International Man of Mystery No More

I feel sorry for young kids these days. When I was growing up, Santa was all mystery. You could never quite grasp him, but you knew he was there. When the shopping malls put out their first round of wreaths and baubles, when shop windows got the fake snow treatment and the Christmas carols started crackling over the supermarket airwaves….Santa lived in the space between. He was airborne and nebulous, he was a sixth sense…the smell you couldn’t quite catch, a flash in the corner of your eye…a feeling not a reality.

Oh sure there were the fake Santa’s that you had your photo taken with, or the one’s who handed out presents at group picnics ….or the exuberant ones who seemed to hang out together, slightly under-dressed around pubs and such. But children were able to hold both Santa’s in their mind, subconsciously colluding with the adults so as to keep the mystery sacred. The real Santa was never so brash as to show his face. He left traces and clues. Biscuit crumbs and snowy footsteps. Maybe a letter. Maybe. But that was the most tangible evidence you would ever get.

Now we are in the “iGeneration”. Santa has been kidnapped by the marketing equivalent of Al-Qaeda or Isis and forced to make videos peddling Christmas spirit to children for profit. I know that my outrage is false nostalgia. The Santa that we all know and love was born in a marketing campaign manger for Coca-Cola. He’s always been about selling. But not so long ago, the innocence and joy of childhood transcended the marketing. Families breathed life and magic and mystery into Santa with their own traditions. Now parents are being seduced by shortcuts. They are told that they can buy the mystery from “Portable North Pole”. The fourth-wall has been smashed and Santa can talk straight to you through your “device”.

Children today are being robbed of spontaneity and authenticity. Everything is market-researched and focus-group tested and airbrushed and copy written. Bring back the egg-cartons and pipe cleaners and cotton balls of yesteryear and keep your $9 in your pocket.


Vanish? Vanish!

One of my pet hates is the way that social media has been co-opted by brands for marketing purposes. Every goddamn ad has a hashtag these days. It’s not enough that they hawk their wares to us at every waking moment of our lives – now they want us to join in too.

Dettol – Mission for Health “Celebrating the little things you do for your family’s health” #missionforhealth

Kleenex – Share the Softness “Kleenex is inviting you to make a pledge of softness to someone you really care about, and share that pledge with Australia” #sharethesoftness

Colgate – Colgate Smile “Celebrate the special moments in life that bring out your bright, Colgate Smile!” #colgatesmile

These are just a few I remember because I can still feel the tingle of outrage that I am being asked to waste my precious time uploading photos or comments about tissues and toothpaste and disinfectant. Disinfectant!

But the one that really gets me trembling is the “Vanish Tip Exchange”. Now I’ll admit that I used to read the Woman’s Weekly Handy Hints page in my Nan’s magazines, because quite frankly some of them were ingenious. But every time I hear mention of the Vanish Tip Exchange, I feel like screaming.


Recently I got so worked up over it that I just had to visit the Vanish Tip Exchange to see for myself what possible variations people could come up with to use this product. I only got to the first page and I was stopped in my tracks by a post that cut straight to my heart.


Here is a woman who is obviously going through the most harrowing experience of her life, caring for her sick husband who can’t even control his bladder and bowels, and she is reaching out to the Vanish Tip Exchange for support. It absolutely killed me that no one had replied. This poor soul does not really want to know how to get poo and wee stains off a mattress. She wants other humans to support her and care about her experience. All I wanted to do was reach out and tell her that I was thinking of her. But you can’t even leave a comment unless you sign up to the mother fucking tip exchange. So I signed up as “Tipster Extraordinaire” with the username “Lurker” and I told Gwen that I had no tip, but I cared about her experience as a human (not a consumer) and I wished her luck and told her to look after herself. I didn’t tell her to make a paste or sprinkle any Vanish.

* Please excuse the swearing in this post. I really get worked up over the Vanish Tip Exchange.

Molly Spotting


Sometimes it’s just a regular day at the office, sometimes you get to do something a little special. Today I was filming the red carpet at The ARIA’s. Technically we weren’t shooting for the event, but rather fishing for celebrities in a barrel…sort of like at a trout farm. We needed to get as many recognisable faces as possible doing New Years Eve “shout-outs” for another project.

The event was held at The Star casino, which is happily in walking distance from work and right above my Light Rail stop. For the last few days I have been observing the set-up as I pass by on my daily commute. Big trucks full of broadcast equipment parked in the loading docks. Scaffolds and bollards and other brutish sounding things.

Last night as I was leaving for home, I noticed quite a few teenage girls hunkering down in sleeping bags, prepared to spend the night out just to secure their position at the barricade in the hope of catching a glimpse of their idols (One Direction is the most likely bet). This morning it was pandemonium. I couldn’t even get out of the Light Rail stop at my usual exit. ARIAmania was in full swing.

Our media passes gained us access to our designated fishing spot and I felt unworthy of such easy access – no sleeping bags required! We were away from the arrivals red carpet….sort of more like a red vestibule. Celebs would run the gauntlet of the street level red carpet and then ride the escalator up to their next spotlight opportunity. Hardly anyone refused a request for an interview. In fact, most seemed prepared to say anything that was asked of them, endorse anything, as long as they were doing it on camera.

All except the elusive Molly Meldrum. He took the lift, not the elevator. I spotted him as the doors opened. Slightly disorientated, in a spangled jacket that Automotiv would give her first-born for. I swung the camera around, but only managed to get a few seconds. It was my favourite part of the day. A confused man in a cowboy hat, an Aussie legend.




Dining Room Muse

I love both sides of the morning. Coming home when the dawn is breaking and getting up before it’s light.

Standing in my kitchen, making a coffee, I am often taken aback by the beauty of the morning light. Shadows slanting across the table, reflections from the shabby windows made beautiful by the sun, condensation on the glass.

Oh my god, I’m in love with my dingy dining room.


Pussy Cat Pause

There’s all sorts of lovely research on how good pets are for your health and well being. But I don’t need to read any of that, I have plenty of anecdotal evidence and loads of real life experience.

The best thing that I love about having a pet is that they give you an excuse to take a Pussy Cat Pause. A furry kind of procrastination. I guess it’s a little like a smoker ducking outside for a fag. When I see a beautiful specimen of felinity longing about, sunning itself, twitching in dream….I can’t stop myself.

I pat. I nuzzle. I rub my entire face into the neck area. Talk stupid. Kiss and compliment. And generally just annoy the shit out of them. But the beautiful thing about pets is that they let you do it and they love you for it too.

Pussy_Cat_Pause_01 Pussy_Cat_Pause_02 Pussy_Cat_Pause_03

Fritter Anxiety

A Hello Sucker Update.

So I made the first two recipes from my Hello Sucker box and they were both…mmm…how should I say….horrible? Na that’s too harsh. Bland. Gluggy. Over-cabbaged. I got leftovers spilling out of my refrigerator. Now I have just one recipe left and it’s causing me a bit of internal anguish. I’m racked with Fritter Anxiety. I have to get these suckers made before the ingredients rot (I didn’t have enough room in my fridge or I was…mmm…how should I say….lazy) and the big box of zucchinis is taking up a lot of space in my brain and crowding out other thoughts. I’ll be going about my day and suddenly I’ll think “fritters” (imagine that said in the Seinfeld voice a la “Newman”).

Side Story: When I was a young and eager mother, I would often go through different stages of trying to be perfect (all short lived). I once slaved for hours making fritters for my then 3 year old Angus. I remembered loving fritters that my mum used to make. The fritters didn’t go down too well with Angus, and I later found them in the bin. I was distraught – tired, emotional, fritter-fatigued – I questioned Angus harshly on why he put his dinner in the bin. The adorable little man told me truthfully that he didn’t like “flatties”.


Some fritter related slogans that keep popping up in my head:

Fritters aren’t for Quitters

Fuck Fritters

The Anti-Fritter League


Fritters are off the menu. I just got the zucchinis out of the box and they have mutated! Gone is the once voluptuous form and in it’s place is a knobbly, bunion-like appearance. Hello Mutant Vegetables.

mutant zuchinis

SHORT STORY: First Day on the Job

“Don’t answer that one!”

Sue, the lady with the bright pink lipstick, holds up her hand like a stop-sign. Her fingernails are painted in the same shade as her lips and on the middle finger of each hand there is a tiny little Hawaiian scene painted on the nail – a beach at sunset, complete with miniature moon and three twinkling stars. I can’t see them now as her palm is facing towards me, but I saw them earlier when she was pointing things out on the forms she asked me to fill in. The phone is still ringing and she looks at it nervously, all the while still holding up her hand to ward me away. A skinny girl in tight shorts and stiletto heels clatters into the room and stops short at the ringing phone. She turns to us and puts her finger to her lips, conspiratorially entreating us to “Shhh”.

“Hello”. The skinny girl is concentrating hard, the bare triangle of her midriff rising and falling beneath her knotted T-Shirt.

“Let me just see. I’m just going to put the phone down for a sec”. Hesitantly she presses the hold button and carefully places the phone back on the receiver. Turning towards us she whispers “Who’s Narelle?”

Pink-lipped Sue reaches confidently for a plastic folder on her desk and starts flipping through. “Narelle must be one of our new ones – normally I know all their names”. She runs her Hawaiian nail along a list of names. Most of them are typed, but some of them are crossed out or have other things written near them. Each entry bears two names.

Melissa – Vivianne.

Joanne – Tracey.

Alison – Charlene.

Next to Narelle is Roxanne.

“Oh – it’s Roxanne. That’s an unusual one – I should have known that. Carla – take Paula here down to get Roxanne so she can see what you’re doing. Check where she’s up to though. Don’t take her out if she’s in session”

Carla smiles at me and motions for me to follow. I dart to her side, eager to appear helpful in my new role. Standing directly next to her she towers above me, but she’s fragile as a dandelion. She casts a nervous glance back towards Sue and quickens her pace a little. Once we’ve left the reception area she relaxes and smiles down upon me, her make-up faintly clownish and over exaggerated.

“I’m Carla”

“Hi Carla. I’m Paula”

“Is that your real name? I’m actually called Lucy”

“Yeah – I’m really Paula. What is it with the fake names?”

Carla stops at the doorway to a tiled room labelled “Spa”. Quickly she runs her tongue across her teeth and readjusts her face, settling on a sultry look.

“Let’s check in here first”

The room is tiled in shiny black tiles with marbled gold flecks, creating the impression of 80’s opulence. A bench seat ringing the entire room is scattered with casually discarded items of clothing and fluffy bathrobes. Dangling from the ceiling an ornate chandelier softly illuminates the centerpiece of the steamy room – a massive spa bath in matching black and gold. Letting my eyes adjust to the dim haze, I take in the occupants of the shiny tub. Three middle aged men in various stages of rotundity are monopolizing the jet streams, while five women of varying nubility are squeezed in the gaps. There’s an air of forced bonhomie between the men and the topless women seem to be laughing just a little too readily. Averting my eyes from the fleshy tableau I look to Carla for clues on behaviour. She is trying out different poses, thrusting each hip out in turn, a twirl of her long, peroxided hair, hand on hip. No one notices.

“Hi Guys”

All heads turn at once and Carla seems to bask in the attention.

“Hey everyone. This looks like fun!”

In unison the men appraise the new girl, quickly making their judgement in her favour.

“Come join us”

The fattest of the three gestures expansively, sweeping his arm around like a gameshow host advertising the jackpot prize.

Carla feigns delight

“Ohhh! Maybe I will. But you have to let me have Roxy first”.

A twenty something girl with dyed black hair and overly tanned skin snaps to attention.

“Whaddya mean?”

Carla shoots Roxy a meaningful look and then twists her hair coquettishly.

“Ro-xy. This is Paula. Paula needs you upstairs for a bit, don’t you Paula?”

Clearing my throat and smiling quickly across at the spa I answer hesitantly

“Y – yes. Roxy, can you come with me a minute?”

Roxy glares at me through narrowed eyes. Her eyebrows are plucked unevenly, an arms race of over-zealous tweezering. I’m scared to speak, so I jerked my head back – gesturing to the upstairs and make the hand signal for telephone call. Roxy looks pissed off that I know something she doesn’t. She stands up quickly, shucking off the hairy man attached to her. Her body is slick like a porpoise, the water rolling off the dark brown skin. Her breasts are high and round and fake. I expected that. Her belly button is pierced and pubic hair non-existent. I expected that too. Now that she is out of the water she makes no pretence of caring for the fat men. Shoving her way roughly through the crowd, she exits the spa and ignores all the “C’mon Roxys”. Without even bothering to towel off, she wraps herself in a silky bathrobe and heads for the door. I quickly follow her. The leopard print material is stuck to her skin.

We leave Carla behind in the spa room. She was kicking off her shoes as I closed the door. The corridor feels cool after the humidity and Roxy’s skin goosebumps immediately, the wet silk making her even colder.

“Who are you?”

“Oh Hi Roxy. Umm. I’m Paula. I just started working here”

“Are you one of the girls?”

She looks me up and down, quickly appraising me.

“No. No, I’m kind of on reception”

Instantly her interest wanes like the mercury dropping on a thermometer.


Conversation closed, Roxy stalks ahead and I hustle to catch up with her.

In the back office, Roxy greets Sue with her signature glare

“What’s this all about?”

Sue is unintimidated.

“The bat phone rang. Who did you give the number to?”

Roxy looks nervous now. I can see a shadow of her real face beneath all the makeup.

“Only Mum. I told her I can’t take calls ever. Only in emergencies”

The blood drains from her face and she approaches the phone slowly, as if it’s a bomb that might go off. Respectful of her privacy, Sue and I huddle over the reception desk and pretend to look at papers.

“What is it?”

Sue and I are whispering. She looks at Roxy surreptitiously over my shoulder as she answers.

“Most of the girls can’t tell their families where they work. Or their boyfriends. That’s our private telephone, so it’s safe for the girls to give out their number”

“They pretend it’s an office?”

“They can pretend whatever they want. We don’t give any details. We just answer the phone and get the girls straightaway. They can do the explaining. They always ask for them by their real name though”

It makes sense now. Roxy is Narelle. Just a Narelle on the phone to her Mum. I turn to look. She is distressed and agitated, mascara running down her face.

“No, no, no, no”

Sue stands hesitantly, looking to Roxy-Narelle for permission to approach.

There is a little more mumbling on the phone and then she hangs up. Sue and I take a step towards Roxy. Her bottom lip quivers.

“Dad’s dead”

Without warning, she runs howling into my arms, almost knocking me over with the force. She is sobbing uncontrollably, clinging to me and mashing her face into my shoulder.

Sue edges round to face me and nods her head encouragingly. She gives me the thumbs up with her bright pink nail.

Gotta Write That Down!

Finding old notes in your phone is not nearly as exciting as stumbling across an old notebook, but it is a handy repository for fleeting notions. When an idea zliffs across your brain, you best write it down or it is sure to self-destruct.

Adrenaline Boots was a note in my phone. The word combination tickled my fancy bone. I found it by accident days later and showed Rudie’s Mama, Carly. She backed it and suggested I use it as my nom de media.

Roaming the streets or haunting public transport, word combinations arrive spontaneously. Here’s some I’ve lassoed:

I don’t suit serious

Living a timelapse

The Mormon Generation

Avant Zeitgeist

Sad Bananna

Artistic strangers

The Useless Brigade

Bless you, motherfucker

The three-quarter pants of middle age

Menace Sandwich