Sunday, 12 May 2013

Surely It Can't Be Much Further...

The internet is a big, dangerous, deadly, deceptive jerk.

When you pick up a book you can look at how big it is, how thick it is, the size of the font, the number of chapters.

You can see how far you've gotten and how far there is to go.

You can know when you might as well push on because it's only x amount more pages or chapters and when you should call it a day because you need your face not to be sliding off your skull when you roll in to work the next day.

The internet isn't like that.

The internet is misleading.

And if you're pootling along reading through someone's blog or tumblr or open a certain amount of tabs and decide that you're going to get through them before you do this other thing you're supposed to do.

It's not a useful plan.

It's the 'I'll just eat all the chips/ice-cream/other foodstuff now so that they won't be tempting/distracting me later' plan of digital browsing.

Especially as a lot of blogging platforms don't show you how many pages there are or present their archive information accurately so you may be 500 pages deep into someone's tumblr and have no idea that they have over 2000 pages of stuff that they're adding to every day.

Some folk reblog and post like it's a competitive sport and they're going for gold.

Either because they are teenagers who both have the time and the burning enthusiasm to curate a bunch of stuff, or they're creative and can't stop, or they like to share or they've been doing this for a while or... Well you get the point.

This is far from the first time I've become ensnared in a 'must read the archive' or 'just one more page' whirlpool, I know that subconsciously I recognise the warning signs but there are just so many stories to read, so many pictures to see, so much sass - lovely lovely sass - to revel in that I somehow sail right past them and into the building storm.

In this metaphor my laptop and my phone are little boats, the internet is the ocean and my inability to turn the damn things off or put them down are the dark clouds gathering on the horizon.

On the positive side the 'episodes' are getting milder, I'm not getting quite so caught up for so long and I'm not putting aside things I need to do* in order to read something I find more interesting than real life.

It's the temptation of short-term reward that sucks you in.

Short-term reward saunters up behind long-term goals, belts them over their collective bonces, takes their wallets, and runs cackling off into the night.

The 'yes I'll be cross at myself later if I go back to sleep now BUT it's not later yet and my bed is warm now' reflex is strong with this one.

And if you're reading short stories or looking at great art, or ending up in a never-ending spiral of 'you may also enjoy...' TED Talk or article recommendations, you get the lovely lovely pay off of the story wrapping up or the article or video educating you or the art blowing your mind without having to put much effort in yourself.

Yes, you are reading or watching or looking at the thing but you didn't have to produce it, you didn't have to sit yourself down and put the effort in.

I am getting better but I will be honest, I am still pretty easy to ensnare.

At this point I'm just looking to achieve a better balance and to let long-term goals steer a bit more often as short-term reward has had a good long go at the wheel and probably need to calm down and take a step back.

*With work, or responsibilities that dictate how my life runs

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Warn The Amish

There have been a tonne of new reality shows and documentaries over the last few years about the end of the world.
To complement all the books, TV shows and movies we have about the end of the world.

The ones about how the world might end.

The ones about what might happen next to the people who were left behind.

The ones about what would happen to a world that no longer had people in it.

But it's the ones about the people who are currently preparing for surviving what these other shows theorise about that is causing the conversations around the office.

One of the women I work with is mad obsessed with Doomsday Preppers.
It isn't the most balanced of shows, they love to hunt out the more extreme examples of the prepping movement and put them through their paces.
I'm honestly a bit impressed at home some people have managed to get their entire families or portions of their communties on board.
Worried in a few cases but impressed.

Anyway all of these prepping programs have left her with what she thinks of as a foolproof plan for surviving in the post-apocalyptic world.

Go throw your lot in with the Amish.

Because they know how to make their own furniture and buildings, can sew their own crops and raise their own animals, and know how to do a tonne of things from scratch.



There are a few problems with that.

First of which, in your case, is that you are currently in Australia.

The Amish famously live in America.

If the world ends I doubt it will be at a pace that will allow you to fly to the States.
Even if you can they may not let you in, please see 'end of the world' for an idea of why they might tighten their border controls.

But OK, let's assume you were already in America, having a lovely roadtrip with your family, the world came to a grinding/screeching halt because EMP/zombies/global economic meltdown/aliens/mega-sunspots/contagious disease/whatever.

First of all, you have to find the Amish.

Then you'd have to convince them to take you in.

Then you'd have to fight off all the hordes of people who have had the same idea and essentially want their own serf class of stuff makers and food growers to save them.

And you may still be fighting off whatever brought about this apocalyptic scenario and what the Amish also are is not known for having a cache of modern weapons or medicines, they leave that stuff to The English.

Ideally, you should have a proper think about any skills you might want to learn that would be helpful now but could also get you out of a jam should the world go to hell in a handbasket* and have a crack at that instead.

But yeah, I think someone should warn the Amish that it's entirely possible that car loads of panicked weirdoes might be turning up on their lawn any time there is a meteor shower, a prolonged blackout, a particularly weird animal attack, or someone thinks a movie is the news.

I don't want to do it.

I don't want to have to see the pained look in their eyes when they are informed of the existence of 'reality' TV.

But a heads up would probably be a good idea.

*gardening, first aid, preserving, sewing etc.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

The Guardian


Well this is timely after last week's post.

My friend Awesome rang me up recently and said she had something big to ask me.

Seeing as she's already married to her fella and has a 2 year old with him I was pretty sure it wasn't a proposal.

What it was though was this:

Would I be willing to be made the guardian of their child in the event that they both died?


Taking into account this would only come about in the unlikely and really horrible event that they both got knocked out of the picture I had to consider the idea seriously because if I didn't look at it as if it were something that might one day happen I wouldn't be making the decision based on useful ideas.

He's a pretty awesome little dude and I definitely would want to make sure he was taken care of.

So it was time to run through the basic list.

Would I be willing and ready to:
  • make the space in my home?
  • make the time in my life?
  • make sure he got a proper education?
  • look after him when he was sick?
  • support him trying out sports and hobbies?
  • teach him the stuff he needs to know to get on?
  • make sure he didn't grow up to be an ass?
  • go through all the uncertainty and terror and heartbreak that whole package would bring?

Essentially the answer was 'aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarghhhaaaaaarrghhghghghhhgh yes'.

I mean sure the idea is sort of terrifying, not only because it would only come to pass if something really awful happened, because getting catapulted into parenthood without getting to go through the beginner levels would leave you scrambling to catch up.

Like if someone decided to run through the development levels of a game you've never played before and then hand the controller over for the boss fight.

But like Awesome said, one of the reasons they thought of me because I have a big-ass family would support me and make sure he was OK.

So I said yes.

And then immediately started planning diet plans and exercise regimes and defensive driving courses for his parents.

Because he is a rad little dude and I want to be a part of his life for as long as I'm around.

But I also kind of like his parents and want to keep them.

So yay for the huge, touching declaration of trust in me but double-yay for the idea that it will never be necessary because his mum and dad will be there to bring him up, love him, and give him the flicks around the ear that he is sure to deserve along the way.

Saturday, 20 April 2013


[This is a backdated post] 

Well, I turned 30 on Wednesday and there seems to have been some kind of bureaucratic stuff up.

I haven't received my No Really, You're An Adult Now, 18 Was Just A Test Run, 21 Was Just Another Excuse For A Party, And Your 20s Didn't Count Properly Because You Weren't Really Paying Attention information packet hasn't arrived in the mail.

The manual it's supposed to contain would come in really handy right now because I still feel a bit like an impostor sometimes.

Things that I do that are grown up:
  • I have a job
  • I pay taxes
  • And fill out forms about taxes*
  • I vote
  • I drive a car
  • I pay for registration and insurance for that car
  • I have health insurance
  • I donate money to charity
  • I make my own dentist and doctor appointments etc
  • I pay bills
  • I organise my finances
  • I buy groceries
  • I cook real food for myself

Things that I do that seem to invalidate the 'no really, you're an adult' thing:
  • Watch a bunch of animated shows (all Venture Bros, Archer, Harvey Birdman, Futurama etc all the time)
  • Read comic books
  • Spend time at work imagining Looney Toons-level karma happening to the people who still act like they're in high school despite being over 40
  • Eat pizza for breakfast
  • Eat ice cream for dinner
  • Say 'ugh, whaaaaaaaaaat?' before answering the phone at work
  • Spend hours imagining what it would mean for the human race if we were no longer the apex predator on the planet and whether this would make us better people or huger assholes and whether this would be a parallel reality or some kind of nuclear event or an alien invasion that put these 'bigger/smarter/more dangerous than us' predators into the mix...

The thing is, all those items on the second list may not be refined or 'mature' but what they really are is 'things that you're free to do now because you're in charge of yourself - i.e. a grown up'.

Things that maybe all adults are still doing** even though they are also sometimes going to plays or art galleries or wearing glasses unironically and looking like they have their shit together.

The magical 'moment of clarity where you know exactly what is going on and you feel like a legit figure of authority' isn't coming, is it?
Or it'll sneak up on me so slowly that I'll not even notice it's arrived until some time later.

So when I was a kid and I was running up to my parents and aunts and uncles who were about how old I am now and asking them to take care of things and explain things and fix things, they felt the same way I feel know when my nephew or my friends' kids run up to me***?

Well, that's a bit terrifying retrospectively.

I never feel particularly mature or ambitious or whatever.
At least until I meet people who are technically old enough to vote but seem like maybe they shouldn't be allowed to...


There's some stuff I'm still planning to get around to that 20-year-old me would have assumed I would have done by 30 because 30 is soooooooo ooooooold and soooooo faaaaar aaaawaaaaaaay but there aren't any things that I really regret doing or any specific opportunities that I feel I missed or passed on that I shouldn't have.
I didn't really have a 'things to do before you're 30' list because those kind of things always make me want to yell 'YOU'RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME! AND ALSO ALL YOUR IDEAS ARE STUPID!'

So here I am, older, probably a bit wiser, eating doughnuts at midnight because I'm a motherhugging adult.

*Ugh, paperwork.

**Or whatever their personal equivalent is. Gardening is totally the grown up version of playing in the mud.

***Which is 'Well, I think I can work this out but stop looking at me as if I am McGyver/Santa!'

Sunday, 14 April 2013

You Can't Say 'Yeah, But It's Different'

There's a big old stereotype that America knows a lot about America but doesn't necessarily know a lot about the rest of the world.

Various comedians have had a great time going over this, it pops up in jokes, entertainment media, arguments, debates, the whole shebang.

As with many stereotype it may have a grain of truth for some people and be completely inaccurate with regards to others.

When I was 19 I spent 3 months living, working and travelling in California with a friend.
We were asked various questions by the people we met, some a bit baffling, others perfectly reasonable.
I had the experience of my cousin who had done two terms of high school in the US to prepare me for the weirdest things I may be asked, or in his case told.
A student at the school he was attending insisted that the national language of Australia was French and refused to believe him when he (the Australian) said that it wasn't.

When I took a video of my workplace one of my coworkers did a rendition of  Denis Leary's 'Because we've got the bombs!' bit that I a) didn't recognise until several years later when I saw the original and b) thought was the way that a certain percentage of the world saw Americans and a way that a certain percentage of Americans saw themselves.

While I was there I borrowed a couple of Australian movies out from the library because I was feeling a bit homesick and then got indignant when I realised that the versions released in the US had been altered.
In The Castle they changed the reply to 'what's this love?' from 'rissoles' to 'meat loaf'. Probably because they decided that the US audience wouldn't know what rissoles were.
Well yes but that's how you learn, you hear something you've never heard of before and you look it up.
Assuming people will get so annoyed by strange and unfamiliar things that they'll just tune out seems kind of insulting to me.
You wouldn't believe the stuff I know now because I read or watched something produced in another country and had to look up what it was or work it out from context.
Also anyone who doesn't like things that are different or unfamiliar would have turned the movie off 5 minutes in because The Castle is considered a cult film for a reason, it represents a particular kind of person at a particular point in time.

The change that really cheesed me off, however, was made to the movie The Dish.
In the original - and one true! - Australian version, the people operating the satellite dish at Parkes lose the signal from Apollo 11 and were panicking trying to work out how to find the vessel again before they are asked to report in. A local girl who was just coming around to bring them some sandwiches says 'Why don't you just point the dish at the moon? That's where they're heading, isn't it?' and it's a lovely 'oh yeah, common sense, ha ha' moment.
In the version I saw in the US, they reshot the scene so Patrick Warburton, the American character came up with the solution because apparently they decided US audiences wouldn't be able to deal with the idea that an American was present but wasn't the one who saved the day.

This was all 'experiences and anecdotes that support the stereotype*'.
Not all my experiences and the stories I heard supported the stereotype but enough did that it remained the subconscious default that applied to X% of people.

But then as life bobbled along and I accumulated more experiences I started to hit more 'wait a minute' moments.

The ones where you saw people somehow manage to plaster the stereotype and its attendant assumptions all over well-read, well-travelled Americans even after hearing them talk about the places they had been and the things they were passionate about and had looked into for their own curiosity.
The stereotype was so strong that even evidence jumping up and down in front of them wasn't powerful enough to overcome it.

And then you noticed the big old hypocritical moments.
The ones where you would see fellow Australians asked questions about foreign countries and realise that their answer is 'yeah, we don't know that shit, we're Australians, the rest of the world is so far away that who can be bothered to- uh I mean LOOK OUT FOR DROP BEARS, ALL OUR WILDLIFE IS POISONOUS, WHEEE!'

And then you notice it everywhere.

Every country has some people who don't bother to learn about other countries.
Every country has some people who think all other countries are doing it wrong.
Every country has people who are very vocal about these two points of view.

It's just that statistically there are more Americans, and y'know what, they have the bombs, so them not being 100% up to date on the facts is a lot more nerve-wracking in certain situations.

People living in countries jammed right up against each other, geographically speaking, should know a lot about each other but you just have to listen to some of the jokes and stereotypes that different Europeans countries hold about their neighbours to know that this is often not the case.

As a species we're getting better, we are actually learning more and we're more connected and we have more opportunities to get the facts and not rely on old material or stories we heard from a cousin of an uncle's friend etc etc.

We just have to be aware of these stereotypes and the part we each play in keeping them alive because they are lodged pretty deep in there and they inform your attitudes and actions more than you might think.

No country is perfect.
No country is completely terrible.
All countries have points of achievement or beauty or interest in their history.
All individuals within that country deserve to be seen for themselves.
Being proud of your country is fine.
Being a douche about it isn't.
Getting all defensive if somebody points out your country isn't perfect usually isn't that useful.
Sometimes people will react to you based on how other people from your country has treated them. This isn't any more fair than the original shitty behaviour that they experienced.

Basically, be interested in the world, don't stamp 'case closed' on what you know about people and places, and don't be a dick.

*And rather cheesed me off. Wind it back, America, sometimes other people work shit out, tcha!

Sunday, 7 April 2013

So Help Me, If I Don't Behave I Will Turn Myself Around And Go Right Home!

One of the weirdest things about growing up is when you get past the initial 'ha ha, I'm in charge of myself and I can do whatever I want!' glee spasm...

... and realise that this means that you are the adult in charge.

Yes, you can do whatever you want now but you have to look at the consequences and make the hard calls to make sure that you don't miss out on what you want long term because you were too caught up in the joys of the short term.

Essentially, you become your own strict parent.
You are the angel on your own shoulder as well as the demon on the other.

Whether you hear echoes of your mother or father as your inner voice prompts 'do you really need that?' as you reach towards the supermarket shelf, or you just hear your own voice saying 'you'll regret that later and there is other shit you should be doing with that time/money', the fact remains:

You are the authority figure in your own life*.

And like being an authority figure anywhere you have to figure out how to make this work for you.

Do you respond better to bribing or 'firm but fair' reasoning?

I know something that doesn't tend to work well for me - at least in the long run - is threats or punishments.

For a while I successfully dragged myself out to start the day by telling myself that any day I hit the snooze button, I wouldn't be allowed to use the internet for personal/recreational reasons that day.

It eventually lost its power because I've never been a disciplinarian by nature, I'm not very good at being imposing or stern.
And like they say 'never make a threat you aren't prepared to follow through on or you will lose your credibility'.
The first time I slept in and then let myself fuck around on the internet later in the day was the death knell of that particular tactic.

Finding a way to reward or incentivise yourself without invalidating the good behaviour** can be a bit tricky but you have to work out what works for you otherwise you just end up berating yourself for your actions but not doing anything to change them.

I'm still fine tuning my own approach as I am both incredibly reluctant to get into the bed at the end of the day and incredibly reluctant to get out of it come the next morning and this kind of 'you know you'll be annoyed with yourself later but you don't care enough to stop yourself now' bad habit is a fairly typical example of 'things I am trying to knock off but uuuuhhhhhhhh'.

I'm better at other things like budgeting, planning trips or projects, making myself decent meals.
I just need to work out how to bring those skills to things like getting out of bed, putting down that book, not having that many biscuits with a cup of tea.

I still feel like a complete imposter when people react to me like I'm a grown up but I fully expect to feel that way when I'm shuffling towards my final rest so I'm not too fussed about that any more.

Get past that first stumbling block so that I can make self-control automatic rather than a big pouting tantrum in the middle of my frontal lobes and I'll be unstoppable!
Or at least getting started earlier!
Baby steps!

*Or at least you should be. Once you're a grown up you should at least get an equal vote in decisions that concern you.

**"If you go to the gym you can have a pizza for dinner and a bowl of ice-cream the size of your head for dessert!"

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Big Claims, Little Action

So a few months ago I made some stirring declarations that I was going to start trying chocolate and alcohol again.

It has so far failed to evolve into a concrete plan.

Probably the furthest I've actually gotten is not scooping some foam off my decaf latte when some of the chocolate powder from someone's cappuccino got on it.
Oh and going completely off the chain and dipping my sushi in soy sauce that I haven't cooked to make sure the 6% booze has been neutralised.

I've always thought I had a bit of a contradictory personality in that I feel like I'm both a bit prone to addiction AND completely incapable of it.

I suppose addiction might be the wrong term and incapable probably ain't exactly accurate either.

If there's something I'm enjoying doing (reading) and I'm supposed to be doing something more productive instead (studying/cleaning/talking to flesh and blood people) I am very likely to let myself get carried away and read until 3am even knowing that I will feel like a sleepy idiot at work the next day.

If I want something and I can't muster up a compelling enough argument against it, I tend to let myself have it.
I'm self-indulgent like that.

But proper addiction is when your doctor looks you in the eye and says 'if you don't stop drinking you won't see 40' and you keep drinking anyway because you need to/you can't stop/you can't bear yourself/your life without it/you're sure it won't happen to you/fuck you, that's why.

If the potential cons outweigh the more probable pros I am really good at going cold turkey.

What I don't seem to be good at right now is looking at the statistics/likelihoods and making that gamble that I'm not the 0.005% of people who will be adversely affected by giving it a go.

The other thing that makes it tricky is that being nervous gives me a bit of a funny tummy at times.
So being nervous about trying alcohol and caffeine because they might give me a funny tummy might give me a funny tummy, aka a false positive.

Seeing as my brain is rigged to automatically plot out a range of possible consequences for everything I think about, way too quick to head off at the pass, I generally just sit through its mental powerpoint of 'shit you should consider'.
Even if I can dismiss 95% of it as 'as close to impossible that it makes no mind' considering it and running it through the 'hmm-o-tron' is quicker and ends with less worrying than trying to clamp down on the behaviour entirely.

At the moment I'm balancing on the teeter point of 'how long will it take for the idea to be less nerve-inducing so that I can accurately judge if it is throwing my system out when I have this stuff?' and 'seeing as life has been pretty well fine without this stuff is it worth the fiddling and fussing to get back on it anyway?'

In addition to that I have the previous experience of absence not necessarily causing the heart to make that much of a fuss.

A few years ago I went on the Liver Cleansing Diet with someone else as a sort of moral support.
You gave up dairy, red meat and alcohol for 3 months to allow your liver to 'bounce back to full operational strength after all the terrible strain that is put on it by our less than natural modern diet'. I honestly thought it was a pile of bulltwang but seeing as it wasn't telling you to drink your weight in cucumber water or anything ridiculous I was OK with giving a few things up for a while.

I wasn't really drinking that much alcohol anyway so that wasn't really a strain but cutting out dairy and red meat meant I had to think a bit harder about how to prepare meals and what to have.
And I really like red meat and dairy, they're two of my favourite things!

In any case after three months of abstinence I assumed my first mouthful of beef or cheese or chocolate would have my tastebuds rejoicing, my mouth flooding with joyful saliva and a choir of angels singing above me.
I mean it tasted nice but just in the usual way.
Its absence in my life hadn't made me realise that it was more glorious than mere mortal tastebuds could comprehend fully on a daily basis.

So when I get back to booze and caffeine (chocolate etc) I'm not anticipating a 'oh sweet lord how I've missed you' moment of sensory bliss, just a 'hey I can do what I want without having to double check ingredients, huzzah' which will allow me to relax a bit about food and indulge a bit more.

Eh, I'll get there eventually.
Or I won't.
Whatever, they both work.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Johnny Castaway*

When other people think about getting stranded on a deserted island I assume they're contemplating whether they would end up falling into one of the following familiar categories:
  • Tom Hanks in Castaway
  • Robinson Crusoe
  • The Swiss Family Robinson
  • Lord of the Flies
  • The Admirable Crichton
... or striking out in their own inimitable way (either through extra hardcore survival-at-the-cost-of-all-else behaviour or double extra competence).

I bounce back and forth between the 'I would love to be stranded on a deserted island rather than in this meeting/yes this traffic jam is annoying but you would ascribe less importance to it after being stranded without modern conveniences' curse/blessing thought model; and the 'no but how would you really?' theoretical mindset.

Even if I start with the curse/blessing thought pattern it quickly slips into the theoretical because that's more interesting.

You start with the usual suspects:
  • I'm going to need fresh water (Are there pools or springs on the island? Is it a tropical island that has coconuts I can drink from?)
  • I'm going to need shelter (Are there materials I can easily build with? Are there caves? Are the caves safe or filled with creepy bugs/snakes/bat guano? Is the weather warm enough that I don't need to go crazy with the construction?)
  • I'm going to need food (Are there animals on the island? Would I actually be able to hunt them? If not, how difficult/dangerous would fishing be? Can I safely identify any edible plant life?)

But after that I start getting down into the details, either those that people might not think about or those that people might not think about that much:
  • Would I be eaten alive by friggin' insects?
  • What is the likelihood of heat exhaustion/super sunburn?
  • If there are animals on the island, how many are there? If there are and I'm capable of hunting them, how often should I be eating meat to a) keep myself healthy and b) make sure I don't chomp my way through the population at a non-sustainable rate?
  • Would it be better to avoid land animals and the possibility of worms other contaminants/infestations they might contain and stick to seafood?
  • Are there dangers with the fish (outside of blowfish = bad) that I don't know about?
  • Are any of the plants or fish etc that I'm depending on seasonal?
  • Are the plants I'm eating abundant and/or self-seeders or am I likely to nom my way through the entire lot and then find myself nomless?
  • Is the likelihood of passing vessels dictated by the seasons? (eg, lots of tourists in late spring/summer/early autumn and then nooooooothing through late autumn/winter/early spring)
  • Am I looking at the possibility of tropical storms?
  • Assuming I've washed ashore only with the clothes/accessories I'm wearing am I likely to be able to fashion basic tools or even start a fire?
  • Will I be able to fish with a line (that I'm assuming I make myself) or is my fishing success going to depend on being able to stab fish out of the water?
  • Am I going to get myself investigated and/or sampled by a local shark/predator if I try to swim out to more fish-rich waters?
  • What if - just to flip shit around - I'm stranded on an island in the Northern Hemisphere? We're used to thinking of desert islands as tropical paradises where food grows, the weather ain't too bad, and you have materials to work with. If you're stuck on one of the windswept islands off of Scotland all you will have to work with is grass and maybe shellfish that cling to the rocks. There aren't likely to be trees or animals, probably no fresh water, probably no shelter, swimming to fish would be freezing and you wouldn't be able to see anything in the darker waters... Yeah you'd probably die of exposure, curled up on the grass...
  • If you're on an island where are you aren't going to be immediately starved/frozen/poisoned/chomped to death, will you be able to stay mentally strong and healthy? Or will you be OK until you've got yourself set up and then give into despair once you realise that maybe you won't be discovered/rescued?

I think the desert island was the original 'how would you survive the end of the world?' scenario for kids who grew up before the apocalypse became such a central theme in our entertainment industry.
Whereas kids born after 2000 will be assessing their ability to survive based on the zombie apocalypse, the rise of the machines, contagion-based wipe out of a large portion of the world's population, or alien invasion, the seeds of survival planning were planted in my brain by the idea of being stranded on an island or in the wilderness.
It was then built upon by books like:

Even as a kid you understand that the desert island was about self-sufficiency as there is no society to depend upon, that it would also test your ingenuity and mental resilience.
Are you going to sit on the beach sobbing in the foetal position? Or are you going to at least try to get shit done?
Trying doesn't guarantee survival of course but are you the kind of person who will keep fighting for life or the kind who just waits for someone else to save you?

Anything that prompts you to ask yourself 'how much of this could I do myself?' or 'is there knowledge that I've never bothered to acquire because we can pay for goods and services and have them provided for us?' tends to prove fascinating because at least for me it tends to lead to an assessment of the structure of society and the role that plays in dictating the tools and materials available and lifestyles these things are able to support.

I suppose I could just imagine myself swaying back and forth in a hammock, enjoying a primitive fruit cocktail mixed in a coconut shell but even imaginary relaxed-me would only be able to relax if she knew that she had adequate shelter, water and food.
And would that involve having to store food for the non-fruiting times/winter?
And would that mean trying to form pottery and working out how to pickle food in a way that kept it viable and didn't make it poisonous?
And could you harvest sea-salt in a manner that allowed you to salt fish in a way that preserved it without rendering it nigh on useless?

And... and... and...?

Yeah, I can't really do the 'imagine a kind of non-optional holiday' daydreaming.
But I can consider logistics like a motherhugger.

*When we were kids we had the Johnny Castaway screen saver on our family computer and we spent more time watching the little screen saver man's adventures than we did using the computer. We were easily entertained and always convinced that one day we'd see him do something he'd never done before. Even now if one of us hums in a certain way the other two will know exactly what we're imitating.
Oh look, he's on Youtube! Yep, reeeally easily entertained :-D
In our defence it looks like there are 40 minutes worth of scenes so there would eventually be unseen ones popping up, prompting a flurry of excitement.
PS. Johnny Castaway would have died of dehydration and/or heatstroke and/or scurvy! Look at that island!

Sunday, 17 March 2013

On The Road

I've had a few different experiences with travelling with friends.

The fearless mate who convinced me to go on a working holiday in California at 19 when neither of us had travelled without adult supervision* and once responded to my concerns with 'What's the worst thing that can happen? You die and then you don't have to worry about it' which has stuck with me as a good point ever since then.

The meek mate who was happy to let me plan the travel, the accommodation, the itinerary and only chimed in if there was something in particular she did/didn't want to eat/see/miss.

The loud mates who were mostly concerned that we had a working music system, enough junk food to get us there, and - if I insisted - relevant maps n shit.

The contradictory-mix mate who is spontaneous a lot of the time but also doesn't like to stray too far from our agreed itinerary once we've nutted out a good one.

Travelling with friends can be both awesome and kind of awful.

Being out of your normal environment can let different parts of your personalities come to the surface so that you can get to know entirely different sides of each other -- kind of awesome.

But it also amplifies different habits or behaviours that you may not have been aware of or given much of a damn about before -- kind of awful.

I think when you're travelling with friends you need to sit down before you set off and make sure that you are both on the same page about what you want from the trip.

If they're expecting to party across Europe, fall in with random groups of people that seem to be having a good time, and wash up wherever the tide takes you and you're expecting to cram yourself with pastries and wander through galleries and castles then you are going to be a little bit stumped when you finally touch down at your destination.

Having different travel plans than your friends doesn't mean you can't travel with your friends, you just need to be able to communicate and not fuck up more than the amount of times you can both forgive.

If you have a friendship where you can fly over together, see the shit you're both interested in together, then visit or do the shit you alone are interested in separately, then meet up again for the next leg of the trip then that's excellent.

If you're the kind of person who doesn't like not knowing where your mate is, or alternatively the kind of person who doesn't like having to wait around for someone else to come back from what they've been doing without you, then that kind of jaunt probably isn't for you and you'll either have to make sure you pick a mate who is interested in all the same things you are or compromise and both go to a few things you couldn't give two tugs about so that neither of you misses out.

The most important thing to do is be honest with yourself and each other because otherwise you could end up in a situation where you explode at each other in a way that would be much more dramatic and entertaining that this vague

And before the trip talk to each other and establish the baseline acknowledgement that 'we're probably going to flip out at one point due to hunger/fatigue/irritation/nerves so some kind of get out of jail free card system wouldn't hurt'.

Without it I wouldn't be friends with my fearless mate because she would have put my head through a wall when I was worrying over details and how we were going to be shanked and/or shot because America.
I wouldn't be friends with my meek mate because of the time I went on a rant about her not wanting to walk with me to a particular bridge because she was tired/it was late and I was feeling a bit 'sleep when you're dead, don't waste this trip**!' and got a bit self-righteous about it**.
I wouldn't be friends with my loud mates because they are quite happy to ditch plans for what seems more fun at the time/now that we've seen where we are and what's available.

Summary: think about your expectations, talk to your mate about theirs, run your plans past each other, maybe come up with a 'bitch, you're working my last nerve' safeword for when you're out and about to head off actually having a screaming row.

*Real adults! Proper adults! We weren't actual adults at 19! I sometimes have trouble believing I'm officially an adult now.

**When you're flying between 10 and 22 hours to get to places you tend to try and cram as much into each trip as you can; this is one of the reasons why Australians can sometimes seem a bit over the top as we charge about the place. If we're already paying $$$ to get here and the trip took ### hours then we are going to make the most of it. Stay a month or two months or three rather than a two week trip, run all over the shop like a cat on nip!

***I apologised later and she gave me a bit of a mild telling off.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Lazy Meals

Lazy meals is a very broad category that can span from both ends of the quality spectrum.

Sometimes 'lazy meal' means 'I had some frozen portions of lasagne in the freezer for just this kind of occasion'.
Other times it means 'I put slices of jarlsberg onto salt and vinegar pringles and called it a day'.

There are lazy meals like 'frozen veg fried rice' where you cook up some rice and some frozen veg, add some soy sauce and call it a day*.

There are lazy meals like 'bung some chicken nuggets and some chips on an oven tray and set the timer'.

Some days you don't have time to cook.

Some days you don't have the energy to cook.

Some days you don't have the groceries to cook.

Some days you are feeling too petulant and shitty with the world to cook.
Or to have anything that contains vitamins.
Or to do what anyone tells you to do.
Even if that someone is the part of yourself that knows you're being a bit ridiculous right now.

Lazy meals can be a matter of convenience, a form of comfort food, a trip down memory lane to your student days**, a combination of all three, or just for the hell of it.

This is an awfully philosophical and roundabout way to tell you that I'm eating stellini pasta with butter and shaker parmesan for dinner but, y'know, it's all a matter of perspective.

*Unless you're me, in which case you stir through some grated mozarella and then call it a day.

**If you had them. No judgement if you didn't. Then they'd be your 'first house where I could eat what I wanted and/or was on a tight budget' days.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Roller Derby

A lot of things I've learned in life have come from experience but most of the really important things I've learned have come from watching the people I love get around to things before me and then having to deal with the challenges and realities that follow.

In this circumstance it was my friend Riot and her fella, The Viking, building a house.

The amount of fiddling and decision-making and revising and miscommunication and setbacks and faffing about and hold-ups and casual thoughts about murder-suicide that came up during this process has been fascinating.
And more than a little daunting.

This could all be filed under 'things you were anticipating but didn't really comprehend the importance/extent of'.

One thing I completely knocked all our socks off was how much the interior painting would have cost.
The quotes they were given ran between $12,000 and $16,000+.


Factor in the cost of equipment, of running a business, man hours, paint, travel and that still suggests that painters wake up every morning on silk sheets, have some caviar on bread that has been baked in house by their personal servants and then shower in a bathroom appointed with gold and marble.

Yes, the house is of decent size but it isn't a palace, the rooms are not infinite!

So, of course Riot and The Viking decided that professional painting could go to blazes and that they'd bloody do it themselves!

House painting is one of those 'not really difficult but people are worried about futzing it up or don't have enough time to do it themselves' tasks that have spawned an industry that I'm guessing has run away with itself a bit.
Painting an established house means having to be careful of the moulding, carpet/tiling/flooring and furniture.
Painting in a house that has just been finished and hasn't had any of the carpeting or tiling put down is muuuuuuch easier.
Especially as the builders had done something wrong a little earlier and as an apology had gotten all the ceilings sealed and painted for no extra cost, so yippee! No paint dropping in our eyes as we tried to Michelangelo* the ceiling.

Riot and The Viking declared this weekend to be Painting Weekend, tempted us in with the offer of food and their eternal gratitude.
Considering their regular level of hospitality is pretty friggin' impressive I wasn't going to pass up on a lifetime warranty and also it just sounded like fun.

Picking out clothes ratty enough to paint in was easy enough sadly** and for the most part it was a time-consuming doddle.
They'd bought good quality paint, rollers, brushes and trays, worded us up on how to do this right and set us loose on the house.
The one bit that is annoying and fiddly is 'cutting in' and 'not futzing up the architraves, skirting boards and moulding'.

You'd think that rollers would be able to paint a nice straight line up to the edge of anything that has an edge but the dang things get a bit wishy washy on the edges and don't push down as hard.
The thing they do do is have little fuzzy bits at the end which will trail paint across the underside edge of the moulding that does not need to be painted!
There was a little bit of furtive wiping of surfaces with clean cloths and/or bits of our clothing as we went along but we got it done.

All the communal areas and most of the rooms were getting painted the same shade of lighty beige-y whatever - one of those colours that you can't really describe because... pale - which made the whole process easier for the volunteer army.
The two rooms that were getting fancy different colours were Riot's art room (which was getting a strong aqua colour) and their theatre room (which was getting a deep rich red because they're both mad for Twin Peaks and figure you can pull that shit off in a room that is devoted to having the lights off for most of the time you're in it).
The two fancy rooms were being done at a later date by Riot and The Viking so there was no paint segregation or hardcore roller/brush washing to be done, just a lot of repetitive movements and yelling song lyrics and insults at each other.

By the end of the second day we'd gotten all the coats done in all the parts of the house we were allowed at and could collapse in a 'why did I have to spend so much of my weekend going up and down ladders***' pile.

I think at the end of the process the lessons I learned are as follows:
  • 90-95% of painting is easy as, it's the last 5% that screws you up and has you reaching for the phone book****.
  • Even when you're being careful you will get paint in your hair.
  • The bits you worry will be obviously imperfect you won't even be able to find a few minutes later. The bits that stand out as needing work will be areas you thought were doing fine until you caught sight of them out of the corner of your eye.
  • Riot and The Viking are way less OCD than I am.
  • You are never too old to enjoy wearing overalls.

*It's a verb now, deal with it!

**Note to self, time to throw out some more clothes...

***As an official shorty, standing 5'1" (155 cm) I needed the ladder more than some others!

****Or more likely your computer or smartphone because progress!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

I Miss Holding Your Hand

I miss holding your hand.
The way that you didn't give a damn.
That it never occurred to you to care what other people thought.
That you never even paused to consider that other people might care.
I miss the casual, thoughtless closeness.
The warmth and support.
The total lack of agenda.
I miss how it was so easy for you.
How you made it easy for me.
How after a while I didn't even think about it either.
I miss the quiet times as much as the crazy times.
But most of all, I miss holding your hand.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Logistics And The Confusion Of Solitude

I think it's the default for Australians that when you say 'travel' they think 'overseas'.

You say "I'm thinking of going travelling again" no-one is going to think you mean anywhere on our own continent.
We don't talk about it like that.

It isn't that Australia isn't freaking huge and that going from one side to the other isn't a pretty impressive undertaking but the language we use tend to downplay it a bit.

It might partly be because when we travel our own country there are a LOT of bits that most people skip unless they're feeling particularly intrepid and enjoy off-roading.

You go for a 10 hour drive in Europe and you will cross several countries, each with their own languages, sights to see, cuisines and places to stay.

You go for a 10 hour drive in Australia and unless you're going around the coast odds are you better have some spare tanks of fuel, a good supply of water, a tent, and possibly an EPIRB.

There are whole chunks of the country that are either too much trouble, too dangerous, or too barren to be of much interest to anyone except scientists and prospectors*.

But wide stretches of sun-baked desert aside, when I think 'I haven't been travelling for a while' what I mean is 'I haven't been overseas for a while'.

I do want to see more of my own country but it has never been a pressing thing.

It'd be a lot easier to do regularly than getting the money together to fly around the globe but it just doesn't pop up as an automatic option.

Unless you're heading to the coast or the slopes, people tend to be a little bit surprised if you say you're heading somewhere on the mainland without a particular reason.

You live in Melbourne and you're heading over to Perth?
You got family over there?
You don't?
There some kind of event you're attending?
There isn't? You're just interested?
And it isn't school/summer holidays?
Oh... OK, fair enough...?

I'm probably overplaying it a bit but if I told my family I was going on a month's trip in Europe by myself, hiring a car and tooling about a bit they'd wish me good luck, tell me to be careful and to bring them back some souvenirs.

If I told them I was going to take my car and go on a roadtrip up the coast by myself they'd be a bit baffled.

Travelling to another continent by yourself = makes perfect sense.

Travelling around our own own country by yourself = a bit odd?

It's something people are supposed to save up until they retire, buy a caravan and become a grey nomad.

The thing that kicked off this train of thought is my wanting to follow through on my camping obsession a bit more regularly and realising that if I actually want to get it done I'll probably have to do it by myself.
My friends and family all have jobs, financial commitments or restrictions, and/or children and pets to wrangle.

Getting them to come camping would involve a lot of forewarning and planning, could by necessity only take place during particular times of the year if I wanted certain people to be able to come and could end up with me banging my head against a wall because argh complicated!

I could probably arrange a few short trips with different people but anything longer would involve a bit of fiddling about.

Same with if I wanted to go and see a bit of Tasmania or Queensland.

People either might not have the money or the freedom to get away.

So if I don't want to hang around and put it off that means I have to look at whether I want to do it by myself.

And the answer to that is... kind of?

There are parts of the country I could quite happily go and see by myself.
Go and spend a week on the beach up on the sunshine coast, go on some nature walks in the rainforests and national parks in New South Wales and Queensland, go camping and checking out various towns in Tasmania.
But there are other parts of the country I'd like to see with other people, some of the cities and certain landmarks or areas.

There are some things that you really want someone to be standing with you for, just so you can turn to them and say 'hey, look at that, isn't it amazing?'

There are other things you can enjoy quite easily by yourself.

There might be a bit of 'how you think things will go' vs 'reality', in that depending on what kind of person you are spending that amount of time by yourself could either be freeing or make you feel a bit anxious.
And the driving involved in a long roadtrip by yourself could either be meditative or brain-meltingly boring.

It's hard to say.

So I've got two tasks in front of me:
  • having a proper think about which parts of my own country I want to explore; and
  • explaining to people that I'm going on a trip by myself and no I've not gone crazy, got depressed, or decided to 'find myself'.
This could take a while.

*Apparently this is becoming a thing again!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

The Danger Of Stereotypes

America, we have a confession to make.

When I say 'we' I mean most of the rest of the world.

I've appointed myself spokesperson.

I'm sure this will cause no problems whatsoever.

Anyway, America, here's the thing.

We kind of don't think of you as real.

I mean we know you exist, it's kind of hard to pretend you don't what with your citizens who travel and all the stuff you do and produce but it's the producing thing that's kind of got us screwed up.

You make a lot of movies.

And TV shows.

Most of the movies and TV shows.

And because of this your country kind of seems like a giant living movie set...

You drive on the wrong side of the road - just like in the movies.

You have diners with drip coffee and a bewildering selection of pies - just like in the movies.

You make fun of each other's states and accents and the various wide range of communities and lifestyles.

And this is problematic for some of your citizens because, well, you typecast them.

People with certain features or specific Americanised genetic backgrounds are cast in the same sorts of roles and then their real world counterparts have to deal with being seen through that lense.

Some of the stereotypes people are fond or proud of, others not so much.

People from one part of the country only know what hilarious accented sidekicks or ominous accented villains have taught them.

That's kind of goofy and funny for us foreigners until we realise that our ignorance about what the people of Louisiana or Minnesota are actually like is an ignorance shared by many of their countrymen* and women.

When we were travelling in Europe my brother and I met an awesome writer from Texas who reacted with suspicion to our curiosity and enthusiasm to know what being from Texas was really like.
She was used to people from her own country slapping 'Yosemite Sam' type assumptions over her and then being jackasses based on those stereotypes so it took us a while to convince her we were genuinely interested.

The amount of times we spoke to people from different parts of America and were told 'We're not actually all gun nuts in my state**' or 'Yeah, we're not all a bunch of tightly wound prudes where I come from' was fascinating.

You get some of the same lack of representation of people with stronger regional accents in most countries, there are some accents you just aren't going to hear on national broadcast radio or TV in the UK for example.

But it just seems like given the size of America and the size of the population that this phenomenon is much more pronounced***.

It's that very size that leaves many people operating under the influence of these stereotypes as they have a finite amount of time, brain space, and in many cases damns to give about such a broad range of communities and their traditions.

I suppose what I'm saying America is that, even though we can often catch ourselves out here thinking of you as a giant movie set, sometimes it feels like you treat parts of yourself like they aren't real either.

So while we as a global community are working on making sure there is a more representative array of people of different genders, races, sexualities and religions in TV shows, movies, books and on radio; you could make an effort to toss some people from your less represented states into bigger roles and just make them normal people expressing their differences without comedic effect or self-consciousness.

I know it'll take a bit of effort but I figure it'll be worth it for the kids who get to say 'Hey, that person sounds like me and they aren't getting laugh-tracked out of the room every GD time they turn up! Hooray!'

And then the rest of us will get to learn more too and even if we're still staring at you like slightly creepy weirdoes because holy crap, you're actually real and not just on my DVDs! we'll at least be more accurately staring at you and you'll be more accurately staring at yourselves.

[I am sure there are quite a few shows where people from different states get to roll along, contributing to the show without having to fulfil a special extra purpose but speaking as a casual viewer of a selection of comedies, dramas, crime shows and movies, there aren't as many of them as would be helpful. Feel free to recommend some good ones to me though!]

*What's a gender-neutral term for that that doesn't sound clunky as hell? Co-nationals? Yeesh

**This lad qualified his statement with 'There are quite a few gun owners but we grew up respecting guns, that trigger happy bullshit is not tolerated'.

***Or at least we see a lot more of it because you make so many of our TV shows and movies and books.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Afternoon Puzzles

Dear police officers,

Why do you like setting up the breathalysing stations at 1pm on a Thursday?

I know Thursday is pay day for a lot of people but how many of them have managed to gather up their pay and get drunk by 1pm in the afternoon?

I know the point is to set up the stop points in unexpected places and at unexpected times so people can't prepare or anticipate or avoid you but when you set them up in places hardly anyone goes or at times when it is highly unlikely anyone would be pickled...

Do you actually want to catch anyone, police?

Or do you find it annoying and just want to meet your 'yes, I set up a bloody breathalyser station and tested people this bloody week' quota with as little paperwork required as possible?

Because almost every time I have to stop and puff into that little testing device it seems to be at a time of the day when you would not be netting a huge catch.

I'm not sure if I'd be more worried to find out that you were all fed up and listless and feeling unmotivated and unappreciated and just going through the motions or to find out that you are on the ball and there is an underacknowledged culture of morning and midday drinking that I have not heard about...

If it's the first, hey, you guys are doing good stuff, keep up the good work, you look cute in your checker-brimmed caps.

If it's the second, don't tell me, I'll just keep driving carefully and watching out for idiots and not worrying that the breakfast boozing population of Australian could wipe me out at any moment.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Go Time

Battle stations everyone!
This is not a drill!
I repeat, this is not a drill!

This Friday coming you am going to be left in charge of a baby!
A real, live human baby!
6 months old. Male. Weapons-grade dimples!

His parents are having a relaxing night off and they are entrusting you with their adorable offspring!
You can do this!

You know how to change him!
You know how to feed and burp him!
You have an excellent track record of getting him to stop crying!
The way he falls asleep 9 out of 10 times he rests his head on your boobs those puppies may as well be soaked in chloroform!
You can do this!

Wait, how many bottles should he be allowed a night?
What sort of intervals!?

Draw me a diagram of how he is supposed to be tucked in at night, include measurements and tensioning requirements for tucking in the blanket!

He's teething now, how often do you need to apply bonjella?
How long do you leave his teething ring in the freezer before it will soothe him?
When would you need to use baby panadol?
What if he won't stop crying?
What if it turns out that he is The Chosen one and I need to protect him from potential assassins?
What if the zombies rise when I have him?
Do we have a rendezvous point?
Because I'd be taking him to my first staging post to keep him safe unless you have a better defensible position in mind.
I take babysitting responsibilities very seriously.
Very seriously indeed.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Unlearning Learned Behaviour

Well bloody hell, now what?

OK, a while ago I got sick with a particularly nasty virus, my doctor told me to stay away from caffeine and alcohol for a while and warned me that I may need to avoid them for the rest of my life in order to avoid a possible relapse or developing a permanent condition.
So for the last two years I've had no tea, coffee, chocolate, alcohol, soft drinks or beverages that contain caffeine, or anything of the sort.
At all.

Around last June she told me that I was no longer sick with the virus and when I asked she said I could think about trying little bits of alcohol and caffeine but I got the strong impression that she didn't think it was advisble and she wouldn't nominate safe amounts or intervals.

My uncle is a doctor and I kept intending to ask him about it but put it off for months because if he concurred with her then I'd have to face the unadorned truth that I should stay away from alcohol and caffeine for the rest of my life.
I know it's silly seeing as I was already doing that day by day but having it confirmed makes it official.
And once it was official I would start hearing sad songs in my head and seeing slow motion, soft focus memories of delicious chocolate thingies and cups of coffee and cool refreshing beverages*.
Anyway just before I went away in December I finally sent him an email with the relevant results attached and less than an hour later I got an email back saying 'I don't know what she's talking about, nothing you eat should impact on your blood test score'... 0_0
Right. OK.

The particular blood test score that I've been left with does mean that I'm more likely than someone without it to develop certain conditions later in life but I'm not guaranteed to develop them and unless I lead a life of Bacchanalian excess I'm unlikely to negatively influence that likelihood.

This was a relief but as I was about to go away to another country I wasn't about to start trying things.
After two years of no alcohol I would be guaranteed to be the world's cheapest date as the booze went straight to my head, and after two years of no caffeine it would likely whip through me like a hurricane.

That plus after two years of avoiding anything containing either of these things diligently because I thought it could make me permanently ill...  I couldn't quite wrap my head around it.
I mean I've even been avoiding uncooked soy sauce, just to be safe.
Did you know that many types of soy sauce have up to 6% alcohol in it? Well they do.

When I came home from Nepal with a persistent cough I went to see my usual doctor and found she was away and I was seeing the new doctor at the surgery instead.
So I thought 'what the hell' and asked her as well.
She said that there were perfectly healthy people who had these scores and there was no scientific link between caffeine and alcohol and negative impacts on health as a result of this blood test score.
I asked some pedantically specific questions to be sure and yep, after two years I can start introducing chocolate, coffee and booze back into my life.

And I have no idea where to start.

I mean obviously I'd start off slow, small amounts at staggered intervals but...

I am going to be nervous as hell.

This is going to take a while.

But I am determined that by the next time I visit Italy I will be able to have a coffee or a glass of wine without a thought.

Well, not entirely without a thought, I will appreciate them more than I ever would have believed possible a few years ago.

*Can't liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive, if living is without yooooooooooooOOOOOooouu!

Saturday, 12 January 2013

I Need Your Clothes, Your Boots And Your Pony

I've been to see The Hobbit three times now and I'm probably going to see it again.

I am not ashamed, not even a little bit.

What I am is slightly obsessed.

Not only with Middle Earth and the beloved characters of my childhood or everything that Peter Jackson has done with the material since The Fellowship Of The Ring.

But with the clothes.

And not just the fancier stuff with the embroidery.


Bilbo's dressing gown.

The simple design of the shirts and the fact braces involved.

Tunics and breeches.

Cloaks and boots.

If I learn to sew properly, with the level of skill I want to, I could happily spend years of my life making this clothing.

And I would wear it too.

Not just because I'm a nerd.

But because it is gorgeous and looks comfortable and fun.

I also wouldn't at all mind living in Bag End but I think the clothing is more attainable than the sort of money that it would take to build something this glorious.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

It's Like Being An Archeologist But With Piles Of Tosh

There are some tasks that seem too intimidating to approach.

So gargantuan that it's hard to know where to start.

So daunting that every initial step seems steeped in discouragement.

For me that is the family home's rumpus room.

With the family's 'children' now firmly in their 20s it hasn't been a play room for over a decade.

We still use it to watch TV and my brother has his exercise equipment in there but it has acquired a third and less desirable role over the years - the dumping ground.

Anything we didn't want to get rid of but which didn't have a proper home got popped in the cupboard or in what began as a neat pile against the wall and evolved into a tribute to The Great Wall Of China.

Every now and then we mumble something about how we should do something about this.

Then we have a tentative poke around, become disheartened and leave it for 'later'.

Well these holidays 'later' arrived with a vengeance.

It started with a pile of defunct electronics that we'd put aside to 'take to the tip when we get around to it'.

I gathered them up.
I put them in the boot of my car.
I kicked my brother until he came and helped dig around to see if there were any more bits of electronic crap that needed throwing out.
I dragged him to the tip with me.
We dumped the whole pile at the tip's recycling centre so they could strip out the wiring and whatever else they wanted.

We went home drunk on victory!

Well, I was drunk on victory, my brother felt pretty neutral about the whole deal except the kicking and the being press-ganged into participation.

Once I got home, I was on a mission.

Old paperwork was thrust into the hands of the people it belonged to who were forced to go through it and either find a home for it or bin it.

Boxes were opened and emptied and sifted through.
Stuff was reorganised.
Stuff was thrown out.

Floor space was cleared.
Carpet was vacuumed.

More victory inebriation!

It is ridiculous how satisfying this was.

It probably  helped that it had now been so long since certain things had been stored away that we realised that no, we were never going to use them.

It also helped that we've all gotten past the ages where you attach emotional significance to junk.
I'm not saying we're a bunch of robots who threw out our childhood toys, we've kept those, but there were plenty of other things in there which given a few years we can now recognise as things that don't need to be kept.

We still need to go through the big cupboard, which shouldn't be in too bad of a shape as I went through it in 2007 when I was unemployed after coming back from Europe and Young Endeavour.

What I know is lurking in there, waiting for me, is our VHS collection.


VHS collection.

The whole thing.

Taped-from-TV and store bought.

Obviously any home movies will be kept and transferred to disc - if they haven't already been - but the rest of it...

It's stupid I know but I feel shitty throwing out the store bought ones seeing as we kept them in such good condition and I feel annoyed throwing out the taped-from-TV ones when they contain things that haven't been released on DVD yet.

I'm going to.

I have to.

It's an obsolete format that we haven't used in years.

I'm going to feel weird about it though.

I hate throwing things out when they still work.

But my strange and pointless attachment to VHS aside, victory!

People are not going to recognise that room when I'm through with it.

And so help them God if they try and pile things up in it again.