Books, Books, Glorious Books

Books are very dear to me and I have dozens of favourites that I couldn’t live without. Not only do they bring me a lot of pleasure (I think reading is a highly under-rated hobby) but they invoke memories of certain times in my life.

I remember that the first book I read all by myself as a child was a big glossy hardback book of Disney’s Snow White. It was a Saturday morning and I was sitting on the velour setee (this was the 80’s and my parents had terrible taste in home furnishings).

A year or so later, I discovered Heidi and I suddenly wanted to live on a mountain and eat goat cheese on bread for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And then there were the Enid Blyton novels (which I re-read often) – why-oh-why couldn’t I live at an English boarding school and have midnight feasts full of biscuits, gingerbread, sticky buns, jam tarts and chocolate bars all washed down with bottles of ginger-beer or lemonade! (And don’t get me started on the uncontrollable urge I get for anchovy paste on hot buttered toast whenever I get to the fifth form book!)

By the time I was eight years old, my sister and I were avid collectors of Baby-sitter Club books – we must’ve had about 50! It wasn’t unusual for us to spend hours carefully discussing which book would be our next purchase with some money we’d have received for a birthday from a foreign relative. Would it be a super special? Or #16, which was missing from our collection. But then again, the brand new #43 involved Stacy going to hospital and that sounded really exciting!

Once I’d hit high school, my grandmother introduced me to Maeve Binchy and Cathy Kelly – two wonderful Irish authors who I still love. It was my first introduction to “grown-up” fiction (rather than the tween fiction I’d read up until that point – hello R.L. Stine!) and I couldn’t get enough. It turned out that I was a fast reader so I quickly made my way through my mothers, sisters and grandmothers book collections. When my birthday or Christmas rolled around, I hoped that I would get more books (and I usually did).

I remember the hot hazy summer I read Lord of the Rings, the cold winter I discovered Harry Potter, the holiday where I read Memoirs of a Geisha and the wonderful long break after Year 12 finished where I discovered Penny Vincenzi.

My love affair with reading is ongoing – I have recently discovered a love of English history – and I’m forever finding new and exciting authors. If you love books, then here is a list of some of my favourite books ever:

Heidi – Johanna Spyri (Fiction)
Marley & Me – John Grogan (Non-fiction)
Angela’s Ashes – Frank McCourt (Non-fiction)
Flowers in the Attic – Virginia Andrews (Fiction)
The Good Women of China – Xinran (Non-fiction)
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis (Fiction)
Scarlet Feather – Maeve Binchy (Fiction)
Sister – Rosamund Lupton (Fiction)
Harry Potter (all of them!) – J.K. Rowling (Fiction)
The Last Empress – Greg King (Non-fiction)
The St Clare series – Enid Blyton (Fiction)
The Hospital by the River – Catherine Hamlin (Non-fiction)
Wideacre – Phillipa Gregory (Fiction)
Blood, Sweat and Tea – Tom Reynolds (Non-fiction)
The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins (Fiction)
Lizzie Jordan’s Secret Life – Chris Manby (Fiction)
The History of Britain – Simon Schama (Non-fiction)
This Charming Man – Marian Keyes (Fiction)

If you’re also an avid reader, then please let me know what some of your favourite books are – fiction, non-fiction, childrens books, womens fiction, action/thrillers, erotic novels, biographies, noir fiction, history books or trashy old romance novels – share the book love!

{This post is dedicated to Maeve Binchy who sadly passed away this week due to a short illness.}

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Suspended

This evening has been interesting. We got a phone call from Bro-in-law (Husband’s brother) who admitted that nearly two weeks ago he was suspended from work without pay, and before now he hadn’t told anyone except his fiancé. He was calling to ask for the phone number of Husband’s friend who is a lawyer specialising in workplace disputes and obviously Husband questioned him on why he needed a lawyer.

I should mention that BIL never mentioned that he’d been suspended when Husband told him last week that we wouldn’t make it to their wedding in Switzerland this Christmas. (BIL was disappointed but understanding. His fiancé was less understanding, more angry – she let us know how she felt in a rather angry email the next day!)

Since BIL is a contract FIFO (fly-in-fly-out) worker for a mining company, he only gets paid for the work he does. So if he doesn’t work, he doesn’t get paid. If he doesn’t get paid he gets further behind in saving up for the Swiss wedding extravaganza.

The reason for his suspension – he was randomly selected for an alcohol breath test. And he tested positive. Along with four others. All of whom were tested one after the other. All of whom insisted they hadn’t had anything to drink. They all asked for a second breath test and were denied. They all asked for a blood test and were denied. They were all marched off-site and flown home.

Just for the record, I believe BIL. He does like a drink, but he’d never be drunk going into shift. Because he likes his work, he respects his boss and he’s so desperate for money ( to pay for the Swiss wedding) that he’d never jeopardize his job and income.

Normally a positive test to alcohol or any illicit drugs results in an instant dismissal, but because of the sites handling of the situation, there is going to be an investigation. I don’t know what will happen. But if BIL gets fired, then how the hell is he supposed to pay for the Swiss wedding of the century.

I have a feeling it may involve The Bank of PW and Husband.

Frustration

It happens to every marriage and every romantic relationship. It’s normal. Unpleasant and unfortunate, but normal. And it’s happening in my marriage right now.

I’m talking about sex. Or , rather, a lack of sex.

It’s been a fairly, uh, quiet year for Husband and I. It started out okay, but went swiftly downhill.

First, Husband had surgery back in March and was strictly off limits for a little while. Then I had appendicitis. When the antibiotics (finally) finished, Husband came down with a bad cold. Which he then passed on to me. So I passed it back. And then I got it again. (In fact, I still sound like a drag queen with snot issues.)

The times when we’ve both been physically healthy at the same time have been few and far between. And those rare days are usually the days when we have people staying in our house. Or I have my period. (Not that I’m against having sex during my period. Theoretically it’s a good idea, but I’m usually in so much agony that all I want to do is whinge and mainline tea and nurofen.)

So, since March I can probably count the number of sexual encounters on two hands. And whilst Husband and I aren’t exactly the kind of people who need a quickie every day, we’ve definitely been missing in action. Our sex life has officially flat-lined.

I miss it. Yes, I miss sex. It’s fun. But getting my rocks off isn’t the only thing I miss. I miss the closeness, the intimacy, the giggles when the dog decides to jump on the bed and watch us, the post-sex cuddles – specifically that physical connection to another person. Husband and I have barely hugged each other lately – we’ve been too worried about passing on another set of germs and making the other sick. Again.

And we’re now at the point where we’re both gagging for a good shag. We were watching MasterChef last night and out of the blue I said to him, “I hope we can have sex this weekend.” Husband laughed. Then said sadly, “Yeah, me too. Perhaps we can also plan a sex holiday.” “Yes!” I said, probably with a bit too much enthusiasm, but have I mentioned that I’m as randy as fuck right now? “A holiday in a secluded spot with a king size bed. And we’ll both be healthy! And I won’t have my period!”

So it’s been decided – we’re heading on holiday sometime soon. And we’re counting down the days til the weekend. Husband is working on staying healthy. I’m working on getting better.

And if I’m not better (and non-contagious) by the weekend, I may be forced to become a nun. A very sad and frustrated nun.

H.P.S.

It’s time I came clean and admitted something to my readers. I have a syndrome. It became apparent when I moved out of home as a young adult and had to fend for myself. It started with just one minor quirk then quickly spiralled once I moved in with Husband in our very first house together.

I suffer from House Proud Syndrome (HPS).

Symptoms show up when people (non-residents) visit your house, and include (but are not limited to):

– Sweating
– Nervousness
– Inability to concentrate on a conversation
– Inability to relax
– Apologizing profusely about the mess/dirt/pile of folding taking over the sofa/half drunk cups of tea littering the general area/etc.
– An overwhelming fear when unexpected visitors stop by followed by thoughts of, “When did I last clean the toilet?” or “Please don’t let them see the crumbs on the kitchen bench.”
– A sudden need to pray (such as, “Please God don’t let my visitor accidentally open the door to the junk cupboard/room whilst searching for the bathroom!”)

For some reason, in my head, everyone else’s homes resemble one of those gorgeous glossy display homes by the better builders in the posher suburbs. All clean and pristine and uncluttered. There are no dog toys on the floor and no dried cat sick on the sofa (which has not yet been discovered after his/her 2am furball incident). The toilet is clean enough to lick, the floors are spotless, there’s no hair partially clogging the shower drain or mildew on the bathroom walls. The kitchen sink is free of dirty dishes.

And don’t think HPS is only confined to the HOUSE! No, it includes the entire property. So if people come over and pop outside for a stroll in the garden (or, more likely, because they want to smoke and I won’t let them in the house), I fret that they’ll tut-tut over the weeds invading the garden beds, see my bras on the washing line or (heaven forbid) step on some dog poo which got missed when it was weekly poo-scooping time.

On top of the general dirt and mess that happens inside (and outside) a house, let’s face it – there are certain things people like to do in the privacy of their own home. Things like hanging just-washed knickers over the shower rail because they’re too delicate for the dryer (and it’s been raining non-stop for two weeks so the washing line is unusable). Using hair removal cream on your bikini line. Giving your vibrator a really thorough clean and scrub. Dealing with gastro-intestinal issues. Watching recorded episodes of insanely trashy reality/dramality TV. No one needs to see me standing in the living room watching Four Weddings with pink cream near my pink bits and a blackhead strip over my nose whilst I eat peanut M&Ms. It’s not pretty and it’s certainly not what I want anyone (not even Husband) to see.

My problem (apart from HPS) is I also suffer from eternal politeness. Which is a very bad thing to suffer from when it’s teamed with HPS. It means I can’t NOT answer the door. So when there’s an unexpected knock and I see my mother-in-laws hatchback in the driveway, I freak out a little bit. (Okay, a lot.) And I go through the mental check-list.

– Yes, I’m clothed.
– Yes, I have a bra on.
– Crap, knickers are on the washing line – the really raunchy ones. Must not let her go into backyard.
– Crumbs on kitchen bench – must wipe it quickly before answering door.
– Should also wipe down cupboard where Husband spilt his coffee this morning and was in a rush so asked me to wipe it up.
– Toilet was scrubbed yesterday – score!

When I eventually answer the door, I realise there’s always something wrong and the house is less than perfect. And it bothers me. Because I think it’s bothering my visitor. It probably isn’t (unless it’s my mother-in-law who polishes her ceiling fans every day, irons all household linen and takes great pride in her perfect weed-free garden, and expects me to be the same) but I always feel uncomfortable and never able to relax.

So, readers, do you feel the same sort of anxiety (and suffer HPS) or are you the kind of relaxed person I wish I could be who just says, “Meh, if they don’t like it they can go home.” ???

The Shire

I was going to write about The Shire today. It wasn’t going to be a review exactly, but I wanted to write about the themes in the show – botox, narcissism, why men feel the need to refer to women as “bitches”, etc.

But I couldn’t stand it. I couldn’t find one constructive thing to write about in the five minutes I watched (up until the “fat-popping” scene). And I don’t want to stoop to being bitchy (and attempting to disguise it in a funny one-liner), so I’m not going to write anything.

If you can’t say anything nice (or constructive) don’t say anything at all.

Tagged

The Story Of Us

Every morning at 8:17am, I’d jump off the train onto the platform at Perth Station and join the crowds of people marching towards their respective buildings in the Perth CBD. Sometime around December 2004, I noticed him. A gorgeous six-foot-tall blonde in sunglasses and a suit. He always seemed to be walking in the same direction as me. For weeks (okay, it was actually months) I followed him. (But not in a creepy way – it turned out that we worked near each other.)

One Wednesday morning, I got up the courage to say hi when he stopped at the news-stand to buy a copy of The West Australian newspaper (and I stopped to buy a magazine I never read, just so I could stand close to him for a minute. (Okay, that was probably a bit creepy.)

We got talking that morning as we walked through the city on the way to work. He suggested coffee and gave me his number. We texted each other that evening and decided on coffee followed by a movie on Friday night.

I was a bundle of nerves that Friday. I dropped a stapler (one of those really massive heavy ones) on my foot (I suspect I may have actually fractured a toe). Then I arrived at the cinema 45 minutes early for our date. I sat in my car in a car park in a busy part of town until date time. I was terrified. All previous dates had been disasters in some form or another.

But this date wasn’t. This date was perfect. It was relaxed and fun and this guy turned out to be funny and sweet, he had good family values and beautiful blue eyes. After the film (which I think was pretty shit, but I was more focused on why he never HELD MY HAND during it!) he walked me to my car. And he kissed me. The most perfect kiss from super-soft lips.

For our second date he took me to a cafe. It had florescent lighting and served chips with their lasagne. I cried a little inside. He thought this dive in a suburb where there was a fatal stabbing last week was a good date spot? (Yes, I’m aware this makes me sound shallow.)

I called my mother the next day and told her about the crap cafe – she said that men were often a but clueless about romance, especially men who were only in their early twenties. She convinced me to keep seeing him. (Although I didn’t need much convincing – he was so lovely and the kisses kept getting better.)

Somewhere around the eighth date, I invited him into my teeny tiny flat after we’d been out to dinner. We drank tea and talked and kissed. And then I told him. No sex. At least, no sex YET. He was a little disappointed, which I expected. I know he was expecting to get lucky that night. Then I had to explain. I’d not had sex before. Yes, I was 20-years-old. But I wanted to take things slowly, I needed some time. He respected that and I was relieved.

I didn’t tell him that I’d previously been heavily groped by boys who had no intention of having a relationship with me and that this time, I was going to do things differently. I didn’t want to regret my first sexual experience. I wanted to be in a proper relationship not just some casual dalliance.

Three months later I did sleep with him. I had reached a point where I knew that no matter the outcome of our relationship, I wasn’t going to regret the decision. Whilst it wasn’t the most earth-shattering experience, I still think it was a great first experience.

After a year we decided to move in together. After two years, we eloped and got married in a tiny church in a tiny country town in a ceremony that had both of us in (happy) tears.

Since then, life has gone on. Husband has battled cancer. We’ve had family members and pets pass away. We’ve bought a house. We’ve traveled overseas. We don’t know what the future holds but we know that the other will always be there.

Yes, of course there have been hard times when one or both of us has disliked (but never stopped loving) the other. There have been times when he’s stormed out of the house in anger or when I’ve shouted hurtful things at him. But with each fight or rough patch we’ve learnt something. We’ve learnt how to let go of anger, how to communicate better, how to fix things. And we’ve learnt that some things just can’t be fixed and that’s okay because we can put it behind us.

This is a marriage. We will be together until one of us dies. We will work through whatever troubles come our way, because that’s what a relationship is. That’s what our wedding vows said: In sickness and in health, in good times and bad, our love will remain strong and we will forever be best friends, lovers and partners.

Not A Good Start

I received a text message an hour ago. It said: “Reminder: appointment at KEMH X:00pm, July XX 2012.”

Umm, okay. I had wanted an appointment, but apparently I was supposed to be sent a letter and some paperwork. And Husband happens to be away the day of my summons so I rang the number at the end of the text message to see if I could change the appointment.

I rang. I was on hold for a little while. Then a lady answered. We went through my name, date of birth, next of kin, etc. I told her that I’d only received a text message, not any letter or paperwork and that I needed to move the appointment.

Then she said this, “And you’re booked in for pre-op on X date, right?”

WHAT?! NO!!!!

I told the lady that I was NOT booked in for an operation, thus needed no pre-op appointment! This confused her.

“Well why do you have an appointment with us then?”

“Because I want to have a baby and I need to talk to an obstetrician about a few things before I attempt to conceive.”

“So you’re doing IVF?”

“No, I’m not. I need to talk to an obstetrician about my wonky uterus (don’t worry, I used the technical term) as my GP thinks I can conceive, but thinks there’s a chance I may have some problems with growing and delivering a baby.”

“So you’re not under-going fertility procedures.”

“No.”

“Well you’re lucky to get an appointment. There’s no more available appointments this year.”

“Right. I guess I’ll keep my appointment. So where do I go when I get to King Edward?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Just ask at the front desk. It should be on the letter you received.”

“I didn’t receive a letter, remember? Just a text message.”

“Present at the front desk. They’ll tell you where to go.”

Okay then! I thanked her for her time and hung up.

So, I have an appointment with King Edward, which is great. But I have to go alone, and I have no idea where I’m going once I show up to the front desk! I’m quietly hoping that the obstetrician I’m seeing doesn’t have rooms at another location that I’m supposed to go to.

I’m already nervous about the possibility of having a baby (a topic for another post I think!) and nervous about the possibility that the obstetrician may tell me that I can’t have a baby, and this administration hiccup has only made me more anxious. I hope to god the doctors are better than the admin staff!

Operation: baby-making is off to a rather shaky (and nerve-wracking) start.

UPDATE 11/7/12

I got a rather unwelcome phone call today. KEMH called and said that whatever my letter said, ignore it. I told the lady that I didn’t have a letter and she said, “Nevermind then, it’s just that the letter stated in incorrect appointment time.” I told her that I’d received a text message yesterday which told me when my appointment was and she then said that the text message was wrong and that I’ll receive a letter soon with my actual appointment time on it. Then I said, “But when I rang yesterday wanting to change my appointment time, I was told there were no appointments until well into next year.” “Yes, that’s right,” she said.

Fuck! FUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCK!!!!!!! Why is it so fucking difficult to get an appointment? I know the public health system is over-worked and under-paid and all, but I just want some guy (or girl, I don’t mind which!) with a relevant qualification to check out my uterus and let me know whether or not I’ll be able to have a baby. Is that too much to ask?

*cue a tantrum where I do a really good impression of a toddler, complete with stamping feet*

Okay, I know I need to calm down. I know this is a first world problem. I’m just frustrated that I can’t start trying to make babies with Husband. It’s taken us a long time just to get to the position where babies are (finally!) on the agenda and we’re both eager to have one already. So for KEMH to delay things further is extremely unwelcome.

Part of me is tempted to say, “Fuck KEMH, I’ll have a baby without their input!” but my lovely GP insisted that I see a specialist before trying to conceive f(my safety is his priority, for some reason), so I know I can’t just jump on Husband and demand he impregnates me tonight.

But I really, really, REALLY need to know if I can have a baby and carry it to term safely! Or if I’m just getting my hopes up….

 

Wedding of the Century – The Final Decision

It’s official. I don’t think I’ve written it in my blog, although I know I’ve mentioned it on Twitter.

Husband has decided not to go to the Wedding of the Century.

I know it’s selfish, but I’m so relieved. Our plans to start a family will happen sooner than later (once I get the go-ahead from an obstetrician, obviously).

My parents-in-law popped over last week and since we haven’t told brother-in-law yet, we told them that we’re still considering our options when they asked if we were going to Switzerland or not. Father-in-law immediately said, “Do what you want to do and what’s best for you.” My mother-in-law was less easy-going. “He’s your brother – of course you have to go!”

So no guilt there.

Then my parents-in-law had an argument. Father-in-law thinks BIL and SIL are being stupid for spending so much money. Mother-in-law says that it’s a wedding and of course it’s going to be expensive, etc. Father-in-law rolled his eyes at her.

I love my Father-in-law.

And I think Mother-in-law still hates me a little bit for eloping. (Although in my defence, Husband and I had a big party when we came home all wedded and bedded.) And with no daughters of her own, she’s never going to get to go to a wedding of her children now.

As I said above, I’m relieved we aren’t going. And it’s not just for the baby reason. This wedding has never felt “right” to me. Maybe it’s because BIL and SIL plan on spending at least $55,000 on one day. And that money isn’t coming out of their savings account. They are going into debt for this wedding – massive debt. They have had to sell their car to help pay for some of the wedding deposits and may need to re-mortgage their house (if they can). They’re relying on a personal loan from the bank to allow them to pay the remainder of the wedding and fund part of their honeymoon. The rest of their honeymoon will be paid (they hope) by their wedding guests in lieu of a gift. Yes – they are expecting everyone to fly to Switzerland on their own dime AND contribute to an outrageously expensive honeymoon (New York for New Years Eve).

I know I have no right to judge people on how they spend their own money (or the banks money in this situation) but spending so much at once on something that isn’t an asset goes against my entire belief system. (Yes, I’m a strange person.)

And I also resent the fact that my BIL, who I actually really adore, is working himself into the ground taking on extra shifts, extra work, selling his car and possessions in order to give SIL her dream wedding! (Whilst she’s doing nothing to save money – she’s still getting her fake tans, hair extensions, acrylic nails, and so on maintained.)

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the wedding is important to her, but it just feels like the wedding is more important to her than her relationship to BIL who she’s barely seen in months (he’s a FIFO worker who’s taking on extra work) because he HAS to work because he HAS to pay for her wedding. That really bothers me. I wouldn’t have a problem with the amount of money they’re spending on the wedding if they could afford it. But they’re barely scraping by and may still have to borrow money from us to pay for the final wedding bills if the bank won’t lend them any more money.

Anyway, now Husband has made his decision, we have to break the news to BIL and SIL. That won’t be fun. Any advice on how to break the news to them?