Monday, November 25, 2013


I've always thought of yoga more as a symptom than a pastime, an unavoidable tic developed by "morning people" types who have brightly coloured, healthy-breakfast-cereal-commercial, chirpy mornings. They have enjoyable, upbeat starts to their day, and then they head off to yoga.

How I imagine yoga types start the day:
Eyes snap open with a jaunty glimmer and a serene half-smile from yet another good night's sleep. Cancel the alarm before it comes on and wink at the little numbers. Better luck next time. A quick revitalising shower, then pull on the dressing gown and off to the kitchen. Humming along with the radio as the ingredients are sliced, diced, and placed with a flourish into the blender. Summer smoothie. A lesiurely ten minutes drinking and catching up on all the goings on, check the calendar, no surprises. A little self-satisfied grimace at the wheatgrass shot, the sacrifices we make, then back to the bedroom. Today's clothes were laid out the night before, gym bag packed on the dresser redolent with the crisp smell of fresh laundry. A few gentle stretches to loosen up the body and a glance in the mirror to check nothing's out of place. Nothing is. Flick aside the curtain and it looks as though it might just be gloves weather. Top drawer on the left. Hmm, red gloves today. Wallet in one pocket, phone in the other. Merry little jingle as they keys are picked up. Out into the bracing cold, another glorious day underway.

How I start the day:
Get jerked from sleep by the alarm. Hit snooze. No time for tea now. Hit snooze. No time for a shower now. Hit snooze. No time. Admit that the alarm's never going away. Stare at the little red digits in stunned rage for several seconds. Swing legs out of bed. Grope around in the darkness for clothes, any tshirt not covered by other clothes is fresh enough to wear. Ditto any sock that can't be located by smell. Rub fists in eyes, tense up shoulders, hit the light switch and wince. Walk to kitchen. Choose cereal based on box colour because it's too early for reading. Get milk. Avoid looking at expiry date. Tink of the spoon on the bowl. Crunch. Slurp. Tink. Crunch. Slurp. Too much milk as usual. Sluuuuurp. Check phone, no messages, two emails. Mark emails as read, still too early for reading. Into the front pocket. Find wallet. Wallet, wallet, wallet, fucking wallet. Get wallet. Back pocket. Get bag, shake to check for keys. Look in mirror, regret doing so. Open the door and get angry at the cold. Close the door and head down the street.

I'm not entirely sure I'd like to take up yoga, but I think I'd like the mornings.

Next week's word is yesterday.

Monday, November 18, 2013


It is an unavoidable truth that a fridge will always contain wasted food. From the overstocked cornucopia that is the dream of the fridge designers everywhere to the most Spartan shelves of the impoverished student, something currently being kept at manufacturer recommended temperature is either destined for waste or already waste. It's not deliberate, of course, but that doesn't stop it from being inevitable.

Often it's simple thoughtlessness. Making a soup for dinner that needs carrots, buy a bag of carrots, use two in the soup, end up with half a dozen spare carrots. If you don't take note of the spare carrots, they can sit in the crisper until they become more flexible than noodles waiting for somebody to think to make a carrot cake. And then, whether compost or rubbish, it's off to a bin of some sort.

For some food it's wrong place, wrong time. The milk that got bought just before everybody went on holiday for a month. Had people been there, it easily would have been used as intended, as it is it's either off to the bin or wait long enough for it to become yoghurt.

In other cases it's impossible to tell until it's too late that the transformation has occurred from food to waste. The soy sauce looked fine last week and soy sauce surely doesn't go off, but somehow there's now a thin film of blue green something growing on it. The truly brave might scrape it off and keep going, the rest of us sigh at the waste and head to the sink, then the bin.

Sometimes it's the waste of thrift, that mental niggle that tells us wasting leftover takeaway is unacceptable. A little too much left over to throw out in good conscience, but not enough left over to constitute a meal, or even a solid snack. So the container sits there until nobody can remember how long it's been there, at which point in the interest of personal safety, it's off to the bin.

Then there's the waste of self-deception. Low-fat zero sugar dairy-like diet snack tubs? Really? Was that ever going to be anything more than a token to assuage a guilty conscience? I suppose it could be argued that it hasn't gone to waste if it's provided some mental succour, but in a more real sense, it's now spoiled and needs to be thrown out.

Somewhere in the world there is probably something that approaches the Platonic ideal of a fridge, containing exactly as much food as required by the household to whom it belongs, and I congratulate the obsessive individual who manages to maintain such order. Congratulate but secretly doubt their humanity.

Monday, November 11, 2013


Winter, from the Proto-Germanic wentruz meaning "bloody miserable", is a strange season for me to talk about. I don't feel qualified. It's not that we don't have them here in Tasmania, it's just that they're not particularly impressive, and it's difficult to spot any sort of clear start or end point.

When the difference between the record low temperature in the middle of summer and the corresponding record low in the middle of summer is a measly six degrees, what can one really say about one season compared to another? There's no first snow, not even a turning of the leaves; there will be an uncharacteristically cold day here or there, and the trees react in uncertain dribs and drabs to these sporadic cold snaps until at some point you realise all the leaves are gone. Lacking any climatic cues, I mentally delineate winter as using the public holiday wasteland between the Queen's Birthday in early June and Show Day in mid October. When it's cold and dark, and you can't even get a free day off work, truly the world is at its lowest ebb.

More than the weather, the primary characteristic of winter for me is the daylight. Tasmania is hardly the land of the midnight sun, or I guess in winter the midday moon, but winter is defined by getting up in the dark and going home in the dark, even if you have a pretty slipshod approach to business hours. I get a cosy enjoyment of this phenomenon for about a week as the days reach their shortest, the singular contentment of moving through the cold and the dark from one warm sanctuary to the next, after which I find myself wishing I could see the sun a little more and the drizzle lit up by street lights a little less (the yearning normally lasts until I actually seen the sun and remember that I am the kind of person who needs to wear sunscreen if going out at night when there's a full moon).

People further north in Australia (the kind of Australia that gets put in tourism campaigns) seem to regard Tasmania as some sort of sub-Antarctic permafrost, but that's only because most of their winters peak at maybe-don't-wear-shorts-today cold. It gets cold here in winter but only definitely-wear-a-hoodie cold, never someone-go-chip-the-icicles-off-the-dog cold. And considering any half canny Tasmanian wouldn't leave home without some sort of warm clothing even on a glorious day in the middle of summer thanks to our gloriously fickle climate, hoodie-cold is not noticeably cold at all.

I think I'd like to go through a proper winter at some point, if only to get a point of reference, but I bet the novelty of snow and proper turns into bloody hindering awkward inconvenience pretty quickly.

Next week's word will be "waste".

Monday, November 4, 2013


"You can tell a lot about a man from his car," said Detective Inspector Crompton, eyeing the sleek black lines before them. He kept moving his hands as if to touch it but holding himself back.
"That so, sir?" replied DS Johnson rolling his eyes behind his superior's back. "Didn't know you went in for the Sherlock Holmes stuff. What's this one then? Banker? Lawyer? Left-handed croupier with a penchant for Dutch cigarettes?"
"How would I know?" Said Crompton, too busy looking over every inch of the vehicle to turn around. "Could be a rich man who bought it offhand, could be an enthusiast who scrimped and saved for years, could be a midlife crisis. What I meant, Johnson, is that we can run the plates, find out the owner and home address and start investigating. Like policemen." He paused. "Police officers. Whatever we are these days."
"Ah, of course, sir," Johnson kept his voice chipper but made exaggerated choking motions with his hands. For every piece of advice he got from the vastly more experienced Crompton there were a half a dozen unhelpful jibes. "Do you want me to do it now, sir? Only..." he left the rest of the sentence to fend for itself.
"Only what?" snapped Crompton, who was now lying on the ground looking under the car for, presumably, evidence.
"Only I would have thought " Johnson began in his best impersonation of a patient man, "given the car's in this garage and all it's pretty obvious where the car belongs. And to who."
"Whom." corrected Crompton, then frowned "Probably. Maybe 'who'. Hmm." He grunted, stood up and dusted off his long grey coat. "In the normal course of events that would be the correct assumption, sergeant. In this case I think you'll find what we have here is an impostor." DS Johnson scratched at one eyebrow pensively as if making a decision. After a few moments he lay down where Crompton had and looked under the car. Concrete. Oil stains. He stood back up, still young enough that it didn't require a grunt of extertion to do so.
"I give up sir," he said with reluctance, "how can you tell?"
"Garage door's open, and the car's jutting out the front a little," explained Crompton. "You'll notice at the back though it's flush up against those boxes. Whatever car goes in here normally is quite a bit shorter than this beauty."
"Well spotted, sir."
"I thought so."
"So someone's parked this car in the wrong garage?" asked Johnson skeptically. "Found out the door wouldn't close and just left it?"
"It is a strange situation," agreed Crompton, his voice muffled by the storage boxes he was busy rummaging through. A minute or two passed while Johnson wiggled his toes to get some warmth into them, unsure if Crompton wanted him to join in searching the boxes. Eventually Crompton finished poking around the back of the garage and finally squatted down next to the driver side window. He winced as his knees made a cracking noise, peered through the window, and shook his head sadly. "What do you think," he asked the sergeant, "murder?"
"Just going off the way his face has been smashed in and those bloody footprints leading out of the garage, sir, that was the way I was leaning."
"Me too, Johnson, me too."