Posts Tagged ‘working mum’

smallglowYesterday we awoke to find Sydney bathed in a seriously eerie orange glow. Gale force winds had blown this dusty soup in from the west of our state. The day before, despite little water, this dirt had been trying really hard to grow our vegetables, so this colourful gift from mother nature pleased neither us nor our farmers. It was estimated that about 4000 tons of top-soil sprinkled down on Sydney alone and caused much mayhem as it did so. Planes and ferries were all cancelled, air-conditioners blocked up and many asthma sufferers rang 000 (our emergency number) to report severe breathing troubles. Even indoors you could smell and taste the dust and today the big clean up begins. Yes everything is covered in a red haze.

I took these photos in our street at about 7.00am and they show precisely what it was like yesterday morning. The last dust storm like this to hit Sydney, was back in 1939. As I pulled open Rodent Boy’s curtains and let the weird orange glow wash over his room, he leapt to his window, and noticeably struggled to make sense of this once in a lifetime event. In response to the inevitable “What the..?” I teased him it was ‘the revenge of the Rangas!’ Rangas is an Australian colloquialism for red-headed people, short for Orangutans. For a second he believed me.


If you’d like to see more pics taken by other people in Sydney click here


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clWhich do you think is harder? Up a ladder decorating your house with Christmas cheer in freezing Northern Hemisphere temperatures, or doing the same thing in the roasting summer heat of Sydney? Yes, we have that mad tradition here too and I’d like to suggest that Sydney is definitely the harder of the two. Despite sunblock protection, I am currently nursing skin that is thankful to at last be out of today’s unrelenting UV rays, all endured in the name of entertainment.

It’s now about 7.15pm and of course still as light as it was earlier this afternoon, so I can’t yet see the fruits of my labours. I should imagine you’re now thinking ‘So why on earth would you do such a thing in Summer?’. Good point. It doesn’t actually get dark enough here until around 8.15pm, so why indeed would anyone want to make all that effort for just a couple of hours exposure time?

This was totally my view until the mad barrister moved in a few doors up. Nice bloke, but I do struggle to see how anyone would let this inept Rumpole of the Bailey type character defend them in court. I wouldn’t want him anywhere near my case should I ever misdemeanor, but there you go.

santreeAnyhow, I digress your honour, he was the one who started it all. The first year it was just a few icicle lights and some flashing stars. But before we knew it, it had grown into the full-on Santa’s grotto complete with six nodding reindeer, a large nativity scene and the slightly weird and very conflicting, visually tacky, larger than life, blow-up Santa in red underpants sitting under a palm tree on his roof. Well in 33°C/91°F (as it was today) Santa wouldn’t be in the conventional full red suit would he? Palm trees though? Now they’re not native to Australia, or perhaps that’s getting a bit too anal. I never could watch cartoons.

So anyway, the year after he moved in and started all this, his next door neighbour and the guy three doors down also bought a few lights. The following year a few more joined in and before we knew it, I was the only ‘Scrooge’ in the street with his electricity bill still under control. I was sure I could hear the tut-tutting of people as they walked past, ‘Look at that miserable bastard all in darkness…’. Yeah right, and how many lights do you have on your house exactly? About as many as I do, I’ll wager.

Last year though, I succumbed to the pressure and bought a few rope lights, so at least we weren’t the only house in darkness. This year, I can only think I’ve gone completely bonkers. The children simply cannot believe this metamorphosis of light. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that if it existed, I’d be clearly in-line for the 2008 top prize. It’s simply the best in the street I reckon. Well that’s me I guess… if a job’s worth doing… I’ve now got lights to rival New York, all of course done with as much style as possible (given the medium we’re working with). Now I should point out that I’m not talking ‘Premiere League’ here, more Championship standard, to use an English football analogy. If, like some of the neighbours though, you buy several random items and position them randomly in the garden, you’ll inevitably end up with a random ‘Conference league’ sort of result, (to continue the analogy), but that’s just not me.

Sadly though, our street is now ‘known’ and features on the ‘must see’ Christmas lights tour of our area. People walking and driving past continuously between 7.30pm and 11.00pm I can deal with, but last night we had an ice-cream van parked outside our house for the whole time which got quite annoying after a while.

Reading this in the Northern Hemisphere (as most of my lovely loyal readers are) I would imagine that this might seem really quite odd to you. But I can assure you that the ice-cream man did a roaring trade helped along by a temperature still around 28°C/82°F at at 9.30pm.

So Mr bloody Rumpole of the bloody Bailey you have a lot to answer for, starting all this. And guess what? He moved out last month and his house, which admittedly still sits empty, is eerily and ironically in total darkness while the rest of the street positively buzzes with enough LEDs to be surely visible from outer space.

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bsp‘WHAT ON EARTH HAVE YOU DONE?’ shrieked Princess with enough venom to take down a herd of cattle.

There was less than four hours to go before her guests were due to arrive and the central focus of the party, namely our lovely blue spa, was currently doing a fantastic impression of that river in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

‘Well…’ I hesitantly begin to explain. ‘I suppose the heater must have gone a bit rusty over the winter, and when I turned it on just now, it all flushed…’


…the back door was closed on me ‘teen style’. The dog who didn’t see that coming, now stood trembling by the edge of the spa having nearly fallen in after an acrobatic 360° leap. I understood exactly why she was cross – I was cross too, for the very same reason. I just had a slightly different concern for not having the spa functioning. Her concern was that the ‘Bon Voyage Spa Rave’ would now be downgraded to just a ‘Farewell Rave’. My concern was that the twenty or so gorgeous female teen guests would no longer be parading round my back garden in their bikinis. There was nothing for it, I’d simply have to clean it out, and fast. I needed at least three hours just to heat it up.

As the clock struck 7:00pm, I appeared to have worked a miracle. The spa was crystal clear and a very tempting 35°C/95°F. As more and more girls arrived, the back garden blissfully transformed into something resembling the Playboy Mansion. Banned by Princess (metaphorically speaking) from playing any kind of Hugh Heffner type role, I decided to help serve the food and top-up their non-alcoholic drinks instead. At one point, suspicious of all the help she was getting, Working Mum fired me a cutting look from the kitchen as if to say ‘If-this-was-our-party-you-wouldn’t-be-doing-a-bloody-thing’. I just shrugged and mouthed back ‘These canapes aren’t going to serve themselves, are they dear?’. Over the shrieking teens, she replied something about her wanting to have a cold shower, so I just waved her off and carried on enjoying my role as waiter.

Muppet Dog was also having fun mingling with the girls. He however, was noticeably ahead of me on the getting attention points table. I put this down to the fact that Soldier Boy had dressed him up in Rodent Boy’s black ‘SECURITY’ t-shirt which made him look very funny.

All too soon though it was time for them to all go home. Much hugging and kissing went on as they departed leaving Princess feeling suitably farewell-ed. She leaves Australia to stay with her French exchange family in just over two weeks time. It will be so very strange not having her (or her friends) around for a whole seven weeks, not to mention the first Christmas we haven’t all been together. Still, with the magic of Skype we should still be able to see and talk to her on the big day – we’ll just be a lot warmer!

Mother update
Thank you for your messages of concern. The good news is that she ended up keeping her spleen and while she still remains in hospital, she is now out of intensive care. The bad news is that she killed two of her fish.

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fpSunday morning was just ‘perfick’ as Pop Larkin would have described it. The weather – warm and sunny, the children – all at home for once, and the new coffee bean blend from the roaster – simply sublime. I knew it couldn’t last of course.

The phone rang…

‘Grandma’s in hospital.’ My announcement immediately bringing down our happy little poolside brunch.

‘She’s fallen in her fishpond.’

At this point, both her grandsons began sniggering like naughty schoolboys, much to the disgust of their sister.

‘Look I know it sounds funny…’ I said, trying hard not to also focus on the comedic aspect of the situation. ‘… she’s actually broken three ribs and ruptured her spleen. She’s in intensive care with blood in her urine… she’s really quite poorly.’

‘Are you going to go down to Tasmania to see her?’ asked Working Mum sensing my real concern.

My sister who found her and called the ambulance advised me there was little I could do at the moment. They have sedated her with morphine and she’s not really making much sense to anyone. So the recommendation is that I stay here in Sydney for now. I feel a bit helpless though… I can’t even call her as there are no phones in intensive care and her mobile is apparently still at the bottom of the pond. My sister is keeping me updated on her progress and whether or not the spleen will need to be removed.

‘Where exactly is Grandma’s spoon?’ queried Rodent Boy.

Princess, ignoring her younger brother’s anatomical ignorance, inquired herself. ‘What happens if they have to remove Grandma’s spleen?

‘Yes Dad, please ‘ex-spleen’!’ said Soldier Boy quick as a flash. I’m sure this boy will be cracking jokes at my funeral.

Actually, thinking about it, I really hope he does.

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hwMajor work deadlines to deal with at the moment so please expect limited posting for the next week or two. I’m under pain of death from Working Mum not to put blogging before my domestic duties. Mrs Rottweiler – my client for the next fortnight – is frankly, even scarier than WM when mad, so I certainly won’t be borrowing any of her time either.

Nine-year-old Rodent Boy was as enthusiastic as ever this year and simply couldn’t wait to go trick or treating last Friday night. His two apathetic siblings however, stopped finding the enthusiasm necessary to dress-up and hawk themselves around the neighbourhood some years back – even if it did mean forgoing a big bag of goodies. I suggested to Soldier Boy that he could combine it with his junk mail delivery, but convinced this was some kind of ‘brother supervision’ trick, passed up the opportunity. Rodent Boy though, excitedly dressed up in what he could find amongst the contents of our ever-dwindling dress-up box. Decked out in mostly black with a small cape and a trilby hat, he looked like a slightly camp vampire Frank Sinatra. With the absence of any fake blood or indeed vampire teeth, he smeared Working Mum’s best red lipstick around his mouth, which according to him, made it look like he’d been sucking blood. Unfortunately, he actually just looked like a he’d been snogging a pig – I feigned being really scared all the same. Still at least he’d made an effort, as did a couple of his mates – though not sure ‘Superman’ is what Halloween is really all about. The thing that annoys me though, is the one kid who refuses to dress up, then tags along scoring just as many lollies [sweets/candy] as the rest of them.

Following a trip to the city with his crew (who are mostly girls), 13-year-old Soldier Boy now sports what looks like a large brown birthmark on his cheek. He calls it his ‘love freckle’. I call it being a prat in a department store and letting a girlfriend spray you in the face with a can of fake tan.

Princess lost her mobile phone this week and has suggested that I should go halves buying her another one. She claims the phone provides the vital link between herself and the family she so dearly loves. Apparently we would be so much the poorer without this communication. It seems to me that I’d be poorer either way and given she has more disposable income than I do these days, what with babysitting, leaflet delivery and working in the bakery, I politely, and quite rightly, declined the request.

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As they were growing up, my kids used to positively insist I reminisce to them about the time before they were born. It didn’t matter a jot that they would often have no idea who I was talking about – they just loved hearing ‘dad’s stories’. Now, no longer impressed, they simply make fun of me if I dare to mention anything about the ‘old days’. Hmmm, time to put these anecdotes away until the grandchildren are born. But before I do, Working Mum has suggested that some of my favourites might make an interesting blog. So if you find this a little too self-indulgent, please blame her. I’m not clever enough to make this stuff up so I assure you everything is true.

1 – I’ve had a bath with Sir Bobby Charlton
Bobby Charlton was a Manchester United and England football legend. In 1966 he played a pivotal role in England’s greatest ever footballing triumph, winning the World Cup. In 1979 when working for a football magazine in the UK, I was invited to play in what was billed as the ‘Bobby Charlton All-Star Eleven’ versus the British Army. I felt just a teensy bit inadequate trotting out onto the park given my ‘all-star’ credentials were, well let’s be honest, piss-poor compared to teammates Graham Gooch, John Bond and the many other notable sporting celebs taking part. ‘Who’s that tall bloke?’ I heard one fan say ‘… Never heard of the wanker.’ It was a fantastic day though and raised loads of dosh for a worthy charity. But best of all  I got to dine out ever since on the slightly perverted notion that I’ve had a bath with Bobby Charlton. Well I have!

2 – I’ve insulted Kylie Minogue
Commissioned to take some photos of our Kyles for a magazine, the shoot got off to a bad start. After the introductions, such was the power of thought rushing through my head, it just kept on going rushing straight out my mouth… ‘Gosh, aren’t you short.’ I said.

3 – Dannii Minogue signed my undies
Another Minogue photo shoot and this time I was determined to be much more polite. Might have been a little too familiar though, when I asked her to sign my undies. The lovely girl that she is, said yes and even wrote ‘Got into you pants at last. Love Dannii xx’. Working Mum gave them away a few years ago to a charity shop claiming I didn’t wear them anymore. Oh derrr!

4 – Shared a Guinness with Bono in Sydney’s Irish Pub
To be truthful I just happened to be in there when U2 came in and sat near me, so I suppose this claim is a little tenuous… but I was there, to be sure, to be sure.

5 – Shared a cigarette with Mick Jones
Mick Jones was the lead guitarist and a vocalist of the British punk rock band The Clash and later Big Audio Dynamite. Mick generously passed me his cigarette and being a non-smoker is simply no reason to refuse a gift from a legend. Not sure what brand they were but we laughed and laughed about it for ages.

6 – Clive James came to my wedding
Clive James is an expatriate Australian author, poet, critic, talk show host, TV presenter, travel writer… the list is endless. He’s also a family friend of Working Mum. I think he approved of her choice. Well he came to the wedding didn’t he?

7 – I’ve danced with Samantha Fox

Arguably Britain’s premiere sex symbol of the 1980s. After famously insuring her breasts for a quarter of a million quid, she went on to win The Sun Newspaper’s Page Three Girl of the Year award for three consecutive years between 1984 and 1986. Around this time she also got to dance with me in Stringfellows Nightclub for about two minutes while her boyfriend went to the toilet.

8 – Marcia Hines made me a sandwich
Born in the USA, Marcia Hines is vocalist, actress and TV personality who achieved enormous success in her adopted homeland of Australia. She also does a well tasty bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich.

9 – Played five-a-side football with Billy Bragg
Billy Bragg, is an English musician who blends elements of folk music, punk rock and protest songs. Playing on Clapham Common in 1987, our team got to the semi-finals but were knocked out by pop band Tears for Fears – which is more than I was about their music at the time. Actually that’s unfair, I did quite like Shout, Everybody Wants to Rule the World and Mad World.

10 – Appeared on the cover of a national magazine
in my underpants
Mmm, probably the less said about this one the better – it wasn’t pretty.

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‘Come on get up it’s ten to nine. I’m really sorry mate, I forgot all about you. You were just so quiet.’

‘Of course I was quiet, I was asleep you idiot!’ screamed a very annoyed Rodent Boy.

‘Yeh whatever, right here’s your clothes, get them on, I’ll go and make your breakfast… We’ll have to tell your teacher I had an important phone call or something.’

Just then the phone rang. Excellent I thought! I won’t have to lie after all. It was the editor of the magazine I’ve just finished designing. With the phone shoved hard between my ear and shoulder I tried to give the impression of working at my desk. In reality, I was in the kitchen in my underpants picking bits of blood off Rodent’s bagel. As the bakery had only done half the job, I’d cut my finger separating it all the way with the new bread knife.

‘Oh look I’m really sorry…’ still trying to sound professional. ‘… my computer is processing a large file at the moment so I’ll have to get back to you on that…’

The dog had now run off with half the bagel after it had slipped onto the floor while I was flattening it to fit the toaster. Actually, believe it or not, I once won a new video recorder, video camera and large television by flattening a bagel. After flirting with a bit of DIY a few years ago, I proudly installed an IKEA folding table. Next morning, pressing down on the bagel, the table gave way pulling the screws and plugs clean out of the wall. Working Mum said it was really very funny and she wished she’d had a camera. Seeing an opportunity, I pushed the whole assembly back in the wall, added some saucepans for better sound effects and got out the video camera. To my surprise, this hammed-up repeat performance was voted second on Australia’s Funniest Home Video show and a whole heap of technology arrived by courier.

‘It’s burnt!’ said Rodent rejecting his bagel not realising that this was just one of the many faults.

‘Just eat it or you’ll die! We’ve gotta go!’

Using unnecessary exaggeration, I hastily scribbled a note to his teacher about my unavoidable phone conference with three continents. Then the doorbell rang.

‘Oh terrific! Where are the hell are the keys?’ I yelled at myself.

Searching madly for them, while at the same time trying to stop the dog from savaging the courier through the door, I called out that I was just coming. Eventually finding them under a pile of someone else’s stuff, I ran to the front door only to tangle ‘Frank Spencer-like’ with a misplaced skateboard. Stepping heavily on one end, it shot off and hit the door with a thud and I went crashing to the ground. Quite what the courier must have been imagining was going on on my side of the door I can only guess at. Getting up unhurt, I opened the door to find it was not a courier after all, but two ridiculously good-looking and far too smartly dressed male Jehovah Witnesses. Screwing up my face into that obvious fake grin they must see all the time, I told them I was sorry but I never buy anything from the door, including religion and said goodbye.

Pulling into the school driveway fifteen minutes late, who should be waiting at the drop off point looking like he’d been tipped-off by a rejected Jehovah witness, but the headmaster.

‘I was hoping to catch you…’ he said in an unnecessarily pompous voice.

Oh dear, I thought, here we go.

‘I need a few amendments doing to the website. Would you be able to do those for me today?’

Relieved to have escaped a lecture on punctuality and incorrect school uniform, (Rodent was wearing odd socks, neither of which were school issue), I asked him to explain the job in more detail.

After watching Rodent dawdle up the path with the urgency of Spanish builder and finally disappear into his classroom, I felt it was probably now safe to leave.

‘No problem Sir, I can do that. I really don’t have much on at all today.’

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