Thursday, 29 May 2008


We always had dogs – when I was a child, a teenager, and after we got married we had several. Our kids grew up with a dog, but when our last and much loved dog died after our kids had left home, we said ‘No more dogs’.
We generally had ‘bitzers’ that someone was giving away, although in the list were a Corgi and a Red Setter. We were pretty laid back about dogs in those days, but then, wasn’t the whole community? Children could walk up and pat a dog with confidence, dogs didn’t throw themselves against the fence and make you fear for your very life as your walked past, and attacks on people as have been reported recently were pretty well unheard of.
You shouldn’t really have a dog when both people are working and you’re very busy. It’s not fair to the dog, home alone and prone to mischief. We’ve had mischievous dogs before – why, one of our dogs (in the days before you had to make sure you dog was fenced in and not roaming at large) came home once with a note pinned to his collar which read ‘Public Nuisance No 1.’ Really!
And so we resisted the urge to get another dog. Years passed, we retired, our yard returned to some sense of normalcy – no more dogs the size of a small Shetland Pony digging holes. We even landscaped, and made everything – well, in our eyes – beautiful.
But, but, we always traipsed past the pet shop window and drooled over various puppies, but dragged ourselves away without being seduced by little noses, and little pink tongues, and eyes that said ‘Take me home, love me, I won’t dig your garden up, and I’ll never, ever bark, or make a mess’.
After our grandchildren were born we started to say to their parents that all kids should have a dog, but as was kindly pointed out to us by said parents, perhaps not in the city, not when you don’t have a yard, not when you don’t have a fence, and not when both parents work, and kids are at child care and school all day.
Still we kept saying to each other ‘Kids really should have a dog’, and then that evolved into ‘We could get a dog, then the kids could have the fun of it too!’ What a good idea. But we still valiantly resisted – after all what would we do with a dog while we were away on a trip or a weekend or even for a day out?
And so our resolve held until the day just recently when we saw four puppies in the pet shop window. Four gorgeous puppies, and not these strange mixtures of poodles and spaniels, and dauschaunds and chihuahuas, but a real dog, pure bred and just beautiful. Perfect little white balls of fluff, guaranteed not to grow too large, easy to maintain, loving towards kids, good guard dogs, healthy and sound.
‘Oh’, I moaned pitifully, ‘If I could have any dog in the world that would be it’. ‘Come away!’ my husband said, grasping my by the collar and hauling me away.
However, the following week when we passed by the pet shop window again, there they were – still there, and still gorgeous. ‘I’m going to ask how much they are’, I said, and bravely walked into the shop, and weakly crawled out after picking myself up off the floor on being told the price. Good God, I could buy a small car for that, and so I put the whole idea out of my mind. Which is a very good thing to do, because having been married as long as we have, there’s a sort of thought transference thing that goes on – as soon as I go off an idea HE gets onto it!
A week later there were only two puppies left. We stood and stared, and this time I hauled him away by the collar. The next morning much to my surprise he said ‘I’ve been thinking about that dog all night. Would you like to go and have another look?’ In marriage speak, ‘have another look’ means ‘we’ll get it!’
And we did.
(1) bought a dog. And anyone who has a dog knows that that is not the final paragraph.
We then bought
(2) a collar;
(3) a lead;
(4) a water bowl;
(5) a food bowl;
(6) a bag of dried dog food – the very best quality there is, of course, and then we went home with our gorgeous purchase.
Almost immediately we found that we also had to buy
(7) a bed;
(8) a ball of twine to extend his lead so he could gambol freely whilst learning to stay home;
(9) shampoo – he’s white – why did we buy a snow white dog? Don’t ask me!
(10) A grooming brush;
(11) pet mince;
(12) marrow bones;
(13) disposal bags for his errrmmm ‘waste’;
(14) a ‘going out’ lead, as his first one got dragged through his errrmmm ‘waste’.
Then we decided he should have a kennel. He was sleeping locked in our downstairs laundry so a
(16) kennel was purchased, at about the same cost as a small cottage.
We then enrolled in
(17) Puppy School – what fun! If you’ve never been to puppy school I suggest you buy a puppy right this minute and go! Puppies everywhere, puppies barking everywhere, puppies fighting, playing, biting everywhere. Somehow in all this bedlam we learnt how to train him to sit, stay, heel and have some manners. So far the command ‘drop’ has eluded us, but I’m sure another course would put that right. And to teach these commands what do you need but treats –
(18) liver; and
(19) chocolate
He needed more vaccinations of course
(20) and
(21), and had to have some
(22) tummy bug tablets.
Then we bought more
(23) tablets which treat fleas, worms and almost all diseases known to the canine world, and at a cost to match.
(24) Witch Hazel is good for keeping ears clean we were told, used on
(25) cottonwool balls, and by this time we had amassed so much stuff we bought
(26) a plastic storage box to keep it all in.
At puppy school I was told sternly that my dog needed toys –
(27) a soft toy to go to bed with (I kid you not!);
(28) a rope toy to chew on – what’s wrong with the shoes, towels, chair legs and so on he’s already chewing on I want to know?
(29) A squeaky toy – and even though we bought him the cutest squeaky toy you ever did see – in the shape of a well known fast food chain’s red container of French fries, he’s not the slightest bit interested in it; and
(30) a rubber bone with knobs on it for his teeth and gums – fair enough!
(31) Tennis balls to play fetch with;
(32) a large rubber ball to play soccer with;
(33) a raw hide Frisbee; then
(34) a Kong - what on earth is a Kong I asked naively – well, it’s a marvellous toy which you can fill with treats and plug up with
(35) peanut butter to keep your dog amused for hours whilst you are away from home. I can tell you it kept us amused for hours watching our poor little puppy trying to un-clag his mouth of peanut butter. But he loves it, so all is good!
Then of course we needed
(36) plastic storage box No 2 for storage of his toys.
Then the little rascal learnt to chew through his twine extension rope, so we bought
(37) a length of chain with
(38/39) two cunning clips to thwart his escape plan. Not that I think that he wants to escape – I mean, he knows where his next meal is coming from!
You must cut his toenails I was advised –
(40) toenail clippers; and
(41) scissors to trim his cute little furry feet with.
A disappointing purchase was
(42) a car harness – we have no idea how to clip him into all those intricate straps and then clip him to the seat belt, and anyway – apart from licking the insides of the car windows – for some reason he’s perfectly well behaved in the car.
Then, if you are not a dog owner you may want to turn away now – we had to buy
(43) a pigs ear. I kid you not, a real pig’s ear complete with veins and so on. Or we could have chosen a pig’s nose! They sell these things! Someone at a party somewhere will be asked what he does for a living and he’ll reply ‘I cut off pig’s ears and noses and sell them to pet shops!’ And the questioner will promptly faint – as I almost did when the young man in the pet shop first drew my attention to them. I was in a state of disbelief – a neat little basket of pigs ears on the counter! The pig’s ear is for him to chew on. He seems to like it. I on the other hand pick it up by the very tippy tips of my fingers
Next we found out that shampooing our little puppy was out of the question – he’s a no wash sort of dog. Great, I hear you say, I should get one of those! But he still gets dirty and so I discovered that you have to ‘dry’ shampoo him. Thus I’ve ordered
(44) dry shampoo;
(45) plus postage.
I started his own
(46) file in our filing system – a record of micro chipping (which was included in the purchase price – whew!), and dates of vaccinations etc.
We have taken a million photos of him so I’ll just allot one number to them (47),
and no doubt there’s a million more to come, plus
(48) a dedicated photo album.
Now we have on order
(49) a medallion for his already heavily laden collar – microchip information, and
(50) Council registration. The medallion is perfectly plain and will have etched on it his own name and our surname (how cute!), and our address and our phone number. There is no way on God’s green earth that we will be buying diamante studded collars, jumpers or any other tizz for him! He’s a dog, for God’s sake!
While he’s still a pup he’s reasonably easy to contain, but soon he’ll be bigger and must have his freedom. We don’t have a fence – what to do? Why, buy a fence of course! Fence providing firms must just love pet shops – they sell dogs to people without fences, who then purchase fences, and so the world goes around. We have
(51)our fence on order – not just any old fence, a powder coated aluminium fence from the side of the house to the boundary fence, and not just one fence, oh no, but
(52) one for each side of the house, and each with
(53/54) a gate. I think we could have had an overseas trip for that little expense!
Now although I’m up to over fifty purchases – and we’ve only had him three weeks – I do believe there will be many, many more. I’m sure there’ll be vet visits, and kennel stays, and food, and more food. And he’s going to be
(55 coming up) desexed.
However, I must say in his defence that when he runs to greet me in the morning, and jumps all over me, and says ‘I love you, I love you, I love you, hurry up and give me my food’, and when he sits on command and looks at me with those gorgeous black shining eyes, I just melt and hole in our bank account seems quite worth while!
Oh yes, and the grandchildren love him!

Saturday, 12 January 2008


Now there’s no middle ground with mobile phones – you either love them or loathe them.
I’m in yet another camp - I’m terrified of them! Just absolutely scared witless.
We have had our mobile phone for about five years. Its been used, oh, about ten times. Now they’re changing the system, and we had to get a new one. My husband decided he should have one too. Why, I enquired, as I know he is even more scared than me. (And less technically astute! If ‘technically astute’ is knowing how to turn the damn thing on and off).
Anyway, I’ll draw a veil over the argument that ensued, and needless to say we marched off to the phone shop to buy two new phones.
‘Now’, I said firmly to the boy – and I say ‘boy’ advisedly, as he must have been all of fourteen years old – ‘I just want a plain simple little phone, to make a call and receive a call. I’m not interested in any of this texting stuff or anything’.
He just prevented himself from rolling his eyes, and from therein on treated me like the mobile phone moron that I am. When he saw our apparently absolutely ancient phone he also almost laughed out loud. We must be the last people on the planet with that particular model.
To my shock I discovered that the standard mobile phone now comes with – wait for it! – internet, video (you can take a video and send it to someone – Why? Where? When? And most importantly, HOW?) You can subscribe to something and watch movies on it. Yeah? I just prevented myself my rolling my eyes when he told me that. Have you seen the size of the screen – yeah, sure, I’d love to watch ‘Gladiator’ or something on that!
And you can play games. And you can take a photograph – but what you do with it then the book does not explain. I can transfer media files – huh? I can also send emails – why when I’ve got a perfectly good computer at home? – There’s a calendar and a voice recorder ‘to record memos or sounds’ – memos I can understand, but why on earth would I want to record sounds? And there’s Bluetooth – I thought that was what kids got when they ate too many Smarties.
I thought to myself that we wouldn’t use any of these things, we’d just make and receive calls, so wearily I agreed.
Well, reluctantly we handed our money over. I can tell you that the only moment I really became interested in the whole transaction was when I got to choose the colour of my new phone. Mine is red, his is black – and I have lots of little grey cords, and he has lots of little black cords, which I’ve put away somewhere carefully somewhere in case I need them one day!
My husband wisely said when we got home ‘Just give it to me when you’ve got it working, okay?’ He then went away to read the paper or sleep. I sat surrounded by user manuals, pre-paid manuals (for you see we are far too wise to get involved in the dreaded ‘plan’), re-charge guide (oh yes, they devote a whole book to how you can give them the money) and a computer disc (which it hurts my head just to think about).
I sat down with all the bits and pieces spread out before me and actually wished my four and a half year old grandchild was there to help me. Taking a deep breath I opened the user manual.
Open the battery cover. Okay, simple, I thought, and ten minutes and two broken fingernails later I was still struggling. I heard our teenage neighbour arrive home in his car and I dashed out, no pride at all, and begged for his assistance. With a disdainful flick of his thumb the cover flew open. His friend valiantly tried to hide his smirk. I slunk back home.
Put the battery in. Yes, okay, but which object was the battery. I thought batteries were round and long with thing-o’s at their ends. From the illustration I deduced that the battery was this flat thing, so I popped it in and hey presto! It fitted!
Great, Nothing to it, I thought. Then the instruction book said to insert the sims card. I vaguely knew that this bit was probably essential, but was it that whole credit card sized thing, or was it the little bit that looked as if you should push it out of the card, and if I did so, and I hadn’t been supposed to, what happened then?
Peering at the tiny, tiny illustration I gathered that it was that wincy bit in the middle, so I pushed it out, but where to insert it? I turned the phone over and over, and tried to poke the jolly thing into several little slots, none of which turned out to be actual openings. I tried and tried. My pride prevented me from going back to the aforesaid teenage neighbour.
Finally, almost crying in frustration, I rang the phone people – on my land line of course, my good old reliable, no frills, land line. Well, the gentleman explained ever so patiently – but I bet rolling his eyes at the same time – it goes UNDER the battery.
Well! Wouldn’t you think the book would tell you that? Wouldn’t you think that would have been Step No 1. Now I had to open the battery cover which I’d closed with such a triumphant flourish, and broke another fingernail in the process! I really shouldn’t bore you about trying to put the sims card in its little place, but half an hour later I found that you sort of slide it in under some miniscule little flap things.
Now I needed to charge it. This should be easy I thought, after all I’ve charged my old phone many times. You see I was trying to be this frugal person who didn’t waste the battery, and so I hardly ever turned my old phone on, and consequently the battery didn’t like that very much and even to get a few minutes use out of it I had to charge it all the time.
With this new phone I was determined to leave it on all the time. Which is probably just as well, as I can’t work out how to turn it off!
Once again, where to insert the charger bit – finally I found a hair’s width wide little piece that I had to lever up with one of my unbroken fingernails and put the charger in and put it on to charge for a while.
‘Got it sorted out?’ my husband asked when I appeared hot and flushed from my struggles. It’s a wonder he didn’t ask if I’d been on holidays I’d been so long doing just this bit.
Then I had to ring up to activate the phone. That entailed going through huge amounts of prompts, listening to a robotic voice, which occasionally chided me by saying ‘I don’t detect a choice’, and endless repetition of their terms, their conditions, their plans, their pre-paid offers, and did I want friends and family (what, would I prefer total strangers?), did I want my credit to run out before the recharge, after the recharge, could they please keep my credit it I didn’t use it, and on and on and on!
Finally someone repeated back to me what I had apparently chosen, and I meekly agreed. Then I had to repeat the whole sorry saga with my husband’s phone. By this stage I was feeling a bit cocky and tried to pre-empt one of the choices and ended up cutting myself off!
But, the phones were working, colours were flashing, little beeps and trills were happening as I dialled the numbers for the phone company.
I heaved a sigh of relief and decided I’d leave making an actual call until I was feeling a big better. I’d ring my husband’s phone, I decided cleverly, and then save his number, and he’d do the same to my phone.
Well, there are no simple instructions for saving numbers. I dialled his number, and pressed heaps of little buttons with heaps of little strange symbols on them. Finally one popped up that looked as if I could actually use it to do it. I tried to text in his name, made an error, and the jolly thing gleefully saved that. Now if I want to ring him I think he’s called ‘ppjk’ or something.
I wisely put the phones down for a bit. I’m not even sure that they’re turned off when I close the cover, even though I held them right up to my eye and tried to detect whether the little coloured screen went off as I snapped the ‘lid’ shut. I still don’t know.
Then a bit later I heard a beep – a message! Someone was trying to contact me – yes, the phone company offering me all the things they’d told me about via their female robot two hours earlier. It must have just been sheer willpower but I managed to delete this ever so useful message!
I should try and master this, I thought determinedly. But where, oh where, was the book that said ‘to turn your phone on do this’, ‘to save a number do this’, ‘to send a text message do this’, and so on. Just simple instructions please. The dummy’s guide! Treat me like a dummy, I don’t mind at all.
I dread asking someone how to use it – they’ll roll their eyes (both before showing me, and after!) – and they’ll flick around the teeny tiny buttons and show me things on the tinsy tiny screen at such a speed I’ll just be saying ‘yes, yes’, and it will all have gone straight over my head.
I’m not going to give you my new mobile number. I really don’t want any calls.

Monday, 17 December 2007


Recently I ate a whole box of after dinner mints. Well, all except two, and as enticing as they were, I just could not fit them in. I ate them first thing next morning instead!
Now there are some questions to be answered here. Firstly, why did I buy them in the first place? Well, you see, I am having seventeen – that’s one seven, seventeen – people here for Christmas, and for some days preceding Christmas, and for some days after Christmas. So that answers the second question – why I ate them! I ate them because I was suddenly overwhelmed with the largeness of it all. All those people, all that food, such a small fridge, such a small oven, such small bench space, such small expertise in catering for numbers.
These days its just my husband and me, so its quite ok to say ‘will toasted ham sandwiches do?’ – ‘oooops, haven’t got any ham, would toast do?’
I don’t think the hordes who are descending on me – in the nicest way of course – will be satisfied with toasted ham sandwiches.
When I got this brilliant – as I thought at the time – idea, it all seemed to be such a breeze. Why, I’ll invite everybody I thought, and half won’t come, and it will all be lovely.
Everyone is coming.
As Christmas loomed closer and closer I frantically spring cleaned the top cupboards in the bedroom – yeah, right, as if anyone will stick their nose in there, and comment on its cleanliness and tidiness – and other such non essential chores.
Then I did the more obvious things – but for why? Five minutes after everyone arrives every living surface will be covered with clothes, food, glasses containing liquid which can be spilt, and miles and miles or wrapping paper. And with four little ones, all under the age of four and a half, probably there’ll be some other nasty surprises too.
I think we should all do our spring clean AFTER the visitors have gone home!
And I’ve been buying things ahead. Putting aside chips, and nuts, and bags of mixed lollies, and savoury biscuits (see my previous blog in relation to that little exercise!) and a box of after dinner mints.
My husband had a death threat hanging over him he if opened any of it. Its for Christmas, I’d plaintively cry whenever he suggested we might just have the nuts or whatever.
Now I can see his point. The other night I was making a list – what still to buy, what still to do and so on. The list got longer and longer, my depression got deeper and deeper. The only solution was chocolate, but there was none in the house.
I’ll just open the after dinner mints and have one, I thought. Or two. Well, you know the rest. And I’m here to tell you, not only do I now have to buy another box of after dinner mints, they are not the magic ‘get over it’ cure that I thought they might be.
Seventeen visitors will be knocking on my door very soon, and I think the next step to coping is to open some of that wine we bought ahead.
Happy holidays everyone.


What is it with biscuits these days? I mean I just want plain ordinary savoury biscuits – you know, the little ones, which you can use for dips, and cheese, and pate, and so on. Just perfectly plain ones, if you don’t mind.
Every second one I pick off the supermarket shelves these days is flavoured – seaweed, bbq chicken, cheese and chives, or even more exotic seaweed with a splash of sea salt, or rosemary, or something. Why? They take up miles of shelf space too, have you noticed? There are so many varieties that it takes ten minutes just to trawl along looking, reading the labels, let alone make a choice.
And the packaging blurb is getting more verbose – ‘Hummus and Lemon, with just a touch of Wasabi’. Yes, I can hear it now, the guest who can always be relied on to make a comment about what you serve - not only ‘Mmmmm, sauvignon blanc from California I do believe,’ but also ‘And do I detect a small hint of wasabi with the hummus?’
And, some of the flavours – what is it with these people? – some sort of a competition to work out the strangest flavour combinations? Beetroot and walnut! I kid you not! And now there are seasonal ones – Not only Christmas tree shapes, but Christmas flavours. I for one will not be surprised when Reindeer and Holly Berries appears. And, God forbid, for Easter – Rabbit and a dash of Chocolate, perhaps. Don’t worry – you’ll see it soon, they usually put out the Easter stuff one day after News Years Holiday.
All I want is some perfectly plain little bickie so as not to overwhelm the flavour of the aforesaid cheese/dip/pate I’m serving it with.
And the same goes for chips. What has happened there, I ask you? Where are the good old plain salted chips that everyone ate without complaint? Now its ‘lite’ and ‘extra lite’, and ‘baked not fried’, and ‘gourmet salt’ or ‘sea salt’, and ‘crinkled’ or ‘flat’, ‘small’ or ‘large’, and ‘supreme’ – what on God’s great earth is a ‘supreme’ flavoured potato chip? And now they’re in tins as well as bags, or even a bag of bags. And then the bag – ‘large’, ‘extra large’ and ‘jumbo’, which is as big as the pillow I sleep on. And notice that they start at ‘large’? What happened to ‘medium’ and ‘small’.
Once salt and vinegar was as exotic as it got. Now there are ‘cheddar cheese’, ‘supreme cheese’, ‘extra cheese’ and ‘bitey cheese’ flavoured chips – not just cheese, see, but salsa, and chilli, and lemon grass, and Thai, and would you believe bolognaise!
I’m all for new things, new tastes, new experiences, but please, please, Mr Savoury Biscuit and Mr Chip Maker, can I just have good ol’ plain ones somewhere in the range.
I wonder if one day the plain ones will re-appear, and we’ll all rush to buy them again as something quite different and we’ll be able to serve them to that guest who we can rely on to say ‘Mmmmm, sauvignon blanc from California I do believe, and is that a perfectly plain unflavoured little biscuit – my, what a hostess you are, my dear – always up with the latest!’

Tuesday, 6 November 2007


The other day there was a program about fairies on tv, and much to my surprise my husband turned it off with great alacrity. Really, I was surprised, because considering that he must surely think fairies participate in his life, I would have thought that he’d like to have learnt more about their fairy ways.

After all, it must be fairies that bring cups of coffee to him, glasses of icy water, and meals – fully cooked, beautifully presented, hot and tasty – and put them down in front of him for his pleasure.

I am quite sure further more that he in no way connects shopping (see my blog ‘Where the Hell is the Couscous’) with meals appearing. That’s just something we do, we put the stuff in the pantry or the fridge, and that’s it – or so he thinks. The actual process of choosing what to cook, getting the ingredients out, preparing the ingredients, cooking them, and serving them onto his plate is a step that he’s completely overlooked. That’s why I’m sure he thinks fairies do it.

He does not, I’m pretty sure, connect all the noises – tinkling, banging, huge sighs, swearing even – coming from the kitchen with the food preparation business.

Sometimes I stand on my high horse – and it’s a very high horse let me tell you – and demand that he does something towards feeding us. I even kindly point out which room is the kitchen, and what that big white rectangular thing in the corner is – it’s a fridge.

One day I saw him put water in the electric kettle and turn it on! I can tell you my heart stopped! Actually turned the kettle on! Somewhere in the deep recesses of the well fed male mind he must have connected hot water with cups of coffee. Of course he didn’t then proceed to make any coffee, but still, as I said – my heart sang for just a little moment.

I’ve thought of going on strike, but then I get hungry and forget about that. I’ve thought of asking him to get something simple – a sandwich say, but I like my clean and tidy kitchen and the thought of him with butter spread from one end to the other, bread crumbs everywhere, mangled slices of bread, hopelessly crushed tomotoes, and at least sixteen knives and eighteen plates and four chopping boards later stops me every time.

Once or twice I’ve asked him to come out to the kitchen instead of plonking down in front of the tv, knife and fork at the ready, waiting for his meal to be placed in front of him, and watch the process. He has never actually asked me to cut a meal up for him yet, but I’m waiting! I thought that if he watched the process of preparation he might be a bit impressed, and he might even feel moved to assist.

‘Please get the butter out of the fridge’, I’d say. ‘It’s there on the second shelf. No, second shelf, second shelf! Bring it over here’, (basic, I know, but an absolute necessary instruction). Then, ‘Now can I have two eggs. Bottom shelf, bottom shelf – not that bottom, that one!’ Then he says ‘Just a sec, I have to see if I put a stamp on that letter I want to post later’. And disappears – for ten minutes. He has not quite grasped the immediacy of needing to do things quickly and in order whilst cooking. I guess that frying two eggs was w-a-a-a-y too complicated for an introduction.

Then there’s the dish washer thing. To him I’m sure its just a receptacle for putting dirty dishes, glasses, coffee cups in. You put them in there, you close the door, and hey presto they’re gone! Unpacking a dish washer is an absolutely foreign concept – I have seen him stare in puzzlement at an egg slice, a grater, a whisk – what are these things? - and a garlic press I’m sure would bring on some sort of attack. I think he has a vague idea about where the knives and forks are kept – after all you use them to eat with, so he has an interest in them. But the other stuff – never!

So, unpacking the dishwasher is another fairy job. Little kitchen fairies ….. couldn’t we all fantasise about those! And the program about fairies on tv had young nubile young slim blond girls acting out the role of the fairies. And he turned that off too! Honestly the male mind is just beyond my comprehension.
©Nelma Ward

Tuesday, 31 July 2007


My husband loves to help with the shopping. Oh lucky you, I hear you say. Well, yes. It certainly is a help when it comes to getting trolleys out of those impossible jams that the trolley boys delight in putting them in. You know, you heave and pull, and push, and wiggle, and jiggle, but the jolly trolley is stuck. Why, I’ve seen men who could be front row forwards who can’t extricate them.

I’m sure the trolley boys do it on purpose, and then sit out the back somewhere watching your struggle on the security television screens, chortling all the while. Beaten, you then move on to the next row, and give a tremendous heave to the first trolley, and out it comes like butter and you and the trolley propel backwards and knock over a frail little old lady on a walking stick. More chortling from the back room.

Anyway, my husband loves to push the trolley. He’s an expert at it. He’s an expert at it because he test drives fully three or four of the things before choosing the right one. I must admit, they usually go well whereas when I grab my trolley I usually get the one with the wonky wheel and the crushed cabbage leaf on the bottom of the basket area! He also loves to test drive and give out trolleys to any young attractive young things doing their shopping. He manfully heaves one out of the row, gives it a very experienced little push up and down and gives it to them. They smile. He thinks they’re smiling at him, and I won’t disillusion him, but I know that they’d smile at the Hunchback of Notre Dame if he got a trolley out of one of those trolley jams for them, and furthermore, a trolley with good straight wheels and no cabbage leaf!

Then, the shopping proper starts. Now, I’m a very fast shopper. I rarely pause, proceeding down the aisles blithely throwing stuff from the shelves over my shoulder to the trolley my husband is faithfully pushing along behind me. I only ever pause if its to consider whether a pack of six muffins or twelve muffins might be the way to go, and which lot looks the least fattening.

My husband used to participate in the actual choosing, but after constant five minute pauses while he considered whether 375gms at $4.61 was a better bargain than 450gms at $4.85, we stopped that. I think we stopped it after I screamed ‘Who gives a …!’, considerably startling nearby shoppers and nearly getting us thrown out of the store.

Then, at the end of about the second aisle, my arms full of things I’ve plucked with gay abandon from the shelves, there’s no trolley behind me. I look back, and there he is at the far end of the aisle leaning over the trolley, busily. I know immediately what is going on – the big RE-ARRANGE.

It’s a pity, and a problem, but my husband has a fetish about arranging the shopping into categories according to type, size, shape, and packaging. That’s small tins, large tins, plastic bottles, glass bottles, fresh fruit, vegetables. frozen stuff, cold stuff, cardboard packets – large and small of course, and then the bread, which somehow he totally overlooks and always gets squashed. Not to mind – at the check out he holds it up and exclaims over its misshapen shape and trots back to the bread aisle and swaps it. Poor shelf packing persons must wonder after each of our visits how they originally put out bread that was squashed almost flat.

Now, he doesn’t just repack the trolley once; oh no, he does it two, three times at least on our way around. And, as you can imagine, each repack becomes more complex than the last.

He helps himself to very little as we go along – oh, there are always the choccie biccies and the hard jubes that somehow appear at the checkout, and he gets all round eyed and innocent and has no idea where they came from, or who must have accidentally put them in our trolley. And there’s the dental floss – he also has a fetish about dental floss! Of all things! We must have enough to go round the world one and an eighth times, give or take a mile or two.

When we finally arrive at the check out there’s the incredibly exciting moment when I’m allowed to hold the trolley while he patrols up and down and finds the shortest queue. Shortest is not always best at the supermarket, and so he also judges who has the least amount of stuff in their trolley. I’m then summonsed by loud ‘psssst!’, and have to push the trolley to where he’s holding 'our' space. His ‘psssst’ has also attracted the attention of several other alert shoppers, and there’s a general jostle for positions. We haven’t come to blows with any other shopper yet, but its on the cards.

Then, another magic moment, I’m left to hold the trolley again while he patrols up and down again to see if he’s misjudged any queue and we’d be better off shifting again. Enough already!

Now, he takes over again. I’m not allowed to lift one thing out of the trolley. How wonderful, I hear you exclaim. No, its not because he’s being a total gentleman – it's because he wants to put the groceries out on the check out conveyor belt in the order he wants!

Once again we have small, large, fresh, not fresh, tins, bottles, packets, and of course the squashed bread. The poor check out person sometimes then is directed as to which items to put into bags together, and he then – get this! – places the packed bags back in the trolley for the walk out to the car in his own particular order! I kid you not!

At the car the putting of the bags into the boot takes so long I tend to generally sit in the car and read the first one hundred pages of James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’, or knit a jumper. No, just kidding – I don’t knit. You see, the bags have to be in just the right order. And don’t get me started on the packing of the Esky with the cold things. I would say that a minimum of three re-packs of the Esky would be about standard, and to retain the little sanity I have I’ll draw a veil over that episode.

At home I’m not allowed to carry anything into the house. How nice, I hear you say. The packages are distributed on the kitchen table and on the floor and on the counters in a particular order.

Now, I’m sure you’ve all be waiting with bated breath for this bit – the putting away of the groceries. I can imagine that you must imagine that I must have the tidiest pantry in all of Christendom – well, I hate to disillusion you, but no. For you see, once the bags have been deposited in the kitchen my husband feels that his duties are over(!) and he goes and gets the paper and sits in the lounge and reads it. I do all the unpacking.

I am so sick of the whole shopping experience by now that I generally throw things into the pantry from a distance of about six feet, with not so gay abandon. Two days later I’m pawing through the shelves and asking plaintively ‘Where the hell is the cous cous?’

And do you know what he says – ‘It was in the trolley next to the spaghetti and the rice. When I put it in the car it was in the third bag which I placed at the right hand back of the boot. But, no, I don’t know where it is now. Can’t you find it?’
© Nelma Ward

Sunday, 29 July 2007


I don’t know how you feel about cloning, but I’m not too fussed. It sounds a bit un-natural, anti-nature, and downright scary.

Do we really want a woolly mammoth – and who has got a cage large enough to keep him in, I ask - and surely, once there are five thousand and one Wollombi pines, they won’t be so rare after all. Now, I’m not going to get into a discussion with you about it, it just hurts my head to think of it, but I think as far as the cloning thing goes, there’s a big fuss being made about the difficulties, and I have proved – scientific people, sit up and listen! – that its not that hard.

Of course, I have only the vaguest and haziest idea about cloning, but its something like resurrection – in the case of the mammoth anyway – isn’t it?

Well, I’ve made the first step I think, and that’s the big break through. But I find it scary, because its happening in my own bathroom. My bathroom is starting to take on a life of its own, as you’ll know if you read my blog ‘Foaming Will Occur’. Strange things are happening there, and I’m not too fussed about them either.

At the end of my bath is a little shelf section that was totally bare. Now we all know, girls, don’t we, that blank spaces are an anathema. If a space is blank, it should have something on it. So, on my nice white bare space, I carefully placed a glazed clay frog from China. He’s beautiful – I know hes a reptile type thing, and you’ll know I hate reptiles if you read my blog about the geckoes – but hes ‘dead’, for goodness sake, and therefore can’t harm me. He’s also a frog with attitude. He just has something about his stance – well, how would you describe a frog’s posture? – and the tilt of his head. But I digress.

I also have a black and white shell placed there - its most beautifully and geometrically marked, and goes so well with my angular and geometric black and white bathroom.

Then I have a small white glazed rectangular dish, with a little wooden frame in it, on which sits a gorgeous lavender soap, complete with embedded lavender seeds, and tied around with a raffia tie. Men, I know, if my husband is anything to judge by, with be throwing their hands in the air by this time. Raffia ties, indeed!

Then I have two dried white starfish, and a big plastic bottle of kid’s bubble bath, strawberry pink, and with a koala on the label!

See, all so, so tasteful. And all so, so necessary.

Well, it’s the star fish that are being cloned. One of them anyway. I don’t know what the laws are where these decorative star fish are gathered and prepared to be sold to people like me, who walk into a shop, and see a dead starfish, and say ‘Oh, I must have that.’ (I must have that, regardless of cost, that is). However, the laws must allow the collection of these things, and someone has worked out cleverly how to dry them and give them a sort of white powdery coating – very stylish.

Anyway, the other night I had a bath and as I got out I realised that somehow in my splashing and enthusiasm I had knocked one of the starfish into the bath. How long it had been there, lurking in the water behind me, I have no idea. If I had touched it we would have had a second bump in the ceiling to rival the one caused by the gecko’s dead foot (see my The Tale and Foot of the Gecko blog for an explanation as to how the first dent appeared).

I retrieved the star fish, did not think one more thing about it, until the next day I noticed that the creature had grown eyes! I kid you not! On his ‘head’ – that’s the top part of him, where there are five little bumps, or nodules – I noticed that two (two!) of the nodules had distinct dark pupils! Now, they weren’t just at randomly placed nodules, but on two adjacent nodules, and just where you would have drawn them, should you have been inspired to put a face on this long dead creature.

The eyes sort of seemed to look at me, a bit myopically, as I guess things from under the water usually view the world. Hmmmmm, I said to myself, and very wisely told no one.

The next day the eyes seemed even more intent, and furthermore, the dusty white coating, with which he had been imbued prior to sale, had gone, and he was a soft golden sandy colour. Hmmm, hmmm, I said.

But, the following day he was even darker. He’s starting to come back to life, I thought. To myself. I don’t think he’s like one of those apparently dead frogs they find in a hole in a tree that has long grown over, and then suddenly the frog revives, or even like those fish that live in the sand, and burst into life when the rains come. Oh no, this fellow had been dried, and treated, and probably fumigated as he came through Customs, and had lain dormant for ever so long. He was well and truly – well – DEAD.

Not any more. You see I know this, because the following day I found he had edged closer to the other starfish on my bathroom shelf. The other starfish is a different species, quite obviously, with a very tiny ‘head’, and long thin elegant legs. Still, I guess there’s comfort in something that looks remotely like you do.

I can tell you’re snickering – a very nasty habit – but I swear its true. Although, I do confess, nothing further has happened, and the little starfish still sits there, near the Chinese frog and the koala bubble bath, looking a little bemused and a bit lost. However, I’m sure all the scientists need to do now is find that next magical step, or add something to the bath water, or whatever, and the mysteries of cloning will be all explained. I mean, the proof is there – right in my bathroom.

© Nelma Ward