Sunday, June 29, 2008



People do it for fun I'm told.

Anticipating the break?  Yes.  Being at the destination, yes I can see that.  Having the change of scene, enjoying the local treats and being far away from ordinary life concerns, yep.  Having new untried shoppies to investigate and many nice shiny things to play with?  Also yep.

But speak not to me of the airline company and its oxymoronic 'Customer Service'.  Well, we WERE serviced, but it was more of a surprise-from-behind-via-large-horse variety.  I kid you not.

Dear readers, there is a HYOOG difference between 'connecting flights' and 'connecting baggage'.  Trust me on this.  'Flights' means yes you can indeed get off one plane, wander to another departure lounge, and get on another.  Possibly even ending up where you want to be, with your luggage coming out of that weird black hole and going twirlies on the carousel.  'Baggage' means something different entirely.  It means that you can book connecting flights, but if, according to a highly semantic technicality, you have made two separate bookings, or sectors as I now know they are called, your bags will come out of the plane at the connecting airport, where you have to retrieve them and then check back in.  And even though you are promised by a supurrvisor purrson on pain of losing his job (tell someone who cares) that there really IS time to do this in half an hour, this is a LIE.  

What happens is that you retrieve bags, run sweating to the desk with your priority check-in ticket waving from your teeth, see your bags disappear up the treadmill thing, only to have the check-in purrson say 'oh dear the flight's closed'.  Things get farcical after this.

WE are not allowed on the flight.  The friends travelling with us are at the gate, holding up the plane for us, oh noble dear ones, saying 'no no they're on the way, we were promised they'd have time' etc etc, until they were told 'well now YOU have to get on the plane or stay behind'.  Meantime our bags have very efficiently made it onto the plane, thanks to the wonders of baggage handlers.  We otoh are stuck wrangling a customer service purrson who (eventually) has to grovel to us for not checking us in via correct procedure - if she had, the bags would have stayed with us.  She was so mortified when I burst into tears saying 'but my meds are in my bags!' she even said 'Come and stay at my place'.  

V#rg#n REFUSED ALL RESPONSIBILITY for this check-in/luggage shambles, the official word being 'if you check in thru our website it's your responsibility to check these things'.  WHAT???  They set up their check-in system full of bells and advertising whistles encouraging you to make web bookings, oh yes, it's fun, funky, cheaper and foolproof.  BullSHIT.  There is this absolutely fatal flaw in the system, which I might add I wasn't able to avoid even though I also chose to PAY THEM EXTRA by ringing a Customer Service Call Centre (I can think of some other words starting with C I'd like to use here) to ensure all the bookings were streamlined.

The message I get is that it's all my fault for changing my bookings when my travel dates changed.  This world-wide company can't manage streamlining bookings when travel dates change?  Isn't that somewhat equivalent to missing the toilet when you sit down to piddle?

Grrrrrrrr... we were forced to stay the night in a deeply, deeply ordinary and nasty motel, dining on cheapo versions of Lean n Queasy and a small bar of chocolate I happened to have in my bag.  M was so upset he fanged off in a taxi to get booze to help us thru the night. [He was a bit nervous to get a taxi driver in traditional Muslim head-dress, but fortunately no problem.]  We barely slept, I mean, up again at 4.45am to catch two more planes to Canberra, the alternative being to hang around in Brisbane with no motel and no nothing until 3pm.  Not to mention spending large portions of the night composing letters of complaint to Richard the man.

We be grumpy.

Friday, June 20, 2008

SAVE ME!!!!!

We're still working our asses off trying to get ready to go away.  I am still mystified by the amount of things that must be done so that we can 'just walk away'.  Huh.  That's a bloody wrong concept if ever I heard one.

I spose getting ready to travel does tend to focus the mind on 'what will I need to take?'; 'what must be done to leave things in order whilst away?; 'how much of a pain in the arse will it be if I forget x or do/don't do y?'.  But JEEEEEEEZ I seem to be living a very complicated life.

We have a three-person cat-feeding system.  Involving two different types of food (one purr cat), strange maneouvres with a dimplex heater in front of the cat door, also a closed/open door system to allow/deny access (one cat is not allowed out unsupurrvised).  Then there's the basics of leaving the house secure but accessible for all these kind people.  And writing out the details of cat care, including detailed instructions on how to apply harness to cat which needs to be walked.  Yes, I said harness, and walk.  Just don't ask, orright?

Empty the fridge of anything which might go pong by the time we return.  Cancel the papers.  Make sure the right bills are paid so we don't get back to a posse.  Lock up the car.  Put bits of gardening junk away including items which a burguler might handily use to break in.  Then run around inside locking windows and finding the other deck door key and hiding tempting-looking items (at this stage of paranoia that means everything except perhaps the cat box).  Start to think of what to pack and get distracted trying to find the unopened packet of decaf beans.  Then remember the plunger would be good too and look sadly at how big it is.

Think Dark Thoughts about how I have nothing to wear, not even a potato sack.  Wonder for the umpteenth time how come M can travel anywhere, anytime, anyhow, with one pair of shoes and his thongs.  Me no savvy.  What, no pink leopard-patterned courts?  No spare Berkies for those long walks days?  And what about a proper pair of lace-ups in case it rains.  And then, my god, all the matching slippers and tights and sockies and nail polish.  It's madness.

I am I think ready to ditch the idea that if I just take a complete outfit per day, and damn the fact that this means seven suitcases, I will be ok.  I don't have seven outfits.  Unless it's ok to get around in my jarmies or perhaps two carefully pinned sarongs and a fake hibiscus flower.

I'm tired.

I think I shall throw in the red daks, the orange and purple thongs, the lime-green sunhat and 6 bottles of purrfume.  Surely that will cover everything that matters?  Oh alright, I'll stick a cotton top in too.  One of the boring white ones so that everything I drop, dribble, touch, encounter and experience will make its mark.  On the unironed surface, sorry mum.

Seeya.  If I go mad at least I'll smell gorgeous.  The scent trail today was a blend of the Aigner from last post, and some Prada because it always always makes me feel like a princess.  And THAT is such a funny concept now I feel better and I shall go and look at my suitcase with more optimistic eyes.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Happy little Vegemites...

... and whirling dervishes have something in common, they both make me feel like toast.

Orright that's got the bad joke out of the way... sheesh I'm BUSY.  Getting ready for two trips away, one this Saturday, for a week.  To Cairns, with friends.  To be warm and snorkel and see lots of budgies and nature stuff and spend monies and be relaxed and go 'huh??' when the locals say it is too cold to swim when the water is only 25 degrees.  We south coast NSW types are made of sterner stuff when it comes to sea.  If it doesn't burn with cold, freeze our knees into giant goosebumps and make us regret ever getting out of bed, it doesn't count.

I think Cairns is gonna be great.  I went there two years ago, at much this time of Canberra winter, and it was lovely, balmy, so green while we were in severe drought.  Mind you half of Innisfail and the hinterland had just been mown down by a cyclone, so you have to keep your purrspective.  This time, instead of just friend and myself, we are taking her bloke and my M along.  We're staying in an apartment rather than with family, and we'll have our own car.  I think what we finally end up doing, as group decisions and individual choices, will be very interesting.   And maybe this time friend and I won't need to spend the entire trip home in stunned silence after a rather intense and overwhelming amount of the family factor!

My week so far has been spent getting ready for a much longer trip, to Scandinavia, the Baltic States and Korea. We leave for this trip only three weeks after we return from Cairns, so there's a need to get little things done, like passports and visas and accommodation bookings and convincing the specialist tour advisors that when we say 'First Class rail overnight' we don't mean 24 hours on a clapped-out pre-Iron Curtain bus with no seats and a soused driver.  Yeah, yeah, call us picky.  But at my time of life (older than you think) I prefer to know in advance I won't be spending endless hours standing up with nothing but a hat-rack full of chickens to hold onto.  I likes my comforts.  I likes my hotels with lifts, bathrooms on the same floor, doors which stay closed, and beds which don't mysteriously part in the middle in the night, as the bottom sheet loses what ever force it had to keep two single beds on castors together.  Hotels which don't have a corridor full of over-excited Romanian schoolgirls intent on slamming every door seventeen times before 2am.  Hotels where you go and stay and the everyday comforts of western civilisation are yours for the price.

We discovered on our previous long European trip that small things CAN'T be taken for granted, like lifts, or porters in railway stations, or even (once) booked seats in first class on a train.  That train was overfull of people going to the next city for the next World Cup soccer game, and there wasn't no way they was gonna give up a seat booked to a mere Aussie bleeder in sensible shoes and Prada purrfume.  Nup.  We hung on, swaying and cursing, for an hour and a half, until the slimey limeys and wanker yanks got OFF.  I emoted.

But what am I really talking about here?  The power of small things, to make or break a day, or the difference between essentially comfortable and essentially miserable (try no hook for the shower spray, so you can't have a shower without drenching the entire bathroom, soaking the towels, sending floods onto the carpet, and endangering your dicky knee on the slippery floor).  When Il Sardonico, the night manager in our Roman hotel, greeted us by demanding to know how much we'd paid the taxi driver and then laughing at us for getting ripped off (reading my post earlier on said driver, you'll realise we were still astonished we made it to the hotel alive!).  Like, hey dude, a mere hello would do!  Mind you we relented later when we met Ms Charming Roman day-shift manager, who spoke to us about the hotel cats, "Tritticano and-a his wife".  Awww..

Small things have taken up all my brain space, breathing space, and most of my desk (dammit, most of my study) for days.  I have listed, tracked, hunted, deleted, dealt with and despaired of eleventy tiny things.  I feel most achievable, I really do.  I also know that if I don't do this in excruciating detail now, I'll spend  the first three weeks of the trip saying, regularly and triumphantly:" I KNOW WHAT I FORGOT!" and I will drive M mad.  I will also drive myself mad trying to shop for whatever these critical items are, because the law of international shopping in strange cities is that whenever you go to find nail polish remover, it will be hard to find, miles away, unidentifiable in Swedish form, four times the going price for diamond dust, and available about 50 metres away in the other direction with a huge sign on it in English saying ON SALE.

Another small thing is the delight of a Strawberrynet parcel which arrived yesterday containing a new purrfume.  So the scent trail for today is "Aigner Woman" by Etienne Aigner in Leather.  Mmm, leather....

Monday, June 16, 2008

Virgin blues..

I need to change some flight bookings.

There, that wasn't such a hard thing to say was it?


Go to website, find Manage Bookings.  Insert booking number it says.  I look it up and duly insert.  BZZTT!!! Wrong info, go back, try again, har har we won't let you, ner ner ner.  I do this riveting circle several times, going back to check my booking details from a few weeks back when I made them.  It is too my booking number.

Nup says Virgin.

So how can I check what it is, then, if the dang website won't let me into the intimate details of what *I* paid for??  Mystery, frustration, grrrrr....

All I want to do is change the flight date, thereby giving them MORE money.  Why is it so hard?  Why is it so mysterious?  Who is the loser here??? ... no don't answer that.  Even armed with my trusty Velocity Club Exclusive Gadabout Customer Frequent Spender number I can't get nowhere.  This is something of a complication, given that we actually want to come home from where we're going.  Like, when WE want to.  A small point, somewhat selfish, I'll agree, but HONESTLY.  I've been working on it for an hour now and I just can't work it out.  I bet I'll have to ring the Customer Service ppls (and pay even more) to get it sorted.  Surely the website, sophisticated as it is, can manage better than triple secrecy after the customer has identified her poor innocent little self??

I think the perfume for this one has to be Draino..

The head, not dead of...

We're both awake with headaches.  Niiiiice... this is what comes of sitting down to Be Responsible earlier, and writing lists of Things What Need To Be Done.  Very mature etc etc.  Leads, inevitably, to fretting, IMO.  Oh well.

The upside is that the cats, ever optimistic, get up to say 'oh hai brekfist hmm?' and do suspiciously affectionate things, while we totter about making toast and muttering embrocations.  I am muttering particularly loudly cos there is only skim milk left, blerk, for my hot milkies. That is to say, there IS a bit of merely low fat milk, but that must be sacredly kept for the first coffee of the day.  Skim in that would truly distress me!

And, woot, here on me blog I find comments!   You mean ppls bin reading it???  Wow... so that makes me feel ever so much better (although not actually cured as to hed of deth).  Now I can waft back to bed with my hottie (the drink, the drink) and feel ... happy.

And apply that never-fail night-time purrfume, Chanel No. 5.  But not the spray, no no.  I found it could be bought in a flask as "Elixir Sensuel", and if that isn't the most tempting thing I've ever seen then I've had my eyes closed.  Nostrils plugged.  Havin' a real UGLY day!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Going Public!

Well!  Cath (The Canberra Cook blogspot) has published a link to here so I spose I'm outed now.  Better try to be more like me then.  Btw if you enjoy reading the adventures of a cyber-hooked catlovin' cookaholic, DO visit her site.  Much more purrfessional than mine is (yet).

And speaking of her site, today she sent a link to some amusing knitting sites - I have seen a live knitted dalek - our friend Ness made one in white with black blobs for her son Aidan.  The eyes and guns are kinda floppy, and the gun, knitted in white, looked suspiciously like a tampon before she sewed it on.  Most amusing.  I'm sure Aidan will have many years of fun bwastin' baddies wid it.

As for me, I have done nothing towards gwowing up today.  I visited my friend Toni who is suffering badly from a chronic pain condition.  We get together regularly to say fark to each other and provide other critical means of friendly support, like custard danishes, coffee and laughing through the tears... 

On the way home I did some scavenging.  I have developed a fondness for old wire screen doors - the rather ornamental designs.  I take the wire off, turn them around and hang them on my fence.  Then I grow things like clematis and roses and jasmine up through them to be pretty.  Today I added to my haul by one fly screen, one old wooden-framed door with very nice frosted glass, in the old style.  Our house has quite a lot of old frosted glass in it, so I'm keeping this one in case we break a pane or walk through a door or something.  

My fave scavenge item is a beautiful old fire grate.  When I learn how, I'll post a photo of it.  It's a lovely curved design, and I will have to decide if it will go in the fireplace or live outside being more garden ornamentation.  Always a struggle to decide things like this.  I don't really aspire to a garden full of quirky found objects, except I do.  It's just that I want them to look lovely, not hopelessly kitsch, and I don't know if I am arty enough to make it work the right way.  Meantime, loot is good!

And the perfume of the day is "Enjoy" by Patou.  A softer (and far cheaper, it must be said) version of the famous perfume "Joy".

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Data days...

Today?  Back to back appointments for the care and control of the careful but uncontrollable body.  Dentist for hours, having part one of a crown (who knew one could achieve principalities just by lying back and going OW?).  Nice dentist, very fetching yellow chair.  Everything else less entertaining, although at one point Stuart said "are you ok?" and I said "yes of course, I'm just singing songs in my head, but your drill is out of tune...".

The physio said "Have I told you about the tennis-ball-into-the-butt exercise?"  How to answer THAT?  I said no, but she forgot to demonstrate before I left.  I am perhaps not so sad about this!

Now I am ringing up unsatisfactory home-assistance services, like T#lstra, the cleaners, the garden dudes, who have all PROmised they'll ring, and PROmised they'll turn up, etc etc.  Fibbers and skivers the lot of them.  I managed to extract times and dates from the cleaners.  Purrhaps they felt sorry for me after I mentioned that we have switched from sweeping to raking in the kitchen... 

The garden dudes should return soon to continue to remove archaeological layers of mulch in the gutters and rain it down on my unsuspecting garden beds.  I see this as quite a positive thing - apart from stopping water backing up under the eaves and frying our outside lights, this will be their extra added nutrient for the next six months.

And now, just to top myself off, so to speak, it's time to visit the counsellor for my regular vent, moan, whimper, snort and snuffle.  I haven't had time to have lunch, wash my hair, hang out the clothes, or anyfink.  I want to say fark this and sit in front of a fire, knitting bobbles.  I only learnt how to do that yesterday so it's a funky fun subject right now.

Oh well.  Life does go ON, doesn't it?...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Yes well hmm...

Last time I wrote about essays on pity and such.. today I think the subject is anxiety.  And I could write an essay or seventy about that, except thinking about it makes me too tense..

It's been a 'head under the doona' day.  I'm fretting about the lack of time to do what I think I should be doing, and have to be doing, and don't want to be doing but must.  And the amount of travel coming up which is suddenly not very appealing cos gosh darn how can I manage with just the one of me and my brain exploding with worries?


Do it anyway.  That's what I did last time, and the travel was great.  Not always, I had doona days, blob days, sitting in cafes and watching the crowd days.  But I did go to many amazing places, and I got to hold M's hand a lot, and that was a very fine thing.  I'm trying to concentrate on the things which really stuck in my mind as highlights - snippets of time and snaps of places and things and peoples... like the green macaw in the reception room in our Venice hotel, who said, very lugubriously "Ciiaaaoooo" when we passed.  And the incredibly neat gardens and tombstones of the cemetery where Smetana and Dvorak are buried, in Prague.  The friar who rushed past me into St Steven's church in Salzburg, saying as he went 'Gruss gott' - god be with you, I believe.

The clear water running through the specially made gutters in Freiburg um Breisgau, which help to cool the city in the summer.  The pout on my niece Leah's face when she didn't get her way that day.  The dinner when Ruedi made three huge courses, and then presented me with a special, second (rich, amazing, killing) dessert.  Their very old cat Missy, who loved her mohair blanky and wouldn't move even for me.

Cooking a fiery vegetarian curry in Leeds for our hosts, and watching Greta's eyes widen as I tipped in handfuls of spices instead of neat little English quarter-teaspoonsful.

And madder, badder memories, like the Roman taxi driver who changed into 5th gear at 100kph, then lit a cigarette and made a mobile call whilst weaving in and out of 4 lanes at 160kph!  The German doctor who tried to 'chiropract' my back but it wouldn't crack, so she shot me full of 6 syringes of lignocaine instead (it worked).  The disaster of our first week on Beijing, when for 3 non-concurrent days each we lived very close to the bathroom, and missed all the time we had for visiting the university and district where we lived in 1998.  The jack-booted border guards on the night train from Prague to Salzburg, who KICKED the doors open looking for stowaways.

The car crash in Virginia Waters, at the end of a loooong, hot, frustrating day.  It would have been funny except that our hosts were unpleasant about 'you Orstralians' the minute we arrived, not long after it.

Oh God, and the fried cheese in Budapest.

Ok, so now I have some purrspective.  I can apply that to a coffee, a shower, and a huge squirt of my fave new purrfume (Salvatore Ferragamo 'Pour Femme').