Thursday, December 16, 2010

Six White Schooners

I’m a bit Grinchy at the mo.

I used to like Christmas once upon a time. Before it turned into ‘Chrissy’ and took all of December to celebrate.  Before cards turned up in the mail that look like they cost five hundred for a dollar at the Reject Shop and say “Have a wunnerful Chrissy from all of us” inside. Christmas has gone Bogan on us.

Think I’m cynical?

Go on. Round half a dozen suburban Aussie youngsters and ask them what Christmas means and see if you get answers like “to remember Santa’s birthday”, “to get a new Wii/Xbox/Nintendo” or “to eat heaps and watch Aunty Cheryl get wasted and jump in the pool in her knickers”. Apparently Chrissy doesn’t need to be on the 25th anymore. People now say, “We’re doing Chrissy this Sunday coz we’re off down the coast”. It’s like Yuletide Month.

Being a bit agnostic and apathetic myself, I asked our adolescent (the BHG) if she believes in Christmas:
BHG: Duh! Like… who doesn’t?
Me: Lots of people around the world actually.
BHG: Well they’re dopey. If you don’t believe you don’t get presents.
Me: That’s Santa, not Christmas itself.
BHG: Same same (eye roll).
Me: So if you believe, tell me…would you like to dress and Mary or Joseph for a mock front yard nativity scene?
BHG: Like… LOL. As IF!
Me: Like…Seriously. And which church service would you like to attend? Being a Christian and all suddenly?
BHG: ROFL. Like you have to go to church at Christmas.
Me: Well once upon a time people did. Christmas being a religious holiday and all.
BHG: Nah… I’m good just with the present side of things. Can I have mine early seeing as though Christmas goes for all of December? And do we have to go all greeny again this year and ‘reject’ (said with a tone) wrapping paper? And I don’t want one of those stupid charity goats to help some poor family in Africa. How many of the grandparents do you think are good for an Itunes voucher this year if I tell them how to buy one?

Hmm. I’ve obviously done some excellent child-rearing there. Deck the halls with boughs of gold parenting stars.

Remembering back to my childhood Chrissies, I can see her point. It WAS all about Santa, wrapping paper, presents, food… lights… Hmmmm. Maybe we have a cultural problem here.

In an attempt to redeem my parenting points, I decided to research some ultimate Bogan Chrissy stuff to see whether Aussies in general just do Chrissy differently to what we see on Telly (a la the Brady Bunch special that runs every year) or whether we've just buggered it up in our house.

I think Christmas for Bogans is actually about minimalism.

As in effort. It’s hot. We’ve all had a big year, blah blah. So we don’t want to go to a lot of trouble, us Bogans. We go look at other people’s Christmas lights because it’s easier than putting up our own. With any luck we don’t have to ‘host the family Christmas’, because quite frankly it’s easier just to take a Sara Lee cheesecake  along to someone else’s house. Whoever owns a pool, a barbie and a dishwasher usually qualifies.

My mum used to have some traditional Aussie Christmas things that she’d cook. Being a Dutch immigrant they were all found in the CWA cookbook, but never-the-less, impressive each year. Like the boiled pudding that took five million hours to make. I have the instructions. I did it once. Didn’t taste the same and was a pain in the arse to make. I found a new recipe this year that I’m calling Bogan Cake. What you do is soak a kilo of mixed fruit in a litre of chocolate milk overnight, add two cups of self-raising flour the next day and bake it. Voila! Chrissy cake Bogan style!! In fact, if you wrap them in Reject Shop cellophane and put that sparkly silver ribbon on, they double as a gift. Noice!

Brad the Tradie is always Grinchy.
Being self-employed he is quite happy to call off all holidays except Australia Day and ANZAC Day (his religion is Capitalism). So we’ve made a pact. We’re going to spend next Chrissy in the Northern Hemisphere, where they apparently still call it Christmas in some parts, have snow, roasted chestnuts on an open fire (in Oz an open fire will get you a fine from the Ranger at this time of year), silent nights (ohhhh for a silent night!) and families gathered round drinking egg nog and being pleasant to each other tugging gently at ribboned gift-boxed mittens. Then we'll be able to truly evaluate our data set.

Being newly retired, I’ve had the opportunity to absorb some Northern American culture via daytime TV.

And besides the Oprah hoo-ha I’ve noticed that Ellen’s been giving away heaps of stuff to audience members each day leading up to Christmas. Why do these people go mental over a kitchen tool or a plasma telly? Do they sell the freebies on Ebay and then go on a Caribbean cruise? I guess it’s the spirit of giving (or advertising), but it’s getting kind of annoying watching all these people get stuff they don’t really need. One year when the BHG was young and particularly ungrateful at Christmas (she COUNTED the presents and sighed 'there's only nineteen!'… grrr) we made her pick an unopened present to give to charity. Maybe Ellen should make the audience members give up one of their gifts to put under the Kmart wishing tree. I know that task certainly made the BHG more appreciative of gifts, however few and cruddy ("Oooo!!! Look! A bag of Twisties! Great! Please don't make me give them to a homeless person!!!").

I’ve been avoiding ‘the shops’ lately. It’s like there’s a secret tribe of Bogans and old people living somewhere that only come out to the mall in December in search of tinsel and nasty Christmas T-shirts (and baby Santa outfits strangely). On an outing the other day (for necessities only) I was zoomed into by a fat person in a motorised scooter! Isn’t the point of being obese to do more walking? And who invented those stupid kid-sized shopping trolleys that bang into your legs? Or decided that shopping centres are a good place for Santa to hang out? On Saturday in our quite poorly airconditioned Big W the Sad Santa looked like all he wanted for Christmas was Prozac. And why do people insist on using the self-serve registers when they DON’T KNOW HOW? And is the middle of the haircare products aisle really the right place for people to catch up and gossip? Would a backyard not be a better place to discuss their child’s year at school and recent acquisition of a second-hand campervan? And seriously, I hate it when pimply sixteen year olds wearing flashing reindeer antlers tell me to “have a luvly Chrissy won’t cha!” as they hand me the docket. Makes me want to go sit on Sad Santa’s knee and ask for an axe.

There is a saving grace in my Bogan Chrissy.

I’m through to the final round in being selected as a Summer Ambassador for a brand of beer called Hahn White. This non-paying gig essentially results in being gifted with free beer, glasses and T-shirts to share with others during the party season. Figure I could earn some popularity points in the suburb. Nothing spells ‘we’re new, gotta love us’ like an invite to a party with free beer! Six White schooners anyone? BYO prawns and pav. Isn't Christmas about indulgence? Bugger it. Let's get a pasta salad from Woolies as well.

So, from Blossy, anytime in December, whichever day you deem fit… I wish you a Bogan Chrissy and a wasted New Year. May the holiday force be with you. If not, just turn on the cricket (pretend you don’t care that we’re being crapped on by the Poms), hide under the doona in an air-conditioned room with a box of Lindt Balls and wait for mid-January. See you in rehab!

Six White Boomers - traditional Australian Christmas song

Thursday, December 2, 2010

If I Could Turn Back Time

If you could turn back time, if you could find a way, what would you change?

Even though I quite like my life the way it is, I sometimes fantasise about my ‘parallel lives’. You know, the lives you’d be living if you’d changed just ONE little thing. Like a ‘choose your own adventure’ book. If you took one path instead of another, or been born sometime else, somewhere else, what would’ve happened? Like… if I’d been born into royalty last century, would today’s Queen wear leopard print?

What if you could just change something from high school?

Would I really have paid attention in Maths classes? Would a success maybe be something else besides bartering deals with Science nerds in exchange for help with Shakespeare? If I could turn back time I wouldn’t have wasted valuable playground flirting time with a certain young man who I now know is GAY. I certainly wouldn’t have bothered feeling bad about getting a C (I don’t get C’s…) in P.E. in Year 8 (Do I LOOK LIKE I’m good at hurdles? Long jump? Anything athletic except Javelin?) I wouldn’t have bothered working in a supermarket on Saturdays for $4.30 an hour when I could’ve been swimming in the river. I may not have even spent quite so much time keeping an accurate economics journal with weekly snippets from the Financial Review. (But quite frankly, in those if you weren’t having nooky on the riverbank or playing football there wasn’t much else to do except study and sunbake covered in vegetable shortening). And I definitely wouldn’t have spent years believing I had fat thighs, bad hair and unacceptable feet.

This past Saturday, as we drove to ‘the Hills’ to Brad the Tradie’s high school reunion, I asked him the question. What would he change if he could go back? Not much apparently. In fact, after hearing about his high school years, I kinda want to go back and be him as well. How can two people have such different versions of high school? BtT had… FUN. Loads of it. He didn’t study, didn’t care, was hugely popular, left school early and still turned out OK. WHAT??!!!

Suspicious, I asked BtT to recall some fond moments of high school. Apparently breaking someone’s nose was memorable along with wandering around sand dunes and getting a car to speed up the Lesmurdie Hill in. So, this is what I had to work with last Saturday night accompanying BtT to his school reunion as the ‘plus one’ partner. And desperately praying that the recipient of the broken nose wasn’t attending.

As a ‘plus one’ at a school reunion there’s really not much you can hope for.

Except finger food, chairs and… unlimited wine. Tick, tick and tick. Great organization, weedy ‘not very sexy’ barman excepted (seriously, doesn’t everyone ask for ice in their red wine?) A ‘plus one’ doesn’t have an identity. I gave up trying to tell people I was a neurosurgeon and was satisfied with being known as ‘Brad’s wife’. I entertained myself by playing with people’s heads when approached with “Hi! Did I go to school with you?” I morphed through different roles with strangers, from being a chick called Tania’s vegetarian lesbian lover (thanks for the lovely hand gestures across the room by the way darl!), to ‘that Danish exchange student’, to taking photos using other people’s posh cameras, to just being the hot Bogan chick at the bar (OK, so ‘hot’ might’ve been a temperature thing rather than an indication of my ability to ‘pull’). And I perfected the universal reunion greeting: “Ohhhh. My. GAWD! HIIII!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Have you had a school reunion? I did.

The bogans of Bushbogan public high school were called together a few years ago (via a big bushpig whistle that carries in the wind…) to a gathering at the local basketball hall. We feasted on Bbq chooks and Woolies salads and compared stories. My school wasn’t nearly as classy as Brad the Tradie’s. We couldn’t rustle up newspaper success articles about SAS officers saving the children of Rwanda. But, damn, in our best stonewashed denim and stretch boobtubes, we rocked the makeshift dancefloor to Abba and Jimmy Barnes and ran out of Tooheys.

High school is only a short time in the scheme of things, yet shapes us in many ways.

And as such, we’re usually keen to go back and find out ‘what happened’ to our schoolmates. In the era of Facebook and email there’s not really many reunion surprises anymore. Fortunately, mine was held a while ago now, so there were still shocks to be had. Like the girl no one recognised who turned out to be the dumpy chick who’d lost 60kg and dyed her hair. Like the meathead footy captain getting a law degree. And a certain boy (not the gay one… a different one) marrying an Actuary called Saffron. And the depressing news that one of my Science nerds had committed suicide before he even made it to twenty.

You can’t see it coming. Life, that is.

Try as you might to sit with the Yearbook and predict the paths of your schoolmates, it just can’t be done. Some of it we make ourselves and some of it just… happens. It might be fun to pretend to go back and turn back time. But you can’t. And we shouldn't want to, because everything we experience makes us who we are, bogan warts and all.

I know this, because if I could, public high schools everywhere would let girls wear leopard print heels and serve wine at the canteen. Duh!

If I Could Turn Back Time, Cher, 1989 (the year I finished high school)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Blossy in Tradieland

Being a landscaper’s assistant is a little like being a student teacher. Kind of.

A bit of ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ kind of thing. And as it turns out, just like everything is a classroom can be fixed with blutak or a bandaid, everything in Tradieland can be cured with concrete or a screw.

Blossy has entered Tradieland. Yep. Walked through the magic mirror past the rabbits or whatever and here I am. A proper Landscaper’s Assistant. Or as we say in the trade… an L.A.(great abbreviation given that L.A. has incredible shopping…tangent thought… ignore it…)

With Brad the Tradie relocating his business across the nation to here in Beachvillea, I’ve taken it upon myself to act in a variety of roles. Given that I’ve got all these ‘skills’ from twenty years in the Education game (not a total waste of time that career…)and currently have not much else to do I’m quite a useful L.A. Especially when there’s colouring-in of plans to be done. GREAT at colouring in.

First and foremost lately, I’m Promotions Officer. To… you know… promote.

Apparently, a good tradie in Beachvillea is one who turns up. So, being clever at marketing, that's what we're promoting. Turning up. Seems effective too. People are genuinely surprised at times when BtT finishes their garden. A client gave him a quite expensive bottle of bourbon last week, just for finishing. Gotta love entering a low-expectation community.

Being a good eco-capitalist, I started with the old faithful method, letterbox dropping. Kind of ironic really. An eco-landscaper and an eco-store providor bombarding letterboxes with promotional material. Those who are most eco-conscious of course, have a No Junk Mail sign on their mailbox, meaning we couldn’t give them a flyer. Sometimes, when walking the beat, I’d ‘accidentally’ put one under their windscreen or poke it through the fence… really. These silly signs should say, “no junkmail unless it’s really important.” Sheesh. So extremist these people are.

So then we went all techno. Got the business on the Twitbook. Used web-footed net pigeons to create pages full of interesting eco-stuff and environmentally-responsible doovahs. Got the Google click thing going and we're practically viral.  I'm I.T. Manager you see.

I’m also ‘Business Manager’ (which means that I manage the business… clever title huh??!!!) I do all manner of exciting and unusual things. Adding up the money on the Netterweb banking is my favourite task. I also quite like phoning non-payers and threatening to sick a bikie gang member on them. I’m not sure that people in these parts are used to a chick being an L.A. though. Take this morning’s phone convo’s for example. Two tasks: order a water tank and do a quote for a limestone wall. Sounded simple when BtT said it, so Blossy waved him off to do something landscapery.

Phone call A. Mission: Order a water tank.
Me: Ohhhhh helllloooooo. This is Blossy from Planet Fabulous… yes… how are you? Yes, noice day, quite warm this week… anyhooo, would like to… ahhh yes, he’s fine, quite busy, out moving dirt. Yah huh, yes he is quite fab isn’t he? Yah huh, yep, shall tell him that… oh good, I’m glad the visit went well with your mum… mmm hmmmm…. anyyyHOOOOOO, would like to order a tank… ummmm…. Tsixteen hundred. Yaaaa, ripple thingies… torress blue… hmmmm…good, good, glad we can make one of those, client will be pleased… can I have a price for that? Yah huh doing invoice… mmmm, can be tricky… yes, he is lucky that I do it (I AM the effing business manager lady!!!!) good, good, FAB-ulous, yes, address for T1600 is 14 dolphin fin way… yes… lovely dolphins here… mmmm…yes, shame about the whaling situation in Japan, totally agree… yes I had heard they're sending asylum seekers to live near you... ANYHOOOOOOOOOOO, must go, send the bill. BYE!!!! (click)

Mental note: order tanks via email. Or courier pigeon or something.

Phone call B. Mission: Get prices for quote on limestone wall.
Him (thick Scottish accent): Lo! Lo! This is (indeterminable name… shall call him Grillpot), whatcha be wantin’?
Me: Ahhh, yes, hello Grillpot, this is Blossy Bogan from Planet Fabulous. I’m needing a quote on a whole heap of limestone blocks so that my dreadfully talented landscaper husband can build a dirty great wall on someone’s new property.
Him: Ahhghhh! A dirty great wall you say? Well lassie, best you tell me how many of the blocks ya want and we’ll go and add it up for ya then.
Me: FAB-u-lous.
Him: Warm this week.
Me: Yes.
Him: Like the warm do ya then?
Me: Oh… ummm… yes.
Him: Off to the beach are ya then?
Me: Possibly. Did you want to know how many blocks?
Him: Ohhhh yes lassie. You’re wantin’ blocks.
Me: Well. I’m terribly orge-an-ised, so I’d like two hundred of code 135356 in a plain, and two hundred of the 135352 in the bevelled. And I want them delivered to Cookerfannyyupkippanup which is out the back of over there somewhere, so best give me a delivered price. I’ll need a lead time as well, with accuracy plus or minus a day. I’m assuming that you’ll quote me trade price. I’m ringing around right now and I’d like to nail this away (like that? Nail this away? Tradie chick talk… I’ve come SUCH a long way!!!). How are we situated in getting this sorted today Grillpot?
Him: Well then, I’ll be wantin’ to write this down lassie.
Me (Oh for CHRIST'S SAKE!): Yes. You will. Sorry, I should’ve told you to get a pen or something. Live 'n' learn.
Him: Wanna tell me all that again then love? Hang on… pen… somewhere….
Me: (bang, bang, bang): Oh sorry, Grillpot, that was my head banging on the desk. You don’t have email do you?
Him: E-what? So, you want a lot of blocks then lassie or something else? Have to ring the quarry and call ya back then.
Me: Good-o Grillpot. Talk soon. (bang, bang.... bang).

Surprisingly, Grillpot and I, after some more exchanges seem to have an understanding. He confided on our second phone call (it takes three calls to find a price for 68 metres of limestone blocks as it turns out) found it unusual to be dealing with a female. So I put on my deep voice, which he liked very much (unsurprisingly) and I ‘nailed away’ a magnificent price. No idea on what really, except that I gather they are … limestone blocks of some description, and that we ‘mud’ them together to build a wall.

Which brings me to L.A. role four: Labourer.

It’s a great role this one. From what I gather, it requires one to not have any form of brain. All the blood flow goes to the muscles. And boy, when you labour for Brad the Tradie, do you discover PLENTY of muscles. My mono-ab (currently in training for swimwear season) thanked him for all the lawn-mix shovelling yesterday. When labouring, one must also be compliant. Phrases of use are, “Yes boss”, “No worries mate” and “Yep, on it”. Not once does a labourer complain, or… in Blossy’s case, get a headache, bleed from any form of wound, ask to go home, or… cry. Labourers do NOT need to go to the toilet, eat, sit down, nor do they give their own opinion (“ahhhh, reckon that’s straight? Sorry... going back to shovelling...”)

Blossy is better at roles one, two and three. Role four… not great just yet. BtT’s very generous in his feedback though, particularly when I cry. I don’t have to pull the ‘But I’m a GIRL!” card very often.

Yes, I know. It’s WRONG. But every now and then you just HAVE to pull the I’m a Girl card. When it suits.

When I was about thirteen I asked our milkman for a job. He laughed me off with a snorting type of “Hell No!” I thought it was because of my gender, so I threatened him with the Discrimination tribunal (yes, I was a very strange adolescent… I also wrote regularly to Derryn Hinch and Peter Garrett with my political concerns… stories for another day perhaps). Turned out you could actually have a vagina AND be on the milk run. Bless, I was rejected because I looked unfit and the milkman doubted my ability to run with crates for two hours a night. When he put it like that, I kinda doubted my ability too.

I do, in theory, believe that anything a bloke can do, so can a chick. But in practice it gets a little blurry. So, Brad the Tradie and I are adopting a ‘strengths-based’ system. Mainly, he’s the strength. I help out here and there and try not to whine. And I DO enjoy counting the Netterweb banking money.

How long will Blossy last in Tradieland?

Dunno. It might not be a career path, but when all the elements combine and it's a nice sunny day, not too hot, not too cold and we've just finished turning the colouring-in into a real garden, it's quite nice being a quasi-tradie. I'm learning heaps too. Like, the real meaning of 'slurry' and how to mix one properly in a wheelbarrow. But don't worry,  I haven’t invested in steel-capped boots or anything drastic. Gosh. That WOULD be serious!
Alice (Underground), Avril Lavinge, 2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Everybody Wants to Rule the World

We’re gripped by it.

We’ve practically come to a standstill.

Yep, it’s the Commonwealth Games. The Comm Games. The C Games. Or, as our house is now referring to it… the Commies.

Every four years the countries of The Empire (that’s the British Empire for you insular Americans) come together to play games. In the spirit of participation, sharing, pursuing one’s goals… oh, no it’s not. Sorry. Brad the Tradie just reminded me that the Commies are about winning and dominance. Which makes a lot of sense really. Only countries once dominated by British rule (when they mistakenly thought they could rule the world) are allowed to compete at the Commonwealth Games. All these nations come together to see who NOW rules the Commonwealth. Oh. Look at that. It’s the Aussies. By a landslide.

And we bloody well love it. Bugger the citizenship exam. You can tell a true Aussie because they downright want to win. Especially against the Poms. “Ha! Take that for British rule! Can’t beat us in the swimming or netball can ya… huh? Shove that in ya monarchy and smoke it!”

I think we like to… want to… NEED TO dominate the Commies because it reassures us that as a nation we don’t suck that badly after all. Australia doesn’t lead the way in many things, let’s face it. It’s not a popularity problem. Everyone likes us. How could you not? There’s just such as lack of achievement in Australia that we end up having to pride ourselves on having a dreadfully safe national airline and a good reef. The world is actually ruled by China and the U.S.A. They make everything and tell everyone what to do. We won’t ever invite them to the Commonwealth Games. EVER. So there. The Commies belong to us Aussies.

We’ll never tire of the anthem being played as chlorine-drenched swimmers get gold medal after gold medal.

We wince a little at silver, but clap and say, “Good try mate!", put in a protest and kick the winner in the shins. Although, have you noticed this time around that we excel at some rather unusual, not-usually-Australian sports? That immigration program is working wonders isn’t it? We’ve got a barely English speaking Greco-Roman wrestling champ that can do backflips on command (we like that… did you see him being interviewed? “Hey mate! Do a backflip! Pwwoahhh! Look at that!”), Chinese diving coaches and some darn good rhythmic gymnasts (who wear an awful lot of glittery hair gel and are dressed by trannies). I reckon I know the secret actually. All those illegal boat people sneaking into our waters? Well, they’re chucked off the boats within sight of Darwin to see how fast they can swim. “Ahhh mate! You’ve practically got bloody flippers! Welcome to Australia!” As long as they win gold medals, they’re welcome here anytime.

Of course it doesn’t hurt that most of the other Commonwealth countries are the size of Brisbane. How did I get to be 38 years of age and not know about a country called Nuie? Although with darts being their national pastime I can kinda understand my ignorance. The nation of Samoa I get. They grow ‘em BIG and fuzzy in SAM-O-A. We don’t begrudge them a couple of weightlifting medals. They can’t really swim, the poor things.

It’s been exhilarating watching poor old host country India win some medals in exciting sports such as discus and shooting. I’m hardly surprised they’re good at self-defence sports, given their living conditions. Who invited India to host the Comm Games anyway? Did no one else apply? I love how the village and stadiums were all falling down and the Indians weren’t that worried. “Ya dudes! We did our best! Less things are broken than we thought huh?” India’s one of ‘those countries’ that BtT and I will maybe one day visit, providing we go there on a cruise ship and look at the Indian culture on a day tour with lots of hand sanitiser. India has resonated strongly with us Aussies hasn’t it? I mean, Curtis Stone even cooked up some Indian slop for his ‘feed your family for under ten bucks’ segment at Coles. By the looks of Indians, you could probably feed half a street of them for ten dollars, but anyway, good on you Curtis for enlightening us on the joys of Madras Chicken.

Brad the Tradie’s been glued to the Commies.

The sport side, not the cultural side. There’s really only so many sari’s you can look at. It’s like these Games were scheduled the week after the footy grand finals (but before the cricket season) just in case he got the shakes from a lack of sport on the telly. With Foxtel showing half a dozen different Commie events in our home theatre 24/7 I feel I’ve been thoroughly exposed to the kulcha of the Games. BtT doesn’t mind which sport’s on. We’ve cheered for lawn bowls (“robbed they were! Robbed!”) and by golly, how exciting’s that cycling road race. Phew! About as interesting as watching paint dry actually. Which we were, given that our new house was being painted and so we didn’t have a great deal else to do except watch Kenyans run around a track fifty-seven gazillion times.

I have wondered this week how Commie sports are chosen and how I go about adding new ones. 

 I could Google it if I really cared, but instead I thought I’d come up with some extra sports for the next Games in Scotland in 2014. Here’s my list:
• Highland Fling – very Scottish and fashionable. I may defect to compete in the Scottish national team in this one just to wear the kilt. Argghhh! Blossom McBogan I am!

• Cricket – I mean REALLY. How is cricket not in the Commies? It’s the only sport Indians will watch for goodness sake and it still wasn’t in the Comm Games. Surely even Lesotho could field a side. So that we could win of course.

• Drinking games – another of our national strengths obviously. It would give the athletically-challenged a chance at Commonwealth Glory and I think ‘scull scull’ would make compelling TV viewing. Give the Welsh and Irish a chance to win a silver medal too.

• Pom Thumping – not just beating the English, but ACTUALLY thumping them. Give that medal to Samoa as well. Do we get immigrants from Samoa? Anyone?

• Of course, in the spirit of including people with a disability in the Comm Games (how amputees swim that fast is beyond me), we could have the conjoined discus and S10 rolypoly down the hill. The more the merrier!

As long as us Aussies still win. We might love our sport in Oz, but we sure as heck don’t like losers. Because, you see, although everybody wants to rule the world… for twelve days, we actually do. That'll teach the Poms for dumping all their convicts here.  Oi! Oi! Oi!

Everybody Wants to Rule the World, Tears for Fears, 1985

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Final Countdown

Fine. I’ll just say it. Get it out there so we can move on. Brad the Tradie is a Collingwood supporter and therefore, by the laws of our vows, so. am. I.

For those still reading (for I fear the news has disgusted most and motivated them to move on to another blog), you must know what this means after yesterday. Yes… condolences. The Team, The Boys, Mick’s Mob…they got the CollyWobbles in the second half of the Grand Final and let the Saints sneak up and claim a fecking draw. A DRAW. Which, in stupid Australian Rules, invented by some Victorian moron back in the days before life was worth living, means that the Grand Final has to be replayed next weekend. The whole. Damn. Thing.

Brad the Tradie was, as they say… Devo. Maaaaaaaaate. Such an unexpected outcome. And yet, we’re all upset that we didn’t put twenty bucks on a draw. Would’ve paid for the flight to Melbourne to watch them all play the bloody match over again. In every other sport, they just play extra time. Nope. Not Aussie Rules. It’s a do-over.

It’s all rigged, I reckon. By party pie companies and QANTAS. Just to make a crapload more money out of people squealing at grown men running around a paddock.

Blossy’s not really an Aussie Rules kinda gal. Even though I live in The West, I like Sydney papers. Ones that don’t care whether AFL exists really. In my childhood town of Bush Boganville in outer New South Wales where the dust shines as bright as the sun, there was no AFL. Never heard of it. There was just Footy. But now we have to distinguish between TYPES of Footy. My type is now called League. I can’t get used to it really. I still call it Footy. With a big ol’ pigskin, a scrum and a goal kicker. It was good for the town thugs. Gave ‘em something to do. A reason not to drown babies with thick necks at birth. “Oooo!!! Look at this one Sharon! Little Bill could be a Prop! Play for Australia with that neck and those thunder thighs! Better get him a jersey!”

So when I met Brad the Tradie, naturally I had to covert. Like marrying a Jew. I had to learn the rules of the game (there aren’t’ many apparently), learn to stand up and belch at quarter time, half time and three-quarter time, memorise the words to the club song (yes there was an exam…) and basically promise BtT that if Collingwood ever got into the Grand Final, then we would go to Melbourne to watch it. Seemed a safe bet. They don’t generally do very well. And we only lived a comfortable morning’s drive from the holy grail anyway.

And so, typically, the year we move to the other side of the bloody country, his team get into the Grand Final. Bless him, BtT turned to me last Sunday arve (in his Home Theatre recliner, stubbie of Jim Beam and coke in hand) and sincerely announced, “Well babe, I guess I’m goin’ to Melbourne next weekend.”
Ummm… no.
“Yeah babe. You agreed. If The Boys ever made it, we’d go to the G and watch them.”
Ahhhh… no.
“BABE. We agreed.”

Yes hon, before we moved to The West. Before Grand Final ‘packages’ cost three grand! I didn’t actually let fly that it’s only bloody football and that really, quite FRANKLY, if I was to go to Melbourne it’d be for an emergency shoe top-up (a la modelling shoot in major national magazine or similar situation…obviously…), NOT to watch football.

Grown men don’t sook with dignity.

I had a teensy little window of time in which to make it all better. There was only one choice. (no… not Melbourne… geez!!!)… GOOGLE.

I Googled and Googled. Combinations like ‘what do people who live in Beachvillea do on grand final day?' and 'what makes a Collingwood supporter happy?' Score. Got it. We would go to the movies. Uhuh. There was my solution on the flat screen monitor in white and… black. Hoyts, in the Bogan-ist part of town was offering a Grand Final screening in THREE D. With unlimited popcorn, self serve fizzy drink and a hot dog. We could even upgrade and get a ticket to the mezzanine level where the comfy chairs and slaves are kept. DONE. PHEW.

So there we were. A vision of Collingwood-ness, be it with more teeth than the average supporter.

All going swimmingly in our big old chairs, hot dog juice dribbling on our Collingwood tops whilst diving into unlimited popcorn, watching teenage employees clean up after us. I was quite rapt with the 3D. Slightly weird watching a heap of footy supporters wear the nerdy glasses usually reserved for kid’s movies, but there were advantages (beyond the catering obviously). In 3D, on the big screen, The Boys were HUGE. The ball popped out at us. The ground was ‘right there’. The goalposts were realllllllllly freakily 3D. And I managed to find a free newspaper and swipe the weekend telly guide to take home. Score!

Turns out that there is a limit to how much popcorn you can actually eat.

Three buckets. But I filled it up again anyway to take home to the teenager (and the dog as it turns out). Had to go fill it up again half way through the last quarter when Collingwood started looking really wobbly because BtT’s arms began flailing and he knocked our food and drink into my handbag (suede… yes. I KNOW.) Thank goodness it was dark.

So, as they say, that's now history. The game was a draw. Everyone was speechless. BtT’s iphone started beeping with condolence messages. I tried to put a positive spin on it for him on the car on the way home, but instead he just used road rage as an outlet.

And, no. We’re not damn well doing something special all over again next weekend. Bad enough we have to dedicate another Saturday afternoon to this insane sport. It will not be in 3D. We will NOT be in Melbourne. Just in the Home Theatre recliners with some sausage rolls and RTD’s. It’s the final, FINAL countdown. I bloody well hope.

The Final Countdown, Europe, 1986.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Lemon Tree

Lemon tree, very pretty,
and the lemon flower is sweet,
But the fruit of the poor lemon
is impossible to eat.

Houston, I have a problem.

Actually, more like a personality disorder. Or one of those 'phrenia's. Some of you are psychologists. You’ll know. Others of you attend therapy sessions. Perhaps you can discuss this blog post as a case study.

You see... I like free fruit.

Not free as in ‘free from the constraints of orchards’ type fruit (although a noble cause). I just really like getting lots of fruit for zero cost. Bulk. A box if possible. More the better. I LOVE it.

I don’t mind other free things of course. I’m known to register for samples of hand cream, tea bags, toothpaste etc, but it doesn’t give me the same thrill that free fruit does. I don’t mind free meat, but I think that’s a financial ‘like’ rather than actual enjoyment (trays of dead animal… take it or leave it thrill-wise being an ex-vegetarian). I don’t mind free vegies, but again… there’s only so much excitement that can come from a bag of corn or carrots.

As with many of my disorders, I suspect that this one began midst my Bush Bogan upbringing.

When I was a kid, one of the neighbours used to bring us chokos in exchange for passionfruit. I’d silently yell, ‘NOOOOOO!!!!!” because it frankly was a crap swap. Luscious fresh-from-the-vine fruit in exchange for daggy chokos. Who just sits on the back lawn and digs into a CHOKO?? I would hide some of the passionfruit so that we couldn’t barter it with the neighbours for their lame produce. Then, my brother moved into his first house when I was sixteen and it was … Nirvana. It had an orange tree AND the biggest mulberry tree I’d ever seen. You could SMELL the pie-filling potential hanging on the tree. The kind of tree you could climb up into with a 6 litre icecream bucket hanging around your neck.

And I did. I climbed that tree every summer for a few years (not wearing white obviously, except maybe my thongs, but they would've been rubber...), and any other tree or vine I could find in search of mountains of free fruit. I do actually love eating fruit, but when it’s just SITTING there… well, let’s just say I get a teeny weeny obsessed. There’s an urgency about picking fruit. Birds aren’t gettin’ my fruit. I can turn that fruit into pies, muffins, jam, slices, trade it for social acceptance in the neighbourhood and MORE!

And I do.

Moving closer to Brad the Tradie’s family this year has proven to be quite fruitful. Literally. BtT’s dad works part-time at an orchard and he brings home LOTS of fruit. It’s like the dream job really. Not sure how the old guy handles the excitement of being around all those fruit trees. I know I sure couldn’t. I’d be flitting from one tree to the next. Climbing, grabbing handfuls and developing new dessert recipes on the fly. It’s more than enough excitement for me to be given boxes of different free fruit when we visit. It’s like Christmas every time. A box of apples here. Next time a hundred pears. A bag of avocados and half a dozen hands of bananas. Ooo! A PAWPAW! The possibilities!

I’m in the process of planning which fruit trees to plant in the new Beachvillea house’s backyard. I’ve liaised with the neighbours regarding their fruit-tree planting responsibilities as well as the importance of diversification and pollination. I think they understand, but to be sure, I’ll follow up with a fact sheet and checklist. I don't want to be doubling up with these new compact-not-as-much-room blocks. There’s some room across the street and down a bit where I plan to sneak a few more into the mix. Perhaps a peach tree won’t look THAT strange in amongst the native banksias and wattles. Certainly not a fig tree. Practically a native.

It’s good karma to plant your own fruit trees and Brad the Tradie has done this with (... FOR) me at a couple of houses now, but it’s not the same as flogging free fruit from a tree that overfloweth. Taking bags, filling them to the brim, then dawdling home wondering what on earth you’re going to do with ten kilos of free bounty. I thought I’d reached the pinnacle of my free-fruit-finding career when, in my former abode in East Coast Boganvillea, I discovered a fabulous fig tree overhanging into public land. That, on top of the apricot tree around the corner and the peach tree that hung over onto the fire trail, and I was happy. I’ve done persimmons, apples, plums, pears. But in the back of my mind, I always knew that there was one free fruit tree that I’d never managed to have for my very own (figuratively speaking)… a lemon tree.

Until now.

Walking the beat with the exercise-crazed Bogandog in Beachvillea has opened me to a whole new opportunity for getting lost, exploring, and meandering. And it’s when I was least expecting a ‘find’ that I came across … it. A lemon tree. A bountiful, in season, huge, hanging-over-into-public land (kind of… it’s in someone’s front yard but VERY close to the kerb) lemon tree. Ahhhhh…. Come to mama.

So then it was ON. People had already picked the head height and below lemons. I dragged BtT there with me the next afternoon, in the car no less so we had enough towage to get all the lemons home. BtT is tall. Freakishly long arms. And he’s very stealthy. Can get into a fruit tree and send me down the goods quickly and quietly. Perfect man.

We staked out the tree. Parked across the road and down a bit. Had secateurs, stretchy velour tracky-daks, bags, balaclava-type hatwear… all set. Snuck into the tree and snip snip… bugger.

The owners were home.

There’s that small window of time when you’re caught stealing someone’s fruit where you have to decide how to work the situation. There are a few options:
a) Run. Pretend you weren’t doing anything and vow never to befriend attend BBQ with them.
b) Be assertive and say, “Well, your tree IS hanging into public land. Fair game!”
c) Apologise, cry a little and spin a sob story about being really, really hungry.
d) Screech about your personality disorder and frighten the bejesus out of them…
Too confused thinking amongst my options, I let BtT handle it.
He’s really much better at these things than I. Years of experience getting out of sticky situations. Tends not to screech or cry and has a very impressive non-arrest rate.

BtT (to approaching house-owner): Mate! How are you? (hides secateurs in back pocket with one hand whilst extending other for handshake…clever)
House owner (middle-aged to elderly, with wife in tow): Ohhh, you’d like some lemons as well then I guess?
BtT: Actually maaaaaate, thinking of giving it a little prune, yeah. I’m a landscaper, new to the area. Nice tree here. Bit top heavy, some crossover growth. Gotta watch lemon trees. Need some maintenance.
House owner: This is our holiday home. Help yourself. Everyone else does. Get the ones at the top, they’re really nice. Landscaper huh, you got a card? (Exit stage right thinking we’d done him a favour).

I think we’re up to about thirty kilograms of lemons in the last two weeks.

Lemons are awesome. Not impossible to eat at all. I’ve made lemon butter, frozen a millenium’s worth of lemon juice, lemon poppy seed cakes, added lemon to shortbread, made old fashioned American lemonade using a recipe I googled, added lemon to every drink we have (excellent addition to bourbon & coke) and EVEN made lemon fizzy using the Soda Stream. I’ve given lemons to both sets of new neighbours and a visiting friend, who have returned the gesture with fresh fish (neighbour to the left with boat) a set of beer glasses (neighbour to the right who used to own a bar) and a six pack of Jim Beam RTD’s (visiting friend… very generous).

But, more than anything, I feel a sense of accomplishment at my new find. I added to my free fruit tree collection. And this experience reminded me to appreciate the benefits of exploring one’s neighbourhood without expectation, merely hoping to discover whatever’s there. Because you inevitably do come across something special.

Ahhh, the lemon (and peach… and plum… and passionfruit…) flower is sweet.


Lemon Tree, Peter, Paul & Mary, The 1960’s.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Thank God I'm a Country Boy

Well, life on the farm is kinda laid back
Ain't much an old country boy like me can't hack
It's early to rise, early in the sack
Thank God, I'm A Country Boy.

Well a simple kinda life never did me no harm
A raisin' me a family and workin' on a farm
My days are all filled with an easy country charm
Thank God I'm a country boy.

I grew up in the country.

Which is why I think the TV show ‘Farmer Wants a Wife’ is bloody hilarious. For those who don’t watch it (shame on you!) and those of you O.S., let me explain. ‘Farmer Needs a Shag’ as it’s called in our house, sets single Aussie farmers up with a handful of desperate bogan chicks, sends them all back to the farm and… well… they edit out the shagging… some find lurrrve and others hit the road Jack.

The show is meant to deal with the topic of romance under isolated circumstances. And these farmers are REALLY romantic. One guy had his potential love harem crutching sheep, another took his posse for a swim in the muddy dam then had a barbecue (he put on his best checked flannie). One ‘ripper sheila’ broke a nail whilst helpin’ to paint the outback fence and was subsequently sent home. Another had to go to hospital after being bitten by a Redback spider. I know, bloody sook. Yep, these girlies are gonna have to learn to deal with hardships like tearing off an acrylic nail 700km from the nearest Asian manicurist. Sometimes these girls might not even be able to use their hair straightener. Welcome to the farm ladies!

I sympathise with the farmers. It is hard to find a wife in the Australian Outback. Mainly because most women don't want to live there.

After I went to Uni in the big smoke to become a teacher, ‘they’ (head office in Sydney, via a phone call the day before school started back for the year) sent me back to the bush to edumacate local bogan children. My first posting was to a place called Baan Baa (yes, seriously), which has a school, pub, church and a handful of locals. Mostly, it has surrounding farms. There were two classes at the school. My class had eleven children. Bless, after four years in the city I even wore heels and a skirt on my first day and took my guitar. We were going to be like a scene from The Sound of Music.

Twenty-one year old fresh teacher meat.

The kids were the least of my problem. Being bush kids, they could entertain themselves for an entire day if necessary. And no one particularly cared if I taught them anything. No, it was the farmers I had to watch. I remember waving the kiddies goodbye as they were gradually picked up in various styles of ute, horse or tractor (except the kid who used to walk to the pub to meet his mum each afternoon). This would be my ‘thing’ I had decided in my youthful naivety. I would wave the children goodbye each afternoon, smell the gum trees and so forth. Little did I know what the community had planned for moi.

On day two it started.

Johnno was picked up in the farm ute. Nothing unusual. Except that the ute didn’t leave for a bit. The occupants, three young men who looked a bit farmer-y got out and leant against the ute for a good couple of minutes and smiled. Didn’t say anything. Then they just got into the ute, with twelve year old Johnno, and left.

The next day I asked Johnno what that was about.
 He said, “Miss, me brothers want ya to choose.”
“Choose what Johnno?”
“One of them Miss. Mum says you can have ya pick.”

Uhuh. Lucky me. I scarcely wanted to ask by when I was supposed to have ‘picked one’ or whether I was allowed to try them all out, then announce a decision at the weekly farm family roast beef dinner. The second oldest WAS fairly cute in a ‘farmer-y’ kind of way. Might’ve just been that he wore an actual shirt rather than just the blue singlet. Hard to recall.

This farmer buffet continued well into Term Two of the school year with various brothers, single fathers, derro’s and seasonal cotton workers. Funnily enough I ditched the Julie Andrews outfits for jeans and RM’s pretty quickly and re-thought my Catwoman Book Week costume. As Devon from Farmer needs a Shag tells it, “There ain’t many chicks left round here”. Best I didn’t give them too much to think about at night.

Oh, I had all sorts of glamorous offers. Promises of burgers at the pub, swims in the river and even a trip to the Chinese restaurant in Narrabri. I must’ve really had those FINE looking child-bearing hips. As the Cluster Director put it, the Department does try to send male teachers to ‘these parts’, but male primary school teachers are pretty scarce. “And, ya know luv… lotsa teachers marry farmers. Youse could do worse.”

So what type of woman actually WANTS to apply to meet farmers on isolated farms and live their life crutching sheep? By the looks of the TV show, any number of Equine Dentists, Vet Students and Nurses. All highly popular country occupations. Good thing none of those chicks turned up the week I started in Baan Baa or my teacher-y child-bearing hips would’ve been thrown to the frogs quick smart. All teachers are good for in these wife-searching communities is a stable income.

So as we all know now, I obviously managed to avoid the Farmer's Wife life.

The community gave up in the end although I did wear a short skirt to the Christmas concert just as a parting gesture. I must say that the constant offer of glistening, sweaty farmer biceps set against a fence post outside the school yard nearing sunset on a Spring’s day that September did almost have me tempted. Until I got too close and smelled Farmer James (or whatever his name was… can’t remember, too blinded by glistening biceps). Might’ve just been that one cattle farmer, but I couldn’t take the risk.

That and the thought of living in the middle of nowhere “fer luv”. This was before online shopping… yes I really AM that old… and seriously, I had to drive two and half hours to get to K-Mart. Another five for a Myer or David Jones. It’s not all romantic dips in the river and sheep dip you know. It’s tough going without shops and having to eat beef you raised yourself six nights a week.

But apparently, some of the great sheilas on Farmer Wants a Wife are willing to stick it out. Good on 'em. Save the paperwork of importing wives from South East Asia for the lonely fellas. Take one for the nation ladies!

Well, I got me a fine wife, I got me old fiddle
When the sun's comin' up I got cakes on the griddle
Life ain't nothin' but a funny, funny riddle
Thank God I'm A country boy
Thank God I’m a Country Boy, John Denver, 1974.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hung Up On You

Fair dinkum. We can’t even organise a proper bloody election anymore without drama.

Don’t get me wrong. Blossy likes a lot of things well-hung. I’m a Bogan-ista of the world. I’ve had one too many cocktails in Jamaica (“yeah mon”), so I KNOW well-hung. But after this weekend’s Federal Election, I’m not sure about this hung parliament.

The situation between Tone & Jools reminds me of picking teams for sports afternoon at school. All the good players get chosen quickly for each side, then there’s the leftover group at the end that have to be divided up so that the game can start:

Jools: Oh Okkkkkk, I suppose I’ll have the Green. As long as he promises not to get in the way.
Tone: Then I’ve got the Independent that likes guns. Just in case we need to shoot the Green.
Jools: Fine then, that means I get an Independent as well. I'll have them both. We'll neg-o-see-ate.
Tone: No, I want the one then.
Jools: Nah Budgie, I want extras on MY team.
Tone: No way ‘Ranga, you’re not having a bigger team than me.

And so it goes on until the teacher just blows the whistle makes the teams and tells everyone to stop fussing.

It has kind of thrown the metaphoric whale amongst the harpoonists really. This week, it’ll be on for young and old. It's like political commentator Laurie Oakes' dream come true.  Do Tone and Jools woo the balance of power with a meat tray, or threaten to stab each of the four non-major party reps to political death if they don’t comply?

And wasn’t election day just so FUN this year???

Because the campaigns were so lame, election day got back to its roots. Sausage sizzles and cake stalls. People out and about, happy to vote, just to get the damn thing over again so that something else is on the news each night. I do wonder whether we have to have SUCH a huge piece of paper though when we vote. It doesn’t fit in the voting booth. I’m all for the right of people to create a party and try to get into the Senate, but really… like Brad the Tradie said, “It’s the Party-party-party Party!” They may as well have a Nanna’s for Cake Stalls Party. Sponges and a good lammo are big Down Under.

Like dutiful Aussies we are, the tellies went on in the arve, waiting for the announcement of the results. Our teenage BHG wasn’t too happy, given that the coverage bumped Funniest Home Videos off the Saturday evening schedule. Never-the-less, we used it as an opportunity to explain the Australian Parliamentary system. And as it turns out, not too many can actually do that anymore. Let alone explain a ‘hung’ parliament. The poor adolescent kept coming into the room asking who’d won. Each time we’d have to say, “no one yet”. She’d roll her eyes and go off to chat on Facebook. I explained Hung Parliament to her as the rest of the country was Googling it and the BHG summed it up at about 10pm: “So neither of them are good enough to captain a team”.

Good point.

So here’s what I propose: I will step up and lead the country. On behalf of the Bogan Party, Blossy will be PM. A few changes will need to be made though in order to truly have the Bogan Party make their mark. I’ve put a good morning’s thought into this and had two cuppa’s, and here’s what’s gonna happen:

1. The PM gets to work from home (in her ugg boots if she so desires). If I’m only a ‘face of the party’ then I think that’ll work. Those who actually like to get up at sparrow-fart o’clock in the morning can email me any questions at about 10am and I’ll have a think and get back to them before The View starts on telly at one.

2. The PM’s glamour photo shoot will not be for Women’s Weekly. It will be for Ralph Magazine (with lots of digital enhancement, hair extensions and air-brushing obviously).

3. There’ll be a reduced tax, or subsidy or whatever it’s called, on all Barbecue-able items. That includes accompanying salads, sauce and buns. Must be Aussie produce. No foreign crap.

4. People like Mining Magnates can be rich as long as they promise to hold a reaaaaally big party every coupla months. And give away free cars like Oprah does. And you can apply for extra stuff from the mining companies, like a pool and a new plasma telly or a bucket of hundred dollar bills.

5. With the new Boganised Family Tax Benefit comes a free annual cruise without your kids. For a week each year the offspring get put in an orphanage or other such horrid place (with no face painting or icecream obviously) so that they appreciate their parents more. Similarly, parents will be encouraged to medicate their child or themselves with a short period of substance abuse when things get rough. Parents with totally rancid children will be sent to New Zealand.

6. Whilst we’re on the topic, a Pet Tax Benefit (PTB) will be introduced whereby Bogan-approved dogs attract free vet treatment and Pal. Corgies and those white fluffy wanker dogs with ribbons in their fur will all be extradited.

7. ‘Boat People’ – see Item 4 ‘Child-free Cruising’. Only boats with buffets, hot tubs and Jim Beam will be approved.

8. All Bogans will have the right to Bare Arms. Yep, two free singlet tops per household. Tradeable for a checked flannie in colder regions.

So, with Blossy now as PM, I open the forum to you Ozzz-trayyy-leeah.
Any there any other policies you want? I’m working from home, so just post your suggestions and I’ll think about it over a glass of cask Lambrusco later.

The Bogan Party… chillax mate!

Hung Up On You, Madonna, 2005.