Sunday drive: savage seagulls, snakes and service with a snarl

Don’t you love those Sunday drives where you never know where you’re going to end up or what’s going to happen?

On a recent Sunday, Spider Boy, my sister Senorita Margarita (The Senorita), Mum (Batgran – has hero-like qualities. Like Batman, except she’s Granny) and I decided to venture out on such a drive. We wanted to get away, but not too far. We decided on a nice low-key beach area. So not Bondi. We drove south and ended up at Botany Bay.

We bought fish and chips and made out way down to the little beach facing the airport runways. There was lots of interesting things to look at, and balmy weather considering it was May.

We perched on the wall of an elevated garden bed since all the benches were taken. Batgran and The Senorita sat on one wall, Spider Boy and I on the other. Suddenly, A flock of seagulls descended. Spider Boy wanted to run, run so far away (sorry, any chance to bring up the 80s).

Spider Boy was edgy. He tensed as the seagulls squawked and edged closer to his lunch. “Should I give them some lunch?” He asked, obviously hoping that feeding them would make them go away.

“No!” I squawked. “If you do that, they’ll never leave! They’ll just get louder, closer and more annoying! Like Mummy nagging.”

So we sat there uncomfortably perched on the raised garden bed, sea grass tickling our legs, seagulls staring us down, wind blowing my hair in my face until I could find a hair elastic in my bottomless pit of a handbag.

Suddenly a rampaging toddler disturbed the status quo, throwing out the delicate mutual respect Spider Boy and I had achieved with the flock of seagulls. They squawked, they flapped. Spider Boy jumped. Then I felt something drop onto my fish and chips paper at the same time as hearing a distinctive splat! I felt something wet on my hand and leg.

I looked at my lunch fearing what I knew I would see there, and I’m not talking about tartare sauce.

“A seagull just pooed on my lunch!” I shared with my family and passers-by.
“Well at least a seagull didn’t land on your head!” said The Senorita (This happened to her once when she was eating lunch on a bench at Circular Quay. Well, she does have oodles of soft blonde curls – very cosy for a bird in need of rest.)

I pulled out the antiseptic hand wipes that I have carried in my handbag everyday since Spider Boy was a toddler (not the same packet) and cleaned the offending matter off my skin. Then I ripped off the offending corner of fish and chip wrapping and tried to eat some more without thinking about what had just happened. I couldn’t do it. I was feeling slightly sick now.


Autumn beach frolic.

I decided to take Spider Boy for a walk up the hill to an ice-cream van we’d spotted in the car park earlier. It was a beautiful May afternoon. There was a lot of people to watch, dogs running down slopes, rolling in the grass. We got to the point and saw a big cargo ship being guided out of Botany Bay by some tug boats.


Tug, exciting and new.

We made it to the ice-cream van with a giant polar bear on top and was confronted by a big booming man with a big booming voice. The ice- cream salesman, supposedly a purveyor of happiness and supporter of childhood glee, was booming at a mother and her small child. He was supposedly “explaining” the ice-creams to her but all he was doing really was speaking very loudly in a not very pleasant manner at all. Did he not want the woman to buy his ice-creams?

“YES?!” He barked at me now that it was my turn. I started ordering but before I could finish, a car started to pull into the empty car space right next to the ice-cream van – apparently paying no heed to the fact small children (and their mothers) were standing there trying to buy ice-creams. The car swung its nose in and we all screamed in shock by this car apparently giving no thought to the fact people were standing at the ice-cream van bordering the car space.

Did the ice-cream man not think to NOT park his van right next to an empty car space in a car park – did he not think cars would want to park there? Where did he think his customers were going to stand? Could he not have parked parallel to, I don’t know, say, a FOOTPATH rather than an empty car space in a CAR PARK? But I concede, it seemed to be angle-parking only here.

Did the driver of the car not think to wait until the customers had vacated the car space before he drove his car in? Why not nose in gently? Perhaps he could’ve rolled his window down and said something to us? The car in question just drove straight in to the car space while we screamed and pressed our bodies against the side of the ice-cream van. Now that the car had stopped, we were confident enough to peel our bodies away from the van with the giant polar bear on top (I swear I could see blood dripping from the bear’s snarling, toothy mouth) and complete our order.

“One choc-dip single please. With sprinkles.”

The sign said $4.50, so I started to hand over $4.50 in coins.

“Four dollars ninety-five!” The ice-cream man said abruptly.
“Sorry, how much?” I asked, as even his voice had been muffled by the sound of the gale-force wind that had whipped up.
“FOUR DOLLARS NINETY-FIVE!” Yelled the man, obviously thinking that when I said “Sorry, how much?” I was expressing incredulity at the price. When really, I was expressing my not hearing him.
It sounded like he was accusing me of asking for sprinkles.
“SPRINKLES COST FORTY-FIVE CENTS!” He was obviously used to defending his prices.
“All right, all right” I said, placating him. “I was just asking. it’s fine. Yes, I wanted the sprinkles, I just didn’t hear you the first time. There’s no need to yell.”
“Sorry,” he said, not yelling.

I handed over another 50 cent piece while he continued to justify his price.

I just wanted to run, run so far away. “It’s OK, keep the change!” I said, backing away.

“No, no, I’ll get it!” he said as he faffed about with his back to me scrounging for 5 cents for what seemed like interminable minutes.

Spider Boy and I made a hasty retreat with his choc-dip plus sprinkles ice-cream handed to me by this man’s big dirty-looking hand. He did wrap it in a one-ply paper serviette. which really didn’t do the job. “Don’t eat the cone part” I told Spider Boy.


Just 13km from Sydney CBD but a million miles from care. Not really.

We trudged back down the hill taking turns eating the ice-cream and then I dumped the pink soggy cone in a bin. We met The Senorita and Batgran coming up the hill.

“Oh, I want an ice-cream” said The Senorita longingly.

“Well we’re not going back to that ice-cream man” I declared.

I had noticed another van at another position in the car park and we decided to try that one. After getting  into the car and navigating much chaos via right-hand turns, round-a-bouts and bus zones, we eventually found a spot to park.

The Senorita, Spider Boy and I got out to buy the ice-cream while Batgran went to look at the snakes in the snake pit.  There is a regular “snake charmer” who appears at La Perouse on the north head of Botany Bay. He stands in a small enclosure and pulls some of Australia’s most venomous snakes out of a bag and talks about them to the crowd.

Meanwhile, at the ice-cream van, we were waiting. We stood at the side of the van for minutes. No one was there. The van had the key in the ignition and the serving window was open.

“Hello”, we called. No answer.

“Hellooooooo”. Nothing.

“We could always steal it” I said, not being a very good role model to my son. “No, Spider Boy. It’s not right to steal. Mummy would never steal this van, or anything. I was only joking.” Thinking that if one were to steal a vehicle, an ice-cream van would be the thing to steal.

Suddenly the ice-cream man appeared. “Sorry, I was in the toilet.” I hoped he washed his hands.

We bought our ice-creams uneventfully. This time one for me (I’d been too traumatised at the last van to get one, what with us being yelled at and nearly run over), as well as The Senorita and Batgran. Spider Boy and I shared mine.

We went over to the snake pit where Batgran was all ears. Spider Boy and I watched for a while but once the snake charmer pulled a Tiger snake out of his bag, I just wanted to go. Spider Boy and I were relieved to sit in the car and wait for our “picnic” companions.

Soon enough we were all back in the car ready to leave this bizarre, windy picnic point with great views, angry birds, poisonous reptiles and bad service.

Back in the car and heading home. Thank goodness!

More eye-candy neighbours

Kylie had eye-candy neighbours in 1987 and now, so do I!

Mike (Guy Pearce) and Scott (Jason Donovan) in Ramsay Street. Kylie had eye-candy neighbours in 1986 and now, so do I!

Photo: Rex/Fremantle Media

“There’s Eye Candy” said Mum, the way you’d say, “There’s the postman”, or “That’ll be the phone”, late on Friday afternoon when I was pottering about the sink area in front of the kitchen window.

I looked up and there he was – one of the guys who lives on the second floor of the block of flats opposite. We’re on the ground floor, so we literally look up to them.

One of the benefits of living in a no-through road full of flats, is that we can see lots of people from our windows (I’m talking to you, Angelina Jolie), and people-watching is fun. Everyone has to walk past our windows to go anywhere.

Since I’ve been back living at Mum’s place, I have particularly noticed the neighbours mentioned above.  Just as we’ve established that jogging is more fun with beer truffles, washing up is much less of a chore with a view of eye-candy neighbours out the kitchen window.
The residents of this apartment across the road are two guys in their late 20s. One is tall and dark, the other is tall and blond. The blond is slightly more tanned than the dark-haired guy.  We have officially dubbed them Eye Candy 1 and Eye Candy 2 (shirtless neighbours are better than Bananas in Pyjamas any day), but in reality we just refer to them interchangeably as “Eye Candy”.

They both walk around shirtless, six months of the year. They frequent their balcony, opposite our kitchen window, for barbecuing their dinner, hanging their washing, and just enjoying a drink. All shirtless, all the time, no matter the weather.

“It’s funny that they never wear shirts” Mum said. “Look, you can just see his underwear”, she went on. Yes, we could see the rim of his boxers over the top of his brick balcony wall. And he wears his boxers low, might I add.

“Don’t you just get the urge to wolf-whistle?” Mum went on.

“Yes,” I agreed, noting it was like living across the road from a Levi’s ad circa 1990. Remember the male model who strips off his Levi’s in the laundromat and waits for them to be washed, just wearing his boxers? It’s a bit like that. Except without the laundromat. And without the jeans, obvs.

I did a little practice wolf-whistle, just quietly, as I stood by the open kitchen window.
“Careful!” Mum hissed, “He might hear you!”
He didn’t hear me though. The two 20-something women who happened to be walking past at the time, heard me. They looked at me through the window. I looked away.
The Eye Candies have a female flatmate. She is always dressed in exercise gear. I don’t understand why she often looks cranky. She lives with the Eye Candies and she exercises – you’d think she’d smile more. I’ve seen her arrive home from somewhere at 10 or 11am on a weekday, carrying a sports bag or a backpack, often in an athletic-looking track-suit (as opposed to a slack-looking track, which is what any track-suit I wear looks like, which is why I never wear them) and often with wet hair. Is she in training for swimming events? Is she eating enough carbs?
Who are Eye Candy 1 and Eye Candy 2 (and cranky female flatmate). Are they three friends? Just flatmates? Is it a couple and their best friend?
What do they do for work? Sometimes I see the dark-haired one in a suit, but rarely. Maybe he wears it to job interviews. Are they uni students? They are often around during the day. Maybe they’re shift workers. The lights in their flat are usually out by 9.30pm. I think I recall seeing the blond one in a dark blue uniform once – maybe he’s a paramedic, or a police rescue guy. They would certainly look right at home on any police or medical TV drama.
Once or twice I’ve seen one or both of the guys out of context at the local shops,  and in that first instant, my heart skips a beat and there’s the recognition of “Oh, I know him! Is he on TV?” Before I realise it’s the eye-candy neighbour/s I’ve never spoken to.
I peer out of the windows like a bizarro Gladys Kravitz (the nosey neighbour) from Bewitched. Is this what I’ve become? Well at least I’m not as bad as Mrs Mangel from Neighbours. Eye Candies have just put up a full-length female nudie pic on their living room wall that I can see quite clearly from my living room all the way across the road.
At first I wondered how to reconcile the right of the Eye Candies to put up a poster in their living room, with my right not to have to explain a nudie pic to just-turned six-year-old Spider Boy. But I decided to get a grip. It’s not that bad – it’s a stylised illustration, the kind that were popular in the 80s. And besides, Spider Boy’s really too short to see out the window. Unless he’s climbing something.
Sometimes the universe likes to have a little laugh. On Saturday night when I  was burning the midnight oil on Pinterest, I heard music coming from someone’s apartment. Hot Chocolate’s You Sexy Thing.  Great, so now my street has its own soundtrack. I went to the window and the Eye Candies’ apartment’s lights were all out (of course, it was way after 9.30pm).
My aunt came over yesterday. Eye Candy 1 (the dark-haired one) made an appearance on the balcony – shirtless of course. “Ohhhh, there’s Eye Candy” said Mum, predictably. What is it with mum and her eye candy? It’s not like she’s a sexagenarian anymore – she’s just turned 70 – but she still knows good eye candy when she sees it.
I raced over to get a better look. I then told my aunt the story of Eye Candy 1 and Eye Candy 2. “Allie I think it’s time you got onto Be Harmony or whatever it is they call it,” she said, referring to an internet dating site.
Mum later told me that as she walked my aunt to her car, they looked up to yet another apartment block to see yet another eye candy walking around shirtless in his apartment. “There’s more eye candy!”  exclaimed my aunt, who is older than my mother. This particular eye candy heard her, looked down at the pair of septuagenarians and beamed at them, apparently.
So to my neighbours I’ve never spoken to… Thank you for making the washing up just that little bit sweeter.
Do you ever watch your neighbours? Do you speak to them? Have your neighbours become good friends?


Love song to INXS

The past couple of weeks I have been listening to a lot of INXS. The recent telemovie, INXS: Never Tear Us Apart, has reinvigorated my love for them.

INXS was the soundtrack to my youth. The music was consistently in the background of my life for the better part of a decade, from their new-wave/ska/pop through to rock, to the more funky/dance elements. At high school INXS was a band that everybody liked. They spanned the gender/social divides. They weren’t a “girls’ band”, like my other teen musical loves, WHAM! Whether you were cool and into Duran Duran, or a bit of a dag and into WHAM!, INXS was for everyone. For me, INXS managed to cut-through all the WHAM!, all the Bananarama and all the dance/house music of the late 80s/early 90s.

The  Swing (1984) was where I entered the world of INXS but it was their fourth album

By the time I arrived at the INXS party with The Swing (1984) album, they already had three albums behind them.

The cast of INXS: Never Tear Us Apart recreate  the cover of The Swing album cover from 1984

The cast of INXS: Never Tear Us Apart got right into “the swing” of things to recreate many excellent INXS moments.

The other day Senorita Margarita, who is a few years younger than me, asked me about a video clip that was recreated in the telemovie. “What was that song where they were sitting around a dining table?” I began humming Just Keep Walking and we realised that wasn’t it. I eventually Googled, “INXS, dining table” and I was able to find the name of the song, The One Thing, on YouTube. It was from 1982 and while INXS weren’t quite on my radar then, they soon would be.

My first clear memory of them was seeing Burn For You (from The Swing) on Countdown in 1984. I couldn’t forget that unique staccato of the electric keyboard. I think of been driven by parents to parties and concerts, usually wearing some variation of a tube skirt and a t-shirt with geometric fluro patterns on it. INXS was always on the radio. I remember devising dance routines to I Send A Message in Movement class at high school. I remember not being able to concentrate on our Hunter Valley geography excursion in 1986 – because all I could think of was getting to the Listen Like Thieves concert at the Sydney Entertainment Centre that night.

INXS won swags of Countdown awards throughout the 80s. They won six ARIAs (Australian Record Industry Award) including three for Best Group in 1987, 1989 and 1992, before being inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2001. I remember buying the Kick album (on cassette) in year 12 and hitting the dancefloor to New Sensation (radio version and assorted remixes) what seemed like every Saturday night in 1988. I remember being mystified by Mystify, and being swept away by the romance of Never Tear Us Apart. Kick dominated the charts that year and the single Need You Tonight won five MTV awards. I played that album over and over and over again.

1987 hair, music and technology: my original cassette cover

1987 hair, music and technology: my original cassette cover


When I met my friend Miss D at a journalism course in 1989, she thrilled me with the story of her winning a contest the year before, where the prize was to hang out with INXS in Hawaii during their global Calling All Nations Tour! Double treat: INXS and Hawaii at the same time! She and her sister also hung out with them backstage at concerts in Sydney, literally bumping into Kylie Minogue on the way to the drinks table, and went to their end-of-tour party.

Miss D, who was a young teacher at a girls’ school at the time of her INXS socialising, was a legend to her year 9 students. But she says she never saw any wild behaviour from any of the band while hanging out with them. They seemed like nice down-to-earth boys from her account. They were Australia’s biggest rock stars but didn’t act like the cliché.

We were all surprised (not to mention a little bit jealous) when news broke that Michael and Kylie were an item. I found it vaguely annoying.  Kylie “Michael made me sexy” Minogue. She had been elevated from Jason Donovan’s girl next door to sophisticated girlfriend of the rock god. I should be so lucky indeed.

The INXS hits kept coming. In 1990 I would stride along Oxford Street to my temp office job, listening to my walkman with Disappear blasting through my headphones throughout another Sydney summer. I remember thinking, “Wow, another hit!”, and feeling happy and grateful that they were still making great music and that they were reliable and consistent in doing so. Especially since my other teenage musical loves had let me down: WHAM! and assorted other bands who faded away faster than the spangles on a bedazzled pair of stonewash jeans in the 80s spin-cycle of pop.

I saw INXS in concert again at the Entertainment Centre in 1991. After more Grammy-nominated early 90s hits like Suicide Blonde and Beautiful Girl, INXS faded a little into my musical background. But they were still comfortably always around. Like celestial bodies, I didn’t always see them, but I knew they were always there.

I was shocked and saddened that November day in 1997 when I heard the news that Michael was dead. Sixteen years later, I’m not the only one reminiscing. Kylie Minogue told on February 26 that she still loves Michael. “A guy with that much charisma, it doesn’t just switch off, you don’t just forget about that person. I don’t know what it was like for other women in his life, but my love for him remains. It’s good everyone’s love (for him) has been reinvigorated after the show.”

When Michael died, the remaining members of INXS lost not only their lead singer, but their dear friend and band brother. As Kirk Pengilly told Channel 7’s Sunday Night program on February 23, he thinks the main thing is to focus on remembering his friend. “Whatever happened, no one will ever know, so just remember him and leave it at that,” he said.

INXS went on to record and perform with a variety of guest singers over the years. During a performance as a support act to Matchbox Twenty in Perth in November 2012, INXS announced the performance would be their last. But now I’m not the only one listening to their music again.

INXS: Never Tear Us Apart has resurrected a huge interest in the band and its music. The Very Best compilation CD has hit number 1 and is the highest-selling record in Australia so far this year. Tens of thousands  of INXS’s albums and  singles were downloaded in the week after Part 1 went to air. The Kick album has also splashed back into the top 10, after peaking at No.2 in 1987. “This is the best resurrection of a catalogue that had flatlined which has ever been seen in Australia,” an industry expert told Kylie, who is back in Australia to film The Voice and promote her new single Into the Blue, is happy about it too. “Having just come back into Australia and seen the chart and seen everyone have such passion for INXS again is fantastic.”

INXS manager Chris Murphy, who along with Tim Farriss was a consultant on the telemovie, says that one of the motivations for telling the story of INXS was Michael’s daughter Tiger Lily. As Murphy told The Sunday Telegraph (February 9, 2014): “Forget the ratings, forget the sales, forget everything – this was about restoring Michael’s dignity and remembering there’s a teenage girl at the end of all of this… To see Michael at 25 as (actor ) Luke Arnold portrays him, she’s just going to go ‘wow’ and have such a great perspective of who he really was.” The Sunday Telegraph reports that Tiger Lily will pocket her late father’s share of the profits from the telemovie.

It was a ratings smash in Australia. Although Andrew P Street on the music website Faster Louder complains (in a very funny review) that the characters spoke in unnaturally long sentences of exposition in order to cram two decades of Australian music history and INXS’s place in it, into a few hours. Sort of like the sentence I’ve just written. This is probably true to an extent, in some scenes. But so what? I think the telemovie served to tell a great Australian story while showcasing some of the greatest pop-rock songs ever written. And I loved every minute of it.

It got me digging out that Kick cassette from 1987. When I realised I had nothing to play it on, it got my buying the new CD, INXS: The Very Best. And it really is the best. Every single hit they’ve ever had plus a DVD in a three-disc set!


It really is the best.


Rock of the 80s


It was the style at the time…

These days thanks to YouTube I can watch INXS in the video clip The One Thing (1982) that was so beautifully recreated in the telemovie. I watch a 22-year-old Michael singing his lyrics with his new-romantic hair-style and his hint of black eyeliner, a fit-looking supreme keyboard player Andrew, a pre-spectacled Kirk rocking his sax, Tim and his guitar-gymnastics, a blond-tipped Garry on Bass, Jon, the 80s school-girls’ favourite, thrashing his drums, and I yearn for their youth. I feel a sense of retro-anticipation for a band of young men on the verge of something huge. In this video, we can watch their youth, beauty and talent perennially perched on the verge of the greatest rollercoaster ride of their lives. They had all the right ingredients to create musical magic, for years. It all just worked.

At the time of writing this post, production company Shine Australia was set to screen the telemovie to 80 international buyers at a showcase in London.  And this month Murphy will fly to New York for meetings about a Broadway musical. So it looks like the INXS love song has never really stopped. The story, the music, the brand of INXS has many notes left to sing.

What remains for INXS, and for us, is the music and the good memories of these six Sydney boys becoming one of the most commercially successful bands Australia has seen. Their talent, chemistry and collective charisma has earned INXS a fond and permanent place in Australia’s emotional and cultural landscape. And in mine. Thank you INXS.

“…and the love song never stops.” (Burn for you, 1984)

Beach house time-machine


I’ve just returned from a beach holiday in the land that time forgot. And I mean that in a good way.

My friends Lulu and Mr M had invited 5-year-old Spider boy and me to spend a few days with them and their 6-year-old son, the Magician, at a rented beach house at Bawley Point on the NSW south coast.

As soon as we pulled up to the weatherboard house on stilts I was instantly taken back to the south coast of my childhood, where my parents took us on beach holidays every year. Back then in the late 70s and 80s, it was a similar rented house in Narooma, a town a bit further south.

My sister and I, who were 8 and 3 when we first started going to Narooma, would play happily around the stilts under the house, pretending we were “Carol” and “Susie” who worked in a petrol station. When we went to the beach, we were “Coral” and “Crystal”, who were mermaids.

We would stay on the beach for hours, we would go to the circus that came to town every summer, we would have pink lemonade and fish and chips at the Whale restaurant. We would go to the newsagency/gift shop in town and buy shell-covered trinkets.

But back to the present day… This house was on stilts too, expect this one was way better. It had an upstairs deck with a perfect towel/cossie-drying fence, a bird-feeder, places to sit and a dart board.  From the the kitchen/dining area, a staircase led to a roomy mezzanine lounge area with views to the ocean, which was blue most of the time we were there. There were two bedrooms in the main part of the house, and a roomy granny flat/studio downstairs.


Mezzanine for lounging

I love the simplicity of holiday shacks. I love that they are so obviously decorated for the purposes of; 1. invoking a beachy vibe, and 2. helping you relax. And every room was generously peppered with obligatory beach-house objet’s de kitsch. Like this…

Just what I need in my room.. 3 angry seagulls all in a row.

Just what I need in my room.. 3 angry seagulls all in a row. One with a missing beak.

And this…

Little toilet man-candle

Little toilet man-candle with love handles


Chillaxing is easy with 80s/90s artworks to rest your gaze upon.

And the icing on the beach house cake? The great variety of summer holiday entertainment! The book shelves were lined with trashy novels and video cassettes. Cassettes. There was a quoits set in the lounge, jigsaw puzzles and board games like Celebrity Heads. If only we had two weeks!


Are you calling me trashy?


We got to rewind to last century with this little collection.

082 - Copy

Haven’t seen this much fun since “Hey Hey It’s Saturday!”

Along with all this retro pop-cultural stimulation, I also loved the sound of waves crashing at night, the great variety of bird-calls in the morning, and the fresh, salty air. And I loved walking to the beach and not having to deal with cars and parking.

Lulu’s dad and his wife Ms B were staying in their place which was just at the end of the next beach along.  They would sometimes call in when they were out walking, or we would run into them on one of the three beaches in the area.

At Bawley Point, kids ride bikes on the road, some carrying surfboards, neighbours walk to each other’s homes for lunch, dinner, drinks on the deck. There are no fences, no gates. Kids of 8 or 9 sit on the nature strip and literally sell sea shells by the sea shore. And painted cicada shells.  People relax on their front decks in boardies and bikinis and look really… relaxed.

Fun on the deck: mind the darts!

Fun on the deck: mind the darts!

Bawley Point to me, was a combination of  the TV shows Puberty Blues (the 12-year-old long-haired grommets in wetsuits and general retro-vibe bit, not the panel-van and all they suggest bit), Neighbours (good Neighbours had become good-friends) and Home and Away (Hello, beach!).

Lulu’s dad grilled burgers for us on the back deck, the kids ran a few metres to the back of the next house along and jumped on their trampoline (cos that’s how they roll in this ‘hood). When we weren’t barbequeing, we cooked with this…

Analogue cooking machine circa 1980s.

Analogue cooking machine circa 1980s

We learnt how to play boules and I was relaxed enough to actually get myself into my swimmers and go into the surf! I even sunbaked for a few minutes.

Hiding the boules balls mid-game on the neighbours trampoline amused them no end

Hiding the boules balls mid-game on the neighbours trampoline amused them no end.

And there were millions of peaches…

Peaches for me.

Peaches for me

One afternoon, Lulu and I managed to escape to a winery. So there was millions of grapes too…

bought some wine

Tasted some wine. Bought some.

And at the vineyard, there was deer frolicking in a woodland glade. Seriously.

There was frolicking but they stopped as soon as I took the picture.

There was frolicking but they stopped to stare at me as soon as I took the picture.

The only things that pulled us out of 70s/80s-style living was the presence of our smartphones/tablets, and a DVD player. So don’t worry, just in case you thought there was too much retro-fun and outdoorsy stuff for the kids, they had plenty of screen time too.

For example: “Come on kids, how about a fun game of charades. Or what about quoits?”

“No! Hotel Transylvania!” (animated Adam Sandler movie)

And later… “Come on kids, do you want to play charades? What about quoits?

“No, Leps World!” (some game played on a smartphone/tablet).

Trying to get the kids to go to bed before 9pm the night before we had to be up early?

“Charades!” they excitedly suggested.

They will try anything to not go to bed.

Quoits anyone? Anyone?

Quoits anyone? Anyone?

It wasn't all outdoorsy-fun...

It wasn’t all outdoorsy-fun…

Since we didn’t watch the news while we were away, the only other thing that pulled us out of last century was an annoying, yet stressful episode of Grey’s Anatomy one night. What were we thinking? We could have been watching this…

It has surfing in it, so would've enhanced the holiday vibe

It has surfing in it, so would’ve enhanced our relaxed holiday vibe, right?

But at least we did get to watch this classic again…


A classic of my teen years

So here’s to beach holidays with a nostalgic feel – and the unbeatable combination of peaches, beaches, bird-calls and retro movies.

And a big thanks to Lulu, Mr M and family for a refreshing and fun holiday!

What are your favourite summer holiday memories?

Ghost of New Years past (or “Go to bed, Mummy!”)

Staying up late is a luxury I can little afford as the mother of a young child. My Spider Boy springs, jumps, leaps out of bed with all eight of his little yet super-fast legs every morning between 6 and 7am. Sundays, public holidays, New Year’s Day – it doesn’t matter – he just wants to get up and you know, jump, swing and shoot webs – live his life. Which is fabulous and how IT SHOULD BE, and I wouldn’t have it any other way… but sometimes, Mummy just wants a sleep in!

But on New Year’s Eve, when it was 1.00am and Prince’s 1999 was on late-night music TV, I thought, “How can I possibly go to bed?” I’d already seen Kool and the Gang, Earth Wind and Fire, ABBA, and now, Prince, followed by a Toto chaser (Hold the Line). Every one a winner!

I know I need to be fresh for the morning, but staying up past 1am to indulge in some retro music seems really mild and, these days, more satisfying compared to various New Years Eves of my 20s where I indulged in such activities as:

*Arriving at a party of a friend of a friend of a friend and swigging from a champagne bottle in the driveway before I went in
* Public pashing
* Going home at 4am, but only because I had to be at my temp job as a talk-radio switch bitch on New Year’s Day.
*Trying to get home from a dance party at 3am by attempting to hitch a ride in an ambulance
*Sitting for 9 hours on damp grass surrounded by discarded barbecued chicken bones and cigarette butts “to get a good spot” to watch fireworks harbour-side
*Walking home from Moore Park to Rose Bay (via Kings Cross for pancakes and orange juice at 5am) with two girlfriends because…sigh…that’s just what you have to do on New Year’s Eve sometimes
*Trying to find a better party than the one I was already at and consequently being in a cab, car, bus or being jostled in the streets at midnight. See below.
*Trying to basically walk, while being pushed and shoved through broken glass, beer, vomit and fried onion rings in any number of dirty Sydney streets.

See why a bit of retro music at home at 1am (with a splash of champagne…oh alright – and a smidge of chocolate mud cake), is all I need for a rollicking good time these days?

Mummy’s tired.


Happy New Year!

Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)

Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am sitting in front of the ABC’s Rage listening to my much loved 70s retro hits.  2014 is only 32 minutes old and so far every song’s been a winner, from Kool and the Gang’s Celebration to Earth Wind and Fire’s September.

All I need now is the Jackson 5.  Oh hang on – now it’s ABBA, Gimme Gimme Gimme. Well, it IS after midnight.

Welcome 2014! Happy New Year everyone!

Gardenia oasis

I’ve done it again.

Every year I tell myself I’m going to send out cards by December 1, and shop early for thoughtful, carefully selected gifts where I have time to enjoy the ambience of Westfield (charity collectors selling foam reindeer antlers, santa, freebies, happy people, carols, time to sit and try some kind of Christmas-flavoured coffee).

I tell myself I’m going to leave enough time to wrap those presents artfully, beautifully, with handmade swing tags and wrapped in two layers – decorated brown paper and cellophane with a double ribbon. I tell myself I will not, under any circumstances, leave my gift-wrapping until Christmas  Eve.

And yet, here I am, December 24 with bags of unwrapped gifts in the living room.  What with the fruit-shopping, neighbour-visiting and church-going we’re doing today, I’ll be lucky to finish wrapping by the end of “Carols by Candlelight”!

So in all the busyness, I would just like to share an oasis of calm and beauty that sits on the coffee table. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without bowls of floating gardenias. They came from my mother’s beautiful garden. I catch the soft, sweet, summery frangrance as I walk around doing all my doings, and it gives me a little happy boost. No matter the ambience of Westfield, I’ll enjoy the ambience of gardenia bowl instead.

Do you have an oasis (of calm/beauty/Christmas/the season) at your place?

Merry Christmas!


Lara Bingle’s Thighs – Using Their Power For Good

Cellu-lies? Famous magazine's pic on the left shows cellulite. Who magazine's cellulite-free thighs on the right. Who's been photoshopping?

Cellu-lies? Famous magazine’s pic on the left shows cellulite on Lara Bingle. Who Weekly’s cellulite-free thighs are on the right. Who’s been photoshopping?

A recent issue of gossip magazine Famous published pictures of model Lara Bingle on a beach in a bikini. Lara’s cellulite was clearly visible on the back of her thighs. When I saw the pictures my first thought was “Oh wow, even Lara Bingle has cellulite!” I have to admit it made me feel better about myself.

I read the accompanying cover lines and to my pleasant surprise, the words were NOT pointing out said cellulite. Rather, the story was a report of the rumour that she and new man Sam Worthington had eloped. I felt even better. A magazine had put a gorgeous model with cellulite clearly visible on the cover, and did NOT point out the perceived flaw.

But Lara was not happy. She tweeted her discontent, branding Famous “a disgrace”, accusing them of deliberately photoshopping cellulite onto her body and “perpetuating self-doubt in all women”.

But it didn’t perpetuate self-doubt in me. Quite the opposite.  I think that a magazine publishing a paparazzi shot of a woman on a beach, while not mentioning any perceived body flaws, helps to promote  a more realistic image of how bodies can and do look.

The implicit message sent by the Famous cover was that even beautiful young bikini models can have cellulite. It’s one tiny step to normalising the dimpled thigh, which is one step closer to helping women develop more acceptance of their own dimples. An orange-peel is the new black kind of thing.

The same photos appeared in Who Weekly a few weeks earlier. No cellulite was visible. My conclusion at first was that Who Weekly must have airbrushed out the cellulite. Who Weekly told the Daily Telegraph on November 27 that the photos were not manipulated but were “brightened”.  Perhaps the cellulite was visible on the Famous photos due to  a lighting discrepancy, as one photographer suggested to the Telegraph.

Famous claims it didn’t alter the pictures. The magazine says in an open letter to Lara in a subsequent issue (December 9, 2013), “In our opinion, this was an opportunity to embrace and promote a realistic body image. Given your many fans and several hundred thousand followers on social media, it could have been the perfect opportunity for someone as influential as yourself to be a role model for regular women with real bodies, to demonstrate that there is nothing wrong with cellulite – even top models have it!”

As Famous argues, would it have been better for them to hide the cellulite with airbrushing, which is what really would’ve presented an unrealistic expectation of how bodies look?

The Famous letter reads, “Upon examining the snaps of you looking happy and relaxed, we saw familiar lumps and bumps on your body – the very same cellulite marks that appear on our own. In that instant, we very much related to you. And to be completely honest, it made us feel good that you looked real – who wouldn’t want to look like a beautiful bikini model?”

Speaking as a former magazine editor, I would’ve made the same decision as the editors at Famous – to print the pictures as they are, and not refer to the cellulite. Because not only is cellulite irrevelant to that particular story, cellulite is irrelevant full stop. The more real, non-airbrushed women of all shapes and sizes that we see in the media, the closer we are towards less body-anxiety.

By even writing about this, some may say I’m drawing too much attention to something that I’m saying is irrelevant. But I hear a lot of women complaining about their own bodies, and hating themselves because of so-called flaws like cellulite. So although the cellulite itself is irrelevant, the self-loathing that unrealistic expectations of body image can cause, is very relevant in our culture.

By accusing Famous magazine of photoshopping the cellulite onto her thighs, Lara is revealing her own fear of cellulite and submission to the tyranny of cultural expectations of perfection. In her defence, I can understand her anxiety – she is a model, she works in a brutal industry and part of her job is to present an image of perfection, hence the job title, “model”.

Editorial shots of models will continue to achieve a standard of glossy perfection – and that’s the whole point of the modelling world.  Lara may be concerned that publication of the shots has tarnished her professional image. But I think readers understand that a paparazzi shot on a beach is a photograph of Lara Bingle the person, not Lara Bingle the model. The cellulite just made us relate to her even more. It helped chip off just a little of the mountain of unrealistic body expectations that are foisted on women by society and themselves.

The Famous photos show Lara Bingle is real, relatable and gorgeous. I don’t think  simple dimples will affect her earning capacity. When she is being photographed for a job she can still attain an image of perfection. It doesn’t matter if we assume there are thigh dimples or other so-called flaws hidden by the glamour that is professional modelling.  As former 90s Supermodel Cindy Crawford famously said, “Even I don’t wake up looking like Cindy Crawford.”

What do you think? Do you appreciate flaws in models or would you prefer to only see airbrushed perfection?  Is cellulite really so bad anyway?

Five Haikus About Trying to Write Haiku

---> HAIKU <---

—> HAIKU <— (Photo credit: eyewashdesign: A. Golden)

Last Monday the title of one of the WordPress Daily Post challenges caught my eye. It was about haiku, a poetry form I just love.  The challenge issued was to write five haikus – one for each of the five days leading up to today.

We were given the choice of writing one a day, or two one day and three the next, or five all in one day. Of course, I wrote all five of mine today, the last day of the challenge.

Ideally I would have spent more time thinking about and writing them, but sometimes you just have to get it done, you know? Progress, not perfection, I constantly have to remind myself.

But in any case, these little haikus are just about me tipping my hat to the art of haiku. Because haiku gets to the point. I like it.

The following haikus are a deviation from traditional haiku. Yes, they follow the five/ seven/five syllable format. But as the Daily Post Challenge explained,  traditional haikus tend to focus on nature. We were able to write about anything, but a really good nature haiku is hard to beat.

I did think about a haiku series on a banana cake (well, it’s sort of nature – there’s fruit in it), but in the end was running out of time so wrote a series of haikus on trying to write haikus!

The Haiku Challenge

now need to write five at once

not easy to do


Striking images

in a few eloquent words

harder than it looks


Would like to practice

carve and polish words that shine

so much else to do


Thinking as clock ticks

school pick-up time approaches

dishes still in sink


And now the phone rings

haven’t written one haiku



How lucky is it that “procrastination” has five syllables?