Secrets to a happy office.

I won the lottery two years ago when I was offered a job at a small media company in Brisbane.

I had an inkling it was going to be good fun. I had met the crew before and they were both exceptionally good looking. Like really, really Good Looking; Zoolander-esque.

 Looking back as I prepare to tearfully depart, it’s been a damn fine few years. Much to my flatmates chagrin I have often bounced home in the afternoon declaring I’ve had “the best day ever.” Or, worse, on a Sunday night I sometimes tell the roomies I am excited about getting back to work. They look at me as if I’ve developed a pustule-like tropical disease. I can see the fear in their eyes as they worry it’s contagious.

 For those of you not lucky enough to be pushing a mower in the Great Outdoors, offices can be a real treat. Aside from the perils, including the real risk of developing admin ass (the flattening of the buttocks due to large amounts of time spent sitting idle) and the possibility of consuming too much cake at the ubiquitous morning and afternoon teas; there is a great amount of fun to be had in offices.

 I find there is a good six hours a day that can be spent developing puns. Ah, the wittiness coming out of my office puts Ricky Gervais to shame. Perhaps he could put some Extra effort in to get up to our lofty standard.

 Another good way to pass the day is to practise shooting paper wads into the bin. My boss loves this game so much he misses on purpose, at least I think that’s his caper. I’m certain he cannot actually be that bad at the game.

When you tire of that, it’s a good time to bring in extra props. 3D glasses from the movies, for example, are excellent value. The glasses provides a great distraction when Judy from O H and S is being a pain in the ask. Plus, you can see things in much greater detail, in three dimensions at least.

 Another great way to burn a 15-minute slot is Song of the Day. Each office member takes a turn to show the others how terrible their taste in music really is. There is great potential for judging others in this little event. And you’re likely to find out who is a raging commo and who is a fascist.

 I also recommend finding an employer with a young child. They provide oodles of fun. I especially like magic tricks which require you to casually “close your eyes” as a tiny trinket is stowed away up a sleeve. It’s so endearing to see the look on their face as they say “see, it’s disappeared,” and flounce off. It really completes the day.

 I also like to indulge in a spot of singing here and there. This one is actually not for everyone. Luckily, I have the voice of an angel, so it creates a nice vibe in the office.

 Extra-curricular activities are also important. There was the time when I had to research Brisbane’s best bars. I still wonder if getting paid to achieve mild inebriation will be the pinnacle of my career. The lesson there is to find a job where you share common ground with your employers. A shared love of booze won’t hurt anyone, at least in small amounts.

A shared love of hot milky beverages is also important. Some of the best creative-brainstorming/procrastinating occurs when a strong latte or a cup of tea is on the table.

 Enhancing your career is also a bonus in the office stakes. Yesterday somebody told me my writing had vim. After I researched the word – and what a fabulous word it is – I put that compliment down to my years here. In a leafy street in the Brisbane ‘burbs I learned to write.  

The lesson here: a collegial environment is nice. Try to learn from your colleagues.

This means you have to be open and realise the person sitting at the desk beside you is likely to be much cleverer than you are. In their school tests they probably placed a little further to the right on the bell curve.

That’s ok. If you leave your ego at the door they can probably show you how to use an apostrophe and spell the names of political parties.

 Mostly, I recommend you find people to share your days with that you genuinely like. It’ll make getting through the slog like slicing through butter with a sharp, hot blade instead of trying to put a ten-person tent up in a gale.

It’s a Runner’s thing.

There is no greater feeling than running along decked out in exercise gear, huffing and puffing, perspiration beading off your eyebrows and encountering someone with a pizza box in their hands. The self-righteousness is palpable.

Of course, if you were the dude with the pizza you’d be thinking the runner was absolute meathead.

I believe there are two types of people in the world: those who run and those who do not.

Fortunately I am both of those people. On Saturdays I hang out at the hot chip shop during the day and the pizza parlour by night. It’s a blissful, hedonistic existence.

Then, on Sundays I like to drive down to the Kangaroo Point cliffs on the Brisbane River and join all the other suckers looking for non-existent parking slots. It’s hilarious watching all the runners drive around like fools, ready to hit the pavement, but unable to find a place to covertly stow away their SUV.

It’s like watching flower girls and page boys trying to scrape confetti off the pavement and shove it back in the box. Oh the irony – you can run anywhere, you know?

It’s doubly hilarious for the person walking past with an aromatic pizza.

But, of course, that sucker is probably going to end up feeling a little bloated and will miss out on the legendary Runner’s High.

And you really do have to join the Running Fraternity, which, I’m afraid, does mean you’ll have to join all the other rabbits looking for parks on a Sunday, to understand the elusive High.

You’ll probably have to start using throwaway phrases such as ‘oh yeah I went for a light jog yesterday. I’m nursing an injury. My fifth metatarsal is twinging again, so I’m trying to limit myself to about 9 kilometres.’

And then you can start forking out some serious coin to wake up offensively early on a Sunday and run along the bitumen with your Running Friends.

I know all of that sounds a tad foolish, and frankly that’s because you are going to look a fool at some stage in your Running Career, but it will be worth it. The Runner’s High is better than drugs. Or so I’ve heard from some of my more rebellious Running Pals.

I joined the Fraternity a few years ago when another member recruited me to run the City to Surf in Sydney. It is a beautiful and exciting run starting in Sydney’s luscious city parks, running through the red light district, King’s Cross, and past the exclusive Rose Bay, which is breathtaking, and then along the headland to Bondi Beach.

The famous Heartbreak Hill in the middle of the run separates the city from the beach. It’s 2 kilometres you will not forget. I still recall Daft Punk dragging me up with Robot Rock. Plus, the hill is sponsored by RSVP and what is not to love about signs that tell you “you’re so hot right now,” as you’re about to collapse? Not even a dead pig is that sexy.

Residents on the track get into the spirit, too. Some will form rock bands to spur you on. Others will come outside and clap in a rather lame manner. That’s still nice.

And it’s only 14 kilometres. An easy trot, at least for a Runner.

Since my first City to Surf, my Running Career has spanned a few more fun runs, another City to Surf and a half marathon, one of my proudest achievements.

Now, when I come across a particularly difficult task, such as peeling potatoes with a left-handed peeler, I think to myself “I did that bloody half marathon, so I can peel these cheeky spuds.” Sure, I may have had to pay 90 bucks for the pleasure of waking up at 4am to run along an empty highway, but it’s that feeling of accomplishment I remember.

After the half marathon the crew I ran with joined together is a Runner’s Celebration. We indulged in an all-you-can-eat feast at Sizzler.

And that is how easy it is to slide between the dude with the pizza and the chick in lycra.

 

 

Travel through the ages.

Seize the day. Live in the moment. Don’t let opportunities pass you by. Chase your dreams.

Blah blah blah.

For all the motivational talk going around it has not become easier to tick things off the bucket list.

Leaving family behind; that’s always going to be a clincher. Take a squiz at this photo of my Ma and me before I left for South America. I was 20 and casually heading to the other side of the world by myself. Freaked out doesn’t cover it.

 

And then there’s leaving your mates. Essentially saying ‘well, it’s been nice partying with y’all, but I’m off.’ Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

 Leaving work, a house, packing things into boxes and throwing stuff out. Rarely do cheesy slogans tell you what needs to go in different sized boxes. Figuring out how to get your bond back is an entirely different Google search.

Posters are more likely to be a romantic ride-off-into-the-sunset, meet-you-at-Machu-Picchu affair. Still, if you are inspired, the practical details will work themselves out.

 Today’s story is about a man I met in Ecuador. Possibly one of the loveliest, most inspiring and good-humoured men I have ever shared a pot of tea with.

 I met Chris (and, yes, that’s his real name) at a youth hostel in Quito. His disposable income, which was definitely heads above the other clientele, made this guy stand out. Plus, he had a wicked southern English accent and was about 40 years older than everyone else.

 

As an engineer he’d ticked off most of the places he wanted to see. He’d travelled to every continent. I recall that he built a dam in Afghanistan and lived in the States for a few years. He’d seen more of Australia than I had. But Latin America had, so far, eluded him.

Ecuador appealed to him for its dexterity. In four weeks he’d be able to fit in a few days in dugout canoes in the Amazon, see the mighty Andes (he managed to climb to about 5100 metres in gumboots), and, of course, frolic with the big turtles on the Galapagos.

Honestly, Ecuador is one of those afternoons when you manage to combine blue cheese, crunchy crackers, sweet quince paste and a good red. It caters to every sense.

So Chris and I met in the hostel and then ventured off to climb a mountain. This man had a serious adventurous streak. Perhaps he is Bear Grylls’ dad?

We arrived at the mountain retreat and went on an almighty scramble up a river to see a waterfall. It was a treacherous route with a glacial stream running past us. No worries for Chris. The dude was stubborn enough to make it places a city kid wouldn’t look at twice.

Unsurprisingly, Chris managed to keep up with the steady flow of red wine later that night.

He was bright-eyed in the morning, perhaps still glowing from telling us all about his Triumph car and motorbike. Both had been bought new and carefully preserved.

More hilarious tales ensued on the hike up Mount Cotopaxi, one of the world’s highest active volcanoes. We made it to the glacier together. It was a triumph for me, at 20.

The look on his face showed the immense satisfaction at making the hike as  60-year-old.

Later, we did a coy little swap. I gave him an ugly beanie I had intended for my ex and he shouted me a trip back to town. I think I saved 10 bucks and was thrilled.

We said farewell and he headed off to do some hunting with a native tribe. I headed into the forest for some zip lining.

On a whim I ended up in the Galapagos. We met again serendipitously on a busy street and told tall tales of mermaid antics with seals.

This dude was glowing. I have never seem a man in his 60s look so youthful.

He had conquered diarrhoea, altitude, been at sea for days and had done it all on a timetable that would have freaked out the most frantic working mother.

So, thinking of Chris still motivates me. If he can see the world, so can I, I think. And look how happy he is – I want that.

But what I can’t forget is that there’s no hurry. Don’t forget to live life in between. Don’t live for the holidays. Instead make the routines and everyday moments the stuff of dreams. And those other dreams, the riding-off-into-exotic-sunset dreams, they’ll come too.

After all, Chris was a patient man.

What are you going to do about it?

I’m not a fan of the conservative approach.

Last night’s election bought in a huge change in Queensland. Change, now that’s not a bad thing.

I hope that a few things can improve in Queensland. My nursing friend who is owed a large sum of money by Queensland Health, I’d love for her to be paid properly. I’d love for public transport to be cheaper. I love for mining magnates to have less input to our democracy.

But, overall, I have few real gripes with the state of my state.

I believe in change and after 14 years of Labor, I’ll try to give it a fair go.

I’m wary, however due to the dramatic power shift. And, I’m not a fan of conservative regimes.

So as this political change is unfolding, I have a proposition. I reckon we could all become a little bit more involved. Paint some signs and honk some horns. Stop showering, if you like.

There were some little protests in the city last week. Some were anti-gay-marriage, the other side were out to defend gay rights.

The important thing is that they were telling people what they wanted.

A good mate of mine who suggested she was late for dinner, because “she was out fighting for gay rights,” had a face flushed with excitement. Not only had she stood up for what she’d believed in, she’d had a great adventure.

I believe hitting the streets, writing letters, signing petitions and chaining yourself random objects is a great way to get your point across. Plus protests can be great fun.

Sure, it requires a break in your routine from work, home and socialising, but maybe it’s time we took a greater interest.

I did not meet anyone during the recent election campaign that felt engaged by the nature of the debate.

Most were dismayed by the spin and the bullshit both leaders were rubbishing our ears with.

I was pissed that Campbell Newman refused to shake the hand of his opponent, Kate Jones, after a debate. But non-gentlemanly habits aside, what is this dude going to do for health and the environment. Is he going to stand up to the mining bully, Clive Palmer? Is he going to improve the environmental score? I doubt it.

For me, the answer now lies in activism. It is time for me to get up off my beige couches (that actually won’t be difficult as they have already been sold and will go soon anyway) and start participating in this democracy.

If there is something I do not like, maybe I will join in some sort of rally, instead of blundering along wondering about my place as a middle-class yuppie. Chatting about issues at dinner parties doesn’t cut it, really.

I remember protests were ubiquitous in South America. Everywhere I went there were people camping out asking for one thing or another. And they were fighting for the money to feed their children. They were fighting for human rights.

They got to camp on the street too. It looked like an almighty adventure.

As a kid, one of my father’s colleagues was a greenie who would tell me about his exploits breaking into government buildings and chaining himself to trees. He had some interesting battles and won a few, I believe.

I was there wide-eyed with my ponytail thinking it sounded like great fun.

Yesterday another guy was telling me about his brother who was an active protester in the UK. The last one he did was against an oil company and involved a few babes rubbing oil into his bare chest.

That sounds like my kind of protest.

I understand, as women, we have less incentive to burn the bra. Things ain’t so bad. But there is stuff to fight for. Watch the news, or, better still, search out the news and get informed.

Believe in causes at home and beyond your backyard. Fight for them.

For me, it’s about taking that leap off the fence. My mother is a great inspiration here. She wrote a few heated letters to the French Prime Minister in her teen years. She was pissed off about the French dropping nukes in the Pacific and tried to stop it. She is also a redhead and quite fiery by nature.

We know that shit like nuclear testing is wrong. She did something. Bravo.

I’m not suggesting we all need to buy new stationary or go a month without a shower.

But it’s not hard to speak up and show the folk in power what you believe about.

Do you think Kevin Rudd would have said sorry to the indigenous people of Australia if there hadn’t been some almighty protests? If a stack of people had not stood up for what they wanted? Unlikely.

And there is whole lot more that needs fighting for in indigenous affairs and elsewhere in Australia.

So, Campbell Newman, good luck. I hope you do some good for Queensland. I’ll let you know how you’re going. Maybe you’ll see my placard.

And to everyone else, there is a great adventure to be had trying to keep the bastards honest.

The Rum Diary. Drink up.

The trailer for The Rum Diary almost enticed me book a ticket to Puerto Rico.

Such a splendid, free-spirited adventure was always going to inspire me. I could not get to the cinema fast enough to see the famed writer and cult hero, Hunter S. Thompson’s, 1960s journalistic exploits on a sexy Caribbean island.

The minute-and-a-half teaser was full of heaving parties and white-sand beaches; the women were beautiful and, of course, the rum was ubiquitous.

And I do enjoy rum, but never in Australia. I have never pandered to the local Bundaberg-style. The Nepalese brew, strangely, was delightful. I was certain the Puerto Rican liquid would be impressive.

I was lucky enough to land Gold Class tickets for the Rum Diary. Sitting in those recliners with the big screen is fairly awesome. Reclining the chair is not so simple.

My plus-one and I spent a good five minutes searching around for the controls like a gorilla after a banana. I knew the chair must recline, the savvy folk across the aisle were almost horizontal, but the controls eluded us.

I tried pulling up the foot rest and pushing exuberantly on the back rest. It wouldn’t budge. Not an inch.

Finally, a whisper. “They’re electric. Controls on the side.” Ah, so Event Cinemas have moved beyond the wooden lever on the side that was so easy to pull.

Chair antics aside, the movie was even better than the trailer.

The Rum Diary, as my plus-one put it “is a bit of a thinking movie.”

It was not the party-party-sex-on-the-beautiful-beach affair I had anticipated after watching the trailer. Well it is still that, but there is so much more going on.

To give you some background, the young and talented journalist Paul Kemp goes to Puerto Rico to work on a newspaper. He’s also a novelist, although he laments at not being able to find his “voice.”

On the island they drink a whole lot of rum, have some interesting run-ins with the locals and, of course, Kemp falls in love with an unsuitable woman.

Although slow-moving, the movie has all the ingredients: action, love, thought, scandal, violence, sex and a generous pouring of rum.

The cock-fighting scenes, while brutal, are fascinating and provide an interesting cultural insight.

Johnny Depp, of course, plays the enigmatic Kemp with characteristic individuality.

As a writer, Kemp’s search for his “voice” strongly resonated with me.

Throughout the film I noticed the little plot twists that were impacting the character. The emotions, played so mysteriously by Depp – “what is he thinking about what’s going on,” is a question I was constantly asking – are what finally allowed Kemp to write.

There is a whole lot of sh*t that goes down in Puerto Rico on Kemp’s watch. In one way the film romanticises the rum-fuelled exploits, but in another it raises serious questions about the impact of the West on places such as Puerto Rico.

Kemp’s participation in the events in the film and his reaction to them defined his writing style.

So, aside from being an entertaining flick, it is a thinking movie.

I’ve been thinking about my writing style, about what inspires me to write and what my “voice” will be. Or, indeed, what it already is.

Much like Kemp, I believe finding my style is a journey. I have no idea where it will end, but let’s hope there is plenty of rum along the way.

The funeral and the fox.

This is one of the first stories I wrote as a journalism student in 2007. Baffled by the high standards at the University of Queensland I consumed large quantities of alcohol, in true journo style, and let the creative juices flow.

Here is it, unedited.

The Funeral and the Fox

 

I was sitting around a bonfire with my family one Saturday night. We had a raging fire between the mandarin tree and the patio.  After a couple of glasses of wine on this particular night the phone rang at around 11pm. We’d finished our roast chicken and fluffy damper when I answered the phone, it was my grandfather. He sounded strange and anxious when I passed the phone to my dad before we were told that my Granny had passed away. Granny had died suddenly that afternoon from a heart attack; she went in style in the middle of a party.

Dad left early the next morning flying down to Cowra to be with his family and plan his mothers’ funeral. My mum and I were to stay at home and look after things back there for we had a troublesome fox that had kept coming round and killing our chooks, we wanted to stay and protect them.

In the meantime, only two nights after my dad had left for Cowra the fox came around looking for a feast of fleshy chicken. This was the fifth time Mr Fox had visited our chicken coop and it was decided that he had to be killed. Over the phone dad described to me the way to aim through a rifle and to the amusement of his bereaved family he guided us through getting the rifle from the gun safe and loading the gun. I still remember dad saying to me “line-up your v’s on the rifle and shoot the bastard, just shoot the bastard before he kills anymore of our chickens”.

Half an hour later the fox was heard again and mum grabbed me out of the shower then we set out with the rifle. Our fox hunting mission began with me in my pink flannelette dressing gown, nothing underneath, and hair still went and half conditioned from my shower just moments before. I wore my ugg boots on the wrong feet and carried the 22 rifle under my right arm while mum held the flailing torch. The lack of light didn’t make for the best conditions and as I fired a few shots into the fox’s direction beyond the woodheap I knew the quest would be in vain. The shots proved to be unfruitful and by the time my mum and I were to return from Cowra nearly all of our chooks would be gone from the run.

It seemed ironic to be hunting while mourning, yet I had rarely hunted before and never mourned so the new experiences were different in every sense. After a disturbed sleep mum and I traveled to Cowra for the funeral of one of the most wonderful women I will ever know.

During this time I had been fighting off a feeling of anxiety alongside my grief for the last time I spoke to my Granny I had played a trick on her. I rang her up pretending to be Jane form the Sydney Morning Herald conducting a poll onAustraliaand the monarchy. After 10 minutes of Granny telling me her ideas on the constitutional monarchy,Australiabecoming a republic and the governor general I revealed to her my true identity. Hahahaha it was all exceptionally comedic!! She laughed and laughed at the time but I wondered whether it was appropriate for final words with your grandmother.

The funeral was beautiful, Granny packed out the church and church hall with people also standing outside listening through speakers. Myself and two other cousins read Bible verses and I left with a feeling of relief. A big weight of grief had been lifted off my shoulders. After the service an old lady in sedate black dress came up to me and began speaking. She said “Hi Penny how are?” I said I was fine and returned the pleasantry. She continued talking to me; “Penny I just wanted to say that I was with your Granny when she received the “call” from the Sydney Morning Herald. She was so pleased with the joke, she came back to us at the table and spoke so highly of you. She told us all about your achievements and what you were doing at school, she was very happy”.

I felt amazing at that moment and I will never forget the gift Joan gave to me with those words for despite the sobriety of the occasion I felt content and the pain of my Granny’s death had started to hurt less.

It was only two weeks after Granny’s funeral that Mr Fox died. One Wednesday morning just before dusk my parents heard the fox with the last of our chooks and got a good shot in as the sun was rising, dad “killed the bastard”.

It’s a dog’s life.

The chocolate lab puppy is bringing the street together.

By day it sits behind its fence and whines. And pines. All day it cries at being left alone.

My heart is quietly breaking for the poor little pooch. For at least the first minute I am feeling sorry for it, wishing I could share an ice-cream with it, or something revolting like that. It does not take long, however, for my innate dog-hating streak to come to the fore.

It’s never going to give me any peace, I begin to think of the demonic puppy. She is intent on destroying my day.

The neighbours, however, must be mad about dogs. Crackers, I reckon. They’re constantly trudging over to play with Lily. A few have adopted her out of the goodness of their hearts, or perhaps they cannot tolerate the whine, which quickly becomes as annoying as the reversing truck noise. They tuck her under their arms and carry her back to their own yards to throw plastic toys around.

It’s all very cosy.

Babies have less community value, I am sure. Toddlers with blonde riglets and skipping ropes do not get as much attention as Lily is courting.

So, what is it about dogs that turns grown men into apple strudel?

My mate Michelle is mad about her canines, a love I have certainly never shared. She calls her chihuahua, Baloo, the Love of her Life. I recall one horrible night Michelle camped in my bed and Baloo had to come to. It almost killed me, all the scratching and licking. It still pains me to think of that fitful night and the trouble I had washing the sheets.

She reckons Baloo can read her moods. He licks away her tears and give her cuddles on the rainy days.

Eww, I think.

And her new dog, Romy, is not much better. The Sh*t Dog, I call it. And it is definitely not a well-behaved little girl. I keep telling her that the menace would be better off living at the Pound than pissing all through her house, but apparently there is some sort of loving attachment there.

Frankly, I struggle with the loving dogs thing.

My brother’s border collie, Sasha, she is a very cool dog. I even enjoy throwing a stick at her and watching her dump it hundreds of metres up the beach. I get another stick and repeat.

It’s a game I tire of long before she does.

This aversion of mine does bother me. Often I wonder if I missed the dog-loving chromosome. Maybe I was bitten by a beast as a child. I do blame my parents for taking the cat route when I was young, although I have no love for cats either.

The problem is more serious when I scratch the surface. Perhaps I am still single because all of my boyfriends are turned off by my anti-dog stance. The lads’ dreams of weekends at the beach throwing sticks to wet dogs are dashed when I reveal my true colours. Sometimes I can see the moment they stop looking at me as a potential mate and start seeing me as a callous, heartless hater of man’s-best-friend.

I am considering taking on a puppy when I move to Charleville. A strong burly dog would go well with the broad-brimmed hat and boots. I could even teach it to jump in the back of the ute. Oh, and there is the romantic streak of mine, just hanging out a few streets away from Reality.

If my puppy had the Lily-effect I would have the new neighbours eating out of my palm in no time.

Although, according to my brother, if I get a dog from the Pound I cannot take it back in a year when I am done with it and ready to go overseas again. And the thing would probably have a whine just like Lily’s.

My brother suggested a goldfish may be a better option. How condescending! True, but condescending.

Still, I reckon I can learn to love a pooch. I have to, surely, if I am ever to pin down a bloke.

And perhaps the bark is worse than the bite.

What’s in a flatmate?

There’s nothing quite like being busted by your flatmates.

It’s their mirth that I fear most.

Tonight, for example, I was on my way home from a run that was more ambitious than I had intended. My energy was lagging and I desperately wanted to slow my aching limbs and stroll along at a more sedate pace. But, somewhat miraculously, my motivation did not lag.

I wanted to keep running so badly that I began punching the air. The movement impelled me and I picked up speed rather easily. You see, I had seen a shirtless fit dude doing similar running punches on the path a few days earlier and thought that may be my ticket to a flat stomach.

It was a great sprint to the bubbler, the punches keeping me going like the boost you get when a musician pumps out their best song at the end of a gig. It kept me kicking.

I was aware I looked like a lunatic, madly punching the air as I screamed along the pavement, sweating and panting.

I made it to the bubbler and then went on my merry way.

Later, as I was strolling back from the supermarket, (yes, I am one of those people that loves to extend my post-exercise glow and stench through Coles) Shorn Lowry sends me a sneaky little text.

“Pen were u running listening 2 eye of the tiger, I saw u punching the air.”

Oh, the cheek. Luckily, he already thinks I am crackers.

“Rage against the machine,” I reply.

The incident got me thinking about the relationship we forge in share-houses.

Some flatmates are dire. There is the sort you wouldn’t want to be placed next to at a spacious restaurant, yet there you are showering in the same recess. Watching them empty your shampoo bottle and secretly stealing away their cheese in the dead of night is tiring a charade.

Those folk are not the ones we like to share a wall with.

The ones that can cook and enjoy cleaning, they are the real winners in this contest.

It is enormously pleasant to wake in the morning and find a steaming cup of tea sitting by your bed. Once you are cool about them sneaking in and watching you sleep in your birthday suit, it’s a lovely gesture.

I have been thinking recently about the evolution of strangers and friends shacking up together and sharing fridge space.

Is share-housing a new phenomenon? Did the cave men shack up with the cave kids from down the gully?

Is it common in countries where there is a greater focus on family? Or is it mostly country kids, trying to get by in the harsh big cities, who are lucky enough to know about flatmates?

At last count, I have lived with 23 people. That does not include boyfriend’s flatties, who often fall into the flatmate category, by default.

Of those 23, some become very special. It is easy to forge a friendship, for when you share a house great intimacies are carried through the walls. Also, your buddy in the room next door is likely to catch you running like an idiot. And then tease you about it, which is certainly the way to my heart.

The saying goes that you don’t really know a person until you live with them. It’s true, I reckon.

The friendships are as solid as my eternal love for Ben Harper. And Johnny Depp, gosh he was fabulous in the Rum Diary.

It’s a different friendship to the way you interact with mates from school or work, or lovers even.

I believe living with people is one of the most honest pursuits we have in this society. Try hiding diarrhoea in a house where the bathroom adjoins the living room. It’s a disgusting home truth.

Your flatties, they know who is dossing in your bed on a rainy Sunday. They know, at most times, how much liquid income you have, give or take. They probably know about most of your allergies and a few of your fears. Your doctor should ask your roomies how many units of alcohol you consume a week, if they want an honest answer.

A good roommate knows your parents by first names and the relationship status of your siblings. Often childhood pets are mentioned over dinner.

Flatmates will figure out fairly quickly if you have nudity tendencies, a penchant for wearing dirty clothes, take drugs or, God forbid, if you have a secret Shakira habit.

And recently I heard about a beautiful Spanish girl that had an intervention forced upon her by some cranky house buddies. The early-morning Shakira was too much. There were tears.

It’s the kooky little habits that make the relationship so honest, I reckon.

A good flatmate will enrich your life. They see in you what you sometimes miss in yourself. That can be creepy and weird, but it’s enlightening.

And the fun you can have playing Jenga, sliding around in your socks on the polished floor, destroying each other with the Super Soaker and, more generally, teasing each other about eccentricities; that fun is boundless.

Flatmates, I reckon, are like teapots. A crappy one will spill stuff everywhere without a consideration. And you will hate it for ruining your moment-of-pure-unadulterated-bliss cuppa. That teapot can do no right and should be swiftly taken to Vinnies for some other sucker to suffer.

A good teapot, however, will pour you a sweet brew when you’re nursing a broken toe. It will worm its way into your heart.

Say hello, wave goodbye.

I do not mind going without a bed. It’s fun camping on your mate’s couch for a night. I also have no issue with the lack of dining room table, in my post-garage-sale world. Eating off the floor makes dinner an adventure with Aladdin. I am certainly not concerned about having no bedside table; that’s like camping, but with a highly superior mattress.

There is one thing, however, that is harder to swallow.

Fresh out of the shower today I grab a slice of bread. I’m hurrying slightly, anticipating the Vegemite fix. Then it happens.

The toaster is gone. It’s tray, still teeming with years of burnt toast crumbs, sits in its place looking rather pathetic; like a burnt-out car sitting on the side of the road with no tyres.

This must be some sort of sick joke, I think.

Just in time, I recall that nobody wanted our cheap toaster. I duck outside in the rain and rescue it. It lives to burn my toast for one more day.

The moving caper, it’s bizarre.

Yesterday, as Shorn and I were tucking into some medicinal hot chips with gravy, we reflected on the stark house. It is still full of soul, emotion running around the joint as if a ghost tour is about to start.

Without a dining room table, we now have a ballroom. I did some waltzing in celebration. And some head-banging for good measure

“There could be a furniture truck on its way here with all our stuff,” Shorn says. I agree: are we moving in or out?

Hah, nice try. We are furniture-less. There is no truck coming to elevate us from the floor. My water glasses will continue to sit next to the bed on the ground, not at eye level.

We are lucky to have our burnt bread in the morning.

And I’m excited now. Sure, it still pains me to see my roommate’s worldly possessions entering a box. Knowing they will be placed on a shelf far, far from where I will be, that’s the kicker.

But here we are, in the midst of an almighty adventure. And it is fantastic to have a polished dance floor to slide across with socks on for the next two weeks.

Let the dancing begin!

Garage Sale Man strikes again.

It is unusual for me to be making moolah on a Saturday. Often, I’ll hand over some coin in one meaningless pursuit or another. Last week it was internet IQ tests. I won’t be seeing that ten bucks ever again.

Today is an exception. The much-hyped garage sale, my first foray into getting people to pay for old junk that I would have had to pay to have removed, became a reality. It was beyond brilliant. I might as well have hoodwinked a man I liked into buying me dinner at my favourite Turkish restaurant.

The moeny was a boon, I won’t lie about that.

Passing stuff around to the young guys up the street, for instance, who were delighted to be getting a bargain on the bedside tables that were clearly unnecessary to their existence, but which made them happy – that’s a much nicer feeling than the soul-sucking Ikea experience.

I was hoping, however, that at least one good story would come from the sale.

My leisurely attitude towards the sale, which featured me going straight from a party, without sleep, to managing the money tin, that’s an interesting story. But not one my co-saler is prepared to laugh about yet. Too soon, apparently.

The best moment of the day came as we were closing up. My bed, and some much-needed shut-eye were just moments away. The junk that no-one wanted, the real crapola, was back in boxes, ready to go to the guilt-free tip, Vinnes.

Then it happened.

Three ladies stroll in casualy and decide they want to examine every garment in the bags we have just packed away. For half an hour they rummaged with a vigour that I usually reserve for pushing flower girls out of the way at wedding when the bouquet is in the air.

In the midst of their does-this-skirt-match-my-hair banter, a serious punter saunters into the sale.

His garage-sale-ish attitude was as obvious as two people enjoying some hanky panky on a camping trip. As if recalling a tactical military operation, he tells me how he scoped us inside the yard sitting around, saw a bookshelf and then, BOOM, spotted the garage sale sign. He was so delighted with himself, just to be walking around our yard full of junk. It was an impressive attitude.

And, I couldn’t help it. I pounced.

“That tv cabinet is going for ten bucks,” I told him, of the eyesore that we were having enormous difficulty getting off our hands.

He walked around it slowly. It was like a guitarist checking out a new pair of strings, an utterly unnecessary amount of attention was lavished upon the task. “I just don’t know what I’d do with it,” he says, sounding very interested in the ugly cabinet.

“And it’s just so big.”

I waited, patiently, for I knew this guy had ten bucks in his wallet that he really did not want anymore.

“Ok, sold,” he screams at me, eyes feverish.

To say that I saw the sucker coming from two doors down, is an understatement. He also purchased a fax machine, a few books and an empty plastic water bottle, for good measure.

And with the finish line so clearly in my sight, for the annoying girls had left with a brilliant bounty of old clothes, the story I had been waiting for arrived.

The guy backs into the driveway in his matchbox car. I am not even sure how this dude got his lanky frame behind the wheel, so tiny was his vehicle. And the challenge of getting the huge tv cabinet home with only the shirt on his back, the tiny car and his wits; that was not going to be a problem.

In fact, that was the challenge Garage Sale Man had been waiting for.

In the blink of an eye a blanket was tossed on the roof of the car and these guys had chucked the tv cabinet on top, seriously lowering the vehicle to the ground. Tie-down straps were produced from the garage-sale section of his car.

Garage Sale Man is always prepared for a yard sale. He searches out opportunities to get crappy furniture at very low prices and to create significant transportation problems for himself.

I was highly impressed by the tie-down shenanigans. But the real glory came when they had to leave.

“How do we get in the car,” Garage Sale Man’s less garage-sale-ish mate asks him, somewhat uselessly, after trying unsuccessfully to open the door for about a minute. Yes, the doors had been tied shut with the tie-down straps.

Garage Sale Man did not even shrug. Nonchalantly, as if the situation was as ordinary as getting home from work and flicking on the telly, he tells his friend “it’ll have to be Duke’s of Hazzard style, mate.”

He jumped through that window as if there was a pot of gold on the other side.

Oh he was so pleased with the whole situation, grinning from ear to ear. A cheap, crappy cabinet and a door that wouldn’t open were all he wanted on this fine Saturday.

Non-Garage-Sale Man, he was rather put out and also a bit plumper than Garage Sale Man. I was almost in hysterics as he struggled to push himself through that window. Just now, I’m still smiling, wondering how he got out.

So we may have rid ourselves of plenty of junk today. And I deprived myself of some sleep. Hey, we even made a tidy little profit.

But the real winner was Garage Sale Man and his red matchbox car. As soon as he drove out, honking and smiling, I closed the gate.

Nothing and no-one can beat Garage Sale Man  on these occasions.