For the mums

off to schoolIf my memory serves me correctly (because there are often times it doesn’t) it was 19 years ago that I took my daughter’s five year old hand and walked her into her Grade 1 classroom to start her schooling.

The night before had been fairly riotous. In a bid to quell her excitement, I had invited close family friends over for a barbeque. They arrived at 4pm, bearing sausages, gin and zero expectations of etiquette. How could they? There was an excited five year old bouncing off walls and the side of the pool, showing off her brand new uniform to the younger offspring of my friends.

As responsible parents, we poured ourselves large measures of Bombay Sapphire, frightened it with some tonic, and set about dissecting the pros and cons of private schooling and whether head lice was really an issue.

Eventually we cooked the sausages.

After they departed, I was unable to settle young Jade. She wanted to stay up to practice her reading (which was no more than using her own words to describe what was happening in the pictures of the book) and practice her singing (she opted for Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl but sensibly changed the word brown to blue so it matched her eyes).

I think I was asleep before she was.

Jade 2Now, when morning arrived, something happened that had never happened before. Never. Let me explain. You see, my daughter can sleep for Australia. When her father and I first brought her home from hospital, we fed her and changed her, and popped her into her bassinet. It was 4.30pm. At 8.30pm, I anxiously started to do five-minute checks, worried she’d stopped breathing. But she slumbered.

At 10.30pm, I wanted to wake her but her father was militant and declared you never wake a sleeping child.

At 11.30pm, I opened the scotch bottle.

At 1.30am, I passed out, as you do when you haven’t had a drink for nine months.

At 6.30am, I woke up in my own bed, my sleeping husband on one side and the dregs of a scotch bottle on the other. I lay in bed for approximately one full minute, happy in the knowledge it was a Sunday and I could sleep in.

Until…

I remembered I had a baby. In my house. That hadn’t been fed or changed since 4.30pm the day before.

And I screamed.

I ran to her bassinet, sure in the knowledge that I would find her suffocating in her own nappy or perished from lack of food.

Not at all. She was still contentedly sleeping.

Jade 1She eventually woke at 8.00am, happy and chirpy. Had a feed, had a bath, had a cuddle, and went back to sleep. Just like babies are designed to do.

This, of course, charted a course for Jade, where she became the Queen of Sleep. When she was four months old, we had a dozen friends over for Christmas drinks. Apparently the neighbours found our music (which was only Abba for God’s sake) so loud they called the local police to hush us. I politely showed the nice constable my sleeping daughter, who was in the room next to the music and sensibly said “Officer, if she can sleep, I can’t understand now the neighbours feel the music is loud”. The nice constable didn’t have an answer.

A few years later, Christmas morning was a laugh. Whilst every child in Australia was terrifying their parents at 5am with squeals about Santa and presents, Jade slept on. In frustration, I went to her room at 9am and woke her.

“Darling, it’s Christmas morning, don’t you want to see what Santa brought you?” I begged, camera at the ready.

“Mmmm,” was her muffled reply. She lifted her head, nodded at the bulging sack at the foot of her bed, rolled over and slept for another half hour.

So when it came to her first day at school, I was fully prepared to drag her out of bed by her plaits and force-feed her Weet-bix.

Instead, she wanders into my bedroom at 5.30am, fully dressed apart from her shoe laces, holding her brush for me to plait her long hair. She’d already had an attempt at breakfast and had her backpack by the front door, ready to go.

That has never happened again.

We drove to her new school and when I took her into her classroom, I instinctively knew she was in good hands. Her capable teacher, Mrs Bird, had taught Grade 1 for a hundred years and there was nothing she couldn’t soothe with a smile and a hug.

I went back home and sat at my kitchen table with a cup of tea that I’m sure went cold. The day I had been waiting for, almost dreading really, was here. My girl was growing up and I wasn’t sure if I liked it. I was sure there was nothing I could do about it but that doesn’t mean I liked it.

Like all the other new mothers, I was at the school gate an hour before I was needed. My reward was this tiny blonde creature, long plaits flying, running through the quadrangle and into my waiting arms to tell me about the “bestest day ever Mummy”.

That night, I stroked her hair as she slept, and wondered if I’d still feel the same way when she was in high school.

Jade 3Of course, within a nanosecond, she was in high school, and I was traipsing up to All Hallows’ School to again drop her off, this time for Grade 8. The plaits were replaced by a messy bun and she slung her mobile phone into her pocket, but I was still the worried mother, carving myself up inside wondering if I’d made the right decisions and armed her with the right skills to handle high school.

And then, in another nanosecond, it’s five years later and I’m sitting in the All Hallows’ graduation ceremony and high school is done. They’re off to schoolies week and university, driving their cars and kissing their boyfriends.

And I sat there and wondered where the time had gone. I remember week after week of being a single working mum and that relentless cycle of washing, ironing, making lunches and driving to her to netball, ballet, music, choir and her father’s. Of making sure we had enough money for holidays and a laptop, and eventually private school fees. Of making sure I was a sort-of-cool mum but not an over-the-top-cool mum – nothing that would embarrass her. Of thanking my workmate for covering for me while I was at sports day or home with a sick child.

In a blink, it was over. No more lunches, no more ironing uniforms, and if she needed to go somewhere, she could drive herself.

I had all this free time and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it.

So, to the mums out there who today started the school trek or continued it, I will tell you what a wise person told me many many years ago.

When it comes to parenting, the days are long but the years are short.

Make the little moments count.

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Hair crash investigations

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I’ve just returned from my hairdresser, $155 and four inches of hair lighter. The $155 I’m ok with, as this includes a colour, a toner, a treatment, a cut and a straighten.

The four inches of hair is another matter. It is a result of a hair crash.

I’ve always embraced long hair. Apart from that short period circa 1981 when I went all Diana-esque – if I couldn’t have a prince, I was sure as shit going to have a princess’s hair – it’s been long, long, long. Like do it up on your head long. Like plait it long.

And it seems that just when I’ve got it looking amazing, I do something brainless to ruin it and then spend the next year or two recouping.

Here’s what I mean.

About 1985, I landed on the brilliant idea of having a “body wave” put through my hair. Think Farrah Fawcett. Lots of lustrous fat curls all sweeping and swooning about.

I instructed my hairdresser as to my wish. Pulled out copies of TV Week to demonstrate. And I walked out of that salon with hair curled as short and tight as the old lady who calls bingo on Tuesdays in the Valley.

I’d noticed he was cutting quite a bit of my hair off. I’d noticed that the rollers he was using were worryingly small. But I had faith. Belief. What a sucker. Turns out that LJ’s Hair Salon in Coorparoo specialises in perms for the lawn bowls set and I got caught up in their pensioner enthral.

I rushed home and washed it and blew it dry and washed it again. I kept it wringing wet for the next 24 hours. But just like a pensioner in the right lane, those curls weren’t moving.

I put my head down and waited for it to grow again.

Which it must have, because when my daughter was born in 1991, there are pictures of me in unattractive hospital gowns with metres of hair all down my back.

Not much went wrong in the 1990s, mainly because I was too busy working full time, raising my girl, paying back a home loan that Paul Keating had set at 17% and getting divorced.

So I was a bit late to join the Jennifer Aniston/Rachel Green hairstyle party. I’d known about it, I’d seen the invitations, but I’d never gone along. I was determined to change that.

So I rang my hairdresser at the time. Groovy lady, ran some uber-cool salon in that antiques precinct in Woolloongabba. Comes complete with Foxtel, champers, ensuite, gay assistant and scalp massages.

I must admit I sprung my visit on her. I committed that heinous offence of ringing in the morning for an afternoon appointment. So I wasn’t surprised when she remorsefully conveyed the news that she was, in fact, already booked (doh!) but if I really wanted to come, her associate Greta could assist.

I said that would be fine.

Not realising the catastrophic mistake I’d made, I arrived for my hair cut confident in the fact that if the lovely Greta is working under the tutelage of my fabulous hairdresser, nothing can go wrong.

So Greta is chatting to me about her adorable son, I’m throwing in appreciative quips and anecdotes about my daughter, her scissors are doing their thing, blonde hair (mine) is scattered across the floor, I’m paying little or no attention – until I glance up from my magazine to see a huge chunk of my long hair fall victim to her sharp scissors. From a place on my head where I had asked for it to please stay long.

It’s pretty hard to get upset at a hairdresser when you’re sitting in a chair with plastic wrapped around you like a straight jacket, and they’re holding sharp scissors, sometimes upwards of three pairs at once.

Instead of a gentle layering around the front of my face, she’s hacked at right angles, creating this harsh stepped layering. It was awful.

I grabbed her wrist, and pleaded with her to stop. “You’re ruining my hair!” I wailed.

“But it’s the Rachel cut,” she countered.

It seems that her version of Rachel was somewhat different to mine. I think the Rachel she was referring to was on work release and lived with her tattoos and rollies in a caravan park down near Eagleby.

I wore my hair up for nine months after that one.

Around 2007, I got myself in trouble again, and this time there was no one to blame but me. My GHD straighteners were less than a year old but were put to good use most days. No more hours of blow drying, no more clumpy “snakey” hair, just a perfect sheet of blonde.

On this particular day, I shooshed a bit of hairspray on the front strands to hold them in place. I examined the end result and wasn’t totally happy as my hair wasn’t as straight as I’d prefer.

Not to worry, I thought, as I fired up my straightener and swiped its paddles over my hair. A sizzling noise, not dissimilar to pork fat being thrown onto a super hot bbq griddle, was emitted. A hideous smell not dissimilar to rancid meat being microwaved was expelled.

I’d burnt my own hair. The chemicals in the hairspray clearly weren’t too happy when the heat was applied and they took it out on my hair. How could I be so dumb!?

It ended with me at the hairdresser in tears, watching my locks fall around me as this poor fellow muttered to himself in Spanish about how silly blonde women shouldn’t be given access to things that required heat. Or electricity.

Which brings me to my recent hairdresser visit. You see, one night a few months ago, it was quite late and I was in my bathroom taking out my hair. That morning, I’d tied it in a high ponytail, looped the tail part over the elastic and then messily pinned it to create one of those chaotic-on-purpose hairstyles.

It had been a long day. I was heading overseas on holidays the following week and there was much to do at work to get things in order. I’d lurched home late, guzzled a glass of wine, reheated a plate of food, and then headed to the bathroom for a shower.

As I was taking my hair out, the elastic band got caught. The more I pulled and tugged the more my hair entwined itself around the offending elastic. Desperate for a shower and sleep, I grabbed some scissors and maleficently chopped at the elastic band.

Without a mirror.

After a glass of wine.

As I snipped, I heard a sound and remember thinking, “this can’t be good.” It wasn’t. I pulled away and in my hand was a good six inches of my hair, and no elastic in sight.

It was, of course, still caught in my hair.

My wailing brought my husband, who cut the elastic for me, after he had finished rolling on the floor in laughter. For better or worse anyone?

The next day I was at the hairdresser, having layers and layers cut all around my hair in an attempt to hide the cruelty of my home haircut, while my hairdresser and all her assistants rolled about on the floor in laughter.

Which brings me to this week, where I can proudly say that my hair has been behaving nicely and growing steadily, and the four inches I lost yesterday brings the layers of my hair closer together.

Once upon a time, I used to get my hair and nails done at the same place. Triple As for convenience in geographical location and efficiency in dialogue. I didn’t have to make separate trips and I didn’t have to give the same updates twice. They could cut, file and listen together.

Until the day dawned, about three years into this mutually festive partnership, that I was no longer thrilled with the quality of my nails. I knew I’d have to find another technician. Which women of the world will understand meant I had to find a new hairdresser as well. I could hardly waltz in there for a haircut and bypass the nail studio. I had to cut all ties (pun intended) and start again.

Here’s hoping I get to the end of this decade without another disaster. My husband has my hairdresser on speed dial, however, just in case.

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Due date

007If you were to ask me now if I could remember the exact date I was given, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. But when I was sitting in my doctor’s surgery, nine weeks pregnant, it was a date that was seared into my brain and invisibly tattooed on my skin.

The date my baby was due.

My own birthday is at the end of August and it seemed incomprehensible that I would be holding my own child in my arms when I next blew out candles.

Not for even a second did I pause to appreciate the benefits of youth and pregnancy. Probably because when you have youth, you don’t bother to appreciate it because you figure it will always be there.

But since Jade’s birth, I’ve watched friends and workmates struggle their way through gestation while in their late 30s and even early 40s. But at 25, when I was pregnant, I pranced about the place and couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.

The first time she moved, I was lying on my bed reading. I felt the movement and looked at my stomach, and thought it was a scene from Alien. I think Jade was doing yoga. It was like she stuck out her foot, which created this big lump in my stomach and then it started moving from left to right, and back again.

If I hadn’t known I was pregnant, I would have been terrified. Those Maltesers ads are lame in comparison.

When I got to about seven or eight months, I noticed these reddish-purple lines on the lower part of my stomach. I didn’t worry too much at all, because I just figured they were the indent marks from the elastic in my tracksuit pants. Tracksuit pants being the only item of clothing which was comfortable.

But even when I didn’t wear the wonderful tracksuit pants for a few days, those marks were still there. No way was I going to even consider the possibility of stretch marks, until my doctor very gently and very kindly said, “oh, and you’ve got a few tiny little stretch-y marks just here but they’re nothing, they’ll be gone in no time.”

(In actual fact, the “stretch-y” marks covered my entire stomach from hip to hip. Nice work on the doc’s part though. And as for them being gone in no time? The baby turns 22 next month but I’m sure they’ll be gone soon.)

Mmmmm.

So my due date was approaching. It was a Sunday. I remember with absolute clarity going to bed on the Saturday night fully prepared to wake at 2am in gut-wrenching labour. I even slept in my tracksuit pants to make getting ready to go to the hospital quicker and easier. (It’s why I’m tired, I’m always thinking.)

Instead I woke at 7am, walked the dog, read the paper, drank tea and pulled out some weeds. Some friends popped around to “see how I was” (I think they just wanted to see if labour hurt as much as the television says it does).

I made some lunch, we all chatted, and then watched a movie. I made sure it was a movie I’d seen before because I was convinced my upcoming labour would prevent me from seeing the end.

I even had a glass of wine, figuring that the baby would be out before its affects supposedly ruined her for life. Same way you eat chocolate on the day of your high school formal because you know the pimples won’t show until the next day, so you’re in the clear.

Instead, the movie finished, and with some big hugs, our friends left. I took the dog for another walk, moved the sprinkler, and hung out a load of washing. I even had another half-glass of wine.

Nothing.

Over the next few days, I started getting agitated. Where are you? Get the bloody hell out of there, I want to meet you! Get the bloody hell out of there so you can see your frothy princess pink room that I made for you. Get the bloody hell out of there so I can start thinking about my size 12 jeans again.

And so it started. I walked for miles every day. Our gorgeous dog was in heaven. And very tired. I cooked the hottest curries on the planet. I drove through potholes. I had crazy crazy sex. And more wine.

Nothing.

In the end, nearly 10 days later, we all gave up. The doctor confirmed what I’d already guessed. She wasn’t coming. Not today, not tomorrow, and probably not next week.

They had to go in and get her.

And that’s the date I remember. August 22, 7.09pm, when they stuck a dirty great needle in my back and took Jade out via the sunroof. Finally, I got to meet my girl.

So Kate Middleton, I know your baby is born to be Queen (yes, it’s a girl) but don’t stress. One way or another she will make her way to you and you’ll wonder what you ever worried about.

And like me, you’ll wonder what you ever did without her.

xo

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Pop psychology

dadAnyone who reckons that kids say the darndest things hasn’t had a conversation with my father.

You know that saying “dad jokes”? Those irritating, repetitive comments made by fathers globally that are marked by two distinct features. They are not funny and they become less funny the more they are repeated.

Here’s an example. You give dad a bottle of wine for his birthday and he shakes it saying, “I know, I know! It’s a book!”

He looks at the roast that mum has just pulled out of the oven, casts a glance at the kids, picks the serving plate up and says, “I’m not sure what you lot are eating for dinner, but here’s mine.”

My dad is one of those dads. He indisputably believes he is funny. He has this repertoire of jokes which he has been repeating with appalling regularity since I could understand English.

Take Christmas Day lunch. My mother painstakingly bakes this plum pudding then goes about shoving all manner of imperial coinage into its centre. The task being that as we eat, we chorus over who scored a shilling and who got a sixpence (go figure).

Not so for dad. He’s eating away, aware that nobody is paying him the slightest bit of notice, when he starts this phoney coughing routine. After a few good snorts and the satisfaction of having grabbed everyone’s attention, he makes a big production of pulling money from his mouth – except it’s a $20 note not a 20 pence coin that he’s carefully hidden in his hand.

He brought new meaning to Norman Lindsay’s “The Magic Pudding”. The wrong meaning.

It is interesting to note that as higher denominations were introduced by the government, so dad introduced them to us at the Christmas table. When the $100 note hit mainstream currency, we knew we only had to wait till Christmas to see it

We’ve also been through Bankcard, Mastercard, Visa, Platinum Amex, Diners, Medicare, Qantas Club, Fly Buys and more recently, the Seniors Card, all apparently excavated from dad’s pudding. Along the way was a DJs card, Myer card, Harvey Norman card – exactly how many credit cards does my father have?

It’s not just at Christmas. Every time we go over a speed bump in the car he hollers “oh, there go my false teeth”. Every time we drive past a cemetery he comments “people are dying to get in there”.

Once we were driving down a street like quite normal people when he pulled up suddenly. “What’s the matter dad?” I foolishly asked. “There’s an ant crossing.”

Dads are biological necessities but social accidents. They’re always getting excited about something. When I moved into my first flat (yes, it was a flat, not a townhouse, not an apartment, not a unit – but I was poor) I did the right thing and had mum and dad over for dinner.

Excited or what! He rang me every morning for a week to tell me that he was bringing my favourite bottle of bubbles (tragically, at the age of 19 it was Asti Riccadonna, don’t hate me). He rang every afternoon for a week to tell me mum was making a lasagne to bring (tragically, at the age of 19, I couldn’t cook and mum had to supply the food, don’t hate me).

It’s only dinner dad, I would placate, not an audience with Oprah.

Dads are also very good at being protective of their daughters. Sons don’t bother them so much.

At the tender age of 17, my brother did not come home for two nights following a win in his soccer grand final. Now, this is 1979 in the Pre-Mobile Phone Era. Was dad worried?

Not a bit.

But when I went to my school dances, dad would unashamedly walk into the hall 15 minutes before finishing time and come looking for me. Once, I was doing something naughty like having a fag in the loo or pashing a boy under a table, and heard my dad’s voice over the speaker, “Bronwyn, this is your father, come home with me now please.”

I would rather swallow a battery.

Dads have patience. In the swimming pool, my father would stand astride about two metres from the pool edge for seemingly hours, so his three children in military order could dive in and swim between his legs.

I tried it once with my daughter when she was about six. I grew bored by the third dive even though I was holding my wine, and had to get her father to relieve me. Of course, as he was a dad, he was fittingly capable of remaining in that position all afternoon or until our young princess grew weary – whichever came first.

In my defence, I brought him a beer and the cricket score.

Dads also have a touch of Captain Obvious. One time dad rang me when I was in my doctor’s waiting room. After telling him where I was he replied “so are you waiting to see the doctor?” Or when I hand him a cup of tea he says “is that for me?”

“No dad, it’s for the guy next door. He sells vacuum cleaners for a living, listens to AM and is completely hairless but I’m attracted to him.

“Of course it’s bloody well for you! “

Save the earth. Not only is it the only planet with chocolate, it’s the only planet with dads.

Love you dad xxx

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The story of Mrs Nock

musicSit back. I’m going to tell you a story about Mrs Nock.

The reason I tell it now is because she died last week. Not in a tragic-screaming-car-crash-murder-suicide-death-plunge way. Simply because she was old. And even by today’s standards, when you’re in your 90s you’re old.

Sure, you can be sprightly. Agile. Active. But you’re still old.

So it’s not a sad death story. Pop those tissues back in your purse. But it brought back many memories.

Mrs Nock was my piano teacher. My parents were those vigilant breed of parents who drilled my brothers and me in table manners, made us do chores, and enrolled us in all manner of things like Sunday School, girl guides, boy scouts, and music lessons.

Now the Sunday School bit was all right. We grew up in the Wynnum-Manly area so the kids we went to school with were the kids we went to girl guides with, and were the kids we went to Sunday School with. They were also the kids we played with after school.

On the weekends, my brothers and I would get on our bikes, grab the dog and head off down the street to meet our friends with our mum hollering after us, “Just make sure you’re home when the street lights come on!” She knew we would be safe. We didn’t know that we couldn’t be anything but safe. 1974 was a wonderful time to be eight years old.

The only time I became obstinate, belligerent and uncooperative was when the piano was involved.

I hated the bloody piano. Ergo I hated Mrs Nock.

Twice a week, Dad would drive me the three blocks to her house, drop me off, and go back home to watch Bellbird with Mum, arriving back 30 minutes later to collect me.

During those 30 minutes, I would unimaginatively bash these poor ivory keys, making Chopin, Bach and Liberace collectively turn in their graves. Well, I think Liberace was still alive back then, but you know what I mean.

Scales and more sodding scales. Mrs Nock loved scales. Middle C, F sharp and B bloody flat. Scales have the sex appeal of a dial tone. It went on for years. In 1978 I took Mrs Nock the sheet music for Kermit’s Rainbow Connection that I’d lovingly saved up for and purchased from Palings in the city. She gently put it aside, placed Mendelssohn in front of me, and that was that. Sorry Kermit.

If that wasn’t torture enough, she’d then turn on the metronome. Now, a metronome can actually make a dial tone sound sexy. It could give you a migraine. It would smile at me from the top of the piano, like a mother-in-law in a divorce court, and keep clacking away.

Such was Mrs Nock’s enthusiasm for her piano, she would train up mobs of us to play trios and enter us in all manner of frightful events like eisteddfods and charity concerts and telethons. She’d dress us in her favourite colours of lilac and pale blue and conduct away while I sat squashed in the middle trying to play my bits without stabbing anyone in the heart.

Adulthood and moving out of home at 18 solved the Mrs Nock/piano problem. That is, until my mother effusively gave me the piano, and I spent the next 20 years dragging it all over Brisbane at great expense every time I moved house. I finally got over my Mrs Nock/piano guilt and sold it.

And adulthood, as it is prone to do, also gave me a fresh perspective on Mrs Nock. Because it is the little things that as kids you never notice that become points of awareness when you’ve grow up.

Here’s what I mean. My lesson started at 7pm, and at 7.05pm each time, Mr Nock would come into the music room to bring his wife a cup of tea. He would then return to the kitchen and continue washing the dishes (I could hear him, even over my scales). At 7.20pm he would retrieve Mrs Nock’s tea cup and go wash that up as well.

In addition to home tuition, Mrs Nock also taught at Brisbane’s Grammar Schools, became a trained cathedral organist and got herself three university degrees. And had some kids of her own. She didn’t drive, nor was she particularly partial to public transport, so it was Mr Nock’s job to ferry her to her various commitments and back.

I’m not even sure that she cooked, cleaned or ironed either. Mr Nock was often spied folding a bit of washing in the lounge room while he watched Bellbird at night.

She’d read about a concert, or hear that some bods from Trinity College would be in town, and it was game on. Gangs of us practicing all over place, getting special pieces ready to perform. She’d garner extra support from a xylophone or a drum, and we were a veritable amateur orchestra.

Single-minded, determined, forthright. A woman who knew what she wanted and wasn’t afraid of going after it. That was Mrs Nock.

2013 is an era where women pursuing their goals and reaping rewards from their passions and making strong choices about the person they want to be are as commonplace as wifi and cheap wine. But in 1974, it was really only just starting.

Yet there was Mrs Nock forging ahead with her plans, dream and talents and not bothered in the slightest by societal conforms or neighbourhood perceptions. And it seemed that neither was her perfect partner Mr Nock, who faithfully brought her tea and kept the car filled with petrol so he could assist his fabulous wife.

I think there’s something in that for all of us. Don’t you?

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You touched me Chrissy

chrissyampChrissy Amphlett terrified my parents.

Although to be fair, they actually didn’t know her name was Chrissy Amphlett. They wouldn’t have bothered with that much detail. To them, she was that vulgar woman who sang those lewd songs.

Cover your ears darling daughter, you might lose your virginity.

I’m not going to have my only daughter corrupted by such foulness on the radio.

Bronwyn, turn off 4IP (or 4BK) now, or I will confiscate your radio.

I think any woman who sang a song other than Fernando terrified my parents – Tina Turner, Martika, Martha and her Muffins, Kids in America chick Kim, Cher, Magenta, Madonna, that fabulous gal who sang about having brass in her pocket (Chrissie with an “ie”) and any female who wore a lot of black eyeliner on her lower lid.

Interestingly, they weren’t so worried about the boy singers, and there was no requirement for them to take the lead in Fernando. They particularly loved Racey, even though they begged me to lay my love on them. They adored The Proclaimers, even though they foolishly said they would walk 500 miles when airfares are so affordable. Peter Allen was a particular favourite but seriously, I give you one word. Rio. Code for gay.

Billy Field, Jamie Redfern, Glen Campbell. Any male on Young Talent Time, apart from its host. All were verifiable husband material. Bon Scott, Doc Neeson, Jimmy Barnes? No, they weren’t heavy rockers, they were just silly boys having a bit of silly fun.

Maybe the 1980s were too early for my folk to embrace girl power. Maybe they were worried I was going to take the lesbian route. Maybe they don’t like eyeliner.

Regardless, I loved Chrissy. Correction – love. I’ll tell you why.

Her song, “I touch myself” is pretty much faultless for me when we’ve all had one too many vinos and going to a karaoke bar seems like the smartest idea since Nicole married Keith.

Its sexy words and sensual undercurrent means I don’t have to dash about the stage in manner of a crazed Cyndi Lauper; instead I can croon seductively and truly believe that I have charismatic pheromone-infused vocal prowess.

Really it’s the wine singing, but so what.

You know how people talk about their favourite super power? Being invisible, bionic strength, reading minds?

I’d like to be able to sing. Sing like Kelly Clarkson. Or Whitney before the drugs. Hold a microphone and belt out a note – hard, strong and confident.

Chrissy’s song is the only song where I can do that, and still show my face in public the next day.

So Chrissy, thank you for music even though it wasn’t Fernando.

I don’t want anybody else. Just you and your song.

Hope you’re at peace xo

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Do your boobs hang low?

Sing this with me sisters:

Do your boobs hang low
Do they wobble to-and-fro
Can you tie them in a knot
Can you tie them in a bow
Can you throw them o’er your shoulder
Like a continental soldier
Do your boobs hang low?

Back in the days when jokes were distributed around offices and factories by fax, I remember picking up this gem.

It was a picture of this little old lady at a bus stop, looking at some beefy burly bloke wearing a t-shirt offensively emblazoned with “Show me yer tits”. Next graphic is the little old lady demurely lifting the bottom of her knee-length coat to show two exhausted breasts flopping limply just above her knees. [Read more…]

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You know you’ve grown up when…

1. Your houseplants are alive, and you can’t smoke any of them.

2. Having sex in a twin bed is out of the question.

3. You keep more food than beer in the fridge.

4. 6:00 am is when you get up, not when you go to bed.

5. You hear your favorite song in an elevator.

6. You watch the weather channel.

7. Your friends marry and divorce instead of “hook up” and “break up.”

8. You go from 130 days of holidays to 14.

9. Cargo pants and a singlet no longer qualify as “dressed up.”

10. You’re the one calling the police because those bloody kids next door won’t turn down the stereo.

11. Your uncle feels comfortable telling sex jokes around you.

12. You don’t know what time your local McDonald’s closes.

13. Your car insurance goes down and your car payments go up.

14. You feed your dog Hills Science Diet.

15. Sleeping on the couch makes your back hurt.

16. You take naps.

17. Dinner and a movie is the whole date instead of the beginning of one.

18. Eating a bucket of KFC at 3am would severely upset, rather than settle, your stomach.

19. You go to the chemist for Panadol and Metamucil, not condoms and pregnancy tests.

20.A $5.00 bottle of wine is no longer “pretty good stuff”.

21. You actually eat breakfast food at breakfast time.

22. “I just can’t drink the way I used to” replaces “I’m never going to drink that much again.”

23. 90% of the time you spend in front of a computer is for real work.

24. You prefer to drink with friends at home rather than hang out at a bar.

25. When you find out your friend is pregnant you congratulate them instead of asking “Oh no, what the hell happened?”

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As time goes by

When I first started working, it was a part time job at Big W Carindale, way back before Carindale Shopping Centre was the unsightly gangly monolith it is today. It was 1980, I was 15, and Thursday night trading had just commenced in Brisbane and shopping after dark was considered very avant garde. Oooh la la.

Silly checkout girls like me reported to an austere humourless lady called Mrs Hickey. Nothing could humour that lady. She was about as funny as a fire in a children’s home. We thought we were hilarious by referring to her as “The Hickey” but the passage of time has made me see how lame that was. She recurrently used the royal “we”, perched her spectacles on the tip of a pointed nose and sniffed in disdain a great deal.

She clearly didn’t have her spectacles on when she typed my name badge on the Dymo wheel, and for a year I was known to the Carindale public as “Brown Vowles”. Mmmmmm.

One time, she called us all to work 15 minutes early to do the 1980s version of team building. We had to answer the question, “Why do I come to work?” and she said that if anyone answered with “for the money” she would fire us on the spot.

What a stupid question. And what stupid repercussions. That was back in the days when you could fire someone on the spot. This is pre-industrial relations and no one sued their boss.

When I was at university, I left the shackles of Big W and Mrs Hickey to sell flowers out of a basket at Brisbane night spots to support my studies. Eliza’s Flower Service would load up cars with buckets of flowers and send pretty young girls out into the night to tote their wares.

First it was to the public bars, where late husbands would scrounge up $5 for a cheap bunch to take home as a peace-offering. Restaurants with cooing couples were ripe for sales, especially with my opening line, “Sir, that’s a beautiful woman you are dining with tonight and I am sure she’d really appreciate a flower.” What a crock.

At the nightclubs – hands up my generation who remember Sibyl’s in Adelaide Street, General Jackson’s under the Crest and the Underground up where that posh get-up The Barracks now is? It was at these spots that I’d be accosted in a gentlemanly way by the single boys who’d failed to score. They’d buy me the flowers, which is sweet. And even sweeter because I’d pocket the money and re-sell the flower the second his back was turned. Wouldn’t you?

When it was time to get a proper grown-up job, I found myself in the badlands of Acacia Ridge working with transport giant Linfox. Everyone smoked at their desk, everyone swore both passively and aggressively, and girls regularly got whacked on the butt.

“This pretty young thing is Bron,” was how my boss would introduce me. Where was Pru Goward when I needed her?

Kevin Bloody Wilson and Rodney Rude were making a fortune screeching profanities out of cassette tapes, and the warehouse crews blasted their obscenities as blithely as they hung the People magazine centrefolds above their desks.

We had no mobiles, faxes, modems, internet or smartphones. If we wanted to tell someone something, we picked up the phone and told them. After we’d asked them how their football game went, and how their daughter’s birthday party was. And laughed about something funny on television the night before.

If we had something a bit more formal to tell someone, we typed a letter. On a typewriter. In duplicate. For people like me, I always made a typo on the second last word, and my attempt to fix it would render a hole in the paper so I’d rip the thing out, swear out loud, and start again. Back then, swearing at a typewriter was an everyday occurrence.

Later I ended up working for one of Kerry Packer’s companies, and although by then the butt smacking and the office smoking had ceased, maternity leave entitlements hadn’t even started. After enduring a job interview that included the question, “Do you have any immediate plans to fall pregnant?” I worked for two years until I did, by chance, fall pregnant.

It was 1991, and I worked until I was 39 weeks then took as much holiday and sick leave as I could. There was no obligation by the employer to keep my job open, nor for them to pay me any form of allowance. You just hoped and prayed and did a very tight budget.

Was it better back then? Maybe not the butt-smacking and the cigarette smoking, and we may have had more challenges, but there was fewer imagined problems.

Some things haven’t changed though. At one place I worked, the service manager was getting it on with the lady who ran accounts payable (things like that still happen today), a long Friday lunch was great fun (that still happens today) and there was too much fortnight in each pay period to make the money last (yep, that sometimes happens now too!)

And I still smile everytime I walk into Big W Carindale.

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What I’ve learnt

I’ve learnt to go to the toilet before leaving to go anywhere because I’ll either have a long walk to my car or get stuck in a traffic jam.

I’ve learnt to proceed with caution through an intersection littered with broken glass.

I’ve learnt that I don’t know a single person who has won a substantial amount of money on a scratch-it – and I know a lot of people.

I’ve learnt that if I preface any request with “Please remember” instead of “Don’t forget”, they usually remember.

I’ve learnt that crying doesn’t always mean I’ll get my own way.

I’ve learnt to take the first vacant carpark I see instead of driving around for another 10 minutes in search of one closer to the door. (Invariably, when I give up that palaver and return to the original vacant spot, it has been taken.)

I’ve learnt that if I say “I think I’ll have one more drink” I don’t need to have one more drink.

I’ve learnt that bad hair days strike without warning yet no one but me seems to realise I’m having one.

I’ve learnt that it is difficult to use a heavy period as a reason to take a sick day when I have a female boss.

I’ve learnt that I will always forget to take my lunch to work on a day when I don’t have the time to go and buy it.

I’ve learnt to take my own supply of tea bags with me when I travel so that I’m guaranteed a decent cuppa.

I’ve learnt that if you hang school uniforms up the minute the dryer finishes, you don’t need to iron them.

I’ve learnt that if I keep my hair long and straight, it only needs cutting twice a year.

I’ve learnt that even though my daughter is an adult, she still needs her mum.

I’ve learnt that I can set my clocks up to 15 minutes fast and I’ll still be late.

I’ve learnt that a slick of lip gloss can make all the difference.

I’ve learnt that when I’m making last minute excuses to get out of diabolically dull function, the same obscure relative cannot die more than twice in the same year.

I’ve learnt that every man I know, from my grandfather down, hides personal items in his underwear drawer.

I’ve learnt that while today’s music may hold my attention for a short while, Frank Sinatra, Neil Diamond, Dire Straits and Barbra Streisand are everlasting.

I’ve learnt that I will never regret the extra 10 minutes I spent sitting on my daughter’s bed rubbing her back while she went to sleep.

I’ve learnt that an electric blanket keeps small children in their bed more and my bed less.

I’ve learnt that I really couldn’t care less about the pregnancy stretch marks that adorn my body.

I’ve learnt that no matter how hard I try and convince myself, the McDonald’s breakfast sausage looks more like a rissole than a sausage.

I’ve learnt that I sometimes don’t need more sleep, I just need more time out.

I’ve learnt that people will regularly forget what I said to them, but they will never forget how I made them feel.

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