Monthly Archives: June 2010

14 hours younger?

Jumping on the ferry

Mum and I have had a disagreement.  Perhaps you can help us resolve it (ie help me win the argument).

The cloud that always hangs over the volcano on Nevis. And some of the billions of palm trees in this region.

A few weeks ago, it was my birthday, and she thinks that I should celebrate on 5 June Sydney time since that’s the time zone that I was born in.  I, however, believe that I should celebrate on the date wherever I am in the world (after all, a birthday is the one time in the year when it’s ALL about me), which means that my birthday here starts at around 2pm Sydney time on 5 June.  Of course, that makes me 14 hours younger here than in Sydney, which I have no problem with at all.

Birthday Self-portrait

I spoke to a friend, and they sort of sided with my mother.  And I agree that the logic is somewhat confusing.  But what do people who move countries permanently do?  Surely they just go with the local date?  Anyhow, since it was my birthday I figured my rule prevails!  (Mum wished me a happy birthday on both dates).

Happy Birthday to moi!

To spoil myself, I headed to St Kitts’ sister island of Nevis and stayed at a rather swanky resort called Nisbet Plantation Inn – on the site of an old sugar plantation right on its own beach.  I had a meeting all day on Thursday and Friday, and headed off early on the Friday to catch the 5pm ferry to Nevis, a 45 minute ride on the good vessel “Mark Twain” – cost: EC$25 (around US$10).  At the other end, a hire care waited for me and I drove the 20 mins around this small island to my resort.

Birthday present?

As part of the fun, on the occasion of my birthday, I swam in the Atlantic (first time ever since all my swims here have been in the Caribbean) and sucked back pina coladas on the beach.  I even got a morning hug from the hotel’s maitre’d (hugs from gorgeous men may well be the subject of another post).  After a snooze in the afternoon, it was dinner in the hotel restaurant where the staff surprised me with a “Happy Birthday” song and a decorated bread and butter pudding!  Yes, it was embarassing, but very sweet.

The gorgeous Plinies Beach on Nevis

On the Sunday, I found the most stunning beach ever – long, white sand, perfect water with no reeds or rocks underneath.  Simply gorgeous.  It’s given me an appetite to hunt out the best beaches in the Caribbean – I hear that the beaches on Antigua, a short 20 min flight away – are stunning.

Rasta dude

After the swim, it was back on the ferry home.  I embarassed myself by toppling over on the boat (boo) and stood at the back talking to a weird rasta dude with his long dreadlocks wrapped up inside a weird type of hat that the rasta guys wear here.

Basseterre

 And here’s a rather nifty view of some Basseterre houses from the water.

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To be like Meryl

A great friend sent me this wonderful speech by the most legendary Meryl Streep at a university commencement ceremony.  You really need to read it, and there’s a link here to the full text and the video. 

Some of my favourite sections are below.  I originally wrote this post around 4 weeks ago, so its timing relative to Julia’s ascent to the throne is purely coincidential.

Please don’t despair: my next set of posts will cover life in the Caribbean.  http://www.onpointradio.org/2010/05/meryl-streep

 

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If you have been touched by the success fairy, people think you know why. People think success breeds enlightenment and you are duty bound to spread it around like manure, fertilize those young minds, let them in on the secret, what is it that you know that no one else knows, the self examination begins, one looks inward, one opens an interior door. Cobwebs, black, the lights bulbs burned out, the airless dank refrigerator of an insanely over-scheduled, unexamined life that usually just gets take-out.

…Women, I feel I can say this authoritatively, especially at Barnard where they can’t hear us, what am I talking about? They professionally can’t hear us. Women are better at acting than men. Why? Because we have to be, if successfully convincing someone bigger than you are of something he doesn’t know is a survival skill, this is how women have survived through the millennia. Pretending is not just play. Pretending is imagined possibility. Pretending or acting is a very valuable life skill and we all do it. All the time, we don’t want to be caught doing it but nevertheless it’s part of the adaptations of our species, we change who we are to fit the exigencies of our time, and not just strategically, or to our own advantage, sometimes sympathetically, without our even knowing it for the betterment of the whole group.

…when I was nine, I remember taking my mother’s eyebrow pencil and carefully drawing lines all over my face, replicating the wrinkles that I had memorized on the face of my grandmother whom I adored and made my mother take my picture and I look at it now and of course, I look like myself now and my grandmother then. But I do really remember in my bones, how it was possible on that day to feel her age. I stooped, I felt weighted down but cheerful, you know I felt like her.

…Now as a measure of how the world has changed. The character [Streep has played] most men mention as their favorite. Miranda Priestly. The beleaguered totalitarian at the head of Runway magazine in Devil Wears Prada. To my mind this represents such an optimistic shift. They relate to Miranda. They wanted to date Linda [an insipid character Streep played early in her career]. They felt sorry for Linda but they feel like Miranda. They can relate to her issues, the high standards she sets for herself and others. The thanklessness of the leadership position. The “Nobody understands me” thing. The loneliness. They stand outside one character and they pity her and they kind of fall in love with her but they look through the eyes of this other character. This is a huge deal because as people in the movie business know the absolute hardest thing in the whole world is to persuade a straight male audience to identify with a woman protagonist to feel themselves embodied by her. This more than any other factor explains why we get the movies we get and the paucity of the roles where women drive the film. It’s much easier for the female audience because we were all grown up brought up identifying with male characters from Shakespeare to Salinger. We have less trouble following Hamlet’s dilemma viscerally or Romeo’s or Tybalt or Huck Finn or Peter Pan – I remember holding that sword up to Hook – I felt like him. But it is much much much harder for heterosexual boys to identify with Juliet or Desdemona, Wendy in Peter Pan or Joe in Little Women or the Little Mermaid or Pocohontas. why I don’t know, but it just is. there has always been a resistance to imaginatively assume a persona, if that persona is a she. But things are changing now and it’s in your generation we’re seeing this. Men are adapting… about time…they are adapting consciously and also without consciously and without realizing it for the better of the whole group. They are changing their deepest prejudices to regard as normal the things that their fathers would have found very very difficult and their grandfathers would have abhorred and the door to this emotional shift is empathy.

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Poor Kev

OK, so I see that Kev has gone from adulated to loved to resented to reviled to dumped and back to loved. 

Well, sort of loved. 

Mainly because he got treated so badly and nearly cried (VERY Bob Hawke if you ask me).  So now at least everyone, including my mum, wants to give him a big fat cuddle.

Yeah he’s lost his job, yeah it was done really badly, but – seriously -from what I can make out all the way over here, he’s now popular again because he went out with dignity. 

And I bet you that will be what we remember about him.  There’s a lot to learn from that, if you ask me.

Meanwhile, as I strolled through the Herald online, right at the bottom of the Home page, I found this little gem of an ad from RSVP.com – the online matchmaking service.  The SMH site had a snapshot of Kev’s sad face with the caption: “Been dumped lately?” 

If you click through you find this very very funny ad. 

I’d love to know your favourite bits (Party of Five?  And best use of the word “Average”).

http://www.rsvp.com.au/profile/display.jsp?handle=ItsKevin07&s_rid=smh:rainbowstrip:content2:25-06:rb_krudd:beendumpedlately?joinrsvpnowforfree

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ROCK ON, THE CHICKS!!

Go, Julia!  And do us proud, girlfriend.

(And, no, to all of you who have made inquiries, and those of you who haven’t had the time, David and I are not having fling)

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More Stuff I miss

As part of my Longing for Home Series, here’s Part 2 of stuff I miss most:

 6.  My house – my comfy bed, my back yard, my lounge room with my big TV.  My front verandah, my kitchen, my herb garden…

 7.  Great Bakeries and cafes.  So, what IS it about sweet bread, then?  Give me a grainy, complex, heavy bread any day over this weird, overly sweet white stuff.  And while you’re at it, put some chicken and salad between 2 slices, and feed it to me for lunch.  I also miss great pastries and cakes – why oh why are the Caribbean people NOT into such delights?  I am comforting myself with locally-made ice cream and the occasional ordinary attempt at a croissant.  Not to mention espresso – my favourite cafe has an OK version; the Marriott burns the milk.  I haven’t found anywhere else where I can buy them.

 8.  My wardrobe.  Although I went shopping in New York (and who can complain about that), remember that selection of goodies (mainly from my favourite designer, Eileen Fisher) this is all I wear, day in and day out.  I wish I could just pick a few more items out of my wardrobe at home to supplement what I’ve got here.  I’d ask Mum to do this, but I need to see my wardrobe to know what I want, so I just have to live with the limited selection here and – well – sometimes not really care I’m wearing stuff that doesn’t quite go together. 

 9.  Cool weather.  So I can go for a walk without sweating my moisturiser off.

 10.  Great Sydney restaurants.  Spice Temple.  Tetsuya’s.  Breakfast at Balmoral’s Bathers Pavilion.  Or the breakfast lamb tagine at Kazbah on Darling.  Or Adriano Zumbo’s sweet delights.  I keep reading NotQuiteNigella and seeing all these places I would love to try, but cannot get to. 

 I am compensating by discovering all the great places to eat here, and have found some top notch spots so I’m getting by.  Including a seriously great Indian restaurant (Pride of India); I have already befriended the owner, and the wonderful Spice Mill and Beach House restaurants, right on the beach and with top class food. 

 But still, I could really do with some Neil Perry stir-fried quail and steamed eggplant right about now.

 And, tragically, I’ve been to paradise but I’ve never been to Quay.

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Stuff I miss

Originally, I signed up to a 3 month contract for this gig, but it’s been pretty obvious since Day 1 that there was a very high risk that I wouldn’t get home at the beginning of August as planned.  So it was no surprise that the other day when a paper seeking approval for additional funding for my role, for an open-ended period, made its way to the Ministerial sub-Committee that I report to.   Since then, a few of the wheels have fallen off the project, so right now I’m in limbo a bit about when I might be leaving. 

I’ve been extra homesick the last little while since I spent my birthday away from home for the first time ever.  On the upside, the US dollar is going up against the Aussie which, since I’m being paid in USD, is all good stuff.

As each day passes, though, I notice that I miss different things from home.  In a later post, I’ll ponder the things I love about being here (and there are plenty of those), but here’s what’s breaking my heart right now:

That's Tyler in the front, and Maxie coming up the rear. They are playing their favourite game: rubber chicken. (Tyler never lets Maxie at the chook; he is SUCH a top dog)

1.  My dogs, Max and Tyler

I reckon if I had my boys here, my longing for practically all other home stuff would be completely bearable.  Add to this the fact that Maxie had a big operation on his wrist, which was riddled with arthritis and left him limping in pain every step; my faithful Mum has to look after him almost totally on her own. 

I often close my eyes and imagine them here, hugging and kissing them on their fluffy cheeks, burying my face into their soft lush fur. 

I miss their “night noises”: the little snores, grunts, taps, breaths and mid-dream barks that come out of them as they sleep on the ground next to me.  I love when they roll onto their backs and shove their feet high into the air, comfy as can be.  And Maxie’s midnight visits to the side of my bed when he scratches at the sheets to grab my attention and steal a cuddle while his brother isn’t looking.

 I miss walking them, their zig-zagging across my path, nearly tripping me, sniffing and weeing like crazy dogs.  Locals stop to ooh and ahh over how beautiful they are, and pat them just so they can touch their beautiful fur.

 And what makes it worse is that dogs (especially big dogs) don’t last that long and I feel like I’m missing a big part of their lives.  Enough said.

 2.  My mum.  She spends her days looking after my boys, and missing me.  I have tried to brace her for a longer stay here, but I can tell she wants me home right now.  I’m her best buddy and, even though I speak to her on Skype at least 3 times a week, it’s not the same. 

To make all this up to her, I have a long list of “spoiling Mum” activities listed in a file on my iPhone, which I’ll deliver on when I return.  I’ll take her and the boys up to our favourite cottage in the Blue Mountains for a couple of weeks and watch the boys (including Maxie, with his healed wrist) run and play on the enormous property.   We’ll go to Haberfield for ricotta cannolis and mini paninis.  And to Cafe Sopra for pancakes and spaghetti meat balls.

There’s little doubt I’ll spend many years living this absence down.  The vague (long-shot) of a possibility that this job might lead to more opportunities elsewhere in the world both thrills and scares me.

3.  My mates.  Seriously, I miss you guys heaps, and love getting your emails and chatting on the phone.  I can’t wait to catch up with you for coffees and for meals when I finally return.

 4.  The Sydney Morning Herald.  Seriously, this is number 4. 

 Every Saturday and Sunday morning at home, I spread myself out on the couch on my shaded verandah and meander through the paper.  My boys flop down next to me and, every so often, Tyler marches up and shoves aside the paper with his snoot, demanding a hug before giving a grunt and sinking to the cool, tiled floor beside me. 

 Reading the paper online is no comparison to the luxury of spreading out its unwieldy broadsheet, folding it over on itself and making my way through the more serious sections (News, News Review, Business) before I reach the lighter, more fun stuff (especially Spectrum, and Sunday Life).  Plus, if I read it online, I’m always accidentally finding out who gets booted off Masterchef before I see the actual episode, around 14 hours after it airs at home.

Last week, I actually asked mum to mail me a copy.  But it turns out that, to get it here even in 3 months costs $28…errr, not worth it.

My little sweetie pie, Maxie. Right now, he's hobbling around, his left leg totally wrapped in bandages.

5. Sydney’s supermarkets, especially Thomas Dux.  When I first walked into a supermarket here, a wave of horror clutched my throat.  I recognised almost NO brands, and the variety of fresh fruit and veges was terrible.  Most items are imported from the US, and comprise the usual horrors (American cheese, anyone?) so I really had to look hard to find what I wanted.  Over time, I’ve gone back and managed to familiarise myself with the contents of shelves, and David has taken me to a couple of different places so I can get some variety. 

 With the help of locals, I’ve discovered places to buy fresh items, like the Saturday morning markets where fish are filleted and sliced up right there on the pavement by the water and stalls of fresh fruit and veges and home-made rum line a covered area across the water.

Still, I have dreams of walking into Thomas Dux at Lane Cove each week and spiriting away my favourite gourmet items, including – yes you read it here – some vegemite.

[Photo credits: Kim Sbarcea, the boys’ dog-mother.  See Kim’s adventures of moving to rural NZ at Daily Oxford – link on the right]

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Sex and the City (Boo)

After SO looking forward to SATC2, I hate to say that I found the whole experience disappointing. 

First, of course, I was meant to see it in Gold Class with my buddy Claudes who, two birthdays ago, generously gave me the entire DVD set of the series.  Naturally, I’ve watched the whole series all the way through at least 3 times now, and the girls have become like my dear friends.  I loved the first movie as it seemed to move these amazing women on in their lives, exploring disappointment and betrayal in their 40’s; an altogether different thing to your 20’s or 30’s.

So, I had to instead see it here in the Caribbean, where the snack bar is excruciatingly slow (it takes 3 staff 10 minutes to serve each person), and women seem to think it’s quite OK to talk through the whole film.  I spent the first 20 mins saying “ssh!” and “stop talking!”… (yes, Jerry, I have gone from being a shushee to a shusher) until I gave up.  Defeated.

So, as the reviews came out (and the New York Times was scathing – see http://movies.nytimes.com/2010/05/27/movies/27sex.html) I became worried that this film would let the girls down (not only Carrie and her friends, but all of US too).  And indeed it did. 

I will try not to spoil anything for you… but then again, there is little to spoil if you have read the reviews.  So I suppose that I just have questions:

  1. Where was the plot?  This seemed just to be an excuse for fashion and excess, with little real exploration or drama apart from that manufactured by the characters’ own dumb behaviour or paranoia.
  2. How come the film didn’t open with an overview of the characters’ history, as SATC1 did?  I quite liked this overview in the first film.  Perhaps they figured everyone already knew this.  Or was it assumed that this exposition was built into the dialogue, or would be too repetitive?
  3. How come the film seemed to descend into farce the minute the girls landed in the Middle East?  And “Lawrence of my labia”?  Seriously?
  4. Really, the question is: Why was Samantha allowed to be such a caricature of – well – herself?  She is 52.  And menopausal.  Even a sex addicted Sam should understand she is in a different place and there are cultural norms that need to be respected, regardless of whether she agrees with them.  Sam is smarter than this; scriptwriters, please give her some credit when you are writing the next film. 
  5. By the way, it simply wasn’t enough that the other girls were embarrassed by her behaviour: she needs to grow up, not down.  Let’s see her at 60.
  6. And when will the rest of the girls move comfortably into the new phases of their lives?  The script writers seem not to be able to think of story arcs after they dealt with the cheating and fear of commitment from SACT1.  Sorry, but the motherhood confession scene between Miranda and Charlotte, whilst something, just wasn’t enough.  And Carrie’s guilt over a kiss was just well…a wimpy version of Season 3. 
  7. Speaking of which, how exactly DID they get that kid to cry so much?
  8. If the girls knew they shouldn’t dress sexually in the Middle East, how come all those bare shoulders and legs on the rest of the girls went un-commented on?
  9. And what WAS Carrie wearing when they leave the hotel the last time?
  10. How is it that outraged, fast-running men could not catch up with the girls at the end of the film, even allowing them enough time to stop and have a leisurely debate about whether to follow the local women?
  11. Where were the classic moments in this film?  The series and SATC1 were chockers with them.  Remember Carrie looking into the mirror after days spent crying in the dark?  Smashing Big with those flowers?  The Wedding Dress?  The unveiling of the wardrobe?  There is little about this film I will recall except to remind myself not to see it too many times lest it drag the girls down.
  12. Why is Ricki-Lee’s great song “Can’t Touch It” only at the end, over the credits?  Maybe that’s the prize spot, but it’s seriously the best song on the soundtrack.
  13. What Hollywood miracle has caused Liza Minelli’s thighs to stay so thin, and where do I sign up?
  14. I remember loving SJP as the crazy and too-young and bouncy girlfriend all those centuries ago in LA Story. Just so you know, and in case she feels the same about me, I want her as my BFF, not to mention my neighbour (she and Matthew Broderick live in my beloved West Village in NYC). 
  15. Why did the supposedly Danish guy seem to have an Australian accent?
  16. How come the real Australian rugby team aren’t as cute  as that?
  17. The odds of Carrie running into Aidan in a souk in Abu Dhabi are…what, exactly?
  18. And if we are going to happily deal in the ridiculous, if you are going to bring Smith back for the sequel, why not involve him in a couple more semi-naked scenes?  Surely it wasn’t outside of the fantasy-driven universe of this film to have him ride in at the end on a horse and put some clothes on Samantha?
  19. If Charlotte was so utterly horrified about the idea of buying gifts in the airport  (“it’s so tacky”), how come she got such a thrill out of finding cheap “I [heart] Abu Dhabi T-shirts” for her girls in the souk?
  20. I confess that, although it was a tad annoying, I am less offended by the obvious excess in this film that has been the subject of a lot of critical angst.
  21. Especially the idea that, in the middle of a GFC, Miranda would quit her legal job to ditch the boss she hated.
  22. And, finally, if they were so awash with money that the girls had a car each, how come they had to share camels?

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