The Pudgy Woman Muses: How to Find the Perfect Pet

About three years ago, the (soon to be 8 year old) minx decided that she wanted a cat. The only problem, I explained to her, was that I am highly allergic to cats, that they make me really poorly, so the chances of us having a cat were pretty slim. I asked her if she would rather have a cat or mummy living in the house.

Massive pause.

Worrying silence.

“You, mummy.” she answered. Eventually. And then she asked,

“So when you die, can I have a cat then?”

There isn’t really an answer for that, except, “Ummmm, yes?”

And now, the topic of pets has resurfaced. Luckily, the minx now has a better understanding of mortality so I no longer fear being woken up in the middle of the night by a small child looming over me with a kitten in one hand and an axe in the other. She wants a dog now, or a rabbit. Or a hamster. Or a guinea pig. Anything really, she’s not fussy. So we’ve started looking into it and because we want to be good people, we’ve started by looking at pet rescue websites. How fascinating these websites are! What an array of odd looking animals and unloved creatures, waiting for their time to be adopted by their forever families! And it got me thinking about the way that these animals are described and how similar it is to the way teachers write reports, full of euphemism and delicate turns of phrase. As a teacher, instead of writing ‘William is a little shit who cannot seem to shut up for longer than 5 seconds and wants all of the attention all of the time’, we write, ‘William is an enthusiastic student who is always willing to share his ideas and participate in class discussions on a range of different topics’. It would seem that it is the same in the world of pet adoption websites. Animals are not old, they are mature. Potential pets are not seriously sick, they have health concerns. And they are not ugly, they’re unique, or ‘have a lot of love to give’.

So what if these places were allowed to tell the truth? What would these adverts read like then?

Have a read of the adverts below. Which one would you adopt?

This is Mungo

This is Biscuit

This is Cherub

This is Colin

This is Spencer

This is Harold

This is Binky

This is Bernard

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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 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…

Adventures on the Great Ocean Road – Part Two

The Anal Sandcastles episode of our Great Ocean Road adventure got me thinking about structures of other kinds and whether or not it is possible to compare the beauty of man-made structures with that of natural phenomena.  Aesthetically these things can be compared I suppose, but to which do we proffer most admiration – the men who persevere to create something astounding, or the raw power of nature and what that creates?

For example, as I discussed in part one of this blog, the Great Ocean Road is an amazing feat of planning, perseverance, dedication and damned hard work and in turn it offers amazing views of beaches, bays and forests.  In total, during the 13 years it took to build the road, 3000 returning World War One soldiers toiled day after day, sleeping in bush camps and enduring quite treacherous conditions. Although there were few deaths, there was a very high turnover of men, as even though they were paid well and treated well, the work was arduous.  Road building today involves trucks, diggers, huge mechanical beasts that do the majority of the backbreaking work. Look at the pictures of the road building of 1919 and you will see men equipped with pickaxes!

Then we have the Twelve Apostles – the next stop on our weekend adventure. The Twelve Apostles are situated in Port Campbell National Park, about a four hour drive down the Great Ocean Road.  They are made up of nine giant limestone monoliths, and their creation began 10 to 20 million years ago (a mind-boggling fact in itself) by erosion from the Southern Ocean.  Once, these mighty stacks were part of the cliff face; the sea wore away caves, the caves widened and became arches and the sides of the arches eventually collapsed from the side of the cliff leaving behind the rock ‘stacks’ we see today. All have continued to erode, some have been lost to the ocean forever, but it is a truly beautiful sight and I thoroughly recommend a trip there. So does the very fact that these awe-inspiring structures are there because of the climate, the sea and the harsh effects of nature make them any more beautiful or amazing than the road on which they are situated?  It took 20 million years for nature to create these structures, and 13 years for man to build a road that is 263 km long. Which is the most amazing?  And although nature created the panoramic views you can see from the road – without the toil of those men, you wouldn’t be able to see those views.  An interesting couple of points to consider.

Or not…

So, let us think about this instead. What about a place which is a crossover of both of these ideas, a man-made ‘structure’ which displays the best that nature has to offer so that it is accessible to all.  The wildlife reserve.  Surely, if there is aesthetic and assiduous beauty in both man-made and natural constructs then this should be the epitome of beauty?

Errrrr, no actually.

I shall not name the reserve I am about to describe for fear that it is the owners’ only income and without it they cannot afford their mortgage/ school fees/grandma’s bowel medicine, but I am going to describe it nevertheless.

I suppose kangaroo-shaped alarm bells should have rung when the entrance fee for the three of us only came to $24, and the coffee lounge consisted of a three bar gas fire, stained cafetiere and a plastic garden table, but try as we might, Australian wildlife had thus far alluded us  so we continued on.

The reserve itself was vast – acres upon acres of arid land; dusty, dirty and dead, much like some of the animals. The first enclosure held kangaroos and, oddly, a peacock.

‘Oooooh look, Colin, the kangaroos are so tame they don’t mind if you stroke them!’

I didn’t have the heart to tell Colin’s missus that the kangaroos were not tame, they were simply sick of life; one of them lying in a dust bath, swatting the flies off its thinning, flea-ridden coat, one was cowering in a corner looking for a hole in the fence like a hairy Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, and the third had simply lost the will to live and was sitting morosely behind a tree, staring into oblivion and waiting for the sweet release of death.  Of course none of this mattered to my two and half year old minx who was in her element stroking them and talking to them soothingly, whilst being chased around by mummy,  equipped with a bottle of disinfectant and a tetanus shot.

A stroll past the livid-looking emus (safely incarcerated behind bars) took you to the koala enclosure – and when I say enclosure I mean the three leafy branches that had been sellotaped to the side of a corrugated tin shed. I haven’t seen a koala yet although I’ve been in Oz for 3 months, and I wasn’t about to see one here. Cue the minx…

‘Mummy, the koala is tired. He’s hiding.’

Yes, either that or he’s snuffed, stuffed and stapled to the eucalyptus.

And what next on this magical mystery tour of mammals?  Donkeys. Two to be precise, two emaciated, sorry- looking asses which ate anything at all that you passed through the wire.  Dry hay, bread, your finger…

Next was the deer paddock, which was actually a really lovely space – rolling hills, trees, panoramic views.  The deer had it good, which was probably why they were kept away from the rest of the animals – jealousy.

We walked back towards the koala enclosure in the dumb hope that the animal had been successfully resuscitated, and back past the donkeys. Unfortunately for us, one of the donkeys chose that moment to ‘expose’ himself and we ushered the minx past hurriedly, covering her eyes and telling her we were playing a game of hide and seek.  I do not want to dwell on the point, and I do not know if you have ever seen a donkey’s, ahem, appendage, but my goodness. Female donkeys must suffer from a lot of ‘headaches’.

The whole day reminded me a little of Melbourne Aquarium. Don’t get me wrong, the fish looked perfectly healthy, and on the whole there were fewer erections, but I was disappointed with the penguins – they seemed a little sad, but so would I be if I spent all day under neon lights, skidding around in my own shit.

Maybe I expect too much of my wildlife parks, aquariums and zoos, I don’t know.  Ultimately these experiences are more for the minx than me, and she had a whale of a time.

Whales…maybe that’s the next adventure?

Adventures on the Great Ocean Road – Part One

Mention the beach, any beach, to most people and they will shower you with a warm and fuzzy flood of heart-felt, tender, life-spanning memories which may or may not include the time they first swam in the ocean, the freedom they felt when they first surfed, their baby’s first steps on the sand, the last time they looked good in a bikini/Speedo…

However from a young age I have always been wary of the beach and with good reason – it is the place where most of my accidents, injuries and embarrassing moments have occurred.  Don’t misunderstand me, I have some fond memories of the beach, but I have many more terrifying memories of near-death experiences.

The first of these memories involves my father, who will deny this happened to his dying day.  When I was about 8 years old or so (too old to be thought fragile, too young to seek cold-blooded revenge), he thought it would be hilarious to throw a piece of saltwater-soaked cardboard at me from across the beach.  Imagine the scene; the cardboard pivoting beautifully, silently through the air, droplets of saltwater splashing the golden Cornish sands in a glistening, rainbow cascade before hitting me full in the face like a salty, papier-mâché slap.  After the initial feeling of terror thinking that I was being suffocated by a giant octopus (the ones most often seen in a 1950s monster movie, tentacles wrapped round my head, suckers cutting off my air supply until my desperate screams for help are choked from my body) there was a momentary feeling of relief that it was in fact just a huge piece of corrugated cardboard.  This relief was soon followed by a rush of anger and humiliation tinged with impotence as I realised that any attempt at revenge was futile because a) he was laughing it up half way down the beach by then b) he’s my dad who brought me up to respect my elders and c) he has no boundaries when it comes to practical jokes and my revenge would have been outdone by him burying me up to my neck in the sand.  Head first.

Then there was the time that I tried body-boarding for the first time on Mablethorpe beach. What a rush! The wind in my hair, the crashing of the waves, the salty sea-spray in my face, the sound of my screaming family as I careered towards a jagged sea break with all the agility and grace of a floating turd…

And finally we have the time when my parents thought it would be a nice idea for me to try horseback riding on the beach. Oh, the feeling of expectation as they hoisted me into the saddle! Oh, the desperate anticipation of a 7 year old who had visions of galloping magnificently down the sands leaving nothing but hoof prints and dust in her wake. Oh, the terror as the saddle unbuckled and I slid sideways, slowly, until I was hanging upside-down underneath the horse. Oh, the sound of my families screams, yet again, as the horse moved off with me dangling underneath like an extra testicle.

A trip down the Great Ocean Road to some of Australia’s finest beaches therefore filled me with a slight feeling of discomfort, coupled with the disquieting notion that at some point this would mean donning a swimsuit and exposing my legs, which at the moment resemble two white chocolate Magnums, sans sticks but the same shape. We departed on our road trip on the Friday evening of Labour Day weekend, a veritable ‘Thelma and Louise’, although who was who is debatable. To be fair I have slightly saggier breasts, so by rights I should be Susan Sarandon.  We arrived at Apollo Bay in the dark – I like that, it gives me sense of real anticipation for the next morning and I have rarely, if ever, been let down by what the dawn reveals.  Our motel room was comfortable and clean, with a balcony that looked over the bay, and Apollo Bay itself is quaint and friendly.

Our first morning was spent driving down the coast, taking it in turns to look at the rugged coastline and the vast ocean which stretches out (at points, way below you) to a dark blue horizon.  The road itself is an amazing example of what human endeavour and determination can achieve – from the planning through to the execution. Listed as the world’s largest war memorial, it was built by men returning from the Great War as a magnificent act of remembrance.  Stretching from Torquay to Warrnambool, the road twists and turns through a variety of landscapes; cliffs, forests and bays each one more beautiful than the last and one cannot help but be swept away a little by the adventure of it all – a great section of the road hugs the coastline known as ‘Shipwreck Coast’, so it is difficult not to think of pirates and treasure, swashbuckling and smuggling with every turn in the two lane highway.

The next stop on our tour was Torquay, a lovely town with a  beach of the fine white sand variety, and the minx was very excited at the prospect of building sandcastles with her Daddy.

To begin with, the sandcastle building began as an innocent time filler, a way to keep the minx entertained and away from other exquisite delights such as discarded cigarette butts and other beach debris which is oh-so-interesting to a two year old.  We filled the bucket together, patted the top when we tipped it over and said the magic words ‘abracadabra-hocus-pocus!’ to make the castle magically appear. She seemed genuinely happy and surprised when even a crumbling, half-castle structure appeared from inside the bucket.

Not so Daddy.

I suppose my suspicions should have been aroused when he began asking for buckets of water to make his ‘compo’, however I am always one to give my other half the benefit of the doubt. Half an hour later, the minx and I had given up trying to join in and had wandered down the beach to play with a football.  Every time she went to participate in the sandcastle building ‘fun’, she was met with demented screams of ‘Don’t touch it!!! I’m building the fairy castle towers!!!! For God’s sakes don’t put dry sand on there – you’ll ruin my mix!!!!’  It turns out that 30 years ago, he lost a sandcastle building competition in Spain to a young girl who couldn’t speak a word of the Queen’s, but who had fashioned intricate Disney-esque turrets using nothing but sand, water, her own hands and un-childlike skill, and this had marked him for ever.  My other half, it appears, does not like to lose.  He finally admitted later (when he found himself sitting alone on the beach at nightfall putting the finishing touches to his design) that when it came to building sandcastles, he was a little anal.

Anal sandcastles?

Sounds like a punk band…

And so, a while later, and after the minx’s heartfelt whisper of ‘Mummy, I’m a little bit bored…’, the castle was done, complete with turrets, a gateway surrounded by two towers, valet parking and tea and coffee making facilities.  And 5 seconds after that, the minx and I took somewhat spiteful pleasure in jumping all over it.

I like to think of this sandcastle as a metaphor for life. One spends all your time building a happy home, taking love and care to mix the ‘compo’ of life so that you have just the right mix, just the right consistency, with solid foundations and the hope of protection, until some giggling gits come and stomp all over it.

Whatever one thinks about my sandcastle analogy, and whatever one may think about the sadistic pleasure I took in kicking Cinderella’s sandy castle in, it made my daughter laugh a lot and at last I have a warm and fuzzy memory to share with people when they mention the beach, any beach.

Beautiful Melbourne and Me

My 40th birthday is looming, looming like some panting, perspiring, red-faced reminder that my twenties are long gone, as are my waistline and anything pert.

I am actually 38 so I suppose 40 is lurking rather than looming, however I have a history of taking a long, running jump at birthdays. I started preparing for my 30th at the age of 26, for example. I am an intelligent woman, I know that there is nothing at all wrong with growing older, and I am well aware that some unfortunate souls do not get the chance to turn 40.  I am also well aware that getting older does not mean turning into the creature from hot-flush lagoon, festooned with HRT patches and shopping for support stockings, and I pray with all my might that I wake up on July 11th 2013 looking like a pre-break-up Demi Moore.  I know 40 should not bother me, but it does.

So why does 40 bother me so much, even though I am residing in the fair and pleasant city of Melbourne?

Friends who had travelled to or lived in Melbourne had a lot of information and advice for me before I left Blighty – it’s a far better lifestyle, more outdoorsy, great cake shops in St. Kilda, parks and playgrounds everywhere for Olivia (my 2 year old minx), but nobody, nobody prepared me for how damned attractive Melbourne is. And I am not talking about the eclectic mix of architecture – from the Art Deco residences of the suburbs to the post-modern glass frontages of the Bourke Street skyscraper – I am talking about the people.

I have never lived in a place that is filled with so many stunningly attractive human beings. Is there anyone in this city who does not look good in a pair of shorts?  How is it that so many citizens can get away with cut-off jeans and a pair of flip flops?  And although I may have spotted the occasional sunburnt bod, for the most part people have quite gorgeous all-over tans.  How does one get an all-over tan anyway? How much time does one have to dedicate to basting oneself throughout the summer months? I simply don’t think I have the patience or the dedication to cover myself in oil and rotate myself every 15 minutes like a Thanksgiving turkey and quite frankly there are bits of me I would never expose, even in the confines of my own back garden, for fear of being set upon by some animal welfare group whose sole concern is throwing buckets of water over me and trying to roll me back into the sea.

Now, let me illustrate my point with an example of attractiveness from the evening before Australia Day this year. My husband, the minx and I had spent a lovely evening at the Suzuki night markets, wandering, eating, purchasing, and debating whether or not we would be able to consume an enormous pancake called ‘Jamaican Me Crazy’. As we ambled through the city streets on our way back to Flinders, three young couples walked towards us in some sort of parade of exquisite beauty; the first couple (whom I presume both modelled for Dolce and Gabbana), both blonde and beautifully coiffed; the second, slightly better looking than the first, tanned and luscious, laughing the care free laugh of those who have yet to discover their first grey eyebrow; the third, a couple on whom I am sure Zeus modelled the rest of the Gods.  Imagine…

‘What should Aphrodite the Goddess of Beauty look like Mighty Zeus?’

‘What about that young Melbournian couple there?’

‘Which one? For there are many to choose from Oh Mighty Zeus.’

‘What about those two there adorning the crossing between Exhibition and Bourke? The ones draped in Chanel?’

‘Ah yes, I see them.  Fair dinkum Zeus, your wish is my command…’

I begrudge these young people nothing, and I know that one day their looks will fade and they too will have children and spend most of their mornings picking Lego bricks out of their feet and porridge out of their DVD player (at least I hope with my entire being that this will one day happen to them), but that does not make me feel better when I am trying to hide two and half year old baby weight behind the Bugaboo.

Of course there are other quite beautiful sights, for example in Melbourne’s CBD. One favourite of mine is the Crown Casino, the CBD’s ‘crowning glory’ if you’ll excuse the weak pun.  Opened in 1997 and situated on the southern banks of the Yarra River, it is a quite magnificent edifice, the flaming torches at its entrance a fitting, if not slightly gladiatorial, decoration; it is difficult not to get swallowed up by that feeling of excitement and the anticipation of huge wins and possible sightings of the odd celeb (Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes have been known to grace its golden halls). The atrium drips with chandeliers and wealth, the boutique shops tempting you with their glitzy window displays.

Kin Hubbard, the noted 19th Century humourist and journalist once said ‘The safest way to double your money is to fold it over once and put it in your pocket’, an honourable sentiment, but easier said than done – if you are anything like me, all notions of ‘safety’ and restraint go out the window when surrounded by the unfamiliar and exotic, especially if I have just entered a building betwixt two flaming torches.

Moving on, we have the Arts Centre with its Eiffel-esque tower or Federation Square, its buildings reminiscent of Gaudi’s magnificent architecture, and, of course, women of all ages in tiny dresses and high heels, a particular favourite or my husband.

I’m amazed that he has not been hospitalised with whiplash, either that or a severely strained neck from the oh-so-much-more-exasperating ‘surreptitious stare’ –  as annoying as a stifled yawn and just as obvious to the trained eye. Imagine a small dog that has had stitches after some minor operation. Now imagine the plastic collar that his owner attaches around his neck to stop him licking said stiches.  This is what I am thinking of purchasing for my husband. Not that he licks himself when he sees a beautiful woman, you understand, it just might make him think twice before he cranes his neck to have a really good look.  I am by no means a jealous woman, I know I have nothing to worry about, it is just a nod to my own insecurities, and to the absolute knowledge that I will never, ever look good in short shorts.  If I was being particularly jealous and spiteful, I could liken Melbourne women to the coffee served in any of its fine establishments – first we have the latte; long, tall, smooth; the cappuccino, shorter and frothier, and then of course we have the skinny flat white…

In conclusion, if next year, you spy a woman sitting in a coffee shop in a small Bayside suburb, festooned in HRT patches, sweating and weeping gently, that will be me.  Come over and wish me a happy birthday. Maybe we can hit the casino?