Our home is mirth by sea

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AUSTRALIA Day. Race 12. 4.45pm. And The Global Goddess is off and racing. Problem is, I can’t figure out which one she is, among the other critters on the field. I’m at my first cockroach races at Brisbane’s Story Bridge Hotel and have paid $10 to name and race a cockroach. But The Global Goddess doesn’t stand a chance against the tough boys like “Campbell’s a cock head” and “Keep your cock in your pants” and I never see her again. Just like the time I paid $60 for a lizard at the Eulo Lizard Races in the Outback. Oh, the frilly ran alright, straight out of the ring and into the Aussie desert, and like my $60, never to be seen again.
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Australians love a wager and we’ll bet on anything. Some say it’s our ragged spirit, borne from living in the harshest country on earth. As I write this, a tornado rages around me. Last week it was the sickening stench of drought. I’ve spent this morning deciding in which room I might need to shelter later, and whether I need to do my hair and make-up in case a handsome emergency volunteer arrives to save me in the midst of the fury. And who said you can’t find someone while hiding under your bed?
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But it’s exactly this rough and tumble of the land that I love. Whenever I’ve lived overseas, it’s the early-morning and late afternoon cackle of the kookaburra I miss the most. The punctuation mark on my day. Others hate the nagging crows. I adore them. They’re brusque and ballsy. I love how the summer rain tap dances on the hot tin roof of my timber cottage. The imperfect knots in the wood of my bare floor boards. I ache for the smell of the ocean when I’m stuck in a foreign city. Salt air you could eat sprinkled on a bucket of hot chips. Coconut sunscreen you could drink. Sticky mango fingers. Real waves that dump you, thrash you around and pick you up again. Just like this harsh land.
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In her latest book Honestly, Notes on Life, novelist and columnist Nikki Gemmell writes of returning to Australia after living in England. “Life is about wringing the most happiness we can out of our time on Earth, and for me that means old mates and family and land and beauty – a spiky, prickly, ravishing Australian beauty, not that soft, benign, European one. Under a replenishing sun.” Her words make my soul do a somersault. Lost and lonely sometimes in foreign lands, I wonder if I’m the only weirdo who feels sentimental and soppy for the Southern Cross.
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Knowing all this, who wouldn’t want to live here? And so this Australia Day long weekend I turn my thoughts, yet again, to boat people. I’m stunned when Australians who claim to love this country turn their backs on asylum seekers. Like they’ve forgotten how their own families arrived in the Great Southern Land. For me, it was five generations ago, via a perilous three-month boat journey from Europe. My adventurous Great, Great Grandfather Christian and his brave wife Amelia boarded the Susannah Godfrey in search of a new land and a better life for their family. I am direct descendent of a boat person. Who am I to deny any other family the same privilege of living in Australia?

My Great, Great Grandparents, Christian and Amelia

My Great, Great Grandparents, Christian and Amelia

And yet, somehow Aussies do. It’s what I call the ugly Australian. Devoid of compassion, insight and education. There’s a nasty rumour doing the rounds of Ipswich that the Sudanese refugee population receives $30,000 upon arrival in Australia. The ugly Australian is outraged. Frankly, if I had my way, they’d receive $100,000 to start a new life, away from the ravages of war, rape and the kind of hunger we will never imagine. Yet the ugly Australian resents these beautiful shiny black people who have suffered so much, they’ve relinquished their homeland.

So, enough. The time has come to accept we are global citizens and all the responsibilities that come with that privilege. Or before too long, Australia will not be our home of mirth by sea, but the laughing stock of the world.

My First Fast

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IN a bid to challenge my consumption on both an environmental and health level, yesterday I partook in my first food fast. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. She’s clawing her way one step closer to becoming a miu miu wearing hippy. While this may be my ultimate goal in life, I really did want to see how my body and mind would react to limiting my food intake to that of a child. 

I was inspired to do this by a story in The Weekend Australian which talks about a new program known as intermittent fasting (IF). Under this plan, on two alternate days a week you essentially limit your daily intake to 2720 kilojoules for women (a little more for men), allowing your body to restore and recover.

While it’s still in its infancy, the “diet” is receiving rave reviews for its ability to reduce the chances of things like cancer, as it works on the premise that while we are always burning food fuel, our bodies don’t have time to actually repair. Followers also report losing at least 1kg a week.

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So, was it all just a bit kooky like the time my sister and I invested our entire summer spending money in a bottle of Ebony tanning lotion, under the premise we would turn into Whitney Houston? Or did I actually realise some results? Let me also add, I am not someone who normally take photos of her food. Unless you are a food writer or chef, I find it intriguing when a bunch of white, wealthy people in the western world document  everything they eat. (During this fast, you will notice how much everyone talks about food on Facebook. Stay off Facebook. One friend even posted a photo of a keyring that looked like a macaron).

I start the morning with the recommended breakfast: one boiled egg and a cup of black coffee. For someone who heaps two teaspoons of sugar and some milk into her daily Cup of Joe, this was a challenge. I tried to concentrate on the sensation of the coffee. Silky and black and a vessel to wake me up in the morning. A bit like my ideal man. Although I also like my ideal man to be sweet. I take my time and savour the egg, which is delicious, although I just wish there was more of it. Why, God, why, did I choose a normal chook egg and not that of an emu? Meanwhile, I reminisce about the missing piece of toast like a long-lost lover.

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Lunch. At last. I’ve spent the past 4.5 hours since my egg glancing at the clock, counting down like a child would to Christmas. Lunch is a bowl of vegetable soup. Who knew carrots, corn and chickpeas could be a whole world of fun?

The thing that concerns me is my afternoon swim. How on earth am I going to swim 1km on a stomach devoid of carbs? Secondly, if anyone else attempts to share my lane, I’m in such a scratchy mood, I think I might drown them, myself, or both of us. I panic a little. There’s nothing in the story about exercise. Am I meant to do it at all?

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By mid-afternoon, I think I could eat one of the small children I spied at the pool but I’m lucid enough to realise this could result in me losing my Blue Card. I feel like Victoria Beckham – hungry and cranky. I decide to make a cup of Peppermint tea.

Dinner is a veritable feast of 10 cherry tomatoes, half a sliced eggplant (I cheat and buy the biggest I can find), 1 zucchini, 1 red capsicum and half a red onion scattered with basil, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and 1 teaspoon of olive oil and roasted. I think I might burst with glee when I read the recipe also allows for 1 tablespoon of parmesan. I pretend the eggplant is a steak and my sparkling mineral water is a G&T. FoodFast 006

I go to bed slightly earlier, and hungrier than normal. I realise all I’ve thought about all day is food (which is a nice change from men). Funny about what you obsess, when you can no longer have it. But I’ve done it! While I wouldn’t rush to do it again, I have learned something new about food and my attitude towards it. In a world where so many are starving, it’s nice to be reminded of our abundance.

The Global Goddess’ verdict: Unlike total fasts, which I believe are not practical and possibly send your body into “starvation mode” when next you eat, the restricted calorie intake fast has merit. I could see it working after a big holiday or festive season in which you’ve over-indulged. Possibly, and this is the hard bit, if we restricted our calories a little every day, we wouldn’t have to resort to two days of fasting. What really appealed to me was that it made me value every morsel and think about the food I consumed.  To donate to Foodbank Australia – whose mantra is “an Australia without hunger” – go to www.foodbank.com.au

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Ten eco-friendly ways to find a fella

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INSPIRED by a friend and fellow travel writer’s blog – No Impact Girl – in which Lou Southerden is trying to reduce her impact on the planet, I’ve decided to devote a blog to environmentally friendly ways to find men.

Here are my Top 10 suggestions:

1. Hide in the recycling bin and wait until Tuesday morning, around 5am, when the garbo comes around. While waiting, and if you’ve been sorting through your rubbish properly, you’ll have plenty of newspapers to read to keep you company and very few cabbage leaves attached to your head. When your hear the roar of the truck, jump up like a jack-in-the-box and say “surprise”. Don’t forget to accept the compliment when the garbo points out you are not trash.

2. Go to an airport. But don’t fly. Anywhere. Flying = bad carbon pollution. Sitting on one’s bum = moderate visual pollution. Spend the entire day in the departure lounge with your recycled water and banana (the skin will later become compost) and strike up conversations with handsome strangers looking like they are going somewhere interesting. Try not to look disappointed when he says he has to rush to catch the red eye to Bangkok. You know there is no red eye to Bangkok.


3. Visit your local library. Among all those recycled books which have been read by hundreds before you, you’re bound to find someone lurking between the shelves. So what if he’s 90 and thumbing through the 1970s Playboy collection? At least he can read. Unless he’s 90 and hanging around the children’s books. Move on. Fast. And call the police.

4. A nudist/eco retreat. What could go wrong? There can be no lies, no subterfuge, just let your body do the talking. If he’s a hard-core Greenie, you don’t even have to wax! There will be no surprises when you get your man home, you already know how his extremities cope with cold water.


5. The beach. Take a frisbee (made out of bamboo, rather than plastic) and start throwing it. Men seem to love playing frisbee at the beach. Once they realise you have no one to throw it back to you, they’re bound to join you. Unless a mangy dog gets there first in which case try to act cool and pretend the dog is yours.

6. Walk. Everywhere. Doesn’t matter how far you have to walk, just keep walking. Afterall, you’re not going to meet anyone sitting inside the confines of your air-con car singing Celine Dion now, are you? If you can’t walk, cycling is also a great option, however I fear whizzing past someone at speed is not conducive to snappy pick-up lines. Go back to walking.

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7.  Funerals. Not your own. Not even someone you know. Complete strangers. What could be more environmentally friendly than watching someone go back from whence they came? Don’t pick a cremation. All that smoke ash cannot be good for the environment. Because you are not emotionally involved with the deceased, you’ll be in a much better position than any other single woman at the funeral to make your move on any vulnerable men. And who on earth is going to question your attendance at a funeral?

8.  An environmental rally. Nothing screams sexy more than angry protestors. Imagine the testosterone. You may have to wait for your knight in shining hemp to be released on bail should he be arrested, but he’ll be worth the wait. He loves the planet and all her foibles. Imagine how much he will love you.

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9. The Great Southern Ocean. If you can hang in there with the whales, eventually a group of hunky eco warriors will come down and save you all from the evil spear guns of the Japanese whalers. Don’t, whatever you do, wear a black wet suit. It might, however, get a little chilly. Take a cardigan.

10. Not on the computer. Who ever met someone on the computer? How many trees and brain cells are we killing sitting on these things for hours on end? Get out there. Hug a tree. You never know who might be hugging the other side. OK, so he’s a deranged escaped mental health patient. Go to the next tree.

 While The Global Goddess may have her tongue planted firmly in her cheek about environmentally-friendly ways to find a fella, she takes the issue of the planet, and what we’re doing to it, seriously. We need to learn to love Mother Earth. Check out No Impact Girl at www.noimpactgirl.blogspot.com for some serious ways to do your bit.


A Dating Drought or Menopause?

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SOMEONE please pass the remote control, as I think I’ve hit Menopause. Now, before you all start marvelling at this medical miracle (I know what you’re thinking, how can someone so young and virile reach menopause?), I don’t mean the hot flushes, cranky pants condition. Heck, if that was the barometer, everyone in Brisbane this week would be suffering from the Change of Life. No, I mean the real deal. A protracted pause in men.

Now, you may be reading this and thinking, so what’s new? It’s not like she’s had any luck on the dating scene in recent centuries. But I mean, there are NO men on the radar. And by this I mean, not even the bad-spellers who think apostrophes are an incorrect ink stain on the page best avoided. Not even the desperate 70 year olds who have finally realised the futility of chasing 20 year olds and have upgraded their search to women in their 40s like me. There’s no one!

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I’ve been trying to console myself with the fact it’s still early January and all those bad spellers are still out west pig shootin and guzzlin Bundy, but now I’m starting to wonder. How many pigs could there be? What if….insert dramatic pause…even the dudes who don’t know the difference between your and you’re or there and their, and may or may not have their front teeth, have finally decided I’m over the hill?

I’ve read all about the real Menopause and it truly fascinates me. Of  most interest, is how bad can it really be? And I refer to the other end of the female reproductive cycle, Menstruation. Now, I lived in utter terror of my first period, largely because I was sold all sorts of horror stories about this, including terrifying tales of being on the softball field one day and litres of blood suddenly gushing out of my body. My best friend at the time, Michelle, told me an equally horrifying fable of her sister having her first period, and at the dinner table that night, her mother announcing to the entire family that “Kathy is a woman now”. Oh. My. God. Dinner and a show.

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This fear was not helped by my mother whose own mother told her nothing about menstruation so that the day my mum got her first period, she believed she was bleeding to death. (If you think there’s a dramatic gene in my family, you are correct). Unfortunately, mum decided to correct this issue for future generations by taking us aside at the premature age of 7, handing us a booklet with butterflies on the front entitled “Now You’re A Woman” and at the end asking whether we had any questions. Questions?! Good, God woman. I had no idea what these butterflies were up to!

So we left the kitchen table none the wiser. For several years I actually thought Menstruation just meant frustration with men. Until the big day finally arrived. There was no triage scene on the softball field. It was all a bit of an anticlimax really. Although that didn’t stop me circling the Hill’s Hoist five or six times while mum was hanging the washing, nervously trying to find a way to break the news to her. I chickened out, and waited till she was in the kitchen doing something horrible with mince (mum does horrible things with mince) to break the news. “Oh, that’s lovely,” she gushed, as if I’d told her we’d just won the lotto. Frankly, I stood there thinking she was over-reacting a bit as usual. And then there was the issue of dinner that night. At what point would she make the big announcement to the rest of the family? Thankfully, this was just another myth, and I escaped with just having to eat some horrible mince dish.

But I digress. Sometime in the future I will have to face the issue of Menopause. Do you still call your mum? Gather some girlfriends and announce it over dinner? Play softball? I have no idea. And how will I know the difference between Climate Change and the Change of Life?

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In the meantime, while I’ve still got a few good years left in me, I half wish those bad spellin pig shooters would come back into town from out west. Or are the barra biting somewhere? Surely, if I overlook the occasional dangling participle or stop caring about the difference between where, were and we’re, I can find some common ground?

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Then again, maybe I should just hang out till February, when it gets even hotter and the young university boys truck into town. At least they can spell.

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Hippy New Year!

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“An awkward morning is better than a lonely night,” Graffiti on the toilet wall at The Woodford Folk Festival.

I’M in Bill’s Bar when the delightful Doreen takes my order. “He must be hot, young and smart,” I tell her. Doreen isn’t just any old waitress, she works at the Meet Market where dating dreams come true. “What else do I want?” I ask Doreen. “Someone who treats you like the Goddess that you are,” she replies. “How do you know I’m a Goddess?” I ask her in amazement. “Darl, when you’ve been in this game long enough, you just know.” And with that, she hands me a carbon copy of my order straight from her notebook.

Unfortunately, later that day, Doreen also accosts one of my gorgeous gay male friends and tells him she can find plenty of women for him. Gay-dars, it appears, don’t work quite so well out in the Australian bush.

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I’m at the annual Woodford Folk Festival, about an hour and a half north-west of Brisbane, re-setting my soul for the year ahead. The previous evening in The Joy Luck Club tent I’ve already attended Jon Bennett’s show “Pretending Things are a Cock”, which is pretty much as the title suggests. Jon’s brother Tim used to be obsessed with his own penis, to the point he would put it in Jon’s ear. A childhood prank has since spawned a career for Jon, who now travels the globe, taking photos of all things phallic. You’ve never thought of the Statue of Liberty as a penis? Think again.

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But if you think this is a sex fest, you’d be mistaken. Nor is it only for happy hippies. For one week between Christmas and New Year, Woodford is the place where ordinary people can simply suspend reality. Listen to some great music, participate in enlightening talks, meet random people, eat, dance, laugh and camp. A place for acrobrats and artists. And most of all, where you can open your mind. Shake off the cobwebs of the year just gone.

So successful is this festival, which has battled every challenge from stinking hot summers where crowd numbers wilted, to flooding rains which devastated the site, that former and current Prime Ministers make it their business to be there. Clad in t.shirt and jeans, Prime Minister Julia Gillard tells the packed Concert tent the story of a friend’s children, a little girl and a little boy. The little boy tells the little girl he wants to be Prime Minister when he grows up, to which the little girl responds: “You can’t. Only women in Australia can be Prime Minister.”

 The crowd laughs, but nor is this a love fest. The dirty, smouldering issues like coal seam gas, fracking, climate change and whaling in the Southern Ocean simmer all week long in the Greenhouse tent where experts such as Professor Ian Lowe talks about the rise of the Eco Warrior.

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In the middle of a sassy summer storm after a sultry day, a panel in The Blue Lotus tent is talking about bullying and examining how it may be linked to creating a creative class. Those kids that are picked on and socially isolated learn some pretty crafty tricks such as conjuring up imaginary friends with whom to play. Daydreaming of nicer, colourful worlds where everyone is kind. They become the masters of perceptiveness, awareness, intuition.

Under the canvas at The Grande, Spain meets surf music in the form of long-haired Latinos Los Coronas, a band which sounds like matadors have arrived in Maui. Acclaimed Aboriginal singer Archie Roach packs The Amphi & Hilltop stage as does the John Butler Trio. Kate Miller-Heidke kills it at The Concert and Women in Docs is in luck at The Duck.

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Back in The Blue Lotus, Sunshine Coast Astrologer Lyvea Rose doles out the skinny on the year ahead. “Between 2013 and 2015, the corrupt kings will fall. The hippy movement which started in the 60s will be realised. Don’t attach to old structures like banks and bosses. It’s a revolution of the heart. Make love, not war. Become the king or queen of your own life. Simplify your life. It’s an excellent year for healers and artists.”

And best of all? Venus is apparently more laid-back this year. Women will be pursued by men. It is, according to Lyvea, a “sexy and stylish” year.

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Happy 2013. May your most delicious dreams and wildest desires come true. I know what mine are. I’d love to hear some of yours…

To find out more about the Woodford Folk Festival go to www.woodfordfolkfestival.com

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