Wednesday, December 31, 2008


I visited some friends earlier today, and when I used their facilities I discovered this:

Christmas toilet paper. It seems fair enough. If there are Christmas tea towels and Christmas door mats and Christmas napkins, why not Christmas toilet paper?

But amateur semiotician that I am, I couldn’t help but wonder at the implications of Christmas toilet paper. No doubt the intention is one of, “It’s Christmas! Let everything in the house be filled with Christmas joy!”

Then again, maybe it’s more of a Scrooge-like,“Bah! Christmas! Here’s what I think of Christmas! I wipe my bum with Christmas!”*

I will need to investigate my friends’ attitudes more closely.

*In other news, I’d like to announce that ‘I Wipe My Bum With Christmas’ is due for release as my smash hit Christmas single in December 2009.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Well, The Flatmate’s Scaly Mates have mostly gone. The only remaining one now is staying with friends on the opposite side of the city, and she’s not particularly scaly, so it feels as if it’s all over. As I mentioned in my last post I’m going to miss having them around.

You might wonder why I feel this way, given that they were only here for three weeks, and spent a week of that traveling outside the city. This conversation I had with The Flatmate on Sunday may go some way to explaining it:

The Flatmate: Thanks for letting my Scaly Mates stay, especially after TFSM1 only gave us four days’ warning that he was coming. He tends to be a little spontaneous.

Me: Are you kidding? I love having TFSM1 around!

The Flatmate: That’s good.

Me: Every day is like getting a friendly monkey for Christmas!

The Flatmate: (unable to speak for several seconds because of the laughter).

Me: Er… I hope that doesn’t sound rude.

The Flatmate: Actually I think you’ve captured his appeal pretty well.

If only we could have trained him to hurl his scat at the neighbours. Oh well, next time.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


My posts here have been a little on the negative side of late, and a couple of things have encouraged me to write a more positive entry.

Firstly I read An9ie's post about five things for which she is thankful, which reminded me that snark and sarcasm must be occasionally balanced with celebration and gratitude.

Then, of course, I pissed off a legion of mothers with offense detectors more sensitive than a radical feminist at a Promise Keepers conference. While I reject their self-appointed role as judges of what may or may not be said about a certain genetic disorder, I'm reminded that I can sometimes come across badly in this blog, because the times when I'm being happy and magnanimous rarely make for entertaining blog posts.

So, following An9ie's example, here are five things for which I'm thankful:

1. The bounty of edible things from my garden. My new nectarine trees produced fruit that was battered and wizened but deliciously sweet, and my apple tree has little proto-apples sprouting all over it, promising great things for the future. Over the weekend I made scrambled eggs with fresh basil, sage and oregano from the backyard, while The Flatmate was able to give our Mauritian neighbour some of the mint that grows pretty much everywhere.

2. My car. As I leave my house in the morning, or walk across the carpark at work in the evening, I actually find that I'm looking forward to getting in it and going for a spin. It makes even a humdrum commute fun. It's also having a positive effect on my driving: I'm no longer burbling about like a dozy pensioner, even when I'm in a borrowed Toyota Corolla.

3. The Flatmate's Scaly Mates. The house has been in chaos over the last couple of weeks but it's been fun having them around. When they leave the place will be cleaner but it'll also feel emptier.

4. The gin & tonic deck. Speaking of The Flatmate and his Scaly Mates, it's become our habit of an evening to unwind and regroup on the new deck at the front of the house, now christened the Gin & Tonic Deck for reasons which should be obvious - I figure that if you can have a croquet lawn, you can have a gin & tonic deck. As you might imagine we sit out there and drink, discuss our plans, and enjoy the evening, watching the glimpses of the twilight sky between the wisteria leaves and the pairs of TFSM1's underpants that he hung out to dry on the trellis wires.

5. The 1971 Wade Marcus version of 'Spinning Wheel'. All funky bass and jazz flute. Yeah, baby!

See... wasn't that boring? Normal psychopathic ranting will resume tomorrow.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Yesterday I did what many Perthians do when they have a free Sunday afternoon and a houseful of international guests – I drove them out to the Swan Valley for a tour of the wine district.

The Swan Valley is a fertile area dotted with wineries of all sizes, from obscure family vineyards to colossal international booze conglomerates. Between them are the sort of businesses likely to appeal to inebriated tourists with bulging wallets and lowered sales resistance – restaurants, art galleries, craft shops and one big shed specializing in nougat. There were six of us in total, so we took The Flatmate’s Saab and my friend PM’s Toyota Corolla. We could have taken my MX5, but I relaxed my otherwise firm ‘No Corollas’ rule because it was 39 degrees in the shade and for all their faults Toyotas have remarkable airconditioners.

We started at the soulless corporate hellhole that is Sandalford Wines. Well, maybe “hellhole” is a little extreme – somehow I doubt that Hell has outdoor mist sprays to keep its patrons cool. However I’m pretty sure that, like Sandalford’s, Hell’s gift shop has $100 wine glasses.

We’d hoped to have lunch in their restaurant, but the whole place was booked out. There were people everywhere. Not to cast any aspersions, but I think that it'd be safe to assume that every single person there owned a very large plasma television and was planning to buy their mother an Andre Rieu CD for Christmas. After we'd been there a little while, The Flatmate cast a penetrating gaze around the establishment and said, "So wine-tasting... am I right in thinking that it's a bourgeois thing to do in this country?"

"You've been here half an hour," I replied. "And you still need to ask that question?"

"Fair enough," he said, and went off to collect his Scaly Mates, who were rather more boisterous after tasting half a dozen different wines than when they'd arrived.

I hadn't tried any wine, partly because I was driving, and partly because Sandalford has the gall to charge $2.50 per person for the privilege of tasting their wines. I imagine that this is because they struggle to turn a profit. It can't be easy trying to get money out of happy, boozy tourists who have turned up specifically to buy your product.

As we pulled out of the carpark and up the long, imperial drive, I noticed that it was signposted as having a 20kph speed limit... which is odd, as the speed limit on the way in is 40kph. Obviously they expect people to develop markedly lower reaction times between arriving and leaving. However by this time I’d had enough of the place. "To hell with you and your rules!" I said. "This is private property, and I'll do whatever speed I damn well like!" I managed to hit 80 before having to brake hard and sling the Corolla onto the highway. Meaningless little acts of rebellion are my favourite kind.

We proceeded to the decided smaller scale, family-owned Talijanich winery, where wine tasting is free (unless you want to quaff their most expensive bottles, which is fair enough). I bought a bottle of their complicated Graciano, about which I have waxed rhapsodic on previous occasions. I’d say snide and entirely unfair things about them too, but it goes against the Australian character to attack the little guy.

But the next place we visited, Houghton’s, gets no such free pass. It’s another of the grand "destination" wineries, situated in another landscape dominated by rolling lawns, gracious trees, and little pockets of grape vines that are probably more decorative than functional.

It was late in the afternoon and it was obvious that the staff were tired and heartily sick of... well... everybody. They spoke in weary monotones that suggested their souls were being slowly eroded by yet another cashed-up philistine with the discerning palate of a dog eyeing a toilet bowl. I would have liked to have heard their interior monologues as they recited the information about each wine:

This is our Verdelho. It's a full, soft wine made from late-picked grapes, not that you care, because you're just pretentious idlers who want to be able to tell your friends that you went wine tasting this weekend even though you have absolutely no idea about wine and couldn't tell a Grange Hermitage from supermarket balsamic vinegar.

Having failed to buy anything from Houghton's, we elected to end the afternoon with a visit to the Margaret River Chocolate Factory. Despite the name, this is not so much an artisanal chocolaterie as a big, blocky monument to corporate cynicism. It not only sells chocolate but also jam, olive oil, mustard, icecream, chutney… anything that will sell at double the normal price if you slap a cunningly minimalist designer label on it.

The store was busy when we arrived, and then about five minutes later a massive tour bus pulled in. We were just in the process of buying some wildly overpriced Rocky Road as the tourists poured into the store. The Margaret River Chocolate Factory has a couple of huge bowls of chocolate buds near the front door, placed there so that customers can sample their milk and dark varieties before they purchase. The tour bus people fell onto them like starving, possibly menopausal wolves. I couldn't help but look at them askance as various chubby girls jostled each other for the space to drag their cupped hands up the sides of the bowls and collect as much of the rapidly diminishing stock of chocolate as they could.

Sweet merciful crap, I thought. It's middle-quality chocolate, not little nuggets of platinum and diamonds. I may be a fat bastard with poor impulse control, but at least I don't lunge at free chocolate like a Prader-Willi Syndrome kid let off the leash.

So we took our chocolate and our wines and headed home. The Flatmate hit the supermarket and bought everything we needed for a barbecue. PM attended to the meat, TFSM2 made a salad, TFSM3 made dessert, TFSM1 got out of our way and fell asleep on the couch, The Flatmate made salad dressing, and I shuttled between them doing everything that fell between the cracks. In no time at all we had a fabulous feast to eat out on the patio in the warm evening light.

Did we enjoy the wine? No, we drank some cheap stuff we got at the supermarket. The Rocky Road was good, though.

Monday, December 08, 2008


Blogiversary time has rolled around once again, and this year it coincides with Get on the Blandwagon! racking up more than 100,000 page views.

This is a momentous occasion. True, about 90,000 of those page views were mine, but I'm glad that 10,000 other people found a moment of interest in these pages. Or, alternately, that one person found 10,000 moments of interest... and also no doubt a realisation that he or she was squandering the precious gift of life.

People who haven't seen me in a while often ask me, "So what have you been up to recently?", a question which is guaranteed to produce a panicked, evasive expression and a horrible certainty that I've just been doing the same old things over and over again. However, checking back over the last twelve months of blog posts, I've discovered that I've actually had a lot of newness in my life. A new chair, a new computer, a new garden, a new car, a new The Flatmate, a new dishwasher, a new Giant Red Robot, and new... um... important utilities. So really it has been a year of change, up to and including this plonker person.

According to the Get on the Blandwagon! Modern Blogiversary Gifts List, the 4th blogiversary should be marked with gifts of anti-depressants. As such, I will gratefully accept all donations of Prozac, Diazepam and/or ice cream.

Thursday, December 04, 2008


If anyone's looking for a Christmas present for me, I could really use this book.

I won't go into why; suffice to say my horse has enemies. Serious enemies.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Forum (Days 3 & 4)

Lovers of snark and schadenfreude alike will be disappointed to learn that the second weekend of the Forum was not fraught with the same examples of fear and loathing as the first. So uneventful were they, in fact, that I've been forced to lump them together in one post.

The Saturday started promisingly when, as a refamiliarisation exercise, we went around the circle summarising what we'd learnt about genetic research during our two weeks off. All was normal until we hit Roger.

"What's happened to Charlie?" he blurted, forlornly and without preamble.

The facilitators didn't know, and suggested that maybe he'd just decided that sleeping in was better than discussing cell cultures.

I had my own theory, of course. Maybe Charlie wasn't present because he didn't like getting cornered by a creepy septugenarian during every break. Or, worse, maybe he wasn't present because he was buried under Roger's vegetable patch, along with the last census taker and a couple of Jehovah's Witnesses. I guess we'll never know.

After that, Roger was eerily silent for the rest of the weekend, only speaking when directly asked a question. When he did speak the things he said were so weird that they tended to produce nervous chuckles amongst even the most charitable attendees, so he was largely left alone.

Hilda continued to fill me with urges to throw her through a window, but by this stage everyone was used to screening her out and she slowed the discussions less. Doris was just as frustrating as ever, but towards the end she announced that she'd made a little parting gift for all of the forum members, which was very kind and made me feel kind of bad for wanting to break a whiteboard over her head on previous days.

And right at the very end, once we'd given our combined recommendations to the Health Department and finished the paperwork, we got our token financial compensation, in unmarked envelopes containing non-sequential bills. Sweet! Nothing washes away memories of creepy men and annoying women like cold, hard cash.

So I'm sorry to have to admit it, but overall I actually rather enjoyed the second weekend. While this is good for my general equanimity it's a terrible blow to blogging. Please forgive me.


I read a review in the newspaper today for Lips, the new Xbox version of Playstation's hugely successful Songstar range. It was only four short paragraphs, but that was apparently enough space for reviewer Stuart Kennedy to unintentionally demonstrate everything that's wrong with modern fatherhood:

"As a Cold Chisel tragic from way back, I was pleased to find Khe Sahn on the basic content pack we tested including the original video clip. My 11 year old songstress was soon wailing, "the last plane out of Sydney's almost gone" along with Jimmy."

If you don't know it, 'Khe Sahn' is a song about a emotionally numb Vietnam veteran looking for fulfillment in drugs and empty sex. Am I the only one who is sort of alarmed that Stuart considers this an appropriate song to be sung by an eleven year old girl?

Perhaps I'm being unfair. Perhaps he just fast forwarded the song when it got to lines like these:

There ain't nothin' like the kisses
From a jaded Chinese princess
I'm gonna hit some Hong Kong mattress all night long.

Stay classy, Stuart, and help yourself to a Father of the Year award.