Friday, January 29, 2010

Super Trouper (I survived IKEA)

There's nothing in the world quite like IKEA.

It's like mecca for Bogans. You know, the rule is you have to go there at least once in your life and pay homage to flat-packed furniture and clever Svveeeedishhhh rubber things.

There's no IKEA in Bogan-ville-ea. I think the Sveedish are ignoring us due to our penchance for outrageous drunken Karaoke nights that distastefully alter words in ABBA songs. Could be wrong, but it certainly can't have helped.

Recently, Brad the Tradie (BtT) and I were visiting the other side of the country (yes, our immunisations are up to date). Those in the West have not yet offended the Swedes. THEY have their own, very large, IKEA. It even has two eating areas AND the Swedish market food hall.

We felt the pull.
You can see an IKEA rise from the Bogan landscape like a big yellow and blue beacon...calling you to look at lounges, bookshelves and funny little stools. With excitement (having not been to any IKEA for a while) we navigated the buzzbox hirecar through the speed bumps and little whirly roundabouts, parked and fair RAN to the entry. We did have that tricky moment where BtT had to shove past a dawdling pregnant person and we also witnessed a very loud carpark argument between two life partners (blonde, funny accent, cargo pants....suspicious....)

You know 'that moment' when you start in an IKEA with the humungous book thing, your little pencil and list, the paper tape measure and yellow carry bag... the EXCITEMENT of it all! You breathe it in, ready. We were dressed appropriately. Thongs (rubber of course). Shorts. T-shirt. Minimal things to hold to allow for maximum touching of Swedish brilliance. Ready... Set. GO!!!!! GOOO!!!!!!!!!!

STOP!!! Crap, where are the loos?
Ok, we're good to go this time. Push past the little kids. Don't need a kitchen... oooo, noice handles on those doors though... ooo... clever!!! We don't have to stop and look at everything. Glance and prance. Glance and prance. Oooo!!! noice sofa, I'll just measure that. Ooo! Look what they're doing with double bunk kids beds these days! (No, we don't need it). What a great rug! (No, we're not buying it). Get OUT of my way kid. I'M IN IKEA.

Just on that...why don't people make more use of that nifty little room at the entrance where you dump your kids and shop in peace? There should be like, a rule or something, that MAKES people deposit their offspring in exchange for the pencil and tape measure. Especially relevant in the homewares section. Oopps! Another dinner set bites the dust. Wooopsie! I'm in my mid-thirties. I'm over dodging bullets in stores that offer childcare. I'm too busy deciphering the names of the items. Like a Dofflebonger bin and Floppenhunger entertainment unit. Can you imagine if we Bogan Aussies had invented IKEA:
"Ahhh, I'll have the .... ummm... Jim Beam poolroom shelves, the Kermit Green poof and a set of them beer glasses with the swirly on 'em. Oh, and put it all together luv. Me husband ain't that great at them flat-packs."
And the 'restaurant' wouldn't have $5 Swedish meatballs. It'd be meat pie n chips, a lammo and choice of beer or a glass of cardy. And there'd be TV's along that little track thing with the cricket and tennis on. Not fake TV's. BIG PLASMA ones.

And why don't they play ABBA in IKEA?
They sell any manner of Swedish food. Actually, I'd like to see the Swedish Chef Muppet in IKEA.... bom de bom de bom... ooooo DOP DOP DOP! Anyway, I hummed Dancing Queen quite loudly as I browsed. And giggled to myself at the way we always change the words in Mamma Mia to '....ever since the day we farted...'

And then when we got tired of things with funny names, small children bouncing on furniture and nodding approval at picture frames, we sighed, said 'hej da' and buzzed away, happy in the knowledge that if one day we need a bright orange slypendom, there'll be a cheap one at IKEA, packed up, ready to assemble.
Super Trouper, ABBA. 1980.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Heat is On!

It's hot.

There’s not much to do in Bogan-ville-ea midst a heatwave. And this week it’s bloody hot.

On several occasion when O.S. (international that is, not Tasmania or God forbid, Norfolk Island), I’ve gotten the impression that people associate Australia with beaches and reefs and stuff. Yes, they’re nice and wouldn’t we all like to ask “where the bloody hell are ya?” whilst marooned somewhere in the Whitsundays, but in reality, as seen in Bogan-ville-ea and most of the country, Australia is a dirty great hot dustbowl.

As a young bush Bogan, growing up in the middle of outback-nowhere, the heat didn’t worry me that much. I got a season pass to the local pool (which wasn’t indoors or highly chlorinated, thus building a strong childhood immune system), ran under the sprinklers when the council water restriction rules said we could (like, between 6:30 and 7pm on ‘our’ night once a week), ate chunks of watermelon up a gum tree and that was that.

I can’t really remember ever whining about the heat. Oh, except that one time when the fam went camping at Lake Keepit and I got pelican lice, bumburn and chafing from using the airbed as a form of watercraft, didn’t wash my hair for a week and it matted and we had to cut a big chunk out. Totally unusual though. Mostly I love summer (but not camping anymore funnily enough). You know, ‘I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains…’ etc. But instead of loving ‘her far horizons’ like the poem says, we seem to have given our hearts over to a national reliance on air-conditioning. The family EH Holden of my youth, our smallish uninsulated house and the schools certainly didn’t have air-con and I seem to have survived.

Nowadays, totally acclimatised to this modern marvel, and with the compounding factor of being on leave from work, I’m finding indoor pursuits are dominating my time during this heatwave. In the last few days I’ve developed an unhealthy obsession with Spray & Wipe and vacuuming. I’ve given the fluffy little dog a haircut (and no he didn’t particularly enjoy it). I’ve washed EVERYTHING we own, put new doona covers on the beds, read three books, fourteen magazines, watched the cricket, watched BtT pressure clean the concrete and viewed several Law & Order multi-episode marathons. I’ve even sold off my unnecessary shoes and boots on ebay. It’s quite entertaining watching people bid in 25 cent increments for boots I coveted and paid a hundred dollars for. All in the air-conditioned comfort of my own home.

The Hippodome is air-conditioned.
 I drive there in my air-conditioned car when I’m bored with my air-conditioned house or need supplies. Today BtT and I went to the Hippodome to get the security tag off the new doona set (no, I didn’t shoplift it… who hides a security tag inside a doona cover packet??? Not even the sales assistant knew!) Naturally, half of Bogan-ville-ea were also there:

“Tayyyyy-lahhhhh!!! Stop hitting your sister or we won’t go to Nanny’s for a swim!”

SO not fun.

Am desperately trying to avoid the supermarket scene as a political protest at their sneaky tactics that trick me into buying groceries. But BtT was hungry, so we braved the food court. With barely a fuit or vegie in sight, we enjoyed some quality time near a family-day care group outing. Not even seasoned hot chippies with gravy (eaten with a plastic fork) and an extra-hot skim chai latte could convince me that we should stay any longer at the Hippodome. And if any more pimply fifteen year-old coffee servers roll their eyes when I pass them my eco-cup, then I’m going to shove the damn thing up their arse.
So, I’m thinking of taking a risk tomorrow.
I'm contemplating running under the sprinkler (I mean the super-modern automated irrigation system from the rainwater tank of course). I need to dye my hair and BtT’s banned that activity from the house now that it’s so clean, so I reckon I’m gonna wear my swimmers and rinse my hair out on the lawn… nope… ummm….onto the tan bark near the clothes line. Yep, get back to my bush Bogan roots (whilst covering the grey of my mid-thirties suburban roots). Think the Dalmatian and I will share some watermelon (there’s NO way she’ll run under the sprinkler… she’s a modern dog with standards!) and then I’ll try to start an ice-cube fight with the neighbour’s kids. When BtT comes home from work he’ll mow the lawn shirt-less and then we’ll slice open a mango, crack some coldies, swat mozzies and watch the kangaroos graze on the local school oval. And then go inside in the air-con to watch the tennis (or another generic American crime show) on the plasma.

Ahhh yes, I love a sunburnt country.
The Heat is On, Glen Frey, 1984.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Time after Time

Once upon a time people would hunt and gather for their basic needs.

They would spend their waking hours collecting food, finding things to keep them warm, discovering fire, inventing the wheel… you get the drift.

Then the human race became all too clever for its own good. It invented supermarkets. Places where others would drop off the basic needs for instant collection, thus freeing up the rest of one’s day for other pursuits. And so, time after time, we all decided as an evolved life form, to frequent the local supermarket to get ‘stuff’. And everyone was happy.

Delirious actually. Supermarkets necessitated other types of inventions, such as trolleys, inoffensive music, junk mail, loyalty cards, anti-plastic bag campaigns, 8 items or less aisles, in-store bakeries, a variety of packaging, sample ladies, mystery shopping … ah, the supermarket. If it had foxtel and a hot tub we could live there.
I, in fact, just about do live there at present.

BHG and the Glamazons are on school holidays for the summer and in my new world are to be renamed ‘The Locusts’. I’ve often heard stories from Brad the Tradie’s parents about the food consumption gene that persists in their side of the family. I thought it was just their sons that had the gene. Apparently girls inherit it too. And pass it to their friends. The gene’s development peaks in adolescence and necessitates the locust (s) grazing on all edible crops in the house, leaving only packets, dirty plates and carcases behind.

It was manageable around Christmas time. Quite handy actually. The locusts chowed through all the calorie-laden gifts from work (except the wine, that disappeared rather quickly). This was infinitely better than slapping the saturated fat and sugar straight onto my arse, although one gets just a little bitter watching glamazonian teenage girls scoffing all those delectable treats (“actually darl, it’s find to chew one Lindor ball before you shove another one in…. yes I suppose shortbread goes well with truffles and vegemite for sleepover breakfast…whatever, just take all the locusts back to the rumpus room so I don't have to watch…”). Also quite acceptable, admirable even, is the vigour with which the locusts devoured the annual stone fruit crop from the backyard (it all ripened at once typically… if we can invent all these other things can we not invent a plum or nectarine tree that just delivers a kilo a week for two months?)
Then, suddenly one day early this week, the food ran out.
“There’s NOTHING TO EAT!” Ahh, the phrase that sends chills of irritation through a parent’s body.
“Of course there is… have an apple.” (yes, I’ve turned into my own mother)
“Nope, none left.”
“Have toast!”
“No bread.”
“Dad ate it. Should I make something with that cask of Margharita mix? Is there any more leftover KFC?”
“Oh for Christ’s sake kid, if I have to get tear myself away from the cricket to come out and find you something to eat, I’m going to … (think… what AM I going to do???)… have to …. (quick… think of something…) make a bloody list and GO TO THE SUPERMARKET!”

And there it was. Tea break at the cricket (big Aussie comeback…) and I had to go hunt and gather. I could order online I suppose, like when we were doing the home Swiney quarantine, but it’s so… tedious, all that choosing and clicking. Much better to go to the actual supermarket and mindlessly throw things in the trolley without all that decision-making.

It’s like I broke the dam wall with that one trip to Woolies. Now I seem to live there, going back day after day, time after time, to just get a few things. Like salad in a bag to go with dinner. Or should we have lamb shanks? They’re on special. And a rice side-dish. Extra bottle of Pepsi Max, sunscreen… new dog collar… washing powder… why is it that once you GO to the supermarket and bring all this stuff home, there’s always something you didn’t get that is entirely necessary? When it isn't the school holidays how on earth do we manage to survive on one trip a week, or, god forbid, a fortnightly grocery trip?

Do you find there's always one item that HAS to be in your basket? For me it's Pepsi Max. Or a magazine. For Brad the Tradie is appears to be either carrots or cheese. Come to think about it, maybe baskets are the problem. You can only get enough to last until tomorrow, thereby needing to re-enter the supermarket. AHA! Conspiracy! That's it. I'm only using trolleys from now on. It works the rest of the year, so surely it also works during locust season.

With a trolley you assume instant power.
You are behind the wheel. Get OUT of my way. I HAVE A TROLLEY. We use a points system in our family for trolley usage. Ten points for a sample lady, twenty for a small child, subtract points if you selected a trolley with a wonky wheel or sticky handlebar.

The benefits of supermarket shopping with a trolley are endless. Just relax, listen to the muzak and chuck things into the cage willy-nilly. Mmmm, new flavour of tim-tam. Oooo! Pomegranate juice! Read the labels, enjoy the air-conditioning, read a few mags and nibble on a muffin from the bakehouse. It could practically be listed as a hobby. And shopping at Aldi is more like an extreme sport. Upper body strength, cardio... it's all there with a trip to this no-frills delight.

I have studied supermarkets on an international scale.
Supermarkets reflect a nation's cultural habits and attitudes. Australian supermarkets rate pretty averagely I have to say. We're a society of people who don't really care much for effort. Do you really give a crap which variety of Fruity-Bix cereal goes in the trolley? Who actually buys those varieties of 'funny' lettuce? We've only just invented a second flavour of Vegemite for goodness sake. I remember when crunchy peanut butter came out. My dad was so flummoxed he refused to buy peanut butter at all anymore ("don't know about this change to peanut butter Blossy, it's just not right, messing with something that was already perfect...")

South African supermarkets are a hoot. They're quite small and exclusive. White people go in, buy heaps of carbs and sugar and then throw money at black beggars on the way out. They couldn't use a better metaphor for their country's class divide than the supermarket.

In Japan everything in the supermarket is tiny except the apples. The trolley is tiny, like a basket on wheels really. The food packages are tiny. Like you want much dried cuttlefish in a packet anway I guess, but it's probably why these Japanese people are small. And healthy. The apples are enormous. You buy an apple for lunch, like a meal. Mmmm, what's for lunch today? Four pieces of teensy weensy sushi or an apple? You practically lose weight just getting off the plane in Japan. Kiss eating goodbye unless you're a fan of the sea vegetable family.

Canada, bless bilinguity, have French and English printed on everything. Don't bother reading a package. The print's so small to fit two languages in that you can't read it anyway. But you've gotta love a country that sells 600 painkillers in one (very large bilingual) bottle. That's a nation that trusts their people not to do silly things.

The champions of supermarkets have to be the yanks though. This mob have supermarket shopping down to a fine art. They have enormous alcohol and convenience food-filled buildings loaded with STUFF. The country of excess, indulgence and unnecessary items. I mean, really... 'double-bagging'? I could almost hear the world's dolphins crying as the check-out chick tried to improve my shopping 'experience' by throwing every piece of plastic onto our groceries.  I did love the cupholder on the trolley when shopping at Von's supermarket in San Diego. Wondered what I would do with it until we went inside the store and saw the Starbucks. Yes, INSIDE the supermarket. And actually, come to think of it, once I saw the Starbucks (and knew I had a cup holder), it did make me feel like an extra-hot skim chai latte. To improve my shopping experience. Made me feel like a pecan pie, pop-tarts, bottle of whisky, enough Tylenol PM sleeping tablets to knock out a horse and all manner of unnecessary items too. Fun trip though, if not a tad expensive. Got heaps of trolley points too, what with me driving the trolley on the wrong side of the aisle. Hit loads of people in the ankle. A couple of homeless people in the carpark too. They use trolleys as a portable home, much like a snail. Fascinating culture.

I didn't go to the supermarket today.
I refused to be trapped by their basket-tactics, advertising and the locusts' begs for burritos for dinner. Nope. They can drink water from the tap and remember how fortunate we all are to live in a country where children don't spend their day trekking to the local well or harvesting a small crop of rice. As far as I'm concerned, they can all starve, just eat Vegemite straight out of the jar or crack open that can of condensed milk at the back of the pantry.
Until Saturday.
Or tomorrow at the VERY earliest.

Time after Time, Cyndi Lauper, 1984.