Words of Wisdom

Youth is wasted on the young.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Duck Wars

At this time of my life, when so much is going on, I would expect that I should have been writing here more frequently when, in fact, the reverse (obviously) is true.

There is so much to say about our family and the trauma and angst that we are suffering in the teen years; about the business and where it is going; about the house and the windfall and the decisions we are trying to make....but all I can tell you about are the ducks in our pool.

Anyone who follows us on facebook will have seen evidence of the proximity of local wildlife to our backyard. In the past we have had to deal with snakes (plural), koalas and the ubiquitous ducks. The ducks are particularly irritating because they are hard to deter. I mean, squirt a koala and it will eventually get the message, block up all the snake entries and there will eventually be a thick line of ants marching into the subterranean coffin and back out the other side. Ducks are different. For a start, they use the water as a means of defence and when I say 'the water' I actually mean, 'our reluctance to get into the water'! Three of us can stand on three sides of the pool, shouting, hollering and hitting the water with sticks and the confounded ducks will position themselves in the centre of the pool, equidistant from all their antagonists. Unreachable unless you fancy a dip! Himself has taken to heaving chunks of wood, from the woodpile, at the offending critters.

Which brings us to recent events. Usually, through the winter, the ducks do a bunk and we are poop free on the sides and bottom of the pool. Come Spring, the bas***** return and Himself oils up his pitching arm ready to discourage them from making our pool 'home'. The other night, seeing an offending duck in the pool again, Himself went hooting and hollering up the back steps, reaching for his trusty block of wood. Just as his hand drew back behind his head to pitch the log at the offending mallard, she made a dash for the middle of the pool; her sides seemed to explode and a flock of tiny ducks streamed behind in her wake! There were 12 of them!!

The duck hating centre of my granite exteriored husband melted.

The following night, after a flurry of 'how do I get rid of them' posts on facebook, the BA and I went up to the pool to view the bebes. (Duck poop aside, they really are pretty cute). But the BA being 17 and slightly hormonally brain dead decided that she wanted to pick one up. Despite all our protests that the mother duck wouldn't let and and never mind that but you shouldn't handle wild babies or the mother will abandon them etc etc etc, she decided that the best way to collect a duckling for petting was to scoop one up with the pool scoop/net thing.

Well, you can imagine how that went.

It was pretty spectacular I have to admit. The mother duck rose up to her full height, flapping her wings aggressively and practically jumping into the net; the babies shot off in 400 different directions like a starburst of slippery black beaked tadpoles. Within 4 seconds they had regrouped under mother's wings, untouched but possibly extremely traumatised. OK then, definitely extremely traumatised.

Himself was horrified. The man who had routinely been throwing large hunks of wood at ducks for the past 2 months pointed the accusing finger at the BA and I.
"Don't you realise that if you had caught one, the mother wouldn't have anything more to do with it?" he enquired furiously.
I thought of the effing and blinding which normally accompanies the arrival of ducks in our pool, the curses associated with scrubbing off duck poop and my husband's general lack of love for ducks and I said....

The next day we saw no ducks.

"That's it!" Himself grumbled accusingly, "you've scared them off...."

The following day mother duck was back but......gasp.......there were only three ducklings left. Himself followed her as she took them for a walk, out onto the street (whizzz...beeeeeeeeeep) and over to the other side where she proceeded to walk up an extremely steep set of stairs. One little fellow made it up behind her but the other two were left, leaping and peeping at the bottom of the edifice.
"Well," he said,"if that is the way she's going to care for them, no wonder she only has three left!"

But he still wouldn't let us throw anything at them.

We may be scrubbing duck poop off the pool for a very long time.........

Food Wars: or How The Corporate World is Slowly Killing Us

I am in RAGE mode once more with my 14 year old step son. Actually, maybe it's not so much him I'm angry with as his mother and father. After all, he is only 14 and does not have the worldly knowledge to make good decisions about his health and his future.

Just when I thought things were looking up on the Small Boy front (we've identified his specific learning difficulty through assessment, liaised with the school and Himself is now actually regularly communicating with his ex), he arrives at our place this week with a bulk-buy mega-pack of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes. Now, I don't know what your feelings are on the moral bankruptcy of cereal companies but it reminds me of an excerpt from one of my favourite books 'Good Omens' (from whence the title of this blog is derived).

There are Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, according to Revelations, known varyingly as Plague (Pestilence or Conquest), War, Famine and Death. Their arrival will signal the beginning of 'The End' of all things unless, just suppose, they've been here all along...waiting for the beginning of the End of All Things......

Sable had black hair, a trim black beard, and he had just decided to go corporate.
He did drinks with his accountant.
"How we doing Frannie?" he asked her.
"Twelve million copies sold so far can you believe that?"
They were doing drinks in a restaurant called Top of the Sixes, on the top of 666 Fifth Avenue, New York. This was something that amused Sable ever so slighty. From the restaurant windows you could see the whole of New York; at night the rest of New York could see the huge red 666s that adorned all four sides of the building. Of course, it was just another street number. If you started counting you'd be bound to get to it eventually. But you had to smile.

Sable and his accountant had just come from a small, expensive and particularly exclusive restaurant in Greenwich village, where the cuisine was entirely nouvelle: a string bean, a pea and a sliver of chicken breast, aesthetically arranged on a square china plate.
Sable had invented it last time he'd been in Paris.
His accountant had polished her meat and two veg off in under fifty seconds, and had spent the rest of the meal staring at the plate, the cutlery and from time to time her fellow diners, in a manner that suggested she was wondering what they would taste like, which was in fact the case. It had amused Sable enormously.

He toyed with his Perrier.
"Twelve million huh? That's pretty good"
"That's great."
"So we're going corporate. It's time to blow the big one, am I right? California I think. I want factories, restaurants, the whole shmear. We'll keep the publishing arm, but it's time to diversify, yeah?"
Frannie nodded. "Sounds good Sable, we'll need-"
She was interrupted by a skeleton. A skeleton in a Dior dress, with tanned skin stretched almost to snapping point over the delicate bones of the skull. The skeleton had blonde hair and perfectly made-up lips: she looked like the person mothers would internationally point to muttering: "That's what will happen to you if you don't eat your greens"; she looked like a famine relief poster with style. She was New York's top fashion model and she was holding a book.
She said: "Uh, excuse me, Mr Sable, I hope you don't mind me intruding, but, your book, it changed my life. I was wondering,would you mind signing it for me?" She stared imploringly at him from eyes deep-sunk in gloriously eyeshadowed sockets.
Sable nodded graciously and took the book from her.
It was not surprising that she had recognised him for his dark grey eyes stared out from his photo on the foil embossed cover. D-Plan Dieting:Slim Yourself Beautiful the book was called. The Diet Book of the Century!
"How do you spell your name?" he asked.
"Sherryl. Two Rs one Y one L."
"You remind me of an old, old, friend," he told her as he wrote swiftly and carefully on the title page. "there you go. Glad you liked it. Always good to meet a fan."
What he'd written was this:


A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.

Rev. Ch. 6 v. 6

Dr Raven Sable

"It's from the Bible," he told her.
She closed the book reverently and backed away from the table, thanking Sable, he didn't know how much this meant to her, he had changed her life, truly he had...
He had never actually earned the medical degree he claimed, since there hadn't been any universities in those days, but Sable could see she was starving to death. He gave her a couple of months at the outside. D-Plan. Handle your weight problem, terminally.
"Thank you," said Sable, and he broke the connection.
He was particularly proud of MEALS (TM).
The Newtrition corporation had started small, eleven years ago. A small team of food scientists, a huge team of marketing and public relations personnel and a neat logo.
Two years of Newtrition investment and research had produced CHOW(TM). CHOW(TM) contained spun, plaited and woven protein molecules, capped and coded, carefully designed to be ignored by even the most ravenous digestive tract enzymes; no-cal sweeteners; mineral oils replacing vegetable oils; fibrous materials, colourings and flavourings. The end result was a foodstuff almost entirely indistinguishable from any other except for two things. Firstly, the price, which was slightly higher, and secondly the nutritional content, which was roughly equivalent to that of a Sony Walkman. It didn't matter how much you ate, you lost weight.*(*and hair. And skin tone. And, if you ate it long enough, vital signs)
Fat people had bought it. Thin people who didn't want to get fat had bought it. CHOW(TM) was the ultimate diet food - carefully spun, woven, textured and pounded to imitate anything, from potatoes to venison, although chicken sold best.

Sable sat back and watched the money roll in. He watched CHOW(TM) gradually fill the ecological niche that used to be filled by the old, untrademarked, food.
He followed CHOW(TM) with SNACKS(TM)-junk food made from real junk.
MEALS(TM) was Sable's latest brainwave.
MEALS(TM) was CHOW(TM) with added sugar and fat. The theory was that if you ate enough MEALS(TM) you would a) get very fat and b) die of malnutrition.
The paradox delighted Sable.
Sable's limousine was parked in the lot of a Des Moines, Iowa, Burger Lord- a fast food franchise wholly owned by his organisation. It was here they'd been piloting Hamburger MEALS(TM) for the last six months. He wanted to see what kind of results they'd been getting.
He leaned forward, tapped the chauffeur's glass partition. The chauffeur pressed a switch, and it slid open.
"I'm goig to take a look at our operation Marlon. I'll be ten minutes. Then back to LA."
Sable sauntered into the Burger Lord. It was exactly like every other Burger Lord in America. McLordy the clown danced in the Kiddie Korner. The serving staff had identical gleaming smiles that never reached their eyes. And behind the counter a chubbby, middle aged man in a Burger Lord uniform ladled burgers onto the griddle, whistling softly, happy in his work.
Sable went up to the counter.
"Hello-my-name-is-Marie," said the girl behind the counter,"How-can-I-help-you?"
"A double blaster thunder biggun, extra fries, hold the mustard." he said.
"A special thick whippy chocobanana shake."
She pressed the little pictogram squares on her till. (Literacy was no longer a requirement for employment in these restaurants. Smiling was.)
Then she turned to the chubby man behind the counter."DBTB, E, F hold mustard," she said."Choc shake."
"Uhnnhuhn," crooned the cook. He sorted the food into the little paper containers, pausing only to brush the greying cow-lick from his eyes.
"Here y'are," he said.
She took them without looking at him and he returned cheerfully to his griddle singing quietly, "Looove me tender, loooove me long, neeever let me go......"
The man's humming, Sable noted, clashed with the Burger Lord muzak, a tinny tape loop of the Burger Lord commercial jingle, and he made a mental note to have him fired.
Hello-my-name-is-Marie gave Sable his MEAL(TM) and told him to have a nice day. He found a small, plastic table, sat down in the plastic seat and examined his food.
Artificial bread roll. Artifical burger. Fries that had never even seen potatoes. Food-less sauces. Even (and Sable was especially pleased with this) an artificial slice of dill pickle. He didn't bother to examine his milkshake. It had no actual food content, but then again, neither did those sold by any of his rivals.
All around him people were eating their un-food with, if not actual evidence of enjoyment, then with no more actual disgust than was to be found in burger chains all over the planet.
He stood up, took his tray over to the PLEASE DISPOSE OF YOUR REFUSE WITH CARE receptacle, and dumped the whole thing. If you had told him that there were children starving in Africa he would have been flattered that you'd noticed.......

This, as far as I am concerned, sums up the evil that is Crunchy Nut Cornflakes. They are almost worse than Coco Pops and Froot Loops which at least do not pretend to be food. One might as well have a handful of toffee covered peanuts for breakfast! Dental research confirms (I was assured once by my dentist) that even after brushing and eating other foods for the rest of the day, cereals like these are still being dug out of children's teeth at 6pm that night!

And so, it is with a sense of powerlessness and resentment that I observe the arrival of this excuse for breakfast food into my house. The Not So Small Boy smirks at me with 14 years worth of teenage contempt and the smug knowledge that I cannot do a thing about it.

It doesn't stop me examining the nutritional information on the packet the following morning and inscribing

9. 5 grams of sugar per serving

onto the front of the box in felt tip pen.

I know. I'm pathetic. 


Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Formal Number Three: From the Ridiculous to the Sublime.

When The Baby Angel announced the invite to her THIRD Formal in one year, my heart sank. After the trauma of sending her off, partially clothed, to the last dance (and I use the term dance loosely), I was terrified by the thought of a) the cost and b) the modesty battle involved in this next invite.

I mean, I don't know what it's like in your part of the world but the early 70s fashion for ludicrously short skirts has re-emerged with a vengeance over here in Aus.
Girls are frequently attired in nothing more than a couple of tea towels tied at the shoulder, usually with a price tag equivalent to the GDP of a small African nation. When browsing the pages of online clothing companies of late, I have been confused by pictures of what seem to me to be obviously shirts, being described as dresses!

These two are some of the tamer examples.

And it seems that everyone is wearing them! Some of the nicest girls from the BA's former school, the really studious ones who don't even have facebook, are turning up to 18th birthdays wearing little more than extended 'boob tubes'.

At each party the BA attends, her dress gets shorter and shorter until I am entreating her to 'take a cardigan in case it gets cold'. I am, judging by some old photos I have recently discovered, possibly more prudish than my own mother!

And after seeing this photo (circa 1975) I will never complain about the BA wearing short shorts again either!

So it was with trepidation that I started to ask her about her dress plans for this next Formal. I bravely tried, once more, to suggest a re-run of the black dress worn at St Saviour's Formal. I should have saved my breath. Then, after a chance buy at the supermarket, the movie High Society came to my rescue. It turns out that the BA is a closet Grace Kelly fan with a penchant for the fashions of the 40s and 50s!! Having established this, I started to trawl photos of Grace and her outfits on google, comparing them to vintage Vogue patterns on ebay. Now don't ask me how we got to this one but the BA chose it:

And...she agreed to let me make it for her! Given the last disaster I was touched that she still trusted me.

We chose fabric, I made the whole thing up in a calico first and agreed to a few modifications. The sleeves were taken in, the skirt was narrowed and the split up the front was extended. So, here are the results...

I was pretty pleased with the result, with the possible exception of the obvious 'line' above the split (at knee height) where the facings had been tacked in behind. She was happy with it too and felt proud that she had been the only girl there wearing long sleeves! Not sure how her date felt about that :-)

(Oh and yes, that is a new beau. Already! Although I think he has competition from another. Oh to be so spoiled for choice!!)

Crafty Tuesday Returns: Unfinished Knitting

I have so many posts running around in my head and, as I am on holidays, you would think I might find a little time to get them written and posted. But the words are not coming so easily nowadays and I never seem to have the picture I want to illustrate a point...

However, Crafty Tuesday over at Barely Controlled Chaos is a spot I've loved for a long time (and I mean a LONG time) and it always inspires me to get something up, so to speak. So what craftiness have I been indulging in when I should have been doing housework/ schoolwork/ work for our business (oh yes, did I mention that new string to my bow?)?
Well, when my shoulder was at its worst, just after the surgery, I started knitting again. It was the only thing I could do without moving the shoulder too much as I use an odd method favoured by the ladies of Northern England, tucking the right needle under your armpit.

Observe normal method:

Observe very old shot of me in a former life:

With former fashion sense (what is that bow in my hair about??????) but with the needle tucked very firmly under my right arm. Oh and that very 80s jumper was one of my projects. We were quite adventurous in those days.

But I digress. As usual. Seeing as I could tuck the needle under my armpit and thus immoblise my shoulder, I was delighted to have the excuse to do a bit of knitting. The last time I knitted anything was in 2009 and so, with glee, I pulled out old patterns and bags of leftover balls of wool, with the intention of making something for 'nothing'.

I could have made a few scarves I suppose, or a blanket, or even a plain kiddy jumper using multicoloured stripes.....but no......I found this.

Way back in the 90s, one of the women's magazines published a series of these Beatrix Potter characters in the form of knitted toys. I made Peter Rabbit from the first edition and promised myself I would make the rest of the set after the baby was born.

Well, she is 17 now.

So I have decided to do Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, the hedgehog, as my post operative crafty therapy. I felt sure I could find sufficient odd balls of wool to complete the project.


Not only did I find many of my remaining 80s colours far too garish for this watercolour character, but I could not find the right shade of brown for her face (there was none of the above rabbit brown left unfortunately). In fact, I visited several wool shops and bought SIX different balls of brown before I settled on the one I am using! So much for making 'something for nothing'.
I still think I may have gone 'too dark'.

Anyway, I am at the 'making up' stage now so hopefully by next Crafty Tuesday I will have a Mrs Tiggy-Winkle to show you.

After that, well, did I mention I had also bought sufficient wool to do a Pigling Bland?

For a look at what other crafters are up to, click over to Crafty Tuesday.

Image Credit 1