Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Blog-tober - The Quandong

Today's bonus was being taken out for lunch. As work group, Sparks and Ladders shouted us lunch. Expecting pizza or a parma, I was thrilled to find that we were going to a fine dining restaurant near work.

Three hours later the team waddled back to the office - utterly replete after a wonderful meal.

The three course menu was inventive and interesting - yet not devoid from being recognisable food.

For starters, I had calamari stuffed with chorizo with a squid ink sauce. Glorious. I forwent the purple risotto - though the scallops looked amazing.

For mains, free range chicken and an American salad stack with ranch dressing. This was served with roasted pink eyed potatoes and a rocket, blue castel and berry dressing - well balanced and lovely. The guys around me had steak - the only thing they complained about was the meat came medium or well done - and not mooing.

Then it came time for dessert.

Most of the table ordered a deconstructed cheesecake - with baby wild limes and macadamia. It came out looking like a puddle of cream with sand - but it tasted amazing. I managed to snaffle a spoonful off a colleague.

Me, I chose the white caramel delice with a chocolate crisp and quandong coulis.

I thought a quandong was a small marsupial. I was wondering how a desert of salty caramel and white chocolate would go served up with Skippy.

Or maybe they used the milk of a quandong to make a coulis.

Turns out I was wrong.

I was thinking of a quokka.

 Or a quoll:

It appears that a quandong is an Australian bush fruit, also called a bush peach - but to me the coulis tasted something like a mix between a blood orange and a raspberry (though according to Wikipedia, that suppository of all useful knowledge, the real fruit tastes like peach, apricot and rhubarb). Very yummy.

A quandong.

No way this was going to jump of the plate and try and tell me that there is a bushfire at the bottom of the gorge and there is a bushwalker trapped with a broken leg nearby.


Well, this brings me to the end of Blog-tober.

I did it.

Just (okay, two days I failed, but I doubled up on the blogs the following day).

Now if I can continue to write daily and get a bit more of this bloody novel done.

Thanks for putting up with me over the last month.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Blog-tober - Too Tired To Write

Two more days of cat sitting. Squeaky Puss is generally a joy, but the sitting on my shoulder, licking my ear demanding she get under the covers at 2 am - a bit over that - though her Mum says that I should just let her under the covers when I go to bed. Like that is going to happen.

One of my lodge passed away on the weekend - sad, but at 97 she had a good innings. Sad to see her go. Although it would be nice to pay my respects, getting the time off work would be impossible.

This morning's spin class was only marginally easier than the spin class 12 hours earlier - Lancalot, who takes the Monday night class is encouraging, but he has nothing on Pedro and the 6 am class.

Looking forward to the long weekend. For the first time in my thirteen years in Melbourne I'm taking the day off between Melbourne Cup Day and the weekend. (sorry, make that the second time - in 2010 I was on an epic journey around the world - must do that again.) Going to a conference. Should be a blast. How much mischief can the Australian Society of Technical Communicators get into, I wonder?

Had a really productive day at work. It's amazing how you can get a heap done when you don't have meetings.

Cute moment of the day involved a story my aunt in Philadelphia related on her facebook page. A friend asked her why Hurricane Sandy was called what it was - when it was cold and wet and windy and it was nowhere near the desert...

That is about all I can string together. I'm seriously knackered - not helped by the overly warm spring weather.

I've watched my program (56 Up - have loved the 7 Up series), now to do the dishes and go to bed - and it all starts over again at 6.15 with what is coming my normal morning Spin class.


Pand the Knackered

Monday, October 29, 2012

Blog-tober - Pandora's Law

Pandora's Law is a bit like Murphy's Law, which states, "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong."

Though Pandora's law only seems to turn up on certain days - like full moons and Mondays.

Here are a few of my favourites.

The day that you wear a white t-shirt is the day you get invited out for and Indian lunch. (last week - still trying to get the butter chicken juice out)

The other day you wear a white shirt in the week is the day you have beetroot in your lunch. (Last Monday - thankfully put the t-shirt in to soak.

You will be seen by a random work mate just after you come out of spin class, when you are in lycra and you are sweaty and don't smell very good - not before when you have your over clothes on and your hair is not sticking to your scalp. (Tonight - ran into Glen Waverley at the supermarket)

The chance of running into somebody who you want to impress rises exponentially when you have a large ice cream cone in your hand. (Happened too often to remember)

The day your boss comes to work in a strop will always happen on the day the cat has woken you up multiple times in the night. (This has happened to me many times over the years)

Saying, "Nice doggie," at a pooch at the traffic lights will be greeted with a grown more often than the wag of the tail. (At least once a week)

The desire to ram the person who you let into the traffic in front of you rises exponentially when they don't wave a thank you at you. (At least once a week)

You can never, ever, outs tare a cat. Try it.

When it comes to men, all the good ones are taken. If they are not taken, there is a reason.

A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. But even a fish needs a ride now and then...

"If men didn't have penises, we'd throw stones at them." (This is a Blarney-ism - but it has to be here)

The best way to find an inaccessible boss is to look at inappropriate content on the internet.

Failure is an option that comes mandatory with software.

The chance of your phone ringing rises exponentially when you are at the theatre and you've forgotten to switch it to silent.

That will do.

It's just the way of the world.

Two more days of this daily blogging to go. Then what will I do - other than give up any idea of becoming a journalist.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Blog-tober - The Anatomy of a Great Weekend

This weekend was a planned 'nothing' weekend. All I had to look forward to a few hours sitting at the car dealership reading my by book as I waited for my car to be serviced.

Turns out, this was the low light of the whole weekend - not that much was done.

Just the good things were good. Really good. Lovely good.

Saturday saw me toddle of to the pictures. I'd heard good things about "The Intouchables."

These reports were warranted.

Possibly the best film I've seen all year - if not in the last five years. It's now up there as one of my favourite films. Ever.

From a review on IMDB - as I don't have the words. "This is one of the most unique, beautiful and honest friendships ever committed to film. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry... a delightful celebration of everything in life that makes it worthwhile."   This sums the film up well.

Incredible. Sublime. Brilliant. A film that brings joy and restores faith in the human spirit. Just see it - and don't be put off by the subtitles or tag it as another French film. I also dare anybody to not cry just before the closing credits.

They've done an amazing thing here.

Having a sleep in with the cat this morning was lovely. Squeaky Puss, deciding she was cold, decided that climbing under the covers and using my armpit for a pillow was a good thing. Despite not really liking having a cat under the duvet with me, that was rather cute.

After a decent session at the gym, catching up on the washing and other bits of housework was enjoyable. I've got a conference next weekend so I won't be able to make Pump next weekend - it's a part of Sunday morning that I miss if I don't get this class in.

This afternoon, round to Blarney's to catch up with her and Barney, the boys and Maow Maow. Barney's parents. Edith and Reg are over from Tasmania and it was great to see them again too. Lovely people.

The icing on the cake - a lamb roast with all the trimmings. I can't quite remember when I last sat down at a table for a home-cooked meal. The only thing missing, which Edith and I both made comment, was the mint sauce - home made of course - with fresh picked mint, hot water, vinegar and sugar - just as Edith and I used to make as kids. Both of us had the same story about how we had to go to some wetlands - in her case, across to her uncles place at the bottom of the hill - for me, it was down to our swamp near the water pump, to go and pick the mint.

After dinner, I got my mandatory cuddle with the Maow Maow before coming home.

Simple pleasures to be treasured.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Blog-tober - When My Mob Get In

If I could repeal any law in Australia, just one - and I know there are quite a few dodgy laws about the place - the law that would fall from the books would be the one the deems that voting is compulsory.

Shock horror! Not vote, I here you cry!

Well, here is my opinion on this - and I have thought at about this long and hard about this over many years.

See, I think that this law is outdated. (I'm ruffling a few feathers here)

For those reading this who aren't in Australia, we have a law - it is written in our constitution that when there is an election, it is mandatory that you have your name struck off the list and cast a ballot. If you do not vote, you get fined - at the moment it's about $100. Getting out of the fine can be done with a bit of creativity - just as concessions for early voting are available. In big elections, the electoral commission sets up early voting stations where you can vote - plus you can cast a postal vote if you get yourself organised in the weeks before an election. That takes a phone call or a bit of paperwork in the weeks leading up to it to get this done. When in London, for the big elections, I managed to get a ballot in - the other times, my mother told the government she had no idea where I was - I never got fined for not voting while overseas.

Regardless, in Australia, it is compulsory to vote in federal, state and local elections.

People from other countries find this a bit perplexing. A friend and I were travelling interstate by car one election day. My mate was amazed that at every place we stopped, people reminded us to vote. My friend was English. He couldn't get over this strange election day tradition, especially as he'd had his name removed from the electoral roll to dodge the poll tax many years before.

Before I got on as to why I think compulsory voting is wrong, let me say, I know fortunate I am to be in a country where we have free, democratic, safe, fair elections. I'm confident that the ballots aren't rigged or tampered with (unless you come from the Electorate of Warringah - where Tony Abbott resides as there member.) I know that our convoluted "Proportional Representational" system of voting has it's merits over the "First past the Post" method used in England. I'm glad we have paper ballots instead of those insidious ballot machines they have in America - which can stuff up as history has proved.

Most of all, I realise what an honour it is to be a woman and have the vote. Coming from South Australia, on of the first places in the world to grant women the vote, I know how hard won this right is, and was.

So no, I have nothing against voting.

I just think that having it as a compulsory civil activity is wrong.

Everybody has the right to vote.

By extension, everybody should have the right not to vote too - without the fear of a hundred dollar fine. Or just wasting your time turning up to the polling station only to spoil the ballot paper.

Making this election rigmarole a little more complex, having three levels of government means that we get called to the polls about once a year.

When it comes to the Federal Election, I turn up without complaint. It's good to state who, or at least which party, you prefer to run the country. The fact that the two main parties - Labor and Liberal are nearly mirror images of each other in policy is beside the point. Both are as bad as each other - though the Libs have a demented howler monkey for a leader... I love watching the election coverage after too. I was up for Portillo when he was ousted in England in 1997. Watching John Howard being dethroned ten years later was positively orgasmic. (another story for another time...)

State Government elections don't excite me as much. The guy we have her at the moment in Victoria is not doing the job they wanted him to do. My answer to that is that if you vote in a glorified real estate agent, what do you think is going to happen? I have a friend who's just leaving a job in one of the ministerial departments. Some of the stories she tells are horrific. Politics is not a job for the weak.

Today's election was to elect in the local government.

Big yawn.

I know I should get excited about the local elections. I'm also aware that I'm in a council area which is well run and fair. Many others around the country aren't so lucky - and we've seen some shockers over the years.

As far as I'm concerned, as long as the bins get emptied, the council swimming pool is clean, they don't go erecting multi-story buildings that don't fit with the area and they don't put in any more sleeping policemen in my street, I'm not too fussed.

Having an old colleague who is also a member of his local council - I got to see a bit more about the process of local government. As soon as this guy opened his mouth I tried running away - and fast.

It's just hard to get excited - let along interested about the local elections. I know I should, but I don't.

So today, after some hemming and harring, I made my way to the local school which is the nearest polling station. Not sure who I was going to vote for, I made the decision to cast a ballot for the first person who gave me a how to vote card.

Thank goodness it was the Greens who won the day. (And reading their election bumph, I agreed with everything the candidate was saying) Making my way around the obligatory sausage sizzle and avoiding all other souls bearing flyers, I had my name marked off, put the numbers in the boxes, shoved the folded paper in the box then went home.

It felt a bit irresponsible.

I like participating in elections. I'm the nuffer who fills in every box below the line on the senate ballot paper  - like I can count to 365 - I have time. It must piss off the scrutineers not voting on party lines.

Then again, I don't know how I would have gone if the Social Democrats or the Family First Party got to me first...the Family First party I find one of the most odious creations in Australian politics. Flies against every sensible thought that the Church and State should be SEPARATE - GOT THAT MR ABBOTT AND YOUR LOOPY MATES?!!

And this is where The Chaser has is right. On the mark as they are most of the time.

And here is where I believe that compulsory voting is wrong for Australia now. Voting doesn't make people care about who gets in. It doesn't make them think about their choices. It doesn't make them make a considered decision.

And it still stands what I say about voting today - if you don't vote and vote correctly, you instantly lose your right to whine about who is in power. At least you have your say if you vote. Just don't fine me if I chose not to say anything. Surely that is a right too.

Freeing Australia from compulsory voting could mean that those who want to have a say, have their say, leaving the apathetic, lazy and stupid to sit back on their arses and let people who give a damn make the choice

That seems fairer to all to me.

Pandora has spoken.

Oh, and what else would happen when my mob gets in?

On the list of things I would like to see happen:

Mandatory blood donation for those 18-60 (medical conditions excepted, of course)
Making the organ donation opt in documents legally binding so that families don't get to over ride the wishes of deceased.
Consistent road rules for all states in the country.
Ban all corporate lobbying
Public transport is better funded at a federal as well as state level.
More thought goes into environmental and health issues

Just don't ask me to stand for a seat. Couldn't do it. I get too frustrated by hypocrites and idiots.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Blog-tober - The Smell of Things

It's Friday, which means that it's list day.

I've struggled for the last few hours, seeing my way through a very boring training course, trying to find an interesting topic to blog on for the day. This writing every day is a hard thing - ultimately rewarding, but hard.

Anyway, after struggling, looking at a heap of websites that gave completely uninspiring ideas for blogs (How I found Jesus? Why I married my spouse? Things to do in Denver when You're Dead...) I came up with this topic.

My favourite smells.

Personally, I think smell is the most underated of our senses. Okay, it lets us know when the milk is off (other than it looks like a bad case of candida), when we need to shower, that somebody's behaviour needs to be modifed when in the lift and when there is a fire. It's interesting that teenage boys appear to have no sense of smell at all - have you ever been into one of their rooms? Ergh.

I know that there are some smells that can invoke memories with the sheer whiff of them. My best example of this is Juicy Fruit chewing gum - one sniff of that and I reckon that my father is behind me.

However, there are smells that bring joy and pleasure - smells that bring back memories - and ultimately give a whole new dimension to life.

So in no order, here are some of my favourite things that I love to smell.

Steak and onions on a barbeque

Is there anything better than the smell of a well cooked barbeque? I'm not talking about sausages charring on an open flame, but a properly cooked piece of steak with some onions doused in beer sizzling along beside them. The onions and beer thing might be something that my step-father does, but he does the best barbeque onions I know. All of this is making me instantly hungry too. And all of these smells go with a light scent of freshly mowed grass, because before my step-dad fires up the barbeque he's normally mowed the grass beforehand - which for him involves sitting on a tractor and using a low-slung slasher. Four acres of lawn means this is a quick and easy alternative.

Sleeping dogs' paws in the morning

This is a strange one, I know, but this is one of the most comforting scents I recognise. It probably stems from the fact that for most of my childhood the dog slept at the end of my bed. Waking up in the morning, the dog would come up for a cuddle, her paws up near my face. It's an earthy, musky, doggy smell - not particularly hygenic and you don't want to think about where those paws have been, but after a night of cleaning and sleep, you like to think that you're not going to catch anything too bad. The smell of dog's paws in the morning reminds me of my bestest friend in the world - Sheba, the dog I owned as a child. Dogs are normally pretty sensitive about their feet too and aren't fond your you sniffing them. There has to be a bit of trust around all this. My sister's dog, Bosley's paws smell exactly the same. It's a hugely relaxing and loving scent for me. Cats paws just don't cut it I'm afraid - I've tried - it's not the same.

Calar lilies

Rarely do I receive flowers, but when I do, lilies appear to be a popular choice. They smell wonderful and that transfers into the flat for days. Lilies are a happy smell. It reminds me of kind and generous friends.

Clean men

Nothing beats the smell of a clean man. If he's clean, he generally doesn't need deodorant or cologne. Still reckon that a clean man is one of the best smells in the world. I do have to put a caveat on this as not all clean men are created equally. I've ditched men because they don't smell or taste right. Samantha from Sex in the City was right. It's a sackable offence.

Then again, you get a good one, one who smells of milk and honey and the sea and sunshine all at once - that one you hang on to.

Anything sweet baking in the oven

One of the greatest things about going to the gym at six in the morning is knowing that Mr Muffin Break is getting everything ready for the day. The first batch of muffins are just about ready to come out of the oven. Butter, sugar, vanilla - bliss. It makes the whole shopping centre smell wonderful.

Cookie Man cookies are my other go to bakery bliss scent. This takes me back to when I was a child and my grandparents would take me to Marion Shopping Centre. On the way home we'd normally stop to get some biscuits - harlequins (they have jubes baked into the middle), Californians and some shortbread. I can't go past them now without thinking of my grandparents. These cookies were served at my aunt's wake last year and I had to mention something to the funeral director, thanking them - as these biscuits I've always associated with joy and love.

As a home baker, I love the smell of the house when I'm making a cake. Is there anything better?


I'm a rose freak. Love them. My regular scents are Jo Malone's Red Roses and Stella McCartney's Rose Absolute - on wearing the former the other week, Merijn said that I smelled like a big lump of Turkish Delight. The other, my normal 'work' perfume gets commented on all the time. Love them both. I can't walk past a rose bush without smelling the roses - this has to be done - doesn't matter what rush I'm in. Roses rock. Wearing that perfume makes me feel like a woman - and a princess - all in one.

Clean, ironed, cotton sheets on a cold night

Line dried, ironed sheets have a scent of their own - you can smell the crispness and the care in them. Everybody knows the feeling of climbing into a freshly made bed with clean sheets - I think that it's the ironing - with a bit of lavender scented linen water, that makes the experience even better.

Davidoff Cool Water for Men

I smell this and I conjure up Lachlan. He's worn this cologne for years - his scent used to be tinged with cigarette smoke and beer, but in recent years the cigarettes have gone and the beer has made way for wine. I was over in England a few years ago and he offered me his jacket - I'd come over unprepared for the English Summer and had few warm clothes. At the time I had one of the worst colds I've ever had and couldn't smell a thing for nearly a month. I was devastated that I couldn't smell his jacket.
My vanilla sugar cannister

Vanilla is up there with rose as a favourite scent. Give me a choice between vanilla and chocolate, vanilla wins hands down every time.

My discovery of vanilla sugar came late. Making is is simple. Buy some castor sugar and vanilla beans. Split the vanilla bean down the middle and place in the sugar. Leave overnight, but the longer the better. Bliss - and it makes great cakes and custard too.

The coffee bag in the minutes after it has been opened

My house has two kinds of coffee - coffee beans and ground coffee. Instant coffee is not found in my house and the use of it is not condoned, just like packet cake mix and frozen pizza (as like fresh brewed coffee, cakes and pizza are easy to make and much better when they're not mass produced.)

A lot of coffee is imbibed in my house - but the best bit of all the coffee drinking is when you open the coffee bag for the first time. The concentrated coffee smell is amazing. Unfortunately it only lasts for about ten minutes before it fades and stales.

Hot buttered rum (or other egg nog / cinnamon / rum variants)

I've been for cocktails, like twice, in the last year - both times choosing a hot buttered rum like concoction. The first time I had this mix of rum, cream, eggs, spice, orange and a few other bits and pieces, I refused to give my glass back to the waiter until I was walking out the door. This mix is as near to Christmas as I will allow myself to enjoy. It just smells decadent and wholesome, all at once.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Blog-tober - Crackerjack

It was a Sparks and Ladders corporate bonding day today.

Over the years, I've participated in all sorts of corporate bonding sessions - something that companies appear to do to keep morale up every so often. I've been go-kart racing, free form painting, ten-pin bowling, drinking (back in the old days) and paint balling. All things I wouldn't do in my normal life but quite enjoy for an afternoon.

Today, at lunchtime, they shuffled the extended team into a couple of maxi-taxis for an afternoon of lawn bowling.

For those not in Australia, there has been a resurgence in lawn bowling in the last couple of years - a lot of it due to the movie Crackerjack, which somehow made lawn bowls acceptable among the young for the first time in history.

Since this film came out, finding people under the age of seventy on bowling greens became commonplace - and many companies have found that an afternoon out at the bowling club is a great, cheap and OHS consequence-free  activity on which to take their staff  (Most companies have an issue with go-karting and paint balling now, something about being too dangerous).

For me, bowls are in my genes. I've got fond memories of waiting at the green for my grandparents - all four of them played when I was a child. Lawn bowls was what you did when you retired back in the seventies. Probably why most of the clubs still have beer at 1972 prices. Waiting for grandpa to finish his end was commonplace. I remember that all of my grandparents loved this strange game.

So I find myself forty years on barefoot on a bowling green. (Grandpa would be turning in his grave if he had one - okay, he's milling around at the end of Robe Jetty, horrified). It has been noted that I'm not the world's worst bowler - I'm actually reasonable for somebody who goes and does this about every two years. I've got the pitch, I can do the distance. Reckon that if I played regularly I could actually get into it - if my mother wouldn't disown me in the process.

I know that I can get a set of bowls. My sister has my grandfather's bowls - something that got handed down when my father died. My brother-in-law showed me the bowls - in pristine condition - shoe-shine sparkling. He then showed me the polishing cloth - a pair of my grandfather's old Y-fronts...

Regardless, I have friends who would disown me if I took up lawn bowls - though I don't think they'd object to the odd social end over summer. It's a really cool thing to do on a balmy summer evening.

In all, a very pleasant afternoon - even more pleasant - we were given the rest of the afternoon off and I was home by 4 p.m. An unexpected bonus - made even more special by the fact that I surprised the cat coming home early. No tinkling bell greeted me at the door. Instead, she was found in her blanket nest on my bed, twitching in dreamland. Giving her a pat, she jumped up and mewed in surprise. Most unimpressed she was - her reaction to being woken up had me smirking until I went the the gym.

Blog-Tober - Small Pleasures

Went running with Desi yesterday morning. Nothing out of the ordinary there - I go running with Desi most Wednesday mornings before work.

The morning started like most mornings at the moment - the cat perched itself on my shoulder and demanded breakfast. I got up, had a quick shower, dressed and put myself on the seven 'o' clock tram. I made a dent in the book group book on the way in.

Nothing abnormal about that either.

This morning, crossing the road across to the gym, where my clothes are stashed while I'm running, I get enveloped in a bear hug and kissed on the cheek. Mac on this way to work. Must have looked a sight - two people having a quick embrace in the middle of the Collins and King Street intersection.

Stowed my stuff at the gym, met Desi and did a slow 5 kms - Desi is just getting back into running - I'm just happy to be out there.

We get back to the King and Collins intersection forty minutes later and Desi and I say our goodbyes.

The best bit of the run - the bit that has stayed with me longest. Letting my hair down and jogging back to the gym against the rabble in their suits, not particularly sweaty, just glowing nicely.

The breeze in my hair, moving freely, untethered by worry.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Blog-tober - The Walkout

I walked out on my fourth film ever tonight.

Other's that I have walked out on:

The Quiet American - we had front row seats and the violence of war was just too graphic.

The Other Boleyn Girl was just dire - so I got out before they chopped her head off.

Sin City - Truly appalling, hyper-violent film. Went with Sam and we walked out after half an hour. Pointless, horrible and sickening.

I add a fourth to the list tonight.


I can see the merits in this film. The script - from the half an hour I saw of it, was flawless. The casting was brilliant. Even the premise was interesting - and I normally like interesting.

However, the unrelenting violence did my head in. After half an hour I'd seen no more than ten minutes of the film because I was hiding behind my hands. It was all a bit too much.

I'm not saying I don't to violence - I really enjoy Tarantino films, Pulp Fiction, Fight Club, The Untouchables and The Secret in their Eyes - all of which are graphic in parts.

This film's violence was unrelenting. And it was playing with my head.

Rather than have nightmares for the next week, I chose to walk out. Em came with me - I owe her a film.

Maybe I'll download it in a few months and watch it on the smaller screen. Or maybe I wont.

I find it interesting that when people portray our future it's done in such a corrupt and morally bankrupt way. I love some post-apocalyptica. Margaret Atwood, in particular  is fantastic. Gattaca - another film from the future that was astounding.

This film just played with my head - and not in a good way.

Em said that I looked grey when I left the cinema.

There might be a bit more processing to do.

Blunderbusses. Phah.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Blog-tober - Just How Far We've Come

I took a friend up the 1000 Steps on Sunday. It was her first time up the steps and she said that she was noticeably nervous.

Rachael is about to start her 12wbt journey. With a lot going on in her life, she likes the structure that the plan gives her. She's also been told about the friendships you can cultivate, the people you can be inspired by and the spirit of kinship that you can find in the group if you're lucky.

"Come on, mush mush. We'll get you up there. We'll go at your speed." I told her.
"Yep, really. I'll be right behind you. Besides, I've done pump this morning - I don't feel like killing any records."
"And your best time?" she asked.
"24 minutes on a very good day. 27 is about the average at the moment. I've put on a bit of weight."

Rachael is somewhat bloody minded. I know there was no chance she wouldn't make it up to the top - I've been with people who've not made it to the half way mark. I've been up with people who don't make it to where the steps start.

"Be thankful you just have me - the whippets race up here like bunnies. We'll take this at wombat pace. There is no shame in that."

I was impressed with the pace she set. 11 minutes from the arch to where the steps start - that's about normal. Sure, she was panting a bit, but not hyperventilating. We rested for a bit.

"I have your back." I told her as we started on the 700 proper steps.
"You don't have to do this."
"Yes, I do. I'm here to show you that you're up for this - and so that you don't get injured. And so you don't stop. The first time I came up here I did this with a couple of now friends. It makes the whole process easier."
"Will I hurt tomorrow morning?"
"A little - we'll stretch at the end."
"Will you hurt tomorrow?"
"No, I'm tougher than that - and psycho. And I do this daft stuff regularly - my leg muscles are cool going up here. "

We started on the steps.

I was really impressed. Every 100 steps or so we'd stop for a break for a minute or so. Rachael did really, really well. I warned her when the horrible stairs were around the turn, made her walk the short straights and urged her on - not that she needed much help.

"Do you do this for many people?" she asked.
"A few. I'm paying a very generous friend's offering forward."
"What did they do?"
"An elite marathon runner walk/ran a half marathon with me - doing what I am doing for you - urging me on, picking me up when I it - making sure I got where I need to be."
"Yeah - and hopefully you will pay this forward too."

We got to the top in a very respectable 35 minutes. I couldn't be prouder of her. She did so well.

Making our way down, we talked of life, work - all sorts of things. I love that exercise gives you a change to talk about stuff. It's a very healing process.

I also saw a lot of my former self in Rachael on the weekend. A woman wanting so much, willing to take a few chances - starting on the journey.

To think that I was where she was two years ago. Standing at the bottom of the steps, wondering where the path would lead.

I really hope that she enjoys the journey as much as I do.

Blog-tober - Sliding Doors

I have very few regrets.

This, however, does not stop me from wondering what would have happened if I had taken the other path when offered to me.

Like when I was in Naples - I took a day trip to the aisle of Capri rather than go and visit Pompeii. I could do one trip or the other - not both. I still have not been back to Italy to go and see this ancient, frozen town at the bottom of Mt Etna - it's on my "One Day" list. Along with the catacombs of Paris and Rome, a decent look around the Vatican, a visit to Milan, Positano and the Cinque Terra and various other places that I missed because on the day I went one way and not the other.

When I took the job here are Sparks and Ladders, I was also offered a second interview at White Elephant Telecommunications. I turned down the second interview - but I ponder what it would have been like working at Sparks and Ladders, other than I would get hugged by engineers on a nearly daily basis. Okay, I'm contracting here at the moment - but what if I took the other job - a full time job - how would I be feeling? What would I be doing, other than getting hugged by a lot of telecommunications engineers.

There are some decisions I never questions - like making a move to change careers in the early 2003s, or moving to a Greek Island for a few months - that was pretty cool. The decision to stay in England illegally rather than going back to Australia never gets questions - although my superannuation accounts would be looking healthier if I had come back.

But what is the point of asking, "What if?"

It just gets you thinking and extrapolating and wondering if you made the correct choice at the time.
I'm being challenged by a "what if" at the moment? It's been plaguing my thoughts for most of the weekend.

Unfortunately, when it comes to matters of the heart, the what ifs aren't as cut and dried as wondering if you're going to see Pompeii or what your job might be like. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Blog-tober - Notes for the Cat

Kitt's cat, Kusha, has come to stay for two weeks while Kitt moves house. The cat was beginning to freak at the packing and moving activity, so while Kitt transfers her stuff from one place to another, Kusha has taken up residence in my flat, making nests in my snuggie on the couch and on a blanket at the end of my bed. Other than some first night howling at 2 a.m., she's been wonderful.

Kusha, a half Burmese, half tortoiseshell arrangement has stayed at Auntie Panda's Holiday Home for Cats before. After an initial sniff about the flat she decided that she would be fine and fell asleep on the couch after fifteen minutes. Since then, she's been right at home - but I have a few issues to take up with her.

1)  The small of my back is not your couch. You are welcome to my lap, but if I lie on the floor, padding my back and sticking your claws in will only leave you having to ride me like bronco. Do so at your own risk.

2) Running guilt trips on me won't work. Don't ask me where I am going when I put a pair of shoes on. I don't have to tell you. Just deal with it. I go out sometimes.

3)  I do not wake up in the morning with the express purpose to feed you. Can I please at least go for a wee before making my way to the kitchen? Rubbing against my legs will not make me piss any faster - really.

4)  Sometimes, when I walk in the door, rubbing your tummy is not the first thing I need to do. Sometimes I have ice cream with me which needs to go in freezer. Sometimes I need to make a phone call. Sometimes there are just other things that need to be done before you belly gets rubbed. If I can rub your belly first up when I walk in the door, I will. If not, tough.

5) My shoes are not left on the floor for you to hump. Really, it's a bit off putting.Can you please do that in private.

6) Just because I come home covered in another cat's hair every so often does not mean that I'm an adulterous whore. Maow Maow will always be number one cat. Maow Maow puts up with your hair on me without complaint. Learn to share.

7) I call you Mrs Squeaky Puss because that is what you do. Just because I don't use your real name doesn't mean that I don't respect you. Besides, Squeaky Puss suits you.

8)  Fish breath isn't that attractive at any time of the day.

9) The iron cord is not your ribbon. Please use my dressing gown cord like other cats.

10) Thank you for coming to stay. It is nice having another heartbeat in the house for a bit.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Blog-tober - Life Changing Moments

Friday, being list day it's time for a list. As blogging daily is harder that it looks, I turned to Jonella for some blog ideas. Along with ones that had to be discounted immediately (like "Why Librans Rock" I can't write about that - because they don't some of the time) there were a few crackers. So thanks to Jonella, here are five of my life changing moments. There are others, but these ones stick out as positive events.

Who Moved My Cheese (December 2002)

In some ways, this was the most pivotal moment in my life. 

It revolves around the death of a colleague and the discovery of a book which unlocked a truth which has allowed me to never look back.

It was the day before the Merrill Lynch Christmas party - so I can place the time to early December. It was one of those perfect, early summer days - not too hot, light breeze, sunny. We do get days like this in Melbourne. The email came out late in the day - a colleague - a popular, vibrant, fun man had passed away. Within the hour we'd been told that he'd taken his own life. Horrible, awful, tragic stuff.

Saddened by the event, I walked around town in a bit of a daze after. I went and collected my mail from the post office. Passing a bookshop, I spotted this book called "Who Moved My Cheese." by Dr Spencer Johnson.
A textbook for change management, something made me buy the book. Walking home and being a lovely afternoon, something made me sit down in the park and read the book. I stayed for an hour, devouring the text.

The text spoke to me.

At the time I was miserable. I was in a job with few prospects, not earning great money, I had friends but felt like things were lacking. This book spoke to me about changing things.

The biggest takeaway was the writing on the wall and the question, "What could you do if you weren't scared?"

What could I do? Hmmm.

Well, the day after I accepted a job on a Greek Island with a travel agency that I was going to refuse, handed in my notice at work and embarked on what was the most formative, enriching and wonderful journey of finding myself. This one afternoon lead me over time to change careers, move jobs, gain confidence, fight my demons head on and generally grow up. 

Okay, not everything has gone to plan - but this afternoon, reading one book completely changed the way I look at life.

And I remind myself daily - what could I do if I wasn't scared. It’s become a bit of a mantra.

The First Taste of Smoked Salmon (1993)

I became an adventurous eater at university when surrounded by Malaysian and Singaporean students, I gained a love of curry, spice and chilli. I can't thank them enough for that. Life without Laksa is a life not worth living.

But for more refined things, smoked salmon was always that something that sounded gross. Like pickled herring. Bleargh. This is what my tomato sauce loving, barbeque and salad eating bogan thought anyway.

I was at a work conference in 1993. There were sandwiches at lunch. I'd taken this sandwich I wasn't sure about - and tried it. I've never been afraid to try things, so what the hell. I didn't know what this pink muck was, but I was happy to try it.

All I can remember is that I found bliss that day. And smoked salmon has been a staple of mine ever since.

A bit like pickled herring, something else I now love, I had to get over the gross factor - not that Smoked Salmon is gross at all - but at least I didn't have to be pinned down by my three Swedish house mates and have it forcibly put in my mouth to try it. (Not so strangely, I love pickled herring too)

Dave the Witch (1992)

I've been reading tarot for a very long time - but it all started when I met Dave the Witch.

Dave was a friend of a friend. A practising white witch who lived in Croydon Surrey, this friend took me around to meet him one night - I think this friend was sharing a house with him at the time. Anyway, we had dinner with Dave, after which he read my cards - using a Morgan Greer deck. He was spot on in his reading, isolating a lot of the stuff that was going on at the time. I was fascinated - not scared at all. He then said something strange to me.

"You know that you have the gift. You should be reading for me. You have a great power that you don't even know is there. You're a healer. Don't you know that? "

Something moved in me that night.

I never saw Dave again - though I heard through Sandy that his practices were getting darker.Never to mind, that never effected me.

Regardless, a few weeks later, I bought a pack of tarot cards and the rest is history. This was the very start of my tarot and healing journey. Within a year I was becoming confident with the cards. The following year I started a massage, aromatherapy and reflexology course.

And the, rest, as they say, is history...

The Hindu Prayer Room (1988)

Religion and I have always had a bit of a funny relationship. Though sent to Sunday School until I was sixteen, I was never confirmed into the Uniting Church. Also, over time I got to realise that I wasn't aligning to the "Jesus" thing. I liked what church had to say but I didn't get why Jesus had to wash away my sins and become my personal saviour. How could somebody who died 2000 years ago be responsible for me? I never got that. Sure there was value in the ten commandments and being a good person and treating others as you wished to be treated yourself, but I never really got that principle tenet of Christianity. That and I believed in God. I got what God was about, even if God didn't have a shape or form. So even back then I was technically agnostic. Think there is something out there, not sure what it is. And I'm good with that. Then again, I believe loosely in reincarnation - which is completely against the Christian faith.

However, the most religious experience I've ever had was in a Hindu Prayer Room with my friend Geetangeli.

It was Christmas 1988. Geetangeli, originally from Malaysia, was not going back to Kuala Lumpur for Christmas. Because of this, I'd invited her down to my parents place to celebrate and at least have somewhere to go over the time. We were all looking forward to it. 

Unfortunately, the family with whom she was staying had a terrible car accident on the way back from Melbourne - though thankfully nobody was killed, a couple of the family members were banged up pretty badly. Instead of coming down for Christmas, Geetangeli had to stay around the house, look after the place and act as a messenger as family members were scattered between Adelaide and Melbourne and there were calls from worried family members coming in from across the globe - this was in the days before the answering machine.

I'd stayed with Geetangeli at he Aunt's place night to keep her company. The following morning, before I went back to Myponga, Geetangeli asked if I would like to pray with her. I was a bit taken aback - we'd never really talked about religion before this, other than at the time I was loosely under the banner of Christian and she was a Hindu by name, although she wasn't a regular practitioner.

Not being up on what was going on at the time, I asked if I would be desecrating the room, not being a Hindu. She said of course not - the room was open to everybody of good heart and the faith to which her Aunt belonged recognised and accepted all religions. Indeed, on the altar was a Bible, a Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, a statue of the Buddha among the Hindu Gods. 

We sat down and prayed together.

To this day, it was the most religious experience I've ever had - the feeling of peace in that room was astounding. It's as close to God as I have been.

It also founded my final relinquishing of the Christian name. I'm agnostic, I believe that there is something out there but I don't believe in Jesus. I'm accepting of other faiths - and will listen as people talk of their faiths. Doesn't mean that I agree with them, but who am I to say that I right and they're wrong. The comfort and strength people gain from their faith always blows me away.

This day has a lot to with my belief systems today.

Running that first half-marathon (Williamstown, May 2010)

I'd done two half marathons before this day, but I'd run/walked them. Run 3 minutes, walk three minutes all the way around the course.

This day Reindert and I set off for the run - Reindert doing his normal 42.2 kilometre slog - me, down for the 21.1.
Reindert started an hour before me, leaving me to stew in my own juices, which is never a good thing.

I remember getting to the 3 kilometre mark and thinking, "Sod this for a game of soldiers, and desperately wanting to turn back and wait for Reindert in the car. But I plugged on. Then I met a couple of people on the way - a marathoner who was coming back from injury and a woman who was about to turn 60 running together. I ran with them for a bit thinking I'd walk after a while. These guys kept me going.

Two hours, thirty minutes later, I finished - ran the whole distance.

I have never felt prouder of myself. Although it's not my fastest half marathon, it was the first time ran the whole way.

If I could do this, what else could I do?

This is up there in my pile of greatest achievements.

I look at this list and know that there are other days which have changed my life. The day I found out my father died, moments of shame and humiliation, times of trouble and failures - but these aren't the moments that define me. 

These are some of the times that have helped make me what I am today.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Blog-tober - Pilates

Pinochet contacted me to say he was sick. Thursday night - no training session - argh! I'd been for a run in the morning but was looking forward to pushing some weights around.

So, the choice was go it alone or go do a pump class tonight.

I opted for pump.

Arriving early at the gym, I thought about doing a bit of cardio. Nah. Get some deep squats in on the vibro machine - yeah. Go on - the knee's been a little iffy. While I was doing this, one of the pump regulars, Pam came up. We had a chat. What was I doing? Did it help my knee, what could it do for her? What classes was she going to.

Pam was off to Pilates - scheduled at the same time as pump.

Pilates is the one class I don't go to (well that and BodyAttack - and that's because I think that looks like sponsored epileptic fit) Part of it is timing - I'm normally with Pinochet at that time - and also it's not that hard core. I go to pump and spin. I'm a Hardcore Harriet - I like getting sweaty. Pilates. Hmph. Girlie class.

I asked Pam what she liked about it.
"It's with Pedro. What's not to like?"

True. Pedro takes the 6 am spin and pump classes. He's from Spain. He's a dancer. He's also all guns and buns and this half soppy, half sneery smile and floppy hair that makes your knees go all weak.

Pam and I continued to chat. Jay, who joined us, was grilled as to if I should do Pilates.

"Come to Pilates. Pedro is WONDERFUL! Ay, Pedro!" (Mock Spanish accent, slap to the forehead - Pedro's signature move)

Okay give it a go. What was the worst that could happen.

So yeah, my first Pilates class tonight.

And for somebody with no balance, I didn't do too badly. Okay, my breathing was all over the shot, but it felt good to stretch and roll and basically lie on my back with my legs in the air for an hour. Also found out my core strength isn't too bad.

And after the class?

Actually, I feel really good. Nice and relaxed and a bit taller. Would I go back?

Well, to watch Pedro, yes, of course.

But for now, I'll stick to my hard core sweaty ways. Back in the gym tomorrow at 6 am.

Pedro's Pump Class.

It's amazing how the sight of a cute bum make you skip out of bed with the sparrows.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Blog-tober - Telecommunications Tidbits

Two small conversations had me tittering today.

The first came in the form of a text. A number not known to my phone texted me mid-afternoon:

Unknown number: Ok. When?
Pand: And who is this?
Unknown number: Me
Pand: There are seven billion people in the world called me. Which me are you?

Unknown number turned out to be a friend - we're doing lunch next week sometime.

The other tidbit came from an email. Talking to a friend in Adelaide about a restaurant I went to last night - a Mexican affair called Touche Hombre ( - bad website, FANTASTIC FOOD, although it's one of these places you have to queue to get into if you're there much past 6 p.m.)


This Mexican place was the best last night. Nachos to die for - just amazing, like not your bog standard soggy doritos drowning in cheese - superb stuff. And these lamb ribs were just amazing. Next time you're in Melbourne we should go there.



Ah, sounds great, but I can't do Mexican. I'm of a delicate constitution, as you well know. I don't eat spicy food.



Wuss. Jalepenos Rule. Spice, bring it on. Px


Sorry, just not for me. Maybe we can find a nice French Restaurant. You were raving about one a few months back. I should be over in December. Mx


I can do French. Px


I'm sure you can, but I don't want to know about your proclivities, madame....

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Blog-tober - The Ironing Gene

This morning I could have done one of three things. The first was go to a spin class at 6 am. The second was leave a bit early and walk to work. Realising that I'd had some form of reasonably hard core exercise every day for the last week, it was decided that a third and far more pleasurable option should be taken up before taking the tram to work. A chore that I really do enjoy.


You see, I have the ironing gene. It's in my blood and bones. I think ironing is one of the best jobs to do around the house. I'll put off hoovering or mopping the floors for weeks. Dishes I do daily out of habit - it’s only me and they're not that extensive so they're no drama. I clean the loo and the bathroom once or twice a week. I'll make my bed when I think about it, of if there is a cat visiting so the critter doesn't sleep under the covers. Dusting is done when I change my toothbrush - once every three months or when it becomes apparent that a family of fairies could take up residence on the residue found behind the television - hate dusting.

But ironing - nah - I'm really quite happy to do the ironing - as long as it can be done in front of the television, I'd happily iron all day.

Seeing I'm in the second week of Hell Fortnight (something on every day whether I like it or not) my ironing pile was a bit larger than normal. So on getting out of bed this morning I set up my ironing board and set to work. I've only got the duvet cover and a skirt with pleats to do and I'm done for the week.

See, I have some rules around ironing. I like to get it all done in one shot and put everything away after. The reasoning behind this is that if I finish my ironing all at once my OCD tendencies are not going to take over and make me go back home in the middle of the day to see if I've left the iron on. I have made the trip back to check this over the years when I've had to press something on the fly, but knowing it's all done and the iron and ironing board are put away stops all this crazy behaviour.

I've also got a good, functioning steam iron. There is nothing worse than ironing with a crappy iron.
There is method in what I iron and when. Cottons and linens first, the more durable stuff. And I press most things. I iron pillow cases, tea towels and duvet covers, but not fitted sheets (unlike my mother who irons fitted sheets, and knickers, and bras) I iron t-shirts. I iron jeans - though I don't put a crease in them (Also unlike my mother - I don't let her near my jeans when I go home). I don't iron leggings or anything jersey. But that's about it - everything else is a moving target.

Why do I iron all this stuff? I think it feels better on the skin. Especially the sheets. Clean, ironed, high-thread-count cotton sheets are the best. Even better when pressed.

Ironing is relaxing. It also shows a sense of pride in ones thing and surroundings. Which is strange coming from me because I am a dag - but at least I am neatly pressed and clean.

It's a job I actually look forward to in the week. I turn on the telly and watch what ever is on (or something I've taped) and get on with it. My mother does this too.

See, I told you it's in the genes.

Over the years, this ironing gene has been taken advantage of by some friends. My aunt used to have me in weekly to do the family ironing when I was at uni. I used to get $20, Friday dinner, a dog to pat and a bed for the night, escaping my noisy university college room for an evening.

The men I've been with over the years, those who have stuck around to get to know me a bit better, have discovered the benefits of my love of taking the creases out of things. Ironing duties have been gratefully exchanged for meals, money, odd jobs and sexual favours among other things over the years. It appears that ironing is not a very popular job - I don't know why. I'll happily exchange a basket of shirts for some handyman activities or a home cooked dinner.

Who says the bartering system is dead?

There are some interesting memories attached to ironing.

I remember the day before Lachlan's wedding. As honorary best man we'd gone and picked up the suits, had a pint, collected the rings and other honorary best man duties after which we went back to his place. His family were coming in from Gloucester. I asked should I go home to London - I was told to hang around for a bit. I'll never forget the look on his mother's face when she walked in the house, finding me in the middle of doing his shirts. Lachlan and had gone off to have a nap with his infant son.

"Who are you? Where's Lachlan?" she asked as she walked in the door, finding me happily pressing away.
"I'm Pand. He's having a nap upstairs. "
"What are you doing?" she eyed me over suspiciously.
"Lachlan's shirts."
"Do you want anything done while I'm here?"
"Are you mad?" The look on her face was one of incredulation."

My old flat mate took ten quid off the rent while I was sharing with him on the proviso that I pressed his shirts for him each week. Seemed like a good deal to me.

When it all comes down to it, I have no idea what people are complaining about when they say they have to do the ironing and it is the worst job in the world. As long as there is something good on the telly (or a decent DVD to watch) what is the hassle? Ironing is fun.

Maybe this penchant for ironing is indicative of being a housemaid many times over in a former life. Or maybe this is just a part of my strange upbringing and slight OCD tendencies coming to the fore.  

Monday, October 15, 2012

Blog-tober - A Quick 20 Questions

Out of time and inspiration today, so these questions have been sourced from the wonderful Sunday Stealing meme guy.

Off to dinner now:


In days of old I would say I go for dark haired men. Strangely, the last few guys I've been out with have been prematurely grey. Due to an unfortunate encounter, bald men tend to give me the creeps, though saying that, Reindert is as bald as a bandicoot. (Maybe he doesn't creep me out because he's like my brother)


Generally, my Mum. Followed by Jonella and Blarney.


I worked at the Myponga General Store when I was 14. I got to do some light post office duties, make sandwiches and serve customers. Great fun.


I've contemplated getting braces on my teeth. And a tummy tuck probably wouldn't go astray. Thing is, in my advanced years I've got used to my imperfections and I rather like them now


I'm blogging every day this month and I've run out of time and inspiration today.


In no order - nice hands, legs and ankles, I write well, I am sort of funny in a glib time and I have this skirt with big poppies on it that always draws attention.


Not much. I might get into home brew. I don't drink enough to miss alcohol.


One might be nice, but I'm not really into kids.


All the time - have done since I was a small child and I saw Pinnochio.


When I actually write properly - I don't mind it (in black fine point biro) Normally I can't read my handwriting - which is a bugger.


A very, very long time ago. I was 21. Should have waited a few months until somebody much better and kinder came along.


Maybe, but I'm a bit strange and I can be hard to know - although I am friendly and loyal which is someething I look for in friends.


Not really - they can help, but it is the heart that matters most of all.


Go to the gym, run, shout, ring Telstra, moan, hit my pillow. Normal stuff. thankfully nothing violent.


Locally - Blarney's place. It used to be my Aunty Gaye's place. Overseas - London, Boston, Toledo all resonate well with me.


No. It takes me a hell of a long time to trust anybody. Once somebody has gained my trust, they rarely lose it.

Moi, Never…. Is the Pope Catholic? (or does he take a dump in the woods?)


Hell, yeah. The last one I was in was at the Pixies Concert at the V Festival going ape - that was fantastic!


Generally a smile and moisturiser and very little else - though the duvet comes up to my ears. I only wear nightwear when there are other people about the place.

Yes. Jonella's boyfriend, Tadhg gave me a huge bear hug the other day. As did my client from yesterday - and Bobbie gave me a hug. Its been a good week for hugs.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Blog-tober - Friends from the Road

I find running a good metaphor for life.

I also find that under some conditions, it's a near religious experience. I learn more about myself when I'm running than at any other time - well it feels like it anyway.

Today was the Melbourne Half Marathon. Well, I was supposed to be participating the the 21.1 kilometre event, but a long round of low grade illness stuffed my training in June and July - the time I should have been ramping up - that and some major work disruptions - there went any thought of running the longer distance. On the other hand, running 10 kilometres seemed like an okay thing to attempt. Ten kilometres equates to a bit more than an hour of my life.

Last week, however, the thought of getting up at the crack of dawn on a Sunday morning to join a couple of thousand other idiots didn't appeal to me at all. I even tried to flog my entry on facebook on Friday, such was my disinterest in running. I would have much rather gone to Pump and Combat at the gym. After all, I was doing my normal psycho two hours on the Saturday - an hour of spin class followed by an hour with Pinochet. Why test myself again? What was the point.

It took a very special person to lift the funk.

I met Bobbie on the road. Literally.

The Melbourne Half Marathon 2009. At about the four kilometre mark I came up behind this woman and as I was looking for a pacer, I ran up beside her and asked if I could run with her for a bit. We ran 10 kilometres together on that occasion. We found out that we were both from Adelaide originally, both in IT, both in our mid-late thirties and both of us were fairly new to running at that stage. I left her at the 15 kilometre mark, she was flagging and I was going well. We managed to contact each other after the race, but thought not much more about it.

Two years later, at the four kilometre mark of the Melbourne Half Marathon, ahead of me was this rather short woman with a loping gait.

Once again, I ran up beside her. We were thrilled to see each other. This time I only ran with her for ten minutes or so before running on. I managed to run a 2.21 half marathon - thrilled at my time. Bobbie shaved a few minutes off her time too which was great.

The Run for the Kids this year. Four kilometre mark...

"I know that gait anywhere!" I yelled behind her.
"Thank goodness you're here!" she countered. "This is the last place I want to be."
"Me too."

So we ran a good six or seven kilometres together before I went off ahead of her. She's learned to tolerate my annoying "Running Fairy" mode. This kicks in around the five kilometre mark when  I get the first rush of endorphins. From there, I'm impossibly cheerful, I smile and I get faster. I'm told it's very annoying for regular runners.
Since then, we've trained a few times together - which has been good. Bobbie's great to have about. She's a real inspiration - a testament to the underdog - and she gets what it is to be happy at the back of the pack.

It was Bobbie who contacted me Friday night and said that we should run the event together.

Having a friend for the road made all the difference. For the first time in months I was finally happy to be in this event.

Another annoying thing about me and running. I'm dreadfully grumpy before events. This morning, after not a great night's sleep thanks to a neighbour with a noisy party, too much Mexican food, new runners, it being too early, too cold and Dora the freaking Explorer on the telly (most annoying telly show EVER) it was obviously going to be a great day. The grumpier the better. Leaving home at 6.40 am, I walked the distance to the starting line at the MGC. I only had myself and my trusty personal items belt, containing my phone, some money, keys and a couple of gels - no need to queue at the bag storage or the portaloos.

I found Bobbie and her posse at the designated spot near the starting line. Five minutes later, we started running. Just the way I like it (no hanging around, no waiting, not too much jostling by the crowds)

As neither she nor I had been training much, the goal of the 10 kilometre run was to enjoy it - walk if we had to and not worry about time. At the three kilometre mark we realised that we were running better than we thought.  At the four kilometre mark I demonstrated the fact that I can run and sing. I like running and singing songs from "The Sound of Music."

Bobbie hung back a bit and I promised not to sing any more.

I'm really fortunate with my running in one aspect. My cardio strength is such that I can run and talk easily. If I'm at cruise pace, talking isn't an issue. According to my sister, I can talk underwater with a mouth full of marbles. This is exaggerating somewhat, but talking and running is a good thing - it always astounds me that most people can't do this. Over the ten kilometres, I got to find out about Bobbie's plans to eventually move back to Adelaide and her personal training business - which has put an idea in my head too. Pandora Behr - personal trainer... hmm, it's a thought...

At the six kilometre mark we walked for a hundred metres after the drink stop. The only other time we walked was up William Barak Bridge near the MCG - a kind of last laugh of the running planners - a bitch of a last hill neither of us felt like tackling. Why bomb out the heart rate so close to the end?

The best thing about this run - the last 200 metres are run on the oval of the MCG. It is a truly magical feeling  running around the hallowed football field.

Joining hands for the last few metres, Bobbie and I run across the mat - 73 minutes later. For two untrained women, a very respectable time. Actually, it was brilliant. Four minutes slower than Bobbie's personal best over the distance - and a lot better than I thought I would do.

We both admitted that if the other wasn't there we would have been a lot slower, would have walked a lot more and generally would not have had as good a time.

After a drink and a bit of a rest, I bid my farewells to Bobbie and her friends and walked the three kilometres home, stopping for breakfast on the way.

And my lessons learned from the day - other than having a friend makes light work of what you see as a chore.

Well, I'm stronger than I think I am - I do forget this a lot.

Also, for all the pain, the time, the training - this is something that I really love - I'd forgotten this and look forward to getting back into running training. I also forgot that receiving the medal at the end of the run still feels wonderful. Runs where you get a medal are the best.

And lastly, and probably most importantly - I am not what I once was. I will never be the person I was before I took up running. In running I look for balance, for peace, for endurance and for joy. Nothing else in my provides this.

Long may it remain.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Blog-tober - On Recommendations

Dinner was held at a local Mexican. I hadn't been there for years, but I have fond memories of the place. Jonella suggested going there  - she and her boyfriend, Tadhg, were going to take me out for a belated birthday. The restaurant we were going to go to was booked out, but we still decided on dinner at this cheap and cheerful place that doesn't do a bad enchilada.

It was good to see Tadhg again - I haven't seen him since he went on his epic six week trip around Europe. It was his first trip out of Australia. Jonella said he had a wonderful trip, but I wanted to hear it from the horse's mouth. It was only a few month ago that we'd be talking about his trip and he was asking for recommendations for places to go. He and his travelling companion weren't planning on going to Spain, but I threw some names of places in Italy, France and England at him.

I found out tonight that there is such a thing as too much Mexican food. It creeps up on you.

Over our entree nachos, Tadhg was telling me about some highlights of the trip. I asked for his top five moments - anybody who's travelled knows that you can't find the top three moments from a six week trip.

Tadhg mentioned a few places in the Czech Republic and the Swiss Alps before he started on about Tuscany.

"I love Tuscany," I told him. I've only been there once, but I really want to go back.
"So did we." enthused Tadhg.

He went on to tell how they circumvented Rome to stay on in their town, drinking local wine and eating pizza.

"Yeah, we stayed outside this town. Loved it. Gorgeous."
"What was it called?" I asked.
"Ah, we couldn't say the name properly. We just called it San Jimmy Jimmy."
"Not San Gimignano?"
"Yeah, that's it. Glorious place. One of the highlights of the trip."
"I bet. It's my favourite town in Tuscany."
"You say that well. We had to call it San Jimmy Jimmy."

The penny dropped a few minutes later.

"We had a conversation a few months ago. You were looking for recommendations. I gave you that one."
"Ah! We were wondering how we lucked out on this place. Thank you."

I love it when a recommendation works out.

How can you not love a place that looks like this?

It appears that Jonella and Tadhg will be coming over for dinner and viewing of "Tea with Mussolini" in the near future. It's the film that sent me there in the first place, back in the late nineties.

I'm just chuffed that somebody took me up on a recommendation and was thrilled with the result.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Blog-tober - The New Bucket List

Friday is list day

As expected, the worst of the fallout from dream group has passed. What felt like a gaping hole in my psyche has been replaced with some minor tickles and some insights into myself that I'm not sure I would have got if not for the dream group process. 

Yesterday was also blessed with some lovely off the cuff things happening that took from my frazzled pit and perked me up no end. An old friend dropping by for a coffee, another asking if I could mind her cat for a fortnight starting next week (lovely beastie she is too, that cat), a not too intense session with Pinochet all helped to get things back on track.

It appears the dream group process, for the angst it provides temporarily, is still working away in the background - but one thing that has come out of all of this is the feeling that one must look ahead, hence it's time to look at the bucket list.

These bucket lists have been rather successful in the past for getting me out of my comfort zone. I've just had a look at the one that I last year in August and I've marked quite a few of the items off the list - degustation dinner - check, change in career, check, making more money, check, changed my car, check. Lots of things have been struck off the list.

So, here we go - what is on my bucket list for the next year - and I will take this out to the end of 2013.

I really want to try some amazing restaurants: Attica, Cutler and Co, Vue de Monde…. Finding somebody to take me to one of these places, even better, but they're on the list.

Save more money. I'm doing okay but I want to do better.

Then on the other hand, I need a decent overseas break - Thailand would be good for a fortnight when this contract is up whenever that may be in the new year - though taking a month off and going somewhere a bit more special could be the go - not that Thailand isn't special - Chang beer for breakfast and lots of massages could be the go.... and that's always good.

I still want to do the Camino de Compostella di Santiago. I'd love to go back to Spain as well, and France. And Italy.

I'm hoping the career progression keeps going the way it's been going. I've changed my job role - I just want to stay happy at work (and challenged and well paid and most importantly, employed)

As for the exercise. I keep putting this on the bucket list - the marathon. The reason I started this blog was because I wanted to blog my marathon journey. Though I've been remiss on the running of late, it's still something I want to prove to myself that I can do. Even better, the New York Marathon would be amazing.

For all the times I complain about being single and want a partner, maybe one foot in front of the other would be a better tactic. It's been worked out that I've never really been asked out on a date -  a real date. None of this internet dating bollox. To have somebody ask me out for the evening, that would be lovely - and I'm shoving that on the bucket list too.

Home ownership - though it seems like an impossible dream - that's there too - but a two bedroom flat with a carport and a balcony will be brilliant - I hate gardening and don't want a garden.

Hmmm - what else. 

By the end of next year I want the first draft of my novel written. This is almost a not negotiable - has to be done - and I need to make the time.

More time with friends - yep, put that on the list.

The going for a tandem skydive remains on the list too

I'm going to leave off getting a cat this time around. I appear to have friends who happily donate their cats to me regularly and I like this arrangement. Besides, in the words of Modern Family...

Anything else to add to the list?

I'd like to read a book a week - any maybe finally get through a few of the following: Midnight's Children, Love in a Time of Cholera, Ulysses, Cloud Atlas and a few more David Mitchells and the last two books in the Artemis Fowl series.

As for films - but the end of 2013 I hope to have seen The Godfather Triology, The Maltese Falcon, Schindler's List and a couple of other films I'm yet to sit through.

Mostly, I just want to be happy and secure.

That's not too much to ask.

But I will continue to be my normal, overachieving, A-type self and to continue to see what will come of this bucket list over the next 14 or so months.

It's out there now. Go on universe... let's see what comes back.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Blog-tober - Of Harpoons and Hope

Looking back, I was roped in to dream group way back when - my friend Gloria, then a new friend who I'd met through my meditation group, said that I might like it.


Six years later, I'm still there. The circle has changed - the stalwarts are there, but new faces are there too. There is never more than eight participants in the group. We know these each other inside and out even though there is a good chance we don't know each others surnames. The group doesn't really socialise. Gloria and I are friends outside of the group. There is another member of dream group who's in my book group - but that's it. I would probably not be friends with these people if I didn't know them from dream group. They wouldn't be friends with me. We're all very different people - not that this is a bad thing.
Yet these women are my community and my strength.

It's a bit like an AA meeting in some ways.

(Insert your Deity here), grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Yep, that sums it up. But we don't say the serenity prayer before we start. I normally get ragged for being a few minutes late most Wednesday nights - that’s how dream group normally starts.

Like an AA meeting, I cannot break the confidentiality of the group by talking explicitly about what goes on.
I can say, however, that there are times when you leave dream group and it feels like you've flayed, boiled in oil, dragged over a cheese grater - or in my case, at the moment - I feel like I've been harpooned.

It feels like there is a great, gaping, metaphorical hole in the middle of my chest.

This often happens when it's my dream. Not so much when we're looking at the dreams of others.
It reminds me of a few lines of Prufrock most times I go and give a dream - which thankfully isn't that often:

And I have known the eyes already, known them all
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?

Pinned like a bug on a museum wall - hung out to dry for all the world to see. Yep, that sort of explains it pretty well.

That's how I'm feeling at the moment. I know that from outward appearances I look completely normal. I'm not a crying, sobbing mess. I'm not red in the face. I don’t look down or unhappy. I just feel like I'm wandering around like I've had my insides cut in two with the harpoon that did the damage dragging around the place.

It's not the treatment of what goes down in dream group. It's what's in the dream that really gets you.

I knew this dream was going to be a doozy. My sister, an old friend, a long haired, sandy coloured, long haired Dachshund, a railway station. A kiss. And Puffing Billy - an old and favourite steam train that runs in the outskirts of Melbourne.

"But I like Puffing Billy!" I wailed between tears last night.

Highlighting my emotional inadequacies, my inability to get close to people, my reticence to change, the fact that I can't - or won't form relationships - opting for safety above anything else. That's what the chatter was about.

It's a bit of a stuck record.

But as Gloria said afterwards - maybe I have to get on that train. Go back into the dream and see where the train takes me. The cynic in me says that if I get onto Puffing Billy I'll end up the back end of Emerald on the oval. But I also love Puffing Billy. I love steam trains. And ending up in my dream at Belgrave Station - not the Metro trains line, but the Puffing Billy line - a rather beautiful narrow gauge railway that goes up into the wilderness.

Maybe it's my turn to venture into the emotional wilderness, face all the lions and tigers and bears (or in the case of the Dandenongs - the possums, stray cats and the odd wallaby).

We will see. Fore the moment, I'm just going to sit with my harpoon wound, have some faith in this system that has done some much good in the past and hope that something good will come out of this. 

It normally does.