Tuesday, September 22, 2015

...Not just for Christmas

I'm sitting here in a lounge chair in the living room, and lying at my feet, her head on her front paws and her eyes (but not ears) closed, is our dog, Rosie. Known as Dog Rose, Rosalinda, Rosalita, Rosalie and other variants of her name.

She's a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and unlike most of 'em has managed to get to ten and a bit years without a bad heart murmur. The vet was astonished to listen to Rosie's heart and admit there was a murmur there but barely discernible.

Her arthritis is getting her down, though. She has it in her offside shoulder, and now she's on daily anti-inflammatories for it. The vet recommended fish oil and glucosamine as well, so Rosie's nightly dinner now includes a cocktail of goodies to stop her stiffening up and being in pain.

That aside, she has aged. When I walk her she no longer pulls on the leash but lags behind. From the dog she was two years ago who could keep up a pace of more than six kilometres an hour for up to an hour, I now have to take her for her own slow walk and then guiltily leave her at home while I do my power walk.

There's a golden period in a dog's life for going for walks, I think. It's not when they're very young as they pull like mad and don't always want to come back to you when they're off the leash.

But somewhere around four or five years old they are the best walking companions you'll ever have. They don't pull insanely; they keep up with you and trot at your heels, looking up with a happy grin. At eight they are still happy to chase a ball again and again and again.

That's the experience I've had with the three dogs I've been lucky to share my life with.  But at nine, they start to slow. Rosie's interest in chasing balls dwindled. She'd do it once or twice, then give me the 'can't be arsed' look. These days I don't throw balls for her because I don't want her overworking her arthritic shoulder by galloping flat out and twisting and turning. She can do it - but she'll pay for it later and be in pain.

I'm aware that my lovely companion is, in human terms, in her seventies. She may live to a hundred. When I look at her, sleeping a little noisily, there's more white around her eyes than there was last year.

My previous dogs have made it to 13 and a half. I'm hoping Rose does too, or, health permitting, makes it to 14 or more.

Everyone loves puppies; some people forget that puppies grow to be dogs. Even then, they forget that - with luck - one day that puppy will be an old dog.

Dogs are for life, not just for Christmas, as the saying goes. I treasure my old dog. I love her to bits. I hate it that one day she won't be there any more. She's as dear to me now as she was when she was a puppy straight out of a Disney movie.

She'll need care with her arthritis. She's rather deaf (a Cavalier mystery as a lot of them go deaf for no discernible reason). She's precious beyond belief.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The things I do for Psoriasis. Now it's Dandelion Tea

I've suffered from Psoriasis for about 15 years. It started off as a little spot on my right leg when I was camping with friends by the sea. I thought something in the sea had bitten me and my doctor gave me cortisone cream, which seemed to fix it.

It came back after a few months, with a friend. Cortisone cream sorta kinda kept it in check. Fast forward to 2015 and my lower legs are spattered with plaque Psoriasis. I am on a steroid ointment for four weeks, then I switch to a non-steroid cream. The ointment keeps it in check and my legs (and now, elbows and one wrist) look pretty normal for the weeks I'm on it. Once I'm back on the cream for a couple of days it flares up like you wouldn't believe and spreads. So I'm fighting a losing battle. Roll on 1 August so I can have my four weeks of ointment.

It's not painful, it's not itchy. It's just ugly. While I can cover up in winter (and it's usually worse in winter as there is less humidity and you don't get much opportunity for Dr Sunshine to do his stuff) summer is buggery for me. I still have to wear long trousers or tights with skirts.

So every so often I head to the interwebs and research more about this pesky auto-immune disease, which is incurable. It can be brought on by stress and is often inherited.

I'm deliberately trying to minimise the stress in my life by cutting back my work hours and spending time outdoors - working in the garden, going for a walk. As for the inherited bit, well, I'm adopted so I have no idea what my genetic cocktail is.

These are some of the ideas I've tried in the past couple of years:

  • Using olive oil, coconut oil or sesame oil on my plaques. All that did was make my jeans oily unless I then wrapped the offending area in cling wrap.
  • Using Vaseline on the plaques to keep them moist. See that bit about oily jeans above.
  • Drinking Organic Apple Cider Vinegar. I didn't notice any improvement. And let it be said that the smell of any vinegar makes me gag.
  • Taking Vitamin D capsules. I'm doing this at the moment as I don't get to strip off in the sun much in winter. Sunshine in small doses is the best way to let Psoriasis have its necessary dose of Vitamin D.
  • Smearing Aloe Vera on the plaques. I have an Aloe Vera bush so this is one is a nice free of charge idea. I've been doing that for about a week. No difference.
  • Cutting down on just about every food I love. This has been a real bummer. Spicy foods are a no-no apparently (and nobody enjoys a seriously good curry like I do). Gluten? Out! (Nooooo... I love my sourdough!) Dairy? Out aside from yoghurt. Tomatoes and potatoes and other members of the Solanaceae family shouldn't be eaten. Nor should my winter joy Ruby Red Grapefruit (but apparently lemons are OK). Mangoes -! Mangoes -! Why, why, why? My favourite fruit ever. Oats are out - and porridge is one of our breakfast staples. Wahhhhh!!! Seafood - I don't want to live if I can't have the occasional seafood treat. And I shouldn't drink alcohol. Humph. >:-((((( I do love my glass of wine with dinner and have no intention of becoming teetotaller.  Fags are out too. So I have failed on the Food To Cut Out front. Totally. If I have to give up all the food I love I won't get much enjoyment out of life. I might not have plaques but I'll be utterly miserable. I'll be suffering from depression!

These last few days I have been reading up on both the Mediterranean diet and the findings of Dr Irene Prantalos, who is based in Melbourne. She has been a lifelong and very serious sufferer of Psoriasis and through diet is now plaque free.

In general it seems a Mediterranean diet is a pretty good match for Psoriasis. Dr Prantalos has taken it one step further and created a Mediterranean Diet for Psoriasis, and today I bought the e-book of this on Amazon, together with her book Feel Great in Your Skin, 7 Simple Ways to Heal Psoriasis. (Note the word Heal... it can't be healed truly but it can be controlled so it goes into hiding. But most people will respond to the word Heal).

Both these books sound the knell of doom as far as my favourite foods go. Whether I can stick strictly to these recipes for any length of time I don't know. There will come a day when I will scream, "I hate bloody cabbage - and dammit, I want garlic on my chicken tonight! Or chilli! I need curry - now!"

I think if I can incorporate a few of them into my daily diet and be mindful of all the naughties and cut down on them I may see a difference. Some of the recipes just don't appeal to me, especially anything with cabbage. And while Dr Prantalos stresses it's important to use organic when you can, I don't have the budget. I can grow some leafy greens organically but our local organic grocer charges an arm and a leg. Oh, and eat lots of fish. I love fish but it's bloody expensive. Having a chronic illness is not a cheap business.

I'm sure G won't like some of the recipes much either, and he'll have to eat them as I'm not cooking two different meals at any time of the day.

One of the things Dr Prantalos suggests is Dandelion Tea. It's apparently a real goody for Psoriasis. So I bought a box of Dandelion and Chicory Tea at the supermarket today, in the absence of a simple Dandelion Tea. I can't say I'm hooked on the taste. It didn't exactly make me gag but it's not something I'd choose if I didn't think it would do my skin some good.

G is away for two nights from tomorrow so I'll have the opportunity to test drive some of the recipes in the book and read more about the 7 Simple Ways.  And drink a lot of Dandelion Tea.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The land of the long goodbye

We all have them. Friends and family who have trouble hanging up the phone or walking out the door. They like saying the long goodbye.

Most of the time I have no trouble with this but then there are situations such as when I'm on the phone to long-winded friend Val on a work day.

Val: "Is that call waiting beeping for you or me?"
Me: "Me."
Val: "Do you want to get it?"
Me: "I should. I'm expecting a call from XYZ. Call you back in a minute."
Val: "OK, then, lovely to talk to you and I'll be waiting for your call. Love to G, and say hi to all the animals for me and..."
Me: "Ok." Nervously. "I'd better get that."
Val: "Okeydokey, I'll let you go, love you lots, talk to you later. Bye."
Me: "Love you too. Bye."
Val: "Bye."
Call waiting: not there any more

Seriously, that is a woman who can take five minutes to get her goodbyes done with on the telephone. It's fifteen minutes in person.

I have another friend called Phil who understands what it's like taking a personal call at work. If either of us say, "Gotta go!" we understand. It's a quick, "Bye!" and we both hang up. No offence taken on either side. Some people understand that when you've gotta go, you've gotta go.

Another friend The Wildlife Photographer was most upset when I had to ring off quickly one day several years ago. A shelf on my desk had given way, with heavy reference books tumbling down onto my computer. Yikes!  I explained what had happened, and said I really should go and check the computer. I attempted a quick goodbye,  but TWP believes in long goodbyes, and considered my rather urgent, "Very sorry, but really, I should go and check that nothing's broken. Can I call you back? Bye." the height of rudeness. When I did call back he was nearly in tears. I learned: there could be no short goodbye with TWP.  Your goodbyes have to be long and polite.

G is the same on the phone. Long goodbyes. Love to the animals, love to me, and he HAS to be the last person to say goodbye. I've tried teasing and tricking him by saying one last goodbye at the last second but he manages to get one more in, every time. He travels quite a bit for work and insists on ringing every night he's away, often staying on the phone for nearly an hour driving from one place to the other before a long goodbye (at which time I'm usually busting to go to the loo and hopping from foot to foot); I think he gets a bit lonely on his drives.

I hated saying goodbye to Mum on the phone when she was getting older. I worried about her a lot, and had the awful knowledge that one day she wouldn't answer the phone. With Mum, I loved a long goodbye.

I suspect I am more a short goodbye person than a long goodbye one overall, however. Short goodbyes don't have to be brusque; nor do they have to be impolite. With close friends, a "Love you, bye!" is to my mind perfectly acceptable on the phone and a hug and kiss in person; just the one, not multiple over several minutes.

What about you? Are you a short goodbye or long goodbye person?

Or are you the type who hangs up the phone without saying goodbye? I can't bring myself to do this; it seems horribly rude. I have only done it once, to a boyfriend who was soon to become ex, and I was furious at the time.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Just when I was nice and calm...

Google stuffs me round. It made me change my password last week. I then couldn't log in with the new password. So I made another new password. All seemed fine and dandy until I went to log in today to write a new blog post - and guess what, the bastard bloody password didn't work so I had to reset it AGAIN. Then it blocked me at the 'make sure your account is secure' page and refused my shiny new password.

My blood pressure is up right this minute and I'm getting a headache. Why does technology have to be such a bitch?

I finally got into f*cking Google with the latest incarnation of my password - obviously, or I wouldn't be writing this. Unfortunately this post has started off with a very negative vibe, when it's supposed to be a positive one.

Positive because I've had two positive experiences with two very nice women over the last week.

The first was last Thursday, when I went for a free makeup lesson I'd won at a women's networking event. Now, I've never let ANYONE do my makeup. I'm not into being made over as I know what I like and what suits me. I've seen horror stories performed on the faces of friends, particularly for weddings. Both brides looked like freaks when the makeup artists had finished with them. Foundation applied apparently with a trowel and so thick that the wrinkles stayed in place after they'd finished smiling. I was NOT looking forward to this lesson, when a woman I shall call The Imager was going to give me a makeover and show me how to do it myself at home.

I could have given the prize to a friend but I'd been talking to The Imager at the networking event about my new venture as a Jeunesse Global anti-ageing skincare consultant, and she was interested in getting into that and selling the products in her shop. So I had to go. I had to consent to letting myself be made look ten years older.

Reader, The Imager was lovely. And I didn't look a freak when she'd finished. She very much approved of how I usually do my makeup and more or less did the same on me, only with a bit too much primer and spakfilla as the foundation on my nose afterwards looked a bit odd. We got on very well; she's into natural healing and gave me the name of someone who may be able to help my psoriasis - as it's terrible right now in the middle of winter - and pointers for books to read. She's into asking the universe; very much someone I can relate to and talk with. She's also interested in my business but having sold her house the day before she's going to be busy for a few weeks!

The second woman, who I met on Saturday, I shall call The Witch as that's what she is, the leader of an international coven. She's lovely; such a friendly warmth about her. I saw her for a tarot card reading as she has a reputation of being one of the best in Australia. She pulls no punches and tells it like it is. I adored her.

I like to have readings from two or three people at a fairly close time; if they all come up with the same thing, it's likely to happen. I saw a tarot reader in February and have compared my transcription of his reading with the Witch's and I see some consistencies with both, such as:

  • I will be doing business with a man. Could be a business partner, or a supporting role such as accountant.
  • I'm not going to get rich with any of the things I'm doing but I won't starve either. Consistent flow of $.
  • I had or was going to have a new business. The Witch shook her head and said, "You've got three jobs!" and gave an astonished laugh. 
  • There will be travel for me this year (and yes, we are planning a holiday towards the end of November).
  • Both said I "got the shits" with people. The Witch said I had a strong animal dreaming and only feel really calm in the company of other species ;-). 
  • I will be taking a course in something creative. The Witch said University, but I can't afford Uni.
  • G isn't that happy in his job and said that he would be doing something in the teaching line in the future.
  • Mum is hanging around. The Witch said that was perfectly normal and while our bodies die, *we* don't.
  • I would be purging people from my life who upset me; new beginnings, breaking away from people who disrupt my life. The Witch told me to stand up to Whingy, who showed up in the cards. "The choices you make regarding the people that shit you will liberate you. Choose how to respond to people. Whingy will bring conversations back to herself. Walk away from people like her who “use you as a fuckin’ wall”."

The Witch said I'd be going riding. I told her I used to ride but hadn't ridden in 20 years as I'd lost my nerve. "Get on a horse," she said. "You need to ride. Get on a slow horse." She told me I would be working with horses at some stage.

Both saw nothing bad in the next two or three years; the Witch told me any threat would come from the government, possibly the tax man, and told me to make sure I dotted every i and crossed every t with that. There's nothing hugely exciting there, no lottery wins, but on the other hand, 'interesting times' aren't what I want.

So until this morning I was calm and happy, delighted to have met these two lovely women. Just writing about them has calmed me down. I have to remember what the Witch told me when I asked her why I got the shits so easily and became so angry, particularly with technology: love is the key. My life is full of love and is basically happy. Just go the joy.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The haunted dinner party

It was my husband G's birthday last weekend, so I organised a dinner party with one of his friends, the Whingies and friends The Kayak Kouple (they are very much into marathon kayaking).

I was going to cook Boeuf Bourguignon, one of my absolute favourite dishes and G's too. I do a mean Bourguignon if I say so myself. A couple of weeks ago I bought beef cheeks from our local butcher and cooked a big pot up. It melted in our mouths. Divine! That was what G wanted for his birthday.

So my butcher cheerfully sold me about 2kg of beef cheeks, and I took them home and cut them up and marinated them in wine, juniper berries, bay leaves and brandy for nearly 24 hours.

Two hours before our dinner party they were coming to the simmer and the smell was divine. All going to plan.

As it's the middle of winter here I thought I'd get the log fire going as well as the electric heaters.  I'm a bit of a pyromaniac when it comes to log fires and can usually have them up and flaming very quickly and efficiently.

The bloody thing wouldn't light. I did what I usually do: scrunched up newspaper on the bottom with a tepee of kindling on top. The kindling was dry; it had been inside for a fortnight.

I struggled with it for twenty minutes then G took over while I got changed. Our guests arrived to find us both on our knees trying to fan the pathetic little flames into some kind of life. They helped. Between us all we spent about an hour and a half trying to get the bastard going before giving up as - joy! - the Boeuf Bourguignon, with new potatoes and a medley of fresh winter greens - was ready.

Proudly I put it on the table in a fresh casserole dish.

The bloody meat was tough as an old boot! Horrible! It had been cooking for around two hours and had determinedly retained every bit of muscle it had ever possessed.

Of course this WOULD happen when Whingy was over to dinner. She complained loudly that she couldn't cut her meat at least three times. I apologised at least five, feeling angry and embarrassed and worried that my reputation as a good winter cook with casseroles and roasts was compromised.

No fire. Crap meat.

I reckon Mum was on the go somewhere. She didn't like Whingy and probably, from wherever she is, still disapproves of Whingy visiting. I reckon she managed the fire if not the meat.

The Kayak Kouple and G's other mate took it all in good humour and everyone enjoyed the chocolate birthday cake I'd made for dessert. So THAT was alright. By the time I served the cake I had a horrible vision of cutting into it and finding it raw in the middle after everything else that had gone wrong.

It's perishing cold today, particularly in my office which doesn't get any sun. The sun's gone behind clouds and even the front of the house - where you can sit in the sun wearing a t shirt in winter - is chilly.

I'm going to try and light the fire. If it lights... well, I'll know SOMETHING was behind the goings on at our dinner party!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Still crazy after all these years?

I met  an old lover over lunch today
We spoke about our hopes and fears
We laughed and drank a lot of wine
Still crazy after all these years.

Sorry Paul Simon.

But we did. We laughed and drank. Laughed possibly enough and drank too much, if the bottle of white and bottle of red I chucked into the recycling are any measure.

Ian turned 55 this year. When we first met he was 22 and I was 20. We dated and he asked me to marry him when I was 21. I declined for two reasons:

  • I wanted to see more of the world (as Aussies do!)
  • I couldn't cope with the constant pressure to have sex (and I still can't… from anyone.)

That aside we had a lot in common. We had similar upbringings, similar tastes in music (bizarrely old-fashioned compared to our peers), basically we were good together - except at the age of 20 I couldn't cope with Ian's adiposity. He was a big man even then and I found it repulsive, but I found most of sex repulsive. He was my first and there was no teenage sinuous grappling; already he was obese for his age and height and heaven knows he was a sensible eater… but I couldn't cope with it.  Him. Physical him. I've never been a touchy feely person and quailed at the feeling of rolling fat beneath my hands.  It put me off sex. Sorry. I know I shouldn't be sizist but I struggled with weight issues as a teen myself which I'd conquered and it had a lasting effect.

I've never enjoyed the physical sex thing - the invasion of one's body by other parts of another's. I can't cope with having to use my mouth on someone else's body or them on my mine. Given that my first experience with Ian was with someone I found physically unattractive because of his fatness,  although the mental side was good, it's no wonder the relationship failed. I got sick of being expected to put out every time we went out. No matter if it were coffee or dinner it was expected to end in sex and eventually I put my foot down and exited. I've been the same with every other lover, really: can cope with so much intimacy and sex then I want to run away and have my body to myself.

But incredibly Ian and I have stayed friends. We see each other about once a year. Traditionally it's boozy as Ian is still a big man - Gawd, much bigger! - and can handle his booze so he drinks twice a much as I do.

So today was one of our lunch days. He came to my place and I cooked Boeuf Bourgignon, with potatoes and peas. We both thoroughly enjoyed it. We chatted all the way through, catching up on each other's lives.

It struck me in one sense that perhaps I'd have been better off in my life saying "yes" when I was 20. We still get on so well. We still have a lot in common. We still laugh at the same things and have the same aspirations. I'm still repelled by his size but then I'm repelled by my husband who is overweight and has too much body hair for my liking. I've never liked hairy men but at my age there is no escaping them, dammit. Ian, however, is just too bloody big - he's on the truly repulsive size scale for me. Think 150kg. His personality however is wonderful.

But I'm on a boozy high, reliving my afternoon of classic jazz and swing and Frank Sinatra.

But I do wonder if Ian, with whom I have never lived, has the same problems as G: can't close cupboard doors, can't slide drawers in, can't put chairs in, can't finish a sentence and a host of other minor problems. I do like Ian's personality, but I have to be realistic.

I'm married to G, who can bug me but who is a truly good man. So is Ian. But if I have to be hassled for sex I'd rather be hassled by the one with the smaller body. Less repulsive.

Character counts for a good deal but you have to be able to accept physical interaction with a person. Otherwise it's shit. And sometimes still is anyway if your partner wants it a lot more than you do and you have to fake enjoyment or at the least consensus.

So I'm reliving my youth with Ian, wondering about the might have beens and giggling about our views on the future. Still crazy after all these years.

Friday, June 5, 2015

A short - or rather, skinny - history of my life in jeans.

As I work from home, I tend to live in jeans. I have a few pairs in various stages of degradation, and nothing left for 'best', i.e. going into town or out to dinner at the local club.

Shopping for jeans, however, is hell.

I'm short, but I'm not skinny. I'm slightly overweight but you'd call me medium build. So in order for the jeans to fit snugly around my waist they are usually too long in the leg.

I am heaving a huge sigh of relief that 'high rise' jeans that actually fit around your waist are coming back into fashion. Curse Victoria Beckham for her statement several years ago that the hipster (low-rise) trouser was perfect for every body shape and thus prolonging the fashion. It bloody wasn't. If you were bigger than a size 8 you ended up with a muffin top. I did succumb to a pair of low rise jeans for $20 but never felt thin in them. I was ok standing up holding my tummy in but they felt horrible when I sat down, as if my tummy was bulging revoltingly over the top of them like a wobbly soufflé.

I used to wear bootleg jeans a few years ago, then I went for a half price straight leg when I had trouble getting bootleg. The straight leg doesn't really do me any favours. I look short and podgy, so it has been relegated to gardening wear. The bootlegs weren't bad but I got a bit sick of them and longed for a pair of skinny jeans, drainpipe jeans as we used to call them when I was a kid. Do I have the body shape for skinny jeans? Not hugely, but as I tend to favour mid-thigh tunic tops they work for me far better than bootleg or straight leg with tunics.  I bought a pair of skinny jeans two years ago (after going to five shops before I found a pair that had the waistband at the waist and found they were called Mummy Jeans - oh dear!) and felt twenty years younger the first time I put them on.

I do most of my clothes shopping by catalogue with Ezibuy, and I decided to try a pair of high-rise skinny jeans from them last year. While they're on the skinny side they are not skinny skinny jeans. They are skinny jeans for grownups and a bit stretchy. ;-)  I've noticed they have started to sag in the bum and legs, though, as the fabric isn't very heavy and I suppose the elastane element has worn out, and they don't do me any favours when I look in the mirror. They are now relegated to 'wear around home' status. They weren't expensive however, and these days you do get what you pay for in most cases.

Many jeans these days are stretch fabric, and the manufacturers claim they hoik you in and make you look thinner. I fell for a grey pair of Gordon Smith Miracle so-called Skinny Jeans a few months ago when they were on special; they were heavy wintery denim with 10% elastane and had a tapered leg rather than an actual skinny one. But the colour was good. Did they make me look thinner? Initially, but they stretched over the tummy a bit rather than flattened it once I'd worn them a few times. The real miracle about these jeans is that they are fur magnets. I had no sooner taken them out of the carrier bag than every bit of white cat fur in the bedroom migrated onto them.

Lesson: don't buy stretch jeans made with 10% elastane; there's something about that fabric that attracts cat fur. Unless you buy them in the same colour as your cat.

Today I was at my local shopping mall and found some Levi's on a mild special (they are never on a good special).

Now I've never worn Levi's. There was all that hype years ago when they brought out the 501s, the jeans specially designed for a woman's body. I tried a pair on at the time. They were horribly loose below my bum and looked disgusting on me, even though I was two dress sizes smaller back in the day. They simply didn't fit well. Obviously the women's bodies they were designed for were tall and had long legs.

So I've ignored Levi's for years. Aside from which they are pricey. I shudder at the thought of paying more than $100 for a pair of jeans, which is what Levi's cost in Oz. For the same reason I avoid Guess, Jag, Sass and Bide and other designer brands. I have been known to scour the racks at charity shops looking for jeans in my size for a fiver.

But….but…. these Levi's I saw today were skinny jeans, in my waist size and more or less my leg length. They were high-rise. They were a dark indigo, just what I'd been looking for. I tried them on. There was no elastane. They hoiked me in like billy-o. They fit where they should fit. They actually looked pretty darn good. And they weren't made in China, which is a minor miracle these days - they were made in Poland.

Reader, I bought them.

I am 52 years old and now own my first pair of Levi's.

I feel like a teenager.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Hello, I'm an introvert. Nice to meet you. Now leave me alone.

I have a networking function tonight and I have slipped into the pattern of moroseness I usually feel on such days. I don't want to leave the house and spend two hours talking to other people. There will be more than 60 people there. Obviously I don't have to talk to all of them; usually I manage to avoid talking to many at all because I'm on duty with my camera or up on the microphone being an MC.

So I've been playing online jigsaws for the last two hours while my mind spirals down and I tell myself to buck up, it won't be that bad. It's cloudy and grey outside and that doesn't help either as I suspect I'm prone to SAD. I can't focus on work as I know I have to leave at 4.30 for this function to help set up.  I haven't been able to focus on the To Do list since 9.30am and it's noon as I write this.

Most business people head cheerfully to networking events and actually enjoy them. I'm guessing most business people aren't as introverted as I and at least 50% of them are genuine extroverts (apparently the population split in general is 60% extrovert and 40% introvert… which means that almost half the population is introverted, in a world which seems more geared to extroverts).

I found this rather good post today which explains introversion nicely:


It's not that I'm particularly shy. I used to be as a child but these days I happily get on the microphone and address the networking group. It's the small talk chat and talking to people I haven't met before which I find excruciating.

I have friends who nag me to give up smoking, and part of me would, very much, like to kick the habit. But the fags give me an excuse to escape for a few minutes by myself at parties and networking events. Get away from the crowd, get away from the noise. A bit of me time. Far from the madding crowd, essentially.

My introversion is the same reason I will send an email rather than pick up the phone, unless I'm calling a friend for a catchup. I don't think quickly on my feet and writing down what's on my mind is a far less stressful task.

I work alone and work from home. The introverted part of me can't cope with the notion of going into an office everyday and being surrounded by people for the duration of the working day. I put up with that for 25+ years and got through it only by making sure I had lunch at my desk by myself with a good book. I suspect working alone has made my introversion worse, but frankly I don't care. I'm happiest alone.

My upline in the candle business is chasing me to book for the national conference in July, a horror of an event with 600 people, a networking cocktail party with all 600 and a formal dinner again with all 600. It's my idea of hell. I hate conferences with a passion, especially big ones like this. Two days of being locked in a room surrounded by, mainly, strangers unless I could sit with someone I actually know. The final straw is that we have to share hotel rooms; the only available me time will be in the bathroom. The thought of the conference is making me feel physically sick, so I shan't be going. I suspect I will not go far in the candle business; one is expected to attend the conference if one is on the pathway to building a team and achieving leadership. You might wonder what an introvert is doing in a direct marketing role anyway - but I have no problem with speaking about the product; it's speaking to the guests socially after the parties that's hard!

I'm fine with small dinner parties with up to ten people. I feel quite comfortable and able to chat, particularly if they are people I already know. I find it awkward to talk to new people, particularly if they are as introverted as I. I forget to ask open ended questions; I struggle to think of anything aside from "What do you do for a living?" to start a conversation off.

This week is a particularly bad one for me. I have the function tonight, later this week I have a "Chambers Day" with other execs from Chambers of Commerce (a full day of conference including lunchtime bloody networking), and my stepson is visiting for two nights from tomorrow. I can feel my stress levels rising. I do like my stepson, however. He is in his late 20s. He has Asperger's, which is no big deal, except that like me he is an introvert so we have lots of long, awkward silences between us unless my husband is there to (sometimes clumsily) break the ice. If my stepson does talk it's often about topics he is fanatical about, and it's hard to a) keep up, b) maintain an interest as his chief interests don't interest me, and likely vice versa or c) change the subject. He can talk on his chosen topics for hours.

So, dear reader, or perhaps readers (I might get lucky), are you one of our wonderful 40% of introverts? How do you cope with large gatherings or compulsory work networking events? Do you find you get miserable just thinking about them, or do you force yourself not to think about them until the time is upon you?

Me, I'm heading back to jigsawplanet.com for a few hours to take my mind off it.

Monday, March 9, 2015

It's my party and I'll throw a tantrum if I want to

I have somehow been roped into helping a friend throw a birthday party. It's a major party. One of those which celebrates a birthday with a zero on the end. As you may guess from the title of this post, that friend is Whingey.

Whingey and Mr Whingey asked me about three weeks ago to help. Because I organise events as a regular thing for one of my clients, they thought they'd pick my brains. They were tossing up between the following ideas:

  • Hold it at a posh licensed restaurant where guests would pay their own way, which could, depending on wine chosen, work out as $200 per couple (well, won't get many RSVPs to that one as we're all a bit cash strapped)
  • Hold it at home, somehow cramming 50 or more people into the small house if it rains or into the garden if it doesn't. Everyone to bring a plate and drinks (logistic nightmare suggesting what to bring to whom without insulting them)
  • Hold it at a local community hall and get caterers in. BYO drinks but charge people $25 a head to cover the catering (Slightly rude, asking for $)
  • Hold it at a local community hall with a spit roast and pay for the lot, except ask people to bring their own drinks (much better)

After two weeks of deliberation and poring over menu ideas they decided on the final one.  Thank heavens! The first one would have been a real drain on every guests' wallet.

Next was theming. Whingey decided that as she couldn't have the posh restaurant she'd do the opposite and have a 1970s party with people turning up in costume. All good so far. I did the invitations up and they are very much peace, love and flowers.

Until now Whingey has left most of the organising to me, Mr Whingey and another friend. However, Mr Whingey, who has taken to dropping by after work for a drink to look over party arrangements as Whingey doesn't let him drink midweek, rang me yesterday. "Invite us over to discuss the party before dinner," he begged. "I'm bored."

So I did, and Whingey didn't let him drink and she didn't drink and she started to look carefully at the spreadsheet I'd done up and started picking it at. Well, I expected that.

We are having table names rather than numbers, with 70s icons as the names, i.e. Gough Whitlam, Robert Redford. Whingey immediately decided she'd rather have band names or musicians etc so the red pen went through my list.

Her other friend and I decided we'd have a fun 70s trivia quiz as an icebreaker, with one of the topics being sport. Sport got vetoed too, as Whingey has no interest in sport.

When we got onto discussing the music for the evening I really wish she'd had that glass of bubbly I offered; she's always less grumpy after a drink. Mr Whingey likes his early 70s rock, particularly prog rock. All his suggestions were banned immediately. When we all teased her that he would slip a song from one particular band in, she snapped, "Do you want me to walk out on my own party on the night?"

G and I exchanged a glance. We were both thinking the same uncharitable thought: Yes, because then everyone who has worked so hard on this can actually enjoy themselves without worrying about you snapping at them if things aren't bloody perfect!

I am wondering whether Mr W will phone this afternoon and ask to come around and talk about the music. And whether he will, as usual, bring a bottle of red to gulp at before he goes home. I'm laying 5/2 on that one.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Rebecca where are you?

One of my favourite books is Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. I read it first when I was in my mid-teens, and needed something to read. In Mum's bookshelf was an old hardback with a yellow dust jacket. On the spine it said The (then a gap where the dust jacket was torn) "Rebecca". Mum had ripped the price out as it was a bargain 2/6 in 1954 and she didn't want the price showing. I genuinely thought the book was called The "Rebecca" and that it was about a ship or something. Booooring!!!!

Mum's bookshelves were full of old hardbacks from the 40s and 50s. Many of them looked awfully unappetising, in fact downright boring, with a few exceptions, the best being They're A Weird Mob by Nino Culotta (John O'Grady to you), which I adore.

"Read Rebecca," Mum advised. "You'll love it." Only the week before she had urged me to read Green Dolphin Country and I just couldn't get into it; historical drama - not my thing at all.

Anyhow, I thought I'd give Rebecca a shot and I fell in love. It inspired me to seek out Daphne du Maurier's other novels and they have all been good companions and re-read over the years. Except for Julius. I hated it. Julius murdered his cat near the beginning of the book. That ruined it for me.

Every couple of years I re-read Rebecca; yes, I can quote from it, but I don't care. When I was living in our old place I borrowed the book from Mum, and when we moved in here I brought it back and put it in its rightful place in Mum's old bookshelf, which is in the room which is now my office.

Last week I wanted to read it. I knew where I'd put it. Right next to They're A Weird Mob. But it wasn't there. That yellow dust jacket is unmistakable. I checked the shelf again. I pulled out the books at the front to go through the books at the back. I looked through the front books, where it should have been, three times in total.

Had I loaned it out to Whingy? I had loaned her other DduM books but had resisted loaning her Rebecca as, in its 1954 'cheap edition' it was priceless to me and I didn't want her losing it or giving it away, forgetting who had loaned it to her. No, I hadn't loaned it.

So, it must be downstairs with most of G and my books. We have six bookshelves downstairs. I went through every single one of them, hunting for that yellow cover. Where the books were double stacked I took them out, and cast my eyes over thousands of books in total.

I was puzzled. Where on earth -?  There was one more bookshelf in my office I hadn't checked, my own where I keep business books; it would be unlikely to be there but even so…

I chuntered back upstairs and into my office. And there it was. Bright yellow cover and all. Right next to They're A Weird Mob. Right where it should be.

I swear Mum was playing a joke on me. I did ask her, when I was downstairs, where the book was. It seems inconceivable that I could look at that book three times and not see it, not with that bright cover. I'm looking at it now and it's unmissable.

Now I just have to find my copy of Susan Hill's Mrs de Winter, which was written as a follow up. I've read Sally Beauman's Rebecca's Tale, which was excellent and a believable sequel to Rebecca. But hey, I can't find the book downstairs and it's not in the bookshelf in my office. Mum….?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Dream a little dream of...

I had an afternoon nap earlier this week. It was hot, I'd overeaten for lunch (on salad - can you believe I overate on bloody salad??) and felt unspeakably tired after lunch. It was as if I was being sent to sleep. I had decided to read for fifteen minutes after lunch but couldn't keep my eyes open, and lay on the sofa instead.

I dreamed of Mum, and I do wonder if she sent me to sleep for that purpose. I'm sure she still hangs around here.

Anyway, in the dream I was sorting out the broom cupboard. Last weekend G and I bought a new long-handled dustpan and brush (we do SUCH exciting things together) and I promised to move the old one out of the cupboard and take it to the garage for use down there and on the path and driveway. Lazy me, I hadn't done it at that point.

But in my dream I picked it out of the cupboard, and had the new one in my hand too. Mum was standing next to me in the hall.

"I'll just sweep the kitchen floor," I told her, brandishing the new dustpan.

"No, you don't have to do that right now," she said, a little mysteriously. She was hiding something.

"But it's dirty."

"You won't want to go in there."

"There's a spider, isn't there?" I said anxiously. I loathe spiders - specifically the big bastards such as the Huntsmans we get occasionally clinging to the ceiling.

Mum nodded.  I peered into the kitchen and looked up. No sign of it; I went in slowly, around to the cooking area. Aaargh! There it was, above the oven.  I squealed and ran back out to the hall and Mum.

And woke up about then.

Honestly, the dream was so vivid I was sure Mum was still alive and with me. And that there was a spider in the kitchen. I wish the former were true with all my heart. I was so convinced I'd had a spider warning I went into the kitchen warily and looked everywhere. I've been checking every ceiling in the house since then.

I think earlier in this dream I was on the patio. I'd had a cigarette and oh heck, Mum was standing at the door. I must reek of smoke, I thought despairingly, knowing how much she disapproved of smoking. I was being very edgy and trying not to get too close to her so she wouldn't smell it on me. I think I had a  broom in my hand and was sweeping up outside. Mum was saying something about cigarettes but I can't remember what. That part of the dream wasn't as real and vivid as the spider bit.

Although it's been a stinking hot week here I haven't had that desperate urge to sleep, the sense that I can't stay awake, since the spider dream. I do believe Mum visited me. Lovely warm feeling!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Mess and Mr Turdiman

My husband G is away for a few days for work. After spending almost three weeks solid in his company over the Christmas break, it feels both odd and a relief. Love him as I do, it's nice to have the place to myself for a bit.

He does try hard to pull his weight. He usually does the washing up in the morning (and leaves the sink area a total wet mess afterwards) and helps with the hoovering (but not under furniture or on the top of skirting boards or those other little dust gathering places). He helps hang the washing out and is quite OCD about it: he has to pair all the socks together and drape them in pairs over the line before pegging them, likewise all his undies he has to hang over the line first instead of just grabbing a handful and pegging them. It drives me nuts watching him as it's double handling. When he hangs his shirts out he doesn't always check the sleeves aren't turned up, so he gets a surprise to find that some sleeves on his shirts aren't dry as the cuffs are turned in.  I mustn't grumble. Most women would be delighted to have the help.

I've been cleaning the house today. I don't think G realises how messy he can be. Crumbs all over his end of the kitchen table and under his chair. Shoes strewn in several places in the bedroom (despite me fixing up a bigger shoe rack for him in the wardrobe), drawers not closed fully (ooooh, that irks me!), papers left everywhere, and worst of all the pee drops on the loo floor.

Why the hell do men dribble? Can't they wipe their willies with a bit of bog roll? G doesn't even realise he drips. I've pointed it out to him and he's been astonished, but he still dribbles. And it smells. If I get in there quickly enough after him I wipe the floor with loo paper but I still have to mop it at least twice a week.

I have a nose which can be pretty sensitive to smells; on one hand it's nice to get a whiff of someone's perfume and be able to identify it, likewise the scent of a flower while walking along the footpath. But I'm very sensitive to bad pongs.

Which brings me to the other bad pong. Shit. G is a shitter. Some days are double dumpers, some are triple turders. The bloke just can't go once a day. We only have one toilet, so while the holidays were on I had to time my own daily dump between the numerous loo visits of G. I secretly call him Mr Turdiman. He doesn't know this. I've never met anyone who needs to crap so often.

So for a few days I have a clean, tidy house and a toilet that doesn't stink. Everything is in its place. I feel calm. It's like a holiday after the holiday.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

New Year's Resolution: Grow Some Balls

If there's a problem client roaming around looking for a contractor they are sure to find me. It's as if I have a sign on my back: Use Me And Don't Pay Me.

After giving up hope of getting any money out of The Scarlet Pimpernel - a cunning, conniving cow who racked up thousands of dollars of web and design work with me and didn't pay me, then proceeded to do the same to at least two others - I now have another client who wants me to do work urgently but doesn't have the money to pay.

A friend of mine nicknamed him Mr Twat. I call him Fer-ANK or Fuck Off Frank. Not to his face as I'm a coward. But when I see his name come up on my phone I want to scream or self-harm (keep me away from sharp objects!), so I yell Fuck Off Frank to it several times before I take the call.

Mr Twat is running a conference. Or rather, I'm organising it for him. He wants it to be an annual event. I'm in the throes of organising the third annual conference and he still owes me for the work I did on the first two. He is paying me off whenever he gets a new sponsor for the current conference.

As a business plan goes, it sucks. "I can't pay you unless the conference makes a profit." It's rather like a commission-only sales job, and that is something to which I have never aspired.

Well. I spat the dummy last week. I have been extraordinarily - some say stupidly - generous in the time I've allowed him to pay me off. I've been called daft for still doing work for him but if I stop now I don't like my chances of getting paid as the conference needs to go ahead and make a profit.

The end result of the dummy spit is that Mr Twat rang me yesterday and told me that regardless of whether or not the conference made a profit he would pay me even if it had to come out of his own pocket. I suspect the concept of loaning your own company your own money to pay contractors or bills has only just occurred to him. The rest of us do it all the time.

What really irritates me, aside from the slow payments, is that Mr Twat will phone me on an almost daily basis with more tasks for this wretched event. He will talk on hands free because he's driving, which means essentially he shouts down the phone at me. I hate being shouted at.  He also asks if I am in front of my computer or at my system, which truly pisses me off. Apparently I have no right or reason to be anywhere else, as he is often surprised if I tell him that I'm actually not sitting in front of a computer. People seem to think I spend 24/7 at the desk. Perhaps they believe I sleep with my computer, holding my laptop like a lover. I bloody don't.

This year my intent is to grow some balls and spit the dummy at problem clients more often. I have eye problems which mean I can't realistically do a full day's work sitting in front of a computer. My eyes get tired, the left one gets painful and stings. I am now picking and choosing who I work for, and will be moving Mr Twat off my client list once he has paid up in full.

Life's too short.