Thursday, January 24, 2013


Ok, what's Housanality? Well, people have personality, houses have housanality. OK, I just made that up. But think about it, it works, doesn't it?

This is the context I'm talking about:  In our group of 8 townhouses we find that certain types of people live in certain houses in our complex.

For example, house number 2 attracts noisy people. The tenants before the current lot screamed and argued with each other on a daily basis. We were tempted to call the police once or twice when it threatened to become physically violent but luckily they backed off. Often outside, too, in their courtyard, so they could share the hate with their neighbours. The courtyard is number 2 is a bit of a noise amplifier because of the shape of it, we think. Every shout is magnified.

The current tenants in number 2 are loud, too. Like the previous tenants they are from India or Sri Lanka. It seems many Indian women have LOUD voices. Maybe they have to shout to make themselves heard above city noise in India. I'm not trying to be racist here. But most of our neighbours are Indian or Sri Lankan, and the women have voices which can clear blocked drains. Fact.

Anyway, our neighbours in 2 have a toddler, and they play, at loud volume, a CD of nursery rhymes in English, but with an Indian accent. We can hear them clearly in our own house. These songs become ear worms for me; I get "to marrrket, to marrrket, to buy a fat pig" stuck in my head for minutes at a time. It's worse when the child's mother, who we call Gobbler (more on that soon), sings along. She shouts loudly and tunelessly; the funniest song is Baa Baa Black Sheep, when Gobbler bellows, "YES, sir, YES, sir, thrrrree bags FULL!!!!"

The kid cries and screams a lot as all toddlers do, and then Gobbler gobbles to him. Yes, she could be mistaken for a turkey. She does an amazing turkey imitation, heaven knows why, and I swear that kid is going to grow up believing he's raised by poultry. When she's not gobbling, or singing, she talks to him, either in Hindi or parrotting back his own baby noises at high volume. Needless to say whenever it's not raining all the action takes place in their courtyard, so we hear every gobble whether we want to or not.

Then there is number 5. Number 5 attracts noisy dogs. The owners had two dogs there a few years back before they bought a bigger place and moved out, and their dogs barked and barked and barked and barked and barked. At nothing. When the owners were at work and I was busy working at home I wasn't above turning a hose on the bloody animals to shut them up. Now the place is tenanted and guess what, a noisy dog lives there. He barks and barks and barks, but usually for a reason, ie someone is walking down the street 25 metres away. His bark gets higher in pitch the more excited he gets until he sounds as if he's being strangled. When the maintenance men did the lawns today I thought he was going to choke. Thankfully, unlike the previous dogs, if you go out and say his name gently and tell him to be quiet, he'll look you in the eye and shut up. He's nice. If noisy.

Whoever lives in number 8 is scared of dogs. The previous owners were petrified of our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, who does have a nasty habit of rushing out of the front door and barking at people from a distance. We're trying to get her out of it but she's determined to protect us from our neighbours, all of whom she knows well and likes. On the lead she's fine but off lead she's a wolf. So we try and keep her on the lead when we go out front. But... a few weeks back we'd been out in the car with her and we let her  jump out of the back seat. G went to open the front door of the house thinking she'd follow him but our dog spied the new guy in number 8 and went galloping up to him, barking, tail wagging frantically. Harmless but loud. Poor guy - he's scared of dogs and he ran to his car and jumped onto the bonnet, then the roof. I couldn't believe it! I was mortified. Poor bloke! He's Indian and I've met many Indians around here who are frightened of dogs. I had to grab our dog and apologise profusely. Inside our house G and I collapsed in cruel laughter as jumping on your own car was like something from a movie.

So there are the personality traits of a few of our neighbouring houses. Numbers 3 and 6 attract quiet people; we've seen a couple of families come and go in each of them over seven years and we've never heard a single shout. Numbers 1 and 7 I can't make a comment on, as the people in them have lived there longer than we have; will number 1's future owners have a penchant for white fluffy dogs and twee garden statues? Will number 7's future owners be outgoing and friendly?

Who knows? The local council is likely to rezone our entire street to high density housing, and if developers make us owners an offer we don't want to refuse, our houses, and their housanalities, may be gone forever in a few years, replaced by an apartment block. That's a sad thought as apart from KFC on the corner this is a quiet street, a neighbourly place, a sleepy hollow where houses sit on quarter acre blocks and kids still play cricket in their back gardens. Once land is gone, it's gone. And so is a way of life.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Can't stop that day

Monday. What is it about Monday that makes songwriters attracted to it in a way that they aren't about Wednesday or Thursday? Tuesday got its chance with Ruby Tuesday, and Friday on My Mind is a 60s classic.

Friday songs are upbeat. The weekend is on the way.

But Monday... oh dear. Monday Monday, can't stop that day. I don't like Mondays. Manic Monday. And let's not forget Blue Monday (New Order). Says it all really.

Frankly I don't like Mondays either. I get blue on Mondays. I am a classic sufferer of Mondayitis, and this is my second working Monday of 2013. I've already had enough!

This year I'm trying to only work part time; I'll be choosing my clients carefully. If someone sounds like trouble at the first conversation, I don't take on the job. My experience is that troublesome clients always want to pay as little as they can and indulge their right to change their mind often on fixed price projects.

Menopausal women can go through weird emotional and mental stages. I suspect I'm in one right now and have been for over a year. I just don't want to work. Part of that too is that I don't make much out of what I do so slogging away for nine or ten hours a day is discouraging, but the thought of going out and getting a paid job, with a supervisor/boss telling me what to do and watching how long I take for lunch, peering over my shoulder to see what I'm doing, the awfulness of KPIs and reviews, the sick feeling in the pit of the stomach when you ask for annual leave in case it gets knocked back and the unspeakable hell of workstations and shared offices... oh no, I don't want that again. No money would be enough. I'm an unemployable renegade these days.

So Mondays (like rainy days... there's a song in that!) are getting me down at the moment. I've had three weeks without work, weeks to explore painting, drawing and dressmaking/craft stuff. Fantastic weeks with little computer time. Freedom. Me time.

I'm not alone - I know that! But time was many years ago when I DID like Mondays and quite enjoyed my job. I was an employee at that stage but extraordinarily blessed with a great boss and my own office. This was in the heady days when email was just coming into regular use and didn't take up 90% of your work time. The company I worked for had a wonderful family atmosphere which changed after we were taken over; I scored a new boss who was a total control freak and sent me pretty close to a breakdown. I began to loathe my job and used to cry in the mornings as I drove to work. After that, my third control freak boss in my career, I decided enough was enough and lit out on my own.

They say that if you have a hobby you enjoy, make a career out of it. That's what I did twelve years ago, when my hobby was building websites and doing graphic design. Now I need a new hobby and new career! So I can like Mondays again.

Painting is an option.... suggestions on a postcard please!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

You're so vain... Or, the French Solution

Well, actually, I'm so vain. I feel about 25 and skinny inside but the reality is fifty and overweight (but not yet obese, officially). I don't want to look fifty. I don't want to be tubby. I am also, and I state this unequivocally, the world's laziest bint. I have a gym membership but haven't used it in ages. Just the thought of hot gym-based sweatiness in a Sydney summer makes me want to lie on the sofa with a chilled glass of pinot grigio. Lying on a sofa won't help my thunder thighs though; summer is especially awful for me as wearing skirts or dresses means my big inner thighs rub together and get sweaty and uncomfortable unless I wear panty hose or thigh-length underwear. So I spend summer in trousers or shorts, even on the hottest days.

Having perused several books by French women or Brits and Aussies writing about French women (Almost French by Sarah Turnbull, Parisian Chic by Ines de la Fressange, All You Need To Be Impossibly French by Helena Frith Powell and - like millions of others - French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano, among others), I have decided to pursue a French solution. French women don't go to the gym. They simply move a lot. They walk. They take the stairs rather than a lift (although an office block of 30 floors would defeat me). Having spent five days in Paris walking my arse off last year there's something about Paris which compels you to walk everywhere, because there is so much to see and the city envelopes you in Parisian-ness. Um, western Sydney doesn't have the same charm but I'm doing my best. Even downtown Sydney doesn't have the same pull walking-wise but curiously central Melbourne does.

(Why French? you may ask. Because I've always thought French women to be chic, and while I was born without a chic gene, it doesn't stop me trying.)

Another part of the French solution is eating like the French. Not being guilty about having a glass of wine with dinner (but of course, one is not supposed to drink the entire bottle as some of my girlfriends do!). Not eating huge meals. Eating seasonal produce. Eating whole foods. Eating freshly prepared meals rather than package ones (something I have always done anyway). I've also cut down on the carbs, especially after 5pm. Except for the wine. I view wine as 'good carbs'. Heh heh, I've rattled on about diets etc on this blog before, but basically I eat protein and veggies at every meal, and don't have carbs every day. I have also cut down dramatically on sugar, particularly processed sugar. The Christmas season, with its jolly Christmas cake and irresistible Christmas pudding and home-made brandy custard and catching up with friends to - frankly - FEAST has taken its toll however and my weight is creeping up again.

So I have pledged to walk or cycle to the shops unless it's stinking hot in which case the airconditioned car gets a run, I gallop up the stairs in my house several times a day, the diet is back on track, but wait, there's more.

Those canny French women spend a bleedin' fortune on their skin, not just anti-ageing but anti-fat as well. I've been doing some research as I don't have the kind of budget which allows me to spend $200 on a face cream or anti-cellulite/slimming cream. Nor do I have a budget for regular facials, or regular anti-cellulite massages.

One thing and another led me to the No Lipo Lipo program by Carole Maggio, who has a day spa in California. One thing I had been researching was dry body brushing, something you can do in the privacy of your own home at the frugal cost of a sisal mitt. Lo! Carole's program includes dry brushing and also deep knuckle massage. Because I can't go to California for a six week program, I bought Carole's knuckle massage DVD which shows you how to do it all at home.

I put the DVD on yesterday, made notes to take into the bathroom and gave it all a go. Jesus!  My arms will certainly get toned as giving yourself a massage with your knuckles is hard work! You're supposed to do the massage three to four times a week but I'm going to try and do it every weekday while G is at work.

Carole also sells her Facercise book, which for a modest sum looks like it can supplement the skincare cream I use anyway and keep the wrinkles and double chin at bay. The book arrived in the post a few days ago and G flicked through it. "God!" he said. "I hope you won't be doing these exercises in front of me!" The exercises are well illustrated with photos, and some of the facial expressions you have to pull as part of the exercise program are a hoot!

So I'm also doing the exercises while G is at work. They make your face ache :-), which is probably proof they are doing their thing. I'll be intrigued to see if there is a difference. I've noticed the corners of my mouth turning down over the last year or so, and I hate that. I look like a grumpy old cow. (Probably because I AM a grumpy old cow 9-5 Mon-Fri!) Facercise has an exercise to stop your mouth turning down at the corners.

So here's the goal. By Easter, when it's time to hoe into all those cheap chocolate eggs, I'll be a clothing size smaller with a mouth that doesn't turn down. I'll be bien dans ma peau.  C'est tres bien, non?