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Sunday, April 5, 2020

Avoid Kids Like the Plague!

I’ve been particularly wanting to tell you about my student, Phineas.

My student, Phineas, is of the seventy-five-year-old man in a seven-year old’s body ilk.

Phineas is the type of ‘elderly’ gentleman who always displays an inordinate sense of polite etiquette but can’t stand silliness. Phineas merely furrows his fuzzy wise eyebrows at me when I make a joke. 

He’s a tough crowd.

Phineas is a bit of a dobber. I imagine when he grows up he’ll be a curtain twitcher, monitoring the neighbours like a hawk and ringing the police when he notices the people across the road have put their recycling bin out on the wrong day.

Phineas brings many interesting ‘facts’ to the classroom. He likes to share his knowledge of the Spanish Flu epidemic in 1918 and how many people died. He can even describe the symptoms. I pray he doesn’t find out about Ebola.

Phineas brought show and tell last week, before the schools were semi-shut down. I watched him dig around in the crumpled Woolworths plastic bag for all the goodies he’d brought in to share with us.

“This is some Chinese money my Gran gave me,” he announced gravely whilst holding up a fistful of yuan. He seemed to have a daredevil air about him. It was almost as if he was being overtly controversial.

There was silence. A slight shuffling of bottoms away from the speaker took place, including my own.

“Before you say it’s got the Corona Virus,” he said with all the seriousness of the Queensland Chief Medical Officer reading out the latest death toll, “let me assure you, my Gran went on holidays BEFORE the Corona Virus, so this money is okay. Who wants to hold it?” he said, flapping it around under my nose.

Everyone wanted to hold it except me.

“Corona Virus doesn’t hurt kids,” pronounced little Ephraim, blowing his nose noisily with a tissue.

“It only gits old people,” added another boy.

Some of the students glanced self-consciously at me. I know what they were thinking; the old bat’s gonna get it for sure.

The boy who’d been blowing his nose tossed the tissue on the floor beside the bin and meandered past my desk on his way back, trailing his hand along its edge then picking up my water bottle and caressing it as he went.

“Can you go and wash your hands after blowing your nose, Ephraim?” I pleaded. “Go pick up that tissue and stop touching my water bottle.”

“I did wash them,” he said.

“No, you didn’t. I just watched you blow your nose then.”

He shrugged grumpily, went to the hand sanitiser on the wall and gave it a desultory squirt.

The handwash has no alcohol in it. Just aloe vera, for what it’s worth. 

Last time I checked, aloe vera does nothing for virulent pathogens except for perhaps granting them a radiant glow and softer skin. 

Teachers can’t have alcohol products in the same room as the Super Spreaders, you see. They might drink it.

The teachers, not the kids.

“The tooth fairy didn’t come last night because of the Corona Virus,” blurted one little girl as she fished around in her mouth with a finger looking for the vacant space in her gums.

“The tooth fairy has Comona Virus?” lisped another in consternation.

“No… ,“ came the disgusted reply from the first girl. “She was held up in traffic because of the Corona Virus.”

Or, Mum and Dad conveniently used the virus as an excuse because they forgot to leave out the tooth money, I thought.

Is nothing sacred? Fancy blaming your parental lapses on a pestilence.

The bell rang and as I ushered Phineas, clutching his filthy lucre, out the door, he stopped abruptly. Turning his small face up to me, he gazed pitifully into my eyes. “God keep you safe, Mrs Poinker,” he said.

I shuddered. That child knows something. 

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Covid 19 : The World Gone Crazy

Joffrey the chicken hiding in the bushes

Standing at the entrance of our local shop yesterday, swearing prolifically and attempting to separate the shopping baskets which some idiot had jammed together, I felt a light tap on my shoulder.

It was an elderly gentleman.

“Can I help you with that?” he asked. “They’re a nuisance when they get stuck together, aren’t they?” he added, holding the basket out to me.

I nodded in agreement as I furtively checked him over for signs of fever, heavy breathing or a cold sweat.

Having just heard on the car radio that our Prime Minister had cancelled all public gatherings in response to the spread of Covid 19, I was a bit on edge.

The old guy seemed to be healthy, but you could never know for sure. 
Anyone could be a carrier. 

I’ve heard that victims ‘shed’ the virus before they show symptoms and the gentleman’s hands were all over the shopping basket where I was about to place my mushrooms, organic lettuce and tea-tree scented toothpaste.

Scanning his body for any type of ‘shedding’, proved to be  problematic. 

How would I know what to look for? 

Would flakes of infected skin start to fall off him? Would his ears and nose and other orifices seep a discernible watery liquid? Or worse… would invisible deadly particles rush from his plague-ridden breath straight up my unsullied and mostly pristine nostrils?

But then I realised that all manner of contaminated people might have already touched the basket and there was no way I’d know, so I threw caution to the wind and accepted the basket graciously from the kind man.

I must say, there was a strange feeling in the air though. 

Something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. 

It was a bit like the overt aura of magnanimous cheer you can sense at Christmas. Everyone seemed to be smiling and nodding at each other in mutual good humour… but there was no silver tinsel festooned around the newspaper stand, no Michael Buble carols playing on the speakers, and none of the staff were wearing silly antlers. 

There was a decided air of nervous expectancy. Did these people believe the rumours the country was about to go into lockdown?

I noticed that most people’s shopping trolleys were overloaded just like at Christmas time, too. But instead of hams and pavlova ingredients, the trolleys were full of paper towels, bleach and long-life milk.

Suddenly, I panicked. I had to get out of the shop before the virus got me. Long-life milk signalled end times. In every apocalypse movie, people are hoarding long-life milk and cigarettes.

But there was no time to scour the aisles for long-life bloody milk. I’d drink my coffee black.

By this stage I had seven apples and a lettuce in my basket. I quickly calculated that if I cut the apples in quarters, I could make one apple last me all day for seven days straight. After I’d eaten the apples, I could start rationing the lettuce. Three leaves a day would probably be enough. I could take the iron tablets already in my fridge to supplement any nutritional shortfall. If worst came to worst and the country did go into lockdown, I would at least survive for two weeks.

“Do you have your senior’s card yet?” asked the mousy, toad-like hag at the check-out.

“No!” I snapped back at her.

The mealy-mouthed witch asks me this every single Tuesday because apparently all the seniors get a 5% discount or some shite and she thinks I look like an effing senior when I clearly have ANOTHER SIX AND A HALF MONTHS BEFORE I’M A FUCKING SENIOR THANK YOU VERY FECKING MUCH YOU HIDEOUS TROLL!

All the way driving home, I kept coming up with smart answers for next time the bitch asks me.

Something subtle and backhanded, like…

“I really admire you! I would never have the courage to go three weeks without washing my hair. How do you do it?”

“No dear, I’m not old enough for a senior’s card yet, but tell me, what’s the best bargain you’ve ever bought with yours?”

Or the slightly less subtle but quite witty, “Listen you rude, unctuous be-artch, you might think I’m old but at least when I was your age, I wasn’t an ugly, creepy twat like you and when I do turn sixty you can stick your piddling 5% discount up your clacker.”

I was in such a lather that I’d forgotten to buy my tea-tree flavoured toothpaste which was disappointing because if there’s a lockdown and I run out of food, I could have rationed it out for at least a week.

We do own seven chickens and I suppose we could wait for them to die, put them in the freezer then eat them one at a time. 

We couldn’t kill them of course. Not because we’re cruelty free hippies or anything, but because they hide under the deck and we’d never catch them what with being weak from existing on apples and lettuce for two weeks.

Besides, I’m supposed to be a vegetarian and vegetarians don't eat chicken.

Will Uber Eats still deliver in a lockdown?

Would we have to get them to leave the food in the driveway and watch from the window until they leave?

How will they deliver since they'll be in a lockdown too?

Do you have any answers for me?

Asking for a chicken.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

My Brush with the Corona Virus

As I sat in the doctor’s waiting room on Thursday, not touching the dog-eared magazines because of possible germs, I nervously started up a conversation with the receptionist.

“Have you been busy with pseudo Corona virus victims?” I feigned nonchalance about the topic.

“It’s ridiculous,” she scoffed and wagged her pen in the air. “There’s so much hype in the media it’s a joke. It’s unnecessarily scaring everyone silly. All this panic buying of toilet paper. They must have poo for brains is all I can say.”
We shared a superior laugh together (as I pictured the twenty rolls of loo paper I’d just purchased at the IGA on the way to my appointment). I wasn’t convinced that the fear and panic was ridiculous, but I conceded that she was on the medical front line and possibly knew more than I did.

Suddenly, a woman burst through the door, wheezing, coughing up a lung and wearing a florid, feverish look.

Great, I thought. I arrived here with an innocuous, non-contagious ailment and now I’m going to leave with the flipping Corona virus. I’m nearly sixty years old for God’s sake. Isn’t that the cut off age for when it becomes deadly?

But still, if I was going to catch it, it was probably best I did in the next seven months, I thought, before my birthday comes up. I should be safe until then.

But all the same, I really didn’t want to be quarantined for two weeks. Scotto would murder me out of the frustration of having me under his feet all day.

The woman spluttered all over the front counter and I pursed my lips and held my breath as I listened to her rasp out orders to the receptionist.

“I need to get a letter from the doctor for lung x-rays for me and my daughter,” she said. “It’s urgent. I need to get in to see the doctor right away!”

I began to poop in my pants. I only came for a script renewal and now I was going to die from catching the lurgy from this woman.

“I’ll check if the doctor will see you between patients,” the receptionist replied in a manner far too casual for my liking. It was already half an hour after my scheduled appointment, and I glanced around the waiting room. There was already someone in the surgery with the doctor and I was the only patient in the waiting room. It was 4:49 pm. Clearly, this virus carrying person was going to snake in to see the doctor before me. 

Bloody push-in.

Then, worst scenario EVER, she sat her infected body down beside me to wait. And I mean RIGHT beside me. The room was fricking empty, but she sat on THE SEAT RIGHT NEXT TO ME and began to call someone on the phone. I leaned as far away as I could as I eavesdropped on her conversation.

Turned out, according to what I could gather, she didn’t have the Corona virus but instead she had some weird, possibly dangerous breathing malady arising from mould growing in her house. She wasn’t allowed back in her house and she’d been sent for urgent investigative x-rays.

Yippee for me! Not contagious after all! Just a bit of mould!

I’d only just started breathing normally again, when the door violently flew open and another woman approached the counter with a decided sense of self-importance about her person.

“I’ve just flown in from Hawaii and I have a cough,” she twanged cheerily in an American accent. “I want to make sure I’m okay. I don’t think I have Corona virus. We don’t have it in Hawaii, but I just thought I’d be careful and get it checked.”

I looked up from my hands (which I’d been fixedly staring at and mentally reminding myself to not to allow anywhere near my face) and noticed the ashen expression on the receptionist’s face.

Immediately, I took a large gulp of oxygen and held my breath again.

“Can you step out the door please?” the receptionist demanded of the woman with sharp military precision, and at the same time she picked up a face mask and a bottle of heavy-duty disinfectant.

She stood in the doorway holding the surgical mask over her face, pointing the disinfectant at the Hawaiian interloper like a can of mace.

“Go down to the hospital straight away. You can’t come in here,” she said. “You’ve been on an international flight and now you’re exhibiting symptoms. You can’t come in here.”

I began to have flashbacks of that zombie movie with Brad Pitt, World War Z. Were more jovial Hawaiians going to come clawing at the door trying to forcibly ram their way in to see the doctor? Would they smash the glass and try to eat my face off? Or would they merely cough phlegm everywhere and throw mucous-covered tissues at me?

Now, if a medical receptionist shoved me out the door and aimed a bottle of bleach at my eyeballs, I’d probably skulk back to my car in shame. But the Hawaiian began to argue with her.

“I’ve heard it’s a long drive to the hospital,” she said. “Can’t I just see the doctor here? I don’t think I really have Corona virus. It’s only a little cough.”
The receptionist suddenly grew hostile. “Go back to your car,” she instructed tersely. “Go to the hospital and do NOT come in here.”

By this stage my eyes were bulging out of my head with trying not to laugh. But it was anxious laughter, not ha ha laughter. I was smothering the spasms of hysterical terror.

After the Hawaiian finally left, the receptionist embarked on a relentless disinfection regime of extreme proportions. Everything was doused and polished with bleach… the counter top, the brochure rack containing the Herpes flyers, the already wilted Happy plant in the corner.

The lady with the mould in her lungs began to rant about how everyone needs to take the virus more seriously and the receptionist (who seemed to have decided that the Corona virus panic wasn’t as ridiculous as she’d previously stated) rushed in to see the doctor, closing the door behind her, so I was unfortunately unable to listen in.

I’ve been scanning the news and thus far have not seen reports of a Hawaiian coming down with Corona virus on the Gold Coast… but watch this space.

One thing is for sure… unless you are on the brink of death, don’t visit the doctor.

N.B: No mould was hurt during the writing of this blog post.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

When House-Sitters Steal

The Poop Troupe

While we were overseas recently, we left out aged dogs and cat at home and my parents moved in to look after (read: spoil) them. 

My other three dogs (the Poop Troupe), were booked into a luxury suite at an elite boarding kennel (complete with a swimming pool, four poster beds, verandah, air-conditioning, a television, wall art and twice-daily nature walks). 

I must admit that the ‘nature walks’ were merely ‘walks in nature’ and didn’t appear to be anything particularly special.

If only my dogs could talk.

“Call this a nature walk?” Celine, the mini-foxy would have snorted. “What a fricken rort! I hate my owners for booking us into this piece of shite.”

“The air-con and beds are pretty good though, don’t you think?” Pablo the Chihuahua would have yawned.

“Food! Me want food!” Polly the sausage dog would have said.

The private suite

As part of the three and a half thousand dollar package (not even kidding), the carers at the kennels hired a professional photographer who managed to take the most beautiful Christmas portrait of the Poop Troupe I’ve ever seen. 

They emailed it to us while we were away and presented us with a hard copy when we picked them up.

What a lovely touch, huh?

I treasured the photograph and made great plans to frame it in gold and put it up somewhere prominent, like, above our bed. After all, it kind of cost us three and a half thousand dollars.

But strangely the photograph inexplicably disappeared.

In calm desperation, I searched everywhere. Behind the shelf in case the cat had spitefully knocked it down, inside the cat’s hidey hole, in case he’d nicked it so he could fire darts at it in his leisure time, and even in the cat’s litter box in case he’d eaten it and pooped it out.

No longer able to blame the cat, I blamed Scotto.

“What did you do with the Christmas photo of the dogs?” I demanded.

“Nothing,” he shrugged. “Don’t worry. It’ll turn up.”

Ah, I thought. He’s taken it to be framed in luxuriously ornate ivory with a velvet backdrop or something as a surprise for me. God, I love that man.

So, imagine my shock when I called in to visit my parents after work one day and spotted the photograph stuck to their stainless steel fridge with a couple of magnets.

“What’s my photograph doing on your bloody fridge?” I shrieked spilling my cup of tea all over my work shirt.

“You gave it to me,” answered my mother. “When we were sitting on your couch last Sunday.”

“I gave it to you to have a look at… not to keep,” I shrilled, wondering how on Earth she’d managed to secrete it out of the house without me noticing.

“Well, everyone who’s been here has loved it,” she continued, looking over at the photograph lovingly. “Even the plumber who came on Tuesday liked it. I tell everyone that it’s a photograph of my grandchildren.”

I looked around the room noticing there were no photos of her ACTUAL eight grandchildren anywhere to be seen.

“I’ve been looking everywhere for it, Mum.”

“Oh well,” she said, archly. “Consider it a present to me for looking after the other animals.”

"But, we gave you a present," I spluttered. "That lovely birdhouse was your present. It cost me a lot of money."

"Hmmm," she furrowed her brow and gazed again at the photo of MY dogs on her fridge. "I like that better."
Anyway, now she won’t give it back.

Scotto reckons if we try to print a copy from the photo sent by email, it will turn out all grainy because of the resolution, so now I have to figure out a way to break into my parent’s house and steal my photo back.

Is that even a crime if they’re your actual parents?

Saturday, February 8, 2020

The Reptile House

Reptile House, London Zoo a la Harry Potter!

“I don’t want to alarm you,” said Scotto standing in the bedroom doorway at ten o’clock last Wednesday night, “but there’s a snake in the house.”

If he’d said, “I don't want to alarm you, but there’s a snake in my pants,” I would have laughed. 

But he said, ‘in the house’ so I knew he wasn’t joking or making a silly euphemism.

“You mean, a proper snake?” I gasped, pulling the chihuahua up around my neck as a sort of shield.

“Yes Pinky,” he said, “A proper snake. I just saw its tail slither under some newspaper in the hallway. You stay here and I’ll deal with it.”

“What are you waiting for? Go, go, go,” I shouted, “And bring the cat in here to sit with me and the dogs.”

God forbid any of our animals be attacked by a vicious snake, even though Celine is a fox terrier and is allegedly bred to catch snakes, the only thing she catches on a regular basis is gastro-enteritis.

My animals are peace-makers, not assassins.

As I perched on the bed, television muted, I listened to the sounds emanating from the hallway. 

The same hallway I’d tottered down minutes before after cleaning my teeth. 

The same hallway my baby sausage dog had chased a ball a few seconds prior. 

The same hallway I’d previously felt safe to enter without turning on a light when nicking down to the loo.

I listened closely and kept my peeled eyes on the space under the door lest the snake decided to make a run for it.

The sounds of a heavy, thudding wooden flute, playing hypnotic music, wafted into the bedroom. 

Good. It seemed that Scotto had located the serpent and was placing it into a trance. Soon he would mesmerise the reptilian creature and compel it to perform the chicken dance or something and hopefully persuade it to vacate the premises.

After twenty minutes of spectacular flute playing, the bang of the front door slamming a few times, and ejaculations of some swear words I’ve never heard him use before, 
Scotto appeared at the door

“Is the snake gone?” I asked, eyes bulging like saucers.

He nodded, cool and collected except for the sweat dripping from his ear lobes.

“What sort of snake was it?”

“Brown,” he replied, his bottom lip quivering.

“Brown-brown or brownish-brown?” I queried.


“Brown tree snake brown, or brown murderous killy-killy, bitey snake brown?” I asked tremulously.

“It wasn't a tree snake,” he replied, still panting and eyelids blinking rapidly.

My mind instantly sought out someone to blame for this near-fatal invasion. How did the vicious viper get in the house in the first place? Who left a door open?

The frightening reality is that we still don’t know.

There could be an entire nest of King Browns curled up in my linen cupboard pretending to be the vacuum cleaner hose. 

I’ll never vacuum or change the sheets again.

And how long had it been living in the house? Did it come out for a little wander every night after lights out for a forage?

My feet have barely touched the floor for three days. Every time a piece of fluff touches my foot I leap in the air and scream blue murder.

I can’t wait for winter when the snakes all go off and sleep under logs in the outdoors where they belong.

In the meantime… our house is for sale. Fully stocked linen closet included.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Pinky and Scotto in Paris

Literally, the first thing Scotto did when we arrived in Paris, was to step in dog poop.

Figuratively, the first thing Scotto did when we arrived in Paris, was to lose his shit.

I’d only recently calmed down from my phobia of travelling on the Eurostar under the depths of the English Channel and couldn’t offer much sympathy.

As the train had plunged into darkness on the journey, I couldn’t decide if it would be better to die screaming as a plane hurtles to the ground or to drown in an under-the-ocean tunnel. For some inane reason, I’d forgotten it was a tunnel and had imagined we were travelling along the bottom of the ocean in a waterproof train. I’d spent the whole journey examining the walls of the train carriage for tiny cracks and tell-tale drips.

“We’re in France now,” I said to Scotto when he came back from the toilet and we’d emerged from the darkness during his ablutions.

He didn’t look that impressed. He was sick with a horrible flu and was coughing like a four pack a day-er.

I was elated due to the fact we’d survived the trip without drowning and I had my nose pressed against the window scanning the countryside for anything that looked French.

“I can speak a bit of French, you know,” I said.

“Good,” he’d replied, his eyes gazing around, red and watery, and blowing his nose for the millionth time.

Therefore, it was great to be able to inform him that I knew the French word for ‘shit’ when he stood in it.

It was one of the only words that most of the boys in my Year Nine French class had committed to memory and it has stuck in my mind for forty years.

“’Shit’ in French is ‘merde’,” I told him. “And dog in French is ‘chien’, so I suppose dog shit is ‘merde de chien’, or ‘shit of the dog’.

I suppose if you wanted to be a bit more couth you would say, ‘caca de chien’, which is ‘poo of the dog’.”

I spent most of the three days in Paris translating words I remembered from my lower high school French class and saying ‘merci’ and ‘bonjour’ at every opportunity. It must have been annoying for Scotto.

On hearing the Gallic expression for dog poo, Scotto merely grunted and continued to scrape his boot violently on the pavement and mutter that he ‘hoped’ the poo was from a dog and not a human.

Why he thought there might be human poo on the Paris footpath, I’m not sure.

Maybe it was because the area we were staying in was a trifle dodgy. At least fifty police vehicles blocked the entrance to our hotel when we returned from sight-seeing on the first day. 

There were water cannons at the front door, and we had to request a police escort to enter. We found out later it was because of a protest by Eurostar workers. I’m not sure what they were protesting about. 

I hoped it wasn’t because of cracks in the tunnel.

We noticed a multitude of French dogs pooping in the street after that. They looked to be a lot more arrogant than Australian dogs. Australian dogs look shifty and slightly tense when they publicly poop because they know their owner is standing nearby, ready to scoop up the offensive material in a plastic bag before they’ve had a chance to get a good long sniff of it. 

French dogs know they can take their time and leave artistic Matisse-style swirls of excreta in the middle of the footpath and sniff with gay abandon. 

One of the highlights of Paris was spotting Will Smith. I was busy taking the perfect photograph of the Eiffel Tower when I suddenly heard a gasp from the crowd and felt Scotto frantically shaking my elbow. We love Will Smith and seeing him was on an equal level of thrill factor as seeing the Mona Lisa.

I am fully aware that what I just wrote will confirm your suspicions that I am, indeed, a bogan moron. 

The queue

We had to line up for fifteen minutes to see the Mona Lisa and when we finally reached the famous painting, we had about thirty seconds in which to take a photograph before we’d be bustled away by the burly security guard.

“You take a quick selfie with her and then I’ll take a selfie, and then you help me take a selfie because mine are always tres merde, okay?” I conferred anxiously with Scotto as we stood in line. I wanted my photo to be Instagram perfect. 

You don’t get to visit Paris and see the Mona Lisa every day!

Sure enough, we dithered around taking the photos, arguing about angles and filters, until we were hurried off to the side by the irritable guard. 

I turned to Scotto after we’d checked and posted our snaps. “Did you actually look at the painting?” I asked him, suddenly struck by the fact that I hadn’t even glanced at it.

“No,” he admitted.

We tried to move back in to the roped off area, but the guard was having none of it.

Merdey bastarde!

When we were walking around Paris, I spotted the Eiffel Tower in the distance and pointed it out to Scotto.

He looked at me sceptically. “That’s not the Eiffel Tower,” he rasped. “It’s too small and the top of it is the wrong shape.”

“What? You think they have a miniature Eiffel Tower in Paris as well as the real one?" I couldn't believe him. That’s a load of merde, Scotto!”

I was pretty sure it was the bloody Eiffel Tower but after mistaking a Ferris wheel for the London Eye, I had to keep my trap shut and just keep walking in the opposite direction because that’s what his GPS was instructing. Plus, Scotto was sick and he gets cranky when he’s sick so it’s best to humour him.

Eventually, the GPS led us to the structure in a roundabout fashion and it WAS the Eiffel Tower (of course) but there was no apology from Little Lord Fauntleroy who was growing paler and breathing heavier by the minute. 

That night, I was kept awake by the sound of Scotto attempting to suck in oxygen and I kept imagining him having to be rushed to hospital in an ambulance. 

I pictured myself sitting in a Parisian hospital waiting room, gnawing on a stale baguette and wondered how much it would cost to fly his body home and if he would mind being buried in France.

The next morning, I insisted he visit le docteur.

Ze docteur deed not speaka ze Anglais.

Neither did the pharmacist from whom we purchased a plethora of medications. Scotto almost drank one of the concoctions he was meant to use to bathe his eyes. Even my expert Grade Nine French was ineffective when it came to translating the French instructions. 

By the time our three days in Paris was up, we both decided against buying an ‘I Love Paris’ t-shirt because neither of us really felt like we loved Paris.

It was alright. Not quite the romantic tryst I’d imagined though.

But did I tell you? We saw Will Smith! 

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Pinky and Scotto's European Vacation (Part Two)


“Do you think that’s a ghost?” I asked Lulu. 

Mr Darcy: Jane Austen Centre

I was showing her a photograph taken of Mr Darcy in the Jane Austen Centre in Bath. She grabbed my phone and inspected it with the intensity of a hard-core sceptic.

“Look!” I said, swiping the phone. “It’s in this photo as well.

And if you look closely it’s in this one on the right side of me.”

“Could be your thumbprint,” Lulu sniffed.

“No, it’s not because it’s not on any other photos.” I triumphantly showed her the other photos.

“I think I can make out a face,” Lulu said.

I quickly snatched the phone back from her and turned it off. Ghosts are okay if they’re just wispy bits of fog, but I didn’t want to know about any eerie faces appearing.

“I think it was Jane herself,” I said, hugging myself with contentment. “She knew it was me coming to pay homage, so she dropped down from the ether for a visit. You know, fellow writer and all that…”

I’d become all teary when we first walked into the centre because I’d wanted to go there for so long and I love her so much.

It was definitely Jane’s spirit and not a thumbprint. Besides, according to the Singapore authorities, I don’t have thumbprints.

I was nearly captured and imprisoned on the way through Singapore to London because no matter how many times I submitted my thumbprint to security, it drew a blank. 

Smooth as a baby’s bum my thumbs are. 

For all I know, I don’t have fingerprints either.

I was innocently standing behind Scotto at Changi Airport, (who merrily scanned his thumb and walked straight through the checkpoint) when I was detained. 

Scotto didn’t see me desperately poking my thumb in the machine as he was fiddling with the luggage. A machine gun attired guard grabbed me by the arm and escorted me into a side room, demanding my passport without a smile on his face.

Naturally, whenever something like that happens, I become sweaty, nervous and highly suspicious-looking.

‘Don’t talk, Pinky,’ I muttered to myself. ‘Whatever you do, don’t start babbling on and making stupid jokes about terrorists, like last time you did at Brisbane airport. This is Singapore. They shoot people here, idiot.’

“Do you come to Singapore a lot?” the guard asked, eyeing me up and down.

“Never,” I blurted. “Well, once I did. But that was twenty years ago. I mean thirty. Thirty years ago. Thirty years ago I was here.” I grinned sheepishly.

He continued to stare at me with hard beady eyes and I could feel heat rising up from the back of my neck and sweat trickling down my face. 

I didn’t want to sweat because they might have thought I’d swallowed heroin. I've seen Border Security on the telly.

“Not that there’s anything wrong with it. It’s nice. (cough) Singapore is lovely. I wonder why I don’t have thumbprints?” I wiped a thick streak of sweat from my top lip with the back of my hand.

I could see Scotto through a glass barrier. He was looking confused, worried and more than slightly irritated that I’d seemingly disappeared into thin air.

I think the guard took a photo of me. I can’t remember because I was so anxious and was obsessing about Schapelle Corby in Bali, and rats in prison cells, and having to use my Nicorettes as collateral in jail instead of cigarettes. 

I thought about how I might finally get a book published if I had a Singaporean prison story but then I thought about missing out on my holiday to London and felt a bit miffed.

Finally, they let me through, and I tumbled out of the secret room to find Scotto looking around in a bewildered state of fury.
“Where were you?” he hissed. “You’ve got to stop disappearing on me, Pinky. I thought you’d been abducted!”

Later on, after I’d calmed down, I googled why I might have no thumbprints. Apparently, four people in a hundred have difficulty at Singapore Airport because they have worn down prints. They wear off with age, so I’m told.



Monday, January 13, 2020

Pinky and Scotto's European Vacation (Part One)

(Video above is clandestine footage taken of Pinky descending a castle staircase)

On looking back at our holiday photographs, I can honestly say that I don’t care if I don’t see any moss-encrusted turrets, Gothic spires or stained-glass windows for a while.

I don’t care if I don’t get to lug a suitcase along cobblestones in the rain, decipher the engineering of a hotel shower faucet or climb up and down a slippery castle staircase either.

We’re back from our trip abroad and had a fantastic time, but BOY is it good to be home.

On our first morning in London, we woke up at some ungodly hour full of dribbling, unbridled hysteria and left the hotel in the darkness at seven am. 

Spilling out onto the streets of Balham like a couple of Dickensian chimney sweeps, the shock of the cold almost killed us. 

Our first port of call was a coffee shop called Café Nero. It’s a franchise all over the U.K. and it became our frequent pit stop.

Cafe Nero

 I was so excited to be in London, I bought a gingerbread man and took a photograph of it and posted it to Facebook. I realise you can buy plenty of gingerbread men in Australia, but it was either that or a toasted cheese sandwich and I thought the former had a more English ambiance about it. 

The second thing I bought in London was an umbrella from Sainsbury's.

Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard was our first destination. Apparently, the guards don’t do the proper ‘change’ during inclement weather, so I think we missed it. We were there watching and waiting but nothing much happened. The guard kept stepping in and out of his cubicle and fiddling with his gun and at one stage a booming voice yelled out, ‘Get off the fence’. Scotto got a fright as he thought the voice was yelling at him because he was hanging over the railings trying to take a picture, but I think it’s all part of the performance. 

Next, we walked all the way to Harrods. "Look Scotto!" I shrilled in excitement and pointed to a distant wheel. "There's the London Eye!" We decided to wander over after our Harrods excursion. 

Whilst we browsed the finery on display in Harrods, Scotto spied a pen for sale.

It cost 20 000 pounds. Yes, I know. That’s quite a lot for a pen which I would probably lose after a day or two, so we didn’t buy it. 

Heading over towards the London Eye, we came across a squirrel in Hyde Park. It crept out from behind some shrubbery and started to beg for food but the only thing we had was my gingerbread man and I wasn’t ready to open it, so we gave it nothing. It was a long, damp walk to the London Eye so you can imagine how disappointed we were to discover when we arrived on blistered feet that it wasn’t the London Eye at all. It was just a lousy Ferris wheel set up in Hyde Park. We sat at a café and ate some scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream instead which were delicious but made me feel a bit sick.

After ‘tubing’ it across London, we met up with my daughter, Lulu, and had drinks with her and her workmates. The view from the pub afforded a panoramic scene encompassing the actual London Eye. It was quite a bit bigger than the Ferris wheel in Hyde Park I must say. 

Portobello Road Markets

The next day, as Lulu had finished her teaching term and was on holidays, she accompanied us to the markets. There was no Hugh Grant to be seen at Portobello Road and Lulu insisted we move on to Camden Markets instead. I’m glad she insisted because it was one of the highlights of our trip. Rambling along cobblestone paths surrounded by the aromas of mulled wine and roasting chestnuts transported us into the soul of Medieval Britain. There were buskers and Egyptian stalls galore and exotic dishes sizzling all around us. There was a shop specifically focussed on vaginas which wasn’t Medieval and which Scotto was reluctant to enter. 

“Do you think I should buy one of these vagina postcards?” I asked him as I gazed around at the statues, posters and vagina shaped lollypops. But he kept staring at the ground and shuffling his feet in an awkward fashion.

One thing I really admire about the British is their ability to briskly walk down a street, en masse, carrying umbrellas, and not bump into anyone else. I hadn’t developed this skill and was constantly jostling people and having to apologise.

The rain was annoying but we saw a double rainbow and we knew that signified a magnificent holiday to come. 

Lulu took us across London Bridge to the Eye (finally) and then on to the British Science Museum. It was dark when we left so we got to see the Winter Wonderland skating at Leicester Square. This was part of the reason we warm-blooded Aussies travelled over in winter; to see the Christmas lights. We weren’t disappointed. 

There are no leaves on the trees in winter, so the best scenery is at night. The sun doesn’t rise until 8am and it sets at 4pm which meant we had to squeeze a lot into a short time.

The things I was most nervous about on the trip were firstly, feeling the cold, but my coat was like a down-filled quilt and kept me so warm I didn’t even need gloves.

My second fear was getting pickpocketed, but my coat had an interior pocket so I knew where my credit card was at all times.

My third fear was getting stabbed by a lunatic. I just had to get over that one myself.

On the whole, I felt pretty safe in London and the only time I ever felt in any danger was the day Scotto and I decided to walk to Wimbledon Common. Scotto had his heart set on buying a Womble from Wimbledon. I know. Most men want to go to watch the tennis. He particularly desired a stuffed toy figurine of Great Uncle Bulgaria or something and he’d read that Wombles could be purchased from the Windmill gift shop at Wimbledon Common and NOWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD.

It was only an hour and fifteen-minute walk according to Google Maps so we set off early in the morning.

As we meandered along through a suburb called, Tooting, we came across three young men urinating on a building. We passed them but they soon overtook us and then stopped, loitering on the corner and going through rubbish cans. There wasn’t much traffic on the deserted road and I became a trifle nervous. They looked like they might hassle us and even though I was with my roguish Womble-loving thug of a husband, there were three of them and only one of him.

“Why don’t we take a side street to avoid those guys,” I suggested to Scotto.

We did, but somehow Google maps took us on a different route and our gentle one-hour amble to Wombledom turned into a three-and-a-half-hour uphill odyssey which left us with trembling quadriceps and wheezing asthma.

After dodging muddy puddles and wild and woolly hounds running loose on the common, we finally arrived at the windmill to find it was closed for the season, so Scotto failed to collect his Great Uncle Bulgaria after all. 

Wimbledon Common: Wombles: Nil

The café was open though and I plunged my choppers into the most delicious Lemon Drizzle cake I’ve ever eaten. I don’t usually eat cake but at that stage I would have eaten a five-day old Womble carcass I was so hungry.

We caught an Uber home.

On reflection we should have caught more Ubers than we did. We’d caught a taxi from the airport which cost us $150 and had felt bitterly remorseful ever since. Getting off a plane after a 13-hour flight, in the dark, in a strange city, lowers your defences. There was no way we could have dragged our luggage onto the Tube in that situation. 

Overall though, the Tube was excellent value but the journey during peak time made my hair stand on end. All those people crammed into a sardine tin hurtling through underground tunnels… shudder. 

On the Tube

Christmas Day was fast approaching. The plan was to breakfast at Lulu’s place then move on to a full Christmas dinner in Tooting. We had bought our daggy Christmas jumpers and were ready to party.