Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Depends on who you ask

A girl needs her sounding blocks. The friends you go to when you need to talk and be received without judgement. People that you can run things by, who will listen, and not try and fix things and let you come to your own conclusions in your own head.

Of course, their are friends who you can talk to about some things, and not others.

Blarney, for example, I can talk to about everything except my tarot stuff. It's not that she doesn't support my hobby jobs, it's just she doesn't really know much about what I do, how I do it, and I don't think she really cares. Bring anything up about tarot and she's like my Mum. "That's nice, Panders." is her normal response. Which I'm fine with. The "dark arts" as another friend calls tarot, isn't for everybody - and I'm good with this. When people start spouting kids and christianity, I tend to turn off too. It's not that I don't like them, just no interest.

I have a friend Kara who I talk astrology with. A fairly esoteric topic, I know I can go to her with my questions.

Gloria is my existential, "let's put the world to rights" friend - if I need to talk about the witchy stuff, Gloria is my go-to person.

Running, my topic of choice, is best discussed with Trin, Kez, Dan and Reindert. Running is a really boring thing to talk about if you're not a runner.

If I want the complete reverse viewpoint to anything I'm thinking, I call on Glen Waverley. As a man and an engineer, we think opposingly on most things. Glen Waverley will try and fix things - I let things slide. Glen Waverley is shocking when the tears come out, "Tears are blackmail" I've heard him say a few times. When somebody cries in front of me I just tend to sit there with a box of tissues and leave them to it, "Better out than in.". Glen Waverley is as logical as I am esoteric. We accept each other for this fact.

For the ratbag answers to questions, there's my Gen Why friends Em and Kitt - both sensible and bling loving all at once. I wish I was born a Gen Why. They have so many freedoms I never got. And they get to wear diamantes. Pretty.

But what of those questions you just can't ask anybody else? The really hard life questions? Who do you turn to?

As I mentioned before, my Mum isn't good with this sort of stuff. Ask her the meaning of life and she'll answer you, "That's nice, dear." My sister is a carbon copy of my Mum on most matters.

I met up with my friend Alice at lunch today, retrieving a saucepan that contained the weekend dinner party starter. Alice is normally good for discussing unusual dilemmas. Like myself, Alice is a co-freemason, a pseudo-techie-literate-nerd, well travelled and we're the same age. She's also big into sustainability and anything green (always good to have a friend who's more of a hippy than you.)

"I have some questions." I told her.
"What sort of questions? About time speeding up?" that was our latest email quandry exchange.
"Nope. Harder than that."
"The Mayan Calendar."
"Nope, but I'll talk to you about that next week one I get this stuff sorted."
"What do you need to talk about."
"I need a completely opposite perspective on things. I don't think you can help, no offence. Think I need to talk to a bloke."
"What about Glen Waverley."
"I said a bloke, not an engineer. They're different."
"Hmmm." Alice scratched her head. Then smiled. "Go talk to Mack. Mack has an answer for everything and anything."

Brilliant idea. Talk to Mack. Mack should be able to sort this.

Looking at Mack, with his gaunt, stringy frame, permanent five'o'clock shadow, ill-fitting, oversized suit and slightly menacing grin, you'd wonder if you'd really want to talk to him, let alone ask him about your existential crisis. On a good day he looks a bit like an over-excited undertaker. A father of five from the outer, outer suburbs, he's actually great value. We bonded when I cleansed his crystals for him at a job a few years ago - a seemingly innocuous start to a great friendship. He was the one that gave Alice and I a leg into freemasonry. Having a tribe of little Macks, he's forever at Auskick clinics, netball games, scout halls and school plays. He also has some of the sagest advice about. Mack and I are sure we've met in other lives.

I got him on email.

"Mack, I need to ask you something."
"I knew you were troubled grasshopper."
"There are things I know. What do you need to ask me?"
"It's a strange one."
"Go on."
"Is aging the same for men?"
"How so?"
"Well, do men get all uptight about the fact that everything is heading southward - you know, like things sag and change colour and aren't as springy as they used to be."
"Yes. But don't tell anybody."
"Oh, good."
"Men also have the hair thing. It falls out where you want it, grows where you don't want it, never does what it's told. We don't talk about that either."
"Yeah, I've noticed that." I replied.
"Why are you asking about this?"
"Existential crisis." I responded.
"Well, as you're aware, I've been on my own for a long time."
"Well, like the last time I was out there I was in my thirties. I had no body image, or at least I didn't like what I saw. Now I find myself thinking about this stuff. Just wondering about it."
"Go on."
"Well if things were to change, oh, you know - do men have all these insecurities I'm having too?"
"Of course they do. They just don't let anybody know about it. Well, that's what I do."
"You've never talked to your friends about your saggy, baggy bits? We girls have this as a topic of conversation now and then."
"Nope. Stuff like that is never discussed. Men talk about other things."
"Oh? Like what."
"That would be telling."
"Does that make you feel a bit better?" he asked.
"Sort of."
"Pand, you're in the best shape of your life. The best place I've seen you since I've known you. Stop second guessing and over thinking. Just get on with it."
"Mack, I think you've just given me the answer I needed."
"Oh, and Pand, my mantra at the moment," I accept that I am imperfect. I accept that those I love are imperfect. I take things slowly. I am true to myself."

Wise words, no matter the situation.

Monday, August 29, 2011


 Isn't it strange. You can be overwhelmed. And you can be underwhelmed.

But you can't be whelmed.

Well, I'm going to take this word and use it. I'm currently whelmed with my day job. I'm in a true state of limbo. The joys of being a word nerd at one of the big banks, I'm tired of the bureaucracy, sick of not being able to get traction. The repetitive nature of the work is starting to get to me. And there is no way out at the moment. It pays well. The people are nice. I've made a new friend who I reckon will be around for ages - Jonella is great for one. However, the thing that makes my day is the run in the morning with Desi and lunch with friends. It's not complete purgatory, but it's not ideal either. I'm not overwhelmed (except with the bureaucracy), I'm not underwhelmed (except with the dry nature of the content).

I'm just whelmed.

So, being whelmed, it leaves me wondering about my next avenues of employment after this contract, which has a while to run on it, allegedly. Depending on what gets de-scoped, run through the mill or cut for budget reasons. Dunno.

And when I think of this I go into a blind panic.

Thing is, though I have a number of skills, none of them keep a roof over my head, food on the table or petrol in the car if I leave corporate Australia.

Okay, I look at these skills.

I'm a trained massage therapist, aromatherapist and reflexologist. Portable skills. However I did my training in London some fifteen years ago and my quals aren't recognised - or at least need topping up. I did these papers when I was working at an investment bank in London. The logic was that when I got married, I could have an income while I had kids about that house. Okay, the second part of the plan never happened, but it's proved a good beer money spinner and it seems I have half a talent for it. My regular clients keep coming back - but as I'd have to shell out to requalify, it seems like a waste. Besides, the way I do reflexology is a little different to the way more conventional reflex practitioners work - I'm a bit more "out there" - I think those were the words Jonella used - she's a reflexologist too.

Keep these as a hobby jobs, I reckon. Besides, working in these trades would mean having to work with the general public.

I'd rather drink bleach than work with the general public.

Same goes for the reiki. I've got my Reiki Two certificate - I don't see the need to get my Reiki Masters. I like working with it, but it's not my passion.

There's the tarot reading. Again, something I'm trained for, but there isn't much need for straight talking readers. I refuse to get dressed up as a fortune teller and do festivals or markets - it takes away from the integrity. Most people who come for readings know I read lying on my lounge room floor, cup of tea in my hand often saying thing like, "Nah, what do you want to do that for?" Pandora the Tactless Tarot reader. Joy.

And that's about it. I'm good with kids and animals, though sometimes after twenty minutes with the latter I want to run them through a blender. Better not risk that one.

There is a part of me that says go back and re-train in something. Personal Training has come up in the mix  few times - but personal trainers are a dime a dozen - lots out there, shrinking market - thought the good ones can make quite a bit - and I know some great ones. It does sort of appeal to my sadistic side - ask poor Desi and I demand she sprint up Anderson Street of a morning.

Besides, who wants a chubby personal trainer?

More of a possibility is going back to university on a part-time basis and studying Law, Creative Writing or Journalism at a Masters level. It's thought. But it needs to be funded, and unfortunately a corporate job will be the only way to do this.

I suppose my dream job would be to be a travel writer - getting paid to swan around the world - though who would want my opinion? I love travel writing - just I don't think there is a market out there for my views.

And writing the novel to turn me into the next JK Rowling. Well, again, I need to keep a roof over my head. Rowling, though magic - was a fluke of the gods. For every JK Rowling and Eoin Colfer and Lemony Snicket there are millions of wannabes. Rainbow Robertson needs a few more rainy Sunday afternoons to get off the ground.

There must be plenty of things that a reasonably intelligent and resourceful woman can do with her life outside of working in a bank.

Just have to work out what that is.

And in the mean time, remain rather whelmed, find joy in the little things, like running along the river in the morning, lunches and other times with friends. Look at the hobby jobs as a bit of a portfolio career.

Or maybe I just have to work out what it is I want exactly. At the moment all I want is sex and ice cream. These are not relevant when it comes to careers.

On that note, I'm going to take my whelming glumness to bed.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

And all is as it should be

I really think the universe has ways of being so merciful and kind, yet at the same time, being a complete bastard all at once.

Em and I were out at Car City, out in the suburbs, out where if you don't drive a Camry there is something wrong with you. Em's on the hunt for  her first car. Being the appropriate big-sister-substitute who's bought the odd car in her life, I offered to go with her on her go-see mission. Glorious day today here in Melbourne. Shining sun, light breeze, traffic not too bad on Punt Road. The Eastern Freeway had no roadworks.

On arriving at our iconic landmark on the Maroondah Highway, I checked my phone. A call from Mum. Nothing unusual in that, it's Sunday - we normally talk on Sunday. I called back, with the full intention of saying I'd call this evening for a proper chat.

The news wasn't unexpected.

JD's Mum, Trista passed away this morning after a long battle with cancer. JD, Trista's husband and a couple of JD's friends were with her. It was quick. Mercifully quick in many ways. She didn't have to suffer for too long.

I texted JD - "Love you. I'm here. Whatever you need."

I can't do anything. What the hell can I do? I'm 700 miles away in another city - all I can be is on the end of the phone - and I will return to Adelaide for the funeral. Of course I will, I've known Trista for 35 years. I have to be there for JD - and my step-dad who I'm sure will be in a bit of turmoil - he was married to her for twenty years after all.

Em and I start the hunt for a cheap automatic banger on which she can cut her insurance teeth - rare as hen's teeth as they're all snapped up by kids on automatic licences who've been given $5000 by their parents to get an leg in the car market. We saw a few gems. Met some complete cretitns. Taught her the "Dagenham Five Step" while I was there.

But my heart wasn't in it.

JD calls. What can you say? Sorry, your Mum's dead just doesn't really cut it. She sounds okay, just very tired. And relieved if anything. She's also grateful that I got the call from Mum and that I'd been told already. The bush telegraph was working - doesn't always when it comes to the news my mother choses to pass on, but this one was too big to leave.

Thankully, JD has her friends around her.

Em and I finished our look around and came back to the civilisation of Richmond. I don't know how useful I was - I was a little distracted - though the early model Beamer 5-series was quite nice. There seemed to be a steady stream of sharks vying for her business. Em will do her homework and all will be well.

For me, I'm off to Blarney's to go cuddle some things - the baby bar fridges and the cat. Isn't that what we are supposed to do at times like this - embrace life and embrace potential.

The words of the Hebrew Kaddish for the Dead are playing in my head. "May there be abundant peace from heaven, good life, satisfaction, help comfort, refuge, healing , redemption, forgiveness, atonement, relief and salvation, for us and for all. " A simple prayer - that amidst life there is death. And in death, there is life. It's part of the grand plan. That all is as it should be.

Rest peacefully, Christine.

I leave you with Ben Lee. He talks of peace and potential better than anybody I know.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


I haven't written about tarot for a while. I haven't done many tarot jobs this year - mainly the odd job for friends. I miss it.

So to set the scene, we have Sting: One of the few songs I know that exist about tarot.

I'll set the scenes. A sunny October day a few years ago.

The cards fell and Vivienne's eyebrows lifted, as they do when she's perplexed. She clicked her tongue. That almost never happens. As a double Scorpio, there is very little that perpexes, moves or shakes Viv. Double Scorpios could skin a live puppy and not feel anything - well, that's the theory of double Scorpios anyway.

We were doing a new spread on karma and the karmic path. Surrounding me, a group of other fledgeling readers, all listening in, half-curious, half-incredulous, wondering what Viv was on about. When it comes to tarot, Viv is one of the best tarot teachers in Australia if not the world. She teaches the straight down the line stuff - she also sometimes looks at some of the more "out there" theories around tarot. The karmic path / past life spread was on of the ones reserved for the "hippy shit" basket as I affectionately refer to some of the more esoteric teachings (even if I normally get a lot out of these snippets). Interesting, but not for your routine readings. I don't think I've ever used the spread again - I'll stick to my normal life cycles and Celtic Crosses and occasionally the Gareth Knight, 'Let's make a mess on the table," spread - really effective, but it uses half the deck.

In front of me, every dark card in the pack.

"Well, it looks like you weren't very nice in your last lifetime." Viv said glibly.
"No shit, Sherlock."

The surrounding spreads in front of the others were somewhat more even. Viv's tongue clicking had set them off and the others in the group started peering over. Looks of consternation came ot a few faces.

The all had spreads with cups and stars and suns and the occasional fool. A few had some of the challenge cards in front of them. The Hanged Man, The Chariot, the eight of cups, the four of swords.

Nope, my dear spread had cards of death, the ace of swords, the ten of swords, the five of cups, the Devil and the Tower, all surrounded by the Queen of Swords.

"Looks like you got up to a bit of mischief your last time round."
""You don't say!"

But this time, I'm feeling a little disconcerted. I've been reading cards for a very long time now. I know what is "normal" and what is just plain wrong. The last time I saw cards like these was the morning of the Boxing Day tsunami. I looked at the cards, went "nah!' and folded the cards. The news came in two hours later.
This morning, my cards sitting in front of me, glaring back with a Margaret Thatcher 1000 mile stare.

"So, what do you see?" asked Viv.
"The cards of a murderer. Somebody's who's killed out of rage, for profit, for pleasure even."
 Not a very nice person at all. You might have started a war or two."
"A few others around the table caught on and came for a look."
"Oh, you were a right piece of work."
"And they let you come back."
"And what do you get from all this?"
"It appears I would be atoning for this past life."
"I think you might be right." said Viv.
"Now that is what I call atonement. Geez, with cards like that you've got centuries of karma to cut through.'


I've always liked the theory of karma. You get back what you give out. Be good in one life, get better in another. Be bad in one life, come back as pond slime the next - mind you I'm sure there's some pretty happy pond scum out there. I'm also quite comfortable with reincarnation - coming back to this life from another to fix and repair past patterns. I know not everybody believes in this, and I'm more than fine with that as well. There is also something stupid about those people who believe they were Cleopatra, Henry VIII or Joan of Arc. I don't reckon I was any of these people. I've got an inkling that I've been burned or hanged as a witch a few times, however - just seems to fit.

And it also appears I might have been a self-absorbed, murdering despot at some stage. According to those cards that is.
I also just love what the kabbalists say on how we are reincarnated and know everything about our former lives until just before we are born. Just as we're about to come out from the womb, an angel comes down and taps us on the top lip so we forget. The dip below our noses and above our top lip the mark of the angel making us forget our past lives.

Reincarnation and karma bring all sorts of questions for me. What if you were really bad in a last life? What happens if you were made to do unspeakable acts - say as a soldier or part of a despotic regime, only acting under duress? What if you lead an honorable life, but make one major stuff up - will that come back to haunt you? Is it like the hourglass counters at Hogwarts that keep track of deeds and misdeeds of all, where at the end of the year prizes are given out? Or in this case, better lives?

And who defines what is good and what is bad anyway? Which moral or theosophical code has it correct? There are so many to choose from.

I've often made the comment that I must have done something really wrong in a former life to get where I was a few years ago. I also reckon maybe, in being allegedly "good", in this life, I've managed to shake a bit of the bad juju away. You know, being the friend that I want to be to others, paying my taxes on time, being nice to old people and babies, that sort of thing, my karma credit is back in the black.

I really don't know about this. I love the Jewish idea of having a day of atonement. Yom Kippur, a day of sitting and dwelling on the sins of the year and having them forgiven. Get it out and get it over with for another year of mucking up.

The Christian belief that Christ died for my sins has never sat well with me. I'm responsible for my own life. I'm responsible for what I do and the consequences of my actions. Nobody else has charge of that part of my life.

So where is all this leading? I'm revisiting some past lives at the moment. Looking at what was what. And what is now. Feeling what damages were inflicted. Wanting to atone for the wrongs committed. And wondering when the atonement will finally end.

I think The Panics say it best:

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The New Old Regime

The thought of reunions used to send shivers down my spine. There is a wonderful scene from Grosse Point Blank, a classic reunion movie, that sums up my current though process. A scene where the protagonist, a hired gun, is talking to his wise secretary. A scene, that no matter how many times I watch the film, always resonates with me.
Thinking about it, if I had gone to my high school reunion, it would have been just like the reunion scenes in the movie, same music, same dress sense, just a few more people who were either grand-parents or flannel wearing bogans.

I'm finding myself in a similar situation at the moment. I have a reunion to attend at the start of October.

For once in my life I don't feel like I'm going to turn up and have people say "God, what a moose." I don't feel like I've under-achieved. I know that I've "swelled" a bit, but not that much. I look better now than I did back then. The monobrow is gone, thank goodness. The Noel Gallagher eyebrows have been tamed. The hair is styled - okay sometimes styled. I'm not that flabby. I sort of have dress sense. I have a skerrick of street cred now - even if Jonella says that wearing a pink t-shirt emblazoned with the word "Geek" when running destroys any kudos I may have attained.

However, I'm also painfully aware that the winter half stone has crept on over the last three months and that that I'm not really accepting of this.

I've also signed up for the 12wbt again. The second time I've done this to myself this year, the second time I'm letting myself in for a serious round of challenges lead by the indominable Michelle Bridges. 1200-1300 calories a day, training six days a week for an hour a day. I've signed on to start on 12 September with the rest of them.

With this reunion so close - I'm starting tomorrow.

Three weeks early.

The great thing is that the 12wbt regime makes me feel fantastic. High protein, low in simple carbs and sugar. Sensible but power packed, it gets me where I want to be, and quickly.

Of the training, Pump Class, running and Pinochet will take up the slack. Add in half marathon training, the odd run up the 1000 Steps, taking in the odd spin class, the City to Bay in Adelaide, the Grape Run, long runs to meditation on Saturday momrings... I'll get my six hours in no worries.

It's not that much more exercise Than I've been doing lately anyway. I rather like that my body does what it's told most of the time. I'm really fond of the fact that not much flobs around any more - but it could be better. I've just got to be good with the ice cream and the intermittent snacking and things will fall into place.

I've got something to work towards.

And the theme song for this blog?

An urban battle cry. A great song to set off a great six week's work.


It's good to have a managable challenge.

I'm Blaming Dream Group

Okay, birthday has come and gone. The birthday was lovely. The birthday, which was really a birthday week rather than just a day, has been fantastic. One of the better on record.

So I am blaming dream group for what is going on at the moment. Sod Dream Group. I have to blame something or somebody, so I'm blaming dream group.

The theme song for this blog is Talking Heads, "Once in a Lifetime". More for the lyrics than anything, although Stop Making Sense still brings a smile to my face and a bop to my shoulders. The words, "and you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?"

I'm blaming dream group for the events of the last few days. Bloody dream group. It's dream group that stirs things up and expects me to deal with the fall out.

At least it was my dream that started the stiring.

For those new to the blog, Dream Group is where I go on Wednesday Night. The first rule of dream group is that you don't talk about dream group. The second rule of dream group is that if you go to dream group, you have to dream. Like Fight Club, just a bit more brutal on the psyche than the body.

It was my dream that got blooded the other night. A dream of a house that was mine. A house that I visit in dreams regularly. A house that I wanted to rent. A house that in the past was near derelict in places but is now whole and safe and well lit (although the kitchen needs remodelling and my bedroom needs an airing and complete redecoration). The right side wing, once in such a state that it was uninhabitable, has been completely renovated, the floors, once disaster areas, now secure, the staircase, once unmountable, now secure and painted white. The upstairs used to have a tree through it, is now all secure, freshly painted and carpetted.

The discussion rattled me more than I would have wanted. Discussions of how the right side, the side of primal wildness - was ready to be inhabited. I listened to the conversation going on about me. I did take it in, though I am rejecting outright the thought of going to belly dancing lessons once again - I tried that years ago and it threw my back out. Besides, I look like a refrigerator when I dance.

I'm and ex-Methodist. There are some things I don't do. Dance is one of them. Wild, uninhibited, monkey sex is another - not that there is anybody around to have wild, uninhibited, monkey sex with at the moment.

All this chat of my alleged base nature had me crossing my legs, feeling around for my worry beads (iPhone will do) and looking for a trapdoor to open up and get me out of there.

Thankfully, I got out of Dream Group tear and tantrum free and get home to the relative peace of my flat.

The following morning, I woke to a headache and the feeling that thing were stiring. Something's changing. The headache has been around for the last few days - nothing bad enough to take a panadol, but there. Lingering. Like the dream group conversation.

Looking about the place, so much appears to be happening. Friends are leaving relationships, moving houses, moving on. I have no idea what the hell is happening. Part of me feels like I'm stuck in an endless spin cycle.

Is this maelstrom just the beginning. It feels like it.

Okay, it's bed time - enough existential crap. I've had a lovely day carting my parents around the wineries of the Yarra Valley.

I also reconnected with somebody I haven't seen or heard from in over fifteen years.

Still wondering what the universe has in store. What ever it is, it appears I'm due to be severely tested yet again.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Degustation of Tastes

Jonella sent me this quote today.

An old woman once said, "There comes a time in your life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Forget the bad, and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right, hope for the ones who don't. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living."

How very, very true. It appears this is how I've come to live my life. Life is about friends, experiences, joys. It's about making mistakes, living the lows and finding a way out of them.

Life, at the moment is pretty good. Buoyed quiet happily along by the fact that the Australian Tax Office has just given me two weeks wages back on my tax return. It's part of this is the reason the car was purchased when it was. It was also part of the reason that the I got to strike another entry off the bucket list last night.

It's funny, you put stuff out there and it appears to come back to you. A month ago I was writing that I wanted a new car. I made that happen - even if the bank owns two thirds of it, I have the new car.

The other bucket list entry now ticked off is the partaking in a degustation menu at a great restaurant. To some people, this would make no sense. Why would you want to go out and have little bits of dinner rather than a big meal - and pay for it royally?

Well, though I can't say I'm a foodie - I'm on my way there. I really do love food. I love to cook, not that I get enough time or opportunity to do it well or often. I love trying new things. I'm a bit of a macaron connosieur. Then again, I'm the girl who takes delight in baked beans on toast and I smother anything barbequed or a poached egg and smoked salmon breakfast with tomato sauce. Foodie / Philostine - take your pick.

Regardless, I have Millie, my wonderful foodie friend from to thank for this. On reading the bucket list blog, she came back to me the following day saying that she'd join me in the experience. Millie is an inveterate foodie. She and her husband have been into wine and food for as long as I've known her and I trust her judgement implicitly. She was the one who recommended Sake Restaurant on the weekend - a recommendation that I'll never be able to thank her for enough - all of us would go back there in a heartbeat.

Anyway, Millie said that as her husband was going to be way for a week with work, going out for a posh dinner somewhere would be a great thing to do. She'd happily pop my degustation cherry - and offered a list of restaurants she'd recommend.

On the list were the following:

Libertine (
Money Order Office  (
Jacques Reymond (
Koots (
Da Noi (

Looking over the list, I could mark off the Money Order Office - I'd been there many years ago with Blarney and Sam for a birthday dinner - which was lovely. The only other one I knew of was Jacques Reymond, a three-hatted dining experience in Armadale, touted as the best French Restaurant in Melbourne. This true culinary force to be reckoned with, it stuck out. I went back to Millie, asking if she was serious about the Jacques Reymond suggestion and she responded with enthusiastic agreement. "So glad you were up for Jacques Reymond. I threw that in there in hope." I questioned her about the cost of the night, knowing that a night there would put me back half a car payment. Nope, she was fine with that.

So the night was booked. I asked a couple of other friends if they would want to come along. This was considered carefully. Nobody knows what anybody else's financial situation may be - but having an idea about who might have a bit of cash about and asked if Jonella and Emm might be interested in coming along. Emm, a lawyer had to back out at the last minute, but Jonella was really enthusiastic. Three word nerds out for the night. Heaven help us.

It turns out, last night was just blissful. Wonderful company aside, the food was absolutely amazing. What I call "pretty" food. If I'd taken my mother there, she's be asking where the rest of it was. Eight small courses of absolutely delightful cuisine. Things I'd never try normally, bits I would never think went together, unusual combinations... it was wonderful.

I'm not a food critic. I don't feel worthy of being a food critic - as mentioned before, I'm a huge fan of Heinz baked beans on toast and I have a bit of a penchant for anything that looks like a chip, though I can wax lyrical about macarons, ice cream and coffee. But I'm going to channel my inner Lloyd Grossman and Matt Preston here (though you'll never see me dead in a cravat) and give an appraisal of dinner last night.

The Jacques Reymond degustation experience is just that - an experience. Peerless service, polished silver and glassware, ambient dining rooms. crisp table linen - something that I've forgotten about. From the moment the waiting staff lays the napkin in your lap, you know you're in for something wonderful.

The three of us ordered a glass of 2008 Petaluma Crozer sparkling to start the evening. Crisp, dry and fragrant, a proper palate cleanser for the evening. For an extra $100 the waiting staff will match the wines with dinner - but as the three of us were due at work the next morning we went by the glass. Not on a school night and certainly not when we were all driving.

First dish out were some choux buns with a hint of Gruyere as an appetiser - a cream puff bun with just a hint of cheese inside. The associations that food recovers always leaves me gasping. My thoughts returned to Trista, who makes the best cream puff ever. The crispness of the shell and the delicate insides. A return to a childhood of family lunches with aging, dowager aunts in hydrangea filled gardens. The gruyere always summons memories of my friend Verity, who makes the best cheese on toast with grilled gruyere and lashings of butter - heart attack in a plate material but a fond memory nonetheless.

I told you food brings up some rather amazing stuff. And this was only the amuse bouche.

The first course proper was presented to us. Millie has a thing about fish - it's not that she's allergic - she just doesn't like it - so for the first three courses, she had the vegetarian option. A small soup bowl came out. Tea smoked chicken and watercress soup, potato foam, and tempura wakame oyster, azeite dende.

One of the great things about this evening is the fact that you eat what's put in front of you not questioning what some of the elements may be. This course was up there in my top four for the night. The tea smoked chicken was robust enough to counteract the tang of the oyster. It was an absolute joy to eat. If there was any beef, it was about the foam. Okay, maybe it's my Myponga roots, but I don't get why you would cover something that is already perfect with potato foam. Why not just give us a chip? But no. There was lots of foam on the menu last night. I know it's an added element adding subtlety to the dish, but really the potato smoosh could have been left off and we would have been none the wiser. Though it did look pretty.

Millie's Soymilk, corn and watercress soup, potato foam, shiitake kakiage and panko cheese was excellent as well, mirroring the dish that Jonella and I had in front of us. That was one of the great things about this experience. Often, when you have a vegetarian or somebody with a food allergy with you, their dishes look completely foreign. This looked so similar, you'd never know the difference.

(sorry, the photo just didn't come out on this one)

The second course was a gazpacho of tuna oriental style, dashi and pure natural tomato jelly, native Davidson red plum. Another winner of a dish. Delicate and refined, the raw tuna was offset perfectly by the tomato jelly and plum elements. Millie, who again had the vegetarian offering of New style gazpacho with pure natural tomato jelly, beignets of Australian bush tomatoes, cucumber and melon, a champagne foam was once again impressed with the similar presentation. One for raw tuna, I wish Millie could have given this a go. Though one for sushi, this dish brought the raw tuna to a whole new level. Certain puts John West and his tinned muck in a very different league. Calm and cleansing, we knew that the next dish would have a bit more oomph.

After a small break, a bread roll and a new glass of wine, in my case a 2010 Ata Rangi Sauvingnon Blanc and Millie a 2010 Toorlangi Chardonnay the next course came out along with the fish knives. I don't think I've seen a fish knive since I was a child. I know my mother has them but rarely uses them.

There were elements to the flavours of winter: deep sea rockling with anchovy and coffee, Mount Buffalo hazelnuts and orange oil, saffron rouille dressing that I loved - others that I could give a miss. The rockling, though perfectly cooked - did nothing for me. However, the compliments of the ristretto reduction and the hazelnuts were mind blowing. I forgot how much I love ristretto - for those not in the know, espresso coffee without the bitterness. Both Millie and I went for that element first - mind blowing. This is one case where I think I would have preferred the vegetarian option. Millie's Flavours of Winter: cannelloni of beetroot and red cabbage relish with all of the accoutrements looked wonderful - and she gave a good report.

Halfway through this meal it struck me that in years gone by, eating like this would have appeared wasteful and indulgent - but to assault the senses in such a manner is a joy. Emotions, feelings and thoughts are brought back as you taste your way through the menu, which I'm told changes seasonally.

Another change of cutlery bought the next dish - another of my favorites - the Western Plains young pork shabu shabu in masterstock, fresh pappardelle, Tasmanian wasabi espuma and ponzu juices. Just for your information, the espuma was foam. They tried to trick us. More nicely tasting foam, but still, foam. I have no idea what a ponzu is but this whole dish was incredible, the pork was melt in your mouth, the masterstock meaty, yet delicate and the parpardelle the perfect foil to the bold flavours, cooked to al dente perfection.

My favorite dish of he night was the next course. Gippsland white farmed rabbit and crispy squid, spiced walnuts and compressed apples, oloroso sherry vinaigrette. For any regular readers of this blog, you'll have an idea about what I think about rabbits. Anything I can do to rid the country of the buggers is a good thing. This was an elegant example of a good use for a bunny, set off beautifully with the squid and spiced walnuts. This dish had hints of things all over the place. The sherry vinaigrette offsetting the apples, which in turn lifted the bunny, which sort of tasted like a posh chicken in a lovely way.

Jonella looked at me and said , "You're enjoying that."
I replied, "A dead bunny is a good bunny. But this brings dead bunny to new levels."
You have to remember where your food comes from...

The last savoury dish consisted of Wagyu beef rump and oyster sauce, eggwhite omelette of pickled chokos, grated daikon and chilli, our ketchup sorbet. We were asked at the start of the meal if we wished to try some Western Australian truffles sliced over our steak. All of us took up the offer, for a rather princely sum. None of us had ever tried truffle au naturel. Once again, perfect meat, but some of the elements left me wondering. For the second time in a week I had grated daikon placed in front of me. Personally, I reckon I've tasted better flannel juice - that's what daikon reminds me of. A whole lot of smudgy blah. The rest of the dish - excellent. Though truffles, as we found out, are best accompanying something, not on their own. They really are remarkable with other parts to a dish - but raw, they're like a not so rubbery mushroom. It was worth the money to give them a try. For me, it was a bit of a revelation finding a bit of steak that I didn't want to smother in  tomato sauce. I didn't dare ask for any. (Mind you, I've faced the consternation of Trin, Sam and many, many others, many a time at breakfast when I ask nicely for some with my eggs)

So then came dessert. You can't say no to dessert, can you, especially after such a meal.

I think that they cater for hobbits here. First dessert was my favorite of the two. An iced coffee and chocolate martini, Tahitian vanilla, caramelised nuts. This was all a bit sublime. Jonella and I were salivating with glee. Everything about this dish was perfect, from the coffee cream on top, to the quinelle of chocolate mouse to the strawberries and jelly of vanilla in the bottom of the glass. Both of us looked for ways to get every last skerrick out. Absolutely joyous.

And finally second dessert. After such a winner with the chocolate martini, we wondered if they could come up trumps. All of us thought this was good, but the previous dessert just pipped it at the post.

The deconstructed cheese cake galette of fresh Timboon fromage blanc l‘artisan, warm fruit pudding, mountain bush pepper berries ice cream seemed a lot, but for the fragments we tasted, the previous combination won out. Still no idea what a Timboon is - sounds like some sort of Scottish country dance. I was very taken with the pepper berry ice cream - then again, it's ice cream - what is not to like?

There couldn't be more? No? This was the perfect degustation menu. We were left replete, but not stuffed. An amazing experience in flavours and textures. An evening of wonderful conversation and enjoyment. We couldn't ask for more.

Well, the petit fours they presented us with the bill - they jsut topped everything off nicely. Churros with a glorious ganache, macarons, these little "raspberry jam jubey things (the best on the plate) all good stuff.

As I said before, all of us left half our next car payment short - but it was sooooooo worth it. It was a near perfect meal.

Going home, I stopped in at the Seven-Eleven. For Smarties. I had a cake to ice. My birthday cake - well cakes. I made one for dream group and one for work. And what does the crazy cake maker put on her own birthday cakes?
Well, smarties of course - and lots of them. See?

Pretty, eh?!

There was only one downer to making this cake. On leaving work Monday night, I mentioned to Traralgon that I was going home to make my birthday cake.
"That's not the way it's supposed to be. Somebody's supposed to make you a cake."
I stifled a sob. Nobody around to make me a birthday cake (though I've had a few offers).
"Ah, I have to take one to dream group. I'll half the mixture and bring one in. I promised the team I'd do it."
But Traralgon was adamant. "You're not supposed to make your own cake. Just like you say that it's not a birthday cake without smarties on it, you're not supposed to make it yourself. That's the other rule."
"Well welcome to my life, Traralgon." I turned on my heel and went off to catch the tram home.

Jonella found me at the tram stop five minutes later in a little bit of a state. Not a big state, just having a few tears. I was over tired from the weekend and in need of a bit of space.

"You're not alright, are you." she said after I explained what was going on.
"Not really. But I'll get there. Time and sleep will help. Which it did." Jonella has enough on her plate at the moment.
"Well, you know what to do." she said.
"It's not about a silly birthday cake."
"I know. But put it out there."

Wasn't I saying that earlier?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Best Weekend

There are a number of things I have learned this weekend.

I'm sitting here in my dressing gown just trying to find the words describe what this weekend actually has meant to me.

I will get to that shortly.

First of all, this blog needs a soundtrack - and for purposes to be divulged, I'm naming the song of the blog Australian Crawl's "Reckless". It's my favorite song ever. I've also had it going in my head on repeat since Saturday afternoon as I watched the Manly ferry cut it's way to Circular Quay from the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

I've just peeled off my clothes and done a load of washing. My clothing is now mostly size 14s. It wasn't there at the start of the year. In January, my clothes were more an 18-20. I was nearly 15 kilos heavier in January.

In the wash is also my running gear. I ran the better part of 14 kilometres today - and other than feeling tired, all is well. My feet are a bit sore, but I reckon I've done a marathon's worth of walking this weekend.

This weekend was the weekend a group of us, weight loss warriors in our own way, went and climbed a mountain - or in this case, a big Bridge. The group of six of us who went up the Sydney Harbour Bridge on the climb have lost in total more than 250 kilograms between us - or three, average, grown women. It's an acheivement. It's an amazing acheivement when you think about it. This Bridge Climb was to celebrate our acheivements - a reward for the hard work - but this was only a part small part of the riches of the weekend.

My first lesson learned is that I am a very, very blessed woman.

I've spent most of the weekend in the company of some very, very wonderful people - and I am honoured to know them and honoured to call them my friends (and in JD's case, family)

When this bridge climb weekend was planned, I made it known that part of the weekend  would be spent celebrating my birthday, which is happening at the end of this week. As this weekend coincided with the City to Surf run, it appeared that my friends Gloria and Gaynor would be around in Sydney Town too - as Gaynor was keen to participate in the run too. Kez and Trin were coming, that was always part of the plan. Then once the plan was hatched, JD was asked along too.

There were stirrings from others in the group that there was clubbing and late nights to be had after the climb, the serious runners were reluctant to do this, so we planned a posh dinner away from the doof doof music - where and when to be decided nearer the time. It would be a great chance to celebrate my birthday in a manner befitting. Besides, I stopped clubbing back when God was a boy and who want's to go out and get smashed the night before a 14 kilometre fast hike over hills?

So I've been looking forward to all this for months. The Bridge Climb. Posh Dinner. City to Surf.

It was just far more rewarding that I ever could have envisaged.

:Lesson Two: Posh Dinners are the best - particularly when the company is fantastic

After asking about for restaurants tips in Sydney, a city of which I'm not particularly fond, Sake Restaurant in The Rocks was suggested. My friend Millie, an inveterate foodie, highly recommended the place. She did VERY well to suggest it. A table for six was duly booked about a month ago. It was in the price range we desired and as I found out last week, it was highlighted on the penultimate episode of Masterchef as one of the best Japanese restaurants in town.

As always, when booking, there was a bit of trepidation. Would my friends get on? Kez and Trin are party of my running fraternity. Gloria is one of my closest friends, her partner, Gaynor,also a runner, is delightful. JD had never met these people. I don't normally mix groups of friends.

Shouldn't have worried.

The place was gorgeous and the food was incredible - one of the best meals I've had in years. Making the night even more special was the company. I don't think I've laughed so much in ages. Very special friends made it a night to remember - along with the scallops cerviche and the Japanese Lime dessert and the plum wine and the ... superb meal.

Third Lesson. When the going gets tough, the tough get ice cream.

The only small downer to the weekend was when walking home from dinner on Saturday night, JD got a call on my phone. Trista had been admitted to hospital with complications. JD took the news on the chin. Her mum was in good hands and there was nothing she could do. She's see her as soon as she got back to Adelaide. Pragmatic to the last, the four of us went and got ice cream at a nearby gelati shop - complete with sixteen flavours of chocolate gelati. It seemed fitting. My coconut gelati was brilliant.

Lesson Four: There is not that much you can do about snoring.

JD snores like a tractor on heat. Trin doesn't snore. She has a mouth guard that prevents her from doing that.

I know I snore - I allegedly "cute" snore - not too loudly, but still, I can't cast the first stone.

Regardless, wired on ice cream, knowing I had to be up at 6.30 to prepare for a race the next morning, JD is a foot away from me in the next bed making a noise that would put a Massey Ferguson to shame.


Trin has put in her mouthguard and earplugs and appears to be off in the land of nod.

I'm lying there, shaking JDs mattress periodically hoping she'll turn over. Shaking the mattress stops the snoring for a minute or so, then she starts up again.

How does one get to sleep? Normal methods of relaxing are not available  (like I'm going to do "that" with two other women in the room - like no... I have standards) I don't take pills - and I don't have them to take anyway. I don't have ear plugs. The pillows are thin and they let noise through. I could smother JD in her sleep, but she is my step-sister. My step-dad would be mad if I did that.

In the end, I get about three hours of unbroken sleep for the night.


Lesson Five: Lack of sleep does not make for good running.

Trin, Kez, Gaynor and myself made our way to the start of the City to Surf at 7.30. It has been raining overnight. It was cool. There's a bit of drizzle about.

There were 85,000 other participants!

I'm not happy. I hate crowds. I'm tired. My knee is giving me jip. I was in my "Sod this for a game of soldiers mood." The other's area aware of my anxiety and I'm doing the best I can to contain it.

Thing is, I came up to do this run - so run I did. I'm far too bloody minded not to. And tight. There's no refunds for late drop outs.

The gun went off at 8.29 a.m.

Kez and Gaynor went on ahead . They're quite evenly matched runners and they streaked off. They got through the course in an hour and 23 minutes.

Trin and I run well together too. I'm a normally bit faster than Trin, but today was not a good day. My heart rate monitor decided to misbehave. I was getting pushed about. I was ready to either cry or go home.
Trin thankfully calmed me down a bit.

That and the fact there were firemen lining the route at the first kilometre kept me going. I wanted to see if there were more. (I like firemen.... (Large grin))

Lesson Six: Sometimes adjusting your expectations make for a more rewarding time.

Two kilometres in I came to the realisation there was three ways to approach this race. Battle on and kill myself. Use the twenty dollars tucked in my bra to get a cab home. Or slow down, take it easy and try and enjoy the race.

Sensibly, I chose the third option.

Sydney is a humid place. After a night of rain, the roads were slippery. I'd had about three hours sleep.

I'd rather have my armpit hairs pulled out one by one with rusty pliers than run in humidity. It's one of the reasons I dislike Sydney so much. It drains me. I don't cope well with it unless sitting by a swimming pool with a cold beer in my hand.

Thankfully, this put me right on Trin's natural pace.  We ran 3-4 minute intervals for the first few kilometres. The humidity was a killer, but we plodded forward. After Heartbreak Hill - which really is a bitch of a hill, the breeze picked up, the humidity dropped and my demeanour improved. This was also helped along by watching Trin take her first gel. Gels are runner's race food - 100 calorie pouches of complex carbohydrate and caffeine that gives you a pick up along the way. Trin has finally worked out where the "running fairy" comes from. It was great to watch.

Coming into Bondi, I got the realisation that I really do know what I'm doing with this running lark. Okay, it was nowhere near my best time. But I did the race. I got through. I didn't get carried off in an ambulance. I can run up hills. Twelve hours later, my legs feel great. And in adjusting my expectations, I came out happy.

I'd do the race again - just next time there will be no sugaring up the night before and JD, if she's about, can have her own room where she can snore to her hearts content.

Also, twelve hours on, though still tired, my legs feel fine - fresher than they were this morning - which is a great sign. The toe socks Danger Dood suggested worked well too.

The last lesson from the trip is about crossing bridges.

I look back on the bridge climb and I see that in climbing the bridge yesterday as a necessary crossing.

I'm not the person I was at the start of the year. She's gone. She got left behind when she suited up to go and climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

This new woman faces her fears head on. In this case, my wandering vertigo got a bit of a work out. And I hate climbing ladders. But I did all this with grace and ease - well as much grace and ease as I could muster. Attached to the static line, taking in the views, surrounded by friends, the old me, the one I left behind, would never feel worthy of such an experience.

The new me laps it up.

The old person, left behind, would probably not feel the joy of knowing that what ever she sets her mind to, she can do, whether it be running long distances, or setting new challenges, or wearing pretty clothes and feeling attractive... all things that the new person is thriving on. The new person takes nothing for granted, doesn't accept second best, demands the most out of everything and generally gets it. The new person faces her fears and challenges head on. She takes no crap. She doesn't suffer fools.

How much has changed in the year.

But most of all, the biggest blessing for the weekend, is the blessing of friendship.

As Trin put it, Best. Weekend. Ever.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Big Bridges

I rarely talk about my family on this blog.

In my day-to-day life, I tend to gloss over most aspects of my direct family, making the broad statement that my friends are my family and leave it at that.

Family. Can't shoot them. Can't bury them behind the potting shed.

I have a blended family of sorts. I have a Mum and a stepdad who live just out of Adelaide. I have a sister who I affectionately refer to as Manhands, a brother-in-law and two nieces, also living in Adelaide. I love the lot of them, but I feel like I love them more because they are 500 miles away in another city.

My father died fourteen years ago. My stepdad is an amazing man and has been like a father to me for decades.

I left Adelaide in 1991 and have only been back for regular, but fleeting visits ever since. I manage to stay in Adelaide for three or four days before the necessity to leave overtakes me. Many painful associations and memories are there in Adelaide - though they are a lot easier to face these days. Going back isn't the drama it used to be, but it's still not something I chose to do often.

My life is here in Melbourne, with my friends. My adopted family.

I also have a step-sister, JD, who I've barely mentioned on this blog. JD's my step-dad's daughter. JD and I have always got on really well - I've known her since her first day at Myponga Primary School, some 35 years ago. Ostensibly, JD is an only child, but we do look after each other in a strange, sisterly sort of way. JD and I would be the black sheep of some families if it weren't for the fact that there are other characters out there who take this crown - like my step-dad's feral brother who lives out of a car and has a police record a mile long.

In some ways, JD and I are the family scape goats - the ones who haven't done things the easy way - the ones who just get on with things, but the ones who take on the family crap. Neither of us stand for this any more.

Manhands - my dear sister, has done the required things, which takes the pressure off of us - marriage, mortgage, children, drinking Cowboys down Hindley street - skinny, muffin top jeans, voting Liberal, the oversized four wheel drive, kids in private school, big televisions, Golden Retriever, jacuzzi. My sister likes things. If it makes her happy, then good on her. I wouldn't want her life. She wouldn't want mine. We have that understanding and this is a good thing.

In my own story, I've been alone all my life, travelling the world, educating myself, keeping out of trouble for the most part and living the life of a pseudo-intellectual-yuppie with perceived values.

JD's path has been different as well. JD's got some serious health issues - managable, but persistent. JD has lived all over Australia. JD's also gay - which still gives my parents some angst - though loving, confused angst, rather than angry, vengeful angst. Though fully supportive of JD and her lifestyle, get them on on their own and you get the odd comment - which is always countered my me and Manhands with,"Deal with it, folks. At least she's not getting pregnant, There's is nothing wrong with it. Men muck you up just as bad."

There are other lovely skeletons in the closet which don't really get aired much any more - as all the parties are now either happy or dead - good outcomes. My long dead father lived with my step-dad's ex-wife - JD's mother, Trista, for a while.

Please remember that I've known JD, Trista and my step-dad for thirty-five years or thereabouts.
Which is why this weekend away in Sydney is pushing so many of my deeply rooted buttons leaving me to want to go and find a cave to hide in until it all goes away.

This weekend was meant be a celebration weekend.

It's my pre-birthday weekend. A weekend where I'm climbing the big bridge and running a long way with 70000 or how every many other nutters. It's supposed to signify the end of the old me and the start of the new. Which, on a personal level it will be doing - somewhere in the background I'll be doing this.

However, when I was over in Adelaide in May for my aunt's funeral, I sat next to JD at the funeral. The three girls. Manhands, JD and Pand (or Dory as I'm known to family)

"You know that Liz and I are no longer together."
"No, Mum and your Dad never said anything." My folks often neglect to tell me things like this. I used to hear all about how the cat was going, but nothing about JD's partner and her splitting. It's funny like that.
JD went into a few details. After ten years, she and Liz were wanting different things. It was amicable now, but they were still sharing the house they bought years ago.
"And you know about Mum?" asked JD.
"That the folks to tell me about. She's looking okay." I spied Trista and her new husband a few rows back in the pews. Trista has been remarried for a long time. JD tolerates him, just.
"Mum is here? I didn't think she'd come. Things like this are a bit raw."

Trista has been fighting cancer for the last few years. In the week before my Aunt's funeral she was told by the doctors that there was nothing more that could be done. She was sent home to live out the rest of her life. She's not expected to make Christmas. JD is dealing with this at the moment as well.

On returning to Melbourne after the funeral, a few phone calls were made. JD also celebrated her 40th birthday in the weeks after my visit to Adelaide. I asked the parents if they would want to go halves in sending JD to Sydney for the weekend to come and do the bridge climb. I'd arrange the flights on my frequent flyers. After a few more calls and a bit of time on the web, it was all sorted.

So come Friday night, I'll be meeting up with JD at the airport in Sydney, she, Trin and I will be sharing a room at an inner Sydney hotel. We'll mooch around the city for the morning, I need to pick up my race pack from the Town Hall as Australia Post lost my original one. We'll do the Bridge Climb, go out for dinner at a rather lovely Japanese restaurant. Sunday Morning Trin and I will leave JD in bed to sleep in and get herself to the airport while we join the other wallies on the road to Bondi trekking the 14 kilometres - I'm hoping to do it in under an hour forty. That's my goal anyway.

JD will make her own way the airport to get her flight back to Adelaide - and the ensuing crap that will greet her there.

I've been a bit quiet of the last few days - there's been a lot to ponder.

As this was meant to be a group thing with the girls from the 12wbt, but I've been distant with them for a little while. I often find myself organising stuff for people. Not this time. My heart isn't in it. If it wasn't for the fact that all was organised months ago, I'd be backing out of this weekend - or just going with me and JD - but this can't be the case. And I do want to do the climb. I want to do the City to Surf. I'd just rather be we a small group at most.

I know I'm not in a spot to take on anybody else's stuff at the moment. As much as I love the 12wbt girls, there's always somebody's drama that is playing out - hence me taking a back seat and not putting myself out there as I normally would.

Part of this weekend was meant to be a birthday celebration - but it doesn't feel like it at all - though dinner, with Gloria, Gaynor, JD, Trin and Kez will be lovely, and I'm really looking forward to that. The restaurant has been recommended by a foodie friend - slated as the best Japanese food outside of Japan .

But at the moment, I just can't find it in myself to celebrate. It will be strange anyway. Three sets of my life meet at the one table. Gloria and Gaynor know me as Pandora. Kez and Trin call me Pand. JD, like the rest of my family, call me Dory.

I'm not going to know where to look!

This weekend has the distinct feeling of the calm before the storm. A weekend of respite. A weekend to take stock, to relax and to fortify oneself - for I know that JD is about to go into what looks like some of the hardest days of her life.

It will be great to spend some quality time with her - away from the dramas of Adelaide. Away from her dying parent. Away from everything else.

For me, I will just keep to myself and my inner sanctum. I'll do the race. I'll mooch about a city I don't know that well, but I'm keen to discover. JD and I will drink coffee and talk, and talk and drink coffee. It's what we do.

And I will put it to the universe that in my next life, they not make me an empathic healer, feeling the pains of others.

For as much as life is there to be lived - there are times when other things, other circumstances, other lives, take precedence.

As much as I want to be included or a part of a group, this weekend is about family. It's about reflection. It's about how precious life is and how far we have come.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


As a part of the reinvention of Pandora, finding a vehicle for the new and improved Pandora was coming imminent.

Actually, it was more the fact that Andrew, my old, trusty Echo was going to start costing me a lot of money - and being an eleven year old Toyota, though as a reliable as a Tony Abbott diatribe on the carbon tax, it was going to need a new clutch and various other large mechanical jobs in the next year.

Besides - I am the new and improved Pandora, time for a new and improved car.

For the last year I've been hemming and hawing about trading in the Echo for something a bit more modern. A car that I didn't have to stop and pull the key out of the ignition to get to the boot. A car which had a few mod cons like electric windows and maybe even power steering (though the Echo was pretty light, it still gave you a work out going round small roundabouts.) A car that had a few more safety features than a working brake light. A car that would suit my new improved self. After nearly seven years, it was time to shake my Toyota driving persona into something a bit more street credible.

I've always loved the Mazda 2 Maxx. They're cute. They're zippy. They have a great shape. They run as well as Toyota. And though there are tonnes of them on the road, they are still a bit unexpected as the Maxx has the spoiler and the alloy wheels.

Scanning back to December last year when Tin Can, String and Whistle gave me the flick, I remember sitting in the room with Popeye and the HR girl looking at my payout figure and stating "That's a Mazda 2 for me. A Mazda two with mags and a spoiler."

Unfortunately I had to use most of that money to live on, but the dream of the Mazda 2 remained.

Scanning the car sales pages online a few weeks ago there was this add for a dealer second hand car. Two years old. Silver grey. Spoiler. Alloy wheels. 29000 kms on the clock. Clean drive, no accidents recorded. Dealer car. RACV approved. Five doors - brilliant - it means I can put Mum in the back.

The model I wanted (Mazda 2 Maxx). The right price. Pretty much the right everything.

I put in an enquiry and a nice, older car salesman called me back the following morning. I said I'd be out on the weekend, but don't count on my buying it - I'm more likely to buy in a few months, but I'd love a look. Sure he said. He sounded like a good bloke. Not a dud. I don't like salesmen at the best of times, but this one sounded alright.

Sunday came, I braved Richmond traffic (and the stupid people who tried to get in to see the houses of "The Block" which is situated down the road) and drove out to Mulgrave.

The car salesman, Chris, was a joy. Not pushy, friendly and relaxed. He took me over to the car and I did my bestest "Dagenham Five Step " (how you're taught to look over a car in England.)

I had a look over the car. I asked a few pointed questions. Kicked the tyres. Looked under the bonnet, in the boot, went up and down over the car.

"You ask a lot of questions." said Chris.
"I worked as a car buyer for a fleet company in England."
"Oh. You know what you want?"
"You want to test drive it?"
"Half an hour enough?"
"Yep - as long as you have no issue with me taking it down the Monash."
"Not at all."

It was love at first sight. For a two-year-old car it's practically unmarked. One or two spots in the duco. Drives like a dream. It has power steering and lots of air bags and keyless entry and cup holders and alloys and the spoiler I wanted. And a six stacker CD payer which does MP3s too - and stereo controls on the steering wheels.

Okay, I wanted a black one when I put out my wish list - but black ones are hard to keep clean. I've always had white cars, over white cars. No more goody, goody image. But this silver car is sexy and understated.

After leaving Mr Chris with a deposit, I went and visited a friend and started to panic.

What had I done?

I'd bought a car!

The insurance, the e-tag for the tolls, the rego, the car loan - all sorted in a lunchtime during the week. I asked a friend about taking Andrew off my hands - he declined so I traded him in. Could have got more if I sold him privately, but heaven knows how long that would have taken.

It's all sorted. Yesterday afternoon I waved goodbye to Andrew with a little regret. It was like leaving your dog at the vet to get rehoused or put down. I hope he goes to a good family - he's been a great car.

I am now the owner of a two year old Mazda 2 Maxx. It's me, saying to the universe, "Keep me gainfully employed, please." and, "See, I do have some sort of sex appeal and street cred!."

And as for the name...

Well, I had Colin the Diahatsu Centro with the 0.65 litre engine a few years ago. Colin's always appear to have "small man syndrome" or mother issues. I would have called the car Allan, but Allan always make the tea - and a Diahatsu can't make tea. My mother loved that car. I left her with him when I went and lived in Greece for a few months - the perfect runabout, but she would have been screwed if she hit a roo on her way to the Victor Harbor Woolies. Colin was just a lawnmower with a tinfoil shell.

Then there was Andrew the Toyota. Andrew was named after an ex's wedding tackle. Andrew was small, but got you where you needed to go.

Yes, I'm a disgrace - but I didn't name my exes tackle. Honest.

So what do you call a silver grey Mazda 2, with alloys and a spoiler.

Dennis came to mind. But Dennis will be reserved for when I get a black car. Black cars are hot - like an old workmate of mine, who is just lovely.

We discussed it at work. What about Trevor? Nope, too many uncles called Trevor - not particularly reliable. Kevin - hell no! Last bloke I went out with was a Kevin - bad name, bad move, dreadful associations. Malcolm? Nope - my father's brother (who also has a brother called Trevor too - can't name cars after family members.) Donald - nope, my step-dad's feral brother who my Mum won't have in the house. Steve? Rodger? Randall? Porn Star.

Peregrine? Tarquin? Rupert? Nope. The car isn't going to be into Shirley Bassey and Barbra Streisand.

Then the name Neville came up. I wanted to say that Neville was the concrete aboriginal on "Kingswood Country" but I thought the better of it. I was at work. Can't say things like that.

But Neville sort of rang true. The only Neville I know is my cousin's first ex-husband - and he's okay. Laid back, killer sense of humour when you get to know him. Quiet, understated, sort of respectable, but there is a bit more going on under the surface.

Neville it is.

Okay, I name my cars after middle-aged accountants (or in this case a greying police prosecutor from Mount Gambier)

Neville it is.

Long may Neville terrorise the roads of Richmond - and universe, please keep me gainfully and properly employed so I can pay him off quickly.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Amo, amas, amat, amares

Amo, Amas, Amat, amares....

I love. You love. He/she loves.  They love....
I can look at the photographs now and feel nothing. I can think of him and feel nothing other than a small modicum of regret.

I love. I loved. Past tense. I did love. Past imperfect. I once loved.  They love. They did  love. They love. They are in love. Plural present reflexive.

I hate that I spout Latin grammar when I'm pissed.

Thankful, however, am I that I can see but not feel.

I used to love. I did love. I love no more. I wish I'd paid attention in first year uni.

In vino, veritas. In  wine there is truth.

Does this go for beer as well?

Beer keeps me honest. I dislike that I loved another without him loving me back at any stage. I dislike that I fell for his charms. I dislike that I was such a fool.

I dislike that I fell for him so hard and so fast.

I like that I recognise this now.

I loved him. I love him no longer.

I love myself. First person reflexive. Rarely used. What a pity.

But that was the past. Beer is possibly my friend. Beer is my friend.

In beer there is truth.

The only truth found in beer is that I will not make my 8 kilometre run in the morning, my appointments might be late and I have pondered the realisation that the man I loved for the last two years never loved me back.

And there is the pattern.

Beer is my friend. It makes me see the truth. It takes away a little of the pain of the truth.

And I realise that there is sooooo much more out there.

Two panadol and a pint of water are the only cure.

Ego sum pote ad amor

One day I will be able to love.

In beer there is truth,

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Tempus Fugit

Lots has happened, yet nothing has happened. Things are the same, but things are different. What was is not now. What is now, is not so.

Or in the words of Hamlet - the readiness is all.

Then again, Hamlet was a Danish manic-depressive with mother issues. Joy. Why would anybody listen to him (other than he sounds pretty)

The universe appears to be having a laugh at the moment.

Life has become a surreal chapter from "Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy."

Well, that's what it feels like.

So, picture this. Pandora, in a bit of a strop, just out from a mandatory information session at her consultancy, stands at the tram stop in the middle of the road on Collins Street, red back pack filled with damp, festering gym gear from a run in the morning. The evening is incredibly balmy for August - it's around eighteen degrees celsius - bizarre weather.

Waiting for trams is not one of my favorite things - particularly when I'm running late for dream group, been at work since 7.30 am (though saying this, from 7.35-8.45 a.m. I was running along the Yarra with a workmate, Desi, which was particularly pleasant on this stunning winter morning). The day had me getting bawled out by somebody outside of my team, endless meetings in which I played devil's advocate and silent witness and finally, the professional development session - at which I'm obliged to show my face. A very long day.

Standing at the tram stop, waiting for the tram, I have a few moments to myself. My mind turns to my favorite current fantasies - the Traralgon Football Player's bum. Time suddenly stretches for a bit and I relax. For what appears an eternity, I'm subjected to a little bit of bliss. Why is it, when you're doing something you either shouldn't be or you love, time appears to go slowly.

(And yes, I know it is not terribly politically correct to confess to checking out your workmate's posterior - but it happens and this one is rather cute for an ageing football player from Traralgon. Then again, I've already had a couple of people comment on my chook legs - so it's out there - you can't work in an office and not be noticed. You just have to make sure you don't stare.)

Tempus Fugit. Time flies. Especially when you're having fun.

I've been pondering the time continuum at lot of late. We were sitting talking about it at Masons the other night at supper. Beryl, my little white-haired grandmother substitute was sitting there discussing how time appeared to be speeding up. Beryl's sister, Pearl, a leaner, but just as sprightly woman piped up - "The modern 24 hours is equivalent to 16 hours of thirty years ago."

I tend to agree with her even though I have no idea how she can prove it.

Thirty years ago I was twelve. I remember time dragging. I remember being able to see an hour go by and watch the minutes. I always wondered how it could be that there were some days where things would fly past, and other days where they would drag. Strangely, summer days always appeared to linger. I liked winter days, counting time by how many stumps got placed on the open fire or how many books got read or how many times I had to let the dog in or out. The day was started by pulling on some old clothes, feeding a handful of poddy calves before showering, changing, grabbing my school bag and waiting for the large yellow school bus, driven by Mrs Gwennie came to pick me up. The bus collected me at quarter to eight.

And life seemed simpler back then.

The counts were different. The markers of time were nothing like the ones of today. Time was marked by Fat Cat going to bed - an institution in Adelaide. This is when good boys and girls used to go to bed at a decent hour. Fat Cat used to wish the boys and girls of Adelaide goodnight at seven thirty - since taken off the television as cats are not indigenous to Australia and man in a fat bandicoot suit would not be the same. I knew it was bath time at the end of Hogan's Heroes. Jerry Lewis marked Sunday afternoons - after a boring session at the Myponga Uniting Church earlier in the morning. I'm still unsure why I ever went to church as a kid. My parents never went. I never quite got what they were going on about Jesus. Church sucked.

Now I look at life and time in other ways.

Time is to be filled, balanced, checked and arranged. Sleep is that commodity that comes between the hours of midnight and six thirty. Calendars are there to be filled, updated and rearranged. There are people to meet, things to do, appointments to keep. Fitting in everything that I want to do is impossible.

I'm training for a half marathon at the moment, so I need to get every kilometre in my legs that I can. Thankfully, Desi presented herself this week in need of a trainer. She's training for the 10 km event on the same day - so we have similar goals - though Desi has only been running for a few months. She's proving a worthy running mate. But then I have to do the long runs as well. So that has to be fitted in. Plus hill and sprint training - but the hills can be done at the 1000 Steps and the sprints can be done on the treadmill at the gym.

Then there are friends to be seen. There is book group once a month. There is masons once or twice a month, depending on the month. There are movies with friends. I have to fit in a session with Pinochet to keep me honest. There are lunches with friends. There is the personal admin that has to be taken care of - and finding time with my hairdresser is akin to making an appointment to see the Pope.

And somehow I also have to go to work, do my washing and ironing and cleaning, and cooking ..... because I have to do the first thing to keep a roof over my head and I need to do the second because there is nobody else to do it - and I'm buggered if I'm hiring a cleaning lady or living on take-away.

I also ask myself if I'm keeping myself intentionally busy because there is nobody there at home. Or am I so busy because I'm avoiding letting other things in. Other things that might include love and money and hell knows what else.

Oh, and I'm editing a book at the moment as well. Did I tell you that?

So how is it, that with all this time poverty, I feel bad about missing things? Aren't I doing enough? Has time really shrunk like Pearl has said it has.

And when do I get a bit of time for me - says she who deliberately pencils in Sunday evening from 5 pm as me time - I do nothing, I go nowhere, that is my time to do with as I wish - why do I feel guilty? No friends, no appointments, nothing more than me in my trakkie dacks and slippers filing my nails or writing or ironing or watching the telly.

I feel guilty about relaxing. It's stupid.

Then I take stock of the last calendar year and I've done so much - lost a heap of weight, got really fit, travelled the world for five weeks, made new friends, got made redundant, had an operation, recovered from injury, seen the death of a beloved Aunt, driven to and from Adelaide, started a new job.

I then think to my maternal grandfather who in his 85 years of life never left Australia and worked for the same company for his whole working career - although he did relocate on numerous occasions. My grandfather expected dinner on the table at six'o'clock at night. My grandfather built wooden boats in his spare time.

He had quite a bit of it.

So now I find myself at a tram stop, relishing a few minutes before I have to climb on a tram, thinking about the lovely rounded rear end of a footballer. Ah - some peace.

And then the universe plays it's biggest joke of all.

"Hello, Pandora - what are you doing here at this time. Been working out?"

Standing a foot away, my green eyes meet a pair of intelligent, quizzical brown eyes. Traralgon is standing there. Tie loosened, back pack over his shoulder.

I find my composure. I feel like I've been sprung - not that anybody would know anything. I've just been staring off into the distance with and insipid smile on my face, waiting for the tram on a balmy night. Nobody knows what I've been thinking. Thank goodness the evening light hides my blushing cheeks.

"Nah. Just been at a session at the consultancy. What about you?"
"Meeting friends for dinner.'
"Ah. Well, have a lovely night."
"You too."

Traralgon flashes me a smile and crosses the road. His suit jacket covers his rump.