Thursday, November 26, 2009

The silence is shattered - and so am I

I’ve recently been a bit absent from the blog on account of the fact that I had a baby seven weeks ago. Firstly, I can’t believe that nobody ever told me they’re not actually delivered by storks. Secondly, I can’t believe that nobody ever told me how much they actually seem to enjoy crying. I mean I can see the attraction – sometimes I like nothing more than to sit down with a huge box of tissues, an even bigger box of chocolates and watch Terms of Endearment (Leigh also sometimes likes to sit down with a huge box of tissues, but that’s another story ...) but at least when I cry I don’t also crap myself at the same time. Well, not usually.

Anyway, it feels quite odd having produced a creature which has acquired Australian citizenship before us. There’s no multiple choice test for her, only the requirement to learn Waltzing Matilda and Redback on the Toilet Seat before her fourth birthday (or, in our case, Redback Nest in the Electric Box Outside Our House). Yes, Leigh recently informed me, three months after the event, that when he went out to spider-spray, he found a Redback and her nest inside the metre box. Being a mother now myself, I should probably be overcome by remorse that he sprayed that box full of spiderlings to kingdom come. But I’m not. Ironically, Tivvy's full name (Tivona) means 'lover of nature' in Hebrew - and I honestly do hope that she grows up to love and respects all of God's creatures. Except for spiders.

Since having Tivvy, there are certain things I’ve learned. Not about babies – I still don’t understand them. No, I’ve learned that the healthcare system here is very good (if you’re giving birth). Labour might not be the most fun anyone can have in a day (or, sometimes, if you’re very unlucky, two days) but, boy, did I have a great view from the hospital window. It was like a hotel suite and, as I wallowed in a bath, like a human hippo, I was able to enjoy uninterrupted views of the Adelaide Hills, along with the midwife’s head, as she kept bothering me by trying to monitor the baby. Yup, it sure was a great experience – they even offered me ice lollies but I declined. I’d have preferred candyfloss, but you can’t have it all, and it’s the thought that counts. I don’t recall the name of the midwife who delivered the baby, despite the fact I spent about 12 hours in her company. I do think she introduced herself at the start but – and here’s a tip – if you ever want someone to remember your name, don’t do the intro mid contraction. It was so good though that I managed to do the whole thing without even a whiff of gas and air and I'm thinking about going back next week to have pins stuck all over my body.

Having the baby has also opened up a whole new world to me – it has drawn me closer to wonders I could never have previously imagined; namely the joy of late night talkback radio. Wow! I never thought people were capable of speaking so much shite at five in the morning (well, not unless they’d just left the Ministry of Sound). It seems that there is an element of blandness and inanity running through certain factions of the Adelaide population that can’t be found in any other city. It’s a small town mentality that makes someone believe it’s hugely important to speak at length (40 mins in total – and 10 mins without drawing breath) about the ins and outs of town crying. And all this at five of the morning clock. As I sat there feeding the baby, listening to the Salisbury town crier talk about polishing his bell end, I suddenly realised why they were called town criers, as I for one was brought to the edge of tears through sheer boredom. It was clear to see that he could easily make a whole town weep profusely and beg for mercy. Not so much ‘oyez’ as ‘oy vey’. Did the man have no self-editing capabilities? And suddenly I realised, as the baby let forth another wail, that if I had to choose between his crying and her crying, I’d opt for Tivvy’s every time. At least she’s too young to know any better.

So that’s it for this time – something is stirring in the pram and about to test how loud and how long it can shout for. It’s either the baby or the Salisbury town crier ...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Cross dresser on a cross trainer ...

Yet another wonderfully confusing Aussie advert, this one from Contours Gym. I simply had to write to them to thank them.

'Thank you Contours! I can't tell you how delighted I was to see your ad for 'Secret Women's Fitness'. I've been a transvestite for five years now and have always struggled when it comes to gym membership. I don't really feel comfortable exercising with the men, but I also feel that women look at me strangely when I use the female changing rooms. I also feel under scrutiny when I get onto a running machine next to them wearing my spandex leopard print leotard (especially since the tight fit makes it clear that I'm not exactly like the other gals). So you can imagine how over the moon I was to see that you’re now running fitness sessions for ‘secret’ women. If only more gyms were as open minded as you, it would make it so much easier for people like me to concentrate on toning our legs and bottoms into a shapely curve, rather than feeling ostracised because we’re not pumping iron and tripling the size of our pecs. Well done Contours!

Robert (Roberta)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The marsupial of madness

Often one of the first things a psychiatrist will ask, immediately after the strait jacket restraints have been tightened a notch and a second layer of padding has been added to a cell, is, “What sort of a childhood did you have?” Most of the time, the person being asked this question can’t answer, due to having a gag shoved into their mouth and being pumped full of sedative. If they could answer, they’d probably say, “Well it was quite good really, but there is one thing that’s always troubled me ... even now, it still comes back to me in the middle of the night. I was four and my mum took me to Central Market in Adelaide and sat me on this mechanical koala bear that looked like the Devil...”

It’s a fact that there are a lot of mad people in South Australia – so much so, that Leigh’s taken to calling it Madelaide. This is not a glib statement – it is perfectly true. Mental health problems abound (especially in the area Leigh polices – it was like that even before he arrived. Honest). One could simply put this down to a rather enthusiastic attitude towards drugs – it’s not just meth labs that are popular here; marijuana is a firm favourite too. Cannabis pot plants jostle for space on people’s kitchen windowsills next to tubs of coriander and thyme. Scratch the surface, however, and it’s plain to see that the true cause of this endemic paranoia and general doolally-ness is the quality of kiddie rides on offer in shopping centres.

Adelaide isn’t a big city and it’s not difficult to imagine that at one time or another most of the juvenile population has crouched upon the back of Central Market’s satanic koala. If it appears sinister when it’s static, you should see it once it’s in motion; it sports the kind of look Tim Curry’s makeup artist was going for when she did him up as Pennywise for IT. Credit to the mechanical marsupial’s creator though, it’s quite an achievement to take a much-loved and unarguably adorable Aussie icon and turn it into something truly terrifying. Having therefore conducted a brief survey with myself, I have managed to conclude that roughly 45% of children who’ve experienced the dubious pleasure of clinging onto that koala for five minutes have been disturbed – probably for life. The remaining 55% will simply display an ongoing abhorrence for koalas, even the fluffy baby ones.

But the fun doesn’t stop there for the kiddies of Adelaide. About thirty-five minutes north lies the salubrious shopping plaza of Elizabeth. Okay, it’s not really salubrious at all – it’s an area so full of dedicated criminals that Leigh recently arrested one for shoplifting, only to find him breaching his bail conditions ten minutes after release, having returned there to pilfer a bit more. As with Central Market, it’s home to one of the most confounding kiddie rides I’ve ever seen – what I’ve dubbed ‘the speed-camera car’. Yes, that’s right – you put your tot in the driver’s seat and the car does its thing, much like any other toy car ride. Except this one comes equipped with a smiling speed camera that flashes, taking a photo of the tiny speed-loving culprit before spewing out a passport photo/mug shot. I have briefly touched on the problem of hoon drivers before, so without going into too much detail, let’s just say that your average SA driver has scant regard for road rules, and a fair proportion still enjoy doing burnouts and doughnuts well into their adult years. It’s not uncommon to read about yet another car that’s wrapped itself around a stobie pole, thanks to a driver who assumed that calculating stopping distance was the responsibility of the pole. For months, Leigh and I were perplexed, often wondering what influences might be causing this hoonish mentality. Now we know. If you put a three year old in a toy car that’s set up in front of a jolly-looking speed camera which is giving him a thumbs-up, then you’re asking for trouble down the track (and, by that, I mean both the metaphorical and the literal track. You’ll spot the literal track because it’ll have rubber burn marks running all the way along it).

Next week we’re planning a trip to Snowtown – home of the infamous Bodies in the Barrels murders. We hear the local supermarket has a carousel featuring a deranged kangaroo, a malevolent galah and a rabid wombat.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Meth Man Prophecies

Let me tell you that butter-fingers and chemicals do not go well together – a fact we discovered two weeks ago when we returned home to be greeted by an unholy stench. My parents were staying with us at the time, so we retired inside to allow my mother to make a spaghetti bolognaise (after all, it’s important to get your priorities straight). Two hours later, however, the remaining hint of oregano and garlic was doing little to conceal the increasingly pungent smell that seemed to be seeping into our house.

Long story short, but no sooner had we ventured out to try and locate someone from Realize Properties - our conveniently low-profile managing agency on Mawson Lakes - than Leigh espied some plain clothes guys (he’s good at spotting that sort of thing). He pulled over and, lo and behold, hadn’t a SWAT team just raided the adjoining house and discovered a clandestine methamphetamine lab. The smell, it turns out, was because the clumsy chemist inside had allegedly dropped some pungent and toxic substances. Ooops. Luckily, they managed to get in there before he decided to light a match, as it would have probably taken out our whole row of houses. Double oops.

As the four of us booked into a hotel that evening, it occurred to me that Meth Man wasn’t a neighbour cut from the same cloth as Harold Bishop or Jim Robinson, and that Neighbours is actually a gross misrepresentation of life Down Under. Mind you, it’s years since I’ve tune into what’s going on in Erinsborough – so for all I know, Harold has finally given up the trombone and taken to cooking up.

You’d think things couldn’t get worse. Wrong. They can get much worse when you have a managing agent who decides to ignore calls and emails and is happy to allow you to remain in a property that smells like Amy Winehouse’s bedroom after she’s spent a weekend locked in there with Blake Fielder-Civil. Eventually we were forced to
resort to the Residential Tenancies Tribunal. Sensing that living next door to a chemical spill probably wasn’t the best healthy lifestyle option, they set about arranging a super-quick hearing date. Realize Properties’ rotund owner, Tony Panetta, turned up looking like a man who has spent his whole life trying to avoid bad smells, but is constantly dismayed to find that they followed him anyway. In his wake followed Karen Ilett, a woman who looked like she's had a bad smell under her nose her whole life (yet who, ironically, later went on to deny she could smell anything in Meth House). At one point I clicked my heels and muttered, 'There's no place like home' - and there certainly wasn't at that time, since most people's houses don't smell like a cross between a laboratory and a council flat elevator. Both Panetta and Ilett took an oath on the Bible. Cruella then went on to claim that there was no smell emanating from the house next door; I’m guessing she couldn’t smell it over the bullshit that poured forth from her own mouth (and that’s probably why she was desperately trying to air the property after her visit. Not because it reeked of chemicals or anything). That, or she has a severe sinus problem. I'll let people draw their own conclusions as to where the truth sits, but Leigh later went on to suggest to me that they might like to ditch the name Realize Properties and rename themselves Real Lies Properties.

Fortunately, the tribunal found in our favour. We have now been awarded compensation and allowed to break our lease, so we'll be joyfully parting ways with Realize Properties and moving into a lovely new house next week. And as far as I know, Harold Bishop has never so much as set foot in the turning, far less dabbled with his toy chemistry set there – so thank goodness for that.

As for Realize Properties, their strapline remains 'bringing great people and great properties together' - although I'm sure, in this instance, that the landlord of Meth Man's house will be having a quiet word in Tony Panetta's shell-like.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

An icy reception

The other day I heard an odd ringing coming from the street – it was a cross between the sound a rusty school bell might make and the sort of noise that would undoubtedly have precede the cry, ‘Bring out your dead’ in 17th century London. I have only heard a noise like that once before, back in 1982, shortly before the last-remaining local rag and bone man collapsed of a coronary mid-ring. I had noted that immediately prior to this, his ringing had taken on a somewhat discordant and frenzied tone. I’d simply assumed his wrist was beginning to ache or he was trying out a new and unsuccessful clangour technique, but I now think it was his way of trying to draw attention to the fact he needed an ambulance.

Running to the window to try and spot the source of the commotion, however, I was greeted by neither an expiring rag and bone man nor a pustule-riddled corpse. No, it was far worse. What I actually saw was an ungainly looking truck that was trying to pass for an ice cream van. I know it was trying to pass for an ice cream van because it had a painted sign on the side saying ‘ice cream van’, along with some pictures of ice cream. The window, which was shuttered tightly closed, was akin to a serving hatch you might see in a prison dining room after everyone’s finished smashing food trays over their dining companions’ heads and have retreated to their cells for the night.

Clutching my heart in anguish at the absence of Greensleeves, I watched as the driver of the truck executed an illegal u-turn in the road before making off in a manner that didn’t so much say ‘Mind that child’ as ‘Kiddies beware’. It was an ice cream van you could easily see Garry Glitter driving and couldn’t have been less child-friendly if it had tried. Was this it? Was this what the youth of South Australia had been forced to grow up with for generations – some unsightly, untuneful gas-guzzler that was trying to pass as the answer to all their roadside ice cream needs? No wonder the Australians are so athletic – it would have taken a child capable of running a four minute mile to catch that gelato-touting truck. I strongly suspect that the very young or very feeble spend much of their time looking at the retreating back of Adelaide’s ice cream vans. I actually quite fancied an ice cream myself but knew, just from the manic u-turn and erratic motions of that wheeled sorbet emporium, that I didn’t stand a chance. For a moment I felt a pang of homesickness. We might have very short summers in England but we have ice cream vans that will park up and wait patiently while you try to decide between the 99 and the Screwball, before settling on both. Long though the Aussie summers are, you could go for months without managing to catch a mobile sorbet vendor and place an order.

Luckily for me, there’s a Baskin Robbins in Tea Tree Plaza. They have a roof and foundations and will even mix Gummy Bears and other e-numbers into your frozen confection of choice. Better yet, they don’t try to run you over as you’re walking away.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Another day, another spider

I have just finished watching a programme entitled Tarantula: Australia’s King of Spiders. This was so full of repulsive images and even more repulsive facts that I had to have a little lie down in the ad break. Coincidentally, this programme was aired on the very same day that I saw my friend Ross’s Facebook photo of a multi-legged giant that he’d encountered while camping in the outback. Odd though it may sound, I hadn’t realised before today that Australia actually has Tarantulas. Redbacks, yes. Funnel –webs, for sure. White-tips and Huntsmen – virtually ten a penny. But Tarantulas ... no, it hadn’t even crossed my mind. Sure, I know there are some large, hairy spiders out here – it is a big country after all – but I honestly thought that Tarantulas mainly backpacked through Central America, South America and SE Asia, with a few hitting the United States. How wrong I was. So along with all the other spiders I have to worry about, now there’s another species in the mix.

Happily for me, this news reached me on the very same day that All State Pest Control came in and sprayed our house. Yup, I finally brought in the big guns to spread around their particularly noxious form of poison. According to the Tarantula documentary, these spiders have been around for 300 million years, surviving ice ages, meteor showers, re-runs of Friends and big-booted explorers. Good for them – what they won’t survive is setting foot (feet?) inside my house.

Spider supporters would accuse me of being unfeeling and ignorant – a number of these many-eyed, many-legged creatures are now under threat of extinction due to human exploitation. Some are being sent to work in factories in South East Asia, others are being forced into the sex trade, while others still are being cooked and eaten in places like Cambodia. I have to say, as I watched a batch of live Tarantulas being lightly salted and fried, I didn’t think to myself, ‘Sod it, I’ve made the wrong choice defrosting chicken for tonight’s dinner’. Yes, I know, each to their own – if there are people in the world who choose to pull a garlic marinated leg off a spider and suck on it with relish, then who am I to deny them one of life’s small, hairy pleasures? I’m sure my bar of Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut is equally repellent to some – although my Cadbury’s has never walked over someone’s face in the middle of the night or given birth to 700 live young (if only – it would save me constant trips to the supermarket). To make matters worse, they keep discovering new species – most recently the helpfully named Coremiocnemis tropix .sp. nov which they ran into up in Queensland. People have got quite excited about this – if you go online you can find comments like, ‘Totally beautiful – great legs’ and, ‘Great colouring. Really expensive I presume?’ Anyone would be forgiven for thinking they were talking about Elle MacPherson, a leggy Australian who’s not at all repulsive to look at.

I am afraid, however, that I will never understand this spider excitement – whether it’s discovering a new species, frying them in batter or trying to smuggle one through customs as a pet. I don't even like Spider Man - there's nothing sexy about Toby Maguire at the best of times, even less so when he starts shooting spider web out of his arse. So, do I really want whole species to die out? Actually, yes I do. There, I’ve said it. I will enrage environmentalists, Buddhists and spider-lovers everywhere. No doubt our eco system is held together by a delicate balance and, in all probability, the end of spider-hood will also mark the beginning of the end for mankind too. Sadly, though, I am simply too stubbornly repulsed by spiders to ever agree that it’s okay to share the planet with them. That’s right – I would rather opt for oblivion than allow a spider to get one up on me and crawl into my shoe/bed/ear one dark night. Fortunately for spiders – and humanity – I can only carry 10 large containers of Mortein back from Bunnings at a time so, for now, the planet is safe.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Oven baked Brits

Here are ten ways you know it’s hot:

1) The public transport system buckles, quite literally (unlike the London public transport system which is just buckling metaphorically).

2) You hang your sheets out and they dry in 10 minutes.

3) The lights keep going off in shops and offices because someone’s cranked the air con up too high, and it still feels like a sweatbox inside.

4) Everyone keeps saying, “Oooh, isn’t it hot.”

5) If youv'e got a koala you'll need to hose him down.

6) You go into public toilets and wonder why the Vent Axia’s blowing out hot air all by itself before you realise it’s coming from an open window.

7) English people suddenly realise the ‘icy pole’ everyone keeps going on about isn’t a freezing bloke from Dolsk but is actually a nice fruity ice lolly.

8) Kangaroos and koalas are lining up to book flights to cooler countries, like Dubai.

9) Your steering wheel gives you third degree burns.

10) You go outside, then you promptly go back in again.

Yes, it’s officially hot here. In fact, it’s the hottest it’s been since Captain Cook got off the boat and said, “Can you get me the maintenance guy, we need to get the air conditioning up and running.” Well, okay, it’s the hottest it’s been in 100 years, with the met office forecasting a six day run of 40 degree plus heat. The only time it’s been hotter was in 1799 when Satan accidentally mistook South Australia for his sitting room and set about making up a nice log fire. Despite this oppressive, eyeball-baking heat, Leigh and I still managed to get through lunch in a cafe whose air conditioning had broken down. We’d been there before, so we knew the lack of customers wasn’t down to lousy food. We soon realised why there was nobody else in the place (apart from a table of four elderly women who were still wearing 12 layers of clothing) – it’s because no idiot eats pasta in 45 degree heat without a bit of a breeze playing around their parmesan. They didn't have to put our meals in the microwave - they just stood them on the counter for ten minutes.

Leigh has now started a week of nights and should consider himself lucky – it’s only 33 degrees at the moment. If he was on days he’d be needing Factor 150 and the constitution of a camel. Still, I’m guessing that the criminals might be a bit more slothful on account of the soaring temperatures – they’ll probably only beat their wives for fifteen minutes, as opposed to the usual half hour.

That said, if it’s a choice between this and sitting on the buckled UK underground in the depths of an English winter, I’ll stick with this, thanks, and just turn the air con to a setting guaranteed to make a Pole icy.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Its and outrage ... It’s an outrage ... It is an outrage ...

... Whatever it is, it’s clear any or all will do for the Bio Channel on Foxtel. Why, I almost lost my HobNob mid tea-dunk the other night when the shock of seeing the phrase, ‘Story telling at it’s life changing best’ caused me to leave the biscuit submerged for too long. There I was, innocently watching a TV trailer for some documentary about people who have survived against all odds – you know the sort of thing ... mad axe murderers, terrible plane crashes, vigorous shark attacks. You name it, they’d survived it. What they hadn’t managed to survive, though, was the shame of the Bio Channel’s grammatically incompetent trailer.

It doesn't stop there, though. The Commonwealth Bank recently displayed a bus shelter ad urging students to ‘get $20 of your favourite music downloads’. Was this a typo and did they really mean students would get $20 off music downloads, or were they trying to say students could get $20’s worth of music downloads? I spent just enough time in deep confusion for the Haigh’s chocolate frog I was holding to melt.

Then there’s a company called Dyslexia & Reading Solutions that threw together this gem of a sentence: ‘If children are falling further and further behind their age peers in it is more likely to be due to underlying neurological causes.’ No, it’s more likely to be due to the fact that the person who wrote the advert also taught those children how to read and write. As for the term ‘age peers’, I pondered this so thoroughly that my overly-hot McDonald’s apple pie actually grew cold. I mean come on guys, at least show a bit of effort. Without sounding picky, if there’s ever a time to write a lucid ad, it’s when you’re trying to convince people that you’re the solution to their children’s reading comprehension woes.

You'd expect better of the advertising industry - sadly, however, more and more ads seem to display sloppy mistakes. Some are simply annoying, some are confusing, while others are plain embarrassing – like one company misspelling ‘Tuesday’ on a TV commercial. I spent weeks wondering if the Tusday they referred to fell between Munday and Wensday. It might be forgivable if these were small, local advertisers peppering their copy with errors – but they’re not. Woolworths is currently displaying an advert featuring the Sedgwick family and telling us that we too can collect points like ‘the Sedgwick’s’. Mistaking the plural form for the possessive form is possibly alright if you’re doing it quietly among friends, but it’s not okay when you’re a multinational company like Woolworths. Or is that Woolworth’s – or maybe even Woolworths’? That said, they are just a big greengrocer’s shop at the end of the day, so perhaps we should let them have their greengrocer’s apostrophe and enjoy it.

Now why do I care about all of this? Well, it’s my view that if someone’s going to tell me what I ought to buy, then the least they can do is take the trouble to put a bit of TLC into it. I don’t expect to visit my GP and discover that he doesn’t know his arse from his elbow (or, worse still, my arse from my elbow) – in the same way, I don’t expect to be given the hard sell by advertisers who don’t know their it’s from their its. I’ve seen so much bad stuff recently (the sort of bad stuff you can never forget) that I now actually think it’s pretty impressive when Rugs-a-Million boast that they have ‘thousands of rugs’. Maybe this is where it will all end – maybe I’ll wake up one day humming a bad jingle, eager to run down to Howards Storage World where, according to them, there’s a place for everything. Everything, that is, except for an apostrophe. I did wonder what Les and Edda Howard, who opened the store back in the seventies, would make of it all - and then I realised they probably wouldn't care as they've now gone to that big storage unit in the sky, along with all the apostrophes.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Farewell to a friend

Sadly, we finally had to have our cat, Sammi, put to sleep last week and, for this blog, I hand over to my husband who has put into words what that little critter meant to us ...

Gitta Nashooma. No, it’s not an Asian grocery on the corner of Stepney Road in London’s East End, it’s a Yiddish expression that my dearly departed grandmother used to use to describe a ‘a good soul’. Gitta Nashoomas – we’ve all come across them in the course of our lives. Those people who are gentle, sweet, caring and just don’t appear to have a bad bone in their body. In truth there aren’t enough in the world to go round. I myself cannot claim to be one before you ask, and if someone were to claim Gitta Nashooma status, then it would be a sure bet that they aren’t. Frankly, to claim it would be akin to riding down Oxford Street on a pink papier mache float wearing a rhinestone bomber jacket emblazoned with ‘Gitta Nashooma 1’ embroidered on the back . It is a status bestowed upon you, not claimed, is my point. I’m kind of going round the houses now and need to cut to the chase. Namely that the other day, the world lost a Gitta Nashooma – Sammi our cat. And, yes, pets can be Gitta Nashooma too.

Many of you already know the details of our all too brief ownership of Sammi but, silly as it might sound, I feel the need to put pen to paper, so to speak, to honour our dear friend. For the all too brief two weeks prior to her illness, Sammi displayed some truly adorable traits. From day one she sat between Dena and I on the couch all night, looking right at home. No stroke of our tiny friend would go without a reciprocal grooming, as Sammi would lick your hand and gently nibble away at it. Sammi would also greet you with a little chirrup when you approached her and rub herself on you playfully. I don’t know much about cats, but this very much appeared to be a feline greeting. The fact that she never failed to chirrup on seeing you was a constant source of both amusement and joy, and we’d often say it sounded like she was saying ‘yarp’. She was a real sweet soul.

Sadly things changed and one day Sammi stopped eating, literally. Things deteriorated after she failed to eat for almost two weeks and despite many distressing visits to the vet with no answers, and bouts of force feeding, there seemed no solution. Despite our traumatic enforced manhandling of Sammi, throwing pills down her throat and placing her unceremoniously into a cat cage for her numerous visits to the vet, Sammi never once displayed an ounce of aggression. Not to Dena, me or any of the many vets she saw. She never failed to amaze in that respect. A true Gitta Nashooma.

Sammi appeared to pull out of it for a week, eating fairly well and exhibiting some of her old traits, but in truth she was never the same and, sadly, her recovery was a false dawn. For the last five days she stopped eating and visibly dwindled in both stature and personality. I can’t vouch for Dena, but I did what I usually do in these situations – lived in hope, praying that tomorrow she’d eat. Sadly, that tomorrow came and went.

A few morning ago we awoke to a soiled bed and a distressed cat. A visit to the vet was paid first thing in order to avoid further distress to Sammi. It was a heartbreaking, but our heads were finally forced to make the difficult decision that our hearts had struggled so hard to do. The two of us were there for her final moments, stroking her bony body as the injection was administered. I don’t know why, but as the vet held the stethoscope to her chest and said ‘’Her heart has stopped beating now’’, I stroked her head, put my face to hers and simply said ‘’I’ll see you on the other side sometime little one’’ and burst in to tears. We both did.

I know we’ll see her again though in another life, and I’m pretty sure there’ll be a ‘yarp’ and grooming awaiting us.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Lav of my Life

The other week, a friend asked me how I was settling in. I told her that, so far, it was all great. Every weekend’s like a mini-holiday, we’ve wonderful beaches on our doorstep, fantastic restaurants to choose from, beautiful parks ... and then it ground to a screeching halt because I had to admit that, deep down, it was no good; that despite all these wonderful things, I didn’t think I’d be able to hack it here because there were no singing toilets, and how can anyone possibly live in a country without a singing toilet? But just when it looked like Leigh and I might have to pack up our bags and return home, we took a trip to Brighton and discovered a positively tuneful latrine.

Brighton is a stunning beach area (possibly even more stunning than Brighton beach in the UK) and we’d gone there to meet friends for breakfast. After a stroll along the sand and a dip in the sea (they dipped, I paddled – I’ve seen Jaws and I wasn’t taking any risks), we headed for a beach-side cafe. Eventually, full to the brim with coffee, I headed for the public toilets. These weren’t any old toilets though, these were state of the art, touch-button toilets and, once I was inside, a mechanical American chap warned me that if after 10 minutes I hadn’t finished, woe betide because the doors would jolly well open anyway. Luckily I’m a quick widdler, but I hadn’t counted on the upbeat rendition of Burt Bacharac’s ‘What the World Needs Now is Love’ being piped through the toilet’s speakers. When old Burt sat down and penned that ditty, I’m sure it would have warmed his heart to known that, one day, it would be heard by people relieving themselves inside an automated public toilet. I should imagine it was the promise of this type of fame which drove the singer/songwriter on. I have to say that the acoustics were great – they really did it justice, and I wondered if I would be able to stay and hear the third verse before the doors opened. The toilet had a beautiful (if slightly tinny) voice and I sensed it had so much more to offer; possibly even a bit of Sinatra if it managed to hurry up and finish with Burt. It’s the only time in my life that I’ve dropped my knickers and had a man sing to me, and I was determined to make the most of every second - yet, at the same time, I was in a quandry. There was a mechanical Burt coming out of the speakers but, inside my head, the Countdown tune was also playing and all I could hear was the robotic warning to hurry it along before the doors opened, so I decided to finish up. But wait ... there were more treats in store. As soon as I flushed, the water automatically came out of the taps. This was less a toilet and more of a butler and I simply had to share the news, so I ran out to tell Leigh that he had to use the Gents’ right away, whether he needed to or not. For good measure, I also went in for a second go.

As the door slid shut, I was beside myself with glee – what tune would the talented carsey sing me next? A little bit of Motown, an Abba medley, a bit of Bing? Nope, the one-trick-pony of a lavatory did ‘What the World Needs Now' again. Worse still, when Leigh emerged, he’d been played the same song too. The toilet was a one-hit wonder, the mechanical equivalent of Chesney Hawkes or Lou Bega – my disappointment was intense; even an elevator manages to do a set. All’s not lost though – I’ve now got the toilet an agent and a few more band members, and it’s going to be playing its first gig in March.