Friday, May 21, 2010

Football, Meat Pies, Kangaroos and Holden Cars

Who’d want to be a cop in Arizona huh?

I saw on TV how the police there now have to be able to figure out whether someone’s an actual citizen or not. Could you imagine if that happened in Australia?

Well, it wouldn’t … obviously. Because you can’t tell who’s an Aussie and who isn’t and no one much cares anyway. Even though some groups in India are having a little trouble with our country, labelling us as Racist (it goes back to the Harbhajan Singh cricket kerfuffle last summer I reckon…), if you ask the average Aussie about multiculturalism, they’ll tell you that it’s great. Improved take-away menus and supermarket spice racks around the country. Don’t have to wait for a taxi anymore in major cities and it means you can serve rice or noodles to your kids for dinner six days in a row without a visit from Child Services.

I was caught making an assumption at Phuket airport recently, whilst waiting in line to buy my Pepsi Max. And I wasn’t the only one. A man of 'Asian appearance' (is that how they say it on the news?) bought a cup of dry instant noodles. The cashier asked him a question in Thai. I didn’t understand the question (having spent two weeks on the beach rather than in intensive language lessons), and… neither did the guy with the noodles. He looked at me and I said, “dunno mate”. The other cashier, embarrassed, then asked, in broken English, “You want hot water in cup now?” (ahhh, so that’s how they do it, I thought…had wondered whether the people around me were all getting on the JetStar flight with cups of dry instant noodles.) The cashier asked him (whilst dispensing hot water), “Where you from?” to which Noodle Man replied, “Sydney.” Ahhh. Didn’t see that coming.

But it did get me to thinking. If I, Blossy Bogan, personally, was asked to invent the national on-the-spot test of citizenship, what would it look like?
You couldn’t just line suspects up and make them sing the National Anthem, because only school teachers and Olivia Newton-John know all the words (seriously, how many times has she sung it at sporting events?). You can’t judge someone by the existence of suntan lines anymore and there’s like half a dozen acceptable Australian flags one could identify from a poster depending on which Indigenous territory you’re in. So, after a couple of Coolabah wines and some deliberation, I reckon that the only fair way would be the ‘Football, Meat Pies, Kangaroos and Holden Cars test’. Remember the advertisement on the telly years ago? Actually, it probably wasn’t even written by an Australian anyway, but that’s half the charm of our country. Nothing’s made here anymore except Uranium and Beef. Any-hoo, I hereby propose that if we ever DID adopt an Arizonian method of determining Aussie-ness, a suspect should be subject to a brief quiz (in their preferred language). Somewhat like this:

Policeperson: "Excuse me mate, I kinda doubt that you’re a fair dinkum Aussie. I’m gonna need you to answer a few questions to prove your citizenship. Do you require a translator, Indigenous Elder or significant other to be present? No? Ok, well… Question 1: Do you watch or play football? Any code of footy, and yes, since the Socceroos got into the World Cup we even count that funny wog type that half of Melbourne plays. AFL or Union preferably, but something involving feet counts. And a ball. Obviously.

Question 2: Can you name your favourite brand or variety of meat pie? A local bakery version is fine. Yep, chicken and vegie’s good, don’t mind one me-self occasionally for a change. Yes, meat substitutes count these days, so a gluten-free halal tofu pie from Fitzroy passes.

Question 3: Could you identify a kangaroo from this line-up of Australian native animals? Yeah, it’s the one with a pouch and long tail. Excellent. Nah mate, you don’t have to own one as a pet. It’s fine just to have seen one. Even better if you’ve hit one in your ute whilst driving along a dirt road at a hundred k’s an hour listening to Cold Chisel hits, but hey, you saw one at Taronga Zoo last month, so that’s OK.

Question 4: Have you ever owned, seen, test drove, hired, lived next door to or stacked a Holden car? Yes, a Barina counts. It’s a bloody small Holden car and we would prefer you drive a fuel-guzzling four-wheel-drive, but at least it’s not a Korean import. Or a Peugeot. Immediate fail for a Peugeot mate. Just for future reference."

See? Fair, yet clear and definable exam.

My husband, Brad the Tradie (BtT), is about the Aussie-est bloke I know.

He has perma-tan arms, blokey shoulders and lots of pairs of stubbies work shorts. He kicks ass in his steel-capped boots. He’s had a Holden ute (which I was allowed to drive but I didn’t handle very well on roundabouts in the rain…long story). BtT played footy for years and broke nearly every finger. He now watches every code of footy (all bloody weekend actually…) and currently leads several tipping competitions (he treats them like a second income he’s so good). And yesterday, he ate a Stockman’s pie from our new local bakery. My bloke, he doesn’t just ride kangaroos, he bloody well eats them.

For those less Aussie of you, a Stockman’s pie is what I like to call a ‘roadkill pie’. BtT’s version yesterday had kangaroo, emu, camel and veg, all tossed in a thick gravy and encased in heart-stopping pastry. Lovely. And yet he screwed his nose up at a scorpion skewer in Beijing. Pfft. A bit hypocritical! Although...maybe it was the lack of pastry. Hmmm, scorpion PIE anyone?

Perhaps in Arizona they’d eat bald eagle and coyote pie. Maybe a pie IS the test of nationality. If you can make your local animals (or vegetarian substitute) into a pie and eat it, then you’re a citizen. Would that work as a streamlined exam? Nah, in my book I’d still have to watch Collingwood thrash Essendon on the plasma, then sit outside with a coldie and sigh as the ‘roos hop by avoiding being captured for dinner.

So here’s my message to the state of Arizona. By all means, check citizenship, but first let’s see your criteria. And make sure there’s a pie involved!

That’s fair in anyone’s language…mate.

Football, Meat pies, Kangaroos and Holden Cars, TV ad, mid 1970’s.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

You Don't Bring me Flowers...anymore.

Forgive me Mother Nature, for I have sinned.

I forgot to take my eco-bags into Woolies today. Uhuh. I hung my head in shame as I was asked the question, “Do you need plastic bags for these?”

I usually have eco-bags. I swear. I fold them all neatly and stack them into the cleanest, neatest bag and pack them into the pack of the Kia. I generally have between six and ten eco-bags in my stash, all colours of the rainbow. I know some people prefer all green ones, some prefer all calico. I, however, am earning extra ethical consumerism points by collecting eco-bags that support a cause. I have the Landcare one, the Daffodil Day bag, the Madeline and whatsit Foundation red one, the pink McGrath Foundation, several from schools and sporting groups, one supporting organic gay Canadians… and they all stack neatly into my Boomerang Jane sunny-yellow-patterned-with-dingle-dangles ultra-eco-bag.

And yes, I’m saying it out loud, TODAY I forgot them. Didn’t even just leave them in the car. I TOTALLY didn’t have any bags on me. I had a shopping list (on my iPhone so as to minimise paper wastage), a husband (to carry the groceries obviously) and a trolley whose wheels worked. Just no bags. Good thing I wasn't wearing my Earth Hour shirt.

You know that moment?

When you’re half way through the shop and realise that you’ve got no eco-bags? I hate that feeling. I feel like I’ve killed a baby harp seal with my potential wastefulness and lack of thoughtfulness. And I end up at the register telling Shennay or Jessibecca just to jam all the stuff into as few bags as they can, whilst I stand there apologising, silently praying that no dolphins are watching. I then sneak out of the centre as quick as I can hoping that no one notices my plastic bags.

Ahhh, what a change from ten years ago huh? My shopping friends and I used to revel in swinging our extra-thick hound’s-tooth David Jones plastic bags around, teasing onlookers with the thought that we might have purchased something special, worth more than $39.99. And yet, ten years before that, I remember my parents carting the groceries home in brown paper and string bags. Back before we sprayed hydro-whatsits all over our armpits and it took three layers of plastic to unwrap chicken pieces. When did it all change? And then change back? Is ethical consumerism just our generation reverting to the practices of our parents?

I’m researching steam mops at the moment.

You see, during The Move, the Better Homes and Gardens (BHG) addicted adolescent broke the mop (yes, she CLEANED!!!!) Which led us to thinking that we’d get a steam mop. And do you know what we used to justify the decision? Yep. Less chemicals. You can just use water you know. Really? No ‘stuff’? I thought long and hard about what my mother used to use to mop the lino and wooden floors of my childhood Bush Bogan abode. What ‘stuff’ did she put in that funny old metal bucket with the wringer on the side? Oh. That’s right. She used HOT WATER. Didn’t plug the mop into a powerpoint though. Ah well. Steam mop must be better. Less pushing or something. Technologically advanced. My friend Organica has one, so it mustn’t harm any small furry animals. And my ideal steam mop comes in this really nice bright yellow colour. EVERYONE knows that bright yellow is good for the environment.

I ordered a Bokashi online last week.

You know, that bucket thing for scraps that you put on the kitchen bench. I’ve been dying to try it out. In ‘the old house’ we had (scoff, pffft) a compost bin. But, you know, we’ve moved up in the world now (ok, across in the world I guess), so it’s TIME. It’s TIME for BOKASHI.

I’m going to LOVE my Bokashi. I’m going to sprinkle it with the special micro-organism powder and watch as it gobbles up my family’s organic waste. Am I supposed to chop everything into little pieces for the little tiny organisms to eat? Apparently, we can even put used tissues into the Bokashi, a fact that had BtT all grossed out. But at least, this way, we don’t have to revert to using hankies. Eww. It eats chicken bones too. I'm imagining some sort of vicious Venus Fly Trap inside a bucket. Hope it doesn't eat fingers.

I kind of have this GOAL.

I read it in David Suzuki’s book years ago. He reckoned that HIS family only disposed of ONE bag of rubbish a week. Ever since then I’ve wanted to emulate that. I desperately look at the bottom of packaging to see if it can be recycled. I’ve all but given up bought bikkies due to the non-recyclable packets (except the odd packet of tim-tams… in an emergency). I tried using one of those deodorant crystals, but BtT said I smelled funny (and truth be told, I used to secretly lick the crystal before I used it; it kinda tasted nice). I’m about to launch into using soapnuts to replace laundry powder, and I’m really not that into polyester or nylon anymore (once you use bamboo undies you just can’t go back).

But it’s a daily battle.

Recycle. Pre-cycle. Reduce. Re-use. Do I tick the carbon off-set box when booking a flight? Does it matter or is the world doomed because of fossil fuels anyway? Does my use of sulphate and paraben-free body products cancel out my Pepsi Max addiction? Should I discourage BtT from buying me flowers based on the packaging, hot house nasties and that little bag of 'stuff' that extends their vase life? If I walk to the shops 10% of the time, can I bank that and save up for a Mother Nature gold star? Or do I have to wear hand-me-downs and plant 75 baby trees as well? It's enough to make me bang my pan-flute against a sprout-eating llama.

Maybe it WAS easier before the Industrial Revolution. All dirt floors and hand-leavened bread. Beam me back Scotty.

And yes, I’ll carbon-offset the trip and bring my own bag. Forget the flowers. I'll pick my own when I get there.
You Don't Bring me Flowers, Neil Diamond, 1978.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Thai Me Kangaroo Down Sport!

Being a good Boganette, I’ve travelled to several of the usual Aussie Bogan destinations.

Naturally, we’ve exhausted the diamante scene on the Gold Coast. BtT and I have had coconut jello squares at a luau in Honolulu (blech). We’ve done cheapy slots (and the chocolate wheel) in Vegas. The BHG is collecting Disneylands (three to go). Our thongs and carry-on tube of Vegemite have made friends on the Love Boat in the Caribbean and Mexico.

But no matter how far or how wide we roam, there are some places we just haven’t been. And as my dad says, “Blossy, spend it coz ya can’t take it with ya when ya cark it.” So when we needed an emergency travel package deal after selling our house for more than it’s worth (invest the cash? Pffft!), we reckoned it was time to do Phuket. In fact, with JetStar you actually literally can’t go past Phuket. The plane stops there. And Vodka’s twenty bucks a litre duty free.

It’s suitably perfect, and you get a lot of bang for your buck in developing countries. You get like, a million baht to a dollar. As long as you can master the slip-n-slide with the hawkers on the beach, or as we like to call it, “bugger off mate!” you can practically BUY Phuket with the pocket money of a home-schooled adolescent.  Lying like starfish in the very salty Andaman Sea, trying to figure out whether it’s legal in Thailand to get a teenager to go buy you a drink, BtT summed it up perfectly… “God this is nice. It's... paralytic!”

The Thai people are just so damned nice.

Every time we’d turn around someone was bowing or praying or asking us if we were happy enough. Have a welcome drink. Have a scented towel. Can I get you a complimentary shuttle? Let me carry everything in your hands and walk silently behind you for as long as you wish. Tricky names some of them have though. One of our breakfast waitresses was called Porn (we were busting to ask if her last name was Star...) and our room cleaner was named Jif. She would take her shoes off to come into our room, even if it was to deliver fresh ice fifteen times a day. Even the Sheraton resort’s resident elephants were constantly polite. Not like those raucous African ones with all their trumpeting and stampeding.

I was accosted by 'Sandra' (we think she may have English-ed her name a bit, God knows what it was before...) from Guest Services at breakfast one morning, wanting to know if there was anything that could make our stay more perfect. I must’ve looked a bit doubtful about the ‘perfectness’ of my stay, because the next day a complimentary birthday cake arrived at our room and we got extra bottled water and hand lotion. And they put extra ‘weird fruit’ out at breakfast after I mentioned that the Dragonfruit was a bit light on (and some lamb chops for BHG… yes I know, no one eats lamb chops for breakfast… she does…) and brought BtT some larger custard donuts (tricky having to keep opening his mouth for all those tiny little ones). Yay. NOW we’re happy!

Think we might’ve overdone the ‘luxury’ travel thing with the adolescent though. Our clue? One morning at the breakfast buffet, she looked deep in thought (first warning sign of an epiphany…). When asked if anything was on her mind, she commented, “I’ve heard that there’s places to stay in the world that don’t come with an included breakfast. Is that TRUE?” Being the always-on-guard-for-a-teaching-moment parent I replied, “Actually, yes. In fact, there’s places called Youth Hostels that lots of young people stay at when they travel. Apparently it’s quite fun. You could do that with a friend when you’re eighteen (hint, hint)” Shocked, the BHG exclaimed, “Well, not if there’s no BREAKFAST! What would I eat?” Looks like we need to book somewhere next time where she sleeps on the floor and scavenges local bakeries with loose change.

I love to watch.

Watching Aussies out of their natural environment is always fun (“darl, where’s the sunblock?” “What am I… your bloody personal lacky?” “Can ya get me a beer when you look for the sunblock? And stop bloody complaining otherwise I’m getting one of those Happy Ending massages from that tent over there!”), but watching people from around the world is just a hoot really. It’s one of the best things about going O.S. Having a gander at people from other countries and cultures just makes me bloody pleased that I’m Australian (ie, ‘normal’). OK, so we’ve got a little holiday 'Paunch ‘n’ Peeling’ happening and I did alternate between my 75% off Ezi-buy mail order bikini and circa 2005 adidas swimmers designed more for laps than exotic beaches (BHG calls it my ‘full body suit’ a la Thorpie I guess), but generally we’re not an embarrassment to our nationality.

Not like some others who should never be allowed out of their home country.

In the surf was an entire Indian family delegation Bollywooding in swim-sari’s. I didn’t even know you could GET Hindi-approved togs (made my adidas racer-back look quite skimpy!), but here they were, in all their glory, sequins and full make-up. Even great-gran was having a go. Yeah, good on ‘em we thought… the first few times. Funny how Bollywood in the surf kinda wears thin after a bit, threatening the serentity of our paralytic paradise. Until they got dumped by a wave. Then it was funny again.

Then there was a Russian family, all KGB-like with dark sunnies and black beachbags. The father and son were having an argument in Russian whilst Glamour-mommy basted on the spit, when suddenly the seven year old-ish son burst into English, saying “I don’t know who you are and I do NOT SPEAK RUSSIAN!” We were in stitches and then the father grabbed the son by the leg and yelled (in English), “How many times do I have to tell you not to break the hotel toilet!” The son answered, “I thought you were joking!” Father responded, “Why would I joke about hotel toilets???!!!!!!!" And went purple in the face. Geez. Have another vodka mate. And give the kid some Ritalin-ski. Or make him dance with the Indians.

Of course there’s the requisite lobster-coloured Poms whinging about the price of beer, the gay Italians holding pinkies and marching proudly in their patterned budgie smugglers and the Japanese carting their fluoro and Hello Kitty floatation devices around (do they not teach swimming in Japan?) There were the token Yanks, doing every motorised sport imaginable, their nasal voices piercing: “HEYYYYY, Chrisssstinnnnnne! Rev the motorrrrrrrrr. Fassssterrrrrrrrr!!!!!”

But you can always pick the Aussies.

Actually, the BHG made it her mission. She just swam around in the ocean randomly talking to see who spoke English. Preferably anyone under thirty, given the lack of children at resorts out of school holiday season (“Yess…. I’m HOME SCHOOLED ok?”). She did actually hit on a nice family from Ballarat. Shane and Suze had brought their kid (Amber? Amblyn?) and both sets of elderly parents (yes, I KNOW, as IF!!!! ) and hired a gi-normous private-pool villa. SCORE! For BtT and I too actually, since Suze seemed to like offering to have our whiney-always-hungry-where’s-the-sunscreen-can-i-buy-a-drink adolescent over to ‘the villa’. Then we’d meet up on the beach for a 99 Baht ($3.30) cocktail (or two). We did encourage Shane & Suze from Ballarat to adopt… but alas…apparently they just wanted someone to play with their whingey-annoying only child too.

So, with a new knock-off Dior handbag, Prada sunnies, an XL Hard Rock Cafe shirt (BtT collects them, tragic Bogan behaviour) and a Thai-dyed dress, bandanna, etc, we’ve packed up our pauchy, peely bodies and headed home. There’s only so much relaxing you can do you know? We slipped so easily into a routine of doing bugger-all that we might need a holiday to get over it. One of those detox don’t-feed-me spas. Or a bootcamp where they boss us around instead of offering us cool scented towels.

Best just make sure that there’s duty free alcohol. And a buffet. And a beach. Maybe just a pool or two as well. Yes… definitely. Bugger doing Budget. We’re going to raise the bar (or at least sit under it with our wobble-board!)

Yes. That's our new goal. To represent our nation at holiday resorts around the world. Building Better Bogans!

Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport, Rolf Harris, 1957.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Breakfast at Sweethearts

So, three grand, three people, ten days, and yep. We’re at the Sheraton in Phuket mate. Includes breakfast.

Us Aussies, we LOVE an included breakfast. When there isn’t one, you kind of feel like the hotel has something to hide, or is ripping you off. My mother, being European, always says things like, “Oh, you can just pick up a roll later…” But we Bogans know that a proper package deal bloody well includes brekkie. Buffet preferably.

The Thai people must love Aussies. And yanks. And Poms. And Japanese. And Italians. Good grief… the budgie smugglers! Each day squillions of Bogans from around the world roll off the plane expecting all-you-can eat, knock-off handbags and PLENTY of alcohol. And the Thai… well, they love us LONG TIME. Slap those Baht down and you can get whatever you want here.

Being so small, I doubt Thai people eat or drink anything actually. They exist on humidity alone. So I think they’ve done a bloody good job figuring out what to serve for breakfast. Yep, they serve everything they can find.

Not content with actual breakfast foods, here at our Bogan package deal brekkie, it looks like a food hall. Sure, there’s the obligatory egg man, pancake flopper, the fruit, the salad (although, I mean.. really… I’m on holidays, am I going to make myself a salad first thing in the morning?) There’s the seventeen types of bacon and toast. Yeah, ok, there’s the sushi and Japanese weird shit station. And I’ve even come to tolerate the European cheese, danish and cold meats station. But really… naan bread and curry? Teriyaki Pork? For breakfast? And here’s the kicker that I haven’t seen at a Bogan holiday breakfast buffet before… self-serve gin and vodka. Uhuh. BtT went running to find orange juice whilst I figured out if I could soak my French toast in it somehow. Yes, because after those 99 baht cocktails each night, what you want for breakfast is a good slurp of white spirits. Thinking we may be setting a poor drug education example for BHG, I elbow BtT, who splutters, “Oh, you… ummm… only drink at breakfast when umm… it’s free, and only when you’re on holidays. And obviously not driving. And it’s VERY weak. Hardly touches the sides.” To which the adolescent answers, “Yeah, it’s called a Screwdriver. I saw Charlie make it on Two and a Half Men”. Naturally. Scull up buttercup.

And you know you’re on a good thing when there’s a basket of Vegemite sachets yeah? Saves packing a travel tube. Although, the Aussie way of course, is that whenever Vegemite’s available, you just… well, don’t really feel like any. It’s only in far-off destinations that I really crave vegemite on toast. Like in Alaska at 4pm. Like I’m going to have it here when I can dip my rambutan in laksa and stir fry everything except elephant.

We have ‘food rules’ when we travel.
A bit anal, but I reckon there’s probably a support group for it somewhere. We can’t be the only ones.

Rule 1. Buffet breakfast = flog stuff for later. I’m the one who announces loudly, “Well don’t think you’re havin’ lunch while we’re here!” BtT and BHG have become experts at stuffing the ‘green bag’ full of ‘stuff for later’. Yep, they can get three plates of custard donuts, seven baby yoghurts… Just in case the seven thousand calories we ate for brekkie wears off by noon.

Rule 2. Try the weird shit. Weird shit is defined as anything we wouldn’t ordinarily eat at home. So yeah, we’ve even all manner of crap around the world, with the ultimate conclusion that not every country is as lucky as Oz with their harvest. I’m not into scorpion on a stick, and there’s a reason why we don’t import them and sell scorpions at Woolies. But, yeah, I had Indian for brekkie today, and a bit of Thai soup slop. BtT had some prawn stirfry. The BHG is really adventurous. She had one of those posh ‘crewsonts’. How dreadfully European dahhhling. I loved an interaction this morning between an Aussie Boganette (not I, for I don’t wear lime green sundresses to breakfast no matter where I am in the world) and the Thai omelette man.
Him: Yes Maam.
Her: Ummmm… an omelette thanks mate.
Him: Yes Maam.
Her: 2 eggs. None of that brown muck.
Him: Yes Maam???
Her (leans over the bench and pokes her finger in the bowl of brown muck): That stuff. None of that in me omelette thanks.
Him: Yes Maam.

Oh, and it goes without saying that I’m not eating guts or brains. Those sweet breads could be coasted in gold leaf. I’m not going near them. Ever. Kind of like needing to use a public squat pan. Just isn’t going to happen.

Rule 3. If there’s free grog, then it has to be drunk. Regardless of the time of day. I mean really, that’s just a given. One must also gatecrash any function where there is free grog. Or finger food. Both preferably.

Rule 4. You don’t put on weight when on holidays. It’s like that rule where all the calories fall out of Easter Eggs when you crack them. You just don’t put on weight when on hols. Because you don’t weigh yourself obviously.

So, the unthinkable has happened at our Breakfast at Sweetbreads. We’re, well… a bit over it. I’ve eaten all the dragonfruit I can. I’ve tried all the weird shit. BtT’s eaten eight custard donuts each morning after his perfectly cooked bacon and eggs. Now what?

It’s obvious really. Vegemite on toast tomorrow. And maybe a Vodka.

Breakfast at Sweethearts, Cold Chisel, 1979.