Anxiety, Stupidity, And Why The Next Time I Leave The House Will Be In A Casket

After what feels like an interminable period of drought, Sydney has been hampered by the kind of rains we usually only see on Christmas Day, at birthday parties or weddings over the past few days. Unlike my British alter-ego, I have come to enjoy the rain here – a few precious days when I can’t fry eggs on my cheeks and sleep peacefully at night. However, as in most over-populated cities of the world, rain and public transport become an interesting partnership.

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I thought I’d come to terms with the fact that it’s better that I don’t leave the house, so call it whimsy or plain stupidity, it was nevertheless an unusual decision to visit the city for an exhibition yesterday, on one of the aforementioned rainy days.

 

Okay – so it might have had something to do with work.

 

Fortunately, my confidence was buoyed by a brand new bus system, recently installed from Forgottensville to the Big Smoke. Thanks to another government incentive to blow our taxes on worthless pieces of shit ensure that us country folk get to work on time, we now have canary-yellow, double-decker buses (that scream “poor”) and drive at breakneck speed down our bus lanes – until, inevitably,  something gets in their way. So, in contrast to the old horse and cart days, the journey now takes around an hour and nine minutes, rather than the previous hour and ten.

 

I’m certain that when that government official in transport drew up the plan and came up with the innovative idea of limited stops, the fact that there is only one main arterial road into the city from our neck of the beach must have slipped his mind – although the USB points are a nice touch. And as I sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic, avoiding knee contact with the hot guy next to me, and waving along the selfish pricks in cars ahead of us in the bus lane, (unnecessarily polluting the atmosphere with their 4x4s), only a game of Watching Weird People On Buses kept me sane.

 

To cut a very long (and I fear, tedious) story short, no one informed me that the bells on these new-wave buses with limited stops, actually serve a purpose. I had made the foolish assumption that the bus would stop at each limited stop, and as we sailed past my stop, (and the agreed location for the pick up for the next stage of my mammoth trek), I might have panicked a little – a panic that I was conscious of not allowing my fellow passengers to witness. I mean, how could I publicly demonstrate the rarity with which I use this outdated and highly inefficient mode of transport? That would be owning up to my own private guilt for billowing gallons of the cheapest fuel into our atmosphere in my own 4×4; worse, it would highlight my stupidity.

 

For it has come to my attention, that since I turned fifty, I am indeed becoming more stupid, in rather pitiful, doolally, blonde, kind of way.

 

To make matters worse, in my rush to get off the bus first, I had scrambled out of my seat embarrassingly prematurely so as not to miss my stop, which meant that EVERYONE knew that I was stupid. And I couldn’t shout across the fifty or so miserable Monday morning faces in front of me to accuse the driver  – I say, young man, but I think you missed my stop – because bus drivers, like medical receptionists, are an inherently grumpy breed, borne of coping with fare dodgers, drunks, and hypochondriacs every day – although I hasten to add that I have never dodged a fare.

 

Dumped at the next stop in the rain with the self-acceptance that I am not safe to leave the house again – or indeed be left on my own at any time again – and with no clue where I was, I drowned my sorrow in a surprisingly tasty Maccas coffee. And as I sat there, berating myself for my limited understanding of both Google maps and Uber, (whilst privately congratulating myself that I have the apps on the home page (?) of my phone), I reached a life-changing decision. The next time I leave the house will be in a casket.

When You Kid Yourself That One Night At The Opera Makes You Cultured

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I had steak tonight. It was one of those spontaneous decisions brought on by the anxiety that we’re all going to die soon and I might never taste steak again because I rarely eat red meat these days. I am one of those people that get sucked into the latest health advice about what you can and can’t do, so I gave up red meat (almost) a while ago, and now I eat a lot of salmon. That is, until this week, when an article described how salmon is farmed and full of worms and artificially colored and… yuk, I’m not sure when I’ll eat salmon again, either.

And in other related news, last night I went to the opera because my latest fad for seizing the day is pushing me to try all these things that normally I’m much too lazy or terrified to bother with. This free opera event, which is held at the Domain in Sydney each year and sponsored by Mazda, is such a great initiative that I’ve decided to bore you with my experience and to extol its virtues again like I did this time last year.

Le’s be honest, when we’re getting false ballistic missile warnings, the most powerful politician in the world describes countries as shitholes, and women are vilified for  coming forward about sexual harassment, it’s time to step back and immerse yourself in whatever makes you happy, even if it has been proven to clog your arteries or makes you a pretentious twat.

And what’s not to love about a FREE event where you can pretend to be a music aficionado for a couple of hours, tick off your one and only cultural event for the year, and drink copious amounts of sparkly with no judgment. In fact, this is one of those rare events that condones getting publicly shitfaced in the name of culture, although in my book, ‘bring a picnic’ has always been code to over-imbibe.

Now some of you might think about privilege when you think of opera, but remember, this event brings music to the masses, and although the demographic may not be the same as meat raffle night during Happy Hour at the Blacktown Pub, it was wonderful to see such a diverse crowd in both age and ethnicity respond to the civilized freebie – for the proletariat, the next best thing to going to the Opera House.

However, I was surprised to see that even at the opera there are those that take the piss; who believe themselves superior to the rest and flout the rules; who tried, (unsuccessfully) to sneak in their full-height camping chairs past security, thereby compromising the view of the stage to the latecomers who hadn’t the foresight/anal disposition to arrive ridiculously early to ensure a good spot, like us. And they were dealt with accordingly, in a manner to fit the crime –  ie. hung, drawn and quartered, no matter what their objections, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, age or infirmity.

This was a festival without normal festival behavior. Bin bags were supplied for the rubbish and the toilets were clean – in fact, I felt a little disappointed not to find one speck of white powder on the toilet seats.

We went in a group, two of whom were celebrating their birthdays, so if you can imagine a middle-aged hen night, that was us. I can say with some certainty that it is unlikely any of us will be invited to join the Sydney opera in the near future, even though, personally, I thought our attempt of several different (and really quite complex) arias was inspired.

We commenced with The Flower Duet, from the opera Lakme – more famous as the music to a British Airways advertisement from the eighties – just to gain our confidence, and finished with a female version of Nessun Dorma for our finale. I promise you, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house by the time we finished; we were pitch perfect if a group of howling feral cats in the early stages of attracting a mate is your thing, so early booking is required.

Middle Age, Weight Loss and Climate Change

If one step closer towards the end of the world is marked by Trump’s inauguration this week, then the heat wave in Sydney came a close second for me. 

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A recent aerial view of Sydney.

 

If the adult human body is made up of 60% water, there can be no biological explanation for how my weight managed to remain stubbornly at the ‘overweight for my height’ end of the scales after the amount of sweating I’ve done, even when I put on my highest heels.

 

Some of you may be aware that we Sydney-siders have suffered in temperatures close to 40 degrees CENTIGRADE this week, and perhaps you have little sympathy if hypothermia/survival is your biggest concern at the moment. But the heat has been that intense that it has even forced even me, a committed aqua-phobe, to drink gallons of the stuff, and that’s something I usually struggle with… unlike five glasses of wine, say.  

 

If  you are one of those poor sods suffering in ice storms and shovelling snow on the other side of the world, I feel your pain, but let me tell you, living in a furnace is no picnic either, particularly for us peri/menopausal women.

 

It was 30 degrees at 9am on Wednesday morning and 28 degrees throughout the night – apparently a record – yippee! – and we have no air conditioning in our house, a compromise that was made when we  prioritised giving our two young adults a room of their own each when we moved recently.

 

And did I mention that they should have left home by now? Funny how quickly priorities can change.

 

And yes, I admit that sweating excessively and unattractively is a first-world problem, but it was that hot that even the dog refused to go out for a walk, birds dropped dead from the sky and fans and oxygen tanks became impossible to find even on the black market.

 

Of course, NC, a climate scientist, basked in the glory of being right, as she held the thermometer outside her bedroom window each morning, and shot us us those smug, ‘told you so’ looks.

 

What you forget is how cranky intense heat makes you, and just how much sweat the body can actually produce when it’s put under pressure to prevent spontaneous human combustion. So how my body defied all those rules of mathematics that state that when you subtract something from a whole you are left with less, I’ll never know.

 

Sydney, once a civilised hood that has become renowned as one of the best cities in the world to live in, turned into a real-life version of Mad Max within days, its population forced to fight for every tiny breath of air, only able to find relief by standing inert in front of an open fridge door.

 

Mrs Woog summed it up better than me in this hilarious post:

 

Personally, I try not to moan too much, what with my NY resolution about gratitude, and on the whole I still prefer the heat to the cold. The onset of the symptoms of dehydration do give you an excuse to drink more wine.

 

 

 

Keeping Your Eyes Open In Middle Age

I decided recently that with my advancing years it was time to embrace some culture before it’s too late.

 

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Photo courtesy of the Opera House and Australian Ballet

For someone who believes herself to be creative in so many ways, I have always struggled with the level of intellectualism required to interpret the different art forms. Abstract art confounds me, there’s a voice in my head that tells me to fart loudly during serious classical music renditions and the theatre sends me to sleep.

 

Musical theatre, pantomime, or a good old-fashioned comedian are more up my alley -choices, I assume, that herald back to my working class roots where we cheered ourselves up with ribald humour, ostentation and revelry.

 

But I have tried to like the ballet, which is why when some girlfriends suggested a group outing to the Opera House, I jumped at the chance – even though getting tickets to the event was almost as difficult as securing tickets to Adele.

 

I didn’t ask too many questions about the performance beforehand, nor did I read the synopsis – a mistake in hindsight. I’ve seen Swan Lake a couple of times and assumed that ballet is ballet and that it would be similar in theme – you know, chocolate box scenery, skinny ballerinas with the immense discipline to resist muffins so they can contort their bodies into ridiculous poses, and men prancing around in tights.

 

But I was wrong.

 

Albeit that there were lots of men prancing around in tights, “Nijinsky” was a contemporary ballet rather than “classical’, and so stylised that it made me feel like I’d unknowingly taken some of Kurt’s illicit substances within the first ten minutes. Devoid of the comfort of coloful, schmalzy scenery, the troupe of “Australian Ballet” dancers proceeded to enact the “rise and tragic fall” of the ballet legend. Even I was able to interpret that the man had a pretty fucked-up life, which the company interpreted with lots of foot stomping, flesh slapping and rolling around – which I can fully identify with – but there were also scenes of homo-erotica, (if I’m not mistaken), and even the odd three-some.

 

At one point a group of male dancers strutted across the stage in army jackets and underpants, to be joined by Mrs Santa en pointe and I may have whispered a WTF?…so you get my drift.

 

I like to think I have an open mind and it was an interesting experience, if not completely intelligible or compelling for me personally, but the main feeling the performance invoked in me was relief that I hadn’t invited the old man, who frankly would never have forgiven me.

 

However, this is from the perspective of a self-confessed philistine whose idea of the perfect Saturday night is at the pub with a meat raffle on offer. The dancing was, judging by the enamoured audience (ie. the people who should have been there), mesmerising; the orchestra was outstanding and even I sat back in awe at the talent and passion on display. With forty or so talented members of the company and a full pit of equally talented musicians, it was better value for money than the Crowded House concert out front of the Opera House with a few prima donna band members and some stoned roadies.

 

And it opened my eyes, which is always wonderful at this stage of life, even though they were desperate to close most of the way through the show. Do I feel a better person for it? Not necessarily. But it did confirm two things: 1) to keeping trying new things and not let my age stop me, and 2) to accept it graciously when something turns out to not be my thing and put it down to experience.

14 Ways To Achieve Fuck All On A Rainy Day

You might have gathered from the news that it’s been raining kangaroos and funnel web spiders here in Australia over the past few days. rain-360803_1280

 

There’s this giant myth around the rest of the world that it’s sunny all year around here, and if you live in states of the country fortunate to have crocs and deadly jellyfish as opposed to Zara and WIFI, that’s probably true. Fortunately for us Sydneysiders, we get seasons, because living in God’s country, we need to be reminded about the harshness of life, to keep our feet firmly planted on the sand.

 

Mind you, they’re only mild seasonal changes – just enough of a dip in temperature to teach us the difference between bitch hot and a bit chilly.

 

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Obviously I photographed the bra that I ONLY wear to watch Poldark and Chris Hemsworth movies.

Australia probably lost a bit of credibility in the weather stakes last weekend, and if our political stability hasn’t already put them off, I imagine that thousands of Brits are cancelling their visas at this very moment while the climate change doomsday mob rub their hands with glee, such was the Armageddon we experienced at the hands of nature.

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The turtleneck jumper – one of the best fashion inventions EVER!

 

And while there are tons of great suggestions on the Internet about what to do on rainy days in Sydney, unfortunately most of them involve actually leaving the house, like this one:

 

50 Things To Do On A Rainy Day In Sydney

 

IMG_2261And we were strictly told by our government NOT to go anywhere unless there was an emergency, such as running out of wine, so faced with two whole days at home, with hatches well and truly battened, rugged up, and thanking God that our parents forked out vast sums of their hard-earned money on swimming lessons, (just in case), I made up my own ‘To Do’ list.

 

If your glass is half-full, you’ll know that the good news about days like these is that they give you time to reflect, to catch up on house stuff or even spend some quality time with the kids. Then there’s my preferred option, of doing fuck all.

 

Here are my top tips for making the most of a rainy day:

 

  1. Remove your bra and make up and on no account wash your hair
  2. Ignore your husband until his Neanderthal exterior cracks with anxiety
  3. Wear those fugly turtle necks and holey leggings that you normally reserve for the anonymity of the slopes
  4. Wear your oldest, biggest, most comfortable undies because there’s no chance you’ll end up in the ER
  5. Cook up naughty foodstuffs that you’d never normally allow your body to partake of… because it is a temple. It’s raining. It might even be the end of the world. I made these butter and banana muffins, which didn’t quite meet health and safety regulations when both kids found a tiny slither of plastic in theirs. SO entitled!
  6. Simultaneously laugh at the jokes and rub your thighs at the sight of Ryan Reynold’s gloriously firm buttocks in Deadpool – there to remind you just how much you hate Blake Lively – then confuse your hormones and mix up the whole gamut of emotions by watching a weepy period drama – explain first to your teenage son that it isn’t a film about menstruation
  7. Paint your toenails, even though it’s winter and you did them three months ago
  8. Take the fridge leftovers out of the mouth of the dog and play an cooking invention challenge by knocking up the most amazing chicken soup to remind everyone how perfect you are and how you can rise to any challenge
  9. Say ‘no’ to your adult son when he implores you to play Monopoly with him and watch him crumble as you remind him you have no parental obligation to do that shit any more
  10. Prank call Optus and Telstra for all those times they’ve called you at 6pm at witching hour, when you’re only just managing to hold your shit together
  11. Delight in the therapy of a chin/mole plucking session
  12. Hide the Foxtel remote to ensure hubby does his 10,000 steps
  13. Do a family towel wash and lay them wet on the floors of your teenagers’ bedrooms
  14. Adele karaoke, anyone?

Any better suggestions?

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Chicken soup made with a touch of smugness

Sunning In Sydney, Bondi-Style

Sometimes us middle-aged folk like to remind ourselves what it was like to be young, hip, irresponsible and living close to poverty on the edge, like we did all those years ago when we were students.

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We’ve enjoyed a long, hot weekend here in Sydney, so the old man and I decided to do something a little different this morning and ignore our embarrassingly white, middle-aged, middle-class beach in suburbia and groove on down to Sydney’s iconic Bondi.

Not that Bondi is synonymous with poverty – far from it – but there’s distinctly a more earthy, soulful vibe to be had there than in the Lower North Shore.

The old man and I are so far up our own arses about fitness at the moment that we try to combine exercise with beach at every opportunity these days, and although a temperature of 34 degrees might have scared off the sensible most Sydneysiders, we foolishly saw this as a challenge.

Out came the fitness gear – or the old man’s interpretation of fitness gear, which is a subtle melange of Mexican and Hawaiian influences – we lathered ourselves with layers of factor 50 sun cream, topped up the water bottles and set off on our weekend adventure.

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For those who have never ventured to the shark-infested, turquoise waters and hot white sands of Australia’s beaches, Bondi is iconic in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs for several reasons:

  • It is only a few kilometres from Sydney’s CBD, which means it is feasible to surf in your lunch hour.
  • The surf… is apparently really good.
  • Although only beautiful, young people are truly allowed onto the beach, occasionally they let old gits like us on it, to keep the local economy going.
  • The beach can be super-dangerous even by Australian standards. Possible threats to life include rips, massive breakers, jelly fish and rogue surfers who cut across to the swimming section and target innocent backpackers with their boards, which gives us a means to keep our quota of tourists down.
  • Once a working class area, Bondi has become a middle-class enclave with some of the most expensive real estate in the Eastern Suburbs to ogle.

Aesthetically, it’s certainly not the most beautiful beach in Sydney, but if you want a sense of what Australia is really about, it’s a great place to start.

And not just for the beach.

For us cougars, there are a satisfying number of near-perfectly gorgeous male specimens complete with Aussie-stereotypical, rippling brown surfer muscles and tight boardies to gawp at through the cameral lens of your Iphone, while you pretend to take photos of the landscape. IMG_9557

The local cafes and restaurants offer a smorgasbord of every style of cuisine imaginable, although the archetypal Aussie breakfasts are still a standout. Frankly, there ain’t nothing a good Aussie chef can’t do with an avocado. And if you’re well-to-do, there’s Bondi Iceburgs restaurant where lots of famous people who have lots of money hang out and feel superior to the proletariat sweltering below them on the beach.

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And did I mention the beautiful people?

Or the barely-there swimwear?

To truly nail the Bondi-style, all you need is an itsy-bitsy bikini with an itsy-bitsy body-type to match, voluminous hippy dress or super-short cut off denim shorts, and wide-brimmed hat. 
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My Jane Fonda work-out gear might have looked a little dated – the leg warmers possibly too much on such a hot day – but I don’t care anymore because I’m over fifty now and with that comes the perfect excuse for poor taste.

Finding Time To Breathe

In this crazily competitive yet compelling world we live in, finding the time to breathe and smell the roses can sometimes feel an uphill struggle.

 


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But in an exceptionally rare turn of events last weekend, the old man discovered that he actually did have some friends and deserted me for a round of golf with da boyz.

 

Giving me just that. Time to breathe.

 

It’s not as though we’ve ever been one of those couples that cohabit in each other’s pockets – I lead my own life and he…watches lots of sport on tv… but as I work most Saturdays, we do tend to hang out together on a Sunday.

 

So it’s rare for me to find myself on my own.

 

The torturous temptation last Sunday, OBVIOUSLY, was to lie in bed all day with only Facebook, Twitter, the Sunday papers and a packet of Snickers Pods for company, but I somehow managed to persuade myself that I am better than that, found some previously-lost backbone, got my ass into some sort of gear and went and did something for me for a change.

 

We are very fortunate where we live in Sydney, to be situated right next to THE Harbour Bridge, so with my newfound wisdom in my backpack, I decided that instead of looking at that damn bridge every day and bemoaning the fact that I never find the opportunity to walk it, I would do just that. Then I planned a little meander around the markets at The Rocks and would finish my little tour d’independence with a bracing swim at North Sydney pool.

 

Sometimes, it’s only when you push yourself out there, to the outskirts of your comfort zone of self-imposed laziness and lame excuses and ignore the ridiculous notion that you need to be with people to feel energised or fulfilled, that you fully appreciate time to breathe.

 

We all lead busy lives and cohabiting with a very noisy, highly theatrical 6’ teenager with a voice as deeply penetrating as Russell Crowe’s in a tight apartment, (which also happens to be my work zone), sometimes can make me feel claustrophobic and I need to escape…pronto.

 

The Harbour Bridge is 2.2 kms long and it was a typically, gloriously, sunny, Sydney afternoon when I set off.

 

I had obviously forgotten about these steps in the planning process…

 

Finding The Time To Breathe

 

And it took all my self-discipline to walk past this ice cream van with its tempting ooze of whipped ice cream with flake on the top, which seemed like a fair reward for conquering those steps…

 

Finding The Time To Breathe

 

Do you remember when you were a child and heard the first taunting musical notes from the ice cream van as it entered your neighbourhood, and you silently prayed for the next few minutes that your mum would rattle the change in her purse? One listener called into the radio station I listen to the other day for a segment called ‘the lies your parents told you’ and told us how his dad used to tell her that the ice cream van only played a tune when they had run out of ice cream.

 

Now that’s my kind of parenting.

 

Not quite as good as my invention of biscuit cancer (she was obviously an amateur), after which we were forced to up Kurt’s anxiety medication.

 

Panting Invigorated, I wandered around The Rocks with its market stalls full of ridiculously expensive Australiana paraphernalia that we like to off-load to our American visitors and then I headed back for a well-deserved and refreshing dip in the pool.

 

Finding The Time To Breathe

 

I find I can become quite melancholy these days when I walk by myself and have time to ruminate about where my life is going in middle age. Something as simple as the rare waft of a Gauloise cigarette can transport me back thirty years to the period of my life I spent in France; a child in full-blown tantrum recoiling from the straps of her pushchair and mother reminds me of NC as a baby; the pair of love-sick teenagers who can’t keep their hands off each other remind me of the overwhelming depth of passion the old man and I shared at the tender age of seventeen.

 

It’s funny how much you change as you grow older, in spite of your best intentions. These days I look at flowers and plants in a new, more appreciative way – something I swore I would never allow to happen in my younger days. And when I watch the party boats glide under the Harbour Bridge with their penetrating duff duff music and drunken young people, I shudder – so relieved am I not to be anywhere near them.

 

Finding The Time To Breathe

 

But the melancholy associated with looking back is tinged with gratitude, because I am healthy and in a new and exciting phase of my life, that has opened up all sorts of different opportunities that I never expected to experience.

 

And for a few moments I find a rare inner peace and at-oneness with the world, that lasts until I return home to find Kurt has set fire to the kitchen making pancakes or some other such minor domestic reality check.

Proud To Call Australia Home

In the build up to Australia Day, I’ve read many articles in the press that question what the real Australia is like now, and what it means to be an Australian.   Proud To Call Australia Home   This year marks our tenth anniversary in Australia, and being Poms, (although not sent here as punishment, but out of choice), we are continually asked what pushed us to come here.

Which I find quite hard to explain.

You see, we were far from unhappy in the UK when we made, (what was for us), an uncommonly impulsive decision.

The decision stemmed in part from the old man’s first midlife crisis, then there was the habitual problem of my itchy feet and just a mutual feeling that in spite of reaching a comfortable stage of security in our life, we didn’t feel we had challenged ourselves enough.   We weren’t naïve enough to think the grass would be any greener on the other side of the world. By the respective ages of forty, we had acquired some wisdom – although it would be a barefaced lie to say that the Australian climate held no appeal.

I had always suspected that I had SAD issues.

But we left good friends and family behind, which is never an easy choice, uprooted our children at an impressionable age, and without the security of new jobs to slot into, we had no possible idea if this crazy decision of ours would work out.

We can always come back, we secretly justified to ourselves, while to the rest of the world we attempted to show the outer confidence of born adventurers.

Fortunately for us, we have never regretted that decision, but with hindsight I realize now that going back wouldn’t have been quite as easy as I thought at the time. And the danger of itchy feet is that they can create the next generation of transient people and I’m pretty certain that if I’d moved our children across the world a second time, my old friend ‘parental guilt’ would have taken even stronger root .

As my readers will be aware, I see my life in ‘moments’. There are great moments and there are moments in your life you need to move on from with lightening speed. I have experienced many significant moments in Australia, but in particular, many of the simpler ones – which are always the best.

The ocean has contributed to many of those moments, even though (and the old man will vouch for this) a chlorinated pool holds much more appeal for me these days. Unspoiled beaches, basking in cool water on a 40 degree New Years Day on Paradise Beach, snorkelling on the reef, fireworks in front of the Harbour Bridge, or simply watching the sun set over the ocean are memories I will always treasure. And then there’s the food… In Australia, I can work hard all week – (and it’s a myth that the working life is easier) – and be in Paradise for the weekend.

There is a simplicity of life here and the general happiness and ease of the people is hard to resist. Perhaps borne from the climate, the outdoor lifestyle is very important to Australians and although there are wealthy pockets of Sydney which offer seriously fuck-off houses and elite schooling, the weekend boils down to which beach, how good the surf is and who’s manning the barbeque for most people.

In my experience, success is judged by your lifestyle and you don’t have to earn a lot of money to create an enviable lifestyle.

But, inevitably, you can never eradicate your roots (and nor would you want to), cultural expectations and history and there are qualities of the UK that I will always miss, aside from the obvious like friends and family.

‘Humour’ is the most obvious.

I have met people here who have made me belly-laugh, but it takes more trial and error to find that special, innate connection – probably because it emanates from culture and history – although I could equally contribute the intolerance that comes with ageing to my lack of success, too.

I miss my history and being able to share it with my kids.

And then there’s the distance – being so bloody far away from the rest of the world (and let’s not even mention not having Europe on my doorstep) creates a sense of insularism. If you relied on Australian television, you might never know that anything ever happened in other parts of the world.

But how I would miss the sight of those semi-clad surfers that used to wander down my street, or being able to swim outside almost all year around, or the opportunity of meeting such a diverse, multi-cultured array of people, (many of whom have shared our migration journey and willingly share their beliefs, cuisine and hospitality with us), and the lack of a true class structure.

For the moment, I am proud to call Australia home.

#I’ll Ride With You

#I'll Ride With YouIn the same way that 9/11 changed the face of the US thirteen years ago, the Sydney siege changed the perceived protective mask of Australia yesterday.

Considered by the rest of the world as a sunny, safe haven, the siege reminded us Sydneysiders that no-where is safe from discrimination and terror.

Within minutes of the hostage-taker walking into that cafe in Martin Place, our city was reduced to a war zone, with large sections of the city in lock down, roads gridlocked, the haunting sound of sirens blaring and the persistent whirring of helicopters scouring the skies above.

But two inspiring actions stood out for me yesterday, amid the intense live media coverage that so vividly depicted one of the country’s worst fears being played out.

The first was the Twitter hashtag #I’ll ride with you – a simply worded gesture that symbolised the solidarity and community felt by most Australian citizens towards each other – that we protect each other, no matter what our creed or the provocation aimed at us. #I'll Ride With You

The second was the coming together of religious leaders as a united front, representative all those many different religions, in a mosque at Lakemba – again, proof that religion does not define us, like love, morality and an understanding of the intrinsic differences between right and wrong do.

Since 9/11 and the racial riots in the Sydney suburb of Cronulla nearly ten years ago, there have been persistent rumblings and antagonism towards the Muslim community in Australia, sadly, as there have been in many corners of the world.

We are not perfect as a nation.

It would be nice to say we have created a nirvana where cultures work together and are fully embracing of each other’s ideas, but sadly that is the ideal rather than always the case. Historically, ‘difference’ has created tension within societies and although what we do have in Australia is a wonderful multi-cultural patchwork that forms a society that we should be proud of, occasionally cultures and ideas clash, especially in the face of danger.

It would be reassuring to know that the tide will turn now, after the tragedy that shook us yesterday and those poor hostages caught in the crossfire in that Lindt cafe. And that the lives of those two hostages, so tragically lost, will not have been in vain. But let us hope, above all, that the events that took place yesterday make us question our own judgments, our values and the way we look at others.

Let those events make us think twice before we stereotype.

Because what came out of yesterday, and in particular what the ‘I’ll Ride With You’ Twitter campaign encapsulated, was that the majority of us are simple human beings, with simple needs for basic values. We’re not extreme, fundamentalist crazies. We may come from different cultures and have different religious beliefs, but we share the same integral values of freedom, life, respect, and love for each other.

Yesterday proved that as a community we stick together in the face of danger and refuse to let anyone destroy those shared values.

What Did You Learn From Your Parents? I Learnt About Eating And Drinking Really Well

MY father taught me how to drink alcohol and eat fine food, really well.

 

My education started from the age of about seven, when he would take me out to our local Chinese restaurant on a Sunday, (because my parents were divorced), and we would indulge in the sport of Chinese Food Flicking. A prawn in the lap of the person on the opposite side of the table provided the lowest score; a perfectly-aimed grain of rice in the eye secured you the trophy.


Embed from Getty Images

 

After a week in Hamilton Island, and five days in Sydney in the company of this great man, the temple that was once my body has been transformed into a bloated mass of toxins and excess lardy bits due to the un-heartsmart quantities of alcohol and fine food subjected to it.

 

I have a ‘buffet mentality’ when food and drink are seemingly ‘free’ (or someone else is paying for it)

 

I have no ‘stop’ or ‘full’ button. Rather like the hamster who stores its food in its cheeks, I have stored it all over my body during what has been a no-holds-barred binging session as my father indulged all my food and wine fantasies from one Sydney restaurant to the next.


Embed from Getty Images

 

This food journey began with some memorable lunches and dinners on Hamilton Island and then recommenced more seriously in a six-course degustation menu, courtesy of Captain Cook Cruises in Sydney.

 

The good Captain teased our palates with lobster, duck gnocchi, fillet steak and seared tuna and that meal was followed the very next day by a fish frenzy at the local yacht club, where, genetically incapable of resisting King prawns, NC and I attacked a massive bucket of the critters with our fingers, like piranahs tearing at fresh meat. Then, not content with what Australian cuisine has to offer, our stomachs demanded an Asian infusion and so off we headed to Darling Harbour for another feast, of spiced delights this time, that included beef satay, chilli prawns and caramelized aubergine.

 

I could go on and on and taunt you with detailed descriptions and visual porn of the food fantasies my father helped me sate, but I know that would be cruel.

What Did You Learn From Your Parents?
Did I mention the desserts?

 

Suffice it to say, that the meagre food offerings I made for him, chez-moi (back at the block), in return for his generosity, (offerings the family has labelled as ‘bits and pieces’ or more commonly known as ‘what’s in the fridge’), were embarrassing by comparison.

 

I’m not sure if addiction to fine food and fine wine is a genetic issue, but it certainly seems to be the case in our family. 

 

I had thought that my father’s food indulgences were linked to his recent lifestyle change, dictated by his retirement, when he suddenly found himself in a more comfortable financial position and with more time on his hands and so could treat himself to lunch every day and a whisky or eight at night.

 

Since he left Sydney, my body feels bereft and empty, like that of a woman who has just given birth – accustomed as it was to 3000 calories per day. It still craves that glass or two of sparkling wine as an aperitif at lunchtime, and the perfectly chilled bottle of white wine in the evening that compliments Sydney Rock oysters just so well.

 

It was fun living the life of a wealthy foodie connoisseur for a couple of weeks, but my digestive system is threatening to strike and even my muffin top has raised the alarm. Obviously, weeks of denial, longing and imposed rehab loom ahead for me while I adjust back to the reality of my usual diet of ‘what’s left in the fridge’.

 

Meanwhile, my father has moved onto Dubai where he is no doubt converting the locals to the merits of alcohol as an accompaniment to every meal.

The Bachelor

Call me a sad, vacuous, half-wit but I’m glued to The Bachelor on Wednesday and Thursday nights.

The Bachelor
Photo courtesy of Russell Jenkins at http://www.flickr.com

 

But only for research purposes – OBVIOUSLY – for my thesis on women and modern-day dating practices.

 

I was a ‘Bachelor’ virgin before this series. I’d heard about the hype, of course, but being the staunch feminist that I am, I was appalled that women existed who would subjugate themselves to such a demeaning social experiment on television, and so I denied myself.

 

Then I remembered how much I used to enjoy Big Brother, and it also became harder to ignore the tweets that continually bombarded my twitter feed whenever #TheBachelor aired, and I kind of missed not being part of something which creates so much controversy.

 

So I lost my Bachelor V plates this series.

 

And I DO know that the bachelorettes have CHOSEN to do this show and feminism is about women having choices, but the premise of the show still sits uncomfortably with me, no matter how many times Blake gratuitously takes his shirt off.

 

But in spite of my feminist conscience I still watch it.

 

It might have something to do with this season’s Bachelor, Blake Garvey, who is undisputedly both the thinking and drinking woman’s crumpet. So far he seems perfect. Not only is he tall, dark, handsome and successful, he’s super hot even by my middle-aged standards, (and far from afraid to whip out his guns at every perfect camera angle), worships his mum and family and his biological clock must be ticking loudly because he’s told us on more than one occasion that he wants babies as soon as he finds his princess.

 

And HE WANTS MY BABIES!…I mean, he wants babies.

 

So obviously, he can’t possibly be ‘real’ – but who cares? That’s what entertainment is all about – being able to suspend belief and pretend for a few hours each week that such men might possible exist in another universe. Even I ovulate when he talks about wanting to procreate, and my ovaries were well past their use-by date years ago.

 

And visually the series is a real treat after a hard day at the office and having to stare at the man you’ve been married to for over twenty years. It’s set in some of Sydney’s most beautiful properties and landmarks and if romance is your thing, the producers must have hired the ghost of Walt Disney himself to invent the romantic dates. We’ve had ice-skating in a winter wonderland, extreme sports that test even action man Blake (who seems on occasion as vulnerable as the ladies, which makes us love him even more), buckets of Champagne and oodles of tear-jerking sentimentality.

 

Did I mention how much Blake wants babies?

Sleeping baby
Sleeping baby (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

But this is a reality show and no reality show is successful without a huge dollop of dirt, some serious sordidness and social antagonism to feed its viewers.

 

It’s those uncomfortable parts of the show we all love to hate (that make us cringe awkwardly on the sofa and force us to make polite exits to the kitchen to make excessive cups of tea) – yet secretly love. It’s several weeks into this series and the masks on Blake’s potential harem are beginning to crack – even Mr Perfect has expressed the odd perplexed look on occasion. We’re down to the final ten women now (roughly), although you don’t need a degree in psychology to pick the final line-up of lucky ladies from the start – it’s the mean girls from high school who do most of the bitchy thoughtful commentary about Blake and the other competitors, and without stereotyping, they’re the bigger personalities who no one would dare get into a cat fight with.

 

The humor is subtle in The Bachelor. It emanates from the frozen, bunny-boiler looks of the contestants, the ‘why did she wear that?’ moments and the looks of innate fear that sometimes pass over Blake’s face when his guard of perfection comes down and he inadvertently shows us some personality (or forgets that he’s on telly).

 

The programme is cleverly edited to mislead the public and to cultivate the suspense. Women who should have been ousted in week one, are ominously still there as catalysts and occasionally Blake makes a highly suspect decision at the rose ceremony, (that has obviously come directly from the director), when it comes to which women to save with his roses.

 

The obvious question is: why he is there at all and why are the bevy of beautiful women he is dating there too? If they can’t attract a partner, who the fuck can?

 

But who the fuck cares what their reasons are. This is entertainment, folks!

 

And this gorgeous man does want babies, which makes those of us with weeping ovaries ignore the rights and wrongs of the philosophy of the show.

 

I lie awake at night and worry about whether the women have considered the risk of cold sores. And even though Blake is obviously the perfect man, bigamist Blake doesn’t seem to think there’s anything wrong in playing the field to find his perfect woman, even though the Blake Harem cackles and plans his death, Games of Thrones style around the Champagne cauldron, as soon as the series ends.

 

I’m glad I don’t have to date anymore. It looks truly terrifying. Extreme sports aside, imagine having to wear false eyelashes, smile ALL the time and watch what you eat.

Is The Man Bun Sexy Or Try-Hard?

Man Bun
Man Bun by Munnybear at http://www.flickr.com

I need to discuss the man bun today because they seem to be popping up everywhere in Sydney at the moment.

 

This topic also gives me the perfect excuse to give you ladies the Friday treat of some seriously gorgeous men on my blog.

 

Personally, I think man buns are BLOODY HOT; NC thinks they’re a bit try-hard.

 

I’ve always had a thing for men with long hair – who wouldn’t with Michael Hutchence as the role model of my thirties – and I forced Kurt to keep his long locks up until last year, when he suddenly decided to have them shorn off as an act of rebellion during the Dark Ages.

Never Tear Us Apart
Never Tear Us Apart (Photo credit: badjonni)

 

I felt like Samson.

 

Walk down King St in Newtown and it seems that every other guy under thirty is sporting the man bun with shaved sides.

 

PHWOARRRR!

 

The vote’s still out on this one but I don’t think that you should sport the man bun over thirty-five – or is that manbunnist?

 

David Beckham started it, I believe, and since then it has been cultivated by the likes of a smorgasbord of talented movie eye-candy actOrs such as Chris Hemsworth, Jake Gyllenghal and Leo De Caprio, so it must be FLAMING hot and the style provides the sort of eccentric titillation that sad old cougars like myself, (who are attracted to deep-thinking, creative man), salivate and go weak at the knees over.

 

What's That Bloody Smell?
Photo courtesy of Tony Quinn at http://www.flickr.com

Actually, maybe Beckham was responsible for the Alice band, not the man bun, which never quite took off in the same way, and explains a lot.

 

But the man bun signifies many desirable qualities in men. It signifies that they are comfortable within without being over-confident, a high level of creativity and being unashamedly in tune with their female side – add all those characteristics together and you get uber-hotness.

 

Unfortunately, it would be physically impossible for the old man to grow a man bun unless miracles truly did exist or one of those very expensive hair potions actually worked. Not that he’d ever go for it anyway – he thinks he’s far too macho to wear a pink shirt let alone a bun on the top of his head.

 

Your thoughts, ladies?

 

 

Downsizing Your Dysfunctional Home

3DMLW APartment example
3DMLW APartment example (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, our big news this week is that we’re moving house AGAIN.

 

We’re staying in the ‘safety zone’, which is how Kurt describes our suburb, but we’re taking a massive leap into the unknown for dysfunctionals, and downsizing prematurely to an apartment.

 

There are many reasons for this move, apart from the obvious one that the old man and I are just that little bit too comfortable about being old before our time.

 

The first is the fact that 90% of Sydney rental properties refuse to accept that the Princess is not in fact a dog, and the second relates to our son, Kurt. We have come to the conclusion that secreting our son three floors above us in the attic is not one of our better parenting ideas after all and moving to an apartment will help us police him better develop our relationship with him.

 

The minor fact that I am completely OVER cleaning has nothing to do with it at all.

 

We had the choice of a very nice, large family house in a suburb close-by, but we have grown to love our suburb and think we’re ready for a few luxuries that only an apartment can provide.

 

Downsizing Your Dysfunctional Home
Downsizing Your Dysfunctional Home

We’ve had to lie, OBVIOUSLY, to be allowed admittance into this lovely and as yet, untainted block.

 

We’re still working on how best to conceal the drum kit, and intend to work on the Princess’s barking disorder (when anyone dares breathe in a 3 km radius of our house); Kurt has also promised not to use the roof terrace or the library room as a smoking/party area.

 

So the tension excitement is building slowly as we plan what needs to be organised over the next two weeks.

Lonely drum kit
Lonely drum kit (Photo credit: Wakonda (Emilio Vaquer))

 

There are only two minor issues: the first is to persuade Kurt that this is the right decision for him. He sees (what is a beautiful, secure building) as a potential prison-in-disguise and had rather taken to the other house, complete with music studio/illegal drug den in the attic.

 

He sees having his bedroom on the same floor of us as an invasion of his privacy and has taken to behaving like a caged animal.

 

The other impending issue is that we obviously have to get rid of an enormous amount of our ‘stuff’ and this has provoked the old man to crack a smile on his face for the first time in a very long time. In fact, I’m not certain if he is more excited about the prospect of being the only tenant in the building with an empty storage cage or the option of having the storage cage to escape to in times of dire need. He has spent the past 24 hours walking around our current house, pointing to my precious pieces of furniture and accessories and saying ‘you’ll have to get rid of that too, Lou.’

 

This desire for minimalism fits in with his new philosophy to simplify our lives.

 

We are waiting for him to point at us.

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Winter Blues and Being As Cold As Balls

 

I fucking hate winter.

 

 

 

Winter boots
Winter boots (Photo credit: ohlittleheart)

If I had the choice I’d hibernate for the next four months, but then I know that my family would perish.

 

 

 

I’ve always hated the cold, and as for snow, it’s definitely over-rated. And it’s certainly not possible to look attractive in winter.

 

 

 

In the same way that I could push a child into the jaws of a shark to save myself, I could kill my best friend for some decent Uggs.

 

 

 

I never realized before I migrated to Australia just how much climate affects my happiness and although there are many things I miss about the UK, scraping frost off the windscreen of the car at bitch o’clock on dark, freezing mornings, is certainly not one of them.

 

 

 

I don’t function physically or mentally when I’m cold.

 

 

 

If I just had a British central heating system in my house to get me through the next four months, I’d stop moaning about life completely.

 

 

 

Actually, that’s a lie.

 

 

 

But the problem is that most houses in Sydney really aren’t geared up to the cold.

 

 

 

And what makes it worse is that Sydney-siders seem embrace the winter, unlike us Brits who moan when it’s cold and then when it’s too hot as well. I need someone to indulge me, not tell me how much they fucking love this freezing, fucking weather. 

 

 

 

My friends in the UK laugh at me when I tell them that the temperature has dipped to 15 degrees. It’s easy to forget how quickly we acclimatize. The last time we went back to the UK and it was a warm (!) 17 degree day, I didn’t leave the house without my ski jacket on. When I spotted some young girls cavorting down Oxford St in summer dresses and thongs, it took all my inner strength not to shout out to them to put some sensible clothes on.

 

 

 

When we first arrived in Sydney, softened and spoilt over time by the aforementioned central heating and double brick houses, one of our first homes was this enormous property with no heating. The old man and I would shiver our way through those winter evenings, huddled together on the sofa for warmth. We bought pathetic little fan heaters that reminded me of student life and wouldn’t have heated a doll’s house adequately.

 

 

 

The only time we felt warm was when we remained glued to the 1m x 1m spot directly in front of them and we would negotiate over who would look after the kids in the cold zone.

 

 

 

At times we wondered what the fuck we’d done. All those reality tv shows about Australia had led us to believe that it was hot all year around and we felt duped.

 

 

 

Fortunately, like childbirth, once the sun reappears, it’s much easier to forget the ravages of pain.

 

 

 

I can’t deny that the winter days here aren’t glorious with their blue skies and sunshine and I can often go from ski jacket to sleeveless tee in the space of an hour.

 

 

 

But we still live in a house with no proper heating.

 

 

 

The old man doesn’t realise but the words ‘ducted heating’ could act as a sexual trigger word for me these days, although sadly I am yet to enjoy the reality of it.

 

 

 

We have upgraded, to slow death from poisoning as we inhale the fumes from our gurgling gas heater, which, aside from blocking all sound out from the television as it chugs into life each night, does seem to work – until the old man deems that his personal thermostat is the one that regulates the heat in the room, meaning I have to resort to the dog for heat.

 

 

 

Anyone else feel my pain or do I just need some backbone?

 

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