mutteringhousewife

What does the last of the housewives do?

Category: miscellaneous

The Cat

I am getting to the stage where you’ve heard it all before. I am making lots of stuff, litres of strawberry jam, strawberry tea, jam slice (with the failed first batch of jam), raisin bread, but it’s all a bit fresh in the audience memory. So I’m going to talk about the cat.

I first suspected that something was wrong when he would stand in front of a toilet with the lid closed and make a sound like a toddler was tying his tail into a neat bow. He wanted to drink from the toilet. A lot. To the point where he’d actually nag you to get off the thing, are you going to spend all day there? Oh, we supply a bowl of water, but apparently it has dog germs. He was one thirsty cat.

So the vet did a thing where they deftly inserted a needle into him and withdrew some fluid ounces of urine. The urine was all wrong, Linus was in the early stages of renal failure. But don’t worry, they blithely reassured me. Give him these pills and this special food and you’ll have him for years to come! He’s already nearly fifteen. I’m still getting the stains out of the carpet from the last elderly cat we had on the premises. Years, hey. Hmm. That food is really expensive.

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He liked the first sachet. But not the second, after I’d bought a case of the stuff. I’m not surprised, it looks like the sort of thing a small marsupial would produce after a night on the turps.

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So I spent a few days trying to encourage him to eat it. “This is bogus”, he’d say. “Where’s the real food?”

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He’d also stick his claws into me quite a lot. The dogs, on the other hand, thought the stuff was delicious, so I’d have to guard Linus every time he wanted to eat, which was every ten minutes. So very irksome. So I looked up do it yourself renal care food. Wow, too complex, and I don’t know if I’d like to risk grinding chicken bones in the Thermomix. So many supplements, and who knows if you’d get the balance right? Question, what would he be eating in the wild? Answer, nothing, he’d be dead. And guess what my research also uncovered? A cat will actually starve itself to death if it doesn’t approve of the food choices its human is making for it. I’ve had cats all my life, this really shouldn’t come as a surprise.

So for the moment we’re going with a compromise. He gets the pill, that’s not a problem. I mix some marsupial poop with the renal kibble and a scoop of delicious kangaroo meat, his previous high protein diet. Human grade too, sometimes I suspect the pet grade stuff is just sawdust soaked in blood. He’s stopped sticking his claws into me quite as much.

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He’s not nagging people to stop using in his water bowl as a toilet any more. This may just work.

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Unexpected Shower Screen

I know you’ve been on the edge of your armchairs, wondering how the muttering bathroom renovation has been coming along. Are they able to ablute inside yet? Would it be safe to go near them in warm weather?

I’ve been trying not to think about it, because it causes me to clutch at my hair and mess up its perfect symmetry ahahaha. I ordered all the bits early in April. Early in May the kitchen company indicated they were ready to go ahead. I called the supply place, My Bathroom and Tile Centre in Drummoyne, if you’re looking for someone to avoid, who had indicated they’d like a week’s notice. They were getting two weeks. And that’s where it all started to come unstuck.

Well, you’ve heard most of it. Only delivering half the tiles. Forgetting to bring the bath waste. None of the tradesmen turning up at the advised time, mostly late, but some early. Discovering that the existing bathroom drain was actually just a hole in the floor and not even at the lowest point. And the towel rails. Oh, the saga of the towel rails. First they had just forgotten to bring them. Then they were the wrong ones. Then they weren’t ready. I suspect they just forgot to order them, actually. Then it was going to be six weeks, because they were being hand plated by specially imported Irish leprechauns who only worked under the light of a full moon. Then it was going to be another six weeks, because they’d delivered one brand new shiny one and one battered one in a dusty box. Well they finally turned up yesterday, and here they are.

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Aren’t they beautiful. And I had an added bonus today. A phone call from My Bathroom and Tile, almost exactly a month after they said the shower screen would be ready in a week. Where was I this morning? Well, a spot of gym, some shopping, that kind of thing. The shower screen people had popped by and were less than gruntled to miss me. I tactfully suggested that as they’d advised it would be installed on Wednesday, that being tomorrow, I hadn’t stuck to the premises like I had on so many other days, waiting, waiting, waiting for that next tiny step forward towards a working bathroom. Stick around, they suggested. Sure enough, miraculously before school pickup time, I finally had a shower screen.

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Complete with a five year warranty, in case it explodes in the night like that of a good friend. You hear all the horror stories when you renovate. “Don’t touch it for twenty four hours or it will leak everywhere”, they suggested. What a tease. But it does mean that tomorrow night it will be possible to shower indoors without soaking the entire room for the first time since we moved into this place twelve years ago come Lammas Eve. Or thereabouts.

You know, when I think about it, most of my troubles come from the fact that I foolishly asked for my metal accents to be gold rather than chrome. I live in a house that celebrates its hundredth birthday this year. We have lights that turn on by pulling a string. In two of the rooms we still have gorgeously ornamented gas light fittings. I can’t have a bathroom that looks like something out a spaceship. But I wish they’d warned me that I would pay for being so very difficult, I might have just gone and bought all my fittings off the shelf at Recollections. Be warned. Learn from my tale of woe. Though, on the bright side, I may have a finished bathroom by the end of the week, and then all of the lies and disappointments will fade quickly into the past. First world problem? It’s up there.

Bathroom Almost Finished

What’s worse than tradesmen in your house? No tradesmen in your house, that’s what.

It’s been a full two weeks since the vanity was attached to the bathroom walls and since then, nothing. Nothing nothing nothing. Except a rising level of complaint from a family who isn’t getting used to having to nip out to the frigid back verandah for ablutions. It’s even less amusing in the middle of the night. And why? Well, that’s an excellent question, I’m glad you used your mind powers to ask it. I thought it was because the tapware hadn’t arrived. The bathroom company thought it was because the tapware hadn’t arrived. The plumber thought it was because the tapware hadn’t arrived. After a series of increasingly irate calls to the bathroom supply company from me, Crystal the site supervisor, and her boss, it turns out we were all mistaken. That series of texts I’d had from them referring to missing tapware was actually referring to missing towel rails, the tapware had been on my back verandah under a pile of tiles this WHOLE TIME. I had to check that the top of my head was still attached after that message. So, that whole thing about not delivering the vanity top until the tapware had arrived? Oh, silly customer, did you want the vanity top at your place? Well why didn’t you say so?

Of course in the mean time the plumber had turned his attention to other things, so he wasn’t able to come until today to instal the tapware and toilet.

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The kids thought this message was a terrible tease, but he told them they could use the toilet for night time emergencies so long as they didn’t sit on it. The Muffet is visiting Nanna and Poppa for a few nights and I don’t have night time emergencies, so we should be right.

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The electrician also came today to put in the first power points this bathroom has ever had. “How do you live like this?” he asked upon his first visit. Tradesmen are very judgemental. And the Scotts finally came back to remove all of the demolition rubbish that has been sitting on our verge for over four weeks now. I’ve been waiting for the council to fine us for it.

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It was almost worth the wait to watch them try to remove it. They were supposed to bring a skip bin, but brought this thing which is basically a double sized green bin, and it’s been filled to the brim with concrete and broken tiles. Can you see the problem? To remove it they brought along what looked like a hire van with a tiny little lift on the back which was in no way capable of lifting that thing. There was much rocking the bin backward and forward, then they got out metres of strapping.

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Then more rocking. Then they tried lifting the top layer of rubble by hand into the truck, with a bit more strapping and rocking. Then the bin fell over completely, which meant I had to retreat into the kitchen so they wouldn’t hear me laughing. Much cursing as they got out a couple of shovels and transferred the lot into the truck that way. I’ll bet they don’t get their deposit back.

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We now have a bathroom we can bath in, clean our teeth in and shower in if we don’t mind getting water all over the toilet. We’re waiting on the shower screen, the towel rails, some little glass shelves, the toilet roll holder and a soap dish. I have to call the bathroom supply place for the shower screen, but I need to spend another few hours breathing deeply first.

Supanova 2013

Well, I’m nearly recovered from Supanova, the geek spectacular attended by around forty thousand people at Olympic Park over the weekend. Supanova consists of three elements, famous people, cosplay and geek shopping. Oh, and some lectures and displays. Four elements.

We didn’t bother with the famous people. I’m sure they were there, but to access them you had to line up to purchase an autograph or photo ticket, then line up again to meet the presumably haggard looking famous person who you’d never recognise as their movie character because they’re either not covered in prosthetics or they’re forty years older than when they were famous. I’m looking at you, Margot Kidder, who didn’t turn up the second day after looking out the window and deciding to stay in her dumpster. Ooh, that was a little harsh, wasn’t it. I wonder if they should at least put them on a platform or suspend them from the ceiling or something so at least the kiddies can see them.

Many people are clearly there for the cosplay. Cosplay is when you dress up, usually as a movie or game character, although I think you could dress up as anything you like, really, who’s going to know? The Moose dressed in all black with a black hat and sunglasses with a long black velvet coat I picked up in a Table Eight sale some years ago. He was asked if he was Vengeance, to which he just smiled mysteriously. The more impressively costumed get queues of people wanting photos with them. There were many Batmen, the kids spotted a Fatman and a fat Flash, but I didn’t get photos of them. Geek girls are a lot fitter than I remember, I was a little disturbed by the often gorgeous Lycra clad girls being asked to pose by older men with giant cameras and doing so very happily. The Catwomen all seemed to be in great shape, not so the Poison Ivys. Odd. Many people cheated by simply buying a onesie of any description and wearing that, I even sawa woman in a cow onesie. Would have been a lot warmer than the Supergirls. Capes and elven robes were big. Harry Potter was almost non existent except for a couple of Hermione Grangers. Not everyone tried very hard.

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There were also a lot of prosthetic wounds and a very impressive cyborg who kept getting the giggles when he was asked to pose with the plastic arsenal at his stall.

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In fact there were a lot of heavily armed cosplayers, which made me wonder what the security guards at the entrance were actually going to look for. There was a stall, called Fight Club, which were selling real swords and armour. The Horror seriously considered buying himself a very reasonably priced helmet, until he discovered he could hardly lift it.

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He also considered a unit that looked like a shiny tough flick knife, but when you flicked it open it was actually a comb and a handy bottle opener. I think they had that the wrong way around, that’d be confiscated at the airport for sure.

The geek shopping was pretty impressive, especially if you liked T shirts. Apparently no one wears long sleeved shirts, hoodies, singlets or baby doll style shirts. Just T shirts. There was a lot of plastic weaponry. I was excited to see Weta Workshop there, we got two Keys to Erebor from them. They had a very realistic Gollum with them.

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They also had some of the weapons from the Hobbit movie, which you could actually handle.

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Steam punk is still a thing. All of my kids bought fob watches, independent of each other. The Horror also bought a little dooverlackie that looked like a tiny brass flask, but unfolded into a working telescope. Many of the crowd bought and immediately wore Tardis beanies, we now have one in our collection, so that’s one less rainbow one for me to crochet. The clothing for women was a bit limited, unless you like whatever that cutesie Japanese style is called.

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Or corsets. There were plenty of them, but not many under a size twenty.

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I did vaguely think about getting one when I finally found a small size, but the kids said “ew, gross, Mum, why would you want one of those?”, and there wasn’t anywhere even slightly discreet to try one on. You could have got a hat with ears or gloves in whatever animal or character you could think of.

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Of course there were figurines from all movies and games you’ve never heard of. I heard a man say wearily at one of the stalls “I guess you could put it on the shelf with all your other ones”. The Moose got himself a sonic screwdriver that you can use as a remote, you can load a couple of functions from whatever infrared remote you have onto it. He’s had a lovely time today sneaking up behind his brother and turning off the Wii with it. Here are his favourite purchases:

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It is a very impressive sonic screwdriver. His fob watch is a beautiful copy of the Master’s watch, it works and lights up too.

My only gripes were that it was very crowded, and too many T shirts.

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I overheard a woman saying to her friend “and this is where you get the flu”, which made me breathe in a shallow manner for a few minutes. You’d think with the type of crowd this event attracts they’d have chill out areas. I found it a bit overwhelming. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be saving up for next year.

Phone Rant

We’ve all got at least one phone rant in us. This is mine.

It all started several years ago. A kind relative gave the Muffet a mobile phone, as she’d be travelling to school by train. The problem was the provider. Vodafone. Apparently they’re very good if you happen to be standing under one of their towers, but don’t think you can call your parents from pony camp. Or from inside a building. The other thing about Vodafone is that they lock their phones so you can’t get a different provider. They do provide a method for unlocking the phone, which I followed to the letter. It didn’t work. I went up to a Vodafone shop and explained my dilemma, and you can imagine that they were of no use at all. There was an option that involved posting the phone to Tasmania at my own expense, but that wasn’t for me. As my nostrils started to flare and my voice got softer I noticed the manager sidle into the store cupboard. No, really. The woman trying to help me leaned forward and said “you know, that guy that sells phone cases downstairs hacks phones to unlock them. Your best bet is to go to him”.

The hacker downstairs said his services were too expensive for a basic phone like this, I should just buy a new phone from Telstra. I did just that. The Muffet lost it almost immediately.

The second instalment came when another kind relative gave the Muffet a Galaxy that had become surplus to requirements. I don’t know what it is about the Muffet, I think it’s the blonde hair. And she’s very charming. I immediately opened up the phone and was relieved to find an Optus SIM nestled in it. All I needed now was a Telstra prepaid pack and we were communicado again. I went up to Woolies and asked for a prepaid SIM pack. “Nah, love, we only do recharges” said the friendly lady. “Would you care to turn around and give me that pack behind you that says “Telstra prepaid SIM card starter pack? No, not the nano SIM. Regular. It’s orange.” We got there in the end.

No, it didn’t work when I inserted it and followed the activation steps. Two phone calls to the help desk resulted in a lot of Indian accented humming and hawing and finally a suggestion that I take it into a Telstra shop. The Telstra shop also did some humming and hawing and finally asked “are you Alexis Henderson of Castle Cove?”. No, I’m not, and neither would I have lent Muffet’s phone to him if I had ever met him. Well, at least I got to deal with the actual manager, and he was kind enough to say he’d never come across this problem before. You know how he fixed it? Just redid the activation. “Ah”, I said. “The help desk effect”. “You’re familiar with it?” “Oh yes, I used to be a help desk”. “We’ll, I don’t know why it worked, but thanks for showing me a new problem”.
Anything I can do to help. I just love spreading sweetness and light.

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Back on my Feet

Many of you will know I have just gone through the fairly minor, in the scheme of things, inconvenience of having my foot in plaster for six weeks and therefore having to get about on crutches. Goodness me it’s been an interesting six weeks. Here are some of my observations.

The first is that I must have heard from every single person in the Inner West that has ever injured themselves on the lower leg. Or knows someone who has. If I ever see anyone on crutches, no matter how curious I am, I shall just mutter “tough luck” at them and move on. I have in the past had a giant neck wound, jaw to collarbone, and had no one say a word, just a horrified flick of the eyes. But someone on crutches seems to be just holding a sign saying “I’m not moving fast, so tell me all about how much better European crutches are, how long it is since your knee reconstruction, what a dangerous sport rugby seems to be, how terrific online supermarket shopping is these days (it isn’t), and how exactly your grandmother fell down the stairs”. It didn’t bother me too much, besides the unwanted human contact (character building), but I found it to be a fascinating insight into sociology. I guess because it doesn’t look life threatening and in general people want to connect, so that’s nice. I just wish the explanation of my injury could fit into one sentence, or could be printed on a small card.

My blog has come up as a suggestion for someone asking the question “how do you shower with your leg in plaster?” and the answer is that you do it on one leg. Try it some time, it’s a lot harder than it sounds. It’s also the answer to “how do you cook dinner”, “how do you use stairs”, “how do you feed the cat” and “how do you get the kids out of bed” with your foot in plaster. Actually, stairs are the worst. I can now hop down them, but the only way to get up them with your foot in plaster is on your hands and knees. It’s quite a spectacle. Also, feeding the cat on one leg results in a cat with rather a lot of kangaroo meat on his head. He didn’t seem to mind. I’m sure the kids will be relieved to be woken up with the traditional pat on the head rather than crutches to the solar plexus from now on.

The thing I have missed the most this last six weeks is being able to carry things. Any good housewife will tell you that you don’t walk anywhere in the house without something in your hand, clothes to put in the wash, rubbish, a bottle of water to tip on the head of your barking dog. There has been none of that. Anytime I wanted to fetch something I’d have to do it with a handbag around my neck, which doesn’t work for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, let me tell you. The biggest impact was that I wasn’t able to put on a wash. So I’ve had to put up with no separated washes and everything going in the dryer – it seemed to be enough of a strain on everybody to have to deal with this daily task without me shouting at them that they weren’t doing it right. The first thing I did when I tottered home from the sports doctor with my freed foot was to get myself a takeaway coffee and put on a dark wash, which is now hanging in the sunlight. I may even go soak some tea towels in Napisan in a moment.

It is going to be a bit of an effort not to get out and rejoice in the return of my foot, but I’ve used up my physio on my health insurance for the year, so I’d better take it easy. There is a noticeable difference in the sizes of my calves, but the doctor assures me that will return to normal fairly quickly, especially as I won’t be hopping any more. I think I shall go and hunt for all of my right shoes, that shouldn’t be too taxing.

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Love food, hate waste.

Do you love food, but hate waste! Well, you won’t have learned anything at the One Million Women gabfest held this morning at the Parramatta Town Hall.

It was all nice enough. They had some great guests. I’ve always been a fan of Bernie Hobbs and she was a very entertaining MC. They brought in the venerable Margaret Fulton and her daughter and granddaughter, who had some extremely unhelpful things to say about fussy eaters. My son was a fussy eater because he had issues with textures, it doesn’t matter how many curries I ate while breastfeeding, nothing is going to help with that but years of experience trying tiny bits of new things. Also it doesn’t matter how many tomatoes we grow in our garden, the children will periodically bite one under parental pressure then spit it out. They just don’t like them. It was a delight to listen to the grande dame of Australian cookery, Margaret Fulton at eighty eight is still full of passion for making everything tasty. So that was a treat.

The mastermind behind the one million women thing had a bit of a chat, but I was a bit surprised that deciding to compost your vegetable scraps, plan your meals before you shop and check the fridge and pantry before you shop was an epiphany. I lost a bit of what she was saying because she had the most amazing hair that kept creeping over her shoulders and gave the impression of trying to strangle her before she’d thwart it and push it back where it would sulk for a bit then start tiptoeing forward for another go. She was clearly very passionate, as were all the presenters.

I don’t mind a bit of Julie Goodwin, but I don’t think any of us were taking notes on how to make an omelette out of some eggs and stuff we found at the bottom of the vegetable crisper. Who can’t do that?

I’m not sure whose idea it was to stick a young lady with a guitar up on stage to sing a song about sustainability that she’d written her very own self, but I kind of wish they hadn’t. Her voice was fine, but she had that extremely whiny sound that’s so regrettably popular among young Australian singers at the moment and the sound system wasn’t coping with her excellent use of loud and soft. Also she sounded as if she was singing with her teeth clenched together, so the only word I heard in the song was “enough” and that was near the end of the song and summed up my feelings about it exactly.

She was followed by a very enthusiastic woman called Lish who made right before our very eyes and to the slightly repressed horror of Bernie Hobbs a worm farm out of two styrofoam boxes and a herb garden out of a third styrofoam box. A worm farm sounds like a lot more effort than my compost bin, which is basically a bin with no bottom that we chuck vegetable scraps in. Periodically the dog decides that there is a rat in there and scrapes a large amount of gorgeous rich soil out of the bottom of it, making more room at the top as the lot subsides. A herb garden sounds doable, but I don’t understand why they just can’t get green grocers to sell herbs in smaller quantities. Surely that would be a simpler solution to the horrendous herb waste this country is groaning under.

The lady from Macquarie University didn’t have a gimmick but some actual facts. She didn’t slip over on the mud left by the worm farmer, but it was a close thing. The main problem food wasters were the eighteen to twenty four age demographic and rich people, neither of which group was even slightly represented in the audience. And this was the problem with the whole shebang. For a start, they were preaching to the converted. There was a bit too much woo hooing and aren’t you all terrificking, which always irritates me. Also practical solutions were lacking.

I would have liked to have seen, after telling us that an enormous amount of fresh food is rejected by the supermarkets because it isn’t pretty enough, an exhortation not to buy fresh food from them. Big corporations understand a boycott. I only buy toilet paper, pet food and giant boxes of cereal from them regularly. I almost never buy fresh food from them. Tell us to buy our fresh food from the local green grocer and local butcher. How about some composting suggestions for people who live in apartments? What are we supposed to do with the kilos of mandarin peel produced at this time of the year? Give us a few different stock recipes so we don’t throw out our chicken and meat bones or fish heads. Show us how easy it is to chop herbs and freeze them in a ziplock bag. You could have got Glad to be a sponsor, I store a lot of things in their baggies. Tupperware, too. And how about some tips for gently hinting to our more wasteful friends that perhaps they could change their ways? Because the people who really need to hear this message weren’t present and don’t listen.

I shall end with something that fascinated me for the fifteen minutes between seating myself and the show kicking off. We were in the Parramatta Town Hall which is delightfully decorated in a style I’d like to call rococo, but I’m not sure if that’s right. Painted stencil work on the walls, a painting of an Aboriginal man holding a spear with palm trees behind him above the stage, lots of plasterwork moulding. At the foot of the buttresses holding up the ceiling was a sculpted man’s face, the same face under each buttress.

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It looked like your standard classical face, possibly copied from the Greek, until you look a bit closer and realise it’s wearing a slight moustache. Do you reckon it could be Errol Flynn?

Naturally Curly Hair

It took me most of my adult life to come to terms with having naturally curly hair. It’s one of those silly female things, isn’t it? Oh, I’d rather have your hair, yours is beautiful, so easy to manage, oh but YOURS is so lovely! Blah blah blah. Curly hair is a nuisance, it’s never the same two days in a row and it takes a lot of effort to make it look anything other than a fuzzy mess. I thought I’d share with you what I’ve learned.

The most important thing is you need a good hairdresser. Curly hair is difficult to cut, you need to understand that if you snip a little bit off that piece in front it will spring up into a lopsided pompom and sit ridiculously on the right corner of your forehead. You need to realise that it will behave differently at different lengths and in different climates. I was introduced to my hairdresser by a friend with an immaculate blond bob who’d had a longer relationship with her hairdresser than she’d had with her husband. This hairdresser not only understood curly hair, his partner had it herself and even let him experiment on her. Sometimes. I have occasionally strayed from his ministrations, tempted by a voucher or a special, but have always needed to call him in for repair work afterwards, and have learned my lesson.

The next thing is that you need to listen to your hairdresser. I would very much like to have long curly hair, but Gary tells me my hair just isn’t interested. It gets to a certain length, then snaps off in a spray of split ends. Doesn’t matter what nourishing serums I put in it, a bit longer than shoulder length is all I’m going to get out of it. It also looks neater when dyed all the same colour. Because of the dry ends business the natural colour of my hair goes from quite dark brown at the roots to a sandy ginger in the middle and blond on the ends, with some grey sprinkled around the front. A uniform coppery tint makes it look a lot less like something found atop an art teacher.

You will need product. Sometimes more, sometimes less. You will probably also need to blow dry if you don’t want it to sit flat on top and radiate out in a triangle shape like that woman in the Dilbert cartoon. A gentle heat and speed, a little bit of upside down and some scrunching with the fingers is what works best. I use Sebastian Potion Number 9 if I just want no frizz and a weightless product. Revlon Vinyl Twist gives more defined curls, but a slightly sticky finish. It’s good for if I want to go out with curly hair, rather than exasperatedly twisting it up with a clip. Schwarzkopf Silhouette is very good at smoothing down fuzzy ends, but does have an unfortunate tendency to make you smell like your grandma. You only need a tiny bit. I also really like tec texture shine, but they were taken over by L’Oreal some time ago and I’m going to have to make the smudge I have left last.

Of course, I rarely bother with all that. If I was someone a bit more interested in how I look I probably would have had a crack at straightening it at some point. But just to know that it can look like this:

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if I wanted it to makes me a lot less likely to risk my marriage by cutting it all off.

Crutches for beginners

You need a day off hearing about the Thermomix and I have learned a lot about getting about on crutches in the last seven days and I feel I should share. When you’re given crutches, you get a lesson on how to hold them and how to get up and down a step and you’re on your way. Some people don’t even get that. There’s so much more to it than that.

Garb. You’re going to find yourself a little restricted in what you can wear. For me the ideal outfit is a long tunic with pockets. Fortunately I do have one of these and am wearing it a lot. Dresses in general are good, but not too short. A fibreglass cast has a lot of the characteristics of Velcro, so avoid the delicate fabrics and you may want to rethink the lacy undies. Tshirts are no good, they ride up a lot, and even though your abs are in better shape than they have been for years, no one really wants to see them. Tight singlets seem to stay put if you can find pants that will go over your cast. You will need a handbag that goes over your neck and one shoulder because you can’t carry anything at all in your hands and there’s only so much you can stuff into your bra and the waistband of your undies.

Stairs. Avoid them. I do have a step in our house and here’s the thing. If you’re on crutches, going down is hard, especially if there’s more than one, and up is easy. If you have to go down a set of stairs I would seriously consider throwing your crutches down them and going down on your bottom. Going up, you just need to do it slowly. If you’ve built up your left buttock and calf sufficiently to do a bit of hopping you should concentrate very hard when going up. You don’t want a broken wrist as well. Going down is much easier on the hop.

Doors. The best way to open a door while on crutches is to stand beside it and put on your sad face until someone comes along and opens it for you. This doesn’t work when you’re alone at home and trying to get out two doors at the front of the house while blocking egress to two small dogs. I’ve developed a technique that involves holding the crutches in one hand to fend off the dogs and doing the twist on my left foot with a backward hop. It takes a while.

Shopping. You can’t do it. I’ve tried, and I’ve failed. I had to be rescued by a kind lady called Janet who is a retired education lecturer and is now considering joining the Grad Choir. If you really must, you have to go somewhere they’ll pick and pack for you and only buy what you can fit in your handbag. You could try holding a shopping bag by your little finger while using your crutches but be warned, it will throw your balance right off. Get a shopping buddy, that way you don’t have to explain what version of Metamucil you get and where it is and you can choose your own alternatives to the cat’s kangaroo meat when they don’t have it in stock yet again. Anybody free to go shopping on Wednesdays?

Standing. You need to do it in the kitchen, and you need to do it while ironing. Yes, I know the kids should be doing it, but they’re already looking after the washing, garbage and dishwasher, so I’ll iron for them. You want something to rest your knee on so your body can pretend it’s standing properly to give your weight bearing leg a rest. While ironing I use the decaying corpse of a defunct computer, it’s just the right height. I’ve put a coffee table in the kitchen to kneel on which allows me a lot more upright time than I’d otherwise be able to manage. It also annoys everyone else, so they keep out.

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Miscellaneous. These newfangled fibreglass casts are terrific and waterproof and everything, but after you’ve showered they take a little while to drain. These means that if you’re in a hurry and have decided to go with leggings today, they’ll get rather wet while you drag them on. Speaking of showering, you can shave your remaining leg in the shower, but you have to have excellent balance. Or not mind getting a bump on your head. Get yourself industrial strength deodorant because it’s really hard work getting about on crutches, you’ll sweat way more than normal. Don’t be afraid to use your crutches to sweep small boys out of your path or to poke children who are ignoring you. You have to get some fun out of this.

Also, you may want to give your muscles a bit of time to get used to your new mode of transport. If you go hard the first few days you will ache like you’ve been beaten about the shoulders and ribs for days. And try to work up to the hopping, it’s a good way to get around the kitchen while holding trays or boxes of ingredients, but it initially takes a toll. On the plus side I’m hardly snacking at all because it’s such an effort to move anywhere. Heigh ho, heigh ho, only five weeks to go.

Shaun the Bee Man

I don’t get out much. There’s quite a lot of kid driving, food shopping, food preparation, washing and spreadsheet wrangling for my various committees in my life. So an invitation to lunch in the city with my busy husband was a very bright spot in the diary. I put on a frock, some lipstick, shoes that weren’t thongs and even some product in my hair so I didn’t bear as much resemblance to a poodle attacked with a scourer as I usually do. And caught the train into the City of Sydney.

Now we did have delightful time, but that’s not what I’m going to tell you about. On our way to lunch we saw a swarm of bees making themselves at home under the glass eaves of the Dior shop right near Pitt Street Mall.

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I wanted to pause for a while to watch the startled reactions of passersby who, intent on their phones, suddenly found their eyebrows full of bees, but we didn’t have all day. On our way back we saw that someone had thoughtfully barricaded off the footpath under the swarm zone. I had to know more.

So after delivering my husband safely back to his skyscraper I hurried back to the action and was delighted to find that Shaun the Bee Man had arrived and was taking control of the situation.

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He had a partner who looked far more prepared for the job than Shaun, but he turned out to be a mere offsider, almost superfluous to the operation despite his impressive suit.

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He made it look so simple. He merely puffed some smoke at the bees, ascended a ladder and scraped them into a bee box WITH HIS BARE HANDS.

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His only audience that stayed for the whole show were me and a couple of English backpackers, who agreed with me that it was the most amazing thing we’d see all week. Come on, week, prove me wrong.