Saturday, January 30, 2010

Ellen, On The Occasion Of Her First Birthday

Yesterday we celebrated Ellen's first birthday.

It was a time for us all to reflect on how she has grown.  Mostly physically.  She is no longer the slim-waisted little hell-raiser we fell in love with at the RSPCA shelter - she's now filling out nicely, and is well on her way to becoming a more Meatloaf-style hell-raiser.

Over the past seven months she's made us laugh, she's made us cry, she's made us very, very angry, she's made us poorer, and she has, through her own Backyard Blitz projects, knocked thousands off the value of our house.

When we first met Ellen, she was not in the least bit interested in us.  The handler at the RSPCA had a bum-bag full of chicken, and this was clearly worthy of Ellen's full attention.

She still doesn't always give us her full attention, especially if she's involved in one of her gardening projects, like trimming the rhododendron:

Or tidying up sticks that someone has carelessly left lying around:

Sometimes she doesn't like to take credit for all the work she does.  Like the time she pruned the walnut tree, and feigned surprise that someone had put all the lower branches on her bed:

 How could we not believe her when she told us it wasn't her?

Sometimes, though, she's caught in situations that are difficult to explain away.  Like when she removes fence palings.....

..... so she can get a closer look at the neighbours:

Or when she thinks that nobody will notice if she chews up her red blankie under the cover of darkness:

Or when my socks mysteriously appear in her mouth:

She's not always naughty though, and she has three super-excellent features.  Only three, but it's a start.

First, she has lovely food manners, and will not eat until invited:

And second, she has big fierce teeth that are great for eating bones, branches, fences and watering cans, but useless against burglars:

But best of all, she's got a beautiful smile, and always laughs at our jokes:

And in spite of her failures at school and therapy, and even though she lacks every single characteristic that makes the labrador a safe and reliable guide for the blind, she's still the world's best dog.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Inglorious Bustards And An Apatite For Rocks

I have just spent a few days in Sydney.  Whilst there, I did the following:

1:  Tasted pistachio kulfi (Bad.  Will not do that again.)
2:  Learned to catch a bus.  In the right direction (Good, but may have trouble replicating.)
3:  Accidentally caught that bus to the end of the line because the stupid map said it looped around, but it didn't, and then I had to walk for twenty minutes to get to where I wanted to go (Bad.)
3:  Went to The Rocks on Australia Day and watched bogans wrapped in Australian flags (Bad.)
4:  Went to the Australian Museum (Totally awesome.)

I'm not sure why I love the museum so much, but there's something about an enormous room full of stuffed birds in glass cabinets that makes me feel all warm and nostalgic.  It isn't that I grew up surrounded by dead birds, fixing me with their angry little glass eyes as I walked to the bathroom.  In fact, you could count the dead animals in my childhood home on one hand.  Nor does my pleasure stem from seeing a number of pigeons in their only tolerable state.  In fact, apart from the pigeons, I do feel some discomfit about the whole thing.

However, I justify paying my admission to this grotesque zoo of death by telling myself the birds were collected a very long time ago, and most of them probably died of natural causes.  This is not hard to believe when looking at some of the older ones, with their missing feathers, possible goitre and clear signs of beak mange.

And the fact is, it's very educational.  I learned, for example, that the scientific name for the European Blackbird is turdus merula.  Whoever came up with that must have liked blackbirds as much as I do pigeons.  If I had my way, pigeons would be called avis horribilis, not columba livia.

When I'd learned everything there is to know about birds, I looked at the minerals.  These were boring.  Ethically sourced, perhaps, but essentially all variations on rock.  However, I did like the apatite.  I like to think this one was named by a very hungry mineralogist.  In fact, hunger is probably responsible for many of nature's silliest scientific names:

Naturalist #1:  Crap.  I thought we'd finished, but we've still got this one.  What do you reckon?
Naturalist #2:  Jeremy, it's right on lunch - can't we leave it till later?
Naturalist #1:  Sorry Trent, we have to classify all the bivalves after lunch.
Naturalist #2:  Well, I don't care what the @#$% you call it.  My risotto is going cold.
Naturalist #1:  OK.  It's a gorilla ....... let's call it gorilla gorilla.
Naturalist #2:  Done.  Let's go.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ice-cream Blues

Over the past few days an ice-cream van has been patrolling our suburb.

At first my skin would crawl at the sound of the clown-coming-to-stab-you-in-your-sleep tinkly music, but yesterday my love of frozen dairy treats gave me a burst of courage, and I decided I would go and gather two cones, dipped in chocolate with crushed nuts and a flake.

Alas.  I was too late.  As I hurried out the front door in my best inside clothes and with a fist full of scavenged change, the van drove past.  Very slowly, and with the driver willfully ignoring my waving arms and plaintive cries.

I returned to the Fella crestfallen, and ice-creamless.  The neighbours offered me some of their ice-cream as I passed them on my walk of shame, but I was too distraught to even look at their smug, sticky faces.

Did you run after him? The Fella asked.

No.  I did not run.  An overweight chick chasing an ice-cream van is never a good look.  Never.

And besides, we had a freezer full of banana Paddle Pops.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Lissy, It's Your Birthday......

There's an old Romanian saying about birthdays.  It's not as elegant in English as it sounds when the Gypsies sing it to their children, but it goes something like this:

If you eat zucchini on your birthday, your arms will be strong and the skin on your feet will maintain its integrity, and your eyes will stay in your head, even if your cousin hits you very hard in the back of the head with a sapling.  If you don't eat zucchini, you will fall in a tar-pit.  Even if you live in an area where they are virtually unknown.

I'm not usually given to superstition: I have a black cat who is always crossing my path, I spill a whole lot of salt, and I'm not averse to putting my shoes on the table.  In fact, you'll often see all three things going on at the same time in my house.  Nonetheless, it is better not to tempt fate in certain situations, especially if you're as terrified of tar-pits as I am.  So I enlisted the Fella to make these super-fabulous zucchini and mint fritters for lunch, and now I feel much safer.  And full.

The only other superstition I indulge in is the uncanny wisdom of fortune cookies.  While cleaning out my handbag this morning, I came across this fortune that I had saved from my last outing to the local Chinese:

This fortune is uncanny.  Disregarding the fact that three other people on the table got the same fortune, I was sure it was written for me.  I do enjoy giving gifts to myself, and yes, I have always felt I should be rewarded for that.  I might just get myself a little something this afternoon.

I think the stain on the corner is lemon chicken.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Michael Parkinson In Conversation With Ellen

MP:  Over the years I have had the immense privilege of talking to men and women who have made an enormous contribution to society.  Actors, musicians, politicians, spiritual leaders and great humanists have all sat beside me over the years to promote their latest projects.  Without exception, or perhaps with the exception of Meg Ryan, it has been my very great honour to share with you the company of these great people.

Now, my next guest is perhaps not so well-known.  Her political and diplomatic skills are not sophisticated, and her contributions to the arts have been, some would say most unkindly, lacklustre and derivative.  She lacks the motor skills to excel at any sport but basic dog-paddling, and although she enjoys singing, this activity has resulted in threats from her neighbours, and has not attracted any record deals.  A failure at school, she dropped out at a young age, and has not pursued any formal education since.

It is a pleasure and a privilege to invite Ellen to the couch.

[cheers and clapping]

Welcome, Ellen.  Let me start by directly addressing that elephant in the room.  It was with no small degree of nervousness that I accepted the request of your agent to have you on the show.  Your reputation, as it were, precedes you.  There was the famous couch-chewing incident on Oprah's show, the time you bit Normie Rowe on the Midday Show, and the now infamous time you co-hosted the Logies with Muhammad Ali, and offended him most egregiously by ...... how shall I put it ...... nuzzling his man-garden.  Have you put your wild child days behind you?

Ellen:  [grin. open mouth. big wet sneeze]

MP:  Bless you.  I shall take your silence as a yes, and I must say I am delighted you have put that youthful ...... Ellen, please ...... noooo, back in your own seat ...... noooo, that's my earpiece, careful with it......whoops, there goes the vase.  All right, are we settled back in our own seat now?

[wipes face with handkerchief]  That tongue in my ear takes me back to my interview with Alice Cooper.  Only the tongue, on that occasion, was not attached to anything.

[pauses for polite laughter]

Now Ellen, you have attracted a somewhat unfair reputation of having dubious hygiene habits.  I say unfair, as it it clear that right now you are engaging in some very thorough cleaning.  Very thorough indeed ...... Perhaps when you are done we can proceed with the rest of this interview......

Ellen:  snrrrrph, snrrrrrrrrmmph, snrmp, hrnnnnn, hrnnnnn, hrnnnnn

[sits up. grin]

MP:  It is well known that your childhood was not easy.  You were abandoned as a child, and lived in an orphanage until you were adopted by a childless family.  At this point your fortunes turned around, didn't they?  The family was very loving, and stuck with you through your difficult teenage years, in spite of some very reckless behaviour indeed.  Do you feel the love and guidance you received from them made you who you are today, and what would you say is your greatest debt to them?

Ellen: pfffffffffft [grin]

MP:  Dear God! What is that disgusting smell???? ...... I think I'm going to be sick ...... Perhaps this is a good time to say thank you and good night to our first guest.

[covers nose with sleeve]

After the break, Stephen Fry.  Again.

Ellen: [grin]

Monday, January 4, 2010

Surgical Removal Of My Number Smarts

Today I went to the dentist.  It was my first visit for a few years, so I was a bit nervous about what she would find.

Turns out I have no decay, but she said two very unwelcome things to me:

"You are a grinder." (Translation: I am wearing my teeth down like a walrus.  If I don't pay $650 for the special night-time mouthguard thingy she wants me to wear, I will have no teeth on the bottom in ten to fifteen years and will find it very difficult to bite off pieces of sticky-tape at Christmas time.)

Second, following a nasty, nasty cleaning: "The bleeding will stop in ten to fourteen days."  If she'd mentioned this BEFORE the cleaning I could have saved us both some time.

And the final shock?  I was billed $100 for "Removal of calculus."  I am going back next week to have my quadratic equations extracted.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Olivia Newton-John has convinced us.  Why would you exercise for free in the fresh air, when you could do it in front of the telly, and pay hundreds of dollars for the privilege?

So, we purchased a Wii.  His name is Keith.  These are our avatars: the Fella, me and Stuart.

There is no Ellen.  Ellen is not interested in self-improvement.

The avatars are not quite as we designed them.  The hair, glasses and general appearance are accurate, and we had chosen what we thought were fine and accurate physiques.  The Wii had other ideas.  After it weighed us, it swelled our tummies up to the comical proportions you see above.  It also reduced my height significantly.

This was only the first of many indignities it would have us suffer on the first day.

Upon completing most exercises I was ranked "Couch Potato," and it kindly suggested that maybe balance exercises weren't "my cup of tea."  And it told me my fitness age is 52.  It even suggested Stuart lay off the afternoon snacks.

This is war.  I will not take crap from a Nintendo.

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