May 27, 2015

West of Sunset

When I think of F Scott Fitzgerald, I think of Gatsby.
How could I not? It is one of my all time favourite books, and possibly the only one I have read multiple times. 
But beyond that....well, I knew he and his wife Zelda were the darlings of the Jazz Age, and that he died far too young, probably due to his life of excess and alcoholism. And that's about it, I'm ashamed to say. 

So when Allen & Unwin sent me a copy of West of Sunset by Stewart O'Nan, a fictionalised biographical novel covering the final three years of F Scott Fitgerald's life, I was instantly excited to learn more.



While, of course, not every intimate detail of his final years can be verified (hence, the 'fictionalised novel' part), Stewart O'Nan has painted a vivid picture of Scott's time in Hollywood in the years leading up to his death; the major movie studios, the stars, the writers, the affairs and the politics. 

This engrossing, sometimes heartbreaking story follows the troubled and broke Scott as he tries to scrape together enough money to pay for Zelda's treatment in a mental asylum, and their daughter Scottie's education. His health is declining, his literary success is mostly forgotten, and his only option is to call on some old friends to give him a shot as a screenwriter. After moving to Hollywood, Scott falls in love with English gossip columnist Sheilah Graham and embarks on a passionate affair, while guiltily trying to maintain some sense of loyalty to the unstable Zelda.

The Golden Age of Hollywood is brought to life with fascinating depictions of stars including Joan Crawford and Humphrey Bogart, studio bosses, various directors and the other screenwriters holed up in the "Iron Lung", where movie scripts were churned out constantly, written and rewritten on a director's or producer's whim, until they were sometimes unrecognisable from the original drafts. I found this creative process both intriguing and depressing, and can imagine how stifling and frustrating it must have been for someone with Scott's talent. No wonder he drank.

Stewart O'Nan, on the other hand, was free to write this novel as he saw fit, and he did so beautifully. This bittersweet portrayal of Scott's struggle to keep his life together, and regular failure to do so, was written with sensitivity, grace and wit. O'Nan is no slouch himself; he has written many fiction and nonfiction books, including a collaboration with Stephen King.

With West of Sunset, we have, as author George Saunders says, "One brilliant American writer meditating on another - what's not to love?"

I certainly loved it, and I feel like I now know a little bit more about the man behind Gatsby.








May 5, 2015

Pitch Perfect 2 is ACA-AWESOME


THEY'RE BACK, PITCHES!

And they have not lost their touch. Three years have passed since the Barden Bellas had us tapping our feet, laughing loudly, and discovering A Cappella competitions are "actually a thing". Now they're back, as three time defending champions, and ready to take on the rest of the world.

Beca, Chloe, Fat Amy and the girls are as tight as ever, until a hilarious mishap involving a "birthday gift from down under" in front of a very important audience humiliates them and has them banned from competing.

As the Bellas try to regain both their dignity and their place in the collegiate competition, their attempts result in disaster and disharmony. The only way to be reinstated is to win the World Championships. The girls have to break everything down to build it back up and find their sound again.



I was invited to the Adelaide premiere of Pitch Perfect 2, and I was aca-excited, I can tell you. I loved the first movie, and often get nervous about sequels not living up to the original, but I had seen a couple of trailers which had me feeling optimistic. And I wasn't disappointed. 

It was a rollicking rollercoaster of fun, hilarity and aca-awesome music from beginning to end. I loved it all; the familiar faces, the new faces, and the introduction of a new rival team to take on the Bellas. I laughed so much, my face ached, and as soon as it finished, I said I desperately wanted to see it again straight away.



Fat Amy (the incomparable, side-splittingly funny Rebel Wilson) once again stole the most hilarious and slapstick scenes, and Lily's (Hana Mae Lee) few whispering lines had us in stitches. Newcomer Emily (Hailee Steinfeld), a Legacy inductee as her mother was once a well known Bella, is a delightful addition to the lineup, with a lovely voice and sweet, slightly dorky character. Beca (Anna Kendrick) and Chloe (Brittany Snow) make a great team as leaders of a group which is on the brink of splintering as graduation approaches, and find they need to be reminded of their strengths - as Fat Amy says, "You're Beca and Chloe, together you're Bloey".

Anna Kendrick excels in her role, although I think she does every time I see her on screen. Her performances appear effortless, as though she isn't "acting", but really is whoever she is supposed to be. She is one talented chick. Act, sing, dance. The whole package. 



The introduction of Das Sound Machine from Germany as rivals to the Bellas for the world title brought a new enemy into the game to replace the Treblemakers (who do make a fabulous early appearance), and I thought that was a really good, fresh touch. Their musical performances were sharp, dynamic, and absolutely stunning. DSM's statuesque leader, played by Birgitte Hjort Sorensen (you may know her as Katrine if you've ever watched the Danish tv series, Borgen), is a tad nasty in a beautifully confident and sexy way, and throws the Bellas, particularly Beca, for a bit of a spin; when Beca searches for an insulting jibe, all she can come up with is, "Your sweat smells like cinnamon!"


And of course, everyone's favourite A Cappella directors and commentators, John (John Michael Higgins) and Gail (Elizabeth Banks), are back again with (her) unveiled sarcasm, (his) blatant misogyny, and resultant downright hilarity. This time, Banks not only acted and produced, but also directed the movie, and I thought she pulled it all together brilliantly. I have great admiration for everything Banks does, and this movie is no exception. 



Thanks to Universal Pictures and Event Cinemas, it was a wonderful premiere. We were aca-flashmobbed by the Festival Statesmen group, had a glass of wine, and we even got our own Pitch Perfect cupcakes....which Rebel Wilson herself thought was cute!



So, go see it, Pitches! If you enjoyed the first instalment, you won't be let down by Pitch Perfect 2.

It was ACA-AWESOME FUN!

Oh, and don't leave the cinema when the credits start to roll.....just aca-saying.....





















Apr 27, 2015

Mother's Day ideas. A few serious. Most totally not.

As April draws to a close, the first thought in major Australian retailers' minds is "flood the market with what every Mum had no idea they needed until now!" It probably starts as soon as Easter is done and dusted, but I tend to tune out. Because I have chocolate.

However if, like I may have done in the past (once or four times), you find yourself buying your own gift, handing it to the partner, who hands it to the kids to wrap, and then you try to act surprised on the big day...sigh, we all deserve Oscars for Best Performance by a Parent in a Childhood Ruse....you may need some fresh ideas.

If you are into books, of course there's Emerald Springs by Fleur McDonald, which I have reviewed here. It Started With A Kiss by Lisa Heidke, Mothers and Daughters by Kylie Ladd, At The Water's Edge by Sara Gruen and The Chocolate Promise by Josephine Moon may be your thing, or even The Wonder Lover by Malcolm Knox.
 And if you're a bit crafty, there's always these...



Good old Eleanor. When you've got it, flaunt it, hey.
Or....


For the budget conscious player, where you can learn to crochet your own gimp mask....



Not very handy? Crafts not for you? Single? Finding yourself surrounded by cats?
You have your own action figure!


Comes with 6 cats...like you need more....
Maybe you're not a pink towelling robe type, but a fashionista? Even on a picnic, you like to look good whilst being comfortable.
The Picnic Pants are perfect for you!


You can move freely, sit cross-legged, AND EAT OFF YOUR LAP!
HOW AWESOME IS THAT?!

Thinking of treating yourself to cosmetic surgery? You don't need to!
The Ducklips Face Slimmer will do the job and save you thousands!


Work those muscles, ladies! 
Elongate your face, iron out those lines, and look slimmer!
To be honest, I suspect it's designed for something else, amiright?



Ahem, anyway....

Need new slippers?






Dick slippers! Who doesn't need those?

Or maybe you can't decide between new jeans or new shoes...



The mind boggles.
So, maybe this should be a guide to what NOT to get for Mother's Day.
With that in mind, I'll be showing my kids this....




Enjoy, mothers.








Apr 2, 2015

The Perils of Naked Dating

Our family had a bonding session last night. I always say the family that laughs together, stays together... because everyone else thinks they're crazy.... so we watched, and roared hysterically throughout the Dutch naked dating show, Adam and Eve.

We'd only heard of it for the first time the week before and stumbled across it last night when flicking channels. The host, Fully Clothed Nicolette, explains the premise and introduces the naked daters. 

Firstly, Naked Deveron, a barman, who is looking for love with a fun, attractive, curvaceous girl with nice boobs and a nice arse. He laments that as a barman, he doesn't always meet girls in the right situation because they are mostly drunk. I suspect this has never bothered Naked Deveron before, but his desire to be on TV has changed his view, for now. Naked Deveron is, ummm, well, let's just say, it wasn't a cold day.

Then we meet Naked Eva, a marketing student, who is looking for deep conversations with an intelligent but manly guy. She seems quite pleasant, but very studious, and I am already suspecting the producers do not take their match-making seriously. Naked Eva has several piercings which glisten in the sunshine and are quite mesmerising.

The two naked hopefuls are dumped on an "uninhabited" island (camera crews don't count), with nothing but their winning smiles and some secret, personal items they chose to bring along in their "Love Bag". I thought we had already seen Naked Deveron's love bag, but apparently not. 

They walk towards each other for the first time, trying to avoid eye-to-genitals contact. It seems that despite agreeing to be completely naked, they don't want to come across as too pervy. After lots of stilted conversation, excruciating pauses, nervous laughs, and full body twirling (to get the perving over with), I am blown away by the fact that the Dutch word for awkward, is simply... awkward.

At this point, there has already been much laughter in our living room. For some reason, the Daughter finds the oft-used camera angle showing a side-on silhouetted schlong quite hysterical. The Son is trying to study the aforementioned piercings in between his loud expressions of great mirth and, unsurprisingly, it takes him til almost the end of the show to even notice the jewel in her navel. 

Anyway, the Nakeds discover a "hut" and bare essentials... a pineapple and some rice.... and I must praise Naked Deveron for being brave enough to pick up the machete and actually use it on the fruit within castrating distance of his good self. We were a little scared for him, I can tell you. The attempts to start a fire and cook the rice are clumsily slapstick, and Naked Eva tells us she is a little disappointed that Naked Deveron is a bit quiet, and doesn't seem as manly and capable as she hoped. In fact, they both talk to us and tell us what they're feeling and thinking far more than they seem to talk to each other. I am starting to feel sorry for them and their sunburned extremities. 

The chemistry between the Nakeds does not improve, and they spend an uncomfortable night lying next to each other on a mat on the floor of the hut. The upside of the lack of spark between them is that Naked Deveron can get up quickly and easily in the morning with no embarrassment, because "I didn't have a hard-on". Good to know, dude.

Just when you think this episode is about as exciting as watching our Prime Minister eat an onion, along comes a third wheel known as Naked April! She is a young, loud, voluptuous party chick who spends a great deal of time playing with her exceptionally long, curly hair...on her head. Naked April arrives on the island and marches straight past Naked Eva (who is showering under a tree, posing like a naked water nymph) without speaking to her, in search of her "Naked Adam".

When she cannot find any exposed penises in the vicinity (I assume Naked Deveron has been lured away to do an interview, in order to set up this first Two Naked Girls clash), Naked April turns back to Naked Eva to find out what the fuck is going on (or its Dutch equivalent). The realisation dawns on both of them that there is only one "Naked Adam" and they will be competing for him. I swear I can see Wolverine claws appearing on Naked April's knuckles.

Finally, Naked April finds Naked Deveron further along the beach, and ERMAHGERD...... THEY KNOW EACH OTHER! Turns out these two losers in love have been on another dating show together, where Fully Clothed Deveron REJECTED Fully Clothed April! But will this change when he sees she has areolas the size of dinner plates? And what does Naked April think of him, apart from "He's somewhere about average, although I haven't seen his erection yet"? By now, 'awkward' has become the most used word on the show. 

So the Two Naked Girls have a cooking contest, and the winner gets a private date with Naked Deveron. Yep, it's sexism time. They are handed some ingredients and given twenty minutes to produce something edible. Naked Eva makes a huge mistake by choosing chicken, as it doesn't cook in time, and I am impressed that Naked Deveron knows the word 'salmonella'. Naked April's beef stir fry wins, more by default than by success.

Naked April and Naked Deveron head off for their date to a separate campsite, where they are both almost overcome by the smoke from the fire, and had to move their cushions to another spot. This is probably the most interesting that happened. I thought cushions were a bit of a luxury, but I guess sitting on a log when naked would create a splinter issue that NO member of a film crew wants to take care of. 

At last, Naked Deveron gets to use the contents of his impressive Love Bag...he brought cocktails. He tries to impress with his shaking skills, but he ain't no Tom Cruise. The date seems like a bit of a drag, with Naked April trying to explain how she's a far more serious person than she appears to be on the surface, all while continually playing with her hair and trying to keep her massive breasts under control.

They return to the hut, where Naked Eva awaits with the news there is now one double mat and one single mat to sleep on. Who will sleep where? Naked Deveron announces he's on the double, and it doesn't matter who is next to him as "we won't be touching each other anyway". Looks like there'll be no morning wood for him yet again. Naked Eva takes the place next to him, while Naked April goes it alone. Something I suspect she's used to.

The next day, we discover the secret of Naked Eva's Love Bag....she brought boxing gloves! As you do. The initial excitement in our living room turns to disappointment when we realise it will not be a Two Naked Girls fight, but a 'date' of sorts with Naked Deveron. Naked Eva wants to know what sort of man he is, and claims she will after a bit of sparring. There is some light hearted banter, a few jabs, and a couple of decent punches....all by Naked Eva....while Naked April watches on jealously. "I would've joined in, but not in this heat, and I don't want to get a black eye". I'm genuinely confused when Naked Eva is disappointed that Naked Deveron didn't really hit her properly. "He ran away!" I'm pretty sure if he belted her, his career as a serial dating show contestant would be over. Smart move, dude.

We also discover the secret to Naked April's incredibly long hair that she can't stop touching.... when enormous clumps of it come out in her hands and she rinses them under the shower. Extensions! This now has me wondering if her areolas are real.


Naked April, playing with her hair


Talk turns to sex, I think (I'm not certain, I'm laughing so much at all of the things, especially how "oh my fucking God!" in Dutch is simply "oh my fucking God!"), and Naked April asks Naked Eva if she's read 50 Shades of Grey.

Naked Eva looks as haughty as one can when naked, and says, "I have it, but I won't read it."

Yes! I'm totally voting for Naked Eva. She's my pick. Until....

"I don't like reading. I only read business books to improve myself" she continues.

Oh dear, she's won me and lost me in one conversation. The Son still loves her and her piercings because he doesn't read either. Maybe he should go to the Netherlands.

Meanwhile, on a boat floating offshore, Fully Clothed Nicolette rings a bell three times to signify it's time for Naked Deveron to choose which Naked Eve will accompany him on a few days holiday at a nearby resort (I suspect it's just on the other side of the same island). After much fake procrastinating and genuine condescension, Naked Deveron unsurprisingly chooses Naked Eva. Poor Naked April takes her surplus hair and wanders off, trying to be cheerful about the fact she has been rejected by the same guy twice and she still hasn't seen his erection (she actually doesn't mention that, I'm just supposing).

Back at the resort, we watch Naked Deveron put some pants on and wait for his 'Eve'. I think he has flowers and champagne in his hands...I'm not sure, I'm too fascinated to see him in clothes to notice. As the now Fully Clothed Eva approaches in a skin tight red dress ("I used to worry if this dress was too tight, now I don't care, I've been naked!"), the Fully (but badly) Clothed Deveron tells us she looks hot and sexy.  As he had the integrity to not say these things out loud when she was naked, but waited til she was clothed, I'm finally starting to like him.

But wait.... Fully Clothed Nicolette suddenly appears and stops Sexy Eva to offer her a deal. 

Continue walking towards your holiday with Fully Clothed Deveron at the resort, or 250 Euros to walk away.

Sexy Eva knocks back the offer with red-lipped confidence, and I'm thinking maybe there was a spark between her Naked Self and Naked Deveron after all. A non-hard-on producing spark, but a spark nonetheless. 

Fully Clothed Nicolette ups the ante to 500 Euros (about 700 Aussie dollars) and Sexy Eva turns to briefly look Fully Clothed Deveron up and down.

"Ok, I'll take it."

WHATTHEACTUALFUCK?

Poor Fully Clothed Deveron is left to be politely let down by Fully Clothed Nicolette while Sexy Eva takes the money and runs off as fast as her second degree sunburn lets her.

And we still don't see his erection.

Awkward, in any language.












Mar 25, 2015

Emerald Springs




You may remember that almost exactly one year ago, I was in hospital recovering from surgery, with Fleur McDonald's new novel keeping me company when I couldn't go back to sleep after the 2am obs checks. Or 4am. Or 6am.

Fleur's latest novel, Emerald Springs, nearly became all night company again...not because I was in hospital, but because I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN! Yes, I was so engrossed in it that it barely left my hands unless it was absolutely necessary. In related news, I must apologise to my children and pets for refusing to feed, or even acknowledge them for about 24 hours, but, you know the rules...


Clearly, the kids' and pets' survival and wellbeing were not deemed 'absolutely necessary'.

With Emerald Springs, Fleur has produced yet another cracking novel with a strong female protagonist, a lot of action and mystery, and a strong focus on relationships, all with the backdrop she knows so well...beautiful rural Australia.

********

Amelia (Milly) Bennett finishes university with a degree in Commerce and returns to her family property to look after their finances, as well as those of several other farming families in the district. When she lands the job of treasurer of the local rodeo committee, her fierce desire to prove herself results in the most successful rodeo the town has ever seen. 

Amelia's triumph is short-lived when she becomes the victim of a terrifying crime, leaving her physically injured and emotionally wrecked. Her devastation intensifies when gossiping locals begin to doubt the innocence of Amelia and her always-broke boyfriend, Paul. Even the rural detective investigating the crime is unconvinced by her story, despite his connection with Amelia's family.

As Amelia struggles to remember exactly what happened, she too begins to suspect everybody around her, including those she loves, and realises she must investigate the events of that fateful night herself....despite the possible danger.

********

Once again, Fleur has drawn inspiration from her own experiences of rural life in South Australia and Western Australia (and those of her Dad, who really was a rodeo committee treasurer!), and woven a brilliant story that will keep you turning pages. Fleur has the ability to make me see what she is seeing when she writes...I can visualise her settings and characters perfectly. You don't need to be from the country areas Fleur describes to understand the surroundings and the people because she'll help you understand them with her words. (Although I do get excited whenever there are mentions of places I know and I can say "I've been there!" Yes, I know, I'm such a city slicker)

I had the opportunity to catch up with Fleur in Adelaide last night in the midst of her current book tour. She spoke about identities, in particular of women, and how we can often lose ours when we are "someone's wife" or "someone's mother", and how she likes her female characters to grow and strengthen as they discover their own identity. Just as Fleur herself, I believe, has grown and strengthened as an author.

Emerald Springs is Fleur McDonald's best work yet. 
And yes, I'll probably say that about the next book too. And the one after that. And the one after that.
Seriously, it's another winner from the Voice of the Outback.

The beautiful Fleur, me, and Fleur's lovely publicist, Amy




Check out all of Fleur's books and where you can see her in person during her book tour on her website. She is in South Australia for two more days, before moving on to the Eastern states. If you get a chance to meet her, tell her Cate sent you. But don't try to drink her wine.







PS. For some strange reason, a nine month old blog post was randomly emailed out last week, probably to all my subscribers. No idea why, I can only think that it was lonely and wanted attention.
This seemed to prompt a few people to unsubscribe for whatever reason. Just know I wasn't spamming you with old crap, there must have been a weird glitch in bloggerland. Or Cateland. Whatever. You have to laugh or you'll go nuts.


Mar 14, 2015

Reading Is My Superpower

It is. It's probably the only thing I do well. I'm not a career woman, or a domestic goddess, or anything inbetween. I just faff about daily, stuffing up regularly, until I can make an excuse to retire to the sofa, or the garden, or bed, with a book.

If you are like me, and constantly looking for reading material to advance your superpowers...or at least prevent them from getting rusty.... here's a couple you might like.

Wife on the Run by Fiona Higgins


Paula McInnes' marriage, and life, has become stagnant...only she hasn't noticed yet. It takes two technology-related crises to occur closely together to rouse her from her inertia and take action.

Firstly, her teenage daughter is the victim of vicious rumours and trolling on social media. Then Paula makes a surprising discovery about her husband, Hamish, via his smartphone, and suddenly her safe, suburban world starts to crumble around her.

What to do? Run away. Paula decides an immediate escape is necessary, along with her two kids, her dad and his caravan, with one simple rule.....NO TECHNOLOGY.

The plan is to travel across Australia and get back to the basics of family life. Learn to communicate with each other again, without a device in their hands. Get fresh air, eat healthy food, exercise, and clear the head, so Paula can think about what comes next.

Of course, running away isn't all it's cracked up to be. Adjusting to an altered family dynamic in a confined space is problematic, and the group run into new complications along the way...some exciting, some dangerous. When Paula's trust is shattered again and her choices threaten to fracture her family, she realises she will have to return home and face her problems before she can make any decisions about her future...with whoever that may be.

********

It Started With A Kiss by Lisa Heidke


Friday Jones is shattered when her husband, Liam, packs his bags and moves in with his bachelor brother, saying he needs a break from her and their twenty year marriage. Their teenage daughters struggle with the separation, Friday spirals downwards, and the stress begins to show in her dealings with clients, and on her face...not a good look for a naturopath.

When her boss offers her a week of respite at a health spa, Friday knows she needs to take the opportunity to pick herself up and look after herself more if she wants to save her relationships with both her daughters and her husband. But the spa begins a new, different spiral of behaviour for Friday when she meets an attractive man who restores her battered self-esteem.

Friday's best friend, Rosie, takes Friday's love life into her own hands through the world of online dating, where a simple online 'kiss' can lead to either humour, horror, or hotness. But Friday's confusion continues....does she want to live Rosie's preferred lifestyle, or does she want her marriage back? How can she make her marriage work if Liam doesn't know what he wants either?

When a worrying situation arises and a health crisis brings things to a head, Friday and Liam know it's time to put their distractions and disagreements aside and focus on sorting out their lives, together or not.

********

These two novels have a lot in common; contemporary settings, long term marriages in trouble, distressed and disgruntled teenagers, how modern technology now plays a defining part in our lives, and the need to reassess and reboot ourselves every now and then as we age, or risk stagnancy. 
Both stories are told with honesty and humour, and not just from one person's perspective; the husbands' thoughts and motivations are examined too.
You'll love some characters, hate others, laugh at some, get frustrated at others, feel sorry for some, and hope some get exactly what they deserve, whether that be good or bad. And those feelings may shift; your sympathy and empathy may ebb and flow back and forth....JUST LIKE REAL LIFE. Because reality isn't always black and white. There are fifty shades of.....purple....inbetween. (I do NOT want to mention that OTHER book!)
And both Fiona and Lisa have captured the uncertainty of mid-life purpleness rather well.


If you like women's contemporary fiction with a bit of drama, romance, sass, humour, and conflict, these two novels will make great Easter reads.








Mar 10, 2015

Tom Rob Smith - Adelaide Writers' Week


When I discovered a couple of weeks ago that the author of some of my favourite books was coming to Adelaide for Writers' Week, I made sure my whole Sunday would revolve around that one precious hour when I would get to hear Tom Rob Smith speak. I even made sure the architect who is doing our renovation plans had a deadline to be out of our door by a certain time - he was visiting to show us a first rough draft....yes, this architect makes housecalls on Sundays! - so I could get a decent seat at Tom's session. 




And the author of Child 44, The Secret Speech, Agent 6, and his newest novel, The Farm, certainly lived up to my lofty expectations. Exceeded them, in fact. Tom was articulate, intelligent, warm, and funny. Not only is he extremely talented with the written word, he is also a fascinating storyteller in person. I could've listened to him for hours. My daughter tells me I was so enthralled, my mouth was hanging open a little. I just hope I didn't drool.

I had received a message just five minutes before Tom's session began to tell me my mother-in-law had passed away after a long battle with Parkinson's disease and its associated struggles. An hour listening to Tom speak was the perfect distraction - especially when he talked with such warmth, honesty and sincerity about his own family dynamics,  and the mental health crisis, struggles and feelings of betrayal which became the premise on which The Farm was based. Heartbreaking and heartwarming, in equal parts.

I am so grateful to a friend who, a few years ago, said, "I think you'll like this book..." That simple recommendation saw me devouring Tom's first three books back to back, and more recently finding The Farm unputdownable. Is that a word? It is now. While my 20 year old daughter was attending Tom's session with me as a requirement for her Creative Writing degree and not just as a fan (like...ahem...me), she too was thoroughly interested in the session, and was very pleased to hear Tom's advice for writers; "Be wary of advice!" 

And when we got home, I heard the words I was waiting for from her mouth..."When I've finished my reading for this semester..." (She has EIGHT novels to read) "....I think I'd like to read Child 44".

And I grinned. A convert. Good job, Tom.

Me, fangirling, with a very obliging Tom Rob Smith



Feb 25, 2015

Renovation 2015: Part One


We bought this renovator's delight in 2003. It took us a while to find the delight - the 'renovate' part was much easier to spot - but find it, we have. Gradually, over the 11 and a bit years since, we have transformed our 1906 unassuming, unmodernised villa into a warm, colourful home.




I knew what I wanted to achieve right from the start, I had a grand vision, but of course finances, time and energy levels play a big part in making it happen. Our kids were 10 and 8 when we moved in, and we all know what those years of school and sport and commitments are like. We did what we could, when we could. We painted and updated room by room, put in a new kitchen, new bathroom, replaced weeds and concrete in the garden with plants and paving, re roofed the whole house, new fences, and built on a huge family room. Inside and out, we finely tuned every aspect to suit us.



Except for one area... the laundry and back porch. This area is basically a tin shed attached to the back of half of the house. There are no foundations, all plumbing and electrical is above ground and exposed. It was just an add-on many decades ago. To be honest, I reckon I could give it a few good whacks with a sledgehammer and it would be gone. If I can still lift a sledgehammer....



 I always figured this would be the last area we tackled as my vision included enlarging the area, turning the old porch zone into a study, brand new laundry, and adding a much needed second bathroom (we are now a family of four adults, sometimes five, so we NEED another shit, shave & shower room) so a great fistful of dollars would be required. It finally looks like this will be the year it might happen.

So, the ideas I had swirling in the back of my head for 6 years, and which pushed and shoved their way to the front of my head 5 years ago when we finished the family room, and the tin shed eyesore was the only thing left standing between us and a completed home..... well, those ideas are now spewing out of my mouth, onto paper, and into my builder's head. Luckily, our builder has said Yes to every idea. So far. Smart man.

We haven't costed much yet... I don't want to be disillusioned just yet, please let me hang onto my dream a little longer.... but we are not naive. It won't be cheap. And possibly won't go perfectly...does any reno go perfectly?? But it should make for some fun blog posts.

I'll keep you posted.


Jan 29, 2015

My Aged Care Plan, Bowels Permitting

I missed out on writing a birth plan. I think I had my kids in the days just before it became uber cool to give your doctor/midwife/birthing partner/lawyer a list of demands as to how your labour was to be conducted, what intervention was allowed, which dolphin/rainforest sounds CD was to played, and how best to prevent your mother-in-law from being within 50 metres of you and your child.

Though, to be honest, if I had written a plan, it would've been quite simple.

1. Give me drugs.
2. The baby inside me is in control. Not me. Do whatever the baby wants.
3. Give me more drugs.
4. If you try to play soothing dolphin/rainforest sounds, I will hurt you. INXS is fine.
5. I apologise in advance for swearing, don't take it personally. You are probably not really a bitch/arsehole/fucking nazi sadist.
6. Seriously, just give me all of the drugs.

So I've decided to look ahead and write an Aged Care plan instead. Maybe I couldn't control the birthing hours, but surely I can have some control over my twilight years...assuming my bowels let me. Please see that my husband/children/grandchildren/carers/housekeeper/legal guardian/parole officer/cruise ship activities director/whom it may concern get these instructions.

1. Give me drugs.
2. I was nice to my children because I knew they would choose my nursing home. If I don't like it, I want to change my will and leave everything to the Asparagus & Brussels Sprouts Growers Association.
3. Do not serve me asparagus or Brussels sprouts.
4. Do not attempt to wake me up to check if I'm dead or alive before 7am. If you do, you will shortly be having people check if you are dead or alive.
5. If my body is failing me but my mind is sound, don't treat me like I'm a child. If it is the other way round, I like play-doh and colouring-in books and puppies.
6. If anyone forces me to play Bingo, I may regurgitate my dinner over their shoes. Seriously, fuck Bingo.



7. Do not sit me at the dinner table with anyone who complains their food is too hot/cold/lumpy/mashed/bland/spicy/stale, who takes their dentures out, or who has a reflux problem. I realise this substantially reduces the number of dinner companions available to me, so I'm happy to eat alone. That way I can complain, burp, fart, and take my teeth out in peace.
8. If you do sit me at the dinner table with anyone I don't like, it will probably be best if I'm only allowed plastic cutlery.
9. I will not apologise for swearing. It is probably personal. You most likely are a bitch/arsehole/fucking nazi sadist.
10. Give me more drugs.
11. If I can't swallow the pills, crush them into a vodka cocktail.
12. When I start telling crazy stories from my past which may or may not be true, don't correct me or disagree. Just smile, nod and ask relevant questions. I may just be having dementia fantasies. Or I may be drunk.
13. My bladder and bowels are just fine, thank you. Stop making me go "just in case". I can control myself.
14. Ok, I accept that, on occasion, my bladder and bowels will let me down. This is why you should've fucking well listened to number 3.
15. If it can be avoided, I don't want to wear a nappy. Pretty sure I didn't enjoy them the first three years of my life, can't imagine I'll feel any different during the last three.
16. I know all the residents tie personal things to their walking frames to recognise them and avoid the infamous Edna vs Hilda Frame Stealing Incident of 2010. Nobody wants to relive that slow-motion chase. So if I want to tie a purple dildo to mine, let me. To be honest, by then I will think it's just a foot massager anyway.
17. If I start to go deaf, do not yell at me. I'd prefer hand signals. I've always been proficient at flipping the bird and, arthritis notwithstanding, I'd like to continue.
18. I'd like whoever ends up showering me to know a few things.... they were once perky, large, and magnificent; it was once a neat, dark, well-groomed triangle; and both areas functioned brilliantly.
19. I believe in dying with dignity. So if I look like I'm about to take my last breath, put chocolate in my left hand, wine in my right hand, and make sure my pants are ON. 
20. Seriously, just give me all of the drugs. At once.






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