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.