Finding Damo

The story of a man, his job, two cats and the meaning of success.

Archive for the category “food”

Just Right

A quick writing exercise that I did this fortnight with my Golden Pen group: update a fairy tale for a modern audience. As always, these stories are whipped up and posted here without too much editing. It’s all about the process, not the end result.

And, for those who are completely out of touch: a Bear in today’s society is a big, hairy, gay man.

Now read on.

Goldy slid the crowbar into the slim gap in the old windowsill and lifted it with a small grunt, hearing the snap of the window latch breaking free. She cast a furtive glance around to make sure nobody was watching and then quickly slid the window open and slithered with a practiced grace through the entry and into the darkened house. Once inside, she stood up and pushed her dirty blonde hair back under her navy hoody. She’d heard that these three were rolling in dosh. There should be enough in here that she could palm off easily. She stood completely still, listening for the sounds of someone inside the two-story house. Nothing.

She’d been casing the place for weeks. Living at the prestigious Armadale address were three men – all apparently single, all very well off. She checked her notes.

Victim 1: “Papa” (likes Hemingway, pretensions to writing) Out Tues, Thur mornings – gym.

Victim 2: “Mama” (cross-dresses on weekends, professional singer) – Works nights. Comes home late Thur. morning.

Victim 3: “Baby” (younger than the other two. At least half a metre taller than the others) – No idea what he does for a living. Early riser – out all day weekdays.

So Thursday morning was the best time. She’d watched Baby leave the house wearing running shorts and a singlet, showing off his massively hairy back and shoulders, and then, knowing the place was empty, had made her way to the window at the side of the house.

Goldy crept to the upstairs study, where she knew there would be a trove of electrical equipment. If she could hack their passwords, she might even be able to sell some of the songs and stories for cash. Inside, she found three computers on three desks. The first was a highly-customised, bright pink desktop, covered in bling.

“Too hot,” she muttered. “I’d never be able to sell that one without it being traced back to me.”

The second was an ancient clunker that didn’t even look like it connected to the Internet.

“Too cold,” she grumbled. “How can they have all this money and still own such a piece of junk!” And then the motherlode.

“Just right!” she gasped. On the third desk was a superb laptop, whirring away with incredible power. It was light enough to fit into her pocket and would sell for top dollar down at the markets. To top all this off, a yellow post-it had the words P: P0rr1dG3. She clicked the mouse, tapped the password into the login screen, and sure enough, was admitted right into Baby’s digital sanctum.

“Brilliant,” she said, shutting the lid and stuffing the laptop into her backpack.

The next stop was the living room. As she tiptoed down the stairs, she smiled at the pictures on the walls. It was definitely a strange living arrangement, between these three gentlemen of leisure. All three were in most of the pictures – scenes by a park, dancing at Mardi Gras, waving at the camera in fancy restaurants. If she wasn’t living on the streets, she’d probably have a good idea of who they were, but she was a bit behind on her popular culture, strangely enough.

In the lounge, she nabbed some more electronics – a couple of iPads, the Playstation, a couple of different screencasters. And once more, she was faced with a decision. Three watches lay neatly on the coffee table. The first was an incredibly beautiful gold watch, intricate and had Hemingway’s face engraved into the band. She hesitated, and then sighed.

“Too hot,” she whispered, sadly. She could probably get some good money for this, but the idea of today was to get easy money, not good money. Again, it was too easy to trace back to her. The second watch she almost immediately dismissed. A simple, digital piece, worn and boring. “Too cold, for sure,” she said. But the third was a treasure. An elegant looking Gucci; worth well over seven thousand dollars, although she’d be lucky to get a grand for it.

“Just right,” she said, grinning and pocketing the piece. As she did, she saw the time and gasped. Eleven o’clock! Mama was due home any time now.

Panicking, she ran back up the stairs. She couldn’t go out the window she came in, it was too obvious. She already knew there wasn’t a back door leading anywhere. Her final option was the upstairs bedroom window. From her reconnaissance of the place, she knew there was a tree within jumping distance that would take her into a neighbouring yard and to safety. You know, if she didn’t plummet to her death first.

She’d just hit the top of the stairs when she heard conversation at the front door. Not just Mama then. Crap. The door to the bedroom was open. She ducked in – and came to a complete stop, stunned.

There were three beds in the room.

“What is it with these guys?” she mused. Downstairs, there was a muted yell. They’d noticed the window. She wouldn’t get out now. Goldy crept quickly to the first bed. It was covered in iron railings and decorated with leather belts and chains. She looked to see whether she could get under the bed, and then stood up quickly, eyes wide.

“Too hard,” she said, shaking her head. The noises downstairs were louder now. They’d found the watch, and there was some loud snarling and a high-pitched sob. Goldy broke into a sweat.

The second bed was a four-poster. Immaculate and covered in lace. She could tell that if she went anywhere near it she would leave clear indentations, giving the game away.

“Too soft.”

The third bed was “Just right!” and Goldy slipped beneath the bed, pulling the already unmade doona cover down to cover her as she cowered and hoped that they would go outside for long enough for her to make her escape.

The three burly men tumbled into the room.

“Someone’s been fiddling around with my watch!” said Papa.

“They nicked my iPad!” cried Mama.

“And my laptop,” growled Baby. “Whoever they are, they’re going to regret stealing from an international wrestling star.”

From beneath the bed, Goldy gave a little squeak of terror. She knew she recognized that one. It was that guy off the TV – world championship wrestler and all-around bad boy.

“I heard something,” said Papa.

“Surround the bed, we’ll tear ‘em apart,” rumbled Baby. Goldy squealed and scrambled out from under the bed, making for the window. Mama grabbed at her, getting the back and a handful of hoody. Utilising years of getting out of bad situations, Goldy squirmed out of her hoody and dashed for the window, which was luckily open.

“Ooh, it’s a girl!” cried Mama.

“Wait, no!” yelled Papa, as the thief leapt up to the sill and dived out. The three of them ran to the window and tussled until they all had a view. Goldy was dangling from a branch, quite a decent leap away from the window. She struggled upwards and then clambered lithely across the branch and down the trunk. She threw one more panicked glance back at them before she disappeared from view.

“Well,” said Papa. “That was exciting.”

“Poor girl,” said Mama. “She should have known Baby was just kidding. We always look out for the homeless kids in the area.”

“Speak for yourself,” Baby said, but his face was sad as he watched the space where Goldy had disappeared. “Ah well, if we see her tomorrow, we’ll give her that hoody back and some money for food, yes?”

“Exactly,” said Papa. “Now, all that excitement has made me hungry. Anyone for breakfast? I’ve made porridge.”

The End.



The Bucket

This last weekend was my first wedding anniversary. This has nothing to do with this entry. However…

We went to a French restaurant. I didn’t remember ever going to a French restaurant until my sister reminded me that in Canada my parents had to stop my brother from ordering the snails. This restaurant didn’t offer snails. It did offer steak tartare. So that was my order of choice, knowing that I wouldn’t eat it normally. And then the waiter (cool French accent tinged with Canadian) told me the specials, which included…

banquetasterixWILD BOAR!

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to dine on the same food as Asterix and Obelix, so steak tartare would have to wait for another day.

During the course of the evening I brought up the concept of a Bucket List. It seems that everyone has one. A list of things you have to do before you kick the bucket. I have previously brought up the idea of a post-bucket list – a list of things that I want to achieve after I have kicked the bucket.

But I haven’t really discussed the things that I want to achieve beforehand.

In a blog that deals (in theory) with the concept of success, this seems very remiss. And so, I present to you: THE FINDING DAMO BUCKET LIST.

Some of the things on this list are a tad outrageous. Some are completely normal and there’s no real reason why I haven’t done them yet. I want to have a number of items on the list that are achievable. Otherwise, why have a list at all?

A very funny man by the name of Michael Workman (FBTW) made the point that our lives would be a hell of a lot more fulfilling if we swapped our bucket list with our list of daily chores. And so, if we had a bit of spare time left after learning Swahili, we might manage to get some washing done.

I want to do all of the stuff on this list. If I get something done, I’ll let you know. I won’t make it the main focus of the blog. There are hundreds of Bucket List blogs out there. But I thought it was worth a once off. The list will be maintained as a separate page on Finding Damo, and I’ll update my achievements there (for the one or two people that are interested). Until then, however, a look inside the strange wants of Damo, in his search for success in all forms.

finding damo bucket list FINDING DAMO BUCKET LIST


  • Own a purple suit.
  • Make a penguin costume for each member of the family.
  • Make a troll costume.
  • Replace an eye with a computerised copy – an iBall, so to speak.


  • Snails
  • Witchetty Grubs


  • Scotland
  • Ireland
  • England (the rest)
  • France (the rest)

 bucket picturesCreativity

  • Publish a comic strip.
  • Write an app.
  • Make a short film.
  • Make a feature film.
  • Have an amateur play produced (outside of school) – 1 act or full length.


  • Get paid to act
  • Achieve, or at least be nominated for, Teacher of the Year.
  • Be an extra
  • Get a novel published (I already have short stories published – thanks to Alfie Dog)
  • Have a YouTube clip go viral
  • Have a play produced professionally


  • Pull a car apart and put it back together.
  • Learn to play the guitar
  • Learn to play the harmonica
  • Get back up to speed on the piano
  • Read War and Peace
  • Read Gone with the Wind
  • Read Les Miserables


  • Be involved in the creation of biological offspring

Obviously, I am a man of simple needs. Let me know if you can help me achieve any of the above!

Back from the bliss

Breakfast of champions!

Sorry about the last two weeks. I was on sabbatical. I was on my Honeymoon. I was living it up in the lap of luxury in sunny Queensland, sipping cocktails from the poolside bar and eating altogether too much each morning from the breakfast buffet. It was the most relaxed I’ve been in two years. I left my technological devices behind and that made all of the difference. Of course, that meant that I wasn’t writing blogs.

I know that the ideal way of doing this is to let my readers know that I’m going to be on holidays, but it just popped up on me without warning (you know, apart from the six weeks advance warning I had when booking it).

As per normal, I now owe you two blog posts. So this one is going to be a blatant self-promotion, owing to a number of very exciting things happening at the moment. The second will be one of my ever-exciting, interesting and amusing posts on the nature of life and the universe.


But first the blatant self-promotion:

Finding Damo came about as an attempt to get inside the head of my main character Damo. It was meant to be blogs from the actual character and ended up being posts from the increasingly disturbed mind of his author as his random conspiracy theory-addled brain made more and more sense to me.

But it was about making it easier to write the novel, thus getting it finished and published and me becoming the next Nick Earls.

The other thing that helps me get published is having other stories up for sale. Which is what I accomplished just before I went away. Alfie Dog publishing have just accepted a couple of my stories for publication as eBooks.

Be Practical and Ted’s Souls are two short stories that I’ve had accepted for publication in different areas, but for various reasons never saw the light of day. Finally, they are available for your reading pleasure. Apparently the highest purchase of any one story has been 17. I’m thinking my PR machine can beat that.

My stories go live on the 15th July (UK time, so maybe the 16th here in Oz). Put that date in your calendars, although be assured that I’ll be spamming the date once my stories are up and ready to go.

Go to: on the 15th July and feel free to buy the stories at your leisure!

NAIV logoBut it’s not just my own writing that I have come to annoy you about. You know that I am a huge fan of Terry Pratchett, and am currently in the process of organising the Nullus Anxietas IV convention – the Fourth National Discworld Convention in Australia.

I’m in charge of PR – so if you haven’t heard of it by now then I’m not doing my job properly.

You can get access to all of the information on what’s coming up by following these incredibly well-written pages of information:

The Australian Discworld Convention website – currently under the control of our cousins in Adelaide.

The Nullus Anxietas IV Facebook fan page.

The Nullus Anxietas IV Google+ page.

The Nullus Anxietas IV twitter feed.

Do you get yet that the name of the convention is Nullus Anxietas?

The most exciting part of the Nullus Anxietas (IV) experience right now is our involvement in Pratchett-Palooza, being run by Dymocks. They have their own Facebook fan page, but refuse to go to Google+ so I’ve duplicated the various events through our page. You can also access the Dymocks events page.

The most important event on this calendar (quite apart from 3 for 2 Pratchett books) is the Pratchett Promenade. The culmination of a month of Pratchett fun! Involving a fashion catwalk, a talent quest, costumes and merriment. I have a special stake in this one, but you won’t find out until the night.

Finally, thank you to everyone who contributed to the Write a Book in a Day event. The boys completed two books totalling about 20,000 words in the space of a day, with illustrations. And then bound it and sent it off. We are waiting to find out whether they won any of the awards, but we raised over $500 in the attempt, which is fantastic.

And so, it is a busy time. I’m flat out. Now is the time for relaxing, but I don’t think it will happen. Sometimes I look at my life and think: I could really do with some time off.

But, nah! Holidays are exhausting!

Vampires and zombies and werewolves, oh my!

From a conspiracy theorists point of view, the past couple of weeks have been phenomenal.

Do you ever get the idea that the world is trying to tell you something? No, really, this fits with my opening statement. Let’s see. I need some concrete examples. Ummm.

Right. TED talks. I listen to them in the car on the way to and from work – when my Audible credits have run out. There are some amazing speeches on this site and I’ve gotten a lot out of them. I also listen to the Smodcast with Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier. I’ve been playing them out of order, and sometimes they’ll be years old. But on one drive into work, I had a TED talk about pacifying crowds using heat rays, and then Kevin Smith talked about the same thing on his podcast, and then Dr. Karl mentioned it on HIS podcast, then I saw it on TV on a completely random bit of news footage, and finally, I read it in the book I was reading at the time.

All of these were disassociated from each other. None of them, bar the news footage, was current. I just happened to come across them all in a single 24-hour period. And this happens to me on a regular basis. Really, conspiracy theories are a doddle compared to some of the things I have to deal with in my head.

Is this a Final Destination type event? Should I be watching out for stray death rays? And Rocky Mountain High, by John Denver?

Which leads me to zombies. No, seriously. I read in the news about a naked guy who was shot multiple times to stop him from eating a guy’s face. Kevin Smith was talking about it as well . That’s not freaky at all. It was all over the Twitter-sphere. What is freaky is that THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US!! It was the go-to position of every conspiracy nut on the planet. Finally, the superbug has gotten loose and Florida is ground zero. All of the movies we’ve watched and The Walking Dead tv show have given us some good grounding for how to survive the coming onslaught.

First up: don’t live in America.

Check. I have a feeling getting zombies through airport security could be a bit tough.

“Anything to declare?”


“Sorry sir, but you can’t bring foodstuffs into the country, so could I ask you to ARGH! STOP IT! Nooooo….”

To add fuel to the fire, the Centre for Disease Control has come out with an official statement denying that there is a zombie outbreak. What more do we need??? And then a fascinating biologist – Nathan Wolfe on TED tells me that when they do swaps of the inside of the noses of volunteers, they find that 30% of the material they collect is unclassifiable. Viruses and bacteria that they cannot identify. And even in the blood, something like 1% of what is running through our bloodstream is unidentifiable. He was making the point that there are still undiscovered territories for our young people to explore when they leave school.

I took it to mean that it is totally conceivable that there is a zombie virus out there that has already infected most of the population and is only awaiting the anomalous solar flare to reach us from the sun. Maybe we’re both right. Zombies are a bit passé. They’ve been done to death. Ha ha. I like zombie movies. They’re fatalism at a grass-roots level. The world is stuffed. Let’s eat some brains. They feed on our fears of the coming environmental apocalypse and the knowledge that our governments are so stupid that it is totally conceivable that someone has requisitioned a killer virus and all we can do is wait for the “oops!”

This zombie has no hope.

And it’s good to see a genre so friendly to kids. My step-daughter loves zombies. Many’s the morning I wake up with a small child chewing on my head. No, actually I mean, when I first met her mother, I was right into Plants V. Zombies. That meant that within a few weeks, young miss O was into it as well. She has written a song about the sunflowers and their quest to save us from the zombies. She drew a picture for school showing a very good defensive layout for an early level of the game. And still there’s been no call from Child Services.

I like zombie movies, but there’s not a lot of romance in a zombie. There are very few “I love you, and can’t live without you, so eat my brains and we’ll be undead ever after” moments in zombie movies. Romance is the domain of the vampire.

Man with perfect skin, loves the nightlife, seeks vulnerable beauty for passionate necking. Must love bats.

I’m a bit over vampires. I used to devour anything involving sharp pointy teeth, from Anne Rice to Count Duckula. I read the Twilight series, to my ever lasting shame. I enjoyed it, which I truly believe makes me a bad person beyond redemption. But I can’t fathom a race of shiny almost invincible people who don’t say: “You know what, these squishy humans can’t do anything to stop us. They can’t stake us. The sun doesn’t hurt us, we can throw century-long disco beach parties. Let’s take over the world!”

What I am enjoying is Kim Newman’s Bloody Red Baron. The first novel, Anno Dracula, was an incredible read. The sequel just goes from strength to strength. Famous characters from history and popular fiction dive in and out of the novels, set in a world where Dracula was not beaten by Van Helsing and his band, and instead marries the Queen of England and ushers in a Vampire England. Alternate Reality novels always fascinate me. A novel where Jack the Ripper hunts vampire prostitutes through the streets of Victorian London was always going to get me in. But still, the graphic descriptions of feeding – sweet coppery blood trickling over the tongue and down her parched throat – no longer have the same appeal that they did when I was wearing black and dangly ankh earrings.

Werewolves on the other hand. . . Like Jekyll and Hyde, the werewolf is the freedom to let your inner beast free, to act without worrying about the consequences. And they’re alive. Hyper-alive. Depending on the mythos, they’re untethered from their human shells once a month at the full moon to frolic in amongst all the lovely food.

I need help.

I’ll finish with some recommendations. They might not fit anybody else, but, I love:


  • Shaun of the Dead
  • 28 Days Later/weeks later
  • The Walking Dead
  • Plants v. Zombies


  • Anno Dracula
  • Anne Rice – the early years
  • Being Human (and -gasp- Being Human US)
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Fray (comic)


  • The Twilight Series (Team Jacob)
  • The Wolf’s Hour – Robert R. McCammon
  • Being Human (this one, more the UK than the US version)

 Feel free to add your own.

Parenting plates.

PsSo far, I’ve written an entry for every week that I’ve been doing this blog. I may not always write every week, but I’m keeping up with the quota. I’m glad I’m not one of my students. I’d be going home with a “work not done” sticker. Which I would promptly ignore.

This is a rant. A relatively light-hearted rant, but a rant nonetheless. A goodly amount of people will completely disagree with some of what I say, and as always, I have done no actual research before writing this post, so they may well be right. But it’s what I believe. Erm, what I believe today.

I’ll start by tellling parents they need to be more involved with their kids and end up saying that you shouldn’t be allowed to have kids without a license. Stick with it, it’ll be a laugh riot!

Here goes.

Parental involvement

All the literature says that the biggest contributor to a child’s success in education is not the school they go to, or the expensive iPad they use, nor the wonderful teachers (shooting myself in the foot here) or the canteen food. Student success is directly linked to parents’ involvement in their education.

Stuff the research. I spend all day with students and could point at each student and say “he rarely sees his parents after school” or “his parents read the English novel as well so that they can talk about it.” On parent/teacher interview nights, I complain that the only parents I see are those of the kids who are doing well. But that’s an indication. If the parents cared enough about their kids to show up to parent/teacher interview nights, I might be saying better things about them.

Of course, there are always the harried parents, shuffling from teacher to teacher, knowing exactly what they’re going to hear and dreading it. They love their child, and hate hearing teachers bad-mouth them over and over. Or offering helpful, sympathetic advice. Or saying “he seems like a nice kid, BUT”. I’m not saying there aren’t exceptions. It may be that this child with caring, loving parents, will bloom after school: in their career, or as an adult. Or they might just be broken, and all of the love poured into them dribbles out through a hole in their damaged little soul.

Parents that are involved with their kids breed kids that are going to be interesting and involved adults. Not necessarily nice adults. But at least they’ll be involved in society. What’s more, nice, involved teenagers come from children who were cared for and had parental involvement from birth. Leading me to my next commandment:

Read to your kids.

This one I’ve seen from both sides of the equation – teacher and student. From when I first met Shereen, she would read to her daughter every night before bed. Picture story books, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, The Magic Faraway Tree and any number of others. We also had books on tape, that Ophelia could listen to as she was winding down in the evenings. Now she’s in Grade Two. I bought her How to Train Your Dragon for Christmas when she’d just turned six. At seven, she’s just finished Pratchett’s Bromeliad trilogy, The Amazing Maurice and is almost done with Wee Free Men. She’s read all of Roald Dahl’s books.

Esio Trot

She read Esio Trot in just over an hour. I smiled to myself and thought: “Ah yes, read.” And started to ask her questions about the plot. She could answer comprehension questions on every chapter. I was amazed.

Now I’m not saying that she is this good because Shereen read to her. I am saying that she wants to read all of these books because Shereen read to her. I am saying that reading to her gave her the curiosity and the drive to want to learn to read so that she could explore these worlds for herself.

And I see the students in my English classes. I can again tell the students who have been read to, and those that can recite whole episodes of the TV show Ben 10 but can’t tell you who Peter Pan is (“that’s a Disney movie isn’t it?”). The Three Little Pigs are slowly disappearing from our culture and Red Riding Hood has been relegated to a truly awful movie directed by the woman who destroyed the first Twilight movie. And seriously, making that book worse was an achievement!

All of my nieces and nephews have a love of the story. And they’ll all do well at school, one way or the other.

Read to your kids.

And stop feeding them garbage.

ADHD is a Myth

Man, that was a terrible sequeway. But I’m ranting. Expect shifts in topic.

I’d change the heading for this bit, but I want to be a bit controversial. Obviously, ADHD is a documented medical condition. I’m not a doctor. And as per normal, I’m not doing any hard research on this to try and disprove it.

ADHD is real. Most kids don’t have it.

Ow. Ow. Stop throwing things at me. Really. Doctors over-prescribe ADHD because parents don’t listen to the original diagnoses: your kids are eating too much rubbish. Your kids aren’t getting enough sleep. Your kids are watching too much TV and playing too many computer games and aren’t getting enough exercise.

You don’t care? OK. Here are some pills.


mmm, brekky.

Diet is incredibly important to the growing child. Different foods and drinks have astounding effects on children. And probably adults as well, but we are better at masking it. I despair when I have to deal with a child who is diagnosed as ADHD and they come to school with a can of Red Bull in one hand and a donut in the other. Might this combination not have some effect on his behaviour?

No doctor should be allowed to prescribe Ritalin or any other ADHD drug before the parent can prove that they have put their child on a month-long balanced diet, free of processed foods and stimulants. Hell, make them put up with what I’ve had to: no dairy, gluten, sugar, red meat. Fresh vegetables, lots of fish, plenty of water and see me in a month. If they’re buying crap at school, don’t give them money to spend at school. Be a dictator. We’re not allowed to run the country properly, at least run the child properly. They’ll thank you for it in the long run.

Actually, no. They probably won’t thank you at all, but they’ll be healthier and lose less teeth from Ritalin poisoning.


Teenagers need more sleep than adults do. Their bodies are war zones of hormones and emotions and even if they’re only saying “mawaiunno” to you when you ask them a question, their brains are whirring with a thousand seemingly vital problems.

If I make a random statement about Game of Thrones, which starts at 9.30 and a Year 7 pipes up with “Yeah, that bit was great! She had nice boobs, didn’t she?” then that Year 7 student is either stealing TV from the Internet or not getting enough sleep.

And they have nice taste in boobs.

However, that aside, it isn’t a bad thing to say “no computers in the bedroom”, “no TV in the bedroom” and most importantly “no phones in the bedroom”. My iPhone is almost more powerful than my computer. It is by far more useful for instant communication and retrieval of information. And it connects me to my friends and work twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

I do have my phone in my bedroom. I don’t sleep as well as I should. But when I do want to sleep, on goes Airplane mode and away goes the power of communication. There is no way that a student is going to do this. So, to be prepared for the following day (or whatever they will believe), phones are all on charge in the kitchen before bed.

And lock ‘em in. Stuff the fire safety codes.

I didn’t say those last two sentences. That would be incredibly rash.


She doesn’t deserve to die!

This one should be a no-brainer. Grand Theft Auto IV is rated MA15+ for people aged 15 and above. If a Year 7 student is telling me how he cut the throat of a hooker to get his cash back after the trick, someone has dropped the ball on following the ratings system.

But that’s not the point. The point is that playing computer games hyper-stimulates your brain. It tricks the body into thinking that it is participating in a fight-or-flight scenario and fills you with lots of lovely chemicals designed to help you avoid the tiger or pillage the neighbouring village.

Without the accompanying exercise – frantically climbing a tree or setting fire to a grass hut – all these chemicals do is give you a pleasant buzz and a desire to KILL SOMETHING NOW AARGH ARGH.

Television and computer games are specifically designed to provoke emotional responses. That’s what makes them popular. Letting them loose on your children without checking them out for yourself is … how much trouble do I get in for calling that irresponsible? It’s a rant, I’ll risk it.

It’s irresponsible. And then you send them to us, the teachers, and wonder why they aren’t doing any work at school, hopped up on Red Bull, jonesing on 4 hours of post-gaming sleep and spoiling for a fight.

For the most part, we love your kids. Why else would we do this job? We want to see them achieve their best and become useful, productive and interesting members of society. And for the most part, we do our best. And in most (?) cases, we succeed.

I just don’t want that success to be in spite of what the parents are doing. I would love it to be because of what the parents are doing.

And I’m probably not talking to you. The parent who is doing everything, or most things right. And I get that raising a kid is hard. As I say, I’m on both sides now. And have been before. And sometimes, no matter what you do he still goes out and sets fire to the tennis court, or smashes down a toilet door.

And I get that sometimes it’s just too hard to cut up the vegies, when Maccas is around the corner. I’ve been there too, and have the extra 20 kilos to prove it.

And really, probably, the people I want to read this don’t read. Or won’t read. Or can’t read.

Oh damn. I really nearly finished this off then. I have one more thing to say. Something Pippa and I have been advocating for years. Something most teachers would probably get on board with:

When you hit puberty, you have to give up your reproductive organs. I’m sure there’s a safe way to do it. Keep ‘em in a jar beside your bed to remind you of what you’re aiming for.

When you decide that you want to become a parent, then you undertake the parenting test. There is a theory component and a practical. It would be competency based. You prove that you are fit to usher a new life into the world and shape it into a productive member of society.

Then we give you your P plates – your Parenting license. And you can breed like rabbits and the world will be a better place.

My only sneaking suspicion is that parenting licenses might bring on the rather speedy extinction of the human race.

OK. Done. I think I managed to insult or offend almost everybody on the face of the planet. Sorry.

PS. I was looking for a P plate for the start of this post and found the following picture, which now has a completely different connotation:

Look, she has her Ps!

Look, she has her Ps!

Imagine That.

A good imagination...

Shereen and I sat down with a financial planner last night and discussed getting life insurance. I’m growing up! But now that I’m worth more dead than alive, I’ve had to accept that I’ve just taken the first step towards accepting that I’m going to die. I mean really, why would you bet an insurance company that you were going to die if you knew you were going to lose?


But never fear, bloggy followers, I am not talking about death, save as a lead-in to a commentary on imagination.

I spent a few weeks as a child wide awake each night terrified that I was going to die. As an adult, I’ve always assumed that it was a normal stage of development. You start off and everything is part of you. And then you want someone to feed you and they don’t and you realise that they are an independent entity. And eventually you realise that if they can go away and not come back then you might end as well.

For me, that was compounded, I think, by an incredibly vivid imagination. At night, trying to think of what death would be like, I could feel the wood of the coffin on my skin. I would try and drag a breath from a space completely devoid of air. I couldn’t imagine being dead and at peace. I could only imagine dying and the fear and panic that went along with that.

I’ve never written about that before. But I’ve written about almost everything else. And I know that I’m not famous enough for people to care where I get my ideas, but I’m going to tell you anyway. It is an insight into my warped mind and where a simple idea can take me.

The most convoluted idea for a story ended up being a short story called Have your Lamington and eat it too. I was living in Seymour, walking home from the bakery, eating a sausage roll. Bits of pastry were flaking away and dropping to the ground. I watched ants take the flakes away – a tasty meal – and had an epiphany: it is incredibly difficult to eat every little bit of anything! Imagine, then, if you had to eat a magic lamington in order to gain a special power. Imagine if you had to eat ALL of it for the magic to work. And imagine that something really bad would happen to you if you didn’t eat it all. I watched the ants drag crumbs of sausage roll down beneath the earth and decided that some poor sod wild have an extremely unpleasant time getting hold of those last few crumbs.

Ted’s Souls came out of a conversation with Dave, where we tried to figure out what the appendix did. It seemed like as logical a storage place as any for the human soul.

Shoot for the Moon was an exercise in sense-writing to begin with. I wrote a scene with as much sensation in it as possible. It turned into a proper story because I wanted to explore a world where nearly everybody was a werewolf, because really, it wouldn’t be that bad – most of the time.

Dwarves in Space began as an image of a group of dwarves lighting fires in the hold of a spaceship to keep warm and ponderings on how a wizard would survive in an environment of pure technology.

And Finding Damo evolved from a desire to tell the story of some of the stupid things I’ve done along with the idea that there might be a junior Perry out there somewhere that I don’t know about.

I have a story that deals with what the heir to Prometheus would steal if we got another go at Break-and-Entering Olympus. A story that came out of a minor nervous attack over the thought that, on a train, you’d have nowhere to go if the passengers suddenly turned into homicidal maniacs (yes, I think about these things). A story based on the observation that when you kill a spider, the corpse doesn’t always stick around (and so, is it really dead? Or are spiders immortal?). And a story based around a song called Skin Deep. I never knew it was called Skin Deep as a kid. I just remember the line: Better watch out for the skundig. What the hell are skundig?? That was a year’s worth of peaceful sleep I’ll never get back, I tell ya!

Come to think of it, “Better watch out for the Skin Deep” also has incredibly creepy vibes.

Lots of stories in my head!

Anyway, there are thousands of stories in my head. I should stop talking about them and go and write some. And if you know anyone who wants to buy some, feel free to send them my way.

Excuse me?



I honestly don’t know how to beat last week’s blog. Thanks to everyone who commented. I’m glad it had such an effect. However, in the interests of continuity, I’m going to pretend it was a season of Dallas: “Wow. That was an incredibly vivid dream! Everyone loved my blog. Oh Gods, I’m late for work!”
The PTB (Powers That Be, not Psycho Teddy Bear) beamed an incredibly vivid dream into my head last night. Completely different from anything I’ve dreamt in years. In it, I was in a massive house and. . . did you just yawn? I can’t believe you just yawned! That’s incredibly rude!

Is it? Apparently. I was at a student radio session this morning and the local radio guy was making comments on how the boys had performed during the show. He kept picking up on the fact that one of the boys was yawning. “You shouldn’t yawn in public. If you have to yawn, cover your mouth. It’s extremely bad manners!” I don’t know. Yes, it’s bad manners, but is it extreme? And should there be some allowance made for the fact that it’s only eight in the morning and we’ve all been up since five? But why am I defending the lad? Manners have gone completely out the window since my day!

Gods I feel old.

Call it Manners Evolution. What was completely inappropriate when I was a teenager is now commonplace. And it might be family based, or region based, but I’m surprised at some of the behaviours students and strangers don’t consider to be even mildly rude. For example, mealtimes were always sacred. You wouldn’t answer the phone at dinner time, and the world didn’t end. This was before mobile phones (cell phones for the weirdo foreigners – sorry, was that rude?) but the concept remains the same. Unless you’re an on-call professional or worried parent, there is no reason to answer a phone during a meal. Don’t even get me started on people who have the phone on the table throughout the entire meal, or those who hold text conversations during dinner!

Aside from dinner, mobile phones in themselves are a curse of modern society and something we just have to get used to. I personally love listening to other people talk loudly about their medical conditions and secret affairs on the number 55 tram into the city. Gives me something to write about. So by all means, keep it up. If I attempt to strangle you with my headphone cord, it just means you’re either a) boring, or b) severely limiting my ability to concentrate on the book I’m reading.

My fiancé’s bugbear is road rage. Vans and urban 4WD lunatics in particular. I love watching tiny angry people in massive vehicles taking out their frustration on other drivers by tailgating – nay, LOOMING OVER – their victims. It’s like BattleTech. Inside the “safety” of their giant robots they feel invincible. If I can’t see the wheels of the driver behind me, I slow down until they either get the message or get out from behind me. I’M TAKING BACK THE ROAD PEOPLE!

I actually enjoyed a column by Andrew Bolt where he talked about manners and basic common sense. Of course, he was leading up to the fact that if you are a teacher, you really shouldn’t make porn videos with ex-students and allow them to be leaked online. By “allow” I mean “don’t put a password on your phone so that anyone can steal it and copy the files onto their own drives”. But his initial comment was that we now need signs in the toilets of businesses telling us not only to wash our hands after going to the toilet, but how. He goes on to say that once upon a time, it was a sackable offence for a teacher to be caught gambling. I’m not sure what you have to do to get sacked now, but apparently, making porn doesn’t count.

I’ve been wracking my mind the entire time I’ve been writing this trying to remember why I wanted to write about manners in the first place. I’ve finally remembered and can now stop waffling.
When did it become ok for individuals to start eating at restaurants before all of the meals come out? More importantly, when did restaurants start to think that it was acceptable practise to bring meals out staggered over the course of ten-twenty minutes? It used to be that meals for a table were kept in a warmer, or prepared so that they all came out at once. If one person at a table hadn’t received their meal, it was because the waiter didn’t have enough hands. For the last few restaurant meals I’ve experienced, the arrival of main meals has been almost random. I’m naming names here, because I really like Thai Nee Café on Lygon, but our last couple of meals there have not been pleasant experiences.

It is most definitely ok for diners to tell their companions to “start without me, it’ll get cold”. It’s the choice of the diner, and shows consideration to the others in his or her party. It is most definitely NOT ok for restaurants to take that as complicity in the seemingly standard practise of not serving an entire table at once.

Pick up your game, restaurants. Manners still matter. People shouldn’t have to choose between a cold meal and a cold shoulder.

Now excuse me, I have a commuter to strangle.

Food glorious food?

I love to cook. I love to cook and I love to eat. Some of my great happy moments involve Duck Risotto from Fifteen, an all-you-can eat breakfast buffet at a hotel in Sydney and Coles Christmas Pudding-flavoured ice cream while watching Stargate. I will happily spend a day in the kitchen preparing meals for friends, especially when I get to try out a tricky new recipe.

I’m not a master chef. My food rarely looks pretty. But I rarely get complaints from anyone over the age of ten.

So imagine my chagrin when I visited my naturopath and he gave me a list of foods I needed to avoid. All of a sudden, my forest of food was reaching out to snare me in its allergen-filled stinging tentacles.

chips and currywurst

potatoes, no, tomatoes, no, red meat, no, curry NO!

Here’s a sample:
– no red meat, gluten (that means BREAD people!), sugar or dairy.
– no curries or chillies, potatoes or peas (seriously, peas?)
– no lentils, tomatoes or chickpeas. Lentils and tomatoes! Because when you get rid of red meat, the go-to replacement foods of choice are never lentils or tomatoes!
– no nuts. And for that, I apparently have my blood type to blame.
– oh, and no citrus or acidic food. Fish is ok, but everything any chef ever put on a bit of fish is off-limits.

That’s fine. I love a challenge. But although in these days of mid-life health-consciousness, I expected to avoid ice cream and pizza, I never thought I’d be staring longingly at a jar of peanut butter, or salivating over spaghetti bolognese.

Italians hate me. They’ve built an entire cuisine around food that I can’t eat. I went out for lunch with friends on the weekend, looked at the menu and almost burst into tears. It looked so good!

Fine. It is good for my health. I’ll suck it up. And I’ve found a number of superb recipes, expanded my repertoire of meals and discovered that gluten free, sugar free, dairy free fruit cake doesn’t have to be disgusting.

But why are there so many fantastic gluten-free recipe sites on the ‘net? Everybody I talk to now seems to be coeliac or lactose intolerant or has a severe reaction to peanuts. Case in point: I went to my friend Cate’s son’s first birthday party. There were snacks and goodies galore! And every snack was specifically designed for a person at the party who was intolerant of some food or another, either physically or morally. These treats were glucose free. Those were free of sucrose. The lollies were specifically chosen to avoid certain food colours. There was a fort around the peanut free area to prevent unauthorised nutty access. No dairy, no onions, no eggs, no badly treated animals. This party demonstrated:
1. The boundless inventiveness of humans in creating suitable foods from weird and wonderful ingredients, and
2. That something is wrong with the modern human and/or modern food.

Of course, it could be that these allergies have always been this prevalent, and suspicious deaths and belly pains were attributed to witches. But it seems that even since I was a child the instance of peanut and wheat allergies has grown exponentially. I am not the type of blogger to look stuff up. Looking stuff up kills conspiracies and more often than not proves me wrong. So I’m just going to rant based on suspicions and half-formed truths.

They’re putting something in the food. They’re genetically modifying wheat and nuts to use as weapons. We’re more than usually rapidly evolving to no longer need food. But we haven’t fully managed to live off happy thoughts yet…

But until then, I’m happy. The multitude of food intolerant people out there provide me with boundless recipes to let me dine in the standard to which I have become accustomed. I can order sweet potato pizza from Crust with a gluten free crust. I can make a chicken bolognese with GF pasta and a pumpkin base. And risotto is my new best friend. The staff envy my lunches as they trudge off to the canteen, and I’ve dropped 10 kilos in just over a month.

So I say, bring on the food allergies! Now, where’s that epipen?

A likely Scenario

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