Monday, December 31, 2012

That's the Way it Goes

I stare at my keyboard wondering where I ought to begin. Maybe with an apology for not updating since April! Well, an awful lot of things have happened this year that have steered me away from blogging for a while. I lost my impetus and focus. Let's hope I get that mojo back in the upcoming year.

The curtain is falling on the show that was 2012. For a lot of people I know, I can't imagine a standing ovation from the audience as it did not live up to the promise of the hype.

This is not going to be the most entertaining post as I will be writing about some negative aspects of the year initially. You may want to skip. It's just therapeutic for me...

The beginning of the year saw me lose a lot of weight - I got down to 77kgs - however, it was not all due to walking and weight-watcher frozen meals, alas. No, stress was a factor. My weight is often affected by stress. I can either react by binging on food or do the complete opposite. I thought the weight loss was a good thing, but a number of people told me I looked ill. The stress came from a friendship that deteriorated and died and ultimately made me question myself, my behaviour and my demeanour. Having said that, I had great support from other friends who encouraged me to realise that I was, actually, quite a decent person. I thank them all for that. Enough on that subject as I could easily go into greater detail and regret it later. (one day, maybe...)

Look at me when I was skinnier!

Secondly, as reported earlier in the year, I had to move out of my lovely apartment having lived there for eight years. I moved out almost eight years to the day that I moved in. This move was one of my biggest mistakes. I moved to an area called Brooklyn (no, not that one!) and, despite being a large house with a garden, it was a nightmare. The locale was an absolute dive with drug deals on the street corner, fights on the buses and burglaries de rigueur. Each night on my way home from work I would be worried about being stabbed on the bus or find my home invaded. Once again, I was stressed, but this time I began binging. During the Australian winter, I managed to stack on the weight I had lost the previous summer and a little bit more for extra comfort.

I went to see my doctor when I was feeling extraordinarily low and he prescribed me some anti-depressants. The first batch didn't work and just turned my palms into sweat sprinklers. We changed to a stronger medication which dried up my hands (that wasn't attractive!) but my body soon became used to them.

If this wasn't all stressful enough, work decided to move offices. The location wasn't a huge problem with me, but the whole 'Open Plan' aspect made me deeply unhappy. Cries of "You'll Adapt!" on numerous occasions did nothing to allay my fears and it seemed that very few people gave a crap about how this change would affect me. 'Open Plan', I believe, is a nasty trend that some evil bastard/bitch in HR once came up with and every company decided to leap onto the bandwagon because a pamphlet was once written saying that it increased work productivity. I say bollocks to that. It may do for some businesses, but one glass slipper doesn't fit every foot. We are a publishing industry where people need privacy, quiet and focus. But who am I to say? Anyway, the move happened and I have become tense again. Rant over.

Me in my Old Office...

My New Office "Space"...

Anyway... When my (beautiful) doctor saw the state I was in and I explained my situation, he not only prescribed the drugs, but also suggested I move again. I took his advice and immediately went out to find a pet-friendly, secure apartment in the city - bugger the cost. Eight weeks after moving to Brooklyn, I moved out. I found an apartment in the city which was asking twice the price in rent, but I knew I would be safe and happy.

Then, once I felt settled and the work and home moves were complete, I received some more bad news. My aunt Jane had passed away. It was very sudden and deeply shocking. I felt so distant from my family. When my grandfather died, it was very sad, but it was not unexpected. Losing Jane was an intense feeling. I simply could not afford to return home for the funeral and that made me feel worse. However, the support and contact I had from my family was incredible. They kept in daily contact by either phone or email and the planet did not seem quite so large for that period.

During this turbulent time, Fizzgig (my beautiful baby girl) developed a nasty rash on her back and she began licking it to the point of bleeding. Once the infection cleared up, she continued to attack the area compulsively. She has been on a variety of medications and calming influences, but she is still not completely back to normal. It has been costly and stressful, poor baby. :(

My beautiful girl...

Also during the year, I felt myself become a little detached from some of my friends and I can only hope that these problems are merely temporary. We shall see.

OK. Enough of the doom and gloom! If you have been skipping, you can stop and rejoin the party!

Let's take a look at some of the highlights of 2012...

At the beginning of the year, my Aunt Jane and her partner Nigel came to visit and we went on a fabulous wine tour. This was the last time I saw her, but it gave me such marvellous memories.

I may have lost a couple of friends along the way, but I have made a number of new ones through work or through play. I have been far more sociable than I have ever been before. I have to keep an eye on this new habit as it whacks me hard on the wallet.

The double move did see me having a massive clear-out. I hired a skip and chucked out a lot of junk I had been hoarding for so many years. It was incredibly cleansing for my soul.

One of the best things about 2012 was the birth of my friend Nola's baby, Reid. This joy came at a price, it meant maternity leave took her away from being my colleague, but I am so happy for her.

This picture was taken on her last day at the office - look how thin I was! Gosh!

...and this is me with baby Reid!

As ever, I spent a lot of time reading various books for work and for pleasure and I watched a lot of films and TV shows (not a lot changes).

The Walking Dead continued to impress. We said goodbye to the grand dames of Wisteria Lane in Desperate Housewives and welcomed new characters to community service in Misfits. Doctor Who improved slightly after last year's garbage season, but not quite as well as I had hoped. I have higher hopes now that the Ponds have vacated the TARDIS...

I have seen some good films, but my two favourites of the year have to be The Artist and Skyfall.

My favourite book of the year has to be This is Life by Dan Rhodes.

So, in less than 12 hours, 2013 will be upon us! Will I be able to make the changes in my life that I failed to achieve due to various circumstances during 2012?

I am currently at a shocking 92kgs. That is the heaviest I have EVER been. I simply have to lose the weight. I am going to eat less and exercise more. (Edina: "If it was that simple, everybody would be doing it!")

As for work..? Well, who can say. There are changes a-coming and they may affect me without me able to stop it. That's the way it goes... Where's that bloody windfall, eh? Come on lottery, help me out.

Goodbye, 2012! You were a bit shit. At least the world didn't end though.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Making the Right Move

Once again, I must apologise for my lackadaisical approach to my blog of late. To be fair, I am sure no one has been holding their breath or going on a hunger strike until the next post came along, but I still feel the need to apologise.

Before I get to the crux of the matter, I think I ought to just go back a few weeks to fill you in on a few odds and ends.

Firstly, I had been through a rather stressful time at the earlier part of this year - something I shan't go into as I respect that it involves others and to discuss it in such an open forum would be distasteful (albeit, wonderfully cathartic!) Suffice to say, I lost weight, was on medication and back seeing a psychologist in order to sort out this silly old brain of mine. Sometimes I think my head is filled with sentient neurotic kapok rather than actual brain tissue. Anyway, struggling to get back to my normal routine and try to relax again, I decided to have a week off over Easter. Well, I had a lovely time! I was baking (lemon drizzle cake, various pies or creating ultra-strength salsa) and taking trips to see friends.

Firstly, the Thursday night I 'broke up from work', I caught up with my friend Tim (who is an amazing artist - he has an exhibition soon - I'll have to tell you about that later!) and we had fun playing with my marble-run (as you do) and watching Clue and The Last of Sheila (two of my favourite films ever.

Here's Tim going back to his childhood... Sorry about the old red-eye, Tim!

Good Friday, I caught up with some old friends and met some new ones at a lovely picnic in the Botanical Gardens, Melbourne.

(Lovely Old Friends)
(Lovely New Friends)

On the Saturday, I was nursing a mild hangover for the majority of the day but I still made a lovely Lemon Drizzle Cake for two of my best friends, Rohan & Vanessa, who came over that evening to hang out, eat and have a laugh.

(I can never get these cakes to rise in the middle - still, it was very yummy.)

The following Tuesday, I went up to Shepparton (four and a half hours on a coach, thank you very much) to see some friends...

...and one of my accounts from work, Collins Booksellers on Maude Street. (That's me in between Helen and Joe, grinning like a fool)

I caught up with my dear friend Nola and met her baby boy for the first time and, oddly, I was quite good at soothing the little blighter with the aid of the Mary Poppins soundtrack. (And don't worry, his head isn't about to fall off, he was only stretching)

Friday was another baking day and I had my dear friends Adam & Louise over for nachos, rhubarb pie and the last two episodes of the wonderful Pushing Daisies.

Now, I am not superstitious. Never have been, never will be (touch wood) *boom-tish* - But it was on this very evening - FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH - that I received a telephone call from my landlady...

Yes, after eight lovely years of living in my wonderful, safe and ridiculously economical apartment, my landlady needs the place back. This came as quite a shock to me as I had this lovely neat little plan laid out. I was going to pay off some more debts, try and find a new job and then start to save up and eventually buy some property of my own - preferably by the time I am 40 (*laughs* then *sighs*)

These plans went out of the window; riven from me like a sacrificial baby from its soul-baring mother's side. It took a while for the horror (yes, a bit of hyperbole used here and I am well aware that there are people being tortured in dark cellars or being forced to watch Adam Sandler movies somewhere in the world, but all problems are relative, right? OK...) to sink in. I was grief-striken, dazed and somewhat unhinged.

Luckily, Adam & Louise were there with me to help ease the burden of the weight of the news and, as always, they kept me sane. However, I still had a lot of thinking to do and a lot of stress suddenly seared through my body like lava spewing from a volcano - only in reverse and, perhaps, a little less dramatic.

I had already planned a trip to Malmsbury that weekend to see my friend Mike and have dinner with Alexandra Tynan (AKA Sandra Reid), a woman who worked as a costume designer on Doctor Who back in the Sixties and basically designed the original Cybermen. OBVIOUSLY, I still went. I had met Alexandra before and we got on incredibly well, so when she suggested to Mike we got together for dinner, who was I to refuse?

So, off I went to Malmsbury and had a lovely weekend staying at Mike's beautiful home and having a superb dinner at a Turkish restaurant, Mr Carsisi in the nearby town of Kyneton.

Mike's beautiful home...
Malmsbury just being beautiful...
Me and Alexandra.

My lovely weekend was marred by this stress hanging over my head - not exactly the Sword of Damocles but maybe the Butter-knife of St Joseph.

Since then, my mind has been weighted heavily to one side, giving me an awkward look of someone perplexed. I have tried to focus on my work since returning to the job, but I have ultimately been distracted. I have scoured the Internet real-estate sites, visited a few possible properties and asked favours from a number of friends who are on the look-out for me.

Estate Agents are liars. Just like all sales people (*knowing wink to the audience*) they are full of bullshit. "Cosy" means "fucking tiny!" - "Refurbished" means "painted over the cracks" - "Spacious" means "We forgot to put up walls". It reminds me of an old Victoria Wood routine (most things do) where she says; "...they disguised a damp cellar by putting in a diving board and a changing room..."

The worst thing of all - and I really mean the worst - is getting all excited about a potential property only to come across the three deadly words of Satan: STRICTLY NO PETS!

Oh, for Bonnie Langford's sake; PEOPLE HAVE PETS! That's the nature of society. Especially for those lonely old buggers like me who repel other humans like Body Shop Ananya Perfume Oil (seriously girls, stop wearing it - it's GHASTLY! - Like garlic to vampires!)

Fizzgig is THE most important thing in my life. If she can't come with me, then I'll live on the bloody street with a pet-carrier. For crying out loud, it's not like she's going to be climbing up the curtains. With her body weight, she has enough trouble jumping onto the bed! (Bless her)

Anyway... that's the situation. I am looking to make the right move. Trying to find the right location, the right space and the right price. It's really not as easy as one would hope.

Wish me luck, everyone, for both me and Fizzgig...

Thursday, March 29, 2012

World Out of Control

I haven’t done a blog post for quite some time. I’d apologise for that, but I don’t think anyone has really been hanging onto the edge of their seat in desperate anticipation.

Today’s post (inspired by a thought I had in the shower this morning and Madonna’s new album) is about ‘Dignity’.

The media bombards the public with intricate details about the lives of so-called “celebrities” – a term in itself that has grown effete as many of these people are certainly not to be “celebrated” – and whether it be disgraceful paparazzi catching them with their pants well and truly down or egocentric personalities desperately seeking attention by lassoing the spotlight towards their own gratuitous vanity, one begins to wonder where human dignity has vanished to.

Let’s take a look at Madonna. I was a bit of a big fan during the 1990s. I enjoyed her brazen attitude towards the prudish and her outspoken ways, but I think that tied in with my own personal desperation for validation of my own sexuality, which I was struggling with at the time (the song Human Nature really spoke to me. I suppose it was the Born This Way of its time.)

However, with her recent album and related music videos, she seems to be striving for something a little more perverse and shocking with less purpose. I still admire the woman, but sometimes I think her arrogance gets in the way of her grasp on reality.

As one of my friends (Tina) said; “She needs to put some pants (‘trousers’) on!”

Placing Madonna to the side now, let’s look at Generation Y – oh, and don’t we just LOVE bagging the lower generations! It’s our prerogative. Baby Boomers did the same to use… now it’s our turn. Hoorah! – Well, have they no sense of style or grace? This whole ‘trouser-waist-below-buttock’ look is astonishingly ridiculous, and yet, the fashionistas (I hate that word – “pretentious wankers” is more apt) of today would claim it as radical and sexy. I just fear that one of them might suffer from a poo-stripe-related wardrobe malfunction. *shudder*

(I must point out that I am well aware of the nature of teenagers and their rebellious ways – I was one myself once and I think dignity left my side for a period, so I am no way removing myself from the equation. Lack of judgment is prevalent amongst that demographic in all eras!)

I mock the fashion with my tongue in cheek (not THAT cheek, you dirty blighters!) as we all know that dress-sense has declined over the years.

This has just made me think of Edina’s response to her mother’s “it wasn’t like this in my day” in regard to Patsy’s involvement in a scandal…

“Oh what was it in your day? Woman shows ankle to chimney-sweep shock!”


Anyway, I digress (a lot)…

Dignity is a word which is becoming as extinct as the poor Black Rhinoceros.

Dignity is not about repression, it is about composure and respect for others sensibilities.

One might argue that, for women, it is female empowerment; but when does it collapse in on itself and just demean woman once more.

Is it freedom of expression or challenging conceptions and ideals or is it merely a subconscious desire to seek attention and validate our insecurities.

It’s not just about the way we dress or the exposure of our bodies; I am also talking about the disgrace that people go through in a desperate attempt to become famous. We see countless reality TV shows depicting so-called ‘lives’ on our screens, but the producers and executives know quite well that they are feeding the public’s reprehensible desire to watch others be traumatised, humiliated and derided. But whose dignity is lost, the victims on screen or the viewers at home?

It’s a world out of control!

As Mama Morton and Velma Kelly sung in the stage production of Chicago – “Whatever happened to class…?”

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Love Won't Let You Down

This is a brief post, I promise.

As anyone who knows me well will be cognizant of the fact that I suffer from depression and anxiety attacks on a regular basis; it will be of no surprise that since coming back from my recent UK Christmas trip, I have been a little low.

I have always been hypersensitive and, because I never learn and fail to communicate my concerns with others, I tend to bottle-up my emotions and over-analyse everything I say and do. I question everything that comes out of my mouth and beat myself up over every error, no matter how small. I punish myself for inconsequential issues that some would (wisely) brush off, learn from and move on.

Basically, I am my own own torturer and victim. Crazy old brain.

The point of this post is; when I remember that I have friends who love me unconditionally and I seek their company, I am embraced with a kindness which hitherto I had forgotten existed.

So, in respect of that, I want to ask each and everyone of you out there to not succumb to your inner demons; talk to those who love you, be it family or friends. If you have issues of doubt or anxieties, you will be surprised at just who may empathise.

You are not alone.

And neither am I.

To my friends, you know who you are, I salute you.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Somewhere in the World

I thought it might be prudent to do a brief blog about my recent UK trip. I kept a personal journal as I travelled (as I usually do) and my Facebook chums were kept up to date with my various shenanigans thanks to my new "smart-phone"; (I must say, they are handy little buggers, even if it cost me a fortune on 'pay-as-you-go'.) but I thought it would be apt to give a brief rundown of my adventures on this ol' blog of mine too. I shall keep it as brief as possible.

Firstly, the flight over wasn't too bad as I managed to sleep through most of it – thank you Diazepam!
I arrived at Heathrow and caught a taxi to the hotel. Being the naïve chap I am, I wasn’t aware how far the airport was from the city, so the £70+ went from my budget immediately. However, it was reasonably worth it. The cabbie was brilliant. London cab drivers are so much better than any I have experienced anywhere else because they know everything and he gave me lots of advice about where to go and what to do etc.
Whilst in London, I bought a posh umbrella from James and Sons and went to visit Kirsty MacColl's memorial bench...

...saw two plays (‘Death and the Maiden’ & ‘The Ladykillers’), caught up with a number of old friends, broke my glasses and spent a few hours lost on the underground.
Note to all. Don’t go to Vision Express; go to Specsavers. At the former, they think 10-15 working days is "express". Specsavers fixed my specs in an hour.

I was staying at the Churchill Hyatt and, to be frank, I do not really understand what ‘5 star’ means any more. No pool, self-service at breakfast and any other services were extra charges. So technically, I am simply paying a vast amount for a double bed and a bath. Bit rude. Still, I won the travel vouchers, so it’s not a major issue.
And it was a nice hotel...

And I do love a deep bubble bath!

I also went and did the Doctor Who Experience which was a bit of fun. My two favourite things about the exhibition were; seeing the RTD-era TARDIS interior and, when I got to the eighties’ TARDIS interior, one young girl said to her friend; "This is better than the current one!" - She was absolutely right, of course.

Friends I met in London: Peter, Jae, Matt, Nicole, Iain and John.


Next stop, Bournemouth.
I used to live in Bournemouth and had not visited for about ten years, so it was imperative that I caught up with some other old friends including my old employers who now have a brand new café and it’s fantastic.
If you're ever in the vicinity, go to Flirt!

I stayed in a charming little guesthouse ("Bamboo") near my old lodgings and had a lovely time playing with the squirrels in the park.

Friends I met in Bournemouth: Kathy, Rob, Peter, Mark, Nasreen, Rhys (and Joanne!)


Then to Bristol!
I stayed at Jamie & Kevin’s abode for two nights and it was very relaxing. They are very accommodating fellows and they have been great friends to me for many years. Bless ‘em. We just had a relaxing time pottering about, playing games and catching up.
Whilst drinking mulled wine whilst out shopping, I took a sneaky photo of a hottie. Gosh, I'm bad!


Onwards to Cardiff. This was to be my "quiet time" as I didn’t have anyone to catch up with there, however, I was streaming with cold, so that dampened my spirits somewhat. I stayed at Jolyon’s Hotel in Cardiff Bay (right by Roald Dahl Plass)

...and I enjoyed wandering about despite the snot. The hotel was lovely and one of the main members of staff was called Steve and he was brilliant and rather attractive.


Next to Bridgend where I caught up with my dear friend Rhian and I got to meet her fiancé Blake, who got my seal of approval (I am sure he’ll be pleased to know that!)
I would have liked to have spent more time with Rhian, but my schedule was tight.
Rhian and I always have such a laugh together.


Swansea next! Well, to be rather imprecise, a small town just outside, but the name escapes me and even if I know, I’d probably spell it wrong. Here I spent the night with more old friends; Greg, Delyth and their lovely daughter Ifanna.
Greg and I go back a few years and I have a soft spot for him. He’s such a decent and gentle soul. He also has a lovely family. Bless ‘em!

I took this photo of Ifanna for two reasons.
1) she looked so cute
2) she reminded me of Don't Look Now


Then, on the 23rd, I had to get back to Derbyshire. Thankfully, my mate John (whom I met up with in London) is a good mate to know for many reasons, but his ability to sort out cheap tickets through his job is an absolute blessing. He told me where I could get all the best deals. (Thanks again, John – you legend!)
The trip from Swansea to Matlock was a very long one, but the time passed relatively quickly. It was just odd that there was no dining car or trolley on the long journey, so I was starving when I got home to Mum and Mac’s place. Luckily, she made me a mug of tea, a bacon sandwich and had some mince pies ready. Bliss.

The next few days were dedicated to family. Whilst in Derbyshire, I did not get around to seeing as many people as I had originally intended. Mainly because I was still streaming with cold, but also, I just wanted to spend time with my family. Seriously, if anyone gives me a hard time about that, I might get a little bit grumpy with them.

I had to see my dear friend Alison as she is one of the best people in the universe. I spent time with Dad and Mandy and I also got to see Auntie Sarah and Uncle Ian. Uncle Bill and Auntie Sue also visited on Boxing day and Granny also spent time with us for a while until it was time for me to head south again.

The highlight was Christmas day though. It was just me, my brother Matt, Mum and Mac. The first time just the four of us had spent Christmas together alone. It was like old times. Lovely food, great gifts, a superb atmosphere and jolly times.

Before the end of the year, I did manage to squeeze in a visit to my mate Dean’s place. He’s another old college friend who always goes out of his way for me and he has a heart of gold (despite his acerbic exterior! Don’t deny it, Dean!)

New Year’s Eve was a silly affair with a load of Mum’s friends and I eating, drinking and playing daft games.
However, once again, I have decided to give up alcohol. I lasted 29 months last time – let’s see how I manage this time.


So, after my happy time at home, it was time to head south. I went to Brighton and stayed at MyHotel in Jubilee Street. I stayed there last time and really enjoyed it, so was happy to go again.

I caught up with my lovely and talented friend Marc the first night and the following day, I saw my lovely and talented friend Emily.
By this point, I was becoming quite melancholic as I didn’t want to return to Australia.

My final day, I headed back to London. I had most of the day to kill until my late flight out, so I left my bags at Victoria station and went for a wonder. I went to Soho square (as I had done on my first day in London) to sit on Kirsty MacColl’s memorial bench...

...looking less happy than before... I had a quiet lunch at one of those Gourmet Burger Kitchen places and then, joy of joys, I found a cinema showing an exclusive preview of The Artist, which I had been longing to see. I adored it! As soon as it was over, I rushed to HMV to buy the soundtrack (which I am listening to as I type this!)
MY kind of film…

Speaking of entertainment; TV highlights over Christmas included new AbFab (better than I’d expected, to be frank), Downton Abbey hitting every emotional note pitch-perfectly and Darcey Bussell Dances Hollywood - a superb documentary in which she retrained her body to tap dance instead of ballet. She did numbers from old Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire movies – gold!
For me, Doctor Who just continues to decline in the writing. This Christmas special was anything but special. I thought it was dire. If you’re going to hire Bill Bailey, bloody well use him. *sigh*

Anyway… back to the plot.
I headed to Heathrow on the train and waited as there were some delays.
As I was walking through that elevated corridor (I’m sure it has a name, but I never know what it’s called!) towards the plane, I was so tempted to turn around and head straight back up North. I thought; ”Would it matter if I didn’t go back to work?”, “I could pay off my debts from England, right?” and stuff like that.
The one thought that got me on that damned plane was my beautiful cat, Fizzgig.
I cannot deny it. I know where my heart belongs.
Bring on that windfall…

On a lighter note:

Each time I go back to Blighty, I notice some changes or oddities. This time I noticed three major things;
1) The TV is getting worse and worse. Well, to be fair, there’s just more of it. But how many shopping channels to the plebs need? Still, when there was quality programming on, it was certainly better than Aussie TV (sorry Australian friends, but it’s the truth and cannot be denied!)
2) Hats with ears. Everywhere you go. There are hats with friggin’ ears! Who wants to look like an animal in the winter months? I wanted to buy a nice warm hat for the winter, but I don’t want animal ears on my head! What a retarded fashion.
3) An abundance of German markets. In just about every major town or city I went to, there were these strips of wooden sheds in rows selling crafty/Christmassy/German things. I have to admit, I did like ‘em!

One other thing. What is it with taps these days? Why can’t they be clearly labelled ‘hot’ and ‘cold’? Modern chrome taps either have nothing on them or, at best, a teensy-weensy red or blue dot. Now, my eyesight is bad at the best of times, but when I’m in the shower, I AM NOT WEARING MY GLASSES, so I have to lean in close and squint. The same goes for the writing on the shampoo and conditioner bottles in hotel bathrooms. Too small for my crappy eyes.


So, that was my holiday.
Jet lag is being a pain in the arse so my body clock is all over the shop. The weirdest thing is waking up and not knowing which country I am in or whether I have to catch a train or plane or not. Confusing…

I didn’t keep it very brief after all, did I?

Some more photos:

I really like my mum's kitchen.

...and she always has a lovely tree at Christmas!

Aww! Bless!