Nude by Christmas

38 years old, 102kg. One of those numbers is about to change.

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Commercializing our kids – from junk food to junk mail

Every Monday we arrive home from school pick-up to find a pile of junk mail sitting on top of our mail box. Neatly wrapped, bound with an elastic band, sparkling like candy in the sun, we dutifully pick it up and put it straight into the recycling bin without even looking at it. Inside the mail box there is yet another real estate calendar with a red-jacketed, middle-aged woman smiling at us, hungry to sell our house; a stapled booklet of coupons for a buy-three-get-one-free pizza offer, and; a carefully disguised, official looking addressed letter that turns out to be from an optometrist offering a similar offer to the pizza joint, only this time for cheap – and generally ugly – spectacle frames.

My phone bleeps to reveal a message from my phone company advising me to phone them about a new phone offer that is available to me only over the phone. Another message – pretty much the same – arrives in my email inbox, alongside a reminder from an airline about just how infrequently I’m flying with them, and another from a company who disguises the amount of paper they waste by naming themselves after the very rainforest they chop down in the name of wasting paper. The part of their business that doesn’t waste paper is named after the small bits of wood, left over from chopping down trees, used to light fires and contribute to global warming, made worse by the fact that, you guess it, there are less trees… but I digress.

In my kids’ bags there are notes about Book Week, International Day, Earth Hour and the importance of finding thirty minutes to exercise. There are flyers for tennis lessons, soccer clubs, cubs, brownies, scouts and guides, and one about the price of learning the recorder, which doesn’t disclose the true cost of learning the recorder, which, as we all know, is that you lose you mind. There is a pamphlet about wearing hats and wearing sunscreen and not wearing jewellery and not wearing thongs. I’m in Australia: so that’s footwear rather than underwear. There’s an order form for cheap books, an order form for the school canteen, an order form for uniforms and an order form for any order forms that we’ve forgotten to order. There is a request for donations for a Father’s Day stall, a cake stall and a book stall. There’s a call to help staff a barbecue outside a hardware store to raise money, notification of a gold coin donation required to dress normally for a day and a school newsletter asking if anyone wants to host exchange students, sign up for a la crosse team, learn guitar or sell their children to slave traders. It seems the way to go.

I could, but haven’t, put an “Addressed Mail Only” sign on my mailbox. I can, and do, block spammers sending me junk email. I reply STOP to every damned text message I get trying to flog me something. But short of sending my kids to school with a “No Junk Mail” badge or head-band, I’m stuffed if I know how to stop the flow of crap through them. They already come home with their head full of junk – mostly from their peers, but also from their teachers – so the last thing I need from them is more advertising material disguised as some sort of important note. We’ve had flyers for a “Monster Truck” show at casino resort, ‘bookmarks’ which are really ads to buy whatever the latest series tweenies are into, and repeated ‘invitations’ for us to open bank accounts at the local Bendigo ‘Community’ Bank. Last time I checked, Bendigo was a pretty, but faded jewel of a place outside of Melbourne, more than 3000km away. This bank is about as active in my community as the generic branded ATM built into the wall of the pharmacy that is so passive it doesn’t even accept deposits.

And yet I am the one who is nuts. I am the one who, when given a sponsorship form to raise money for new computers at the school, was the only one who asked why, given computers are part of the curriculum, that the education department didn’t actually provide computers for the kids to learn on, and why we had to fundraise for them. It’s like saying that they need to learn spelling, but not giving them words to spell. You can teach music by singing, sure, but it’s pretty tough to teach kids anything about computers without, well, a computer.

Then I read the sponsorship form. It was for the “Adidas School Fun Run”. A glossy colour pamphlet, complete with Adidas logo, a double-page spread about Adidas shoes and a chance to ‘win’ a trip to Disneyland by logging on, registering your child as a participant (!), handing over all their information to the company running this farce and maybe – maybe – winning a prized pair of three-stripes or a trip to the happiest place on earth (conditions apply). In the same brochure was an ad for a credit union – again, telling me to set up an account for my kid – and one for a chain of bakeries, because… well, who knows, really.

I gritted my teeth and read further. Hmmm. What’s this about “the more you raise, the more you win”? Hmmm. Oh. The kids are sent out to squeeze money from grandma and Mrs Potts next door and the poor unsuspecting dude that runs the corner store all in the name of helping the school, when what they’re really doing is raising money to buy themselves shit. Yes. 30% of what they raise goes straight to the kid to buy a piece of shit toy from a list in the catalogue. Apparently this is an incentive. The more you raise, the more shit you can have for yourself. Yes, that’s precisely what we should be teaching our kids… charity really does begin at home, or, in other words: “What’s in it for me?”. So, actually, the school only gets 70% of the money raised… no… hang on… what’s this…

Oh, of course, the ‘coordinators’ of the Adidas School Fun Run also take 10% as an administration fee. Of course they do, because collecting all my kids’ personal details and keeping them on record to send them fucking promotional deals for Adidas shoes isn’t enough for them – they want cash.

So the school gets 60%… and 40% gets pissed up against a wall.

But do you reckon the kids tell grandma or Mrs Potts or the dude at the store that 40% of the money they’re donating is going to get pissed up against a wall? Of course not! Nanna, Potts and the store guy all think that the school’s getting 100%! I mean why wouldn’t they – particularly given that the pamphlet actually provides the kids with a script that makes no mention of the money going anywhere else, other than to the school.

Outrageous.

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The Games are up! The five-ringed circus prepares to move on.

Every four years the rich and fat people of the world sit down to watch their champion athletes whip the arses of the poor and skinny countries. Collectively, they pour billions of dollars or dinas or drachma or dongs into programs that ensure their pre-pubescent synchronised divers will out spin and twist those of Sierra Leone or Equatorial Guinea. Their nations surf waves of jingoistic euphoria when their Ivy League college guys throw a flat plate or heavy ball further than anyone else, then reward them with an Abercrombie and Fitch contract and interview with Matt Lauer.

The poor and skinny countries get patronised over the line by the (sponsor’s) beer swilling public, holding their plastic cup in one hand and filming each touching moment with an iphone in their other. Anthems get compared (“Oh that’s a nice song”), tears get measured, athletes get judged by whether or not they sing the words or put their hand on their heart or even bothered to brush their hair. Silver medallists are judged on their demeanor, bronze medallists are lauded for ‘beaming at just picking up a medal’, and the golden girl or boy atop the podium can look forward to a life of hero status, interrupted only by the publishing of photos of them in flagrante delicto with someone else’s husband or wife (or both) when they no longer have the body of Adonis or the face of Helen of Troy.

The host city packs up its banners, downs a Berocca and processes the asylum seeking long-distance runners fleeing a war lord made famous on YouTube, then gets on with the business of going broke and trying to stay relevant as the five ringed circus moves on to the next contaminated landfill site in need of urban renewal. Meanwhile, the government of the day has pushed through all its most contentious legislation, while its people were watching ping pong, and the corporate fat cats have signed their deals, flogged their newest phone or burger or pair of shoes to the bemused fatties in the stadia, and the sweaty ones at home, whose skin is now almost one with their leather arm chair.

The poor skinny athletes go back to their poor skinny countries, their Soviet era apartments, their barbed-wire compounds on the outskirts of the world’s fastest growing metropolises. The ones from larger, communist states get medals of honour, allotments of land or have their families imprisoned, depending on how they did. The really lucky ones will find a talent scout from a formerly-reputable university (now fighting allegations it turned its back on ‘inappropriate behaviour’ by coaches) on their doorsteps offering a scholarship – with citizenship thrown in on completion of a BA in nothing much more than yours or mine is.

The committee that runs the circus will retreat to their manors and tax havens with the wives and girlfriends they picked up at the equestrian competition, or who danced in their lap in Mayfair as they slipped their nation’s GDP into a fraying g-string. They will meet again in a year or so to decide where next they would like to holiday in four year’s time after enjoying the sophistication of the Big Smoke and the sun-burnt bums and precision waxing of Rio.

I can’t believe that we have to wait four more years for it all to come around again.

Lose weight fast: get sick.

If you really want to lose weight: get sick. Trust me, it’s been my most effective technique. I don’t mean really sick, like leukemia sick, or cancer-of-the-colon sick. Just sick sick. Flu sick. While those other kinds of sickness will greatly assist in weight-loss, they also have a pretty nasty side-effect: death. But flu sick is fine. A couple of days of sweating up a storm, dropping a few kilos, then you’re right as rain.

Dietitians and doctors amongst my many, many readers will be aghast at this suggestions, so I should assure you that I don’t really mean it.

But boy does it work.

Seduced by a vegan

I just consciously ordered vegan. I feel dirty. Like I’m about to grow a beard and my clothes will start to smell.

And I liked it. Like really liked it. Like mopped up everything on the plate – not just because there was hardly anything on it, but because it… tasted… good. Oh I can’t believe I just wrote that. It tasted good.

I don’t even know what it was. There was an avocado, a tomato and something – to be quite honest – which looked like a shit. Sorry for being so crass, but that’s one turd I can’t polish. That’s what it looked like. I’ve never eaten shit in my life, but if it tastes anywhere near as good as this shit-looking thing that I just ate, I’m surprised more people don’t eat it. See, I told you I feel dirty.

The waitress who served me was, thankfully, carnivorous. She looked down her nose at me, stared with her over-made-up-eyes, and sneered. Phew. That made me feel normal. Like it was right not to want to eat this stuff. Then she talked to me about bacon. How she would wear it, she liked it so much. How she had seen shoes with bacon painted on them, and a t-shirt, and bacon band-aids. Enough with the bacon, already! I thought, as my butter knife easily sliced through my pile of vegan poo. But on she went. About her friend who was denied a place in a share-house because – although vegetarian – the vegan landlords wouldn’t touch her with a bean-pole. Wars are fought over things like this.

I’m sitting here looking at the plate wondering what I’ve just done. Like I’ve woken up in a strange bed, incense burning, next to a skinny girl, tanned from spending too much time in Bali, with beads in her hair and a pierced tongue. Hmmmm. Guess it’s not so bad.

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All this excitement, and the trampolining hasn’t even started yet

If the brand nazis at the IOC could see my eyes right now, I’d be thrown in the Tower of London, not to be released until Zara Phillips won gold in Rio. And that’s a big ‘if’. The rings around my eyes from staying up late watching this damned sports carnival are of Olympic proportions. My part of the world is 7 hours ahead of London, so when the interesting evening sessions are getting started in Stratford, witches are gathering for their covens here.

It’s ridiculous really. I’m watching handball. Water polo. Synchronised diving, for f*ck’s sake. I’m getting all jittery and excited when someone from Turkey is shooting clay pigeons. I’m commenting on the South Korean women’s archery outfit, umpiring the basketball from my armchair, wincing at the whacks when a gymnast nose plants on the tumbling mat and… well, no, I draw the line at watching soccer.

Meanwhile, at my own gym, I’m struggling to run 5km, lift a few measly kilograms, and last a full hour on the floor sweating my chubby little butt off. All while I’m glued to the Sony widescreen soaking up the wonder of the swimmers’ bodies, and wishing I looked like one of those divers, so the ladies – maybe even a chap or two – would swoon as I wandered past on the deck of the pool.

Fat chance right now. Fit chance coming soon.

These folks I’m watching play badminton, table tennis, or canoe down a man-made concrete river are the best in the world at what they do. Kudos to them. They should be bloody proud of themselves just for getting there.

Always sit next to the crazy one.

Always sit next to the crazy one: a life rule I strongly encourage you all to observe.

It’s the crazy ones who change the world, create the art, shift our thinking. It’s the crazies who make our streets interesting, our buildings soar, our spirits sigh. It’s the nutters who can make you smile broadest, dream biggest and love boldest. Always, always sit next to the crazy ones.

This is a pic of the crazy I sat next to today. Beautiful, colourful, ratty looking thing that she is, we were the only two who had a conversation in our coffee shop this morning. There must have been twenty other people in there – but only two of us bothered to say hello.

She sat with a drawing pad and coloured pens and spent an hour scribbling – words, doodles, patterns – to fill the white space. It was the happiest thing.

And when she went to leave, she smiled, wished me a wonderful day, thanked me for the company, and disappeared into her Tuesday, ecstatic.

All because she sat next to the crazy one.

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Ping pong, pony rides and pool play

It’s hard not to look down your nose at the XXX Olympics. Yes, XXX. 30th Summer Games. But they’re not really using that moniker this time around. Usually the pompous inbreds at the IOC love to bandy around Roman numerals. Not this time. XXX is unwelcome by the uptight poms. I haven’t done it yet myself, but I suspect if you Google “XXX Olympics”, you’re going to see a different kind of javelin.

Last night I found myself watching a bow and arrow competition between a bunch of pretty girls that looked as though they would have settled for a Hello Kitty pencil case for winning, ahead of a gold medal. They had cute up-turned hats, pretty outfits, cracking smiles and dainty, flitty way of floating around their archery pitch. Field? Court? What is is that you arch on? The dreamy, lovely girls, in the glow of the London afternoon sun, seemed to be enjoying a winsome moment, without a quarrel or a quiver in sight. Except both.

I flicked a thousand or so channels up to find the grand-daughter of a queen, riding a pony through the wood in a royal park on the outskirts of the city. Thousands had gathered to cheer the blue-blood as she bolted around, jumping Lego houses and bails of hay, as quickly as she could. Sure, there is skill involved – but if a princess can do it, then surely, it’s just about having the spare time up your sleeve for practice (Royals have an extraordinary amount of spare time up their ruffled silk sleeves).

Across on channel 483 a couple of plump lads, straight from the pub, were smashing it out on the ping pong table. We used to have one in our garage, and would organise tournaments with all the kids in the neighbourhood over the summer holidays. One kid, from a couple of houses down, was particularly talent, and barely lost a game all summer. He could top spin, back spin, smash, lob – you name it. If only he had gone on with it, he could have found himself up against the best in the world, rallying for a gold medal at the XXX Olympics. If only. Instead he became an Oncologist. Fail.

The girls and guys that jump in the pool are fun to watch. Pretty, too. We used to jump off high things, like they do, into the river down near my old school. We’d climb a gum tree, shuffle out to the farthest limb, spin out a summersault or two (backwards, even, if you truly lost your grip), then plummet into the murky water below, holding your nose so you wouldn’t get meningitis. The big difference between us and the 14 year olds launching from the rafters of the London aquatic centre is… we tried to make a splash. As big as possible. If you didn’t make a splash, you were a miserable failure. If there were gold medals to be had back then, you’d stand no chance if you didn’t step out of the water with an arse as red as Ken Livingstone, or a belly flopped as much as Fosbury. Puh… no splash. Who do these divers think they are?

I can’t wait to see what’s on tonight.

I’m rooting for China

Australians would get it.

Coffee – the elixir of life

If black coffee made me fat, I’d be Stay Puff’d the Marshmallow Man. I can go without butter, milk, meat, candy, chocolate, sugary drinks – even alcohol. But coffee? Forget it.

Depending on which blog or newspaper or medical journal you read, coffee either gives you cancer or stops you from getting it. It’s either good for your brain or bad for your liver, it’s either a life saver or the kiss of death. For me, it is the elixir of life. If Christians took communion with a croissant and espresso, I’d be in for morning prayer without hesitation.

This blog is pro-coffee (and, though not anti-Christians, it is unsupportive of religion in general). I have an espresso machine at home that, if I were honest, gets handled more delicately, lovingly (and frequently) than any woman I’ve ever had. Oh go on, pour scorn on that – but it’s true. I have consistently blown off more steam with my beloved espresso machine than I’ve had hits from a lover – including a record 19 in one day…. coffees that is. So shoot me.

When I’m not at home, I’m doing it in public. I have a few little coffee bars close to where I live, where I’m known by name and by coffee. I’m in one of them now. It’s kind of like the gym, except people are wearing more, sweating less, and look happier.

I have tried to give it up, but then found myself wondering why? Sure it’s a drug, but it’s legal. Sure it’s a waste of money, but it’s my only vice (and it’s a relatively nice vice). Sure I could switch and drink herbal tea, or chai (blurgh) or just water… but then I would annoy myself as much as herbal tea drinking, chai loving, water nazis annoy me now.

So I’m afraid, my love affair will continue. Unabated. Raw. Frequently. Privately and publicly. If you’re ever in town, and you love a strong one, get in touch. Let’s do it together.

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Eating Disorderly Conduct

There’s not much funny about eating disorders.  I’ve known bulimics (men and women) and at least one anorexic.  I’ve suspected a few more.  A lot more.  Once I even wished I had one – bulimia – but I just wasn’t brought up that way.  Oops.

The bulimics I knew at university all hung out together – between the cafeteria and the toilets.  They seemed to be otherwise quite normal people (well, they were otherwise normal – whatever that is), though most of them smoked and spent a fortune on breath mints.  The anorexic hung out in hospital, mainly, or at home when things were better for her.    I can remember shaking my head, trying to understand what was going through theirs, then just accepted that I couldn’t.  The life moved on, I went to work in the corporate world, and people got much better at hiding their disorders.

Then I entered this strange online universe, where people are either disturbingly honest, deceptively devious, or devastatingly disturbed.  I suspect many are all three.  And I accept that the real world is just the same.  But somehow, when it’s in print, it haunts.

There are some people I have followed on Instagram or Tumblr, because I’ve liked the look of their pics.  Ok, I’ve liked the look of the pics of their bums.  They are all impossibly thin.  Some of them have been born with them, some of them have worked for them, some of them have done both.  But some of them have spent their nights on hands and knees, fingers at the back of their throats, purging themselves of whatever they stuffed down there only minutes earlier.  When I work out that the slender bottom, in the seductive pose, with the fingers suggestively draped beneath the elastic of some skimpy black lace, belong to someone with an obvious eating disorder, I ‘dislike’  or ‘unfriend’.  I just can’t perve at purgers.

Same goes when a cry for help pops up on my screen.  A hand-scrawled note craving for someone to ‘like’ them, or they’ll slit their wrists; ‘comment’ or I’ll cry; ‘friend me’ or I’ll flip out.  It’s tragic.  I don’t know you!  I don’t ‘like’ you – I like your pic.  I comment on your pic, not you.  I’m not your ‘friend’, I’m just browsing…  If you need me, or people like me, you’re in trouble.  Big trouble.  And you should probably get off online and get on with things offline.

But don’t listen to me.  Get help.  Real help.  From a real person.

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