Tuesday, June 20, 2017

'Shantaram' as a prop


Its not the last time you'll hear me say: where the fuck did I sign up for this? Im standing in front of my mirrored, tri-doored wardrobe turning this way and that trying to channel Taryn Brumfort and seriously not give a damn about my curvaceous a euphemism for fat body, preparing for yet another social network rendezvous. Its amazing how full of bravado I can be via text, especially a wine fueled text. But at some point youve got to pay the piper, as you'll see if you read on. Unless of course you block, block, block - cowardly, I know, but necessary on days, especially when the highlight of your next chat includes his hernia operation (I shit you not) or a picture of eight crayfish lined up in two military rows.
Funny aside:
Whats with the broken feelers? asks sister Lucy (with whom I share everything) as she scrutinizes said crayfish photo I have just sent via IM. 
Ill show you what the guy looks like, say I, and I promptly flick her his selfie. (I heart technology.)

No, nothing coming through yet, she says, with a mixture of frustration and disappointment in her voice.
Oh shit.
I check, only to find Ive sent the pic straight to the actual guy, adding insult to injury by adding another of me, grinning, head to head with a girlfriend on a girls night out.
When will I learn? (Feel free to message me if you want to know how I shimmied out of that one!)
Back to me labouring over dressing for the blind date. Finally the voice of reason yells: He wont care what you look like. Youre a beautiful woman and he should be so lucky to spend any time with you.
I listen then promptly text to tell him Ill be about half an hour. That leaves me with zero time to keep looking in the mirror.Hes cool about that as hes just going for a bike ride. Ooh, hes healthy, think I. He adds, Ill either be reading at the coffee shop or taking a swim at The Waterfront. That ticks a few more boxes. Hes literate and he likes the water.

So, the drive. I crank up my Spotify mix to try and quell the nerves. No amount of tapping on the steering wheel is helping. I hate that initial meeting. What if hes got three heads? What if hes an axe murderer? Terrorist? Sexual pervert? I turn up the music to drown out these irrational but are they? Are they? thoughts. Ive reached The Waterfront in no time. Ive checked the car visor mirror to see whether Im still there. Well, my glassy eyes are at least. I grab my picnic blanket, novel, pretentiously large water bottle and the old handbag. To the lifts.
At this point I should mention Ive got a real thing for Maori men. Ive lived with one for a few years and Ive currently got a bestie in Townsville who texts or talks to me every other day. I dont know if its the skin colour, the warmth, the accsunt; regardless, Im about to meet another Maori guy. Nice teeth and hands, if the photos are genuine. Have you every watched 'Catfish'?
Im still striding confidently towards the Coffee Club when Im suddenly aware of the adrenaline coursing through my veins. I turn left instead of right and plonk myself on a nearby metal park bench to practise the fine art of breathing. I take in the scene: spectacular. Why dont I do this more often? Go out, I mean. Not internet date. Theres a few people around but its not crowded. Laughter is emanating from the wave pool. Yes, Lucy, the wave pool. The lets-get-out-of-here-I-think-Im-going-to-vomit tourist attraction which set off your sea sickness. Tourists ambling along in twos and threes. A Japanese family are enjoying a picnic lunch. A few bikini clad women are sunbathing.
Im here, I text. Where are you at?
Near the bike rack outside The Coffee Club.
Its now or never. You think Im going to brave walking up to a complete stranger sitting near The Coffee Club, dont you? I dont. I go straight into The Coffee Club, put my blankie, book and bottle down and text: Im ordering. What do you want?
LOL, he replies. Cappuccino.
So there I am, pretending to read the blurb on my unopened novel when he arrives.
Wow. Even better in person. He kisses me, smiles warmly and introduces himself again.
Im working really hard at trying to take in what he is saying, to listen to him. You know in the movies, when the talking becomes a blurred background noise while the camera zooms in on the mouth. And then the eyes. And then the close up of the froth on the coffee being slowly stirred? I think, fuck, listen, woman or you wont be able to reply. Im leaning on one hand now. Such a try-hard pose. (Think Fran in 'Strictly Ballroom' watching the men dancing on the back veranda.) I sit up straight and force myself to put my hand down. Now I look like a tram conductor, clutching the black leather bag on my lap. Fares please.
Hes half way through his Mugaccino and I havent touched mine. Didnt really want a coffee anyway. I start focusing on the conversation. A very one-sided conversation, in hindsight. He did ninety-nine percent of the talking.
In no particular order: hes been itinerant for five years since his thirty year marriage broke up. This includes mainly working in construction but he has spent time deep sea fishing for schnapper. His daughter is deferring second year law at Melbourne Uni as shes been selected to run some sort of future leaders program and shes heading off to KL imminently. His son works on a gas project off WA and has been doing that for twelve years. Theres other stuff about his family but I didnt catch the details. Just nodded and smiled, hopefully in the right places. I got a few words in but he was happy to do the talking and I was happy to just listen.
He asked if I wanted another coffee, which I declined, but I said Id like to move to get away from the noisy pop music pumping out of the coffee shop speakers. He purchased another coffee and we walked a little way to a shady spot near the lagoon. I was over my initial nerves now but I was still contained and much more reserved than usual. I was hoping that the Vagina at twelve oclock (sunbaking girl, her head down the hill and her knees bent, mooning in our direction) would not fuel any unwanted fires. In a nano second, I strategically worked out that if I lay on my stomach with my feet in said girls direction, J would mirror my actions and the fanny would be well out of view.
It didn't take me long to realise that I hadn't quite thought this through, as I soon found myself lying alongside a virtual stranger, so close our arms and shoulders brush on occasion. By jingos, its intimate! From coffee shop to queen bed in a matter of minutes. What to do? That adrenaline starts up again or was it the coffee kicking in? Or the heat of the day? Im trying to relax. I should be relaxed. Its a glorious day but I feel Ive got myself in a right old predicament and Im not sure how to manage the sitch.
His monologue doesn't miss a beat. Clearly Im asking good questions.
He was given up by his mum, as were his five siblings, due to her alcoholism. He became a ward of the state in Auckland, aged ten. Due to his extraordinary high IQ over 150 if that sounds right he was placed into a private college Wesley? and boarded there. Blah, blah, blah. He has a business degree, even though the Warriors - or was it the All Blacks? - offered him a contract. Hes the chief of chiefs for wherever he comes from. Hmm. Theres a pattern emerging. He lost twenty kilos in the last five months. He needs to strap his left foot or his ankle swells up. He lost his licence at the casino four months ago.  (He was asleep in his car in the car park but when the police tapped on the window his keys were in the ignition.) His roomie at The Backpackers stole $50 from his wallet while he was in the shower. He doesnt like the singers Maisie Rika or Stan Walker.
Catch A Fire? I inquire. (Maori band)
They're my cousins, he says. And there was lot of talk about his connection with Temuera Morrison, of 'Once Were Warriors' fame.
Ah, the short guy, I retort. (I did get one or two words in. )
Hes got a scaff ticket, a dogmans. I know all the tradie terms, given the number of resumes I updated and printed for my ex.
So here I am on my tummy when J leans closer and steals a gentle kiss on the lips. Im thirteen again and wishing I could just be home alone. Im not ready for another bloke. Chemistry is there for sure, but my head is metaphorically tapping me on the shoulder and calling last drinks.
Without rushing, I manage to haul myself into an elegant sitting position. Thankfully, vagina-girl has moved on and a group of six clothed young adults have taken her spot. The pressure is on. Its tangible. He says Ive had his attention all afternoon and hed like to spend the night with me. I say, no thanks, a little too brightly. It didnt come out the way I wanted it to. In spite of his very big ego and fifty plus years, I know Ive hurt his feelings. I think I mumble and blather on about not being ready. He hasnt asked my story so I havent been able to talk about my fairly recent break up. He probably thinks Ive been alone these past six years since the divorce.
Did he just say toughen up buttercup? Aw, he is hurt.
I put my sandals back on. He offers to walk me to my car. Once there, a quick hug and fleeting lip kiss. I tell him hes very attractive and that Ive had a lovely afternoon.
Can I drive you somewhere?
Nah, its all right. Ive got the bike. He gestures with a thumb. That high IQ obviously didn't kick in when it comes to DUI. This was his eleventh charge.
I know hell be back at the hotel smoking a cone within the hour. I feel a bit sad for him. He says hes doing exactly what he wants but I know he misses his daughter. Hasnt seen her for three years. Is he really a Chief? Related to Temuera Morrison? With cousins in Catch A Fire? Head-hunted by the All Blacks?
He wont contact me now he knows I dont put out, but if you think I wouldn't do coffee with him again you'd be wrong.
PS. Hes only up to page 16 of 'Shantaram'. He confessed that every time he picks it up to read it he falls asleep. Hes been carrying the tome around for nigh on sixteen months.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Many Rivers To Cross


It’s day two of our Litchfield National Park stay and my sister and I had an unexpected adventure. It all started innocently enough. The turn-off to Cascade Falls, barely any cars (good), hats, sturdy walking shoes, bottles of water, towels, I have my togs underneath, and away.
A well trodden, council cared-for path complete with enviro-loo and lookouts. So far, so good. Three minutes later I was contemplating Frost’s ‘The Road Less Travelled’ whilst facing a fork in the track offering ‘700m to Lower Falls’ or ‘1.6km to Upper Falls’. Sis can decide – I’m easy. An occasional shout could be heard to our left. Kids! Aaargh. We went right, away from the sounds.
Forty minutes later and we’re still climbing! Are we freaking there yet? Climb, climb, follow the blue triangles, climb. It is beautiful scenery but more effort than we bargained for.
Finally, the sound of rushing water and we begin our descent toward the stream. I can’t resist. Shoes and socks off my sweltering feet, that tricky manoeuvre to pull out the bra from under my bathers (ha-cha) and I’m in. Glorious, mountain fresh, little fishies, cascading little waterfalls. I’m in heaven!
A terse voice from the other side: You muss plunge in qvicklee or iz too colt. Ya, iz beautiful but you muss not dvink ziss vorter. Ziss iz not goot to dvink.
Lucy, who had been crouching gracefully to scoop up a handful of pristine mountain water looks over to me and whispers: I wish she’d shut the fuck up.
Thankfully the Gestapo moved on and we soon resumed the serene mode of earlier minutes.
Knowing we had a lengthy hike back to the car, Luce did a reconnaissance only to discover the lower cascades were just down from where we were, and that they looped as a short cut back to where we started from. This was welcome news as we didn’t feel adequately prepared for another 2k trek.
So off we went with nothing save random blue triangles pointing the way.
Our jubilation at finding a short cut was short lived as the terrain became extremely precarious. Slippery, muddy, root-ridden, barely visible tracks between boulders which would be buried come The Big Wet. Where the fuck is the next blue triangle? We had only been walking a minute and we had already hit a dead end!
A grey-haired nomad in budgie-smugglers was a helpful addition as he clambered out of a rock pool to point out the triangle in the distance ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE RAPIDS. Gulp. We knew we couldn’t go back – onward we must go.
I went first. Forget trying to keep my shoes and socks dry; it was all over red rover. Balance, step, test the rock, hop, easy does it. And it needs to be said that Lucy and I had our handbags over our shoulders, each laden with novels and journals, plus large beach towels around our necks. I also had a picnic rug rolled in the shape of a clutch purse. Like the girls from ‘Picnic At Hanging Rock’ we soldiered on.
Soon, a one and a half metre rock ledge. This one had a red triangle affixed to it. Fine, if you know what it means. Either ‘DO NOT MISS THIS POINT – CLIMB HERE’ or ‘FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DO NOT CLIMB AT THIS SPOT’! Your guess is as good as mine; I elected to go at that point. I sat on the ledge and slid awkwardly down, landing on my tippy toes on the wet rocks below, my handbag snagging a little on the boulder.
‘This way, Luce,’ I say encouragingly.
She obliges – there’s no choice, really.
Only as she slid pelvis first towards me did we both suddenly realise that her legs aren’t quite as long as mine. Her little wet sneakered feet searched hopefully for terra firma but found only air. I’ll never forget that look of resignation on her face as she free-fell the last 6” in the good faith that eventually she would find the ground.
It would be fair to say that we both wanted to die.
With faces set like flint we overcame the next set of obstacles like contestants in a perverse Japanese game show. And before long another ‘bloody hell’ moment as we were required to zig zag over the water again with no clear idea of the best route to take. I just went for it, hoping my momentum would see me safe to the other side, which, surprisingly, it did.
In a moment of sibling tenderness I turned to help my sister. I placed one foot chivalrously back into  the flowing stream, the other on dry ground for purchase, and reached out my hand to Lucy who was balancing precariously in the bubbling river atop half a granite cube.
‘Slippy?’ she inquires.
I grabbed her hand and as I said ‘no’ we both slid towards each other stopping only when our feet met a metre under water, Lucy unceremoniously landing on her bum. We were so shocked we stayed in situ to laugh our heads off for a minute, as did the German back-packers upstream.
We thought we were through the worst but it wasn’t to be. More jungle, more wet boulders, more rivers to cross. By the time we made it back to the car we were shaking our heads in disbelief. What were we thinking? Still, better than watching TV.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

RBT Comes To Town


Am I the only idiot who gets a thrill watching RBT on telly? And I’m a bit partial to that ‘Customs’ one as well. There’s something about the adrenaline rush associated with the flashing red and blue lights, and the cheap thrill of wondering if Barry had one too many after work. Is his career on the line? He promises the nice officer he was only drinking lights and he’d only had a couple.
Sadly, Barry reads 0.06 on the Richter scale, and he’s off to the portable breath testing van for confirmation. Poor Barry. Poor, sad-arse, loser Barry. Barry done bad. Barry no can get to work now.
This morning I was rudely awoken after my big (and rare) night out by Prince Harry needing a lift to work. It was a mad rush. I am normally on the ball but given it was the first day of my holidays I had let the old hair down and vaguely remember stumbling into bed some time after1.00am.
No matter. I’ll use what little time we have to get his shirt ironed and simply drive in my PJs. Work is only 5 minutes up the road.
With minutes to spare, Harry is sitting in the car looking like a new pin in his crisply ironed shirt, and I look deplorable – sleep in my eyes and dried spittle adorning one side of my face. Harry alerts me to the fact that I’m not wearing a bra. I counter by saying my jarmy top has a built in support, and for him to suck it up!
As we turn the first of three corners I chuckle that this will likely be the morning that I get a flat tyre or some such given my shoddy state. I am being facetious - my car has just been serviced and is in excellent nick with a full tank.
A quick second turn. Third. And finally onto the home stretch. Phew. We were cutting it a bit fine this morning.
Suddenly I am being waved into a queue of cars FOR A RANDOM BREATH TEST!!!
I am tempted to write the next paragraph in caps to capture how utterly sick I felt. But I will refrain. Imagine the capitals, if you will.
My mind rushes to the events of the night before to scrabble together a drinking inventory before the nice officer asks me if I have been drinking.
Two wines before I was picked up, or was it three. A couple of full strength beers at the venue. Or was it three? Or four??? No, three. I am almost certain. I think... Then we went somewhere else for a cocktail. But I don’t like cocktails so I had a scotch. No, two. That’s right two whiskey and dries.
O lord. Help me. What if I’m over? I feel okay. I mean, apart from the heart-attack style surge of adrenaline that is helping me not to have a bowel motion right now. O God. My girlfriend lost her licence. My ex has been done. And now it’s my turn. I am commanding myself to breathe. My cheeks must be burning. I reposition the angle of the air-con louvers. Wind down your window Janey. It’s time. I inch the car forward.
A friendly smile from the cop. Have I ever had a breath test before? Yes. Blow into this until I tell you to stop. Here goes.
The cop doesn’t watch me. He has his eye on the cricket game across the road. It’s a beautiful day here at Lord’s.
The beep of the machine pulls him back to reality. Time stands still. He reads the gadget and says, ‘Have you had anything to drink in the last 24 hours?’
‘Yes I have,’ I croak.
‘When was your last drink?’
‘About 1 o’clock this morning.’
He smiles. ‘You’re not over or anything like that, it’s just registering that you have had something to drink.’
My circulation recommences. I hadn’t been aware that it had stopped.
Another smile. I smile too.
‘So just be aware how long it takes to get out of your system, okay?’
I think he said have a nice day but there was so much blood pounding in my ears I couldn’t hear properly as I pulled back onto the road.
I got Harry to work on time, you’ll be glad to know. How close had I come to losing my licence?  It never crossed my mind for a second that I would still have alcohol in my system. I would have been poor sad arse Janey.
In hindsight, the cop did smile a lot. I was bra-less, in PJ’s, with dry spit on one side of my face. Maybe I was over but he felt compassion for this dishevelled home-maker running the kid to work in her night wear. Poor, sad cow deserves a break. Thank you Mr Policeman. I won’t let you down.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Tupper Where?


All right, so I called my own bluff. I said one had to get out to get blog fodder, and this one was for a charitable cause.
So I went to a Tupperware Party! I’ve been to a couple in year’s past so before I arrived I had a little firm chat with myself. Janey, I said, you’re on a budget. No lavish spending: no ‘once only’ special offers, no ‘70% off recommended retail’ and definitely no Starter Kit!
You know the Starter Kit? It’s that 4000 piece set of matching plastic that ensures you can save half an onion and that 5 grams of lentils that almost tragically went in the bin. A ‘Must Have’ for the tupper rookies. But I wasn’t going to get sucked in. And this isn’t foreshadowing. So don’t get excited about the ending. I seriously was not going to be wowed by any product no matter how glossy the brochure or how sexy the finger food.
And the finger food was very very sexy. By my third piece of rocky road, washed down with a glass of homemade lemonade, I was beginning to think I should have had a firm chat with myself about dieting before I got there.
Enter the host.
This is not my regular job, she entreats. (Hey love, there’s no shame in selling plastic, thinks I.)
She’s all smiles. Of course. (Grumpy salesmen sell as effectively as white men jump.) And – wait for it – she’s 6 months pregnant. What the? Did you read my last blog?? I swear these breeders are following me.
So I kick back and prepare to be seduced by a range of plastic forms (yeah yeah, get your mind out of the gutter). Remember, my mind is sharp. I am the keeper of my credit card and I won’t let it down.
Within minutes I find I am lulled into the spiel: Ladies, whose pasta sticks together? Who throws out shaved ham? Do you toss out lettuce? Are your carrots limp? Is your lunch warm by the time you eat it at work? Ever needed your own cutlery, and a container small enough to accommodate the salad dressing you like for lunch on the go? Did you know that your vegetables breathe? At different rates??
Nup. I’m not budging. It’s freakin plastic, just plastic. Sexy plastic, in contemporary colours...
 It’s Asia month, Ladies. Would you care to feel the sushi maker? Careful girls, the edges are a little sharp.
I’m crumbling, ever so slightly, but I can do this thing.
The hostess teases the silicone valve on the ‘husband-proof’ microwave container. My inner dialogue is warning me not to touch the valve. Just pass it along the circle, Janey. Don’t even look at it.
She sends a set of drip proof, leak proof pouring jars around the circle.
‘Ooh, they’re plastic too,’ squeals a potential customer.
Yes, intones the host, but they look like glass, don’t they?
They get as far as me. One stroke and I find myself frantically flicking through the coloured brochure to check the price. Hmm. Not bad. On sale, too. I find myself absent mindedly opening and closing the spout. How clever. It’s a press to release contraption. No loose parts. Smooth touch. And she did promise it was non drip. And it would look nice with olive oil, no, soy sauce in it, next to my stove. So convenient.
It was very very cheap, but then the fine print alerts me to the fact I can only have these puppies with a purchase over 50 bucks.
Not to worry. Now that I know I’ve been suffocating my vegetables in the crisper all these years, it would be totally irresponsible of me not to buy the matching Fridge Mates. These containers have two valves. And depending on your vegetables’ needs you can open but one, or two, or close both, or partially open both. The non scratch sticker will remind me of veggie protocol if I can’t retain this potentially life-threatening information. Thank God!
Order form in. Done. And done.
And I didn’t lose control for a second.