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Archive for the ‘Friends.Family.Pets.’ Category

I’m here to regale you with a legend. A story, if you will. A tale of how a city came by its name.

In the beginning, there was a guy. There was also a dragon, and some slaying. There may, in fact, have even been a second guy. I think he was a manly man. Or something. Anyway, a hand fell off. Or, maybe it was chopped off. And then…it was thrown into the river. Do you follow? No? Let me clarify.

Hand=Hant. Werpen=Thrown. In Flemish. Or Dutch. Whichever is the correct term to use. And that, my friends, is a concise – if somewhat garbled – history lesson on how (Hantwerpen) Antwerp came by it’s name.

You’re most welcome.

On the weekend, I visited Antwerp. And it’s an absolutely gorgeous place. Kind of like Amsterdam without the whacky-backy and minus some canals. But the feel. And the buildings. And the funky Antwerpians on their old-fashioned bicycles. It was definintely Europe and I really do love Europe a whole lot.

I was visiting my friend who lives there, so I not only had a day or so of tourist wanderings and photo opportunities, I also had the fun and debauchery of a birthday party Belgian-style. As a representative of all things English/Australian/Irish, I am pleased to report that I made you all proud. The bruise that is actually BIGGER than my leg is a clear indication that I was not an embarrassment to myself. I certainly did not fall over. I know this because I don’t remember falling over. And if I don’t remember it, then it probably didn’t happen. Although, by that logic, most of the party wouldn’t have happened, because I don’t remember a great deal of that.

I should not be allowed anywhere near a well-stocked bar.

Also, the Flemish language has officially become one of my favourites. It sounds so pretty. Full of long, drawn out vowels, sibilant whispers and a sort of burbly sound in the back of the throat. I couldn’t understand a word, but boy did I enjoy listening to it. Mostly, though, everyone spoke English when I was around, which was very nice of them. I did learn one word (which of course I’ve got completely wrong) but as I remember it the word is “schlor”. Which means moustache. This cropped up quite a lot on Saturday and Sunday, as most partygoers and post-party goers (c’mon, you KNOW that drinking is the best cure for a hangover) sported a fetching pencil-drawn moustache. No-one escaped. Women as well as men. But we all wore our schlors with good grace. Who wouldn’t enjoy a bespoke hand-drawn moustache?

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We have a wrap-around balcony on our flat. Hang on, what I mean is that we have a wrap around balcony outside our flat. We have someone else’s flat on our flat. I don’t want you to be incorrectly visualising a building constructed of alternating layers of flat-balcony-flat-balcony. What would be the point of that?

This ‘outside’ balcony is accessible from the street. Our home is accessible from the balcony. If the living room door is left open – and someone were so inclined – that someone (a psychotic man maybe) could hop over the wall and walk right in. And then kill us. Or demand food.

(Incidentally, we’ve had a couple of nice cats visit us using this route. No, they didn’t kill us. Yes, they demanded food.)

Of course, I don’t really expect psychotic men to come in and kill me. Which is why the sliding door is always open. Even at night. Even when I am otherwise occupied by taking silly photos with my friends (of ourselves, obviously – what other type of silly photo is there?) I am trusting like that.

And yet, on this night, when Emma looked up from the camera to the open door and gave a whimpering sort of scream, my first thought was.

‘Oh fuck. Someone’s going to kill us.’ 

I looked over at the door.

‘Arggh!!’ I screamed along, while my mind said, ‘There are 2 men in the door what are they doing, oh it’s OK, it’s Mat and Danny, wait, OH MY GOD IT’S FUCKING NOT!!’ 

Truthfully? There weren’t actual thinking words involved, more of an electric shudder and a shriek, followed by a momentary lapse of consciousness. When I came to, I found myself perched on Emma’s shoulder. Somewhere in the vicinity of the ceiling.

Mat and Danny, you see, think they’re pretty funny. The think that standing in the doorway, unmoving, with masks covering their faces, is the absolute height of comedy.

I think they’re a couple of twats. And that they owe me a new set of underwear.

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I flew up to the Gold Coast this weekend to visit my dad and brother and other extended family members. The Gold Coast, as the name implies, is a very beautiful stretch of coastline, with miles and miles of pretty beaches (from the vantage of a plane window seat, the sea does look like it is gilded with strips of gold). However, alongside these beaches are miles and miles of hotels and high-rises. I think it’s pretty soulless, but my dad and brother seem to love it. Each to their own, I guess.

So, yesterday evening, I was hanging out at the airport and waiting for my flight back to Sydney. I’d spent a couple of hours previously hanging out with my brother – just the 2 of us and some nice cold beers – and was feeling just a little bit tipsy and floaty. In a nice way.

Meandering through the endless security checks, drifting in and out of what was going on around me, I started thinking about a friend of mine, and a particular theory she has in regards to luggage and traveling. You see, she is a lover of designer labels, a high flying successful city worker and always immaculately turned out. I suspect she may the owner of the largest shoe collection in the southern hemisphere. I, however, am a proponent of charity- shop chic and on an eternal quest to find the ultimate bargain. I think that if something is second-hand, its pre-lovedness adds to its appeal rather than detracts. I like to imagine that inanimate objects absorb something of their previous owners, and that you can sense something of the previous life they have lived. It makes the object more interesting. Also, I’m cheap.

Needless to say, when I travel I opt for comfort over style. I try to pull together the best of both and be just stylishly comfortable (obviously) but often I fail (also obviously). My approach to packing can be best described as ‘last-minute-panicking and why didn’t I write out a goddamned list?!’ I also generally fly at gloriously inconvenient times (bargain flights, of course) which require me to be up and out of the house with sleep still encrusted in my bloodshot eyes. My outfit for the plane is therefore not usually the most pressing detail banging away at my frontal lobe. So, I suppose it wouldn’t be a surprise to learn that I don’t ever travel with branded luggage. Or even matching luggage. In fact, my bags don’t even reside in the same region of the colour wheel.

My designer friend, however, is my effortless opposite. Not only is her luggage assuredly designer (not even the cunning fakes, no they are definitely the real deal) but it definitely matches and – taking it one step further – she has a passport cover to complete the set. That’s right, a little leather book that’s only purpose is to make sure her passport matches the rest of her traveling items. Her theory is that traveling around with designer accessories makes life easier when passing through security and immigration checks. I respectfully disagreed, and maintain that they way they treat you will come down to which coat of arms is on the front of your passport. The actual document. Not the container you lug it around inside of.

So, there I was, wandering through the security checks, ruminating on this conversation between us from many years ago, and I thought to myself, “I’m bedraggled and my makeup has half slid off my face. I probably smell a bit like beer. I’m carrying a cheap backpack. And I’m sailing through the security checks. No-one is paying the slightest bit of attention to me. See? It’s not about the posh handbags.”

And then a voice broke into my reverie.

“Excuse me, miss. Come here please. I’d like to check your backpack. For explosives.”

I looked around. Was he talking to me? What was going on? This had never happened before! He gestured me over to his desk where I handed him my cheap little backpack. He ran a strip of paper over all the zips and then, opening the bag, ran it just inside the flaps. I half-smiled at him, maintaining my cool (and trying not to breathe beer fumes in his direction). Of course I didn’t have any explosives in my bag, but these processes always make me feel so damn guilty.

“Beep,” blurted the machine.

He looked at me.

“Beep!! Beep!! Beep!!”

My eyes were riveted to the screen, waiting to see if my life was about turn into a Kafkaesque nightmare.

“Thank you miss. Have a nice flight.”

I wobbled off to the bar and ordered myself a nice, comforting glass of wine. And starting musing about how much a set of Louis Vuitton luggage might cost. Passport holder included.  

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Nick and Emma left today, onto the next leg of their journey which is going to take them through (Incredible) India*, into Africa and then finally back home to England. The getting home bit isn’t going to happen until much later this year, they’ve still got months of fun and adventures ahead of them.

I’m really sad to see them go because we’ve all had such a great time over the past few weeks. I’m also so very hyper-excited for them, because by this time tomorrow they will be knee-deep in the chaos of their India adventure. I love a chaotic adventure, I wish I was along for the ride. In fact, I was so excited for them, that I kept waking up last night half convinced that it was me who was jumping in the taxi at 6am. Half-dreaming about missing alarm clocks, and getting on flights (or getting on wrong flights), and worrying about whether I had packed too much, (or not enough).

And then dozily remembering that all I had to worry about was getting up for work. Don’t you hate when reality is actually the bad dream?

I”ve known Nick and Emma for years – in London we share lots of mutual friends – but apart from bumping into each other at parties, we never really got round to spending much time together. They’ve been the sort of friends that you know (and like a lot) but haven’t managed to properly claim as your own.

Luckily, Mother Fate decided to step in. They turned up here. In Australia. In Sydney. And they came to stay with us. It’s only been 3 weeks or so, but it’s been a solid 3 weeks., In that time a new chapter of the London crew has been formed – far, far from home.

May I introduce ……… ‘Team Bondi’

To date, only the members of Team Bondi are aware of this monicker, but it will catch on. (OK, maybe only the girl members of Team Bondi have been throwing this name around, but we are, obviously, the lynch pins and the organisers and we have the RIGHT, goddamit, to invent at whimsy).

Team Bondi have at various and differing times; played poker together, kayaked together, gotten roaring drunk together, gotten tipsy together, gotten some sort-of-in-between together, lost money together, visited beaches together, taken afternoon naps together (although not all in the same bed, we’re not that sort of team), cooked together, eaten out together, and laughed like demented hyenas. Together. We may also have done irreparable damage to our kidneys and/or livers. Team Bondi don’t flinch, however, and are always planning the next delicious round of alcoholic beverages.

Without Nick and Emma, we are sadly shrunken. Like a mouth minus its wisdom teeth. Or a 5-legged insect with only 3 legs. A bit clumsy, and uncomfortable. Tonight, the ‘What’s Left of Team Bondi’ ate pasta and drank the lovely bottle of red wine that was kindly left on our table this morning. And gave up a toast to Nick and Emma. We really hope your hotel was booked as promised.

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* ‘Incredible India!’: We have loads of brochures in our flat with information about where to go and what to do when on the subcontinent. All of them have the tagline ‘Incredible India!’ emblazoned across the cover pages. With lots of exclamation points!!!! Don’t just say it, sort of sing it. In-cred-ible In-d-ia! Warble it to get full effect. In-cred-ible In-d-ia!!!! (I bet it is. Incredible. I’ll be finding out later this year. Yay!)

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I have a boyfriend who, after a few drinks in the late hours of 2007, giddy on champagne (cheap sparkling wine – gag!) and the aftermath of the excitement of a fireworks show, decides that he is ‘street’, that he can ‘rap wid da boyz’, that he is ‘talkin’ ’bout da hood, man, know wot I mean…’.

Add an old best friend and a new best friend to the mix, send the girls off to the toilets in a mad rush of bladder panic, and ‘da boyz’ will start ‘freestyling’ and ‘rappin’ out some sick beats’ and then attempt to spin around on their heads in some sort of drunken approximation of breakdancing circa. 1980s.

A lone female bystander watches their antics and because she is
a) completely drunk; or
b) completely sheltered from real life; and
c) forgetting that it is New Year’s Eve
she starts calling out to random passersby that she is witnessing bona fide ‘street art’.

As you can imagine, ‘da ladeez’ didn’t hear the end of that for the rest of the night.

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So, the year is drawing to a close. It’s certainly been an eventful one, and although I was planning this time last year to be in Australia, at the time it seemed so far away and unlikely that it was hard to imagine it properly. But I did it! Here I am! And there’s nothing more satisfying than making a plan, and – suprise of all surprises – actually following through with it.

This last week has been jam-packed with fun and boozing, which really just seems be a sort of microcosm of the year in its entirety. Although I try to convince myself –  through repetition of the FACT – that a boozy lifestyle is a relic of my twenties, unfortunately I keep bumping into an annoying little truism – namely, that saying a thing does not necessarily make it so. As I continue searching for ways of amusing myself that don’t necessarily involve alcohol, I tend to keep finding myself in a drunken wobble on the wrong side of midnight. I guess I should expand the search outside of the bottle shop.

We have been celebrating many variations of pre- and post- Christmas, Birthday, and New Year, variously involving alcohol, poker and the hilarity of an all-singing, all-dancing man-troupe displaying all the hallmarks of true and abiding man-love.

Please note the following symptoms of chronic man-love:

  • Man-hugging
  • Man-baptism (otherwise known as tipping beer over each other while attempting the man-hug)
  • Synchronised man-dancing
  • Man-wailing (or singing as they insist on calling it)

Bless!

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The boys and I hit Sydney Casino last night. Dangerous? It could have been, but ultimately we managed to keep it together and arrive back home in profit. OK, that’s not entirely true. I left with more money than I arrived with, the boys, however, fared less well.

My friend Nick, one half of the lovely ‘NickandEmma’ – friends from London who have been staying with us for the past week or so – was only allowed out on the proviso that he withdraw a specified amount from their joint travelling account. And to not exceed that amount. On pain of death. Emma decided to stay home and have a quiet night – she’s sensible like that, I’m hoping some of it will rub off on me eventually – and so as the only responsible female in the party, I offered to keep the credit card safe inside my wallet for the evening. And so Nick’s 45 mins of glory on the roulette wheel was neatly contained.

Mat managed a 30 minute stint on a real-life poker table, which if I’m honest, impressed the heck out of me. Sitting down with those swarthy men and trying to beat them at a game which requires concentration and cunning – after having drunk strong casino-brews on an empty stomach – takes some guts. But, like Nick, he lost his alloted amount of betting money quickly and thoroughly.

I, however, made my fair sex proud. I stuck to the game that loves me – Blackjack – and sat at the table for hours. As is my way, I managed to spill my drink onto the felt table, but as I blushed my apologies and helped mop up the mess, I felt the feeling around the table wasn’t too murderous. I did slip off a few hands later though, ostensibly to see what the boys were up to.

Two (dry) tables and some giddy betting later, I let the dust settle on the pontoon payouts and trotted over to the cashier. He totted up my chips and turned those satisfyingly heavy plastic discs into even more satisfying plastic money* and I discovered that I had ended up with $20 MORE than my alloted betting amount.

I didn’t rub it in too much in the cab home.

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*Australian banknotes are made from a weird plastic material rather than paper. Which means you can accidentally wash your hard-earned dosh and it will come out the other end squeaky clean rather than terminally destroyed. You can pull, crinkle, fold and generally mistreat the currency, and it will survive to buy you another round of beers.

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