Sunday, November 30, 2014

November 30. Day 334. Thirteeen, lucky for some

Cleo and her cousin Mikaela celebrating in style
Thirteen, according to the bingo caller, is unlucky for some. Clearly, therefore, it is lucky for others. Today my delightful niece Cleo celebrated the start of the teen years (officially her birthday was on Tuesday but as "luck" would have it that was a school day). In any event, Miss Cleo has managed to create a birthday festival extending the celebrations well beyond one day. Today the family gathered for their contribution - a rather excellent lunch followed by a huge ice cream cake. It was a feast fit for a teen queen. Because the past fortnight has been "interesting" (where interesting means woeful) I failed to deliver a present appropriate or otherwise and refused to sink to providing $$$. Instead we decided to extend the birthday festival further and in the near future we will share a birthday adventure - abseiling or climbing the Story Bridge or riding horses on the beach. Why should teenagers have all the "luck"?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

November 29. Day 333. It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

One of the great joys at this time of year is heading into the city at night with the family to see the tree, the Christmas lights and the windows. It's an annual pilgrimage that says the holiday season has officially begun. The timing of this year's City Lights trip couldn't have been better. Today was also the day my baby boy visited Santa for his Santa Paws photo. It was also Day 1 of eight weeks holiday for the human baby and a friend of mine was singing at Saint John's Cathedral - all fine reasons to celebrate. While most of what I saw was awesome as expected, there was one very pleasant surprise. The nativity figures in St John's were all made of cardboard. I  couldn't find an attribution, this could only be the work of one man - Brisbane sculptor Terry Summers. A quick web search confirmed my suspicions.According to Summers' website his works include:
"Nativity"  Saint John's Cathedral, Brisbane.  The installation consists of eight larger than life, waste cardboard sculptures, which include the baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph, three wise men, an angel and a donkey." Not only are they awesome to look at, they look absolutely in place surrounded by the stone and marble more commonly associated with Church architecture and religious art yet they are made of waste cardboard. We were not the only ones who had to have a really close look to confirm these were the cardboard cutout version of religious art. I think this is a perfect way to overcome some of the excesses of the church and at the same time deliver a perfect reduce, re-use, recycle message to young people without being to preach-y. Even more reason for the kids to get so much joy not from the gift but the box it comes in.

Friday, November 28, 2014

November 28. Day 332. Puzzling behaviour

It is actually not all that uncommon for me to open the door on something that looks like a crime scene - I call that the teenager's bedroom. This being said while I have often thought a HAZMAT suit should be put on before entering, I have never expected to find a body - until today.
Today I took part in the latest sensational thing to do - the puzzle room. In a team you enter a room and have to solve a series of puzzles to gain the code needed to unlock the door and get out. You have an hour. I had a cunning plan. Stack the team. So there was an engineer, a vet, the journalist and two very bright teenagers - the scientific one and the wordsmith. We should be able to tackle this one, no worries. Supremely confident we entered the murder mystery puzzle room scenario and while we manage to piece together many pieces of the crime puzzle, no-one would have been convicted on our efforts.
It is a great disappointment to me that should they ever be recruiting for CSI Brisbane not one of us is likely to be getting the tap on the shoulder. My love of the crime shows (the realistic and Castle) has clearly not given me the skills I need. But you know what? Who cares? While we might still be in the room had we not used our clue cards no one of us left disappointed. It was a great team building activity, an awesome opportunity to puzzle solve and bottom line a huge amount of fun. Seems to be that it is no mystery why puzzle rooms are the in activity for those in the know.
The Puzzled Room Escape is located on Logan Road at Holland Park and is recommended for people aged 15 plus. Puzzle Tech Murder, the scenario we so spectacularly failed at, was rated 3/5 for difficulty. There's a harder puzzle Puzzled Academy with a daunting 4.5/5 difficulty rating. I think what I need is Puzzles for Dummies but perhaps that's another name for the daily game of which of these clothes on the floor-drobe is clean.

Seriously. With this lot, is it any wonder we didn't solve anything?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

November 27. Day 331. Hailing

Bohemian Rhapsody had that line about "thunderbolts and lightning very, very frightening indeed".
This is true. But my experience today tells me howling winds, driving rain and giant hail stones peppering your car are bloody terrifying.
I had the bad fortune being out in it, almost home when the storm struck. Fortunately I was outside the Convention Centre and was able to escape into the underground car park and wait it out. When it blew over I found it impossible to drive the short distance home because of power lines down and roads closed so I walked and got to see the destruction up close and personal.
I arrived home to find out house pretty much untouched but neighbours with scores of broken windows between them,
But the silver lining in this storm cloud? The community spirit. Ignoring their own damage, the neighbours converged on the house of 87-year-old Margaret to help her clean up glass, find torches and get settled. That's what neighbours do come rain, hail or shine.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

November 26. Day 330. Feed me

So the way to a man's heart is though his stomach. That's just soft. You won't get to my heart with food. You will get to my soul. It's an emotional thing. It's a comfort thing. Some times it's about hunger. Some times it's about taste. A lot of the time it's about so much more. It's instinct right? From the time we are babies we are driven by food. These three where practically climbing over each other in the nest to get their fair share and more and making a right regular noise about it too. That's me when I'm hungry,. Try and come between me and food and you won't hear the end of it. Like a wild predator, I'm much easier to deal with when I'm well fed. Even more so if I'm well rested. Those signs about not feeding the wild life? Ignore them. Some wild life are a lot tamer when fed.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

November 25. Day 329. You'd better not shout

November 25 and I'm prepared to call it - the day the count dawn can officially begin. So folks "You'd better not shout. You'd better not cry. You'd better not pout." And if you think you know why you are most likely wrong. It has nothing to do with the tragic case of the grown woman who chooses to dress her dog like Santa Paws. Nor is it because Christmas is now only a month away. The countdown to which I am referring is the end of Year 11. There has been enough pouting and shouting and crying in this house as we approach the end of this school year to last a lifetime - and I'm just talking about me. And I'm over it. And while I shall hold off on popping the champagne corks until 3pm on Thursday I'm starting to get a tinsy, tiny bit hopeful that the end is near and if we've all been good Santa might bring a half decent report card to make it all worthwhile.

Monday, November 24, 2014

November 24. Day 328. Open wide

 I have no idea what the birds were up to at the University of Queensland Lakes this afternoon but I suspect it was some kind of mating ritual. There was a lot of puffing up feathers, flapping about, screeching and beak to beak action. All in all not that unlike a Valley nightclub in the early hours of Saturday morning if my very dodgy memory serves me correctly. The thing is, while these types of rituals doubtless look very sexy for those involved, they look somewhat ridiculous from the outside. Just look at the behaviour of drunken teens on a night out. Most unattractive to those of us too old to ooze sex hormones. And so it was with these birds. I can not say for sure why there would be meeting of beaks but it looked kind of unappealing - much like going to the dentist and trying to have a conversation while someone prises open your mouth. Perhaps because I spent the morning taking my neighbour Margaret to the dentist, that's exactly what the bids reminded me of what with lots of flapping about and mouths open wide, Didn't stick around to see if they got to spit out afterwards.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

November 23. Day 327. Who me?

OK, I confess I have been known to watch Super Nanny. This I can assure you has nothing to do with getting parenting tips and everything to do with reassuring me that I am not the worst parent on earth. Nothing like Super Nanny, Wife Swap or Dance Mums to give you every confidence that no matter how many parenting mistakes you may make, there are others out there who are far worse. Anyway, while parenting pointers may not be the goal of Super Nanny viewing, I have picked up some pearls of parenting wisdom along the way (and not just the naughty corner and how not to pronounce "acceptable").  Such as, some times a child will behave in a very, very naughty fashion because it is the only way to gain attention. When little Johnny or Jimmy feels he's been overlooked he's learned there's no surer way to get back into the spotlight than to act up. I'm wondering if Little Rumple has also learned this. Let's be clear, this pampered pooch has never and will never be neglected. He's pretty much the centre of attention of everyone in the house and we are all quite happy with that arrangement. But with the deluge of assessment related stress flooding the place on occasions he may be left to fend for himself. So he's been getting up to no good and I'm pretty sure he knows it. While he does have the run of the house there are rules and not climbing on the table and sitting on the weekend newspapers is one of them. I know, how mean? But really he knows he can get away with it if he really wants to. Just give me those big sad puppy dog eyes and all is forgiven.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

November 22. Day 326. Going under

Sunday is meant to be the day of rest but as a woman who always tries to keep ahead of the game, I decided to get in early and declare today "Slacko Saturday". We all desperately needed a catch-up day after what has been a "difficult" week (where difficult is a euphemism for words that would have my mouth washed out with soap in years gone by). I cancelled all appointments apart from taking the dog for his Santa photo. Turns out Santa Paws is next week. Again a woman ahead of my time. There was much sleeping and much kicking back by the pool. Funny how after a week feeling like you are drowning, a day spent largely under water is a pleasant relief. Drama Teen, who I always said could talk under water, certainly seemed to enjoy letting off steam. Yep, the world is a better place for fresh air, sunshine, a long dip and binge sleeping. My vow is to be doing a lot more of it in the very near future.

Friday, November 21, 2014

November 21. Day 325. It's as easy as ABC

 Somewhere in the great unpublished collection of parental sayings and wisdom there is a chapter that deals with dishonesty. Every parent knows it. Every parent tries to instill its lessons in his or her young.
The rules are like this. If you steal the last Tim Tam from the biscuit jar I will be annoyed and rightly you will be punished. But if you lie and say you did not take the Tim Tam and I find the evidence on your crumby fingers, the crime of the lie well outdoes the original breach. Try and cover it up and you might find yourself grounded for life. Lying and failure to take responsibility for your actions are poor displays of human ethics and thus can not go unpunished. This is what I think about the ABC cuts. As a journalist and consumer of the ABC I am deeply concerned and saddened by the ABC funding cuts. But what makes me mad as hell are the lies and the cover-up. You can not stand up before the Australian people the night before a general election and sat there will be no cuts to the ABC and then do the exact opposite. This is the sort of act that gives politicians a bad name. But to really lose respect failing to acknowledge the cuts and insist on calling it an efficiency dividend is holding the electorate in utter contempt and should be treated accordingly. I don't think you've heard the end of it. Not by a long shot.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

November 20. Day 324. Gasp!

You have to laugh. No, really you do.
And one day I may look back on this week and laugh but I can't see that happening without a lot of therapy and even more mind altering substances. It has not been kind. But there was a diamond in the rough of the week. Tonight we got to escape the confines of assessment stress and head to the theatre. A comedy was just what the doctor ordered (although I've yet to find a way to bill it to the national health system, more's the pity). When it comes to comedy my fancy is well and truly tickled by a good bit of political satire and the tradition that comes out of Britain is a personal favorite. So being in the opening night crowd of Ben Elton's reworked play Gasp at QPAC was most exciting especially since the great man himself was in the audience and joined the cast on stage for the bows. Truth is this play will not have you laughing so hard you gasp but it is intelligent, at times silly, genuinely funny with the occasional snort moment. It's good and while not great the biting satire, contemporary political references and occasional sledge hammer humour make for a great night out. Like I said, you have to laugh.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

November 19. Day 323. Motherhood

Remember that deodorant ad? The one where the punch line was "I can't get by without my mum?"
Well, that's the thing isn't it? The world is a better place for having your mum around and I don't think any of us are too old or too fat or too independent to want Mum every now and again. And I think mums really dig that because the truth is you never stop being a mum no matter how big your baby is.
So it was today that after I had dropped my 16-year-old "baby" at school for an exam I headed off for a head-clearing walk to South Bank. There the birds were making one hell of a racket in what looked to a non avian observer like a reminder call to this year's chicks who were starting to show their independence. It was all very touching (and all too brief because this mum's taxi was due back at school). But as I headed back I got a call from my own mum wanting to know if I was okay.
"Same old, Same old," I replied. "Why?" Apparently mum's friend Lois had said I wasn't on the radio this morning and clearly that must mean something was terribly wrong. That makes any mum's heart race and gets the dialing finger into action. It's like this. While I might like to act like Batfink and assume a pose that says "Your bullets can not harm me, my wings are like a shield of steal" some weeks you just are not bullet proof. This is one of those weeks. Too little sleep and too much stress (aka all work and no play) makes Susan a sad, sleepy sook. So I bailed. It's like that thing on the aircraft where you are told to put your own oxygen mask on before helping others. To be of any use steering my baby through the last week of Year 11, I have to first look after myself. By next week I confidently predict I'll be back. If not I'll get a note from my mum.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

November 18. Day 322. I take that back

You know that awkward moment when you realise just how wrong the words were that came out of your mouth but life comes with neither a rewind switch nor a rewind button so the words are out there forever. The best you can hope for is that no-one recorded them and in an instant uploaded the conversation to a YouTube or Sound Cloud or something. Then, like Snap chat the whole thing might disappear into the ether and there will be no permanent record.
So it went like this. 
Stylist: Now that we've shaken it out I might give it a final trim to make sure it's perfectly even.
Me: Okay great. Have you changed the product you use? It smells great. There's sort of an apricot essence
Stylist: Some times the manufacturers vary the formula.
Now in itself that conversation is fairly cringe worthy but it's the sort of chit chat that it pretty much par for the course - at a hairdresser. But I was collecting Rumple from the dog groomer and actually having a proper conversation about the formula used in the styling products. And yes I said "product". Seriously.
What I should have said was "how the hell do you make him sit still while you do that?". Because the fur friend sat their obediently like the child who is an angel at school but devil at home. But I didn't and I didn't ask if some dogs needed to be drugged or if anyone one human or animal was ever injured with those scissors. I asked about "product". And then I took Rumple home and posed him for the Christmas photo. There may be therapy available. I suspect it's too late.

Monday, November 17, 2014

November 17. Day 321. It's a dog's life

For some reason I cannot fathom, Rumple rather wants to be human. In fact I'm pretty sure he thinks he is human and I don't want to be the one to break it to him. In almost all things he is just like the other members of the family except he has more hair and generally better manners. Of course, I'd be far better mannered if I didn't have to go to work. The same is probably true of Charles and the hair thing. In any event Rumple enjoys all things the other family members do with one key exception - he does not like water. He hates a bath and (fortunately) stays well clear of the pool. This may or may not have something to do with that one time he managed to take an unscheduled dip when being overly enthusiastic in a possum chase. That experience has taught him to keep his distance. But being the loyal fur friend he is, he simply can not be separated from the human action so he's found himself a nice compromise. Like the elderly aunt who hasn't put on a swim suit in decades, Rumple contents himself with enjoying the goings on from a seat on the banana lounge. Given half the chance, I'm pretty sure he'd be ordering cocktails and nibbles. Yep, it's a dog's life all right.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

November 16. Day 320. We've gotta get out of this place

I admit, this semester has been tough, very tough, on everyone. I am counting down the days until summer holidays. Quite frankly the beach break can not come soon enough and I know all the other human inhabitants of the house feel likewise. The only resident who seems to have escaped the stress is Rumple, or so I thought until this morning. Now he has also made it clear that he's ready for holidays too and he's making sure we don't go without him (as though that would happen). This morning I found him curled up in a suitcase ready to go. Not long Rumple, not long.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

November 15. Day 319. Democracy in action

Sometimes when Drama Teen has his full Captain Ranty Pants costume on and is railing against the world and everything in it, I will politely suggest it might be more successful to fight one battle at a time. The G20 protest march through Brisbane today left me with much the same impression. I will say at the outset (and I hope I am not premature in doing so) that the protesters were a well behaved and good natured bunch. Having seen riots from previous G20 gatherings this lot showed what peaceful protest is all about (they were even handing out ice creams which on a day like today went down an absolute treat). But if I had to sum up with protest it would be something like this. "What do we want?" Well ... World peace and Indigenous rights and an end to poverty and action for the environment and an end to the persecution of Falun Gong in China and a free Tibet and greater human rights in Ethiopia and that's probably just the tip of the ice berg. There was a shopping list of calls to action with no clear idea of just who is supposed to deliver these things. I did learn that the protest movement needs to think of itself as mosquitoes - you may be small but you have the power to irritate a lot and through that bring change. Problem is, it just became all too confusing - are we talking malaria mosquitoes or the dengue fever ones or the Ross River Fever ones or what? There were a lot of very, very worthwhile causes being brought to the public attention under the blazing Queensland sun today but I feel they all got droned out in the buzz.

Friday, November 14, 2014

November 14. Day 318. Focus

 It's a pretty big irony that while the rest of the world focuses on Brisbane for the G20, the people of Brisbane have decided to turn their sights on anywhere but. The streets were a bit like an empty sound stage waiting for the characters to arrive for much of the day while massive traffic jams turned the roads escaping the city into long snaking carparks. For once my lack of vision paid off. I did think about going away for the bonus long weekend but couldn't get my sh*t together so my family was the last in the room left to turn out the lights. It turned out to be a stroke of genius. I enjoyed a delightfully quiet stroll around South Bank and discovered a new calling - the person who can give directions and take photographs with all the group members. The dog gave me away as a local so I was called on quite a bit to lend a hand. Probably the most popular shot was the one with the Brisbane sign erected just for the G20. At first I thought it was about as sensible as the baby clothes with Baby on the front, just in case your sleep deprived mind makes you think it's for the cat. I have now decided it's a stroke of genius. I mean who hasn't looked back on photo albums and wondered "now what city was that?" We've just decided to be helpful especially since there are no locals about to set the record straight should any of our visitors get a little confused.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

November 13. Day 317. Do you see what I see?

Beauty is not the only thing in the eye of the beholder. Let's face it so much of what we "know" is only a version of the truth coloured by our background, experience, culture etc. How often do you hear radio interviewers criticised for being left wing stooges or right wing apologists often for their handling of exactly the same story. We all look at the world through the filter of our own biases. This sprang to mind as I watched to Wayne Coco Wharton being interviewed from the Musgrave Park G20 protest site today. He talked very articulately and at length about the intimidatory tactics of the police around the protesters and how they circled the park in large numbers looking threatening. I saw the police. I saw their numbers and I watched them walk. To me they looked bored. Very bored and if anything slightly embarrassed. Now let's be clear. I am most certainly not camping in Musgrave Park and with a salon-groomed designer dog in tow, I probably don't scream "protester". It is well possible that the treatment I get is not the same as others but I can only tell you what I saw. I just think we might all have a little less to complain about if we did try to see it through the eyes of others occasionally.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

November 12. Day 316. For crying out loud

Apparently speaking louder does not make what you are saying any easier to comprehend to someone who doesn't speak the same language. Who would have thought?
In much the same way, speaking louder seems to have no net effect on the ability of Drama Teen to respond appropriately when called. I'm pretty sure there's an automatic off switch that is triggered as soon as I utter his name. And thus I don't. I have a bypass mechanism. Calling Oliver is useless and thus I summons Fred. His filter does not yet screen out that moniker and the tone still registers as something that needs to be responded to. So calling Oliver doesn't bring Oliver and calling Fred doesn't bring Fred, mainly because there is no Fred, but calling Fred brings Oliver. Simple. Yes, I am fully aware this is insane but it is surprisingly effective. It is also illustrative of just how unfair biology is, at least my biology. In my experience, it is impossible to screen out the cries of one's young, even if one young isn't young. Nature has us respond, like it or not and without the "little" one having to froth at the mouth. It seems to work across species too. You should have seen this little's mum respond to the cry for help. I mean, really who could ignore that demonstration. Not me. I just wish it worked in reverse. Perhaps I just need to speak a little louder or start foaming at the mouth

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

November 11. Day 315. At face value

 If there's one thing I've learned over the years (and some days I'm convinced there is only one thing I've learned) it's that if you are pleasant and prepared to give people time generally they will reciprocate. People do like a chat more so if you happen to be in the company of something small and furry. This afternoon I walked Rumple to Musgrave Park and he seemed rather intrigued by the unfamiliar sights and smells around the protesters and protest tents springing up in the lead up to the G20 this weekend. Everyone from the police officers to the protesters and the interested onlookers seemed keen to stop and talk. From the police, I learned that the iPhone maps app is G20 ready. From a member of one of the green groups I learned where you could get a good Chai Latte and  Indigenous protester Judy of Cherbourg showed me what a great character she is. Judy saw the camera around my neck and asked me to take a photo. She'd like a copy, she said and I could find her in the park any day this week. She also told me that her dog Sasha was not always friendly and it might be best for Rumple to keep his distance. But we should come back - and we will. It would be rude not to when everyone is so friendly.

Monday, November 10, 2014

November 10. Day 314. Night Owl

Night Owl (noun) a person who is habitually active or wakeful at night.
Night Owl (shop) the convenience store that sells bucket-sized frozen Cokes to the person is up all night to help them get through the day.
I am way too familiar with both these concepts. I have locked myself into a routine where I am up working until all hours and then too tired to function all day. Frozen Cokes have become my friend despite at least a decade of being certified Coke-free. Still we do what we have to do and at least I know I am in good company. Not only is just about every teenager keeping similar hours but my faithful fur friend has a silent pact to do what I do. He sleeps when I sleep (he sleeps much of the rest of the day too because it's a dog's life). We make a good pair, Rumple and I. It was Rumple who alerted me to the presence of this juvenile tawny frogmouth in a tree near the back fence. The owl was well hidden but the incessant barking demanded I look up - and there was the owl sitting there looking completely unperturbed by the insane dog going off his nut. Let's face it the owl has very distinct advantages. It can fly AND I've seen the photos of owls eating creatures not much smaller than my fur friend. This bloke doesn't even need the 24 hour convenience store to be fed in the middle of the night.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

November 9. Day 313. Cooling off period

 Even if the thermometer wasn't in the summer zone, with less than three weeks to go until the end of Year 11, things around here are decidedly steamy and it's not just the student in the house who is hot under the collar. This type of stress and the resulting tendency to bite the heads off of your nearest and dearest for crimes such as being alive tends to be a wee bit infectious. As a result, late this afternoon I called time out and ordered everyone in the pool. Best. Move. Ever. Sunlight, fresh air and a cool dip does wonders for everyone's mood so much so that Drama Teen and I went back in for a short dip after dinner. Of course it's easy to think that when the pressure's on there's no time for a paddle. In actual fact, this is the best time. I'm not talking about lazing about all day but just taking short purposeful cooling off periods does everyone the world of good.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

November 8. Day 312. Froth and bubble

If I had to put dots on a map identifying the outdoor party spaces in and around the CBD I know South Bank, Roma Street Parklands and the Botanic Gardens would get great big stickers. The lawn beside the law courts not so much. To tell you the truth, if the location next to the court buildings and across the road from the police headquarters were not enough to deter you, the artwork of giant eyes squinting, staring and peering at you Big Brother-like from the walls would do the trick. This is a space where lawyers and those who fall foul of the law hang during court recess - well normally. This week after the legal eagles have gone home the party has kicked into place. There's pumping disco beats and circus performers in giant inflatable bubbles. Disco lights pulse, the bubble machine is working overtime and giant artworks are projected on the adjoining buildings. Just to add to the fun, families sitting on the lawns are issued with hula hoops and kids giggle as they watch mum and dad or grandma and grandpa try to reclaim a long lost skill. It's a bit of froth and bubble but a huge amount of fun. Long may the G20 party games continue.