Sunday, October 31, 2010

40 years

Forty years ago today, a young couple sat in a Victorian hospital, marvelling over the miracle of their firstborn son. He was a gorgeous baby, with his Dads' features, blue eyes, curly hair, and a winning smile.

He grew up with two parents who never had much money, but worked their fingers to the bone to keep the family together. They lived on farms, where he rode on the back of a motorbike clinging to Dad, where he learned to throw calves and shoot rabbits and fish like a man possessed.

He was always mature for his age, a little gullible because he wanted to believe the best of people, steadfast and loyal.
He went through his silly teenaged years, causing his poor mother more than one anxious moment, although she maintains she doesn't remember any of that.

He pranged his motorbike so spectacularly one day, that his Uncle Terry, who saw it happen, was convinced he was dead; but he got up and limped away with minor cuts and bruises. The bike was the only casualty that day.

He worked as hard as his parents from the time he was big enough, picking, pruning and packing fruit in the Murray River district mostly. He left school at 15 and went to work full-time, sometimes for his parents and sometimes for other growers. He worked 2 jobs at a time, haring between them on yet another bike, and making barely enough money to keep him in spare parts.

At 18 years old, he made a decision to move to Western Australia, to the mines. He packed up, moved to a God-forsaken little town in the desert, and got a job working as a mill-rat. Before long, he entered a mining training program, and began acquiring the skills that would see him through the majority of his working life.

He partied hard. He got himself into a spot of bother once or twice, and learned from the experiences.
When I met him, he was soon-to-turn-20, and seriously cute. We became friends almost right away, and before long, I counted him as my best friend forever.

He met a woman, had kids, got married, and then divorced. I moved away, went through a series of bizarre relationships and trials. We never stopped thinking of each other.
He rang me one night, came to see me a week or so later, and within 2 days had asked me to marry him. I said yes, of course. That was nearly 10 years ago.

And today, this wonderful man, who is honest, and brave, and clever, and funny, and loyal, and steadfast, and sexy, and capable; who is the best husband and dad anyone could ever hope for, turns 40.
We're not having a big party, because he flies out of the country tonight, back to the job he hopes will give him the chance to make something of himself, in the field of work he loves so much.

He leaves at home a little group of people who think he is, quite simply, The Best.

Happy birthday, my lover.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


We're not big show attenders (attendees?)
In the last 10 years, we've been to 2 shows (both tiny) and so this year, we decided to splash out and take the kiddies along for a bit of a treat.
We braced ourselves for the hideous prices (admission was OK but OMG $23 for a SHOWBAG??)and rugged up warm (good thing too, as Beachtown weather is always Arctic for the Show).
We wandered through the displays of tractors and caravans, spent some time in the Scitech tent, and chatted to our friends in the Drug Action tent (gee. One standard glass of wine isn't as big as I had thought).
Fabio dunked the Mens' Group man (highlight of the day, according to Mr 9).
The kids had a ride, and Mr 9 shot cans (astoundingly well) and won a prize for his sister.
The Princess caught a large plastic fish and won a hideous looking pink and brown bear which she adores.
We neatly avoided the Laughing Clowns and The Claw, and instead purchased showbags (Barbie and ArmySomething which contained a very LOUD gun)
We ate hot donuts and fairy floss, watched Mr 9 on the bumper cars, briefly visited the photography/art/craft displays, watched some motorbike stunt riders, and waited for the fireworks, which were utterly spectacular.

I always say I don't really like the Show, but I think I'm lying to myself.
Apart from the constant fear of my small-town kids wandering off in a big crowd, there's something about the agricultural displays, the gaudy tinsel, shrieks and screams and roar of diesel engines from Sideshow Alley, the deliciously unhealthy food, and all those shiny tractors, that just might lure me back next year......

Friday, October 29, 2010

time travel

I would imagine nearly everyone has seen this clip, purportedly from the premiere for a Charlie Chaplin film, Circus.
Chaplins' Time Traveler
If you haven't, go watch. I'll wait.

*hums to self*

K -- now whether that is a cross-dressing Irishman time travelling back to the opening of a CC film, or a woman yapping to her collar, or a hoax, I don't know.
The interesting thing is, that so many people are talking about this, and the ones who aren't decrying it outright sound... well... wistful.

I think lots of us really wish we could travel through time!
Obviously, most of us would have mistakes or regrets in our lives that we'd like to do over... and some of us (the really lucky ones) might have moments they'd like to re-live.

Me... yep, regrets and mistakes galore. A few moments I'd like to re-live, definitely.
And many, many historical moments I'd like to see for myself!
How cool would it be to go back in time and attend Victorias' Coronation?
Glide through the streets of Renaissance Venice?
Watch a Viking longship set sail?
Shove John Lennon out of the way? (and dodge the bullet yourself)
or see some huge dinosaur clomp by? (providing you had a safe viewing spot and it wasn't a T-Rex, of course)

I'm just not so sure I would pick the premiere of a Charlie Chaplin movie to attend.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

camping in the olden days

So who went camping as a kid?

We did -- nearly every holidays, it seems. My dad is a mad fisherman, so all the places we went involved rivers or beaches. Or both.
In north Queensland, that often means crocs, too, so we learned early to stay away from the water till Dad said it was OK. (But 'OK' didn't always mean we could swim. Because 3 little girls could easily scare away every fish within a 20 km radius.)

My own favourite camping spot was up towards Cooktown. Back in the day, the road was all dirt, and we used to pack up the Kingswood and quite often, pretty much blaze a trail in to the beach. If it had been raining a lot, Dad might have to renovate sections of the track. I remember him placing timber over one particular wash-out, which looked like the Grand Canyon to me, and then driving gingerly over it. In the Kingswood. Us Queenslanders, back in the 70s, we didn't need any fancy-schmancy four-wheel drives!

Arriving meant setting up camp (mum), scoping out the fishing possibilities (dad), and racing around examining everything while simultaneously keeping one eye peeled for marauding crocodiles or pigs or sharks (us girls).

Sleeping arrangements were simple. We had a sleeping bag on the ground (which was hopefully sand) and a big tarp roped overhead, that would flap all night. Combined with the constant wash of waves on the beach, and adult voices murmuring around the campfire, I can't think of a better lullaby.

We always got sunburnt. Usually hideously. Being white-skinned redheads, it only took about 15 seconds exposure to the tropical sun and we turned red. Back then, it was just one of those things. No-one wore sunscreen.
Night-times with sunburn were a torture in themselves, because it didn't matter how carefully you got into your sleeping bag, you ALWAYS got sand in there and spent the night feeling like you were being filed with a rasp.

And the BITES! Mozzies, sand flies, march flies -- they all itched like mad but if you were sunburnt of course you couldn't scratch them.

We ate toast that had been cooked over an open fire, and drank lumpy Sunshine milk. We dug in the sand, 'swam' in the first 2 feet of ocean, collected shells and coral, and amused ourselves without TV for days on end. (I don't remember EVER fishing though)
Occasionally, we might go shopping in a nearby town, like Port Douglas or Cooktown. Back then, Port Douglas had about 8 people living in it, and we camped on the beach. You couldn't see another light at night. Now, it's ugly. Full of resorts and people. Destroyed.

I don't know if there is a single place left where you can camp on the beach with a fire; these days you would probably be dragged away and arrested by GreenPeace. My kids might never know what it felt like to go to sleep under the stars on the beach, watching the firelight flicker and listening to the waves.

Progress, huh?

Monday, October 18, 2010

this is The Day when things fall into place

Today, Fabio comes home.

In fact, he has already landed in WA and is on his way home right now. In his very own car. (he doesn't get to drive in the Philippines)
He met a guy in an airport somewhere in Asia who lives in the same town as us (go figure) so is giving him a lift -- which means he has someone to talk to and help him stay awake.

Mr 8 is happy and sad today. He's going on a school camp this morning, and won't see his dad till Wednesday afternoon.
The Princess thinks she might need a photo of Mr 8 to remind her of him until he gets back.

Mr 17 is still asleep and oblivious to the chaos. Half his luck.

And I must away, to pack lunches and braid hair and find lost school items.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

life on the surface...

Like seemingly half the world, I've been watching the Chilean miners being brought to the surface, one by one. And watching the reunions with their loved ones, everyone crying and hugging and kissing, just so thankful to have their men home again.

I'm sure most people have thought at least in passing, "What would that be like??"

Well I've tried NOT to.

Because my husband is an underground miner.

He's a very safe worker. Also because he has always (till now) worked in WA, where mining regs are as tight as they can be, I've never really worried about him too much while he's at work.

There's always a lot of fuss made in Australia over a mining death -- the truth is that in reality, mining deaths in Australia are very low. We have stringent safety regs, regular mine inspections, and numerous safeguards in place. Many of those deaths are entirely preventable, and often are the victims' own fault.
We keep quiet about that.
No widow wants to hear that her husband did something stupid that got him killed.

I don't know what conditions are like in Chile. I suspect that the miners over there don't have it as good as they do here.
And in the Philippines, where my man works now, it's insane. Conditions there would make any Aussie Mines Inspectors' hair stand on end.
The other day, Fabio came across a nun and a bunch of schoolgirls on an unauthorised tour in his mine, many wearing THONGS (not what you think, if you're American) and none with any protective clothing. He was gob-smacked. He also had to shut down his operations immediately, so that none of them were at risk.

So I worry about him a little more now. Not because HE isn't aware of the safety concerns -- but because so many of the people around him have no idea why this crazy Australian keeps making stupid rules that change the way they operate. They don't get that he's trying to keep them alive, as well as himself, as well as do his job in the best way possible.

He lives in a different world. Or actually, in two worlds. There is the world down the hole, a world of darkness so complete that it's like a blanket pressing on your eyeballs, where rules MUST be followed and there is no room for poor judgement or inattention -- and then there is the world on the surface.

Just think about that for a second. On the surface. That's us, folks. All of us who spend our days in the daylight, in fresh (ish) air, who walk or drive or cycle around, who can look out of the window at any point and see the world.

I know a lot of people in Australia think that miners are paid too much. But I also know that most of those people couldn't be paid enough to do what my husband does, every day. To me, and to the company he works for, he's worth every cent.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

the colour game...

Can your husband tell the difference between teal and turquoise?
Mine can't. He says teal isn't a colour, it's a bloody duck.

He once accused me of doing 'something' with his tan shorts.
I protested. "You don't have any tan shorts."
"Yes, I do! Those long ones with the pockets! Where are they?"
"The khaki ones?"
"No! They're tan!"
They're not. They're definitely khaki.

My sister was just telling me about a for-sale house her husband had heard of. He told her it was mauvey-orange in colour.
She looked at him.
"No," he said, "I know what colour that is. It's not purple. And it's not white."

I guess we all know that men really can't see a lot of the colours we can, and it makes for some hilarious conversations. I'm not sure if they can't see the shades or get the names muddled up or both.

But for us, (my sister and me) most of our sons are also colour-blind to varying degrees.
They have trouble with some blues, pinks, reds and greens; purples and browns can also trip them up.

They all see peanut butter as green.
Dogs can look green and blue, as can stews and casseroles. (this explains why they can be picky eaters. Our brains are hard-wired not to eat blue or green meat.)
Our brother can't tell the difference between cooked and raw meat.

I use a taupe eyebrow pencil which looks green to my boys. Can you imagine the embarrassment factor of a mum who gets around with green eyebrows??

One of my boys can't see his dog properly on the lawn unless it moves. True.

They all HATE to be constantly asked "What colour is this?" because a lot of the time, they don't know. There isn't a word for the colour they're seeing.
My son sometimes describes things as peachy-green.

Which brings me back to mauvy-orange.

The house was painted mustard.

Monday, October 11, 2010

I think I'm petrophobic....

I hate putting petrol in my car.

No, seriously, when I have to fill the car, I feel sick and my hands shake. I hate it so much that I avoid it as long as possible, and trust me, this is not a fear that you should cope with by Avoidance Technique... you know?

It's too weird. I'm not a Useless Female.

I have had 7 babies WITHOUT DRUGS. And two of them were 10 pounders.

I am the woman who has packed up and moved uncomplainingly without fear well, moved anyway, time and time again, following Fabios' mining career to some of the most Godforsaken spots in the country.
I am encouraging him to work overseas for 4 weeks at a time (and no, not because I'm happier that way)

I've buried a child, for crying out loud (he was already dead. Just sayin')

And I'm so terrified of filling the car with petrol that I'll risk running out just so I don't have to do it 'this trip'.
It's stupid. It doesn't work for me, in DrPhilSpeak. I know that.

So why do I do this?
I think it's the unfamiliarity. Petrol stations are Mens' Domains. Or something.
I worry that there'll be a line-up, that I won't know where to park, that I'll do something wrong and look stupid, that the pump won't work properly, etc etc -- this long list of stupid irrational fears that make me look like a dumb-ass.
Oddly enough, the fear diminishes once I'm familiar with the station.
Today I found a nice place, less than 3 kms from my door. I don't care if it's more expensive than the Woollies servo in town -- the man was nice (he escaped from the desert too) and he has ostrich eggs for sale! I still had to pump my own fuel but it wasn't anywhere near as traumatic as I had imagined....

AND the warning light in my car is now gone. WHEW! Maybe next time I won't wait till it comes on.....

PS it appears I'm not the only one. RELIEF! I wouldn't want to be, you know, strange.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Australias' youngest politician....

My 5 year old daughter is out in the backyard playing politicians. She is wearing high heels and has a silver handbag (all very important) and is canvassing on her plastic mobile phone.
Her platform consists of two policies -- caring for animals (and I suspect her huge stuffed cat collection has something to do with this); and giving the hostibles lots of money to buy new things.
If she gets in, she's gonna make Wyatt Roy look like an octogenarian.

Seems Fabio and I discuss politics a LOT in this house.....


With the warmer weather, reptiles are beginning to appear in BeachTown.
We have bobtails roaming the streets and most people (except for that idiot up the road) slow down to avoid them.

The other day I got home from shopping to find the Next Door Neighbour out on the verge and visibly agitated. Because a dugite, well over a metre long, had slithered out from the garden bed she'd been working on earlier, and now lay stretched out on her front lawn.
We bundled the kids into the house, and I began the farcical process of ringing the council for help.
Five phone calls later, and it seems there is no snake-catcher in BeachTown.
So we stood around and watched it for while, and then someone tried to run it over and it bolted back into NDNs garden.
I put the dog in the house (dear Property Manager, if you're reading this, I know I know, but it was an emergency) then came back out to fetch the wheelie bin and spotted the snake, maybe five feet from me, coming out from under the hedge in our front yard!

I gracefully leaped back onto the patio, and watched as it made its' bid for freedom, across the road and down the fence to the beach. NDN and I think it was heading down there for frogs; there are a million of them in the ditch between the sand dunes.

Since then, a number of people have seen snakes around, and we mostly get dugites or tigers here so that is a bit of a worry.
The kids and I make sure to sing or talk loudly on our way to the beach (The Princess sings the Kookaburra Song and we hope that no stupid American companies are listening.

I feel sorry for you, snakes. You're running out of habitat, with all the new housing developments being built around here. But not so sorry that I will let you bite one of my kids. If you hear a song about kookaburras, please slither quickly away.
Thank you.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

racy is good

My new bras and knickers arrived today. They were expensive but OH SO COMFY and the knickers are nice lacy boylegs so I don't think I'll be hearing any complaints from Fabio, if you know what I'm saying.

For ages, I've avoided lingerie like the plague. I felt fat and unattractive, mostly because I was. But I have lost a little weight and it's starting to warm up, and I'd like to wear some pretty underwear under my pretty dresses.
Plus these bras seem to be having a small minimising effect which is awesome when you're a DD or E cup.
So ... happy me!

Also I bought some shoes today. And they're RED <3

So, lacy underwear and red shoes. I wouldn't be a boy for quids!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

seriously. I hate government departments.

You know what? Australian government departments are far more effective at deterring evil-doers than you might at first assume.
They deter through obfuscation.


I decide to apply for a passport, on the off-chance that I might get that snazzy overseas holiday for Christmas (hahahahaha)
I find the website, then find the form to fill out. This looks easy.
I am issued a PIN so that if there should be a problem, I can leave the site with my information saved, and come back to it later. This should be a warning to me. They are assuming that I will have problems filling out the form.
I write down the PIN.

I begin filling out the form. Yes, Australian citizen; yes, adult (most of the time);yes, accept the terms or whatever you just said; name, sex, DOB, all pretty easy so far....
I get to page 3 and discover I spelled my name incorrectly a while back. Those pesky Ns and Ms that look so alike when you don't have your glasses on -- really whose stupid idea was it to put them next to each other?
Hmm. There seems to be no way to edit that.
Maybe when I get to the end... which I can't do because what if it can't be corrected and I have to re-apply?
I start again. New PIN. Written down. Carefully proof-reading now.

Ah. I require proof of my married name. Easy. I have several photocopies of my wedding certificate.... WHAT? this certificate (that I have used to change my drivers' licence and a whole host of other government departments) is not proof enough?? I need an official certificate issued by the RBDM?? Well, FINE.

I go to the RBDM. After some messing about, I find the place to get a marriage certificate issued.
Ah. $44. Of course.
I cart the lappie into the printer room, connect it up, print the form. It prints crooked. I'm tempted to use it but realise this could be grounds for some Official to refuse my application. I re-print.

Unhook the lappie and cart it back to it's power source.
Begin filling out the form. It asks for BIRTH details. I fill out half this section before realising this is if you want to REGISTER a birth.

Re-print. Fill out the correct section.

Now it wants me to provide ID. A drivers' licence. My birth certificate is not good enough.
Ummmm.... well, I haven't actually applied for an address change on my drivers' licence yet. I briefly think about just photocopying it anyway, but once again, am thinking I might merely be providing some Official with an excuse to refuse.


Now I'm at the licencing website. LUCKILY I am able to change my address on-line. Still, the site is confusing and I waste 15 mins waiting on a phone call before finding the information I need and hanging up.
I fill out the form. I need my drivers' licence and vehicle registration numbers. More faffing about while I get those.
Finally, done.
Now --- I need to wait while I am issued a sticker to put over the old address on my licence.
Then I can photocopy the licence and post to the RBDM with my $44 in order to get an 'official' marriage certificate.

THEN I can get back to applying for the passport.

I wonder what the next hurdle will be? And I truly can't WAIT to get the photo taken.

WHY is it so?

See this?

Science has given us a telescope that can take pictures of stars and other shiny stuff millions of light years away -- but it cannot give us a reasonably-priced underwire bra where the wires stay put and do not stab holes into your armpits or pop their little heads up between your boobs like a mini-erection.
Why is it so?

PS -- see what I did there? I used to love that old Professor.

Monday, October 4, 2010

breastfeeding.... the Great Debate

THE definitive argument on breastfeeding comes from The Bloggess.
Read this, tell everyone, and then we can all go back to arguing over things that really matter, like football.

(Seriously, even if you don't ever plan to breastfeed, go read this because it's frickin' hilarious!)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

we interrupt normal programming...

... to bring you this very important message from my sponsor. (Fabio)

Hi Chick Chat Readers,

I thought I might expand on Toni's Kiva comments.
As you might have guessed, I am in the Philippines trying to turn a small unprofitable gold mine into a large profitable one and I have seen first hand, what third world poverty really means to people.

First let me say that I am deeply impressed with the Philippino people (Pinoy).
When I go shopping in one of the local stores I am often one of the worst dressed people to be seen; they are clean, happy, family oriented, industrious and friendly people. What they lack is opportunity.

Take Tumac for example; he is my driver/body guard.
He is a 28 year old married man with one 4 week old daughter.
He lives in a 3 room bamboo hut that I pass every day on my way to work.
He works my schedule which means up to 18 hours a day.
He completed high school with honours and 4 years of college, at the top of his class, to become a forensic police officer.
Unfortunately the police examination takes the top 120 persons out of 5000 applicants and he came 126th, so this extremely well educated, multi lingual (4 languages), skilled, funny, integrity driven, well conected man works for the princely sum of 8000 pesos a month (just short of $200 in Aussie dollars)

In many ways he is lucky, he has Philhealth, the local version of H.B.F.; another of my workers did not, when he collapsed and injured himself, the local hospital would not treat him until his family had come up with some cold hard cash, that's poverty.

2 days ago I saw 2 young wives fighting over a piece of firewood, that's poverty.

Yesterday I saw a boy (maybe 10 years old) nearly washed away in a raging torrent of thick muddy water, coming off the mountain that I am mining under, after 3 hours of torrential rain. He was trying to pan gold with his family, he literally risked life and limb to put food on the table, that's poverty.

Here in this magnificent, beutiful, proud and dangerous country, money is indeed life, so little can do so much.

Years ago Toni and I decided to support Kiva without really understanding the impact that it can have, now I truly get it and I will support Kiva till the end of my days.

Yukiful na salamat Di. (good evening and thank you esteemed ladies).....Fabio

Friday, October 1, 2010

how to kick poverty in the ass

Hands up if you've heard of micro-financing?
I hadn't. Then I saw some program on Their ABC which had me in tears, and changed the way I think about genuine poverty and how we can fight it.

This is taken from the Kiva website
" Microfinance is a general term to describe financial services to low-income individuals or to those who do not have access to typical banking services.

Microfinance is also the idea that low-income individuals are capable of lifting themselves out of poverty if given access to financial services. While some studies indicate that microfinance can play a role in the battle against poverty, it is also recognized that is not always the appropriate method, and that it should never be seen as the only tool for ending poverty. "

Blah blah blah

What it means to me is this:

As a family in a wealthy nation, we have no real idea what it means to live in abject poverty. (altho Fabio is certainly seeing it first-hand now!)

Micro-financing gives us a way to help people help themselves.
We loan small amounts out to people who have already decided that they are going to work their way out of their situation. So half the battle is won, by their attitude and determination.
They use the money to start or build their business, and they pay the money back in tiny amounts. Once the money has all been repaid, you can re-lend it to someone else.

It sounds awful, to LEND money to people who live on less that we would spend in Maccas on a single family meal. But in actual fact, if you think about it, this is really a very empowering way to fight poverty.

Also, borrowers are often women. And those women develop a real sense of purpose and self. And typically, rates of violence against women drop in areas that have a history of micro-financing, because all of a sudden, they don't have to put up with crap anymore. Can you imagine a better way to help a sister out?

If you want to know more, Kiva is an organisation that we've been using for years. The link will take you to their ABOUT page.

PLEASE take a few minutes to have a look.
(I know you're all busy but this is so worthwhile, and just think what you'd be teaching your kids about being caring global citizens!)