the world is full of…

trust me, I'm a shop assistant

trust me, I’m a shop assistant

…people whose presence make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.  Not quite in the league of serial-killers but still up there on the ‘scared be very scared list’.

No1 on the list is hearing the footsteps of the approaching shop-assistant when I am halfway through changing, with my trousers around my ankles.  They must have a special timer so that their polite enquiry about how it’s all going on the other side of the curtain, invariably comes when you are standing there in your nanna underpants and a bra that has long lost the will to support your breasts.

Who’s holding the power in that relationship?

The other day in my desperate fury to yank up the trousers I was trying on before the retail assistant reached me, the price label got caught somewhere in my butt cheeks and snapped clean off.   Leaving only the plastic tab attached to the clothing with the pricing information somewhere between my cheeks.  Then I had to ferret around trying to retrieve it.  Too much information?

But back to the trauma from behind the curtain and the inevitable question from the shop assistant ‘How’s it going in there?’

This really means ‘Does it fit or do you need a larger size?’.  Then you have to go through the whole explanation of why you’re not buying it. But before you get to that part, the shop assistant is hovering outside and is waiting for you to emerge and do the twirl.  The whole interaction transports me back to my teenage years, only with my mother hovering outside the curtain.  Or worse still, yanking it back mid-change with an audience of un-suspecting shoppers browsing the racks behind her. Thanks for that mum.


Anyway, having finally retrieved the offending label from between my cheeks, where it had embedded itself, I ended up stuffing it into my pocket, returning the garment to the rack and slinking out the store.

I bet men never have to go through this insanity when they shop for clothes.

I seriously hate shopping.

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female violence – the terror of a girl fight



Last night I intervened in an attempt to break up a fight between two teenage girls.

A browse through an an arts and crafts shop with my husband was punctured by the sound of breaking glass.  I assumed it was an accidental breakage or something had fallen from a shelf. The first sound was followed by more smashing glass, a growing scuffle and the unmistakable sound of punches making contact on bodies.

It’s strange when you hear noises that are out of the context with the environment you are in.  If I’d been in a nightclub district, or at a pub, or in a crowded area maybe the shouting and scuffling would have sounded more in keeping with the landscape.   So it took me a moment to register that a fight had broken out in the shop a couple of aisles across from where I was standing.


“Get off me. Get off me. Get off me” were the first shouts to penetrate the air.  I walked to the end of the aisle and peered around.  I noticed people hurrying toward the exit and that shopping trolleys had been abandoned in the aisles with people backing away from the direction of the noise.  I saw the young shop assistant grab her phone, presumably calling for security.


I asked someone what was going on.  “Two girls are fighting”. “Two girls?” I said.  I had assumed it was a man and woman because of the cacophony of crashing and banging we could hear.  Outside the shop which had a glass frontage, I noticed a number of people staring in.  I started to slowly walk towards the noise because I was alarmed to hear it was two girls in what sounded like a ferocious melee. I got to the aisle and on the floor in front of me were two teenage girls tearing into each other on the floor.


One girl was straddling the other who was pinned to the floor on her back.  Her hands were flying in a cascade of punches to the girl on the floor beneath her. I could hardly believe what I was seeing.  I lurched forward and grabbed the hand of the girl to prevent her from doing any further damage.   It felt like time stood still as I crouched down and started pleading with them to stop because the level of anger and aggression was overwhelming.


The aisle was covered in broken glass with the contents of the shelving scattered around them.  Both girls had cuts to their faces and bodies.  I held onto the first girl’s hands while pleading with them both. Over and over I started to say “please stop, please stop, please stop” like a broken record and “please don’t do this, please don’t do this – whatever’s happened this isn’t worth it. It’s not worth it”.   I hoped that in doing so they would eventually listen and heed .  Perhaps the mantra was to help me too, to try and calm down my own distress at the savagery I had witnessed and in the hope I could de-escalate the situation.

It’s strange how, in such a frightening environment, your brain takes in and makes split second decisions about what is going on.  I did not fear for my own safety although at the same time I was acutely aware of the aggression being directed towards me as I tried to reason with them.  It did occur to me that she might start punching me instead and then what would I do?

At some point in any fight, people have to stop or want to stop because the adrenalin required is exhausting.  Nobody can keep it up for ever.  But they can’t back out, or don’t know how to back down or they don’t want to be the one to fold.  I felt that my presence, however unwelcome, was their only circuit-breaker.  I was begging them to calm down and to help me help them to just stop.


I felt horrified when I realised the girl on the ground had sunk her teeth into the arm of her opponent and was pulling at her skin and stretching it out to a sickening distance.  There was blood dripping from the arm and from the mouth of the girl on the floor. Eventually something must have gotten through and the shouting started to subside and both girls were marginally less aggressive. I remember thinking, how are we all going to get up without the one on the bottom kicking and biting and the one on the top lashing out again.  They both started to accuse one another of being the primary aggressor and insisting to me that “if I let go, she’s going to kick me”.

I was on my own for at least five minutes, begging and wrestling with these girls who couldn’t have been more than fourteen or fifteen.  “sweetheart please, please, it’ll be ok, trust me, trust me”. All I could hear was the sound of my own voice pleading for it to end.


Somehow, we were all on our feet and another older woman and a security guard were beside us.  Finally somebody else had stepped in.  But it wasn’t over.  Then we had to continue to restrain one while keeping the other one away. That was the only time I felt like what I was doing was in some way wrong.  To be pinning someone’s hands down as they pleaded for you to let them go did not feel ok with me.  She was still so angry and the second girl continued to yell and scream inches from my face.  “Please walk away, please walk away”.  Then two more security guards came onto the scene in whose hands the situation belonged.


Apparently the disagreement with the girls started at school.  We know that society has become increasingly violent and physical aggression and fighting between girls is all too common.  You-Tubes of girls fighting are uploaded and disseminated and are treated as a form of entertainment.  It is not entertainment.  It is assault.  Most disturbing of all is how often others just stand around and watch and cheer and take sides.  What is wrong with everybody?  One punch can be a game-changer for life.  We see this all the time.


I understand why people don’t get involved and it’s awful to see people fighting.


However we get the world we deserve when we sit back and do nothing.  The standard we walk past is the standard we accept.  If it was us being assaulted and punched almost senseless, wouldn’t we want somebody to help?  Violence and aggression (whether male or female) should be absolutely and comprehensively condemned.  Always.

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beef bacon? pigs do fly

Beef Bacon has just been added to my list of WTF life questions. Those two words do not belong in the same sentence, let alone pass for any kind of substitute for the flavour of real bacon.


nice try but confusing

nice try but confusing

It’s not a weekend staple but every now and then I enjoy a plate of bacon and scrambled eggs.  And crispy, the bacon’s definitely got to be crispy or at least partially crispy.  So imagine my surprise when beef disguised as bacon was put down in front of me at a local cafe today.

The colour is so much darker it could never pass as bacon but in the end I convinced myself that it must have been and perhaps cooked in a slightly different way or from a new kind of pig or whatever.  My husband was only told it was ‘beef bacon‘ when he was paying at the checkout and told them ‘my wife didn’t like the bacon’.


It transpired that the owners of this cafe do not serve pork or pork products which is entirely their right to do so.  However as a customer who ordered bacon, not beef, it is my right to be advised of that.  The waitress said nothing when I ordered it and the menu said bacon, not beef bacon.  So my question is, why wouldn’t the owners just be transparent about it?


I know of several cafes and restaurants who don’t serve bacon and that’s fine.  As long as you know, you can choose whether to go there anyway or whether to go elsewhere if only a real bacon roll will do.


Muslims do not eat pork and I respect that.  I spent sixteen years in the Middle east so I like and respect the Muslim culture which in itself probably makes me a rare breed.  It was only afterwards it occurred to me that maybe that is why the cafe doesn’t draw attention to it.  Why would they, when in Australia, like the rest of the world, there seems to be a growing hysteria and mistrust of Muslims generally.  Why give people one more reason.


It turns out there is a huge market for beef bacon for those who crave it, but are not allowed it, so I learned something new today.


But I also learned ‘goes together like bacon and eggs’ means you can’t substitute beef for pig and think no one will notice.




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Jamie’s Italian, Canberra – top notch

Always eat dessert first – and here’s why.

yum yum

Oh my goodness, that was THE BEST.  Chocolate Espresso Tart.  A sumptuously divine, melt in the mouth, lip-smackingly good, indulgent, velvety serving of pure pure pleasure.  Too many adjectives?  It was that good, I don’t have enough adjectives.


And that picture really does not do it justice.  But apart from the chocolate decadence, that crispy little slither of caramelized orange on top was sensational.  Thank god my other half was full so I didn’t have to share the tart or the edible decoration.  But believe me, if you have not been yet to Jamie’s Italian in Canberra – hurry there my friends.  Run don’t walk.


Now I’m not a food writer, obviously, and we live in the burbs so we rarely eat out in Civic.  But tonight we happened to be in town so got a seat at Jamie’s, just before five.  The place was empty apart from two other tables but over the next hour it filled up, they dimmed the lighting and I was sold.


Jamie’s has a pretty funky vibe, as you would expect – the exuberant chef’s fingerprints are all over the joint.  All the wait staff are young, groovy and end all their questions in ‘guys’. How was that guys?  Can I get you a drink guys?  etc etc


The hubby had good old spaghetti for his main and I had Baked King Salmon.  Yum, yum and yum again.  The salmon came with balsamic roasted veg, a dollop of lemon ricotta (sorry lemony artisanal ricotta- whatever that means) and a delicate side salad which balanced it out. They’re always talking about texture and balance on all those damn cooking shows but now I get it.


The Italian bread we nibbled on as an appetizer got the gastric juices flowing and set us up for the main event.  A tiny bit salty but I suppose that’s the point – more wine garcon!  The people on the adjacent table may have been slightly irritated with the ridiculous amount of food photography going on next to them but hey – we wanted to capture every moment.


I’ve never bought any of Jamie Oliver’s many cookbooks but who knows, maybe I will.  I have been inspired to replicate a couple of his meals though after being sucked into his 15 Minute Meals but that’s because I really hate cooking. For me anything that accelerates the cooking process is music to my ears.  Jamie’s shows are akin to being caught in quicksand – once you’ve watched the first thirty seconds, you can’t prise yourself away.


Tonight’s delicious dining experience reinforced my intention to adopt some of those simple but flavorsome recipes.  Less is more, as they say.


Apart from that delicious Chocolate Espresso Tart.

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the disability support pension – removing the crutches


The news today that access to the Disability Support Pension will only be available to people with a permanent impairment with no capacity to work is welcome and long overdue.


The Abbott government’s ‘A New System for Better Employment and Social Outcomes‘ interim report was released today.  The report is part of the government’s review of the welfare system which is generally accepted as being unsustainable into the future. The thrust of the report rests on four stated ‘pillars of reform':

  • Simpler and sustainable income support system
  • Strengthening individual and family capability
  • Engaging with employers
  • Building community capacity


The welfare system has become a bureaucratic colossus, is hugely complex and paradoxically may in some instances actually provide a disincentive to seeking employment.  The government proposes to address some of the bureaucracy by axing a raft of individual payments and supplements and streamlining the system down to just four.

The four payments will cover those of working age, pensioners, those with a disability and family payments.  The move to pay the disability support pension only to those characterised as having a permanent disability rendering them incapable of work is a bold and significant step.   The definition of disability has become very broad and is now a catch-all for many chronic diseases.


There are sadly, many diseases which are characterised as chronic and disabling.  However the chronic nature of the disease in itself does not necessarily mean an individual will have to cease working for the remainder of their lives.  You might have a chronic disease which requires you to take medication for the rest of your life but does that necessarily mean you have a disability?  And would it meet the common sense understanding of the average citizen when we talk about those with a disability?


I have a personal interest in the discussion of welfare and the disability support pension because I have Multiple Sclerosis. The textbook definition of Multiple Sclerosis is that it is a chronic and progressive disease of the brain and central nervous system. It is an incurable disease (although importantly there are many treatments for it, many of which work well). Therefore I am considered a person with a permanent and progressive disability.  At least that is what I was told which I found staggering and ridiculous, given my actual circumstances.  I strongly objected to that characterisation at the time and I still do.  But what do I know?  I’m just the ‘patient’.


I’ve been diagnosed ten years and have always worked full-time.  The disease has never significantly interfered with my lifestyle or my capacity to work.  The longest I have ever taken off as a result of my multiple sclerosis, is five working days.  I took those days when I had my first significant relapse which was about three years into my diagnosis.  I had to spend a short time in hospital being zapped by steroids and then I was pretty much as right as rain again until a few years later. The second time I had the steroid treatment, I went to the hospital, had the 90 minute transfusion and then returned to work.  In the last four years I have taken about two days a year off due to my MS – not bad odds and much better than the average ‘healthy’ person.


Last year I had a funny cognitive episode over a period of about six weeks which also on a couple of occasions affected my vision. For the first time in a decade I decided to make an appointment with our Disability Advisor. I ended up having to tick that bloody box because there is no other box to tick.  The reality was that I was experiencing a temporary and mild impairment. I took two days off work. There needs to be better recognition of the sometimes episodic nature of medical impairments and more appropriate descriptors so we don’t all get lumped into a single inflexible category.


My chronic and permanent ‘disability’ has never eventuated and I don’t see why that would change. Over the last decade I have accessed very few services as a person with MS but that has not stopped the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) writing to me to flag an assessment of my ‘disability’.  My answer will be that I don’t have one – despite the technical definition of the disease and the prescribed categorisation which, from where I’m standing, is a part of the problem.  I’ll tell you when I feel disabled, not the other way around.


My case illustrates why this review of the disability support pension is absolutely critical.  It is wide open to rorting, it is wide open for people to opt out of the workforce based on the label they have been prescribed.  In short, it is open to abuse. I could visit my doctor tomorrow and say that my fatigue was so bad I can no longer work.  How can anyone argue with my diagnosis?  They should and they could but why would they?  I have been medically diagnosed with a chronic and incurable disease but the existing treatments have kept me very well.  There is little wrong with me much of the time but very occasionally there might be. At different times I have experienced symptoms such as numbness, weakness in limbs, pins and needles, pain, dizziness, chronic fatigue, however they have never stopped me working full-time.


I do know of people others with MS on the Disability Support Pension and I look at some of them and I wonder why. Most are highly educated, full of life, have no significant disabilities – they are similar to me. The big difference is that they don’t work.  It doesn’t stop them volunteering 15 hours a week, regularly socialising, going on overseas travel, or serving on community committees.  They have the energy and inclination for all of that.  So why don’t they have the energy to do paid work 15 hours a week instead?  These are the questions we need to ask.


So Minister Andrews and the Abbott government have got it right.  We need to take a long hard look at peoples’ real capacity to work.  We need to support, always, the permanently disabled when it is apparent to all that they will never be able to work.


The rest however, are fair game.  There will of course be an outcry from some quarters at this decision because it will be seen by some as an attack on our most vulnerable.  I’m certain our most vulnerable will always be looked after as we would all want them to be. But it is those very people, who are also being robbed when the ‘not working’ well place themselves in the very same category.  That is unjust and unfair.


I hope this adjustment to the disability support system will help those back to work who should really be there. But who have convinced themselves that they can’t, by a system which has facilitated and enabled that mindset.


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how to seduce a man in one easy step

would you like sauce with that?

would you like sauce with that?

Another woman has seduced my husband – with food.  They say ‘the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach’ and it certainly helps if you can cook I guess.  Good thing I’m not the jealous type. In fact, in an ideal world I would LOVE to outsource some of my ‘wifely duties’. And probably not the ones you’d imagine.

My husband let slip that a woman in his office had made him a meat pie for lunch.  Not any old meat pie but a delicious puff-pastry ensemble filled with quality protein and real veggies in a mouthwatering gravy or ‘jus as it is now called.

Now cupcakes I could understand, live with even. But a gourmet meat pie she must have been up half the night making? That got my attention. Because I had given him (see wifely duties above) leftover risotto for lunch. And that was already a lot more exciting than the usual sandwiches.  I usually make our lunches for work. Apart from when he upsets me and then I withdraw all lunch making services.

So having had the risotto, he then wolfed down the pie served up by the shameless gourmet goddess in his office. My husband seems to have this effect on women. They all want to feed him.

And he’s not the type of guy who’s into small talk. He operates more in grunts, sniffs and mono-syllables. But they can’t get enough of him – it’s the caveman effect.

He was in Sydney for work a few weeks back. He’d only been there one day when a passing conversation about Lebanese food resulted in him not having to buy lunch for the rest of the week.  A Lebanese gourmet goddess brought in platters of Lebanese treats, hot cold, sweet and savory.  He returned with a sparkle in his eye and a few extra kilos on the scales.

But back to the seductress with the meat pie.  Apparently she also brought one in for his co-worker.  Maybe she’s having a bet each way.

But either way, at least it gets me out of making dinner…..

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the ‘c’ word female music artists misunderstand

Kate Miller-Heidke and Megan Washington, two of Australia’s finest musicians whose extraordinary talent stands heads and shoulders above the rest.  You need to watch this first.  Truly a thing of beauty.


By contrast, I’ve found myself in cafes enjoying a quiet cuppa while two feet away there are boobs and crotches being flapped around in front of my face via Video Hits.  Who can escape the myriad of female ‘artists’ role-playing their way through a plethora of gang-bangs; kissing girls, kissing boys. Whoever, whatever. Along with the mock felating of inanimate objects let’s not forget.  Thank you Miley.  The obligatory spreading of legs and thrusting at the camera is enough to put anyone off their food or beverage.


I’m not an academic, I havn’t studied feminism, I’m not an authority on female empowerment.  But how could anyone not notice the literal stripping down by female musicians over the past couple of decades.  If dignity can be compared to underwear then most of them are down to their g-strings.


And what Shakespearean message should we, the audience take from this I wonder. What important theme might they be trying to convey? Lock up your sons perhaps?


The ‘c’ word that comes to mind when pondering all of this, is the word credibility.  Where is it?


Anyone else seriously fed up of the barrage of psuedo porn and sexual sleaziness in the name of art? Madonna, Lady Gaga, Brittany Spears, Beyonce, Miley Cyrus, Christina Agilera, Rhianna and a host of others have all played their part in pushing the boundaries. And by default lowering the bar to rock bottom.


And to prove she can still keep up with the kids, the queen of this tired, worn out narrative is our own Kylie Minogue (video complete with ‘explicit content’ warning) where she works her way through the expected script right down to the red stilettos.


Kylie is a middle-aged woman in her forties. Just like me. Her acting career has reached new comedic heights with her latest video flick. It has to be watched with the sound down for the full hilarious effect – especially the back arching and hair flicking – absolutely hilarious. I hope they wiped down those swiss balls before the next class.


And what about modesty girls? Got any sense of what it is to be ladylike (if there is any such thing anymore).  To recognise that the credibility you are all desperately seeking might come from keeping your clothes on.


And men too wish some would start acting their age. Here’s a man who thinks it’s all become a big yawn as well.


The argument persistently put forward, is that women are empowered by all of the above, that they are in charge. Really? How about we consider for a moment that in fact they’ve all strayed into the territory of the ‘oldest profession in the world’. The one where, the more you take off, the more you are paid.


What should we tell our ten year olds when they see their pop icons writhing around in a state of apparent sexual ecstacy whilst being pawed by a circling mob?


Parent may ask themselves whether they would mind if their daughters emulated these artists. Or if they would want their sons to marry one?


The real artists are featured at the beginning of this post.  Who offer a strand of hope in a hyper-sexualised music industry that credibility can be obtained without taking your clothes off and instead let the music do the talking.


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