Posts Tagged ‘Mini-Break of the Mind’

A friend told me he once found himself camping in a remote location with a veritable United Nations of companions. For reasons I can’t quite explain except perhaps through the excessive consumption of alcohol around a campfire, they all took turns standing up and singing their national anthem. And it was decided that the Australian anthem was the Worst Ever, hands down.

I mean, the Icelandic national anthem – for example – might mention something about a small flower of eternity “with a quivering tear that prays to its God and dies”, but it doesn’t go anywhere near the Australian anthem and its “joyful strains” which makes us sound like a nation who simply enjoys having a good shit. And in any case, the Icelandic national anthem (for example) also has a beautiful and rousing tune to recommend it, and not one that’s jumping all over the scale like a seven year old high on E102 colouring like the Australian anthem .

Anyway, they often say that children allow you to look at the world anew, and listening to my (then) six year old Mr Justice singing his nation’s song certainly did that. He transformed the following lines:

“With golden soil and wealth for toil
Our home is girt by sea”


“With golden soil in Welfington
Our home is good by sea”

Before I knew it, I had shared his improvement with the twitterverse. The Sharpest Pencil, not being called The Sharpest Pencil for nothing, was the first to pick up the Welfington scent by tweeting:

“Ask your six year old to take you with him. Sounds like an incredibly good place by the sea.”

And before I knew it, I had announced:

“So @sharpestpencil & I are moving to Welfington. We will write loving, moving blogs about our children back home. And drink margharitas.”

And then:

“Anyone else want to join us? Welfington, though entirely fictitious, has much to offer. For example, four-for-one Cocktail Thursday.”

Before I knew it, the concept of Welfington started to take off and the twitterverse began to buzz with excitement. Here is a (small) sample of what people were saying:

“No nagging spouses in welfington, well I do have a spouse in welfington but it is Hugh Jackman.” (@AngelaPJ)

“Ahhhh, Welfington. Where the drinks are on the house & the bar staff are ridiculously good looking” (The NDM)

“NO KIDS on the Welfington Express & the bar serves hangover-free-mojitos ALL DAY.” (@AussieWaffler)

“There’s no such thing as a hangover in #Welfington and the calories in alcohol don’t actually count!!!” (@M3lizza)

“I’ve heard tell that the township is mostly comprised of attractive, semi-clad young men who “dig” older women.” (TheNDM)

Welfington, Welfington. Such a powerful concept: a place where mothers can go – albeit only while on a mini-break of the mind – where they can forget about the kids and the laundry and the housework and that unidentified puddle in the hallway. Many men already have a place like that in real life: it’s called “The Pub”.

Over the ensuing months, mention of Welfington was made in quiet, longing whispers on the twitterwaves. The dream was kept alive… until a recent exchange between myself and friend Muliercula about daiquiris and beautiful young men fanning palm fronds, caused me to refer her to previous Welfington tweets. 

But when I did a search for the hashtag #Welfington on twitter, there was only an ominous message that said “Older tweets are temporarily unavailable”. And indeed, those older tweets have continued to not be available for weeks now. Weeks! It’s almost like Twitter likes the concept of Welfington as little as any husband who, say, came home to a wife who said ” “Sorry, sweetheart. I haven’t fed, bathed or dressed the children today because I just couldn’t stop sipping gin cocktails through twisty straws in Welfington.”

Which is what has prompted this post. Help keep Welfington alive. I need it, people. I need it so bad. Future posts will show why. If you believe in Welfington, clap your hands! Clap them really hard! Clap! CLAP I TELL YOU!

And then, when you’re done clapping, pass me another calorie-free mojito will you, love? I could really do with one.

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Okay, okay, so it turns out I have osteoarthritis. But please don’t ask me anything about it because I honestly don’t remember anything about my diagnosis other than my doctor saying:

“Looks like you’re getting osteoarthritis… blah blah blah blah… of course it’s easily confused with osteoporosis… blah blah blah… will probably spread across all of your knuckles in both your hands over time… blah blah blah… you could try glucosamine but its success is largely anectodal… blah blah blah… Dennis Lillee… blah blah blah… debilitating pain.”

Now you might thing that many of the “blah blah blah” bits were simply spent watching Mr Justice doing his now-famous chicken dance in the background or sliding off his chair or even doing the chicken dance while sliding off his chair. Try it: it’s not as easy as it sounds.

But quite frankly, I would have been none the wiser even without my darling son’s chicken-dance antics. You see, many years ago in Japan, I developed the sanity-saving ability to go on mini-breaks of the mind while some random stranger took three minutes to spit out the single sentence “Can I please practice my English together with you?”. Unfortunately since that happy time, the mini-breaks have become increasingly involuntary – a good thing for when generating material for my blog but not for when trying to absorb important information.

For example, a friend can start by telling me “Oh my god, NDM, I was just at the supermarket…” and before I know it, I’m off! Away! With the fairies! And returning just in time to hear them conclude “… and they say they probably won’t press charges.” It’s very hard to ask them why when, from all outward appearances, I really looked like I’d  been listening quite intently.

So the terrible truth is that while my doctor was talking, I was looking at Mr Justice and wondering if it was Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius or Chicken Little where all the grown-ups were made to wear mind-control headsets and do the chicken dance and, if I were to be tied to a chair and forced to watch either film in perpetuity, which one would be the less likely to induce chronic psychosomatic diahrea.

And after I returned from this little mini-break to find the diagnosis was over, I decided to try and ask my doctor some carefully worded questions to find out what I’d missed.

“So… uh… do I have osteoarthritis or osteoporosis?” I asked, tentatively.

“Osteoarthritis,” he said, looking at me like I was a moron.

“Um… so… er…. will I be all hunched over and gnarled by the time I’m 40?” I asked (the important question).

The Doctor had a quick look at my DOB on the screen in front of him.

“Not by 40, you won’t.” the Doctor said and got up to show me (and my chicken-dancing son) the door.

“Great!” I thought to myself, as I walked out into the reception area. “I’ll be all gnarled and hunched over by the time I’m 45! And I’ll probably be chair-bound and they’ll force me to watch Jimmy Neutron or Chicken Little and I won’t even be able to make it to the toilet by myself when the diahrrea hits!”

But when I got home, my husband came up with a solution: we move to the coast and start hanging out with surfers because in their culture “gnarly” is a compliment and I’ll be so gnarled that, among their people, I’ll be considered a God.

Yep, them there’s Comedy Gold, husband dear. And why on earth I managed to stay focused and listen to that little pearl of wisdom in its entirety but not my actual diagnosis by a trained physician, I’ll never ever know.

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It’s no secret that my mind likes to go on the occasional mini-break. I’d like to think it’s because I’m basically an “Ideas Person” but, in reality, it’s mostly because I’m so very very bored.  

Just recently I found myself thinking how people working on the front counter at a fast-food joint could always supplement their income by working as a “civil process server” on the side. And then, when they serve people hamburgers and fries, they can also serve them with legal documents such as divorce papers or writs. See? It’s so obvious, I don’t know why more people don’t do it. 

Same could apply to working in a 1970s-style department store, such as “Grace Brothers”, where you can flounce about gaily saying “Are you being served?” to the customers and then, when they say “No, I’m not”, you can suddenly turn all serious and, handing them their divorce papers, say “Well, you are now.”

Of course there’s that small problem of ensuring that the person you need to serve important legal documents to will come to your primary place of employment. You could be waiting a long time, perhaps even decades, if you work in a big city. I guess you could always mail them a “50% discount voucher” for your store, only to be redeemed during the hours of your next shift. But the effort and cost of printing and mailing these might somewhat detract from the simple elegance of the “double serve” as I first presented it.

Also, there would be that legal hurdle of getting them to confirm that they are, in fact, the Right Person before you serve them. I expect your employer might not take kindly to you breaking protocol by saying “Are you [insert name]?” to every woman who came to your register instead of “Welcome to McDonalds, can I take your order please?”. For example. McDonalds are very particular about these things, as a rule. Except at the McDonalds near my doctor’s where the guy on the drive-thru calls me “champ” and says stuff like “Too easy.” Well, it might be “too easy” for him but not for me, okay? Not. For. Me. 

Talking of “too easy”, I can only conclude that it would really would be much easier for civil process servers to serve papers to people working in the service industry because they tend to wear name-tags (and thus are more readily identifiable). Also, the “service” aspect of their job means they should be generally more receptive to strangers approaching them unexpectedly – even those cheerlessly waving summonses under their noses.

Anyway, I guess now that you can serve notices over facebook (really rooly truly in Australia and New Zealand), a more tech-savvy Civic Process Server probably would never bother with my double serve solution ANYWAY.

Except I’m still trying to get trying to get my head around how that’s even possible on facebook? Would you send an anonymous invitation to do “The Bestest Facebook Quiz Ever?” to the person you’re trying to serve? And then, when they take that Bestest Quiz Ever (which they definitely would because taking quizzes is about the only thing that anyone ever does on facebook), it consists of one question and one question only: “Are you [insert their full name]?”. And when they answer “Yes”, another screen pops up with the words “Consider yourself served!” and one of those animated smiley faces blowing a raspberry. And then the summons will be automatically downloaded onto their computer, perhaps even with a few megabytes of hard-core porn just in case the charges you’ve got them up against don’t stick and you’ll have something else to get them with.

At least, that’s how I’d do it. What did I say again? “Ideas person”.

Oh, and just mind-numbingly and most desperately bored.


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When I was younger and still prone to bouts of hippiness, I imagined that, if I ever found myself in need of any kind of advice, I would seek out a Wise Man on some mountain somewhere. And that after several days hard climbing that mountain, I would find myself sitting the feet of a man who didn’t look entirely unlike Grizzly Adams and who imparted the Wisdom of the Ages to me, possibly through the power of song and/or harmonica solo.

I certainly never would have imagined that I would ever find myself, as I did the other day, sitting across a boardroom table from two men in expensive suits with a bowl of individually wrapped Mentos between us and a sweeping view of the city behind us, having merely pushed the elevator button for the “32nd floor” to get there. 

And, most certainly, I would never have imagined – in either scenario – that I would be taking notes about my future financial security with one of those free pencils the kids got to draw on the paper table cloth at La Porchetta. And that it would break half-way through. 

So how the hell did this happen? Because the bank told me to do it (although, admittedly, the pencil was the only thing in my handbag I had to write with other than a squashed easter egg).

“Now, NDM,” I can hear Those People pipe up again in that patronising way of theirs. “If the bank told you to jump off a cliff, would you do it?”

No of course not, people. Sheesh! I really truly had to do it in order to finalise settlement on our investment property. As “guarantor” for my husband’s loan, I was required to seek “independent financial advice” so that I couldn’t later go into court and say “Oh, my husband made me sign that form. What would I know about such matters? I’m Just A Simple Housewife!” and giggle into my ironed and lavender-scented handkerchief. 

So that’s why I found myself “talking money” for One Whole Hour. And not just talk money in a “What if we won the lottery…” fantasy way, but in a sensible “Let’s look at income protection insurance” kind of way. Yes, it really was that stimulating.

It was little wonder then that I found myself going a little mini-break of the mind, as is my way. I began thinking that if I were getting financial advice from Grizzly Adams, how there would have at least been a little bit of excitement since he was on the run from the law and everything. And there was always a chance that some “crazy little critter” might just crawl out of his ample beard. That’s worth staying awake for, surely. 

But then I thought that if Grizzly Adams really was my advisor, I’d probably be thinking “Man, I’m not sure I should be listening to you about what to do with my money if you can’t even afford a razor. And not only does that colleague of yours call himself  ‘Mad Jack’ but he appears to be riding a donkey. I mean, what’s up with that shit?”. 

So I guess that’s why people end up going into the city to meet with cleanly-shaven men about Money – because their fancy offices, nice suits, individually-wrapped sweets and exhorbident charging structures show that they know how to make, keep and use the stuff. 

But I tell you one thing: if I ever need advice on how to tame a bear just by looking at him, I know who I’ll be going to.

They're just Good Friends, okay?

They're just Good Friends, okay?

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Since Dr L and I have been friends, like, forever, we often speak in a kind of shorthand when we catch up and I’m sure that if our conversation was overheard by, say, ASIO agents, it would be pretty much indecipherable, even if they took it back to ASIO HQ and ran it through the Enigma Machine. Although I expect the last 60 years might have seen some advancements in code-cracking technology. Just a guess.

But even the oldest of friends have the occasional misunderstanding.

Just the other night, Dr L was telling me about some crazy high-jinx she’d been up to at a purportedly “highly distinguished academic conference”. What had happened was that she and some other wayward delegates ended up stealing some wine from the conference dinner they had attended. Although, she hastened to add (and I know she would like me to mention this here), it didn’t really count as “stealing” since the wine was included with the meal that had already been paid for through their conference fees. Which, if you look at it in a certain kind of way, might be seen as the same logic that led to the invasion of Poland. For example.

Anyway, one of her friends, she told me, tied a knot in the end of his jacket sleeve and slipped the bottle of wine down there. Apparently, it is standard MO for stealing things at conference dinners – why, you could get a whole cooked chicken down there if you wanted to, according to Dr L. Of course, all I could think of was how greasy a cooked chicken can be and then start praying that my husband never heard about this particular pastime else I end up like those housewives on the ads, scrubbing clothes in the laundry sink and sighing and saying “I just can’t get these chicken grease stains out of this shirt” and have some Laundry Detergent Rep and a camera crew burst through my door to show me the Miracle that is their particular brand of laundry detergent.

Which, if you think about it, is a gross invasion of privacy. I mean, how would they know about my laundry dilemma anyway? Would they have been bugging my house and/or keeping my husband under close surveillance so that the moment they see that whole chicken go down his jacket sleeve, they would put an emergency crew outside my house on standby for when the scrubbing and sighing commences? The mind boggles – or at least my mind did. 

ANYWAY, Dr L was continuing with her story but I was still trying to get my head around the bottle of wine down the sleeve and wondering how her friend managed to slip the bottle down there with his arm in it already and all. And thinking wouldn’t he look a little strange walking around with knot tied at the bottom of his sleeve? Most certainly, he’d have had trouble fitting his arm in the sleeve, even without the bottle of wine as part of the equation. And surely, with his shoulder all hunched up and his bulging sleeve, would that make him look more suspicious than if he had just slipped the bottle under his arm or on the inside of this jacket like a normal person

Unless, of course, he pretended he only had one arm… But then that would have involved a certain degree of premeditation and he would have had to arrive at the meal already pretending because it’s a rare meal where someone can suddenly lose an arm without raising suspicions or even a Health Department enquiry. And, as for deliberately feigning disability to fuel your alcoholism… again, the mind boggles. I mean, what was wrong with these people?

Anyway, my face must have betrayed how appalled (and confused) I was, because Dr L saw fit to clarify that her friend wasn’t actually wearing the jacket at the time, but instead had it casually folded over his arm (with the bottle of wine in it). Which made much more sense, if you think about it.

But in the kind of twist that you wouldn’t have seen coming (I should be very careful with my words here because I suspect Channel 7 or Channel 10 may have copyrighted this type of surprise ending), it turns out that everyone on the coach ride back to their hotel knew that they’d stolen the wine anyway despite their best efforts at concealment. Which was probably down to ASIO, if you think about it.

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A friend of mine used to speed-spell whole conversations with one of his sisters about the other sister. The only thing this other sister could make out would be her own name and she’d be all “Huh? Huh? What?” while her two siblings would just smile menacingly and spell “H-A-H-A-H-A-H-A-H-A”.

My husband and I used to spell words out a lot when discussing things of a delicate or secretive nature in front of the kids. But since Mr Justice has learnt to read, we’ve discovered there is a definite downside to having a literate child in the house. Now, thanks to that little whippet-fast brain of his, he’s already shouting out the word before we’ve even finished spelling it. And we can certainly no longer make reference to something like “the F-word” and have him go off and muse quietly to himself: “Mmmm, let’s see… F… F… what begins with F? Why I do believe it’s Four Fluffy Feathers on a Fiffer-Feffer-Feff.”

And so, we have taken to speaking in Really Bad French when we don’t want the children to understand – as once mentioned in a long-ago post (remember “Open Rage Zoo“? I just re-read it myself and was, over four months after the event, finally able to laugh about it. And then cry a little, too.) Some people might be a little taken aback by my description of our French as “Really Bad”. They might even go so far as to exclaim “Mais c’est une grande suprise, NDM! You studied French until Year 12 and your husband did A-Level French as a young adult in London, so how bad can your French actually be?”

Well let’s just say that whenever we speak it, The Pixie gets Very Cross Indeed and shouts “STOP TALKING IN CHINESE!”, which I suspect most native-french speakers would shout if they happened to overhear us. If you’re still not getting the picture, let’s just also say that whenever I, personally, speak French it is the linguistic equivalent of deliberately putting a bumper box of tissues in with the dark clothes wash – completely unforgivable. 

And of course the other big problem with all this is that not everybody is as try-lingual as my husband and I. When I find myself in conversation with another adult and want to say something – how you say – risqué in front of the C-H-I-L-D-R-E-N, I end up blurting out something like “Parlez-vous français?” in desperation.

And the other adult gives me this look that kind of says “Oh you pretentious twat, NDM. We had you down as a Salt-of-The-Earth type  but here you are trying to talk French to me. Well. I. Just. Don’t. Like. It. Missy.”

And I’m left feeling all sheepish and wishing that I was a character in a Tolstoy novel instead of an Australian housewife so that I might be merrily parlez-ing le français with my peers at a ball in St Petersburg and would have a nice long complicated name that it makes everyone have to look at the list at the front of the book every time I am mentioned in the book to remember who the hell I am.  And yes, my brain often goes off on these little tangents. It’s the closest thing I ever seem to get to a Real Holiday. 

In any case, our French – however bad – is certainly useful for discussing all manner of subjects, from asking where the chocolate biscuits are hidden to making remarks about other people that I wouldn’t necessarily want to be repeated back to the subject (as children often do, little parrots that they are). Although, one of these days, Mr Justice is bound to go up to someone and say “My mother says you are a imbécile complet.” So I’ll be made to look bitchy AND pretentious. And it will totally serve me right. 

In the meantime, Mr Justice is definitely getting his own back now that he is studying Italian at school. The other day he said to me, as cool as a cetriolo, “Mi chiamo [Mr Justice]. Come ti chiami?”

Huh? Sorry, sweetheart. I don’t speak Italian.

“That’s okay, mummy”, he replied in that tone of voice that suggested he might have patted me on the head if he was tall enough. And I’ll be darned if I didn’t then hear him mutter “H-A-H-A-H-A-H-A-H-A” under his breath…

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Personally, I blame it all on having read Orwell’s “1984” at too young an age. To put it plainly: my fear of rats makes The Pixie’s brief bout of galeophobia look like shark-fancying (see “All At Sea“). My fear helpfully extends itself to mice, too –  if only because I have no way of distinguishing them from rats. Apparently you can tell by the width of their tails and the number of nipples they have, but since I’m really not planning on ever being that close to one to actually do any measuring or counting, the distinction is still completely lost on me. 

So when Genghis Cat casually sauntered in with a live mouse in his mouth early the other morning, my reaction was less than mature. If someone were to ask for the transcript of that moment it would read something like “Eeeeewwwwweeoooooooo aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Farrrrrrrrk!”. Which truly represented exemplary role-modeling in showing my children how to deal with their fears.

Upon hearing this profoundly pithy exclamation, ol’ Genghis dropped the mouse, which limped as quickly as it could under the fridge. Genghy then proceeded to sniff vaguely around the “Dust Baffle” area and, realising that there would be enough biscuit crumbs under the fridge for the mouse to live off for a year, he wandered off with the distinct air of someone whose work here was done. Panicked, I immediately rang my husband at work for advice – replacing more traditional telephone greetings with a strangled “Faarrrrrkkkkk!”. My husband calmly and quickly came up with a plan of action for me. 

“All you need to do,” he said. “Is move the fridge, grab the mouse, put it in a plastic bag and then take it outside and drop a brick on it.”

Now let’s just run through that action plan step by step:
1. Move fridge
2. Catch mouse
3. Put mouse in plastic bag
4. Drop a brick on it

Shuh! Like any of that was going to happen. Well, maybe I could have done Step 4 but without completing steps 1-3 it would have been as pointless as, well, dropping a brick on an empty plastic bag.

Luckily, my husband pretty much realised his plan wasn’t going to work the minute he’d presented it to me. My reaction no doubt had something to do with this realisation – again, that transcript would have read something like “Uh, guh, guh, guh, can’t, uh, do, uh, it, aaggghhhhhhhhh.” Under normal circumstances, he would have advised me to leave the house with the children for the day and then sorted it out himself after work. But the problem was that on this particular day, I was picking my husband up from the city and we were all driving straight off to a special holiday destination for a few days. And if the mouse stayed and died under the hot fridge in the hot weather, it would have effectively turned the house into one giant Dutch Oven. Clearly something had to be done and I wasn’t the person to be doing it, blubbing like a baby as I was.

In two words, the answer was Uncle B. 

Now, the definition of True Friendship is being able to call someone with a mouse-in-the-house problem before 7am. KT – wife of Uncle B – answered the phone in a cheerful manner – or as cheerful as someone whose children habitually wake before 5:30am can manage. But because Uncle B was still sleeping (having worked til midnight the night before) she immediately offered her mouse-removal services instead, fearless girl that she is, and was there on my doorstep with her children less than ten minutes later. 

Immediately, KT set to work. She bravely approached the fridge, while I rather less bravely put a closed glass door between me and any mouse action – although, in doing this, I cunningly claimed to be “nobly protecting” KT’s very curious daughter, Cyclone Bella. Since the fridge was too darn heavy for her to move it by herself, KT instead rocked it slightly, and then proceeded to poke the injured mouse with a long stick for ten long minutes. Which got me wondering about how when we say things like “more chocolate and champagne than you can poke a stick at”, it suggests a glorious abundance of something, whereas “more injured mice than you can a poke a stick at” doesn’t quite have the same happy overtones. Because if it was a matter of “want to” rather than “can” when it came to poking those injured mice, the desired number would definitely be NONE. Which is not the case with the champagne and chocolate. Although I would obviously prefer to consume them than poke them, stick or no. Which is all just a good example of the little mini-breaks of the mind I go on when facing my greatest fears. 

ANYWAY, after all that brave poking of the stick, KT had to admit defeat and went home to wake up her husband. Once she’d returned with Uncle B and he was on the job, KT and I were both free to go hide in the front bedroom with the children – and with that bedroom door firmly shut and a story tape on the stereo, we created ourselves a kind of Disney Bubble which could not be penetrated by the mouse’s (or Uncle B’s) screams back in the kitchen.

Less than five minutes later, the Dreadful Dead had been done, the corpse had been disposed of, and I was making suburban hero Uncle B a Very Strong Coffee Indeed. And because he’d had to get down the microwave from on top of the fridge in order to move it, I took the opportunity to give the microwave a good wipe inside and out, plus the top of the fridge, before he put everything back. Which just shows that the mouse didn’t die in vain and from such adversity came a nice clean microwave and fridge top and the reminder of how lucky I am to have such Great Friends.

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