Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Message from Your Mother

So, the truth is, your dog may have been exposed to some loud swearing today.

At least I can tell you the day started off with good intentions. Even if it finished in a less than desirable way.

I figured that given she was back with me for a few weeks it was important I kept her days as consistent as possible to how she lives with you.

I know you take her running twice a day.

Well you know me. I'm lazy and would happily let her sit with her feet up on the lounge all day with a doggy cocktail in hand.

But, for everyone's sake, I made a commitment to take her to the Dog Park every day.

I thought it would be good for both of us.

Fresh air. Sunshine. Exercise.

Well, after our first visit today, I was wrong.

Only one of us had fun. And that is the kind of fun with a capital F.U.N.

Look at her.

She enjoyed that picturesque dog park for all of two minutes.

Then she ran away and discovered something she liked way better.

I'm still breathless.

Your dog can run really, really fast.

So it's a good job I can shout really, really loud.

Because I sure as hell can only run really, really slow.

Yes, and I am licking my lips because I love drinking the filthy water.

What came out of my mouth when I finally caught up to her and realised I had to take her back home in my car, was just as filthy as she looked.

Oh, and just so you know, she now also answers to NO-O-OO-OO-OO-OO-O Stella, Get out of there Stella, What the ....... Stella............

Regardless, we will still go back again tomorrow.

But, this time I'll be prepared.

I'm taking gum boots so I can get in that muddy water with her.

Who knows? She might be on to something.

You only live once. Right?

Do you have a pet? What do you love about it?

Stella checking the post before I pressed publish. With a golden retriever you will never be alone  - they never let you out of their sight. Ever.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Well that was awkward......

Vegemite? Mmm not so much....

Fiona and Elliott, my latest Airbnb guests from China, were telling me how much they liked Australia but after being here a week they had a few concerns.

I had to keep a straight face while sweet Fiona was asking me questions.

"As we are driving on the road, we only ever see nature and animals, there are no people. Where are all the people?" Fiona said.

I tried to explain that Shanghai (the city they come from) has the same number of people in it as the whole of Australia does. 

"We just have way more space and so there are areas between towns and cities that are not populated or are farms." 

"Ah", they said "we understand." 

Then there were the 'guns'. They thought that if they made a mistake somewhere, like a minor road transgression, another motorist might pull out a gun and shoot them. They told me that they turned into a neighbours driveway by mistake and were scared the neighbour might shoot them.

This couple were well educated with excellent careers. I am not sure whether this fear comes from Communist propaganda of the West or they have watched too many movies. Maybe this how Australia is perceived to be in China.

I reassured them that we have strict gun controls here. And it is really only farmers, police and criminals that carry them. I told them that in all my years living here I had never seen a gun, seen anyone carrying a gun or witnessed a gun being fired so they were pretty safe.

They then wanted to know if we had Police here as they had not seen any yet. They told me that in China they were on the street all the time watching what people were doing and would keep the streets safe.

Then, we discussed the issue that worried them the most. 


The night they arrived at my house they had taken a back road from Melbourne. Apparently they had seen a few Kangaroos along the side of the road and one had bounded in front of the car while they were driving and this had terrified them.

"Shouldn't the Kangaroos be in the zoo?" Fiona asked.

"Um, no", I said. "Kangaroos live in the bush and sometimes very late at night they get attracted to the roads by the car lights and engine noise and just come to check out what is happening. If they hit your car they can cause a lot of damage to themselves and your car. However, they will not hurt you unless you were to provoke them in someway."

I told them that they probably should stick to the highway when going back to Melbourne and avoid driving late at night. I said that while I had seen Kangaroos many times at my sister's property in the bush I had never had one approach me or hit one in my car.

"You will be fine. Kangaroos just do not come into urban areas where people are living unless it is a bad drought and they are starving."

That reassured them.

Well it did for 5 minutes anyway.

Because this video then came on the TV about two Kangaroos in another State who had gone into a suburban neighbourhood to fight one another. You can see where the term Boxing Kangaroos came from. Ten points for guessing what they were fighting over. A woman for sure.

I had no words.

Instead, I quickly gave my guests some Vegemite on toast and turned their attention to something else that people think is kind of weird about living here.

(Just as an aside, my sister told me that Chinese travellers adopt a European name when they travel. So I asked them how they chose their name. Fiona and Elliott? From Shrek and ET. Too cute. As were they. Gorgeous couple.)

Don't you love travel? There is always so much to learn about other places and cultures. What is the weirdest thing you have seen or done in your travels?

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Are YOU a poor old dear...?

A handsome guy called Eric served me at the service station yesterday.

Instead of getting out of my car to pump my own petrol (or gas as some of you call it), Eric came and did it for me.

He cleaned my car's windscreen and checked the oil. He even asked if I wanted the tyres checked.

It's a shame I only get to visit this garage every now and then given it's so far out of my way. It's so quaint and unique and offers that old fashioned customer service that disappeared from service stations decades ago.

Every time I've been there Eric has been working. And while I knew that he was much older than your average attendant, he finally told me yesterday that he was 97 (and 3/4) years old.

Nearly 98.

I was floored. 

He proudly said that he had been opening and closing the garage (which he owns) for 60 plus years. His only concession to his age is that he now goes home for lunch and has a power nap before he comes back to work.

He does this six days a week and he has no plans to quit or retire unless health forces him to do so.

While waiting, I heard him talking to another customer, a woman who looked to be in her 60s. When he wandered back to speak with me he referred to this lady as a "poor old dear".

Poor old dear.

He reminded me so much of my Nanna (grandmother Elizabeth). She was in her 90s and used to play cards once a week at a community centre. She would refer to some of the other ladies as "poor old dears" too. For a while there I thought there must be a lot of centenarians at her card games but when I finally met them I realised they were all a good 20-30 years younger than she was. She absolutely did not see herself as old. At all.

That may have had something to do with her attitude to life or due to the fact that her eyesight was so poor that she literally just never got to 'see' herself as old. (As an aside, she was given a cancer death sentence when she was in her early 40s. She did not listen to that either.).

When I got back home and checked my emails there was one from a PR agency reminding me that October 1 was the UN International Day of Older Persons. Never heard of it.

Reading about it made me wonder what an 'older person' is exactly? How old are you when you become 'an older person'?

Should 'old' be determined by a certain age? Because I know some 40 year olds who would not be able to keep up with Eric.

Given nearly every country across the World is grappling with an ageing population and people are being forced to retire later, perhaps we need to redefine who an 'older person' is.

Perhaps we need to reframe what older people are capable of doing. And are doing. Perhaps we need to see more people like Eric out there owning businesses and pumping petrol.

Personally, I think about ageing a lot even though retirement is more than a decade away. And for some reason it worries me. 

When I spoke to Eric about this he said, "I never worry. Every day is just another day. Whatever happens, roll with the punches. Worrying never did anyone any good."

Before my Dad passed away he said exactly the same thing. He told me that the best advice he would give anyone is to stop wasting time worrying because most of it never happens anyway.

Is there a pill you can take to cure that affliction or are some people just born 'chilled'?

I need to worry less and laugh more. And keep working forever at something or other if that's what it does for you.

As it happens I didn't have to wait long to laugh more because when I drove off from the garage, I could hear Eric yell out, "See you again OLD GIRL", followed by loud, raucous laughter.

I laughed out loud. What a bloody cheeky young man that Eric is....

So how old is an 'older person' these days?  Do you think of yourself as old?

Monday, 29 September 2014

KNOCK, KNOCK........Who's there?

As it happened, I was almost too scared to find out.

After all, my visitors, although expected, could have been anyone for all I really knew.

You see, since I moved into my current home, I've completely lost the urge to travel. So, instead of going off to see the World I decided to invite the World to see me.

And right at that moment, China was knocking at my front door.

It all started when my daughter told me about renting a spare room in her house through Airbnb (and this isn't an advertisement either because they are worth billions and don't need my help). I started researching the site and, while she didn't go ahead, I decided to try it.

(Airbnb is a website for people to rent out lodging. It has over 500,000 listings in 33,000 cities and 192 countries. Founded in August 2008 and headquartered in San Franciso, California, the company is privately owned and operated by Airbnb, Inc.)

I didn't think there would be much interest in my home because I live over an hour outside of Melbourne in a predominantly rural area. However, one week after listing my space I had five booking enquiries. Two I rejected as I didn't feel comfortable after speaking with them via email and three I accepted.

My first guests were from Beijing, China and this was their first visit to Australia. Just after I accepted their booking it occurred to me that I had been very critical of the government of the People's Republic of China on my blog.......not a friendly act of a gracious host.  However, then I remembered that Google (plus social media like Facebook, Instagram etc) is banned in China so....that made me feel better.

I was excited about the prospect of hosting overseas visitors but when I heard the knock at my door I briefly wondered if I had done the right thing. First, you have no idea what they will be like and second, you don't know whether they will feel comfortable in your home.

However, as it happened, opening that front door was an absolute treat. Sussan and Dennis were a gorgeous, fun young couple. And great ambassadors for their country.

Dennis and Sussan happy to star on my blog

Sussan didn't speak English (although her sign language was easy to understand) and Dennis was educated in New York so he did all the talking and interpreting. Dennis works in management and Sussan in marketing. They were in Australia to take their pre-wedding pictures (they dress in their wedding outfits and take pictures in front of iconic places such as the Opera House etc).

They live in a small apartment in Beijing and they both ran around my house amazed at all the space. Sussan was taking photos of everything including the floor to ceiling glass windows which they said they would not be able to have in China because of burglaries. They talked about the smog levels in Beijing and the difficulties in being able to afford a home there. Nonetheless, they had big plans for their future which are probably no different to other young people all over the World. We discussed China's one child policy and how this impacts on those who are keen for larger families. They asked lots of questions about life in Australia and I asked them about their jobs and families.

My home was about the fourth they had stayed in during their visit here so they had tried Vegemite, seen Kangaroos and experienced other Aussie adventures. Being the great Cultural Ambassador that I am we talked and laughed a lot. I showed them some fine Australian wine and how to do a 'Tim Tam slam'. A Tim Tam is a chocolate biscuit which is divine....you take a bite out of each end and put it in your tea and coffee and drink out of it like a straw (I put a video in my side bar if you are really fascinated about this). Yes, sophistication at its finest.

Here is a picture of Sussan trying it .....we all laughed so much.

Sussan covered in chocolate

It was a great experience and another reminder that we all laugh about the same things no matter where we live or what language we speak.

Becoming an Airbnb host is something to consider if you have spare space in your house, you like meeting people and you are happy to share knowledge about your city. The upside is you make new friends, learn a lot about other countries and get to earn some extra money too. It is also a site to consider if you want to travel too.

My next guests come from Shanghai, China - a city which is apparently very different from Beijing. Fingers crossed it will be another positive experience. Knock, knock might be a new series on my blog if my guests have interesting stories to tell.

Have you tried Airbnb as a guest or as a host? Do you think you would be game to try?

And, if you want me to send you a Tim Tam to try the 'slam' you know you only have to ask. Everyone loves chocolate, right?