stuck in one of them!
Shit, I thought.  But I never made that mistake again.
We were all new to this game and couldn’t wait to graduate.  It was six hard weeks before we got the feel of those shiny new uniforms.
When I first started flying, I loved the way you were treated while wearing the uniform.  As you walked through the airport with puff-chested pride, people would stop and compliment you. You could skip queues. No lining up at security.  And the comraderie among the crews was terrific.
After I’d been working the flights for a while, I realized that I’d wised up to a lot of human behavior.  It was easy to identify the inflated businessman trying for an upgrade, the nervous travelers (one lady even asked me if someone had bothered to check that all the screws holding the aircraft together had been tightened), and the holiday makers ready to start their holiday.  There were plenty of self-important celebrities who would be as nice as pie until you told them ‘no’ they were not getting an upgrade, and suddenly you got the cold shoulder.
Even though I did learn a lot doing domestics, it wasn’t what I’d signed up for originally and I hankered for more.  So after almost 2 years of domestics, I was finally able to transfer to the international division. Paris, Rome, New York … here I come. 

Saturday, 6 September 2014

So You Want To Be A Hostie (part 1) ... How Hard Can It Be?

The day, so many years ago, I finished  training as an International flight attendant, I went out with a few friends and had some celebratory drinks.  Officially I was on a 4.00 am to 4.00 pm standby the next day, but I'd been assured that there was absolutely no chance I'd be called out.  The longest distance flights to the USA, South America and Africa, which incidentally was the least popular of the three, tended to leave Australia early in the morning, the European flights typically left in the afternoon to meet any curfew restrictions in Asia where they stopped to refuel and to correspond with arriving early morning in London.  Usually only the most senior flight attendants worked on the longest international flights.

They were the dream gigs.  The passengers were generally easy, and the overtime money on really long-haul flights was substantial.  In those days, everyone received a fortnightly base salary, after which you earned an hourly rate according to years of service.  For a flight over 12 hours, a flight attendant was on double time, and anything over 14 hours was long range and therefore a set rate above and beyond double time applied.

The minimum flight time to the USA was about 13 hours, but generally those flights took 14 or more hours.  Because of the strict security and customs regulations, there were often delays while passengers were processed.  Also the duty or 'working time', allowed an extra hour and a half for signing on, getting the aircraft ready and half an hour to clear customs, immigration and so forth. Ka-ching!

What made the US run especially coveted, was that once you got there, the food was good as were the hotels, and there was no language barrier.

Even though I was confident I wouldn't be called up, at 11.00 pm I phoned Crewing to check.   I was told there was nothing, so I kept having fun.

At  3.00 am, I was in a pub in the city dancing around to some mega-mix and I thought  "one hour to go and still  no call".  Keep on partying.

At 4.04 my mobile rang.

"Hi Kate. It's Paul from Crewing.  You've been given a duty today."

Ummm ... what?

"You're doing a 5 day LA. You need to sign on at 8.00 am.

Ummm ... what?  'Pardon?'  I was in shock at what I believed he was saying.

Adrenaline and panic hit my mind and body at once. "Shit, what am I going to do?  I can't call in sick on my first duty and they will be watching me like hawks on my first flight."  It was 4.00 am and I was bloody well tanked.  According to the rules, you couldn't drink within 8 hours of a duty.  Would I be done for flying drunk or at the very least. hungover?

I grabbed a taxi home and tried to get a coupe of hours sleep, but that proved impossible as I was a little pissed. So I got up, showered, brushed my teeth and tried to stay upright.  I then made my way to Cabin Crew Headquarters at the airport.

"Are you in the right briefing room?"  I was asked.  "Errr LA?"  Yep I was in the right one, and it was then when excitement hit me with such force.

There is a big divide between domestic and long-haul flight attendants - long-haul think that they are way better than domestic.  Pffffft.  That's why everybody who wants to be a flight attendant tries to get into international and virtually no-one wants to fly domestic.  They quizzed me about my time in domestic.  I told them I hated it (and to a point, I did), and that seemed to give me a couple of points.  Then they asked me how I thought I'd go on long-haul.  I told them that I thought I would be fine, that it would be just like a return Perth flight. (About an 11 to 12 hour round trip).  For some reason, that really amused them.  I was in!!!  I was accepted into the 'Qantas Family'.

I was then told that for this flight, I would do 'the assist'.  I had absolutely no idea what the bloody assist was, but I soon found out that the assist was a name for the general dogsbody!   First I helped with the service in business class, after which, I went upstairs to help with another service, then I had to see if anyone needed a hand in first, after which it was in economy.  By the time I'd finished all of that, I had worked every cabin on the aircraft - the only upside, I'd gotten to know the rest of the crew.

After service, it was time for the cabin crew to have their meal.  I was told to throw my meal away, because no-one liked the shitty stuff catering provides for us. There is 'always better stuff in first or business'. I went to the galley and was getting stuck into a business cheese platter. I was mingling with the others who were all there discussing their motgages and who was flying where on the next roster.

My working partner on the right side of the plane, was a lovely lady named Monica.  She then explained to me that it was time for me to go and get some sleep.  The company wants you to have 20 minutes sleep every 6 hours, but Monica told me that she liked to have 5 hours straight.  No-one really did what they were supposed to.  My head was spinning. I never knew that there was a 'horizontal crew rest' where crew could sleep.  Sure enough, in the aft of the plane, in the tail, there were 8 bunk beds for crew. Who would've thought?

I was so happy that Monica took me under her wing and took me through everything I needed to know about the company that I hadn't learnt in training and also a lot of what I had to 'unlearn'.  She also explained that the crew looked after each other like a big family, which was not the same as the 'Qantas Family' line the company pushed.

To be continued ...... (perks and salaries and passports)

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Men In Uniform

In a taxi on the way to the airport, I finally worked out why the world is so screwed up.  All the politicians are brain-dead corrupt morons who wouldn't know their policies from their private parts, and the people who really know how things should be run are driving cabs.

Well, that's according to most cab drivers I meet.  I guess it's my own fault for sitting in the front seat. Everyone knows, if you don't want to chat, it's back seat only.  But I don't want to feel like I'm being chauffeured around.

I know it's stupid, but at least if I sit in the front I can pretend I'm getting a ride from a friend, and I just slip him/her a couple of bucks for petrol at the end.

Admittedly, I don't have many friends who drive big yellow cars with their telephone number written on the sides, don't know where my house is, and think 'Elton John just hasn't found the right girl yet'.

Anyway, I catch cabs often - that's what happens when you drink with breakfast(??) - so I've compiled my worst cab offences.

First is the cab driver who doesn't know where he's going.  Now, I'm not suggesting that cabbies should know where everything is (Jeez .. even God misplaces Guam occasionally) but there's nothing worse than getting into a cab at the airport and being asked for directions.

"Well no mate. I'm sorry but I don't know where I am.  Hell, I don't even speak the language and I don't even know what side of the road you drive on here."

Look, I have absolutely no problem with a cabbie having to look up an address.  I'd just prefer it if he did so before he started the meter, rather than half-way through the trip -and then hand me the directory and ask me to do it.

'Hey dude, I'm not your navigator. This is not The Amazing Race. Would it make it easier if I drove too so you can have a snooze? Although I'll expect you to sling me a couple of bucks at the end of the trip, and no, I don't have change for a fifty.'

Then there's the cab driver who knows the most direct way, but chooses not to take it.  'Hey mate, I'm not Mr Melways/A to Z, but I'm pretty sure the most direct route to my London hotel is not via the Parthenon or New York. Hey, here's an idea, cabbie. how about you ask that bloke you've been chatting on the phone to if he knows the most direct route?

Yep,it never ceases to amaze me that taxi drivers never make it into the lists of most desirable men. Everyone knows how much we ladies like men in uniform, even better is one who never goes for the quickest route.  (Although like most guys, they still have trouble finding the exact spot).

Anyway, regardless how bad the service is, I always tip taxi drivers - especially if I have a cabcharge docket from work!! Partly because I think taxi driving is a tough, thankless job, and partly because I hope they might spend some of that extra cash on deodorant.

In their defence, taxi drivers do have to put up with some real crap from passengers.  If cabbies had a dollar for every time some asked "Have you been busy tonight?" they might just have change for a fifty.

And then there's the drunks. From the rugby players who have mistaken the taxi for a clown car and are trying to cram 15 people into the back to the idiot who opens the back door and asks "do you have room for a slab of beer and a kebab?"  And then vomits in the back seat.

That's why it's great when you occasionally get a cab driver who restores your faith in the entire profession.  It happened to me recently, when I ordered a taxi and it arrived (and I swear this is true) towing a caravan!

It was the most Australian thing I've ever seen.  Turns out he was going on holidays and figured that he may as well make some money on the way.  His family were in the van and he was taking fares, but only if they went in the direction of the Gold Coast.

What a guy!!!!! 

Friday, 8 August 2014

Doing It For The Kids

Some of the neighbourhood kids are outside playing hide-and-seek.  God, it’s been a long time since I played hide-and-seek.  Adults don’t play hide-and-seek – not for fun, anyway, which is a pity.
Anyway, the game’s going on and there’s a kid hiding in the tall grass just under our balcony.  He’s been there for ages.  Everybody else has been found and they’re about to give up on him over at the base, and go home.
I couldn’t let that happen, so I yelled out “Hey, get found, kid”!  I think it scared him so badly he probably wet his pants, started crying and has run home to tell his mum about this “nasty lady who yelled at me”.
It’s really difficult to know how to be helpful sometimes.
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 recently found myself sitting next to an ‘unaccompanied minor’ (a six year old boy) on a holiday flight, my heart sank.  He was a cute kid with a big mop of curly hair.  For you Aussies, kind of how Dickie Knee would look if he was brought to life, Pinocchio style.
(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 reading my book and he won’t bother me.  However, just as I opened the book I was holding,  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 that the authorities will get involved (or, at the very least, Rolf Harris will ask 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 didn't reach 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, Katie, do you want to know a fact?” he asked.  And to my surprise, I did.  I closed my book.
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.
Which reminds me ………..
This is kind of personal.  It might get a little syrupy, so watch out.
What I’m talking about here is something I think of as a ‘treasure box’ given to me by my nephew when he was 4 and made at pre-school.
Once it was a simple white shoe box and now it’s decorated with glitter, feathers, dried pasta, shells and pebbles.  It’s gotten a bit mouldy now, but once you look inside, you’ll know what I mean.  
There are all these bits of paper with “Hello Katie” and “Hoppy valintime” and “I luv you, Katie” written on them.  Stuck to the bottom of the box are exactly 23 “X’s” made out of macaroni.  I’ve counted them more than once.
There a hand drawn ‘portraits’, favourite pieces of string, dead flowers, marbles, pictures carefully cut out of magazines and even a favourite stuffed teddy in there.
I can tell you, the treasures of King Tut are nothing compared to this.
I cried when he gave it to me.  I just think it’s evidence of love in it’s most uncomplicated and pure state.
He’s about 6 now.  He still loves me, though it’s harder to get direct evidence.  It’s love that’s complicated by age, knowledge and confusing values.
Yeah sure, this is probably the worst kind of simpleminded female drivel imaginable, and I’ve, more than likely embarrassed us both by mentioning it, but it beats the hell out of anything else I have for comfort.
This box stands for my kind of love and I want to take it with me as far as I go.
Speaking of kids ... someone asked me what I wanted for my next birthday. I might have mentioned it before, but this is what I want -
I want to be 5 years old again.  Just for an hour.  I want to laugh a lot and cry a lot.  I want to be picked up and rocked to sleep in my late mother or father’s arms.
No-one’s going to be able to give me that, but I might give, at least, the memory of it to myself if I try.
Thanks for reading, people. Love you all.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Would You Like Fries With That???

They say the terror suspects arrested at Heathrow airport a few years ago were caught with substances that couldn’t be identified by British authorities.  When I returned to London after a few days in Edinburgh, I knew what they were talking about: those substances were probably fresh fruit and vegetables.

I know it’s a cliché, but I reckon the food in Scotland is so unhealthy that you can actually feel your arteries harden as you eat.  After all, this is the country that invented deep-fried pizza. (Oh and the Mars Bar. Yes a deep fried Mars Bar a day, helps you work, rest, play and die of a massive coronary.)

There’s a very good reason you don’t see many elderly Scottish people. I was only there for a couple of days, but I packed on two kilograms. My tum became really big from all the deep fried food and late night drinking.

But … not only is everything covered in batter, it’s also covered in brown sauce.  Have you heard of this stuff? I mean, if tomato sauce is made from tomatoes and apple sauce is made from apples … what the hell is brown sauce made from?  It’s a case for Law and Order Edinburgh.

On the way back to London, I had spinach pasta on the plane, that probably came out of a can and went straight into the microwave, but it tasted like Heston Blumenthal had prepared it on Brad Pitt’s chest!!

I do have some standards when it comes to food, though I’m hardly a gourmet.

It’s not often that I get to go to really fancy restaurants. Havng been a starving trolly dolly all of my adult life, my idea of fine dining is when the all-you-can-eat buffet comes with real, not plastic, cutlery.

Most of the time I tend to chow down in dives where they don't have chef's hats on the door, but cockroaches on the floor.

That said occasionally someone will splash out for a fancy restaurant for a date My brother once said to me "I've learned very early on that showing a girl you're a big spender by letting her upsize her fries and drink  is not going to lead to a McPash. She'll probably think that the boys are better at Hungry Jacks."  Rubbish!!

So, with this in mind, a good friend took me out for some posh nosh recently. And the place we went to was fancy. Very fancy.  Fancy as.  Could not have been fancier if.  It was another of those restaurants where they have different waiters for everything.  They had a drinks waiter for the drinks.  A food waiter for the food.  A wine waiter for the wine.  And they were all wearing better than any of my friends wore to their own weddings.  By the way ... I didn't have the heart to ask what the head waiter did.

And they all had such attitude.  Put it this way. The bread may have been complimentary, but the waiting staff certainly weren't.  Our food waiter must have been so concerned about medical prostate problems, because he had his head right up his bum!

It was also one of those places where they put the napkin on your lap. Now this may not seem like a big deal to most folk, but I have to admit, I really don't like it - well unless the waiter is hot ... really hot ... in which case I suddenly become really clumsy and drop my napkin - a lot!

But most of the time, it makes me feel like a baby.  I half expect them to follow up by placing a bib around my neck and mashing up my peas, so they can play "Here comes the choo choo train".  And if anything gets on my face, they'l spit on a hanky and wipe it off.

It was one of those restaurants where there seemed to be too much cutlery as well.  There were more forks than in a Kevin Rudd speech, more knives than there are in Tony Abbott's back and more spoons than there are on the floor of the late Amy Winehouse's flat.

Before I go on, I should point out that the food was delicious. Although I was initially suspicious about the rose petals in the entree. That's right ... rose petals!!!

But flowers aside, I knew it was truly fancy when I saw the size of the meals. They were tiny. You know, the ones that are so small, you think that they've mistakenly only put some garnish on your plate.  And then you realise this is your meal.

To add insult to injury, they not only gave me an amount of food I would normally refer to as 'leftovers', but they served it on a plate so big, I started to suspect a sporting stadium somewhere was missing its roof.

Then they have the nerve to ask you if you'd like any sides.  "Well actually, mate, I'd like to order a pizza, but I guess some sides will have to do. Don't bother putting them in a bowl, you can just serve  them n the side of the plate. There's plenty of room."

Anyway, needless to say, my date left a tip. Only a small tip, but he put it in the middle of a really large plate. So I wonder if they've noticed yet.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Child's Play And Me

Hello you wonderful lot. As you may or may not know, I'm on holidays at the moment, so there is little blogging going on. 

I've just repeated something some of you may not have read.

Enjoy.  Until next week or so. xxx

Giants, Wizards and Dwarfs was the game to play.

My friend, Rae and I were recently left in charge of about 20 children – 7 to 10 year olds – at the local after school care centre while their parents were meeting with the staff or doing parenty things.  We mustered our troops in the main room and explained the game.  It’s sort of like a large-scale version of Rock, Paper and Scissors, and involves some intellectual decision-making.  But the real purpose of the game is to make a lot of noise and run around chasing people until nobody knows which side you are on or who won.

Organizing a roomful of wired up schoolies into three teams, explaining the rudiments of the game, achieving consensus on group identity – all this is no mean accomplishment, but we did it and were ready to go.

The excitement of the chase had reached a critical mass.  I yelled out: “You have to decide NOW which you are – a giant, a wizard or a dwarf!”

While the groups huddled in frenzied, whispered consultation, a tug came at my jeans.  A small girl stands there looking up and asks in a small, concerned voice, “Where do the mermaids stand?”

Where do the mermaids stand?????????

A long pause.  A very long pause.  “Where do the mermaids stand?” says I.
“Yes.  I’m a mermaid.”
“There are no such things as mermaids.”
“Yes there are.  I am one.”

She did not relate to being a giant, a wizard or a dwarf.  She knew her category.  Mermaid.  She was not about to leave the game and go over and stand against the wall where the losers would stand.  She intended to participate, wherever mermaids fit into the scheme of things.  Without giving up dignity or identity.  She took it for granted that there was a place for Mermaids and that I would know just where.

Well, where do the mermaids stand?  All the ‘mermaids’ – all those who are different, who do not fit into the norm and who do not accept the available boxes and pigeonholes?

What was my answer at the moment?  Every once in a while I say the right thing.  “The mermaid stands right here by the Queen of the Sea!” says I.

So we stood there hand in hand reviewing the troops of Wizards and Giants and Dwarfs as they ran around in total madness.

It’s not true, by the way, that mermaids don’t exist.

I know at least one personally.  I held her hand.

Recently someone at work handed me a list of questions and asked me to answer them ("just for fun") ........

The house I grew up in ..... was very happy.  We talked a lot, laughed a lot, argued a lot, made up a lot, cried, loved sports, loved mum's cooking, loved each other, in fact – a lot.  We all had shoes and food, and I seemed to have had a never ending supply of peanut butter and salt and vinegar crisps!  I remember I wanted to watch TV one day (after a heavy argument), and dad said I could, but for every half hour I watched, I had to do half an hour of housework. Pffffft … went to bed!!

The house I live in now ..... can be a bit lonely. It’s the same house in Chelsea and I share it with my dog. She's a westie and her name is Imelda because she loves shoes. I’m sure if you dug up the garden, you’d find enough shoes to supply a 3rd world country. It's the family home, but unfortunately, the family has long gone. People are always coming and going, friends stay overnight, the drunk neighbour next door keeps me entertained, and it's very, very close to the beach. Next ...

I drive ..... a BMW 318i. An oldie but a goodie. It's red, a convertible, and loves petrol. Hey Top Gear, your ‘super cars’ are nothing .. my car can go from empty to $100 in 60 seconds. Ha, beat that!

When I was a child, I wanted to be ..... an adult. I always felt like I was too young to be an adult and too old to be a child. I was the youngest in the family and always seemed to be 'in love' with my brother's friends. In order it was Brian across the road, my English teacher, David’s best friend Paul, the entire Hawthorn football club. They loved it, however, if I had said to one "meet me under the clocks at Flinders Street train station and bring engagement ring, wedding ring and teething ring" they would still be running.

The moment that changed me forever ..... was punching a boy named Bruce Sieres in the face after tennis training. I broke his nose! He took my place as tennis captain, because he was a boy!!! I have no proof of this, but that's what I think. It was a brutal arena the school sports field.  In all seriousness, it was the time when two police officers knocked on our door to tell my brother and myself our parents had been involved in a serious accident.

My greatest inspiration ..... I learnt to be quite thorough from my dad. And to do things properly. My older brother taught me not to stand for crap from the other kids at school and I learnt to be a nice person from my mum.  Also morning time is an inspiration. If I wake early and I'm not hungover, I like to take the dog for a long walk on the beach, and just think.

The greatest advice mum ever gave me was .....  "Go, you might meet someone"

My style icon is ..... I don't really have one, although Leah, a 3 year old neighbour, always looks fantastic! Princess Kate always looks spot on also.

If I could change one thing about myself ..... it would be my innate idleness. Deep down inside, I'm a lazy git!

At night I dream of ..... men! But I help myself sleep by dreaming about nice things like clouds, puppies ears and leaves floating down a stream. That sort of thing.

When I look in the mirror, I see ..... someone that looks a bit older than she actually is, and bad, bad hair.  Someone once told me I had sad eyes. I agree, but happiness is slowly returning to them.

My favourite item of clothing is ..... I spend a fair amount on clothing, and have some nice pieces, but it's the good old jeans and t-shirt that are my favourites. I usually manage to make the dressy pieces, look like something out of an opportunity shop.

I wish I'd never worn ..... a plum pudding costume.  I was about 5 and I wanted to be in the nativity play. All the main parts were taken, and I cried. To shut me up, the teacher said I could be a plum pudding in the manger. What do you mean? Of course there were plum puddings in the manger.
It was Christmas. Sheeeeesh!!

You wouldn't know it, but I'm good at ..... darts.  Good enough to have a game with the boys down at the pub, and beat them. I can play reasonably consistently after 3 wines.  That's the peak of dart skill.  After that, it falls off very quickly.

You may not know it, but I'm not good at ..... reading or following instructions.  If I see a hole, I'll stick something in it. If that doesn't work, it will just sit around gathering dust, waiting for the next sucker to have a go.

It's not fashionable, but I like ..... music on vinyl. I have my late father's turntable, and I love the sound it gives.

All my money goes on ..... Food, shoes and handbags.  Not necessarily in that order. I'm a woman, enough said.

If I have time to myself ..... I've trained myself to be very good at doing nothing, thanks to the amount of hotel rooms I've stayed in. I read a fair amount and listen to music. Oh, and I write in my journal or blog.

My most valuable possession is ..... a letter my mother wrote me a few days before she passed away.  That's all I'll say about that!

My favourite building is ..... Flinders Street station in Melbourne or the Gherkin in London.  When I go to Flinders Street, I feel I should be dressed in period costume. If it wasn’t for the trains, it feels like I’ve stepped back in time.  Completely the opposite with the Gherkin.

Movie heaven ..... If it's raining on a lazy Sunday, I like to curl up with some popcorn, chocolates or ice cream and watch the Harry Potter movies.  Pure escapism. No thinking required.

A book that changed me ..... Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon - best book I've ever read. About a young boy taken to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books by his father and asked to adopt a book. He does and turns out he is reading about himself. Brilliant book.

My favourite work of art ..... MAN!

The last album I bought/downloaded was ..... Hurry Up Before I Die by Evora. Beautiful, soulful sounds.  Type this into youtube

My real life villain is ..... Ronald McDonald!!!  Or the Colonel.

I can't walk past ..... Smiggle, the stationary shop. It's like a massive colour explosion. I love it and always go inside to have a look around. Usually purchase something, so I can walk through the shopping centre carrying one of their bags.

The best invention ever ..... the humble potato peeler.  It cannot be improved in any way.  It is a perfectly designed solution to a common, but debilitating problem.

My greatest regret is ..... not working harder at school.  I sometimes think I could have done something more serious like medicine or law.

In 10 years time, I hope to be ..... still alive, if that is a realistic possibility. Hopefully still working. Perhaps even married to a decent human being this time, and even have a child.  Although at the moment I feel that the next time (if there is a next time) I walk down an aisle, it’ll be in a supermarket.

My life in 7 words ..... random, unplanned, peaceful, and surprisingly very rewarding.

Thursday, 10 July 2014


Hello people. Just repeating this for a friend. New blog entry in a couple of days.

I was talking football (Aussie Rules) with my neighbor this morning. Yes, the start of the season is almost on us.
To some people, me included, September is a happy time. Spring has sprung, the flowers are blooming, the weather is improving and so are people’s moods.  Well, everyone’s that is, except his. He hates September.
He said that he’s had 35 Septembers in his life and has hated every single one, without exception.  In fact, he wasn’t sure if ‘hate’ was a strong enough word.
You know how some hotels don’t have a thirteenth floor due to superstition? (Although who are they kidding?  Floor fourteen knows what it really is.)  If he designed calendars, there would be no September.
Clearly this would piss off a lot of Virgos – their birthdays of course, but it would certainly make his life more pleasant.  If he could, he would go to bed on the 31st August and not wake up until the 1st of October.  

So why does he want to go all Rip Van Winkle in September, I hear you ask?  What could possibly make him hate a single month so much? Yeah – you guessed it – footy finals!
We’re not implying that he doesn’t love his football team. He does. They are, in fact, his greatest passion.  Most people’s blood have red and white blood cells. His have blue as well.
So folk, there lies the rub. In all his 35 years he has never seen the doggies play in a grand final, let alone win one.  For some clubs, September is a time of hopes and dreams (go Hawthorn), for the Bulldogs, it’s a time for disappointments and planning end-of-season trips.  He says, he doesn’t know what he did in a previous life to deserve this, but he assumes he must have driven a truck full of black cats under a row of ladders and then crashed it into a mirror factory.
For those of you who don’t follow football, and I am reliably informed that there are one or two of you, the Western Bulldogs only ever played in two Grand Finals:  they won one in 1954 (years before he was born) and lost one (years before he was born).
Just pause and think about that for a moment.  The last time his club won a flag was in 1954. 1954.  To put this into perspective, if he had been around then and missed the game, he wouldn’t have been able to catch the replay because AUSTRALIA DIDN’T HAVE TELEVISION!!!
When his team won the flag, the average price of a car was $1,200.  These days, that’s about what it costs to fill up a car’s tank.
He says, he’s heard some people talk about the pain of seeing their team lose on Grand Final Day, he would just like to see his team on the ground on Grand Final Day.

Oh well, Eamon …  there’s always this September, or next, or ………

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Land Of The Long White Cloud

Here’s a handy tip for you folks. If you are traveling to New Zealand. On your customs form where it asks “Reason For Trip” don’t write “To throw my ring into the fires of Mordor.”

The actual reason for my trip was to, well work actually, so I bounced off the plane and into the waiting cab because I was buzy chatting and missed the coach to the hotel.

My nerves kicked in when I jumped into the front seat next to the driver, a big burly bloke sporting what looked less like a beard, and more like I had interrupted him halfway through eating a live sheep.

He turned to me and barked: “Your first time in New Zealand luv?”

I explained that I'd been here many times, and  I had been to Clayton for shopping many times so I was used to being surrounded by New Zealanders. but "it was great to meet one that actually has a job though,” I joked.

Or so I thought. Instead it seemed like I had accidentally grabbed a big can marked “worms” and a tin-opener.

“Don’t talk to me about bloody Aussies luv,” he said. “Mean country. Refugees float through the ocean on boats, they get to your country and you tell them to go away, but we… we take them in!”

Now to be honest I’m no great fan of Australia’s hard-line policy on asylum-seekers but instead I said:  “Well you need them, don’t you? You have to replace all the New Zealanders who have moved to Australia.”

Deafening silence. The sort of silence you can hear. Finally punctured by him asking: “Do you know who invented bungee jumping?”

“Um, someone who was sick of their Dad saying ‘if your best friend jumped off a bridge, would you?’”

He ignored me. “It was a New Zealander!”
"Impressive" I said, not actually impressed at all.

“You know a New Zealander also invented jogging?” he asked.
I chuckled slightly, assuming he was joking, but the look on his face told me he was deadly serious.

“Bu- bu- but surely people have jogged since the beginning of time, right?” I stammered.
“I mean I’m pretty sure the first person who had a large angry animal run towards them probably invented jogging… and sprinting… and swearing I imagine?”

“No,” he said having none of my seeming flawless argument, “it was invented by a New Zealander. A bloke called Arthur Lydiard invented jogging as a method of keeping fit.”
I was about to ask if he was pulling my leg, but then thought better of it as I thought it might lead to an entire conversation about how a bloke from Auckland had invented leg-pulling.

Instead I countered with: “So what you are saying is that he named jogging really, aren’t you?”

All I heard from under his beard was a grunt, which I took as meaning either: “I see your point and I will think on it some more and get back to you at another time” or “I know places I could bury you where they will never find the body.”

We both decided it was time to move on. I started to fumble with my phone as a distraction, but he ignored the hint.

“Did you know New Zealand is part of the pacific rim of fire?” he continued.

No, I did not. In fact I didn’t (and still don’t) know what that is. It sounded to me like the side-effect of a particularly spicy curry.

I put my phone to my ear wondering if I was going to have to pretend it had rung just to break the awkwardness.

“Did you know you can get you driver’s license at 15 in New Zealand?” he asked.
I put my phone back down.

“Wow,” I breathed as it seemed like the reaction he was looking for and to be honest he was starting to slightly scare me. “I guess that means when you see a Baby On Board sticker they might be talking about the driver.”


“Did you know that NZ is the youngest country in the entire world?” he beamed.
“I did not,” I admitted. “But it does explain why when sometimes wants to go to a nightclub they have to borrow some fake ID and pretend it is Australia.”


“Do you know why they call us the Land Of The Long White Cloud?” he asked.
“No,” I tried again, “but it must make reporting the weather easy. Today, cloudy again!”


“Did you know in the 1908s in New Zealand there were 20 sheep to every person, but now the ratio is only 9 to 1?”  I knew it was probably time to bite my tongue, but I couldn’t resist: “Maybe they all just shaved their fleece into mullets and moved to Australia. 

Absolutely nothing.

It was at this point my cabbie really started to freak me out as he moved closer to me and whispered slightly more aggressively than I would have expected: “Do you pee?”

I was slightly freaked out. Was he going to ask for a sample, because if he continued like this there might soon be one on the floor of his cab. I nodded nervously.

“You shouldn’t do it,” he snapped. “We have a big problem with pee in this country!”
Wait .... what??? Did he expect me to hold on? And what was their big problem?

It was at this point the cab driver seemed to realize my confusion and explain to me that P (rather than pee) was a drug that was currently causing many problems in New Zealand society.

I tried to laugh my mistake off: “P? Wow, I have been out of the loop. I stopped at E. I didn’t know they had kept going. I would like to try some Q!”


He went on to explain that P was the local term for crystal meth-what we would call “ice” here - and like here it was causing a range of problems in society.  (Although to be honest I’m not sure you why people from NZ would take a drug that means you don’t sleep. I mean there’s not that much to do there, and you can only watch the Lord Of The Rings films in a row so many times.)

Finally we seemed to be bonding, and yet for some reason I felt my lips continue to move.
“Well of course people like to get high in this country,” I countered. “It’s the home of Sir Edmund Hillary and he got higher than anyone in the world. Although I guess when most people here get high they don’t take a Sherpa along for company, do they?”

The air was suddenly thinner and colder than it would be at the top of the summit, but like those adventurers I felt the need to push on despite the danger.

“Do you know why he had to climb Everest?” I asked. He grunted at me angrily, but I was unstoppable now. “It was the only place he could find on the planet where people wouldn’t come up to him and say ‘Ha ha… Hillary is a girl’s name.’”

I could tell I was starting to get a reaction of sorts. He looked at me and said: “You know he climbed it again, don’t you?”

“Yes,” I replied. “But he had too. A lot of people don’t know this but he left his wallet up there the first time and it had his Video Ezy card in there and they wouldn’t let him hire without it.”

Tough crowd.

As he started another rant and rave about how the country was being ruined by too many teenagers smoking pot, we finally pulled up at my hotel.

I opened the door, grabbed my bags, and threw some money on the seat and tried one last time: “Well maybe that’s why they call it the Land Of The Long White Cloud!”

And as he drove off I swear I saw him laugh. Either that or he was eating the rest of that sheep.

By the way ... just wanted to share part of my friend's column in the paper. He's talking about Australia at the World Cup.

""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 to 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!! ""