Wednesday 29 July 2009

Went to the newsagent today. I’d already bought the thank you cards to send to my Perthian house-hosts (found a bright chirpy card and to save me the bother of finding another one and on deciding which house-host gets which, I just two of them) and wanted to include a token of gratitude in the form of a scratchie or a raffle ticket or something like that; Boys Town entry, that sort of thing. So, I went to the newsagent today to buy two lotto tickets.

“Hello,” said the woman behind the specially designed counter. Her complexion sparkled in the reflection of the metallic finished row of scratchies that separated her from me.

“Hi,” I replied. “Can you tell me is Oz Lotto a national lotto?” She tore off the top sheet from a pad and handed it across. The sheet listed the cost of each entry and the amounts of each division. At the very bottom, in an unassuming box, was advice on where to go if you think that gambling was a problem. Across the top, though, was the sentence: Oz Lotto is a national lotto. So that sounded promising. I went back to the counter.

“It says here that Oz Lotto is a national lotto. Do you know if that means if I was to send to this somewhere else in Australia, like Perth, that they can use it?” The woman replied that that was correct.

“Ok then,” I said happily, “How much is a standard ticket?”

“Well,” she said pointing at the table on the sheet, “You can get just one box or up to 24.”

“Yes but what’s a standard sheet?” It’s been a long time since I’ve bought a lotto ticket but I do remember that there was a typical sized sheet that you could order, eight or twelve boxes, something like that.

“Well,” the woman said again, “You can buy just one box but most people buy a sheet of 24 ‘cos that best improves their chances.”

“That’s good, but what’s a standard sheet?” I asked again.

“Well,” she said a third time, “You can buy one box or a sheet of 24.”

“Just give me two sheets of 24,” I eventually said with a sigh.

She asked me to come around to another counter so I could enter my Eftpos details. I hand over my card for her to swipe and I type in my password. A few moments later the woman hands over my card and two lotto sheets, then tears off the receipt.

“Oh,” the woman now says passing me my receipt, “They won’t be able to check them anywhere else in Australia, you know, ‘cos each lotto machine in each state is different. But I suppose they could check the numbers online. Good luck.”

With a grimace, and fighting the urge to punch her irritatingly sniffy little nose, I crawled out the store and back to work.


PS: I never got around to sending the tickets. Good thing in the long run – neither of them won anything. I posted book vouchers instead.

Less Sleaze – Week 10

Saturday 25 July 2009

I had an epiphany while I was in Perth. I really wanted the caramel slice but they’d sold out. I always thought that an epiphany was a sudden revelation or insight; who knew that it’s actually a strawberry and lemon tart? Hang on, I’m going to look this up… I was right! An epiphany is a sudden revelation or insight. Those crazy Western Australianers! Still, now that I think about it, I was having lunch at the Koorong Cafe.

Let me start this again.

I had an epiphany (Actually, I don’t like that word anymore) a realisation when I was in Perth. Standing on Mark and John’s bathroom scales trying to work out how much the weight of my luggage had grown, I was alarmed to discover that my weight had also grown: I had now hit the disturbing 90kg! I shouldn’t have been as surprised. My belt had slowly crept out two notches over the last month; I had eaten most magnificently well on my holiday (the memory of the osso bucco still brings my taste buds to a gastronomic standstill); and, most telling, I have drunk both plenty and often. But it wasn’t till I saw that number that I started to feel concerned.

It doesn’t help that I’m pretty much the same shape as my Dah. Not that that’s a problem (that’s genes for you) but a couple of years ago he underwent coronary artery triple (I mean a single bypass is bad enough but triple?) bypass surgery, just before his 30th wedding anniversary. From what I remember his arteries has calcified so badly that he was starting to suffer minor frequent heart attacks due to the lack of blood flow. I’m very glad to say that he was a perfect textbook case and recovery and, besides now having to watch his diet and take tablets and that sort of thing, he’s in the peak of health.

While Dah doesn’t drink (in his youth, yes, but not from his 30’s on), he and I both very much like our tucker, and lots of it. But while my total weekly exercise is walking to and from the photocopier at work and the pub on weekends, Dah has always been somewhat active… admittedly lawn bowls might not be as enduring as the Tour de France but at least it gets you out in the sun.

The point is that standing on that shiny set of scales on my last day in Perth made me realise that if I’m not careful I am very much on my way to my own bypass surgical experience, and that is something I would very much rather not have.

So what am I going to do about it?

The answer is, I don’t really know, and knowing my previous attempts at developing a healthy lifestyle (I hate that word), probably not much at all. I always seem to dive straight in with gym and pool visits or nightly jogging and after a week exhaust myself back to a indolent attitude. The problems is exercise bores me, I like me booze, and food just tastes too nice not to pile your plate up high.

But what I hope to do is make some small changes, become just that little bit more aware of what I’m eating and drinking and how much I’m moving, and hopefully these tiny actions will over the next couple of months become second nature to me.

On Sunday Beautiful Creature told me he had purchase us Sleaze Ball tickets. Sleaze is the annual fancy dress fund raiser run by Mardi Gras, and is held the NSW Labour Day long weekend – this year Saturday 3 October. That means in 10 weeks time.

So over the next 10 weeks I intend to get myself back to a sensible weight. I’m planning on a healthy 1 kilo a week loss to return to a weight of 80kg; let’s try for that for now. One kilo a week over 10 weeks, I should be able to do that. If I had a “goal weight” it would be 75kg as that’s what I was for pretty much my entire adult life before I got a desk job, but let’s aim for 80kg for now.

On Thursday I purchased myself a set of electronic scales and set them up prominently in the bathroom, just by the loo (or brasco), and gave them a quick try out. The problem was that every time I weighed myself I was a slightly different weight being anything from 87.8 to 89.6kg, but on the bright side at least I was back under the dreaded 90.

The plan is this: To eat and drink sensbily and do a little bit of exercise, even if just walking home from work, then every Saturday for the next 10 weeks, till Sleaze, weigh myself and see how I’ve gone. So let me go get on the scales…

First go: 87.6kg. Fifteen minutes later, after having a wee, I weigh myself again: 87.3kg. I must have very heavy urine! During the following half hour I weigh myself three more times, each returning a score of 87.3. So that can be my Week 10 figure:

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Sleaze

Fantastic! I’ve already lost nearly 3 kilos and I haven’t even started!

I’ll see you in a week.

What I did on my holidays – Home

Wednesday 22 July 2009

You have to love Sydney. After an uneventful flight, in a state of joy to be nearly home, Sydney decided to do trackwork on the Eastern Suburbs line so I had to battle the elegance of the bus system while laden with my bags to get myself home. I was buggered by the end and, after dumping everything and reconnecting the laptop, fell onto my bed and straight to sleep.

I started this holiday diary with a list so let’s end with another. What have I learnt?

I’ve learnt that:

  • The capital of Western Australia is Perth.
  • Perth’s official symbols are the numbat (animal), the black swan (bird) and the green and red kangaroo paw (flower). No idea what the fish is.
  • Perth has an excellent public transport system, though services tend to fun infrequently.
  • Jäger bombs will kill you.
  • Outside of Rottnest Island, no-one gives two shits about quokkas. There is not a single postcard, small fluffy figurine or fridge magnet bearing its cute face anywhere on the Mainland, even at the zoo, which doesn’t have a quokka.
  • Quokkas are best served braised.
  • No-one who lives in Perth have ever rung the bell.
  • Food is shockingly expensive. So’s the wine, which reminds me…
  • Margaret River thinks itself too snooty to produce quaffable wine. It leaves that to the Barrossa Valley.
  • Nothing, I repeat, nothing happens in Perth on a Sunday night.
  • Surfers are sexy.
  • Gay culture in Perth leaves a lot to be desired.
  • People wearing face masks look stupid (at Perth aiport a handful of Asians were walking around wearing masks. Eveyone else just looked bemused though occasionally someone would cough in their direction just so they felt like they were getting their monies worth.
  • A pint of beer is a lot of beer.
  • K-mart is a very comforting place.
  • Project Runway Australia could just possibly be the best show on television.
  • You should never carry milk and eggs in a cheap backpack.
  • Riding a bike is exactly like eating a banana riding a bike.
  • Animals always move when you are trying to take their picture.
  • Two and a half weeks is a long time.
  • Relaxing is far more hard work than it should be.
  • Perth is far more than two hours behind the rest of Australia.
  • Everything tastes better with aioli.
  • It’s nice to spend time with your family. Probably not a lot of time, but time none-the-less.
  • The red-eye flight knocks it out of you.
  • It’s not good to drink so much you can’t remember going to bed, even if that bed is just up the stairs.
  • As much as I adore it, Cats is a bit naff.
  • It’s good to come home.

Oh, I’ve also learnt through a hedonistic lifestyle of food, beer and wine of many years, not just the last two and a half weeks, I now weigh a very disturbing 90kgs. I’m a little frightened about this and need to loose 10kg before I can be happy. I’m afraid that it will be harder than I think.

Right, holiday’s done now. Time to go back to work.

What I did on my holidays – Brisbane for two days

Wednesday 22 July 2009

On the train out to my sister’s. Shouldn’t be much longer. I’ve got no idea when my stop is and relying on the gentleman voice over to tell when to get off.

Umm… Wacol Station.

Quite proud of myself for remembering where the Sportsman Hotel is (stop just called – my station is next) – down the road and up the hill, though I don’t remember the hill being that steep. Still, I’m all checked in. Instead of a mint they’ve left on my pillow a condom and sachet of lube. Positive thinking, how nice of them. With a gay bar downstairs, here’s hoping.

(Damn. There’s a carpark on both sides of the track. I can’t remember which way to go. I’ll stand at the top and hopefully someone will wave.)


Back at the train station waiting for my return ride. Louise (my sister’s partner) was good enough to drive me from their house. For a station they say is “just around the corner” it’s a bloody big corner.

What an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon: playing Uncle. I haven’t seen my nephew Zackary and niece Lucy since March last year and I was surprised how much they have aged. Zack is so much more literate and considered; Lucy co-ordinated and elegant. It does sadden me that I’m not there in their lives, except these few rare visits (depending on what exhibition is on at the gallery) because it does bring me joy and allow me to feel I am making some influence and contribution into their lives. I suppose, though, being in Exotic Sydney, at least I can be the one they run away to in their teenage years. Just don’t try to hit me for any money.

We jumped on the trampoline and read books and were shown assorted prized toys and talked about moon phases and dancing and how Lucy’s not going to have a baby (apparently they hurt). After their dinner I tucked them into bed and they both complained about my scraggy beard (I’m in desperate need of a trim). Louise came home from work and she, Michelle (that’s my sister) and I had a roast pork dinner piled high with veggies. Considering that Michelle was such a bastard eater I was quite surprised. Her potatoes and pumpkin were particularly superb. I asked what was her secret. She took a packet from the cupboard and tossed it across the table:

Produce Partners
Country Style Roast Potatoes

“You’re secret’s safe with me,” I said.


The whole “hangin’ with the kids” thing did get me thinking of a conversation that Anita and I had sitting while sipping tea in front of a large open fire in Margaret River. For some reason (I can’t remember why but it seemed a sensible question at the time) Anita asked me if I wanted to be a father. I answered truthfully: I don’t think my life will ever be fully complete and I will go to my crematorium a slightly sad man knowing full well that I will never have the opportunity to father children. It’s very true. I think parenting is one of the greatest gifts and greatest responsibilities of Life, and it bitters me to think it is wasted on so many people who have no desire, respect or appreciation of this… greatest thing. This is not some Darwinian theory of forwarding on your genes for a greater society (if this was the case can I start the list of those who should be neutered now?), it is solely about being there and comforting and teaching and guiding a new being; hoping to teach that child what is right in the world and to allow that person the opportunities to see what a huge influence they can make. And on saying that it so terribly saddens me that I know with all my heart that I can never be whole because I am a gay man and will never father. I would go as far as saying that I envy my friends who discover their “gayness” late in life, after they were married (though I also believe they were fooling themselves into a life of “normality” the entire time… until they woke up to themselves) as they at least from their slight adventure have children. Not that I would have to think that children are some sort of prize, like a kewpie doll – Summer of the Seventeenth Doll this is not – but they have… I don’t know… made an input into the next generation. And I think that’s a swell thing. And at times I look at the bottom of my glass knowing it’s not mine.

I mean, it’s not as if I’m Todd McKenney! Thank Gods for that!

On saying this, Zackary did keep calling me by the wrong name. Zack has a gay couple set of uncles who are friends with Louise and Michelle and he kept calling me by their names – a small mistake. While I was happy that Zack had some sort of male role models, Louise did tell me that the two had recently adopted a set (very Franklin Mint) of children whom they have named “Will” and “Grace”. Perhaps there is a reason why gay men can’t have children after all…

Got me thinking, though, what would I name my children. Well, if it were a girl, it would have to be Kylie. If it were a boy, then something really butch… like Madonna.

Back at the hotel I had a few too many beers.


Next day, Friday, I got up exceedingly late – after 12 – then hurried to the gallery to see the American Impressionist exhibition. Beautiful show full of artists I have heard of and works I have never seen. One of the greatest things an exhibition can achieve is a sense of honour that you have witness these pieces away from home, and this show certainly achieved that. It was certainly a case of the wrong shoes as I was tired standing looking at these masterpieces. At one stage there were no chairs for an entire two rooms! I had to force myself to fully appreciate their brilliance before moving to the next room and having a bit of a sit down; I could see the chairs in the next room but I wasn’t allowed to go a rest the toes till studying every available work. It’s very much a case of Mr Bean: “I look at the pictures” for me, or – my preference – Mr Chance: “I like to watch” (actually, I’ve got another blog about these two stored away, I’ll pull out sometime). I love Art – capital A, and art – little a, and shudder at a life without it. To look at these beautiful things is a joy that so few will ever understand.

I’ve been known to burst into tears at Art. It was a 1904 Frederick McCubbin work called The Pioneer at the Ian Potter Centre, National Gallery of Victoria. Have a look at it; it’s beautiful. The first time I saw this work I sat in front of it on the perfectly positioned stool and I sat and I stared. This work is speaks of two generations who have live/fought Australia’s landscape, the second generation burying the first and in tern being buried by the New World. That’s how I see it. So I sat in front of this work and I looked at it and allowed my mind to experience everything that McCubbin was trying to suggest one hundred years’ earlier. And I looked at the immense hope and the intent sorrow that this represents, and I started to cry. I allowed myself to pleasure of tears trickling down cheeks; that strange mix of happiness and sorrow that comes through such an action; and to a certain level I felt cleansed. It’s nice to have a cry. Then a bunch of schoolboys rambled in and I quickly wiped my eyes and left the room. It’s one thing being in touch with your motions – it’s another being called a silly by someone who uses Clearasil.

You should also check out (check out?) other McCubbin works, such as Lost and On the Wallaby Track to understand what a superb artist this man was.

On the subject (this does link, me joining Heidelberg artists to London’s West End, believe it or not), that night I saw a new production of Cats. Now, if you would ask me (and believe me, not enough ever do) what my favourite musical of all time was I would promptly say Cats. I don’t’ think it is the best musical – I mean there are so many Gilbert and Sullivans out there, but I think they’re excluded being Operettas, but also My Fair Lady which is horribly perfect in every way, A Chorus Line, or new works like The Producers (a perfect stage play) or – quelle supreme! – Mamma Mia! – but I will always say it was my favourite musical is Cats. Why? Well I will tell you.

My parents used to own a corner shop, a local deli. I still don’t know how I feel about that time. I wasn’t very receptive to the change, I had other interests, I was unwilling to work in the store, but in my defense I was stupid and 17, so that I apologise about. On the other hand I did find the store nothing more than an excuse for my parents to not participate in my life (“Oh we have to be at the store”, they would say to every reportorial show I was in. Now I’m not saying I was performing Shakespeare, but I do, to this day, still rue them for seeing only two shows in my entire nine year theatrical career.) but I still thank them for one thing above all others. In 1989, there was a lady who used to visit the store who said she was going to see the original production of Cats and Mah said that I would like to see it. The lady invited me along and Mah allowed me to go.

I sat there in this huge room, the Festival Theatre in Adelaide, biggest room I had ever been it, and it was chocka block full of people, and the lights dimmed and the room went silent. Then the overture began and the stage started to sparkle with lights representing the night sky, as the overture for Cats works, and I burst into tears. It was that exact moment that I knew that all I wanted to do for the rest of my life is sit in darkened rooms and have people entertain me. And I was 16.

Since then I have done everything I can to see every show, being it professional or amateur, since. I don’t care, I love being… entertained. It’s not that, that sort of cheapens it. It’s more than that. It’s the talent of the artists, it’s the music and the direction, it’s the escapism, that keeps me in this imaginary world of lights and make-up. There is a lot of envy too, I know I could never be good enough to be in this world – and I blame both myself and my parents for that – so I please myself by sitting in the bleachers and watching.

People in my life, I take them to shows, but they usually disappoint me by not valuing them as I do. It has never bothered me buying a single seat, but it is so nice to drink a glass of bubbles with someone and to see their face and for it to hopefully suggest that blind awe that mine did when I first saw these shows. There are times where I have been so disappointed – one time I vowed never to share a theatrical experience again – but others have been worth it – my Dah seeing The Lion King is one of them, my Beautiful Creature seeing The 39 Steps is another.

Anyway, enough of this.


Back at the Sportsman Hotel there was drag shows on ground and Karaoke in basement. In the Karaoke Bar a gentleman came up to me.

“Hi,” he said.

“Hi,” I said back.

“You don’t remember me, do you?” he said.

“No, sorry,” I said.

“Last night,” he said. Then it dawned on me.

“Oh, I have completely lost a lot of last night, I’m really sorry if that offends you,” I said.

“Not at all,” he said, “but I can tell you, you had a good time.”

Upstairs a handsome boy in a blue singlet was bopping along to the music. Anyone who even caught his glance he would approach. “Oh no mate, I’m straight,” he would claim. All that I watched said something on the lines of “Yeah, whatever,” and carried on with their conversations.

In the far corner, by the pool table, was a chap I do remember chatting to in the toilets the night before. He was a tall thin shearer complete with flannel shirt, brimmed hat and a front tooth missing. There was something so incredibly physically attractive about him, even though he was with his wife and you completely knew he was “Out-of-Bounds”. Anyway, we’d got talking at some time, I think it was because I had commented on his hat; it was a very nice hat. So there is me talking about this fantastic hat and he was talking about how he was straight, and I think “well done” to him, though I can’t work out why he was in this bar – perhaps he as staying the night, it’s very cheap and very central. But as we talk he tells me he was going to sue that movie – you know the one, that movie – Brokeback Mountain – as it painted a negative image of shearers and suggested that all “cowboys” they were gay. “I was gonna sue, you can’t do that sort of thing, it’s wrong,” he said. I dried my hands and left.

On the walls of the toilets are posters for AIDS awareness, which are great thing. This horrible – yet completely preventable – disease continues to grow. It did bother me, though that the Queensland Association of Healthy Communities – or QAHC. My trouble is if you pronounce it with the ‘Q” being hard it says “kak”, which is not the best promotion of Queenslandic health. On saying that, if you say the ‘Q” with a faked “U” it would come out “kwak”, which is even worse, being the worst possible advertisement of northern Australian AIDS related awareness. It did get me thinking – what they needed was to rebadge themselves as the Queensland Association of Medical Awareness – or QAMA (“khama”) or Queensland AIDS Caring Communities’ Alliance, or “kwakka”, or perhaps I’ve just been overly influence by my time in Western Australia…


To cut a long story short, I didn’t get a root and instead simply got incredibly durnk drunk, but still woke up and was able to get out and to the airport with plenty of time before my 12 noon flight back to Sydney.

one more to go…

What I did on my holidays – Melbourne stop over

Sunday 19 July 2009

I’m standing in front of the Flinders Street Station waiting for my pares to arrive. They will be at least another 15 minutes. It’s now 9.15am and the city is beginning to wake.

Haven’t been able to check into my hotel room, which is a bugger, but the bill’s paid and everything is being held in storage till I get back. I’m in Melbourne to see two exhibitions: John Brack and Salvador Dali.  The trouble is I think my pares only want to see the Dali. The reason why this is a problem is because the Ian Potter Gallery (Brack) closes at 5pm while the NGV (Dali) not until 9, so I could easily see both if I saw the Brack first. I’ll mention this to them, but I’m not sure how eager they’ll be. They’ll still need to travel back to Bendigo and I’m sure they’ve already planned their homeward timetable. Anyway, breakfast is the first thing. I’ve had about an hour and a half’s sleep and will kill for a coffee, bacon and eggs.


I needn’t have worried about the exhibitions. While my pares didn’t know about the John Brack I did spent a bit of time selling its fine points (how Bendigo’s gallery has a couple of his works, how they would probably recognise his very early work 5pm Collins Street, how Dah might appreciate Brack’s representation of 1950’s men) before steering them towards the gallery and towards the lift. I think they really enjoyed his work and were particularly impressed how diverse his styles were. Like Mah said, you’d have thought that the works were done by three different artists. I think Dah was impressed too as he regularly commented on realistic some of his older pieces looked, or on the faces of his earlier pieces. We didn’t spend a huge amount of time – well, not a huge amount for me anyway, but we did see everything and went back to some pieces to review again. My legs were starting to feel tired too so I’d had enough and was desperate for a cuppa. So we trotted down the road to the NGV for a pot of tea each before tackling the Dali exhibition.

The Dali was designed as a retrospective and covered his very first works (at 15 years old) through to his final days in the 1980’s. I’m in a quandary but this exhibition; I’m not sure if I’m disappointed that his iconic works (melting clocks, swans turning into elephants, bowls of fruit becoming faces, the Venus chest of drawers), or pleased that I was able to see unfamiliar work (umm… well, basically everything on display). I was happy that two of the pieces were film works: An Andalusian Dog (Un Chien Andalou) (1928), Dali’s collaboration with Luis Buñuel; and the 2003 completed Disney piece Destino (2003) that was considered for the second chapter of Fantasia. The two last pieces I went back to the gallery and saw after saying good-bye to the pares. I rushed back, saw them, then went back to the hotel and fell straight asleep till my alarm went off at 9am.

In between my two visits Dah and I were dragged to the casino – “for a late lunch” Mah said –  but we both knew better. After our meals Dah and I sat in one of the bar areas while Mah went and fed coins into the bandits. She enjoyed herself, I suppose.

I’m very glad we did both exhibitions, especially after Mah said that she enjoyed the Brack – who she had never heard of – more than the Dali. There is more a commentary with Brack’s work and what he was trying to achieve throughout his career – to capture human interaction. I enjoyed his work much more too.