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March 28, 2007

Decisions, decisions ...

You may find yourself taking a trip by air today, Flip. This may come as a surprise, but events may be progressing more quickly than you think. A partner may want to accompany you. The whole thing may be very exciting, so be careful to stay focused and make doubly sure that you pack everything that you could possibly require. Otherwise you could find yourself far from home lacking much of what you need.

This is obviously going to be one of those years. Barely seconds after I settled into my new house with a happy sigh comes the phone call offering riches and fulfillment of at least some ambitions ... in another part of the State. Basically, I have been offered a job on a daily paper, for much more money (about 25 per cent more), doing the rounds I love, with the opportunity to progress ... but it's not in Broome. Not in my beloved Broome.

It's in Kalgoorlie.

I have spent all day in an untoward spin. When S first mentioned it yesterday I thought "ha! nope" and then the editor called me. And I started to think "hmmmm".... and that is how it has gone ever since. I feel completely unable to make a decision! So it's time for a list of pros and cons:

A new adventure!
Closer to Perth for easier visits!
Concentrated court reporting and indigenous affairs with arts thrown in!
Heaps more money!
Stretching my wings writing wise!
Sideline in prostitution (ok not really)

Have to make new friends all over again and leave wonderful friends behind
Moving house for the 5th time in a year (urgh)
Daily deadlines and possible stress increase
No blue, blue skies against red, red rock
Leaving in the middle of writing V's memoirs
Loss of possible screenwriting project
No more Buddhist group or sand mandala project
No dry season and races and general shenanigans.
No more amazing gym ladies and boxing classes

Oh god. Do i really want to be closer to home anyway?

It's work versus heart and something is going to break.

March 22, 2007

Bad things, good people

You may be feeling a bit more emotional than usual, Flip. Tender feelings are likely to surface at this point and it may be hard for you to concentrate on just the facts. It might be tempting to get caught up in an ensuing drama that doesn't necessarily pertain to you. Keep your nose out of other people's business. Be nurturing and empathetic as opposed to inquisitive and sarcastic. No gossiping today.

A light went out in Broome this week, at the same time I discovered my heart still breaks a little at times. My horoscope has rarely felt truer than today, when I read it through red-rimmed eyes and fresh from taking a few deep breaths.

Sam died this week. Of course, most people outside Broome would shrug their shoulders or furrow their brow at the name, thinking idly that they may have heard it before; in Broome, however, this event represents the passing of hope, the careless flash of lightening from a vengeful god - and a reminder to live each day to the full.

I have never done a death-knock before - the term used by journalists for the unpleasant task of phoning a family in bereavement to coax answers from their numb lips. I wanted to steel myself for this one, because Sam was important. On the outside, he was just a teenaged kid - I didn't know him personally. Long-timers did though - stories swirled about his antics at football, his family's shock at losing a wife and mother to illness, and of course Sam's own illness - deadly leukaemia.

Sam was a special kid to the town, a proper Broome mongrel breed with nationalities coming out of his ears. People spoke of his beatific smile and enduring cheeky spirit despite his pain, which turned out to be considerable. His plight saw the whole town rally round in a blood drive to find a match for his marrow - no mean feat - in an initiative which spread to the Northern Territory and beyond. Then, the mood was buoyant ... people were convinced that such a gleaming display of human fortitude could only lead to happy results.

But Sam's blood grew sicker and his chances faded with each lab result. Last month, it emerged that a real foreigner - a Bolivian! - had marrow for Sam. The town rejoiced and waited for their son to come home.

Four weeks ago, Sam's body turned on itself again, and he began to die, finally passing away on Monday this week.

Sam was determined to fulfill a huge list of wishes before he died and his dad assured me he got through most of them. He cooked up a feed of crabs and oysters on hot coals on a fire he built himself. He did a naked raindance in the middle of Chinatown in the early hours of the morning, after which the heavens cracked open for days. He had friends around him, lots of them, every night of the week.

Sam's dad later found out he secretly went to Subway and bought six to eight rolls at a time, taking them down to the old blackfellas on the oval, because "they were suffering more than him".

When Sam died, he was lying on the bed wrapped in the love of his father and high school sweetheart and smiling until the light went out. Today was the first time I cried through an interview, but probably not the last. Rest in peace, Sam, and may your example be a lesson to us all.

March 19, 2007


Monday starts off with a bang and a touch of conflict which may mean a storm is on the way. This could be a career issue or one in which your public image is at stake. It may have been bubbling along for some time ? and now needs to be resolved. If you work at this in the right way with the determination to create healing you could bring about a revolution which leads to a much more positive situation. But you could equally make things worse if you allow your negative judgment to cloud the issue.

This shiteous thing just ate my entry! I spent an hour typing! And it was all about what a bad day I had ... I don't believe it. Well, the heavens have clearly spoken and I risk grinding my teeth into dust if I try too hard to recreate it.

What was I on about? I was musing about how easy it is to absorb bad moods by osmosis. I arrived at work feeling cheerful and then a series of small but increasingly calamitous events made my mood dissolve into dust - a shitty phone call from a snooty editor, a snarky response from my boss, a phone that drops dead unannounced. I wish I could let these things drip away like water off the back, but some days it is harder than others. It's like other people's bad attittudes are able to creep into the pores and fill up the air around me until I find myself snuffling in their grumpy vibes.

This is not half as good the second time around, really. I think I will leave it there and mumble my way to bed. Wrapping myself in hot pink blankies and my beloved spotty sheets will soothe all the badness away.

Kickin it with the combat girls

I have decided to separate these sections so my musings on life don't get mixed in with my musings on quantities of museli. I have wondered if I should take this elsewhere but hell, I am what I am - a mixed up fuddled up bag of "typical female" and literary ingenue (ha!) and extremely terribly all round ordinary type person. Which means I struggle with physicality along with the mental strains. Which is why I find myself puffing through a Body Combat class in the quest to make the outer me match my inner princess of power.

It makes popular books, you know. The typical girl struggling with ingestion and exhaustion and finally finding a way to pump iron while holding the other arm aloft in truimph while the lycra shorts struggle to cling on to slinky thighs. But I do wonder .... As a trashy magazine addict of many years (attempts to find out why have left me scratching my head) I wonder just how real my perception of "real" really is - does that make sense? It is no triumph when I realise that a girl we all coo over has been throwing up her lunch for the past decade in a bid to retain her glamourous edge ... in a kind of sick way we admire her solid commitment to her unhealthy ideals.

So I question myself always on this trundle towards fitness. What is motivating me? What is really motivating me?

Today, what sent me to the gym was stress (see other post). I slammed out of the office in a general funk with noone in particular, feeling all female and tearful and uselss in a hormonal kind of way and I knew that if I went home I would slouch moodily on the couch and probably eat ice-cream while decrying my life. But as it happened, I kept going down the road and decided to kick the shit out of thin air instead, to pummel my reflection in the mirror. Not to beat MYSELF up, mind, but to knock some sense into my petulant brain. Strike one to stress and chalk one up to those sweet endorphins.

Food Diary (Gotta do this for the records!)
Two slices Nancy's amazing soda fruit bread with figs and apricots
One soy coffee
Another coffee as bad mood extends
Few spoonfuls of chickpeas in tomato sauce and couscous
Another slice fruit bread
One piece of chocolate crystalised ginger, one organic plum
Steamed threadfin salmon with capers, tomato and spinach
Mixed steamed vegetables.

March 18, 2007

The fitness files

I climb on the scales and shake my head as the marker hovers defiantly five or so kilos above the magic number. Sal smiles sympathetically at my discomfort as I silently curse the decision to buy a box of Lindt chocolates (they were on special) while eschewing the gym for several days last week. The extra weight I'm carrying turns out to be lean muscle mass but according to the horrendous pincers, the layer of additional padding is resolutely refusing to shift.

I am starting to realise what a science this whole "health and fitness" scheme is, how finely balanced the input of food to the output of energy. I can see how this healthy attention could warp into obsesssion with the numbers if not for a sincere love of food and the associated social opportunities I would loath to give up.

But somewhere along the line I've tipped the balance, clearly - and it's got to be the food. For weeks now I have been religiously attending the gym and watching my muscles harden under the regular strain of kicking, running and boxing, and not a drop of alcohol passed these lips for more than a month until a glass and a half of red on Friday night. Here, the numbers speak volumes - according to my heart rate, my fitness has increased by about 30 per cent overall since I was last tested two months ago. I can feel it too. One minute I am buckling and finding it hard to breathe and the next, when the treadmill has stopped, I am strolling and calmly breathing in shallow gusts of air. My sleeping has improved, my stress levels are way down and I feel much clearer in the mind.

Knowing this, it rankles slightly that my arse hasn't caught up with the action. When I first sat down with Sally, I was genuinely baffled about why the fat wasn't melting off my arms and legs with all that effort until I stopped to consider the small "deviations" of recent weeks - a mini muffin here, a snatched falafel there, a quesadilla or three ... oops. It seems I am suffering from food amnesia. But two Lindt balls can't be all that bad ... can they?

Sadly, yes. "If you haven't been to the gym that day and you eat those, you've just added on hundreds of calories of extra input," Sal says. "A few days like that adds up to a kilo before you know it." She tells me to ditch the chocolates - if only for a month - and cut portions down to fuel size, not fun size.

Damnit. Within that ball lies the way to damnation.

The other thing, of course, is that I should congratulate myself on increasing my fitness so dramatically, whatever the mirror says. But while we all trumpet about working out to satisfy our desire for good health, the secret truth - for me anyway - is that once, just once, we hope to visit the land of "Thin". Oh vanity, vanity, leave me alone.

March 15, 2007

Return to (hyper)reality

This could be an especially fortunate time for you, Flip. The energies at play bring a balmy, warm atmosphere, where things seem to come together with ease. You will enjoy any social gatherings thoroughly today. A celebration could take place; new plans could be made, and, at the very least, you should have some fascinating conversations with friends. Congratulations!

I'm back! It's been an unfortunately long absence, primarily due to the fact that once again I had to move house and was consequently offline for a while. It pains me that I'm not allowed to visit the Flipside at work due to Concrete's adult content (it can't be myfault because unless you count fantasising about naked Brazilians, there is woefully little lascivious adventure on this blog). I won't bore anyone with my tales of what have been - tune into the cheat sheet on "Noodling" for that.

I was just picking through my old photographs and thinking I should take the camera out more. I had a rare moment of nostalgia last week and sifted through my glory box for a peek into the annals of history - there was the drug fuelled trip to Ibiza, there was the Amsterdam monument (a giant penis sculpture), there was the general mayhem of years gone by. I can't get over how young and fresh faced I was in some of the pics - and how uniform they all were. I cock my head the same way every time, it seems, and my top lip curls in tandem with the ever-deepening crinkles around my eyes.

It's the ones where I'm in love that I find the most fascinating - those snapshots of moments, long-gone, where the camera manages to catch that inner sparkle, happy confidence, guileless joy. That's not to say those moments don't happen outside love - these days I find the same joy in waking up in crispy clean sheets after a long sleep, the darkening skies of my beloved Broome sunsets - but I find myself wondering at that distant youth.

My camera has become a tool for work and I forget to whip it out for those moments ... looking at those old photos made me remember how important it was to record my life. Inside the box of old film photos, I was upset to discover patches of discoloration and decay creeping in strange bloches over the pictures of my past. Those days are already sepia coloured, faded at the edges, with recollections dropping away day by day. Picking up those pictures takes me swiftly back towards a younger me, a more hopeful me, a me that glitters on the edge of my consciousness behind a smokescreen of faded memories. It's a person I wish I could get to know better, before I work out when to say goodbye.

Cheat sheet - an update

Well, I've been distracted by giant green frogs in my toilet but it's really no excuse for such a delay between posts. So I have a better excuse! Since I left you at the end of 2006 (was it really so long ago?) many things have happened - I moved house AGAIN after being evicted for the first time in my life (more on that later), had brief affairs will a cute-but-dim boy from New Zealand (he liked shooting pigs - need I say more?) and a cute but slightly mad medical student (who, I later discovered to my horror, was 22! The glasses made him look older, I swear) ... but that's enough parentheses.

I am finally settled in Broome after months of fleeing house after house, in a new place which may cost $200 a week, but sure is luxurious. I have my own bathroom, already papered with trashy magazines and books, myriad hair products and other general mess - as well as a happy enclave of a room with a view of palms and sunshine. The cats are happy and content, but registered their disgust at having to move for a fourth time by pooing in the shower and doing an enormous piddle on my new housemate's swag (note to city people: swagliness is next to godliness in the country - every saltwater cowboy owns this beloved piece of canvas with a bedlike thing inside. Very useful for sleeping in under the stars and contemplating the lonely nature of life). Anyway, he didn't crack the shits, so we passed the difficult first test of the new house-share with flying colours.

Which brings me neatly onto the eviction. But first, some history. It's often been said that I should write the female version of "He Died with a Felafel in his Hand" because of my long history of berko flatmates in many, many locations around the work. Sure, I've had the anal retentives, the addicts, the food thieves, the generally annoying, the messy pigs, the party animals, Russian strippers (true), the hysterical etc etc ... but until the past year, I have never experienced the misery of being a boarder. For the uninitiated, being a boarder in Broome is like being a prisoner - sure, you've got a roof over your head but IT'S NOT YOUR ROOF.

If you've been reading the papers of late, you will have noticed that Broome has the dubious distinction of being among the most expensive places in Australia to live. In real terms, this means that rather a lot of somewhat antisocial people who live here have been forced to take strangers into their homes to counter crippling mortgages. Now, by no means assume that these people are emotionally ready to share their space with a sparkling, sometimes chaotic, young female journalist with a full and active life. I bring you:

Greg (house number 1): In my few months with Greg, the aviation worker with a face like a bashed crab and two little boys, I discovered several truisms. One was that some people are simply hideous. It started well - you may remember that I baked several cakes with said boys, who were somewhat clingy at the absence of their mother - but then things went a bit askew. I don't know if Greg took a shine to me or what, but he started to get slightly erratic. He was a fan of kick boxing, ol' Greg, and clearly thought his muscle definition was far superior to his face, so when his girlfriend wasn't around he started strutting about in skimpy, tight shorts. Now the problem was, I didn't like Greg one bit. He was what we call a CUB (cashed up bogan) and worse, was delighting in using his two young boys as pawns in increasingly unpleasant speaker-phone fights with his ex-wife).

Around this time, I started seeing Chris, the ill-fated locksmith, and one night he came around for dinner and stayed over. Well, the next day I wandered into the kitchen and got a HUGE dressing down from Greg, who thundered sayings like "not under my roof" and "who the hell is that guy anyway - he's no friend of mine". Clearly not. Anyway, after that things got a little erratic and before you know it, Greg was doing weird things like hiding my food, throwing my cat food bowl over the side fence and being slightly aggressive. I decided ol' Greg wasn't quite all there and decided to investigate his background ... only to discover that his wife had left him after considerable beatings!! Well, it was time to high-tail it out of there, so I moved out and moved in with ...

Cam. "He's a bit grumpy, but you'll be all right," said my friend Mal, who was vacating to go and live in Perth. Relieved to be freed from the Greg shackles, I was moving my stuff in when Cam saw the cat cage. "What the fuck is that?" he said. "My cats - they're really cute," I said hopefully. He shook his head. "Well, they're not coming inside here - I can't stand cats," he said, and went inside and slammed the door. Turns out Cam is not "a bit grumpy" but slightly pathological. He turns out to be an embittered musician with no friends who drinks to drunk in front of the TV each night while I hide in my room and try to avoid pissing him off. I set to cleaning the disgusting unit I have found myself in, which has dirt, grease and stains ingrained in every surface, before finally giving in after weeks. Cam tolerates me for a couple of months, but when I decide to break up with Chris (his friend) he takes to ignoring me altogether and even leaving the room when I come in to watch TV! Unless he is drunk and then he will happily spout forth about what a shit place the world is. One night I go to a barbeque and meet ....

Jonathan. Now JP is old and a bit fat and fuddy-duddy but seems all right and he offers me a room on the spot. The house is absolutely gorgeous and has a giant boab planted right in the middle of it, next to a luscious pool. I'm in! Except ... he hate cats. "I suppose I can tolerate them," he sniffs. I pack up my stuff - by now Cam had decided to move to Queensland, where he is probably wreaking havoc on the locals - and having failed to see the writing on the wall, settle myself in. We have a few weeks of harmonious living - where I am instructed not to keep my pots and pans in his cupboard, not to have too many vegetables in the fridge and not to stock up the freezer - and then he goes away for a month. Bliss! My pad is the hot ticket in town for six weeks, with regular barbecues and pool parties.

I am chilled out, relaxed and settled right in when JP returns from Scotland in a bad mood. Believe me, the place was spotless. Over several days, his mood deteriorates. "You're only renting a room, not a whole house," he mutters, when I am cooking in the (sole) kitchen one night. "You didn't bleach the bins while I was away," he snaps, "and turn that bloody noise off," when I play some music quietly in my room. Then the cats eat something small and native and it is all over. "I can't live with bloody cats so you're going to have to do something with them, or you're going to have to go," he growls. "And I have told you about your pots and pans - I want my kitchen to be how I want it."

I am stunned. I have to move out again!! I cry briefly but then shake myself a bit and realise it's not the end of the world, however annoying. After several weeks of stressing I meet ...

Peter. And he's ace. A quiet, relaxed country boy who's not too messy and not too clean and who even has dinner ready for me when I get home occasionally. And we are both leaseholders - so the house is half mine. And ... we have a spare room, but no spare bed, so bring a swag!

There's loads more to these characters and next time you see me, ask me to do some impressions and I'll willingly act out some scenes from my ridiculous life. Look how much I've rambled about houses! On to boys. I am getting far too fussy in my old age ... New Zealand lasted less than two weeks. Sure, he was fun - if you didn't count the misogynistic, somewhat racist, idiotic nature of what came out of his mouth. I'm ashamed to admit that I succumbed to his charms purely on the basis of his huge muscles, tanned skin, green eyes and luscious lips. Sigh. But my brain caught up far too quickly and I was forced to give him the boot after telling him that I found him ignorant and ill-informed. The odd German backpacker is appearing on the streets so I may have far more exciting stories to tell in that department soon ...

The other big news is that I can run for 30 minutes without stopping and not drop dead - in fact, I can sort of stroll off the treadmill, take a few deep breaths and I'm sorted. That may not sound like much to sporty types but for me it is both an achievement of a long-held goal and a testament to the fact that I'm sticking to my new year's resolutions. I go to the gym at least four days a week now and do boxing on two other days so I am getting pretty fit. And I'm still not drinking! Wonders will never cease. I feel like a salmon swimming upstream in Broome - I swear beer instead of water comes out of the taps here.

Being energetic these days, I have found time to start unfurling my wings and get stuck into being an active part of the Broome community. In the next 12 months, I am part of groups organising a Tibetan Buddhist sand mandala (an amazing five day meditation/art project; volunteering at the Shinju Matsuri Festival of the Pearl; trying to get a writers' festival up and running in Broome; and in charge of organising the second Pink Party for breast cancer, which will hopefully be a big gig. Uh oh - that looks like quite a lot now I've written it down - especially when I have just reignited my freelancing career (I am SO poor) and advertised my services to locals as an "award-winning editor, copy writer and proof reader". You'll find me buried underneath a pile of paper ...

Oh, and I'll be applying for cadetships again mid-year ... I could live here forever, truth be told, but my career calls me from distant shores. I hope to make a fortune, enough to come back here, buy a house and write lots of books!