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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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When I was in the Honours year of my English degree, I paid a visit to my supervisor in a flood of tears.

“For every one thing I read, I realise there’s another fifty things I haven’t read and need to read,” I sobbed. “It’s overwhelming. All that… knowledge… that I don’t know…

My supervisor was very sympathetic.

“That’s a sign of a good student,” she said. “It’s the mediocre ones who think they know everything.

She was right. I was a very good student – if by “good student” you mean one who bailed out of academia at the first opportunity and to this day remains unsure of the meaning of the word ‘discourse’ and describes Post-Modernism” as “something that sort of happened some time after Modernism”.

So yes, I pretty much took the “I’ll never know it all, so why even bother?” approach. It has served me well throughout my life and has made me the person I am today –  as opposed to some other, much more successful person.

In any case, anyone who has ever visited “The House That Ate Paris” will know this is definitely my approach to housekeeping. For one thing, I find cleaning this house much like peeling an onion, one brown layer at a time: by the time I get to the white bit, I’m weeping openly, only to then have it turn brown almost immediately (which – to stretch the metaphor somewhat – onion certainly does when you fry it. Not that I fry my house, mind. That be arson.).

My father, in stark contrast, has always had an amazing thirst for knowledge and is completely undaunted by mess – as I rediscovered during his recent interstate visit to lend a helping hand in my husband’s [absence].

The first three days, he dutifully did all the dishes and hung out (and then brought back in) all the laundry. By the last day of his visit, he was so on top of the situation, he was virtually washing the dishes before I used them.

That’s when the moment I had been dreading happened.

“Where’s your broom?” he asked, casually. “I thought I might do some sweeping.”

Oh, shit. I thought. Anyone who’s ever spent any time perusing the Gallery of Domestic Godlessness, would know that an activity such as sweeping was likely to uncover something like this:

So next thing I knew, I was desperately trying to clean up things before he started cleaning them – yes, I caught a glimpse of what it must be like to have a cleaner.

Two hours later, I found myself down on my hands and knees in the kitchen, scrubbing the bottom of the aging kitchen cupboards with methylated spirits. This was not a place I had ever thought I’d find myself, and what’s more, now that I found myself there, I wasn’t too sure that I liked myself any more.

My father walked in having just vacuumed under the loungeroom rug.

“Let’s make a pact,” I pleaded. “If you stop, I’ll stop… Please stop.

My father agreed and I immediately downed tools and took to my bed with a copy of Who Weekly to recover. My father, meanwhile, relaxed and unwound by sharpening every single pencil that the children owned. (“Mummy, why is this pencil so pointy?” The Pixie asked me later, which reminded me of the time she’d pointed at the iron and said, somewhat accusingly, “What’s that?”)

And later that afternoon, the kids and I sadly took my father to the airport and drove back through the falling darkness to our sparkling clean house. It felt good to be home.

Twenty-four hours later, of course, it was almost like his visit had never happened…

__________________________________

Thanks for all your help, Dad.

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Someone once told me that before you name a child you should stand on the back door step and shout out the name repeatedly to see how it felt.

Obviously, nobody had ever done the backdoor step test before naming my childhood dog ‘Fish’. I should add here that Fish came to us already named so no member of my family was actually responsible for her name, but still. Standing in the middle of a park yelling “Fish! Come here!” to a dog is just not cool, no matter which way you look at it.

Anyway, one day Fish fell in love – in the way that bitches do when they’re on heat – with a local dog. We called this dog ‘Big Dog’ because, well, he was big and he was a dog. Big Dog was drawn to Fish – in that way that male dogs are drawn to bitches on heat – and took to hanging outside our property a lot.

One night, my father woke suddenly and flung open the back door in time to catch Fish and Big Dog  in flagrante delicto (or “At It”). Big Dog was so startled by my father’s sudden shouting that he took off before he’d finished, dragging poor Fish along with him all the way to the fence, where he finally extricated himself and jumped for freedom.

Sadly, Fish never saw Big Dog again and 62 days later, she gave birth to seven puppies and spent the remainder of her life sighing with the distinct air of someone who had been extremely hard done by.

Chance would have it that a recent incident made me think of this story. As it would.

I was just finishing the dishes when my friends KC and MM arrived (bearing wine) and I showed MM the two cups I had found, trapped together in an act of unholy union, who I had been trying to rent asunder all day.

“Should I be soaking them in hot water or cold water?” I asked MM.

“Hot water makes it expand, so … uh… yes,” MM replied, somewhat distracted. He had only just arrived and was still unpacking the wine (there was a lot of it).

“Really? I’ve had it soaking for a while now and it’s still stuck,” I remarked and started running it under the cold water tap to no avail. “Should I put it in the freezer?”

“I think that would just make it worse,” MM said. He was  no doubt thinking – like I was – of that scene in Dumb and Dumber where either Jim Carrey or that actor who I always think is Bill Pullman but who isn’t Bill Pullman got his tongue stuck to a chairlift pole.  But actually, I think it was probably just me thinking that. MM is a bit more highbrow and was probably just thinking of one of the later Police Academy movies in a totally unrelated fashion – as is his wont.

I was just about to put the cups aside in the hope that the situation would resolve itself when KC entered the kitchen.

I explained the situation to her.

“No, not warm water! That’ll make the cups expand,” she said. “Cold water didn’t work, eh? What about the freezer?”

“You know, you’re pretty much saying exactly the opposite of what I said,” MM remarked.

And so of course, like any husband and wife, they had to fight it out, tug-o-war style…

… but to no avail.

“I think you’ll just have to call it your ‘Double Cup’,” KC concluded, with the air of somebody who’d found a Proper Solution for the problem.

However, my face must have shown that hell would freeze over before I could drink out of two cups fucking, because she secretly kept working on the problem for the next half an hour. Finally, using methods unknown, she freed them.

Phew! Our problem seemed to be over, but then…  62 hours later…

*Sigh*

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I love my husband. I truly do. All this time I thought he didn’t do much about the house but now that he’s gone away on his [blah blah sex tour... blah blah blah], I’ve realised he does do quite a lot.

For one thing, he generates a lot of laundry and dishes.

Also, he can DE-declutter a freshly-decluttered surface in seconds flat simply by emptying his pockets. It’s like magic but really really annoying.

He also is very good at staying up just a little later than me and waiting until I’ve just gone to sleep before coming to bed, taking care to knock a teetering pile of CD cases onto the floor and bang his knee on the bed-end to ensure I’ve been completely woken up.

But seriously, I have missed him and his contribution to the household – and not just the piles of glittering gold coins he leaves in his wake that save me from ever having to use an ATM and keep me in coffee and cake.

The fact is I’ve been doing *everything* in his absence. Every dish, every item of clothing, every tooth in each child’s head is only clean thanks to my hard efforts and mine alone. And I’ve helped my mood considerably by muttering “Do I have to do EVERYTHING around here??” as I’ve done it. God knows how single parents cope. They must be saints or on valium. Or both.

Anyway, in the spirit of doing EVERYTHING, I’ve done some other things.

Firstly, I’ve posted a poëm that I wrote especially for my other blog site Poëgatory while completely drunk (see my post “Poëgatory” for an account of how-the-hell this site came into being and “O Geisha Moon” for the poëm itself). Yes, it’s come to that. I mean, what is wrong with you people? Don’t you want to relive the agony and humiliation of adolescence by sending in your highschool poetry for me to publish on the internet? Honestly.

Secondly, I’ve had to post photos of my own domestic squalor in a Special Autumn Edition of the Gallery of Godlessness because the only person who has responded to my repeated calls for contributions (by “repeated” here I mean “two”) was the mysterious NotYourMother. And even then she sent me a photo of a mess that she herself had no part in creating. Sheesh.

Finally, I drew my own goddamn Box Ted cartoon and published it on my so-called husband’s so-called blog. I mean, I’ve been railing at him for months about updating the thing because abandoned blogs make me feel really sad and lonely (in the same way DVD menus make my husband feel sad and lonely). I’m sure I’ve crossed some boundaries there by publishing my own content on another person’s blog, but really: Whoopy Fucking Shit.

So there you go. I’ve done it all. ALL OF IT. Oh, except leave comments on this post. Surely I don’t need to do that too… or do I?

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As my husband set off on his [Asian sex tour with the local rugby club], I realised with no small amount of horror that he’d left me with just three bottles of low-alcohol/low-joule sparkling wine to last me for twelve days. After some quick calculations, I worked out that meant he’d left me with less than one standard drink per day. Yes, that was per day, not per hour.

I panicked.

Of course, I’d like to add here that I am both capable of surviving twelve days with my children without alcohol in my system and of buying my own wine from the local Liquor Superstore, but there’s a principle involved here. Somewhere.

This wasn’t the first alcohol crisis I’d had to weather this week. My Annual Night Out with the Dashing Solicitor last Sunday saw us accidentally order a bottle of Sparkling Red, something the DS had obviously never encountered in the top London restaurants he usually frequents, as evident by his polite exclamation of “WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT?”.

“Oh, it’s sparkling red. Sometimes it’s quite drinkable,” I said, all the while thinking that the words “sparkling” and “red” should generally only be put together when describing the shoes Judy Garland wore in “The Wizard of Oz”.

We both took a sip.

“It’s like sparkling Ribena!” The DS all but spat his mouthful out, utterly appalled.

“With medicinal highlights!” I added, swallowing mine with some difficulty.

Before we’d even finished our first glass, the DS was already getting ready to leave, the rest of the bottle left untouched in its bucket.

Now, I’ve never left a bottle of alcohol undrunk like that. Although there was that one time at a party when my Mother’s Group made the spontaneous decision to all tip the “sweet shit” we were drinking into the garden and move onto something a bit more “Brut” or even “Brut de Brut”, which I’ve secretly always thought sounded a bit like Randy Macho Man Savage’s French nemesis.

Anyway, despite my misgivings, the DS insisted we leave that bottle behind and relocate ourselves to an establishment which would never dream of serving such a swill and would instead served us a chilled bottle of 2003 Louis Roederer Vintage Champagne with a suitably deferential smile. Which is exactly what we did and what we drank. And for someone who had thought ‘Roederer’ was Roger Federer’s J-Lo name up that point, I enjoyed it immensely.

Of course, now that my husband has gone, I’m wondering if I should have taken the DS to the local Liquor Superstore instead and asked him to buy me two dozen of the usual cheap crap I drink for the same price. You know, just sayin’.

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