1. Yoghurt makes my cheeks sweat
It’s true – this came up the other night after dinner, and I was considerably taken aback to hear that not everyone suffers from this affliction. Although I often boast about being able to eat ‘nearly anything’, I have a number of food-related neuroses:
-I am violently opposed to celery. It brings on the sort of fear you get when a very long hair goes down your throat and you think you’re going to choke.
-If the colour grey had a flavour, it would be Brussels sprouts
-I once made some Borscht so strong and sickly that not only did I throw it away in my kitchen bin, but double wrapped it and put it outside in the bigger bins. Even thinking about it now makes me slightly sick.
-I am fond of offal: liver, kidneys, sweetmeats, you name it
-I eat two eggs nearly every day
-I love airline food – it’s the little compartments
-Sometimes I’ll go through a phase of eating food of only one colour: a week of pumpkin soup, carrot salad, oranges, Twisties, sometimes a week of zucchini bake, broccoli, spinach, salad with dark leaves, green cordial and asparagus, or cauliflower and potato curry, glasses of milk, rice, milkos. I’m not being clever, it’s what I feel like at the time, and I’m a big fan of going with what your body tells you.
-I love looking at really old photos of food in ancient cookbooks, preferably black and white. It gives me a creepy feeling to think that not only was it devoured, or congealed decades ago, but that all the people who ate it might be dead.
2. I can be prey to some strange passions and/or obsessions
Don’t worry, I’m not going to divulge anything seedy. But through my life I’ve gone through wee phases where I’ve become completely swept away by a thought, a movement, a historical period or even a way of speaking.
When I was younger, this took the usual childhood path of Margot Fonteyn and ballet, any film with Michael Douglas in it or drawing up elaborate plans for underground secret societies. The ushe. As I got older, this mutated into far odder preoccupations, not your normal teenage sighing over The Smiths, New Kids on the Block, The Cure and other likely suspects for people my age.
I was once in love with Yahoo Serious. For anyone who doesn’t know who he is, he’s…not cool. I covered an entire wall in my bedroom with cuttings and articles I collected, saw Young Einstein four times at Chaddy, and pondered what Lulu Pinkus had that I didn’t have. Not only that, but my love craved a more disturbing, physical expression. I demanded my mother alter some black shorts for me, so I could wear them with suspenders, boots and a white shirt, just like my hero. Mad. (check out that pic…as dorky as he was, you’ve got to admit he’s a bit of a dish)
Some other queer obsessions included:
The scouting movement, in particular the life achievements of Lord Baden-Powell
The colour green
Ghosts and the paranormal
As you know, I’m currently likely to roar things like ‘toodle-pip’ and ‘gadzooks’ and decorate my office in a faux-1800s style, but I think I manage to keep most eccentricities these days to a minimum.
3. I once picked up a sailor called James Dean
Oh yeah, you read it. Happened in Singapore, obviously. Home of all dodgy expat shenanigans.
Every now and again the city would be blissfully flooded with sailors on shore leave – we’re talking crew cuts, tight white outfits with navy trim, and boys who haven’t seen the inside of a bar, or a woman who’s not spreadeagled in the centrefold of a magazine, for six months or more.
While sitting in the back of a club, I verified his claim to fame (sterling pickup line, non?) by checking his ID card. I ascertained that yes, not only was his name James Dean, but that he was VERY YOUNG.
We arranged to meet up later that week at Newton Circus, an expensive hawker centre you take people who are in town for a short period of time who are not yet conditioned to regular hawker centres. When I arrived, to my horror I realised that we were CHAPERONED.
Oh, yes. I was on a double date with a very young sailor man, the ship’s chef and his wisecracking Hispanic girlfriend. Apparently that is how the US navy conducts their ‘onshore affairs’ for safety reasons. Because desperate Aussie women with a love of old movies are ravening sickos, obvs. This was not what Anchors Aweigh had led me to believe.
As we ate our overpriced and underspiced tucker under the sweltering lights, I yakked on about my life in Singapore, keeping them entertained with my anecdotes, because I am nothing if not a gracious hostess and a good sport. While I rattled away, I noticed they were all staring at me keenly. Damn I’m funny, I thought. I was wiping away the ever-familiar sweat moustache as I spoke, and even whipped out one of those tiny packs of tissues they love in Asia, to wipe my face.
Yak, yak, yak.
Finally, the wisecracking Hispanic girlfriend could contain herself no longer.
“Um…you’ve just wiped little bits of Kleenex all over your face.”
My yakking ceased as they all continued to stare at me avidly.
“Er…there. And there. And up there. It’s come off, all over you!”
“Um. Is that better?”
“No there’s more. Over there as well.”
They manfully held in their giggles. Blasted cheap tissues I bought from that old guy at Raffles Place Station! Blustering away, I eventually wiped my face with my t-shirt and kept munching on merrily.
Sex did not ensue. But blogging material did.
4. I discriminate against people on the basis of their appearance
Oh, I’m not talking about skin colour or race. As previously discussed, these differences from my own are always a bonus. But I have a long list of certain physical characteristics that give me the heebie-jeebies. I blame my upbringing – some prejudices get passed down, like skin tags and chicken legs.
So here’s a list, with a celebrity example to illustrate my intolerance. Prepare to be offended…NOW:
People with earlobes that just disappear into the side of their head like molten plastic (see Paltrow, Gwyneth)
People with no gap between the top of their eyeball and their eyebrow (see Gellar, Sarah Michelle)
People with short, stubby fingers (hate to say it – see Reeves, Keanu)
People with noses where you can see up each nostril (you see them all over the place in American soap operas)
People with eyebrows that come down towards each eye in a permanent scowl (see Kidman, Nicole)
People with perfect, straight teeth (anyone on those makeover shows who goes in with wonky, interesting teeth and comes out with 6km of dazzling white choppers that impede speech)
People with eyes on either side of their head like a flounder (see Spears, Britney)
People with the cold, flat eyes of a shark (see McPherson, Elle and George Clooney’s new girlfriend)
People who pluck their shit out of their eyebrows with no finesse (see Aguilera, Christina and Carey, Mariah)
People who have the sort of prissy, smug face you’d like to slap (see Affleck, Ben)
Of course reading this you might presume that I’m smashing-looking with a personality to suit, but that is not the case either. I’m just saying: I. DON’T. LIIKE. IT.
5. I celebrated the turn of the millenium in Timbuktu
As we all know, New Year’s Eve exists only to make everyone feel crap about themselves. Single people feel shite about having no-one to pash when the clock turns to 12. Parents of young children decline a second shandy, secretly wanting to tie one on again with their single mates but knowing they’ll be tucked up in bed by 11. Teenagers wish they could be just a bit older, older people wish they were younger. And the elderly flick between channels 7, 9 and 10, snorting at Daryl Somers’ lame schtick, Rhonda Burchmore’s wobbly high kicks and Catriona Rowntree’s extremely long bosoms, but wish they had something to dress up for again, just like V-day. It’s always a massive letdown.
This is probably the one NYE I’ve had that lived up to expectations.
I was hanging out with assorted odd bods from the Peace Corps, and we decided that as every man and his rabid dog was headed to Timbuktu for NYE, we would too. After three days’ hard travel on an overcrowded pinasse, we spread out over town, which was heaps more interesting and less touristy then everyone had imagined. The sandy streets were filled with all sorts of random Malian tribes, in particular the gorgeous Tuareg tribesmen fluttering about on motorbikes and camels. I also saw a man with no jawbone.
We watched the last sunset of 1999 from the flat roof of a mud brick house overlooking the sand dunes. Then found ourselves at this completely insane party at one of the bars.
I was pursued by no less than four blokes, who literally chased me all over the bar. They got shirty too, and started shoving each other. I recall shouting at the top of my lungs in a mixture of Franglais, Arabic and Bambara, and them yelling back. It was nearly pitch black in the desert, punctuated only by candlelight and the occasional oil lamp.
It got fantastically out of control, and the dear Quan, the world’s most peaceful man, got into violent fisticuffs with someone and had to be dragged away, screaming in all of his four languages.
I finally whittled the four blokes down to two – and I remember trying to hang a wee in the dark (Malian loos are just three mudbrick walls and no door), with two of the guys jostling at the doorway. I think I screamed in frustration. We were all drinking Black Horse gin and tonic and Castel beer, obviously a recipe for unbridled chaos and madness. In the distance we could hear gunfire, and the sounds of the 400 French people who had flown direct from Paris for a private party at one of the hotels.
I staggered up the narrow stairs to the roof, where I’d kept all my stuff. I passed out on my sleeping bag, and came to at 12:15, covered in mosquitoes, having missed the turn of the century. I wandered downstairs again and continued carousing, minus poor Quan, plus some drunk gendarmes. Everyone seemed to flee into the night at this stage, and er, I can’t remember the rest.
The next day I woke up on the roof with all my bedding wound around me like seaweed, top and tailed next to a blond, bespectacled Midwestern man who spoke in a monotone. Not what you think – he was as exciting as Quan is violent.
When we finally left town, all 80 of us on top of our luggage piled in the back of a giant camion, every kid in Timbuktu raced out of their house howling for all they were worth, throwing sand and sticks. Their exasperated parents also rose up as one and chased them down, spanking bottoms, stamping feet and bellowing with annoyance. We cheered at the sight, and left in a plume of sand and dust.
It was quite the evening.