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

Friday, 20 July 2007


I rang a man about my problem. ‘I have bats in my trees’, I stated. I could almost hear him substituting ‘belfry’ for ‘trees’.

‘Not bats’, he said. ‘Flying foxes’.

Well, maybe. I live in Queensland and the things in my tree apparently are flying foxes. Because of the drought they are short of food, and are flying far and wide in search of something to eat. Now, I don’t know what it is that they are eating around here, but I do know that they must have found something, because they are spreading their droppings far and wide – on the walls of our house, on the windows, on the paving, on our car, and I should imagine, on the roof, from whence runs the very rare rain water to go into our tank for us to drink. Yuk!

These flying foxes smell. They smell awfully. The man I spoke to said that they are a very important part of our ecology – yes, I know, they pollinate things and so on – I just want them to go and do their ecological duties somewhere else.

He asked me what sort of trees they were in – pepperinas, I answered. ‘Oh, you should cut those down – they’re not natives’, he blithely replied. Now, for a start, the trees are not strictly speaking mine – they belong to our neighbour, but are close to our back fence, and so for many, many years have provided a very nice backdrop to our garden. I have often said ‘If those trees go, so do I’, so I don’t really think he knows what a drastic step he was suggesting.

It beats me how those creatures get any sleep though. Its winter and we’ve have winter winds. Some days the tops of those trees sway and wave in the winter winds like the crows nest on a sailing ship at sea in a very, very bad storm. Its enough to make you slightly queasy if you watch for long enough. And those little critters hang upside down by their toes, waving wildly back and forth and soundly sleep!

Another good suggestion by the same helpful gentleman was to put tinsel in the trees, as apparently flying foxes don’t like bright light. Now who, I ask you, is going to climb a neighbour’s brittle old pepperina and hang tinsel in the wind blown branches, and then when the flying foxes are hopefully gone, who is going to climb up again to un-decorate the trees!

I thought a bright light might be the answer, so I flashed a mirror at them. I hope someone reading this doesn’t report me and I go to jail for that! The jolly flying foxes seem to have more rights that I do. I’m not allowed to make a loud noise to frighten them either, but when I found myself with two metal objects in my hand and I accidentally banged them together, accidentally four or five times, the flying foxes just made a lazy circle in the sky and re-landed, folded up their wings, and went back to sleep. The bright light had no effect either – they just opened their eyes, looked at me, and closed their eyes and went back to sleep again.

‘How many have you got?’ he asked. I think he thought I was the panicky sort of person who would then say ‘Oh, one or two, at least’. No, I gave him a bit of a shock and said thirty to forty. I gave myself a bit of a shock when I first discovered them too, I can tell you.

I was checking the branches of our jacaranda tree to see if the rosellas, lorikeets and parrots had eaten the seed bell I put in the tree for them, when something scrabbled up the branch as fast as it could go. ‘A bat, a bat’, I screamed, and after I had settled down a bit, I got my camera and took a photo of them. At that stage I was pretty perturbed because there were all of six or eight of them. The word has obviously got out because a whole lot more have since moved in.

The novelty of having flying foxes has long worn off now. I wouldn’t mind so much if they didn’t smell so much, if they didn’t drop their droppings all over all my things, and if they showed any signs of moving on. Native animals are great – we’ve had a selection in our yard over the years. Echidnas, tortoises, blue tongues, one snake, and a kangaroo. We have had every sort of bird too – including a family of owls who sat sleepily in the tree all day long, and flew away at night. A bit like the bats. But the owls didn’t outstay their welcome. A few days and they were gone.

The colony – for that’s what I call it when telling everyone about my problem – seems to have no intention of moving on.

I even stood under the trees the other day, skipping agilely out of the way of as droppings landed, and spoke to them nicely. ‘Please’, I said in a very reasonable tone of voice, ‘Please, can you go somewhere else? I don’t want you here.’

So yes, when you start to talk to animals like that, you probably can be described as having something in your belfry.

And anyway, I Googled them –flying foxes are a species of bat. So there!
© Nelma Ward

Sunday, 8 July 2007


I have a spa bath. N-yah-hah! N-yah-hah! No, that was nasty of me. I'm sorry you don't have one too.
However, like all things that retain their new gleam for a while mine has started to look as if a bit of elbow grease wouldn’t go astray.
I scoured the supermarket shelves, and found the very product. So today I undertook the task. How easy could it be?
Following instructions I filled the bath with cold water to just above the jets. Fine so far. Next instruction was to pour 50mls of this super duper liquid in. 50mls? Hmmmm. How to measure that? I didn’t want to use a medicine glass as I was a little worried that the toxic (and no doubt spa bath cleaner is toxic) residue might kill the next person who was taking medicine from the glass, hopeful of a cure.
So I poured a bit in. Then a bit more. Well, more has to be better, I figure. Now this is where I fell down. I should have read the next bit, rather than skipping to the following step which said, turn all jets on for five minutes, and turn the exhaust fan on as well. That meant pressing the button for the jets on the floor of the spa, and the button for the side jets, and clicking the switch for the overhead fan. Easy.
I wandered out to read the Sunday paper, and wait for the five minutes to pass. However, of course I had to go back and have a look. I must admit I got quite a fright when I did!
Foam was generating itself at a frantic rate, rising up a full foot and more above the bath, climbing the tiled walls, and spilling out onto the floor and making its way across the floor tiles towards the door.
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Now I didn’t want to turn it off – I wasn’t about to waste all that water, nor the obviously more than 50mls of spa bath cleaning stuff. So I cleverly scooped up armfuls of foam and hurled them in the general direction of the basin. However, in no time at all it seemed, the basin was full with a peak of white thick suds rising like some crazy giant sized ice cream sundae.
I really needed a bucket, but where to put the suds? The window has an insect screen, so I couldn’t chuck bucketfuls out there. At a complete loss, and watching more and more foam rise and rise, I did what anyone would do, and went in search of my camera.
I took a shot just to prove it had happened. I don’t know why my family all seem to think I tend to exaggerate!
At the end of the seemingly never ending five minutes, I groped under the foam and located the two buttons to turn the jets off. I swear the foam still seemed to grow.
I then consulted the side of the bottle for further instructions. That’s when I read the bit that said, after adding 50mls, ‘Foaming may occur’. You’re telling me!
The next bit was to let the water out of the bath. Now it was a cold winter morning, the bathroom is tiled and therefore even colder than the rest of the house, I could barely see the bath, let alone find the plug, and with all the suds, I had to lean into the froth, jumper sleeve pushed up as far as it would go, and grope for the plug. During this little exercise I realised that the coldness around my ankles was the foam that lay a good six inches deep on the floor seeping into my shoes. I bravely held my breath, plunged my face into the toxic suds, and found the plug. Standing up I found I had a coating of suds on my, er, chest area, as well as a wet jumper sleeve.
The water slowly drained out of the bath. I knew this from hearing it, as I couldn’t see it for the froth and bubble. The water was gone, but the suds lived on. I once again did what any sensible person would do, and went away!
Finally I was brave enough to return and found the suds has somewhat dispersed, and the big clean up was now required. This took paper towels, cloths, a mop, a bucket, and a heap of swearing. Why, I swear I got foam out of corners of that bathroom that I didn't even know existed!
The bath looks pretty clean, and I’m considering writing to the manufacturers to tell them that, if the bit they put in this stuff isn’t toxic, they should patent it for bubble bath manufacture. Its certainly the most effective part of their cleaner – in fact, I’ve never seen a clearer representation of advertising hype. ‘Foaming may occur’ – all I want them to do is change that to ‘Foaming WILL occur – take cover’.

© Nelma Ward

Saturday, 7 July 2007


Today I had a rather rare ‘Loud Music Day’. You know what I mean, some days you just have to turn it right up.
However, in this case it could have been pretty embarrassing, as it wasn’t the type of music you’d usually crank up – it was Strauss Waltzes. I know, I know! What was I doing with Strauss Waltzes – well, for a start the cd was extra extra cheap, and I have a nostalgic attachment to them, as our local picture theatre in a little country town where I grew up played them at interval, and listening to them always takes to back to that dusty hall, and those canvas seats, and the westerns, and the submarine movies (‘pictures’, we called them then, before we became sophisticated) and the cartoons and the newsreels. And there were two movies, which is why there was an interval. Ah, Saturday night at the pictures – what a treat!
Also, this was the first time I’d played that cd, so I wanted to hear the whole thing, and I also wanted to do things all over the house, so up went the volume and out boomed Mr Strauss. What if someone had come to the door? Now, don’t misunderstand – I just love classical music, and own a lot of it, and play it a lot, but somehow the lilting strains of a waltz did not strike me as being very cool, which is a demeanour I’d like to present to anyone knocking on my door.
Its odd that I can stand loud music, as I’m allergic to loud noise I think. Its partly been bought on by the fact that every time I walk out of the room where the tv is playing, I walk back in to find the volume has been turned up several notches. This is to compensate for my husband’s fast developing deafness – which he of course denies. I, on the other hand, have perfectly good hearing.
It’s a wonder that I have, because when my children were teenagers, they played music constantly, loudly, and in opposition to each other. Talk about duelling banjos – we had duelling cassette players in our house. One belting out this, and other belting out that, and the aforesaid husband listening to the races (and is there any noise more annoying than a race caller calling a race, I ask you – in the whole world, I mean?) on both the radio and the television. I tell you, my good hearing is an absolute miracle! Also, I love Queen, and Pink Floyd, but not for the seventy-sixth time in the same day!
I found a piece of paper recently that had written on it a bet between myself, the obviously long suffering mother, and my then maybe sixteen year old daughter – the details were that me, the mother, bet that she, the daughter, would not be playing music CONSTANTLY and LOUDLY all day ten years after she was married. Its roughly twenty years since we made that bet, and I sent her a copy of it, and she actually admitted that yes, I had won. Ah, maturity!
I listed to the Choir of Hard Knocks singing Flame Tree the other day, which in my humble opinion is one of the all time great Australian songs –I just love that song, and what great memories of the time my kids were living at home it brings back to me. I mentioned this to someone the other day, and they remarked that they liked it too, and should really buy that cd, but wondered why there weren’t more Christmas songs on it.
What Christmas song is on it, I asked. Hallelujah, the person replied. I kept an admirably straight face, and I asked why they thought it was a Christmas song, and hadn’t they listened to the actual words? Well, they replied, they keep saying Hallelujah, and that’s Christmassy, isn’t it?
Which reminded me again of my husband’s fast encroaching deafness – we love going to the movies – he picks what we see this time, and I pick the next time. A while ago it was my pick, and he suddenly asked me if we were going to see ‘Mary Ann Turner’? I thought hard – I am pretty sure I have no acquaintances called Mary Ann Turner. Who did he mean?
Finally – finally – we worked it out – were we going to see that movie ‘Marie Antoinette!’ I know my French is not good, in fact, non-existent, but I thought I should have been able to adequately pronounce that, so its obviously the deafness thing again.
Anyway, funnily enough, whenever I have a Loud Music Day, who complains – why, he does!
Next time my kids are home for a weekend, I’m going to test them out – I’m going to turn on some loud music, and the tv, and see if they’ll complain. They probably will because our son was here a little while ago, and I actually heard him say to his father, ‘Turn that damn tv down’. Two mature kids, how lucky is that!
What? I can’t hear you?

© Nelma Ward

Sunday, 1 July 2007


You know that old saying – ‘Men! Can’t live with them – can’t live without them!’ Well, what’s your position if you live with a snorer?
Hands up all who sleep beside a person who snores? Those of you men who put your hand up, go and stand in the corner and look shame faced – we all know that ladies do not snore!
Oh, the agonies of sleeping with a snorer! I push him, I turn him, I knee him in the leg – then he wakes up next morning and says with some puzzlement, ‘My thigh is so sore, I don’t know what I’ve done to it!’
And the remedies people suggest! All I can say is get real! ‘Turn snorer over’ – okay, but he snores again as soon as he settles; ‘Yell loudly “You’re snoring!” ’ – okay, but he only mutters and starts up again; do the aforesaid knee-ing (this is my remedy; not about to be patented, as it doesn’t work!) – he only moans piteously between snores.
I wonder just how the human body can make such a noise? I have actually heard our windows rattle! One hot summer night I heard the neighbours slam their windows shut – obviously the sound had penetrated even THEIR house.
And its no good shifting to another room. Family members home for the weekend have cried out from those other rooms, ‘For God’s sake, shut up – you’re snoring!’ Anyway, if you’re on site, you can do the pushing, yelling and knee-ing in your vain attempt to make the noise STOP.
Nowadays when I say ‘You’re snoring!’ he replies ‘So?’ There’s really no answer to that! Then the next day he’s got the nerve to tell you he got no sleep because you kept waking him up to tell him he was snoring. And you’re the one who has seen one o’clock, two o’clock and three o’clock roll past without even shutting your eyes.
And whose brilliant idea was that to sew a tennis ball onto the back of the pyjamas? Really! For a start can you just picture the bright yellow tennis ball sewn on to jamas? Those of you who do sew may be able to tell me how you’d actually sew a tennis ball onto anything! And what about the said jamas in the wash? Or in the ironing (yes, I’m the person who irons even jamas!)? (See ‘Un-Cycling’ on this blog site). Crazy idea! (Sewing said ball on, not ironing jamas!)
I don’t think there’s a solution, do you? Short of holding a pillow over the snorer’s face. I’ve been tempted, I can tell you, but I know forensic science is a bit too good these days, and I’d be found out. And the judge you’d probably come up in front of most likely would be a snorer too with absolutely no sympathy for your plight.
We bought a clock radio which also plays cd’s. What a clever object! That, I had hoped, would drown out the snoring – what a joke! Now not only do I have the snoring, but I also have to listen to Moon River for the forty-sixth time during the night.
And the truly dedicated snorer not only snores in bed. They snore in buses, friend’s houses, waiting rooms and theatres– I once saw a man sitting in front of my snorer at the cinema jump a full six inches when my husband suddenly in one of the quiet bits gave forth a deafening snore. And when you shake them to wake them up, they mutter and grumble and make even more noise – worse than someone rattling their chip packet. On this particular occasion my snorer cleverly got up just before the film finished and made his way out of the theatre, leaving me to take the blame when the man in front turned around and looked me up and down. I could almost see him wondering how on earth such a noise had emanated from this woman.
We once went with friends to see the famous mime artist Marcel Marceau – my friend’s husband suddenly started snoring! Now, you won’t get a performance quieter than a mime show, so we all quickly reacted to push him, shove him, shake him to stop him, then we all giggled, then we all felt embarrassed, whereas the snorer just sat up and looked around, innocent as a new born baby. And had the hide to say later, ‘Wasn’t that great? Enjoyed every moment of it!’
I’ve even spoken to my doctor about this problem. He came up with all sorts of good suggestions – don’t let him sleep on his back – turn him over; and even - had I thought of sewing a tennis…. This is a man doctor, of course.
Recently we were visited by a young mum and her two charming little girls. She and I were busy with a project she was assisting me with, and my husband took the little ones to the lounge room and put a children’s dvd on for them. Now, these little girls had never met my husband before in their life, and they were very polite and sweet little girls, but in no time at all they were shouting, as only females can, ‘Be quiet, you’re snoring. We can’t hear the movie’. Out of the mouths of babes!
He’s tried some of those things that are suggested in magazines every now and then – plugs, mouth guards and so on. Who designs these things? People who have never slept with a person who can truly snore I bet. I can tell you, don’t waste your money – they just don’t work. In fact some of them even distort the sound of the snore into something even worse!
Occasionally there’s an article in the paper about the damage snoring can do to a person’s health, (the snorer of course, but really, what about us snorees?) I usually read these out loud to my snorer, using the same tone of voice as you use when you’ve come across a really interesting bit like ‘Two headed sheep born’ or ‘Man wins Lotto then falls six storeys and survives’. He listens (well, I think he does – its hard to tell with men sometimes), mutters something and returns to his part of the paper. In one ear and out the other!
So, my suggestion is that we change that saying about men to read ‘Men! Can’t live with them. The end!’ I think that would look quite effective cross stitched onto a pillow, if that’s you thing, or as a wall hanging, or even as a tattoo – if you want to know more about tattoos you should look at my friend Michelle’s blog site – expatatior.blogspot/com.
But apart from that, if you have a suggestion for me as to how to stop a dedicated, long term, practiced snorer from snoring, please let me know – you’ll recognise me, I’m the one who looks haggard and drawn from lack of sleep, and I limp a little due to the continual contact of my knee with thigh.

© Nelma Ward

Wednesday, 20 June 2007


Two facts: I have geckoes in my lounge room; I hate reptiles. So, the two things aren’t really compatible.
I don’t know why I hate reptiles, I just do. They are this awful skin which moves loosely over their bodies – they look as if they’re moving about inside – it’s a horrible effect. They may have brains the size of a grain of rice or a bit bigger, but they look at you – with intent. I believe they have my number.
Why the geckoes moved into my lounge room is a mystery. They never used to be there, but now they live happily behind the furniture and behind the paintings. Sometimes they poke their heads out at night, looking for insects. I’m told they are good at keeping mosquitoes at bay. I haven’t noticed any decrease in the number of mozzies, but I have noticed the increase in gecko droppings! Ugh! Such a small animal, such a large dropping!
The other day I picked up a piece of something from the lounge room floor. It looked like a bit of soft plastic wrap – I spread it out a bit, and guess what? It was the skin of a gecko, complete with little feet and toes, just like a rubber glove. There is now a sizeable dent in the ceiling where my head hit it as I screamed and flung this nasty object away from myself. Did you know geckoes shed their skins – I certainly didn’t.
The thought that they’re having this life in my lounge room, behind my furniture and behind my paintings, shedding, eating, sleeping, mating even perhaps, is the most horrible thought. Some people think they’re cute, some people like them – some people are mad!
Of course, it could be worse – it could be larger reptiles, or deadly ones. We saw a snake on a bush track recently – a shiny red bellied black. We stopped the car and looked at it through the windscreen. I insisted my husband reverse back – what if it crawled underneath the car and even up into the underbody of the car? At first I thought it was dead, then it moved its head and looked at me. Not at my husband, at me. See?
There were also carpet snakes in this area, and we saw two – I’m still considering whether I could outrun one, if the need arose. The carpet snakes reminded me of a friend who used to live in a rain forest area, and had grown up with snakes in her ceiling. Nothing to worry about, she would assure me – that is until one went to carpet snake heaven up in the roof, and decomposed with horrendous smells. Dead or alive they’re trouble!
We travelled in West Australia a little while ago, and during the trip stayed at a beautiful cabin in a beautiful caravan park on a beautiful lake. All was beautiful, until I saw a fully four foot long goanna plodding his way determinedly under our cabin. For the rest of the stay I slept with my head slightly raised from the pillow listening for any suspicious noises.
Then there was the little whip snake on the path. An interested crowd gathered – people oooh-ed and aah-ed. I ugh-ed and yuk-ed. Someone said they’re not dangerous, but this tiny fellow was most aggressive, standing on his tail – well, they’re all tail really, aren’t they – and hissing. When the park caretaker disposed of it with his shovel, the crowd all went boo. I was alone in saying hurrah! One of the women in the crowd said she’d had a snake – a large one, a venomous one – in her tent the day before, and she’d – get this! – chucked a pillow at it to shoo it out. This lady needs medical attention, right?
Then, as we were checking out, the receptionist said casually, ‘Did you see our crocodile?’ After she got me down off the counter, she said, ‘No, not here – in the lake – he comes up onto the shore every evening. He’s lovely.’ What are the chances of that - two mad ladies in the same caravan park!
At home we have blue tongue lizards – they inhabit the garden, and sometimes go into our laundry, which is on ground level, and crawl in under the beer fridge. The general scenario is that I go into the laundry, effectively standing between them and the door way, they hear me, and I hear them – little claws scrabbling on the tiles. What a sound! I’m first out, and if there’s a man around I beg and plead and cry to please take the lizard out of the laundry.
Men tend to be gruff at times like these and say helpful things like ‘it can’t hurt you’. Oh yeah, how do they know? Can you imagine a blue tongue latching onto your arm – there’s no venom so that wouldn’t kill me, but the heart attack would.
The worst reptile of all must be the Komodo Dragon – they eat people! I’ve seen it in the newspaper – Komodo Dragon Eats Person. They are the stuff of nightmares. Thank God they live on an island somewhere and not in Australia. I’ve seen one, penned up, and in its heavy footed plodding towards the wire I could tell that out of all the people looking at him, who was he looking at, and flicking his tongue at – little old me!
I can remember seeing a photograph of men – ten or twelve of them – standing ankle deep in a swamp in South America holding what looked like a tree. No, it wasn’t a tree – it was a snake. The largest snake you could ever imagine. So large that it didn’t all fit into the photograph. The men were all grinning. They had willingly – can you believe this? – waded into the swamp to find that creature. What were they thinking of!
Some people like to have their photographs taken with snakes draped around their necks. If I’m ever in the position when someone offers me a snake to drape around my neck I say as politely as I can, ‘No, not today, thank you, really’. Its quite hard to be polite while stridently screaming, and running backwards.
There was a time when I was constantly leaping out of the car to wade through the roadside grass in the Gulf country and take photos of termite mounds, amazing because they were taller than a man, and native flowers and other odds and ends– that is until I saw a very large snake emerge from said grass. All photos from then on were from the inside of the car.
I know there are no snakes in Ireland or in New Zealand, but its no good my shifting to either place, as I’m sure they have some sort of reptiles. And the Artic is out of the question, because I hate the cold too.
So, if you have a phobia, I’m the person to sympathise with you. You can be scared of anything at all – moths, feathers – and they really can’t hurt you! – and I’ll understand. I’ll just think of those little geckoes, and come out in a cold sweat, and I’ll hold your hand, and say soothingly, ‘I understand completely’.

© Nelma Ward

Thursday, 14 June 2007


What on earth are they thinking of, those women of 50-60 who want to have children? Of course its probably thwarted maternal instinct, or the realisation of an opportunity lost, or more likely just to get their photo in the paper. These women couldn’t possibly have grandchildren, or they’d know. Know better, that is!
We (and I include myself in that age bracket) are just too old for that sort of thing on a full time basis. I can say this with some authority having just baby sat my grandchildren for four days.
Now, I love my grandchildren to distraction. They are the most gorgeous, most clever grandchildren in the world. In fact when they hold a competition for ‘The Grandmother Who Loves Her Grandchildren MOST’ (entry forms available later this year), I will win it hands down (so don’t bother to even get an entry form!).
Let me wax lyrical about my grandchildren for a bit. Their tiny hands! With those teensy wincy little fingernails! Their flawless skin! Their warm bodies when they hug you! Their wet sloppy kisses! The things they say! The things they do! All grandmothers know I could go on for a page and a bit in this vein; the others of you who have dozed off can wake up again.
Its just that there is so much to do looking after little ones. At 20-30 we all can do it! We raise the kids, we work, we socialise, we write the definitive Australian novel, and have time for knitting, gardening, learning to sky dive and fingernail painting as well!
At 50-60 it’s a different matter. Oh I love doing it - babysitting. I love every minute of it, and re-live it after I’ve come home and have spent four days laying on the lounge recovering. I tell everyone stories about it – all the funny things they did, all the funny things they said – of course, by some of the reactions these may be things that you actually have to be there for, but still!
You know, if you give an adult, or even a teenager, a slice of toast and honey for breakfast, there’s every chance that they won’t say ‘This isn’t cut in the right shape’, or ‘I don’t eat the crusts, Mummy always cuts them off’, or even ‘Where are the crusts?’ Cutting crusts off is easy, putting them back on is another matter.
And they probably won’t tell you that the toast is on the wrong plate – that’s ‘the wrong colour, wrong shape, it belongs to the other child, that plate is only for spaghetti’ plate - and mostly they won’t drop the toast honey side down four times on the carpet until they reach the spot where they want to sit to eat. (Note that – not where you want them to sit to eat, but where they want to sit to eat).
I also haven’t come across an adult or a teenager who takes close on thirty minutes to eat perhaps a quarter of the lovingly prepared toast and honey. Usually you don’t have to clean a great glob of crumbs and honey out of the back of their hair either!
Grandchildren are a breed apart. How come they end up with both legs in the one pants leg? How come they put the arm in the sleeve and before you can blink, take it out again? How come they want to wear shorts and tank top when its like the Artic outside? And let me tell you, just because you’re bigger than they are, doesn’t mean you’ll win!
And, people of 50-60 years of age, should not be subjected to a child suddenly jumping off the sixth bottom step and landing inches from a dangerous object. Or taking off down the footpath towards the cross road while you are juggling pram, camera (a grandmotherly essential), drink bottle, small lunch box of sandwiches, face wipes and a handbag.
Its also a shame sometimes that little ones can’t empathise more. When a four year old suddenly says ‘Catch me’, and drops like a ton weight from a 12 foot high play platform in the park (who designs these things?!), their next comment should be ‘Oh, sorry Grandma, I didn’t realise you weren’t ready, and were already holding the aforesaid lunch box, drink bottle, handbag and camera!’
And book reading. I love reading books to my gorgeous, clever grandchildren. Nothing is nicer than to have one snuggled up on each side of you, as you start the book. The only trouble is that one wants to turn the page, and the other doesn’t. One wants to listen, the other doesn’t. If you let the one who doesn’t want to listen go, there’s absolutely no doubt in the wide world that after the book has been closed, and story read, you’ll find that one eating all the chocolate teddy bear biscuits you forgot to put away when you were interrupted.
Have I mentioned interruptions? You see, when you reach 50-60, you also have a very definite attention span. It works a little differently than the 40 second attention span of some children, but the results are about the same. If you get interrupted – say, in putting the choccy teddys up high in the cupboard where they can’t be reached, or seen – you may never remember that you were doing this ever again. Partly, I must say, because there are so many other things to do.
Shift the newspaper because Grandad will be cross if its dismantled or screwed up – oh, haven’t I mentioned Grandad before? Probably because when it comes to baby sitting little ones, apart from pulling funny faces and tickling, Grandads are absolutely no use – I repeat, not one bit of earthly use – when it comes to actually doing anything to help.
You’re in the middle of changing a nappy – you know the kind I mean – you reach for the nappies, none there, panic, you can’t let the little one go as they might fall off the change table, you can’t carry them with you while you look for a new nappy – well, you just can’t under these circumstances. So you yell, ‘Grandad, come here’. He comes, he reaches the door of the room, his nose detects what’s going on, and he reels out, gasping, never to be seen again. I told you, he might as well not be there – which is why he wasn’t mentioned before.
Then there’s bath time. Grandchildren have no regard for your expensive watch – Mummy and Daddy have sensible waterproof ones, Grandmas have pretty ones, that don’t like water. Mummys and Daddys have a inbuilt tolerance to two children screaming in a tiled bathroom (probably all those rock concerts they’ve been to). Grandmothers have sensitive ears.
Shampooing hair can be a trauma, and I don’t use the word lightly. In the end its sometimes easier to say to Mummy ‘I didn’t wash their hair – it looked pretty clean to me’. And it probably is – after all you’ve cleaned honey and crumbs, half a container or strawberry yoghurt and two handfuls of park play equipment soft fall out of it already.
And then there’s bed time. You know you shouldn’t really be looking forward to this, but dear God, if you could just sit quietly for a while and think about your aching back and contemplate your broken fingernails and the blob of permanent marker pen on your good pants, you might not feel quite so tired.
Okay. You heat the bottle, child on your hip excitedly pointing to the microwave timer as it moves at a snail’s pace. You warn everybody in the house to be quiet – well, the other child can be bribed by a Wiggles dvd, and there’s absolutely no need to warn Grandad to be quiet – he’s been comfortably asleep for the last hour and a half.
You go to the bedroom, you quietly give the little one its bottle, whilst marvelling at the velvety cheeks and the long eyelashes. You suddenly realise with a great deal of delight that those very eyelashes are closed, and you gently stand up and lift the sleeping child into bed. Well, that’s the theory – have you tried (at 50-60) to get up off a soft bed, carrying a dead weight which you must not jiggle around too much or it will wake up, and lift same dead weight up and over the cot railing, and deposit the supposedly still sleeping child onto the mattress?
After you have dropped the child from about four inches (guaranteed to wake the child up), and repeated the whole procedure with the last dregs of the bottle – this time cleverly standing up – you carefully put the little angel down, cover them lovingly, and tiptoe to the door. On reaching the door it squeaks, you hold your breath, you tiptoe out, close the door, take two steps towards that sit down and glass of wine, and who starts crying immediately? Said angel, of course.
50-60 year old’s backs tend to become very uncomfortable after hanging over the cot railing for fully thirty minutes patting a crying baby to sleep. You say helpful things like, ‘Shush, shush’, and ‘It’s alright’ (although who you’re saying that to is a moot point), and finally – finally – you can escape the bedroom.
Then you are confronted by the other child. The older child. The more responsible child, who has now taken all the toys you carefully and neatly stacked away so that Mummy and Daddy would be impressed when they come home, and spread them further and wider than they were spread before. They have also split the contents of their drink bottle over the lounge suite and their fresh clean once dry pyjamas.
You deal with all this. Everyone is in bed – except you – Grandad has been in bed for hours! – when Mummy and Daddy come home. ‘How was it?’ they ask. ‘Just wonderful’, you say, and you mean it.
Grandchildren are wonderful – they are one of the best things that will ever happen to you. You’re 50-60, you should have grandchildren and enjoy them. Then you should be allowed to go home, and nurse your aching back, and sleep for at least ten hours a day for the next four days, before answering a phone call and hearing Mummy/Daddy saying, ‘Can you baby sit?’ and answering joyfully, 'I’d love to’.
50-60 year olds who are about to join the in vitro fertilisation program – you can direct all questions to me.

© Nelma Ward

Wednesday, 13 June 2007


The domino effect, I have found, when applied to fashion can be a thing with a life of its own.

I know that all women readers will understand. Let me take you back a season or two. Season is the word we use to describe ‘winter clothes’ and ‘summer clothes’. A season or so ago I saw a fabulous pair of white pants. Beautiful cut, well made, very good material, and very expensive. Just right!

Of course, when you buy a pair of white pants you tell yourself that you have heaps of things to go with them. After all, they’re white. Almost everything goes with white. However, when I got them home I realised that they were absolutely pristine, and so unused that everything else I owned faded in comparison to them.

So I had to go out and buy something to go with them. The something was a gorgeous aqua and white striped shirt. Lovely! After a couple of days I thought that the aqua and white shirt would be an expensive purchase if only to be worn with the white pants. So I deliberately went out shopping (notice the word ‘deliberately?) and I found a pair of aqua three-quarter pants. Perfect!

After a bit I thought that the aqua pants could go with some other things, and if I bought these other things, I would actually be getting more use out of the aqua pants, and therefore making a saving. So again I went out – this time I saw a beautiful sheer aqua, mauve and cream floating top – women will know what I mean by floating – Men, well, it would take another page to tell you – just trust me. Gorgeous!

The top was great, but expensive enough to warrant something else for it to go with. That something else turned out to be a pair of cream pants. Lovely! Classical, and, .as I bought them I said to myself – so useful, and cream will go with everything.

However, on taking them home, they turned out to be a slightly different cream to anything else I owned. I decided to change direction and bought a severe coffee coloured linen shirt. Classic! I said to myself, now, a shirt that colour will go with everything. But somehow I needed something else to go with it, and I got a cream and brown pair of pants that were perfect. Stunning!

The cream and brown pants then demanded a brown suede jacket, and the suede jacket then demanded a pair of suede shoes – and on and on this merry go round I went. This goes with that, as they say! However, I must confess – and please don’t tell anyone this – that the carefully thought out colour combinations were rarely put together. The mix and match things just seemed to stay with the one partner, and never were worn with anything else.

I considered my wardrobe. Too many things. I should refine my choices. At the beginning of the next season I decided – no, promised - myself that I’d stick to one colour and have a far better range of things to wear.

Which is why when my daughter saw me, she said, ‘Why are you always wearing orange? It’s a lovely colour, no doubt, and it suits you, but for God’s sake, everything you have is orange!’

And she’s right. Just as well that wasn’t the year I attended the St Paddy’s Day celebrations! The orange jumper which I bought to go with the brown suede jacket (which you will remember went with the brown suede shoes and the cream and brown pants, if you have been paying attention), suddenly demanded an orange scarf, which then led to an orange bag, and even orange lipstick. Orange lipstick, I hear you say! Well, it was very nice orange lipstick. That colour lipstick can lead to needing other things to go with it in the make up line. Certain colours in eyeshadow, and eyeliner, and then if you get that particular eyeshadow, well you should get the blusher and then the blusher could go with….

The domino effect, you see. Brilliant!

© Nelma Ward

Wednesday, 6 June 2007


Holding the little metal thing-o, wondering what I could possibly do with it, I recalled a television program I’d seen many (yes, many!) long years ago. I always iron in front of the tv. Somehow it makes the whole process easier, although I pine for the day when some woman inventor will come up with the ironing board, a tv screen right in front and a little conveyor belt thing that takes the newly ironed things away – preferably to the room to which they belong! In public I sometimes say ‘Oh, I always iron in front of the tv’, and people look at me strangely or, as if some big secret is being revealed, say ‘Oh, so do I’. That’s all six of us in Australia who still iron straight after doing the washing. Mostly the response I get is ‘Iron? I only iron as I need things’.
The television program was one of those panel programs, where impossibly groomed women with arched fine eyebrows, and ‘high’ hair that never moved, even when they whipped their head around to confront some other panellist who had just said something cleverer than them, and pointed sharp black fingernails, pontificated on viewer’s letters. I say black fingernails, because now when I think about it, I realise that the program was in black and white and the fingernails would have been bright scarlet. I was, after all, born in the first half of last century. I don’t know how you feel when you read that sentence, but it just about makes me fall off my chair and curl up into the foetal position.
The question to this particular panellist was from a viewer who wanted to know what you could do with, what you could make with, those little plastic clip thing-o’s that hold the top of the bread packet closed. ‘What?’ the panellist exclaimed, she of the impossibly high, impossibly stiff unmoveable hair, ‘Do with them? My dear, get a life!’
And that’s what I said to myself looking at the little metal disk that comes with every, every, packet of incense cones. Now what is someone who was born in the first half of last century doing with incense cones, I hear you ask. Well, I’ve always loved incense, it was the trendy thing to burn when I was young, and not to mask any other strange odours emanating from our bedrooms as I’ve heard mothers say these day – ‘Oh, I can’t bear the smell of that’, they say when they walk into my house – my lovely jasmine or musk or sandalwood incense burning – ‘It reminds me of when Junior was at home and trying to cover up all that other stuff that was going on in his bedroom’. No, I just love it. Its Asian, its exotic, its, well, its nice.
Recently I bought several – well, many if I’m honest – boxes of incense cones. Every perfume you could imagine – rose, opium, passion potion (haven’t tried that one yet, so I can’t report on it), frankincense and on and on – and I’ve been burning them on a several times a day basis. However, each box contains its own little metal disk on which to sit the cone while it burns. I put the cones in a little bowl, being a neat and tidy person who could not bear to have ash falling on my newly dusted surfaces. Yes, I’m one of the other six people in Australia who still dust. But I digress.
I’m also a fairly frugal soul, so the one disk will do me. Why soil another one, when I have one in use already. So I’m amassing these little shiny round metal disks. And so it occurred to me – if someone has gone to the trouble to make these, carefully dimpled to hold the cone, shouldn’t there at least be some use for them? But what? And so as I was thinking ‘What can I do with this little metal thing-o?’ when I remembered the lady with the immoveable hair. ‘Get a life’, I said to myself.
When my children were small (second half of last century) we used everything that came into the house to ‘make things’. We made things out of egg cartons, milk bottle tops, cigarette packets, cellophane, lolly wrappers, toothpicks, toilet roll middles, cereal boxes, cottonwool balls, everything. Now I have a grandson of my own, and we ‘make things’ too. I save things for him – and aren’t the things I save these days just so superior to those we had last century? Why just the other day I opened a new razor (yes, for me if you must know), and found the most wonderful – and most unnecessary – hologram type curling design on the plastic sleeve that enclosed it. Why, we – said grandson and me – can do something with that I thought, we can make some cunning little thing. And so I cut it out, carefully with my husband’s beard trimming scissors and put it aside with all the other things I’ve been saving – cute little moulded pudding containers, glue with sparkles in it, and all the other things that just scream out ‘Make something with me!’
Surely these little metal thing-o’s will be useful for something. But what – not for eyes, because nowadays you can buy eyes, with moveable black centres, and in all shapes and sizes. I thought perhaps I should just keep them, put them in a sealable sandwich bag and throw them in the cutlery drawer, handy. But then I envisaged what would happen – they’d sit there, no use forthcoming, and next time I spring cleaned – and yes, I spring, summer, autumn and winter spring clean, and sometime mid-season too, just like you other six people – they’d be relegated to a box of odds and ends for ‘just in case’. Now tidy as I am I do have a box of ‘just in case’s’, however its contents are in alphabetical order – so there!Then I imagined the next spring clean where they still hadn’t been used, and that’s when the great chucking out occurs. Now, I’ve read articles that say if you don’t use something for twelve months you should dispose of it. I love it! Dispose away, I say.
Things get chucked out – of course, three days later something needs repairing, or propping up, or something, and my handyman (not my husband) says, ‘Oh, you don’t have a little piece of wire, about so thick, and about so long, do you?’ and I check to see if the rubbish has been collected this week, because that’s where that piece of so thick, so long, wire is – in the rubbish bin.
Nevertheless, I will chuck these shiny and oh so useful looking metal thing-o’s out. I’m a tidy and organised soul. And should you ask me in a day or so, ‘Do you have a little round piece of metal, about so big, and shiny?’ I’ll just probably say to you, ’I don’t keep stuff like that. Really, get a life’.
© Nelma Ward


One thing I’ve learned after being married for many decades is never to say ‘Hey, I’ve got a good idea!’ The ‘good idea’ of course could be anything from knocking a wall out for the purpose of adding a deck, a swimming pool and then landscaped gardens to rival Versailles, or merely going to the movies.
There’s an inbuilt male response to your good idea which is to say, ‘No’. Then you say, ‘Why not?’ and their next reply every time is ‘I-don-wanna’. So we have to use subterfuge. We’re good at subterfuge. Why we don’t even have to think about it – it just comes automatically. However, I’ll help you out on this one.What you need to do is to mention your good idea to them in general conversation – by general conversation, I mean of course the conversation you’re having ostensibly with yourself while they are reading the newspaper. You casually throw in the phrase - ‘visit great aunt Flossie’. Then no longer than forty seven and a half hours later (the measured time of a male’s retention) you suddenly say, oh so casually, ‘That was a great idea of yours the other day’.
Now, anything attributed to the male which sounds admiring or flattering will catch their attention straight away. Guaranteed! ‘What?’ they will say, being men of few words, as we know. ‘To visit great aunt Flossie’, you say, not looking at them. This is very important. Do not meet their eye. ‘What!’ the one word response will be. Then you can drop the admiring flattery, and look directly at them and say in a slightly peeved voice, ‘What’s wrong with you? We talked about this the other day, don’t you remember?’ (Which is true, after all!) From the faint recesses of their subconscious they will recall those words were spoken, sometime, somewhere, and you’ll see the doubt flicker over their face. Were they spoken by them? Surely not.
The rest of the argument is up to you. You can cajole, you can plead, you can use your feminine wiles, you can nag, you can shout, you can invoke the gods – whatever works best for you. Just keep reiterating the fact that these words were spoken, that there had been some sort of discussion about it, and that as usual they had their head in the paper, and weren’t listening to you – ‘You never do, do you?’ are the words you sadly speak here. Using the correct tone of voice should make them feel guilty – male guilt of course is a completely different thing, and warrants a discussion on its own. So I won’t digress at this point.
Now, we all know that the male species doesn’t listen, don’t we? There’s an easy test you can carry out to prove this. You say, ‘Hey, I’ve got a good idea. Lets watch the footy and have a couple of stubbies’ – (as if!). Automatically, without the words registering he’ll say ‘I-don-wanna’, and then the penny drops. It drops with a loud clunk. He’s about to close his now gaping mouth, to re-open it to re-phrase his answer, but you’ve already casually sauntered away, saying ‘Oh, alright then. No worries. Just an idea’.
Now, the opposite situation with good ideas always amazes me. You can guarantee you’re covered in grease and grime from cleaning the oven – they’ve been sitting there, doing what? Why reading the paper, that’s what. They’ll suddenly leap up, clean and fresh and raring to go, and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got a good idea. Lets go to the nursery for those plants you wanted’. Now, you desperately want those plants, and you want them to go along with you, to pretend to let them help you make a choice, but mostly to carry the jolly wet punnets back to the car, and dig the holes for them. Over all your protestations that you can’t go just now – why, you’re dirty, in need of a shower, your hair is a mess, and you’ve no make up on – he will drag you to the car, and off you will go to the nursery. It won’t be a successful visit, because you’ll be cowering behind him, hoping no one you know sees you, and hoping you don’t frighten the nursery person too much when they clap eyes on you. Grease and grime covered, hair all over the place, and bare face.
I want to know why the words ‘I-don-wanna’, from the female don’t reverberate with the male. He has selective deafness – well, we all knew that – but those words just don’t even register at all. Although, when you think about it, men having a good idea is just such a rarity – and generally comes from a subliminal idea you’ve, oh so casually, instilled in that male brain anyway – we should become conditioned to say immediately ‘Oh jolly good – what a good idea’. And if it wasn’t such a good idea after all, you can always twist it around to suit you. The line to use here when you add your bit – ‘and a deck, and a swimming pool and landscaped gardens’ is something like ‘But we talked about this before – don’t you remember?‘ Now, isn’t that a good idea!
© Nelma Ward


You can look back on your working days and think ‘yes, they were the BEST days!’ Or, you can be realistic and think ‘Ah – retirement – how good is this!’ I’m in the latter camp these days. Oh, I loved working. There were so many interesting things to do each day, and so many interesting people to do them with.And there are so many excuses emanating from the fact that you’re a working woman. You can say ‘I just can’t clean the bathroom this week – I just haven’t got the time, or the energy. I’m just too busy!’ You can come home from work, dramatically fling yourself onto the lounge, and say ‘I need a drink of wine – oh, I’ve had such a day’. Then ten minutes later you can have another one! No one minds – you’re a working woman.
But, being free and easy is what retirement is all about. You do actually get to do the things you never had time for before. These things take up a great deal of time. You can say ‘I just can’t clean the bathroom this week – I’ve got to get to line dancing – quilting – book group – aerobics – or whatever’. And when you come home from one of these energy depleting activities you can fling yourself down onto the lounge and cry, ‘Bring me a drink. I’m just exhausted.’See? Both are great.
What got me thinking about the good old days was the dreadful occurrence of having a broken finger nail. I was rushing to Tai Chi classes, and broke a finger nail. As you do. When I looked for a nail file in my rather small bag I couldn’t at first find one. I knew I had one somewhere. I knew if I didn’t file that broken edge it would distract me all during the class. And we can’t have that.So in the end, after delving deep – well, as deep as you can delve in a small bag – I found the wanted nail file. It was old. It was bent. It was almost worn down to the nub. However, it did the job, and Tai Chi went like a dream.
But, it did make me think. When I was working I had a LARGE bag. A very large bag. I carried that bag for years. It held my ‘work shoes’, which were high heeled. You can’t walk to work in high heels – you have to have flat shoes – so the shoes alternated places in my bag. I had a fold up umbrella – in case of rain – of course, if I were working these days I wouldn’t even have to carry such an optimistic item. I had my make up. Well, you never know when you’ll need to put on more make up. I had perfume, I had hand lotion, I had two or three lipsticks (well, you don’t know what colour you’ll need). I had lip gloss, and a spare lip gloss. God forbid you’d ever run out of lip gloss. I had a compact of powder. I had a mirror. And wearing contact lenses, I had all the extra stuff you need to carry for contact lenses emergencies. Wetting solution, cleaning solution, special tissues, a contact lens carrying case, and then extra eye make up, because when a contact lens emergency happens – as all wearers will know – somehow all the eye make up vanishes, and you have to start again. And I will not – WILL NOT – be seen without at least some mascara. Oh, and I carried two mascaras. One, the almost dried out one that I was determined to use up, and one nice moist new one – which always got used first.And a comb, and a brush. Oh, and toothpaste and a tooth brush in a cunning little container. A spare pair of panti-hose, and a packet of instant noodles for the days when there was no spare cash to buy lunch. Usually these days occurred as were as we were approaching pay day – you’re always broke a few days before pay day. Buying lunch is another perk of working – it works two ways – you don’t have to prepare anything, and then when you get home you can say ‘I just can’t cook any dinner tonight – I had such a BIG lunch’. Then there was a ‘little cardigan’ – folded up and all fluffy and horrible, after residing in the bottom of this very large bag, so it probably never would have been worn in the case of a sudden chill in the air. And an address book – a very fat address book. A notebook, to remind me to clean the bathroom or buy more wine, and for all sorts of lists.
If you want to know more about people who live their lives by lists you need to read my short story ‘Things To Do Today’, which appears in my collection ‘Essences’ – available at a reasonable price, plus postage, if you contact me at Enough of the blatant self promotion – back to the story at hand.
And I always had a copious supply of bandaids, peppermints, stamps and a teeny weeny sewing kit, which in itself is a bit of a laugh – me? Sew? Never! And of course there were sunglasses – two pairs – and cough lollies. And the current library book.And of course there was my wallet, a business card holder and lots of other stuff which you just throw into your bag as it accumulates. Not to mention the things that fall inadvertently into your bag – crumbs, ring pulls from cans and the odd moth.
Now, when I finished work and retired – retirement which could have been bought on by carrying all this weight on one shoulder for years and years! – I decided on the night of my last day at work to ‘unpack my work bag’. That sounded like a very symbolic thing to do. It meant that I was finished with corporate life. I no longer needed to be burdened by this necessities that I felt had to be taken with me everywhere. I was going to be free and easy and unencumbered.I did unpack my bag. I found things I thought had been lost for ever. Things I hadn’t seen for years.
But the most interesting and noteworthy thing that I did find were seventeen nail files! Seventeen!Which is why when the other day I couldn’t find one for some considerable time, and then found it in a lamentable condition, I did for a short while pine for the good old days. The days of being prepared for every occasion. Anyway, when I came home from Tai Chi – and threw myself exhausted onto the lounge and begged for a glass of wine ‘quickly’ – I resolved to put a few more nail files in my bag, and perhaps a few other little things too, just in case, just like the good old days. You just never know what you’ll need and when you’ll need it.
© Nelma Ward