Friday, December 30, 2005

X in the City - Anyone for rabbit?

Christmas began with tears this year. Not mine for once (though a cocktail induced hangover nearly pushed me to the limit). No, the tears poured from the eyes of my little sister. Her present had been eaten – twitching nose and all.

It started well. She’d received a pair of darling little bundles of fluff as a Christmas Eve surprise and after hours of love and affection, Chocolate and Marshmallow were put safely back in their cage. Later, after returning from the Christmas pub gathering, we discovered a missing Marshmallow and a very guilty looking German shepherd.

Rabbit murder aside, the day progressed with the usual mix of Aussie cheer and I’m happy to report that the essential festive factors were present:

1. Insufficient wrapping paper to cover that last emergency gift.
2. Sexy underwear that surely won’t fit (Mum, I wish my bum was THAT small!)
3. A vow to fit into those tiny sexy knickers before New Years Eve.
4. Flies as thick as whipped cream (don’t open your mouth too wide!)
5. A token English visitor complaining about the flies.
6. Echoes of “shut the door – you’ll let the flies in!!”
7. An overworked Mum.
8. The magician-like relative who disappears every time there’s cleaning to be done.
9. The niece who wants Grandad to play with their new toys – again, and again…
10. The Grandad who consequently seeks refuge in the veggie patch (surely she won’t find him THERE?!
11. Tipsy Aunties.
12. Far too much food.
13. An expanding waistline.

How was yours?

When it comes to an Australian Christmas, things are done to the extreme. I’d almost forgotten the dramas involved with inviting the city dwellers to our family farm for a weekend of constant barbecues and fine wine. My mother is the all-nurturing; ‘get out of my kitchen’ type of woman. No belly is too big to feed and damn it, “I’m gonna make it ALL from scratch!” She slaves away for weeks baking, preparing fresh vegetables and barley moving an inch from the kitchen.

And for what I ask? The ravenous hoards guzzle the feast before it even hits the table. I for one, am guilty. In an attempt to assist the chef, I found myself diverted from the sink, towards the food-laden plates. Does anyone else eat more than their stomach can hold simply by taste testing?

Mum tends to cater for all at Christmas time – in honour of our British heritage; we have both a roast lunch and a fresh cold spread. She’d give the finest buffet master a run for their money. They kill their own beasts on the farm so the meat was fresh and never-ending. Our three freezers overflow with chopped carcasses and the barbecue barely had time to catch its smoky breath. I didn’t touch the char-grilled flesh but the carnivores of the group tell me it was top notch.

A word of warning however, if you don’t want you sexuality questioned, when complimenting the chef on his fine Aussie steak, do not let the word “gorgeous” leave your mouth. That is, unless you want your sexuality questioned. As my sister snakily informed my London boy, “A steak can’t be gorgeous… it’s bloody great!”

And indeed it was, the highs, the lows, the sun, the smiles and the marathon family photo session. Even the never-ending mountain of dirty dishes was worth the trauma. Christmas with the family has never been so enjoyable. For the first time in 14 years we were all there, every mad one of us.. I knew I came back from England for a reason.

Next year we’ll just order take-out and bulk buy paper plates.

And the latest on my grieving sister… she developed an allergy to the remaining bunny and is bed-ridden with asthma and angry red hives.

Next year we’ll get her a gold fish.

Living next door to Crowe!

G’day mates!

Within one week walking the Australian soil I have managed to catch a dose of hay-fever, burn myself to a crisp, scoff oysters Kilpatrick, fight dizziness in a revolving restaurant, ride on the world’s steepest train, tentatively pat a stinky koala, and observe Russell Crowe’s sunbaking techniques.

Yes, it’s all happening ‘Down Under’ – wish you were here to sunburn with me.

The koala encounters, sun scares and Sydney Harbour cruises are all part of travelling with a British Boyfriend. As are the joys of stubby holder hunting and countless mammoth ‘all you can eat’ breakfast buffets. Sharing a hotel however, with the Gladiator himself was not something we’d expected. I guess it’s all part of the Palazzo Versace Hotel dream. To be honest, I wouldn’t have recognised him if a gossiping cabbie hadn’t informed me he was staying at our hotel. The man is huge. Forget toned, bulging arms and ripples muscles; flab has replaced the brawn… and his stubble is fast approaching forest status. Obviously his days as a wannabe rock star are taking their toll on his tum.

Luckily for all involved, I failed to witness the launch of any mobile phones or other dangerous implements. Personally, I was disappointed – a Russell Crowe induced food fight in the middle of the stunning Versace buffet would have been classic. Caramelised bananas would have made the perfect soggy missiles.

If you ever get the chance to visit the Versace Hotel on the Gold Coast – do it. A word of warning though; storm a bank or cash in on your Grandpa’s inheritance first… the place is costly. Worth every cent, according to my better half with the credit card. Why use an ordinary shower cap when you can use a Versace version?!It goes without saying; the maids’ trolleys were severely depleted in our devious kleptomaniac souvenir runs. One can never have too many Versace shampoo and conditioners.

The award for the ‘memory of the trip’ goes to- a surprise marshmallow bath with the lot. Think hot chocolate fondue, strawberries and marshmallows. Bubbles galore, a spa big enough to drown in (and I damn well nearly did… I blame the champas!) and a bathroom full of candles. I regret to report that the champagne was also responsible for a lack of ‘lovin’. Let’s just say, after emptying the bath, the romantic Casanova returned to the bedroom to find his maiden zonked out on the bed.

We are now in Adelaide, adjusting to the confusing sight of Santa in the baking sun, icy decorations in the heat of summer and flies in every orifice! Nannas have been visited, BBQs attended, dreadlocks admired and vegemite consumed.

Tomorrow it’s farm time… bring on the milky udders, manure covered quad bikes and wilting Christmas trees. I’m informed that there are 50 bonbons to be hand made and 2,500 bovines to be milked. I think I miss London already…

Have a great and snowy Christmas Londoners… I’ll report next from the cow paddock. Bridget Jones eat your British heart out!

We have lift off!

"Are we there yet?"

These are the dreaded words that will ring in my ears from the very moment we board the plane, to the moment we stagger off. Yes, all 25 hours of tomorrow's flight to Australia.I won't be the one asking the questions; I've been there, done that and know that no amount of crying, whingeing or sleeping will make the flight pass by faster. I know full well that the novelty of cute pre-packaged airplane food wears off after the second meal, that the seemingly never-ending movie channels do grow boring and that downing bucket-loads of the free mini wine bottles will only end in tears when you can't get to the loo in time.

Unfortunately, my boyfriend isn't aware of the joys of a long haul flight... and it will be his voice piping out over the heads of our grumpy, cramped neighbours.If I was the praying type, I'd be asking for one thing... don't put any screaming babies in my cabin and PLEASE let me remember my passport when I arise at the ungodly hour of 5.00am. Please let the taxi arrive on time, please don't let the Heathrow Express break down and I beg you; make mine a window seat!

My biggest worry is the distinct possibility of my bag blowing the weight restriction-scale. Do you know how long it took to try on every item of clothing I own, wail about tightening waistbands and crying over the shoes I have to leave behind? It's official; I hate packing.

If I do make it through the icy jaws of steel that greet me at the check-in, I then have to face the evil temptation of Tax Free shopping. My plan is simple; bypass the pre-Christmas sales and head straight for the boarding gate. I will then use all my powers of womanly persuasion to convince the man on duty to let me climb the stair to first class. Gawd help me if it's a woman.

Yes, it's a tough life for the economy class. I may be heading home to the family farm but I think the cattle-yard experience on the way over will serve me justice.

Despite it all, the thought of the 25 hour barrage of "I'm bored", "My legs hurt", "Want to swap dinners?" and "Can I have your peanuts" can't even dampen my excitement now. I'm off to the sandy white shores of Australia and the open arms of my family. 3 years of homesickness and sun-deprivation is finally coming to an end.

The next time you hear from me I'll be swanning about the Versace hotel in an oversized dressing gown. The champagne in my hand will shake from the pure exhilaration of my very own 'Pretty Woman' moment. I'm sure you shouldn't jump on a Versace bed but I've always been one to break the glitterati rules. I'm gonna bounce those gold edged sheets like they've never been bounced before!

Bring on the massages, bring on the drawling Aussie locals, the pubs, the beer, the outdoor BBQs and the sand between my toes. I may be a high maintenance madam from the city now - but the farm girl within will be released this Christmas.

I'll milk a cow or 2,500, ride a quad bike like a woman unleashed and get covered with the inevitable wave of cow manure. Watch this space for all the gory, 'udderly' bovine details.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

We have lift off!!

"Are we there yet?"

These are the dreaded words that will ring in my ears from the very moment we board the plane, to the moment we stagger off. Yes, all 25 hours of tomorrow's flight to Australia.

I won't be the one asking the questions; I've been there, done that and know that no amount of crying, whingeing or sleeping will make the flight pass by faster. I know full well that the novelty of cute pre-packaged airplane food wears off after the second meal, that the seemingly never-ending movie channels do grow boring and that downing bucket-loads of the free mini wine bottles will only end in tears when you can't get to the loo in time.

Unfortunately, my boyfriend isn't aware of the joys of a long haul flight... and it will be his voice piping out over the heads of our grumpy, cramped neighbours.

If I was the praying type, I'd be asking for one thing... don't put any screaming babies in my cabin and PLEASE let me remember my passport when I arise at the ungodly hour of 5.00am. Please let the taxi arrive on time, please don't let the Heathrow Express break down and I beg you; make mine a window seat!

My biggest worry is the distinct possibility of my bag blowing the weight restriction-scale. Do you know how long it took to try on every item of clothing I own, wail about tightening waistbands and crying over the shoes I have to leave behind? It's official; I hate packing.

If I do make it through the icy jaws of steel that greet me at the check-in, I then have to face the evil temptation of Tax Free shopping. My plan is simple; bypass the pre-Christmas sales and head straight for the boarding gate. I will then use all my powers of womanly persuasion to convince the man on duty to let me climb the stair to first class. Gawd help me if it's a woman.

Yes, it's a tough life for the economy class. I may be heading home to the family farm but I think the cattle-yard experience on the way over will serve me justice.

Despite it all, the thought of the 25 hour barrage of "I'm bored", "My legs hurt", "Want to swap dinners?" and "Can I have your peanuts" can't even dampen my excitement now. I'm off to the sandy white shores of Australia and the open arms of my family. 3 years of homesickness and sun-deprivation is finally coming to an end.

The next time you hear from me I'll be swanning about the Versace hotel in an oversized dressing gown. The champagne in my hand will shake from the pure exhilaration of my very own 'Pretty Woman' moment. I'm sure you shouldn't jump on a Versace bed but I've always been one to break the glitterati rules. I'm gonna bounce those gold edged sheets like they've never been bounced before!

Bring on the massages, bring on the drawling Aussie locals, the pubs, the beer, the outdoor BBQs and the sand between my toes. I may be a high maintenance madam from the city now - but the farm girl within will be released this Christmas.
I'll milk a cow or 2,500, ride a quad bike like a woman unleashed and get covered with the inevitable wave of cow manure. Watch this space for all the gory, 'udderly' bovine details.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Pre-Aussie slimming dramas - Chinese style.


Something that tastes this bad surely can't be good for you...

As I sit here typing away in a distinct Carrie Bradshaw fashion, I can't help but wonder about my dwindling sanity levels. It all comes down to my choice of drink... I'm not delicately sipping from a sugar-rimmed cocktail. I'm not even gulping a glass of water. No, I am forcing dank, dark green liquid down my fragile throat. You guessed it, all in the name of ‘healthy’ weight loss.

The tea smouldering away in my mug is Chinese slimming tea. An image of a slim woman stares up at me from the bright orange packaging. Oh, to be a cartoon character… who needs airbrushing when you call your illustrator God?

Before you cry “fool”, you need to know that I didn't buy the tea myself. It was a gift from a generous (or downright vindictive) friend. Either she's having a laugh or was blessed with abnormal taste buds.

Forget green tea my fellow Londonites - it's sooo yesterday.
You know what, to hell with this - I'm moving into tomorrow - and FAST! But first I need to visit the 'facilities'. Whoa! It may not be shifting cellulite but this tea sure moves something! Hold that thought.

Right, I'm back... where was I? Oh yes...

You may query the reason for my self-induced torture. Well, my latest fatal flaw involves believing every health tip I read and in this advice suckling society there's no shortage of reading material. I've become a vitamin popping, leaf eating, seed gobbling junkie. Does it work? Maybe... I don't stick with many miracle solutions long enough to find out. Honestly, my shoe collection is suffering! I'm spending my hard earned shrapnel on seaweed.

It doesn't take a genius to work out why my fixation outer beauty has suddenly escalated far beyond Everest; I am heading home to Australia in one week's time. I have seven measly days to trim down, tan up and prepare myself for the land of bikinis and beautiful bronzed siblings.

The situation has become so desperate that I even spent a large chunk of Sunday in the gym. THAT, my dear friends, is sacrilegious behaviour. I don't 'do' the gym and the gym certainly doesn't do me. The running machines jar my poor, not so little bosom, the sight of taught fitness freaks sends me into little lady paranoia and the personal trainers scare the living hell out of me. People who enjoy causing pain to innocent young cake lovers should be ashamed of themselves. Sure, they contribute to the beauty of our 'surroundings' but even security guards show more compassion than these ogres.

Anyway, to cut a long, sweat-filled saga short, I loved it.
I'll eat my words and not my cake... the gym and I have finally made peace. Sure, it may be just the novelty of having something new to moan about, but my post gym palpitations felt good. In fact, they felt great.

I may not yet look the part, but six weeks of sun and surf in the Land Down Under and I'll be the one laughing.


Enjoy your pale Christmas guys. I'd send you a hideously patronising postcard but somehow, I don't think there'll be time. Relaxation is a time consuming business you know.