Feb 24, 2011

A Bunch Of Fives

Somebody gave me a bunch of fives, damn it. And I never saw who did it.

I found a half finished post saved in my docs folder. A thousand apologies, I have no idea who sent me the meme, whether it was here on the blog or whether it was an email, but there it has sat for a long, long time. It had virtual cobwebs. I think Lady Gaga was still Stefani Germanotta and wearing pants when I started this. I had half answered some of it, some were blank, I think I made up the last category and have forgotten others so, alas, it may just be a shadow of it's former self. I've updated, tweaked, embellished and bullshitted, so it's ready for you now.

5 NAMES I'M KNOWN BY (not including Mum/Dad): Well, nobody calls me Dad, not since the operation. You already know these…. Cathryn, Cathy, Cate, Cath and Chook……. Phew, thank goodness that's 5, thought I was going to have to reveal some of the less salubrious labels placed on me over the years. Not that 'Chook' is particularly classy. Blame my dad for that one.

5 CITIES I'VE BEEN TO: Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra and since I don't think my home city of Adelaide really counts, I'll say Suva (Fiji). As you can see, I don't get out of the country much.

5 CITIES I'D LIKE TO GO TO: Berlin, Venice, Paris, Rome and London. Seems I'm a wannabe Eurogroupie. And I may have to leave the country at some stage.

5 THINGS I'D SAVE FROM A FIRE: Well, apart from the humans, I'm really not sure. Photographs seem an obvious choice. I have a friend who lost everything in the Canberra bushfires some years back, and she said the immediate priority when it was all over (apart from a place to stay of course) was getting underwear and footwear. So I'm hoping I'd have time to grab some knickers, bras and shoes. But of all my shoes, which ones? Oh fuck, what a nightmare decision….

5 MOVIES I HAVE SEEN RECENTLY: Including TV, I've seen Fanboys, Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past, Dorian Gray, Alice In Wonderland and Daybreakers. Shit, they were ALL on TV. Last big screen viewing was the latest Harry Potter…. I need to get out more. (How am I going to get out of the country if I can't even get to a movie theatre?)

5 BOOKS I HAVE READ RECENTLY: This is difficult to remember, I am always reading something so I have had to stare at my bookcase for quite a while to work out roughly what the last 5 were.

Okay, 5 novels I started and actually finished are; The View From Here by Deborah McKinlay, The Blood Countess by Tara Moss, Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger, A Tiny Bit Marvellous by Dawn French and Vanishing Point by David Markson.

There were three others that were attempted but remain works in progress (I'm looking at YOU Finkler, Letty Fox and The Slow Man), to be saved for a boring, rainy day. When I have absolutely nothing else to read. And I mean nothing. Like, not even a phone bill.

5 PEOPLE (ALIVE) I WOULD INVITE TO A DINNER PARTY: Really difficult. This is one of those questions I change my mind about constantly. If it was this weekend…. George Clooney, Hugh Jackman, Lance Armstrong, Michael Jordan and Dawn French. Reserves would be Kate Winslet, Julian Assange, Cate Blanchett, Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton. Emergencies are Betty White, Justin Timberlake, Eminem, Tina Fey and Jeremy Clarkson. But ask me again next week and the squad could be completely different. The Bieber will never be in it though.

5 PEOPLE (DECEASED) I WOULD INVITE TO MY HEAVEN/HELL/AFTERLIFE WARMING PARTY: Another doozy. Since it's a party there has to be music, but whom on earth (or NOT on Earth in this case) do I choose? Elvis? Lennon? Hendrix? Or the more dulcet tones but no less party boys like Sinatra? Dino? Cash? Some classics…. Beethoven? Chopin? Maybe some rockers like Haley and Holly? What about Morrison, Cobain and Hutchence? Or can I make one choice a jamming Supergroup of ALL the dead musos, and then choose four other people to drink vodka and jump around in the moshpit with me? No? Fuck-a-doodle-doo, this is too hard, too hard…. *curls up in the corner and starts rocking…. around the clock*

Bloody hell, that was difficult, and I guess I failed. Indecisive Libran. Go ahead and do your own bunch of fives, just remember to finish it some time this year. Nelson Mandela and Betty White aren't getting any younger y'know.



Feb 18, 2011

Manual of Domestic Art

As with my parents a year ago, we have just had to move the Mother-in-law into an aged care facility. She has fairly advanced Parkinson's and could no longer care for herself at home. This was a much easier move; she had downsized many years ago and had therefore de-cluttered, the opposite to my parents who had saved 60 years worth of plastic bags and lonely Tupperware lids. All the in-law siblings pitched in and made this process less taxing and more enjoyable, unlike my family where, despite being one of four offspring, I was the one left holding the… well… plastic bags.

The MIL's worldly goods and chattels were divvied up and I somehow found myself in possession of a 70 year old book; "Manual of Domestic Art (Cookery)" issued by the Education Department of South Australia in 1941. I got it not because I'm any sort of cooking aficionado, far from it, but because I love books, especially old ones. Oh, and because I was the one who cleaned out the kitchen cupboard it was kept in. Finder's keepers.

The Manual covers the Domestic Arts and Home Science syllabus, in particular the subject of Cookery, which was taught in all South Australian schools in those days. Scarily, this manual of rules and recipes was compiled in 1926 by a thoroughly proper Miss Ellie Campbell, so they were already 15 years behind the times. Perhaps ingredients and methods didn't progress much in that time; I know I am still presenting tried and true (aka boring) meals I stumbled upon in the Australian Women's Weekly Microwave Cookbook circa 1989. [Dear family, I truly apologise for this fact and promise I will learn some new recipes. Soon. Like, when Jamie Oliver comes over to teach me personally how his 30 minute meals don't really take 97 minutes.]

Topics taught include classes of foods, weights and measures, milk products, meat, vegetables etc, before moving onto such enlightening subjects as;

Table Service – Setting and waiting. (we are supposed to WAIT on everybody? It's not 2, 4, 6, 8, dig in, DON'T wait?)

Personal Care and Appearance of the Housewife – In handling food and working methods. (So they mean food hygiene? Phew, thought Miss Campbell was going to tell me I should be out of my PJ's by the time I start cooking dinner)

Heating Appliances – Care and cleaning, management of stoves, setting a fire. (Hell, I can set fire to my own kitchen without instructions thanks very much, that's why they invented smoke alarms. I use them as timers)

Laundry – Ironing, care of dishcloths, tea towels, dusters and mops, as well as laundering of all clothing including silk stockings and underwear. (I suspect Miss Ellie may have been a bit of a hoochie girl)

Simple Means Of Controlling Common Pests – Flies, ants and mice. (Nothing about teenagers?)

Household Practice – Care of kitchen, toilet, brooms and brushes, maintenance of crockery, utensils, metals, glass, sinks, drains and bins, bed making, sweeping and dusting. (I think they forgot to mention painting your fingernails and perfecting afternoon naps. What?)

The poor young ladies of the day had to sit through lessons on heating and lighting of the home, household accounts, storage of linen, care of younger children (or was it care of linen and storage of children?), cold storage of food, and my favourite; The Excretory System. Guess it helped to know what necessitates the 'cleaning toilets' topic.

The majority of the recipes seem simple and fairly typical of what were probably standard meals of the day, though I don't imagine every family sat down to a meal of Fricasseed Sheep's Head With Boiled Artichokes every Friday night before a hearty game of Canasta in the front living room. And I have been gagging at the thought of being served up Stewed Ox Kidney, Stewed Ox Tail or Tongues in Jelly. But I guess it was during the war, supplies were low, and everybody in Adelaide had an ox in their backyard, yes?

Miss Campbell seems to have found her forte in her apparent love of sweets. The most incredible array of puddings, cakes, pastries, pies, jams, slices and biscuit recipes fill the pages of probably more than half the book; which goes a long way to explaining why most of my MIL's generation have false teeth. I may have to road test the entire list, starting with Apple and Rice Meringue, Cream Puffs and Melting Moments through to Raspberry Buns, Scotch Shortbread and Treacle Tart. For research purposes, of course. (NOTE TO SELF: make Dental appointment)

I cringe that my MIL was learning from this book at the age of eleven. ELEVEN. While our daughters are now playing sport, learning about the environment, solving math problems and being told they can do anything, those girls were being taught how to wash dishes, how to choose a good cut of meat, the nature and use of starch in laundering, and most likely being told "Study this Manual because this will be your life." Okay, it might have paid off for Junior Masterchef wannabes, but I can see why a VG&T (Valium, Gin & Tonic) was the Housewife's Drug of Choice in the 50s.

Thank goodness for modern times and a plethora of options, or we'd all still be idolizing Miss Campbell and collecting plastic bags.

To finish, I'll leave you with a quote that appears in the preface of the Manual of Domestic Art by John Ruskin, an English artist, poet, art critic and social thinker;

"Cookery means the knowledge of Medea and of Circe and of Helen of Troy and of the Queen of Sheba. It means the knowledge of all herbs and fruits and balms and spices and all that is healing and sweet in the fields and groves, and savoury in meals. It means carefulness and inventiveness and willingness and readiness of appliances. It means the economy of your grandmother and the modern chemist; it means much testing and no wasting; it means English thoroughness and French art and Arabian hospitality; in fine, it means that you are to be perfectly and always ladies – loaf givers."

Yeah, well…. John Ruskin was rumoured at various times to be either gay, a paedophile, or incurably impotent, and his only marriage was annulled after six years because of non-consummation. Doesn't seem like he was much of a loaf-giver. Perhaps he had a tiny breadstick.

Feb 6, 2011

What’s In A (Randomly Generated) Name?

Hi, my name is, my name is…… no, not Slim Shady. My name is Green Egg Forty Sippa. That's my Gangsta name anyway and don't you forget it. Yo.
I'm thinking Dr Seuss and 50cent must have collaboratively invented the Random Name Generator that came up with my alias.

No longer do we have to piece together the names of our childhood dog and the first street we lived on (Zippy Balcombe) or our favourite pet and childhood food (Candy Cupcake) to embrace a fantasy name for a character in a story or a fake ID or umm, you know, roleplay, whatever. Ahem.

As with most things these days, we need look no further than the amazing Spiritual Guide of All Things Bizarre, the Internet. Find the name generator you want, type in your real name, one click and there's your new pseudonym. It's that simple. And that stupid.

Why do I even look at these things? Could I really not go another minute of my life without knowing that my Pirate name is Captain Mary Bonney? Like, am I planning to run away to sea to sail on the Black Pearl, drink rum with Johnny Depp and swap spit with Orlando Bloom? Actually, that doesn't sound like a bad idea…

Was it essential that I know my Mexican Wrestler name? Which, by the way, is Ratón Último. It means Last Mouse. Does that mean I am a fantastic fighter and will be the last rodent to survive, or is it just something that would look good listed on a WWE Smackdown poster next to Dolph Ziggler, Ricardo Rodriguez and The Undertaker?

I was hoping my Mafia name would be really sexy, like something straight out of a Brian De Palma movie. So disappointed, I find nothing sexy about Alley Cat Sandra. Pussy jokes included.

And then there's my Porn Star name. Tonya Sinn. It sounds a bit too sophisticated; more like a champagne-sipping high-class callgirl than someone who does pizza delivery guys on a pool table to an electro-pop soundtrack. (I admit my idea of porn may be a bit out of date, but ahhh... those were the days.)

My real, boring human name is Cathryn, derived from the Greek Katharos (Katherine), meaning 'pure'. Yes, I know. Go on, I'll wait while you have a good laugh at that.

I have never really adored my own name (do any of us?) but I do have to thank my oldest sister for saving me from a fate worse than Cathryn. My siblings were 17, 14 and 11 when I burst onto the scene as the Great Mistake of 1964 (mistake [mis-teyk] noun, verb: an error in action, calculation, opinion, or judgment caused by poor reasoning, carelessness, insufficient knowledge or lack of birth control) and cries of "She had the baby", "It's a girl" and "You woke me at 2am for that?" were quickly followed by "What's her name?"

One or both of my parents (neither will admit guilt in this heinous almost-committed crime) wished to call me… Patricia.

Apologies to those of you who are named Patricia and love it. But, really….

Look at me.

Do you see Patricia?




(I acknowledge maybe there are some similarities with AbFab's Patsy, but....)
No, absolutely no. Just… no.

For starters, I am not an old-age pensioner. The popularity of the name Patricia peaked in the late 1930s through to the 1940s and has plunged into a steady decline since, so I may have been able to accept the name if I was a war baby, conceived in the back of a Ford coupe utility during a hastily arranged shore leave. But I wasn't.

Nor am I Catholic, wanting to bear the name of an Italian virgin martyr and Saint. I mean, I admire her for escaping an arranged marriage, but women usually do that so they can shag whoever they want, not to stay a virgin.

Anyway, you could say my sister was the 60s version of the Random Name Generator, as she insists she plucked the name from nowhere. Apparently, whilst announcing that nobody better dare tell her to turn her radio down once the baby came home, she also declared there was no way she was having a sister called Patricia, that was a horrible name, but a Katherine/Catherine/Kathryn/Cathryn would be fine. (Exactly who chose my particular spelling is unclear, but there is a rumour that it was a mistake by Dad, his second one that year.)

At some stage during the early school years Cathryn of course got shortened to 'Cathy'; it's the Aussie way. I remember trying to get people to call me 'Cate' at one point, but Dad was the only one who did and others argued I couldn't be a Cate, it had to be Kate with a K (these were the years long before Cate Blanchett came along). And I attempted 'Cathie' during the rebellious teenage years, because a group of 26 of my closest friends all voted that it was much more of a cool-surfie-chick way to spell it. Hey, it was the 70s. But it didn't stick. Neither did 'Imogen'. Don't ask.

So over the years Cathryn has evolved. Don't be surprised if you call me Cate, then my Mum approaches with 'Cathryn', a friend greets me as 'Cath', the kids moan at 'Mum', Dad lets slip 'Chook' and the Husband yells 'Bloody hell Cathy, are they more new shoes?'…. I will answer to them all. Some more politely than others.

Interesting postscript. I have just discovered if I use Cathryn on the Porn Star Name Generator I am actually…. Sweatee Asstronaut.

Oh yeah. That's more like it.

Did somebody order pizza?





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