Sunday, 27 April 2008

Grooming April 27

Every woman has one moment in her life when she rates herself a 10 out of 10. Usually it’s at her wedding, when months of planning and hours of grooming have gone into the perfect image. For me it was neither wedding. It was the other day when I got out of my car at the Foodtown carpark having been shooting for TV all day. I had spent several hours in front of the camera filming some chat segments for April in the Afternoon on the Living Channel and I don’t mind telling you things were looking pretty good. Full make-up, straight hair, silk shirt care of top designer Claire Kingan Jones. As I strolled through the automatic doors I caught a glimpse of myself and thought: “Wow, where did that old chick with the frizzy hair go?”
As did the check-out operator who refused to engage in our usual daily banter, obviously not recognising the TV me. “Takes some getting used to, I guess,” was all I thought as I strolled confidently out into the carpark.
“Maybe one day someone will actually check me out after these shoots,” I wondered as I walked to my car. Even the most married of women appreciates the odd glance of interest. It had been years since anyone had looked at me for more that the standard perusal but I remember it being quite reinforcing the last time it happened, when I was 21.
And then it all went horribly wrong. As I unloaded my shopping I noticed a man sitting in the car next to me chugging a can of beer. He was old, bald, overweight, drunk and to top it all off had a unique growth obviously enjoying its stay on his cheek.
“Hey, gorgeous,” he yelled out his car window. “Wanna root?” At me. The one standing gob smacked in front of him, fixed to the spot in horror.
Great. I was looking the best I could for a 45-year-old woman, thanks to the ministrations of many. And the best I could do was an old, drunk Petri dish.
As I gathered my glamorous self up and carried her off, before my admirer worked out how to put two fingers in his mouth and wolf whistle, I heard a shriek from behind me.
“What the f…do you think you’re doing chatting up that old cow,” yelled a woman who was everything evolution’s little mistake was, minus the cheek growth.
“Wouldn’t you like to know you fat slut,” came his spirited reply.
She held up traffic at this point, hands on hips glaring at me, then him, then me again like John Wayne having a show down in the middle of a bad Western.
And there I was, the centre of a domestic incident in my local Foodtown carpark and I wasn’t sure which event was more offensive. The screaming drunks or the fact that I had just been described as an “old cow.” But there was no denying that in an instant I had become the other woman in a ménage a trios of bad genes, alcohol poisoning and a facial growth from outer space.
Which is when I craved the anonymity of bad grooming. It would seem that “looking your best”, as my mother used to say, comes with the dire consequences of an open invitation to be noticed. The old me wouldn’t have raised a glimmer of notice let alone hope from fungus face as I shuffled past beneath my hair.
Grooming also demands a high price. The necessity of having blow-dried and straightened hair, manicured and painted nails and make-up on most of the time has added an extra two hours to my day. Just to be able to face the cameras. I realise that for many people who aren’t on the TV being that groomed is a normal event. But for me it is a terrible effort.
And then there is the pressure of the show itself. The day I found myself looking down a camera and recommending a quick shot of hairspray to the buttocks to prevent undies giving you a wedgy my 25-year journalism career flashed before my eyes and glared at me with abject horror. The spirits of my mentors circled, laughing uproariously at what had become of me. The ghosts continued to follow me home cackling with glee from beyond the grave. I think it was the late Neil Roberts I heard saying “Stick to print.”

Illustration by Anthony Ellison

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Make It Stop April 20

“Make it stop!” I screamed down the line to my friend Kerre, the one who sits on top of me in this newspaper every Sunday. The one you’ve probably just read before having a quick look at this.
“I keep running in the rain,” I moaned. “And it’s not just rain, it’s thunder and lightening and wind and there I am running in it, all wet and steamy.” I grumbled. “ And my hair keeps going frizzy.”
It all started when I read her book “Short Fat Chick to Marathon Runner” and exactly one hour later went for a run having first photocopied and pinned to my office wall “Appendix 1 – a marathon training programme for beginners.”
“You’ve planted a subliminal message in there somewhere, you’ve been watching too much Derren Brown, it’s something to do with neurolinguistic programming, like the politicians do to make the masses obey,” I muttered.
Finally Kerre could get a word in, a most unusual situation for her to be in.
“But doesn’t it feel great?”“Not really.”
My husband initially greeted the news that I was “training for a marathon” with enthusiasm. I think most husbands would as they visualise their 45-year-old wife morphing into something lithe, long and sinewy. Until I returned 10 minutes later.
“What’s wrong? Too difficult?” he inquired sympathetically.
“No it’s Monday, walk 5, run 5,” I snapped as I headed off to the couch to lie down for an hour in recovery mode.
I reported him to Kerre.
“Noted,’ she replied.
I take the dog with me. She came once around the park and then sat on the top field and waited for me to complete the second lap. I’ve never seen a black lab give an enthusiastic thumbs up of support but that’s what Shirl did as she sat on her haunches gazing at my disappearing arse. Which isn’t fair. In dog years Shirl and I are the same age, surely she could make more of an effort.
“She has dodgy hips and she doesn’t want to lose weight,” replied my husband. “She’s perfect as she is, aren’t you my sweetie, weety,” he gurgled at Shirl as she rolled on her back and kicked her legs in the air.
“It’ll be a while before you get me to do that,” I thought to myself as I stumbled to the shower wondering when the dog started getting more attention than I did.
I gave the book to my 19-year-old daughter who runs already and suggested we could team up. She hasn’t said a word to me, but I know she read the book because I heard her telling a friend how funny it was, especially the bit about Kerre saying she looked like a white rhino that had just been shot in the arse by hunters after her first half marathon. Which is fine, didn’t want to run with anyone anyway, I much prefer having some “me” time being the very busy woman I am.
My youngest daughter arrived home from school and gave me “the look.” It’s the one she gives when I have decided it might be nice to wear a bright floral dress for a change and present myself looking like a flowerpot. Or when I’m getting dressed and she asks if I deliberately buy my undies too big or do I like them that baggy? Don’t worry, missy, I think to myself, one day someone will say that to you and all you will think is “I must be losing weight.” Or in this case when she looks at me in my Grey Lynn School T shirt and leggings, my frizzy hair bursting out from the hair tie and says “Mum, did you forget to get dressed again?”Once, a long time ago, she got home from school and I was still in my nightie and slippers. Big deadline to meet, lots of writing, didn’t have time. Only two of that day’s couriers looked at me strangely.
Then Kerre rang and suggested we run together some time.
“Oh I can’t talk and run,” I protested. “Actually, Kerre, I think I might not run a marathon, I just want to run,” I pleaded.
“Good girl,” she replied.
“Didn’t last long,” added my husband.
“I am not bloody Kerre Woodham,” I said for the second time that week, having told her producer exactly the same thing when I filled in for her on her Sunday morning radio show.
But I’m still running in the rain.

Illustration by Anthony Ellison

Tuesday, 15 April 2008


Hello everyone. Sorry I haven't posted in ages - been away, been writing, been busy. Will do a catch up in the next few days.


Sunday, 13 April 2008

Dancing Queen April 13

Not so long ago former Knight Rider David Hasselhoff’s kids filmed him one night when he was horribly drunk, sprawled on the floor attempting to shove a hamburger in his mouth. The intention was to show him just how disgusting he was when he was drunk, but it eventually ended up on the net, showing the world just how disgusting he was when he was drunk.
My biggest fear is that someone will do that to me. Not when I’m on the floor smearing my face with tomato sauce because to my knowledge I’ve never done that, chocolate maybe, but not tomato sauce. I’m petrified that someone will film me when I’m drunk dancing. And every woman reading this knows exactly what I'm talking about. That shameful moment when you morph into the Dancing Queen, a rare undiscovered talent, lithe, graceful and full or artistry and decide that everyone should be lucky enough to see you in full flight thanks to a few too many vodkas.
I’ve always loved to dance, and can often be found doing it in the kitchen at home, or perhaps in quiet moments when I think no one is around and it’s been so long since David Bowie and I spent some time together.
But social dancing is a sport rarely indulged in unless you have had a few too many. We’ve all been at occasions when people have stared miserably at an empty dance floor while the band enthusiastically plays on hoping just one drunk woman will get up and start the dancing. Because it’s always the drunk woman. No sober person would see the logic of leaping up in front of people you know and start waving your arms around, thrusting your hips about and shaking your head wildly from side to side. But oh the joy of it all. The release as the music enters your body, the deep and secure knowledge that you look fantastic out there hitting every beat right on target.
“She must have done ballet as a child,” you hear the awed crowd whisper as they watch you execute a perfect pirouette.
“I haven’t seen anyone do that move since the 70s,” whispers another admirer as you shake your head backwards and forwards, hair wildly streaming all over your face.
“So creative,” says someone else as your arms weave and undulate over your head forming an imaginary tree complete with sparkly fingers.
You try to share the joy with your partner by occasionally indulging in the “you copy me I’ll copy you” dance routine where you both wave your arms in roughly the same way, in almost the same direction and finish with a triumphant twirl. But really you are lost in your own world of dance. A sublime place where you swirl and thrust, shape the air with your hands into tiny bubbles of perfection and choreograph your way into dance dreamland.
You close your eyes, all the better to be at one with the music and open them just for a second to see that the dancers have moved away to give you more room for your high kick, just like in the movies where two dancers wow the rest into submission and the camera moves in for the close up. You check to see that your partner is still enthusiastically keeping up with you and then you realise that your partner has been replaced by your husband who isn’t dancing, is holding your handbag and has that smile on his face which says: “Time to go home darling.”
“But I’m having such a gorgeous time, Nick is such a great dancer isn’t he? God this band is terrific. All the old hits eh!”
“I think you may have exhausted Nick, darling, he collapsed in the corner 10 minutes ago.”“Oh dear, well you’ll have to do, come on just one more dance, I just love Prince,” you shout before singing loudly “Purple Rain, Pu-urple Rain.”
He’s been here before my husband. Thank God. And half an hour later I’m at home, staring at my sweat laden lank hair in the mirror, the smudged mascara, the wet armpits staining my new silk dress and wondering if the damage done by my high heels to my arches will render me a cripple for the rest of my life.
“I had such a nice time,” I snuffle as I drift off to sleep.
“I know darling and so did the 50 people you scared off the dance floor.”

Illustration by Anthony Ellison

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Reformation April 6

Reformation 06

It was Duran Duran that did it. “Are you going to Duran Duran?” someone asked with unrestrained excitement in their voice. “Such an iconic 80s band!”
And that was it. I threw my head back and howled. About how not iconic Duran Duran is. How they were an extremely light weight bunch of gits who put out ridiculous pop songs and spent far too much time putting highlights in their hair and poncing around in white linen suits to even make a dent in musical history. Has everyone forgotten this fact?
Apparently. Next someone will be telling me that Queen were such a great 80s band with that fabulous hit Fat Bottomed Girls, or that The Police were hot with that song Roxanne which young men insisted on singing falsetto ad nauseum and WHAM deserve a place in rock and roll history for Wake Me Up Before You Go Go.
These bands are not iconic, nor were they cool. Stop making my 80s memories angry.
Everyone has an era that is precious to them. A few years where you were young, wild, free and finally understanding what life was all about. And for most of us it was when we were in our early 20s before kids, travel and mortgages intruded on our reckless hedonism.
For me it was 1980 to 1985 when I went to Jazzercise class three times a week, had a great job, great flat, great boyfriend and loved my music. Which wasn’t Duran Duran. It was The Clash, the Cure, Violent Femmes, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Prince, the Eurythmics and the B52s to name a few. For post punk 20-year-olds the pop song was dead and would never be revived if we had our way.
Until now. I have no objection to a bunch of middle-aged people wishing to relive the 80s in their search for music they can relate to. I accept that since the 80s there hasn’t been a lot of great music made, although I actually prefer the stuff the 70s produced and spend far too much time listening to Van Morrison than is healthy.
But in their haste to relive the 80s do they have to only remember the stuff that floated to the top. The Duran Duran flotsam and jetsam. Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that these very people who turn up enthusiastically and pay out their hundred bucks for tickets were dorks in the 80s and still are. So you can’t really blame Duran Duran for meeting the demand. I’m sure 20 years ago they were quite happy to slink off to their country estates and hope the world quickly forgot the pop crap they had created. But what person approaching 50 and staring down the tunnel of life at the dim flame of retirement, would turn down a bit of cash to squeeze into some tight pants and hum a few tunes or bash a drum or two.?
And what fickle people make up their audience. How conveniently they forget that many of these bands broke up because they could no longer stand the sight of each other and swore they’d never play again. One can only wonder at the superior vision the fast talking promoter created as he convinced them all to have another go. The grim determination on the face of the drummer who hasn’t earned one cent of song writing royalties in the last two decades, squaring up to the lead singer who has, and what’s more is still with the model the two fought over when the band broke up. And so there they are, non iconic 80s bands parroting the terrible songs and struggling to remember words which their fans know off by heart.
The other reason these bands get back together is because that solo career just didn’t quite work out did it Sting with the release of your album of 16th century lute songs? I wonder how many people who rocked out to The Police concerts in January listened to that little gem.
It is true that some of my 80s iconic bands have reformed and I have simply chosen not to see them. The Cure’s Robert Smith used to be hot. He’s not now according to one reviewer who described him as looking “dead and bloated.” He’s old and fat, just like me. I don’t want to make my 80s memories angry.
So next time someone suggests I pay good money to see a crap supposedly iconic 80s band, I’ll simply reply that they belong where my Jazzercise high kick belongs…with my angry 80s memories.

Illustration by Anthony Ellison