Thursday, 27 February 2014

This Little Piggie Went To Market ....

I don’t mind going to shopping malls or even shopping strips, but as I’ve been getting older, I’m beginning to draw the line at market-shopping.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind the occasional wander around, but when I contemplate ways to spend a lazy Sunday, I’m less likely to be the little piggy who went to market and more likely to be the little piggy who stayed at home nursing a hangover on the couch, happily reading the newspapers or watching some ‘chick flick’ on the TV.

Because, let’s face it, when your mum played ‘This Little Piggy’ with you when you were a kid, she never mentioned that the little piggy would end up spending most of the day bartering with hippies and coming home with a whole load of useless crap like driftwood picture frames, and garden gnomes made out of old coat hangers.

But I digress.

In my experience, your average market shopping trip can be broken into three categories: arts and crafts, clothes and food.

First cab off the rank, arts and crafts markets tend to consist of handicraft stalls, woodcraft stalls, incense and perfume stalls, and of course the stuff-we-found-lying-around-our-house-but-couldn’t-be-buggered-taking-to-Cash-Converters stall.

For some reason, these markets always seem to be populated predominantly by people who make their own candles – probably because with the money they earn at these markets, they can’t afford electricity.  There are stalls filled with coloured candles, scented candles, and candles that remove all the wax from your ears – to which they add a wick and make more candles.

The candle cavalcade is only rivalled by the hippies flogging home-made soap.  Sometimes, these guys look like they should spend a little more time using the stuff themselves, and a little less trying to sell it to unsuspecting strangers.  The soaps always seem to contain ‘essential’ oils, which makes me wonder if they are indeed so essential, how come I’ve survived for thirty-one years without them?

But at least these products have some practical application as opposed to the myriad of stalls run by people whose ultimate dream is to be Martha Stewart.  I’m referring to the collection of ashtrays, wind chimes, doorstops and assorted knick-knacks created by people who clearly got their inspiration from watching egg-cartons, toilet rolls and pipe cleaners assembled to make things on the TV show ‘Play School’, thinking, ‘wow, this could be my next career’.

Next we have the clothes sellers. While you can often find some awesome stuff, most of the time it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack, or a funny joke in an Australian comedy.

For starters, there are the handmade clothes – mostly hand-dyed hippie pants and tie-dyed T-shirts that you could only really wear if you were running a stall at the markets.

Then there are the second-hand, or third-hand, or fourth-fifth-sixth-hand clothes that often smell like the last owner stopped wearing them when they were removed at the morgue.  These are usually sold in stalls with no mirrors at all, which seems deliberate to me: they don’t want you to realize how bad you look until you get home; either that or their main clientele are vampires.

And while we’re on the topic, when did the words ‘vintage’ and ‘retro’ replace the word ‘old’?  These days there’s no such thing as an old or second-hand piece of clothing at the market, it’s all vintage or retro.  If you want to know the difference; when something is ‘old’, it means you can buy it for around half its original price, but if something is ‘vintage’ or ‘retro’, you can usually get charged double.  It’s pretty clever marketing if you think about it. I mean, no-one would ever buy old wine, but call it vintage and it’s suddenly a collector’s item.

Maybe others could take this advice on board. Old King Cole could reinvent himself as Vintage King Cole; the Bible could relaunch the Vintage Testament and I’m sure your parents wouldn’t be as annoyed if you shipped them off to a Vintage Folks’ Home.

Last, but certainly not least, is my favourite kind of market – the food markets. I don’t know what it is but, in my opinion, food always tastes better when it’s prepared by a sweaty guy in the back of a caravan using implements most illegal speed labs would consider most unhygienic. Plus, I have to confess there’s nothing like scouring the fresh food markets for perfect organic produce that you can then take home and watch rot in your fruit bowl for the next two weeks.

However, the food market is no place for anyone with a nut allergy, as there are guaranteed to be more hot nuts than there are in the loincloths at a Sumo tournament.

But the great thing about a food market is, it’s one of the few places left in the world where you can buy juice off a grumpy person – as opposed to the franchises where the kids are so happy, you suspect the secret ingredient they boost their juice with is …. Well let’s just say, an illegal ingredient.

There are, of course, some things that you are guaranteed to see at all markets, regardless of category.  At every market there will be someone painting kid’s faces, which means that, by the end of the day, the market will resemble a midget version of “Braveheart”.

At every market there will be some hippie in the corner selling “How To Grow Your Own Pot” books, homemade smoking paraphernalia, and assorted knitting patterns for bong cosies. Every market will have at least one kid playing a musical instrument extremely badly and hitting notes that only local dogs can hear.  This, in turn, means that every market will also have a group of confused punters torn between tossing some coins in the busker’s hat and not wanting to reward mediocrity.

And finally, at every market you’ll ever attend, you’ll find an incense stall, which is perfect for covering the smell of most of the people selling stuff – and a great place to stand after visiting the curry hut, Hey Hey, it’s Satay Day. Don’t you just love that name?

In fact, I think it’s time we paid tribute to those small business owners who aren’t satisfied to simply start a business, butt also aim to bring some much needed joy to the world by giving it a pun name.

Looking through the phone book, I picked up – If your car breaks down, who are you going to call? Boring old road assistance? Or will you pick up your phone and call “Lord of the Dings”? If you need a bed, are you going to pop down to Capt’n Snooze, where even the name puts you to sleep, or to a place called “Back to the Futon” – and then pick up the bedding at “Holy Sheet”?
If you want to help the environment by installing a water tank, why not save the planet with a smile by popping into “Tanks A Lot” or “Tanks for the Memories”?

I hope you never have the misfortune of getting stuck in a lift, but if you do, who are you going to call? The police? The fire-brigade? I don’t think so. Not when you can call “Schindler’s Lifts”

One of the best pun shop names I have ever seen was a souvenir place in Edinburgh called “Thistle Do Nicely”. Also in South Australia hey have/had a shoe shop called “R. Soles”.

Asian restaurants are also famous for giving it a good crack. From “Thairiffic” to “Thai Me Kangaroo Down Sport”, plus “Wok and Roll”.  But maybe Asian food isn’t your thing, and you’re in the mood for some old fashioned fish and chips. You’ll have to pop into “The Codfather” or “A Salt and Battery”.  Even better “Lord of the Fries” in most centres.

What if you’re pining for a simple pizza? Pizza Hut? Dominoes? No way. Not when you can call “Pizza the Action”.
If you want to buy some plants – “Aloe Aloe”. Or if you want a bunch of flowers, simply pop I into “Florest Gump”or “Petallica”.

I love these people.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Bits And Pieces 4 (or 5 or 6 or whatever)

I’ve discussed a lot of important things here over the past couple of months – sex, religion, politics and Steven Gerrard (sigh), but I think this is by far the biggest: Have you noticed how early they put Easter eggs in the supermarket?

Oh yeah, eat your hearts out all you hard hitting newsmen, I’m the only one who isn’t afraid to go after the big targets!  If I had a can of worms, I would be cracking it open right now.

It’s been driving me mad ever since New Year’s Day, when I stumbled into the supermarket with my UK friends, (I was in the UK at the time, but I'm well informed that it was the same here in OZ),  all of us suffering a  hangover so big it had its own mushroom cloud, only to be greeted by the shiny sight of Easter eggs.

For a minute I thought “Wow, I really had a lot more to drink than I thought.  I’ve woken up 4 months later.  I’ve missed Australia Day and more importantly, now I will never know who died in the train crash on Corrie street, and what the hell is happening in this year's Biggest Loser?

I need to point out I’m not having a go at Easter here.  Like everyone, I love remembering the death of the son of God in the traditional manner of eating chocolate eggs delivered by a magical bunny (you know just like it says in the Bible, although I think someone had been smoking the burning bush that day.)

You know, I'll be thinking of my grandmother over Easter.  It will be the anniversary of her death. 

Don’t know why, but I do remember her talking to me once when I was a child.  Well, a few times really, but this particular time, it was just before Easter and I was about 5.  “Katie, if you are very good and eat up all your vegetables, do you know what will happen on Easter Sunday morning?”  I glanced up from my biography of Churchill and replied in the negative.

I remember her smiling then and giving me a big huggly-wuggly-snuggly and confiding that if the above conditions were fully satisfied and if I tried to be that rarest of things – a good girl, a giant rabbit would hop into my bedroom on said Easter Sunday morning and give me a large egg made out of chocolate.

She then grinned and nodded wisely.  And I can clearly remember thinking, as I stared at her loving face, how absolutely great it will be when I am a grown-up because then I too will be able to take powerful hallucinogenic drugs just like her. 

The Easter Bunny?  Huh?

Something in our culture has gone terribly wrong when we celebrate Easter by inventing a character which even John Lennon in the post Sgt Pepper years, would have found a tad on the weirdo side.  Honestly, the role models we give kids today.  And we wonder why they grow up robbing cars.

I took my brother shopping the other day.  He's visiting from the UK. Bless!!!  Why do men hate shopping with women so much?  David said that he knows why women like to take men shopping.  It combines two of our favourite activities – buying stuff and seeing their partners miserable.  He says that it’s because we shop differently.  Women will happily window shop for hours, whereas the only time you’ll hear a man say he’s going window shopping is when he has a big hole in the wall of his house and he wants a sheet of glass to stop the wind blowing over his beer.  Oh, he was telling Sue (his wife) recently that he really didn’t mind her buying expensive dresses as long as he can wear them to work just once, so he can then claim the price of them on his tax.

By the way - You know what I like about shopping here?  My size is different at every clothes shop.  From shop to shop, I can be a 10, 32 or 1.  It makes you feel good when you go from one shop where you are a 10 to the next where you are a 1.  Wow, 9 sizes in 10 steps.  Stick that in your health drinks, Jenny Craig!

Speaking of Jenny Craig, I made dinner the other night for a neighbour as a thank you. Now I must admit 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 we 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'm the girl who cooks cheese on toast by putting the cheese on the bread and then turning the toaster on the side.

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 friend'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?

I'm hungry.