Anxiety, Stupidity, And Why The Next Time I Leave The House Will Be In A Casket

After what feels like an interminable period of drought, Sydney has been hampered by the kind of rains we usually only see on Christmas Day, at birthday parties or weddings over the past few days. Unlike my British alter-ego, I have come to enjoy the rain here – a few precious days when I can’t fry eggs on my cheeks and sleep peacefully at night. However, as in most over-populated cities of the world, rain and public transport become an interesting partnership.

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I thought I’d come to terms with the fact that it’s better that I don’t leave the house, so call it whimsy or plain stupidity, it was nevertheless an unusual decision to visit the city for an exhibition yesterday, on one of the aforementioned rainy days.

 

Okay – so it might have had something to do with work.

 

Fortunately, my confidence was buoyed by a brand new bus system, recently installed from Forgottensville to the Big Smoke. Thanks to another government incentive to blow our taxes on worthless pieces of shit ensure that us country folk get to work on time, we now have canary-yellow, double-decker buses (that scream “poor”) and drive at breakneck speed down our bus lanes – until, inevitably,  something gets in their way. So, in contrast to the old horse and cart days, the journey now takes around an hour and nine minutes, rather than the previous hour and ten.

 

I’m certain that when that government official in transport drew up the plan and came up with the innovative idea of limited stops, the fact that there is only one main arterial road into the city from our neck of the beach must have slipped his mind – although the USB points are a nice touch. And as I sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic, avoiding knee contact with the hot guy next to me, and waving along the selfish pricks in cars ahead of us in the bus lane, (unnecessarily polluting the atmosphere with their 4x4s), only a game of Watching Weird People On Buses kept me sane.

 

To cut a very long (and I fear, tedious) story short, no one informed me that the bells on these new-wave buses with limited stops, actually serve a purpose. I had made the foolish assumption that the bus would stop at each limited stop, and as we sailed past my stop, (and the agreed location for the pick up for the next stage of my mammoth trek), I might have panicked a little – a panic that I was conscious of not allowing my fellow passengers to witness. I mean, how could I publicly demonstrate the rarity with which I use this outdated and highly inefficient mode of transport? That would be owning up to my own private guilt for billowing gallons of the cheapest fuel into our atmosphere in my own 4×4; worse, it would highlight my stupidity.

 

For it has come to my attention, that since I turned fifty, I am indeed becoming more stupid, in rather pitiful, doolally, blonde, kind of way.

 

To make matters worse, in my rush to get off the bus first, I had scrambled out of my seat embarrassingly prematurely so as not to miss my stop, which meant that EVERYONE knew that I was stupid. And I couldn’t shout across the fifty or so miserable Monday morning faces in front of me to accuse the driver  – I say, young man, but I think you missed my stop – because bus drivers, like medical receptionists, are an inherently grumpy breed, borne of coping with fare dodgers, drunks, and hypochondriacs every day – although I hasten to add that I have never dodged a fare.

 

Dumped at the next stop in the rain with the self-acceptance that I am not safe to leave the house again – or indeed be left on my own at any time again – and with no clue where I was, I drowned my sorrow in a surprisingly tasty Maccas coffee. And as I sat there, berating myself for my limited understanding of both Google maps and Uber, (whilst privately congratulating myself that I have the apps on the home page (?) of my phone), I reached a life-changing decision. The next time I leave the house will be in a casket.

When You Kid Yourself That One Night At The Opera Makes You Cultured

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I had steak tonight. It was one of those spontaneous decisions brought on by the anxiety that we’re all going to die soon and I might never taste steak again because I rarely eat red meat these days. I am one of those people that get sucked into the latest health advice about what you can and can’t do, so I gave up red meat (almost) a while ago, and now I eat a lot of salmon. That is, until this week, when an article described how salmon is farmed and full of worms and artificially colored and… yuk, I’m not sure when I’ll eat salmon again, either.

And in other related news, last night I went to the opera because my latest fad for seizing the day is pushing me to try all these things that normally I’m much too lazy or terrified to bother with. This free opera event, which is held at the Domain in Sydney each year and sponsored by Mazda, is such a great initiative that I’ve decided to bore you with my experience and to extol its virtues again like I did this time last year.

Le’s be honest, when we’re getting false ballistic missile warnings, the most powerful politician in the world describes countries as shitholes, and women are vilified for  coming forward about sexual harassment, it’s time to step back and immerse yourself in whatever makes you happy, even if it has been proven to clog your arteries or makes you a pretentious twat.

And what’s not to love about a FREE event where you can pretend to be a music aficionado for a couple of hours, tick off your one and only cultural event for the year, and drink copious amounts of sparkly with no judgment. In fact, this is one of those rare events that condones getting publicly shitfaced in the name of culture, although in my book, ‘bring a picnic’ has always been code to over-imbibe.

Now some of you might think about privilege when you think of opera, but remember, this event brings music to the masses, and although the demographic may not be the same as meat raffle night during Happy Hour at the Blacktown Pub, it was wonderful to see such a diverse crowd in both age and ethnicity respond to the civilized freebie – for the proletariat, the next best thing to going to the Opera House.

However, I was surprised to see that even at the opera there are those that take the piss; who believe themselves superior to the rest and flout the rules; who tried, (unsuccessfully) to sneak in their full-height camping chairs past security, thereby compromising the view of the stage to the latecomers who hadn’t the foresight/anal disposition to arrive ridiculously early to ensure a good spot, like us. And they were dealt with accordingly, in a manner to fit the crime –  ie. hung, drawn and quartered, no matter what their objections, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, age or infirmity.

This was a festival without normal festival behavior. Bin bags were supplied for the rubbish and the toilets were clean – in fact, I felt a little disappointed not to find one speck of white powder on the toilet seats.

We went in a group, two of whom were celebrating their birthdays, so if you can imagine a middle-aged hen night, that was us. I can say with some certainty that it is unlikely any of us will be invited to join the Sydney opera in the near future, even though, personally, I thought our attempt of several different (and really quite complex) arias was inspired.

We commenced with The Flower Duet, from the opera Lakme – more famous as the music to a British Airways advertisement from the eighties – just to gain our confidence, and finished with a female version of Nessun Dorma for our finale. I promise you, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house by the time we finished; we were pitch perfect if a group of howling feral cats in the early stages of attracting a mate is your thing, so early booking is required.

Middle Age, Weight Loss and Climate Change

If one step closer towards the end of the world is marked by Trump’s inauguration this week, then the heat wave in Sydney came a close second for me. 

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A recent aerial view of Sydney.

 

If the adult human body is made up of 60% water, there can be no biological explanation for how my weight managed to remain stubbornly at the ‘overweight for my height’ end of the scales after the amount of sweating I’ve done, even when I put on my highest heels.

 

Some of you may be aware that we Sydney-siders have suffered in temperatures close to 40 degrees CENTIGRADE this week, and perhaps you have little sympathy if hypothermia/survival is your biggest concern at the moment. But the heat has been that intense that it has even forced even me, a committed aqua-phobe, to drink gallons of the stuff, and that’s something I usually struggle with… unlike five glasses of wine, say.  

 

If  you are one of those poor sods suffering in ice storms and shovelling snow on the other side of the world, I feel your pain, but let me tell you, living in a furnace is no picnic either, particularly for us peri/menopausal women.

 

It was 30 degrees at 9am on Wednesday morning and 28 degrees throughout the night – apparently a record – yippee! – and we have no air conditioning in our house, a compromise that was made when we  prioritised giving our two young adults a room of their own each when we moved recently.

 

And did I mention that they should have left home by now? Funny how quickly priorities can change.

 

And yes, I admit that sweating excessively and unattractively is a first-world problem, but it was that hot that even the dog refused to go out for a walk, birds dropped dead from the sky and fans and oxygen tanks became impossible to find even on the black market.

 

Of course, NC, a climate scientist, basked in the glory of being right, as she held the thermometer outside her bedroom window each morning, and shot us us those smug, ‘told you so’ looks.

 

What you forget is how cranky intense heat makes you, and just how much sweat the body can actually produce when it’s put under pressure to prevent spontaneous human combustion. So how my body defied all those rules of mathematics that state that when you subtract something from a whole you are left with less, I’ll never know.

 

Sydney, once a civilised hood that has become renowned as one of the best cities in the world to live in, turned into a real-life version of Mad Max within days, its population forced to fight for every tiny breath of air, only able to find relief by standing inert in front of an open fridge door.

 

Mrs Woog summed it up better than me in this hilarious post:

 

Personally, I try not to moan too much, what with my NY resolution about gratitude, and on the whole I still prefer the heat to the cold. The onset of the symptoms of dehydration do give you an excuse to drink more wine.

 

 

 

Keeping Your Eyes Open In Middle Age

I decided recently that with my advancing years it was time to embrace some culture before it’s too late.

 

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Photo courtesy of the Opera House and Australian Ballet

For someone who believes herself to be creative in so many ways, I have always struggled with the level of intellectualism required to interpret the different art forms. Abstract art confounds me, there’s a voice in my head that tells me to fart loudly during serious classical music renditions and the theatre sends me to sleep.

 

Musical theatre, pantomime, or a good old-fashioned comedian are more up my alley -choices, I assume, that herald back to my working class roots where we cheered ourselves up with ribald humour, ostentation and revelry.

 

But I have tried to like the ballet, which is why when some girlfriends suggested a group outing to the Opera House, I jumped at the chance – even though getting tickets to the event was almost as difficult as securing tickets to Adele.

 

I didn’t ask too many questions about the performance beforehand, nor did I read the synopsis – a mistake in hindsight. I’ve seen Swan Lake a couple of times and assumed that ballet is ballet and that it would be similar in theme – you know, chocolate box scenery, skinny ballerinas with the immense discipline to resist muffins so they can contort their bodies into ridiculous poses, and men prancing around in tights.

 

But I was wrong.

 

Albeit that there were lots of men prancing around in tights, “Nijinsky” was a contemporary ballet rather than “classical’, and so stylised that it made me feel like I’d unknowingly taken some of Kurt’s illicit substances within the first ten minutes. Devoid of the comfort of coloful, schmalzy scenery, the troupe of “Australian Ballet” dancers proceeded to enact the “rise and tragic fall” of the ballet legend. Even I was able to interpret that the man had a pretty fucked-up life, which the company interpreted with lots of foot stomping, flesh slapping and rolling around – which I can fully identify with – but there were also scenes of homo-erotica, (if I’m not mistaken), and even the odd three-some.

 

At one point a group of male dancers strutted across the stage in army jackets and underpants, to be joined by Mrs Santa en pointe and I may have whispered a WTF?…so you get my drift.

 

I like to think I have an open mind and it was an interesting experience, if not completely intelligible or compelling for me personally, but the main feeling the performance invoked in me was relief that I hadn’t invited the old man, who frankly would never have forgiven me.

 

However, this is from the perspective of a self-confessed philistine whose idea of the perfect Saturday night is at the pub with a meat raffle on offer. The dancing was, judging by the enamoured audience (ie. the people who should have been there), mesmerising; the orchestra was outstanding and even I sat back in awe at the talent and passion on display. With forty or so talented members of the company and a full pit of equally talented musicians, it was better value for money than the Crowded House concert out front of the Opera House with a few prima donna band members and some stoned roadies.

 

And it opened my eyes, which is always wonderful at this stage of life, even though they were desperate to close most of the way through the show. Do I feel a better person for it? Not necessarily. But it did confirm two things: 1) to keeping trying new things and not let my age stop me, and 2) to accept it graciously when something turns out to not be my thing and put it down to experience.

14 Ways To Achieve Fuck All On A Rainy Day

You might have gathered from the news that it’s been raining kangaroos and funnel web spiders here in Australia over the past few days. rain-360803_1280

 

There’s this giant myth around the rest of the world that it’s sunny all year around here, and if you live in states of the country fortunate to have crocs and deadly jellyfish as opposed to Zara and WIFI, that’s probably true. Fortunately for us Sydneysiders, we get seasons, because living in God’s country, we need to be reminded about the harshness of life, to keep our feet firmly planted on the sand.

 

Mind you, they’re only mild seasonal changes – just enough of a dip in temperature to teach us the difference between bitch hot and a bit chilly.

 

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Obviously I photographed the bra that I ONLY wear to watch Poldark and Chris Hemsworth movies.

Australia probably lost a bit of credibility in the weather stakes last weekend, and if our political stability hasn’t already put them off, I imagine that thousands of Brits are cancelling their visas at this very moment while the climate change doomsday mob rub their hands with glee, such was the Armageddon we experienced at the hands of nature.

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The turtleneck jumper – one of the best fashion inventions EVER!

 

And while there are tons of great suggestions on the Internet about what to do on rainy days in Sydney, unfortunately most of them involve actually leaving the house, like this one:

 

50 Things To Do On A Rainy Day In Sydney

 

IMG_2261And we were strictly told by our government NOT to go anywhere unless there was an emergency, such as running out of wine, so faced with two whole days at home, with hatches well and truly battened, rugged up, and thanking God that our parents forked out vast sums of their hard-earned money on swimming lessons, (just in case), I made up my own ‘To Do’ list.

 

If your glass is half-full, you’ll know that the good news about days like these is that they give you time to reflect, to catch up on house stuff or even spend some quality time with the kids. Then there’s my preferred option, of doing fuck all.

 

Here are my top tips for making the most of a rainy day:

 

  1. Remove your bra and make up and on no account wash your hair
  2. Ignore your husband until his Neanderthal exterior cracks with anxiety
  3. Wear those fugly turtle necks and holey leggings that you normally reserve for the anonymity of the slopes
  4. Wear your oldest, biggest, most comfortable undies because there’s no chance you’ll end up in the ER
  5. Cook up naughty foodstuffs that you’d never normally allow your body to partake of… because it is a temple. It’s raining. It might even be the end of the world. I made these butter and banana muffins, which didn’t quite meet health and safety regulations when both kids found a tiny slither of plastic in theirs. SO entitled!
  6. Simultaneously laugh at the jokes and rub your thighs at the sight of Ryan Reynold’s gloriously firm buttocks in Deadpool – there to remind you just how much you hate Blake Lively – then confuse your hormones and mix up the whole gamut of emotions by watching a weepy period drama – explain first to your teenage son that it isn’t a film about menstruation
  7. Paint your toenails, even though it’s winter and you did them three months ago
  8. Take the fridge leftovers out of the mouth of the dog and play an cooking invention challenge by knocking up the most amazing chicken soup to remind everyone how perfect you are and how you can rise to any challenge
  9. Say ‘no’ to your adult son when he implores you to play Monopoly with him and watch him crumble as you remind him you have no parental obligation to do that shit any more
  10. Prank call Optus and Telstra for all those times they’ve called you at 6pm at witching hour, when you’re only just managing to hold your shit together
  11. Delight in the therapy of a chin/mole plucking session
  12. Hide the Foxtel remote to ensure hubby does his 10,000 steps
  13. Do a family towel wash and lay them wet on the floors of your teenagers’ bedrooms
  14. Adele karaoke, anyone?

Any better suggestions?

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Chicken soup made with a touch of smugness

Sunning In Sydney, Bondi-Style

Sometimes us middle-aged folk like to remind ourselves what it was like to be young, hip, irresponsible and living close to poverty on the edge, like we did all those years ago when we were students.

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We’ve enjoyed a long, hot weekend here in Sydney, so the old man and I decided to do something a little different this morning and ignore our embarrassingly white, middle-aged, middle-class beach in suburbia and groove on down to Sydney’s iconic Bondi.

Not that Bondi is synonymous with poverty – far from it – but there’s distinctly a more earthy, soulful vibe to be had there than in the Lower North Shore.

The old man and I are so far up our own arses about fitness at the moment that we try to combine exercise with beach at every opportunity these days, and although a temperature of 34 degrees might have scared off the sensible most Sydneysiders, we foolishly saw this as a challenge.

Out came the fitness gear – or the old man’s interpretation of fitness gear, which is a subtle melange of Mexican and Hawaiian influences – we lathered ourselves with layers of factor 50 sun cream, topped up the water bottles and set off on our weekend adventure.

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For those who have never ventured to the shark-infested, turquoise waters and hot white sands of Australia’s beaches, Bondi is iconic in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs for several reasons:

  • It is only a few kilometres from Sydney’s CBD, which means it is feasible to surf in your lunch hour.
  • The surf… is apparently really good.
  • Although only beautiful, young people are truly allowed onto the beach, occasionally they let old gits like us on it, to keep the local economy going.
  • The beach can be super-dangerous even by Australian standards. Possible threats to life include rips, massive breakers, jelly fish and rogue surfers who cut across to the swimming section and target innocent backpackers with their boards, which gives us a means to keep our quota of tourists down.
  • Once a working class area, Bondi has become a middle-class enclave with some of the most expensive real estate in the Eastern Suburbs to ogle.

Aesthetically, it’s certainly not the most beautiful beach in Sydney, but if you want a sense of what Australia is really about, it’s a great place to start.

And not just for the beach.

For us cougars, there are a satisfying number of near-perfectly gorgeous male specimens complete with Aussie-stereotypical, rippling brown surfer muscles and tight boardies to gawp at through the cameral lens of your Iphone, while you pretend to take photos of the landscape. IMG_9557

The local cafes and restaurants offer a smorgasbord of every style of cuisine imaginable, although the archetypal Aussie breakfasts are still a standout. Frankly, there ain’t nothing a good Aussie chef can’t do with an avocado. And if you’re well-to-do, there’s Bondi Iceburgs restaurant where lots of famous people who have lots of money hang out and feel superior to the proletariat sweltering below them on the beach.

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And did I mention the beautiful people?

Or the barely-there swimwear?

To truly nail the Bondi-style, all you need is an itsy-bitsy bikini with an itsy-bitsy body-type to match, voluminous hippy dress or super-short cut off denim shorts, and wide-brimmed hat. 
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My Jane Fonda work-out gear might have looked a little dated – the leg warmers possibly too much on such a hot day – but I don’t care anymore because I’m over fifty now and with that comes the perfect excuse for poor taste.

Finding Time To Breathe

In this crazily competitive yet compelling world we live in, finding the time to breathe and smell the roses can sometimes feel an uphill struggle.

 


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But in an exceptionally rare turn of events last weekend, the old man discovered that he actually did have some friends and deserted me for a round of golf with da boyz.

 

Giving me just that. Time to breathe.

 

It’s not as though we’ve ever been one of those couples that cohabit in each other’s pockets – I lead my own life and he…watches lots of sport on tv… but as I work most Saturdays, we do tend to hang out together on a Sunday.

 

So it’s rare for me to find myself on my own.

 

The torturous temptation last Sunday, OBVIOUSLY, was to lie in bed all day with only Facebook, Twitter, the Sunday papers and a packet of Snickers Pods for company, but I somehow managed to persuade myself that I am better than that, found some previously-lost backbone, got my ass into some sort of gear and went and did something for me for a change.

 

We are very fortunate where we live in Sydney, to be situated right next to THE Harbour Bridge, so with my newfound wisdom in my backpack, I decided that instead of looking at that damn bridge every day and bemoaning the fact that I never find the opportunity to walk it, I would do just that. Then I planned a little meander around the markets at The Rocks and would finish my little tour d’independence with a bracing swim at North Sydney pool.

 

Sometimes, it’s only when you push yourself out there, to the outskirts of your comfort zone of self-imposed laziness and lame excuses and ignore the ridiculous notion that you need to be with people to feel energised or fulfilled, that you fully appreciate time to breathe.

 

We all lead busy lives and cohabiting with a very noisy, highly theatrical 6’ teenager with a voice as deeply penetrating as Russell Crowe’s in a tight apartment, (which also happens to be my work zone), sometimes can make me feel claustrophobic and I need to escape…pronto.

 

The Harbour Bridge is 2.2 kms long and it was a typically, gloriously, sunny, Sydney afternoon when I set off.

 

I had obviously forgotten about these steps in the planning process…

 

Finding The Time To Breathe

 

And it took all my self-discipline to walk past this ice cream van with its tempting ooze of whipped ice cream with flake on the top, which seemed like a fair reward for conquering those steps…

 

Finding The Time To Breathe

 

Do you remember when you were a child and heard the first taunting musical notes from the ice cream van as it entered your neighbourhood, and you silently prayed for the next few minutes that your mum would rattle the change in her purse? One listener called into the radio station I listen to the other day for a segment called ‘the lies your parents told you’ and told us how his dad used to tell her that the ice cream van only played a tune when they had run out of ice cream.

 

Now that’s my kind of parenting.

 

Not quite as good as my invention of biscuit cancer (she was obviously an amateur), after which we were forced to up Kurt’s anxiety medication.

 

Panting Invigorated, I wandered around The Rocks with its market stalls full of ridiculously expensive Australiana paraphernalia that we like to off-load to our American visitors and then I headed back for a well-deserved and refreshing dip in the pool.

 

Finding The Time To Breathe

 

I find I can become quite melancholy these days when I walk by myself and have time to ruminate about where my life is going in middle age. Something as simple as the rare waft of a Gauloise cigarette can transport me back thirty years to the period of my life I spent in France; a child in full-blown tantrum recoiling from the straps of her pushchair and mother reminds me of NC as a baby; the pair of love-sick teenagers who can’t keep their hands off each other remind me of the overwhelming depth of passion the old man and I shared at the tender age of seventeen.

 

It’s funny how much you change as you grow older, in spite of your best intentions. These days I look at flowers and plants in a new, more appreciative way – something I swore I would never allow to happen in my younger days. And when I watch the party boats glide under the Harbour Bridge with their penetrating duff duff music and drunken young people, I shudder – so relieved am I not to be anywhere near them.

 

Finding The Time To Breathe

 

But the melancholy associated with looking back is tinged with gratitude, because I am healthy and in a new and exciting phase of my life, that has opened up all sorts of different opportunities that I never expected to experience.

 

And for a few moments I find a rare inner peace and at-oneness with the world, that lasts until I return home to find Kurt has set fire to the kitchen making pancakes or some other such minor domestic reality check.