In which one’s genitals will never be the same again

This is my new steed, Oliver Reed. Isn’t he handsome? Look at his dark, brooding beauty. He’s a ‘roadie’ (designed for the road, not a fatarse in black who tunes guitars for a living), and goes faster than most other bikes on the road.

Since I bought him three weeks ago I’ve done nothing but take to the streets thumbing my nose at The Man. Can you imagine the rubbernecking that’s been going on? On a mount like mine, all I do is a few vague pedals and I’m off for kilometres, taking the air and nodding at complete strangers in a comradely fashion.

I’ve discovered a whole subculture that I only vaguely knew existed, and, stuck in a car behind a middle-aged man heaving in his lycra panties, previously had some distain for. Not only that, but there’s a whole attitude amongst my friends I never realised. And they’re all completely in opposition to one another. Did you know that bells are like, super daggy? Kickstands are even worse – they cut down your speed. What about baskets in the front or back? That’s fine, IF YOU’RE AN OLD LADY.

This is the ladies’ seat – I call it the ‘Vulvulator’ =>

It doesn’t end there – do you get into the city via Canning Street or Royal Parade? Either way, you’re a mug. And if you wear those old shorts for long enough, you’re going to start chafing in places you don’t need chafing. Get a pair of lycra shorts with a big sanitary pad in the middle (a la the ‘80s). And even worse, don’t wear any dacks with them. Do you eschew traffic lights or linger nervously at intersections? Whatever answer you give, you are a total square.

Ultimately, I care not – my bike shits over all others.

To push things a bit further, I joined the ranks of Melbourne’s lycra elite this weekend and had a crack at the MS Society Summer Cycle. What a funny bunch of synthetically-clad folk! All stretching their hammies and poring over discounted jerseys and forking out large sums of cash. It took three hours to travel 40km around the city, and I even took on the West Gate Bridge without too much trouble.

Now, after some time in the saddle, I figured out a number of pros and cons to the old cycling lifestyle:
Pros:

Brings you into contact with the general public:
Well, duh. But isn’t it peculiar how you can be slightly raised off the ground on a frame of metal and all of a sudden people want to chit-chat with you at lights, on the streets, wherever. It’s like having a mohawk, a Pee-Wee Herman t-shirt or a wooden leg; it’s a novelty.

Molto eye contact with the young gents:
Ah, Merri Creek. Home of bearded beauties exercising their Staffies of an evening. They’re probably all married, but a cat may look at a king.

It’s a massive ‘up yours’ to the reality of transport in Melbourne:
It really feels that satisfying every time you ride. I now know that Annoi’s house (home of fine foods and liquor) is 35 minutes away, and will always be 35 mins. Fuck you Connex, Yarra Trams and Yellow Cabs.

Double entendres ensue:
As I must keep myself amused, why not take Oliver Reed for a ride daily, give him free rein, mount my stallion and watch him move fast?

Bike shop gents:
The chap who sold me Oliver was played by Ben Stiller, playing a bike shop guy. Many chaps drifted in and out, poring over saddles and whatnots. I think there may be riches therein.

The language:
You get to use phrases like ‘peloton’ and ‘yellow jersey’ far more frequently in conversation.

Can think your little thoughts:
It’s the perfect time to assemble blog posts, sing lustily, ring your bell at long-suffering hausfraus rumbling along with their oversized prams and cast your sitcom. Or check out other people’s gear and think ‘wow that kickstand and daggy basket really must slow her down’.

Garage sales/hard rubbish even more accessible:
Mmmm….hard rubbish….

Every trip is a wee adventure:
Well I’m still finding out about stuff like Canning Street and so on. But I have found myself in some odd and random places. Like the many pubs found in the north. Or peering into people’s windows at twilight, one of my favourite pastimes.


Cons:

Flat hair:
Hey, I spend a lot of time on this frizz. It can be dispiriting to have these elaborate curls flattened by something as unattractive as a bike helmet.

Sweat:
‘Only horses sweat, men perspire and women glow’ once said some utter tool. I think the closest they ever got to a woman was a picture of Grace Kelly. Or a blow up doll. But I’m not mad keen on arriving at my destination trying to look fetching with a big sweat patch on my arse. Or shaking a clammy hand with a client.

Only certain short skirts can be worn while riding him:
One’s wardrobe can be limited on Oliver Reed, would you believe. Nothing like trying to dismount and having to hitch your skirt up to your waist. As much of my fashion revolves around short items, this needs a re-think.

Thin wheels:
These make you go faster, but you still feel every bump on the road.

Dogs off leash:
I get annoyed by this, not because it’s AGAINST THE LAW, but because I do genuinely love the hairy beasties and would be quite distraught if I hit one of them. I also don’t appreciate the dirty looks you get from the owners when their dogs go near your wheels. Train it properly or put it on the damn leash!

People can nick stuff off it:
Every time I lock up I have to remove both lights, the vulvulator and make sure the front wheel is tethered. This is becoming a giant pain in the arse, but apparently people will steal anything. When I go to the pub I lock him up within eyesight and gaze at him lovingly.

More pros than cons, I reckon. There’d better be – after yesterday I’m sitting on about three cushions.

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Parents for sale, cheap

Travel on public transport has been a bit wearing of late. It’s not as though I have a choice in the matter, but not to exaggerate the issue, every time I get on a tram or a train something utterly rancid and foul happens. And it’s getting worse.

If it’s not bogan chicks blowing smoke on their gremlin offspring it’s the sparsely-clad, screeching Gen Y’s toting Bacardi Breezers in their implausible handbags, oceans of discarded fast food wrappers, wild-eyed chromers up the back, drunks having a leak between the carriages or the increasing number of violent arrests of surly Oliver Reedish gents by Connex ‘officers’ with a degree in non-verbal conflict resolution.

One of these arrests occurred across my lap, but that’s a story for a different post.

So it gladdens my heart to know that occasionally, some things happen on trains that aren’t totally feral. On the weekend I was involved in the following exchange at Flinders St with a chap in a Crows guernsey and two long-suffering parents in tow:

Chap: Parents for sale! Parents for sale! Going cheap! Offer ends soon!!

Bystanders: …..

Chap: Will anyone buy these parents? Going cheap!

Me: How cheap?

Chap: How much have you got?

Me: I’ll give you five bucks the pair

Long-suffering Dad (eager to join in the japery): What about twenty-five bucks? I have it here!

And then we all cacked ourselves, thinking us mighty witty.

Top Ten Smugprints: A Gallery of Hypocrisy

There’s a butt-load of daily nonsense all over the media about global warming, environmental tips, greenhouse gases, and my personal favourite: ‘carbon footprint’. Ptui! What a revoltingly smug phrase! Let me pause a minute to slough with powdered glass and gargle with bleach.

And that den of smugheads down at Fairfax is the absolute worst. Every column about the ‘green revolution’ comes with a hefty serve of middle-class posturing about shopping bags, eco-tourism and faux-angst about why they buy disposable nappies. Like we care! So you bought a hybrid car to cart your giant family to Belgrave and back again 1000 times a week – it’s still a car, fucko! It seems that a big part of feeling ‘green’ is trumpeting your every decision to the masses.

Alas I am not immune. I too am smug.

“Yo, lady,” I hear you say. “You work in advertising, spend all winter with a heater surgically grafted to your bottom and once competed in a mooncake-eating competition and came third, you filthy consumerist pig.” But there are some things I am particularly self-righteous about, until this day kept under my (recycled) hat. Despite my love of fur items, large steaks and dislike of hippies, I sometimes feel as green as the closing scenes of the Wizard of Oz. So here you have it, my Top Ten Smugprints:

1. Water usage
I am the QUEEN of the short shower. I RULE THE STALL. Let it go on the record that I do a thorough job and smell like ambrosia and roses, hem hem.

An old housemate sometimes used the washing machine four times a week! Occasionally she’d wash only one pair of jeans and some socks. Can you imagine the smugness emanating off me, like haze off a freshly-tarred road. I also water my few (drought-resistant) plants with a watering can, let the water from my eggies and hot water bottle cool to put on same, and don’t own a dishwasher. Never have, and probably never will. Kudos to me.

2. Still renting
And by the looks of my bank account, this is how it will be for a long time. Rather than bitching about house prices till my hair goes grey, I’d rather not think about it. I really like where I rent – it’s old and full of spiders, but it suits me just fine.

Aussies seem to forget that not every person on this ever-expanding planet can own a house. Houses take up space. They cost lots of money. They use up a fantastic amount of resources to build and maintain. And most people think there’s a list of things they ‘must’ fill it with, like central heating, air conditioning, plasma screen tellies, home cinemas and that yukky flatpack furniture that takes a week to put together.

We also forget that in densely-populated places like Europe, everyone rents. They do nothing over there but scoff cheese and garlic, down jugs of Sangria and dance all night (in my wishful imagination). You don’t hear them complaining about why they can’t own the 3-beddy of their dreams with a pool and an aircon as big as a ute.

Hey, if you have the cash and the means, then why not buy into the overpriced property market? But if you don’t, then get a hobby. House ownership really is a privilege, not a right.

3. Diva Cup
You can’t actually boast about this until you’ve tried it for yourself, which discounts my male readers, all 2 of them. And when you’ve experienced the life-changing glory, when you’re no longer shackled to the whims of your menstrual flow do you realise what a part of the conspiracy you have been!

The insane amount of resources wasted on pads and tampons is INCROYABLE. Cotton is one of the biggest water-guzzling crops in the world, which in our drought-ridden country is just sheer negligence. Admittedly, a large part of the conspiracy is keeping women reliant on a (luxury taxed) product that must be bought every month rather than reused for 10 years. But if you have the option then there’s no bloody excuse, pardon the pun.

And I haven’t even mentioned girls dying from TSS, or how the Diva doesn’t stench up your day because menstrual blood doesn’t actually smell, or how you don’t have to always be within coo-ee of a loo ‘just in case’ or being caught short when you’re out and having to urgently hunt down a tampon without the gents being any the wiser…well that is neither here nor there.

(male reader/s resume your reading here)

4. Single Income No Kids (am I a SINK?)
Ooooh I can hear the hiss of ire from my breeder-readers. What would I know about kids? I don’t even have one!! In fact, what would I know about anything, according to Caroline Overington?

Hey, it’s not like anyone’s made any offers to make any mini-Boo’s lately. So there’s no question of me populating the world with small, aggro hirsute people wearing tiny winkle-pickers. But I believe I can be smug about this one.

Bringing up kids isn’t what it used to be. Like houses, there seems to be an ever-increasing list of things you ‘have’ to buy. Plastic toys! Clothes! Special non-allergenic food! Special car seats! Special prams specifically designed to take up all the space in any given area, and run down shirty single people! And then more plastic toys! So much stuff. It’s astonishing how anyone even survived past the age of five in the olden days.

All I know is that, as well as the plentiful toys I had, I was also happy as a clam playing with with joddas-joddas (a Tic-Tac box full of torn paper) and lempse-lempse (a leather comb case). Arrr, them were the days. And is there anything wrong with me? I think not.

5. Scavenging
I am a world-class op-shopper and hard rubbish scrounger. I can scent a bargain from 20 mothballed paces and would elbow your granny in the eye to grab the last booberella top off the rack. I have four Sydney Road favourites I go to regularly, and hang out for hard rubbish time the same some kids do for chocolatey goodness at Easter.

You’ll be surprised to hear that I don’t make a point of doing this for environmental reasons. I absolutely bloody love it. Scrounging is like the world’s biggest lucky dip – better than the Bertie Beetle and Sticks & Pops showbags put together.

Some people think this is ‘embarrassing’ and ‘disgusting’. They would much rather chuck out a busted chair than buy a nail and repair it. They would rather stab out their own eyes with blunt biros than wear something a dead person might have worn. But with products being made cheaper and more disposable, people don’t feel the need to hang onto well-made stuff any more. And that is ultimately everyone’s loss.

6. Buy local
I make no secret of the fact I love living in the ‘Wick. Clearly ‘light industrial’ is my spiritual zoning. And I believe that (with the exception of good Asian food) you can buy just about anything in the world in this suburb.

Can I emphasise the wondrous Greek deli in my IGA. The tinned Italian goodness at the Mediterranean Wholesalers. The $2 meat pizzas from Tabets. The quality op-shops, like Don Bosco and the Salvos. The foppish service and excellent coffee at Ray. And of course my magical coat. There’s even two heavenly new bookshops, The Book Grocer and Brunswick Bound.

There is no need to cross town in a pollution-belching car. So why would I go anywhere else?

7. Home made beauty products
But I am beauteous enough already, I hear you cry. Oh, but there is always room for improvement upon this perfection. And with my ridiculous hair, it’s tempting to spend hundreds of dollars on poisonous products to tame the beast. But the answer is sitting right next to my stove – olive oil!

I am a big believer in olive oil. It fixes my hair, my rough patches and even stops the doors squeaking. I sometimes cook with it, too. So for the benefit of anyone looking for a leave-in conditioner, I publish for the first time, my olive oil fix:

½ cup olive oil
Splash of vitamin E oil
Slosh of ti-tree oil

Pour all of this into a small bowl and mix briskly. Massage into your scalp and rub the oil all the way down your hair. Wrap your head in gladwrap and endure hoots and mockery. Twenty minutes later, wash it out by shampooing twice. This will make you look like that chick emerging suggestively from the foam in Botticelli’s Venus, and also cure your dandruff.

8. Shopping bags
Don’t you reckon those green bags are the new environmental menace? “No thanks,” say some smugheads at the cashier. “No plastics for me. I’ll just hand over this massive unbiodegradable collection of bags because I’m as green as Kermit’s hankie.” Everyone’s got about 600 of those things. Come Armageddon, all that will be left is the cockroaches, skittering around inside a teetering palace made of Coles green bags.

It seems a bit silly to me. All I take is my grotty black backpack, the cloth bag I bought in Canada and I’m laughing smugly all the way to the shops.

9. Public transport
I am INSUFFERABLE about this one, it is my Everest of Smug. I am a public transport NUTTER. I have many unfashionable ideas about how all transport in cities should be horse-related, with horse couriers, gigs, phaetons, cobblestones, leather-padded coaches and exciting trysts in same. But that would be far too romantic and progressive for Howard’s Australia.

Someone tell me why, if you live in the inner city, anyone owns a car? What is wrong with the old PT, and the odd taxi? OK, I have discussed many times on this blogge how Connex should be destroyed. But what’s the option? Just take a minute to think about the resources that go into the car industry – the design, the mining, the materials, the shipping, the marketing and awful ads, the roads, the speed cameras, and that shitful show on SBS about blokes test-driving cars that everyone seems to love?

Don’t you think, if you have the means, and a conscience, you should consider other options? There’s actually some good things about public transport. The private time spent reading or dreaming, the chance to see a bit of your city at a slower pace, the opportunity to stretch your legs a bit and of course eavesdropping on priceless Gen Y conversations.

10. Capitalism on the rampage – just stuff
As you can see, with my not-so-subtle arguments, it all comes back to stuff. If it’s not cars, it’s houses. If it’s not houses it’s clothes. If it’s not clothes, it’s toys or music or books or pre-packaged organic food or magazines or boxed sets of Captain Picard’s finest moments (of which there are many, you will agree). It never, ever ends.

You know those people who always cry poor: “wait ‘till next payday, and we’ll do it!” they say. “Can you shout me a train ticket and I’ll pay ya back!” “You spent how much on books?” And they’re on these insane salaries. There’s only one answer to this question: they’re all buying stuff. What exactly for?

Although I do have some stuff, it’s not my life’s ambition to acquire more of it. Books can always be borrowed or bought second-hand, likewise clothes, music and DVDs. I’d rather travel overseas than have things. I’d rather sit on the sunny front porch of my rental house with a cup of tea than spend all my spare time renovating a shitty flat in Reservoir. And I’d much rather enjoy what I have, than envy other people’s stuff.

I am smug, hear me roar. Another meme, so soon? Is anyone else leaving their smugprints on the earth?