Monthly Archives: March 2013

Kudos to tea

21 march

I’m dedicating a blog entry to tea, because it’s so brilliant, and I feel the need to share this. I am not the only one who thinks so, with tea second only to water in beverage consumption across the world. There are all sorts of tea-loving goings on, but my favourite is a cult in Malaysia, who worship a giant teapot.


Tea is basically the greatest short term remedy ever. What chocolate does for dementor recovery, tea does for everything else. The injured, the shocked, the upset, the disturbed, the wasted, the tired, the lonely, the angry, the excited, all do better with a cup of tea inside. Especially if someone makes it for them.


And let’s take a minute to thank the pot of tea. Preferably drunk out of a cup and saucer. Top yourself up. Raise your caffeine levels. Go out for a proper pot of tea. Sit in a cafe and people watch. At uni, we used to make it in great mixing bowls or saucepans, and you could dip your cup in at leisure. I love the social aspect of tea, the etiquette of being welcomed into someone’s home, the sharing of drinks, the bonds formed and perpetuated, the words that spill over the steam.


But it can be private too: sitting outside, hands round a mug, watching the world. Or hiding inside, huddled under a duvet.


If you don’t like tea (yes, I hear there are some weirdos in this category), I truly feel for you. What a fantastic institution to be locked out of. There are, however, plenty of other uses for tea. Use it as a meat marinade, a fertiliser for roses, a cleaner, an odor eliminator, a puffy eyes reliever. Cold tea takes the sting out of sunburn and helps make brunette hair shiny. It can, apparently, even be used to get rid of warts. Who knew!


I still strongly urge you to drink tea, though. I started looking up some qualities of tea, and by golly! there are so many! And I wasn’t even stepping into the land of green tea, which by all accounts, is something of a miracle cure. Tea is a natural antioxidant, rich in vitamins, and a natural source of fluoride that helps protect against tooth decay and gum disease (although your teeth may also stain. Swings and roundabouts.) It can help fight cardiovascular disease and various cancers. How good is that? It’s only a bloody cup of tea! It can help promote fertility by preventing abnormalities in our chromosomes – in one study, just half a cup of tea per day resulted in doubled pregnancy rates compared to non-tea drinkers. And, it can boost your sex life. I thought this might mean that people who drank tea were found more attractive, but apparently it’s a virility thing (Ashwagandha is the one you want to pick, if, you know, you had a friend who wondered). Shame, I thought there was something in promoting the image of attractive models with cups of tea. Then you’d feel left out, wouldn’t you, filthy non-tea-drinkers. Plus, by the process of natural selection, we’d get rid of you anyway. But there must be a cup of tea for everyone in the 15,000 or so varieties.


After feeling so disappointed in the out-of-water English of late, I’m glad I’ve had this moment to appreciate what a marvellous tradition we have to share. I miss having people over for a cuppa, or catching up over a cup of tea. And don’t even get me started on biscuits. They have a tea culture here, but it isn’t the same. The gesture of making someone a cup of tea, like a pat on the shoulder or a hug, is squandered on the more open Australians. Our reserved nature has allowed tea to step in where we aren’t comfortable, and I don’t mean this as a bad thing – I love the subtlety of it. They do, however, have Tim Tams here, which are like Penguins, only better, and you can use them as a straw for your tea, so all is not lost.


So, tea. Yummy, scrummy, magnificent tea. I literally do not have higher praise for the stuff. Drink it. Do it. Live the dream.


Posted by on March 29, 2013 in Uncategorized



Ball Bags

28 February 2013

When I finish riding in the morning, I’m supposed to finish work. Most of the other riders go home at this time (7/8 AM, yeah that’s right, suckers) but I stay on until the whole yard is finished (8.30/9 AM usually, a little later at the moment due to staff shortages. Don’t worry, I’m still done before most people start.) I’m not really sure why I stay, nobody’s ever told me. Maybe it’s because they took a chance on me, maybe it’s because my rent is free. Or maybe it’s because I am such a superstar that they just can’t bear to let me leave. Probably that one.

So, as a sought-after-superstar, when the vet came to geld a horse, I was appointed the job of holding him through his operation.

Most horses are gelded before they stand as full adults – unless they are going to be used for breeding, it’s really quite unnecessary to leave them uncut. They are so difficult to handle, tough to re-home, and generally so charged with testosterone that if you aren’t going to allow them at females, it’s kind of mean. But somehow I have always managed to avoid seeing the operation. Well, wasn’t today my lucky day! In fact, when my gelding virginity was discovered, one of the boys offered to hold the horse instead, so that I could get a full on view.

The horse in question kicked up a bit of a fuss getting into the washing bay. He goes in there every day, but he obviously knew something was up: this was out of his routine, and he could see the vet’s equipment in the corner. Quite frankly, if he knew what it was that was going on, he would have probably kicked up a bit more of a fuss. But horses are not blessed with the luxury of knowing what we plan for them.

Once he was in, the vet injected him so he was still standing, but out for the count. Then he made a slit in the ball sacks and pulled these great tennis ball sized innards out from them. Next, he injected the attaching muscles to paralyse them and stop the horse retracting them. Then he pulled out a contraption that looked like enormous pliers, with a hole in the middle. This wraps around the balls, and the idea is that it cuts and crushes the arteries at the same time. These are called, yes, actually called, emasculators.

Now, at this point, it wasn’t too bad. The horse wasn’t distressed, he was clearly quite sedated and numb. The vet was kindly talking me through the procedure. But then he put this contraption around a ball and clamped it shut.

And it made this sickening crunch.

Then the ball splattered on the floor.

Nothing had prepared me for this.

And there were a few seconds when we all looked down at this ball, lying in the drain amongst the blood and the wads of sterilyzing cotton wool. The vet, who has completed countless numbers of these procedures, couldn’t help his upper lip curling, and both he and the other man instinctively drew their legs closer together. The horse’s head lay woozily in the guy’s arms, the only one who didn’t react to his manhood dropping in the drain.

I am not a squeamish person, and for such a routine operation, I certainly wasn’t expecting to have the reaction that I did. Maybe if I were a boy, but what do I know about having balls? If I did have them though, you can be clear that I would want them to remain there. I felt overwhelmingly sad for this poor horse, huge clamps attached to the holes where his balls had been, his chance of manhood stolen from him. It didn’t help that later that evening when I went to check on the horse, I found him in a sorry state, head hanging and standing in pools of blood from his dripping wounds. The vet had to come out and release a blood clot and readjust his clamps.

On the plus side, the balls have gone to a good home ,serving as a stew for a couple of the lads. NB. They may have been messing around with me, but I like to think it wasn’t a joke, that there’s been some sort of recycling element, and some of the horse’s manly spirit will live on in the consumers.

Sierra Exif JPEG

*You’ll be pleased to know that the horse is doing well now, and adjusting to his new life as not quite a man and neither a woman. I rode him yesterday and he was very sedate and happy, apparently not having too much of an issue with the psychological aspects of his forced sex adjustment op.

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Posted by on March 20, 2013 in Uncategorized


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25 February 2013

Apologies for the hiatus – I have been writing up a blog, but my editing skills had gone wandering, and now I look back on it, some of it isn’t quite appropriate. So I shall skip to yesterday, when I went to Soundwave Festival. Another of these one day jobbies, as they all seem to be here, this is Sydney’s biggest metal festival.
Now, the last couple of metal festivals I have attended, I have sworn will be my last.
For a start, the metal scene is so stagnant. This year, one of England’s huge metal festivals, Sonisphere, was cancelled, basically because there were no bands. No bands! I spend my life overwhelmed by the sheer volume of good music that there is to find, of how many artists there are constantly emerging and making pioneering stuff. But the metal scene? I’m talking the festival mainstream metal scene, seem happy with the same bands reliving the classics again and again. Well, I’m tired of seeing the same old bands, most of whom are way past their prime. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to stamp on the classics. But yesterday I actually had to avoid bands because I’ve seen them so many times.
Besides this, the festivals are always crap. The general crowd are ugly drunks who are uncompromising in their music taste and scornful with it. You get judged on your music choices, your clothing choices, what band you have on your t-shirt, what bands you’ve seen, your knowledge of metal. The music finishes early, with nothing much to do at night except ‘fuck shit up’. And lesser known bands have to play ludicrously early, no matter how heavy they are, to the sparse crowd whose alarm clocks worked, blinking blearily at them and still eating bacon sarnies. (You have to eat bacon, or sausages, or burgers, or fried chicken. And drink beer. ‘Cos it’s metal, ennit.)
Anyway, I’m pretty over it. But then something always happens that makes me go, ‘OK, I’ll make an exception just this one time.’ And yesterday was A Perfect Circle. One of the most significant bands ever for me, and one I had kind of given up on seeing live. The last time they played in England was in 2003, a one-off gig supporting Deftones. I can’t even remember why I missed it, but it was probably because I didn’t have any money (£20!) or some other feeble excuse. To this day I kick myself for missing it.
So I tried to right my regrets, gulped down my misgivings and investigated the Sydney metal scene to see them.
Now this is not just a fundamental band for me – A Perfect Circle are a supergroup, they are comprised of members connected with huge names, they have platinum status, their last tour sold out in under a minute. They are big.
So why was the crowd still, silent and drastically unreceptive throughout their performance? I didn’t care – I closed my eyes the whole way through and spent the time in my own world with them and their beautiful sounds. But when a band makes such incredible music, they deserve recognition. They left time for an encore, but I was the only one shouting.
Anyway, I don’t want to review A Perfect Circle, I just wanted to point out the crowd. It was like this throughout. In Slayer, I sat down, four rows from the front. There were signs with ‘No moshing, stage diving, crowd surfing at any time’. But no one wanted to. Everyone was so lethargic. I saw a pathetic attempt at a circle pit in Bullet For My Valentine, and that was about it! I found myself constantly doing that annoying, ‘in England, the festivals are so much bigger. In England, the crowds are electric. In England, everyone knows the songs. In England..’
Now, maybe they are all feeling the stagnancy as I am, but for most of these people, they don’t have the opportunity to see half these bands very often. And they didn’t seem to care. There was no crushing need to reach the front, no sweaty head somewhere near you headbanging violently, strands of his hair sticking to your sweaty skin. There were no random outbursts of passers by to each other when they spotted a t-shirt they appreciated. There were no stomps and singalongs and screams of appreciation. There were no musteline crowd surfers who couldn’t make it to the front without smashing people in the head. No circle pits, mosh pits, surges in the crowd that pull people over in waves. No injuries, no boob cam, no banners.
Partly, I attribute this to the one day dilemma: no one really had time to let go, and as it was on a Sunday, everyone had work the next day. Partly, not that any metaller would admit it, it is the fault of the anaesthetized metal scene. And I can also apportion some blame to the heat of the day. But so what?! I expected to be swept along in the wave of nostalgic bands and catch the crowd’s excitement. But it was tame. And civilized. And oh so flat.
Maybe Australians just aren’t angry enough. Maybe they just don’t have the balls for it, or have enough to rebel against. Whatever the reason, let’s just say, Sydney can’t do metal.
no moshing
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Posted by on March 20, 2013 in Uncategorized


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20 January 2013

On Friday, I was invited to play rooftop lawn bowls. I was pretty excited about this, I mean, rooftop lawn bowls! I don’t actually know what this is, so in my head I have invented an Alice In Wonderland type croquet lawn, with animals rolled into balls and playing card people as ball boys. Cupcakes and jugs of Pimms. All atop a wonky tower, on the beach, spectacular views over the sea.
But the temperature soared to a record breaking 45.8 degrees Celsius in Sydney, and the inner suburbs (where I am) were reaching even higher. I hid in the air-con until late afternoon and then made a break for the train. You know when you open the oven and if you are too close you get that whoosh of hot air in your face? Well, all the air in Sydney was like that. You couldn’t breathe properly.
My three minute train journey takes me to another station where I can get a direct link into the city. It’s a tiny little station with a couple of platforms and a small rig that just about holds a man and his chair. The clocks on the wall don’t tell the time, but the large wooden hands are occasionally turned to show train leaving times. When I attempted to purchase a ticket, I was informed that, due to the heat, the trains had been mostly cancelled, or at least severely delayed. It was a two hour journey with the trains running as normal, and I had work the next morning. I just couldn’t risk ending up in North Sydney with no way home.
The next train home wasn’t running for another hour. Why this train was running and not the others, I wasn’t sure. The ticket officer didn’t seem to know either, nor offer me any idea of where there might be air-con. He was offering me some water when some hot and sweaty guy began shouting at him.
I found a place in the unforgiving heat and stood watching the angry array of people pass through, ranting at the poor ticket man. Even the sky seemed to be sweating, fat, lazy drops splattering onto the concrete. So I stood for an hour under swollen clouds of hot rain, got on my train and ended up back where I started. Only much sweatier.
I may have been muttering under my breath a little.
I sat in my room for a few moments, grumbling and seething, steam literally rising from me, when my phone rang.
Did I want a free ticket to a sold out festival? Leaving now. Taxi’s outside.
I thought I had acquired all the luck in the world, but when I looked at the line up, it seemed there was more to come. Pretty Lights was playing. I have been trying to see this man for quite some time. To say the least. He was amazing. He even played a song I hadn’t dared wish for.
The rest of the day wasn’t bad either – sitting with frozen cocktails, watching Red Hot Chili Peppers. And the weather cooled. The grin smothered my face all day.
There was something very poetic about the coincidence. How everything seemed to tie up and the knots just eased themselves out into this inconceivable picture.
I’ve been told I have traveller’s luck. Perhaps I am receiving all my luck in one chunk. But good things like this keep happening, over and over. I like to think it is because I am making the most of opportunities, but actually, I think my only input has been going with the flow. Denying errors the chance to be a bad thing. This day would never have happened if it had all gone to plan. Long live fuck ups.
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Posted by on March 20, 2013 in Uncategorized


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6 January 2013

I’m not sure how normal this is, but I get sayings and quotes and random sentences stuck in my head. Like songs. I find myself waking up with them, stomping them out with the beat of my footsteps, tapping them out on my leg, and chewing them over in a wonderfully circular fashion. I have a stockpile of them. One for every occasion, every friend, every mood. Even if I try to swallow these clichéd nuggets of cheese they still pop into my head, as desperate to prove their point as an annoying teacher. And that’s what they are, really. When I have to be brave, they become mantras.
When I first went to France, it was:
‘An adventure is misfortune thought of in the right way, misfortune is an adventure thought of in the wrong way.’*
It pounded itself into my brain: every time something went wrong, there it was, every time I had to take a deep breath, there it was, like ‘The Wheels On The Bus’ or ‘He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands’. It would relentlessly crop up when I thought I had forgotten it, and start spinning all over again. Then one day I moved onto something else, and now I think of it with a smile and realise how sane it kept me.
Perhaps when I have absorbed all I need it from a quote I can move on. Although I’m not sure what I have to learn from a few bars of arbitrary ‘yeah, yeah, yeah’s,’ which plagued me for years.
When I first came to Sydney, it was:
‘Sink or swim.’ And then in echoed whispers, ‘swim, swim, swim, swim…’
I haven’t quite moved on from this one yet. My head is just about above the water, but there is a lot of splashing.
More recently I’ve been thinking of the TV mini series, ‘Any Human Heart’, where a dying lady speaks of a time when she was down on her luck. She explains how she only had a few pennies, and she should have bought a sandwich, but she bought a bunch of violets instead. “I would never have remembered the sandwich…”
I think of this when I’d rather stay at home: when it’s too hard, or I’m tired, and my muscles are sore, or I want to be safe, or I’m trying to save money, or I just want to hide in my shell.
I’m not down to my last few pennies, so I’m not sure why it has stuck so vigorously. I’ve been thinking it is the prioritising of a memory over anything. But perhaps it is the way Jim Broadbent sniffs his own bunch of violets that he buys in memory of her. Or maybe there is just something about the rhythm of it that has found a groove in me.
I used to think words and music were two separate things, but they bleed into each other. I have just as many sentences on repeat as lyrics or tunes. Only good sentences, mind. The ones so beautifully crafted they carry their own notes with them. I hope one day one of my sentences may get stuck in someone’s head. Until then, I shall ‘stand on the shoulders of giants’. That seems like a good place to start. (Thanks Google – and Newton – for that one!)
* This is, apparently, wrong, but this was what got stuck. The real quote comes from GK Chesterton and reads, ‘An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.’
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Posted by on March 20, 2013 in Uncategorized


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2 January 2013

Well, I have survived the holidays. My phone, unfortunately, did not, finally giving up the ghost on New Year’s Eve. I wasn’t doing anything myself to break it. In fact, I was fast asleep. But either it contracted a very delayed Millennium Bug, or the midnight texts were enough to kill it. That perhaps makes me sound a little more popular than I am – think more straw that broke the camel’s back. That phone has been through some tough times. There was the time I dropped it down the toilet. Then in a bucket of disinfectant. So really, it’s done very well.
Alongside this phone dying, the number that I have held for as long as I’ve had a phone is now obsolete. I am quite sad about this. Too much change! I have purchased a new phone, finally crossing the border into these ‘smartphone’ jobbies. I dutifully charged it all night, but I had to take it into the shop today because it wasn’t turning on. Turns out there was a plastic case protecting the battery. So, er, it’s not working yet.

But that’s the hard bit done now. Christmas is a difficult time to be away, especially when I haven’t been here long enough to have any roots. And it bloody rained on Christmas! I was planning on spending the day on the beach, doing something different that wasn’t attributed to Christmas and kind of blocking it out. But maybe England was missing me too, and sent me some rain as a token from home.

And now, somehow, it’s January 2013.

January is named after the two headed Roman god, ‘Janus’. The heads look in opposite ways, one at the year just past, one at the year ahead. Janus is the god of doorways, bridges and the rising and setting of the sun. A deity to represent transition, progression, beginnings and ends.

And 2013. This is the first year of my life that all the digits have been different to each other (the last one being 1987). That’s got to mean something. I’m not sure what.

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Posted by on March 20, 2013 in Uncategorized


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31 December 2012

Whilst at a party, HG Wells took a liking to another man’s hat, so he plucked it from the stand, placed it upon his own head and wore it home. On closer inspection, he found the owner had written his name and address in the brim of his hat, just in case it got lost. Wells wrote to the man and said, “I stole your hat. I shall keep your hat. Whenever I look inside it I shall think of you. I take off your hat to you!”

Happy New Year!

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Posted by on March 20, 2013 in Uncategorized


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