Friday, January 29, 2010


In actual fact I am meant to be hard at work on a scene breakdown (and I am, people connected to the tv show, I AM) but I pause (briefly) because the mail came in today (as indeed it does everyday, rain hail blah blah) and I discovered that amongst the bills and bank statements was an envelope from a notable face cream company containing a handful of product samples.

Ignoring the fact that the majority appeared to be skewed towards Wrinkly Skinned Old Mothers I felt pleased and rather special, as indeed I always do when I score free stuff. 

When I Mrs Merino-ed for the Sydney Royal Easter Show way back in those carefree, childfree, jobfree days, both myself and Mr Merino, (My writerpal "George", not C who hated the Show and was only donning a full body sheep costume *gasp* for the money) lived for the opportunity to receive all manner of brightly coloured plastic crap purely because we were 'Show Royalty' and we were special. 

In fact, not satisfied with being simply handed cheap gewgaws and useless brikabrack, "George" and I took to combing the empty seats at the free outdoor concerts in the hopes of finding showbag goodies that had either been forcibly discarded by sensible young people or simply left, by the lazy teens of today (a decade ago). Ah, the good old days. I still have, somewhere, a plastic ruler snatched up from the ground in the aftermath of a Silverchair concert. It's probably stained with vomit or at the very least illicit alchohol, but who cares, IT WAS FREE.

I'm glad to say this very very attractive attribute has not left me, even as the mother of a three and a half year old with an obvious need for heavy duty face creams. Towards the end of last year I even started entering online competitions with the full expectation of winning my entire stock of Christmas gift needs. Nephews, husband, child, parents in law, stepsister's boyfriend...all would be delighted with their unusual, handpicked presents, many of which would be emblazoned with advertising and probably still in envelopes still addressed to me, if I ran out of time to actually buy wrapping paper.

Ho ho ho. I'm afraid to say I did not win a single item. Very disappointing. Is it me, I wondered. Is it the fact that I'm a mature woman entering all these kids competitions and I include my real age? Perhaps, or perhaps I was not the only cheap bastard on the internet.

I did, however, enjoy the whole 25 words or less thing. It was a bit like Twitter but shorter and you might get rewarded for your creative efforts.  Also, you could do it drunk.

Thus it was when I received my humble batch of hand and neck creams I assumed it was some sort of consolation prize for a long ago entry. I realised after a moment that it was not. It was the result of a complaint. 

Some time back in December I had lashed out and bought one of this company's deodorants - not my usual choice (brand, not deodorant, of course I use deodorant, I may be lazy with actual showering but at least I try and disguise the evidence) and it had turned out to be utter crap. Usually I just bitch about this to my husband and friends until they're bored, but this time I decided that I would NOT let them get away with failing to cover my lack of personal hygiene and I fired off a complaint letter.

Obviously I was polite (I am a passive aggressive after all and we are known for our polite tones and sharpened knives) and I even included the line "Imagine my disappointment" which is my perennial fave line for official letters of complaint. (In fact I may try and work it into the script...I'm JOKING). This, impressively, led to a supermarket discount voucher of roughly twice the price of the original offensive item which I could choose to spend on, say, chocolate (and I did) and also a form letter where I could write more in detail. And so I did, and now I was witnessing the fruits of my labour. It was a grand grand moment.

Not all letters of complaint have been so wildly successful. 

The one to the confectionery company outlining my disdain at the lack of sour worms in the so called 'Party Mix' ("imagine my disappointment!") was met with a polite note back thanking me for my suggestion and promising to pass said suggestion onto Marketing (!) 

The long email composed by an after dinner group regarding the dubious quality of a box of chocolates ("imagine OUR disappointment!") was answered with a phone call from a company representative next morning. Note to readers: do not compose email of complaint and then send, when drunk. In the case of phone call you will be horribly hungover and have no idea what the problem was in the first place and since you were all drunk you ate all the chocolates anyway, dubious or not.

People often whinge about the decrease in letter writing in today's txt message age. Possibly they are referring to the quality of letter writing but I prefer to think that I, with my quaint little missives of disappointment and dismay, am heroically adding to the quantity.

In February I am planning to give up alcohol for the month, ("why does it have to be February Free," one Aquarian friend complained. "Why not Dry July, or Octsober?") and I plan to use any spare brain cells left over from scene breakdowns, first drafts, revisions and whiny emails begging for extensions to really get to grips with the products that fail to come up to my exacting standards.

I note that I have never received an envelope of hand cream sachets from the producers. Imagine my disappointment. Still, it's not impossible to foresee a time when, show being done and dusted and writers asked for feedback for next series I may, possibly, sit down with pen and paper and write a suggestion for perhaps a nice scented facial spray or maybe a really effective foot cream. Writers need all the help they can get.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Blood and shit and earwax.

Erk, every time I leave it too long between posts there's always a scary moment of...lord just what was that password again? Also is trying to open up my blog using my gmail account which is just wrong. Wrong! I think. I'm pretty sure. Actually I've got just enough internet knowledge to be dangerous I've realised. 
Of course I could always PAY for the joys of blogging, there's a mad thought. 

What's driven me to the keyboard is my discussion with my dad yesterday about dear old grumpy grandad. The last times I saw GG (still in the nursing home, still with one leg, still grumpy) I cleaned the suspicious grunge out from under his fingernails and trimmed them and I also scraped the wax out of his hearing aids.


This would lead again to the story of Grandad running after me on the beach with a bucket of water and me shouting "You're a naughty girl Dan Dan." Not a recent story.

SHE CALLED ME A NAUGHTY GIRL, Grandad remarked jovially to C who nodded and smiled back having heard the story many times and being currently occupied with preventing Tricky from lying on the floor and licking the linoleum.

We took Tricky to see him, it was just post Christmas, and an elaborate story was told about how A BIG FAT MAN (pot?Kettle?) IN A RED SUIT POPPED IN TO SAY HELLO AND TELL ME THAT YOU HAD BEEN A VERY GOOD BOY AND HE GAVE ME SOME MONEY TO GIVE TO YOU TO BUY SOME TRAINS.

Dutifully we popped down to Kmart and purchased some trains, two as it turned out. Tricky chose them and let me just insist that I tried to move him towards the more flashy, showy types but he was insistent on these two, identical except for some facial variation and the names printed underneath. We brought them back to show Grumpy Grandis and he was, I could see, a little disappointed.


Yes, I said, but look they're mischievous twins see, Bill and Ben, it's written underneath, and they go with all his other trains...


No, that's right, but did I mention they're twins? Bill and Ben? Mischievous? Very cute...


Around this point I realised that I had screwed myself. Last time Grandad gave Tricky money was for his birthday. It was half the amount of the Christmas money and because TRAINS were the requested present on that occasion I had to 'top up' Grandad's contribution and ended up buying two carriages, the very popular CHICKEN carriage (which squawks when you slide open the door) and EGGS carriage (removeable via fingers or better yet, helicopter). 

This time, I didn't top up. No wonder he saw the twin engine offering as a bit, well, crap.

I realised I had created in my grandfather's head an unreal expectation of the value of TRAINS; his lovely gesture, his intricate story, all rendered just that bit crap because he thought there was enough money for carriages too.

He's very happy with his engines, I pointed out to Grandad. It's a lovely present. 

He seemed unconvinced so I cunningly brought up the one topic of conversation I knew he would get excited about. 

How's your blood sugar levels?


I felt sad about all this of course, but the intricacies of scraping out the hearing aid soon had me focused. Having no suitable tools at hand, I used the wire ring on his bedside locker key, prying it off and then bending it straight and jabbing it down the little plastic tube till blobs of brown started oozing out the end.

I don't know about you but I always find it reassuring to handle someone else's earwax. Even after washing your hands your fingertips retain that greasy feeling. 

And because nothing is simple, when I tried to wash my hands in the bathroom sink I found it was blocked with...dear god in heaven I have no idea. Matter. I tried to pick that out too but it was too disgustingly hopeless, it would be a Tell Nurse Job.

 Grandad was happy when we left. His multi purpose remote control was working properly on his enormous flat screen tv, his hearing aid (freshly scraped and with a new battery inserted) was working 100 PERCENT BETTER NOW and he had the anticipation of next week's optometrist visit. 

This is why, a week or so later, when asking Dad how Grandad was faring, I was unsurprised to hear that the bifocals had been created and were USELESS and the hearing aids similarly so, due to wax build up in his ears. 

And I'm not scraping those out, I told Dad. 

I couldn't bear asking about the sink. It seemed unfair that having got himself into a reasonable state of balance, not happiness exactly, just balance, Grumpy Grandad couldn't enjoy that for longer. 

But perhaps it's relative and that is how everyone's life teeters and totters along. Find the balance. Struggle to keep it.

Life for my Grandad; once wife and house and son and plumbing business and caravan on weekends and galah in a cage and lolloping boxer dog running up and down the hallway. 
Once running, laughing, in dapper hat and shorts, with a blue bucket of water after a little brown skinned granddaughter on a far away beach, is reduced to this; a bed, a leg, a huge flatscreen tv, whisky at night, coffee in the day. 

Blood and shit and earwax.

Friday, January 15, 2010


So that's it then. 
That's Christmas done and New Year too and the last of the summer holidays uncurling before us. The weather is by turns spitefully hot and indifferently cold and we sneeze and sweat and fumble our way through the days and wonder when the work and the yoga classes and the preschool starts again, and there's all that gathering tax receipts and marking of new drinkbottles and delousing of still-long-curly-hair. 

Tricky had a completely wonderful Christmas. 
Two completely wonderful Christmases actually because C's parents were staying with us so he had a Big Boy Cousins/Gramma and Papa/uncleK/ auntyN type Christmas and then we went to my parents place and had a teeny girl cousin/many many aunts and uncles/aphwa and poppy type Christmas. 

At the age of 3 and 5 months this was actually Tricky's 4th Christmas but for the other three he was asleep, screaming or perplexed. 

Last year, to be fair, he did learn that the package wasn't just the exciting thing, you could actually remove the pretty coloured paper and discover something else inside. Like a large wooden structure and several bright metal cars. Last year some of his aunties and uncles got together to give him Uncle Paul's Garage Experience. This involved a plywood garage previously owned by, ahem, Uncle Paul, made for him many years ago by his dad, and now, repainted and fitted out with teeny tiny slightly suspicious looking garage attendants, and frequented by a great and impressive range of vehicles. As I type I can look out and see Uncle Paul's Garage, just by the farm and on the right side of the railway tracks. Cars and what appears to be a tiger are lined up for the superior handlings they know they will get from Slightly Suspicious Garage Attendant. This is a toy that gives and gives.

This year Tricky was given a great and wonderful array of items, some were things he asked for (cottoning on from his cousins that a time of bountiful goodness was on its way - depending on whether he was naughty or nice) and some were not. 

I could bag on here about his favourites, the things that made his head spin and his eyeballs bulge (toy computer-like mummy and daddy, scooter and helmet - like Little Friend Sebastian) but why bother, Christmas is really for grownups since it's their money being spent and their livers being pounded by all that mulled wine and plum pudding vodka. 

Here's what I loved best: the wooden chocolate set (because it's so cute when he takes the box around and chooses one for you) the wooden sushi set(because I think I have a thing for toy food and maybe I wanted all that when I was that age and didn't get it, not that sushi had been invented in Werribee at that time but come on what about a wooden smoked cod and mash potato set or a wooden devon and tomato sauce sandwich?), the button accordian - I love it! (Yes it was given to Tricky but I have hidden it from him while I try and work out how to play the theme from Amelie.) This funny wooden car that you pull apart and fit back together in different ways (it feels goooood), the Bugs Life special edition on dvd (those extras, wow! Comes with storyboard!) and on the cornucopia goes, a great swirling, gorging, mass of stuff.

There were other gifts too, things I also loved, probably even more than the wooden sushi set and they didn't come in a box. 
I love that C for the first time in the history of our relationship wanted to get a Christmas tree and then bought one, one blazing hot afternoon, from KMart (a plastic tree being hallmark of both our childhoods) I loved that this would be our family tradition.
I loved that finally I could get out all the decorations I had been hoarding for years and put them on.
I loved that Tricky loved the Christmas tree. 
I loved that he talked to it and he gently examined the decorations and was excited about the bells. 
I loved that he called it a Kissmess Tree and he wished people a Huppy Kissmess.
I loved that he loved the lights and recognised that this was a special time where people come together and are 'huppy'.
And I loved that this was all enough, the tree and the lights and the stories - about Santa and about Baby Jesus and about the people who love him- and this was already enough Kissmess. 

He was very happy and very excited and this was in the weeks before, he had no real idea about the morning, the Santa sack and the presents and the chocolates and the presents and the fizzy drinks and the presents... 

That first present he actually opened (a wooden stiryfry set, yes alright, not nearly as successful)took ages, he savoured the paper and the way it felt beneath his fingertips and then he stared at the box and talked about the pictures and wanted to open it and play with it STRAIGHT AWAY and his father and I, beside him, in our pj's, hopping up and down in excitement saying "oh but what about that one, what about this one?"  

"Christmas is NOT about the package," we try to tell him. "The paper, while pretty, is simply the exterior and it's what's on the inside that counts...oooh! Is that an accordian?!"

It's well into January now but there is still a weeny teeny touch of Christmas left in the house.

 C in his frenzy of post yule cleanliness packed away, up under the roof, along with the plastic Kissmess Tree, the box that houses my collection of Baby Jesi. This year I had put them all out, all 23 of my Baby Jesus collection. Lining them up, seeing their chubby cheeks and rough looking robes, sorting the very ugly against the very pretty was a meditation of gratitude, a reminder that once, nearly four years ago, I had this collection out permanently, and the only baby I was likely to get would have to be nicked from a nativity set.

"Why did you pack that box away," I shouted at C. "IT WAS EMPTY."
"IT WAS NOT EMPTY," C countered, "I looked in it and there was stuff in there."
"Yes. Yes there was stuff, there was stuff to pack away the BABY JESI! Because they're fragile!" 
I shriek this with the grace of a banshee and, oddly, C declines to get the box.

Cue much huffing and sulking and C feeling hard done by and me determined not to be the one to get into the roof and find that damn box. 
Yes I can get tissue paper and yes I could use another box but that's the box I always used for the baby Jesi, the strikingly ugly red and gold present with garishly fake ribbon on top. 

It's a box that says FESTIVE! and CELEBRATE! and FREAKY! but more than that it's a box I have used for over four years and in this day and age that's a tradition.

The contents may well be precious and meaningful, but in my heart I know, the package counts.