Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Merry Christmas everyone

OK, this is going to get mushy, so be warned.  It's about Christmas and presents.  Well any gift giving day and presents, actually.

You guys want to know something?  It's not true that what counts is the thought and not the gift. Our mothers were pulling our legs on that one.

Come on, be honest, you are probably like me and have collected so much gift-wrapped rubbish over the years from people who copped out and hurriedly bought a little plastic thingy to give under the protective flag of "good thoughts".

I was asked recently, what I would like for Christmas.  I hadn't really given it much thought, 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 make a mess eating mum's spaghetti,  I want to be picked up and rocked to sleep in my late mother or late father's arms.

No-one is going to be able to give me that, but I might give, at least, the memory of it to myself if I try hard enough.

By the way, this Christmas when you see an image of  the Bethlehem manger, have a good, hard, long look at it.  It's an icon of the supposedly perfect family.

OK so it doesn't even stand up to basic scrutiny. There's Mary, a teenage kid who has just had a baby in the back stall of a barn, and with some confusion as to who the father is.  Her partner, Joe of Nazareth, is muttering about taxes and the fact that the head honcho in those parts, Herod, has opted for infanticide.  And if that's not enough to think about, there's all this traffic of visiting astrologers, sheep ranchers and angels who keep dropping by with questions and proclamations.  And there's the baby - Jesus Christ, that cute little kid, is going to grow up to wander around the desert in a frock, cause enormous civil disturbance, vandalize a temple and come into serious conflict with the law, before being arrested, tortured and nailed to a tree.

I mean, they're not exactly the Waltons, are they?

OK You know when you go to the office Christmas party and there's always some idiot in the corner that insists on dancing on the table with his pants around his ankles, and tops it off with a floral lampshade on his head?  Meet Eamon, my next door neighbour.

I recently went to pick him up from his Christmas party - and yes, there he was!!!!  Every year, without fail, he manages to make a complete and utter dick of himself at the Chrissy party (and that even includes all those years he was unemployed and crashed Social Services' party).

Every December he promises himself that this year it will be different and then every year the Christmas spirit enters him followed by the Christmas wine, the Christmas beer etc, and suddenly he's back on the table looking like Ned Kelly.

The cause of most of the problems can be traced back to 2 words - FREE BEER.

He has a formula for working out how much he should eat and drink.  First take the amount of money you think you should be paid, subtract the amount you are actually paid, and the number you have left over is how much you can eat and drink in free booze and nibbles to get even.

And, he says, if he feels like a little bonus and the boss isn't forthcoming, he steals a bit of stationery on the way out.

Next on my 'hit list' is Santa. Could someone please tell me ... how did he ever catch on?  Wouldn't any healthy society have him locked up immediately?  I mean, just hang on a second and let me get this straight ....... An ancient overweight Norwegian alcoholic in a stupid red suit and kinky boots with no visible means of support despite his massive wealth, is going to slither down my chimney in the middle of the night, creep into my bedroom and fill my stockings???????

I have a gun and I'm waiting fatboy!!

Finally ......

A couple of years ago I didn't receive many Christmas cards.

On a rather warmish February afternoon this troublesome realization actually came to me out of the back room in my head where all useless information is kept.  

But I didn't say anything, I can take it, I am tough.  I won't complain when my cheap friends don't even care enough to send me a stupid Christmas card.

The following August, I was mucking around in the garage trying to establish some order in the mess and found, in among the Christmas decorations, a box of unopened cards from the previous Christmas.  As I was going to be away over the Christmas period, I had asked my housemate to put any cards I might receive, into a box and I'd open them at leisure.  But I ran out of leisure in the usual Christmas panic so they got caught up in the "stuff-them-in-a-box-and-shove-them-in-the-garage-and-we'll-deal-with-it-next-year" syndrome.

I took the box down and in the middle of August, began to open my Christmas cards.  Just to help, I put on a Christmas CD and pumped up the volume.

I opened the envelopes and set the cards up on the lawn.  There it all was - angels, snow, wise men, candles, pine boughs, horses and sleighs, the Holy Family, elves and Santa.  Heavy messages about love and joy and peace and goodwill.  If that wasn't enough, there were all these hand-written messages of affection from my cheap friends who had, in fact come through.

I cried. Vary rarely have I felt so bad and so good at the same time.

As fate always seems to have it, I was discovered in this condition by a neighbour who had been attracted to the scene by the sound of Christmas music.  She laughed.  I showed her my cards and she got weepy too, and we had this Christmas ordeal right there in my back yard, in the middle of August singing along with Neil Diamond  to the final mighty strains of "Oh Holy Night"  Faaaaalll on yourr kneeeeees, oh heeeeeear the angel voiiiiiices.

What can I say? I guess wonder, joy and happiness are always in the attic of your mind somewhere and it doesn't take a lot to set them off.  And so much about Christmas is outrageous whether it comes to you in December or August.

I'd like to wish my brother David, his wife Sue and kids, Ellie and Christopher a wonderful Christmas. Also to all my dear friends, who like me for being me and not in spite of it,  and the wonderful friends I've made during the year.  To my extended family - all the incredibly nice Twitter people I've encountered - Merry Christmas and peace, happiness and good health for 2016.

Oh, and if anyone sees my parents wandering around, please tell them I'd love for them to come home for one more Christmas. I miss you mum and dad.


Sunday, 22 November 2015

Noble Professions

If I were Prime Minister for a day, the first thing I'd do - after passing a law that says Brad Pitt has to marry me - is to give teachers and nurses a pay rise.

It doesn't say much for our society, when a stripper who performs as a 'sexy schoolteacher' or 'naughty nurse' gets paid more than the people who actually do these jobs for real.

Of course if there are any kiddies reading this, I should point out that this does not mean the next time Miss Jones bends over to pick up the chalk in biology, you should try to slip your lunch money into her garter belt.

All jokes aside, I truly do believe that teaching and nursing are the most noble and important jobs in the world, and it really pisses me off that sometimes  we treat teachers as though the only qualification you need to teach grade 2 is to have passed grade 3.

Look, we all agree that nurses are great, but I'm not saying that all teachers are good.  There are certainly a few who found their way into it, not through a love of nurturing the next generation but through a love of having 6 weeks off at Christmas.

i had one teacher who was so bored, he used to stand up the front of the class and sniff the whiteboard markers all day long. (I have no real proof, but that's what I think).  On the upside, he did always give me great marks, and once said that I was one of the smartest clowns he had ever taught. Errrr .... hang on .....

I know this will come as a bit of a shock to most of you, but I was a bit of a brat at school. Almost every report card I received contained the comment "Katelyn will do well in life, as long as she stops trying to be funny all of the time".

My major problem at school was boredom.  In most humanities, arts and language classes, I had more As than a Queenslander making a speech, but in Maths and Science, I scored so many Cs, my report card sounded like a Spanish couple on their wedding night. (Come on, think about it).

In year 10 maths, I remember being so uninterested, that a couple of us would sit up the back of the room, tear up our text books, throw them up into the ceiling fan and when they scattered down, we would sing Christmas carols. 

In science, my friends and I spent most classes seeing how many things we could turn into bongs.

Don't even mention economics. we spent every lesson trying to hide the entire class from the teacher. (Errr ... sorry Butch). Who says school is boring?

I remember one conversation we had .... naturally it was all about sex education.  We all thought it was essential that kids should be taught about sex at school.  Let's face it, they are already learning about plenty of things they will never need to know, like algebra and long division.  How about teaching them some stuff that will actually come in handy later in life, like undo-the-bra and leg division?

But the course shouldn't be restricted to simple biology.  It should teach the things we really need to know about sex; like foreplay and how sometimes it's really helpful to recite the AFL ladder backwards in your head to prevent --- ummm how can I put this nicely? --- being like Thorpie and having false starts.

OK, let's talk about 'How to Undo a Bra 101', which should definitely be a compulsory unit. Sadly most men are more capable of completing Rubik's cube, making an origami swan or breaking into a bank vault.

Jokes aside, a course like this would be great for male-female relations, especially if it's focused on the most important sexual organ of all - the tongue.

Now get your minds out of the gutter. I'm talking about talking. You see, I think men in particular don't talk enough about sex.  Sure, men these days bang on about banging on all the time, but it's silly stuff. I know it seems like that's all they talk about, except for the occasional pause to check the cricket scores, and I'm not referring to yelling obscene stuff from building sites. But we need to talk to each other more.

By the way girls on the other hand are a lot more open about their sex lives.  To all you guys out there, I can guarantee that if you've been with your girl for longer than 15 minutes,  all her close female friends would be able to identify your genitals in a line-up.

Anyway .... I digress.

I would constantly get into trouble for things I said back in school.  In one class (and this is not a joke) the teacher was so frustrated by my questions, she snapped "Well Miss Taylor, if you think you can do a better job, why don't you come up here and teach the class?"

I did.  I immediately sent her to the principal's office, cancelled all homework and asked everyone if they wanted to go on an excursion to the pub. Boy, they loved me.

Oh, and I almost got expelled on my last day of school.  At my school there was a tradition among year 12s, to parody the daily school bulletin.  Unfortunately our version proved a bit too much for the teachers we targeted and they demanded we get kicked out. 

Imagine that?  Making fun of those in power.  Phew, lucky we grew out of that!!!!

But while a good teacher can inspire you, a bad one can scar you for life.  When I told one teacher, let's call her 'Mrs Brown' that I wanted to fly when I was a little older, she told me that it was never going to happen.  

That day, I went home in tears.  Pfffffttttt

I'm not going to make any jokes about nurses. I owe those angels my life.  Just pay them whatever they bloody want!!!

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Music Makes The World Go Round

I  went to see Stephen Fry the other day.

Not really much to say about it ... he was - well - Stephen Fry. Like him or loath him, there was a hilarious part of the show when he spotted a guy sitting in the audience and he asked him his name. The man looked back at him, slightly surprised, and in a softly spoken Aussie brogue, told him his name (I'm not saying who it was, but you Aussies would know him). One of Australia's top comedians.

Suddenly all the air was sucked out of the room as the audience held it's collective breath. But the worst was still to come. Not recognising one of Australia's most famous comedians, Fry pursued his line of questioning. "So, my friend, what do you do?"

After looking back at Fry, the man paused and quietly replied "I'm a comedian. What do you do?"  

I've got to admit, I much rather prefer music concerts than stand-up comedy. 

I remember recently, some well-meaning (read - "idiot") friends took me clubbing. Sure, I love seeing the best bands in the world at huge venues, but sometimes I get as much joy from watching someone try to ride a wheelie bin as if it's a rodeo bull. Soooo we went to see an unknown band perform at a relatively small venue.

When it comes to rock and roll and comedy, stand-up doesn't really stand up. For starters rock and roll is cool. Everyone knows the old saying "sex, drugs and rock and roll". Comedy, I guess, is more "sex jokes and getting the dole".

There is no doubt that rock and roll is sexier than comedy. Despite girls often listing 'sense of humour' as an attractive quality, you rarely see us getting randy for Billy Connolly. A male rock star can get ear piercing screams for removing his shirt. Let's face it, there are rock drummers who, I'm sure, who have never owned a shirt. A comedy gig is about the only place you'll hear an audience scream for the comedian to put his shirt back on.

Music can definitely make things sexy. You can take someone home, dim the lights, light some candles, slip on some James Blunt and let's ... get ... it ... on!! I'd somehow doubt you'd get the same effect if the CD was Kevin Bloody Wilson.

In rock and roll, it's expected that the musos behave as offensively as possible, but the same leeway isn't extended to the punters. In fact, I think we need a special version of the Ten Commandments just for gigs.

Now before I go on, I should clarify that I am not a religious person. Nevertheless, I like the idea of existence coming with a detailed set of instructions. God's version of "Life For Dummies", but perhaps I'm being a little demanding of the big fella to come up with commandments for gigs, so I asked my friends for their views. So here, in the name of making this crazy thing called 'life' a little simpler, are my 10 Commandments for concerts -

1.  If you want to have a convo with someone, do it at the bar
2.  If you're going to the mosh-pit, finish your drink first.
3.  If you are going to sit on your boyfriend's shoulders, improving your view of the stage, but obstructing it for half the audience, take off your top so at least the male half of the audience has something interesting to look at
4.  Apart from the aforementioned shoulders commandment, shirts should remain on at all times.  Thee obvious exception is if you are the band's drummer, in which case being topless at all times during the gig is compulsory.
5.  If you are going to follow the lead singer's request to 'put your hands in the air and wave them like you just don't care', please make sure that you have applied a liberal amount of deodorant.
6.  If you must take photos, try to avoid pointing the flash in the artists' eyes. Unless, of course, that artist is Justin Beiber!
7.  You must be 100 percent sure of the lyrics before committing to singing along. I'm sure Billy Thorpe wasn't singing "Boys on my bed". It was "Poison Ivy" people.
8.  When attending a gig, you must not, I repeat, you must not, wear a t-shirt featuring the band you are actually seeing.
9.  If you don't have fluorescent green hair in your everyday life, don't dye it fluorescent green for a concert.  Chances are, sometime during the middle of the show the dye will start to mix with your perspiration and you'll end up looking like The Hulk's love child.
10. Earplugs should not be worn at any time. If it's too loud, you're too old. Go home.

And here, my children, endeth the lesson.   

Friday, 23 October 2015

Trick or Treat

When I was 8 or 9, I remember feeling really ripped off that I was born in Australia, where if you went around asking people for food, it was called 'begging'.  I was as mad as .... well .... Halloween, and I simply wasn't going to take it any more.

I watched American television. I wanted to dress up as a vampire, I wanted to bob for apples, or give apples to Bob, or whatever you're supposed to do with apples.  I wanted to eat chocolate until I perspired nougat, and carve faces into pumpkins and light candles inside them.

Yes, all of that!!!!

I guess in these days of childhood obesity, the last thing we need is to encourage kids to go door knocking for lollies.  On the up side, the walk will probably do them good.

Anyhooo where am I? Oh yeah, Halloween.

Now don't get me wrong, as an Australian adult, any area in which we don't slavishly copy the Americans is a ray of sunshine.  Yo, you know what I'm saying, dude. Holla if you hear me bro.

And even though it's getting harder to tell them apart, I'm now so glad that Aussie kids are so different from the Yanks.  Let's face it, these days in the States, the main reason they give treats to kids standing at their door, is not because it's Halloween, it's because they're holding Uzis.

Last year - 31st October - I had just driven home from the airport, just walked into the house and was looking in the fridge, hoping there was something to eat, when a knock on the front door came as a complete shock.

It was after 9.00 o'clock. Who the hell is visiting at this time of night?  Hope they bought food.

It was even more of a 'shock' when I opened the door and was greeted by a witch and a vampire. Now, either the Mormons were having a "Buffy The Vampire Slayer"  theme night, or  I was being trick or treated.

Turns out, it was a couple of kids aged 5 and 6 who had just moved to Australia from the USA, and didn't want to miss Halloween.  (I should point out that this information was conveyed by their dad who was standing behind them.  They hadn't just flown into Australia by themselves on some elaborate chocolate scam).

Anyway, they were holding out the pillowcases they were using as lolly bags - and yes, I did just chuckle when I typed 'lolly bag' - and proclaimed 'Trick or treat'.

I started to panic.  You see, I knew for certain that there was no chocolate in the house.  I knew this because I had eaten it all 15 minutes earlier.  Indeed in the past 5 minutes I'd resorted to eating Milo out of a can, with a spoon to get more of a chocolate fix.

OK Katelyn, use your head.

I knew there were some dried fruit and nuts in the cupboard, but the kid inside me knew what a crap treat that would be.  It's trick or treat, not trick or healthy snack.  I rushed to the fridge, but since I hadn't been food shopping for the week, this was no help at all.  All that was there was a 6 pack of beer belonging to my next door neighbour, who had run out of space in his fridge, a couple of bottles of wine, various cheeses and cold meats and vegies.

I briefly considered giving them the booze. but dad would have benefited.  And the unopened jar of marinated garlic, seemed equally inappropriate given that one of the kids was supposed to be a vampire.

I looked at their hopeful faces and my heart broke.  So, I ransacked the house and grabbed whatever I could find. 

The witch and the vampire ended up leaving with their pillowcases stuffed with 6 CDs, a digital alarm clock and a $50 JB HiFi voucher I had received for my birthday.  Oh, and some gold coins.

Riiiiiiiiiiight, are you all still wondering why I felt ripped off as an Aussie kid?  Really looking forward to this year. Note to self ---- BUY CHOCOLATES!!!

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Hello Telstra

I'm angry, and at the top of my 'why' list at the moment is the appalling level of service offered by Telstra (our biggest telco, for you non Aussies).

Seriously folks, I knew  I had to do something about my phone when a friend called me from the 
Serengeti recently and the line dropped out at MY end.

According to the adverts, Telstra is meant to have 98% coverage in this country.  If this is true, the
other 2% must be between my lounge room and the kitchen.  So recently, I bit the bullet, climbed 
into the cupboard under the sink where the reception is pretty clear, and gave Telstra a call.  An 
hour and a half later, I was still on hold.

An hour and a half! Don't these organisations realise that most people have better things to do 
with their time than be kept on hold?  I mean, I don't, but I'm sure people with real jobs do.

And while we're on the topic, let's talk about the 'hold' music.  The music they play is ridiculous. I 
could understand if it was 'Ring Ring' or better still 'Hanging On The Telephone' but all you hear, 
over and over again, is that bloody 'I Am Australian' song. After about the 18th time hearing 'We 
are one, but we are many' you can't help but have some very, very un-Australian thoughts.

Even worse is when the interrupt the endless repeats of  'I am Australian' to remind you about 
their 'fantastic products and services'.  Really?  Are any of these products and services related to 
actually answered the telephone?  Because that WOULD be fantastic.

If you're going to keep me hanging on for so long, keep me up to date with Brad and Angelina or 
the Kardashians. Even Rob Patt  and Kirsten Stewart (are they on again or off again? I have 
trouble keeping up.)  Hey, since we have plenty of time, explain what's been happening on the 
X Factor

Isn't there something wrong with our society when the only time you get to speak to a 
representative from your phone company , is when they call you in the middle of dinner from 
India?  "Yes actually I would like to talk to you about my long distance service provider, thanks for 
asking.  And I have a couple of other issues too.  Hang on, I'll go get my list'.

Of course, the non-stop fun doesn't stop when you finally get through.  First you get the option 
menu, which for some reason, never seems to contain the option you need.  Then there's the 
computerised speech recognition software, that sounds like it was programmed by the Swedish 
Chef from he Muppets.

Actually while we're on the topic of computerised voices, what the hell is it with Telstra and their 
misleadingly named Directory Assistance Service?

First they changed the number from the very simple 013, to something that even Rainman has to 
write on the back of his hand.  The only way to be connected these days it seams, is to enter pi to
20 decimal places.

But that's not even the worst of the 'new service'.  No, I'm talking about the new and improved 
(cough, cough) computerised voice recognition.  My God, voice recognition is as misleading a 
name as Australia's Funniest Home Videos TV program.

Just who is the mental giant who took a perfectly good system - where you spoke to a real, live 
person, who would tell you the number you wanted - and replace it with a computer.  At the very 
least, is it to much to ask for a  system that actually works better, rather than one which replaces 
people's jobs with a machine, that makes a simple phone call more difficult than conversing with 
a drunk and dyslexic Alf from Home and Away.

Seriously, have you tried this craputer?  You request something simple like "Qantas" and the 
technology translates it into "Purple Monkey Dishwasher Service".  Errr no, I didn't ask for that, 
but by now I'm feeling like I'm on acid.  Recently I asked for the number of Singapore Airlines, 
and it replied "Do you mean Frankston Homosexual Midget Waxing Service". Ummmm, no I 
didn't, but on second thoughts, put me through!

While it's novel to experience what it might be like to talk to Ozzy Osborne, I have become so 
frustrated with this lack of service, this morning I tried to be clever and head it off at the pass. As 
soon as the message kicked it, I screamed 'Operator', but the bloody computer simply replied 
"I'm sorry, I did not understand your request. Please hold for an operator."

I rest my case, your honour.

Forget the citizenship test, when new immigrants arrive in our country, just give them a pre-paid 
mobile phone and if they can negotiate the security questions at Telstra, they're in, and deservedly 

I digress ...

After being on hold for so long, I finally got through, and after giving my address, birth date, family 
tree, star sign, mother's maiden name, best friend's nickname, Snoop Dogg's real name, shoe 
size, butt size, five favourite films, secret ingredient in my nan's lasagne and DNA sample, I 
finally got through to the department I was looking for.

This is when I began to think I'd licked a Chinaman, or whatever it is you do with Chinamen,  
(Kicked, right KICKED!) because the lovely lady at Telstra - and I swear on the complete box set 
of Home and Away - said to me : "We can't help you with that, we don't really deal with phones 

Okey and/or dokey, let's go through that one, one more time, so even the speech recognition 
software can understand it : We ... don't ... really ... deal ... with ... phones ... anymore!

Ummmm but aren't you Telstra? Isn't that what the 'Tel' bit in your name stands for? Or are you 
just 'Stra' now?

I was so stunned I even contemplated ringing Consumer Affairs, but with the day I was having, I 
was worried I'd spend 3 hours on hold only to be told that they no longer dealt with consumer 
complaints any more. Grrrrrr

Saturday, 12 September 2015

For You

We, my brother and I, are having a memorial service for my late parents. Depending on how this goes, I'll publish this post on the day.

My uncle recently gave me a card written by my mum. She had intended to give it to me on my birthday, but unfortunately passed away before she had the chance to give it to me. My aunt and uncle have been holding it for all these years. I want to share it -

    To my beautiful daughter, I love you.
     You are a shining example of what a daughter can be. Loving and
     compassionate. beautiful and good, honest and principled, determined
     and independent, sensitive and intelligent.

     You are an example of what every parent wants their daughters
     to be and I am very proud of you.

     I want you to always know that in good and bad times, I will
     love you and that no matter what you do, or how you think
     or what you say, you can depend on my support, guidance, 
     friendship and love every minute of every day.

     I love being your mother.

Thank you mum, and thank you dad. xxxxx

I don't know if you can read this where you are, but I just wanted you to know that  it's people like you who make all the difference in the world, and I can cope with getting my heart broken a million times more, but the thought of you both makes me bounce back.

There are places within our hearts that can only be filled with memories and there are places in our souls that can only be healed by the gentle hands of time.

In my life, I have been befriended by some amazing people, most of whom I've never actually met, but who have changed my life forever.

I don't know if they know just how much they have helped me on days  when I have felt discouraged, uncertain or simply sad.  It could have been their smiles, their words or their real kindness that have helped pull me through.

How much I appreciate them, I am not sure they will ever know or understand.

To you, my friends, who are reading this, dreams really can come true, but they are most often the result of hard work, determination and persistence.  When the road becomes difficult and it feels like you will never reach the end, look deep within your heart and you will find strength - I did.  Just believe in yourself.

Remember, you don't have to be perfect to belong. You don't have to have all the answers or know the right thing to say. You can climb the highest mountain if you want to or just quietly imagine that you might one day. You can take chances or use safety nets, make miracles or make mistakes. You don't have to be 'proper' at all times to be strong. You don't have to be bold or brave or even know exactly what you want to be.  You just have to be yourselves. And if anyone out there doesn't like that, or you, it doesn't matter. It's their loss. And there are many that will love you.

Thank you all, and you know who you are, for constantly bringing smiles into my life. I love you all. You're amazing.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Early School

Every year, for many years, I set myself the task of writing a personal statement of belief.  When I was younger, the statement ran for many pages, trying to cover every base, with no loose ends.  It sounded like a Supreme Court brief, as if words could resolve all conflicts about the meaning of existence.

It’s grown shorter in recent years – sometimes cynical, sometimes comical and sometimes bland – but I keep working on it.  The inspiration for berevity came to me at a petrol station.  I managed to fill my old car’s tank with super deluxe, high-octane go-juice.  My old hoopy couldn’t handle it and got the willies – kept sputtering out at intersections and burping going down hill.  I understood.  My mind gets like that from time to time.  Too much high-content information, and I get the existential willies.  I keep sputtering out at intersections where life’s choices must be made and I either don’t know enough or know too much.

I realised then that I already know most of what’s necessary to live a meaningful life – that it isn’t all that complicated.  I know it and I have known it for a long, long time.  Living it – well, that’s another matter.

All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandpit at pre School. These are the things I learned: 

Share everything.
Play fair.
Don't hit people. 
Put things back where you found them. 
Clean up your own mess. 
Don't take things that aren't yours. 
Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody. 
Wash your hands before you eat. 
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. 
Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. 
Take a nap every afternoon. 
When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. 
Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that. 
Goldfish and cats and dogs and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we. 
And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK. 

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation.  Ecology and politics and equality and sane living. 

Take any of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or your government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we - the whole world - had cookies and milk about three o'clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had a basic policy to always put thing back where they found them and to clean up their own mess. 

And it is still true, no matter how old you are - when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

Giants, Wizards and Dwarfs was the game to play.

My friend, Rae and I were recently left in charge of about 20 children – 6 and 7 year olds – at the local after school care centre while their parents were meeting with the staff.  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 rules 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.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Love Makes The World Go Round (Part 2)

Before I joined the mad world of the airline business, I worked as a nurse in an aged care home.  A lovely man, George, who had been placed in the home by his family, was a really sad story.  Nobody ever came to see him.  One day he stopped talking and refused to leave his room. He was co-operative enough with the staff and functional enough to take care for himself. He continued to eat and shower, but he became a mute recluse sitting alone in his room all day, staring out the window. The staff decided he had the right to live as he wished and left him alone.

A woman resident, Maggie, had taken an interest in George, and when he disappeared, she went to his room for a visit. He didn't seem to mind but he didn't respond either.  She had started working on a quilt and bit by bit she moved her handiwork into his room.  She spent her days sewing and telling him her life story, while he sat staring out the window.  She had a million stories and was happy to have someone listen to her. No-one knew what he thought as the months went by.

When Maggie finished the quilt, it was put on display and everyone commented on how beautiful it was.

The same week the  quilt was finished, George passed away.

In a drawer in his room, staff found an envelope marked "To Be Opened When I Die" The note inside had one line "Tell Maggie I love her". When they told her, she cried for days. She had loved him too and had finished the quilt just as an excuse to sit with him every day.

I believe he was buried wrapped in Maggie's quilt.

Kate, you wanted really short love stories.  This one's long but small. I go to Bridge Road in Richmond almost every Saturday morning to shop at the market and carry on a love affair.

For four years now I've bought flowers from a young woman who is a refugee from somewhere in Asia. For one thing she has the freshest and most beautiful flowers. For another, she is a fresh and beautiful flower herself. I don't know her name, nor she mine. We don't speak the same language. To her, I'm sure I'm just another customer.

In Spring she's there with daffodils and irises. She's Summer with roses and sunflowers, She's Autumn with dahlias and chrysanthemums. And then it's over. In Winter, God I miss her.

When we exchange flowers and money, I always try to briefly and slyly, touch her hand. I always insist she keep the change and she always insists on giving me an extra flower.

Once I tried to buy all her flowers at once, but she vigorously shook her head. "No". I don't know why. Maybe she too is in love with someone and wants to be there to sell him flowers when he comes.

ABOUT SAM AND MARGARET (my paternal grandparents)
My grandpop painted my gran's toenails.  I was there when he started doing it.

The entire family was up in the Dandenongs to celebrate my parent's wedding anniversary. 

Gran was always a beauty queen to us.  She was really pretty. She liked facials and makeup and perfume. She always painted her fingernails and toenails. But one day when we were sitting out near the pool, I noticed that for the first time, her toenails weren't painted. I asked her why and she said she was getting too old and stiff to get down that far and she thought it was foolish to go to a beauty shop to get them done.

My grandpop was a big, gruffy, man's man who played rugby when he was younger. I was really surprised when he spoke up and told gran that he would be happy to paint her toenails for her. When gran asked him why he would want to do that, he said -

"It's because I love you, always have, always will, and I want you to feel beautiful as long as you live."

I don't know if this qualifies as a love story or not.

When I was going through puberty, I did what most young boys do. I got a pile of very sleazy and much used girlie magazines from an older kid at school and kept them hidden under my mattress where I was sure no-one would ever find them.

One day I noticed that several of the magazines were gone and someone had replaced them with much newer and higher quality magazines.  The girls were much prettier. I was really excited and also very embarrassed.  Either my mum or my dad or my younger sister had done it. No-body ever said anything and I was too scared to ask.  This happened every once in a while for a couple of years.

To this day I don't know who tended to my magazine collection. I guess I don't want to know.  I like to think that anyone in my family loved me enough to understand my adolescence and not make a fuss about my normal sexuality or embarrass me.

One of the pilots at work came to me one day and gave me an envelope. Perfumed. The kind used for personal correspondence. Remember that? He said "Kate, before you read it, you should know that I've had it for at least 20 years, that it was from my wife to whom I'm still married."  Inside the envelope was a matching sheet of stationery with these words written on it ;

          Dearest Malcolm
          I hate you, I hate you, I hate you
          Respectfully, with all my love Anne

I looked at him expecting more. "Umm. That's it" He said and walked away.

I was in my twenties and had just gotten divorced from an abusive husband. I wasn't feeling very lovable or attractive at the time. I was driving to work.

I pulled up at a traffic light and a newish grey car pulled up to the right of me.  In the car was the most handsome man I had ever seen ... no-one ever looked that good to me.

I hoped he wasn't going to turn right at the lights. He didn't. He looked over at me and smiled. I was instantly in love with this man, but a few streets later he turned right and I turned left.

I then knew that there was life after divorce even if it was only a minute at a traffic light.

It's been a few years ago now and sometimes I will pass that intersection. Whenever I do, I think of the man who smiled at me. He'll never know he's so highly thought of by someone he only smiled at.

Thanks again for reading these. They all mean so much to me. I hope you enjoyed them.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Love Make The World Go Round

Sorry readers. I've walked away from 'funny' just this once.

For some years I've been asking friends and my family to tell me a love story. Not one that they've read or heard, but one that they've lived.  In all honesty, I expected gooey-sweet Hallmark greeting card stuff, but I got nasty love and crazy love as well  I expected sunshine and warm love, but I got stormy love with lightening and hail. And I received quite a few.

It all came about some years ago. I was invited to a wedding and my partner was going to be best man. We called around at the groom's parents home for dinner and his father showed me a letter that his son received:

          "Dear Stevie.  If you don't say you love me and walk to the bus stop with
           me I will kill myself and beet you up. I love  you and want to marry you
           soon.  Lizzy"

They were 8 at the time.

I was shown the letter 2 days before Lizzy married Stevie when they were both 26.

My date at the time shared the letter with guests during his wedding speech and everyone had a good laugh and a sob when he asked Liz to repeat after him ....

          "I, Liz, promise you, Steve, never to kill myself or beat you up."

If the marriage lasts as long as her love for this man .... the odds are looking good for a 'happy ever after'.


When I was midway through high school I was studying English literature and in particular, the writings of DH Lawrence.  I know that sounds stupid, but I thought this was about Lawrence of Arabia. I'd seen the movie and I wanted to be him. I don't think I was fully awake at high school.

I went to the library and got just about everything they had. I was a little surprised by the titles. Women In Love, Sons and Lovers, Lady Chatterley's Lover.  There was a side of Lawrence of Arabia I didn't know about. The librarian explained. WHOA!!!!  Bad news!!!

Like a lot of students, I borrowed these books in the hope that someone had borrowed them before me and made notes on the pages. Save me from reading them. And they were. I flipped through and read some of the paragraphs about making love. I was blown away. This stuff was hot. To hell with the other Lawrence and the desert. This Lawrence was my kind of guy. And I decided that all the girls who read his books are my kind of girl.

One one of  my trips to the library, I met a woman who was also a fan. She was not a girl, but a retired University professor. She invited me to her house. Whoa, again!! She said she would explain about Lawrence and tell me how to pass the course.

We liked each other right away. She lived alone and her eyes were failing.  She said if I did her grocery shopping once a week, she would tutor me in Lawrence. During that year, she woke me up about love, sexuality and women. No, she never made advances or laid a hand on me. I spent a lot of time with her and I think I'm a better man because of her. I told here back then, if she was 20 instead of 80, I would have asked her to marry me. She said she would have accepted.  She's dead now.  I still have her incredible wisdom. And I got an A for English Literature also.


This is my mum's story, but she would have been too shy to tell you herself. However, it explains why my brother and I owe our existence to peanuts.

When mum left high school, she had everything going for her. She was pretty, smart and came from a well-to-do family.  But she was terminally shy especially around men. Boys didn't like to take her out much because although she was very beautiful, she was so quiet.

She came to Australia from Greece. A cousin dragged her to a party and she sat out the night at one end of the room, in a corner by a table that had snacks on it. She ate a lot of peanuts out of nervousness.

She began to notice a guy who seemed to be as nervous as she. He never said anything, but he was taking extra care of her. He kept her glass filled with non-alcoholic drink and he kept bringing her bowls of peanuts. From time to time their eyes met and they smiled at each other.

When the dancing started and the party got loud, she walked out of the back door to escape, and as she was walking down the street she heard "Wait, wait, please wait". It was the young man running after her with a paper bag in his hand. They stood in awkward silence, just smiling. Finally he reached into the bag, pulled out a can of peanuts, gave them to her and said "I only wish these were pearls".

He ran back to the party.

Twenty years later on their wedding anniversary, he (my dad) gave my mum a sterling silver can marked "peanuts". She thought that was the gift and loved it so much. The memories came flooding back. But there was more. When she lifted the lid, inside was a string of pearls.

Ni gift ever made her as happy. She wore those pearls as her only jewellery for years.

When they were killed in a horrific accident, my brother and I put the silver peanut can in dad's coffin with him. And mum was buried wearing those pearls.




Monday, 10 August 2015

Blades, blades and more blades

I was having some unusual headaches recently, so made my way to my home away from home (doctors) only to have him examine me and say ... "Sorry Miss T, but I have some bad news for you. You're losing your hearing."

"WHAT?" I yelled

"YOU ARE LOSING YOU'RE ............"

"Yeah, yeah. I heard you the first time, but I've always wanted to use that joke."

Tinnitus was the diagnosis. Mist likely caused by standing too close to speakers at rock concerts and listening to music too loudly in my headphones.  Of all the things that have gone wrong, this one sucks the most, because if you think about it, he was basically telling me that I ruined my hearing by hearing things too well.  Yep, it sucks.

Oh, he was wrong actually. It was sinus problems which have since been addressed.

I'm glad this doesn't happen with other senses.  Imagine eating a really good meal and then completely losing your sense of taste, or walking past a bakery in the morning and losing your sense of smell !!

Actually, now that we are discussing it, the thing that's making me feel really old - aside from admitting that I'm never going to win Masterchef, is not really the above.  It was when some well-meaning (read 'stupid') friends decided to take me night-clubbing.

Note, the first thing I need to point out, is I've never really enjoyed going to night clubs. Even when I was younger. I'm more of a pub girl.

The second thing to note is that these days, going clubbing is not as simple as rocking up to a bar for a couple of drinks.  Oh no. It's more like an off-your-face amazing race where by the end of the night, I had so many stamps down my arm, it looked like I'd been sharing a cell with Chopper Read. (A baddie for all you overseas folk).

Although, on the up, it is really handy the next day when you have a hangover and you are trying to piece together just exactly what you did last night. (And believe me, you WILL have a hangover.  These days kids don't sip drinks, they scull them as if alcohol is being banned at midnight).

The next thing you need to know is that night clubs these days have better light and smoke shows than Bon Jovi did in their prime.

Anyway, I digress.

I stayed the night at a friends and I needed some asprin, so made my way to the bathroom cabinet.  Now, I really think my parents dropped me on the head when I was young and something broke in my brain, because this is the sort of thing that kept me awake all night.

Signs and labelling pander to the already dumb, but there are entire industries that depend on drawing out the dumbarse in all of us. Like product development and advertising.

For example, can we just skip to a razor that has a hundred blades and be done with it?  I say this because I noticed an unopened razor in the cabinet which had this printed on the packaging.  "Soon to be released - new razor with 5 blades"!

Once more for the cheap seats - 5 blades.  Apparently the first one picks up the hair, the second cuts it, the third goes out and picks up your dry-cleaning, the fourth goes to market and the fifth goes wee, wee, wee all the way home.

So the question has to be asked, just how many blades does the man need?  If they keep going like this, pretty soon you guys will have a different blade for each hair on your face.  Seriously guys, why could you possibly need 5 different blades on a razor?

Are razors like boy bands now - the blade that can sing, the blade that can dance, the ugly blade, the nerdy blade and the gay blade.

I'm all for progress, but it seems to me that any more than 1 blade is a little unnecessary.

I think it's sad when there are more blades on your razor than in my entire kitchen.  These days you're better preparing dinner in the bathroom than in your kitchen.

It's a vicious cycle.  One company adds a blade, so the other adds an extra blade, so the first adds another blade etc etc.

And while I'm having this razor rant, who is naming these things?  You have The Mach, The Fusion, The Champion, The Turbo and The Quatro. It sounds less like the names of razor blades and more like a casting call for the return of Gladiators.

And now I see you can get razors with batteries that vibrate and even have something called a 'lubra-strip'. (Jokes galore here, but I'm not going there.)

Further, the packaging said it was "The best a man can get". Really??? I would have thought that phrase would have been in the same sentence as Angelina Jolie, or Cameron Diaz or lap dance!!

The thing that shocked me most after reading this was that this particular razor has it's own website.  Somehow, I guess that's not the site most males expect when they type 'hot' and 'shaved' into Google.  But think about this for a moment. With all the infinite possibilities offered by the internet, how bored would you have to be to look up the website for a razor blade???

So anyway, I looked it up.

And check this out, not only does it have a website, but it also has a fan club.  I am not making this up.  Let's face it, if you are the sort of person who joins a fan club for a razor, I'm not really sure you should be handling a razor with blades.  I'm not sure you should be trusted with anything that close to your face that isn't made of ice-cream.

Crikeeeeee ..... why don't you guys just grow a beard???



Monday, 3 August 2015

The Letter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I felt like I was losing him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

He nodded.

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

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

Of course and I read it often.

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

"Sure" I said, suddenly sentimental.

"Can I get you a coffee?"

Friday, 10 July 2015

Fatty, fatty boombah!!!!!

When I was young, I could pretty much eat whatever I wanted, but since entering my 30s, I seem to be putting on kilos in my sleep.  And I know it's only going to get worse.

I was having visions of myself, lying on the couch at home eating Pringles while watching The Biggest Loser, and then being lifted out of my house by a crane, live on Jerry Springer.  I even had a recurring nightmare in which "A Current Affair" was doing one of those hard hitting reports into dodgy diets and when they cut to the slo-mo stock footage of all the big beach bums bursting out of their bikinis, I recognised my own bum!

OK, the first thing I did was join a gym. 

Now before I continue, I've got to say, I've never been a gym junkie which is a weird term now that I think about it.  It conjures images of people standing outside the Fitness First gym saying "hey fatty .... have you got 50 cents. I need a quick walk on the treadmill?" In fact the only time I've attempted a gym workout, I woke up the next day so sore that even my eyelashes hurt.  Plus it always seemed stupid to pick up heavy things, when if there's something heavy at my house that needs picking up, I pay someone else to do it.

So it was with some trepidation, that I went to my first assessment session.  Walking through the door of the amazing brand new gym. I was pulled aside and introduced to the chiseled Adonis who was going to show me around.  It didn't help my nerves that he looked m up and down and said "Hello, my name is Attila".

Attila? Attila?? Attila???

To cut a long story short, as it was, Attila turned out to be an awesome bloke.  He was a former triathlete who tried to design a gym that wasn't just exercise equipment, but it included heaps of fun stuff like rock climbing and boxing and there was even a DJ, although I did wonder if it was a good gig. "Hey dude, where are you playing on the weekend? Playing at the Big Day Out?"  "Nah, love. I'm on the Wheels of Steel down at the gym."   Well, I guess in both places there are plenty of sweaty people drinking bottled water.

But i digress.

There were two of us newbies - the other being another chiseled Adonis who really didn't look like he needed any exercise.  I filled in my forms. Just doing the paperwork made  me break out into a mild sweat, and then it was time to do some real exercise (and there was I thinking that's what the paperwork was)!

It seemed that the first item on the agenda was - wait for it - pulling a car using a rope. Huh? At least I think that was one of the exercises. Either that or Attila needed a jumpstart and he was taking the piss.  I was ready to collapse in fright when I realised he had this planned for my newbie male friend.  Phew!!!

From there we moved onto push-ups.  Attila had to see how many we could do it a minute.  A minute??????  Ok, I admit, I didn't make the entire minute without stopping.  Neither did my newbie friend, Jason.  Should this be an indication of his performance in the bedroom. 

Then there were sit-ups, bench presses, holding the medicine ball above my head while stepping through tyres ((I'm sure this one is going to come in handy next time I need to hold something heavy above my head, while I step through tyres).

Next I got to swing on the monkey bars. (I'm not sure  if this was one of the exercises or just recess).  After that came a great one where Attila made me sprint up a flight of stairs but take the escalator back down.  (The perfect time to sneak in a quick smoke, I thought).

Finally it was time to jump into the boxing ring so Attila could see how many punches we could throw in a minute.  To be honest, by this stage, my arms were trembling so much, I struggled to put the gloves on in a minute, but luckily my manager was Don King and he had paid off the judges, so I won by a nose.

At last, I was done. Sweaty, sore, stretched an broken, I resolved then and there to come back. But not for at least 12 months when my body had stopped hurting.

The only other time I'd been in that much pain, was when I went on a skiing holiday with some friends.  Growing up in sunny Melbourne, my family didn't do much skiing, so when a couple of friends suggested we go to the snow for a week, I leapt at the opportunity.  Little did I know it would be the last time I would be capable of jumping or even walking, for the next month.

You see, I didn't realise that some people see skiing as a wonderful way to spend a couple of weeks, I didn't.

While my friends had a really good time, I spent so much time face down in ice and when I wasn't face down, I was bum up. I think they made a mistake by attaching the skis to the bottom of my boots. They should have just strapped them on to my bottom, seeing as that was the part of my body that made the most contact with the snow.

I also ended with my ankles behind my ears so often, it looked less like I was skiing and more like I was auditioning positions for a new Kama Sutra.  I spent so much time doing the splits, even Miley Cyrus would have thought I looked a little trashy.

Foolishly, I thought the trip might be an opportunity for romance, but the only body my legs wrapped themselves around was my own (plus at the end of a day on the slopes, my body was so bruised and broken, that the only person I wanted touching me was a licensed medical professional or possibly, a coroner).

All jokes aside, I returned from that trip convinced that skiing was invented by the same person who came up with Candy Crush, colonoscopies, and the Crazy Frog ringtone.  It's entertainment for masochists while their dungeons are being cleaned during Spring. 

By the way, my skis contained secret magnets at the end.  Try as I may to keep them straight, they would go in the complete opposite direction. Elton John has more chance of going straight than I did.