British Sum…meh

It’s common knowledge that when referring to summer in the UK, one should always use air quotes. ‘Summer’ in the UK is ordinary at best, so for the few days the mercury dares to venture above 25 degrees, it’s taken pretty seriously by all. The country awakens from its slumber and residents go above and beyond to savour their brief British sum…meh.

Growing up in Australia, a county known for its sunshine and outdoor lifestyle, I was instilled with a healthy respect for the great ball of fire in the sky. ‘Slip, Slop, Slap‘ was the mantra of my childhood and later on avoided the sun like an ex you spot standing across the room at a friend’s party.

Apparently people in the UK were not given these same sun sense lectures throughout their formative years. Every time temperatures rise, the locals shed their clothes (taps aff!) and every spare inch of sunlight is occupied by a lily-white Brit…sans sunscreen. You can always tell if there’s been a summer’s day in the UK by the myriad of sunburnt flesh patterns seen in the office the following day.

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For the remaining 360 days of the year when the sun doesn’t shine, the UK population appears to keep fake tanning companies in business with their desire to look sun kissed. Not a day goes by when I don’t see the tell tale signs of a botched fake tan job…an orange face here…brown elbows there…hands looking like they’ve been dipped in wood stain…everywhere. Some Brits would literally rather look like an Oompa Loompa than bear any resemblance to someone from the cast of Interview With a Vampire

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When I think about a quintessentially British summer, images of beer gardens and pints of cider on the footpath spring to mind. For most of the year, drinking is an indoor sport for those living in the UK, but when the sun is out, so is this beloved British pastime. With the daylight hours extending to 9 or 10pm during the ‘summer’ months, a walk past any pub in the evening might have you thinking there’s been a fire evacuation…

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For the upper echelons of society (or those willing to camp in a field overnight), summer in the UK is all about Wimbledon. Regardless of whether you are a tennis fan (Roger who?), the grand slam as a great opportunity to combine all of Britain’s favourite summer hobbies in one fell swoop…drinking, skiving off work and catching a ‘suntan’. With a Pimm’s in one hand and strawberries in the other, British summer doesn’t get much better.

On the rare occasion when temperatures spike above 30 degrees, the UK literally bakes. The London Underground becomes an oven of unbearable magnitude, buildings melt cars, store freezers look like something out of a post-apocalyptic movie and people actually need medical attention…

The number one question I get asked here is ‘Why on earth did you leave the sunshine in Australia to come to rainy old Blighty?!’ Err, well…predominantly because my husband lives here and I like to be near him? But aside from that, and on a purely weather related note, because I hate the heat and I’m a miserable cow for a large portion of the year in Australia. Whereas in the UK, it’s socially acceptable to moan about the heat as soon as it hits 23 degrees. And there’s snow sometimes.

In this country, I don’t have to suffer summer all year round…the season politely shares the calendar with the other three seasons, just as it should. As a resident in England, I can safely step outside the front door 97% of the time without feeling like I might self combust. But most importantly, because a summer’s day is so rare here, that when it does come about, the country comes to life…and people actually smile. To quote Lilly Allen’s thoughts on London in summer, ‘Sun is in the sky, oh why oh why, would I want to be anywhere else?’

 

Mindfulness Over Matter

Hello. My name is Carla, and I am a perfectionist. And a control freak. And a stress head.

A few months ago, when I was (once again) mid-meltdown about my career/future/general lack of adult prospects, my husband quietly murmured ‘maybe we should look at taking meditation classes?’ I think this was his diplomatic way of saying that I needed to get a grip and calm the truck down. As the person I spend the majority of my time with (aside from the little voice in my head), he has to deal with my stress management process…otherwise known as mood swings, sleepless nights and misplaced frustration. Hubby was right (shh, don’t tell him), I’ve been long overdue for a mental spring clean.

I remember the exact year my brain broke (amongst the other useless information I do remember…like the lyrics to 90’s pop songs). It was 2003. Up until then, my supple grey matter seemed to cope with stress fairly well…or perhaps it was just that I spent my early university years killing off brain cells with alcohol, so I didn’t notice (sorry about that last bit, Mum). 2003 was my final year of uni and coincided with my long term boyfriend having a serious health scare and the subsequent demise of our relationship. Somewhere amidst hospital appointments, final design projects and his packing boxes, my brain decided it would up and leave too.

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Meditation, for me, has always held a place next to veganism and tree hugging as unnecessary hippy indulgences. Who on earth has the time to stand on their head in silence for hours on end and eat lentils all day?! But then a year ago I, well…sort of, went vegan…without growing dreadlocks or taking up a no-shoe policy. So with that stereotype shot to pieces, I thought maybe I should look into this meditation thing and see if it could help me connect the dots of my scattered mind.

Fast forward to now and hubby and I have been to exactly one meditation class…and I spent the majority of the time distracted. I’m pretty sure the path to Nirvana isn’t paved by listening to a woman cough continuously for 20 minutes and wondering how your six year old self ever tolerated sitting cross legged on the floor. It wasn’t all bad though…the people were welcoming and for our £6 donation there were snacks…which were the highlight for me.

Though I didn’t regain my mental acuity amongst the folding chairs and smiles at the Buddhist Centre, I have thankfully also stumbled on Headspace…an app/oasis where my brain can take a break…from my brain. Without having to leave the comfort of our flat…or my sweatpants, I can sit for 10-20 minutes each day and have my own mindfulness session, minus the coughing and crossed legs. Amazingly, over the last few months, I have managed to sit still for almost 60 sessions…totalling 12 whole hours of meditation (the few minutes I fell asleep for still count, right?).

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In conjunction with my Headspace time, I have also been learning about the science behind meditation. I can’t tell you how giddy this makes my scientist husband (who can barely get me to glance in the direction of his non fiction book collection). I recently finished reading A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled, by Ruby Wax; and aside from the title speaking straight to my frazzled brain, Ruby’s writing style is glorious in its comic delivery of facts. Her well educated and humorous summary on just how mindfulness can be life changing, has me convinced we should all be getting on the meditation train out of stress induced hell.

Even with only a few months of rudimentary mindfulness under my belt, I can already feel a shift in my day to day life. I am more conscious of being present in the moment and not letting my ‘monkey brain’ hijack the peace with flashbacks to embarrassing childhood memories, or making a list of what groceries I need to buy. I find myself ‘unplugging’ more…I’m spending far less time on Facebook, Pokemon Go has well and truly lost its appeal and Headspace is now my favourite app. Well, at least, it’s equal favourite…let’s not forget my unbridled addiction to Instagram).

Since I started meditating regularly, I have been gravitating back to the things I love (reading, sketching, listening to music)…which incidentally also happen to keep my mind in the present and my stress levels at bay. Hubby has also reported back that I am calmer and much better equipped to deal with stressful situations now…in other words he is no longer cowering in the corner fearing my undeserved rebuke. So at the risk of becoming a tree-hugging hippy, I think I’m going to stick with this meditation thing.

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Grinchmas

Recently, there has been speculation that I might be a (the?) Christmas Grinch. Around this time each year, I sound more like a grumpy old man than a 35 year old woman, so I can see how this might be general public opinion. I would argue that there are only so many times you can listen to Mariah screech ‘All I want for Christmas’ at the top of her lungs before anyone’s Christmas spirit breaks. For me, that threshold just happens to be 0.3 seconds into the opening chord. So you can imagine my joy now that she has been on repeat in our office for two weeks straight.

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I partially blame growing up in Australia for my lack of Christmas spirit. When you spend your youth watching Christmas movies like Home Alone, you can’t help but feel jibbed when the festive season rolls around each year. Pop culture promised me ugly woolly jumpers, sled rides in the snow and stockings hung by the fire for Christmas. Instead I’ve had years of roasting in the sweltering heat, standing in front of a fan on Christmas Day…too hot to put on pants, let alone conjure my inner festive spirit.

Don’t get me wrong, once upon a time I loved Christmas. As a kid, my Christmases were spent with my siblings and cousins…clad in swimmers, eating watermelon and hurling ourselves down the Slip ‘N Slide for hours on end. Even the inevitable yearly gift of Val’s Towels from our great aunt couldn’t deter me from the enjoyment of the festive season. A beloved yearly tradition of new board games and epic rollerblading sessions punctuated the Christmases of my childhood…but then we all grew up and rollerblading became seriously uncool.

I’ve come to the conclusion that adult Christmases a pretty ordinary, unless alcohol or inappropriate gift giving is involved. The most memorable Christmases I’ve experienced in recent history are those spent with fellow sans-family-nomadic-friends, pooling together our resources to survive the day (see previous note regarding alcohol). Nothing gets me in the Christmas spirit like a group of 20-something year olds willing to lose a limb over a Lego Yoda, gifted in the Dirty Secret Santa exchange.

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I’m not all doom and gloom when it comes to the festive season. Where my Christmas spirit rockets off the Rudolph scale is in the gift giving/wrapping and general decoration department. Unsurprising really, given my love of *coughobsessionwith* all things paper. While I’m not bothered about the receiving of gifts, I love giving to others…and nothing brings me more happiness than the words ‘Oh, but it’s too pretty to unwrap!’

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The arrival of my nephew two years ago has reinforced my theory that children are the secret ingredient to enjoying Christmas. Kids love all things Christmas with unbridled enthusiasm and the true spirit of the season…it’s enough to infect even the most severe of Grinches. I mean, how could I not laugh when my nephew excitedly chewed a hole right through the Christmas ornament he made during our last Skype chat?! He’s made my Christmas already, even from the other side of the world.

So what if I detest carols, Christmas pudding or the swarms of frenzied shoppers at this time of year? I enjoy Christmas in my own Grinch-like way. I still watch Home Alone every year (I’m told Die Hard will be added to the viewing list this year), adore gift giving and dedicating hours to the design of a Christmas tree. As this Christmas is being spent back in the northern hemisphere, I also have the promise of snow to look forward to. Who knows, maybe one Grinchmas soon I’ll even take up rollerblading again?

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Nomadic Life

I’ve just moved house for the 21st time. Yes, since leaving the comfort of my parents’ nest 18 years ago, I have moved 21 times…including five country moves. On my recent endeavour to donate blood, the nurse made the mistake of trying to write the list of countries I’ve travelled to in one small box. He caved after the first ten, when his hand started cramping, and went in search of another piece of paper. That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to my nomadic life…

As a nomad, I find myself constantly grasping for a word in conversation and claiming it from another language or culture…saying dollar instead of pound, duvet instead of doona and I still feel the urge to say itadakimasu every time I sit down to a meal. I won’t even get started on the arguments I have with hubby about vegetable names…or the great pants vs trousers debate. He practically applauded me the other day for saying flip flops instead of thongs…showing just how rarely I get the context of my vocabulary correct. These days, talking to me is like having a conversation with Google Translate on a slow internet connection.

Establishing yourself in a new place is tiring when you’re a nomad…you need to seek out a new doctor, dentist, gym and hair stylist in every location you decide to set down vague roots. The result? I cut my own hair, the Olympics come around more frequently than my dentist visits and I’m contemplating prerecording my medical history for all future doctor’s appointments.

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As a nomad, I’ve come to realise that not all clothing sizes are created equal. In Australia I am a size 10…in the UK a 10-12 (the Heathrow Injection)…and in Japan, a size 20,000. The only item of attire I managed to purchase successfully in the Land of the Rising Sun were (men’s) Converse shoes. I gave up on clothing after buying a pair of XXL stockings, only to try them on and find the crotch taking up residence somewhere around my knees.

I married a Scotsman…who I met in Japan. If that doesn’t scream nomad, then I don’t know what does. When we tied the knot, I signed up to an ongoing life of long haul flights, missed family Christmases and birthday wishes sent from afar…and a day (week?) early or late. Hubby and I have conversations about which country to raise our (distant) future children in…realising that our decisions will impact their education, their access to extended family and will even dictate their accent.

A skill my travelling life does afford me, is knowing exactly which seat to choose on a long haul flight for maximum space, minimal noise and avoidance of the ‘toilet waft’. And trust me when I say, order a special meal. It’s worth it for no other reason to see your hungry neighbour give you the evil eye while you happily munch away with all the kiddie meal recipients.

When you are a nomad, no one believes you are staying for long. Ever. I start having heart palpitations unless I have some kind of trip planned…the walls start closing in and I feel suffocated. I experience cabin fever, post holiday blues and the travel itch like other people come down with a common cold. Nomads like me are a strange breed that thrive on change and look forward to the unknown. Unless the unknown ends up being a snoring neighbour in a hostel or a missed flight home from Barcelona, that is.

As a 34 year old nomad, I don’t own a house. Or a car (the one time I briefly owned a car, it didn’t end well). Hubby and I just bought our first real piece of furniture…a bookcase to hold the mountain of books I’ve been squirrelling away in Mum and Dad’s spare room over the years (I’m starting the think a Kindle might not be such a bad idea). A while ago, I calculated that if I’d saved all the money I have spent on travel over the years, I would have had enough for a deposit on a house. That’s probably two deposits by now…

Instead of a house, I have travel journals full of concert tickets, flight itineraries and memories of adventures had. I have a collection of used passports and stashes of leftover currency from countries visited. I don’t need a house…pieces of my heart are scattered all over the globe with the people and places I love. My home is with them and I will always adore my nomadic life.

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Grown Up

I will be turning 35 in a just a few short months…and I got married last year (yes, things are much changed since since I wrote The L Word). I now have a husband and I go by the name Aunty Yaya too. Even Paperdoll has an updated, adult look about it these days.

Long gone are the days (years?) of drunken London night buses at 4am with a dirty kebab stop on the way home…apparently I’ve grown up. But aside from my imminent graduation into the next age tick box, how do I know I’ve grown up?

The first indication is that I haven’t dyed my hair since 2009. Prior to that I tried various shades of ‘unflattering’ to complement whatever horrid cut I was sporting at the time. Whenever the thought enters my head now, my grown up brain remembers that there’s photographic evidence of the dark-brown-post-breakup-fringe phase that left me looking like a goth member of ABBA. Even balayage, with its alluring regrowth concealment appeal, can’t tempt me these days.

The ratio of flat shoes to high heels in my wardrobe has shifted significantly as I have grown up.  The high heels I do own now, I only wear on ‘special’ occasions…AKA when I feel I would be a social leper not to. At which point I curse them almost immediately and give my younger self a mental high five and face slap, simultaneously. How did I put myself through that pain so frequently?! My grown up self despises heels so passionately that I even spoke out about it recently in the UK media.

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As a grown up, I’ve noticed that work has become less about the pay cheque and more about doing something fulfilling with my days. I want to contribute, I want to change the world…or at least have some small impact. I’m told this will change once I have children and a mortgage…but that is a whole other level of grown up that I am unwilling to face just yet.

I know I must have grown up because I now get up earlier on weekends than weekdays, to do things like Pilates, or ‘make the most of my day’. Bed times and wake up times are becoming earlier, synchronised with each other. Soon I will be my parents…falling asleep on a recliner at 8:30pm, while watching Downton Abbey.

I know I must have grown up because sometimes my lips are moving and I hear my mother’s words coming out. Occasionally I’m actually mistaken for my mother now too…and comments such as ‘Oh my, you look more like your mother every day!’ are becoming more frequent. It’s a good thing Mrs B Senior still looks like a fox as she heads towards 60…I won’t complain.

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When I was young, I couldn’t drive because I had to drink. Now I drive so I don’t have to drink. That right there is the epitome of being grown up. The only thing more grown up is not being able to drink because you are pregnant (refer to my earlier comment about that being next level grown up sh#t I’m not ready for yet).

‘I remember when you were this big!’ and ‘Oh, you’re just a baby!’ are common phrases in my vocabulary now that I am a grown up. The latter comment is usually thrown at ‘young people’ I mistook as being of similar age to me. When I discover they are in fact in their early twenties. And I realise that means there’s a decade between us. Don’t even get me started on the pop culture references I can’t use with these youngsters…that attempt always ends with me uttering the words ‘Oh, you’re too young to remember’, or, ‘Never mind, you weren’t born yet’.

A sure sign that I am a grown up is that catch ups with my friends now involve venues and menus that are child proof/friendly. I am also honoured to be ‘Aunty Carla‘ to a number of little ones who are fortunate enough not to be connected to me biologically (apologies to the one who does have my blood running through his veins). My younger self avoided children like the plague, but these days, my heart hurts to be so far away from the majority of these small people and their wealth of cuddles and imaginative games.

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For all this growing up though, some things will never change. I continue to irresponsibly open things with my teeth, tissues still find their way into my clothes washes on a regular basis and I will always subscribe to Jerry Seinfeld’s philosophy that cereal is an acceptable meal at any time of the day.

I may inevitably be headed for that 35-45 age tick box, but I think I still have plenty more growing up to do.

‘Straya

Well, it has now been three months since I left the shores of Australia (once again) to return to the United Kingdom. My nomadic ways continue and after three years back in the country where I was born, it is time for the next adventure to start…with my new husband. Yes, that’s right…things have changed since I last wrote two years ago (appalling I know), but that’s a post for another day.

14 weeks have passed since I left the sunshine, bugs and sweltering humidity of a Queensland summer to launch myself into the grey, cold clutches of wintery Yorkshire. Don’t get me wrong…I love the UK and my freckle spattered skin prefers the climate here too. But with every siting of a double decker bus or snowflake, comes the reminder of how different this place is to Australia. Which got me thinking…what is it that makes ‘Straya so unique?

‘Straya is a place where we love to leave couches on our footpath, even when Kerbside Collection isn’t coming around for another year…

‘Straya is a place where people fall into one of two camps…those that get Southern Cross Tattoos…and those that hate them…

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‘Straya is a place full of people with a keen and sophisticated sense of humour…

‘Straya is where we abbreviate everything

And you have to listen hard to catch what we actually mean…

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‘Straya is a place where we try to put a ‘z’ in every name possible…from Dazza (Darren) to Lozza (Lauren) and Kezza (Kerryn).

‘Straya, where shoes are optional…

Here in ‘Straya, we tell it how it is…

Everything can kill you in ‘Straya…

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In ‘Straya, we like…err…

This could be your neighbour in ‘Straya…

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We’ll try Vegemite with anything in ‘Straya…

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You can judge a person by their number plate in ‘Straya…

In ‘Straya, our bins are bird proof, not bomb proof…

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‘Straya is full of excellent drivers…

In ‘Straya, comfortable clothing is encouraged…

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And lastly…you can take the girl out of Australia, but you can’t take ‘Straya out of the girl…

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Behind the Scenes…

A year ago I took a plunge and started my own business. I permanently abandoned my tertiary degree (pfft, what $25K student debt?) and career as an interior designer to take up a new life folding paper. Yes, you read that correctly…I fold paper. Like a boss.

Origami Crane Mobile

After my three year hiatus in Japan, and armed with a swag of self taught origami skills, I was ready to take on the wedding and home decor market of Australia…and the world. For the last year I have experimented with product prototypes, worked the market circuit, poured over wedding blogs, researched marketing techniques, drowned in Pinterest DIY tutorials, donated to giveaways and tried to get my business name out there in every way possible.

The Toowoomba Telegraph Feature Article

In my first year of business, I was written about in a local newspaper, featured in a number of online blogs and was even noticed by Disney Baby. So to the unsuspecting masses, threefold has the appearance of doing exceptionally well, with very little effort. But small business is like the iceberg that sunk the Titanic…ten percent of it is seen above water, floating along gracefully…while the rest is hidden in the depths, consuming your life…

Behind the scenes…

The terms ‘weekend’, ‘holidays’, ‘9-5’ and ‘overtime’ cease to have meaning.

Popcorn is a meal. Three nights in a row.

$10 sunglasses get repaired, not replaced.

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Behind the scenes…

It’s normal to go to bed at 4am. It is also normal to get up at 4am.

Your physician is Dr. World Wide Web.

You realise just how incredibly understanding and supportive your parents are. Over, and over, and over, and over again.

Mum and threefold

Behind the scenes…

You learn how to cut your own hair. Then cut it once. Because of an incident involving hot glue.

You see Margaret at the post office more often than any member of your family. She also knows more intimate details about your life than they do.

You rummage around in box bins regularly…and you’re completely ok with that.

Box kingdom

Behind the scenes…

Driving your car is sometimes a game of chicken with the petrol light.

Uni student habits such as all nighters, last minute trips to the printer and the consumption of energy drinks have made a comeback.

This…“When I first moved to New York and I was totally broke, sometimes I would buy Vogue instead of dinner. I just felt it fed me more.” – Carrie Bradshaw …but with paper…

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Behind the scenes…

You own five watches (purchased in that period when you were a stable adult with a normal corporate job). Three of the watches now need new batteries. The other two are broken.

Your workplace hazards include paper cuts, hot glue gun burns and repetitive strain injuries from folding paper.

People think your workspace looks like this. It actually looks like this…

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Behind the scenes…

Hours of your life have been lost to Pinterest. And trying to find the end of the sticky tape roll.

Watching website stats is more entertaining than television.

The contents of your fridge looks like this most of the time:

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Behind the scenes…

Spotlight mail is to you what chocolate is to…well…you.

Facebook. WordPress. Outlook. Pinterest. Twitter. Instagram. Linkedin. Repeat.

You do this kind of thing for fun.

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Behind the scenes…

A trip to Reverse Garbage is considered a shopping spree and a social outing.

There’s no such thing as casual Friday. The neighbours are lucky if you put on pants to take out the trash.

Money doesn’t buy you happiness, but people buying your products does.

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Outdated

Having recently written about the joys of my online tinder dating experience, I’m sure you were all left wondering if I found my prince charming amongst all those redneck, chainsaw wielding, married freaks. No? Well tough, you’re going to hear about it anyway. I think it’s worth mentioning that I did actually make it on a few dates after surviving the gauntlet of cyber weirdos…only to find there are plenty of creeps in the real world too.

If tackling the thought of online dating wasn’t enough for this 32 year old single girl to take on, once I had found a few (seemingly) normal guys, then I had to face the necessary evil of a first date. As an Aussie girl, I have never really ‘dated’ per se. In the land down under, we catch guys the traditional way…get really drunk, pash a bloke, and bam, instant boyfriend (I know, we are a classy bunch).

But it seems like this way of finding men might be a little outdated (if not completely inappropriate if you’re over the age of say, 23) so I put on my big girl pants, prepared a swag of small talk topics and braced myself for the dating world. After all, as my (also single) cousin pointed out…’first dates are just for them to prove they aren’t axe murders…you don’t meed to impress them’. Armed with that very sound advice, the last six months of dating went like this…

Date 1: I didn’t recognise Mr Muay Thai Boxer when I met him…because he was around (no pun intended) 5-10kgs heavier than his tinder profile photos suggested. His hobbies included making jokes about my age (he was younger) and stroking his own ego. After my hasty exit 30 minutes into our coffee date, I received a message from him asking ‘So…how did I do?!’ Apparently he mistook the date for a job interview, so I promptly told him he was not right for the position and wished him the best of luck in finding something more suitable elsewhere.

Date 2: Never turned up. That’s right, I was stood up. I was left standing at a bar in my favourite high heels waiting for Mr 32 Year Old Kiwi Triathlete for half an hour before my dignity got the better of me. I still haven’t heard from him, and had hoped that he was hit by a truck or something equally worthy of a Sex and the City episode. Alas, facebook informs me he is alive and well…and has apparently changed his name. Perhaps as a security measure after angering another girl he stood up?

Date 3: Was not actually born out of internet dating…it was the ubiquitous set up by friends…which started well enough with Mr Smoulderingly Hot 29 Year Old French Personal Trainer but two weeks later ended with Mr Misogynistic Opinionated Ignorant Jerk who wanted me to sew his clothing, make his dinner and fetch his lunch…all while telling me he was right and I was wrong about everything.

Date 4: Was with Mr 34 Year Old Car & Hip Hop Loving Workaholic…one of the first guys I ‘met’ on tinder. On paper he was a great match…another self starter, goal driven, hard worker and ambitious. Which meant of course that neither of us actually had time to meet. Ever. We had one fantastic date months ago and a second never materialised…

Date 5: Actually restored my faith that there are still some decent guys out there. Mr Cute Sporty Englishman picked me up for our running date…which Mother Nature promptly ruined with an afternoon storm. So our run turned into coffee…the banter was good and the company great…but there was just no spark. Even if there had been, we did get around to that run after deciding to be friends…and I’m pretty sure my pathetic running skills would have sidelined me as potential girlfriend material anyway.

Date 6: Approached me through Instagram…he got extra points for the creative blind siding. Mr Nerdy Handsome French/Canadian DJ pursued me from afar with gusto…and was quite possibly the perfect guy for me. That was until reality kicked in and the (slight) distance issue became apparent.

Dates 7 & 8: Were the final nails in the dating coffin. These were planned dates with Mr I’m Actually Still in a Relationship With My High School Sweetheart and Mr I’m Going to Lead You on Because I’m Hoping to Ditch My Girlfriend Really Soon. I must thank tinder for leaving me with very little faith in the honesty of men as I probed both guys enough with pointed questions to find out this information before actually meeting with them.

I thought maybe my unfortunate luck with dating was contained to life in Japan, but clearly this is a global phenomenon which may follow me wherever I go. As such and after these experiences of the last six months, I’m officially retreating from the dating world and back to my happy single life until conditions improve*.

*Yes, I’m aware conditions are unlikely to improve.

Tinder Surprise

I have a confession to make…I recently started online dating. I’ve always hated the concept, but since returning home I’ve become aware that the dating pool potential amongst my (now married) friend circle resembles a muddy puddle. So I decided to build a bridge over my online dating prejudices (and the muddy puddle) and brave the sea of single men out there in the online dating world. If for no other reason that to dispel the rumours that I am gay (yes, the question does arise when one has been single for as long as I have).

But unwilling to commit to the serious dating sites like RSVP or eHarmony just yet, a friend recommended tinder. Tinder is a facebook connected app that tells you the name, age and common likes/friends of guys in your area…all conveniently downloaded to your phone for free in just a few (drunken) seconds. With a speed dating approach you can see up to five profile pictures of potential datees and a ‘tagline’ and then swipe left or right to say ‘NOPE’ to, or ‘LIKE’ the person. If they right swipe you too, then it’s a match and the chatting (or silent standoff) can begin.

But what I have learnt is that getting to the match stage is like running the gauntlet of cyber frogs in search of one Prince Charming. No actually, not even Prince Charming…just one decent guy. After a few short months in the world of this dating app, I have seen it all (and far more than I ever needed to) in what you might call Tinder Surprise

  • Save the topless photos for those other sites. Nothing screams ‘I’m a genuine guy seeking a meaningful connection’ like bare flesh.

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  • ‘Smoker, but trying to quit’ is code for ‘Im not actually trying to quit…I’m just hoping I’ll get you to fall for me before you realise it’ (the classy picture with the cigarette in your mouth gave it away).

Trying to Quit

  • Take off your sunglasses…I need to check if you have psycho eyes.
  • What part of chopping your old girlfriend or child out of your profile photo makes you think I’ll find you endearing? And no, leaving your current wife in the picture is no better.

Married

Married

  • Just because you wear hats in all your photos, doesn’t mean I don’t know you’re bald. I’m single, not stupid.
  • With that profile picture, are you looking for a date, or a bunny for your Playboy Mansion?!

Brothel

  • Posing with your labrador/husky/other manly type dog will score you extra brownie points. Photos of you cuddling up to your cat/s or chihuahua will not.
  • I want to know about you…not your beauty regime (even if you are an American Psycho fan)…

Beauty Care 1

Skin Routine

  • ‘I don’t really know what to write here’ is not what to write here.
  • Some risqué profile pictures are amusing…

Nude 1

Pants Down

Nude Golfer

  • Others just make you look like an escaped mental patient…or a chainsaw murderer in training…

Suspenders

Jaeger Monster

Chainsaw

  • And while we’re on the topic of profile pictures, none of these really grab me either…

Body Builder

Jelly

Hens Party Pic

Trekkie

  • BTW, if u rite like u’ve nvr bn to skool or red NEthing but txt msgs ur hole life, 4get it! i h8 th@…srsly.
  • When did all you crazy rednecks get together and decide that chicks really dig animal killers?!

Kangaroo Redneck

Dead Animal 2

Dead Animal

Dead Animal 4

Dead Animal 3

  • Honesty is an admirable trait…but not always

C#nt

To The Point

Married Pig With Kids

  • But then again, I will know when you’re lying…

Tony Stark

Luke Wilson

It gets to a point after you have unwrapped the foil and eaten the chocolate where you begin to wonder if all the Tinder Surprise toys are broken or have a screw loose at best. That’s when tinder throws you a curve ball and you actually think twice (rumours be damned) before swiping left…

Kate

Kirsten

Or you breathe a huge sigh of relief when you open the app to discover…

No Matches

Needless to say, my first experience of online dating did not sit well and I have since deleted the app. From here on in I am going back to my happy single life and leaving the gauntlet for the other brave ladies out there. But then again, there’s always this charming man who found me on facebook…

Facebook Approach

Gone Postal?

I haven’t voted in an Australian election since I was at university…which the Australian Electoral Commission reminded me of with a $300+ fine earlier this year. The fine was waived after I (AKA Mum) made a sheepish apology for failing to inform them I had moved to Japan. At least I think it was waived…they never wrote back to confirm. Anyway, I am now back in Australia and no amount of excuses or apologies will get me out of the task this time around.

Yes, I know, I already hear all you political buffs out there scorning my lack of interest in how my country is run…ready to launch into a lecture as to why I should vote for one party or another. I appreciate that to some, this Saturday, 7th September is an opportunity to stand up and have a say in who we should have leading our country. I myself, will not be one of those people. Not because I am not voting…but because I have elected (see what I did there?) to vote from the comfort of my own home, via postal vote.

Postal Vote Package

It’s a good thing too, because when I opened up my postal voting package this week, I burst out laughing. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the leadership of our country should be approached with a pretty serious tone from the candidates trying to win our votes, right? That’s my view on things at least…even if I suffer political apathy, the people who actually want to lead our country need to be fairly businesslike about the endeavour. Yet here I am, with my postal ballot paper and pen, left wondering, have all the politicians gone postal?

The first party to catch my eye after skimming over the usual suspects was One Nation. No matter how much time passes, whenever I read those two words, all I can think of is Ronald McDonald and this…

Hardly a great start to my voting process for the political future of Australia. The next party option however provided me with a glimmer of hope…

Building Australia Party

Surely these guys are a bunch of tanned tradies sporting manly facial hair and getting around in sunnies and high vis shirts…because they’d get my vote for sure. But if they don’t turn out to be tool wielding superheroes paying home visits to do my odd jobs, then maybe I can look to give this next party my vote?

The Pirate Party

You know, once they are done pillaging the seas and being the only thing between Stop The Greens well, stopping The Greens. At this point as I was examining my postal ballot card, I was beginning to understand why one of my friends said it reminded her of a kids’ novel. But then again, I don’t think kids’ books contain this kind of thing…

Sex Party

And yes, in case you were wondering, I did misread ‘Shooters and Fishers’ as ‘Hooters and Fishers’…I’m sure it had nothing to do with having sex on my mind. Even if I could stop thinking of them as ‘Hooters and Fishers’ now, I recently read a piece of chalkboard wisdom saying: ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you’ll never see him again’. On that note, I’m not sure I really want a bunch of hooters and fishers running Australia.

So what are my other options then? Oh…more amphibian loving politicians…

8

I could always go for one of those very serious sounding parties nestled in next to the fisherman, but everyone knows they’ll never win…your party name has to be five syllables or less for ease of pronunciation on the national news. So I guess as a nicotine hating non-smoker, that just leaves me with one last option then…

Smokers Rights

So now you might understand when I say that while I have had this postal vote in my possession all week, I have yet to put pen to paper and choose my poison. On a (slightly) serious note, if you do want to make your vote count but like me, don’t know much about politics or the parties’ policies, head to Vote Compass. Answer the questionnaire and they will give you a guide as to which political party best aligns with your future vision of life in Australia.

Of course (hypothetically speaking), to get a valid option, you might want to avoid answering ‘neutral’ or ‘I don’t know’ to 90% of the questions…

Happy voting!