Jun 27, 2012

All Growed Up

Sometimes you fear they will never grow up, never mature, and you wish they would.

Other times you want to freeze them in their youth so they don't grow up, and you fight to halt the process.

Mostly, you just let nature take its course. What will be, will be, at their own pace, when they're ready.

Occasionally they blow your mind.

Especially when they go from this...
...to this.

For a tomboy who, in general, hates dresses, never wears makeup, and didn't have to search too hard when told to put on daggy clothes before having her hair and face done for her School Formal, I think my daughter scrubs up pretty well.

It started with hair...

Beautifully done by my god-daughter, Emma

...continued with the face...

... then we gathered up some bling...

... threw on the Project D (Dannii Minogue) dress which appeared in Vogue.com, no less, when the label was launched two years ago...

...slipped on some sparkly shoes...

... and voila.

Note: I have cropped this photo as I don't think it's proper of me to post shots of other kids without permission, but I wanted to slip in one of the gorgeous wrist corsage she was given by her date.

I almost forgot to include The Mustang. The boys were impressed.

That's my girl.
All growed up.

Jun 23, 2012

Fifty Shades Of Unmitigated Crap

un-mit-i-gat-ed adj. 

  1.  Not diminished or moderated in intensity or severity; unrelieved
  2.  Without qualification or exception; absolute

crap noun               

  1.    Excrement
  2.    Foolish, deceitful or boastful language
  3.    Miscellaneous or disorganised items; clutter
  4.    Cheap or shoddy material

I admit it. I bought into the hype. Everywhere I turned; on TV, in the paper, online, in real life, "Have you read 50 Shades Of Grey yet?"

Some liked it, some bagged it. Although, thinking back, the positive opinions were more along the lines of "I couldn't put it down", rather than "It is a really wonderful book", but I didn't quite catch on to that detail until now. An oversight on my part.

But the fact is, everybody was talking about it, in one way or another. "Ooooh, it's mummy porn." And I really dislike feeling left out. Not being able to offer an opinion. Not joining in. Just saying "No, I haven't read it" and retreating demurely to a corner to pour another wine and search for somebody else feeling ill-equipped for the discussion on the fastest selling fiction novel in the world.

Curiosity got the better of me. I went online to purchase it and... what the fuck? It's the first book in a trilogy? Dammit. I need to read three? Anyway, I've read the first book and NOW I CAN JOIN THE DISCUSSION.

The blurb on the back of the first book says "Romantic, liberating and totally addictive, this is a novel that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever", and then goes on to talk of a 'love affair' between the two main characters, Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele.

Right. I beg to differ. It's not romantic at all. Romance, to me, is very different to what this book is about. My idea of romance doesn't involve being bullied. Liberating... well, while I was reading it I guess it liberated me from doing my vacuuming. Addictive? Not in the slightest. I could put it down. And did. A LOT. Especially to pick up my laptop and post a Twitter or Facebook status with a scathing comment about the book. And it only obsessed me as far as the fact I now have a deep-seated, yearning desire to.... smack the author. And not in a sexy way. It will stay with me forever, or until next Friday, whichever comes first, but for all the wrong reasons. And 'love affair'? No. There is no love in this first book. There is only sex and control and obsession and bullying and stalking and domination. It is not until the final chapter that the moronic Ana tells the psycho Christian she loves him. Unfortunately, it is not as they are both about to die in an exploding helicopter, which is what I hoped for, vainly (even though I have books 2 & 3 and knew it was unlikely), throughout the entire story.

Firstly, I found the writing style atrocious. I really struggled with it. The whole badly-written-first-person-present-tense thing was extremely off-putting. Some have likened it to creative writing projects they did in school. Like, when they were kids. Sentences starting with "I scowl with frustration at myself..." and "I roll my eyes in exasperation..." were clunky and annoying. And they were both in the very first paragraph. I probably got used to it by about page 513. Did I mention there are 514 pages in the book? It was also full of utter corn, ridiculous terms, and clich├ęs which were repeated over and over, but I'll get to more on them later.

Anastasia Steele, what can I say. She shitted me to tears in so many ways. A 21 year old virgin who is about to graduate with a University degree in what I presume was English Literature in the year of 2011 AND DOES NOT EVEN OWN A COMPUTER. Nothing. Nada. Not a PC, laptop, iPad, not even a smartphone. I'm sorry, but only having access to your room-mate's lappy (who was also doing a degree and would have needed it herself) and the college library would not have been sufficient for the bazillion essays you would have had to write during your studies. I call bullshit.

Straight out of college, she lands a couple of interviews in publishing, and wham... she gets the job she wanted straight away. It seems the Global Financial Crisis has not yet hit the fictional publishing industry in Seattle.

Am I being picky? Yeah, probably. And I'm loving it.

Ana blushes, flushes, and colours crimson at an average of three times per page. Seriously, this girl needs to see a doctor and get herself some beta blockers or something. Oh, that's right, she's also managed to get to the age of 21 without having a personal doctor. Lucky her. 

Ana seems to spend so much time rolling her eyes it's a wonder she can still read the Thomas Hardy classics she's so fond of without holding them above her head, and also bites her lip with monotonous regularity in almost every scene with Christian. Many readers have shared with me their hope that it would be bitten right off at some point, but alas, there was no blood in this book. Wait, yes there was. Not from her mouth though.

"My breath hitches." Oh my fucking god. This is the most ridiculously overused phrase, without a doubt. (I think Christian's is "Stop biting your lip")  I estimate Ana's breath 'hitches' on about 450 pages. That may be an exaggeration, perhaps 400. Over and over again, ad nauseum. Honey, just stop breathing altogether and that will solve all of our problems.

Considering this book is erotica, or soft porn, or BDSM for mummies, or whatever you want to call it, this character referring to her genital area as "down there" on every second page was just comical. So was the continual usage of the term 'my sex', as in "he runs his hand over my sex." At other times, the words vagina and clitoris are used, so I'm still not sure what 'my sex' is. I'm confused. Are we talking one of the labia? (labias? labii?) The clitoral hood? The pelvic area in general? Or is there a part of my body called 'my sex' I don't know about? Seriously, do I need to get out a hand mirror?

So, this virgin, who has no less than three blokes lusting after her within the first 100 pages, who has never had a boyfriend, never really been kissed properly, and has never 'pleasured' herself, who agrees to being 'deflowered' by a strange man she has known for what feels like a full twenty minutes (oh, but it's okay, because he's BEAUTIFUL, and rich and hypnotising, and did I mention BEAUTIFUL?), manages to not only orgasm during her first sexual experience (and EVERY subsequent one), but multiple times! And she's able to climax whenever Christian tells her to! What a fucking legend! Literally!

But wait, there's more! At Ana's first attempt at a blowjob, her mouth and tongue move perfectly, she has a deep throat, NO gag reflex and.... SHE SWALLOWS! Is there nothing this angelic creature can't do? You'd think having her period would at least slow her inexperienced self down though, right? Wrong. Not only does she let this dysfunctional man she's only known for three weeks soldier on regardless, she only bleeds for a couple of days, feels great, and has NO CRAMPS. Biaatch.

She's the perfect woman, clearly. I suspect the character of Ana will be played in the movie version by a blow-up doll.

And then there's her 'inner goddess'. This inner goddess appears as often as the lip-biting and breath-hitching, adores all the sexing and dances and jumps around and pouts and sways from side to side and smiles and claps her hands and loves the word 'panties'.

I wanted to high five Ana's inner goddess. In the face. With a baseball bat.

Christian Grey. Psycho. Stalker. Dominator. Bully. Wanker.

I hope that's what his business card says, but I'm guessing it says Rich & BEAUTIFUL. Anyone who thought Edward Cullen of the Twilight vampires was the ultimate creepy weirdo who sent a bad message to girls about putting up with stalkerish, obsessive behaviour will now have another target. 

The first time Christian and Ana meet, she is interviewing him. He is a rich, powerful businessman. Ana is flustered, naive, unprepared and polite, and does the demure "Yes Sir, No Sir" thing. In that moment, Christian decides she would make a great 'submissive' in his BDSM playroom, as you do. Say WHAT??
But Christian's BEAUTIFUL. And rich. And BEAUTIFUL. So it's okay, clearly.

Of course, his 'impressive length' may have something to do with it too. Ana notes this a LOT..."It's so big and growing". Which begs the question... impressive compared to what? She was a virgin, no boyfriend, no prior penis experience. I'm guessing Christian is really a needledick. He is a knobhead who refers to Ana's virginity as a 'situation' which needs rectifying, has never had 'vanilla sex' (no toys or add-ons), and when presenting her with his 'impressive length' on one occasion, delivers this amazing speech...

"I want you to become well acquainted, on first name terms if you will, with my favorite and most cherished part of my body. I'm very attached to this."

If a bloke said that to me, I would either laugh so hard I'd have convulsions, or I'd reach for the sharpest implement I could find. I thought this mummy porn was supposed to arouse all the bored, frustrated housewives, not make them laugh until they pee out of their poor old prolapsed bladders.

Christian knows where Ana lives and where she is all the time. He tracks her. He follows her when she flies across the country to have a break from him (bullshit it was for work - this sort of stalking behaviour being written as normal and acceptable pissed me off and made me very angry, more than I can articulate). He knows her mother's name and where SHE lives. He wants to control the food Ana eats and the clothes she wears, all in the name of sexual arousal, all in the name of the Dominator and Submissive game. His excuse? "It's all I know." Fifty shades of pathetic.

The sex scenes are either mildly bemusing, comical, or just plain laborious. It's like the author is explaining (in minute, graphic, unsexy detail) a game of Naked Twister. Or Naked Hokey Pokey. You put your left leg in and shake it all about....

Look, I'm sure there are some okay-ish parts.


*has a shower, makes a cup of tea and thinks some more*

Right. Umm. Well, some of the email exchanges between Christian and Ana (after he buys her a laptop and Blackberry and sets up an email account for her so he can stay in constant communication with her; psycho much?) are admittedly amusing and entertaining. And there was one conversation (just one, mind you) which I actually enjoyed. I thought it was sharp and witty. So much so, that I immediately came to the conclusion that somebody else must have written it.

In summation? Hey, each to their own. Whatever floats your boat, levitates your wand, or wets your whistle. It's not for me. It did not stimulate or satisfy me one iota; not in the literary sense, not romantically, not emotionally, not sexually, not psychologically, not intellectually, not escapismally (yes, shut up, I know that's not a word, but if she can write crap, so can I). 
I have absolutely no problem at all with two consenting, functional adults on even terms (or for money as worker/client) getting their BDSM on. All power to us. Err, I mean, them. In this case, I feel the character of Christian is dysfunctional and has emotional and psychological problems (alluded to regularly), they are not really on even terms (rich, powerful, domineering, experienced vs poor, naive, clueless virgin) and while she doesn't say no, I think she's subtly bullied/persuaded into the consent on occasions. As I've said, I have greater issue with the stalking and dominance outside the bedroom. And the shit writing.

What worries me is that due to it's popularity, hype, and availability (apparently selling for as little as 
£3 in UK supermarkets, probably in the condom aisle), I know that girls as young as 11 are reading it. I sincerely hope they don't think this book is indicative of how your first 'romance' should be, or there's going to be a major rush on cable ties and brown plaited leather riding crops in a few years time.  And possibly restraining orders. 

I don't want any girl to think it's okay to be swept off her feet and onto her knees just because he's rich and BEAUTIFUL. We need to look after our knees, or we'll find ourselves at age 47 making bone-crunching noises every time we go up or down a step. So I've heard.
Jokes aside, it is a dreadful, demeaning example of a 'love affair'. Nothing to aspire to here.

So buy it, don't buy it, read it, don't read it, love it, hate it... I don't care. This is just my opinion, and I thought it was unmitigated crap. And I have two more of them to read to finish the story, for fuck's sake...

My breath hitches at the thought.

Jun 19, 2012

The Bittersweet Voice

There was a bittersweet end to The Voice Australia last night.

Sweet, in that a wonderful, deserving singer won, and quite frankly I would have been pleased if any one of the four finalists had taken out the big prize.

Bitter, in that my weekly Joel Madden and Keith Urban (and to a lesser extent, Seal) fix is over, along with my Twitter musings on a threesome with Joel & Benji Madden, or Joel & Keith, or Joel & Seal.... and hell, even Joel & Delta. (I have packed away the high heels and phone books for another year, Amanda)

Sweet, in that some lovely new talent has been aired, that we got to see Mahalia Barnes sing with her Dad, and that the duet of Keith & Darren was superb. (sorry, no threesome fantasy there)

Bitter, in that a 'comedian' (I use that term loosely) thought it was okay to tweet a joke about an 18 year old girl with a disability.

For those who don't know, one of the finalists was Rachael, a sweet young girl from Adelaide, who is legally blind. She has only 10% vision, and will eventually lose that too. She is an Ambassador for the Royal Society  for the Blind here in South Australia. More importantly, she has a wonderful voice and seems like a really lovely kid, who was often overwhelmed by her whole experience on the show.

While watching the finale with one eye on Joel and one eye on Twitter, I was intrigued by a tweet from someone I follow, having a go at the cheapness of a joke by a 'comedian and radio/TV personality' (who I don't follow - I won't give you his name here as I have no wish to give the loser any free publicity) and me being Mrs Curious, I looked at the offending tweet.

"Rachel wouldn't make it as the winner of ; she wouldn't be able to read the autocue when she's hosting Funniest Home Videos."

Cheap, nasty, unfunny, unintelligent, immature... and he couldn't even spell her name right.

Look, I know I'm no angel. I'm sarcastic and facetious. My tweets while watching The Voice over the weeks have commented on everything from the wind machine, the song choices, the performances, the wardrobe selections, the sets, the overuse of the word 'journey' (DRINK), the coaches' decisions, Seal's strait-jacket, Seal's nailpolish, Seal's knickerbockers and the fact that I'm not seeing it live, but #HALFHOURBEHIND. 

But making fun of a disability for cheap laughs? Err, no. Nor should anybody.

A couple of people had a go at him, and I told him it was a shitty thing to say, but unfortunately he got just as many retweets.

There's been a lot of discussion on internet trolling lately, and we want to get rid of them. But when there is such nastiness on open display by a public identity leading the way, how are we supposed to eradicate the faceless ones?

The internet is a bittersweet place.

Jun 15, 2012

The June Photo A Day Challenge: Part One

I am Fat Mum Slim's slave to this challenge yet again. Totally addicted.






DAY 6: HAT... so it's pink and glittery, what of it?

DAY 7: DRINK... I know, I'm a smartarse.



DAY 10: BEST BIT OF YOUR WEEKEND... Pretending to be 21 year old triplets with my two besties.



DAY 13: ART... Painted by my grandmother. You're all humming the Kookaburra song now, aren't you?



Jun 11, 2012

Some More Things They Didn't Tell You About Parenting...

Just in case you hadn't heard....


If you are a parent, want to be a parent, or know a parent you can share this with, listen up.

I am one of 32 bloggers who, along with a crack team of editing and publishing peeps, are very happy and proud to present an amazing ebook for sale, with ALL proceeds going to Cate Bolt's Foundation 18.

I have talked about Cate, the Foundation, and the ebook before, but just in case you weren't listening or didn't get around to buying the ebook, here's a few snippets to whet your appetite and get you buying.

"I'd even read about how when little boys are born they can be quite a bit swollen in their gentlemen area – a fact that my husband, Map Guy, was unaware of, having begrudgingly read only a few chapters of one blokey book called She's Pregnant: Game Over. Or something like that." ~ Glowless

"Pinch that soft fleshy bit under your arm. Hard. Harder. Feel that? Hurt? That doesn't even come close to the absolute agony that is labour. In fact, go outside, put your foot under a 4WD tyre and ask someone with very few scruples to reverse over it a couple of times. Painful? Nope, still not even close. Shit out a watermelon. Yeah, that comes kinda close." ~ Bern Morley

"I am HAPPY that your child loves kale. I truly am. And I LOVE that your kid prefers corn on the cob to sweets and anchovies. But don't delude yourself into thinking that it’s something you've managed as a mother. It's LUCK. You are LUCKY. And that is AWESOME, but you are no better than the rest of us." ~ Veronica Foale

"At first I thought being a good mum would mean not letting go of: the clean house, the crumb-free car, the manicured garden (lady or otherwise), the size 10 clothes. I hovered over that baby with a parenting book in one hand and a cloth in the other, ready to catch any errant seepage of milk or drool. I was going to master this parenting business and my body and then go back to work and tidy up the mess I had left there. I gave birth! I can do anything!" ~ Karen Charlton

"By the time Charlie came along I had done every single parenting dilemma known to man. I had children with autism, ADHD, hearing impairment and a list of medical conditions that would make your gut turn. I'd had gifted children, beautiful children, high-achievers and award winners. I'd had school suspensions, shop-lifters, runaways and even a child who looked Marilyn Manson in the face and told him, 'Man, you're ugly.' There was nothing I didn't know about parenting. Not a thing." ~ Cate Bolt

"'Okay, but there are rules. Yes, your penis feels good when you touch it, but that is about "the-most-private-thing-you-can-do". So, you don't do it at school, you don't do it on the lounge, you certainly do NOT do it at your grandparents' house … you only ever do it in the privacy of your own room. Okay?'" ~ Carol Duncan

"I used to tread on doll's shoes, train tracks and bits of Lego. More than I remember buying. Now I tread on empty cans, pizza boxes and bodies of teenagers. More than I remember birthing." ~ Me

Things They Didn't Tell You About Parenting ~ an anthology
 (epub, pdf, mobi $4.99)

Jun 8, 2012

Things I Wonder About Bert

Photo taken Nov 15th, 1917, somewhere in France

This is my grandfather. Private Gilbert Roy Oats, 43rd Battalion, C Company.

In January 1916, at the ripe old age of 21, he tossed in his former life as a farmer up at Moonta and travelled down to the big smoke to enlist. I wonder if he did so because he hated farming, or because he just wanted to be a soldier and answered the call like thousands of others. He signed up, named his mother Laura as his next of kin, trained at Morphettville, and became part of a battalion, apparently known as 'Glenelg's Own', formed on March 7th, 1916. I guess him, nor any of the others, not being from Glenelg was of no real importance. Just three months after forming, on June 9th, 1916, he and the rest of his unit (pictured below) embarked from Adelaide, South Australia, on board HMAT A19 Afric.

The 43rd Battalion, photo taken on the eve of embarkation, June 8th, 1916. My grandfather is in the front row, second from right

I wonder if any of them were properly trained. I wonder if they had a clue what was about to confront them. I wonder if any of them knew how slim their chances were of returning home. I wonder if they even knew what the war was about. I wonder how many did come home. I wonder a lot of things.

What happened over the next two years, I guess I'll never know for sure. History books and war movies give us the bigger picture, but I wonder what happened to my grandfather specifically. There are a few family stories, but like all games of Chinese Whispers passed down over generations, I wonder how accurate the details are. He was definitely stationed in France and served on what was known as the Western Front; he was a stretcher bearer who retrieved and treated the wounded; and we believe he became engaged to a young French girl, whose name may or may not have been Madeleine. I wonder if he was a stretcher bearer because he was crap with a gun. Or if it was just because he was strong and fast. Maybe he knew First Aid before he went, or maybe he learned, somewhat horrifically, on the job. Mostly, I wonder what happened to the fiancee.

I know he may have carried, at some point, this book, First Aid To The Injured, issued by the St John Ambulance Association in 1914. I know he owned it at some stage, because I have it.

Instructions for stretcher bearers
24th Edition, 1914

I wonder if he studied it whenever he could, or referred to it when needed. Or if it stayed in his pocket and he just treated the wounded soldiers as best he could amid the frightening chaos of war. I wonder if the book never even saw action, if it was left at home; it's in fairly good condition. I wonder how he came by the book. It is not his name written inside the front cover, you see. That honour belongs to Andrew Clifton Harcourt Reid, and is dated April 2nd 1916. Maybe they trained together, but Andrew dropped out. I wonder if Andrew was found unfit to be a soldier. I do know that Andrew's name produces no results on a Defence Force search. Further snooping reveals Andrew was born in 1897, married in 1918, and died in 1956. Maybe Andrew was a friend, and gave it to Bert before he shipped out. Or maybe Bert nicked it from Andrew. I wonder.

By August 1918, Bert was near Bray-sur-Somme, and apparently doing some of his finest work. He was recommended for a Military Medal on September 5th, 1918.

'On the 22nd August, 1918, during operations east of BRAY SUR SOMME, the Company's position was heavily shelled for a period of three hours. During the whole of that period Private OATS, who is a stretcher bearer, continued to dress the wounded and remove them to the Aid Post. He worked without shelter of any kind and at great personal risk. This is only one of the many occasions in which Private OATS has in a similar capacity shown an utter disregard of danger and a noble spirit of devotion to duty.'

~ From the Commonwealth Gazette, dated October 10th, 1919 (also listed in the London Gazette, June 17th, 1919)

I know I cry every time I read it. I wonder if it was a big deal at the time. I wonder if he was proud. Or if he just shrugged his shoulders and got on with his job.

I believe he was wounded, sent home, and given an honourable discharge. I've been told he had horrible shrapnel wounds. He survived. But I wonder how it happened. I wonder why I've never heard that story. If it was too painful to talk about. He was a quiet man.

I know he went back to the farm and met Marian, my grandmother, who was a schoolteacher in the area. She taught the children of the farm Bert worked on, even her future son-in-law (who was allegedly the only child she ever failed, poor Uncle Ken). They married in 1924 and their first daughter was born the following year. They named her Madeleine. Hmmm. My mother followed eighteen months later.

Marian and Bert's wedding, 1924

At 31 and 29 they were late to marriage. My grandmother lied about her age for most of her adult life, as she was older than Bert (wow, a whole two years), and that knowledge becoming public would have been embarrassing. I wonder if it really would have been so bad. I wonder if Bert even knew the truth. I also wonder when the name 'Oats' became 'Oates'. Was it a spelling mistake that crept in so often the whole family adopted it, or was it always meant to be 'Oates', and the 'e' just went missing along the way for a while? Nobody seems to know. I wonder if Bert misspelled his own name when he enlisted. I wonder if he even was an Oats or an Oates, and the rumours of a certain Mr Baldock being his real father were true.

Bert and Marian, undated, but believed to be on a Wedding Anniversary

They moved to the city, but I'm not sure when, and Bert became a tram conductor. I wonder if there were other jobs first. I wonder if that was what he really wanted to do, or if his war injuries limited his choices. He saw the Depression and more war, but from the safety of home this time. I wonder if the second World War brought back memories for him. If he struggled through it from a distance.

Bert in his MTT uniform, taken in the back yard of their West Croydon home, 1945

Bert sustained a bad knee injury, allegedly when he fell off a tram. Although there were also stories of him being kicked by a horse on a visit to the farm, so I wonder if he was the first person to rort the Municipal Tramways Trust compensation system. I wonder if there even was a compensation system to rort. Marian retired from teaching at the end of 1956 (when she was officially about to turn 60, but in reality was already 63), and Bert retired from the MTT in 1957, aged 62. I wonder if he was happy, relieved, or bored in retirement. If he was a contented, or a broken man.

My two grandfathers were named Bert and Ernie. I wonder if anyone finds that as funny as I do.

Bert died in 1967 when I was just 3. This may be one of the last photos taken of him. He is holding me. I wonder if he knew he was going to die soon.

Me and Bert, 1967

I have vague memories of being in a cemetery, standing among graves, holding my mother's hand. I wonder if it's a real memory, or something I've imagined. I wonder if my grandmother would have told me stories about him. If I had ever asked. If I had shown interest. If I had not been a typical, self-absorbed teenager, with little regard for family history.

I wonder if Bert had a happy life, or if he just existed. If the war affected him every day, not just physically. If he laughed heartily, or hollowly.

You might be wondering why I didn't write this to commemorate ANZAC Day, or wait until Remembrance Day. Maybe today, the anniversary of a young Bert Oats being photographed with his battalion before shipping off to a war on the other side of the world means more to me. Besides, he's my grandfather. I shouldn't wonder about him only twice a year on special occasions.

Someone recently said that if a piece of writing waffles on for ages, there had better be a point to it. There is no point to this. I wrote this for me. For my kids, maybe even my grandkids. So that they can know what I know, and what I wonder. I need to ask some questions, fill in some gaps. So maybe they needn't wonder quite so much.

Pte Oats, 1917


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