Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Yesterday I got a memo from one of my grand high overbosses - I think my boss's boss's boss's boss - telling me to take a holiday, or else. Of course she put it more discreetly than that, but that was the central message.

Frankly it's a nuisance.

It's a testament to my entirely pleasant working environment that I find holidays to be more effort than they're worth. Basically I have to work twice as hard before I go away, planning for any issues that might arise, and twice as hard when I return, dealing with the backlog of problems. Or I could just stay at work, fixing things if and when they come up and before they evolve into larger issues, with plenty of time in between to drink free coffee.

There's nowhere I particularly want to go, or rather, there's nowhere I want to go that won't cost untold thousands of dollars to get there. I'm not a huge fan of solo travel, and without a Significant Other there's no one I can force into going with me. I know that if I packed myself off to some exotic and beautiful place I'd just be lonely and bored and pining for my MST3K collection, if nothing else.

Plus I must admit that having massive amounts of accrued leave appeals to the miserly hoarder in me. I can look at my balance and say, "I can take a holiday that lasts until November! Or I can take a week off every month until 2010! Or one day a week off for the next two years! Ha ha ha ha ha!" Not that I actually would, because then I wouldn't have any holidays, but I could if I wanted to. Which I don't.

Perversely enough if my employers allowed their staff to cash out spare leave, I would do it in a heartbeat. Then I could buy a new car, or give my mortgage an almighty punch in the head. But they don't, so my leave just accrues like the dustbunnies under my bed.

However at the end of the day I don't think I'm in a position to tell my boss's boss's boss's boss to bite me, so I'm resigned to doing the bare minimum (my favourite amount) and taking next week off. It will give me a chance to blitz my garden, which currently looks like the Somme circa 1916 thanks to an ill-advised landscape restructuring project.

Monday, June 23, 2008


On Saturday I took the new The Flatmate out car shopping. Being a new arrival in this country, and looking down the barrel of a big fat mining industry pay packet, he’s in the market for something swish.

He was very enamoured with a 2001 Saab 93 Aero convertible, in black with a black leather interior. It had heated seats, which frankly in Australia is about as useful as a chest freezer in an igloo, but still it was a beautiful car, sleek of shape and low of mileage and reasonable of price.

However it also came with a salesman who seemed to have been recently brought in from a personnel agency specialising in clichés. He was in his 40s, with a slightly too bouffant flat top hairstyle and a shiny grey suit, wearing more gold than is usually considered decent on a man. Watch, ring, bracelet, tie pin – there are Indian brides who wear less gold. There might have been excuses if he’d been excessively ethnic, but he was as WASPy as the father from a 50s sitcom. More than anything, it was his oiliness that prevented The Flatmate from being seduced into signing a deal for his black beauty there and then.

But car shopping with The Flatmate has made me itch for a new set of wheels myself. I like my Golf, but it’s an underpowered automatic that doesn’t even come close to resembling a sports car, despite being a two door convertible. So while The Flatmate drooled all over his Saab, I expressed a mild lust for two Mazda MX5s. One was an astonishingly glossy cherry red with a black interior, obviously well cared for and loved… but it had 237,000kms on the odometer, which meant that it was not long for this world. The other was the same age but rendered in a cool silver, with only 113,000kms on the odometer. Sadly it was an automatic, and an automatic MX5 may as well be fitted with a giant sign reading GIRL’S CAR, in flashing pink neon. It also had a few dings and scratches, and some other unusual failings:

Different salesman: She’s a beauty, isn’t she?

Me: Yes. But isn’t it supposed to have two windscreen wipers?

Different salesman: Er, I guess. I hadn’t noticed that before.

It makes one wonder what else might be missing without attracting the notice of the car yard. I didn’t want to look in the engine bay just in case I found a big oil-spattered void with a little note saying “Back in 10 minutes”.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


On Sunday I took possession of a new The Flatmate. It's been about two months since the old one decamped to the Hills and set himself up with a rustic little hermitage surrounded by forests and bogans.

The new The Flatmate is a recent immigrant from England, working for an engineering company in our burgeoning mining sector. He's only been in the country for a couple of weeks, and as such he owns nothing but his trusty bicycle, a mattress and some clothes. He doesn't even own any food - last night I got home and found him trying to eat dry bread and a jar of cocktail olives for dinner. But other than that, he's settling in nicely. I've given him a detailed tour of the house, showing him how to work the washing machine and where the coffee cups are kept and when the bins go out. He's had a few questions, and oddly enought the answers to most of his questions have involved violence:

What's wrong with the garden gate?

It jams. You have to kick it.

And the front door?

It sticks in cold weather. Try kneeing it.

And the garage door?

Worn gears. Just shout angrily at it.

And can I use these expensive vintage Italian bowls for my Special K?

Only if you want to die.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


While browsing through the real estate listings earlier today, fantasising about living the groovy inner urban latte lifestyle, I came across this... unique... take on the restoration of a Federation era house.

It probably seemed obvious at the time; why not get the picture rail to follow the angle of the ceiling?

I suspect that the current owner is selling because she suffered one too many bouts of vertigo while wandering into the living room.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Last week I made a lasagne for the first time in living memory. I used a recipe I got from a magazine, and while it was reasonably tasty, I suspected that I could do better. So last night I used the remaining lasagne sheets and most of the contents of my refrigerator to make my own, somewhat more daring vegetarian lasagne.

Behold the wonder that is the Blandwagon Vegetarian Lasagne Deluxe!

In a bowl mix 500g of ricotta, an egg, 12 basil leaves (shredded), 2 tablespoons of grated parmesan and a pinch of grated nutmeg. Then assemble the lasagne as follows:

layer 1 - sliced red onions and sliced mushrooms with a drizzle of olive oil

lasagne sheets

ricotta mix

grated or sliced mozzarella

layer 2 - thinly sliced butternut pumpkin, fresh baby spinach leaves, pine nuts and thinly sliced sundried tomatoes

lasagne sheets

ricotta mix

layer 3 - ripe sliced banana with a smear of chili jam or sauce


grated parmesan

Cook at 170 degrees centigrade for 45 minutes.

So many flavours! So many textures! So much deliciousness!

Reject those small-minded types who baulk at the omission of meat, and mock those who express fear at the banana layer (the best bit, once it caramelises and oozes into the cheese)! Try it for yourself and revel in its rich, hot, sweet, spicy, creamy, nutty goodness.

Monday, June 09, 2008


On Saturday morning I jumped into my car to go out for breakfast, but when I turned the key it refused to start. I tried several times, but it just ticked at me like an annoyed chicken, with an occasional garumph as the engine tried, and failed, to turn over. I think the starter motor has died.

Not an issue, I thought, for I have alternate means of mobility! I got out of the car and onto my scooter, and for the rest of the weekend it served me well, even as I had to ride all over the city running various errands.

The downside of this arrangement hit this morning when it came time to go to work. Overnight the sunny winter weather had evolved into a wild storm, with drenching rain and windblown debris billowing across the roads. Ordinarily on days like this I'd take the car to work, but with it out of commission I had no choice but to rug up and jump on the scooter.

It was the worst commute I've ever had... and that includes the time the brakes locked up on an oil patch and dumped me onto the bitumen. It rained constantly, soaking through my raincoat, my suit and my shirt, and pooling water in my shoes. As if that wasn't bad enough, when I rode out onto an unprotected street, the howling gale threatened to pick me up and toss me into passing traffic. I actually had to ride the length of Riverside Drive at 20kph on the deserted cyclepath, since doing the speed limit on the road risked getting knocked over by the wind, and not doing the speed limit risked getting hit by irate drivers in the peak hour traffic. I arrived at work stressed and cold and more water than man.

Fortunately the climate control in my office is malfunctioning, blasting overheated air down through the ceiling vents. Thus my shirt and pants are now, four hours later, almost dry. However my jacket, raincoat and shoes are still soaked.

I've booked a man to come and to look at the car tomorrow morning. Judging from the price he quoted me, he will be hitting my engine with diamond-studded wrenches and solid gold spanners, while his personal string quartet serenades him from the back of his Maybach. But whatever he charges will be a small price to pay for not having that psycho-commute again.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Secretary (upon seeing the fruit laid out for my lunch): Wow, you’ve got a big pear.

Me: Thanks, it’s nice that you think that.

Secretary: What?

Me: Nothing.

Monday, June 02, 2008


This afternoon a guy at my office mentioned that he'd been on a first date over the weekend. Apparently they'd gone to the cinema and seen 'Iron Man', and unfortunately he was unimpressed by both the movie and the date.

Personally I've never understood the idea of going to the movies on a first date. It's not exactly a condusive enviroment for getting to know your potential partner. It's dark, so you can't really see her. There's probably loud surround sound going on, so you can't hear her. It's a first date, so you're unlikely to be feeling or tasting her. That leaves smell... and smell's not a lot to go on for two hours. The only time the average man is really conscious that a woman is wearing perfume is when she's wearing too much of it, so let's face it, he's more likely to smell her snacks. Going to the movies on a first date is likely to end up being summarised thusly:

Friend: How was your date?

You: She smelled like popcorn and Diet Coke.

Friend: What did she look like?

You: I don't know.