Monday, June 27, 2011

Born To Be Wild

Old people are frightening.

Not recent retirees or the spring chickens in their 60's. It must be some sort of combination of being let out of the 'Lifestyle Villages', being tube-fed martinis and knowing that every day may be their last. I've never seen so many over 80's getting jiggy with it.

Seriously. Cruise ships on longish voyages outside of school holiday season ARE generally known to attract of white middle class elderly chooks spending their late husbands' (plural) superannuation. They remind me of packs of teenage school leavers, travelling together and enjoying absolutely everything that comes their way.

Including Brad the Tradie.

Yep, he's a superstar on this cruise ship. Tall, 'strapping', doesnt mind helping people up from the table or into a wheelchair and he's good at trivia. He's a keeper. As twice-widowed Rae from our dinner table said to me, "If you're finished with him love, I'll have a go!"

The activities on board are pretty wild too. Each night we get a Princess Patter, a little newsletter with the following day's activities listed. For the old chooks this document is their lifeblood. You see them pacing around with highlighters, meeting in packs for a lar-tay to decide what the pack schedule for the day entails. Tai Chi at seven. Breakfast (stewed prunes...gotta keep reg-oo-lah!) Photography talk. Choir practice. Morning tea. Trivia. Bag making ( "ooo look Beryl! we're putting an origami fish on the bag today!") Lunch. port lecture. Movie. Afternoon tea. trivia. Craft of the day ("Is it advanced quilling do you think June? I wouldn't want to waste my time going to a beginniners class...") wine tasting, blackjack, pilates, Snowball Jackpot Bingo, Line dancing.... It goes on and on.

Brad the Tradie is an old-person's holiday fantasy. He nails away his trivia team on the first day at sea. Always. He practically interviews candidates in order to get a winning composition of people who know useless stuff. He plays to win too. Lanyards, playing cards, hats. Trivia is a competitive sport on cruise ships. Which mountain range divides Tunisia and Morocco? How many hurdles are there in the 400m event? Who was the 1938 Time magazine man of the year? when I go along occasionally, I take my vodka. Our team contains a married couple in their late sixties who are Buddhist Vegans who make money renovating pubs. Yes, really. And they know stuff. Weird stuff.

And then there's the night time.

Comedians telling viagra and prostate jokes. Formal nights with as many nanna sequins as Lincraft could muster. Juiced up iverive-shot cocktails by nine, they are all up doing Karaoke. I've never quite seen Kentucky Rose done the way Joyce did it the other night. All she needed was a pole and her bar tab could've been taken care of by the smattering of old codger dudes. We, of course, do NOT karaoke and poor BtT looks a little pained whenever we pass through. These people stay up until all hours swaying and singing along to Barbra Streisand tunes.

But moi?

I'm a little tame for this wild crowd. I'm happily alternating between reading in the sun and swimming in the sun and making sure I don't miss the free champagne at the Art show at 2:30 each day. I need to pace myself. Unlike the octogenarian pack, I've got too much to live for.

Like making sure the Wild Things don't capture my husband and cover him in honey for endless evenings of Guess That Tune. Unless he's managed to get written into the will of course. Then all bets are off!

Born To Be Wild, Steppenwolf, 1968.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Hungry Like The Wolf

Brad the Tradie gets hungry. Really hungry.

If you are ever on a survival-type TV show, you know, the ones where you live on clams and seaweed, it's best to vote BtT off the island rather quickly. Before he eats you. It has been in Blossy's best interests as a wife to learn to provide food quickly and in large quantities. BtT gets hungry after he works, when he wakes up, when he watches Telly, when traveling.... And yet Brad the Tradie is not fat. Not even close. He's a tall, athletic, hungry man, from a family of hungry people. It's not normal.

So when we go to book travel, there are a few things to consider. Only a few. He doesn't like to be 'earth sculpting' (posh new term for landscaping) whilst on breaks. There has to be food. Footy or cricket scores. Bourbon. If I can arrange that, then I am a goddess.

Duh, cruise ship.

Even though Brad the Tradie loves big cats and is happiest among cheetahs, tigers and lions, when hunting he is more like a wolf (less hairy though thankfully). For some, embarking a cruise ship is about frou-frou drinks, swimming pools, sequinny stage shows or the casino. But after boarding in Fremantle at lunchtime Saturday, BtT was HUNGRY. Like a wolf, he snarled ever so politely past photographers, little umbrellas and the reggae band, sliding effortlessly between floppy Australian pensioners slathering on the free hand sanitiser, dodging retirees' custom walking frames in a direct path to the buff-ay.

Brad the Tradie knows buffets. The positioning of dishes, Bain Marie etiquette, plate work, how to get the attendant to refill the hot chippies or prawn platter with fresh ones. He knows to avoid the bread and jelly cups. He's a stealthy buffet hunter. Not the Homer Simpson all you can carry type. an observer would only realize BtT's buffet savvy behavior if they spied me next to him, reading, playing on my phone, doing a crossword.... For a buffet, like a fresh kill for the hungry wolf, takes time to devour properly. It's not a stuff-n-run event. It's a marathon. Good thing he still has his own teeth. And a very efficient digestive system. All that food has to go somewhere.

The cool thing about cruise ships is not only the bulk of food they carry on board, but also the fact that they employ lots of little South east Asians and Ukrainians to do the hunting and gathering (and carve faces into watermelons and make artworks from packaged chopsticks). I like this about holidaying with BtT. We rarely self-cater. Which means that I read. And sit in hot tubs. and watch movies. And go to activities. And eat salad with a side of Diet Coke. I can enjoy the food vicariously after all. A fingerful of whatever BtT is devouring is usually enough for me to come home the size of a Kelvinator. Besides, theres bananas on board and at fifteen bucks a kilo back in Oz I haven't had a the little golden meal of monkeys in sooooooo long, so a constant stream of those and a seat at the papaya stand and I'm pretty happy. I go around the ship scabbing free champagne at Art shows, captains parties... Wherever really. I have a kids drinks card which means I can get unlimited fizzy, juice, smoothies and mocktails. I think I might look just a trifle strange carting around my flask of vodka kindly gifted by one of our American friends, topping up my newest virgin daiquiri or lime & soda.

The way the elderly approach the food is quite entertaining. At our evening 'proper dinner table' of ten, we're the youngest by forty years (not joking). Keith and Elsie holiday often from their base in a Lifestyle Village in Perth. They both have new teeth, so the lobster and veal wasnt as much of a challenge as for octogenarian George. Les and Dot from Bunbury grow lambs and eat it most nights, yet still wanted lamb chops for dinner. (oooo, mint jelly!!!! )Joy, sixth wife of George (and a good deal younger at sixty three) wasn't too sure about the cumin and coconut sauce on her fish the other night and wanted to know why BtT had been given mango ice-cream and George hadn't ("put your glasses on George, it's on the menu... See? No, UNDER the rice pudding, well just ask for some then George, it doesn't matter if they have to go back and get it, these Philippinos are very wiry, won't hurt at all... Oh fine then have it tomorrow night.") Rae, traveling with a friend from the lifestyle Village in Erskine, likes a wine with dinner, but adds ice to water it down and make it last longer. Pat, her mate has one VB beer a day, straight from the can during the Appetizer ("youngest of eleven and the rest were all boys, can't take to frissy wine"). It's kind of like eating dinner at your grandparents, except with more Philippino servants and less mashed potatoes. and two flavours of jelly cups instead of one.

What I don't have to do is check the time to make sure we haven't forgotten a meal, because there's always, ALWAYS food. A cheese plate the size of a coffee table is delivered to our cabin at five. We send the tray back that held the hamburger, chips, Moroccan hot pot, pita bread and milk, but still need to duck to the dining room for a three course meal of little hot things, salmon and ice-cream before popcorn at the Movies under the stars and second dessert during Sports Trivia at 9:30. We may swing by the pizza place because they have hunks of Italian cheeses that BtT likes and it's really hard to leave there without a pepperoni pizza and an antipasto plate. Or maybe just grab a platter of bbq prawns. It is quite a walk to the cabin after all and breakfast is HOURS away. Unless you get hungry in the night and need to go to the buffet. Or get a kebab, or meat pie (yes Americans, Cruises leaving from Australia have meat pies and vegemite on board!!)

They do say that when you go on a cruise you arrive as a passenger and leave as cargo. Although lots of people get 'one of everything' just to try, especially with dessert. The leftover food is munched down and expelled from the ship to feed the sealife. We've got some porky little fishies following along. I could almost hear a collective 'mmmmmm creme brûlée leftovers....' last night.

No leftovers from our table, although it does take a while for the olds to chew, slurp and dribble through their meals.

and it takes a fair bit to fill Brad the Tradie up. On the sixth day at sea (yes it does take a while to drive a boat to Thailand), he has hit the wall. He gave a little nose wiggle at the buffet today, and couldnt even be swayed with a doner kebab from the Terrace Grill. nor a hunk of Italian cheese, or even a bowl of ice-cream. By dinner he was more peckish and I've never known him to turn away shellfish or steak. Even so, perhaps he has transformed from wolf into camel, saving up all this protein to sustain him through the less-than-ideal world that is Malaysian market shopping.

but enough about food and drink..... Excuse moi, it's time for another free champagne at the art show. Then maybe a mocktail with added vodka....

Hungry Like The Wolf, Duran Duran, 1982

Friday, June 17, 2011

You Should Have Killed Me When You Had the Chance

"Am I talented?"

Please. What would YOU say if your teenage girl asked you that? Yep. You say something like I did the other day in the car, driving the self-proclaimed prodigy to Music or Modelling or Underwater Macrame or something. "Everyone is talented in their own special way darl."


But she didn't stop there. She saw through the generic answer and wanted more.

"But like... Am I gifted? You know, am I THAT good at something that everyone would go ...  (long sigh) ..... Ahhhhhhh......."

Why can't kids just accept your first answer? And why can't they ask these questions during home-baked cookies or after a perfectly nutritionally balanced meal when you're in a gold-star parenting mood, rather than in the car running late for something? And why is it, when you pause for that moment too long, trying to manufacture an answer, that they sense it and go in for the kill.... and say ....

"OMG! You don't think I'm GIFTED do you? I'm not good at ANYTHING am I? Are you saying that I'm JUST a regular person or that I SUCK AT EVERYTHING?"

No, I thought, I wish you'd shut up.

Is it all these talent shows on Telly that's the problem?

Or is it true that we've raised Gen Z (or whatever they're called) to whine 'What about me?' at any opportunity.  When did it become a bad thing just to BE? Or, God forbid, go through like without being an amazing singer, dancer, fire-eater or be able to cook a fennel-crusted salmon dish (with caramelised onion) in under fifteen minutes by the age of twelve? Just to grow up and have major achievements listed as learning to ride a bike and getting a special woggle at Scouts? Isn't the whole idea of the word 'gifted' that most people aren't and some people are? Reality TV has proven that everyone can be a Fabulously Famous Nobody, except I'm not quite sure whether this is what I want Gen Z to be when they grow up.

Ironically, we had to go to the Prodigy's School Concert the other night.

I bribed Brad the Tradie into it by offering dinner at the tavern beforehand. After running about six thousand school concerts and talent shows myself, I'd pretty much rather roll in broken glass than go to another one and, as it turns out, most of the Year 9, 10 and 11 parents felt the same way because the audience was mighty light-on. And playing on their smart-phones. I should tut-tut at that type of parent behaviour, but that would make me hypocritical, as I too was checking Facebook during the School Band's never ending Les Miserable medley. OK, and the Year 11 'representational drama excerpt'  from Waiting for Godot. And the flute group's four-verse rendition of In The Jungle (you know.... wimma-way goes on and on and on and on...)  and a couple of hip-hop acts. I paid attention during Act 15 on the program, which was the Prodigy's self-penned play 'Three Friends and Her' starring her (and three friends). I dutifully took pictures with my IPhone, waved and applauded, then went back to playing Bejewelled.

But the highlight was a Year 11 Death Metal Band belting out a song called 'You Should Have Killed Me When You Had the Chance.' Six minutes of screaming, head banging and shaking greasy long hair about. Brad the Tradie starting laughing. I filmed them (damn I love my iPhone) to play back to the Prodigy in the car on the way home to remind her just HOW MANY parenting points I earned by sitting through another freaking awful school concert. And without wine too.

Ironically, the concert was held on the same night as the weekly showing of Australia's Got Talent on the telly. The thing about gifted and talented people is that they're basically freaks. My favorite on the show so far has been the gay pole-dancing Aboriginal male nurse from Walgett. If he'd been at the school concert the other night I might not have wanted to be killed at intermission.

But when the average teenager sees fourteen year old freaks on the Telly singing Opera then they want that attention too. So they keep practicing.... And practicing.... Dancing in front of mirrors dressed in polyester/lycra blend outfits from Supre and belting out Karaoke in suburban houses all over the nation. I suppose it all comes in handy at Greek Weddings and Friday night at the Blacktown RSL.

As for moi? Well, my acting gets better all the time: "Suck? You? Oh noooooo darl, you're the most talented kid I've ever had the pleasure of parenting. Really. Now let's go get some hot chips."    

You Should Have Killed Me When You Had the Chance, A Day to Remember, 2010

Monday, June 6, 2011

My Corona

A wedding invitation arrived in the mail a couple of weeks ago.

That's the thing about moving to the other side of Australia to be near Brad the Tradie's peeps. Suddenly there's a lot to be involved in. Mostly so far it's been poker tournaments, birthdays, the odd family barbecue and school reunion.

But this weekend heralded our first west coast wedding.

 As the 'plus-one', these kind of shindigs are right up my alley. Having met the groom thrice now (and the bride not at all) my responsibilities at the wedding are quite clearly outlined in our culture.... eat, drink and be merry. And who was I to argue.

The wedding we attended on Sunday was held in a Catholic Church. If I wasn't so agnostic I'm sure I would've heard God grumbling with distaste at the way people interpreted the term 'smart-casual'. I was assured by my VGF Organica that pants and sensible shoes were suitable given that the reception was of the backyard variety. However, I think that some guests took a few too many 'smart-casual' liberties. I counted six pairs of leggings, a Goth ensemble (complete with corset) and several too many polyester/Lycra dresses that entered this world as shirts or swimwear. When one of the best dressed is the Page-Dog, you know they should've avoided the word Casual at all on the invitation.

Being brought up by Heathens and wolves, our teenager (who tastefully avoided animal print and black lace when dressing) was dreadfully excited at seeing the inside of a Catholic Church. I felt sooooo proud when she commented, "I haven't done this much...should I spit my gum out here into the garden or do you think there's bins inside?" Dear God, forgive us agnostic Bogans, for we have binned... I mean... sinned.

I used to be a wedding singer.

Once upon a time, long, long ago people paid me (in green hundred dollar bills) to turn up at their ceremony and belt out a pretty tune. I used to loathe the Catholic ones. The nuptial mass comes with a booklet in Latin and headache pills. I did a few Italian Roman Catholic weddings where I really couldn't understand a thing and had to rely on the pianist staying awake and being cued by the priest. One couple begged me to learn the love theme from The Godfather and wanted it sung in haunting tones whilst they signed the register. Freaky much. And I charged extra in case I was struck down by lightening on my way out of Saint Christopher's.

Meanwhile, back at the no-ties weddin', we were delighted to discover that having a reception in a backyard means that the couple can buy whatever drinks they feel like. And quite frankly, I agree whole-heartedly with whoever chose the Margaret River Cab Merlot as table wine. Was thinking of having a beer until I realized I don't have a bottle opener on my keyring, but nevertheless there were a few partygoers singing My Corona for the evening (mental note re keyring... shall be better prepared next time) and when there's eskies full of free Corona, you can be guaranteed people are gonna show. With no bar rules (help yourself!)  no frills and enough plastic portaloos, we Bogans from far and wide just tucked in.

I love informality.  

With no speeches, no waltz, no cake, no 'chicken or fish', and a good 80's soundtrack from the bride's ipod, we were all fairly sloshed by eight o'clock. I managed to impress with my ability to construct a dinosaur sculpture from wine corks, skewers and used canape sticks. I met a new friend called Sue, whose flannelette jacket I was quite taken with, and it turned out that she's married to Brian who stayed at our house in Canberra years ago during Summernats. The Goth joined our group and commented that she hasn't met me in a couple of hundred years (uhuh...) and I learned all about corsetry and how to dye a bright red stripe into my hair.

Margie River Red does soak up a bit of harm food-wise.

After a few rounds of canapés, pizza and profiteroles I was a little dyspeptic, however, the wine was terribly good, so I pocketed a bottle into my handbag (carry-all type, not posh-hold-a-lippie type). I did ask BtT to check if the guest-gift was a whole case...

Not since the sixties have backyard weddings been so popular. Is it the GFC? A new 'bugger it, we can do it ourselves' attitude? I'm not sure how much a traditional wedding costs anymore, but I believe it's a LOT. And, unlike the First Home Buyers Scheme, the government doesn't give any form of rebate for weddin's. So, I'm up there with the DIY wedding. BtT and I are both agnostic and also not terribly into pomp n tromp, so we eloped to a Queensland beach, and consequently I'm not a terribly good example of how to hold a traditional wedding.

So here's my thing.

I reckon Jool-ya could move this whole ummm.... Movement.... Forward by having a backyard weddin' herself. Dontcha think it'd be noice? We could hold it in the backyard at the Lodge or just in the grounds of the Rooty Hill RSL perhaps. A few sausage rolls, some little boys with sauce (she likes eating children) and a noice croquenbouche like the ones they make on Masterchef. Everyone could come, especially the Greens. Yes, I think a Wine Weddin' could distract nicely from nasty matters like Carbon Tax thingies. A few boat children could even sing 'I Still Call Oz-tray-lyahhhh Home' before being packed off to Malaysia. The First Bloke needn't wear a tie and Jools could just don an ugly pantsuit from her fortnightly rotational wardrobe. Yes, I think I'll suggest it to her.

I know where she can get a nice red. And I'll make sure guests are told to bring their own bottle-opener for the Corona.
My Sharona, The Knack, 1979.