Tuesday, 30 January 2007

I'll die for the floppy hat cause ...

What to do if your hat looks somewhat - actually a lot - like the above?

Acting upon the advice of valuable posters and fear of sunburn I purchased a hat, one that i'm not about to give up now as it cost me an ourageous sum of $10 at Paddy's Markets so I've got to wear it enough times to get my money's worth. I've been diligently wearing it, scrunching it, lending it to puppies and cooking soup in it to do so.

Report card: I haven't got sunburn yet.

However, I look really stupid.

Also, this hat (apart from being black, so it absorbs heat - a bad scientific choice on my part) - is floppy.

This means it flops down round the sides of my head and acts a bit like blinkers on a horse.

Times I have been almost knocked down by cars in the past twelve days as a result of a floppy hat blocking my side vision: 53

Death by sunburn or by floppy hat blinkering: Who decides?

I've stuck resolutely to the hat simply because I won't let Paddy's Markets rip me off. Over my dead body.

Saturday, 27 January 2007

Something Wrong About Mr Speedos ...

For some time a debate has raged over which way to go - boardies or Speedos ? Now, never having the ... errh, pleasure, of wearing either, I'll refrain from commenting on the comfort-in-water debate. Some say that the budgie smugglers just display a bit too much - or too little, depending on water temperature, others contend that the aerodynamic fit is necessary.

But picnicking on Australia Day at Coogee, I've got to say, there are some times when the Speedos are just plain wrong.

If you're coming out of the surf at Coogee Beach, I can see a strong case for the Speedo look, even if they're giving the appearance your modest-sized crotch-jewels wish to burst forth and greet all your fellow beach-goers.

We were having a picnic up on the grass, well away from the beach, overlooking the sea.

A guy is strolling around there in Speedos. An old dark T-shirt and ill-fitting a bit baggy Speedos, no less.

I did a doubletake.

My first impression was that the man had lost his trousers and was walking about in his T-shirt and undies - the kind of unashamed "I left my only pair of trousers in a hedge somewhere, but, hey, I'll go for a stroll and take my dog for a walk all the same, in my undies what the heck" look.

There's got to be a limit to wear you can wear your Speedos. Fought for them as some have. Next thing, we'll have corporate meetings with CEOs strolling in with a jacket, crisp linen shirt and Speedos.

As Australian as they are, that has to be un-Australian.

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Operation Top Secret: Fear Of Blabbermouths

When Operation Top Secret - or as it was better known, Mum's Surprise Sixtieth Birthday Party - was launched, the first fear was of blabbermouths.

I had to bribe everyone out of the cupboards to get them back to talking to me.

Fear Of Blabbermouths was a huge paranoia that festered over the weeks as MSB was put into action. MSB was our secret codename for Mum's Surprise Sixtieth Birthday. Our Fear Of Blabbermouths even grew to the point we couldn't even get an acronym correct.

We were determined to make our surprise party the real thing, not one of those surprise parties where Uncle X blabs it to Mum and Mum turns up and fakes being surprised by jumping up and down and saying "Woo hoo! I never expected this!" as everyone jumps about yelling "Surprise!" even though she has drafted a thank you speech detailing each gift and each gourmet dish and been rehearsing it under Aunt Z's expert critical eye.

Not that I have an Uncle X or Aunt Z. My grandparents were fairly cruel with namegiving, all the same, which is why Uncle X and Aunt Z are chosen to be identified as such, to protect them from revisiting the high school days where they were no doubt tortured for the misdeeds of their parents on birth certificates.

So how to shut up the eager blabbermouths?

One option we had was to not invite blabbermouths to the party. That the way though the list dwindled to nothing, and to be honest, we wouldn't have been invited. We needed a better strategy. I did want to turn up, even if only for the cake.

We also could have surgically sewn up the lips of everyone who was likely to blabber, but again this would have been another barrier to my eating cake on the big night.


So here was the conundrum - how to shut up the blabbermouths, but still let them eat cake.

Step 1: Cut out the obvious danger signs.

Just as in military planning you'd check for leaky petrol tanks .... well, don't they? If not, please memo my brainstorm to the army ... anyway, to use the metaphor, a quick scour of the big damage do-ers was Step 1. The drunk uncle. The aunt who is bound to say, "Hi darl, what should I bring to your big surprise party, whoops, oh well at least what I wear will be a surprise since I haven't decided between the lemon yellow or the lime green yet ... oh yes the lemon yellow looks so more modern don't you think, I'll wear that, thanks for your advice, see you Thursday, three weeks time, and I'll bet you'll love the big glass vase I'm planning on buying you! Yoo hoo!" These people needed to be kept in the dark; we could blindfold them, gag them and drag them along on the night atthe last minute if we really needed their presence.

Step 2: Give incentives for keeping the party a secret

This proved to be difficult. We tried the ol' "It'll be so great to see the look on her face" trick, as we just ran out of green-apple flavoured chupa-chups. After all, we aren't political campaigners.

Step 3: Use reverse psychology

Here's the one where you remind everyone that they're terrible at keeping secrets and tell them everyone thinks so, to make them want to prove that they can shut up. Actually, they are terrible at keeping secrets and everyone does think so, so whether it was a sneaky psychological game or just blatant honesty is contestable.

Step 4: Last But Not Least ...

Keep all these people as far away from Mum as possible ...!

I think this is why it worked. My tip of the day.

Monday, 22 January 2007

Operation Top Secret: It's Over

Operation Top Secret is officially over. While the operation took place mainly on the 20th, it leaked over into the 21st, and we were still picking up bits and pieces today.

Someone told me this was military style type stuff, I hate to think we did such a bad job of it. Look at how they botched up Iraq.

Thank you, everyone, for not leaking it to my Dad. He was utterly stunned, and he still hasn't come out of his catatonic state. Thanks again, everyone. Better results than expected.

This is one of the most successful things I've done since I managed to beat the sixth-graders at 'Elastics' in Primary School, so I'm feeling very proud. Give me my moment.

Sunday, 21 January 2007

I'm The New Black

Have you ever felt the arrow of irrational love? Expressed strongly, overwhelmingly, suddenly, frighteningly?

If so, you've got an inkling (literally) of what's happened to me recently.

I recently embarked on the use of a fine calligraphy pen. Oh, how I love pen and ink. While I'm sure the biro is a useful and convenient invention, it's really just not the same as inserting a cartridge into a pen and having lovely wet ink on a page. I wish I'd been born when everyone used feathers dipped in inkpots, though I know my blog would look a lot messier.

Not only do I adore jet black ink, but jet black ink adores me. It can't resist me. It bursts straight out of cartridge and covers me.

There's a downside to infatuation. Ink, you did not need show your affection so. A card and chocolates via express post would have been just fine.

But everyone has a different way of expressing love. I guess I just have to get over that.

Sunday, 14 January 2007

Top Secret And Time Eating

At the moment, I'm neglecting many of my thrilling geekish pursuits, including blogging, as I go on a top-secret mission - so top secret that I don't dare blog about it until after Saturday, when all will be revealed (I mean about the top secret mission). Certain people are to be kept in the dark, including my parents. At any rate, I ask all readers to pray for me. I'm spiralling out of control here. I'm not sure I like this amount of responsibility. I'm thinking James Bond had it easy - at least he knew he had to win in the end. I'm not so sure about this deal.

Not that I'm too worried about my Dad happening upon Mission Top Secret - I'm not sure he's aware the internet came into existence yet - but it's possible one of his office elves may drop hints. So if you meet my Dad, please assure him that Maria is doing nothing out of the ordinary whatsoever. (Tidying socks into paired rolls and organising them by pattern, colour and length is perfectly ordinary.)

Thursday, 11 January 2007

If You Have An Itch, Scratch It ...

Sounds good in theory ...

My last post reminds me of a friend's justification (if he needed one) of flings and casual sex "If you have an itch, scratch it."

While I wiggle uncomfortably in my seat here, feeling the bites of my sunburn - and yes you guessed it, a few mosquitoes caught up with me recently and had a field day - I'm certainly hoping for his sake, that his experience of an itch is qualitatively different from mine ...

And his "scratch" is a lot more satisfying.

The Itchy And Scratchy Show

Out of all the Seven Stages Of Sunburn I neglected to mention the most difficult stage of all - the itch.

I'm going through it now. While the skin peels off, it itches. If it's not one shoulder it's another. Why don't these attention-seekers find something else to do?

This is something like "Pain" only far far worse. Pain is when someone hits you, gauges out your eye, hacks off your head. Itch is when your body teases you malevolently with comparable sensations and makes you want to do it yourself. But when you give in to temptations - the satisfaction lasts for only about three seconds before you start itching all over again.


The other thing about itch on peeling skin is the rule that "if it's itchy, it means delicate skin underneath". For some reason, Nature has given us a body where we have a natural urge to scrape hard nails across the most tender parts of our bodies and expose bleeding flesh, which will heal again in a day or two, leave a scar or scab, and become itchy as hell too. Yes, and there are still people who push the intelligent design theory wagon; personally I think this is proof enough no creator of humans could have been intelligent and certainly not merciful.

In fact the reason I'm typing now is in a vain attempt to give my fingers something to do, otherwise they'd be at my poor, already mutilated skin.


Wednesday, 10 January 2007

A Bed To Bonk In

Someone commented to me recently, "You know, there are two things that you do in bed - sleep and have sex."

Obviously this person wasn't privy to the underworld of souls who have fondue-eating parties, clip their toenails, solve world poverty, knit booties and hold champion chess tournaments between the sheets, but I let the inaccuracy pass.

"However," he continued, "I've never seen an ad for a bed telling you how good it is for having sex in."

'Tis true, bed advertisements tend to blather about the cost-effectiveness of the pice of boudoir equipment and tell you you'll get a lovely snooze - no doubt important - but what ever happened to the romp?

I suppose you simply have to call over the salesperson, "My husband and I are into athleticism, three times a week, will this bed support it?"

What would the ideal bed to bonk in include? A condom dispenser? Certainly no squeaky mattresses. King-size, naturally, or are there certain people who like the idea of two bodies squashed into a little single (or perhaps their idea iof sex is flying solo?). Silk sheets - an arousing bright red or the more subtle shades of silken cream, or violent black? Four poster? Canopy? And is there anyone who favours waterbeds?

What about ambience - I've got an idea for a bed to bonk in that'd have about 1000 songs stored into its memory, a push-button system, easily accessible, or has someone got technology for a bed that's access your mood and play some appropriate tunes (and start a fanfare at orgasm?).

Gosh, I'm sweating already. If this is the bed, what will the ads for it be like? I'm picturing crowds on opening night at David Jones, Level 5. Manchester, Lingerie and Small Electrical - open demonstrations. Top Models at low prices ...

Tuesday, 9 January 2007

The Break-Up Fairy

Does it sometimes seem as though breaking up is in the air?

We like to believe that Love Is In The Air, or at least John Paul Young likes to make us believe we like to believe it. But how about breaking up?

I'm beginning to believe in a malevolent break-up fairy who zips about ruining relationships, a bit like Cupid with horns and a pitchfork. Except on Sunday, it seemed Break-Up Fairy was on acid, using scattergun method machine gun, like a body double for Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando.

I turned on the computer to receive a message from a friend telling me his relationship was over. Broken crockery and drama ... and I commiserated with him.

I wandered in the next morning to grumble a bit to a colleague that I'd spent last night sleepless, and he empathised.

"Me too, on Sunday night my girlfriend broke up with me."

"You too?" exclaimed a girl nearby. "On Sunday, my boyfriend nearly broke up with me!"

Now, there are two common factors here - it happened on Sunday they all knew me. I'm trying to put the latter out of my mind.

Who's this malevolent break-up fairy, and what's your agenda? Come on, own up.

Monday, 8 January 2007

The Seven Stages Of Sunburn

So an unfortunate picnic, a bit of sunny frolic, the temptation of a warm day and the blossoming gardens has made me pay through the pores with sunburn. Deliver me from evil.

There are several stages of sunburn. Here, I shall canvass, the Seven Stages Of Sunburn (open to challenge)


I was but a naive lass. The dancing rays looked so beautiful there, and beckoned me. "Leetle girl .... it's only a bit of sun ... shine .... want a bit of sun ... shine ... leetle girl ....???"

Foolishly, I forgot Rule Number 1 from my Stranger Danger 101 class - if anything or anyone calls out to you in a bad imitation of a German accent, don't be tempted. I threw caution to the wind, forgot sunscreen and hat in my bliss, and baked in the sun for a good many hours. It's a subversive creature, this sun-thing, like the evil stranger with the lollies, the lollies and the sun are actually quite good and there isn't any warning that there might be anything wrong. If the Government was doing its job, there would be a label on the sun "Be Alert But Not Alarmed". But with Little Johnny not caring (it's OK for him - he has an Akubra and a Wallabies jumpsuit for full protection, but what about the rest of us who don't have a sun-protector uniform?), we need self-monitoring. Something I, errh, forgot.


When the evening cooled, some kind person asked me "Why are you red?"

I'd been baked in an oven called a park picnic for several hours, and my immediate thought was, "Oh no - I haven't become allergic to the MSG or the peanuts in my meal, have I? Am I having a chemical reaction?"

I could not, would not, believe I had sunburn.

I studies my reddened hands and hoped I was just blushing a bit. Perhaps I had my fly undone and I was embarrassed. Hopefully that was it. In fact, I began walking lop-sided and making quacking sounds in the hope that if I really was foolish enough, it would become embarrassment redness, not the dreaded sunburn redness.

I could not, would not, be sunburnt.

Oh no, sirree. Oh no. Not me.


There's a funny sensation when you take off your clothes at night and it seems like they're still on, because you can see the exact outline of where they've been. Because every bit of you is bright, deep red, except the pale white of your skin underneath.

Ah-huh. "It will soon go down," I muttered, unconvincingly.

Bits of me blistered pulpously, daringly.

Red. Red. Red. I ought to be swimming around in a tank in a Chinese restaurant; instead - I'm supposed to be ... going out tomorrow?

Oh no.


Being a lobster doesn't accord you special respect in this society, not the way being a senior, or a returned soldier does. I braved the Christmas crowds.

"You're bring really paranoid, Maria," I told myself. "No one looks at you at all, they're doing post Christmas shopping." I watched as shopper after shopper looked at me, gasped, cried, shrieked and picked up sunscreen and hats.

At least I inspired them for good.

Toddlers stopped and pointed, "What's that Mummy?"

Children all over Sydney that day added the word "FREAK" to their vocabulary (as "idiot who doesn't know to take out a hat and splash on the 30 plus when they go out into the sun" was a bit unwieldy for the occasion).

Others mocked me, and asked if I was in great need of medical attention. None came straight out and suggested an injection of brain cells, but I'm sure it was on their minds.


OK, I get it. I was stupid. I didn't take out sunscreen. I am being punished enough emotionally and aesthetically, oh powers that be. I look like a freak. People treat me like a pariah. So why, oh why, must you deliver physical pain as a punishment as well? Oh, was my crime so great? It was only a few hours in the sun! Ohhhhh ... I'll be good .... Oh .... I'll be good ... pleeease!

People who take drugs, torture cats, steal, oh, are they tortured in these ways - their looks ruined, their emotions cruelly torn to pieces, and put through physical pain as well?

The skin on my muscles has tightened. It's difficult to move.

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

OK, powers that be! I get the ... ouch! ... point!


I empathised with the lobster, now 'tis time to empathise with the snake. Shed the skin.

If only, like the snake, I could shed the skin in one easy piece. Slide out of it like a perfect body suit. Instead, peeling means little bits of flakes that rub off your nose and tend to fall into your breakfast cereal (did I ask for sugar on my cornflakes or bits of skin?) and trail all over your carpet which means heaps of hoovering. Find a sunburnt person by following the trail of skin.

The other bit is skin that doesn't quite fall off, but peels off, and is old, ready to fall off skin, but is dangling off your arm or leg or back, looking rather disgusting. What is the etiquette? Does one wait for it to fall off at an inopportune moment, or let it dangle and sometimes wave around a bit in the breeze - looking not very well groomed - or does one attempt to help these bits of loose skin on their way? And if so, since these loose bits some loose continuously, is it polite to push them off one's arm in public. Be off, damned dangly skin bit!

Oh to heck with being polite - just get rid of it! I'm itchy.


Otherwise known as "Free At Last!"

(Note: I have not reached this stage yet, however, I have experienced sunburn for, and know that the Castle In The Air is awaiting me. I'm waiting. I'm climbing.)

Your body has finally forgiven you. For some people, your skin will have gone back to its usual colour, for others it may have deepened into a tan. But the pain, the glowing redness, has stopped. The peeling has disappeared. You have passed the tests. You have survived.

You have been forgiven, and hopefully, The Powers That Be are saying, you have learnt your lesson. Diligently you splash on 30+ sunscreen, wear a T-shirt at the beach, choose shady spots to picnic under, wear large hats.

This diligence will last all of about 3 weeks, if you are fortunate, until you lobsterise yet again.