31 July, 2008

Mentioned in dispatches

I've just been over to Diamond Geezer. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that this humble blog, read by 4 people, is mentioned as being one of the 186 blogs with DG on their blogroll.

Anyway, if you've come from there, I'm usually much more interesting. Oh yes. Edgy. Controversial. Wickedly sarcastic. Funny, funny, funny. No, really, come back in a month or so and you'll be addicted.

Would anyone like to see Christian the lion again?

Reasons to be cheerful.

In an attempt to be less sour and more sweet I have dedicated this post to all things cheerful.

Okay, so the first one isn't exactly a reason to be cheerful but it warmed the cockles of my heart.

Marie and Frank Cotton were married for 65 years. They died on the same day in the nursing home where they had spent the last three years of their lives. Frank just couldn't live without his wife. I can't contemplate spending that many years with one person. Losing a partner after spending over two thirds of your life with them would be unimaginable. I know it sounds strange but the story made me smile. I'm glad that Marie and Frank got to toddle off towards eternity together.

Reason two - Christian the lion. If you are one of the few people on the planet who haven't heard this one then go to Youtube and watch the footage. I defy you not to cry. Christian was a lion who was bought from Harrods by two Aussies who were living in London in 1969. Well, I imagine it seemed like a good idea at the time. After 3 years of sharing their flat in the Kings Road, it was decided that Christian should go off to Kenya and live the life a lion was meant to live. Just under a year later, the men went to find him.

I watched this today and it made me laugh and cry at the same time. Truly beautiful.

Reason to be cheerful part three - did you see what I did there? - is this charming little activity sent to me by the recently missing in action Ambridge fan of Chelmford. Nothing quite like spending some time dropping angry little blue men from trees.

There. Not always whinging, am I?

28 July, 2008

I aint'nt ded

Or something like that. Frankly, I can't be arsed to leave the comfort of the settee to get a book from the shelf to check the quote. Answers in the comment box, please. Oh yes, it's the blog with homework.

So, what have I been up to? Not a lot, to be honest. It's been a less than exciting week. Nothing has happened to raise my blood pressure and nothing in the news has caused me to a) throw the paper to the floor and swear or b)shout at the television and turn over. It's either old age or it truly has been a slow week.

Ooh, that's a bit of a fib. Last week marked the ten year anniversary of the arrival of SSS in Australia. It wasn't my first visit but it's certainly been the longest. I'd started a post about it but it sort of veered off into the Marks and Spencers food hall and I never managed to get it back on track. I might try later. I celebrated the only way an Englishwoman with a decade of Australian life under her belt could - I went to the pub. Much alcohol, telling of very bad jokes and cackling was had. Nutritional needs were met by a couple of bags of crisps, or chips as the Aussies insist on calling them. What I wouldn't give for a good old fashioned bag of chips from the chippy on Lea Bridge Road, but there you go.

There are good things and bad things about being in Oz right now. (again, a more detailed post on this subject will follow at some point). The bad - we are way behind with Doctor Who. My spoiler embargo continues, I've taken steep measures including avoiding the entertainment news on the Beeb site and disabling signatures and avatars on the Doctor Who forum. No, I won't tell you who I am over there. It has been pointed out to me that I am in fact lucky because I still have it all to look forward to when the UK fans won't get any new Who for over a year. I'm just worried I won't make it to the end without some well (or ill) meaning cretin spoiling it for me. Still, I'll try my best.

Another bad thing. It's winter. Not the winters of my childhood in Warwickshire but a Sydney winter with temps between 4 and 10 degrees. I know that seems like nothing to those sweltering in the UK at the moment but trust me, it's cold. Sydney homes aren't designed for the cold weather in the same way that homes in the Uk aren't designed for the summer. Mind you, you could argue that the English summer consists of possibly 1o days of real heat and a couple of months of drizzle and cloud. I am so cold this evening. The heater is on full blast, I'm no more than 10 inches away it and my nose is cold.

A good thing? Well, we get Top Gear. And Doctor Who. And our summer is weeks away. Okay, probably 12 weeks away. Maybe 16. But it's coming.

20 July, 2008

Just another Sunday in Sydney

Would you believe it? Today was World Youth Day. SSS, a confirmed atheist, saw not only the empty Popemobile but the Pope-ocade as it whizzed down Oxford St after todays Mass.

It was all accidental but not entirely unlikely. I went to see Mamma Mia last week (go and see it, it's fantastic) and they were giving out free tickets to a screening of The Savages which was taking placetoday. I was at a loose end this morning and it was a toss up between the gym and the film. Clearly the freebie was a more attractive proposition. The cinema is located on Oxford St which would be fine if the epicentre of World Youth Day wasn't directly between my house and my chosen destination. Anyway, I took the bus and arrived in good time for the screening thanks to the diversion. I was sipping my coffee and flicking through the Sunday papers when I heard the screaming of police sirens. I looked out of the window to see the empty Popemobile tearing down Oxford St accompanied by 4 - yes, 4 - police bikes.

After watching the film (more on that in a minute) I wandered down Oxford St to meet a friend for lunch and was loitering outside our chosen meeting place when I heard the now familiar sound of police sirens. The traffic was stopped and police cars, white limos, a black limo with darkened windows(could have been a Roller or Daimler, not sure), two ambulances and a very large black van screamed past. I rang my Irish Catholic friend this evening and she laughingly suggested that that God was reaching out to me. I won't tell you what I said in reply.

So, back to the film. Wendy and Jon Savage are brother and sister. They've been estranged from their elderly father for some years when a call comes to inform them that he's about to be made homeless and is suffering from dementia. They're placed in the position of caring for a parent who doesn't seem to have done a very good job of caring for them.

I'll be honest. This film isn't easy to watch. The subject matter is uncomfortable, to say the least. Laura Linney is outstanding as the slightly neurotic younger sister who works as a temp but longs to become a successful playright. Her only relationships are with her cat and her married neighbour. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is Jon, a drama professor with a PhD and a seeming inability to commit to his long term girlfriend. Philip Bosco plays their father, Lenny. He doesn't seem to realise what's going on half the time and thinks the nursing home is a hotel. There's no affection shown between the family members. We're not told exactly why Wendy and Jon became estranged from their father but we're left with the distinct impression that there's no love or affection between parent and children. Indeed, both siblings seem to resent the intrusion into their lives yet it's Laura who seems to make more of a sacrifice. I met two friends at the screening and I asked them for their impressions. Neither of them were particularly impressed. One of them said that he 'didn't need to see that sort of thing in a film.' As I said, it's not easy to watch. I certainly squirmed a bit. But it made me think about when children grow older and take on the role of a parent. It would be hard enough to do but imagine if you didn't particularly like the parent you were doing it for. There are moments of humour but I filled with a sadness that stayed with me for some time. Don't go and see it if you're feeling sad.

Well. The Pope flies out tomorrow. Whatever shall I complain about now?

19 July, 2008

The retail invisibility cloak

Bloody electrical stores. Grrrr. Tell me, what is it about my uterus that makes me invisible to male sales assistants? I walked into three electrical stores today in my search for a set top box. I loitered near the television sets in all three stores waiting for someone to come and offer assistance. Fat chance. All the spotty little boys were waiting for men to help. In the third store I practically stomped out as three young men stood idly chatting at the till. One of them had the nerve to stare at my breasts as I left. Yes, you fucking little shit, I have boobs. I also have a brain and I have money, money which I won't be spending in your bloody shop. You can shove your technical knowledge right up your arse.

I don't know why they ignore me. I don't dress like a bag lady. I'm short but I'm not fucking knee height. I don't smell. I'm standing in a retail outlet looking at goods. This in itself indicates that I might like to leave with something. So why don't they come up to me?

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Why didn't you just go up and ask one of them for help?" Good point, well made. It's always been my experience that male -and they nearly always are male - sales assistants ignore me. They see me in a sort of vague way but never come up and offer help and yet they bound up to men. If it's good enough to approach men they should make an effort with their female customers as well. Anecdotal evidence from friends show it's not just me. Christ knows why it happens, you'd think they'd come up to women in an attempt to baffle us with science/bullshit. I've got a good mind to write letters to the managers of all three stores but feel that's just a bit too much.

So, Harvey Norman, Dick Smith and Bing Lee, you're not getting my money. I'll do some internet research and get it that way. I don't even have to get dressed, stand at a bus stop, put up with the general public or be ignored. Google here I come.

So.......does anyone know anything about set top boxes?

18 July, 2008

15 July, 2008

Pilgrims Progress

They're here. The World Youth Day/Week/Whatever it is juggernaut is rolling onwards. Hundreds of pilgrims are arriving on the streets on Sydney at what seems like an hourly rate. Hoards of happy, smiling young people are wandering the streets of the Emerald City wearing backpacks, massive grins, national flags and inappropriate weather for winter.

I've already seen quite a few of them out and about. A largish group descended on Coogee beach on Saturday. They were sitting on the sand, Bibles in hand, spaced out like carefully planted seeds. At 11am they rose and gathered in a circle for what looked like a group prayer before leaving as peacefully as they arrived. No mess, nothing but footprints and possibly bottom shaped indentations as evidence of their visit. A rather more civilised group of young people than the drunken mess which is found in and around the drinking establishments of the area on the same Saturday night, half dressed drunken backpackers and young Irishmen in nylon football shirts. At least the pilgrims aren't vomiting and falling over.

Mind you, my pilgrims were silent. A work colleague reported today that she'd been on Bondi beach at 8am and groups of pilgrims were there singing and bashing tambourines. At 8o'clock in the morning! This was news to the rest of us as we were under the impression that the pilgrims wouldn't be on the loose before 10am. We'd all fallen victim to this misapprehension as all travel advice to commuters and Sydney residents is for us to make our journeys between 7 and 10am if our aim is minimum inconvenience. Obviously the tales of a Catholic curfew were greatly exaggerated.

Anyhoo. They're not hurting anyone. Sure, they're clogging up the footpaths and they look far too happy for this misery guts but they've been nicely behaved so far. Not everyone is chuffed with the constant singing, dancing and bashing of noisy musical instruments but I suppose they're all going on Monday, at least they'd better be. I did catch the tail end of a news report tonight that said someone had sprayed religious slogans on the War Memorial but that's all. I'm sure the Catholic Church will be more than happy to pay for the graffiti to be removed as soon as possible - in fact it'd better be gone already, Georgie Boy - as you don't touch the War Memorial, you just don't.

So, why is it that I still find myself watching World Youth Day coverage with a look of horror on my face? I know it's there, I have to close my mouth after each news report. What is it about these religious people that's getting right under my skin? Could it be that George Pell, a single, unmarried and childless man announced this week that we should all have more children? Fuck off and have your own, George. No, there must be more to it than that. Am I allergic to happy clappy Christians? Am I naturally suspicious of cheerful people? Did my 70s primary school teacher scar me for life with her renditions of Kumbaya? Have I inherited an anti religion gene? Maybe I'm just an intolerant bigot.

Moving swiftly on........the good news is that the annoyance laws were overturned this afternoon. The bad news is that the numpty to the right in this picture was seen by yours truly on this evenings news exercising her right to hand out condoms to Catholic pilgrims. Handing them out to children. Two of the girls she buttonholed were 13 and 14. Not clever, love, just more inflammatory than neccessary.

5 more days. Just 5 more days.

05 July, 2008

A Winters Day

It's winter here in Sydney. There's not much to complain about, however, it's nothing like the freezing winters of my Coventry childhood. It's not even a patch on winter in Canberra or Tasmania. Early morning is chilly and it's certainly cool when the sun goes down but inbetween times it's quite lovely. Todays picture was taken during a stroll through Centennial Park. It's a beautiful public space. Within 5 minutes of leaving the hustle and bustle of Oxford St you can enter an oasis of piece and quiet. Just watch out for the Eastern Suburbs yummy mummies and their ubiquitous Bugaboo prams. Keep walking past the Sass & Bide jeans, GHDd highlights, Pandora bracelets and babychino brigade and you'll lose yourself in two square kilometres of parkland. Formal gardens with old English style statues share space with duck ponds, playing fields and horse riders. There's a dedicated cycling track which was used during the 2000 Sydney Olympics. (SSS went to see the male trampolining during the Olympics, the official line is that everything else was sold out.)

Even though I live near the beach I prefer to be near the tranquility of forests and trees. One of the things I liked best about my former home in East London was its close proximity to an old remnant of Epping Forest. It only took a short walk from my front door I was able to find sanctuary in woodland. The sound of the traffic was reduced to a distant hum and the only sounds were made by squirrels darting about on the forest floor. It was cool, dark and peaceful. Sometimes I close my eyes and imagine I'm there. Fortunately I can go here and picture myself strolling towards the trees to the left. People may mock East London and Essex but let me tell you, if you want peace and quiet in ancient forest you won't be disappointed. Sometimes the best things in life really are free.

The Catholic Roadshow


So, the Pope is coming to town. World Youth Week is about to hit Sydney and the locals are bracing themselves for inconvenience of a magnitude last experienced during the 2000 'best ever' Olympic Games. The main event will be happening at Randwick Racecourse. The season is over for the winter, thoroughbred horses have been moved to alternative stables and the site is being transformed from a place of hedonism to a place of worship. Latest estimates put the cost of World Youth Week at $150 million costs for the Catholic Church and $86 million costs for the NSW taxpayers. And yes, I'm sure the pilgrims will bring money with them. But let's face it, it's World Youth Week. How much money do you think these teenagers can spend on t shirts and Pokemons?

Cardinal George Pell is the head of the Catholic Church in Australia. He is, readers, a man with the charm and charisma of a wet paper bag. I have been in his presence and let me tell you he didn't have much of one. But I digress. Today Georgie boy presided over the official opening of a souvenir tent opposite St Margarets Cathedral. Obviously we're not talking about a two man tent here, it's a great big thing and it's on public property, sitting loud and proud in Hyde Park. Products on sale include t shirts, rosary beads, baseball caps but sadly no Pope on a Rope soaps will be available. Shame.

Now, then. I'm not a Catholic. I don't have a religion. I try to be respectful to the belief systems of others. Personally, I think religion amounts to nothing more than people having an imaginary friend but I don't openly voice this opinion unless someone is trying to ram their personal beliefs/imaginary friend down my throat.The Catholic Church in particular gets right on my goat. AIDs is a pandemic, it's killing people and nowhere is its spread more prevelant than Africa. But does the Catholic Church sanction contraception? Noooooo. Has it considered, oooh, I don't know, having a rethink on the 'every sperm is sacred' approach, even though some sperm is deadly? Hell, no. Instead it teaches abstinence. It's a successful approach, isn't it? People are still becoming HIV positive, children, women and men are still dying. But the Church says contraception is wrong and so that's that. And what's with this confession bollocks? Do something wrong, go and sit in a box, tell a man in a dress that you did something terrible. He makes you say sorry, say a couple of prayers and you're done and dusted. And the Pope. An unmarried, celibate man. Elected by unmarried, celibate men. Need I say more?

Anyway, back to a more positive approach. Oooh, look. There's an Olympic Catholic torch. I particularly like this bit -

WYD ’08 Coordinator Bishop Anthony Fisher said: “The purpose of the WYD cross, Icon and Message Stick are to invite young people to World Youth Day and to spread a message of hope, peace and Christ’s love for humanity.”
“Sydneysiders will again feel the excitement of an international event, as they did during the Olympics.”

No, Anthony. We're all bloody well dreading it. We're dreading the inconvenience of disruption to public transport for a week. We're dreading the road closures. We're dreading trees being chopped down so that they don't get in the way of the pilgrims. We're dreading the taxpayers bill that will come with this event, despite Catholics only making up 25% of the Australian population. We're dreading the closure of the Harbour Bridge so that thousands of pilgrims can walk across it. We, the people of the areas encompassing Centennial Park, Randwick, Clovelly and Coogee are dreading being stuck for the weekend due to the closure of a major road, again so the pilgrims can walk to the racecourse. Oh, and special thanks from me for deciding to start night roadworks to get the road ready to be trampled. 11pm is a great time to start. After all, Anzac Parade is as busy at 11pm at night as it is at 6pm in the evening. I'm sure my taxi driver enjoyed the extra $15.00 that was added to my fare by sitting in the 4 lanes into 1 chaos of last night.

And now we're being told we're not allowed to annoy or inconvenience the pilgrims. Hilarious new infringements of our human rights have been introduced. If, for instance, I approach a group of pilgrims and attempt to give them free condoms, I could be arrested. To add to the ridiculousness of the situation I can be arrested by a member of the police, or a member of the fire brigade or even a volunteer with the SES. So, Colin from Caringbah can detain me for dishing out free rubber johnnies and I can be fined $5,5oo. Yet far from being deterred from annoying the followers of Pope Benny, the great NSW public are gearing up to push the powers that be to the limits on this one. Here's a selection of the latest t shirt slogans -

- You can fine me $5,500… But I still won’t believe in God
-WYD08: We close 300 roads so 300,000 can close their minds
- Good luck Pope – I've been waiting for a miracle at Randwick for years
- "and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who wear t-shirts that cause annoyance or inconvenience..."
- I survived a Christian Brothers education
- Oh no, I stepped in Dogma
- Too many Christians, not enough lions
– Randwick 2008 - annoying & inconvenient
- I've been touched by the Catholic Church, so where's my $2 billion?
- World Youth Day: You can cross yourself, but not the city

Look. I don't dislike Catholics. Some of my best friends are Catholics. But I'm mightily pissed off at the inconvenience. I'm mightily pissed off at the use of public spaces at taxpayers expense. I'm mightily pissed off at my civil rights being further eroded and all of this because of an outdated, out of touch, prohibitive, anti female cult. What? You think cult is a bit strong? Here's a definition of a cult - typically a cohesive social group devoted to beliefs or practices that the surrounding population considers to be outside the mainstream. I don't know about you but I'd say believing that IVF is wrong isn't exactly mainstream these days. I'd also wager that most people wouldn't agree that representatives of a chosen religion should have to remain celibate and single in order to serve the community.

What's the point of all this? I'm buggered if I know. What I do know is that I'll be doing my best to be miles away when the show hits town. And I'll be wearing a t shirt with an offensive slogan.