Thursday, 30 July 2009

Signs of Life in the UK

I made the observation yesterday that the Brits seem to have perfected the art of not making eye contact. Just to annoy them, I've made a point of smiling at everybody (even those who look like axe-murderers) and saying hello, and mostly, people have been looking the other way – apart from a Muslim couple, an Asian lady and a probable axe-murderer (and two other notable exceptions – Glen and Berni – I'll tell you all about them later). I will continue my relentless campaign of friendliness if it kills me!

Thelma has caught a sniffle – no doubt from those germy people on the plane, who coughed and sneezed their pestilence into the fake air of QF1 all the way from Sydney to London. I went shopping for some medicinal red wine yesterday, and ended up having an adventure!

But first - I found some fabulous signs around the place that I want to share:

This one – telling it like it is – I love it!

And in the supermarket – Jerk marinade - for the Jerk in everybody's life!

I was overwhelmed by the abundance and variety of supermarket trolleys:

And the irony of this appealed to my warped sense of humour – the British Racing School is near the village of Snailwell.

So anyway, coming back from the supermarket I managed to get lost – and very nearly ended up in Snailwell! What an adventure – when I realised the road I was on was not getting any closer to the road I had hoped it would turn onto, I knocked on the door of a house at the front of the British Racing School. The door was opened by a nice young man.

'Hello', I said. 'I'm a stupid tourist, and I think I've got myself lost. I managed to get all the way from Australia to here, but I got lost on the way home from the bloody supermarket!'

The nice young man, whose name was Glen, is a teacher at the British Racing School, and he very kindly drove me back to the Bedford Lodge – what a knight in shining armour!

Today, Thelma and I went back to visit our new best friend, Berni. We met Berni yesterday when we wandered into her fabulous shop, Vintage Angel, in Newmarket. I bought a splendidly blingy top (which will feature in tomorrow's blog post) and Thelma bought a little figure-hugging dress (perfect for her, as she has a little figure).

We visited Berni today to tell her about our latest adventures and to take a photo:

And she gave me this lovely lovely card (made by her) and gave Thelma a Goddess Card reading to help heal her broken heart.
So there you are. Clearly, it's only some Brits who have perfected the art of not making eye contact – people like Glen and Berni are British treasures!

OH - before I forget - here's today's HOTD (Hat of the Day) - modelled by Miz Thelma, it's known simply as G Garb 4.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Blighty or Bust!

We made it! There were moments when that looked doubtful – Thelma's gargoyle eye, my froot-loopness and then the vicissitudes of powered flight.

We overcame the first two only to come very nearly unstuck with the third. Our Qantas flight was delayed for 2 hours while the engineers performed emergency surgery on the brakes (brakes being relatively important on an aeroplane, of course.)

Here's a pic of me waiting at the airport. Thank goodness there was a G&T handy!

So – my travelling day, which began at 7.20am, when Boomerang Boy drove me to the bus station for the 3 and a bit hour trip to the Sydney airport, suddenly became 2 hours longer.

And so did Thelma's. She and her gargoyle eye hopped into a taxi in Sydney at around 1pm.

The gargoyle eye was looking remarkably good – a little bleary, but that's all. After 24 hours on a plane, the other eye matched it anyway. As did mine.

Powered flight is so unnatural. So is sitting in a tiny seat surrounded by other similarly squashed people who don't bother covering their mouths when they cough. You feel a bit vulnerable. Sleeping pills gave me a grand total of two hours sleep and one hour of doze. No wonder the first 24 hours in England have been a total blur.

A blur which began on Tuesday when, a pair of gargoyles, we staggered from the plane at Heathrow at about 8.30am, and finally finally found a bus to Newmarket that deposited us in the main street at 1.30 pm. For me, a grand total of about 37 hours of combined travelling/waiting around/not sleeping or doing anything actually productive.

Here's Thelma, absolutely delirious with excitement and jet-lag. We made it!

When we arrived, we noticed an interesting phenomenon. The people who are paid to help you often don't. At Heathrow, the only person who was vaguely helpful was one of the West Indian rail workers. There was no useful signage and nobody would admit to knowing anything that might've helped us actually get out of the airport. If it hadn't been for that nice man we would still be wandering around Heathrow two days later.

But – we're here! (as you can see!) Here in the lovely Bedford Lodge Hotel (pictured at top), in lovely lovely Newmarket.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Travels and Travails - 2 days to go!

In my last post I alluded to a problem that Thelma has had with one of her eyes. Here's the goss...

Fate can be a bit of a meanie sometimes. In the last week she has seen fit to visit an eyeball condition upon Thelma. This eyeball condition involves a swelling inside the eyelid and blurred vision in that eye.

What’s a girl to do, less than a week before becoming a sophisticated international jetsetter?

This was the scene, three days ago:

Thelma stares fuzzily at the prospect of travelling to England looking like a Cyclops. Betty tries to be helpful.

'Does G Garb do a line in pirate hats? You could wear an eye- patch. That would look a bit swashbuckling and sophisticated.'

Thelma’s lumpy stare is frosty. 'No pirate hats, no eye-patches', she hisses. 'I’m not meeting Simply Red looking like Johnny Depp with boobs!'

Betty thinks Johnny Depp is a bit of a dish, with or without boobs. 'You know, if you wore a puffy shirt you’d hide the boobs.'

A pulse throbs in Thelma’s neck. 'I want my eyeball to be fixed,' she says slowly. 'I don’t want a pirate hat, an eye-patch, a puffy shirt, a white stick or a bloody seeing eye dog (although I am rather partial to dogs).'

She’s right, you know. Sophisticated international jetsetters shouldn’t have to contend with lumpy eyeballs.

A problem is a problem, of course, and this one wasn't going away. So. Yesterday Thelma took her eyeball to a surgeon, who performed some sort of magic inside the eyelid, involving a bit of cutting and scraping (eeeewwww!) I am reliably informed that today Thelma resembles a gargoyle (only on one side, of course). On the plus side, apparently she has an eagle eye - two of them, in fact, (when they're both working). Which they will be, by Monday. Honest.

This is turning into an interesting week, and omigod, I still haven't packed my bag!

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Learning to fly - new phones for Betty & Thelma

We sophisticated international jet-setters like to look the part, so Thelma and I have got new phones. We are so 'now', we're loving ourselves to death.

I have a Samsung F480. It's very hip. Unfortunately, I am getting to the age where the word 'hip' is usually uttered in relation to major surgery, so it's no wonder I can't use my phone! It needs a pilot's licence (or a teenager) to drive it.

Thelma has been having problems with one of her eyes, so of course she bought herself an eye-phone... And when she plugged it in, it didn't do anything. So she phoned me, because I'm the Sensible One, and besides, I'd already spent three hours on the phone to Tech Support, trying to make my phone send and receive emails. (Don't tell Thelma, but I couldn't even remember where the on/off switch was - very embarrassing - while "Tiffany", the nice foreign lady from Tech Support waited patiently at the other end of the line for the screaming to subside.)

I'm so good at using my phone now that I only cry a little bit if I can't find my instruction booklet (an improvement on the way I was last week, when I wanted to throw the lot out the window, assume the foetal position and sob uncontrollably). Having the equivalent of a Masters Degree in Samsung, however, didn't make me a Master of anything eye-Phone, and Thelma was flung to some Tech Support gurus of her own.

She must've got her PhD in eye-phone now, though, because she sent me an email a little while ago, proudly announcing 'sent from my iPhone'!

We are sooooo savvy.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

'In' words for today

Thelma & I are about to become international jet-setters, tee hee! In less than a week we will board that flight and head to Blighty. For someone who, only a month ago, said to Thelma “Go to England? No, no I can't possibly. That would mean getting on a plane. You know I don't fly”, I'm remarkably calm.

OK, that's not true – I think I'm mistaking inertia for calm. It's more a sort of 'rabbit in the headlights' frozen-ness. So much to do, so little time. I never did find that orange something to wear that I was after on the weekend. This year's version of 'orange' is a sickly salmon pink that makes me look ill.

Omigod, and my to-do list keeps growing.

Yesterday I ticked off two items:
*** Organise international roaming for my phone
*** Buy some English money (and at 47 pence to the Aussie dollar I didn't get much bang for my buck!)

But those achievements were cancelled out by:
*** Book flights to France – so confusing! I gave up. Try again Tuesday.
*** Organise a plumber – Half an inch of cold water on my bathroom floor almost sent me and my fluffy slippers arse over tit at 6am yesterday. There's probably a more jet-setterish term than that to describe the desperate scrabble to keep my footing, but I don't know what it is.

Slithering about on wet tiles and emptying the vanity unit (do I really need 17 half-full bottles of shampoo and 5 litres of contact lens cleaner?) to try and determine the cause of the problem got me nowhere, and then of course there was the load of sopping wet towels that had to be washed afterwards. At least the bathroom floor is sparkly clean now. I turned off the whatchamacallit for the cold tap over the basin and went to work. When in doubt, walk away.

Dammit, sophisticated international travellers shouldn't have to contend with leaky taps!

It's now 6 days till we depart on the Big Adventure. My insomnia has reached monumental proportions. I've been awake since 2.30. I was eating crumpets with Vegemite at 4.30 this morning. Well, actually not REAL Vegemite – it was that new blend that they haven't named yet – in my heart of hearts I call it Yukkymite, because it's just, well, yukky. I bought a whole jar of the stuff, though, so I feel obliged to finish it, otherwise it may well end up joining the half-empty shampoo bottles in the Cupboard of Despair.

Ah, there goes the kettle – time for an injection of caffeine, or I shall never make it through another work day. I'm wearing an eye-stabbingly yellow jumper and striped hangover socks (so named because no-one with a hangover could look at them without throwing up) to help keep myself awake.

I keep telling myself that this time next week we shall be in the air somewhere between here and London, and all of this will seem insignificant, right? Right?

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Thelma & Betty and the Perils of Packing

Crikey - it's not that easy! At least our hats are ready to go!

In the meantime.... Thelma is still practising walking in heels, and has just bought a suitcase.

The woman in the shop tried to sell her one big enough for the two of us and our gear to travel in; something you really wouldn't want to be lugging around everywhere, on and off trains etc. These days you can't actually leave your luggage anywhere unattended, or they call in the bomb people. A giant suitcase would be a bit of an albatross.

Betty: It's your turn to mind the suitcase!
Thelma: No, I minded it last time, remember, when you went to the loo, and you were gone for ages!

(This in itself would be a dreadful thing, as women are renowned for going to the loo in pairs. The existence of a giant suitcase would render this time-honoured tradition impossible to uphold.)

So - a sensible suitcase has been bought, in a becoming shade of simply red. Now, what to put in it? The rule of thumb is that if you don't want to be carrying it on and off trains and up and down escalators for a fortnight, leave it behind.

And then there's the carry-on luggage. Being the sophisticated international travellers that we are pretending to be, we don't want to arrive in England looking as if we've been pulled through a hedge backwards - but dear me it's hard to look fabulous after 24 hours in a flying sardine can filled with fake air. Our emergency skin care, toothpaste, deodorant, cosmetics and the biggie - hand sanitiser - have to be squished into tiny tiny bottles (of no greater than 100ml capacity) and sealed in a plastic bag no bigger than 20 x 20cm so that the screeners at the airport can see that we're not trying to bring explosives on board, cunningly concealed in, say, a 125ml bottle of emu oil (my favourite moisturiser).

Lucky me, though - my lovely friend Anna gave me a collection of LAGs*-legal skin care as part of my birthday pressie last week! Here's how it won't look once I've chucked it all into my sealable plastic LAGs* bag:

Today I am shopping for something orange. Not sure what - but my entire travel wardrobe at the moment is black or olive green, and I want something bright!

*LAGs - Liquids, aerosols and gels.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

OMG - G garb?

G garb is the brainchild of Tracey Clark (aka Thelma), a biz whiz from the little town of Greta (the G in G garb) in the beautiful Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia. Everybody else in the Hunter Valley seems to do wine, so Tracey decided to do hats. Very logical choice.

She researched the market, wrote the business plan, sourced the hats, designed the logo and funded the setup of the company. Coming from a long career in sales, Tracey knows what’s what, and she’s great fun to boot. With a wicked sense of humour, an adventurous spirit and a steely determination to succeed, Tracey Clark has the qualities that will put G garb on the map.

But who is Tracey Clark? One of five children, she’s now a 46 year-old mother of two grown-up kids. She has three dogs – none of which is hers, is a solid gold dancer extraordinaire, an absolute non master of the violin and piano, and has written more poetry than Keats. She doesn’t like peeling potatoes, and once got lost for several days trying to put on a doona cover, so she doesn’t like them either. Apart from all that, she’s also stylish, effortlessly classy and has impeccable taste. But she’s not much of a traveller.

Tracey doesn’t travel, she moves. The last time was to New York, back in the 90s, and she spent 5 years living and working there before coming home to Oz. The trip to the UK will be her first proper ‘tour’.

That’s where I (Betty) come in. I have been overseas at least 3 times, not even counting the fact that I was born there, and not counting New Zealand either, because that’s almost Australia anyway. I am a whiz at looking lost and asking for directions in two and a bit languages, and I’m the Sensible One.

Tracey/Thelma will try to tell you otherwise, but all you need to do is read some of my other posts to know it’s true. I ride around the countryside and fall off motorbikes in my spare time. And I’m Tracey’s faithful sidekick: the Costello to her Abbott, the klutzy Jerry Lewis to her suave Dean Martin; the Gabrielle to her Xena, and the healer of her broken heart, sitting round the cauldron (a story for another day).

She may call me her ‘business associate’ on the G garb website, but I prefer the term sidekick. My experience of hats is wearing a motorcycle helmet, or a beanie to stop my ears dropping off in winter. Tres chic, ha ha - that's not a G garb hat in the picture above, by the way! Tracey is the hat lady and the expert, and I am her humble apprentice (except I’m older and wiser – the Sensible One, remember?)

We have been invited backstage at the Simply Red concert in Newmarket on 31 July. We have chosen our outfits, although Tracey, an avid wearer of runners, is allegedly hopeless in heels, so she’s been practising in her hallway. I, on the other hand, will stick to sensible shoes.

So – join us for our adventure, yes? It’s going to be a hoot!

Monday, 13 July 2009

A new Adventure – Betty & Thelma Hit the Road

This is a bit exciting. My good mate Thelma and I have teamed up, and we’re about to take England by storm!

In a couple of weeks I’ll be swapping my motorcycle helmet for a sophisticated cool G garb hat and flying away to the UK with Thelma (the Hat Lady of the Valley) for 10 days of Mad Hatterdom.

This has come out of the blue, you say. Well, only sort of. Thelma and I have been friends since our daughters were besties in Primary school. That’s so many years ago now that I’ve lost count. They were the days of swilling gin and tonics and Solid Gold Dancing.

Not much has changed. Thelma & I are older and wiser, and far more fun than we ever were back then. She’s still taller and skinnier than I am, and a far better cook, and I can still drink her under the table.

Thelma also has a great head for business, and for hats. I’m still finding my comfort zone and easing my way into hattiness.

The hats, though, are great – Kevin J. Robinson from Simply Red has been wearing one of Thelma’s hats during the current tour, and looking super stylish.

Watch this space to keep up with our adventure. We leave Oz on July 27 – a mere two weeks away, and EEK! I haven’t started packing!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Women Who Run With Swine

Forget running with wolves – I have run with the swine, and I'm here to tell you about it.

Boomerang Boy came home from work a week ago, looking and feeling dreadful. He took himself off to bed and stayed there.

I drove him to his doctor's appointment the following afternoon because he was too dizzy and sick to drive himself. After that I took him to have a 'deep nasal swab' (which is where they get this giant cotton-bud and poke it right up your nose and into your throat - eeeeeew!) to test for the dreaded swine flu. Then we drove to the chemist for Tamiflu, and back home again. It was pretty much the last I saw of Boomerang Boy, who, after the horrors of the deep nasal swab, took to his bed with great eagerness and did not emerge from his cave for days. Off his food, and coughing up both lungs, day and night, he sounded scarily unwell.

I did something I thought I had outgrown – I turned back into 'Mum', calling through the door to remind him to drink lots of fluids. I tempted him with soups and crumpets, orange juice and gallons of water, and became the Queen of Glen20 & Hand-washing. I fretted and listened at the door to check that he was still breathing. I called him through the day to see how he was feeling.

I also assumed that as he was so unwell, he had a regular influenza – swine flu being, by all accounts, a mild bug for most generally healthy people (apart from those poor Mexicans back at the beginning of this pandemic biz).

Imagine my surprise when BB phoned me at work yesterday to say that he'd had a call from the ACT Dept of Health and Communicable Diseases to say that he had turned into a statistic – one of 11 new cases in the ACT, and just one of the 266 confirmed ACT cases so far.

From the beginning I had been determined not to catch it, whatever it was that he had. I used the Betty Mind Control Strategy, ha ha - (“Betty Says NO to Germs!”) It worked when the kids were tiny babies – I didn't get sick for almost two years, out of sheer terror that I would be unable to look after them – so I know that mind over matter can work. Against swiney, the combination of Betty Mind Control, BB's self-imposed home-quarantine, judicious Glen20 assaults and OCD-style handwashing worked a treat. I have washed and sanitised my hands so often that they have shrunk two sizes...

I felt pretty smug, I don't mind telling you. No swiney for Betty! This morning, though, I woke up feeling a bit ordinary and with a sore throat. Uh-oh... So - I did as every responsible worker should do – made a doctor's appointment and chucked a sickie.

The doctor's appointment was hilarious. When I arrived, I was given a mask and hidden away in an isolation room. When BB (who had been parking the car) came in, he was treated similarly. We sat in the isolation room cracking silly jokes. When the doctor was ready to see me, the receptionist came to the door of the isolation room and gave me directions to find the right consultation room.

BB & I ventured out into the packed waiting room.

“This way, this way!” hissed the nurse, beckoning frantically from stage left. BB and I followed as she skirted the waiting room and took us through a warren of corridors, keeping her distance. I heard the words 'swine flu' muttered more than once as we made our way to see the doctor.

I was fine. A coincidental cold. All that worry for nothing. Betty Mind Control rocks! But now I know how a leper feels!

By the way - BB the piglet is no longer infectious. I am. I have a bit of a cold. Be afraid!

Friday, 3 July 2009

Flying High with Fluffy the Comfort Cat

Australia's flag-carrier, Qantas, is currently caught between a rock (aviation legislation) and a hard place (anti-discrimination legislation).

The problem is the lack of an adequate definition, in the Disability Discrimination Act, of what can be classed as an 'assistance animal'. Guidelines for guide dogs are quite clear, but it seems there is a bit of legislative leeway for hamster/gerbil/python/sheep fans to state a case for taking their own particular pet on board. And that's what Qantas is a bit worried about.

Here's the story. Apparently there's been a huge increase in the number of people who need to have a 'comfort animal' with them, to get them through the horrors of a flight. Qantas is worried that if someone says that Hortense the Chook is their assistance animal, and Qantas refuses to let Hortense board, then Hortense's owner could sue Qantas for discrimination under the Disability Discrimination Act.

Aviation legislation, on the other hand, is quite clear about carrying assistance animals onto a plane. Hortense the Chook probably wouldn't make the grade, but you can see Qantas' problem, right?

I'm finding it all quite amusing. Can't you just imagine the Brave New World in which animals and aeroplanes fly united? Planes would need to separate canine & feline passengers in much the same way that smokers and non-smokers used to be segregated. Pax with rodents might feel a little nervous, and would have to avoid the depressive with the python in seat 28B. The twitching fellow with the potbelly pig could sit wherever he wanted, but preferably nowhere near the galley or any Jewish or Muslim passengers, and all fish would have to be carried in an approved container, in less than 100mls of water, to satisfy LAGs (liquids, aerosols and gels) regulations. Don't want any terrorist types smuggling liquid explosives on board, cunningly disguised as the home of Bubbles the goldfish!

And another thing. With an on-board menagerie, would airlines need to provide comfort stations for animal companions? Aeroplane toilets aren't the most spacious places as it is, and there's really nowhere to put a litter tray. In any case, what might happen to the contents of a litter tray if the plane hit turbulence just doesn't bear thinking about! Maybe airlines could slip a couple of pet poo-bags into the seat pockets along with the sick-bag and the emergency instructions?

As for those human passengers who might be perfectly ok with flying, but who suffer from allergies to pet hair – would they have a case against airlines if sitting next to Fluffy the Persian cat had them wheezing and sneezing their way from Paris to Perth? Likewise, the doggyphobic traveller who finds him or herself shut inside a flying sardine can full of assistance dogs...

My anxiety and I will be boarding a plane in a few weeks, with my friend Thelma the Hat Lady. We will not be asking Qantas if we can take Oscar Bin Laden (my cat) on board. Oscar hates travelling anyway.