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Archive for April, 2010

I mostly grew up in an Australian city widely acknowledged as the most isolated capital in the world and one that boasts the largest number of serial killers per capita. For the purposes of this blog, let us call this place “Perth”.

It’s been eighteen years since I last lived in Perth, but at heart, I am still a Perth Girl. Not necessarily through choice, mind you. It’s Facebook that does it to me.

Whenever I log onto that Hallowed Site, I am faced with an endless stream of “Friend Suggestions”, the vast majority of whom are from Perth and who share at least seven mutual friends with me – all from Perth, too, of course.

Yep, those six degrees of separation are reduced down to a cosy -2 degrees in Perth. Let’s put it this way: if you know two people from Perth, the chances are that they are either related or have slept with each other. Or if not, one of them is related to someone the other’s slept with. Or vice versa. But hopefully they are not related and sleeping with each other – although I’ve heard tell that happens quite a lot South Of The River.

Even when I lived my furthest away from Perth, I could not escape the place.

In my first full-time job in London, I took over from a (British) woman whose best friend was from Perth. Turns out that this best friend and I had both worked at Cinema City McDonalds at the same time and shared another friend who was last seen in London being thrown out of a gay nightclub for having sex with her boyfriend under a table (which isn’t behaviour specific to Perth but just made for a more interesting anecdote, don’t you think?).

Moreover, it was in London that I met a South-of-the-River Perth boy and ended up marrying him and having three children with him. (That’s my husband, in case you were wondering).

And then there’s this Perth story:

One afternoon, I was sitting around drinking beer in Covent Garden with my friend GT (a fellow Perth exile), and another friend (non-Perth) called Mr M.

“I have a friend who works around here,” I mentioned casually.

“So do I,” GT replied. I sensed a competition.

My friend is a graphic designer,” I said.

“So is my friend,” GT rejoined.

“Well, my friend’s name is Marc with a ‘c’!” I shouted.

“SO IS MINE!” GT shouted back.

And we both furiously started digging around our wallets only to pull out matching business cards for the same ruddy person. Who also happened to hail from Perth.

Our friend Mr M was a little frightened.

“What the fuck just happened there?” he said.

“You, my friend, have just witnessed a Genuine Perth Moment,” I replied, tucking the business card back in my wallet. After all, I’d need it for the next time I talked to somebody from Perth.

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While my husband was away on his [Asian sex tour], I invited my friends MM and KC over for a barbeque. (In case you were wondering, my husband’s back now and complaining of fatigue and blisters on his feet. I mean, what the fuck?)

However, when they arrived bearing sausages and booze, I had to admit that I didn’t even know how to turn the damn barbeque on. It was a low point in my afternoon.

Now, I should say here that I’m sure I’d be a very competent barbeque-er if I’d ever been given the chance. The way my husband goes on about it, it’s like some kind of Secret Men’s Business – a complex, time-consuming task that can only be done by a man with a beer in his hand (“in case of sudden fires”) and no kids underfoot (“It’s a matter of Health and Safety, ma’am.”) and a group of onlooking males. I mean, let’s face it: a dozen sausages on a hotplate need constant and careful adult supervision. Obviously.

When I’ve challenged him on this, my husband admitted it’s all just an opportunity for the menfolk to talk about things that they really want to talk about but can’t when women are present. Apparently, those ‘things’ can be summarised as “cars, chicks and guns”. Oh, and complaining about how their wives are always complaining about how difficult it to be looking after the kids all the time – all while the wives *are* inside looking after the kids.

Honestly, it’s amazing I agree to host barbeques as often as we do.

Anyway, turns out that MM – the Heir Apparent to the Barbeque Chef role simply by virtue of his gender – didn’t want to touch my husband’s barbeque. Apparently it’s akin to drinking another man’s beer, sleeping with his wife or, worse still, wearing his underpants.

KC, however, had no such hesitation.

“Come on, we can do it!” she said, and we went out to look at the barbeque where we helpfully found instructions printed on it. Yes, instructions. We followed them carefully (“switch on the gas bottle, push in the knob and turn it”) and lo! we had ourselves a sizzlin’ hotplate in no time.

“And he makes it seem so complicated… Ha!” KC said fifteen minutes later, as she brought inside a tray of perfectly cooked sausages.

And indeed, those were the best sausages I’d ever eaten. They were the Sausages of Gender-Equality, despite their phallocentric appearance and all. Some might even push things too far here by saying those sausages represented the emasculation of generations of Male BBQ Oppressors, but not I. I am far too tasteful to go there.

Anyway, the day after my husband had returned from his [trip], he found an excuse to cook something on his precious barbeque. I took this opportunity to boast about how KC and I had managed to light the thing and how KC had cooked all the sausages and even cleaned the hotplate for him after she’d finished.

“She seemed to think it’d been a while since you’d cleaned it, which I thought was being rather generous. I mean, have you ever cleaned it?” I asked.

“No way! If you clean it then when friends bring ’round vegie burgers, they won’t taste like meat,” he said. I couldn’t tell if he was joking or not.

“Anyway,” he added. “She might have done it, but she didn’t do it properly. I found a serious breach of Health & Safety regulations. She forgot to turn the gas tap off.”

“It didn’t say that on the instructions!” I protested.

“What instructions? We menfolk don’t need instructions!” my husband exclaimed, reminding me of the time he’d tried to put an Ikea Vika Furuskog desk together without the instructions and ended up making a Bjärnum shoe rack. “Also, you only need to give it a quarter-turn and not virtually twist the whole cap off. It took me half an hour just to twist it all the way back on!”

Or rather, it took half a minute for him to twist it on and the rest of the time to stand about and drink some more beer. And ain’t that the truth.

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My kids get angry with me when I refer to the local DVD rental place as a “video store”. Apparently, it offends their Gen Z sensibilities – along with any mention of “record shops” or the movie “Star Wars”.

Anyway, I’m going to risk their wrath here by saying that the other day I returned our weekly rentals (six for six dollars!) to the local video shop.

I was careful to make sure that I was, in fact, returning a total of six DVDs and that all cases had both the disk and the paper insert in them. I have learned this the hard way, having returned DVDs in the past without one or the other. But never without both, I’ll have you know. Because returning a completely empty DVD case would be just silly. Ha! As if I’d ever do that! Okay, so yes, I have done that. But just the once, mind. Just the once.

When I got home, I found one of the DVDs sitting on the kitchen table, as if to mock me. But I’d returned six! SIX! I’d counted them and everything!

In a flash of realisation, I rang the video shop and explained how I thought I might have accidentally returned one of my own DVDs instead of the shop ones.

The man on the phone, who said his name was Damien, was very cagey about it.

“And?” he asked, somewhat suspiciously.

“And, well, did you happen to find any DVDs returned that didn’t belong to the shop?”

“Yes, I have one here,” was his reluctant response. A silence followed, which I soon realised I was supposed to fill.

“Ah, I’m not really sure which DVD I’ve accidentally returned. You see, we have a lot of them… ” I said.

More silence. I was *this close* to saying “Just throw me a frickin’ bone here, mate, and let’s both get on with our lives… ” but didn’t, because I knew that it was this man -  and this man alone – that stood between me and the safe return of our disk – whichever one it happened to be.

“I’m assuming, though, that it was one of the kids’ DVDs?” I ventured tentatively. 

“Yes, it is a children’s title,” he replied with the kind of tone that implied he might break into “Three words. First word: two syllables” at any moment.

This time I kept silent. He obviously couldn’t take his own medicine because he cracked soon enough.

“It’s a film based on a Doctor Seuss book…” he suddenly blurted out.

“Then it’s Horton Hears A Who!” I exclaimed jubilantly.

“Yes, that’s it,” he said, with just the merest hint of defeat.

“Could you please put it aside and I’ll come collect it tomorrow?”

“Yes, I’ll be here between 10 and 6.”

“So I should ask for ‘Damien’?”

“I’m the only person rostered on.”

“So I’ll know who you are because you’ll be the guy behind the counter, right?” I joked.

“Yes,” he replied. The fact that he was the only person rostered on for 8 hours was obviously not a joking matter.

And there ended the conversation.

It all got me thinking. At first I thought Damien was being so funny about the whole thing because there are people out there taking advantage of mistaken returns. You know, claiming them as their own and then flogging them on ebay. I mean, all those phone calls they’d have to make and all that driving around fraudulently collecting the DVDs would be totally worth it for the $0.99 they’d make per disk (plus postage). Like, totally.

And then the penny dropped. I realised that Damien’s shop probably relied on mistaken-returns for a lot of its new stock. I mean, the place still has VHS tapes for rental, for god’s sake, which a) gives a license to people like me keep calling it a ‘video shop’ and b) can’t be a sign of a thriving business, right?

Hot damn, no wonder Damien was so damn cagey.

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