I was reading somewhere the other day about a film maker who complained that he could produce movies with as much gratuitous violence as was possible to cram onto ninety minutes of celluloid and nobody batted an eyelid however if he attempted to film sex scenes so explicitly he was accused of creating pornography. He has a point. What is it about sex that is more offensive than watching Braveheart being hung, drawn and quartered? Why is it that we can share a tub of popcorn with our parents while watching James Bond suffer the appalling torture of having his …erm…’nether regions’ repeatedly flogged til he loses consciousness but coyly excuse ourselves to go to the loo as he makes love to a nurse in the following scene. Actually in this case I was doubled over laughing at the improbability of even 007 doing the nasty after such an ordeal so perhaps that’s not the best example, but you do get my drift yeah?

My point being that it’s this bashfulness that causes confusion among those of us who don’t know the ins and outs (no pun intended) of the many euphemisms used to discuss S.E.X. which invariably leads to misunderstandings causing further embarrassment all round. In some ways I understand it. I mean ‘intercourse’ is hardly the most attractive word.  No woman was ever bowled over by a potential lover enquiring ‘I suppose intercourse is out of the question?’ Obviously ‘making love’ is far more romantic and yet somehow it sounds ever so slightly twee but if we cross that off the list we are left with terms like bonking, bumping uglies or shagging; none of which are really inspirational when it comes to persuading someone to ‘come across’. Perhaps this is the root of the problem (there I go again with the unintentional puns); because whoever thought up the words for the actual relevant body parts wasn’t particularly poetic leaving us to substitute with terms such as the extremely infantile ‘willy’ or the cringe worthy ‘lady garden’ and which is why it all sounds so much better in French.

Trouble arises when euphemisms clash with their literal origins. I recall when I was a newly married woman not yet twenty and a couple of young Californian guys came to stay. My brother had invited them to cross the pond but then rescinded the offer when he discovered romance, leaving them high and dry. Sparky suggested we could put them up for a while. One Saturday he took them surfing however, not having factored in his staying power they arrived home without him at lunch time. I had been busy cooking all morning and as they emerged from the showers I called out from the kitchen, ‘hey guys come and check out my buns!’ Well you could have heard a pin drop and when I stuck my head around the door to see where they were, the two of them were gaping at each other completely lost for words. Needless to say I realised I’d made some appalling gaffe and  retreated to the safety of the kitchen flushed with embarrassment.

It’s not a new phenomenon either: a friend’s grandmother was explaining that as a teenager educated by nuns, she led a particularly sheltered life which often left her floundering after she went out into the real world. She recalls one day at work when a colleague was discussing a big night out. After recounting the evening minute by minute she finished by saying how distressed she was when her date reached into his pocket and produced a French letter. Amid the gasps of shock and horror from the other girls at the table, my friend’s grandmother asked in all innocence, ‘my God, what did it say?’ Despite her advancing years, she’s never lived it down. The nuns have a lot to answer for; another convent educated woman told me how she was advised that on her wedding night she would be expected to have ‘marriage relations’ afterwards. When her hapless husband tried to persuade her to join him in bed, she burst into tears and refused to undress because she assumed his family would be appearing at any moment.

It’s not just the Catholic girls who struggled with the vernacular. My adorable sister in law was, and always will be, a babe in the woods despite her education in a large public school. In her first job as a pharmacy assistant she was approached late one Friday evening by a rather self-conscious middle-aged man who looked furtively around before muttering that he would like to buy some ‘Gossamer’, a common brand of condoms. Having little experience in these matters, she immediately assumed he was referring to the popular hairspray and asked him would he prefer regular or hard to hold, bringing forth shrieks of amusement from the pharmacist and causing the customer to bolt out into the street.

The bottom line (oh God, did I just say bottom?) is that there would be far less humiliation and confusion if we could just get over the embarrassment associated with sex. It’s not as if we’re talking about a minority group here and it’s hardly a recent discovery: you only have to look a few pages into the Old Testament before the begetting starts. If we’d just taken more time to get it right back then, I wouldn’t squirm with mortification every time I drive past a particular club where I once worked.  I’ll never recover from the night one of the cheeky barmen asked if I’d ever had a pearl necklace to which I innocently replied, ‘no but I did get a pearl ring for my birthday’. I can still hear an entire bar full of people screaming with laughter.


You may have noticed that I haven’t posted a blog in quite some time. Mainly because I’m leading a life so boring that if somebody made a movie about me it wouldn’t sell as well as a documentary about the ten slowest moments in the history of Test Cricket. That’s not to say I haven’t been out and about. I did visit Hawaii in February and spent a week swanning around Waikiki pretending I had money.

That’s the trouble when you accompany your travel writer daughter on a junket to evaluate the latest Trump Hotel. The accommodation might be free but when you pay your account at the bar and find you just spent twenty-five bucks on a gin and tonic, you almost choke over your three dollar olive. I say almost because it’s surprising how adept one can be at performing the Heimlich manoeuvre on oneself when it suddenly hits you that you can’t recall paying for travel insurance in a country that charges ten grand a day for a hospital bed. In fact it would be cheaper to book the penthouse and have the doctor over for cocktails.

I have no idea what the daily room rate was however if the stunning 180⁰ view across the palm fringed beach wasn’t a dead give-away, you couldn’t fail to be tipped off by the bathroom. It boasted more Carrara marble than the Vatican and provided toilet paper refills tied with satin ribbon embossed with the word ‘Trump’ in Donald’s own personal font. The robes and towels were so white and fluffy it was like being enfolded in marshmallow and the tray full of exclusive French toiletries rivalled any gift I’ve ever unwrapped on my birthday. Seriously, I could have had a holiday in the bathroom.

Hawaii has changed in the thirty years since my last visit. We were picked up at the airport by a cabbie who dispensed with the traditional ‘aloha’ vibe and played a short video on his iPhone about the benefits of converting to Islam. I was a little confused as to why he thought I was a likely contender and could only come to the conclusion that after nine hours in the arse end of Hawaiian Air economy class I looked like someone who’d be infinitely improved by wearing full burka.

Downtown Honolulu was hardly recognisable. The local shops where I have nostalgic (if somewhat traumatic) memories of trying to squeeze my boobs into a coconut shell bra, have been replaced by Chanel and Versace. Aussie families in flip flops are now outnumbered by Japanese honeymooners sporting Burberry bikinis and hand-tooled Gucci shoes. I managed to keep my dignity by looking as bored as possible and when asked if ‘madam would like to see anything’ I replied nonchalantly, ‘no thank you, madam bought everything in Paris last week.’ Thank God I’m a liar.

When the heat and the six digit price tags got old I cheered myself up immensely by finding a bar that started Happy Hour at noon. Yeehaa!! Who could complain about a three dollar Mai Tai? Bree and I spent a lovely afternoon knocking back cocktails like Eurotrash in Monaco. That’s the beauty of American money; the notes are all the same colour and if you’re careful where you place your fingers, you can wave a fiver about as if it was a fifty. To give credence to the charade that we were high rollers, every time we finished a drink we stuck the little coloured umbrellas in our hair. By the time I was downing my fourth; a tall confident Texan sauntered over and asked for my phone number. I couldn’t decide what rankled more; his presumption of my grab-a-granny gratitude or the fact that he resembled Jethro Clampett. I told him bluntly that there wasn’t enough rum in the world.

They say you can fool all of the people some of the time but in my humble opinion you can never fool the help and in this instance I’m talking about Guadalupe, our room attendant. From the get go she looked us up and down and wrinkled her nose as if she’d just stepped in something nasty.  I suspect she saw the economy class labels we ripped from our suitcases despite the fact that I binned them inside a Denny’s bag – and before you look at me like I’m a sausage short of a barbecue I’ll have you know that Denny’s is now retro hip!

Anyway I digress; our suite boasted a kitchenette and the second night after our arrival we put together an antipasto platter with decently priced olives from the local ABC store and sat on the balcony enjoying a few bevvies and the Hawaiian sunset. When we returned from a hard day’s slog on the tourist circuit the next day, we noted that while Gaudy (as we nicknamed her) had cleaned the room nicely, she’d left a dish mop and a bottle of detergent on the sink which we felt was a direct hint that we could do our own bloody dishes thanks very much. I bet she wouldn’t have dared pull that stunt on Donald and Melania, or even Donny and Marie for that matter.

Bree was slightly irritated and wondered whether it was recorded on Gaudy’s notes that we were enjoying a freebie. Personally I think she was clued in by my chain store knickers which I’d rinsed and left drying on the designer sofa. I say this because she’d draped the laundry service bag ostentatiously over the coffee table. The cleaning cost of ladies’ smalls was $7.95 per item. I could buy new ones for less. Like I said; you can’t fool the help.

It’s that time of year when kids are graduating and preparing their CVs along with hundreds of other hopefuls striving to get their stellar careers off the ground in order to pay back their crippling student loans. It takes me back to my misspent youth before I realised that a man was not a financial plan. After matriculating I started a degree in psychology which perversely, nearly drove me nuts as I struggled with the frustration aggression hypothesis. PSYCH101 proved well boring and by the time finals were due I could have cheerfully slapped someone so I opted to drop out before anyone got hurt.

I was full of optimism. I was a fledgling feminist of the seventies and every day I checked the classifieds while singing ‘I am woman hear me roar’ until it dawned on me that the corporate world didn’t hire women who couldn’t type. At least my brief stint with tertiary education enabled me to recognise my growing exasperation in time to prevent me from decking the umpteenth jerk who told me to come back when I could ‘do’ fifty words per minute. What really ticked me off was that the same policy didn’t apply to men. You could be a full cocktail short of a party but provided you had a Y chromosome, someone would take you on. Even a four figure IQ however, couldn’t get you past the tea trolley if your circle bore a cross instead of an arrow.

I decided to take the first thing that came along to tide me over until I could find the job I wanted. Not everyone gets it right first go; Rod Stewart was a grave digger until he met Maggie May and Brad Pitt used to work for a chicken shop called El Pollo Loco before he hit the big time although it could be argued that he just swapped one crazy bird for another. Ellen DeGeneres was apparently an oyster shucker but I refuse to be drawn on that subject due to my inability to go past a good rhyme.

Eventually I took on a position as a dental nurse. I know. Unbelievable. Now I’m not disparaging that noble profession, it’s just that the very word dentist always terrified me and the notion that I’d willingly enter a surgery on a daily basis beggared belief. In the event it was an unmitigated disaster. For starters the uniform was so skimpy that I felt like an extra in a Carry On film and I was never game to bend over for fear of flashing my knickers but mainly I was just crap at it.

The sound of the drill made my blood run cold and I had to be constantly reminded to stop grimacing every time it was switched on. I regularly forgot to tighten the lid on the machine that blended the amalgam for filling teeth and if I had a dollar for every time it flew off sending mercury spraying across the ceiling I could have paid off the national debt. It didn’t half upset Old Miseryguts who would then make me stand on a stepladder and wipe away the mess until I decided to start wearing granny knickers.

One of my duties was to develop the x-rays at the end of the day. It was simply a matter of suspending them in a special solution for three minutes in the darkroom. They were never done on the spot which I realised later was just the tight-arsed dentist’s sneaky way of charging the patient for two visits. Unfortunately I hadn’t been factored into his little scheme. I prided myself on my efforts to maximise my productivity by washing the coffee cups while I waited, however the problem was I’d get side-tracked. At least once a week I’d forget the x-rays and then bolt into the darkroom only to find them completely ruined. The dentist would just about spit bullets in his fury and the patients were never too happy about it either.

I clearly recall one incident which I think may have been the thin edge of the wedge in our boss/employee relationship. A young guy opted to have his wisdom tooth extracted in the chair. It proved to be a nasty, complicated affair and the poor fellow was white with pain. The tension was palpable as the dentist, biceps straining and teeth clenched, wrestled with the unrelenting tooth until suddenly it cracked. There was a sound like a pistol shot and I let out such a bloodcurdling scream that the dentist fell off his stool, scattering instruments across the floor while the patient jumped so high he was practically clinging to the overhead light. It was a total nightmare. With eyes blazing, Old Miseryguts pointed to the door and my humiliation was complete as I was instructed to sit in the waiting room until the procedure was finished. I made sure I didn’t fuck up the x-rays that day.

Things went further downhill a few weeks later when I was sent out to buy him a strawberry milkshake. The surgery was on the second floor of an arcade and as I cheerfully trotted back up the stairs the daft old bastard thought it would be funny to scare me. When I approached the landing he leaned over and shouted ‘AAAGGGHHH!’ Moron. I got such a fright that I threw my hands in the air and the next thing the silly fool was wearing his milkshake. I can still picture him vividly, perched on the top step like a stunned mullet; his scrubs saturated with New Zealand’s finest dairy whip while the thick pink liquid dripped from his bi-focals and covered his bald head like icing on a cupcake. To my absolute indignation he made me buy another and pay for it myself.

The deal breaker came one Saturday when the two of us were waiting on a late patient. It was only a half day surgery and we were making polite conversation. With nothing in common we’d soon exhausted all possibilities. Eventually he asked what I was doing after work to which I replied that I was getting my hair cut. Grinning, he asked ‘where, down below?’ I looked at him in disgust ‘I BEG YOUR PARDON!!!!’ His smile disappeared and he turned scarlet, ‘Oh God, I meant downstairs!’ Bloody hell, I’d forgotten about the hairdresser on the ground floor. It was Mortification Central. The patient was a no-show of course and as we sat there looking anywhere but at each other, it was clear one of us had to go. The following Monday I admitted defeat, swallowed my feminist pride and enrolled in a typing course.

There’s something about cops that just does it for me. I’m not talking real cops you understand although I’m very respectful of the Thin Blue Line and once even sported a bumper sticker which bore the words ‘Cops are Tops.’ Sounds daft but my brother had this idea that the highway patrol might be a bit lenient about any driving transgressions if I was seen to be a fan. What I may have saved in revenue to the state police however, I spent at the local panel beater every time some cow keyed my car with the word ‘crawler’.  Anyway I’ve gone way off track as usual.

It started when I was about ten and the olds used to send me to bed on Saturday nights before settling down in front of the telly with a bottle of claret to watch Homicide. Like most kids I was fascinated by anything deemed unsuitable for my consumption and I’d wait until the soft chorus of snoring drifted up the hall then I’d tiptoe out to the living room and watch Senior Detective David McKay nail the bad guys in forty-seven minutes. Something about the hats, the stance and the slamming of car doors in the opening sequence caught my imagination with a lifelong grip matched only by Walt Disney.

By the early seventies I was into my first infatuation with Senior Detective Frank Banner from Division 4, another of Victoria’s finest. (NSW suffered a lamentable lack of prime time crime in the early years of television.) Banner’s wife was killed in the first episode and as an impressionable ‘tweenie’ I was a victim of what I call ‘tragicrush’ as he channelled his Inconsolable Grief into a Noble Cause.

It wasn’t long before I needed something a little more challenging than car chases and grey suits and I embraced Lieutenant Colombo with the same enthusiasm today’s geeks  expend on the latest  iGadget as I battled to figure out whodunit before the indomitable Mr Falk. I soon realised that all I had to do was start with the least likely character and work backwards. Luckily by then I was at an age where the hormones were kicking in and the delectable Inspector Kellor arrived on the scene to clean up The Streets of San Francisco and set my pulse racing. Truly, there was a time when Michael Douglas was cute albeit in a boofy hair and creepy sideburns sort of fashion. (I mean let’s not kid ourselves, it was the seventies.)

Now before you start wondering just what kind of weird teenager I was, I should mention here that I still had the usual obsessions with the likes of Mick Jagger, Jim Morrison, Harrison Ford and yes, if you must know, David Cassidy. In television world however, while some got their rocks off with Star Trek and others fancied the medical route from Dr Kildare to Marcus Welby and onto Hawkeye for a bit of rough; I stayed true to the boys in blue, although I spent a period of the eighties in a maternal fog where I thought the only series heroes who could impress me were those who were handy with a tea towel and could change a nappy without throwing up.

This pretty much narrowed things down to Tony Danza in Who’s the Boss but for some unfathomable reason his character annoyed the living daylights out of me and perversely I wished he’d man up and get a real job.  I’d more or less decided to dwell in reality for a while but then I met the magnificent, the unparalleled, the sexy as all get out Bergerac and discovered my next network crush – the ruggedly good looking, slightly rogue cop in an exotic setting. From there it was only a hop, skip and jump to Hawaii and Magnum PI, although looking back at the handle-bar moustache I don’t know what possessed me.

The early nineties saw me back in the workforce when the kids started school and my favourite time of the week was Friday night. The winkies were tucked up in bed by eight while Sparky retired to watch the football leaving me happily alone with a glass of wine while I drifted off to Oxford to spend a couple of hours with the charming Inspector Morse and his adorable baby-faced sidekick, Lewis. It was an oasis of bliss in the years of juggling my time between the office, orthodontist, after school sport and canteen rosters. Some of my crime fighting heroes from that time lived in books and didn’t successfully make the transition from the page to the small screen; Rebus for example. I imagined him to look like John Nettles and the other guy just didn’t cut it. Same with Inspector Lynley, I pictured him to be blonde and I have to add here that when his pregnant wife was killed I never got over it.

Despite throwing Clooney and Dempsey into the medical mix, hospital shows still leave me cold regardless of how dreamy and steamy the heroes. These days I’m happy to be back in Oxford watching the still adorable Lewis with his young side kick Hathaway, long and lean and as a friend described; with a certain je ne sais quoi. For something edgier you can’t go past Law and Order UK and the general consensus from the women in the household is that Detective Sergeant Matt Devlin is welcome to wave his baton around any time. For the whole package though, you can’t go past Law and Order SVU and that hot alpha male who regularly steps over the line without a backward glance; which reminds me Detective Stabler, where the bloody hell are you?

Before I finish I should mention that there was one real cop I fancied many years ago when working in an all-girl office. He was on point duty at a pedestrian crossing outside our window over the Christmas period and he looked exactly like Jan Michael Vincent with his blonde hair, blue eyes and cheekbones you could hang your washing on.  None of us could get any work done until a colleague invited him in for a celebratory bevvy when he finished his shift on Christmas Eve. He was truly a work of art and we were all jostling for position none too gently until he opened his mouth: ‘geez girls, youse are all rool noice’.  For a split second you could have heard a pin drop and then we couldn’t hustle him out the door quick enough before we fell about laughing and admitted that the fantasy is usually better than the reality.

I recall my first effort at ice-skating. Someone gave me a push and I went careering around the local rink watching everything flash past as I struggled unsuccessfully to maintain control until I finally went down in a screaming heap. I hear you thinking ‘where the hell is she going with this’? Short answer: January! One minute I was sitting on the balcony with a post-Christmas bevvy and a turkey sandwich writing down my plans for the New Year and suddenly I’m hurtling towards the middle of the month before the ink has dried on my resolutions. In fact so quickly are the days passing that I’m not even going to count myself as a flop in that department. How can I fail at something that I never started? I’ve decided to follow university procedure and refer to my resolution effort as a withdrawal.

Really, it’s a relief not having to make sweeping changes to my life at this point. I was planning to be a lot nicer to Sparky but frankly he hasn’t deserved it. Particularly after I kicked my toe on the bedpost on New Year’s Eve and hopped about like a runaway pogo stick using language that would cause Joan Rivers to faint. Far from coming to my aid Sparky rolled around the bed laughing as he reminded me that it was barely one a.m. and that I’d resolved to be more circumspect in my language choices in 2013. Miserable sod. Anyone who has ever incurred such an excruciating injury knows that extreme profanity is essential for pain management.

The no alcohol/dairy/caffeine/white carbs resolution was a ridiculous idea too. No seriously! What if I win a trip to Italy? Imagine sipping herbal tea in Venice instead of those amazing cappuccinos or gadding about on the Amalfi Coast washing down poached tofu with acqua minerale while Sparky is scoffing Fettuccine Boscaiola and quaffing the local vino.  I could get homicidal just thinking about it. Thank heavens the weekly spring clean wasn’t actually gazetted too because I’d tentatively put aside Tuesdays to whip out the mop and bucket and what with the mercury hitting 43⁰ this week, I’d have fallen off my perch face down in a puddle of Pine o’ Clean.

Having absolved myself of the ignominy of failed resolutions I don’t feel so bad about admitting to my Birthday Book shemozzle. You see I was given one by Secret Santa and I spent Boxing Day painstakingly copying down everyone’s dates so I’d be on the ball with the many happy returns etc. Sadly, some cheap bubbly was included in the gift and since free is free, I finished off a good three quarters of the bottle whilst on task. The result is that I have no idea where I put the Birthday Book and I know I’ve missed nearly every Capricorn in the family except for those on Facebook. Actually, thanks to Mr Zuckerberg, I’m tapping out birthday messages for people I barely know while my nearest and dearest doubtlessly think I’m an inconsiderate cow.

Uni has started again. Well to be clear, it never finished seeing as I undertook a summer school unit to hurry things along a little however I had a bit of a break over Yuletide with the intention of hitting the books just as soon as the ball dropped in Times Square.  Somehow in all the pre-Christmas rush I managed to misread the due date for the major assignment and am now having conniptions trying to get everything submitted by midnight on January 13th . I have to tell you it’s not easy trying to get my head around the Crusades. Having spent a considerable amount of the New Year watching Les Miserables I keep wanting to start my essays with ‘Can you hear the people sing?

I can recommend Les Mis if you haven’t seen it already but do take a packed lunch because it’s nearly as long as the first Crusade. On the way home I stopped in at Woolies to buy something for dinner and got a terrible fright because they were putting out Hot Cross Buns. Just when I was thinking that Lent was somehow upon us and that they really needed to re-edit the movie I noticed the tag ‘Best Before Jan 1st’ and remembered with some relief how our supermarket chains like to indulge in shameless commercialism.

Still, the days have just whizzed by and I’m feeling how Alice must have felt when she tumbled down the hole in the ground. The only reason our decorations have been taken down before they became unlucky on January 6th is because the previous evening I accidently left the credit card statement out where Sparky could see it and he packed up the tree, the talking reindeer and all the fairy lights during his ensuing insomnia attack. He’s not very happy with me I can tell you! He keeps muttering about having the most expensive underwear in the world. I was daft enough to ask him to explain and he replied that every year three grand gets chocked up on his Amex and all he has to show for it are socks and jocks. It is a total exaggeration because he also got a beach towel this year.

Anyway, I wish a belated Happy New year to you all. I was hoping to do something altogether witty and amusing to herald in 2013 but I think that ship has sailed: perhaps next year. I was only saying to a friend this morning at the rate I’m going my headstone will read – She never quite got her act together…

Friends and I were discussing inappropriate humour; that disastrous affliction of finding things hilarious at inconvenient times or those not considered chuckle worthy in polite company. To give you an example, I recall being sent down to the Headmaster’s office in junior high school for talking in class (who’d have thought?). The old bastard was six feet something and very intimidating. As he stood shouting at me with such gusto that I was showered in spittle, I couldn’t help noticing that his fly was undone and the corner of his pink shirt was protruding.

I tried, I really did. I bit the insides of my cheeks until I drew blood and I might have prevailed but alas, as he reached the critical part of his tirade, he poked my shoulder several times with a pen and the movement caused the unfortunately shaped scrap of fabric to quiver. I lost it then; absolutely snorted with hitherto suppressed laughter which, despite my horror and his utter disbelief, resonated around his office like a Kookaburra on crack. I spent the next six weeks picking up trash in my lunch hour.

I’ve since gained a reputation for laughing during solemn events to the point where most people I know refuse to sit next to me. Luckily my elder daughter, Bree, is just as irreverent. At a recent performance of Swan Lake at the Sydney Opera House, she whispered that the male dancers were particularly well-endowed judging by the size of their cod pieces. At that precise moment one poor sod glided onto the stage having managed to cram his ‘twig and berries’ into what appeared to be an egg cup. It was his timing as much as his shortcomings and we lost it completely. My younger daughter flashed us a glacial stare as the tears streamed down our faces and the seats rocked while we struggled to regain control.

Sometimes however even Bree is appalled. I once attended the official presentation of the new uniform at her conservative private girls’ school. When the seniors hit the catwalk modelling the cutting-edge sports gear, the hapless Headmistress remarked that the new trackpants had zippers for ‘easy access’. Hello? Doesn’t everyone think that’s hilarious? The old dear was referring to the ankle area which could be unzipped so the girls could pull them on without removing their shoes but you know, private school girls and… well I thought it was funny and rolled around in hysterics until it occurred to me that no one else was even faintly amused.

We decided that the most unsuitable time to find oneself overcome with mirth is at funerals. It’s possibly depraved but quite often during moments of grief we find some things comical. At the funeral service for my darling mother, a woman approached me as I was about to enter the chapel and told me she had been a co-worker. As Mother was not the easiest person to get along with, I embraced the unknown woman and thanked her for making the effort to attend. She replied that she’d actually come because she’d recently lent Mum a tea tray and wanted it back. Despite my heartache I found it funny. Seriously? Did she expect a market stall set up at the crematorium displaying all returnable goods? I was still laughing somewhat hysterically as I walked down the aisle towards the casket which caused everyone to stare as if the madwoman from Thornfield Hall had escaped.

When my uncle died, my grandmother insisted on having him photographed in state. It was hardly a classic Kodak moment however she was very elderly and I dared not refuse. I tentatively approached the funeral director who obligingly took some shots. My girls and I printed them at the local camera store, huddling around the screen to avoid scaring passers-by. The unsuspecting sales assistant pranced over to tell us about a Christmas offer to print our happy snaps on a mug or t-shirt. Regardless of our best efforts she saw Uncle D on the screen and ran shrieking to the back of the shop while we fell about laughing at the possibilities…My Uncle went to Heaven and all I got was this lousy shirt.

Then there was the elderly relative whose five adult children stood in the front pew at his funeral wondering who the hell the other five thirty-somethings were in the opposite pew. Turned out the old bugger had two families and to add insult to injury some of the half siblings practically shared the same birth date. I hoped it would be assumed that the tears running down my face were from sorrow when in reality I couldn’t keep it together when grief turned to disbelief and then outrage as the unspoken word ‘inheritance’ gate crashed the event and loomed like a giant pink elephant in the room.

When Sparky’s grandfather passed away I offered to help plan everything. At the funeral parlour I was greeted by a lovely assistant who helped sort it out and all was going well until she introduced me to the presiding minister, Reverend Death. I bit down on the scar tissue of a million inappropriate moments of mirth as they determinedly tried to reassure me that his name rhymed with ‘wreath.’ Put any spin on it you want to people but let me tell you that there isn’t a font in the world that can pull that off on a printed order of service!

There’s no denying that many occasions require respect and dignity but I’m damned if I can curb my sense of the ridiculous which unleashes those demon thoughts and renders me incapable of self-control. To be fair, I’m quite a good sport when I am the subject of amusement. I learned from the best, indeed the very personification of good manners, Dame Edna Everage, who once proclaimed that if you couldn’t laugh at yourself you could well miss the joke of the century.

Ever since I decided that the Mayans were on to something, I’ve been quietly stockpiling essentials. Chanel No 5, Guylian chocolates, pods for my Nespresso machine and other items that may not be easily available after the end of days, have been packed together with my Kindle, the latest edition of Trivial Pursuit, some decent Egyptian cotton sheets and my family tree on a USB. I’ve had my hair cut, a manicure and a free eye check with Spec Savers and once I’ve figured out what clothes to take I’ll be good to go.

I confess that I’ve always liked an each way bet so I’ve ordered a turkey and helped the family put up the Christmas tree just in case. There was an unnerving moment when somebody dropped the little angel who graces the top and as she hit the floor, her halo of pearls slipped down around her shoulders. We discussed in hushed tones whether this was an omen until Sparky and the boys made crass remarks about fallen angels and pearl necklaces. Philistines. I’ve patched her up with gaffer tape but I’m quietly convinced they’ve condemned us to hell with their vulgarity.

I reread my bucket list to see if I’ve time to tick off a few ‘musts’, however I may have left it a little late to dance with Colin Firth in the summer rain and I think I’ve missed my chance to tell Camilla Parker Bowles what I really think of her since my request for her to add me on Facebook is still pending. As I drew a line through #2, having children with Cat Stevens and #4, riding bareback in the Moscow Circus, I began to wonder just how old I was when I started the list. I also culled a few ridiculous ideas – joining the mile high club and bungee jumping – obviously included after sinking a few bevvies and I swear I never wanted to go head to head sculling Jägerbombs with my mother-in-law. It isn’t even my handwriting.

Anyway despite the bucket list failure, I’ve had a week of great memories to keep me smiling in the face of impending doom. I made it through Sparky’s office Christmas party without needing to be ‘escorted’ to a cab and considering how friendly he was, the old CEO seems to finally have forgotten that I once called him a diehard misogynist. It was twenty bloody years ago for goodness sake and, in my defence, I was suffering post natal sleep deprivation.

It was a lovely evening but I’m over the alternate menu thingo. I always get plate envy and worry that I’ll end up with escalope of emu or some such crap. Also could if I just have one small whinge: who the hell thought Christmas pudding was the go? It’s bad enough on the actual day. I sat there choking down somebody’s dry crumbly Big Sister while my neighbours had crème brûlée. With amazing foresight, Sparky muttered something about networking before pissing off to another table so I couldn’t ask him to swap. Well at least I no longer feel guilty about the wedding we attended recently where he excused himself to go to the men’s room as entrees were served and I furtively switched my fricassee of Bambi for his smoked salmon stack.

The highlight of the week however was sailing away for a night of luxury aboard the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice. As the mother of a travel writer I hear wonderful tales of distant shores and sometimes I get to go along. Channelling Grace Kelly, I alighted from the car and sashayed past the hoi polloi through the media entrance in what I hoped was the epitome of elegant nonchalance. Anyone who complains about life in the public eye has forgotten what it’s like to queue with the masses and I have no sympathy for the likes of Daniel Craig who whines about fame being a pain in the arse. Same with Madonna who apparently won’t let her staff look at her. (Good grief, she’s pushing sixty so why would they want to?) It isn’t rocket science people, give up being a star and get a job with the local bank. You can be as anonymous as you please and you can rejoin the queues. As if.

However, I digress. The cruise was an overnight ‘taster’ and I took my job seriously as I worked my way through the buffet however I was forced to admit defeat before I’d sampled the tiramisu. It was a full house and I was surprised to see three brides on board who curiously thought that an overnight cruise was perfect for a wedding. I’m not sure they factored in disrupting the nuptials to line up on deck for the safety demo and I was concerned their veils would be crushed in the life jackets but thankfully we weren’t required to put them on.

Our stateroom was luxurious and we relaxed on our private deck with novels while enjoying six dollar Piña Coladas. For that price I’d have indulged again but for a nasty spot of brain freeze. The poolside burger bar opened at five but I regretfully declined as my presence was ‘requested’ on the top deck for a cocktail party. As an ex-travel agent I’m fully aquainted with the old adage, ‘free is free’ and as alcohol was the only thing we had to pay for, I made sure I was on time to take advantage of the bar tab. It didn’t surprise me in the least that the travel journos were there ahead of me.

Hopefully the expected tsunami will knock out television coverage before it sends the Harbour Bridge floating in bits towards Hen and Chicken Bay. I would like my last memory of our beloved Coathanger to remain the illuminated vision of grandeur on display as we sailed from Circular Quay while brilliant lights reflected its glory from the Opera House sails, twinkling across the water to a dozen different coves.

Unfortunately a howling southerly ensured that our night on the high seas was rough: at one point I actually wondered if the Mayans were out by a week and I peered out into the blackness expecting to find our ship dangling from the crest of a wave like the Poseidon in the moments before it turned turtle. I imagined myself duck diving through flooded engine rooms while Maureen McGovern wailed about the morning after. All’s well that ends well as someone once remarked and we awoke to the welcome sight of Sydney’s peak hour ferries delivering their reluctant passengers to the new working week.

I hope you’re all packed and sorted. It may be nothing of course but Facebook was down today and I can’t help thinking it’s another sign. I may be panicking unnecessarily but I’m revamping MySpace in case the worst happens. From memory the wallpaper is a bit 2007 and the contact list needs an update. Nevertheless, any port in a storm (no pun intended); I just wish I could remember the password.