Friday, April 29, 2016

Regrettable moments 5: 'Cat person'

‘Would you like to give birth with a broken spine...?’

This was the question shrieked at me by our lady vet when I produced our grey tabby (Teets) for a pregnancy test, little more than a month after she’d been run over and broken her upper tail, technically part of her spine.

The test was positive.

To be fair, to the vet, it was not ideal that our broken cat was pregnant so soon after the injury that had nearly cost her her life. And I should probably have kept her inside and out of harm’s way for some while longer than I did.

To be fair, to me, however, I'm not really a cat person. Also, if you haven’t tried keeping a non-neutered cat indoors in mating season, broken spine or no broken spine, you can’t really judge me for failing to, because it’s not as easy as it sounds.

I tried to explain this delicately to our lady vet, but she was reluctant to see my point of view. 

‘Breeders do it all the time!’ she fairly screamed, and I had to wonder how they ever succeeded in breeding cats if this were the case, as well as questioning whether it was fair to expect me to grasp the machinations of restraining horny cats without any training.

The home birth didn't go too well, though we’d read all the manuals and built the birthing box. Teets needed an emergency caesarean and some of her kittens didn't make it. But one did and we kept her.

Mother and daughter Trix are doing fine many years on, and I’ll never forget the day, with quivering hands, I successfully delivered a slippery, squealing kitten to a cat with a broken spine, onto our cream-coloured carpet. The stain is a constant reminder.

** And that's the last of my 'regrettable moments' series -- alas, not the last of my regrets.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Regrettable moments 4: 'Honeymoon horses'

I would not recommend horse riding on your honeymoon, especially when you’re allergic to horses. Unless, that is, you're in Nowra in February and have been warned off swimming in the sea and estuary by shark-alert signs posted at every waterway, even the taps. Then, you might want to risk it…

My husband had never ridden (a horse) before, and I had not ridden a horse since I was a child of eight or nine, before ballet took over my life and my younger sister seized the horse torch off of me and never gave it back. But that was before I was, or knew I was, allergic to horses – and most other animals. I would learn this, and a few other illuminating facts, on my honeymoon.

I would learn, for instance, that my husband was actually incapable of making a horse move, indeed of horse-riding. He was, however, quite good at horse sitting, which he proved admirably that day at Nowra's 'Adult Horse Riding' facility, sitting on his adult horse, with its head rooted firmly to the ground, while I ambled past, managing to move my adult horse a little, but not in any direction of my choosing.

The horseman in charge meanwhile looked on from over by the barn twenty metres away, an expression of we've got a right pair here visible on his face, even from that distance.

‘I have to get off!’ was the next thing that happened, as I suspected I was having some kind of reaction to my horse. My throat was itchy and constricted, my eyes stinging, and I was wheezing like one of the mosquitoes that had accosted us non-stop the previous night. We were having quite the honeymoon in Nowra!

By the time we got back to the car, my face was swollen to twice its normal size and my husband was thinking: this is not the woman I married – is it?

Unfortunately, it was.

Happily, food and distance from the adult horses reduced my face to near-normal size, leaving us to take our chances with the sharks. With any luck I was only allergic to animals with fur.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Regrettable moments 3 : 'Going away'

We were married in the evening so there was no time to drive all the way to our exotic honeymoon flat in Nowra that night. So, instead, we drove to Kings Cross and spent the first night of our married life in a cheap hotel in the red-light district (arriving in a car exactly like this one).

Red and orange don’t go too well together, and unfortunately at the time I got married I was going through an orange phase. I went through various clothing colour phases in my youth, usually with the most unlikely of colours. My previous colour phase was tan.

But I got married (at 21) during my orange phase. So it was just as well that the actual wedding dress was borrowed from a younger friend of my mothers who was not going through any particular colour phase at the time she got married. I think I would have been disqualified if I’d turned up at the alter wearing all-over orange.

But my going-away outfit was all-over orange, as all-over orange as any going-away – or staying put – outfit ever was, I expect, and more than enough orange for one wedding. A loose-fitted long orange cotton top and matching long orange cotton skirt, I wore, without shame or sense. One minute I was in all-over white, the next all-over orange. The guests must have wondered:

Perhaps she can only wear one colour at a time.

Perhaps she’s colour blind.

Let’s hope he is.

But no; we are neither of us colour-blind, my husband nor I, but these days, with the wedding album a glaring reminder of my profound colour confusion at that critical period of our lives, we both rather wish we were.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Me in the media!

My first interview for the memoir came out this week in the Devonport Flagstaff , our local rag (pp. 18-19. Note: I'm Sally Simmonds in the article, not Sacha Jones, the author of the book - you can't have everything).

There's a two-page spread on the book and me, only some of which I've braved to read, but which my husband, who has read it through, assures me isn't all bad.

The photo, not this one - check out the link above (Devonport Flagstaff) to see the one they used - was taken in our home. It's not all bad either.

So all up, I'd say, not all bad for a first foray! Long may she laugh, indeed!

RIP purple rain man...

... pity real princes aren't more like you.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

One day death

Today, English comedian Victoria Wood died.

Today I am going to the funeral for my husband's aunt - his father's much younger sister.

Yesterday I appeared in my first pictured press release to promote the book. A good review.

One day death, another life. That is the way it is.

Victoria Wood was too young to die, but then, she did pack more than most into her time here.

Brava to Victoria; the last laugh is yours.

Now I must get ready for a funeral.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Talking types

Is Janis Joplin Caitlin Moran or what? She is Caitlin Moran, or rather, Moran is she, as she came first.

I have a 'type' theory. Very un-PC, but it's not in order to judge us, just to describe us as being like other people, more like than a general racial, age, gender, colouring likeness, that is. 

We are all unique, of course, but some of us are more unique than others.

I am Meryl Streep, for instance. One day I'm going to show her. Caitlin Moran is Janis Joplin. Even their names match.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Regrettable Moments 2: "Shampooed"

When I took the job I was not long out of the dance world or fully acclimatised to civilian life, it must be said…

I had been assigned checkout duty, which seemed a relatively safe bet provided I didn't talk to the customers. 

All went well for a while. 

Then the owner decided he wanted to open a much larger supermarket across the road and get the existing staff to stock the shelves. 

This was not what I had signed up for! I was taken aback. But then I decided: how hard can stocking supermarket shelves be?

As it turns out, it can be quite hard for some people. Not the stocking itself, I managed that quite well, considering. Considering I was not fully acclimatised. But the trouble came in the break when I was left with my fellow shelf stocker, an older woman in her forties with a bright orange bob, in the bathroom supplies aisle, with nothing to say or do.

There were no guidelines for such situations. Anything could happen.

Anything did happen.

Standing in front of the shampoos, leaning against the frozen foods chiller, I decided to make conversation by asking my fellow stocker what shampoo she used – as you do.

How was I to know she didn't have any hair?

Well, according to other staff members I later confessed to, nothing was ever more obvious than that bright orange wig. I was the only one who hadn't noticed it was a wig. I was, I am, also quite likely the only person in history ever to ask, without intent to cause harm, a totally bald person what shampoo they used.

The trouble was I was not fully acclimatised. I couldn't even have told her what brand of shampoo I used at that time - had she asked. 

She didn't.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Ms Millican can

Well I don't know about you but I think Sarah Millican is FUNNY!

I saw her stand-up last night in Auckland, with my main man, and came home scarcely able to breathe for wheezing, a sure sign I'd had a good time and laughed my phlegm off. Great word phlegm.

What more can I say? Her voice is like hazelnut ice-cream, unexpected depths, her smile is infectiously cheeky. She is such a natural comedian that the term 'natural' scarcely applies; she is more natural than that.

I'm trying to remember a precise joke but all I'm coming up with is the hilarious skit about trying to get her husband to flip his collar out, instead of in, before they leave for the night (in is apparently his default collar position). There's that voice at top speed, gently correcting, trying not to get riled, as her nerdy husband fumbles with his collar and her instructions, made even clumsier than usual in his anxiousness to please. I was like a neighing horse laughing at that one. I don't think the lesbian couple beside me were impressed.

She is a nerd too of course, Millican. But the female version is far less nerdy than the male. I ought to know, I have a son and probable future daughter-in-law who are both software engineers.You think comedians are nerdy? The serious nerds are software engineers. The female version knows more than the male about how to present herself in public, but neither of them can go out without risking life and limb. Sunburn in summer was a constant nightmare when she stayed here with us (she lives in Perth). Spending all day and night in front of the computer they are so pale that when they wanted to go for a romantic walk together the inevitable happened, second degree sunburn to their necks, faces and arms. How they manage actual romance I truly have no idea.

But back to Millican. She is the best, most natural, comedian of her day, or at least one of them. She doesn't have to put anyone down for a laugh, as too many of the blokes do. Go see her if you can, she's finished her antipodean tour but she's touring the UK till September.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A puzzle of impatience!

In the sun
At dawn - a fawn
Upside-down puzzlement
One 1000-piece puzzle, knocked off the table and undone once in the making, finally done!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Box of Books

My box of books arrived today courtesy of my publishers Finch (Sydney) and their distributors worldwide, Harper Collins. Ten complimentary copies of my very own book delivered to my very own doorstep. Hopefully the first of three in a childhood memoir trilogy.

A note inside confirms the publishers' pride and pleasure taken in publishing the book, which is NICE, I must say. I appreciate them too.

Now it just has to SELL, just a small thing. So far so good on the publicity front, given two one-hour-long interviews already!

FTR: not me on the cover.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Regrettable Moments 1: "Curtains"

Regrettable Moments

Welcome to my Regrettable Moments series of five super short stories. The first "Curtains" is set when I was eleven (1977). The remaining four are adult reflections. None are poached from the memoir, though the tone is similar.

I will post one every few days to a week until the memoir is out May 2. Enjoy!


I was keenly drawn by the allure of the stage when I was a young aspiring dancer. Elevated above the crowd, glowing under the bright lights, one is encouraged to express oneself openly and be admired and applauded by one and all, at least that’s the general idea of the stage.

But the stage also provides the ultimate opportunity to make a total fool of yourself and this was an opportunity I took good advantage of in those young aspiring years. 

In one instance, aged eleven, I found myself during a concert performance standing downstage left instead of upstage right, a yellow flower amidst so many purples and pinks. I danced on, thinking I’d gotten away with it, until the dance ended and the curtains began to close, and there I was, standing out front, soaking up the applause, on the wrong side of the sliding red velvet...

Under strict instructions from our Russian dance teacher not to move from our final positions before the curtains had closed completely, I didn't dare duck behind the curtain before it was too late, although I knew the instruction was meant for flowers standing on the right side of the curtain. Instead I stayed put, on the wrong side, waiting with painful patience for the slow, heavy curtains to fully close before I could turn heel and make a desperate dash for the wing behind me, only to find that there wasn't one...

I was a flower in a perfect panic now. As the applause began to falter, I turned back around and charged madly across the stage, to fumble furiously with the reluctant curtains, before finally being admitted into the sanctuary inside, only to find my Russian teacher waiting for me there with a greeting more befitting a weed than a flower.

And that's all I've got to say about the allure of the stage.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Chilli out

The guy at the plant shop warned us NOT to buy this plant. 'Don't touch your eyes!' he barked. 'It'll blind you!'

Ha, ha!

Evidently this little red beauty here is HOT. A proper Indian chilli, not a sorry-ass English one. Proper.

Does it not look potent? I think it totally does look potent, as if to warn us and other animals off. Indeed that is presumably the purpose of the vibrant red and serious spice, to warn off unwanted visitors.

So, just in case, I'm NOT touching my eyes, nor am I even touching it, some things are better seen and not touched.



Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Careful Day

Bright day

Loud day

Slow day

Careful day

Grateful day

Warm day

Busy day

Old day

Monday, April 4, 2016

Book launch

My book is finally coming to a store near you (May 2).

It is generously endorsed by Stephanie Johnson as 'winning' and 'boundlessly optimistic'. I guess someone has to be.

I will post this cover image and blog again when the book is finally out.

For now this is to promote the Auckland launch. Anyone in the vicinity of Devonport Auckland is welcome to attend.

Devonport Library
Tuesday May 3
6.30 pm - 8.00 pm.

At the event there will be:

*Free drinks and nibbles
*Introduction by Stephanie Johnson
*Short author talk
*Book reading
* Book signing
(Sponsored by Paradox Books).

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Green flowers

Flowers ought not to be green as their job is to stand out from the leaves. But this hydrangea of ours is green. I think it's lovely.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

Your skin like dawn
Mine like dusk.

One paints the beginning
of a certain end.

The other, the end of 
a sure beginning.

Friday, April 1, 2016

A fool's fish cake

It's not April Fools' for nothing...

I made this fish cake last night, trying for a neat round shape, as one does, but lo! I made a map of Australia instead. What are the odds?

With me, well, they are quite high. Perfect rounds don't come naturally to a person born of crooked-edged stock. And with it being the eve of April Fools' Day too, well, you could practically guarantee something of the sort (I will confess I contrived Tasmania out of cake crumbs - for a bit of fun - much like nature did).

Still, I've never made a fish cake in the shape of Australia, with or without Tasmania, before, and I've made a few fish cakes in my time, let the record show. But this one here (since eaten for an early lunch) could well be the world's first Australia-shaped fish cake. Stranger things have happened

So the question is, what to make of it? Why did I make the world's first Australia-shaped fish cake to be eaten on April Fools' Day?

Well, the answer to that pressing question, I think, is that patriotism is a strange thing, particularly for Australians. For exiled Australians it's even stranger still, and I think could explain the occasional subconscious creation of food in the shape of one's crooked-edged country, by way of saying once an Australian always an Australian, particularly on April Fools' Day, that day that has special significance for all Australians wherever they are.

Otherwise, it might just be a happy coincidence contrived by chance to remind us what a bunch of feckless fools we are, though it really doesn't need to try in my case.

Whatever the case of the Australian fish cake, a happy day to all you fabulous fools out there, especially my country cousins across the ditch! A tasty meal you make (made).