Quick Q&A: HOLIDAY BRIEFS

No not knickers you wear while on holiday, although I do leave my daggy ones behind and only bring nice-ish ones on holiday even though they are seen by about the same amount of people as at home (5 –  most of whom take not the slightest bit of notice anyway). Oh and I did actually buy some knickers while shopping on the Gold Coast so I guess they could be my holiday briefs too. Here they are by the way:

Hello you gorgeous things

I think they’re lovely but my husband is not so enthused. Maybe because they don’t look like this:

Grrrrrowl

Anyway, I’ve had good intentions to write about civil liberties or Syria or something, but I’ve been rudely and frequently interrupted by children, mojito cocktails and random thoughts and questions poking through a relaxed brain as I see new places, meet new people and read bits and pieces of the newspaper. Collectively I thought there may be some slim chance they could form something kind of helpful or interesting, if not intelligent, so I’m sharing my (other) holiday briefs. So in no particular order (with headings so you can skip the bits you might think are boring), here we go…

Why do toenails appear to grow faster in warm weather?

I’ve come from 5 degrees with a family of neat toenailed people to the tropics with a load of taloned tigers, one of whom is likely to slice my foot off at the ankle with one sleep toss . Well that is exaggerated but it’s only 10 days and I have had to buy clippers. Why? Well some say it’s because in warm weather our metabolisms speed up to keep us cool, so blood pumps faster and things generally speed up all ’round, which doesn’t bode well for my bikini line. This theory is refuted by a William B. Bean, who actually measured the growth of  one of his fingernails every day for 35 years (I wonder if the B stands for Boring). His nail grew 0.123 mm per day without fail, the only exception being when he had mumps and they slowed. But they grew extra fast after his illness as if to make up for it.

BTW: Ears grow about 0.123mm per day as well, which is  maybe why a lot of old men have enormous ears like this: 

Sorry I could help but add to the smear campaign. Sorry Tones you poor old fucking dick head.

Does seaworld buy dolphins kidnapped from Japan? 

Earlier this year I watched the 2009 doco, The Cove, which showed dolphins rounded up and slaughtered or captured near the Japanese town of Taiji. The doco maker, Ric O’Barry, claimed that up to 23,000 Dolphins are ‘harvested’ each year in Japan. The film showed the cove running red with blood as fishermen hacked dolphins to death, as ‘pest control’ or to sell as whale meat. I cried about it on and off for days, with “but dolphins are our friends!” wailing through my head.

The doco claimed that a ‘lucky’ few dolphins are captured and sold for big money (up to $150,000) to theme parks around the world, and that these dolphins are rewarded to clap and smile when they are actually aware of their captivity and are very sad. He has witnessed the ‘suicide’ of dolphins.

I’m happy I’m happy look I’m smiling gimme a fish

When the Gold Coast part of this holiday was in the planning stages I declared that NONE OF US would be going to Sea World, as that would simply be (complicity if not actively) encouraging the slaughter of our finny friends. On day 4 of the holiday, most of them (having sniffed at my evidently not so affecting appeal) went to Seaworld and had a lovely day.

It does appear that Seaworld Australia has no dolphins pining for their families back in Japan. They say that 60% of their dolphins were born in the park and that moreover, Seaworld is a signatory to protests directed to the Japanese Government. I couldn’t find anything about the other 40%, nor anything on the ancestors of the ones bred in captivity, so I phoned the administration number and was passed from person to person until I spoke with a marine scientist who said that the 40% were ‘taken’ from marine parks that had closed down and that they didn’t know about their origins, nor how the original Seaworld dolphins were obtained. Hmm, I sense at least one unhappy dolphin somewhere along the line.

And even my husband (the biggest sniffer), admitted to being slightly disturbed by Seaworld’s Polar Bear experience. He said the one he saw was pacing, which makes me think of that faded footage of the last Tassie Tiger – and look at what happened to her.

In case you’re wondering and according to the well known whale saviours aboard the Sea Shepherd, many of the Taiji dolphins are in Egypt, more in Dubai and in parts of Asia.

What does Erudite mean?

It’s one of those words I know of but have never felt the need to really know, you know? Well I was reading about (my beloved) Geoffrey Rush’s conversation with musical master Steven Sondheim and Geoffrey thought, “Goodness he’s erudite.”  If I’d heard him say it as opposed to reading it, I would have thought he’d said Sondheim is ‘a rude-ite’, which is of course someone who wears no undies and tells everyone.

ERUDITE, on the other hand, means “having great knowledge or learning; scholarly”. Clearly, because I had too look up erudite, I am not erudite. Nor am I a rude-ite even though I talk a lot about undies.

Incidentally, last time I was staying in Port Douglas I saw Geoffrey Rush. He walked past me as I was leaving the bakery. I instinctively turned and walked after him for a small while until I realised that equated to stalking and he would not appreciate a gasping silly-girl stuttering at him no matter how fresh her rolls. I’ve hung about the bakery a bit on this trip but he hasn’t showed, which is a shame because I could have thrown erudite into the conversation and made him think I possibly am.

Why does asparagus make wees smell funny?

I ask because while writing that last bit my smallest child, who is potty training, proudly placed her full potty-pot beside me on the table. So as not to disturb my train of thought I said, “Well done darling how clever I’ll get you a smartie in a minute” and left the weesy pot right where it was, in range of my nose. It had that asparagus smell, which made me realise there must have been asparagus in the mini quiche she ate a little while before.

When I was growing up, my family always accepted asparagus wee as a given, it amused us a little bit but mostly we just ignored it. But my husband didn’t have a clue what I was on about when it came up in some romantic newlywed conversation. Evidently none of his family ever had stinky asparagus wee, which made me wonder whether I came from a freaky wee family.

Turns out that this phenomenon has been observed for centuries. Marcel Proust observed in his writings (1871 – 1922) that asparagus, “transforms my chamber pot into a flask of perfume”. Well I don’t know about that, but I don’t agree that the smell is “filthy and disagreeable” as described by food writer Louis Lemery in 1702. I wouldn’t want to breathe it for too long but to me it’s just another distinctive smell, which is caused by sulfur compounds unique to asparagus (asparagusic acid). The smell is produced with remarkable speed – about 15 minutes after ingestion. The smell is stronger the younger the asparagus.

But here’s what’s really interesting: 1) most people, but not all, do get smelly wee from asparagus BUT 2) only about 22% of the population have the ability to smell it. So, there’s a chance my husband’s wee is pristine after eating asparagus, but it’s more likely that he doesn’t possess the gift of asparagus wee smelling. I on the other hand, could detect his asparagus habits in the blink of an eye and the quaver of a nose hair. This surely makes me a rare and gifted being.

NB – I have emptied the pot now and she did get her smartie (as I handed it to her I told her that smarties are actually erudites not smarties at all but she ignored this part in favour of said smartie-erudite. She is used to me saying strange things).

What terrible thing happened in Chechnya?

I watched a bit of the movie “Brigid Jones’ Diary” the other day and it was the bit when she is preparing for a date and practicing how brainy should could make herself look to Hugh Grant by rehearsing, “Isn’t it terrible about Chechnya, ChechNYA…” I realised that I didn’t know what the terrible thing about Chechnya was, and Hugh Grant didn’t help because he didn’t “give a fuck”. Then a day later I nearly met a Chechen girl who turned out to be from the Czech Republic but had studied Russian which possibly explains the confusion. I was pleased she wasn’t Chechen because I was all geared up to be sypathetic-but-not-over-the-top-condescending about the something terrible without knowing what it was and my knowledge source being Brigid Jones.

Anyway, now I’ve looked into it and I know that the Chechens were at war with Russia for most of the ’90s and into the naughties as they sought independence from the Federation. In brief, Chechnya declared independence from Russia in 1991 and in 1994, Boris Yeltsin sent in Russian troops to restore Moscow’s authority. The Russian force was defeated in this first Chechen war and Chechnya enjoyed independence until 1997 when Vladamir Putin sent troops back in, responding to a Chechen rebel uprising. Chechen separatists were blamed for the bombing of apartment buildings around Russia, but this was refuted by several high profile journalists who said that the bombings were staged by the Russian Secret Service to form an excuse to regain control of Chechnya. Two of these journalists were killed under suspicious circumstances. That Putin is dodgy I tell you. Dod. Gy.

Many civilians died in the second war as Russia went in with brutal force, determined not to fail. Chechen rebels notoriously held 900 civilians hostage in a Moscow theatre in 2002, many of whom died as a result of anaesthetic gas pumped through the building by the Russians to render the occupants unconscious. Warn raged through the country and left vast areas of it in ruins. Its capital, Grozny, was described by the UN as “the most destroyed city on Earth.” Yes indeedy Brigid, terrible things.  

These days, Russia has installed a pro-Russian Chechen Government under controversial President Ramzan Kadyrov – a Muslim who is promoting traditional Islam for his people. The counter terrorist operation ended in 2009 and while violence occurs sporadically in them there Chechen mountains and demographics are fiddled to reflect a burgeoning population, reconstruction and redevelopment measures have been in operation and things in Chechnya are fragile but not so terrible.

A Thought: ‘The Worlds’ on the Gold Coast are truly bloody awful

I don’t wish to waste (too much more) time on these places but I have been to 3 of them with gritted teeth for the sake of my children (who were joyous for maybe 30% of their time in them and annoying grizzle-bots for the other 70) and it’s time TO SAY MY PIECE and I warn you, I WILL GRIZZLE.

These places charge a FORTUNE to get in, then expect  you to pay even more if you happen to want a stale sandwich or a go on a new attraction featuring an incredibly huge, vomity swing or spend 5 minutes on a boogy board over a fake wave. And what do you get for your money? Grubby surfaces, fake grass that smells like wee, actually fake everything that smells like wee, queues (45 minutes to shit your pants in the scooby doo roller coaster house and another 20 minutes to buy a drink), crowds of people, more people (about half of them screaming) and a bunch of children feeling repeatedly disappointed. A low point was a Movie World moment where I queued for about 20 minutes for Lu to steer a small taxi about as fast as a lame snail once around a two minute circuit. And there’s me at the end of it clapping and saying, “What fun!”  and shoving more junk food into her downcast face.

I did quite enjoy later taking her on a smallish blow up ring on a fake river at Wet’n’Wild World. We drifted under bridges, past a fake shanty town that could, if you squint your eyes and hold your nose, be a bit of Cape Cod. I was just beginning to think that it was really quite nice and not too cold given that the only part of me in the water was my jacksie hanging through the ring which got used to it quite quickly. I relaxed, so did Lu; it was probably the most relaxed time spent with my 2 year old since she was in utero. Then a fake waterfall dumped water on us from a bridge. I know it’s wild and wet but do they have to throw so much of the wet stuff about? It was COLD. When I eventually scrambled out of the ring I realised that everyone on the river (it was crowded too) were floating about with their jacksies or goolies hanging in, and my traitorous brain, though I willed it not to, renamed the river experience the Pink Bit Dip.

Roll up, roll up, come and dip your bits.

Anyway, I won’t go on. The children will only remember the good bits (while I remember the pink bit dip bit) and I’m sure we all came away from it stronger, with clean bajingos and better immunity.

Another Thought: Gillian Mears is my new favourite author

Every now and then a writer takes my breath away. Richard Flanagan did it years ago with the opening paragraph of “The Sound of One Hand Clapping”:

“All this you will come to understand but can never know, and all of it took place long, long ago in a world that has since perished into peat, in a forgotten winter on an island of which few have ever heard. It began in that time before snow, completely and irrevocably, covers footprints. As black clouds shroud the star and moonlit heavens, as an unshadowable darkness comes upon the whispering land.”

For me, this is the kind of passage of writing that I can read over and over, then put the book down and let its atmosphere float me off to sleep. Enough reading to sustain my large appetite for reading for a good while.

Arundhati Roy did it too, with the whole of “The God of Small Things”. That book took me forever to read as I vacillated over bits like,

“Edges, Borders, Boundaries, Brinks and Limits have appeared like a team of trolls on their separate horizons. Short creatures with long shadows, patrolling the Blurry End. Gentle half-moons have gathered under their eyes and they are as old as Ammu was when she died.”

And now Gillian Mears has done it again, with “Foals Bread”. I’m only a quarter of the way through (so I guess there’s still a chance it could turn me off, like Tim Winton’s “Breath”, which started beautifully and then got all erotic asphyxiation on me) but so far it’s a wonderful piece of work, with a kind of brutal, dusty, ordinary beauty (if that makes any sense). It had me from the prologue:

“The sound of horses’ hooves turns hollow on the farms west of Wirri. If a man can still ride, if he hasn’t totally lost the use of his legs, if he hasn’t died to the part of his heart that understands such things, then he should go for a gallop.”*

My heart said “Oh” when I read that, and I knew I’d found a medicine-book, one to take in small doses, let it treat and transport. I hope that one day Jane Campion makes it into a film.

*I’ve just noted that Gillian Mears has MS and is wheelchair bound, so this passage takes on even more meaning.

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Categories: Brainwork, Navelgazery, Quick Q&A

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7 replies

  1. How strange – just got off line (Booktopia) from ordering Foal’s Breath for my daughter as a Christmas present (she is horse mad) – and here you are talking about it! Now I want to read it too!

  2. Still laughing re your Worlds experience…
    And yes isn’t it wonderful how a beatuful bit of writing can transport us and make us happy? What do people who never read books do???

  3. And I thought the asparagus character, just as in Sav Blanc, was due to the sex-pheromone-related scent compound called pyrazine. It ties in with your “passing” observation that men are less susceptible – both to Sav Blanc and the after-effects of consuming asparagus.
    Now don’t start me on beetroot: I once thought I was dying and made a doctor’s appointment before I twigged to large consumption of the vegetable the previous evening!

    Love your naughties’ posts, but when “chechen” ’em out, I couldn’t help noticing you’re possessive about the ’90s (not 90’s – it’s the century that we are apostrophying) and when further “chechen” that you’ve further apostrophised “It’s capital, Grozny”

    BTW – I don’t have a “B…” for boring as a middle name, but I’m sure you’ll conjure up something more colourful than that.

  4. So pleased to have been enlightened on the Bridget Jones Chechyna dilemma – I’m going to have to watch the movie again armed with my new knowledge (or reminded of my old knowledge because I did say “ooohh yeah thats right!”) and mock High Grant for not giving a fuck…

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