home alone

I woke up this morning alone in the house, an unusual experience for me on a Saturday. Because we both travel quite a bit, I’m used to having the house to myself, but not for a whole weekend.

It brought me back to my twenties, when I mostly lived in country villages quite a distance from friends – a couple of hours by car at least. If I wasn’t actually driving to visit some of them, it was not unusual for me to go home from work on Friday and not speak to another soul until Monday morning, apart from the odd shop assistant. Some Saturdays, the weekend stretched out in front of me like an empty desert, and I would divide the time into manageable two-hour chunks and then try to fill them all.

So as I lay in bed this morning, I was acutely aware that a weekend to myself is only fun because it is rare.  Twenty years ago the very same set of circumstances weekend after weekend were soul-destroying at times.

This morning it was different. I luxuriated in a bed all to myself, and a full day to do whatever I wish.  I contemplated a treatment for my hair, and a spot of shopping for bamboo for the garden. I almost certainly will spend some time tidying my wardrobe (I feel so Zen when it’s all done). A bit of quiet time is always good for me, so a Saturday night in with home-made pizza, a decent bottle of wine and a few movies is heaven to look forward to.

But the best part is that I’ll be back with my wonderful O on Sunday night, watching online TV in bed, bickering about chocolate crumbs, and keeping my feet warm in a better way than pink bedsocks. That will be the highlight of my weekend.

new beginnings

The byline of my food blog is “what to eat when your world revolves around food”.

So I find it ironic that I am currently contemplating a new, and less fun, dilemma: what to do when your world revolves around work.

More than ten years ago I did little else but work. Moving back to Ireland briefly, I set my sister Annette off on regular rants about the fact that she could not get me out for a quick drink in our local pub because I was routinely too tired to get off the sofa. I had no life. It took quitting my job and a couple of years travelling to get some perspective on life. I continued wearing a bindi when I came home, to remind me never to get sucked into the rat race again.

Now, twelve years later, the main difference is that I have a better shoe collection than I did back in Malahide (when I was the owner of no more than three pairs of shoes, none of which were appropriate for anything fun). I still wear a bindi every day. But somehow, over the winter, I lost my personal life and my perspective.

OK, it was a tough summer and autumn, and perhaps I relaxed into the “simplicity” of focusing on work. After all, what we do is important, right? Over winter I stopped calling friends, going to the cinema, going for walks along the beach… everything really. I literally woke up every morning thinking about work, and Red Cross was the last thing on my mind before I went to sleep. I stopped blogging because I literally had nothing to say.

One evening over dinner with a friend (and workmate) I realised that I was little better off – and perhaps significantly worse off – than my Blugas days. I was shocked. How could an otherwise intelligent woman fail to learn from her very own experiences? How could I take such a backward step?

Well, as they say, recognition is the first step. I tried to remember all the things I used to do outside work, and couldn’t think of a damn thing. Then, we went to the cinema for the first time in ages. A week-old Arts and Culture pullout from Saturday’s Age reminded me that I had not seen any live theatre, dance or music for ages. I’d missed God of Carnage at the Melbourne Theatre Company, and the Dali exhibition at the National Gallery. I was horrified, and galvanised into action.

Now, my aim is to remember and act upon one enjoyable thing to do every week. So far I’m doing OK. A gig by comedian Daniel Kitson, going out for dumplings with mates and a Pinot Week wine tasting and gala dinner featured this week alone.

I am back on the mailing list for the MTC and a couple of ballets are booked for the run-up to Christmas. The sun is shining and walks on the beach are back on the agenda. We fly to Fiji in three weeks for an idyllic ten days on a tropical atoll.

I even went to see a medium – all things are possible!

And now I am back to blogging too.

very lazy day

Get up without being jolted into consciousness by an alarm clock.

Have a leisurely coffee with Orlando.

Drive fifteen minutes on empty roads (note to northern hemispherieans: summer holidays) to one of the best day spas in Australia, right in the city centre.

Sip on a cup of posh green tea with Lee whilst filling in obligatory paperwork.

Undergo serious, unsophisticated, painful remedial massage that almost makes you cry – but it was what I ordered.

For the record, Lee’s massage was the best she ever had…

Change into swimsuit and comfy towelling robe.

Pick lounger by the pool and browse room service menu.

Order lunch and glass of wine.

Lie back and gossip some more.

Watch nice staff member set out silver service lunch table and serve food.

Lunch on linguini marinara and a nice glass of local red.

Go back to lounger and flick through paper.

Gossip some more.

Have a nice swim in the pool.

Finally get up the energy to leave and go for long power walk by the river listening to George Benson.

Get home around 7pm and have dinner served by aforementioned Wonderful Partner.

Ain’t life tough?

ready for summer

I don’t think I will ever get used to Melbourne weather, especially in spring. So far this week we have had chilly, windy, wet days where all I wanted to do was hibernate by the fire, and a beautiful, blue-skied, warm balmy early summer Sunday where the garden was a sanctuary.

Putting away the overcoat is safe enough in mid-October, but even now there are evenings where closed-in shoes and a scarf round your neck is necessary going out in the evening. We nearly died of the cold in St. Kilda Sea Baths last Saturday for Bryony’s going away drinks. A courtyard by the bay with live reggae music sounds great, but with the wind coming straight off the Antarctic into my glass of wine I was glad of my ballet pumps, dress, trousers and full-length cardigan.

So today I undertook the ritual of the Emergence Of The Summer Wardrobe. With limited space, I have to retire my winter wardrobe into a suitcase in late spring, and do the same with the floaty tops and linen trousers sometime in May. The ritual is the same every year:

  1. Remove and fold all winter-type clothing from wardrobe.
  2. Stand on step-ladder and extract space bags from suitcase, throwing them onto the bed far below.
  3. Chuck all summer clothing onto the bed for sorting.
  4. Put away all winter clothing into space bags and put into suitcase in high-up cupboard.
  5. Stand in underwear sifting through summer clothes, trying things on to figure out if you are in “fat” or “skinny” summer wardrobe this year (for the record, I am in “fat” wardrobe for 2008-09 season).
  6. Happily move the box of lunghis to the front of the wardrobe, and move the box of full-length cardigans and wooly wraps to the back.
  7. Take the box of lunghis down again, and sort them by colour.
  8. Throw away half your foundation garments because they no longer fit.
  9. Stand in horror at the amount of ironing you now have to do.
  10. Spend leisurely half-hour sorting out shelves and re-discovering floaty tops purchased at end of last season.
  11. Sigh heavily and plug in iron.
  12. Plough on through until the last of the linen is crisp, fresh and hanging invitingly in wardrobe.

The other fun part of this ritual is the Emergence Of The Summer Shoes. Spangly flip-flops, my favourite as you know, of every colour. Silver slingbacks that one cannot walk far in, but which look Fabulous. Peep-toes. Impossibly high strappy black sandals (oh how I have missed you). I remove them from their Pink Lily See-Through Boxes, stroke them lovingly, and stack them carefully on the wardrobe floor with the others. Summer is here. I am ready.

kiva.com

Looking to do something a bit more interactive than simply donating to charity? I found Kiva.com, the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website, and it’s a great idea.

Browse through lists of people in the developing world who are looking for loans to set up in business. Loan as little as $25 and get paid back as their business grows.

With a default rate of 1.7% on over US$12 million of loans, it is a low risk way of helping people and you get your money back!

 

www.kiva.com

dry suit diving

So, having decided to go to Ireland in July to coincide with Ariane and Igor’s wedding, I got it into my head that I would dive in the Atlantic. However being a fair-weather diver I got paranoid about the cold water, and decided to get certified for dry suit diving so I could stay toasty warm.

A not-so-local dive shop (they were the only ones who returned my inquiries) did the honours.  Sara, a wonderful woman from Preston, who moved to Aus about eighteen years ago but you wouldn’t know it from the strong accent, signed me up and I did the theory and pool dive on a chilly June Saturday afternoon. It really works – you actually stay dry underwater! Very odd but great when you get out and you are all dry and warm.
 
The following weekend it was all systems go for an open water dive off Mornington Pier. It was a seriously early start – getting up at 5.30am to get organised and drive the two hours or so to Mornington on the far east side of the bay. I was exhausted before I got there.
 
Straight down to business, we changed in the car park and did a giant leap off the pier with plenty of onlookers. Water temperature was 11C and you could really feel it, but the initial shock wore off and it really was not that bad. Sadly then we had to hang around for about half an hour in said cold water, waiting until the instructor had done a buoyancy check with each person. With all that inactivity I was really beginning to feel chilly, even with four layers of thermal clothes on under the dry suit.
 
Finally we were on our way, and paddled under the pier before descending. I was buddied with Charles, a lovely guy with a bit more dive experience than me, but we were all new to dry suits. My rented mask kept leaking water, and I could not get my buoyancy right. Normally I float along like a little fishy, but not today. It really is a different experience in a dry suit.
 
Then, a hundred things happened at once. Already agitated from the lack of buoyancy control and leaking mask, I somehow knocked the regulator from my mouth. Eight metres underwater is no place to lose your air supply. There was no real danger: I had two air supplies of my own and my buddy was inches away with a spare too. I was without air for less than ten seconds. 
 
However once I got my regulator back, I naturally started gulping air gratefully. This triggered off an uncontrolled ascent, and I was rescued from my upwards spiral by Buddy Charles grabbing at my leg, pulling me down and trying to calm me by pointing at some interesting fish passing by. Too late. I was spooked. Seconds later my mask completely filled up so then I was blind and spooked. Thrashing in the water, I had to trust that my buddy could sort me out. I gripped him with both hands, leaving no chance for me to fix my mask. I could feel the instructor coming to help, and thought they might be bringing me to the surface. But in a few moments they calmed me, enabled to me to clear my mask, and got me back on track.
 
I finished the dive no problem, but it was on the surface that I think it all hit home. We had to do some more assessments before getting out of the water, and by then I was tired, my hands were so cold I literally could not feel them, and I was supposed to get my breathing control device and tank off and back on again. I thought I was sinking: the instructor could not calm me down this time and I left the water.
 
Dejected, I decided that I could not do the second dive. I had failed my open water assessment. Hours later back at the shop, Sara convinced me that I could pass another day, and promised to take me out on a solo dive with her if that was what it took. So two weeks later early on a cold Wednesday morning, I found myself with a small band of people at Rye Pier, waiting to try again.
 
This time I was really nervous getting into the water. There was a serious swell, and again we had to hang around for about half an hour so that everyone did their buoyancy check. I was hyperventilating and in a panic by the time we were ready to descend. Wide-eyed, I told Sara I couldn’t do it. She disagreed. She promised to hold my hand for the whole dive if that was what it took. I looked down into the water with my snorkel on, and she asked me what was worrying me. “Everything”, I answered. Suddenly all the dangers of diving hit me at once and it seemed like a ludicrous thing to attempt. Somehow she talked me into descending. Within moments of going under, all my fears vanished and I swam away like the little fishy I usually am.

We saw great marine life on the dive: the usual five-legged starfish and the indigenous eleven-legged ones, plus another “biscuit” starfish that looked like a pentagonal tile or biscuit in the water. We saw a funky octopus who was swimming quite peculiarly (I still think he was blind or something),  lots of nudibranches and sea cucumbers (yes they look like pieces of poo).

The eleven-legged starfish are the native ones, and their habitat is being encroached upon by the foreign five-legged starfish. We are encouraged to throw the five-legged ones in the bins if we see one.

This time around I had NASA-specification neoprene gloves, and every part of me stayed fairly warm. My buoyancy was perfect, especially on the second dive, and my confidence soared. I even got over the sea swell and did my assessments with aplomb, taking off and replacing my buoyancy control device and then my weight belt without breaking a sweat. I was back!
 
I came out of the water after the second dive elated. I had done it! I learned a new skill and faced my fears to return to my favourite place – underwater.

my new scooter

Yes, I finally bought a scooter! Not being in control of my journey to work finally took its toll, and with the loss of my Executive Parking Space with the New Job, I invested in a Bolwell Scoota, with a 125cc engine. Black, naturally. I love it!

scooter

Sadly a frazzled dad with two loud teenagers in his car knocked me off my scooter within about a week of getting it. There was barely 150km on the clock. I saw him coming and took evasive action, so when he hit me I was almost at a stop. Still, it gave me a real fright and I was really nervous on the bike for weeks after. I am fine now, very confident zipping along with my silver helmet and biker jacket. Not sure how it will be in summer (hot, I guess) but it’s a lot of fun.