The Domino Effect – Part 1

domino1A whole month just disappeared.

The ‘Open’ sign has yellowed and the tumbleweeds are doing cartwheels in the wind.

[Enter iconic movie track – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly].

Waa wa waaaa

So much for “I’m back!”

You’d be forgiven for wondering when I’ll take the rusted shingle down. Board up all the windows. Exchange the dream for complimentary tickets to the show.

It does feel like, in the space of a few months, the whole landscape of my life has changed.

And I’m standing on my porch, wondering how to start explaining where I’ve been.

So I guess I’ll just go from the beginning. Where the first Domino fell…

You may remember me telling you, a couple of ‘New Year’s’ ago, about my need to get a job.

LSAH-PepiBut then how I was saved from the horror of job interviews by a paid video gig that I agreed to do in honour of Pepi.

As happens in this kind of work, the project scope was extended and mysteriously delayed until I gave up all hope of any kind of outcome and decided to get a job selling tickets to the footy.

In its well-timed sense of irony, the universe conspired to deliver the long awaited (and hence now URGENT) green light for the video completion in the same week that I started my indentured labour!

So commenced a month of craziness, followed by another couple of months of tying up loose ends.

Until the time has come to say goodbye for good.

  • To video as a source of income.
  • To more than six years of self employment during which I managed to feed myself (but only just).
  • To a creative occupation that, however meaningful, didn’t really leave room for the primary passion that is writing.

So what was all the fuss about?

Lort Smith Animal Hospital is the largest not-for-profit animal hospital in Australia. It was originally established to assist people of modest means in providing vet care for their animals (which included none other than hers truly and her merry menagerie).

Given its unique history in veterinary care and female philanthropy, the hospital was keen to record the stories of key people who have supported the hospital since the 1940’s.

The first stage was recording seventeen interviews, which are now part of a digital archive for the hospital.

The second was creating a short memoir on the history of Lort Smith.

At 11 minutes, the video is far from epic! But, with any luck, is enough to inspire people to want to get involved.

Now that the credits have rolled on video, the question remains whether selling footy tickets will motivate me into writing a best seller…

Of all the jobs you’ve ever had, what was the one you were happiest to leave?

Flux

When I told you I’d be Missing in Action a few weeks ago, I honestly had no idea it would be this long.

It turns out, waking up at 6.00 in the morning and actually having to eat breakfast before 9.00 am is much harder than I thought.

Not to mention the extreme challenge of learning to differentiate between the varieties of footy (ie. football) in this country.

Prior to starting in this job, my footy knowledge went like this:

  • There’s a ball.
  • They kick it.
  • It goes on for months and months and ends sometime in September.
"Dynamism of a Soccer Player" Umberto Boccioni. 1913, courtesy shooting_brooklyn

“Dynamism of a Soccer Player” by Umberto Boccioni. 1913, courtesy shooting_brooklyn

Now, in case there’s any doubt, what I just said is plain and simply un-Ostralyin.

Way worse than not attending church.

If you don’t follow a footy team (go the Dogs!), then it’s pretty much social suicide. Which, when you work at home alone, is no big deal.

But when your job is taking bookings for manic footy fans?

I’ve been learning a whole new vocabulary.

“Freo” stands for Fremantle, “The Cats” are actually Geelong, the “Rabbitohs” are Souths (which, by the way, are Manly) and no, that’s not the AFL (Australian Football League), that’s NRL (National Rugby League) and never mind The Asian Cup (what the heck is soccer, anyway?).

I’ve learned what the centre line and the fence line are, but I’m still unsure about the wing. I have been winging it a lot, though. Which is what happens when you are looking at a map of a roughly square stadium with no compass or description as a guide.

It may also explain why some fans were booked seats with the opposing Cheersquad (oops!).

Until recently, I thought Home and Away was just a bad Aussie soapie. But apparently there are things called Home and Away teams, and which team is Home and which team is Away makes a difference as to where you sit.

And while we’re on the topic of vocabulary.

You know those words you only ever read, and never have to say out loud until you’re talking to a customer?

Rodriguez.

Repeat after me. It’s Rod-ree-gss. Not Rod-rig-yooz. O.o

And just when you thought things couldn’t get any more miserable…

Les Miserables.

The good thing about being Australian is, you only have to say Lay Miz and you’ll be right!

It certainly has been an education.

Not enough of one to excuse my lengthy absence, though.

The WindThat is down to a few not wholly unexpected, and yet confounding, life twists, which I hope to make known to you in due course.

For now, it is enough to say that life is in flux. And that I’ve missed you. And I’m back!

Maybe less predictably than I once was, but let’s face it, I never was that good at keeping pace :)

Looking forward to catching up with you all soon. xox

 

What’s one new thing you’ve learned these past two months?

Missing In Action

Previously on Go Wild. Quietly, you may have caught casual mention of a new part time job. As I have now officially been caught and tagged, all that wild action is momentarily reserved for learning new behaviours.

I’ve made it through my first four days of full time training and in ten hours time I’ll be killing it out on the phones!

Normal programming will resume one of these days, in the meantime, enjoy this intermission with one of Pepi’s favourite songs

What music is motivating you this week?


Don’t know who Pepi is yet?

He’s this little guy, waiting for you to take him home…

TakeMeHome

 

The (Bitter) Pill

Sometimes I wonder how the people who invented the pill imagined the future.

MastersofSex

The Master in Masters of Sex

Was there an upper class of childless retirees, sipping cocktails and smacking their still youthful lips together by the pool?

Were children brought up in laboratories and rented to the highest bidder, or grown off shore in new world economies?

Or maybe, instead of a lifetime of hedonism and debauchery, people volunteered their time and wealth to protecting panda bears?

It’s hard to know what they dreamed, but I doubt they expected to still be debating the pros and cons of paternity leave, much less reproductive rights.

It’s a peculiar little world we live in.

The other day an article was sent to my Inbox.

Screen shot 2014-07-30 at 10.40.25 AM

It immediately had me contemplating a new form of glass ceiling I’ve encountered in my quest for jobs and houses.

Part-time work is hard to come by. You know immediately when you see the words “Suits mother returning to work” that you’re doomed.

Glass ceiling

Wannabe writers need not apply

A person who writes mediocre blogs in their spare time simply can’t compete with the Queen Bees of the labour force.

And yet, I ask you, who’s the safer bet?

The woman whose thankless progeny are determined to make her late to work two days out of three, or the one who’s just figured out that at her current rate of pay she’ll be working till 105 to save for her retirement?

It’s no more logical than the ads for three bedroom rentals. “Perfect family home. Close to schools and transport…”

Like the only people in need of public transport are those who procreate.

Like two childless women don’t need an extra room to house their nephews, nieces and hordes of child popping relatives.

And just before you say it. I’m not childless because I dislike the snotty nosed!

(Did you know this is an actual book?)

(Did you know this is an actual book?)

I love children. And that is why I’m childless. (I make a way better Aunt than I ever would a mum. Just ask Pepi.)

But I wonder why, fifty years on from the sexual revolution, this is still a choice we need to justify?

The whole topic makes me want to spontaneously break into a Lily Allen flash dance…

“It’s hard out here for a b****” 

(*childless wannabe writer)

Only I just got a call from an employer.

And they want to hire me. Me?!

And here’s the stunner:

My childless delusions of creative grandeur appear to have been deemed an asset!

Of course, if I tell you it’s in the entertainment industry, I know what you’ll be thinking.

And that may well have been my next port of call.

But this is legit. As of this week, I’ll be a ticketing officer (which is my fancy way of saying I’ll be working in a call centre).

Real money, for real work, with real people and stuff.

So now I’m swallowing my words. And busting out another kind of glass…

champagne

What did you think the pill would do for you?

The Tiffin

TiffinFull

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.

2nd-week-box-office-collection-of-the-lunchbox

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.

the-lunchbox

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.

Egypt

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:

Alice_par_John_Tenniel_37GiantRabbit

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…

image002

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!)

image003

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 :

PMM

PMH

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:

HPKeyPFTKeyPGPKeyPMMKeyPMHKey

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

image006

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.

Bobbin&Salsa

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.

Key3

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?