Cocktails and dreams: back to the 80s at 88mph

image

As an 80s teen and someone who saw Back to the Future three times when it was first released, AT THE CINEMA, I knew Canberra’s new 80s-themed bar, 88mph, had my  name all over it. I couldn’t wait to go Back in time! (thank you Huey Lewis and the News).

This new venture by owners Ant Arena, Lorenzo Focarile and Dean Brown, the team behind Canberra bars Highball Express, Black Market and Molly,  had its opening night earlier in November.

With my visiting Sydneysider sister (Señorita Margarita) in town for a Day of the Dead festival, a perfect opportunity presented itself afterwards to jump into my DeLorean (aka my Toyota Corolla hatchback), flux up the flux capacitor and go be with my people, the 80s McFly barflys.

After a quick stop at Kokomo, we drove the few blocks to Hobart Place. It was unseasonably cold, we were bare-legged, high-heeled and Señorita Margarita was in full Dia de la noche sugar skull face paint. She looked amazing and I admire how she always embraces the theme of any event, but to the uninitiated, she was a hybrid of Marcel Marceau, Skeletor and Frida Kahlo.

Well get out of my dreams and into my car! I couldn’t believe we got a free car park literally right outside the front of the building (the aptly named Neon House) where 88mph is located.

“See Marg?” I said, ready to launch into another iteration of my “Canberra has things” monologue (#canberrahasthings).

“You couldn’t do this in Sydney! Can you imagine parking right outside anywhere you wanted to go in the city in Sydney on a Saturday night? Can you??”

“No Al, but it IS only 8pm.” she observed.

We were greeted by the warmly familiar, yet exciting, neon glow of the 88mph signage, all dreamy purple and pink reflecting off the wet-look black subway-tiled entrance. Down the steps we went, into another world, back in time.

I knew I would love it even before I got in there, but once I was in the bar, I knew my love was real (because as Cheryl Lynn says, it’s got to be real). The owners refer to 88mp as a bar, but it is so much more than that. There is a dance floor that lights up. Not huge, but big enough for fun with your peeps, and other peeps. There are video games, pinball, menus presented in VHS cases, hot pink cassette tapes and black VHS tapes representing an equaliser as wall art, pizza, and oh hail, lord-of-the-night-that-doesn’t take-itself-seriously – three karaoke rooms!

There were colourful cocktails on tap for $14 for a standard cocktail glass, an extensive list of wines, and beers on tap. Feeling hungry and hoping for something to nibble, I looked at the menu and realised it was pizza ($14) or nothing.

I ordered the “Chicken Pizza” and the cute, young, young bartender with not a whisker of hair on his baby-face, seemed amused. “You want the Chicken Pizza,” he said, like it was funny. He explained there is no “Chicken Pizza”, the “Chicken Pizza” is a nick-name for the “Vegetarian Pizza”. Then I realised I hadn’t actually read the fine-print description of the “Chicken Pizza” because I thought the name was pretty self-explanatory. And I’d been too vain to wear my olde lady middle-aged reading glasses. Oh how we laughed!

I studied this young whipper-snapper as he poured a cocktail, as Heaven 17’s Temptation (1983) was playing, and mused that he wouldn’t even have existed in the 80s.  This was reminding me too much of Back to the Future 2, and I was a crumpled, middle-aged Lea Thompson, aka Lorraine Baines McFly, Marty McFly’s mother. But fortunately the lights were low, being a bar and all, so when I told my bar tender, “You know, I was going out to bars in the actual 80s”,  he replied, “Surely not?!” Dude knows how to score a tip.

Meanwhile back in my own era, I chatted to a friendly middle-aged group and we reminisced about the decade in which we came of age. Then my buzzer went off telling me my food was ready.

A dedicated pizza guy was whipping up made-to-order pizzas. It was served to me hot and fresh on a gingham-patterned plate. My sister and I walked around with said plate trying to find somewhere to sit; both of the two long booths we approached were taken up with guests from two separate parties.

A handsome bearded man suddenly appeared in my path, apologising for the lack of tables, and I realised he must be one of the owners. There’d been a hitch, he explained, but tables and chairs would be arriving Monday he said. It was easy to forgive, after all this was only the bar’s second night.

Senorita Margarita and I perched on bar stools and rested the pizza plate on the top of one of the booths. I inhaled half the pizza immediately.  It was hot, fresh and delicious. I decided I wanted to take the rest home and the guy at the pizza oven was very helpful; apologising for the lack of pizza boxes as he put it in a plastic takeaway food container for me – more handbag friendly than a pizza box, and all to the strains of Alison Moyet’s Don’t Go (1982).

Now The Jackson’s Can you Feel it?  (1980) was playing and it was time to hit the dance floor. Super Freak (1981) was next and Señorita Margarita busted her best moves in her sugar skull face paint. She sure is super freaky.

At about 8.45pm the place really started filling up. And not a moment too soon, because when you’re my age, you turn into a pumpkin at 9.30pm. In a joyful flashback to my 1989 Queensland girls’ holiday at the Contiki Island Resort, the B52s Love Shack brought the crowd to the dance floor – in fact I would go as far as saying, the whole shack shimmied!

Then suddenly I was back in Oxford Street Sydney’s pre-Kardashian Klub Kakadu with Yaz’s The only way is up (1988). We had a quick peek at the three Karaoke rooms and promised to book one on another night.

Then it was a journey back to Year 7 with Michael Jackson’s Thriller (1982). A twenty- something guy in a yellow bow tie started doing the Thriller dance – and the whole shack was still shimmying as everyone on the dance floor brought their best zombie/wolf arms.

Then suddenly a man was dancing in front of me. He told me it was his buck’s night. I told him I was going to places like this in the actual 80s.

“Me too, ay” he told me. “I’m old, this is my second buck’s night. I’m 37!” Huh. Spring chicken pizza in my book.

Because Girls just wanna have fun, Señorita Margarita danced with him in her huge pink tutu. Buck’s night guy may have been Hungry like the wolf, but it was Margarita who went into full Thriller mode as she zombied-it up.

It was an early one for us, we left at 9.15pm and not a moment too soon, as my scalp had started itching with a post-pizza hives breakout mid-way through my Walk This Way air-guitar solo. I could feel the hot and itchy beginnings of a full-body hive attack under my body-suit. Feeling like Michael J.Fox on the verge of a Teen Wolf-style werewolf transition, I knew I had to get out of there fast before my itchy secret was discovered.

It’s not 88mph’s fault – It took a heavy gluten day for me to finally accept I have a gluten sensitivity that must be respected if I don’t want to be red, itchy, scratchy and spotty and, let’s face it, the rest of the seven dwarves (sneezy, grumpy, and sleepy). But that’s probably a story for another blog post.

If it wasn’t for the hives, I could’ve hit that high like George Michael in Wake me up before you go go. That and the fact that mum-duties beckoned, as I’d promised Spider Boy’s dad I would be home at a reasonable time.

But, I promise 88mph,  like the 80s themselves, “I’ll be back.”  I’m so happy I can feel like it’s the 80s again whenever I want. It’s a full-immersive experience. It’s amazing how music and decor can bring the feeling.

The verdict: 88mph was a fun night out with positive vibes from the crowd. On the night we went, there was a good mix of ages, ranging from twenty-somethings to people my age and possibly even older. But everyone was smiling and having as much fun as a Wham! video. Sydney-dweller Margarita observed, “I love how in Canberra you get all kinds of different people in the one club.”

As owner Ant Arena told goodfood.com.au earlier this month, “We want this to be Canberra’s most fun night out – that’s the idea. You come here, the cocktails are gonna be great, the environment’s really cool, and the music – you can’t listen to the 80s and not smile,” he said. I’ll drink to that. Now, baby-faced bar keep, pass me a Blue Lagoon.

 

Literal: Basement, 8/10 Hobart Pl, Canberra, ACT

Virtual: www.88mph.bar

Pop quiz: What 80s movie does this blog post’s title come from? (Hint: there is a link to the song Kokomo)

Are there any fun 80s bars or clubs where you live?

Focus Schmocus

Where has the year gone? I ask myself every year at about this time.

I was just reading my most recent blog post (apart from the Angelina Jolie garage sale reblog the other week) from SIX months ago…where I said, “…I’m clearer now about what I want this blog to be. So here’s to my renewed focus!” Blah blah blah.

Winter and almost all of Spring have passed since I wrote that sentence, and the new blog focus has clearly not manifested.

So what have I been doing? Plotting and planning for The Alexcellent Life, figuring out the best way to structure my actual life,which – I’ll let you in on a little secret – is sometimes the mediocre life rather than The Alexcellent life – but we have to have something to aspire to! There’s parenting, my school-hours job, any freelance work, other business ideas, family time, extended family time, social time, life-admin, house maintenance, and just the business of living.

I will sum up the past few months with a visual retrospective of what I didn’t blog about…

I also didn’t blog about:

  • My 30-year high-school reunion which I was nervous about going to but turned out not to be so bad. In fact I’m really glad I went. It was great to reconnect and realise that those girls are just real people and we’ve all had our share of knocks
  • Lots of joy in the ordinary, but also a decent amount of worry, tiredness, and frustration
  • Flu for Spider Boy and me
  • The passing of Spider Boy’s grandfather, my-ex’s dad
  • Lots of work. Work work, housework, personal work
  • Bill juggling, haggling and staggering
  • 9am Sunday morning soccer in Winter
  • Several Sydney visits as well as visitors from Sydney
  • Plotting, planning, thinking, consolidating.
  • NO Tinder-swiping which has been a big fat relief

I have loads more photos on my phone but my old MacBook already has so many photos on it that it really struggles to cope with more.  Otherwise I’d show you more pics here.  I really need to buy a hard-drive or something.

So that’s where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing. So I’m not going to talk about things like “my renewed focus”. I often think about something my year 3 teacher from 1978 said.  I can’t remember her name, but I remember her well. Our class motto was “Don’t say it, do it!”

And that is exactly what I will do.

 

I-Can’t-Believe-Angelina-Jolie-Came-To-My-Garage-Sale!

This weekend (Oct 21 -22) is Garage Sale Trail, with over 10,000 garage sales and stalls happening all over Australia. The yearly event that started in Bondi in 2010, is a great opportunity to declutter, find your treasure in another’s trash, fundraise, make some extra cash and meet the locals. For more info garagesaletrail.com.au #garagesaletrail

It got me thinking about a sale I had four years ago in Sydney’s east that didn’t make me much cash, but generated a whole lot of fun and a celebrity sighting (I think)…

The Alexcellent Life

My gorgeous street emporium of fashion and fun. My gorgeous street emporium of fashion and fun.

English: Angelina Jolie at the Cannes film fes... Angelina Jolie at the Cannes Film Festival. Not at my garage sale. credit: Wikipedia.

A lot of unbelievable things have been happening round here lately, from my making butter from scratch (scratch!) to a major Hollywood star turning up unannounced at the garage sale I had as part of the 2013 Garage Sale Trail. This national event organises communities around Australia to hold garage sales on the same day. The aim is to promote the re-use of unwanted goods, saving them from landfill.  Apparently it’s also helped 800,000 people in Australia meet their neighbours! But then, who needs neighbours when you’ve got Angelina Jolie popping by?

Before I tell you about my famous browser, let me tell you about my gorgeous little “shop”. At garage sale time, all my fantasies about having a little shop and selling gorgeous things (channelling Patsy from Ab Fab…

View original post 1,064 more words

Happy New Year… now it’s Mother’s Day!

It’s been a long time between posts here at The Alexcellent Life. The last post I wrote was about George Michael’s death while I was on a Sydney visit over Christmas/New Year.

January was busy. We had a beautiful wedding to go to, and raced around visiting family and friends and a couple of beaches because, Sydney in January.

I had many post ideas to write in the last quarter of 2016, but they remained in my head. Time constraints, as well as not having a clear direction for this blog, contributed to the lack of actual posts. As did my finally working out how to hook up Netflix. I binged on episodes of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend every night.

But now that that’s over, I’m clearer now about what I want this blog to be. So here’s to my renewed focus!

While the changes to The Alexcellent Life are brewing, here’s a little retrospective of just some of what I didn’t blog about…

The lesson of 2016: Choose Life while you still can.

choose-life

I drafted a fresh post about George Michael on Boxing Day, but before I could hit publish, another icon, Carrie Fisher, had died. People we don’t know die every day, the loved ones of others. Sometimes it’s someone dear to us and it’s terrible. But when an icon dies, someone who may have occupied your thoughts and woven their sparkle into your pop-cultural tapestry of reference, you also feel the loss. Sometimes youre prepared for these events, other times not.

I was not prepared for George Michael’s death. 53 is young. Not to the 15-year-old me, but to me today, 53 is young. When David Bowie and Prince died this year, I felt sad. But George Michael was not just a musician to me, he was part of my emotional landscape for much of my teens and I just took it for granted that he would be around for a long time.

As I drafted this on Boxing Day, self-medicating with champagne and liqueur chocolates, I felt a poignant mix of sadness and gratitude. Sad that George Michael’s gone too soon, but grateful that such an artist existed in the first place and gave me, and all who wanted it, his gift of music.

George Michael may have  started as just a popstar, derided for his penchant for a gimmick (Choose Life, fluro clothes, happy brain-candy pop tunes and lyrics) but after the 1987 release of his solo album Faith, it was clear that George had real talent, the respect of other established artists (Elton John, Aretha Franklin) and the voice of an angel with a knack for lyrics and musical arrangement.

I know many people my age have uttered these words the past few days, but George Michael provided a soundtrack to much of my generation. He was there for every heartache of my teen years, and in troubled times I would look up at the poster on my bedroom wall, to see George gazing down at me. I felt reassured by his smile showing off amazing white teeth, and his blond tipped hair. I just felt assured that everything was going to be OK.

I first heard of the pop duo Wham! when the singles were released from their 1983 album Fantastic. I was 13 and thought Bad Boys was so cool when I heard it on Sydneys “Rock of the 80s” 2SM. They were bad boys in leather kissing girls in pearls, as the lyrics from Young Guns go. But in this era of one TV in the house, no video recorder and decades away from the internet, I didnt actually lay eyes on singer George Michael until a year later. It was at my friend Naughty Kates house, and Wake Me Up Before You Go Go and Careless Whisper were both played on Countdown.

Whos THAT? I thought, immediately taken with his hair, his teeth, his shorts. Kate  and Nadia, my Wham!-partner-in-crime, seemed to know who he was. I was 14 and I was instantly in love.

It wasnt long afterwards that Wham! announced Sydney concert dates.  They played the  Entertainment Centre on 26th January 1985. Nadia and I were there with four other girls from school, right up the back, a gaggle of gigglers in electric blue mascara and tube skirts. And it was only days after this that I came face-to-face with George in the flesh after stalking him at the Sebel Town House, which is a whole other blog post.

My career plan from the age of 15 was literally, that when I turned 18 I was going to go to England, hunt down George Michael and marry him. Or if that didnt work out, I was going to join the cast of Neighbours. I was deluded, but at least I had the sense never to admit it to the careers counsellor at school, prefering to hide my true feelings behind the more socially acceptable “journalism”.  I maintained the facade of joining the real world sometime in the late 80s when I completed that Diploma in Journalism. Really, I saw it as an entree to the world of celebrity.

I was convinced George would be mine – I’d done my research. I knew, from reading the English version of Smash Hits, that Georges favourite foods were Mars Bars, Scotch, and Mayonnaise and that he liked to go to a London club called Stringfellows. A quick google search more than 30 years later, tells me Stringfellows is a lap-dancing club, but no matter, I’m sure it would’ve been a great place to start my search.

I knew George’s father ran a Greek restaurant on Edgware Road, Edgware. Again, thank you Smash Hits. My friend Nadia and I even rang the damn restaurant from the pay phone in the girls toilets during school recess once. We found the phone number without the internet thanks very much.

I found out all about his personal life. Oh the jealousy I felt towards; Pat Hernandez, his rumoured girlfriend, Brooke Shields, rumoured to be dating him, and even poor Pepsi and Shirely his backup singers, because at least they got to be actual friends with him. Oh why couldn’t I just be five years older, like Brooke Shields – then he’d be mine.

Nadia and I would get the bus to Grace Brothers Bondi Junction on Saturday mornings and stand in front of a video jukebox that had their song Club Tropicana as one of the selections -we could choose life in our Choose Life t-shirts but we couldnt even select the damn song on the department store jukebox- we had to wait for it to randomly come on. We would stand there for all morning, waiting to get a glimpse of Georges thigh jiggling in his white speedos. No, we didnt have a video recorder at home. Back in my day, we had to wait for things. My son, Spider Boy, who in a happy coincidence, is also called George (named after his Greek grandfather), just cant believe it. If he wants to see something now he just looks it up asks me to look it up on You Tube.

The problems of teenage life and school seemed to be diluted by a big Wham!-shaped distraction. Sticking pictures of George and Andrew in short white shorts, ever-present fluro tops and blonde tipped hair all over our school diaries, reading Smash Hits and Countdown Magazine out loud and squealing with delight at lunch, and fantasising about how our lives would be when we finally met George and Andy. But mainly George.

Nadia showed herself to be a true friend of the highest order when she announced to me in a study period one day, “You can have George”.

“What? Really?” I asked.

“Yes. I prefer George, but I know how much you like him, so when we meet them, you can have George. Ill have Andrew.” What a friend.

But sometimes Nadia liked to play bizarre mind games, one day randomly uttering to me in another year 10 study period, “You hate Georges mother.”

“What?” I asked.

You hate Georges mother” she repeated.

“Why? Why would I hate Georges mother?” I asked, incredulous.

“You think shes trying to take George away from you” she stated.

I got a strange sense of enjoyment from that exchange, because Nadia was acknowledging my “relationship” as a real-life thing. She was making it all seem possible.

It was this bizarre fantasy world we lived in that probably contributed to my abysmal HSC mark, or perhaps helped me cope with my teenage issues of the day.

We were famous for our Wham! obsession. Gigi, Nadias neighbour who Id heard of but hadnt met before, approached us at the bus-stop one day in the summer holidays of 1985. She smiled quizzically with her hot-pink lipsticked lips. “So Nadia, do you still like Wham!?” she questioned, as though liking Wham! was something vaguely amusing. Gigi was just a little bit cooler with her preference for Spandau Ballet. But Tony Hadley was no George Michael.

“Well yes, actually I do, and thats why Alex and I are going into the city today.” She told Gigi. Nadia and I were getting the bus into town to see a display of George Michaels concert outfits that were to be auctioned off for Live Aid, Bob Geldofs charity event to raise money for famine victims in Ethiopia.

30 years later, it would be Gigi who first alerted me to Georges death, with her text on Boxing Day morning “Did you hear about George Michael?” with a crying emoji.

Our Wham reputation culminated in a school camp, where Nadia and I clearly couldnt cope with four nights away from our Wham! posters at home, so we just bought one to camp with us and hung it in our tent. The other girls started singing Wake Me Up Before You Go Go around the campfire. Not in the spirit of inclusiveness, but to mock us. You know when youre being mocked. The poster may have been defaced from memory. Im pretty sure it was. The cool girls liked Duran Duran and U2.

My love for Wham! never went away, I still listen to the music from time to time and love to belt out Georges brilliant lyrics in songs like Freedom (NOT 1990, but the 1984 song of the same name; Like a prisoner who has his own key, but I cant escape until you love me, I just go from day to day knowing all about the other boys… and Wham Rap. But my fan-obsessiveness fell away as I grew up and other things took its place, like actually growing up, real life, job, study, actual males and not just an image on a poster or a video.

Even though I never would meet him in his dads restaurant, or share a Mars Bar with him at Stringfellows, George gave me more than he could ever imagine; Not only did my crush provide me with a “boyfriend” without the hassle of actually having one, I was able to harness the passion I felt for him between 1984 – 1986 and later use it in my job as editor of Smash Hits magazine more than a decade later.

It was this understanding of the passion our readers felt for Taylor Hanson and Leonardo DiCaprio that allowed me to write down my vision for the relaunch for Smash Hits magazine in 1997 and turn it into the fastest growing magazine in Australian that year. I knew what our readers wanted. I knew that they really thought they were going to marry Taylor Hanson. Just the way I knew I was going to marry George. They wanted to be close to the stars and I knew how to make the readers feel that Smash Hits was their ticket to the first class carriage on the pop star express.

My love for George became a fond memory. Ive thought at various times in my life that I would be sad when he dies one day. When Im old. When he’s older.  It wasnt meant to happen now, and not on Christmas Day. But thats the thing about life isnt it? A sobering reminder that anything can happen and there’s so much we can’t control.

In Wham!‘s debut single Wham Rap (1982) George prophetically sang the words …you can dig your grave, I’m staying young... Well he did stay young, simply in the fact that he will now never grow old.

I like the advice he raps in the same song, Make the most of every day, don’t let hard times stand in your way, give a wham give a bam but don’t give a damn cos the benefit gang are gonna pay! Forgetting the last bit about doing what you want cos you can just get the dole, the sentiment about making the most of every day serves as a warning.

I stopped following George’s career closely after I gave up on my dream of marrying him, I only took a vague interest in news items about him in the ensuing years.  Did he make the most of every day? Maybe he did, probably more so after his near death from pneumonia in 2011. but in any case, it can serve the rest of us as a poignant reminder of how to live.

So remember to give a wham, give a bam (whatever the hell that is) but don’t give a damn. Don’t give any f*&%s about what’s not important, and make the most of your days. Each day. Because we just don’t know what the next day is going to bring.

I showed this post to Nadia who is still one of my dearest friends to this day and she texted me after reading”… the bit about me saying ‘You hate George’s mother’ etc, cracks me up as I’d forgotten about it.” I told her how funny and original she is, and she replied “…2017 is going to be the year of fun! I can feel it. Too many people dying and getting sick so remember YOLO – you only live once.”

So Wham Rap will be our new philosophy-in-a-song. Just as well, as Ill never be able to listen to Last Christmas, one of my favourites that does double duty as love song and Christmas carol, the same way again. We listened to it at Christmas.

My ex-husband who played DJ this year, told me “Alex, this ones for you”. We had no way of knowing that the very next day, the grim reaper would not give George’s heart away, but completely destroy it, as my ex joked about Georges character in the song having a new girlfriend and still being hung up on the one from last year.

I feel for George’s loved ones, including best friend and partner-in-Wham!, Andrew Ridgeley,  that they’ve lost George so young, so unexpectedly, and on Christmas Day. That song will take on an extra significance now.

Thank you for helping shape my youth, George. Thank you for providing a mental escape route from the hardships of growing up, and for a catalogue of songs that have added colour, melody and texture to the lives of a generation.

 

Looking for George Michael

Hearing about George Michael’s death yesterday was certainly a shock and made me remember all the moments I shared with him (in my head). But there was one moment I shared with him in real life. I don’t know if “share” is the right word since George probably wasn’t aware of my presence, yet I was there.

Here’s a post I wrote last year about the experience…

So Sunday was my birthday. Forty-f’ing-five. Has it really been 30 years since I stalked George Michael at the Sebel Town House in Sydney?

I will never forget my 15th birthday. It was February 1, 1985. English pop duo Wham! were in Sydney on tour. On Australia Day, dressed in my electric-blue tube skirt, I had gone to the concert at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. I knew I had to meet George.

In those last days of January before we started Year 10, my friends Nadia and Kate and I stood outside the celebrity hotel du jour, the Sebel Town House, every day, to wait for Wham! We befriended the other girls (and one boy) that were there on Elizabeth Bay Road, writing messages to George and Andy in chalk on the pavement and listening to Wake Me Up Before You Go Go on the boom box that somebody brought.

At one point my friends and I got sick of waiting outside the hotel. We took action and walked up the front steps. Strutting into the lobby we were immediately approached by a security guard. “Ladies… can I help you?”

“We’re here to see Wham!” we declared. This was going to be easier than I thought! “Wham!?” he repeated. “I believe they’re out swimming in the harbour today. ” Which was very helpful of him really.

We did an about-face and walked to the harbour foreshore. We ended up at Woolloomooloo, probably not the best swimmer-stalking place, but what did we know? Any distant yachts we saw heading towards Mrs. Macquarie’s chair we’d call out “Is that you George and Andyiiiiiiiieeeee?”

Things were getting depressing. Even we knew it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. Especially since we were yachtless. We trudged back up to Whamette Central and waited again.

After what seemed like hours, we noticed a group of official-looking people heading towards the hotel’s front entrance. Someone was walking just behind the group. We could distinctly see blond hair. Those blond highlights shimmered gold in the late afternoon sun. And then we could see his face. And it was…. Rod Stewart??? Or Rod Spewart as we liked to call him.

He arrived with a look on his face that said, “Here I am girls, don’t all grab me at once”, but then seemed genuinely hurt and disappointed when we all just stared at him. No screaming. No grabbing.

Rod was OK, but when you’re waiting for George Michael, Rod Stewart simply won’t do. He slunk inside the Sebel with his unnecessary minders.

Rod emerged a short time later and got onto a mini-bus. Where was George? Where? And why couldn’t we have the same access to George that we had to Rod. It would be 10 years before Alanis Morissette’s anthemic Ironic  would be released. But I’m sure I was brewing a similar ditty in my head… “It’s like 10,000 Rod Stewarts, when you all need is a George Michael.” Or something like that.

I was beginning to feel a bit sorry for Rod. I approached his mini-bus and looked for the window with the nest of blonde spikes in it. I tapped on it. His head was turned away. I tapped again. He turned to look at me. The sulky look on his face said it all – he was sulking. I gave him a smile and a little wave. Yeah, like I could make up for all that rejection. He must’ve known it was a pity wave. He waved sulkily back.

February 1 rolled around – I think it must’ve been the day before school went back. Mum gave me a groovy new accessories pack from Sportsgirl. Big round black and white chequerboard earrings were part of the package. Jitter. Bug.

But then Mum gave me the best present of all: “Come on”, she said, “I’ll drive you to the Sebel Town House.”

When we parked just across the road and up a smidge from the hotel (everything was easier in the 80s) Mum said, “Isn’t that him there?” I looked and saw the glorious golden blow wave of gorgeous George. He was wearing a bright blue shirt. He was standing at the top of the front steps of the Sebel, like a king addressing his subjects.

“Well go on!” said Mum, wondering why I wasn’t getting out of the car.

My heart sped up and my mouth went dry. This was my future husband after all. What would I say to him? My hands started to shake as I opened the car door.

I stepped onto the road and tried to walk across it. The saying about legs turning to jelly is a cliché, but it’s what they felt like. They had never felt like that before, and now that I think about it, not since. I had the gait of a new-born foal as I stumbled across the road in my white sandals, toward my love.

Now that I had George Michael in my path, what would I do with him? He was signing autographs for a few lucky girls who had been waiting on the steps. I continued toward him with my little piece of paper.

When I was a couple of metres away, George was whisked down the steps and into a waiting car. I felt a bizarre combination of relief and disappointment. It had all happened so quickly. I wouldn’t be getting my little piece of paper signed by George, but at least I didn’t have to talk to him.

In an 11th-hour surge of boldness, I tapped on his Georgeousness’s car window. The glass was completely black. I couldn’t see a thing. This wasn’t Rod Stewart’s vehicle you know.

Did George see me? Maybe.

And at that moment, that was enough.

I don’t think my nerves could’ve handled anything more.

Some exclusive pictures from my official Wham! Scrapbook. Maybe it's time to let go now? I am forty-f'ing-five, after all.

Some exclusive pictures from my official Wham! Scrapbook that helped me get through the pain of being 15.  Maybe it’s time to let this relic go now, so I can concentrate on the pain of being forty-f’ing-five.

 

Real life Ninja Turtles: or how Access Canberra saved the day

img_8168

How Spider Boy imagined me getting the key back. This is pretty close to what happened, except NOT a Ninja Turtle as per this illustration.

You know that saying about things going down the drain?  For example, “Christmas is just around the corner, so I guess that means my diet’s going down the drain!” or “What’s that you say, James Packer? Mariah’s being a total diva re your breakup? Well I guess that’s 50 million dollars down the drain!” Today, I literally, had cause to use this phrase, when I said “My car key is down the drain!”

I was working from home on Friday when at 2.50pm I cut short my Instagram webinar (which I’d been taking part in since I downed tools on my actual paying job at 2.30) to do school pickup.

Thinking I’d only be gone for the 15 minutes it took to drive to school, collect Spider Boy and return home, I left the house only with my car key and phone. I exited via the internal door that leads to the garage and left it unlocked, so I only needed the garage remote to get back into the house.

I collected my happy little boy and we chatted about school swimming, his portfolio of schoolwork , his report and other last-days-of-school events as we walked to the car.

I clicked the car key to unlock the door, and then ol’ butterfingers (that would be me) just dropped the car key. It landed in the gutter – right near the entrance to the storm water drain. Before I knew what was happening, I saw the car key and the attached garage door remote button begin its descent into hell, sliding down the slight incline into the drain, as if in slow motion. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

“Noooooooooo!” I thought. They were gone. I knew in that moment there was no way I could retrieve them. Gone, gone, gone. Down the drain.

img_8193

Down the drain, literally.

I told Spider Boy what this meant and he wasn’t happy. We couldn’t start the car, drive it, or even get back into the house. I had no wallet, no money, very little water, and about 21 per cent battery charge on my phone on this hard, hot day in suburban Canberra. I noticed a local phone number engraved into the concrete lid of the drain. I dialled the number on my barely energised phone. Anything less than 60 per cent makes me nervous at the best of times.

“No Love, we just make the drain covers, we’ve got nothing to do with opening them,” said the man who answered, denying my request to “open the drain” for me.

“Call TAMS” he told me. Ugghh. More battery power. For non-Canberrans reading this, TAMS is Territory and Municipal Services. But thanks to my recent stint working for the ACT Government, I know that TAMS is now called Transport Canberra and City Services and that I needed to call Access Canberra, the umbrella organisation that organises all the other organisations.

I called Access Canberra. Then I called my ex-husband and my ex-husband’s brother about  the spare key to my house, taking some comfort in my ex’s brother remarking that the whole thing sounded like a Seinfeld episode. Then I called my dad in Sydney, thinking he might have some ideas about how I could get the garage door open without the remote or a key, with my 21, 19, 17 percent battery. “Pet, I think you’d better call emergency services”. Gee thanks dad. Maybe I should just call Dr.Beat, or Ghostbusters.

“Okthxbye!” was all I could say as I tried to wrap up conversations as I had to save battery power for Access Canberra, knowing they might call me back to tell me if and when they were coming to rescue me.

Spider Boy had collapsed dramatically across the back seat of the car; “We’re going to be late for Woden plaza!” he almost cried.

“Why don’t you show me your portfolio while we wait” I said trying to fill the time usefully but then realising I needed to keep an eye out for an ACT Government vehicle so I could alert them to our location.

I called back Access Canberra to see how things were tracking, and the helpful contact centre officer put me on hold so she could call the rather excitingly named “Storm water team”, and came back to me a short time later to say they were on their way.

Sure enough, about 15 minutes later, after SB and I cracked a few jokes about the Allianz insurance ad, there they were! I have never been more thrilled to see an ACT Government logo in all my life.

The two men who jumped out were so good about me just dropping my key down the drain. They didn’t roll their eyes, make a joke, sigh or huff or puff. They just got on with the job like the professionals that they are. Imagine Spider Boy’s (and my) excitement when they grabbed a big metal hook and pulled off the concrete lid of the drain, opening up the footpath like a couple of surgeons in hi-vis vests.

We looked down the hole and there it was, at the bottom of an 8-foot drop, my key and it’s accompanying pink garage door remote lying on a pile of gum leaves at the bottom of the drain. Lucky it wasn’t raining. “But how are we going to reach it?” I said.

“Don’t worry, I’ll get down there ” And the younger of the two men just climbed down the drain and retrieved the key for me. We thanked them profusely and they were all humble and told us to have a good weekend. So professional. I went straight home and called Access Canberra to praise the Roads ACT staff at Transport Canberra and City Services. And I’ll be writing a letter.

As we drove home, I expressed to Spider Boy how those men were like heroes, coming in and fixing a sticky situation for us, quickly and professionally. Spider Boy was also impressed.

“Before they got there I imagined the Ninja Turtles being down the drain and crawling out to give us our key… and then it really happened” he said. Yes, except our key-rescuer was a human man and not a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. But almost the same thing. “Oh and I imagined the drain would look like a sewerage-lair, but it didn’t” he added.

“I thought it was the worst day of our lives, and now it’s the best day!” he continued. Spider Boy and I basked in the sweet relief of being able to drive the car home and get back into the house.

I called my dad. He was impressed with Access Canberra too. “If this had happened in Sydney you’d be waiting till next year.” Too right.

I tried to turn the whole episode into a teachable moment because I’m just one of those annoying people:

  1. Bad things happen in life, but they serve to help us appreciate the good times, or at least the times when nothing is going wrong.
  2. Times when nothing is going wrong are good times! This is why the Alexcellent Life embraces the “Joy in the ordinary”
  3. Never leave home without the house key in case the garage door remote breaks or falls down a drain.
  4. Acquire a spare car key and spare garage door key and keep them in the house.
  5. Give a spare house key to someone you trust. Having to get a locksmith is expensive.

Have you had a great customer service experience recently?

Ever lost anything down a drain?

Sydney visit and my problem with “stuff”

Several weeks ago Spider Boy and I went back to Sydney for nearly a whole week. It was the longest we’d stayed there since we moved back to Canberra in January. While it was great to see family and friends, I was still haunted by more stuff that needed packing.

I still have stuff at my mother’s place which needs to be gone from there. So much stuff. Mostly books, files, papers, craft supplies, things “that could be used to make a great artwork someday”, actual artwork from Spider Boy’s preschool days and project books from my primary school that I just can’t throw away.

But I’ve packed it all now and it will be coming to Canberra where it will be further culled and organised. There’s only so much I could do in Sydney in limited time and it’s important to make time for my peeps. And food.

Here are some photos…

img_6539Beautiful Rose Bay on a windy spring Saturday afternoon.

img_6484

They say Rose Bay is one of Sydney’s dirtiest harbour beaches, but it’s so pretty and I’m so fond of it.

img_6658

I discovered a new little Italian bakery, I Pasticerri Italiani, has opened in my absence. Amazing customer service. The baker, an older Italian man, who spoke no English, noticed Spider Boy looking through the window to the kitchen and invited us back to have a look at some bread rolls that were about to go into the big oven.

Spider Boy, who is the fussiest eater I’ve ever known, was intrigued and wanted to try one. As soon as they were ready, he was served one, with olive oil. He liked it.  But he didn’t like any of the below… probably just as well.

img_6551

I got over-excited and purchased a delicate and lovely selection for afternoon tea as my father was visiting. On seeing the cakes, Dad said “I don’t really like Italian cakes”. Considering he spends a couple of months in Italy every couple of years, I was surprised. No little dolce for him. He would’ve been happier with a madeira cake from Woollies.

img_6480

“I liked that actually, it was very good” said Spider Boy when he saw this photo as I was drafting this post.

img_6531While I staying at Mum’s I made my Sunday French toast with Greek yoghurt and blueberries.

img_6505

I went for a “jog” (well that’s what I told people) one evening and returned with this Margarita Pizza from Made in Italy in Plumer Road Rose Bay, Spider Boy’s favourite.

img_6595

I got busy sorting and packing. I parted company with these treasures from my 80s teen years. I was a 14 year old rebel, clearly. The love I have for the music stays with me. But honestly, am I really going to play these cassettes again? That’s why I photographed them, so I could let them go.

Oh, hang on a minute.

I think I kept these, thinking they could go in a picture-box frame with other 80s cassettes and become an “artwork.” thinking they could hang out in a box until such time I decide to turn them into an “artwork”. thinking they can hang out in a box for all eternity.

img_7038

I found this lovely photo from Spider Boy’s baby days. It’s one of my all time favourites. That’s going in a frame straight to the pool room.

And here’s something more recent…

img_6512

Oh don’t they just grow like weeds! Like Mummy’s grey hairs.

img_6642We had a lovely coffee (smartie cookie and milk for Spider Boy) with Granddad at our favourite cafe and Granddad caught up on all the Canberra school news.

img_6709

…got some climbing practise at the park

img_6632

and happily, Spider Boy was able to catch up with one of his good friends (and friend’s little sister) from his old school. These boys started school and did their first three years together. I hope they will be friends for a long time.

img_6722

I enjoyed the luxury of mum babysitting while I met up with Señorita Margarita (later joined by my friend Nadia, who I’ve known since primary school) at Sydney’s oldie but goodie, The Darlo Bar.

img_6681img_6672

…followed by the most authentic Mexican in Sydney at Playa Takeria. Well that’s what the sign said, and it tasted really good, so I believe them.

img_6636

Me and my stuff. We go back a long way.

Boxes are packed. Now to move the damn things.

Edited highlights: Spring flowers, food and boys in the wild

Lately I’ve been enjoying so many colourful blooms in Canberra and that doesn’t even include Floriade, the National Capital’s annual flower festival. Now that the cold of Winter has passed, let’s look back at some Spring highlights…

I noticed a neighbour planting bulbs a few months ago and look what happened!

IMG_5718

Fields of gold: Spring literally springing

Spider Boy and I were invited to the most delicious Indian dinner at a school friend’s house. Cooked by an auntie visiting from Mumbai. It was honestly THE best Indian food I’ve ever had, including my favourite butter chicken.

img_6100

Amazing flavours of India

I found myself in the position I hadn’t been in since last year… unemployment! But it was only for a week and it was the last week of the school term. I have a new job starting today, first day of the new school term! #Timing.

But there was that day three weeks ago when I had time to go to the gym after school drop-off and then stop into a cafe for coffee and a muffin that just looked too good to resist. Yes,  don’t worry, I walked to the coffee shop afterwards. Better than when I was in my 20s and would get a taxi to the gym and then a taxi to McDonalds.

img_6133

HAD to replenish after the gym.

The following week, Spider Boy’s Dad took him to his favourite comic shop, Impact Comics, while I sat in Dobinsons and did some plotting and planning, just like old times in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney.

This Canberra city cafe reminds me of home, as it’s named after the former Dobinsons of Rose Bay and owned by the grand-daughter of the original Dobinson. It’s my little bit of Rose Bay in Canberra when Lake BG just isn’t doing it for me. Although what am I talking about, how could Lake BG not do it for me!

img_6420

Sun streaming in the Dobinsons window on a rainy/sunny Spring afternoon

Spider Boy came into the Canberra Centre with me a couple of times this holidays and played with the wall art. You press a button and the light changes colour. Plus he’s developed a mysterious craving for Subway sandwiches. Funny, since I never take him there. But at least he’s over his McDonald’s obsession!

img_6422

Canberra Centre: where the magic happens.

The Daffodils in the first picture actually started springing up in August. Now this little mini-field of fireballs has sprung up. Well done, mysterious neighbour whose name I don’t know! I practically don’t even need to go to Floriade any more! It’s right here in my own shared driveway.

img_6424

Fields of fire

Not too far from Canberra, there’s a unique place to explore our natural world… well that’s what the sign at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve says. And that’s exactly what it is. On the fringe of Namadgi National Park, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is around 50 square kilometres of protected area only about 40 minutes drive from Canberra.

We had a beautiful day with the boys (Spider Boy and his friend), although they DID keep mentioning complaining about the fact there was no Subway there. Thank goodness!

img_6428

I think a little bit more of this would be good for them.

Have you been enjoying the warmer weather?

What do you like best about Spring in Canberra?