Thursday, 4 June 2009

A Week of Music

On Monday night The Man and I went to the opera house to see Rachid Taha in concert. I only found out about this concert on Friday night, because we sent to see another band, and they announced that they were playing on Monday night in support of Rachid Taha, and I was all “Oh my God, Rachid Taha has come to Sydney? I’ll die of disappointment if he performs and I’m not there!!” So to avert my death, The Man agreed to it and I bought us tickets.

The opening band, Lolo Lovina, the one I’d seen on Friday, were great again. I so covet their violinist’s skills. Honestly, could die happy if I could saw at a fiddle like that. She made my abilities look like a pale shadow of violin playing. Talk about fireworks! I’m not sure whether to start practicing hard, or just give up.

It was funny to hear all Rachid Taha’s songs that I know so well, performed live. It was just as I expected, and he has a beautiful voice. I totally wanted to dance – everyone in the stalls looked to be having such a great time – but everyone behind me was sitting down and I didn’t want them to hate me. I do regret that I didn’t get up and move to the side, where there was plenty of space. What's wrong with some people?!

One of the highlights of Rachid Taha’s set was Brian Eno. He was in the audience and Rachid invited him onto the stage and wouldn’t let him leave. At the end of every song Brian Eno was like “Errrr – I really don’t know what I’m doing, you know” (to us), looking all awkward, and Rachid totally ignored this, flung his arm round him and made him dance and stuff. He had the helpless, dazed look of a hostage taken captive by an unstable psychopath. (And let’s face it, Rachid Taha is a little weird. Sexy, yes, but weird). Pretty funny, really!

Anyway, the most important part of this week is that I go on holiday on Tuesday, which makes tomorrow my last day. Thank you God, for making this day come!!!!!

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

A Disoappointment

I think it’s fair to say that I have not been terribly successful so far at soap making.

I took a soap making class some time before Christmas. It may have been as early as October. (I could check my Outlook calendar for you but that would be just way too much effort, so let’s say October). I had Big Plans to make my first batches of scented soap in time for Christmas, because of course there’s nothing people wish to receive more than their friends’ home-made soap, is there!

First hurdle was to assemble all the equipment. It took ages. It was well into the new year when I finally got around to making my first batch of pure soap.

And this is what happened: I figured out part way through that I didn’t exactly understand what the instructions were saying, and I ended up boiling the mixture instead of leaving it to react without heat. That’s one big load of soap rendered unusable – 3 litres of olive oil! Sorry, olive trees! (Groves? Vines? Look, I was raised in Saudi Arabia, we don’t have nature over there).

Attempt #2 – This time I was determined to do it right. I didn’t boil the mixture, so it stayed liquid enough to stir it for several days after it was made. Unfortunately, I’d selected a baking tray with a non-stick covering, which all flaked off in reaction to the caustic soda, and mixed into the soap. Then I left it the requisite 6 weeks, and it seems to be ok despite the grey flecks.

So, mid-May, finally my base soap was ready and I was on track to make scented soaps, yay! The first batch was fine, though it didn’t smell of anything much despite the super-expensive vanilla oil I’d used, and I also only made three tiny soaps out of it. But I was sure that now I’d been reasonably successful, things could only get better, and I’d make bigger batches. So the next round was rose soap, with rose petals, pink clay for colouring, glycerine, and of course, lashings of very expensive rose oil. Within hours, the soap had sprung cracks within the mold, and all liquid was leaking out. I’ve tried using it, and the soap just falls apart.

Take #3, ‘chocolate orange’ soap, using cocoa butter and orange oil. I intended it to be similar in style to the first, more successful batch of soap. The first indication I should have got that something was wrong was when my subconscious mind decided it would be a good idea to pick up the wooden spoon THAT I’D BEEN USING TO STIR THE VEGGIE STEW I WAS MAKING and use this to stir the soap! Now readers unversed in the fine art of saponification probably don’t realise this, but it’s not really a good idea to cross-contaminate your soap mixture with your dinner. Anyway, I soldiered on (I think I must have rinsed the spoon before I’d put it down, because at least there were no blobs of onion or chickpea to be found in the soap, just the flecks of non-stick pan coating as I covered earlier) and continued with the brew.

That soap came out all mushy and weird too. As it was setting, it started to resemble milk that has gone off, all lumpy and uneven. So I’ve melted it down and re-set it. We’ll see how it comes out.

It’s all very disappointing because my big trip to England is coming up in less than a fortnight*, and I’d been planning to give everyone little home-made soaps. I was going to go to David Jones and pick up loads of darling little ribbons and bits of tissue paper to wrap the soaps in. (I go MAD for David Jones gift wrap).

Still, Rome wasn’t built in a day. I seem to remember some spectacular horrors that came out of the oven back in the days I was teaching myself baking, with youthful fervour. And now look at me, I am Queen of the Banana Muffin! I haven’t given up on my dream of leaving the Stationery Cabinet and starting my own business making soaps and cosmetics. I just have to get over the minor hurdle of being hopeless at it.

*That's right! I'm leaving in LESS THAN A FORTNIGHT! Hurrah!

Friday, 15 May 2009

Wrong in the Tooth

I would like to take a moment to give Nurofen a free promotion.

Thank you, Nurofen, for being with me at 2:00 am this morning when I woke up in agony from my inflamed gum. You gently soothed the throbbing in my ear, blunted the razors down my throat, and paused the war that was raging between my wisdom tooth and the fleshy pink gum that is trying to swallow it. Nurofen, you are a true friend and I appreciate you.

And thank you person who invented antibiotics! Thank you kindly!

Tuesday, 21 April 2009


I've been so slack about updating this blog lately. It's not that I haven't had anything to write - (au contraire, only this Sunday I had one of the best nights ever at a local Sydney pub, where I got to play along on my violin for a few songs. It was fantastic, and I made a mental note, through the alcoholic haze, to write a ravey blog entry, only I never did) - it's just that, I am SO EXCITED (did I mention this?) about my impending trip to the northern hemisphere that all available internet time is spent researching hotels and sightseeing possibilities. *

I'm going to England, but also to Krakow, Poland for four days, with my parents. It's going to be so good! I hope so, anyway, because I volunteered to organise the Poland trip, and I don't want to embarrass myself by organising a flop. I should be ok, though. Two years of booking travel for a cranky Sri Lankan boss should stand me in good stead.

And may I just say, the exchange rate from Aussie dollars to pounds is positively exquisite and I MUST get around to changing some money before it goes back. This is why I can't keep updating this blog regularly. I have bigger fish to fry, you know?

*Sorry about the grammar lapse. I realise that, ideally, sentences should be shorter than a Russian bread line.

Thursday, 9 April 2009


It's finally Easter! And I have survived two days of intensive boredom - sorry, 'training' - at work. The sessions were for the sales people, but my misguided boss is under the impression that I am always keen to attend these things and expand my horizons, or some such thing. He's kind of sweet in his own way and so I hate to disillusion him. It's like telling children there's no Santa (except that there is, children). The two days consisted of me and another girl who was trapped there texting each other to coordinate strategically timed bouts of going AWOL, and giggling every time someone talked about 'penetration'. Yup, it was that fun.

On Wednesday night my evening was also imposed upon by work. Since the interstate team was all in Sydney for this thing, we had to have dinner together. It wasn't so bad really; I kind of enjoyed it. The best bit was when I discovered that one of the new girls on the team was a trained ballet dancer. I got as excited as my mother does when she finds out someone can play the violin. Actually I don't think she wanted to talk about it much, but after a day that was boring as buggery* I was damn well not going to let it go - I mean, it was the most interesting thing that I'd heard all day, though that would not be difficult, so I made her talk ballet for a few minutes. I probably shouldn't have, really. The question on the tip of my mind, if not my tongue, was "Don't you hate being a crappy sales person after having been trained as a ballet dancer?" but I didn't ask it because the answer quite probably is "yes", and I would have felt like a scumbag. I do genuinely want to know, though, because all our sales people seem to love what they do, and I can't imagine why. I must be missing something.

The other thing I did over the past few days while I was being assaulted by PowerPoint was daydream about going home to the ancestral seat and make shopping lists for when I got there. I still maintained that I was only in the daydreaming phase of planning the trip. Only, last night when I got home from ballet, the man opened up Singapore Airlines' website to show me the sale they're having, and after a couple of hours playing around with different dates...I've booked my fare back home!

I AM SO EXCITED. <-- Worth caps lock. Seriously. So, so excited. Some adults never experience that rush like when you're a child on Christmas Eve, but I'm lucky enough to know pure excitement. I'm bouncing off walls!

*Is buggery boring? Hell, I don't know, probably not,I'm just making this crap up as I go along.

Friday, 3 April 2009

The Birthday Cake

Wednesday was The Man’s birthday. I always get a kick out of the fact that he was born on April Fool’s Day. I’m sure there are some excellent witticisms to be had out of that. So far they have eluded me. But one day I’ll come out with a real zinger, I can sense it.

The Man hates his birthday, as he says he hates being the centre of attention. Come to think of it, I actually met him on his birthday. Or maybe it was a couple of days after. It was his birthday dinner, anyway. He didn’t seem to mind too much then, but now I know him well I can imagine what was really going through his mind. Funny to think of a time when I didn’t know The Man from Adam.

So, The Man hates his birthday and having attention lavished on him, but I love his birthday, and lavishing attention on him. (See how compatible we are?). So I had been looking forward to it for days! I was busy on Tuesday and couldn’t make his cake then, so on Monday I did what I could, mixing the dry ingredients and beating together the butter and sugar. Then on Wednesday I rushed home from work – I literally ran part the way from the bus stop – added the eggs to the butter, mixed everything together, realised I didn’t have enough cherries but used what I had anyway, threw in a bit of extra milk to compensate for the lack of cherry pie filling, threw it all in the oven, got changed like a streak of lightning, then was all “Ahh, how relaxed I am. Shall we have a drop of champagne before we go out to the restaurant?” I had to do that because The Man hates it when I go overboard in the kitchen, and he’d tried to talk me out of making the cake on the grounds that I would make us all late. I was very proud of how quickly I made that cake, let me tell you.

After that, we (him, me and his nephew) went for dinner at a lovely Thai restaurant we like to frequent at one of the eastern beach suburbs. It was sweet the way he laid out all his presents on the table to open!

When we got back, I hastily threw together some icing, then assembled the cake. One of the cakes had broken on the way out of the pan, and believe me when I tell you the finished product looked something monstrous. But we all felt sick afterwards, so it was a success all in all.

Monday, 30 March 2009

The Christmas Present

The band and I played again at the pub on Sunday night. This time I did three songs instead of two, so I feel good that progress was made! The guitarist shamelessly introduced us as an ‘up and coming Sydney band’, and I got a free soda water and lemon afterwards, so it must be true! It’s only a matter of time before people start giving me free drugs.

The Man came last night as well, and was official photographer. I have been spending loads of time with him lately, after our bumpy two or three weeks recently. I think I am slowly coming back from nervous breakdown territory – I am calmer at work today too, so it’s all good. I really had an awful few weeks recently. A few times I found myself wishing I could just stop breathing and quietly die. Melodramatic, I know. It was like suddenly being sixteen again! Talk about shock to the system! But I am back to being me again, with my uneventful but satisfying life. All I ask is a resident male to cook for. Is that too much?

Having said that, maybe my standards are higher than I think. Other Man (you know I’m talking about him) is in Phuket at the moment being a complete sleaze. I still get a bit panicky when I think of how he might have given me AIDS or something almost as bad. No, I still haven’t had myself tested for STDs. I’m too scared. It’s not a health issue, because I feel fine and undiseased, and until I decide to have sex with someone else, it’s not a moral issue either. (Unless I get raped, but I think rapists can take their chances). But I was thinking about it again this weekend, because a friend of mine has two HIV positive guys in his (admittedly enormous) circle of friends. I can’t imagine how frightening an HIV + diagnosis would be. I don’t know how this friend of mine manages to be so generous with his sexual activity. It’s weird how people know STDs are out there, but it doesn’t put them off indiscriminately sleeping around. You’d think his two HIV POSITIVE FRIENDS would be a wake-up call. Does he think he’s immune for some reason? Does he think straight people have never caught AIDS before?

Anyway, in honour of my continuing fear that I might have diseased sexual organs, I’m going to round up today’s post with one of the greatest hits of Other Man and my late relationship! Cue drum roll and trumpet fanfare…this story is called:

The Christmas Present

I was feeling sort of weird about the whole obligatory gift giving thing around November/December/January – we both had birthdays, and of course there was Christmas. I was stressed enough with getting everyone else presents that I was supposed to, let alone worrying about feeling awkward about getting something for somebody I’d only just started going out with. The Man has always said how he gave up on extravagant Christmas spending long ago, and he’d hate someone to go through stress on his behalf, and end up spending a load of money on something he didn’t want anyway. So I said to Other Man, how about we don’t worry about presents for each other? Reasoning that men aren’t into it anyway, and think it’s a chore they have to do to please women, so surely he’d be relieved. I would have been so happy if I could have written off that worry – I was having a hard time, organising a trip to Melbourne and gifts, sending stuff to my family, moving house, and a lot of emotional stress. The last thing I wanted was the worry of what to get a guy I had just started dating, and worrying about the protocols of how much to spend.

And I really don’t think he was at all interested in the gift exchange thing, but he refused to let it go, because he has this idea that you HAVE to buy presents for your girlfriend because it’s the DONE THING, and God forbid we should break the rules. So we agreed we’d get something for each other in January, when the stress of Christmas was all over. Every time he mentioned it, I’d say, “Really, I’m not bothered. I don’t want anything.” And then, not to be too difficult and a pain, I’d end up saying he could get me some orange blossom water. Kind of ridiculously cheap, but I wanted it for cosmetics making, and couldn’t for the life of me find anything. I thought, if he really wanted to get me something I wanted, orange blossom water would show thought rather than extravagant spending, and would be very useful. On another occasion, I also suggested a sugar thermometer – again, something I really wanted, and not expensive. The last thing I wanted was for him to think I was greedy for expensive gifts, in case he hadn’t already got the message when I tried to talk him out of any gifts at all. I don’t know why. Guess I have low self-esteem somewhere deep inside and need to be thought of as low maintenance.

This story has foreshadowing…turns out I should not have mentioned Chanel! Big mistake!

So, it turns out my groundwork was pointless. Apparently, men don’t buy girlfriends orange blossom water and sugar thermometers, according to ‘Men’s Health’ or whatever Other Man’s relationship Bible is. Even if girlfriends want orange blossom water and sugar thermometers. Apparently, men buy their girlfriends perfume. He brought up the subject of presents yet again, and said he’d decided to get me some perfume. My heart sank because even though I didn’t completely despise him (yet) I’d begun to notice his sense of taste might be described as ‘crass’ by the unkinder observer. Perfume is a very personal thing and there’s no way I’m going to wear some foul stinky stuff, to appease anyone. So I told him I only wear Chanel, which is true. I thought of immediately saying something along the lines of “But it’s so expensive, please don’t buy me that” but I find the money talk a bit vulgar, and anyway, I’d gone on and on enough about how we maybe shouldn’t bother with presents, I didn’t want anything, just get me something really small and token, etc, so I thought any more would be going overboard and start to be embarrassing. And possibly sound like I was protesting too much, and was really testing him. So I left the perfume issue at that, and reiterated that I’d love some orange blossom water or a sugar thermometer. Seriously. Orange blossom water or a sugar thermometer. Have you got that, readers? Have I not said it enough times?

One day in January the end of the working day rolled round, and Other Man asked me if I’d walk with him to his car. On the way, he told me he’d been to the shopping centre that lunchtime and got me something. He told me he’d gone to the perfume counter at Myer’s, and the perfume was so expensive, he thought it was too much. Well he’d thought about getting it for me, but it would have set a precedent, wouldn’t it? Then I’d expect something like that every time. Something really expensive. He could afford it of course, but he felt it would be too much. So he got me something cheaper – hope I didn’t mind. He went on and on like this for a while, meanwhile, me thinking “Wow, how crass – he could have just ignored the perfume thing. I mean, it’s not like I’ve been pressuring him for it! But I’m sure he doesn’t mean to be tactless. It’s just his way. But I really hope he shuts up about it now.” He asked me if I’d like him to go home and wrap what it was that he had bought me, or should I just go to the car with him and he’d give it to me now? It’s kind of hard to be graceful when somebody has just gone to great lengths to tell you you’re not worth something, but I tried, and smiled and told him no, he didn’t need to wrap it and I’d come down to the car.

We got to the lifts to the car park. And still he went on about it. “I don’t want to set a precedent,” he kept saying. (Which is interesting, because if we were still together for next Christmas, and the Christmas after, in that case I’d be a long-term girlfriend, and men who by their own boasting ‘earn a shitload of money’ generally don’t mind buying expensive perfumes for long partners, at least you’d think.) With every repetition I felt more and more humiliated, as if I was being slapped down for being a grasping, greedy bitch. Funny when I’d pushed to not have a present at all, then asked for something cheap, and kept telling him a thought would count and all that. Clearly, grasping for expensive gifts is Something Girlfriends Do (from his relationship Bible at again?), and no matter that the whole time we’d been together, I’d told him I didn’t want to go to expensive restaurants (true), paid at least half the time whenever we went anywhere, never complained about boring evenings, given him little things to show him I was thinking about him (ie baking samples from whenever I baked) – none of this mattered.

By the way, this was in the same week that he had told me he’d won several hundred dollars in a sports bet, and had sent some of it to Thai Hooker to help her out with her child. He had plenty of spending money and wasn’t averse to giving it to women, just not to me. I had hoped, by being low maintenance, I’d never have to find out how little he was willing to spend on me. Oh vain hope!

As he blathered on, I wondered why he hadn’t just written me a cheque for whatever he was prepared to spend, since money was so obviously an issue here. I’ve never before received a present that was so blatantly about exchange of wealth. I kept thinking "Please stop saying it. I don't want to start shouting at you and make myself look even worse. Just let me keep it together and save face until I can be alone."

In case you’re wondering, it turned out he had bought me a very nice cookery book. He told me he thought that was much more suitable, not costing too much or too little. I don’t know how much it actually cost because he didn’t give me the receipt. (You've got to hand it to him – he has class!) I took it home – not wrapped, of course – and thought I’d never use it. Just looking at it made me feel sick and humiliated. I thought I’d give it to charity as soon as we broke up.

Nearly three months on, I haven’t given it away, and I do use it. It’s a bloody good book, and useful for something. Unlike some men I know.

So there you are, a story that shows that I am perhaps over-sensitive, and Other Man is both tight-fisted and has no tact or social skills at all! And there are plenty more stories where that came from!