The Pudgy Woman Muses: It ain’t what you do it’s the reason you do it.

Teaching.

The job I have been doing for the past 20 years, give or take, between having the minx and moving from one hemisphere to another.

The job that has given me moments of joy, frustration, anger and gastro.

A job that has made me laugh hysterically, sob uncontrollably, shout forcefully and vomit dramatically.

It is a job that people respect enormously, apparently, but one that people are quite happy to mock or denigrate. Ask most teachers and they will tell you that, if one is at a dinner party and the topic of what one does for a living comes up, other guests will have one of three responses to your answer…

1. What do you do for a living?

I’m a teacher.

Oooooooooo, I couldn’t do your job!

2. What do you do for a living?

I’m a teacher.

Oooooooooo, all those holidays!

3. What do you do for a living?

I’m a teacher.

Oh.

Or you get the complete wankers who feel compelled to offer the adage, “Those who can do, those who can’t teach, eh? Eh?”, as if awaiting the reply, “Yes. You’re quite right. I am a useless shit.”

If people do ask supplementary questions (either because they are genuinely interested for a moment, or feigning interest, or because the buffet isn’t yet open), the first question you will be asked is “What do you teach?” (answering this question with the simple response of “Bastards” never fails to gauge a person’s interest. It is also a useful way to end the conversation when the buffet is finally open). I’ve been asked how I got into teaching. It is funny that in 20 years I don’t think I have ever been asked why I teach.

“So, why do you teach?” I don’t hear you ask. Because every single day is unpredictable and emotional and scary and frustrating.

I know of no other job where you can be catatonic with range one minute, and laughing like a drain the next. Students, especially the age range that I teach (teenagers – pause for dramatic intake of breath from the reader), have an uncanny ability to wind you up so tightly that you end up regressing into a state of childlike stubbornness, resulting in conversations like this:

Me: You need to stop talking, Tommy.

Tommy: But I wasn’t miss.

Me: You were! I just stood here and watched you talking!

Tommy: No, you didn’t.

Me: Yes, I did.

Tommy: Didn’t.

Me: Did.

Tommy: Didn’t.

Me: Diddiddiddiddiddiddiddiddiddiddiddiddid.

There are moments when students are just so unfathomably rude to you, that you question why you even do the job, or why you’re not allowed to carry a big, pointy stick around with you.

There are moments when students and parents just simply know better than you do, refuse to listen and then blame you when it all goes wrong.

There are moments when you have so much work to do because you are expected to be a teacher, a counselor, a nurse, a parent, a philosopher, an employee (to the school and to the parents), a chauffeur, a bank, a travel guide, a concierge, an information desk and the all-seeing-fucking-eye that you just want to hide in a cave until everyone buggers off.

It is the only job where you will find yourself uttering surreal statements like:

“Kylie, please let Colin out of that locker. Yes, it’s very interesting that he is small enough to fit in there, but he’s gone purple and he’s crying.”

“I’m not sure why you are staring at your crotch, William, but I’m really hoping it is because you have your phone out and nothing else.”

“Sophie, please write in your exercise book and not on David’s head.”

Parenting is draining at times. I often find myself shouting random phrases down a darkened corridor like “Hair!” and “Socks!” whilst sobbing into a cup of cold coffee. Teaching is much the same, but instead you shout words like “Walk!” and “Pen!” whilst sobbing into a cup of cold coffee. When you are a parent, you find yourself repeating the same instruction 18 times until the simple task of, say, putting a cereal bowl into the sink is finally achieved. Teaching is much the same, except you are repeating the same instruction 18 times to 25 different kids, which is maths I can’t even attempt.

The list of banal questions you are asked daily, lesson after lesson, is enough to turn you from teaching and into the arms of mercenary work, or cleaning the toilets at an all you can eat seafood buffet.

Here are the top ten questions guaranteed to make a teacher whisper ‘for fuck’s sake’ under their breath before responding:

  1. Do I underline the date?
  2. Do I write this down / on paper / in my book?
  3. Can we watch a film today?
  4. Can I go to the toilet? (inevitably, this will be asked five minutes after returning from lunch.)
  5. What time does the bell go?
  6. Do I write in pencil or pen?
  7. Is pink pen OK?
  8. Can I borrow a pen?
  9. Is this going on my report?
  10. What do I have to do again?

This last question is the absolute bitch of all questions. This will be asked by at least two kids, one of whom will be called Josh, even if it is on a sheet in front of them, on a PowerPoint and tattooed on your forehead.

But above and beyond all of this, teaching is the one of the only professions I know where you have so many stories to tell. Every day, I come home with something funny, or sad, or surprising, or downright unbelievable to tell the long-suffering husband or indeed the minx.

Here are a few of my favourite moments so far, and every one is completely true – hand on heart.

After teaching Romeo and Juliet to a group of Year 11s somewhere in the wilds of Surrey, I asked them to write a text response in answer to the question, ‘How does Act 1, Scene 1 set the tone for the rest of the play?’ Not too stretching I thought. One boy, a delightful little shit with a shaved eyebrow and all the charm of a bowl of tepid sick, wrote his opening sentence thus:

‘In the beginning of Act 1, Scene 1, the servants of the Capulets and Montagues are fighting in a pubic place.’

How different a word and indeed a sentence can be through the simple omission of a letter.

I asked him to stay behind after class, much to his chagrin.

“Ummmm, just read that sentence again.”

“Why what’s wrong with it?”

“Well. You’ve spelt public wrong.”

“So?”

“Well, it completely changes the meaning of what you are trying to say.”

“Does it matter?”

“Ummmm, well yes, actually.”

“I can’t be arsed to change it.”

“Ok, great, thanks. Off you pop then.”

Although, this was also the boy who, when I told him that I had made him a folder of revision materials that he could take home to use in the holidays, responded with “Fuck that shit.” Nice.

On the theme of misunderstandings of Shakespeare, I once spent an hour convincing a child that Lord Capulet did not hate his wife, that their relationship was simply one that was representative of the times. When I asked them to support their argument with evidence from the play, the pupil, in confident voice, stated “Because in the first scene he shouts, “Bring me my longsword, ho!’”

There are lots of funny stories surrounding the misunderstanding of words, or bad word choices, or poor spelling. In a recent essay, a girl wrote that in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch goes home one evening and ‘exposes himself to his children’. I’m hoping that she meant emotionally. Another boy, in his creative writing, wrote that his character was making himself extremely comfortable in a ‘large-breasted armchair’. I told him that that was not quite the phrase, but if those chairs did exist, I knew quite a few men who would buy one…

My favourite spelling related tale though, is this one. I had asked a Year 7 class to design a film poster, complete with credit block, hook line, visual image (you know, proper like). The film was about an exciting event in their own lives and they had to choose a famous actor or actress to play themselves and their family. Lovely lesson. When the kids left, I began cleaning up and as I looked down I noticed a scrap of paper on the floor.

When I read it, I was a furious.

The language was disgusting and racist and I simply couldn’t believe that a Year 7 child had come up with this filth. The note read…

anal swots nigger

As I looked up the pupil’s timetable, ready to stomp to their classroom and read them the riot act, I suddenly realised what had happened. What she meant, what she was actually trying to spell was this…

lwv9nbtn5ni2ylpsgsqa.jpg

I think I laughed for about 20 minutes. I still have the scrap of paper.

I’ve had my car shot, my classroom set fire to and I’ve been called a variety of horrible names by a multitude of scrawny little tossers. It’s quite cathartic to say that. Scrawny little tossers. Because when you are a teacher you get called things, mainly because the kids know full well that nothing will be done, and you’re not going to retort because you can’t, unless you don’t want to be able to pay your mortgage. One boy was quite confident in his assessment of me as a ‘fucking slag’ and told me of his summation quite often. Turns out that that boy’s mother was quite ill and that he was looking after her and his siblings (of which there were many). Sometimes kids are going through more than we can imagine. Sometimes we can empathise with them and try to understand why they are taking it out on us. Sometimes they are just little shits. Experience means that you can, more often than not, separate the shits from the suffering.

My empathy does have limits, however. This is the same boy who caused such a disruption to one of my classes that I had to send him to another department with a note that asked if he could have a ‘long weight’. He was gone for 35 minutes. When he came back, he was carrying a 7lb weight given to him by the Science Department. I told him that he would need to go back, it simply wasn’t long enough, to which he replied, “Are you taking the piss?” A little bit, yes.

There are moments that make you despair or that make you want to put your head in your hands and leave it there forever, like the Year 10 girl who came running in to my class to tell me that she had learned something amazing in Science – that there was only one moon. Before that lesson, she had thought that each country had its own moon. I’ll say again – Year 10. She was so proud though that I had to check myself and smile rather than grimace or say “Really?”. She was also one pupil in an English class of 25 who looked at me with bewildered awe when I told them that Barack Obama often travelled with a figurine of the Madonna with him because of his beliefs. After a couple of minutes of silence, I realised that I had to explain that I meant religious beliefs, not a belief in the 1980s pop icon. The Virgin Mary, not Like a Virgin. The added punchline here was that this was at a Catholic school…

So why do I teach? The answer to this is in one last story.

I consider myself to be a bit of a whizz at Assessment for Learning, that is, little activities throughout lessons that monitor whether kids have learnt stuff and what I need to do about it if they haven’t. My feedback, I would suggest, is always clear and helpful. I spend a lot of time marking work so that pupils know what they have to work on and how, so I was a little perturbed to hear this statement from one of my Year 10s last year, who on receiving his feedback, and after hours of marking, exclaimed, “Wahayy! A shit load of ticks and no crosses!”

And I guess that is what teaching is to most of us most of the time, a shit load of ticks and no crosses. We can’t like it all the time, sometimes we don’t like it at all, but sometimes it just fills you right up with whatever you want to call that feeling – joy, for want of a less clichéd word. And that is what makes up for all the other shit; that lightbulb moment, the moment when that kid who hates your subject answers a question with something insightful or wise, when they see that what you are teaching them matters. When they say something that makes you laugh so hard that cold coffee shoots out of your nose. It is the one of the only jobs where you will meet truly remarkable kids who have so many different talents and abilities, who might struggle in your subject, but who might excel at singing or acting or fishing or running or drawing or caring.

Yes, some days it is all too much and honestly, there have been times when I have wanted to quit. But what else would I do that allows me all of this?

And, of course, all those holidays…

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The Pudgy Woman Muses -Motivation, Memes and Minimising Mummy Guilt.

The internet is a wonderful invention. So much information on so many different subjects and more porn than you can shake a stick at, (in fact there are many niche sites dedicated to videos of people shaking a stick at it. Apparently). It has also spawned the devil that is social media, a devil that sucks up hours of my life as I read articles, look at videos of people icing cakes or stapling Go Pros to their dog’s head to see what they get up to in the day, writing witty posts, showing off about how very interesting my life is, trying to avoid Game of Thrones spoilers and, more importantly, trying to avoid the worst thing – the motivational post-er.

I hyphenate the word for three key reasons:

  1. Post-er – Noun: One who constantly posts motivational posters/memes or messages. See also: annoying arse, sycophant, person who rarely takes their own advice.
  2. Post-er – Noun: A post about how to live your life, which can also be seen hanging in a frame on the wall of a dodgy car insurance office under the heading ‘teamwork’ or ‘success’ or ‘determination’, and which are normally situated in the staff room by the noose from which people hang themselves after staff briefing.
  3. Post-errrr – Exclamation: What one says in response to the phrase ‘Have you seen Collin’s new meme? Yes, another post! Errrrrr!’

 

Let me give you some examples of the most nauseating ones I have seen so far…

 

 

OK – if by it you mean running, the answer to why is probably ‘because the sleeve of my cardigan got caught in an ice cream van window’. The answer to how is ‘reaching for an extra flake’, and any other questions would be met with a ‘why are you still asking questions? Just unhook me, my Mr Whippy is melting!’

 

I am particular nauseated by the motivational post and/or meme that covers relationship advice.

Like this…

bulb

Good advice, as long as the light bulb didn’t shag your sister.

 

Here are some others that actually make me dry retch. You can feel the arrogance oozing off the page…

motivation-meme

 

Ohhhh, right. Thanks for that outstanding piece of advice. Mind. Blown. ‘Don’t’. Brilliant.

 

motivational-fitness-workout-quotes-69_saving-my-life-meme

Bite me.

tumblr_mzy4wuymzi1tpyjvwo1_500

 

Undermines my message.

 

I do like this one though…

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Allow me to move on to my next point – the annoying banality of it all. Look at this phrase…

Always remember.

Yesterday’s today is the beginning of a new today tomorrow.

A load of bollocks, right? Makes absolutely no sense at all.

Now look at this…

meme

I made this meme.

I guarantee that you can take any old bollocks, stick a glacial landscape behind it, and you’ve got words of wisdom to live your life by.


The main problem I have with these posters, truth be told, is that they make me feel guilty, guilty for not running or swimming or dieting or spending less time snarling at motivational posters. I am fully aware of what it is I need to do, and I’m happy for those who do it, I guess I just don’t want a slogan and some clipart reminding me that I have been sitting down for five straight hours, and the Tim Tam I lost an hour ago is nestled and gently melting under my left boob.

Yes, there are lots of things I should be doing – travel, adventure, reading books, progressing my career. There are lots of things I need to do – hoover under the beds, clean the oven, talk to my husband. It’s all a bit overwhelming at times, and the guilt can be overpowering.

So, I have made a decision. I will not feel guilty anymore. I will take a proactive step in getting rid of the guilt. And in order to start that off, I have decided to compile a list. An anti-bucket list.

Now, an anti-bucket list (a fucket list perhaps?) may sound like a negative life draining exercise to some, but to me it has actually been quite life-affirming. I have realised that it is perfectly OK not to want to do things. Not thinking about all the things I really ought to be doing has freed me up to do all the things I actually want to do, and at no point will I be bombarding you with motivational posters about how many Krispy Kremes it is possible to fit into your mouth at once (discovered through extensive doughnut-based research)…

1.The first item on my anti-bucket list follows a conversation I had with the minx (now 7, can you believe), who berated me at Sea World on the Gold Coast for not wanting to take a pleasure flight (an oxymoron if ever I saw one) over the coastline. The conversation went like this…

Minx: Ooooo, Mummy! Let’s go on a helicopter, it will be fun! Shall we go? Shall we? Shall we?

Me: Absolutely not.

Minx: Arrrrrrrrrrr. Why not?

Me: Because I can’t think of anything worse.

Minx: I can think of a lot of things that are worse. Being eaten by a bear, for instance.

Me: Yes, but I would never put myself in a situation where I could get eaten by a bear, just like I would not get myself into a situation where I’m hurtling through the air in a metal ball of death, held up by two rotating, metallic lollipop sticks.

Minx: Are you scaaaaaaarrrrrreeeed? Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

Me: Yes, yes I am.

Minx: Oooooo look! A seagull!

Thank God for short attention spans.

So, there is number one.

I will never want to fly in a helicopter.

2. The second one is very similar. The thought of sitting in a flammable wicker picnic basket under something that can set fire to wicker picnic baskets, namely fire, weeping uncontrollably as someone points out the hill we’re about to career into is not appealing. Hence, number two. 

I will never want to fly in a hot air balloon. 

3. I never want to sit in a cage and look at Great White sharks. I’m not even going to explain that one.

4. I never want to go to a Robbie Williams concert. In fact, I would rather set fire to my armpits. In a hot air balloon.

5. This next one I have made mention of before, as it comes straight from the eye level shelf of Satan’s Pantry. I dislike a range of foods – marmalade, grapefruit, Camembert, spinach – but at least they are aesthetically pleasing and easy on the eye. But what the fuck was God thinking when he created the oyster? Picture the scene if you will…

St Peter: Morning, God. Fifth morning to be precise. Time certainly does fly. What’s on the agenda today then?

God: Well, Pete, I was thinking that today, I would create all of the birds and all of the living creatures of the ocean – ACHOO!

St Peter: Gesundheit. Well, that sounds delightful. What have you done so far?

God: Well, you see this here? This tiny, winged creature with a long tongue and frantically flapping wings? That’s a hummingbird. AAAAAASSSSCCCHHOO!

St Peter: God bless you. I mean – never mind. That is quite beautiful. What else?

God: Well, here, I have lots of shells lined up to make into crustaceans and other delights of the ocean. Ah-ah-ah- AAAACCCHHHOOOO!!!!

St Peter: God, I’m not being funny and I’m not telling you what to do, you being the creator of all things and that, but I really think you ought to have a rest today.

God: Rest? Rest? If you check my diary, Peter, I think you’ll find that rest isn’t scheduled until the day after tomorrow. Oh, here comes another sneeze. It’s a biggy. Pass me a hanky will you?

St Peter: I don’t have a hanky. Here, use this!

God: AAAAAAACCCCCHHHHOOOOOOO!!!!! Yikes – that was moist. What the hell have I just sneezed into?

St Peter: A shell. Sorry, it was the first thing that came to hand.

God: Blech. That looks gross. It’s sort of swimming in there, like a tiny floating island of phlegm.

St Peter: Ewwww! Throw it away! It’s making me feel sick.

God: Now, now, let’s not be hasty. Want not, waste not and all that. We could do something with this. We could market it as a tasty snack or amuse bouche. It could be served in fine dining establishments all over the world or in shitty seaside food vans on the east coast of England. Just put a lemon wedge on the side of it and voila! We just need a name…

St Peter: OYSTERS!!!!

God: That’s a great name! Did you just think of that?

St Peter: No, I threw up.

 

Et voila, the next one on the list of fuck its…

I will never, ever eat an oyster.

6. I never want to record my life’s activities on a GoPro. Mainly because people don’t want to watch a close up video of my forehead as I eat a Toblerone and complain about the pain of eating triangular chocolate whilst binge watching Geordie Shore.

7. I never want to have a colonoscopy. Or anything with the suffix –oscopy. As I keep telling my husband, I do not want anything shoved down the back of my throat or up my back passage thank you very much. I realise that this is not something that anyone wants to do, but I felt it needed saying.

8. I never want to watch videos of doctors lancing boils or pimples. I mean seriously. What the actual fuck?

9. I never want to trek the Himalayas. If I want to get dizzy and short of breath, I’ll reach to the top shelf for a custard cream.

10. I never want to get a Brazilian. I really can’t think of anything more humiliating. I mean childbirth strips you of any human decency and decorum. By the time the 20th person had ‘examined’ me in the labour ward, I felt like Sooty and, after 48 hours of labour, it got to the point where I was so tired that I didn’t care if they were actually doctors anymore. But at the end of all that, I had the minx, and you do forget all of the cripplingly embarrassing stuff. But with a Brazilian, you have someone buggering about with your bits, pouring hot wax on your foof and ripping it back off again, seeing what God gave you and how much fur he covered it in, and I’m sure there must be an odour. I’m guessing it must be like trying to pluck an otter. Anyway, I digress. I’m imagining that the pain is unimaginable, and at the end there is no baby, nothing to coo and blow raspberries at (I would hope anyway). Just a bald front bottom. And two weeks later, you’ll be sitting in a meeting, desperate to scratch your undercarriage when the hair starts to grow back, attempting to sit in different positions, shifting around in your seat to relieve the insane itching. No thank you very much.


 

So there we go. I must say, I thoroughly recommend this exercise. It is quite liberating. It has also appeased some of the ‘mummy guilt’ I feel on a daily basis. You know the kind, ‘if my daughter sees that I am afraid or I have any kind of negative feelings about anything, then she will turn into a psychopathic serial killer, or worse, an estate agent’. I now just explain to her why I do not want to do something, and I am not afraid of admitting my likes and dislikes – I just try to do that in equal measures. Basically, I try to remember…

 

meme-2

The (Un)Official Rules of Australian Roads and Freeways.

Australia – a place rich in cultural diversity, a place where hundreds of languages are spoken in a thousand different dialects, a place where people from around the globe have journeyed to, and now call home. And most of these people have cars and are driving on Australian roads. Of course, this has had an effect on the quality of driving today; it is impossible to have such a varied culture as ours without people imposing their own values and views on driving etiquette, and so to make the road rules perfectly clear, and to ensure that the driving styles of all cultural, ethnic, religious and gender groups are catered for, please read and adhere to the following (un)Official Rules of Australian Roads and Freeways.

Australian Association of Roadway Safety and Etiquette (A.A.R.S.E)

1. At no point should you ever let anyone out of a junction in front of you, or let them ahead of you in traffic. Even if their car is on fire, and the plastic ornaments adorning their dashboard are melting into a puddle of molten plastic, and there is a bucket of water on the other side of the road, you should carry on regardless – remember the rule; head down, foot down. Letting someone out in front of you may mean that you are 15 seconds later for work than you would have been had you not ploughed on. The Australian economy depends on your selfishness and disregard for any other road user. And if you drive an old Datsun and clearly have no job to go to, the same rule still applies. That crystal meth isn’t going to cook itself.

2. Following directly on from the aforementioned rule, should you wish to pull out of a junction or pull ahead of another driver, simply nudge your nose out into oncoming traffic repeatedly until you give other drivers two choices; let you in, or die in a fiery ball of death. This rule applies unless you are trying to pull out in front of an Audi driver. Those stubborn bastards will never let you in. At this point, give up and wait for a Camry.

3. Remember that speed limits are simply there as a guideline. It is perfectly acceptable to drive either 10 kilometres under or 20 kilometres over the stated speed limit. To avoid boredom on longer drives, it is advised that you should frequently change the speed at which you are driving, preferably every 45 seconds of so. This will also keep drivers around you alert as they will have no fucking idea what you are up to or if you have been drinking.

4. Indicators serve no real purpose and are not essential in everyday driving. They are useless pieces of plastic that flash intermittently, much like Tara Reid, or Katie Price. However, should you choose to use the indicator, it is advised that you leave it flashing for the entirety of your journey, confusing the shit out of those behind you, so that they are not sure if you are ever going to turn or whether you are simply a bit of a tit.

5. Likewise, the mirrors are there to improve the aesthetics of your car, they are vehicular accessories if you will, and should not be taken seriously as a driving aide. Again, should you wish to use them, the general rule is: manoeuvre, signal, then look in your mirror to see if the cars behind you are engulfed in flames. If they are not, give yourself a hearty slap on the back, if they are; head down, foot down.

6. If, as part of your occupation, you drive a Ute, it is not compulsory for you to safely secure the load that is in the back of your vehicle. Pile loose, flat objects into your vehicle first, and then strap a concrete mixer onto to the top of the shifting debris with a thin piece of cord. If you do not have a concrete mixer, the following items are also acceptable:

  • Toilet cisterns
  • Massive blocks of bathroom tiles, carelessly wrapped in cellophane
  • White goods, preferably something with a flapping door
  • A dog

It is also important to remember that any long thin pipes, planks of wood or metal ladders are unlikely to slide off the back of the Ute, impaling the driver behind, should you tie a small luminous rag onto the end of them.

7. If you are a female driver between the ages of 25 to 45, it is compulsory to wear a pair of standard issue sunglasses that cover the surface area of your face. It is advised that they should be so large that a passing motorist could mistake you for a giant wasp. However, it is unlikely that there will be any passing motorists, as these sunglasses will impair your vision so much that you will end up weaving precariously in and out of traffic. Undertaking and overtaking should not be a problem for you, as your peripheral vision will be so poor that you will simply career your BMW X5 into the path of any motorist who happens to be driving alongside or behind you. Further to this point, please also keep in mind that if you are a woman of small stature, the size of the car must reflect this – remember, the size of the female driver must be inversely proportionate to the size of the car. The rule of thumb is this; if you have to sit on 13 cushions to see over the steering wheel and wear platform boots like a member of a Sweet tribute band to reach the pedals, then you are doing it right.

8. ‘Funny’ stickers on car bumpers will always appease the driver behind, even if you are driving like you are slipping in and out of a coma. They will be simply too busy laughing at your quirky humour to drag you out of the driver’s seat and kick you to death. See the examples below.

sticker 2

 

sticker

 

9. The following stickers also make you immune from road rules. Additionally, they make you immortal and therefore you should not fear death in a road traffic accident:

  • ‘Baby on Board’ stickers
  • ‘Jesus Saves’ stickers (this also includes stickers in the shape of a fish)
  • ‘Without trucks, Australia Stops’ stickers

If you festoon your back window with ‘stick family’ figures, however, your safety cannot be guaranteed as it is fairly certain that people will be trying to run you off the road. Especially if you have the ones with the man playing golf, or working out, and the woman with shopping bags. You self-indulgent wankers.

10. If you are going straight across a roundabout or traffic island, do not look to your right. Just go for it. If you presume that nothing is coming, more often than not you are bound to be right.

11. When reversing out of your driveway into a busy road, do not look or slow down, just keep going. It is your property, your driveway and you pay your taxes just like anyone else. You have every right to pull out of your driveway any way you see fit. If a small child happens to get caught under your back tyres, then that is the fault of the parent. Or their bike. Or the government. Whatever.

12. When approaching a railway crossing and the red lights are flashing and the barrier is closing – stop. You’re not completely fucking stupid.

13. No matter your gender, religious or ethnic group, it is imperative that you completely ignore the function of a freeway slip road. If drivers are coming off a slip road onto the freeway, using it to accelerate to the proper speed so as not to cause an accident as they enter the left hand lane, make it more difficult for them not to die by speeding up in said lane yourself, driving parallel with them so that they have no choice but to slam their brakes on, drive into a wall or race you like something out of ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’. If they are trying to get onto the slip road exiting the freeway, simply undertake them so that they either side slam you or miss their junction.

14.  As Australians, we should be attempting to show our superiority to other countries in every way, especially so called ‘Superpowers’ such as America. Take for example the ‘New York Minute’, whereby it is acceptable, even expected, to employ your car horn to show your distaste at the driver in front for not pulling away at a green light fast enough. Here, we have the Melbourne Nanosecond, whereby the car horn is employed at the exact moment the light turns green, if not a little before. It is also perfectly acceptable to accompany this honking with wild gesticulations, such as, but by no means limited to:

  • Throwing your arms in the air and waving them around like Kermit the Frog
  • Grabbing the steering wheel and rocking backwards and forwards maniacally
  • Extending the index finger, keeping it extended while you drive past, showing your utter disdain
  • Executing the internationally recognised ‘wanker’ hand signal
  • If British, shake your head in quiet disappointment

15. It is imperative that as a driver, you do not forget the whole reason for driving in the first place – to get where you want to go as quickly as possible and with as little regard as possible for other road users, pedestrians, animals, grassy verges, bollards, roundabouts, school crossings and so on. They are simply obstacles put there to try you.

From all of us here at the Australian Association of Roadway Safety and Etiquette, thank you for reading, and happy motoring!

Next week: Cyclists – How to Look Smug in Lycra

The Pudgy Woman Muses – Penguins, Porn and the Passing of Time

It has been a while since my last pithy offering, and although this time could have been spent growing organic vegetables, mastering the treadmill and liaising with Dave the Personal Trainer, my time has instead been spent discovering the joys of the Lamington. The simple fact is that nothing monumentally embarrassing has happened to me since my personal training incident, henceforth known as ‘Dave-Gate’. I have not been pinged off any gym equipment, nor have I scudded across a laminate floor on moist buttocks. I have not fainted on top of an unsuspecting fitness instructor or wept bitter tears about my weight over a skip load of Anzac biscuits.  Neither have I attended the gym regularly or indeed lost any weight, but that is by the by.

Now, the festive season is upon us, and there is nothing like the impending New Year to make one ponder the happenings of the recent past.

It is astonishing to me that I have been in Oz for almost a year now – four seasons have come and almost gone, each one bringing its own observations.  After the very rainy autumn and (relatively) cold and wet winter, spring sprung as it is wont to do and with it came the most unexpected phenomena – that everything around me started shagging. Before you get all excited and think that this blog is going to be a sequel to ‘50 Shades of Grey’, relax. At my age and with my energy levels, any sequel I would compose would be called ’50 Shades of What Do You Think You’re Doing?’ It’s just that the most seemingly innocent activities culminated in something sordid and a bit, well, dirty. The aquarium, for example, one would presume to be a place dedicated to family fun and education and not a hotbed of fornication.

As I have written before, Melbourne Aquarium is definitely worth a visit – a little pricey perhaps, but worth it to see the look on your little one’s face as they chase from tank to tank, gazing wide-eyed at the aquatic marvels swimming in front of them. And of course there is the penguin porn.  I have described the penguins before. They are encased behind inches of Perspex, skidding around in pools of shit which festoon the synthetic ice sculpted to resemble Antarctica. And indeed it is very much like Antarctica, if Antarctica was blasted with harsh neon lights and ogled at by hundreds of Canon-wielding tourists, and if the penguins were fed by a man in a luminescent flak jacket and galoshes equipped with a bucket of dead sardines every four hours.

Anyhoo…

The now three year old minx and I had spent a pleasant afternoon tapping on tanks attempting to make static frogs leap and tiny turtles heel and on the way out I suggested that we visit the penguins one last time, which of course turned out to be a big mistake. It began with two penguins gracelessly waddling over to where we stood and nestling themselves down on a man-made nest.

‘How sweet.’ thought I,  ‘They are nesting for the night, cosying up together to share the life-long commitment they have made.’ That is until the female reared her black and white arse and spewed a geezer of excrement up the glass in front of me.

‘That penguin just pooed!’ chirped the ever observant minx. Surely this could not get worse? Oh how deliciously naive I continue to be…

Said female, who had relieved herself violently against the Perspex, now began nuzzling her mate. I imagined the conversation.

‘Come on then Colin, hop on, I’ve not got all night.’

‘But I thought you said you felt bloated?’

‘Bloated? Did you not see what I just did? I’ve just lost a stone! Now let’s crack on shall we?’

Fortunately, the minx had found something to distract her from the proceedings, a set of parallel bars used to separate the crowds which she was using as makeshift gym equipment, leaving me as a lone voyeur to ogle the impending shenanigans, and although my brain was screaming at me to move away and not watch, my legs had gone numb and so, apparently, had my eyeballs.  At this point I could describe the proceedings, the lifting of the behind, the mounting of the male, the slipping, the remounting, how, well, pink everything was, but I shall spare you the details. After what seemed like an eternity of penguin lovin’, they stopped, the male slipped off and then they had a cuddle and a bit of a kiss. Now, weirdly, watching this made me feel even queasier than the actual act itself.  By now my brain was howling ‘For the love of God woman, have you not seen enough?’ I suppose the cuddle made me feel like I was really encroaching on something quite personal. I’m fairly sure though that the penguins didn’t care.

When we arrived home the birds were chirping, the sun was shining, ‘What a Disney-esque landscape I live in!’ I thought to myself, until I looked up and realised that the birds were chirping because they too were having sex. And then the next morning, I came out to find the white Camry turned black with f*cking bugs – literally.

So spring turns to summer and summer brings with it its own happenings. Zeus’s minions of course rear their perfectly coiffured heads (please refer to my first blog for a description of Melbourne’s Beautiful People), and clothing is shed in an attempt to keep and look cool. Now unfortunately it is not only the beautiful elite who find it necessary to relieve themselves of clothing. On one day trip to Queen Victoria market, and with the sun forcing its way through the clouds for the first time in months, I witnessed two T-Shirt related offences, each one making me want poke myself in the eyes, temporarily blinding myself lest I witness them again. The first, a man in his forties, sporting a bulging, gravity-defying stomach with a globule of … something glistening in his greying beard, wearing a T-Shirt emblazoned with the Facebook logo and ‘You Like This’ stated confidently underneath. Err, not really. The second was a similarly built man, his pallid, blue-veined flesh creeping out from beneath a bright yellow T-Shirt which proclaimed ‘Sun’s out, Guns out’. For Christ’s sake.

And now it is Christmas, and how strange to be celebrating in 35 degree heat! Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas’ does not have quite the same heart-warming appeal here as it did in Blighty, and Christmas lights twinkling on the tree do not have the same effect when the backdrop is bright blue skies and the occasional lorikeet. Whether here or in England though, Christmas always highlights the difference between mine and my husband’s upbringings and our subsequent views of how Christmas should be done. His Christmas was the more sophisticated of the two – smoked salmon and champagne for breakfast, preparing the festive luncheon together over the Aga, and opening presents at 3pm with a glass of tawny port and then finishing the day with an amusing round of charades. My Christmas was slightly less sophisticated (although I would like to stress, no less pleasant or satisfying) – being woken up by an over-excited Mother at 6am and woofing down a slice of toast before watching said Mum rip into her pile of presents like a Velociraptor, then it’s round to the neighbours for sherry and a mince pie before tucking into dinner at 12.30, play a game, burp, watch the film, fall asleep. The decorating of the Christmas tree also highlights these differences. Christmas for me means a collection of kitsch decorations, dating back decades, collected through the years, thrown at the tree in a random fashion and then accentuated with tinsel. For my husband, he of the anal sandcastles, the Christmas tree is something to be sweated over, each ornament placed carefully before taking a step back to ensure symmetry, no tinsel of course, tinsel being the most working-class of all the decorations. I jest. Sort of.

As I finish, it is Christmas Eve, and I am very much looking forward to seeing the minx’s face tomorrow as she opens her gifts. She did look a little confused this evening as I put her to bed and put the mince pie and milk out for Santa. Her expression was one of confusion as she struggled to understand why a strange man would come into her room, eat a festive pie, drink and then leave her a present. I suppose when you put it like that, it does sound a bit odd.

I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year and may Santa sneak into your bedroom and fill your stockings…