When best friends get married, and bridesmaids overdose on shimmer gel.

Wedding day, yaaay! I'm the blonde at the back.

An old friend of mine got married two weeks ago – the first of my most inner circle of childhood friends to don the dress and cut the cake.  It was a surreal experience, one that I couldn’t attach to any sort of reality even while in the midst of it standing with the other bridesmaids grinning for photos.  While the two of us never went so far as to attach pillowcases to our heads and walk through our homes, garden-picked flowers in hand; we had talked about boys and kids and marriage, but always with a whimsical air of fantasy that came from a sort of invisible understanding that all of this was light years ahead  of us.  Throughout her reception, it felt like she had staged an elaborate game of make-believe for us…and while I ate my seared lamb with baby snow peas, drank delightful champagne cocktails, and even while I gave a speech from the front of the reception hall – I was half expecting her mother to burst in asking

Do you girls want some juice?  Have you eaten yet?

and my friend to answer, harassed;

Oh Muuuuum.  You’re so embarrassing!  We’re fiiiine…

before we laughed a little about parents and went back to our game.

Of course, the reception remained uninterrupted by bedroom-barging parents; and my friend’s wedding went off without any of the traditional mishaps or logistical difficulties that scare to-be brides.

The day went so smoothly in fact (punctuated sporadically by mini sandwiches, vanilla champagne and the arrival of the photographers) that the only moment of panic we experienced was caused by something as inconsequential as a tube of gold body shimmer:

So relaxed were we; so painted of nail, curled of hair and smoothed of skirt that we decided it would be a fun idea to give our Anglo-skinned selves a holiday sheen…just a lick of course.  And so, fifteen minutes before leaving to go to the church, we cracked out the gel shimmer, and began applying it liberally to all exposed surfaces.  Reactions from the bride’s brothers were so positive (“Oh you guys look so tanned and beachy!” ) that we decided to partake in a little more, then a little more…until, at the moment of departure signaled by the bride’s father, we looked down to see that we had created a streaky mess about the calves more befitting a middle-aged, solarium-going ex-beach bunny rather than three young bridesmaids.  In the white-ribboned car on the way to the church, we debated whether the streakage was noticeable from afar.  Close up, horror.  But from far away, perhaps not?  In the end, I decided that the idea of striding down the aisle with legs like those was not a risk worth taking, and so, with no way of bathing before arriving at the church; I had to devise a method of shimmer removal with what was available to me in the backseat.  This turned out to be a sponge-bath in the form of a small hand towel, and the rain from the windows from a massive, yet short-lived downpour we’d experienced that morning.  Odd.  But it worked like a charm.  Legs again alabaster…down the aisle we went.

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Here and not there. Reflections on the utter randomness our birthplace.

Today in a coffee shop, alone and enjoying cup of caffeine and a moment before work started, I felt something that I hope to remember and feel on a more regular basis.

Extreme gratitude and humble thanks.

Not for a good-hair day, or a particularly well-made coffee, pay day or even spending time with friends.

But for being alive and unoppressed.

For not being in fear when I walk the streets.

For being able to choose who I may one day marry.  Or if I will at all.

For the fact that Australian women, while sometimes underpaid and not yet enjoying complete equality, are not discriminated against en masse.

This has all been spurred on by the fact that I’m reading A Thousand Splendid Suns…and today the story got real.

For those who have not read it, I won’t describe events here…suffice to say that being a woman in Afghanistan under Taliban rule was akin to being a cockroach in any modern home.

That a society would discriminate and persecute another group has not been what’s shocked me about this book.  Of course, that such discrimination exists is beyond me…but as it has been a recurring theme in human history, it’s not a new concept.  Rather, the shock has come from the fact that such harsh persecution would be inflicted against 50% of the population, in this case, against women.  What benefit can be gained from reducing half the population to the status of house rats, unable to access health services, think, fend for, or express themselves in any possible way?

I was amazed in Hosseini’s The Kite Runner at the descriptions of Afghanistan pre-turmoil.  A place where fields teemed with crops, bowls with dates, and people lived.  The conflicts began when I was very small and have continued until so recently, that my image of Afghanistan was never wide enough to encompass the notion that it could ever have been a place nearing normalcy.  And through the eyes of the media during the past years, I never grasped how life would have been for women, children, husbands and families.

The brilliance and atrocities the human race is capable of are astounding.

But I live in Australia.  I’ll be able to direct my own life and I am not far off in supposing that my greatest concerns will be earning enough to afford to collect the adventures I hope to.

And today, I remembered that this is a pretty awesome situation to be in.

Happy.

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Thoughts in the year that I am half my mother’s age

If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to take a moment to discuss ageing.

Not the idea of ageing in an Andie Macdowell, tossing-her-hair-and-batting-her-eyes-in-yet-another-air-brushed-ad for L’Oréal sense.  Not that sense, but rather, a more bemused one.

This afternoon, I was driving around with Mum, where at a point not long after hopping in the car, she asked me to duck out again to post a letter.  As I was getting out, she called after me:

“All this flooded in January, you know?”

Now, as a side note to anyone not from these parts, in January 2010 Brisbane flooded badly and in many parts without following the watermark of our previous worst flood in the 70s.  As a result, a great deal of people were taken by surprise, or flooded a second time.  We were ok, but not too far away at all, our neighbours weren’t.

(me cracking up) “Yes, I know, you tell me every time we’ve gone past here.”

“Really?”

This started a conversation (really, more me talking at her) wherein I related all the other moments in recent history where she’d repeated the same story to me.

It’s not that her mind’s going at all, of course.  In fact at 52, her personality is just as sharp and bubbly as I remember it when I was five, eight, 16 and 20.  More so even, as now in the year that I am half her age, we are friends as well as being mother/daughter.  We can now laugh with (and at!) each other, instead of me simmering in that self-indulged-but-very-close-to-tearing-up way that adolescents will at the unfairness of life and of her decisions that negatively impacted upon mine.

So no, she’s not pushing any sort of fearful age.  But it was funny (to me!) just because she was behaving as do the elderly – and in a moment’s notice I had images of her on a bus stop in 30 years talking the ear off a teenager.

To her credit, Mum took my giggling at her in very mature stride, although at a certain point did quickly remind me that this would all befall me one day.  At which point, I stashed away that little moment of jocularity, as the idea of that leaves me feeling like I’ve just gotten out of an icy bath.

Though, the scary and weird thing is that in recent months I’ve noticed bits and bobs in myself have changed.  Like, the fact that I’ll not irregularly find myself at a friend’s house; or in restaurant, or indeed, stopped out of choice in front of a homewares store; exclaiming something to the effect of “…well what a lovely glass, platter, bowl.”

Rewind only two years, and we’re already in a past life where these were not utterances I ever thought I’d make.

Other too-grown-up things which Me Two Years ago wouldn’t have imagined thinking include:

*  I should really send out Christmas cards.

*  I must ask so-and-so how she made that gorgeous sauce!

*  Would dill go well in this?

*  Should really get a tea set.

*  That edge really needs whipper-snippering.

*  Nothing’d be more amazing right now than a glass of wine and a book.

However, other things that I have found flitting across my mind reassure me that proper, fully-fledged adulthood is still a few lessons away.  And well before dementia, huzzah!

*  $25 is too much for a main course, surely?

*  Shoulda made 2013 the end date of my fake student card to avoid Brisbane’s criminal public transport prices.

*  How do you turn on a lawnmover?

*  Crap, I think I’m just gonna do another loop of the block to avoid doing that reverse park while that car’s watching me.

*  Thank the gods that anecdote taught me what stamp duty was.  I was getting embarrassed to ask.

I think the lesson may just be:  nothing stays the same, so enjoy the ride and keep on learning…

…and to remember which stories you’ve told people!

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A hill, just outside Mt. Barney National Park, QLD.

I went hiking in Mt. Barney National Park today, with two old university friends.  We live in Brisbane – a city not famous for being amazing in itself, but for being close to lots of amazing things – and we’ve decided to begin cultivating a love and appreciation for as many of those things as possible.

Starting with hikes and camp sites.

Our mission was to get to the Lower Portals (a gorge-like site with rock pools and wallabies) which we did, albeit a little late, as we’d accidentally climbed up part of the more difficult and unmarked South Ridge; giving us the time to have lunch, and me the time to bump my head on a flyaway branch while jumping rocks and contemplating the life of Steve Jobs.

We stayed several hours and were swimming in the pool formed at the base of several smooth, sheer granite blocks, when our mate was stung by the still kicking stinger of a recently drowned bee while attempting to scramble up a small, slippery boulder.  As he had been allergic to bees last time he’d checked (20 years ago: aged 5), we freaked out sufficiently enough to realise that help was an hour’s hike away and none of the party had an EpiPen, nor knew anything about dealing with allergic reactions.  And so, breathing quickly, we skidaddled outta that pool and hopped our way over the rocks and back to the path.  Luckily within ten minutes, it became clear that nothing was swelling, colouring or tightening; but by that time a bank of clouds which had been threatening to rain on our parade did finally start to look more menacing that we wanted.  And so we headed back up the hill, piled into the car and began to drive out.

Back on the road, celebrating the fact that our friend had not carked it due to anaphylactic shock, and realising that we needed a warm up to counteract the freezing effects of the wet boots we’d suffered from a rock pool mishap or two, we decided to head to a roadside joint for coffee.

But first, the now-broken sky gave us a visual treat.  It was looking decidedly grey and disgruntled at this point and soon took a big enough breath to begin splattering the landscape with fat, cold raindrops. Huddled into my seat, I settled back to watch the spectacle of the skies over the green plains, dotted with gums.

The sky at the horizon took on a ominously blackish shade, like disagreement settling over someone’s face, surging up from behind a hill in front of us and lighting its profile against the twilight sky, creating a play of dark grey, moss green, brilliant, fluorescent green, silver sky and the slim, black trunks of gums sliding up and down the hill’s slanted sides.

Gaped at it.

Happy.

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A ridiculously massive ice cream, Rosalie.

I’m not traditionally much of an ice cream person.  I’d usually rather scarf something naughty and savoury, given the chance.  But sometimes, the idea of ice cream is like life itself, like a beam of light that shines through the clouds while some sort of god-like creature looks down and thunders:  Eat This Creation.

I had lunch with a friend today, my oldest one, with whom I caught guppies in the creek below her house, buried a time capsule at the turn of the millenium, obsessed about boys before either of us had ever been kissed, and jumped off her garage roof.

She’s now married and has spat out a kid, a gorgeous little peach called Michael who’s given her the sort of hell that only a six monther can dish out on a first time mum.

We chewed over life and Vietnamese food, championing my newly adopted vegetarianism with tofu and prawns (fine, I’m still eating seafood – give me a minute to adjust!).  Feeling not yet stuffed, we ambled down to the nearby ice creamery and joined the queue of families, young kids and teens still dripping from pool parties in their backyards.

Here, the fun began.

This is the sort of ice creamery where you not only order ice cream, but also things which can be crushed into it.  Wondrous things, like fudge, Tim Tams, jellies, brownies, chocolate bars and syrupy fruit.  I imagine that the god-like creature mentioned above would call in the help of an entire herald of angels, miniature cheruby babies and rainbowed doves to proclaim the joys of this treat.

Mine was white chocolate ice cream slash caramel fudge huddled next to a Caramello Koala smashed into Milo ice cream.  In a waffle cone.  My eyes lit up like a five year old’s upon beholding it.

Ate it.

Happy.

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Not getting up to exercise, my room.

I’m not usually one to champion taking the greasy, slobby option and not moving.  Don’t misunderstand, I’m not a fitness freak, but I am outdoorsy and interested in exercise for health’s sake.  When given the chance, I like to do something, especially if that activity is walking, running, swimming or hiking, being repetitive enough to allow me to wallow in my own thoughts.  I actually feel that my grey matter functions better when my body is busy and forgets that I’m thinking.  In fact, I’m starting to wonder if my brain is in fact a clockwork sort of device powered by a little man on an old exercise bike…who’s wearing an old Robin Hood style hat and looking mildly displeased…but of course that’s another story.

Anyway, at sparrow fart this morning as my alarm shrieked shrilly next to my ear, I chose horizontality.  And loved it.

I’d slept really quite badly the night before; all waking up at a moment’s notice, discomfort and general unrest.  No interesting dreams to report, sadly, just a rocky night’s sleep for no reason.  Perhaps my internal body clock was aware that I’d set the alarm for 5.20am to walk/perhaps jog before going to work.

In any case, when it did finally go off screaming, I realised that today (a Monday no less), my inner calm was not going to be served by getting up and on the treadmill.  In fact, my muscles still ached from my hiking adventure and friend’s near near death experience with a bee, as well as my head from the unsightly scratch I’d sustained after having smacked it on an unseen tree branch while contemplating the life of Steve Jobs (see November 26).

And so, laziness was chosen and another 40 minutes of sleep had.

I slept a bit more.

Happy.

PS – I’m going to try for 5.20am again tomorrow.

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Being called by my name by my morning barista, Adelaide St, Brisbane.

Just after graduating from uni, when my chosen career choice still wasn’t paying me in cold hard cash (yay, Creative Industries!), I worked in a coffee shop in Brisbane CBD, a gorgeous, dark wood-panelled haven with polished floors, high stools hugging slender round tables, and an assortment of tea cups, saucers, pots and coffee-making paraphernalia displayed for sale in open cabinets.

This was the sort of caffeine-dispensing nook which received a veritable avalanche of sleepy-eyed customers from 6 – 9.30am, arriving in spurts from nearby Central train station and standing in orderly queues, sometimes out the door, before leaving with a mug of sustenance for a busy day ahead, and a conversation or a laugh from us behind the counter.

We had six types of milk to choose between (in Australia, asking for a soy latte does not necessarily a wanker  make), when ordering any of your regular cuppa joes, as well as a few house specials.  Not to mention the sugary, chocolately or fruity frappé concoctions that people would invariably ask for; a questionable early-morning habit, if you asked me.

Being an attractive sort of place, with house-roasted beans and a head barista who could chew your ear off with delectable anecdotes, people would return.  Regulars abounded.  It was the sort of place where you’d know whose kids were acting up, who’d recently bought a house, who’d met someone cute on the weekend, whose boss was an arsehole.   Where you’d see ‘Miranda’ a little way down the street, and start preparing her large-no-foam-double-strength-decaf-mocha-on-skinny-soy so that it was ready when she’d arrive.  (No joke on the drink choice there!)

Suffice to say, we knew a lot about our customers, and seeing them every morning acted as a little daily reunion.  Slash, gossip fest.

Now, I work in a different location that does not involve steaming milk, nor gossiping with caffeine-addicted customers.  However, I am becoming one of the latter myself.

I’ve started frequenting a sweet little fair trade coffee cart right outside the door to my building, run by the happiest early morning crew I’ve seen since leaving my old nook.  I swear, these people must get together and snort pure rainbows each morning, as at a time when most of us are still growling about being up at all, they’ve already dished out crema topped wonders to a horde of under-slept office staff, iPad blazing business people and hungover students.

Today, they called me by my first name.

I’m IN.  It’s welcoming being on this side of the coffee machine too, it seems.

Heard it.  Responded in turn by name.

Happy.

 

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Nuts in a salad, lunchtime, work.

Possibly a week ago, I decided to try what I’d been thinking a fair bit about trying my hand at; and became a vego.

Of course, I should probably re-phrase seven days ago to five; as last Friday in a post work haze of the sort where one’s caffeine high’s well worn off, and glucose levels are hovering somewhere several floors below rock bottom; I tumbled into the hole in the wall sushi joint nearby, ordered, and didn’t realise until half way though one of my energy giving and mood enhancing sushi rolls that I was eating kagagee chicken…I’d just ordered my regulars, ya see.

Well, we’ll get there soon enough.  Though currently, as such a piddly bit of time’s passed, I’m feeling a lil’ fake about calling myself a vego.  Though now that I think about it, at dinner a Chinese restaurant the other day I did experience my first “No, much as I love the sociality of a lazy susan, I can’t share my meal with you fine people, as I no longer eat anything previously warm blooded.”  And I got the requisite ahhhh, she’s a veggie, look to match.  So I feel like soon enough, I’ll belong in this little club…having perhaps pissed off more of my friends in the process.

Today however, a colleague introduced me to a small wonder, an immediate punch to hunger pains, a concept henceforth known as tip-a-few-nuts-in-your-salad.

In my pre-veggie opinion, nuts had always been something to be eaten in bars out of bowls whose cleanliness would be best scrutinised.  Or consumed while half way up a mountain.  Or as a cheap nic-nac served by students claiming that “some food will be served” at their BYO house party.  However, I now recognise the error of my ways.

Nuts in salads kick all sorts of ass!  Protein subedón, it’s not cheese, and the combination looks damn snazzy too – almost like you could sell your humble lunchtime salad in a hipster little café run by a slim, jeans cuffs up/flannel shirted guy with ironic facial hair.

I’m sold.  Now just gotta go and buy some pumpkin seeds, as well as all manner of additional seeds of the innumerable things preferred by vegos that I don’t even know the names of yet.  (Spelt for one.  What is that even?)

Got a new food idea.

Happy.

 

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The quite shocking book I’m reading, and little ritual of reading it each morning, balcony at work.

Just before packing up my Spanish lifestyle and leaving Madrid, I bought a book which caught my attention in a local department store.  Called La Última Mujer de Australia (The Last Woman in Australia), it grabbed my attention firstly because the subject matter seemed so familiar (home land) but upon closer inspection, because it depicts a notion so completely alien and horrendous that I shudder when I think of it.

Written by a Spanish man with an obviously fairly colourful interest in Australia, it tells us of a version of the Great South Land some decades in the future, when a virus has taken over the continent, affecting the entire male population – apart from a few who are inexplicably immune – and turning them into homicidal maniacs bent on systematically annihilating all women.  Not exactly light reading.

Of course, interwoven throughout the story (and indeed because of such gruesome subject matter), there are sub-themes a-plenty at work.

Are we really alone when push comes to shove?  What causes and how can we reduce domestic violence?  Should we be legitimately afraid of epidemics (originating in animals or otherwise) or do the media and our politicians try their darndest to generate fear?  How in contact are we with the previously ‘natural’ human senses such as community, instinct and survival.  How would we react, help and organise ourselves if our country was hit with a crisis as large as civil war or genocide?

Despite the gore, I’m now well enjoying this book after experiencing a rocky start (it’s in Spanish and so I’ve got to focusssss).  But I do particularly love reading it as doing so means that I’ve planned my classes for the morning, thus deeming myself worthy of a strong coffee from the chipper, chirpy, chap at my local, and a literary sojourn on the balcony of my school.

The 30 minute zone out did me wonders today.  And not least because after following my protagonist through the war torn streets of Wagga Wagga to freedom, the soon-to-be-lit Christmas tree in the plaza below me allowed my mind to go off on a journey though the other books I’ll be asking Santa for this Chrissie.

Engrossed in a story and ohhhhh man; very pleased indeed that it’s fictional.

Happy.

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Realising I hadn’t actually broken my phone, 10.35am, work.

One Friday morning, I was particularly happy.  (A phrase in which ‘Friday’ is the operative word and usually in no small way contributes to one’s happiness.)

This particular morning, I was flitting through the office before going down to the coffee cart for my fix.  I’m often found flitting around coffee o’clock, singing the praises of my destination so sweetly that I end up with a couple of extra orders to boot.  Post caffeine hunter-gathering, I came back, expertly balancing mine and my colleague’s fix atop my shocking book (Dec 1st), which was also serving as a support for a container of rice crackers, my phone and two nectarines.  Depositing a coffee on the front desk for the receptionist, I wavered as I scooped up my belongings, looking down in time to see a nectarine threatening to go rolling towards a squishy demise off the desk’s end.  As I’d previously almost lost the same one upon collecting my coffees in the first place; I was swift and saved it in one fell swoop…

…but not deft enough.  Cue phone crashing onto the shiny white tiles below.

Still excited in my caffeine deprived state about soon being able to drink my concoction, I didn’t really register what had happened.

“Haha, I saved a nectarine and dropped a blackberry!” I quipped, thinking my fruity comment witty.  The receptionist smiled politely.

Not receiving any texts or missed calls that day didn’t bother me.  I’m not Angelina Jolie after all, and people may not always need to talk to me.

But the next day when a plan to go out was taking foreverrrrrrrrrr to be arranged, and my yo-biatch-when-are-we-meeting text wouldn’t send, I was a bit sus.  Then more so, when several calls (fine, mostly from my mother) ‘hadn’t come through’.

A call to Optus and ten minutes of conversation with a call centre girl with a excruciatingly high-pitched Boston accent confirmed that I’d have to go into a store to have my SIM tested against another phone.  Which I did, this morning, to no preferred avail.

“Yeah, it’s the handset.  We sell them here for $150.  Ummmm, yeah.  Can’t tell ya much else.”

The Angel and Devil on my shoulder promptly began to argue.

Devil:  “That’s not actually too expensive.  Aren’t Blackberries the phone of choice for haughty, snobby businessmen?”

Angel:  “Oi.  $150 IS a lot to you of late.  And anyway, you know we got that Blackberry for free from Marco after he didn’t need it.  And we felt bad enough then about joining the smart phone crew that we didn’t even get the internet connected until the other week.”

Devil:  “But this is your chance to get an iphone.  An IPHONE.  You know you’re the last person not to have one of those.  And besides, Marco didn’t want the Blackberry ’cause he already had an iphone.”

Angel:  “Yeah, but he’s a posh, tech-ed up European.  Couldn’t we just chuck the SIM in any old Nokia 5110 to be able to make calls and receive texts, which is what a phone is for anyw- – -?”

Devil:  (hissing) “Iphhhhhhhhhone…”

My shoulder companions went on like this for some time, until, on the way to class I decided to make a call one more time just to see.

And got connected.

Excusing myself disjointedly for having called for no reason at all, Angel rejoiced and Devil cursed.

But I’m going to side with Angel.

Still connected and slightly more cashed up than I might have been.

Happy.

PS:  Now, what can I spend that $150 on??

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Making it to a Skype date despite infuriating transport options, train, bus and later, my bed.

I arranged to meet a friend on Skype this afternoon, a far flung friend and ex-flatmate from my hiatus in Barcelona, who’s now living in Berlin.  I miss her verrrrry much, not least because of her idiosyncratic weirdisms like her penchant for German boys, posh little British accent, thinking it was acceptable to eat pasta followed by potatoes at 11pm or her scary-bitch like way of requesting that her tea be made according to what seems to have been a rigid method passed down through generations of Somerset farmers.  No, especially because of the fact that we formed two of an amazing living situation of three, and that each time two of the three talk, there’s still the memory of the third.

The third in this equilateral triangle is Kelsey, native of Seattle, who’s own personal oddities included a fondness for sitting on the couch with an apple, block of cheese and a knife; cutting chunks off each, eating them together and calling it dinner.  Never getting flustered about anything, ever.  Also, her relationship with her almost-human laptop, Hewey P.  But especially her and my laughable passion for learning by heart the lyrics of cheesy Spanish language pop songs and singing them loudly over glasses of wine.

Mandy and I arranged a skype date today at my 5pm; a time that I was pleased with both for seeming possible to achieve and for not being the wintery 8am she’d have to deal with.  But then there I was, post work at 4.17pm, eight minutes away from getting on my train, 50 away from the bus that would take me from station to bus stop before the final 10 between bus stop and home.

At that point, making our date on time did not seem plausible.  Nor would it prove to be.

Brisbane is a city which grew exponentially during the 80s and 90s, to the point where city planners realised too late that what would have  made getting oneself from A to B less soul shattering would have been a New York style Metro.  Unfortunately, plans were never laid and it’s now very much a car city: as buses take at least 40 minutes to get to the city centre, and trains stations don’t enjoy regular connections to the suburbs after peak hour.  Thus, as I am carless, each afternoon at 5pm when waiting for my bus to arrive and take me from the station to that point a ten minute walk from home, I experience a wave of fresh, warm frustration at the tardiness and general irregularities of Brisbane’s train/bus connections.  As well as an almost irresistible urge to use my own electronic transport ticket to gouge my eyeballs out in protest of the same.

Luckily, due to the wonder (as well as sometime source of fear) that is the plethora of choices one has for making contact with loved ones, in the 68 minute journey from 4.17pm to doorstep, I’d informed the still sleeping Mandy of my lateness via voicemail, SMS, personal facebook message and comment on my own wall…and we managed to meet only a half hour late to chat animatedly in the time slot we had before she started work; outlining briefly (if not peripherally) the comings and goings of our lives as ex-flatties.

It would only have been made better with the addition of Kelsey, who’s wish to “rash” our conversation was cut off by the even more ridiculous time difference existing between Brisbane and Seattle.

(I’m not sure what “rash” means, but I’ll practise what I preach to my own students, and work out the meaning from context!)

Made it home without scooping my eyeballs out with a plastic card.

Wait, I mean,

talked to an old friend.

Happy.

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