Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Librarian

When I was just a baby, before I could speak
I would line up all my letter blocks alphabetically
and now it’s my vocation and my passion to assign
every decimal-numbered shelf to every decimal-numbered spine
I’m a librarian, I’m a librarian
and I like it quiet so the pages can be heard
I’m a librarian, I’m a librarian
and I do it for the love of the word…

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it… but, to be sure we’re on the same page, I’d best tell you that I’m unemployed.

Without career. Time on my hands. As the household adolescent explains it, I’m putting the ‘stay at home’ into ‘stay at home parenting’. And for those who haven’t been keeping up, I should also break it to you that I quite like velour leggings, stretchy tops from K-Mart and ugg boots. I don’t have to dress up each day anymore. Sold most of my career shoes on Ebay actually. Should see my feet. They look quite… different to before. There’s skin where the industrial strength elastoplast used to be. There’s no callouses or scabs either. They look like… feet.

We’ve been living in the new house in BeachVille for six weeks now. Plenty of time to settle in and take over. We’ve undertaken many essential activities within the community, like telling the kids off up the back for trampolining too high and peering into our yard (like any good ex-teacher I conducted a minor intervention to ensure minimal repeat occurrences of their behaviour… yes, I’m THAT neighbour). We’ve done stuff like meeting the mailman (sorry, postal delivery officer), who appears to come along every few days or so when he feels like it. The dogs are well and truly at home, having escaped Alcatraz to explore the area twice now (the first time we were worried, the second time… we just got cross at the little turds). The adolescent has narrowed down the list of possible part-time work venues to half a dozen fast food ‘restaurants’, a beading store (good grief) and a shop that sells bedazzled puppy accessories. Oh, and she’s enrolled in public school (a secondary consideration to getting a job and going to the beach with non-skanky potential new friends all of whom must love Twilight, Facebook, Glee and incessant texting). Brad the Tradie’s thinking of running for mayor (or state parliament) and I’ve finally figured out the new oven (what’s with all the settings?). We’re a bit worried about the invitation from the next door neighbour to go fishing in his boat, but we’ll jump off that bridge when we come to it. As long as we're not making dolphin kebabs it should work out OK.

AND… significantly, we’ve joined the local library.

Seriously. This was a big deal for us. We really only went there in the beginning because we’d heard they had free wireless internet access (I mean really… I can only sit at Macca’s for so long before I feel greasy and nauseated). And being the ‘keen to settle in and be part of the community’ kind of people that we are (…yeah I know…play along…) we thought we’d better get a library card as well.

I haven’t been a member of a library in a LONG time. Not work-related ones, or libraries that are necessitated through school or studying, but a proper, PUBLIC library. One that you go to for pleasure. I just haven’t needed to. I haven’t had time to. And they’re full of smelly, used things and people in trenchcoats and crocheted cardigans.

Or so I thought. Times have changed in Library Land apparently since I was fifteen. Our local is called an ‘E-Library’. It has E-verything. Our local shire is quite wealthy and apparently we like to spend loads of money on community facilities (I could just go with a highly subsidised land rates scheme… but we’ve already established that BtT hasn’t run for mayor just yet).

Our E-Library is a monument to glass, community love and the Dewey Decimal system.

There are ‘rooms’ where one can hold a gathering (BtT goes to one such ‘room’ for Greenie Group on a Monday). There’s a very-well equipped computer lab, generally packed with the elderly, all squinting at screens looking either quite nervous or quite excited (“Look! I’m on the Netterweb Gladys! Quick, help me find Ebay!!!”) There’s a TV room, with coffee machine, plush lounges that I wouldn’t mind for my house, magazines and all of those ‘how to be involved in your community pamphlets’. This is where the free newspapers get delivered, so the ‘great unwashed’ and pensioners hang out here. Especially during the World Cup soccer. VERY popular is the free telly, free newspaper, free coffee room. This is also where the free native seedlings were hanging out for a while. Two per household. Honesty system. Bless them. I think we ended up with thirteen.

Our library has DVD’s, CD’s, PC games, a book binding machine and several whiz bang colour copy thingies. You could nearly run a business out of the damn E-library. There’s shelves of subscription magazines (much to my relief, given that I’m banned from buying five mags a month now that I’m without career…) and ART everywhere. I know this because I’ve tripped over or bumped into most of it. You notice these things when ART is made of papier mache or stainless steel with sharp edges. The BHG is doing after-school  Art Class on Thursdays in a ‘room’  with a hippie called Carmel. Perhaps I should dress BHG in purple crushed velvet or something so she can ‘create from within’ properly. I get extra stay-at-home parenting points for not embarrassing her at the end of the lesson by exclaiming ‘Wow!!!! Only a hundred & fifty bucks a term for that crap!’

Naturally, there are books at our public library.

LOTS of books. Because it’s so rich, our library’s ‘new books’ section looks like Dymocks. I’ve generated quite a list that I’d like my public library to buy. For me. Bugger buying books myself anymore, especially seeing as though I give most of them away anyhow. I’ll get the library to do it! There’s a special button on the reservation computers where you suggest which books and magazines you’d like. There doesn’t seem to be a limit either. AND if you suggest the item, you get to borrow it first! SCORE!

But where there’s books, there’s a Librarian.

Gotta watch ‘em (the librarians, not the books). They’re SLY. Librarians are a special breed of quiet people. They sneak up behind you, pretending to shelf books, but really are checking to see if you’re going to steal something or spill your eco-travel mug of coffee on ‘the collection’ (it was only a DROP, I SWEAR!) And librarians have RULES. Like… only four DVD’s at a time. Geez. May as well have a rule where you can’t borrow a DVD unless you promise to read a book (a bit like the ‘have a glass of water for every alcoholic bevvie rule…) Rules like ‘no crunching of apples unless you’re in the room with the free newspapers and telly’. AND… our library team (yes… a TEAM of these middle-aged stealthy bookworms with permed hair) have a posh machine that prints out a receipt when you borrow, with each title listed and their return dates. Bloody return dates. Like it isn’t bad enough that you have to line up and scan your library card. THEN you have to bring all the bloody stuff back. On time. So that other people can have a turn. It’s so… COMMUNITY minded.

And don’t they just love the community all coming in to use the library. What happened to libraries being QUIET? You know, “inside voice”?Shhh, this is a LIBRARY!” Even though I can’t eat an apple or spill coffee willy-nilly, we appear to have a policy of inviting pre-school sprogs of all descriptions in to make as much noise as possible. Teaches them to love books or something. Then the librarian brings out free Arnotts Family Assorted biscuit packets for the devil-spawn and their suffering parents. Although, quite frankly, how sitting around in a circle singing ‘Teddy Bear, teddy bear, run up the fecking stairs’ or whatever that annoying song is, can POSSIBLY be of benefit to ME is as yet unknown. I have, however, learned to avoid the library between ten and noon on days of the week starting with T.

So, I now read.

Because the books are free, and quite frankly, so am I. And by the looks of my book list, I’ve got a lot of reading to catch up on. BtT pointed out the Book Club brochure, which I might investigate. One of my VGF’s is in a book club and she thinks it’s pretty good sitting around with other chicks talking about books. When I suggested this hobby to BHG she told me that if I wanted to take up a group activity I should try Synchronized Swimming because that's about the only thing daggier than Book Club. The books on the list look really HARD though. I just want a Bogan Book Club where we sit around and discuss Sex and the City, not all those really long books with enormous words and no nookie scenes. Or better still, a telly watching group, where we can just veg out on the plush lounges, have free coffee (must suggest Chai Latte) and bikkies (must suggest a toasted sandwich machine), then go home. Still, I’ll try a few of the books and see if I can stay awake whilst reading them before I risk making friends with people who use big words. It could be high maintenance carrying around a dictionary if I get too many smart friends.

Maybe I should just become one of the librarians. Can’t be that hard, scanning books, passing out packets of biscuits and counting how many DVD’s Bill and Beryl are borrowing this week. Maybe there's a secret librarians-only toasted sandwich machine out the back.

I’ll just go check the wardrobe for a crocheted cardigan…

Oh bugger… just tipped over my bloody coffee again. Woops. Best stay unemployed for a little longer. The life of a librarian just isn’t for me. Maybe I WILL take up synchronised swimming… much less dangerous.


The Librarian - Jonathan Rundman, 2004 (yes, I hadn’t heard of him either. Don’t you love Google?)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Hey Good Lookin'! What cha got Cookin'?

Did you read the paper? We’re midst a national crisis. Something has to be done about it. I was shocked personally. TOTAL disaster! How did this HAPPEN?

Yes, I know. It’s terrible. The one and only televised pre-election debate between Jules and Tone has been scheduled right up against the finale of Masterchef this Sunday evening. And THIS problem made the news.

The reaction in our house was simple. Bugger the election issues. It’s MASTERCHEF. It’s like scheduling your wedding on footy grand final day. Just shows an outright lack of planning. It’s not that I don’t care about the election or the future of things like Health, Education, Mining (bloody mining… welcome to Western Australia where they should change the flag to display a pick, shovel and fifty million dumptrucks), and those pesky little trouble makers fleeing war-torn countries for a better life. I fecking CARE, OK? But I’m going to watch Masterchef. I’ll flick across to hear the pollies during the ad breaks or something.

Masterchef unites a nation.

It gives us all something to talk about (besides mining), something to look forward to each night on telly (except Saturday… what’s with that? Can they not whip up a Masterchef Saturday baking special or something?) and I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling quite confident in my ability to make mayonnaise from scratch these days with all those Masterclasses.

I think, though, that if I could have a teensy weensy trickle of input into the show’s format… I’d Bogan it up a tad.

I appreciate that we’re all in need of knowing how to present poached pears properly, but really… PHEASANT? Who cooks pheasant? Where do you even get one from? It’s not like the meat section of Woolies goes ‘pork, beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, PHEASANT’? And if I’m supposed to wait until my man goes out a-huntin’ for a pheasant, then we’re all gonna starve.

The Masterchef contestant pile is not properly represented by Bogans either. There’s too many lawyers and IT consultants. These people couldn't possibly represent what cooking has to offer in Australia. Too many 'delicate flavours', mousses and foams. And that smooshed pea spread thing. Seriously. Don’t mess with peas. Did you see these non-Bogans doing the CWA (Country Women’s Association) challenge? Who can’t cook lamingtons and scones for goodness sake? I can do scones in fifteen flavours depending on seasonal ingredients (ie, whether BtT’s dad’s pumpkin crop has gone ballistic). It's just part of our Bogan bloodline.

What we need are Bogan-istas.

My Master-bogan-chef contestant list reads a little like this (some of you reading may sense some familiarity… either admit to it, or don’t, your call):
* Beryl, mother of four from Ballarat, whose signature dish is meatloaf covered with an outer coating of mayonnaise
* Sharon, a stay at home ugg-boot wearer, who has a trick where she puts wholegrain mustard in her potato salad (addictive secret ingredients are always sought after in these shows…)
* Doreen from Dubbo, with an artichoke and spinach dip that just suits every occasion from morno’s with the Governor General to a Melbourne Cup arvo tea.
* Paula, who does a fine Tuesday night pasta dish with a packet of tortellini and a can of tuna.
* Darryl from Deniliquen, who can feed five families on a meat pack he won at the club
* And… Blossy, who can churn out a hundred cupcakes for tomorrow’s fete in under an hour.

We’ve all got our signature dish. Sure, it may not look like the ones 'plated up' on Masterchef, but it does the job.

I love how this show’s contestants all have a ‘culinary dream’. Like the guy who wants to open a Parisian-style cafĂ©, and the one that wants her own TV cooking show. Oh, good ‘em. If they’re happy to be embarrassed each night on telly, then let them have a food fantasy. MY personal culinary dream is for someone else to cook dinner every night. I don’t mind the concept of cooking. It’s just that when you cook food EVERY night that’s supposed to resemble something from the healthy eating pyramid, it gets a bit … less than culinary. Clever families learn to say, ‘mmm, yummy’ every night and not complain. I have a little beauty I call ‘Slop in a Jar’. VERY un-mastercheffy. I get a jar of slop, you know, from the Indian/Italian/Mexican/Asian aisle, and tip it over some meat and veg. Then slam it on a plate with rice and call it dinner. BtT and the adolescent know it by heart (“Ooooo, Slop in a Jar night! Mmmm…. Yummmmmmy!!!”)

And what about the Masterchef elimination challenges? We really need to work on those. I have a few suggestions to Bogan-ise and stress out the contestants. Rather than guessing the ingredients of Coq au Vin, how about they determine what’s in my mum’s Spag Bol? Even better… her Shepherd’s Pie, now THERE’S some tricky ingredients! ("Can anyone taste the beef stock powder?") We could also have a sausage sizzle cook-off to see if anyone can turn 500 snags on a flatbed barbie without burning any at the school election day fundraiser. That’ll sort the stayers from the wannabe’s.

So, back to the original dilemma of what to do this Sunday evening with the telly clash.

Admit it, are you REALLY going to choose to view the Prime Ministerial debate over the finale of Masterchef? Could they not have waited one more week to discuss the state of the nation?

I know what we’ll do. Rather than all the yap-yap we’ll get Jules and Tone to have a cook-off at half time. Jules can do Chinese Takeaway and Tone can slap up a steak sandwich. That’ll prove who’s fit to lead the country.

Problem solved. Bogan Burgers all round mate!

Hey Good Lookin', Hank Williams, 1951.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Cheap Wine and a Three Day Growth

I drink cask Lambrusco. There… I said it.

Actually, I’m a bit partial to Fruity Lexia as well. We’re a long line of cheap wine drinkers, the Bogans. My parents kept a cask of Tropicana in the fridge for guests and special occasions. I graduated to West Coast Coolers. The rest is history.

I don’t mind a bit of wine tasting. Mainly because it’s free. I love the concept of going into a shop and trying free stuff. If you choose your time at Woolies you can almost get morning tea on a Saturday. OK, so it’s all crackers and cheap cold cuts, but it’s still worth it.

Same with wine tasting. Any free grog’s a bonus in this life. You just don’t know what you’re going to get though. Unless you’re with an expert. I’m very rarely with an expert wine drinker (given that Brad the Tradie can really just tell the difference between Jim Beam and Jack Daniels…)

Given how close I now live to one of Australia’s premier wine regions, it seemed only fair to take my VGF Smurfette of the Outlets to drink some free grog. And she’s married to a true expert. The manager of a chain grog store. This woman knows her alcohol.

After playing Paper, Rock, Scissors for three hours to decide who’d be the designated driver, we felt it only fair to call off the negotiations and book a wine tour that picked up and dropped off at the Bed and Breakfast.

You know,the kind of too-ahh where the purple party bus turns up just after breakkie and takes you on all day piss-up. Like a pub crawl, with less flannelette and more camembert. A whole heap of people who begin as strangers and end as … well… strangers singing YMCA and That’s Amore on a mini- bus with a fully sober and suffering driver called Silvano.

So here was Blossy… with a three day growth (ie, hadn’t shaved my legs since Monday) on a fully loaded party bus with Smurfette of the Palette. She who can identify top notes… and stuff. She can swirl. Sniff. And man… can she DRINK. Our rule for the wine too-ahh? We agreed we could not say no to any alcohol offered throughout the day. Which totalled (yes, we carefully kept count)… thirty seven tastings and one full glass (with lunch). About one and half litres. Which, you know, is fine if it’s only wine, but we also did shots at a liquers factory. And we weren't the worst off on the bus, let me tell you.

The difference between Smurfette of the Palette and myself is that I have a very simple system of rating wine. I call it ‘Yummy or Yukky’.

It goes like this:
Wine tasting Chick dressed in llama fleece: This is a very expensive bottle of award winning Cabernet Merlot with full bodied blah blah blah and a pretty sticker.
Blossy: Ohhhhh NOICE. Filler her up luv.
Smurfette: Ooooo, I like that one. Can you feel the raspberries?
Blossy: Nup. Yukky. (yet swallow anyway).

We’ve determined a system for my palette. I like cheap wine. I stopped reading the ‘tasting notes’ and just labelled each wine as ‘yummy’ or ‘yukky’. And yes, without fail, the yummy ones were the cheap ones. Well, if you count between ten and thirty bucks as cheap.

So after driving around in the rain in a mini-bus Silvano decided that we’d had enough (well, it was getting dark) and dropped us all off. And Smurfette and I WENT OFF. We are part-ay animals. We….then.. umm… went back to the B and B to drink some more. In our pyjamas. Watching Masterchef and eating leftover cheese and posh pesto. The way I figure it, you’re already in bed. May as well just finish the bottle, then have a shower and a pandeine.

Today when we self-toured the region (yeah, I decided to drive given that my palette sux the big one) at one posh winery they let Smurfie taste an $85 award winning something-or-other red. She can tell the difference between that and cask wine. In fact, when Smurfette bought a bottle close to $30 at Leeuwin to have with dinner when we got back to Beachville, my main concern was ‘holy crap! What will we eat with it? Snags or chicken burgers?’ (don’t panic, we called into Coles and grabbed a lamb roast to do the Cab Sav justice). Posh wine makes me hungry. Good thing there were M and M's in the cupboard.

So… shall Blossy be spoiled and have to convert to cellar door only bottled wine? Nah. I reckon once Smurfie goes back to Boganville I’ll get the Lambrusco out of hiding.

Long live cheap wine! Unless someone else is paying.

‘Cheap Wine and Three Day Growth’ – Cold Chisel, 1980.

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Hello?? Is this thing on?? Great, you can hear me!

It’s Smurfette here, reporting from Beachville, and Blossy has invited me to act as ‘guest blogger’ for this week, to share some of the hilarity of our Tour de Wine Bottle – nearly as gruelling as the Tour De France, but not quite as long (also featuring significantly less lycra or indeed exercise!)

I packed my gear and left my husband Carlton at home for the week, ostensibly so I could go do some learnin’ at a national conference, but ac-shul-lee so Blossy and Smurfette could investigate some wineries and engage in a little light retail therapy!

Our trip stared with a tootle along the ‘coast road’ departing from Beachville leaving BtT to feed the dogs and tape the important shows like Masterchef and Glee (in case we overindulged and couldn’t concentrate on the tele!) – we anticipated a scenic trip with views of the coast, apparently we were a wee bit misguided as we saw a lot of scrubby bush along the sides of the road with the occasional glimpse of water or suburbia.

I’m no fashionista, but...

I had a stint, only a couple of summers ago, where I wore killer heels and swanky skirts to my job at Bogan-ville Primary, very posh indeed. After slowly eroding the skin on my feet I determined that my feet were really designed for sandals with soles like tractor tires, and teaching maths to Kindy kids was more suited to the wearing of three-quarter length jeans. So the posh skirts and silly shoes were relegated to a lofty shelf in the wardrobe, only to see the light of day for weddings and parties involving free drinks, and I went back to Tar-jay t-shirts and shoes from Colorado.

All of which made our stop at the Somewhere-or-other-up servo to fill Kimmy-the-Kia’s tummy all the more amusing... Cue vision of three trendy poppets dressed in high fashion of short black skirts, tights and topped off with a choice flannies. Apparently our choices of Tar-jay travel-wear (i.e. jeans and t-shirts) just don’t cut it in a Supre world...sigh... The folk inhabiting Wine-ville had also obviously missed the latest issues of Marie Claire, based solely on our tally of muffin tops, tracky and ugg-boot combos and cheesecloth muu-muus. I guess you’ve gotta be comfortable...

And we were further outclassed fashionwise later in the day at the Cow-land Bowlo Club, where we braved the $10 ‘Beer and Burger’ meal deal for dinner. After being met with the stunned stares of the locals at the bar (it was a bit like this: “Oh gee, there’s two sheila’s comin’ in the door – guess they’re not from round here, eh Bazza”), we rounded up a burger and a glass of included wine (apparently not-local-sheila’s could substitute wine if they weren’t up for a beer) – glad it was a local SSB rather than a Chateau Cardboard, given we were in the heart of Wine-ville – and retired to the corner to observe local behaviour. There was the cluster of tradies propping up one end of the bar, balanced by some other locals on the other side – and let’s just say both Blossy and Smurfie were thrilled that we hadn’t bothered to dress-up! Workboots, hi-vis shirts and a reflective strip on your duds seemed to the highest layer of dress-standards at the bowlo, which got us to thinking about what might be written on the dress standards board at such an establishment... How about “Singlet, thongs and shorts welcome, no bling, no cashmere and no fat chicks”

And then there was the full-contact sport of shopping in Wine-ville...

My VGF, Blossy, is currently researching a range of ecologically friendly, ethically responsible and economically viable items for her burgeoning e-business, and Wine-ville seemed like an appropriate place to continue the mission to locate items appropriate for this kind of venture... With a range of stores selling items like handwoven hemp hats and scarves made from intertwined Tibetan toenail clippings, sorting the wheat from the chaff was... strenuous.

We like to shop. Both of us.

When Blossy lived back East we could stretch an adventure at DFO into a full arvo's entertainment. We were underprepared for eco-research in Wine-ville. For example the highly obvious BO in the local bead emporium, the significant proportion of stores selling slop in a jar made from local produce and we were completely under-aware of the need for a ‘Beginner’s Guide to Bong Etiquette’ – yes, really! And don’t get me started on Eco-Cow and her agro about bamboo socks – apparently she didn’t quite understand the concept of retail research and regarded it more as industrial espionage – maybe she should have a bath, ditch the dreadlocks and get a life.

All in all a fun time in Wine-ville – and the wine tasting hasn’t even started yet – roll on the free grog!!

'Girls Just Wanna have Fun' - Cyndi Lauper, 1985