The Tiffin

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Nothing spells ‘alive’ like a hot, home cooked curry.

Imagine sitting at your cubicle at work, your tummy just about to grumble for its midday meal, and in rolls lunch.

A tiffin of two or three different curries, a chapatti and some rice.

You open up the insulated carry bag just to get a whiff, and OMG…

Hungry yet?

This hunger is really the premise behind “The Lunchbox”, a movie Ms and I saw on a desperate, mid-winter whim the other night.

Set in the heady bustle of Mumbai, it’s a story about Saajan, a lonely widowed accountant on the brink of retirement, and the misplaced tiffin of Ila, a neglected young wife.

The food is cooked with love, and delivered to the wrong man with the right appreciation for the cook’s craft.

A conversation begins through a series of illicit hand written notes, passed back and forth in the tiffin, courtesy of the dabbawallahs’ flawless delivery system (as declared by Harvard University).

From the moment Saajan encounters the first note, we are transported to our childhood – to the days before iPhones and email, when kids wrote notes and traded sandwiches.

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Everything about this movie is real. The noise, dirt, sweat. The claustrophobia. The smell of yellowed office files, hot curry and cigarette smoke. The graininess of analogue video and romance of handwritten notes.

Looking at the overcrowded transport, there’s the sense of a city under strain. Development misplaced. Out of context. Fucked up in a million different ways.

And that is part of the reason the film has a universal resonance.

When Ila shares her dream of escaping to Bhutan, where the value of one rupee becomes five and the only GDP is “Gross Domestic Happiness”, we understand.

We’ve all been there. Longing for a simplicity lost to the world as we know it.

A world constantly filtered through a digital interface that screams for our attention, day and night.

While most of us manage some kind of escape – a tree change, a sea change or a holiday to Bali, for Ila and Saajan, there is no escape.

Except through food.

The poetry infused in Ila’s cooking comes alive in Saajan’s writing, as the very act of taste reignites his joie de vivre.

There’s a moment in the film where we hear the voiceover of Saajan as he writes to Ila. We see him standing on his balcony, drawing on a cigarette and Ila, pouring herself a cup of masala tea, as she sits to ponder on his note.

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Right in that moment, there is nothing else in the world except two people connected by a single piece of paper, and the freedom to reflect.

It made me want to throw out my computer and write, the way I used to.

Uncensored and unencumbered. With a piece of paper and a pen. No thoughts. Just a feeling bleeding on the page.

A real page.

I’m heartened by that thought, as I am by the number of requests I’ve had these past two weeks for hard copies of the Hello Pepi books.

It’s a 3D world that tugs at us, reminding us that we are more than just a hologram.

We crave touch. And taste. And smell.

The kind we don’t even know we’re missing until we feel it, once again. We are alive!

There’s an oft repeated line in the film that goes:

Sometimes the wrong train will get you to the right station.”

Maybe books aren’t dead. Maybe it’s time to go and find a publisher.

And so the journey carries on… :)

When was the last time you tasted something so divine, the world stopped spinning?


Speaking of joie de vivre

PFTTakeMeHomePepi’s First Things, FREE until Monday.

This Toy Dog is for Real - Take him home!

Don’t believe me? Check out Mamta Chakravorty’s review – Pepi’s first fan from Bangalore!

Rabbit

This week, quite by accident, I fell down a job search rabbit hole that took me to strange lands and unfamiliar parking lots.

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Alas, I did not become entombed at the local Sphinx. But in an introductory exercise, I did learn about the pet rabbit that grew to be the size of a dog.

Since I naturally assume all dogs are chihuahua sized, this interesting bit of trivia failed to impress.

Until I realised what it really meant.

Meet the Flemish Giant Rabbit:

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The whole thing had me questioning my previously held beliefs about the nature of life and the universe! Who was I, where was I and what would become of me?

Anyway, I guess what I’m saying is, it’s been a crazy kind of week, so I am sorry if you haven’t seen me around much. That certainly was not the plan.

But it’s all good, and now that I’ve popped my head up out of that surreal wonderland, I remember what I was supposed to be doing.

Hello Pepi key rings!

Keys

Ms last night performed a community service by pulling names (not ears) out of a fancy hat kitchen bowl.

I put in some extras for those who read, followed, commented AND shared, but all of you have made the Hello Pepi launch so much more of a success than I imagined - so yay!

Pepi and Maxi are now out in the wild, getting up to all kinds of mischief, which is just as it should be.

So, woofs and drum rolls please, the WINNERS are…

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Vincent Mars, the one and only Boy with a Hat.

Rita Azar, the lovely Crafty Expat.

Susie Lindau, the Wild Rider.

Maria, the strong and mighty Brickhouse Chick.

Em, the gentle soul behind Words.pics.

I will be in touch with you to ascertain your mailing addresses, and just as soon as I get my act together, you can expect a Pepi (as opposed to a giant rabbit) sized package in the mail!

Thanks everyone who supported Pepi on his way to a new home. You’re all better than the best.

Have you seen or heard anything strange this week?


HPTakemehomeTAKE ME HOME!

Hello Pepi (Book 1) is FREE until Monday.

Grab it while you can!

 

Pepi Meets Maxi

Open your heart, I’ll make you love me…

(Today, I’m handing it over to Pepi – he’s got something to say!)

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Hey there beautifuls!

You’ve heard the real story. But fiction is so much better.

Grab a copy of my new books, Pepi Meets Maxi and Pepi Moves House :

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FREE just for YOU until midnight Monday, 14 July (Pacific Standard Time).

But wait, there’s more!

When you leave a comment and become a loyal blog follower (kisses if you are already), you’ll go in the draw to win one of five Hello Pepi key rings:

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There will also be free days coming up for my first three books, so if you don’t have a copy already:

Watch out and listen up!

Of course, if you like my story, I’ll love you to bits if you’d consider sharing it. Or writing a review.

It’s a big world out there for one small dog.

And lonely, too.

We have to work hard to be seen.

And even harder to be loved.

But the thing about us is, if you just give us a chance…

(One word, one line, one look is all it takes)

…we’ll give back multitudes in love.

(Okay, some other things as well, but mostly love).

Please.

Prithee please

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I don’t really like to beg.

But you’re the one holding the key…

TAKE ME HOME!

TakeMeHome

 

…One is such a lonely number.

Who’s your favourite fur friend?

A Tale of Two Besties

They were the best of friends, they were the worst of friends…

Last week, I introduced you to the happy never after of my old share house, where I lived with my school buddy and her Chihuahua, Chippy, his brother Pepi and Bobbin the cat (my two).

Second time round, it was the picture of domestic bliss, until we agreed that Pepi ought to have a new best friend.

Say hello to Maxi.

Maxi

Maxi

Maxi was rescued by the Save-a-Dog Scheme.

When I collected him from his foster home, he had been having fun beating up the other ten Chihuahuas the old lady was temporarily housing.

He was a mean little thing.

He wore his damage with such pride. Like a war veteran, returned.

You just knew he’d seen things that no Jack Russell-cross should ever see. But he’d survived, goddammit, by sheer force of his own iron will.

And no-one, but no-one, was gonna tell him what to do.

He scared the pants off me.

When I introduced him to Pepi, Pepi was all up in his business, totally naïve of Maxi’s bristling fur.

He wouldn’t warn you if he was going to bite. He’d just bite.

And bite he did.

There was no wound, except to Pepi’s pride, and so Pepi resorted to the only form of retaliation he felt sure about. He barked.

And barked. And BARKED.

He scolded Maxi from the safety of the couch, and Maxi, you could just tell, enjoyed sitting there, the untouchable focus of Pepi’s consternation.

It was love at first bite.

VetThere was just one problem, and that was Chippy.

Up until then, Chippy had been Pepi’s shadow, glued to his butt like an annoying younger sibling.

But Maxi, with his eye on pole position, was having none of that.

The day he drew blood from Chippy’s eyebrow, it was Game of Thrones Chihuahua style – and they matched the humans move for move.

Save-a-Dog Scheme didn’t want to take him back.

I was about to resort to begging when Maxi suddenly developed a mysterious back pain that required him to be crated for a week.

Round 3 goes to Maxi.

Once hypochondria dog asserted his right to stay, the lines of fracture in an already troubled kingdom began to split the house apart.

Which was obviously a good time to get Chippy a wife.

Enter Salsa, and before Bobbin could hiss, we had a house full of untrained yappy dogs.

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Bobbin with Salsa

Strangely, Bobbin refused to come home, and instead took his frustrations out on the next door neighbour’s cat.

Meanwhile, Maxi discovered the never-before-found holes in the fence, and our merry little gang escaped to terrorise the neighbour’s kids.

Overnight, our home had gone from peace-loving hippies to neighbourhood thugs. Tiny, ankle sized thugs. But still.

We both gave up on grandiose ideas of study and took full time jobs, which we needed just to pay the vet bills.

Every day we came home, Maxi had done a new Houdini underneath the potato vine, and they’d taken their reign of terror to the streets.

It was only a matter of time before council issued a warning.

And we locked the dogs inside.

And someone kicked a hole in our back door. The same someone, we presume, who left the nasty note inside our letterbox.

And my best friend announced she couldn’t stand to live with me there any more.

And our happy days in the house of dysfunction came to a close.

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The key to that place sits now atop a pile of other unmarked keys, unlocking memories that are nothing if not bittersweet.

Maybe if we hadn’t been so preoccupied with all that petty human crap of who did what to whom and when, we might have seen what Maxi saw, and what took me years to finally recognise.

Pepi had the secret to another way.

Stranger than Fiction

Join me next week to celebrate Pepi’s alternate reality! Yayyyy, already…. :)

There’ll be freebies and giveaways and general bribery.

And just to get you in the mood, here’s one from Pepi’s playlist…

What’s your worst ever share house experience?

Random Access Memory

I’ve been wondering why I’m chasing my tail around the various tasks I need to do.

Everywhere I look, there’s a pile of ‘stuff’ that doesn’t have a home. And it’s not much better when I look at my computer, either.

I’m a paper hoarder, and in the digital age, that translates to RAM.

On my last tally, there were no less than nine functional hard drives cluttering my office, and that’s not counting other digital devices.

Multiple copies of multiple versions, back-ups of back-ups that eventually wind up on a CD stuffed somewhere in a drawer.

But it’s not just documents I hoard.

I collect keys like memories.

They sit in my top drawer, a pile of tiny clues, physical bits of evidence pointing to the fact that I was there, once.

Key1There’s the key to the dearly departed Mazda 121 representing more than just a car.

Key2Power. Control. A room of one’s own.

Keys to locked drawers and secret hideaways.

Key3To past houses that I’ve tenanted.

Of course, you’re supposed to hand the keys back. But since the real estate agent didn’t know about the extra set we had to cut…

It became my guilty secret. A link to an illicit imaginary self.

Just in case she felt the urge to stage a break-in.

Just in case she ever needed to revisit the tiny pieces of me that were left behind.

In that house.

It was a blue, double-fronted weatherboard that had seen better days.

But it had a veranda, and stained glass windows, and an open fireplace in every room.

An entrance hall, high ceilings, even a servery window between the kitchen and the lounge!

And, of course, an outside loo.

That was the worst part. No light, but plenty of spider webs since we were too scared to go in there and wipe them out.

I shared the house with my best friend from school. Along with Pepi and his brother, Chippy. And Bobbin, the cat.

HappyHouse

It was our second attempt at sharing each other’s living space – a truce struck by a mutual need to reduce costs and earn something that passed for a degree.

This time will be different, we said, and for a while, everything was bliss.

We cooked meals and hosted dinner parties, rolled our own cigarettes and debated the intellectual merits of Xena and Friends.

She grew pot plants and I planted a garden.

The neighbours thanked us for being good tenants.

But it all started to go horribly wrong about the time we decided to find a friend for Pepi.

Just in case it didn’t last.

Just in case Pepi and Chippy had to go their separate ways.

How we went from being model tenants to having this shoved in our letterbox…

Just another piece of paper kept for future reference.

Just another piece of paper I’ve been hoarding.

…is a story for another post.

(Shut up, just shut up shut up!)

To be continued next week!

What random things do you collect? Do you have trouble Emptying the Trash?

Magnificent Maleficent?

It’s no secret that I love a good fairy tale, especially when it promises a kickass female protagonist. Or antagonist.

I couldn’t stop raving about Brave, and Princess Merida wasn’t half as tantalising as the combination of a Lana Del Rey soundtrack and Angelina Jolie lead promised to be.

To say I had high expectations is a bit of an understatement. So now you get to suffer the fallout of my utter disappointment.

My second nephew is also into scary fantasy films, and given he’s had a love for Jurassic Park since the age of six, I thought he might enjoy this for his 10th birthday.

Really?

Really?

But the day before its release, Australia’s classification board slapped on an M rating, and being a responsible aunt, I thought I better check it out first.

Lucky I did, because there turned out to be multiple reasons I wouldn’t take my nephew to see that film, and none of them have do to with the rating.

As you would expect from the trailers, Maleficent is a feminist reworking of an old beauty myth.

At this point, I would say * SPOILER ALERT *, except that by the end of the film the only thing I can honestly say I didn’t expect was to be unafraid, underwhelmed and uninspired.

(Having said that, if you would rather find that out for yourself, skip The Gory Details and move on to The Monstrous Truth.)


The Gory Details

The narrative follows a linear trajectory, blandly filling us in on the backstory of a young, powerful yet benevolent fairy and the bitter rivalry between her woodland paradise and the neighbouring kingdom ruled by greedy men.

Despite the rivalry, an innocent romance blooms between the fairy girl and a young boy, and from here on you know more or less exactly how this story will play out.

Young Romance

  • Boy grows into a power hungry man, commits a hideous betrayal against his one true love and wins the throne. Check.
  • Birth of Princess Aurora. Check.
  • Vengeance in the form of a curse exacted by justifiably embittered Fairy Queen. Check.

From here, the narrative starts to look familiar, except for some troubling bumps in the plot.

For her own protection, baby Aurora is sent off to a hideaway in the forest, under the guardianship of three pixies until her sixteenth year. Fine.

PixiesOnly the pixies are so dim witted that they can’t even feed her proper food, let alone instruct her in the ways of the world.

Instead, her care falls to Maleficent, who watches from the shadows and, with begrudging curiosity, keeps her from harm’s way.

The result is a girl who grows up sheltered and naïve, as unaware of who she is or the fate that awaits her, as she is unafraid of horns that lurk in the dark.

It’s not a good outlook for female empowerment.

With a mother almost completely absent from the plot, pixie nannies who are both clueless and neglectful, the only source of female strength in Aurora’s life is one that sought her harm.

Of course, by the time Maleficent reveals herself to Aurora, she is genuinely attached to the girl and regretful of her actions. But since she fails to tell her the truth, Aurora has nothing really to be afraid about, and the moment of reckoning anticipated by the appropriately named ‘teaser‘ is a horrific anti-climax.

AuroraWhen Aurora finally does learn the truth, she naturally runs off to the castle and gets her finger pricked, invoking the curse and landing in a coma.

At this point, the outlook for male empowerment is similarly grim. The only men in Aurora’s life are a vindictive, power hungry father, and a Prince with a flaccid kiss.

By now it’s pretty obvious who will deliver the awakening kiss, and from there it’s just a matter of magic and a few convenient plot holes before the evil king is done away with and women get to rule the world.


The Monstrous Truth

As sympathetic as I might be to the idea of women taking over for a change, this film was nothing but a tease.

  • The only sign of Lana Del Rey is a single rendition of “Once Upon a Dream” over the credits.
  • Though everything looks pretty, the 3D goes in and out of focus with nasty double edge effect. It is only in the credits that we learn the film was not shot in 3D, but instead, badly converted.
  • The characters are similarly two dimensional and the plot is full of holes.

Instead of a tale of female empowerment, we find the old gender divisions alive and well.

All we have, in the end, is a Disney branding exercise of a horny goat woman in latex and leather who inspires us to maybe want to look like that.

Maleficent

Seeing this through my nephew’s eyes, if he took away any message at all, it would be this:

  • Men are either ruthless or weak.
  • Women are either neglectful and stupid, or vengeful, somehow all powerful but not very scary, sometimes sorry but always right.
  • Don’t trust anybody.
  • Definitely don’t fall in love.

To be fair to the creators, maybe their point was that powerful women don’t have to be scary. But that seems unlikely, since she lets the king fall to his death.

At any rate, I doubt my nephew would care enough to notice any of that, which is why the reviews seem to be putting it all down to a bit of harmless family fun.

And why I remain perplexed about Australia’s M rating.

Magnificent Maleficent? Meh.

Have you seen it? Will you see it? How do your expectations measure up?

Centre of the Universe

I’ve been finding myself unusually socially active of late, so much so that my cousin recently invited me for a girls’ night at her place and was surprised to find I had another engagement.

“But you’re normally a bit of a recluse, aren’t you?” she says, and I’m forced to admit that I don’t ordinarily have a life.

The truth of the matter is sometimes I spend as much energy trying to avoid human contact as I do actually engaging.

But this year’s different.

There’s a certain calm in the air, the kind that whispers ‘just go with the flow’.

Since it was the Queen’s Birthday holiday last weekend, I had the chance to do just that.

Some friends took Ms and I on a 12km walk to the Centre of the Universe…

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We start out from Trentham, following an old railway track into the nearby bushland home of the endangered Powerful Owl.

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No owls, but a local Kookaburra enjoys a moment in the sun as we pass by.

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Wild fungi and moss thrive in the cool damp of the forest.

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Wildflowers, too.

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The trail takes us to Lyonville, but what I don’t expect to find is this:

Warm hearth, mellow tunes and a glass of wine to wash it down at the Radio Springs Hotel.

If this is what lives at the Centre of the Universe, then next time you go looking, you will probably find me there ;)

Where have you been, lately?

 

 

 

The Wood Chipper

WARNING: Contains scenes of suburban horror that may traumatise some readers.

The other day, someone knocked on my door.

Nosales

Thanks to the sign from my slightly paranoid electricity provider, I was pretty confident whoever it was must be looking for me, so I answered.

It was a tree lopping company, come to cut down my non-existent tree.

I immediately had flashbacks to what might have been the start of Evie’s porno career, but alas, this was not a ruse for desperate housewives!

Since they had the wrong address, I pointed them in the vague direction of the tree killers, and returned to my online activities, thus entering the first stage of grief known as Denial.

Twenty minutes later, the noise was getting out of hand. I go and take a glimpse out my kitchen window…

…and see not one, but TWO sources of suburban horror:

  • Strange man jumping over the fence into my back yard.
  • Bare blue sky in the space where my little possum friend ought to be asleep!

PossumGone

In a panic, I shuffle outside to murmur the blatant obvious:

“You cut down the tree…” (Bargaining)

Mr Tree Lopper glances up from his leaf gathering efforts, “Yeah, sorry.”

I can hear a noise from the street that sounds suspiciously like a hungry wood chipper, and try not to think what that might mean.

“But, there was a possum living in that tree…” (Bargaining)

“Oh, was there? We didn’t see anything…”

Mr Tree Lopper carries on with his leaf gathering efforts, not remotely uncomfortable about the fact he’s trespassing in my yard, or that his friend might have just committed possum murder.

I had no idea what else to say, so naturally, I went inside and messaged Ms. (Anger)

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And after that, put a sad status update on Facebook. (Depression)

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And after that, placed a hex on my neighbours on Twitter. (Anger)

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When Ms got home, she immediately climbed the fence to yell at the neighbours. (Anger)

But just as she started waving and ‘yoo hooing’ like a crazy person, we heard a rustle in the lemon tree nearby.

Sure enough, out popped a tiny Ringtail, totally unperturbed by the days events.

Possum

Could it be? (Bargaining)

Ms called the local wildlife experts and (after a friendly chat with the neighbour), we concluded that our possum may well have survived the wood chipper. (Denial)

I followed this up with some internet research, and learned some interesting facts:

  • The timid, herbivorous marsupials have a territory radius of about 50m, in which a Daddy and one or two Mummy ringtails, along with their recent offspring, coexist in Big Love bliss.
  • Ringtails tend to sleep solitary and frequently bed hop, having up to 8 nests in their territory.

Considering the neighbour recently moved in with a dog who is suffering separation anxiety, it’s more than likely our little possum moved beds to get a decent sleep. (Denial)

At any rate, that’s the story I’m telling everyone because (considering my utter failure to defend the rights of my tree dwelling friends) the alternative is too horrific.

Have you ever saved, or tried to save, or failed to save, a creature from harm?

Dragon Slayer

What is it about dragons? Every tradition has one or, at least, East and West each have their own mythical variant of the diabolical beast.

Australia doesn’t really belong to either tradition, which is probably why we have to resort to recycling dragons…

Melbourne’s very own Dragons of Targaryen.

Melbourne’s very own Dragons of Targaryen.

Or, how about a PET Dragon (made from recycled plastics)?

Or, how about a PET Dragon (made from recycled plastics)?

It’s understandable. Who wouldn’t want a pet dragon or two with which to smite thine enemy?

DragonsTargaryen

When I stumbled across this quiz on Twitter, I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna be a dragon!’

Anyway, I took the quiz, and it reminded me of that moment on Buffy before Willow turned badass

"Oh thanks. Old reliable? Yeah, great, there’s a sexy nickname!"

“Oh thanks. Old reliable? Yeah, great, there’s a sexy nickname!”

I mean, a Fish? Seriously??

Tully

Talk about boring old reliable.

But then I got to thinking. We all descended from fish, right? Even the dragon…

First the fish, then the legless lizard, then the four legged fire-breathing fiend.

Really, that makes me the First and Original badass.

Stonefish. Australia’s master of camouflage – the most venomous fish in the world!

It reminds me of one of my favourite songs, End of May by Keren Ann.

Close your eyes and make a wish
Under the stone there’s a stonefish…
Hold your breath and roll the dice
You haven’t seen me disguised yet!

One step wrong, and dragons be gone!

I guess that means there’s more to fish than meets the eye. So now I’m cool with that :)

Happy End of May, friends of the blogosphere!

What House do you belong to? Any secret powers you possess?

Every Day is Stupid

Sometimes I get tired of my own BS, don’t you?

A couple of weeks ago, I was having a really crappy day. No reason. I even knew it was all in my head, and that only made things worse.

It just was - not so much the Sunday blues as a Dark and Stormy gloom fest.

Nothing could snap me out of it – not even the final season of Weeds!

The upturn in mood began a few days later, with the arrival of my first ever eBay purchase, followed by several other sources of undue momentary glee…

1. Vintage bean slicer

Ever since I left home, I’ve moaned over the loss of Mum’s mouli shredder.

I’m not a fan of electric appliances. They’re heavy and expensive and annoying to assemble. And they take the tactile fun out of handling food.

Or so I tell myself.

I bought this Italian ‘Moplen’ instead of the French ‘Mouli’.

MoplenShredder

I’m not sure why – it looked less used and the blades were all shiny. Which probably should have told me something.

In fact, it’s quite clumsy and difficult to use. BUT…

Pasties

I managed to make a week’s supply of vegetable pasties, AND…

MoplenBeanSlicer

It has a bean slicer! Oh, the joy of not having to slice beans one at a time anymore.

2. Cocktails in Berlin

Well, Berlin Bar, to be exact – two rooms divided into East and West, with charming French waiters and confusing paintings of austere looking nuns on the wall.

But the cocktails and, I’m told, even the mocktails are to die for…

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There was a certain glow to Melbourne-town after that, the kind that makes you glad you’re alive not the designated driver.

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3. Reliving Pepi’s youth

You know how when you dread a task, and put it off hoping it will go away, it turns into Godzilla??

That’s what the next books in the series had become, as I dreaded the seemingly immense task of getting Pepi’s pictures ready for publication.

In fact, once I sat down to do it, it only took me a day and the up side of that was reliving periods in Pepi’s life, like this one:

Pepi meets Maxi.

Pepi meets Maxi.

Pepi learns to escape and terrorise the neighbourhood.

Pepi learns to escape and terrorise the neighbourhood.

Pepi moves house.

Pepi moves house.

A story told in three pictures or less :)

4. Crywank

What?

Maybe you’re not like me.

Maybe you don’t spend your life whining about everything from the bugs that ate your sage plants…

Freakin' little blighters!

(Freakin’ little blighters!)

…to the fact we’re all going to die hungry and penniless.

But if you are, then we all need to get a grip. Or have a good cry. Or both.

I stumbled onto this ‘anti-folk, sadcore’ band because an American twitter buddy asked me to tell them what I know of the future (believe it or not, in Australia, we are ahead of almost all of you – in time, at least!).

This is what Crywank had to say:

Tomorrow is nearly Yesterday and Everyday is Stupid. Waaa…

 

The music is not so much sad, as making a joke of our sadness. And that makes me immeasurably happy.

What little absurd things make you happy? Give me a glimpse into your day, week. Hell, give me anything!