November (photos from Halls Gap)

(left) Lorraine, Cathri, Maria and Maria's daughter Maddy.

(below, from left) Lorraine, Cathri and Annie; Annie, Lorraine, Leanne and Cathri; Cathri is king of the world!

(left) Maria, Annie, Cathri, Ilsa, Leanne (in disguise) and Lorraine. Might I add that it was pouring with rain and we had hiked for ages to see this supposedly amazing view that was, in actual fact, just watery shades of dismal grey.

November (decadence demands a price)

I have decided that decadence is a double-edged sword (of course I'm speaking metaphorically here because 'Decadence', as the actual name for a sword, clearly doesn't have the same grandeous ring as, say, 'Excalibur'). The reason I have decided this is that on the one hand it's wonderful to be waited on hand and foot, but on the other self-indulgence demands a price. In my case, the price was three kilos in two days.
I'm speaking, of course, about the short cruise I just went on for Leanne's fiftieth birthday. And, in my defence, the amount of food on offer was mind-boggling. It would have taken someone with a lot more willpower than me to have come away without a weight gain. Of course, there was also no real need for me to take the term '24-hour buffet' as a personal challenge. Just as well the cruise only went for two days, any longer and they'd have had to roll me off the damn ship. I think there's a famous Latin saying for what happened here - Veni, Vidi, Victuals. In other words: I came, I saw, I ate.

November (the bane of bathers)

Once past a certain age, or weight, there are few more stressful times for a female than buying bathers. For me, yesterday was the first time I had embarked on this task for, oh... about twenty-nine years. Give or take a year, and several kilos. But I distinctly remember purchasing a stringy little bikini (predominantly white, with splashes of royal blue and red and cunningly positioned yachts), at a surf shop on the Sunshine Coast back in about 1981. And, if I say so myself, it looked pretty damn good.

But for the past twenty-odd years, since the stringy pair - and its cohorts - stopped coming even close to covering what they were supposed to, I've just worn a tennis skirt (one of those lycra numbers with the built-in knickers) and t-shirt. But tomorrow I'm off to Sydney for a short cruise back down the coast to Melbourne for Leanne's 50th birthday celebrations. And there'll be lots of dipping of toes into crystal-clear water, or lounging on deckchairs with Audrey Hepburn sunglasses and hat, cocktail in hand. Hence the need for proper bathing attire. It completes the look (and is also rather useful for swimming in).

Now I wasn't fooling myself into assuming the task, this time, would have quite the same ease (or aesthetic results) as the 1981 expedition, but I sure didn't expect to be catapulted into a depression that lasted several days (and could only be alleviated by chocolate, which holds a certain [albeit delicious] irony). The bottom line (as flat as it may be) is that they don't make bathers for plump woman. Even the ones with folds and flaps over the stomach do little more than just decorate the belly - and, believe me, that's the last thing my belly deserves. It'll only encourage it. As for those inbuilt bras! Even after I folded my no-longer quite so pert appendages into the elasticated cup thingamajigs, they categorically refused to stay there. Sliding out wilfully whenever I tried to adjust another part of the costume, or having to be rescued from under an armpit if I stretched. Heaven knows what would happen if you actually dared go swimming in one of these things - you'd probably end up with water wings, whether you wanted them or not.

As I brought back yet another twelve pairs from the fitting room that didn't even come close to fitting (which makes the whole 'fitting' room label a total misnomer - where bathers are concerned, they should be called 'pre-therapy rooms' or even 'gyms', because you might look like shit but at least you get a work-out), a woman of about the same age and weight sympathised, saying she also found shopping for a pair of bathers rathers stressful. The sympathy was welcome (a quick drink from a surreptitious hip flask would have been even more welcome), but the comment got me thinking (clearly I was searching for distraction)- why do we call them a pair of bathers? Shouldn't it be a set of bathers? Or even a strait-jacket of bathers? Something to ponder...

But as far as this cruise goes, I'll be the one lounging by the pool in tennis skirt and t-shirt. Luckily the dark sunglasses and hat will grant me a certain anonymity, and the cocktails will mean I just don't give a damn anyway. And it'll be tremendous fun regardless. Happy birthday Leanne!

November (VCE & Melbourne Cup - a super combo!)

There are few more stressful times than VCE final year exams. Two weeks of nerve-jangling anxiety, of unbearable pressure, and of headache-inducing tension. The students, of course, have it a lot easier. That's right, I'm talking about the stresses inherent with being the parent of a VCE student, who - being a teenager - has a general expectation that the world revolves around them but, during VCE exams, amps this expectation up to the max. Here in my household we (and I use the term 'we' with reluctant accuracy) still have three exams to go and I'm not sure if we (i.e. I) will be able to make it. I've decided there should be another holiday concurrent with 'schoolies' that should be called something like 'school-parenties', even though I admit that doesn't have quite the same festive ring (and, if you repeat it really quickly, sounds a little like 'skull panties', which may attract an undesirable element. And wouldn't they be disappointed). My point is that when there is a VCE student in the family (aka the Chosen One), the whole household suffers. Some of the ramifications include:
  • Absolute silence while the Chosen One studies (ours turned into a banshee for a brief period yesterday, sort of like Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Heather Mills. All because her sister and I engaged in a somewhat loud conversation - about evolution if you're interested).
  • Constant cleaning up after the Chosen One's frequent forays into the kitchen for sustenance (cleaning up after themselves might break the concentration).
  • Being there to provide feedback and/or a politely listening face whenever required. No matter what you were doing or whether Elle was trapped in a well with a man other than her fiance on Neighbours and rescue was looking decidedly shaky.
  • Bacon and eggs or some such every exam morning as several experts (thanks, guys) have informed the Chosen Ones that a hearty breakfast is essential.
  • Not 'loading' anything on the Chosen One as (apparently) they have enough to deal with already.
One of the ironies of the situation is that our particular Chosen One keeps talking about how she can't wait to move out while the rest of us concur so heartily we're putting together a petition. Even the dog has signed it. Twice. Fortunately tomorrow is Melbourne Cup Day, which means that I shall have a socially-sanctioned excuse to down a bottle (or two) of champagne. Even a little temporary oblivion may help recharge my batteries. The Chosen One has announced she will deign to join our celebrations for the better part of the day (i.e. probably until clean-up commences), as she could do with a break anyway. So have a good day, everyone, and I'll have a drink for each and every one of you. Hope you all pick a winner!