Still Ill

It’s hard to believe that 2006 was six years ago! Time flies when you’re bored senseless, I guess!

After a long, long uncomfortable sleep, I’ve finally woken up – like Miles Monroe in Sleeper, Rip Van Winkle in Hot Daddies Do Dallas or Sleeping Beauty in…er…Sleeping Beauty.

Yes, the world has changed, but there is no Dianne Keaton waiting for me with an Orgasmatron, no Prince Charming ready to whisk me away – I’ve found myself living between a swamp and a desert, with no money, no hair, and five years flabbier.

Still, the main thing is that I’m back – ready to rant, rhyme, review, and roar (well, quietly).

The last five years have been tough. I’ve spent days hiding underneath my bed, weeks disguised as a giant penguin, several months pretending to be Argentinean. I’ve wrestled with psychiatrists, played badminton with podiatrists, traded drool with sociopaths.

I’ve tip-toed through the valley of the shadow of death.

And I’ve survived. A little wiser, a little wearier, but prepared for anything.

NAUSEA in 2012 will be a little more relaxed than the 2006 version. There’ll still be lots of reviews, poetry, humour, quirky tales and news. Most of the old team are still with me – Candy, Madame Claude, Max Funt, Tidy Boy and the Angry Poet – plus there will be some very special guest contributors.

But, unlike the 2006 version, we’ll adopt a more relaxed approach. There’ll be shorter articles, scraps, snippets, gossip, snapshots, artwork and more.

NAUSEA in 2012 will be a scrapbook, a blog, and a website.

I hope you enjoy the ride…

Beyond Nausea

After 100 posts and around 50000 words, the Nausea team regret to announce that the Nausea weblog will cease operations. Unfortunately, due to time constraints and other commitments, it is simply no longer possible to continue the blog into 2007.

While the Nausea address will continue to feature special articles from time to time, regular posts, including music and film reviews, will be discontinued.

The Nausea team would like to thank all readers – especially those that took the time to provide feedback – as well as contributors, friends and supporters.

Fear of Gardening

About twenty years ago, I realised that I suffered from a terrible, debilitating, and seemingly rare affliction – a fear of gardening. It all began not long after my former partner and I bought our first house together. She had decided that we needed to upgrade the backyard. It was quite a large area, very deep, with a slight uphill slope from the patio to where the yard ended, just behind the garden shed. The yard was dotted here and there with bedraggled native plants, while the central area featured a patchy, brown lawn.

My partner had a friend whose boyfriend ran a landscaping business. She arranged for him for give us a quote for an overhaul of the yard – new trees and shrubs, a new lawn, a bark garden contained by old railway sleepers. After we’d seen the quote, and I said I didn’t think it was a good idea, my partner arranged for the work to go ahead anyway. This was particularly annoying, given that the quote was based on the fact that I would be doing half of the actual work.

So, as the middle of summer approached, I found myself hauling barrow-loads of bark and sand around the yard. I lost count of trips back and forth to the gardening supply store. As temperatures hovered around the 40-degree mark, I grew faint and weak, but stumbled on, afraid to appear too pathetic in front of the burly landscaper. My partner and her friend sat in the air-conditioned comfort of our house, smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee, while occasionally waving to us, sweating and sunburnt, in the garden.

As the work on our garden was confined to the weekends (the landscaper didn’t want this job interfering with his ‘proper’ work) it took about a month and a half before everything was finished. It seemed to take forever. The completed job looked ‘okay’, I guess, although I was never a big fan of the ‘bark chip’ idea, and the lawn never grew properly. As I surveyed the garden in the weeks afterwards, considered the time, expense and physical work involved in the project, I was struck by an amazing revelation – I never wanted to do such a thing again. The mere thought of gardening made me feel physically ill.

Years later, when it came time to buy a home for myself and my two daughters, I deliberately chose a house with a ‘low maintenance’ garden. We looked at dozens of places, but it was the house with the small, narrow – mostly paved – backyard that we chose. There was just a sliver of garden around the edges of the yard, and that was covered by the ubiquitous bark chips. It all looked so easy to maintain.

All was fine in the summer – it was easy to look after. An occasional watering and a little weeding was all that was required. But then winter arrived, and in particular, the winter rain, and weeds blossomed across the barked area. As I looked upon the green mass of unwelcome vegetation I started to feel faint and giddy. I had to force myself to confront them – filling rubbish bags and buckets with weeds. But the following week they were back in force. I tried spraying weed-killer. I tried digging up entire patches of the yard. But it was a losing battle. In the end, I gave up, and for about five years let the weeds rule the garden. Before I finally sold the house, I had to spend about five thousand dollars clearing up its fabulous ‘low maintenance’ garden.

We now live in an inner-city cottage. It has the tiniest garden imaginable, with a few vines, a couple of shrubs, a small tree or two. The back yard has a patch of lawn no bigger than a living room rug. But the other day, when walking at the side of our house, I noticed something green and wiry poking through the layers of scoria covering the path. And not just one, but several, dotted here and there along the lane. My heart started beating faster; I broke out in a sweat. I felt faint. Weeds.

A Larry David Moment

Fans of Larry David’s ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ will be familiar with the situation. What will start off as a seemingly trivial confrontation with one of life’s many obstacles will snowball into something far more threatening and unpleasant. Larry isn’t such a bad guy, he’s just unlucky. Sure, he can be stubborn and difficult, and he’s certainly his own worst enemy, but most of the time Larry’s really just trying to make sense of a world gone mad.

Well, recently I had my own ‘Larry David’ moment. I wasn’t looking for trouble. I wasn’t trying to be difficult. I was just trying to apply commonsense to a fairly simple and innocuous transaction. But it could have ended in bloodshed.

It all began when I decided to help my daughter out with a little financial matter. She’d received a cheque for $10.00 – a refund from the SA Government for something – and, having never received a cheque before, didn’t know how to negotiate it for cash. I started explaining how she’d have to deposit the cheque to her account, then thought of a better idea. I was going to the bank later that day. I would give her a $10.00 note, then take the cheque and deposit it to my account.

Several hours later, I found myself in the lobby of an unfamiliar bank branch queuing up to deposit a sum of cash and cheques to my credit card account. I had about $300.00 to deposit, including the $10.00 cheque made out to my daughter. When it was my turn, I handed the cash and cheques to the teller, and waited for her to stamp my receipt and enter the transaction to my account. When she came to my daughter’s cheque, she hesitated, then asked; ‘Is this a joint account?’

I explained how I’d given my daughter $10.00 in exchange for the cheque. I told her that the money was a refund from the Government, and that I’d probably paid the fee in the first place, so the money was mine anyway. She wasn’t impressed. ‘You can’t deposit this cheque into your account. It’s got to be paid into an account in your daughter’s name.’

Now, before I go any further, I need to explain a few things. Once upon a time, I worked for the bank in which I was now attempting to deposit the $10.00. I worked for them for 19 years, and for many of them as a teller in the branch network. I’d also worked as a relieving manager, a loans officer and an investment advisor. I was well acquainted with the concept of risk, and the rules regarding the negotiation of third party cheques. In this instance, the amount of the cheque was negligible, and my explanation regarding ownership of the cheque was not far-fetched or unbelievable. I was also a longstanding customer (25 years) with numerous investment and lending accounts.

But the teller was having none of it. Stony-faced, she repeated as though a robot; ‘Your daughter will need to authorize the cheque before it can be negotiated.’

I am not one to lose my temper in public, in fact, I am regularly told how patient and understanding I am. But when the teller called her colleague over, and they both looked at the cheque, then said in the same robotic voice – ‘You can’t deposit this cheque into your account’ – I started to get a little annoyed.

‘But it’s just $10.00,’ I insisted, shrugging my shoulders as if to show how little it meant to me.

‘You can’t deposit this cheque into your account.’

I happened to look up at this point, and noticed the customer at the next teller’s window taking an interest in what was happening to me. He was a slovenly dressed male in his late twenties/early thirties. He was tall, with a medium build and an abundance of facial hair. I thought for a moment that he might have been sympathetic. But then he opened his mouth.

‘Listen buddy,’ he mumbled. ‘If you don’t talk nice to those girls I’m gonna take you outside and teach you a lesson.’

I think I laughed at that point, and looked around me, as though thinking he might have been talking to someone else. I could have ignored him. I could have pretended he’d said nothing. But I didn’t.

‘Why don’t you mind your own business!’

I looked away then, back to the teller, who was now suggesting that she refer the transaction to the branch manager.

‘But it’s only $10.00,’ I pleaded.

‘Hey mate,’ interrupted the customer at the next teller’s window again. ‘If you don’t leave them alone I’m gonna smack you in the head.’

I could have called him a moron. I could have elbowed him in the eye or urinated on his shoes, but I did neither. Instead, I meekly took my $10.00 cheque and shuffled away from the teller’s window. I didn’t run. I didn’t do or say anything but walk calmly out of the bank, leaving the thug to gloat over his ‘victory’.

Did I imagine them laughing behind my back? Did I imagine applause? Did I imagine the thug making chicken sounds?

As I walked back to my car I couldn’t help but wonder what Larry David would have done. If only I was as brave as Larry. If only…

A Night at the Show, Part Two

After about fifteen minutes of being swung around in the increasingly chilly night air, the rain whipping our faces, we emerged from the carriage bedraggled and soaking wet. L was feeling nauseous. I was just cold (and badly needed to pee). My hair had also taken on a very stylish ‘crazed lunatic’ look. We returned to the Jubilee Pavilion in search of a toilet. To my horror, it was almost as wet in the men’s toilets as it was outside (although it wasn’t water that dampened the floor).

L then decided it was time to visit the showbag pavilion. I suggested that it wasn’t the best idea if she was feeling nauseous (I could remember feeling sick after visiting the showbag pavilion many years ago) but she persisted. I needn’t have been concerned, as the rotten weather had ensured that even the showbag pavilion was not as crowded as usual.

Even so, I still felt a little dizzy after following L around for twenty minutes or so. The variety and complexity of the showbags dazzled me. Was there anything or anyone that didn’t have a showbag promoting their product? Pokemon, Bob the Builder, Scooby Doo, Spongebob Squarepants, the Wiggles (shudder), and the Simpsons. Even the Mafia had a showbag! And what on earth is a ‘Mega Sumo’?

When L insisted that I buy a showbag (apparently, you can’t go to the Royal Show without buying at least one) I relented and randomly chose the ‘Crunchie’ bag. Along with a dozen or so chocolate bars I was given a fibre optic lamp (approximate value 50c) that promised to ‘light up my home with magical fun’.

Now weighed down with bags full of food and plastic novelties we returned to the outside world to discover that it was now raining quite heavily. L was losing enthusiasm fast, but I still wanted to take some photos of the colourful sideshows and rides. L trailed along behind with the umbrella while I splashed from one ride to another. After spending 10 minutes taking photos of a fairy floss vendor L ‘spat the dummy’ and stomped off towards the exit. It probably wasn’t such a bad idea. We were both drenched and shivering.

It was a relief to get home. L went straight into the bath, while I made a cup of tea. We were also both pretty hungry after missing out on dinner at the show (L didn’t want a dippy dog), so I promised to make us a hot snack. There was just one thing I had to do first. I hurriedly assembled my new fibre optic lamp, added a couple of brand new batteries, and held my breath as I flicked the on switch. It blinked briefly, fizzled and died with a very unmagical groan.

It was good to see that some things about the Royal Show had not changed.

A Night at the Show, Part One

As a child there were few things more exciting to me than going to the Adelaide Royal Show – the noise, the crowds, the arcade games and rides, the showbags. But the last time I visited, about eleven years ago, I was a parent with two young kids of my own, and the experience was quite different. I found the noise and crowds nerve-wracking, and the expense draining (both metaphorically and literally). It all seemed so superficial and ugly.

When L suggested we go to the Royal Show this year, I instinctively said ‘no’. But then I reconsidered. Maybe it was time to revisit the experience. After all, I no longer had little children to worry about. And the financial factor was no longer so important. Our busy schedules, however, made finding a mutually agreeable time a bit difficult. In the end, it came down to one option – Tuesday night.

When Tuesday came around, my enthusiasm had dissipated, and the weather forecast predicted cloud and rain. But it was too late to pull out, for L had taken showbag orders from friends and relatives. Somewhat reluctantly, I made arrangements to pick L up after work and drive straight to the Wayville Showgrounds.

We didn’t get off to a good start. The traffic situation near the Showgrounds was chaotic. Greenhill Road was at a standstill. To make matters worse, access to the carpark was restricted to traffic heading east. We were heading west. After a short detour down Richmond Road, we finally got to park the car. Always prepared for the worst, I assembled my ‘provisions’ (headache pills, snacks, umbrella, map, camera, spare batteries, tissues, notebook, pen) and we headed for the entrance.

We weren’t in the Showground a minute before the rain came down. Gently at first, then bigger, colder, more threatening drops. We took shelter in the Jubilee Pavilion. Here there was a mystifying collection of promotional stands assembled under the rather non-descript tag of ‘lifestyle’. Furniture displays stood next to stands promoting chocolate sauce; leathergoods next to hair extensions; the Red Cross next to face painting.

As we wandered aimlessly around the displays, where bored salespeople stood yawning, L practiced her ‘thank you but I’m not interested in your product’ face. This involved some grinning and a little nodding. Soon we had both perfected the expression and successfully grinned and nodded our way out of the Pavillion and into a crowded food court, where wet and hungry showgoers munched on hot dogs, fairy floss and chips.

L wanted to check out some of the animal displays, so we trekked around the Showground in search of sheep, dogs, cats and pigs. We got very wet, frustrated and tired, but didn’t see as much as a tropical fish, as all of the animal pavilions had closed for the day. I tried to cheer up L by tempting her with a ride on one of the many bone-shaking, back-shuddering thrill rides.

She decided the only ride she was brave enough to tackle was the Ferris Wheel. That was fine by me, although I was mildly concerned about the rain. It had eased somewhat, however, and it wasn’t that cold or windy. So we merrily clambered aboard the ride, and as we were hoisted into the air above the brilliant lights of the Carnival area, I pulled out my camera and began clicking away madly. It was a few minutes before I noticed that L was huddled low in the seat, her arms over her face. That was when it really decided to rain.

Postcard from Darwin, Part Two

We were out early on Day Four, heading south to the Territory Wildlife Park. Frosh Baby had counted on picking up fresh sandwiches for breakfast from his favourite roadhouse, but due to some silly bungle, we ended up with four very hot, very messy toasted ham-and-cheese sandwiches. I gave up eating mine after getting butter and melted cheese all over my hands. But FB persevered – never one to give up easily when it comes to food – and somehow managed to eat an entire sandwich while staying in control of the ute.

The Wildlife Park is near Berry Springs, nearly an hour south of Darwin. It covers quite a large area, and getting around to all the exhibits takes some effort. It is so large, in fact, that they have a ‘train’ that runs around the park, connecting all the major attractions. Surprisingly, perhaps, we decided against the ‘train’ and set out on foot. I was generally impressed with the open, roomy enclosures and the connecting parklands. The only thing the Wildlife Park lacked was…well, wildlife! After walking for well over an hour the only animals we’d seen were a couple of motley wallabies and a brolga.

The second half of our tour proved more interesting. The walk-through aviary was impressive, as was the aquarium and the nocturnal house. It was after 3.00pm by the time we got to the exit, and we were both feeling tired and hot. Luckily the cafeteria was still open, so we stopped for ice creams and soft drink. But as we headed back to town, FB’s appetite yowled for more – something quick and meaty – so we pulled into McDonalds for a burger. (Frosh Baby loves great food, but he is not a food snob!)

That night we met up with Astrogirl at the Mindil Beach Markets. After a quick look at the food stalls and a yummy tropical fruit whip, we walked to Cullen Bay for a meal at Raccana Thai. We nibbled on delicious satays and other treats while Astro filled us in on the Darwin singles scene. At around 11.00pm we wobbled towards home.

FB and I were out early again on Day Five. He was eager for me to hear a particular sound he’d discovered in the lift well at Parliament House. We hung around for as long as we could without attracting the attention of security guards, but didn’t hear the sound. (Frosh described it as an ‘electronic bird call’.) We drowned our disappointment over breakfast at Café Uno, where a gorgeous English girl served up the most delicious scrambled eggs.

We took the late morning ferry ride to Mandorah, and went in search of lunch. The hotel on Mandorah Beach boasts of being ‘Darwin’s only beachside resort’ but is far from ‘resort’ material. In fact, it looks like the sort of place David Lynch would film a movie. I half expected to find Bobby Peru sunning himself outside one of the grubby apartments. Inevitably, the lunch menu was sad and tired – all schnitzel and chips.

By the time we got back to the city, Frosh Baby’s belly was making sad moaning sounds, while I was feeling quite faint. It had been hours since our scrambled eggs at Café Uno. We ended up at Kozy on Mitchell Street, which featured an unusual Asian-meets-Mediterranean menu. There was certainly nothing wrong with my vegetarian cannelloni, while FB gave his curry the ‘thumbs up’.

Later that afternoon we found ourselves at the Ski Club on the Fanny Bay foreshore. I didn’t see much skiing, but there were plenty of people at the bar or scattered around the grassed area that served as the group’s ‘clubrooms’. FB and I bought some champagne and drew up a couple of chairs to watch the sun go down over the Timor Sea.

It was my last night in Darwin – the City of Eternal Summer. The air was warm, the atmosphere fresh and friendly, and the sun, as it disappeared beneath the horizon, was a perfect orange ball. As I sipped champagne, and watched the sky turn a beautiful orangy-pink, I decided that Darwin wasn’t a bad place at all.